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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

EDITORIAL 05.05.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



Month may 05, edition 000499, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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















































  4. U.S. HAS 5,113 NUKES! WHO ELSE?




















  3. $145 billion lifeline for Greece - By Dale mcfeatters



















The arrest of a Pakistan-born American man over Saturday's failed car bomb plot in New York's Times Square should be ample motivation for the US Government to rethink Pakistan's position in its anti-terrorism policy. Yet, it is most likely that this will not happen. For, Washington, DC has come to rely so heavily on Islamabad to rescue it in Afghanistan that it is practically unthinkable for the Obama Administration to do something that will make life uncomfortable for those in the Pakistani establishment. Hence, the arrest of 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad — who was granted American citizenship last year — will not get the Americans worked up about the fact that Pakistan is exporting terrorism to countries around the world, including the US. Shahzad was arrested while boarding a UAE-bound flight out of New York's John F Kennedy Airport. Investigators have reasons to believe that he was the one who parked the car laden with explosives in New York's popular entertainment area. Preliminary reports suggest that Shahzad is another David Coleman Headley. He is most probably part of a terrorist sleeper cell linked to a Pakistan-based terror group, in all probability the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. It is noteworthy that following the bomb scare that gripped New Yorkers over the weekend, a website used by Islamist groups proclaimed that the car bomb plot was the work of the Pakistani Taliban. Yet, the Obama Administration seems to be unable to connect the dots, or simply unwilling to do so.

It is fast becoming clear that the modus operandi of terrorist organisation wanting to strike targets in the US involves smuggling in jihadis to that country through the legal route — like in Shahzad's case — or cultivating potential foot-soldiers domestically — like in Headley's case. The aim here is to carry out terrorist activities from within the US. American security measures that were put in place post-9/11 were aimed at keeping jihadis out. However, if a terror strike were to be carried out from within, security counter-measures might not always work. It is this loophole that the jihadis seem to be exploiting.

Nonetheless, strengthening internal security systems is only one half of the equation. There has to be some policy to stem the flow of the jihadi virus from its very source in Pakistan. And for this to happen, Washington simply cannot continue to mollycoddle Islamabad in the hope that it will one day come through on its promise of cracking down on terrorist organisations operating from Pakistani soil. The US must realise that Pakistan has no benefit in giving up terrorism as an instrument of state policy. For, as long as terrorism exists, Pakistan can continue to ask for civilian and military aid from the US, which, in turn, it can divert towards its anti-India endeavours. As long as Washington continues to be blackmailed by Islamabad in this manner, the export of jihadis from Pakistan to the rest of the world will continue. It is high time that the Americans wake up to reality and call Pakistan's bluff. They must see Pakistan as the core of the problem of global terrorism and not a solution to it. It is only when the US recognises Pakistan's duplicity and stops pampering Islamabad that any headway in combating global terrorism can be achieved.







Almost a year after the guns fell silent in Sri Lanka, marking a bitter end to the quarter-century-long insurgency led by the ruthless Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam which had turned into a full-blown bloody civil war, the Government in Colombo has begun taking welcome steps towards consolidating the peace. President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Government have been talking about burying the past and moving ahead. But till now, no concrete measures had been taken to signal the formal closure of a particularly tragic chapter in Sri Lanka's recent history and the beginning of a new egalitarian era. Critics of Mr Rajapaksa, among them closet supporters of the Tamil Tigers, should now cease cavilling: The Sri Lankan Government has decided to "ease its wartime emergency regulations" introduced in 1983, including restrictions on public meetings, Press censorship and a virtual ban on publishing anything that could be construed as 'inflammatory'. Although Sri Lanka never deviated from holding elections and allowing political activity, a shadow did linger over its democratic credentials on account of tough emergency regulations. That these restrictions were required — and some of them are possibly still needed — to fight the LTTE menace was often overlooked and ignored by activists at home and abroad, especially in donor countries, who were (and remain) sympathetic to V Prabhakaran and his army of remorseless terrorists masquerading as Tamil 'freedom fighters'. The calibrated easing of emergency regulations should be seen in this context. Nonetheless, Mr Rajapaksa deserves to be complimented for his Government's decision to relax restrictions on public meetings and gatherings, printing material deemed to be critical of official policy and providing names of householders to the police. The Government also plans to do away with existing curfew rules and divest the Army of police powers. These measures will be put up for parliamentary approval and a 'Yes' vote is a foregone conclusion.

For a nation which has had to live with tough emergency laws for more than two decades, the relaxation of restrictions will come as a welcome relief and contribute to the restoration of normal daily life which had eluded Sri Lankans all these years. Indeed, an entire generation of Sri Lankans has grown up without tasting full freedom and liberty, constantly living in the fear of the LTTE and its loathsome campaign of bloodshed which has fetched both the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils untold misery. The Tigers sold the dream of a separate 'Tamil Eelam'; that dream now lies shattered. What Sri Lanka needs, along with the lifting of emergency restrictions, is a social and political healing process to prevent the wounds of conflict from festering. Towards this end, Prime Minister DM Jayaratne has announced the setting up of a 'Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission'. Hopefully, this commission will ensure everybody benefits from the peace dividend.







The proposed Civil Nuclear Liability Bill has already generated considerable interest among those who followed the developments that led to the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the US during UPA 1.0. It was considered the biggest achievement of the UPA Government which of course, lost the support of its 'trusted' allies the Leftists. The merits and the demerits of the Bill, once it is introduced in Parliament, will find ample scope for debate. Interestingly, in a round table discussion organised by a voluntary organisation, parliamentarians cutting across party lines complained that of late even important Bills are not getting sufficient time for discussion and members are often unable to express themselves. Hopefully, this will not be the case with the Civil Nuclear Liability.

A spokesperson for the party in power specifically stated at the round table conference that "all concerns related to the Bill can be addressed once it is introduced in Parliament and referred to a standing committee". A senior politician from the other side rued that the recommendations of the standing committee are not binding on the Government and there are instances in which these are repeatedly rejected. While the technical merits and demerits would require expert opinion, it is interesting to note that the Atomic Energy Act of 1962 completely prohibits private sector participation in the atomic power sector. The Government has also been stating that private sector players shall not be allowed. Then why is the US establishment so keen to ensure the passage of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill as early as possible? Some senior functionaries of the US Government have stated on record that the interests of American businessmen shall be protected. And the Bill clearly provides for operators ' liability. Therefore the question is: Who shall be the operators? Will American pressure result in an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act?

What happens when an industrial disaster of the magnitude of the Bhopal gas tragedy strikes? Survivors of such tragedies know the level and extent of generational damages that these catastrophes can cause apart from the immediate loss of lives. In the Bhopal gas tragedy the death toll in the first few days alone was 10,000 even by the most moderate of estimates. It may be relevant to recall the sequence of events that one witnessed beginning on the intervening night of December 1 and 2, 1984, as the head of the Regional College — now Institute— of Education. This writer was informed by one of his alert colleagues JN Wallabhdas that there was a huge gas leakage from the Union Carbide factory and that there was total chaos. We rushed to the hostels and residential areas of our institute to prevent any panic among the inmates. Attempts were made to contact functionaries at various levels to know the real situation on the ground without any success.

Those were pre-mobile phone days and to get a telephone contact was a matter of luck. As the factory was located near the railway station, we tried a number on the railway platform. The response was heartbreaking: "Sir, mar raha hun, bachaaiye." Then there were no words from the other side. I kept holding the receiver for several more minutes but nothing more was heard.

People died in huge numbers on the railway platforms. The station master Dhurve presented a rare example of devotion to duty and once he guessed the enormity of the tragedy he did his best to stop trains outside Bhopal. He sacrificed his life in the process. Trains which arrived at the station were caught completely unawares; passengers opened the door, breathed in the poisonous Methyl Iso-cynate gas and dropped dead.

We too inhaled the poisonous gas on the campus. It did not even occur to me that the life-saving precaution in such cases was to lie flat on the ground and put a wet cloth on one's face. We survived as the institution was located some eight kilometre away and there was the Bhopal lake in between us and the site of the disaster. The latter reduced the intensity of the gas. For the next six days, the students and teachers of the institution and all categories of staff were trying to help the victims and locate dead bodies which, even on the fifth and sixth day of the disaster, were being uncovered from remote slum dwellings.

The Union Carbide guest house and research facility was located across the campus. The State administration wanted to whisk away Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide boss, to the airport quickly and quietly. We all felt insulted and shared a sense of helplessness in the face of Government pressure to ensure the safety of the offender of this massive disaster.

It is noteworthy that the compensation amount of $ 470 million to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy still remains intact in deposits. But February 1985 onwards, only the interest on the compensation amount has been distributed to the victims. The latter are still fighting and suffering. And these sufferings are of innumerable varieties. None can assess in one go the real damage such tragedies can cause for generations together. The State Government has changed several times over. Even the political parties in the State have changed. But the approach to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy has remained the same. The officials can cite huge data in terms of establishing hospitals, distributing cash, etc, but the people know well the inefficiency that plagues the Government's delivery mechanism which is invariably capped with omnipresent corruption. It never spares even victims of such tragedies.

Union Carbide did not follow any of the statutory safety precautions that were prescribed in rule books. No human habitations were to be allowed within a prescribed distance around the factory. But no one bothered to follow this guideline and those living nearest suffered the maximum. The compensation amount of $ 470 million was far below what would have been granted in the US to its own citizens in such an event. Yes, people did feel humiliated all around the country.

Bhopal was no Chernobyl. Yet, there is so much to learn from Bhopal. I shudder to recall the sight of hundreds of bodies lying on the floor of the Gandhi Medical College and Hamidiya hospital. I would not like future generations to witness such a tragedy. This is not an expression of emotions alone but a fervent plea to those who are keen to pass the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill. They must ensure that human life is valued and that equality is maintained at least in disaster, destruction and death.






The proposed Civil Nuclear Liability Bill has already generated considerable interest among those who followed the developments that led to the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the US during UPA 1.0. It was considered the biggest achievement of the UPA Government which of course, lost the support of its 'trusted' allies the Leftists. The merits and the demerits of the Bill, once it is introduced in Parliament, will find ample scope for debate. Interestingly, in a round table discussion organised by a voluntary organisation, parliamentarians cutting across party lines complained that of late even important Bills are not getting sufficient time for discussion and members are often unable to express themselves. Hopefully, this will not be the case with the Civil Nuclear Liability.

A spokesperson for the party in power specifically stated at the round table conference that "all concerns related to the Bill can be addressed once it is introduced in Parliament and referred to a standing committee". A senior politician from the other side rued that the recommendations of the standing committee are not binding on the Government and there are instances in which these are repeatedly rejected. While the technical merits and demerits would require expert opinion, it is interesting to note that the Atomic Energy Act of 1962 completely prohibits private sector participation in the atomic power sector. The Government has also been stating that private sector players shall not be allowed. Then why is the US establishment so keen to ensure the passage of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill as early as possible? Some senior functionaries of the US Government have stated on record that the interests of American businessmen shall be protected. And the Bill clearly provides for operators ' liability. Therefore the question is: Who shall be the operators? Will American pressure result in an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act?

What happens when an industrial disaster of the magnitude of the Bhopal gas tragedy strikes? Survivors of such tragedies know the level and extent of generational damages that these catastrophes can cause apart from the immediate loss of lives. In the Bhopal gas tragedy the death toll in the first few days alone was 10,000 even by the most moderate of estimates. It may be relevant to recall the sequence of events that one witnessed beginning on the intervening night of December 1 and 2, 1984, as the head of the Regional College — now Institute— of Education. This writer was informed by one of his alert colleagues JN Wallabhdas that there was a huge gas leakage from the Union Carbide factory and that there was total chaos. We rushed to the hostels and residential areas of our institute to prevent any panic among the inmates. Attempts were made to contact functionaries at various levels to know the real situation on the ground without any success.

Those were pre-mobile phone days and to get a telephone contact was a matter of luck. As the factory was located near the railway station, we tried a number on the railway platform. The response was heartbreaking: "Sir, mar raha hun, bachaaiye." Then there were no words from the other side. I kept holding the receiver for several more minutes but nothing more was heard.

People died in huge numbers on the railway platforms. The station master Dhurve presented a rare example of devotion to duty and once he guessed the enormity of the tragedy he did his best to stop trains outside Bhopal. He sacrificed his life in the process. Trains which arrived at the station were caught completely unawares; passengers opened the door, breathed in the poisonous Methyl Iso-cynate gas and dropped dead.

We too inhaled the poisonous gas on the campus. It did not even occur to me that the life-saving precaution in such cases was to lie flat on the ground and put a wet cloth on one's face. We survived as the institution was located some eight kilometre away and there was the Bhopal lake in between us and the site of the disaster. The latter reduced the intensity of the gas. For the next six days, the students and teachers of the institution and all categories of staff were trying to help the victims and locate dead bodies which, even on the fifth and sixth day of the disaster, were being uncovered from remote slum dwellings.

The Union Carbide guest house and research facility was located across the campus. The State administration wanted to whisk away Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide boss, to the airport quickly and quietly. We all felt insulted and shared a sense of helplessness in the face of Government pressure to ensure the safety of the offender of this massive disaster.

It is noteworthy that the compensation amount of $ 470 million to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy still remains intact in deposits. But February 1985 onwards, only the interest on the compensation amount has been distributed to the victims. The latter are still fighting and suffering. And these sufferings are of innumerable varieties. None can assess in one go the real damage such tragedies can cause for generations together. The State Government has changed several times over. Even the political parties in the State have changed. But the approach to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy has remained the same. The officials can cite huge data in terms of establishing hospitals, distributing cash, etc, but the people know well the inefficiency that plagues the Government's delivery mechanism which is invariably capped with omnipresent corruption. It never spares even victims of such tragedies.

Union Carbide did not follow any of the statutory safety precautions that were prescribed in rule books. No human habitations were to be allowed within a prescribed distance around the factory. But no one bothered to follow this guideline and those living nearest suffered the maximum. The compensation amount of $ 470 million was far below what would have been granted in the US to its own citizens in such an event. Yes, people did feel humiliated all around the country.

Bhopal was no Chernobyl. Yet, there is so much to learn from Bhopal. I shudder to recall the sight of hundreds of bodies lying on the floor of the Gandhi Medical College and Hamidiya hospital. I would not like future generations to witness such a tragedy. This is not an expression of emotions alone but a fervent plea to those who are keen to pass the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill. They must ensure that human life is valued and that equality is maintained at least in disaster, destruction and death.






This refers to the editorial, "Belgium's bold step" (May 3). Indeed, Belgium's initiative towards banning the antediluvian symbol of a perverse social order that is the burqa is laudatory. Coming after the Swiss ban on construction of minarets, the so-called bayonets of Islam, the unanimous vote of Belgian lower House Parliament is a right step in the direction of preserving democratic and social values, human dignity and freedom of individual. There is no good reason for an immigrant to a country to refuse to integrate with the civil society of that country.

Of the two reasons given for the decision, the one relating to security is equally valid. Indeed, the burqa presents a significant impediment to security checks. A few examples culled from the Internet would be illustrative. A news report in Jordan has revealed that during the past two years 50 people have committed 170 crimes wearing the Islamic veil. This comes to roughly one incident every four days, prompting Jordanians to call for restrictions on wearing the full veil. In the UK Jewelry stores have been targeted in the West Midlands, Glasgow and Oxfordshire by thieves clad in the Islamic veil.

The Taliban's reliance on burqa-clad suicide bombers in Afghanistan is well known. On two occasions authorities foiled would-be suicide bombers before they could carry out their nefarious designs — a Russian Muslim male with 500 kilogram of explosives in an automobile in Paktia Province, and an Afghan woman hiding a bomb under her burqa in Jalalabad. The latter proves that violent intentions are hidden by the burqa and become apparent only after an attack begins. A Taliban commander, Haji Yakub, was killed in a burqa as he tried to escape from a house in Ghazni Province while under attack from American forces.

It is high time that we do away with the burqa in all democratic countries, including India. The practice not only goes against basic human rights but also presents a significant security risk. Do we need any more reasons? The sooner we implement such a ban the better.








Like the Fort Hood jihad massacre and virtually all such attacks and attempted attacks these days, the car bomb discovered in Times Square on Saturday was initially dismissed as having nothing to do with terrorism. The New York Times reported: "A federal official said it was not considered a terrorist threat and that the New York Police Department had told the Department of Homeland Security to stand down."

Soon, however, the weight of evidence became too great for officials to sustain this wishful thinking. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said: "I think the intent was to cause a significant ball of fire."' New York Governor David Paterson declared the incident an "act of terrorism." Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano revealed on Meet the Press that the car bomb was being treated as a "potential terrorist attack."

Napolitano offered no hint as to which terrorists might have done it: "It's too soon to tell who was responsible." New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was just as puzzled: "We have no idea who did this or why."

Yet for all this official agnosticism, there were a number of clues — and even a group claiming credit. The explosives-laden car was found on 45th Street between 7th and 8th — not far from the offices of Viacom, which owns Comedy Central. Comedy Central, of course, presents South Park, the irreverent cartoon series that recently lampooned Islam's Prophet Muhammad. After the show aired, the jihadi website posted this threat against the creators of South Park, Mr Matt Stone and Mr Trey Parker: "We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."

Theo Van Gogh was brutally murdered by a Muslim on an Amsterdam street in the middle of the day in November 2004 after he made a film, Submission, about the oppression of Muslim women. Mr Younus Abullah Muhammad of told journalist Aaron Klein on Sunday that the car bomb was "a retaliation for what your Government is doing overseas. If you want to continue killing civilians, then you're going to get many incidents that resemble what happened yesterday." Not that was claiming responsibility: "We do not condone nor condemn terrorism. There is no relation between our organisation and these attacks." However, "there will be a lot more terror attacks in the United States."

Younus Abullah Muhammad's denial of responsibility notwithstanding, have authorities questioned the owners of about this attempt to explode a car bomb outside Viacom's offices?

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban rushed to claim responsibility, releasing a video calling the botched attack a "jaw-breaking blow to Satan's USA." Sounding much like Mr Younus Abdullah Muhammad, a Taliban spokesman said that the attempted car bomb was revenge for American "interference and terrorism in Muslim countries, especially in Pakistan." American officials, however, said there was no evidence to back up this claim, and Mr Bloomberg added: "So far, there is no evidence that any of this has anything to do with one of the recognised terrorist organisations."

Still, even if no Muslim group had anything to do with the car bomb, it was noteworthy that only Muslim groups went on record praising it as a good thing. Recently I have received an increased number of e-mails and Facebook messages from Muslims telling me that I have completely misunderstood Islam and jihad, and that Islam is in fact the Religion of Peace of fable and fantasy. The only problem with all such messages, and with various windy pseudo-academic "refutations" of explanations by me and others of Islam's doctrines of warfare against unbelievers and their subjugation under Sharia'h, is that however good they sound on paper, somehow the last people to be convinced seem to be Muslims themselves — Muslims like Mr Younus Abdullah Muhammad and the Pakistani Taliban spokesman who claimed responsibility for the car bomb.

Somehow Muslims like those two — and there are untold numbers of others like them around the globe — seem to have missed the memo about Islam's vaunted respect and tolerance for non-Muslims. And Mr Younus Abdullah Muhammad and other Muslims like him can and do point to Quranic verses enjoining violence against unbelievers in order to justify bombings and all manner of murder and mayhem — for Muslims are to "fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you" (Quran 9:123).

Until such the ways in which jihad violence and supremacism is rooted in Islamic texts and teachings is studied openly by law enforcement and intelligence officials, we will see many more jihad attacks in the US — and some will be successful. For the belief system that motivates them is being neither challenged nor even examined. While officials in this case had to revise their initial dismissal of terrorism as a factor, they have never re-examined or re-evaluated their dismissal of any need to understand Islam in order to understand jihadis and how they can be stopped.

And so they are not being stopped, except when we get lucky, as we did on Saturday night in Times Square. But our luck is unlikely to hold forever.


 The writer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch.







Caste-based reservation policies are making ours a casteist society. The situation has reached such a point that there is a ruthless competition between various castes for special concessions and reservations in Government jobs and education. The Gujjars community, which was better enjoying the benefits of OBC reservation before the Jats were included in the list, wants to be reclassified as a Scheduled Tribe.

As caste-based identity is the only reference point for seeking reservations in Government jobs and State colleges, politicians cutting across party lines resort to caste mobilisation by 'espousing' the cause of some castes or sub-castes.

The so-called Mandal messiahs — RJD chief Lalu Prasad and SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav — have been mobilising the Yadav community and Muslims. Last week Mr Mulayam Singh, while attacking his political opponents like the Congress and the BSP, said, "the Congress, which is leading the UPA Government at the Centre, is anti-backwards, whereas the ruling BSP in Uttar Pradesh is anti-Muslims".

The vote-bank politics has led to the emergence of pure caste-based parties and caste-based political leaders. The subsequent social impact of this has been quite negative and destructive as caste-based parties practise sectarian and sectional politics to capture power.

The RJD chief has raised a dangerous demand of identifying castes in the ongoing Census of Population of India of 2010. Mr Yadav pleaded for caste-based census as he thinks that that 'policies of benefits and reservations' for the backward castes can be effectively and smoothly implemented if the number of the 'backwards' is known on the basis of the census of 2010. Incidentally, the last caste-based census was undertaken in 1931. However, the inclusion and exclusion of castes for reservations in post-independence India was undertaken keeping vote-bank politics in mind.

Another telling example is that of the Tamil Nadu Government which passed a Bill that grants 69 per cent reservation for weaker sections and backward classes in all private educational institutions and other establishments run by minorities exceeding the Supreme Court limit of 50 per cent.

It is high time we realise that caste-based reservations are only meant to make the targeted community feel that a particular party is espousing its cause. Moreover, the poor people — landless, unskilled and daily wage-earners who are not-so-well-heeled — are neglected while those who are upwardly mobile among the Dalits and other backward castes are benefited as they the backbone of caste-based vote-banks in rural and semi-urban cities. Therefore, the fruits of economic growth and development do not trickle down to the poorer strata of the society.

Nothing can be more valuable than learning from the past. The British colonisers had characterised India as a society of caste-based divisions and fragments. By following the policy of divide and rule, the colonisers left India divided and fragmented. The lesson from colonial rule is that the policy of divide and rule fragmented Indian society on the basis of caste versus caste identities. Unfortunately, the post-independence Governments should have followed policies, contrary to the colonial practices, and every public policy should have been chalked out for all citizens irrespective of their caste, creed or community.

The upshot of above argument is that the policy-makers have almost 'legalised' casteism by following caste-based politics and in this process not only casteism has got strengthened, the real rural and urban poor have been left out of the welfare policies. We need to break this casteist formula to save the nation from getting divided on caste lines. If caste is the criterion of policy-making, casteism will get perpetuated and India will remain a casteist society.








AT one level, the verdict of guilty for the lone surviving gunman involved in the Mumbai carnage of November 2008 was anticipated from the very outset. Uniquely in the shadowy world of terrorism, the actions of Amir Ajmal Kasab had been caught on camera and there were enough survivors of the massacre to identify him. Yet, it was important for India to bring him to book through the due process of the law. For one, it starkly demarcated the brutal jihadi " justice" meted out to innocent men, women and children from that of a liberal democratic state. For another, the case itself fleshed out the elaborate conspiracy that was set in motion by the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba from Pakistani soil.


The judge, M. L. Tahilyani, deserves great credit for having conducted the trial with great fairness and dispatch.

The dignity that he brought to the process can only strengthen the case for judicial punishment of those accused of terrorism, rather than of taking recourse to vigilante justice, whether executed by the public or the so- called " encounter- specialists" of the police.


Indeed, Mr Tahilyani's acquittal of Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmad has only underscored the fairness of the trial. The evidence against them was clearly planted by police officials trying to show how the terrorists had operated with such familiarity in a city that they had never seen before. The mystery of how they did this was cleared only in October 2009 when David Coleman Headley was arrested and his role in conducting the detailed reconnaissance of the targets became known. The police did no service to anyone by trying to thus sully the process and we can thank Mr Tahilyani for refusing to allow justice to be contaminated.


Judicial punishment will never bring full closure, especially to the surviving victims or to those who lost their near and dear ones. In that sense, the true closure can only come when the key conspirators in Pakistan— Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed— are also brought to book, along with the other actors, some who are known and the others unknown. They are the people who planned the operation, trained the gunmen and directed their rampage in Mumbai. In that sense Mr Kasab was merely an instrument of a set of malevolent people who are alive and flourishing in Pakistan, and are probably even now planning further attacks against India.






FAISAL Shahzad, a naturalised American citizen of Pakistani origin, is said to have driven the explosive laden SUV into Times Square. Americans should consider themselves fortunate that the bomber was an amateur and doesn't seem to have had links with the Al- Qaeda. Though amateurish, the failed bombing is sufficient cause to examine certain fallacies in American foreign policy.

That the suspected bomber is of Pakistani origin shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

The truth of the matter is that in spite of the war against terror in Pakistan, organisations which indoctrinate and train individuals to conduct terror attacks are still very much active and that, too, with the continued blessings of the Pakistani establishment.

US policy has only strengthened the power of the Pakistani military and the intelligence agencies, which while fighting the Taliban, continue to train and fund other jihadi organisations, a fact that the US turns a blind eye to. Far from eliminating the network of jihadi terror, US presence in the region has been a catalyst for the perpetuation of the culture of extremism and the radicalisation of many people. One wouldn't be surprised if the radicalisation of Faisal Shahzad is a result of the same process.

If Mr. Shahzad is indeed the one responsible for the failed bombing, it would be the latest among a series of terror plots involving American Muslims. Clearly these are an expression of the deep anger of these individuals against American foreign policy. In spite of President Obama's efforts to win ' hearts and minds' in the Muslim world, American policies in Iraq, Palestine and other parts of the Muslim world are seen as being deeply hurtful to Muslims. With some of its own citizens feeling angry enough to blow themselves up and its frontline ally playing truant, there is a lot that the US needs to change.







IS THE PEACE process back on track after Thimphu? Has the diplomatic stalemate ended? A positive answer to both these questions depends on Pakistani policies.


If Pakistan has not concluded as yet that confrontation with India is more ruinous for it as a smaller country with fewer resources and mounting internal problems, it will not take the essential decisions to make peace with India. If its thinking and policies continue to be obsessed by the " core issue" of Kashmir and parity with India, the objective of peace will not be attained, whatever the process.


Peace with India also requires that Pakistan give up the use of terrorism to bleed India or extract concessions. This it is still not ready to do even as it is being ravaged by terror internally because of misguided policies. The delay in trying those responsible for the Mumbai carnage is not merely procedural, it connotes a basic reluctance to admit guilt towards India. The Pakistani establishment regards India's insistence that the guilty have to be prosecuted before talks can resume as " coercive diplomacy". The irony is that its own use of terrorism against us for decades is not seen as " coercive diplomacy", but our demand that Pakistan must visibly give up this instrument in order to create a congenial atmosphere for dialogue is characterised as such.




The defiant attitude on putting curbs on Hafeez Saeed is another symptom of this frame of mind. That he heads a known terrorist organisation and openly incites jihad against India is being disregarded.


We are asked to produce evidence to enable the Pakistani authorities to proceed against him. Even at the track 2 level, not only are Pakistani interlocutors unwilling to criticise Hafiz Saeed, they seek to turn the tables on us by drawing an untenable parallel with Bal Thackeray's case, as if he, in turn, heads organisations promoting jihadi terrorism inside Pakistan.


Will the Pakistani attitude on these issues change after Thimphu? There is no reason to believe that Prime Minister Gilani's reported assurance that all efforts will be made to bring the trial of those involved in the Mumbai attack to a speedy conclusion holds more promise than before. Pakistani sentiments about Mumbai are spelt out more accurately in Foreign Minister Quereshi's oft repeated callous statement that while India may have had one Mumbai, Pakistan has had several.


Apart from the absurd parallel that is drawn, the implication is that India is making too much of a fuss over Mumbai and it is time it moved on. At track 2 level, the Pakistanis are more explicit in saying that India's insistence on Mumbai has become a " bore"— which of course is not the case of Pakistan's insistence on Kashmir for 63 years! On the Mumbai case, Pakistan will add to the procedural complexities in order to evade action on substance by recourse to the legal form.


Kasab is now required to appear in person before the court in Pakistan. Apart from other issues, it will be a piquant situation if Kasab, sentenced to death by the Indian court, is required to appear for examination by a court in Pakistan! At Thimphu the need to remove the " trust deficit" that exists between the two countries was recognised. Presumably the reference here is to the trust that developed between 2004 and 2007 and was shattered after Mumbai. Has this deficit occurred because otherwise two trustworthy countries have mismanaged their relations to the point that unwarranted mis- perceptions about each other have developed? Or is the deficit the consequence of concrete policies and declared positions of Pakistan? Pakistan squandered three opportunities given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to renew the dialogue with Pakistan — at Ekaterinaberg and Sharm el Sheikh last year and at New Delhi this year— because it concluded that it did not need to yield on issues of concern to India as Pakistan had fortified its position vis a vis the Americans on terrorism and Afghanistan whereas India was acting under US pressure and had realised that its policy of refusing dialogue was not paying any return.




Why should Pakistan be desperate to seize the fourth opportunity it has been given to re- set its India policy button? Why should a more confident Pakistan that is obtaining sizeable arms supplies and economic assistance from the US to boost its capacity to continue its confrontation with India be more inclined to yield to India's concerns? In its quest for parity with India, Pakistan now has a strategic dialogue with the US. Even on the nuclear issue, sensing a more accommodative US approach, it is aggressively demanding a nuclear deal similar to the one with India. It is not without significance that a US think tank is reporting an imminent China- Pakistan nuclear deal in violation of the NSG guidelines, and suggesting that the US may not confront China over this because it needs its cooperation on sanctions on Iran.


After the Foreign Secretary level talks in Delhi and Indian firmness on giving priority to the terrorism issue, Pakistan dug in its heels, refusing to set the dates for a second round of Foreign Secretary level talks at Islamabad unless its demand for political level talks between Foreign Ministers, followed by those at the Prime Minister's level at Thimphu, was met. Sensing strength, it declared publicly that it was not desperate for a dialogue with Delhi. Its firmness paid off at Thimphu, even though its insistence on talks at the political level constituted diversionary tactics, for the reason that such talks have already occurred two times last year, but without any effort by Pakistan to build on them by progressing on issues of central concern to India. In reality, Pakistan has deliberately vitiated the atmosphere of our bilateral relations in various ways.




In recent months infiltration levels from Pakistan into J& K have increased. Pakistan has once again started speaking of implementing the UN resolutions to resolve the J& K issue. Our mission and our personnel have been attacked in Kabul with ISI connivance. General Kayani has openly spoken about imposing limits on India's presence in Afghanistan, as a corollary to its own ambition to acquire strategic depth there. It petulantly opposed our presence at the Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan, exposing its cynicism in advocating an expanded dialogue with us bilaterally while rejecting one in a multilateral forum involving a SAARC member.


It is conjuring up security threats from India by calling for a strategic balance in South Asia. It is exciting the non- proliferation lobbies in the US still opposed to the NSG exception for India by accusing the Indo- US deal of directly contributing to the expansion of India's nuclear arsenal and promoting a nuclear arms race in the sub- continent. It is raising public passions domestically over the water issue, with accusations flung at India of water terrorism and water theft, in a bid to transfer blame on us for the mismanagement of its own water resources and provincial disputes within Pakistan over water sharing. It probably calculates that the water issue will give renewed salience to the Kashmir issue in which the interest of the international community has declined.


Peace with Pakistan is therefore not for tomorrow, whatever the thaw in Thimphu.

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









DR. GAURAV Chhabra – a qualified medical professional – gave up a lucrative career, to take the path less trodden. While serving in a malaria control programme in Gujarat, about five years ago, he realised that there were " real people" around and decided to work for them.


The doctor founded an NGO – Humlog – in 2006 and made a foray into short and low budget film making. His efforts have received tremendous applause.


A film on slum children's health – ' The Mud Cake' – won him awards at the WHO Global Health Film Contest in 2007 and at the Mumbai International Film Festival ( MIFF) in 2008.


In 2008, he produced ' The Taste of Berry' – a small film focusing on the treatment of schizophrenia. He made this film for a Bangalore based NGO which promotes psychological methods over the routine allopathic methods. This film won an award at the We Care Film Festival in New Delhi.


The 31- year- old Gaurav – who also holds M. Sc degree in psychotherapy and counseling and a PG diploma in preventive and promotive health care – has also made promotional films for the prestigious Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research ( PGIMER) in Chandigarh. A short and low budget filmmade by Gaurav on pneumonia, was widely appreciated.


He also made ' Red' for the State Blood Transfusion Council to promote blood donation.


His experiments with self and life did not end here. According to him, the authorities and the public give prime importance to global issues, but various important small and local concerns skip their attention.


Gaurav realised that the common man in Chandigarh is not a priority for the administration.


The bureaucrats focus more on their own requirements. He launched a campaign to make the public aware about the bureaucrats' move to set up an IAS Officers' Club in a green area. He made the film – ' Green Warriors of Chandi's Fortress' to highlight the issue. The film showed how 600 trees, an old plant nursery and a heritage lotus pond would be destroyed for the club's construction. He used the Right to Information Act for information on the project.


The film was screened in 34 Chandigarh schools and children's visits to the site were arranged. Finally, a Public Interest Litigation saved the green cover. Now a butterfly park is coming up at the site.


The film won awards at the Green Lifestyle Film Festival, California and was also honoured at the Ahmedabad International Film Festival.


Soon he started a campaign – ' My City, My Courtyard' – for reclaiming platforms for public expression in Chandigarh. He garnered public support and forced the authorities to permit visitors to the Open Hand – a monument in Chandigarh made out of bounds by the police.


Humlog also launched a campaign against the hike in fee at the Tagore Theatre. Various artists held peaceful protests and have asked the administration to reduce the fee.


Recently, Humlog organized May Fair – an open air art and cultural extravaganza to promote performing arts. During this, they highlighted that the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Corporation ( CITCO) illegally started a commercial venture at Leisure Valley.


According to the Zoning Plan of Chandigarh, the area is strictly reserved for " cultural- cum- educational building." The place was proposed to have been made into an open air theatre.


Gaurav believes that these were " small experiments" for a big campaign. He plans a pan- India tour on motorcycle to motivate the youth for taking recourse to artivism – activism through art – to protest and reclaim their rights. He also says that he has not wasted a degree in medicine but put it to purposeful use.



STRANGE are the ways of the Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh. The authorities have been ruthlessly destroying the city's green cover. A mango tree in the city's Sector 21 – estimated to be about 100 years old – was brutally chopped off to clear space for widening a road.


The tree falls in the category of heritage trees since it existed even before the inception of the city. The residents in the locality say that it was painful to watch the tree being chopped off, since it had a large number of birds nesting on it. The tree was also bearing a bumper mango yield this year.


Sources say that the tree was chopped off despite the administration's specific instructions against damaging it. The tree gave the contractor a large quantity of wood, precisely four truck loads. Sadly, he would go scot free for damaging the tree after paying a measly fine of Rs. 500 – the maximum for the offence.



TYLER, a city in Texas, USA, is considering making Chandigarh its Sister City.


The reason for this is that both the cities share a common feature – love for roses.


Tyler is also known as the Rose Capital of the world.


Tyler has been growing roses since the 1920' s and produces about one- third of all the rose bushes grown in the

United States. Most of these are sold through Wal- Mart. Around 600- 700 varieties of roses are grown here.


Tyler has the USA's largest municipal rose garden and hosts the Texas Rose Festival each October. Chandigarh's Zakir Rose Garden is the largest of its kind in Asia and holds a Rose Festival in February.


Henry Bell, Chief Operating Officer, Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce said that the modalities were being worked out to invite a delegation from Chandigarh to visit Tyler during the Rose Festival in October.


He says that Tyler and Chandigarh could begin benefiting from each other through greater interaction in various spheres - economic, developmental, educational and cultural.


Mr. Bell pointed out that it was an Indian entrepreneur settled in Tyler – Raja Virk – who highlighted how much the two cities have in common. Thus, the idea of becoming sister cities wasworth exploring.


Sister Cities International was formed in the 1950s to foster exchange of ideas in different fields between cities that are similar.


Tyler is already a Sister City to many other cities.



DIAL- A- RICKSHAW operators in Punjab's border town Fazilka – which shot to fame for introducing organised eco- friendly transport services in the city – are in trouble as a pakodawala, supported by a local BJP MLA, has encroached on their parking space.


When the rickshawalas tried to get the encroachment removed, they were intimidated by goons.


However, the Deputy Commissioner in Fazilka, K K Yadav, says that the municipal corporation would remove the encroachment on public land and the administration would also consider the allocation of land to the eco- cab owners.


The High court has applauded the project and asked the Punjab government to replicate the model in other cities.


The walled city in Fazilka has become a car- free zone because of it.


Contradictions of Khap International



While Naresh Kadyan – the convenor of Kadyan Khap International – would say that same gotra weddings and marriages within the same village are against social norms, he uses the internet for expressing his views. An avid animal protection activist, Naresh Kadyan smokes a hookah and argues that Jats have to be " progressive." It seems that to him ' progressive' mainly implies that he can surf the internet while smoking a hookah.







An International Labour Organisation report, Global Employment Trends 2010, doesn't paint a reassuring picture of South Asia's job scene. It says that "vulnerable employment" increased from 76.9 per cent of total employment in 2008 to 78.6 per cent by 2009's third quarter. Also, workers associated with low wages, below par productivity and poor working conditions may have grown in number between 2008 and 2009 to 50-52 per cent of the global workforce. This is a clear pointer to the post-Lehman crisis's impact worldwide, since insecure employment was declining in the 2000s. Though India wasn't flattened by the mayhem overseas, jobs were badly hit.

But even before the downturn, India was already plagued by labour's growing casualisation. It's estimated that, between 1999-2000 and 2004-05, an annual 2.5 per cent employment growth occurred in the unorganised sector alone. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector said the sector accounted for 93 per cent of jobs as in 1999-2000. Agriculture, employing nearly 60 per cent of the productive population despite its dipping input to growth, is nearly 100 per cent unorganised. Despite entrepreneurial vitality and cheap, abundant labour in the country, manufacturing in India is nowhere near China in terms of contributing to GDP growth. Even the dynamic services sector is primarily informal.

Sadly, successive governments haven't had the stomach for labour reform, the key to generating organised sector jobs. Thanks to restrictive labour laws, relics of colonial times, such employment has remained near-stagnant in post-reforms India. For instance, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, still covers hiring and firing by industry. Subsequently amended, it mandates that a business recruiting over 100 workers can't lay them off without an official nod. Employment in larger firms has thus dwindled over time. There's also little scope for flexibility in contracts reflecting the diversity of jobs on offer across different sectors. The industrial workforce has got increasingly 'casualised' as employers source informal hiring systems even as labour contractors flourish. Investment in workers' training, skills upgrade and welfare has been hit as a result.

While pro-poor schemes like NREGS are important, they're not the answer to labour insecurity. India must go beyond palliatives - ones heavy on the public exchequer - to genuinely empower those surviving on low-paid, non-secure urban and rural jobs. Organised sector growth should be top priority given India's fast-growing ranks of a young, productive and demanding population. Besides overhauling antiquated labour laws, we must create opportunities by dismantling hurdles to private investment in infrastructure and retail, boosting agriculture-industry linkages and reframing land acquisition rules so factories can start up easily. State paternalism is no surrogate for these tasks.







Caste, often, makes its appearance in unusual circumstances. DMK chief M Karunanidhi believes that caste leaves its mark even on corruption scandals. He thinks that A Raja, Union minister for communications and information technology and a senior DMK leader, is facing corruption charges because he is a Dalit. The opposition has accused Raja of corruption in the 2G spectrum allotment and wants him to resign. The DMK chief is free to defend his minister and oppose the opposition's attempt to force him out of the Union cabinet. But should he lean on the minister's caste to make his defence? Raja has been accused of cronyism and financial misappropriation. His detractors believe that these contributed to loss of revenue for the government. An impartial assessment of the allegations needs to be made. A defence in favour or against the minister must be made accordingly.

To accuse those who have made allegations against Raja and his ministry as motivated by caste prejudice is to obfuscate the issue and is unacceptable. In fact, such comments dilute the fight against caste. Caste discrimination continues to be rampant in India and Dalits face the brunt of it. That, however, is no reason to suspect caste prejudice behind corruption charges levelled against a Dalit minister. If the DMK chief feels that the allegations against his minister are not backed by facts, he should challenge them on that ground. The fight against caste prejudice should not be mixed up with the need to have transparency and accountability in public office.






A billion people and yet only one gold at the Olympics! When it comes to our lacklustre performance in sport, we instantly blame our sports bodies and government for not doing enough. We perhaps little realise that, on their own, the two can hardly be expected to make a big difference, especially in the absence of a strong sports culture in the country.

Don't forget that even though we may be the world's second most populous country, we have hardly 5,000 national athletes competing at the international level compared to more than 25,000 in a small country like Cuba, which has a population less than Delhi's. Even in community sports, we have less than 1,00,000 trained volunteers whereas in a small country like Netherlands, which is of the size of Delhi in population terms, there are more than 1.6 million community sports volunteers. Hence, we need nothing short of structural reform.

Near-absence of sports commercialism has also blunted India's sporting prospects. The International Olympic Committee, which resisted corporate sponsorships up to the late-1970s, eventually gave in, marking the beginning of sports capitalism. Today, sport contributes 2 to 4 per cent of GDP in most developed countries and 3 per cent of world trade. In the US alone, the contribution to GDP is estimated at around $350 billion.

Sports commercialism has created multiple relationships between sport and commerce, which include infrastructure development, player development, sports entertainment and conduct of mega-sporting events. The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, the greatest ever sports marketing accomplishment, generated over $3 billion, mostly from broadcasting rights, sponsorships, tickets and licences. These developments made sport an attractive career option in those countries, attracting and retaining the best sporting talent. No wonder when we look at the Olympic medal tally today, it bears a striking resemblance to sports GDP ranking of countries!

India is deficient in both a sporting culture and sports commercialism with the singular exception of cricket. No wonder cricket is the only sport in which we dominate. Remember, we were a cricket-loving nation even in the distant past, but in those days it was an exclusive privilege of a few elite, and those who played for the sake of money were severely looked down upon. Only after becoming a professional sport did cricket become truly egalitarian. The same may also hold true for golf and tennis, but in the rest of the games there is hardly any commercial patronage. Hockey is a good pointer to this and the recent protests of our national hockey players explain it all.

Where we stand in the sporting world today is similar to where we stood in the global economy prior to 1991. And just as we had plugged into the global economy then, and emerged as an economic powerhouse in less than 20 years, we need to do the same in sports now, to be at the forefront in the near future.

Opinion makers and civil society will have to create a positive attitude towards sport and the government will have to respond commensurately by making sport truly a national priority on par with health and education. Also, sport and physical education must be made an integral part of the school curriculum to derive multiple benefits in terms of promoting healthy lifestyles, leadership, youth development and social inclusiveness.

Sports bodies will have to promote a strong competition structure at the grassroots level and beyond; improve training methods with government support (which includes coaching, play facilities, technology, nutrition, psychology and sports medicine); and, above all, focus on athletes' welfare. The annual national sporting calendar must be drawn well in advance and adhered to. National championships and national games must be raised to international standards in terms of regularity, quality of staging and level of performance. Before bidding for mega sporting events, highest standards must be achieved in the conduct of national sports events.


Sadly, in our country, National Games are seldom held on time. The 34th Jharkhand National Games, originally planned for 2007, have been postponed five times and nobody knows when they'll be finally held (yet IOA has merrily allotted the 37th National Games to Chhattisgarh, even while Kerala and Goa are still in the queue waiting to host the next two editions after Jharkhand!). Still worse, little planning seems to go into these games, reducing them to event management exercises. No wonder, post-games, most sports facilities languish for want of proper use and maintenance. This has to change.

Indian companies will also have to give greater patronage to sport as part of their corporate social responsibility, besides harnessing the commercial potential of sport. Only then would it be possible for talented sportspersons to opt for and pursue sport as a rewarding career. It'll also make sport a viable economic activity. The only danger to guard against is placing monetary interests above sporting interests.

The mantra then is to follow a four-pronged strategy in which government remains focused on promoting sport for all, society on adopting sport as a way of life, sports bodies on professional management and the corporate sector on healthy commercialisation of sport. Only then can we honestly hope to secure the future of Indian sport.

(The writer is a civil servant.)





Ratan Lahkar was 29 years old and broke when he joined the Natraj Theatre, a mobile theatre company run by his uncle Achyut Lahkar, in Assam in 1969. Today, Lahkar runs the Kahinoor Theatre, a hugely successful mobile theatre group in Pathsala, a small town 100 km west of Guwahati. Among Kahinoor's popular productions are Dainosoror Atanka based on Jurassic Park and Ah! Moi Munnai Koiso, a play on the relevance of Gandhian values. Lahkar was in Delhi recently to perform at the Kahinoor Theatre Festival organised by the National School of Drama. He told Faizal Khan that of the 160 mobile theatre companies in Assam, at least 30 make huge profits:

How is the mobile theatre different?

The traditional theatre is located in cities and staged indoors in auditoriums with limited capacity. They don't go to the villages. More than 70 per cent of Indians live in the villages. The mobile theatre starts in a town, then goes to villages and performs before thousands of people in open-air venues.

What explains the commercial success of mobile theatre groups?

It's because we take our plays to villages where there are no cinemas and no electricity to watch television. People pay to see the plays of mobile theatre. We are invited by local cultural organisations, which sell the tickets. The actors in our plays are successful film stars because glamour helps the business. We offer a variety of plays from adaptations of famous Assamese novels and Greek classics to those based on big Hollywood films. In my troupe's 1998-99 production Titanic, we had to stage an unprecedented matinee show because of public demand. But the commercial success is because we are committed professionals, who know the art and the craft of the stage like any other urban theatre group.

What goes into the making of a production?

The local audiences influence our productions. After each play in a village, people come and tell us about what they didn't like and point out defects in the scenes. These suggestions are taken to the director and the playwright, who make the necessary changes. My theatre company has staged more than 100 plays since its launch in 1976. Some of our plays use the stage to educate the villagers about social issues. We talked about the evils of drug addiction in one play and about the relevance of the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi in another. We have also had two productions to dispel the myths about AIDS. The mobile theatre has earned a lot of money from rural areas of Assam and we have a responsibility of giving back to the society.

You mentioned about the responsibility to give it back to the society. How do you do that?

This happens at two levels. One, local cultural organisations, which book our plays, channel their profits into building schools, especially for girls, in the villages. There are several schools and colleges in Assam today, which are run from the profits of mobile theatre. The mobile theatre groups too individually run schools and colleges to serve the rural community. We are directly or indirectly involved in several areas of social work.







Should Kasab hang? The trial of the 26/11 accused has vindicated India's often criticised judicial system: justice has not only been done, but has been seen to be done. The sheer scale of the assault and the cold-blooded massacre of innocents inevitably excited repugnance and rage: the lone assailant to be taken alive must pay the ultimate penalty for his unforgivable crime. That is the natural first response: hang him. Everyone, survivors of the attack, friends and families of the victims, and commentators and opinion makers, seems to want the death penalty for Kasab. A media-created 'celebrity' has played to the gallery by pronouncing that hanging is too good for the Butcher of Mumbai, who should have his 'arms and legs chopped off'. Such remarks reveal the betrayal that lies at the heart of all acts of revenge: the brutal exactitude of the calculus of vengeance - an eye for an eye - leaves everyone blind, the perpetrator of the original crime and those who seek to redress it.


In a more sober vein, it has been suggested that if Kasab is to be spared the rope, then so should all the other 50 who await the hangman on India's Death Row. If Kasab - found guilty of the direct or indirect murder of 72 people as well as of 'waging war' against the Indian state - is not to be given a death sentence then the capital punishment should be abolished.


In India, the death sentence is awarded for only the 'rarest of rare' cases where the criminal act was so abhorrent that any leniency shown to the perpetrator would amount to an affront to the suffering inflicted on the victims and those grieve for them.


By any reckoning, Kasab's case must be deemed to belong to this 'rarest of rare' category. But by urging his execution - in the midst of the emotionally supercharged atmosphere following the conclusion of the trial - we are endorsing the fundamental legitimacy of capital punishment, and all that it entails.


The death penalty represents the absolute and irrevocable power of the state: to take the life of an individual who has transgressed its laws. Shorn of euphemisms, capital punishment is the legitimisation of murder on the part of the state. Like all acts of life-taking it is an asymmetric right, in that the taker of life, individual or state, is unable to give life, or to give back life, in case of an error of judgement.


In Kasab's case there is no doubt whatsoever about his guilt. But by executing him, what will the polity achieve? Proponents of capital punishment generally advance two arguments to support their view. The first is deterrence: fear of attracting the death penalty will deter future criminals from perpetrating such crimes. Numerous studies have shown that the deterrence factor doesn't work. It certainly wouldn't work in the case of Kasab: his execution would be seen as a 'martyrdom' by future terrorists who would sacrifice their own lives to avenge him and so gain access to their perverted version of heaven. The second argument for the death penalty is that it affirms the sovereign monopoly of the state on killing. Only the state can kill, either through war or execution. The individual does not have the right to take even his own life, attempted suicide being a punishable offence.


Kasab was taken alive and guarded at a reported cost of some Rs 44 crore by the same state that can now show its supreme power by taking his life. It is an awesome power indeed. But it is a death-and-death power, not a life-and-death power in that the state can take the life of a terrorist but it could not prevent terrorists from taking the lives of its own citizens, both before and after 26/11.


Hang Kasab? By all means. So long as we know it's an emotional reaction of revenge, and not a rational response to an inhumanly savage act of violence which the killer's death can only compound, never mitigate. Instead of hanging him, bury him alive in prison.







Shashi Tharoor's exit from the Union council of ministers has given hope to several aspirants. Minister of State (MoS), Railways, E. Ahamed has begun to nurse hopes of regaining the position he held during UPA-I, that of minister of state for external affairs. But who will fill Ahamed's post? The talk doing the rounds in the corridors of power is that former Janata Dal (United) leader Digvijay Singh is negotiating an entry into the Congress, as also induction as MoS, railways. Incidentally, Singh has served as the railways MoS during Mamata Banerjee's previous term as the railways minister.


For crying out loud

Many young Lok Sabha MPs are upset over not being able to speak in the House on important issues. Their  complaint is that while senior members are given enough time to speak, they don't even get a minute to put across their views. "We are learning the tricks of the trade from Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav. We have to raise our voices like them only then will we be heard," said a young MP from Punjab.


No awe of the law

Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam's visit to the US recently to negotiate direct access for India to David Headley has created a new tension in the Union government. The grapevine says that Subramaniam coordinated with home minister P. Chidambaram on the issue, much to the chagrin of Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily. The law minister is already a bit upset with the extra interest shown in his ministry by the Prime Minister's Office and the home ministry.


A worrying exit policy

Retired Congress politicians and bureaucrats who have been pestering the party leadership for governorships have suddenly developed cold feet, says a party veteran. The sudden reluctance is being attributed to the increasing rate of fatality that seems to be coming with the post. Party senior Dewendra Dwivedi, who was in the pink of health, suddenly developed a liver problem and died after he was rehabilitated as Gujarat governor. It was almost the same case with Prabha Rau, who took over as Rajasthan governor very recently and died last week. Her predecessor S.K. Singh too died in office.


No sugarcoating his words

BJP chief Nitin Gadkari does not mince words when it comes to taking on Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, focusing his attack on the political fallout of the Indian Premier League (IPL) row over franchisees. The other day, Gadkari, who  went to address sugarcane growers at Bhandara, Patel's home constituency, chided the minister for "wasting" time "watching cricket at night and cheerleaders who lift their legs for a six and their hands for a four when you languish without power for 24 hours." The locals loved every word, considering that the politics involving the NCP and the IPL is much discussed here. Gadkari has an eye on Bhandara for it is one of three Lok Sabha constituencies from where he may contest in 2014.


Not first among equals

Former Union Minister Shahnawaz Hussain, who is miffed over his exclusion from the list of new office-bearers announced by BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, does not hesitate to tell anyone who is interested that the "ground rule in the party" is "a winner is treated like a loser. If you lose (haar) an election, you are rewarded with a garland (haar)." Hussain is upset that party leaders like Vijay Goel made it to the list of general secretaries despite losing the last election, while he was ignored despite winning the Bhagalpur Lok Sabha seat. Last week, Gadkari met Hussain over dinner and assured him to "leave it to me, I know your potential and, as a spokesperson, you will do a great job. At the right time, I will assign you a key job." Hussain thinks he will accept Gadkari's word for now — till the Bihar elections are over. But he is one of the seven new spokespersons.






Before one looks at the battle between the Union Sports Ministry and the various national sporting bodies only as a 'war for independence', it would be good to remember that the main issue on the table is about fixing the tenures of the heads of these sporting bodies. Only those more comfortable working in a feudal structure — with or without its accompanying benefits for the sport the body represents — would want to oppose the sports ministry's order to limit the terms of those in these organisations and set a retirement age of 70.

The fact that many, if not most, of those at the helm of these bodies happen to be politicians should not dilute or concentrate this demand for a fixed tenure. As in any professional organisation, transparency is a key element for its proper functioning. Even as many would argue that a good administrator should be allowed to conduct his affairs in perpetuity, the problem is that no one, in the very real world of Indian sports or beyond, would be keen to admit that there may be not so good administrators — especially if the people at the top have been in that position for years on end.

The names of personages like Indian Olympic Association President Suresh Kalmadi, Archery Association of India President V.K. Malhotra, Badminton Association President V.K. Verma and Judo Federation chief Jagdish Tytler come to mind. Mr Kalmadi, on his part, has reacted to the ministry's order by speaking about the bogey of governmental uber-control, calling the regulation "an assault on the autonomy of the federations". This is like the government wanting to correct an oddity in the bodies that it supports — both nominally and financially — and being charged of fettering them in chains.

Yes, with the Commonwealth Games less than six months away, perhaps the plan to set some new rules may have been announced after the event. Changing horses — even tired or errant ones — midstream is neither good for morale or for logistics. But with Indian sports and sports organisations needing a fresh look — especially after the oligarchic mess of the Indian Premier League, which as part of the Indian cricket establishment, lies outside the immediate purview of government — it is hardly governmental overreach to demand that its sporting bodies set fixed tenures (or even managerial criteria) for its presidents and heads. A similar order is warranted from state governments to their sporting bodies where transparency is perhaps even more necessary today than in their national counterparts.





Hyperbole seems to be the hallmark of Americans. Having waged a relentless war against the slightest hint of anything adipose, those of comfortable proportions are now being viewed as security threats by the US army top brass. Obesity, they say, is the single largest factor for potential military recruits being turned down. Their theory is that with a few extra kilos about you, your abilities to plunge into combat may be compromised. We agree that if you had to race up and down the Hindu Kush in pursuit of nimble al-Qaeda lads, this may weigh you down. But with electronic warfare being so advanced, we hardly think that an ample rear would come in the way of pushing a few buttons.

The Americans should learn from us that you can pound your beat with several extra pounds. The Gurgaon police, who have come under the scale for their inch-by-inch approach to security, are a case in point. They have been asked to tone down. But our question is why should they become shadows of their former selves? They are doing a good job of frightening the daylights out of law-abiding citizens with their frequent checks.  Now tell us, if they weren't on their toes with all the agility of a circus pachyderm, would they be able to stop your car, peer into your boot and write out that incriminating challan? Would they be able to discern the minutiae of the lease agreement people have on commercial properties and work out smart means to let you hang onto your premises and in the process collect enough for themselves to join a fitness club and spa? So the Americans must learn from us instead of being so fat between the ears.

We have been weighed in the balance on many occasions and hardly found wanting. So the US army should open its arms, albeit widely, to those whose chests may have slipped. No need to make such heavy weather out of it really.







One of the stupidest laws in our statute books is Article 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It says that a book, film or work of art can be banned if it provokes "enmity between groups". All one has to do to get a book, film or an art work banned is to hold out the threat of communal violence. The Supreme Court recently banned the book, The Concept of World Political Invasion by Muslims, by one R.N. Bhasin, on this ground. In its observations, the court said that a work of scholarly criticism is allowed, but not a work of a vituperative nature. To the best of my knowledge, Article 19, which grants us the right to free speech and expression, does not lay down the kinds of speech and expression that are permissible. Free speech is not meant only for the learned and the intelligent; it is also meant for the stupid and the ignorant.

What this means is that the Thackerays in Mumbai are free to spew venom against "outsiders", that Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia are free to spew venom against Muslims, that the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) are free to carry on their proselytising activities, that the last bigot in the street is free to express what he feels like. Article 153A treats our citizens as little children who need to be protected from the big, bad wolves who occupy our political space.

People are not stupid. They know right from wrong. In all the years that Bal Thackeray has been writing editorials for Saamna, there has not been a riot based solely on his editorials. Riots are not spontaneous upsurges of violence. They are meticulously planned and executed. In Gujarat in 2002, for example, the rioters had precise knowledge of Muslim homes and shops and systematically attacked them. Also, there was very little popular participation in the riots. Most of the rioters belonged to the Sangh parivar. So the enmity among groups is not an automatic result of a speech but is artificially stoked and brought to fruition.

In this country, there is something called the Doctrine of Automatic Respect. What this doctrine says is that any value-system or belief-system supported by millions of people should be automatically respected. Religion is foremost among these systems and should be automatically respected. There can be a critique of religion from the viewpoint of progress. For instance, a religion that condones the action of a woman who throws herself on the burning pyre of her husband, or a religion that enjoins every woman to hide herself from head to toe, can be critiqued. But only in a respectful manner.

But in a true democracy, free speech is meant not only for the objective, the reasonable and the progressive. It is also meant for the biased, the retrograde and the violently vituperative. What free speech means, in a true democracy, is that every idea, no matter how ludicrously and violently expressed, has the right to enter the public space and be debated in a spirit that does not exclude scorn and sarcasm being poured on the idea in question.An idea cannot be dismissed out of hand simply because it sounds crazy and outrageous. It may be ahead of its time. Take, for instance, the case of Sigmund Freud. When he first started expounding his theory of the sexual origins of mental illness, many respectable and decent people scoffed at his ideas. And yet, a hundred years later, psychoanalysis is a well-established medical discipline. What the Doctrine of Automatic Respect does is exclude the possibility of an intellectual breakthrough of the 'Freudian kind'. Therefore, to suppress a voice, no matter how crazy it may sound, is not only profoundly undemocratic, but also intellectually murderous.

Soumitro Das is a Kolkata-based writer

The views expressed by the author are personal






A couple of years ago a colleague came into my office with what he thought was a definite typographic error: "It says that India won only three medals in the Olympics; that cannot be right — there is a billion people in India." I had to break it to him that this was actually the most medals India ever won in a single Olympic game. India has an average of 0.92 medals per Olympic, over 22 Olympic Games, putting it just below Trinidad and Tobago at 0.93. To put these numbers in perspective, China has won 386 medals in eight games, at an average of 48.3 and there're 79 countries that average better than India. Yet, India has ten times as many people as all but six of those countries.


Of course, India is poor. But not as poor as it used to be, and not nearly as poor as Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, each of which, per head, has more than ten times our medal count. Indeed, no country that has less medals per Olympic than India is even a tenth of its size, with two notable exceptions — Pakistan and Bangladesh. Bangladesh, in particular, is the only country of over 100 million people that has never won an Olympic medal. The next largest such country is Nepal.

There's clearly a pattern here. South Asia is what statisticians call an outlier, something that just doesn't fit. It'd seem logical, especially, in these days of Indian Premier League scandals, to blame cricket — may be cricket is absorbing all the sporting talent we have. But the fact is that we aren't that good at cricket. South Asians have never had the dominance over cricket that Australia, England and even tiny West Indies had in their heydays, despite our obsession and our massive size advantage — Bangladesh, for example, is bigger than England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies put together.

There are, of course, many other things that we have in common — Bollywood, bhangra, biryani — but the natural place to look first is nutrition. The usual measure of how well a child has been fed through her childhood years is her height compared to the international standard height for that age. Children of Indian origin in the West converge to the mean height of the native population over a couple of generations, which makes this a reasonable measure. By this measure, the numbers for India from the National Family Life Survey (NFHS 3) are nothing short of devastating.

Roughly half the children under five are stunted, which means that they're so much below the norm that there is serious cause for concern about their current and future health. A quarter are severely stunted, representing extreme nutritional deprivation. Our children are also extraordinarily underweight given their height: about half the children fall below the international definition of malnourishment and a quarter are wasted, meaning they're suffering from severe malnutrition. The record for the rest of South Asia, excepting to some extent, Sri Lanka, is no better.

What makes these facts more remarkable is that the stunting and wasting rates in sub-Saharan Africa, undoubtedly the poorest chunk of the world, are only about half of that in India. And these are the national average numbers: The NFHS divides the entire population in to five wealth categories, from the poorest to the richest. The numbers, given above, correspond more or less to what the survey finds for the middle wealth group of the five. For the poorest, stunting rates are over 70 per cent.

Nutrition seems to be another instance of South Asian exceptionalism. We do worse in the Olympics than countries far poorer than us, and our children are much less well-fed. I'd guess that these two facts are connected.

But underfed children are obviously not just about Olympic medals. They are the workforce of the future, the brawn but the brains as well — there is compelling evidence that childhood nutrition is connected to brain development. It's clear that some drastic action is called for and the current conversation about the 'Right to Food' clearly has something to do with this. But it is also clear that the 'right', which at some abstracted moral sense I entirely endorse, mostly misses the point.

If the poor in sub-Saharan Africa can feed their children, the middle of the Indian wealth distribution, who are far richer, can do it too. In the end, nutrition isn't primarily about money (though, obviously, for some people it is), but about bad water and poor sanitation and the diseases that come with it, which leach nutrients from the child's body and most importantly, about the diets that parents choose for their children — diets that may not have enough calories and certainly don't have enough proteins and micronutrients. Food, it seems, is not enough of a priority.

The Right to Food movement wants to solve this problem by offering people grains and, most importantly, pulses — probably one key missing piece of the diet — at heavily subsidised prices through the Public Distribution System (PDS). This may not be a bad idea if people actually eat the food. But given that they don't think it's a priority, why would they? In the old days of universal PDS, middle-class families would sell their subsidised grains to the poor. Now the poor will sell their subsidised dal to the middle-classes. And all that is if the food ever gets to them — as it is more than half of the stuff that gets into the hands of the PDS system gets 'lost' along the way — my guess is that entrusting it with large amounts of highly-subsidised dal won't help.

Our children cannot get the food, which is so obviously their right, till their parents make properly feeding them a priority. I will confess that I do not know how to make that happen. But what is clear is that it cannot be legislated in Delhi.

Abhijit Banerjee is Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics and Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, MIT

The views expressed by the author are personal





T tion c wo Indian scientists -- Ajay Anil Gurjar and Siddhartha A. Ladhake -- are wielding sophisticated mathematics to dissect and analyse the traditional medita- chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six tion chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six monographs in academic journals, which plumb certain acoustic subtlety of Om that they say is "the divine sound".


Om has many variations. In a study published in the Inter- national Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, the researchers explain: "It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it may be slower, several seconds for each cycling of [the] Om mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods but still pulsing at that slow rate." The important technical fact is that no matter what form of Om one chants at whatever speed, there's always a basic `Omness' to it. Both Gurjar, principal at Amravati's Sipna College of Engineering and Technology, and Ladhake, an assistant professor in the same institution, specialise in electronic signal processing. They now sub-specialise in analysing the one very special signal. In the introductoy paper, Gurjar and Ladhake explain that, "Om is a spiritual mantra, out- standing to fetch peace and calm."


No one has explained the biophysi- cal processes that underlie the `fetch- ing of calm' and taking away of thoughts. Gurjar and Ladhake's time-fre- quency analysis is a tiny step along that hitherto little-taken branch of the path of enlightenment. They apply a mathematical tool called wavelet transforms to a digital recording of a person chanting `Om'. Even people with no mathematical back- ground can appreciate, on some level, one of the blue-on- white graphs included in the monograph. This graph, the authors say, "depicts the chanting of `Om' by a normal per- son after some days of chanting". The image looks like a pile of nearly identical, slightly lopsided pancakes held together with a skewer, the whole stack lying sideways on a table. To behold it is to see, if nothing else, repetition.


Much as people chant the sound `Om' over and over again, Gurjar and Ladhake repeat much of the same analy- sis in their other five studies, managing each time to chip away at some slightly different mathematico-acoustical fine point. The Guardian








It is still unclear exactly how much money the Indian exchequer lost when the licences for second-generation telecom services, or 2G, were handed out essentially arbitrarily instead of through an auction. The numbers that the third-generation, or 3G, auction is throwing up — around Rs 50,000 crore — are staggering. There is little doubt that questions must continue to be asked how those licences were given out on Communications Minister A. Raja's watch. The UPA must know that this is a story that is not going away. Which is why the recent defence of Raja by his party chief, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi,


is significant. It shows that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, emboldened by its sweeping dominance in the Lok Sabha elections last year, believes that its choices for ministerial berths are beyond questioning and accountability.


How did we get here? How is it that the DMK, once a lobby for social and political democratisation — literally, it traces its ancestry to the Justice Party of Periyar — has become a family-run organisation of the textbook variety, and one whose leader has resorted to rebuffing questions by dwelling on the caste identity of his minister? Yet strangely that may indeed, even now, be an unfair perspective. After all, the DMK self-consciously modelled itself on the cadre-based parties of the left and the right, and is still, today, a mass organisation of a particular kind; if the byzantine intrigues of the party's first family fascinate us, it might well be because what the party stands for is so firmly established in the eyes of its workers that the individuals at the top are interchangeable.


There is another truth, and that is that India is changing, and Tamil Nadu not least. The patronage-and-power games that the DMK likes to play — campaigns structured around free gifts, the rewards of victory being specific, ministries as satrapies — are beginning to look increasingly out of place. There's an assembly election in their home state soon. The party must think that trotting out its progressive rhetoric and a few over-the-top promises will see it through again. But the world is changing, and the DMK could be unprepared.







Did it need to take 12 months, 296 witnesses, and continuous hearings by a trial court judge to hold Kasab guilty? After all, here was a man who was videotaped killing innocent persons on the night of 26/11. The answer is, unequivocally, yes. India's criminal justice system entitles every person, no matter what his perceived guilt or innocence, to a fair trial. But if Kasab's very public conviction demonstrates our criminal justice system's respect for the rights of the accused, it also showcases a tortuously slow process and low conviction rates. It turns the spotlight on our criminal justice system, and underlines the case for reform.


If you exclude prison, criminal justice rests on three pillars: the police, prosecution and, finally, the judiciary. Patchy investigations, poor prosecution, and delayed verdicts need wholesale attention. In 2000, the Union home ministry constituted the Justice Malimath committee, to suggest reform. The committee's recommendations, which are yet to be implemented, have been criticised for reducing delay by reducing the rights of the accused. This debate between fairness and speed is a continuous one. But there are less controversial ways to reform, while keeping fairness intact. The first is to dramatically increase the number of judges. Currently, one million Indians share, between them, just about 10 judges. Few cases can get a judge's undivided attention for 12 continuous months, as Kasab's did. The Law Commission, in its 120th report, has recommended that the number of judges be increased to 50 per million Indians, a five-fold increase that would surely reduce trial time. The second reform would be in the creation of an independent and well-paid prosecution service. This would ensure that the well-heeled cannot get away by hiring the best lawyers alone. The third change could be in protecting witnesses from fear, a suggestion in the Malimath Committee report aimed at preventing prosecution witnesses turning hostile, as so often happens.


The high visibility of the Kasab case ensured that prosecution was keenly tracked and that the possibility of witnesses being intimidated was kept minimal. But most criminal cases do not get such quality state representation. More judges, an independent and well-paid cadre of prosecutors, and a witness protection programme would go some way in improving the conviction rate and speeding up the trial process. Kasab's trial was the fastest terror trial in India. If only other cases were dealt with this quickly.









Jharkhand is often cited as an example to counter the argument that small states are better administered. Since its formation in 2000, mineral rich Jharkhand has floundered because of a series of unstable, corrupt, non-performing governments. Money and the perks of office are routinely brandished to win the support of the fickle MLAs. At times, even a single legislator crossing sides can tilt the balance. Madhu Koda, a little-known independent MLA, managed to stay on as chief minister for two years with the hesitant backing of the Congress. Koda's lone vote was crucial to prevent the formation of a BJP government. When Koda finally stepped down, he was charged with stashing away crores in various bank accounts.


Characteristic of the opportunism of state politicians is the present chief minister, Shibu Soren. Guruji, as he is fondly called, founded the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in his idealistic youth. He fought for the establishment of a separate state for the tribal population of Bihar and an end to their exploitation at the hands of money leaders and mine owners. But in his twilight years, the once fiery tribal leader is both physically debilitated and morally bankrupted.


Soren's latest act of perfidy is the betrayal of his ally, the BJP, by voting against the party's cut motion in Parliament last month. His son, Hemant, pleads old age and confusion as excuses for his father's "voting error", but the BJP suspects that the aging chameleon was exploring fresh options. Soren hoped that the Congress would reward him by appointing him a Union minister since he fears his days as CM are numbered. The chief minister has yet to find a safe assembly seat to contest before the deadline of June 30. None of his JMM MLAs, including his son and daughter-in-law, seems ready to oblige Soren by resigning from his/ her seat so that he could stand.


Soren first came to national attention in 1993, when he, along with three other JMM MPs, voted in Parliament to save the minority government of then-Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. It turned out that the JMM MPs were paid handsomely for their votes. Soren got caught since, unlike more seasoned and savvy politicians, he naively deposited the entire amount in his Parliament Street bank account. As coal minister in the first UPA government, Soren's antecedents often embarrassed the Manmohan Singh government. He had to quit his post after a non-bailable warrant was issued against him for his alleged role in the Chirudih massacre in which 10 people were killed decades earlier. Another legal entanglement was conviction by a lower court for the murder of his personal secretary.


The BJP, which often criticised the Congress for sponsoring Soren despite his chequered history, suddenly changed tack and backed him as CM after the Jharkhand assembly elections in December 2009. It was one of the first political decisions of the BJP's new president, Nitin Gadkari, who had proudly proclaimed that he wanted his party to return to value-based politics. The BJP seemed desperate to regain power in the state, even though Soren's government is a far cry from its professed ideological beliefs. The BJP now has only itself to blame for the mess it has landed in. The party realises that Soren is not a long-term bet. Hemant has tried to woo back the BJP by dangling the carrot that the JMM would eventually support a BJP chief minister. But, with a badly splintered JMM, with several party MLAs nursing chief ministerial ambitions of their own, Soren's son is in no position to deliver on his promise.


The Congress, for a change, has displayed political maturity and circumspection by refusing to bite the bait thrown by Soren. Wiser after its disastrous experience with Koda, the Congress insists that it will have no truck with Soren, and stick with Babulal Marandi, the widely respected tribal leader, who was its alliance partner in the last election. (The installation of Koda as CM in September 2006 in fact made explicit the habitual political promiscuity in the state: once a BJP MLA and a minister in the Marandi and Munda governments, he subsequently entered the assembly as an independent, and later helped dislodge the NDA government, to form a government headed by an independent with support from, amongst others, the Congress.)


While Soren for years was associated with the Congress, Marandi was once totally identified with the BJP. In his youth Marandi was groomed by the RSS and he played a pivotal role in building the party organisation in the state. He was Jharkhand's first chief minister. But halfway through his term, the BJP ditched its own man and propped up Marandi's junior minister, Arjun Munda, as CM. The ostensible reason for the sudden change of guard was the compulsions of politics, as several of Marandi's ministers had revolted against him. The smooth talking Munda, who had once been with the JMM, had gained the confidence of a section of the Sangh and party central leadership.


The BJP has not been able to live down its betrayal of Marandi. Its poor performance in the assembly polls, despite the advantage of anti-incumbency and despite winning more than half the Lok Sabha seats in the state in the 2009 general elections, reflects its falling popularity. On the other hand, Marandi's JVM party, which contested only 18 seats, returned 11 MLAs to the new assembly, a better strike rate than any other party in Jharkhand. The BJP seems to have backed the wrong horse. And a section of the party leadership is against throwing a lifeline to the Sorens yet again.









The most memorable image from the gamut of spy fiction, trumping even more arresting facts of real-life espionage, is Alec Leamas atop the Berlin Wall, clinging to Liz Gold below as she is shot by the East German border guards. John le Carré's novel The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, published and set shortly after the Wall's erection, punctured the popular romanticising of espionage (although it wasn't the first and the last to do so).


Le Carré as the anti-Fleming, and Alec Leamas or George Smiley as the anti-Bond, legitimised the spy as an ambivalent exile, in no-man's land, seeing through not merely his own delusions (as Czeslaw Milosz would say) but those of an entire state edifice, with the possibility of being disowned by all.


Leamas and Gold in this book, Smiley in the le Carré canon, questioned the mismatch between the West's democratic ideals and the operational methods of its intelligence machineries at a very difficult moment in the Cold War — showing there wasn't a hair's breadth between them and the KGB. But in portraying that machinery as a law unto itself and the moral dilemmas of those giving and obeying orders, writers like le Carré were also humanising the spy through psychological and circumstantial realism. The judgment? Real-life, big-time spies professing admiration (albeit qualified) for sometime colleague le Carré, including the most (in)famous of them all — Kim Philby.


Philby, as the enormity of his identity and role — some years after he escaped to the Soviet Union in 1963 — gradually unravelled, was an enigma. Those who knew Philby, those who studied him, knew the paradox — a man on the Russian payroll long before he joined British intelligence, who apparently never suffered the guilt of betrayal because he didn't believe he betrayed anybody, who was always ideologically loyal to the Soviets but never appeared to be a believing/ committed Marxist, who was the "epitome of Britishness", subscribing to the London Times in Moscow, perhaps pining for Test cricket scores and "a cottage in Sussex with roses around the door".


Phillip Knightley, the only Western journalist Philby ever saw in his Moscow apartment, shortly before his death in 1988, describes in Philby: KGB Masterspy (1988) how Philby lived in style, tastefully, with a library of 12,000 books. Knightley came away with the impression of an "Establishment Englishman who betrayed the West, who decided to go against his class and his upbringing for what he believed to the last were impeccable motives, and who then spent most of his life cultivating two separate sides to his head." Even Knightley couldn't ultimately answer why. There's no last word on Philby. But the contradictions, or opposing truths, paint him as the archetype of the spy as an exile.


Reported details from Madhuri Gupta's interrogation repeatedly point to her "disgruntlement" with the IFS officialdom. However, real-life espionage stories often, also, bust the synthetic loneliness of fictional spies. Gupta may have borne a grudge against an institution of the country her passport claims she swears allegiance to. But she has been anything but an exile in a real or metaphoric foreign land, or unwelcome in her own.


Our ambivalence about espionage is caught in a phrase (attributed to Murray Sayle) in Knightley's book: the spy is a "semi-criminal but with official backing". With our own spies, although our moral ambivalence is often repressed by a pragmatic code of imperatives, the inability to wholeheartedly embrace them (partly also because s/he will not have a face or name) remains. But what of the semi-criminals working for the other side? Why is condemnation so quick when one of our own defects or goes rogue? Is the set of imperatives (national security, continuity of life as we know it), no matter how tenuously linked to the traitor/ infiltrator, automatically dominant in the latter case?


Nevertheless, the impulse to condemn the traitor/ infiltrator is understandable. But that we don't, or can't, go out of our way to call our own unnamed spies on foreign soil "heroes" (no matter how readily we laud counter-espionage success against foreign spies or terrorists on our own soil) is the socio-psychology behind the spy's loneliness.


The morality of espionage received greater philosophical depth and literary engineering in, say, Conrad's The Secret Agent or the spy oeuvre of Graham Greene (incidentally, a friend of Philby). But le Carré's image of Leamas climbing down the eastern face of the Wall to be shot at the command of the Stasi officer-British double agent who oversaw his escape, collapses at once all layers of deceit, double lives, inhuman unconcern characterising espionage machineries. The chaos is closure for the spy who finally comes in from the cold.


Setting aside the involuntary or "trapped" spy, voluntary spies are, broadly, either ideological or mercenary. If the traitors among our midst are mere mercenaries, it's a relief since it's easier to explain away. But if ideology motivates them, are they worthy of an ounce of respect as, say, Klaus Fuchs or Richard Sorge would be from those they betrayed?








Inder Malhotra's "Fifty years of separation" (IE, May 3) brought to mind an intervention that I made five years ago in the Upper House. There were excessive floods in Mumbai due to incessant rains in the monsoons of 2005, and civic amenities totally failed. People were stranded in their cars for as long as 24 hours. Tempers ran high in the House (including mine). And I had the temerity to stand up and say that it was time that Mumbai was made a Union Territory!


What a storm of protest broke loose! Not only the Maharashtrian lobby in the Congress and in the BJP, but all members were vociferous in denouncing my suggestion (all, except the deputy chairman who was presiding). I quote the following extract from the official proceedings:


Shri Fali S. Nariman (Nominated): Sir, I entirely agree with what was just said. I have two suggestions, concrete suggestions, for the minister, because we are only at the stage of suggestions. My suggestion is, please leave the people of Mumbai alone. Take politics out of Mumbai. If you take politics out of Mumbai and leave it as a commercial capital of India, which it is, leaving aside the political capital, which is Delhi, I think we will have much to gain even by this terrible tragedy. The way to do it is a constitutional way. You please make it a Union Territory. You make Mumbai a Union Territory.




Shri Pramod Mahajan: Sir, I totally and completely oppose this suggestion and any effort to take away Mumbai from Maharashtra will not be tolerated. (Interruptions)...


Shri Fali S. Nariman: If it is not possible or tolerated, then administer it... (Interruptions)


Shri Fali S. Nariman: I am sorry. Just listen. My suggestion to the minister is this. Take the example of

Jamshedpur. Jamshedpur was an old zamindari which has been abolished. It is now leased. Jamshedpur in the state of Bihar is, perhaps, one of the best administered areas in the country and it so remains. You evolve a solution, Mr Mahajan, as to how best you can administer Mumbai. I would respectfully suggest that there has to be some depoliticisation of Mumbai. People are fed up with your ministers — your ministers and these ministers of Mumbai. They all go in cars — they have five cars each — with great flags and in a great flurry. Who went in boats or anything else to support them? Who went? (Interruptions)


Shri Janardhana Poojary: Sir, we do not agree with this suggestion. Nobody agrees with this suggestion. (Interruptions)


Deputy Chairman: Don't agree. Who is asking you to agree with this suggestion? (Interruptions) ...Mr Poojary ... (Interruptions)


Shri C. Ramachandraiah: This suggestion may not be acceptable to us. But let him express his view. (Interruptions)


Deputy Chairman: The honourable member has right to make a suggestion. But you may not like it. (Interruptions)


Shri Fali S. Nariman: You may not like it. (Interruptions)


Shri Janardhana Poojary: I am sorry to say that we do not agree with this suggestion. There should not be any controversy about it. (Interruptions) I am sorry to say this, Mr Nariman. (Interruptions)


Shri Fali S. Nariman: Sir, I respectfully suggest for your consideration that please consider how best your ministers can also contribute — whichever government is there — to maintaining and letting Mumbai remain the financial capital of India, which it is.


Thank you.(Ends)


Shri C. Ramachandraiah: This is bad tendency. Sir, honourable members have got the right to express their opinions. We may not accept it. But their right should not be suppressed here. This should not be allowed. (Interruptions)


Deputy Chairman: This is the forum where you can express your views. (Interruptions)


Shri Janardhana Poojary: Sir, we do not agree with his suggestion. (Interruptions)


It was Mr Janardhana Poojary's comments that prevailed!


The writer is an eminent jurist








String of pearls

Among the many international leaders who arrived to join the opening ceremonies of the World Expo 2010 at Shanghai last week were presidents James Michel of the Seychelles and Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives.


You might think the leaders of two small island states in the Indian Ocean would hardly be noticed at the expo. But the Chinese leader Hu Jintao had all the time to receive Michel and Nasheed in Shanghai and offer strong support. That should tell you about the strategic value Beijing attaches to the island states of the Indian Ocean often called the "string of pearls".


During the last few years, India has watched warily as China cast its charm over these two island nations, as well as Mauritius, that straddle across the sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean.


By directing a very small portion of its rapidly rising outbound tourist traffic, expected to reach 54 million this year, to the Seychelles and Maldives, and by establishing air connectivity, Beijing can easily draw them into the Chinese economic orbit. Beijing has every intention of doing so.


India has increased its own outreach; but is it purposeful enough to match the Chinese efforts? Compare, for example, the high level exchanges between China and India on the one hand and the Seychelles on the other.


Michel had earlier travelled to China in 2006, and Hu went to the Seychelles in 2007 and so did Wu Bangguo, a member of the CCP politburo standing committee and the head of China's National People's Congress in 2008.


When was the last time an Indian PM or president travelled to the Seychelles? Prime Minister Indira Gandhi went to Seychelles in 1981 and President Shankar Dayal Sharma in 1991.


In the case of the Maldives, President Nasheed has been very enthusiastic about building a strong partnership with India. Yet, Delhi has been unable to organise support for Nasheed's economic initiatives at home, for example on housing projects. In his talks with Nasheed in Shanghai, the Chinese President Hu Jintao offered a grant of 50 million Yuan to the Maldives. Delhi must ask itself if its incoherence is beginning to push Nasheed towards China.


Third island chain


While the Indian Ocean islands are important for China, they are certainly not at the top of China's maritime priorities. Beijing's main focus is on what it calls the "first island chain" — that runs all along its coastline from Japan to Taiwan through South Korea and the Philippines. All these nations have special security ties with the United States.


China's strategy is to build military capabilities strong enough to limit American naval operations in the waters enclosed by the first island chain. Beijing is also teasing its Pacific neighbours with political incentives to weaken their alliance with the United States.


If the US can't sustain its alliances along the first island chain in the present form, it might have no choice but to retreat from the Western Pacific to the Central Pacific and rely on what the Chinese strategists call the "second island chain" that runs from Bonin Islands in the north and moving southward through the Marianas, Guam, and the Caroline and Marshall Islands.


Meanwhile, China has stepped up its outreach to the Pacific Islands Forum, which brings together the tiny states, rapidly expanding its aid and strengthening its presence. The Indian Ocean islands, then,must be seen as part of a "third island chain" that will define the contours of China's global maritime power in the future.


Spheres of influence


A rising China rises is bound to build a strong navy and rewrite the global maritime order-first in the Pacific and then in the Indian Ocean. As a recent editorial in the Chinese daily, Global Times, put it, "It is difficult to imagine China would rely on a maritime strategic system built by the US after World War II to protect its global interests today."


Put another way, China plans to build an alternative maritime system in which it has as much say as the United States, given its growing global economic interests. The Times reminded us that "the time when dominant powers enjoyed unshared 'spheres of influence' around the world is over".


Rather than claim Indian Ocean as "India's Ocean" and object to the Chinese naval presence, Delhi should gear up to consolidate its maritime position in the Indian Ocean and expand its presence in the Western Pacific.







 "Westminster, the mother of Parliaments," the candidates, commentators and columnists like to say, usually with an insouciant flourish toward Big Ben. It's such a trippingly familiar cliché, so Englishly replete with the hand-me-down vanity of tradition, the authority of history, the sonorous tic of convention.


It's also infuriatingly wrong. A dim misquotation. What John Bright, a radical Quaker politician, actually said in the election campaign of 1865 was, "England is the mother of Parliaments." A very different proposition.


Westminster is just one of Mother England's children, and now looks increasingly like an aged, intransigent delinquent, unfit for society or purpose. The conventions are strangling, suffocating and mugging us. The British election, which will be decided on Thursday, looks like the most destructive or creative — depending on how big your house and your pension plan are—- since women got the vote in 1918.


Britain is chin-deep in the mire of the worst financial crisis for a generation, braced for the inevitable spending cuts and tax increases to avoid becoming the Greece of the north, albeit without the sleeveless T-shirts, moustaches and peasant break-dancing. Britain is fighting a mourned and resented war in Afghanistan, and the public service unions are winding up for a season of opportunistic strikes. The politicians are smeared with the shame of a scandal over personal expenses. They have never been held in greater contempt by the people who employ them.


And yet, this whole campaign has been dominated by Byzantine arguments about the process of politics. It's been monopolised by the politicians avoiding questions about their policies and finances as if they were being asked about their digestion. The high point, the big new idea of the campaign, has been the first American-style televised debates. Very American, seeing as the major-party leaders — Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labour, David Cameron of the Conservatives and Nick Clegg of the resurgent Liberal Democrats — were allowed to pose and prose without the added confusion of any Scottish or Welsh candidates or smaller parties like the Greens and the assorted far-right xenophobes.


Even if we've remained uninformed, unenlightened and uninspired, we do like the fact that the leaders are so thoroughly humiliated by the spectacle of being judged on such minute and degrading qualities as their smiles, haircuts and sweatiness.


In truth, humiliation came easily: these are not three of the most engaging or noble statesmen the nation has produced. Cameron is personable. A fresh-faced character who tries, and fails, with emotionally winning oratory. He always sounds like the coxswain urging the rowing team to pull together and straighten their straw boaters.


We look at Nick Clegg and try in vain to imagine him going toe-to-toe with leaders like Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel or even the Queen of Tonga. In any other decade, the best he could have hoped for would have been a post as a junior minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, an ambassador's bag-carrier. He speaks five languages but can't say boo in any of them. Gordon Brown is a character from a tragic opera, twisted by ambition and a Presbyterian sense of fateful destiny. He has waited 13 years, mostly in Tony Blair's shadow. He wrestles with an Old Testament temper, and it's said that he has no friends. Certainly, none of them have come out to contradict this.


We can argue till we've turned blue, and have, about who "won" the debates. They changed nothing. What has changed everything is the return of the Liberals. Like a soap opera character you thought was dead, they have shunted and shaken the binary nature of the ancient Parliament. If nobody wins a straight majority, the Liberal Democrats will have to make an alliance with either the Labour government or the Conservative opposition. Their price will be that future elections will use a proportional representation system that closely matches the percentage of votes a party wins nationwide to its share of Parliament. It's a voting method popular in Europe and the newer sort of federated nations, but utterly alien to our ancient, hidebound, conventional system.


We have, over centuries, arrived at a parliamentary system that is bad-tempered, deeply unfair and embarrassingly clumsy. For a start, the United Kingdom has more legislators than any country except China. The upper House of Lords has more than 700 peers — not a single one of them elected, but more than 20 are bishops. The Commons isn't much better; it has some 650 elected members. Members have little power or purpose — they sit out their lives in tearooms, gossiping and making trouble.


The English don't have a written constitution, but rather a dusty stack of procedures and precedents, and everyone agrees that this needs changing. It's needed changing for 100 years.Yet the worst possible way to start changing it would be precipitously, after an inconclusive election, on the heels of a global financial calamity.


True, we may wake the day after the election to find the Conservatives have won outright, there will be no deal over proportional representation, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. They're conservative: we won't have to change the traditions for another couple of hundred years. Should they win, it may mean that the electorate, for once, truly looked to the future, and recoiled in horror: proportional representation would mean that the Liberal Party could forever be the king-maker, and that every government for 1,000 years would be centre-left.


All the tradition and history and precedent has left the most venerable and smug of parliaments in a parlous place. When you look at traditions closely, examine what they really are, you realise they're made up of layers and layers of deferrals, delays, indecisions, tomorrows and long lunches. You find you do it this way because you've always done it this way, time flies and, before you know it, you've grown a tradition where there once was a view.








The April heat got to the box office. The month started on a dismal note with non-starters everywhere. Vivek Oberoi's Prince did startle a few trade pundits with its single screen opening but the joy didn't last long enough. The month ended on a high with the much anticipated release of Housefull. Trade expects this Akshay Kumar starrer to be a summer blockbuster.


Here's a lowdown:


OBEROI TOWERS ALMOST: When Kumar Taurani of Tips Films announced a mega budget (read Rs 40 crore) actioner, Prince, top-lining Vivek Oberoi, the industry almost laughed out loud. But the wily Taurani — the lesser known brother of Ramesh — knew what he was talking about. He played a gamble and he almost pulled it off. Prince took off to a flying start in the single screens. The publicity blitz and high definition action stunts proved to be a strong calling card for the movie. Eventually the business didn't sustain due to major script flaws and a lukewarm reception in the plexes. Ironically when the project — touted as Oberoi's comeback, was announced, even its lead star was jittery. If the trade had doubts about Oberoi's solo credentials then so did he. Instead he was banking on last year's Kurbaan to start the turnaround. Oberoi has been in the doghouse since he staged that (in)famous press conference against Salman Khan. The warm reception to Prince is an indication that the audience is warming up to him. This will spell good news for Rakta Charitra, his next with Ram Gopal Varma.


NO MASTI KI PAATHSHALA: After 3 Idiots made a telling statement on the education system, a host of movies on the same topic are being prepped in B-town. Ahmed Khan presented his take in Paathshala with Shahid Kapoor, Ayesha Takia and Nana Patekar playing school teachers. The film was a no-show at the BO. The fact that it didn't take even an opening should worry Kapoor. This is his third turkey in a row post Chance Pe Dance and Dil Bole Hadippa. Trade pundits opine that Kapoor's strength is romance as established by the mega success of Jab We Met and the respectable Kismet Konnection. Though he enjoyed critical acclaim for his double act in Vishal Bhardwaj's Kaminey, the film's business fell short of its cost. The buzz for his latest Badmaash Company is also not super hot. Kapoor needs to select scripts wisely. Let's hope he gets his mojo back with his father, Pankaj Kapur's direction debut, Mausam.


RGV SPOOKS THE BO: The crow was luckier than the scary doll. Ram Gopal Varma managed to spook the audience in his modestly budgeted and cleverly released Phoonk in 2008 but the sequel spooked the box office. Phoonk worked for its novel publicity campaign centred on a crow. The film's story about black magic also enthralled the audience. The sequel however didn't click at all. One of the prime reasons for the film's failure is an overdose of horror flicks in the last few months — films like Shaapit, Click, Rokkk, Hide & Seek told the same scary story too many times.


IT'S HOUSEFULL: Sajid Khan's Housefull is mindless, inane and illogical. But it did what a lot of movies this year haven't done: got the audience inside the theatre. The film opened to a bumper response all over the country — according to figures released by Eros International, the Akshay Kumar comedy has grossed Rs 64 crore in just three days. Among the first of the summer releases post IPL, Housefull opened across 2,000 plus screens worldwide and garnered a collection of Rs 48 crore gross in India and Rs 16 crore overseas in its opening weekend. It's being touted that Housefull has got the second biggest opening after 3 Idiots. Critics panned it but the film's hype won the first round. Though collections have dropped on Monday and a clear picture will emerge only post Wednesday, the producers of Housefull will be relieved because of its huge opening numbers. Akshay Kumar has reason to laugh even more in the Micromax ad.








Market regulator Sebi's new guidelines for credit rating agencies (CRAs) were long overdue. CRAs have been under fire after the financial crisis for failing to predict the risk associated with the various complex mortgage-backed securities they rated. Disclosure of shareholders and ownership patterns of rating agencies will enhance investors' confidence in the agencies' ability to manage conflicts of interest arising out of shareholders' pressure. By introducing uniformity in default definitions and disclosures relating to rating changes and making it mandatory to publish the default studies, the market regulator has stressed the need for greater transparency in the functioning of CRAs in the country. Default studies are a quantitative measure of the performance of CRAs and also act as a report card of their track record. Moreover, the new 15-page-long circular addresses some of the other concerns that have been raised after the economic crisis. The CRAs will have to disclose total receipts from rating services and non-rating services, disclose annually all the unsolicited ratings carried out by them and will have to make public the dissent note by any member of the rating committee. All these norms will augur well and enhance the comfort level of investors in the wake of doubts being raised on the effectiveness of CRAs even in India.


In the West, CRAs have been blamed for rating what were actually junk assets as triple-A. In the US, ratings were issued on collateralised and other structural instruments and were based on very limited performance data. In fact, in a global survey done last year by the CFA Institute—an international organisation for investment professionals—60% of the respondents said that the ratings are not useful in making investment decisions. In the same survey, about 80% of the respondents said that additional oversight was needed by the government to regulate the CRAs. The results point to a number of cross-currents in the CRA debate. As the complexity and interconnectedness of this global credit crisis are still being sorted out, investors need to make their own judgment and risk analysis before committing their money. National and global regulators will have to come up with newer ways to avoid the credit rating mistakes of the past. Though regulations can provide some directions, rating agencies too need to do some home cleaning. Globally, some of them have responded to the criticism and have overhauled their rating models by adding warning labels to many complex securities. Sebi has done well to issue new guidelines, keeping pace with global developments.







For many, the conviction of the lone surviving perpetrator of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Kasab, was a judgment that was so obvious that it ought not to have taken a year-long trial to reach that conclusion. After all, we had all seen the CCTV footage of Kasab wielding a gun, and going about killing innocents, at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on the evening of 26/11/08. Yet, no matter how water-tight the case against an individual, there must always be a fair trial and that is exactly what Kasab got. The difference between a civilised society and a band of terrorists is the adherence to the rule of law and due process. And frankly, by the standards of the Indian judicial system, this case has been wrapped up very quickly indeed. But this was always a special case and is, unfortunately, not an accurate indicator of the efficiency of either our investigative, prosecution or judicial systems. Those systems need desperate overhauling.


It is feasible to argue that there arises a trade-off between fairness and speed in any judicial process. It is clearly not appropriate to reduce the rights available to the accused in the name of speeding up processes. There are better ways to reform the system. For starters, the Indian judiciary could do with a lot more judges than it has—at the moment there are just about 10 judges per one million Indians. Hardly any case would get the undivided attention of a judge in a way that the Kasab trial got. The 120th report of the Law Commission had recommended a five-fold increase in judges per million Indians from 10 to 50. This surely needs to be expedited at the earliest. But that's only judges. We also need a better system of public prosecution—giving more independence and better pay to public prosecutors would help attract better talent that can match the best lawyers on the opposite side. One of the other problems that plague many cases is witnesses turning hostile. Again, there is a need to think of creative ways to work around this problem—a witness protection programme of the kind practised in the US may be useful. Investigative agencies, too, need better resources at their disposal and more inter-agency coordination. This is particularly important for nailing white collar offences. So while, the system deserves a pat on the back for convicting Kasab in relatively quick time, it needs to be able to do so in a wider range of cases before receiving unqualified praise.








Regardless of its ultimate outcome, the SEC's case against Goldman Sachs alleging securities fraud has already transformed the debate on financial sector reforms in the US. More importantly, I believe the case has raised disturbing questions about the economic function performed by investment banks in modern financial markets.


At the centre of the SEC case is the Abacus deal that Goldman brought to market in early 2007. The structure was created at the request of the hedge fund, Paulson & Co, which wanted to bet on the collapse of the US housing market by taking a short position on subprime securities. Goldman created synthetic subprime securities through the Abacus vehicle and sold these to the German bank, IKB. Paulson took the opposite (short) position on these securities.


The prospectus of Abacus highlighted the role of a reputed CDO manager, ACA Management, in selecting the portfolio of subprime assets underlying the Abacus deal and gave full details of this portfolio. But the 196-page prospectus did not mention the fact that Paulson had played a role in selecting the portfolio. This non-disclosure is a key element in the SEC case against Goldman.


In addition, the SEC alleges that Goldman misled ACA about Paulson's intentions. Apparently, ACA believed that Paulson intended to buy the equity (first loss) piece of Abacus and was, therefore, motivated to exclude truly bad assets from the portfolio. In reality, Paulson planned to take a short position in Abacus and wished to stuff it with the worst possible assets.


It is difficult to predict the outcome of the SEC case because there are few precedents for invoking the anti-fraud provisions of US securities law in similar situations. The SEC might be in uncharted waters here, but it is pursuing a civil case where the standards of proof are lighter. Moreover, Goldman would certainly not relish having to defend its unsavoury conduct in a jury trial.


It is true that during the crisis the SEC acquired a reputation for incompetence (for example, Madoff and Stanford), which makes people sceptical about the Goldman case as well, but the new director of enforcement, Robert Khuzami, whom the SEC hired last year, has a formidable reputation from his days as a federal prosecutor.


Interestingly, Goldman in its defence thinks of itself more as a broker-dealer in complex derivatives and less as an issuer or underwriter of the Abacus securities. Broker-dealers have no obligation to disclose the identity or motivations of either counterparty to the other. It is true that Goldman could have achieved the same economic effect as Abacus by intermediating a credit default swap (CDS) between IKB and Paulson, but that is not what it chose to do. It chose to issue securities in which a CDS was embedded.


I am, however, less interested in whether the SEC wins this case or not. I am more concerned about the role of investment banks like Goldman in modern financial markets. In an ideal, perfectly efficient market, buyers and sellers would deal with each other directly through an electronic limit order book without any gatekeepers or intermediaries. In reality, intermediaries are needed to solve the problem of information asymmetry where one side knows a lot more about the transaction than the other.


It follows that the value added by an investment bank is measured by the extent to which it reduces information asymmetry. Otherwise, it is only exploiting oligopolistic rents or earning the rewards of excess leverage made possible by implicit 'too big to fail' guarantees.


From this perspective, the major banks of the 19th century or early 20th century like Rothschilds, Barings or JP Morgan did serve an economically useful function. Academic studies have shown that sovereign bonds underwritten by these major banks during that period had significantly lower default rates than other sovereign bonds (Flandreau, et al, 2009, The End of Gatekeeping: Underwriters and the Quality of Sovereign Bond Markets, 1815-2007, NBER Working Paper 15,128).


Similarly, financial historians tell us that 19th century investment banks like JP Morgan played a critical role in bridging the information asymmetry between US railroads and their British investors. To their contemporaries, rich and powerful bankers like the Rothschilds and the Morgans were among the many ugly faces of capitalism. But the hard facts show that while they did not claim to be doing God's work, they did do something useful.


The Abacus case makes one wonder whether modern investment banks do play any such useful role. The Goldman defence asserts that sophisticated investors like ACA and IKB were capable of looking after their own interests and did not need help from Goldman or anybody else. If there are no information asymmetries to be resolved or if modern investment banks have too little reputational capital to resolve them, then it is not at all clear what economic function they perform in today's highly liquid and sophisticated markets.


The author is a professor of finance at IIM Ahmedabad







The tragedy of the Acropolis economy is a manifestation of another moral hazard that has surfaced at a time when the debate on the financial crisis has just about ebbed. Bailouts were the final norm when financial institutions went under (excluding Lehman). But this story is quite different and comes on the back of first, the Dubai crisis that briefly cast a shadow, and now with Greece on the precipice of a sovereign default.


The bailout of Greece is a necessity because it is a part of an integrated monetary system that has worked well, notwithstanding Italy and France deviating at times. Greece is not able to service its debt, which is at 115% of GDP and accompanied by a fiscal deficit of 13.6%. Normally, countries that have this problem can raise interest rates or devalue their currencies. Or they can simply print currency. But, this is not possible as Greece is a part of the Euro system.


One could have taken the stance that the country can be asked to fend for itself as punishment for bad governance as it has been fudging its economic numbers. But, its public debt of around 100 billion euro is held mostly by European banks (over 70%). Therefore, if Greece fails, so would the banks holding these bonds. S&P has reduced its rating status to junk bonds on the premise that 30-50% of the principal cannot be repaid. It is not surprising that the 2-year bond rate had touched 20%, while those of all other potential problem countries also rose commensurately. Therefore, Greece with a share of 2.6% in the Euro group has the potential to wreck the system if the problem is not solved.


The Euro members and IMF will provide 45 billion euro as a bailout package for 2010. Greece will still require 40 billion euro on an annual basis till 2014 to repay debt and another 70 billion euro as fresh borrowing. This will work, provided fiscal stringency is followed, something which is alien to the nation's political economy. This is the risk that the other countries are taking in the rescue operation.


There are four issues that deserve some thought. The first is that there is a sense of panic that has crept in as every country is evaluating the financials of the other. It is now felt that similar problems exist or could come up in what, with a touch of humour, have been referred to as the PIGS nations or PIIGS countries—Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain and maybe even Italy. Their debt levels are not as alarming but are held by banks in this group. If Greece is bailed out, then these governments may just go slow on reforms knowing that others could pitch in.


The second is that nations like Turkey, which would like to enter the Euro group, will have to wait for longer until the proverbial dust settles. There will be greater scrutiny for such admission and the norms will be strengthened with necessary compliance checks to ensure that there is less scope for acts of indiscretion.


The third is that the concept of a Euro will have to be revisited. The question today is that we will never really come across like-minded countries that will be disciplined forever. While norms were laid down for fiscal deficit, current account balance and monetary expansion, practically speaking the single currency will always run the risk of exacerbating problems when they arise. This is so because all policies relating to exchange rate and money supply get linked with the macro system from which there is no easy escape route.


The fourth is that there will be some rethinking for the world to do with regard to the US. The nation has the advantage of owning the currency that everyone accepts. The US fiscal situation is in a mess but the government has the power to create more money, as Fed bonds are acceptable. The euro was to act as a check on the dollar, but with the current state of flux, US hegemony will continue for some more time.


This entire episode is hence noteworthy, as it actually brings to the forefront the issue of sovereign risk and the possibility of failure. The spread of globalisation makes it hard to ignore any nation in distress and the creation of a single currency makes it even more awkward. Clearly there will be greater debate on how the euro should work. Moving back to one's old currencies may be retrogressive. The solution lies in strong surveillance systems; and this is where we never seem to learn even after a crisis. More importantly, strong deterrents have to be put in place to avert such situations—which again are not visible in Greece's rescue package.


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








The state of Uttar Pradesh will be the first to have opened its public healthcare service infrastructure at the district level to the private sector. Reports say that Apollo Hospitals, Fortis Heathcare, Max Healthcare and Rockland have been shortlisted by the state government for management, upgrade, operation and maintenance of public health service facilities. This would be for four district hospitals, eight community health centres, 23 primary health centres and 210 sub-centres.


The Indian healthcare sector is expected to grow to $82.5 billion by this calendar year, accounting for 4.5% of the GDP. However, the country is way behind some other developing nations in terms of key healthcare indicators. For instance, India's disease burden is 37% higher than that of Brazil's and 86% higher than China's. But Indians continue to distrust government facilities, as they feel these are not up to the mark in quality and care. One statistic says 68% of Indians do not use public facilities for this reason, while 47% are denied access to them, since they are located far away from where they live. The move to privatise such facilities will help improve their credibility in a big way but it will still not completely solve the issue of access to such facilities.


There could also be an argument that private treatment can be costlier than public. It has been challenging for many private healthcare firms to keep diagnosis and treatment at a level affordable to the common man and this is where the issue of health insurance comes in. It is estimated that as much as 70% of India's healthcare expenditure is taken out of pocket.


Privatisation of healthcare facilities is one thing but it is also important to ensure the patient's ability to pay for quality service. Schemes targeted at the poor and weaker sections, like the Rajiv Aarogyasri Health Insurance Scheme in Andhra Pradesh or the Chiranjeevi Project in Gujarat are welcome. Equally important is the need for insurance firms to create awareness and develop innovative schemes aimed at the rural masses, so that they can afford to pay for quality health service.








Britain goes to the polls on Thursday in arguably the most unpredictable and bitterly contested general election since 1992 when the Conservative Party returned to power in a nail-biting finish after it had been written off by virtually everyone. This time it is the Labour Party that is looking down the barrel and hoping for a miracle on polling day. Opinion polls predict a hung Parliament with the Tories slightly ahead of Labour and the Liberal Democrats but way short of getting a majority on their own. However, all three parties insist that the race is still "wide open." Much will depend on the turnout and which way the record number of undecided voters finally go. The 1997 Labour landslide and its two subsequent victories in 2001 and 2005 were attributed to Tony Blair's success in winning over 'swing' voters. Can any of the current leaders — Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and Nick Clegg – do a Blair? So far, they appear to be struggling. Let alone floating voters, even their committed supporters are playing hard to get. Since the last election, public distrust of politicians has deepened, especially after the MPs' expenses scandal, and most voters say they no longer trust any politician. Incidents such as the so-called bigotgate in which Mr. Brown was caught on a live microphone calling a woman voter a "bigot" have reinforced the perception that politicians hold voters in contempt.


Then there is anger over the impact of the recession. People blame Labour, accusing it of selling out to the bankers and not preparing for adversity when times were good. Tories and Lib Dems have desperately tried to tap into the widespread anti-incumbent mood by offering themselves as the 'change' the country needs. People acknowledge the need for change after 13 years of Labour rule but not many are sure that the Tories or the Lib Dems are really the change they want. Indeed, the Tories' popularity has declined as the campaign progressed and their policies — especially on the economy and public services — have come under intense scrutiny. The Lib Dems too have failed to sustain the momentum they gained after Mr. Clegg's impressive performance in the leaders' televised debates, Britain's first brush with American-style electioneering. The debates have been praised for electrifying a dull campaign and transforming a predictable two-horse race into a volatile three-way contest. For progressive politics, there's a downside to the rise of the Lib Dems: it threatens to divide the Centre-Left vote to the benefit of the Right. Significantly, Mr. Clegg's party has rejected the idea of tactical voting to keep the Tories out. This will surely work to the disadvantage of Labour.







The Mayapuri metal scrap market tragedy resulting from the callous disposal of equipment containing radioactive source cobalt-60 as scrap by the Chemistry Department of the University of Delhi has highlighted the urgent need to tighten the system of tracking and controlling the possession of such hazardous material. One can understand scrap dealers lacking awareness of what radioactive sources are and their hazards to health and environment. But it is hard to believe that members of a university science department could approve the auction of a radioactive device, flouting the guidelines of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on safe disposal of such equipment after use. Admittedly, it was a 42-year-old apparatus that has been in disuse since 1985. What is shocking is that a ten-member 'write-off committee,' comprising scientific members of the university and chaired by the head of the chemistry department, approved the disposal of the Co-60 source, along with other unused equipment of the department, in one lot; and the Vice-Chancellor gave his final approval swiftly.


To blame the deadly disposal on miscalculation, as the top university authorities have done, is to add insult to injury. Calculating the left-over activity in any radioactive source over time is a simple task. Co-60 has a half-life of 5.27 years, which means its activity goes down by half every 5.27 years. Forty-two years is eight half-life periods, which means the activity would have gone down only by 2 to the power of 8, which is 256. The source in question, a GammaCell 220 Irradiator supplied by the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, was a very strong source with 3300 Curies(Ci) of initial activity. Depletion by a factor of about 250 after 42 years would still leave a huge amount of residual activity of a few hundred billion decays/sec. On paper, the AERB guidelines take care of the problem of radioactive sources across the length and breadth of the country. But the DU-Mayapuri case has shown how lax observance and enforcement of the rules are on the ground. The temptation to view it as an isolated case must be resisted. As this newspaper pointed out in a recent editorial, a number of 'sealed sources' containing radioactive waste are turning up in scrap yards; U.S. Customs regulators in 2007 rejected several metal article shipments from India because they were found to be contaminated with radioactive material; and Germany, France, and Sweden have detected cobalt-60 in Indian steel. While we wait for the findings of the inquiry committee, serious lessons must be learned from the Delhi tragedy. The time for the government to clean up is now.










Barely hours before polling opens in Britain's general election on Thursday there is still no clear winner in sight and new opinion polls every few hours are adding to the confusion and tension. Although the smart money is still on a hung Parliament with millions of people apparently still undecided, in the past 24 hours the polls have started to tilt in favour of the Tories giving them a wafer-thin outright majority. Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests that historically potential Tory supporters are reluctant to show their hands. Jemima Khan, former wife of Pakistan cricketer Imran Khan, believes that people are still "embarrassed'' to declare open support for Tories.


"Maybe reading horoscopes is a bit like voting Tory. People clearly do it but no one likes to admit it," she wrote on Twitter.


But whatever the outcome, the election is already being talked about as a seminal event which could change British politics for ever — the way the rise of Thatcherism did in the 1970s and the birth of New Labour in 1990s.


For a start, it has shaken up (and stirred, if you please) the smug sense of "entitlement" that the two main parties — Labour and the Tories — had come to acquire, an assumption that somehow they alone had the divine right to govern. The Liberal Democrats' unexpected surge after their leader Nick Clegg's confident performance in the leaders' television debates has introduced a new element into the mix; or, to use a cliché much in currency, "electrified" the campaign throwing wide open what started off as a predictable two-horse race between a tired Labour and a resurgent Tories under young David Cameron.


Even if, in the end, nothing too dramatic happens the developments of the past few weeks would have served a purpose insofar as they have dealt a blow to the idea of a permanent political duopoly and pricked the bubble of Labour-Tory invincibility. Mark Penn, who was adviser to the 1996 U.S. presidential debates and has been observing the U.K. election campaign, sees the emergence of a potential third alternative in British politics as a "wake-up call for the two establishment parties." He warns that for a political system that has "relied on a two-party contest.... the change may be only just beginning."


At the start of this campaign last month, who would have thought that an election that the Tories believed was already in the bag would become a psephologist's nightmare. It has been the most unpredictable election campaign since 1992 when the Tories surprised even themselves as they romped home in a nail-biting finish after John Major had all but given up and Labour were preparing to celebrate.


Indeed, there was a time in the current campaign — dubbed BC (Before Clegg) — when Tories looked unstoppable with leads of up to 20 points over Labour, and Lib Dems not even on the radar. Then the TV debates, Britain's first experiment with once-derided American-style electioneering, happened sparking a Cleggmania, and sending the tectonic plates of British politics into a spin. Lib Dems stormed into the second place, after the Tories, with Labour trailing as a poor third.


Mr. Clegg has boasted that it is now a two-way race between his party and the Tories and Labour might as well pack up its bags and leave. Which, of course, is nonsense and sounds too much like the language of a man "intoxicated" by his new-found fame, as a senior cabinet minister sarcastically remarked.


For the truth is that — blame it on the electoral system or what you will —even on their current polling Lib Dems will not be able to add significantly to their existing tally of 62 (the most wildly optimistic estimates give them up to 100 extra seats) and remain the third party in terms of the number of seats, whereas Labour — even in its current battered shape — still has enough steam left to surprise its rivals.


But, there is no doubt that Lib Dems' dramatic rise has profound implications for the broader centre-left politics in Britain — and that's another significance of these elections no matter who gets to win the keys to No.10.


Mr. Clegg claims that Lib Dems are the now the new face of the progressive centrist "alliance." Well, not quite yet. In order to be accepted as a credible alternative to Labour, they will need to work harder on their policies, currently designed mostly to attract protest vote, and to produce a coherent narrative of what exactly they stand for beyond the vague vision of a "fairer" Britain.


Nevertheless, the 2010 election has given them a huge boost and brought them closer to the centre-stage of British politics than they have ever been since the 1970s when they briefly flirted with Harold Wilson's minority government. It's their best moment in a generation while Labour is looking exhausted after 13 years in office and, in the words of one commentator , it is like "witnessing the fag end of empire." The party is in need of an urgent — and extensive — face-lift starting with a change of leader; or Mr. Clegg and Co. will rip through it.


Labour only needs to look at the media to get a sense of its increasing isolation. Forget the Murdoch press ( The Times has given up on it after supporting it for 18 years; and the Sun after 13), even the long-suffering loyalist Guardian has decided to dump Labour in favour of Lib Dems citing Mr. Brown as a hurdle to the party's revival. Mr. Brown, it said, had "failed to articulate a vision, a plan or an argument for the future."


Explaining its decision in a hard-hitting full-page editorial headed "The liberal moment has come," the newspaper recalled that a year ago it had called for the party to persuade him to step down but, instead, it chose to "hug Mr. Brown close."


"It was the wrong decision then, and it is clear, not least after his humiliation in Rochdale (he was forced to offer a grovelling public apology after being caught on live microphone calling a local woman voter a "bigot"), that it is the wrong decision now.....We said that he had become incapable of leading the necessary revolution against the political system that the [MPs] expenses scandal had triggered. Labour thought differently. It failed to act. It thereby lost the opportunity to renew itself, and is now facing the consequences."


The Independent, another Labour-supporting paper, has chosen to endorse the case for a hung parliament which amounts to an implicit endorsement of Lib Dems. Thus, for the first time in living memory not a single mainstream national newspaper of any significance is backing Labour. But, instead of doing some serious reflection the party's spin machine has reacted by accusing the media of anti-Labour bias.


In a desperate move, the party has wheeled out Tony Blair to pep up its faltering campaign. There is a delicious

irony in this. For here is a man who was forced out of office by Mr. Brown and his camp followers after portraying him as an electoral liability even though he led the party to three consecutive victories, including the 1997 landslide. In fact, the whole Labour campaign has been masterminded — and is being run — by Blairites under the tight supervision of Peter Mandelson, the Business Secretary, and the Brownites' one-time bête-noir. But then these are desperate times for Mr. Brown and, as he himself acknowledged, he is "fighting for my life" and obviously sees no shame in sleeping with his former enemies.


"Twitter election"


Finally, a word about this election's campaign style. It was billed as Britain's first "Twitter election" inspired by Barack Obama's innovative and hugely successful internet presidential campaign with both Labour and the Tories bringing in high-profile American experts to advise them. But despite the initial hype the so-called "webification" of British elections never really happened. Much of the campaign remained rooted in old-fashioned doorstep canvassing and leafleting; and newspapers and television not just held their ground against the new media but dominated the campaign.


According to broadcaster Jon Snow the campaign has shown that television, whose power was widely predicted to wane in the face of the challenge from the Internet, remains "as great as ever" with the three televised leaders' debates watched by more than 20 million voters completely overshadowing the online campaign.


Not everyone, however, is excited at the idea of elections being decided on the basis of carefully choreographed and tightly-controlled TV debates where candidates win or lose not on the basis of argument they put forward but their body language and whether they got the colour of their tie right.


Meanwhile, now that the campaign is mostly over whoever wins on Friday will have their work cut out as they grapple with the fallout of the recession without alienating public opinion. But that's another story and will require another article.








  1. The project's innovation was the engagement of "high-risk group members" as community health personnel
  2. This collaboration between government and civil society has emerged as a model public-private partnership


A recent project review and experience-sharing meeting with non-governmental organisations engaged in the care of HIV-affected people in Tamil Nadu was an enriching and gratifying experience for a team from the Voluntary Health Services (VHS), Chennai.


It was in 1986 that Tamil Nadu reported the first case of HIV-AIDS infection. That it had reached Indian shores made all concerned sit up and consider the implications. The response from the governments of India and Tamil Nadu together with the United States AID Agency (USAID) was comprehensive. A tripartite agreement was reached among USAID, the government and the VHS. The VHS-APAC project began in earnest in 1995, under the stewardship of Dr. N.S. Murali, Honorary Secretary, working with marginalised communities to reduce the transmission of HIV-AIDS in Tamil Nadu through the sexual route.


Changing behaviour


The concept as developed and implemented by VHS-APAC is unique. Rather than focus on traditional healthcare intervention models, VHS-APAC chose to work through education and communication paradigms that bring about changes in healthcare-seeking behaviour. With unsafe sexual practices, poor disease recognition and delays in seeking healthcare support being at the core of the HIV-AIDS epidemic, these interventions have put particular focus on high-risk groups, while aiming to bring about sexual behaviour change in society as a whole.


To this end, VHS-APAC developed a hub-spoke community healthcare management model, involving fellow NGO organisations in Tamil Nadu engaged in community-based developmental activity including healthcare. A range of tools and paradigms were developed through expert consultation processes — using manuals, flip charts, workbooks, videos, short films and so on. These were then translated to community-based NGO partners through continuous and structured field-based training. The organisations, in turn, engaged peer educators from among sex workers, men having sex with men (MSM), young adults and migrants as volunteers and built their capacity to educate others in the community. Besides, qualified social work and healthcare professionals were trained to deliver services to the community and develop skills.


As part of these efforts, NGOs were trained systematically and mentored continuously to strengthen their operating systems and processes. Recruitment, continuous training and capacity-building paradigms, quality monitoring, accounting and audit all became mantrasfor the NGOs in this programme, transforming them into efficient and mature community organisations. Through this emerged, organically, a management hierarchy within the participating NGOs — from field officers to project managers and project directors.


Dr. Bimal Charles, the current Project Director of VHS-APAC, observes that there are today several community healthcare professionals in India who began their careers linked to the APAC project. They have gone on to serve the government, major aid agencies and civil society at large, holding positions of significance.


Unlike other diseases and disorders — and indeed the gamut of community problems in sectors such as housing, sanitation, education, environment and livelihood development, all of which need and are the focus of community based interventions — sexually transmitted diseases pose altogether different challenges. The high-risk groups for HIV-AIDS are predominantly insular and difficult to access — female, less commonly male, sex workers (FSW, MSW); migrant workers and truck crew members, MSM, the transgender community, and so on. Each of these groups poses unique challenges.


Engaging high-risk groups


The innovative element of the project was the engagement of "high-risk group members" as community health personnel. The barriers to accessing relatively isolated but nevertheless important target audiences, were thus breached. The openness of the members of such high-risk groups, now transformed into community healthcare professionals, is refreshing. Not only do they readily identify with their own sexual predilections but they enjoy greater success in working within their own high-risk group. Indeed, this strategy of involving the target audience in community interventions is now widely adopted in the HIV-AIDS control movement.


According to civil society leaders, this structured hub-spoke model interaction has been rewarding in different ways. HIV-based community work, they say, is so challenging that other forms of community work become relatively easy to implement thereafter. Further, the high-order communication and management skills they have developed, come in handy in community work. These projects have also unlocked the potential of civil society stakeholders; school-leavers become graduates, post-graduates, even doctoral degree-holders in the process.


Further, many participants, including high-risk group members, have assumed leadership positions of significance, integrating, networking and developing community-based organisational structures. Many senior civil society members hail this model as one on which other healthcare and development projects should be based. Equally important, the model has engendered active engagement with the government at the national and State levels.


The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), through the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS), has chosen to encourage and enhance this hub-spoke model of civil society engagement; pioneering government-led innovations such as master health check (MHC) and integrated testing centres (ICTC) leverage on these developments. Indeed, this collaboration between government and civil society to prevent and control HIV-AIDS in Tamil Nadu has emerged as a model public-private partnership effort in healthcare.


The response to these interventions has been tangible. HIV-AIDS prevalence among ante-natal women attending government facilities fell from 1.13 per cent in 2001 to 0.25 per cent in 2007 in Tamil Nadu. There has been a significant decline in new cases contributing to HIV numbers.


While sceptics continue to doubt these "official" figures, there is a nationwide consensus that the sexual health behaviour change intervention models developed by VHS-APAC and others with the support of government and aid agencies and implemented through civil society, have over a 15-year period had considerable social impact. Indeed, there is a quiet determination among government officials in Tamil Nadu to achieve "zero incidence of HIV-AIDS" status in the not-too-distant future. Perhaps equally important, these developments have engendered a community-based health behaviour change model that has been demonstrated to be sustainable, replicable and capable of generalisation.


Controlling life-style diseases


Health behaviour change is the fountainhead of disease prevention and health promotion. For example, behaviours that determine lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes and their consequences such as ischemic heart disease and stroke, poor dietary habits and lack of exercise, begin early in life.


Health behaviour change interventions delivered through civil society are likely to play a significant role in the control of lifestyle diseases, that much-feared new epidemic, as they are in the prevention, early identification and management of infections, mental and physical disability, maternal and child disorders, substance abuse — indeed, the gamut of conditions of concern to community health professionals and policymakers.


What we need perhaps is a global action plan with health behaviour change at its epicentre. This should be conceived and led by the government and the major aid agencies; implemented through civil society organised in dynamic hub-spoke paradigms; the systems, processes, quality and standards being in-built. These should leverage on the extensive experience and best-practice models developed through work that has been done for HIV-AIDS prevention and control in Tamil Nadu. Health for all may well be achieved if it the process is democratised: by the people, for the people and of the people.


(The writer is Honorary Secretary of The Voluntary Health Services, Chennai. e-mail-









The Newtonian law, "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" seems to be at play in Pakistan these days as political parties scramble to explain why they "ganged up" to abolish the constitutional provision of intra-party elections while restoring democracy to the country.


Had the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (CRC) not deleted Article 17(4) of the Constitution as part of the reforms package aimed at putting Pakistan back on the course of parliamentary democracy, this provision would probably have remained on paper; forgotten, unnoticed, observed in the breach or practised more in letter than in spirit.


But, by removing it from the Constitution, the CRC has actually drawn attention to the provision that "every political party shall, subject to law, hold intra-party elections to elect its office-bearers and party leaders". Now, questions are being raised about the commitment of Pakistan's political class to democracy. "How can they claim to be democratic when they run their own parties like personal fiefdoms?" is the general refrain.


Voice of concern


Among the first voices to be raised against this deletion was that of Kashmala Tariq of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (Like Minded Group). Having broken away from PML(Q) over the party reworking its constitution to allow Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain contest a third election, she raised her voice in the National Assembly when the 18th Amendment was put to vote.


Speaking at a discussion on "Democratic Practices within Political Parties of Pakistan" — organised here by Liberal Forum Pakistan — Ms Tariq said all parties had hand picked people for the CRC to protect their respective interests within. So, if Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) wanted to get rid of Article 268(2) and the Sixth Schedule, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was keen to see Article 17(4) out.


Article 268(2) states that "laws specified in the Sixth Schedule shall not be altered, repealed or amended [expressly or impliedly] without the previous sanction of the President". And, entry 34 of the Sixth Schedule — The Qualification to Hold Public Offices Order, 2002 — debarred everyone from holding the office of Prime Minister more than twice; a major sore point with two-time former Premier, Nawaz Sharif.


While Mr. Sharif stands to directly benefit from the omission of Article 268(2), the abolition of Article 17(4) is widely perceived to be beneficial to most leading parties that are controlled by one family. The Bhutto dynasty is known to all but other parties are no different. In the PML(N) — which has called party elections in September — the Sharifs rule the roost with Mr. Nawaz Sharif's brother Shahbaz Sharif calling the shots in Punjab as its Chief Minister. The former Premier's son Hamza Shahbaz Sharif is already waiting in the wings, having been elected Member of the National Assembly (MNA) in 2008.


The PML(Q) has almost become synonymous with the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, dubbed as among the most powerful and richest families of Pakistan. Three generations from the family have already dabbled in the country's politics: Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain — a second generation politician — managed a short stint as Pakistan's Prime Minister and his cousin Pervaiz Elahi has been Punjab's Chief Minister. The third generation is ready and waiting in Mr. Elahi's 34-year-old son, Moonis Elahi.


Sham elections


While PML(Q) has held party elections in the past, Ms Tariq dismissed them as a sham. "We challenged the last elections because the leadership changed the constitution to allow Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain a third term. Fearing that the stand we took would spread like a virus to their own outfits, all party leaders got their representatives in the CRC to support the abolition of Article 17(4); citing reasons that do not stand scrutiny."


Conceding the point, a senior Awami National Party (ANP) leader said feudalism continued to plague all parties and described it as the "mother of all ills". Though the ANP has held party elections in the past, leaders maintain that only descendents of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (Frontier Gandhi) can hold the flock together. Frontier Gandhi's grandson Asfandyar Wali Khan heads the ANP now and his nephew Amir Haidar Khan Hoti is the Chief Minister of Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa (formerly, North-West Frontier Province).


So entrenched are these families in Pakistan's polity that the inevitability of dynastic rule within parties is conceded by most party leaders with the former MNA, Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed (PPP), and Senator Zahir Ali Shah (PML-N) pointing out that sub-continental politics revolved around personality cults. His party colleague, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, who spoke out in the National Assembly against abolition of Article 17(4) insists that military dictatorship may have been shown the door but its civilian incarnate was being nurtured zealously by a bloodline-conscious ruling elite who preach democracy but practice autocracy at home.








Today is Election Day in Mauritius, and there being no electronic tallying of votes the winners and losers for the island-nation's 62-member national Parliament will not be known for several hours after the polls close at 6 p.m. because each ballot cast by the 880,000 eligible voters — out of the country's 1.3 million population — needs to be hand counted.


The campaigning for parliamentary seats in Mauritius' 21 constituencies legally ended at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, though long caravans of cars sponsored by the various political parties continued to wind their way through the island's towns and hamlets well past that deadline. There was much noise making, tooting of horns, and the occasional yell in support of favoured candidates. Nothing unusual there, of course, it was politics as usual. But even the bright symbols of various parties did not have a patch over the stunning and unspoiled environment of colours that only millions of years of being a volcanic island could produce.


Nothing unusual as the campaign ended on Tuesday — except for one thing. Some friends of Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam worried that his three-party alliance seemed to be in a much tighter race against the Mouvement Militant Mauricien, led by the veteran leftist, Paul Berenger, who once served for two years as Prime Minister. Seeing Mr. Berenger's picture on campaign posters, I was struck by how well he had aged since I last interviewed him — 31 years ago, when I was a foreign correspondent for The New York Times based in Africa. His rhetoric remains as fiery as before, however; the source of his party's funding from whites of French descent remains steadfast, too.


Mr. Berenger has promised radical reform of Mauritius's political and economic system, although his manifesto is freighted with the sort of political platitudes and placebos that one would expect in a multicultural society where his ethnic group is in a distinct minority compared to the majority Hindus, Christians, Creoles, and Muslims. His only tenure as Prime Minister was not widely considered a success, and an incipient one might quite possibly bring turmoil that a generally tolerant polity like Mauritius does not need at this time, especially when its economy is rapidly making the transition to the digital age.


Several far-thinking Mauritians — particularly those supporting Mr. Ramgoolam of the Mauritius Labour Party for a second consecutive five-year term as Prime Minister — also seem concerned that in the unlikely event that the MMM wins today's election, among Mr. Berenger's targets may well be business houses and others friendly with Mr. Ramgoolam.


There is little question that continuity in office presents Mr. Ramgoolam a renewed opportunity to strengthen his country's relationship with India, especially in light of the fact that China is furiously wooing Mauritius and other African states for better economic positioning. Mauritius is the largest provider of foreign direct investment (FDI) to India — almost $12 billion annually — but influential business and social leaders contend that the bilateral relationship can and should be deepened.


Such an enhanced relationship would be particularly important in view of the fact that Mauritius has traditionally looked toward Britain and France for political and economic cues. That is at least partly because India has yet to assert that Mauritius, given its strategic location off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, has the potential for becoming a Singapore of the region.


Such an assertion — and the concomitant political and economic implications — would widen education and technology ties between the two countries. When Mauritius teamed up with India and opened a state-of-the-art medical centre here last August, the hope was that the enterprise would engender other joint ventures in a variety of fields, including engineering, computer science, information technology, medical research, business processing, tourism, and agro-industries.


But that has not happened to the extent that last year's collaboration seemed to invite. China, meanwhile, has seized the opportunity of expanding its manufacturing presence in Mauritius, and a drive around this 2,040-square-kilometre island's charming communities shows how steadily the Chinese presence has grown in recent months. In short, China has not created a "ghetto" here: its government clearly has encouraged its formal and informal representatives to mix with the local population.


Such mixing, along with strengthened technical and other ties would be salutary, and readily doable for India. It seems to me that India and Mauritius are natural partners: both are lively multi-party democracies, both have long traditions of cultural exchanges, and both are committed to a post-globalisation world that emphasises better education and heightened economic opportunities for an increasingly young demographic cohort. The 63-year-old Mr. Ramgoolam is certainly a man who sees enormous possibilities in greater cross-fertilization between his country and India. Whether the 65-year-old Mr. Berenger shares that view is questionable, not the least because he represents a sensibility of another era. If I were a betting man, I would go with the current Prime Minister for developing fresh policies that would benefit two countries of shared heritage and longstanding friendship.


(Pranay Gupte is a veteran international journalist and author. His next book is on India and the Middle East.)






Patients suffering from depression may find relief from treatments using electromagnetic stimulation, offering a possible alternative to mood-altering medications, a new study found.


The treatment, known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) offers future hope of a non-drug treatment for depression sufferers, although researchers said additional studies are needed.


"This study should help settle the debate about whether rTMS works for depression," said Mark George of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, who led the research team. — AFP








Sports minister M.S. Gill's move to cap the tenures of office-bearers of various national sports federations (NSFs) — including the Indian Olympic Association — had led to predictable howls of protest from those affected, and a barrage of allegations that he was trying to interfere in the functioning of sports bodies. Essentially, Mr Gill had modified an existing regulation introduced by then Prime Minster Indira Gandhi in 1975 capping the tenures of the president, secretary and treasurer — three key posts in any NSF — to no more than two consecutive terms of four years each. In August 2002, then sports minister Uma Bharti put this regulation in abeyance, ostensibly to boost "professional management, good governance, transparency, etc... in NSFs, including the IOA". As it stands, Mr Gill's move — which is also being regarded as a fallout of his ongoing battle with IOA president Suresh Kalmadi — affects a number of powerful personalities. Besides Mr Kalmadi, others who will be hit by the sports ministry's directive include the likes of V.K. Malhotra of the Archery Association of India, Jagdish Tytler of the Judo Federation of India, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa of the cycling federation, V.K. Verma of the  badminton association, Capt. Satish K, Sharma (Aero Club of India) and Sivanthi Adityan (volleyball). All of them, and some others, will not be able to seek re-election to their respective posts after their current term expires. Within a day of the modified clause being introduced to cap the tenure of the president of an NSF, including the IOA, to 12 years "with or without break", Mr Kalmadi was leading the fightback, calling the minister's move a draconian one and one lacking in foresight.Interestingly, even though none of the NSF bosses will be affected till 2012, the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi later this year has been dragged into the issue on the grounds that at a time the NSFs need to put their best efforts into a successful CWG, the sports ministry was seeking to choke them. On Tuesday, as the NSFs have done in the past, the IOA's secretary-general trotted out letters of support from the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Association of Asia, claiming that such "outside pressure" went against the Olympic Charter. While the sports minister has made "transparency and accountability" the reasons for his reviving and modifying the 1975 regulation, the IOA and NSFs claim that their functioning was anyway transparent. Earlier, as a fallout of the Gill-Kalmadi battle, the IOA had also resolved to "desist from receiving any further financial support" from the Government of India. At the heart of the matter are two words — power and patronage. For years together, those who ran the federations have distributed favours in the form of administrative seats on sports tours including for prestige events like the Olympic Games and the Asian Games. It kept them on their thrones and even though the Manmohan Singh government has systematically cut into their comfort zones by demanding greater accountability for government funds spent and also bringing the NSFs under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, the federations still enjoy almost unlimited powers over their respective sports. And none more so than the IOA. The Commonwealth Games has become the latest flashpoint in this long-running battle, and though Mr Kalmadi has so far managed to hold his own, Mr Gill's latest move brings the battle to his very doorstep. Who will win the day remains to be seen, but clearly the bells may be tolling for the freewheeling days and ways of India's sports associations and their bosses.







Most of our problems are due to our ego or false pride. Our education system, our culture, our social upbringing is such that it cultivates the ego. Students are trained to become competitive, ambitious achievers. We are told, "Always put the best foot forward". Nobody thinks what will happen to the worst foot. How can one balance the best and the worst simultaneously? No clue! Since we hide our dark side and always exhibit the brighter side, we can't bare our ignorance before others. And we suffer a lot because of this. Sigmund Freud has narrated an interesting story regarding this.

A friend came to visit him from a village. They had studied together in the primary school but had not met since then. Electricity had just recently been invented, and it was available only in big cities like Vienna where Freud lived. After chatting for a long time both the friends went to their rooms to sleep, and Freud forgot to tell his friend how to put off the light at night. The friend had never seen an electric bulb. The light was too much and so he tried every possible way to blow it out. He even stood on a table, studied the lamp, and tried to blow it out like a candle. Obviously that didn't work.

He couldn't sleep all night and because of his ego he could not wake Freud and ask him what to do with the light. He could not let it be known that all he knew about were kerosene lamps.

In the morning Freud commented, "You look tired, your eyes are red. What happened? Couldn't you sleep?"
His friend confessed that he could not sleep. He said, "I didn't want to tell you because I didn't want to appear so stupid that I didn't know how to put off the light".

Freud took him to the room, the button was behind the door so he could not see it; even if he had seen it he would not have thought that the button had any connection with the light. Freud said, "Simply put the button on and off".

Just like the electric light, man also needs a button that can be switched on and off at will. We put on a personality and build the ego because we want to impress others, because we want to succeed in society. But it is a persona, a mask. How long can one wear the mask?

There should be a time when we can take it off and be our natural selves — just the way we take off our formal clothes at home. This will be very relaxing and refreshing.

Osho's insight is valuable in this regard: "My vision of the right education is to teach people how to grow the ego and how to be able to drop it. You should be able to just put your personality, your ego, on and off, because these are good things if you can use them. But you should know the mechanism, how to put them off. Right now you know only how to put them on".

Our society puts on the ego, the personality and nobody ever teaches us how to put it off. So day in and  day out, we are burdened by it, tortured by it, goaded by it. We become slaves.

It would be a real blessing to learn how to remove the masks we wear. Meditation can helps us do that. With meditation it is easier to relax into the being, accept oneself — then there is no need to project a fake personality. You are what you appear.

— Amrit Sadhana is in the management team of Osho International Meditation Resort, Pune. She facilitates meditation workshops in India and abroad.


Amrit Sadhana






The meeting of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on April 28 at Thimphu has evoked the usual admixture of hope and scepticism. The absence of a joint statement and separate press conferences allowed both sides to spin it to satisfy their own constituencies.

Spin was still emanating from "sources" in New Delhi three days after the event to the effect that it is really the 18th Amendment of the Pakistani Constitution that has persuaded the Indian government that an empowered Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, emerging from the Pakistani maelstrom, is the right interlocutor. The flaw in this argument is the same as in saying that in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-2 government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's authority exceeds that of Mrs Sonia Gandhi as he is the one whose credibility won the Congress a second term. The real power centre in Pakistan is the Army Chief and till it is proven to the contrary, Mr Gilani should be treated as his emissary and no more. Civilian governments have, in the past, been used to engage India with the agenda tightly controlled by the Army. The exception was Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, and the consequence was military rule for a decade and banishment for him.
It is also averred that the focus should not be on nomenclatures but on substance. This is to extricate the government from the post-26/11 cul de sac when, under the pressure of public indignation, it was repeatedly articulated that there shall be no resumption of the composite dialogue unless Pakistan uprooted the terror network nurtured for use against India since the early 90s. This was later watered down to action against the perpetrators and their masterminds. The joint statement in Sharm el-Sheikh came a cropper as Pakistan went to town over its success, which contradicted the rather ingenious Indian interpretation being advanced. The Thimphu solution is to simply rename the engagement. All subjects can be discussed and, as the Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, there are also no preconditions but it is not the composite dialogue. One sympathises with the government's predicament, but this is back to a full engagement, call it what you will.

Perhaps Dr Singh and his advisers need to read Douglas Hurd's recent book Choose Your Weapons, which traces the history of British foreign secretaries over 200 years. It makes two points of relevance here.
Firstly, in view of the composite dialogue (created by Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Sharif in New York in September 1998) having been interrupted twice, each under the National Democratic Alliance because of terrorist acts/hostile military action (Kargil in 1999 and Parliament attack in 2001) and under the UPA (Mumbai train bombings in 2006 and 26/11 in 2008), Hurd's thesis is relevant that while appeasement led to some British success, it invariably failed when the interlocutor was unreliable.

Mr Gilani's assurance that Pakistan's territory would not be used for nefarious acts against India is a repeat of similar public vows given by Pervez Musharraf in 2002 and 2004. What a military dictator could not or would not do, the newly empowered Mr Gilani is expected to get Gen. Kayani to oblige with. In fact, Mr Gilani would like to demonstrate his usefulness to the Army to ensure political longevity rather than to have them defy their orthodoxies.


Secondly, it was shocking to see on the television that other than the foreign secretary, the ministry of external affairs' (MEA) Pakistan experts were not visible shaking hands with Mr Gilani. On the contrary, the Pakistani foreign office was there in full strength. Murmurs have been around that the Prime Minister feels the MEA is anti-Pakistan. Hurd once again warns that the biggest foreign policy disasters for the UK were the Suez crisis in 1956 and the Iraq intervention in 2003. In both instances, the Prime Ministers, i.e. Anthony Eden and Tony Blair, had cut the foreign office out of the decision-making. "The only safe rule of political policy-making", according to Hurd, "is that decisions should flow from the facts". "A Prime Minster", he adds, "can always find advisers to praise his wisdom".

While Dr Singh must keep the path of dialogue open with all neighbours, recommencing the dialogue with Pakistan when it has most reluctantly taken the least possible follow-up action on the 26/11 monstrosity is pure appeasement. The benchmarks for the dialogue should be in public domain. Subjects that actually lead to confidence building are commercial and economic links, people-to-people contacts, etc and thus should be the starting point of a calibrated engagement. Kashmir, Siachen, etc. are disputes that should be moved to a separate category and its discussion made subject to Pakistan progressively dismantling the terror network. To do otherwise is to ignore the experience of both major national parties over the last 12 years.
In fact, Dr Singh is caught between two Gilanis — the Prime Minister of Pakistan and David Coleman Headley nee Gilani. What trust the former has breached the latter is expected to restore. Both are agents run by others. The cast is new, the plot familiar. It remains to be seen if the ending will be different.

The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry

K.C. Singh






 No political party can be said to have come out with any great gains in the voting that took place on April 27 on the cut motions tabled by the Opposition parties in Parliament. The Congress, no doubt, won with a handsome margin (289 against 201) but I will deal here with the negative side of the voting.

This trial of strength should be considered a defeat the Opposition parties unnecessarily invited upon themselves. Insisting on a cut motion in a parliamentary system of government is as serious a matter as a no-confidence motion. Normally, Opposition parties make such moves when they know that there is at least a slim chance of success or they want to demonstrate the Oppositions' unity.

If the voting on April 27 has proved anything at all, it is that there is not even a remote chance of throwing out the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and that there is not a semblance of that thing called "Opposition unity" against the government.

The Opposition's defeat was evident well before the debate on the cut motions started. Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) Mayawati had publicly announced her party's support for the UPA government, and Rashtriya Janata Dal's Lalu Prasad Yadav and Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav were both vulnerable as they were facing charges by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against them. It was almost certain that they would resort to some sort of deal with the UPA. When the time for the headcount came, these two leaders walked out without voting, either in favour or against the government — a convenient route available to politicians who find themselves in a dilemma.

Now let us examine the manner in which some political parties reacted to the cut motions and to what extent they contributed to further lowering the standards of political morality.

It is, of course, the Congress Party's duty to ensure that the designs of the Opposition parties are frustrated when its survival is at stake. However, in a democracy this is to be done without weakening the credibility and prestige of law-enforcing organisations like the Intelligence Bureau and CBI in any way. Whatever may be the truth, the common people in India believe that the UPA government misused its power to influence the CBI to dilute the charges against some important Opposition leaders in the cases pending against them in return for their favourable stand in the cut motions. Many responsible newspapers and news channels have openly made these allegations, with details of what is being described as quid pro quo for the support of certain Opposition leaders. If these allegations are true, certainly the ruling party has paid a rather heavy price for its survival. The spokespersons of the UPA government have denied the allegation, but they were hardly expected to own up.
Now let us consider the stand of Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav in the voting on the cut motions. He brazenly asked how a "secular" politician like him could have gone along with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in voting against the government. "What face will we show to people if we go along with the BJP?" asked Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav. "What will we say in reply when people ask why we went with that party?" One would have thought that Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav — who found his strength reduced from 22 to four seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections without having gone with the BJP as an ally — would have found it difficult to "face" the people in the next elections and explain his discomfiture at the polls. Some political leaders seem to think that most of their followers are still unintelligent, gullible and disinterested in politics. They do not realise that the common people have learnt well to judge the motives and actions of their leaders and they no longer readily accept the justifications peddled by them.

Recently, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav has been one of the loudest among the Opposition leaders in criticising the Congress, though his criticism of the BSP had always been in a much higher decibel. He sees both the Congress and the BSP as his rivals in Uttar Pradesh, but his critics are now accusing him of being over careful about burning his bridges with the UPA government. He shares the vulnerability of Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav as far as cases against him are concerned and this gives credence to the allegation about his motive for choosing to walk out without voting.

Ms Mayawati's support for the UPA government has not left anyone in doubt as to why she did so, even though she continues to spit fire at the mere mention of the Congress. Her position is more vulnerable than that of Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav because of the charges of wasteful expenditure of public funds and possession of unaccountable wealth and assets against her. Refuting the allegation that she voted for the government expecting appropriate rewards for her support, she has said that she voted for the government only "to keep the communal forces at bay". By "communal forces" she, of course, meant the BJP, forgetting the irony in her statement that communal politics is dangerous to the nation's interest while her brand of caste-based politics is not.

The BJP feels embarrassed in casting its lot with other Opposition parties in the vote against the government because some of these Opposition parties are still refusing to place their confidence in the BJP. The most unexpected fallout of the vote on the cut motions has been the "betrayal", as the BJP described it, by Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Shibu Soren who voted against the cut motions. The BJP appears to have been taken aback by this somersault of Mr Soren and promptly decided to withdraw support from the government he heads. However, one can legitimately ask the BJP why it decided in the first place to support Mr Soren as chief minister of Jharkhand knowing pretty well his questionable antecedents in both Jharkhand and national politics. Obviously, the BJP in its anxiety to prevent the Congress from heading the government in Jharkhand was prepared to go to the extent of lending support even to Mr Soren. So the BJP, in fact, invited this "betrayal" by its own decision four months ago to join hands with Mr Soren.

P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra

P.C. Alexander







The political brouhaha over telecom minister A Raja's role in the allocation of 2G spectrum in 2008 can be seen as the Opposition's right to nail the government. To be sure, there is not much glory for the Opposition (both Left and Right) in all this, since Raja's party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), has been part of all the alliances so far: the United Front (UF) in 1996, the NDA in 1998 and 1999 and the UPA since 2004. Having been in bed with all potential allies, the DMK's accusers are thus ill-equipped to point fingers at it.


The DMK, like many other UPA coalition partners (NCP, Trinamool), does not have much respect for coalition norms and etiquette. It gets what it wants. After its big election victory last year, the Congress could just about manage to keep another underperforming DMK minister — TR Baalu — out, but the prime minister could do little about Raja.


Raja is being accused of under-pricing 2G spectrum allocation, which prima facie appears to be a valid charge. 2G spectrum was sold at prices that look minuscule in comparison to the kind of bids now happening with the 3G auction. Moreover, many of the buyers in the 2G sale went on to sell it to third parties for phenomenally high prices.


Even if there was no foul play, there was indeed quite a bit of underestimation, if not deliberate under-pricing, for doubtful motives. It would, however, require much harder forensic evidence to prove wrongdoing by the minister. Politicians rarely get the benefit of doubt because the tribe has the unenviable reputation of muddying the cleanest of waters. The question is how to keep them out and evolve systems that spell trust.


Over the years, a regulatory framework has evolved across many of the sectors. In telecommunications, there is the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT). The department of telecommunication has been dealing with spectrum, and since the minister is boss here, there is always scope for political wheeling-dealing.


The argument that the auction option is better than allocation is rather feeble. Higher prices are not necessarily better, since high spectrum prices can make 3G services unviable. However, there is no doubt that spectrum allocation needs to be a more transparent process. Ensuring this is task one.







The human resource development (HRD) ministry appears to be in full flow, aiming to turn India's various education wrongs into rights. Having brought into force the Right to Education Act, which assures free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 — as promised in the directive principles of state policy of the Constitution and completely ignored for over 60 years — the ministry now wants to end the capitation fee menace which plagues medical and technical institutions. Many of these, interestingly enough, thrive on political patronage and ownership.


The next move is the HRD ministry's bill to regulate the entry of foreign universities. Ever since India became an economic powerhouse with a large, ambitious middle class ready to spend its newfound wealth, the world's best and worst higher educational institutions have queued up for their share of the pie. But there have been problems: several fly-by-night operators have taken gullible students and parents for a ride, milking them for cash and giving out bogus degrees in return.


Then, there was the social conscience of the former government — UPA-1 — to contend with and the then HRD minister Arjun Singh had made it clear that foreign universities could enter only if they made provisions to accommodate India's large and complicated reservations policy.


Kapil Sibal, minister-in-a-hurry, has tabled a bill which sets down stringent terms and conditions for foreign universities but sidesteps the contentious issue of reservations. The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, which was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday, states that only those institutions with at least 20 years of history and a track record of excellence will be allowed to enter. Moreover, these institutions must provide the same quality of education in India as they do in their home countries. That is, they must maintain their own standards.


This bill, if it becomes law, will certainly ease the pressure on Indian universities which are hard-pressed to deal with the growing needs of a vocal and demanding population. Foreign universities within India will provide some with the illusion of having studied aboard — if not the same cachet — and others with the satisfaction of getting quality education without spending through their teeth. It can only be hoped that faced with competition, Indian universities will themselves buck up, so we can have both quality and quantity.The foreign varsities bill
will relieve the pressure on Indian institutions providing higher education







Summits of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) are meant to discuss regional economic cooperation between the eight member-states. Much to the irritation of the other members, every summit ends up becoming another occasion for what a Sri Lankan friend of mine described as an "India-Pakistan soap opera". The recent Saarc summit in Thimpu was no exception. The media focused attention on whether or not India and Pakistan would resume their much-touted "composite dialogue."


The composite dialogue format was agreed to by prime ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif in 1998 as a compromise between Pakistan's "Kashmir only" agenda and India's belief that complex issues like Kashmir can be resolved only when a climate of cooperation and trust was established. The first round of the composite dialogue was held in 1998. This was followed by Vajpayee's much hyped "bus yatra" to Lahore, ignoring the fact that the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), then backed by Nawaz Sharif and the ISI, had stepped up infiltration and had massacred over 30 innocent workers in Himachal.


Matters worsened with the Pakistani army's intrusion across the high Himalayan peaks, leading to the Kargil conflict. Worse, ignoring the LeT attack on the Red Fort in Delhi in January, 2001, Gen Pervez Musharraf was invited to Agra. His ill-advised visit was followed by the attack on Parliament, which took India and Pakistan to the brink of war.


Recognising that dialogue and "business as usual" amidst increasing terrorism was not advisable, Vajpayeesecured an assurance from Gen Musharraf that he would not allow "territory under Pakistan's control" to be used for terrorism against India.


The composite dialogue process was restarted and carried forward by Manmohan Singh, though progress in resolving complex issues like Jammu & Kashmir was addressed not in this dialogue, but in separate and secret meetings between designated special envoys. As Gen Musharraf's hold over his army and country weakened, terrorism picked up, culminating in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist outrage.


New Delhi is guilty of ignoring several indicators that, with the elevation of Gen Kayani as army chief, and with the army being the primary player in relations with India and Afghanistan, the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy was going to increase. This should have been evident following the ISI-sponsored attack on our embassy in Kabul in July, 2008, which when ignored, culminated in the tragedy of 26/11.


After the diplomatic fiasco in Sharm el-Sheikh, prime minister Manmohan Singh has been compelled to proceed cautiously on his preferred choice of dialogue with Pakistan. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao noted in Thimpu that both sides would address "the modalities of restoring trust and confidence in the relationship, thus paving the way to substantive dialogue on all issues of mutual concern". This, in effect, meant that substantive issues would come up for discussion only once India was persuaded that Pakistan meant business in its stated objective of clamping down on terrorism.


Pakistan foreign minister Shah MohammedQureishi, however, claimed that all issues of concern, including Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, river waters and people-to-people contacts, would be discussed at the next round of talks. He brushed aside India's concerns on terrorism, by glibly claiming that terrorism is a "global" concern. It remains to be seen how this difference in approach is going to be bridged.


Despite claims by aides that prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is now an "empowered" leader, the real power in Pakistan remains with the army led by Gen Kayani, who is now a hot favourite with US generals. The Americans, unlike us, are realists and deal on serious issues with Kayani and not Gilani. And there is nothing to suggest that given the American readiness to placate Pakistan's army leadership, Gen Kayani is going to relent on his agenda of backing Taliban commanders like Jalaluddin Haqqani and forcing the Obama administration to seek his blessings, while restoring the Taliban to positions of influence in Afghanistan.


Moreover, even now, sections of the Obama administration reportedly believe that the ISI surely has a case in claiming that it needs its "Kashmiri militants" to force India's hand on Jammu & Kashmir. New Delhi should surely be realistic enough to know that given American and Chinese backing, there is no reason for the ISI to discontinue measured assistance to its "jihad" in India.

Engagement and dialogue with neighbours and adversaries is only natural and logical. But, in dealing with Pakistan's military establishment, there is also a need for actions and responses that signal that it will have to pay a heavy price for activities intended to undermine India's security.






The article 'Conglomerates, cronyism & success', (DNA.Sunday, May 2) gives a totally new perspective to the current telephone tapping scandal. The author is spot onin his analysis of the current business lobbying which has degenerated into crony capitalism. Most of the Indian business houses, byproducts of the 'licence raj', are used to manipulating the system to their advantage. However, with the economy opening up, they had no alternative but to resort to the use of lobbyists to protect their pie. The fact that an otherwise ethical business house has used the services of lobbyists for 'levelling the field' speaks a lot of the tough times business houses are going through.

—Arun Mehta, Mumbai



The decision of the sports minister to limit the tenure of the chiefs of sports bodies is a long overdue step in the right direction ('Ministry clips wings of sports bodies' top guns', DNA, May 3). The top posts of these organisations are invariably held by politicians who have no connection with the sport. The Weightlifting Federation is always under a cloud because of the many doping incidents reported against the lifters. We have hardly made a mark in any sport in any international competition. Another body which needs reining in, is the cash-rich BCCI, headed by the rich and 'Pawarful'. It claims to be a private body but when playing international matches the team is supposed to represent the country. The recent fiasco of the IPL is too fresh in the minds of all. The sports minister should ensure that the order of limited tenures is implemented by all sports bodies across the country.


Although his decision was based on the Delhi high court verdict, MS Gill, the minister for sports, deserves applause for clipping the wings of the chiefs of various sports bodies, more so in limiting their age of retirement to 70 years. It will be advisable for the ministry of sports to take over the game of cricket which has become a Watergate of sorts. It is unfortunate that most of the sports bodies are headed by politicians.
—RM Deshpande, Navi Mumbai










The trial and conviction of Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab for his involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack has highlighted how Pakistan-based extremist outfits have been planning and executing their destructive projects against India. Kasab and the nine others who reached Mumbai using the sea route and killed 166 innocent persons were part of a large terrorist network, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), working against India. The LeT has a well-organised training arrangement that got exposed during the trial of Kasab. What the 10 Pakistani killers and their handlers sitting back home did could not have been possible without the support of the ISI and other official agencies, as India has been stressing. And had Kasab not been captured alive, the Pakistani authorities could have gone away by just saying that the Mumbai massacre was the handiwork of some "non-state actors".


As Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram commented after the special court handling the Kasab case gave its verdict on Monday, Pakistan must stop exporting terror to India. "The judgement is a message to Pakistan…" If Islamabad continues to indulge in such heinous activity and "if the terrorists are apprehended, we will be able to bring them to justice and give them exemplary punishment," Mr Chidambaram asserted. India should not keep quiet at this. Efforts must be intensified to bring greater pressure to bear on Islamabad to force it to expedite the process of punishing those arrested in Pakistan in connection with 26/11 like LeT functionary Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Abu Hamza. LeT chief Hafiz Saeed should also be made to pay for what he and his organisation have done against India.


Once again Pakistan has been exposed as a country pursuing a policy of using terrorism to achieve its geopolitical objectives. The whole world knows that Pakistan remains the epicentre of terrorism. Since terrorism is a two-edged weapon, Pakistan too is suffering as a result of its own dangerous policy. Thus, it is not only in the interest of peace and stability in South Asia but also in Pakistan that Islamabad is ruthless in dealing with anyone indulging in terrorism whether he is Hafiz Saeed or anyone else.








Six farmers have been arrested and 1,500 more face arrest for defaulting on bank loans. A similar situation had arisen in December last year. The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who intervened, got the arrests stayed, but the problem persisted. The bank gave more time for repayments to farmers, mostly in the cotton belt comprising Faridkot, Ferozepur, Moga, Mansa, Muktsar and Bathinda. The area had suffered in the past due to consecutive crop failures. But the introduction of Bt cotton two years ago has improved the farmers' lot to some extent.


The recovery of farmers' loans is usually deferred in the case of a crop failure or natural calamity. In the present case the bank has dubbed them "willful defaulters" and hence the large-scale issuance of arrest warrants. Punjab had a fairly good level of recovery in the past until short-sighted politics introduced loan waivers. Though the latest Central loan waiver, announced two years ago, did not benefit many Punjab farmers due to the state government's failure to put up their case effectively, politicians and kisan unions have kept alive farmers' hope that their loans too would be waived.


An acquisitive culture, a rising lifestyle and falling farm incomes have unsettled household budgets and driven many to desperation and suicide. Many youngsters are migrating abroad or taking to drugs in despair. The political leadership has failed to come up to the people's expectations. It instead plays politics, blames the Centre for the state's ills and pleads for loan waivers and bailouts. The simple fact is: Banks cannot stay in business if loans are not repaid. Due to poor recoveries, banks have stopped giving loans in the cotton belt. This will turn poor farmers to exploitative arhtiyas. A Moga farmer, driven to suicide by a pestering arhtiya on Sunday, is a reminder of the expensive alternative lending if banks shut shop.










Politics makes for strange bedfellows and coalition compulsions keep them together. Telecom Minister A Raja was not Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's first choice for the position; in fact, he was not the PM's choice at all. Raja got the portfolio simply because DMK chief M Karunanidhi ordained that it be so. Raja has now been embroiled in the scandal regarding the allocation, in 2008, of 2G spectrum, the existing second-generation mobile services that are available in the country, providing primarily voice services and some data. At the heart of the 2G spectrum issue is that telecom licences and spectrum were awarded to new players in January 2008 on a first-come-first-served basis on price levels prevailing in 2001. No provisions were made to ensure that the companies did not dilute their shareholding and profit massively, literally by selling just their licences.


Three major government bodies, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) are all investigating the case. The UPA government faced a tough time in Parliament when the Opposition charged that the CBI had evidence of corruption. The Congress has defended the Minister, but somewhat half-heartedly.


The UPA is looking more and more beleaguered as it faces attacks from the Opposition on issues like the rising prices on the one hand, and controversies arising from the conduct of its Ministers on the other. In 2008, Raja garnered a meagre Rs 1,651 crore for pan-India 2G spectrum. With the auction of the 3G pan-India spectrum raking in around Rs 8,000 crore, recently, the Opposition's charge of Raja's action costing the exchequer hugely doesn't seem far-fetched. The Dalit bogey raised by Karunanidhi cuts no ice. The issue is corruption, not caste. The government sacrificed a Minister to keep its hands clean from the IPL mess. It is, however, fast moving towards the dark end of the spectrum of compromises by propping up a tainted Raja. 

















AT the end of the Thimphu SAARC summit and after the one-on-one meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, the Indian Foreign Secretary made a rather bland announcement while summing up the bilateral interactions of Dr Manmohan Singh with other SAARC leaders. She said the two Prime Ministers had agreed that the Foreign Ministers and the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan would be charged with their responsibility of working out the modalities of restoring trust and confidence in the relationship and thus paving the way for a substantive dialogue on all issues of mutual concern.


Many in India are disappointed with this very unspectacular announcement. They expected that Dr Manmohan Singh should have berated and held Pakistan responsible for inadequate progress on the trial of 26/11 accused and not taking vigorous action against Hafiz Saeed and the Lashkhar-e-Toiba. A section among them was even opposed to continuing any dialogue with Pakistan till Islamabad acted against the LeT. In Pakistan, the development has been welcomed as a U-turn by India under international pressure. Such an interpretation is likely to add to the unhappiness of the Indian critics who complain that the Indian Prime Minister has been soft on Pakistan since Sharm-al-Sheikh and this is attributed to US pressure. The issue of how India should deal with Pakistan will continue to be debated endlessly in this country.


What does the present announcement mean? Both sides now accept that there is an enormous trust-deficit between the two nations, which is not news. But what constitutes a departure is that for a substantive dialogue on all issues to start, it requires that the way should be paved for it through restoring confidence, and for that modalities need to be worked out by the Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Ministers. While Kashmir, trade, water, Siachen and Sir Creek are all substantive issues, ensuring that there are no terrorist attacks on India and taking action on internationally recognised terroristic organisations are steps in confidence building and bridging the trust deficit.


With the present formulation, the order of business and priorities of tasks have been clarified. Confidence building and bridging the trust deficit call for the issue of terrorism to be addressed first. Secondly, it will also call for each party to explain to the other that to promote confidence building and for bridging the trust deficit, what it is doing to address the concerns of the other on terrorism.


While it will be open to Pakistan to put on the table its alleged concerns on Indian actions in Balochistan and FATA, it must also explain what investigations it has conducted on the activities of Hafiz Saeed and the LeT beyond repeating that evidence supplied by India is not enough. In other words, the confidence building and trust restoration exercise will be a free and frank exchange of views on the action taken by each country against terrorists threatening the other country. While Pakistani allegations of Indian activities in Balochistan or the FATA have not evoked any international credibility, US National Intelligence Adviser Dennis Blair in his annual threat assessment to the US Congress has stated, "Islamabad's conviction that militant groups are an important part of its strategic arsenal to counter India's military and economic advantages will continue to limit Pakistan's incentive to pursue an across-the-board effort against extremism."


Therefore, it is inescapable that terrorism will be the core issue on which the confidence building and trust restoration exercise will be conducted. In that sense, there has been no U-turn by India. All that has happened is the Pakistan has agreed to discuss terrorism as the core issue in confidence building and trust restoration while saving its face by its being presented to the world as the resumption of the Indo-Pakistan dialogue.


Pakistan's agreement to get into a dialogue at the Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Ministers level has to be viewed in the light of the impending military developments in the war in the AfPak area. The US troop surge will be completed by May-end. Operations against Kandahar to free it completely of the Taliban is scheduled in the next few weeks. The drone strikes against the various extremist groups in the FATA area are being intensified and are likely to gather further momentum in June. That will be a moment of truth for the Pakistan Army.


What will the extremist groups like those headed by Haqqani and Gul Bahadur do when directly attacked by US forces? Will they fall back into the safe haven of Pakistani plains with all the consequent implications for the Pakistani state, or will the Pakistan Army act to stop them from doing so? It is reported that the Pakistan Army has shifted 100,000 troops to their western front. That shows a newly acquired confidence in India that it will not come in the way of the Pakistan Army acting against the extremists. The dialogue between the two sides can be a channel to reassure Pakistan that India has a stake in the Pakistan Army taming the terrorists on the western border. By July-August there will be monsoon rains in Punjab and that is not the preferred season for military activity on the eastern front of Pakistan while it will permit activity in the FATA region and beyond.


In his two speeches during his six-hour stay in Kabul on March 29, 2010, President Obama made two points clear. First, he said, "And I want to send a strong message that the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan is going to continue…. But we also want to continue to make progress on the civilian process of ensuring that agricultural production, energy production, good governance, rule of law, anticorruption efforts — all these things end up resulting in a Afghanistan that is more prosperous, more secure, independent, is not subject to meddling by its neighbours, a transition will be able to occur so that more and more security efforts are made by the Afghans."


He further said while addressing the American troops, "We did not choose this war. We were attacked viciously

on 9/11. …. Plots against our homeland, plots against our allies, plots against the Afghan and Pakistani people are taking place as we speak right here. And if this region slides backwards, if the Taliban retakes this country and Al-Qaeda can operate with impunity, then more American lives will be at stake. … And as long as I'm your Commander-in-Chief, I am not going to let that happen. That's why you are here …….. Our broad mission is clear: We are going to disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies. That is our mission." Al-Qaeda and its allies are not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. It is against this background that Pakistan has agreed to discuss the confidence-building and trust restoration measures with India.








When I built my house about 12 years ago,  I had to take the walls up to a height of 30 feet in order to provide for an adequate slope of the roof.  The height proved to be ideal for roosting pigeons.  The flutter of wings, and the cooing added a touch of quaintness to the already rather old-fashioned house. 


Some years down the line, a very fastidious caretaker, bothered by the constant need to clean the droppings, had the space below the eaves bricked up.  For days after that each evening would bring a flight of pigeons to the house who would flutter around disconsolately, sit for a while on the roof and then fly away.  It was an expression of the legendary homing instinct that pigeons have, an instinct which has proved immensely useful to mankind.


The homing pigeons have been used by star-crossed lovers to send epistles to each other, by Army Commanders to carry instructions to far- flung posts and even by hospitals to get quick results of diagnostic tests.


Though the homing instinct of pigeons is legendary, other species too share this instinct .  Cats, we know, are not willing to change their homes –they will, if necessary, change their owners in order to retain their homes.  A Hollywood film in the early sixties told the true story of a dog travelling the breadth of North America to get back home.


As a child, I too had this instinct.  As the train slowed down for my hometown, I would feel a rush of adrenalin, a lifting of the spirit.  A Nina and Fredrick ditty of the time summed up this feeling most aptly.  The words went something like this: "I took a little trip to my home town/ I only stopped just to look around/ And as I walked along the thoroughfare / I heard music singing everywhere/ The music came from within my heart. / How did it happen, how did it start?"


Like so many other urban dwellers today, I too lost my home and became a restless, rootless drifter who moved from town to town, from house to house, never again able to hear that music.  Lured by ambition we move to better-paid jobs in bigger cities, leaving our homes and our childhood behind. Moving up the economic ladder, we feel ashamed of our old-fashioned homes and move to ever more luxurious living spaces and, in the process, lose that wonderful homing instinct that we were born with, that we share with all other species.


I will be moving to my house in Dharampur in a few months' time.  One of the first things I will do is to open up that bricked-up space under the eaves.  I know the pigeons will return and make my house their home once again, and perhaps, just perhaps, in their cooing and fluttering I will hear once again that long-lost music of the heart.








Will Union Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare Manohar Singh Gill succeed where his predecessors since 1975 have failed in enforcing the guidelines to regulate the functioning of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and its affiliate National Sports Federations (NSFs)?


Given the current political landscape and affiliations of those afflicted by the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Sports on May 2, the sports administration in the country is heading for a toss. In less than six months, India will be playing host to its biggest-ever sports event – the Commonwealth games.


Laxity in enforcing the guidelines that are of the 1975 vantage has been the single largest factor for the uproar now. Aggrieved at the directions, the top brass of both the IOA and the NSFs has been quoting autonomy of the sports bodies and sports as a state subject as its biggest defence, terming the guidelines as a brazen attempt to browbeat them into submission. Trading guns at Gill, they want him to go first as he himself is over the retirement age his Ministry is proposing to impose on the elected office-bearers of the IOA and the NSFs.


Arguments by either side apart, the sports administration in the country needs a total revamp. There is no dispute that it has been overdue for a long time. There is some weight in the argument of the aggrieved sports officials that no International Sports Federation would accept a team or athletes from India for participation in any global meet if they do not come through the National Sports Federation.


Even the FIH, the world hockey body, threatened to withdraw the World Cup Hockey Tournament from India in case it did not have an elected body in place in time for the event. It is, however, a different issue that FIH did not carry out its threat and instead has allowed Hockey India to complete its election process by the end of May this year.


The guidelines do not prevent those holding key posts of President, Secretary and Treasurer either in the IOA or the NSFs from continuing their association with the sports beyond their prescribed tenures or retirement. As long as they want to remain associated with sports, they can but not at these specified positions. They can help, guide and associate themselves with their successors, giving the IOA or the NSFs a fresh lease of life or infusing some fresh ideas in these autonomous bodies.


"Autonomy" of the IOA and the NSFs is again subjective. Can the IOA or the NSFs survive on the strength of their own fiscal health? Probably they cannot. They have to depend upon states and the Centre for virtually everything, from infrastructure, coaches and also for sending their teams abroad.


The argument that sports is a state subject carries little or no weight as IOA as well as the NSFs always look towards the Centre for financial grants and assistance every time teams are to be sent abroad for participation in international events.


If one looks at the present general house of the Indian Olympic Association, one finds nearly 80 per cent of the faces have been there for more than two decades. At the same time, there is some credence in the argument that why have guidelines for sports bodies alone, why not in other spheres of public life, including politics?


The argument of the affected sports officials that their bodies have been functioning in a democratic and transparent manner need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Not many in sports circles had any inkling of the advanced notice of general house meetings of the IOA where Suresh Kalmadi was re-elected for his second and third terms.

Also, the IOA let itself to be hijacked by certain influential people in the manner the affairs of the ad hoc committee of the Hockey India were handled. Leaving out units like Punjab, Mumbai, Tamil Nadu from the affiliated members' list put it in the suspect category. A little more needs to be done to ensure and practise autonomy and transparency.


The Union Ministry of Sports, however, denies all such allegations of the IOA and the NSFs saying its latest guidelines neither violate the IOC charter nor it intends to intervene in their functioning. It also maintained that the functioning of the NSFs was a subject matter of debate in Parliament as recent as April 22 this year. The issue was also raised at the meetings of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Youth Affairs and Sports.


The guidelines that have created an uproar are only one part of the larger guidelines issued by the Ministry of Sports. There are guidelines that govern the association of members of the central civil services with the sports bodies. Again this set of guidelines has remained in paper only. Not many bureaucrats seek approval of the State before accepting or contesting an election to become the President/Secretary or Treasurer either in the IOA or any of the National Sports Federations. Again these have never been enforced.


Interestingly, the May 2 guidelines are silent about the Board for Control of Cricket in India. Do they apply to cricket too?

What IOC charter says


Eight years renewable once for four years. Total maximum of 12 years.

Vice-President and 10 Executive Committee members:

Four years each, maximum two terms followed by a cooling off period of two years.

Retirement Age:

70 (for those elected after December, 1999)

Practice in international federations

World Badminton Federation:

Maximum 2 terms for President and other office-bearers.

International Hockey Federation:

Maximum 3 terms for President, Secretary-General and Treasurer (Total 12 years)

International Swimming Federation:

Maximum two terms for President, Secretary and Treasurer.

Government's guidelines

Indian Olympic Association/ National Sports Federations:

President for a maximum of 12 years. Secretary/Treasurer — Two terms of four years each with a cooling off period of four years before the third term

IOA/ NSF retirement age for President/ Secretary/Treasurer is 70 years.

Delhi High Court verdict (March 2, 2009)

* Parliament has the power to legislate on the regulation of NSFs

* The guidelines for recognition of NSFs are valid, binding and enforceable, and

* The tenure clause is not in the violation of the IOC charter.








Harbhajan Singh has a way of hogging the headlines during the IPLseason. In the very first instalment of the tourney Bhajji had the spotlight turned entirely on himself when he got into a brawl with PunjabKings XI speedster Sreesanth and slapped him across the face.


Harbhajan followed it up the following year by criticising his friend and captain Sachin Tendulkar in a television interview. This time round, the storm over Lalit Modi and allegations of corruption and match fixing ensured that Bhajji's antics did not get newsprint space as in the past.


The guy was fined $15,000 for abusing Deccan Challengers batsman T Suman, but it hardly merited a mention when far less misdemeanors had the commentariat tearing their hair.


But as they say, one cannot keep a great man down for long. After the Mumbai Indians' semi-final victory against Royal Challengers Bangalore, team owner Nita Ambani rushed down to hug Bhajji for his performance. And Harbhajan gamely lifted her off her feet to make what could be the best television moment of the controversial tournament.


Short and far sighted


Engineering biggie Larsen and Toubro hasn't forgiven Anil Ambani for his Reliance Power placing huge orders from Chinese companies for equipment to power ultra mega power plants across India. The move two years ago sent a chill down the spine of L&T, which suddenly looked uncompetitive in the face of low-priced Chinese competition.


But the engineering giant hit back by unleashing a media offensive questioning the quality of equipment supplied by the Chinese. The sustained campaign paid off and L&T continues to enjoy the trust of India's other power producers. At a function recently, Ravi Uppal, CEO, L&T Power, at the end of a long diatribe against Chinese competitors, warned that power equipment needed to last at least 30-35 years. "Some people think they can just put up a plant at low cost and forget about it," Uppal remarked. There was no mention of Anil Ambani or Reliance Power.


But effusive praises came for 'far-sighted' companies like Tata Power and JP Power Ventures, who took a long-term view of their businesses.


Movie on Modi


As l'affaire Lalit Modi drew to a close, the rise and fall of the flamboyant IPL boss is all set to be captured on screen. The biopic of Modi was originally plotted as the story of the struggling scion of a business family who finally redeemed himself by shaking up the India's cricket body.


The movie was planned a few months ago when Modi was still riding high on the euphoria of two successful IPL tourneys. Though the tide has turned against him since, Modi, the buzz goes, hasn't really given up and hopes to make a dramatic comeback. The IPL boss is said to be closely monitoring the script and working on other minute details.

The Commissioner, helped by film-maker Shailendra Singh, is due to hit the floors later this year, depending on Modi pulling out a few more rabbits from his hat, that is. 









 Last week, Mumbai-based urban practitioners Marinha Fernandes, Kapil Chavan and Swati Sanghvi organised a Jane Jacobs Walk in which at least 60 people participated to re-discover the streets of Kalbadevi, Girgaum and its many tributaries. These walks were part of a global event in which similar gatherings glided down urban alleys in cities as varied as New York, Toronto (North America) and Lusaka (Zambia) and La Paloma (Uruguay).

According to urbanist Jane Jacobs (1916-2006), in whose honour the walks are instituted, a walk is the best way to know a city, reclaim its streets and connect with its economic energy.

The streets chosen by the Mumbai team would have particularly fascinated Jane Jacobs, if she had had an opportunity to visit it in her lifetime. They are living testimonies to the economic vitality that she felt were significant to the health of a city. For her, local-scale production, manufacture and exchange of goods and commodities had the potential of regenerating the most lethargic of systems and her formidable scholarship proved citing examples from Tokyo to the backstreets of American cities.

In colonial Mumbai, while the authorities were busy creating imperial cityscapes with their impressive architecture, but also draining the hinterland of natural resources, this part of the city – the 'native town' as it were – was working around the clock to keep up to the momentum of a thriving metropolis. They brought with them skills that had been shaped by centuries of trading and craftsmanship thanks to a dynamic trade and manufacture-based inter-continental coastal economy backed at this end by Sindh, Gujarat, Marwar and going all the way down south. Communities from these regions adapted to the changes brought out in a post-industrial world, but also revitalised the best of skills that they already had. And the city's complex, enmeshed and flexible approach to urban life allowed them to create an architecture that matched their peculiar needs and interests. It is in these streets and bylanes, shop-fronts and workshop spaces that the business culture of Mumbai got shaped all through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

 According to Jacobs, a city needs creative energy of people and communities the way an orchard needs sunshine. And the growth and success of Mumbai as an economic powerhouse was definitely shaped by business practices that the narrow streets and tiny offices of this neighbourhood soaked up hungrily and nourished in return. Every modern business establishment in Mumbai has a story to say that links up this neighbourhood to their own success in some way or the other. It is this relationship between spaces, streets, economic activities and living that Jacobs saw as the fulcrum of good urbanism – something that was destroyed by urban planning practices geared towards cosmetic changes and speculative construction.

The New Village Press and the Centre for the Living City have also published a book this month, What We See, a collection of essays in the memory of Jacobs, known among other things, for her vociferous criticism of Moses – an urban planner and engineer notorious for inaugurating the regime of freeways and carbased urban planning in the US.

Jacobs would have connected the decayed urban landscape dotting many parts of America today, to an economy in crisis because it has lost all moorings in local economies. One that has allowed runaway infrastructure and construction projects to dictate the process of urban living, rather than focussing on economic activities on the ground.

For Mumbai, Jacobs would have attributed its economic success to the way it balanced its financial sector with local production and exchanges, epitomised by its vibrant street economy and the neighbourhoods of the 'native' city. She would have explained its civic failure to the constant war the city waged against this very sector, epitomised by its antihawker, anti-street-level and anti-local business policies.

And yet, she would have remained optimistic seeing the way the city in Mumbai continues to fight back!



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





The recent high-profile cobalt radiation exposure case in Delhi is a warning signal for bigger disasters waiting to happen. While the reported incident is not commonplace, India is home to a large and rapidly growing inventory of hazardous waste. Much of this is handled by the poor in an extremely crude manner without observing any safety norms. Part of this hazardous waste is even dumped in landfill sites where many of their toxic substances, such as lead, mercury, chromium and even cyanide, tend to leach down to contaminate groundwater. Nearly five million people, mostly poor and destitute, are reckoned to be directly engaged in the highly risk-prone waste-handling and processing activity, also exposing, in the process, several millions more to health hazards due to emission of harmful gases and radiation, environmental degradation and water contamination, among hosts of other perils. There are far too few legalised and registered hazardous waste recycling units. In fact, the abundance of informal and low-cost waste recycling units is discouraging investment in safer and scientific waste processing and recycling industry. Apart from the domestic hazardous wastes, estimated at around 5.9 million tonnes in 2009, wastes generated in other countries, especially the US and Europe, also land in India in the guise of scrap and reusable material. This is because these countries find it cheaper to ship perilous wastes to India than getting it processed or recycled locally. Much of this imported waste consists of life-expired electronic items, or e-waste, which was unheard of till a few decades ago, and which contains some of the most dangerous toxic materials like mercury, cadmium, lead, heavy metals and radioactive substances.


While all this is now known, not much has been done to deal with the problem. Accidents like the one in Delhi raise alarm and public concern but are soon forgotten as everyone returns to business as usual. The import of hazardous wastes, for instance, is estimated to have grown by 48 per cent in last three years. The domestic e-waste generation, reckoned at around 3.8 lakh tonnes in 2008, is projected to swell to 1.6 million tonnes in next three years. So is the case with other dangerous wastes. While little can perhaps be done in limiting waste generation, considering the pace of economic development, arrangements can surely be put in place for safe handling and disposal of these wastes as also for checking the import of unsafe discarded products. India needs waste scanners at ports handling hazardous wastes and the job cannot be handled by ordinary customs officials. Last week, the government announced a new set of rules for the management of e-wastes, making manufacturers responsible for taking back the discarded products for their safe recycling and disposal. Similar policies are needed for other kinds of risky wastes. At present, the responsibility and accountability for the enforcement of such rules and norms are not clearly specified. While the Centre leaves enforcement to states, maintaining that the waste handling sector is too unorganised for it to regulate, states, on the other hand, blame lack of capacity and capability for their inaction. Clearly, hazardous waste handling requires more focused policy attention.








Fifty years after their formation as different states of the Indian Union, Gujarat and Maharashtra have much to be proud of. Both states are among India's developed and industrialised states. Both states have above-average human development indicators and a record of good performance across many sectors. In the world of business and commerce, both states have distinguished themselves. On the occasion of their golden jubilee, the point has been made that at the time of their creation, there was a view that Bombay, now Mumbai, should be made a Union Territory. It is possible to imagine that Gujarat could have had its capital in Baroda and Maharashtra in Pune, and Bombay (Mumbai) could have remained a more cosmopolitan city. Today it is difficult to turn the clock back and there is not much popular support for the idea either in Maharashtra or Gujarat. However, as India's major metropolitan centres grow, there may be a case for re-examining the question whether some large metros should be declared Union Territories open to all Indians for purposes of education and employment. It is easy to see a tension between the growth of regionalism and regional politics on the one hand, and the rapid expansion of increasingly cosmopolitan metropolitan centres like the National Capital Region of Delhi, the greater Mumbai, greater Hyderabad and greater Bengaluru urban agglomeration on the other. If Mumbai is only for Maharashtrians and Hyderabad only for the people of Telangana, the process of national integration that urbanisation brings with it can be seriously threatened.


In a democracy, everyone must respect sentiments like regionalism and linguistic affinities of the people. However, an open society must also respect the right of every citizen to live and work wherever she pleases in the country. Cosmopolitan urbanisation is a healthy trend in a diverse society like ours since it helps build bridges of communication across regions, religions, castes and communities. If Mumbai retains, indeed strengthens, its cosmopolitan character, it will grow not just as a national city but as a global metropolis. Cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru have benefited from the inflow of enterprise and capital from other parts of India. New Delhi's growth is in large part due to its increasingly national character, from being at one point a very north Indian town. India's politicians and policy-makers must come to grips with the need to encourage the development of cosmopolitan metros even as they address regional sentiments and the problem of unbalanced inter-regional development. On its 50th anniversary as capital of Maharashtra, Mumbai must wonder if its economic power has been hurt by the political chauvinism of those who speak in its name. If Mumbai has to be India's Shanghai and if Hyderabad and other such big cities have to grow, they should remain more open to talent and enterprise, even as they remain sensitive to the needs of the hinterland that feeds and sustains them.









If excess liquidity is coming back to RBI, there is precious little that higher policy rates can achieve


The monthly index of industrial production (IIP) suggests that our economic recovery is not just robust but is becoming more broad-based. This data is available up to February and the average growth in the headline index for December-February period was a solid 16.4 per cent. The sub-index for capital goods picked up somewhat dramatically in the period and that, prima facie, points to a recovery in investment demand. In this period, the index clocked a mean growth of, hold your breath, 46 per cent.


Have things really become that much better over the past few months? The Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) data on credit flow to sectors that it released before the annual credit policy on April 20 tells a somewhat different story. Credit growth remains weak and is heavily skewed towards a few sectors. The Indian consumer does not seem to have regained his confidence; at least, she is not borrowing to spend. Retail credit demand remains exceptionally sluggish across categories from credit cards to mortgages. Despite the sharp recovery in automobile sales, most of which is financed through loans, loans to fund consumer durable purchases (the category that includes car loans) continues to decline when measured against the same month last year.


Credit flow to industry seems to have fared better and the year-on-year growth in this category was a healthy 20 per cent. The problem, of course, is that over 50 per cent of this growth can be explained by disbursals to the infrastructure sector alone. While RBI does not give a breakdown of infrastructure disbursals, most bankers agree that it is dominated by three sectors — telecom, power and roads. Strong credit flow to these sectors reflects the capacity expansion in these segments. The relatively weak growth in credit disbursals to other sectors (save a couple like iron and steel), by the same token, reflects a lack of "capex" activity. Thus, while there might have been an increase in capacity utilisation, companies are not yet ready to invest in new capacity, preferring instead to squeeze more out of existing plant and machinery.


Some of the sluggishness in credit growth can be explained by "disintermediation", banker-speak for the phenomenon for companies turning to non-credit funding options like commercial paper or external borrowings. Abundant local and global liquidity run out to be cheaper than bank credit. But there are two caveats.


First, even if these alternatives are factored in, the fund-flow numbers do not improve radically. For the last week of February that the credit data relates to, the growth rate in aggregate fund flows (including disintermediation flows) is about 18.4 per cent, which is both lower than the growth rate in the same month last year and the growth rates clocked in the initial stages of earlier business cycle recoveries. Second, "disintermediation" opportunities are somewhat limited for retail loans — a retail borrower can neither float a commercial paper nor borrow from global markets. Thus the poor growth in retail lending reflects a genuine problem of weak consumer demand.

The conclusions are somewhat obvious. The credit data should temper some of the euphoria around the recovery. If the information is correct, the recovery is at best tentative and is far from broad-based. While there seems to be some traction in infrastructure-related investments, the investment cycle based on corporate capex is yet to look up. This is corroborated by two things. Anecdotal evidence gathered from talking to bankers reveals that while companies are certainly more optimistic about the future than they were a year ago, they are still reluctant to actually getting down to spending money on fresh capacity. Second, a survey of capacity utilisation of companies done by RBI shows that while it has certainly improved, the levels of utilisation are way lower than the peak levels seen in 2007. Companies are not exactly facing intense pressure to put on assets.


Given these credit numbers, one should also be careful about making judgments purely based on impression and not on hard data. Take the concern that the current monetary policy regime is blowing up price bubbles in the housing market. The fact that house prices in Mumbai and a couple of other cities have perked up over the past few months need not necessarily mean that there is overheating across the board. Mortgage data and credit flow to real estate clearly show that the rise in prices is not underpinned by "leverage". This is unlike China where there are both an increase in prices and massive credit flow to the sector.


I would argue that these numbers have a major implication for monetary policy. To explain this, it might be useful to turn to the US that faces a problem similar to India in that it has extremely loose monetary policy, weak credit growth and signs of economic recovery (GDP growth in the first quarter of 2010 was a healthy 3.2 per cent). The US central bank is fairly clear in its monetary stance — it will tighten monetary policy only if there is traction in credit growth. The logic should be simple. Monetary policy ultimately works by influencing the price and the flow of credit into the real economy. It can rein in inflation only if excess credit flow is at the root of the problem. If excess liquidity is simply coming back to the central bank as excess reserves of banks (LAF balances in our case), there is precious little that higher policy rates can achieve.


I concede that the US' growth concerns are far more acute and inflation, unlike in India, is under control. Thus, there is need for RBI to be forward-looking and quell inflation expectations by hiking rates. However, if credit growth isn't causing inflation, aggressive monetary tightening could throw the proverbial baby with the bathwater — scupper the recovery in a misplaced zeal to tame inflation with the wrong set of instruments.


The author is Chief Economist, HDFC Bank. The views expressed are personal









Successful economic reforms should ideally result in liaison officers losing both their relevance and jobs. If reforms make headway, the government frames economic policies transparently and puts in place rules that leave little scope for discretion. In such an ideal post-reforms scenario, what meaningful role can a liaison officer play?


 This is what happened after the P V Narasimha Rao government initiated economic reforms in 1991. Before such reforms, liaison officers of all hues would frequent the corridors of Udyog Bhavan, North Block and several other Bhavans in New Delhi where central ministers and their senior officials have their offices. Indeed, liaison officers during the 1970s and 1980s would spend a better part of their day in these corridors, trying to meet an officer or his deputy to make sure the approval needed for imports or a project went through smoothly without any delay.


Even large industrial houses would post a senior person in New Delhi. That senior officer would not have much work to do. He would be required primarily to keep an eye on what all was happening in the government, at what stage of the government approval process were the various proposals submitted by the company and which important official was being transferred out of the industry ministry and who he was being replaced with. Periodically, he would also be entertaining senior government officials in a bid to influence policy that might affect his company.


All that changed after 1991. Liaison officers no longer saw the need to keep an eye on what the government was doing. Consequently, they lost their own relevance and importance within the companies where they worked. Many companies did away with the practice of keeping liaison men on their rolls. Yes, a few companies continued to keep an entire unit of liaison officers whose job was not only to track what the government was doing with their proposals, but also proposals from other companies, including rivals. However, in general, the role and relevance of liaison officers declined considerably after economic reforms in 1991.


Industry associations and chambers of commerce also became unabashed votaries of reforms. Instead of submitting lists of specific concessions in policy that would often help a few industrial houses or companies, these industry associations began pleading for speeding up economic liberalisation so that Indian industry could realise its latent potential for achieving higher growth. The few liaison officers these chambers had on their rolls also changed the style of operation. They too began clamouring for more reforms, more transparent policies and easier imports.


Even as liaison officers lost their relevance and industry associations reoriented their method of lobbying the government, companies realised that they still needed somebody to talk about their concerns and need for policy changes. They did not require liaison officers. Nor did industry associations need to lobby the government for specific concessions. But companies saw the need for a communication channel with the government. It is this opportunity that public relation firms saw and promptly grabbed. Liaison officers were gone, but soon PR lobbyists with a different style of functioning replaced them.


The functioning style of PR lobbyists had to be different because the character of the government had changed post-reforms. There was no need for effecting a change in the import policy or an increase in the excise duty or import tariff. There was need to influence the regulatory environment. This meant lobbying the government was no longer required. Regulatory bodies had become important. Companies needed to lobby these new regulators to make sure their business goals were not undermined by sudden policy initiatives.


The formation of coalition governments at the Centre also meant political leaders belonging to coalition partners held some important ministerial portfolios. Those ministers from junior coalition partners would owe their allegiance not to the prime minister of the day, but to the head of the political party to which the minister belonged. This was true during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime and is true of the present government run by Manmohan Singh. Murasoli Maran in the Vajpayee government had his own agenda, just as A Raja in the Singh government has his own.


In such a scenario, companies and industrial houses feel a greater need for lobbyists to make sure that their business interests are protected. In a single party rule at the Centre, companies could manage their affairs without a major problem, since it was a question of keeping only one political party happy. But in a coalition government, the challenges of keeping many forces under control become daunting. It is then that PR lobbyists are called in to play a role to appease different forces.


If PR lobbyists, or liaison officers in a different garb, have made a comeback in a big way, it is time to check if the economic reforms in this country have not grown deep enough roots and if governance norms need to be strengthened to ensure coalition partners at the Centre behave more responsibly.









The change of guard at the top level in the judiciary in a few days comes at a time when the Supreme Court of India is adding more arrears to the dockets and visions of reform have remained empty dreams. In recent times, it had to deal with two cases of impeachment of high court judges and corruption cases against several others. On top of it, the Supreme Court became a petitioner before itself in the right to information controversy.

Soon after Justice K G Balakrishnan took over as chief justice of the Supreme Court, he declared with gusto that "in a democratic set-up, information is empowerment, since it promotes transparency, integrity and accountability. It is necessary to keep the people informed on vital aspects of the functioning of a public institution so as to enlighten them and enable them to form an informed opinion on its working and performance. I am happy that the Supreme Court of India has taken a lead in this direction."


 As in a cinematic anticlimax, soon after he wrote his above editorial for the Supreme Court journal, he got himself into a running controversy over the right to information regarding the assets of judges in the appellate courts and the consultation process in their appointment. Responding to the public outcry, the assets of the judges were put on the Web. But details of the consultation process was another matter, on which the Supreme Court moved a petition before itself challenging the Delhi High Court judgment which stated that the information was not privileged. The petition is still pending.


Arrears of cases in December 2007, around the time when Chief Justice Balakrishnan took over, stood at 39,780. Last December, it was 55,791. When the Supreme Court was set up in 1950, it was a mere 680. This steady increase in the institution of cases is inevitable, given the rise in literacy and awareness of rights among the people. Since the executive has neglected the judiciary, the disposal rate has steadily slowed down.


This has prompted a debate on whether the Supreme Court should take up all appeals or limit itself to Constitutional cases and those of public importance only. One bench of the court has referred this question to a Constitution bench that is to be constituted by the new chief justice, Sarosh Homi Kapadia.


The Supreme Court has remained static on the reform front, though there were plenty of resolutions at the seminar hall of Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, with the promising presence of the Union law minister. Among them were the "redesigning of the justice delivery system", setting up of a "national arrears grid" to provide infrastructural, managerial, technical and manpower services to the judiciary and a "special purpose vehicle", a new catchphrase. All these were forgotten after the high tea.


Whether the new chief justice would make a dent in this seemingly insurmountable stack of problems, where his predecessors have failed, is a question in the mind of the legal profession. He has two years and four months to make the attempt.


The corporate sector will note that he is a chartered accountant and a cost accountant rolled into one and in these days of economic reforms he will have a lot to contribute to the commercial laws. His court already functions like the proposed "commercial court", with counsel struggling to match his familiarity with every interstice in tax laws. Some of his judgments are complex and there is debate over their real import. He recently called for special training for judges and lawyers for brushing up their knowledge in taxation. He has lamented the inadequacy of counsel appearing for the government in tax matters, leading to heavy losses in revenue as private companies field the best lawyers.


Years of delay in filing appeals by revenue departments and the absence of lawyers when the cases are called have been recorded in his orders. On Monday, he told the counsel for the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence that his appeal was delayed by a thousand days.


Though his court has not been dealing with public interest litigation (PIL) on all and sundry issues like that of the outgoing chief justice, he was on the special "green bench" which deals with environment and forest matters. As he would inherit scores of PILs from his predecessor, his handling of this important branch of judicial power would be keenly watched.


His knowledge of fiscal regulation should stand in good stead when he bargains for more funds for the judiciary. The funds crunch is the most serious problem affecting this arm of the state. He recently remarked that his heart "goes out to trial court judges who in remote areas are working even without a fan in this scorching summer." There is, in fact, a 1989 PIL in which the service conditions of subordinate judges are being agitated. Uneasy would lie the head which bears these burdens.









Partner & Director India, Analysys Mason Limited


With bids for 3G licences crossing five times the reserve price for some circles, the question is whether telcos are paying too much?


To make sense of the bids, you need to visualise how India's telecom market will look in a few years. By then, consolidation will have begun and only four or five large telcos will be left; 3G services will have been rolled out, 2G subscriber net additions will be in the low single-digit millions every month, and, most important, price will no longer be the prime differentiator. In such a scenario, 3G will be a hygiene factor for surviving telcos, essential to retain any significant market share.


The valuation metric used globally for the evaluation of 3G auctions is dollar per MHz of spectrum per population covered. This metric reached as high as $4/MHz/pop for auctions in the UK, which left the participating carriers nearly bankrupt. This metric has already crossed $4 for some markets in India (although at an all-India level, the numbers are a more sober $0.4/MHz/pop), and may result in a difficult business case for winners in those areas.


The value of spectrum is derived from three components. One, the ability to upgrade customers to 3G and derive higher average revenue per user (Arpu). Two, the revenue from subscribers who can be captured from competitors who do not win 3G. Finally, the upside of retaining high-end customers who may have otherwise churned. In addition, the value of the spectrum is also augmented by the strategic value it holds owing to the scarcity of spectrum in India and uncertainty about when the next set of blocks will go under the hammer, and the actual market value of the spectrum asset itself.


While considering the value of retention, keep in mind that Indian telcos generate about 30 per cent of their revenues, and 45 per cent of Ebitda margins from the top 10 per cent of their user base. Given that mobile number portability will be introduced later this year, losing telcos will be forced to concentrate only on the more basic users of 2G as they will slowly lose the majority of their high-end user base to new 3G licence holders offering bundled 3G smartphones, lots of free voice minutes and compelling video content.


In terms of attracting new subscribers, owning 3G spectrum becomes all the more important since there are a limited number of variables that can be used to differentiate a telco's offering, apart from price. With vendor financing easily available, network-based differentiation is only mildly sustainable; customer service continues to be outsourced by a majority of telcos to the same types of call centres, and there is little else that customers really care about. Using 3G as a platform to launch sticky services, like on-demand video, is what will allow telcos to add another dimension to their competitive arsenal.


3G will also lead to a revenue uplift from existing users. 3G networks are allowing increased flexibility for data-voice mix and deployment scenarios. Carriers can focus on a data-centric deployment in business districts and metro markets to drive sales of high-speed packet access modems (dongles) with Arpu of about Rs 800, and enhance the contribution of non-voice in their revenue mix. Since 3G also allows for a tighter device service integration, a better user experience where applications and services are easier to find and use will also help increase Arpu, or at least prevent its further decline.


While this remains true for the existing high-end customers, even for the large middle-class customers, 3G connectivity through a mobile handset may be the primary means through which they can access high-speed internet for the first time. Therefore, carriers also have the opportunity to develop an entire 3G-based ecosystem for driving mobile-internet usage and its adoption across urban and rural areas.


In the short term, 3G business plans may be yielding single-digit internal rate of return (IRR) numbers, but considering the benefits of subscriber retention, service differentiation and significant revenue upside potential of data-based services and applications, the strategic value of 3G spectrum is clearly much more than a simple metric-based valuation.


Analysys Mason Limited is a London-headquartered strategy consulting firm in telecom, technology and media

Sandeep Ladda 
Executive Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers


After almost a decade of the first 3G roll-out in developed nations, the Indian government, after much debate and discussion, is on its way to releasing 3G spectrum in the 2100 MHz frequency band. While the government had set out with an ambitious price tag of Rs 35,000 crore, the question is whether telcos will be able to make profit out of the entire exercise.


The auction of spectrum enabling telcos to provide 3G services is by far the largest auction of any national resource by the government. Also, based on the latest media reports, the auction is expected to generate around Rs 50,000 crore for the government. With reduction in the overall fiscal deficit and reduced borrowings figuring high on the agenda of the government, the price discovery (auction) mechanism should fairly meet these objectives.


Telecom companies, on the other hand, face the challenge of serving about 20 million customers who are getting added every month. The total telephone subscriber base has increased to 621 million and, consequentially, the overall teledensity in India has reached 52.74 per cent, as reported by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). This rapid increase in the customer base is unprecedented and thus poses its own set of challenges. Considering the extremely scarce availability of the basic raw material, i.e. spectrum, and after prolonged delay in its release, telcos are now vying to get hold of any additional spectrum possible.


In the process, for fear of losing out in the race to grab market share, telcos are betting heavily on the pricing of spectrum. Some of them will have to borrow heavily to fund the payout to the government and, subsequently, to fund the capital costs involved in laying down the networks. The heavy interest costs of these borrowings would only increase the cost of acquisition of spectrum.


To compound matters, the current release of spectrum is in the 2,100 MHz band. The spectrum currently held by telcos is in the 800-900 MHz and 1800-1900 MHz bands. The basic law of physics is that an electromagnetic signal of double the frequency travels half the distance. Thus, the same coverage at 1,800 MHz needs about four times the towers needed at 900 MHz, implying the requirement to deploy new networks, resulting in high capital expenditure, as also acknowledged by the regulators.


Further, there is no "killer application" that would be offered as a result of the launch of 3G services. Most of the current applications like email, chat, social networking, Internet, radio, etc. work well on the current 2G and 2.5G networks. It is only the "experience" that is better on 3G due to higher data speeds, but there is no "3G only" application that has a mass appeal. Also, it is expected that telcos will initially offer 3G services only in the metros and this may spread across to second tier cities and rural areas over a period of time. For availing 3G services, customers need to have 3G-enabled handsets that come at a steep cost — another hurdle to convert existing 2G or 2.5G customers to 3G ones. Thus, the challenges for telcos are many.


The aforesaid issues coupled with a continuous drop in the revenue flow because of the tariff war amongst telcos has resulted in a decrease in average revenue per user (Arpu), which is one of the lowest in the world, keeping in perspective the customer base and teledensity. Another key reason for such low Arpu is that there are 13-14 players in each circle and each telco is getting spectrum in the range of 6-10 MHz, which is too little for telcos to effectively and efficiently utilise the available spectrum to achieve economies of scale.


Summarily, the current bidding process will only result in heftier payouts by telcos. Further lowering of Arpu will make it difficult for them to achieve economies of scale in a reasoanable time frame and thus question the ability to make cash profits as a result of rolling out 3G services pursuant to the spectrum allocation.


Views expressed are personal

 tolerance and openness.  









What does the Indian cricket fan do when he is not watching cricket? The answer to that could well be, "Watch more cricket!" Just when the Indian inter-city jamboree called IPL got over after seven weeks of primetime televised action from March 12 to April 25, the ICC World T20 tournament kicked off in the West Indies.

The sudden shift in six days from an IPL final in aamchi Mumbai to an India-Afghanistan World T20 league game at the Caribbean tourist paradise of St Lucia might seem something that only a Bollywood producer could conjure!

However, the background of lilting Calypso music has not stopped erstwhile Chennai Super Kings colleagues Raina and Morkel from competing against each other while playing for India and South Africa at St Lucia.

Dancing is so much a part of life at St Lucia that the spectators jive not just to signal a four or a six but before, after and even when a delivery is being bowled. Not that the dancing girls of Barbados will stop West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo from having a go at the doosra bowled by his erstwhile Mumbai Indian team-mate Harbhajan Singh!

The World T20 Cup is of much shorter duration than the IPL and will conclude on May 16, with the finals being played at Barbados.

This will leave just about enough time for the Indian cricket team to fly back home, unpack and then pack again for the ODI tri-series against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe that begins at Bulawayo on May 28 and ends on June 9 at Harare.

Mumbai Indians' skipper Sachin Tendulkar could return for the ODI series after opting out of international T20 cricket. Tendulkar has just been nominated as one of Time's "100 most influential people in the world" in the Heroes category. If Sachin is missing from the World T20 Cup action, it could be because every hero needs a break even if the fans don't !








The proposal to provide the poor with smart cards carrying food subsidy redeemable at fair price shops that sell grain at unsubsidised prices seems an improvement on food coupons vulnerable to counterfeiting.

However, it glosses over a dilemma. If public distribution system (PDS) beneficiaries have to necessarily buy their food from PDS outlets, grain handling — procurement, storage and transportation — would remain predominantly a public sector preserve and retain the theft, wastage, leakages and high administrative costs that mar the PDS.

The bloated food subsidy bill would not come down, for the same level of coverage. If, on the other hand, the government allows the food subsidy transferred to smart cards to be redeemed at private shops as well, and frees up grain handling for the private sector, the PDS outlets would find themselves unviable.

Private sector competition would eliminate the layers of cost resulting from monopoly, inefficiency and corruption in the PDS, and the poor would find grain cheaper in private shops, and of better quality. Unless, of course, the PDS itself reforms and becomes a competitive force.

If private grain handling is allowed, is there a role left for the government, apart from picking up the subsidy bill? Most definitely. The government would still need to maintain a buffer stock, for the wherewithal for intelligent, dispersed open market sales to keep prices down.

To fill the buffer stock, the government would, more likely than not, have to pay a price higher than the minimum support price (MSP). In other words, the procurement price would have to be delinked from MSP. All trade-distorting taxes like the purchase tax should also be scrapped.


A purchase tax on the Food Corporation of India (FCI) when it procures grain from the farmers amounts to diversion of the Centre's Budget allocation for food subsidy to state coffers. If private trade in grain takes off, the need for the government to buy grain at MSP would arise but rarely.

Food security is a function not just of subsidy, but of raising farm output and incomes on and off the farm. That calls for wider investment in rural infrastructure, irrigation and spot commodity markets.







Acquitting Ajmal Kasab's co-accused , the court came down heavily on the case presented by the police , for its overall sloppiness. That the police did such a shoddy job in such a high-profile case speaks volumes for the general state of affairs. The malaise isn't solely inefficiency.

A whole set of ills plague police administration in India: from organisational structure, work culture, training , infrastructure to corruption, brutality and political interference . Successive governments have been promising police reform, and many a committee has been set up on the issue.

But the fact is that, in effect, we are still governed by the Police Act of 1861 — brought in to serve the interests of a colonial state in the wake of the mutiny of 1857. That the police, in the opinion of a majority of citizens, particularly the poor and deprived sections, retains more than vestiges of being a colonial-style force is almost a truism.

Clearly, the police has yet to evolve into what it is actually meant to be: a responsible and accountable public service, serving citizens rather than ruling over subjects.

Starting with the National Police Commission in 1977, committees and reports have recommended various layers of reforms for this vital institution of governance. And after the Supreme Court's directions, an expert committee was set up in 2005 to draft a New Police Act.

The report this body produced was submitted in 2006 — with recommendations on a host of issues, from sensitivity, responsiveness and accountability to community policing.

The SC too in 2006 directed states — given that law and order, and hence policing, is a state subject — to implement measures ranging from setting up a State Security Commission to fixing tenures of officers to setting up Complaints Authorities at state and district levels.

While there have been repeated calls for improvements on extant reports, the fact is states have, on grounds of maintaining authority and preventing central interference, contested or evaded these reports and directives. Political contestations and bickering have thus stalled progress on police reforms.

Police reforms are as critical for good governance and functional democracy as for human rights. And the political class must work together for the greater public good.








Public policy makers now realise that unemployability is a bigger challenge than unemployment. Do managers? I work for a people supply chain company that has hired somebody every five minutes for the last five years.

But tragically we have only hired 3% of the people who came to us for a job. This ongoing agony and ecstasy of India's labour market has deep roots and different implications for policy makers and managers. Policy makers now realise that India can't convert growth to poverty reduction without improving the productivity of our people and only a radical revamp of our 3E ecosystem (education , employability and employment) will put poverty in the museum it belongs.

This includes destroying the regulatory cholesterol that holds back Indian education (AICTE, MCI, UGC, etc), revamping our skill system and reforming labour laws to increase organised employment. All the ideas are on the table and we need hard decisions that take on the antibiotic reaction of the entrenched insiders because India's official unemployment rate of 8% is dwarfed by our working poor of 18% of the labour force. The working poor are stuck in low productivity jobs because of their lack of skills and employability.

Public policy will soon need to acknowledge the increasing chant among economists that India may not completely follow the journey of China in reducing poverty with massive organised manufacturing driven by exports. In fact, our current model of domestic consumption and services has important labour market and public policy implications that have not been fully played out yet. But do most managers who benefited from the hyper growth in salaries of the last decade realise that it had to do more with luck than skill? A rising tide lifts even the leaky boats; India's economic growth and broken 3E ecosystem created talent shortages that were solved by lower hiring standards and salary inflation .

So many salaries paid — particularly in middle management — did not reflect productivity or skills of the individuals but the price of rice in a famine i.e. not market price. But just like financial market bubbles, famines don't last forever.

The biggest lessons of the economic downturn for companies has been that lowering hiring standards in high tide creates huge organisational and individual pain in low tide. So, an important consequence of the downturn might be a "new normal" which arose from organisations realising they can do more with less as long as they select their people carefully and invest in training. While this increased employee assessment and training will support public policy employability efforts, the shift to "people who hit the ground running" has important implications for managers at an individual level; the hyper inflation in salaries will only continue mostly for top talent at the top of organisations.

Organisation pyramids will get steeper as many traditional organisations adopt the up-or-out system of IT organisations to avoid middle management obesity and this will accelerate the shift of employment from a life-long contract to a taxicab relationship. Life skills– curiosity, confidence, creativity, risk taking and teamwork – will become more important than technical skills for winning. But do most managers bake this into their personal learning plans? The best time to do this was ten years ago. The second best time is today.

(The author is chairman, Teamlease Services and IIJT Education)







In his Sutras, Patanjali sets forth Yama and Niyama as the first and second of the eight limbs of yoga. The ethical precepts are the foundation of yogic practice. Without them there is no spiritual progress on the path of yoga.

However, many aspirants come to yoga initially as a physical exercise and only later begin to understand the profound spiritual effect it can have on their lives. To establish these spiritual effects firmly upon the mindstream and to enshrine them within the consciousness , they have to be grounded on the bedrock of ethical behaviour.

So practice begins with Yama and Niyama , and extends progressively into asana and the other limbs of yoga ending up with Samadhi or absorption of the I sense into a unitary state. But few people travel that far. Many remain pre-occupied with the purely physical aspects.

No wonder, postural yoga is booming both in the West and East, writes Mark Singleton in Yoga Body, a study of the origins of modern posture practice: ironically , yoga and the lofty spiritual ideals for which it stands have become the ultimate commodity .

A 2008 poll commissioned by Yoga Journal estimated that the amount of money people spent on yoga in four years from 2004 had doubled from $2.95 to $5.7 billion in the US alone.

This was undoubtedly because the third and fourth limbs of yoga — Asana (postures) and Pranayama (breath control — were hogging attention at the expense of more rarefied aspects such as Dhyana (meditation); Dharana (concentration ); Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses) and Samadhi.

The primacy of the asana performance in transnational yoga today is indeed a new phenomenon that has no parallel in premodern times, Singleton adds. This is really the product of a dialogue between the modern body culture movement developed in the West and the various discourses of modern Hindu yoga that emerged from the time of Vivekananda , he argues.

Although it routinely appeals to the tradition of Indian hatha yoga starting back with semi-legendary masters such as Matsyendra and Goraksha , contemporary asansabased yoga and all its clones cannot be considered a direct successor of this hallowed tradition.

What is not as well-known is that the asanas evolved by the ancient tradition had the approval of Munis like Vashishta as well as Yogis like Matsyendra. That is why they survived so long to conquer the planet today.








PSUs should not be separated from administrative ministries since complete separation may lead to complications and fraud, as seen over the past few years. However, day-to-day management of PSUs must be left to their boards. Separation of board-level management from ownership would be an ideal situation.

The ministry should not be allowed to act like remote-sensing ballistic control systems for PSUs. Also, CEOs should not lean on the administrative ministry for decisions they are empowered to take themselves.

The foundation of PSUs was based on twin goals of economic development and social justice . Reforms such as MoU system and creation of miniratna, navratna and maharatna provided empowerment and limited autonomy to PSUs. They logged the best financial results in the post-reforms period and showed positive growth even during the global slowdown.

PSUs are trustees of public money and, in turn, are owned by the government, which acts through the administrative ministries. However, all is not well on the autonomy front, with PSUs perceived as extended arms of the administrative ministry.

Nominee directors from the ministry, supported by a strong force of independent directors on the board, are in position to stall any agenda as per the discretion of the ministry. The chairman has no control over nominee directors including independent directors who enjoy unlimited independence.

There is no denying the fact that regulatory norms like vigilance, audit (internal, external, audit board and CAG), committee on public undertakings and RTI have added value.

We must, however, find ways and means to do away with day-to-day interference by officials of the administrative ministry and discourage CEOs from approaching the ministry for every issue. Freedom to the board for day-to-day management of the company is an immediate requirement for talent management, succession planning and overall governance.

Taking PSUs completely out of the administrative ministries is not the solution . The answer lies in a change in the mindset and attitude on both sides, i.e., officials in the administrative ministries and the CEOs.

(U D Choubey, Director General SCOPE)








Yes , PSUs should be separated from their administrative ministries . Post-1991 , PSUs were exposed to new market dynamics and many became sick and redundant. There were, however , a few companies like SAIL, Bhel, NTPC and Maruti that not only survived competition from MNCs but also thrived in the new environment.

Ministries often have the last word in critical decisions, leading to delays, lack of accountability and innovation. This, in turn, affects performance and profitability of companies. The MoU process has also not achieved the desired results.

Given the current state of a large number of PSUs, we need an alternate approach to strengthen them. One way could be to create a separate entity or an investment trust that would be the holding company of the government equity and would also manage the PSUs professionally.

Parallels can be seen in the structure of Tata Sons that oversees nearly 100 companies of the group. The key officials in this trust could be from within the pool of government-run professional institutions like LIC, UTI, SBI, and so on.

The government's role would be limited to providing broad guidelines to the trust, keeping an accord with strict and transparent governance. Project Aadhaar, or UIDAI, is one example where professionals have been brought in to carry out a large but specific task. And it has not been created under the ambit of a particular ministry.

The other approach would be more in line with the current thinking where without tilting the ownership of the government in the proposed shareholding pattern, we can look at decreasing it to 40-45 %. The government will remain the largest entity in the venture, and the rest of the shareholding will be with FIs and the public.

We have examples of L&T , ITC and Axis Bank that are professionally managed with distinct business objectives and accountability.

There could be other formats as well, but the progressive way forward is to delink ownership and operations by enforcing relative autonomy with strong governance practices and mandatory compliances to bring about higher efficiency, productivity and innovation.

(Jagdish Khattar, CMD, Carnation Auto)







There is no incompatibility between phone tapping and democracy as long as it is legally authorised. The authorisation should be against a specified individual and for a specified period. However, in recent years, criminal and anti-national elements have started using third parties' facilities, with or without their knowledge, for communication. The mushrooming of public telephone booths and cyber cafes has made the task of detecting them more difficult.

Under the present laws, the agencies have to seek fresh authorisation for intercepting the communications of third parties, public telephone booths and cyber cafes, which can be time consuming. Any delay can sometime frustrate the very purpose of interception. The agencies need capability and authorisation for detecting and identifying criminal and anti-national elements.

This might call for random, but not indiscriminate, monitoring of communications that could result in the interception of messages having a bearing on serious crimes, terrorism, narcotics smuggling, espionage and so on. In India too, after 9/11, there has been a mushrooming of technical intelligence capabilities in different government agencies. But the risk is obvious. The use of random sweeps can be made to collect information that has no relevance to crime and terrorism, but provides vital information for the ruling party for use against its opponents.

But the real issue is not about the principle of tapping; it is about the motives behind it. The problem becomes more serious when the men at the helm of these agencies are only too willing to do their political masters' bidding. A few of them have themselves become major players in the political power game.

The fact is that no action was taken on the revelation by a senior retired IB officer MK Dhar in his book that agencies even bugged the office of the then prime minister Chandra Shekhar in 1991, apparently, to curry favour with the party that was more likely to come to power at that time.

It would not be correct to put too many restrictions that make the collection of intelligence an impossible task in the name of democratic rights. No right can be absolute. The terrorists and the crime mafias violate the most basic human right of other citizens: the right to life. And they cannot be allowed to go about their activities without fear of any legal punishment.

At the same time, there can be absolutely no justification for snooping on political leaders for partisan ends. There is sanctity attached to the fundamental rights of a citizen enshrined in our Constitution, and anyone violating them to please his or her political masters should be immediately and severely punished and not rewarded as generally believed to be the case. This is the key.

Obviously, we need a balanced approach that takes into account the needs of national security without compromising on the fundamental rights. Unfortunately, the attitude of successive governments towards this very important issue does not inspire much confidence. It is not surprising that after every change of government, a new and more 'loyal' officer is appointed to head the IB and the more loyal ones are handsomely rewarded for the services rendered by them to the ruling party.








Many economists say fiscal deficits don't matter: India has run fiscal deficits of up to 10% of GDP for three decades, yet has enjoyed record growth. Many are Keynesian enthusiasts, seeing government spending as the solution to any growth slowdown. These economists must think again after the fiscal crisis in the Eurozone.

European countries that ran high fiscal deficits in good times, and went for even bigger deficits to provide a Keynesian stimulus out of the Great Recession — Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy — are in serious trouble. Greece looks like going bust despite a $150-billion rescue package.

Greece has a fiscal deficit of 13.5% of GDP. Its public debt/GDP ratio is 115%, but may hit 140% by 2014 despite austerity measures. So, markets doubt Greece's solvency.

Portugal is also under attack in bond markets. Its fiscal deficit is 9.3% of GDP and public debt/GDP ratio is 77%. Italy has a high public debt/GDP ratio of 116%, but is among the seven biggest economies in the world and so hopes to survive the Eurozone crisis.

Spain's public debt/GDP ratio is only 53%, but its fiscal deficit of 9.3% is high enough to catch contagion from Greece. Keynesian stimuli have taken all these countries to the edge of disaster, not economic revival.

Keynesian stimuli have flopped in the past too. In the 1970s, western countries found that Keynesianism was a recipe for stagflation. In 1976, British Prime Minister Callaghan said, "We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending.

I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists and that insofar as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step."

Japan suffered a Keynesian fiasco in the 1990s for very different reasons. Several decades of rapid growth created a huge asset bubble that peaked in 1989. Rather than let it burst, Japan sought to deflate this bubble gradually.

It is still deflating 20 years later, and prices are still falling. Falling prices discourage spending : people wait till prices fall further. During deflation, a monetary stimulus becomes impossible since interest rates cannot be cut below zero. Result: Japanese Keynesianism has produced little growth for two decades.

Keynes developed his ideas within the framework of a closed economy. More government spending in a recession, he argued, raised demand and hence used up spare capacity in the economy. This is not always true even in a closed economy — as we have seen, it can end in stagflation.


But in an open economy, a Keynesian stimulus can stimulate imports rather than domestic production, so the stimulus leaks out to other more competitive economies.

During the recession of 2001, huge US trade deficits meant that the US stimulus leaked out, benefiting mostly China and the Opec countries. For structural reasons (low US savings rate, artificial Chinese exchange rate) the trade deficits continued even after the recession ended.

Europe's current travails have revealed further pitfalls. In a common market, any member's stimulus readily leaks into other members. This benefits mainly Germany, the most competitive European country.

The biggest losers are relatively uncompetitive , low-productivity economies — Greece, Portugal, Spain. As Eurozone members, they cannot devalue to improve their competitiveness. So, a Keynesian stimulus creates huge government debt without lifting growth or jobs.

Greece depends heavily on tourism: its industry is uncompetitive. The 2007-09 recession left huge unused capacity in tourism. But Greece's fiscal stimulus could not create a domestic tourism surge to use up spare capacity: it simply leaked into imports.

Portugal used to be the low-wage textile champion of the EU as long as textile quotas protected it from Third World competition. But the Uruguay Round mandated the phasing out of textile quotas by 2005, leaving Portugal with an uncompetitive industrial core. No Keynesian stimulus could improve utilisation of textile capacity when cheap imports were available.

No wonder Portugal has recorded barely 1% annual GDP growth in the last decade, at a time when most of the world had a veritable boom. Countries with structural problems cannot spend their way to fast growth. Spain too has structural problems: its wages are too high in relation to its productivity.

A Keynesian stimulus can work in a recession, subject to several caveats. First, contra-cyclical government policies should aim in good times for a fiscal surplus that can be wound down in bad times.

Unfortunately Keynesianism has come to mean government spending to spur growth at any time, even when there is no recession. Keynes himself would have advocated a surplus in good times. But aiming for such a surplus is now regarded as high conservatism , not Keynesianism.

What lessons flow for India? First, fiscal deficits do indeed matter. They matter less when a country has underperformed for so long that it has big catch-up possibilities that fuel growth, and this explains why India has not suffered like some other countries.

Yet the taming of fiscal deficits and inflation in 2004-09 led to sharply reduced interest rates that were crucial in making India competitive in its 9% growth phase. The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) is a crude tool, yet did indeed help cut the fiscal deficit.

The FRBM target of lowering the fiscal deficit to 3% of GDP is sensible in good times, leaving scope for expanding it to 6.5% in a recession without causing a Greek tragedy.

Second, Greece and Portugal have demonstrated that fiscal deficits in countries with structural problems can send the debt/GDP ratio skyrocketing without stoking growth. India has many structural problems despite having advantages too, and so should beware fiscal excesses.

Third, Greece has shown that a monetary union is a bad idea that leads to loss of control over exchange rates. So, India must shoot down proposals for an Asian monetary union.








CS Nopany, KK Birla's grandson, has been spearheading the group's sugar companies Upper Ganges Sugar & Industries, Oudh Sugar Mills and Gobind Sugar Mills with a collective sugarcane crushing capacity of 55,000 tonnes per day for more than 15 years now. Mr Nopany, the president of Indian Sugar Mills Association for 2005-06, gave his perspective about the industry and sugar business in an interview with ET. Excerpts:

What are the problems ailing the industry and why?

One of the biggest problems ailing the sugar industry is volatility. I feel the market is driven more by sentiments and expectations rather than the prevailing fundamentals. India produced some 284 lakh tonnes of sugar in 2006-07, about 264 lakh tonnes in 2007-08 and 145 lakh tonnes and 180 lakh tonnes in 2008-09 and 2009-10 respectively.

To add to our woes, sugar prices have declined to Rs 2,900 per tonne from a high of Rs 4,200 per tonne less than six months ago because of the stringent measures — such as stock limitations on bulk consumers and weekly sale releases — taken by the union government to reduce sugar prices. On the other hand, imported raw sugar is being sold for 16 cents a pound from a high of 26 cents a pound six months ago.

The drop in international sugar prices is resulting in large-scale import of sugar into the country which will further drive down sugar prices. The industry apprehends that the regulators' efforts to bring down prices will seriously hurt sugarcane farmers, especially when the country is expecting surplus sugar production. The sugar industry was able to pay a whopping amount of Rs 45,000 crore to the farmers in 2009-10 as against Rs 21,000 crore paid in 2008-09.

If sugar prices continue to hover at the current levels, the industry will not be able to pay remunerative prices to farmers.

What should be done to resolve these problems?

If imports are not contained and the union government's efforts to reduce ex-mill sugar prices are not reversed, payment to farmers will reduce dramatically and hurt the Indian farming community. For the sugar manufacturers to provide stable prices to the consumers on a sustainable basis, they need to pay farmers remunerative prices on a sustainable basis.

We have urged the government to levy an import duty on imported sugar, remove stock limitation on Indian bulk consumers and decontrol the industry. If not, the problems of the sugar industry will only get compounded further because of the existing multi level of controls which seldom work in cohesion.

Any estimates on Indian and global production in the next season?

We are anticipating a sharp jump in production in 2010-11, which should result in a small surplus. Consumption is expected to be marginally lower at 220 lakh tonnes compared to 230 lakh tonnes last year. Production in the international market will be high while consumption is expected to increase by around 2%.

How do you see sugar as a business in India?

An industry gets stifled if it is overregulated and if not managed properly on the basis of economic criteria. This industry has the potential to be a leading player not only in the domestic markets but also in the international markets with several value-additions like clean power and ethanol.

The industry has the potential to do well if we have a conducive long-term sugar policy with minimal controls. If decontrolled, most of the sugar manufacturing companies will do well depending on the plant, managerial and administrative efficiency of the company.

Is your group looking at inorganic growth in the sugar segment?

We are not looking at inorganic growth because it will be a difficult year for the industry. Most of the companies will try to consolidate and so will we. We had invested substantial amounts in co-generation and ethanol over the last few years and these are expected to give good returns this year.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The Sports minister, Mr M.S. Gill's move to cap the tenures of office-bearers of various national sports federations (NSFs) — including the Indian Olympic Association — had led to predictable howls of protest from those affected, and a barrage of allegations that he was trying to interfere in the functioning of sports bodies. Essentially, Mr Gill had modified an existing regulation introduced by then Prime Minster Indira Gandhi in 1975 capping the tenures of the president, secretary and treasurer — three key posts in any NSF — to no more than two consecutive terms of four years each. In August 2002, then sports minister Ms Uma Bharti put this regulation in abeyance, ostensibly to boost "professional management, good governance, transparency, etc... in NSFs, including the IOA". As it stands, Mr Gill's move — which is also being regarded as a fallout of his ongoing battle with IOA president Suresh Kalmadi — affects a number of powerful personalities. Besides Mr Kalmadi, others who will be hit by the sports ministry's directive include the likes of Mr V.K. Malhotra of the Archery Association of India, Mr Jagdish Tytler of the Judo Federation of India, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa of the cycling federation, Mr V.K. Verma of the badminton association, Capt. Satish K, Sharma (Aero Club of India) and Mr Sivanthi Adityan (volleyball). All of them, and some others, will not be able to seek re-election to their respective posts after their current term expires. Within a day of the modified clause being introduced to cap the tenure of the president of an NSF, including the IOA, to 12 years "with or without break", Mr Kalmadi was leading the fightback, calling the minister's move a draconian one and one lacking in foresight. Interestingly, even though none of the NSF bosses will be affected till 2012, the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi later this year has been dragged into the issue on the grounds that at a time the NSFs need to put their best efforts into a successful CWG, the sports ministry was seeking to choke them. On Tuesday, as the NSFs have done in the past, the IOA's secretary-general trotted out letters of support from the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Association of Asia, claiming that such "outside pressure" went against the Olympic Charter. While the sports minister has made "transparency and accountability" the reasons for his reviving and modifying the 1975 regulation, the IOA and NSFs claim that their functioning was anyway transparent. Earlier, as a fallout of the Gill-Kalmadi battle, the IOA had also resolved to "desist from receiving any further financial support" from the Government of India. At the heart of the matter are two words — power and patronage. For years together, those who ran the federations have distributed favours in the form of administrative seats on sports tours including for prestige events like the Olympic Games and Asian Games. It kept them on their thrones and even though the government has cut into their comfort zones by demanding greater accountability for government funds spent and also bringing the NSFs under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, the federations still enjoy unlimited powers.








No political party can be said to have come out with any great gains in the voting that took place on April 27 on the cut motions tabled by the Opposition parties in Parliament. The Congress, no doubt, won with a handsome margin (289 against 201) but I will deal here with the negative side of the voting.


This trial of strength should be considered a defeat the Opposition parties unnecessarily invited upon themselves. Insisting on a cut motion in a parliamentary system of government is as serious a matter as a no-confidence motion. Normally, Opposition parties make such moves when they think that there is at least a slim chance of success or they want to demonstrate the Oppositions' unity.


If the voting on April 27 has proved anything at all, it is that there is not even a remote chance of throwing out the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and that there is not a semblance of that thing called "Opposition unity" against the government.


The Opposition's defeat was evident well before the debate on the cut motions started. Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) Mayawati had publicly announced her party's support for the UPA government, and Rashtriya Janata Dal's Lalu Prasad Yadav and Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav were both vulnerable as they were facing charges by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against them. It was almost certain that they would resort to some sort of deal with the UPA government. When the time for the headcount came, these two leaders walked out without voting, either in favour or against the government — a convenient route available to politicians who find themselves in a dilemma.


Now let us examine the manner in which some of the political parties reacted to the cut motions and to what extent they contributed to further lowering the standards of political morality.


It is, of course, the Congress Party's duty to ensure that the designs of the Opposition parties are frustrated when its survival is at stake. However, in a democracy this is to be done without weakening the credibility and prestige of law-enforcing organisations like the Intelligence Bureau and CBI in any way. Whatever may be the truth, the common people in India believe that the UPA government misused its power to influence the CBI to dilute the charges against some important Opposition leaders in the cases pending against them in return for their favourable stand in the cut motions. Many responsible newspapers and news channels have openly made these allegations, with details of what is being described as quid pro quo for the support of certain Opposition leaders. If these allegations are true, certainly the ruling party has paid a rather heavy price for its survival. The spokespersons of the UPA government have denied the allegation, but they were hardly expected to own up.


Now let us consider the stand of Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav in the voting on the cut motions. He brazenly asked how a "secular" politician like him could have gone along with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in voting against the government. "What face will we show to people if we go along with the BJP?" asked Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, "What will we say in reply when people ask why we went with that party?" One would have thought that Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, who found his strength in the Lok Sabha elections of 2009 reduced from 22 to four seats without having gone with the BJP as an ally, would have found it difficult to "face" the people in the next elections and explain his discomfiture at the polls. Some political leaders seem to think that most of their followers are still unintelligent, gullible and disinterested in politics. They do not realise that the common people have learnt well to judge the motives and actions of their leaders and, therefore, they do not always accept the justifications peddled by them.


Recently, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav has been one of the loudest among the Opposition leaders in criticising the Congress, though his criticism of the BSP had always been in a much higher decibel. He sees both the Congress and the BSP as his rivals in Uttar Pradesh, but his critics are now accusing him of being over careful about burning his bridges with the UPA government. He shares the vulnerability of Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav as far as the charges against him are concerned and this gives credence to the allegation about his motives for choosing to walk out without voting.


Ms Mayawati's stand in supporting the UPA government has not left anyone in doubt as to why she did so, though she continues to spit fire at the mention of Congress. Her position is more vulnerable than that of Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav because of the charges of wasteful expenditure of public funds, in addition to possession of unaccountable wealth. Refuting the allegation that she voted for the government expecting appropriate rewards for her support, she has said that she voted for the government only "to keep the communal forces at bay". By "communal forces" she, of course, meant the BJP, forgetting the irony in her statement that communal politics is dangerous to the nation's interest while her brand of caste-based politics is not.


The BJP feels embarrassed in casting its lot with other Opposition parties in the vote against the government because some of these Opposition parties are still refusing to place full confidence in the BJP. The most unexpected fallout of the vote on the cut motions has been the "betrayal", as the BJP described it, by Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Shibu Soren who voted against the cut motions. The BJP appears to have been taken aback by this somersault of Mr Soren and promptly decided to withdraw support from the government he heads. However, one can legitimately ask the BJP why it decided in the first place to support Mr Soren as chief minister of Jharkhand knowing pretty well his questionable antecedents in both Jharkhand and national politics. Obviously, the BJP in its anxiety to prevent the Congress from heading the government in Jharkhand was prepared to go to the extent of lending support even to Mr Soren. So the BJP, in fact, invited this "betrayal" by its own decision four months ago to join hands with Mr Soren.


- P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra








What was it like? I would ask myself, the years I lived in Berlin. What was it like in the leafy Grunewald neighbourhood to watch your Jewish neighbours — lawyers, businessmen, dentists — trooping head bowed to the nearby train station for transport eastward to extinction?


With what measure of fear, denial, calculation, conscience and contempt did neighbours who had proved their Aryan stock to Hitler's butchers make their accommodations with this Jewish exodus? How good did the schnapps taste and how effectively did it wash down the shame?


Now I know. Thanks to Hans Fallada's extraordinary Every Man Dies Alone, just published in the United States more than 60 years after it first appeared in Germany, I know. What Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française did for wartime France after six decades in obscurity, Fallada does for wartime Berlin. Like all great art, it transports, in this instance to a world where, "The Third Reich kept springing surprises on its antagonists: It was vile beyond all vileness".


Fallada, born Rudolf Ditzen, wrote his novel in less than a month right after the war and just before his death in 1947 at the age of 53. The Nazi hell he evokes is not so much recalled as rendered, whole and alive. The prose is sinuous and gritty, like the city he describes. Dialogue often veers toward sadistic folly with a barbaric logic that takes the breath away.


Every Man Dies Alone recounts how a working-class Berlin couple, Otto and Anna Quangel, are stirred from acquiescence to anger by the death at the front of their only son. The action they take is minimalist — writing postcards denouncing Hitler and depositing them at random — but contains the immensity of defiance in a world where disobedience equals death.


Anna Quangel, grief-stricken but still in terror's web, is hesitant at first. "Isn't this thing that you're wanting to do, isn't it a bit small, Otto?" she asks. To which her husband responds, "Whether it's big or small, Anna, if they get wind of it, it'll cost us our lives". That does it: "He might be right: whether this act was big or small, no one could risk more than his life. Each according to his strength and abilities, but the main thing was, you fought back".


The book is based on the true story of Otto and Elise Hampel, whose postcard campaign — "Hitler's war is the worker's death!" — frustrated the Gestapo until the couple's capture in October 1942 and subsequent beheading. Fallada, a sometime morphine addict who lived in and out of asylums, got hold of the Hampel police files through a friend in late 1945, wrote a journalistic account that year, and then, in a burst of creativity, the novel.


Fiction's deeper truth, as compared to journalism's first draft, was never more amply illustrated.


The book pulses with the street life of a terrorised city, full of sleaze, suspicion, drunkenness, desperation and murder. It proclaims the bestial sadism of which man is capable and the enormous moral stature of decency. It has something of the horror of Conrad, the madness of Dostoyevsky and the chilling menace of Capote's In Cold Blood.


Quangel is a taciturn man, but a moment comes, at his grotesque trial, when he can no longer contain himself: "It was then that Quangel laughed for the first time since his arrest, the first time in a very long time. He laughed with wholehearted gusto. The preposterous comedy of this gang of criminals branding everyone else as war criminals was suddenly too much for him to take".


Fallada catches the intersection of monstrous crime and "preposterous comedy" in power's intoxication. The confrontation of Inspector Escherich and Quangel is unforgettable. Escherich, having got his prey, is contemptuous of this "gnat" fighting an "elephant:": "What did you expect anyway, Quangel? You, an ordinary worker, taking on the Führer, who is backed by the Party, the Wehrmacht, the SS, the SA?"


Quangel tries to explain: "If one man sees he has no option but to fight, then he will fight, whether he has others on his side or not".


Escherich, whose Gestapo boss likes to humiliate him, seems unmoved — until he sees the Obergruppenführer and other officers torturing Quangel by smashing their schnapps glasses on his head and something snaps. He puts a pistol to his head with the parting words: "I'm your only disciple, Otto Quangel".


That may be literally so. The postcards were almost all handed in to the police by terrorised Berliners. But humanity is Quangel's disciple. For the "preposterous comedy" continues here and there and terror still poses the existential dilemma: decency and its (mortal) dangers or conformity and its comforts?


As Hannah Arendt once observed: "Under conditions of terror, most people will comply but some people will not... Humanly speaking, no more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation".


In the quiet Quangels, Fallada has created an immortal symbol of those who fight back against "the vile beyond all vileness" and so redeem us all.








The meeting of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on April 28 at Thimphu has evoked the usual admixture of hope and scepticism. The absence of a joint statement and separate press conferences allowed both sides to spin it to satisfy their own constituencies.


Spin was still emanating from "sources" in New Delhi three days after the event to the effect that it is really the 18th Amendment of the Pakistani Constitution that has persuaded the Indian government that an empowered Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, emerging from the Pakistani maelstrom, is the right interlocutor. The flaw in this argument is the same as in saying that in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-2 government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's authority exceeds that of Mrs Sonia Gandhi as he is the one whose credibility won the Congress a second term. The real power centre in Pakistan is the Army Chief and till it is proven to the contrary, Mr Gilani should be treated as his emissary and no more. Civilian governments have, in the past, been used to engage India with the agenda tightly controlled by the Army. The exception was Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, and the consequence was military rule for a decade and banishment for him.


It is also averred that the focus should not be on nomenclatures but on substance. This is to extricate the government from the post-26/11 cul de sac when, under the pressure of public indignation, it was repeatedly articulated that there shall be no resumption of the composite dialogue unless Pakistan uprooted the terror network nurtured for use against India since the early 90s. This was later watered down to action against the perpetrators and their masterminds. The joint statement in Sharm el-Sheikh came a cropper as Pakistan went to town over its success, which contradicted the rather ingenious Indian interpretation being advanced. The Thimphu solution is to simply rename the engagement. All subjects can be discussed and, as the Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, there are also no preconditions but it is not the composite dialogue. One sympathises with the government's predicament, but this is back to a full engagement, call it what you will.


Perhaps Dr Singh and his advisers need to read Douglas Hurd's recent book Choose Your Weapons, which traces the history of British foreign secretaries over 200 years. It makes two points of relevance here.


Firstly, in view of the composite dialogue (created by Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Sharif in New York in September 1998) having been interrupted twice, each under the National Democratic Alliance because of terrorist acts/hostile military action (Kargil in 1999 and Parliament attack in 2001) and under the UPA (Mumbai train bombings in 2006 and 26/11 in 2008), Hurd's thesis is relevant that while appeasement led to some British success, it invariably failed when the interlocutor was unreliable.


Mr Gilani's assurance that Pakistan's territory would not be used for nefarious acts against India is a repeat of similar public vows given by Pervez Musharraf in 2002 and 2004. What a military dictator could not or would not do, the newly empowered Mr Gilani is expected to get Gen. Kayani to oblige with. In fact, Mr Gilani would like to demonstrate his usefulness to the Army to ensure political longevity rather than to have them defy their orthodoxies.


Secondly, it was shocking to see on the television that other than the foreign secretary, the ministry of external affairs' (MEA) Pakistan experts were not visible shaking hands with Mr Gilani. On the contrary, the Pakistani foreign office was there in full strength. Murmurs have been around that the Prime Minister feels the MEA is anti-Pakistan. Hurd once again warns that the biggest foreign policy disasters for the UK were the Suez crisis in 1956 and the Iraq intervention in 2003. In both instances, the Prime Ministers, i.e. Anthony Eden and Tony Blair, had cut the foreign office out of the decision-making. "The only safe rule of political policy-making", according to Hurd, "is that decisions should flow from the facts". "A Prime Minster", he adds, "can always find advisers to praise his wisdom".


While Dr Singh must keep the path of dialogue open with all neighbours, recommencing the dialogue with Pakistan when it has most reluctantly taken the least possible follow-up action on the 26/11 monstrosity is pure appeasement. The benchmarks for the dialogue should be in public domain. Subjects that actually lead to confidence building are commercial and economic links, people-to-people contacts, etc and thus should be the starting point of a calibrated engagement. Kashmir, Siachen, etc. are disputes that should be moved to a separate category and its discussion made subject to Pakistan progressively dismantling the terror network. To do otherwise is to ignore the experience of both major national parties over the last 12 years.


In fact, Dr Singh is caught between two Gilanis — the Prime Minister of Pakistan and David Coleman Headley nee Gilani. What trust the former has breached the latter is expected to restore. Both are agents run by others. The cast is new, the plot familiar. It remains to be seen if the ending will be different.


- The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry








This is an election for bullshitters. It's brilliant. Time was, as a young idiot working in newspapers, you might be afraid of opening your mouth and making loud and lofty predictions about the shape of the next British government. Now it's fine. You might not know much, but nobody else does either. You can talk and talk and talk, and it's very hard for anybody to say, with any sort of confidence, that you are entirely wrong.


You see, this industry is dominated, some would say unfairly, by people who actually know stuff. They might have an intimate knowledge of the swings of the elections of 1923, 1974 and 1974 again. Or they might understand polling. Present them with eight shopkeepers from Penrith who've gone off tax credits and they can extrapolate to tell you how a schoolteacher might vote in Bognor Regis. The thing is, all this is predicated on the understanding that there are vast numbers of people who wouldn't think of voting for a Liberal Democrat because they didn't know what one was. Now, all that has changed. Or it might have done. Who knows?


It's grandiose, and frankly quite offensive, but I keep thinking of 9/11. "The kaleidoscope has been shaken", said Tony Blair (former UK Prime Minister), back when he was still pretending he didn't necessarily want to invade Iraq. "The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us reorder this world around us". Unfamiliarity is a great leveller. This is a Ground Zero for political opinion. Or, at least, it might be. The fact that nobody knows for certain is the whole point.


Now, there are various ways in which one can exploit this situation. Socially at least, I enjoy the irresponsible approach. Normally I'm quite reluctant to give an opinion when friends ask me about politics, in case they turn on the telly half-an-hour later and somebody like Nick Robinson is on, irrefutably making it plain I've been nonsensically winging it. But these days you don't need to worry about that, because he's as much in the dark as anybody else. So you can say anything, and sound brilliantly informed.


One strategy is to just declare something, at random, and then think of a way to justify it. "The British National Party (BNP) will be the real winners", I told a friend of the wife the other day, just to see if I could get away with it. "Really?" she said. "But Nick Robinson said the third parties were getting squeezed out by the surge in Lib Dem support". "Pah", I retorted. "You don't want to listen to that old fraud. No, he's quite wrong. You see, a hung Parliament will lead to voting reform, which will lead to PR, which will lead to Britain's extremist parties holding the balance of power in a similar manner to the ultra-Orthodox in the Israeli system". "Oh", she said, sounding genuinely impressed.


It could even be true. I haven't a clue. Another good mental exercise is to ask people how they are going to

vote, and then tell them that if that is really what they are after, they should do the complete opposite. "You like

the idea of a hung Parliament? Well then don't vote for the Lib Dems, for God's sake. Because you'll get one, briefly, but then Labour will schism and a new party will form made up of Lib Dems, rightish Labour and Leftish Tories, and they'll be in power for a generation". Variants on this argument have allowed me to maintain that only a vote for the Tories can ensure that public services don't get cut, and that the only way of being entirely sure that Ed Balls doesn't end up as Chancellor is by voting Labour.


The "future leaders" game is also fun. To sound truly knowledgeable, the trick is to think of somebody whose profile, thus far in the election, has been surprisingly low. "Obviously, Hague/Harman/Davis/Flint/Hughes/Hain is just biding his/her time", you should confide, in a manner that appears to presume prior agreement. This works particularly well if you accidentally find yourself speaking to somebody who believes they actually know something about politics, and hasn't yet grasped the new central truth that, these days, nobody does. Other good phrases in such a situation include, "Europe will be a spanner in the works", "well really he's the David Miliband (UK secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs) of the XXXX party", (which works with any party but sounds delightfully arch if XXXX is Labour), and the old perennial "ah, but what about Mandelson?"


Like I said, mainly these are just tactics for showing off in the pub. But, now I think of it, they probably work just as well if you have to write an opinion column or go on Newsnight. Good old Nick Clegg (leader of the Liberal Democrats) and his shiny tie.


Not enough costumes in this election. From the mainstream, we've had only the Daily Mirror's chicken stalking the Conservatives, who rather lost his dignity when David Cameron (Leader of the Opposition) pulled off the chicken head and said "but why are you a chicken?" on live TV, and the remains of the chicken couldn't think of a decent answer. I suppose there was also the Conservative supporter in a John Prescott mask who attacked John Prescott, but that does seem to be stretching the definition somewhat.


The BNP deserves special mention in this for, at the last count, having at least two costumes in prominent use. There's the man who follows Nick Griffin (chairman of the BNP) everywhere dressed as a soldier, despite actually being a design and technology teacher from Spennymoor, but my favourite was the fat bloke dressed as St. George, who stood there sweating in his cardboard armour while the boss launched the BNP manifesto. That was brilliant, Nick. Totally got the message across. You guys should all wear costumes, all the time. Please.


Sadly, I just don't think it's going to be that sort of election. Although as I write this, somebody dressed as Peppa Pig has just pulled out of appearing at a press conference with Yvette Cooper. Do you know Peppa? She's on TV. Kids love her. Face like a schoolboy's drawing of genitalia. Apparently she's appeared with Yvette's old man a few times, supporting Sure Start centres, but pulled out of this event when she realised it was party political. It's nice to see that cartoon pigs realise Britain isn't a one-party state, even if the Cabinet secretary isn't so sure.


 Hugo Rifkind is a writer for the Times







Most of our problems are due to our ego or false pride. Our education system, our culture, our social upbringing is such that it cultivates the ego. Students are trained to become competitive, ambitious achievers. We are told, "Always put the best foot forward". Nobody thinks what will happen to the worst foot. How can one balance the best and the worst simultaneously? No clue! Since we hide our dark side and always exhibit the brighter side, we can't bare our ignorance before others. And we suffer a lot because of this. Sigmund Freud has narrated an interesting story regarding this.


A friend came to visit him from a village. They had studied together in the primary school but had not met since then. Electricity had just recently been invented, and it was available only in big cities like Vienna where Freud lived. After chatting for a long time both the friends went to their rooms to sleep, and Freud forgot to tell his friend how to put off the light at night. The friend had never seen an electric bulb. The light was too much and so he tried every possible way to blow it out. He even stood on a table, studied the lamp, and tried to blow it out like a candle. Obviously that didn't work.


He couldn't sleep all night and because of his ego he could not wake Freud and ask him what to do with the light. He could not let it be known that all he knew about were kerosene lamps.


In the morning Freud commented, "You look tired, your eyes are red. What happened? Couldn't you sleep?"


His friend confessed that he could not sleep. He said, "I didn't want to tell you because I didn't want to appear so stupid that I didn't know how to put off the light".


Freud took him to the room, the button was behind the door so he could not see it; even if he had seen it he would not have thought that the button had any connection with the light. Freud said, "Simply put the button on and off".


Just like the electric light, man also needs a button that can be switched on and off at will. We put on a personality and build the ego because we want to impress others, because we want to succeed in society. But it is a persona, a mask. How long can one wear the mask?


There should be a time when we can take it off and be our natural selves — just the way we take off our formal clothes at home. This will be very relaxing and refreshing.


Osho's insight is valuable in this regard: "My vision of the right education is to teach people how to grow the ego and how to be able to drop it. You should be able to just put your personality, your ego, on and off, because these are good things if you can use them. But you should know the mechanism, how to put them off. Right now you know only how to put them on".


Our society puts on the ego, the personality and nobody ever teaches us how to put it off. So day in and day out, we are burdened by it, tortured by it, goaded by it. We become slaves.


It would be a real blessing to learn how to remove the masks we wear. Meditation can helps us do that. With meditation it is easier to relax into the being, accept oneself — then there is no need to project a fake personality. You are what you appear.


— Amrit Sadhana is in the managementteam of Osho International Meditation Resort,Pune. She facilitates meditation workshopsin India and abroad.










JUSTICE is not to be confused with vengeance. While expectedly a verdict of "guilty" was delivered against the Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole killer captured alive on 26/11, the hallmark of the proceedings conducted by Special Trial Judge ML Tahiliyani was that it never cut corners with established legal processes and norms. And from what is presently available of his 1522-page judgment, it too is strong on judicial propriety. Not merely because two alleged Indian co-conspirators were acquitted for want of acceptable evidence, but there was little playing to the galleries and being swayed by the emotions that inevitably run strong when the massacre in Mumbai is under focus. There is every reason for confidence that the court will not be influenced by the TV-triggered virtual-hysteria after his order, and the pronouncement of sentence ~ even if the ultimate punishment is decreed ~ will again be reasoned, devoid of passion. It was not Kasab alone but the Indian system of justice-delivery that was on trial, and hitherto relatively unknown Mr Tahiliyani will join a series of other legal luminaries in upholding the majesty of the law. Jurists the world over will appreciate the speed, but not haste, in which the court sat on 271 days, personally examined 296 witnesses, perused  1015 artefacts, 1691 documents and all but sewed up the trial within a year of its commencement.

Sending out a diplomatic signal was not part of Mr Tahiliyani's mandate, his message that the rule of law prevails in the country will earn more international "recognition" than anything the MEA can project. Yet it must be remembered that that only one phase of the legal process has ended, hopefully the rest will be as expeditious: that includes giving effect to the sentence. The Afzal Guru dilly-dallying disturbs: the home minister tried to make light of that on Monday and said all such cases were being serially processed ~ yet he was smart enough not to react to a barb from an Opposition member in the Rajya Sabha who asked if those cases were being cleared like a queue at a ration shop!

Sure there will be multiple implications of the verdict, critically the extent to which international pressure will bear down on Pakistan to bring the masterminds of 26/11 to book. Yet comment on that kind of fallout must await detailed study of the judgment: fashionable and popular though it may be to pontificate on the basis of "hearsay" ~ alas, so many presumed experts are prone to doing precisely that. For the many traumatised by one of the most vicious terror strikes the world has suffered, the guilty verdict and the consequent sentence may or may not bring comfort. True "closure" will come only when the citizen feels safe and secure. In unostentatious fashion Mr Tahiliyani has demonstrated that in the campaign to counter/eliminate terrorism the Indian judicial system will not be found wanting.







THE Left recognises that there is a distinction between a parliamentary or assembly election where policy matters in a larger context are in focus and a local election that stresses civic services. A manifesto may not have been necessary if Alimuddin Street had been convinced that the Left had discharged its civic responsibilities well enough to convince voters in Kolkata and elsewhere. While the outgoing mayor is confident that his party can rely exclusively on his performance over the past five years, there are persistent questions on why he has chosen to step aside from the poll on 30 May despite his party's desperate appeals that he seek another mandate. It raises questions on whether he can actually take his claims to voters during the campaign. Biman Bose had other ideas while releasing the Left's manifesto. Rather than focus on civic amenities like road repairs, drinking water, garbage disposal and street lights, he reverted to familiar tirades against the Centre's "anti-people'' policies which voters were expected to endorse while giving the Left another opportunity to run the municipal board.

Between the contradictions, the truth could well be that a solution to Kolkata's nagging problems call for nothing short of a miracle. The Left has no option but to look for escape routes. One of them is to divert attention from civic issues ~ a fruitless exercise. It is worse when it offers gifts to pavement vendors (read encroachers) and holds out promises to those living on government land that their residence rights are assured during the Left regime. All this could fetch dubious advantage and would confirm that the Left's manifesto is woefully short of selling points. It also explains why the industries minister confesses that elections to 81 municipalities is a "political'' battle ~ more so after the negative verdict in Siliguri even after what the Left believes to be concrete evidence of civic achievements. If it means that the election will be torn out of the civic context and converted into turf wars of the kind witnessed in Hooghly and Midnapore, voters would have every reason to feel cheated. No doubt, the state election commission has a job on its hands.









MEGHALAYA has the distinction of having four chief ministers, one functioning and the other three enjoying the same status with the perks and privileges of office. The ousted DD Lapang might have made a fifth but for new incumbent Mukul Sangma deciding against it, instead appointing him chief adviser to the government with the same perks but minus the status. Significantly, Sangma has also decided to strip the other three of chief minister status and during his tenure no political appointee will enjoy such a bonanza. Having fulfilled his aspiration to capture the hot seat, Sangma has realised soon enough that it is now time for him to not ask what Meghalaya can do for him but what he can do for his state. With so many aspirants to ministerial berths and plum posts, he now has to prove "what friends are for". Lapang was forced to quit because he could not fulfil the dissidents' demand for the removal of two Independent ministers and one belonging to a regional party to make room for Congress aspirants who were keen to shed the subaltern status of "legislator".   
The Congress, with 28 seats of its own, can comfortably sail along with the support of nine members of the United Democratic Party, with whose support Lapang formed a coalition government in May last year. But smaller regional parties cannot be ignored. The threat to Sangma's position comes from within the party, and if the reports of discontentment among those left out ~ not entirely unpredictable ~ are any indication his ministry seems already perilously perched. He may survive though ~ maybe for some time ~ with the blessing of the Congress high command which decides the fate of every Meghalaya government








THE most damaging weakness of India's political class is its lack of credibility. Regardless of the truth, people at large are convinced that the entire political class is corrupt. The government covers up corruption cases. The Opposition dares not pursue them even when those in the government are involved. The Scorpene deal, the Koda mining scam, the Raja Spectrum scam, the IPL scam ~ the list of unresolved cases that do, or will, gather dust seems endless. The highest leadership in both the government and the Opposition lacks public credibility. This is because of the curious inertia displayed by these leaders even after circumstances cloud their reputations. The biggest scam currently on the radar is of course the Hassan Ali Khan hawala scam.
Readers will recall this scribe had earlier drawn attention to the Hassan Ali scam and the government's brazen cover-up to bury the truth. Hassan Ali is the owner of a Pune stud farm. He has 10 known illegal Swiss bank accounts, probably more in other tax havens. His money stashed abroad is astronomical. According to the government's statement he owed Rs 50,345 crore to the tax department as on 31 March 2009. According to accountants that sum would have escalated to approximately Rs 100,000 crore by the time 2010 was presented. On 20 October 2009 this scribe pointed out how according to Swiss authorities while the Indian government publicly sought help in probing Hassan Ali's Swiss account, privately it sabotaged the probe by submitting "forged" documents asked for by Switzerland's Federal Office of Justice. Swiss authorities wanted to help, but Indian authorities withheld proper documentation. Since April 2007 the Indian government has kept mum on the Swiss request for proper documents.

Tax disputes

ON 18 March 2010 this scribe drew attention to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement to the media that the government had recovered the tax dues from Hassan Ali. But the revised estimates for 2009-10 did not accommodate the Rs 100,000 crore due from Hassan Ali in the budget figures. Further, the existing Income Tax Act was amended to waive impediments for tax defaulters like Hassan Ali to approach the Settlement Commission for resolving tax disputes. If Hassan Ali Khan approaches the commission it would enable the government to evade sharing information about Hassan Ali's undisclosed foreign assets with foreign governments as required by the international tax treaties entered into by the government.

Clearly, Finance Minister Mukherjee is covering up the Hassan Ali probe. Why? The answer may have been given in the Maharashtra Assembly. On 13 April a CD showing Hassan Ali was laid on the table of the House by BJP MLA Devendra Phadnavis. The CD contained Ali's statement to the police in which he mentioned the names of former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Maharashtra Home Minister, RR Patil, and the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi's political secretary, Ahmed Patel. In the CD, Ali claimed a meeting involving RR Patil and Ahmed Patel at Juhu Centaur Hotel on 11 August 2008 to approve Hasan Gafoor's name as Mumbai's police commissioner. Home Minister Patil vehemently denied any association with Ali. "I have never met Ahmed Patel and never spoken to him face to face. The CID will probe if the motive of the CD was to harm Gafoor, me, Ahmed Patel or anybody else", Patil told the assembly.

The government ordered an inquiry conducted by the Additional Director-General, CID, and the SP, S Yadav. The CD was prepared by the use of spy cam by the Deputy Police Commissioner Ashok Deshbhratar. Predictably, the politicians named have not been questioned. Their denials have been accepted at face value. Instead the CID charged IPS officer Ashok Deshbhratar, who produced the CD, with trying to extort money from Hassan Ali! In its 15-page report the CID stated that Hassan Ali's confession has been selectively edited. The CID had sent the CD to the forensic lab at Chandigarh. Its report said the audio-visual pieces of interrogation were not inter-linked, but joined together in sequence to appear as if they are part of continuous interrogation. Inter-linked or not, the forensic report does not deny that it was Hassan Ali himself speaking the "disjointed" narrative. CID investigations confirmed that one meeting did take place involving Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ahmed Patel at Juhu Centaur on 15 March 2008. But CID comforted itself with the fact it could not have discussed Gafoor's appointment because by then he had already been appointed as Mumbai's Commissioner of Police. Never mind the Police Commissioner's appointment, how is Hassan Ali's proximity to Congress politicians including Ahmed Patel, the political secretary of Sonia Gandhi to be explained?

Links with Congress

CIRCUMSTANTIAL evidence reveals, therefore, that Hassan Ali, the nation's biggest money launderer, is protected by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. And Hassan Ali has links with senior Congress politicians including the party president's trusted political secretary. During his interaction with Ali was Ahmed Patel representing himself or his boss, Sonia Gandhi? If he was representing himself why has Sonia Gandhi not sacked him? If he was representing the Congress president how does Sonia Gandhi explain her party's links with the nation's biggest money launderer who is being protected by the Finance Minister? Connect the dots and the picture that emerges is not pretty. Either the Congress is so stupid that it deserves to be removed from power, or it is so corrupt that it deserves to be removed from power. 

Wittingly or otherwise the BJP until now has served only Hassan Ali's interests. Publicizing the CD will act as a powerful disincentive for the government to act against Hassan Ali. By not pursuing the matter at the national level the BJP has failed to serve its own interests. Therefore, the BJP is either so corrupt that it deserves to perpetually remain out of power. Or it is so stupid that it deserves to perpetually remain out of power.
Corruption has become so widespread and brazen that it is destroying the foundations of the Indian Republic. India can stand on the roof and watch its neighbour's house in flames. Why doesn't it look below its feet to realize that its own house is burning?


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoon








The 16th Saarc summit concluded in Thimphu with a solemn pledge by heads of state and government of the eight member-countries to "plant 10 million trees over the next five years to build a green and happy South Asia and boost trade cooperation" for the uplift of poverty-stricken people in the region that is home to 1.5 billion people — one-fourth of the world's population. But the attendant leaders agreed that Saarc's journey had not been of outstanding success since it was created in 1985 to encourage development since the bloc had been losing focus because of prevailing tensions between the member states, especially India and Pakistan, the region's two dominant powers. After the conclusion of the summit, it has again become clear that Saarc will make no real headway till tensions between its two largest members are resolved.

After the globalisation of the economy, several regional groups have been formed to pursue closer economic integration at the regional level and the objectives of these groups are to increase market access, expand exports and strengthen political cohesion among the members. There is no reason why Saarc nations cannot strengthen and enrich one another. The only impediment is the Indo-Pakistani factor. That is why the summit was doomed to be a non-event from the beginning.

The Saarc agenda does not mandate its members to raise or discuss bilateral issues but, unfortunately, bilateral issues have always dominated the multilateral agenda. The Thimphu summit was no different. Lack of trust between India and Pakistan once again eclipsed the agenda, causing frustration to smaller nations like Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan.

The history of Saarc summits shows that it was Pakistan's attitude that always posed a stumbling bloc to regional economic cooperation and it has happened again in Thimphu. Before the Thimphu summit, Saarc expert committee meetings were held last March where three agreements were finalised: (i) promotion of trade under Safta (South Asian Free Trade Area Agreement); (ii) to build a natural disaster response mechanism; and (iii) cooperation on environment. But at the last moment, Pakistan rejected the Saarc proposal on a natural disaster response mechanism which sought to build a permanent team of rescuers from all eight Saarc nations who could provide contingency rescue services in the wake of emergencies and natural catastrophes. Islamabad scuttled the mechanism because it did not want to open its borders to Indian rescue workers who would have been included in the Saarc rescue team under the mechanism.

It was expected during the tenure of the two democratically elected prime ministers of Pakistan – Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto – that initiatives within the framework of Saarc would ease tensions between India and Pakistan. When India's proposal to transform Saarc into a South Asian Free Trade Area was accepted at the Male summit, Nawaz Sharif was the Prime Minister. The motive behind India's proposal was to promote a flexible and liberal trade regime among South Asian nations, especially between India and Pakistan.
The only precondition was depoliticisation of intra-South Asian economic relations. Nawaz Sharif was in a position to realise that political issues had inhibited economic cooperation between India and Pakistan and had come in the way of economic opportunities and deriving gains from liberalisation. Despite Sharif's declaration at the Male summit that Pakistan would be willing to look beyond contentious political issues, legalise commerce and upgrade Pakistan's trade relations with India, Pakistan obstructed every effort to upgrade trade relations with India. India then offered to free 25 per cent of a total of 5,500 products from tariff barriers every year. For decades, Pakistan had not added a single item to the list of 573 Indian items to be imported. After the Male summit, it agreed to consider identifying 100 more items. But before any final decision, the political and military establishments in Pakistan declared that "Pakistan cannot increase the volume of trade with India".
The then finance minister of Pakistan in the Nawaz Sharif government, Sartaj Ajiz, asked why Pakistan chose to scuttle the decision taken at the Male summit, said that "economic relations cannot countermand political issues. The direction of development in both the political and economic areas should be the same. Trade and economic relations with India cannot improve unless political issues are resolved". Thus the political and military establishments in Pakistan chose to favour an arms race and military pacts undermining the necessity or rather compulsion of economic and trade cooperation in an era of economic liberalisation.

Prior to Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto was no different. She had promised to extend the Most Favoured Nation status to India. India had accorded MFN status to Pakistan in 1993 since it was obligatory to accord this status to each other under the terms set by the World Trade Organisation. However, Bhutto's promise raised the expectation that the economic content of the Saarc movement was now going to be strengthened. It was also decided at the conference of Inter-Governmental Group of Saarc countries held in Islamabad in August 1996 that the economic gains for both the countries through bilateral trade were to be measured under the South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement framework. But soon Pakistan started dragging its feet in granting MFN status to India and, eventually, it became evident that country had not budged an inch from its 1994 position when the idea of Sapta among South Asian nations had been pushed through at India's initiative in Dhaka for the first time and Pakistan had not shown any interest.

Under these circumstances, nobody expected a major breakthrough in Thimphu given the fact that there is always a dearth of unanimity, especially among larger member nations like India and Pakistan. The question of resumption of the Indo-Pak composite dialogue again diverted attention from broader and more complex issues. But India as the largest member can lead the way in sorting out some of the genuine grievances of smaller nations. It is true that the concept of a South Asian free trade zone is yet to take off. But India can open up its market to other South Asian neighbours. India has a free trade agreement with Sri Lanka while one with Bangladesh is in the pipeline.

True, Pakistan showed no interest in opening a transit route to Afghanistan for Indian goods but India must consider Bangladesh's request to open a transit route to Nepal and Bhutan, especially when a friendly government is in power in Bangladesh. In other words, owing to persistent uncertainty in Indo-Pakistani relations, India should go beyond the Saarc framework to improve bilateral relations with neighbouring countries.

The writer is on the staff of Dainik Statesman








Depending on who you speak to, he was a "magician of self-promotion" or a man who triumphantly led the former Yugoslavia during its golden years. His critics talk disdainfully of his love of Cuban cigars and wine – but his supporters say that everything he had belonged to the people. On the eve of the 30th anniversary of his death, the legacy of Josip Broz Tito remains a topic of keen debate.

The wars of the 1990s that tore their former homeland apart, and the painful transition to a market economy which impoverished millions, means the era of the Communist leader Tito is now nostalgically recalled, particularly by the elderly, as the best period of their history.

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ceased to exist almost two decades ago, but one thing unites its peoples: from Slovenia to Macedonia, everyone remembers where they were on 4 May 1980, when Yugoslavia's Communist ruler for 35 years died at the age of 88. "It's normal for people to be nostalgic", Tito's grandson Josip-Joska Broz, 63, said. "It was a time of safety and security; a working father could support a whole family, education and healthcare was free for all. Yugoslavia had a good reputation around the globe", he added.

In Belgrade, museums have staged a series of exhibition of Tito memorabilia which have drawn thousands from Serbia and other former Yugoslav republics. "Everything has been turned upside down since 1980, particularly in the 90s and now, and so many lies have been told about Tito, young people are confused. History should be the judge of his merits", said Mr Broz, a pensioner in Belgrade.

The Broz family has inherited nothing from Tito, although the Yugoslav leader was often condemned for his lavish lifestyle, including socialising with international film stars. His supposed achievements, such as the non-alignment foreign policy into "neither East nor West", are also often derided.

"But he took nothing. He wanted everything – all the houses, artefacts, paintings and gifts from international guests – to belong to his people. Now we don't know where many have ended up, maybe as the loot of local tycoons", Mr Broz says.

A decade after his death, the former federation disintegrated amid bloody fighting. It led to the collapse of the social-care system, from which impoverished Bosnia and Serbia are only now slowly recovering. Good medical treatment is a privilege for the wealthy in private clinics, while even the state-run universities have introduced enrolment fees, which is why many remember the Tito era with fondness. "It was the time when God walked the Earth: safe jobs, good money, holidays abroad or in Croatia", said Gordana Majstorovic, 55, a Belgrade bank teller. "I am nostalgic about that period".

One of the injustices after Tito's death was the isolated life of his widow Jovanka Broz, now 85, who still lives in Belgrade. She was moved to a decaying villa immediately after Tito's death, and was allowed to take just a few mementoes, but no jewellery, documents or even photographs from their life together.

For the historian Predrag Markovic, there are no mysteries about Tito, his international or domestic position, or his charisma. "Tito was one of the greatest magicians of self-promotion, a Communist dictator popular in the West", Mr Markovic said.

"He was loved by the British for his Second World War anti-fascism, by many due to his resistance to Stalin, and by his people for high living standards, freedom of travel and life under very soft or liberal dictatorship. Socialism was a very comfortable system: you work a little but you're safe in all ways", Mr Markovic said.
But he recalls that although there was also little repression against dissidents, Tito created a personality cult and brushed divisions between Yugoslavs under the carpet. "The inter-ethnic hatreds were invisible as long as there was money. They destroyed the state later on but the dimensions of his heirs are dwarf-like, when compared to Tito. It's like a comparison between de Gaulle and Nicolas Sarkozy," Mr Markovic added. "That is where the nostalgia begins – it's a nostalgia for a real state and not these banana republics or 'plum republics' that we have now", Mr Markovic said in a reference to the most widespread fruit of the Balkans.
For the historian, there are lessons the European Union can learn from Tito's mistakes, one of them being the introduction back in 1974 of a complicated voting system for six former republics and the right to veto decisions reached by consensus. Such a complicated decision-making system paralysed the former Yugoslavia and introduced separatism.

But life was not easy for those who opposed Tito, despite the rosy memories of millions in the region. Aleksa Djilas, 57, a Belgrade author and sociologist, said Tito was "a man of power, with a strong personal love for power, a product of specific post-war circumstances". In his opinion, besides the personality cult at home, this helped create "a cult of Tito abroad". Mr Djilas is the son of the most prominent Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas, who spent years in prison for his criticism against the Communist dictator. Milovan Djilas was one of Tito's closest aides in the anti-fascist movement in the Second World War but fell from grace in the 1950s.
"However, Tito's was a vegetarian dictatorship. Sweep-ups were not bloody; people were removed to be forgotten, in order for him to stay in power", said Aleksa Djilas, who himself spent years in exile. He said some credit had to be given for the achievements of Tito's era including social justice and the participation of workers in decision-making.

But many former Yugoslavs do not go that deep where their memories of Tito are concerned. For the ageing, the museum exhibits on Tito were an opportunity to remember their youth. For the young, "it looked like time travel", as Marina Jankovic, 22, a Belgrade student, observed inside one of the exhibitions. "It's still not clear to me how life looked like during his time and sometimes I think that the stories I hear from grandparents or parents are just their memories of their sweet youth", she said.

The Independent






When a country doubles its gross domestic product in 10 years, the story is likely to be too good to be true. According to official statistics, Greece's GDP doubled from $126 billion in 2000 to $356 billion in 2009, driven by very high government spending. As it turns out, the previous government had falsified government accounts, misstated actual economic growth and built a mountain of debt totalling about 115 per cent of GDP (roughly $375 billion), of which about 80 per cent is foreign-owned. That propelled the European Union into its own systemic crisis, one that threatens its very foundations and the credibility of the euro as a reserve currency, besides the sustainability of Europe's economy. German and French banks hold most of Greece's debt, which has been downgraded to virtually junk bond status; the largest economies in Europe have a vested interest in saving Greece, and in ensuring that their biggest banks don't fail. Some analysts say that it's those banks that are being bailed out. Intense negotiations are underway on putting together a bailout package of euro 110 billion (roughly 45 per cent of GDP), of which the EU member nations will provide 80 billion, with the remaining 30 billion coming from the International Monetary Fund, over the next three years. In return, the Greek government must agree to reduce its fiscal deficit from the current 13.6 per cent to less than 3 per cent of GDP in the next four years.


Greece has accomplished that once, reducing its fiscal deficit by 12 per cent between 1989 and 1995 in preparation for European monetary union and the introduction of the euro as common currency across 16 countries in 1999. It may not be as easy this time around. For one thing, the bailout has to be approved by 27 parliaments; with German provincial elections due on May 9, more than 60 per cent of the population is against bailing out Greece. Other countries, like the Slovak Republic, want the bailout package to be deferred until the June 2 Greek parliamentary elections; almost all members of the current parliament oppose proposed austerity measures like a wage freeze, spending cuts of 13 per cent of GDP and higher taxes. But the country cannot afford to wait: Greece needs to roll over an euro 8.5 billion, 6 per cent, 10-year bond due on May 19. The contagion effect could slow down overall global growth, and thereby reduce consumer demand, including that for Indian exports.








To secure a driving licence in Calcutta, all one needs to do is sit back and relax. There is nothing surprising about this process. It is often said that Calcutta is the easiest Indian metropolis to live in. The city moves at a tardy pace, so living here is less of a struggle than in other Indian metros. Judging from its readiness to make things simpler for the citizens, it appears that the administration is quite smug about such a reputation. For instance, for a long time, the Left Front government adamantly refused to ban two-stroke autorickshaws and rickety buses, the main causes of air pollution, fearing that such a move would not only inconvenience commuters but also disturb its support base among the workers' unions. So ancient smoke-belching vehicles, fed by a thriving black market in katatel (illegal fuel), plied the streets. Although public interest litigations, court rulings and media campaigns have almost managed to eradicate that menace, the streets of Calcutta cannot be trusted. It has always been a jungle out there. A recent exposé by The Telegraph reveals what has always been widely suspected: that drivers in Calcutta are a privileged lot, thanks to a venal public vehicles department.

With one motor-vehicles inspector responsible for every two lakh registered vehicles, the possibility of carrying out a meaningful driving test becomes remote. What goes on in the name of a test, therefore, is a charade, in which examinees have to merely sit and watch the difficult art of driving to earn their right to take the wheel. Of course, driving licences can be had for much less trouble. A reasonable sum of money and a packet of cigarettes are good enough to buy this precious document, which actually signifies nothing. These ludicrous arrangements may be able to assuage the conscience of the PVD in some inscrutable way, but they certainly do not make the lives of pedestrians any safer. Calcutta is already notoriously prone to accidents. The promise of hundreds of amateur drivers taking over the roads augurs imminent disaster for the average citizen. In its desire to dispense with inconveniences, the administration is on the verge of turning the whole of Calcutta into a red-alert zone. But what is a little risk to public life so long as it simplifies the task of a criminally negligent administration?









Karl Marx famously said that history repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce. The upper-class Indian's obsession with the IPL imbroglio shows how, in these historic times, we are utterly preoccupied with the farce. The tragedy has taken place quietly behind the scenes.


I understand little of cricket and nothing of high finance. I would submit that even the first condition, and certainly the second, applies to most Indian citizens, including a sizeable group with comfortable incomes and urban lifestyles — not to mention the spectral 40 per cent below the poverty line. Such people contribute little to consumer investment and nothing to advertising revenues. Hence they count for little in the wealth-driven, media-acclaimed priorities of our State and society. By current wisdom, they are stowaways, not stakeholders.


The stakes run very high. The Telegraph has estimated the cumulative inflow to the Board for Control of Cricket in India and its franchisees this year at Rs 2,117 crore. Presumably this excludes all earnings by all parties not directly routed through the recorded transactions of the BCCI and franchisees. Rs 3,235 crore was paid for the Kochi and Pune teams, and Rs 3,300 crore for the other eight in 2008 (all payments in dollars). There are reported bribes of Rs 200 crore. The reports may be false, but they are apparently credible. Is it too bold or too cautious to suggest that total IPL-related transactions to date touch the trillion mark?


Let us put this in perspective. Someone worked out that the price of the Kochi franchise alone would provide midday meals to all Indian schoolchildren for a year. In 2009-10, the revised plan outlay of the ministry of agriculture was Rs 9,708 crore, that is, to feed the whole of India, Sharad Pawar invested just three times what the two new franchisees paid for their teams. For woman and child development, the revised plan outlay was less than three times the price of the bid; for health, less than six times; for school education and literacy, just seven times. For irrigation, incredibly, it was only one-sixth, Rs 540 crore.


Now for a truly incredible avowal. Perhaps alone among Indian citizens, I am assuming that every paisa remotely linked to the IPL is rightfully earned and exchanged. All taxes are paid, all laws observed, all proprieties maintained.


To one so naïve, much may be forgiven. So let me make a point so crass that I am embarrassed to state it. Can I be the only Indian to feel that, all questions of malfeasance apart, there is something disquieting about these contrasts in national expenditure? That it indicates warped perceptions among the hyper-rich about what to do with their money; in the government as to what it induces them to do; and most fundamentally, in the affluent classes at large — the classes whose television consumerism is the cornerstone shoring up the IPL? Until the storm broke, not even the populist politicians now screaming foul had uttered a squawk. Today the storm itself is an item of entertainment, like a cyclone watched on TV. It must be doing wonders for the bottomline of the news channels: they needn't even pay for the franchise.


There are limits even to my naïveté. I am not suggesting that the IPL should be banned, its expenditure capped or operations controlled by law. Still less am I exhorting the super-rich to donate their wealth to the poor. I know it is not the business of a sports body to feed or nurse the poor. I am simply suggesting that because it cannot serve these functions, we should see it in proportion. It is not a matter of the illegal or the immoral but, more basically, the preposterous. There was even a bizarre possibility that the finance bill might have floundered and the government fallen because of a sports tournament.


There have been football wars in Latin America, but those were fuelled by poverty and manipulated by military dictatorships. Our democratic state is rocked by the greed and smugness of a secure plutocracy. The general style of governance, irrespective of party, has supported that greed and smugness. We, the articulate classes, have approved that style by our own incestuous preoccupations. Hence we lap up the IPL as a nice shiny package of the sports, showbiz and money programmes that — unlike in capitalist countries — make up the bulk of prime-time national television.


The real good that wealth does is to create more wealth and extend it (however unevenly) to more and more people. The 'percolation model' of enrichment is morally repugnant, but it is the model that seems to work most consistently among imperfect human beings. The most depressing feature of the IPL affair is not the money involved, nor the alleged wrongdoing, but the utterly sterile use of that money. It has generated no employment, created no national assets, had no triggering effect on the economy. By contrast, the film stars and the liquor baron singing its praises have earned their original wealth through productive means in industries of great spread effect. In the IPL, a handful of hyper-rich people are merely circulating their wealth among themselves, augmented by offerings from the affluent classes generally. The very employees of the front companies belong to the charmed circle. Otherwise, the IPL benefits nobody beyond the snack-vendors in the stadium.


Nor did the governments (Union or state) think to draw some public revenue from the windfall. Amazingly, the IPL was exempt from entertainment tax. The Maharashtra government alone may have lost Rs 500 crore thereby. I say nothing of the free services and diversion of public personnel — police, municipal, infrastructural. The BCCI itself was exempt from tax as a quasi-charitable body. It is credited with building a few cricket stadiums with its gains. Farooq Abdullah, who, if anyone, might have taken a broader statesman-like view, has justified it on that score.


An adult nation may feel it is not enough. Somewhere, sometimes, there are issues that cut closer to the nation's bone. A remarkable effect of the IPL imbroglio is that it has quite obscured the Dantewada massacre, not to mention the Maoist question generally. We have lost interest in what's happening out there: as also in unglamorous reports that poverty statistics are being fiddled to reduce the number of families entitled to subsidized food. But attention is gradually shifting to other stories closer to ruling-class interests: the tapping of VIP phones, a mole in our mission in Pakistan, the arrest of the Medical Council president on corruption charges.


Such scandals chronicle the continuing tragedy to which the IPL provides the farce: public cynicism, complacency, blindness to social issues, brazen immersion in one's exclusive well-being. Open corruption is only a symptom of this greater affliction, affecting the mass of notionally honest and law-abiding citizens. We would all serve such a system to our advantage; but we are its victims as well, tormented by cynicism of a more corroding kind. Hence the frustration of the staider bourgeoisie and the more active reactions of 'new India', from financial misdoing to extremist violence and its crude suppression. These are the elements of an unfolding tragedy. No wonder we want to divert ourselves with farce.


The author is professor of English, Jadavpur University, Calcutta








The cricket genie has exploded out of the bottle. It has morphed into a gigantic volcanic ash cloud, towering over the Indian cricket scene. The nation watches in disbelief as the media throw up scandals every moment. Some of the high-profile promoters and politicians involved have lowered their periscopes and slipped into deeper waters. Their eyes are fixed on the swish and aggressive Lalit Modi.


Thrashing about in the shallow waters and threatening to reveal all, Modi is now on the run, seeking advice from India's best lawyers. The BCCI committee has suspended Modi. It will be a surprise if Modi can survive the charges. Few will dispute the fact that Modi, in spite of his alleged indiscretions, is the brightest visionary and the best organizer and promoter in the history of Indian sport. Modi has piloted IPL 3 into space with a value of four billion dollars. It is now poised for a launch as IPL 4 to challenge the nine-billion-dollar basketball league in America. Till now, the IPL committee and the BCCI bosses had sat blinded by the headlights of the whirling cash machine moving at sonic speed. They were mesmerized by the figures and the tectonic impact of IPL3, which, apart from bringing down a cabinet minister, has created a furore in Parliament.


The meteoric rise of the Indian Premier League has changed the parameters of cricket. The reverse sweep, the switch hit, the lofty sixes and instant innovation have altered the game that was known for its classic, straight-batted carpet drives. It is exciting stuff, pushed beyond the limit by deafening music, trumpet blasts, and the roaring crowd. The pom-pom girls and the film stars take the evening past any multi-crore Bollywood extravaganza. It is fantastic stuff, which unveils the awesome power of modern sport.


Heavy damage


The promoters are seemingly oblivious of the fact that the responsibility of sport promotion is not limited to entertainment and money-making. Sport promotion is a public responsibility and has the power to destroy the nation's image or, if handled astutely, can steer India to great heights. Modi's blemished genius may have filled the coffers but it has enhanced the already tarnished image of the nation. It will take years to repair the damage. The government must step in, put stringent laws in place and mete out punishment to ensure financial transparency.


The other, equally important, factor is to ensure proper behaviour among the players during and after matches. Sporting behaviour will rub off on the millions of starry-eyed youngsters glued to the television sets. The image and culture of a nation are reflected in the behaviour of the players and of the crowds. Exposure to sport on television has made it one of the dominant forces, which project the image of society, culture and character. Far more important is the impact it has on the youth. Reports of night-long parties featuring models have left many people shattered. The players, who are paid millions, are supposed to do their best on the field. Partying late in the night, followed by travel on the next day, is not the ideal way to prepare for a match 24 hours later.


The players are forced to indulge in this kind of behaviour because of the team sponsors and promoters. What an example to set for the youngsters! The owners of the teams must draw a line when it comes to doing anything for the sake of earning money. Their attitude is similar to that of the television monsters who are now shoving in advertisements even during overs. This is indeed a matter of great shame. The headlong pursuit of money will take us over the cliff and destroy our culture and society.


The government must ensure that sports promoters toe the line not only to protect the nation's global image but also to fire the youth to ride the high tide of India's spectacular economic growth.





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





Only the naïve would believe that the DMK patriarch and Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi visited Delhi in a wheel chair to invite the president for the world Tamil meet or present a gift to Sonia Gandhi or exchange pleasantries with the prime minister. Two of the DMK's representatives in the union cabinet – fertilisers and chemicals minister M K Alagiri, who is Karunanidhi's son, and communications minister A Raja, who is close to the family—have recently earned a lot of negative attention. The adverse attention was getting so hot that Karunanidhi probably wanted to talk things out with the UPA leadership and ensure that there are no unpleasant consequences. To communicate to the UPA leadership the consequences of any action against the ministers is the best way to pre-empt any drastic action.

Both ministers do not deserve to continue in their positions. Alagiri is not seen in parliament at all, does not answer questions and hardly attends cabinet meetings. He was vacationing in Maldives when parliament was in session. He spends most of his time in Chennai and Madurai and must be spending much of his energy on the succession battle in the party. The excuse that he does not understand English or Hindi is laughable. Parliament has a good translation system. In any case if he finds he cannot cope, why should be there as a minister? The case of Raja is more serious. There are credible charges that he has caused loss of tens of thousands of crores to the exchequer in the 2G licence allocation of 2008. The allocation was not above board and was marked by arbitrariness, favouritism and violation of rules and regulations. It is not just the media and the opposition parties that are making an issue of it. The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has pointed out many irregularities and asked the ministry a  number of uncomfortable questions.

If Shashi Tharoor had to resign from the government for an act of indiscretion, why is Raja, against whom there is mounting evidence of corruption of a scale and magnitude difficult to imagine till recently, allowed to continue in the ministry? Not only should he be told to quit, but his actions should be investigated too. If the charges are true, what he did was a wholesale loot of the exchequer. Karunanidhi says Raja need not resign. The UPA is dependent on the DMK, but should it suffer blackmail?








The 16th summit of the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (Saarc) which concluded in Thimphu in Bhutan was an occasion for stocktaking. Some of the leaders did look at the performance of the regional grouping and said that it could have achieved more. It is known that in the 25 years of its existence Saarc has not realised its potential. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh diplomatically said it is a glass half full, Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Thinley felt it was losing its focus and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina regretted the lack of progress in important areas. It was stated at the end of the conference that the summit achieved its agenda of regional co-operation with the signing of two documents on trade and environment. Manmohan Singh was again correct when he said that though institutions were created, they were not empowered.

The main reason for the lack of progress is the strained relations between India and Pakistan, the two biggest members, and to some extent the absence of the best of relations between India and some other countries. Though bilateral issues are not to be raised in any Saarc fora, the organisation has always been a hostage to India-Pakistan problems. Normally members of such organisation benefit doubly from a logic of complementarity -- regional co-operation aids bilateral ties and improved bilateral ties further boost overall relations.  But this has not happened in the case of Saarc. There have been Initiatives like a regional free trade agreement, a regional development fund and a  South Asian university. Even a common currency was talked about. But none of the ideas and projects has really taken off.

The very fact that the outcome of the Thimphu summit was overshadowed by the meeting on the margins between Indian and Pakistani leaders was itself proof of the weakness of the organisation.  India and Pakistan have the greatest responsibility to turn things around for the body, by keeping their bilateral problems off the Saarc table, though this is easier said than done. It should be easy to achieve better economic integration and improve people-to-people contacts among Saarc countries, who have more in common than members of any other regional grouping in the world. But the possibility continues to remain unrealised. 








Do we need a change in the way we perceive money that makes heroes out of persons who could at best be ignored?


Two recent events have been quite disturbing to any conscientious person. One, of course, is the murky happenings in the IPL that is a part of the Board for Control of Cricket in India. Another is the arrest of the president of the Medical Council of India (MCI) for accepting a bribe in granting recognition to a medical college in Patiala.


One is an organisation which deals with a game whose players are the heroes for people. Another is a regulatory body for colleges producing tomorrow's doctors. Both the events need much reflection and introspection regarding the direction in which Indian society and Indian economy are moving.


It is reported that IPL is a business of over Rs 10,000 crore. Until a few days ago, it was being commended as a testimony to the huge success of us Indians' newfound enterprise and to the rapid strides our free economy was taking in different fields including sports.

Imported cheer leaders

The dazzle of lights, the glitter of stars and big businessmen in the stands, the showmanship before and after the game complete with the presence of high profile commentators to tickle the brains and imported cheer leaders to tickle the soul was all a heady mix.

Not known to the public until now was that it was a concoction of slush funds, 'benaami' transactions, wanton confusion regarding stake-holdings, rigging of bids, protection money sweetly called 'sweat equity', and betting and match fixing - fit for a script for a Bollywood gangster movie. Of course, like in such a movie, there would be several innocent characters too.

Similarly, we have a mushrooming of colleges teaching professional courses like medicine, engineering and business management. But very little of this endeavour benefits the poor. Few qualified doctors prefer to take up work in the rural areas. Government also does very little by way of providing primary health care to the rural and to the poor.

Young students tend to follow the path that promises gravy. Professional education, that has to follow a rigorous academic discipline, becomes a sleazy business venture like the recent case of the president of MCI shows. Economic growth, pursued without the social principle of equity, is a recipe for disaster.

The points to reflect upon are: Do we need a 'growth' of this kind? Do we need 'enterprise' of this nature? Do we need sophistication that is only skin deep? Do we need a radical change in the way we perceive money that makes heroes out of persons who could at best be ignored?

Lot of money flowed in the three IPLs. It surely did make some people's coffers to fill up. On the positive side, it gave business to advertising industry, media channels, transport industry, hotels, and to other peripheral product makers/suppliers. But, much of the money has remained in the upper echelons of India.

It was an extravaganza that we could do without, particularly since it engenders wrong values and attitudes in a people that is just waking up to the possibility of getting rid of the age-old curse of poverty, illiteracy, and bad health.

Indian economy is not in the best of health, as of now. India has a huge public debt to service – almost 80 per cent of its GDP. India is now paying more to service the debt than any other item in the budget, including defence, education and healthcare.

Input of funds

No wonder, the basics of education and public health are taking a back-seat despite the protestations of the government otherwise. Illiteracy, with its very liberal interpretation, is at around 33 per cent. Right to Education and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan need a massive input of funds that are not visible yet. Public health infrastructure is suffering due to paucity of funds.

As per official statistics, 28 per cent of India's population is poor; other methodologies put the figure at 10 per cent more i.e. at 38 per cent. 230 million Indians are malnourished. India ranks 94th in the Global Hunger Index of 119 countries as per a UN World Food Programme (WFP) report. 43 per cent of children in our country under the age of five are underweight and 70 per cent of the children in this age group are anaemic.


As it is, our good industry is not a great help to our poor people. The services sector, backed by the IT revolution, remained the biggest contributor to the national GDP, with a contribution of about 58 per cent. However, most of this does not reach our poor. The agriculture sector, on which most of the poor are dependent, contributes only about 17 per cent to the GDP. 'Trickle effect' is really a trickle with much benefit going to the rich and the rising 'middle' class.

Rapid growth pursued and appreciated for its own sake leads to all kinds of misdeeds –  corruption, wrong money, wrong administrators /controllers and, of course, wrong people in politics. More importantly, it leads to a situation where a negative person becomes a hero and people on the gravy train knowingly or unknowingly start making excuses for the 'fall guys' and anti-heroes.

(The writer is a former professor at IIM-Bangalore)








A paradigm shift beyond economics and all its theories is required to arrest the slide.


If governments don't work together and face down the bankers who operate the global casino, the dominoes will start falling, one by one.

The fate of Greece lies between the excesses of its previous government and its past Wall Street-friendly policies, the still-dominant ideology of market fundamentalism, their bondholders and marketmakers, and Goldman Sachs and the still-obscure USD 600 trillion derivatives market, a massive bet on Greece's eventual default.

We have reached the inflection point in the globalised financial casino and its mountains of odious, unrepayable debt. With outstanding derivative positions totalling some USD 600 trillion -and world GDP only USD 63 trillion- today's global debt is unrepayable. Central bankers cannot print enough money to fill this gigantic hole. So who will lose, aside from taxpayers, who are stuck with the bill thus far of USD 23 trillion just for the US bailouts?

The world's citizens now see how governments allowed themselves and their taxpayers to be trapped by the lords of finance. The bankers funded their election to office, bribed their officials, and manipulated their regulators and public opinion.

Through advertising and financing of mass media, financial moguls and media moguls converged with political moguls worldwide to form concentrated conglomerates.

To save sovereign governments from further co-option and corruption, these government 'leaders' and their economic 'wise men' must now rise to the occasion. Together, they must act to downsize and curb the rogue global casino. The G-20 Summit in Toronto, June 26-27, is their next opportunity to re-assert control on behalf of their citizens and the global public interest. Will leadership come from Europe, China, India, the USA, or Brazil?

What's the remedy

First, the derivatives betting on defaults of countries and companies must be shut down before the players drive Greece under to win their bets. This will help curb the 'bear raiders' waiting to collect their bets against the other EU countries: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and others. The USA, often still seen as a 'safe haven,' is on equally rocky ground with its huge trade deficits and external debts to China, Japan, and Opec countries. Most states in the US are running unsustainable deficits, have huge backlogs of now risky bond debts, together with falling tax revenues due to high unemployment levels (10 per cent nationally, 17 per cent if all jobless are counted), as well as crumbling infrastructure needing over USD 1 trillion in repairs.

Only concerted action by the G-20 can arrest the takeover by the lords of finance. This will require a paradigm shift beyond economics and all its theories, from left to right, towards a reintegration of knowledge and systems approaches that 'connect all the dots.'

We are now in a global, system-wide transition from the early, fossil-fuelled Industrial Era to the emerging, green, information-rich economies, from Wall Street's corrupted and debt-choked money circuits to new electronic trading platforms that use free exchange and new currencies.

Estimated world trade conducted in barter remains at approximately 25 percent but is ignored in GDP, which is based only on money coefficients. Electronic trading is a new multi-trillion-dollar market opportunity for IT companies, following the paths of eBay, Craigslist, Freecycle, Global Giving, Greengrants, Microplace, Kiva, Zopa, Prosper, and other micro-finance and philanthropy sites.

To foster the transition from the monopoly of fiat money circuits (now just as bad as gold-based money) to 21st century electronic and local currencies, the G-20 needs to downsize financial sectors.

Wall Street and London's bloated financial sectors have little social purpose and produce nothing. Proprietary trading and risk-taking must be separated from government-subsidised deposit-taking banks. The best way to accomplish this is for the G-20 to agree on a less than one percent financial transactions tax across the board.

It is also essential to break up all too-big-to-fail banks, e g, the six largest ones in the US: Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo, which now control 63 per cent of US GDP.

Only if G-20 leaders come together in Toronto and agree on these first steps, can they avoid the next financial crisis, already looming. If they cannot summon the courage to shake off the grip of the lords of finance, they will have forfeited what little public trust still remains.








They believe that all problems can be solved with a supply of dollars.



Old wine is appreciated but old whine, ignored. While people are expected to live much longer thanks to medical science, 'moral science' in India seems to have lagged behind in relevance. Many old parents from middle-class families are being left behind by their NRI sons to fend for themselves.

Whatever may be the reason for the sons to settle down abroad, behind the glitter of dollar transfers, the silent suffering of the elderly is slowly gaining acceptance as an inconvenient truth and an inevitable phase of life – seen more as 'collateral damage' in our society's march towards 'progress'. Seeing elderly couples holding hands may make a great poster for old-age companionship but when it is about crossing a busy killer street to visit the doctor, helped only by their blurred vision, failing reflexes, tottering gait and nervous diffidence, one can understand their predicament. Neighbours, friends and extended family members often step in to help. The definition of what is 'family' is becoming more inclusive in today's context.

In most situations, their sons are now in faraway lands, pursuing bright careers. Once in two years or so, they swoop down from the skies like prized falcons; crisscross the country armed with mineral water, gifts and anglicised children in an attempt to do full justice to families on 'both sides.' In line with the philosophy of the land they mostly come from, they believe that all problems can be resolved with a good supply of dollars. 

The length of their visit's duration is designed to ensure that nothing of real consequence to the conditions here is discussed, lest it calls for taking a stand. The elderly parents are also reluctant to broach issues, afraid that they would 'spoil the party'. By the time the string of specially-made sweets, social get-togethers and the mandatory visit to the family deity runs out, it is time for the son to head back 'home'. The affectionate hug at the airport is a great photo-opportunity. Back in the plane, the son may imagine that this trip too was 'handled' well, much like the familiar soulless politician who visits a flood-affected area. 

However, things are changing in the landscape. The taboo connected with old age homes is disappearing. Daughters are stepping in to support. The elderly are taking better care of their health and their lives. They are also becoming financially shrewd, ensuring that their finances are passed on to their children only after their death, in spite of overt and covert attempts of children to have them loosen the purse-strings. 

Guilt-proof sons, you may have a lot of peer-company today but I read somewhere; in matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place.

questions have answers. Just this once, Anna, please.








Two solo walks I took in my Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot-Arnona recently couldn't have been more different, although my route was exactly the same both times.

The first was on the eve of Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers, an hour before the televised ceremony at Mount Herzl. The landmarks – the trees, the little gardens, the corner makolet – were all familiar, but everything else felt particular to the day.

There was no one on the streets. While the peace was reminiscent of Shabbat, there was the stillness and weight of a fast day, and a palpable sadness hung in the air.

And yet the thought that pushed itself to the surface of my mind was a happy one: How right it feels to be living here in Israel; and how good that it should be in Jerusalem.

Next evening, after the Independence torches had been lit, I went out again. The same streets bustled with animated citizens getting ready to celebrate 62 years of the state.

And again came that satisfying feeling of being in the right place, at the right time.

To have been brought to Israel – dayenu. But to be in Jerusalem – this year, and not some mythical "next" – felt like the fulfillment of an ancient personal promise.

That feeling of rightness hasn't faded in 27 years of living in the city. Not when its roads are, often and frustratingly, closed to accommodate this or that visiting dignitary, or this or that new bit of construction. Not when Jerusalem's problems – and scandals – seem to loom larger by the day. Not even back in the years when every week seemed to bring another terror attack.

I MOVED to Jerusalem after 10 years of living on the coastal plain. During an intermediate period of toing and froing by sherut communal taxi, it always delighted me to hear the dispatcher in Tel Aviv send our driver off to Jerusalem with a shouted "Aleh!" (Ascend!); or "Red!" (Descend!), in the opposite direction. There was a nobility in the command.

My shift to the capital was accelerated by an irrational but growing sense that I ought to make the move while the going was good. I couldn't shake off the feeling that one day, someone, somewhere, in a position of power might get up and proclaim: "From now on, only people of a certain caliber (I could never define it more precisely) will be allowed to reside in Jerusalem. All the rest of you – sorry!"

One day, I thought, I could find the gates to Jerusalem barred. Better to go through while they were still open.

DURING my first starry-eyed weeks as a resident of the city, back in the winter of 1982, I received a rude awakening. Walking out of my rented ground-floor Rehavia apartment into the yard, I saw the contents of a woman's handbag strewn over the path and on the lawn. It had rained, and some documents were half-submerged in a puddle. My neighbors had been burgled during the night, and I was dumbfounded. Could this happen in Jerusalem? It seemed scarcely credible.

How supremely naive my shock of all those years ago now seems. Twenty-seven years on, the starry-eyedness has gone. A longtime homeowner, I have become quite used to the notion of Jerusalemites being robbed – on the private and public level.

In my own building, every flat with a balcony has been broken into, some twice. And there cannot be anyone who remains ignorant of the grievous bribery charges that have been brought against those elected to high municipal office, whom we hoped would serve us well.

The Holyland affair is only the tip of the corruption iceberg, we have been warned, darkly.


But let's not dwell on that, or on violence and crime and cases of horrific child abuse uncovered in the capital; or, for that matter, on the ongoing tension between Jews and Arabs, or the shenanigans of Jerusalem's extremist haredim. The media say plenty about these, and we know by now that the city "holy to three religions" is not immune to any and every kind of wrongdoing.

Let me tell you instead about the old man I met in a London hospital on a trip back to England.

I WAS visiting an uncle in Edgware General Hospital, and he introduced me to the patient in the next bed, a Catholic, as "my niece visiting from Jerusalem."

The old man stared at me as if he couldn't believe what he had heard.

"The real Jerusalem?" he asked, wonderingly.

"The real Jerusalem," I answered.

"Have you seen the Valley of the Cross?" He fixed his eyes on me unblinkingly, so as not to miss any part of my answer.

Many times, I told him; adding that, in fact, I frequently passed along the road adjacent to the Monastery of the Cross.

He gazed at me as if I myself had walked out of the pages of his Bible, and I promised that the next time I was in the neighborhood of the Valley, I would think of him.

He lay back on his pillows, satisfied.

THIS old Englishman – like many much more sophisticated individuals worldwide – clearly knew little about modern Jerusalem with its top-level hospitals, institutions of learning, museums, theaters and malls. Perhaps he thought that camel trains plied the city's thoroughfares. Perhaps he had a touch of Jerusalem Syndrome.

But what I took away from the encounter was his sense of wonder – wonder that people, today, were carrying on their lives in the 3,000-year-old city he knew only from his Bible.It is this sense of wonder that is, to me, an integral and inseparable part of living in Jerusalem and loving it. It is what makes life here feel like a unique privilege, whatever may occur in the public domain.






Why is it assumed that the doyens of Israeli academia are necessarily democratic and good judges of the country's democratic character?

The most common nervous reaction among a certain segment of Israel's left is the refrain that Israel is always threatened by undemocratic forces from within. The Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University recently released a poll showing that the average adult Jewish Israeli believes "there is too much freedom of expression" and that many respondents "favor punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country."

Haaretz's headline screamed "Israel's Jews back gag on rights groups."


The reaction was fast and furious from the academic establishment, which had commissioned the study. Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal of TAU claimed "Israelis have a distorted perception of democracy – most people are almost anti-democratic."

David Newman of Ben-Gurion University and fellow Jerusalem Post columnist claimed the results were "very worrying."

THE SURVEY was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Large segments of Israeli academia and various organizations like the Israeli Democracy Institute believe the public is anti-democratic and they craft surveys to tell them exactly that. The fact that the survey measured only Jewish members of society should have been a red herring.

It is no different from a survey by Ma'agar Mochrot in March that surveyed Arabs and Jews on "democracy" but primarily wanted to examine young people's attitudes on the state's Arab citizens. What about what the Arabs had to say about the Jews and the state?

Why is it assumed that the doyens of Israeli academia are necessarily democratic and good judges of the country's democratic character? Bar-Tal, for instance, is on the editorial board of the Palestine-Israel Journal whose logo is a Palestinian flag and an Israeli flag without the Star of David and which routinely refers to Palestinian terrorism as "resistance." When they "understand" Palestinian terrorism, support boycotts of Israel, the "one-state solution" or encourage soldiers not go to the army, are these "democratic" choices?

Is support for "Voices from Gaza" (a TAU conference), part of supporting democracy by bringing the Islamist voice of Hamas to its student body?

Maybe the public doesn't understand why year after year their tax dollars go to universities where their sons and daughters are called "Nazis" and they are said to be practicing "apartheid" and where the Jewish people's existence is denied and the Palestinians are called "indigenous" and where the details of the Holocaust are called "unimportant."

The public doesn't understand why "democracy" only means hatred of the State of Israel and see no benefit from this form of "democracy," We don't understand why those who call Israel undemocratic, like writer Gideon Levy, are the same ones who embrace Palestinian nationalism and envied the late king (say it again, king) of Jordan.

Maybe the public doesn't understand why "human rights" groups never care about their rights, such as those of Ethiopian Jews who wonder why the Israeli left was marching against Sabra and Shatilla in the 1980s but could care less as ten thousand of them died in the deserts of Sudan.

YEAR AFTER year Israelis go to army and leave it with little prospects for economic success. But they soldier on, paying their taxes, waiting in lines and scraping by. They work 12-hour shifts and live crammed into tenements on the Coastal Plain or exposed to Kassams in Sderot.

All the while they are demonized with contempt by those at the higher levels of society, the "free thinkers" and "critics" who call them brutish antidemocratic forces.

Consider just some of what the public has witnessed in recent years: The late Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz of Hebrew University claimed Israel was a "Judeo-Nazi" state. Yitzhak Laor wrote the play Ephraim Returns to the Army which drew "comparisons between Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Nazi rule in occupied Europe." Moshe Zimmerman, director of the Minerva Center for German History at the Hebrew University, claims "there is an entire sector in the Jewish public which I unhesitatingly define as a copy of the German Nazis." The same Zimmerman wrote that Hitler didn't intend to kill the Jews; "Hitler improvised and raised the question of the Jews."

Hanna Yablonka of BGU called the "details" of the Holocaust unimportant. Adi Ophir at TAU opened "Israel Apartheid Week" in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Udi Aloni, whose work has been shown at the Museum of Israeli Art in Ramat Gan and who has presented at the Van Leer Institute, wrote in March that the "occupation and the apartheid regime is hovering over the State of Israel."

Prof. Shlomo Sand of TAU, author of The Invention of the Jewish People, claims "intellectuals of Jewish origin in Germany, influenced by the folk character of German nationalism, took upon themselves the task of inventing a [Jewish] people." Oren Yiftachel of BGU claims the Beduin are indigenous to Israel and writes on Beduin-Arabs and the Israeli Settler State: Land Policies and Indigenous Resistance. Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell, Israeli Prize winner, advised the Palestinians in an op-ed in May 2001 on their best terrorism strategy: "Palestinians would be wise to concentrate their struggle against the settlements."

Ariel Toaff of Bar-Ilan University argued in his book Passovers of Blood that Ashkenazim may have indeed used the blood of Christian children in rituals. Numerous Israeli academics, from Neve Gordon (BGU) to Anat Matar (TAU) and Ilan Pappe (formerly University of Haifa), have all joined calls to boycott their own universities or Israel entirely. Some academics enthusiastically applaud the Palestinian nationalist cause, call for understanding Hamas and teach classes that force students to volunteer for anti-Israel "peace" organizations.

AND AFTER all this there are expressions of surprise that the vast majority of Israelis tire of those whose salaries they pay and who wrap themselves in the Palestinian nationalist flag but abhor the flag with the Star of David on it. Ironically it is the public who are called "undemocratic" when the real haters of democracy are the well heeled who argue that their extremist hatred of Israel is an essential part of democracy. A survey of academics would show that a significant minority, if not a majority, hold to principles that are not mainstream democratic ones, such as supporting chauvinist nationalist Palestinian groups and excusing terrorism as "resistance."

In the dustup over Im Tirzu's advertisements condemning Naomi Chazan of the New Israel Fund, Prof. Avner De Shalit, dean of social sciences and Max Kampelman Professor of Democracy and Human Rights at Hebrew University, urged in an e-mail "I wonder if Im Tirzu shouldn't be sued."

That's very democratic: If you don't like someone giving their opinion, sue to gag them.

Abe Lincoln said, "A nation divided against itself cannot stand," and Samuel Adams elaborated, "A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of [democracy] than the whole force of the common enemy."


Some of the country's best educated and brightest thinkers have few principles or manners and they have a deep-seated hatred of the State of Israel. Their constant refrain is that it is the people who have lost faith in democracy. If they have, it is only because they have learned from their cultured peers.

The writer is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.







For five years I have tried my best to gain control of my family's land near what is now Gilo. All I've been getting is the runaround.


Silvan Shalom is the vice prime minister of Israel and minister for regional development. He wrote a column last week that appeared in a local paper in Chicago titled "Israel, striving to be a good neighbor." It was an upbeat column, intended, I think, more for American consumption than to reinforce confidence among the Palestinians. But I did read it. And I was inspired by his words and his promised goal to "support Palestinian development."

Maybe I am a sucker for politicians who have a habit of saying inspiring and great things, but doing something different. I've been a journalist for 35 years, so that makes me very cynical. Then again, maybe I always just want to believe that there is something far better behind the ugly headlines of conflict and continued turmoil that plagues Palestinian-Israeli relations.

There are things about Shalom that make me, at least as an Arab, believe he is genuine. He is a Jewish Arab born in Tunisia who immigrated to Israel as a one year old in 1959. About that time, my dad was able to get his brothers and sisters out of a refugee camp in Jordan and resettled in Chicago near by. I was seven at the time.

But Shalom is also a journalist, and despite what I know is a deep-seated bias in the mainstream media against Arabs, I think sometimes Israeli journalists are more open to see the "other side."

So, maybe Shalom does "care" about us Palestinians.

AND IT is in that spirit that I am asking Minister Shalom to step in to my life and into the issue of my family's land. It is located right in the middle of that spirit of cooperation that Shalom spoke about in his column, about how he and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were working hard to improve relations with the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab countries by "increasing the level of economic cooperation."

It would go a long way, Minister Shalom, if you would insure that no one messes with my family's land, which has been handed down to me as the official representative of the "Hanania Palestinian people."

My mother's cousins on my grandmother's side purchased about 34 dunams of land that sits in one of the valleys in Gilo that face Malha and the stadium. The land belongs to my cousins, the Tarud family. It is right around the mountain bend from a little Muslim village called Sharafat. It's not too far away from the land owned by the Darweesh family.

For years, one of the family members at Sharafat watched over our land, harvesting the olives and other vegetables and fruits as a trade-off for his service. Three generations have passed. The caretaker lived in a small home that was on the side of the land, but that was torn down by Israeli soldiers sometime in the 1970s. They sealed the water well that was nearby, too. (It wasn't a great gesture of wanting to work together, by the way. But, I guess, stuff happens.) The land has more than 100 olive trees and Zarzour berries. I've been to it several times in the past few years, as my cousins have passed away, leaving the land's ownership in the hands of one last cousin, who placed the power of attorney in my hands.

For five years I have tried my best to gain control of my family's land. I have all of the original papers and even the sales document stamped by the Ottoman government, and registered in Bethlehem, where my mother's family is from.

And for five years, all I have been given is the runaround. "We don't 'steal' anyone's land," I have been told by countless Israeli officials who defend the expansion of settlements like Gilo, which was once a security settlement and is a prestigious and "old" neighborhood these days.

PALESTINIANS HAVE not been that helpful, either. They keep threatening me that I "must not sell the land to the Jews." And everyone wants a piece of it to help me protect it.

I brought it to an Israeli realtor to put it on the market to see what I can get from Palestinians or Israelis. They found one potential buyer, "Yossi," who offered a paltry $600,000 through a prominent law firm on King George Avenue.

But Yossi never followed through. The deal was never consummated. I don't trust too many people anymore. I ignore the threats from Palestinians and the hypocritical advice I get from other Arabs who tell me, "Don't do anything. We'll get it all back one day."

The biggest problem, though, is the Israelis, Every trip to an Israeli office has ended in a bad experience. Why should they help me when maybe, if they wait long enough, they can just take it from me. Who am I to complain?

But that would contradict the spirit of what Minister Silvan Shalom wrote about in his glowing column on how much Israel's government wants to help Palestinians through cooperative development.

Okay, Minister Shalom. Here's my deal: You develop the land for me. I want to create a peace oasis where Palestinians and Israelis can come together to learn about cooperation. Maybe they can build a business there run by both sides. Maybe we can build a theater there where Israelis and Palestinians can creatively work out their conflicting narratives through writing, comedy, stage plays and sometimes just sharing a cup of coffee.

Yea, that's it. Maybe we build a big coffee shop that caters to both sides so that Palestinians and Israelis can come together. Or, maybe it's all just a bunch of baloney – kosher or halal, who cares.


And it's all just talk. I'd like to believe there are some good Israelis out there who really do care about "Palestinian development," and maybe even do the right thing.


Imagine, Palestinians and Israelis sharing a table in a disputed region not too far from Jerusalem to the north. Sharing a finjan kahwah and even having their futures read from the grinds at the bottom of the porcelain cup.

My mother, bless her heart, read my fortune once when I was young. And she said to me, "One day, you'll be at the forefront of peace." I'm here. Just sometimes, it feels a little lonely.

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








US proposal of a Mideast nuclear weapon ban could mean pressure on Israel to disarm.

On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Washington and Cairo were negotiating a proposal to turn the Middle East into "a region free of nuclear weapons." Considering the fact that Israel is, reportedly, the only country in the Middle East with a nuclear capability, this would mean that the US had agreed to discuss with Egypt putting pressure on Israel to disarm itself of nuclear warheads.

US officials quoted in the report said Israel had been assured that the "nuclear-free zone" would not be foisted upon the region until all parties agreed to it, but added that the move to enter negotiations with Egypt would help defuse criticism of America's "unfair" policy of ignoring Israel's purported nuclear arsenal while singling out for censure countries such as Syria or Iran.

On Monday, at the UN's Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed the wider ambition: "We want to reaffirm our commitment to the objective of a Middle East free of these weapons of mass destruction, and we are prepared to support practical measures that will move us toward achieving that objective."

Washington's reported willingness to meet with Egyptian representatives over the matter of a nuclear free Israel would seem to be an extension of President Barak Obama's engagement policy with the world's 1.3 billion Muslims.

Underpinning this strategy is a belief that dialogue and outreach can often accomplish more than sanctions or military actions. Ratcheting down the war of words and fostering conciliation worked for president Richard Nixon in 1972 with Beijing, runs the apparent thinking, and it must be pursued now with Teheran's mullahs.

This policy also evidently incorporates a tougher line on Israel, perhaps as part of an attempt to improve relations with Muslim nations by showing that America is willing to play hardball with the Jewish nation.

As John Bolton, US ambassador to the UN under the second Bush administration, pointed out Tuesday morning on Army Radio, Obama's willingness to so much as entertain the notion of pressuring Israel to abandon its nuclear capability marks a radical change in US foreign policy.

"In the Bush administration we refused to even talk about these things," said Bolton, adding that the fact that Washington had agreed to negotiate with Egypt played into the hands of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. After all, there is nothing that Iran's leader would like more than to shift the focus not merely of the current review conference in New York, but of the entire international climate, from Iran's nuclear program to Israel's.

The dangerous impression being created is of a nuclear-capable Israel being equated with a nuclear-capable Iran – an approach that fails to make the distinction between Israel, the Middle East's only democracy, and Iran, a despotic regime run by rapacious Shi'ite fanatics that openly persecutes homosexuals, promotes misogyny, brutally puts down political protest and shammed its last elections.

Not many fair-minded people, including in this region, have lost sleep over the fact that responsible Israel reportedly has nuclear warheads. Much of this region is profoundly panicked by the specter of a nuclear Iran.

Preventing this is the single most important challenge that faces the Obama administration. If we take Ahmadinejad's statements at face value, and there is no reason why we should not, he wants to "wipe Israel off the map," and to focus, too, on the "big Satan" America.


Among other immediate and dire repercussions for Israel, fear of an Iranian nuclear attack could effectively paralyze the IDF in the face of Iran's Hamas and Hizbullah proxies. Were Iran's nuclear program to reach fruition, it would also quickly exercise its benighted influence throughout this region, notably on the Gulf states, including imposing control over the Straits of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil shipments pass.

IT SHOULD be crystal clear that, instead of allowing Egypt to sidetrack it with talk of disarming Israel, the US should focus on galvanizing the international community to stop Iran.

Glibly calling for a "nuclear free Middle East" blurs the moral distinctions between the hegemonic designs of that messianic, apocalyptic regime and the essential deterrent and defensive needs of our small, embattled democracy. The Obama administration should be commended for attempting to reach out to the Muslim world, but it should not be blinded to its own and its allies' interests when the response, as with Iran, is ruthless and uncompromising. And it must stop at nothing to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.








The Ministerial Committee for Legislation did the right thing on Sunday when it rejected the 'loyalty law' bill proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu.


The Ministerial Committee for Legislation did the right thing on Sunday when it rejected the "loyalty law" bill proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu. The bill would rescind the voting rights of anyone convicted of terror activity, the murder of innocent people or attempting to harm the democratic foundations of the state. The committee was wise enough to understand that this was an antidemocratic bill that could have opened the door to stripping citizens of the right to vote.


But as the bill of the right-wing, nationalistic Yisrael Beiteinu party was apparently being removed from the agenda, an even more antidemocratic and dangerous bill was introduced in the Knesset. This bill would outlaw any Israeli nonprofit associations or other organizations that give information to foreign authorities and work toward prosecuting Israeli politicians or military officers for war crimes. And who are among the sponsors of this bill, which smells strongly of McCarthyism? MKs Ronit Tirosh and Otniel Schneller of Kadima, who joined forces with two MKs from the extreme right. In doing so, Tirosh and Schneller have painted their party with right-wing, nationalist hues. Above all, their draft law is proof that Kadima has lost its way and is suffering from ideological anarchy.


Kadima was founded as a centrist party. It received most of its public support from former Likud, Labor and Meretz voters. Now Tirosh and Schneller have proved that in every regard it is a right-wing, perhaps even extreme right-wing, party. Its chairwoman, Tzipi Livni, cannot say that her hands are clean; she is responsible for the anarchy that has spread to Kadima's Knesset members. It is inconceivable that such dangerous and extreme bills could be proposed from within the ranks of the supposedly centrist party that she leads without the party, and its leader, noticing.


The persecution of nonprofit organizations that are fulfilling their roles as social critics − a vital part of the democratic fabric of any government − typifies the extreme right, not Kadima. The outlawing of such organizations poses a greater danger to democracy than to the organizations.


A state that outlaws groups that dare to criticize it cannot be considered a democracy. A party whose elected representatives introduce such proposals is not centrist, and the head of a centrist party who allows them to do so is not a leader.









The call by 3,000 European Jewish intellectuals to stop the automatic support of Israeli policy is of general importance, and of particular importance is the participation of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain Finkielkraut. At long last the penny has also dropped for them; they have defended Israel in every forum and every situation for far too long. It seems they understand that the lover's wounds they must inflict upon us are in fact a moral imperative, in light of the danger our poor leadership is liable to cause the Jewish state.

Nonetheless, Cohn-Bendit, Levy and Finkielkraut must not content themselves with only an elegant petition calling on Israel to renew the building moratorium in East Jerusalem. As philosophers who hold a worldview based on justice, humanism and human rights, and as individuals very familiar with the history of Europe − their birthplace sodden with the blood of millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and opponents of totalitarian regimes of all stripes − a far weightier mission is incumbent upon them.


This is a painful mission, but an essential one. They must listen attentively to the voices that get heard in Israel, call them by their right names and sound the alarm against them. Take, for example, the deluge of racist bills that pass themselves off as "loyalty laws," or the petition to declare Haaretz a terrorist organization, along with the cartoon on the B'Sheva Web site of a skullcap-wearing soldier with a knife labeled "Haaretz" stuck in his back. Then there was the violent ejection of MK Ahmed Tibi from the Knesset podium ‏(the ejector, Likud MK Carmel Shama, explained on Channel 1 that he is fed up with the Arab MKs, who transmit secrets to the enemy‏), and the Nakba Law that has passed its first reading. These are just a few of the disturbing political developments.

But fascism is not a political movement, it is a prevailing mood. And the current prevailing mood is fed by a mixture of scare tactics regarding outside dangers, and wild incitement against ghosts within − labor migrants, Arabs, "leftists" and others. The fascist lexicon is seeping into every level of the public and is receiving legitimization in every arena.


Let's look at the status of foreign workers, for example. This week the government of Israel handed out thousands of permits to employ foreign workers in agriculture, but continued to run annoying public service announcements blaming illegal foreign workers for unemployment. As if they were the sole parties responsible for Israelis' anxieties about earning a living.


The student, the demobilized soldier and the building contractor in the ads, all three of them attractive and polite, are selling a crude lie on behalf of the government. Aside from the richest segment of the population, it is hard to find parents who wouldn't prefer a devoted Israeli nanny for their baby, the contractors in Israel are hardly unemployed, and there are not masses of soldiers seeking work as dishwashers.

The real victims of the revolving door manufactured by the government for foreign workers are the poor, the uneducated and the Arabs − especially Arab women − who are not even talked about. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman can rest easy. His work is being done of its own accord.


The Hebrew language is also being polluted with dizzying rapidity. Zionism has been appropriated by an extremist group that excludes anyone who expresses criticism from the left; Judaism is being divvied up between the people of Mea She'arim and the Zionist ultra-Orthodox, who are prepared to spit in the face of every Arab-lover; patriotism has been purloined by Yisrael Beiteinu; and morality is in the hands of MK Yaakov Katz ‏(National Union‏) and his buddies, who accuse homosexuals of "bestiality."


It is hard to imagine that the European trio, who visit Israel frequently, do not understand what is happening here. Nevertheless, they are forgiving of their Israeli colleagues. Indeed, apart from Prof. Zeev Sternhell − one of the world's leading experts on fascism, who insists on risking his life − no one in Israeli academia has dared to cry out, coalesce or even organize a petition.


This silence, like the Labor Party's rubber stamp in the government and the enthusiastic plunge by Kadima MKs into the murky wave of legislation, is enabling this wild behavior to gather strength. It is good you have founded an organization, dear intellectuals from France. Now please call upon your colleagues in Israel, and together sound the warning of the approaching ill wind.









Tomorrow's parliamentary elections forebode a shock to the two-party system of government that has become a fixture in Britain for the last 90 years. Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, skillfully took advantage of the first televised debate to position his party as the sensation of this campaign season. Yet Clegg is not just a charismatic politician. He has an agenda: electoral reform. Namely, he wants the United Kingdom to change to a system of proportional representation.


Clegg and his party colleagues claim that the current "first-past-the-post" system, in which the United Kingdom is divided into geographic constituencies and the winning candidate in each constituency is elected to parliament, distorts the will of the voters and perpetuates the ruling duopoly of the Labour and Conservative parties. Under the British system, the votes given to losing candidates are wasted. Under the proportional system, the Liberal Democrats would comprise the largest bloc of seats in parliament. Many voters also stay home on polling day since they assume that their party has no chance of winning in their constituency.


Clegg is likely to emerge from these elections as the kingmaker. It is he who will most likely determine the identity of the next prime minister. Clegg is conditioning his entry into a future coalition on the enactment of political reforms. Labour has somewhat indicated its approval of Clegg's demand, while the Conservatives oppose. If the Liberal Democrats gain seats in the elections, the electoral system will be a fundamental topic of discussion in Britain.


Here is one reason to lift our heads in pride: The British want to adopt the Israeli system, which is also practiced in most European countries. While in Israel the electoral system is assailed as one that "hinders stability," with critics here demanding that it be changed, there, in the mother of all democracies, people understand that only proportional representation guarantees a fair representation of the public's will. This despite the fact that it complicates efforts to muster a parliamentary majority, requires compromises and confers excessive power to small parties.


The Israeli electoral system was devised almost by improvisation. It is a continuation of the tradition of Zionist democracy, which dates back to the period of the Zionist Congresses and the pre-state Yishuv. The election committee that was created by the provisional state authorities could not agree on a desired system. Thus, in October 1948, given the specter of war and the mass-enlistment of citizens into the army, "this theoretical argument is unimportant. If we want to hold snap elections today, we have no other suggestion other than to choose a proportional-national poll. Any other method of rule demands much more complex preparations."


The first prominent figure to despair of the method was Israel's founder, David Ben-Gurion, a statesman who was forced to compromise with the religious parties on two vital issues: abandoning plans for a constitution and the creation of separate education systems. From the 1950s, Ben-Gurion spoke in favor of adopting the British method so as to guarantee a parliamentary majority for one party. Even he failed to introduce this method here, and we are all better off for it.


In a tribal society like Israel's, partial or full-fledged regional elections − as suggested by those who champion change in the electoral system − are a recipe for exacerbating social tensions. In the regional system, like that of Britain and the United States, the stronger parties determine the district lines and push aside the weak and minority constituencies.


One could imagine how this would be applied in Israel: Arab population centers in the triangle region, Wadi Ara, the Negev and the Galilee will be annexed to neighboring Jewish towns as a ploy designed to keep Arab parties out of the Knesset. In ethnically mixed cities, Arab votes will be thrown into the garbage anyway. The loyalty oath proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu will seem like a warm hug compared to the political shattering of the Arab voting bloc that would surely result from district gerrymandering. And what will become of the Haredim? Will Bnei Brak constitute one separate district, or will it be split between Ramat Gan, Givatayim and Tel Aviv?


The proportional system did not undermine political stability during the reign of Mapai, a party that ruled in an oligarchic manner for an extended period until it stagnated. Even today, the problem is not the electoral system, but the electoral product. The public has had its fill of the larger parties. From 95 Knesset seats in the 1981 election, they garner just 55 seats today. Whoever wants political stability needs to form attractive parties rather than smash the democratic system.


Clegg is running on a platform of a just idea, but he should learn a lesson from Israel: The kingmaker can crown the next ruler and receive government ministries for his party, but he cannot change the fundamental aspects of the system. The Dash party handed the premiership to Menachem Begin and Yisrael Beiteinu did the same with Benjamin Netanyahu, yet both parties' demands for election reforms have been shelved. One can surmise that the same fate awaits the Liberal Democrats after the elections in Britain.









Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unjustifiably draws fire for policies that move ahead without his involvement. The Jewish intellectuals, who suddenly saw the darkness and were terrified, should know: Even if not one more Jewish home is built in the occupied territories ‏(including East Jerusalem‏), the enormous apparatus of domination continues to operate there with an inner logic of many years' duration. It moves along by itself, like some huge aircraft without a pilot.


Prime ministers come and go, negotiations stop and start, new coalitions form, and this apparatus has a life of its own. It preserves and develops the privileges of the Jews in Greater Israel. It sets the boundaries of the Indian reservations. When it wants, it links them; when it doesn't, it cuts them off. Its will is done: unemployment of 52 percent or 19 percent, population density of villages and cities, diameter of water pipes, the number of days that one must wait before receiving lifesaving medical treatment. If the natives want to, they can go on living in the reservations; if they don't − let them leave.


Take, for example, the demolition order that was posted on April 26 on a structure in the community of Umm al-Kheir in the South Hebron Hills. The standardardized form was signed by the inspection subcommittee of the Civil Administration's higher planning council. The order informs us that it was posted by one "Carlo" in the presence of the "Operations Officer of the Hebron D.C.O.". We can guess that they were accompanied by soldiers. We know that sharp-eyed inspectors have located the offending structure.

The head of the Civil Administration, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, probably doesn't know that the assembly line he is in charge of produced this order for the demolition of "a concrete toilet structure of about 3 square meters." Netanyahu certainly has no idea at all. But the order encompasses an ancient Israeli philosophy that prohibits Palestinians from building toilets, digging reservoirs to collect rainwater or connecting to the electricity grid in more than half of the occupied territory.


The soldiers have internalized the philosophy, and they take it home with them, to Israel. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the prohibition against hooking up to electricity sabotages Palestinian children's ability to learn. Neither the cessation of construction in the settlements nor the proximity talks, starting today, will prevent this act of sabotage against children's education that the Israeli apparatus carries out as a matter of course.
Actually, not an apparatus, but a gigantic factory. Not one assembly line but many.


Behind one such assembly line are the planners. They are architectural geniuses, graduates of the best schools in Israel, who invented mazes like the dual, separate road networks for Palestinians and Israelis ‏(particularly Jews‏), or the separation fence/wall that excels at disconnecting crowded neighborhoods from their lands, their past and their future.


The fence is ugly and horrific, more so than the Holyland project. The mazes of separation create resistance to them. And then the apparatus puts another assembly line to work: the military court system.


Graduates of Israeli law schools, in the reserves or the career army, are conscripted in order to make it clear to the natives that resistance is painful; they send them to prison and levy heavy fines. Then, they export the philosophy of oppression to civil courts and college classrooms in Tel Aviv.


Behind the assembly lines are representatives of the entire people of Zion, hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers. Each of them has a personal interest in the continuation of the apparatus, even if that interest is wrapped in national or security cellophane. Netanyahu is not the only one responsible. He alone cannot stop the huge pilotless plane. There are a great many people in Israel who should be forced to erase the programs of the apparatus of domination and destruction, before it turns on its creators, its operators and those who profit from it. All of us.








The Mishor Adumim industrial zone in the West Bank is home to a cosmetics plant that sells 70 percent of its products to Palestinians. Recently, however, there has been a slight turnaround in relations between the factory and its customers. The Palestinian Authority ruled − in a presidential order, not the small-scale campaign of a few − to stop buying Israeli products manufactured east of the Green Line.


How is such an order enforced? Simple. The life of the factory sales manager is threatened, and he is then given an offer he can't refuse: sell the factory at a ludicrous price, and we'll transfer it to PA control, because we won't be buying your products in any case.


Those who silently stood by as Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad burned Israeli goods made in the West Bank simply accepted the presidential decree. Moreover, the PA recently established a "National Honor Fund" to finance its boycott activities, to which it injects $150,000 a month. Whence the money? International donations meant to support political institutions.


Israel remained silent last month when the so-called "committee against distributing settlement goods" confiscated and destroyed 7.5 tons of watermelons grown in West Bank fields. Israel stays mum when the Arabs work to impose an economic embargo on settlement products, and when the PA imposes the same on Israeli mobile phone companies, which are not centered in the West Bank. It is indeed remarkable that the cellular boycott has been put in place exactly when the son of a high-ranking PA official is launching a company that will distribute the same services.


Amid the presidential order on settlement-made goods, Palestinians have been forbidden to work in the factories producing these goods or in construction in settlements. For now, the order applies only to new workers, but veteran employees have been offered one month's pay from the PA as an incentive to quit.


In the wake of the accursed Oslo Accords, the 1994 Paris Protocol was signed, establishing interim economic ties between Israel and the PA. The boycott against settlement merchandise is a clear violation of this agreement, by which both sides pledged not to undermine the other's economy.


The same agreement also determined customs and tax issues between Israel and the Palestinians. When a Palestinian individual or company imports merchandise from abroad, Israel collects customs taxes and transfers them to PA coffers. In total, more than $1 billion is collected annually. Reason dictates that in the case of such a flagrant violation of the Paris Protocol by the Palestinians, we should collect the money lost by Israeli companies due to the boycott by recouping it from customs money we transferred to the Palestinians. Such a move requires no law, only a modicum of national honor − and it's a step that could bring the economic embargo to an immediate end. At a recent meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee, Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh − hardly viewed as a staunch rightist − proposed another solution: barring the export of Palestinian goods from Israeli ports.


With Israeli manufacturers facing closure in the face of a Palestinian presidential order, I would expect to hear an outcry from lawmakers from every hue of the political spectrum. The Palestinians' blatant violation of the Paris Protocol is an affront, but silence in the face of it is a crime.




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




Finally, the truth can be told. The United States has officially announced that it has 5,113 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, plus "several thousand" more waiting to be dismantled. The totals are so close to the unofficial estimates that have been publicly circulating for years, you might wonder what all the excitement is about.


American intelligence officials long argued that disclosing the numbers would help terrorists calculate the minimum fuel needed for a weapon. If that was ever true, it is certainly out of date. Reputable Web sites already reveal that American weapons designers need around 4 kilograms of plutonium, or about 8.8 pounds.


The fact that these nonsecrets were jealously guarded for so long shows the stubborn cold war mind-set of the nuclear, defense and intelligence bureaucracies. President Obama should be commended for breaking with this anachronism. It will help bolster American credibility as he presses to curb the further spread of nuclear weapons.


The numbers show how far the United States has come in shrinking a nuclear arsenal that reached a peak of 31,255 weapons in 1967. The 5,113 means a reduction of 84 percent, but still far more than is needed to deter any threat. The United States and Russia (which is estimated to have thousands more weapons in reserve than the United States) need to make even deeper cuts. But after years of inaction under President George W. Bush, who disdained arms treaties, the trend is better.


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran was still at his blustering best this week. Despite the fact that his country hid its nuclear efforts for years and was recently caught hiding another banned enrichment plant, he told an audience at the United Nations that Washington is the "main suspect" fostering a nuclear arms race. Mr. Obama's decision to disclose, and the numbers, took some of the wind out of that.






The Food and Drug Administration relies on 49 expert committees to advise it on policy matters and on whether particular drugs or other medical products are safe and effective. The agency has made substantial progress in reducing conflicts of interest among members, and it is now pledging to search "far and wide" for neutral experts and to make more information public about any waivers it grants.


That is all good news, provided the agency remains appropriately stingy in granting waivers as it struggles to fill a huge number of vacancies on those committees — roughly a third of more than 600 slots are open.


For many years now, critics have complained that the votes of some committee members could be swayed by financial conflicts — such as owning stock in or consulting for a company whose product is under consideration, or for one of its competitors. Although laws and regulations are supposed to screen out scientists with financial conflicts, the F.D.A. routinely granted waivers to allow participation by specialists whose hard-to-find expertise was deemed essential.


Prodded by a 2007 law, the F.D.A. has greatly reduced the number of waivers and gone even further than the law requires. It had been granting waivers to more than 15 percent of the members participating in meetings but is currently granting waivers to less than 5 percent. That is a major accomplishment toward cleaner decision-making.


In a letter to the F.D.A.'s staff last month, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the food and drug commissioner, told them to search broadly to find experts without any potential conflicts and to justify any proposed waivers by describing how hard they had looked for neutral specialists with equal expertise. Some consumer advocates still worry that staff members will find excuses for waivers. We hope that that will not be the case.


Under a draft guidance document issued the same day as the letter, the agency plans to release crucial information that it previously withheld. Whenever a waiver is granted to a scientist, the agency will name the company or institution with which the scientist has financial interests, along with the rough amount of that interest. We would prefer no conflicts at all. But more disclosure is better.






Gov. David Paterson of New York made a brave — and startling — move on Monday to create a board to consider pardons for immigrant New Yorkers who are on a fast-track to deportation because of old or minor criminal convictions. He said he wanted to inject fairness into an "embarrassingly and wrongly inflexible" system that expels immigrants without discretion, without considering the circumstances of a person's life or family, or even holding hearings to consider the possibility that deportation might be unwise or unjust.


Mr. Paterson's decision is a response to the government's aggressive enforcement of immigration laws that have greatly broadened the definition of "aggravated felonies" for which noncitizens are subject to mandatory deportation.


The category used to apply just to serious crimes like murder and drug trafficking, but it has come to include a vast array of nonviolent, even trivial misdemeanors. Under the law, minor drug offenses or even shoplifting can count as "aggravated felonies," and this stringent view can be applied retroactively. Immigrants can be deported for decades-old convictions of crimes that were not "aggravated felonies" back then.


The harsh laws have been coupled with harsh enforcement; the Obama administration has arrested and deported tens of thousands of legal immigrants with a zeal that has gone to extremes.


In one case, now before the United States Supreme Court, the government maintains that a Texas man's two misdemeanor convictions — one for less than two ounces of marijuana and one for a single Xanax pill without a prescription — make him a "drug trafficker" subject to mandatory deportation with no right to a hearing in which a judge could consider the absurdity of the case.


Mr. Paterson has shown courage and common sense at a time when the national debate about immigration shows little of either. His move was unconnected to the radicalism in Arizona, which just passed a law making criminals of every undocumented person within its borders, and greatly empowering the police to arrest people they suspect are here illegally.


But it inevitably calls to mind the bad example of Arizona. "In New York, we believe in rehabilitation," Mr. Paterson said, adding that his five-member board would consider pardons judiciously, distinguishing minor offenders from dangerous criminals. His action repudiates the growing belief that only tougher and more rigid enforcement should be applied to all immigrants who run afoul of the law, with expulsion as the first and last goal.


This is not how the United States, in its best moments, deals with newcomers. We're grateful for the reminder from the governor of New York.






The procedural vote in the Senate last week on financial reform did more than end a Republican filibuster. It set up the real test of the Democrats' resolve to enact the kind of change that the nation's financial system so badly needs.


Achieving that requires passing amendments to strengthen the bill's weak areas and defeating efforts to weaken its strong parts. Senate leaders may try to bridge partisan divides by hampering or blocking amendments on divisive issues. That would enable reluctant reformers from both parties to avoid politically difficult votes and appease the banking lobby, but it would not serve the public interest.


By the time this bill passes, the public needs to know who stands where on the most important reform issues, starting with these two:


TOO BIG TO FAIL Senators said Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on how to pay for seizing and dismantling big banks whose imminent failure could destabilize the system, but that doesn't confront the more difficult issue of how to cut big banks down to a less threatening size. The Senate bill calls on regulators to impose higher capital requirements on riskier institutions. The aim is to make size and complexity so expensive that banks opt to restrict their size, but the new rules are unlikely to be enough.


The Senate bill also imposes needless delays on the enactment of the so-called Volcker rule, which would bar banks from making risky market trades for their own accounts and from owning hedge funds and private equity funds. Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, both Democrats, have an amendment to enact the Volcker rule without undue delays or tinkering.


Even that may not be enough. Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Ted Kaufman of Delaware propose size caps on banks that include limiting nondeposit liabilities to no more than 2 percent of gross domestic product. That would provide a necessary backstop against bailouts and decrease the political power of banks.


DERIVATIVES The central reform of the multitrillion-dollar derivatives market would move most derivative trades, currently executed as private contracts, onto fully regulated exchanges. Banks have fought the change because it would impair their profits — and they have succeeded in carving out many exemptions. More proposed exemptions are expected, like for pension funds that use derivatives. The Senate needs to pare back the exemptions in the existing bill, not add more.


The Senate also should adopt an amendment by Maria Cantwell, a Democrat of Washington, that would make it easier for regulators to crack down on market manipulation in derivatives.


One of the most divisive issues in the Senate bill is a provision that could force big banks to spin off their lucrative derivative dealings. The provision was added to the bill late in the game, without hearings. Opponents fear that it would push derivatives deals into hedge funds or other entities that would be harder to regulate. Supporters say that the bill would adequately regulate derivative dealers wherever they are.


The Senate debate, and hearings that can be scheduled before the House and Senate produce final legislation,

can help settle the issue. One thing is already sure: Unless senators close loopholes in derivatives rules and give regulators more powers to police the markets, they should not even think about removing the provision.


There are other big fights in store — on consumer and investor protection, regulation of hedge funds, support for regulatory agencies and reform of credit rating agencies. Each of them will test how serious the Senate, particularly the Democrats, are about this reform effort.










There is only one meaningful response to the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and that is for America to stop messing around when it comes to designing its energy and environmental future. The only meaningful response to this man-made disaster is a man-made energy bill that would finally put in place an American clean-energy infrastructure that would set our country on a real, long-term path to ending our addiction to oil.


That is so obviously the right thing for our environment, the right thing for our national security, the right thing for our economic security and the right thing to promote innovation. But it means that we have to stop messing around with idiotic "drill, baby, drill" nostrums, feel-good Earth Day concerts and the paralyzing notion that the American people are not prepared to do anything serious to change our energy mix.


This oil spill is to the environment what the subprime mortgage mess was to the markets — both a wake-up call and an opportunity to galvanize a constituency for radical change that overcomes the powerful lobbies and vested interests that want to keep us addicted to oil.


If President Obama wants to seize this moment, it is there for the taking. We have one of the worst environmental disasters in American history on our hands. We have a public deeply troubled by what they've seen already — and they've probably seen only the first reel of this gulf horror show. And we have a bipartisan climate/energy/jobs bill ready to be introduced in the Senate — produced by Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham — that would set a price on carbon and begin to shift us to a system of cleaner fuels, greater energy efficiency and unlock an avalanche of private capital to the clean energy market.


American industry is ready to act and is basically saying to Washington: "Every major country in the world, starting with China, is putting in clear, long-term market rules to stimulate clean energy — except America. Just give us some clear rules, and we'll do the rest."


The Kerry-Lieberman-Graham bill is an important step in that direction. It is far from perfect. It includes support for more off-shore drilling, nuclear power and concessions to coal companies. In light of the spill, we need to make this bill better. At a minimum, we need much tighter safeguards on off-shore drilling. There is going to be a lot of pressure to go even further, but we need to remember that even if we halted all off-shore drilling, all we would be doing is moving the production to other areas outside the U.S., probably with even weaker environmental laws.


Somehow a compromise has to be found to move forward on this bill — or one like it. But even before the gulf oil spill, this bill was in limbo because the White House and Senate Democrats broke a promise to Senator Graham, the lone Republican supporting this effort, not to introduce a controversial immigration bill before energy. At the same time, President Obama has kept his support low-key, fearing that if he loudly endorses a price on carbon, Republicans will be screaming "carbon tax" and "gasoline tax" in the 2010 midterm elections.


Bottom line: This bill has no chance to pass unless President Obama gets behind it with all his power, mobilizes the public and rounds up the votes. He has to lead from the front, not the rear. Responding to this oil spill could well become the most important leadership test of the Obama presidency. The president has always had the right instincts on energy, but he is going to have to decide just how much he wants to rise to this occasion — whether to generate just an emergency response that over months ends the spill or a systemic response that over time ends our addiction. Needless to say, it would be a lot easier for the president to lead if more than one Republican in the Senate was ready to lift a finger to help him.


Our dependence on crude oil is not just a national-security or climate problem. Some 40 percent of America's fish catch comes out of the gulf, whose states also depend heavily on coastal tourism. In addition, the Chandeleur Islands off the Louisiana coast are part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. It was created by Teddy Roosevelt and is one of our richest cornucopias of biodiversity.


As the energy consultant David Rothkopf likes to say, sometimes a problem reaches a point of acuity where there are just two choices left: bold action or permanent crisis. This is such a moment for our energy system and environment.


If we settle for just an incremental response to this crisis — a "Hey, that's our democracy. What more can you expect?" — we'll be sorry. You can't fool Mother Nature. She knows when we're just messing around. Mother Nature operates by her own iron laws. And if we violate them, there is no lobby or big donor to get us off the hook. No, what's gone will be gone. What's ruined will be ruined. What's extinct will be extinct — and later, when we're finally ready to stop messing around, it will be too late.


Maureen Dowd is off today.








Burkittsville, Md.

THE latest evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the oldest and most extensive system of vouchers and charter schools in America, came out last month, and most advocates of school choice were disheartened by the results.


The evaluation by the School Choice Demonstration Project, a national research group that matched more than 3,000 students from the choice program and from regular public schools, found that pupils in the choice program generally had "achievement growth rates that are comparable" to similar Milwaukee public-school students. This is just one of several evaluations of school choice programs that have failed to show major improvements in test scores, but the size and age of the Milwaukee program, combined with the rigor of the study, make these results hard to explain away.


So let's not try to explain them away. Why not instead finally acknowledge that standardized test scores are a terrible way to decide whether one school is better than another? This is true whether the reform in question is vouchers, charter schools, increased school accountability, smaller class sizes, better pay for all teachers, bonuses for good teachers, firing of bad teachers — measured by changes in test scores, each has failed to live up to its hype.


It should come as no surprise. We've known since the landmark Coleman Report of 1966, which was based on a study of more than 570,000 American students, that the measurable differences in schools explain little about differences in test scores. The reason for the perpetual disappointment is simple: Schools control only a small part of what goes into test scores.


Cognitive ability, personality and motivation come mostly from home. What happens in the classroom can have some effect, but smart and motivated children will tend to learn to read and do math even with poor instruction, while not-so-smart or unmotivated children will often have trouble with those subjects despite excellent instruction. If test scores in reading and math are the measure, a good school just doesn't have that much room to prove it is better than a lesser school.


As an advocate of school choice, all I can say is thank heavens for the Milwaukee results. Here's why: If my fellow supporters of charter schools and vouchers can finally be pushed off their obsession with test scores, maybe we can focus on the real reason that school choice is a good idea. Schools differ in what they teach and how they teach it, and parents care deeply about both, regardless of whether test scores rise.


Here's an illustration. The day after the Milwaukee results were released, I learned that parents in the Maryland county where I live are trying to start a charter school that will offer a highly traditional curriculum long on history, science, foreign languages, classic literature, mathematics and English composition, taught with structure and discipline. This would give parents a choice radically different from the progressive curriculum used in the county's other public schools.


I suppose that test scores might prove that such a charter school is "better" than ordinary public schools, if the test were filled with questions about things like gerunds and subjunctive clauses, the three most important events of 1776, and what Occam's razor means. But those subjects aren't covered by standardized reading and math tests. For this reason, I fully expect that students at such a charter school would do little better on Maryland's standardized tests than comparably smart students in the ordinary public schools.

And yet, knowing that, I would still send my own children to that charter school in a heartbeat. They would be taught the content that I think they need to learn, in a manner that I consider appropriate.


This personal calculation is familiar to just about every parent reading these words. Our children's education is extremely important to us, and the greater good doesn't much enter into it — hence all the politicians who oppose vouchers but send their own children to private schools. The supporters of school choice need to make their case on the basis of that shared parental calculation, not on the red herring of test scores.


There are millions of parents out there who don't have enough money for private school but who have thought just as sensibly and care just as much about their children's education as affluent people do. Let's use the money we are already spending on education in a way that gives those parents the same kind of choice that wealthy people, liberal and conservative alike, exercise right now. That should be the beginning and the end of the argument for school choice.


Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality."








THE first big flood I remember was in 1974, when my family was living in Ashland City, a half-hour down the Cumberland River from Nashville. My mother was the only one home; my sister and I were in school and my stepfather was at work.


We lived in a hollow down a long road, and by early afternoon it had begun to fill with water. By the time my mother, who doesn't know how to swim, realized how high the water was, it was much too deep to make it out in the car. So she loaded a plastic sailboat with luggage, dragged it down the road in the rain, and then walked into water up to her chest until she reached the considerably higher (and aptly named) River Road, where she and her bags were picked up.


When the rain that has caused Nashville's worst flooding in 75 years stopped on Sunday night, I got to wondering: Why do people wait and watch the water rise? Why do they keep their luggage in the boat and themselves in water the color of milky coffee that is no doubt full of snakes?


There are things about human nature we'll never understand, but part of it can be explained by the fact that a flood is, in the beginning, only rain, neither as sudden as an earthquake nor as imperative as fire. Rain happens all the time.


I live in Nashville now; I have for a long time. I started watching the rain on Saturday morning. It was coming down so hard it looked white. My husband and I stood at the front door with our very old dog and decided she'd have to wait until things eased up.


But they didn't ease up. We canceled our plans for the day. Finally I put on my flip-flops, shorts and raincoat and took the dog out. I went down the street to walk my mother's dog, then the dog of a friend who lives on a hill around the corner. The water was now up to my ankles, but it was mesmerizing, all that thunder and lightning. I went to see how high the nearby creek was. It was raging like an angry little river.


All night long the tornado sirens wailed, which in the South is a sound you get used to, like cicadas. The next morning when I again went to walk my mother's dog, the water was up to my knees at points and I could barely see through the rain. My husband went off to walk our friend's dog, but he couldn't make it there on foot.


He picked me up in the car and we drove for 15 minutes, looping over higher streets to make it to her house, just a block away. Yesterday's angry creek was now a torrent, leaping over the road and through the houses beside it. It would take just the slightest error in judgment to be swept away — though maybe fording floodwater to carry small dogs to higher ground to relieve themselves could also be called an error in judgment.


Three years ago we bought a small piece of land along the Cumberland, just off River Road on the way to Ashland City, not far from where I had lived as a child. We keep meaning to build a little house there, a single room with a wide porch where we might spend quiet weekends. We go out there some evenings to have a picnic or paddle around in a canoe. We like to visit with our neighbors.


Monday morning my husband called Monty, who lives to the left of our lot. He was on the second floor of his house. He said everything was lost — his cars had washed away and all the houses on the street were ruined. Then the phone went dead. I called him back and told him to come stay with us. "I'm going to my sister's," he said. Then he told me he had to go. "The helicopter's here."


That afternoon, on the street where I live, we stood in the sunshine and reported our damages.


While sump pumps turned driveways into rivers, one woman said the water in her basement was up to her hip. Another had water to her shoulder. I offered up the leak in my chimney that will require ripping out my living room ceiling, but that's small potatoes. A block away a family's furniture was piled on the lawn.


The rain is over; what we're left with is the life that follows weather. We're waiting to hear if the water treatment plant is going to close, and when the public schools are going to reopen.


There is a charming expression in the South — when someone says he'll see you soon, you respond, "God willing and the creeks don't rise." I finally get it.


Ann Patchett is the author, most recently, of "Run."






MOMENTUM is building in Europe for laws forbidding the wearing of garments that cover the face, like the Islamic burqa and niqab, in public. Just last week, the lower house of the Belgian Parliament overwhelmingly passed a ban on face coverings. And next week, the French Assembly will most likely approve a resolution that my party, the Union for a Popular Movement, has introduced condemning such garments as against our republican principles, a step toward a similar ban.


Amnesty International condemned the Belgian law as "an attack on religious freedom," while other critics have asserted that by prohibiting the burqa, France would impinge upon individual liberties and stigmatize Muslims, thereby aiding extremists worldwide.


This criticism is unjust. The debate on the full veil is complicated, and as one of the most prominent advocates in France of a ban on the burqa, I would like to explain why it is both a legitimate measure for public safety and a reaffirmation of our ideals of liberty and fraternity.


First, the freedom to dress the way one wants is not what's at stake here. Our debate is not about a type of attire or the Islamic head scarf that covers the hair and forehead. The latter is obviously allowed in France. The ban would apply to the full-body veil known as the burqa or niqab. This is not an article of clothing — it is a mask, a mask worn at all times, making identification or participation in economic and social life virtually impossible.


This face covering poses a serious safety problem at a time when security cameras play an important role in the protection of public order. An armed robbery recently committed in the Paris suburbs by criminals dressed in burqas provided an unfortunate confirmation of this fact. As a mayor, I cannot guarantee the protection of the residents for whom I am responsible if masked people are allowed to run about.


The visibility of the face in the public sphere has always been a public safety requirement. It was so obvious that until now it did not need to be enshrined in law. But the increase in women wearing the niqab, like that of the ski mask favored by criminals, changes that. We must therefore adjust our law, without waiting for the phenomenon to spread.


The permanent concealment of the face also raises the question of social interactions in our democracies. In the United States, there are very few limits on individual freedom, as exemplified by the guarantees of the First Amendment. In France, too, we are passionately attached to liberty.


But we also reaffirm our citizens' equality and fraternity. These values are the three inseparable components of our national motto. We are therefore constantly striving to achieve a delicate balance. Individual liberty is vital, but individuals, like communities, must accept compromises that are indispensable to living together, in the name of certain principles that are essential to the common good.


Let's take one example: The fact that people are prohibited from strolling down Fifth Avenue in the nude does not constitute an attack on the fundamental rights of nudists. Likewise, wearing headgear that fully covers the face does not constitute a fundamental liberty. To the contrary, it is an insurmountable obstacle to the affirmation of a political community that unites citizens without regard to differences in sex, origin or religious faith. How can you establish a relationship with a person who, by hiding a smile or a glance — those universal signs of our common humanity — refuses to exist in the eyes of others?


Finally, in both France and the United States, we recognize that individual liberties cannot exist without individual responsibilities. This acknowledgment is the basis of all our political rights. We are free as long as we are responsible individuals who can be held accountable for our actions before our peers. But the niqab and burqa represent a refusal to exist as a person in the eyes of others. The person who wears one is no longer identifiable; she is a shadow among others, lacking individuality, avoiding responsibility.


From this standpoint, banning the veil in the street is aimed at no particular religion and stigmatizes no particular community. Indeed, French Muslim leaders have noted that the Koran does not instruct women to cover their faces, while in Tunisia and Turkey, it is forbidden in public buildings; it is even prohibited during the pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims are the first to suffer from the confusions engendered by this practice, which is a blow against the dignity of women.


Through a legal ban, French parliamentarians want to uphold a principle that should apply to all: the visibility of the face in the public sphere, which is essential to our security and is a condition for living together. A few extremists are contesting this obvious fact by using our democratic liberties as an instrument against democracy. We have to tell them no.


Jean-François Copé is the majority leader in the French National Assembly and the mayor of Meaux.









Auto dealers are not Wall Street banks and therefore should not be included in the Wall Street reform legislation. Here's why:


•It would hurt consumers.


•It would punish dealers.


•It would be redundant.


Let me explain.


OUR VIEW; Put brakes on auto dealers' bid for special treatment


We are all justifiably angry at the big banks and investment firms of Wall Street for bringing the economy close to the brink of collapse. Without question, Wall Street reform is needed. But the financial reform legislation that the Senate is considering goes way beyond Wall Street. The Senate bill, as currently written, includes Main Street auto dealers who had nothing to do with the financial meltdown.


And for what? The fundamental auto lending model is financially strong. The 60-day delinquency rate on auto loans never went above 1% during the financial meltdown. And that's been consistent over the past 10 years. Compare that with residential and commercial real estate loans, which spiked to 7% or more and are still problematic.

Adding more regulatory red tape inevitably will increase the cost of auto credit to the consumer and therefore limit access to credit for those who need it most. This alone will hurt the economic recovery.


Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has introduced an amendment that strikes the proper balance.


Keep in mind that any dealer, bank, credit union or finance company that actually underwrites an auto loan will be regulated by the proposed consumer protection agency. And we have no problem with that. But those dealers who simply assist customers to find auto financing should not be subject to double regulation.


We also want to be clear that we do not condone, for one second, any abusive behavior by dealers. There's no place for that kind of behavior in our business. But that's already illegal. Dealer-assisted financing is already effectively regulated — and has been for years — at both the federal and state level.


The House got it right. Its members voted overwhelmingly and in a bipartisan fashion not to include Main Street auto dealers as part of Wall Street reform. The Senate should do the same.


Ed Tonkin, a dealer of new automobiles in Portland, Ore., is chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.








It's a springtime sales event for America's auto dealers. Over the next week or so, they'll toil feverishly to close deals — not with car buyers, but with members of the Senate in an effort get dealerships exempted from consumer protections in the banking reform bill.

Senators should walk away.


Autos are the second largest purchase most consumers make, after their homes. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, Americans pay $20.8 billion a year in excess interest by taking out loans through dealerships instead of going to a bank or credit union. Leasing documents are notoriously opaque. Dealerships also routinely finish at or near the top in complaints to Better Business Bureaus and state consumer protection agencies.


None of this is stopping the dealers from leading a long list of industries looking for special treatment in the financial reform legislation now on the Senate floor. The dealers argue that they aren't part of Wall Street, didn't have much to do with the housing bubble, and therefore shouldn't have to answer to a new consumer lending protection agency that would be created within the Federal Reserve.


Payday lenders are looking for the same exemption, even though they, too, are notorious for squeezing consumers. And a host of corporations that buy derivatives to hedge risk, on anything from rising jet fuel prices to currency fluctuations, are balking at another portion of the financial reform measure. They don't want to pay the extra costs associated with bringing these complex transactions onto open markets.


All of these pleaders have gumption, but the car dealers have the most. This is an industry that draws an unusual amount of its profits from its political connections. Last year, dealerships got Democrats and Republicans to join together — no easy task in today's hyperpartisan atmosphere — to pass the "cash for clunkers" bill that allowed them to unload excess inventory with the help of generous taxpayer subsidies.


That win came on the heels of the Obama administration's decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler, and a mandate from Congress that those two companies submit to arbitration their plans to close excess dealerships.


Now these dealers are looking to shield their lucrative lending business from questions about its fairness. While auto loans were not the prime generator of the recent credit bubble, many were sold and securitized the way subprime mortgages were. That's a recipe for excess.


Congress should consider not only what went wrong the last time but also what could go wrong in the future. Exemptions for powerful industries simply add to the complexity of financial reform and undermine public confidence in the whole process.


A federal watchdog for consumer lending is long overdue. In the past, some state agencies have tried to police the most egregious lending practices only to find federal agencies, such as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, getting in their way.


Given all the efforts of businesses to get people to overpay on interest, a strong federal consumer protection agency would be a good idea even without a global financial crisis. Predatory home lenders, deceptive credit card companies and, yes, coercive car dealers deserve greater scrutiny, regardless of their political clout.








A few nights ago, a rainstorm crept over the Hudson River and lit on the shores of Manhattan. I knew this because I was awakened at 1 a.m. by a strange crack of thunder — not the usual boom-boom kind, but a weirdly sustained rumble, like the muted noise from a building demolition.


I sat up in bed and waited — as I've customarily done since Sept. 11, 2001— for the sound of sirens. If I didn't hear them, I'd know we were just victims of some nasty meteorology. If I did, I'd know we were in trouble. Again.


I had good reason to worry, of course. Earlier in the evening, I watched the news coverage of the abortive car-bombing in Times Square, and my stomach tightened as I witnessed that all too familiar tableau: Bystanders rubbernecking, taxi drivers shaking their heads and beeping their horns, and policemen mounted on strong brown steeds slowly winding their way through the ever-thickening crowds.


But that, I suppose, is life in New York.


For whatever reason Osama bin Laden drew a bright red circle around Lower Manhattan when he first concocted his insidious call for attention, it has changed the complexion of this metropolis forever — for its residents, for its tourists, for the nation as a whole. Low-flying planes routinely get a second glance, the sight of firehouses is a little more melancholy, and kids get an extra hug before they're packed off to school.


That, too, is life in New York. Adaptation is not only the credo of most residents here but a mandate. Just like in our infamous subway caverns, if you stoop to tie your shoe, you'll be trampled.


America's outpost


Indeed, it's no mystery why, eight-and-a-half years ago, the smoldering graveyard of rubble just north of Battery Park was instantly dubbed our national tragedy's Ground Zero. More than just the giant fuse box of our nation's economy — or the punch line of any number of late-night monologue jokes —New York City has always been America's canary in a coal mine, a peculiar, 303-square-mile outpost of concrete and conviction, where its inhabitants have been charged, sometimes reluctantly, to lead the nation's ongoing journey.


Worldwide clothing trends rise from the dingy basements of gray office buildings in Midtown's fashion district. New music is born in tiny brick clubs that line the streets of the East Village. Cutting-edge theater and rich literature spring from the minds of unemployed insomniacs who'd rather head to their keyboards at 3 a.m. than tell a cranky neighbor to turn down his TV.


And now the threat of terrorism — and our nation's fight against it — is simply another part of that routine. In fact, most of the alarms we've had here in recent months — the suicidal student carrying toxic chemicals into a subway tunnel in April; the 747 and F-16 fighter jets that buzzed New York Harbor last spring (to take photographs, it turns out); the checkpoint trespasser at Newark International whose inadvertent shortcut shut down the whole bloomin' airport— raised eyebrows and neck hairs only momentarily before it was back to business as usual.


Even the Times Square scare seems oddly anticlimactic. Whether the culprit turns out to be a full-blown terrorist or just a lone kook with a bad idea is, to many locals, largely incidental. After all, who has time to worry when, not unlike those horses in Times Square or Central Park, New Yorkers are forever strapped with blinders and told to keep moving?


My city, and beyond


I hardly mention this to brag. It wasn't until I married a Midwesterner that I understood the pointlessness of perpetual motion, and the peaceful rewards to be found in a reflective pause. I was 40 years old before I learned to lie in a hammock and read a book. And I had to leave the island to do it.


And yet, having grown up in the suburbs and moved to New York in my 20s, I've seen both worlds and learned to appreciate the soulfulness of each. Not so with my kids, I'm afraid, whose first stroller rides were down cluttered noisy sidewalks, and for whom take-out Chinese is actually a food group. I sometimes feel guilty that I haven't given my daughters a place to grow up where they'd experience the sheer joy of sailing down a grass hill on a bicycle on a fall afternoon, or enjoying a backyard barbecue on a cool summer evening.


But then I remember what they're getting in return. Two nights ago, my 14-year-old, Bridgette, accompanied a friend to Lower Manhattan so they could watch their classmate "walk on stilts outside the Tribeca Film Festival." It is a testament to the unique vibrancy of this city, and the sights and sounds that my kids get to soak up every day, that I didn't even pause to ask Bridgey what the hell she was talking about. I only said, "OK, but be careful."


And so New York will move on, as it always does, from the Times Square bomb attempt. In my house, this was evident by Day 2. When I showed my 11-year-old, Audrey, the front-page photo of the calamity that had taken place just 40 blocks from where she lives, she momentarily grew quiet.


"Was anyone hurt?" she asked?


"No," I said, "thankfully not."


"OK," she said. And then after a pause, "Can we eat Japanese tonight?"


Bruce Kluger, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, is a freelance writer in New York.








Millions of high school and college graduates will hear commencement speeches this month in which they'll be exhorted to greatness and told they have the power to change the world. Unfortunately, some of them will then wander off into a financial jungle — a world they will neither understand nor be equipped to cope with, much less change.


In a few years, they'll be calling radio talk show hosts like Clark Howard and Dave Ramsey, pleading for advice because they're out of work and upside down on a $30,000 car loan, or buried under $75,000 in college loans for a graduate degree that turned out to be useless, or finding out that financing a small business with credit cards is not a viable long-term plan.


FICO and fraps


It will happen because most of our schools — and parents like me — are not teaching young people about the basics of personal finance. They can write essays on the Peloponnesian War, but they don't know the difference between a FICO score and a frappuccino. I realized this recently when our daughter was explaining how personal finance was introduced to her high school class on "senior day." A local banker came and delivered two messages: Avoid overdrafts on your debit cards and start saving now for your funeral "because funerals are very expensive." That was the sum total of our daughter's exposure to financial literacy in the 14 years since she entered pre-K.


Only 13 states make personal finance courses a high school graduation requirement, and only nine require testing on the subject. The excuses vary: Schools can't afford them; they're not important enough; who will teach them? This about a subject that affects every graduate, no matter her career path.


Such courses should be fun and relevant, not boring. I'd give each student $2,000 in play money and reward those who made the smartest investments. I'd have them create budgets for variously modeled families with fixed incomes, and then make daily, weekly and monthly spending decisions. This would immerse them in real-world issues: how to set spending priorities, how to build and protect a good credit score, the joys of saving and the pitfalls of borrowing, renting vs. buying a home, mortgages to avoid, investing wisely for retirement, buying insurance, etc.


Act on lessons


But financial literacy isn't worth much if it's not put into practice. Our Visa bill arrived last week with the new federal requirement that credit card companies reveal the consequences of making only minimum monthly payments. This is Congress paying lip service to financial literacy, and it's an eye-opener. We use the card a lot, but we pay it off each month. The latest bill was several thousand dollars, but well below five figures. So how long do you think it would take to pay off our bill if we made only the minimum payment monthly and never used the card again: My wife guessed eight years; our daughter guessed 10. The answer: 27 years.


But what about Congress, the maker of rules for others to follow? It has a nearly $13 trillion credit card balance, called the national debt. At our expense, Congress elects to pay the minimum — the annual interest — and finance the rapidly growing balance.


How long will it take to pay off $13 trillion? I've no idea, but here's a good bet: When the children and grandchildren of this year's seniors gather to watch their children and grandchildren graduate decades from now, they'll still be paying it off, and $13 trillion will be recalled, if at all, as the bargain of the century.


Don Campbell teaches journalism at Emory University in Atlanta and is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.








If Faisal Shahzad — the naturalized American citizen captured on board a flight to Dubai— is the Times Square terrorist, we have turned a sad page in U.S. history.


Until now, most of the al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists operating on U.S. soil have not been American citizens. Had the bomb gone off, Shahzad (though innocent until proven guilty) could have been mentioned, along with Timothy McVeigh, as among America's most notorious "citizen-terrorists." Some might dismiss Shahzad's credentials as a "newly naturalized American," however he very well may have been radicalized during the years he presumably spent in the U.S. before becoming a citizen.


Now things will be different for American Muslims — or at least naturalized Americans like my father. Although my father has worked on projects to support the Department of Defense for the past decades, no doubt Americans like my dad will be increasingly suspect in terror plots in a way that was not the case after 9/11, where all the terrorists were foreigners.


Understanding 'twisted logic'


Even so, this new and sad chapter in our history presents us with a golden opportunity — in particular, for U.S. law enforcement. Understanding Shahzad could offer a window inside the mind of an American Muslim terrorist, allowing us to develop a nuanced understanding of the twisted logic that drove this suspect to seek to kill hundreds of innocents.


This is also a golden opportunity for Americans and the country's Muslim communities to develop a more complex understanding of what drives American terrorism in general and al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism by an American Muslim in particular.


While robust justice will need to be served, law enforcement should take a long, in-depth look at this man, including not only a lengthy interrogation of him but also discussions with his family, friends and neighbors so that we can understand the warning signs of those about to commit terrorism as well as the long-term influences that inspire such hatred.


American Muslims like myself need to be increasingly vigilant about recognizing the warning signs of actual extremism. I'm reminded of the parents in Northern Virginia who reported such concerns about their five sons in December 2009. Mulsim Americans also need to be increasingly vocal against the ideologies that undergird such violence.


My parents' values


The values that my Muslim parents instilled in me are what provoke me to condemn this intended heinous act. Still, I cannot fathom the thoughts flowing through the sick brains of terrorists. Just as America cannot fight what it does not understand, neither can I. Only by developing insights into what drives a terrorist to act can I and other Americans confront this ideology.


Again, my mind returns to McVeigh. What might he and Shahzad have in common? It would seem a desire to send a message to the American people — but what message? What logic might these two men use to justify their actions?


As an American, I want to know the answers to these questions. If all of us — law enforcement, pundits, politicians and average Americans, including the American Muslim community and the communities that hosted McVeigh — can develop a nuanced understanding of the ideologies that drive such awful men to violence, then we will have seized the golden opportunity presented to us by those who captured Faisal Shahzad and McVeigh.


Hady Amr is the director of the Brookings Doha Center and a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.








Meteorologists have a complex explanation for what prompted the unremitting weekend rains that brought flooding, numerous deaths and heavy property damage to Nashville and left a trail of damage elsewhere in Tennessee and in two other states. The simple truth, though, will do. Thunderstorms continuously developed over the same areas from early Saturday morning until Sunday evening. The result: More than 13.5 inches of rain in the state capital. Up to 20 inches of rain were recorded in other areas. The result is catastrophic.


The toll and the devastation were revealed in greater detail Tuesday as waters from the Cumberland River and numerous lakes, creeks and streams began to recede. Many sections of Nashville were still under water. At least 10 deaths in the city were reported. At least eight other storm-related deaths were reported elsewhere in Tennessee. Officials fear the toll will increase as emergency management personnel gain access to the areas most damaged by flooding.


Property damage was extensive, in downtown Nashville, in the city's urban and suburban neighborhoods, and across much of West and Middle Tennessee. Gov. Phil Bredesen, in fact, declared 52 of the state's 95 counties disaster areas after an aerial inspection of the region. The heaviest damage, however, was in and around Nashville.


Parts of the city still were flooded Tuesday. A huge swath of the city's downtown was without power after a main circuit failed. That left much of the country music tourist district, the 33-story AT&T Building, hotels and other businesses without power. A utility spokesman said it is possible that that power would not be restored until the end of the week.


The Country Music Hall of Fame and LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans pro football team were flooded, though damage assessments were not immediately available. The Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, the Opry Mills Mall, the Grand Ole Opry House, at least one hospital, about 50 schools and homes and business beyond count reported damage. Road and other infrastructure problems prompted county officials to postpone Tuesday's primary elections for two weeks.


The record-breaking rains created havoc, but most of those directly affected responded in a positive, even heroic, manner. Numerous rescues were reported. Neighbor helped neighbor and public employees braved the elements and worked to the point of exhaustion in life-threatening conditions to serve fellow citizens. The response to the emergency was splendid.


That work goes on. Rescue and relief efforts are winding down, but a full accounting of the havoc created by the weekend's record-breaking rains and floods is several weeks, if not months, away. The most difficult task in the wake of the natural disaster — restoring lives and structures affected by the floods — is just beginning. It is likely to take a long time to complete.


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Americans were shocked when what appeared to be a smoking car bomb was discovered Saturday night in New York's Times Square -- before it could explode and possibly murder many innocent people.


With astonishing speed, police arrested a suspect late Monday -- as he was trying to board a Dubai-bound airliner at Kennedy Airport.


The suspect has been identified as Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born naturalized U.S. citizen.


The bomb scare began Saturday when a New York street vender spotted a "smoking" 1993 Nissan Pathfinder sports utility vehicle in a 95th Street parking place.


A police bomb squad found the vehicle had been loaded with gasoline cans, fireworks, propane gas tanks, fertilizer that might have been explosive but wasn't, and alarm clocks.


If there had been an explosion, it might have sprayed shrapnel throughout a heavily populated area and killed many people. Fortunately, the car bomb didn't explode.


The immediate "best clue" seemed to have been caught by a surveillance camera showing a man suspiciously changing shirts of different colors, as though to disguise his identity. But now it is reported he had nothing at all to do with the frightening event.


How were police able to act so quickly to identify a suspect and then intercept him before he could leave the country? Details are yet to follow his arrest by the FBI and New York police.


Shahzad reportedly had returned to the United States recently from a five-month trip to his native Pakistan. FBI agents searched his home at Bridgeport, Conn., from which they removed plastic bags of materials believed to be evidence, with details undisclosed.


The SUV in which the bomb materials were found had been purchased three weeks earlier for cash from a Connecticut man. Identification numbers had been removed from the SUV's dashboard but remained on the car engine.


Many people who were in Times Square last Saturday -- and millions of Americans throughout our country -- have reasons for great relief that no deadly catastrophe took place, and that a suspect will be processed through our constitutional system with "due process of law" to assure that justice is done.


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It's finally done. After several attempts to do so, Georgia lawmakers passed legislation that requires pickup truck drivers to wear seat belts. The bill, approved as the current legislative session came to a close last week, now moves to the desk of Gov. Sonny Perdue who has indicated that he will sign it into law. He should do so promptly. The measure will save lives.


Despite arguments to the contrary from some legislators, there is ample evidence that requiring drivers of pickup trucks to wear seat belts will serve that purpose. The National Highway Safety Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation both believe the change in law likely will save about two dozen lives a year, prevent hundreds of injuries a year and save at least $30 million in hospital costs yearly. Passage could also bring additional federal highway funds to the state.


The delay in approving the law was unconscionable as it was inexplicable. There was no formal opposition to it. No lobbyists worked against it, and insurance companies and auto associations supported it. Still, there was political opposition.


Some opponents said they agreed with the safety component of the bill, but thought enacting a statute to make it law was an unnecessary intrusion of government into the lives of ordinary Georgians. Others said it was just another incidence of "big government." Nonsense.


The state already requires minors to wear seat belts in all vehicles and adults to buckle up in all vehicles except pickup trucks. Extending the law to cover adults in pickup trucks -- there is an exemption for pickups used on farms and in other agricultural jobs -- does no harm. It simply expands current protections to a vulnerable population.


That was the goal of Sen. Don Thomas, a Republican senator from Dalton, who worked diligently to make Georgia a state where it was mandatory for adults driving a pickup to wear a seat belt. He knows first-hand what can happen to those who do not wear seat belts.


As a physician, he's treated the sometimes deadly and injury-dealing results of pickup truck accidents in which adults were not wearing seat belts. Sen. Thomas, who is leaving the Senate at the end of his current term, was understandably gratified that the bill was approved at last.


"This legislation," he rightfully said, "is a long overdue, life-saving step for all Georgians. I am thankful we could all work together to ensure the passage of legislation that will prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries while saving money."


Georgians should be thankful, as well. The new seat belt law will save lives and prevent injuries. It is fiscally prudent and it will help, prevent injuries and help the state honor its mandate to safeguard the lives of those who reside within its borders.


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The age of nuclear weapons dawned on Monday, Aug. 6, 1945, in World War II.


A U.S. B-29 Superfortress dropped the first nuclear bomb, named "Little Boy," on Hiroshima, killing (an obviously impossible-to-estimate-accurately) 90,000 to 166,000 Japanese.


The world was awed -- but Japan did not surrender.


So on Aug. 9, another B-29 dropped the second wartime nuclear weapon, "Fat Man," on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 Japanese.


Japan surrendered on Aug. 14.


Both Japan and Nazi Germany had been working to make nuclear weapons. Fortunately, the United States achieved them first -- or the result would have been quite different! We will never know how many American -- and Japanese -- lives were saved by those U.S. nukes, which made a U.S. invasion of Japan to end World War II unnecessary.


Nine nations are known to have developed nukes: the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Communist China, India, Pakistan, Communist North Korea and South Africa (which is said to have disassembled its nukes).


The United States reportedly has built more than 9,000 nukes, disassembling some old ones. Now, the Obama administration has announced the United States currently has 5,113 nukes.


Why would such a "secret" be revealed? It is reported to be part of a U.S. effort to get other nuclear-possessing nations to agree to reduce their nuclear arsenals.


"We think it is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can be about the nuclear program of the United States," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the U.N.


Do you think our troubling enemies are impressed?


We hope no nuke will ever be exploded again in war. But our enemies cannot be trusted. It is foolish for us to disclose any details about our deterrent power.







You may remember that during the long debate prior to the enactment of ObamaCare socialized medicine, Democrat leaders sharply rejected claims that ObamaCare would lead to government rationing of medical care.


Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said last August on ABC, "Let me just say, A, there's no rationing in any of these bills, so we don't have to worry about that."


And President Barack Obama himself said at a rally in Pennsylvania that the real culprits for the rationing of care were health insurance companies: "The insurance companies continue to ration health care. ... That's the status quo in America, and it's a status quo that's unsustainable."


But now that ObamaCare has passed, at least some of its supporters have become quite candid in admitting that government rationing is on the way.


Dr. Donald Berwick, a Harvard professor, has been nominated by President Obama to run Medicare and Medicaid. But Dr. Berwick has not been shy at all about saying that rationing will be the order of the day under ObamaCare.


In an interview in 2009 in the journal Biotechnology Healthcare, Dr. Berwick declared, "The decision is not whether or not we will ration care. The decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open."


In other words, Dr. Berwick does not mind rationing so long as it is government making the decisions about how that rationing takes place -- about who gets what care and who does not.


The disastrous results of socialized medicine in foreign nations such as Great Britain -- where government







The U.N. has been at best inefficient and at worst downright corrupt since its founding 65 years ago. Recently, sadly, it confirmed anew that it is not at all the force for international peace and stability that it has long claimed to be.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not only permitted to attend a U.N. meeting on "nuclear nonproliferation" this week, but he was given an opportunity to address the delegates who came from 189 countries to attend the meeting in New York.


There, he predictably denied the well-documented fact that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons. He assured listeners that Iran has only peaceful, energy-producing aims for its nuclear program.


Not only does that fly in the face of the facts, but it certainly does not square with Ahmadinejad's stated desire to wipe the nation of Israel off the map.


If the U.N. had the truly noble aims it purports to have, a person who leads a terrorism-sponsoring nation such as Iran and who makes such outrageous remarks would never be provided an honored speaking role. It says a great deal -- and none of it good -- about the U.N. that it conferred a false, undeserved legitimacy on Ahmadinejad.









Some very contradictory reports have been issued about the recent New York City car bomb plot.

The U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks activities of terrorist groups on the Internet, claimed on Sunday it had discovered a video posted by a group linked with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on video-sharing website Youtube that showed Taliban militants taking responsibility for the failed New York City car bomb plot, saying it would have been retribution for the death of former Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

The Pakistani Taliban, who mostly come from illiterate Pashtun tribes and are based in the most underprivileged and underdeveloped area of the country, actually do not have the capacity to carry out terrorist attacks in the heart of New York.

The Pashtun in Pakistan's North and South Waziristan tribal areas, near the border with Afghanistan, live according a tribal code that is thousands of years old and are mostly cut off from the modern way of life. They can place bombs here and there, particularly in cities near their stronghold, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they don't have the knowledge and technology necessary to conduct sophisticated terrorist attacks in U.S. cities.

On Monday, the Pakistani Taliban also said they were not aware of a video attributed to them claiming responsibility for the attempted car bombing in New York late on Saturday.

"We don't know about this video. As far as I know, none of our people have posted it. We have no information about it," TTP chief spokesman Azam Tariq said on Monday.

If the Taliban is not behind this failed terrorist plot in New York, then who is?

The New York surveillance video, made public late on Sunday, shows an unidentified white man, apparently in his 40s, slipping down Shubert Alley and taking off his shirt, revealing another underneath. In the same clip, he's seen looking back in the direction of the smoking vehicle and surreptitiously putting the first shirt in a bag.

On Monday, the hunt was on for this man. Authorities also wanted to talk to the owner of the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was used in the attempted attack.

New York Police Department officials called it the most serious car bomb plot in the city since the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, in which six people were killed and more than 1,000 injured, The Associated Press reported.

So, why are so many media outlets focusing on the video allegedly made by the Taliban, which most people believe is fake, and not focusing on the video of the white man, which is definitely not fake? Could it be that the Western media outlets do not want to say that the main suspect is an ethnic European? Is there some racism involved? Do the executives of these Western media outlets want to blame a person of color?

Or could it be that the New York City car bomb plot was a false flag operation meant to implicate Muslims, which was inconveniently exposed by a surveillance camera video?








As if the country feels an absence of matters to debate, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the head of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, have lent a hand in producing a very new and original one: Which one of the country's historical/political figures was in fact a fascist?


Let's remember how this first started: Baykal likened himself to Winston Churchill, who fought against Adolf Hitler on the land, in the air and on the sea during World War II and said he would do the same against Erdoğan to stop the legislation of the proposed constitutional amendments either at Parliament or at court. In response, Erdoğan suggested Baykal take a look at the photographs of CHP's former party leaders at the party headquarters.


"They will see one of their leaders smiling under his Hitler-like mustache who called himself 'National Chief,'" said Erdoğan, clearly referring to İsmet İnönü, one of the countries top national heroes who fought for the independence of Turkey with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the 1920s.


Erdoğan's comparison of İnönü to Hitler made the headlines of many Turkish newspapers and the link drew reaction from many circles. "It's an improper and relentless remark," said Gülsün Bilgahen, İnönü's granddaughter, to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.


"National heroes shouldn't be exploited for daily political conflicts. They are supra-party figures. The remarks are so cruel for a person who embraced and applied the intra-party democracy in the best way and tried to keep the country away from Hitler during World War II," she added.


As one can imagine, the spokespersons of the CHP and other opposition parties harshly responded to Erdoğan. Instead of reflecting on these criticisms, which were already made available to readers in our newspaper yesterday, today's Straight will bring you some comments made by the Daily News' online readers.


"Mr. Erdoğan's misplaced remarks indicate that he is not even capable to understand history and respect truly admirable historical figures such as İsmet İnönü who was the most trusted right hand of the legendary founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the second President of the Republic," Dr. Kazem Zarrabi from Denmark commented on the issue.


Another commentator with the nickname Türk wrote: "İsmet İnönü's success was to keep Turkey out of the 2nd World War in which more than 36 million people lost their lives. Maybe Recep Tayyip Erdoğan owes his life and his existence today to İsmet İnönü as perhaps İnönü saved Erdoğan 's ancestor's life in 2nd World War. (...) İsmet İnönü's Turkey saved lives of thousands of Jewish people escaping from Hitler's fascism.""It seems like Mr. Erdoğan does not know history well. Mr. İnönü was the one who ushered multi-party politics into Turkey, and peacefully relinquished his position when his party was defeated in 1950," said the Californian in his comments.







One of the interesting stories I recently read in this paper was about Turkey's first "nudist hotel," opened in Marmaris, a beautiful town on the Aegean coast. Here was a place where "nudist tourists will be able to work on their full-body tan" on their "private naturist beach." This would be, the story added, "a small revolution in Turkey's conservative society."


If you look for such "small revolutions" in this conservative country, you can find other ones. Gay bars and lesbian clubs, for example, have boomed in big cities in recent years. A new and fancy one was launched in Istanbul just a few weeks ago.


My secular liberal friend Orhan Kemal Cengiz, who pointed out to these things to me over lunch a few days ago, also said that he, as a fine diner, has a better time on the Ankara-Istanbul trains now. "They started to serve alcohol on the fast train," he said, quite approvingly. "I am thankful to the 'Islamist' AK Party for that."


Openness and diversity


Another small revolution, or perhaps a mid-size one, was the May Day demonstrations that freely took place in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Saturday. After being banned from Taksim for more than 30 years, not just labor unions but Marxists of all types opened their red flags and sang their marches in the county's most popular spot. "Godless communists," in other words, had their biggest show in decades.


Now, if I wanted to argue that Turkey is rapidly becoming a more "corrupt" and "godless" society, I could cherry-pick all such examples and draw a convincing picture. (And you could be alarmed or thrilled, depending on your worldview.) But this would be a misleading picture, for I would be consciously choosing the facts that fit into my agenda, and overlooking the ones that don't.


Unfortunately, that is precisely what some of my hyper-secularist colleagues have been doing for quite a while. Their endless rantings about the "Islamization" of Turkey under the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government is based on a compiling of carefully selected facts: We have more veiled women on our streets. Getting a license to sell alcohol is harder in some AKP-run municipalities. Or Islamic communities are more active in public life than ever. Hence, the reasoning goes, we are being Islamized. (And, perhaps, we need a little hand from our enthusiastic generals to "save our secular republic.")


What I think instead is that all these seemingly contradictory things – more veils and more gay bars – are happening at the same time and for the very same reason: Thanks to capitalism, urbanization and globalization, Turkey is becoming a more open and diverse society. Or, perhaps, the diversity it always had is getting more visible. The reason why we have more veiled women on the streets is that the religious conservatives have become more urban, self-confident and active. (In the past, such women mostly lived in rural areas and often sat at home, and my hyper-secularist colleagues did not notice that they exist.)


Openness and diversity are visible on many other fronts. Kurds, who are not "mountain Turks" anymore, are demanding (and at least partly achieving) civil liberties that they could not have imagined in the '80s. Turkish Armenians, members of a community that has kept its head down since the beginning of the Turkish Republic (for reasons you can imagine), now have public intellectuals who influence our national discussions. What exactly happened to their forefathers in 1915 is being discussed freely on television for the first time.


All this change not just empowers previously suppressed groups, but also transforms them. The case of the Islamic conservatives is the most interesting one. If you read only the secularist Turkish press, you will only get complaints about their ascendance. But if you also read the Islamist press, as I do, you will also see complaints about their modernization. The more old-fashioned voices in that camp routinely criticize the "Westoxification" that young Muslims are going through, and the "consumerism" that AKP policies have dragged them into.


What modernization does


What is simply happening is that Turkey is becoming truly modernized. And if you ask what this means, I would agree with social scientist Peter Berger: "Modernization does not secularize," as the secularists hope and the Islamists fear. "It rather pluralizes."


So, here is my bet for Turkey in 10 years' time: It will be an even more diverse country, a bit like America. Like the latter's Bible Belt, it probably will have some conservative inland regions with dry zones, but also ultra-liberal coasts with even more nightclubs, nudist beaches and God knows what else. In the Southeast, Kurdish culture and language will be more visible, perhaps giving the sense of an unofficial "Kurdistan region." The Islamic conservative camp will be more multicolored in itself, while the godless communists, who might perhaps go a little more "green" than just "red," will continue to prove their resilience.


It will be, in other words, an even more interesting country. Just wait and see








Yale University President Richard C. Levin analyzes in an article the relationship between "economic development" and "education" by emphasizing that Western culture encourages critical thinking and Eastern culture pushes for content memorization (Foreign Affairs, May-June 2010 issue, p. 53-75).


I wrote yesterday the Eastern culture we are usually in consists of judgments based on faith which do not allow people to question content. In the West, on the other hand, information and facts based on information are questionable. Opinions are formed through critical thinking in light of realities.


I offer Cengiz Çandar's article published in Radikal daily on Apr. 30. Çandar in his article, without giving any concrete reasoning and simply based on hearsay, explains how the Finnish statesman Marti Ahtisaari criticizes Gareth Jenkins' report on the Ergenekon crime gang. Çandar asks us to believe what he wrote without question. In his article dated May 4, Çandar praises Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in the following way:


"...Ahmet Davutoğlu is Foreign Minister of Turkey today. He is quite insightful, a good thinker and a researcher, very hardworking and productive man. He is the most striking foreign minister of the Republic of Turkey."


If Çandar had dared to decide that "Davutğlu is the most striking foreign minister of the Republic of Turkey," through critical thinking, he would've been studying all of Turkish foreign policy and perhaps written a book based on very strong justifications. But rather, he, once again, in his article has adopted a method to have opinion based on faith as he waits for us to simply believe him with no questioning.


Engin Ardıç of Sabah made an assessment on Sami Selçuk in an article from April:


"Sami Selçuk does not raise objections to other articles, but he doesn't like three articles in question… Even a man like Selçuk easily adopts such an attitude when his class and the interests and privileges of his circles are in danger. This is very saddening. You too are 'from Ankara' Mr. Selçuk…"


I see in his article that Ardıç is angry at Selçuk because of the three controversial articles in the constitutional amendment package. But I couldn't understand his reasoning. I have failed to pinpoint why Ardıç is defending the said three articles.


Besides, Selçuk in his latest piece published in Star daily on May 4, gives reasons and justification, saying "The 1982 Constitution is not legitimate. It must be abolished." He will continue with the article today.


And my last example is about a few men, such as Mümtazer Türköne and Mehmet Metiner, who are making a fuss about the Constitutional Court's decision, claiming that the decision on the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is not legitimate.


"It's been revealed that surveillance records in TUBITAK and the Council of State were wiped out. That has caused a stir about the Constitutional Court's decision that the AKP is the center of anti-laic activities. However, in the court's reasoned decision, the Council of State attack is not mentioned. To the opposite, the claim of AKP being involved in violence is totally rejected." (Milliyet daily, website, May 2, 2010)


Those who truly believe in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's remarks have never had an urge to look for concrete justification to strengthen the court's decision on the AKP.


They have surrendered totally!








An audience of dignitaries in Brussels heard Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's wife, Emine Erdoğan, utter the following words: "In our culture and civilization, which has a great historical background, family and motherhood are sacred."


Naturally, there was thundering applause.


Mrs. Erdoğan, a fine lady from Siirt, in the country's Southeast, made that speech only days after Turkey was shaken by the surfacing of alleged serial rapes in Siirt, including cases of adults raping minors and minors raping toddlers, and killing one.


The mayor of the same town