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Thursday, May 13, 2010

EDITORIAL 13.05.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month may 13, edition 000506, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. BODYLINE TACTICS
  2. THE TORIES ARE IN POWER
  3. THE DILEMMA OF DIALOGUE - G PARTHASARATHY
  4. IT'S A CLOYING RELATIONSHIP - BARRY RUBIN
  5. MY FACE IS MY PASSPORT - SHAILAJA CHANDRA
  6. SHREDDING OF CRICKET - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  7. UNLIKE BLAIR, GREY FUTURE AWAITS BROWN - JILL LAWLESS & RAPHAEL G SATTER

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. ROADMAP FOR PEACE
  2. DOWN AND OUT
  3. GETTING INDIA INTO ORBIT - SASWATO R DAS
  4. CENTENARIAN LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
  5. IT'S AN ABSURD IDEA - KAUTILYA KUMAR
  6. WHY I MUST EKLA CHOLO RE - BACHI KARKARIA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. WHAT'S LEFT OF IT?
  2. RUE BRITANNIA FOR CAMERON
  3. ON A WING AND A PRAYER - JITENDER BHARGAVA
  4. LAWS OF DISCRETION - VIKRAM SOOD

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. GET ON THE ROAD
  2. LOOKING AT NO 10
  3. AMONG THE BELIEVERS
  4. CARIBBEAN LESSON - SANDEEP DWIVEDI
  5. PARTYING SHOTS - MIHIR S. SHARMA
  6. INTERROGATING THE CASTE CENSUS - K. SUBRAHMANYAM
  7. MAKING A SONG AND DANCE - SHAILAJA BAJPAI
  8. LOOK INSIDE THE GIFT HORSE
  9. FROM STICKS TO CARROTS - GADKARI'S VISION

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. CHANGE IN SENTIMENT
  2. NO SENSE IN CASTE CENSUS
  3. WHY RETAIL INVESTORS ARE STAYING AWAY - SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN
  4. TRAI JUST DID NOT SOLVE THE MESS - RISHI RAJ

THE HINDU

  1. TORIES WIN ALL ROUND
  2. ONE OF THE GREATS
  3. HOW TO BE AN 'ELIGIBLE SUICIDE' - P. SAINATH
  4. OIL GIANTS BLAME ONE ANOTHER FOR GULF SPILL - SUZANNE GOLDENBERG
  5. ARMS AND THE MAOISTS - AMAN SETHI

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. KHAPS' OUT OF SYNC WITH MODERN INDIA

DNA

  1. A BEAUTIFUL MIND
  2. COURTING TROUBLE TO MARRY A MUSLIM
  3. CASTE AND LIBERALS - R JAGANNATHAN
  4. SAVOUR 'EXCEL' SHOPPING - N RAGHURAMAN

THE TRIBUNE

  1. COALITION IN BRITAIN
  2. 'QUOTAS IN LOCAL BODIES
  3. LAWLESS LAND GRABBERS
  4. DILEMMAS OF DIALOGUE - BY G. PARTHASARATHY
  5. TALK THE WALK - BY MINA SINGH
  6. "I WILL GIVE THE UPA ZERO OUT OF 10" - BY RAJ CHENGAPPA, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. ANNIE DARWIN'S BOX

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. TOUGH CALL
  2. NASCENT RECOVERY
  3. GRECIAN SUMMER OF DISCONTENT - SHANKAR ACHARYA
  4. STEEL AND POWER - KANIKA DATTA
  5. THAT SINKING FEELING - NEHA CHOWDHRY
  6. THE ROCHE TEST - LATHA JISHNU
  7. BUILDING BOSTONS, NOT KANPURS - SANJEEV SANYAL

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. NO AMBY-VALANCE
  2. REFORM STAMP DUTY
  3. ANTI-PEOPLE, TRAI
  4. THE CIRCUS OF OUR LIVES - MANOJ NAIR
  5. SEVEN INFLUENTIAL INDIANS - RAGHU KRISHNAN
  6. BECOME WHAT YOU THINK - VITHAL C NADKARNI
  7. SPLIT THE COURT INTO TWO: ONE EACH FOR APPEALS AND CONSTITUTIONAL MATTERS - RAJEEV DHAVAN
  8. ESTABLISHING CIRCUIT BENCHES CAN HELP REDUCE THE BURDEN - SOMNATH CHATTERJEE
  9. GIVING RUPEE A SYMBOL IS MERELY A COSMETIC EXERCISE
  10. WHY THE GREEK RESCUE WON'T WORK - T T RAM MOHAN
  11. 'OUR PLAN IS TO GROW AT 30% ON FY10 BASE'
  12. WE'RE QUITE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT INDIA STORY - MAULIK VYAS
  13. WIPRO STAFF HAVE TO TAKE TEST FOR PROMOTION: JOINT CEOS GIRISH PARANJPE & SURESH VASWANI - SUJIT JOHN, MINI JOSEPH TEJASWI & ANSHUL DHAMIJA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. 'KHAPS' OUT OF SYNC WITH MODERN INDIA1
  2. THE '71 EXECUTION  - BY SRINATH RAGHAVAN
  3. WILL BAILOUT KINDLE A REVOLUTION IN ATHENS?  - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. CASTE: IDENTITY OR BANE?  - RAGHUVANSH P. SINGH
  5. RULES FOR MARITAL BLISS - BY V. BALAKRISHNAN
  6. MAKE THE WAR PUBLIC

THE STATESMAN

  1. ASSETS OR ASSES?
  2. ENTER MR CAMERON
  3. PERKS & PRIVILEGES
  4. CHANGING OF THE GUARD - BY SALMAN HAIDAR
  5. CHINA'S KOREAN DIPLOMACY
  6. HAS THE ELIXIR OF YOUTH COME OF AGE?  
  7. BROWN MAN'S BURDEN!

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. EVERY INCH A KING
  2. THE CENTRE SHIFTS
  3. A LITTLE BRITAIN?  - MUKUL KESAVAN
  4. DANGER OUTSIDE THE DOOR  - NEHA SAHAY
  5. THE DIFFICULT ART OF COMMUNITY CARE

DECCAN HERALD

  1. UNINSPIRING TENURE
  2. PROTECT THE OFFICE
  3. LEGALISE GAMBLING - N V KRISHNAKUMAR
  4. A LIB-CON MARRIAGE FOR HOW LONG? - COLIN TODHUNTER
  5. AN ICON'S MUSIC AND MUSINGS - K C ASOK

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. DESPERATELY SMEARING GOLDSTONE
  2. BY LARRY DERFNER
  3. A GLIMPSE OF REDEMPTION - BY MICHAEL FREUND
  4. PROXIMITY TALKS ARE OFF... AND CRAWLING - BY DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD
  5. DAN GOLDBERG'S RIGHTS
  6. (ANOTHER) OPEN LETTER TO JUDGE GOLDSTONE - BY RICHARD LANDES
  7. LESSONS FROM BRITISH GENERAL ELECTION - BY JONATHAN GABBAY

HAARETZ

  1. INCITEMENT DAY IN JERUSALEM
  2. THE RIGHT TO DIMONA - BY ARI SHAVIT
  3. THE CHARGE: ARABS - BY GIDEON LEVY
  4. A FAST TRACK TO ARAB DISENGAGEMENT - BY ISRAEL HAREL
  5. SABABA CITY - BY NERI LIVNEH

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. MR. OBAMA AND MR. KARZAI, TAKE TWO
  2. PSSST, OVER TO YOU
  3. THE HIGH BRIDGE
  4. PAKISTAN AND TIMES SQ. - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  5. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN CONSTITUTIONAL - BY SOL WACHTLER
  6. THE ANNALS OF ARLEN - BY GAIL COLLINS
  7. A BAD BET ON CARBON - BY ROBERT BRYCE

USA TODAY

  1. AWKWARD ALLIANCES: KARZAI REMAINS AN AFGHAN OBSTACLE
  2. AWKWARD ALLIANCES: BRITISH VOTE OFFERS PATH FOR DYNAMIC CHANGE
  3. ENERGY'S COSTS FINALLY MEET THE EYES - BY MEERA SUBRAMANIAN
  4. COURT DIVERSITY IS ABOUT MORE THAN GENDER, RACE OR ETHNICITY - BY ROSS K. BAKER
  5. GRADS SHOULD BASE SUCCESS ON SUBSTANCE, NOT SUMS - BY PETER BUFFETT

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. 'NOT GUILTY'
  2. LIBERTY BELL AWARD TO FAIRBANKS
  3. REP. WAMP'S CONSERVATIVE RECORD
  4. FANNIE, FREDDIE TAB: $145 BILLION!
  5. A SUBSIDY FOR TERRORISTS

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. GORDON BROWN: A POLITICIAN FOR A BYGONE AGE - BY MADELEINE BUNTING
  2. GLOBAL SOUTH WILL MAKE ITS VOICE HEARD AT G15 SUMMIT - BY OUR STAFF WRITER

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - 'FISCAL RULE' ALONE NO RULE AT ALL
  2. A FAMILY STORY WITHIN MIDDLE EAST'S 'UNTOLD STORY' - ARAS COŞKUNTUNCEL
  3. EROSPOLIS: NOT SO CONSTANT?
  4. SOCIAL MEDIA: FROM THE HOT LISTS TO THE OIL SPILL - ERSUN ABLAK
  5. BAYKAL DOES NOT WINK AT ANYONE - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  6. WHICH FRAME WILL BEAT THE OTHER? - HALUK ŞAHİN
  7. ANCHORING TO RUSSIA - YUSUF KANLI
  8. WHAT'S GOING ON IN TURKEY? (III) - CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER

I.THE NEWS

  1. GRAND COVER-UP?
  2. PAKISTAN-INDIA TALKS
  3. HOLD YOUR BREATH
  4. RESOLVING THE ENERGY CRISIS - HUMAYUN AKHTAR KHAN
  5. WE CAN GET THERE - SALEHA JAVAID
  6. ANOTHER PAKISTAN MOVEMENT - ASHRAF JEHANGIR QAZI
  7. REFORMING THE JCSC - IKRAM SEHGAL
  8. THE ROADS TO TERRORISM - KAMILA HYAT
  9. FATA NEEDS CHANGE - JAN ASSAKZAI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. BELATED EXPLANATION OF CLINTON'S STATEMENT
  2. PPP SUPPORT TO FAKE DEGREE HOLDERS
  3. US TO SCUTTLE PAK-CHINA NUKE COOPERATION
  4. THE GREEK TRAGEDY - BURHANUDDIN HASAN
  5. THREATS OF DIRE CONSEQUENCES TO PAKISTAN - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  6. AZM-E-MUSALSAL! -AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  7. INDIA'S GREAT GAME - AFSHAIN AFZAL
  8. THE MAKING OF A TERRORIST - ROBERT WRIGHT

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. BRITAIN'S BRAVE NEW COALITION
  2. THE REAL STORY ABOUT MR SWAN'S FISCAL RESTRAINT
  3. CLAIMING THE CREDIT AS THE GOOD TIMES RETURN

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE BUDGET'S ELOQUENT SILENCES
  2. FAREWELL, NEW LABOUR; HELLO, NEW UNCERTAINTY
  3. STAY LEVEL-HEADED ON NATIONAL TESTS

THE GUARDIAN

  1. MR CAMERON AND MR CLEGG: TEAM OF RIVALS
  2. COALITION ARRANGEMENTS: LOVE, CHERISH AND OBEY?

THE GAZETTE

  1. ANGLO LEADERS SPEAK UP - IS CHAREST LISTENING?
  2. THE HORROR AT ST. JUDE

 CHINA DAILY

  1. INADEQUATE WAGE GROWTH
  2. UNHEALTHY PRACTICE
  3. POLICING THE POLICE
  4. HARVESTING RAINWATER
  5. DEFENSE TIES MAKE HEADWAY - BY LU YIN (CHINA DAILY)
  6. DEMOCRACY IS NOT AN END IN ITSELF - BY PAUL KONG (CHINA DAILY)
  7. WHAT IF YOU DO RAISE YUAN'S VALUE - BY WANG YIQING (CHINA DAILY)

 DAILY MIRROR

  1. FIXING BUDGET DEFICIT – IN UK AND SL
  2. THE ABSENT FUNDAMENTAL  - BY SUSIL SIRIVARDANA
  3. ARE MORE PRICE HIKES IN THE OFFING?
  4. IDPS SOLUTION SHOULD BE LINKED TO POLITICAL SOLUTION  - BY VIDYADHARAN  
  5. LANGUAGE REFLECTS CHANGING TRENDS - BY DILINI ALGAMA 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BODYLINE TACTICS

JUST WHAT IS LALIT MODI GUILTY OF?


What exactly is the case against Mr Lalit Kumar Modi, suspended chairman of the Indian Premier League Governing Council? As the Board of Control for Cricket in India seems to have admitted, it does not have documentary evidence to back up a majority of the charges that have been levelled against Mr Modi. Much of the BCCI's 'inquiry', it now transpires, is based on "oral communications" — as testified by Mr N Srinivasan, BCCI secretary — and on media reports. On their part, media reports (more often than not grossly exaggerated) have alleged two broad sets of alleged wrongdoings by Mr Modi. First, they have accused him of having proxy holdings in three franchises, in two of which his relatives are listed as official owners. However, other than establishing the family relationship, no trail of proxy ownership has been revealed as yet. All of those who own these three teams are resourceful individuals or businessmen in their own right. They are not unknown persons off the street. As such, to allege that they are fronting for Mr Modi — and have 'invested his money' in the franchises and not their own — is a serious accusation that requires to be supported by bank documents and findings of financial fraud investigations. None of this is available. Second, sections of the media published supposed Income Tax Department papers alleging widespread money-laundering and tax avoidance by Mr Modi and his associates. It has now emerged the bulk of these documents were plain fiction. They were manufactured and distributed to amendable media houses by Mr Modi's rivals, a coalition of an embattled politician who had been forced to resign from the Government and the proprietor of a cricket television company the revenues of which have suffered in recent years due to the IPL.


It is nobody's case that Mr Modi should not be punished if he is indeed found guilty through due process of law of embezzlement and conflict of interest. However, a hysterical media campaign, deftly exploited by his adversaries in India's messy cricket politics, cannot be allowed to convert wild allegations into incontrovertible truth. Before a man is hanged, he must be told what the charges against him are and the reasons the jury has decided to convict him. Whatever his faults, Mr Modi deserves this modicum of a fair trial. Today, the BCCI is increasingly unable to deny the impression that it has set up a kangaroo court to 'fix' Mr Modi. Some of those sitting in judgement are themselves guilty of massive conflict of interest issues and unprofessional conduct as office-bearers of the BCCI, of the IPL Governing Council and, in some cases, of individual franchises.

The upshot is a probe into an opaque business such as the IPL is itself becoming trapped in opacity. This is not on. Selective leaks and segmented guilt will not do justice to the IPL. There seem to be too many interests in the BCCI and the IPL Governing Council that want to sacrifice Mr Modi while protecting themselves, and their mentors, who may have done much worse. If this situation persists, not only will Mr Modi be seen as a fall guy but the credibility of the BCCI — including that of its president, who has spoken strongly of the need for corporate governance — will be overshadowed. Rather than an in-house panel, the entire IPL system, including the role of Mr Modi, needs to be studied and reported on by third-party auditors. The BCCI must outsource this inquiry, unless it wants to give the Government even further opportunity to meddle.


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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

THE TORIES ARE IN POWER

ALBEIT WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM LIB-DEMS!


After five tense days of tough negotiations, Britain finally has a Government. For the first time since World War II, the British Government is going to be a coalition with the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democratic Party joining forces. A push towards this arrangement was given by Labour leader and head of the previous Government Gordon Brown's resignation on Tuesday which cleared the way for the British monarch to invite Conservative leader David Cameron to form the next Government. Needless to say that this was all that the Conservatives needed to convince the Liberal Democrats — who were also exploring the possibility of forming a Labour-Lib-Dem coalition Government, though no one was optimistic about this arrangement — to get on board. Now, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg says that his party, along with the Conservatives who hold the most number of seats in the House of Commons, is all set to provide Britain with a stable Government. Though it remains to be seen whether the coalition will last for the full five-year term, at least the uncertainty that had loomed large following last week's general election that had produced a hung Parliament is over and done with. Also, it cannot be denied that the new Government has a fresh look to it with no dearth of young blood. Mr Cameron himself is now the youngest Prime Minister that Britain has had in 200 years. And it must be said that the credit for getting the Conservatives back to power — and thereby ending 13 consecutive years of Labour rule — goes largely to him. It is only through Mr Cameron's efforts that the Conservative party which, until 2005, was viewed as out of sync with middle Britain, has been able to emerge as a party with a purpose and one that is in touch with ground realities.


Nonetheless, Mr Cameron and his team have their work cut out if they are to provide Britain with a sound Government. There is a yawning Budget deficit to tackle which will require some tough measures that will have to inevitably include major cuts in public spending. There is also the issue of restoring the British public's faith in the political system which had been considerably rattled after the MPs' expenses scandal last year. Besides, little is known about Mr Cameron's foreign policy. But it is encouraging that he has promised to forge a "new special relationship with India" and even support New Delhi's bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. He has even described India as a stable force in an unstable region of the world. Now only time will tell if the new British Prime Minister will be able to translate this optimism into policy.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

THE DILEMMA OF DIALOGUE

G PARTHASARATHY


The recent SAARC Summit in Thimpu strained the nerves of virtually all of India's neighbours. Rather than focussing attention on issues of economic development, education and regional economic integration, the entire attention was focussed on whether or not India and Pakistan would resume their much touted 'composite dialogue'. A Sri Lankan friend once told me, "There are seven members of SAARC. We are all keen on enhancing cooperation in South Asia. Why do you convert every SAARC Summit into an India-Pakistani soap opera? If you want to settle your problems with Pakistan please do not do so at our expense and waste the time and energy of our leaders in SAARC meetings." The Thimpu Summit was a an occasion when we further demeaned ourselves in the eyes of friendly neighbours like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal and the Maldives, whose President gave public expression to his frustration. It is no one's case that we should not talk to Pakistan. But, surely there are better ways to do this than exposing ourselves to ridicule as we did in Thimpu.

We seem to be deluding ourselves that Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is an 'empowered' leader who can overrule his Army chief, the ubiquitous Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. In a report indicting Pakistan's military leadership for the circumstances leading to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a high-level United Nations panel has observed: "The Sunni groups are largely based in Punjab. Members of these groups aided the Taliban effort in Afghanistan at the behest of the ISI and later cultivated ties with Al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban groups. The Pakistani military and the ISI also used and supported some of these groups in the Kashmir insurgency after 1989. The bulk of the anti-Indian activity remains the work of groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, which has close ties with the ISI." Gen Kayani and his cohorts have been emboldened by American mollycoddling. They now openly proclaim their influence with the Quetta Shura headed by Mullah Omar, while refusing to act against the Afghan Taliban military leadership in North Waziristan headed by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who the Pakistani Army chief regards as a "strategic asset".


Gen Kayani has upped the ante of anti-Indian sentiments by his pronouncements suggesting that India is deliberately starving Pakistan of its legitimate share of river waters. Reporters who visited Kasab's native village of Faridkot noted how anti-Indian sentiments had been exacerbated by propaganda on river waters and Kashmir. Interestingly, even though the Pakistan Government claims that Hafiz Mohammed Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h is banned, its weekly magazine continues to be published and is readily available even in villages like Faridkot. Despite this, we rather naively seem to be accepting Pakistani protestations that they will effectively act against Lashkar leaders. Reaction to the Kasab conviction was mixed in Pakistan. But the general sentiment was conveyed by a farmer in Faridkot who, angered that India was diverting Pakistan's water resources, said, "There is nothing wrong if he (Kasab) did it with good intentions against a kafir country like India." Indians, who are given to being sentimental and nostalgic about their formative years in what is now Pakistan, should understand that sentiment in Lahore and Chakwal today is not the same as it was in the idyllic days of the 1940s.

While the fiasco in Sharm el-Sheikh is best forgotten, we need to be realistic about the dynamics of internal politics within Pakistan and its relations with its three major patrons — the United States, China and Saudi Arabia. While the decline in President Asif Ali Zardari's fortunes has been accepted as an inevitable reality by the Americans, both the Chinese and the Saudis, for different reasons, were uncomfortable with him. Mr Gilani started his political career as a protégé of Gen Zia-ul Haq and is at heart a Muslim Leaguer. His long association with the Army establishment has been reinforced by familial marital ties with the Pir of Pagaro, who has been the military's hit man on Sind's borders with India. Mr Gilani has virtually no political base within the ruling PPP. He is merely a pliable front for the Army establishment led by Gen Kayani and will have little stomach to take on the latter's anti-India agenda. Moreover, even now, sections of the Obama Administration reportedly believe that the ISI surely has a case in claiming that it needs its 'Kashmiri militants' to force India's hand on Jammu & Kashmir. New Delhi should be realistic enough to know that given American and Chinese backing and Saudi understanding, there is no reason for the ISI to discontinue measured assistance and support to its jihad in India.


One should not be surprised by the present Pakistan Government's rejection of the movement forward in formulating a broad framework for a Kashmir settlement that was achieved in discussions between India's special envoy Satinder Lambah and Gen Musharraf's trusted aide Tariq Aziz between 2005 and 2007. On the contrary, we have to be prepared for increasing infiltration across the Line of Control, together with Pakistani moves to make the fundamentalist Syed Ali Shah Geelani the focal point of the separatist leadership in Kashmir Valley. While differences have been papered over in Thimpu, they cannot be wished away. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has made it clear that the coming talks are primarily meant to remove the causes of 'distrust' between the two countries; Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has claimed that all issues of concern, including Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, river waters and people-to-people contacts, would be discussed in the talks. Mr Qureishi has brushed aside India's concerns on terrorism, glibly claiming that terrorism is a "global concern", which is best addressed collectively. One cannot but be disgusted by Mr Qureishi's description of the Mumbai massacre as an "incident which is best forgotten".


With Gen Kayani in charge in Pakistan, the Army's traditional policies of "bleeding" India and seeking "strategic depth" in Afghanistan will continue. It would, therefore, be disastrous if New Delhi allows Pakistan to have its way on an agenda for talks, which would sideline the primacy of India's concerns on terrorism, as it did in Sharm el-Sheikh. While talks with Pakistan are necessary, we could do without thoughtlessly drafted joint statements and public expressions of bonhomie, which only show our Government's insensitivity towards outraged public opinion in the country.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

IT'S A CLOYING RELATIONSHIP

BARRY RUBIN


Every week or so, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reminds us that the wrong Democrat was elected President in 2008. In these cases, she goes off-script, showing her scepticism about engagement with Iran before it became obvious even in the White House, or expressing the novel idea that US policy should view Israel as a valuable ally.


Now she has addressed legitimate frustration with Pakistan, a country which has received billions in US aid yet barely lifts a finger to help US policy. The Pakistani Government pretends to fight terrorism but only the terrorists who directly challenge the regime. There is ample reason to believe that Pakistani intelligence helps the Taliban in Afghanistan, sponsors terrorists who attack India, and does little to help against Al Qaeda forces operating within Pakistan and along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.


Remember the bloody attack by Pakistan-based and sponsored terrorists in Mumbai, India? What has the Pakistani regime done about that? People with access to intelligence information say that Chinese flights carrying military equipment — including things that can be used for weapons of mass destruction — to Iran pass through Pakistan, too.


So here is what Ms Clinton just explained: "I'm not saying that they're at the highest levels but I believe that somewhere in this (Pakistani) Government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda is, where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is and we expect more cooperation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill, those who attacked us on 9/11."


Yes, a country to which the United States is giving full support and billions of dollars in aid is doing little or nothing against those responsible for the September 11 attacks and for the killing of about 3,000 Americans. But the Obama Administration doesn't believe in getting tough or putting pressure on those countries actually giving America trouble. Ah, maybe it does understand. After all, if it really regarded Pakistan as an ally, instead of a hostile state, it wouldn't be treating it so well!


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THE PIONEER

OPED

MY FACE IS MY PASSPORT

ATTEMPTS HAVE BEEN MADE TO REDUCE THE TIME TAKEN FOR ISSUING PASSPORTS BUT STILL THE VERIFICATION PROCESS ENTAILS UNIMAGINABLE HARASSMENT. IT'S TIME WE CONSIDER WHAT CIVILISED DEMOCRATIC COUNTRIES DO, SCRAP THE REQUIREMENT FOR POLICE VERIFICATION AND LET THE LOCAL POST OFFICE OR BANK DO THE JOB

SHAILAJA CHANDRA


The Supreme Court in Satwant Singh Sawhney vs UoI (1966) has ruled that the right to travel abroad was a part of personal liberty and the Government's claim that the issue of a passport was discretionary violated Article 14 of the Constitution. In response the Government immediately promulgated an ordinance and followed it with the Passports Act 1967 which made the acquisition of a passport as complicated as was possible for the applicant. Today, although numerous steps have been taken to simplify and expedite things, the passport verification certificate still poses the principal problem.


For people who have no sarkari contacts acquiring the certificate entails unimaginable harassment. On paper, virtually everyone in the gazetted Government category from the lowest rung of the bureaucratic ladder to the highest can issue verification certificates. But do they?


No, because there are two kinds of officers. Those who merrily sign the passport verification certificate because the wording is too absurd to be taken seriously. And there are others (like me) who generally refused (while in service) because the facts to be certified appeared unverifiable. To start with, the person's date of birth, educational qualifications, profession, address, previous addresses and permanent address need to be certified as correct. For argument's sake let us treat that as done. But listen to what comes next:


The attesting officer is expected to certify that the applicant bears a "good moral character and reputation" from personal knowledge. Judged by what standard? Leave aside worn-out ideas about morality and reputation (live-in relationships, same-sex partners, smoking pot or coming home drunk are passé now), how would one know whether the friend's son who shows up as an applicant has not been peddling Hawala in Mumbai or is really the investment banker he claims to be? And if that were not enough, what follows is even more bizarre. An intimidating inventory requires one to certify that no warrant or summons has ever been issued by a court of law and the applicant has not been repatriated home at any point of time. How would one know that?


Finally, one has to certify on personal satisfaction that the passport seeker "is not likely to prejudice friendly relations of India with any foreign country; that his departure from Indian soil is not likely to be detrimental to the security of India; that he is not likely to engage in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India." The certificate says in bold print that the certifier can be prosecuted under Section 12(2) of the Passports Act for criminal abetment for verifying incorrect information. The punishment is jail for two years with fine.

So if a Government official for good reason declines to sign the passport verification certificates where do ordinary people go? Willy-nilly they have to depend on police verification which presents a different kind of hurdle. What is police verification? The Passports Act does not define police verification anywhere. Further, on what information and which standard does the policeman decide about a person's reputation and moral character? IPC or his own concept of morality?


Stories about visitations from cops who simply hang around for bakshish are as old as the hills. Now even retired IAS officers admit to paying Rs 500 simply because the cop mumbles that money has to reach "oopar tak". Even as ordinary people shudder at the thought of any interface with the khaki uniform, two distinguished Commissioners of Delhi police told me, "This (police verification) is an absurd system which only increases corruption — nothing more. How would the district cop of Gazipur know what I have been up to in Delhi? It is ridiculous."

It is now possible to go round the world in less than a week and to commit a crime in Mumbai and bounce back to Azamgarh almost the same day. Abu Salem reportedly possesses 12 passports. In other words, beyond harassing the law-abiding citizen, police verification does nothing to prevent real criminals from slipping through the net.


Forty three years after the 1967 Act was born, it is time to think differently. First consider what civilised democratic countries do and by those examples, scrap the requirement for police verification altogether. Let the application be moved in person before the local post office or public sector bank that can function on behalf of the Passport office. Post offices in their new makeover as business hubs are capable of collecting and scrutinising prescribed documents and forwarding complete applications online to the National and State Crime Bureaus to scan for absence of criminal or terrorist activities. Diversifying business is their mantra these days.


Scanning the forwarded names should ordinarily take no more than three days and cleared applicants should normally be issued a passport within a week. It is a person's right to travel abroad and it is wrong to treat the whole populace as untrustworthy because a fraction of lawbreakers exist everywhere. The obsolete practice of thanedars visiting homes must stop.


Civilised democratic countries find ways of saying "Yes" to their citizens — not give the police the power to say "No"..

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SHREDDING OF CRICKET

THE IGNOMINIOUS RESULT OF THE IPL WAY OF LIFE

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


India's reputation as a cricketing country was in tatters even before its humiliating defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka which marked its unceremonious exit from the ongoing 20-over World Cup tournament. Australia and West Indies had done the shredding earlier. Our cricketers were pathetic in all the three matches. Leaden-footed and sloppy in the field, they were atrocious in catching. Concentration flickering, they lost track of skiers, thereby failing to position themselves under the ball when it was about to land. On occasions, misjudging its trajectory, they bounded breathlessly to make up for lost ground, spilling the catch despite last-moment lunges.


Our bowling was frequently wayward and listless. Against Australia and West Indies, our top order batting was reduced to a succession of evasive actions against fast bouncers directed at the head. Captainship was lousy. Putting Australia and West Indies to bat after winning the toss reflected a completely misplaced faith in our batsmen whose poor form was apparent even in the match against South Africa, which was won primarily because of Suresh Raina's century. Given Yuvraj Singh's dismal form, it was a glaring mistake to continue putting him in the top order. Choice of the playing team from the squad sent was poor. Even the selection of the squad was scandalous. There was no excuse for leaving out Murali Karthik who has consistently done well at home and during the few exposures he had abroad.


Things had been aggravated by factors totally unrelated to cricket. Much of the poor fielding, bowling and batting was clearly due to tiredness. Too much cricket the year round and participation in the sleazy extravaganza of the IPL certainly explains a great deal. But a great deal is also the result of the lifestyle that has increasingly come to be associated with Indian cricket.


If memory serves, one of the principal dramatis personae in the still unfolding narrative of IPL muck, said that cricket in India had been reduced to sleaze and girls (or was it sex?). This might have been an over-statement but not a gross overstatement. There has been talk — and not without basis — of 'lively' post-match parties which cricketers were "expected" to attend. Non-attendance was not considered amusing. And of course, most cricketers, like Barkis, were "willing".



There is possibly truth in the claim that these parties did not lead to orgies and one-night-stands. The IPL, however, has inserted a marked element of voyeurism into Indian cricket by placing on platforms rather scantily-clad young women, gyrating furiously or exploding in weird contortions and occasionally blowing kisses after every lusty hit or the fall of every wicket. What cricketing function did these oglers' delights discharge, apart from distracting the spectators' — and perhaps also of players' — from the matches?


In a plural society, there is space for wild parties, orgies and one-night-stands which are a fact of life in high-voltage social circuits. This, however, cannot be said for commercialisation of sexuality and the reduction of women into objects of voyeurism, which those prancing on the platforms were made to become. Nor should cricketers be present in such parties when a tournament like the World Cup is on. Partying till late in the night, even when it is not on the eve of matches, tires one out. The result is cumulative fatigue that undermines the split-second responses and the matching physical agility required to cope with bouncers hurtling towards one's head around 90 miles per hour.


There was a time when Indian cricketers playing in test matches — and even during training or selection camps for tours abroad — had to be in bed before 10 pm. Anyone without permission to stay out late was in trouble if caught outside his room after the deadline. One would say that we did not win as many matches then as now. But the facilities that Indian cricketers then enjoyed were meagre. Yet men like Vijay Merchant, Mushtaq Ali, Lala Amarnath, Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad, Dattoo Phadkar, CG Borde, Vijay Manjrekar, Bapu Nadkarni, AK Pataudi, ML Apte, Pankaj Roy, Nari Contractor and others stood up to bowlers like Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Freddy Truman, Frank Tyson, Ray Gilchrist, Charlie Griffith and Wesley Hall without flinching, and that too wearing only pads, gloves and abdomen guards!

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

UNLIKE BLAIR, GREY FUTURE AWAITS BROWN

THOUGH GORDON BROWN HAS SIGNALLED THAT HE SEES HIS FUTURE OUTSIDE OF POLITICS SOME SUGGEST THAT HE MIGHT LIKE A ROLE AT THE IMF OR WORLD BANK, WRITE JILL LAWLESS & RAPHAEL G SATTER


In his last moments as Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown revealed a human side to the stiff and glowering demeanour the world has become accustomed to.


In his resignation statement outside No 10 Downing Street, Mr Brown struggled to contain his emotions as he thanked his wife for her support and love — then left the storied residence for the last time with the two young sons he has always fought to keep out of the public eye.


It was a dignified and touching farewell to a nation that has always struggled to warm to him. The resignation — which was formally accepted shortly afterward on Tuesday by the Queen at Buckingham Palace —ends a three-year tenure as Prime Minister marked by the country's deepest recession since World War Second, bedeviled by internecine feuding and tainted by a damaging scandal over parliamentary expenses.


Mr Brown's decision to step down does not necessarily mean the 59-year-old's political career is over. He could remain in Parliament after stepping down as leader, as former Conservative Prime Minister John Major did. Or, like Mr Blair, he could quit soon afterward. Some have suggested he might like a role at the International Monetary Fund or World Bank.


Mr Brown, however, has himself has signalled he sees his future outside of politics, alongside his wife Sarah.

"If I couldn't make a difference anymore, I'd go off and do something else," he said during the election. "And Sarah and I might do charity, voluntary work."


In a possible reference to his predecessor Tony Blair, who has amassed a fortune in sometimes controversial consulting work and speaking fees, Mr Brown said: "I don't want to do sort of business or anything else, I just want to do something good." In any case, Mr Brown has promised not to get involved in the leadership contest which is likely to absorb Labour's energies in the weeks ahead. Among the front-runners are Mr Blair's protégé David Miliband and Mr Brown's loyalist Ed Balls.


A contest between the two would replay some of the tensions that long shadowed Mr Brown's relationship with Mr Blair. According to British political lore, the two men struck a deal in 1994, agreeing Mr Blair would be Prime Minister and Mr Brown Treasury chief, but that Mr Blair would step down at some point to give Mr Brown the top job — although when exactly has never been conclusively determined. In the end, Mr Brown waited a decade for his chance to lead his country. The short visit to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday marked the denouement of a political career marked by promise, achievement and, ultimately, disappointment.


When Mr Brown took office — by stepping in as Labour leader when Mr Blair stepped down in 2007 — he promised to win back people's trust in politicians. But his tenure was marred by a failing economy, a difficult and bloody war in Afghanistan and a scandal over outrageous expense claims filed by lawmakers.


He also had the misfortune to follow one of Britain's most mesmerising leaders.

 

"He's a victim of the fact that he comes after Blair," said Victoria Honeyman, a lecturer in British politics at the University of Leeds.


"Blair is hugely charismatic. Even people who didn't vote for Labour thought Tony Blair would be a nice guy to have a drink with. Coming after Tony Blair drives it into even sharper focus that he's not that person."


Mr Brown's sometimes awkward demeanour was fodder for satirists, and a recent run-in with an elderly voter — whom he called a "bigoted woman" — certainly wasn't smooth. But behind closed doors, Mr Brown was often described as warm and agreeable.


The qualities he is best known for are sheer grit and perseverance.


"He doesn't possess charm or eloquence, but he does possess a sort of dogged resilience, an ability to plug on and not give up — in a way it enabled him to outlast all his critics," said Mr Bill Jones, a professor of politics at Liverpool Hope University in northern England.


"He's not been a very popular (Prime Minister) with voters and with his colleagues, but most people in the end would allow some admiration for those bulldog qualities."


Mr Brown was born in the Scottish industrial town of Kirkcaldy on February 20, 1951. His father was a Presbyterian minister, a profession Brown has said inspired his sense of moral mission. He entered the University of Edinburgh when he was just 16, and at 21 was elected rector of the university — a largely ceremonial leadership post. Mr Brown had suffered detached retinas in both eyes while playing rugby, and lost the sight in one eye permanently, but surgery saved vision in the other. His university years coincided with periods in hospital or recovering, but he still managed to graduate with top honours.

 AP

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

ROADMAP FOR PEACE

 

From Thimphu to Nepal to Islamabad, there's now a concerted effort to knit together the frayed almost non-existent in the wake of 26/11 ties between India and Pakistan. It will not be an easy or quick process, as Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has cautioned. But the fact that both sides are now displaying political will to re-engage is a heartening sign. If the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani a short while ago struck the opening note, home minister P Chidambaram's upcoming visit to Islamabad and the proposed meeting between both foreign ministers must take the dialogue forward.


This is not to suggest that New Delhi should enter any such dialogue blindly, of course. It cannot set aside continuing infiltration from terror camps across the border or the possibility of another 26/11-style attack. It has been almost 18 months since Ajmal Kasab and his fellow terrorists came ashore in Mumbai. In that time, India has received little satisfaction on the issue while Islamabad finds itself facing greater pressure to dismantle the terror infrastructure on its territory following the failed New York car bombing. Holding off on engagement has, obviously, reached a point of diminishing returns for both sides.


A reasonable modus vivendi would be New Delhi acceding to Islamabad's demand for resuming the composite dialogue, while Islamabad makes some tangible moves towards pursuing and punishing the masterminds of 26/11 on its territory. Once the composite dialogue is resumed, relatively less contentious issues such as Siachen, Sir Creek, border trade and people-to-people contact should be picked up and resolved. Neither should either side fight shy of broaching the big issues, such as Kashmir. Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri foreign minister in the Pervez Musharraf regime has revealed the template of an agreement for resolving Kashmir that was arrived at between the two sides. This template should be revived and outstanding issues resolved.


None of this would work, of course, if Pakistani territory continues to be a springboard for terror attacks into India. It's no secret that Pakistani foreign policy, particularly India policy, continues to be driven by its powerful military and security establishment. Parallel to formal talks with the civilian establishment, therefore, efforts also need to be made, if necessary on a back-channel, to engage the military and allay its fears and anxieties vis-a-vis India. This is a new century. We are not condemned to repeat the bad history the two countries have had in the last one.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

DOWN AND OUT

 

Three years after they crashed out in the first round of the World Cup in the Caribbean, Team India hasn't fared much better this time. And just as in the last Twenty20 World Cup in England, India lost all their Super Eight matches and was shown the door. But the manner in which Team India capitulated will rankle for a long time. While the last match against Sri Lanka was close, India was completely outplayed in the games against Australia and West Indies. The Indian batsmen were at sea against the short-pitched stuff, and that too on a track that offered true bounce, nothing more. What is galling is that Team India's weakness against bouncers had been exposed in the last T20 World Cup, but nothing was done in the intervening period to rectify it.

Indian skipper M S Dhoni has admitted that the intense six weeks of IPL played on flat Indian pitches which ended five days before the T20 World Cup began wasn't the ideal preparation. India was the last team to arrive in the Caribbean and opted out of practice matches before the tournament. The lack of preparation and the fatigue were there for everyone to see. If India is to recover, long-term measures will be needed. One, it is apparent that the younger batsmen are not a patch on veterans such as Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid when it comes to playing bouncers. For any improvement to happen, domestic matches would have to be played on pitches with bounce and carry. Two, the Indian cricket board will have to take a long hard look at pruning the overcrowded cricketing calendar. Otherwise, India will continue to perform poorly outside the subcontinent.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDITORIAL

GETTING INDIA INTO ORBIT

US President Barack Obama wants to change the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) priorities. According to the new budget proposed for the US space agency in February, the Obama administration wants NASA to outsource rocket development for human spaceflight to commercial companies such as Space Exploration Technologies Corporation and the United Launch Alliance, a collaboration between defence contractor Lockheed Martin and aeroplane giant Boeing. Speaking at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida sometime ago, Obama tried to muster support for his NASA vision.


If the Obama plan gets approved by the US Congress, in future NASA astronauts will pay for orbital launches in commercial spacecraft developed by private companies. NASA's change of direction provides a big opportunity for India to step up to the plate and take leadership of manned spaceflight.

It is probably a safe bet to predict the US companies will slip in delivering spacecraft capable of leaving earth's gravity. One of the companies has already missed its initial projections. The reason is simple: such technical expertise is hard won. NASA has the expertise, but not the companies. They will need to build it up (and, realistically, it is not something that a company can easily hire away). Russia has expertise to launch crewed spacecraft, but has never sent men to the moon. Besides, its space programme is in dire straits.


This is where India could come in. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has proved it can launch spacecraft headed to the moon. Not only did Chandrayaan-1 reach lunar orbit, it has been a scientific success. It has spotted a lot of ice on the moon, and Indian scientists have partnered NASA counterparts in scientific experiments.

China has spotted this opportunity as well, and is itself interested in the conquest of space. Chinese astronauts have done space walks, and China is supposed to be building a heavy thrust rocket that can carry men to the moon. While officially the Chinese government has not said it will try to send humans to the moon, it seems to be investigating the possibility. Other than the US and Russia, China is the only country that has sent humans into space. Though it has not launched humans into orbit yet, India's space expertise at this point rivals China's and may even exceed it in certain key scientific areas such as lunar landers and telemetry.


If ISRO jumps into the ring, the world will see a space race between India and China reminiscent of one between the US and the Soviet Union in the midst of the Cold War. (NASA was created in July 1958 by US President Dwight Eisenhower in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 a few months earlier. In 1961, the Soviets sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit. At its peak, NASA's budget was almost 1 per cent of US GDP. On July 20, 1969, America won the race as NASA astronauts took the first human steps on the moon.)


What will India have to do to take the lead? For one, the issue has to become a national priority, with support at the highest levels. It will require a big budget, though ISRO is remarkably cost-efficient. The Chandrayaan-1 project cost just below Rs 400 crore, about $80 million, about a fifth or a sixth of what it would have cost NASA to do something comparable. With ISRO's expertise and India's existing scientific manpower, a focused effort may bear fruit relatively quickly. Arguably, the race with China will spur creativity and speed. There are a few other space hopefuls, such as Japan and South Korea, but at this point China seems India's biggest competitor.

There will be questions as to whether India can afford this. Wouldn't the money be better spent fighting poverty or building schools and dams? India's leaders will have to make the choice. There will be by-products of such a lunar effort (just as NASA research led to better sneakers, better runways, better sunglasses, better solar panels and so on). Maybe Chandrayaan-1's successors will find evidence of helium-3 which could be used to build fusion reactors on the moon, just as Chandrayaan-1 found evidence of water. A lunar effort will inspire thousands of young Indians to become scientists, bettering India's chances for leading the world in science and technology in future. And it will vastly improve India's brand in the world.


Big science projects have always faced questions. Probably one of the best answers to them was given by Robert Wilson, who went on to be the first director of Fermilab, housing the giant multimillion-dollar particle accelerator, outside Chicago. In Congress in 1969, Wilson was quizzed about the value of the accelerator to US security and asked to justify the expenditure. He responded: "It has only to do with...the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets?...all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending."


If India decides to take the lead in manned space flight, it is quite conceivable Indian manned spacecraft will one day ferry not only Indian but also NASA astronauts into orbit.


The writer is trained in astrophysics.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

CENTENARIAN LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL

 

Who wants to live forever? Well, everyone actually. So cheer up, because celebrating 100th birthdays may soon be par for the course. Scientists say all we'd need in our 40s or 50s is an anti-ageing pill-in-the-making. Studies show even those who lead unhealthy lives can become centenarians thanks to their genetic make-up. Now, we can all be as lucky thanks to medicine mimicking the effects of longevity genes. The product in question would

boost good cholesterol, cutting the risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer.


If it actually becomes available, the wonder drug will have many takers. Doubtless its detractors will say we should age 'gracefully' and accept mortality and finitude as our lot. Surely making a virtue of resignation is to constrict the meaning of being human. True, existence is bound by physical laws. Yet what marks the human spirit is its will to transcend limits. Else, from pharaohs and druids to modern biologists and geneticists, humans down history wouldn't seek to understand the ageing process and, if possible, slow it down.


Why be a flat-earther about science's benefits here, if all we have as our defence is hypocrisy? Hasn't life expectancy gone up thanks to medical breakthroughs? Don't people already defy time and the mirror with hair colour, exercise, dieting, anti-wrinkle creams or cosmetic surgery? Why bother to eat, sleep and live well if it isn't to prolong our days on earth? Yes, we should embrace natural processes. That doesn't preclude being young at heart or applauding innovations that can make life as productive and fulfilling in old age as in youth. For, no matter what challenges it throws up, life is beautiful through all its daybreaks and twilights, its winters and springs. Is it any wonder the instinct of self-preservation and desire for self-perpetuation exist in every living creature?

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

IT'S AN ABSURD IDEA

Man's fear of death manifests in many ways. One such manifestation is the search for medical solutions, first to prolong life and then to conquer death. The latest pill promises a long life 100 years to be precise to anyone who pops it from the age of 40. There's an added incentive that the pill doesn't put any restrictions on the pill-popper's lifestyle. The pill expects to control externalities that cause early death, like smoking and poor diet, purporting to absolve the user of any responsibility to guard against risks. Simply put, this pill offers a bailout for those who are reckless about their lifestyles even when they fear for their lives. It only allows the drug industry to spread its tentacles further and draw in more gullible people. Don't buy their line.


A simpler and less expensive way to live long is to adopt a lifestyle that avoids excesses. A proper diet, exercise and a relatively tension-free work schedule should help a person to have a reasonably long lifespan. Concessions can't be made to consumption of non-essentials as well as potentially toxic substances. As the proverb goes, prevention is better than cure.


Besides, death is the inevitable conclusion of life. It completes the life cycle and, according to some philosophies, makes way for new births. To disrupt this cycle is to tamper with a unique code that binds all living beings and upsets the precarious balance maintained by nature. Our endeavour ought not be to defeat death but to prepare us to accept death without fear. If one is afraid of death all the time, when does one live? So, why not shift our research concerns from how to stretch the lifespan to learning to live and die gracefully? The urge to live forever is just a projection of our ego that refuses to accept the immutable laws of nature.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

WHY I MUST EKLA CHOLO RE

BACHI KARKARIA

 

Oh, NOT to be in Kolkata now that the Tagore jubilee is here. It's an ambivalent feeling to miss the literal and literary outpouring that will mark the 150th birth anniversary of Bengal's Inescapable Icon. For a week and more, the air will be heady with incense and emotion. With streaming tresses and tears, boudis will abandon themselves to 'Robindroshongeet', that alpha and omega of artistic achievement. Culture will be retrieved from the new multiplex parvenu and briefly restored to the Academy purists. Yes, it would be an awesome experience to be swept up on the sentimental tsunami that only the Bengali can produce without a blush. But I have walked too long among the Philistines, I can no longer handle it. 

 

More honestly, to be there would have shown me up for the wannabe that I am. For, there are many ways in which you can pass off as an 'Hon Bong', but you will always be exposed on the Tagore Test. You may have learnt to separate the hilsa's delicate flesh from its treacherous mesh of bones with your tongue, not merely your fingers; you may be able to spot the sukto's mystery spice of radhuni at first aroma; you may be able to discourse upon the finer points of Dante, DeRozio and your dyspepsia, ad infinitum, as nauseam. 

 

Yes, you may mastered everything that is quintessentially Bengali, from passionate political discussion in the poster-peeling corridors of Cal U  to the right degree of  starch on a dhakai. But you are destined to fail on that one vital count which only the 'dyed-in-the-ool' native can achieve. The humiliating giveaway will be your imposter attempt at Robindroshongeet. 

 

Bangali baachchas are initiated early into this mystic genre. Naa, the exposure begins in the womb, if not actually at the moment of conception; since their putative parents launch into it at the drop of a dhuti. It would surprise no one if Baby Bandopadyay's first wail is a perfectly pitched first bar of Kothao Amar Hariye Jabar. Take it from me,  those less culturally weaned can never compete with this congenital advantage.

 

In school, at first whiff of occasion, my doe-eyed classmates would materialize in lal-parer sharis, their black, oiled hair cascading to their waists, and pad chastely to the assembly-hall stage which had metamorphosed into a shrine with tall vases of rajanigandha, joss sticks and a garlanded portrait of Gurudeb. One set would lilt into Rabindrasangeet, and the even more beautiful among them would segue into the limpid motions of the set dance. The rest of us would gawk in admiration and inadequacy. Only decades later would we summon the courage to laugh approvingly when a colleague dismissed that repetitive choreography as 'clawing at the sky and wringing out a towel, while wearing a mournful expression'. 

 

The culture gap continued to widen. As teens, we took badminton rackets to picnics. The Bengalis brought a harmonium. The varnished box would be solemnly installed in to the centre of the expectant circle, and the star singer clamoured for. Reema-Sheema- Heena would go through the mandatory 'nekami', cough delicately and simper 'Na, na, gola boshey gachhey', but once persuaded to start, she would warble her way through what seemed like Tagore's entire oeuvre of 2,230 songs.

 

Those not initiated at birth into this accomplishment forever suffer the lack. So, I am both sad and glad that I'm not there amidst the massed singers stretching all the way to Santiniketan. In Kolkata, saying that you cannot sing Rabindrasangeet is almost as heretical as not believing that Netaji is alive.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHAT'S LEFT OF IT?

 

After lurching from historical blunders to plain old blunders, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has finally discerned what is going wrong with it. In a resolution adopted by its Central Committee on the rectification campaign, the party has identified a number of all too human foibles as being responsible for its slide down the slippery slope. The desire to acquire material 'positions' (??) and a better lifestyle are among the primary culprits. Clearly, most of us who harbour such goals will not make it past the portals of the party office.

The other major problem, say the worthies behind the rectification drive, is the party's association with bourgeois outfits in electoral alliances due to which the corrosive influences of money, liquor and corrupt practices have grown. How silly of us not to have seen that. Given the wild popularity of the party, under the able stewardship of General Secretary Prakash Karat, it should have sailed into power without the props of these undesirable elements with their love for currency and cocktails. Our advice is that once the party is suitably cleansed of these influences, it might undertake a new drive, this time on how to get votes. This is something the party seems out of touch with.

We can't quite see how the comrades will whip around the countryside armed with the communist commandments and get people to take them seriously. But such fears have never stopped Karat and Co. The fact is that the rules of politics as it is played today have refreshingly bypassed our reds. But then the maha Marxists in AKG Bhavan have seen things through rouge-tinted glasses for years. Much like the Queen of Hearts, who had the roses painted red to suit herself and sliced off the heads of those who didn't agree with her, the Left's really in a bit of lurch. Perhaps, this is part of the correction campaign, courtesy Karat and his merry band, which could well be termed the great sleep forward.

Regressive forces are known to take a mile when given an inch. This seems to be the case with the khap panchayats of Haryana who have now taken to issuing ultimatums to MPs and MLAs to support their illegal acts which masquerade as tradition. Recent statements from a former chief minister of the state and a prominent MP appear to have emboldened these village courts which dispense instant justice to those they perceive as crossing the lines of `culture' and `tradition'. The main issue that these khaps have been raising is that of marriages within the same gotra for which they have sought amendments to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
Fortunately, the government has turned this down. It is a fact that under guise of punishing, often with death, those who pur- portedly marry within their caste, the khaps are actually vic- timising those who chose to marry someone of their choice.
Very few who have been at the receiving end of the khaps' bru- tal justice have actually married within their own caste. No one has the right to take the law into their own hands, and this crime is doubly compounded when it seemingly gets the sanc- tion of elected representatives who are the ultimate custodi- ans of the law.

While these public functionaries may intend to express their support for traditional societal structures, the message that goes out is that they condone the barbaric practices unleashed by these khaps. The Haryana khaps should take a leaf out of the book of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in Punjab that decreed that anyone found guilty of female foeticide or sex selection tests would be ostracised from the community. It has also instituted a cradle scheme for unwanted girl children. Haryana has the second highest per capita income in the country but among the lowest male- female sex ratios. The khaps would be better employed fighting these social evils than trying to ensure the purity of caste in marriage.

The disregard for the due process of law on the part of the khaps was blatantly on display in a recent incident in Mirchpur village in which 20 Dalit homes were torched by upper castes. A handicapped girl and her father died in the incident. Yet the khaps have decreed that the culprits were innocent and issued an ultimatum to the government that they be released. The khaps must clearly be told both by the law enforcement agencies and elected representatives that no one has any quarrel with upholding traditions. But when under guise of doing so, they are threatening the constitutionally guaranteed right to life of people, they must face the appropri- ate punishment. No one should have the licence to run a parallel judiciary.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

 

RUE BRITANNIA FOR CAMERON

 

The curtain has been brought down on 13 years of rule by British prime ministers who claimed adherence to New Labour. The new show in town is the first coalition government that Britain has had since 1974. Symbolically, however, the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition will mark the end of a lengthy period of economic prosperity that allowed Britain to regain its standing as a major global centre for finance, technology and culture. How much of that profile will remain as the painful process of slashing government expenditure and reducing household incomes to bring down the UK's enormous debt mountain will be the real test for Prime Minister David Cameron's leadership.

There is little silver lining in the economic legacy that Mr Cameron has inherited. An incipient economic recovery, one that followed a year-and-a-half of contraction, is endangered by a currency crisis across the English Channel. Britain's budget deficit last year was 11.5 per cent of gross domestic product, just two points behind the danger levels of Greece. Unemployment is at a 15-year high and Britain's once-proud financial sector is in the doghouse. Under New Labour, Britain became a genuinely globalised nation. Its economy become far more intricately linked with the world's than it had ever been before. Britons travelled and invested overseas in record numbers. Services replaced industry as the primary source of employment. A cultural flowering was one consequence. But so was a degree of indulgence: a once frugal people now have the highest levels of personal debt in the Western world.

The Cameron coalition has agreed to slash an enormous 6 billion pounds from government expenditure this year to begin the process of rebalancing Britain's books. This will result in large job losses and a reduction in public services. While the recession of the past two years has helped reduce popular expectations, Mr Cameron can expect some years of deep unpopularity as he drives his country deeper into recession. The problem for him will be that recovery is now far more dependent on events beyond Britain's borders and beyond his control than it was before. New Labour was about exuberance. It was one reason Tony Blair could smile incessantly. New Coalition politics will be about frugality. Mr Cameron will have to find a different face to sell its prescriptions.

Is the poor lady feeling the pressures of office? How else can yo explain US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's latest take on Pakistan's commitment to the hunt for Osama bin Laden? In an interview to a TV channel, Ms Clinton said some lower-level officials in the Pakistani administration, not the top leaders, know where bin Laden and Mullah Omar are. However, she added, the US needs to "stand up to the current dispensation in Islamabad" because there's a "sea change" in their assurance towards the anti-terror strate- gy. Are we the only ones who are confused?

But how did Ms Clinton get this bit of news? Surely, there's no hotline between these lowly officials and her office.
Or is this part of a cunning ploy on the part of US spooks to let old Osama know that his whereabouts are no longer of great concern to the mighty and that this knowledge is in the hands of those lower down the pecking order? Could this egg him on to fold up his tent in the Tora Bora caves and reveal himself to the world if only to reinforce that he cannot be taken so lightly.

But perhaps Ms Clinton in her efforts to sound menac- ing is missing a vital piece of information that eagle-eyes M.
Ahmadinejad of Iran has discerned. The fact that Osama may be lurking around somewhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Now the Iranian prez may be on to something. Where better to cool your heels when Uncle Sam is looking for you all over the world than near the Commander-in-Chief of the US forces.
Maybe someone low down in the US administration's hierar- chy has some dope on this.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ON A WING AND A PRAYER

JITENDER BHARGAVA

 

The IPL fiasco and other headline-grabbers have deflected attention from Air India (AI) inducting its first expatriate Chief Operating Officer (COO), Gustav Baldauf. The government appears to be convinced that the only way left for turning around AI is by appointing an expatriate airline executive since all previous attempts to bring about a change through the services of handpicked IAS officers have failed.

 

But how can one be sure that this experiment will succeed? Past record doesn't hold out much promise as successive managements of AI have miserably failed. One of the prime factors for failure has been the interference of the government in AI's day-to-day functioning. If, indeed, an expat COO is so crucial for AI's survival, why did the appointment take more than eight months?

 

With a track record of taking decisions  that haven't proved right for AI, care ought to have been exercised by the government to ensure that the incumbent COO has the ability to turn around AI's fortunes. No such hope, however, has been aroused. It may be perplexing to note that most of the committee members who selected the incumbent from the short-listed five candidates had little or no understanding of AI's mammoth and multifarious problems. Even the private sector members of the AI Board on the selection committee went through the presentation highlighting AI's performance, its strengths and weaknesses for their understanding, many days after they had put their stamp on the incumbent's candidature. Perhaps it would have made more sense if they understood AI's requirements and then gone about the task of selecting the 'turnaround' COO.

 

The selection committee may have appointed a competent executive. But does his experience match with what is required or expected of him? It is common knowledge that the COO-designate was with Jet Airways till four years ago and was looking after flight operations, which is only one of many functions. When and where did Baldauf master the art of turning arounda company riddled with insurmountable problems?

 

A few weeks' delay in choosing an incumbent wouldn't have brought the heavens crashing down. As many of the selection committee members were doyens from the private sector, one is tempted to ask if they would have followed the same procedure while selecting a candidate for one of the companies under them. More due diligence was certainly in order.For the national carrier, this new 'experiment' may be critical and perhaps the last ray of hope for its survival. Thus, the need for greater caution in selecting the right incumbent. A candidate who would have had a track record of turning around companies; had the requisite knowledge of how a government company functions in India; knew what has been ailing AI and what the doctor's prescription should be; had the requisite experience of dealing with unions and was deft in the art of keeping political bosses in Delhi happy would have found universal acceptance. But how many of these requirements does Baldauf meet? We don't know yet.

 

Work practices in AI are different from those in private companies. AI, a company set up in the 50s has policies, practices that were good for that era. AI managers have not been so dumb as to not know what is needed. But what they have failed to get over the years has been the freedom to operate professionally. What guarantee can the government give now with an expat COO that it will allow AI to be run professionally? And if this assurance can be given, could one have had an Indian manager, from within Air India or outside, who would have been willing to take up the assignment thus obviating the need for an expat COO at a salary unheard of in the government sector?

Jitender Bhargava is former Executive Director of Air India. The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

LAWS OF DISCRETION

VIKRAM SOOD

 

It was a torrid month for Indian intelligence agencies, when the two issues of phone tapping and the arrest of an Indian diplomat for spying for Pakistan made prime time news. The media's over-exuberance in the search for TRP ratings has meant that we have revealed far more than was necessary without realising the permanent damage we can cause to our security systems. This was Mumbai 2008 revisited. There were bureaucratic turf wars and cover-ups leading to lurid stories of high intrigue and low cunning. Quite apparently, there were no government or editorial guidelines that suggested discretion. Ultimately, the revelations made us look like a bunch of national sillies.

 

It is true that all systems are liable to misuse and abuse; but this does not mean that this is rampant or kosher. Further, to assume that once a new system of surveillance has been acquired it will be misused with a vengeance is a fallacy, just as much as it is to assume that a new weapons system acquired by the government will be misused against its own people. Recent examples of the phone tapping of some political figures based on the evidence published do not indicate that there was a concerted effort to tap their phones. Instead these were cases of inadvertent tapping as a result of what the system calls random search. This is a practice resorted to when the phone number of the quarry is not known or when the search has to be widened. A sustained effort would have meant logged records of various conversations over a period of time with their transcripts. In the absence of this, it is difficult to accept that there was either a government decree to tap or that there was a rogue element within the intelligence apparatus who was indulging in a private escapade.  Besides, disclosures like the location of a National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) hub in or near Mumbai is useless knowledge to an Indian but vital for a terrorist looking for such locations to cripple Indian capabilities when required.

 

Amidst all the furore, the accountability of intelligence became the presumed cure-all buzzword for all the ills — real and imagined — of the system. The underlying and incorrect assumption of this demand is that intelligence agencies are laws unto themselves and that unless they are made accountable there would be no improvement.

 

The question that flows from this is: accountable to whom, under what rules and to what extent? In India we don't even have a legal charter for the agencies. Only when there's a legal charter that clearly demarcates the activities of all the agencies can they be held accountable. One suspects that this is the most difficult first step but the principle is simple, there cannot be accountability without a legal charter.

 

Oversight and empowerment should be concurrent. In the case of intelligence agencies this means oversight to assess overall performance in relation to the charter but not scrutiny of operational matters, strategic decisions, source, covert operations or funds. All these would remain with the head of the organisation within the scope of the charter. External micromanagement is disastrous and intelligence organisations need functional autonomy in personnel management. The appointment of the head of the service would be the prerogative of the head of the government but there is need for transparency in such appointments.

 

Another aspect of accountability must be considered. Here it is relevant to quote from a work of fiction and since fiction today reflects reality, it is apt. Vince Flynn in his book Separation of Power, says, "There was a definite need for congressional oversight, but there was also need for black operations. Politicians were politicians after all, and throughout the history of governments they have proven incapable of keeping secrets. By virtue of their need to talk, raise money and peddle influence, all but a few were simply unable to keep their mouths shut. This was the standard feeling among the intelligence and military types in Washington…"

 

Flynn reflects the true state of affairs in a country like the US, which has strong traditions of security management post-World War II and a presidential form of government with two major parties. We have seen our parliamentarians function inside and outside Parliament, and are aware of midnight deals before votes in Parliament. We also know that in a weak coalition, multi-party parliamentary form of government, various considerations, other than competence, determine the formation of parliamentary committees or ministries. These are the realities of our vulnerabilities.

 

Besides, oversight of the performance would not be enough unless other simultaneous steps are taken. The legislated charter would also need empowerment of the organisational heads, autonomy of function — both operational and administrative — which does not tie down the organisation to the fortunes of the bureaucracy elsewhere in the system. Earlier one had pleaded that the media should self-regulate but this apparently is not possible. We, therefore, need to introduce Western practices requiring media regulation on matters of national security.

 

Reforms and check-backs are necessary at all times to ensure quality intelligence and must not be episodic. Oversight has to be in the hands of those who have empathy and understanding about the business of intelligence and not with those who are ignorant, indifferent or even inimical. Finally, since accountability and oversight are so eminently desirable, all arms of the government should be covered and there should be no exclusions in the list.

 

The question, however, is — are we ready for this or are we, without thinking this through and in our zeal for control and power, merely tilting at windmills and conjuring cures worse than the disease?

 

Vikram Sood is former Secretary, Research & Analysis Wing The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GET ON THE ROAD

 

Ever since Thuingaleng Muivah, leader of the NSCN(IM), made clear that he was headed towards his native village in Manipur, the state has been on edge. The Naga leader has — only temporarily, he clarifies — been prevailed upon by the Centre to keep those plans on hold, but the consequent tension with Nagaland has made more acute the sense of siege in Manipur.

 

This week the state has been gripped by three blockades, targeted at National Highway 39, the artery that brings in supplies from outside Manipur. This month-old blockade has predictably led to an economy of shortages, and worryingly, food and medicine supplies are running low. To make matters worse, an intra-state blockade too has been sought to be imposed between the Imphal valley and the Naga-populated hill districts of Manipur. One need not revisit the strife of 2001 to know the dangers of allowing the situation to drift and there is a possibility that the suffering produced by the blockades could lead to violence.

 

Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai has been meeting with leaders in Manipur and Nagaland, and with Muivah, to find a way of breaking the current impasse. The clear lesson already is that the Centre cannot take a hands-off approach, and leave it to the two states to sort it out. In fact, given the stakes, the Centre must show it has enough leverage to prevail upon all involved and stop the situation from spinning out of control. This crisis has also shown the importance of connectivity and of having options to stop such blockades from so easily being won. The big test therefore is to forthwith get the supply routes moving, even if it be via the alternative route of NH-53 with additional airlifts.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

LOOKING AT NO 10

 

The British, long used to the arrival of the removals van at the backdoor of 10, Downing Street within hours of a government being voted out, watched the seeming spectacle of a prime minister whose party lost the most seats hanging on, trying to patch together a coalition, with the leader of the party that did win the most seats fearing his dream almost crushed. To those long used to hung national legislatures and the vicissitudes attending government formation, the riddle was self-explanatory: nobody had "won" the May 6 election. A government had to be formed through negotiations, trade-offs and parliamentary arithmetic. And this, with or without electoral reform, may yet become the norm. But the new prime minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, has no time to rue his shabby takeover or relish his being the youngest PM since Lord Liverpool, Robert Banks Jenkinson (1812-1827). Two facts are paramount: first, Britain finally has a post-mandate government. Second, there's a crisis of political economy for the deficit-strangled UK and an uncertain market, for the Trojan-Horsed EU. Besides, Britain has commitments in Afghanistan. What Cameron and his deputy PM, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, have to provide is a stable government.

 

This is the UK's first coalition in seven decades, and the Conservatives have come out of the wilderness after 13 years. At the other end of the executive equation, the LibDems, despite losing seats, are finally in government, opting for the more unexpected (and unprecedented) of the two possible alliances. To their credit, Cameron and Clegg have been speedy learners of this new politics. Defying or convincing their respective hard-liners and voters, however, is still an unfinished job. In the process, Tories and LibDems are negotiating electoral reform, taxes, immigration and the euro among other thorns between them.

 

The hardest challenge is the record deficit. Will the government introduce cuts? That question will have to be answered one way or the other soon. Meanwhile, polities across the globe will scrutinise how Britain adapts to this politics of compromise, not just in parliament, but within government, where the man Cameron's party attacked the most during the campaign is now his deputy.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

AMONG THE BELIEVERS

 

You have to admit this about the Left — they have never been afraid of taking a good hard look at their own navels. Unlike other political parties, the communists periodically examine their own workings and hold it up to the hard catechism of their ideology.

 

Now, after another exacting rectification ritual, the CPM has decided that there has been a certain erosion in the primacy of its working class outlook, and that the demands of our parliamentary democracy — which make electoral pacts with bourgeois parties inevitable — have ended up corroding the party's virtue. The party document derides the slow creep of careerism and conspicuous con-

 

sumption, the influence of vested interest in places where the CPM is strong, corruption, and the tendency to rely on large donations from affluent sections rather than mass collections from the people. Indeed, the CPM has valiantly attempted to align its practices with strict theoretical stricture. In a situation where 70 per cent of its national leadership is drawn from the middle class, nursed by university politics, it is proving difficult to work through the incongruities. Only recently, before the tragic Varadarajan suicide, the party had undertaken another such organisational scrutiny to rid itself of "unethical and dishonest acts, a self-centric mentality and craving for sensual pleasures". A similar exercise was conducted in 1996. Of course, communist rectification has a hoary past, drawing on the Confucian tradition of introspection and attitudinal change, as well as Soviet disciplinary methods which relied on the systematic study of documents and self-criticism. In Mao's view, it was the Party's project to find the contradictions in historical periods and wrestle with them, gleaning the progressive aspect from these struggles. The Party mirrors and resolves the contradictions of a wider society.

 

Or so says the script. Unfortunately, as Eric Hobsbawm has

 

underlined, India is an exception in a world where the idea of a classical non-regime communist party is largely

extinct. And so, India's communists find themselves without a navigational guide in a world that has moved on. Instead of the willingness to improvise and route around events, they fall back on their dusty manuals. Their ambivalence about India's parliamentary give-and-take takes this absurd form, where they flagellate themselves for every adjustment to reality. Even as they conduct clear-eyed appraisals of the machine's parts, they are unable to confront the machine's obsolescence.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CARIBBEAN LESSON

SANDEEP DWIVEDI

 

It was past midnight in India when M.S. Dhoni, after losing to Sri Lanka, led his team's slow march off the field in Barbados and out of the 2010 World T20. Televisions were switched off in disgust; fans rubbed their eyes in disbelief. The men who seemed capable of reaching every possible cricketing high during the Indian Premier League just last month suddenly stumbled while wearing the India blues. How, during the long flight to the Caribbean, did the Indians lose the Midas touch that repeatedly showed while turning up for their franchise, was the disturbing last question before sleep.

 

Before touching the obvious reasons for the sudden slump — like the IPL's killing schedule, late-night games and wee-hours parties — a more basic question needs to be addressed: is the IPL a stern enough test, one guaranteeing success at the international level? India's last two World T20 campaigns have amply proved that it isn't. When it comes to popularity, hype, brand value, TRP or even media attention, the IPL has no parallel or precedent; but it doesn't have quality of the sort that would get it a cricketing ISO. A cap on spending, and restrictions on the number of foreign players, means all the playing XIs have weak links that can be exploited for easy runs and cheap wickets.

 

Revisiting a few Indian batting performances in IPL will result in a change of perspective about those big scores — plus explain their failure at the World T20 tournament.

 

Yusuf Pathan's 100 from 37 balls against the Mumbai Indians was memorable; but not many remember the bowlers he faced. Of those 37 balls, 26 were bowled by Ryan McLaren, Ali Murtaza and R. Sathish, bowlers nowhere close to getting into their respective national T20 sides. The three conceded 75 runs to Pathan.

 

M. Vijay's 56-ball 127 against Rajasthan Royals is said to be the knock of IPL-III. But as it turns out, 33 of those runs came from the 9 balls he faced from a modest medium-pacer with one first-class season behind him: Sumit Narwal, who finds it tough to retain his place in the Delhi team. Besides, Vijay scored 26 from the 11 balls he faced from part-time offie Yusuf Pathan. Dhoni's 29-ball 54, during a tense chase at Dharamsala, turned the tide for eventual champions Chennai Super Kings. Twenty-four of those runs came from the 8 balls he faced from Irfan Pathan, a bowler who hasn't found a place in the India A-team.

 

Gautam Gambhir's highest score of 72 came against a King's XI Punjab bowling attack which featured Pathan, Sreesanth, Yusuf Abdulla, Piyush Chawla, Yuvraj and Ramesh Powar. Things take a dramatic turn, especially for an opener, when the bowling attack instead has names like Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait and Mitchel Johnson — pacers who don't hold back during the short four-over spell in T20 cricket, and regularly touch 150 kph. Nannes and Tait are IPL regulars; but in the IPL they aren't quite in august company. Other national teams too have quality bowling line-ups, and waiting for weaklings to bowl is futile. Besides, with the boundary ropes not quite pulled in and the outfield not lightning-quick, the IPL superstars don't have the perks they are used to.

 

Missing at the World T20 is also the hype that escalates everyday cricketing achievements to historic heights. Exaggeration and drama isn't far away when wannabe models and Bollywood strugglers anchor pre- and post-match shows. Embedded commentators give credence to their hyperbole; reputed former players-turned-IPL coaches write syndicated columns plugging for players from their franchise. That's why Suresh Raina is called the best young talent in the world, Virat Kohli a future India captain and Shane Warne calls Yusuf Pathan's century against the Mumbai Indians the best knock he has ever seen. That last coming from a player who was part of probably the greatest team the world has ever seen.

The IPL, omnipresent with all its mobile phone links, 3-D big-screen experience, YouTube tie-ups and games playing on a loop on television, makes even cynics and sceptics, at least for a moment, marvel at what are in the end modest cricketing shows. With the packaging so bewitching, the content becomes secondary. It isn't just the fans who are waylaid by the make-believe world of the IPL; the players get conned as well. Those heady 45 days give them a false sense of security that suddenly fades when they face a bowling attack dominated by card-carrying members of Club 150 kph. The result is, like the fans, the players too end up rubbing their eyes in disbelief when faced with reality.

 

sandeep.dwivedi@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PARTYING SHOTS

MIHIR S. SHARMA

 

Congress, n.: the formal act of coming together and meeting, for the purposes of discussion and usually action on some question. Nobody expects words to retain their meanings in this degenerate age, so horrifyingly casual about linguistic purity; but this word, in India, seems to have lost its entire second clause.

 

An odd complaint, perhaps, given that some Congressmen appear to be quite willing to unburden themselves of long-held frustrations. What could be more democratic, you might ask, than Jairam Ramesh denouncing the home ministry's stand on Chinese telecom companies as "paranoid", and claiming that it undermined the epochal diplomatic breakthrough he was personally responsible for at Copenhagen? Than a party general secretary attacking the government's line on a divisive question in print, the way that Digvijay Singh did in his broadside, so pleasingly personal, against Home Minister P. Chidambaram? Than the very presence of Mani Shankar Aiyar, dancing about the margins, throwing well-honed knives every which way?

 

But it isn't that simple. Actually, such needling, more about the target than about what is said, characterises organisations which stifle open debate.

 

This isn't simply ideological, the party's left revolting. That would fit in with a fairly simple story: Manmohan Singh is of the right, Sonia Gandhi of the left; the government reflects the Congress's right, the "party" the Congress's left. Earlier the Congress's left hid behind the actual Left; but now they have to take potshots at Manmohan Singh on their own. And, certainly, it isn't hard to hear the startling contempt with which some in the Congress speak of their "munim" PM. But the story doesn't hold up completely: were not Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor both in government? And neither is uncomplicatedly "of the left".

 

These are more the first, carefully-planned shots in the War for 2014. Casus belli: Manmohan Singh might be on his way out by then. Perhaps Rahul Gandhi will be in, in which case extravagant loyalty to the prince's party is believed to require a few rude remarks about the king's. Perhaps he'll continue to turn it down, in which case chucking mud at Chidambaram's perfect white angavastram doesn't hurt anyone, right? Except it does. For a government at the mercy of every floor vote, the illusion of authority and stability is all.

 

Like everything to do with the Congress, this problem stems from the later Indira period, and the slow internal decline that began then. A party based on robust discussion and famously combative all-India sessions rapidly became one where, on matters of policy, the leader alone would take the call; opinions could only be expressed hesitantly, always subject to the leader's approval. Hence, today it is impossible for anyone within the Congress to speak out about policy without it appearing, and usually being, one of two things: an attack on the leadership, either of party or government; or an attack sanctioned by the party leaders on the government.

 

This is not sustainable for much longer. The UPA has got by this far largely on the menu of policies decided on in 2004, on which, in the first surprised flush of that victory, a degree of internal consensus was achieved; but, six years on, new challenges have been thrown up — the Maoists, for one — and further reform has to be agreed on — finance, land acquisition. Yet these issues aren't the stuff of reasoned debate, but rhetorical weapons.

 

We may have lost sight of what political parties are actually supposed to do. They are more than merely vehicles for "mobilisation" of an undifferentiated mass of people with an inchoate sense of grievance. No, just as democracy, for political scientists, is one method of aggregating individual preferences over policies into some sort of social preference, parties play a crucial role in enabling that policy choice.

 

Indeed, halfway across the world, in the country where the modern party system was born, we've seen it work.

The UK's Labour Party initially looked like making a deal with the Liberal Democrats, a course favoured by both then-PM Gordon Brown and by most of his possible successors. But the compromises on policy that a deal would need were too much for many faithful. The party system worked: Labour's leaders got the message that its grassroots were too concerned about the policy concessions in any deal. That required a culture in which even political allies would speak their mind — loyalist former Home Secretary and loyalist David Blunkett opposed any deal, though it caused " a comradely expression of views from Downing Street" ; yet one in which the characteristically understated "comradely expression of views" is neither caused by disloyalty, nor seen to be disloyal.

 

Unfortunately for all concerned, when discussing the Congress's future, it is hard to manage without a What Will Rahul Do moment. He appears to be serious about reviving the Congress's long-dead tradition of internal democracy. The first experiments, carefully supervised and open elections in various states, haven't been completely successful — they haven't magically cured our tendency to vote for familiar surnames, for example — but nor do they provide us with any reason to despair.

 

Yet, just as India's liberal democracy is about much more than elections, so is inner-party democracy. An energetic restoration of the Congress's internal institutions cannot substitute for the absence of any culture of open policy debate — in which the positions are taken for more than just to further one's own career. Yes, Rahul Gandhi has demonstrated a personal openness to questions. But on policy? Once or twice he intervened to help settle a decision, in the old style: on the importance of the nuclear deal, for example. Occasionally, on the implementation of policy that's already been decided: on state-level performance of the NREGA, for example. Largely, the desire to not be seen to be interfering with policy takes precedence. A laudable motive. Yet non-interference doesn't preclude the creation of spaces within the party for discussion. But it seems to be the belief that organisational change is sufficient, without enabling debate on alternative policy positions.

 

It isn't sufficient. Without such a space, the only discussion of policy that isn't from a minister will be an attack on already-decided policy that the government is struggling to implement or legislate. That undermines the government, and hurts the party. Without such a space, the only reason to bring up policy will be to use it to fight personal battles. And, most fundamentally, without such a space, there's no reason to suppose that parties will get policy right, that they will reflect what their members feel. They won't be really democratic.

 

mihir.sharma@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

INTERROGATING THE CASTE CENSUS

K. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

The Government of India has agreed to authorise the census operation to collect caste data, after an interval of 80 years. Those who argued that this should not be done as part of the census but conducted separately through the Backward Classes Commission lost the argument. In a sense, this step is a logical one derived from the increasing role of identity politics in our elections, based on the first-past-the-post system. The politicians who are interested in the caste census data are not as interested in advancing the living standards and the status of the traditionally disadvantaged as they are in organising them into vote banks. The census data will be a powerful tool in their hands. This step will help consolidate the first-past-the-post system of elections and enable a significant section of our parliamentarians to be elected with a minority of votes polled in their favour and the majority of the constituency voting against them. Consequently they are not likely to have the democratic culture to respect the majority in the House and are likely to indulge in gimmickries designed to attract the attention of their core constituencies. This is the position today and with the legitimising of caste-based politics through the collection of census data, the culture of disruptions in Parliament is likely to be perpetuated.

 

Caste is not peculiar to India. It is prevalent in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Conversion to Islam and Christianity or Buddhism does not erase caste identity. In spite of the claims of Islam and Christianity that all believers are equal, the caste advantages and disadvantages continue to be perpetuated even after conversion. Therefore, the demand that caste reservation should be extended to the converts to Islam and Christianity. This demand has already been accepted and judicially approved. In such circumstances it is only logical that caste data for the census should cover all religions and not be restricted to those calling themselves Hindus. It is presumed the government's instructions to the census authorities will implement this requirement. In due course this will lead to the reservations being operated on the basis of caste, without reference to religion. It will be interesting to watch whether such a development in India will lead to similar demands in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

 

One wonders whether this rushed decision will give rise to new problems. It has been asserted by the government that this data will not be subjected to analysis. Is that proposition realistic? Caste is a very complex subject. A particular caste having the same name can be an upper caste in one state, a backward caste in another state and a most backward caste in a third state. Vesting the data with the sanctity of the census operation is bound to raise issues of quotas within reservations based on the relative strengths of castes. If the politician's interest was in the uplift of the traditionally disadvantaged, that could have been done by criteria-based affirmative action. But his real purpose is votebank politics and not the welfare of the masses. It is not going to be easy to escape the tensions that this casteism-strengthening exercise is likely to unleash. Such legitimisation of casteism will strengthen, for instance, the hands of reactionary and obscurantist khap panchayats. We see the pernicious hold of a casteist mindset in instances where parents murder their own children for crossing caste boundaries in choosing their spouses.

 

Our Constitution-makers did not anticipate that caste would end up being strengthened by the kind of electoral process they instituted. Our freedom fighters looked forward to a casteless society. There were movements in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and elsewhere for the eradication of caste. Now even those who championed caste eradication earlier have been seduced by caste vote-bank politics and are contributing to the perpetuation of such identities to derive political mileage. Strange are the ways of untethered democratic politics corrupted by the first-past-the-post system!

 

At the same time this census data collection provides a unique opportunity to all Indians who would like to see a casteless India to assert their views and make this a referendum on caste endorsement. Every Indian who would like to eradicate caste should enroll in the census as belonging to the Indian caste.

Here is an opportunity for progressive civil society to assert itself. It is likely that those sections of the population which have benefited from reservation and have followed leaderships who depend on caste politics will enthusiastically register their caste identities. But as the casteists have gained, let the resistance to casteism also advance. It may take many censuses before the majority of Indians are willing to renounce this millenia-old institution. As India urbanises and develops, casteism and caste-based politics will lose significance.

 

Ultimately India will have to promote a social and economic criteria-based affirmative action progamme which will drown the caste-linked educational and job reservations. Electoral reforms which will require a candidate to poll 50 per cent plus of votes cast in a second round to get elected are also needed. All that will take time. Meanwhile, let us start with this census and let all those who want a casteless India for our children and grandchildren register Indian against the caste column, when the census enumerator turns up at our doors.

 

The writer is a senior defence analyst

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MAKING A SONG AND DANCE

SHAILAJA BAJPAI

 

It's over. Patriotic Indians have to watch the Twenty20 World Cup no longer — our boys are coming home. Thank God for that. After the IPL party, the World Cup has been a hangover (hiccup) we want to shake off, that too pronto.

 

After losses to Australia and the West Indies, TV news was shrill with denunciations of the players, saying they suffered from cricket fatigue. But what of viewer fatigue? Put it down to poor timing: we had been through 60 Twenty20 matches barely a week before the World Cup began. And admit it: IPL was one gorgeous, over the top, one-stop all-purpose entertainment extravaganza. In comparison, the Twenty20 World Cup is just about cricket, some very good cricket, but without the festive atmosphere of the IPL, nevertheless. Listen to the commentators: they're so sober you'd think they're discussing the British election results! Perhaps IPL has spoilt the Twenty20 game forever: we can't watch a 40-over match now without the glamour, the gloss and the floss. Pity.

 

Onto other contests. This question is completely irrelevant but it still deserves an answer: why is Vindu Dara Singh judging a children's dance talent show, Chak Dhoom Dhoom (Colors)? It's not like he is the next Michael Jackson; it's not like he knows how to choreograph a number like Saroj Khan or Ahmed Khan (who happen to be his fellow judges). It's not like he's got this magnetic personality that will automatically attract and hold our eyeballs. So why is he there? Have the show's producers such little confidence in the children, they hope Vindu Dara Singh's height will lift the programme above the competition?

 

The show looked quite promising when the children were performing. Should children be performing is a question that is invariably asked but never receives a satisfactory reply. A new season of Boogie Woogie (Sony) begins and the promos (right in the middle of Indian Idol-5) show small kids in acrobatic stunts, and with more paint on their faces than a Kathakali dancer. And you ask yourself, why? Why do parents put their children through the torturous contortions on the floor just for the sake of that fleeting phenomenon, fame?

 

The dancing on the latest Zara Nach Ke Dikha (Star Plus) was less than moving — literally. It was Mother's Day, on Sunday, and the girls and guys danced for Ma. Wish they hadn't. The girls moved like puppets — awkwardly. The guys moved like puppets on a string — as though they might fall off any moment. And they were doing something on the floor that you wouldn't call dancing because it looked very much like they were in tears — as if that is what their mothers have reduced them to! Oh dear. This Mother's Special did no justice to a show that is otherwise lively and entertaining.

 

Anu Malik compared one of the contestants on Indian Idol-5 to a fruit and called her cute — he found the others equally appetising. Salim Merchant described every (other) singer as "fantastic". Sunidhi Chauhan was somewhere in between the two, but always encouraging. And for once, these judges were in complete harmony, agreeing more than they disagreed.

 

More than their opinions, you were left staring at them and at the presenters: Hussain Kuwajerwala was dressed in a smoking jacket he borrowed from Sherlock Holmes; that or he cut up the curtains at home; Anu Malik dressed in black, blacker, blackest, whatever he wore; on Monday, Salim Merchant sported jodhpurs (jodhpurs?) and a grin that left his mouth only when he spoke or sang. As for Sunidhi Chauhan, it was a contest between her eye make-up and her nail polish. The nail polish won.

 

As for the contestants, well, this is a slice of India. There's Shivam from Lakhimpur (UP), Swaroop Khan from a village near Jaisalmer, Lakshay who is a pilot, Tia who idolises Chauhan and has auditioned three times for the show, plump Meghna, and 11 others in many shapes and sizes from all over the country. Each one stands a chance to win. That's what makes reality TV so watchable.

 

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL 

LOOK INSIDE THE GIFT HORSE

 

For a man whose country's wobbly finances have kept the world on edge for months, the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, evinces an Obama-Zen-like calm. He is just back from meeting fellow European Union leaders, who decided to try to stave off a Greek meltdown and an EU crackup with a show of overwhelming force — committing nearly $1 trillion to support the economy of any ailing member state. But over a lunch of Greek salad and grilled fish, Papandreou makes clear that he knows that the deal with the EU was not your garden-variety bailout-for-budget-cuts. No, if you really look closely at what it will take for Greece to mend its economy, this is actually a bailout-for-a-revolution. Greece's entire economic and political system will have to change for Greeks to deliver their side of this bargain.

 

Papandreou says he is ready and so, too, he insists, is his country: "People are saying to me, 'change this country — go ahead and change it.' People realise that it needs change. You don't want to miss this opportunity."

 

How Greece performs will not only affect Greeks, but the value of the euro and the whole 27-nation European Union. Yes, I know, the EU is the world's most opaque and boring organisation. But it is actually America's not-so-identical twin and the world's largest economy. It is, in fact, "the United States of Europe," and, in my view, two United States are better than one. If this one over here fractures, it will affect everything from how many exports America has in the next year to how many allies America has in the next war.

 

Sitting in a rooftop restaurant with a view of the Acropolis, I ask Papandreou to put on his safari hat and tell me what it was like to be hunted by the electronic bond herd for six months.

 

"Because of the 2008 crisis, all the market players have become much more risk-averse, so they are on a hair trigger," explains the centre-left prime minister, who was voted in by a large majority in October to fix this mess. Today's market players are "like an animal that has been wounded, and so it recoils at the slightest motion. So any rumour about you can become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

 

Comparing bond players to some kind of living beasts may be unfair to beasts, he suggests. These markets "are not even human anymore. Some of these things are computerised, and they just go into automatic mode" when they see a hint of trouble.

 

Because of their profligacy, Greeks have been living under this market scrutiny for so many months, he added, that today "every Greek from age three to 93 knows what a 'bond spread' means. 'What's the spread today? Are they widening?' People had never heard about this before," and it created a paralysing uncertainty. "Should I buy, consume, save, invest, take my money out of the country?"

 

The only way for Greece to end this uncertainty was with an unprecedented commitment by the European Union to backstop Greek debts and with an unprecedented commitment by Greece to put its economy on a strict diet — set by the International Monetary Fund — with quarterly budget targets that Athens has to meet to receive additional support. "Now we will have a respite," said Papandreou — not to relax, but so the Greek government can begin "the deep changes ... the small revolution" in how this country is governed, with particular emphasis on changing the incentive system here from one that focused way too many Greeks on getting a lifetime government job to one focused on stimulating private initiative.

 

The cabinet has already approved increasing the average retirement age for public sector workers from 61 to 65. Average public sector wages have been cut 20 per cent, and pensions by 10 per cent. The value-added tax was raised from 19 per cent to 23 per cent, and there's been an excise tax increase of about 30 per cent on gas, alcohol and tobacco. So far, the deficit is down 40 per cent from last year.

 

But Papandreou, whose official car is a Prius hybrid, says that to sustain these wrenching reforms requires Greeks to become stakeholders in the process. That will only happen, he argues, if there is a sense of "justice" — Greeks want to see big tax cheaters and corrupt officials prosecuted — and if the people feel their leaders have a vision. "We need to give this country a dream — where we are going," so the sacrifices make sense. "We're going to bring in best practices from Europe and around the world to reform this country," says Papandreou. "It is difficult, and there will be protests, and people will feel bitter, but it will be one of the most creative times Greece has gone through."

 

Can Greece have a civic revolution? The odds are long, but you won't need to consult the IMF to determine the answer. Just watch Greek young people. In six months, if you see them migrating, then short Greece. If you see them sticking it out here, though, it means they think there is something worth staying for, and you might even want to buy a Greek bond or two.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FROM STICKS TO CARROTS

 

Everybody here lies. But with the arrival of Hamid Karzai, the mendacity blossomed into absurdity.

 

The question for the Obama White House is not whether it can grow to appreciate the caped capo who runs Afghanistan. (President Obama can't stand him.) The question is whether Karzai will fall for all the guff they're throwing at him.

 

Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Stanley McChrystal were paraded into the White House press room to pretend as though their dispute about the efficacy of the surge, given Karzai's serious flaws as a partner, has been put to rest. (It hasn't.) The administration crooned a reassuring lullaby to the colicky Karzai: that it has a long-term commitment in Afghanistan (it doesn't) and an endgame there (it doesn't) and that it knows that the upcoming Kandahar offensive will work (it doesn't).

 

Asked by a reporter about the change from sticks to carrots, Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan who has had contentious sessions with Karzai, replied: "No, I certainly don't think it's changed." (It has.) For their part, the Afghans promise to work on stemming corruption and stopping the poppy trade. (They won't.)

 

The administration is trying to delay the inconvenient truth that Karzai wants reconciliation with Taliban leaders; this makes the US cringe, thinking of Mullah Omar and other 9/11 killers. Like a lover who has learned from bitter experience that his fickle mistress responds better to sweets than rants, the administration has abruptly switched from nagging the corrupt Afghan president to nuzzling him.

 

The Afghan leader was also due to be feted Wednesday night at a private dinner at the home of Vice President Biden, who once stalked out of a Karzai supper at the palace in Kabul when the Afghan president claimed there was no corruption, and got furious again last month when Karzai said he would join the Taliban if foreign interference continued. (Translation: Stop upbraiding me, Obama, you're stuck with me.)

 

On Thursday, Karzai is slated to get a special treat — a long, intimate walk in a Georgetown garden with Hillary Clinton — the one person in the administration who prides herself on getting along with him. Romantic strolls through gardens, the administration has decided, are the best way to move the corrupt coxcomb to its point of view. Last October, when Karzai was trying to purloin the election with a million illegal votes, John Kerry persuaded him to agree to a runoff by taking a long walk through rosebushes and the presidential mosque on the palace grounds in Kabul.

 

Both Kerry and Hillary bonded with Karzai by confiding how they, too, had felt very wounded by a bruising election experience. "Sometimes there are tough things," Kerry told the Afghan leader. Yeah, like if you had to steal an election twice. The Taliban in Pakistan is training jihadis to attack New York, belying again W.'s chuckleheaded contention that we have to wage war against terrorists abroad so we don't have to face them at home. Our battles meant to diminish enemies replenish them. The inept Times Square bomber was infuriated by US drone attacks in Pakistan.

 

A Pentagon report shows that General McChrystal's boast that he could wheel "a government in a box" into Marja was premature. The Pentagon said there had been "some success in clearing insurgents from their strongholds" but "progress in introducing governance and development to these areas to move toward hold and build operations has been slow."

 

A walk in the garden, it's not.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GADKARI'S VISION

 

The recent issues of Organiser and Panchajanya, the RSS organs in English and Hindi respectively, have detailed interviews with BJP president Nitin Gadkari as the cover feature. The Organiser headline reads: "The nation is not safe till UPA is in power", while in the Hindi version, it reads " Rashtra nirman ka sashakt madhyam bane rajniti" ("politics should become an instrument of nation-building"). The contents of the interview, given to the editors of the two weeklies, are broadly the same. In the interview, Gadkari attacks UPA's economic policy, stresses on the need "to expand in states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, some other states", and among "Scheduled Castes, and other weaker sections"; argues that "if the party (BJP) were anti-Muslim, why would the party have made Dr Abdul Kalam the president of the country?"; talks about bringing back interlinking of rivers to the political agenda, and says that he is surprised that the "fourteen questions that he asked the UPA government on broad economic issues have not been answered yet".

 

Responding to a question on whether the Congress has launched a campaign against Narendra Modi and some other CMs of BJP-ruled states, he says that the CBI has become "Congress Bureau of Investigation" and that "CBI and other agencies are being misused with bias against Narendra Modi". During the course of the interview, he also talks about some of his own initiatives like bringing Antyodaya to the mainstream in the party, and the need for party workers to reach out to the poor and the unorganised sector.

 

Sangh convictions

 

Panchajanya has put on its front page the suo motu statement put out by RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi last week, with a heading reading "Gair kanooni evam himsatmak gatividhiyon ko Sangh ka samarthan nahin" (Illegal and violent activities will not get Sangh support). The statement adds that "the RSS condemns the attempts made by newspapers to link the recent blasts in the country to the RSS".

 

A write-up by Rakesh Sinha (a Delhi University teacher, also associated with the RSS) on an inside page, quotes from various Urdu dailies and says that "they have been spreading communalism and a disinformation campaign". He also claims that "besides Hindu organisations, there is an attempt to drag the Indian state and its various agencies into it".

 

Compiled by Suman K. Jha

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CHANGE IN SENTIMENT

 

The first half of this week has been relatively good for Europe, given the uncertainty of last week and indeed the last month. And what is good news for the EU's economy is certainly good for the global economy. The 27-member EU is, after all, as big an economic unit as the US in terms of GDP, and a quick global recovery needs Europe to return to growth, rather than slide towards crisis over the next few months. First, the EU and IMF began the week by agreeing on a massive 750-million euro loan guarantee package for the 16-member euro zone on Monday. Critically, the German Cabinet endorsed their country's rather large contribution to the loan guarantee fund. That commitment has played a crucial role in calming jittery markets that were beginning to fear a contagion spreading beyond Greece into some of the other PIGS countries. Still, there remain doubts about the ability of individual countries to bring down their levels of debt and fiscal deficit, especially now that they have the promise of a backup option. On Wednesday, though, vulnerable Spain did its bit to signal renewed commitment with the government announcing significant expenditure cuts, including cuts in the salaries of all public sector workers and cuts in the funds given out to the regions. So far, Spain has avoided the kind of mass protests witnessed in Greece over the proposed austerity measures. That is good news, because there is nothing worse than political instability in difficult times like these.

 

In that context, the formation of a government in the UK, five days after the general elections delivered a hung Parliament, would also bring cheer to the beleaguered markets. The UK is an important centre of global finance and is reeling under a huge deficit of its own. The final outcome of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, while carrying many contradictions, might be the most satisfactory for one simple reason—the fact that this bloc has a comfortable majority in the new Parliament, something neither a minority Conservative government nor a Labour-Liberal Democratic coalition would have had. And given the tough measures that are needed to be taken to get the UK's economy back on track, a parliamentary majority is vital. Of course, none of this will amount to much unless the serious problems of deficit and debt are tackled by governments across Europe very quickly. Positive sentiment can evaporate very fast if governments fail to come up with credible plans to live within their means.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NO SENSE IN CASTE CENSUS

 

Given that it is going to be accompanied by the delivery of a national population register and a national unique identity scheme, the 15th Census has been appropriately fêted by the Union home minister as the biggest exercise since humankind came into existence. Census 2011 will cover 1.2 billion people, with 2.5 million people being deployed to track them. But a new spanner has been thrown into the works and nobody quite knows what will be churned up as a result. For the first time in independent India, India looks set to get a caste-based census. This concession represents a sharp turnaround in government policy. It was just earlier this month that the home ministry, which is the nodal ministry for census purposes on whose turf the office of the Registrar General of India (which oversees the census exercise) is housed, had declared to the Cabinet: "Population census is not the ideal instrument for collection of details on caste. The operational difficulties are so many that there is a grave danger that the basic integrity of the census data may be compromised and the fundamental population count itself could get distorted." But once the Opposition—everyone from the JD (U), SP, RJD, Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, AIADMK and DMK to BJP, CPM and CPI (M)—got together, the Congress cravenly caved in.

 

The Left parties—whose theoretical edifice should actually have led to a contrary position—justified the demand for a caste-based census with the most ingenious of arguments: society should not be divided on the basis of caste, but as long as it is, why shouldn't the census address this division? We think it right to counterquestion—were things different when the Indian Constitution was being formulated? They weren't. But the Constitution's architects took the position that caste would continue to be ignored in public life. The Constitution's chief architect BR Ambedkar observed, "How can people divided into several thousands of castes be a nation?" If we must turn our back on this long tradition, we must be well prepared for all the resulting implications. It is patently obvious that we aren't. We still haven't found a statistical way around the problems encountered by the commissioner of the last caste-based census, JH Hutton. Caste groups and their status differ from region to region. The enumerators are far from ready to adjudicate claims across 4,000-odd caste groupings. And so on. Finally, if we make a list of all that the truly disempowered need—health, education, food subsidies, etc—a caste-based census seems to have little centrality in effecting justice.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHY RETAIL INVESTORS ARE STAYING AWAY

SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN

 

The Sensex is riding high at 17,000-plus despite fears of a contagion in the euro zone following the economic crisis in Greece. India Inc continues to churn out fairly decent numbers; even if there is a base effect and commodity inflation, the numbers are good. More importantly, with a bit of luck and a good monsoon they're likely to stay that way. And with GDP growth estimated at 8% over the coming years, the Indian economy is gathering momentum. So why are retail investors staying away from the stock market? The month of April has once again seen money moving out of equity schemes; in fact, over the last year equity schemes haven't seen money inflow, except for probably two or three months. At a time when total assets for the mutual fund industry are at a new high of $182 billion, most of the money is flowing into fixed-income plans. As Morgan Stanley points out, equity assets, at just over $47 billion, account for 3.4% of the country's market capitalisation and are 18% below the December 2007 peak.

 

Clearly, the end of commissions to agents, which happened last August, is hurting business. One fund house recently collected a paltry Rs 4 crore for a new scheme and it's only those fund houses that have the distribution power of a bank behind them that are able to get people to invest. While mutual funds are the best option for small investors, they remain a push-product and so agents won't sell them unless they make money in the process. This is why small savers have bought into Ulips, though, in the process, agents have pocketed big commissions. But while there has been a lot of misselling and commissions have been usurious, agents do need to be compensated.

 

The Sebi-Irda spat has raised concerns that commissions on Ulips may also be reduced to near zero. This may not be such a good idea. The huge corpuses with life insurers have found their way into the stock market and these domestic savings are now a big pool that companies can tap into. In 2009-10, insurance firms are understood to have bought more than Rs 60,000 crore (about $13 billion) worth of equities. And in another year or so, investments by life insurers are expected to match the flows of foreign institutional investors. In 2009, FIIs brought in some $17 billion into the country and if Ulips continue to be bought the way they are today, it's possible that fund managers at life insurance companies will be buying stocks worth about $15 billion this year.

 

If that happens, it will dramatically change the way the Indian stock market works. Ever since FIIs were

allowed into the market way back in the early nineties, they have held sway; every now and then, UTI and LIC were summoned by the government to either bail out the market or some PSU issue. But investors have never dared to take their eyes off FII flows and have always tracked what stocks they're buying. This dominance of FIIs over the Indian market can change if insurers continue to get money the way they are today. This pool can balance FII inflows, which can be volatile. If India wants a market capitalisation of $2 trillion or $3 trillion, we must find a way to tap household savings. As it is, the share of household savings in equities is minuscule.

 

But life insurers will not collect the kind of premiums that they are getting today unless agents get paid. Ulips,

too, are push-products and while the added comfort of the insurance cover may be a 'pull' factor, the fact that most of the premium is invested in equities rather than in fixed income products, shows that people are looking to punt. Since the country's demographics are such, the universe of savers is getting younger and that helps because youngsters are both able and willing to take more risk. So while agents should not look to fleece investors as they have been doing—the industry is estimated to have collectively earned around Rs 15,000 crore—they are entitled to commissions. Elsewhere in the world, commissions may be smaller but they exist and there's nothing wrong with investors paying for a service. Sebi's idea that investors should decide how much to pay is all very well but probably a little ahead of its time. According to one report, the finance minister wants to follow a 'no load fee model' for the entire financial sector, but it may not be the best way to go about it. If he thinks this will protect small investors, he is mistaken. For sure, agents are not saints; they are guilty of misselling and forcing clients to churn portfolios unnecessarily. But individuals need to be alert, too. Agents can play a useful role in channelling household savings into productive expenditure and while the amount of the commission can be reasonable, agents too need to make a living.

 

shobhana.subramanian@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

TRAI JUST DID NOT SOLVE THE MESS

RISHI RAJ

 

Ask any analyst what the biggest risk in the Indian telecom market is and the answer is unanimous: regulation. Investors do not know what regulatory changes are in store for them as they move ahead in this highly competitive, over-crowded and fast growing market. It is against this backdrop last year that Trai set down to work on a set of recommendations aimed at cleaning up the mess. Trai promised that it would urge the government to stick to the finalised norms for at least five years. This would give players some hope in the rough and uncertain regulatory environment that dominates the sector.

 

The historic opportunity before Trai chairman, JS Sarma, was to rewrite the national telecom policy, 1999, which has undergone several changes ever since. With one stroke of the pen, Sarma could have earned a place in history books for cleaning up the mess that has dogged the sector for several years. In scope, the task was similar to the one before the former Trai chairman, Pradip Baijal, and then-telecom minister, Arun Shourie, who saw the birth of the Unified Access Service Licence—technology-neutral licences. It is another matter that this came with its own share of controversies. However, Sarma's set of recommendations has missed the opportunity to paint the larger picture. It seems that the bureaucrat in him won with the visionary taking a backseat.

 

Rather than suggesting measures categorically stating that dated norms should be done away with, he has taken

refuge in minutiae. The result is that the fractious telecom industry is worse off than it was a day before the recommendations were announced. Around the time when auctions have proved to be the most objective norm of allocating spectrum, Trai has taken refuge in some contractual commitments by the government and an uneven playing field for not suggesting the same route to grant additional 2G spectrum. The recommendations state that since the government has committed in licences, it is duty bound to allocate spectrum up to 6.2 Mhz to all players, it cannot change the goalposts mid-stream. It's another matter that the goalposts have been changed several times in the past. But even if this argument is stuck to legally, the additional spectrum given by the government to operators like Airtel, Vodafone and Idea was through a policy decision made by DoT. How fair would it be to charge them today at current market price for what was given to them earlier as per procedure?

 

Getting into such arguments is splitting hair and in the world of telecom such semantics only enrich lawyers. While rewriting a policy, one should not be burdened with the baggage of history, something Trai seems to have forgotten. In any sector, players enter at different times and certain advantages and disadvantages are inherent. The right approach would be to take a cut-off date and let bygones be bygones, setting the stage for future growth. In the current case, Trai seems to have taken the position that if one sinned in the past, one must do penance today.

 

Strangely, while Trai wanted a regulatory framework in place for at least five years, it has failed to give finality to its recommendations. Linking 2G spectrum prices with 3G, Trai has acknowledged that it has limitations and will conduct a separate study later. Should it not have done this exercise earlier, considering that it has been working on the subject for a considerable period of time?

 

These arguments are on the most important issue of spectrum. Let's now come to the M&A norms suggested, which are supposed to encourage consolidation in the sector. The fine print, however, suggests otherwise. At present, if two companies merge, the joint entity can hold a combined spectrum of 15 Mhz—Trai has reduced this capacity to 14.4 Mhz. The permissible combined market share has been reduced to 30% from 40%. Further, if two entities merge and have spectrum in excess of 6.2 Mhz, they will pay the market price for the excess spectrum and on top of it pay the government a transaction charge of 5%. Which sensible operator would think of merging if such ludicrous clauses are shoved in? It made sense for government to charge a transaction fee when spectrum was given at administered rates, why should a company pay any charge to the government if it has bought the spectrum paying the current market price?

 

Trai has tried to be visionary, stating that operators would get additional spectrum up to the contracted 6.2 Mhz, not on the current subscriber-linked criterion but on roll out obligations. It has even made the roll out obligations more stringent. But going beyond the surface one finds that the norms for new players have been relaxed rather than made tough. Today it is much more difficult to gain subscribers than to roll out networks, even in rural areas.

 

rishi.raj@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

TORIES WIN ALL ROUND

 

The inconclusive general election of May 6, 2010 has resulted in the first elected British coalition government since 1931 (a National Government was convened for World War II). The Conservatives, led by David Cameron, have reached agreement with Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats, and their combined strength in the House of Commons will give them an overall majority of 77 seats. The negotiations, which lasted five days, involved the LibDems in talks with both the Tories and Gordon Brown's defeated Labour Party. Mr. Cameron, the new Prime Minister, will have Mr. Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister; the Liberal Democrats are to get four other Cabinet posts and, at least, one junior ministership in each of 20 ministries. The coalition has decided on a fixed five-year term, a LibDem wish. Both parties have made other concessions. Mr. Cameron has dropped plans to cut the inheritance tax, and will take steps to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000 a year. Mr. Clegg accepts that there will be £6 billion of public spending cuts this year, but has won a commitment to making the House of Lords a mainly elected chamber.

 

The new government will face tensions over several issues, and both party leaders encounter internal dissent. The economy will clearly be Problem Number One. With a 2009-10 budget deficit at 10.9 per cent of GDP, there are likely to be sharp disagreements over where the cuts will fall, despite the Prime Minister's promise to protect frontline public services. Secondly, the Eurosceptic faction in the generally hard-Right Tory party is very suspicious of Mr. Clegg's openly pro-EU party, even though the coalition has ruled out any further transfer of domestic powers to the EU. Thirdly, centre-left opinion on the LibDem side may resist Conservative welfare reform plans, and in the U.K. domestic elections the party will probably lose a big chunk of ex-Labour voters for sharing power with the Conservatives. The new government's biggest constitutional problem, however, will be over the electoral system for general elections. The Tories have always opposed reforming the current Simple Majority system, but Mr. Cameron has agreed to a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) system. The LibDems' acceptance of this amounts to the abandonment of one of their greatest strengths, the demand for a fully proportional system, and Mr. Cameron has gained far more than he has conceded. This goes far beyond questions of a fair share of seats for all parties. A parliament that represented British public opinion with reasonable accuracy would never have allowed the illegal invasion of Iraq.

 

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THE HINDU

ONE OF THE GREATS

 

Viswanathan Anand showed tremendous character in winning his fourth world chess crown in a decade. The 40-year-old Indian genius won the most intense battle of his career against Bulgarian challenger Veselin Topalov in Sofia, significantly scoring his edge-of-the-seat victory with black pieces in the 12th and final game of the championship match. This sealed Anand's place in chess history — as the greatest non-Russian champion, after the legendary Bobby Fischer, ever to play the game. For one whose three previous world titles came in different formats, Tuesday's triumph only reinforced the belief that his universal style of play remains the most effective against opponents of different temperament and approach. In a glittering international career spanning more than two decades, Anand has evolved from a bright, talented boy to a battle-scarred veteran who can quickly adapt himself to any challenge and challengers. If his maiden world title in 2000 took the monkey off his back after he destroyed Spain's Alexei Shirov in one of the shortest title-clashes, the triumph in a classy eight-man field in 2007 underlined his determination to end a seven-year wait and regain the title. The purists, mostly from the erstwhile Soviet Union, believed that the true sign of a world chess champion was his ability to win a title match, comprising a stipulated number of games. In 2008, Anand won their admiration by beating a previously unbeaten Russian, Vladimir Kramnik, with a game to spare.

 

Anand's latest triumph should rate a notch higher considering the challenges he had to overcome on and off the board before and during the match. Stranded at the Frankfurt airport following the cancellation of flights after volcanic ash descended over Europe, he travelled 40 hours by road to reach Sofia. After the schedule of games was pushed back merely by a day, he was off to the worst possible start, losing the opener rather listlessly. The setback steeled his resolve; he hit back in the second game and took the lead after a majestic victory in the fourth. Thereafter, both players had their chances in turn but it was Topalov who managed to capitalise on the champion's late error in the eighth game to draw level. Anand could have taken the lead again but missed a winning continuation in the drawn-out ninth game. After two more closely fought draws, the challenger pressed a little too hard with white pieces in the final game and the champion was quick to make him pay. As is his wont, Anand valued the "relief" of keeping the title more than the €1.2 million that came with it. A true world champion who has made it completely on his own, he is the pride of India.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

HOW TO BE AN 'ELIGIBLE SUICIDE'

WHY DO GOVERNMENTS IGNORE THE FARM SUICIDE NUMBERS OF THE NATIONAL CRIME RECORDS BUREAU, WHEN IT IS THE ONLY AUTHENTIC SOURCE ON THE SUBJECT?

P. SAINATH

 

Kafka might have envied the script. In Delhi, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar informed the Rajya Sabha on May 7 that there had been just six farmers' suicides in Vidarbha since January. The same day, same time in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said that figure was 343. That is, 57 times greater than Mr. Pawar's count. Mr. Chavan was speaking in Vidarbha. Mr. Pawar's numbers came in a written reply to a question in Parliament. Both stories were reported by the Press Trust of India (PTI). All in a day's work.

 

Confused? Try this: Five days earlier, Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas pitched his count at 23 suicides in Vidarbha since January. In the same week — in the same Rajya Sabha. And Mr. Thomas said his source was "the government of Maharashtra." Whose chief minister says the number is 343. Meanwhile, before Mr. Pawar gave the figure of 'only six' in four months, the government's Vasantrao Naik Farmers' Self Reliance Mission in Vidarbha put the number at 62 for just January alone.

 

Can estimates of farm suicides — all of them official — vary by over 5,500 per cent? (Mr. Chavan's is that much higher than Mr. Pawar's). But it doesn't end there. Maharashtra Revenue Minister Narayan Rane informed the State Assembly in April that there have been 5,574 suicides in Vidarbha since 2006. But Parliament is told only six have occurred since January this year. Mr. Rane's count for the whole state since 2006 is 7,786 farm suicides. That is more than double Mr. Pawar's new count of 3,450 for the whole country in the last three years.

 

That's odd — 3,450 for the whole country? In three years? The National Crime Records Bureau puts the number in the last three years at nearly 50,000. That is for 2006, 2007 and 2008 (the last year for which data are available). And the NCRB is the only source for farm suicide data at the national level. Its data also show us that nearly 200,000 farmers have killed themselves between 1997 and 2008. So whose numbers are being fed to Parliament? And how come we have so many wildly varying counts? That too when there is only one body with authentic data. And why does this happen mostly with Maharashtra?

 

Because Maharashtra's numbers are the worst in the country. This state has seen 41,404 farmers' suicides since 1997. Of these, 12,493 have occurred in 2006-08. So the pressure to cover up is greater here than anywhere else.

 

The concern was never about the farmer. Till the Prime Minister's 2006 Vidarbha visit, the state's top ministers had never been to a distress-hit village on this issue. Most have still not visited a single suicide-hit farm household. They cared little for what people thought of them. But they did fear the displeasure of their own high command in New Delhi — by then alarmed at the rising suicide numbers. So they began massaging the figures.

 

First, this meant attaching an impossible number of indicators to identify a farm suicide. As early as June 2005, people in Malwagad, Yavatmal were mocking the process when we arrived there after the suicide of Digambar Agose. "Now we can't even commit suicide in peace," laughed one of Agose's neighbours with graveyard humour. "Not without reading those forms the officials have created to see we get it right." Another pointed out: "There are some 40 clauses on their inquiry list. All these must apply." In short, if you must kill yourself, get it right. Make sure you adhere to the pro forma. Then your family is 'eligible' for compensation.

 

Hundreds of people were dropped from the farm suicide lists on the ground that they were not farmers. "There's no land in their names," officials asserted. On the ground, this meant most women farmers taking their lives were excluded. As also, many eldest sons who actually ran the farm while the land remained in their aged fathers' names. The lists also shut out many dalit and adivasi peasants — whose title to land is seldom clear.

 

And yet the numbers kept mounting. The reporting of the issue was hurting where it mattered: in Delhi. So how to bring down the count? Ambitious bureaucrats stepped forward to create new categories. 'Eligible' and 'ineligible' suicides. Only the former would be counted as "farm suicides." An official document set this trend in 2006.

 

It created a table with many new columns. With each of these, the numbers fell. How? After the total or farm suicides, came a new group: "Family members' suicides." This means family members on the farm killing themselves are not counted as farmers. That helped skim down the figure still more. Next, an "Investigated Cases" column that saw numbers plummet further. The final column was truly novel — "Eligible Suicides." That is, those the government deems worthy of compensation. And so, for 2005, the suicides column that begins at 2,425 ends with 273. (Less than 12 per cent of the total). This amputated figure becomes the official farm suicides count. And a 'decline' is established.

 

And so the coming of 'non-genuine suicides.' This did not mean the man was any less dead. Or that he had not killed himself. It meant the government could not accept his death had been driven by debt and distress. (Even though quite a few suicide notes cited precisely those reasons.) Committees were set up in the crisis districts to check if the suicides were 'genuine.' These bodies soon ran berserk, often declaring every single suicide in a month to be 'non-genuine.' Their hatchet job means that very few families suffering a breadwinner's suicide get any compensation from government.

 

And that's how it's still done. Mr. Rane's reply to a question in the state assembly lists thousands of 'ineligible suicides' over four years.

 

The problem of the NCRB's data however, remains. These are not in their hands to fudge. Sure, over time, even the NCRB's data will be corrupted by the fiddles at the ground level. But it is the here and now of politics that matters. The only way to get around this is to simply ignore the NCRB. So the Minister's written reply in Parliament makes no mention of it. You can see the change from the past.

 

NCRB data was precisely what he cited in 2007 when confirming there had been nearly 1.5 lakh farm suicides between 1997 and 2005. Replying to Starred Question No. 238 in the Rajya Sabha (Nov. 30, 2007), Mr. Pawar's numbers tallied to the last digit with those reported in The Hindu (Nov.12-17) two weeks earlier. The Hindu's reports were based on the comprehensive study of official data on farm suicides by Professor K. Nagaraj, then with the Madras Institute of Development Studies. The data analysed by him were from the NCRB. It publishes these in its Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report each year. A part of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the NCRB is the only body that exists, which tracks suicides of all categories across the country.

 

Following Dr. Nagaraj's study, The Hindu updated the farm suicide figures each year, drawing from the latest NCRB reports. (All these reports are available on their website. For instance, the 2008 data in the category of "Self Employed (Farming / Agriculture)" counts farmers' suicides for that year as 16,196. (Check it yourselves on http://ncrb.nic.in/ADSI2008/table-2.11.pdf ). But in Mr. Pawar's Rajya Sabha reply this May, that figure is 1,237 (no source cited. At least not in the PTI report). To date, neither central nor state government has ever contradicted the NCRB-based figures of Dr. Nagaraj and The Hindu. They're too busy contradicting their own.

 

Pressure to fudge

Simply put, governments are doing the same things they do with poverty estimates. With BPL counts, APL numbers, ration cards and so on. With farm suicides — real human deaths are involved. The pressure to fudge gets more acute with public revulsion over the plight of farmers.

 

Yet, the 2011 Census could make things look a lot worse. It will tell us how many farmers there really are now in each state. In states like Maharashtra, they are likely to be far fewer than they were in 2001. (The 2001 Census showed that 8 million people had quit farming since 1991). Till today, all the Farm Suicide Rates (suicides per 100,000 farmers) worked out by Dr. Nagaraj are based on 2001 figures. The FSR for Maharashtra, for instance, is 29.9. That could look a lot worse — and the suicides far more intense — when the new Census figures on farmers are out. But the fiddles and fudging will go on.

 

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THE HINDU

OIL GIANTS BLAME ONE ANOTHER FOR GULF SPILL

EXECUTIVES FROM THREE OIL GIANTS POINT FINGERS AT ONE ANOTHER UNDER TOUGH QUESTIONING FROM U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE.

SUZANNE GOLDENBERG

 

The three oil industry titans behind the Gulf of Mexico spill all sought to blame one another under questioning from senators on Tuesday (May 11), as troops fanned out along the Louisiana coastline to limit the damage caused by the environmental disaster.

 

With at least four million gallons of oil now polluting the gulf, the executives of BP America, which owned the well, Transocean, which owned the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig, and Halliburton, which cemented the well, were trying to avoid direct blame for the April 20 incident.

 

As the energy and natural resources committee hearing got under way, Senate staffers joked it could be subtitled Scenes from an Execution. But some of the worst damage may have been done by the executives themselves as the three companies all tried to shift the responsibility.

 

In his opening statement, Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat who heads the committee, suggested a

fatal combination of errors. "We will likely discover that there was a cascade of failures: technical, human and regulatory," he said. The industry executives — while professing to be too caught up in the cleanup to draw conclusions about the causes of the catastrophe — were more singleminded. BP America's chief executive, Lamar McKay, blamed Transocean, the operator of the rig. "BP hired Transocean to drill that well. Transocean had the responsibility for ensuring the safety of that operation," he said. He pinned the spill on the failure of a blowout preventer, a 450—tonne set of valves on the ocean floor.

 

Transocean's Steven Newman was having none of that. In his testimony he said BP was calling the shots on the rig. "Offshore oil and gas production projects begin and end with the operator, in this case BP," he said.

 

It was BP that drew up the drilling plan, and BP engineers were in charge when the drilling wound up and the crew prepared to cap the well. He rejected any suggestion of a failure of the blowout preventer, which is supposed to stop a blowout. "The most significant clue is that these events occurred after the well construction process had been completed," Newman told the committee.

 

That pointed the finger at Halliburton, which was brought in to cement the lining of the well, in effect sealing off the reservoir. But Halliburton, unsurprisingly, was equally unwilling to take the fall. Its health, safety and environment officer, Tim Probert, started off by warning against a premature rush to judgment — then took his turn at assigning blame. Like Newman, he told the hearing that Halliburton had carried out its work according to BP's specifications.

 

As the hearings played out on Capitol Hill, the Louisiana national guard deployed troops in Blackhawk helicopters to drop sandbags along the shoreline. Near Grand Isle, they hurried to plug one gap that left environmentally sensitive marshland exposed to potential pollution from encroaching oil.

 

Much of the evidence at the Senate hearing was technical, involving the various protective devices that should — if functioning properly — prevent catastrophe. But BP and the other companies faced tough questions about contingency plans in the event of a spill, with senators asking why a containment dome and stocks of dispersants were not on standby. "What I see here is a company flailing around trying to deal with a worst—case scenario," Robert Menendez, a New Jersey senator, told BP.

The three companies were also forced to admit under questioning that they were conducting no research into how to deal with deep water spills. BP, in particular, was singled out over fatal accidents in Texas, as well as safety violations in Alaska. The company was accused of a "pattern of accidents"But the senators' anger stretched beyond the companies, with pointed questions about the U.S. government's regulatory regime. In anticipation, the Obama administration said on Tuesday it was splitting the functions of the mineral and management service, the regulatory body in charge of licensing oil and gas operations. Under the new structure, one body would approve offshore drilling and collect the billions of dollars of royalties, and another would monitor safety and environmental standards. The hearing was the first of a series in Congress into the oil spill. The most immediate political casualty of the spill in America could be the climate change and energy bill, due to be formally unveiled today, earlier versions of which included extensions for offshore drilling. BP and others have acknowledged that the aftermath of the spill could well change future offshore drilling operations in regions beyond America.

 

 © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

ARMS AND THE MAOISTS

THE MAOIST ARMOURY COMPRISES A RANGE OF DEADLY DEVICES.

AMAN SETHI

 

In 1988, Ravula Srinivas paid Rs. 100,000 for an AKS series Kalashnikov rifle with a light-wood finish and a folding metal shoulder stock. On April 6 this year, the same rifle was used in an ambush that killed 75 members of the Central Reserve Police Force and one head constable of the Chhattisgarh police in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district.

 

In the intervening years, Ravula had grown up from being a young student in Warangal to Ramana, secretary of the South Bastar Regional Committee of the CPI (Maoist). He was the chief architect of the April 6 attack; the rifle never left his side.

 

On April 14, this writer was offered access to Maoist leaders Ramana and Ganesh V.K. in the Jagargunda forests in Dantewada. The visit offered a rare, though by no means comprehensive, insight into how the CPI (Maoist) sources, maintains and distributes weapons among its cadres.

 

The armed wings of the CPI (Maoist) are clearly stratified, with cadres carrying weaponry commensurate with their rank.

 

"Ninety per cent of our [lowest ranked] militia platoons carry bows, arrows and traditional weapons," said Ramana as he tied an LED bulb to his rifle muzzle to fashion an improvised torch. "The rest carry a mixture of muzzle-loading rifles, country-made revolvers and the odd INSAS rifle." Militia platoons are the equivalent of panchayat level groups of about 30 fighters that are raised from village-level Jan militias.

 

"Once a year, 10 per cent of all the weapons seized by our state committee is distributed to our panchayat-level militia platoons," Ramana continued. "The committee also distributes gelatin, raided from mining companies, and teaches militia members how to plant improvised explosive devices [IEDs]."

 

Jan militias and militia platoons are a part-time army of villagers who rarely wear uniforms and assist the so-called main-force of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army, which comprises regular companies staffed by professional fighters.

 

"Professional revolutionaries are always uniformed and armed with 12 gauge shotguns, self loading rifles (SLRs) and AK series rifles," said Ganesh V.K., commander of the Darbha division, CPI (Maoist), "Each company is also supposed to carry three light machine guns, but at present we have a shortage of LMGs."

 

"Usually, the professional fighters attack first," said Ramana. "Once the opposition is neutralised, the part-time fighters help in raiding weapons, ammunition and explosives." In February 2006, for instance, a company of Maoist fighters attacked the National Mineral Development Corporation depot in Hiroli in Dantewada and made off with tonnes of gelatin-based explosives intended for the mining industry.

 

"Once our company killed the eight CISF guards, over one thousand villagers helped us carry away the explosives through the night," said Ramana. "The gelatin raided in the Hiroli attack was used in the IED that blew up an armoured truck in the April 6 attack."

 

With 90 men to the company, Maoist formations are slightly smaller than the 125-130 man companies assembled by Central paramilitary forces like the CRPF. However, since the Maoists do not adopt trade divisions like cooks or doctors, and revolutionaries are not expected to go on leave, the number of fighting men per company on both sides is similar. Depending on how you view them, a Maoist company is either a collection of fighting cooks or cooking fighters, all fiercely attached to their guns.

 

The INSAS, SLR and AK series rifles distributed among senior fighters are lethal and accurate weapons, but it is unlikely that the muzzle-loading shotguns (locally called bharmars) wielded by the lower cadres are of much use in battle.

 

High-powered, commercially manufactured shotguns are reasonably accurate up to 100 metres; the locally manufactured smooth-bore, short-barrelled, revolver style shotguns used by Maoists are unlikely to be accurate beyond 30 metres. Bharmars often have shortened barrels and lack a solid shoulder stock that could check weapon recoil. The short barrel length reduces the accuracy of the gun.

 

These 'country-made' weapons are probably used as the equivalent of military epaulets — a means of distinguishing promising fighters and raising militia morale among lower-ranking cadres. Lower cadres probably make most of their kills by means of IEDs.

 

A short slight man with busy fingers, Chandu (not his real name) carries a strange collection of curios in his knapsack: empty syringes, camera flashes, and torch batteries jostle for space with hair clips, detonator caps, cordex wire and gelatin. Since he joined the Party five years ago, Chandu has focussed on fabricating IEDs.

 

Unlike Ganesh V.K. who studied mathematics in college and contemplated an M.Sc. degree in Chemistry, Chandu never attended school. He has, however, understood the guiding principle behind a successful explosion.

 

Gelignite, or blasting gelatin, is a stable substance that can be transported with relative ease; when paired with a detonator cap, however, the nitro-glycerine compound is highly explosive.

 

"You need a way to build the circuit to send electricity to the detonator to trigger the blast," says Chandu, as he fills a steel container with a mixture of rocks, iron shards and gelatin. The detonator is slid into a hole at the bottom of the container. The hair clips and syringes are used as pressure switches in anti-personnel IEDs - they depress when stepped upon. The camera flash is used for bigger blasts.

 

"The flash sends out a surge of power in one go," explains Chandu. "This way you can connect up to four IEDs to the same flash and trigger the bombs from a safe distance."

 

Perhaps the most ingenious device is the exploding arrow, probably used like a grenade: a heavy wooden arrow mounted with a detonator cap affixed a to coiled-up length of cordex wire. When it strikes a hard surface, the detonator cap bursts, triggering the cordex explosion.

 

As it mulls the use of air-power and UAVs in its battle against the Maoists, the Indian state is confronted by a strategy surmised on black-market Kalashnikovs, stolen LMGs, home-made bombs and most importantly, the element of surprise which shall long remain the prerogative of the guerrilla.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

KHAPS' OUT OF SYNC WITH MODERN INDIA

 

It is not the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 that needs reform but the "khap" panchayats of Haryana. These traditional associations of the state's jat communities have lately gained notoriety for sanctioning even "honour killings" to prevent marriages between men and women who might belong to the same "gotra" (sub-endogamous group). In their zeal to maintain the prevailing taboo on same-gotra marriages, the caste panchayats — customary repositories of social authority — have set into motion processes to coerce their elected representatives to get legislation passed or amended so that the illegal aspects of their conduct become acceptable to the law and the Constitution. This is reminiscent of efforts a few years ago by some Rajasthan politicians to extol and uphold the evil of sati — burning women on the funeral pyres of their just-deceased husbands.


The open support given to "khap" rules of marriage by a veteran Haryana jat leader like Om Prakash Chautala does not redound to his credit. It would seem that having tasted bitter defeat at the hands of the Congress even in Haryana's jat strongholds in last year's general election, Mr Chautala believes he can regain his political élan only by endorsing regressive aspects of an earlier social practice. This is so much the pity. In the era of competitive politics, Mr Chautala's Congress opponents — who now run the state government — find themselves obliged to endorse jat "khap" sentiment as this dominant landowning rural community makes up nearly a third of the state in demographic terms, and potentially influences the electoral outcome in nearly 40 per cent of Assembly constituencies. Given this, Naveen Jindal, the US-educated Congress MP from Kurukshetra and a well-known industrialist, gives the impression of giving in to the medieval "khap" sentiment on intra-gotra marriage. Like him, chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda appears to say the right things at the formal level, but it is apparent that the Congress in Haryana finds itself under tremendous social and competitive political pressure as it is a party which has come back from the wilderness after a gap of time.
Traditionally, marriages within a gotra of a Hindu caste were considered taboo among many Hindu communities. With sociological change in the wake of industrialisation, urbanisation, the spread of education and employment-induced migrations, many taboos dissolved. In most cases today, young men and women about to tie the knot are unlikely to be even aware of their gotra affiliation. This has afforded individuals greater freedom in their lives. However, rural communities across the world are slower to change, and the jats of Haryana are a case in point. Such changes as they are obliged to accommodate do not easily take in customs relating to intimate family matters exemplified by marriages, deaths and births, and rules governing kinship. The liberation of entire communities from the pernicious aspects of tradition is seldom easy. In a democratic society, matters have to be handled sensitively as normally law-abiding fellow citizens are involved.
But a clear and unambiguous message needs to be sent out that the Indian State will stand firm in defending law and order and that it will ensure that the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution will be available to all across the country in the face of social sanctions of pre-democratic times. It is just as well that the Chief Justice of India and the Union law minister have ruled out the validity of the "khap" demand to amend the Hindu Marriage Act and pledged that citizens' constitutional rights will be protected. The Congress and every other political party in Haryana, as well as civil society groups, have a role to perform in encouraging communities to adopt a progressive stance in the social sphere.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

A BEAUTIFUL MIND

 

When Viswanathan Anand successfully defended his world championship crown on Tuesday, he secured a win that brackets him in a league of his own. For, by defeating Bulgarian Veselin Topalov in the self-confessedly toughest match of his career, he has reiterated his supremacy in chess. He has accomplished something that no other great has, including the legendary Gary Kasparov — a win in every possible format in the world championship tournament.

 

Here's the irony, though. The mood in the country, far from being that of euphoria and pride at this massive achievement, was sullen and accusatory. Not directed at Anand, but at the Indian cricket team which were unceremoniously ejected from the world Twenty20 championship the same night. Anand, as he would be accustomed to after 30 years of playing the sport, had taken a backseat to cricket. But the chess maestro's juggernaut has rolled on despite disappointments such as these.

 

Had he caved in to petty insecurities, the resume would have been the lesser for it. But even the cynics — those that insist that chess is not a sport (no sweat, no sport being their credo) — have been jolted out of their skepticism by the force of sheer determination that has been Anand's weapon against the odds piled up high in a one-sport country.

 

India's most consistent champion has risen above human frailties to conquer his sport's toughest frontiers, blinkers and ear plugs firmly in place. Much like the other greats of his time, Sachin Tendulkar and Michael Schumacher to name a few, longevity and consistency have been his hallmark. He has been rated in the top two of the game for over 15 years. Making no noise about 'lack of support from government' — an accusation most other achievers in non-cricket sports have made — Anand has single-handedly revolutionised his sport at the national level by showing parents that even a chess player can be rich and famous!

 

More importantly, he has provided them with the perfect role model. With great glory comes the challenge of staying rooted and real. No one can accuse Anand of being anything but humble. Openly acknowledging wife Aruna and his parents as the wind beneath his wings, the placid champion merely blushes and waves away all offers of superlatives. He has no time for arrogance or self-aggrandisement; for him and his game, it has always been the ascension of mind over matter. More power to his elbow.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

COURTING TROUBLE TO MARRY A MUSLIM

 

Sometimes, the courts do big damage by pronouncing mindless orders. The Allahabad high court has held that a non-Muslim girl must convert to marry a Muslim. Perhaps we are missing some nuances here that only a full reading of the court's orders will clarify, but prima facie no court has any business making this kind of observation, assuming we are living in a free society where every individual has a right to follow his or her faith according to his or her conscience.

 

In a case in which Dilbar Habib Siddiqui is accused of abducting Khushboo Jaiswal by her mother Sunita, justices Vinod Prasad and Rajesh Chandra took the gratuitous line that both man and woman should be Muslim for their marriage to be valid under Islamic law. They have argued that Khushboo had filed an affidavit that she had married according to Muslim customs while retaining her 'non-Muslim' name of Khushboo Jaiswal.

 

Quite apart from the fact that the question before the court was about abduction and not Islamic marriage, their judgment has instead gone off at a tangent. If Khushboo was indeed abducted, it does not matter what Islamic law says. If she wasn't, and had married Siddiqui according to her wishes, she has every right to do so without changing her religion.

 

Courts should as a matter of principle steer clear of trying to be compliant with what the scriptures of any religion say. It does not matter whether the Gita says this or the Koran says that. Courts function under the Indian Constitution, and they have to follow the laws as laid down in the statute book. By needlessly referring to holy books, the courts either end up angering reformists in a religion or the conservatives. They should stick to the law.

 

The Supreme Court had, in 1986, set off a similar controversy when it passed comments on the Koran and marriage laws while awarding alimony to Shah Bano. The remarks had no bearing on the merits of the case but it created a controversy that had huge political and social implications. Nearly a quarter century later, the Allahabad high court seems to have gone the other way and held a marriage as unlawful because it doesn't meet with Islamic norms.

 

The judgment said that since she didn't convert, her marriage to Siddiqui was "void" and the "same is contrary to Islamic dicta and tenets of the Holy Koran." It is not the court's job to interpret the Koran.

 

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DNA

CASTE AND LIBERALS

R JAGANNATHAN

 

There has been much liberal hand-wringing over the Centre's decision to include a caste-count in the 2011 census. This is wrong-headed because a caste-count is not going to promote further casteism just as its absence will not usher in a caste-free society. If we have a reasonably accurate estimate of how many people belong to what caste, we can at least know where we stand.

Of course, no caste enumeration is going to be right. In the last count in 1931, the British found that entire groups of jatis used the opportunity to move up the hierarchy. This time around, the reverse could happen. Our guilt-ridden upper classes may stop indicating their castes while the rest may try to up their numbers in the hope of pressing for more reservations. What is not going away is our obsession with caste.

 

The real problem with caste is the liberals' approach to it. Thanks to a deep sense of guilt about the inequities of the system, the Indian liberal (which usually means upper caste Hindus) is overapologetic about caste, and refuses to make peace with it. He is thus giving caste-based politicians an emotional handle with which they can stifle rational arguments for change and greater inclusiveness.

 

It is time for all liberals, and especially the Hindu upper classes, to abandon unwarranted guilt about caste. Caste may have originated in the religious-civilisational system we now call Hinduism, but it is owned by all Indians. Islam and Christianity have embraced caste even though these religions have no scriptural sanction for it. The bottomline: caste is an Indian system rather than just a Hindu albatross.

 

Caste is not something that could have been invented by anyone. It can grow only when almost everybody accepts it. It grew from this soil and struck deep roots. With every invasion and religious or reformist attack, its roots went deeper. Caste has proved to be a stronger binding force than religion precisely because it is rooted in Indian realities.

 

The biggest attacks on caste —all futile — have come from sons of the soil, and not Islamic invaders or Christian proselytisers, as some liberals are prone to believe. The Buddha didn't succeed. Neither did Vivekananda, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Ram Mohun Roy, Dayanand Saraswati, Ramanujam, or even Gandhi and Ambedkar. All frontal attacks on caste have been repulsed. The post-Ambedkar Dalits, and especially Kanshi Ram and Mayawati, have gone the other way and embraced caste with a vengeance.

 

They opted for a political consolidation of the Dalits and lower castes. The other backward castes have also made a virtue of caste consolidation and reaped huge gains from it — it started in the south and moved north. In the south, caste oppression today means non-Brahmin oppression of the lowest castes.

 

To get an arm around caste, you first need to understand it. For one, it is not just a system of discrimination; it became one. Caste is about kinship and community ties. It offers a protective cocoon for members in turbulent times. Caste will weaken and disappear only when people feel secure about themselves and their future. It will dissolve when the state protects individual rights, without necessarily setting it against community rights.

 

Caste survived in India because we took a different approach to diversity. In the west, diversity was treated as a threat, and thus met with annihilation and destruction. The Americans annihilated the Red Indians, the Australians massacred the aborigines, and so on. Ambedkar, quoting 19th century French theorist Ernest Renan, makes much the same point about the role of brutality and extermination in creating homogeneity in society. "Unity is ever achieved by brutality. The union of northern and southern France was the result of an extermination, and of a reign of terror that lasted for nearly a hundred years."

 

In India, diversity was not seen as a threat. The approach was to accommodate, with minimal violence, different groups without disturbing the power structure. This is how castes grew with every invasion, with every expansion of the Hindu economy. In hindsight, perhaps we could have achieved a casteless society through much brutality in the past. But we chose the other route of peace and compromise.

 

Does this mean caste, and its negative consequences, will be with us forever? Not quite. Market forces, urbanisation and globalisation are chipping away at the edifice. It will be diluted in due course. Socially, we can help the process by making simple changes in the institution of caste by drawing up objective entry and exit rules. Caste cannot remain an institution driven purely by birth. Once it behaves like a regular club, with proper entry and exit rules, its worst excesses will tone down. We can allow demography and market forces to finish the job.

 

Liberals should not wallow in guilt about caste. They need to reform caste, not fight it

 

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DNA

SAVOUR 'EXCEL' SHOPPING

N RAGHURAMAN

 

Buying a wrist-watch just after passing matriculation was the norm those days. In the mid-seventies, an HMT watch was priced at Rs135. Like any other youngster, I desperately wanted 'my watch' that very day.

 

"But have you checked with other shops?" my father intervened. That interjection peeved me. Why was he interfering? "No," I answered with a straight face. "Well, then I would suggest you ask other shops too. Visit at least five shops, see various brands, and note them in one paper with comparative prices and discounts. Then go for the one that gives you the best value for money," he said.

 

I'm glad I didn't argue with him. After getting the Excel chart which gave straight comparison of seven different models belonging to two brands, we decided to buy one I liked. The price of the best product came down from Rs165 to Rs125. Then my father contacted a friend in defense personels' store, where I got the same brand for Rs90; with the remaining money, thus saved, I bought branded footwear. The gain was two products for Rs135 but the delay was three days.

 

What we now call, Excel shopping, was something I learnt years ago. Despite your bank balance, you must go in for the best bargain. This can be achieved only by way of comparisons and looking out for alternatives, with an open mind. When I followed my father's advice and visited different shops, it took me three extra days to know that there were better products.

 

Thus every rupee saved is a rupee earned. In any sphere of work, if one were to jot down all alternatives available, compare the advantages and then take a decision — you will be the clear winner. Whenever I steer a new project, I go in for a detailed survey, prepare an Excel chart, put pros and cons in black and white. A detailed comparison helps one to arrive at a sound decision. When you do that, you not only get the best, but ward off devious elements who try to hoodwink you.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

COALITION IN BRITAIN

ALL EYES ON THE YOUNGEST PM IN 200 YEARS

 

David Cameron's promise of 'compassionate conservatism' will be tested in the next few months when Britain's first coalition government since the second world war gets going. The decision to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats is itself an extraordinary step as the two parties have not just divergent but even conflicting positions on the most important issues, as became manifest during the televised debates before the British parliamentary election. Cameron (43) is the youngest Prime Minister in 200 years and, as Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg pointed out, the coalition has not just produced a new government but 'new politics' as well. What Clegg possibly meant is that the Tories will shed some of their conservatism while the LibDems will perforce become less liberal. The coalition has ushered in a major realignment in British politics and it remains to be seen how the new government copes with the continuing economic recession and the extraordinary financial problems faced by Britain.

 

It is extraordinary how swiftly the two parties managed to iron out their differences and put in place what is known in India as the Common Minimum Programme. But unlike the Indian system, where it is merely the expression of pious wishes, the new British coalition has already declared the outlines of its broad policies. It is now known, for example, that the new government is going to cut down on public expenditure and put a cap on immigrants, both deemed to be bad news for Indians. Even more significantly, the two parties have agreed to a fixed, five-year-term for Parliament and agreed on a referendum on an alternative voting system in future elections. The first-past-the-post system of election in vogue in both Britain and India allows parties with a relatively smaller vote share to win a higher percentage of seats. The Labour and the Liberal Democrats, for example, cornered around 50 per cent of the votes polled but even together, fell short of the required majority while Tories with just about 37 per cent vote-share, grabbed far more seats than either Labour or the LibDems.

 

The new British Prime Minister is widely seen as pragmatic and more progressive than most Conservative politicians. Ever since he took over the leadership of a tottering party in 2005, he has aggressively campaigned to include more women and minorities in the party. And his first address to the Britons is likely to strike a responsive chord in India as well. Britain, he said, would have to prepare for hard times and the British would have to abandon their "culture of selfishness, indiscipline and reliance on state benefits".

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

'QUOTAS IN LOCAL BODIES

NEED TO PHASE OUT RESERVATIONS

 

THE Supreme Court judgement upholding the constitutional validity of reservation for backward classes in rural and urban local bodies, including posts of chairpersons, is aimed at strengthening democratic decentralisation and local self-government in all the states. It assumes significance because a five-judge Constitution Bench consisting of outgoing Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice R.V. Raveendran, Justice D.K. Jain, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J.M. Panchal has issued several important directions in the ruling. The Bench ruled that while access to higher education and public employment increases the likelihood of socio-economic uplift of the individual beneficiaries, participation in local self-government is intended as a more immediate measure of empowerment for the community that the elected representative belongs to. Quotas in local bodies are justifiable because the objectives of grassroots democracy are not only to bring governance closer to the people but also to make it more participatory, inclusive and accountable to the weaker sections, it ruled.

 

The Bench rejected the petitioners' claim that the OBC quotas in local bodies of Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, including reservation for chairpersons' posts, violated the principle of equality under Article 14 of the Constitution. It ruled that the quota percentage should depend upon the beneficiary groups' population in a state and that the 50 per cent cap (fixed by the apex court) should normally be adhered to except in Scheduled Tribe areas and some north-eastern states. Interestingly, it observed that specific state laws could be challenged if they provided excessive reservation. Equally important is the court's rejection of the plea for excluding the creamy layer (it refers to those whose income-limit exceeds Rs 4.5 lakh a year) from the ambit of quotas in local bodies. However, if quota is barred for the creamy layer in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, how can it be allowed for local bodies? The Bench's thesis that an individual panchayat member's empowerment is only a means for pursuing the larger end of advancing the interests of weaker sections seems unconvincing.

 

What the government — at the Centre and in the states — must do ultimately is to phase out reservations of all kinds and herald a quote-free regime in course of time. Reservations cannot continue in perpetuity. Indeed, the Bench itself has suggested regular review of reservation policies by the executive "to guard against their over-breadth".

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

LAWLESS LAND GRABBERS

COURTS ALONE CAN NAIL THEM

 

A sharp rise in urban incomes and real estate prices has produced an acquisitive culture in which law-breaking comes naturally and greed has no limits. Though the real estate boom has subsided, it has left many with surplus cash to splurge. They acquire flashy cars and every possible status symbol which places them in the league of the super rich. Owning a farmhouse is a growing fad. To meet the insatiable housing demand, the mafia ropes in sarpanches, politicians and policemen to grab chunks of land near cities. The village heads are handing over common village land to gangs for a consideration or under the threat of musclemen.

 

The easiest to take over is government or village shamlat land because sarpanches and official watchmen are very helpful. The Haryana government stated before the Punjab and Haryana High Court on April 6, 2010, that 21,000 acres of village common land had been encroached in the state. Stringent Central laws notwithstanding, forest land is often grabbed with equal ease. In fact, the Punjab government itself has been seeking Central exemptions to use agricultural or forest land for residential or commercial purposes. Small wonder then that the state's green cover is shrinking fast. First influential persons buy land covered by forest laws cheap and then press ruling politicians for clearances. Meanwhile, they get busy removing hurdles and even cut through hills, if need be, to make way for their farmhouses.

 

There is no one to stop them. If a murder is committed, often there is an FIR and a hunt for killers begins. However, the massacre of trees invites no action. The laws cannot help if the watchdogs join hands with the law-breakers. Given the criminal-politician-police nexus, it seems the high court will have to step in to curb the menace just as it did in the Moga sand mining case where 28 contractors were fined Rs 2.25 crore and the SSP was hauled up for inaction. 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

DILEMMAS OF DIALOGUE

JOINT STATEMENTS AFTER TALKS MUST BE AVOIDED

BY G. PARTHASARATHY

 

THE recent SAARC Summit in Thimpu strained the nerves of virtually all of India's neighbours. Rather than focussing attention on issues of economic development, education and regional economic integration, the entire attention was focussed on whether or not India and Pakistan would resume their much-touted "Composite Dialogue" in which bureaucrats regularly meet to discuss issues ranging from peace and security to visa procedures. A Sri Lankan friend once asked me: "There are seven members of SAARC. We are all keen on enhancing cooperation in South Asia. Why do you convert every SAARC Summit into an India-Pakistani soap opera? If you want to settle your problems with Pakistan please do not do so at our expense and waste the time and energy of our leaders in SAARC meetings". 

 

The Thimpu Summit was a an occasion when we further demeaned ourselves in the eyes of friendly neighbours like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal and the Maldives, whose President gave public expression to his frustration. It is no one's case that we should not talk to Pakistan. But surely there are better ways to do this than exposing ourselves to ridicule in the eyes of our neighbours as we did in Thimpu.

 

Coming to Pakistan itself, we seem to be deluding ourselves that Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani is an "empowered" leader who can overrule his Army Chief, the ubiquitous General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. In a damning report, virtually indicting Pakistan's military leadership for the circumstances leading to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a high- level United Nations panel observed: "The Sunni groups are largely based in Punjab. Members of these groups aided the Taliban effort in Afghanistan at the behest of the ISI and later cultivated ties with Al- Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban groups. The Pakistani military and the ISI also used and supported some of these groups in the Kashmir insurgency after 1989. The bulk of the anti-Indian activity remains the work of groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which has close ties with the ISI". In recent days, General Kayani and his cohorts have been emboldened by American mollycoddling. They now openly proclaim their influence with the Quetta Shura headed by Mullah Omar while refusing to act against the Afghan Taliban military leadership in North Waziristan headed by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who General Kayani is known to regard as a "strategic asset".

 

Within Pakistan, General Kayani has upped the ante of anti-Indian sentiment by his pronouncements suggesting that India is deliberately starving Pakistan of its legitimate share of river waters. Reporters who visited Kasab's native village of Faridkot noted how anti-Indian sentiments had been exacerbated by propaganda on river waters and Kashmir. Interestingly, even though the Pakistan Government claims that Hafiz Mohammed Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa is banned, its weekly magazine continues to be published and is readily available even in villages like Faridkot. Yet our mandarins and ministers seem to take Pakistani protestations of being ready to act against the Lashkar seriously.

 

The reaction to the Kasab conviction was mixed in Pakistan. But the general sentiment was conveyed by a farmer in Faridkot, angered that India was diverting Pakistan's water resources, who said: "There is nothing wrong if he (Kasab) did it with good intentions against a kafir country like India". Indians, who are given to being sentimental about their formative years in what is now Pakistan, should understand that sentiment in Lahore and Chakwal today is not the same as it was in the idyllic days of the 1940s.

 

While the fiasco at Sharm-el-Sheikh is best forgotten, we need to be realistic about the dynamics of internal politics within Pakistan and its relations with its three major patrons — the United States, China and Saudi Arabia. While the decline in President Zardari's fortunes has been accepted an inevitable reality by the Americans, both the Chinese and the Saudis, for different reasons, were uncomfortable with Mr Zardari. Prime Minister Gilani started his political career as a protégé of General Zia-ul-Haq and is at heart a Muslim Leaguer. His long association with the Army establishment has been reinforced by familial marital ties with the Pir of Pagaro, who has been the Pakistan Army's hit man on Sind's borders with India.

 

Mr Gilani has virtually no political base within the ruling PPP. He is merely a pliable front for the Army establishment led by General Kayani and will have little stomach to take on General Kayani's anti-Indian agenda. Moreover, even now sections of the Obama Administration reportedly believe that the ISI surely has a case in claiming that it needs its "Kashmiri militants" to force India's hand on Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi should be realistic enough to know that given American and Chinese backing and Saudi understanding, there is no reason for the ISI to discontinue measured assistance and support to its "jihad" in India.

 

One should not be surprised by the present Pakistan Government's rejection of the movement forward in formulating a broad framework for a Kashmir settlement that had been achieved in discussions between Indian Special Envoy Satinder Lambah and General Musharraf's trusted aide Tariq Aziz between 2005 and 2007. On the contrary, we have to be prepared for increasing infiltration across the Line of Control together with Pakistani moves to make the fundamentalist Syed Ali Shah Geelani the focal point of the separatist leadership in the Kashmir valley.  While differences have been papered over in Thimpu, they cannot be wished away.

 

While External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has made it clear that forthcoming talks are primarily meant to remove the causes of "distrust" between the two countries, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed that in the forthcoming talks between Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries, all issues of concern, including Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, river waters and people-to-people contacts would be discussed. Mr Qureshi brushed aside India's concerns on terrorism, glibly claiming that terrorism is a "global" concern, which would be best addressed collectively. One cannot but be disgusted by Mr Qureshi's description of the Mumbai massacre as an "incident" which is best forgotten.

 

With General Kayani in charge in Pakistan, the Army's traditional policies of "bleeding" India and seeking "strategic depth" in Afghanistan will continue.  It will, therefore, be disastrous if New Delhi allows Pakistan to have its way on an agenda for talks which would sideline the primacy of India's concerns on terrorism, as it did at Sharm-el-Sheikh.  While talks with Pakistan are necessary, we could do without thoughtlessly drafted joint statements and public expressions of bonhomie, which would only show our government's insensitivity towards outraged public opinion in the country.

 

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THE  TRIBUNE

COLUMN

TALK THE WALK

BY MINA SINGH

 

My customary early morning constitutional during that one heavenly, twilight hour before the busy, bustling world comes to life and all is quiet on the western front, is not only addictive but also set aside exclusively for myself in an otherwise busy without business routine. Nonetheless, as soon as the open spaces begin to fill up with other denizens out for a breath of fresh air, try as I may to keep that hour inviolate, I soon discover myself subliminally preoccupied in slotting them.

 

Topping the list are the regular fitness freaks followed by a motley category broadly definable as the fairly resolute, the struggling, the casual, the ephemeral — joggers, walkers, cell-phone and walkman aficionados— all 'valiantly' engaged in attempts to keep this fragile human machinery well-oiled and running. Then of course, we have the late starters who constantly wail about the misfortune of being 'genetically' disadvantaged despite religious adherence to a life-time of dietary restraint. That they are all the while at pains to justify their well-deserved 'post-workout' reward of French fries, to make up for hugely 'depleted' levels of energy is entirely a different matter. Whoever said you are what you eat!

 

The most dreaded of all however, are the ubiquitous, 'more-than-health-conscious' enthusiasts—the formidable,

lethal groups of voyeuristic saunterers spilling over walkways in their keenness to keep abreast of the goings-on of the minor celebrities of their immediate neighborhood, much in the manner of 'walking the talk' or 'talking the walk'. These compulsive Sisyphean deliberations happen to be not only the greatest business but also the greatest burden of their day.

 

And, it is this category I am most consciously wary of, for the ease with which one is inexorably drawn into the vortex of their humming, heady and charmed circle. The persistence, dexterity and delight, with which veterans of this tribe can stalk their prey and whisper or wink away reputations, could hold a candle or two to even the most promising, skilled and seasoned of sharp-shooters.

 

Their penchant for ferreting out appropriate 'intellectual' fodder'n'spice is legendry as is the sheer vigour and vitality of their whispering campaigns. Sufficiently peppered with 'brave' attempts at vicarious dignity, their vital verbal orgies are, more often than not, interspersed with ill-concealed and appropriate peals of triumphant haws and hums potent enough put to shame the most glib of orators or telecasters 'breaking news or boundaries', about the 'wayward' capering of private lives. And if you happen to be within earshot of this steadily-expanding clan, god help you!

 

A reasonably brisk pace willy-nilly gives way to voluntary slackness as you desperately strain your ears to capture sundry snatches of juicy gossip wafting your way. In the blink of an eye pre-dawn resolutions vanish, complicity takes over and before you can utter 'hey presto', you are allured into the precincts of the enchanted Ivy League. Such is the irresistible 'power and glory' of peeping Toms!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

"I WILL GIVE THE UPA ZERO OUT OF 10"

"THE CBI WAS MISUSED TO DEFEAT OUR CUT MOTION IN THE LOK SABHA"

BY RAJ CHENGAPPA, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

 

It's been six months since Nitin Gadkari, 52, took over as President of the Bhartiya Janata Party with the expectation that he would herald a new order and a new generation of leaders. While he did revamp the office-bearers and brought in new faces, criticism came in thick and fast from various quarters. Some accused him of spending too much time in Mumbai, the capital of his home state, and not enough at the BJP headquarters in Delhi. Others said that while he preached a moderate face of the BJP his vociferous support for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and propping up off Varun Gandhi had given him more of an image of being a hardliner. There was also scorn over his call for auditing the performance of his colleagues. In Chandigarh to kick off his state visit to Punjab where the BJP shares power with the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, Gadkari in an exclusive interview with Editor-in-Chief Raj Chengappa at The Tribune office answered questions on a range of issues. Both in the interview and his interaction with The Tribune's senior editorial staff soon after that, the BJP chief took pains to stress that his focus was on development and he did not want to indulge in politics on key issues. Excerpts:

 

It is now six months since you have taken over as President of the BJP. What has been your main focus?

 

The main achievement for me is to increase the morale of the workers and we have been organising conferences apart form holding agitations on price rise to do this. Because of these programmes the morale of our workers is very high. Now they are in a mood to fight against the government over the price rise.

 

But you were expected to usher in a whole new order in the BJP.  What is that change you are talking about?

 

Actually, it is an evolving process.  I have got people from the new generation into my team. It's a good team now. The mood of our leaders, workers and supporters is positive.  I feel that there is an opportunity for our party to increase its mass base. We have targeted that we have to increase our vote bank by 10 per cent and our priority is to concentrate on Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities apart from professors, doctors and the intellectual class. We have to work in the unorganised labour sector too. We want to concentrate more on Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana and in these states we have to increase our mass support.

 

The way your party has performed in the Lok Sabha leaves a lot to be desired – the cut motion failed and overall its role as an Opposition hasn't been a success?

 

The cut motion has exposed the other opposition parties. Particularly, Mayawati's BSP, which though it spoke something else supported the UPA government. As did Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav.  When we started the war against price rise, they were with us.  By the time of the cut motion, they withdrew. I feel bad.  The most important and trusted ally of the UPA was the "Congress" Bureau of Investigation (CBI); the CBI was misused and because of the CBI, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mayawati,  reached a deal with the UPA.  It is very unfortunate.  By using the CBI, political blackmailing was there. This is not politics based on moral values.  This is political blackmailing. And I feel this is very bad for Manmohan Singhji and Soniaji.

 

Well in Jharkand you are accused of doing much the same thing. Your party has flip-flopped over its support to the JMM – you condemned Shibu Soren but now you are willing to form a government with his party?

 

The Jharkhand political situation is a very different.  The problem is that if we withdraw support, there will be President's Rule in Jharkhand.  Whatever happened in Parliament about the Shibu Soren case and the way the CBI is used was there for everyone to see. In the wider interest of a stable government and the development of Jharkhand, we will not allow the Congress to play its dirty game by using their money and muscle power. In that situation, we have taken this decision to retain the government.

 

Your party seems to be losing its focus. What's the ideology that you are espousing?

 

As far the BJP is concerned, we have a clear ideology. My feeling is that the country needs politics for development and politics for progress and it is related with our nationalism. We have a feeling and commitment that we have to make this country economically strong, the super-economic power in the world. That is the commitment which we have. And for that purpose, nationalism is our thinking.

 

What about the Ram Mandir issue – what's your stand?

 

When people ask me about the Ram Mandir, I explain to them the position of our party. Whatever decision taken by the party, it is already there. I am not going to change anything. I do not think it is a BJP issue. It should not be made a political issue. The issue is related with the aspirations of lakhs and crores of people of India so it should be resolved through consensus. 

 

You are projected as a moderate but you are also charged with following a hardline Hindutva course. Where do you stand?

 

I am a nationalist. As far as Hindutva is concerned, I request you to refer to what is the definition of Hindutva. The present judgement given by the Supreme Court explains it as a way of life. And I feel that if you refer to Vivekanandaji, then only we can understand exactly what is the definition of Hindutva.  The broad meaning of Hindutva  is related with good governance, tolerance and recently the way Supreme Court clarified the meaning of Hindutva, that is important.

 

You  have come out in vociferous support of Narendra Modi who is seen as the face of hardline Hindutva?

 

Why blame only Modi – there were riots after the 1992 blasts in Mumbai. What happened to Delhi in 1984? Modi is a model of development. The agriculture growth rate in Gujarat is 14% and the per capita income and GDP of minorities in Gujarat comparing to the country is very high. We are not anti-Muslim. We are anti-terrorists. My feeling is that the way Gujarat cases are projected in a section of media, it is injustice to Narendra Modi and the BJP government.

 

Are you still advocating that Modi should be the next Prime Minister?

 

Actually when I was asked whether Narendra Modi had the potential of becoming a Prime Minister  I said, yes, he has the potential. But as far as our party's policy is concerned, our highest body is our Parliamentary Board. And we have a lot of people who are competent.  At that time, our party will decide who should be the Prime Minister.

 

What is your party's stand on the question of khap panchayats and honour killings?

 

I want to discuss this issue with our party office-bearers in Haryana before I say anything about it.

 

How is your party's alliance with the Akali Dal in Punjab doing?

We have a good relationship with the Akali Dal. A month before there was a big function in Amritsar and I met with Prakash Singh Badal sahib and discussed many things with him. There are no problems, even if some arise we can solve them.

 

Coming to the Centre, the UPA will be completing a year in its second term soon. What is your assessment of its policies?

 

As far as economic policies of the UPA govt. are concerned, the price rise is a big problem. The current inflation rate of 11 per cent is very high whereas in other countries like Singapore and Thailand it is less than 2 per cent. As per the latest Planning Commission report, 40 per cent population of the country is still below poverty-line. Is this garibi hatao ? This UPA government is totally anti-farmer, anti-poor and anti-villager. As far as internal and external security is concerned this government has totally failed in terms of controlling terrorism and Naxalism.

 

So how would you rate the UPA's performance on a scale of 10?

 

I will give this government 0 out of 10 for performance and 10 out of 10 for corruption?

 

What is the stand of your party about talks with Pakistan?

 

India should not hold any talks with Pakistan – our party is against it. The talks will have no relevance as Pakistan has done nothing to end cross-border terrorism. By resuming talks with Pakistan the UPA government would be repeating a big mistake.

 

What's your opinion about the way the UPA handled the Mumbai 26/11 investigation and on Kasab's prosecution?

 

This government is always talking big, but it has no courage to fight terrorism. The government has no guts to carry out the judgment of the Supreme Court which awarded the death sentence for Afzal Guru. It must now move swiftly on Kasab's verdict and act on it. See how promptly the US handled the Headley issue. Why is our government waiting? I do not understand. It the duty of the government to take a decision on the matter urgently.

 

But the Bharatiya Janata Party didn't do much either when it was in power. Look at the way it handled Kargil, Kandahar and the attack on Parliament?

 

The BJP handled everything promptly. It did not allow any terrorist-related case to linger on and atleast it completed all investigations and brought people to book.

 

The BJP is in power in Chhattisgarh and yet the Dantewada massacre happened? Are you blaming the Centre too for not tackling Naxalism? 

 

It is no use blaming each other.  Instead it is time both the Centre and the states came together to jointly fight Naxalism which is already causing great harm to our country.

 

What have you learnt in six months as President of the party?

 

It has been a good experience for me. Although I am a junior person in the party, I have been getting good cooperation from my senior leaders. So, I am feeling comfortable now

 

How are your relations with Advaniji? Does he big brother you?

 

Almost everyday I meet Advaniji and there is good cooperation from Advaniji. Advaniji and Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji are a role model for us.  As far as I am concerned, I have tremendous regard for Advaniji and Vajpayeeji, who always support me.

 

You are considered close to the RSS? Do they interfere in party affairs?

 

I am definitely an RSS person and I do not hide anything. But the RSS never interferes in our affairs.

 

There is criticism from some sections of your party that as President you spend most of your time in Mumbai?

 

It is totally false. In the past six months I have spent barely six days in Mumbai where my family lives. I have travelled across the country. And my work begins from 7.30 am until late at night.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

ANNIE DARWIN'S BOX

THE PAIN OF DEATH OF HIS 10-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER, AND THE DEATH OF MANY YOUNG CHILDREN HE KNEW, HAD A PROFOUND EFFECT ON CHARLES DARWIN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION

 

 Randal Keynes, author of a biography of Charles Darwin, is Darwin's great-great grandson, and a greatnephew of economist John Maynard Keynes. He lives and works in London. The biography, titled Annie's Box: Charles Darwin, his Daughter and Human Evolution was first published in 2001. Last year the book was re-issued as a paperback with the title Creation: The True Story of Charles Darwin. A film based on the book was released in January this year. Annie was Charles and Emma Darwin's first daughter, born after a son named William Erasmus. She died of tuberculosis when she was 10.


Annie's box was her writing case. Randal Keynes came across it one day when looking through family odds and ends. In it was a note in Darwin's scrawl in which he described how Anne felt every day and night during her last months. "There is one idea at the heart of my account," Keynes writes. "Charles's life and his science were all of a piece….Living at a time when science meant k n o w l e d g e and understanding in the broadest view, and dwelling on issues that bear directly on the deepest questions about what it is to be human, he could not keep his thinking about the natural world apart from feelings and ideas that were important to him in the rest of his life. This book explores the interweavings around Annie and her memory."


   The pain he felt about Annie's death, and the death of many young children he knew sharpened his sense of "Nature's ruthless culling." Darwin had dealt with this theme before, but when he returned to it after Annie's death, "he wrote about it in a new way. He never referred directly to his personal experience; that would have been quite inappropriate. But he made some new points; there was a darkness in the wording of some passages, and others echoed his feelings about human loss."

 

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

EDITORIAL

TOUGH CALL

TRAI TRIES TO RESTORE BALANCE, MOP UP REVENUE

 

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has stepped in to restore balance to the sharing of the humungous revenue stream flowing from the private marketing of public spectrum, nudging telecom companies to widen their network and tap new customers. The phenomenal growth of value-added services over and above voice telephony has opened the government's eyes to the untapped revenue potential in this vital infrastructure sector. Equally, having witnessed the decline of the public sector, for which the government has no one else but itself to blame, there is now an attempt to get private companies to discharge their social obligations. Trai has made some excellent recommendations while dealing with the benefits that those firms which got licences/spectrum at bargain-basement prices in 2008 stand to make when they sell/transfer these. Two of these firms, Unitech and Swan, have already made a killing but, in future, Trai has said, all those who sell their firms will have to pay the government a price that is based on the current 3G auctions — those who choose not to sell don't have to make any additional payments. So, if an older firm with 6.2 MHz of spectrum buys one of the 2008 licensees which has got 4.4 MHz of spectrum, the two firms will have a total of 10.6 MHz — Trai says that while 6.2 MHz can be retained without an extra payment, the remaining 4.4 MHz has to be paid for. Based on the current 3G bids, this will be around Rs 13,200 crore. In other words, the 2008 licensees can no longer hope to make a killing out of selling their licences. The idea of having a uniform licence fee instead of multiple ones for different services right now is also a good one, since it is the arbitrage that this allowed that resulted in some firms misdeclaring their revenues in the past — one way was to, for instance, state that more revenues came from internet services than was actually the case, since such services attracted a zero licence fee.

 

It is, however, not clear why Trai has recommended that the government give another 1.8 MHz of spectrum free to those it gave 4.4 MHz of spectrum with a 2G licence in 2008 for a mere Rs 1,651 crore (if 3G auctions close at Rs 15,000 crore for 5 MHz of spectrum, this would make it clear the price for the 2G licence should have been at least eight times as much). Trai's explanation is that the government had given 6.2 MHz to the earlier lot of players (they now have to pay around Rs 11,000 crore for the spectrum they have beyond this) and so it had to give the same amount to the 2008 lot. Perhaps Trai should explain its case better given the doubts that have been raised. The 2008 licences were fraught with all manner of legal infirmities, which included arbitrary cut-off dates, creation of special categories of licensees, such as "dual technology" ones, likely leaking of dates when the application windows would be opened, and so on — which is why they are the subject of a CBI investigation and a CAG audit. So, equating such licences, sold at around an eighth of the market rate, with those sold at market rates is surprising and requires further clarification. Trai's view that private telecom players have not done enough to develop the full public potential of the spectrum at their disposal is well taken. However, the needs of the rural consumer will get addressed with time, with the growth of rural income.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

NASCENT RECOVERY

INDUSTRIAL GROWTH NEEDS MORE NURTURING

 

The index of industrial production (IIP) is still on a winning streak. The index for March 2010, released yesterday, grew by a robust 13.5 per cent over the previous year. While it was a tad lower than the 15 per cent that financial market economists had predicted, there is little reason to question the sustainability of the industrial recovery that set in about eight months ago. The March print takes the growth in the last quarter of 2009-10 to a solid 15.1 per cent and to a respectable 10.4 per cent for the financial year as a whole. With this rate of growth in industry, growth in aggregate GDP seems all set to clock 7.5 per cent for 2009-10. This is a shade higher than the advance estimate of 7.2 that still constitutes the government's official estimate for the year.

 

In March, industrial growth was broad-based with most of the major components — basic goods, intermediates, capital goods and consumer durables — pulling their weight. The "outliers" were consumer non-durables on the one hand that grew by a paltry 3.3 per cent, and consumer durables and capital goods on the other that beat the average by a mile, growing at 27 and 32 per cent, respectively. The pattern in March captures the growth pattern for 2009-10 as a whole, with capital goods and consumer durables in the lead and consumer non-durables trailing the pack. There are some caveats though when it comes to assessing the prospects for the current financial year. For one, the annoying but ever-present "base effect" is likely to pull IIP growth down this year. Exceptionally high growth rates in the second half of 2009-10 are likely to pull down the rates in the corresponding period in 2010-11 even if sequentially (month to month) industrial growth retains its momentum. Thus, one has to be prepared for weaker growth numbers by the end of the year, possibly even in low single digits. Again, despite the undeniably robust data on capital goods, there are a good number of sceptics who claim that the economy is not yet seeing a full-blown investment recovery. The surge in capital goods, they claim, reflects both a pick-up in truck sales (trucks and buses are included in the capital goods basket as transport equipment) and increased production of machinery in response to pending orders from just a couple of infrastructure sectors, particularly power and telecom. Fresh order flow, particularly from private sector firms wishing to expand capacity, is still weak. In short, the pick-up in the capital goods does not necessarily mean an upswing in investment demand across the board. The implication is that despite the apparently strong industrial growth numbers, the central bank must tread with caution when it comes to raising its policy rates. Otherwise, the mix of global uncertainty and high interest rates could stunt a recovery still in infancy.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

GRECIAN SUMMER OF DISCONTENT

MACROECONOMIC POLICY WILL BE EXCEPTIONALLY CHALLENGING IN THE MONTHS AHEAD

SHANKAR ACHARYA

Back in January, during a discussion with this paper's editorial brains trust, I had mildly suggested an edit on the emerging Greek budget problems and its wider consequences. This was greeted with indulgent smiles and suppressed mirth of the kind usually reserved for doddering uncles. Which reader would be interested in the fiscal predicament of a small and distant European nation? Some four months later, I confess to a feeling of vindication. Greece's public finance problems have ballooned into a major European crisis with global ramifications. The evolution of the crisis has accelerated over the last fortnight and sent world financial markets into a tizzy.

 Today, Greece is in a bad place. Its GDP fell by 3 per cent in 2009 and is expected to drop another 4 per cent this year. Its fiscal deficit of 13.6 per cent of GDP in 2009 is slated to be brutally chopped to 3 per cent of GDP by 2014 under the huge euro 110 billion EU-IMF bailout programme agreed early last week. Despite such extraordinary fiscal compression, Greece's towering 115 per cent ratio of government debt to GDP is expected to climb to nearly 150 per cent in three years. GDP is expected to contract a further 5 per cent by then. As Martin Wolf has pointed out (Financial Times, May 5), even if everything goes according to plan, in 2014 Greece will be having to run a 4.5 per cent of GDP primary fiscal surplus to service the 7.5 per cent of GDP of interest payments on its government debt. Will Greeks put up with the deep and sustained cuts in public wages and pensions, and massive hikes in taxes that all this entails?

Commentators (and markets) are sceptical. They point out that if Greece had faced a similar problem 12 years ago, the obvious solution would have included devaluation of the drachma and a restructuring of the debt (an euphemism for organised, partial default). Today, being a member of the eurozone rules out devaluation. And debt restructuring for Greece would fan the flames of contagion that are already warming Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy (the other PIGS). Herein lies the rub. Greece is missing crucial options for adjustment because she is an eurozone member. Conversely, the likely political and economic infeasibility of Greece's harsh fiscal compression programme is damaging Europe by sustaining the threat of contagion and calling the entire single-currency experiment of the euro into question. And this is why the travails of little Greece (with GDP equal to about one-fortieth of the European economy) are plaguing the European Union, still the largest single economic entity in the world. A dozen years ago, many had doubted that a monetary union could be sustained without a fiscal union. Analysts, such as Paul Krugman, have pointed out that California's major fiscal problems are containable precisely because US federal fiscal policy cushions their impact on both Californians and the rest of the US. The euro-sceptics are waxing eloquent today.

How will all this pan out? The honest truth is that nobody really knows. The crisis is still unfolding. And fast. Recall that hardly three weeks ago, Europeans were still negotiating over a euro 45 billion bailout package for Greece. Months of dithering by Germany and others helped catalyse the recent downgrades by credit rating agencies, which amplified the Greek problem and its contagion potential, and nearly tripled the scale of the final package. That didn't prevent international financial markets and the euro from plunging towards the end of last week, triggering a weekend of frenetic activity among European leaders, with stiff doses of advice injected by the Obama administration. The result was the announcement on Monday, May 10, morning of the mammoth euro 750 billion EU-IMF standby, bailout package of loans and guarantees plus the European Central Bank's (ECB's) arm-twisted readiness to purchase European debt for quantitative easing. After an initial, reassuring bounce, international markets again turned jittery on Tuesday, underscoring the continuing doubts about a lasting resolution of the fiscal-debt problems of Greece and other PIGS.

There is a chance that the Greek polity will accept the fiscal compression demanded. It's possible that contagion (much of it irrational and fuelled by financial herd behaviour) will be contained through wise, anticipatory policy by the governments of Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland, and adroit actions by ECB and the European Union. In that case, just maybe, European recovery from the Great Recession will simply stutter a bit in 2010 and then resume the positive trajectory outlined by the IMF's World Economic Outlook of late April.

The problem is that such wisdom and courage, if shown, will need to be sustained. And the track record, thus far, is not wholly reassuring. Thoughtful analysts believe that there is a better than even chance that something major will go wrong in the many weeks and months of fiscal and financial stress that lie ahead for Europe. Then the unthinkable might happen: Greece could leave the eurozone or default or both. In that case, contagion could spread across Europe and undermine otherwise healthy economies. No realistic estimate can be made presently of the pan-European and global consequences of such events. But the continuing turbulence in financial markets worldwide suggests that people are thinking about the unthinkable and its consequences.

What are the possible consequences for India? It's too early to tell but one can speculate. If the crisis is successfully contained and European recovery resumes, then there may be no significant external trade shock to India. With more money sloshing around in international markets, capital inflows into India will grow and exacerbate the already big problem of a substantially overvalued rupee. Oil prices will resume their upward march and magnify India's petroleum subsidies and fiscal stresses. At some point, perhaps quite a few months later, the unsustainability of India's fiscal, debt and external current accounts will come home to roost.

On the other hand, if the Greek crisis spirals into a larger European sovereign debt crisis and possible fragmentation of the eurozone, then global trade and capital flows will be badly hit. How badly and how much this will hurt India is impossible to assess at present. The only silver lining could be a drop in international oil prices, implying a lower oil import bill and reduced petroleum subsidies for India.

Either way, macroeconomic policy will be exceptionally challenging in the months ahead. Let's hope the ministries and institutions responsible for the conduct of India's macroeconomic management can summon the requisite competence and will.

The author is honorary professor at ICRIER and former chief economic adviser to the Government of India. The views expressed are personal

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

STEEL AND POWER

CONGRESS MP NAVEEN JINDAL'S SUPPORT TO THE ULTRA-CONSERVATIVES IN HIS CONSTITUENCY KURUKSHETRA IS HARD TO UNDERSTAND

KANIKA DATTA

Businessmen and society have a strangely contradictory relationship. The economic activity they generate can be an agent of social transformation and progress — a quick look at the changes in Indian society in the last two decades would be one indicator. Yet, businessmen in themselves are rarely conscious promoters of social progress.

This is hardly unexpected. Business inherently seeks a stable environment in which to flourish, so businessmen tend not to be tethered to ideologies beyond the opportunistic. Even by those standards, Congress MP Naveen Jindal's support to the ultra-conservatives in his constituency Kurukshetra is hard to understand.

Jindal is a hip, polo-playing, emerging steel and power tycoon. Why should he bother his head with demands to amend the Hindu Marriage Act to ban marriages within the same gotra (ancestral clan) and village?

His protestations that he's only acting as the messenger for his Jat constituents are a tad disingenuous and certainly contradictory. Presumably, as an educated young industrialist — he holds a business management degree from the University of Texas — he has views of his own about how society should be shaped. His detailed and carefully crafted website positions him as a dynamic young patriot. These credentials stem from his famous seven-year campaign to have the flag code amended to enable private citizens to fly the Indian flag freely. "Our National Flag is the greatest symbol of our country and we all must respect it, love it and above all fly it to spread the message of peace, harmony, brotherhood and prosperity," he is quoted as saying under a section titled (no kidding) "Patriot".

First, it is not clear how pushing the cause of extra-judicial local community bodies that condone medieval-style honour killings can be construed as promoting "peace, harmony, brotherhood" etc. Second, Jindal, who beat a chief minister's son at the hustings, lists an impressive array of things he has done for his constituency, both via the MP fund and his own non-profit outfit. He claims to "have transformed the face of Kurukshetra from being a sleepy town to a modern, developed city which is on the threshold of becoming a major tourist destination". If we take his word for it, it is even tougher to see why he should feel compelled to give in to the importuning of a decidedly reactionary element in his constituency. (Ironically, his constituency is not that far from Gurgaon, the hotspot of IT and multinational investment, that teems with many young men and women who may well be contemplating matrimony without reference to gotra, caste, religion, and so on.)

In his support of the khap panchayats, Jindal cannot be accused of business opportunism. The units owned by the extremely successful $2-billion Jindal Power and Steel, of which he is vice chairman and managing director, are not based in the state in which his family is a strong local force. They are, in fact, almost 1,000 km away in raw material-rich Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, mineral-rich states that, incidentally, desperately need investment in social infrastructure to pull them out of the current spiral of Maoist violence.

Jindal's motives come down to the purely political. Various local elections are due in Haryana over the next month and a half and most local politicians are wary of antagonising the powerful but conservative Jat community in the state. This is understandable in the larger interests of realpolitik. But it is worth wondering whether such active support for their retrograde agenda was called for — Jindal could as well have not said or done anything at all.

Jindal's latest move is, however, no more misguided than, say, Ratan Tata, Anil Ambani or Sunil Mittal. Last year, these leaders of India's most powerful corporate groups chose to heap lavish praise on Narendra Modi for his pro-industrialisation drive in Gujarat. This is okay — no one will deny that Modi has made Gujarat an unusually industry-friendly state, hugely beneficial for investment-hungry businessmen. But surely, given Modi's openly expressed communal proclivities — even Vajpayee considered asking him to resign after the 2002 riots — none of them needed to go as far as to endorse him as India's next prime minister.

Such amorality is worth thinking about as more and more businessmen eye a political vocation as a way of capping successful business careers. Their growing number in both Houses of Parliament — Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rahul Bajaj, Rajkumar Dhoot to name a few — may raise hopes for a more progressive outlook towards society, but as Jindal has shown, this need not be the case.

As for Jindal, his electoral opportunism may be less hard-headed than he thinks. Here's what one of his, presumably youthful, constituents wrote about him, passionately if ungrammatically, in response to a news item on his support of khap panchayats: "I belong to Kurukshetra and feeling ashamed that Mr Naveen Jindal represent our constituency in parliament. The person who claims to be youth Icon for modern india, just be popular as politician and secure vote for future is doing the rubbish."

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THAT SINKING FEELING

AS IMF MEETS TO GIVE PAKISTAN ANOTHER LOAN, THE COUNTRY'S ECONOMY REMAINS IN DEEP TROUBLE

NEHA CHOWDHRY

As IMF meets to give Pakistan another loan, the country's economy remains in deep trouble.

How serious is US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she threatens Pakistan with "severe consequences" for not doing enough to fight terrorism?

 Friday, the 14th of May will give us some indication. The Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will meet in Doha to decide the fate of the fifth tranche of the $11.3-billion loan to Pakistan. IMF has already given Pakistan about $6.35 billion in the previous four tranches. The meeting is in Doha because IMF staff are not willing to risk travelling to Pakistan.

Will Pakistan Finance Secretary Salman Siddique convince the Board that his ministry can deliver on the fiscal deficit target, keeping it below 4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and carry out fiscal reforms, including the implementation of value-added tax (VAT) by July 1, or will he get bogged down answering questions on the government's ability to make its writ run?

As in the case of most other countries, IMF wanted Pakistan to reduce its deficit, raise energy prices, introduce VAT and take other measures to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio in the country. According to the Atlantic Council, a US think tank, Pakistan has the lowest tax-to-GDP ratio in South Asia.

Pakistan's growth fell sharply in 2008-09, and while IMF has projected an improvement in 2010-11, the structure of the economy suggests achieving this will be an uphill task. Manufacturing is down to a two-year low (see chart) and GDP is largely driven by agriculture — the contribution of the manufacturing sector was negative in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Credit to the private sector is down 5 per cent as compared to a year ago; investment-to-GDP ratios are a low 19 per cent; and current account deficit could be around 4 per cent of GDP. Inflation is running at 13.26 per cent, foreign investment is down from $5 billion in 2007-08 to $3.5 billion in 2008-09 to $2.5 billion in 2009-10, the list of negatives goes on.

This decline in economic performance comes after five years of good performance during the Musharraf years. Musharraf inherited an ailing economy with less than $1 billion in foreign reserves; debt was 82 per cent of GDP; and 35 per cent of government revenues went towards debt servicing. Economic sanctions implemented in the wake of Pakistani nuclear tests conducted in 1998 had hurt too. Musharraf turned things around and economic reforms were undertaken. In late 1999, he told his people: "The revival of the economy is critical. Our economy is in deep trouble and revolutionary steps are needed to put it back on track."

He introduced austerity measures, increased accountability and rebuilt investor confidence in Pakistan. By allying itself with the US post 9/11, Pakistan under Musharraf was able to end the nuclear sanctions against it and increase the flow of money into the country. In the three years preceding 9/11, Pakistan received $9 million dollars in aid from the US; in the three years post 9/11, this number climbed to $4.8 billion.

Good economics and good relations with India helped Musharraf deliver an average growth rate of close to 6 per cent during his six years in office. After Musharraf, Pakistan has suffered from a protracted decrease in investments in civil society. The private sector remains almost non-existent. Exponential population growth puts pressure on power and water sources, while the high rates of inflation make everyday living harder for the average Pakistani citizen. Furthermore, Pakistan is highly dependent on remittances which are an unstable form of revenue.

The recently released United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) report said that "Pakistan's economy has been affected not just by the global economic crisis but also by the declining security situation and intensification of conflict linked to terrorism."

The global economic crisis, combined with the escalated war on terror at its doorstep, sent Pakistan back to IMF in November 2008.

This, in spite of the fact that till August 2008, the US had given $7.89 billion in military assistance and $3.1 billion in economic and developmental assistance to Pakistan. The US International Affairs Budget stated this number would reach $1.6 billion this year. The Defence Department suggests another $700 million in "security force support".

After partition, Pakistan was one of the few countries in the world that had an average growth rate of 5 per cent over a period of four decades, often growing faster than India. This was not only above the global average, it made Pakistan a model for growth during the 1960s — in fact, South Korea mimicked Pakistan's second five -year Plan (1960-1965).      

In the 1990s, due to the combination of poor economic governance by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) [PML (N)] rulers, a severe drought and increased defence spending, Pakistan's growth rate slowed to an average of 4 per cent.

While Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif attempted to place emphasis on the role of the private sector and liberal reforms in the 1990s, these were largely poorly implemented.

The Asian Development Bank has said that "Pakistan's economic prospects over the next two years are predicated on a successful completion of its IMF programme; a gradual improvement in the security and energy situations; and sustained implementation of fiscal reforms along with political stability."

The lessons that Pakistan learns from its economic collapse remain to be seen. Given that improved relations with India under Musharraf resulted in a stronger economic performance, will Pakistan overcome its security-based obsession with India and turn back to fostering stronger trade relations with its resilient neighbour?

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THE ROCHE TEST

THE VALCYTE CASE IS VITAL AS IT BARS INCREMENTAL INNOVATION AND RECOGNISES THE RIGHT OF PATIENT GROUPS TO OPPOSE PATENTS

LATHA JISHNU

Patent challenges may be routine and as frequent as milestones in the legal highways of the developed world. In India, where the patent laws are just being tested, lawsuits are significant because almost every case that is being fought by different players — drug multinationals, generics manufacturers and patient groups — raises questions of a fundamental nature.

 In the high-profile case battle over Roche's patent for its anti-viral drug Valcyte (generic name: valgancyclovir hydrochloride), the basic issue was not just the validity of the patent for a new form of a known drug but the more fundamental question of the right of patient groups to question the grant of patents that are bad in law. After winding its way through the overburdened Indian legal system and the equally strained working of the Intellectual Property Office, the Valcyte patent was nixed by the Chennai Patent Office — almost three years after it was granted by the very same office. The saga of Valcyte — there is no guarantee that the story has ended since it is possible that Roche will challenge the revocation — is interesting for manifold reasons.

In June 2007, the Swiss drug giant Hoffman-La Roche was granted the patent on Valcyte by the Chennai Patent Office on an application it had filed in July 1995, without hearing the arguments of public interest groups, the Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS and the Tamil Nadu Networking People with HIV/AIDS. If this cast a shadow over the process of granting patents, storm clouds were building up on another front. Immediately, after Roche got its approval, the patent was challenged by four Indian drug companies, Ranbaxy Laboratories, Cipla, Bakul Pharma and Matrix Labroatories, along with three patient groups.

To understand why HIV/AIDS patients are so interested in Valcyte, here's a little background on the drug. Used primarily to treat an infection in organ transplant patients, Valcyte is widely used by AIDS patients and helps prevent blindness and death in such people. But like many such branded drugs which offer the only treatment for certain medical conditions, Valcyte is extremely expensive. According to the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the price is as high as $8,500 (Rs 3,82,500) for a four-month course in high-income countries; for a standard protocol in India it is approximately $5,950. MSF says that in December 2006, it approached Roche for a discount, but even the "discounted" price was so high that "some MSF AIDS projects opted out of providing this treatment for the cytomegalovirus or CMV".

Should the high costs of an innovative drug be any reason why a patent should not be granted? The crux of the matter is that Valcyte is a variant of an existing drug. Leena Menghaney, MSF's campaign co-ordinator in India for access to drugs, points out that Valcyte is the new form of drug that was invented in the 1980s, being an ester of an existing intravenous anti-viral drug, gancyclvoir. This was administered mostly to HIV patients through injection. To make the drug easier to use as oral medicine, Roche developed the ester of gancyclvoir which resulted in Valcyte.

The Valcyte took an interesting turn when Cipla, the stormy petrel of the Indian drug manufacturers, went ahead and manufactured a generic version of the formulation, called Valcept, saying the patent was not valid. Roche then filed a patent and trademark infringement suit against Cipla in the Bombay High Court, which ruled in favour of Roche on the trademark aspect and directed the Indian company to change the name of its generic drug.

Roche then approached the Supreme Court but did not get comfort here since the Bench dismissed the petition and asked the Swiss manufacturer to await the outcome of the post-grant opposition being heard by the Chennai patent office. That verdict which was announced last week went against Roche because the assistant controller of patents and designs S P Subramaniyan concluded that Valcyte had failed on the innovation parameter. How did the Chennai patent office revise its own decision of 2007?

The reason is that patents are being granted without proper examination, and for obvious reasons. Not only are the four understaffed patent offices in the country working under tremendous pressure, there is also the impression that examiners lack the required expertise in some cases. The result: a series of patent challenges that have landed in the courts and the appellate board of the patent office.

Patient groups and their lawyers have been rapturous in their response to the patent office's finding since it formalises their right to challenge patents as "person interested" under the patent law. Equally important is a firm message that India will not permit incremental drug innovations that lead to the evergreening of patents. Yet, some issues remain fuzzy. While product claims have been rejected, the process claims remain. But some analysts say this of no significance since process claims are not such a hurdle for generic companies.

The overall message: Foreign drug companies beware. Section 3 (d) of the patent law will be applied scrupulously.

latha.jishnu@bsmail.in  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

BUILDING BOSTONS, NOT KANPURS

WHY INDIAN CITIES MUST LEVERAGE THEIR UNIVERSITIES

SANJEEV SANYAL

Around the world, universities are the stuff that makes great cities. Imagine Boston without Harvard, MIT and the myriad other institutions that are clustered around the Boston-Cambridge area. In Britain, Oxford and Cambridge are vibrant urban centres that derive their vigour almost entirely from playing host to famous universities. Even large and diversified global cities like London and New York would be much diminished without the intellectual clustering of LSE, Columbia, UCL and NYU. In each case, the universities are an integral part of the urban landscape and are consciously leveraged by their host cities.

Yet, Indian cities do not think of their universities and research institutes as important drivers of urban growth. At most, they are seen as utilitarian places for teaching students. Their importance for clustering human capital and driving innovation is simply not seen as part of overall urban strategy. Indeed, universities built after Independence have been sealed off on campuses, often in distant locations, that deliberately discourage interaction with the wider city. Thus, Kanpur and Kharagpur benefit little from being host to a prestigious institution like the IIT. This is absurd.

 The software of cities

Urban development is not just about the "hardware" — buildings, roads, plumbing and so on. It is the people, their social/economic activity and their continuous interaction that bring cities alive. Successful cities are those that can cluster human capital and encourage innovation, creativity and exchange of ideas. This has always been true. Think of the great cities of the past: Athens, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Ujjain and Varanasi. However, the this factor has become even more important in the 21st century. Never before has the economic value of ideation and creativity been greater. In short, the "software" is critical to the evolution of a city.

Universities are key to the software of a city. They attract young talent, encourage the churn of ideas and trigger innovation. The physical infrastructure of the university provides the venue for conferences, seminars and cultural/sporting events that allow for intense human interaction. Note how NYU played an important role in regenerating Lower Manhattan in the 90's.

Next generation global cities like Singapore recognise this dynamic and use it actively as part of urban/national economic strategy. For instance, Singapore has built out a number of new institutions like Singapore Management University over the last decade. In most cases, these have been clustered in the middle of the city rather than on remote campuses. The city benefits from having a throughput of young people in the city-centre. At the same time, the university benefits from easy access to industry, government and urban "buzz".

Prior to Independence, the urban role of universities was appreciated. The colleges of Bombay and Calcutta Universities were built into the city much like the colleges of London. Even Delhi University, although built as a separate campus, was still seen as a part of the overall urban fabric. There were even important towns like Allahabad and Aligarh that were driven largely by their vibrant universities, much like Oxford and Cambridge.

Contrast this to how tertiary education institutions were built after Independence. All the IITs and IIMs are large, sealed campuses built originally outside the city. The model was the industrial-era factory township. The physical walls that surround them have continued to wall them off socially and intellectually from their host cities even where urban growth has brought them inside the city. How different from the urban campuses of MIT and Harvard Business School. This is a loss to both sides.

Perpetuating the mistake

We appear to have learned little from our past mistake. Indeed, this is not even considered an issue worthy of attention and debate. Thus, the establishment of a new university or institute is still about acquiring large tracts of land, often hundreds of acres, and then building out stand-alone buildings. If anything, success is measured by how much land has been acquired rather than the quality of education/research.

This is a very wasteful process at many levels. First, it is unnecessarily converting productive farm and forest land. Why does Vedanta need 6,000 acres in Orissa and IIT Jodhpur 700 acres in Rajasthan for teaching a few thousand students? Second, it requires the creation of expensive infrastructure in isolated locations, including staff housing, convocation halls, seminar rooms and so on. How many times a year is the convocation hall used by the institution itself? In a city location, these facilities would have added to the overall urban infrastructure. Third, such remote campuses are inconsiderate of the social, educational and career needs of the families of the faculty and staff. This is a major constraint to finding good faculty. We cannot build universities as if they are industrial-era factory townships where the wives stay at home and the children study in the company school. Finally, and most damagingly, these campuses are unable to generate the externalities that one would associate with a good academic/research institute. Students come and leave. There is no clustering or inter-linkage with the real world.

The proposed IIT in Jodhpur is an example of how we are perpetuating the flawed model. The government has already acquired 700 acres of land about 22 km from Jodhpur. There a lot of talk about how it will be a "green" campus with solar panels and electric buses ferrying people from the city/airport. A number of complex options are being discussed to supply it with water. This is all meaningless when the most energy-efficient solution is to have had a compact campus that is nearer to the city. This would have automatically reduced the need to travel long distances and recreate social infrastructure. In addition, Jodhpur city has a problem with rising water tables and there is absolutely no need for expensive water-supply technologies when it can simply be pumped out. Worst of all, given the distance, the existing city will gain nothing from the creation of all the new and expensive infrastructure.

To conclude, universities are an important part of the urban economy and should be seen as an integral part of city-building. As we build out new institutions, we urgently need to stop thinking of them as fenced-off factory townships. We do not need more Kanpurs and Kharagpurs. If India wants to play on the global stage, it needs to create its very own Bostons and Oxfords.

The author is president, Sustainable Planet Institute

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO AMBY-VALANCE

 

The mere thought of the chubby Ambassador trundling into the sunset — triggered by Hindustan Motors' announcement that it was going to report to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) as its net worth eroded by 50% — is akin to Amitabh Bachchan calling it a day due to his advanced years.


The head may say yes, but the heart would say no! Suzuki, Honda, and Shahrukh Khan for that matter, may have gigantic fan bases today because they are younger stars, but we Indians love our ageing heroes, whether they are the Big B or the Amby.


Never mind that successive Indian prime ministers have officially dumped the homely model in favour of big, beaming German marques , the bowler-hat-shaped desi sedan is still the most easily recognisable symbol of sarkari power, especially when capped with a revolving red cherry light. Its only companion on the Indian roads for decades, the slim Italian emigre called Fiat 1200 GranLuce Berlina that became the Indianised Premier Padmini, bowed out in 2000, but the hardy Amby survived.


No wonder more people than just the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi have an affinity for the Ambassador that arrived on these shores as the very Brit Morris Oxford III but stayed on to become a naturalised Indian. Given its fame, legendary capaciousness and time-tested ability to handle Indian conditions, it is not surprising that the Amby will be the official convoy-envoy for athletes during this October's Commonwealth Games.


Talking of symbolism, both Gordon Brown and David Cameron sent out a message as they said tata and hello respectively, at 10 Downing Street. It may have escaped the notice of most Britons, though, including them. Both travelled to and from Buckingham Palace in chauffeur-driven Jaguar X-series cars. Time was when Indian PMs rode in British cars; now it's the other way round! What better raison d'etre can there be for the Amby?

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

REFORM STAMP DUTY

 

The Centre has done well to propose a 5% uniform stamp duty on property transactions across all states. The reform, long overdue, would be an incentive for above-the-board deals. A consensus among states on a uniform stamp duty rate for property transactions will end rate-wars, reduce under-declaration and curb black money generation. More reforms must follow. States should bring the real estate sector under the goods and services tax (GST) regime.


The rationale offered by the task force on GST and endorsed by the Thirteenth Finance Commission to integrate the real estate sector into GST is sound. The sector will be free from multiple taxes at the Central and the state level. It will also eliminate cascading of taxes and help better price discovery.


Today, credit is not available for various levies paid on real estate transactions at the state level and a buyer does not have an incentive to obtain an invoice. This will change with the introduction of GST as input tax credit will be available across the value chain. The new system will check under-declaration in the valuation of property. There will be an audit trail on all property transactions. It would, therefore, be easy to check tax evasion. Ideally, stamp duty should be subsumed in GST.


Sure, states would worry about revenue loss. Together, states collect Rs 40,000 crore from stamp duties. However, the audit trail and incentive to stop undervaluation of property should yield additional tax revenue, even if not collected under the head stamp duty. Any loss of revenue after factoring this in, can be up for compensation by the Centre, again as recommended by the Finance Commission. States were compensated for losses that they in-curred while transiting to the value added tax regime (VAT). VAT ensured better compliance and bolstered revenue collections. The results will be even better in a clean and transparent tax system like GST. It will foster compliance and curb tax evasion, rampant now in real estate transactions.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ANTI-PEOPLE, TRAI

 

The latest recommendations of telecom regulator Trai, on spectrum allocation and pricing, are illogical and anti-growth. They should be dumped forthwith. Trai recommends that telecom service providers should pay a one-time fee for the spectrum they have received in excess of 6.2 MHz, the payment being, per MHz, as much as or one-and-a-half times the rate being discovered through the ongoing 3G auctions, the higher figure, in case the allocated spectrum is in the 900 MHz band.


The regulator approaches the issue as if only the government and the rival telecom operators mattered. The telecom users, the people of this country, are completely missing from Trai's calculations. This is absurd. If there is one thing that has visibly worked to benefit the common people in the entire series of reforms since 1991, it is the telecom revolution.


Calls are cheap, practically anyone can own a phone, the self-employed service providers, the largest segment of the urban poor, have been empowered dramatically to enhance their earning potential. This revolution took place on the basis of cheap spectrum. Has Trai done any exercise to compute the relative costs and benefits of two different models of the telecom industry: high-cost, small user base, low volume, low revenues versus low-cost, large user base, high volume, high revenues?


The economy as a whole has grown faster as a result of the network effect of more and more people being linked by telecom, thanks to the low-cost, high-volume model India has followed. Tax collections, too, soared. If we assume that better connectivty drove up both economic growth and the tax/GDP ratio by one percentage point each, the alleged loss to the exchequer from giving away 2G spectrum turns out to be spurious. To now demand that telecom companies should pay the government tens of thousands of crore rupees for past spectrum

allocations is to halt the revolution and penalise the companies that enabled the revolution.


Government revenues, fair competition among business rivals — these are important, but the common good is supreme. The latest Trai recommendations will make telecom costly and halt the further spread of telecom.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE CIRCUS OF OUR LIVES

MANOJ NAIR

 

A circus has come to town. People have been flocking to it in large numbers, not for its novel and attractive numbers but (as gathered from a collection of whispers) for its semi-erotic numbers. The sex, as always, is subtle and when in public leans on the pole of survival. We are victims of voyeurism. We enjoy watching the stripped, but hate seeing the naked self. Gordon Brown might have a confession to make to Silvio Berlusconi.

There are many reasons why we go to see a circus show and it is not about our whispers but tuning our whiskers. Live in Uttar Pradesh to know that. A statue can be made of those untouchable thoughts. There is little to differentiate between a salon and circus tent. The hairs are pruned in both of them. One of them is that people say, not aloud, of course, that it is worth a visit. So you are subject to peer pressure. Even if it is a circus, it must be worth something if people within your circle are talking about it. You do have a taste for it even if you think that your culinary nostalgia has gone wrong. Else, why would you have a penchant for freaks? And, since we have confined ourselves to our armchairs in front of the rectangular thing that beams innumerable images by the seconds, we do like watching reality shows where participants eat scorpions, snakes and other still life. The circus has come home. Or is it a homecoming?


A trapeze of thoughts that are not there returns to jump from a swing to another hoping that they wouldn't come crashing to the ground: after all, there is a net in between . And the circus still attracts numbers like neighbours in an apartment block who are interested in what is happening next door. It gives them more succor than their own lives. How does it matter if the actors' in the behind-the-scenes program is a harmlessly raunchy travelogue set to hurdy-gurdy music. MTV or I aMTV. One such group of travelling performers do visit your locality and you ignore it because it mirrors your ideologue and forces you to engage in a pedagogy with your self. You don't want to be told what you are. The jokers in the circus are the last thing you want to see within (without you). They clap, laugh and engage in a mocking soliloquy which gives you an excuse to disregard it.

The circus has come to town. But you are above it. So let's "ignore it; give it a go by; and it is not for the likes of our people; who would go to watch it."


But people are flocking to it. And they are not us. We are not them. And we disdain activity — of any kind. Therefore, we dissuade people from going to watch a circus. Charlie Chaplin can be pardoned for all the subtitled sarcasm but he struck the right chord years ago. We could perhaps wait for a Chaplin or a circus. Beneath a tent, be it may human, canvas or satin, it shelters a spectacle of emotions. Some that are often hidden. We are in an age where the primitive state of mind fails to take a leap to modern thinking as the line between the two is blurred by economics and how much you can pay for in monetary terms. We are so much in love with speculation that we could almost embrace casinos as a model for the country's economy. After all, a circus has an act called the well of death.


Things like a khap in a Haryana village that boasts of a hitch with a nose and even no-nose stunts finds popular support with nobody taking the jump with a contrarian view, nets notwithstanding.


How are the outlaws within ourselves going to grow up? If it's not the greatest show on earth, the circus inside our four walls does investigate, in a light and ambling way, the allure of freakhood, as well as the strange forces that hope to abandon it all behind. The science behind a circus is that human beings get away with sexism, homophobia and violence; the kinds that we have ascribed names to and have got the collective state to act against. We need to be protected against the jokers in the pack. Even if we have in some way created them.

So welcome to the circus. The magic lies beneath the tents. And the guffaw has the resonance of a grenade going off.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

SEVEN INFLUENTIAL INDIANS

RAGHU KRISHNAN

 

What do Manmohan Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Amartya Sen, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw , P Namperumalswamy , Sanjit 'Bunker' Roy and Chetan Bhagat have in common, apart from being Indian citizens? These seven figure in TIME magazine's latest list of The 100 Most Influential People In The World, along with four from China. Manmohan has been listed in the 25-strong 'leaders' category, along with three other PMs (Japan's Hatoyama, Palestine's Fayyad and Turkey's Erdogan) and three presidents (Brazil's Lula da Silva, the UAE's Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Barack Obama). 'Bunker' Roy has joined Amartya Sen in the 25-strong 'thinkers' category. Chetan Bhagat has made it to the 25-strong 'artists' category. And Tendulkar, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Namperumalswamy figure among the 25 'heroes' .


Seven Indians in a list of the world's 100 most influential people may not seem all that much. The world's most populous democracy accounts for roughly 17% of the global population. However, the fact that just four from the world's most populous country of the People's Republic of China have made it to the TIME list indicates that this is not just a number's game! Intriguingly, China's President Hu Jintao does not figure in TIME's latest list. Hu, who is also the secretary-general of China's communist party and the chairman of its Central Military Commission, had figured in the TIME list in 2004, '05, '07 and '08.


Which could be why, this time around, TIMEhas included in its list of global leaders Bo Xilai who served under Hu as commerce minister and was then transferred to run the city of Chongqing where the reputation he has earned for cracking down on corruption by arresting 3,000 suspects including the former police chief is expected to boost his chances of being seated on the standing committee of the politbureau, China's top governing body. Bo is joined on the TIME-100 list by compatriots Robin Li who set up China's leading search-engine company Baidu, China's most popular blogger Han Han, who wants all restrictions on the internet to be lifted, and the actor Jet Li whose One Foundation assists with disaster-relief efforts in China. The missing Hu has, in any case, been hailed as "the second most powerful person in the world" by Forbes and Newsweek which described him as "the man behind the wheel of the world's most supercharged economy". By American norms, the most powerful person in the world would, of course, be the President of the USA whose economy is heavily indebted to China!


The seven globally influential Indians have a varied background. Tendulkar is profiled in TIME by Deepak Chopra as someone who "stands for national dignity in a way that perhaps only a post-colonial nation can understand" by beating the English at their own game! Manmohan is profiled and praised by PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi for ensuring that the progress of India as a critical engine of global economic growth is not just enjoyed by a chosen few within the country. Talk of inclusive growth! The historian Niall Ferguson profiles Amartya Sen as someone whose notion of measuring human development is now central to the work of the UN and the World Bank and whose influence thus extends all the way down to 'the bottom billion' . Author Greg Mortensen praises 'Bunker' Roy for "nurturing a grass-roots social entrepreneurship that is redefining the way the world thinks about fighting poverty".


Greg Mullaney, co-founder of the Smiles Train which provides free cleft-surgeries in developing countries, commends Dr P Namperumalswamy for bringing assembly-line efficiency to health-care by performing 3.6 million cataract operations (one every 15 minutes!) through a business model where the 30% of patients who can pay, cross-subsidise the 70% who can't afford the cost. Legendary cycling champion and former cancer patient Lance Armstrong praises Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw for fighting cancer by spending $10 million on creating the 1,400-bed Cancer Centre in Bangalore where poor patients will be treated free in the evenings so that they can work and care for their families during the day. Finally, Oscar winner A R Rahman commends Chetan Bhagat for inspiring the young to pursue their dreams through his novels like Five Point Someone (from which the movie Three Idiots was adapted), One Night @ the Call Centre and The Story of My Marriage: Two States. Jai Ho!


Not all of TIME's heroes have had happy endings. Take the Patna district magistrate who was hailed in October 2004 as one of TIME's 20 Asian heroes for co-ordinating flood-relief operations and who was arrested months later on charges of involvement in a flood-relief scam. The IAS officer succumbed to pancreatic cancer early last year. It is not known whether TIME recorded the demise in its weekly Milestones obit column. The sad truth is that no hero and no list is infallible.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BECOME WHAT YOU THINK

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

George Bernard Shaw said the world has two kinds of people. First category are those who blame their circumstances for what they are. Second are folks who get on in this world, people who don't believe in circumstances. If these fellows get into circumstances they don't like, they get out of 'em and begin to look for the circumstances they want. If they can't find them they make the circumstances of their choice.


In hindsight, this seems pretty self-evident. But everyone who has fought with circumstances and wrestled to them to kneel to his or her knees tends to believe that they are the first to have stumbled upon the well-concealed secret — that we can become what we think about. Conversely, the person who wobbles along without a goal, without a clue about mastering the thoughts of anxiety and fear assailing his senses, how does he fare? If he thinks of nothing , does he reap nothing? How does it work? How does the quality of our thinking have such a powerful effect on our lives?


Sages have used the allegory of the seed to explain the phenomenon. "Sweet is the fruit of pure seed," says the mystic poet Sri Jnandev. So by corollary if one plants impure seeds or thoughts, impure are the tangles of thought-forests that will spring from the loam of their mind. So in practical terms, the mystic master is comparing the human mind with the land because the mind, like the land, doesn't care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it doesn't care what you plant.


So? Be grateful for even small mercies. Try to keep away from toxic thoughts. For there is a growing body of evidence to show that people who regularly experience grateful thoughts or deliberately cultivate positive attitudes reap numerous benefits. Such individuals have closer and more life-giving relationships with those they love, and have fewer bouts of depression, writes psychologist John Buri in How to love your wife. They also heal faster when they are sick or hurt and tend to live longer and healthier.


What's more, they repeatedly experience success in school, sports and work that exceeds their natural abilities. One can harness all this through the Buddhist practice of Metta, also called meditation on loving-kindness to calm down a distraught mind that serves as an antidote to anger. Try it the next time your boss shouts or when the significant other fumes at you. Home Shanti.

 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SPLIT THE COURT INTO TWO: ONE EACH FOR APPEALS AND CONSTITUTIONAL MATTERS

RAJEEV DHAVAN

 

Designed as a Supreme Court (SC), it has now become like a high court (HC). Its jurisdiction is too wide, its jurisprudence too unwieldy. Drowned with arrears of cases, its pivotal constitutional work suffers. Its 50,000 cumulative pendency may be nothing compared to 38 lakh arrears in the HCs and 3.6 crore in the lower courts.

Our justice system has become something of a lottery. The SC contributes to the lottery. Judges working at breathless speed cannot deliver an even-handed and consistent justice. It does not matter how hard the SC judges work. They are drowned by it. Desperate measures have not made a dent. Today, some benches — notably Justice Katju's bench — dispense quick justice when the judges think they have understood the file without fully reading it. Quick intuitive justice is no justice.


Despite this, the SC surpasses itself. Constantly in the news, it decides issues of national significance. Its work is often likened to T20 cricket. If test cricket is played, it is always in a hurry. Under the circumstances, the judges have done well. But for how long, with what loss of quality?


The present strategy of increasing judges and hacking down pending cases is not the answer. The court needs to split into two: a separate court of appeal and a constitutional court. Between the HCs and the SC, there should be a court of appeal for all civil, criminal, tax, reference and other cases. This court could have 12 benches of three judges — each of whose decision would be final.


The SC should become a constitutional court with nine judges sitting together en banc and a new procedure whereby it would select what it wants to hear. At present, this selection takes 50% of the SC's time. Its jurisdiction would be limited to (a) fundamental rights cases, (b) federal disputes between states, and (c) matters relating to the interpretation of law and governance under the Constitution — broadly covering the writ jurisdiction of most of the high courts. If it works for the HCs, it should work for the SC.


In this regard, the federal jurisdiction would be exclusive. Fundamental rights cases could come directly or by appeal, as would other constitutional and administrative law issues. The 'advisory jurisdiction' would remain. The judges sitting together would make the court's work more cohesive.


The SC's pronouncements on governance are spectacular, but it has become an overburdened goods train with a broken down Shatabdi express engine. The new solution would require a better selection of judges through wider collegiates, not the present inward-looking 'SC' cabal.


The ages of all high court, appeals court and SC judges should be 65 years. This will take the edge off competitive rivalries and selection. A better registry and management will save time. Judges will have time to consider and think issues through.


If politicians are custodians of the political texts of the Constitution, judges are custodians of the justice texts, and, indeed, the Constitution itself. Improving unit-cost efficiency in disposing cases will not achieve justice or good governance. Structural changes are needed. Things can go wrong. They have.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ESTABLISHING CIRCUIT BENCHES CAN HELP REDUCE THE BURDEN

SOMNATH CHATTERJEE



It is not just a question of the Supreme Court (SC) needing to shed some of its works. It is a question about how the functioning the entire legal system can be improved to make it serve the real purpose of a judiciary in the country, particularly to deliver speedy justice to the ordinary people at an affordable cost.


So far as the SC is concerned, we need to introspect whether ordinary citizens are really able to approach the apex court, given the geographical distance from different corners of the country, the problem of finding accommodation and the arduous process of engaging a good lawyer in Delhi. Ordinary citizens cannot dream of approaching the SC.


So, the inevitable question: is this the situation that was contemplated by the founding fathers of our Constitution? Every person concerned with judiciary should give a serious thought to this problem.


Recently, the prime minister said speedy justice should be provided to ordinary citizens at an affordable cost. But the situation today is such that only the rich, corporate or 'some people with sponsors' can approach the apex court.


I have the highest respect for the SC. But, to my mind, to provide real justice to ordinary people at the apex court, it is essential to set up circuit benches in different parts of the country. The usual argument against it was that it will bifurcate/trifurcate the SC itself and diminish its authority and status. Such an argument must be rejected. Question can never be of all learned judges sitting at the same place but, dispersing justice to the litigants, including ordinary citizens, in an appropriate manner.


I was asked whether it was necessary to curtail the SC's jurisdiction to only very important issues and not burden it with ordinary litigation, including appeals. I feel 2-3 SC judges could constitute the circuit benches and dispose of the appeals at different centres in their capacity as SC judges, making their judgements final.

The Chief Justice of India will remain in Delhi with other learned judges who would decide on issues of constitutional importance or of great national importance — those cases that may be so designated by the bench in Delhi or other circuit benches.


I am not suggesting this is the only method that can be applied. But at least serious thought be given and action taken to ensure speedy and efficient justice for common man at reasonable cost. Also, identifying maladies and then expecting changes will happen on their own will not do. I had the privilege of seeing the first bench of SC functioning at Parliament building. They had the most difficult judicial work to do in the formative years after Independence and the constitution of the SC. Yet, they have delivered judgements that have endured forever.


The problems that have cropped up today are not due to the increase in the number of litigation with population growth. But one needs to examine what types of litigation before the SC that have multiplied and what innovation has been introduced. Also, we need to consider whether enlargement of the scope of litigation in different high courts and Supreme Court have caused proliferation of litigation.

( As told to C L Manoj)

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GIVING RUPEE A SYMBOL IS MERELY A COSMETIC EXERCISE


AGREE : The Indian rupee surely needs a symbol for the ease of recognition. Even the Yuan and the Euro (expected to be an alternative to the dollar) have been "branded" for ease of recognition. If one were to look at our history, the rupee has mainly remained pegged to the dollar until the early 90s, with exchange controls restricting any trading of currencies. With increased economic activity in India, high GDP growth, the gradual convertibility of the rupee both on capital and current account, foreign investment and remittance flows are likely to increase significantly resulting in increased trading activity in the rupee. Accordingly, the "branding of the rupee will only help".


However, we cannot afford to stop just with the branding but need to stabilise our currency. There are significant systemic issues which need to be addressed. Our currency is still very FII-driven rather than FDI (like China). Our government finances must be controlled through fiscal responsibility and we must set up a liquid domestic debt market. These would lead to genuine exchange flows and pricing of exchange rates on long term interest rate differentials (enabling a strong forwards currency market) rather than short term flows. We saw how our currency was during the 2007 financial crises, where India was impacted mainly by reduced FII flows which in turn impacted our currency, stock markets and hence constrained us of capital (our biggest source of fund raising is capital markets in the absence of a corporate debt market). In summary, whilst the timing of branding can only do us good, developing an eco system to enable a stable currency should also be looked at very aggressively.


Anish Thacker, Director, Tax & Regulatory Services, Ernst & Young India

AGREE : With India coming into prominence in the global market, the Rupee is also gaining recognition. While presenting the Budget speech 2010, the finance minister mooted the idea of creating a unique symbol for the Indian Rupee, which would then join the group of currencies such as the United States Dollar, the Euro, the British Pound and the Japanese Yen. A question arises as to whether this would be of any help to the economy or make the Rupee better known in the global world.


Each currency in the world has its abbreviation by which it is known, for eg. US Dollar, apart from being recognised by its symbol, '$', is equally well recognized by the abbreviation, 'USD', the Euro is recognized by 'EUR'; and the Pound by 'GBP'. It is unquestionable that in business communication, one notices the abbreviations being used far more than the symbols.


Handsome is what handsome does. Recognition automatically comes when deeds are such that the world will stand up and take notice. The world has already taken notice of India and the Indian Rupee so its present symbol, 'Re' or 'NR' is well recognized in the business world and has a strong brand value.


Additionally, a lot of time and effort can go into conceiving, adopting and popularizing the new symbol both within the country and globally. If the new symbol is going to be used on the currency notes and coins and the existing notes and coins are going to be replaced by the new ones displaying the symbol, it is likely to cause a huge spend of time, effort and natural resources, which the country may utilize more productively elsewhere. Having a new symbol may even lead to confusion, especially in the rural part of the country. The creation of a new symbol for the Rupee, may therefore, well end up as being a cosmetic exercise.


Govind Mohan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Finance

DISAGREE : India is widely regarded as one of the original 'cradles of human civilisation'. The Indian culture and ethos are recognised for its multi-faceted and insightful originality. The ancient Indian texts are respected worldwide for their path-breaking experiments in areas as diverse as religion, philosophy, economics, science and astronomy.


In view of the rich cultural traditions of India and its growing economic might, government has considered it appropriate to endow the Indian Rupee with a distinct symbol. The finance minister, in his Budget Speech of 2010-11, has promised that in the current year, a symbol for the Indian Rupee would be formalised, which reflects and captures the Indian ethos and culture.


The new symbol would be in line with the symbols that have been adopted by other major currencies such as the US Dollar, the British Pound, the Euro and the Japanese Yen. It would standardise the expression for Indian Rupee in different languages, within and outside the country. It will better distinguish the Indian currency, from those countries, whose currencies are also distinct as Rupee or Rupiah such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Above all, a distinct symbol for the Indian Rupee would further accelerate the process of integration of the Indian economy with other parts of the globe, and, reflect the growing economic strength and confidence of the Indian people.


In recent years, India has also attained universal recognition and respect for its commendable economic performance. Between 2003 and 2008, the Indian economy grew at an average rate of nearly 9% per annum, which was one of the highest growth rates among several nations.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHY THE GREEK RESCUE WON'T WORK

T T RAM MOHAN

 

Greece has been dubbed the 'public sector's Lehman Brothers' Parallels have been drawn with a large bank failure Greece, it is said, had to be rescued because a default on its part could have led to awider crisis. Time was of the essence: the greater the delay in effecting a rescue, the greater the cost. As in the case of bank failure, taxpayers have to pick up the tabs.


The impact of a large bank failure on the system is understandable. Greece is a small economy. Its GDP is a little over 1% of world GDP. Why would the bankruptcy of a small economy warrant serious concern? Again, it has to do with banks. If Greece were to default on its debt, banks in Greece as well as in other countries could be in trouble. A default would cause Greek government bonds to lose at least half their value. Many Greek banks would go bankrupt.


Banks in other countries too would be impacted. The Economist estimates EU banks' holding of Greek government bonds at €76 billion. Many of these banks have already been supported by governments following the sub-prime crisis. They can do without further losses. The rescue mounted by the EU-IMF 10 days ago, it is contended, has helped stave off another banking crisis at a time when economic recovery in the EU is sluggish.


Just three weeks ago, the package required for Greece was estimated at €40 billion. The package finally pushed through by the EU-IMF amounted to €110 billion. The EU-IMF has since announced a package worth €750 billion for all eurozone economies. This is a stabilisation mechanism comprising loans as well as guarantees. How much of it will be used to top up the rescue package for Greece is anybody's guess.


In a crisis such as this, the costs of rescue to governments and international agencies mount with time because private investors begin to flee. However, it is incorrect to say that the cost of the Greek rescue itself is €110 billion. This is merely the amount that the EU and the IMF have to lend to Greece to prevent an immediate default.

The entire amount is not a cost unless Greece defaults on all of it. Assuming that Greece ultimately repays this amount, the cost of the rescue would be the difference between the market rate of interest and the interest that the EU-IMF is charging.


A Greek default would have had serious consequences all round. But the basic question needs to be asked: was a rescue preferable to a default? Is it true that a Greek default would have had catastrophic effects similar to those of the failure of Lehman in 2008?


The historical evidence is that there are strong incentives for countries to default. In their book, This time is different, Reinhart and Rogoff document the record of sovereign defaults through history. They write, "Serial defaults on external debts are the norm throughout every region in the world, including Asia and Europe" .

This undistinguished record has continued through the twentieth century in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Several Latin American countries have spent nearly 40% of their time since independence in default. Greece itself has been in default nearly half the time since 1800.


Two other facts are worth noting. Today's high-income countries have made the transition from being emerging markets after a long history of default. This implies that, for the defaulter, the consequences of default are bearable. Secondly, in general, the effects of country default can be absorbed by the world economy.


In light of these facts, what is the argument against Greece defaulting today? Its primary fiscal deficit is around 9-10% of GDP. This is financed by external flows. If Greece were to default, external flows would cease. This means that Greece would have to shrink its economy by 9-10 % at one go which would be very painful indeed.

But that is theory. In practice, external flows do not cease when a country defaults. A default leads on to debt restructuring . Lenders write off some of the debt because it is in their own interest to do so. If Greece were to default today, it is estimated that lenders would lose 50-70 % of their money. They are bound to negotiate a restructuring where they lose a lesser proportion, say, 30%.


Going by the Economist's estimate for EU banks' investment in Greek bonds of €76 billion, a 30% loss would amount to €23 billion. This loss would have to be borne by the banks. EU governments could share half of this loss by infusing capital into banks. For Greece, there would be enormous benefit. A default or orderly restructuring could shave about 30% off its external debt and make adjustment easier.

Compare these costs of restructuring with the costs of the rescue. The EUIMF lending rate is about 5% or about four percentage points less than the market rate on 10-year bonds for Greece. This means the cost of the rescue package of €110 billion is around €4.5 billion. This is the cost to taxpayers outside Greece.


And the costs to Greece? Greece has agreed to fiscal consolidation of 11% over a three-year period. This will mean huge job losses in the public sector, higher taxes and reduced wages and pensions. That is why riots have broken out in Greece.


We can now see why rescue has been preferred to default or restructuring. Under the rescue, the costs are to be borne overwhelmingly by Greece. Under restructuring, the costs would have been borne equitably by foreign banks, foreign taxpayers and Greek citizens. The Greek rescue is all about bailing out banks using public money. The parallel is not so much with Lehman as with AIG.


Greece has gone along with the rescue because the political and economic costs of defying the EU could be steep. But we can understand why neither the Greek package nor the larger eurozone package has restored confidence in the markets. The markets believe that the costs of adjustment for the troubled EU economies are just too great to be politically acceptable. They believe the rescue won't work.


Banks holding EU government debt must be part of the solution. Their governments can help them bear the loss. Only a formula that distributes the costs of adjustment more equitably between the distressed economies and the healthier economies of the EU will work. The lesson is obvious: if you are part of an economic union, you end up sharing the costs, not just the benefits.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'OUR PLAN IS TO GROW AT 30% ON FY10 BASE'

 

KOTAK Mahindra Bank reported good numbers for the last quarter of FY10 and the full year. Uday Kotak, executive vice-chairman and managing director, Kotak Mahindra Bank, talks to ET NOW about the bank's credit growth plans for this fiscal and how it is ready to take on competition in the investment banking business. Excerpts:

A stellar set of numbers, the bank has completed 25 years and has just opened its 250th branch... you must be a satisfied man?


It has been a great journey. It was a journey in many ways of a reforming India, a developing India. When we started this company, there was hardly any private sector in Indian financial services. In 2010, we have seen a significant structural change in the Indian economy and in the Indian financial sector and at Kotak we are really happy to see that we have been able to be the beneficiaries of the reform process and the economic growth process.

Will moving from retail to the non-retail part of the business be an active strategy?

Two-thirds of our lending business will continue to be retail and about a third would be wholesale. The reason for that is we as a bank are very focused on what we call risk-adjusted net interest margins. If you look at our net interest margin, at 6.3%, it is one of the highest in the Indian banking space and is reflective of the bank's high focus on risk-adjusted returns.


Do you believe that FY11 will be a year of credit growth?

We grew our advances in FY10 by 32% on a consolidated basis. When we look at FY11, our current plan is to grow at around 30% on the FY10 base. We think that's a decent level of growth on credit which we will achieve in 2010-11 — around 30% per annum.


What is the outlook for your investment banking business?

In the investment banking space, we are significantly improving our competitive positioning. We are doing a lot more work, we get a lot more calls from corporate clients. Consolidation is already beginning to happen in the minds of the clients, so that's good news for investment banking in the medium term. In the short run, most global players are in India. We are ready to face that competition, even if it means some fragmentation and margin pressure. As long as we serve clients and get mindshare of these clients, we think over time this business will produce returns. In the short run, even if there is some pains on margin, we are ready to live with it. We continue to be committed deeply to the investment banking space and believe that we are a dominant franchise.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WE'RE QUITE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT INDIA STORY

MAULIK VYAS

 

Global travel wear and accessories major Samsonite, which started its India journey in 2007, is planning to make more room with its iconic brand, American Tourister. The company is planning to expand its business traveler as well as family traveler portfolio by leveraging on the increasingly aspirant and brand-conscious mass market. Samsonite's President, Asia-Pacific and Middle East, Dr Ramesh Tainwala, who is now shuttling between the continents to develop business in Africa, North America and South America along with his designated region, shares industry insights with ET. Excerpts:


Where does India figure in Samsonite's global operation and expansion plans?

 

During 2009-10, India was the most profitable market for Samsonite Global, with a revenue of $100 million and 8% share in company's revenue. We are very optimistic about the India story due to increasing business travelers and family tours to overseas destinations. We hope that in next three years, India will become the company's third-largest market after the US and China. It will contribute 12% revenue to our global revenues. Currently, it ranks fifth after Japan and Korea as far as revenue is concerned.


We have found that business professionals do their shopping mostly in areas that are either close to their workplace or airports. Keeping this in mind, we are planning to open our 'Samsonite Business Store' at all international airports as well as business districts, starting with Nariman Point in Mumbai. These stores will focus on needs of business travelers; hence it will have business luggage range and accessories related to business travels only.


We are also expanding our base in India, which will act as a hiring ground for other global geographies for us. It's a country-continent in itself with diverse cultures and languages, so people have the mindset to work in any situation and find a way for their growth.


How is American Tourister different from the flagship Samsonite brand?


American Tourister is a mass market brand for the aspirant class. Its range starts from Rs 2,500, while average ticket price of Samsonite is around Rs 12,500. The brand has similar features and value as its flagship brand but it will compete with VIP in India. Currently American Tourister has a presence in 34 cities in India and we are planning to expand its reach to 80 cities by adding 48 cities up to December 2010. The company is planning to spend substantial amount on advertisement and promotions. Globally it will spend $150 million to reposition itself while its India operation will spend Rs 50 crore for the same.


Business tycoon Richard Branson was brand ambassador for the company for quite some time. Do you have similar plans for India?


Richard Branson didn't become brand ambassador for money. He chose the value of the brand. Similarly, we were in discussion with Steve Job. Unfortunately he couldn't make it as his health did not permit it. For India too, we are looking at business personalities who have a mix of flamboyance and business ethics.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

 

WIPRO STAFF HAVE TO TAKE TEST FOR PROMOTION: JOINT CEOS GIRISH PARANJPE & SURESH VASWANI

SUJIT JOHN, MINI JOSEPH TEJASWI & ANSHUL DHAMIJA

 

Post recession, global customers want more for less, asking Indian IT outsourcing vendors to take on more complex projects. In an over two-hour interaction with TOI, Wipro's joint CEOs Girish Paranjpe and Suresh Vaswani talked about how the $6-billion company was adapting to the new environment. Excerpts:


Is the nature of demand from global customers changing?

They are talking a lot more about business transformation projects. Earlier, global customers would look at the likes of IBM and Accenture for the big transformation projects, and considered Indian IT companies for some offshoring. Today, IBM, Accenture, Wipro, TCS, Infosys are on par as far as options are concerned. We have to provide everything — consulting, business advisory services, IT and BPO. With one big customer, we had a five-hour discussion, of which only about half an hour was spent with the CIO. They wanted us to look at every aspect of their business to increase efficiencies.


How are you adapting to this environment?

The new environment requires that we have more specialised talent, greater expertise in different domains, and become more efficient. Clients are not saying, give me 10,000 people more; they are saying, what more can you do. They are looking at newer technologies like cloud computing, which requires understanding of these technologies.

Earlier, the big focus was on how many people will we hire. Revenue growth and headcount growth were completely correlated. We are breaking that correlation, which we call our non-linear initiative. We started this two years ago. In the year ended March 2010, we think about 8% of our revenue was non-linear. We call it nonlinear when the revenue growth is at least 15% higher than the corresponding headcount growth. We think that 8% can double in the next 12 to 18 months. We are using a lot of training, tools, technology, frameworks, etc to drive non-linearity.


How is this impacting employee profile?

Having lots of people just writing codes is not good enough. We need people with different specialisations. One initiative we have is to give technical inputs to employees and try and elevate them to a new level each year. Under this initiative, called Unified Competency Framework, every person has to take a test and only if he qualifies is he eligible for a promotion, irrespective of his experience. We have been implementing this rigorously over the last one year.


Earlier, it was always 'how soon can I get promoted', 'I should be a manager by the age of 28'. We are changing that mindset. Initially, there were concerns. We had to do a lot of cajoling and pushing. When we took stock of it last quarter, 90% of the people had passed the exams. So it was just about getting used to the idea.


You have been working as joint CEOs for over two years. How is the concept working? Premji recently extended the concept to the Azim Premji Foundation.


Vaswani: There are very few pressure points. The model has become smoother over time. We both came into this meeting and we are taking things as they come. Earlier, if we had a large employee meeting, we would plan, 'what you will speak, what I will speak'. Some sort of equation has been hit. And people also see that, so we don't have to be over prepared. In meetings, we may have differences of opinion, and that may come out, but people know that's inevitable. We designed the model well. We decided I would look after some business units and service lines, Girish would look after the others. The HR head, the strategy officer, the finance officer have to work with both of us. Once you plan like that, you get the power of two. And if there are overlaps, we pick up the phone and sort it out. We don't go to the boss. Not even once have we had to go to the boss (Premji). That makes him feel slightly uncomfortable (both laugh).


Some say Premji did it because he did not want one person to have too much power?

(Both laugh) You will have to ask him that. But the opportunities, the aspirations and the complexity of the business is so much, you may need joint CEOs. You may not do it in an industry that is not growing, where the focus is cost and optimisation. But in an industry like ours, which is growing rapidly and where we are in everything from BFSI to energy and utilities, the power of two really works.

'Focus is on diversity'


Any other big new initiative?

We are looking at diversity very seriously. We have started an initiative to have more women in the company, more locals overseas, more physically challenged and more people from underprivileged sections. The majority of women drop out 10 years into their career to get married, to raise children, to join their husbands on transfers. Among employees of 0-2 years' experience, the ratio of women is high at 40%, between 3-8 years it slips to 15%, and plummets to just 5% at 10 years and more. So we are providing facilities like time flexibility, sabbatical facility, counselling services, special pick-up and drop facilities, extended maternity leave. If her husband is transferred, we try to transfer her there.


We are in creating a recruitment engine that supports hiring of physically challenged people. We are making all our campuses disabled friendly. We are looking for people from families that earn less than Rs 50,000 a year. About 39% of our employees overseas are locals, up from less than 5% one or two years ago. Last year, 80% of those hired overseas were locals. For each of these areas, we have executive sponsors whose job is to meet targets.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

'KHAPS' OUT OF SYNC WITH MODERN INDIA1

 

It is not the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 that needs reform but the "khap" panchayats of Haryana. These traditional associations of the state's jat communities have lately gained notoriety for sanctioning even "honour killings" to prevent marriages between men and women who might belong to the same "gotra" (sub-endogamous group). In their zeal to maintain the prevailing taboo on same-gotra marriages, the caste panchayats — customary repositories of social authority — have set into motion processes to coerce their elected representatives to get legislation passed or amended so that the illegal aspects of their conduct become acceptable to the law and the Constitution. This is reminiscent of efforts a few years ago by some Rajasthan politicians to extol and uphold the evil of sati — burning women on the funeral pyres of their just-deceased husbands.


The open support given to "khap" rules of marriage by a veteran Haryana jat leader like Om Prakash Chautala does not redound to his credit. It would seem that having tasted bitter defeat at the hands of the Congress even in Haryana's jat strongholds in last year's general election, Mr Chautala believes he can regain his political élan only by endorsing regressive aspects of an earlier social practice. This is so much the pity.
Naveen Jindal, the US-educated Congress MP from Kurukshetra and a well-known industrialist, gives the impression of giving in to the medieval "khap" sentiment on intra-gotra marriage. Traditionally, marriages within a gotra of a Hindu caste were considered taboo among many Hindu communities. With sociological change in the wake of industrialisation, urbanisation, the spread of education and employment-induced migrations, many taboos dissolved. In most cases today, young men and women about to tie the knot are unlikely to be even aware of their gotra affiliation. This has afforded individuals greater freedom in their lives. However, rural communities across the world are slower to change, and the jats of Haryana are a case in point. Such changes as they are obliged to accommodate do not easily take in customs relating to intimate family matters exemplified by marriages, deaths and births, and rules governing kinship. The liberation of entire communities from the pernicious aspects of tradition is seldom easy. In a democratic society, matters have to be handled sensitively as normally law-abiding fellow citizens are involved.


But a clear and unambiguous message needs to be sent out that the Indian State will stand firm in defending law and order and that it will ensure that the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution will be available to all across the country in the face of social sanctions of pre-democratic times.


It is just as well that the Chief Justice of India and the Union law minister have ruled out the validity of the "khap" demand to amend the Hindu Marriage Act and pledged that citizens' constitutional rights will be protected. The Congress and every other political party in Haryana, as well as civil society groups, have a role to perform in encouraging communities to adopt a progressive stance in the social sphere.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE '71 EXECUTION

BY SRINATH RAGHAVAN

 

Recent revelations about the destruction of the Indian Army's records pertaining to the 1971 war are deeply disconcerting. The Army's Eastern Command — the key operational formation involved in those momentous events — had apparently shredded the documentation pertaining to various aspects of the conflict. More troubling is the fact that the Army itself has remained somnolent for over 35 years, and has unearthed this decision quite recently. It is not yet clear who ordered this act of vandalism, and why. But the episode points to the Army's anaemic attitude towards its own history.

 

Consider first the seriously flawed system of maintaining records and making them available to researchers. The ministry of defence (MoD) does have a historical section. But the process of transferring old files to the section from the divisions of the ministry and the services is halting and ill-defined. The situation with respect to the documents of various commands and operational units is worse still. There is no reason why most of these documents should be retained by any component of the military beyond a specified period. Documents pertaining to wars can easily be transferred out of the originating unit after a reasonably short span. This will, however, require a dedicated team of professionals at every level to regularly go through old files and declassify them. Neither the ministry nor any of the service headquarters — let alone individual formations — has any such working mechanism in place.

 

Further, the historical section is much too small to maintain this massive documentation in its custody. One of its main roles should be to ensure smooth and regular transfer of files to the National Archives of India. The norm in most democracies is to transfer most files that are nearly 30-years-old to the archives. In exceptional cases some documents are retained for another 10 years — no more. The transferred documents are then provided by the archives to scholars. In our case, however, few documents from the MoD or the services for the post-1947 years are available for consultation in the archives.

 

It is also worth noting that the existing system endangers the very existence of records. The requisite expertise for preservation of old documents is not available anywhere outside the National Archives. Records languishing in various departments and units are likely to perish with time. In an age where most countries have begun digitising their records, the ministry persists with its archaic archival policy. Even our own ministry of external affairs has started down this route. It is about time the MoD reviewed its practices.

 

At a deeper level, this mismanagement of records reflects the military's lack of interest in its past. Take, for instance, the official histories of post-Independence wars waged by the armed forces. The only published histories are those of the 1947-48 operations in Kashmir; the operations against Hyderabad in 1948 and Goa in 1961. The history of the first Kashmir war was written but not published for many decades. The histories of the subsequent wars with Pakistan and China remain formally under the wraps. Fortunately, an enterprising newspaper leaked them into the public domain some years back. It is not clear whether histories of the intervention in Sri Lanka and the Kargil conflict have been prepared yet.

 

What is more, the official histories that have been written leave a great deal to be desired. They fall squarely within an older tradition of narrow, desiccated operational histories — devoid of a wider framework of political, economic and social aspects of the wars. This is the kind of history pioneered by the Prussian General Staff in the mid-19th century and culminating in hundreds of volumes of official histories produced by Britain and France after World War I. After World War II, though, the countries involved took a conscious decision to break out of the straitjacket of operational histories and look at the wider dimensions of the war. This also implied a decision to move away from "official" historians and bring in scholars from the academia. Some of the best volumes of the British official history were written by gifted historians such as Michael Howard and Betty Behrens. Similarly, the American naval history of the war was written by that brilliant maritime historian, Samuel Eliot Morison. The Germans produced 10 outstanding volumes with contributions from a set of first-rate historians. More recently, the British official history of the Falklands War was written by Lawrence Freedman, the leading historian of contemporary warfare. Against such standards, the Indian official histories barely get off the blocks.

 

This neglect of serious historical writing is complemented by whittling down of history in our military education system. The military looks at history as an academic encumbrance on the real business of soldiering. As taught in training establishments it is formulaic: "campaigns" are studied for the right "lessons". The idea that history is more about training judgment than drawing lessons, about debates rather than dogma, is alien to our military education system. The texts and sources used would not make the cut in any half-way decent undergraduate reading list. Major advances in the study of military history over the last 50 years — such as the war and society approach, or the focus on individual combat experience — are blissfully bypassed. In any case, the officers spend rather little time on military history compared with other administrative and operational modules.

 

As a consequence, the Indian military is turning increasingly ahistorical. To be sure, books on military history by retired or serving officers routinely pour of the presses. But the quality of the bulk of these is a good index of the deplorable state of historical studies in the military. It is perhaps unsurprising that such an institution permitted large-scale destruction of records. But it should certainly be unacceptable. The MoD should look into the matter and make public all the facts. More importantly, the military should undertake a critical examination of its attitude towards history. This will be an essential prelude to any meaningful engagement with its own past.

 

- Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WILL BAILOUT KINDLE A REVOLUTION IN ATHENS?

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

For a man whose country's wobbly finances have kept the world on edge for months, the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, evinces an Obama-Zen-like calm. He is just back from meeting fellow European Union leaders, who decided to try to stave off a Greek meltdown and an EU crackup with a show of overwhelming force — committing nearly $1 trillion to support the economy of any ailing member state.

 

But over a lunch of Greek salad and grilled fish, Papandreou makes clear that he knows that the deal with the EU was not your garden-variety bailout-for-budget-cuts.

 

No, if you really look closely at what it will take for Greece to mend its economy, this is actually a bailout-for-a-revolution. Greece's entire economic and political system will have to change for Greeks to deliver their side of this bargain.

 

Papandreou says he is ready and so, too, he insists, is his country: "People are saying to me, 'change this country — go ahead and change it'. People realise that it needs change. You don't want to miss this opportunity".
How Greece performs will not only affect Greeks, but the value of the euro and the whole 27-nation European Union. Yes, I know, the EU is the world's most opaque and boring organisation. But it is actually America's not-so-identical twin and the world's largest economy. It is, in fact, "the United States of Europe", and, in my view, two United States are better than one. If this one over here fractures, it will affect everything from how many exports America has in the next year to how many allies America has in the next war.

 

Sitting in a rooftop restaurant with a view of the Acropolis, I ask Papandreou to put on his safari hat and tell me what it was like to be hunted by the electronic bond herd for six months.

 

"Because of the 2008 crisis, all the market players have become much more risk-averse, so they are on a hair trigger", explains the Centre-Left Prime Minister, who was voted in by a large majority in October to fix this mess. Today's market players are "like an animal that has been wounded, and so it recoils at the slightest motion. So any rumour about you can become a self-fulfilling prophecy".

 

Comparing bond players to some kind of living beasts may be unfair to beasts, he suggests. These markets "are not even human anymore. Some of these things are computerised, and they just go into automatic mode" when they see a hint of trouble.

 

Because of their profligacy, Greeks have been living under this market scrutiny for so many months, he added, that today "every Greek from age three to 93 knows what a 'bond spread' means. 'What's the spread today? Are they widening?' People had never heard about this before", and it created a paralysing uncertainty. "Should I buy, consume, save, invest, take my money out of the country?"

 

The only way for Greece to end this uncertainty was with an unprecedented commitment by the European Union to backstop Greek debts and with an unprecedented commitment by Greece to put its economy on a strict diet — set by the International Monetary Fund — with quarterly budget targets that Athens has to meet to receive additional support.

 

"Now we will have a respite", said Papandreou — not to relax, but so the Greek government can begin "the deep changes... the small revolution" in how this country is governed, with particular emphasis on changing the incentive system here from one that focused way too many Greeks on getting a lifetime government job to one focused on stimulating private initiative.

 

The Cabinet has already approved increasing the average retirement age for public sector workers from 61 to 65. Average public sector wages have been cut 20 per cent, and pensions by 10 per cent. The value-added tax was raised from 19 per cent to 23 per cent, and there's been an excise tax increase of about 30 per cent on gas, alcohol and tobacco. The number of municipalities is proposed to shrink from 1,000 to 400 and public-owned companies from 6,000 to 2,000 to save money and red tape. So far, the deficit is down 40 per cent from last year.

 

But Papandreou, whose official car is a Prius hybrid, says that to sustain these wrenching reforms requires Greeks to become stakeholders in the process. That will only happen, he argues, if there is a sense of "justice" — Greeks want to see big tax cheaters and corrupt officials prosecuted — and if the people feel their leaders have a vision. "We need to give this country a dream — where we are going", so the sacrifices make sense.

 

"We're going to bring in best practices from Europe and around the world to reform this country", says Papandreou. "It is difficult, and there will be protests, and people will feel bitter, but it will be one of the most creative times Greece has gone through".

 

Can Greece have a civic revolution? The odds are long, but you won't need to consult the IMF to determine the answer. Just watch Greek young people. In six months, if you see them migrating, then short Greece. If you see them sticking it out here, though, it means they think there is something worth staying for, and you might even want to buy a Greek bond or two.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CASTE: IDENTITY OR BANE?

THIS MOVE WILL REMOVE DISPARITY

RAGHUVANSH P. SINGH


Caste-based census was last conducted in 1931 and since then, despite several demands, no attempt was ever made to empirically determine the number of people belonging to different castes. And whenever the demand of proportionate sharing of the resources of the nation came to the fore, everyone — from the Supreme Court to various commissions — talked about "the real number" of the other backward classes (OBCs). This is exactly the reason why, six decades after Independence, the socially, economically and educationally backward communities continue to remain deprived.

 

When we count the number of people belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and minorities in every census in the country, exclusion of the OBCs is absolutely illogical. To end this discrimination, the government should include caste as a factor of enumeration in Census 2010.

 

There are provisions to provide special facilities to the large number of deprived sections of our population, but for this there is no scientific basis or data. Therefore, backward communities' participation is disproportionate to their population. They don't get what is rightfully theirs.

 

Not only is the caste census imperative for the all-round development of all sections of society, including the OBCs, my view is that on the lines of the ministries of minority affairs and tribal affairs, we need to have a separate ministry for SCs and the OBCs. Presently, the social justice ministry looks after the affairs of this deprived sections of the society, but it's not enough. A tentative estimate suggests that OBC population in the country is about 54 per cent. But in the absence of a separate ministry, this large chunk of population is left behind on developmental indices.

 

The ministry of home affairs has been resisting the demand for caste-based census on the basis of some administrative difficulties. But, in my view, the resistance is misplaced and is at the behest of vested interests.

 

After getting empirical proof of the number of backward community, the government can move in the direction of evolving a new scientific policy for their development.

 

I, however, agree that the existence of caste system is not good for the country. It has harmed our nation more than any other evil. But how do we get rid of this? In my view, we first need to recognise it as an evil, as till now we have been behaving like ostriches while exploiting it for our respective political gains. We need to change our mindset and the first step towards this would be to determine the real number of each caste in the country and then work towards ensuring distributive economy in a just manner. This would be in the larger interest of the country.

 

— Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, former Union minister and RJD MP

 

Another kind of votebank politics

 

Abani Roy
First of all, as Marxists we always strive to achieve a classless and casteless society. And particularly in India we have often raised the question of dividing the society on the basis of caste, religion etc. Though leaders of various political parties often say that the society is being divided on these lines, but when questions of privileges or of reservation comes up all of us stand in support. This trend is not good as it is mostly politically motivated rather than a genuine effort to bring up the underprivileged.

 

In my view the demand to include caste in Census 2010 has essentially been made keeping in mind votebank politics. You will see, once caste enumeration is done and numbers are determined according to caste classification, this vice in the Indian society will get further entrenched. This will further divide the country.

 

Even after giving certain privileges to certain sections of society, nothing much has changed in more than 60 years of Independence. For example, look at the level of representation of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Central government services.

 

A large number of harijan and tribal population are still left behind as they failed to keep pace with the national development process. Look at the level of unrest among them and the ongoing armed struggle in different parts of the country. Questions are often asked why the Naxal movement has popular support in tribal dominated areas?

 

I am not saying that I support their means to get justice, but the government and civil society need to think innovatively about bringing them back to the national mainstream by addressing the real problems rather than just counting them. This will only help the political class to exploit them more.

 

According to me, the demand for including caste in the process of census is another kind of vote politics. Recently the other backward castes got reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, yet the question of backward class remains as it is.

 

Giving privileges based only on caste will not help in eradicating social, economic and educational backwardness in the country. Therefore, instead of including caste in the census, my suggestion would be to include poverty figures and data.

 

The Left has always argued that in the 60 years of our Independence, rich became richest and poor became poorest.

 

However, since the demand for including caste in the census has come from a majority of political parties, we consider it a necessary evil and create a column in the form to enumerate the caste identity.

 

— Abani Roy, secretary Revolutionary Socialist Party and Rajya Sabha MP

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

RULES FOR MARITAL BLISS

BY V. BALAKRISHNAN

 

Ethical constraints on married couples, upheld by Indian sages of ancient times, aimed at maintaining healthy relationships in family and society.

 

These "do's" and "don'ts" dictated by our age-old tradition have great practical value in the present day society as well.

 

The word "husband" is perceived by Westerners as one having a household. But Indian culture gives it wider meaning. Husband is the one who keeps the family. He takes care of his wife, children, parents, servants and other dependents. Manusmriti observes that even if the husband is insulted he should bear it with patience. Likewise, there are several injunctions which warn that a householder with wanton lust would go to hell. If one is lusty, even his good deeds would have no result.

 

Polygamy is also not an auspicious practice. Having a single wife is what our tradition permits and appreciates.

 

The scriptures forbid a householder from mating with virgin girls, widows, servants, animals etc. They warn that it can cause pain in the abdomen, diabetes and urinary diseases. Other taboos are illicit sexual relations with the wife of one's Guru, "deliberate abortion" and mating during eclipse days.

 

In Devi Bhagavatam and Garuda Puranam there are descriptions of hells awaiting people who harass or torment women.

 

A husband is supposed to maintain the family. He should welcome newly-married women, teenagers, the sick and pregnant women to the household and entertain them. Only after having fed them should the other guests and servants find their turn. The head of the family eats last.

 

Mahanirvana Thanthram reveals the approach one has to take towards one's wife.

"Na bharyaam thadayeth kwapi

Mathruvath palayeth sada
Na thyajeth ghora kashte pi
Yadi sadhwee pathivritha…"

According to this shloka, one's wife is to be protected just as one's mother is taken care of. Never harass her. Don't get angry with her even when you are in difficulties. One who craves for another's wife will fall into hell. Don't boast before women. Give them money, ornaments and clothes and please them with nice words. One who can acquire the love of a committed and loyal wife can claim to be ethical.

Likewise, there are rules for wives too. Sankara Smriti states that women get salvation not by observing penance, but by nursing their husbands. The ninth canto of the Devi Bhagavatam says that a good wife is one who holds only one husband and attends on him with love, care and piety.

An ideal wife is described as:

"Kaaryeshu manthri karaneshu dasi
Roopeshu lakshmi kshamaya dharithri
Sneheshu matha sayaneshu vesya
Shadkarma nari kuladharma pathni"

"She should advise the husband like a minister and serve him. She should be graceful like Goddess Lakshmi and patient like Goddess Bhoomi. She should entertain her husband like a courtesan as well. Such a woman would be an ideal wife".

The scriptures say that when the husband is alive, the wife should not observe penance or fast alone. It cuts short the husband's longevity. Further, a wife should spend according to the income of her husband.
According to Devi Bhagavatam, a house where women have the upper hand is inauspicious. A woman prone to quarrel, one who resorts to stealing the husband's money, one who always blames her husband and one who wanders from house to house is not ideal at all. All smritis warn that lusty women may fall into hell.

— Dr Venganoor Balakrishnan is the author
of Thaliyola, a book on Hindu beliefs and rituals.
He has also written books on the Vedas
and Upanishads. The author can be reached
at drvenganoor@yahoo.co.in [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

MAKE THE WAR PUBLIC

 

Chhattisgarh now finds itself in the same situation as Andhra Pradesh some 20 years ago.

 

In the extremist-affected areas of Andhra Pradesh in the 90s, landmines were set off by extremists, frequently killing unwary policemen; innocent people were branded as police informants, petty businessmen as exploiters and small-time farmers as class enemies and killed.

 

Extremists could also impose and collect levies with impunity from the contractors executing works in the interior and forest areas. In towns, business groups and associations were given monthly payment schedules. There was all-round demoralisation and a pervasive sense of insecurity; every political minion and subaltern administrator wanted armed police protection.

 

Politicians often and on occasion even senior civil servants, bought peace with extremists by appearing to be critical of the police. At least one judge ruled that every case of "encounter death" be registered as a case of murder against the police and investigated.

 

Self-styled "intellectuals" masquerading as civil society criticised the police force and accused them of "fake encounters", in turn finding justification for the murder and mayhem caused by the extremists. At the end of it all — after some 4,000 civilians and over 600 policemen and Home Guards had lost their lives — the state managed to get the better of extremists and contain violence.

 

Are there any lessons for Chhattisgarh in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh? There seem to be some.

 

Extremism was recognised in Andhra Pradesh right from the beginning both as a law and order and socio-economic problem, a continuing fight against the remnants of the old Telangana feudalism. A multi-pronged strategy was needed to address it.

 

Attempts were made by successive governments to bring the extremists to the negotiating table. While one chief minister described them as "patriots" who took to the forest to fight for justice, another not only gave them total amnesty but insisted on the police securing bail for those facing trial even for heinous crimes.

 

Meantime, urban armchair intellectuals romanticised extremism as a righteous struggle and gave the extremists some respectability. This also gave them enough publicity to gain some support among the unemployed youth.

 

Through the 80s, almost all government departments and many elected representatives behaved as though Naxalism did not concern them and if at all, that it was the police's problem. The civil courts, lawyers and media also chose to blame the police.

 

By 1992, a dozen politicians, including an ex-minister, were killed. There were also scores of abductions and extortions. At this stage everyone woke up to the need for a comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem.

 

The multi-pronged strategy included both development and counter-insurgency measures:

 

* A ban was imposed on the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and its front organisations like Radical Students' Union and Progressive Democratic Students' Union to check activities like bandhs and to stop fresh recruitment.

 

* A new legislation, Public Security Act, cut off the nexus between Naxals and their sympathisers in the affected villages.

 

* Intensive development of interior areas, particularly of roads and communications, was undertaken.

 

* A solution was sought to the various issues raised by extremists through a special cell functioning in the chief minister's office.

 

* Employment was promoted in a big way. There was, in fact, a special focus on employing tribals in good numbers in all government departments, particularly the police, to give them a greater sense of participation in governance.

 

* Procurement of forest produce was taken away from forest contractors and entrusted with government corporations, thereby cutting off the flow of funds to extremists.

 

* A rehabilitation policy for those extremists wanting to leave the movement was put into action.

 

* Perception management, or counter-propaganda, through well-trained cultural troupes was undertaken.

 

A well thought-out policing strategy was also evolved, the thrust of which was providing safe exit for those wanting to come out, getting the top leadership through intelligence operations, and neutralising the armed dalams through the intelligence-driven specialised Greyhounds force.

 

Above all, there was a consensus among the political parties that law and order couldn't wait till all the socio-economic problems were resolved. Both had to go together.

 

Some of the gruesome offences committed by Naxals and well-orchestrated counter propaganda changed public perception towards extremism to a considerable extent.

 

Though there were occasional charges of police excesses, there was general improvement in the standards of policing. After a few officers were killed, low-key policing was introduced which proved very effective.

 

Some of these steps seem relevant to the Chhattisgarh situation. In Chhattisgarh, Maoists have made a major issue of the exploitation of mineral deposits in tribal areas by MNCs and the private sector which has to be immediately addressed. If these projects cannot wait, the government would do well to entrust this job to public sector undertakings, ensuring that all resultant benefits and employment go to local tribals. This would remove a major irritant.

 

Likewise, beedi leaf picking or bamboo contracts could be taken away from private contractors and entrusted to government corporations with improved wages for tribals. This would serve the tribals well while cutting off the flow of funds to Maoists.

 

There should be no attempt to privatise policing which in a way Salwa Judum is all about. It is about time this group was wound up. Instead, well-protected, well-officered and numerically strong police stations — with not less than 25 officers and 100 men in each station — need to be established all over the affected areas. These have to be mostly manned by the tribals themselves.

 

The role of the paramilitary forces should be limited to guarding these police stations and carrying out field operations. Ultimately, it is the civil police that can and should fight the Maoists.

 

With the example of Andhra Pradesh before them, it shall not take Chhattisgarh more than five or six years to restore peace. But that requires a motivated police force, a bureaucracy committed to the cause of development and, above all, a mature political leadership.

 

C. Anjaneya Reddy is a former IPS officer

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ASSETS OR ASSES?

ROUGH TIMES FOR SLICK NETAS 

 

What is it about these "western-oriented gentlemen" that so alienates them from what passes as Indian political culture? Jairam Ramesh follows Shashi Tharoor into the doghouse ~ or at least half-way there ~ not really so much for what they did as the manner in what they wagged their tongues. Of course there are major differences in the nature of their sins. Yet both have been slammed for seemingly over-smart comments like travelling "cattle class" along with other "holy cows", ridiculing "papal gowns" and talking of "alarmist" and "paranoid" policies. Surely it cannot be their capacity to articulate their views in English that invites objection, who can use more flowery language than S Jaipal Reddy but he has seldom been pricked by the thorns that accompany the roses. No, Tharoor, Ramesh et al ~ Mani Shankar Aiyar a prime example ~ incur the wrath of fellow politicians because they thrive in projecting themselves as superior to our run-of-mill rustic-rooted dhoti-clad netas. Chidambaram does wear a dhoti ~ not when in foreign parts, mind you ~ speaks fluent English but stops short of being verbally objectionable, though that did not insulate him from the charge of being "intellectually arrogant". Perhaps another verbose MP, Jaswant Singh (incidentally now also in the doghouse) once paid PC the ultimate left-handed compliment, "the trouble with the minister is that his brains sometimes go to his head". 


Time was when the criticism of the smart-alecs was linked to their being Rajiv Gandhi's schoolmates ~ to name that academy would be to defame that institution, they were far from its leading lights. But at least one of the recent victims of foot-in-mouth disease never studied in the Doon Valley. So it's not the old school tie that serves as a political garrote. Could it also be a penchant for publicity? Saying the outrageous so that media attention is assured? And then trying, as Jairam is reported to have done, to wriggle out claiming an off-the-record interaction had been reported. Poor Shashi could not try that, he had tweeted his way to trouble. Yes, the enigma persists: why can't intelligent, "modern" chaps make a success of netagiri? 

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ENTER MR CAMERON

THATCHERITES & SOCIAL DEMOCRATS 

 

When the Queen on Tuesday invited David Cameron to take over as Prime Minister, she signalled the beginning of a new chapter in British history. On the face of it, it ends New Labour's 13 years in power. Also, Britain will boast its youngest Prime Minister in 200 years; at 43, Mr Cameron will be the youngest head of government since Lord Liverpool in 1812. No less historic is the fact that the new coalition of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is the nation's first since World War II. It will rank as a milestone for the LibDems who are set to receive their first taste of power after being on the fringes for long. Politically, Mr Cameron's assumption of power marks the collapse of Labour's negotiations with the LibDems after the fractured verdict. It is obvious that the objective was to keep the Tories out of power, an exercise that has fizzled out. Which probably is why Mr Gordon Brown may have jumped the gun; he did take his Conservative rival by surprise by deviating from convention and driving to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation. 


Of immediate import must be the imperative to restore Britain's flagging economy not least because of the impact of the fiscal turmoil in Greece. And Mr Cameron is acutely aware of the tasks ahead. "It will call for hard and difficult work for a coalition throws up all sorts of challenges." With graciousness that is alien to the subcontinent's political culture, he has complimented Mr Brown for his "dedicated service". While the agenda remains to be worked out, the contours of the Conservative-LibDem deal illustrate a balance in the interests of the two parties. Quite the most crucially, the LibDems have won an assurance on a referendum on introducing the system of Alternative Vote for election to the House of Commons. This is a thorny issue for the Tories and its progress will be keenly observed by all Westminster-style democracies. Arguably, the task might have been easier with Labour in command. There appears to be a consensus on transforming the House of Lords to an elected chamber. The Tories are almost certain to have their way on welfare reform, new independent state schools and a cap on the number of immigrants from outside the EU. Chiefly, the identity cards and child detention centres are to be abolished. Britain has effected a transition, putting in place a coalition of unreconstructed Thatcherites and social democrats. Which itself is a profound testament to the resilience of her democracy. 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

PERKS & PRIVILEGES

DO MPS NEED A HEFTY PAY HIKE? 

 

Members of Parliament make it a point to emphasise how they exhaust themselves in the service of the people. What they withhold is information on the perks and privileges they claim. There could be debate on their actual contribution to social welfare. What is no secret, however, is that they lose no time in demonstrating rare consensus while claiming material benefits for themselves. It was not surprising that there were sighs of relief when an order to travel economy class was lifted. Now a parliamentary committee headed by a Congress MP has shown remarkable speed in recommending a massive hike in salaries ~ from Rs 16,000 to Rs 80,000 a month. This is an issue guaranteed to draw not a single dissenting voice, not even from champions of Dalits and poor farmers. It was equally instructive that the Congress played a major part in pushing the proposal during the current session but was held back by the formality of a required cabinet approval. If that is just a matter of time, it would mean a dubious endorsement of the extraordinary logic that salaries and perks of members ~ claiming to be people's representatives with interests and connections of their own ~ ought to be on par with those of senior civil servants.


The suggestion that MPs would now be willing to enter the tax net obviously ignores the number of free air journeys they get and now proposed to be raised, the palatial bungalows and services claimed as dire necessities, not to speak of junkets, gifts and random privileges that are supposed to compensate for the stress involved in nursing constituencies. All this would also cover members who have grabbed a mandate without shedding criminal records. The agonising anomaly of offering more to many who have officially declared huge assets and may well have a lot more to fall back upon will perhaps never be considered just as parties across the board failed to demonstrate the same unanimity ~ or show the same concern ~ when the Election Commission proposed the radical step of debarring those with criminal records from contesting elections. Above all, members would find it difficult to appreciate the irony of giving themselves hefty hikes while those they claim to serve suffer the consequences of their service.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

ELECTIONS DENY BRITAIN A STRONG AND FIRM LEADERSHIP

BY SALMAN HAIDAR


SO finally, after long anticipation, the UK elections have taken place and have produced the result that was widely predicted, a hung parliament. In India we have become used to hung parliaments and the surprise would be if one party gained a majority on its own. Not so in the UK where indecisive results are infrequent and one party or the other almost invariably succeeds in reaching the magic figure of 326 seats to form a government. This time, however, that did not happen, so the UK was in uncertainty while a numbers game more often seen in Lucknow or Haryana was played out in the Palace of Westminster. The constantly changing calculations and the feverish speculation sometimes made it seem as if the Mother of Parliaments could be emulating its sub-continental progeny.


Eventually, a coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) was able to emerge, and the UK has a new government under a new Prime Minister, Mr Cameron. It has been a hard struggle, and it is not yet clear whether the necessary compromises made by both the partners will endure and permit the new government to serve out its full term. However, the last lingering hopes of Labour have been effectively extinguished. After some 14 years in power, Labour has lost its right to rule and Mr Gordon Brown, indispensable political and economic manager during the glory days, has been unable to retain his leadership of either government or party. Mr Brown can be considered unfortunate in some respects, for he came to power with a legacy of difficult problems not of his own making. There was the odium of the unpopular war in Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq before that, which produced rising criticism of the seemingly endless bloody engagements abroad as a result of too great a readiness to follow the US lead. To add to Mr Brown's problems, not long after he moved to No.10 the UK was assailed with the global economic crisis whose effects are not dissipated even now, and though he coped as well as could be expected, disenchantment with his government grew. Perhaps as much as anything else, the public got tired of the same faces and the same party in command, the more so as there was a rash of scandals affecting senior public figures, leading to a perceptible erosion of support and goodwill.
Public mood


IN an earlier time, even so towering a figure as Mrs Thatcher was eventually undone by fatigue and disaffection among the public and within her own party. And many years prior to that, in 1964, Mr Harold Wilson led Labour to the narrowest of majorities, taking advantage of the widespread feeling that after thirteen years of Tory rule it was time for a change. The public mood, it would appear, has its own cycles.
Mr Brown may not have prevailed in the election but he stayed put in No.10 until the bitter end, in case the others failed to come together and Labour found itself with another chance in combination with the Lib Dems and other parties that have miniscule representation in parliament. But as the Lib Dems have preferred to make common cause with the Conservatives, Labour is out of the reckoning, and a new set of leaders has taken over. It has been a confusing search. A coalition between Tories and Lib Dems always seemed the most obvious solution, though it is not clear how the Tories have been able to accommodate the Lib Dems' adamant demand for some form of proportional representation. As everyone knows, the UK is the only European country that has a 'first-past-the-post' electoral system, from which our system in India is derived, which condemns smaller parties to virtual parliamentary oblivion even when they manage to gain a fair share of the vote. The Liberals have been campaigning for proportional representation for something like a century, and maybe they feel their time has finally come. The lure of office may not be strong enough, especially among the Lib Dem rank-and-file, to play down so basic an issue, and there are other matters too where the gap between the coalition partners is wide. To keep together may not be an easy task.  

Economic crisis

THE UK's political uncertainties come at a time when Europe is still struggling with an economic crisis, and all are agreed that strong and firm leadership is needed, though this is precisely what the elections seem to have denied the British. The government that has emerged from the hung parliament could be shaky and short-term, not what the situation demands. There is also the problem of lack of experience of governance among those who now occupying the front bench. The Conservatives, and even more so the Lib Dems, have been out of power for so long that whole political generations have come and gone without exercising power, and the new incumbents are largely untried. Of course, such problems are inevitable in the transition that has now taken place, and it is only a matter of time before newly inducted individuals prove themselves, but yet a government of newcomers will find it difficult to cope in the midst of current difficulties. For a while, at least, times are bound to be tough for the UK.


So far as India is concerned, the change of ruling party will not make any great difference. There was a time when it was assumed in New Delhi that Labour was a more sympathetic interlocutor than the Conservatives, but that was long ago and owed much to the independence struggle, when Labour had been sympathetic to Indian aspirations. That has changed, of course, and today the bilateral relationship remains strong, no matter who is at the helm in either country. One must expect this to continue, for the two countries have built up a valued partnership that is set to grow and develop.


Of more than passing interest among the election results is the very considerable increase in the representation of persons of Asian, African and Caribbean origin. There are now some twenty-seven such representatives of ethnic minorities, nearly twice as many as in the previous House. Among them are six British Asian women, largely from the Muslim community. Persons of Asian, and especially Indian, origin have been slow to enter the political arena, and these communities have been under-represented in both Parliament and in local councils. Perhaps this is changing, with the new generation more ready to come out and contest for position, and less willing to opt for safe professions like medicine or law. If the higher representation of ethnic minorities in the new parliament indicates a new trend, this would be a welcome pointer for the future. 


The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

CHINA'S KOREAN DIPLOMACY

 

South Korea and China established diplomatic ties in 1992, 39 years after the end of the three-year Korean War in which China fought on the side of North Korea. The bilateral ties grew rapidly to a "comprehensive partnership" in the 21st century and since 2008 Seoul and Beijing have regarded each other as a "strategic partner".
The partnership is primarily applied to the ever-expanding trade relations between the two countries but the ties have even included military exchanges. China's role as the host of the talks for denuclearisation of North Korea has drawn the two countries closer on the diplomatic front with frequent contact between top-level officials. Unfortunately, however, the strategic partnership is tested in the course of Beijing's diplomacy with South and North Korea.


A week ago, President Lee Myung-bak had a half-hour conversation with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the opening of the Shanghai World Exposition. Hu touched on the issue of the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, praising Seoul's investigation of the naval disaster. But he failed to mention that Kim Jong-il, the primary suspect in the sneak attack -- one of the most heinous since the armistice -- was scheduled to visit China three days later.


Since a special train carrying Kim Jong-il entered China on 3 May, Chinese leaders have provided him with the highest honour, revealing the importance they attach to the bilateral relations with the North despite Pyongyang's domestic problems and its pursuit for nuclear armament. Beijing's foreign ministry even refused to confirm his visit until hours after Kim was received by Hu in a state banquet.


We can understand Chinese leaders' pragmatism in trying to bring North Korea back to the conference table with an offer of generous economic aid to the North during Kim's stay in the country. But the recent turn of events indicated that China might be aiming at saving just the "form" of the multilateral denuclearisation process it started seven years ago rather than effectively pressuring North Korea into non-proliferation.
Even if North Korea announces its return to the talks after a year of boycotting them, there is no guarantee of rapid progress, given the frustrating experiences following the major agreements in 2005 and 2007. At best, it could provide favorable conditions for direct negotiation between the North and the US, yet the naval incident in the West Sea could pose an obstacle for the time being.


China's approach to South Korea since the 1990s at the expense of its "blood ties" with North Korea was based on its recognition of Seoul's contribution to its economic expansion. South Korea reciprocated with its emphasis on "northern diplomacy".


Entering the second decade of the 21st century, after the Western economy exposed its weakness through the latest global recession, China must have found great usefulness in keeping North Korea at its side. Beijing leaders are closing their eyes to the economic policy failures, repression of citizens, the ridiculous third-generation dynastic power transfer scheme and even the dangerous nuclear programme in North Korea for the sole objective of keeping a vassal state in its periphery.


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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

HAS THE ELIXIR OF YOUTH COME OF AGE?

 

It is one of the oldest jokes in the gerontologists' book – if you want to live to a grand age, choose your parents carefully. Jeanne Calment, who had the longest confirmed human life span in history, attributed her longevity – she died in 1998 aged 122 years, five months and 14 days – to a diet rich in olive oil, regular glasses of port and her ability to "keep smiling". But destiny undoubtedly played the most important part.


We spend millions of pounds each year on anti-ageing tonics, potions, vitamins and creams, trying to stave off the ravages of the years. But our genetic inheritance trumps all other factors in determining how well we age and how long we live. By unravelling the genetic determinants of longevity, scientists believe they will be able to manipulate them to add not only years to life, but also life to years. An elixir of youth remains a distant dream but medicines to help us live longer and better are moving closer.


At a conference, Turning Back the Clock, organised by the Royal Society, researchers described the progress that has been made in the science of ageing. At least 10 gene mutations have been identified that extend the lifespan of mice by up to half, and in humans several genetic variants have been linked with longevity. They include a family of genes dubbed the sirtuins, which one Italian study found occurred more commonly in centenarian men than in the general population.


Also promising, but still far from yielding concrete results, are telomeres, which are present in every cell. Telomeres shorten with every cell division, like a burning fuse; when they can shorten no more, the cell dies. Inhibiting the enzyme telomerase to prevent the shortening of the telomeres in effect extends the lifespan of the cell, and, as we are comprised of millions of cells, could extend life.


Developments such as these herald a new era of longevity research and drugs based on them will "probably be available for testing from 2012", Professor Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York told the conference.


He said: "I'm seeing 100-year-olds who are not only 100 years old but in great shape. They're driving and painting, and they say life is beautiful. I have this bias that makes me believe we have the ability as a species to get to 100 if we prevent some of these age-related diseases."


Centenarians tended to have genes that delayed the onset of conditions such as Alzheimer's and heart disease. "When they eventually die they die of the same things that people die of in their seventies and eighties. It's just that they do so 30 years later," Professor Barzilai said. "The cost of treating 100-year-olds in their last two years of life is a third of what it costs to treat somebody aged 70 to 80. People who die between 70 and 80 are sick in the last few years of their life. Centenarians are dying healthy, all of a sudden."


His "vision" was of a once-daily pill that would stave off the effects of old age and would probably be taken when a person reached their forties or fifties. But to achieve it, ageing would need to be classed as a treatable condition in order to stimulate the research funds needed to develop it. Drugs regulators in the US and Europe would only licence medicines for specific illnesses, not for something as general as ageing. "(Ageing) is something that is very important in the background. It needs to be defined as a disease," he said.


Consumers in the West need little persuading – we devote a large amount of time and money to holding back ageing. It is an irresistible target for "snake oil salesmen". Hundreds of compounds that are claimed to boost memory and learning ability are available over the internet. Cosmetic surgery is booming and anti-ageing products are the fastest-growing area of the UK's skincare market.


Ageing cannot be reversed but it could, perhaps, be delayed. The emergence of the extremely old population has only happened in the past 50 years and is chiefly due to improvements in the health, lifestyle and environment of the elderly that started in the 1950s – how we eat and drink, where we live, what we do.


Life expectancy soared by more than 30 years in richer nations during the 20th century and shows no sign of slowing. It has risen steadily, by three months every year, for the past 160 years, and there is no reason to think it has hit a limit. In the early part of the last century, improvements in infant and child survival contributed most to growing life expectancy, but since the 1950s, the biggest gains have been in the over-eighties, who now have more than twice the chance of surviving to be 90.


What worries most people about ageing is losing their faculties and the ability to perform the daily tasks of living – eating, dressing, bathing and getting around. But despite increases in cancer and chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis, disability has been falling. This apparent paradox is explained by earlier diagnosis and improved treatments which have rendered these conditions less disabling. In the future, more of us will fall ill, but the illnesses will affect us less. The result is that we may live to see our great-grandchildren and even our great-great-grandchildren. Some scientists go further and believe the first person to live to 150 may already have been born.

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BROWN MAN'S BURDEN!

 

Many, many, years ago the British came to India to trade. To protect their trade they fortified themselves. To stabilise trade, they conquered India. As conquerors they ruled India. They introduced their culture to the Indian people. They taught the Indian people their sense of values. Ultimately they had to depart. Since then much water has flowed down Delhi's Drain Number Eight…


Indians went to Britain in search of jobs. They got jobs. To guard against unemployment, they accumulated savings. By investing their savings, they entered business. To protect their business, they built influence. To stabilise their influence, they conquered Britain. As conquerors, they are introducing their culture to the natives of Britain. They are teaching them the Indian way of life.


India's conquest of Britain is complete. Laxmi Mittal is Britain's richest man. The natives now prefer eating tandoori chicken to fish and chips. But because of the humane attitude of the conquerors few natives feel the yoke of foreign rule too heavy. Instead, more and more of them are beginning to live by the civilised norms of their foreign rulers. They are beginning to increasingly exercise the higher freedom taught to them by their foreign masters.


Earlier, the natives were prisoners of the hidebound constraints of their rigid tribal customs. But with the spread of education through example of their foreign rulers, they are rapidly learning to use their freedom and wealth to make civilised choices. It was heartening to note that Indians have successfully taught the British to use their wealth in a constructive manner by purchasing peerages and titles. Indians are teaching them the concept of higher freedom that relies on conscience rather than on the barbaric discipline imposed by tribal loyalty.
It is in this overall context that the significance of the latest general election should be viewed. This election could forever alter Britain. It could lift the natives to the level of becoming equal partners of their foreign rulers. It could signal the entry of Britain into the comity of developed societies. The hung House after the British poll is just the start. The future prospects offer even greater promise.


It remains to be seen with what skill the new coalition government will function. It remains to be seen how wisely the MPs exercise their freedom to split parties and enlarge the number of coalition partners. More and more coalition partners would indicate that more and more natives are learning to exercise their freedom of conscience. The signs are positive.


Only registered parties are allowed to contest the British election. At present, there are 367 registered parties in Britain and 46 in Northern Ireland. These may not have a presence in Parliament today. But the doors have been opened to them for the future. Hopefully, by the next poll, there will be at least a dozen parties boasting of one or more MPs. It may take time for demands of reservation of seats to emerge. But already the demand for a change of the electoral system is beginning to resonate…Amidst these hopeful developments it becomes doubly important for Indians to display patience and restraint. We cannot hasten the transition of a backward society from its medieval tribal values to the norms of enlightened civilisation. Although India does derive benefits from its colony, Indians should never forget that the purpose of colonising Britain did not arise from the quest for material gain. The higher purpose to civilise the natives was never far from our thoughts. It was always considered as our moral responsibility. It is after all the Brown Man's burden.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist s (0)

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EVERY INCH A KING

 

One move of a pawn was a giant step for Indian sports, without fanfare though it was. Chess, perhaps because it is the most cerebral of games, never produces mass hysteria. It is difficult to imagine Viswanathan Anand's winning of the world chess championship being followed by a post-match party and euphoria, as happens, say, when India wins a cricket match against as weak a team as Bangladesh. The absence of enthusiasm, however, should not detract from the majesty of Mr Anand's achievement, even though this is not the first time that he has become the world's number one chess player. Very few, except the close followers of what has come to be called the royal game, realize the sheer physical stamina a chess tournament involves. Chess champions, in fact, go through a rigorous regime of physical training to keep them in shape and to help them de-stress. The moving of a chess piece — an easy enough task that can be done by a child — when it becomes an integral part of an overall strategy, requires an amount of mental energy that the body can produce only when it acts in perfect unison with the brain. At a very basic level — and a level not usually associated with chess — Mr Anand deserves applause, especially as he won a tough tournament with the deciding game turning out to be a cliff-hanger.

 

Nerves of steel and a profound ability for strategic thinking concerning the pieces on 64 squares are the supreme virtues of a chess master. Mr Anand obviously has oodles of both, but in the critical match he added to these the quality of unpredictability. He deployed the Queen's Gambit declined Lasker variation. This completely unnerved his opponent, Veselin Topalov, especially as Mr Anand has seldom used this particular move in his career. The element of surprise clinched the match in favour of Mr Anand who, playing black, had begun at a disadvantage in the final game. There can be very little doubt that Sachin Tendulkar's accomplishments notwithstanding, Mr Anand is India's leading sportsperson. His dominance of the chessboard registers a shift since the game has been under the influence of Russian masters for a long time, except for a brief while when the redoubtable Bobby Fischer was king of the royal game. The crown of chess has finally come to the country of its origin. Mr Anand is a hero unsung in his own country. Unhappy the country that cannot recognize its own heroes.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE CENTRE SHIFTS

 

Exit New Labour, pursued by New Tory — to all purposes, this, in short, seems to be the outcome of the British general elections. After an agonizing wait, Britain finally got a formal coalition government for the first time since World War II, a truly historic occurrence for more than one reason. A hung parliament after 36 years not only provided Britain's grand old party an opportunity to end the 13-year-long Labour rule, but also gave the Liberal Democrats their first real taste of power. A Lib-Lab coalition may have been more compatible, ideologically speaking, but a Lib-Con alliance appeared to have a more realistic chance of survival. Even with the support of the Lib Dems, Labour would have fallen short of majority. Nonetheless, Gordon Brown did bend over backwards to make compromises, but his initial resolve to cling on to power failed to push the negotiations in any fruitful direction. Yet it would be unfair to claim that political exigency cleared the way for David Cameron to emerge as the youngest British prime minister since 1812. Next to Margaret Thatcher's aggressive Toryism, Mr Cameron's ideals look decidedly benign. He has reformed the Neo-Cons into the New Cons, who have now been forced to reinvent themselves according to the demands of coalition politics.

 

It was expected that the traditionally Left-leaning Lib Dems and the elitist Tories would have a tough time arriving at a mutually acceptable compromise on cuts and tax rises — the two moves that can save the country from imminent disaster. However, while agreeing in principle to Mr Cameron's austerity package to reduce fiscal deficit, Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, did not forget the core values of his party. He demanded relief for the poorest taxpayers and a veto on raising the ceiling for inheritance tax. Although Mr Cameron was gracious enough to recognize both these conditions, he has been less enthusiastic about electoral reform, another prized issue for his allies. For their part, the Tories held on to a cap on immigration, an illiberal marriage tax break, and an ambitious welfare reform programme. Both parties ruled out joining the euro — one of the most difficult issues on which the fate of any prospective coalition had hinged from the beginning. In all, Mr Cameron has acted like a genuinely liberal Tory. The centre has finally shifted.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

A LITTLE BRITAIN?

WHY BRITANNIA DOESN'T MATTER ANY MORE

MUKUL KESAVAN

 

Has Great Britain become littler? Watching David Dimbleby anchor the BBC's television coverage of that country's general election, I thought it had. Part of this impression was unfair to Britain because it was coloured by the difference in scale between their elections and ours. The British have 650 MPs; given Britain's population, that works out to one MP for every hundred thousand people. To achieve a ratio of MPs to people as good as this, we'd need to rebuild the Lok Sabha to house thirteen thousand MPs. In many British constituencies, fifteen thousand votes sent a candidate to parliament. Now this, as I said, is a good thing; it makes political representation more intimate and therefore more real, but for the Indian viewer it tends to miniaturize proceedings; the British polls sometimes felt like a dolls' house election.

 

Perhaps a better explanation for this impression of littleness is that British politics seems defeated, anonymous and unimportant. Thirty years ago, British parliamentary elections meant something because the political parties and their leaders seemed to stand for world-historical systems and ideas: Margaret Thatcher's Tory party represented a resurgent capitalism, laissez-faire policy and monetary economics; Labour under Michael Foot stood for a still-credible socialism, Keynes and a still-comprehensive commitment to a welfare state. The Cold War magnified the shadow cast by Britain as it patrolled the outposts of the Free World in concert with America. Post-imperial Britain was already a small nation off north-western Europe, but its leaders had the knack of making sure it was centre stage and on the winning side in the great historical dramas of its time.

 

Those dramas are done, and while Britain hasn't stopped straining to punch above its weight, the theatrical productions it figures in now get poor reviews. Instead of Thatcher's little triumph in the Falklands, we have New Labour's disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of saving socialism or reinstating capitalism or fighting collectivist tyranny, David Cameron and Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown used their campaign debates to parse immigration, spending cuts and electoral reform, looking apprehensively over their shoulders all the while at Europe's cautionary tale, a bankrupt Greece.

 

It was very different in the heyday of New Labour. At the end of Tony Blair's first term in office, Britain seemed to have leveraged its 'special relationship' with the world's sole hyperpower brilliantly: in the wake of 9/11, Britain was dining at a top table for two. If the world was Gotham City and radical Islam was the Joker, Bush was Batman and Blair was either Robin or Bruce Wayne's butler.

 

At the same time, the booming property market, the new trading in clever derivatives, helped Britain prosper and consolidated London's claim to being the place where the world did business. As late as the end of 2006, Britain's Sunday Times published a long article explaining how London had eclipsed New York to become the world's money capital. It ended like this:

 

"For as far ahead as anyone can see, the boys and girls in black will go on donning their black suits and stepping into their black taxis as they surf the financial breakers around them. Like them or loathe them, they are the new breed of knowledge merchants who are dreaming up and selling the ideas that will make modern, post-industrial cities rise. They are turning the base grey metal of London's streets, buildings and skies into the golden gateway to the future."

 

The point is not to underline how grotesque this sounds in the context of an election fought over spending cuts; it is to illustrate the context in which Blair placed Britain's bets for the new millenium: he bet the house on the unending American imperium inaugurated by the the end of the Cold War and the permanent prosperity betokened by the bulletproof boom of the Noughties.

 

Certain that Wall Street's new capitalism and the Pentagon's unmatched power were going to order the world forever, Blair went to bizarre lengths to stake out Britain's claim to being America's most-preferred coat-tail rider. The low point of this abjection was the time he offered to visit Israel to scout out peace prospects in place of the US secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, just so that American prestige wasn't dented by failure. The idea of the British prime minister being a proxy for America's foreign minister didn't appal him because the very real power and influence and prosperity derived from being America's poodle outweighed any abstract loss of dignity or independence.

 

Besides, there was a way of looking at this relationship that made it intellectually respectable. This was a supranational commonwealth of nations — Britain, America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia — that shared a language, a culture and a myth of origin, so much so that they watched and peopled each other's movies, plays and sitcoms and fought each other's wars. It was the enthusiasm of the Anglosphere, not the 'West' at large, that cheered on Bush's political and economic imperium in the early years of the century.

 

The non-English speaking West was often pointedly excluded from this Anglo communion: recollect the French in their reviled avatar as Cheese-Eating-Surrender-Monkeys or the many invocations of the special virtue of Anglo-American capitalism designed to disparage the more dirigiste economies of France or Germany. If Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples was the Anglosphere's ur-text, its contemporary hymns and manifestos were supplied by The Economist and, till recently at least, grown men like Niall Ferguson, Michael Ignatieff and Christopher Hitchens were its go-go girls.

 

Unluckily for Britain, Blair's bets went horribly wrong. Britain endured casualties, defeat and humiliation in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars over which it had no strategic control. The economic meltdown of 2008 made French dirigisme look considerably saner than the casino capitalism the Anglosphere had celebrated. And Obama's election forced Britain to deal with an American president who had no sentimental attachment at all to the idea of an Anglosphere given that his paternal grandfather had, metaphorically, been a colonial coolie in Africa.

 

The idea of an Anglosphere was a conceit that was affordable in the face of the nuisance of Muslim extremism, but one that began to seem self-indulgent in the face of a real challenge to the hegemony of the West, the rise of China. Suddenly Germany and France and their leaders became part of an undifferentiated West as Europe and America circled the wagons against China at Copenhagen in the climate change talks. And so Britain found itself a diminished constituent of a defensive West.

 

There are some lessons for India in Britain's predicament. Over the last decade we have seen an Indian tilt towards America. In this time America has tried, with some success, to integrate India into its geopolitical designs: the isolation of Iran, for instance, or the counter-balancing of China.

 

At the recent non-proliferation talks hosted by America, it was President Lula of Brazil who staked out an independent position on Iran in particular and non-proliferation in general, one that was contrary to the Western view of these issues. Brazil played the role that should have come naturally to India, given its history of non-aligned contrariness. Instead India today chooses to lurk in America's geopolitical shadow; we should remember, from Britain's experience, that this is a fickle and temporary shade.

 

Our government endows scholarships and professorships to Oxbridge and the Ivy League, we strain to win honorary membership in an alien club by buying shares in the great institutions of the West. Alien, because it's clear to everyone except a tiny, deluded anglophone elite, that Indians are not of the West. Not the most fanciful genealogist is going to unearth pedigrees for our prime ministers that make them eighth cousins of the English queen. To bid, despite this, to be seen as honorary Westerners, is nearly as embarrassing as trying to pass as honorary whites.

 

mukulkesavan@hotmail.com

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

DANGER OUTSIDE THE DOOR

NEHA SAHAY

 

What can China's parents do to protect their children from the mad men out to attack them in school? Teach them kung fu? Equip them with pepper sprays? Drop them and pick them up from school? Will all of these help their children when the assailant rushes inside a classroom and hits out with a hammer or a meat knife? And can four-year-olds be trusted with pepper sprays? The fifth in a series of attacks on Kindergartens and primary schools took place yesterday, in a small town. The man who had rented out rooms for the Kindergarten killed seven children and a teacher with a knife, then went home and killed himself.

 

Most Chinese schools are huge. Many have security guards and collapsible gates, but these didn't stop the armed assailants from reaching classrooms. They made no attempt to hide their weapons. One assailant managed to hit out with his meat knife at 29 children and two teachers, aiming for their heads and throats, and also wounded the guard who tried to stop him. Another had brought a can of kerosene along to set himself and his targets on fire — somehow the teachers managed to snatch the children from his grasp. By then, he had bludgeoned five children and a teacher. Both central and provincial governments have now woken up. A special security force has been set up for schools; teachers are being trained in the use of long poles with a semi-circular ring at one end to grab assailants; children are being taught self-defence. Some schools have installed CCTVs; others keep their gates closed at all times. It is common to see school kids snacking out on the road during their lunch break; that has now been disallowed in a few schools. In one city, shoot-to-kill orders have been given to the police in such incidents.

 

Weak targets

 

"Why?" is the question everyone's asking. "Angry with the system? Then go kill the officials,'' is a common refrain. Han Han, a popular young blogger, claimed to have seen this banner being put up — online — outside a Kindergarten: "Injustice has a cause, debt has an owner, out the door and to the left is the government building." In other words: — for answers, go to the government.

 

Han Han recommended that all policemen guarding government buildings be immediately posted to guard schools. His post was removed. The government had by then sent out an advisory to the popular news portal, Sina.com, to use only Xinhua news on the subject in view of the Shanghai Expo.

 

The government could have given a better reason — already, sociologists and criminologists were cautioning that sensational media coverage could inspire a copycat reaction among those who felt left out of China's success story.

 

But is social inequality the cause of such attacks? In the first incident in March, it was a 42-year-old community doctor, jilted by his wealthy girlfriend, who picked up a knife and went on a stabbing spree outside a primary school, killing eight children and injuring five. He told the court that he had nothing against the children, but picked on them because they were weak and vulnerable. He was executed; on the very day, the first of three consecutive attacks took place. Another assailant, though unemployed, was the owner of eight rooms in a building opposite the school.

 

Were these persons mentally ill? One definitely was — a former art teacher who had had to leave his job because of a mental illness. He slipped into a primary school along with other teachers and stabbed 15 students with a fruit knife. China is notoriously deficient in counselling centres. Parents feel helpless and desperate; the one-child policy has only made things worse. As one parent said, "I can't stop crying while cooking for my child.''

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE DIFFICULT ART OF COMMUNITY CARE

A VISIT TO A TURTLE CONSERVATION PROJECT IN ORISSA MAKES UDDALAK MUKHERJEE WONDER ABOUT THE NATURE OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

 

A friend employed with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation had invited me recently to take a look at their corporate social responsibility initiative near Barkul, Orissa. The CSR project is aimed at protecting the endangered Olive Ridley turtles near the mouth of the Rushikulya river. During my visit to the Gokharkuda beach, a famous nesting site of the turtles, I came across an old fisherman who lived by the sea. His family, he claimed, comprised his wife, two sons, and the buro kachhapa, an aged turtle that returns each year to spend a few days with them.

 

To an outsider like myself, unaware of the mysterious bonds that certain communities share with nature and its species, the idea of a turtle as one's kin was mildly amusing. Reason also prevented me from taking the fisherman's claim seriously. How could this unlettered man distinguish his buro kachhapa from the 20,000-odd turtles that swam over 15,000 miles to reach the beach this year? The old man simply said that he knew. His knowledge, based on careful observation and analyses of a complex network of natural signs and ciphers, had been passed on to him down the ages. His conviction stemmed from the strength of this knowledge, a know-how that also helped him predict, unerringly, the storms, tides and currents that rose and fell among the waters which surrounded his life.

 

As we chatted, I asked him about his views on the six-year-old CSR project. He said that he was indebted to the visitors for their assistance. The money that the bank provides is routed through the Wildlife Society of Orissa, which, in turn, helps members of the fishing community find employment as guards to protect the turtles during the hatching season. Those who volunteer as guards can earn upto Rs 3,000 per month during these few months. The mortality rate of the hatchlings has dropped, and there has been a 10-15 per cent increase in the number of adult turtles that come to mate on the shore. The CSR project has many other uses. A sweet-water well was inaugurated while I was there. Books and schoolbags have been distributed to the children of the nearby villages and awareness programmes launched on earlier occasions.

 

But there are some areas that remain outside the purview of even the most clinically executed CSR project. A community initiative is meant to look after the needs and resources of the endangered species as well as the community whose services are utilized to protect the animals.

 

The requirements of such communities can be varied. They can range from tangible needs like demands for drinking water and income-generation to those that are less obvious, but equally critical: the need to protect and nurture local cultures, knowledge and ethics that are as endangered as the turtles.

 

The gentle old man had raised his voice only once during our conversation. That was when he had described how local customs — Kurma Puja (the worship of one of the ten avatars of Vishnu who appears as a tortoise) — and the use of certain languages (his mother tongue, Telugu, for instance) were on the wane. Some of the fishermen were also less inclined to make the arduous journey to the sea and catch fish for a living as the conservation project had provided them with an easier access to money. As a result, traditional skills such as some difficult methods of fishing, the making and casting of nets and boat-manufacturing are being forgotten.

 

Cupping his hands, the man struck a match and lit a bidi. Human interactions, and benevolence, are complicated exchanges, he said. Then, pointing to the endless blue expanse, he said that a gulf as wide as the sea separated me from him.

 

In the evening, children from the three village schools of Gokharkuda, Niladripur and Mayrapuda were brought together by the organizers to attend a function. It was here, amidst the shrieking, delighted children whose voices rose above the crashing waves in the distance, that I realized what the fisherman must have meant.

 

A sit-and-draw competition had been organized for the children, along with a game of musical chairs and cricket. It was a strange, bitterly unequal, ritual; young men and women, their expensive watches and sunglasses gleaming in the light of the setting sun, were herding a group of children dressed in fraying, blue uniforms around some hastily arranged chairs even as a local Oriya song played on a loudspeaker. It was evident that the children were competing to win prizes that included schoolbags and other articles of daily use. I remember vividly this slip of a girl who had exited the game of musical chairs early. Even as her furious father rebuked her in Oriya, undoubtedly blaming her for failing to bring home the precious prize, she looked longingly at another girl who hugged her gift tightly to her chest. I sat and wondered whether a contest — in the guise of innocuous games — was an ideal way to help these needy children. But then, what is a corporate initiative without competition?

 

Meanwhile, another fierce competition was being waged nearby. An excited voice on the microphone announced that a volleyball match was underway between "Calcutta" and "Gokharkuda". But then, this was no ordinary game, for it laid bare the tensions that inform all donor-recipient relationships. The local side, egged on by a vociferous crowd, played with injured pride. Victory was important, for it would make them forget, possibly for a few fleeting moments, their perpetual misery, deprivation and dependent status. The visitors, after a casual start, took to the game seriously. There were shouts of "C'mon boys!", frequent substitutions, and off-the-court strategy sessions. It seemed as though the visitors wanted to restore order in the form of a set of unequal relations that forever bind donors to recipients.

 

It is difficult to blame either side. Helping an impoverished people, be it in the form of a CSR initiative or otherwise, can be a complex and onerous responsibility. Along with assistance in the form of money and material, care must be taken to instil in these exchanges a modicum of a sense of equality and respect. It is imperative for the donor to make the recipient understand that a plea for help does not reduce his self-worth in any way, and that the ties that bind the two communities should ideally be premised on equitability. For such points of contact are invariably beneficial to both. There is no doubt that the fishermen in Gokharkuda have benefited from the CSR project. But it is equally important to let them know how such visits and the story of their survival have enriched our lives.

 

Only then would that wise old man, who counts a turtle as family, stop calling us visitors. He would, in his

mind's eye, then see that a bridge has been built across the waters that now separate us from them.

 

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

EDITORIAL

UNINSPIRING TENURE

'THE CJI IS THE VISIBLE SYMBOL OF THE JUDICIARY.'

 

The change of guard at the Supreme Court, with Justice S H Kapadia taking over as the chief justice in place of Justice K G Balakrishnan who retired on Tuesday, is an occasion to look at the functioning of the country's judiciary, especially the higher judiciary. The status and credibility of the judiciary is still high but it has taken a knock in the recent past, through controversies, scandals about the conduct of judges, and the inability or failure of the of the top judicial leadership to address the problems that are dogging the system. The Supreme Court has an illustrious lineage of chief justices who gave new directions to the judiciary, expanded the scope of legal rights, introduced new concepts and practices and worked to reform the system.


But unfortunately Justice Balakrishan's tenure may not be considered so distinguished and impressive, as his helmsmanship was seen to be lacking in dynamism and creative and positive thinking. He rather acquired a negative and obstructionist image. In some of the decisions and actions during his stewardship of the highest court, and in his views about issues  and positions on them, he came through as a defender of orthodoxies and technicalities with a sense of cynicism and  helplessness aiding inaction. On occasions he seemed to distance himself from issues and problems, suggesting that the solutions lay elsewhere. Even a streak of evasiveness, lack of interest and recourse to generalities could be discerned in some responses. The CJI should not only be earnest, but be seen to be so too.


The contentious issue of bringing the office of the CJI under the Right to Information Act and the handling of the charges against the chief justice of the Karnataka high court P D Dinakaran have not brought laurels to the highest court. The CJI is part of a system and cannot be solely blamed for its inadequate responses to problems. But as the leader of the system and its visible symbol, he has the highest responsibility to ensure that convincing and effective solutions are found for them. Many of the problems like mounting case arrears and judicial delays are systemic, for which judges alone cannot find solutions. But many of the issues on which the judiciary has recently come into adverse limelight are of a different order and relate to the conduct of judges. A healthier and more proactive approach to the system with all its limitations might have produced better results.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

PROTECT THE OFFICE

'THERE SHOULD BE INVIOLABLE NORMS FOR APPOINTMENTS TOO.'

 

The Supreme Court ruling that the Centre cannot remove governors of states arbitrarily will help give more dignity and impart stability to this office. A Constitution bench of the court has, for the first time, made the Central government's decision to dismiss a governor subject to judicial review. Though the president is the authority that appoints and dismisses governors, the actual powers lie with the Central government on whose recommendation the president acts. The court has ruled that a governor can be removed only for compelling reasons of proven misconduct or other irregularities. If the removal is not without 'cogent' reasons, the court can interfere, and if the governor can show that his dismissal was whimsical or malafide, it can ask the Centre to justify its action by revealing to it the ground on which the president has taken the action.


Though governors are expected to be the representatives of the president, they have often acted as agents of the governments in power at the Centre. Governments appoint their favoured politicians, retired  bureaucrats or other pliable persons as governors to protect their political interests in states, especially at the time of formation of state governments or when they are to be dismissed. The power of governors in these two situations has been circumscribed by guidelines laid down by the apex court, but they still have a lot of discretionary powers. That is why Central governments started the unhealthy practice of dismissing governors appointed by a previous government. The present ruling has come on a case filed against the dismissal of four governors appointed by the NDA government when the UPA government came to power in 2004.


While the judgement may act as a deterrent against mass dismissals of governors after a change of guard at the Centre, it is doubtful whether it will be useful in preventing dismissals in single cases. It might in any case make the Central government more cautious. But it will not stop the politicisation of the office because there is no check on the appointment of favoured persons as governors. The appointees are not always persons of calibre and distinction, as the court wants them to be. They will continue to serve the partisan interests of the government which appointed them and devalue the office with partisan conduct. The problem can be solved only if there are sound and inviolable norms exist for appointments too.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

LEGALISE GAMBLING

N V KRISHNAKUMAR


Fears expressed by some that bookmakers can affect the outcome of sporting events are blown out of proportion.

 

The sordid state of affairs in sports administration in India is well known, with most of the analysis and commentary focused on a dysfunctional system and the inability of Indian sports federations to produce a world class team or an athlete. Almost all of these analyses miss the point on what sustains viewership and fan interest in sporting events and hence the money and sponsorship required to accomplish such a task. Other than Olympics, where athletes compete for national pride, sustained interest and viewership in sporting events come from effectively promoting rivalries between teams and players and by allowing people to wager on sporting contests.

No doubt there are athletes who periodically dominate their sport and bring visibility and viewership to sporting events. Michael Jordan in basketball, Pele in football, Sachin Tendulkar in cricket and, more recently, Usain Bolt in athletics are all athletes who have excelled and transcended their disciplines to capture the imagination of people worldwide. They expanded fan base and brought large television viewership. But otherwise sports need big rivalries between teams and players to sustain viewer interest and bring a casual fan to television screen. Rivalry is what influences attendance to sporting events, induces fan loyalty and contributes significantly to television ratings and sponsorship commitments. The Michael Porter management principle that rival competing firms are a pre-requisite in a country or geographic area to produce a world class product is also true for sports.


Regardless of individual players, India-Pakistan cricket and hockey rivalry always attracts great interest in both countries. During the 'Battle of South Americas' — as the rivalry is known when Brazil plays Argentina in football, economic activity comes to a grinding halt in both countries. Even in other sports, a New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game in baseball, Liverpool-Manchester United game in football, Viswanathan Anand-Garry Kasparov game in chess, a Williams sisters' game in tennis brings far more viewership and attention of sports fans to the sport than any one individual athlete. In fact, the sports television network ESPN has been so phenomenal in promoting National Basketball Association (NBA) and European football rivalries across Asia, that a casual sports fan evinces a lot more interest in NBA, English and European football leagues than leagues in their own country.


Other than rivalry, what sustains a great deal of interest and viewership in sporting events is betting on outcomes of games. Football thrives in Kolkata for two reasons — rivalries between the three local teams Mohan Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammaden Sporting and the illegal betting that goes on all over the city on the outcomes of games played in the local league. In cricket, although betting is illegal, bookies exist nationwide who allow fans and viewers to bet on the outcome of cricket games played worldwide which adds to the immense popularity of the game in India. College basketball in the United States has evolved into a hugely popular tournament due to overwhelming participation of employees in office betting pools.


Sustaining fan interest

Allowing people to wager on sporting contests can sustain fan interest in the sport and attract fresh viewers which are a necessary ingredient for flow of money and sponsorship into sporting federations.

While betting on sporting events is legal in many advanced countries, there is a social argument against legalising it in our country. Among the opponents of legalising sports betting, some fear that gambling can have adverse social consequences and others fear that the integrity of the games could be threatened. Their fears are largely overblown. People have been gambling on horse racing and playing card games in clubs for many years without adverse social consequences to society. Fears that bookmakers can affect the outcome of sporting events are also blown out of proportion, since legitimate bookmakers have an incentive to fight corruption as much as administrators and governments to ensure integrity of the games. If sports betting had been legalised, periodic match fixing allegations against team and individual players especially in cricket can be avoided and the results of games will be unquestioned.


Part of the infrastructure for making sports betting legal already exists — all clubs in cities and towns where currently card games are being played can be converted into mini exchanges for sports betting. Along with regulations, a central exchange needs to be established where bookmakers can act like market makers for sporting events. Bookmakers will then be able to set the odds for the three outcomes of any sporting event — win, lose or a draw. Regardless of the outcome of the game, by maintaining a spread the mini exchanges can ensure a profit for themselves.


There is a general tendency of many sports commentators, editorial writers and casual observers to blame bureaucracy and politicians for all that ails team and individual sports in India. While some of the frustrations are understandable, the solution to problems in sports lies outside the purview of politicians and bureaucrats. Rather than playing the blame game, sports administrators along with commentators and enthusiasts are better off promoting or creating rivalries in their respective sports and pressure government to make sports betting legal. This could go a long way in ensuring that both team and individual sports thrive in India.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

A LIB-CON MARRIAGE FOR HOW LONG?

WITH AN UNSTABLE ALLIANCE AT THE HELM, THE UK COULD BE HEADING FOR ANOTHER GENERAL ELECTION.

COLIN TODHUNTER

 

"Roll up, roll up, everyone's a winner!" That's what the British electorate were told by the media in the run up to the general election. On the back of a post-election auction for power, however, it's apparent that everyone's a loser. No one party was able to secure a majority, and we now have a cobbled together and possibly unstable government on the back of horse trading that occurred in the wake of the election.


After days of negotiations, the Lib Dems finally decided to support the Conservatives. David Cameron is the new PM, and a number of Lib-Dems have been offered seats in the Cabinet.


Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats failed to win as many seats as they hoped to, and, despite having a fair wind, in the form of very rich backers for the election campaign and an unpopular incumbent government, Cameron's Conservatives were unable to draw enough support to achieve a parliamentary majority and convince the electorate that they are fit to govern. The resultant Lib-Con alliance is a case of winners by default.
While Labour were already unpopular with the electorate, the Lib Dems in recent days have also fallen foul of the public by appearing as opportunists, and fingers have been pointed at Cameron from within his own party for having failed to make sufficient impact during the campaign and for doing deals with the left leaning Liberal Democrats Party. A rocky foundation upon which to build a coalition.


The inevitable

Many in Clegg's party feel very uncomfortable with Conservative policies and perceive the alliance to be a bad move. However, going into partnership with Labour would have been tricky because the support of other minor parties would have been required as well. And the public may not have forgiven the Lib Dems for propping up a Labour government, which had effectively lost the election. With the help of the right wing press, a 'rainbow alliance' of the progressive centre left may have been regarded by the public as constituting a 'coalition of the losers'.

On Monday, in a last ditch attempt to undermine the Lib Dem negotiations with the Conservatives, Brown played his master stroke by saying he would step down as PM and party leader, thus smoothing the way to do business with Clegg, who is reported to have regarded Brown as a stumbling block to forming an alliance. Despite Brown's failed tactic, many in the Labour Party were highly sceptical of forming a unstable partnership with the Lib Dems and others, which could haven fallen apart much sooner rather than later, leaving Labour even more unpopular.


With some policy concessions made to the Lib Dems, the Lib-Con alliance will now proceed with the Conservative Party's agenda of huge cuts across the public sector, slashing jobs and services in the hope of cutting the 169 billion pound public deficit. The fear is that this will undermine economic growth, which is key to cutting the debt, and perhaps prompt another recession. If growth is undermined, bankers, debt ratings agencies and speculators may take decisions that could impact negatively on government bonds and borrowing charges and plunge the economy into deeper trouble. With an unstable alliance at the helm, we could then be heading for another general election.


A Lib-Con alliance might at least allow Labour to regroup in opposition and emerge with a new leader at the helm. It would then be better positioned to fight another election within the next 12 months or so. The theory goes that, by that time, the Lib-Con alliance would have imploded due to internal divisions within both parties as a direct result of going into bed with one another, and it would have also become a highly unpopular partnership with the electorate. While, in the long term, the Conservatives could recover, the Liberal Democrats might not be able to go against the wishes of many of the party's left leaning supporters. Clegg and his party could be the biggest eventual loser.


As a consequence of Conservative policies and a possible deepening economic crisis, there may well be growing popular resistance to a government assault on living standards and services. Torn apart by internal divisions and with ongoing economic problems, both the Lib Dems and Conservatives could lose heavily to Labour in the next general election. Much of that, however, depends on Labour.


Will the Labour Party move away from its current 'it's too soon to cut' approach and support the trade unions by mounting a proper defence of the public sector? It remains to be seen if it can relinquish its New Labour agenda and return to power as the party of the left, while trying to bring on board disgruntled Lib Dem supporters, and offer real alternatives to failing neo-liberal economic policies.


Meanwhile, Britain has to brace itself for a period of turmoil and possible unstable government. And, when the going gets tough, as it will, an already divided Lib Dem Party may well decide to jump ship from the alliance. The Brits may be heading back to the polls much sooner than they think.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

AN ICON'S MUSIC AND MUSINGS

K C ASOK

 

Yes, Yesudas' music itself is evidence to Godliness.

 

At his concerts, he would try his hand at rare ragas. Legendary singer K J Yesudas does this to salvage those wonderful musical strains from sliding into oblivion, it is said.


With unfeigned humility, he would also try to drive home a point or two. All that comes from his musings on music or from lessons life has given him.


He is never known to have wallowed in his 'hard-earned' glory and stopped 'sadhakam' (practice). And it would be right to say that affluence and fame just meekly trailed his gifted talent which was practised to perfection. Like for hundreds of thousands of music buffs, for me too, his music has been a wonder, a pampering, and an inspiration.


A staunch believer in unified God, he has often said, the Almighty sings through me and I'm only his instrument. Yes, his music —  that has the charm to catapult one to rapture of sorts —  is itself evidence to Godliness, I have surmised.


When the singer gave a concert at the Ramanavami Music Festival in Bangalore recently, I didn't miss the chance to savour it.


For the packed audience, the special treat was 'Kamoda kadga dharini', a soothing but rare raga in Carnatic music. "I recently stumbled across this treasure and got acquainted with it, but I'm yet to go into its depths," he said and sounded off: "When our old saint musicians have bequeathed us a great musical legacy, our younger generation is more after Western genres." He then tagged to this musing, a request to Chief Minster Yeddyurappa who was also present there: Sir, please include Indian classical music in school curriculum for good.

The raga 'Simhendramadhyamam' was picked up for a lengthy 'alaap'. The 70-year-old icon effortlessly traversed the three octaves while S R Mahadeva Sarma, a young artiste backed him up on the violin.


By now, it had started raining, which took my thoughts to my hometown in the God's Own Country, where Navarasam Sangeetha Sabha, a cultural organisation had recently conducted a concert to please Rain Gods.


What awakened me from this nostalgic diversion was a thunderous applause that merged with the patter of the thunderless shower outside.


The ambience became more charged when percussionists on mridangam and ghatam took the beats to a crescendo. Somewhere in the middle of the 'kutcheri' (concert), the maestro had intoned: "I could not complete my Sangeetha Vidwan course because of health and financial problems. But I'm happy as I'll ever be a student of music and learn more and more everyday."

 

"What an irony?" I thought and inferred: great talents don't need any degree!

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

DESPERATELY SMEARING GOLDSTONE

BY LARRY DERFNER

 

Inside the Israeli echo chamber, it's now "case closed" on the war in Gaza. The country's biggest newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, has "exposed" Judge Richard Goldstone as an apartheid-era hanging judge. This proves he's a huge hypocrite whose word means nothing, which proves his report on the war in Gaza means nothing, which proves Operation Cast Lead was every bit the shining example of restraint and purity of arms Israel says it was.


That's the verdict in here. Outside the echo chamber, though, in the saner parts of the world, this episode can only make us look even guiltier. To any but a brainwashed Israeli or "Israel advocate," this Goldstone ploy is so transparent, so pathetic. All it proves is how desperate this country has become, how blind we are to ourselves and to how others see us.


Israel is accusing Richard Goldstone of having been an enforcer of apartheid. The word "chutzpa" doesn't get it. The word "gall" doesn't get it. The closest word I can think of to describe this is "grotesque."


I'm sure Goldstone made at least some bad, even immoral decisions from the bench during the years of apartheid. He set for himself the task of stretching a viciously unjust legal system in the direction of justice, and I'm sure there were times he could have stretched it more.


But in all, he was one of the good guys of that terrible time.


NELSON MANDELA knows it. After Mandela was elected president in 1994, he appointed Goldstone to South Africa's highest court. Earlier, during the transition to democracy, Mandela concurred in Goldstone's appointment to head an extremely explosive inquiry into regime-sponsored murder (in which it was found that Goldstone himself had been on the hit list).


In the saner parts of the world, they can trust Mandela's conclusions about the judge, or they can trust Yediot Aharonot's.

The most "damning" finding against Goldstone in Yediot's "exposé" is that he sentenced two black murderers to hang and, as an appeals judge, upheld the hanging sentences of 26 others, and that he fully justified the death penalty in his written decisions, and that he did all this even though he's since claimed that he opposed the death penalty all along.


Goldstone says the law gave him no choice. To me, it's no huge deal either way. The Yediot story reads: "One must be honest: In nearly every one of these cases, standing before Goldstone were debased murderers, most of whom killed with great cruelty." Goldstone told the paper that every one of these murders was committed "in the gravest of circumstances."


I don't consider capital punishment for sadistic killers to be immoral – even if they're black, even if they're living under apartheid. What's more, I don't think Goldstone's decision to hang them is an argument against his Gaza war report. But then I guess I'm not a bleeding heart liberal like Yediot's readers.

The story cites decisions in which Goldstone jailed a black man for being in a "whites-only" area and a 13-year-old black boy for demonstrating. He acquitted four policemen of enforcing the law against miscegenation. He jailed two blacks for possession of a taped speech by an anti-apartheid leader.


Again, Goldstone told the paper he was constrained by the law. He added: "It's all very nice in the year 2010 to measure the decisions I made 20 and 30 years ago..."


Like I said, I'm sure he made some bad, even immoral decisions back then. I'm sure he has what to apologize for about some of his rulings, and I wish he would.


But still, like I said, he was one of the good guys in that awful time. Arthur Chaskalson, retired president of the post-apartheid high court, and George Bizos, Mandela's long-time attorney, wrote: "He was the founding chairperson of Nicro, an organization to look after prisoners that have been released; he exercised his power as a judge (not often used by other judges) to visit prisoners in jail; he insisted on seeing political prisoners indefinitely detained to hear their complaints; to intervene for a doctor to be allowed to see them and where possible to make representations that their release be considered."


His landmark decision against the forced uprooting of black neighborhoods was "a great blow to the apartheid regime," wrote Chaskalson and Bizos.


It's true there were many South African whites who fought without compromise against apartheid, and who paid a heavy personal price, which Goldstone did not. But it's also true that the overwhelming majority of South African whites – Jews included – either went along with apartheid or outright promoted it. Goldstone was not one of the tiny number of radical freedom fighters, but neither was he by any means one of the huge, pro-apartheid majority, as Yediot portrays it. Instead, he was one of a small minority of liberal activists trying to change a monstrous system from within, making all sorts of unholy compromises that arise in such a situation. Goldstone, I'm sure, did things he should regret, but on balance, in context, and in the view of Nelson Mandela if not Yediot Aharonot, he is right to be proud of his record.


NOW: CAN the State of Israel say the same? This is one of the things that makes the smearing of Goldstone so grotesque – not only does it take a good man and try to make him look evil, but it's coming from the very last country on earth with the right to accuse anyone of collaborating with apartheid.

In the last two decades of white rule, when South Africa was losing friends fast, the apartheid regime could always count on us.


In the mid-'70s, "...Israel's war-battered industries desperately needed export markets and the possibility of lucrative trade with South Africa was hard for Defense Minister Shimon Peres to resist. As [Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin, Peres, and a new generation of leaders inherited the [Labor] party from David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, the conviction that compromising certain values was necessary for survival gained sway and socialist idealism gave way to realpolitik. During the Rabin years, South African arms purchases breathed life into the Israeli economy and Israeli weapons helped to reinforce the beleaguered and isolated apartheid regime in Pretoria." (From a new book, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, by Sasha Polakow-Suransky, senior editor at Foreign Affairs magazine.)


Israel sent South Africa riot control equipment, we helped run its bantustans, we helped it and it helped us build nuclear bombs. We did business with white-ruled South Africa until the very last day before the US would have cut off our foreign aid. We made hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars off apartheid.

And despite the title of the book I quoted, this is not a secret. The whole world knows it, if not in detail then in principle. Yediot knows it, though of course there's no mention of it in the paper's brave journalistic crusade. All of our shocked, shocked spokesmen and advocates know Israel and apartheid were the best of friends – and in their latest denunciations of Goldstone, you won't hear a peep about it.


Inside the echo chamber, everyone's nodding their heads. Outside, in the more lucid-minded countries of the world, people can only be shaking their heads in disbelief. I imagine them thinking: What has gotten into these Israelis? We all saw the war in Gaza, we all read about it and we all know who Richard Goldstone is – and they think they're going to turn us in favor of that war, or in favor of the way they treat the Palestinians in general, by turning us against Goldstone? Have the Israelis become so egocentric, so cut off from the world that they don't see how transparent this is, how pathetic? How grotesque?


Yes, people of the world, that's how egocentric, how cut off from you we've become – we don't see it. Pardon the pun, but we've come to see black as white and white as black.


With this hatchet job on Goldstone, we figure we've just written "case closed" on Operation Cast Lead. We don't see that all we've done is show, once again, how empty our case for that war, that onslaught of choice, really is

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

A GLIMPSE OF REDEMPTION

BY MICHAEL FREUND

On Tuesday night, at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem, I think I may have witnessed a foretaste of the messianic era. It was the eve of Jerusalem Day, marking the liberation and reunification of the city during the 1967 Six-Day War, when young Jewish paratroopers, armed as much with faith as with firearms stormed the enemy's positions and unshackled the Temple Mount from nearly two millennia of incarceration under foreign control.

From across the country, thousands of Israelis streamed into the square in front of the Wall, anxious to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of this historic event and bask in the aura of this holy place. Some wore jeans, others wore dark suits or black caftans. But whatever their choice of outer attire, all were drawn for the same inner reason: to affirm our indestructible bond to Jewish history as well as our unshakeable faith in Jewish destiny.

The Wall stood there in all its grandeur and I could only marvel at the thought of all the despair and dreams, the hopes and horrors that it must have beheld over the centuries. Indeed, its jagged grooves and soft cool crevices seem to have been chiseled not by the hands of ancient workmen, but by the generations of tears that surely streamed down its façade.


But on this very special night, the massive stones would shine with sheer delight, as a remarkable and uplifting scene unfolded. A large group of yeshiva students from the Ma'arava high school near Modi'in swayed back and forth, deeply into the evening prayers with their black hats perched atop their heads and dress jackets clinging to their shoulders. At the conclusion of the service, they began to sing, forming a series of concentric circles which slowly shuffled about, revolving in loop-like fashion with solemn intensity.

Nearby, a crowd of students from the capital's religious-Zionist Horev school made their way towards the Wall, and the contrast between the two could not have been more striking. With their knitted kippot and sandals, and slightly disheveled teenage look, the Horev boys looked ever so informal. They proudly sported white T-shirts with slogans on the back in Hebrew that said, "There is no Zionism without Zion," and they were aflame with patriotic fervor.


The Ma'arava students, by contrast, projected formality and reserve, with their dress shoes, white button-down shirts and dark slacks.


AND THEN, it happened. As if by some unexplainable force, the two groups were drawn together. Enlarging the circles and joining hands, they proceeded to dance, and sing, and celebrate in unison.


All ideological and theological disagreements, all politics and mutual suspicion were cast aside, as the young scholars of Horev and Ma'arava joined arms – literally and figuratively – to rejoice in Jerusalem. Faster and faster they went, picking up speed with each circuit, as their voices rose in a thunderous crescendo. "May this be an hour of mercy," they pleaded with the Creator, "and a moment of acceptance before You," as the seemingly myriad schisms that divide our people melted away.


Onlookers stared in amazement as haredim and religious Zionists, "black hats" and "crocheted yarmulkes," held onto each other and with a familial grip, revealing the brotherly instinct within.


Suddenly, the circles converged, enveloping two men at their center: Rabbi Baruch Chait, founder of Ma'arava, and Rabbi Yitzhak Dor, rosh yeshiva of Horev. They reached across the divide, and toward one another, and started dancing with all the passion and zeal of two young grooms. Their faces ablaze with joy, these two spiritual teachers gave all those present a tangible lesson in Jewish unity.


Inspired by the scene, their students began chanting a paraphrase of the words traditionally recited in the Sabbath musaf prayers by Sephardim: "Together, together, all of them together, shall thrice repeat with one accord the holy praise unto Thee,' with a clear and very vocal emphasis on the word "together."


The purity of the moment was overwhelming, and I have no doubt that God looked down from heaven like a proud father enjoying the sight of His children bonding collectively in one accord. Herein lies one of Jerusalem's greatest and most intimate secrets: its ability to unite Jews from across the widest of spectrums.


In just a few years from now, the bulk of those Horev students will be taking up arms to defend the state, while many of those in Ma'arava devote themselves to the study of our people's ancient texts. They will vote for different parties, live in different communities and largely refrain from marrying into one another's families.


But for a brief instant this past Tuesday, all that seemed very remote. At the sight of such overwhelming Jewish fraternity, I was sure that the long-awaited Redeemer was about to arrive. Senseless love took the place of senseless hatred where our Temple once stood.


Yet there was no sounding of the great shofar that night, nor did the messiah appear. The dancing eventually faded, and people went home, going their separate ways. But that evening, I am certain, I caught a powerful glimpse of our Redemption, when all Jews will unite to serve God and embrace one another.


If we could just translate that moment from passing into permanence, if we could simply gaze beyond all the disparities. Then, perhaps, that glimpse might finally become the enduring fixture we all long to see

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

PROXIMITY TALKS ARE OFF... AND CRAWLING

BY DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD

 

No sooner had the State Department praised the "atmosphere" at the opening of the Israeli-Palestinian indirect peace talks than a hole began opening in the ozone above them.


Despite his pledge to oppose anti-Israel incitement, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' government lobbied – unsuccessfully – against Israel's application for membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.


Israel had agreed to a two-year freeze construction on a controversial housing project in east Jerusalem, the State Department announced, but the prime minister's cabinet secretary pointedly announced the freeze covers only the one project and "building is expected to begin soon" in other east Jerusalem neighborhoods. The mayor of Jerusalem quickly chimed in to declare his opposition to any freeze and vowed to continue "planning and construction throughout the city."


It is bad enough that each side has its own extremists who want to scuttle the talks, but when their own leaders look like they're not on board, it's time to bring out the worry beads.


The administration has warned it would not hesitate to point the finger of blame at any party it felt was being obstructionist; look for both sides to see how far they can push Washington before they become the bull's-eye.


DON'T CONFUSE these talks with Kissinger-era shuttle diplomacy, when American envoys stayed in the region for weeks, moving back and forth to close the gaps; chief negotiator George Mitchell went home right after last weekend's opening session and doesn't plan to return before next week.


The Palestinians have imposed a four-month deadline on the talks, claiming that is the extent of their mandate from the Arab League. For all their talk of wanting peace, none of the parties seems to feel any sense of urgency.

Washington and Jerusalem say they want to move quickly to direct negotiations – as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, peace cannot be made by "remote control" – but Abbas seems to be reading from a different script. He makes no secret that he wants the US to conduct his negotiations for him, since it not only has more clout in Jerusalem but America's views of the eventual outcome are closer to his than to Netanyahu's. (The US position is also closer to that of former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.) All three parties have different goals in these talks.


The Palestinians want to end 43 years of occupation, create a state of their own and have the US deliver the Israeli concessions they can't. Israel is less interested in peace with the Palestinians than in mollifying Washington because American backing is critical to its number one priority: keeping Iran out of the nuclear club. It also wants to show just enough movement to avoid having the Obama administration publish its own peace plan or call an international conference.


The Obama administration's shaky foreign policy reputation is on the line, having made this a major issue from the start, but lately it has become more than that, as some senior US military commanders have indicated the lack of progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has created problems for the US in Iraq and Afghanistan and boosted recruiting by Islamic extremists.

PEACE IS more important to the US than to Abbas and Netanyahu, neither of whom appears willing or ready to make the tough historic compromises essential to closing the wide gaps between them. The two are so far apart on the core issues that it is difficult to image they can make significant progress.


Abbas's strategy appears to be to drag out the proximity talks for the next four months, then threaten to drop out unless Washington pressures Israel for more concessions or proposes – and imposes – a peace plan of its own.

Netanyahu's 10-month moratorium on settlement construction expires in September, and he will be under pressure from his base on the right to accelerate the building that has never really stopped, so he may try to swap a continued freeze for PA agreement to move to direct talks.


Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has become Israel's chief link to the White House, shares the American view that a two-state solution is key to resolving the larger Arab-Israel conflict and to reversing the deterioration in Israel's relations with the US. Barak has called for Israel to produce a "serious peace plan" of its own, but he admits he doubts that peace is possible with Israel's current governing coalition. A Haaretz editorial this week said that if Netanyahu is serious about "the future of the country" – not just peace with the Arabs but also an end to "haredi extortion"– he should dump his ultra-right religious and nationalist coalition partners and form a government of national salvation with Tzipi Livni and Kadima and Barak's Labor Party "to achieve a peace agreement."


Until then the proximity talks are a lot of process but not much peace.


bloomfieldcolumn@gmail.com

           

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

DAN GOLDBERG'S RIGHTS


The very notion that a man with a spotless record would be suspected without cause of pedophile perversion and worse must outrage any unbiased Israeli.

Dan Goldberg's plight should tug hard at the heartstrings of anyone – male or female, straight or gay – who ever wanted to be a parent. The injustice caused him may have been triggered by his sexual orientation; the sympathy and support he deserves should have nothing to do with his homosexuality.


The right to parenthood should be self-evident, regardless of one's inclinations or lifestyle. Goldberg's desire to father his own biological children shouldn't be predicated on anyone's say-so. It certainly shouldn't be obstructed by questionable, arbitrary rulings.


Yet this is precisely what has happened to Goldberg. He fathered twins – a boy and a girl – by a surrogate mother in India. Family Court Judge Philip Marcus, however, refused to approve a paternity test to confirm that Goldberg is Itai's and Liron's father, which is required before the babies can be admitted to Israel and be naturalized as citizens.


The reason for the decision is the fact that Goldberg is gay.


Marcus asserted that "a child needs to grow up with two parents, not only biologically, but also developmentally…" He further alluded to the danger that the father may be "a pedophile or a serial killer. These are things the state needs to check."


Really? Are checks mandated to establish whether all prospective biological parents have no criminal tendencies? Can heterosexual parents not be equally suspected of abusive or homicidal proclivities? Aren't conjugal visits allowed even the most heinous imprisoned felons (even murderers and terrorists)?

Moreover, these concerns are totally out of the court's scope. Goldberg wasn't applying to adopt, a situation in which the suitability of any potential parents (regardless of sexual orientation) must be ascertained before turning a vulnerable child to their care. The children in question are Goldberg's own flesh and blood.


Israel is a country in which immigration visas are granted even to non-Jewish grandchildren of a Jewish grandparent and to the grandchildren's own non-Jewish offspring, all on the strength of a tenuous genealogical tie. Can it then be that the entry to Israel of children born to a Jerusalemite would be impeded?


Israelis, furthermore, lobby and demonstrate on behalf of children of illegal economic migrants, who may be subject (along with their families) to deportation. Can it be that those children would be considered as possessing residential rights here, but not so the children of a bona-fide Israeli, who has led an honorable and productive life and even distinguished himself in military service in a combat unit? Would it truly be better for Israel if these babies were barred because someone may have issues with their father's sexuality?


Prejudicial treatment resulted in Goldberg being stranded for two months in a Mumbai hotel, with limited finances and an expiring visa, no amenities to care for newborns, no medical facilities, no vaccinations and even no food. Baby formula was shipped out to him from Israel.


Goldberg did not deserve such torment. The babies most certainly did not.

ANYONE IS free to personally evaluate this case from a religious perspective. But a state court must be guided by nothing but the law and sound legal precedents. Equality under the law means that when a case is adjudicated involving identical or similar material facts as previous cases, then similar determination should be expected. It's at this point that precedents become touchstones for judicial impartiality.


The fact is that many childless couples and single Israelis (including gays) have turned to Indian surrogate mothers, just as Goldberg did, and brought their babies home without trouble. Goldberg had every expectation to be treated likewise. The fact that he is being singled out is untenable.


The very notion that a man with a spotless record would be suspected without cause of pedophile perversion and worse must outrage any unbiased Israeli. Besides this constituting court-sanctioned homophobia, this represents a violation of the basic rights of an Israeli whose only "crime" is the wish to raise his own children.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

(ANOTHER) OPEN LETTER TO JUDGE GOLDSTONE

BY RICHARD LANDES

 

Dear Judge Goldstone, I am one of those who have read your report, and have followed closely your (and your fellow mission members') subsequent comments about it. I just read your most recent statements in The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz. Once again you repeat, unchanged, claims you've been making all along, including two prominent ones: 1) If only the Israelis had cooperated, things might have been different; and 2) that no substantive criticism has arisen to challenge your findings.


Now your first is counter-factual, hence open to considerable speculation, and even then it's misleading. While Israel didn't cooperate officially, through various channels (Israeli NGOs, even the visit of Daniel Reizer, the head of the international law department of the IDF) Israel submitted extensive evidence to your committee. You not only ignored it, but to this day refuse to put it up on the UNHRC Web site devoted to your mission.

Your second claim, however, is more concrete; and here the evidence against your is formidable. There is an extensive and substantive critique of your report which most close readers of it – even neutral ones – find shockingly below standard. These are easily available on-line (collected at a handy Web site), and your denial that they have any substance contradicts your second claim categorically. Why would it have made any difference if Israel had participated in the mission's work since you seem so singularly uninterested anything that contradicts your findings?


TAKE, FOR example, the recent publication of a 350-page compilation of evidence that Hamas used human shields, which your report explicitly denies repeatedly. You, by your own admission, chose not to investigate Hamas's misuse of Shifa Hospital, of mosques, of ambulances, etc. Indeed you found Hamas involvement in only one of the incidents you examined. Is this irrelevant to your crucial conclusions about Israeli "war crimes" and "possible crimes against humanity," which depend on the IDF deliberately firing on civilians?


As one Gazan (who apparently did not testify before your mission), told a journalist: The Hamas militants looked for good places to provoke the Israelis. They were usually youths, 16 or 17 years old, armed with submachine guns. They couldn't do anything against a tank or jet. They knew they were much weaker. But they wanted the [Israelis] to shoot at the [civilians'] houses so they could accuse them of more war crimes."


By ignoring the issue, you have played into this cannibalistic strategy.


Certainly Hamas reads your report this way: All paragraphs in the Goldstone report convict Israel and totally exonerate Hamas from any misconduct. For instance, the report exonerates Hamas from the accusation of using civilians as human shields and attributes this accusation to Israeli forces. Even when the report is dealing with the rockets that were launched from Gaza, it speaks about military groups without naming Hamas.

These are terribly serious criticisms. They suggest that, far from supporting international human rights, your report allowed an organization which has no respect for them to victimize its own people in a PR campaign against Israel.


By only (and, as it noticed, indirectly) criticizing Hamas for war crimes in targeting civilians, you only charged it with deeds of which it is proud. The really embarrassing material – its targeting of its own civilians, its cruel engineering of a "humanitarian crisis" by, for example, blocking medical supplies and ambulances at the Egyptian border – you avoided. This suggests that what you wanted from the Israelis was not testimony about the way Hamas fought, but their defense against accusations you found, a priori, "entirely credible."

If you have actually read any of the substantive critiques of your report, and really do think they're "marginal," it calls into question the soundness of your judgment. They may be wrong, but that is for you to show. You say Israel should want to be held to the highest standards of human rights; surely you wish to be held to the highest standards of legal reasoning, no?


And yet, you have avoided doing precisely that. CAMERA, one of your more severe and always substantive critics, actually submitted a formal inquiry to you about specific but vital aspects of your report. After repeated requests for acknowledgment, you responded, "I confirm receipt of your letter. I have no intention of responding to your letter."


This is part of a pattern in which you avoid either debates, or potentially critical interviews, a pattern followed by the other members of your mission. It is as if you felt you could safely ignore the critique and preach only to the choir, because the choir was the worldwide community of human rights, who fete your accomplishment continuously.

But this is the kind of behavior that leads to emperor's new clothes scenario. If you just listen to those who flatter you and shun those who speak their mind freely, then you become a legend in your own mind, and you mistake your reputation for reality. You end up shoring up a grotesque parade of "international human rights" which actually promotes all the forces most hostile to your cause.


If international law is going to defend human rights, it must do so on the basis of a fair assessment of the evidence, not by following the latest fad of assuming the innocence and honesty of the Palestinian underdog. As Bertrand Russell pointed out, it's a fallacy to assume the superior virtue of the oppressed, especially when their elite oppresses them and blames others.


If you have any respect for the biblical tradition of jurisprudential wisdom, you might spend some long hours meditating on the warning: "Do not favor either the powerful or the poor in judgment, but judge justly."


If you have any respect for your own intellectual integrity, or for the global audience you address, you will take your critics more seriously, and respond to them, both in writing and in public exchanges.


The writer is a professor of medieval history at Boston University. He blogs at the Augean Stables and maintains two websites, one on the mainstream news media (Second Draft) and one on the Goldstone Report.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

LESSONS FROM BRITISH GENERAL ELECTION

BY JONATHAN GABBAY

 

Giving birth can be a helter-skelter ride for expectant mothers and fathers as well as family and friends.

Rather like the last UK general election.


In the months leading up to the due date – May 6 – the main political leaders glowed with vitality and charm.


The new face of conservatism was David Cameron: a well-heeled toff who was elected Tory leader at 39 and carefully branded to come across as a kind of golden child offspring of a benevolent Tony Blair and a firm Margaret Thatcher. He was neatly packaged, complete with an alluring wife who just happened to announce her own pregnancy a few weeks before the election.

 

Gordon Brown was marketed with the grammatically curious slogan, "A future fair for all."


He was the man with a plan who, despite going against his own fiscal promises, offered austere substance and policies rather than glitzy fluff.


Finally there was Nick Clegg, the white rabbit always late to that interminable "important date," nervously chasing rainbows of promises and deals down eternal burrows riddled throughout the changing political landscape.

TRUTH IS skin-deep. As the campaign gathered pace, leaders polished public perceptions.


By the beginning of the year an Israeli-styled open-shirted Cameron was pictured on billboards, his skin allegedly Photoshopped to perfection as he stood against the Obama-esque slogan, "Vote for Change" and headline "...We can't go on like this..."


Neither, as it turned out could his constituency, which lampooned the poster throughout the Web.


Then it was the Brown marketing team's turn. Its solution for authenticity was to get the ordinary public to create a poster.


A design by the people for the people promised the UK's first truly democratic piece of political advertising. The poster featured David Cameron as the fictional TV maverick, Gene Hunt.


Within hours of the poster's launch, the Conservatives blasted it, noting Labor's failure to grasp that in popular TV culture, Hunt, was applauded as a straight-talking cult hero. Cameron was so delighted with the opposition's campaign that he even offered to chip in some money toward it.


Meanwhile Nick Clegg, ever unsure of where his appointment with fate would lead, cobbled together the slogan: "Change that works for you – building a fairer Britain."


It was as confused as his party's statements on Israel: "I have tremendous admiration for the State of Israel and its people," while last December his party supported a draft bill allowing UK citizens to apply for the arrest of Israeli politicians for "war crimes" while on British soil.


WITH LESS than a month left until polling day, the leaders, by then visibly pregnant with hope, began three weekly US presidential-style debates.


It was a first for a country accustomed to formal five or ten minute political broadcasts styled on the annual queen's speech; complete with clips of babies, workers, stirring music and slick aerial shots of a "greater Britain," thrown in for good measure.


The debates gave the white rabbit from nowhere a chance to tweak his whiskers. Starstruck viewers liked how he purposefully looked down the barrel of the TV camera, and remembered studio audience members by name.

Meanwhile Cameron and Brown did what Blues and Reds were expected to do: turn the other's cheeks purple with frustration.


Yet, while the debates were entertaining, no one quite understood what any of the parties stood for.


Endless satellite discussions were sparked throughout the Web, radio and TV. Pointing out that serious national issues had been reduced to sound bites, pundits mused over whether this was more like an American Idol contest than a political race.



THE EVENING of the election witnessed queues of voters being turned away because they broke the Queensbury rule of being late for an appointment. (Voting closed at 10 p.m. – irrespective of who was still in line).

The next morning the nation woke to a "hung Parliament."


Spin doctors paced nervously like frustrated expectant fathers, waiting to hear if it was boy or girl.

Meanwhile, noting that votes could easily be switched by anyone claiming to be the owner of a ballot card, the Royal Commonwealth Society warned the UK system "relies a great deal on trust" which may have worked in the past, but could have to be reformed in the future.


Almost a week after the expected birth date, an eventual compromise coalition had to be scratched out.


It would call for a breach birth – the child dragged out alive and kicking through an emergency caesarean.


Failing to make heads or tails of a compromise deal with the white rabbit, Brown publicly accepted his own blame for not delivering a resounding victory.


In the end, the Conservatives had no other option but to broker a strange joint custody of a new government between themselves and long-term rivals – the Liberal Democrats. In so doing they have finally given the white rabbit an appointment that even he would never had assumed: kingmaker to David Cameron.

 

So we are left with David Cameron as prime minister, Nick Clegg as deputy prime minister and William Hague (Conservative) as foreign secretary (big sigh of relief for Israel); George Osborne as chancellor (Conservative); Dr. Liam Fox as defense secretary (Conservative); Andrew Lansley as health secretary (Conservative); Vince Cable (Liberal Democrat) in business and banking; and Chris Huhne (Liberal Democrat) for energy and climate change.

With the sex unclear, the new baby government (incidentally featuring the youngest British prime minister since 1812) won't be having a pidyon haben.


However one thing is for certain: The national brit mila will come about by the way of cuts in services and hikes in taxes.


So then, less of a resounding mazal tov and more of a muted jolly well done (as it appears the Brits have all been had).


The writer is a journalist and commentator from Brandforensics.co.uk London.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

INCITEMENT DAY IN JERUSALEM

 

As proximity talks with the Palestinians begin, Israel's real policy is being revealed vis a vis the government's incitement which drowns out its whispered promises to the United States.

 

For a long time now, Jerusalem Day has served as an excuse for the far right to excoriate Arab residents of the city's eastern part and violently demonstrate their presence in their neighborhoods. But this year, the baton of incitement has passed from the delusional fringes to the very heart of the political arena - the government.

 

Of all the places the city has to offer, the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva is the site where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to celebrate the day. In front of the students devoutly singing "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning," Netanyahu promised the yeshiva's head, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, that "we have never conceded Jerusalem." It would be better not to make such statements right now - and especially not in a place so identified with stubborn resistance to any division of the capital. But Mayor Nir Barkat went even further: He promised that the freeze on construction in the city would not continue.

 

Then, as if all this were not enough, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch hastened to respond to Washington's request that Israel refrain from provocative actions by announcing that "we will resume razing houses in East Jerusalem over the next few days."

 

The greatest achievement of all, however, belongs to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who has doubled the number of schoolchildren visiting the Temple Mount and the City of David, from 200,000 two years ago to 400,000 since the start of the current school year. Under a new program drafted by the Education Ministry on the minister's orders, students are obligated to visit Jerusalem at least three times during their 12 years of school.

 

In theory, there is nothing wrong with this. Yet the visits tend to focus on sites like the Old City's Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall tunnels, Zion Gate and the archaeological excavations of the Temple Mount's southern wall - all disputed areas that are on the agenda during negotiations with the Palestinians, and are also associated with new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. Moreover, the tours, which are led by guides from the extreme right-wing organization Elad, blatantly ignore the Palestinians' existence and bear the clear stamp of religious nationalist indoctrination.

 

The government's stance is particularly worrying given its aggressive actions on the ground: the tightening of the belt of Jewish settlement in neighborhoods to the east and south of the Old City that overlook the Temple Mount.

 

The government's dangerous incitement, which drowns out its whispered promises to the United States, appears this week to be Israel's real policy as proximity talks with the Palestinians begin.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE RIGHT TO DIMONA

HISTORY WILL NOT FORGIVE ANYONE WHO TRIES TO CRACK THE GLASS THAT PROTECTS THE JEWISH STATE FROM THOSE WHO WANT TO DO AWAY WITH IT.

BY ARI SHAVIT

 

According to foreign reports, the nuclear reactor at Dimona is not there for peaceful purposes. These reports say it was built in the early 1960s so that by the end of that decade Israel could have its first atom bomb, and that Israel is in fact a nuclear power - the only nuclear power in the world that insists on behaving as if it were not one.

 

In the superficial terms of shallow political correctness, Dimona is an outrage. It does not meet the universal demands of equality: Why should Israel be permitted that which is prohibited to other states? It does not comply with the fashionable demand for transparency: Why should it be protected by an umbrella of opacity? It does not meet accepted standards of clarity: Why has the international community agreed that it should exist inside a cloud of ambiguity?

 

The answer to these questions: Because the international community of the second half of the 20th century was moral. Not moralistic, but moral. It remembered that for more than a millennium the Jewish people was the persecuted "Other" of Europe, and that between 1940 and 1945 a third of its number were murdered, and even Roosevelt and Churchill didn't lift a finger to save the one million Jews who could still have been rescued in 1944. It was therefore aware that it had the moral obligation to ensure the existence of the Jewish people, who had a unique right to enjoy reverse discrimination.

 

Since its eyes were open, the international community could see that the Jewish state was surrounded by a sea of enmity and if it were not encircled by a glass wall to protect it from being devoured, the result would be a bloodbath. It also understood that precisely because the nuclear reactor on the Plain of Rotem was not for peaceful purposes, it would ensure peace. It is Dimona that stabilizes the Middle East.

 

The international community was right. The past 40 years have been fairly quiet in the Middle East. Dimona did not avert the Yom Kippur War, nor the Lebanon wars nor the intifada, and it has not ended the occupation. But ever since Dimona came into the world, there has not been a total war here and some peace agreements have been signed. Thanks to Dimona, there hasn't been a catastrophe. Very many Arabs and Jews owe their lives to Dimona. And the same goes for the vital interests of the West and moderate Arabs.

 

Israel was also right. At the same time as it adopted a foolish policy on the Palestinians, its policy regarding Dimona was responsible. Unlike the United States, it never used nuclear weapons; unlike Britain and France, it never based its defense policies on the nuclear weapons that it was supposed to possess; and unlike China, India and Pakistan, it never demonstratively tested a nuclear weapon.

 

Israel did not boast or behave ostentatiously, or in any way misuse the capability that was attributed to it. Even in difficult circumstances, it acted with deliberation and composure. It never unsheathed the sword that those foreign reports describe as a terrible one.

 

The international community of the 21st century is different. It has not managed to block Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear programs and achieve in Iran what it achieved in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Because of this, it is convenient to forge a link between the fanatical, disaster-fraught nuclear weaponry that is on the threshold and Israel's restrained ambiguity, which has proved itself. This attempt is both foolish and nauseating. On three different levels, it endangers the future of the Jews, Middle East stability and world peace.

 

The new world community tends to prefer the moralistic over the moral, and political correctness over historical responsibility. But if it tries to force fashionable norms on the Dimona reactor, it will cause a disaster to itself. History will not forgive anyone who undermines the order that is based on Dimona, or anyone who tries to crack the glass that protects the Jewish state from those who want to do away with it.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE CHARGE: ARABS

WHILE IT MAY BE TRUE THAT ISRAELI ARABS ENJOY MORE RIGHTS THAN MOST OF THE WORLD'S ARABS, HEY ARE WORSE OFF THAN MOST OF THE WORLD'S JEWS.

BY GIDEON LEVY

 

No, this is not (yet ) a defense of Dr. Omar Sayid and Ameer Makhoul, who were arrested in the dead of night. No one knows yet what exactly they are accused of and on what grounds. Perhaps the Shin Bet security mountain will produce a mole hill, perhaps not, but in the context of another ugly and collective wave of mudslinging against the Arabs of Israel, it's time to reveal an indictment of a different sort: What can we possibly want from our Arab citizens?

 

The truth is, more than anything, we would like them to disappear, though not their hummus restaurants. A second choice would be to have them all crowd into their cities and villages - not to say their ghettos. There they'll soon be standing on top of each other, some unemployed through no fault of their own, outcast and discriminated against. They'll raise the Israeli flag, preferably two, and sing about the Jewish soul yearning from the national anthem - anything less would be considered a transgression.

 

We would like their MKs, if we still agree to let them have MKs, to visit the Jewish communities of the United States, prostrate themselves on the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and take part in the March of the Living at Auschwitz. Just as long as they don't visit their brethren in Arab countries. Let them stand at attention during the sirens on memorial day for the soldiers who fought against their people. Let them cheer the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces that eats away at them in the territories. Let their young people say thank you for their extensive and generous employment opportunities (1.3 percent of the Prime Minister's Office staff, 6 out of 469 Knesset employees, 2 percent of the workforce at the transportation and communications ministries, a total of 6 percent in public service ).

 

Let them take Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's loyalty test. Let them obey the Citizenship Law and not marry members of their people from the occupied territories. Let them obey the so-called Nakba Law and not dare mention the events of 1948, even in a whisper, ever. Let them not dare buy an apartment in Upper Nazareth or Carmiel, which were built on their lands, and let them not try to rent an apartment in Tel Aviv. Let them not even think of enjoying themselves at our clubs, though there's no chance the security guards would let them in. Let them adopt an Israeli accent, preferably Ashkenazi, so security guards at Ben-Gurion International Airport won't stop them. Let them continue to arrive at the airport, and without complaining please, four hours before their flight because they are Arabs.

 

Let their poets continue to need the Supreme Court to accept Arab literary prizes. Let them have fewer children because they are "multiplying too much" and turning into a "demographic problem." Let them not speak too loudly around Jews because we don't like hearing Arabic. And of course, let them not dare meet with "foreign agents," almost all of whom are citizens of neighboring countries.

 

If indeed the "minorities" or "Arab Israelis" - we also forced these titles on them, why should we call them Palestinians? - meet all these impossible conditions, maybe we will accept them somehow. Then we will continue to gobble up pita and hummus, coffee and baklava on the house, and let them build our homes - on condition that they don't listen to Arabic radio while working.

 

The parliamentary inquiry committee headed by MK Ahmed Tibi on hiring more Arabs in the civil service issued its interim report at the beginning of the year. This impressive report should have been an indictment of Israeli society. But the report was met with indifference. It reveals severe state discrimination. But the report is only part of the problem. The other part is political and national: We can't ignore that the debate about the "Jewish state" excludes Israel's Arabs by definition, shunting them into a corner from which there is no way out.

 

True, they may enjoy more rights than most of the world's Arabs, but that's irrelevant. After all, we're a democracy. In contrast, they are worse off than most of the world's Jews. With the two-state solution rapidly vanishing and the option of one state becoming the only one, the litmus test for the regime to be instituted in a country that is already almost binational will be its treatment of its Arab citizens. Meanwhile, let's admit it: Even if the suspicions against Sayid and Makhoul turn out to be true, Israel's Arabs are still loyal to the state, much more than it is loyal to them.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIA

A FAST TRACK TO ARAB DISENGAGEMENT

THE DISENGAGEMENT PROCESS IS ACCELERATED BY THE ARABS' BELIEF THAT THEY CAN DO AS THEY PLEASE, COMBINED WITH A HAPLESS CENTRAL GOVERNMENT THAT FAILS TO EXERCISE ITS SOVEREIGNTY.

BY ISRAEL HAREL

 

Even if there proves to be something in it, the latest espionage case does not mean that Israeli Arabs are fated to be spies. Just like most of Israel's Jewish citizens, most of its Arab ones are preoccupied primarily with the difficulties of daily life, and have no intention of committing or abetting terror attacks.

 

Nevertheless, the vast majority of Arabs in Israel is also opposed with all its soul to the existence of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. And throughout the years, it has taken steps - not always strictly legal, but generally nonviolent - to rectify what it views as a historic wrong.

 

After the 1967 Six-Day War, which enabled the renewal of contact between Arabs in Israel and those in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, this opposition began to be expressed by demonstrations of support for Palestinian terror and other strident positions, as well as by actions such as the October 2000 uprising. Palestinian flags are today a common, perfectly normal sight on Israeli Arab streets. These flags are also flown at Haifa University, Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. They are waved both by Arab students and by their Jewish supporters.

 

The "future vision" documents drafted and disseminated by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee (which is the only government recognized by, or with actual control over, the Israeli Arab populace ) and by other representative organizations provided the ideological basis for disengagement from the Jewish state of Israel. The documents provided that basis both through their harsh language and their content, which included clear proposals for establishing an alternative Arab political entity within the boundaries of the State of Israel.

 

Some time ago, Education Minister happened to drop in on a 12th-grade civics class in an Arab school, and was unable to converse in Hebrew with most of the students. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee's educational wing has seized control of the Arab schools' curriculum, yet the Education Ministry is the one that funds them (including in East Jerusalem, where Israel foots the bill for teaching the Palestinian Authority curriculum, including those parts of it that incite against Israel and Jews ).

 

The entire leadership of the Arab community is particularly zealous about teaching in Arabic, one official told me, because that is the ultimate tool for developing an Arab national consciousness - just as the Hebrew language was a crucial tool in the Zionist movement's efforts to revive Jewish national sentiments. The real "independent education" - a term normally applied to the ultra-Orthodox school systems - is that of the Arabs, this official said.

 

This feeling among Arab citizens that everything is permissible also has major economic implications: the existence of a huge black-market economy and the nonpayment of municipal taxes (both widespread phenomena that every state comptroller has noted ). We are not bound by the laws of the State of Israel, the rationale goes, because we do not recognize it.

 

Moreover, Israeli Arabs readily sense the message sent by the fact that no one enforces the state's laws, including court orders, that are meant to apply to them: The central government feels powerless against us. Thus are authority and territory de facto ceded.

 

The disengagement process is accelerated by the Arabs' belief that they can do as they please, combined with a hapless central government that fails to exercise its sovereignty. And the more successes these individuals rack up, the greater their appetite grows.

 

These are the truly dangerous signs of disengagement - not the occasional acts of terror or espionage. Indeed, one can even assume that Israeli Arab leaders oppose such acts, because they cast a spotlight on the genuine, multifaceted subversion taking place below the surface, which the media usually ignore, and sometimes even justify. And who knows? Outraged public opinion might even generate enough pressure to halt state funding for the establishment of this separatist, alternative political entity that is springing up, virtually unimpeded, before our very eyes, while the government that makes it possible - the government of Israel - buries its head in the sand.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

SABABA CITY

WHILE EVERYTHING SEEMS TO BE GOING GREAT FOR JERUSALEM'S MAYOR NIR BARKAT, THE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO COME TO THE CITY TO STUDY END UP LEAVING IMMEDIATELY.

BY NERI LIVNEH

 

Nir Barkat is glad he's Jerusalem's mayor because, as he has said over and over like a mantra since his election, especially on Jerusalem Day, he has fulfilled his plan to draw more young people to the city and open more places where they can have fun.

 

Since he was elected, to the sounds of premature whoops of triumph from the fewer than 200,000 secular people left in town, Barkat has assiduously gone about rebranding Jerusalem as "the City of Sababa" - the Arabic word for "nice" or "outstanding" that has become as ubiquitous in the Hebrew vernacular as the word "cool" in American English. His promises at the heart of his campaign to create more jobs, provide inexpensive housing and dramatically improve the schools have apparently been postponed indefinitely.

 

Meanwhile, everything is sababa for the mayor and the young people who come to the city to study and then leave immediately. It's that way too for the students of Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, where, so symbolically and appropriately, the Jerusalem Day celebrations were launched (commemorating our dreams for Jerusalem that are dead and buried ). And generally speaking, things are sababa for the city's religious and ultra-Orthodox residents. For the 200,000 Palestinians living in Greater Jerusalem, for the secular Israeli Jews who have packed and are ready to leave, and those who have already left, things are a little less sababa.

 

The Jerusalem I moved to in the mid-1970s was a different town. True, not reunited, but with free movement from one part to another. A city without a wall running through its heart, but with the Hebrew University, the Bezalel arts academy, the Cinematheque and the Old City. University lecturers lived in Kiryat Moshe, Yekkes - German Jews - lived in Rehavia. The German Colony was still inhabited by the old-timers who had moved in after 1948, as well as a few architects and Bohemians who picked up old Arab and German Templer homes for peanuts. Bayit VeGan was still a mixed, secular-Orthodox neighborhood. The Katamonim housing projects and old Katamon were secular.

 

We encountered the adukim - the devout - as we used to call the Haredim, mainly on sightseeing tours of Mea She'arim, in the periodicals room of the National Library, or on the diagonal pedestrian crossings outside the Maayan Shtub department store downtown. The Old City was the place to go for shopping or hanging out on Friday evenings and on Shabbat, so no one minded when West Jerusalem closed down at those times. Things weren't so sababa for the Arab residents of the Old City and East Jerusalem, but at least they enjoyed a thriving commercial life.

 

As I do every week, this week I visited the city that I have abandoned. It was the day before Jerusalem Day, but they could not hide the truth that morning - even the thousands of soldiers and policemen deployed downtown to protect part of the reunited population from the other part, namely the Jews from the Palestinians (unlike on Saturdays, when they protect the secular from the Haredim, or at demonstrations, where they protect leftists from rightists ). Jerusalem's beauty is almost nowhere to be seen, especially downtown. I did not go to the eastern part of the city. More than 20 years have gone by since I popped over there at night.

 

Jerusalem, which used to be much cleaner than Tel Aviv when its mayor was Teddy Kollek (who was famous for his surprise inspections of the street cleaners' performance ), was already almost as filthy as Bnei Brak during Ehud Olmert's term as mayor. Luckily, the city is hardly lit up at night, so it's still very beautiful then.

 

Cleaning up a city isn't much fun. On the other hand, talking about plans for the future, drawing secular people back and ceaseless building, in the Palestinian neighborhoods too, must be very pleasant. And what did we want, after all? That for the mayor, too, things would be sababa.

 

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

EDITORIAL

MR. OBAMA AND MR. KARZAI, TAKE TWO

 

After months of rancor, President Obama made nice to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Wednesday, and Mr. Karzai made nice back. At a White House press conference, the two men painted a sunny, improbable picture of cooperation and mutual respect. There was no mention of the many failings of Mr. Karzai's government or his resentment of American pressure.

 

Confronting the Afghan leader head-on was not working. We just hope that Mr. Obama and his aides have a real plan — beyond lowering the temperature — for getting Mr. Karzai to do what is needed and for building up a minimally effective Afghan government.

 

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, has a clear military strategy. We are less certain about the administration's political strategy.

 

The gap, and the danger, was on full display in Marja. February's military offensive drove Taliban forces out of the area and secured the city center. American plans to quickly set up a competent "government in a box" faltered — either because there were too few qualified Afghans, or too few willing to take the risk, or Mr. Karzai's government wasn't really interested.

 

More than two months later, the Taliban are still active, and there is still no effective local government. Washington will need to do better with this summer's far more important offensive in Kandahar. Mr. Karzai bears considerable responsibility for all that has gone wrong. He has refused to root out corruption. He prefers cronies to competent managers. He has wasted far too much time railing at his American protectors.

 

The problem is compounded by uncertainties about who is running the civilian side of Afghan policy. Richard Holbrooke was supposed to be the go-to guy. But his ties with Mr. Karzai soured, and now his clout — in Washington and Kabul — is unclear. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry's publicized assessment that Mr. Karzai is not an "adequate strategic partner" has left lingering tensions with Mr. Karzai and General McChrystal.

 

The administration's goals are rightly focused on building up Afghan government capacity — from Kabul to the local level. Until the government can been seen providing minimal security, jobs, water and electricity, Afghans are unlikely to take the risk of rejecting the Taliban. Progress has been frustratingly slow.

 

The State Department has deployed 1,000 civilian experts as of March (up from more than 300 last year) to advise Afghan ministries and oversee aid programs. Those numbers mask how hard it was to fill those jobs — and how hard it will be to replace them. Congress needs to fully finance the State Department's request for $284 million to build a permanent corps of civilian experts to help in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, a new report by the Government Accountability Office said violence in Afghanistan is delaying implementation and increasing the costs of American aid programs and making them harder to monitor. This does not augur well for President Obama's goal to start withdrawing American troops by mid-2011.

We hope all the hospitality does not leave President Karzai thinking he's off the hook. We assume Mr. Obama was a bit blunter in private. We hope Mr. Obama is also having tough discussions with his own team.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

PSSST, OVER TO YOU

 

The United States Senate was supposed to have dropped its insidious tradition that let members put endless secret holds on nominations and other important matters. The abuse continues, more murky than ever.

 

The reform, adopted three years ago, required senators to identify themselves within six days of blocking a nominee, and to state their objection. That stricture has been routinely violated with cheesy gamesmanship. Members — mostly in the Republican minority — pass secret holds among themselves to foil the time limit.

 

Right now there are 52 nominees on secret holds — all noncontroversial in committee debates. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat of Missouri, is so fed up that she is challenging her colleagues from the Senate floor to fess up. "If you're gonna stall and block, let's see who you are," she demanded in one speech. Charles Grassley, a Republican of Iowa, echoed her, urging secret holders to "have the guts to go public."

 

Only Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican of Oklahoma, had the guts. He owned up to six nominees in limbo. That won't cure obstructionism, but it will let taxpayers see who is blocking whom to further what agenda.

 

Senator McCaskill is campaigning to ban all secret holds. She is unlikely to get the votes. Senators Grassley and Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, are proposing a middle ground — a two-day requirement for secret holders to identify and explain themselves in the Congressional record, no evasions.

 

Both parties have abused secret holds. But Democrats warn there is now a wholesale emergency of court vacancies. The Senate has confirmed only 45 percent of President Obama's judicial nominees, as opposed to 93 percent at a similar point during the administration of President George W. Bush. The games need to stop. Senators need to do their jobs. That means debating, confirming or rejecting nominees based on their merits.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE HIGH BRIDGE

 

The High Line in Manhattan was a seedy elevated railway until some powerful people helped turn it into a bijou of a public park. When it opened, you needed to wait in line just to climb up and walk a few blocks above the chic meatpacking district. The challenge for Mayor Michael Bloomberg is to make the High Bridge, the city's oldest standing bridge, as successful.

 

Finished in 1848, the High Bridge was an aqueduct-style connection between the old Croton Reservoir and Manhattan. The 1,200-foot stretch across the Harlem River between the Bronx and Washington Heights was a place for New Yorkers to get relief on the steamiest days.

 

The river's breeze was more like a chilly spring blast on a recent guided tour by the city parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe. From 116 feet above the water, the views are stunning and the highway's roar is muted.

 

With a full restoration — including higher, more durable railings — this should again be a well-used public walkway, making it easier for people to walk from the Bronx to the swimming pool and recreation areas in the restored Highbridge Park on the river's western bank.

 

Mayor Bloomberg began promising to reopen the High Bridge almost three years ago, calling it a "glaring symbol of a time when New York failed to preserve its historical treasures." He put up $50 million, which helped get additional federal money. Residents of the area will soon be asked to give their ideas about how to use the High Bridge — foot traffic, yes, but bicycles? The real work could start as early as next year.

 

Mario Batali and Diane von Furstenberg helped open the High Line. Maybe a native of the area could be on hand when the barbed wire is taken from the iron gates near 170th Street in the Bronx. Jennifer Lopez? Alex Rodriguez? Ralph Lauren?

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

PAKISTAN AND TIMES SQ.

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

If we want Times Square to be safer from terrorists, we need to start by helping make Pakistan safer as well.

 

People with links to Pakistan have been behind a hugely disproportionate share of international terror incidents over the last two decades: the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks; Richard Reid's failed shoe bombing in 2001; the so-called Bojinka plot in 1995 to blow up 12 planes simultaneously; the 2005 London train and bus bombings; the 2001 attacks on the Indian Parliament; and attacks on two luxury hotels and a Jewish center in Mumbai in 2008.

 

So it came as little surprise that the suspect in the attempted car bombing in Times Square, Faisal Shahzad, is a Pakistani-American.

 

Why does an ostensible "ally" seem to constitute more of a threat than, say, Iran? Or Lebanon or Syria or Iraq? Or Egypt, birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood brand of militant Islam? Or the West Bank and Gaza, where resentment of America's Middle East policies is centered?

 

One answer, I think, is that Pakistan's American-backed military leader of the 1970s and 1980s, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, drove the country off course, seeking to use fundamentalism as a way to buttress the regime. Instead of investing in education and infrastructure, he invested in religious sanctimony.

 

The public education system, in particular, is a catastrophe. I've dropped in on Pakistani schools where the teachers haven't bothered to show up (because they get paid anyway), and where the classrooms have collapsed (leaving students to meet under trees). Girls have been particularly left out. In the tribal areas, female literacy is 3 percent.

 

There's an instructive contrast with Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan until it split off in 1971. At that time, Bangladesh was Pakistani's impoverished cousin and seemed pretty much hopeless. Henry Kissinger famously described Bangladesh as an "international basket case."

 

But then Bangladesh began climbing a virtuous spiral by investing in education, of girls in particular. It now has

more girls in high school than boys, according to Unicef. This focus on education has bolstered its economy,

reduced population growth rates, nurtured civil society and dampened fundamentalism.

 

Educated girls formed the basis of a garment industry, making shirts for Americans. This brought in currency, boosted employment and provided an economic lifeline to the country. Those educated girls went to work for poverty-fighting organizations like BRAC and the Grameen Bank.

 

In Pakistan's tribal areas, you can hear American drones buzzing faintly overhead, a reminder of our focus on military solutions. Drones and hard power have their place, but not to the exclusion of schools and soft power. An important 2008 study from Rand, "How Terrorist Groups End," concluded that "military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups."

 

I can't tell you how frustrating it is on visits to rural Pakistan to see fundamentalist Wahabi-funded madrassas as the only game in town. They offer free meals, and the best students are given further scholarships to study abroad at fundamentalist institutions so that they come back as respected "scholars."

 

We don't even compete. Medieval misogynist fundamentalists display greater faith in the power of education

than Americans do.

 

Let's hope this is changing under the Obama administration. It's promising that the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid package provides billions of dollars for long-term civilian programs in Pakistan, although it's still unclear how it will be implemented. One useful signal would be for Washington to encourage Islamabad to send not only troops to North Waziristan but also teachers.

 

We continue to be oblivious to trade possibilities. Pro-American Pakistanis fighting against extremism have been pleading for years for the United States to cut tariffs on Pakistani garment exports, to nurture the textile industry and stabilize the country. Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, told me that his top three goals are "market access, market access, market access." But Washington wants to protect North Carolina textile mills, so we won't cut tariffs on Pakistani goods. The technical word for that: myopia.

 

Education and lower tariffs are not quick fixes, sometimes not even slow fixes. But they are tools that can help, at the margins, bring Pakistan back from the precipice. It has been reassuring to see the work of people like Greg Mortenson, whose brave school-building in Pakistan and Afghanistan was chronicled in "Three Cups of Tea." Ditto for Developments in Literacy, or D.I.L., which builds schools for girls in Pakistan that are the most exhilarating things I've seen there.

 

It costs $1,500 to sponsor a D.I.L. classroom for a year, and that's just about the best long-term counterterrorism investment available.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN CONSTITUTIONAL

BY SOL WACHTLER

 

SINCE its adoption after a landmark 1966 Supreme Court decision, the Miranda warning has worked its way into not only everyday police procedure, but American culture as well — even if you've never been arrested, you probably know the words "anything you say can and will be used against you."

 

But as the Obama administration considers carving out an exception to the Miranda rules for terrorism suspects in the wake of the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the Connecticut man accused of being the Times Square bomber, it's important to note how little most people understand what Miranda does and doesn't mean.

 

First and foremost, the failure to give a Miranda warning does not result in a case being dismissed. It only results in the inability of the police to use a confession and its fruits in evidence. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of successful criminal prosecutions do not involve confessions.

 

The warning's genesis lies in the Fifth Amendment, which says that the government may not compel a person "in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." The framers knew how easy it was to obtain a confession through torture or other forms of overt coercion, and how tempting it was for a government to use such tactics. To prohibit this kind of abuse, the founders said, in effect, that a person could not be forced to confess.

 

The problem was trying to determine what counted as a coerced confession. Well into the 20th century, police officers would beat suspects, or keep defendants in isolation for days, to get a confession. The methods of police interrogation were so diverse, and the effects of isolation, intimidation and defendant ignorance so varied, that appellate courts found it difficult to determine afterward whether a confession had been truly voluntary.

 

Finally, in 1966, the Miranda decision established a universal standard, requiring people in police custody to be read their rights before being questioned. Under most circumstances, failure to comply with this rule would lead to a suppression of the confession.

 

However, contrary to common belief, the Miranda warning doesn't confer rights; it simply reminds arrestees of the rights already granted to them by the Constitution. Moreover, talk-show hosts and television police dramas have led people to believe that before the police may interrogate or arrest a suspect, the Miranda warning must be given. That just isn't the case. Neither arrest alone nor interrogation alone (if there has been no arrest) requires the warning to be given. Miranda applies only to in-custody questioning; a statement made to the police by a suspect not in custody is not subject to Miranda.

 

Still, many supporters of Miranda exclusions argue that the rule hamstrings law enforcement. This is wrong, too.

 

When Miranda was decided, I was a young lawyer who had served in the military police and was chairman of the Committee on Public Safety of the Nassau County Board of Supervisors — in short, law enforcement was a big part of my life. I, along with members of the county police force, the prosecutor's office and others in the law enforcement community, was frightened by the decision. Would arresting officers ever remember to read the entire warning? We envisioned wily defense lawyers using Miranda to suppress a confession, often the strongest foundation on which to build a conviction.

 

Over time, however, police compliance became second nature, and the warning has become a routine part of post-arrest interrogation. Today, judges only rarely suppress confessions because the warning wasn't given, and acquittals on the basis of such a suppression are even rarer. In fact, because it clarifies more than inhibits the arrest and interrogation process, law enforcement agencies nationwide support Miranda.

 

The truth is, we may have even reached the point where defendants are so familiar with the warning that they forget its meaning; indeed, the penal system is filled with prisoners who confessed or incriminated themselves despite having been read their rights.

 

This doesn't mean that Miranda is irrelevant, or that there isn't a place for exceptions. In 1982, while I was a judge on New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, we heard a case in which a man was said to have entered a supermarket with a loaded gun. When the police detained the man, they found him wearing an empty holster, and they asked him the whereabouts of the weapon. After he showed the police where he had hidden the gun, he was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a weapon.

 

The lower courts held that he should have been given his Miranda warning before being asked the location of the gun. I wrote an opinion, later embraced by the Supreme Court, that created an "emergency exception" to Miranda, allowing the police to defuse a dangerous situation before administering the warning.

 

But resolving immediate emergencies is about as far as we should go in delaying the Miranda reading or creating exceptions to it. To open non-emergency exceptions, like the one proposed by the Obama administration for terrorism suspects, would be to go down a road toward the eventual nullification of the constitutional protection against self-incrimination.

 

The Miranda rule strikes a delicate balance, enabling us to protect a fundamental constitutional right without forcing the courts to allow the legitimacy of every confession to be proven before it is allowed into evidence. To compromise the rule would be counterproductive and destructive to the kind of freedom we enjoy as Americans — a freedom that terrorists would like nothing better than to destroy.

 

Sol Wachtler is a professor of constitutional law at Touro Law School and former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE ANNALS OF ARLEN

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

"I love you, and I love Arlen Specter," Barack Obama told a crowd in Philadelphia last fall. If you happen to be in Pennsylvania, you can relive this incident many times a day, thanks to campaign ads that Senator Specter hopes will save his hide in next week's Democratic primary.

 

Was the president sincere? If he loves the guy, maybe the voters should take it into consideration. However, I suspect that Barack loves Arlen in the same sense that he loved that crowd, which was in Philadelphia at a Specter fund-raiser. Definitely, he was grateful to them for showing up. And raising funds. But everybody understood that he was not, you know, planning to invite them all home for dinner.

 

The president appreciated Specter's help in shoving the stimulus bill over the finish line last year, when the senator was still a Republican. And he really did love the fact that Specter's party switch gave the Democrats what would turn out to be a very temporary 60th vote in the Senate. But he is not so grateful that he is going to go to Pennsylvania to campaign for him and risk adding yet another political carcass to the list of uncharming Democrats who went down the drain while clinging to his coattails.

 

(Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine, Arlen Specter. What's with all these unpleasant people running for office? I have a very clear memory of politicians as lovable rogues. Or at least reasonably affable rogues.)

 

You may have heard that this is not a good year for insiders and incumbents. Last week, Senator Robert Bennett, an extremely conservative 76-year-old Republican from Utah, got dumped by his party. And on Tuesday, Representative Alan Mollohan, who has represented West Virginia for 28 years despite the fact that none of us have ever heard of him, got trounced in the Democratic primary by a state senator.

 

A state senator! West Virginia should pat itself on the back for having state senators who can get nominated for higher office. In New York, nobody would trust a state senator to sign for a video rental.

 

The war on insiders does not seem like all that bad a development. The problem with American politics is less that incumbents are being upset than that they usually cannot be dislodged with a crowbar. Senator Bennett won election to a third term in 2004 with 69 percent of the vote despite having promised never to run for, um, a third term.

 

The fabled Tea Party Movement, which is spreading terror in the hearts of trembling incumbents throughout the land, does not seem to be nearly as effective as advertised. It keeps being undone by its own candidates' tendency to cluster like moths, beating against a targeted insider in groups of four, five or six.

 

Dan Burton, the longtime Indiana representative, just won renomination with 30 percent of the vote in a seven-way primary. You may remember Burton from the Clinton administration when he used his chairmanship of the House oversight committee to attempt to prove his theory that the late deputy White House counsel, Vince Foster, had been murdered. Or from the sex scandal or the missing-votes-to-go-golfing controversy. One less Tea Partier in that primary and Burton would have been forced to return home, where he once staged a backyard demonstration of his conspiracy theory, personally shooting a watermelon that was playing the role of Foster.

 

Still, definitely a bad year for insiders, and there is no question that Arlen Specter is an insider. Do you think there are any 80-year-old, 30-year-incumbent Senate outsiders? That seems almost cruel to think about. The man is old enough to be your great-grandfather! He's been sitting there for three decades! Let him inside, for heaven's sake.

 

Joe Sestak, his opponent, is not exactly an outsider himself, being not only a member of Congress but also a former admiral in the Navy. He is also apparently not one of the more cuddly personalities you would ever want to deal with. But we are talking about a race against Arlen Specter, the ego that ate Philadelphia.

 

Sestak has been running smart, nasty ads with the tagline: "Arlen Specter switched parties to save one job: his, not yours." Meanwhile, Specter has been implying that Sestak was pushed into retiring from his Navy job at the Pentagon for something more serious than what Sestak claims was resistance to his efficiency reforms.

 

There is no evidence that Sestak's problems were anything larger than being irritating. But the way the Democrats' luck has been running lately, if he's nominated, someone will come up with pictures of him conspiring with space aliens.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

A BAD BET ON CARBON

BY ROBERT BRYCE

 

Washington

ON Wednesday, John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman introduced their long-awaited Senate energy bill, which includes incentives of $2 billion per year for carbon capture and sequestration, the technology that removes carbon dioxide from the smokestack at power plants and forces it into underground storage. This significant allocation would come on top of the $2.4 billion for carbon capture projects that appeared in last year's stimulus package.

 

That's a lot of money for a technology whose adoption faces three potentially insurmountable hurdles: it greatly reduces the output of power plants; pipeline capacity to move the newly captured carbon dioxide is woefully insufficient; and the volume of waste material is staggering. Lawmakers should stop perpetuating the hope that the technology can help make huge cuts in the United States' carbon dioxide emissions.

 

Let's take the first problem. Capturing carbon dioxide from the flue gas of a coal-fired electric generation plant is an energy-intensive process. Analysts estimate that capturing the carbon dioxide cuts the output of a typical plant by as much as 28 percent.

 

Given that the global energy sector is already straining to meet booming demand for electricity, it's hard to believe that the United States, or any other country that relies on coal-fired generation, will agree to reduce the output of its coal-fired plants by almost a third in order to attempt carbon capture and sequestration.

 

Here's the second problem. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has estimated that up to 23,000 miles of new pipeline will be needed to carry the captured carbon dioxide to the still-undesignated underground sequestration sites. That doesn't sound like much when you consider that America's gas pipeline system sprawls over some 2.3 million miles. But those natural gas pipelines carry a valuable, marketable, useful commodity.

 

By contrast, carbon dioxide is a worthless waste product, so taxpayers would likely end up shouldering most of the cost. Yes, some of that waste gas could be used for enhanced oil recovery projects; flooding depleted oil reservoirs with carbon dioxide is a proven technology that can increase production and extend the life of existing oilfields. But the process would be useful in only a limited number of oilfields — probably less than 10 percent of the waste carbon dioxide captured from coal-fired power plants could actually be injected into American oilfields.

 

The third, and most vexing, problem has to do with scale. In 2009, carbon dioxide emissions in the United States totaled 5.4 billion tons. Let's assume that policymakers want to use carbon capture to get rid of half of those emissions — say, 3 billion tons per year. That works out to about 8.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per day, which would have to be collected and compressed to about 1,000 pounds per square inch (that compressed volume of carbon dioxide would be roughly equivalent to the volume of daily global oil production).

 

In other words, we would need to find an underground location (or locations) able to swallow a volume equal to the contents of 41 oil supertankers each day, 365 days a year.

 

There will also be considerable public resistance to carbon dioxide pipelines and sequestration projects — local outcry has already stalled proposed carbon capture projects in Germany and Denmark. The fact is, few landowners are eager to have pipelines built across their property. And because of the possibility of deadly leaks, few people will to want to live near a pipeline or an underground storage cavern. This leads to the obvious question: which members of the House and Senate are going to volunteer their states to be dumping grounds for all that carbon dioxide?

 

For some, carbon capture and sequestration will remain the Holy Grail of carbon-reduction strategies. But before Congress throws yet more money at the procedure, lawmakers need to take a closer look at the issues that hamstring nearly every new energy-related technology: cost and scale.

 

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is the author, most recently, of "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future."

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

AWKWARD ALLIANCES: KARZAI REMAINS AN AFGHAN OBSTACLE

 

All the imagery was of friendship and mutual admiration Wednesday as President Obama and Afghan leader

Hamid Karzai wrapped up three days of talks with a carefully orchestrated White House news conference. Gone were the hardball tactics of a month ago, when American officials publicly attacked Karzai for building a government that neither Afghans nor Americans trust.

 

AWKWARD ALLIANCES: British vote offers path for dynamic change

The tactical shift was unavoidable. Alliances aren't held together by public criticism, and Karzai was so insulted by the earlier affront that he threatened to join the Taliban. But TV lights and a White House stage can't alter reality. Karzai's ineffectiveness remains as much an obstacle to U.S. goals as the Taliban. Any military victory will be hollow if control must then handed to people whom the local population won't accept.

 

This is evident in the now 3-month-old military operation in Helmand province, widely seen as the first test of Obama's strategy for Afghanistan.

 

When the offensive began in February, coalition forces were supposed to clear the area quickly of insurgents, then roll out a prepackaged Afghan "government in a box," as commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal put it, to take control. That's not how it's working out.

 

At a Senate hearing last week, military officials reported that there weren't enough Afghan civilians "trained, capable, willing to go" into Taliban-controlled areas or Afghan troops capable of taking over the fight. Much of the area is still controlled by NATO forces. Large majorities in Helmand want those forces to leave and doubt they can beat the Taliban, according to independent polling by the International Council on Security and Development, a European think tank.

 

This does not auger well for what Obama described Wednesday as "hard fighting over the next several months" in neighboring Kandahar, the Taliban's birthplace, where the enemy is despised but government police are hated at least as much for brutality and corruption. The region's key official is Karzai's brother, whom the president continues to protect.

 

None of this is reason to quit, or even to assume that Obama's complex strategy of military, civilian and diplomatic support will fail. It's still new and the best option available. The president noted Wednesday that barely half the forces being surged to Afghanistan are there.

 

But it is reason to be skeptical that the troop drawdown that Obama still says will begin next summer can stay on schedule, and reason to believe that success, if it's achievable, will take far longer. More pointedly, it is reason to keep focused on the Karzai problem, not just news from battlefronts. Despite a nine-year history of failure, the Afghan leader wants the United States to work exclusively through him, and that is unacceptable.

 

The U.S. must simultaneously work with him and work around him, building local relationships and institutions, in line with Afghanistan's history as a tribal country with a weak central government. This is happening, through both military and civilian means.

 

In the end, the best the military can do is drive the Taliban into a position where its fighters feel compelled to cut a deal and turn on al-Qaeda. But that will happen only if Afghans trust their government more than its enemies, and Karzai has done far too little to make that happen.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

AWKWARD ALLIANCES: BRITISH VOTE OFFERS PATH FOR DYNAMIC CHANGE

 

The United States often finds its politics reflected in those of its closest ally, Great Britain. The images today may be fuzzier than in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher led conservative upheavals, or in the 1990s, when both nations elected young liberals, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. But as power shifted again in Britain this week, the political backdrop was familiar: Lots of anger wrought by a miserable economy and ruinous debt, a hard-times instinct to "throw the bums out" and not much enthusiasm for the hard choices that lie ahead.

 

So Tuesday, out went Blair's unpopular successor, Gordon Brown. And in came Conservative leader David Cameron, 43, the youngest prime minister in nearly 200 years, five years Barack Obama's junior. More interesting, though, is the curious nature of the government the voters' ambivalence has delivered.

 

For all Cameron's charisma, the Conservatives were able to win just 47% of the seats in Parliament, forcing an

unlikely alliance with the Liberal Democrats, Britain's leftist third party and a perennial also-ran. There is no American parallel. It would be like a coalition between Republicans and a splinter group of disaffected liberal Democrats.

 

The result could be paralysis, or schizophrenia. But this coalition of strange bedfellows might produce two things Britain, like America, needs and incumbents resist.

 

The first is an opening to make unpopular decisions. The parties agreed not to call another election for five years. That means they can share responsibility for shrinking an unaffordable government and still have time to recover politically from the pain it causes. This is precisely what the U.S. could use.

 

Second, the alliance shows all signs that it will significantly alter Britain's political system. The Lib-Dems' price for joining the Conservatives was a referendum on a voting system that would tend to give more seats in Parliament to minority parties. The outcome is uncertain, but the potential for dynamic change is significant.

 

In this country, the political system is broken in a different way. Incumbents of both parties draw district lines to ensure their re-election. Democrats are packed into one district, Republicans into another, forcing candidates to cater to the extremes and reject compromise. Only about 15% of congressional races are typically competitive.

 

A few states have solved this. Most notably, Iowa requires districts to be geographically tight and drawn under non-partisan control. Proportional voting like the Lib-Dems want is rare in the USA but common in Europe. Another way to shake things up, tried in seven states, is public financing of campaigns, which enables honest candidates to turn aside contributions from special interests.

 

Because such approaches tend to cost incumbents their jobs, opposition is fierce and advocates are few. But when people are fed up with government, they tend to find a path to real change. Britain's fractious electorate might just have stumbled onto one. Perhaps one day America will be as fortunate.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

ENERGY'S COSTS FINALLY MEET THE EYES

BY MEERA SUBRAMANIAN

 

When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico on April 22, 11 men were missing and a gushing well was emptying into the sea. It happened to be Earth Day.

 

A week later, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced federal approval for the nation's first offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound near Hyannis, Mass., which will turn an aquatic area the size of Manhattan into an oceanic-industrial complex with 130 massive turbines reaching 440 feet into the sky. Both are reminders that all energy comes at a price.

 

Regardless of one's stance on the science of climate change — either the extent or the cause — there is no debate that we pay dearly for our energy. It costs us in barrels and kilowatt hours, and it costs us in human lives. The time has come for Americans to face head-on the unsightly ways and means of our energy sources and recognize the true cost of turning on our televisions and powering up our laptops. Wind turbines off the Cape Cod coast and oil on our southern shores mark the definitive end of the era in which our energy addiction can be satiated by sources that are out of sight and out of mind.

 

The toll around us

 

There are no easy choices here. Fossil fuels don't just drive our cars. They drive our economy and will for the indefinite future. But the social and environmental costs of mining, drilling and making batteries for our hybrid cars are not evenly distributed, either within or beyond our borders.

 

Because of geology and politics, those who benefit from cheap and abundant energy are often far removed from sources of production, whether the North Slope of Alaska or the former mountaintops of West Virginia, let alone the Middle East. It has been easy to ignore the fact that resource extraction, especially for fossil fuels, takes a devastating toll on human life —miners buried and oil riggers lost at sea are just the latest deaths caused by our voracious quest for resources. The effects of climate change may seem abstract, but what we see in the reflective sheen of this oil spill is that our unquenchable thirst for the substance that lubricates our lives is killing us along with the ecosystems we inhabit.

 

In the Gulf of Mexico, however, we may have found our infinite fount. This deep-water accident has no horizon. It isn't an oil spill in the conventional sense, where a fixed amount of fuel escapes from the hull of a ship. When this rig sank, it left behind a severed umbilical cord that had tethered it to an oil borehole reaching deep into the earth's crust a mile below the waves. We have tapped into something we quite literally can't control.

 

All this is a perfect call-and-response to Sarah Palin's imprudent "Drill, baby, drill!" cheer. No one knows how or when the spill will end. We can only speculate about the extent of the damage to vast wetlands that produce three-quarters of the nation's shrimp —habitat that humans, plants, animals and birds depend upon for livelihoods or lives. BP's spill could become the nation's greatest environmental catastrophe, dwarfing both Hurricane Katrina and Exxon Valdez. Already, the uncomfortable reality of energy's true cost is literally washing up on our shores.

 

Weeks ago, some of the migratory birds that are now whistling their mating songs in the idylls of Cape Cod might have passed over Chandeleur Islands off Louisiana, where the oil slick first made contact with land last Thursday. For nine years, many Cape Codders have viewed this issue from the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's perspective, arguing that despoiling their blue horizon is an unacceptable price to pay, even for clean energy.

 

Offshore oil rigs that dot our coasts from New Orleans to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, also mar the view, but if a wind farm fails, the disaster has begun and ended when the turbine topples into the sea. Wind, after all, doesn't leak.

 

Nor does turbulent air release the greenhouse gases that oil sends up when burned, either as slicks of crude are set ablaze to save our shorelines or when properly ignited in our internal combustion engines.

 

Thinking big

 

Energy conservation has to come first, as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, leader of the nation's most energy-efficient state, acknowledged when he came out against offshore oil drilling this month. McKinsey & Co., one of the world's top consulting firms, reported last year that Americans will save twice what we invest in energy efficiency within 10 years. But even if we are able to climb this slippery slope toward self-sacrifice, humans everywhere will continue to sop up energy from various sources. If the same mind power and engineering feats now being directed to capping the Gulf's unruly well could be channeled into a proactive renewable energy initiative worthy of the Manhattan Project or the Apollo Program, that would be a start. But no matter where our energy comes from in the future, ignorance is no longer an option.

 

We will all benefit from bringing the reality of energy costs closer to home — out of our windows, atop our roofs. Putting energy production in front of our eyes could bring us closer to acknowledging our addiction, the first step to kicking any habit. When it comes to energy, seeing just might be believing.

 

Meera Subramanian is a freelance environmental journalist and senior editor for the online religion magazine Killing the Buddha. She is based in Brooklyn and can be found at www.meerasub.org.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

COURT DIVERSITY IS ABOUT MORE THAN GENDER, RACE OR ETHNICITY

BY ROSS K. BAKER

 

In response to the now familiar complaint about a Supreme Court turning into a "judicial monastery" filled with appellate judges, what does President Obama do with his second nomination? He appoints someone from the academic monastery. The forbidding remoteness of the court is not mitigated by adding a law school dean unless, of course, you believe the cap and gown connects you better to the real world than the judicial robe.

 

While some have complained that for the first time, the court would have no Protestant judges, a more conspicuous lack is someone who has sought and held public office and who has brushed up against the give-and-take of politics and the judgment of voters; someone who has experienced the cut-and-thrust of a political campaign, not just the legalistic kabuki of moot court competition.

 

The last member of the Supreme Court to have ever gone before the voters was Sandra Day O'Connor, an alumna of the Arizona state senate and a jurist revered for her practicality and ability to connect to the world in which ordinary Americans live. There was a time when presidents were not afraid to reach into the political world and select candidates steeped in the practical challenges of governing and some who had even known defeat in an election. We need more like Justice O'Connor, and we have had such people in the past.

 

When life experience mattered

 

Admirers of John F. Kennedy's book Profiles in Courage might recall the name of Lucius Q.C. Lamar. He was nominated in 1887 by President Grover Cleveland at the advanced age of 62 and was confirmed by the narrowest of margins.

 

This Mississippian had been active in the secession movement before and during the Civil War but became passionately committed to national reconciliation after the conflict. He defied the wrath of the die-hard constituents in his state by taking the Senate floor to eulogize Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts senator whose eloquent attacks on slavery and secession had made him a reviled figure in the South. Lamar also served in the House, as a Cabinet member and in the Supreme Court was a strong voice against the expansion of executive power. The richness of his experience stands in contrast to the narrowness of the backgrounds of contemporary nominees.

 

Perhaps the most remarkable appointment of a politician to the court involved no less a figure than an ex-president, William Howard Taft. Warren Harding, a president we don't usually associate with creative thinking, nominated Taft on the morning of June 30, 1921, and had him confirmed later that day. Did President Obama even consider naming ex-president Bill Clinton to the court? No one in American public life had been more thoroughly or publicly vetted. Perhaps he thought Clinton, at 63, was simply too old. But if someone like Clinton might be considered too much of a reach, what about those who have served ably in Congress?

 

Both the age and the fear that Republican governors would fill their vacancies with GOP replacements would probably disqualify such eminent members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as Patrick Leahy and Dianne Feinstein. Though age would have been no bar to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, 54, of Rhode Island (a former U.S. attorney), a Republican governor would have posed an obstacle.

 

The president's consistent plea for bipartisan cooperation would have been well-served by the nomination of South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, one of the few Republican senators not afraid to sponsor important legislation with his Democratic colleagues. The political calculations of today's polarized politics, however, would make anyone with a voting record a target for the ideological interest groups that hover over judicial confirmation hearings like buzzards on a battlefield.

 

The Ivy League Express

 

We have also narrowed the definition of diversity to include only such markers as gender, race and ethnicity. It is remarkable how many utterly conventional minority group members and women land in the upper reaches of American society, people who arrive at eminence in a sealed railway coach — a kind of Ivy League Express. They are people who have never run a business, worn a military uniform, organized a garage band, bummed around for a few years trying to find themselves or, more important, faced a room full of angry voters.

 

Nominating a politician would require no extensive biographical archaeology or hearings in which the adroit dodging of questions becomes the principal recommendation for confirmation.

 

Senators might even be inclined to favor one of their own, as they did with such eminent politicians as Hugo Black and James Byrnes.

 

Congress is a much more accurate portrait-in-miniature of the American people than the Supreme Court, and it is sad that the confirmation process has emphasized safety over breadth of experience. Elective politics is an inherently unsafe enterprise and much more nearly mirrors the uncertainties of the lives of the American people than the rarefied world inhabited by federal appellate judges and academic lawyers.

 

Ross K. Baker is a political science professor at Rutgers University and is writing a book titled Profiles in Cover. He also is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

GRADS SHOULD BASE SUCCESS ON SUBSTANCE, NOT SUMS

BY PETER BUFFETT

 

This month, thousands of young, bright, ambitious students will hear words of wisdom from politicians, economists and celebrities. No doubt some commencement speakers will reflect on the uncertain times in which we live and the importance of solid values in a world that too often honors the payoff more than the process. So I would like to focus on a question that graduates may be asking themselves. How does one define success?

 

You may think that question is pretty ironic coming from the son of one of the richest people in the world. But, actually, it might just make me an expert on the subject. You see, my dad, Warren Buffett, is the poster person for the question. He has all the money anyone could ever want. But buying more objects wouldn't make him happier than he is already — doing what he loves. If success is defined by material possessions or one's bank statement, success then is fleeting.

 

Personal passions

 

But if success is measured in personal accomplishments — Are you living up to your unique potential? Is there passion and originality in your life and work? Is there fundamental value in what you're trying to achieve? — it can never be taken away. In short, success should be defined by the substance of what you're doing. To paraphrase my father, "Do you tap dance to work?"

 

And if one is fortunate enough to achieve substantial financial success, how much is enough? What are today's Wall Street titans and CEOs spending their bonus money on and, more important, why are they spending it the way they do? Their need to line their pockets speaks to the larger issues of personal responsibility, moral bankruptcy and the need to fill some bottomless hole in their personal psyches.

 

Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said, "America has been a schizophrenic personality." This country was largely built on dominating and exploiting, so it is no wonder that this behavior is now in the fabric of our banks and corporations.

 

Listen to inner voice

 

I hope the message students hear this year is attuned to their own inner voice. It's the voice that tells us the world is made up of relationships, which, if nurtured and respected, leave everyone better off.

 

My parents instilled in me the belief that I could be anything, but not that I could do anything I pleased. They showed me that I lived in an interconnected world in which everyone has something to teach everyone else and that my actions mattered because they had an impact, often in ways I might not see or understand. By listening to the voices of others, I would learn more about myself.

 

We are indeed living in times in which too many people have erroneously decided that their only interest is financial gain and material accumulation, and that it is acceptable to leave nothing of social value in their wake.

 

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, "You can't solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew." All graduates have the ability to see the world anew, to place their best values at the forefront of their lives and create a more just and equitable world in which success is measured by what we create for each other.

 

This generation has the opportunity to create families and build communities that are founded on real trust and can support business leaders and politicians who look them in the eye and say, "We are here because of you, so we will honor your needs and protect what you hold most dear. And, most important, we will make sure future generations are left with a better world." That is success. And that is enough.

 

Peter Buffett, a composer, is author of Life Is What You Make It.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

'NOT GUILTY'

 

Surely, no one who was not personally and intimately involved in the nationally publicized ordeal that Mrs. Tonya Craft has experienced over the past two years can even begin to imagine the anguish she has been through.

 

As a Chickamauga, Ga., kindergarten te acher, she was charged in 2008 with child molestation involving three

children. But this week, after a month-long trial, a jury ruled she was "not guilty" on all 22 counts that she had faced.

 

While awaiting that decision, she had lost custody of her own two children. And she had lost her job.

 

She insisted she was innocent. But it took two years and a lengthy trial under public scrutiny before the verdict was rendered.

 

Indelible scars surely will remain, for Mrs. Craft and for many others involved.

The "not guilty" verdict ended the trial -- but not the many kinds of trauma that many will continue to suffer.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

LIBERTY BELL AWARD TO FAIRBANKS

 

A fine public recognition that the Chattanooga Bar Association gives annually to a "non-lawyer" is the Liberty Bell Award. It spotlights an outstanding citizen whose unselfish community service has strengthened our system of law.

 

This year the Liberty Bell Award was given to Skipper Fairbanks.

 

Mr. Fairbanks, a graduate of the University of Chattanooga, served as a probation officer for the U.S. District Court for East Tennessee for 28 years before his retirement.

 

He also taught and coached at Red Bank Middle School, where he was named Middle School Football Coach of the Year four times and Baseball Coach of the Year five times. He has been a longtime member of Red Bank Methodist Church, where he has taught Sunday School for more than half a century.

 

Mr. Fairbanks has been an outstanding member of our community and of great service to countless young people and many others.

 

He deserves congratulations for his service, and his Liberty Bell Award

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

REP. WAMP'S CONSERVATIVE RECORD

 

Congressman Zach Wamp of our 3rd Congressional District is surely one of the most diligent and dependable members of Congress. Now his outstanding and sound service has been recognized nationally by the American Conservative Union.

 

Rep. Wamp has been rated as voting a sound 96 percent conservative record in Congress last year. (In 2003, he was one of only two congressmen with a 100 percent rating.)

 

Rep. Wamp is a fine gentleman who works hard as our representative, attending to the individual concerns of his constituents and voting sensibly on the big issues that confront all members of Congress, and us all.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

FANNIE, FREDDIE TAB: $145 BILLION!

 

So far, the American taxpayer is on the hook for $145 billion worth of bailouts to federal-government-created and government-subsidized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

 

Those federal mortgage organizations played a big role in the housing crisis by loosening their lending rules. Many Americans with poor credit got mortgages they should not have been able to get at all. And many who might have had good enough credit for a small mortgage were allowed to borrow much more than they should have.

 

Lots of borrowers have since lost their homes to foreclosure, and many more are likely to lose their homes in coming months.

 

But incredibly, as Congress seeks to reform the financial system, mismanaged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are getting a pass. They continue to lose money hand over fist, recently saying they need an additional $8.4 billion from taxpayers.

 

Unfortunately, it appears they will get that -- and much more. The Obama administration originally said it would cover Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's losses up to "only" $400 billion. But then administration officials said unlimited losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be covered -- and that it is too soon to consider reforming them.

 

That only adds to the federal government's irresponsibility where Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are concerned.

 

Members of Congress pressured the companies to accept risky mortgages. The goal was to promote "fairness" to borrowers with poor credit. But when warnings were issued about that mountain of dangerous debt, congressional liberals kept charging ahead, demanding more "affordable housing" and more "fairness." They said there was no crisis at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and they accused those who were concerned about the situation of exaggerating.

 

Those members of Congress have never been held to account for their poor judgment. And now, even when the disaster to which they contributed is plain for all to see, many show little interest in real reform.

 

Does that give you confidence that our nation's leaders are doing what must be done to get us out of the mortgage mess and put us on a sound path to prosperity?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

A SUBSIDY FOR TERRORISTS

 

The United States has allies with whom we share a number of economic or other interests. Those shared interests foster trade and other mutually beneficial policies between countries, and there is nothing wrong with that so far as it goes.

 

But even with our closest allies, our interests are not always the same. That is why we have our own Constitution and laws -- so we may set the policies that are in our best interest as a sovereign nation.

 

European nations, however, have unwisely surrendered some of their sovereignty to unaccountable international courts. The danger of doing that hit home recently in Britain, after British officials tried to put limits on welfare benefits going to the families of terrorism suspects. The recipients were required to account for their spending, to make sure taxpayer dollars were not providing funds that potentially violent fanatics could use to commit terrorist acts.

 

But then the so-called "European Court of Justice" stepped in. The court said it was unlawful for Britain to set such rules, because the benefits were low enough that surely they would not be used for terrorism rather than for a family's legitimate needs. The court ordered Britain to remove the restrictions. Not only that, but the court's decision applies across the entire European Union.

 

In effect, the court is providing a taxpayer-funded subsidy for likely terrorists.

 

"Once again British taxpayers are having to fork out because of a decision made by meddling and unaccountable European courts," a spokesman for a British taxpayers' group told the Daily Mail newspaper in London. "The British government are the people we elect to decide how to spend our money, not some European court."

 

As Britain is learning the hard way, there is a high price to pay when a nation surrenders its sovereignty to foreign bodies.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

GORDON BROWN: A POLITICIAN FOR A BYGONE AGE

BY MADELEINE BUNTING

 

The irony was, of course, that the man who has so struggled to convey his personal strengths to the electorate, finally did so in his last few moments in Downing Street. There was humility in his reference to his own "frailties"; there was warmth in his lavish praise for Downing Street staff; there was gratitude to his wife and sons and there was his enduring fascination with one particular human characteristic -- courage -- and how he had seen it in the eyes of soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

 

Even hardened hacks -- the ones who have so vilified him in recent days for doing no more than his constitutional duty in staying in Downing Street -- acknowledge that his manner of leaving was elegant, dignified and full of humanity. A humanity which their coverage has never acknowledged. This was a man in whom the flaws and the strengths were both writ large. He was a politician for a bygone age in which political leaders were allowed their failings; in which public opinion recognized that the enormous strains of high office inevitably attracted the driven, the obsessed, the power-hungry and inflated their shortcomings while it stretched their skills and talents.


Gordon Brown's political career has proved tragic -- and the tragedy is as much of the nature of our political culture as of an individual. In the end, his intelligence, principle, determination, and a commitment to social justice were weighed in the balance and found wanting for a public that wanted the kind of likeability and smooth people skills of the salesman, the polished public school presentation skills of Tony Blair, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.


There is no reason -- or need -- to like one's elected leaders until Blair laid down a new job requirement for No. 10. It is an expectation that Clement Attlee never had to negotiate. Great politicians are those who have the courage to make the right decisions, and Brown undeniably had precisely those qualities at a crucial moment in recent history when he played a key role in averting a financial meltdown. Ever since the direction of Labour policy was to avert the terrible price of a generation lost to unemployment such as Margaret Thatcher presided over in the early 80s.


Unlike Blair, Brown will not now slip off to lucrative jobs with financial institutions. It is a measure of the man that we believe his comments that he would work in the charitable sector if he does, indeed, leave politics. His commitment to public service has never been narcissistic, but driven by his intense Presbyterian sense of duty. His has been an old-fashioned faith much misunderstood and much despised in an age of narcissism.


This is all for the history books now, but it is important that Labour understands its own history because that is part of how it will explain its future. A media have hounded a principled, if flawed, public servant. Now he's gone perhaps they can begin to consider whether any human being can match up to their grossly inflated expectations.

(Source: The Guardian)

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

GLOBAL SOUTH WILL MAKE ITS VOICE HEARD AT G15 SUMMIT

BY OUR STAFF WRITER

 

Leaders from Latin America, Africa, and Asia will be in Tehran for the G15 summit on May 17, which shows that the claims that Iran is isolated are untrue.

 

The Group of 15, a group of 18 developing countries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, was set up to foster cooperation and provide input for other international groups.


It is comprised of Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.


The G15 meeting comes at a time when U.S. and British officials are incessantly chanting the "international community is against Iran's nuclear program" chorus and are scrambling to gain the support of UN Security Council, members including Russia and China, for a new round of sanctions against Iran.


But the participation of Brazil, a great economic power in Latin America, which the U.S. used to call its backyard, has surely frazzled nerves in Washington.


To win Brazil's support in the campaign against Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Brasilia in early March. However, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim rebuffed her, saying that Brazil would not bow to pressure from Washington to support sanctions against Iran.


And Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said, "I want for Iran the same thing as I wish for Brazil: To use the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. If Iran is in agreement with that, Iran will have Brazil's support."


These developments and statements indicate that Iran is not isolated and is actually finding more new friends as far away as Latin America.


Though the G15 members have different views and interests, they have one thing in common, i.e., they want to create a change in the global system, which currently favors the old great powers.


Creating a change, especially in the global trade system, was the philosophy behind the establishment of the group.

With the passage of time, some developing countries like India and Brazil have emerged as important players in terms of economic and political clout and found a greater voice on the international stage. India and Brazil are even seeking permanent seats on the UN Security Council.


And the number of countries expressing dissatisfaction about the current global system is rising.


For example, earlier this month at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in New York, Iran, a country which strongly advocates a revision of the international order, put forward an 11-point proposal for safeguarding the rights of countries to access nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes.

Though the G15 mainly focuses on economic issues, the members surely know that all areas of the current global system must be changed in order to realize the goals of developing countries.


The G15 countries account for a large proportion of the world population and each has great potential, which provides an opportunity for cooperation within the group and with other developing countries outside the group.

For example, certain members, like Malaysia, India, Brazil, and Iran, are emerging technologically and can share their expertise to help fulfill the needs of other members to some extent.


The G15 summit in Tehran will certainly strengthen South-South cooperation and help efforts to establish a Global South power bloc to counterbalance the hegemonistic ambitions of the old great powers.


The Global South will make its voice heard at the G15 summit in Tehran.

           

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - 'FISCAL RULE' ALONE NO RULE AT ALL

 

By and large, we can only express our relief and offer praise to the government's decision we reported yesterday to target 1 percent of GDP as a public deficit goal as part of the development of a so-called "fiscal rule." This bit of jargon refers to what is essentially Turkey's "post-IMF strategy," the embrace of locally imposed discipline on flagrant spending to substitute for the discipline imposed in the old days by the international lending institution regularly called in to bail us out.

 

This is a serious promise of self-discipline. Let's not forget the European Union's celebrated "Stability and Growth Pact" signed in Maastrict two decades ago envisioned a cap on all members of 3 percent of GDP. With the exception of Germany, most EU nations have failed to restrain themselves within this cap. Failure to do so is central to the meltdown we are now witnessing in Greece, where bailing out that economy and containing its viral spread has just prompted the EU (with the IMF) to cobble together a comprehensive rescue of nearly $1 trillion.

 

So as we watch with the whitest of knuckles the events across the Aegean, this signal from Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan is welcome indeed.

 

We also welcome this step as a form of inoculation against another disease in the air. This is the recurring virus that assumes that we residents of Europe's "southern tier" are somehow culturally incapable of balancing our own books. This mildly offensive thesis comes in various forms: the Protestants vs. everyone else, the north vs. the south, the heirs to rich agricultural land vs. those whose economic cultures were influenced by rocky soils. However you construct the argument, it is nonsense. So we are glad to see a form of an answer coming so directly and strongly from Babacan.

 

But we also share the concerns expressed yesterday by Güngör Uras, one of Turkey's most esteemed economists and a columnist in our sister newspaper Milliyet. A cumbersome translation of his argument would be that this fiscal rule will "please aunt Moody's but will disappoint aunt Ayşe."

 

The well-taken point is that policies undertaken strictly with an eye to pleasing international financiers, necessary to keep the flow of foreign investment coming, should not ignore the needs of the unemployed, the sick, the elderly and others at the margins of Turkey's economy. We would like, for example, to see the fiscal rule policies coupled with a competitiveness strategy, an area where Turkey lags seriously behind Europe. Turkey lacks an energy policy, other than plans to dam as many rivers as possible and make a quick nuclear deal with Russia. Our education policy is a shambles and a technology policy has eluded us.

 

So let's move on with a tight fiscal rule. And support it with all the rest that is deserved by a modern society.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

A FAMILY STORY WITHIN MIDDLE EAST'S 'UNTOLD STORY'

ARAS COŞKUNTUNCEL

 

Ramzy Baroud's "My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story" will become a classic piece of literature about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through powerful language and stories rife with humor that subtly call to mind the bigger issue at hand.

 

Baroud dialectically combines his family's story and modern Palestinian history through inductive and deductive logic by relating his family's story as the story of the Palestinian people and by making the Arab-Israeli issue a family matter.

 

With this method, the history of Baroud's family and Palestine becomes one inseparable body. Baroud's heartbreaking story should be told, and by the power of the story and its language we understand the outright atrocities committed by Israel and the political and the cultural scene in Palestine.

 

Baroud's story starts in Beit Daras, a small, peaceful village north of Gaza that, like so many others, fell victim to Israel's massacres. He continues with refugee camps, war, occupation and resistance while focusing on the life of his father, Mohammed, whose story epitomizes that of the Palestinian people.

 

Mohammed was only 9 years old when "the Zionist military campaign to take over Palestine rolled into action. No one … was to foresee the atrocities that followed: the uneven war, the dispossession, the massacres, the betrayal, and the lifelong suffering." Through all this, while everyone suffered, the "children hardly understood why their lives would be forever altered."

 

Mohammed's tale is an epic story of daily life in Palestine with humor, anger, love, war, tragedy and resistance woven around the themes of life and death. It's a tragic journey. It's a story about power struggles that shape the region and the world, a story that should be read to understand the present, to understand imperialism and to acknowledge the truth.

 

The British mandate, the 1948 war, the Israeli occupation and brutality, Zionism, the Arab world and the Nasser revolution, the Six-Day War, U.S.-Israeli relations, Muslim brotherhood, Fatah, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Intifada, the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas - one becomes a part of the others as Mohammed's journey leads you from sadness and anger to laughter and honor.

 

As he eloquently describes, Baroud's moment of transformation came as a direct result of history, his father's history, his mother's history and the history of his people.

 

"Engulfed by my own rebellious feelings, I picked up another stone, and a third. I moved forward, even as bullets flew, even as my friends began falling all around me. I could finally articulate who I was, and for the first time on my own terms. My name was Ramzy, and I was the son of Mohammed, a freedom fighter from Nuseirat, who was driven out of his village of Beit Daras, and a grandson of a peasant who died with a broken heart and was buried beside the grave of my brother, a little boy who died because there was no medicine in the refugee camp's U.N. clinic. My mother was Zarefah, a refugee who couldn't spell her name, whose illiteracy was compensated for by a heart overflowing with love for her children and her people, a woman who had the patience of a prophet. I was a free boy; in fact, I was a free man."

 

This book - Mohammed's story - has no end: It's another beginning, a story that is and will be written every day

by every "freedom fighter" as a symbol for all until every Beit Daras is returned to its rightful owners. This and only this will lead to a better, fair, livable and honorable world.

 

* Aras Coşkuntuncel is Foreign News Editor at the Daily News. He can be reached at aras.coskuntuncel@hurriyet.com.tr

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

EROSPOLIS: NOT SO CONSTANT?

 

The video was the first living proof that Mr. Baykal was engaged in some positive action other than a bitter verbal exchange and that he was capable of bonding with someone rather than staying aloof and resisting all alliances

 

Erospolis strongly believes that politicians should be ousted because they disappoint/deceive the voters, not because they deceive their wives.

 

One could hardly imagine a woman divorcing her husband because he is a lousy prime minister/party leader/minister and failed to fulfill his promises to the public; so why would we ever expect a politician to resign because he cheated on his wife?

 

In all honesty, Erospolis prefers politicians who have a wandering eye and a love life to those who do not. That is precisely why the heroes of this column include François Mitterrand, JFK, Clinton, Joschka Fischer … and, of course, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

 

Therefore, it is no surprise that there is now a group called "I have seen the video of Baykal, my vote now goes to the Republican People's Party [CHP]," on Facebook. The public is hardly as puritan as some of us would like to believe – had it been so, the municipality chairs around Anatolia would have been empty.

 

For many urbanite libertines, the dark, amateurish video that showed Mr. Baykal in flagrante with his ex-chef de cabinet and new deputy was a sign that there was some potency left in the Constant Opposition Leader. Putting aside the possibility of a fake tape, or montage, it was the first living proof that Mr. Baykal was engaged in some positive action other than a bitter verbal exchange and that he was capable of bonding with someone rather than staying aloof and resisting all alliances

 

So, Mr. Baykal had been in a bizarre situation: he had the macho vote; he had the support of those who believed that the "camera jokes" had become no laughing matter; and he got the female sympathy, by those who finally saw something soft in his Vulcanic exterior. Not that Mr. Baykal would never get popular again, but at least now, he had a shot.

 

Then, of course, he had to go and spoil it by resigning!

 

'Cherchez la femme'

 

One would imagine that the country would be delighted that the man whom they blamed for the downward vote of CHP was now out of the game!

 

But no, it was not the "what" but the "how" that caused problems.

 

"I do not want Baykal to go down in political history as a dignified politician who resigned because of an indiscretion," said a friend, one of those who say, "This is the last time I ever vote for CHP" after each election. "I want him to be ousted by his party because he lost his party and the country to the Justice and Development Party."

 

"It is amazing how a single woman managed to do what the whole Turkey could not," quipped another.

"Have you seen the video? Can you send it over?" asked a friend and I replied that I had no intention of contributing to the spread of the silly video that basically shows nothing compromising, except two semi-naked, aging bodies, a man in boxers putting on socks and a woman making the bed afterwards. But, as the video says, this is only part I and there is more to come.

 

Erospolis worst quote award

 

 "We are very saddened that Mr. Baykal did not deny the affair," said the prime minister, in still another bad quote.

 

I am not. I am very happy that he has not taken the early-Clintonese tones of feeble denial.

 

And it should come as no shock to the prime minister that there are people who prefer having affairs to having three children.

 

Last word: Erospolis does not even raise eyebrows to the love affair. It does, however, object to Mr. Baykal's easy way out by resignation at a critical time for his party and for the country.

 

Last, last word: But if you have taken the easy way as you often do Mr. Baykal, don't come back. If you do, this would make the whole thing even shadier than that silly video. 

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

SOCIAL MEDIA: FROM THE HOT LISTS TO THE OIL SPILL

ERSUN ABLAK

 

Long ago, Conan O'Brien decided to follow only one person permanently for the rest of his Twitter days. The selection turned into a big publicity campaign. On March 5 he announced his decision, "I've decided to follow someone at random. She likes peanut butter and gummy dinosaurs. Sarah Killen, your life is about to change." Indeed Killen became a famous Internet figure just minutes later he made the announcement. However, O'Brien realized that something was wrong when he had more than one person on his following list three days ago. He was very upset and said: "Twitter exploded today! I guess my dream of a world where Twitter runs our stock market, phones, and nuclear defense is still a ways off."

 

O'Brien was not the only one. There were other famous people who were in dismay. Kim Kardashian announced that her account was hacked in her own words: "Someone hacked my twitter account and direct-messaged me! They have added over 200 new people! Ughhhhh." Later on, she even gave the name of the person that she accused of hacking her profile and her 3.5 million followers began sending him hate mails at once. The person who was accused is a university student in Ankara and he tried to answer all the hate mail explaining that he didn't hack anything but this was the last Tweet he sent after he realized that there is no way to fight back: "Enough!! Yeah I hacked her account with my AK-47 while I was riding my camel."

 

There were two waves. First many people realized that they were following people who they didn't want to follow, than they saw that both the number of the people who follow them and the number of the people whom they were following were both reduced to 0.

 

The rumor that a Turkish hacker was behind everything quickly spread and even Ashton Kutcher said, "Twitter is being hacked by some Turkish hacker. haha I have 0 followers," to his 5 million followers. Others quickly adopted this idea. Jim Carrey was part of the discussion by saying, "Imagine if this hacker put his/her talent 2 some worthy use. They could 1 day have more than a false sense of superiority." On the other hand Justin Bieber threatened, saying, "Hackers i send a warning...u have now pissed off over 2 million teenage girls. They are more dangerous than Navy Seals," and was calling Chuck Norris to help: only CHUCK NORRIS can save us now.

 

Suddenly out of no where millions were talking about how Turkish hackers destroyed Twitter. If you believe that there is no good or bad publicity than Turkey was doing better than everything for about a day or so.

 

However, in reality, nothing was hacked. It was merely a bug in Twitter software that thousands of people exploited at the same time. A Turkish person claims that he found out about the bug. He says that he just wanted to tweet about a group called Accept and wrote on Twitter accept pwnz. Just a second later he saw that a Twitter user named pwnz began to follow him. That was the moment when he began making the rich and famous follow him. Later on, a friend of his sent the information about it to mashable (one of the most popular blogs on technology) and then all hell broke loose on Twitter. The engineers working for Twitter shut down the system and reset accounts when they realized the bug was spreading like wildfire. That's why people saw that they had 0 followers for a short while.

 

When everything went back to normal people calmed down and go on tweeting about regular things such as Kim Kardashian announcing: "Wow! Number 9 on the Maxim Hot 100! Thank you Maxim!" In the net age we are so ready to fall into chaos because everything seems granted and once the systems function again we forget about the calamities that a few hours ago seemed to shake our world.

 

However, NASA found out a creative method to use this to really help to overcome problems that really could turn our world upside down. Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico brought together NASA, the U.S. government, BP, local authorities and volunteers together on the social media application. There have been oil spills before but none were being watched so closely. A crowdsourcing technology called Ushahidi, originally developed to track election violence in Kenya, is employing the distributed reporting tool to let local citizens help track the fallout from the rig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 

 

NASA is posting pictures as they take them on other applications and volunteers organize their work according to all the information gathered. Soon people realized that the disaster was five times greater than the government agencies expected. Since the information quickly spread around the social networks, Obama government had to do something about it. This is the reason why they decided to propose "breaking up the agency responsible for both policing the oil industry and acting as its partner in drilling activities, seeking to end a decades-old relationship between industry and government that has proved highly profitable – and some say too cozy – for both," according to NY Times.

 

Whether use it to WOW the Maxim Hot List or to put pressure on the governments about various policies, social media is here for you.

 

ersu.ablak@konakmedya.com

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

BAYKAL DOES NOT WINK AT ANYONE

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

 

This is turning into a national activity.

 

Will Baykal return or externally contribute to the CHP?

 

According to some, Baykal would wink and play the victim. He would get on society's nerve. He would plan on returning upon broad request. And there is such a campaign with respect to this.

 

I also talked to Deniz Baykal but to tell the truth I did not have that impression.

 

He stated very clearly that he believes a new period has to start in the CHP. He even talked about how he can be helpful to the new team.

 

Deniz Baykal was convincing to me. His rules are very different. We are not able to think like a political leader. Before you know it, everything I said may just change in two weeks time.

 

I think it shouldn't.

 

I think Baykal should not head his party as wounded as he as right now. Baykal should not hit the stage before the entire conspiracy, including the contents of the said tape, are uncovered.

 

As long as he appears hurt in the eyes of the public he'll just get battered and bruised by his competitors.

 

Turkey needs an effective, trustworthy and dynamic opposition. The issue stirs from the fact that no strong opposition was formed.

 

The duty of the CHP organization is to consciously reorganize itself instead of acting confused.

 

An exam period started for the CHP

 

Some of the CHP members are still in a shock. They can't believe Deniz Baykal resigned. They keep their hopes high that their leader will return because a delegation started to collect signatures.

 

I think this time Deniz Baykal took a decision that makes it impossible for him to return. I don't think Baykal would like to be a candidate returning, saying, "What can I do? My people want me."

 

I may be wrong but I don't deem it likely.

 

I witnessed Baykal's former retreat. But this time everything is different. He is on a one-way street.

 

Now the CHP is entering a brand new period. The fate of the party will be determined after a new leader has been appointed and after upcoming elections have taken place.

 

The first scenario is the CHP in all maturity appointing a leader that everybody can adapt to and continuing on its path. This will ensure a rise from its ashes thus a brand new CHP will emerge.

 

The second scenario is a split of the party into fractions, thus a weak leader. This would mean that just as the CHP signals to get itself together it would fade away.

 

That is why I think the CHP is taking a maturity exam. Let's see if this party has been a party carried on shoulders by Deniz Baykal or one that derives its strength from its delegates and leading team.

 

This general assembly needs to be postponed

 

There is such a chaos and confusion that nothing can be handled by May 22. If the party really intends to appoint a new leader it needs more time.

 

No one speaks of a candidate.

 

And no one comes forth talking about a leadership.

 

Some circles emit so much fear that people are afraid to be misunderstood in case they speak.

 

Everybody has taken his guard and remotely contemplates. There is a great tension and the reason is that those who express their interest in candidacy know if they say, "I want to be a candidate," then they'll be accused of ingratitude, treason and other bad deeds.

 

That's not politics. Senior party members should pave the way for new candidates. Even encourage them. They should not derive a different meaning out of some sentences by Deniz Baykal and prepare different politics. For, Deniz Baykal is not working on a conspiracy to come back. Read and understand this person well.

 

Under these circumstances they cannot go before the general assembly. Even if they did there wouldn't be any result obtained. With a little bit of fear and feelings of attachment Baykal would be announced a candidate. Then try and sort it out. With such a possibility the party cannot get stronger.

 

But the right thing to do would be to postpone the general assembly to take place May 22 and prepare suitable grounds for candidates to encourage them to come forth.

 

But this decision can only be made by Deniz Baykal and those who presently lead the party

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

WHICH FRAME WILL BEAT THE OTHER?

HALUK ŞAHİN

 

I frequently write that in the media era how an incident is framed by the press and power centers could be more important than the incident itself. Different frames create different comments and cause different reactions.

 

The "incident" because of which the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal resigned a few days ago is a good example. As far as I see, at least three frames are competing:

 

Conspiracy frame: At a very critical conjuncture, the leader of the main opposition party has been framed, according to this theory. As he was ready to launch a referendum campaign against the constitutional amendment package that can change democratic balances in the country, the best orator of the opposition wing, a veteran strategist and the most popular media figure has been trapped. This is a sign of how much the government, and the internal and external powers it depends on, rate the popular vote.

 

Timing also proves the very same thing: The tape could've been held in hand to blackmail the CHP leader in the long run. But it was rushed into service to reach a result shortly. Timing of the service may be linked either with the CHP general convention or the referendum campaign. Baykal was preparing the easiest convention of his political career and it is out of the question to push him out of the game by such a conspiracy frame. Therefore, this must have been directly linked with the prospective popular vote on the constitutional amendment package.

 

Arrangement frame: The pro-AKP groups including Taraf daily suggest this is an arrangement frame. The odd thing is that Baykal himself used the word "arrangement" in his resignation speech, though he meant differently.

 

According to the followers of this theory, several groups, or rather "deep" organizations, more precisely the Ergenekon gang, decided that Baykal was unsuccessful to stop the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and take the CHP to the government. Therefore, such organizations pushed the button to replace Baykal with a somewhat more effective person. Time is running out as the AKP reaches all its targets one by one and some circles are getting impatient. So, it was time to play social engineering and Baykal became the first victim of such an arrangement frame.

 

Sex scandal: Foreign media see the incident through a most familiar frame for them, a sex scandal. Since they do not regularly follow sensitive atmosphere in Turkey, international media reduces this to the simplest from and naturally use this is an extra-marital affair of a politician. And I am sure that they attracted more readers by that.

 

But in Turkey people do not dwell upon such an aspect: This is perhaps lack of information, perhaps moral

reservations or perhaps culturally… The Mediterranean societies, compared to "puritan" U.S., are known to give quite different reactions to sex scandals.

 

Which frame will beat the others?

 

Apparently, Baykal whose professional background focuses on political behaviors sees this issue as part of the conspiracy frame. For now, discussions revolve around not "what kind of a conspiracy" but "who is involved in it." If this is really a conspiracy, Baykal may come back as a glorious party leader.

 

However, one should be very naive to believe that the conspiracy framers, whoever they are, will not pull another string.

 

Let's follow the news.

 

* Haluk Şahin is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece appeared on Wednesday. It was translated into English by staff at the Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

ANCHORING TO RUSSIA

YUSUF KANLI

 

For many years Turkey has been sparing no effort to become the energy hub for the rotors of Western Europe in hopes that such a development would anchor this country more firmly with the West and help its bid to join in the European Union as a full member even though many members of the European club of democracies was not so comfortable with that idea.

 

Turkey consolidating its relations with Russia, increasing the capacity of existing pipelines and laying new pipelines that will carry Russian oil and gas to European markets might paradoxically help Turkey come closer with Europe, or help Turkey become an indispensable country for the European economies.

 

Replacing old antagonisms of the Cold War era, a competition for influence over the republics of Central Asian and the Caucasus with increased economic and commercial cooperation, intense political consultations and opening new avenues of cooperation, such as nuclear technology for civilian purposes, is of course in the best interest of the two countries. Over the past decade Russia, thanks mostly to Turkey's energy imports, has become the most important economic partner of Turkey.

 

Signing of some 20 new agreements and protocols between Turkey and Russia will of course usher relations between these two countries into an advanced new stage. Particularly the agreement to waive visa requirements for nationals of the two countries to visit the other country – even though visas will be lifted for visits up to a month – will help increase further interaction between the two nations, help businesses establish easier and firmer links. For Russian citizens it was easy to obtain visas valid for two months at arrival gates, but for Turks it was a pain to obtain visas to visit Russia. Eradication of this problem will of course help boost tourism potentials as well as business-to-business contacts.

 

The joint pledge of visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his host President Abdullah Gül that the two countries would work to increase bilateral trade volume to around 100 billion dollars in the next five years demonstrate the existence of the political will in both countries to further bring the former Cold War era rivals closer economically, as well as politically.

 

Indeed, high on the agenda of the two countries are some new energy projects, including a pipeline that could pump Russian oil from Turkey's Black Sea coast to the Mediterranean and construction of Turkey's first nuclear power plant with Russian assistance.

 

The other side of the coin

 

Naturally the target to boost several fold the present bilateral trade volume between the two countries and reach the targeted 1000 billion dollars volume within the next five years is just great.

 

Yet, contrary to the past (1987) deal between the two countries according to which Turkey was to pay up to 70 percent of its energy imports from Russia with exports to that country, contracts signed after 1987 included no such clause and the ratio of Turkish exports to Russia covering Turkish imports from Russia has dropped as low as 7 percent producing an enormous trade deficit for Turkey.

 

Now, even though Russia has agreed to a decrease in the price of natural gas it is exporting to Turkey, the new deals signed with Russia include no reference to a payback of imports from Russia with Turkish exports to that country.

 

Worst, Turkey is presently at least 60 percent dependent on Russia regarding its energy requirements. Right, Russia has been proudly declaring that it has never ever betrayed the pledges it has made to its commercial partners but one cannot stop remembering the cold winters Ukraine was compelled to suffer. Of course no single party could be taken solely responsible of a problem that arises between two or more parties to that issue. As they say two needed for tango.

 

Now, with the signing of the memorandum authorizing Russia to build and operate a nuclear power station in

Turkey – the first of this country – Turkey will increase its energy dependence on Russia. Would it not be wiser for Turkey to give the "build-operate-transfer" contract of its first nuclear power station to a country other than Russia to which this country so heavily dependent in meeting its energy needs?

 

What if Turkey encounters some political problems with Russia and Moscow decides to use the energy card to force Ankara agree to some bitter compromises that it would otherwise categorically reject?

 

Of course Turkey should enhance its economic, political as well as social contacts with our neighbor Russia, but should not Turkey try to diversify its energy sources?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

WHAT'S GOING ON IN TURKEY? (III)

CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER

 

This is the third piece of a series. As I've been trying to explain for the last three days, Turkey is now seeing the final stage of the "power struggle" that has been continuing since the establishment of the Republic.

 

The struggle is between the "military-civilian bureaucratic elite," who insists on "modern life" and doesn't let go off what they gained at the beginning, and the "conservatives" who resist the "principles of revolution" which address appearance rather than mental change.

 

The former consists of people having "laicism sensitivity" and the latter of "religious sensitivity."

 

This struggle will continue until they satisfy with their share in economic, political and social life. Until then no one will fight for "democracy."

 

The "modern lie" was dominant until recently and making impositions owing to "military-bureaucratic tutelage."

 

But the late President Turgut Özal challenged balances. As the conservatives got stronger to finance politics, they openly challenged the elite.

 

Özal tried to establish a balance between two sides but the current leadership of conservatism says, "Now, it is our turn."

 

The governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's leadership exerts efforts to break-up the "military-bureaucrat tutelage" and bring "civilian tutelage" in as a replacement.

 

The AKP acknowledges that the power struggle continues in Turkey and does politics accordingly.

 

But the real fight is to leave the periphery to "modern life" and move the "conservative life style" into the center! It is a must to move out "modernists" from the center.

 

For that, not only being in the government but also being in control of the state is necessary.

 

Through the Ergenekon gang case the military took a blow and through the constitutional amendment package the bureaucracy will take a blow.

 

As the Kurdish initiative turned null-and-void, "making the closure of political parties more difficult" was interrupted, but with the government still running after structural changes in the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK. They say "No" to the 1982 Constitution, but stick with the Higher Education Board, or YÖK, and the Justice Minister's being the chairman of the HSYK, which both are by-products of the 1982 Constitution. For the AKP as well as other political power centers protects the law however it suits to them and tries to modify those they are not happy with.

 

The Venice Criteria making difficult to party closure is the AKP's number one trump-card, but overlooks the criterion criticizing the 10 percent national election threshold!

 

My objection is that the AKP as well is away from democracy like the military-bureaucratic elite whom they try to beat up. But I do try to understand the AKP.

 

This is the way of the power struggle!

 

There is no conciliation in war. Conciliation is at issue only if balances are settled after the war.

 

There will be no conciliation in Turkey for a long time because sides are not ready to accept their economic, political and social share.

 

One side is trying to protect what they have and the other to get whatever has been kept away from them.

 

I certainly do not think a "No" will come out of the popular vote for the constitutional amendment package. What will be voted are not "articles" but who sides with whom in this power struggle!

 

I believe the "Yes" percentage will be higher than the AKP's standing percentage of votes today.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

GRAND COVER-UP?

Power of course has many advantages. This is especially true in the case of individuals who may have a great deal to hide. Our interior minister of course ranks among them. There is no secret in this. Details of past misdemeanours by Mr Malik have been listed in more than one publication and in TV talk shows. The past is here to stay. But it appears Mr Malik has not grasped this fact and has, according to a report in this publication, been misusing his position as minister to stage a cover-up. Documents pertaining to wrongdoings by Mr Malik have vanished. Officially we are told they have been `misplaced` and a process of `reconstruction` is now under way. It is not hard to imagine what will emerge from this. The `new` file, if one is indeed slotted in to the relevant cabinet, is unlikely to resemble the one taken away. Far worse is the harassment of officials taking place in the FIA who in any way acted against Mr Malik at various points. Pensions have been stopped, threats made. Indeed the ferocity of the campaign has angered officials and motivated some to make their grievances public. Others outside government have not been spared. A private party which had 15 years ago brought a case against Mr Malik for seizing land has withdrawn the FIR. The circumstances in which this happened are not difficult to conjure up.


We have here a basic question. Since 2008, when Mr Malik was assigned duties for the interior, he has acted to make many of the government`s actions questionable. In many cases, he has been found to be economical with the truth; numerous acts of terrorism, preceded by blatant breaches of security, have taken place under his nose. Criminal activities of all kinds have increased. Yet Mr Malik remains a favoured member of the `kitchen cabinet` set up in the presidency. There is no move to have him step down. This is despite the fact that some senior members of government at least must realise, if they are at all in touch with reality, how much damage Mr Malik is inflicting on the set-up in Islamabad. This is arrogance of power at its worst. The latest deeds by the interior minister will only add to the faltering reputation of the government. It seems that some people within it are bent on ensuring that as much damage as possible is caused. Will we see any kind of attempt to rid us all of these elements? It seems not. And this is our tragedy.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN-INDIA TALKS

 

The doves can again be seen in the skies after a long period during which the hawks had prevented them from fluttering a feather. The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, after a detailed talk over the telephone, have agreed to meet in Islamabad in the middle of July. This is indeed a breakthrough that could help resume the peace process interrupted by the 2008 acts of terrorism that left 166 people dead in Mumbai. It is possible that recent peace initiatives, including the `Aman ki Asha` effort, helped create some of the goodwill that encouraged moves seen at the official level. Certainly the meetings that brought people together, including those from the media, did no harm at all.


Shah Mehmood Qureshi has stated that terrorism will figure as a key issue in the talks. We know this is essential. If the matter is not tackled we run the risk of seeing another episode, such as that in 2008, throwing the dialogue effort into a nosedive. To avoid this, the question of militancy needs to be dealt with. The matter of Kashmir stands at the centre of this. It may not be possible to immediately open up discussion on the territorial dispute that has for over six decades held up good relations between New Delhi and Islamabad. But as high-level talks resume, both countries would do well to keep in mind that moving towards a resolution is essential to lasting peace. Necessary confidence-building measures may be adopted ahead of broaching the Kashmir issue, but in the final analysis it is this region which acts to generate militancy. We can hope for a lasting era of security and stability only when a fair settlement has been reached.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

HOLD YOUR BREATH

 

The landscape of British politics has altered radically in the last thirty-six hours. For the first time in 70 years the UK has a coalition government, a partnership between the Conservatives who won the greatest number of seats but not enough for a parliamentary majority, and the Liberal Democrats who came in third in the race but who ultimately may have been the biggest winners. The Labour Party – but perhaps more precisely Gordon Brown – lost; and now must occupy the opposition benches in the Commons. Nobody predicted an outcome such as this and we are in unknown territory. The Conservatives and the Lib Dems are by no means natural allies, but the Lib Dems clearly opted for an alliance with the Conservatives because it offered them a chance firstly to have their hands on the levers of power and secondly to reshape how the UK selects its governments. Hooking themselves to the broken-wheeled Labour wagon was a trip to nowhere. Today, their leader Nick Clegg is Britain`s deputy prime minister and Lib Dems are members of a Conservative cabinet.


Details of cabinet positions are emerging and William Hague, a past Conservative leader and to the right of the party, is the new foreign secretary replacing David Milliband, a man who was a regular visitor to our country. They are very different men with sharply divergent views of how foreign policy should be conducted and we may expect to see at the very least a review of how the UK interacts with us. For us the item on the new agenda that we are most likely to feel the impact of is that the Conservative commitment to a cap on the numbers of immigrants from non-EU countries into the UK is going to be implemented. By far the greatest numbers of non-EU immigrants to the UK come from the subcontinent and our own citizens are the largest proportion of them. What figure the cap will be set at is unknown, but we should expect fewer applications to be granted. Whilst it is not yet spelled out we may expect UK border controls to be further tightened and obtaining a visa to be no easier than the very difficult that it already is. Will the new coalition of opposites survive? It is too early to say; it may collapse under the weight of internal tensions or it could shape British politics for a generation to come. Either way, it is going to touch us, and soon.

 

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I. THE NEWS

RESOLVING THE ENERGY CRISIS

HUMAYUN AKHTAR KHAN


The total installed power-generation capacity in Pakistan is about 20,000 MW. At any point in time, only about 75 per cent of it is operational. Pakistan`s demand is around 15,000 MW. The operational capacity and demand seem to match. Why is it, then, that we are only able to produce a little over 10,000 MW these days, to suffer the huge load-shedding and industry closures?


There are a variety of factors. Pakistan`s hydel sources have the potential to generate the 6,000 MW, but they are not producing more than 2,200 MW due to the water shortage. Gas shortages for IPPs and Gencos have resulted in another 1,000-MW shortfall. The circular debt owed to power producers, oil marketing companies and gas utilities is another factor.


From 2002 to 2007, Pakistan`s annual GDP growth averaged seven per cent, per-capita income and exports more than doubled. But while the economic planners were doing a good job, the energy planners of that government could not keep pace. Under the new government, which blames the previous government for all the country`s ills, the only energy policy we have seen is rental power plants (RPPs). This policy has been declared non-transparent and incapable of meeting the shortages of power by the Asian Development Bank.


All the ten new IPP plants currently being commissioned were financially closed during the last government, despite the fact that the IPP policy of that time left the entrepreneur at the mercy of NEPRA for tariff determination. The IPP policy of the PPP government in the mid-1990s might be considered non-transparent, but the fixed tariff basis on which proposals were solicited is something we should move towards. Six hydroelectric power plants on which work is in progress started in the previous government. Five of them are in the public sector.


A flawed policy of the last two decades was successive governments disallowing WAPDA to upgrade its existing generation infrastructure or set up new power plants, while waiting for it to be privatised. This, coupled with an inadequate IPP policy and lack of political will to start large hydroelectric projects, has landed us in the current state of affairs.


The RPPs were supposed to generate 2,250 MW of very expensive energy. To-date, not one MW has come on line. The government has not formulated any plan to utilise the vast Thar coal resources. Nor has it made an effort for additional gas production. Not a single project in thermal, gas, coal and hydel power generation or development of primary energy sources has been initiated by this government.


Meanwhile, there has been no progress towards trans-national pipelines (from Iran, Turkmenistan or Qatar). India at first manoeuvred its way into the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline project, to use it for extracting the civil nuclear power deal from the US. Now that it is no longer interested in this pipeline deal, Pakistan has been pushed back by at least five years in the completion of this project. The US has now publicly advised Pakistan to drop the IPI gas pipeline.


The previous government brought together the world`s leading energy consultants to work on the Mashal LNG project. It floated the integrated project, which would have provided LNG on a long-term basis and eventually have resulted in an LNG terminal in Pakistan. Two major international LNG players came forward. After proper consideration, one bidder was recommended. For over two years, the new government has failed to award this project and is still sitting on it, even as the country suffers enormous gas shortages.

What the government did do eventually was to issue a tender for short-term purchase of LNG. Nowhere in the world is LNG sold or purchased through such tenders. In 2007, the LNG market was a buyer`s market and if the new government had awarded the contract, considerably cheaper LNG could have been available in Pakistan. This act of the government has undermined the entire LNG project.


Even after the Supreme Court decision nullifying this contract, we would be lucky if global LNG companies are still be interested in Pakistan. Without such supplies we are clearly heading for gas load-shedding, which will be worse than the load-shedding the country is facing now. What is required now is to have an optimum energy mix based on maximisation of indigenous coal and hydel power generation. Priority should also be placed on renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy, particularly in remote and rural areas.


The country`s current energy mix is: oil, 31 per cent; natural gas, 51 per cent; coal, 5 per cent, hydroelectric power, 12 per cent; and nuclear power generation, 0.7 per cent. What we should strive for is: oil, 20 per cent, natural gas, 51 per cent; coal, 15 per cent, Hydel 20 per cent; nuclear power generation, 4 per cent; and renewable sources, 1 per cent.


Optimal capacity utilisation from IPPs must be ensured. The IPPs set up in the mid-90`s are beyond the front loading periods of their tariffs. Also, the more the power is purchased from them, the lower will be the tariff. The popular belief is that Thar coal is of inferior variety. But technology exists in the world where such coal can not only produce energy but also, in the process, natural gas. At the same time, the brackish water in the Thar area can be converted into potable water during the process. Up to 10,000 MW can eventually be generated from Thar coal.


Every sugar mill in Pakistan is capable of producing energy which can be sold to PEPCO, based on a process called co-generation. Co-generation uses technology where bagasse, a by-product of sugar manufacturing, and coal can be used to generate energy. As a modest estimate, 2000 MW can be added to the system through this source. The tariff for such energy projects should be attractive enough for entrepreneurs and financial institutions to finance them.


Pakistan has an estimated hydel potential of close to 50,000 MW. Only a little over 6,000 MW has been installed. The big dams in the pipeline are Basha, Bunji and Dasu. Pakistan should have built a big dam every decade. Mangla was built in the 1960s and Tarbela in the 70s. Unfortunately, in the last three decades not a single big dam has come into existence. If the various political parties of this country can arrive at a consensus on as controversial an issue as renaming of NWFP, could they not have reached a consensus on Kalabagh? One large dam is required just to overcome the losses due to silting in the existing dams. More dams would enhance the water storage capacity of the country


Almost 8,000 MW can be generated through small/medium hydroelectric units on rivers and canals. Pakistan has developed good capability of nuclear energy both for peaceful and strategic purpose. We must explore ways and means of increasing the share of nuclear energy from 0.7 per cent to 4 per cent per year. Seeking a civilian nuclear energy agreement from the US should be our top priority.


All the water and power sector projects like Gomal Dam, the raising of Mangla, the Thal Floodwater Canal, Kachhi Canal, Rainee Canal, Satpara Dam, Kurram Tangi Dam, Mirani Dam, Sabazkai Dam, Jinnah Barrage, Allai Khawar, Khan Khawar, Duber Khawar, Malakand III and Neelum Jhelum Hydro Electric Projects, were initiated during the last government. There are a number of other sites, in various stages of study, for water reservoirs and power generation, both on the Indus and Jhelum Rivers, and off-channel, which should be pursued vigorously. Also, there are small and medium storage sites in all provinces of Pakistan which must be pursued.


But all this needs vision and capacity in a government, which is not to be seen anywhere at present.


The writer, a former federal minister, is secretary general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q. Email: hua khan@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WE CAN GET THERE

SALEHA JAVAID


Pakistan-India relations since independence have revolved around mutual distrust, uncertainty, disappointments, tensions and fear of conflict.


We should seriously think as to why it`s so, especially when both countries gained independence from a single colonial power through a political process, negotiated between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. While we often hear people from both sides say, had the two countries been one, we would have been a force to reckon with, both in might and economy, I wonder why India and Pakistan can`t draw strength from each other as friendly and stable neighbours, sharing a common past, heritage and civilisation.


Bilateral disputes between them remain unresolved, their cooperation bounded by severe limitations. India thinks Pakistan is an irritant impeding India`s emergence as a key player in the world economy and Pakistan feels that India has been trying to destabilise Pakistan since partition.


Unlike the past when Kashmir was the sole issue with maximum emotive appeal, today we have mutually impinging interests, of an unusually urgent kind, such as the issue of India blocking the waters of the western rivers, against the spirit of the Indus Water Treaty. If we don`t attend to the crisis, it will come and haunt us a few decades down the road when the Himalayan glaciers recede because of global warming.


Despite domestic sensitivities, Pakistan and India should realise that peace between them is imperative. They can no longer afford an armed conflict because it can easily escalate into a nuclear conflagration. The use of force for the settlement of bilateral disputes must be ruled out by both countries. The real challenge lies in building up trust and confidence, establishing a strategic restraint regime, developing mutually beneficial cooperation and making meaningful progress towards the resolution of all outstanding disputes for a genuine and lasting peace. Force and propaganda should no longer be considered viable for securing the objectives of foreign policy. Instead what should be considered feasible is a `tactical adjustment` aimed at clarifying intentions and promoting goodwill.


The meeting between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan in March 2010 served as an icebreaker in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks. The subsequent revival of talks led to genuine optimism for resuming the composite dialogue and finding breakthroughs on all issues. There is a growing consensus among parties, individuals and independent experts that the potential for possible headway has increased significantly. They feel that achieving a breakthrough is not as important as preventing a breakdown!


Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani had a cordial meeting in Sharm-el-Sheikh, they exchanged courtesies in Washington and the recent bilateral meeting in Bhutan has paved the way forward for peaceful resolutions. Singh, often seen as a dove, carrying the emblem of peace, has already de-linked peace talks from progress on terrorism, hence talks are not being held hostage to Pakistan combating perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.

The meetings have set the stage to seek deeper entrenchment in a sustained peace process, to try and agree upon an agenda, procedure and comfortable venue for talks. We must recognise that the details stage of negotiation is invariably more difficult and time consuming than the formula stage and will require the participation of experts. What is needed is precision, confidentiality and objective consideration of national interest. The momentum of negotiations can falter for a number of reasons, even if the government is committed to progress. Therefore it`s not a bad idea to have both symbolic and artificial deadlines.

Initiatives like `Aman ki asha` and subsequent people-to-people interactions may revitalise the peace process and have made a strong case for hope. A healthy exchange of ideas and opinions through a culture of debate and dialogue can make both sides adaptable and responsive and will give both countries leeway to bargain for mutual concessions. Cultural, religious and ideological tolerance will help explore and expand channels of bilateral negotiation.


For most of their history, India and Pakistan were locked into public postures that made negotiations impossible without jeopardising the domestic position of their leaders. There was profound mistrust of each other`s intentions and both countries employed threats as a tool. Today there are solid grounds for optimism about the future because peace seems obtainable through a cooperative pursuit of common interests.


Peace between India and Pakistan would mean that soldiers who have borne the greatest brunt will be surrendering postures in defence of which they have lost brothers; settlers will be relinquishing control over land in which they have sunk roots; exporters might lose important markets and workers may lose their source of income. When a settlement of great political sensitivity is eventually reached, it will still have to be packaged to obscure and minimise the most sensitive concessions. There should be no vagueness and no inconsistencies and the deal should be defensible at home.


The media on both sides can play an instrumental role in facilitating talks and driving negotiations forward by providing reassurances to each country that what is being said is heartfelt and both parties are genuinely interested in negotiating a peace-deal. The media can assist in the construction of an agreement by helping people understand the depth of a conflict that has obstructed relations for more than 62 years.


Our ultimate goal should be to ensure a secure and prosperous future for our people by addressing issues that are common to all South Asian neighbours such as poverty, healthcare, food security, water and energy shortages, terrorism and environmental problems. We need to pool resources, share knowledge and work towards a common strategy to earnestly address and resolve these critical concerns. What we need is visionary

leadership, unflinching commitment and firmness of intent.

 

The writer is a graduate of Boston University. Email: saleha86@bu.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER PAKISTAN MOVEMENT

ASHRAF JEHANGIR QAZI


In 1971 we lost more than half our compatriots who offered up joyful prayers of gratitude on their deliverance from the hell we chose to inflict upon them in the name of an "ideology" interpreted largely by our military and clergy neither of whom played any role in the Pakistan Movement.


What did we learn from this traumatic humiliation other than to repeat the same exercise in Balochistan and execute an elected prime minister however flawed he may have been? Any commitment to "pick up the pieces" of a shattered Pakistan and build a tranquil and prosperous country – the only way to make Pakistan a blessing for all its citizens - was consistently trumped by what one of our most eminent foreign ministers called "the iron in the soul of our vanquished military".


Two calamitous military dictatorships followed along with a succession of elected but essentially phoney democracies that undermined the political development of the country through a permanently intrusive role for the military. This led to the growth of malignant tumours in our body politic that have now metastasised, further humiliations on the ground, the surrender of our sovereignty and abject renting out of our security, foreign and economic policies on behalf of external agendas, and the perception that Pakistan is an unstable country unable or unwilling to defend and develop itself.


So what is the state of our nationhood today? We all support and are regularly disappointed by the same cricket team that insists on reflecting the political state of play in the country. However, nationally, we are more in a state of becoming than of being, because far too many people and communities feel marginalised and crushed. In countries of recent origin, the development of national identity is a function of perceived common interest and participation whereas our national identity seems to rely more on assertion, rhetoric and force majeure. Unfortunately, the development of mutual trust between the centre and the federating units of the country has never been a priority, and as Ghalib famously said of love, national identity cannot be forced.


As soon as Pakistan`s ideology - first as Muslim nationalism and later as Islamic theocracy – was used as a counter to the demands of the marginalised communities, regions and social groups, it was seen as a transparent cover for unacknowledged agendas pursued at their expense. More than 60 years after our country came into existence a poor Pakistani child born today is irreparably handicapped for the rest of his life while still a child, due to the lack of access to a minimum of basic services. These services have been pushed aside by other elite priorities couched in terms of security imperatives and financial constraints insisted upon by the global instruments of the Washington Consensus.


The irresponsibility with which we have been governed is reflected in the litany of gratuitous confrontations, range of crises, policy disasters, stratagems to thwart the rule of law, strategic pretensions to disguise the surrender of sovereignty, etc. The determination of our leadership never to take its national responsibilities seriously has been as amazing as it remains appalling.


What is to be done? How do we break out of alternating military despotism and democratic fascism? How do we prevent military spending, administrative expenditure and debt servicing from continuing to gobble up all our resources leaving development and the prospect of improved living standards to external assistance which is never free? How do we fashion a foreign policy that instead of serving the elite domestic constituencies facilitates double-digit growth for at least two decades? How do we escape a pernicious political and socio-economic system in which the people count for nothing except as targets of exploitation, manipulation and deception? Faiz Ahmad Faiz truly said he feared not so much the country would cease to be but that it would remain the same.


What needs to be done is the implementation of a whole set of transformational measures aimed at enhancing the real participation of the people in the formulation and implementation of policies that impact on their freedoms, rights and living conditions. Often observers write off such ideas as idealistic and romantic even when they fail to provide any credible alternative. Such cynicism and scepticism are in fact counsels of despair. However, they do indicate the scale of the challenge and our dismal record in dealing with challenges. Nonetheless, do we really have an alternative to trying? Do we really believe that our elite who have refused to learn anything from 60 years of disaster, defeat and disgrace will change their character merely because the

survival of Pakistan is at stake?


We read about the shenanigans of our leaders in the newspapers, watch the inane arguments and accusations of party stalwarts on TV, see the sea of wasted human potential around us, witness the low cunning of political zero-sum games in place of good governance, suffer the benign contempt of foreigners to whom our ruling elite make constant and grovelling recourse, and resort to black humour as a coping measure. But, despite all, we know our potential and we know what must be done – peacefully, legally, and overwhelmingly.


What we need is discussion, organisation and communication repeated ad infinitum as part of a process of evolving programmes of action including mobilisation and information campaigns for achievable, comprehensive and inclusive goals. Leaders as such are not of much value since they generally work within established and corrupted frameworks of power. We need the likes of great humanitarian peace activists such as Akhtar Hamid Khan, Eqbal Ahmad, Sattar Edhi, Shoaib Sultan, Asma Jehangir and so many others. There are many such people all over the country. Some of our rural support and urban welfare programmes have already demonstrated what can be achieved even in unpromising conditions. Their efforts must be built upon on a larger scale. We must speak to each other. We must organise. We must agitate, inform, learn and work ceaselessly – not as leaders or a vanguard, but as part of a people`s movement - towards a Pakistan for all Pakistanis.


Meanwhile, our "smart and savvy" political commentators have suggested people like Imran Khan confine themselves to the minor league of social welfare and leave the premier league of leadership to politicians of proven calibre in hoodwinking the people. Do they even consider the eventual cost to the nation if their cynicism were to prevail? Sure, nothing is guaranteed, nothing will be easy and little can be achieved anytime soon, although good things can happen sooner than expected as momentum has a way of bringing things forward. But there is a whole world of real promise and possibility to be gained. Self-styled leaders and custodians, outmoded social and political structures, and elitist tinkering posing as expert-led reform have maintained the status quo which is taking us all down. Cynics and sceptics may counsel despair in the name of moderation and realism. But given our tragic past and lamentable present, the truth is that those who choose against a second Pakistan Movement choose against the future of Pakistan.


It will be necessary to outline the main features of a domestic and foreign policy that might flow from a second Pakistan Movement. Proposals will, of course, need to be discussed, tested and revised on a reiterative basis to be of practical value.


The writer is Pakistan`s former envoy to the US and India. Email: ashrafjqazi@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

REFORMING THE JCSC

IKRAM SEHGAL


At my recent talk at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC about the successful counterinsurgency operations by the Pakistani army, renowned defence analyst Stephen Cohen posed a loaded question: whether Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani should get an "extension" when his tenure as COAS expires. My answer was no, that in order to make the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee the effective institution it was designed to be when it first came into existence in 1975, Gen Kayani should instead head a reformed JCSC.


On extensions my opinion is that once promoted to lieutenant general a three-star must complete his tenure of four years of service (age should not become a bar). But if he has completed his four years of service an extension can be given in extraordinary circumstances. Extension of service for a COAS is an entirely different matter. Primarily, it sets off a chain reaction which ends in promotions in the army being blocked. However loyal and sincere the senior military hierarchy, potential aspirants will feel deprived of their turn at attaining the top slot. Really good prospects down the line will find their careers and ambitions sidelined. All those presently in contention for the COAS job have good professional careers, and for the most part are not tainted by real-estate scandals. "Extension" will mean these officers will retire from service in the next 12-18 months. An extension to the COAS will put a monkey wrench into a natural process.


Promotions during the Kayani incumbency have been deserving ones, and crucial slots (the right man for the right job) have mostly been filled on merit. There will always be a perception of nepotism and favouritism, normal for any organisation or corporate entity. The boss will always tend to prefer those he considers close to him. Rightly or wrongly, a feeling will still prevail that, merit notwithstanding, crucial posts will go to favourites rather than to the man best suited to the job.


The JCSC must become an effective military instrument. Today`s warfare cannot be fought service by service, it has to be a combined, all-service affair. Not a single military analyst believes otherwise, so why is practice different from theory? The present Army-PAF cooperation during counterinsurgency operations has been superb, for while both chiefs are to be commended. Something routine had to depend upon the personal chemistry of the two leaders! This is unacceptable for a modern military machine, the combined potential on which the existence of our nation is dependant.


The JCSC should be the central HQ for all three services, formulating overall war plans incorporating their combined fighting potential, and the mechanism for implementing the war plans. Things basic to the three services must be unified. Some of it is already being done--e.g., medical and engineering services. Why not entities that are common, basic training institutions, workshops, etc.? Specifics cannot be addressed in a short article, but what about standardisation of small arms, vehicles, the myriad types of which defy adequate description? The present incumbent can spend usefully the 150 days he has left by conducting an exercise on how the JCSC can be made effective.


Constructive reforms should include: (1) the JCSC becoming the GHQ for all three services, and the army`s headquarters, the "Army HQ"; (2) the chairman of the JCSC (rename him "Chief of Defence Services," or something similar) presiding over the senior promotions, from one star to two stars and from two stars to three stars in all three services; (3) all postings of three stars taking place with the concurrence of the GHQ; (4) creation of a Joint Operations Chief (JOC), or any such nomenclature, in the GHQ; (5) all military procurement under the GHQ`s aegis; (6) the ISI and the ISPR reporting to the GHQ, etc.

We need services integration, and we need it now. Being 36 years out of date, current and better military minds than mine can work out the modalities of making the JCSC effective. One does not grudge them their task of taking apart and putting out to pasture a 19th-century military mindset having no place in the 21st century, and certainly not after World War II.


Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has remade the Pakistani army in many ways more than one: restoring the esteem that in which the army was held by the citizens of the country, and restoring the morale and self-confidence of its rank and file; recalling several hundred army officers "on deputation" in civil services where they had no reason to be; the military`s intelligence services not being allowed to interfere in the 2008 elections.


This set the stage for the army to get out of politics. He oversaw a peaceful transition (with dignity) of Gen Musharraf out of the office of president (and with some difficulty out of the Army House), and stayed neutral in the subsequent process of the election of the new president.


Kayani has focused on soldiers` welfare and a return to professionalism. Counterinsurgency training was carried out indigenously before soldiers were taken into battle. A peacetime outfit was converted into an effective military machine. Observers far and wide have been amazed by the effectiveness of the subsequent counterinsurgency campaign.


Our young men in uniform laid down their lives in Swat and South Waziristan. Their Shahadats amounted to something great. Kayani gently nudged the government into restoring the superior judiciary in the face of the "long march." Kayani`s many successes have not gone to his head. Instead of developing "Napoleonic" tendencies, he remains committed to democracy, even a multi-flawed, inherently corrupt one like ours. His will be a difficult act to follow.


There are many more reasons for Kayani not getting an extension. To quote Air Vice Marshal (r) Shahzad Chaudhry, "losing him would be a blow to the continuity of a transition in the nation`s institutional rebuilding, while extending his present position will likely not go down well with others in the army waiting to have their chance."

With the universal confidence reposed in Kayani, he can supervise the process of making the JCSC reforms effective. Without this, Kayani should opt to retire gracefully, putting the considerable strength of his popularity in ensuring that the best man for the job is selected as the new COAS.

 

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE ROADS TO TERRORISM

KAMILA HYAT


The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor


What could possibly have possessed Faisal Shahzad, a wealthy, happily married college graduate with two children and everything in life apparently working in his favour, to set out to Times Square and attempt to leave a bomb behind?


His bizarre adventure opens up questions as to the nature of terrorism in our country. It is widely held that militancy is essentially the product of deprivation and the despondency it brings with it. Ajmal Kasab fits classically into this mould. A school drop-out and labourer, with few hopes of moving up in life, Kasab was the ideal target for recruitment by a militant organisation. Such organisations watch out for vulnerable young men everywhere. Smaller towns are a favourite recruitment ground; unemployment aids them immensely in their task. The prospect of possessing a gun is a big temptation for the average, down-and-out 19-year-old. The psychology of this is not hard to understand. But Faisal Shahzad came from the opposite end of the social spectrum. His motives then are something of a mystery and militancy as a phenomenon much harder to understand because of the involvement of young men such as Faisal.


There is, it appears, something within the mindset of Pakistanis – the young in particular – that favours violence and the ideas that are a factor behind militant actions. The years under the late General Ziaul Haq and the disastrous involvement in the Afghan war are of course key factors in creating this mode of thinking. It explains why there is so much support for Aafia Siddiqui and even for the Taliban. While a small number of young people, in the two-decade time span since Zia was killed in the skies over Bahawalpur, have succeeded in breaking out of this mode and are moving towards the more relaxed, more liberal style of life we knew till the 1970s, most have remained trapped in the past and the flawed notions created through the 1980s.


These ideas present a threat. The US secretary of state has made quite clear what the consequences of a terror plot would be for Pakistan. Students fear that obtaining visas will become harder; those already in the US report an increase in hostility from Americans. This is of course hardly surprising. The fact is that the world associates Pakistan firmly with terrorism. Terrorist plots of all kinds seem to emanate in the country and news with an Islamabad dateline frequently features reports about militant activity. The consequences of this have been extremely adverse.


The entrenched mindset that backs militancy is much harder to defeat than the militants themselves. It is possible, in theory at least, that the war against the Taliban may eventually, in purely physical terms, be won. Territory has indeed been wrested back from them in many places in the north-west – even though local people continue to talk of militants finding it easy to escape as little effort is being made to capture key leaders. This of course is alarming. If the nexus between the establishment and the Taliban is not broken now, there is a danger it will never be. After all if attacks on GHQ and the mosque frequented by top army officers in Rawalpindi are not enough to demonstrate what the risks of the current situation are, nothing will achieve this. But even if we assume that the operation that continues in the north-west is indeed intended to eliminate the Taliban we must ask what is being done to erase the trends that lead to individuals such as Faisal Shahzad taking up the Taliban cause.

For now, some debate continues over whether Shahzad acted alone or he had been a part of one of the many militant organisations based in various parts of the country. There are so many of them, with splinters and sub-splinters constantly emerging, that like the Pakistan Muslim League which now features groups with increasingly complex alphabetical equations attached with a hyphen to their names, it has become all but impossible to keep track. The fact that a number of these groups simply changed their names in the wake of bans after 9/11 makes the task still harder. Even veteran journalists keep the acronyms taped to desktops to enable them to identify potential culprits after each new bombing or act of terror. But the question of whether Faisal Shahazad was in some way linked to one of them is largely immaterial. The fact is that he acted along militant lines, evidently because he believed in what they espoused, and this is what is significant.


We need to find ways to alter the mindset that gives rise to acts of the kind seen in New York. It is a fallacy to believe that things have changed since Zia. It is true that we have seen some opening up of society, but with this has come also a hardening of lines. The parallels that can be drawn with Iran in the pre-revolution period are terrifying. It is also a fact that there is much that is deceptive about the new face of Pakistan. Many who would seem to favour liberal values hold views on key issues that fall in line with those of the extremists. Some surveys indicate almost 80 per cent of people believe religion should have a place in political life – even though, encouragingly, such views do not translate into votes for religious or pseudo-religious parties. Obscurantist religious groups, encouraged to establish a hold under Zia, have begun to elbow out the traditional, more relaxed religious orders that emerged in the subcontinent. In practical terms these trends translate into a pattern which leads to tiny schoolgirls and boys being rigged out in scarves or skullcaps and into a religious dimension appearing in the rhymes chanted by children on playgrounds even at elite institutions.


It will take very real political will, indeed a sense of mission, to alter this. At present there seems to be no force capable of undertaking such a task with the required level of commitment or good sense. Even our understanding of quite why we have become the world`s centre for militancy is somewhat obscure – and this leaves open the risk that one day a Pakistani citizen – in Mumbai, in New York, London or elsewhere -- will succeed in carrying out some act of terror, plunging us all into still deeper crisis.


Email: kamilahyat@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

FATA NEEDS CHANGE

JAN ASSAKZAI


The more important thing at this point is not whether Pakistan`s tribal region is linked with the failed terrorist plot in New York, but whether their should be speedy reforms in FATA to prevent its causing the next 9/11.

Some people in Pakistan might think that if the economic and security situation improved and peace returned to the country, there would be no necessity to deal with the crisis facing the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. But that is not so, because the situation remains potentially explosive in the tribal regions because of the anachronistic Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).


Because of this, time is not on Pakistan`s side. The ideal of a peaceful, democratic Pakistan, at ease with its minorities as well as with its neighbours and the rest of the world, will not be achieved if nothing is done, and quickly, to sort out the mess in FATA.


Much has been written about the problems of FATA and the possible reforms there, but little has been done. The FCR remains law, even thought it is a legacy of colonial times that gives administrative powers to political agents. The agents were first appointed the British, to serve as links between the Raj and the people of the tribal areas. The result is that lack of political freedom, absence of permitted political activities, collective punishments and other forms of gross abuse of human rights are still the norm in FATA.


The solution to the crisis is the region`s integration with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Before the breakup of Pakistan in 1971, FATA representatives were part of the NWFP Assembly and, in the 1960s, of West Pakistan Assembly. At the same time, parliament should be entrusted with all administrative and legislative powers in FATA, instead of the president, as now. The separation of executive and judicial powers should be ensured through the extension of the jurisdiction of Pakistan`s courts` to FATA.


The argument that the residents of FATA do not want these reforms is preposterous. Indeed, it is an insult to them; it is as if they are sub-humans who do not deserve even basic rights, such as that being tried by the country`s courts. The notions of collective punishment and territorial responsibility under the FCR should be abolished.

For political freedoms to be ensured in the region, the Political Parties Act of 2002 should be extended to FATA. This will enable the political parties to organise themselves there. That, in turn, will encourage people to stand up to terrorists. The wishes, aspirations and opinions the residents of FATA have to be taken into account.


Economically, the Afghan transit trade will be extremely advantageous for the Pakhtuns of FATA and Balochistan. Their livelihood will be guaranteed if cross-border trade is encouraged in the border regions. Utilisation of known minerals in FATA, introduction of modern-day techniques in agriculture and establishment of an Economic Opportunity Zone (EOZ), as proposed by the US, will go a long way in turning around FATA`s economy.

In order to end the isolation of FATA, communication links should be improved, including the building of a new highway connecting North and South Waziristan.


The government on its own cannot cause all these reforms to happens, and the army will have to extend a helping hand, particularly in terms of security.

The change will ensure that FATA does not become another base of Al Qaeda and the Taliban with the capability of launching trans-national attacks. Otherwise, the spectre of another 9/11 will loom larger than ever. If another possible 9/11 is traced to back to Waziristan, the consequences will be disastrous for Pakistan.

The writer is based in London. Email: janassakzai200@gmail.com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

BELATED EXPLANATION OF CLINTON'S STATEMENT

 

THE United States has come out with belated explanations of the highly provocative and dangerous remarks made by Secretary of State Clinton threatening Pakistan of serious consequences if any successful attack was carried out in America in future having links with terrorist organisations in Pakistan. US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs PJ Crowley have maintained that the remarks were not taken in the right context and that Clinton spoke in general and did not single out Pakistan.


The explanations themselves are nothing but window dressing as both the gentlemen did not deny that the Secretary of State did hurl threats. Even if the intention was otherwise, the explanation has come very late as the damage has already been done. It is quite understandable that the threatening statement has seriously hurt the feelings and sensitivities of people of Pakistan. We may point out that there are serious questions about genuineness of the New York drama, as many believe it has been engineered by the US agencies to pressurise and malign Pakistan. Secondly, even if it was the handiwork of someone directly or indirectly linked to any militant group in Pakistan then the question arises as to what the country is required to do. It has already done more than the United States and its allies in the war against terror and large-scale operations have been carried out successfully breaking back of the terrorists but despite all this the country itself becomes frequent target of terrorist attacks. Why the onus of preventing attacks on the United States should be on Pakistan? If the United States with unimaginable resources and capabilities cannot prevent such incidents then why it is expecting of a Third World country with meagre resources to do so. It is all the more regrettable that Hillary threatened Pakistan at a time when a perception was developing that the two countries were getting closer putting irritants behind. The statement has caused serious damage to the process of normalisation, sending clear and unambiguous message to people of Pakistan that the United States is not expected to be a sincere and reliable friend or partner. We believe that the remarks of Clinton were part of a well-calculated plan under which the United States keeps on its relationship with Pakistan switching off and on. It is no secret that the policy is aimed at keeping Pakistan Army engaged in domestic turmoil and destabilise Pakistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PPP SUPPORT TO FAKE DEGREE HOLDERS

 

IT was a big surprise for people that those who resigned from their Assemblies seats on account of being fake degree holders are again back in the business of politics. Not only that, some of them are even contesting bye-elections from the same constituencies, making a mockery of the law and morality.


It was because of the pressure from courts that in addition to PPP, members belonging to other parties including PML (N) and PML (Q) had to resign from their seats. We had pointed out at that time too that the chapter should not close here and those who cheated the society should be proceeded against in the courts of law so as to take their cases to a logical end. This is because even the public servants found guilty of misconduct are duly penalised and in case of gross violations of rules and regulations are dismissed from service. Those who claim to be representatives of the people and reach Parliament should demonstrate exemplary conduct but here those who indulged in clear-cut cases of cheating and undesirable and immoral acts are being rewarded by their parties. It is shocking that the PPP has not only awarded tickets to such elements but the entire government machinery is being misused to ensure their victory again. We feel sorry that a person of the stature and position of the Prime Minister thought it appropriate to go all the way to Muzaffargarh on Tuesday to extend support to Jamshed Dasti, who had to quit on same charges. We wish that Mr Gilani, who is perceived as a gentleman and a leader of clean background, should have avoided canvassing for a man guilty of misconduct. His visit has surely injured feelings of the people who have great liking and respect for the Prime Minister because of his otherwise decent conduct in the politics. We believe that some people in the PPP can afford the luxury of indulging in such conduct but Mr Gilani definitely cannot.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

US TO SCUTTLE PAK-CHINA NUKE COOPERATION

 

THE US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg has once again raised the issue of Pakistan-China civilian nuclear cooperation saying Washington was carefully reviewing plans for the construction of two nuclear power reactors by China in Pakistan. The statement of the senior US official exposes the mindset in Washington as to how it perceives to pursue the dialogue for cooperation in the nuclear field.


China earlier too fully realising acute energy crisis was helpful to Pakistan to some extent and set up a 300MW nuclear power plant at Chashma and the second one is under construction. Fully satisfied with the running of the Chashma plant under IAEA safeguards and in view of the widening gap in demand and supply of power, Beijing as a true and reliable friend agreed to help Islamabad to build two more plants. US opposition to the deal is a sad reflection on the double standards it is following in international affairs. US has no moral or legal ground to question any deal between the two sovereign countries when she itself is supplying nuclear technology to India. Experts believe that by providing India with nuclear fuel and reactors for its civilian nuclear programme, the US deal would allow New Delhi to divert more of its domestic supply of uranium toward its weapons programme. Pakistan like many other countries is trying to explore all options for alternative sources of energy to fuel its economy. Even there is realisation in Washington about the acute energy crisis in Pakistan yet one wonders what made Mr Seinberg to make such a statement that is seen as an attempt to scuttle the Pak-China nuclear deal. In fact Pakistan has long been urging the United States for civilian nuclear technology deal similar to one it reached with India and there are prospects that the proposal is being favourably considered. We hope that the US would follow an even handed policy as far as the non-proliferation and nuclear energy cooperation are concerned, otherwise it would be difficult to achieve the lofty ideal of President Obama to make the world free from nuclear weapons.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THE GREEK TRAGEDY

RANDOM THOUGHTS

BURHANUDDIN HASAN

 

Greece, a small country in Europe with a glorious past which gave the world scholars and philosophers like Plato and Socrates, generals like Alexander, poets like Homer and Virgil and was till recently considered a prosperous democratic state has suddenly gone virtually bankrupt and is begging IMF and European Union, of which it is a member, bailout packages of billions of dollars. It is the first time Greece has suffered such a defeat without a war, without a natural disaster or any grand vision gone sour. It is just a case of a country stabbing itself with mis-governance and failure to meet international obligations. This was the consequence of a nation living on the memories of the myths of its past glory and unprecedented reckless overspending in the past few years. The governments could squander the nation's wealth as well as the money it borrowed from others so recklessly and how could a nation surrender completely to a political, economic and media elite that looted the country while flattering the nation with false prosperity which created a cloud of indifference to reality.


After hectic efforts and endless entreaties the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has succeeded in obtaining bailout packages of $160 billion from IMF and European Union. This deal will help Greece to avoid debt default and prevent economic contagion from spreading throughout the region. Economic analysts have identified the following reasons for the collapse of Greece: Massive corruption, large scale tax evasion, which had become a way of life and was causing the government $ 30 billion a year. The irresponsible and reckless expenses over the government itself added fuel to the fire till the country collapsed beyond repair. With the IMF package there are harsh conditionalities calling for deep sacrifices including harsh austerity measures including tax increases, cuts in government salaries and allowances and possible layoffs. Many countries of Asia and Africa, including Pakistan should learn a lesson from the tragedy of Greece, which was economically in a much better position than many of them. So much so that it could afford to hold Olympic games only a few years back. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou told his nation that the debt-stricken country's survival was at stake as social tensions mounted over the price to be paid for an international bailout. The international institutions are seeking tough spending cuts. "Today what is more important is the survival of the nation; that is our red line. The measures which we must take, economic measures, are necessary for the protection of our country, for our survival, for our future so that we can stand firmly on our feet. It's a patriotic responsibility which we undertake no matter what the political cost." Greece, whose public deficit has risen to an estimated 13.6 percent of gross domestic product, is racing to secure new funding by a May 19 deadline to repay maturing debt or default. My purpose in writing this column is to draw the attention of our government to the plight of Greece. This government has been in office for over two years now but unfortunately it has not been able to focus its attention on the country's core problems of energy crisis, galloping inflation and daily escalation in prices of food and other essential items including petroleum products. The organs of state are not functioning smoothly. They are wasting their time in unnecessary encounters with each other. The economy is sliding downwards but the government expenses are increasing. The prime minister makes promises which he forgets as soon as he turns his face. Sometimes back he had promised a few austerity measures and reduction in his mostly useless cabinet which is a great burden on the national exchequer, but it seems he has forgotten all about it. He talks a lot about the blessings of democracy and the power of parliament, but in fact nothing gets done and things remain as they are.


The country is facing major energy crisis on which depends the nation's industrial growth and comfort in people's lives, but the government wasted two years in false promises and blames on the previous government. But when people came out on streets with a vengeance the government had to take some half baked decisions which will probably be more harmful than good. It never thought to work for an integrated plan for the solution of energy problem. The government wasted a great deal of time in the beginning in solving the problem of the restoration of Supreme Court Judges and now again the law minister is making preparations to take on the Supreme Court on the opening of corruption cases against President Zardari in Swiss courts. If the law minister succeeds in his evil designs another confrontation may become inevitable. This will be a national disaster. The law minister is after all a member of the Prime Minister Gilani's cabinet. Why can't he restrain him or throw him out. Heavens would not fall if the cases against President Zardari pending in Swiss Courts are reopened. If he is not guilty he will be absolved of all charges. Then why resist it?


There is no doubt that Pakistan is very much in acute economic crisis and its survival depends on huge IMF loans or US aid. How long can we survive with these handouts? There is need for strict control on the government's lavish and unnecessary expenses, strict vigilance against corrupt practices and large scale tax evasion. There is also need to bring the agriculture sector in the tax net. Above all, it is the moral and Islamic duty of the government to introduce strict austerity measures on itself as well as those who are enjoying a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the poor and the deprived. It is shameful when TV channels show tax returns of the filthy rich who have paid a measly few thousand rupees over an income of billions. The names of such people should be published in newspapers and read on TV Channels.


Time of soul searching has come for this nation like it has for Greece and Spain, which is five times bigger. Some other smaller European countries are also in the same situation. The time is coming when IMF and other lending agencies will themselves become bankrupt. How the poor nations which have not developed their own resources will survive? That is the big question.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THREATS OF DIRE CONSEQUENCES TO PAKISTAN

ALI ASHRAF KHAN

 

The scare that was created by a bomb hidden in a car and placed at the busy New York Time Square has shown again the vulnerability of American society and their inability to prevent bomb attacks despite all protective security measures including stripping Pakistani people naked at airports. And it has again proven that there is probably no such securities achievable from whatsoever protective measures taken; it is only a fiction designed to calm down the public and to hide the helplessness of their government. It is this lesson which the US and the West are refusing to learn in their frenzy of Empire building and colonization of world. The only way to be safe is to treat others the way they would like to be treated by them, a centuries-old wisdom which had been explained by famous German Philosopher Immanuel Kant.


Now, a year back naturalized American boy named Shehzad is blamed to have planted this bomb at the Times Square in the middle of the weekend rush hour and the main proof for that seems to be that he has recently been growing a beard and that he is of Pakistani origin and has traveled to Pakistan. All these charges against him are leveled on the first day after his arrest, as if a charge sheet had been made in advance? And again the well-known platitudes have been repeated by Secy. of State Hilary Clinton and US Attorney General Eric Holder adding to it the threat in the so-called war on terror Pakistan, namely that if Pakistan does not do more they will do it themselves.


What does this threat of consequences mean? Is the US threatening to attack Pakistan? I mean technically this is not much of a news because this they do it on a daily basis with the silent consent of the ruling elite by launching drone attacks on Pakistani citizens in the tribal areas and killing and maiming hundreds of them including women and children. The language used in these threats is an exact mirror of American mindset and attitude towards Pakistan: it is swanky and derisive. The fact is their system of Freedom Liberty and Justice is based on the Master and Slave philosophy for which they are now roping in Pakistan.


The history of US- Pakistan relations is well known to all of us, we just tend to forget about it because most Pakistanis are so complacent and prefer to deal with their own concerns. But this is a mistake; this is no time for complacency. We should very much remember the many incidents when the US has used Pakistan and then betrayed it. One incident which it is worthwhile to remember is the letter that had been written by the then US President Lyndon B. Johnson to Pakistani President Ayub Khan admitting that without the help of Pakistan he could not achieve what he wanted to do to keep Communism away from our door steps, while emergence of a new detente between Russia and US has already taken place, it was at that time the USSR was threatening Pakistan to face the consequences, which is a biz word for US administration now. At that time Badaber was a spying outpost against the Soviet Union in Peshawar acquired under the Communication Treaty of 1957. When American spy plane U2 flown from Peshawar was shot down by the Russians and its Pilot Francis Gary Powers was captured, who gave all the secrets of this American base to Soviet interrogators and the Soviet Prime Minister Nikitia Khrushchev gave an ultimatum to Pakistan to revoke this agreement with USA or face the consequences, General Ayub Khan immediately took this bold decision he revoked this Communication Agreement with USA keeping in view Pakistan's interest supreme.


The PPP Government of Pakistan would be well advised to consult their archives, if they have any and learn a lesson from the conduct of a previous Pakistani government to threats from the US: in those days the threat was rebuked. Thirty years later things here have deteriorated so much that dire consequences loaded complacency has taken the place of acting in national interest? Shehzad is of Pakistani origin â?" so what. He comes from a very well-known and decent family who are in no way to be blamed for what happened if it has happened.

On the behest of the US his parents and extended family are harassed and blamed so much that they had to leave their family home in Peshawar and went into hiding because their own government is rather defending American interests more than the interests of their own citizens. In reality there is no doubt about the fact that whatever Shehzad has done or not done," he is an American citizen and the US is responsible for it.


It is their task to prevent such attacks on the security of their country and they should not put the blame for their failure to do so on others. After all, when Shehzad was naturalized he did take an oath to serve the US and pledged allegiance. If the US administration is taking such an oath they are responsible also for compliance with it and not put this duty on the country of origin. For all practical reasons Shehzad is an American citizen and has nothing to do with Pakistan. And Pakistan has neither any control nor any such duty over him. Whatsoever the truth is that cannot be established at this point- but already the Pakistani government has been receiving threatening phone calls from the US wanting the government to follow their concept and take steps in their interest including opening of land route from Wagha to Afghanistan.


This shows again how seriously the US is trying to trample down the Pakistani requirements to keep Indian role in Afghanistan and how a hapless Pakistani government without any national pride or commitment is allowing itself to be colonized and accept money in exchange for it. Should we allow drone strikes at Hayatabad ? Why don't they direct their drones on Connecticut where Shehzad has been living? Tehrik-e-Taliban is conveniently blamed for involvement into the incident though they have denied any such involvement.


Our smart Foreign Minister has assumed that this could be a revenge of the Taleban for American killings in Fata. Well, that is possible but then there is no proof for it. It could also be a payback for what has been happening to poor Aafia Siddiqi, revenge for that had been announced by the taleban. And there are so many other reasons and incidents of crimes afflicted by the US on civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq and on Muslims all over the world under their millennium agenda.


Therefore our advise to you is that please learn to treat others the way you want to be treated by them â?" otherwise they will get fed up and treat you the way you treat them! But these old rules of democracy and human rights seem again to be applicable only to Whites and Christians, coloured people and Muslims come in a different category. We may see Shezad turning out to be another Dr. Aafia. Siddiqui, this the Jungle rule, which we call Freedom and Liberty.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

AZM-E-MUSALSAL!

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

 

Pakistan Army concluded its Exercise Azm-e-Nau-III with the tempo transcending into a commitment for pursuing Azm-e-Musalsal (perennial resolve) to defend the motherland against all odds. It was a multi-stage joint services activity involving Pakistan Air Force as well. Prior to this exercise PAF had just finished its very elaborate five yearly exercise, High Mark 2010, having participatory role by our army and navy. Presently Pak Army and the PAF are conjointly conducting COIN operations in various parts of the country. In this context, service level and joint exercises by these two components of national security were indeed events of their own class and kind. Conduct of such manoeuvres in the eastern theatre indicates sound understanding by our armed forces in the context of the sourcre of existential threat.


Peculiar circumstances facing the country over the last about eight years or so warranted a fresh field level look at the threat matrix and viability of our response. The process that began in 2008 with Azm-e-Nau I have now been carried out to its logical operational conclusion. Pakistan's armed forces as indeed the entire security apparatus has never been as overstretched as it is now. We are facing a two fronts plus quandary, which calls for corresponding state of readiness. Armed forces of Pakistan have pursued their operations against extremist elements with remarkable tenacity. A protracted commitment of troops on such operations always has telling effects on their capacity to fight a conventional interstate war for which we have had two close calls from over eastern neighbour since 9/11. It is indeed a difficult preposition to handle. But choices are limited.


To cater for such situations, Pakistan has no option but to maintain dual capability for handling both threats simultaneously. Azm-e-Nau III was a practical demonstration of this capability as well as a reassessment of the capacity. While a major chunk of our land forces is enduring combat environment on the western front, the remaining formations went through a revealing saga of a professional refresher. Conducting such an event with subdued strength and marginal resources is always taxing, yet revealing and thus useful.


It is interesting to contrast the determination of our armed forces with Indian approach. Recently, Indian army and air chiefs had expressed strong reservations with respect to employment of their forces against Naxalites. Controversy rose in the wake of unfortunate incident when Naxalites killed 272 security personnel of Indian civil armed forces. When pressured for action, the two Indian chiefs argued that their forces are overstretched and cannot take further counterinsurgency tasking. Likelihood of protracted fixation of a large chunk of forces in COIN role was cited as another reason. Keeping in view the huge size of Indian armed forces, both these argument were indeed evasive tactics. Nevertheless, the backup professional reason was sound and needs attention. It was stated that fighting counterinsurgency battles needs a different type of organization, equipment and training of personnel, and that any component of the armed forces committed for COIN operations for a protracted time loses its potential to fight a typical conventional inter-state war. Fighting COIN needs reorganization of armed forces into small fighting sub-units having swift mobility. Such troops need to carry infantry biased weapons and associated gear. Weapons for COIN are to be of low yield and high precision to minimise collateral damage. Furthermore troops have to be indoctrinated for resisting provocation and for keep their tactical and operational level plans in sync with ongoing political process.


On the other hand fighting conventional interstate wars need bigger and complex military formations required to employ a different assortment of arm and munitions. During these wars, focus is on concentration of force at right time and place to cause crippling damage to the adversary. Certainly these two strategies are a paradigm apart.

It is interesting to observe that Israeli armed forces are used to countering insurgents as a matter of routine. Due to this extended exposure, the bias of Israeli forces inadvertently shifted towards COIN configuration. Hence, once they had to face Lebanon in a conventional war, a few years back, Israeli nation was quite embarrassed. Indian defence analysts are pursuing the suggestion that there is a need for raising a suitable civil armed force to handle internal law and order situations including Naxalite class of uprising. Keeping i

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S GREAT GAME

AFSHAIN AFZAL

 

The arrest of youth hailing from Tantraypora area of Palhalan in Pattan on the Srinagar-Baramulla national highway, trying to cross over to other side of Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan is an eye opener for Pakistan. The arrest came in as a result of communication gap between Indian Intelligence agencies and Police. On May 4, 2010, Kupwar Police arrested six young boys hailing from Pattan in Indian held Jammu and Kashmir state, while they were trying to cross the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara.


A handsome amount was also recovered from their possession. Indian Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the Police Baramulla Range, Abdul Qayoom Manhas confirmed that they were trying to cross the LoC in Kupwara,. He disclosed, "Some behind-the-scenes hands having been at work in boys' attempt to go across the dividing line and the forces would be identified soon." The Indian intelligence was late to intervene as the Police had already produced the children before the Indian media. However, these boys were handed over to their parents without registering any case against them. Although, off the record, Indian Intelligence agencies have admitted their role in sending the children to Pakistan but Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) for Baramulla, Shakeel Ahmad Baig disclosed that the six boys, who had made up their minds to cross to Pakistan, were a part of a local cricket team which had raised money by winning matches. The boys told the Police during preliminary interrogation that they were crossing the LoC to spend the rest of their lives in Pakistan.


Interestingly, it was not the Indian security forces or the Police which arrested them but a Molvi of Kupwara spotted the boys and informed the Police. The later told the media that the boys had decided to go to Pakistan because of persistent harassment by teachers and parents. Those who were trying to cross over LoC into Pakistan were identified as Muhammad Saleem Sheikh (13), Muhammad Yaqoob Bhat (13), Abdul Rasheed Sheikh (12), Shariq Ahmad Mir (12) Ahmad Tanytray (12) and Umar Sultan Mir (12), who were all students of the New Islamia Model School in Palhalan. As per the details, Indian agents persuaded them to migrate to Pakistan where they would be having bright future. All the boys left Palhalan for Sopore on a private vehicle and later took another vehicle to reach Kupwara. They were instructed to wait for a guide in Kupwara but there was a mis-coordination on the part of Indian intelligence operator who had to guide the children to take route leading to Pakistan. In disgust, the boys entered a mosque to spend night there. When the Imam of the Mosque got to know that they were planning to cross over to Pakistan he locked them and informed the Police about their intensions. Accordingly, Police personnel arrested all of them and shifted to Police station for interrogation.

To some of the analysts, it would appear as a routine matter as we can expect anything from children but the involvement of Indian intelligence in persuading the children to leave for good to Pakistan is something very alarming. It is part of Indian conspiracy to flush as many Kashmiri from Indian held Jammu and Kashmir state and Indian national from other states to Pakistan. Had the infiltration only confined to Kashmiris that could always be taken care of as all the Kashmiris irrespective on the fact that on which side of LoC they hail from are Pakistani and have right to come to their country. However, as it is a plot by Indian intelligence to defame Pakistan in the eyes of international community, it is not acceptable.


Interestingly, India is also pushing its national from other states to Pakistan to alter the demography and create law and order situation in the country. As a Pakistani nation we must respond to Indian conspiracy and look for such agents in our file, especially those who are not Kashmiris. Since Kashmiris holding state citizenship on the either side of LoC, irrespective of the facts that they are Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs are Pakistanis so they can enter Pakistan through legal procedure but those from other states have no reason to enter this country without valid visa. It is also the responsibility of whole Pakistan nation to cooperate with authorities and furnish information about all such Indian nationals who have entered this country as a conspiracy. It is time to check them and expel them from this land of pure.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THE MAKING OF A TERRORIST

VIEWS FROM ABROAD

ROBERT WRIGHT

 

One fate the conservative commentator Daniel Pipes doesn't have to worry about is drowning in conceptual complexity. He keeps his theories simple. His theory about why Faisal Shahzad tried to blow up a bomb in Times Square last week is "jihadi intent." Pipes writes dismissively of other explanations — that Shahzad is emotionally unstable, say, or that the bomb was payback for American military action in Pakistan. In Pipes's universe, apparently, these explanations are rivals to the "jihadi intent" explanation, and couldn't figure in an account of how Shahzad came to have jihadi intent in the first place. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic seems to agree that jihadism is a kind of prime mover of terrorism. After bloggers noted that Shahzad had lost his home to foreclosure, Goldberg rejected the idea that "the country's financial crisis, and not, say, jihadist ideology, is at the root of Shahzad's desire to commit murder in Times Square."


I'd like to invite Pipes and Goldberg to imagine an alternative universe, a universe in which behaviours — such as planting a bomb — don't have a single "root" cause. In this universe, bomb-planting behaviour is kind of like the bombs themselves: a number of ingredients have to come together before things get explosive. If you figure out what those ingredients are, and which of them you can control, maybe you can make bomb-planting behaviour less common. In the universe I'm positing, the following scenario is conceivable: A Pakistani guy moves to America, goes to college, gets a job, starts a family. He grows unhappy. Maybe he's having financial problems (though I'm sceptical, for reasons outlined by Charles Lane here, that Shahzad's home foreclosure actually signifies as much); or maybe the problem is just that he doesn't find his social niche. And maybe he was a bit unstable to begin with — which would make it harder to find his niche and might intensify his reaction to not finding it.


Anyway, for whatever reason, he feels alienated in America. He stays in touch with people and events back home in Pakistan, and this gives him another reason to dislike America: American drones are firing missiles into Pakistan, sometimes killing women and children. Thanks to the Internet, it doesn't take him long to find like-minded folks, or to come under the influence of a radical imam operating out of Yemen. "Jihadi intent" is taking shape, and eventually he comes into the fold of actual jihadis, a faction of the Taliban in Pakistan. They give him what he hadn't found in America: a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose. The basic ingredients of bomb-planting behaviour are now in place.


I'm not sure this is the story of Faisal Shahzad; we don't yet know enough to say. But this story is consistent with the facts disclosed about him so far — and, more to the point, stories like this do unfold in the world we inhabit. Various things fuel "jihadi intent" and they may include the policy of firing missiles into Pakistan. In fact, this policy does seem to have been part of Shahzad's motivation. He reportedly told investigators he was upset about the drone strikes. Obviously (I hope), to say that American policies may cause terrorism isn't to say that America is to blame for terrorism. It's just to say those policies may have downsides. And, obviously, those policies may have upsides as well; drone strikes disrupt terrorist logistics, for example. Spelling out my reasons for thinking the downsides often outweigh the upsides is a subject for another column. For now my main point is that war-on-terror hawks need to confront the downsides, rather than act as if establishing the role of "jihadi intent" or "jihadist ideology" somehow ends the debate. They need to seriously ask whether the policies they favour have, while killing terrorists abroad, created terrorists both abroad and — more disturbingly — at home.


These possibly counterproductive hawkish policies go beyond drone strikes — a fact that is unwittingly underscored by the hawks themselves. They're the first to highlight the role played by that imam in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in inspiring Shahzad and other terrorists. But look at the jihadist recruiting narrative al-Awlaki's peddling. He says America is at war with Islam, and to make this case he recites the greatest hits of hawkish policy: the invasion of Iraq, the troop escalation in Afghanistan, drone strikes in Pakistan, etc. All of these policies — not just the last of them — may have helped incite Shahzad. Back in 2004, a real estate agent recalls, he was oddly outspoken about his opposition to the Iraq war. And last year he asked his father for permission to fight Americans in Afghanistan. Only when denied that opportunity did he turn toward Times Square. (This is evidence against the theory that he was from early on a "plant" in America.). So too with the two other high-profile terrorist attacks against America over the past year: the Fort Hood shooting and the would-be underwear bombing. Both perpetrators had found in hawkish policies cause to buy into the jihadi recruiting narrative. Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, was enraged by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the aspiring underwear bomber, before he became an aspiring underwear bomber, was giving glimpses of his inchoate "jihadi intent" as a student at University College London. There he sponsored a conference on the war on terror, and on the poster advertising the conference was a picture of a prisoner at Guantanamo — hooded, handcuffed and kneeling. A jihadist pinup, courtesy of Dick Cheney. Unfortunately, President Obama isn't discarding the Bush-Cheney playbook that has given jihadist recruiters such effective talking points. Quite the contrary: the White House thinks the moral of the Shahzad story may be that we should get more aggressive in Pakistan, possibly putting more boots on the ground. And already Obama has authorised the assassination of al-Awlaki.


Even leaving aside the constitutional questions (al-Awlaki is an American citizen), doesn't Obama see what a gift the killing of this imam would be to his cause? Just ask the Romans how their anti-Jesus-movement strategy worked out. (And Jesus's followers didn't have their leader's sermons saved in ready-to-go video and audio files; al-Awlaki's resurrection would be vivid indeed.) When you look at how much real-world evidence there is against the views of war-on-terror hawks, it's not surprising that they would construct their own little universe, a place where "jihadi intent" is an uncaused cause, and our only hope is to kill or intimidate the people who, through some magical process that defies comprehension, have been possessed by it.


What is surprising is that Barack Obama, who became the Democratic nominee for president largely because he had opposed the Iraq war, seems increasingly to be taking his cues from the people who so disastrously supported it. — The New York Times

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

BRITAIN'S BRAVE NEW COALITION

REPAYING GOVERNMENT DEBT WILL MEAN YEARS OF AUSTERITY

BRITAIN'S new Prime Minister, David Cameron, has taken the audacious step of inviting the Liberal Democrats to join his Conservative Party in a historic coalition government, the country's first since World War II. By doing so, Mr Cameron has seized the opportunity to rescue stability from an indecisive election and to lead the country on the path of reform that is so badly needed. After 13 years, the loss of 91 seats and two million fewer votes than the Conservatives, Labour had lost the right to govern.

Mr Cameron and his Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg face an enormous challenge, not only to provide resolute leadership, but also to put their differences aside and govern in the national interest. A marriage of the conservative and liberal traditions is by no means as odd as pro-Labour commentators suggest. In Australia, it has been part of the political fabric for more than a century and, as Daniel Finkelstein of The Times writes today, the historic split in the Left in Britain between Labour and the Liberals goes back even further. But the coalition will be a test for Mr Clegg and his Lib Dem colleagues, who have to make the transition from perpetual outsiders to constructive, grown-up partners in government. The challenge for Mr Cameron is to find consensus without losing the hard-headed resolve the times demand.

For all of the parties' profound differences, the compromise package underpinning the new coalition suggests both are taking a sensible, pragmatic approach. Crucially, the Lib Dems have agreed to accelerated deficit reduction, abandoning their election argument that spending needed to be maintained to ward off a double-dip recession. Forcing through the austerity measures necessary to reduce a deficit that has ballooned to 11.6 per cent of GDP, the worst since World War II, will be painful, and no group in society will be exempt. At least, however, the two ruling parties have agreed that the deficit must be reduced faster than Labour had proposed.

In wooing the Lib Dems, Mr Cameron agreed to a process of electoral reform, including a referendum on an Australian-style preferential voting. But it must include a fairer system of redrawing electoral boundaries. At the 2005 poll, when the Conservatives won a narrow majority of the vote in England, Labour took 286 English seats and the Tories 193. A major overhaul of voting processes must also be a priority, given allegations of postal vote rorting and the election-day shambles that saw hundreds of voters turned away at inadequate polling stations in most major cities.

In former leader William Hague, Mr Cameron should have an able Foreign Secretary with the resolve to stare down the more extreme aspects of Lib Dem policy, including weakening the US alliance and confusion over the war in Afghanistan. The future of the nuclear deterrent has been confirmed.

As Mr Cameron has acceded to the Lib Dems' call for fixed-term parliaments, the coalition will remain in place until May 2015 unless the Lib Dems joined with Labour in the House of Commons in a vote of no confidence in the Conservatives. Such an eventuality is possible, but for the foreseeable future Britain's best interest demands pragmatic compromise. Everything we have seen so far of the able Mr Cameron and the energetic Mr Clegg suggests it is not beyond their capabilities.

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

THE REAL STORY ABOUT MR SWAN'S FISCAL RESTRAINT

THE GOVERNMENT IS GUILTY OF HYPERBOLE ON THE BUDGET

WAYNE Swan is being somewhat disingenuous when he says his budget represents the biggest fiscal consolidation since the 1960s. The Treasurer may be keen to argue that winding back spending as a proportion of GDP from 26.2 per cent this year to 23.6 per cent in 2013-14 is a sizeable reduction, but it comes courtesy of an avalanche of tax receipts from the mining sector, rather than through the hard grind of spending cuts. There is a case for arguing that Mr Swan's fiscal consolidation is matched by the efforts of Peter Costello's 1996-97 budget, and it is hard to beat the discipline of the Hawke-Keating budgets that reduced spending as a proportion of GDP in five hard years from 27.5 per cent in 1984-85 to 22.7 per cent in 1989-90. And they did it without a China boom.

Undaunted, Mr Swan spent yesterday spinning a story of budget restraint. Talking to Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast, he ran roughshod over suggestions the budget was built on a tax windfall from the China and India booms. It was, he said, all about discipline. Later, at the National Press Club, Mr Swan announced proudly that he and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner were the "bad cops" of fiscal policy. The Treasurer said he saw off those colleagues who came to him with spending programs by telling them to "take a haircut". But there is no evidence of a razor gang behind this budget, despite Labor's attempt to again present itself as the party of economic conservatism as it heads into an election. Fearful perhaps of an opposition ready to paint the Rudd government as big spenders happy to keep rolling out a $43 billion stimulus package even as growth heads to 4 per cent over the next couple of years, Mr Swan seems intent on denying that this budget is built on tax revenue, not restraint.

The Treasurer's claim of fiscal restraint rests on the 2 per cent cap on spending, after inflation. On the face of it, the government has done well to promise to stick to that limit until after the budget surplus reaches 1 per cent of GDP. But given inflation is heading to about 3.25 per cent this financial year and, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia, will be about 3 per cent by June next year, the cap means spending of about 5 per cent. Limiting the growth in spending to 2 per cent is not the same as cutting growth. The government's fiscal credentials are tested, too, by the fact the budget follows the excesses of last year's stimulus. This money will continue to flow through the economy for the next two years, potentially adding to inflationary pressures and threatening to force more interest rate rises. Mr Swan claims the stimulus is being gradually withdrawn but this is semantics - the spending continues. In truth, the government has missed an opportunity in the budget to address the errors it made when it exaggerated the danger posed by the global financial crisis last year and the size of the stimulus needed to stabilise the economy. One of those programs, the now-discarded home insulation package, must rate as one of the most wasteful government exercises in Australian history. The problems in the rollout of the Building the Education Revolution program also challenge the government's economic credentials.

This budget does not make the hard calls on spending, for example, in welfare and the bureaucracy, which would lead to real structural reform. Ken Henry's comprehensive review of the tax system outlined a framework for encouraging people to move off welfare and into work without being disadvantaged. But the government ignored these recommendations, including the introduction of a $25,000 tax-free threshold, thus relegating the wasteful tax-welfare churn into the too-hard basket in an election year.

Instead, the Treasurer has stood back and allowed the resources bounty to flow through to the bottom line.

That is sensible, and the government must be given credit for moving to reduce the budget deficit and debt levels. But the government cannot pretend that it has donned a hairshirt in an election year. Instead, it has simply grabbed the get-out-of-jail card offered by China and, to a lesser extent, India. Resource revenue is relied upon to balance the budget over the next three years while the controversial resources super-profits tax will be used to underwrite the cut in company tax; the increase of superannuation to 12 per cent; and a $700 million influx for infrastructure as well as other new measures.

One of the worrying assumptions in the budget is that inflation will fall from 3.25 per cent this year and stay about 2.5 per cent through to 2013-14. This looks doubtful, given the predicted strong growth, and it is likely the RBA will have to do some heavy lifting via monetary policy. In question time yesterday, Kevin Rudd pointed to 10 consecutive interest rate rises during the Howard years. That's a record Labor could easily beat, given that the RBA has lifted rates six times since October last year.

Mr Swan told the Press Club yesterday that Australia was "so fortunate (because) we are in the right place in the world at the right time". He is correct, and right too to make the point that our low debt, which will peak at just over 6 per cent of GDP in 2011-12, is the envy of the world. But his claim that the budget is proof of a disciplined government has more to do with politics than economic reality.

Rather than restraint, this budget is notable for its reliance on Australia's good fortune.

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

CLAIMING THE CREDIT AS THE GOOD TIMES RETURN

THE ECONOMIC CYCLE HAS COME TO THE BUDGET'S RESCUE

THE revised economic and fiscal projections in Wayne Swan's pre-election budget are impressive and should give Australian families renewed confidence and optimism for the future. But the question many Australians should, and will, ask, as they look past the smoke and mirrors, is whether the improvements in economic growth and public finances reflected in the budget are the result of the government's economic management, or have occurred in spite of it.

These are, no doubt, a "beautiful set of numbers". On Monday, The Australian said that, to be judged a success, the budget bottom line would need comprehensively to exceed the $46.6bn deficit for the current financial year predicted in the mid-year review, with the return to surplus coming at least two years earlier than the scheduled 2015-16 date. Mr Swan has delivered a deficit of $40.8bn - a massive $16bn improvement on the forecast in last year's budget. And if Mr Swan and his Treasury officials have got their forecasts right - which we have come to know is a big "if" - the budget will be back in the black three years ahead of schedule, in 2012-13. Net debt will also return to zero three years earlier than expected. Compared with other developed economies, such as the US, Italy and Japan - where net debt will still be 1.5 times the size of annual economic output in 2015 - these numbers are spectacular.

There is even better news on growth and jobs, with the economy tipped to expand by 3.25 per cent this financial year, and 4 per cent in 2011-12. Unemployment, which last year was forecast to peak at 8.5 per cent, flattened out last year at 5.8 per cent and is forecast to fall to 4.75 in the current financial year. The spectre of joblessness has lifted for tens of thousands of Australian families.

Clearly, Australia's pain during the global financial crisis was much shallower than that of the rest of the developed world, and the recovery will be much faster. Mr Swan wants to claim as much of the credit as possible, arguing that without the government's $50bn stimulus measures, the economy would have contracted by 0.7 per cent in 2009 instead of growing by 1.4 per cent. Meanwhile, nearly every page of the budget documents spruiks Mr Swan's supposedly hard-nosed savings measures as the foundation of the budget rebound.

Yes and no - but mostly, no. A spike in the prices paid for Australia's iron-ore, gas and coal exports, booming demand in China, and an aggressive program of interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank had at least as much to do with the economy's resilience during the downturn as anything Mr Swan and Kevin Rudd came up with. As for the budget bottom line, stalwarts of the Howard era would argue, with some justice, that there is nothing like zero net debt (money in the bank, in fact) to quarantine an economy going into a world financial and economic crisis.

As far as the stimulus is concerned, don't bother looking for mentions of home insulation and school building schemes in the budget papers, because they are few and far between. While the government's early stimulus measures were necessary and welcome, it is a tragedy - and, in the case of home insulation, a human tragedy - that so much of the money was spent for political gain, rather than being focused on productive infrastructure to remove bottlenecks at terminals and improve road and rail links. Projected growth of 3.25 per cent in 2010-11 suggests Malcolm Turnbull was right about halving the overall size of the stimulus measures, and that they could have been wound back much earlier, saving taxpayers billions that have been wasted on overpriced shelter sheds and demountables. Suggestions in the budget, obsessively reiterated by Mr Swan yesterday, that the current European fiscal crisis somehow justifies the long tail on the local stimulus spend, is a classic example of post-hoc rationalisation of a very bad idea.

As for the budget bottom line, the documents show the heft of "parameter variations" - that is, higher than expected growth - as much more significant than that of policy decisions on the fiscal turnaround. Mr Swan says "savings measures" in the budget will reap more than $30bn in the four years to 2013-14, but fully half of these "savings" are captured by the new slugs on mining profits ($12bn) and smokers ($5bn). By cynically gaming the timing of both the release of the Henry review into tax reform - as cover for the mining super tax - and the backflip on an emissions trading scheme, Mr Rudd and Mr Swan have been able to make the budget projections in the outward years look much rosier. Last night, Mr Swan told parliament he was "outlining a reform agenda" while meeting "the highest standards of responsible economic management". In fact, the budget leaves the Rudd government's reform, and fiscal management, credentials looking about as hollow as they did before. It would take a very powerful microscope to find reform.

Clearly, Mr Rudd will stake his claim as a reformer on his health and hospitals reforms. Until now, that claim rested entirely on the deal he struck last month with the states - a deal that was almost entirely limited to who pays for what. There is more detail in the budget. A concern of the states was that a new system of "activity-based funding" for hospitals, together with stricter targets for treatment times in emergency departments, would have the perverse outcome of spiking demand, putting more people, who don't need to be in hospital, into hospital beds. The measures, worth about $900m, announced in the budget - more nurses working alongside GPs, and another go at the long-promised "GP super clinics" - will go part of the way to bolstering primary care and easing the pressure on hospitals.

There are some other good ideas in the budget, but they hardly amount to major reform. The plan to put $5.6bn of the mining profits tax take into an infrastructure fund is welcome: as Michael Stutchbury wrote in The Australian yesterday, such a fund can help insulate the economy from boom-and-bust resource cycles and divert proceeds from the current boom into productive capital. Equally welcome is the government's response to the report by Mark Johnson on strengthening Australia's position as a regional financial centre, which will lead to a stronger regulatory climate for foreign financial institutions operating in Australia. The move towards simplified tax returns and the 50 per cent discount on interest income - which, together, will cost $1.8bn over four years - are also well-judged, but could just as easily have been announced as part of the response to the Henry review.

But in the end, with an election due this side of Christmas, this budget is much more about politics than policy. Increasingly distrusted by Australians as a shape-shifter, Mr Rudd will now try to fix himself in their minds as a fiscal conservative and sound economic manager. He will try to use the partly cooked budget numbers to neutralise Tony Abbott's portrayal of him as "debt and deficit" addicted. And by way of the tax on mining profits, he will appeal to his increasingly alienated blue-collar constituency as the slayer of "foreign" companies and the redistributor of the bounty of Australia's mineral wealth.

But the way Mr Rudd and Mr Swan have framed the debate on the mining tax - a measure to which The Australian has given some conditional support - reveals the fundamental flaw in their claims to sound economic management: they see the resources boom as a problem, not an opportunity. There are even bizarre suggestions in the budget it could be healthy for a few mining projects to fall over. Current conditions suggest the focus for handling the boom should be on more flexible labour markets, lower taxes, cutting middle-class welfare, boosting infrastructure and easing capacity constraints. But with an election looming, this all appears too hard.

Ultimately, capitalism has been much kinder to Kevin Rudd than he has been to it. The politician who, in his essayistic period, babbled about the failure of the "great neo-liberal experiment", did not sufficiently trust the automatic stabilisers of the open Australian economy, and its fundamental strengths, when trouble struck two years ago. Mr Rudd and Mr Swan have generally been poor judges of the economic cycle. Mr Swan's first budget was all about the spectre of inflation and the need to cut spending. Lehman Brothers collapsed five months later, and Mr Swan was back on deck with his stimulus program. This time he clearly over-corrected, and the opportunity for an adjustment that came along in the budget 12 months ago was missed. Partly as a result of that, inflation is again on the minds of central bankers, and the pain threatens Mr Rudd in the mortgage belt, where the 2010 election will be lost and won.

This time around, it is the mining companies that, above all, have provided the river of gold that has made it possible for Mr Rudd to deliver a plausible election budget. But by portraying them as the Sheriff of Nottingham, and himself in the Rusty Crowe role as Robin Hood, Mr Rudd is playing fast and loose with the people who gave him, and us, a way through the financial crisis. He risks hobbling the golden calf.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE BUDGET'S ELOQUENT SILENCES

AS Sherlock Holmes once noted, the dog that did not bark was the key to the drama. It was the same in Parliament on Tuesday night, as the federal budget was filled with telling silences. In an election year, governments are not expected to be fiscally austere, and the Rudd government was no exception, but it did use this budget to walk away from some big commitments. The largest and most obvious was its emissions trading scheme, designed to confront, to borrow a phrase, the ''greatest moral challenge of our generation''. In less than six months, the multibillion-dollar scheme to combat global warming has gone from being the centrepiece of the Rudd government's agenda to non-existent in the 2010 budget.

Yet the need for a national strategy to curb Australia's carbon pollution has not suddenly become less urgent. Quite the opposite. As the Herald reported earlier this week, the longer-term computer projections of global warming indicate an even more disturbing future for the world than the 50- or 100-year models which have been used thus far. The failure of the Copenhagen conference on climate change does not justify inertia, as countries wait to see what the main polluting nations will do. The longer that action is delayed, the more costly and more difficult the shift to cleaner energy will become.

The issue has been swept under the electoral carpet. We are not wedded to an emissions trading scheme, especially in the absence of a global trading system, but a tax on carbon would reflect the true cost of pollution, and send a market signal to Australians, who are among the world's worst carbon polluters per head of population, to change their behaviour. Also formally relegated to oblivion in this budget was another trumpeted national environment scheme, the insulation of Australian homes. It is gone.

A related and conspicuous absence was a response to the growing congestion in the major cities, a problem exacerbated by the Rudd government's commitment to one of the most permissive immigration regimes in Australia's history. Growth pressures are putting infrastructure under strain, especially in transport. If the state Labor governments were hoping for federal help in upgrading their transport grids, the signal from this budget is that the Rudd government is focused on its own political survival. The situation is serious in NSW thanks to the ineptitude of the state government, but the Premier, Kristina Keneally, must have heard the message in the silence: when it comes to the survival of her government, she is on her own.

BRITAIN'S VOTING CONUNDRUM

A DEAL between Britain's Conservatives and Liberal Democrats was always the logical and cleanest way out of the impasse created by last Thursday's inconclusive election. And now, amid ringing declarations of mutual goodwill following five days of intense haggling, the two parties have sensibly agreed to go further than many observers thought likely.

The Tory leader, David Cameron, and his Liberal Democrat counterpart, Nick Clegg, are Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister respectively in a formal coalition government, the first in Britain since 1945. It is supposed to last a full, fixed, five-year parliamentary term, with the minor party having five places in cabinet. If the coalition holds, it will have a healthy parliamentary majority - unlike the possible alternatives, either a minority government or a messy Labour-led regime dependent for a bare majority not only on the Liberal Democrats, but also on a ragbag of Celtic nationalists and a Green.

Yet, give