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Friday, May 7, 2010

EDITORIAL 07.05.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



Month may 07, edition 000501, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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























































  3. MY HEAD AND I..!































In awarding the death sentence to Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole survivor of the eight men who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008, the special anti-terror court in that city did not surprise anyone. As Judge ML Tahaliyani said, while sentencing Kasab to death on five counts — murder, conspiracy to murder, waging war against the country, abetting murder and committing terrorist activities under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act — Kasab is a hardened terrorist beyond redemption. Even if he were not released, with his presence in an Indian prison — should the death sentence not have been passed and the option of life imprisonment been preferred — Kasab would remain an attractive target for potential hostage-takers. It is pertinent that Mr Tahaliyani referred to the Kandahar episode of December 1999, when three terrorists were freed and allowed to return to Pakistan to secure the release of a plane-load of hijacked passengers. He feared that if Kasab were sentenced to a long-term in prison — as his lawyer had pleaded, citing his client's young age and absence of previous criminal record — the Pakistani jihadi would be a prize for Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and any number of copycat groups. This is a valid point. It invokes compelling logic that will no doubt weigh upon the judges of the Bombay High Court and, later, the Supreme Court when they hear Kasab's appeal. That apart, the likelihood of a mercy petition to the President of India — the decision is actually taken by the Union Ministry for Home Affairs — should also be seen within this framework. Already, there is the disquieting situation of one of the principal conspirators of the December 13, 2001, attack on Parliament House, a man whose death sentence has been upheld by the highest court of the land, being kept on death row for years. The Government neither accepts his mercy petition nor executes him. It would be a tragedy if Kasab joined him in this bizarre waiting game, caused only because the political executive lacks nerve and creates a controversy where none existed.

It would also be sobering to remember Kasab was, at the end of the day, a foot-soldier. The generals in Pakistan and the logistics men — people like David Coleman Headley, the Chicago-based LeT operative — have not been interrogated by Indian investigators yet. Certainly, they are never going to be brought to trial before an Indian court. Two small-time Islamists have been acquitted in the case. They were charged with providing maps and local support to the eight protagonists of 26/11. Yet, Kasab and his colleagues came so well prepared and knew their way around just so well, it was clear that they had been given sophisticated briefings, and that there was a layer of navigation and guidance above that of the two Indian accomplices. This hunch was confirmed when Headley was arrested and his reconnaissance missions to Mumbai were revealed. This made the case against the two other men in the dock with Kasab a little weaker. Yet, it was obvious these men where jihad warriors and not innocents picked off the street. Even so, they have been completely acquitted; the prosecution presented an infirm case against them, one that, according to the trial court, did not merit even a short term in prison. This shows up India's anti-terrorism legal architecture. Getting rid of Kasab should not disguise that broader reality.







The speed with which Pakistani authorities have arrested seven persons in connection with the failed car bomb plot in New York's Times Square is almost unbelievable. The arrests were made from all over Pakistan, presumably because they had links with Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad who planted the car bomb. Thus, within days of the American investigators homing in on Shahzad, Pakistani authorities have not only uncovered his linkages in his country of origin but also dug up enough evidence to arrest those who could have been involved in the Times Square bomb plot. This clearly exposes not only Pakistan's but even the US's duplicity in dealing with terrorism. It is no secret that India has been trying to get the Americans to put pressure on Pakistan to crack down on anti-India terrorist organisations operating from its soil and bring the men guilty of plotting 26/11 to justice. Yet, despite repeated assurances by the Americans that they would use their good offices to get Islamabad to act, there is nothing to suggest that the Pakistani authorities are even remotely interested in dismantling groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba or the the Jaish-e-Mohammed any time in the near future. But given the Pakistani authorities' enthusiasm in coming down hard on those who might have been behind the Times Square bomb plot, it is clear that Washington does have enough leverage over Islamabad to make it dance to its tune. Hence, the question is: Why isn't the US using its diplomatic clout over Pakistan to help India fight terrorism emanating from that country? Perhaps the Americans believe in distinguishing between anti-India and anti-US terror. Maybe Washington feels that there is no direct benefit in standing up for New Delhi in this regard. Or perhaps it feels that Indian blood spilt by jihadis is nothing compared to American blood.

It is fast becoming clear that there is no such thing as a 'global war on terrorism' — a phrase the Americans love to throw around from time to time. To the US the only kind of terrorism that is of concern is the one that affects American interests. Hence, the US Government will take whatever steps necessary to protect its own citizens and assets while the rest of the world, including countries it sees as 'equal partners' such as India, can simply fend for itself. In other words, Pakistan, the epicentre of global Islamist terrorism, is a 'trusted' US ally that can do no wrong as long as it continues to crack down on those jihadi groups that are making life difficult for the Americans in Afghanistan. And if people like Faisal Shahzad disturb this arrangement, Washington knows which button to push to get the desired results. Meanwhile, the US has no problems with Pakistan refusing to act on the evidence provided by India about those behind the 26/11 outrage. It would seem that crime has been forgotten and forgiven.







On World Press Freedom Day I found myself cautioning young journalists in a budding democracy against being carried away by the fashionable rhetoric of our trade. Bhutan had no media when I first went there nearly 40 years ago; now, half-a-dozen privately owned publications, radio and TV are trying to find a place for themselves in a country that is itself groping towards a new identity.

Thimpu was still awash with the flags and banners of the just-concluded South Asian summit, the biggest international gathering that the Bhutanese had ever hosted. The summit brought 300 media representatives; it also exposed Bhutan's staid, but well presented and printed, papers (I cannot speak of radio and TV) to their first major professional challenge. It was a surprise to learn that some papers had criticised the outlay on decorative and luxurious (saunas, for instance) bungalows for the SAARC leaders, especially since they will now house Ministers who have allegedly not fulfilled election promises to provide remote constituencies with roads and potable water.

It is because of this robust infancy that the Bhutanese Press must guard against the temptation to imagine that criticism is inherently meritorious. That comes from the US which has no formal Opposition and treats the media as the Government's adversary. But two-party Britain also proudly justifies a contrary media with the Duke of Wellington's famous four words, "Publish and be damned."

That has become Holy Writ with every ambitious young reporter yearning to be Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post in All the President's Men and bring down a leader. From it follow three sacrosanct tenets. First, media freedom is the basis of democracy. Second, it alone can ensure clean governance. Third, the media is the guardian of transparency. Bhutan's Information and Communications Minister, Lyonpo Nanda Lal Rai, endorsed those views, saying, "The Government accepts the role of media in creating transparency and justice."


All the more reason for an old warhorse, 52 years in the trade in Britian, India, the US and Singapore, to sound a note of caution. It had to be circumspect for beside me on the podium, ensconced in ornate gilt carving, sat Bhutan's new Prime Minister, Lyonchoen Jigmi Y Thinley. Scribbling notes in the audience was Nobel Laureate George Stiglitz's spouse, Prof Anya Schiffrin of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, who had skipped her husband's lecture elsewhere to attend this media event organised by Dasho Kinley Dorji, Bhutan's first newspaper editor and now Communications Secretary.

But most important, the occasion was to award prizes to six print and four broadcast journalists for their work on the four pillars (culture, environment, economy and good governance) of Bhutan's unique contribution to the current global discourse — Gross National Happiness. A fifth prize was awarded for GNH discussions.

These young people had to be reminded that while their freedom to choose and pursue a story cannot be curtailed by external authority, they themselves should ask certain questions instead of swallowing the publish-and-be-damned concept hook, line and sinker. They should closely examine how the principle stands up in the light of Western practice, should consider societal differences between the West and Asia, and decide how the media can best serve the latter's social and development needs. It was disconcerting to discover when I taught in the communications school of a Singapore university that curricula and textbooks which had been imported wholesale from the US urged journalists to invoke the First Amendment as a check on authority!

It was absurd advice. But that apart, politically sovereign and economically vibrant Asian countries should be able to evolve a valid and viable media norm of their own. It's something that institutes of journalism need to bear in mind if training is to bear any relation to the practical world. How, for instance, can a media that is itself in the grip of feudal families or of latter-day Asian incarnations of Citizen Kane promote political democracy? Reports of fudged circulation figures, newsprint wangles, under-the-table payments, subventions by businessmen and politicians and the new phenomenon of paid coverage make the media an unconvincing champion of clean governance. Those factors also distract from any claim to be the guardian of transparency.

There may be many honourable exceptions to the abuses I have listed. But there is much truth in the old saying about exceptions proving the rule. And one hoary conundrum still remains. Whose freedom does Press freedom mean? The owner's? The management's? The editor's? Or the actual writer's?

Bhutan is ethnically and culturally different from the rest of South Asia. The Bhutanese were not beneficiaries or victims (depending on your point of view) of Macaulay's famous Minute on education. They are not 'bananas', which is Chinese Singaporean slang for someone who is yellow outside but white inside. Nor the Indian equivalent of coconut, being brown outside but white inside. They are starting with a clean slate and are in the privileged position of being able to learn from the mistakes of older Asian nations, especially of India, to fashion a media that suits the national culture, best expressed in the Dzongkha phrase Driglam Namza, while also serving the political needs of a country that has only lately — and voluntarily — turned from monarchical paternalism to parliamentary democracy. Just as the political system differs from that of other countries by restricting parliamentary membership to graduates, the media too must innovate rather than copy.

There is no room for the Soviet pattern of passing off employees of the Novosti Press Agency as journalists. The nonaligned nations news pool failed precisely because it blurred the line between news and official propaganda. But there should be no scope either for the hysterical tirades of Indian TV anchors or for licence at the cost of security.

The need, citing Malaysia's Mr Anwar Ibrahim, is for "a middle ground between the Western paradigm of unconstrained freedom, including the freedom to incite (religious and racial) hatred, and carrying developmental journalism to its extreme, so much so that even mild criticism of the ruling elite is viewed with fear, suspicion and sometimes contempt".

Walking this fine line between authoritarianism and liberalism may mean more realistic training courses, ombudsmen, codes of conduct and an effective Press Council. It does not mean control. The ultimate test is the practitioner's sense of responsibility.






This is with reference to the article, "Yatha praja tatha Raja" by Kanchan Gupta (Coffee Break, May 2). The writer has highlighted the plight of democracy by stating that "adharma has become the dharma of coalition politics", thus negating its very purpose. We still believe that we are a democracy and that too the greatest democratic country in the world. But a closer look reveals that this concept of perfect democracy is itself flawed, even by Western standards, which requires freedom of expression and liberty along with equal opportunities for all and free will.

But do Indians vote through free will? Once you divide people on the basis of caste and creed and permit reservations, how can there be free will? The Union of India came into being when Muslims insisted on being given a separate homeland, and the British were happy to accept the demand. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India even though Congress committees in 11 States voted for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. But Mahatma Gandhi's will prevailed. He and Nehru rejected the doctrine of wholesale transfer of population even though Mohammed Ali Jinnah and BR Ambedkar were in favour of such an exchange of population.

For some years we did appear to follow democratic norms even though Nehru's will always prevailed, be it the decision on national language, national anthem or national security vis-à-vis Pakistan and China. Not content with this unholy mess, politicians started dividing people on caste lines and sympathising with Muslims. Thus, we have bogus reports such as that of the Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Misra Commission.

Also, with rampant corruption, the proportion of people voting has gone down drastically and those who do vote do so for caste, religion and other considerations. So let us forget yatha praja tatha Raja. Mr Gupta has himself quoted EMS Namboodiripad's words: "The day every house in every village has electricity, the people will stop voting for us. You must be a fool to expect my Government to keep this promise." But there are exceptions. We can see this in Mr Narendra Modi's Gujarat. Therefore, I assert that it is "yatha raja tatha praja".







The current Budget session has shown the growing friction between the Congress and its allies. Whether it is about the IPL scam or the 2G spectrum scam or the telephone tapping controversy, it is the Manmohan Singh Government which is facing the flak.

Old-timers admit that it is a difficult task to run a coalition Government especially when all the allies have come together for the single purpose of sharing power. The Congress never believed in coalition experiment and is yearning to rule on its own.

What is the common ground between the NCP, the Trinamool Congress and the DMK? All of them are regional parties trying to satisfy their regional aspirations while the Congress is a national party. Ironically, some of the partners like the NCP and the Trinamool Congress are the offsprings of the Congress and out of sheer political compulsions they all came together. Unlike the UPA 1.0, the UPA 2.0 does not even have a common minimum programme.

The Congress has learnt the hard way to close its eyes to whatever its allies do. During the UPA 1.0, it had difficulty in getting rid of JMM chief Shibu Soren. In the UPA 2.0, the Prime Minister is unable to control his Ministers like Mr MK Azhagiri, Mr A Raja and even Ms Mamata Banerjee.

The problem for Mr Manmohan Singh is three-fold. First, the real power rests with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Mr Singh is only the nominated Prime Minister but he is the one who faces the music.

Second, the Prime Minister is in no position to deal with the Ministers chosen by the allies, as they are not under his control. That is why he could not get rid of Mr A Raja despite corruption charges against him.

Third, the Budget session began with the Congress losing two of its allies — the Samajwadi Party and the RJD on the issue of Women's Reservation Bill. Many wondered why the Congress tabled the Bill before the Finance Bill. The result is that the Government now has a fragile number of just 271. Without the support of the Left and the Right it would not have got the Women's Reservation Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha and without the support of the BSP, the Government would have collapsed on the Finance Bill. Neither the Congress nor Mr Singh has the luxury of annoying the allies. While the Congress was prompt in getting rid of Mr Shashi Tharoor, it has distanced itself from senior Ministers like Mr Sharad Pawar and Mr Raja leaving it to the Prime Minister to deal with them.

The real problem is that the Congress wants to gain back its lost ground while the allies want to expand at the cost of the former. This inherent contradiction is the root cause of Congress's friction with the NCP, the Trinamool Congress and the DMK though they are together at the Centre. As Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, where the Congress is a minor partner, will go for Assembly elections next year, the party cannot afford to upset its allies.

The Congress and the NCP have had a love-hate relationship despite 10 years of coalition politics both at the Centre and States like Maharashtra, Goa and Meghalaya. Last year's Assembly and Lok Sabha elections have shown how the two try to weaken each other. The recent IPL controversy has brought two NCP Ministers — Mr Sharad Pawar and Mr Praful Patel — into focus. On the issue of spiralling price rise, the Congress made Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar the fall guy. Then came the telephone tapping controversy where the Government was on the dock for allegedly tapping Mr Pawar's phone. Although the Government played it down, the frictions remain.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's mercurial behaviour often provokes local Congress leaders. With the Assembly elections scheduled for next year the Congress is unable to deal with her tantrums. In a big blow to the Congress, Ms Banerjee has managed to get State Congress working president Subroto Mukherjee join the Trinamool Congress. The Kolkata corporation elections will be an acid test for their future relationship with the Trinamool Congress going it alone. But the bottom line is that both know that Ms Banerjee needs the Congress to become the Chief Minister and the Congress needs the TMC to improve its tally.

The DMK-Congress relationship is also peculiar. DMK chief M Karunanidhi has put his foot down against any move to sack Mr Raja. The Prime Minister can do nothing as getting rid of Mr Raja means losing power. Moreover, Mr Karunanidhi's family problems are visiting the Government, as he is unable to deal with his succession plan and divide power between his children - Mr MK Stalin, Mr MK Azhagiri and Ms MK Kanimozhi.

Furthermore, Assembly elections are due next year and Mr Karunanidhi wants to advance it to the end of this year. Local Congress leaders are unhappy that despite the Congress support the DMK has not included Congress MLAs in his Cabinet. If Mr Rahul Gandhi has his way, the Congress would like to go it alone in the elections while the arithmetic says alliance with a Dravidian party would earn better dividends. There are some in the Congress who would like to align with the AIADMK.

Political parties look to their interests first just as the UPA allies as well as the Congress do. However, the overriding principle will be the power and all the stake-holders know this. But no one should be in doubt about the future of the UPA, as the frictions will not reach a breaking point.








The Centre's scrapping of three dams in BJP-ruled Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh has raised the hackles of Governments in those States. Chief Ministers Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, respectively, have opposed the move, with the former demanding supply of free power to his State in compensation for the spiking of the 381-MW Bhaironghati and 480-MW Pala Maneri hydroelectric projects on the Bhagirathi; and the latter has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, expressing suspicion that "the Environment Ministry was driven by some agenda, which leads to unreasonable obstruction of development projects, of which Maheshwar was an example". His allusion is to the Maheshwar dam on the Narmada river, on which work began in 1997-98.

The first two projects have faced Opposition from environmentalists on the grounds that the Ganga, its tributaries and other Himalayan rivers require free flow for their own survival as well as sustenance of the northern plains, while human rights groups are campaigning to halt the Maheshwar dam primarily over the issue of inadequate rehabilitation of oustees. But the fact that a fourth hydroelectric scheme, the equally controversial 600 MW Loharinag Pala project on the upper reaches of the Bhagirathi, close to its source and about 100 km upstream of the controversial Tehri dam, has been merely suspended, not shelved, as its environmental feasibility is assessed, is dubious, to say the least. But the reasons for the anomalies in decisions seem clear. The last is a central project, conceived by National Thermal Power Corporation, and implemented under the aegis of the Congress-led UPA Government. The other two on the Bhagirathi, as well Maheshwar, are State-level projects, conceived and implemented by non-UPA Governments.

If Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh expected hosannas for his actions and declaration that "We can no longer afford to be liberal in clearing projects", he is barking up the wrong tree. For the Congress, as the party which has ruled longest at the Centre and in most States, set the wrong precedent at the outset by framing and implementing ecologically unsustainable and people-hostile policies. The Congress's pet project, Tehri dam, cleared by the Planning Commission in 1972, and operational since 2006, paved the way for other mammoth hydroelectricity projects on Himalayan rivers. It was built in the face of strident opposition by conservationists and displaced people, including renowned environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna. At 260.5 metres high and submerging a 42-sq km area in a seismically active zone, it drowned old Tehri town, 37 villages completely and 88 villages partially. Irreplaceable fauna, flora and heritage sites also disappeared forever. Most oustees have relocated to New Tehri, where they are struggling to put their lives together.

While the needs of development/commerce, and ecology have to be balanced, policy-makers generally seem to tilt towards the former, often at the cost of environment and human rights. The Centre's alacrity in acceding to the plea of sadhus at the the Haridwar Kumbh Mela, to allow the Ganga to flow freely by spiking the dams on Bhagirathi, is dismissed by cynics as being politically motivated. The All India Akhara Parishad had reportedly threatened to boycott the shahi snans during the river festival if the projects were not scrapped. The collective ire of sadhus and heads of religious orders as much as their followers would have been directed at the Centre. The timing of the decisions suggests that by scrapping the two projects, it has tried to kill two birds with one stone: Counter the BJP, and win over pious Hindus and conservationists.

Yet, it still has to take a final decision on the fate of the Loharinag Pala project on the Bhagirathi. And this should be the test of the Environment Ministry's sincerity towards the campaign to ensure the free flow of the Ganga. Last February, a fast unto death undertaken by noted environmental engineer and conservationist GD Agrawal forced the Centre to suspend work on the project. Prof Agrawal's extended fast was intended to highlight the hazards posed to the Ganga by a hydroelectricity scheme, which would block the sacred river, close to its source. Its long-term consequences for the free flow of the river would be colossal. It is, therefore, all the more suspicious that this project has so far been spared the axe. As for Maheswar dam, inadequate rehabilitation work and non-compliance of other conditions are cited for it being shelved. But the Madhya Pradesh Government is not convinced.







When developing this article I really couldn't decide if I was going to write it in a satirical manner or in a concerned manner. The concept was just so ridiculous to me, I wasn't sure how to convey it to the world.

The military wing of the terrorist organisation Hamas, Al Qassam Brigades — which murders, pillages, persecutes, fires rockets, stones, lynches, blows themselves up, etc — has a Twitter account. No folks, I am not joking. The days when the world is spooked by an unmarked video or cassette tape which arrives at Al Jazeera offices are over. You can simply "Follow" them with your personal Twitter account.

I was stunned to see the user name @AlqassamBrigade pop up amongst the average 100 tweets an hour mentioning Gaza. I had been to the terrorists' website (which has the fun option to choose your favourite colour scheme for the menus) to see their propagandised use of images from Operation Cast Lead, and this was their matching Twitter account.

Sitting at my laptop using our Sderot Media Center Twitter account, @SderotMedia, most likely only a couple of miles away from the terrorists managing the Hamas Twitter account, I thought to engage them in dialogue on one of the base debates in this conflict:

@AlqassamBrigade As you know, you terrorise thousands just over the border from Gaza here in Sderot. Or do you call it Najd?

Never receiving an answer and following protocol, I filed a complaint with Twitter and this is the automated response I received: Twitter provides a communication service. As a policy, we do not mediate content or intervene in disputes between users. Users are allowed to post content, including potentially inflammatory content, provided that they do not violate the Twitter Terms of Service and Rules (name calling is not a violation.)

Essentially, this gives the terrorist organisation the most popular worldwide platform to preach whatever ropaganda or hate speech they like because, as you see above, "name calling is not a violation."

The automated Twitter response continues, "If a violent threat is posted in the future, please let us know, and send the status link." So, only if Hamas tweets about the imminent launch of a missile attack will Twitter take action?

In the worldwide blockbuster jaw-dropping movie Bruno, created by comic mastermind Sasha Baron Cohen, the main character Bruno is attempting to make peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict and while hosting a dialogue session he continually misuses the word "Hamas" for "Hummus;" it exemplifies the great light humour for which Baron Cohen is famous. The mainstream legitimisation of the terrorist organisation Hamas is so widespread that, these days, it is almost a household term and this is how the caricaturist can comically draw that connection on screen.

However, it is more than a joke when the entire world has turned its back on Hamas' actions for nearly a decade thereby accepting it into the public domain. Rocket and suicide attacks on Jewish civilians are clearly not enough, but why won't the world delegitimise Hamas for human rights abuses such as "honour killings?" Instead, the United Nations and Judge Goldstone chose to give Hamas and radical Islam around the world an over 500-page report to continue their terrorism.

Let's be clear: This is not an issue of freedom of speech as Hamas is a terrorist organisation even to the UN. I encourage everyone with a Twitter account to file a complaint against Hamas' account @AlqassamBrigade to get Hamas out of our households and stop the tweeting of terror.

 The writer is the Assistant Director of the Sderot Media Center.







It is important to look at the constructive side of every activity and episode. If nothing else, it helps to keep one's sanity. Each day comes as a challenge to many right-thinking people because what seems to succeed appears to be often inscrutable. In an era where media has been full of talk of scams, and worse, it often becomes difficult to believe that "truth alone triumphs". Yet it is true.

Difficult as it may be to believe, there is always a positive side to the encircling gloom. If nothing else the malaise gets to be recognised and chances of replicability get reduced! It is also important to recognise that but for experiences like that of IPL, many would find it difficult to believe that "this too can happen". It is like an antidote to the great psychological claptrap of "it cannot happen to me". The students of accidents and emergency know that often accidents happen because people believe that accidents can happen only to others. The contagious disease such as HIV often overtakes even those who believe that misfortunes are for others.

Nobody could believe that sports when commercialised could see the blossoming of so many aberrations en route. Wealth became a function of smart operations rather than hard intelligent work.

Yet, one day everyone was talking of it and the next day everything went silent with almost no one talking of it — at least in the media! It has become abundantly apparent, as the days rolled on that inexplicable silence could not possibly be all a matter of accident! Indeed, one does not even know when the findings or hearings will yield tangible conclusions for action.

In an nation like ours where talking of investigation is a comforting way of delay and a smooth route to consigning the experience or the episode itself into oblivion, such thundering silence as one witnesses or experiences in cases like IPL are worrisome. The silver lining being of course that with the kind of noise that has already been made, the routes used in this sequence will be less frequented in the near future for other get-rich binges!


Indeed, delay is not always a harbinger of thoroughness or fair play. A time has come in our nation's life when we must look at the larger issues to understand what exactly is at stake.

The area of international finance is a fascinating domain in this context. It is plausible to argue that the global financial system is an interactive network of financial sub-systems not all of which are either totally understood or linked in an orderly fashion. Yet the flow of money can and will take place. Finance like water finds its own path and very often the seepage itself can be corrosive.

Typically, the talk of billions beats the arithmetic comprehensions of many. This makes it easier to camouflage reality with enormity. Yet it is important to understand that rupee exchange rate is a critical driver of business and there can be serious backlashes of flawed international transactions. There is case to weigh carefully the forward contracts and examine more carefully the option contracts. Indeed the sanctity of the currency, something which is central to national identity and credibility, is linked to the integrity of the economy. And yet there seems to be an almost willful default in recognition of the fact that no matter how big our foreign exchange reserves are they are still out stripped by the national debt. One wonders what component of the foreign reserve is a national asset and what part is a contingent liability. Rising input costs are a major concern and cash flow generation has to be watched carefully.

What is clear is that technology variable does continue to make a substantive value addition to social lifestyle. Telecommunication is a potent example yet the future advantage of such intervention is seldom if ever converted into an asset. Accordingly the linkage between technology and finance remains vague and often eludes proper analysis.

Even in the operational working in the financial sector, consider the problem of retail banking. With an escalating attack on customer information and rising customer expectation, to capitalise on a new market opportunity data exchange through tools of telecommunication is a distinct intervention.

The persons of integrity and honesty have to learn to outwit those with brilliance for the crooked. There is real danger when the processes of liberalisation themselves get to be segmented.








GIVEN the overwhelming burden of evidence, as well as the nature of his crimes, it would have been surprising if Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab, the lone surviving gunman, of a team of ten that had carried out the Mumbai attack on November 26, 2008, had not been awarded the death sentence. As the public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam pointed out while demanding the capital sentence, at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminal itself, Qasab and his partner brutally gunned down some 60 ordinary persons— men, women and children— on that fateful day.


Mass murder was just one of the counts that he was sentenced on. Any of the other counts— waging war against the nation, conspiracy to murder, abetting murder could have fetched him the death sentence. Judge M. L. Tahilyani whose conduct of the trial has gotten praise from all observers, pointed out that Qasab's case did belong to that " rarest of rare" category under which people are sentenced to death under Indian law.


Normally, punishment is seen through the prism of rehabilitation in India, but in the case of Qasab, Judge Tahilyani pointed out that he was unlikely to be reformed through incarceration.


More important, his being in an Indian prison could tempt his associates to repeat a Kandahar hijack kind of event through which three key terrorists— Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar and Ahmad Saeed Umar Sheikh were freed in 2000. All three of them reached Pakistan and resumed their terrorist activities.


Though the death penalty is losing favour in many countries of the world, India retains the provision which its judicial system believes helps deter criminals. However, the penalty is imposed under the strict guidelines set by the Supreme Court which normally upholds it in what it terms as the " rarest of the rare" cases.


This is best brought out by the fact that while some 70 people were sentenced to death in 2009, the last hanging in the country actually took place in 2004.


Through his trial Qasab has had the benefit of judicial due process which applies to every citizen of this democratic country. There should, therefore, be no doubt that he will also be given the benefit of the appeal process that accompanies every conviction by a trial court. In the case of capital punishment, in addition to the high court and the Supreme Court, he will be also be able to petition the President of India for a pardon.


Hopefully this process, too, will be swift and transparent. The deterrent value of the death penalty will be lost if the appeal process is allowed to linger on for years, if not decades.


Besides the dozens of people who are sentenced to death every year, and whose appeals are before the higher courts, there are some 29 mercy petitions of convicts pending with the President.


Notwithstanding the trial, conviction and sentencing of Qasab, it will be difficult to attain a closure on the terrible Mumbai carnage, an event that has been a watershed in the country's post- independence history. The reason for this is that Qasab was the instrument of a conspiracy that has its roots in Pakistan. The people who recruited him, fashioned him and his associates into killing machines and launched them against Mumbai, are still roaming free.


Though Pakistan has arrested and charged three key Lashkar- e- Tayyeba leaders Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Zarrar Shah and Hammad Amin Sadiq, it has not touched the others involved in the conspiracy, principally Jamaat ud Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and operatives like Rashid Abdullah and Sajid Mir. One of the more alarming aspects of the Mumbai attack is the suspicion that Pakistan Army officers may also have been involved in it.


An Indian dossier given to Islamabad mentions the name of Major Iqbal, believed to be an intelligence officer. But there is equally compelling evidence against Colonel Sadatullah who belongs to the Signals Communications Organisation of the Pakistan Army and is believed to have facilitated the communications of the terrorists. A shadowy " Major General" who played a key role in training the terrorists, too remains to be located.


As the planners and organisers of the Mumbai carnage, these people are perhaps more deserving of the fate that Qasab faces.








THERE is an air of inevitability about Qasab being sentenced to death by Judge Tahaliyani in the Special Court at Mumbai on Thursday. A couple of days ago, he was convicted for the most serious offences of murder, conspiracy and waging war against India.


Given the gravity of the offences and the brazen and public manner in which they were inflicted, it is no surprise that Qasab was handed out the harshest punishment possible under Indian law — the death sentence! No sentence to death is an invitation to celebrate. However, this sentence and the conduct of this trial gives hope that respect for the due process of law and the rule of law will be further established as key constitutional principles around which our public life and public culture are organised. In this essay, I will argue that this is the greatest benefit that we can derive from this unfortunate episode in our nation's history and that we would do well to take further steps to establish a rule of law society.


Let me begin by clarifying why the Qasab trial exemplifies rule of law and due process values. To begin with we ask: what limitations does our Constitution impose on the state as far as depriving an individual of his life or liberty is concerned? Our Constitution requires that the state adheres to procedure established by law.


This is a modest requirement and arguably we must render this requirement in more substantive terms. However, in the context of Indian state practice in terrorism related cases adherence to these modest requirements are themselves valuable.


We then ask: what does the rule of law and due process require in the context of acts of terrorism? The Mumbai carnage was among the most dastardly terrorist acts committed anywhere in the world.




When Qasab was captured alive, there were strong reactions to the costs and efforts of keeping him alive and allowing him the benefit of a criminal trial.


Arguably he had been caught in the act and hence there was a heartfelt clamour of instant justice. Nevertheless, he was offered the entire gamut of procedural protections available in the Criminal Procedure Code. None of these procedural protections are offered in a society that is constituted to inflict vengeance on wrongdoers or in one that abides by a purely utilitarian calculus. Only societies that place a significant value on non- utilitarian considerations such as the Rule of Law and due process are committed to formal legal protections.


To be sure, adherence to the Rule of Law and due process renders the criminal trial process more expensive and time consuming and these can never be supported on the grounds of expediency.


The good reason for adhering to these values is that the outcome of such a legal process can claim to be just.


The Supreme Court's judgement earlier this week on the use of narco- analysis, brain mapping and polygraph tests advances a strong rights- based argument to strike down handy, though highly intrusive and not very reliable tools of investigation.


These two judgements return the debates on criminal law and criminal procedure reform to more secure foundations, and mark a sharp departure from the expediency that characterised the law reform efforts of the last decade.


There will now be several calls for Qasab's death sentence to be carried out immediately and with no further delay.


There are several arguments that may be offered to support such calls. However, it is crucial at this juncture to not fritter away the key benefits that have been gained by the successful conduct of this trial by a short hand approach to the appellate processes. Qasab has been convicted and sentenced by the Special Court; it is now mandatory for the death sentence to be confirmed by the High Court under Section 366 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.




The High Court will reassess the evidence and the law on which the conviction and sentence are based. The High Court has the power to conduct any further enquiry and call for further evidence should it be necessary. In the event that the High Court confirms the sentence, Qasab may appeal by a ' Special Leave Petition' to the Supreme Court. Till such time as the Supreme Court reaches its final conclusion, Qasab's death sentence will not be executed. The appellate process is instituted to respect the rule of law and due process values and it is essential that these are preserved throughout our legal system.


In the event that the Supreme Court confirms the conviction and sentence, Qasab retains one last legal option: he may choose to appeal to the President of India to grant him a pardon or a commutation under Article 72 of the Constitution of India. This application to the Executive branch of the Government is not based on an appreciation of the law and the facts of the case or on the need to do justice.


Instead, it rests on the notion of mercy.


It is important to clarify that while justice may well be the primary foundation of the law and the legal system, our own social and moral worlds are populated by various virtues. In a range of social situations, we do not conduct ourselves justly and we may be motivated by other virtues: charity, mercy and grace. These virtues are generally not applicable by the legal system but the Head of Government may apply them in an appropriate case. While it is premature to assert that Qasab has no sound claim to benefit from any consideration of charity or grace, we must certainly, agree that he must like any other convict, be permitted to make his case.




The grant of pardon bears no relationship to the rule of law or due process values.


While the courts have been careful to circumscribe the conditions under which such a pardon is granted, they have not determined the grounds or the period within which such a grant must be made.


As a result, the President's office has kept several cases of pardon pending over the years. There is no legal or constitutional justification for keeping these applications pending. It may well be that the President's office is not convinced about the legal soundness of some convictions and fears a miscarriage of justice. Further, there may be a genuine discomfort with the sentence of death per se. If these are the reasons for the delay, then the Central Government must be forthright and carry out criminal law reforms to allow it to refer back cases where there is a grave miscarriage of justice or abolish the death penalty. By keeping applications for pardon pending for long periods of time, the government erodes the gains secured by a criminal trial carried out in accordance with the values of due process and the rule of law.


The Qasab conviction and sentence allows the Indian State and the legal system to reaffirm its commitment to due process and rule of law values. By adopting the legal trial rather than the encounter killing route the Indian legal system may claim to offer justice and not just retribution. High profile trials have a radiating effect on the rest of our criminal justice system and allow us to reaffirm our commitment to protect core constitutional values even where they consume significant time and resources.


The writer is professor of law, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences









THE prime ministers of India and Pakistan agreed at Thimphu, Bhutan, on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit, last week to " walk the talk" about resolving outstanding disputes. While the Indians remained circumspect, the Pakistanis were greatly pleased.


Indeed, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, seemed to gush at the " unexpected" windfall because of India's stubborn refusal since Mumbai 2008 to start an unconditional dialogue with Pakistan.


Clearly, US pressure on India to restart a dialogue with Pakistan has worked.


The discreet presence of Robert Blake Jr., the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, in Bhutan during the SAARC Summit is testimony of it. The quid pro quo is the US decision to give India access to David Headley, one of the masterminds of Mumbai, who is in prison in America. The US Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, came to Pakistan on May 4 and met with President Asif Zardari, to urge the Pakistan government to show greater understanding of the Indian government's dilemma in view of anti- Pakistan public opinion in India based on the widespread perception of solid links between the terrorists/ jihadis and Pakistan's old anti- India " establishment" and its inability or unwillingness to seriously prosecute some of the alleged ringleaders of the Mumbai massacre who are in its custody. Certainly, we may expect greater Indian pressure on this front after Headley has been interrogated by New Delhi and new evidence to incriminate targeted jihadi groups like the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba is presented.


M EANWHILE, Pakistan's civilian government and military establishment seem determined to reverse one critical position of the last decade regarding Kashmir. In the 1999 Lahore Summit between prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee, Pakistan stopped insisting on resolving the Kashmir dispute strictly in accordance with the UN Resolutions relating to a pro- Pakistan or pro- India plebiscite.


Mr Sharif also accepted India's notion of a " composite dialogue" in which Kashmir was relegated to being one of eight outstanding disputes for resolution instead of being the " core" issue that had to be discussed and resolved first. In exchange, India's BJP leadership unequivocally accepted the reality of Pakistan and stopped insisting on " Akhand Bharat". A diplomatic back channel was also opened to explore unorthodox ways of resolving Kashmir based on adjustments to the Line of Control ( Chenab Formula) and management of the two Kashmirs under the joint- supervision of both India and Pakistan, which Mr Sharif later insisted had all but arrived at a realistic and equitable way out of the Kashmir stalemate.


There was a brief reversal of this position under General Pervez Musharraf, the architect of Kargil, from 2000- 2003, especially at the Summit in Agra in 2001, but General Musharraf too later adopted Mr Sharif's flexibility, stopped funding and fueling the Kashmir jihad in 2004 and offered similarly radical out- of- the- box solutions to the Kashmir dispute based on extensive back channel diplomacy.


Indeed, General Musharraf went so far as to deny " India- centricity" in Pakistan's foreign policy, including any need or desire for " strategic depth" in Afghanistan as a result of it.


The Pakistan government now reiterates the UN position on Kashmir and repudiates any back- channel progress in the last ten years. Indeed, the foreign secretary in 1999, Mr Shamshad Ahmed, blithely denies his government's policy under prime minister Nawaz Sharif; and Mr Qureshi, the PPP foreign minister who was personally briefed by General Musharraf on the back channel's progress, says there is no record of it in the FO. The denials are bizarre. Former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri, no less than General Musharraf himself, publicly insists that the back channel had produced outstanding results.


In fact, an article by Steve Coll in The New Yorker last year documents the results of the back channel on the basis of interviews with the chief negotiators of that period, including Mr Satish Lambah from India and Khurshid Kasuri and Tariq Aziz of Pakistan. It should be noted that India's prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, also claimed during the last Indian elections that the back channel was on the verge of finding a solution to Kashmir before General Musharraf was dissuaded from pursuing it further following political instability in 2007. Also, Mr Riaz Mohammad Khan, the Pakistani foreign secretary who oversaw the back channel during General Musharraf' time, formally remains ( after retirement) on " standby" to pick up the threads as and when required.


More significantly, the Pakistani military establishment under the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, has reclaimed " India- centricity" and " soft strategic depth" in Afghanistan as the core of Pakistan's foreign policy.


O NE reason for Pakistan's recent backtracking has to do with India's intransigence to continue the dialogue unconditionally after Mumbai.


Another has to do with India's alleged role in Afghanistan in funding and fueling a separatist insurgency aimed in Baluchistan. The third is America's failure to defeat the Al- Qaeda- Taliban resistance in Afghanistan that has increasingly burdened Pakistan with its own Taliban enemy in its tribal areas and led it to bid for a defensive strategic stake in any future political dispensation in Kabul to the exclusion of India.


Therefore, given the complexity of such regional issues impinging on India- Pakistan relations, no quick fixes should be expected on the composite dialogue.


Walking the talk may take longer than desired. In fact, instead of talking about the disputes of the past, Pakistan and India may be better off focusing on the threats of the future: Pakistan desperately wants to dialogue on water scarcity and energy issues; India should be fearful of the impact of foreign- inspired Islamic terrorism on its significant Muslim minority and its business and foreign investment environment. Under the circumstances, and given the rigid positions of the past, this may, perversely enough, be the moment to grasp the future on life and death issues for both countries rather than wrestle with the dead burdens of partition.


The writer is Editor of The Friday Times



We have no electricity. Oho, I know the hole country has no electricity but I mean we, us. Our generator has gone thup again. I think so the security guards outside by the gate must be doing something to it ( it's kept there only, because it's too noisy near the house). It's the second time it's broken out in six months. Other people's keep going and going like General Hamid Gul but not ours. Sunny says she hasn't had to change hers even once since all this load shedding started two years ago. Aik tau she's always doing competition. My husband is richer than yours, my kids are cleverer than yours, my generator is stronger than yours. Cheapster.


On TV the guvmunt says it's all the fault of Musharraf's guvmunt. They say Musharraf didn't plan a head. But now they're putting in lots of electricity plants into the ground and that soon electricity is going to start coming non stop like it used to. But we still have twelvetwelve hours of no electricity. And remember in winters they were also doing load shedding on gas. Thanks God guvmunt doesn't control air otherwise they'd also start doing load shedding on that.


On top, Jameela, my maid wants to have a week off because she says her mother's died. ' Same mother who died last year also?' I asked her. She started crying and said that was actually her aunt, her father's sister, who died last year but she used to call her baybay because she used to live with them and now her real mother's died. I'm sure she's telling lies. These people always do.


They don't know any better because they haven't been to convent schools like us. But if I don't let her go then she'll go off and find another job ( I've seen the way Sunny eyes her every time she comes here) and then I'll have to replace the generator and the maid.


And if that's not enough Aunty Pussy called again to eat my head. Had I done anything for her Jonky yet? I told her that Aunty Pussy I have other things to do also, okay. ' Like what?' she asked.


' Like buying a generator'. ' Kaukab's cousin's son has a dealership. I'll tell him to give you best price'. So Uncle Cockup's nephew from Gentle Generators came and told me which one I should get and then two hours later he sent two men in a van and they brought the new generator and fixed it up and now we have electricity again. And he knocked up seven thou from the price also. That's why family's so important. Because it keeps its promises. Unlike guvmunts. And servants.


And when Janoo came home that evening he asked me what I'd been doing all day and I started telling him about the generator and the maid and Aunty Pussy and he cut me off half way and said I must find some real work to do. And then he switched on his computer and I told him if I hadn't got the generator replaced neither you nor Kulchoo nor anyone in this house could have done any ' real' work, okay?









After the verdict delivered by the special court earlier this week, the death sentence for Ajmal Amir Kasab comes as no surprise. The scrupulously fair trial is testament to the fact that Judge M L Tahaliyani would not take public pressure into account, but the magnitude and nature of the crimes of which Kasab was found guilty were such the rarest of the rare, as the judge put it that capital punishment had an air of inevitability to it. But it must be borne in mind that inevitable or not, the judicial process has come to the end of only the first phase of the entire affair.

In the months to come as the verdict handed out by the special court is ratified by the Bombay high court and then, in all likelihood, appealed in the Supreme Court by Kasab's defence lawyer, the lessons learnt from this trial must be kept in mind. The first is the absolute need for transparency. From every perspective legal, ethical and pragmatic that has been the prime benefit of this trial. It has given New Delhi the moral high ground emphasising the robustness of the country's democratic mechanisms as the judiciary has operated free of political interference and buttressed its calls for the speedy trials of those currently being held in Pakistan.

Initiating the resolution of the 26/11 tragedy, however, is all the Indian judiciary can do. As Tahaliyani pointed out while delivering the verdict and again when pronouncing the sentence, Kasab is just one of the actors in the Mumbai attack. Those responsible for conceiving the plan and putting it into operation are in Pakistan and likely to remain so despite calls by New Delhi to extradite them. Given the botched New York car bombing and the resultant focus yet again on the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan, it is in Islamabad's best interests to expedite the trials of the accused there. If it means to demonstrate the sincerity of its calls for dialogue and forward movement in the India-Pakistan relationship, there are few better ways to go about it.

However, a few niggles regarding Kasab's trial remain. One of the main ones is the conduct of the prosecutor, Ujjwal Nikam. By all accounts, his statements, both in court and to the media, have been rife with hyperbole and strident almost shrill denunciations of Kasab. It is a pity that he felt the need to grandstand in a case where sober understatement would have served far better. The enormity of the 26/11 attack speaks for itself; to dramatise it is to trivialise it.







The Supreme Court's ruling that forcible use of narco analysis, brain mapping and polygraph tests on an accused is unconstitutional is timely. The court has reasoned that these tests are intrusions into the personal liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. Though scientists have pointed out that information extracted through narco analysis need not necessarily be true, these dubious aids have been popular with sections of the police. The latter have substituted these in place of rigorous and, perhaps, time consuming methods of investigations. There is evidence to believe these tests, considered unethical by most courts, are often used to manipulate the accused to buttress the investigator's suspicions or to pressurise a suspect. As the apex court said, forcibly subjecting an individual to these tests violates his right against self-incrimination. The Constitution protects an accused from being compelled to be a witness against himself. Narco analysis and other tests involve intravenous administration of drugs to induce an individual to speak. In plain terms, it is akin to getting a person to blabber under drug-induced hallucination. This may, in some cases, help the investigation, but it is equally possible that such confessions may mislead the investigator. In short, these practices are not just unethical and unconstitutional but also facilitate shoddy investigation.

That such practices were deemed fit by our police raises a larger question. Do we who take pride in being a democracy sufficiently recognise the importance of personal liberty? Why did the police lean on unethical practices like narco analysis to bolster investigation even in many high-profile cases? That we needed the apex court to intervene in this issue, hopefully, to end this practice says a lot about the manner in which the law is enforced in this country.





Figures read like a menu card, or a wine list. We all have our favourite numbers when we choose from statistics a la carte. But as all Bengalis know, you can dress up a fish to look good, but if it is rotten it is going to smell.

According to one tally, just about 28 per cent of India's population lives below the poverty line (BPL). The same cooks will tell you this number was at roughly 45 per cent just about a decade ago. This is clearly India shining; you might even need shades to cut the glare. But then our nose tells us something different. There are still so many poor people, so many hovels, so many mounds of filth and so many beggars. This is why we need the smell check.

Low poverty rates look good only if the cut-off is at Rs 11.8 per day, per person, spending power in villages and Rs 17.9 in cities. How irrational is this figure? Basically, this would be the price of a local bus ticket, and no snacking on the way. But can a man live on bus rides alone? Should we increase this number ever so slightly, by Rs 3 for rural areas and Rs 2 for cities, the statistic begins to gather an odour. Now the proportion of those who are poor goes up to about 38 per cent. Slowly raise the bar by another tiny fraction, say, to Rs 22, and this figure swells to an amazing 70 per cent.

Now this statistic may have a high smell but it agrees with what we sense around us. Once we begin to trust our nose we look for figures that would otherwise remain hidden. For example, there is a fair amount of jubilation that the number of women in the workforce has increased. Between 1972 and 2005 their share in regular employment went up from 27.9 per cent to 35.6 per cent: a jump of 7.7 per cent. This is certainly worth a few rounds on the house. But during the same period the proportion of regularly employed men came down from 50.7 per cent to 40.6 per cent a fall of 10 per cent. In balance then, there are fewer regular workers on the muster sheet. Again, the nose reveals what numbers conspire to conceal.

Infrastructure investment rose appreciably in the past 10 years. This is especially true in telecommunications, airports and gas supply. If we stop here we have a fairy tale ending where public-private partnerships live happily ever after. Why then do we clench our jaws and fists every waking minute? Sadly, infrastructure investments have dipped in crucial public sector undertakings such as for roads, bridges, railways, water supplies, ports and even irrigation. It is here that most workers are employed.

True, the number of community health centres rose by 53 per cent between 1999 and 2007. Yet, according to the UN Development Report, India has slipped in world ranking from 128 to 134. Further, the third National Family Health Survey of 2005-06 attests that 25 million children in India are wasted and 61 million stunted. In fact, India's malnourished children are double the population of sub-Saharan Africa.

Non-farm employment is certainly going up in the countryside. Now almost half the rural economy is officially outside agriculture. But where are these villagers finding jobs? Between 1991 and 2001, the number of marginal workers (those without any employment for six months or more in a year) increased by 11.98 per cent, but the percentage of regular workers decreased by 1.11 per cent.

Between 1980 and 2005 cloth production increased from six billion square metres to approximately 25 billion square metres. The established mills do not deserve credit for this as 80 per cent of the growth, according to the Economic Survey, was accomplished in the ill-paid loom sector.

In addition, there is a more recent and worrying trend. The number of literates in the working class increased from 45 per cent to 61 per cent in the years 1997-2000. Yet the proportion of workers with middle and secondary school qualifications fell. Simply said, there are now more sweat shops and casual workers, ergo little need for skilled hands.

The IT sector is booming, but employs only three million people. Car sales in certain companies went up in the last year by 40 per cent, but only 3 per cent of Indian households own cars. India boasts nearly 300 universities, yet why do major companies, including Infosys, complain about the quality of their recruits? If truth be told, according to the Times Higher Educational Supplement, our educational institutions are far from being internationally competitive.

India's pride, the IITs, occupy the 50th position in world ranking while the IIMs come 84th. The Jawaharlal Nehru University is a lowly 192, and this is one of our best educational institutions. How does our neighbour compare from across the border? Beijing University is way up for it ranks 15th worldwide. What hurts is that even Fudan University does way better than JNU. It occupies the 72nd position, while our best can only make it three pages later. It is said that good words cannot butter parsnip. Likewise, can good numbers hide the smell?

The writer is a former professor, JNU.





A group of writers and activists will set out this week on a journey from Kerala to Imphal under the banner of the Hind Swaraj Centenary Samiti to highlight the satyagraha of Irom Sharmila, who's been on a hunger strike demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Manipur. Sarah Joseph , acclaimed Malayalam writer and one of the organisers of the journey, tells Amrith Lal that Sharmila represents all women who believe that a non-violent world is possible:

What has prompted you and friends to organise this journey?

That a person is forced to undertake a hunger strike for 10 years to pursue justice in this country bothered us. So, is hunger strike a crime? If not, why is this satyagrahi treated like a prisoner? This was the instrument we used against colonial powers to win India's independence. A form of protest that played a remarkable role in our freedom struggle and was admired by the whole world should not be marginalised, we felt.

Civic Chandran (Malayalam poet and activist) and Gandhian activists felt the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's Hind Swaraj was an occasion to highlight struggles that followed the principle of non-violence. We are living in an age where bomb making has almost become a cottage industry. This girl is demonstrating that there is a different way to fight for the rights of one's people. It needs to be respected.

How are you connecting Hind Swaraj with Sharmila's protest?

The struggle in Manipur is about Manipuri identity. Language, culture etc are part of the national question in Indian states. If Manipuris are to be convinced that they are a part of India, they must first be able to access the rights enjoyed by other Indians. The Indian government must reach out to Sharmila and engage with issues of identity implicit in her protest.

Do you think non-violent protests are relevant in today's world?

Non-violence alone has relevance in today's world. History has taught us that no good has come out of wars or bloodshed, even those undertaken on the path to build socialism. Violence destroys humaneness. The destruction is deep. It's not limited to the killing of people. It has resulted in the destruction of culture, the human mind, and ecology.

That i undergo suffering to change your mind is an idea found in religion. That my pain can purify your heart is an idea that needs to be preserved. As a woman, i can never accept violence. We have reached a stage where we can't ensure safe food for our children. We have forgotten to protect our soil, water and language. We now know only to kill, to destroy. When i think as a mother, i know that we need to explore other ways of living.

You have linked gender and ecology to the question of justice in your writings. Do your literary concerns make you identify with political causes?

Certainly. A Vietnamese woman who had lost her son in the war once said Vietnam would defeat the US by cultivating more rice in the time between bombings. Rice instead of bomb: there's a message in that. Mothers don't have time for bombs. Away from the mainstream, many women are searching for new ways to live, to produce food, to create a new green world. I see Sharmila as one of those women who are dreaming of a new world. They have a right to do so.







Indians have always had an identity problem. If asked what he was, chances are that an Indian would scratch his head, think a bit, and reply that he was a UP-ite, or a Malayalee, or an Assamese, or a Bengali, or a Gujarati, or a Marathi (and this, mind you, long before the Thackerays, Bal and Raj, made Marathi manoos the latest thing in ethnic chic). If pressed, the UP-ite, or an Assamese, or a Gujarati, or whatever, in question, might further confide what caste he belonged to: Kshatriya, or Yadav, or Kurmi, or Baniya, or Brahmin, or whatever. And, if he really got into the swing of things, he might go on to tell you his gotra, the cute nickname his grandparents had given him when he was two years old, and his Linda Goodman sun sign. 

Never or almost never would an Indian on being asked what he was say that he was an Indian. And this holds as true, if not truer, today than it's ever done in the past. We are, and always have been, a nation of sub-nationalities supra-nationalities, some would say based on distinctions of region, caste, creed and other differentiating factors. While this has given our rainbow republic its vibrant and vigorous diversity, it has also sometimes led to a blinkering of vision, a narrow parochialism of which people like Thackeray and Co are sub-prime examples. 

How do we go about developing a unifying sense of nationhood, a national identity which will enable us, at long last, to see ourselves and each other without our quirky differences and realise that we are, as we say, same to same only, just like sliced white bread, where you can't tell the one from the other? IT boffin Nandan Nilekani believes he has the answer to that billion-plus question. And it is to be found in the Unique Identification Authority of India, the sarkari organisation which he heads, and which is in the process of devising for each and every one of us Indians a 16-digit Unique Identity Number (UIN) which will Eureka! instantaneously bestow upon us a pre-fab, common Indian identity, shorn of all divergences and differences. Hallelujah and glory be. 

So Nandanji's found the magic formula for instant Indianism in his Unique Identification Number. Or has he? Perhaps the most Indian characteristic of all us Indians (whatever that may mean) is to find new ways of being different from each other. Turn us from people into numbers and we'll still find ways to divide ourselves. How? Very simple. 

First, all the even numbers will form their own clan to distinguish themselves from all those untrustworthy, shifty odd numbers (why do you think they're called odd if there wasn't something weird about them?). Then a caste hierarchy will emerge based on the further divisibility of individual numbers or UINs. All UINs that can be divided by 3 will form one caste, those divisible by 5 will form another, and so on, the 7-walas, the 17-walas, etc. On top of the numeric caste heap will be the prime numbers, the UINs who are truly unique in that they cannot be divided by any number other than themselves and by one. They'll be the Numero Unos the neo-Brahmins among the UINs. 

All these new, number-based castes will, of course, lobby for quotas and reservations for jobs and admission into educational institutions. And a typical matrimonial ad will read: Wanted, for fair, unblemished, Convent-educated, Prime Number bride, suitable Prime Number green card-holding groom, caste and creed and region no bar, brokers please excuse. 

Unite us as they might, we'll always find ways to divide ourselves. Prime Numbers and all.








Ah, the strings attached to hierarchy. Make that purse strings. It stands to reason that the boss brings home a larger slice of the bacon than his or her subordinate. But imagine the torturous situation that our honourable MPs have to bear day in, day out knowing that the secretary who brings in and takes out the files and smiles weakly is getting nearly double the salary of the parliamentarians. Quite clearly, what cuts deepest isn't so much that the Rs 45,000 a month barely allows a subsistence living for our powerhouses — so what if the perks are extra? — but the fact that the babu, untied to the causality of being elected or nominated gets almost double the amount.

As recent studies in social behaviour have shown — and something that human resources chappies since the Stone Age knew instinctively — employees find it unbearable when a colleague is getting a paisa more. The usual bloke — VIP or not — would be happier if he's paid minimum wages as long as his colleague in the next cubicle gets paid 'even less' minimum wages.

Which is where the outrage from our MPs stems from. And which is why the sweet plea to have a salary that's even one rupee more is a touching human story, rather than one about wanting 'More, more, more!'





The Supreme Court's ruling that non-voluntary narco-analysis and brain-mapping tests violate the Constitution was an observation that was as obvious as it was necessary. Article 20(3) is unequivocal about protecting the individual's choice to speak or remain silent. Regardless of what they show in the movies about innovative methods of investigation, the rule of the law applies to criminals as well as the lawkeepers. As the SC stated on Wednesday, the need to protect a suspect against coercion is "irrespective of whether the subsequent testimony proves to be inculpatory or exculpatory" — that is, whether it suggests the subject's guilt or innocence.

There are some, however, who find the ruling to be naïve and defend narco-testing. One, with the test results not admissible in court as evidence anyway, it was always about obtaining 'leads' from suspects speaking under the influence of a 'truth serum', they say. By this logic, as the SC hints at, 'third degree methods' (read: torture) can be equally adept at breaking down a suspect's resolve to hide the truth. The other point that those who are the pro-narco-testing make is that the ruling should apply to 'normal' criminals and a separate provision be made for those suspected of being terrorists or waging war against the State. You don't have to be a cynic or a human rights-wallah to know that this is going down a very slippery slope where high emotions alone are used to fuel an argument. Once 'qualitative' parameters enter the scene, there is little scope of discretion being practised to crack different kinds of crime.

It would be relevant here to point out that the case against involuntary narco-testing was brought to the courts by Santokben Jadeja who has been accused of running a criminal nexus. Thus, the appeal to revoke narco-testing was not from any theoretical 'rights of man' quarter but as an argument from a defence counsel. To make distinctions between who falls under the narco-testing net and who doesn't is to make a distinction between the very notion of investigative methods. And it is here that the 'scientific' methodology of narco-testing and brain-scanning fails to stand up to the test. As experts have pointed out, these practices are hardly empirical — the very reason that unlike, say, DNA tests or fingerprinting, they don't count as evidence. The reaction from some police quarters after the Supreme Court is telling: all narco-tests are conducted, they say, after getting permission from the suspects. Next, we will hear that all confessions in custody are 'unaided' confessions. With public opinion not necessarily in support of the court ruling — and especially because it isn't so — our custodians of law should be doubly vigilant that dodgy short-cuts are not taken to prove the guilt of those accused of a crime. This is not about giving the criminal an advantage; it's about not blurring the difference between criminals and those who put them away.






Afghanistan has always been a prisoner of its geography and history and this imponderable has blocked its emergence as a sovereign nation with a will of its own. Its strategic location could have been an asset for the world; on the contrary, it has turned out to be the cause of its troubles.

Nations have often found it tempting to meddle in Afghanistan's affairs. But the time has come, particularly for India, Iran and Pakistan, and the US, Russia, China and the European Union, and also Afghanistan's neighbours in Central Asia, to discuss how Afghanistan can be helped to live on its own, without any fear of interference from outside.

An effort aiming at an international concert on Afghanistan's future has become urgent in view of President Barack Obama's growing impatience to pull US troops out of the country before making a bid for another term. India, on its part, should not be shy of discussing with others the possible scenario in Afghanistan, after foreign troops leave the country.

It is not that during the last couple of years, major countries have not been discussing this situation. These discussions, however, have been non-serious, mainly because the US and Nato have been bothered more about tackling the immediate situation than sorting out the future.

President Obama's keenness for re-election is understandable, but walking out of Afghanistan leaving behind a vacuum to be filled by wrong elements will amount to abdication of the responsibility the US took up after 26/11.

One idea that has been in the air, but not pursued by those who ought to have done so, is about recognising Afghanistan as a neutral nation with the assurance that no power would be allowed to interfere in its affairs. Although no two situations can be alike in international affairs, Austria has been cited as an example in exploratory consultations. It has been able to buy several years of peace guaranteed by other European powers.

President Karzai, it is said, does not like the term "neutrality", but he is bound to welcome the idea if durable peace can be restored in his country. Another term can be thought of which guarantees peace to Afghanistan, shields it from outside interference, and underscores its status as a sovereign nation. After their experience with Afghanistan, most nations would like to accord it a neutral status.

There is, however, an exception — Pakistan — which is opposed to any such thought. This is because it undercuts the very concept of the 'strategic depth' Pakistan avows to acquire in Afghanistan. This concept is flawed, outdated and against the basics of international law and unsuitable to the needs of the 21st century. Also, it has the potential to cause  considerable mischief.

Embedded in it is the intention to interfere in Afghanistan, there's a tendency to covet its territory, or guiding its affairs by placing a quisling in command in Kabul. This will be a source of recurring tensions. The immediate victim of the 'strategic depth' is bound to be where the depth — whether political or territorial — is sought to be acquired.

Judging from the psychology of Pakistan's military leaders it will be difficult to sell the concept of a neutral Afghanistan to them, but others cannot afford to give it up if they want to see Afghanistan and the region trouble-free.

The thought of a neutral Afghanistan is still nascent and will take some time to mature. At present the US, the key actor  in Afghanistan, is only keen to induct a section of the Taliban — the so-called 'Good Taliban' — into the Karzai government so that it can pull out its troops in a couple of years. It will, however, be unwise for the US and other nations not to look beyond the withdrawal of troops. Unsettled Afghanistan will always be a problem for the world.

H K Dua is a Rajya Sabha member and former Editor, Hindustan Times

The views expressed by the author are personal






On the Mount Rushmore of Indian nationalist iconography, we can expect to see, as we pass by in an aeroplane, Gandhi's and Nehru's faces carved into the stone. The third face is a blur — but the myopic likeness is of course Ambedkar's. The fourth visage just may be Tagore's.

And this, you feel, is largely the company Tagore will keep in the days leading to his 150th birth anniversary: Nehru, Gandhi, Ambedkar. I repeat this litany verbatim from an article by Ramachandra Guha, who, reassessing Tagore, considers him eligible for a place in the constellation of India's founding fathers. "If Tagore had merely been a 'creative artist'," Guha says, "perhaps one would not have found him fit to rank alongside those other builders of modern India." Of course, Tagore was much more, as famous poets of colonised nations were especially doomed to be. WB Yeats, in 'Among School Children', describes his public role thus: "The children learn to cipher and to sing,/ To study reading — books and histories,/ To cut and sew, be neat in everything/ In the best modern way — the children's eyes/ In momentary wonder stare upon/ A sixty-year-old smiling public man." The children are learning to be citizens; they are perhaps also being civilised "in the best modern way". (If anything, the Irish, as a subject race, had worse opprobrium heaped upon them by the English than the Indians did.) But Yeats's sparse diction and his unobtrusive line-endings hint that, in the midst of the citizen-making, the intruder has been identified as both a diversion and a fake; the children, with their staring eyes and 'momentary wonder', have found him out: and we, like Yeats himself, are estranged from the public persona. Later in the poem, Yeats lets on that he knows perfectly what he is at 60: "a comfortable kind of old scarecrow" and "old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird". Outside of the "momentary wonder" and the stares, to be an ageing poet, a mere "creative artist", is to be nothing at all.

Tagore knew this, and it's from his intimacy with solitariness and secrecy that his extraordinary language and his transformative vision of the world emerge. He often seems to make this solitary self an interlocutor, in a tone at once self-flagellating and accusatory: "You were hidden at my heart's core/ And I did not notice you." It's remarkable that, as Tagore moved from, in his own words, the "great good fortune" of being "young and unknown" into the mêlée of international fame, he should have kept this conversation, between the speaking voice and the self hidden in the heart, alive, and crucial to the ordinary middle-class Bengalis' imaginations, to their private reveries. Among the many striking things about Tagore's life is his consistent struggle to be, primarily, a mere 'creative artist' even as he mutated into a worldwide figure; a struggle most artists find difficult, but which Tagore had the better of, and even benefited from.

Few writers have had the misfortune, as Tagore did, of becoming famous for principally the wrong reasons. Even Rushdie, who became more well-known than he wanted to with the fatwa, stands or falls, in the end, on the basis of his work, especially Midnight's Children, rather than his speeches, his advances, or his general philosophy. An antagonistic author called the fatwa an "extreme form of literary criticism". But Tagore criticism, alas, is even less known than his poetry is. In India, Tagore is viewed as a sort of Guinness Book of World Records-holder: he wrote more than any other modern writer did; he mastered more genres than any of his contemporaries; he was the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize; he's the only man to have composed two national anthems. To the febrile nationalist imagination, such lists are all-important. Even if some of these claims were true, they — without reference to specificities — exemplify the sort of absurd rhetoric Tagore is surrounded by. Although there's no shortage of kitsch renditions of the national anthem, emanating from A R Rahman and others, I've yet to read a persuasive analysis of the anthem as a composition.

Both anthems, 'Amar Sonar Bangla' and 'Jana Gana Mana', show Tagore to be the restless bricoleur he is, seizing upon available material and working it anew. 'Jana Gana Mana' begins as a sort of marching tune influenced by the measure of popular English songs, and then, unexpectedly, in the line 'Punjab Sindh Gujarat Maratha', shape-shifts into the melancholy of raga Kedar. The echo of Kedar is reinforced in the last note of the anthem, the fourth, the madhyam, Kedar's mainstay. These mercurial transitions in the composition have been absorbed by us so completely that we don't hear them any more. The Bangladeshi anthem, on the other hand, is a high-spirited reworking of a Baul tune. The two anthems are themselves a clue to the nature of Tagore's creativity, and the range and eclecticism of his borrowings.

Tagore needs to depart from Mount Rushmore and return to the company he properly belongs to, and from which (outside Bengal) he was long ago banished — that of the poets who are his peers, and those who preceded and followed him. From Vidyapati (of whose songs he once composed a pastiche) to Tagore there's an immense movement: but of what kind? Ezra Pound and Yeats championed him for the English Gitanjali, then lost interest in him. How does one explain the intense infatuation with that questionable version of Gitanjali, and the disenchantment later? It's a mystery, an event only possible in a magic zone, and to be viewed, aghast, from the outside, like Titania's inexorable attraction to the transfigured Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, leading to those sluggish memories she has on waking up.

Of course, the Gitanjali is no Bottom, though the Nobel may have recreated Puck's magic; in fact, it's possible to argue a case for Tagore being the great poet of his age, and certainly one of its greatest. 'The sky full of the sun and stars, the world full of life': like Whitman and Lawrence, Tagore is a polemicist for the value of life and song. Ramachandra Guha is right to say that the Bengalis are primarily to blame for his neglect — especially as a mere 'creative artist'. But there's also the larger context of Indian intellectual discourse, governed as it is by history and the social sciences, showing little affection for literary language.

Not long before he died, Tagore wrote to the younger poet-critic Buddhadeva Bose: "I have heard it said again and again that we are guided altogether by history, and I have energetically nodded, so to say, in my own mind whenever I heard it. I have settled this debate in my own head where I am nothing but a poet... I have it in my mind to say, 'Off with your history!'"  Like his assertions on behalf of life in the songs, this is an extraordinarily courageous thing to say — a polemic, again, against abstraction, made in favour of a direct perception of lived life. The question isn't whether we should turn seriously to Tagore; the question is whether we, in India, are ready for him.

Amit Chaudhuri's latest novel is The Immortals 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






Would it not be easier/ To dissolve the people/ and elect another?" asked Bertolt Brecht, tongue in cheek. After its miserable performance in the Maharashtra election, the Shiv Sena seemed to want exactly that, as Bal Thackeray blamed Maharashtrians for letting their loyalties slip. Today, as the Shiv Sena confronts the abyss, a serious dissertation by its own former chief minister and erstwhile Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi flips the question around — why has the Sena failed to keep its flock together?


Founded in the mid-'60s as an anti-communist, anti-south Indian immigrant force, it transformed the nature of Maharashtra politics. As Sunil Khilnani put it, it "learned from the nationalism of high-caste Hindus, from the populism of Congress, from communist and Hindu extremist organisational methods, from the cinema and popular press, and above all from the streets." For decades, it was a ferociously compact unit, steered singly by Bal Thackeray — reinscribing Mumbai's streets


with its own provincial paranoia, cutting a cosmopolitan city down to size with its attack on art and expression, and directing its enmities to those who were seen as stealing opportunities from the Marathi manoos. However, through its years in power, it gradually became a flabby, corrupt organisation. Succession became a fraught war between son and nephew. There were other high-profile defections, which Joshi refers to, triggered by this nepotistic internal culture — Narayan Rane's exit to the Congress, Chhagan Bhujbal's to the NCP. Now, in what must be the bitterest blow of all, Raj Thackeray's MNS finally seems to have stolen the Sena's mojo.


Today, the Sena would do well to ask why, in Joshi's words, it failed to sustain the "thought of unity (of Maharashtrians)." Joshi seems to suggest that the defections correspond to a splintering of the Sena idea. Perhaps it is too much to hope that the party's depleted fortunes indicate the end of its corrosive politics.






How best to understand how poorly Kerala is served by its politics? Here's how. It's time India began looking beyond its highways to expressways. It boasts only 200 km of expressways, against approximately 70,000 km of national highways, the latter a project continually hindered, not least because of problems with land acquisition. Moreover, the National Highway Authority of India, in keeping with the scope of the project, prefers 60 m of width for four-lane highways, which is what prevails in certain states. Nevertheless, the NHAI had consented to a minimum of 45 m — a limit meant to answer Kerala's anxiety. Now, an all-party delegation led by the state's chief minister and leader of the opposition has met the prime minister seeking further relaxation, arguing that Kerala cannot spare more than 30 m. One wouldn't dare to propose a six-lane expressway thereafter.


While the ridiculousness of it all reminds one about the man who answered the job advertisement only to say that he didn't want the job, this fantastic demand doesn't betray Kerala's political tradition. This antediluvian, near-unanimous response of the state's political class was visible over VAT and big retail, on FRBM, in the hostility to Asean FTA, and of course on land acquisition. The last is the reason Kerala supposedly cannot afford highways more than 30 m wide. The state has the highest number of land acquisition disputes the NHAI faces, and last month it decided to discontinue acquisition for four-laning. Not only has Kerala had problems with the BOT model, in 2007, the state government had put the Centre in a spot by refusing to sign state support agreements, since it opposed tolling of roads. All this may be less astonishing from the state's Left; but that the state Congress indulges in it too, against its Central ministers, is outrageous.


Land acquisition, of course, is a nationwide problem. Proposals from the road transport and highways ministry, such as vesting back acquired but unused land to original owners, need consideration. Above all, the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill must be retrieved. Meanwhile, Kerala's politicians should ponder why a state with so many natural advantages, such as literacy, cannot get better politics.








The Indian Express Posted online: It had become entirely predictable: a major development in something security-related, and we would brace ourselves for quasi-official comment coming in from all sides, and usually pointing in different directions, too. This was particularly egregious after the Dantewada attack on a CRPF patrol last month that left 76 people dead: both


the army chief and the chief of the air force commented publicly on whether their services could or could not help in the fight against Maoists. This must have been


the last straw: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked Defence Minister A.K. Antony to remind the service chiefs in particular that they should be circumspect in their public remarks to defence-related matters — and, presumably, to carefully circumscribe what they say to the media or in public even on those issues.


This is very welcome indeed. This newspaper has consistently maintained that the expertise of the leaders of the defence services should be taken into account, indeed be crucial, in the framing of policy. But, particularly in security-related issues, the nuts and bolts of that discussion should not be carried out subject to the arbitrary pushes and pulls of public discourse, but in a measured manner. Nor does it square with the dignity of the posts that the military chiefs have that they wind up, in effect, using the media to argue their case. Nobody knows better than soldiers that operational security is sometimes required. It seems odd that a reminder to that effect should have to come from the prime minister's office. Yet, ever since television viewers shocked by 26/11 were stunned to see a news conference by navy commandos even as operations were ongoing, and heard conflicting comments from several different sources senior in the armed forces and the police, this simple point seems to have been forgotten.


There may, of course, be a clear reason for this: the leaders of India's military do not trust that the civilian establishment that controls them, and which is supposed to look out for them, is providing them with the necessary cover. That is a valid concern, and one that should be addressed. Yet the prime minister has done well to stamp down on the laxness to which it gave rise.









We have been informed by the media — the print, electronic and Internet versions — that the economic crisis is behind us. The US economy is registering a positive growth rate, the stock market is up, no banks are going to fail, in fact bankers will get egregiously large bonuses. While all these are factually correct, it does not follow that the crisis is behind us. There still exists a small (thankfully not large) probability that the world could head into a Great Depression. If this happens, it will be because of the short-sighted, stupid populist rhetoric that otherwise intelligent people are indulging in.


The first source of stupidity is the US government. Influential persons in the executive and legislative branches of the American government are pressuring China to revalue its currency. Luckily for us, the Chinese have so far withstood this ill-conceived arm-twisting. No less a person than Paul Krugman, a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics, has been pushing for the US to force the Chinese to revalue by threatening to impose selective tariffs on Chinese imports to the US. This is in keeping with Krugman's newfound role as the spokesperson for the left. As far as I can make out, a Chinese revaluation will have the same effect as a tariff on Chinese goods and would reduce trade flows and welfare all around.


This is what all textbooks of international trade would say in their second chapters. Eminent worthies would point out that the revaluation effect (implied tariff) would fall only on Chinese exports. Other trading nations will not be affected and other eager producers will fill in the space vacated by the Chinese. Countries like Brazil and India are seen as potential beneficiaries.


Here starts the first step down the dangerous precipice known as "beggar thy neighbour". Sudden revaluations, tariffs and other anti-trade measures are always rationalised with similar arguments. The Smoot Hawley Act of 1930, which converted a recession into a depression, was also pushed forward on the grounds that in fact some producers would benefit at the expense of others. The problem is that once we start playing games with the fundamental principles of trade, we don't know where it will lead. Pundits who claim that they can accurately predict where a specific action will lead to in terms of the percentage point impact on GDP are lying because the econometric models they use are guesstimates at best. All we can say in general terms is that tariffs (or tariff-like actions) will lead to a decline in trade, GNP and overall welfare. We can also say that such actions in hard economic times could precipitate a depression. It is indeed a pity that economists who have based their illustrious careers on support for free trade should provide intellectual justification to jingoist policies that will hurt the entire world.


President Obama's speechwriters endorse a silly position from one who is supposed to be the leader of the world's richest country. On more than one occasion, he has said that he wants jobs to be created "in Buffalo, not in Bangalore or Shanghai". Mr President: you are dead wrong. You are obligated to ensure that the world economy functions in a manner that jobs are created in Buffalo and in Bangalore and in Shanghai. Please desist from this "either-or" fallacy and adopt the "and-and" perspective. We can all prosper. If anyone seeks to prosper at the expense of another, then a decline in wealth and income for all is inevitable. Let us avoid another Smoot Hawley irrespective of the disguise it wears.


The second source of silliness is the German government. They seem so hung up on defending the sacred cow which the euro has become and on preaching the virtues of fiscal rectitude that they are quite capable of precipitating a depression. The stubborn love of a strong euro resembles the tragic love affair with the gold standard which caused much agony in the period between the wars. Winston Churchill, as chancellor of the exchequer for Britain, returned that country to the gold standard at an absurd price and created more unemployment, more misery than any enemy of Britain could have. Keynes referred to gold as "barbarous".


At the risk of sounding offensive, one can argue that today the euro has become a barbarous albatross that could take Greece down and along with Greece the rest of the world. There is no option: Greece has to leave the eurozone; Greece has to devalue; Greece has to restructure its old debt (with EC and German guarantees); Greece has to raise new debt in a devalued drachma. By delaying it, by dithering about it, the Germans are increasing the likelihood of a depression. If a surgical exercise is not undertaken with Greece and undertaken with great celerity, other southern and eastern European dominoes are bound to fall. Nobody is happy that AIG or Citigroup has been saved with US taxpayer money. But the alternative would have been worse for the same US taxpayers. This is what the Germans should understand. It is not sufficient for a leader to seek popularity. A great leader of a great country needs to explain to its citizens why unpopular actions need to be taken at certain times. Will Ms Merkel realise that her tryst with destiny is now? Hectoring the Greeks and telling them that they are lazy or irresponsible may make for good TV coverage. But let's face it: Letting the Greeks down or forcing down impossible austerities on them will rebound on the Germans and all of us. At a time like this, the practical (however unpalatable) is also the morally correct option.


The economic crisis is not over. It could get worse, unless the leaders of the US (the world's richest country) and Germany (Europe's richest country) stay sober and fight jingoism. Giving lectures to the Chinese and the Greeks can and should be postponed to a time when the world economy is in better shape.


The writer lives in Mumbai








The last time members of the fractious Indian Olympic Association and National Sports Federation came together and attacked a sports minister was in 2007. Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was holding the portfolio then, had tried to formulate a new sports policy that sought to make these bodies accountable. With sports bosses allergic to the term "accountability", it couldn't have happened. And it didn't.


It was déjà vu earlier this week, as the IOA top brass joined hands in criticising Aiyar's successor in the office, M.S. Gill. Gill restored a contentious 1975 regulation, with a few modifications, that limits the number of terms for a sports administrator. He has also set a retirement age of 70. For Suresh Kalmadi & Co, that's downright unacceptable.


A vast majority of the heads and secretaries of these bodies have been clinging on to their posts for decades. None more impressively than V.K. Malhotra: the Delhi BJP leader became the president of the Archery Association of India (AAI) in 1973. The world has changed unrecognisably since. A couple of constants, not reassuring though, are: 1) the 78-year-old Malhotra still rules the AAI; 2) Indian archers haven't won a medal at the Olympics.


But Malhotra is just the tip — albeit a big one — of the iceberg that is Indian sports administration. Suresh Kalmadi has been IOA's boss for 14 years and lifetime president of the Athletics Federation of India. S.S. Dhindsa has headed the cycling federation for the last one and a half decade.


Their common primary vocation makes their reaction to the government's directive somewhat understandable. It's more than just inertia. They are politicians. And hence the rhetoric.


Kalmadi is questioning the timing of the decision. With 150 days to go, the directive, he wants us to believe, is a bigger threat to the Commonwealth Games than the slow pace of work. Malhotra gets a bit personal and asks the 74-year-old Gill to lead by example and step down. Fair enough, but Gill is a cabinet minister in a democratically elected government. Will the Malhotras and the Kalmadis let people decide their fate the next time they seek re-election?


They know that verbal attack on the minister is not enough. So they come up with something that carries more weight: the Olympic Charter, the law that governs the Olympic movement in the world. It mandates a government — or for that matter any external body — cannot interfere with the functioning of a national Olympic committee or federation. If its autonomy is violated, it may lead to the country's suspension by the International Olympic Committee — a sporting boycott. The charter says it is above the law of the land. And there are different sets of rules for the mother organisation (the IOC) and the national bodies.


Since 1999, the IOC has put a cap on the number of terms for its president (eight years and a one-time extension of four years), and sets 70 years as the retirement for individual members. It's not binding on national committees/ federations, which are free to decide for themselves.


It is this dichotomy that has become a bone of contention. The ministry insists that if the IOC can fix tenures for its office-bearers, why not the IOA and its affiliates? Kalmadi and the others say it infringes on the principle of autonomy and therefore violates the charter. IOC agrees and warns of "protective measures" against the country, including a suspension. It chooses to go by the letter and not by the spirit. It seems implausible that in a country like China, the government doesn't have any say in the functioning of sports bodies — for better or worse. But given the country's status, both in the world and the Olympic movement, the IOC looks the other way.


Given the sentiment against the IOA and federations, the move seems to be populist, but not necessarily a right one. In restoring these regulations, the ministry is barking up the wrong tree. Fixing tenures, we are led to believe, will fix what is ailing Indian sport. It won't. If at all, the step may even backfire. The boxing federation, for example, is doing an excellent job when it comes to promoting the sport. And the results are there to see.


If its secretary general P.K. Muralidharan Raja is forced out, what is the guarantee his replacement will run the organisation as efficiently?


Former world champion swimmer, and now the Commonwealth Games Federation's vice president, Bruce Robertson of Canada, says that their government doesn't interfere in the functioning of sports bodies. It just wants to see the return on investment: results vis-à-vis the money spent.


That could be the way out. To dig out Aiyar's national sports policy draft and fix accountability, and not tenures.








The breakdown in conversation was evident even before the Pakistan Foreign Secretary left Indian soil in February, after what was meant to signal the start of a fresh engagement process between both the countries. It took a lengthy one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani in Thimphu to bring matters back on track for the moment.


On the face of it, the Indian stand to desist from a political meeting seemed to have been diluted a bit to accommodate Pakistan, which had suggested a foreign minister-level meeting in February itself. The understanding from the government is that Gilani reaffirmed Pakistan's commitment to not allow territory in its control to be used for terrorist activities against India. In this context, it was felt that New Delhi should not be found reluctant in meeting Gilani half way given that he, as PM, has emerged far more empowered after the passage of the 18th amendment to Pakistan's constitution.


These may be healthy indications, but it is also important to bear in mind that it was Gilani himself who first complicated matters when in January he declared that Pakistan could not guarantee against another Mumbai-like attack in India. "Pakistan is itself facing Mumbai-like attacks almost every other day and when we cannot protect our own citizens, how can we guarantee that there wouldn't be any more terrorist hits in India," he had said.


Regardless of the factual basis of that remark, this statement, for India, went against the spirit of the January 6, 2004 joint statement between then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the margins of the Islamabad SAARC Summit. Musharraf had assured India through the statement that "he will not permit any territory under Pakistan's control to be used to support terrorism in any manner".


The understanding reached then formed the basis for resumption of the Composite Dialogue after both countries had their armies mobilised on the borders for over a year. This was a crucial turning point for India in dealing with the Musharraf regime. It did live up to its utility as the Indo-Pak ties went through a better phase, including a robust backchannel effort to address the more daunting issues. It was not as if terror attacks stopped, but the assurance made the Pakistan state more accountable and hence, put India on firmer footing. In sum, this commitment helped keep the peace process afloat in the Musharraf era.


The problem with the new Pakistan regime is its perceived reluctance to accept the Musharraf legacy. While Pakistani diplomats continue to underline that they stand by all previous statements, the fact that this bureaucratic reality has hit a political wall in Pakistan is impossible to ignore. Just like a Lahore Declaration was formulated despite having in place a Shimla Agreement, and the January 2004 statement despite all the assurances from the previous Nawaz Sharif government, it has now become important for India to find a fresh basis for re-engagement with the current civilian power set-up in Pakistan. There is arguably a downside to this approach as it may translate into covering old ground. But at the same time, it is vital for trust-building with a country where every new regime comes with a fresh set of rules.


Over the past few months, Indian officialdom seems to have quietly realised that this was, perhaps, a shortcoming in the statement issued after the Singh-Gilani meet at Sharm el-Sheikh. While it rightly sought to recommence the dialogue process, the joint statement did not clearly reaffirm this commitment on not allowing Pakistani soil for terror attacks against India. The prime minister had to later clarify in Parliament that Gilani was reminded about this assurance being the "starting point" of any meaningful engagement between both countries.


Gilani, however, continued to portray the entire effort as resumption of the dialogue process and finally in January took the Indian establishment by surprise with his "no guarantee" comment. Both Gilani and Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani have at various points in the past year cited terror attacks inside Pakistan as an example of it being an equal victim of terror. Diplomatically, Pakistan has tried to drive home this logic with US and British interlocutors as a way to question the "unreasonableness" of Indian expectations. Gilani himself is said to have shared his limitations with Singh during their conversation at Thimphu. In other words, the message coming across is that this government in Islamabad, possibly prompted by an understanding with the military, is rather reluctant to sign on to a commitment against letting its territory being used for terrorist activities against India.


Now, the Indian side says Gilani gave this assurance to the PM at Thimphu and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also spoke the same reassuring words. There is a compelling argument to take this reportedly verbal reaffirmation forward and remove the ambiguity or any lack of clarity by putting it down in some form through a bilateral and binding document. It may sound terribly technical, but is valuable in the context of India and Pakistan. In fact, the problem with the Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement was that it did not address this squarely.


Pakistan has gone from Musharraf to Zardari and now to Gilani-Kayani (or Kayani-Gilani) in two to three years and so, it would be practical to maybe consider first negotiating a fresh basis for engagement and possibly, even a new method of engagement — something, perhaps, better than the composite dialogue format. Both leaders agreed in Thimphu on the need to restore trust in the relationship and for that agreed to have foreign secretary and foreign minister level meetings. Before examining ways to resume the dialogue process, it may be worthwhile to use these meetings to construct that fresh basis or new foundation even if it comes at the cost of being repetitive. In many ways, this is the one-step-back needed to move forward.








At 7 am last Saturday, the doctor seeing destitute patients next to me in Chawri Bazar in old Delhi, has been up for nearly three hours. Dr Rana's patients love him because he listens to them and ensures their care over many visits. He works in this mobile clinic as a primary care physician to supplement his income of less than Rs 20,000 per month as an assistant in a bazar clinic and commutes nearly two hours each way from his modest apartment. He rarely sees his three children.


In contrast, the president of the Medical Council of India, a specialist in urology, has been arrested on allegations that he took a bribe worth crores of rupees to recognise a medical college. Why Dr Desai's position as the head of an accreditation guild is worth what is alleged, and why Dr Rana's is not, tells us a lot about our health system and how we might reform it.


India does not have enough healthcare providers; the ones we do have are resistant to working in primary care for the underserved. The blueprint of our public health system, the Bhore Committee report of 1946, directed each doctor in a rural primary health centre to take care of more than 3,000 people while more doctors were being trained. Today, India has about one physician per 1,700 people — still less than the WHO recommendation of one per 1,000 people and much less than Cuba, which has about one per 150 people. Moreover, few of our doctors live in rural areas: given the huge unmet demand everywhere, trained allopathic physicians usually prefer to live and work as specialists in cities. Solving this dilemma demands at least two approaches — increasing the number of physicians and training them so that their skills meet our needs.


The Indian state has tried to increase the number of physicians many times over the past decades. Alternative courses such as the one that trained Dr Rana were created, but physicians and their guilds have resisted this in the courts, ostensibly for fear of the dilution of quality of training (as have comparable foreign bodies like the American Medical Association and Venezuela's Federacion Medico Venezuelana). Overcoming initial reluctance, the MCI has recently accredited many new medical colleges (such as the one that allegedly bribed Dr Desai). A new, truncated, rural training programme announced this year by the health ministry also offers some hope: if we can adequately train personnel, we might eventually solve our problem of numbers.


The harder question is how to get these new graduates to do what is best for us. The vast majority of India's healthcare is delivered privately. Being a post-graduate (PG) specialist allows private physicians to charge large sums to our patients, who have meagre information and thus little choice but to pay out-of-pocket for medical procedures. In today's booming healthcare market, specialist medical education is great business: post-graduate seats in private medical colleges can cost Rs 2 crore each. Clearly, the accreditation of a new college by the president of the MCI carries great value for those who profit from those seats.


And yet, this focus on training specialists is misdirected. Around the world, the health systems that best enhance the lives of their populations (at reasonable cost) spend the vast majority of their resources on primary care. The UK, for instance, has chosen to enhance healthcare by paying primary care providers more, while the government of Venezuela has invited Cuban doctors in to create huge new cadres of rurally based physicians. India too does well by training only one out of every three physicians as a PG specialist, a ratio consistent with a good, primary care-based system. But we need to both create many more healthcare providers and spend resources so that primary care for the rural and urban underserved (such as those taken care of by Dr Rana) is an attractive alternative to specialisation in cities.


The MCI case may appear to be only about the alleged corruption of an individual, but it demonstrates an easily overlooked truth: across the world, when medical accreditation bodies are constituted only of eminent physicians, they fail to reflect the needs of civil society. The state gives physicians special licenses to cut people open and to prescribe dangerous drugs; in reforming the MCI our government should ensure that lay representatives of the people, our patients, have a say in deciding who gets to operate those licences. Medical accreditation bodies in countries like the UK and the US now have statutory, non-medical members whose duty is to ensure that government and civil society's interests are well represented — so should ours. Our system needs many more people like Dr Rana, trained in primary care who, in conjunction with proportionately-increased, well-trained specialists will find it worth their while to take care of all of us, wherever we live.


The writer volunteers with the Ila Trust as a doctor among the underserved in Delhi







In her 1967 travelogue, the Irish writer Dervla Murphy described my homeland, Nepal, as a country that had just emerged from centuries of isolation, and was baffled about how to be part of the modern world. Most of what the Nepalese — and she—- did was to wait for something to happen.


"We waited endlessly for everything," Murphy wrote. "For glasses of tea to be carried on trays from the bazaar, for a policeman's bunch of keys to be fetched from his home down the road, for an adjustable rubber stamp which would not adjust to be dissected (and finally abandoned in favour of a pen), for a passport officer to track down Ireland (whose existence he seriously questioned) in a dog-eared atlas from which the relevant pages had long since been torn, and for the chief customs officer, who was afflicted by a virulent form of dysentery, to withdraw to a nearby field between inspecting each piece of luggage."


The main wait in Nepal, at present, is for an end to the nationwide general strike that began on Sunday. The Maoists, who led our constituent assembly until losing their coalition partners last year, have trucked tens of thousands of party cadres into Katmandu to enforce the strike. They are trying to stage what they call a "people's movement" to form an all-party government — with Maoists in control.


Kathmandu has come to a halt as bands of Maoists brandishing sticks march through the streets ensuring that government offices and businesses stay shuttered. Schools are closed, households are running out of food, and even money is in short supply, since all the banks are closed. Tempers are flaring. It would not take much for people's discontent with the strike to tip into civil unrest.


Even before the strike, the country had entered an advanced state of entropy. Unable to meet demand, the Nepal Electricity Authority rations power. Most neighborhoods get only about 12 hours of electricity, mostly after 10 pm. People must seek out alternative sources of energy, or conduct much of their work outside of normal hours. Electric kettles, ovens, freezers, even lights — are a luxury that most forgo. People carry flashlights at night and read by candlelight.


The other utilities are similarly overstretched. Kathmandu's mains fill with water only once every six days, for about three hours — often at two in the morning. Homeowners must scramble to fill their tanks then, or else truck in water from expensive private companies. The telephone networks are always busy. The city's air is rank with dust and exhaust; its rivers are open sewers that pedestrians scurry by, noses covered.


There are too many vehicles for the few tortuous roads. In the place of public transport, fleets of private vans career from stop to stop with their hapless, nauseated passengers. The existing healthcare facilities do not meet the needs of the three million residents. There are few jobs. To add to the insecurity, an earthquake — a big one — is long overdue. "Unsustainable" is the word that springs to mind when one thinks of the future of Kathmandu.


Bad as this is, it is not the worst of Nepal's woes. Since long before the strike, we have been waiting to discover what kind of country this is to become. Nepal was promised a new constitution in 2006, when the decade-long Maoist insurgency ended with an agreement between the insurgents and the democratic political parties to make a new Nepal, a federal democratic republic that would replace the autocracies, monarchies and struggling democracies of the past.


This assembly has, since then, set 11 thematic committees to work drafting legislation. Unfortunately, some of these committees have drafted parallel (and irreconcilable) laws, leaving key issues unresolved. Should the new Nepal be an Indian-style parliamentary democracy or a Chinese-style party dictatorship? Should the supreme court be independent, or subject to parliamentary review? What should be the boundaries of the federal states, and how should these states share power with each other and the centre? Should executive power reside with the president or the prime minister?


All this — and more — is undecided. A final draft of the constitution is supposed to be submitted by May 28. The deadline will obviously be missed.


And so, instead of waiting for something as constructive and exalted as a constitution, the Nepalese are waiting for more mundane things like for the strike to end, for electricity and water to return.


This is surely not the future Nepal was hoping for when Dervla Murphy came here 40 years ago. We Nepalese are still baffled about how to be part of the modern world. For this we are still, and seemingly forever, waiting.







The conviction of Ajmal Amir Kasab by Mumbai's special fast track court for his role in the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai has been covered in great detail by all papers. Most papers have, in their lead stories, also highlighted the "honourable" acquittal of Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmad. Prominent display has also been given by most papers to Home Minister P. Chidambaram's statement that the Kasab judgement is "a message for Pakistan."


In an editorial, on May 5, Rashtriya Sahara writes: "It is true that our investigation agencies and the prosecution have achieved an important success by proving Ajmal Amir Kasab guilty and establishing as conspirators in the attack his Pakistani bosses as well. But this success cannot be considered complete till the forces behind the faces of the visible culprits that are actually playing with the peace and tranquility of India and attacking in different ways our integrity and damaging the interests of this region by creating bitterness in the relations between India and Pakistan, are not unveiled." The paper adds: "We will also have to consider the significant and fundamental point as to who would gain if the situation in the country deteriorates? Policies of countries like America and Israel are there before the entire world. But, interests of some other countries are also served by bringing about a deterioration in the social environment in India."


Hyderabad's leading daily, Siasat, in its editorial on May 4, writes: "Holding Kasab guilty, the court has acquitted two citizens of India. From this one can only conclude that the intelligence agencies and the police did not perform their investigative responsibility properly in this case of terrorism. In fact, they played only a spectator's role and provided fillip to the campaigns for creating bitterness in the relations between two countries... The greatest emphasis in this case was being given on creating suspicions about Indian Muslims. But the court has foiled these attempts."


Badly cut motion


In an editorial on May 1 on the first cut motion in the history of the Lok Sabha, Delhi, Kolkata, and Ranchi-based daily Akhbar-e-Mashriq, has termed the episode as a "political circus." Talking about the Congress, it writes; "There is no denying the fact that BJP's cut motion was a serious problem for it. But was it the only way of dealing with it? After all, principles and ideals are also important."


Taking a charitable view of UP Chief Minister Mayawati's role in the cut motion, Lucknow-based daily, Qaumi Khabrein, in an editorial on April 29 writes: "The outcome of the BJP-initiated cut motion became known when the UP chief minister and BSP president, Mayawati, demonstrating far-sightedness, had decided to oppose it despite the wide differences with the Congress. If the motion had succeeded, the government would have had to resign and the president would have been compelled to invite the BJP, the largest opposition party, to form the government. The result of this development was clear as daylight. Thus Mohtarma Mayawati nipped a very big evil (fitna) in the bud." Considering the post-cut motion scenario, Delhi-based daily, Hamara Samaj, in an editorial entitled "Cut Motions' Flop Show" (April 29) writes: "It has become clear that the Congress, in an effort to keep its government intact, in all such future situations can not avoid threatening Lalu, Mulayam, Mayawati, and Shibu Soren. These four leaders are always afraid of the reopening of the cases against them, something that will be exploited by the UPA in each hour of crisis. God forbid, if the Congress uses this tactic to get the Women's Reservation Bill passed, it is not unlikely that it gets the support of the parties that supported it on the cut motion, at the time of the passage of that bill too. This line of action is extremely dangerous and negates the democratic values."


Tharoor-Pushkar engagement?


Just as the Shashi Tharoor-Sunanda Pushkar stories seemed to have died down, Rashtriya Sahara (May 4) has come out with the news that the two are to be formally engaged at a "glittering ceremony" in Bangalore's Golden Palm hotel on June 27. The paper claims that the duo had been first invited to this elite resort by actor Sanjay Khan's wife Zarine, when they stayed there some time back. Asked about the coming engagement ceremony at the hotel, Sanjay Khan said he had no knowledge and "even if such a booking has been made by Shashi Tharoor, it cannot be made public." The report does not mention if Tharoor has already obtained a divorce from his second wife.


Compiled by Seema Chishti







The report that investments in important infrastructure areas are trailing targets in the first three years of the Eleventh Plan is of major concern. The Plan had made ambitious projections for raising infrastructure investment from 5% of GDP to 9% over the period to boost growth. But numbers from the national accounts estimates show that the share of infrastructure investments has remained well below the 6% level in the first two years of the Plan. And the most recent figures until 2009-10, the third year, show that the overall gap between targets and actual funding has risen sharply. The highest disparity has been in the ports segment, where the shortfall has gone up to 61%. This points to the slow infusion of private sector and central government funds that were supposed to finance about two-thirds and one-third of the port projects during the Plan. The slowdown may also have hit the viability of at least some of the large projects. In the case of railways, the second major laggard, where the investments have fallen short of targets by more than a quarter, the Eleventh Plan had envisaged that three quarters of funding would come from the central government and that the private sector would contribute about a fifth. So, the shortfall here can be attributed to the high deficits of the central government that restrained central allocations and to the slow opening up of PPP projects in the railways that hit private investments.


The fall in spending in the road sector, on the other hand, can be largely attributed to the inadequate number of private players and the stringent bid norms that have remained important roadblocks for many years. This has now been further complicated by the problems related to the acquisition of land. But with the government keenly pursuing its targets of laying down 20 km of road each day, it is likely that the planned targets will be achieved as the programmes pick up steam. The shortfall of around 10% in the irrigation and power sector has to be looked at from a very different angle. With over 90% of the irrigation funds projected to come from the states, the marginal shortfall in the first three years is not very surprising. And in the case of power sector, a 10% fall in spending target should be considered a huge improvement, given that the total spending in the Tenth Plan was just about two-thirds of the targets. To sum up, the target of raising the infrastructure sector investments to 9% of GDP in the Plan can only be met if the government accelerates reform and tackles hurdles on a real time basis, as and when they crop up.







In the case of Selvi vs State of Karnataka, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has held that polygraph tests, brain-mapping and narco-analysis are illegal without the subject's explicit consent. While some high courts have held otherwise, confessions obtained through such procedures have been inadmissible as evidence in any case. But various investigating agencies have used these—with increasing visibility in many high-profile cases—to spring leads and build stronger cases. What the apex court has clarified is where such procedures stand vis-à-vis Article 20 (3) of the Constitution, whereby "no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself" and every person's choice between speaking and remaining silent is protected. With respect to such protections, the Bench has clarified that "subjecting a person to the impugned techniques in an involuntary manner violates the prescribed boundaries of privacy." While the criminal justice system can still use polygraph tests, brain-mapping and narco-analysis, it can only do so with the consent of the accused. In making this crystal clear, the apex court has upheld constitutional provisions, whatever the demands of populist politics may be. This is not only in keeping with how other liberal democracies like Canada and the UK proceed today. It is also the right thing for India.


There have been some protests from across the investigating community—cops, forensic scientists, lawyers et al. It is argued that many important convictions were built on the now impugned techniques. Abdul Karim Telgi's conviction in the fake stamp paper case and Surinder Koli's in the infamous Nithari case of rape, murder and cannibalism spring to mind. This brings us to the imperative for procedures like narco-analysis in ongoing investigations like those being pursued against Ramalinga Raju and V Srinivasan in the Satyam scam case or against those accused in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. In both these instances, the accused have been resisting narco-analysis. Such an argument has a powerful populist appeal as has the one that 'scientific' techniques can help reduce the incidence of third-degree methods. Both have been substantially countered by the apex court. It has judged, "If we were to permit forcible administration of these techniques, it could be the first step on a very slippery slope as far as the standards of police behaviour are concerned." It has cautioned against circular lines of reasoning where one form of improper conduct (third-degree methods) is sought to be replaced by another. Personal liberty has correctly been held as a higher imperative.







Consumer goods marketing strategists often slice the sources of retail demand into rural and urban segments. Further, rural demand is sub-divided by states and urban India by town-size classes, which ostensibly helps understand the demand for a consumer brand.


So, for example, we understand the demand for a consumer good in rural Maharashtra or in the metropolis of Mumbai, or in the other larger cities and then the smaller towns. Essentially, this is a rural-urban divide of the market with further granularity of the urban demand by classes of towns based on their size.


This binary divide of rural-urban is far too simplistic to yield optimal strategies in the emerging consumer markets. Consider two districts of Maharashtra—Pune and Gadchiroli. Rural Pune is starkly different from rural Gadchiroli. The former is prosperous. Its farms are supported by good irrigation infrastructure, modern farming practices and integrated agro-processing industries. Gadchiroli, on the other hand, is largely forestland with poor infrastructure and is inhabited by a poor and illiterate populace. The average estimate of the market size for rural Maharashtra does no justice to Pune or Gadchiroli.


There is a different problem when we discuss towns by size-classes. Towns of the same size-class can be starkly different. Consider three cities of very similar size in Maharashtra again—Ulhasnagar, Kolhapur and Amravati. Besides their size these cities have nothing in common. Statistics that seek to characterise the town-size class of these cities do no justice to any of them.


Rural areas are spread all over Maharashtra and the similar-sized cities mentioned above are also strewn all over the state. A strategy that seeks to slice the markets to focus attention on the areas that are expected to yield better results than the others need to do better than rely on the simplistic rural-urban divide. In large states, this over-simplified division leads to tremendous diffusion of attention.


The rural-urban divide has been flogged far beyond its utility. There is no rural-urban divide now that can be exploited meaningfully in India as the basis for a marketing strategy. Rather, there is a continuum from the urban centres to its suburbs, then its outgrowth and the smaller satellite towns on the outskirts. The rapid pace of real estate development has extended the boundaries of cities and has connected smaller satellite towns with the main city. The rural landscape in between is rapidly merging into the urban agglomeration.


There was always some integration of the activities of a town with its neighbourhood. For example, Indore hosts an important soya market because the neighbouring regions cultivate the crop. With considerable improvement in transport facilities in recent years, local mobility of labour has also increased substantially. This, in turn, has led to mobility of income in the form of local transfers. Thus, if the crops in the districts surrounding a city do well, households in the city are the immediate beneficiaries. Similarly, if the demand for labour in the city increases, folks in the neighbouring rural regions benefit the most.


This osmosis has increased in recent years because of better telecommunication and road infrastructure. It makes sense for a marketing or distribution strategy to exploit this effective integration of the economic fortunes of neighbouring regions. This begs the next question: what are the geographical limits of the neighbourhood effects?


It is apparent that it makes more sense to talk of the neighbouring cities of Amravati, Nagpur and Akola together, along with their neighbouring rural region (which is common) than to club Amravati with far-off Kolhapur or Ulhasnagar. But, should we include Bhusawal or Aurangabad that are further to the west with Amravati, Nagpur and Akola? Should we go even further to Jalgaon or limit ourselves to only Nagpur and Amravati? The answer is in seeking continuous homogeneous regions. There are 10 homogeneous regions in Maharashtra.


Research at CMIE has led to the development of 100 homogeneous regions in India. These are neighbourhoods formed by clustering districts of similar socio-economic characteristics. Each homogeneous region has a population of approximately 10 million as of the 2001 Census; it has uniform agro-climatic conditions, urbanisation and female literacy. These three characteristics separate one region from another. It distinguishes the coastal belt of Maharashtra (consisting of Ratnagiri, Raigad and Sindhudurg), for example, from the neighbouring sugar belt of Kolhapur and Solapur on the plateau. And, the two are distinct from the Vidarbha region in the east and the industrial Pune and Thane in the north.


CMIE came up with the concept of a homogeneous region in 2007. Since then it has implemented a large-scale household survey that yields various estimates of the Indian retail markets at the level of the homogeneous region. Here we find that in 2009, rural per capita income in Maharashtra was between one-third and one-half of the per capita income in urban Maharashtra. However, rural incomes are higher in those homogeneous regions that have high per capita income in the urban areas. Thus, the relatively well-off regions are also relatively uniformly well off in the rural and urban areas and vice versa. It makes more sense to see rural and urban regions of Thane and Pune together, rather than split them into rural and urban areas and then into town-size classes.


The examples cited above for Maharashtra can be seen in other large states quite easily. While the problem of the loss of focus of strategy magnifies as the size of the state increases, there are gains in exploiting the geography of economics even in smaller states. We see such gains even in Punjab and Kerala, for example. There is advantage in slicing the markets. And, homogeneous regions seems to be the way forward.


The author heads the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy








A Raja's defence on the giving away of valuable 2G mobile licences in 2008 at 2001 prices, claiming he followed established policy and regulator's advice demonstrates the frivolousness of decision-making in the telecom sector.


As minister for communications and information technology, A Raja is duty bound to change, not follow, an obviously flawed policy. He is required to seek advice from Trai but need not accept it. DoT, under his leadership and that of his predecessors, has a history of brazenly illogical and damaging decisions.


In the case of 2G auctions, the government exchequer lost an estimated Rs 60,000 crore. But Raja's principal sin is not that he led to the loss of exchequer money. It is not clear how many new 2G licences could have been justified, given the shortage of spectrum. Indeed, it can be argued that the entry of new players has so exacerbated the 2G spectrum crunch that operators are willing to pay far more for 3G.


Like many similar decisions of DoT, those related to 2G spectrum have also raised credible allegations of favouritism. The process adopted for licensing faced several legal challenges. The Delhi High Court has ruled against DoT. In a related decision on allowing CDMA players to acquire 2G spectrum, the TDSAT supported the DoT, arguably on technicalities.


Raja's and DoT's fault lies in playing favourites in a sector where it is widely accepted that consumer interest is best served when all technologies and operators can compete robustly. Governments and regulators must focus on creating an environment where barriers to entry are few and markets can function without distortion to deliver optimal results. Seen from this perspective, decisions on 2G licences and the use of dual technology for CDMA players may seem market friendly, as Raja and several promoters have frequently asserted. However, the frivolous process—secrecy, weekend press releases and telecom executives pushing and shoving at DoT windows to pay crores in fees—adopted by the agencies under Raja's control raise doubts about his motives.


Thanks to Raja, the sector faces many new challenges rather prematurely. Since wireless is key to India's goals of delivering nationwide voice and data services, access to spectrum is critical. Since it is a critical and finite resource, rational rules for allocation and pricing are the key. As a direct consequence of recent decisions, Trai is facing several conflicting and, what may have been, avoidable pressures. When there is not enough spectrum available, how does Trai reconcile claims of existing players with those of new players that have given them rights to acquire spectrum. It is unclear whose claims should prevail—hardly a problem in other markets that are not as crowded.


Most experts believe that the more than dozen players per service area, a consequence of Raja's decisions, cannot expect to survive in the long run. Imminent consolidation of the market place is expected. Indeed, it is likely that high 3G prices will close the options for those who fail to acquire the spectrum. With new funding requirements about to roll out, such players may find it difficult to hold on to higher paying customers and make their exit a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such a bloodbath would not have taken place without Raja.


Raja's decision has had positive effects, too. Cheap local calls have helped several low-income users to get on to the networks and to exploit the many social and economic advantages that come from using phones. It is also quite likely that the crash in the price of voice calls will force operators to develop 3G/BWA broadband services that they have largely ignored. India is emerging as an important innovator in business models that allow companies to start offering services without owning much of their own infrastructure. Much good came from savvy telecom players as they responded to the unorthodox decisions taken by Raja and his bureaucrats.


This must not detract from the government's many arbitrary decisions that have plagued the sector on a regular basis. The telecom sector is capital-intensive. It will be difficult to attract investments for marginal areas if business impacting rules can change as whimsically as Raja has demonstrated. Sectors like governance, banking and health require a quality telecom infrastructure, especially in rural areas. Without investors' support, this will be difficult.


Raja may be disappointed that he is accused of causing losses to the exchequer when his actions have created the huge scarcity for spectrum that promises the government a windfall from future spectrum sales. 3G spectrum proceeds exceed most estimates. A more transparent and objective functioning of his ministry could have given Raja a far more credible defence than he has at the moment.


The author is a telecom consultant







A little over a year and a half ago when Ratan Tata announced that the Nano project would head to Gujarat, the country heaved a sigh of relief—the overwhelming financial loss involved or the company missing its deadline didn't matter, as long as Tata stuck to his promise of producing the cheapest car in the world. Overnight, Nano became India's answer to China's frugal engineering capabilities and Tata symbolised the growing clout of India Inc. The doors were now open for other major global auto giants to chase the market. In no time, Renault announced its alliance with Bajaj Auto to produce a car in Nano's price band—a little over Rs 1 lakh. However, a question that was lost in the mass hysteria surrounding Nano's launch was whether the premise of an ultra low-cost car holds water in the long run.


Would two-wheeler riders willingly switch to the Nano just because it's a car? The lukewarm response to the Nano since its launch in March 2009 has forced several car pundits to look for cover. Try asking an avid biker who loves the rush of blood through his head while riding his 150cc bike if he'd junk it for a Nano and you will get your answer. Even the bulk of the motorcyclists, who prefer bikes because of their economic viability, are shying away from the car realising that despite its low price, issues of maintenance and fuel costs will eventually burn a big hole in their pockets.


Sensing the shortfall, Rajiv Bajaj, vice-chairman & managing director of Bajaj Auto, downplayed the price factor for the ultra low-cost car that it is developing. He said that for a consumer, price is just one of the three determining factors. The Renault-Bajaj alliance is now aiming to sell high mileage to its customers—25-30 kmpl. With the Indian car market set to triple to a whopping 6 million cars annually in the next 10 years, the battle lines are drawn between auto majors from across the world. The rising purchasing power of the consumer and an abysmally low car penetration provides the perfect pie for every auto company. But for the Indian customer, an ultra low-cost car may initially hold a lot of promise. But if it has to sell, it must address the basic everyday issues.








Should the Census of India 2011 be tasked with the collection of caste data, returning in a sense to the practice of the pre-Independence, colonial era? Let us start by recognising that the question is arguable. Opponents of caste enumeration tend to hark back to the ideals of the freedom struggle and the Constitution, which treat caste as illegitimate and see Census enumeration of caste as a tool of 'divide and rule.' By not collecting caste data, the Census, a great national undertaking, strikes a blow for social equality. Supporters of caste enumeration tend to argue the opposite, namely that by collecting data on the caste-inequality link, the Census could become a promoter of progressive social change, chiefly by strengthening the case for compensatory discrimination policies across the land. As the sociologist Nandini Sundar points out, India in the past couple of decades has entered "a new era of caste relations" and while there has been heated debate on the political consequences of doing or not doing caste enumeration in the Census, little thought has been given to "how this is to be done, if at all; the nature of data generated; the level and form of tabulations in which data would be useful; who would gain from this knowledge at different levels; or the concrete ways in which caste data might or might not help to design government programmes to offset caste disabilities."


Whether the collection of caste data, other than for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, will be socially divisive or will help in the quest for equality can be left aside for the purposes of settling the remit of the forthcoming decennial exercise. The short answer is that the Census is a great demographic endeavour that must not be confused with social science field work. As it is meant to collect observational data, and not information based on the perceptions of the respondents or self-categorisation, it cannot be the vehicle for capturing caste-wise population data. Besides, India is home to a humungous number of sub-castes with nomenclature variations across regions: aggregating them across villages will be too complex for the Census to handle. The enumerators, as Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has pointed out, lack the sociological sensitivity to record and classify the population on the basis of castes and sub-castes. But this shortcoming applies also to the trainers and indeed to the whole Census system. If backward class commissions or socio-political movements need up-to-date measurement of caste and better data on the caste-inequality link, there are other ways of gaining this information. The government certainly did the right thing in resisting pressure from some political parties and regional groupings to task Census 2011 with doing something it just cannot handle.






Union Sports Minister M.S. Gill has done a real service to Indian sport by restoring a 35-year-old clause in the government guidelines dealing with the tenure of office-bearers of the National Sports Federations (NSFs) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). The tenure clause in its amended form, which was notified last week, is actually a softening of the 1975 guidelines. It restricts the term of a president of a federation to a maximum of 12 years (up from eight previously) and that of the secretary and the treasurer to two terms of four years. It is another matter that over the years the guidelines have been honoured mainly in the breach. In August 2002, Sports Minister Uma Bharti formally decided to keep the tenure guideline in abeyance. Public opinion has weighed heavily against sports officials sticking to their posts for decades. Dr. Gill's laudable initiative was speeded up by observations made by the Delhi High Court in an ongoing public interest litigation and by the sentiments expressed by several MPs in the Rajya Sabha.


The IOA and NSF bosses have taken shelter behind the Olympic Charter, the document that governs world sport. They have also sought the Prime Minister's intervention. The Olympic Charter empowers the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to suspend a National Olympic Committee (NOC) if government regulations, laws or even the constitution of a country hamper the activity or erode the autonomy of an NOC. Nepal and Iraq in the past and Kuwait, more recently, suffered the consequences of IOC sanctions. Dr. Gill, who has tried to bring transparency and accountability into the functioning of the NSFs, has wisely decided to send a senior Ministry official to the IOC Headquarters in Lausanne to sort out the matter. Autonomy cannot mean unbridled liberty to run sports bodies at the cost of the public exchequer. In framing fresh regulations, the Sports Ministry has argued that it has merely followed international 'best practices.' With politicians at the helm of most federations, reform and regulation of Indian sports bodies has become extremely difficult. The spirited attempts by Mani Shankar Aiyar, Dr. Gill's predecessor, to set up a regulatory authority met with stiff resistance. The former Chief Election Commissioner has a tightrope walk ahead as he sets out to discipline the IOA and the federations without breaching the Olympic Charter — even as he grapples with the enormous task of getting Delhi ready for hosting the Commonwealth Games less than five months from now.










T ime magazine has just named President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva the world's most influential leader. Barack Obama is ranked fourth. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is 19th (there are only four heads of state or government in the list). This is an exercise somewhat different from the traditional "Person of the Year" selection Time engages in each December, but highly revealing nonetheless. It is defined as "not about the influence of power, but about the power of influence." Time has never selected a Latin American leader as person of the year. In India, Mahatma Gandhi made it in 1930.


Brazil, once known as "the country of the future" that would always remain as such, has come a long way. That this should happen at the close of the eight-year presidency of the leader of the Brazilian Workers party (the PT, Partido dos Trabalhadores), whose very election prospects in 2002 led to a run on the real, the Brazilian currency, and BOVESPA, the Sao Paulo stock market, is striking.


What is the secret of Lula and Brazil's success? How come a country best known until 20 years ago for its runaway inflation and rollercoaster economy has made it its present condition an investors' darling, that applies highly effective social policies, and that has positioned itself as a veto player in international affairs, one without whose acquiescence no major global initiative is viable?


With a land mass of some 8.5 million square kilometres, the world's fifth largest, comparable to the continental United States, Brazil is more a continent than country. With a population of 190 million, and growing fast, it is not quite in the same league as China and India (which is why some people said there were "only two BRICs in the wall"), but is still the fifth most populated country. More than one out of three Latin Americans is Brazilian. With a GDP approaching $2 trillion, it is the eighth largest economy.


Yet, Brazil's size has been immense ever since its independence in the 19th century, whereas its rise to the frontlines of international affairs has taken place only in the past 20 years. Why?


The answer is simple: presidential leadership. Most would be hard-pressed to name a Brazilian president from the 1960s to the 1990s. For 20 years the country was run by obscure generals, and in 1985, with the return of democracy, by lacklustre civilians, who did little to combat the runaway inflation and the deep imbalances in one of the most unequal societies in the world.


Lula has done a remarkable job, but he stands on the shoulders of his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1994-2002). It was as the improbable Minister for Finance of President Itamar Franco in 1993 that Cardoso, a sociologist, made his mark. He was the author of the Plan Real that brought inflation under control, and launched him all the way to Planalto, the presidential palace in Brasilia. Much like 1991 was a turnaround year in India, when under Finance Minister Manmohan Singh the country started to liberalise and open up its economy, 1993 was such a year in Brazil, and it has never looked back.


Cardoso realised that Brazil needed not just to stabilise its currency but also to open up and deregulate its economy, stifled by decades of rampant protectionism. He privatised state enterprises, opened the doors for FDI and pushed business into export markets. Whereas in 1990 foreign trade reached 11 per cent of the GDP, it is now at 24 per cent. Whereas until 1990 Brazil attracted less than $1 billion a year in FDI, today it is, after China, the country in the developing world that attracts the most, reaching as much as $40 billion a year in recent times.


By stabilising the polity and the economy (Brazil had four presidents from 1985 to 1994), Cardoso in his eight years did much to clear the underbrush for Lula. And despite all the criticism Lula had voiced from the opposition against Cardoso's alleged "neoliberal" policies, once he took office in January 2003, he realised that only orthodox economic policies would keep the ghost of inflation away. Lula appointed a conservative banker, Henrique Meirelles, head of the Central Bank, and briefed him to keep his eye on the inflation ball. As The Economist has pointed out, for a country whose average yearly inflation in the early 1990s reached 700 per cent, to have in 2006 a growth rate that was, for the first time, higher than the inflation rate was quite a feat.


Lula, a former metal worker who lost one of his fingers on the factory floor, also came up with an imaginative social policy, the Bolsa de Familia. It transfers cash income to some 11 million families, who have to meet certain conditions (including school attendance of children, and monthly visits to government agencies), and has diminished Brazil's income inequality.


As a man who cut his political teeth in the trade union movement, Lula knows all about "win-win" negotiations. He has also a remarkable ability to get along with everybody — from George W. Bush to Hugo Chávez. The PT is only one among many in the fragmented Brazilian party system (it controls only the governorships in three States out of Brazil's 27), and he leads a coalition government that includes right-wing parties, in Brazil's hard to manage "presidential coalitionism." He has struck a delicate balance in which the private sector is the driving force of the economy, but the state plays a significant role through entities such as the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento (BNDES), which has a larger lending budget than the World Bank, and Petrobras, the state-owned oil company.


In a country known for its populist, demagogic traditions, Lula embodies the modern leader who believes in institutions. In a region where many presidents want to perpetuate themselves in office, he rejected the possibility of changing the Constitution to allow him a third term. His own rags-to-riches trajectory and austere personal habits have meant that the corruption scandals that affected some of his staff never seriously dented his popularity, leading to the moniker of "teflon president". His approval ratings have reached 80 per cent. He has been mentioned for a variety of top international jobs once he leaves office on 1 January 2011— from President of the World Bank to Secretary-General of the United Nations.


Given that in foreign affairs also Lula has made a big impact, this is not surprising. With Celso Amorim as his Foreign Minister, he has capitalised on Brazil's "diplomatic GDP."


With an outstanding Foreign Ministry — known as "Itamaraty" for the 19th century palace in Rio de Janeiro that used to house it before the capital moved to Brazilia — Brazil has exercised its diplomacy with finesse and effectiveness. On the multilateral front, its ability to build coalitions, to give direction to the international agenda, and to take on key global governance issues has stood out. It has displayed it in the WTO and the U.N., as well as in the creation of (or inclusion in) myriad acronyms such as BRICs, BRICSAM, IBSA, the G20+, the G4, the O5, and, most notably, in the G20 at the leaders level ("the steering committee of the world economy") launched in Washington in November 2008, and whose next meeting is being held in Toronto in late June. It has also put its money where its mouth is: at a time when many Foreign Ministries have cut budgets and closed embassies, Brazil, grasping that diplomacy has become more, and not less, significant in the age of globalisation, has done the opposite. From 2003 to 2008 it opened 32 embassies abroad, and now has 134.


In Latin America also Brazil has played a key role. It has been the driving force behind new entities such as UNASUR, which has brought together all nations in South America, and the associated South American Defence Council, designed to provide an alternative to the by-now obsolete Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance. It has taken the lead in stabilising Haiti through MINUSTAH, the first U.N. peacekeeping mission formed by a majority of Latin American troops and headed by a Brazilian general. It is willing to work with Washington, but not if that entails sacrificing principles such as democratic rule, as shown in last year's Honduran crisis.


Instead of caving in to the so-called imperatives of globalisation, as so many other developing nations have done, Lula has led Brazil to assert its autonomy and independence, setting its own conditions for dealing with an international order in flux. His is the best example of the power of agency and initiative in foreign policy and diplomacy.


( Jorge Heine holds the Chair in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, is Professor of Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University and a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario. His book (with Andrew F. Cooper), Which Way Latin America? Hemispheric Politics Meets Globalization , is published by United Nations University Press.)









Now that the three-party alliance of Navin Ramgoolam has won 41 of the 60 seats in the Mauritius national Parliament — more than double the number of Paul Berenger's leftist Mouvement Militant Mauricien — there is general agreement that the 63-year-old former physician and lawyer has obtained a powerful mandate to implement economic and social reforms in his second consecutive term as this island-nation's Prime Minister.


Some of those reforms eluded him during his first term; indeed, a few unpopular measures that Mr. Ramgoolam introduced — such as a national residential property tax, and another tax on interest from savings — spurred flight of capital in certain circles. The expectation is that such measures will be reviewed and possibly eliminated.


The Prime Minister has also pledged a more aggressive "democratisation" of the economy — ensuring, among other things, that ownership of the vast sugarcane plantations that are currently controlled by the minority whites of French descent is also made accessible to other communities in this country of 1.3 million people dominated by Hindus. Creoles, Christians and Muslims also compromise larger sections of the demographic cohort than the Francos. A special "democratisation unit" has been formed in the Prime Minister's office, and its workload is certain to be amplified.


Mr. Ramgoolam's election victory has also brought relief to several business supporters who had been targeted by Mr. Berenger and his financial backers. They had been apprehensive that the Berenger group would subvert, if not entirely destroy, their commerce.


Opposition claim


The 65-year-old Mr. Berenger, silver-haired and wearing an open-necked blue shirt, appeared at a gathering of followers early on Thursday evening and promised to continue "fighting the good fight", and promised to work toward national unity. He was gracious about the Prime Minister's victory — a sentiment not necessarily appreciated by many in his audience — but asserted that the elections were neither free nor fair. Mr. Berenger chided the national television network for blatantly favouring the Prime Minister's alliance in order to ensure its victory.


The Ramgoolam alliance's victory, however, will most definitely be welcomed by India, not the least because Mauritius contributes $12 billion in foreign direct investment to India, by far the biggest annual FDI from any country. Mr. Berenger — a former Prime Minister himself — while publicly proclaiming his fidelity to an "umbilical relationship" with India, has been known to privately express a desire for strengthened commercial and political relations with France and other Western powers.


India's Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla has been here for the last several days at the invitation of the government. He was not an official observer, of course, but other Indian representatives in Mauritius must feel emboldened now to suggest stronger technical, educational and computer-science links between both countries. They are surely mindful of the disappointment of influential Mauritian business leaders that such ties were not deepened by India in the last few years.


But they are also mindful that Mr. Ramgoolam enjoys a warm personal rapport with his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. On Thursday, therefore, there were renewed expectations that Mr. Ramgoolam's new term could usher in an era characterised by enhanced bilateral economic and political relations.


Those expectations took into account a public position by Mr. Ramgoolam that the Indian Ocean coral atoll of Diego Garcia — part of the Chagos Archipelago — would be turned over to Mauritius by the United States, which has maintained a large military base there since a 1971 secret agreement with the British Labour government of then Prime Minister Harold Wilson. That agreement called for Diego Garcia to be leased to the U.S.; the military base has been used by Washington for missile launches and naval operations against suspected terrorist havens in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and also parts of Africa.


Some Indian critics have long felt that the American presence on Diego Garcia represented a form of political hegemony in the Indian Ocean, territory that ordinarily should be viewed as within India's sphere of influence.


Mr. Ramgoolam has also suggested that Mauritius co-administer Tromelin Island, currently a French territory.


Concern for India


But one major issue of concern to India that may crop up during his new administration is that of China's growing economic presence in Mauritius, and its ambition to widen political influence throughout Africa. For example, China is building a new palm-frond-shaped airport here; it is also creating an industrial city from where goods will be re-exported to Africa and Europe.


It is not that Mr. Ramgoolam is particularly wooing China, although its contribution to the local economy has been welcomed. It is India that has lagged in taking timely advantage of the economic opportunities available in a country of high literacy and aspirations to become a high-tech centre for the region.


Such geopolitical considerations, of course, were not quite the stuff of the main conversations on Thursday in Mauritius as the election results poured in, and the winners celebrated at rallies while losers lamented without seeming to be grieving. Politics, after all, is not only about democracy, it is also about deportment.


There was wide delight that Mr. Ramgoolam's second term would represent stability and continuity — his trusted lieutenant, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Rashid Beebeejaun won from his constituency in the capital of Port Louis, in what had been a race made difficult and ugly by his opponent.


It was also noted that, in addition to Paul Berenger's general political loss, the opposition front bench had been considerably weakened by the defeat of three of his closest aides. The craggy old leftist has now only his own shoulders to lean on, at least in Parliament. But who said politics was fair?









Top Taliban leaders could be offered exile outside Afghanistan if they agree to stop fighting the government of Hamid Karzai, a long-expected peace plan by the Afghan government will propose later this month.


The far-reaching proposals, seen by the Guardian, also call for "deradicalisation" classes for insurgents and thousands of new manual jobs created for foot soldiers who renounce violence.


The long-delayed Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme has emerged just as Mr. Karzai prepares to go to Washington for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, where the issue is likely to be top of the agenda.


The plan will then be presented later in the month to a gathering of representatives from across Afghanistan called the National Consultative Peace Jirga. Once agreed upon, the government will be able to start spending around $160 million pledged by the international community to lure fighters away from the conflict. The document refers to such fighters as "angry brothers", reflecting the belief that a substantial portion of insurgents are not motivated by strong ideological beliefs.


Little is said in the report about the Taliban leaders managing the war against Mr. Karzai's government. However, it does say insurgent leaders could face "potential exile in a third country".


Saudi Arabia has been used in the past for such purposes, and there has been widespread speculation that exile could be offered to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hizb-e-Islami armed group, which in March sent a peace delegation to Kabul for talks with Mr. Karzai.


Western powers are likely to be pleased by the level of detail about the new High Level Peace Council, which will take over from a notoriously chaotic predecessor body accused of reintegrating fighters who subsequently took up arms again.


However, diplomats are worried that the government lacks the capacity to implement a programme that calls for complex activities in around 4,000 villages most affected by the insurgency. One diplomat said: "For the international community money is not a problem, they will pay whatever it takes. One gets a sense that there are people on the military side who will do most of the work and then give it some sort of an Afghan face." The High Council and its executive body will be in charge of processing fighters who want to live peacefully. They will initially be put in "demobilisation centres" for a "cooling off" period of 90 days where their needs can be assessed and their personal security assured.


If they agree to lay down their arms and cut ties with al Qaeda they will be entitled to an amnesty against prosecution for any crimes they may have committed. They will also be issued with a biometric "reintegration card". They will then be offered a "menu" of options designed to keep them peacefully occupied, including vocational training in such trades as carpet-weaving and tailoring.


There will also be the option to go through "deradicalisation" training, of the sort pioneered by Saudi Arabia. However, the report acknowledges the complexity of such programmes, the lack of "adequate experience" in Afghanistan and the likely need to send "highly radicalised" people to other countries for treatment.


Major new institutions will also be set up to manage enormous job-creation schemes. An Engineering and Construction Corps will focus on labour-intensive work, such as the construction of Afghanistan's national highway system and other large-scale infrastructure projects. It also envisages teams of ex-Taliban fighters being rapidly deployed to respond to emergencies such as floods and landslides. By far the most controversial option is the option for former insurgents to join the Afghan Army or police force.


— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010







Auctioneers Christie's is facing a bitter compensation claim after a drawing it sold for £11,400 as a 19th-century German picture is claimed, actually, to be a 15th-century Leonardo da Vinci worth £100 million.


The picture's original owner, Jeanne Marchig, who runs a U.K. foundation for animal welfare, is accusing the auction-house of negligence, alleging that it misattributed the drawing. She claims that, in failing to "exercise due care", it sold the artwork for a "fraction" of its true value, according to a complaint filed in the Manhattan federal court.


The drawing, a profile of a girl, is now on exhibition in Gothenberg, Sweden, as a Da Vinci. Ms Marchig is seeking unspecified damages, but court papers seen by the Guardian show her lawyer wants a substantial figure. They say the drawing is insured for more than $100 million and that its value exceeds $150 million.


Ms Marchig was "devastated" when she discovered last July — in a call from Christie's — that the Da Vinci scholar Martin Kemp had hailed the portrait as La Bella Principessa, a depiction of Bianca Sforza, daughter of the Duke of Milan. The court papers assert that there is ample evidence that it is a Da Vinci. They mention a faint fingerprint, which matches that on a painting by Da Vinci, and carbon tests indicating dates from 1440 to 1650, not the 19th century. Christie's is accused of failure to use scientific methods and technology.


But other experts are unconvinced of the attribution. Jacques Franck, the Da Vinci consultant at UCLA, told the Guardian on Wednesday: "It's not Leonardo's hand. The drawing presents anatomical mistakes, notably the link between the neck and the bust." A Christie's spokesman said: "Christie's strongly disagrees with these claims and believes they are without merit." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010







Edited excerpts from the first interview, post-Thimphu, with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.


Karan Thapar did it for the programme 'Devil's Advocate', broadcast over CNN-IBN on May 6:


On the Ajmal Kasab verdict:


Well, you've your judicial process and we'll have to respect each other's judicial process.


On Hafeez Saeed, and his call in Lahore for jihad in Kashmir and the liberation of Hyderabad:


We're not making excuses. Hafeez Saeed was picked up and arrested twice by the Government of Pakistan. The courts in Pakistan did not feel the evidence provided to them was legally tenable or sufficient and the let him off. And the judiciary is independent.


[What he demanded in Lahore] is not government policy. Individuals all over the world make statements and we respect freedom of expression. But government policy and the stated policy of Pakistan is to have good neighbourly relations with India.


On the Jamaat-ud-Dawa operating openly in Pakistan:


The Government of Pakistan has taken … every necessary step to, first of all, proscribe the organisation, secondly to freeze their assets and do everything possible to discourage what they are distributing. But, as you know, in every society there are all sorts of people.


On evidence with India that serving officers of the Pakistan Army are connected with 26/11:


In interactions that I have had, nobody has raised this issue with me so far. When the issue is raised, we'd look at it with an open mind.


We've invited the Home Minister, Mr. Chidambaram, to visit us in Islamabad for the SAARC Home Ministers' conference, and if he wants he can have a meeting with his counterparts on the sidelines and he can raise all these issues.


On Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomb bid suspect:


Mr. Shahzad is not a Pakistani citizen anymore. He's an American citizen. He's a naturalised American citizen… The Government of Pakistan will cooperate with the U.S. and help in whatever way we can… Citizens and individuals of various nationalities have been identified and have been arrested and picked up from different places in the world, not just Pakistanis.


On the impression that Pakistan is a terrorist factory:


We're not claiming to be fighting terrorists or terrorism; the world acknowledges our fight. They acknowledge the sacrifice the people of Pakistan and the armed forces of Pakistan have made. They acknowledge the successful operations we've had in Swat, Malakand and the tribal belt. And in Waziristan, we've had a very successful operation in South Waziristan and we're moving on according to our plan.


On the meeting between the Pakistani and Indian Prime Ministers in Thimphu:


I think the spirit in Thimphu has to be kept alive. That's the only sensible way forward. The two Prime Ministers agreed and they reiterated their commitment for a resolution of issues through dialogue. They both acknowledged that dialogue is the only way forward. Yes, there'll be difficulties and hiccups, but we've to move on. We've a much bigger agenda and we should not let any individual, non-state actor or terrorist organisation impede the peace process. We should develop it to such an extent that it becomes irreversible.


I think both sides would acknowledge the fact that there is a trust deficit. The Prime Ministers have asked the two Foreign Ministers to bridge that trust deficit. I've certain proposals which I'm going to share with Mr. S.M. Krishna when I get an opportunity to meet with him.


I would want [that opportunity to come] as early as possible, but I believe he's busy in the Budget session. As soon as the session is over, I'm going to call him and I'm going to propose a number of dates for our engagement… I intend to invite him to Islamabad, but … if he is [pre]occupied and he cannot come, then I have no issue in coming to Delhi.


On the handling of the Kashmir issue:


Where there's a will there's a way, and we acknowledge amongst ourselves that Kashmir is an outstanding issue between the two countries.


But in my view we can make progress through peaceful negotiations. We've undertaken and we've in place a number of confidence-building measures vis-a-vis Kashmir. We can build further on them.









 Wednesday's order by the Supreme Court declaring that the forcible use of narco, brain-mapping or polygraph tests was illegal, as these were a clear infringement of a citizen's fundamental right to privacy and against self-incrimination, was a major victory for individual freedom in this country. In the order, the Chief Justice of India and two of his brother judges freely acknowledged that as a result some criminals might escape punishment for their crimes but, in the balance, it was far more important that citizens were not deprived of their basic rights. The three-member bench described these practices, frequented resorted to till now by the investigative agencies, as "cruel, inhuman and degrading", and as bad as the "bloodletting and broken bones" that goes with third-degree methods associated with police interrogation. A number of medical and other experts have likened these to torture, and internationally, such tests have been outlawed in a large number of countries. Till a few decades back it used to be said of the Mumbai police that it was almost as good as Scotland Yard in crime detection due to its skilful use of third-degree methods. In fact the government, while defending its use of narco tests before the Supreme Court, admitted as much when it said their use was a "softer alternative" to the third degree. The court quite rightly held that to replace one form of improper behaviour with another was simply unacceptable. Police agencies across the land have been put on notice: to solve complex cases, they have no alternative but to undertake thorough investigation, without the use of third-degree methods or involuntary narco tests.
The modus operandi of conducting a narco test is ridden with anomalies. Though these are supposed to be done by scientific experts, police officials are usually present and often coach narco specialists on what questions to ask. The possibility of leading questions being put to a person under some form of medically-induced hypnosis is ever-present, making the one-sided process a mockery of justice. It is true that sometimes narco-analysis throws up names and clues which investigators can use to identify other culprits. But take the case of one of the most high-profile subjects of narco tests: Abdul Karim Telgi, accused in the so-called Rs 30,000-crore stamp paper scam. He was shown undergoing a narco test on national television, when he mentioned the names of two powerful politicians, but then nothing happened. They are still free, and only Telgi and some small fry have been indicted and jailed. So claims by law enforcement agencies that narco tests are an indispensable investigation tool lack credibility, more so if the information so obtained is then selectively used. This defeats the very purpose of such a test.

The biased nature of narco-analysis testing methods, the absence of built-in safeguards and the very real possibility that a subject might reveal, or be induced to disclose, matters unrelated to the current investigation (and thus get exposed to further harassment) make the entire process questionable. The law is very clear on one point: that evidence of any kind recorded only by the police cannot be admitted in judicial proceedings. The Supreme Court once again reiterated this week that even if a narco test is conducted with the consent of the subject, it will still not be accepted as evidence. Wednesday's ruling is welcome as it is expected to stop a lot of illegal harassment by police agencies, who have been known to threaten those in custody as well as other citizens subject to an investigation that they would be compelled to urdergo narco tests if they did not confess to their alleged offences or otherwise act as desired by the men in khaki.







In my last column (How real are our troubles? April 21) we saw Lord Krishna tell Arjuna that he is not to treat sensory experiences as real — that they are all ephemeral and impermanent and are only to be endured. If we can do this with proper understanding we will gain self-realisation.

On a still higher level, Krishna tells Arjuna that nothing exists and that he is giving too much importance and value to the transitory experiences of life. As long as we have assigned reality to something, we cannot help but be affected by it. We tend to feel bad if someone does not smile at us, but so what! Some people smile to forget, and some people forget to smile! Ask yourself, "Why should my happiness depend on that?" It is only when we give importance to something that we suffer.

If we contemplate this we will see very clearly that there are no real problems in life. All our so-called problems are only relatively real; they are apparent, but not very solid. We can deal with them. The causes of fear and anxiety are on a particular level only. Therefore, we must examine all of them.

For example, if I value a person, an invitation to his wedding will make me happy. But if I am not invited, I will be miserable. This is because I have given importance to the wedding, and by doing so I have given reality to it. If I am not invited, I should thank that person for saving me the time and energy that would otherwise be expended on the wedding and in the purchase of a gift!

Therefore, good and bad all lies in how we look at things. With understanding we come to know that all of these experiences can be labelled temporary or unreal.

In the following verse Lord Krishna introduces another perspective: "O mighty Arjuna, even if you think of Him as being constantly born and constantly dying, even then you should not grieve. Indeed, death is certain for that which is born, and birth is certain for that which dies. For this unavoidable fact you should not grieve (II:26, 27)".

Lord Krishna here tells Arjuna that if he does not accept the existence of an Eternal Reality and believes in that which is constantly changing even then he should not grieve.

We have seen that from the "absolute point of view" there is no destruction, but on the relative plane there is constant change. Everything perceived through our senses is known as tangible or manifest, and that which is not perceived through our senses is called unmanifest. In the seed the tree is unmanifest, but the seed eventually manifests itself as a tree. Thus, creation is nothing but manifestation. It is one continuous cycle. Waves rise in the water, break, fall away, and then rise again. To grieve over that which is inevitable is as meaningless as sitting by the seashore and crying over a dying wave.

Today we worry about the younger generation and feel helpless, but even Socrates expressed the same fear many generations ago. He wrote at that time, "These modern children have lost all respect for their elders. We do not know what kind of people they will be if we do not teach them now". We still feel the same way, and this causes us great anxiety. History always repeats itself, as life is a continuous cycle of manifestation and dissolution. Krishna said to Arjuna: "O descendent of Bharata, these bodies consisting of the elements were not visible before birth, and will not be visible after death, they become manifest in the middle. Therefore, why should you grieve? (II:28)"

All beings were once unmanifest, then they become manifest, and eventually they will again become unmanifest. Even when invisible they were still there. Like a tree being the unmanifested form of a seed. They come onto the stage of the world for a while, then go behind the curtain, and eventually reappear for another scene. When people die in a play we do not grieve for them because we know that when the cast comes out for their curtain call, the so-called dead people reappear. However, we become attached to certain people or objects and mourn when a particular form goes.

 Swami Tejomayananda, head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. To find out more about Chinmaya Mission and Swamiji, visit
© Central Chinmaya Mission Trust.


Swami Tejomayananda






Bollywood HAS a wisdom that one must understand. In its movies, there is always a battle between good and evil. In its own sociological way, Bollywood shows that goodness is not enough. It reminds us that in everyday sense, the good cop, the good teacher, the good officer and even the good father are not adequate enough. They get eliminated before the interval. One almost sighs with relief when such incompetent, naive old-world goodness makes an exit. But the problem begins there.

The flaw in Bollywood is that its resolutions are more and more incomplete. As it meets new situations, it tries to resolve them through excessive violence backed by a plethora of technology. The question is what an ordinary person should do when he confronts new situations. The general idea seems to be to resort to technocratic management or exponential violence.

Consider the following situations: You travel across a city, drive past a slum and return in the evening to find it gone. Yet one regards it as inevitable. If one were pompously middle-class, one might even see it as poetic justice, seeing the poor as dirty, unnecessary and unhygienic. Similarly, one reads in the newspaper that a few villages have disappeared after a flood. One does not even pause to wonder who lived there. One shrugs the event off as inevitable. Our perspective is Darwinian but Darwin adapted to bourgeois, bureaucratic life. For us, the survival of the fittest begins with the exam. Those who pass look approvingly at each other. Life then becomes a gigantic exam where failures are seen as people getting what they deserve. The first class first gets frozen in ethical amber. The other man's failure creates little sympathy or empathy in us.

Let us add to the complexity by discussing terror. Terror frightens us, frightens our sense of ease and comfort, our middle class sense of security, our sense of law and order. We immediately become judges. We need to condemn, dismiss, execute. We become adherents to capital punishment. All our silly stereotypes surface and we easily become anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan, anti- whatever threatens us. None of us have the courage and imagination to say what the Dalai Lama once said: "George Bush brings out the Muslim in me".
How many of us can bring up the Muslim or dalit in us when the occasion requires it. Our ethics are reduced to a demand for security. If we are liberal, we add a touch, just a touch of human rights. But terror is a virus, an epidemic that demands elimination. Terror dehumanises us and we dehumanise it in turn. Justice becomes a form of vigilantism and our shaken sense of morality turns us blood thirsty.

Let us thicken our frame and look at science. For most of the middle class, science is immaculate and untouchable. It is good and if well applied can automatically solve the problems of malnutrition, poverty or underdevelopment. We can understand the misuse of science and blame it on the stupidity of man or policy. But can we see science itself as problematic. We get accused of sentimentalism, illiteracy or fundamentalism. Yet none of the current problems of science can be understood without such a perspective. Science is no longer the domain of certainty. When one confronts the issues of nanotechnology, climate change, nuclear energy, basic issues of ecology and health, one confronts the fact that science cannot outline the consequences of its own work. We cannot outsource our ethics to experts because most of them have a vested interest in the pursuit of their own science or are ethically autistic.

Law cannot be a substitute for ethics. A regulated society can produce its own forms of corruption. Law also generates concepts which are still coy about the nature of responsibility of science. At most, it can generate the idea of the precautionary principle which contends that ignorance is by itself no excuse. A person whose action creates a disaster is responsible for the consequences. But such a notion of responsibility while being forward-looking does not look far enough. Science through regulation can move as far as precaution or prevention. But what it needs now is what I call "Wild Ethics", an ethics that moves beyond the current boundaries and definitions. One needs an ethic which is plural, playful and eventually exemplary. The paradigms as settled visions can come later. There is a place for Gandhi here because one has to begin with the body. One has to understand the ethics of walking.

Walking is not feet in motion. It is a way of traversing the world. Satyagraha begins with the walk. You walk your world and definite its limits. "Swadesh-ism" in that sense was a theory of walking. Walking defines your locality and neighbourhood like a Thoreau or Emerson or even a Heidegger. One must realise walking is a way of dwelling, owning up to the ethics of the locality. One is responsible for what it grows, what it teaches, what legacies it has, what diversity it sustains. Walking begins an ethics of scale, where small and large are gradients across a variety of worlds. In scaling up you realise the plural nature of ethics because the same problem will be solved in different ways, at different levels. Ethics, like ecology, is not hierarchic. It is polyarchic, it varies with levels of complexity. Wild Ethics begins in humility and play. It is an ethics of memory which sees forced obsolescence as taboo. One has to ask, does my consumption, my style of life contribute to the displacement or elimination?

Wild Ethics claims that the formal economy of ethics needs an informal economy of coping, satisficing, of jugaad, of improvisation.

Ethics becomes a set of dialects incessantly demanding translation. The idea of the dialects allows one to see the limits of problem-solving and the limits of science. One admits that science may not know enough of nature. One asks for a humble science, not caution but an ethics of scale. One also needs an ethics of time. One cannot reduce ethics to a time-table because one needs to think of future time.

We have to reinvent both the ethics of the past and the future. We need a different kind of story-telling which takes terror beyond security, science beyond hubris and memory beyond erasure and obsolescence. Can we posit a Dalai Lama for nanotechnology, a Mandela for poverty and examine how they think. Every citizen has to improvise. These are new puzzles of tomorrow which democracy must solve to survive.

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist

Shiv Visvanathan







Ajmal Kasab's death sentence, delivered after a credible trial and enough thought, should be seen for what it is: punishment for the horrendous crime he has committed of unloosing violence against unarmed people and killing many of them.


It is not any kind of triumph as far as judge Madan Tahaliyani is concerned. The law does not gloat over punishing the criminal.


If the families of those killed by Kasab feel a sense of satisfaction with the punishment meted out, they cannot be faulted, but that was not the criterion for the sentence.


There is a sense of cold impartiality about the law and the blindfolded icon of justice is emblematic of it.


Television news channels will wrench every tear and sigh, provoke every bit of rage and indignation from the people to keep the 24x7 business humming.


The justice system, on the other hand, is not a gladiatorial spectacle. Its decisions are not based on the emotional demands of the victims and their families or the legitimate and illegitimate defence that the criminal puts forward to hang his case.


Law is based on evidence and the principle of fairness. No innocent man should be punished. And the punishment of those who have been proved guilty has to be proportionate to the crime.


The rational deliberation which actually lies behind what we have come to recognise as due process of law is what keeps societies sane and humane.


So, even while the loud and crass debates continue to rage, they should not be used to judge the rightness of the verdict of a court.


It does not matter whether Kasab was a helpless pawn in a wider diabolical terror conspiracy or whether he was himself a blood-thirsty killer, or whether he is a deranged youngster who had no control over his own acts.


We have no way of judging his inner thoughts or motivations. Inner drives are not the issue. It is the act that proves the case. The judgment against Kasab may not have a substantial bearing on the war against terror.


That has to be pursued on a different footing altogether.


This is not the time to get lost in a general debate about the merits of capital punishment. It is a contentious issue in itself.Judge Tahaliyani said: "In the court's opinion, Kasab has no chance to reform. Keeping such a terrorist alive will be a lingering danger to the society and the Indian government." We should leave it at that.







Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj took a positive step on Thursday when she apologised to the house and to Rashtriya Janata Dal (JD) leader Lalu Prasad Yadav for the intemperate remarks of her party colleague Ananth Kumar.


On his part, the RJD leader too apologised for his angry response which left much to be desired. It was heartening that the two leaders took the initiative to clear the air and restore not just order but a spirit of goodwill in the house.


This was a second day of mea culpas in Parliament. On Wednesday, Mani Shankar Aiyar, a Rajya Sabha member from the Congress, had apologised to senior BJP leaders in the upper house for hurling dubitable accusations, and he was followed by Sudeep Bandopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), who said sorry on Wednesday.


The remarks were not just inappropriate but reflected parliamentary impropriety and had to be expunged from the records of the two houses.


It would seem that the cliché, 'All's well that ends well', is truly appropriate in this case. This is only partly true.


Apart from bemoaning the falling standards of political debate over the last few decades, there is also a need to look at the reasons for the death of cordiality and minimal decencies of social interaction amongst the political class as such.


It is a fact that once they move away from political platforms, the individuals concerned are good friends and banter with one another. Why is it that the bonhomie is not on display when they are in the public eye?


The reason seems to be that politicians want to be seen as uncompromising knights championing the views of their constituencies.


They also seem keen to stick their necks out for good as well bad reasons to establish their credentials. In the age of live television, where the winner is the loudest — and, often the rudest — man or woman, it is not surprising that politicians easily let themselves indulge in aggressive antics of word and gesture.


To be sure, it is not as if politicians are the only champions of uncivilised behaviour. Our TV debates and anchors are not exactly shrinking lilies when it comes to rabid talk and excess bombast.


Even in private life, people are getting too worked up over minor things. Perhaps we all need to go back to school to learn basic manners.








Mumbai: Seventeen Indians have been sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates for murder; what is the limit of assistance that the Indian government should provide them?


For much of last year, relations between India and Australia were under some strain owing to the attacks on Indians in Australia.


Was India right — perhaps even duty-bound — to act as the custodians of last resort of the security of its citizens trapped in racially-drawn zones of danger in Australia?


Given the numbers of people who travel internationally for tourism, recreation, education and business, it is easier for most of us leave these things to "the grace of god" rather than empathise with foreign victims of atrocity crimes.


The responsibility to protect (R2P) doctrine was developed to help the latter; does the notion of responsibility as sovereignty have anything to contribute to helping fellow-citizens trapped in difficulties abroad?


The idea of sovereignty as responsibility to people within and the world community without, rather than sovereignty as a shield for internal abuses against external scrutiny, has been around for some time.


Popularised by a Canadian-sponsored but independent international commission, it was adopted unanimously by world leaders at the UN summit in 2005 and reaffirmed by the UN general assembly last year.


Those of us associated with R2P from inception will remember India as one of the most powerful opponents of the principle.


Yet a year ago, at the height of Sri Lanka's war to defeat the Tamil Tigers, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee invoked R2P to remind Colombo of its obligations to Tamil civilians. And in July India supported R2P during the debate in the UN general assembly.


In an age when travel is increasingly commonplace, does not a government have a corresponding duty to protect citizens on foreign soil?


Was the famous Entebbe raid a discretionary exercise of power by Israel to rescue Jews held hostage in Uganda, or was Israel morally and legally duty-bound to do all within its power?


There are five critical differences between R2P as we outlined it in our original commission and the duty to protect as argued here.


First, R2P is about the responsibility of a state for actions within its own territory, whereas the duty to protect is about its responsibility to protect its nationals trapped in foreign jurisdictions.


Second, R2P applies to everyone physically present in a state: citizens, immigrants, tourists, students, etc. The duty to protect would be limited to citizens when overseas.


Third, R2P concerns mass atrocities (war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing). The duty to protect can be activated when crimes and injustices are committed against individuals.


Fourth, it is the large numbers and the gravity of the crimes (atrocities) that together would shock the international community's conscience and activate the international responsibility to protect if and when the host government is unwilling or unable to do so.


But where the numbers affected are just one or a few, and in cases where the harm falls short of atrocity crimes, for example being falsely charged and imprisoned but not tortured or killed, there is no international or global remedy available today.


This becomes a matter for the country in whose jurisdiction the breach occurs and for the country whose national is being harmed.


Fifth, R2P was carefully chosen to emphasise the moral dimension without stepping over into a legal obligation as exists, for example, under the Genocide Convention (which is one reason why the US was so resistant to calling the Rwanda killings in 1994 genocide). The duty to protect, on the other hand, does impose a legal obligation.


Therein lies the problem. Leaving it as a state prerogative would, from a government's perspective, permit it a welcome degree of discretionary latitude.


It could choose to come to the assistance of citizens caught in nightmare situations in unpleasant or rogue regimes but stay away from cases in friendly countries.


It could provide maximum help to "good" Australians or Canadians caught in bad countries but choose silence and indifference where they are held by allied governments for suspected terrorist offenses.


The difficulty with this is how do we know the discretion is applied fairly, objectively and on reliable and credible ('slam dunk') evidence as opposed to wilfully, whimsically and erroneously?


If we want to live in a nation of laws, there is little practical alternative to grounding our protection in the majesty of laws.


It is not possible to be tough on terrorists and criminals while being soft on the rule of law and human rights protection.







There must have been an audible collective gasp when the hammer came down at $106.5 million for Pablo Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust at Christie's in New York this Tuesday.


The 1932 seminal painting of the artist's muse and lover at the time, Marie-Therese Walter, is now the most expensive work of art ever sold at an auction house.


But in all the hullabaloo of a world record being broken one little fact was overlooked: there was another Picasso that went for an unexpectedly high price.


A 1964 work titled Seated Woman with a Cat sold for $16 million. The amount may seem like peanuts compared to the record-breaking Nude, Green Leaves and Bust: the 30s is often described as the maestro's golden period and works from that time usually qualify for "status" of trophy art.


Seated Woman with a Cat was painted less than a decade before Picasso, born in 1881, died — a nonagenarian in 1973. For decades late Picassos were not considered top drawer — more like lazy art hurriedly put together. However, recently his late oeuvre has become a rage with collectors: even the critics have been re-evaluating work done during the last decade of his life.


Much the same happened earlier with Renoir. Critics mocked Pierre-Auguste Renoir's late work, overflowing as it was with gargantuan, abundantly nude women with disproportionate hips and bathed in a reddish hue that recalled Rubens and Titian.


For one of the founders of impressionism — as Renoir was — to hark back to tradition was something the mandarins of the world of art in the late 19th century and much of the 20th century could not accept. They labelled him old fashioned and reactionary.


It is only now that major museums have begun to rediscover the merits of the French painter's late work. Last fall's much-laurelled major exhibition Renoir in the 20th Century at the Grand Palais in Paris opened this February at the Los Angles County Museum of Art and will move to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in June.


Six years before he died Renoir, famously and in his 70s, said "I am just learning how to paint". No wonder that the ever-inventive Picasso admired Renoir, especially his uninhibited interpretation of conventional subjects.


Obviously, there can be second acts in creative lives. Many European artists — Matisse, Monet, Cezanne — have had many second flowerings — second lives when illness or just plain ageing (weakening eyesight, arthritis) forced them to reinvent themselves.


For example, Claude Monet's water lilies series became increasingly blurry as the artist aged and his eyes weakened. His paintings were more and more abstract — and an indelible influence on later generations of painters. Matisse turned to making his celebrated cut-outs after he was severely disabled.


Today, critics in India tend to dismiss the recent work of MF Husain, especially his quicksilver ability to fill a large canvas in a matter of minutes. I wonder if the paintings he did in his 90s will be seen in a different light years later, when looked at through fresh eyes.


Rabindranath Tagore started painting in his late 60s: initially, the images emerged out of his doodles. It took a long time for art scholars to think of him seriously as a painter. Perhaps, he was too towering a literary figure (and much else) to be considered so.


Just as good wines improve with age, so do many artists. Age can often be liberating, allowing the creative beings to offload unwanted baggage, oversized ambitions and obsessions with the markets.


In the autumn of his life the eminent painter-author KG Subramanyan sought simplicity. "Now I am content to look at the end of my garden where two birds fight," he once told me, adding, there is enough drama in that."










Mumbai Special Court Judge M.L. Tahiliani has justifiably awarded death sentence to Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the captured Pakistani terrorist, who was found guilty for the Mumbai terror attack on November 26, 2008. He has aptly ruled that a dreaded terrorist like Kasab deserved no leniency as there was no chance of his reformation. The preponderance of overwhelming circumstances made capital punishment for him inevitable, he observed.


While Kasab's is a fit case for capital punishment, doubts are bound to arise whether his execution would also go the Afzal Guru way. Afzal Guru, who was condemned to death for his role in the attack on Parliament in December 2001, had exhausted all his options in the judiciary and then knocked at the President's doors for mercy as far back as 2004. However, till date the Centre has not taken any decision. It would not be proper for one to advocate Kasab's prompt execution by circumventing the due process of law. Kasab deserves to be given every opportunity to challenge the ratification of the trial court ruling in the Bombay High Court, go to the apex court and then seek the President's clemency. But people will mock at the system if the executive sits over his mercy petition for years.


Unfortunately, whenever the question of Afzal Guru's mercy petition has been raised, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram refers to the queue system, implying that Afzal Guru will have to wait for his turn as the President is seized of as many as 30 mercy petitions, the earliest one being a case of 1998. If the Union Government inordinately delays his execution, it would send out an inappropriate message to the perpetrators of such heinous acts of terror. There is an imperative need for India to expedite decision on mercy petitions so that terrorists like Kasab and Afzal Guru are deterred from their nefarious designs.







The reprimand of the Trinamool Congress MP, Sudip Bandopadhyay, by the Lok Sabha Speaker on Wednesday for 'unbecoming conduct' may have closed one chapter in the increasingly uneasy politics of West Bengal. But there is no reason to assume that the truce between political rivals is anything but temporary. Bandopadhyay was accused of hurling expletives at CPM member Basudeb Acharia, who was critical of the Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's absence from the House and of her handling of the issues raised by Mumbai's motormen. While the opposition called upon Bandopadhyay to tender an apology, the defiant MP refused, declaring that nobody need teach him how to conduct himself in the House. It is to the credit of the CPM that the party gave up its insistence on an apology and decided to treat the chapter as 'closed'. Some degree of political maturity would have persuaded Bandopadhyay also to relent but even Pranab Mukherjee's gentle admission that he himself had tendered apologies in the House a number of times failed to move him.


The MP's conduct assumes significance as battlelines get drawn in West Bengal for the crucial civic polls

towards the end of this month. Elections for as many as 81 municipalitie, including the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, are widely seen as a dress rehearsal for the assembly elections due next year. The tense and ugly run-up to election so far has made it clear that political rivals will stop at nothing. While the Left Front, with its back to the wall, has launched a belated rectification campaign to set its house in order and cling to power, Banerjee, convinced that the winds of change are overwhelmingly in her favour, is determined to lose no opportunity to trash the Left. In the process, however, the political discourse threatens to cross the boundaries of civility.


Ms Banerjee has often been unreasonable and uncompromising. She has been steadfast in her refusal to hold discussions with the state government on issues of public importance or attend all-party meetings in the past, little realising that similar, undemocratic response from the Left Front, if and when she forms the government, will also prevent her from building a consensus on contentious issues. West Bengal consequently does not appear to be heading for the smooth conduct of an election. Unfortunately it seems to be getting ready for an escalation of tension between the Left and the Trinamool Congress.









For eight years, the Ministry of Defence has been engaged in formulating a tri-service Act, which is to be a common law for the three services. Almost from the time of Independence, all ranks of the Indian Army, the Navy and the Air Force are being governed by individual service Acts.


In addition to these service-specific Acts originating from related conduct rules enacted during British colonial rule which were oppressive in nature, the Army Act of 1950, the Navy Act of 1957 and the Air Force Act of 1950 are at considerable variance with one another. For example, the Army Act provides for four types of court martial compared to three by the Air Force and one by the Navy. Successive reports prepared by the parliamentary standing committee on defence have, while observing that punishments meted out to armed forces personnel are often not commensurate with the offences committed, pointed to the need for bringing about uniformity in the dispensation of justice to armed forces personnel. Although Britain and several advanced countries have continually been reviewing their military laws, the Indian military legal system is still rooted in a semi-colonial era. Two years ago, the government created an Armed Forces Tribunal in view of the extraordinarily high incidence of armed forces personnel, mostly officers, approaching the Supreme Court and various High Courts for justice. In 2005, the figure of pending court cases had touched a high of 9.450.


The functioning of the Tribunal, which is intended to streamline the redress of grievances of armed forces personnel, can be further smoothened if the services have a uniform law. It took the government 26 years to effect an Armed Forces Tribunal from the day the Supreme Court in 1982 asked it to provide for at least one judicial review in service matters while pointing to serious anomalies in the Army's justice system. It is to be hoped that the government will take much lesser time to devise a uniform law for the three services.

















OUT on the streets of Kathmandu and other towns in Nepal, Maoists are turned out in strength in a show of force to recover political power — which they lost constitutionally — through coercion and intimidation. Their deadline for establishing a Maoist-led government through a "people's movement invoking peace and constitution" is May 28 when the elected Constituent Assembly will cease to exist without either any integration of armies or a draft constitution in place. This will lead inevitably to a constitutional crisis and President's rule. The one person the Maoists are loathe to is President Ram Baran Yadav whom they see as instrumental in the collapse of their government in May 2009.


Management of armies and drafting a constitution are really peripheral to the power struggle the Maoists have waged systematically for the last one year. First, they boycotted the House demanding that the President should correct his "unconstitutional action" of reinstating Army Chief Gen Rukmangad Katawal who was dismissed by Prime Minister Pushpa Kama Dahal-Prachanda. This was followed by a three-phase protest and agitation campaign which blocked normal working of Parliament, constitution-making, integration of armies and functioning of the government. Frequent strikes and disruptions by Maoist-controlled labour unions coupled with 12-hour power cuts have severely affected the Nepalese economy and lives of ordinary Nepalis, apparently deluded by the peace dividend.


When the protests fizzled out, the Maoists attempted to introduce a no-confidence motion in the House but failed to collect the requisite number of legislators to bring down the Madhav Nepal-led coalition government, supported by 22 of the 25 parties in the Constituent Assembly. The Maoist Struggle Committee launched its fourth and decisive phase, the last battle, on May 2 by bringing into the Kathmandu valley nearly half a million supporters, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nepal and the formation of a national unity government led by Prachanda. While the campaign for the recovery of power has been waged combining threats, intimidation and extortion, the stakes have also been progressively raised.


Initially, the Maoists sought a parliamentary resolution correcting Presidential action and asserting civilian supremacy. Later they asked for a change of Prime Minister and were willing to accept anyone but Madhav Nepal. Now, backed by street power, they want a new national unity Government led by Prachanda. They are unwilling to negotiate any terms of the famous "package deal" till Prime Minister Nepal has resigned. It seems they wish to replicate the Red Shirts' successful coercion of the government in Thailand through weeks of street protests and battles. It is hard to dispute that the Maoists have acted as if they are the government while the ruling authority is reduced to a vacillating state, unable and unwilling to govern for fear of undoing the peace process.


The Maoists have neither transformed themselves from a guerrilla force into a political organisation committed to multi-party democracy nor abandoned the armed struggle, for which they are employing the Young Communist League instead of Maoist combatants, who are confined to camps. The late Col Narayan Singh Pun, who negotiated with the Maoists on behalf of King Gyanendra, had predicted in 2007 that in or out of power, the Maoists will subvert democracy to create a single-party state. The most recent internal power struggle among the Maoists has seen the rise of hardliners like Mohan Baidya and C.P. Gajurel at the cost of the moderate party ideologue Baburam Bhattarai who, as Prachanda said, "India wanted to make as the new Prime Minister."


Prachanda calls the ruling establishment as Delhi's puppet government. Unprecedented in virulence, Prachanda's anti-India campaign has spread into the interior of Nepal. During the last one year New Delhi should have engaged the Maoists politically instead of tasking RAW and the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu embassy to bring them around. Being a major political force, India cannot wish away the Maoists. It needs to rework its Maoist policy factoring the China card and the escalating Maoist insurgency in India. For the moment, India has put all its eggs in the coalition government basket.


"Toppling the government at any cost", the avowed aim of the Maoists so that a people's constitution can be unilaterally promulgated, is extra-constitutional and undemocratic. Waiting in the wings is the Nepal Army whose successive chiefs have said they will support any legitimately elected government. Prachanda, who once called the Nepal Army a band of thugs and rapists, is now appealing that it work together with the Maoists. He knows that going back to the jungles is not a viable option.


The ongoing indefinite strike, virtually paralysing the government, has the potential to lead to a conflict with the security forces and hurt the economy stricken by 10 years of insurgency, political instability and slowdown in remittances. On the other hand, a negotiated settlement may still be possible before the May 28 deadline to avert a constitutional crisis. Come May 28, legal experts are projecting a variety of scenarios ranging from amending the interim constitution to extending the life of the Constituent Assembly by six months to ordering fresh elections. Article 64 of the interim constitution stipulates that the Constituent Assembly can be extended upto six months in case of an emergency. Any amendment of the interim constitution will require a two-thirds majority which is obtainable only with the Maoists voting in the House.


Alternatively on May 28, the government may cease to exist with President Yadav assuming executive powers. He can declare an emergency, extend the Constituent Assembly by an ordinance or hold new elections. The legal confusion is far from clear. Getting to or remaining in Singha Darbar on May 28 is vital in this power struggle.


Unless the question of power sharing is settled first, an extension of the Constituent Assembly is no guarantee that the constitution will get written and the two armies will be integrated. How are the Maoists going to reconcile their twin demands of Nepal's resignation and formation of a new government headed by Prachanda? The high-level political mechanism which is an assembly of senior leaders from the three main parties has been meeting to break the political deadlock for the last one year. It is now trying to put together a package deal which includes the formation of a consensus government, integration of Maoist combatants, Constitution drafting, disbanding YCL, Maoists returning seized properties and reaffirmation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement — all by May 24. Prime Minister Nepal, according to this arrangement, is to resign once the agreement is implemented.


The sticking point will be over Prachanda's acceptability as Prime Minister of a new national unity government, not through Parliament but by consensus. "I will be the next Prime Minister of Nepal", Prachanda told his ecstatic supporters recently. If this works out, it will signal regime change by coercive street power rather than through Parliament, which is not a good augury for Nepal's nascent democracy.








THE ideology of change is something I always believed in strongly. But this philosophy does not naturally translate into every change being for the better. Change for the sake of change is pointless, and change for the worse undesirable. The process of change must be directed towards betterment.


While undergoing training in HIPA in 1974, I happened to visit Kaithu police station in Shimla. I noticed a mustard-coloured flag bearing the designation of "Chief Secretary" pinned on the notice board. It was an odd sight. On enquiry, the station in charge informed me that the flag was displayed to make the police force aware of the colour, dimensions and designation of the officer and to ensure saluting the Chief Secretary. In all likelihood, this tradition must not have been observed and hence the directions.


Unfortunately, since the past few years the grace and respect within and between the various services has gone through a drastic transformation. The armed forces have almost derecognised the civil service officer's flags. The police force also slowly dispensed with the protocol of saluting the civil service flags.


Unofficially, the reciprocity of salutes between the armed forces and the police force had been done away with more than two decades ago. Apparently, as a police officer explained, this happened because the Army had stopped acknowledging their officers first, so they followed suit and refused to acknowledge the Army's officers. I was bewildered. The exchange of salutes, I had so looked forward to, was now held back in this maze of egos. I could not fathom the resistance to this tradition.


Years went by and finally the day I retired my car bearing my flag was dropping me to my residence situated in the Western Command Army area. As the car traversed the Western Command road, an Army Subedaar was passing by on foot. Suddenly, he accorded a full blooded salute (never happened before) to my vehicle. I am quite sure he might have mistaken me for a "VIP" because of the garlands dangling on the flag rod of the car. Overwhelmed, I reciprocated with equal enthusiasm, my heart filled with pride and joy. That was my only coveted salute, moments before I stepped out of my official vehicle for the last time.


But the point I am trying to make is not about innocent aspirations and desires. The protocol of salutes among personnel was not meant to be a symbol of obeisance. It is a gesture of mutual respect and grace and an expression of an unwritten bond of kinship and cooperation between the three important functional arms of democracy: the civil services, the armed forces and the police force. How can there be a healthy relationship between these pivotal bodies if we cannot even manage to acknowledge one another?


A breakdown of communication at this basic level is symptomatic of deeper, more damaging chasms.


May be, the only salute of my career was the last salute to the end of an era where, though tenuous, an age-old tradition lent the connective tissue of courtesy between the keepers and protectors of democracy.








No government can hope to administer the present and plan for the future without a periodic headcount of how many people are in the country, how young or old, what they do and where they live. India's census of population and housing is the largest single administrative exercise in the world which can be accomplished only with the total support and cooperation of the people.


The vast army of devoted, loyal and hard-working enumerators, supervisors, charge officers and district census officers, who are paid but a small token honorarium to cover their out-of-pocket expenses, bear the brunt of the entire exercise.


The state governments and union territory administrations also fully cooperate in ensuring the successful conduct of the census. Following Independence, the census of India is conducted under the proviso of The Census Act of 1948 and is a Central subject. The 2011 census will be the 15th in uninterrupted series of census-taking beginning 1872.


The decennial census is conducted in two phases. During the first phase house-numbering and house-listing is done to plan for the second phase — the actual population count. The first phase is not undertaken synchronously in all states and union territories but is spread over a period of six months. Almost the entire country is divided into minute revenue areas, each with its well-defined boundaries.


The enumerator is required to paint and number all census houses on his beat and make a notional map of his area. Every landmark, natural feature, configuration and census house is marked down. He is also required to fill the "Houselisting and Housing Census Schedule" which in addition to collecting details of the houses and households, works as a frame for the second phase. Each enumerator is generally required to cover around 100-125 census houses during the first phase.


The gigantic task relating to the first phase of the 2011 Census of India, started on April 1, by filling the Houselisting and Housing Census Schedule for the President of India.


The second phase involves the actual population count which generally starts on February 10 and ends on February 28. Till 1991, the reference date was the sunrise of 1st March but in 2001 it was changed to 00.00 hours of 1st March. The area one enumerator covers is called "enumeration block" which generally has between 500 and 750 people.


As the name indicates the first phase involves the housing census and covers only those people who live in census houses. A significant number of people, who are houseless and live in open places such as pavements, under bridges and railway platforms without shelter, are thus not covered during the first phase as these people do not live in a census house. This houseless population is enumerated from 28th February to 1st of March.


Since the enumerator visits and enumerates people in his block on different dates between the 10th and 28th February, it is possible that some deaths and births might have taken place after the enumeration of the household and 28th February. The enumerator is required to update the records of enumeration as on 00.00 hours of 1st March. For this purpose, the enumerator is required to make a revisional round of his block between 1st and 5th March and update the filled-in schedules by deleting the details of those who died and adding the particulars of those who were born.


After the population count is over, all are curious to know the population count obtained. To make available the population as on 1st March at the earliest possible date, a well-knit procedure is followed by the Census Commission of India. Each enumerator is required to prepare a summary of his block by aggregating the population of all the households he covered and pass on along with the records generated during enumeration to his superior, who generally supervises the work of five enumerators.


The figures at the state level are compiled independently in the offices of the State Director of Census Operations and the Census Commissioner of India in Delhi and matched. Any discrepancies are resolved. Needless to say that the office of the Census Commissioner of India and the Census Directorates in each state and union territory administration work round the clock till the results are finalised.


The provisional total figures thus arrived at for India are first released by the Census Commissioner of India in Delhi, giving the population of India and each state and union territory. This is followed by the Directors of Census Operations' release of the provisional totals for his state, districts, and sub-districts.


The release of the population figure gathered by an army of 2.5 million enumerators and supervisors from around six lakh villages and more than 5,000 towns, along with compilations of the population total down to the sub-district level is a herculean task. No other country in the world makes available the population figures anywhere near as fast. This is only because of efficient planning by the Census Commission of India. Hats off to the commendable and meticulous methodology devised by the Indian Census System.


The writers work for the Population Reference Bureau, Washington-DC








On the morning of April 11 people in the densely populated colonies of Outer West Delhi woke up to severe bouts of coughing and a smoke-filled skyline. The reason they soon learnt was a massive fire in the plastic scrap market of Mundka, which engulfed nearly 1 km area. Over 30 fire engines battled for over 15 hours to extinguish the fire. Water did not reach the inner layer of PVC material fast enough, resulting in smoulding for a long time. The impact of health hazards can persist for a long time as a lot of electronic waste was also burnt in this fire.


Earlier, a terrible fire in the massive oil storage near Jaipur had caused even heavier damage. Such massive fires at storage sites of inflammable materials can cause unacceptably high damage, including the loss of lives. It is time to think in terms of placing strict limits on single-point storages of inflammable and explosive materials.


It is important to keep in mind the worst-possible scenario and how the scale of any possible accident can be contained within acceptable limits. The terrible consequences of the Jaipur tragedy were there for everyone to see — the enormous harm to human and animal life, the destructive impact on health and environment, not to mention the massive damage to property and industrial activity. Apart from what was visible, long-term adverse consequences on health and environment have to be monitored carefully.


We need to distinguish between essential and non-essential hazardous or inflammable products. While the need to store huge quantities of non-essential inflammable and explosive materials (like the explosives needed in the production of firecrackers) can be drastically reduced over the years with a judicious mix of public education and safety rules, this cannot be done in the case of essential inflammable materials like oil and gas.


While the long-term goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions are compatible with a lower use of oil and gas, the increase in the population of cities as well as the percentage of people using oil and gas are likely to ensure that huge storages are needed, even though these may be a reduction in the per-capita use of fossil fuels. So while the quest for renewable energy resources is most welcome, in the near future we can't do away with the storage of huge quantities of oil and gas.


Keeping in view all these considerations, what are our options? Clearly the safety measures have to increase, safety budgets should all increase, but as the possibility of accident still remains in the case of storage of inflammable products, we have to keep in mind that the accident doesn't go beyond acceptable/tolerable limits particularly in terms of loss of life, and threats to health and environment.


The obvious option should be to spread the essential supplies of oil and gas over a number of smaller storages located at considerable distance from each other and preferably in different directions of the city. For example, if a storage of one crore litres of oil is needed near a city this can be spread over four or five sites. The maximum permissible limit will have to be decided by keeping in view worst possible scenario and the limits of damage that can be accepted. Once these limits of storage have been decided, then, these will have to be implemented strictly.


A few days after the Jaipur fire when unexpected heavy smog conditions appeared in Delhi, there were some reports that the fire and smoke in Jaipur could have contributed partly to this. This adds to the concern about how unacceptably high the damage from accidents in very big storages of inflammable materials can get, as the pollution caused by such accidents can be dispersed over a long distance. This further strengthens the case for scaling down the storages of inflammable, explosive and hazardous materials much below what is permissible and common at present.


As in the case of oil and gas, in the case of all other inflammable materials (like the PVC material and electronic waste stored at Mundka) there should be strict limits on single-point storage to keep any possibility of accident within manageable limits.









Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers MK Alagiri appears unfazed about the controversy surrounding his prolonged absence from Parliament. When reporters confronted him on the issue, he said: "Has anyone filed any FIR against me on the issue? I have no problems. I have been attending the sessions."


When the scribes tried to corner him with repeated questions on the issue, he said: "I have taken part in voting during the cut motion. I am not ignoring my responsibilities". He denied that there was any summons from Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar asking him to appear before her on May 1 to explain his frequent and prolonged absence.


Even while reporters were asking him if he would soon tender his resignation as a Union minister, he quickly moved away from the reporters and got into his car. The fact that Alagiri did not assert that he would continue in the Union minister's post indicates what is going on in his mind, a senior reporter commented. He does not feel at home in New Delhi and wants to return to his native turf in Madurai.


Comrade pats Obama

A CPI comrade praising the leader of the "imperialist US government" is a rare occasion. A state leader of the proletariat movement, applauding the capitalist country, that too at a public platform, is not witnessed often.


Tamil Nadu CPI Secretary D. Pandian hailed US President Barack Obama as a "leader with consciousness". The US administration recently demanded a probe into the war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military during its offensive against the Tigers last year, the comrade said and openly appreciated the US government for its "humane approach".


Not stopping with showering accolades on the leader of the "anti-democratic bourgeoisie dictatorship", the Communist leader also compared the approach of the Indian and US governments on the Sri Lankan issue and said: "Those in power in New Delhi have no consciousness".


While flaying the Indian government for supporting the military offensive of the Lankan government, Pandian was silent on the role played by the Chinese government in the island conflict.


"Chicken day"


For prisoners in Tamil Nadu Sunday is otherwise called a "chicken day". The government provides the prisoners chicken gravy with afternoon meals every Sunday. Although, the price of chicken is rising everyday, each prisoner is given 135 grams of chicken on that day. An official at the Puzhal prison, the biggest in the state, said 250 to 300 kilograms of chicken is bought every Sunday.


More than buying and cooking chicken, the distribution of chicken is difficult. Meticulous planning and execution is necessary with the co-operation of the convict wardens and other officials to ensure that each prisoner gets about 135 grams.


For prisoners who do not like non-vegetarian food, bananas are provided on that day. Some of the prisoners who were released this week lauded the prison officials for implementing the "Sunday chicken scheme" in a planned manner.








It was inaugurated on August 14, 1862, and building work commenced in April 1871  Continuing with the next part of a series of historical landmarks around the BSE, there is the epochal building of the Bombay High Court located opposite the Rajabai Tower.

The legal history of Bombay is said to have commenced when the Town and Island of Bombay came as a dowry to the British when the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza (sister of the Portuguese monarch Alphonso VI) married King Charles II in 1661. At that time Bombay was a small fishing village inhabited by the Kolis, and Charles II transferred Bombay to the East India Company in 1668 for an annual rent of £10.
In 1670, the justice system was in the hands of the justices who held sittings in the Custom Houses of Bombay and Mahim and it was a rather rudimentary system. Bombay was divided into two divisions, the first division comprised Bombay, Mazgaon, Girgaon while the second division consisted of Mahim, Parel, Sion and Worli. Each division had five judges. While an English national was appointed as head of each division, Indians were also appointed as judges.

Gerald Aungier, the Governor of Surat Factory, was the ex-officio governor of Bombay and he headed the set-up of the legal system here and was actually the true founder of Bombay. He believed in equality, impartial administration of justice without fear or favour but was unhappy with the judicial machinery and under instruction from the East India Company, chose George Wilcox as the judge and the First British Court of Justice was inaugurated in 1672.

Bombay being transferred from the Crown to the Company also resulted in the East India Company spreading its wings and changing from a trading company to a territorial sovereign as along with the transfer, Charles II authorised the Company to make laws and administrate Bombay.

   In 1684, the Admiralty Court was set up under the Charter of 1683 which was the second part of the progress of the Bombay judiciary and Dr St John a authority on Civil Law was sent by the Company to preside as a judge but constant clashes between the Governor and the Court and St John's refusal to kowtow to the whims and fancies of the Governor and Council saw his unceremonious dismissal.

   King George I issued a charter to the Company in 1726 introducing a uniformity of approach and "The Mayor's Court" was established in the same year under the King. This court was authorised to hear and try civil suits within the town and a right of appeal was also granted but justice was served by the Company flunkeys and left a lot to be desired. A new charter in 1753 by King George II repeated the same things but a summary disposal of small causes was a new point and this court with its motley headaches was finally wound up in 1798 when the Recorder's Court was established by charter.

The first recorder was Sir William Syer, while the court was first located at Col. Jones's House in Marine Street, by 1800 at Admiralty House (Hornby House), which later housed the Great Western Hotel in Apollo Street.

 A regulating act was passed in 1773 when Warren Hastings was appointed a Governor General of Bengal while in 1823 an Act of Parliament authorised the establishment of a Supreme Court in place of the Recorder's Court at Bombay by Royal Charter while inauguration took place on May 8, 1824, and this court functioned till 1862.
The company was dissolved after 1857 and the Government of India was taken over by the crown in 1858 while the "Indian High Court Act" of 1861 saw the Charter of High Court of Bombay being issued on June 26, 1862, and the court was formally inaugurated on August 14. Building work commenced in April 1871, was completed in November 1878 at a cost of Rs. 16,44,528 and was designed by Colonel J A Fuller.

 Next Week – The seventh part of a close look at some of the historical landmarks near the BSE



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Even before Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia takes over as the country's new chief justice next week, he has a crowded calendar. There is the issue of the overwhelming, and rapidly increasing, backlog of cases. In the Supreme Court, it rose from 49,819 last year to 55,971 now; in the high courts, it has risen from 38,34,224 to 40,49,649; and from 264,22,920 to 272,38,782 in the case of district and subordinate courts. While a large part of this is due to the fact that India has a lot less judges than other countries have (India has roughly 12 judges per million population versus 110 in the US), even the sanctioned posts are not being filled. There are four vacancies in the Supreme Court itself which is around 13 per cent of its sanctioned strength; 265 vacancies in the high courts add up to 30 per cent of the bench strength, and in courts like Allahabad, there are more vacant benches than manned ones (82 versus 78); and 2,800 vacancies in the subordinate courts add up to around a sixth of the total bench strength. Given that as far back as 1988, the Law Commission had recommended the judge-to-population ratio be raised to 50 in five years and to 107 by 2000, it is obvious Justice Kapadia has a huge HR issue that needs dealing with. With a very large proportion of cases concerning two arms of the government litigating, Justice Kapadia also needs to work on convincing the government to take remedial action on this front.

Equally important, Justice Kapadia will have to deal with the perception that judges run a closed shop with little or no transparency. After the furore over posting information about the assets of judges on the Net, the Supreme Court doesn't want to subject itself to the discipline of the Right to Information (RTI) Act — indeed, the apex court has filed an appeal to itself against a Delhi High Court judgment saying the office of the Chief Justice of India came under the ambit of the RTI. Once the higher judiciary is covered by the RTI, apart from questions of assets, there could be questions on how judicial appointments are made, on how the judiciary has reacted to cases of corruption of brother judges and the like — so the court's decision to stave off the RTI creates an unfavourable perception in the public eye. Related to this is the issue of Justice Dinakaran and the Supreme Court's reluctance to take serious action against him — at one point, the proposal was to transfer him to the Sikkim High Court till lawyers there began protesting. Impeachment proceedings against Justice Soumitra Sen are in progress, and the Rajya Sabha panel has just issued him a charge sheet. Few expect Justice Kapadia to be able to make a serious dent in the issue of backlogs and vacancies since he has a tenure of under two-and-a-half years, but how he deals with the issue of the public perception of judges will be closely watched.







A quick glance at the headline numbers for the fourth quarter (Q4) results suggests that India Inc is back on the fast-growth track, just as the pundits and politicians had forecast. However, the devil — and one that is likely to keep CEOs awake at night — is in the detail. Certainly, top-line growth confirms that after a two-quarter hiatus, demand is back with a bang, continuing a trend that began in Q3, especially when automobile companies displayed sales numbers that surprised analysts and themselves. Business Standard Research Bureau calculations show that net sales of 741 manufacturing and services companies that have declared their Q4 results for 2009-2010 so far grew a healthy 40.51 per cent in January to March over the same period in the last fiscal. This is almost double Q3's top-line growth of 24.2 per cent and reverses shrinking sales in the first quarter of 2009-10. The numbers look healthy even when the results for Reliance Industries Ltd, India's largest listed company that doubled sales this quarter on the back of rising oil prices, are excluded. Sans RIL, India Inc's Q4 top line grew 40 per cent over the same period in 2008-09, against a 13.5 per cent year-on-year growth in Q3.

Net profit also grew at a decent pace of 40.49 per cent over January-March 2008-09, reinforcing optimistic predictions that the good times are back. It is worth noting, however, that net profit growth represents a slowdown from the headline-grabbing 69.39 per cent growth in Q3. This could partly explain why no one's popping the champagne just yet — and the answer becomes clearer from operating margins. Q4 operating margins have been almost stagnant at 12.51 per cent against 12.47 per cent in Q3, and almost a percentage point lower than 13.75 and 13.25 per cent in the growth-constricted first two quarters of the fiscal. Most of India Inc's chief financial officers are unlikely to be surprised by this. As stubbornly high inflation indicates, raw material costs have soared at a much faster rate than sales (even as prices fell in the first two quarters because of shrinking demand). Q4 is no different. From a relatively modest 28.73 per cent growth in raw material costs in Q3, they rose almost 60 per cent in Q4. Excluding RIL (and, therefore, reducing the impact of crude oil costs), the year-on-year jump in raw material costs for Q4 is no less dramatic: 40 per cent against a relatively modest 9.48 per cent in Q3.

 To be sure, most of the 741 companies in this sample are relatively smaller ones. Barring IT, companies in industries like steel, cement, automobiles and fast moving consumer goods, and the large public sector organisations are yet to declare their results — most are taking advantage of the three-month deadline and are likely to do so only in June along with their full-year numbers. All the same, the sample can be considered a fairly accurate pointer to what Q1 of the new financial year will look like. It is clear that the commodity cycle is beginning to turn, so raw material prices are likely to rise sharply, which will inevitably impact profit margins. So going forward, cost-control will increasingly determine a company's competitive advantage, just as it did during the slowdown







Will IPL survive the exit of Lalit Modi?" IPL is a concoction of some of the biggest religions and crazes of the Indian public — cricket, films, glamour and time pass. It has the support of some strong business houses through both franchisees and sponsors; is packed with star cricket players — domestic and international — and has the glitz of film stars and is now a big TV event. Marketers are already scheduling their launches — product and new campaigns — around it, depending whether they can afford to be on it or not. Yet, reporters are quite unabashed and unembarrassed to ask this question to Lalit Modi's successor and the members of the governing council: "Will IPL survive the exit of Lalit Modi?" It seems a no-brainer at one level — how can one man make all the difference? — IPL will survive. Yet, hidden within the question is a deeper Indian mindset — the feeling of comfort to connect a brand, an event to an individual, a face and drawing reassurance from that!

It's hard to say whether this is a stage of economic evolution, a deeper cultural phenomenon, or more — it's worth a deeper exploration. One school believes that business moves from a "family" structure to a more "professional" structure as economies develop. And this becomes a necessity as corporate and brands become global. The biggest western brands from Levers to Proctor and Gamble to McDonald's to Kodak started off as "family" businesses (set up by two Lever brothers to Mr Proctor and Mr Gamble and so on) but as they grew in scale and size, they had to reorganise themselves into more "professional" outfits with their own systems and structures independent of their founders. In a "family" system, the stakeholder's trust is driven by the "founders"; but once the "professional" system comes into place, affinity is driven by the values and associations built by the brands and corporates associated with them. This school believes it's only a matter of time before Indian corporates and brands evolve to that state.

 However, another school may be equally relevant and true. Look at the most thriving brands in India today — Tata, Birla, Kotak, Bajaj, Reliance, Mahindra, Infosys, Wipro, the Future Group, to name a few. Behind them stand strong people (or more appropriately "in front of them") with either associated myths of the past or stories of vision into the future that create brand reassurance for general stakeholders.

The need for a human face has its roots in our culture. Hinduism is an "idol" religion keen to give forms to our Gods and comfortable with multiplicity of them. We are both a hierarchical and affiliative society — where family is the core unit. Overlay that with the Hindu belief that there is no right or wrong but only the "best" path at any given point of time — there is a need of a "father figure" to guide us and whom we need to trust to get a sense of stability in life. In business, the human face that can be trusted helps make that connection — as both the voice of authority and the source of comfort that will provide guarantee and yet set things right if anything goes wrong. In the commodity era, consumers were buying the trust reposed in the "face" of the friendly neighbourhood grocer. In the branded era, who is that human face?

This cultural truth makes one question whether India would ever move towards the true "impersonalised yet professional" brand management. The strongest family brand "Tata" is a professionally run company. Yet, deep down all stakeholders, from consumers to trade to employees to investors, connect with a face — Ratan, JRD or Jamshetji — through myth or reality. It remains to be seen if a living Tata doesn't head the group for decades, whether the brand charisma will remain the same over time!

This leads us to perhaps an interesting insight into the success of celebrity advertising in this country. At one level, celebrities provide execution cut-through and image associations. However, at another level, celebrities also provide consumers with a "human face" for the brand — and subliminally build trust and stature. The consumer understands the celebrity cannot be held accountable for the brand's performance; however, there is a feeling of comfort that if the celebrity is endorsing the product, it must be of acceptable quality — after all, her reputation in the larger world could get tainted if the product is not good! Not surprisingly, many top-end luxury brands — from watches to beauty to accessories — use local celebrities in their print advertising to gain connect. The celebrity is one step removed for the brand owner-endorser!

An alternative to an individual human face is the "face" of the government. From time immemorial, the public has always believed it's the duty of their leaders — the maharajah in olden times to government in modern age — to take care of and protect them. So, when brands take up larger social causes in their communication — Lifebouy promotes the cause of personal hygiene; ICICI Prudential Life insurance drives education programmes in schools; or Tata Tea takes on an anti-corruption platform with its "Jaago Re" campaign — they subliminally don the role of the government and thus get traction at a higher level. In the branding world, the current belief is that brands need to have a stature to do such things — but maybe brands can actually build stature on the back of such causes.

Our political parties are more defined by the people rather than their manifestos; sports interests are driven by stars rather than the game. India, today, is clearly a personality-driven culture — and will continue to be so in future. In such a culture, it is natural for doubts to be raised on institutions like IPL if a strong personality associated with it moves on. It, however, also gives a window into how brands could be built in a market like this. While "impersonal" brands may exist in the longer term future, it may be worthwhile to recognise that today giving a face to a brand — beyond benefits and values — can help foster quicker, stronger connect with consumers. Brand-owners in a culture like ours may be missing a trick if they want to be "professional" or remain "self-effacing".

Something worth thinking about.

The author is country head-discovery and planning, Ogilvy and Mather, India. The views expressed are personal. Comments at:  









The news is that Malvinder Singh is relocating to Singapore. Fortis, the health-care company he owns with younger brother Shivinder, had recently bought Parkway Hospitals of Singapore for over $650 million. This was a company the Singhs had coveted for several years. Once the deal was done, the two brothers, along with friend and confidant Sunil Godhwani, decided that while Malvinder will look after Parkway, Shivinder will run Fortis and Godhwani will manage the affairs of Religare, the financial services company. This has caused Malvinder to shift base to Singapore from Delhi. It looks like a neat arrangement between the three ambitious businessmen.

It has also come to light that Ravi Ruia of Essar has been spending much of his time in London to spearhead the group's international operations and scout for opportunities outside India. Prashant Jhawar of the Jhawars of Usha Martin too has made London his base. He looks after the family's international business interests, while Rajeev, his cousin, takes care of Indian business. Prithvi Raj Jindal had shifted base to the US to run his steel pipe mill there, till he sold it to JSW Steel of his brother Sajjan Jindal. L N Mittal, of course, left his family in India many years ago to seek his fortune abroad, and what he has accomplished is well known.

More will follow in the days to come. These are not project-specific assignments. These people have gone abroad for the long haul. This is a sea change from the past when family members could at best do short stints abroad for the sake of exposure, often in companies known to the family. Finally, they had to come back to the heat and dust of India. An extended stay abroad was little else than escape from familial responsibilities, and was frowned upon by the elders. The exceptions to the rule were the Chettiars of Tamil Nadu who established themselves well in Myanmar and the Gujaratis who set up large businesses in Africa. But that happened a long time back when India had little to offer. Now, families want to expand abroad, even though business prospects have never looked better in the country. There are three dimensions to this phenomenon.

One, most families have become alive to the opportunities that exist abroad. They are confident that they cannot just buy assets abroad, but also run them efficiently. In most asset sales abroad, names of prospective Indian buyers come up with unfailing regularity. Increasingly, Indians are doing big-ticket acquisitions abroad. Often, the fundamental logic of that business needs to be changed. Should production be moved to low-cost countries like China and India? Are the products reaching in sufficient quantities growth markets like the BRIC countries? The stakes have become bigger. This requires promoters to be close to the business.

Essar, for instance, owns a steel plant in Canada and has invested in iron ore reserves in the US, cold-rolled steel in Indonesia, coal mines in Mozambique, BPO outfits in the US, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Australia and Africa, oil and gas assets in Vietnam, Nigeria, Madagascar and Australia, a Kenyan refinery, and telecom in Kenya and Uganda. It has recently entered into an exclusive negotiation with Shell for buying its refinery at Stanlow in the UK and Heide and Harburg in Germany. At the moment, Essar's business outside India is small. But that will likely change in the days to come. All this has made Ruia operate out of London.

Two, the choice of London is important. That is where Ruia, Mittal and Jhawar have set up offices. The reason is not far to seek. London is the financial capital of the world. If you have ambitious plans to grow and need money for that, London is the place to be in. Presence in London, it is now accepted in business circles, improves your access to financial resources.

Three, according to Indian School of Business Professor K Ramachandran, the foremost authority on family business in India, some people have shifted abroad because of the better lifestyle it offers. They may have got exposed to that lifestyle while studying abroad, or they may have come under pressure from their spouses to move out of India. In such cases, the justification to set up an overseas office often follows the decision to relocate. Ramachandran calls it a business solution to a family situation. He recounts the case where a family sent a youngster abroad to study. Once his studies got over, the lad was reluctant to return. The family was left with no option but to set him up abroad.

Is there a fourth dimension to it as well? Could this be a way to reduce friction within the family? Proximity breeds contempt, after all, and distances build bonds. Most families deny it — these are just demands of the business and nothing else, they insist. Ramachandran thinks there could be some truth in it. The fact is that it is a good way to divide responsibilities. It gives elbow space to family members who could have otherwise fought with each other. Whatever be the reason, expect more Indians to settle down abroad in the days to come.







Last fortnight, I asked: Is India rich enough to pay for the cost of transition to a low-carbon economy? I asked this in the context of the current moves in international climate-change negotiations, which demand that countries like India, till now seen as victims of the carbon excesses of the industrialised countries, must take full responsibility to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The US-sponsored and India-supported Copenhagen Accord rejects the notion of historical responsibility for the problem of climate change. This radically, and irretrievably, changes the global framework of action. No longer does the industrialised world have to first cut down on emissions to make space for countries like India to grow. No longer does the industrialised world have to pay for our efforts to avoid the growth of emissions.

 So, can India reduce emissions at its own cost? My colleague Chandra Bhushan has just released a report titled "Challenge of the new balance", which deals with this question. It takes into account six of the most energy-intensive sectors, in terms of emission profile today, and looks at the technology pathway for the future. These high-growth sectors — power, steel, aluminium, cement, paper and fertiliser — add up to 60 per cent of India's carbon dioxide emissions currently. The study finds answers that demand careful rethinking, not just in India, but globally, about how emissions will be cut, really and actually.

It finds that contrary to general perception, many Indian industrial sectors (and companies) operate at global best levels as far as energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions are concerned. India's cement industry, for instance, already has the lowest emissions in the world because of its use of fly ash and slag. Even the much abused coal-based power generation sector does not do so badly in its emission record. The study also finds that the industry has invested in better and the best technologies, because in India energy costs are high. This is not to say that more cannot be done to improve performance. But, it also means that India is not the place where the world can look for easy and cheap emission reductions for the future.

In fact, based on current policies and technologies, Indian industry is well on track to meet India's current "commitment" — 20-25 per cent reduction in the emission intensity of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020. This is chicken feed. It is about picking up low-hanging options, which will cost, but not enough to stop reducing emission levels.

The tough part is what begins now for the future. The fact is that in all high-polluting sectors, technology options for emission reduction will be stagnant after 2020. There is no real way India can reduce emissions, without impacting growth as we know it, once it crosses the current emission-efficiency technology threshold. This is the real climate challenge.

The only real option to reduce emissions is to change the fuel mix of energy, which drives economy. But even this is theoretical. The options are limited and what exists involves a very high cost. If India wants to reduce its use of coal, it must invest big time in solar or biomass or off-shore wind. All this put together, all done and all money spent, it will still not be able to substantially reduce its dependence on coal. This is even after the study factors in the use of clean coal technology or switching to gas. And remember, India already faces the challenge to provide affordable power to a huge number of people. So the bottom line is that the going is tough.

But this only means that India is no different from the rest of the world. In fact, it is at the bottom of the development trajectory — it has a long way to go to meet its growth needs and the way ahead will only add to pollution. It is inevitable. It will need the ecological space to increase its emissions. But the problem is that the world has decided that it will not share growth — the rich will not reduce and make space for late entrants like India to first emit and then clean up.

The hard truth is that the options for serious emission reduction are limited in the industrial model India belongs to or wants to inherit. The world has to look for new ways to cut emissions and pay big time for these. There are win-win options, but only if we consider that in all current options the planet is losing.

This new growth model will need changes in behaviour and lifestyle, to cut emissions. It will need new drivers to stimulate quick and aggressive technology innovation. It will require changes to take the world much beyond the known and the ordinary. This change will not come cheap.

This is the most inconvenient of all truths. And this is precisely why the rich world wants to spin a deal, built not on its commitment to reduce emissions, but on the bribe that the developing world can also continue to emit. This is not good for climate change. It is devastating for us. The study shows us why.









The Supreme Court declaring certain methods of gaining information from the accused illegal, alongside the Cabinet's clearance of the Prevention of Torture Bill last month, is a major step towards protecting the rights of people accused or convicted of a crime. The spirit of the SC's ruling, as of the Bill, is not just that India should have a sound criminal justice system or that law-enforcers must be bound by that law, but rather an affirmation of the principle that an accused or even convicted person has inviolable rights.

This should ideally spark a debate on the validity and ethical dimensions of the death penalty. The debate on the issue in nations that have abolished capital punishment focused not only on due application of the law, but also its humaneness and ethical dimensions. Votaries of abolition even call the practice of the death penalty medieval and barbaric.

A death penalty, in essence, is inflicting a punishment that was the crime in the first place. The question really is how a society and state envisages not just the law, but addresses the debate on forms and dimensions of violence by a critique of violence itself. The evolution of modern law, say, from the eye-for-aneye principle, or even medieval forms of punishment, incorporates not just an awareness of basic human rights, but also human dignity.

The difference, for example, between a death sentence carried out by decapitation in parts of west Asia and a hanging carried out in an Indian jail. Both the similarity and difference between the two forms of executing a sentence should posit a reconsideration of the sentence itself. It is a moot point whether a person or terrorist who has committed a heinous crime meets justice by being sentenced to death or being totally excluded from all forms of society for the rest of life.

That may be a difficult debate in a society where brutalities are both committed internally and inflicted by terrorists . But carrying out that debate is part of an ongoing struggle to deepen our democracy, of which guarding personal liberty and basic human rights is an integral part, even in the fight against crime or terror. For now, the SC has given a milestone ruling on that front. The tabling of the Prevention of Torture Bill would be another.








The move to set up an international airport in Noida disrupts not just the business plan of the Delhi International Airport (DIAL) but also the entire model of creating infrastructure through public-private partnership (PPP). As it is, the PPP model has come under strain with the private partners wrangling concessions not envisaged in the contract. Now, if the government also starts acting in bad faith towards PPP contracts, the model would lose all credibility and the government would struggle to fill India's huge infrastructure deficit.

A new airport at Noida would summarily affect the viability and development of the nearby Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), India's key PPP project. Now, it cannot be gainsaid that at some point in the future, as traffic volumes increase, the National Capital Region would need a second gateway, perhaps a third. But planning for multiple airports calls for multi-year studies and projections, not policy pussyfooting in an apparent move to placate a regional political heavyweight.

There have been clear cases of winning bidders in PPP projects tweaking the rules to their advantage. Which is why it is doubly unbecoming of the Centre to be similarly accused of changing the norms, post-bidding . It surely needs to desist the move, promptly.

The Centre needs to adhere to the rule that new airports are not to come up in a 150-km radius around existing ones, and especially so for a world-class project like the IGI Airport under construction. Giving the go-ahead for a second airport now would make IGIA's traffic projections go haywire, lead to further passenger surcharges and attendant levies, and almost certainly be bad in law. Of course, if air traffic volumes grow faster than anticipated, the issue could, and should, be revisited.

Besides, if the express purpose for an international airport at Noida is to provide better connectivity to the Taj, the new metro link from IGIA to New Delhi railway station and superfast train linkage to Agra should serve just as well, with the facility up and running at a fraction of the time and cost. What's required is forward-looking and pragmatic transport planning. In any case, an airport based largely on political considerations would lack techno-economic soundness and viability.







Residents of Mumbai's Shivaji Park may find a sympathetic ear half way across the world even if many of those who frequent this iconic open space may not want to hear any more on the matter. In deference to the sensitive ears of those who live around the park, it may be declared a 'silence' zone, off limits to anything more raucous than a sports match or government-declared celebrations on Republic Day, Dr Ambedkar Jayanti and Maharashtra Day.

That solution would be music to the ears of the Dutch, obviously, because a mere yell during a World War-II memorial service attended by Queen Beatrix on Wednesday caused a near-stampede as the crowds panicked . Scores were injured and the monarch was rushed to safety by spooked security officials when one man shouted 'Bomb!' Of course, that is one word that does evoke explosive reactions, but in India, a shout would be unheard — and unheard of — in most places where more than a dozen people congregate.

We love noise — the louder the better — so be it a discourse or a speech, a cricket match or a social gathering, no one really gets to hear what anyone is saying. Even potential disruptors thinking they can scatter crowds with yells would be drowned out by the general din.

In India, declaring an open place a silence zone would be like outlawing conversation and good times. If indeed the Shivaji Park residents get their way, life as we know it may change forever in India, as other party-pooper residents in other cities get into the silencing act, citing this as precedent. No loudspeakers? No political rallies complete with thundering demagoguery or gatherings with loudspeakers belting out Bollywood hits? Most people would get nervous about quietude, as we are no believers in the adage that silence speaks louder than words!







MUMBAI: Risk aversion has returned to the currency markets after the European Union announced a $40-billion bailout package for Greece. Investors are getting out of Asian currencies and moving into US dollar which continues to be perceived as a safe haven currency.

An analysis of Asian currencies' movement against the US dollar shows that most Asian currencies have stemmed their pace of strengthening against the dollar with some like the Indian rupee and the Indonesian rupaiah weakening marginally.

The bearish sentiment in the currency is also reflected in the trend in foreign portfolio investments during the month. While foreign investors poured in over $6 billion together in debt and equity, the amount of inflows is almost a third in April at $2.8 billion. Though investments tend to peak in March and are more or less subdued in April, the difference between the level of investments in the two months is nevertheless significant.

Treasury officials point out that the dollar has gained against major global currencies over the last one month, post the crisis in Greece. According to Navin Raghuvanshi, associate vice-president, treasury and financial institutions of Development Credit Bank, "With risk aversion returning to the market (due to the problems in Greece), the dollar has emerged as a safe-haven currency and people are reposing their faith in it as a global reserve currency."

Against the backdrop, it is natural that even Asian economies start looking to the dollar for safety, said a treasury official with a private bank, requesting anonymity. For central banks across Asia, which were mulling over capital controls to manage the dollar deluge, may get some breather, pointed Raghuvanshi. But they may still have to take a call on intervention in the currency markets to manage the volatility, he added.

Data suggests that while the Indian rupee, the Indonesia rupee, the Philippine peso have slipped marginally against the dollar, the Malaysian ringgit and the Thai Baht have gained marginally. A recent report by Barclays Research indicates bullishness in the rinngitt and Baht on account of higher portfolio flows into these countries. India, on the other hand, is actually seeing a slowdown in imports.







Anand Rathi

Glaxosmithkline Pharma

GSK Pharma

Prabhudas Lilladher

MUMBAI: Investors have been taking shelter with defensive stocks of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and pharmaceutical companies as the market turns weak in reaction to concerns that Greece's grave financial crisis could spread to the rest of the euro zone.


The strategy, according to analysts, is to cushion the fall in value of their portfolios by buying FMCG and pharma stocks which are relatively less volatile. Shares of GlaxoSmithKline Pharma (GSK), Lupin and Abbott India scaled new highs while Cipla and Hindustan Unilever (HUL) were the top gainers among Sensex stocks in a choppy market on Thursday. The buying in some of these stocks could have also been driven by the fact that they vastly underperformed the broader market during the recent bull run, analysts say.

"When risk-aversion increases in the market, investors tend to move away from high beta stocks to defensive stocks," said Apurva Shah, the head of research at brokerage house Prabhudas Lilladher. Institutional investors usually buy defensive stocks as part of a reshuffling of their portfolios to minimise losses in a choppy market, he added.

Shares of GSK Pharma rose to a new 52-week high of Rs 1,991 before ending 2% higher at Rs 1,982 on Thursday. The stock has gained 13% in the past month, compared to a 5% decline in the benchmark Sensex. Lupin and Cipla are the other examples of outperformers in the pharma sector. Lupin hit a 52-week high of Rs 1,838.9 but closed with a marginal loss at Rs 1,818, while Cipla rose nearly 3% to Rs 346 on Thursday.

A few leading FMCG stocks led by HUL also outperformed the market though analysts are of the view it is more because of technical factors because, fundamentally, there have been some concerns about the prospects of the industry.

"Factors like growing price competition and high raw material prices have been putting pressure on margins. Rural demand for consumer goods is also not picking up as expected," said an analyst with a institutional broking house requesting anonymity.

HUL rose 1.6% to Rs 232 on Thursday. In its research report released on March 16, 2010, Anand Rathi Financial Services said factors like price cuts, rising raw material prices, higher excise, media and transportation costs would impact HUL's margins by 120 basis points in FY11. Godrej Consumer Products and Dabur gained 2.5% and 1.6%, respectively, on Thursday.







After finding stiff resistance between 5350 and 5400, Nifty finally corrected on weak global cues and concerns over Greece. In the past five trading sessions, Nifty has corrected from a high of 5295 to a low of 5038. The 200 DMA currently stands at 4957 and the range of 4960-5000 is likely to act as a very strong support.

The cost of carry for Nifty May contracts continued to remain negative. However, the discount of 10-15 points reduced to 3-5 points towards the end of the session. The open interest for the contract rose by a little more than 11 lakh shares, indicating that fresh short positions are still being created. Short build-up was also visible in stocks like Jindal Steel & Power, Reliance Communication, Siemens India and Tata Power.

However, Suzlon Energy, Cipla and Ranbaxy Laboratories rose with an increase in open interest, indicating further strength. In the options segment, there is a strong build-up in put options of strike 4900 and 5000 which have open interest of 125823 and 124775 lots, respectively. In case of call options, the maximum open interest is at 5300 and 5400 strike, which again indicates very strong resistance at 5300. The implied volatilities of option contracts have risen sharply in the past few days and are expected to remain high for some more time.

It is prudent to remain cautious before initiating long positions in Nifty. However, long positions can be initiated in stocks which have corrected very heavily and are now likely to see some recovery.

Vinit Pagaria, VP-Investment Strategies, Microsec Capital








Almost all forms of greeting involve a gesture or movement of the body that expresses deference, homage or, in rare instances, even genuflection towards a person who, for whatever reason, is perceived to be higher in some complex pecking order. This can range from the removal of head gear, to a slight tipping of the forehead , a nod, curtsy, short bow, bending at the waist , kneeling, touching of feet and full-fledged prostration . It can take other forms of topdown ordering too. One doesn't shake hands with the boss till he makes the first move, whereas in the armed forces the junior officer is always required to salute first.

Ethologists and others who study animal behaviour — especially as it occurs in a natural environment — have a nifty explanation for this. They trace it back to our roots and early evolutionary ancestry. A junior, weaker or younger ape for instance doesn't monkey around in the presence of the alpha male or female. No, the greeting consists of lowering its height instantly, snivelling and generally exhibiting an appropriate subservient attitude.

That's because otherwise the little beast could have its head bitten off, if not come close to getting seriously damaged all over. It's also the reason a dog puts its tail between the legs in similar situations . In extreme cases it will roll over and expose the vulnerable underbelly in an act of surrender.

Okay, so perhaps some of this has to rub off or remain in us and thus condition the way we behave when we opt to live in societies that are also hierarchical in nature to a greater or lesser extent even though it may appear faintly ridiculous at times. Having said that, however, when it comes to our relationship with God, such behaviour sometimes can flip totally over the top. We starve ourselves , perform long and torturous penance, flagellate the body, skewer it and grovel by measuring its height along the ground over long distances. How much greater could this God be if He, She or It is also basically me?

The story goes that Ramakrishna Paramhansa would at times rave and rant at the stone image of Kali in front of him and then offer her food from his plate — an unthinkable reverse process of prasadas it were. Note that as a result he was not summarily smote dead. In fact, we are told that she would take the food out of his hand instead. Now there's a healthy relationship we could live with.







May 28, 2008, was a historic day when the newly-elected Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a sovereign democratic republic. In less than two years, the political situation in Nepal has become unpredictable. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), short of numerical majority in the Constituent Assembly has launched an intensive state-wide indefinite strike against the coalition government led by Madhav Nepal of the United Marxist-Leninist Party.

Having made a critical contribution to the success of the Jan Andolan which brought down the monarchy, the Maoists have failed to keep political power which they had grasped in the first few months. The Maoist agenda is to bring down the present government and possibly to recapture power so as to mould the polity in its image. The coalition is in no mood to oblige and a political crisis is in the making. Is the stage being set for a showdown in the next few days?

Take the worst case scenario. If the situation on the street turns violent, not only in Kathmandu but also in other towns, and the police are unable to control it, the army might be asked to intervene. This step is fraught with uncertainty and could have unpredictable results. To quote Mao, "All is chaos under heaven and the situation is excellent" . The point is excellent for whom.

Perhaps chaos is what the Maoists are wishing for because they have given no indication of working out a compromise. The main sticking point is the integration of the Peoples' Liberation Army cadres into the Nepal army which is resisted by the army chief. The new Constitution, which should have been drawn up by May 28, 2010, is nowhere in sight.

Do the Maoists want to inflict mortal wounds on the prevailing framework in the hope that once they get back the reins of power they would shape a peoples' democracy in a one party polity? For that if they have to subvert the present structure , so be it. Yet best laid plans can go astray and an army intervention could have unforeseen consequences for all players. Beware!

UML & UCPN(M) cooperation can help

Propelled by a powerful people's upsurge, the process of abolition of the nearly 250-year-old monarchy in Nepal had turned out to be quite swift and surgical. The subsequent process of republican transition has, however, proved to be extremely slow and tortuous. Even as the extended deadline for a new draft constitution draws near, Nepal is now stuck in a serious political stalemate with the Maoists pressing for the formation of a new interim government and negotiations among major political parties not really making any visible headway.

Underlying the current stalemate are several unresolved issues, reorganisation of the Nepalese army perhaps being the most contentious among them. The army may not be an overtly royalist bastion, but it is clearly ill at ease with the process and prospect of a real republican transition where the army should naturally be subject to civilian supremacy and parliamentary accountability. Reports emanating from Nepal indicate that the army is drawing up contingency plans in the event of a protracted political imbroglio and 'constitutional breakdown' .

Many foreign embassies in Kathmandu are also playing an openly interventionist role. It is quite common to see foreign ambassadors holding meetings with Nepali leaders and issuing political statements about what should or should not happen in Nepal. Back home in their own countries, they would certainly not allow foreign embassies to behave in such fashion!

The peace agreement in Nepal is yet to be implemented in full. The issue of reintegration and rehabilitation of
Maoist guerrillas remains a major bone of contention. Differences also remain regarding the republican model to be adopted — Maoists apparently prefer an executive presidency while others would like a parliamentary system.

The future of Nepal hinges on a definite resolution of all these issues . A close understanding and cooperation between the UML and UCPN(M) could have been particularly effective for this purpose, but such a unity has proved elusive till now. As a well-wisher of republican Nepal, one only hopes the stalemate is resolved soon and the royalistimperialist nexus is not able to exploit the situation to its advantage.







Propelled by a powerful people's upsurge, the process of abolition of the nearly 250-year-old monarchy in Nepal had turned out to be quite swift and surgical. The subsequent process of republican transition has, however, proved to be extremely slow and tortuous. Even as the extended deadline for a new draft constitution draws near, Nepal is now stuck in a serious political stalemate with the Maoists pressing for the formation of a new interim government and negotiations among major political parties not really making any visible headway.

Underlying the current stalemate are several unresolved issues, reorganisation of the Nepalese army perhaps being the most contentious among them. The army may not be an overtly royalist bastion, but it is clearly ill at ease with the process and prospect of a real republican transition where the army should naturally be subject to civilian supremacy and parliamentary accountability. Reports emanating from Nepal indicate that the army is drawing up contingency plans in the event of a protracted political imbroglio and 'constitutional breakdown' .

Many foreign embassies in Kathmandu are also playing an openly interventionist role. It is quite common to see foreign ambassadors holding meetings with Nepali leaders and issuing political statements about what should or should not happen in Nepal. Back home in their own countries, they would certainly not allow foreign embassies to behave in such fashion!

The peace agreement in Nepal is yet to be implemented in full. The issue of reintegration and rehabilitation of
Maoist guerrillas remains a major bone of contention. Differences also remain regarding the republican model to be adopted — Maoists apparently prefer an executive presidency while others would like a parliamentary system.

The future of Nepal hinges on a definite resolution of all these issues . A close understanding and cooperation between the UML and UCPN(M) could have been particularly effective for this purpose, but such a unity has proved elusive till now. As a well-wisher of republican Nepal, one only hopes the stalemate is resolved soon and the royalistimperialist nexus is not able to exploit the situation to its advantage.








Being the head of Tata BP Solar, K Subramanya is no stranger to innovation. When the company started off in 1989, there was hardly any solar power generation in the country. Today, the government is talking of using it for the grid, signalling that the sector has surely come of age. Tata BP Solar has worked with small companies and it has made some remarkable innovations to produce higher power on smaller solar panels. In a freewheeling chat with Anirvan Ghosh, he talks about how to inculcate innovation in a sector when there are no set benchmarks.

When you started off, solar power looked like just another fad. How did you motivate people to innovate and

make new solar devices?

As hardly anyone was focusing on solar energy, it was exciting to be in this field. Today, we have managed to run 10 computers solely on solar power, across many SMBs and small branches, and also water pumps in states such as Haryana and UP. We kept researching along with BP and came up with new solutions. Innovation is all the more exciting when you are driving it.

What about manpower? Till date, there are hardly any institutes training in this field...

That is certainly a major problem, and something that hasn't changed in all these years. We need trained manpower. Today, we hire talented people from engineering colleges and train them on our own in solar technology. That apart, we need to train them in softer skills such as teamwork and communications. If technology and soft skills are taught beforehand, our job becomes more interesting.

What can the government do to foster innovation in such sectors?

The government can play a major role, and it has, at least in solar. It can create a big new market. For example, we are powering 10,000 street lights with solar energy. We are also powering so many rural homes and water pumps. The government in some states provides subsidies to use solar power and now the Centre has a clear-cut Solar Vision document. That will bring volumes and spur investment in innovation.

While this was an urban technology to start with, now rural areas are the main growth drivers...

Absolutely. If you are able to supply four hours of guaranteed lighting in places that never knew electricity, it is at least a good beginning. Now we power CFL lamps this way, soon it will LED lamps. Sometimes some people demand that the entire house be run on solar energy—this is possible in rural areas in energy deficient states such as UP, Jharkhand, Bihar and also Leh and Ladakh. We have got a big customer base in rural areas of northern Karnataka as well.

What is the latest innovation in the sector?

To make more efficient solar panels is one. We have made one for grid connectivity and this single panel can produce around 280 W power. This is the highest ever. Unless you have such efficient systems, you would need a huge area covered with panels, which might not always be available at one place.

This can also lead to offices in urban areas being powered by solar power...

Yes, and it is already happening. We supply to base stations in remote places, and also on offshore drilling platforms for oil firms in the Arabian Sea. This is an example of energy powering businesses. In the oil rigs, we use solar energy to produce an anti-current which prevents corrosion of rigs inside water. This will rise. Global demand for solar power is expected to grow over 80% in 2010, and in India it is likely to grow fivefold to 150MW.







Callaway Golf, the $1billion US golf equipment maker, recently started operations in India and signed up the country's most famous golfer, Jeev Milkha Singh, as brand ambassador. It's teeing off at a time when the game is growing in popularity in India. The last few years have seen a surge in both the number of players and golf courses. There are an estimated 500,000 golfers and 250 courses, up from 80 five years back. Thomas T Yang, president, international (non-US markets account for over 50% of the company's turnover) talks to Shelley Singh about building the Callaway brand and how it sees competition from rivals like Nike, TaylorMade (golf brand of Adidas), Titelist, Ping and more. Excerpts:

Golf market is still small in India. What potential do you see here?

The market is very small. But in long run, India could be a several hundred million dollars of equipment sales market. We expect that about 2-3% of India's population or 30-40 million people would play golf in the long run. Even if they spend half as much as what a golfer spends in the US, it will be very big. Lot depends on how the infrastructure—golf courses and driving ranges—grows.

India has around 250 golf courses and very few driving ranges. Triggers for growth are there. Standard of living, purchasing power and the number of people interested in spending money on leisure are growing. So, golf is bound to grow. Also, the fact that players like Jeev Milkha have been successful in golf outside India adds to the popularity. Golf is now part of Olympics and that will create aspiration among people to represent the country.

For most products, India is a very price-sensitive market. Do you see this as a hurdle for growth?

We are still learning in the Indian market. I don't think it's as price sensitive as in traditional mass market consumer goods. These (equipment and golf course memberships) are what I call affordable luxury items. If you look around, there are lot of nice cars now sold in India—Mercedes, BMWs. Those are affordable luxuries which people buy to treat themselves. Golf is like that.

What's your marketing strategy in India?

Callaway is the only publicly-held company focussed on golf. For us, golf is the key, it's the core. Our strategy for India will not change. We are going to establish Callaway as the premium brand in golf. We are the experts, the most knowledgeable, authentic and innovative golf brand.

TaylorMade, Nike, Cobra, Ping and Titelist have been around in India longer than Callaway. What will be your USP?

We spend more on golf R&D than any other company. All our products have changed the dynamics of the industry. Starting with the Big Bertha (golf drivers), the two ball putters, fusion products—we bring innovation to the whole industry. Our best people and best thinking goes into golf.








Politics runs the risk of being reduced to the art of the passable — it has to be approved by the legislature, by the omniscient television anchors, by sulking editorial writers forced to cede ground to the TV anchors, and, most crucially , by Sonia Gandhi. The food security Bill was drafted for Ms Gandhi's favour and has been shafted by her displeasure.

Food security, hostage, in any case, to the attention deficit of our minister for food and sugar and cricket and Maharashtra politicking, is now all gummed up in a wrangle over how many people should be covered, how many should be left out and how many times the empowered group of ministers should defer their meeting on the subject.

What all this bustle over the bill misses out is the simple fact that food security is not achieved primarily by distribution of food. The rural employment guarantee scheme is about food security — it offers 100 days of employment so that people do not go hungry in those spells when regular work, primarily related to raising crops, is not available. The entire Bharat Nirman programme, the rural roads programme, the urban renewal mission, the skills mission , the grand national highway building schemes, all generate jobs and incomes and thus enhance food security.

Does this mean that there is no need to focus specifically on access to food, that official energy should be expended on growth? Not quite. In a country like India where millions of people live on the margins of subsistence , guaranteed access to food is vital. However, any programme to do this must not assume it to be its solitary burden to feed the poor of the land, it must take into account the many government programmes that concurrently work for the same goal.

Let's take, say, Kumti Majhi, a Kondh tribal, who leads a precarious existence collecting forest produce. He can afford food if his income is supplemented, say, through an employment guarantee scheme. Equally , he can afford food if the food itself is made available at a subsidised price. Should he be given both an income supplement and subsidised food?

Or should that extra money going to him be used to build an all-weather road from his hamlet to the nearest road? Suppose a bauxite mining project comes along and takes away the land off which Kumti lives, and the colour of his water source turns an angry red, the shade of the sores that now erupt on his body. Where will he turn for food security?

The point is that food security does not, cannot exist in isolation. It is a function of a person's location in the
overall economic and political structure of society. Unless that environment turns benign, piecemeal efforts at easing the pressure on some part of the life of the poor will fail to particularly benefit the poor. Turning that environment benign is a function of politics, not of any particular law.

Enhancing incomes of the rural poor and cheapening the supply of food come together in raising farm output, essential to meet the rising demand for food across the world, not just for conversion into fuel but also to feed the changed food preference of people with improving living standards.

Increasing farm output is a huge challenge that will call for enormous resources, both financial and policy. Paucity of political will to forge and implement reasonable compensation/rehabilitation policies for people displaced by projects has, in combination with steady scaling back of outlays on major irrigation, created a looming water crisis, with groundwater near exhaustion in most places. For farm output to go up, there has to be sizeable investment in surface water management, meaning dams, reservoirs, canals and displacement.

The YSR government of Andhra Pradesh was effective because it stepped up irrigation investment significantly. Raising food output will call for not only augmented water supply but also better know-how , embodied in hybrid or genetically modified plant varieties and high-tech inputs, and in improved crop husbandry practices.

These cannot be absorbed by the current scattered structure of farming in India : farmers would need to pool their resources to form farmer companies or cooperatives to secure the organisational form required to carry out modern agriculture . Modern farming is capital intensive . And would not be able to accommodate large-scale underemployment as traditional farming does. A lot of the surplus labour would be absorbed by fastgrowing urbanisation.

If the rest are not to become polarised into a handful of rich peasants whose landholdings steadily grow and a disgruntled landless, jobless mass, a great deal of organisational innovation is called for. That too is part of food security. In fact, of internal security. The only way to overcome the bureaucrat's tendency to compartmentalise, and hold on to the holistic picture, is for politics to always be in command. Will someone please approve?







Vijay Advani, the global head of retail and institutional distribution at Franklin Resources, the company behind the Franklin Templeton family of mutual funds, in an interview with ET NOW's Andy Mukherjee, said savers in Asia are much more eager to invest in equity funds than their US counterparts, who continue to put their savings in bond funds. Excerpts

What is the outlook for US equity fund sales?

We can slice and dice the statistics, but going slightly deeper under the covers, notwithstanding the growth in the stock market, we aren't yet seeing strong flows into the equity market by the retail investor. Most of the flows actually are through 401(k) plans. These are the retirement plans for citizens in the US who are investing on a monthly basis.

How have savers in emerging markets as a whole responded to equity products ever since the recovery in asset prices began?

Actually Asia has come back in a very strong way, as has Latin America. In Asia, we just had a small blip of a slowdown for a short period of time. Some of it is because the economy itself rebounded very strongly, but I also personally believe that the percentage of the net worth of individual investors in the equity market was yet fairly small; so even when they lost money, it was relatively a small amount compared to their overall net worth.

Have your India funds seen an impact of the Sebi regulations on entry loads?

Absolutely. And the impact isn't only on Franklin, but it is on the industry as a whole. Conceptually, it makes a lot of sense to have advisers charge a fee to the end-client for overall advice. It eliminates conflict of interest.

What are your thoughts on the controversy surrounding unit-linked investment plans?

Insurance companies in most countries have recognised that their value-add really is in assessing risk and so they're sticking to that and outsourcing the asset-management function. I am sure we are going to see the same thing here in India with insurance. It is only a matter of time.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Wednesday's order by the Supreme Court declaring that the forcible use of narco, brain-mapping or polygraph tests was illegal, as these were a clear infringement of a citizen's fundamental right to privacy and against self-incrimination, was a major victory for individual freedom in this country.


In the order, the Chief Justice of India and two of his brother judges freely acknowledged that as a result some criminals might escape punishment for their crimes but, in the balance, it was far more important that citizens were not deprived of their basic rights. The three-member bench described these practices, frequented resorted to till now by the investigative agencies, as "cruel, inhuman and degrading", and as bad as the "bloodletting and broken bones" that goes with third-degree methods associated with police interrogation.


A number of medical and other experts have likened these to torture, and internationally, such tests have been outlawed in a large number of countries. Till a few decades back it used to be said of the Mumbai police that it was almost as good as Scotland Yard in crime detection due to its skilful use of third-degree methods. In fact the government, while defending its use of narco tests before the Supreme Court, admitted as much when it said their use was a "softer alternative" to the third degree.


The court quite rightly held that to replace one form of improper behaviour with another was simply unacceptable. Police agencies across the land have been put on notice: to solve complex cases, they have no alternative but to undertake thorough investigation, without the use of third-degree methods or involuntary narco tests. The modus operandi of conducting a narco test is ridden with anomalies. Though these are supposed to be done by scientific experts, police officials are usually present and often coach narco specialists on what questions to ask. The possibility of leading questions being put to a person under some form of medically-induced hypnosis is ever-present, making the one-sided process a mockery of justice. It is true that sometimes narco-analysis throws up names and clues which investigators can use to identify other culprits. But take the case of one of the most high-profile subjects of narco tests: Abdul Karim Telgi, accused in the so-called Rs 30,000-crore stamp paper scam. He was shown undergoing a narco test on national television, when he mentioned the names of two powerful politicians, but then nothing happened. They are still free, and only Telgi and some small fry have been indicted and jailed. So claims by law enforcement agencies that narco tests are an indispensable investigation tool lack credibility, more so if the information so obtained is then selectively used. This defeats the very purpose of such a test. The biased nature of narco-analysis testing methods, the absence of built-in safeguards and the very real possibility that a subject might reveal, or be induced to disclose, matters unrelated to the current investigation (and thus get exposed to further harassment) make the entire process questionable.


The law is very clear on one point: that evidence of any kind recorded only by the police cannot be admitted in judicial proceedings. The Supreme Court once again reiterated this week that even if a narco test is conducted with the consent of the subject, it will still not be accepted as evidence.








Bollywood HAS a wisdom that one must understand. In its movies, there is always a battle between good and evil. In its own sociological way, Bollywood shows that goodness is not enough. It reminds us that in everyday sense, the good cop, the good teacher, the good officer and even the good father are not adequate enough. They get eliminated before the interval. One almost sighs with relief when such incompetent, naive old-world goodness makes an exit. But the problem begins there.


The flaw in Bollywood is that its resolutions are more and more incomplete. As it meets new situations, it tries to resolve them through excessive violence backed by a plethora of technology. The question is what an ordinary person should do when he confronts new situations. The general idea seems to be to resort to technocratic management or exponential violence.


Consider the following situations: You travel across a city, drive past a slum and return in the evening to find it gone. Yet one regards it as inevitable. If one were pompously middle-class, one might even see it as poetic justice, seeing the poor as dirty, unnecessary and unhygienic. Similarly, one reads in the newspaper that a few villages have disappeared after a flood. One does not even pause to wonder who lived there. One shrugs the event off as inevitable. Our perspective is Darwinian but Darwin adapted to bourgeois, bureaucratic life. For us, the survival of the fittest begins with the exam. Those who pass look approvingly at each other. Life then becomes a gigantic exam where failures are seen as people getting what they deserve. The first class first gets frozen in ethical amber. The other man's failure creates little sympathy or empathy in us.


Let us add to the complexity by discussing terror. Terror frightens us, frightens our sense of ease and comfort, our middle class sense of security, our sense of law and order. We immediately become judges. We need to condemn, dismiss, execute. We become adherents to capital punishment. All our silly stereotypes surface and we easily become anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan, anti- whatever threatens us. None of us have the courage and imagination to say what the Dalai Lama once said: "George Bush brings out the Muslim in me".


How many of us can bring up the Muslim or dalit in us when the occasion requires it. Our ethics are reduced to a demand for security. If we are liberal, we add a touch, just a touch of human rights. But terror is a virus, an epidemic that demands elimination. Terror dehumanises us and we dehumanise it in turn. Justice becomes a form of vigilantism and our shaken sense of morality turns us blood thirsty.


Let us thicken our frame and look at science. For most of the middle class, science is immaculate and untouchable. It is good and if well applied can automatically solve the problems of malnutrition, poverty or underdevelopment. We can understand the misuse of science and blame it on the stupidity of man or policy. But can we see science itself as problematic. We get accused of sentimentalism, illiteracy or fundamentalism. Yet none of the current problems of science can be understood without such a perspective. Science is no longer the domain of certainty. When one confronts the issues of nanotechnology, climate change, nuclear energy, basic issues of ecology and health, one confronts the fact that science cannot outline the consequences of its own work. We cannot outsource our ethics to experts because most of them have a vested interest in the pursuit of their own science or are ethically autistic.


Law cannot be a substitute for ethics. A regulated society can produce its own forms of corruption. Law also generates concepts which are still coy about the nature of responsibility of science. At most, it can generate the idea of the precautionary principle which contends that ignorance is by itself no excuse. A person whose action creates a disaster is responsible for the consequences. But such a notion of responsibility while being forward-looking does not look far enough. Science through regulation can move as far as precaution or prevention. But what it needs now is what I call "Wild Ethics", an ethics that moves beyond the current boundaries and definitions. One needs an ethic which is plural, playful and eventually exemplary. The paradigms as settled visions can come later. There is a place for Gandhi here because one has to begin with the body. One has to understand the ethics of walking.


Walking is not feet in motion. It is a way of traversing the world. Satyagraha begins with the walk. You walk your world and definite its limits. "Swadesh-ism" in that sense was a theory of walking. Walking defines your locality and neighbourhood like a Thoreau or Emerson or even a Heidegger. One must realise walking is a way of dwelling, owning up to the ethics of the locality. One is responsible for what it grows, what it teaches, what legacies it has, what diversity it sustains. Walking begins an ethics of scale, where small and large are gradients across a variety of worlds. In scaling up you realise the plural nature of ethics because the same problem will be solved in different ways, at different levels. Ethics, like ecology, is not hierarchic. It is polyarchic, it varies with levels of complexity. Wild Ethics begins in humility and play. It is an ethics of memory which sees forced obsolescence as taboo. One has to ask, does my consumption, my style of life contribute to the displacement or elimination?


Wild Ethics claims that the formal economy of ethics needs an informal economy of coping, satisficing, of jugaad, of improvisation.


Ethics becomes a set of dialects incessantly demanding translation. The idea of the dialects allows one to see the limits of problem-solving and the limits of science. One admits that science may not know enough of nature. One asks for a humble science, not caution but an ethics of scale. One also needs an ethics of time. One cannot reduce ethics to a time-table because one needs to think of future time.


We have to reinvent both the ethics of the past and the future. We need a different kind of story-telling which takes terror beyond security, science beyond hubris and memory beyond erasure and obsolescence. Can we posit a Dalai Lama for nanotechnology, a Mandela for poverty and examine how they think. Every citizen has to improvise. These are new puzzles of tomorrow which democracy must solve to survive.
* Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist








If one was to commission a sculpture that depicted the woeful state of the British art market, then it would be difficult to improve on what Mayor of London Boris Johnson is proposing for the London Olympics. The Mayor's venture represents the fusion of everything that is wrong with the system: a steel billionaire, a £19 million price-tag, a world-famous artist and 1,400 tonnes of metal in the shape of crashed pylons. And the end result? That the contraption will be used as a mega funfair. Publicity for the so-called ArcelorMittal Orbit speaks of its size, price and persona. There is no majesty, no mystery. No art.


In recent years, art has become — as never before — a trophy for the wealthy. Auctions of the most expensive

artworks are followed every bit as closely as the stockmarket by financial advisers who are dealing with just

another commodity. Small wonder: while property prices are falling, art prices keep going up, up, up. The Damien Hirst model — of getting rich quick by becoming a brand — is now studied at the London Business School. More people than ever before (as Oscar Wilde might have put it) know the price of a work of art, but not its value.


Art auctions, of modern art in particular, have become testosterone-driven contests to discover who's got the biggest wallet. Just look at the spring art auctions in New York. On Wednesday, a Picasso painting set a new record for the most expensive work of art sold at auction. An anonymous millionaire paid $106 million for "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust", smashing the previous record of $104 million for a Giacometti. So much for the financial crisis.


The stage for the next such battle will be set at Sotheby's, where they're offering a self-portrait of Andy Warhol for around $15 million, and a simple red canvas from Mark Rothko for up to $25 million. There is no surer sign that bonuses have returned to Wall Street.


Yet despite the artistic genius going under the hammer, these contemporary art fairs have all the soul of business conventions. Artists joke that the word "Art" has become an acronym for Arid Retail Trade. The great works, created more often than not to be admired by the masses, in fact rarely see the light of a public gallery. Instead they move from basement to basement, judged by their resale value almost regardless of artistic merit. How often do the billionaires who buy these paintings ever even bother to admire them?


The art market may be booming but this does not mean an artistic revival. Far from it. We may as well watch financial data on a screen. We are in the era of Portfolio Art where investors buy a Francis Bacon alongside BP shares as an investment.


On the whole, art tends to reflect its time. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, for example, a generation wanted to

break free from burdensome artistic traditions — so pop art, conceptualism and minimalism were born. An era of overindulgent aestheticism had catalysed an art that was clean, clear and accessible. Every movement is either a reaction against or a continuation of what went before. In the early 1990s came the Young British Artists, with a style that reflected contemporary Britain. Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull was a powerful comment on these times: love of wealth and fear of death. But worryingly, the process seems to have stopped. We have not since then seen an emergence of the next group of young artists. No wave of art has emerged which reflects these new recessionary times. The news from the art world has been commercial.


We have to ask why this is so. Perhaps as art became more commercial, it has become increasingly difficult for non-commercial artists to make their mark. The abundance of wealthy individuals prepared to pay exorbitant prices for trophy art has not encouraged bold new upstarts. The inflated prices have narrowed the minds of art buyers. Artists seeking to sell their work are having to adhere to the demands of a prosperous, superficial elite.


The auction houses are processing works that demand no emotional engagement, which can be viewed fleetingly and then promptly forgotten. The Hirst-Saatchi school of art was a perfect fit for the boom years: clever, witty, indulgent and occasionally shocking. It produced works which people could view at the same fast pace with which they lived their lives. Art might have become more accessible — but also crude and unsubtle.
This is not a criticism of any contemporary artist: no movement has ever been a truer reflection of the society that spawned it. But the ideas and icons that flourished during those years of global prosperity now seem hideously dated. Artists have often eerily foretold social change — for instance, in the way the surrealists harnessed our thoughts about the 20th century's most terrible wars. Today, too much in the art world collides with fame, fortune and celebrity — thereby severing the link with reality. This presents an opportunity — for younger artists — to break out of the materialistic mould and capture the new zeitgeist. But where are they?








Whatever the election result, one thing is sure: industrial quantities of obloquy will be heaped on UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the man responsible for Labour's result. But if the party is after the real villain of the piece, it is looking in the wrong place.


Mr Brown was, it was clear from the start, never suitable for the job of Prime Minister. By last summer, such a conclusion was not merely clear, it was being beamed in blinding neon lighting from the door of 10 Downing Street. So long as Gordon Brown remained leader, Labour was guaranteed defeat.

By ensuring Mr Brown's survival as leader, one man was responsible for delivering on that guarantee: Lord Mandelson. Former Prime Minister of UK Tony Blair famously remarked that his project would have succeeded "when the Labour Party learns to love Peter Mandelson". Love him? Lord Mandelson should be viewed, even by those few of his fellow modernisers whose careers his behaviour has not destroyed, with something close to contempt.


The most pervasive myth in modern politics — that Mandelson is a genius of political strategy and communication — is utter nonsense. Haughty, moody, lacking in judgment, and possessed by a childlike obsession for hanging out with the "in" crowd, Lord Mandelson has built a career based on the credulousness of those who have fallen for the Mandelson Myth.

Lord Mandelson has failed in every job he has held since his appointment in 1985 as Labour's communications director. The undoubted professionalism he brought to that role, something hitherto absent from the Labour Party, was hailed as a unique skill. As a party functionary he was efficient and, on its own terms, successful. But it was as a party employee that he first began to exhibit his astonishing capacity to create lifelong enmity among colleagues and to alienate potential allies and friends. Not, you might think, the most bankable skill for a politician.


As a Cabinet minister, Mandelson has brought only shame to his party, resigning twice in disgrace — in 1998 over his home loan from Geoffrey Robinson, and in 2001 over the Hinduja passport affair. Civil servants who worked with him attest to his competence as a decision-maker, but while the ability to take decisions is a pre-requisite for success, it is hardly unique to Lord Mandelson. Getting them right is even more useful, and as European commissioner, he was something close to a disaster.

With a coterie of Westminster journalists in his thrall, Lord Mandelson is usually portrayed as clear-sighted and determined, a man not afraid to take the right, tough decisions. But the evidence from his time in Brussels (which I witnessed from my perch in a Brussels think tank) shows something rather different. Without the compliant media, he had to be judged on his actions — such as almost starting, in his first year, an entirely counterproductive trade war with China.


Five years ago the European Union lifted its restrictions on cheap textile imports from China. Imports rose, as one might have expected. But it seems that such an outcome had not occurred to the trade commissioner responsible for the decision, Lord Mandelson. And when European manufacturers squealed that they were losing business, his response was not to tell them to match Chinese prices or to move into a business where they were more competitive, but to impose quotas on Chinese imports. Claiming to be a believer in free trade, he decided that he must protect Europe's textile industry from Chinese imports and impounded deliveries of orders which had already been placed. It takes a special kind of genius to be fighting the wrong fight in a battle with the Chinese on free trade.


Brought back from Brussels by Gordon Brown in October 2008, almost his every action has served, unintentionally but clearly, to trigger his party's collapse. From the start, the very purpose of his return was to bolster the Labour Party's greatest weakness: Mr Brown. At first glance, this might have seemed a noble act — giving up the baubles and perks of a European commissioner to come to the aid of his struggling party. In reality, it was a move based entirely on his own desperation to return from the exile of Brussels, an ego-flattering call to gallop home to the rescue of the man who had been, since 1994, his greatest foe. (The two men had been close until Lord Mandelson chose after John Smith's death to ditch the clear loser, Gordon Brown, for the obvious winner, Tony Blair.)


By the middle of last year it was clear that Labour had one chance left to avoid oblivion: removing Mr Brown. Most of the Cabinet were too spineless to move against him. But when one minister, James Purnell, did the honourable and right thing, and resigned, he and others — most notably Tony Blair — expected that Lord Mandelson would offer his support and effectively ensure Mr Brown's departure.


That he did not must be counted as his greatest betrayal to his party. Without the first secretary squashing Mr Purnell's move, Mr Brown would have been a 23-month Prime Minister, and Labour would have been able to go the country with a shiny new leader.


Lord Mandelson might never be Prime Minister but, by protecting Mr Brown, he ensured that he "owned" the existing one. In an interview the day after the non-coup, he described himself as the "Prince of Stability", in mocking reference to his nickname, the Prince of Darkness. Nothing better illustrates Lord Mandelson's deluded view of politics as a big game, with himself as the sneering, snide puppet-master pulling the strings.

Outside the bubble of Westminster, where his supposed political skills are spoken of with awe, Lord Mandelson is the most widely distrusted politician in the land. In September last year, a poll asked people to rate leading politicians for their trustworthiness. Lord Mandelson came 12th out of 12. So it was hardly the savviest move, during an election fought against a backdrop of widespread disillusionment with politics, to have him on our screens — day in, day out — as the front man of the Labour campaign. His unwitting role: reminding voters that if they vote Labour they'll get the double-whammy of Brown and Mandelson.


His final abject failure, putting himself at the forefront of operations as the de facto campaign manager will, surely, be Lord Mandelson's final disservice to his party. Labour has been happily following his lead for the past year and a half. But, as always with Peter Mandelson, the path goes nowhere.

* Stephen Pollard is editor of the Jewish Chronicle

By arrangement with the Spectator








Green tea can help lower blood pressure.


Few foods have a reputation for soothing stress quite like a hot cup of tea. Green tea, in particular, has been linked to reduced stress and anxiety, and it contains compounds that are said to relax blood vessels. But when scientists have looked at whether it lowers blood pressure, even by a little, the evidence is fairly weak. Some small studies have found that a few cups a day can shave some points from blood pressure levels, but others have found that it provides no help at all, and may even be counterproductive. Still, the news is not all bad for tea drinkers. In a recent randomised study financed in part by the department of agriculture, scientists at Tufts University recruited 65 men and women with modestly high blood pressure who were not taking medication. Some were randomly assigned to drink a cup of hibiscus tea three times a day, while others received a tea-flavoured placebo. After six weeks, the tea group saw a respectable drop in systolic pressure — the top number in the reading — compared with the placebo group, suggesting that the tea made a small impact.
Of course, replication is the cornerstone of good science, and one study is nothing to base conclusions on. Experts say more study is needed.



Green tea doesn't seem to have much effect on blood pressure; hibiscus tea may have potential.

By arrangement with the New York Times







In my last column (How real are our troubles? April 21) we saw Lord Krishna tell Arjuna that he is not to treat sensory experiences as real — that they are all ephemeral and impermanent and are only to be endured. If we can do this with proper understanding we will gain self-realisation.


On a still higher level, Krishna tells Arjuna that nothing exists and that he is giving too much importance and value to the transitory experiences of life. As long as we have assigned reality to something, we cannot help but be affected by it. We tend to feel bad if someone does not smile at us, but so what! Some people smile to forget, and some people forget to smile! Ask yourself, "Why should my happiness depend on that?" It is only when we give importance to something that we suffer.


If we contemplate this we will see very clearly that there are no real problems in life. All our so-called problems are only relatively real; they are apparent, but not very solid. We can deal with them. The causes of fear and anxiety are on a particular level only. Therefore, we must examine all of them.


For example, if I value a person, an invitation to his wedding will make me happy. But if I am not invited, I will be miserable. This is because I have given importance to the wedding, and by doing so I have given reality to it. If I am not invited, I should thank that person for saving me the time and energy that would otherwise be expended on the wedding and in the purchase of a gift! Therefore, good and bad all lies in how we look at things. With understanding we come to know that all of these experiences can be labelled temporary or unreal.


In the following verse Lord Krishna introduces another perspective: "O mighty Arjuna, even if you think of Him as being constantly born and constantly dying, even then you should not grieve. Indeed, death is certain for that which is born, and birth is certain for that which dies. For this unavoidable fact you should not grieve (II:26, 27)".


Lord Krishna here tells Arjuna that if he does not accept the existence of an Eternal Reality and believes in that which is constantly changing even then he should not grieve.


We have seen that from the "absolute point of view" there is no destruction, but on the relative plane there is constant change. Everything perceived through our senses is known as tangible or manifest, and that which is not perceived through our senses is called unmanifest. In the seed the tree is unmanifest, but the seed eventually manifests itself as a tree. Thus, creation is nothing but manifestation. It is one continuous cycle. Waves rise in the water, break, fall away, and then rise again. To grieve over that which is inevitable is as meaningless as sitting by the seashore and crying over a dying wave.


Today we worry about the younger generation and feel helpless, but even Socrates expressed the same fear many generations ago. He wrote at that time, "These modern children have lost all respect for their elders. We do not know what kind of people they will be if we do not teach them now". We still feel the same way, and this causes us great anxiety. History always repeats itself, as life is a continuous cycle of manifestation and dissolution. Krishna said to Arjuna: "O descendent of Bharata, these bodies consisting of the elements were not visible before birth, and will not be visible after death, they become manifest in the middle. Therefore, why should you grieve? (II:28)"


All beings were once unmanifest, then they become manifest, and eventually they will again become unmanifest. Even when invisible they were still there. Like a tree being the unmanifested form of a seed. They come onto the stage of the world for a while, then go behind the curtain, and eventually reappear for another scene.


— Swami Tejomayananda, head of ChinmayaMission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. To find out more about Chinmaya Mission and Swamiji, visit [1].
© Central Chinmaya Mission Trust.








DEEPLY disturbing is the projection of the Supreme Court's holding illegal involuntary narco-analysis etc as "a blow to investigation agencies". On the contrary their Lordships, and not for the first time, have struck a powerful blow for the preservation of a basic human right. For, in essence, the ban on forced brain-mapping, narco-analysis, and polygraph testing is an extension of the universal, time-tested principle that nobody can be pressed to testify against himself/herself. That eminent legal luminaries have hailed the ruling of a three-member Bench headed by the Chief Justice is not insignificant, and if it is not to the liking of investigative agencies so be it. Under no circumstances can an individual's right to privacy be encroached upon, and the world over will there be acknowledgement of the rule of law prevailing in India, even when passing through some testing times. It must never be forgotten that many of the personal liberties that are now taken for granted have actually flowed from the apex court's putting paid to the executive's tendency to place administrative convenience over what the Constitution guarantees every Indian. Even during the abhorrent Emergency ~ and under a hand-picked Chief Justice at that (no need to identify the "hand" that "picked") ~ did several of their Lordships rule against unwarranted "preventive detention", though Press censorship prevented that from receiving the publicity it merited.

It is not surprising that investigating agencies and their prosecution wings should cry "foul", because what has been denied to them are tools whose accuracy has not been established, and which extract information from persons not fully in control of themselves ~ non-violent third-degree. The "truth serum" was actually employed extensively by the Nazis. Rather than  painstaking, professional investigation it had become fashionable for the police to seek lower-court orders to conduct narco-analysis etc, suggest that they were foolproof and even spread the canard that refusal to undergo such a test was tantamount to an admission of guilt. With terrorism, rightly, becoming a matter of grave national concern, the mischief has been extended to suggesting that these tests are critical to keeping aam aadmi secure. They are only a short-cut for cops to fabricate other "evidence" and embroider their cases ~ as was exposed in the acquittals in the 26/11 trials. The apex court's ruling is rooted in the same wisdom that rendered a confession to the police (in India) inadmissible as evidence. Yes, the Supreme Court serves as the citizens' shield.







MERCIFULLY, the bomb caused no damage in New York's landmark Times Square. Yet the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, an American of Pakistani descent, and President Obama's tough talk carry pregnant connotations. The US pressure on Pakistan to rein in terrorists will almost certainly be stepped up. Yet, the extent to which Islamabad is prepared to crack down remains open to question. It can't be unaware of  the network that trains terrorists to carry out their offshore strikes. Shahzad was arrested while boarding a flight to Dubai; he may well have been on his way to Pakistan to hone his skills for he has a record of having been trained there. Quite obviously he was desperate to leave the USA within 48 hours of the terror plot that misfired. Much as the arrest has been prompt, it is worrisome that he got as close to a getaway as securing a boarding pass at JFK airport. It recalls the arrest of the "underwear bomber", Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who failed in his mission to blow up an Amsterdam-Detroit flight on Christmas day 2009, but certainly cleared security hurdles to get on board an aircraft. Mercifully once more, the attempt was foiled. Add to this the admission by Najibullah Zazi, a Colorado-based airport shuttle driver, that he had tried to blow up New York's subway system in February. And the arrests of five American citizens of Pakistani descent in Sargodha last December for seeking jihadist training and plotting against targets in their adopted homeland. There is little doubt that the training in Pakistan is programmed to strike at targets in the West. What remains unexplained in Barack Obama's occasional bombast is how bomb suspects come as close as they do to success. This is the fundamental problem in the West; tighter travel regulations and more intensive frisking merely obfuscate the inherent flaws in the collation of Intelligence data.

These jihadist training centres, located largely along the Afghan border, have extended beyond Pakistan. Abdulmutallab's arrest revealed that Yemen has also emerged as an Al Qaida base. There has been little or no change in the ground reality to vindicate Pakistan's claims that it is trying to dismantle the camps. The government faces a twin challenge ~ the domestic threat posed by the jihadists and the vulnerable targets abroad. The counter-offensive is being partially funded by the USA. Ergo, Pakistan can't plead a lack of resources. But does the ISI have the will to counter jihadists? This is the question the world must seek an answer to. 







NO fewer than 67 gram panchayats have been superceded by the West Bengal government. The epitaph of what was once justifiably orchestrated as a flagship achievement ~ that even drew the praise of the then PM, Rajiv Gandhi ~ can be as stark as that. Twenty-five years later, the Left Front has negated its own achievement. And that must be accepted as the tragic irony by the generation that has followed Jyoti Basu and Benoy Chowdhury. On the face of it, the official reason may appear to be fairly agreeable in the midst of the Maoist insurgency. The Maoist is being blamed for the stalled work. But the phenomenon is fairly recent and can at best be the immediate provocation; at worst it is an attempt to duck and dive the fundamental malaise. Truth to tell, the takeover was the only option for a beleaguered government whose Chief Minister ~ though not the party ~ was expressly aware of the gradual collapse of panchayati raj over time. It is self-explanatory that the control has been taken over in the volatile and chronically poverty-stricken belt of East and West Midnapore and Bankura districts. And seldom was the collapse of the panchayati raj so violently palpable as during the food riots of September-October 2007. The riots, it bears recall, followed the diversion of PDS stocks to the open market by dealers, predominantly panchayat functionaries. The engineered food crisis only highlighted what Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had described in November 2005 as the collapse of rural governance. Was Maoism an impediment five years ago? Not quite. Between that indictment and the takeover, the panchayats have slithered to an immeasurable degree.

In the net, the government is ensnared in the tangled skein of Maoist activity and the breakdown of panchayats and rural governance. The administration must accept full responsibility for the degeneration of the system. In particular it must account for why the gains of the panchayati raj were consciously frittered away by the party functionaries in the rural belt. There is little doubt that a year before the assembly election, the government has opted for a quick-fix formula. It must now come upfront and explain how Bengal's flagship achievement was also its flagship failure. The reason is deep-rooted. The Maoist is almost a universal punching bag.









 Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to present the Greatest Show on Earth or How Wall Street brought the Financial Crisis on Itself. There is a cast of thousands, from the most famous to the most guilty. Never have so few made so much money from so many. See how God's Banker says, "Of course we didn't dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts."  Of course they are god's bankers ~ they make money on the way up and make money on the way down.

See how the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and the US Senate Sub-committee Investigating Financial Crisis summon almost every week the stars from Wall Street to show how they did it.
The Chairman of the Senate Sub-committee Democratic Senator Carl Levin said, "Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not simply market-makers, they were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that helped trigger the crisis.

"They bundled toxic mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit rating agencies to label them as AAA securities, and sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the instruments they sold and profiting at the expense of their clients."

Goldman Sachs report

THE 2009 Goldman Sachs annual report stated that the firm "did not generate enormous net revenues by betting against residential related products." Levin said, "These e-mails show that, in fact, Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market."

We must admire the US for its high level of transparency and its willingness to go after the big guns. What these open hearings reveal is the degree of greed and fraud that Wall Street has perpetrated against the whole world in its pursuit of ever-growing profits.   Investors used to listen to these gods pontificate on the trend of the market and now realize that with proprietary trading, these gods were talking one book and also trading the other way. So if you believed them and bought the market up, they were probably selling the market down.  This is known as "risk hedging", but guess who pays when the market crashes?  The tax payer bails the investment banks out and they are still laughing all the way to their golden bonuses.

April is the cruellest month, especially for Wall Street. On 7 April, the FCIC looked into the securitization mess, beginning with the testimony of former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan.  On 13 April, the Senate Sub- Committee started the first of four major enquiries, which "examined how US financial institutions turned to high risk lending strategies to earn quick profits, dumping hundreds of billions of dollars in toxic mortgages into the financial system, like polluters dumping poison upstream in a river."

Coincidentally, on the same day, the SEC charged Goldman Sachs with fraud.

In the second hearing on 16 April on the role of the regulators, the Sub-Committee "showed how regulators saw what was going on, understood the risk, but sat on their hands or fought each other rather than stand up to the banks profiting from the pollution. Those toxic mortgages were scooped up by Wall Street firms that bottled them in complex financial instruments, and turned to the credit rating agencies to get a label declaring them to be safe, low-risk, investment grade securities."

The third hearing on 23 April looked at the role of the credit rating agencies, and the fourth hearing on 27 April considered the role of the investment bankers.   In hindsight, it was remarkable that the Wall Street bankers who always had a good grip on what was happening in Washington, had clearly underestimated the public anger against them and their vulnerability. 

The session on the credit rating agencies was most illuminating. There are three major rating agencies in the world that handle most of the global credit rating business ~ Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch.  Most investors rely on the credit rating agencies to assess the quality of their investments, particularly bonds. After the arrival of Basle bank supervision rules in the 1980s, bank regulators also use credit ratings to assess whether the capital risk weights are appropriate.

 Thus, if a bank were to hold junk bonds, then the capital requirements would be higher. Of course, pension and money market funds use the credit ratings to distinguish between safe and risky investments. The result is that having a AAA credit rating was very helpful for borrowing at cheap rates, whereas a downgrade would not only increase the cost of funds, but also cut off liquidity as investors dump the securities and refuse to hold such downgraded debt.

Credit rating

IN the last 10 years, the three biggest credit rating agencies ratings gave AAA ratings to the residential mortgage backed securities, or RMBS, and collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs that fuelled the derivative market bubble. Between 2002 and 2007, these agencies doubled their revenues, from less than $3 billion to over $6 billion per year.   Between 2000 and 2006, investment banks underwrote nearly $2 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, $435 billion or 36 per cent of which were backed by subprime mortgages.

At the heart of the problem is the inherent conflict of interest of the credit rating agencies, because they charged fees for a "public good service". The Senate Sub- Committee called this "like one of the parties in court paying the judge's salary, or one of the teams in a competition paying the salary of the referee."

The investors thought that they were buying super-safe securities rated AAA. But in reality, 91 per cent of the AAA subprime RMBS securities issued in 2007, and 93 per cent of those issued in 2006, have since been downgraded to junk status.  It was the collapse of confidence in the ratings, which led to the withdrawal of liquidity in the market that triggered the meltdown in 2008.

This is only the beginning of the dirt that is coming out of Wall Street.  The show will continue.
The writer is Adjunct Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and University of Malaya. He was formerly the Chairman of the Securities and Futures Commission, Hong Kong and has contributed this article to Asia News Network.








Sharmila Irom, a stoic woman in Manipur, has not eaten for almost 10 years. Nose-fed, at the core she remains too angry to eat, too upset, too disgusted by the violence that surrounds her, too disturbed by her helplessness to do anything about it. She hungers for justice, not food. So, three times a day for the past decade, two nurses pour a liquified mixture of vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins and laxatives into a plastic feeding-tube, which enters her nose, attached by a grubby piece of white tape. Initially this force-feeding was uncomfortable, but now she no longer feels a thing.

Sharmila Irom is the world's longest-running hunger-striker, and yet both she and the cause for which she is battling are barely known outside her home state, let alone beyond India's borders. Physically and mentally, her sacrifice is immense. The 38-year-old has not seen her elderly mother since 2000, perhaps in the belief that doing so might weaken her resolve. Yet when I meet her in her room in the secure wing of a hospital in the city of Imphal – her face and hands ghostly pale from forced incarceration – she says with a smile, "I am standing on the threshold of success."

Manipur is India's Wild North-east. For almost 50 years, the former independent kingdom on the border with Myanmar has been plagued by violence. More than 40 separate armed groups carry out attacks on police and soldiers and routinely extort money from the population. Such has been their reach that every month all businesses, shopkeepers and even government workers pay a fixed percentage of their earnings or salaries to the militants.
The authorities have sent in troops, police personnel and paramilitary units in such numbers that there is now one member of the security personnel for every 38 civilians. Heavily armed troops are posted at major junctions, or zip around in the backs of jeeps, automatic weapons ever ready. Some have their faces covered with masks or scarves. The result is a society that has been eaten away by an ugly violence that has somehow become normality.

Many people dare not go out after dark. Development and economic growth have been paralysed, unemployment is massive, while anecdotal evidence suggests the rates of mental health problems, even among children, are abnormally high. Sadly most of those with an opportunity to leave – for Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or overseas – take it.

The Union government has done what it can to cover up this war, according a "restricted area status" to Manipur and several other North-eastern states, which is strictly enforced. At the very centre of Manipur's turmoil is the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act which the federal authorities started applying to India's seven "disturbed" North-eastern states back in 1958. The Centre has previously had to confront a major insurrection in Punjab and is facing Maoist rebels in perhaps a quarter of its states – an insurgency described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the biggest single threat to the country's security. But the government knows that applying the AF(SP)Act would be unacceptable to politicians and powerful interests in "mainland" India. Amnesty International says the Act "provides impunity for perpetrators of serious human rights violations, including extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances, rape and torture". It is this law that Sharmila is seeking to overturn through her hunger-strike.

Amerjit Khumbongmayum hands me a folded piece of paper. It is a colour photocopy showing gruesome images of a dead man. They are not the sort of images you would choose to look at. Khumbongmayum's 18-year-old brother Orsonjit had gone out on the morning of 16 March this year to repair his scooter. That evening, the family were watching the television news when they were confronted with the image of a young man's body lying in the city's mortuary. They recognised Orsonjit immediately.

Police claimed that the teenager, who worked for a company erecting mobile-phone towers, was an insurgent who had attacked a patrol with a gun and that they had defended themselves and shot him. The family says there is nothing to indicate that Orsonjit had links to the insurgents, and believe the police got the wrong person.
Less than 20 minutes away, the family of Irengbam Gunindro are holding special prayers. It is 13 days since the labourer was taken away by four men in a white van, only for his family to learn later the following day that his bullet-ridden body had been discovered. This time it was the paramilitary who had struck, claiming that the 30-year-old was a suspected insurgent. His family were outraged, and refused to receive his body in protest, insisting that he had no links to the underground groups. They have now demanded an inquiry.
For local journalists, such suspect encounters are now so common as to barely count as front-page news. "The trouble with the AF(SP) Act is that it creates a situation of utter impunity. The security forces think they can do anything," says Babloo Loitongbam, head of the Manipur-based Human Rights Alert.

Sharmila Irom stopped eating on 3 November 2000. The previous day, 10 people waiting for a bus at the village of Malom on the outskirts of Imphal, had been shot dead by a unit of the Assam Rifles. Earlier, insurgents had attacked the paramilitary base. There was nothing to suggest that any of the 10 people, aged from 18 to 60, were in any way linked to the insurgents. Today, the bus stop has been transformed into a small memorial, sitting among the quiet rice fields and surrounded by hills with the names of the victims inscribed on a white block.
Sharmila, the youngest of five brothers and four sisters, was deeply disturbed by the killings. The following day she spoke with her mother, ate something her mother had prepared and – having asked for her blessing – announced that she was launching a fast.

Sharmila had always been different from other young women, say her family. She had just two or three friends, she scorned the use of make-up and channelled much of her energy into journalism and poetry. She read the Bible, the Koran and Hindu texts. When she was born, her mother had been unable to breastfeed so one of her brothers took her to other local women with newborn children who would act as wet nurses. The deal was that the brother did the women's chores while they fed his baby sister.

After she announced her fast, the family were unsure what would happen, but they knew they could not dissuade her. It was then that Sharmila and her mother decided they could no longer see each other. "If I meet her, she might lose her courage," says Sharmila's mother Shakhi Devi, huddled over a steel bucket of glowing embers at the family's simple home, less than a mile from the hospital where her daughter is detained. "So I will not meet her unless she gets her wish. I will meet her after getting our demand."

The authorities – unsure how to respond to Sharmila's actions – arrested her and charged her with attempted suicide, an offence for which she could only be jailed for a year. As a result, since late 2000, Sharmila has been repeatedly detained, force-fed and then set free for a day before being rearrested.

She insists she is not bored and is accustomed to her room. Yet she misses the fresh air and sunlight. For their own reasons, the authorities refuse to allow her to go outside. And when she is permitted to speak with journalists or campaigners, officials from the hospital and a plainclothes policeman often sit in.
Manipur's chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh says law and order is his number one priority, followed by development. In Imphal there is often electricity for just two hours a day, there are constant water shortages, rubbish is rarely collected and roads are broken. Asked why there are no peace talks with insurgents in the Imphal Valley, as has happened both in the Manipur hills and in neighbouring Nagaland, Ibobi Singh says efforts are under way. He says he would like to lift the AS(FP) Act, but that is dependent on an improved security situation. On Sharmila, he says, "We have no option but to feed her." Yet asked, twice, why she has to be shut off from the outside world, he has no answer. As to the allegations of fake encounters and torture, such allegations are "totally wrong. But anywhere in the world, if there is conflict between the army and an armed force, there might be some omissions or commissions that happen accidentally or intentionally".
With all this anguish, it is little surprise that the people of Manipur – descendants of an ancient culture and whose integration into India in 1949 is still rejected by various insurgent groups – suffer considerable mental health issues. Those who treat such problems say men, women and children are all suffering from the ubiquity of violence. Drug use is rife and the rate of HIV is reported to be the highest in India.

"There is long tradition of women in Manipur fighting against repression," says Sheelaramani Chungham, a professor of English, who, over coffee one morning in a newly built hotel, hands me a slim volume of Manipuri women's poetry she has edited. "We need a peace process. We, the people, are fed up with the violence," she says. Sharmila, herself a poet, believes Manipur's women have had no option but to be strong and determined. "I think it might be due to our tradition: we are very simple, but we want justice, and I think that is in my blood," she says, sitting in her hospital bed, wrapped in a blanket. Before answering any question she always pauses and thinks.

The Independent








On Thursday last, a riot occurred at Rajapur near Dakhinapur Station on the Howrah-Amta Railway. A down train stopped at Dakhinabad Station, when a Mahomedan passenger offered to buy a water melon from a nine-year old girl. The fruit was handed to the passenger, who delayed in paying the price, and the train moved off the platform. The girl caught hold of the handle of the compartment and was dragged along the platform at great risk to her life and the train was stopped. She having mentioned her grievance to the crowd that had collected some of them attempted to enter the compartment and drag out the Mahomedan. In the meantime the train re-started, which baffled the intention of the crowd, who followed the moving train and aimed large brickbats at the passenger, one of which struck him on the head, while another passenger was also struck. When the train reached Dumjoor Station it was noticed that the Mahomedan passenger was insensible from loss of blood and he was removed to the Hospital. The District Police are making enquiries.


Details of the amalgamation of the Public Works Accounts Department with the Enrolled List are now being worked out at Simla. It is understood that the Comptroller-General will either be given a deputy to deal with Public Works Accounts, or else another officer will be appointed for this purpose. A Railway Accountant-General will also be appointed, the present post of Railway Accounts Officer then disappearing. The Railway Accountant-General will be attached to Government headquarters at Calcutta in the cold season and Simla in hot. The scheme provides for a time scale of pay for the amalgamated services, which will be subject to the direction of the Finance Department.







It happened two decades ago and I would have long forgotten about it had it not been so traumatic. I was only six and in standard two in a school located on an IIT campus in Hijli. We had two favourite teachers whose love and affection made us swarm around them. They did not burden us with moral values and spared us the fear of heavenly punishment unlike the nuns in charge of the school administration who were always grim.
There was another school adjacent to ours which had more than a thousand students. We were no match for their skills. But when the local municipality held a sports competition, I pestered my Dad to let me participate. He was not very keen but relented when I kept nagging him.

On reaching the school, I found a group of ill-clad children and only a handful from our school. I clung to my Dad's shirt until the whistles blew and the commotion died down. There were categories such as long jump, high jump and so on but I thought running was the easiest. I had opted for the hundred-metre sprint thinking it would fetch me a prize.

But when it began, I reached the other end last. Broken-hearted, I cried but my Dad told me that the organisers promised to give me a medal later. Sobbing, I returned home.

After a few days, Dad brought me a gold medal with an engraving of a man. No one else from our school had got a prize in the competition.

The next day, I told my class teacher about the medal I had won and, during the recess, one of the sisters invited me to come to the dais, proudly presenting me as the winner of a gold medal even before she had looked at it. Then she asked me to produce the medal and I obliged. She looked at it and blurted out, "You liar! Is this the medal that you won! Where did you get this damn thing? God will punish such a liar!"
I cried and cried but could not assure her that it was not my fault. It really belonged to my father's elder brother. He had never imagined that I would take it to school.







It is a tricky issue, and the Supreme Court has taken its stand on principle. It has said that suspects cannot be forced to take lie detector tests, or be given the 'truth serum' in narco-analysis, or be made to sit for brain-mapping against their will. The violation of mental privacy is "cruel, inhuman and degrading" and goes against Article 20(3) of the Constitution or the right to silence. Given the horror of present-day crimes and the threats to security, the temptation to get into the mind of a suspect by fiddling with the brain is almost overwhelming. In India these tests became noticeably regular after Godhra, although most developed countries have either outlawed their open use or are questioning their application. But they remain investigative tools in any case; the results are inadmissible as evidence. The Supreme Court has said that such tests can be used with the subject's consent, and are to be administered by an independent agency under certain strict conditions of surveillance. Again, the results would not be evidence, but could be used with other evidence to build up the case.


By banning 'involuntary' tests, the court has tried to prevent certain ills. It has prohibited coercive testing even in the most terrible cases, saying that once the police have this power there would be no way to limit its use. The court has dismissed the argument that these 'more peaceful' methods could replace the notorious 'third degree' techniques; one impropriety cannot be allowed to replace another, it has said. The court is unquestionably right in ideal and principle, yet it has to be asked whether a subject may not be made to 'consent' by third degree methods. Investigation and the production of evidence are carried on in the murky realm where the covert or overt violence of the law-enforcer meets the active or passive violence of the law-breaker. It is as important to impose principles here as it is difficult to make them workable. Even voluntary testing is slippery ground, for it can lead to self-incrimination. Would the subject's willingness neutralize Article 20(3)? Questions also arise because many scientists have shown that all three tests may yield false or misleading answers. Narco-analysis could also endanger health. But none of this takes away from the value of the Supreme Court's ruling, for it prohibits the use of coercion and upholds the individual's right to choose.








With the sentencing of Ajmal Kasab, India has taken the first step towards coming to terms with the memory of a horrific injustice perpetrated on it for over three fateful days two years ago. The award of four death penalties and five life sentences to the lone terrorist apprehended after the Mumbai carnage may seem to be particularly vindictive. But there should be little ground for remorse, and not merely because the verdict may appear to be commensurate with the crime committed — seven murders, 159 assisted murders, apart from the other lesser charges. What has to be kept in mind is that India's triumph lies not in sentencing Kasab to death, but in successfully conducting and concluding a trial amid intense public pressure and immense international interest. Both the trial and the verdict have been exemplary. Even in the face of extreme provocation, India has followed the due process of law in the most transparent manner possible. And the verdict was arrived at only after the careful inspection of voluminous data in the form of oral and forensic evidence, legally admissible communication intercepts, DNA samples, and the convict's own retracted statement.


The award of capital punishment to Kasab is bound to raise uncomfortable questions about India's humanity, particularly in the face of the complete lack of it in the perpetrators of the mindless violence of 26/11. But it has to be remembered that the law of the land reserves this extreme form of punishment for the rarest of rare cases, and Kasab's surely was one of them. Kasab and his teammates had been waging a war against India, and are enemies of the State and its people. The judge of the special sessions court, M.L. Tahaliyani, is himself sufficiently convinced of the inhumanity of the convict to claim that he is undeserving of sympathy. Despite Kasab's brutality, however, the law will allow him enough opportunity to seek reprieve in the form of appeal in the higher courts, and then before the president of the country. Whatever Kasab's ultimate fate — the gallows or life sentences in perpetuity — India should not lose sight of the fact that he is among the lesser minions who are marched to the war front by masterminds sitting far away from the country. The latter require as much doggedness from the Indian administration to be brought to book like Kasab. Their conduits within the country too should not go scot-free.









Old–timers will remember an advertisement splashed across the pages of luxury magazines exhorting imbibers of the good life not to be vague; they must insist on a particular brand of Scotch whiskey. But corporate bodies do not opt for such explicitness where their balance sheets are concerned. They turn coy, sometimes almost charmingly so. The Enron Corporation, that celebrated transnational den of accountancy-savvy crooks, had elevated the art of financial dissembling to an ethereal level. It had lobbied for a power plant project at Dabhol in Maharashtra. Greasing the palm of politicians in the state as well as at the Centre was, it concluded, called for to win the contract. What needed to be done was done. The money spent for the purpose had, however, to be listed while preparing the balance sheet. Enron had no problem. An entry under the column of expenditure was described as "outlay on educational programmes". Enron could not be accused of being altogether wrong. It had used the amount to 'educate' politicians — and perhaps some civil servants too — on the merit of straying from the straight and narrow path.


The incident happened barely 15 years ago. Enron grabbed the contract, the politicians concerned made a few hundred crore of rupees, but the transnational firm's gains were many times more. The moment the contract was signed, funds flowed for the project as low interest loans from government sources, apart from credit from international financial institutions that carried guarantee of repayment initialled by the state and Union governments. Within a couple of years though, Enron, weighed down by the burden of its various deeds, collapsed at its home base in the United States of America. The power plant at Dabhol disappeared into thin air; all its liabilities were now the burden of the administrations in New Delhi and Mumbai. Some of the firm's top officials had to go to prison for the skulduggery they had indulged in over the years. Politicians over here went scot-free. Everybody around talks freely of the mammoth quantity of wealth and assets they have accumulated through devious means. That does not stop them from being elected to key political positions year after year.


Time present is an echo of time past: the Indian Premier League obscenity is a blatant reminder of that essential truth. There is nonetheless such a thing as historical progress. The span of a decade-and-a-half since the Enron scandal has added to the treasury of terms that could aid in concealing the starkness of the reality underlying shady financial transactions. Bribes to swing a deal need no longer be referred to as "outlay on educational programmes". The mod term apparently is facilitation fee, or one still better, provision for sweat equity. Both these new modalities suggest a whiff of righteousness wrapped inside. Facilitation is very much in the nature of event management. To assist someone in winning a contract or a franchise in the IPL is, in every sense of the word, akin to managing an event. Facilitation, it could even be claimed, is a form of social service; there should be no feeling of discomfort or guilt in rendering a service which has a market demand and for which one is offered a fee. If the fee runs into several hundred crore of rupees, well, it only reflects market reality with respect to demand and supply; it is conceivably peanuts compared to what the beneficiary is going to reap. For instance, some money which had been laundered out of the country via the hazardous hawala route will now be enabled to come back as respectable investment flow from Mauritius or the Cayman Islands. Besides, there is the occasional nuisance of tax liability. It is therefore bread-and-butter prudence to channel the payment and acceptance of the facilitation fee through a number of proxy entities. The larger the number of such phantom intermediaries, so much the better; there is, after all, safety in numbers.


But the vote should really go to that other new concept, sweat equity. A deal is struck, X satisfies Y and Y returns the compliment by satisfying X in accordance with terms mutually agreed upon. The deal is struck in the proverbial back room; the back room is no longer stuffy or suffocating, no longer smoke-filled either ever since the day smoking was officially notified to be dangerous for one's health. Cosy, cool surroundings, X is represented by a proxy; Y too has sent a trusted factotum to negotiate on his or her behalf; X wins a fabulous contract or a luscious franchise because Y pulls the strings, and is in return gifted a substantial equity in the venture that is at the core of the deal. Although politely described as sweat equity, it is in fact non-sweat equity. An almost invisible nod of the head on the part of someone while closeted in a penthouse apartment in a five-star hotel in Singapore or Dubai does not induce the shedding of any sweat. But such is the code of the emerging civilization, if you belong to a certain stratum of society, you get paid for doing nothing or, to be more precise, for doing something which the naïve majority in society would be incapable of believing you would do or be ever allowed to do.


Does it not appear that the country is gradually being reduced to one huge Sweat Equity Incorporated where the luckier ones, a handful of them, come to grab, at zero cost, very nearly the entire equity of its wealth and assets? This lot takes it for granted that it owns the country and can indulge in debauchery of the vilest description. The masses, who do all the actual sweating, are expected to watch in innocence these goings-on in high places.


But, as the IPL affair proves, accidents occur. The debauches have now fallen out among themselves. As a sequel, plenty of dirty linen is being washed in the open. It will be asinine to assume that officialdom — including the political bigwigs — was unaware of the lurid things that were happening behind the smokescreen of the baseball-ized version of cricket nomenclatured Twenty20. For the past decades have spawned a strikingly new development. In the olden days, the media were wont to differentiate the contents of Page One from those of Page Three. Page One would concentrate on grave current issues the nation and the world were embroiled in. Page Three was set aside for lighter purposes, space for perhaps screen and sports events, for pictures of skimpily attired starlets, for society gossipmongers and suchlike. The cultural revolution ushered in by what is termed economic liberalization has obliterated the distinction between Page One and Page Three, or, rather, Page Three has usurped Page One. The impulse for money-making induced by free market economics has been a great leveller. Politicians suddenly find themselves in the same compartment with film and sports persons, industry tycoons, liquor barons, stockbrokers, public relations smarties, and similar other species, each with an eye on the main chance: how to make money and even more money.


This has meant a widening of the horizon of opportunities for racketeers of all varieties. A common goal unites politicians, film stars, real estate speculators, contractors, cricket bosses and commission agents. Franchises are up for sale, and not just for the Indian Premier League. The whole system is up for sale, including a vote on a cut motion in Parliament, a seat in a medical college, an allotment for the second generation spectrum; even the judiciary, rumour goes, wants to be a part of the fun and games.


The snooty ones may describe this lurid set-up as a snakepit; those single-minded in their devotion to make money will shrug off the invectives. For them, it is a world of choices. They can be educated in a particular manner, they can accept facilitation fees, or they may be gifted with some sweat equity. Statisticians who do the national income accounts are a conscientious, competent lot, the amount involved in these give-and-take transactions are placed in the slot of "income from services". Growth of the gross domestic product thereby gets further accelerated.


A statistical correlation seemingly exists between such GDP growth and the growth of insurgency in different parts of the country. Revellers lolling inside the snakepit are inured to the implications of this datum.








The hot, unrelenting summer is a good time to introspect and work on creating fresh models to ensure that old and moribund systems of operation are replaced. Distractions are few, and earnest work can happen in an honest, committed manner to reframe norms and laws that will help in the delivery of good governance in a variety of fields. Let us look at the condition of our museums and archives, both of which are repositories of our history and the layered fabric of our extraordinary culture. How can we make these institutions accessible, welcoming spaces for future generations?


If we look seriously at the vibrant museum 'culture' in the United Kingdom, where, at any given time, there are vast numbers of people wandering through great halls, absorbing the history of their island kingdom that once ruled a substantial section of the planet, we can learn much. It was the British who established and set down the parameters within which our cultural institutions operate. That was when they were our colonial masters. Post Independence, we have continued with that now untenable structure without taking another look at its modalities and systems. The British, realizing that times and demands have changed radically, restructured their own institutions, which shifted from being solely government-administered to becoming a part of public-private partnerships.


Without civil society actively participating in the preservation, conservation and dissemination of history and culture, museums and archives take on the appearance of a morgue. The treasures in these repositories are special, some fragile and others robust. They can generate a profound sense of pride in a generation of Indians that is not embittered by alien rule or by the Partition. Their counterparts and contemporaries across the world could comprehend the deep-rooted cultural ethos of this subcontinent. Why are we throwing away our hugely important base upon which we can build human diplomacy? We can alter the course with ease if a clear political diktat is implemented constructively.


Simple remedies


The National Museum, as the first example, needs to reconstruct its legal mandate. An act needs to be devised that incorporates the civil society into the working mechanisms of museum management. In the today's jargon, this is called public-private partnership. The Victoria and Albert Museum, which was a government institution, reworked its constitution and opened its doors to private initiative. It has, over the years, become a celebrated international museum. It discarded the earlier structure, stepped out of the stifling bureaucratic framework, and opened its doors to gusts of fresh air. We, too, need to follow suit, and reframe the decayed mandate to rejuvenate our State museums.


The National Archives of India appropriately sit in an imposing, historic, Lutyenesque building on the axis of Rajpath and Janpath. Enter the portico and a stench of pigeon droppings greets the visitor. Then there is reprieve when you meet the inmates, the historians and researchers working there. They are fine people, with enthusiasm and commitment as well as a love for their subject, but they are neither celebrated nor given the tools to make them truly effective. The archives do not appear to be on the radar of national 'priorities'. This is the sad truth about our government's attitude, post Independence.


What the British left was meticulous in comparison to what the Government of India has enshrined in its National Archives. We need to restore its dignity. For a start, the building needs urgent restoration. It needs an infrastructure that protects the fragile evidence of days gone by. The people within its portals need to be respected for their dedication. Simple remedies will compel a change of attitude and rekindle a forgotten ethos.




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





The special trial court that heard the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case has awarded death penalty to Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist among the 10 Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives from Pakistan who had carried out the dastardly attacks.

Special judge M L Tahilyani, who conducted the trial, perhaps did not have other options under relevant Indian laws as he pronounced the sentence. The charges against Kasab were grave and the evidence foolproof — conspiracy with terrorist masterminds in Pakistan, murdering scores of innocent people in cold-blood and waging war against India, all of which invite the maximum punishment under Indian Penal Code and other relevant laws. Kasab's case falls in the 'rarest of rare' category as defined by the Supreme Court for sending convicts to the gallows. A milder punishment would have meant going against popular sentiment, though that also potentially risks miscarriage of justice.

However, it remains a moot point if the practice of awarding death penalty really serves the purpose for which it is envisaged. Fifteen years ago, India had told the United Nations that death penalty was required to instill fear and deter future criminals from perpetrating grave crimes, including terrorist acts. Yet, there is no evidence to suggest that these harsh statutory provisions have helped reduce crime. Nearly a hundred countries have abolished capital punishment, a dozen others have reviewed their statutes to preclude 'ordinary' crimes from their purview and over 30 others have undertaken not to invoke the harsh punishment though the provision for it continues to exist in their respective statutes. Apart from the lack of empirical evidence to establish that the fear of death penalty reduces the incidence of heinous crimes in society, liberal democracies have generally accepted the argument that the state should desist from taking away an individual's right to life as a measure of extreme punishment — death cannot be a punishment; it is its abrupt end.

Only a couple of death row convicts have been actually hanged-till-dead in the 12 years or so in the country. Thus, there is a strong case for a moratorium on capital punishment. Kasab's case also provides India with the rarest of rare opportunities to show to Pakistan and rest of the world its mature and humane face. India can wrest the opportunity and put the onus on Pakistan to first bring to book Kasab's handlers on its soil. But to do this, the government must summon enough courage to go against prevailing populist political and public sentiments.







China has finally made public its plan to build a dam on the Brahmaputra in Tibet where it is known as the Tsangpo. It has probably started construction, and has officially told India that the hydro-electric project will not affect the flow of water in the river. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told the Rajya Sabha last week that India has been reassured by China on this count and the minister seemed to accept this in good faith. But the government needs to exercise caution on the matter as China's plans are still not clear. The admission of the plan to construct a single dam comes after many years of denial of any plan to impound the river's waters. Beijing probably concealed its plans and has now made it public because with the start of construction it can no longer be concealed. That raises the question whether China can be trusted on the matter.

China reportedly has plans to construct more dams on the river and even to divert the water to the parched areas of western China. This is a colossal project which will involve construction of a series of dams to move water over thousands of miles. It calls for huge investment but China has had a liking for such outsized projects. India cannot obviously accept it. The Brahmaputra is the lifeline of India's North-Eastern states and Bangladesh.
The reduction in the flow of water in the river will undermine the economies of these states and hit the lives of millions of people. India has not yet made proper use of the river. It has a huge hydro-electric potential but only a fraction of it is being harnessed now.

India has no river water-sharing agreement with China but that does not diminish its rights. There is a bilateral expert group to discuss water-related issues, but this plan needs to be taken up a different level. Both India and Bangladesh are lower riparian states with respect to the eastern Himalayan rivers. All three countries should jointly evolve a long-term plan for utilisation of the water which protects their rights and benefits all. The issue should be addressed well in time so that it does not become yet another matter of future discord.







Islamabad must take into account India's consistent stand that the terrorists come from Pakistan and not vice versa.


Eleven-year-old Devika has not yet reconciled to what happened to her on Nov 26, 2008. She was hit by a bullet and lost her right leg while waiting at a bus terminus. That gunman Mohammad Ajmal Kasab has been found guilty is her personal and emotive issue.

She does not know the larger perspective. However, her father Natwar Lal feels the ends of justice have been met when the only surviving terrorist out of 10, who came from Pakistan to attack Mumbai, was brought to book. His reaction, more or less, represents Indian opinion, although some feel that the media-hyped trial served more as a catharsis than the cry for justice.

Many in India have taken the government to task for spending crores of rupees to get the conviction of Kasab who was seen wielding his AK-47 even on television screens. New Delhi, however, did well in conducting the case methodically lest some should criticise it for having a kangaroo court trial.

Pakistan foreign minister Qureshi made an irresponsible remark that his government would study the judgement and then make up its mind on Kasab's conviction. Doubting the judiciary will be the beginning of a new chapter of suspicion between the two countries.

After Kasab's conviction, New Delhi expects that Hafiz Sayeed, the Lashkar-e-Toiba chief, who reportedly planned the Mumbai carnage, will soon be arrested and punished.

Pakistan's efforts are not considered adequate in this regard. Islamabad's plea that the evidence provided by India is too flimsy to convince the court. Since New Delhi insists on having given a clinching proof of Sayeed's involvement, it would be better if the entire evidence, including Kasab's statement of admission, was made public for the people to judge.

The public is correct in voicing its criticism against the exoneration of two Indians, also involved in the Kasab case. The judge may not to be blamed because he found the only witness 'unreliable.' It is the police who failed to collect tangible evidence against Fahim Ansari of Mumbai and Sahabuddin Ahmed of Bihar. This does not mean that the attack on Mumbai was carried out only by the Pakistanis and the belatedly-found accomplice, David Headley, an American of Pakistani origin.

There are 'sleepers' in India and the Taliban have their followers in this country. They are active and it is quite possible that the collaborators in the Mumbai attack were from among the Indian Taliban. They have not been yet traced. But they are there. An operation of Mumbai scale could not have taken place without local help.

Hindu Taliban

In fact, India has discovered to its horror that there is a network of Hindu Taliban as well. They are connected with the RSS and said to be responsible for the bomb blasts at Ajmer Dargah (2007), Mecca Masjid at Hyderabad (2007), Malegaon (2008) and Goa (2009).

Authoritative sources in Delhi suspect that Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP government is in power, has become a safe sanctuary for the Hindu outfits. Hindu Jagran Manch from Indore in the state is considered by the Maharashtra police responsible for the Malegaon blasts which killed 37 Muslims.

That Pakistan is itself in the midst of terrorism, suffering a blast here and an attack there is worrisome for India, particularly when there is genuine fear that terrorism may pour into the country through the Wagah border. The Taliban have said that India was their 'real target.' Therefore, Islamabad must take into account the point made by New Delhi that the terrorists come from Pakistan and do not go from India to Pakistan.

This perception of India was reportedly the main topic when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his counterpart Yousuf Gilani at Thimpu a few days ago. The good news is that foreign secretaries of both the countries are expected to pick up the thread from where the two prime ministers have left off.

It is heartening to note that the Indian media has not mentioned the forthcoming talks with Pakistan while singling out its establishment for having 'planned and executed' the attack on Mumbai. It becomes incumbent on civil societies in both the countries to put pressure on their governments to resume talks quickly. Qureshi has rightly said it hardly matters what nomenclature is given to the talks, 'substantive' or 'composite' but it is the 'spirit' that is important.

The result of talks will depend on the groundswell of public opinion. People-to-people contact should go beyond the cliché it has become. It should really mean the easing of difficulties the people from both countries encounter to go from one side to the other. Intelligence agencies will have to be reined in so that they do not question every traveller.

I know that most people in India and Pakistan are prisoners of the past. They have deep, entrenched mistrust against each other. They tend to see even positive steps in a negative manner. The media makes a mountain out of a molehill. The Bhutan summit asked all the countries in South Asia to come closer. Prime ministers of India and Pakistan have given a lead by deciding to sit across the table. This demands eschewing mistrust and overcoming past grievances. It may be tough. But let's begin afresh.








The Centre's indicati-on that it is open to caste census has emb-oldened the political parties favouring it.


The demand for caste-based census has its origin in the insistence of internal reservation for Other Backward Classes in the Women's Reservation Bill, which has been passed by the Rajya Sabha.

When the Bill was passed in March in the Upper House, the government refused to entertain the demand saying that for internal reservation to become a reality, there has to be caste census and it cannot happen because preparations for the general Census were over.

The issue of caste census has been raised again by political parties. OBC leaders, such as Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav, raised it in parliament and subsequently, a cabinet meeting was called to discuss it. There was no unanimity in the cabinet regarding the issue and prime minister Manmohan Singh was believed to have sought wider discussion and consultation on the subject.

The Census in India was first conducted in 1881. What India is using for various purposes now, be it reservation in education, employment, elections, etc, the basis is the 1931 Census when the last caste-based census was held under the then viceroy Lord Irvin.

Fear of dividing the society

Independent India never entertained caste-based enumeration as the framers of the Constitution felt that it would only further divide the society. Thus, whether it was the Mandal Commission or to make out estimates of the population of OBCs and upper castes, the government depended upon the figures arrived at by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).

When V P Singh announced reservation for OBCs, he relied on the Mandal Commission's recommendations, which calculated that OBCs comprised some 52 per cent of the country's total population and used the figure to recommend 27 per cent reservation for this category in government jobs and educational institutions.

Many analysts believe, with growth in population, this has come to be revised which can happen only through a new caste census. The supreme court has ruled that reservation cannot exceed 50 per cent although several state governments have increased quota benefits to more than 65 per cent.

The NSSO, in Round 2003, concluded  that the non-Muslim OBC population was 32 per cent  while the National Family Health Survey figure pegged it at 30. The census, of course, continues to count the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes population in the country.

It is in this backdrop that the Union cabinet took up the issue on May 4. The meeting saw sharp divisions with home minister P Chidambaram and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee speaking up against caste-based census. While both felt that census was already underway and it cannot be disturbed, the home minister is understood to have argued that the enumerators lacked the sociological sensitivity to record and classify the population on the basis of caste and sub-caste.

The supporters of the caste census were said to be of the view that caste was indeed a reality and it cannot be wished away and it was time for the government to accept it; that caste census was required for implementation of different schemes and employment programmes for the OBCs. Some were of the opinion that the Census was not the 'right mechanism' for determining the caste data.

Referring to the issue, Union law minister M Veerappa Moily said: "After 1931, no caste-based data was prepared and the Centre also does not have any caste-based data of its own. The government depends upon the states for it." Though Moily acknowledges that it might be too late to incorporate it in the Census, he argues that caste census will not lead to divisions in society since caste system has existed for long.
"Before we give benefit to people, we need to find out who are the people who should benefit. Caste system has been here for ages. Caste system has remained even where there was no enumeration".

The government has indicated that it is open to the idea and this has emboldened the pro-caste census parties further. As the Lok Sabha erupted on May 3 demanding it, it was not just OBC-dominated parties such as SP, RJD or JD(U), which sought caste census, but the BJP and Left parties too joined the demand.

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said census was the best source to collect information on the 'poor' which will serve as an estimate for laws like the Food Security Act. "But there is no column for it. In fact, there is a column for nationality which will help the intruders," she added. The Left, which lays emphasis on 'class' over 'caste,' lent its voice to the clamour. Basudeb Acharia of CPM said as much. Gurudas Dasgupta of CPI agreed with it though he pushed for an all-party meeting.







God knows who the sofa's original owner was or how long he had owned it.


There is a chaise lounge in our living room which belonged to my father. With its wide back and carved rosewood legs, it is a constant reminder of a parent who spent nearly 70 years on it. His favourite morning pastime was to recline on it and read the newspaper while he sipped his morning coffee. By the way, father did not merely glance through the paper as they do nowadays. With him, newspaper reading was a ritual, beginning with the banner and dateline and going through all the columns on every page until he came to the very last and read The Printers Mysore Limited. He read the obituary notices carefully to find, as he grew older, many of his acquaintances passing out of this world.

As children, we would scramble for a place on this sofa. I got my first taste for reading here, gobbling Dickens, Thackeray, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters curled up in its deep cushioned interior, while Time stood still and the English classics unfolded themselves. During the holidays, siblings and cousins also vied for a place on it.

Today, when I read the newspaper recling on it with my morning coffee, I can relive a parent's simple pleasure. Many years later, as a 94-year-old, he would still do the same, opening the obituary page of this paper first to read about his juniors who passed away.

I believe father bought this sofa at an auction in KGF in the year 1915 for a princely sum of five rupees. He had just moved into a new job and house. This was the sole piece of furniture with which he started a new life. God knows who its original owner was or how long he had owned it before it went under the hammer. When I look at this priceless heirloom, I sometimes wonder if someone in the late 19th century also reclined on it reading a newspaper while he drank his morning coffee?










BEIJING — Chinese state media says North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reaffirmed the importance of nuclear disarmament talks during his visit to China this week.

The visit could potentially kick-start the process of North Korea dismantling its nuclear programs, although Chinese broadcaster CCTV did not say whether Kim had made a firm commitment to restarting talks or whether he had attached any conditions to such a move.

Footage run by the channel was the first official Chinese confirmation of the visit, which began Monday, and showed the reclusive leader looking thin but otherwise vigorous in meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other officials.







The expanse between excessive weaponry and disarmament is not a slippery slope. Israel should enter it.


The Security Council's permanent members this week reiterated an old call to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. The Arab states have no nuclear weapons - and when Iraq and Syria started developing them, the Israel Defense Forces attacked them. Therefore, this call is clearly directed at Israel, which is believed to possess such weapons, though its official position is that it only has a "nuclear option."


The call was issued at a five-year Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, on the 40th anniversary of the treaty's inauguration. It's a sad celebration. North Korea has been making a mockery of the treaty for a decade and a half. Another member of the club, Iran, is developing nuclear weapons and challenging the council. Three states - India, Pakistan and Israel - are still refusing to join the NPT, which affords few privileges (such as using foreign nuclear material for domestic needs ) and numerous obligations (refraining from nuclear weapons, agreeing to supervision ).


India and Pakistan have even conducted nuclear tests and make no secret of possessing nuclear weapons. It may be for mutual deterrence, but there is no guarantee that the safety catch will remain on forever.


Egypt, which has always spearheaded demands for the region's total nuclear disarmament, decided in the 1970s that it was incapable of taking Israel on in the nuclear arena. Anwar Sadat, who indicated when he came to Jerusalem that he chose peace with Israel in part because of the nuclear issue, took the "if we don't have it, neither shall you" approach.


The peace agreement with Israel has not stopped Egypt from consistently demanding, for more than 30 years now, that Israel be disarmed of its alleged nuclear weapons. This demand is raised every autumn at the International Atomic Energy Agency's annual conference in Vienna, and frequently in other international forums.


The Arab demand, and the world's support for it, are nothing new. Nor is Israel's response. Ever since the days of foreign minister Yigal Allon's appearances at the UN General Assembly on behalf of Yitzhak Rabin's first government, Israel has preferred saying "yes, but" to outright rejection. Yes, certainly, Israel would be pleased if a nuclear-free zone were established, but on condition that the region's borders be defined so that it includes Iran (and Libya, and what about the nuclear weapons that may creep in from Pakistan? ), and that the region no longer be hostile.


In brief, if the Egyptians say that without disarmament there will be no peace, Israel says peace now, disarmament later. What Israel is prepared to give for peace is already a different issue.


However, the periodic demand for regional disarmament is different this time, on two counts: Israel describes the nuclear weapons Iran is expected to acquire as a threat to its survival, and U.S. President Barack Obama is passionately striving for a nuclear-free world, not merely region. In this situation, Israel must adopt a new policy - one that does not go as far as total and immediate disarmament, but does agree to freeze new nuclear activities.


The expanse between excessive weaponry and disarmament is not a slippery slope. Israel should enter it.









This is not the first time Ehud Barak has visited the United States. The Pentagon has a tradition of hosting defense officials with great respect, such that even the toughest and most analytical among them grows at least 20 centimeters above his natural height. Past and present generals also have a common language with their hosts.


Our ties with the U.S., Barak said recently, are the mainstay of Israel's security and the main source of its qualitative edge in advanced weapons systems. The U.S. does not merely provide economic assistance of $3 billion per year, it also keeps spare parts and ammunition in American warehouses in Israel and makes it possible for the Israel Defense Forces to rely on them in times of need.


Yet on his return from Washington this time we did not see a self-satisfied Barak, but rather a party leader who is aware of Israel's obligation to do its part in keeping faith, and maintaining the relationship, with the present administration. It is not wise to embark on a confrontation with America, he told a meeting of the Labor Party's Knesset faction. And a confrontation is likely if Israel does not present a diplomatic program dealing with the core issues - settlements, borders, and other basic questions that must be resolved for the conflict to end.


Relations with U.S. President Barack Obama are not as close as they were with his two predecessors. But a love affair between leaders is not necessary in order to get things done. There was no love lost between the southerner Jimmy Carter and the extremist Menachem Begin, yet they achieved something unimaginable: a peace with Egypt that has lasted to this day.


Barak is of the opinion that we must go along with Obama's demands. This is not the time for Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu to act like Yitzhak Shamir did - that is, not to decide. He must expand the government, in order to change the nature of the dialogue with the U.S. administration by presenting a detailed plan for resolving the conflict. Without presenting a plan, we will not be able to mend our relationship with the administration.


If that is what he believes, why does he not quit the government? His response is that he is not in favor of leaving the government, but of expanding it. If we were not inside, he says, it would be an extremist right-wing government. By process of elimination, one can conclude that he would like Kadima to be brought into the government.


Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni says privately that she believes Barak truly is worried - in part because the day will come when he will be asked what he hopes to accomplish in a right-wing government. Bibi, in her opinion, has not yet crossed the Rubicon. Netanyahu's goal is still the same as it always was - to survive his term of office without making a decision. Even his famous statement at Bar-Ilan University about two states for two peoples was like pulling teeth.


In the government's present composition, there is no majority for a historic move. The campaign against Moshe Feiglin was much ado about nothing. The Bibi government, with the exception of Labor, is a right-wing government.


Netanyahu's problem, says one of his friends, is his family: His father, wife, children and brother-in-law are all right-wing. And apart from two members of the seven-man inner cabinet, the decision-making nucleus opposes significant concessions. Who says Benny Begin does not understand that he is there only to prove that there is no real partner on the other side? Attorney Yitzhak Molcho, Bibi's diplomatic adviser, is a man of words, "but we have passed the stage of words," Livni says.


Livni thinks solving the conflict with the Palestinians is more complex than making peace with Egypt: It involves dealing with violent settlers, the relocation of dozens of settlements, the presence of Hamas and other extremist organizations and the difficulty of drawing permanent borders. She believes Bibi will try to drag out the talks, but the Americans will not allow him to do so. They will want to get down to a discussion of the core issues immediately. Your security is no longer an excuse, they will say; after all, the Palestinians have already agreed to a demilitarized state.


In Livni's opinion, portions of the right understand that the time has come to discuss the core issues. But it is difficult to get her excited about the idea of Kadima joining Bibi's government. As both a woman and a politician, she has probably not forgotten how Barak, via calculated foot-dragging, prevented her from becoming prime minister without the need for an election. If Barak is dissatisfied with Bibi's conduct, he can quit the government. Bibi is dependent on Barak, so if Barak pulls out, the government will have begun the countdown to its demise.


With the government's current composition, there is no majority for serious moves, Livni says. Bibi's concern is genuine: In America, people are falling in line behind the president. It is enough that those with influence have gotten the message that the president means business; luncheons with Elie Wiesel and speeches by Ron Lauder are to no avail. If we continue dragging our feet, the president could begin turning a cold shoulder to us. That would arouse schadenfreude among those who always viewed our ties with America as a thorn in their flesh.


Barak, who has now discovered Obama's America, must realize that the government in its present form is not built for making fateful decisions, and take the initiative to get Kadima into the government, preferably at the expense of Shas. Two birds with one stone.









For the first time since 1969, Israel appears likely to face American pressure over its policy of nuclear ambiguity. Back then, four decades ago, prime minister Golda Meir and U.S. president Richard Nixon reportedly agreed that the American government would not pressure Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In return, Israel agreed that it would not declare itself a nuclear state and would not carry out nuclear tests.


It seems that President Barack Obama has decided to deviate from the rules of the game that his predecessors accepted and, as part of his vision for a nuclear-free world, take action in the Middle East as well - a region where conventional wisdom holds that only one country, Israel, holds nuclear weapons.


The possibility that Obama plans to abandon the 1969 agreement between Israel and the United States emerges from his reaction to the working paper Egypt submitted to the NPT review conference that is currently taking place at United Nations headquarters in New York. Paragraph 31 of the Egyptian working paper states that the 189 members who have signed the treaty must pledge not to transfer nuclear equipment, information, material or professional know-how to Israel as long as Israel is not prepared to join the treaty and permit supervision of its nuclear facilities.


The text also calls on signatories to the treaty to reveal any information they have about the nature and extent of Israel's nuclear capability, including any nuclear assistance given to Israel in the past. That provision is aimed mainly at the United States and France, which are thought to have been the main suppliers of Israel's nuclear program. Finally, the Egyptians called for establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.


Egypt made a similar attempt in 1995. But back then, President Bill Clinton summoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Washington and demanded that he immediately relinquish the attempt to pressure Israel into joining the NPT.


Unlike Clinton, Obama has chosen to hold a dialogue with the Egyptians. Indeed, the American administration has gone even further: It has given its approval to the appointment of a special emissary who will coordinate preparations for an international conference that will discuss ways of furthering the idea of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.


The most serious development on this front is the possibility that the administration might link its readiness to work to prevent Iran from equipping itself with nuclear weapons to steps that it wants Israel to take in the nuclear field. Granted, at the moment, this is an Egyptian initiative, but it is not impossible that Washington will support it. At this stage, however, the Americans are making do with linking their willingness to act against Iran with Israel's willingness to work toward an agreement with the Palestinians.


In addressing what is happening on this front, decision-makers in Jerusalem must not continue hiding their heads in the sand and hoping that Israel will be able to stick to its policy of nuclear ambiguity. It appears that sooner or later, they will be forced to recognize that the era of ambiguity has come to a close. Therefore, Israel must exploit what is now occuring in New York to initiate a dialogue with the Obama administration, in which the two states should reach an agreement on abandoning Israel's ambiguity policy.

Clearly, Israel would be forced to pay a price for America's agreement to such a step - a willingness to reach an agreement with the Palestinians based on the principle of two states for two peoples. But since it is almost certain that the administration will press for implementation of this principle anyway, it would be worthwhile for Israel to link this with American demands of Israel on the nuclear front.


The prime minister and his advisers must abandon the conceptual stagnation that has characterized Israel's nuclear policy and initiate a change. In talks with the administration, Israel could presumably make use of the approach taken by India. In May 1998, India abandoned its policy of nuclear ambiguity, carried out a series of nuclear tests and thus, in a unilateral move, joined the nuclear club.


In the beginning, the U.S. did impose some very moderate sanctions on India. But after a short while, at the Americans' initiative, the two countries signed an agreement for nuclear cooperation. In this way, America came to terms with a nuclear India even though that country never joined the nonproliferation treaty. Israel could secure America's consent to abandoning its ambiguity in advance, and in this way avoid the sanctions stage.


Israel's ambiguity is in any case seen by the entire world as a ridiculous fiction. Israel now has the opportunity to put an end to the fiction. It should not waste it.









Something strange crept into Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai's honest words: "The public must rebel against the ultra-Orthodox," he said. Nu, we've accepted the advice and want to begin the rebellion; what do we do now?


It's not against the ultra-Orthodox that we must rebel, but against those who fatten them - against those who build their governments on destruction. And in that sense too, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are brothers: Their weapons are instruments of violence, and they would sell anything to be in the prime minister's shoes.


This week, we learned another exasperating statistic: One out of eight children in Jerusalem - only one - is studying in the state school system. And 20 years from now, only 20 percent, nationwide, will be studying in this system. That's not a forecast, it's a battlefront.


Due to over-irrigation, the ultra-Orthodox school systems have grown to dimensions that our forefathers never imagined, and our children will pay the price. And due to over-fertilization, leaders are also sprouting up, and ballooning like cucumbers turning into pumpkins. That's what happened to Shas chairman Eli Yishai, who started as a delivery boy for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's family but has now become a force himself.


He has become world famous as a defender of Jerusalem - a kind of Saladdin, but one of ours. In the Arab League, they speak of him with awe; U.S. President Barack Obama sent a personal envoy to placate him; and rumor has it that even in Beijing, they recently dedicated a special desk to deciphering his personality and activity.


Jerusalem interests Yishai exactly as much as Sephardi girls do - the ones the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox have been exiling behind the fence. Shas should have been the first to cry out, but instead, its leaders have been the first and the last to keep silent. Is it possible that Shas leaders are still humbling themselves like serfs before their masters from Bnei Brak? Is it possible that Yosef is "a great Torah scholar" in the eyes of Jerusalem's laymen, but quite small in Lithuanian Jerusalem?


Only one thing really interests Yishai: As a man without a shadow, only the shadow of his predecessor walks before him and pursues him: Is Aryeh Deri coming back? Did he ever leave?


I knew an education minister who wanted to change the situation 10 years ago already. He didn't suggest a "rebellion," but he did offer an alternative. In Shas-ridden communities, he built kindergartens and schools that would be equivalent to those of Shas' Maayan Hatorani schools in class hours and class size, in transportation and meals, and could thus compete with it. And wonder of wonders: Very soon the state school system prevailed, and the Maayan (spring ) began to dry up. That is what scared the rabbi and his emissaries at the time, and that's what has to be done now.


The same minister refused to pay blackmail - of NIS 100 million. He did not agree to buy power with money. Nor did he agree to put his deputy from Shas in charge of rehabilitating Shas' school system, which was rotten and corrupt, and some of whose administrators were on their way to prison.


At the time, people accused him of a petty, arrogant fight over authority. Even friends told lies about him, to the effect that he was delaying the redemption. NIS 100 million and one deputy minister, of what importance were they if they were the only thing separating us from peace? Now everyone is crying over the milk they spilled with their own hands, and they have yet to ask forgiveness.


The man who was prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak, stood by Yishai and forgot his own interests. I was forced to resign from a job I loved. But I did not succeed in getting rid of the slander.









At the fifth Lag Ba'omer educational conference that took place in Tel Aviv this week, Mayor Ron Huldai, who is also a former principal of the Gymnasia Herzliya High School, had the courage to publicly express several important insights about the ultra-Orthodox education system.

He spoke mainly about what the Haredi education system fails to give its students, about the economic and spiritual wealth that it denies the youth who enter its gates, and about the absence from the system's infrastructure of several fundamental principles of democracy.


But the mayor seems not to have touched on another aspect of Haredi and yeshiva education, including the "Zionist" yeshivas - namely, the damage this education causes the individuals through what it does teach.


A significant part of the yeshiva student's time is devoted to independent study, in the traditional daily routine in the yeshivas. Every day, for many hours, the student sits or stands, usually together with a partner, in the yeshiva's large study hall, and the two of them read a page of Talmud together and try to understand it.


For that purpose they are assisted by the writings of a number of canonical Talmudic exegetes, most of them from the medieval period or slightly later.


In the hall there is usually also a mashgiah, one of the heads of the yeshiva. But the mashgiah is not a teacher, he is a supervisor over the students' behavior within the chaos of dozens or hundreds of young people talking.


Even if he wanted to do so, the mashgiah cannot possibly hear, criticize, correct and guide in real time the insights of the boys who are slogging through the texts, each according to his ability.


It is possible that for a small number of talented students such a method of independent study is a wonderful and enriching pastime. It is very doubtful whether there is any good in it for average or below-average students.


Repetition and attempts to understand, while relying only on themselves for hours on end, without a guiding and correcting hand, can lead such young people to various and sundry regions, about which the yeshiva heads don't have a clue.


The second type of damage is more serious than the first. Yeshiva education suppresses freedom of the spirit and extinguishes in the soul of the (average ) boy any spark of independent critical thought. Yeshiva study, for most of those engaged in it, is to a great degree the antithesis of thought that leads to drawing conclusions, which is the foundation of the creation of human knowledge.


We will explain this with the help of a contrast between the yeshiva prodigy and the genius who is a university doctoral student.


The yeshiva prodigy is the student who has succeeded in solving a contradiction between an interpretation by Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Halevi Edels, a 17th-century Polish scholar on a passage in Tractate Brakhot, and a specific ruling of Maimonides, a 12th-century scholar, in his Mishneh Torah. This is a well known problem that has been categorized as "requires study" for generations.


The student has explained the contradiction to the satisfaction of one of the deputy yeshiva heads and even the head of the yeshiva himself has given the explanation his blessing. Thanks to the prodigy everyone finally understands that Edels does not contradict a specific ruling of Maimonides, and both are saying words of truth without there being any mistake or misunderstanding, God-forbid, in the thinking or the words of either of them.


The genius doctoral student in the faculty of sciences at the university planned and carried out an experiment, whose results seem to contradict the fourth equation of Maxwell, the father of theoretical electromagnetism. If these results are confirmed by additional experiments, the student will be a serious candidate for a Nobel Prize.


The profound contradiction between yeshiva study that suppresses freedom of thought and the proper education for Israeli youth is well expressed in the Mishna, in the contradictory sayings of two scholars in the Ethics of the Fathers tractate.


In 1:4 we have: "Yossi the son of Yo'ezer of Tzreidah used to say: Let your house be a meeting place for the sages, cleave to the dust of their feet, and thirstily drink their words."


But in 2:5 comes the sentence: "He [Hillel] would say: A bashful person cannot learn, nor can an impatient one teach."


And we still have not discussed the absurdity that lies at the base of the development of the yeshiva world in

Israel. This is the viewpoint, which is shared by President Shimon Peres, that there is some ideal in the fact that hundreds of thousands of young Israelis will devote four, 10 or even 30 years of their lives almost exclusively to studying texts written 1,400 years ago.









Don't mourn the cancellation of the "Wisconsin Plan" welfare-to-work program. Like most coercive efforts at social engineering, Wisconsin - which obligated participants to attend job-training centers 30-40 hours per week in order to retain their unemployment benefits - trampled as many people as it helped. Even among the unemployed, the program was especially tough on our most vulnerable populations - Arab citizens (65 percent of the participants ), Ethiopian immigrants, and the poorest corners of Mizrahi communities endured the bulk of the pain, with Arab communities perhaps hit hardest. The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee's decision last week not to renew or expand the "Lights to Employment" program, as it is called in Israel, corrects a historic blunder and should be seen as a victory for Israeli civil society.


From Sawt el-Amel/The Laborer's Voice, which led the fight in Nazareth, to the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow, the Community Advocacy organization, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and others - NGOs representing groups across our social spectrum came together to end the suffering. Many of these organizations, it should be noted, are also supported by the unjustly maligned New Israel Fund.


Not every bad idea from America needs to be imported to Israel. Wisconsin embodied two particularly destructive trends: that of the government shirking its responsibility to its weakest citizens through privatization of essential services, and that of instituting a financial motive for program operators that invited abuse.


The state hired private companies to knock citizens off the unemployment rolls, paying them per head. Participants had no power and little recourse when case managers were incompetent or unscrupulous; any complaint would put their benefits at risk. Reports of "employers" involved in the "job-training" component in the field exploiting participants for free labor were not uncommon, and resentment was widespread about the requirement that participants be locked in training centers like naughty children all week. Little consideration was given to participants' health problems, or to the disruption caused to Arab communities, which lack preschools and after-school programs, when mothers and grandmothers were "sentenced" to spend their days at the Wisconsin center instead of taking care of their children or grandchildren.


Some of the most extreme abuses had been corrected since the introduction of "Lights to Employment" in 2005. For example, center staff stopped sending elderly participants to do physical labor, and ultimately candidates over age 45 were completely exempt.


New allegations surfaced as recently as six weeks ago, when an investigative report on Channel 2 showed participants at the Wisconsin center in Nazareth apparently being encouraged to produce phony pay slips to artificially inflate the number of those dropped from the unemployment rolls. The motivation of Agam Mehalev, the company managing the program in Nazareth, is clear: It was paid for each person removed from the welfare rolls, but from the participants' point of view, if the charges are true, it would suggest that they were willing to sacrifice desperately needed benefits to avoid having to take part in the program.


Unemployment can only be tackled by creating new jobs and by job training. Job creation requires either large-scale investment in Intel-sized projects; smart investment in new industrial zones serving Arab communities as well as Jewish ones; and more modest investment in small businesses and micro-enterprises (which can target people with minimal education and resources ). New businesses need mentoring and support services to shepherd novices through the birth pangs of new ventures.


The Israeli brain trust behind Wisconsin mistakenly equated questionable claims of multi-generational dependency on welfare in America, with citizens at the margins of Israeli society who face a glaring lack of job opportunities. Locking Arab women in a training center all week won't help them find work if there is no work to be had.


Job training where no jobs exist is wasted motion and only increases frustration: expectations are raised and then dashed when job opportunities don't materialize. Job training must be voluntary, realistic and include a matching program which prepares people for openings that actually exist and brings candidates together with employers.


There are already small-scale models in the field in Israel tackling pieces of the unemployment puzzle, led by government, NGOs, corporate leaders and partnerships among them. It would be worthwhile to check which justify replication and expansion around the country.


Consider Kav Mashve, a coalition of employers led by Dov Lautman, Dr. Irit Keynan and the Manufacturers Association of Israel, which places Arab candidates in businesses, with an emphasis on the private sector; Olim Together, which matches employers with Ethiopian college graduates. The group Women Against Violence has launched a job-matching Web site for Arab women. The KIEDF Sulam Israeli Arab Loan Fund, which provides loans to small businesses in Arab communities that cannot secure loans from banks, has a remarkably low default rate. Shatil's Project Wealth aims to create employment through local sustainable economic development.


What these programs have in common is that they are voluntary, rather than coercive; supportive, rather than

abusive; and that they treat participants like adults, rather than children who need to be disciplined.


There are rumblings that our prime minister wants to revive the "Lights to Employment" program in a modified form, but this import from America's dairy lands has already soured. Now that Wisconsin is dead, maybe we can get serious about tackling unemployment through job creation and suitable training.


Don Futterman is the program director, Israel, of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation working in Israel.









What are we to make of JCall, the new European liberal Jewish movement launched last week?


Two Jews and three opinions is a tirelessly repeated joke that conveys a sense of how contentious Jewish discord can be. Anyone familiar with Jewish media, organizations and grassroots activism can attest to that - as best characterized by the iconic line in Monty Python's "Life of Brian": "Excuse me. Are you the Judean People's Front?," followed by the response: " F--- off! We're the People's Front of Judea."


In this context, JCall is a welcome addition. Unfortunately, it is a disingenuous one.


Jewish "wars" punctuate Jewish history - Jews revel in their cacophonous legacy, even though historically, it has cost them dearly. Thus swings the Jewish pendulum - publicly should Jews speak in one voice or air their differences? This question is largely rhetorical: No dispute (Hasidim vs. Mitnagdim; Zionists vs. Bundists; Orthodox vs. Reform; Diasporism vs. Israel-centric; Peace Now vs. Greater Israel ) goes unnoticed. Jews argue - in the press, on the air, in academia and across their organizational alphabet soup. These days, such discord is even easier to conduct. In the Internet age, anyone can express an opinion - however different from the mainstream - without much effort, financial or otherwise.


Enter JCall, a group of European Jewish individuals and organizations mainly from the left. Their online petition, recently launched at a well-attended event in the European Parliament, alleges that the view it reflects finds no representation in the mainstream Jewish establishment, because of a presumed tendency of Jewish organizations to uncritically support any Israeli policy while silencing internal dissent.


The "uncritical support for Israeli policy" charge sets the stage for the JCallers' arguments: Israel's settlement policy is disastrous because it stands in the way of the two-state solution and will lead to the demise of the Zionist dream. Europe must pressure Israel to reverse this policy. And Jews, spearheaded by JCall, must break their communal code of silence and persuade Israel to heed this pressure.


Of the three arguments, the last is the most befuddling, and not just because the allegation of a code of silence, more suitable to the Mafia, is hardly applicable to the Jewish world. JCallers' views are the most mainstream and least contentious one can think of in the European landscape. If JCallers seek to promote a firm European stance against Israeli settlement policy, then they should already proclaim victory and go home. In Europe, Israel lost this argument long ago. If they seek to speak out, there is no shortage of sponsors who will gladly give JCallers a platform. By contrast, outside the narrow and largely parochial world of small-circulation Jewish media, only a handful of extravagantly pro-Israel magazines and papers - themselves with a small and dwindling readership - will give Israel's case a fair hearing.


Anyone familiar with the European lecture circuit on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict knows that speakers are rarely to the right of the JCall signatories themselves. They, not those whom they attack for supposedly silencing them, form the mainstream of public debate.


Any one of the almost 5,000 signatories to the JCall petition who can write, therefore, stands a chance of airing his or her views. Besides, many Jewish organizations stand behind the initiative. The suggestion that the Jewish establishment is silencing them is puzzling. They are the Jewish establishment - the intelligentsia, the academics, the cultural circles. The dark imagery alleging an uncritical Jewish leadership that sings from an Israeli score sheet while silencing dissenters smacks of insincerity. The self-depiction of a "band of brothers" intent on challenging the dominant paradigm is self-indulgent counterculture by self-important sofa intellectuals. It is far from the truth.


No mainstream European Jewish organization stands today against the two-state solution, or applauds, supports or fundraises for settlement activities. From left to right, organized Jewry across Europe tends to reflect Israeli political divisions on the existential questions Israel faces, including vociferous anti-Zionist groups on the margins of Jewish communal life but in the spotlight of public debate. It is hardly surprising then that JCallers feel on the margins: their views fail to strike a chord, not because of internal censorship, but rather because, having seen the Oslo process shipwreck and a decade of Palestinian violent rejectionism, not many Jews are convinced that peace will come on the wings of more Israeli concessions alone.


The JCall argument is also self-serving, because it allows the group to don the mantle of victimhood. By depicting criticism as censorship, the JCallers spare themselves the need to engage criticism, since anyone disagreeing can be dismissed as a censor.


Still, if their presumably unflinching support for Israel coupled with their discomfort with Israel's settlement policies reflect mainstream views, why have they been immediately met with a torrent of criticism?


First, because such is the nature of Jewish debate - JCallers should take their critics seriously rather than preemptively dismissing them.


Second, because their pledged love for Israel is overshadowed by the blame they squarely lay at Israel's doorstep. For them, solving the conflict is all about settlements. Not Palestinian civil wars, Palestinian rejectionism, Hamas, Hezbollah, terrorism, not even Iran: Israel's settlements are the epicenter of all troubles. They will find few Jews ready to endorse this worldview.


European Jews have been at the forefront of peace initiatives, reconciliation efforts and interfaith dialogue for as long as one can remember - JCall offers nothing new. In contrast, an equivalent "call to reason" among Arab and Muslim intellectuals across the Islamic world and beyond - now that would be news! Only when Israel's enemies choose moderation over extremism will peace stand a chance. When that moment comes - and only dreamers can see it coming today - settlements will not be an obstacle.


Emanuele Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.









The visit two weekends ago of a delegation of Israeli Arabs to Libya elicited a lot of criticism back home. The trip, by some 40 political figures, took place at the invitation of Libya's eccentric president, Muammar Gadhafi.


In addressing their host, who had invited these Arab citizens of Israel to "reconnect" with an Arab world from

which they and their people had been isolated since 1948, MK Ahmed Tibi referred to the Libyan president as

"king of kings" and "leader of the Arab leaders," two titles Gadhafi had assumed for himself at last year's Arab League summit meeting. Many of those present told me it was clear to them that Tibi was mocking Gadhafi, and their shared sense was that the visit was more of a curiosity than an event of great political import.


In that regard, it seems as though some Israeli Jewish politicians took the visit more seriously than the

participants. But by now, it is clear that some Israelis have a knee-jerk, negative reaction every time Arab citizens have the audacity to visit another state in the region.


Back in the 1970s, when I was taking civics in eighth grade, we were told by the establishment that we, the Arab citizens of Israel, would someday be a bridge for peace between our country and the Arab world. We were taught that in the future we could help with the creation of political, economic, social and cultural ties, and that bridging the gap would be the most significant contribution that we could make to peace and stability in the Middle East.


For many years there was no opportunity to play that role, until, in 1990, Ezer Weizman and Yitzhak Rabin, then junior partners in the coalition government led by Likud's Yitzhak Shamir, used the good services of the same Ahmed Tibi to be an envoy between Israeli politicians and Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat - a move that almost got Weizman dismissed from the government. A few years later, behind-the-scenes messages delivered by Israeli Arabs also helped bring the Oslo talks to fruition, resulting in mutual recognition and the initiation of official Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.


Later, in 1994, a delegation of Arab leaders from Israel traveled to Syria to pay condolences to its then-president, Hafez Assad, who had lost his elder son in a car accident. It was considered to be a mission of goodwill from Israel, but Syria also showed goodwill in agreeing to receive Israeli citizens for the first time since 1948.


Arab citizens of Israel have an interest in increasing their regional value. Strengthening their links with Arab countries will make them more valuable in their dialogue with the country's Jewish majority, and in efforts to build a shared society here. Being part of the regional majority is a rich natural resource they will not and should not surrender. It is something to bring to the table, even more valuable than the possibility of serving in the military or doing national service.


Many Israeli Jews think that being a bridge for peace means serving as good messengers and perhaps even representatives of the official government line. That won't work. A strong bridge needs to have strong foundations at both ends.


The legal system in Israel seems to be light-years ahead of the political system in its understanding of the meaning of the cultural links between the Arab citizens of the country and the Arab world. The Supreme Court decided last month to permit Ala Hlehel, an Israeli Arab writer, to travel to Beirut, where he was to receive a prize from the Beirut39 literary festival. When Justice Yitzhak Amit asked Interior Minister Eli Yishai during the hearing on Hlehel's petition whether the attempt to ban the visit was "good for the country," Yishai could only respond: "There is no reason to change the policy." In its ruling, the court basically indicated that contacts by Israeli citizens with the Arab world cannot be viewed through the security prism alone, but also need to be evaluated for their humanitarian, cultural and intellectual dimensions. Last week's visit to Libya adds a political dimension as well.


These examples prove that Israel's Arab citizens are actively opening up the doors of the Arab world. As is the fact that about a third of the country's Arab university students currently study in Jordanian universities. The bridge is being built, even though it does not have strong foundations on either side of the rift it is trying to span.


Even the request by Israeli Arab representatives to be granted an observer seat in the Arab League need not be viewed as an anti-Israeli act; rather, it is the expression of a desire by Israeli Arabs to reconnect with the Arab world, of which they are an integral part. By the same token, representatives of the Jewish diaspora attend the Zionist Congress, and help to decide the future of the Jewish people, despite being minorities in their own countries.


The day will come when Israel will sign peace treaties with the states of the Arab League, and the country's Arab community needs to be better prepared for that day. Having healthy relations with the Arab states can only strengthen those accords.

Mohammad Darawshe is the co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives.









The Greek financial crisis has put the very survival of the euro at stake. At the euro's creation, many worried about its viability in the long run. When everything went well, these worries were forgotten. But the question of how adjustments would be made if part of the eurozone were hit by a strong adverse shock lingered. Fixing the exchange rate and delegating monetary policy to the European Central Bank took away from national governments two primary means to stimulate their economies to avoid recession. What could replace them?


The Nobel laureate Robert Mundell laid out the conditions under which a single currency could work. Europe didn't meet those conditions at the time; it still doesn't. The removal of legal barriers to the movement of workers created a single labor market, but linguistic and cultural differences make American-style labor mobility unachievable.


Moreover, Europe has no way of helping countries facing severe problems. Consider Spain, which has an unemployment rate of 20 percent - and more than 40 percent among young people. It had a fiscal surplus before the crisis; after the crisis, its deficit increased to more than 11 percent of GDP. But, under European Union rules, Spain must now cut its spending, which will likely exacerbate unemployment. As its economy slows, the improvement in its fiscal position may be minimal.


Some hoped that the Greek tragedy would convince policymakers that the euro cannot succeed without greater cooperation (including fiscal assistance ). But Germany (and its Constitutional Court ), partly following popular opinion, has opposed giving Greece the help it needs.


To many, both in and outside of Greece, this stance was peculiar: Billions had been spent saving big banks, but evidently saving a country of 11 million people was taboo! It was not even clear that the help Greece needed should be labeled a bailout: While the funds given to financial institutions like AIG were unlikely to be recouped, a loan to Greece at a reasonable interest rate would likely be repaid.


For the EU's smaller countries, the lesson is clear: If they do not reduce their budget deficits, they face a high risk of a speculative attack, with little hope of adequate assistance from their neighbors, at least not without painful and counterproductive pro-cyclical budgetary restraints. As European countries take these measures, their economies are likely to weaken - with unhappy consequences for the global recovery.


It may be useful to see the euro's problems from a global perspective. The U.S. has complained about China's current-account (trade ) surplus, but, as a percentage of GDP, Germany's surplus is even greater. Assume that the euro was set so that trade in the eurozone as a whole was roughly in balance. In that case, Germany's surplus means that the rest of Europe is in deficit. And the fact that these countries are importing more than they are exporting contributes to their weak economies.


The U.S. has been complaining about China's refusal to allow its exchange rate to appreciate relative to the dollar. But the euro system means that Germany's exchange rate cannot increase relative to other eurozone members. If the exchange rate did increase, Germany would find it more difficult to export, and its economic model, based on strong exports, would face a challenge. At the same time, the rest of Europe would export more, GDP would increase, and unemployment would decrease.


Germany (like China ) views its high savings and export prowess as virtues, not vices. But John Maynard Keynes pointed out that surpluses lead to weak global aggregate demand - countries running surpluses exert a "negative externality" on their trading partners. Indeed, Keynes believed it was surplus countries, far more than deficit countries, that posed a threat to global prosperity; he went so far as to recommend a tax on surplus countries.


The social and economic consequences of the current arrangements should be unacceptable. Those countries whose deficits have soared as a result of the global recession should not be forced into a death spiral, as Argentina was a decade ago.


One proposed solution is for these countries to engineer the equivalent of a devaluation - a uniform decrease in wages. This, I believe, is unachievable, a fantasy.


There is a second solution: the exit of Germany from the eurozone, or the zone's division into two sub-regions. The euro was an interesting experiment, but, like the almost-forgotten exchange-rate mechanism (ERM ) that preceded it and fell apart when speculators attacked the British pound in 1992, it lacks the institutional support required to make it work.


There is a third solution, which Europe may come to realize is the most promising: Implement the institutional reforms, including the necessary fiscal framework, that should have been made when the euro was launched.


It is not too late for Europe to implement these reforms and thus live up to the ideals, based on solidarity, that underlay the euro's creation. But if Europe cannot do so, then perhaps it is better to admit failure and move on than to extract a high price in unemployment and human suffering in the name of a flawed economic model.


Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate in Economics. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2010.








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




While the rest of the nation comes to grips with fresh concerns about terrorism, domestic and foreign, Congress is wrapped up in the peculiar obsessions of the gun lobby — most of which are certain to make Americans less safe in their homes and on the streets.


Congress, for example, is cowering before the gun lobby insistence that even terrorist suspects who are placed on the "no-fly list" must not be denied the right to buy and bear arms. Suspects on that list purchased more than 1,100 weapons in the last six years, but Congress has never summoned the gumption to stop this trade in the name of public safety and political sanity.


Legislation to close this glaring threat continues to languish with little promise of enactment because a bipartisan mass of lawmakers fear retribution by the gun lobby's campaign machine. Firsthand pleas this week from New York City's mayor and police commissioner — testifying after the attempted Times Square bombing attributed to a suspect who was also carrying a legally obtained gun — showed no sign of budging a timorous Congress.


It is a sign of the gun lobby's growing confidence that if feels free to keep up the pressure, public and private, after the near-disaster in New York. Normally, the lobby goes quiet for a decent interval after a particularly heinous crime occurs.


To the contrary, Senator John McCain and other members of the gun lobby's cohort are pressing for legislation to strip local taxpayers in Washington of such basic gun controls as owner registration and a ban on semiautomatic battlefield rifles — laws already upheld by the courts. The gun lobby cued Congress to take another run at scuttling the city's gun controls after previously using the issue to stymie the district's hopes to at last have a full-fledged voting representative in the House.


If Capitol supporters of the National Rifle Association agenda dared to check reality outside their windows they would confront the district's alarm over the four dead and five wounded citizens who fell six weeks ago in a spray of bullets from a semiautomatic weapon. Instead, the gun lobby aims at allowing residents to buy weapons and ammunition in lightly policed markets in Virginia and Maryland.


To protect its clout in the political arena, the gun lobby is challenging legislation needed to contain an expected flood of unregulated attack ads in this year's federal elections. Corporations, unions and advocacy groups were given this laissez-faire spending freedom in a misguided decision by the Supreme Court. An urgent countermeasure to require public disclosure of these groups' stealthy money sources and donors is being opposed "in its present form" by the N.R.A.


It would be folly for Congress to create disclosure exemptions for the N.R.A. or any other advocacy heavyweight by distinguishing them from corporate and union organizations under the bill. Disclosure would be rendered a joke by a flood of exemptions. Congress must hold the line and let the public in on the looming campaign machinations. It should not allow groups on the right or left to spend freely from the political shadows.





An understandably irritated Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday presented New York City's $63 billion budget for next year with a huge question mark attached. How much of the state's annual contribution to the city will be cut this year?


The state budget is already more than a month late, and there is no sign that the Legislature — and the empty suits that pass for leaders — will come up with one soon. The city never gets nearly as much back from Albany as it sends up in taxes and other revenue. How much more will it lose this year? A billion dollars? More?


There is no contesting Mr. Bloomberg's view that the State Legislature has shown complete "irresponsibility" by failing to make any decisions at all on how to fill a $10 billion state deficit.


Still, some of the mayor's grim budget seems overly dire — particularly his current plan to lay off 6,700 educators. There will be a reduction in the 100,000-teacher force, but does it need to be that large?


In his efforts to prepare for the worst, Mr. Bloomberg said he plans to cut the city's work force by 11,000 people, using attrition and layoffs. In addition to the teachers, he would cut about 400 of 11,000 firefighters, plus other workers at parks, children's services, sanitation, and almost every other department. As many as 50 of 300 senior centers will be closed, and four of the city's 66 public pools will stay dry this summer. Libraries and children's services also will take a hit.


The mayor noted that as the economy has begun to improve and with help from Washington, the city has begun to see somewhat more revenue than expected. Much of that will apparently go to maintain the city's police force. That is a wise choice, as we were reminded again after last week's attempted bombing in Times Square.


New York's City Council, which must approve the budget, should consider relieving cuts to senior centers, schools and libraries in areas like Queens where these media centers are vital to people of so many nationalities. Any increases will have to come with cuts elsewhere unless state lawmakers find a way to spare some of these programs with earmarks or grants in the state budget.


Tough times require smart management. Mr. Bloomberg is plenty smart. But it is nigh unto impossible to make smart plans until Albany starts doing its job.




AMAZON AND SALES TAX is in court again, fighting what ought to be a losing battle to defend its longstanding practice of not collecting sales taxes in most states where it does business.


In the latest case, reported recently by The Times's Noam Cohen, the company's roundabout argument is that it and its customers have a First Amendment right to tax avoidance.


To help you wrap your head around that one, here's some background:


A 1992 Supreme Court ruling holds that a retailer must collect sales tax only if it has a physical presence in the customer's state. So a bricks-and-mortar retailer that also operates online, like Target or Macy's, will collect sales taxes. Similarly, if you go through to buy something from, say, Target, Amazon will collect taxes from you on Target's behalf. But Amazon and some other purely online retailers do not generally collect taxes on their own sales.


That tax is legally due, but if online retailers don't collect it, it's up to the individual buyer to voluntarily pay the tax, which rarely happens and is very difficult for states to enforce.


Enter North Carolina. Unable to get to collect the taxes, the state recently began an audit of online businesses, trying to track down what it assumes are millions of dollars in uncollected taxes. The state has told Amazon that it wants buyers' names and the amounts they spent. That state also needs to know the general categories of spending, like books or movies or food, because some items are tax exempt. Amazon has refused to comply, claiming in federal court that North Carolina may be able to learn the titles of books and movies that its customers have bought, imperiling privacy and free speech. North Carolina officials have said they are not seeking those details. Now it is up to the court to decide whether Amazon will have to reveal the names of customers, without titles.


This case is not really about privacy and free speech. It's about how far Amazon is willing to go to protect a business model that relies on not collecting sales tax. Noncollection gives Amazon a major unfair advantage over rival retailers that do collect sales tax and deprives hard-pressed states of much-needed revenue.


Which raises the bigger issue. Congress has been negligent in not changing the law to require sales tax collection by online retailers but is being lobbied by many states to reform the rules. New York has taken matters into its own hands. The Legislature passed a smart law in 2008, requiring online retailers to collect sales taxes from New York customers. Amazon challenged the law in court, lost and appealed. The appeals court is expected to rule soon. If successful, the New York law could serve as a model for other states.


One way or another, it seems inevitable all online retailers will collect sales taxes. The only question is when.






The question is not whether Steve Consalvi should have jumped onto the field during a major-league baseball game in Philadelphia on Monday, waving a towel and running in circles like a toddler trying to avoid bath time. He shouldn't have. Nor is it whether he should have been subdued and arrested. That seems obvious.


No, the question is how. Subdued, yes. Tackled, maybe. Tasered, no.


The electric stun gun that instantly dropped Mr. Consalvi in the eighth inning was fired by a police officer who clearly had no desire to dance around the outfield with a 17-year-old. The Philadelphia police chief said he had acted properly to stop a fleeing suspect, which, we suppose, technically, Mr. Consalvi was.


Mr. Consalvi was also outnumbered, had no way to escape and posed no evident threat, except to the flow of a good ballgame and maybe to the pride of officers who were older, heavier and slower than he.


Taser defenders argue that stadium romps are no joke; athletes sometimes need protecting from deranged and violent fans. Other ballplayers have been harassed and tackled. The tennis star Monica Seles was stabbed.


Having a powerful weapon doesn't mean you fire it with abandon. One fear about Tasers, which cause jolts of extreme pain and involuntary muscle contractions, but seldom kill, is that officers use them too readily. They should resort to Tasers if they are in danger and out of other options, not because they're frustrated.


All cities have dumb fans. Philadelphia seems to have more than its share. The best course there, as anywhere, is smarter, more attentive security in the stands. Maybe it's also higher Plexiglas, stiffer trespassing fines, less beer. Force must always be the last resort. Tasering a showboating kid is just plain excessive.










So, is Greece the next Lehman? No. It isn't either big enough or interconnected enough to cause global financial markets to freeze up the way they did in 2008. Whatever caused that brief 1,000-point swoon in the Dow, it wasn't justified by actual events in Europe.


Nor should you take seriously analysts claiming that we're seeing the start of a run on all government debt. U.S. borrowing costs actually plunged on Thursday to their lowest level in months. And while worriers warned that Britain could be the next Greece, British rates also fell slightly.


That's the good news. The bad news is that Greece's problems are deeper than Europe's leaders are willing to acknowledge, even now — and they're shared, to a lesser degree, by other European countries. Many observers now expect the Greek tragedy to end in default; I'm increasingly convinced that they're too optimistic, that default will be accompanied or followed by departure from the euro.


In some ways, this is a chronicle of a crisis foretold. I remember quipping, back when the Maastricht Treaty setting Europe on the path to the euro was signed, that they chose the wrong Dutch city for the ceremony. It should have taken place in Arnhem, the site of World War II's infamous "bridge too far," where an overly ambitious Allied battle plan ended in disaster.


The problem, as obvious in prospect as it is now, is that Europe lacks some of the key attributes of a successful currency area. Above all, it lacks a central government.


Consider the often-made comparison between Greece and the state of California. Both are in deep fiscal trouble, both have a history of fiscal irresponsibility. And the political deadlock in California is, if anything, worse — after all, despite the demonstrations, Greece's Parliament has, in fact, approved harsh austerity measures.


But California's fiscal woes just don't matter as much, even to its own residents, as those of Greece. Why? Because much of the money spent in California comes from Washington, not Sacramento. State funding may be slashed, but Medicare reimbursements, Social Security checks, and payments to defense contractors will keep on coming.


What this means, among other things, is that California's budget woes won't keep the state from sharing in a broader U.S. economic recovery. Greece's budget cuts, on the other hand, will have a strong depressing effect on an already depressed economy.


So is a debt restructuring — a polite term for partial default — the answer? It wouldn't help nearly as much as many people imagine, because interest payments only account for part of Greece's budget deficit. Even if it completely stopped servicing its debt, the Greek government wouldn't free up enough money to avoid savage budget cuts.


The only thing that could seriously reduce Greek pain would be an economic recovery, which would both generate higher revenues, reducing the need for spending cuts, and create jobs. If Greece had its own currency, it could try to engineer such a recovery by devaluing that currency, increasing its export competitiveness. But Greece is on the euro.


So how does this end? Logically, I see three ways Greece could stay on the euro.

First, Greek workers could redeem themselves through suffering, accepting large wage cuts that make Greece competitive enough to add jobs again. Second, the European Central Bank could engage in much more expansionary policy, among other things buying lots of government debt, and accepting — indeed welcoming — the resulting inflation; this would make adjustment in Greece and other troubled euro-zone nations much easier. Or third, Berlin could become to Athens what Washington is to Sacramento — that is, fiscally stronger European governments could offer their weaker neighbors enough aid to make the crisis bearable.


The trouble, of course, is that none of these alternatives seem politically plausible.


What remains seems unthinkable: Greece leaving the euro. But when you've ruled out everything else, that's what's left.


If it happens, it will play something like Argentina in 2001, which had a supposedly permanent, unbreakable peg to the dollar. Ending that peg was considered unthinkable for the same reasons leaving the euro seems impossible: even suggesting the possibility would risk crippling bank runs. But the bank runs happened anyway, and the Argentine government imposed emergency restrictions on withdrawals. This left the door open for devaluation, and Argentina eventually walked through that door.


If something like that happens in Greece, it will send shock waves through Europe, possibly triggering crises in other countries. But unless European leaders are able and willing to act far more boldly than anything we've seen so far, that's where this is heading.








They say that intellectual history travels slowly, and by hearse. The old generation has to die off before a new set of convictions can rise and replace entrenched ways of thinking. People also say that a large organization is like an aircraft carrier. You can move the rudder, but it still takes a long time to turn it around.


Yet we have a counterexample right in front of us. Five years ago, the United States Army was one sort of organization, with a certain mentality. Today, it is a different organization, with a different mentality. It has been transformed in the virtual flash of an eye, and the story of that transformation is fascinating for anybody interested in the flow of ideas.


Gen. David Petraeus, who had an important role, spoke about the transformation while accepting the Irving Kristol Award Thursday night from the American Enterprise Institute. I spoke to him and others about the process this week.


The transformation began amid failure. The U.S. was getting beaten in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. Captains and colonels were generally the first to see this, but only a few knew how to respond. Those who did tended to have dual personalities. That is, they had been steeped in Army culture but also in some other, often academic, culture. Petraeus had written a dissertation on Vietnam at Princeton. H.R. McMaster, then a colonel, had also written a book on Vietnam. Others were autodidacts and had studied the counterinsurgency tactics that had been used in Malaysia, Algeria and El Salvador.


They'd been trained to use overwhelming force to kill bad guys. They'd been trained to see terrorists as members of networks, almost like computer networks, and to focus on disrupting the nodes where networks joined. But in the theater they sometimes saw that the more force you unleashed, the more enemies you generated. The network metaphor could be misleading because it ignored geography, the importance of holding ground.


Dissenters, nicknamed COINdinistas, arose, but it was hit or miss. (COIN is military-speak for counterinsurgency.) There was no overarching Army doctrine. In 2005, Petraeus left Iraq and was sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to write a counterinsurgency field manual.


After Vietnam, there had been a tendency in the Army to regard the news media and academia with suspicion. But at their seminars, the COINdinistas welcomed academics, journalists and human rights activists.


A university is structured differently than the Army, but the COINdinistas adapted. Their magazine, Military Review, became a military version of Partisan Review in the 1950s. They sponsored essay contests. When the British Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster wrote a scathing takedown of U.S. counterinsurgency practices, it was not only published, but distributed among the brass.


The manual, published in December 2006, celebrated paradoxes like, "Sometimes, the more you protect your force, the less secure you may be." It codified best practices, but it still faced opposition — from generals who wanted a light footprint in Iraq, from others who wanted to keep blasting away without getting mucked up in community-building.


Petraeus and others had to go on a base-to-base campaign tour, selling the approach, especially down the chain of command. Many people join the Army to kill bad guys, not to build fisheries. The COINdinistas had to persuade them to get out of their trucks and wear less body armor. Soldiers often became receptive on their second or third tours of duty, after they'd killed plenty of insurgents without result, and seen buddies lose limbs.


Then there was the institutionalization process. Some of the training programs were still preparing soldiers for tank battles or big urban warfare. They were scrapped. A course at Artillery School at Fort Sill in Oklahoma was shut down because the students, back from Iraq, knew more than the instructors.


In the new courses, officers practiced negotiating with "sheiks." Bands of bloggers were set up to help those in Iraq and Afghanistan share information with those about to deploy. Gen. Ray Odierno adjusted the balance between combat and community operations.


There are still gaps, but now when you talk to soldiers, you see that the counterinsurgency doctrine has been bred into their bones. Now some say that the approach codified at Fort Leavenworth has become so dominant that it is actually stifling innovation. This is a complete intellectual sea change.


The process was led by these dual-consciousness people — those who could be practitioners one month and then academic observers of themselves the next. They were neither blinkered by Army mind-set, like some of the back-slapping old guard, nor so removed from it that their ideas were never tested by reality, like pure academic theoreticians.


It's a wonder that more institutions aren't set up to encourage this sort of alternating life. Business schools do it, but most institutions are hindered by guild customs, by tenure rules and by the tyranny of people who can only think in one way.







FIFTY years ago today, the Soviet Union announced that it had shot down an American U-2 spy plane and that its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was alive.


It seems like a long-ago event from the cold war. That may be why, in this era of satellites and drones, most

people are surprised to learn that the U-2 is not only still in use, but that it is as much a part of our national security structure as it was a half-century ago.


Every decade or so there is chatter about replacing the U-2. And yet, thanks to its remarkable technological and operational capacity and flexibility, the U-2 has in recent years been used to find homemade bombs in Afghanistan, drug lords in Colombia, mass graves in the former Yugoslavia and budding nuclear weapons programs in the Middle East. It has also been critical in non-military missions like measuring ozone levels and mapping disaster zones.


This time, though, it looks pretty certain that the Air Force will follow through on its plans to retire the U-2 as soon as it can field a Global Hawk drone retrofitted with electronic eavesdropping devices.


I flew the U-2 during the 1990s, and I received this news as if I had learned that an old friend was dying. It may seem odd to grieve for a machine. But the U-2 is no ordinary vehicle. Some in my world call flying the plane a religion, others a calling. For me it was a gift.


The U-2 is nicknamed the Dragon Lady for good reason. You never knew what to expect when you took it into the air, no matter how seasoned a pilot you were. This was an unfortunate consequence of its design. The trade-off of a plane built light enough to fly above 70,000 feet is that it is almost impossible to control. And 13 miles above the ground, the atmosphere is so thin that the "envelope" between stalling and "overspeed" — going so fast you lose control of the plane, resulting in an unrecoverable nose dive — is razor-thin, making minor disruptions, even turbulence, as deadly as a missile. The challenge is even greater near the ground, since to save weight, the plane doesn't have normal landing gear.


As I was told before one of my tryout flights, "Landing the U-2 is a lot like playing pool. It's not so much how you shoot as how you set up your shot." Or, as my former wing commander said, "We've all had moments when we could just as easily have made one tiny move the other way and ended up dead."


Getting the plane up and down was not the only challenge. Staying airborne — and alert — for countless hours, looking at nothing but sky, was another. I learned the hard way, for example, that you can get diaper rash from Gatorade.


Other risks were less benign, as I found when I was the ground officer for a pilot who radioed, "My skin feels like it's crawling." He had the bends so badly from changes in pressure that when he landed his body was covered with huge welts. Had the weather not cleared in time for him to land, these bubbles of nitrogen might have lodged in his brain or optical nerve — as they had in other U-2 pilots.


Were the risks worth it? Absolutely. The advantage of having a human being in the pilot's seat of a reconnaissance plane is overwhelming. A person can troubleshoot problems in mid-flight, with creativity that a computer lacks and a proximity to the problem that a remote-control pilot can never achieve. A pilot also has unique situational awareness: I've been on more than one mission in which I was able to distinguish promising details that a drone would have missed.


It was worth it personally, too. I'll never forget the adrenaline surge of landing what was basically a multimillion-dollar jet-powered glider on its 12-inch tail wheel from a full stall while wearing a space suit. And I'll always remember the peace of sitting alone on the quiet edge of space, out of radio contact for hours.


The new generation of drones have their merits. But flying robots, no matter how advanced, can't measure up to the courage and commitment of a pilot who is risking her life for the sake of the mission.


Reconnaissance will outlive the U-2, but there will always be a divot in the hearts of those who have seen the curvature of the earth, the stars seemingly close enough to touch, and known the satisfaction of having completed a mission with the Dragon Lady.


Cholene Espinoza is a former U-2 pilot.







WITH the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf, talk has once again turned to clean energy. What few people appreciate is that the demand for everything from solar panels to energy-efficient light bulbs is already booming. Worldwide, $162 billion was spent in new clean-tech investments in 2009 alone.


The United States, with its expertise, capital and entrepreneurial spirit, is well positioned to dominate what could easily be the biggest market of the 21st century. But as the most recent delay over the Senate energy bill shows, the country is missing a key ingredient in shaping an effective clean-tech policy: the political will to encourage the innovation, manufacturing and investment necessary to bring these new technologies to market. And the longer America drags its feet, the more it cedes this enormous potential source of national wealth to the only other country able to capture it — China.


True, China has a long way to go before it can claim the mantle of global market leadership in clean technology. Unlike the United States, however, it has spent the last few years shaping its industrial policy to achieve precisely that goal.


China's determination to become the global leader in clean tech has little to do with concerns for the environment and everything to do with jobs. For the foreseeable future, the greatest challenge for Beijing is to ensure full employment and rising income levels. The rapidly growing clean-technology sector is one of the few that can provide a sufficient number of new jobs. (Disclosure: I invest in clean energy in America and abroad.)


This wouldn't be the first time China has taken economic advantage of opportunities resulting from climate change. The Kyoto Protocol, which caps greenhouse-gas emissions in Europe and Japan up to 2012, includes market-based mechanisms to promote the reduction of emissions at the lowest cost. The largest of these is the Clean Development Mechanism, which allows developing countries like China to generate credits from cuts in their greenhouse-gas emissions that are then sold to developed countries.


Beijing was initially slow to establish the domestic regulatory structures and develop the expertise needed to compete in this new market. In a 2004 analysis, the World Bank determined that China accounted for a mere 5 percent of clean-development projects globally. But by 2008, the most recent year for which annual data is available, the bank reported that China's market share had climbed to an astounding 84 percent.


Beijing is about to do the same with clean technology. In 2009, its investment in clean energy reached nearly $35 billion, almost double America's $19 billion, primarily due to domestic policies that promote the use of renewable energy. And the strategy is working. In 1999 China made 1 percent of the world's solar panels; by 2008 it was the world's leading producer, with a 32 percent market share, and its solar-panel exports were valued at $15 billion. To put that in perspective, in 2009 America's No. 1 export product by far was civilian aircraft, with exports of $35 billion.


Without fast action to greatly expand our clean-tech industry, the United States will be left behind. As such, the Senate energy bill, at a minimum, needs to take aggressive action on the three following points:


First, institute national feed-in tariffs or a renewable portfolio standard — two ways to require that utilities buy clean energy in a minimum amount or at a certain price. Such standards have been effectively put into practice in several states, most notably in Texas with wind power, but only a federal program will provide the scale necessary to compete with China, which has a national feed-in tariff program of its own.


Second, establish a price on carbon via either a tax or a cap-and-trade program to encourage low-carbon technologies. The Clean Development Mechanism placed a price on carbon in developing countries, initiating thousands of emissions-reduction projects in China. Putting a price on carbon in the United States would provide an incentive for domestic developers to build similar projects here.


Finally, get serious about supporting the research and development of carbon capture and storage, and maintain America's lead in a field that offers enormous opportunity but is too large for any one company to finance. Coal is the No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the first country to develop economically viable capture-and-storage technology will dictate the terms for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired utilities globally.


China is busy turning the global challenge of climate change into a national opportunity, but it needs another decade to advance its technology to the point where superior manufacturing and lower costs will secure its dominance of the clean-tech sector. By giving China more time to develop its capacity while neglecting our own, America is not just losing the clean-tech race, it's forfeiting it.


Bruce Usher, an executive in residence at Columbia Business School, is the former chief executive of a company that operates emission reduction projects.









To think that an American citizen could become a terrorist plotting to blow up innocent people is horrifying. But the answer isn't to deny citizens their legal rights or strip future suspects — repeat: suspects — of their citizenship, as some lawmakers who ought to know better are suggesting.


Allowing the government to decide that certain citizens aren't entitled to constitutional protections would set a terrible precedent. Imagine, for example, what might have happened to Steven Hatfill, the Army scientist falsely suspected in the 2001 anthrax attacks.


America has plenty of tools to fight terrorism without trampling citizens' rights. They even appear to be working reasonably well. Yet, in the days since the arrest of alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen, a debate has erupted over eradicating his rights — and jeopardizing those of anyone else.


Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., said Shahzad should have been hauled before a military commission. Sorry, Rep. King, but under a 2006 law, only non-citizens can be tried before commissions.


Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., argued on Fox Newsthat Congress should look at amending the law to allow the U.S. to "automatically" deprive citizens who become affiliated with foreign terrorist groups of their citizenship, "when they are apprehended and charged with a terrorist act." Not convicted, mind you, but accused.


Lieberman has since backpedaled slightly, but he and other lawmakers introduced a measure Thursday to strip citizenship from those whom the State Department decides are affiliated with foreign terrorist organizations. That sets an awfully low threshold for such drastic action.


There are legitimate questions about how authorities handle terrorism suspects, particularly foreign suspects. But U.S. law already allows suspects, including citizens, to be questioned without being read Miranda rights when there's a possibility of a continuing threat to public safety. That tactic was used with Shahzad.


Throughout U.S. history, lawmakers and judges have struggled to strike the right balance between civil rights and security. That remains a difficult challenge today. What's easy is to mouth off about stripping rights from unpopular citizens.








More than eight years after the 9/11 plotters slipped through the nation's sloppy airport security, the government still hasn't fixed its system for keeping terrorists off planes.


This time the system worked — barely — because redundant protections have been built into it. But its primary component, the no-fly list so often in the news since it was created, failed again.


Authorities added Faisal Shahzad's name to the no-fly list around noon on Monday, but Emirates Airlines sold the Times Square bomb suspect a ticket to Dubai for cash at 7:35 p.m. As the flight was about to take off, a list of passengers, as required under security rules, was sent to another U.S. agency. It spotted Shahzad's name, stopped the plane, and alerted authorities to pick him up at New York's Kennedy International Airport.


It shouldn't have been such a close call, and on Tuesday, the Transportation Security Administration adopted a new procedure that requires airlines to electronically sync their passenger lists with the government's no-fly lists within two hours of an alert. Fine. But the sight of federal officials slapping Band-Aids onto the system after a failure is entirely too familiar.


The system has a fundamental flaw. The government still leaves it to airlines to check passengers against the no-fly list. A key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission was that the government take over that process. But inept handling of privacy issues, a glacial bureaucratic pace and other mistakes have preserved a status quo that repeatedly fails.


The Transportation Security Administration says its new Secure Flight system, which puts it in charge of matching names, is up and running for domestic airlines and will be for foreign airlines by the end of this year.


It's about time. The government can't keep counting on luck, and passengers shouldn't have to.






Many Americans are surprised to find out that a terror suspect is highly educated or from an affluent family or married or even a U.S. citizen. They shouldn't be.


Terrorism has never been just for the poor, disenfranchised and hopeless — though they are often its foot soldiers. Osama bin Laden came from one of the wealthiest families in Saudi Arabia. His No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, is a highly educated physician. One of two men who tried to blow up the Glasgow airport in 2007 is also a doctor.


Within the USA, the domestic terrorists in the 1960s and 1970s known as the Weathermen had their roots among well-off, well-educated college students.


Even something as mundane as father-son strife can help turn someone into a terrorist if the mental framework is right. Both Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square suspect, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, have prominent, successful fathers who disapproved of and overshadowed their sons. Shahzad's father denied him permission to go fight in Afghanistan. Abdulmutallab's father, a wealthy Nigerian businessman, so frowned on his son's radical activities that he reported him to U.S. authorities.


Both sons apparently found purpose in fundamentalist religious beliefs and the Muslim concept of jihad, not entirely unlike the way in which directionless Americans have joined quasi-religious movements such as Heaven's Gate (whose 39 members committed suicide in 1997) or the People's Temple (918 were killed or killed themselves in Guyana in 1978). Bin Laden's al-Qaeda is in many ways a medieval death cult.


Terrorist ideology reduces confusing complexities to easy truths, gives power to the powerless and insecure, and provides a sense of purpose and direction to those who have none. Money and education don't automatically convey immunity.


All this means that the war on terror isn't just military, diplomatic and financial. It is also psychological.








After 18 months with no direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, so-called proximity talks between intermediaries, rather than face-to-face meetings between the direct parties, are scheduled to begin this week. An announcement is anticipated shortly. These shuttle deliberations are expected to continue for four months with Arab League backing. They hold little hope.


Israel's governing coalition, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is unprepared to comply with international law and meet the minimum demands of Palestinian negotiators. Yes, last year, Netanyahu voiced support for a two-state solution, but he loaded it with so many caveats as to make it a meaningless commitment. He said no on a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, no on the return of Palestinian refugees to homes and land in Israel, no on crucial control over borders, no on essential dismantlement of settlements illegal under international law. And, in fact, Israel's Likud Central Committee, approximately 3,000 of the party's most active members, voted in 2002 — at Netanyahu's behest — never to permit a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. The vote still stands today.


These negotiations will not bring peace. The best outcome that can be hoped for is if they expose Netanyahu to American intermediaries as devoid of positive contributions to peace and intent solely on scuttling progress. Last month, Middle East envoy George Mitchell's deputy, David Hale, according to a Wall Street Journal story, informed Palestinian officials that the United States would consider allowing a United Nations Security Council resolution that censured a recalcitrant Israel intent on further settlement activity if Palestinians would return to talks.


If accurate, and the U.S. followed through, this would be a monumental moment as the U.S. has repeatedly vetoed Security Council resolutions directed at Israel, including efforts to stop the Har Homa settlement in occupied East Jerusalem undertaken in the 1990s under Netanyahu. An Obama administration willing to stand up to Israel could save the two-state solution. If not, however, the two-state solution could die on the Obama administration's watch and be replaced by a South Africa and apartheid reality that Israeli leaders such as Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak have warned against.


Then-Prime Minister Olmert declared in 2007: "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."


And, just weeks ago, Israeli Defense Minister Barak stated, "As long as between the Jordan and the sea there is only one political entity, named Israel, it will end up being either non-Jewish or non-democratic. ... If the Palestinians vote in elections, it is a binational state, and if they don't, it is an apartheid state."


These are damning words. And they are spoken at the highest levels of Israeli government. Palestinians have long expressed similar reservations, but only recently has the reality trickled into Israeli discourse, and it is still finding its way to the United States. High-level American officials are now grappling with the reality that if the two-state solution fails to take root during Obama's tenure that we will be left with apartheid. The burgeoning non-violent Palestinian struggle against the wall and occupation my colleagues and I are organizing might yet transform into a civil rights struggle capable of rivaling movements last seen in the Jim Crow South and apartheid South Africa.


Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a member of the governing Likud Party, which has long pursued policies that subjugate Palestinians, is one of the few Israeli leaders to say a binational outcome is acceptable. "I would," he recently said, "rather (have) Palestinians as citizens of this country over dividing the land up." Regardless of his motivation, for Rivlin to reach this point highlights the inner crisis within Likud. Palestinian steadfastness and global solidarity are forcing Israel to choose: two states, apartheid, or democracy in one undivided state.


Although I continue to back two states, I believe the vast majority of Palestinians would accept equal rights and one person, one vote in one state with alacrity. I certainly would were we to reach such a day.


But the political reality in Israel is otherwise. My equal rights are anathema to the vast majority of Israeli political leaders who deem any such offer "political suicide."


Yet the extension of equal rights to me in two states — or one — is not a doomsday scenario for Israeli Jews. No solution, however, will be acceptable to Palestinians that does not provide us with full rights and freedom. We will not accept a two-state solution that more closely resembles a state of Israel and a series of South Africa-like Bantustans set aside for Palestinians. Black South Africans rejected such proposals — and were backed in their struggle by much of the international community — and so, too, will we.


The goal of negotiators must be a viable Palestinian state based on the 1949 armistice lines with its capital in East Jerusalem; Palestinian control over borders, airspace and seaports; a connector between Gaza and the West Bank; and a just resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue that resolves the plight of the more than 700,000 Palestinians expelled 62 years ago by Israel and never allowed to return.


Israel has a fateful decision before it: Comply with international law and achieve a just two-state solution, or reject the logic of peace and face a determined non-violent movement against apartheid that will spread from the West Bank to Gaza to within Israel itself. When this reality becomes more widely known, Americans will, I believe, begin to question backing an Israeli ally subjecting a majority people to a discriminatory standard of law.


One set of laws for Jews and one set for Palestinians is intolerable in the 21st century. American funding for Israel to perpetrate this mockery of democracy is, I have found in my speaking engagements here, already unsettling U.S. taxpayers. While we pursue non-violent resistance to Israeli expansionism in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, American military aid to Israel destabilizes the region and endangers Palestinians daring to protest an occupation that attempts to reduce us to an inferior status. Much as in apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow American South, such discrimination is increasingly rankling concerned people around the world. Problematically, these latest talks seem ill-equipped to address this central concern.


Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.









As we observe Mother's Day Sunday, most offspring of most ages probably agree that their mom's value is priceless, or was if she's no longer around.


But an interesting annual money value on a mother's work is compiled by an organization of financial experts called They distinguish between "working" moms and "stay-at-home" moms. Their 2010 figures released this week are:


•Stay-at-home moms: $117,856 a year. The group estimates they work 98.9 hours a week.


•Working moms: $72,000 a year, in addition to their paying jobs. It estimates they also work 60.5 hours a week at home.


Latest Census figures (2009) show that most mothers across the USA with minor children have outside work. Last year, there were 5.1 million strictly stay-at-home moms and 23.6 million with paying jobs outside.


My mom, Christina, was a working mother by necessity. My father, Daniel, died when I was 2 years old; my brother Walter was 8.


My dad left mom and us with a small paid-for family house that he built himself with help from his father and a brother in Eureka, S.D. Also, a few hundred dollars in the bank that he earned on the farm before the accident that led to his death.


So my mom had to find work. During the Depression days of the 1930s, she washed dishes for $1 a day at the local cafe. She also took in other people's laundry to wash and iron at night. Some weeks she earned as much as $15.


She also kept house, cooked and played cop for us kids. We didn't realize it at the time, but she instilled a hard-work ethic in us.


She died in 1979 at age 86. But she'll never be forgotten. Like many or most moms, she really was priceless.







San Jose Mercury News, in an editorial: "The thwarted bomb attack on Times Square, chilling as it was, should also inspire some resurgence of national pride. The vigilance of two street vendors prevented disaster, and the aggressive response of law enforcement led to the arrest of an American suspect who has apparently confessed. Pakistan, too, has detained several people who may have been involved in plotting the bombing. ... Sometimes it feels as if Americans are under siege with intractable problems that befuddle an ineffective government. But that is not the evidence here. The system worked."


(New York) Daily News, in an editorial: "The FBI surely would have placed a GPS tracking device on (Faisal) Shahzad's vehicle had doing so been feasible. ... But here in New York, the law would have barred the NYPD from applying the technique. ... Similarly nuts is that Congress has refused to ban individuals who are on the government's terror watch lists from buying guns. According to ... the Government Accountability Office, watch-listed suspects bought guns or explosives from licensed dealers 1,119 times between 2004 and 2010. ... We're zigging and zagging and taking survival for granted, while the enemy is coming straight at us, full speed ahead."


Joan Vennochi, columnist, in The Boston Globe: "Americans can handle the truth. But when it comes to terrorist acts on American soil, government officials are reluctant to give it to us straight from the start. ... It was likely a 'lone wolf' operation, suggested Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, or, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speculated, 'somebody with a political agenda who doesn't like the health care bill or something.' ... Nine years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 ... the average citizen gets it. Some Muslim extremists want to kill Americans and will keep on trying. ... It's the first thought that registers when a bomb is placed in cars, shoes, or underwear by someone described as Muslim. What's so terrible about acknowledging that link? ... The 'lone wolf' theory does not make a terrorist attack any less terrifying than one connected to an official pack of wolves — especially if the lone wolf is inspired by the same pack mentality."


Steve Chapman, columnist, Chicago Tribune: "New York City has thousands of police surveillance cameras. ... After the car bomb attempt last weekend, they captured an image of the vehicle driving through Times Square and one of a guy taking off his shirt who looked nothing like the guy arrested Monday. ... What good are cameras? The debate over them is often framed as hardheaded law enforcement types vs. wimpy civil libertarians. Whether the cameras actually work ... generally gets ignored. It shouldn't. ... Installing, maintaining and monitoring thousands of these devices ... costs millions of dollars. ... That money could be spent on beat cops, patrol cars, forensic equipment, jail cells, you name it. "


The Star-Ledger, Newark, in an editorial: "Sooner or later, one of these wacko wannabe terrorists ... will probably succeed. ... For now, we can give thanks that we dodged disaster because another menacing mental midget loaded a vehicle with propane and gasoline, fertilizer and firecrackers ... but didn't know what any sixth-grade, C-minus science student knows: how to make it go 'Boom!' ... So while we try to strike a balance between being paranoid and guarded ... we must remain vigilant. Because we can't keep betting on ineptitude."








(Editor's note: Before her death on March 22, the author, Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson, submitted this article.)


On Mother's Day each year, I reflect on how lucky I was to have Tennie Davis as a mama. I suspect her name came from her home state of Tennessee. One day in 1908, when I was 4 years old, I was standing outside our house in Dallas and noticed that the bedroom curtains had been closed. My 23-year-old mother, Annie Dawson, was dead from tuberculosis. I was no longer anybody's child. My grandparents couldn't support me, and I never met my father.


The next-door neighbors, Moody and Tennie Davis, decided to take me into their home — and their hearts. The Davises, whose two grown children no longer lived with them, embraced me as their own. Neither could read nor write, but Moody made a living as a butcher. They did the best they could describing to me their background and their place in the world. That was fine with me. I needed a home, and I needed people who would teach me by example more than by words.


Tennie did not require material things in order to value herself. She practiced her religion every day, teaching me that God created everyone in his image, and that I should respect all as I respected him. She said I should never blame other people for my own problems. Though Tennie was a Baptist, she never said, "You've got to go to my church." Early on, I was shown the difference between expressing a view or adhering to a faith, and saying "my view or no view."


In 1921, I left home to study at Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville. After that, I never saw Tennie Davis again. She died during my sophomore year, and I couldn't afford to travel to her funeral. I was greatly saddened by her death. Before I left for school, she had confided to me that she had always been afraid I would leave her and go back to my mother's kin. At the time, I thought how sad it was that she didn't realize how I had come to view her as my mama. Her compassion taught me kindness. I have always tried to live by Mama's lessons. I have prayed regularly that I will be as compassionate as Mama was.


Values imparted in my early years by Tennie have stayed with me. I hope I am remembered as someone who helped others when they needed it. And I hope the people who love me will carry on that legacy.


Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson wrote her memoir, along with Patricia Mulcahy, It is Well With My Soul: The Extraordinary Life of a 106-Year-Old-Woman.











Chattanooga has been enjoying a beautiful, mild, green and energizing spring. But sadly, many of our Tennessee neighbors have been suffering varied ravages of nature.


In parts of Tennessee tornadoes have struck.


And excessive rain has swollen many Tennessee streams destructively out of their banks, especially around Nashville.


More than 13 inches of rain in a short period was more than the Cumberland River could hold. Compared with Chattanooga's broad Tennessee River, the Cumberland may ordinarily seem like just a big creek. But heavy rainfall has caused flooding and expensive damage over extensive residential and business areas.


Damage running higher than $1 billion has driven a reported 140 Middle Tennessee families from their homes. Great loss has occurred amid the big Gaylord Opryland Resort's facilities, famed for the Grand Ole Opry. The full scope of the destructive flooding cannot even be assessed until the deep water recedes.


Meanwhile, in Chattanooga, plentiful -- but not excessive -- rain seems to have encouraged more than usual lush spring greenery, accompanied by seasonal temperatures that have been neither too high nor too low.


Our local mountains and ridges are clothed with beautiful foliage, and our Tennessee River and local creeks have been full but generally not threatening.


We are enjoying a fine Chattanooga spring, as we lament the troubles that other Tennesseans have suffered as a result of weather excesses in our changing seasons.







The President's Cancer Panel is the pre-eminent group of its type in the United States. When it issues a report, the nation should study it carefully and then heed the advice offered by the well-schooled experts who serve on the panel. That's particularly true this year.


In report released Thursday, the committee said Americans are at "grievous" risk from largely unregulated chemicals in air, food and water. The emphasis on environmental risks was clearly intentional.


"With the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented through appropriate national action," the panel reported. In other words, current federal laws governing chemicals are so weak that they allow exposure to substances dangerous to health.


The panel's antidote is simple: Revise the nation's current body of law governing chemicals. Doing so won't be easy. Earlier efforts to do so have failed, in part because of extensive lobbying by the chemical industry and in part because most people, perhaps unaware of the risks chemicals pose, have not made the issue a priority with their elected representatives.


The panel's report on environmental cancer risks -- they're especially problemsome for children and developing fetuses -- should change that. It also should bring renewed and deserved attention to a bill filed recently by New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg that would require manufacturers to prove the safety of a new chemical before it can be used and to provide safety data for chemicals already in use. The panel rightfully called the bill a good start in addressing the environmental cancer problem. The legislation should be approved.


Even if the bill is fast-tracked, the panel's recommendations will take time to implement. In the meantime, the group recommends the following to lessen one's cancer risks.


* Removing shoes before entering the home to avoid tracking in toxic chemicals such as pesticides.


* Filtering tap water.


* Using stainless steel, glass or BPA-free plastic water bottles.


* Using ceramic or glass instead of plastic containers in the microwave.


* Minimizing consumption of food grown with pesticides and meat raised with antibiotics and growth hormone.


* Reducing radiation from X-rays and other medical sources.


The suggestions are useful, and easy to implement. They cost little but could bring a big reward in terms of saved lives and improved national health.







Chattanooga today continues its fine tradition of honoring the men and women who are serving and have served in the armed forces of our nation.


We fervently wish that there were no necessity today for American troops to be facing great dangers in hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and standing guard on land, in the air and on the sea throughout the world. But reality imposes upon us a great necessity. We give thanks for our men and women in military service who do challenging duty to protect our interests throughout the world.


Chattanooga's Armed Forces Day observance, of which National Guard Brig. Gen. Carl Levi is the volunteer chairman, will feature Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick D. West of Rising Fawn, Ga., as the speaker at the Armed Forces luncheon at the Convention Center.


We salute all of our men and women who honor us by serving us throughout the world in the military forces of our great nation.







What sometimes causes "big turnouts" of voters in our elections?


Maybe the biggest voter motivation is dissatisfaction, even anger, over high taxes, or complaints about "the way things are going." Sometimes voters are stirred to "throw the scoundrels out."


But does voter complacency reflect a mood that "things are generally going OK"?


Whatever the reasons, local citizens this week were not much interested in voting. Only slightly more than 8 percent of the qualified Hamilton County voters "bothered" to go to the polls last Tuesday.


Those who voted kept some familiar officials in office, rejected others and took on some new ones. But "ho-hum" seemed to be the dominant attitude.


Most local citizens seemed to think that we don't have "bad" local government, or prospects for much better. So citizen participation in casting ballots was small.


We insist on "participatory democracy" that "lets the people be heard," even if we don't participate or have much to say.


We hope all local officials elected this week by few voters will do a good job and keep most of us "happy."


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If ever there has been a federal subsidy that ought to be abandoned -- along with other wasteful, unconstitutional subsidies -- it is the subsidy for corn-based ethanol.


The federal government uses your tax dollars to pay producers 45 cents for every gallon of ethanol they make. Then it requires that a certain percentage of our nation's fuel be made up of ethanol. That's why you see notices on gas pumps stating that part of the fuel is ethanol.


But the cost does not end with taxpayer subsidies. Ethanol also raises food costs because it diverts so much corn from food production to fuel production. The reduced corn supply drives up the prices of foods ranging from corn-fed beef to products made with corn syrup.


Ethanol also reduces gas mileage and harms engines -- yet lobbyists are trying to increase the amount of ethanol that would be blended with gasoline to go in your tank!


Why does Congress force all those negative consequences on the American people? Well, farm state lawmakers have a lot of pull and can buy votes back home by approving and extending ethanol subsidies.


Unfortunately, President Barack Obama recently assured farm states that the rest of America will remain on the hook for the subsidies. On a swing through the Midwest, he "reaffirmed the goal of tripling U.S. ethanol production in 12 years ...," The Associated Press reported.


The only way that can be accomplished is by continuing taxpayer-provided subsidies that artificially reduce the price of ethanol-blended fuel at the gas pump. The American people would reject ethanol if they had to pay its full price at the service station.


It's sad that many people don't realize they have already paid full price -- and then some -- in taxes, higher food prices, lower mileage and engine damage.


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The Obama administration has said that its goal is a world without nuclear weapons -- a goal repeated recently by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a speech about Iran's aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons.


Considering the huge destructive potential of nukes, it is understandable why a person might long for nuclear weapons not to exist at all. But that is not facing reality.


The "genie cannot be put back in the bottle," and the technology to build nuclear weapons cannot just disappear.


It is also useless to hope that the U.N. or any other international body can monitor the nations of the world well enough to ensure all nuclear weapons will be dismantled and new ones will not be built.


Think of the heavy scrutiny that Communist North Korea has been under because of concerns about its nuclear intentions. Despite intense opposition from the watchful "international community," North Korea has built nukes anyway. Demands for "inspections" couldn't stop that.


But as bad as that is, imagine how much worse it would be if a belligerent nation or a terrorist group had nuclear weapons and the United States had no nukes as a deterrent against any serious national or terrorist threats.


Nuclear weapons are a fact of our modern world. Disarming the United States in the vain and foolish hope that we could ensure other countries would abandon nukes would be very unrealistic and very dangerous.









The TV commercial for perfume featured a woman in a bikini, sunbathing aboard a yacht and kissing a man in a swimsuit. There was nothing unusual about the ad. There was nothing different than any other cheap, clichéd commercial whose main goal is to tell lower-IQ viewers that by using the featured product, they will be attractive to the opposite sex. Watching it, one could merely smile at the pathetic "theming" or feel distaste.


But the broadcasting watchdog, the Supreme Board of Radio and Television, or RTÜK, felt something else. It warned the TV channel that broadcast the commercial that the kissing scene "forced the limits of obscenity." It also reminded the TV station of an article in the broadcasting law: Scenes that may hinder the physical and mental growth of minors shall not be broadcast.


Two adults kissing on a yacht deck had been deemed to "hinder the physical and mental growth of minors." That probably explains why in the West there are hundreds of millions of people whose physical and mental growth has been hindered. Poor Westerners, they need their own RTÜK immediately if they don't want to have future generations with incomplete physical and mental growth!


I am not going to go into unnecessary details as to which political party controls the RTÜK presidency and its board. But we must recall that RTÜK's former president, Zahit Akman, a "pious man," is a suspect in the Deniz Feneri case, possibly Germany's largest-ever charity scandal in which of other "pious" men siphoned off millions of euros worth of charity money.


Mr. Akman also had to acknowledge, in the face of irrefutable proof, that he had corrupted an official document regarding his legal status in Germany. Recently, Mr. Akman, along with RTÜK's incumbent president, Davut Dursun, another "pious" man, were sentenced by a Turkish court to a 30-month suspended prison term for "abuse of authority."


This is a good case telling us where the Turkish conservative mind finds the true moral values of our country. Kissing is against our moral and family values. Siphoning off charity money, corrupting official documents, and abuse of authority are not.


In another reflection of the same thinking, the state minister for families and women, Selma Aliye Kavaf, who is now famous for her spectacular diagnosis of homosexuality as a "disease," complained of "kissing scenes" on TV, especially in some soap operas. Fortunately she did not prescribe any medication or a national health campaign to wipe off that "disease" from our noble country, but we know from a recent interview that she is absolutely annoyed by kissing scenes because "they are against our moral and family values." Oh, the same values again!


Interestingly, Mrs. Kavaf also said her favorite soap opera is the famous "Valley of the Wolves" (Kurtlar Vadisi in Turkish), the ultra-nationalistic and popular series that features all kinds of mob activity, violence and an assortment of conspiracy theories that are usually anti-American and anti-Israeli. There were cases in the past that minors, later admitting they had been inspired by the "Valley of the Wolves," took up their fathers' guns and shot friends.


More recently, two police officers volunteered to escort Necati Sasmaz, the main character of the series, because they were his fans. Before that a drug baron arrested in Bursa claimed that he was inspired by "Polat Alemdar," Mr. Sasmaz in the series. And before that the police found a huge-sized poster of Mr. Sasmaz hanging in the home of someone who had shot a lawyer.


And before that, a youth who stabbed a priest in İzmir testified to the court that he "wanted to be like Polat Alemdar." In 2006, a survey among 17,850 high school students revealed that their "idol" was Alemdar. The same year someone who riddled a rival café with bullets from an automatic gun testified to police that he had been inspired by Alemdar. And in 2005, a 16-year-old student killed his friend by burying him alive, confessing that he had been inspired by a scene in the "Valley of the Wolves."


Judging from Minister Kavaf's personal preferences of films and her "Nobel Medicine Prize-deserving diagnosis on homosexuality" we can safely conclude that kissing and homosexuality are against our moral and family values but every other criminality depicted in the "Valley of the Wolves" are not.


Minister Kavaf should perhaps devote less time to the "Valley of the Wolves" and more to her office as she has a difficult job to do. Some of the challenges she must tackle are apparently deeply rooted in our moral and family values. According to a recent survey, domestic violence exists in a third of Turkish families, and verbal violence in 53 percent of them. Meanwhile, 37.4 percent of Turks said they approved of "honor killings."


Since Mrs. Kavaf is responsible for family and women, she may wish to have a look at government employment statistics too, to better understand where we and our great moral values stand in gender equality. According to the daily Hürriyet, although women account for 34 percent of the entire public workforce, only 6.9 percent of the 8,284 executive positions are occupied by women. All 20 undersecretaries and 77 of the 79 deputy undersecretaries are men.


Sadly, I haven't heard anyone complaining that the inequality in government jobs against women was against our moral values







If Deniz Gezmiş were alive today, he would be 63. While "what if?" speculation is ultimately an empty exercise, it is still interesting to consider what might have been. Would he, like one contemporary, the radical American socialist Angela Davis, have gone on to become a university professor? Might he, like another contemporary, radical Daniel Cohn-Bendit who today sits as a member of the European Parliament, have become a politician?


The analogies that can be made between the three are many, including both their fascinations with the leftist ideologies that were the zeitgeist of the 1960s and their association with the threat of violence. Gezmiş robbed a bank and took four American soldiers hostage, later to release them. A comparison could yield the argument that Gezmiş carried the least criminal culpability of any of the three. Davis was acquitted of conspiracy to commit homicide, but she did buy the gun that killed a judge in a hostage-taking. Cohn-Bendit has escaped charges in a German terrorism investigation only because of the immunity provided by his parliamentary post.


But Gezmiş had the misfortune to be a citizen of the least democratic of the three radicals' countries. He was hanged on May 6, 1972, along with fellow prisoners Hüseyin İnan and Yusuf Aslan. The crime of which he was convicted was "seeking to overthrow the constitutional order." It is worth noting in retrospect that two late politicians opposed the sentence. İsmet İnönü, compared in recent days by the current prime minister to Adolf Hitler was one of them; the other was Bülent Ecevit. But the Parliament of the day approved the sentence; among those supporting the hanging was Süleyman Demirel who went on to become president and is today Turkey's most-respected elder statesman.


We mention this on the day we report elsewhere the events commemorating the death of Gezmiş and his friends only as a means to encourage a bit of reflection on how far Turkish democracy has come, and how far it yet must go. Much has been accomplished, notably including elimination of the death penalty. The state now broadcasts in Kurdish, this newspaper routinely prints things that would have caused its shuttering in Gezmiş' day.


But a critical ingredient of democracy eludes us. For more than a decade, opportunities to rewrite a junta-written Constitution have been squandered. Even as Parliament nears final approval of comprehensive reform, the process is tainted by an atmosphere of score-settling that will rob reform of legitimacy. Secret balloting in Parliament, as we report today, has been violated by internal witch hunts against deputies who may have strayed from the party line. And so much more.


Yes, Turkish democracy has progressed greatly since May 6, 1972. But we still have very far to go. Were he alive today, we are confident Gezmiş would agree









It has become standard fare for EU officials to say the reform process in Turkey has stalled, and that if things continue as they are, there will be no chapters left to negotiate for membership.


In fact, there are eight chapters that can be put in the pipeline immediately if the EU honors its word to the Turkish Cypriots and allows direct international trade with northern Cyprus.


It is clear Ankara will lift its blockage against Greek Cypriot ships at its ports overnight as a result of this. But it suits the EU to not do so and throw the ball at Turkey – as if all that has happened on Cyprus since 2004 never happened – and Ankara will clearly have nothing to do with this.


In fact, if there is one thing that has turned many Turks against the EU, it is this situation over Cyprus. Therefore it does seem as if Turkish-EU affairs are coming to some kind of a head, mostly, but not exclusively, because of the Cyprus issue. The assumption is that once this has happened, Turkey's reform process will end.


Looking around though, one can hardly find one's way through the maze of momentous events occurring, which are transforming the country and society in hitherto unthinkable ways. Almost every day, for example, we read a new commentary in the West on how the Turkish military "has had its wings clipped" in a "bloodless civil war."


It is true, for example, that in addition to senior soldiers being arrested for allegedly trying to topple the government by undemocratic and illegal means, people have started questioning why the armed forces are losing so many ordinary soldiers to attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in remote outposts.


Previously one simply did not question such things lest one be accused of "discouraging soldiers in the fight against terrorism." One could even be tried and jailed over this. But now, following one raid after another against an outpost, leaving no less than 316 soldiers dead since 1985, many are openly saying that there is something wrong in all this.


Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ may have angrily referred to as "traitors" those questioning – after the latest deadly PKK attacks – whether there is sufficient burden-sharing in the military, or whether there was some kind of negligence involved in terms of the soldiers posted at these outposts.


But the public unease over this question forced President Abdullah Gül to seek information from Başbuğ earlier this week, in order to get to the bottom of why the necessary precautions had not been taken at these outposts, given that some of them have been attacked repeatedly over the years.


Then there are the constitutional changes that are creating such an uproar in domestic politics, but which nevertheless passed in Parliament this week, with one noticeable – yet crucial – exception, namely the article on party closures.


So while the technical reform process crucial for advancing the Turkey-EU negotiations may have stalled, it is hard to deny that there is major change underway in the country. Many European diplomats believe that it is the EU perspective that has opened the way for this change. This is true to a certain extent.


It is, however, not hard to see that it is Turkey's own sociological and political dynamics that are the main driving force behind the change. For example, the EU would have been pleased to see the article making it hard to close down political parties pass this week.


It failed to do so, however, showing that Europe's influence takes second place in the face of domestic political forces. Put another way, the changes underway in Turkey are being forced from below and not from above. One could also contend that this overall situation would have been the same, regardless of which government is in power.


This is true to a large extent as evidenced by the fact that the reform process, including issues of crucial importance to Europe at the time, such as the total abolition of the death penalty, started under the previous coalition government led by the late Bülent Ecevit.

As for the major economic reforms that are ensuring we are in better shape than a significant number of EU countries today, that particular process started in 2001 and was spearheaded by the International Monetary Fund, and not the EU. The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, therefore found a ready-made situation when it came to power, which it was then able to take further, to its credit.


There are many such examples that can be cited here, but suffice it to say that while the "reform process" as understood in the EU may have stalled, the process of momentous change resulting from Turkey's own social, political and economic needs is continuing apace.


The crucial question, therefore, is this: Should the EU perspective come to a standstill because of issues such as Cyprus and the unilateral French blockage of five chapters in the membership talks? Will this mean that the process of change in Turkey also stops?


To suggest that it will is to have little knowledge of modern Turkish history, which has been, and continues to be, turbulent, but which has always been characterized by change that – despite all the difficulties – has been driven by pressure from below.


This is why a "Kurdish opening" or an "Alevi opening" is possible, while there is still no major opening for the Christian minority on issues such as minority trusts and foundations, or the seminary in Halki that the EU is avidly awaiting.


The EU, of course, still provides a crucial locomotive force here, and our intention is not to belittle this in any way. We believe this perspective should be maintained no matter what happens in Europe. But it is becoming more and more apparent that it can not be made the "be all and end all" for Turkey.


Besides, there are major events taking place in Europe that are forcing Turks to have a much better understanding of what the EU is and how it has fared at crucial moments over these past two decades. As we have said before, Turkey's membership talks may be "open-ended" as the Germans insist on saying, meaning that they may not result in membership.


The fact is, however, that it seems the whole "EU project" itself appears more and more to be "open-ended," with few being able to say where the union will be 10 years from now. It is therefore logical for Turkey not to put all its eggs in the EU basket anymore, while still continuing with the membership talks, while maintaining its own reform process according to the actual dynamics and needs of the country.







Entrepreneurship isn't just for the young. You can start a business at any age. Yet many older adults struggle to overcome a major obstacle – which is that they know too much. When "knowing too much" means accurately understanding the nuances of a market, it's a good thing. But when "knowing too much" means knowing too much of the wrong thing, or accepting a conventional wisdom that's sometimes wrong, it gets in the way.


Take the conventional wisdom that in order to be successful, a business needs to execute a well-planned, long-term strategy. After a few years having that drilled into their heads, people stop questioning the idea. They figure it must be a law of nature, and over time they get used to a rigid, carefully-planned corporate culture. Anything else is considered foolish and irresponsible. Eventually, after years of living and breathing this dogma, people have a hard time imagining a world where the details are unknown, and where the eagerness to experiment is high.


What they forget is that minute planning and preparation is not a necessary part of all human organizations. In fact, when we are young, we are more comfortable with a relatively unplanned, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style of living and working. When we are young, "spontaneous" is not such a bad word.


Recently I ran across an interesting Harvard University article about IKEA. IKEA is a successful company, right? They're a household name all over the world, they're a well-respected organization, and they make lots of money. This Harvard article pointed out that IKEA acts very differently, not at all like the more conventional companies that are obsessed with executing a well-planned, long-term strategy. The article called IKEA's method "logical incrementalism."


Simply put, logical incrementalism says you don't always have to plan everything. You can follow your instincts, and base your actions on the circumstances immediately surrounding you. Logical incrementalism is about achieving an organization's goals by making smaller decisions and taking smaller steps, as opposed to the complex approach and bigger leaps of long-term strategic planning.


It turns out that IKEA has been using logical incrementalism since its very first store opened for business. IKEA's founder, Ingvar Kamprad, had a strong but very general vision. From that, IKEA's strategy gradually took shape as Kamprad both proactively took action and reactively adapted to the situation as it unfolded. Even the decision to sell furniture was an adaptation to the market, not a deliberate strategy.


Because of this "short-term agnosticism," whenever the company stumbled across an obstacle, it could quickly turn the obstacle into an opportunity. In a business world that preaches the virtues of seeing into the future everyday, strategizing well and sticking to plans, I find IKEA's approach incredibly refreshing. It reminds us that a business can succeed without predicting the future and wasting time writing thick strategy roadmaps that are obsolete before they even leave the printing press.


It's important to keep in mind that logical incrementalism does not mean changing course whenever the wind shifts. Perhaps even more so than the minutely-planned organization, organizations that use logical incrementalism rely on having a unified, strong, and clear vision. Everyone in the company needs to know where the ship is ultimately headed, even if its short-term direction is unclear. If some of your people are confused, your entire organization will flail.


All too many corporate professionals have bought into the myth that the only way to succeed is to set complicated strategies and plan for every contingency. Those people need to be reminded that that is not the only way to do it right. Large, well-known and highly-envied companies like IKEA have shown there is another way. And if there are successful companies that prove the conventional wisdom can be wrong, perhaps we should stop allowing it to create the fear that holds us back from our entrepreneurial dreams.










What happened last Monday in Parliament? What kind of an experience was it? What's the matter with 12 bad men of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, who, through their votes, managed to drop an article in the constitutional amendment package which is critically important for the future of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his party? The dropped offer was about making political party closures difficult.


According to pro-AKP media groups, there are pro-Ergenekon people in the party's parliamentary group who were put on alert before the voting for this critical article! They did their best and the article was dropped. But how could the pro-AKP media explain why the pro-Ergenekon people inside the party failed to drop another article seeking structural changes to the Constitutional Court?


Can you believe this?


It is impossible to explain the 12 bad men's motive by a single political parameter.


The "usual suspects" might have been acted upon either center-rightist reflexes or Erdoğan's reactions… Apparently they said "No" in the voting for the high court article. What about the "mysterious"? They said "Yes" two days ago.


Is it possible to mull over the behaviors of the "mysterious" without considering Erdoğan's presidential system move; the move that has made so many politicians enemy of each other?


Whose future is being threatened by dropping the article on party closures? And whose future is getting brighter with the very same? Who is getting more powerful by the approval of the article on the high court?


The pro-Ergenekon circles, nationalists, tears… Are they sufficient to explain what has been going on since Monday?


Mystery, indeed…








For a long time, particularly since the start of the "Ergenekon" thriller series and the Erzincan-Erzurum "tragicomedy of errors," many people in this country were convinced that while the military coup era has come to an end, a civilian coup was in the making through a salami tactic, or very much like in that famous boiling frog anecdote.


According to the boiling frog anecdote, if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out immediately and thus escape death. However if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.


Indeed, the "transformation" in Turkey under the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, a party with Islamist background, from the firmly secular and democratic republic anchored firmly with the West, to a new Turkey, still somehow democratic, superficially secular, and definitely not Western, has been done with great skill and patience. It has been done very slowly, in bits and pieces but definitely systematically that, after so many years, the nation is still having serious difficulty in waking up to the reality that nepotism and Islamist autocracy are being gradually consolidated at the expense of secular and democratic governance; the AKP rule has been scratching away the Turks' sense of national identity, while infusing a strong sense of Muslim nationalism into Turkish society instead.


Such fears were indeed raised by dear friend Soner Çağaptay in an article published in the prestigious Wall Street Journal back in August 2006, almost a year before the 2007 elections.


Now, for the past two days, Turkey is debating once again an article published in the Wall Street Journal. In the article by Marc Champion it was stressed in all clarity once again that "A bloodless civil war is splitting this pivotal Muslim nation on Europe's fringe, pitting the old secular establishment against the country's Islamic-leaning government and its supporters."


Obviously, the Ergenekon "process" as well as the Erzurum-Erzincan "tragicomedy" and other revanchist campaigns undertaken by the AKP governance to "cleanse the intestines of Turkey" from the "founding philosophy" of the modern Turkish republic are all parts of a civilian coup which will reach yet another important target with the president signing and sending to a national referendum the constitutional amendments [that were slated to be completed late last night] which include two important articles ordaining the government the power to effectively influence, if not directly control, the decisions of the Constitutional Court, and the Judges and Prosecutors High Board, or HSYK, which decides on appointments, displacement, promotion as well as disciplinary punishment of judges and prosecutors serving at lower courts.


It might be difficult to realize while living through a process what indeed might be taking place. Yet, the AKP has never done anything so discreetly. To be honest, the AKP governance announced each and every time what its intentions were before undertaking a move. For example, when the issue of taking down from 120 days to 60 days the waiting period between the referendum decision being taken and actually going to the booths for a vote, the AKP spokesmen clearly stated that "This is a requirement of Turkey's interests. 120 days is a very long waiting period. We are thinking of national interests. There are no plans to go to a referendum… We do not foresee a constitutional amendment through referendum."


A month after the referendum law was amended came the constitutional amendment package with a stern warning from Erdoğan that should the opposition parties did not announce in three days their decision to cooperate with the AKP, risking a referendum the AKP would go ahead with the package on its own parliamentary strength.


Now, what's next in the pipeline in AKP's civilian coup program is almost crystal clear. Once the current package is approved in a national referendum later this summer, the country will start discussing the merits of moving from the multi-party parliamentary governance to a presidential system. Most probably, the AKP will build its 2011 election campaign on the need for Turkey to write a totally new constitution and move to a presidential governance in August 2012 when it elects a new president.


Then? That is clear as well. Erdoğan has said 2011 elections will be the last elections he would enter as party leader. Is not the message clear? In 2012 he will be the AKP candidate for the presidency in the first-ever public vote to elect the president.


This is a story of Turkey cooked like a frog…








The 65th anniversary of the victory against fascism is a good reason to mark the tragic events that led to the greatest global disaster of the 20th century and to perceive the causes which led to the Second World War and to contemplate its lessons.


It is also a chance to honor the feats of the winners, to bow one's head in memory of the dozens of soldiers and officers of the anti-Hitler coalition, civilians – women, children and elder people, killed by bombs and tortured in concentration camps – and the people of different religions, ethnicities, political thoughts and views that were lost in the war.


World War II brought unspeakable pain and sufferings to the people of Europe and the whole world. In the countries affected by the war nobody was left far from the consequences of the military actions and occupation.


The victory in the struggle against Nazism took a lot of efforts. The war that involved 72 states, killed more than 55 million people – 27 million of who were Soviet citizens – caused colossal material harm and damages.


The upcoming 65th anniversary celebration of the victory has a symbolic significance. For many, especially the veterans, this is a very personal holiday, but the veterans, unfortunately, are leaving us, but their memory remains – an eternal memory of those who perished defending their fatherland from the plague of the 20th century.


And there also remain the lessons which the world community have drawn from the events of more than half a century ago, but which have not lost their relevance today. In discussing this theme, we also bear considerable moral responsibility to those who paid with their lives for the defeat of Nazism and to new generations learning about the war from textbooks and films.


World War II was indeed an epochal event. It was not only a global battle that exceeded in scale all previous armed conflicts in world history. There collided in it not merely the different interests of states and even not so much different ideologies, but the diametrically opposed, irreconcilable approaches to the very bases of mankind's existence. For the first time in history, the stake in this struggle was the preservation of the life of whole peoples. The gas chambers and crematoria of Oswiencim, or Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Salaspils and other death camps demonstrated what fascism carried with it, what future its so-called "new order" had in store for the world. And those who in some countries today question both the significance of the victory and the role of the USSR in it are forgetting that, without the Soviet Union, these countries might not have been on the map.


As Winston Churchill wrote: "It was the Russian army who tore the guts out of the German war machine."


The great victory is indivisible


We did not divide the victory into percentages in 1945 and we don't divide it now. Together with our allies, we mark the 65th anniversary of the opening of the second front, together we shall celebrate the Jubilee of Victory in Moscow. All the allies of the anti-Hitler coalition won the Second World War. It was our common victory.


The main outcome of the war is not just the victory of one coalition of states against the other. In essence, it is the victory of the forces of construction and civilization over the forces of destruction and barbarity, the victory of life over death.


The war turned into the greatest tragedy for the peoples of Europe and the world, regardless of whose side their states fought on. Not a single family, not a single life story was untouched by its consequences.


The creation of the anti-Hitler coalition may rightfully be called the biggest diplomatic breakthrough of its time. The coalition became an example of the rallying of states of different ideologies and political systems in the face of a common mortal danger. Today, 65 years on, there is no need to simplify or embellish history. Each of the anti-Hitler coalition states pursued its aims, had its own national interests. The participants of the coalition succeeded in rising above their differences and putting aside all that was secondary for the sake of achieving a common victory as their principal task.


The experience of the international brotherhood in arms during the war years is assuming particular significance in the conditions when a global challenge has again been thrown down to humanity, this time by international terrorism, which is no less dangerous and cunning and no less merciless: thousands of innocent people have already become its victims. The foundations of civilization have again turned out to be in jeopardy.


Terrorism has nothing to offer the world but violence and scorn for human life. It is prepared to trample upon the most elementary norms of human morality for the achievement of its maniacal aims.


To cope with this kind of threat, just as 65 years ago, is only possible on the basis of solidarity and mutual trust. "Double standards" with regard to terrorists are as inadmissible as attempts to rehabilitate the fascists' accomplices. Giving terrorists a public platform for stating their mankind-hating views is as immoral and unnatural for contemporary Europe as the parades of former SS men in the countries claiming adherence to democratic values.


Our common duty consists primarily of putting a reliable barrier in the way of disseminating the ideas of intolerance and racial, national or religious superiority, behind which world dominance pretensions hide, serving as a ground for new threats.


Global security is indivisible


Neither do the lessons of World War II appear less relevant from the viewpoint of construction of the postwar world pattern. The striving to deliver humanity from the scourge of war for good inspired the nations of the anti-Hitler coalition to establish a global mechanism for safeguarding peace and security – the United Nations Organization. Its charter became a generally recognized basis of contemporary international law, and a fundamental code of conduct for states and international organizations.


Today, it is obvious as never before that the only state or international organization in the Euro-Atlantic region can not improve its security by the means of security of the other states and organizations. This principle of common security corresponds with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's European security treaty draft. Its main idea is to create in the military and political spheres of the Euro-Atlantic region a united and undivided space. The world, and first of all Europe, today needs a system of true undivided security, when no state tries to provide its security by the means of the others.


The 65th anniversary of the victory must not cause confrontation or serve to settle old scores and reciprocal grievances. It is symbolic that the United Nations has designated the 8th and 9th of May as the Days of Remembrance and Reconciliation. It is important that the upcoming holiday contribute to uniting all countries and peoples and serve to reinforce our solidarity in the face of the global challenges of the 21st century.


* Mr. Vladimir IVANOVSKIY is the ambassador of the Russian Federation to Turke








In my article yesterday I talked about Fikret Bila's book The Commander's Front. I analyzed statements made by 10 chiefs of General Staff and other commanders in the region who were actively involved in the struggle against the PKK.


I talked about how the Turkish Republic with its civilians and its military failed the class in this struggle and about how wrong approaches and insights led us to the point we are at now.


Today I'd like to talk about how far we've come.


In general we hear that dangerous developments are taking place in respect to the Kurdish issue. We also hear that the country is about to fall apart and the Kurds are trying to lay ground for a Kurdish Republic.


Wonder if that's so.


I wonder if still nothing has changed since 1984 when it all started.


I think many things changed.


I agree with Fikret Bila's conclusion obtained from a series of chats with the commanders.


Why? Please read below.


He started out with an independent state


When looking at Öcalan's oral and written statements we see that the most talked about target in the period that started in the 1980s was to create "An Independent United Great Kurdistan State."


Turkey was the most important link in the project called Great Kurdistan State to be created by a unification of Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. But despite Öcalan denying his independence approach, it became apparent that the target did not change. This target aimed at armed terrorism and getting people to revolt.


Öcalan's first change in approach came in 1995 when he realized that he couldn't obtain armed success against the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, and highlighted politics instead. While the armed struggle continued, political approaches slowly emerged to become the focus.


The most important change came during the court case in 1999: to live in a democratic Republic as two founder nations.


Then they moved one step further and highlighted "recognition of the Kurdish identity and cultural rights." Then word was out that one of Turkey's foundation factors was counting the Kurds in. And let's not forget about the "different cultural constitutional security" formula.


Today we arrived at cultural rights


Now after all these changes, if today we look at requests made by the Kurds, we face the following situation:


-  Recognition of the Kurdish identity by the Constitution.


-  Providing education in the Kurdish mother tongue.


-  Opportunity for the PKK to conduct politics. Opportunity for the Kurds to self-govern through regional administrations.


Despite all these changes, there are some that say the PKK is still after an independent United Kurdish State but according to where they arrived today and according to facts we notice a great difference between the point they started out and the point they arrived at.


Where has Turkey arrived at?


You may be amazed about the development of Turkey's approach of the 1970s-80s, "There are no Kurds, there's only Mountain Turks."


Notice at which point it arrived today while it was denying the Kurdish existence or forbidding formal politics. Especially if we compare them to the expectations of the PKK we obtain a striking result:


-  The Kurdish existence has officially been accepted. The Kurdish language has been allowed. The right to speak and broadcast in the Kurdish language has been accorded. The Kurdish identity has not yet been written in the Constitution.


-  An education in the Kurdish mother tongue has not yet been approved, but obstacles have been removed in order to be able to learn the Kurdish language.


-  Kurds have received the right to conduct politics.


-  Self-government has not been granted for regional administrations but the Kurds have come to govern themselves by winning regional elections.


That's where we arrived at.


If you were to pay attention we are progressively arriving at a mutual point.


Despite differences it seems everything progressively fits in place. Mutual flexibility and even concessions are made.


And what's left is only the PKK situation.


This is what is being argued about nowadays. After so many years of struggle it still tries to keep up terror in order not to be betrayed by the state. But it is aware that the PKK slowly fades.


In summary, we are at a point where we can solve this problem with a few mutual steps









The comment by our foreign minister about the attempted bombing in New York being possible retaliation from the Taliban for drone attacks makes little sense. How can Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi know what the precise motive was or indeed who was behind the plot that could, had it worked, have inflicted terrible destruction? As for his assertion in his interview to a US TV channel, that the Taliban will not simply sit back and allow themselves to be eliminated, this is precisely where Pakistan needs to act to eliminate them on its own. For the safety and security of our own country, we need to take measures that can lead to the Taliban being prevented from operating from our territory. To be fair, the foreign minister was desperately attempting to deflect some of the pressure that has come Pakistan's way since stories emerged about the nationality of the would-be bomber. It is also true that in the past year a great deal has been done by Pakistan to take on the militants. Its army has paid a big price for this. We cannot be responsible as a nation for every person who sets out from camps here to plant bombs in western cities. It is true also the drone strikes have created resentment and as such are a factor in the creation of animosity to the US. This is something Washington needs to see.

At the same time we need to face some facts ourselves. As Mr Qureshi said, Faisal Shahzad was indeed a naturalised US citizen. But this does not change the fact he had strong links with Pakistan. Emerging evidence indicates he might also have been connected to groups here. A joint investigation is required. For its own sake, Islamabad needs to acquire a full understanding of how militant groups reach men like Shahzad. In the past, others from similar backgrounds have taken up the militant cause. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the killer of Daniel Pearl, comes to mind. Where Shahzad was recruited and how he was able to cover up his beliefs as a militant convert remains a mystery that we must strive to solve. The arrest of a man associated with Pakistan in yet another terrorist plot threatens all of us in many ways. We must do all that is possible to prevent such incidents in the future and severe the links that tie militants in with ordinary young people across the country.







The Taliban have a durability that is founded on the failure of others rather than the success of themselves. A cursory survey of media reports in recent weeks suggests that they are far from being a spent force in the Swat valley and that they may be making something of a comeback. There remains a high level of presence by security forces in the area which is indicative of the potential for further conflict, but it is the confidence of the population – or rather the lack of it – in the government restoring a civilian writ where the weakness lies. The last week has seen published the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) report on Operation Moshtarak in Afghanistan and the lessons learned from it, and there are some striking parallels between the failures identified within Moshtarak and the potential for the Taliban re-establishing themselves in the Swat valley. The ICOS report identifies three key 'lessons learned' from an operation which saw the 'surge' of 30,000 troops and a bid to win Afghan 'hearts and minds'. The learned lessons relate to Taliban recruitment, refugee support and the capacity of aid agencies, and the management of grassroots political dynamics.

In the Afghan town of Marjah as with the Swat valley the Taliban exploited the legitimate grievances of the resident population, and sought to recruit and radicalise young men. In Swat today the legitimate grievances of the people remain largely unresolved and what worked for the Taliban in Marjah is likely to work for them in Mingora. Support for refugees was generally good at the time of the mass migrations last year, but agencies are less prepared and funded to support people on their return. Without support for livelihoods families are prey to other enticements and loyalties. Politically the vacuum created by the Moshtarak operation is mirrored by that in Swat. Local jirgas and peace activists are frequently targeted, an increasing number killed. If the infrastructure of peace cannot gain weight and traction then again the Taliban are going to be quick to exploit it. The civil administration is slow to respond, understaffed and under-equipped. A crucial recommendation of the report is that key aid agencies need to be integrated into military planning processes so that the two can read off the same page as the operations progress, acting in concert rather than in train. This would be a paradigm shift for both the military and the aid agencies, but is not inconceivable. It is not too late to make the adjustments necessary to avert 'Taliban redux' in Swat, but it will require innovatory and bold thinking by all the actors – the military, the aid agencies and the civil administration. The Taliban win because they are allowed to win, not through force of arms. Denying them the 'win' environment by filling it with what people need and want is, ultimately, the only way to defeat them.













Two top slots in the National Accountability Bureau have recently been filled by those perceived as PPP loyalists. For decades we have struggled with the issue of corruption. It is today identified by many as a key issue in poor governance. Yet none of the bodies established to tackle the issue have got very far in the task of ending graft and each has been accused of victimisation and unfair play. The reason is easy to understand. When accountability becomes a political matter, it is almost inevitable that there will be a temptation to use it against political opponents. The appointment of persons close to powerful quarters makes it all the more likely that NAB will not mete out accountability equitably.

We of course need mechanisms to tackle corruption. Where there is a will to do so, nations have succeeded in making such headway. Bolivia is an example, with expertise in some areas concerning means to ensure transparency brought in from Norway. What is vital is that accountability mechanisms should be autonomous and independent. Bringing in cronies obviously indicates a desire to achieve just the opposite. NAB today is seen as incapable of stopping the rampant loot of public money. The recent appointments are clearly intended to serve particular interests and will only further lower the government's standing in the eyes of the people.






If we think we have a leadership problem, we should look at Italy. The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, also known as Emperor Silvio, has turned politics into one never-ending soap opera in which the star performer is, as you may have guessed, himself. He is the subject of scandal and titillating gossip but it harms him not. Far from being chastened by the attention his behaviour attracts, he revels in it. Economically Italy is in a mess but he rides the tide of popular approval in a way few other leaders in Europe and North America can match.

Perhaps this says something about Italy. Politics, Italian-style, is a lot more fun than in most other places, certainly more fun than in Pakistan where we have made a national pastime of constant moaning. We are too grim about things. If we need a strategic partnership with any country it should be Italy. At least we would take a less frenzied view of the universe.

La Dolce Vita, the sweet life, is not just about material things. It is first about a mental attitude which we used to have once upon a time until, our luck giving out, we fell into the Zia era. Since then we haven't been able to live life as a normal nation. (See how easy it is for Pakistanis to become grim and unbearable.)

Our politics, however, is not all grey. There are colourful figures in it, none more so than the president, our accidental president as we like to call him when other words fail us when it comes to describing the emotions he arouses.

President Asif Zardari is a man with a reputation which rests for the most part on his extraordinary skill in high financial matters, the fortune by all accounts that he has amassed, some of it here but mostly abroad, his Swiss bank accounts which despite the occasional fits the Supreme Court has when it considers this issue remain safe and untouched, his taste in necklaces, one of which was supposed to have been bought for his wife but, if well-founded gossip is to be believed, actually went to some one else.

This is an impressive portfolio. Power players in Pakistan don't wear kid gloves. Whether from the army, the bureaucracy, the turbulent fields of politics, or commerce and industry, they need no education in how to work the system to their advantage. But no one in Pakistan's history comes close to the scale on which Zardari has operated. There has been nothing petty or smalltime about his exploits.

But compared to Berlusconi this still looks tepid. Berlusconi heads a media empire which includes the three largest private television networks. Since 1970 his TV stations have offered a staple diet of scantily-clad women. This has been done so consistently -- two sexy showgirls on either side of the male TV host -- that it has reshaped the political landscape, making celebrity more important than ideology.

For years Berlusconi has been dogged by charges of corruption, bribery and even contacts with organized crime. But he remains unfazed and no questions arise about his grip on power.

The NRO, a law drawing a curtain on previous corruption cases, was passed by Pervez Musharraf, not Zardari, although Zardari was its principal beneficiary. But Berlusconi has had about eighteen laws passed -- some record this -- to protect his person.

But the field in which Berlusconi outshines all rivals relates to his lifestyle which he flaunts in a way no one else would dare to do. To go about with pretty women is one thing. But to consort with ladies of the night publicly, to the extent of inviting them to official functions, is somewhat different. Showgirls figured prominently in his campaign for the 2008 elections. Several former showgirls were even candidates and are now in the Italian parliament. Two were made ministers: of equal opportunity and tourism.

In 2009 Berlusconi chose a couple of dozen showgirls, in their early twenties, as candidates for the European Parliament. As an article by Alexander Stille in the New York Review of Books -- The Corrupt Reign of Emperor Silvio -- from which I have gleaned most of this information, puts it: "Few of them (the candidates) had any political experience. One of them had been the weather girl on a Berlusconi network (good for her, which is my comment, not the author's). Several had attended some of his private parties. He set up a school to give them a crash course in European politics so that they wouldn't embarrass themselves during the campaign."

Berlusconi's wife, Lario, was outraged. She denounced the women as "trash without shame…who offer themselves like virgins to the dragon in order to chase after success, fame and money."

Was Berlusconi embarrassed? Not a bit. Soon enough a rightwing newspaper carried a topless photo of Lario from her time as a showgirl, to show she wasn't much of a saint herself. There was also a story published (which Stille says was almost certainly false) that she had been having an affair with her bodyguard.

Italy has also been rocked or rather titillated -- Italy not rocking that easily -- by stories of the prime minister having a close relationship (she calls him 'Papi') with a teenage girl, Noemi Letizia. She too wants to be in parliament: "I am also interested in politics. I'm ready to take advantage of any opportunity at any of the 360 degrees of the circle."

We are too strait-laced, too preoccupied with thoughts of the hereafter to come close to this idea of political liberation. But it would certainly lift the atmosphere of parliament if we had some faces from the arts and the world of culture in it. Imagine Maulana Attaur Rehman as minister of tourism and then consider Berlusconi's choice for the same position.

One of the Maulana's first steps as tourism minister was to seal the liquor outlet at Flashman's Hotel, Rawalpindi. As a result, 20 lakhs worth of beer has gone flat, of no use to man or beast. We might be closer to redemption but money has been lost, to say nothing of the parched throats, certified license-holders, which would have benefited.

Compared to Muslims, soldiers of the faith, our Christian brothers and sisters are thrice empowered. They have two votes, one for general seats, the other for their own representatives. And they have the right to have a liquor permit, which makes them the envy of the more errant members of the majority community. When we talk of minority persecution we should consider this aspect of the matter too.

Dino Boffo, editor of a Catholic newspaper, wrote something criticizing Berlusconi's private conduct. A Berlusconi newspaper countered with a story suggesting that Boffo had wayward tendencies (I hope my meaning is clear). This distracted attention from the scandals relating to Berlusconi then playing in the media. Boffo was forced to resign. Compared to the charge against him, Berlusconi's own conduct seemed like old-fashioned fun.

Berlusconi has a villa on the island of Sardinia where he throws interesting parties, photos of which have appeared in the press showing both girls and politicians in a revealing light (let me say no more). A businessman, Gianpaolo Tarantino, hoping to gain access to Berlusconi, rented a villa close by for $100,000 a month. He gave a string of parties full of attractive girls. His efforts were soon rewarded.

He and his associates obtained contracts for the rebuilding of the city of Aquila, hit by an earthquake. To quote the Review, "The centre of the city was fenced off as a construction site and television cameras were kept out until angry citizens broke through a police barrier in order to see what had become of their homes. They were stunned to find everything exactly as it was on the day of the earthquake."

Things like this happen here too and there are officials and businessmen who know how to pander to the tastes of bosses in power. But given our closed society, these things remain largely behind wraps. We will never have Italian-style politics -- no fun, please, we are Pakistanis -- but a bit of Italian openness should be welcome. And in our parliament we could do with some of the talent that Berlusconi has so successfully promoted in Italy.








It was a rare piece of news from Peshawar, not about kidnapping, killings or blasts. The Queen of England had sent her appreciation to the Sarhad Tourism Corporation regarding a wall calendar – yes, a wall calendar - to celebrate Peshawar, the oldest living city of South Asia.

How many of us actually knew this fact about Peshawar, or that this is the year to celebrate Peshawar, a city that has been standing tall and mighty since at least 5th Century BC? It was a kind gesture by the Queen to send her appreciation; old masters do have some etiquette, though we haven't heard anything from our current masters i.e. the Zardaris, the Sharifs and the Hotis, regarding Peshawar.

Peshawar has seen many rises and many falls. It has witnessed countless bloodbaths and has been overrun by a number of tyrants. Yet the city is still living. In some ways it has always been surrounded by wars. Having been on the frontier of South Asia and Central Asia, it has been a part of the Greek, Kushan, Persian, Sikh and British empires, and has managed to come out of all the turbulent times that it went through stronger and taller to face new challenges. Such a history gives us a sense of hope that the city will once again rise out of the current chaotic times to regain its past glory.

The current situation in the city is precarious to say the least. Unfortunately, most of the well-to-do families have left Peshawar in recent years due to the unchecked incidents of kidnapping, murders and terrorists attacks. The kidnappings in posh areas of Hayatabad and University Town, in particular, have broken the confidence of the city dwellers. Business activities in the city are almost dead, with shoppers either opting to stay at home or seeking relatively safer locations for their businesses such as Islamabad. The empty hallways of Nishtar Hall, the deserted streets of Meena Bazaar, the destroyed building of the ISI and the barbed wire in front of the press club have all been showing a negative image of the city, fuelling a sense of pessimism among its residents.

It is so easy to forget about positive things amidst all the negativity around us, but the most important thing to remember against the backdrop of the recent political problems is that Peshawar has historically been a diverse and multicultural city. It serves as a unique example of peaceful coexistence of two apparently different ethnic communities of Pashtuns and Hindko speakers, for centuries – there is no other city in Pakistan that can boast such a claim. More importantly, both communities are so intermingled that they rarely differentiate themselves from the other, and both are equally proud to be associated with the city. Another piece of information that most Pakistanis are either unaware of or have forgotten is that Peshawar is home to the largest Sikh population in Pakistan. Not only that but the city also provided refuge to all those seeking shelter from the bloodshed taking place during the partition days. The brutality with which the Taliban slaughtered a local Sikh recently cannot and should not erase this fact from history. There is no other city where almost every place - from schools to restaurants to CD shops - has been targeted, yet the proud people of this city have been fighting fearlessly and undeterred. The children continue to go to school, the youth persistently flocks to restaurants and the Pashto films continue to entertain viewers. A recent fashion show held in Peshawar, showcasing the creations of young fashion designers from a local private university, stands as a real show of fearlessness.

The younger generation of the city - vibrant, brimming with passion, and courageous in the face of all threats - is the hope that is keeping the city alive. The elders did not appreciate the importance of this city by ignoring it even in its peaceful days. Now it is the youths' responsibility to rise up to the occasion and contribute in whatever way they can. The least they can do is inform others about the rich history and culture of Peshawar, perhaps by using social networking sites, to raise awareness and to counter the misconceptions surrounding the city. The youth can also contribute to ethnic harmony by celebrating the linguistic differences that Peshawar is so proud to have, by forming youth organisations and clubs aimed at promoting tolerance and respect. Only then we can restore the glory of our beloved city.

The writer is a policy analyst. Email: myk







A disturbing fallout of Baloch militants' estrangement is going to be mass migration from Balochistan of Punjabi- and Urdu-speaking people, who mostly live in Quetta. The professional entrepreneurial middle class composed of the non-indigenous communities in the province has been an asset to Pakhtuns and Balochs for a number of decades.

Balochistan is home to roughly half-a-million ethnic Punjabis, or nearly three percent of its population, and to an even smaller percentage of Urdu-speakers. Nearly half the population of Balochistan is Pakhtun.

Many locals treat Urdu-speaking residents as Punjabis, a fact which makes Urdu-speakers victims of targeted

killings as well.

If the wave of targeted killings led to mass migration of the affected communities, the already deprived province could not fill the gap left by them.

There was a time when locals were not prepared to take manual jobs, like those of hairdressers and tailors. The gap was filled by the labour class from Punjab. Being immigrants from other provinces, they have a greater entrepreneurial spirit, which enables them to succeed in various fields. Many of them are prepared to take up two jobs at a time.

The contribution of Punjabis in the education sector in Balochistan is tremendous. They work as teachers, lectures and professors. I received my initial education in Punjabi-run educational institutions and was persuade to join journalism by an ethnic Punjabi journalist, the late Mohammad Ikram, who also trained me professionally. Another ethnic Punjabi journalist who deeply influenced me was Sulaiman Raza, a professor and freelance journalist. A number of other journalists in Balochistan, Pakhtun and Balochs alike, have been trained by Punjabi- and Urdu-speaking journalists.

Recently, over 70 professors in Balochistan University applied to be relieved so that they can work in other provinces, following the brutal killing of Prof Nazima Talib, whom I knew when I was a student in Balochistan University in the early nineties. In seminars, and workshops, she would always inspire her students to do more so that the Baloch and Pakhtun residents of this particularly backward province could come at par with the more developed areas of the country. At the same time, this courageous woman also made efforts to help her students develop a critical thinking. Her killing is not only a tragedy to her family, it is a painful loss for Balochs, Pakhtuns and other communities living in Balochistan who are deprived of a fine teacher.

The targeted killing of the Punjabi-speaking minority has been going on since the second major operation was launched by the army in 2004, following the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. A bunch of Baloch militants resorted to violence and, among other things, started targeting ordinary Punjabis to avenge the killing of Balochs by the "Punjabi" army during the operation. There had already a surge in Baloch estrangement when the first major operation was launched against the Marri and Bugti tribes back in 1974.

While Balochistan's Pakhtuns have sympathy for Baloch grievances, they have always condemned the violent methods adopted by the Baloch militants, particularly the targeted killings of Punjabi residents. This is something mainstream Baloch political forces have failed to do.

This is the fundamental difference between Pakhtun and Baloch political forces, that Pakhtuns never used violence as a method to resolve political problems, despite their equally serious grievances. Pakhtuns lost a separate administrative status when the One Unit scheme came into existence in 1955 for the establishment of West Pakistan's parity with East Pakistan. When one unit was dissolved in 1970, what had been a Chief Commissioner's Province before 1955 was combined with the former Balochistan States Union, together with the enclave of Gwadar, to form a new larger Balochistan province.

Census data regarding the Pakhtun population have been manipulated by the Baloch-dominated administration. Despite the bias, however, Pakhtuns are around 30 percent of the population. But Pakhtuns have no quota in jobs. Even the convention of a Pakhtun being governor of Balochistan if the chief minister is Baloch has been broken. The Pakhtuns of the province have received no attention from the federal government because, unlike the Baloch, they have never resorted to militancy.

The recent Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package has nothing for Pakhtuns, who are nearly half the population of Balochistan. Their language and culture are being ignored. The all-too-frequent strikes called by Baloch political parties and militants have crippled Pakhtun businesses in Quetta and other parts of province. The list goes on.

Since the initiative is with the militants, the Baloch administration and political parties refrain from opposing the Baloch militants. It is only Pakhtun political forces led by nationalists who have joined forces in opposing the militants' wanton killing of Punjabis and held demonstrations against them in various parts of Balochistan. This is something which is not widely reported in Pakistan's mainstream media.

In order to escape the Baloch militants' violence and intimidation, many Punjabi- and Urdu-speakers have moved to Pakhtun areas, where this has resulted in a rise in property prices. At the same time, some prominent Punjabi- and Urdu-speakers have developed political affiliations with Pakhtun nationalist organisations, such as the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party led by Mehmood Khan Achakzai.

Pakhtuns in Balochistan enjoy excellent relations with Punjabi- and Urdu-speakers, and with the Persian-speaking Hazara community. The Punjabi and Pakhtun communities have become so integrated over the years that there are increasing intermarriages among them. There are fewer cross-community marriages among the Baloch and Pakhtun.

Pakhtuns are becoming more vocal in their demand for a separate province, a development spurred by the renaming of NWFP to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the resulting demand for a Hazara province there, This could lead to deterioration in relations between the two largest communities of Balochistan.

The Baloch political forces want more powers for themselves form the federal government, but they are not prepared to have the Pakhtuns of the province receive the same rights. As a result, Balochistan's inter-community relations are sharply deteriorating. Ethnic tensions between Pakhtuns and Balochs can only worsen the situation created by the targeted killings of Punjabi- and Urdu-speakers, so many of whom are third- and fourth-generation residents of Balochistan.

The responsibility for the serious situation lies with the army establishment, which ignore indigenous factors and treated the nationalist aspirations of the other ethnic groups in Balochistan as an outcome of foreign patronage. This is the same mindset that the army displayed with regard to Bengali nationalism. The establishment has ignored the fact that the main grievances of these ethnic groups has been and is the Punjabi

domination of Pakistan through the army and the bureaucracy.

Only a political solution assisted by empowered political forces is the ultimate answer to the ethnic tensions in Balochistan. Such a solution may be a tall order in the current geo-strategic and political environment, but it is the only way out of the Baloch insurgency.

Until that change takes place, however, moderate Baloch and Pakhtun political forces in Balochistan should call a grand jirga in accordance with Baloch and Pakhtun traditions and build public pressure on the Baloch militants to persuade them to spare the Punjabi- and Urdu-speaking residents of the province.

The moderate Baloch forces need to challenge the militants' search for an "ideal Balochistan" where ethnic minorities would have no place.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in London. Email: jan







Shocked and horrified by the power of the 'Little Boy', dropped on Hiroshima on Monday, August 6, 1945, by the executive order of a man called Harry S. Truman, some two billion people then living on planet Earth simply became dumb and the lives of approximately 90,000 men, women, and children were instantaneously extinguished by the most deadly weapon humanity had developed until that time. As if this was not enough, three days later, the detonation of 'Fat Man' over Nagasaki killed another sixty to eighty thousand human beings.

The use of these two nuclear weapons ushered humanity into the nightmarish era of modernity where mass-scale instant death was no more science fiction. Both bombs had been developed by the US in collaboration with the United Kingdom and Canada under the Manhattan Project. The scientific research was directed by American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the overall project was under the authority of General Leslie Groves, of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The cold-blooded manner in which the choice of target was made in a meeting by the Target Committee at Los Alamos on May 10–11, 1945, under the chairmanship of Oppenheimer, can be gleaned from the fact that one of the parameters used by this committee was the fact that these two cities had been left untouched by the nightly bombing raids by the Army Air Force "so that accurate assessment of the weapon could be made."

In other words, the scientific committee was using thousands of human beings as guinea pigs for "making the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognised when publicity on it is released." The very low spiritual state of these men, who ushered humanity into the nuclear nightmare, can be gauged from the bickering and bragging that surfaced later. One of them bragged about "saving Kyoto" from bombing while another (Edwin O. Reischauer, the Japan expert for the US Army Intelligence Service) refuted it and instead claimed that "...the only person deserving credit for saving Kyoto from destruction is Henry L. Stimson, the secretary of war at the time, who had known and admired Kyoto ever since his honeymoon there several decades earlier."

Imagine: there are thousands of lives being destroyed and these men are interested in recalling the memories of their honeymoons!

Notwithstanding these crimes against humanity, the real farce was to emerge on March 5, 1970 when the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (also called Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT or NNPT), came into force and 189 states signed it over the next few years and a so-called "International" Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assumed the role of policing the nuclear activities of the member countries to ensure that those without nuclear weapons did not acquire them. The inherent irony in this treaty as well in the creation of the IAEA is that its purpose has been to ban all members except the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia, and the United States from having nuclear weapons. One may ask: what is so special about these five member states? Why would these members be given "a legal" permit to nuclear weapons while others are denied that same right, if a right it is?

While no one seems to have any logical answers to these questions, the United Nations ceremoniously holds NPT "Review Conferences" every five years. The May 2010 Review Conference would have been just another routine event had it not been for Iran's president, Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who showed up in New York as the only head of state to attend the conference. His arrival sparked media interest and put the United States of American on a defensive footing. Considerable propaganda was spread through the highly controlled North American media outfits to portray Dr Ahmadinejad in the darkest colours possible, but his speech at the UN, a press conference at his hotel, and a few interviews with the US media clearly showed the moral superiority of Iran's position as well as the depth and maturity of the Iranian leadership in dealing with the greatest military power on earth.

Yet, notwithstanding Iran's higher moral position, the US leadership and the media played its own dirty game as usual, with the secretary of state using abusive language against Iran and its leadership and threatening sanctions. But dismissing the threat of sanctions against his country, President Ahmadinejad said, "While we do not welcome sanctions, we do not fear them either." When asked about Iran's plans for developing a weapon, he said, "It is against our culture. It's against our beliefs. And we simply cannot accept to have it."

In his television interview (by Charlie Rose of PBS), he was upright, quick, sharp and witty in his responses. He hit back at Ms Clinton, calling her "an enemy of Iran" as "it's quite clear from the position she takes. She has always threatened Iran, and the [International Atomic Energy] Agency does not have any evidence suggesting that Iran has deviated from the legal framework of the IAEA, no documentation…Clinton's stance was a 'political move'".

So fine-tuned is the NPT farce that in January The Scientific American ran a cover story on how a nuclear war between Pakistan and India can threaten the entire world, and many other US magazines and media outlets played a lead role in raising public interest in the May Review Conference.

This fine-tuning of the world's greatest farce on nuclear weapons notwithstanding, the duplicity and hypocritical attitude of those who wrote the articles of NPT and who have carried on with this farce for over four decades now is obvious from Ms Clinton's remarks. "It is the Middle East," she said, "that may present the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation in the world today." While the United States has been an integral part of the spread of nuclear weapons to the Middle East through Israel, she reaffirmed US' commitment to the objective of "a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction", saying, "We are prepared to support practical measures for achieving that objective." Empty words, meaningless rhetoric. Diplomacy at its lowest, yet the farce continues.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:







The arrest of a Pakistani American in the failed Times Square bombing puts the country in the wrong spotlight again. This follows the conviction of Ajmal Kasab, another Pakistani, by an Indian court for the Mumbai attacks. Both events in succession will add to the perception that this country is a sanctuary for dangerous terrorists.

The conspiracy theorists may go blue in the face arguing that Pakistan is deliberately being targeted. A part of this may be true. Elements in the Indian establishment and some groups in the US would indeed like Pakistan to be labelled a terrorist state. They may also want to defang its military capability by creating an enabling environment for an onslaught on its nuclear programme.

But it will be foolhardy, or deliberately ingenious, not to acknowledge that there are groups in Pakistan that are capable, and have been involved, in terrorist incidents abroad.

The essential question is not that there are dangerous militant groups in this country. We, who have been the victims of terrorism more than even Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, know this. What should concern us is the allegation by our adversaries that the Pakistani state is complicit in these attacks outside the country.

The evidence is at best flimsy in this regard. There is little doubt that Pakistani security agencies, egged on by the US, created a band of militants to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. It is also true that some groups fighting in Indian-held Kashmir during the nineties received support from the Pakistani state. But this ended in 2003.

Since then there is no evidence of the Pakistan state's involvement in the troubles that the Indian state has in Kashmir. There is certainly no proof of any Pakistani connection to the attack on the Indian parliament or to the Mumbai tragedy. If there were, it would have been advertised to the world by now.

Having said that, it needs to be acknowledged that the intelligence agencies of the two countries have been in the past carrying out a separate war of sorts against each other. It is thus entirely possible that some stray incidents that happened in Pakistan or in India in the last sixty years may have been engineered by RAW or the ISI. But there has been no smoking gun, no direct evidence of each other's involvement.

If Pakistan-India hostility has generated mutual problems in the past, the involvement of the Pakistani state in terrorism in other parts of the world is nonexistent. Indeed, it is pointless even to defend this because no allegation of this kind was ever made after 9/11 or the train bombings in Britain and Spain.

This fact, however, does not absolve the Pakistani state from the other charge; that it has failed to eliminate militant groups based on its territory. The only answer is that never before has the state and its armed forces been more committed to fight against militant groups as it is today.

The military operations in Swat, Bajaur, Buner, South Waziristan and now Orakzai are testament to this commitment. As, indeed, is the heroism, dedication and spirit of sacrifice of its soldiers. More officers and men have embraced martyrdom in this battle against militancy than in the many wars against India.

This is a sad but poignant sign of Pakistan's appreciation that this is a battle for its survival. Army chief Gen Kayani has paid an appropriate tribute to the sacrifices made by declaring April 30 as Martyrs Day. The glorious ceremonies that day in all military installations were a testament that the nation recognises this to be a just war.

The way ahead is long and tortuous. It includes two different elements: taking control of the so-called ungoverned areas and identifying and eliminating militant groups in urban centres of the country. This has to be done with a proper analysis of the state's strengths and weaknesses and the abilities of its adversaries.

The international community needs to understand the difficult nature of this struggle and instead of blaming Pakistan or putting undue pressure on it, give it practical support. This mainly includes economic comfort and, to a degree, the wherewithal to wage a counterinsurgency war. Just continuing the mantra of "do more" is unhelpful.

This is particularly true with regard to the pressure being exerted for an outright assault on North Waziristan. The situation there is quite complicated. A number of militant groups have gathered in it, including the so-called Punjabi Taliban and foreign militants.

Among them, not all are hostile to the Pakistani state. In fact, the role of people like Hafiz Gul Bahadur is quite positive, although it seems that his ability to control the activities of outside elements has diminished. This has led to some ambushes on the security forces and the fact that the murder of Khalid Khawaja could not be prevented.

If the military were to launch a full-scale assault on North Waziristan, it would unite all the groups present there and make the task very difficult. Therefore, if it has to be done, the army leadership will, like in the past, have to work hard to create the right environment.

This means a number of things. First, the military will be assessing its own capabilities, given the fact that Swat and other "liberated" areas are being still being consolidated. It would not want to deploy itself too thin. Colin Powell said about the US military that it should only go to war with overwhelming force so that victory is assured.

The same applies to any operation by the Pakistani military. It went into Swat and South Waziristan with the appropriate strength and fully prepared. Not being able to take them was not an option. The same holds true for North Waziristan. Any operation there has to be assured of success.

Among other ungoverned areas, parts of Khyber agency, particularly Tirah Valley, are also becoming a refuge for different terror groups which have been pushed out of other agencies. The military leadership will also have to calculate how much force is required there to challenge them.

To sum up, the battle to reclaim ungoverned areas and give a final blow to militant groups settled there requires careful preparation and right timing. It is something that cannot be hurried because of US political compulsions. Any peremptory move will result in failure, and that will be catastrophic.

To add to other problems, the situation in Balochistan is becoming grimmer by the day. Targeted killings of non-Baloch have gone up and now law enforcement agencies are being openly attacked. The civil administration is helpless, and more a hollow front than a real government. The political leaders seem to be clueless.

These are tough times for Pakistan, but the state and the people are united to face the challenge of militancy. The victory may be late in coming, but it will not be denied.








Ironic, isn't it? We squarely blame the rightist political parties on both sides of the border, who hinge their politics on a narrow religious discourse, for the ever-widening gulf between India and Pakistan. But when it comes to decision-making on pending issues between the two nations by the supposedly liberal and progressive political forces, the Indian National Congress and the Pakistan People's Party, their conflicting positions seem to get further fortified.

The latest has come from our honourable foreign minister on the floor of the national assembly responding to a private member's motion. In his usual affected tone, he said that the present government is now trying to redress the loss inflicted upon the Kashmir issue during the previous government. He explained his position by saying that the incumbents have returned on the historic and principled stand on the Kashmir issue from which the former government deviated. What does that mean? The military-led government had moved faster in resolving the Kashmir issue while general understanding remains that it is the military which keeps hampering the peace process? Back to square one I would say.

On the other hand, India's former high commissioner and consul general to Pakistan, G Parthasarathy, who I believe served two diplomatic terms here, has again resorted to a completely non-reconciliatory tone by apparently saying that India should not budge an inch on Kashmir and that speaking to a civilian government in Pakistan is wasting time. This insults the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani nation. He is known for his tough stands on India's defence policy but you expect more political understanding on issues of international relations and a more cordial manner from a career diplomat. But South Asian liberals have failed the masses inhabiting the sub-continent time and again.

Some history. If we look back into pre-partition days, while the conservative Jamia Millia Islamia harboured nationalist sentiments, the liberal Aligarh Muslim University insisted on a separate Muslim national identity. The Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind supported the idea of a united India while the somewhat liberal All-India Muslim League asked for a separate country. When the Muslim League came closer to accepting a decentralised union after the British would leave India, claiming to be secular and Nehruvian-socialist, Indian National Congress facilitated the partition of the British India by promoting centralised politics and emphasising on a powerful centre which completely ignored the insecurities of a large Muslim minority.

In 1971, it was the Congress government which decided to intervene in the affairs of Pakistan through military action in its eastern wing. While we continue to hold West Pakistani leadership, aided fully by civil and military bureaucracy of that time, responsible for the debacle, we can't forget India's direct intervention either. India, led by Congress, went ahead in escalating military tensions in the region by detonating a nuclear bomb in 1974. Pakistan followed suit and embarked on a military nuclear programme. ZA Bhutto spoke of fighting a hundred-year war with India, claiming that we would eat grass but make a bomb. His words were perhaps prophetic for both countries. The poor in India and Pakistan are virtually eating grass.

What next? We need statesmanship on both sides of the border. The progressive politicians, intelligentsia and opinion-makers in both countries must stop playing to the gallery of hawks. They have to ensure the beginning of a serious, output-driven dialogue encompassing the issues of Kashmir, terrorism, water distribution, mutual trade and investment and cultural exchanges. Sherry Rehman's idea of instituting a joint mechanism needs further thought.

The writer is a poet and advises national and international institutions on governance and public policy issues. Email: harris.









While it's possible that last weekend's failed car-bomb incident in Times Square was part of a complicated international terrorist plot, the unsophisticated nature of the device has given rise to a much-needed discussion about the threat of "home grown" and "lone wolf" violence in the United States. The subject leads many to throw up their hands: how, short of creating a police state, can we prevent a lone deranged person from making a crude bomb and parking it somewhere? The truth, though, is that we are not helpless: standard police vigilance and public alertness can play a role, but the real key to minimising the damage such people can accomplish is to keep these disaffected individuals from making connections with larger networks.

"Home grown" terrorists are natives or long-time residents who belong to groups that espouse a particular agenda or radical ideology. "Lone wolf" terrorists, on the other hand, usually operate by themselves and are not formally associated with a movement. In either case, they are people who live and move among us every day, secretly working in their basements or garages devising bombs or more dangerous weapons. Lone wolves can be very hard to find. The Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, lived in a shack in the mountains of Montana during the 17 years he sent 16 package bombs that killed three people and wounded 23 others. Eric Rudolph, who set off bombs at the Olympics in Atlanta, a gay bar and several abortion clinics, was a fugitive in the Appalachians for more than five years before his arrest by a North Carolina policeman in 2003. Timothy McVeigh, with a very small cell of two or three people, was able to build the powerful truck bomb that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Fortunately, these men, in terms of determination and ability, were the exceptions. Most lone wolves are as incompetent as they are disturbed, and their attacks, like that on Saturday, tend to fizzle out. Even if a lone wolf terrorist is successful, the attack is a calamity for the victims and their families, but without connection to a larger organisation, it will not represent a strategic threat to the United States. So law enforcement has to focus on preventing sophisticated terrorist organisations from establishing a presence within the United States. The good news is that we know how to do this. The bad news is we aren't doing it enough. No other American city even attempts to do what New York has accomplished. The New York Police Department's intelligence and counter-terrorism units, working both with the FBI and independently, manage a network of informant and undercover operatives around the area.

It was no accident that last year when a Denver man who was planning to bomb the New York subway system arrived in the city, the FBI was aware of his travels, and a radical cleric he met with was already a police informant. Of course, other American cities don't have a police force with the manpower and experience of ours, but they can still do more. Small cities can act independently or work with the FBI's 50 or so joint terrorism task forces to set up investigative teams — just a handful of officers in most cities — to identify violent cells within their jurisdictions. They know how to do it: the techniques and legal authorities to run informants and undercover agents and to install wiretaps on phones and computers are the same as police departments have long used to infiltrate the mob and drug trafficking organisations.

So why have so few cities done what New York has, even on a smaller scale? Two reasons: money and political risk. Despite great gains across the country in recent years, cities are still under pressure to reduce street crime and are thus reluctant to put their best officers on terrorist investigations that may well come to naught. Many think that counter-terrorism is the job, and financial responsibility, of the federal government alone. In addition, some are wary of the political risk involved in running intelligence investigations against citizens and legal residents who may be involved only in legitimate political dissonance — a cherished right of all Americans. While we hope we can find lone wolves before they attack, we also need to reduce the threat they pose by identifying, infiltrating and crushing any terrorist organisation before it can mount a sophisticated operation, or before it provides deadly technical support and training to the next Times Square bomber. — The New York Times







SEVERAL developments and activities were witnessed in Islamabad on Wednesday in connection with the unfortunate and tragic murder of former Prime Minister and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto. Apart from discussions on different aspects of the UN inquiry report and Rauf Committee probe, the President and the Prime Minister extended the scope of work of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the case. Various spokesmen of the Government also continued to give twist to the whole episode in their statements to media.

Indeed it is incumbent upon the Government to unearth the hidden hand behind murder of a popular leader of the stature of Benazir Bhutto. In fact, a lot of time has already elapsed without any progress towards that end and even the much-talked-about and awaited UN report has, instead of resolving the puzzle, has added to confusion, leading to frustration among people. There are also complaints even in the PPP ranks as to why the Government has not been able to nab the culprits despite being in power for the last two years. Those who committed the heinous crime need to be identified and brought to book as BB was not only life Chairperson of the PPP but also a national asset and she evoked immense respect in international circles as well. Therefore, no one would oppose concrete and genuine moves towards resolution of the assassination mystery and action against those involved in the conspiracy. However, we regret to point out that most of the time and energy of the Government are consumed by this issue, sparking apprehensions among some circles that this was being used to divert the attention of the people from the real issues confronting the masses that the authorities find it hard to address. There are 101 critical issues — continued economic down-slide, almost virtual halt in industrial and commercial activities, crippling energy crisis, unprecedented price-hike, uncalled-for increases in the rates of utility services, rampant corruption, law and order situation, sense of total insecurity, bad governance, rising unemployment, etc. But unfortunately there is no focus on these problems and as a result people are getting frustrated, losing faith in the ability of the system to deliver. In our view, every girl in every house is Benazir for her parents and needs proper attention. The incident of Deska speaks volumes about the prevailing state of affairs where two minor girls were raped and the Punjab Chief Minister visited Mayo Hospital on Wednesday to inquire after their health. Deska case was fortunately reported and got attention but there are countless other cases that go unreported. There is, therefore, a need to strike a balance and give necessary attention to all issues facing the common man.






FOREIGN Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has earned criticism from different quarters over some of his recent statements after return from Bhutan but in our view his assessment that the foiled New York car bombing attempt could be an act of retaliation against US drone attacks in FATA carries a lot of weight. But it looks fishy that Faisal Shahzad was arrested immediately, made confession and links were established in Pakistan.

The whole affair has caused doubts among the people here who believe the episode was engineered to put more pressure on Pakistan that terrorists were still receiving training in FATA and attacks in US were planned from there. This theory has a lot of credence because people are questioning as to how Shahzad managed to get the explosive material in the US where every Pakistani and Muslim is seen as a possible terrorist. In addition, if he managed all the material why he did not explode the vehicle and only parked it at the Manhattan intersection? While we condemn acts of terrorism and strongly believe that innocent people become target of such dastardly acts and those behind them must be punished yet there must be a fair inquiry into the whole opisode so that no innocent person is made scapegoat. There is no doubt that the barrage of attacks by CIA drones over the past year have made Pakistan's Taliban, increasingly determined to seek revenge. But there could be other persons behind as CIA is known for hatching conspiracies to achieve its objectives and people in Pakistan think that the failed attempt was part of those conspiracies. It is surprising that so far no comment has been made by the premier intelligence agency, which claims to have more information on Taliban and its links. New York Times on Thursday quoted one senior Obama administration official as saying "there are no smoking guns" to establish that the Pakistani Taliban had directed the Times Square bombing. Therefore what the Foreign Minister said has some weight, yet only time will tell who was actually behind this failed attempt.










GOVERNOR State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Syed Salim Raza has stressed upon the banks to make serious efforts in order to meet the financing needs of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector. Addressing the third meeting of the SME Credit Advisory Committee in Karachi, he pointed out that the central bank has launched three important schemes for development of the SME sector.

SMEs are considered the engine of economic growth in both developed and developing countries, as they provide low cost employment since the unit cost of persons employed is lower for SMEs than for large-size units. Experts point out that SMEs accelerate rural industrialisation, help achieve fair and equitable distribution of wealth, contribute significantly to export revenues because of the low-cost labour intensive nature of products and have a positive effect on the trade balance. Despite these clear advantages, emphasis in the past has mainly remained on large-scale industries and manufacturing concerns. As against this, countries like Malaysia are earning billions because of their right emphasis on the development of SMEs. Problems facing the sector are fully known and these include, among others, access to finance and credit; training and human resource development; access to technology; assistance with research and development; the impact of government regulations; limited information on possible markets and clients; weaknesses in transportation and infrastructure; and the impact of external factors such as the broader economic climate. It is good of the State Bank Governor to have talked about the financing needs of the SMEs but mere sermons would not work and we hope that clear guidelines would be issued to the banks for the purpose. Similarly, the Government too would update its SMEs policy in consultation with all stakeholders and devise a strategy for its implementation.











January 4th, 2010 dawned like a doomsday on the tiny hamlet of Attaabad, when a massive landslide obliterated the village, dragging its inhabitants, their houses, cattle, fields and orchards, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Worse followed when the sliding debris of rocks and boulders completely blocked the Hunza River gorge, resulting in the formation of what is now known as the Hunza Lake, which is continuing to expand; spelling another disaster, if left unchecked.

To create awareness regarding this impending disaster, I invited Lieutenant General Farooq Ahmad Khan, the former Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Engineer Ahmad Kamal, an expert on flood control in my TV talk show to discuss the subject. To the question whether the NDMA had advance warning of the Attaabad Landslide and what steps were taken to avert the disaster, General Farooq responded that in the month of July 2009, locals had reported that due to a split in the mountainside, falling rocks were becoming a cause of concern. Geological Survey of Pakistan was tasked to study the phenomenon, while locals were asked to vacate the area, declaring Attaabad as a high risk zone. As is prone to happen, many household relocated but others did not since they did not want to move with their cattle and household in the difficult terrain.

According to General Farooq, the total of 19 precious lives lost, do not belong to the village of Attaabad but to another village Sarat, who were hit when the landslide debris rebounded from a boulder and dragged the village in its path. However, Noor Muhammad of reports in his moving piece that "thirteen dead bodies recovered from the debris of Attaabad were laid to rest in Aliabad, Hunza, on January 7, in presence of thousands of mourners. This could have been averted. He adds that the government is partly responsible for the loss of human lives because while it warned the people to move to safer places, it did not plan an alternative living space for the one hundred and six families that lived in Attaabad. Those who moved out of the village were forced to stay with their relatives in nearby towns. The government's plan to build a tent village to relocate the people failed because Tapeline villages are highly unfeasible for places where the temperature drops down to negative 18 degrees on the Celsius scale."

According to the NDMA, four helicopters with trained search and rescue teams were dispatched by the Prime Minister the next morning and the Chairman led them. They had canine teams too to locate the missing persons trapped under the debris. They have flown more than 740 helicopter sorties bringing in food, medicines and supplies after evacuating the stranded persons and relocating them to shelters. The Governor Baltistan handed over compensation cheques to families of the deceased while those who lost property are being compensated gradually after verification of their losses. Over 301 tons of food items have been supplied for sustenance to those stranded upstream of the lake. Noor Muhammad, on the other hand comments to the contrary: "It is pertinent to note that the issue of cracks appearing in the mountain above Attaabad, due to seismic activity, had been surveyed, researched, documented and reported two and a half years ago. However, the state's work has not ended, in any way. Announcing a few hundred thousand rupees as 'compensation' for life of the dead and missing is not going to solve the issues."

The impending disaster now is that the water level in the Hunza Lake is rising with the increasing temperatures and glacial melts, which may cause floods; while the more dangerous situation is that there is a substantive risk of an outburst event caused by the landslide dam in Hunza, which is not an engineering feat but made by a freak event of nature comprising debris, earth and rocks. According to Dr David Petley, Director of International Landslide Center at University of Durham, UK, who visited the land slide this February at the invitation of an NGO, FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, presented a detailed report to the Government and World Bank. His findings summarize that "an outburst event is most likely during or shortly after water flows across the spillway. However, such an event could be triggered by a range of other processes, some of which may provide little warning. If such an event occurs, there is the potential for a large flood wave to travel downstream as far as Tarbela Dam. This wave would greatly endanger the downstream population and could cause damage to infrastructure. The safe level is considered to be 60 meters above the current river level, although further, more details work should be undertaken to verify this. Populations located between the river level and the safe level should be evacuated prior to the arrival of the wave. This will require precautionary evacuations for those people living immediately downstream of the dam; and emergency evacuation plans for those further downstream."

Engineer Kamal, the flood control specialist on the other hand, stated that NESPAK, WAPDA and other specialist organizations have carried out studies and concluded that there was little danger of a dam burst but even if it did, there will be a very high flow of water but it will have little effect on the delta but the consequent of the sediment would be negligible and definitely not effect Tarbela Dam. The accumulation in Hunza could be easily accommodated by the Indus River. General Farooq added that the habitation level along the gorge was way above the water line, so it faced little or no danger. Contingency plans had been prepared and put in place to evacuate 25,000 people at short notice. Spillways of 30 X 1 i.e. 30 meters deep with one hour breach catering for 100,000 cusecs discharge of water has been catered for. It is important to note natural calamities cannot be truly predicted but contingency plans for the worst case scenario must be in position to meet the impending disaster.









From the 1950s to well into the 1980s, Western countries favoured for their client countries in the Third World rule by those in uniform over control by civilians. The military looked more organized, and could always be counted on to make a smart impression in meetings and on parade. They avoided asking for detailed explanations as to why certain requests were being made, eagerly carrying out the wishes of the Western countries, even where these were in conflict with the interests of their own people.

Although a time came when he was on the run, chased by the International Court of Justice at the Hague, it remains a fact that General Augusto Pinochet of Chile (for example) was backed by the US in his takeover of Chile from the communist-leaning but elected President Salvador allende Gossens. The US and the UK also welcomed the coming to power in Pakistan of the Sandhurst-educated General Ayub Khan in 1958.They were assured that he would ensure that Pakistan remain what had been visualised for the country by Winston Churchill, a reliable ally of the West against the communist threat.

Unlike India's civilian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who seldom passed up an opportunity to lecture the US and the UK about their past or present policies, President Ayub ensured that Pakistan avoided controversies with these powers, even though it was during his time that Pakistan got close to China, soon after the 1962 Sino-Indian border war. With strong backing from the US and the UK, Ayub was able to make Nehru sign the Indus Water Treaty in 1960,which ensured a steady flow of river waters from India. Since the serving army chief was made Defense Minister of Pakistan in 1954, the Pakistan army has been in the forefront of policy, as recently as a few years ago, during the peak of the authority of General Pervez Musharraf, who was even more skilful than Ayub in managing relations with the US. The record shows that the Pakistan army has made got the better of the civilian government in Delhi on a number of occasions, in both international relations as well as in asymmetrical warfare.

Both Nehru and his daughter Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi distrusted the military. In the case of the latter, the Chilean coup, together with a string of US-backed military governments across the world, ensured that a policy framework got created that excluded the military from the inner counsels of government. Unlike in the case of democracies such as Japan, where the military were integrated into the decision-making matrix within the Ministry of Defense, in India those in uniform found themselves on the outside, even in situations where their experience and expertise would have been valuable. Till today, there is no Combined Headquarters for the Armed Forces of the Republic of India, nor any military officer seconded to the labyrinthine Ministry of Defense, a fiefdom ruled by civilian officials jealous of their privileges. If in Pakistan the pendulum may have swung too far, it has gone in the opposite direction in India, despite the military's impeccable record of keeping out of politics.

One of the few remaining privileges of the Indian military is the freedom given to the Service chiefs to express their views on issues involving national interests and security. In a democracy, input from the uniformed services is crucial in the formation of public opinion, given the respect that people in India have for those in uniform. However, this right has now been taken away, and the three Service chiefs will from now onwards not have the freedom to express themselves in public, except in situations where their views have been vetted by the Ministry of Defense. As always, this new restriction has been accepted without protest, especially because it has come on the instructions of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who would like to see an "orderly" government rather than the babble and babel that policymaking becomes in a democracy. The loser is the Indian public, who has been deprived of military expertise in the formulation of policies that affect his or her interests in the security sphere, and is now to be deprived of hearing the views of senior commanders on the many challenges that the country faces.

Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar, following the orders given by the Prime Minister, has imposed the new guidelines on public statements by the top rung of the Indian military. However, what needs to be understood is that the strength of a nation is not related only to the number of tanks and aircraft it has, but to industrial production and income from services as well. What the Chinese refer to as "Comprehensive National Power" is critical in the mix of safeguards, and it is the right of the military to participate in the national dialogue on such matters. Together with the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram too is known to be in favour of restraint by the military.

He was embarrassed a few months ago, when - following the massacre of 72 policemen by Maoists in Dantewada - the chief of the air force expressed himself against the use of air power "on Indian citizens". Air Marshal Fali Major was wrong. Modern war does not lend itself to neat boundaries between "national" and "international", and sometimes the full range of resources available will need to be utilised to fend off a threat that seems "domestic" on the surface but which may have international repercussions, if not linkages. However, he has the right in a democracy to air his views in public, while of course unhesitatingly implementing even orders that are contrary to his views, a right that has now been taken away from him as well as from the chiefs of the navy and the army.

The Indian military has always demonstrated its commitment to the values of democracy, in which civilian control of those in uniform is at the core. However, it seems unfortunate that even after six decades of fealty to the republic and its traditions, the military is still excluded from the inner counsels of governance, even in the Ministry of Defense. Because of this, India has not been able to leverage the "soft power" of its military,for example by broadening the range of its contacts with foreign countries,and in the creation of audio-visual products that celebrate the role of the uniformed services. No one can deny that the US is a democracy, and yet in that country, each year almost movies come out that show the heroism of those under fire, such as this year's Award-winning "The Hurt Locker". In India, such movies are few and far between, the emphasis being more on "masala" fare that mixes generous potions of sex and titillation with very little in the way of a social message. Across the country, those in uniform are serving the Republic with dedication and courage, and they need much greater recognition and respect than they are currently getting in a country whose politicians still seem to have the fear of a Musharraf-like figure emerging from the services to overthrow them. Such an apprehension is fantasy.

What is not is the system of restrictions that have been in place against the Indian military since the country became free in 1947, controls that have the past few days been extended to the issue of military's right to make its views heard on questions of national importance.

The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO








When a person is near a bomb blast, as Benazir was, the shock wave kills them instantaneously because it turns their insides into gel. It also, apparently, causes electrical currents to go through the brain. I am sure that poor Benazir's brain had turned to gel, which is why something white was oozing out. A brain, though soft, is solid, and will not ooze, except the liquid around it that acts as a shock absorber. I think the poor girl was dead before she hit the seat, perhaps even before her head hit the makeshift lever of the homemade run roof. Dr. Safdar Abbasi, loyal party member, a medical doctor and husband of Benazir's most trusted aide Naheed Khan, was in the vehicle with her and felt her pulse after she fell. He found none but said nothing. Naheed Khan looks the most distraught person in the PPP; she and her husband are the only ones speaking openly without regard to their own safety. Once a fearsome lady who terrorized all within the party – she could make strong men's hearts quake and stop a person in his tracks at ten yards with a glance – Naheed Khan and her husband have been kicked out of all important party positions and sidelined.

The small guy is always the fall guy. The interior ministry spokesman, Brig. Cheema, has been roundly criticized in the UN report for misleading the investigators for saying on television that no bullet had hit her; only that her head had hit the lever on which there was blood. How can the UN make this assertion when they themselves acknowledge that no bullet had hit her while also acknowledging the presence and possibility of the lever? And if a spokesman says that Pakistani intelligence had intercepted a phone conversation between the late Pakistani Taliban (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud giving someone instructions about her assassination, how does it "mislead" investigators? I would have thought that it helped them. It's safer to place the blame on minions and former rulers now harmless since they are out of the way, thus deflecting attention from the real perpetrators, whoever they are.

Often in a high-profile assassination like Benazir Bhutto's, some key witness is killed and silenced, which is one reason why the mystery is never solved. President John F. Kennedy's alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot dead by Jack Ruby a few days after his assassination. The case is still unresolved. A senior police official – I think his name was Saeed Akbar – shot dead Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan's assassin on the spot instead of arresting him. The case is still unresolved. A key policeman involved in the dastardly murder of Murtaza Bhutto and his companions was killed while sleeping in his home in Karachi. The case is still unresolved.

A man called Khalid Shahinshah was also part of Benazir's personal security detail and was standing on the stage with her to her left making peculiar gestures and giving significant and meaningful signals. He was shot dead outside his Karachi home a few weeks after Benazir's murder. Benazir's murder case is still unresolved, and will remain so as long as those who have benefitted from this UN Commission's useless report can help it. Yes, there was a man called Khalid Shahinshah. He was reputedly close to Asif Zardari – one of his henchmen we are told. He was also supposed to be one of Ms Bhutto's top security honchos (how many did she have?). He was standing next to her on her left throughout her speech at Liaquat Bagh.

Did the Commission inquire why he, along with two longhaired hippy-looking photographers behind him, kept making peculiar gestures? Twice Shahinshah went down on his haunches and stood up, like an out-of-shape wrestler doing sit ups in slow motion. So did the hippy photographers behind him, as if it were a slow motion synchronized dance routine. He fiddled with the knot of his tie – repeatedly. He turned his eyes furtively left and right – repeatedly – as if signaling to someone. All this has been captured on camera and was on You Tube when I last looked. It was behaviour most peculiar.

I'm told that after the rally Khalid Shahinshah jumped into Benazir's vehicle. I'm also told that he jumped on to the front seat though I cannot be sure because no one paid me millions of dollars to carry out an inquiry. Not too long after, Khalid Shahinshah was gunned down on the drive of his house in broad daylight, Mafia style. Zardari never went to Shahinshah's house to condole, we are told, even though he was reputedly close to him. Does this not look like a Mafia style hit to silence the man who knew too much and could no longer be trusted to remember his place in the Mafiosi scheme of things?

Did the Commission look into these episodes most peculiar? They threaten to speak volumes. Not surprisingly, it did not because it would have taken them in exactly the direction they weren't supposed to go. It is the general belief backed by enough proof that America's dogs of war – Blackwater/Xe International, DynCorp – have infested Pakistan. Did the Commission look into the possibility that one of them might be involved in Benazir's murder, for sometimes they have their own agenda separate from their government?

Our then foreign secretary, one of the best we have ever had, Riaz Mohammad Khan, opposed asking the UN to probe Benazir's murder, and he opposed it tooth and nail. He said that such inquiries are useless, lead nowhere and only obfuscate the issue instead of helping to identify the murderers. He also said that the authorities, especially our security and intelligence agencies, would not like to give minute details to a bunch of uninformed and untrained foreigners, untutored in conducting such probes and inquiries. He felt so strongly about it that he resigned. He was right.

Asking the UN or any outside agency to conduct such an investigation when our own people should rightly be doing so is to give further grist to the mills of those who would have the world believe that Pakistan is a failed or failing state which cannot even carry out an investigation at home because they are not competent enough, their people are all saleable commodities and will hide the truth for a consideration and because one Pakistani doesn't trust another.

That this useless report, this utter hogwash, cost the wretchedly poor people of Pakistan $1.5 million a page is so utterly disgraceful that one is at a loss for further invective and expletives. The United Nation and its Secretary General ought to be ashamed for taking money out of the mouths starving millions to bridge its funding deficit because its patron saint the USA won't pay it enough and on time to show the world what a useless body it is. Peace keeping body my foot, they are a bunch of incompetents and – dare I say – paid mercenaries who will churn out just what is required of them for a consideration. Remember their authorization to America to clear Al Qaeda from Afghanistan by attacking it? Would they give such an authorization, say, to Muslim countries to clear all Zionists out of Palestine? – Or to Pakistan to form a coalition and clear all Indians out of Kashmir?

Look at the confluence of the press conference of the head of the Commission and Zardari's reaction in 24 hours. Was it not unconscionably convenient for President Asif Ali Zardari – who as Benazir's widower holds the highest office in the land and has leadership of the family's political jagir or fief that passes for a political party but which is actually a cult with some Bhutto as the icon – to declare that he will not take revenge from her killers because revenge has already been extracted by democracy which, the Benazir leftovers never tire of lecturing us, is the best revenge. This is the bizarre logic of those who seem to be scared of the truth and scareder still that it will out. It begs the question: how can he take revenge when he doesn't even know who the assassins are? Or does he now, for did he not say too long ago that, "I know who her killers are?"

This "democracy is the best revenge" nonsense is a copout even bigger than the UN Commission's copout. Of course this is not the place to go into whether we have democracy or not, especially after the 18th Amendment which to my mind has actually put democracy in retreat. But that is another issue, which we can go into later.

Does Asif Zardari have the right to decide whether to pursue Benazir's murderers or not, or leave it to 'democracy'? I don't think so. Benazir Bhutto was not just Asif Zardari's wife. For the many millions who adored her and her father, she was the keeper of the Bhutto legacy. She was twice prime minister and – who knows – could have been prime minister a third time, an 'honour' her great rival Nawaz Sharif is now gleefully waiting for thanks to the anti-democratic 18th Constitutional Amendment. Despite her many flaws, faults, follies and foibles (who doesn't have them?) she was a great lady and, like her father, a courageous one too. She was the beautiful face of Pakistan to the world and she was the acceptable face of Pakistan for the world. That is the reason why the British and Americans thoughtlessly pushed Musharraf to do a deal with her, to withdraw all the cases against her and get into a power sharing arrangement with her. I say 'thoughtlessly' because they should have known the danger they were putting her in, something many of us knew for months and are on record for having said so many a time. For this thoughtlessness I say that some of her blood is also on British and American hands. It doesn't matter whether one opposed her or supported her or was indifferent, the people of Pakistan and not just her supporters deserve to know who killed her. Mr. Zardari has no business to duck out of the issue by simply taking action against the negligent and saying that "democracy is the best revenge."

We should not grudge Zardari the offices he now holds for his wife put him there by stating in her will that he is to be her heir if something were to happen to her. She didn't say that their son should be; it is Zardari who made him party chairman and himself the co-chairman. Saying the will is a fake is neither here nor there unless you can prove it. Hearsay doesn't count, especially when the Central Executive of the party has accepted it as authentic.