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month june 13, edition 000537 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by manish manjul
Editorial is syndication of all daily- published newspaper Editorial at one place.
For TELUGU EDITORIAL http://editorial-telugu-samarth.blogspot.com
- A CONFESSIONAL TALE OF ELUSIVE ELECTIONS - CHANDAN MITRA
- BHOPAL SHOWS WEST'S DOUBLE STANDARDS - SWAPAN DASGUPTA
- CONGRESS COLLUDED WITH CARBIDE - KANCHAN GUPTA
THE TIMES OF INDIA
- IN IRAQ, THERE IS 1 SOLDIER FOR EVERY 166 PEOPLE. IN KASHMIR, THERE IS 1 FOR EVERY 20 JULY WILL MARK 20 YEARS OF THE CONTROVERSIAL ARMED FORCES SPECIAL POWERS ACT IN J&K. THE PEOPLE ARE ANGRY THE ARMY IS STILL THERE. IS IT TIME TO START PULLING OUT? - RAJAT PANDIT
- WOMEN CAN WIN THE WAR ON WAR - MADHU KISHWAR
- LAST WORD - JOSY JOSEPH
- WILL THE REAL SONIA PLEASE STAND UP? - SHALINI SINGH
- DOPA MINE
- MANAS CHAKRAVARTY
- REBUILDING SECULARISM, GANDHI STYLE - KHUSHWANT SINGH
- BACK TO THE SAME SCHOOLING GRIND - SOUMYA BHATTACHARYA
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
- IRON RULE
- PARTY-FREE, PARTY-LESS
- FOOTBALL CAN TURN AROUND FORTUNES - SHOMBIT SENGUPTA
- THE PRICE OF DEMOCRATIC FEUDALISM - TAVLEEN SINGH
- 'KHAP PANCHAYATS DO NOT HAVE ANY SAY IN HONOUR KILLINGS, IT'S THE KIN OF THE VICTIMS WHO DO'
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
- WINDS OF CHANGE
- AMRISH SHAH
- FOOTBALL CAN MAKE THE UNDERPRIVILEGED INTO STARS - SHOMBIT SENGUPTA
- IN CASE OF EURO CRISIS, BREAK DEUTSCHE MARK GLASS - MARK GILBERT
- WHY BASEBALL AND 'NOT' CRICKET - BORIA MAJUMDAR
- INVISIBLE ENVIRONMENTALISTS - KALPANA SHARMA
- HELP YOURSELF - VIJAY NAGASWAMI
- VIVE LA DIFFÉRENCE - BILL KIRKMAN
- A SONG FOR ALL OCCASIONS
- NO FULL STOPS FOR HIM - RANJAN DASGUPTA
- WHY TELECOM WILL PROVIDE BOTH SUNRISE AND SUNSET - R JAGANNATHAN
- THE PARIS HEIST WILL LEAD TO A RISE IN ART THEFT - MOEENA HALIM
- UNESCO FOR SALE: DICTATOR'S LINK TO PRIZE DEVALUES PRINCIPLES - TUTU ALICANTE
- FACULTY SHORTAGE DOGS IITS
- CRIMINALS IN UNIFORM - BY SUHAS CHAKMA
- DONDE SETS RECORD IN SEA ADVENTURE - BY HARIHAR SWARUP
- FOCUS ON JOB COURSES, SAYS PROF PUNJABI - BY TEJINDER SINGH SODHI
- FACTS THAT DISTURB US
- MR BALDUF'S DILEMMA
- SANTOSH KUMAR & NEHA MALIKINDIA MUST REDOUBLE ITS EFFORTS TO STRENGTHEN AFGHAN GOVT'S SECURITY CAPABILITIES, AS WELL AS INTERNATIONAL WILL TO CONTINUE AID TO AFGHANISTAN - SANTOSH KUMAR & NEHA MALIK
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
- WHEN EVERY SECOND COUNTS - MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH
- INDIA WILL WATCH LANKA TAMIL STEPS
- MONEY AND POLITICS - BY ARUN NEHRU
- LET'S GATHER THE COURAGE TO LEAVE KABUL - BY BOB HERBERT
- 'SPEED WILL BE THE GAME-CHANGER'
- THE MONTY HALL DILEMMA - BY ROD LIDDLE
- GANDHI IS ALIVE - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
- EARLY WARNING
- BEYOND RHETORIC
- SPOTS' TARGETED
- A SOFT CHINA - BY RAJINDER PURI
- WHY MUSLIMS NO LONGER SUPPORT THE LEFT
- FLY FOR ME, ARGENTINA - ISHAN JOSHI
- IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FAMILY BUSINESS
- MARTYR IN THE HOUSE
- GOOD DIRECTOR OF CALCUTTA - RUCHIR JOSHI
- INDIAN READERS IDENTIFY WITH MY BOOK, SAYS TURKISH WRITER
- CONSPIRACY, POLITICS AND BETRAYAL
- KERRY'S WARNING
- THINGS TO COME
- SLIPPING AWAY
- GOING ON SUMMER VACATION IN INDIA - AAKAR PATEL
- AFTER THE AFGHAN JIRGA - SALEEM SAFI
- CAPITAL SUGGESTION - DR FARRUKH SALEEM
- NAWAZ SHARIF'S CHANCE? - GHAZI SALAHUDDIN
- OVER THE TOP - MASOOD HASAN
- PSM: MORE MONEY GOES DOWN THE DRAIN
- CANCELLATION OF WB GRANT
- AN EVIL SCO TOTALLY IGNORED
- THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MONEY - DR ZAFAR ALTAF
- THE FEUDAL COTERIE - DR ALI RAUF
- MISUNDERSTANDING PAK GOVERNANCE SYSTEM"
- PAKISTAN'S DEFENCE BUDGET 2010-11 - DR HUMA MIR
- LONDON TRANSPORT TO EXTOL VIRTUES OF ISLAM - RUTH GLEDHILL
- COMBATING FLOODS
- UNNATURAL DEATHS
- HAVE EYES, CAN'T SEE..!
- BUDGET AND INITIATIVE TO REDUCE RURAL POVERTY - DHIRAJ KUMAR NATH
- BANKING ON BIGGER BANKS
- WATER POISONING IN BANGLADESH TAREQUL ISLAM MUNNA
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
- CONTEXT GOES MISSING AS OVERLAND FACES UNFAIR ATTACK
A CONFESSIONAL TALE OF ELUSIVE ELECTIONS
IRONICALLY, DESPITE MY IMMENSE INTEREST IN ELECTIONS AN OPPORTUNITY TO ACTUALLY CONTEST ONE HAS NOT COME MY WAY
I have been elected as Member of Parliament once more, this time representing Madhya Pradesh in the Rajya Sabha. It is a happy denouement and I thought of sharing some related anecdotes with readers. This time I will be an MP from the Bharatiya Janata Party, the political organisation that I have been proudly associated with for many years. Often I have been questioned about the apparent conflict of interest in being simultaneously editor of a national daily and an active political person. Once at a Press conference in Dehradun, I bluntly told my questioner that I wore two hats, but always took off one before donning the other. So, I try my best to retain distance from my political affiliation when I function as newspaper editor.
While it is true that strict separation of news and views is a tall order, in recent years I have confined myself to giving broad directions to my editorial colleagues rather than working on reports hands-on. I love journalism, my profession for over 26 years and it still remains my first instinct. But politics has driven me throughout; it holds a charm that I find irresistible. After my election as MP this time, I don't know if time will permit me to keep wearing two hats both of which I love, but I hope to continue doing so as long as I can.
My existential dilemmas are, undoubtedly, of no concern to readers and it is not my intention to unburden myself in this column. However, in a nostalgic vein I felt like recalling a string of failed trysts with contesting elections. This is ironic because elections excite me as nothing else. Having been an ardent follower of the poll process for as far as conscious memory goes, the sights, sounds and thrills of campaigns, the anxious wait for results, victory processions and sloganeering, have been some of my favourite things.
I distinctly remember standing outside our ancestral house in Hooghly near Kolkata while the thanksgiving procession of the victorious Forward Bloc candidate passed through, way back in 1962 when I was barely seven years old. Our family, like most middle class families that time, supported the Congress. I often moved around sporting a paper badge depicting the Congress's original symbol, a pair of yoked bullocks, pinned to my shirt.
The Leftist winner from the seat was Prof Shambhu Ghosh, later West Bengal's Education Minister, a friend of my uncle. I remember the cycle-rickshaw on which he sat with folded hands at the head of the victory procession, being instructed by him to stop outside our gate. The avuncular leader descended, walked up to me, reversed the badge that hung by a safety pin to reveal its blank side, and pinned a red pennant next to it. Too dumbfounded to react, I found his supporters cheering this act. He smiled at me, patted my head and resumed his journey. Later he told my uncle that he was struck by my defiance in sporting a Congress badge (probably the only time in life that I have exhibited support for that party) in the face of a swarm of jubilant Leftists.
Over the years my fascination with elections grew. I would pore over newspapers to find out who was contesting from where and sat glued to a transistor radio to catch election results broadcast fitfully by All India Radio over three days! Newspapers usually published detailed results a few days later and I would store clippings for ready reference, just as cricket buffs accumulate data and trivia on the game. But my interest in elections was largely academic. As a schoolboy in Kolkata at the height of the first phase of Naxalite violence, my participation in the political process was confined to attending public meetings by big leaders from time to time.
But once ensconced in the secluded confines of St Stephen's College in Delhi in 1972, I got involved with students' union politics. In the third year of my bachelor's degree course, I became campaign manager to the now famous but controversial Shashi Tharoor for his bid to be chosen union President. We won a thumping victory and I became Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
It was obvious to my friends that I would myself contest the union President's election next year (1975) and so I did. Mid-way through the campaign whose outcome seemed a foregone conclusion to most, we were stopped in our tracks. The university issued an order prohibiting all students' body elections as Mrs Indira Gandhi had promulgated the Emergency a few weeks ago. But since the union's work had to go on, our principal constituted a committee of 32 students drawn from various streams to 'select' a union President. I was chosen unanimously with even my opponent endorsing my candidature.
Next year, I was approached by some out-of-work student leaders and university officials saying that the post of student member of the Academic Council had to be filled. Since elections were banned, they suggested I could informally canvass my candidature with the electoral college comprising the top two performers of MA/MSc (Previous) examinations from all disciplines. I had hardly spoken to a few when the Vice-Chancellor issued a notice selecting me to the Council.
Similarly, two years later when I was a teacher activist in the university, the executive committee of the Delhi University Teachers' Association named me among the five teachers co-opted to serve as committee members in recognition of the successful agitation some of us led to regularise the services of 172 temporary teachers scattered across many colleges. Once more, the chance to actually fight an election slipped away.
In 1980 I went to Oxford University to pursue a doctoral degree in history, returning in 1984 to join The Statesman and embark on a career in journalism. Taking a break from political involvement, I delved deep into my new profession resuming my interest in current affairs and amateur psephology. Although I got drawn towards the BJP, away from my earlier Leftist beliefs, in the early-1990s, I never thought of plunging into active politics for many years. Probably my ability to save The Pioneer from certain closure in 1998 and the robust nationalist tinge I lent to the paper's editorial policy impressed then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mr LK Advani sufficiently to recommend my name to the President of India for nomination to the Rajya Sabha in 2003. Thus I became an MP without contesting an election.
Last week, the BJP fielded me as its candidate for the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh. I filed my nomination on June 7 in Bhopal. After scrutiny of papers next day, only three candidates Mr Anil Madhav Dave (BJP), Ms Vijaylakshmi Sadho (Congress) and I were left in the fray to fill the three vacant seats from the State. So, we have been declared elected unopposed; no voting will happen in Madhya Pradesh. And I am still waiting to actually contest an election!
BHOPAL SHOWS WEST'S DOUBLE STANDARDS
The token punishments awarded to the Indian managers and directors of the now defunct Union Carbide for their culpability in the world's greatest industrial disaster in Bhopal 26 years ago would have, in the normal course, attracted enormous global attention. At best, the court judgement may only have established that underneath the amazing success story India is still an iniquitous Third World state that devalues human life. But at least it would have driven home the necessity of establishing global norms of punitive liability a sort of Nuclear Liability legislation for all occasions.
A reason why interest in the callousness of Bhopal proved remarkably ephemeral lay in the West's single-minded attention on the environmental disaster that has affected the US. The oil-spill in the Gulf of Mexico that began on April 20 following an explosion on BP's Deepwater Horizon rig has shaken the West.
Just as the iconic photograph of an open-eyed child being laid to rest came to epitomise Bhopal, the image of a bird covered in the reddish-brown muck slick in Louisiana has stirred the conscience of capitalism. Many deep existential questions have been raised on the nature of modernity and its consequences for the planet. People are speculating whether future explorations in the unspoilt Arctic Circle will lead to a similar calamity, and how long the world can afford to be driven on the back of an unclean energy source.
These are questions that modern civilisation will have to confront honestly. For the moment, however, what is intriguing is how quickly the political script of the Bhopal farce being enacted in India is being mirrored on both sides of the Atlantic. There is a marked similarity between the political accusations and counter-accusations in India who allowed Walter Anderson to jump bail in December 1984, whether UPA Ministers sought to detach Dow Chemicals from the liabilities of Union Carbide, and whether the action of retired Chief Justice AH Ahmadi constituted a conflict of interests and the shenanigans in Washington DC and London.
At the heart of the problem is the fanatical desire of the political class to identify a fall guy. Just as the Congress party is facing flak for its kid glove treatment of a multinational, allegedly under US Government pressure, President Barack Obama came under attack for his initial indifference to the desecration of the Louisiana coastline. It was even suggested that the oil spill would be Obama's Katrina moment.
But that's where the similarities taper off. Unable to defend its prolonged prevarication a process that continues with the appointment of yet another GoM or what commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta has described as the Supreme Court's "lack of serious intellectual leadership", the Government of India and the Congress party has chosen to muddy the waters with some delicious but irrelevant tittle-tattle.
In India, xenophobia has become the stick with which to beat a beleaguered Congress. And the Congress is certainly gasping for answers which explain its generosity towards American interests. In the US, an embattled Obama has craftily used xenophobia to "kick ass", his euphemism for targeting perfidious Albion. In his initial interventions, the President, for example, insisted on referring to BP by its earlier name, British Petroleum. This was no unintended mistake. It was about as loaded as referring to, say ITC, as Imperial Tobacco Company.
It was a theme that has been readily echoed by others. The feisty Sarah Palin, whose husband was employed by BP for 18 years, railed against "foreign companies" in the energy sector. Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner went a step further. "Whenever you hear someone with a British accent talking about this on behalf of British Petroleum", he said, "(he is) not telling you the truth."
Substitute British for American and you may discover astonishing similarities with the rhetoric of angry Indian populists.
No wonder there has been a strong reaction in Britain. London Mayor Boris Johnson was the first to protest against the "anti-British rhetoric" emanating from across the pond. He was followed by Lord Tebbit who blamed the vagaries of domestic politics in the US for "a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of petulance against a MNC".
Other Conservative politicians have now jumped in to try and pressure Prime Minister David Cameron to use his good offices and inject sobriety into an emotive debate.
The reason for asking Downing Street to intervene isn't one of national honour. Like most things, it's really all about money. Most British pension funds are heavily invested in BP which has a fantastic track record of dividend payments. It is estimated that over 12 per cent of all British pension fund income comes from BP dividends. Over the past month, nearly £50 billion of BP's market value has shrunk and Obama has publicly berated the company for being more concerned about its annual dividend than paying for the damage to the ecosystem. In fact, there are fears that the environmental damage its Chief Executive Tony Hayward imagined was "very, very modest" could even bankrupt BP.
Cut to the situation prevailing in the US in 1984, in the aftermath of the Bhopal disaster, and it is possible to gauge the pressure Washington must have brought to bear on New Delhi to be 'reasonable'. In moments of intense crisis, companies, even MNCs, tend to fall back on a national government to bail them out of sticky situations. BP may not succeed because the victim is the mighty US of A and because there is too much 'green' consciousness in the world to permit covert deals.
Unfortunately, this was not the case in 1984 when human beings and not birds died. In today's world, no company could have got away paying chicken-feed for a crime of this magnitude. As victims of this latest industrial disaster, the US knows it.
CONGRESS COLLUDED WITH CARBIDE
On the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, deadly methyl isocyanate gas 'leaked' from a storage tank at the pesticides factory of Union Carbide India Ltd in Bhopal. Men, women and children sleeping in nearby slums and colonies in the old quarters of the city, popularly referred to as 'Old Bhopal', died gasping for breath. Many of the victims, realising something was seriously wrong, rushed out of their homes carrying their children, only to inhale the killer fumes and fall dead. It was a ghastly sight the next morning the streets were littered with the dead and the dying; an eerie silence had descended. Those who had survived the night of ordeal were too feeble to cry for help; parents wept over their dead children; the young mourned for the old; entire families lay lifeless, united in a grisly death. As India slept, the world's worst industrial disaster had extracted a terrible toll of human lives.
I was a sub-editor on the news desk of The Telegraph and have vivid memories of the shockingly tragic story unfolding through the day and late into the night of December 3. Those days there was no Internet and reports came via agency tickers. The enormity of the disaster emerged as PTI and UNI kept on updating the death toll. Scores turned into hundreds; hundreds turned into thousands. It was my third exposure to mass murder, for that's what the disaster was, given the fact, as was established subsequently, that water had leaked into the tank containing methyl isocyanate much beyond the permissible limit and resulting in an exothermic reaction because Union Carbide had chosen not to put in place safety devices and ensure regular maintenance to cut costs and increase profits. The Nellie massacre was my first exposure to mass murder; the anti-Sikh pogrom after Mrs Indira Gandhi's assassination was the second.
The official death toll of what came to be known as 'Bhopal Gas Disaster' how cleverly Union Carbide's name has been erased from that horrific event! was "around 4,000", which was a gross under-estimation. Thousands more died over the following days, weeks and months, taking the toll to at least 15,174 dead. Many more thousands were afflicted with blindness, respiratory problems and other illnesses; they live scarred forever. Unborn babies died in the wombs of their mothers; children were born with deformities; life became a living hell for those who were considered lucky enough to have survived. It continues to be so for them nearly 26 years later.
Mr Arjun Singh, who later rose to great heights in the Congress hierarchy, was Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh when the disaster occurred, heading a Congress Government steeped in corruption and other malpractices. Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister, defending the butchery that had followed Mrs Indira Gandhi's assassination and couldn't care a toss about the agony of the people of Bhopal. Having called an early poll, he had an election to win and the dead and the dying of Bhopal were no more than a distraction.
Warren Anderson, chairman of the US-based Union Carbide Corporation, the parent company of Union Carbide India Ltd, landed in Bhopal four days after the disaster to see for himself the devastation wrought by a factory that had till then fetched profits for an American multinational corporation and its Indian subsidiary. Probably he wanted to verify whether media reports were true or exaggerated. Those who met him on that occasion recall that he showed neither remorse nor sorrow; however, he did not forget to carry his own, made in America, gas mask.
The police arrested Anderson; he was escorted to Union Carbide's plush guest house at its R&D facility where he relaxed while Mr Arjun Singh arranged for his bail which was miraculously 'granted' within a couple of hours without his having to set foot inside the local court. Around 2 pm, the then Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Government summoned the Collector and Superintendent of Police and instructed them to escort Anderson to Bhopal airport and put him on a plane that would be waiting there. The Collector and SP were prompt in complying with the Chief Secretary's orders. That afternoon, Anderson boarded the Madhya Pradesh Government's aircraft and flew out of Bhopal to Delhi from where he boarded a flight to America. That was the last time he came anywhere near India.
The CBI was given the task of investigating the disaster. And it was instructed by the Congress Government at the Centre not to seek Anderson's extradition. Trial in the case against those accused of culpability (eight senior executives of Union Carbide India Ltd, including its chairman Keshub Mahindra) began 23 years ago in the Bhopal District Court. The accused were charged by the CBI under Section 304(II) of the Indian Penal Code which provides for a maximum of 10-year imprisonment. The accused petitioned the Supreme Court. Unsurprisingly, a bench headed by Justice A H Ahmadi, who later went on to become the Chief Justice of India, in 1996 converted the CBI's charge under Section 304(II) of the IPC to Section 304A with a maximum of two years' imprisonment. Mr Ahmadi now defends that decision by insisting that "There is no concept of vicarious liability. If my driver is driving and meets with a fatal accident, I don't become liable to be prosecuted under Section 304(II)." In other words, for Mr Ahmadi the death of 15,174 people on account of Union Carbide's wilful act of negligence is no different from his driver hitting another car or a pedestrian due to rash driving.
On Monday, June 7, the Bhopal District Court gave its verdict: Two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for each of the accused, and a fine of Rs 5 lakh for Union Carbide. Bail was granted to those held guilty. This was no travesty of justice, it was perversion of justice. The outrage following the verdict is entirely justified, but nothing more by way of 'punishment' was expected. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently described India as a "country of one billion dollars", which means the value of an Indian citizen's life is less than a dollar. If so be the attitude of the Government of India, what purpose is served in berating others? The US is no doubt guilty of protecting Anderson by not forcing him to stand trial in India. But is our Government not to blame too? Of course Anderson deserves to be punished, never mind his age Nazis older than him have been frog marched to jail and locked up for the rest of their blighted lives. But shouldn't we hold Mr Arjun Singh accountable? Is he not complicit in the cover-up, the whitewashing of the crime that was committed on the hapless people of Bhopal? Shouldn't we ask the Congress to explain why its leaders went out of the way to help Anderson?
Last, but not least: What sort of a country do we live in where it takes 23 years for a criminal trial to be completed?
THE TIMES OF INDIA
IN IRAQ, THERE IS 1 SOLDIER FOR EVERY 166 PEOPLE. IN KASHMIR, THERE IS 1 FOR EVERY 20 JULY WILL MARK 20 YEARS OF THE CONTROVERSIAL ARMED FORCES SPECIAL POWERS ACT IN J&K. THE PEOPLE ARE ANGRY THE ARMY IS STILL THERE. IS IT TIME TO START PULLING OUT?
No Army likes to wage war against its own people. Worse, if the fight drags on 20 years. The 1.13-million strong Indian Army is no exception. It would jump at the chance to leave the Valley and return to barracks, but only if policy-makers delivered their end of the bargain. Is the time right for this? Militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is at its lowest ebb since it erupted in 1989-1990. But there are two hurdles. First, will Pakistan's real power centre, its army, turn off the terror tap? Second, can the paramilitary forces and J&K police take over from the Army? On both counts, the answer seems to be 'no'.
"We are trapped in the 'hold' part of the 'shape, clear, hold and build' strategy," says a lieutenant-general, with extensive experience in J&K, speaking on condition of anonymity. He adds gloomily, "We will be stuck there for the foreseeable future. With so much money being pumped in, vested interests have developed all around. A political solution, with economic development, is needed."
It has been an arduous task for the Army to 'shape, clear and hold' the internal security environment in J&K. Protracted counter-insurgency operations in J&K and the North-East have blunted its operational readiness for external enemies" and corroded its discipline and moral fabric. Last week's suspension of a major and the removal of a colonel from command for an alleged fake encounter on April 30 is just the latest example of this. The Army has slowly moved away from using "kills" as the benchmark for evaluating a battalion's performance for awards and citations, but the pressure to deliver results remains.
Consider cold statistics. More than 1,500 cases of human rights violations have been filed against the Army in the last two decades. Granted that a majority of them the Army puts the figure at 97% were found to be "fake or motivated" but what of the rest? The Army takes recourse to the iron-fisted Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to refuse to hand the accused to civilian authorities. It says it has its own "internal mechanisms" to deal with "aberrations" under the Army Act, 1950.
"We have punished 104 personnel, including 40 officers, in the cases found true. We have made human rights a top-priority in last five-six years. But we cannot allow soldiers battling terrorists, which cannot be equated with normal law and order duties, to get no legal protection and be left to civilian courts in the event of something going wrong. It will hit troop morale," says a senior officer.
General V K Singh, who took over as Army chief in April, has declared that "any dilution" in AFSPA will "impinge adversely on the manner in which armed forces operate" in counter-insurgency duties. Consequently, the Centre consistently refuses to give permission to the J&K government to prosecute soldiers accused of human rights violations. During 2007-2009, there were 23 such requests but the ministry of defence did not permit any one of them to go ahead.
This does not, of course, detract from the Army's success in controlling militancy in J&K. Militancy is not quite dead. Pakistan may be acting against the Taliban on account of US pressure but it has let the anti-India terror factory remain active. There are at least 32 terrorist training camps, with an estimated 2,200 militants, operational in Pakistan and PoK. Unsurprisingly, the Army contends no one should rush to assume all is well in J&K.
According to estimates, there are just about 500-600 hardcore terrorists half of them of "foreign origin" in J&K at present. They still pose a threat, but it is marked reduction on the numbers more than 2,500 bandied about in the 1990s.
"With the CRPF (which has around 70,000 troops in J&K) and police forces still not really trained or equipped for the swift operations required, coupled with their poor leadership, any largescale de-induction of Army troops will only weaken the counter-insurgency grid," says a Rashtriya Rifles officer. "Whenever the Army has been removed from an area the militants and their over-ground workers begin to dominate there."
Defence minister A K Antony also believes that the terrorist threat remains very real. "The quantum of troops deployed in J&K is continuously assessed and reviewed by the Army based on the changing threat perception," he says. The Army has moved two mountain divisions of around 35,000 men from the state in the last few years but further reduction can only happen when conflict management turns to conflict resolution. Life in the shadow of gun M Saleem Pandit | TNN
Srinagar: Till 1990, there were few guns in the Valley. But, soon enough, the situation changed. As the Kalashnikovs began to dominate the streets, Kashmir was flooded with uniformed men. In the last 20 years, a generation of Kashmiris has grown up with soldiers at every street corner; often, even in their living rooms. There are too many troops in Kashmir. There have been too many clashes between men with automatics and youth with stones. Many Kashmiris see the Army as one "of occupation".
Human rights activist Khurram Parvez says the police records 458 cases of pending civilian killings and rapes between 1990 and 2007 because the men in uniform cannot be prosecuted. "We want transparent and independent investigations into many encounters that took place in April-May 2010," he says.
Arshad Anderabi has spent 14 years fighting for justice for his dead brother Jaleel, a lawyer and prominent human rights activist. He alleges that Jaleel "was abducted by the major (Avtar Singh of the 103rd unit of the Territorial Army) on the airport road when he was driving home along with his wife. He was killed in cold blood and his body was dumped in the Jhelum". The special investigation team that investigated Jaleel's death found Major Singh responsible for the murder. But the major is now reportedly living in California and Jaleel's family still waits for justice.
Though the Indian army has been in the Valley since 1948, its presence was never as visible as after militancy began. K B Jandial, retired IAS officer and now a member of the state public service commission, says, "The army must put in place a system of checks and balances and rein in the troops who take the law into their own hands. This has diluted the forces' achievement of almost destroying terrorism. Irresponsible actions of low rung-officers will harm India's credentials as a democratic and secular nation."
There seem to be far too many Kashmiris who believe the Indian army is a ruthless force. Javid Iqbal, a respected doctor, says there is a huge trust deficit between the people and the army. "During the second world war, Churchill would often say 'Indian Army any day'. That was a real tribute to the discipline and combat effectiveness of the forces. However, I wonder whether this attribute still holds for the army given the recent complaints of human rights violation."
The police says that there have been 51 allegations of rape against Indian army men in the last six years. Such allegations are deeply damaging to the army's image. In 1991, about 100 women, including minors, the elderly, pregnant and disabled, were allegedly raped by a 4th Rajputana Rifles unit in Kunan Poshpora, Kupwara. "I am afraid that army could never restore its image in Kashmir given their behaviour with civilians here," says Qurat-ul-Ain, a social activist.
Of late, the army has been working on damage control through its humanitarian work. Colonel J S Brar, the defence spokesman here, says the Army is trying to win hearts and minds. "Under our Sadbavana programme, we are trying to alleviate, medicate, rejuvenate and ultimately uplift the quality of life of civilian population ," he says. But considering the quantum of allegations against the army, many of the locals would regard this as too little and too late.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
WOMEN CAN WIN THE WAR ON WAR
Amid reports that the Americans are using female marines in Afghanistan to gain access to local women and thereby swing the population to their side, there are suggestions that India could do the same in Kashmir. But, recruiting a few women to control human rights abuses in Kashmir would be like applying band-aid to a deeply-infected wound. Kashmir requires a political solution, not a military one. Band-aid solutions evoke disdain rather than inspire confidence.
Human rights are violated when those in positions of power feel they can get away with murder. The Indian Army is highly professional. However, by enacting draconian laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that give blanket immunity, their professionalism is compromised. They lead to fake encounter killings as a means to career advancement. In such a situation putting a few women soldiers on the streets is not likely to win over many hearts in Kashmir.
The image and conduct of our police has not improved with the recruitment of a handful of women because the overall mandate of the police as an institution is firmly set in the colonial mould. The culture of these organizations places a premium on macho qualities. Women are numerically insignificant and far removed from leadership positions. Therefore, instead of feminizing the culture of these institutions, women tend to emulate men as a survival strategy. Many women who work in the forces in junior positions have experienced sexual abuse and harassment without effective redress. Those who are unable to defend their own dignity are not likely to be able to sensitize the overall orientation of the Army.
However old fashioned it may sound, I still firmly believe in Mahatma Gandhi's vision that in the war against war women must lead they must teach the art of peace to a warring world. Gandhi's success lay in convincing large sections of India that societies become civilized only when men imbibe some of positive feminine qualities, such as nurturing and revulsion towards violence.
At present, the Army is overstretched and fatigued as it battles the civilian population for whom the presence of the armed forces is itself an annoying reminder of their "subjugation". Our officers are becoming increasingly resentful at being made to pay for the follies and mischief of politicians. Their role must be limited to defending the borders and ensuring that terrorists from neighbouring countries don't sneak into India.
Knowledgeable people within the government admit that, as in Punjab, the terrorist threat in Kashmir can be best countered by a well-trained, highly-motivated, self-respecting and accountable J&K police. This can happen only if the police are freed from political interference. The Centre should join hands with the state government and use J&K as a laboratory for far-reaching police reforms. If 35 to 40% of this reformed police service comprised women, their presence would further humanize the law and order machinery. When the citizens of the state feel they are trusted and responsible for maintaining internal security, they are bound to rise to the occasion because they have the highest stake in peace.
Kashmiri society has been brutalized due to the devious games of successive political leaders in legitimizing the gun culture. However, when in 2002 Mufti Mohammad Sayeed emerged in his new PDP avatar with the slogan: "Na bandook se, na goli se, Baat banegi boli se", Kashmiris, young and old, responded with enthusiasm. This is evident in the dramatic rise in voter turnout since PDP joined the electoral fray. The romance with the Pakistani militants' gun is all but over. The Kashmir problem requires that the Central Government also act with the conviction that na banddok se na goli se, baat banegi boli se.
Cosmetic changes to the Army's image cannot be a substitute for determined efforts to find a political solution acceptable to diverse sections of Kashmiri society. People will have faith in "boli" only when it is backed by a responsive polity and a government that has the ability to deliver what it promises.
Madhu Kishwar is editor of Manushi
THE TIMES OF INDIA
AN ACT THAT DEFIES THE LAW?
Contrary to popular belief, India does not have an impressive record of ending insurgency. One result of this messy reality is that the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) exists in several parts of the country. It gives legal permission to the military to arrest or conduct a midnight search without a warrant on the basis of reasonable suspicion.
Most statistical studies show that civil wars in the last century lasted a little over seven years on average. The shortest may have run for just a few days; the longest more than 30 years, according to trends in recent World Bank-funded studies. These findings were mostly based on the African experience, but the global measure of insurgencies isn't very different. Civil wars that began before 1980 lasted 78 months or thereabouts, but those that started after 1980 had a longer lifespan of roughly 105 months. What of India's record? It has been disturbingly poor. The Naga issue has been festering from before Independence, Kashmir since 1987, Manipur is on fire yet again and Assam hasn't really been at peace for three decades. And Naxalism has risen from the ashes, with its deadly challenge to the state, unleashing a violence that devours more than a hundred lives a month.
Punjab and Mizoram are the most prominent of India's few successes in ending insurgency. But they are the exceptions.
Even though the security forces, especially the military, have shown impressive ability in containing insurgency, the political leadership generally lets the status quo prevail rather than transforming the containment into permanent peace. This lack of political capability is now forcing the army to resist major troop reduction in Kashmir, despite a drop in violence. The Union home ministry had suggested the army move some of its Rashtriya Rifles battalions from J&K to Naxaliteridden areas, but the Army, as a senior officer explains, has "contained the violence in Kashmir, and our security grid is working very effectively. What guarantee is there that permanent peace would be achieved in Kashmir, and that we won't need to go back to manage a messed up situation?"
Many within the security establishment believe New Delhi has failed to grasp the opportunity to create a lasting peace in Kashmir. As a result, the people of J&K are soon to complete two decades under AFSPA's menacing shadow. In Nagaland, the act has been in existence since 1958, when it was first enacted by Parliament to contain Naga dissidence. It exists in the entire state of Assam since 1980, in all of Manipur outside Imphal municipal limits, in the hill districts of Tripura, in Arunachal Pradesh's Tirap and Changlang districts and in a 20-km belt bordering Assam, and along another 20-KM belt of Meghalaya bordering Assam.
Army officers insist that the legal protection offered by AFSPA is crucial to their success and is a prerequisite for anti-Naxal operational deployment. "It is necessary not to treat soldiers as mere policemen. The legal protection empowers them to act with far better determination. The results are there to be seen," says a senior army officer.
Imposition of AFSPA is invariably accompanied by a huge surge of military and paramilitary forces. Both reflect the state's determination to facilitate the military containment of insurgency. Estimates vary, but the army's Jammu-based 16 corps was, at one time, bigger than the British army. This, despite there being two other corps in the state as well. There are no specific numbers available, but around 5,00,000 security personnel are believed to be deployed in J&K, which has a population of just over one crore. That is a skewed security personnel to civilian population ratio and it gets worse in the Kashmir Valley.
But the Indian state's inability to grab the admittedly slim opportunities for peace is not limited to J&K. Forgotten battles are raging across the northeast. As a result, generations have grown up with a distorted sense of liberty and democracy in several states. To them, India is an illiberal democracy, defined by the military man's right to open fire on crowds, search houses and individuals and control people's daily lives using the authority that comes from the law of the land, aka the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
WILL THE REAL SONIA PLEASE STAND UP?
Just days after the row over Spanish writer Javier Moro's "fictional biography" of Sonia Gandhi, it may be worth looking at another, recent account of her life, except that it was dismissed as a hagiography.
Rasheed Kidwai's "Sonia: A Biography" has long been written off as a glowing and unsustainably positive account. It is true enough that Kidwai presents Sonia as a model "bahu" and homemaker despite her foreign origins. He says, "Pupul Jayakar and Mohsina Kidwai felt that Indira started looking upon Sonia more as a daughter than a daughter-in-law. If Indira had a headache, Sonia would prepare camomile tea. She would bring a tub of water to soak Indira's aching feet each time the prime minister returned from a long tour."
But it is also true that Kidwai skillfully documents Sonia's metamorphosis from a reticent girl in T-shirts and jeans to the impeccably composed daughterin-law of India's prime minister, one who made public appearances only in traditional Indian outfits. Kidwai further says that her early image management came in useful "when she finally took over as the party chief in 1998 Sonia's determination to learn was widely appreciated in the Congress. Party MP Girja Vyas said, 'There is a fighter in her and that is a very good thing'."
Kidwai's book can be favourably compared to Moro's "The Red Sari". Copies of Moro's book are not freely available but extracts suggest it is pedestrian in style and substance and skips dangerously between fact and fiction. Moro admits as much. He reportedly told The Guardian: "Of course, it's not strictly accurate, but it's researched and realistic. If there is a problem with it, it is that it is too much of a eulogy, a hagiography."
O DOPA MINE
The chemicals in our bodies make us what we are
The Times Of India, June 6
This is probably what the famous balcony scene in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 2) would be like if due credit was given to our hormones:
Juliet: O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Romeo: What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun. Or could it be that it is the adrenaline pounding in my blood?
Juliet: Ay me.
Romeo: She speaks. O speak again, bright angel, for 'tis clear your serotonin levels are elevated. Never have I beheld a maiden with more of the estrogen estradiol.
Juliet: 'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
Romeo: Call me but love, and I'll be new baptised;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
Juliet: O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Romeo: My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee;
Call me Testosterone.
Juliet: O Testosterone, Testosterone! Wherefore art thou Testosterone?
Romeo: It is my lady, O, it is my love. O that I were the DARPP 32 protein, encoded by the PPP1R1B gene that
I might touch her dopamine receptors.
Juliet: How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
The orchard walls are hard to climb.
Romeo: With phenylethylamine light wings did I o'er-perch these walls;
For stony limits cannot hold cortisol,
And what Testosterone can do that dares Testosterone attempt.
Juliet: Thou know'st the mask of night is on my face,
Else would a beta-endorphin bepaint my cheek.
Romeo: Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear.
Juliet: O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest thy love prove likewise variable.
Romeo: What shall I swear by?
Juliet: Do not swear at all;
Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious dopamine
And I'll believe thee. O gentle Testosterone,
If thou dost love, pronounce it.
Romeo: O love of my androgens, including D REA, testosterone and androstenedione
Juliet: Well, do not swear: although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract tonight:
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden; too much like a surge of norepinephrine.
Sweet, good night!
This bud of love, by hormone's ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Good night! As sweet oxytocin
Come to thy heart as that within my breast!
Romeo: And vasopressin to thee. But wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?
Juliet: What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?
Romeo: The exchange of thy hormones for mine. Thy endorphins for my enkephalins, my testosterone for thine estrogens.
Juliet: I gave thee mine before thou didst request it:
If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow.
Romeo: Methinks me detects vasopressin aka the monogamy molecule kicking in. Thine words have activated my withdrawal symptoms, I feelest my prolactin levels rising, whilst my androgen receptors droppest. Adieu, O Dopa Mine
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal
REBUILDING SECULARISM, GANDHI STYLE
On the front page of Syed Shahabuddin's weekly The Milli Gazette there was a news item written by its editor Zafarul Islam Khan, which I felt should have made to the headlines of every national daily and TV channels. But I did not see it appear in any other journal and felt saddened that our media had failed to perform its duty. The article was headlined "Sikhs rebuild mosque demolished in 1947". I give a short summary of its contents.
Sarwarpur, a village ten kilometres from Samrala town, in Punjab has a sizeable Muslim population. In the communal civil strife which accompanied the partition of Punjab in August 1947, most of the Muslims fled to Pakistan and the mosque was demolished by rampaging mobs of Hindus and Sikhs. Last year the Sikhs of the village decided to rebuild the mosque.
On May 22, Jathedar Kirpal Singh of the SGPC (Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee), the MLA of the village Jaagjivan Singh and all villagers welcomed Maulana Habibur Rehman Sani Ludhianvi and presented the keys of the mosque to the oldest Muslim villager Dada Mohammed Tufail. There were triumphant cries of Allah-o-Akbar (God-o-Creator). Among those present was Mohammed Usman Radanvi, Chairman of the Punjab Wakf Board.
My heart swelled with pride at what members of my community had done. Something what Guru Nanak, whose first disciple Bhai Mardana remained Muslim to the end of his life, would have liked them to do; they had done what the Fifth Guru Arjan, compiler of the adi-granth and builder of the Harmandir (today's Golden Temple), whose foundation stone had been laid by the Sufi Saint Hazrat Mian Mir of Lahore, would have applauded. And so would Maharaja Ranjit Singh, one of whose Maharanis built the white marble Dargah of Data Ganj Baksh, the most popular Sufi shrine in Lahore today.
I don't think it is too late for the media to make amends for its oversight. It can still highlight this historic event. Let pressmen and crews of TV channels visit Sarwarpur, reproduce pictures of the rebuilt mosque, interview residents of the village and tell all their countrymen what we need to do to keep it together. They could organise special showings for the destroyers of the Babri Masjid including L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Sadhvi Rithambra, Kalyan Singh, the Hindu Mahasabhaees, Shiv Sainiks, Bajrang Dalis and others who share their venomous views. I think the results will be spectacular. And I am sure our Bapu Gandhi in heaven will be showering his blessings on the villagers of Sarwarpur. Don't you agree with me?
Poets of yore
One evening, Geeti Sen, who is currently Cultural Counsellor with our embassy in Kathmandu, brought her son Murad with her. I had seen him as a baby in 1969 when his parents and I lived in the same block of flats on Cuffe Parade. He has grown into a handsome young man educated in Lawrence School, Sanawar and with a degree from Sydenham College, Bombay. He went into making films and acting in different institutes in Paris and America. Since his parents split and his own marriage went on the rocks, he lives alone in Nizamuddin and devotes himself to studying and reciting Urdu poetry. He has given many recitals in different cities in India and Nepal.
That evening he got going in my home. I was astounded by his phenomenal memory. If I quoted a couplet of an Urdu poet, he came out with the entire ghazal. And many more of his own choice.
It occurred to me that while mushairas are restricted to poets reciting their own works and the better poets usually come on the stage past midnight, there was a better alternative to keep Urdu alive.
If schools and colleges where Hindustani is understood had men like Murad Ali invited to give recitations of old and new poets from Meer Taqi Meer, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Ghalib and Momin down to Iqbal, Faiz, Kaif-I-Azmi, and Ahmad Faraz, they could put fresh life into the dwindling love for Urdu poetry which is our priceless heritage.
yes, minister With ministers, surprises never cease One had 'foot in the mouth' disease His statements on China Caused some angina But the PM gave him a fresh lease
Environment minister ruffled some feathers And helped create inclement weather. His diplomatic intrusions Created confusion That India and China should work together
Jai ho, Jai ho, Jairam Ramesh, Jai ho He is trying to unite friends and foes Chinese investments be allowed: He says clear and loud But the bloke is treading on some toes (Contributed by J.K. Mathur, Gurgaon)
The views expressed by the author are personal
BACK TO THE SAME SCHOOLING GRIND
So the holiday is over, and the holidays are over.
Life has returned (as it was always supposed to have done) to the predictable rhythms of monotony, anxiety, stress and annoyance, occasionally redeemed by the benedictions of love, literature, sport, music, movies, and serendipity.
Here we are, then: From Mediterranean skies which aren't really blue but of a colour that are their very own; from the crisp, air and the variegated green of the English countryside and London parks to the squalor of Mumbai and its impending monsoon, its sea like dirty washing and its skies of indeterminate colour, its sullen and rude taxi drivers, and awful roads.
Whoever should be in heaven is right there, and life is just as it ought to be. I have returned to work (as you, with alarm, must have noted), and our eight-year-old has returned to school in the new school year.
I am no admirer of returning to school (oh, the getting up early, the going to bed early, the homework, the irritation, the exasperation with people knowing better than you all the time, oh, the discipline), but there is one big difference between returning to work and returning to school.
The new school year, unlike returning to the office after a holiday, offers a chance of renewal and/or redemption.
Old friends, new clothes, new satchel, new lunch box, new pencil box, new painting-accoutrements box, new raincoat, new shoes, new classroom, new teacher(s). If you wanted to be deluded (or to believe in magic or be optimistic enough to commit yourself entirely to a new beginning), you could even imagine that it was a new YOU.
Returning to the office after a holiday offers no scope for such delusion (or belief in magic etc). One seems stuck in the same place, with the same set of people with their same set of demands and grouses (and, of course, one's own grouses, one realises, haven't changed one bit often because they are contingent on other people and their whinges having remained unaltered), fighting the same battles in the same constituency. Even the desire to throw up once in a while returns with the same intensity and the identical degree of doleful self-pity.
So school and I hadn't actually thought I'd ever say this seems the lesser evil.
In The Trees, Philip Larkin, with his austere lyricism, his gift for balancing nostalgia, hopefulness and a sort of wary scepticism, caught this mood wonderfully. I read the poem out to our girl the night before she went back to school.
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too..
Their yearly trick of looking new..
Is written down in rings of grain..
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
Mining everywhere is a messy business, but it is undeniable that in India the business is much more messy than elsewhere. The political interference, rampant illegality and enormous, uneconomic profits to be made in the sector are born of confused, opaque and outdated regulation. It is welcome, therefore, that the mines ministry has been working to update mining law specifically, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957, universally and cheerlessly known as MMDR. Now comes news, however, that the law ministry, which is supposed to vet new legislation, has suggested to the mines ministry that "losing mineral wealth forever" should be a concern. An increased emphasis on "conservation" means, among other things, that we should look very carefully at what they call "large-scale exports". This would, they claim, also cut down on illegal mining.
This is a seriously wrong-headed approach. Leave aside for the moment the question of whether this represents a bit of over-reach by the law ministry, which is supposed to examine legislation for legal loopholes and possible challenges, not set out its possible deeper policy implications. There is another concern here: the knee-jerk use of trade barriers to satisfy various domestic constituencies that might be having a tough time. Last month textile exporters successfully managed to get the Centre to introduce restrictions on the export of raw cotton; this hit farmers hard, and set a terrible precedent. In this particular case the concern is about the state of India's iron and steel industry: squeezed by high commodity prices recently, steelmakers have been lobbying hard for those subsidies that are, in Delhi-speak, euphemistically called "relief". A few weeks ago, the steel ministry had written a letter to the finance ministry asking that export of iron ore be "de-incentivised". Steelmakers feel that they should at least get to control the supply of iron ore given that the price of coking coal, for example, spiked over the past year and there was very little they could do about it.
There is absolutely no payoff to introducing barriers to trade, whether price-related or quantitative, in response to industry's desire for control. Here's another reason to extend financial sector deepening: hedging through the judicious use of commodity futures should take the pressure off struggling companies. Nor can "conservation" be interpreted to mean restricting mining but, as the mines ministry has pointed out, increasing productivity and the value addition from related industries. Above all, the knee-jerk use of trade barriers to appease lobbies must end.
Opposition unity is at most times elusive in Uttar Pradesh, but diverse political parties are united in their protest against a move to disallow political parties from contesting local body elections. Draft rules notified last month contained this sentence: "The election to the post of members, corporators, chairperson and mayor of municipalities shall not be contested on the basis of political parties." Part of the opposition's fury is at having been caught unawares just now about the BSP government's move. The draft rules were notified on May 11, with a month available for anybody to file objections. Now, the Congress, SP, and BJP are attributing ulterior motives to the Mayawati government's proposal. But it may be salutary to separate the politics from the idea of abolishing political parties in local elections.
Mayawati's detractors say that, were the change to be effected, her government to capture municipal bodies without having won them outright. They also hold that she is dodging a test of the BSP's popularity two years before the state must go to assembly elections. In fact, this charge was levelled against her in 2006 too that she was fearful of revealing her political strength at that time, a year before the 2007 elections that gave her a majority in a traditionally hung assembly. There would, of course, be politics at the heart of the move and it makes all more important that the chief minister explain why her government is taking such a leap in the way municipal body elections are conducted.
Political parties are crucial in a democracy, and attacks on them to make a case for direct democracy are alibis of dictators scared about the will of the people being made actionable through the organising structure provided by parties. But is there an intimacy to representation at the lowest, smallest level that's more meaningful without strict political party control and mobilisation? After all, what makes grassroots bodies different from state and national legislatures? The current controversy should occasion a wider debate on municipal elections.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
FOOTBALL CAN TURN AROUND FORTUNES
The first time I watched the World Cup on TV was in 1974, a few months after arriving in Paris. Before that, I'd caught the experience only on radio, hearing the spectacular voices of commentators Ajayda, Kamalda and Pushpenda. They were so good that without being in a football stadium, we could visualise a match with Kolkata teams like East Bengal, Mohan Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting, among others.
Being Bengali football freaks, even without the presence of TV, we felt very close to the World Cup. Brazil was almost a part of the Bengal team where Pele, at 17 years and 239 days, won the World Cup for his country in 1958. The greatest footballer of all time, Pele played in four World Cups, thrice bringing home the Cup for Brazil. Argentina's Diego Maradona is as big a world football icon, sharing the FIFA Player of the Century Award with Pele. Maradona made his international debut at 16 and played in World Cups from 1982 to 1994.
Cite Universitie in Paris 14 district where Greek House Director Yourgoulis gave me hostel accommodation is where I sat mesmerised before that b&w TV set. I'd grab a chair in the small table tennis lounge-cum-TV room an hour before the match. I could not speak French then so had to guess at everything, including the incredible moves of Beckenbaur and Muller. I peppered my fervour with Greek swearwords like malacca and putanis. The word ralenti often cropped up so I asked the only other Indian studentwho had given me to understand that he spoke very good Frenchwhat it meant. He said ralenti is like penalty. I believed him but discovered by the 1978 World Cup that ralenti means slow motion in French.
In 1994, I visited Argentina to implement a global project. Much to the chagrin of my client, Elizabeth, I'd wander into the 'dangerous' Buenos Aires slums to observe social trends. I found that companies like Pepsi and Coca Cola had sponsored good football grounds to encourage slum children play. In fact, Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez, who is now part of the Argentina team, played street football in these 'no go' areas as a child.
At that time, as I watched young boys practice football, others quarrelingone even had a gunand I remember thinking how terrific these sophisticated sports arrangements were. This crumbling slum had murky streets where even emergency services often refused to enter. In our poor village in Bengal, we could never think of such sports facilities or of anybody from our village becoming a world famous football player. Yet, even football champion Maradona, currently Argentina's coach, was raised in a poor family in a Buenos Aires shanty town. He was ten when he was spotted by a talent scout.
Elizabeth and I once went to a coffee shop at a national football ground. A boisterous group were gesticulating wildly about an imminent major local football match in the city starring Boca Juniors versus River Plate. I wanted to join their table-talk. Elizabeth did not approve of it but I explained to her that the food company they had acquired had its roots here and its transformation work required us to gather cultural aspects of Argentina and football was an intrinsic part of it. This kind of social phenomenon would bring us the right insight for this acquired company's future plans.
I walked across to those guys and introduced myself as a Bengali Indian living in Paris. The moment they heard Kolkata, they hugged me. It seems a few in this group of football journalists had gone to 'Mother Teresa's city' with the Argentina team in 1984 for the Nehru Cup. They marvelled at the Kolkatans' passion for football. Happy to meet a fellow football lover from across the globe, they offered me a ticket to the match that day. I'll never forget that immediate connect that football created.
I've been to two World Cups nowin France and in Spainand seen other European football matches and found the excitement that emanates there to be incomparable to any other bonding experience.
Fortunately, there's something beyond elite intellectual global recognitions like the Nobel Prize. Excellence in sports can also create international heroes. The youngest Nobel Laureate, Lawrence Bragg, was 25 when received the prize along with his father. And in sports, Pele and Maradona were teenagers when they acquired world fame with their genius. Pele, who grew up in São Paulo, could not even afford a ball and played with a grapefruit or a sock stuffed with a newspaper. He earned working in tea shops until he was discovered by a coach. When he scored his 1,000th goal, he dedicated it to the poor children of Brazil. These famous players are a great inspiration and powerful motivators for underprivileged children.
In India, sports is always short changed, the focus being on education. But everybody in society cannot be, or does not need to be, a graduate. Basic school education is enough to become a globally renowned sportsman. In India, sports can be a great medium to encourage disadvantaged people to acquire prowess instead of abandoning them into ghettoes where crime generally grows unabated.
Shombit Sengupta is a creative business consultant to top management. www.shiningconsulting.com
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
THE PRICE OF DEMOCRATIC FEUDALISM
Last Sunday when I wrote about the Indian media's reverence for Sonia Gandhi and her family, I had not foreseen that an event would shortly prove me right. That event was the judgment on the Bhopal gas tragedy that came soon after my column appeared and incensed public opinion because it amounted to no more than a gentle reprimand for those who had been responsible for the deaths of more than 25,000 people.
It was so shameful a verdict that our news channels went out of their way to hunt down those responsible for the tragedy and the terrible miscarriage of justice. We heard from pilots who flew Warren Andersen out of Bhopal in a government aircraft, drivers who drove him around, officials who shifted blame and retired officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation who said the Government of India ordered them to let Andersen off the hook. When the Congress Party's spokesmen were called to answer, they happily blamed Arjun Singh who was Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh at the time but nobody dared blame Rajiv Gandhi. Surely as Prime Minister he was more responsible for letting Andersen go? Surely it would have been impossible for Arjun Singh to let him flee the country without the Prime Minister's permission?
When I tweeted about this I got some support but not a lot because it is not just the media that reveres and forgives our democratically elected royal family but a vast majority of Indians too. As a country we have accepted democratic feudalism as our preferred political system. So why should it surprise us that something as horrible as the Bhopal gas tragedy should happen and justice not be done for a quarter of a century? What does democratic feudalism have to do with what happened in Bhopal? Let me explain.
Feudalism through the ballot box is similar to real feudalism in that as a system it relies on keeping the majority of the populace poor and illiterate. The good thing about poor and illiterate people is that they can be relied on not to protest even in the face of horrible injustice. Not because they like it that way but because they cannot afford to do anything else. More than 4,000 people were gassed to death by Union Carbide on December 3, 1984 and our political leaders have behaved as if it were just another industrial accident. Worse still, the victims have accepted this in virtual silence. Social activists led a few protest marches but these were sporadic since most victims were too poor to do more than get on with their lives. This would be unthinkable in a country that had real democracy and people who were literate enough to understand that their rights as citizens went beyond voting in elections.
In India, ninety per cent of voters exercise their democratic rights only at election time and then wait for their lives to improve without realising that for real change you need real policies not just a leader who comes from the right family. Today, the roots of democratic feudalism have spread so far and wide that most Indian political parties revolve around personalities and not ideas or ideology. Even apolitical observers cannot fail to notice that nearly every political party from Kashmir to Kanyakumari is the property of some family and always there is an heir waiting in the wings. Among the heirs in waiting the most powerful is Rahul Gandhi because his inheritance is not Punjab or Tamil Nadu but the whole of India. The New York Times pointed out recently that all he has to do is collect his 'inheritance' when he decides that its time.
He is nice enough, our Rahul, and has spent the past few years being trained in politics, economics and statecraft. So, a worthy prince but a prince all the same. He will not change the system, no matter what he says, because feudalism of any kind needs poor and illiterate people to survive. Please notice that he has said not one word about the Bhopal verdict and nor has his Mummy. The victims of the tragedy are too desperate and poor to ask for more. It is for you and I who know better to recognise that democratic feudalism is the main reason why India remains mired in medieval problems of poverty and monumental injustice.
Since the verdict I have found myself wondering what India's reaction would have been if that cloud of poisoned gas had wandered over Lutyen's Delhi instead of a wretchedly poor slum on the edge of Bhopal. What would India's reaction have been if among the 25,000 dead were senior members of the Indian government? Would Warren Andersen have been allowed to run away? Would an American company have been allowed to get away with mass murder?
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
'KHAP PANCHAYATS DO NOT HAVE ANY SAY IN HONOUR KILLINGS, IT'S THE KIN OF THE VICTIMS WHO DO'
Ravish Tiwari: How did Punjab and Haryana manage the drought last year?
Haryana purchased power at Rs 9-10 to provide it to farmers. We are the second largest contributor to the central pool. We have the highest per hectare production of wheat and even milk. We took care of the inclusive development for all sectors.
Tanushree Roy chowdhury: You had promised before the elections that you would make Haryana self-sufficient in power by 2010, but now you are saying it will take another three years.
Another one-and-a-half years or even by the end of this year. When I took over, the total generation of Haryana was 1,587 MW only. And available power from other sources was 4,200 MW, but the demand has risen to 8,000 MW this year, and it might touch 9,000 MW by next year, so we are increasing production of power by 5,000 MW. For that I laid the foundation stone of a 600 MW plant at Yamunanagar, which has already started generation; the foundation stone for a 1,200 MW plant was laid by the PM in Hisarthe first unit has already started generation and by mid-August, 1,200 MW will be generated. Third is the Jharli power plant shared by Delhi and Haryana, the foundation stone for which was laid by Smt Sonia Gandhi, it will generate 1,500 MW before CWG. There will also be 420 MW of power from private players, so by mid next year, we'll be generating 5,000 MW or more.
Tanushree Roy chowdhury: Industrialists are unhappy since they do not even get the promised eight hours of power supply.
Can you name any state where they are happy? I am purchasing power at the rate of Rs 9-10 to provide power to them. My focus is to achieve sufficiency. And I am satisfied with what I have achieved.
DK Singh: One issue that has dominated the headlines of latethe Mirchpur incident where two Dalits were burnt alive... it seems the controversy is more within the party. Chautala did not go there, Mayawati never said a word. So everything that has been said about Mirchpur has come from your party.
That is your assessment. My assessment is that an unfortunate incident has taken place and I have taken appropriate steps. Judges have also expressed satisfaction with the steps we have taken.
DK Singh: Were you surprised by Rahul Gandhi's visit to Mirchpur?
No, that is his style and I was happy because it gave confidence to the victims.
DK Singh: What is your stance on the khaps' demand for amendments in the Hindu Marriage Act?
Khaps are informal social organisations like NGOsif they do good, it's appreciated, but nobody is allowed to take law into their hands.
Maneesh Chhibber: How do you plan to rein them in?
There is some misunderstanding. Khap panchayats are very different from honour killings. Khap panchayats do not have any say in honour killings, it's the kin of the victims who do. Khaps have existed historically. Even the HMA has a clause which prohibits marriage within five generations on the father's side and three generations on the mother's. Not marrying within the gotra is a custom being followed and customary laws have their own strength. The other practice is that there should be no marriage within the same villagerecently a Jharkhand girl was killed for the same reason, but there are no khaps there.
Coomi Kapoor: When Capt Amarinder Singh came a few weeks ago, he said that the degree of relations within which one is not supposed to marry needs a relook, since there were some villages where women could not marry at all.
As far as I know, we used to leave four gotrasour own, our mother's, and both the grandmothers'. Aaj kal log nani ka gotra nahi chhodte hain aur kahin kahin dadi ka bhi nahi choodte hain. I am not for intra-gotra marriage, but no one should take law into their hands.
Maneesh Chhibber: What is happening on your demand for a separate high court for Haryana?
I am hopeful. I have spoken to the law minister also and things are going in the positive direction.
Dhiraj Nayyar: Haryana's agricultural performance has been outstanding but are you satisfied with the development of urban areas in Haryana since other than Gurgaon and Panchkula, which are the satellite cities of Delhi and Chandigarh, there aren't too many well-developed centres in Haryana?
No, it is developing fast. It is not only Gurgaon and Panchkula, other urban centres are also developing.
Dhiraj Nayyar: But people are not migrating to cities in Haryana.
I don't want them to migrate. My dream is to provide facilities that are available in cities in bigger villages. The Haryana Rural Development Authority is slowly providing infrastructure in villages as well.
Coomi Kapoor: How much of Haryana's economic prosperity is due to its proximity to Delhi?
Delhi is the main contributor, we do not have any other natural source, no sea, no mountains, Haryana is like a horse shoe to Delhi on three sides, I have done my best to take maximum advantage of that.
Sweta Dutta: The Gurgaon Rapid Metro Rail project has been pending for two years, it has not got the Centre's nod yet. Officials say the file has been lying on Jaipal Reddy's table for the last six months and also that there was some problem with the state government not keeping the central government in the loop.
No problem, it takes time. As far as the Metro is concerned, everything up to Gurgaon and Faridabad has been cleared. My first priority was Gurgaon, then Faridabad. Now it will be to Bahadurgarh then to Kundli and from Gurgaon we'll take it to Manesar. Like DMRC, in this budget, which we presented, we have created a Haryana Metro Corporation so that Haryana can build its own Metro. We'll make it seamless with DMRC.
Dhiraj Nayyar: What have you done about the status of women? Despite economic prosperity, the gender balance is not right.
We have improved in the last three years. We have different schemes, one is the Ladli schemeany woman having a second girl child will be paid Rs 5,000 per year for five years. For SCs and OBCs, the Indira Gandhi yojana provides Rs 31,000 for a girl's kanyadanearlier we used to give Rs 11,000. Likewise, if the power connection is in the name of a woman, we give a concession of 10 paise per unit. If property is registered in the name of a woman, two per cent concession is given.
Pradeep Kaushal: Were you surprised by Chautala's performance during the last Assembly elections?
I was not surprised because he got these tickets by default. You see, sometimes we commit mistakes in distributing tickets, sometimes the local situation is such. In Parliament, we got nine seats (out of 10) and in two seatsRohtak and Panipatwe won with the highest margin. But during Assembly elections, we got fewer votes in these seats, while we got more votes from the eight other seats.
Sanjeev Mukherjee: Haryana is a small state compared to others, so do you think it is easier to manage?
A state should not be very small, if it is too small, administration becomes very heavy. The size of Haryana is ok, Punjab is not a very big state now, but it was. You see, the parameter that indicates a state's development is planned budget. When I took over, the planned budget of my state, during Mr Omprakash Chautala's term, was between Rs 2,000 to 2,200 crore and there was always a shortage of resources. And the planned budget of Punjab was maybe more than Rs 3,500 crore. But within these five years, this time, this year, I presented a budget of Rs 18,260 crore instead of Rs 2,200 crore and that of Punjab is Rs 10,000-11,000 crore. Within three years I surpassed the budget of Punjab, which was ahead of us.
Tanushree Roy chowdhury: The Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon completed its two years but there has not been much difference. Meanwhile, you changed a commissioner and brought in the commissioner from Faridabad, who had done a decent job there but has turned out to be a failure in Gurgaon.
Because jab tak election nai hoga tab tak thoda problem rahega. Within the next four-five months elections will be conducted, then the Corporation will take its real shape.
Tanushree Roy chowdhury: When in 2006, there were serial killings in Gurgaon, you had promised that you will put in place a public transport system connecting places like Delhi, Faridabad, Manesar and ahead, which still remains to be done.
We have already sanctioned 200 buses.
Raghvendra Rao: Your government had planned an airport in your first term.
My efforts are still on. I have discussed it with the aviation minister too, in principle he agreed.
Dhiraj Nayyar: Does food price inflation have anything to do with the rising MSPs given to farmers?
That is a very complicated situation since our country has both producers as well as consumers so both have to be taken care of. Had MSP not been there, we would have had to import. At one point, the government has to waive off farmers' loans. The expenses in the chain between the farmers and consumers will remain. A sub-committee has been formed, of which I have been made the chairman and the chief ministers of Punjab, West Bengal and Bihar have been made members. The first meeting will be held on June 7, where I will be presenting the food security report about what can be and should be done.
Dhiraj Nayyar: What is the possible solution?
There is the market, the mandi system, FCI, etc.there are several systems, not a one-point answer, it is a chain which has to be discussed.
Maneesh Chhibber: Whenever a government acquires land from farmers, it leads to a lot of hue and cry but in Haryana, the process has been smooth. The Government of India also wants other states to follow Haryana. Will you explain how you achieve it?
The land acquisition and rehabilitation policy formulated by Haryana is not there anywhere else in the world. Under this, when we acquire some land for development purposes, we give full compensation and annuity for 33 years, which means we have a fixed floor rate throughout the state, depending on proximity, etc. Rs 1,000 per acre per year is paid as annuity for 33 years and every year Rs 500 is added to it. In case the acquisition is for an SEZ, then annuity is Rs 30,000 per year for 33 years with an increase of Rs 1,000 annually. Suppose HSIIDC or HUDA acquires land, we re-habilitate the farmers. The policy takes care that the acquisition should benefit at least one generation ahead.
NP Singh: Is there any proposal to improve the pollution norms with regard to vehicles? Delhi continues to complain that it has no control on its pollution levels since vehicles entering from Haryana do not comply with pollution norms, whereas Delhi has controlled it with the introduction of CNG. Also, since your taxes are lower and Delhi has increased its registration by 10 per cent, it encourages registration of vehicles in Haryana and they are brought in unchecked into Delhi.
When there was no CNG in Delhi, we still had a lower fee. We have introduced CNG in the NCR region and have brought in low-floor CNG buses to ensure norms.
Maneesh Chhibber: Do you think there will be a solution to Chandigarh, between Haryana and Punjab?
These are three primary issueswater, territory and Capital. Haryana's primary concern is its water, my focus will be on water. Punjab isn't giving us our share.
Dhiraj Nayyar: The central government has been hesitant about big retail, specially FDI. Is that a possible solution to bridge the gaps between what farmers get and what consumers get?
That is one way, the PPP model, we can go for that. But we have to take care of the middlemen, we cannot take them out since they are also earning their livelihood. So every section has to be taken care of.
Shekhar Gupta: Have you heard anything from your farmers about nutrient-based subsidy?
The meeting has been called on June 7, wherein this will be discussed.
Maneesh Chhibber: Are you opposed to the creation of a human rights commission for the state, like your predecessor?
I'm not opposed to it, but we do not require a separate commission. Whenever there is a need, we'll do it.
Transcribed by Tanushree Roy Chowdhury.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
WINDS OF CHANGE
The Finance Act, 2010, as well as recent circulars issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regarding pricing of share transfers between residents and non-residents is bound to have significant impact on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) involving unlisted companies' shares in India.
Given that the relevant provisions of The Finance Act, 2010, have become effective from June 1 and the RBI pricing guidelines have become operative since May, it is worthwhile to study these legislative changes and attempt to assess their implications on transactions.
Anti-abusive provisions of The Finance Act, 2010
The Finance Act, 2010, has introduced anti-abuse provisions to include within its ambit transactions involving the transfer of shares of a closely held company where a firm (including a limited liability partnership (LLP)) or closely held company is a recipient. Earlier, the anti-abuse provisions were applicable only if an individual or a Hindu Undivided Family ('HUF') was a recipient.
The provisions have been introduced to prevent the practice of transferring unlisted shares at prices much below their fair market valuefor no or inadequate consideration. These provisions have come into effect from June 1 this year.
Simply stated, post-June 1, the difference between 'aggregate fair market value' of shares of a closely held company and the consideration paid would be taxed in the hands of 'recipient' of such shares. At the same time, exceptions have been carved out in respect of share transfers through transactions like business reorganisations, amalgamations and demergers.
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has also notified the methodology for determination of 'fair market value' of shares of closely held companies. As per the notification, the valuation for equity shares shall be determined as per the 'net asset value' method whereas, for other shares/securities, it shall be at such price as may be fetched in the open market on the valuation date.
While the Explanatory Memorandum to The Finance Act, 2010, does mention the intention behind introduction of these provisions, the manner in which the relevant sections introduced in the Income-tax Act, 1961, seems to indicate that these anti-abuse provisions would be triggered in any situation where a firm or a closely held company "receives for less than fair market value" shares of a closely held company (barring certain defined exceptions). This has given rise to considerable debate as to applicability of these provisions to following types of transactions:
* Transactions involving bonus issues, rights issues, preferential allotments, put/call options, etc.
* Transactions which are exempt from tax (in the hands of transferor) under the current provisions of Income-tax Act, 1961 (gift, transfer of capital asset (including shares) between parent companies and their 100% subsidiaries, etc).
* Transactions where a partner contributes shares of a closely held company to a partnership firm as his capital (presently, the value at which such shares are recorded in the books of partnership firm is deemed to be the transaction value for the purpose of computing capital gains tax in the hands of the contributing partner).
* Transfer of shares of investee closely held companies by an amalgamating company to an amalgamated company as a part of the amalgamation (the present exceptions carved out from these anti-abuse provisions exempt only the shareholders of the amalgamating company, but not the company itself).
* Buy-backs, capital reductions, etc, at less than 'fair market value', where percentage shareholding of all shareholders remains same pre and post the transaction, etc.
However, it is hoped that the provisions shall be weighed in the background of the objects for which they were introduced, namely, to restrict taxability to cases where there is a deliberate attempt to evade/ avoid tax and/or to accomplish value transfer from one person to another through transfer of shares. Further, it is also hoped that the interpretation may be relaxed in cases where the transaction is commercial and bona fide between two persons at arms' length.
It would only help if the legislative intention is notified by CBDT, as th same may bind the tax authorities.
Impact of change in pricing guidelines by RBI
A certain amount of ambiguity has arisen with respect to valuing transfers of shares of closely held companies between residents and non-residents with the recent amendment to the pricing guidelines issued by the RBI.
The revised RBI pricing guidelines provide that, inter-alia, the price at which the shares of Indian unlisted companies can to be transferred by a non-resident to a resident shall not be more than the fair value determined by SEBI-registered merchant banker or a chartered accountant as per the 'discounted cash flow' method.
Thus, difficulty may thus arise in cases where the pricing as per the CBDT notification ('net asset value') is higher than the pricing as per the RBI circular ('discounted cash flow' method) as in such cases, the resident Indian purchaser will not be able to buy shares at the price mentioned in the CBDT notification and may hence end up being unfairly taxed on the difference. Again, there is currently no recourse available to settle the ambiguity.
In light of the above, it is but imperative that the transactions involving closely held companies shares be structured carefully, keeping in mind the paradigm shift in the governing legislations.
At the same time, it can only be hoped that the authorities would adopt a view that is likely to lean in favour of an interpretation which supports the object behind introduction of the anti-abuse provisionswhich is to act as a counter-evasion mechanism to prevent laundering of unaccounted income, to curb bogus capital building and money laundering, etc.
However, until such issues are not specifically clarified by the CBDT for the benefit of the assessees and for the sake of clarity, it shall continue to be a wait and watch syndrome!
The writer is national leader, transaction tax, Ernst & Young. Nachiketa Deo, a senior tax professional with Ernst & Young, has also contributed to the article. Views expressed are personal
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
FOOTBALL CAN MAKE THE UNDERPRIVILEGED INTO STARS
The first time I watched the World Cup on TV, wide-eyed, was in 1974, a few months after arriving as a greenhorn in Paris. That match was happening in Germany. I'd only experienced the transistor radio earlier, the spectacular voices of commentators Ajayda, Kamalda and Pushpenda. They were so good that without being in any football stadium we could visualise a match with Kolkata teams like East Bengal, Mohan Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting among others.
Being Bengali football freaks, even without electronic media, we'd felt very close to the World Cup in those days. Brazil was almost a part of the Bengal team where Pele, at 17 years, 239 days, won the World Cup for his country in 1958. I recall a wounded Pele could not finish the tournament in 1962. In 1966, brutal fouling on Pele by Bulgarian and Portuguese defenders obliged Pele to continue with a limping leg as substitutes were not allowed at that time. The greatest footballer of all time, Pele played in four World Cup tournaments, thrice bringing home the Cup for Brazil, including in 1970. Argentina's Diego Maradona is as big a world football icon, sharing the FIFA Player of the Century Award with Pele. Maradona made his full international debut at age 16 and played in four World Cups too, from 1982 to 1994.
Cite Universitie in Paris, where Greek House director Mr Yourgoulis allowed me hostel accommodation because of my parallel studies in Ecole des Beaux Arts while working as a sweeper, is where that black&white TV set mesmerised me. I'm sure today's young generation can never understand the exhilaration of sitting in front of it, watching our sports idols enact their magic. I'd grab a chair in the small table tennis lounge-cum-TV room an hour before the match. I could not speak French then so had to gauge everything, including the incredible moves of Beckenbaur and Muller. I got adept at peppering my fervour using Greek swear words like malacca and putanis. The word ralenti often occurred so I asked the only other Indian student who'd made me understand he speaks very good French. He said ralenti is another discipline like penalty. I believed him, but discovered by the 1978 World Cup that ralenti means slow motion in French.
To implement a global project I had gone to Argentina in 1994. Much to the chagrin of my client, Elizabeth, I'd wander into unauthorised 'dangerous' Buenos Aires slums to experience life and social trends. I found that companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola had sponsored good football grounds to encourage slum children to become heroes. Indeed, from a tall block of buildings with high crime rate comes Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez who had played street football in these 'no go' areas as a child, and is now part of the Argentina team.
At that time, as I watched young boys practice football, others quarreling, one even had a gun, I remember thinking how terrific these sophisticated sports arrangements were. This crumbling slum had murky streets where even emergency services often refused to enter. In our poor village in Bengal we could never think of such sports facilities or of anybody from our village becoming a world famous football player. Yet even football champion Maradona, currently Argentina team's coach, was raised in a poor family living in a Buenos Aires shanty town. When 10 years old, he was spotted by a talent scout.
After quitting the slums, Elizabeth and I went to a coffee shop of a national football ground. A gang of boisterous people were gesticulating wildly about an imminent major local football match in the city starring Boca Juniors verses River Plate. I absolutely wanted to join their table-talk. Being a sophisticated French woman, Elizabeth was getting angry but I explained that the food company they acquired had its roots here so its transformation work required us to gather cultural aspects of Argentina where football was highly relevant. This kind of social phenomenon would bring us the right insight for this acquired company's future plans.
I walked across to those guys and introduced myself as a Bengali Indian living in Paris. You can't believe how, the moment they heard Kolkata, they spontaneously hugged me. It seems a few in this group of football journalists had gone to "Mother Theresa's city" with the Argentina team in 1984 for the Nehru Cup. They marveled at how Kolkatans are so enthusiastic about football. In their happiness over meeting a fellow football lover from across the globe, they offered me a ticket to the famous match that day. I'll never forget this immediate attachment that football can create anywhere in the world. I've experienced two World Cups on the field in France and Spain, and other European football matches, and found the excitement that emanates here to be incomparable to any other bonding experience.
Fortunately, there's something beyond elite intellectual global recognitions like the Nobel Prize; excellence in sports can also create international heroes with huge fan followings. Actually nobody knows how you get a Nobel Prize; the youngest laureate, Lawrence Bragg, was 25 when together with his father he received the Physics Nobel in 1915. But it's quite incredible how in sports teenagers like Pele and Maradona could acquire world fame, having proved their genius to the masses, and continued to perform. Look at the poverty Pele, the greatest icon, grew up with in São Paulo. He could not afford a football, and usually played with a grapefruit or a sock stuffed with newspaper tied with a string. He'd earn extra money working in tea shops as a servant until he was discovered and taught by his coach. When he scored his 1,000th goal, he dedicated it to the poor children of Brazil. These famous players are a great inspiration and powerful motivator for the under-privileged young generation.
In India, sports is always short changed; we push everything towards school or college education. But everybody in society cannot be, or does not need to be, a graduate; basic school education is enough to become a globally renowned sportsman. Here where slums are prevalent in every city, sports can be a great medium to encourage disadvantaged people to acquire prowess instead of abandoning them into ghettoes where crime generally grows unabated.
Shombit Sengupta is an international Creative Business Strategy consultant to top managements. Reach him at www.shiningconsulting.com
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
IN CASE OF EURO CRISIS, BREAK DEUTSCHE MARK GLASS
Juergen Stark keeps a framed sheet of deutsche marks bearing his signature on his office wall at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. He should consider adding a sign saying "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass."
The rescue package cobbled together to prevent Greece from defaulting has trashed investor confidence in the common currency project. I hope the Bundesbank, where Stark learned the craft of central banking before joining the ECB's board, has a locked safe somewhere in the basement containing a blueprint for a euro exit strategy.
The "New Normal," as the bond mavens at Pacific Investment Management Co have dubbed the post-credit crisis environment, turns out to be a world where scenarios move from impossible to inevitable without even pausing at improbable. Flocks of black swans go winging by with a frequency that is dulling our sensitivity to just how extraordinary these financial times are. Call it crisis fatigue.
The next market earthquakea derivatives black hole in the accounts of a big bank, a failed government bond auction by a euro member, war in Korea, a hedge fund relearning the lesson that markets can remain irrational longer than you can stay solventposes bigger risks than usual. Not only is the universe of money more dysfunctional than ever, policy makers are almost out of ammunition and ideas.
The new normal is decidedly weird. Consider your likely response if I had bet you three years ago that the following would come to pass: many of the world's biggest banks are state-controlled; a global tax on securities trading looks inevitable; the financial industry is hooked on central bank liquidity, with firms still unwilling to lend to each other; the corporate bond market is shut; policy makers have resorted to buying government debt to cap surging borrowing costs; some nations are unable to borrow at all; and Germany wants to ban some sovereign credit-default swap trades to divert the spotlight away from the spreading collapse in government creditworthiness.
The money markets are dying as the financial community decides it's safer to recycle tarnished debt for cash via the central banks rather than risk lending and borrowing with the institution next door. Transactions between US commercial banks have slumped to about $162 billion from a peak of $494 billion in September 2008, the month that Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc filed for bankruptcy protection. The ECB said last week it expects European banks to have even bigger loan losses this year than in 2009. The new normal makes the Federal Reserve and the ECB the lenders of first resort. There's no way central banks can switch off their life-support machines while the money markets are still a heartbeat away from flat-lining.
The ECB said this week it now owns 40.5 billion euros ($48 billion) of euro government bonds. Trouble is, there's no transparency about what it has bought. Government money distorts the information channel that is supposed to flow from open-market prices. Why would I risk buying Greek debt if the deep pockets of a central bank are soaking up Spanish bonds, or adding to my Portuguese investments when it might be hoovering up Irish securities?
So, Germany's borrowing costs have dropped to a record as investors seek the safety of bunds. Everyone else,
though, is getting hammered, as contagion infects the core members of the euro region as well as the so-called peripheral borrowers. Government would do well to remember that money managers are under no obligation to lend to them by buying their bonds.
France, AAA rated and shoulder-to-shoulder with Germany when the euro was being created, pays about 55 basis points more than its Teutonic neighbor to borrow for 10 years, triple the average spread in the past five years. Spanish 10-year yields have soared to 4.66%, higher than they were before the European Union set up its 750 billion-euro aid package.
The EU lifeboat, called the European Financial Stability Facility, will sell bonds guaranteed by the euro members if a nation requests aid. If you told your grandmother that the solution to too much debt was to borrow more, you'd get a well-deserved spanking. It's also the Bundesbank's worst nightmare come true. Joint and several bond issuance was supposed to be outlawed by the euro's bylaws, to prevent the profligate from hitching a free ride on the backs of the fiscally disciplined.
Bondholders aren't the only sufferers. Equity investors should also beware, because every profitable industry will start to look like a piggybank to governments anxious to raise revenue wherever they can. Australia's tax on mining companies and Germany's move to impose levies on banks, air travel and nuclear-power plants are just the beginning. And the global authorities are only just embarking on their efforts to increase banking regulation; do you really want to bet against the law of unintended consequences kicking in good and hard? After unleashing Keynesian pump-priming of unprecedented proportions, governments are about to try a second never-attempted-before experiment, as they struggle to tighten their belts even while trying to clamber out of recession. "Time, devaluations and debt restructurings might be the only way out for many nations," Anthony Crescenzi at Pimco, which runs the world's biggest bond fund, said in a research note. Printing money to resuscitate the economy is "a magic elixir that has morphed into poison," he wrote.
Instead of handing out euros to bail out its neighbours, maybe the Bundesbank should warm up the printing press and prepare to start stamping out deutsche marks to replace those devalued euros.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
WHY BASEBALL AND 'NOT' CRICKET
With T-20 cricket moving into mainland USA and evoking a fair response from the spectators so far, it is time to delve into the age-old question yet againwhy did cricket lose out to baseball in the US in the closing decades of the 19th century? This is especially relevant when we note that cricket in the US goes back to 1709 and had a fairly well-established constituency till the middle of the 19th century with regular tours being undertaken to the US and Canada from parts of the empire.
Why, on the one hand, did cricket flourish in lands like Pakistan and India? And why, on the other hand, is cricket not much played in the United States, with its heritage and 'special relationship' with Britain? For decades, historians have debated why cricket and baseball, both with century-old histories, became national passions in two of the world's biggest erstwhile colonies, and were appropriated and subverted by indigenous peoples for purposes of confrontation against the Empire. In both cases, the common reference point remains the Empire. While in the Americas, the desire was to dissociate American sport from British sport, in countries like India where the Empire lasted far longer, the intention was to appropriate and subsequently indigenise British sports for purposes of resistance. In fact, the American reaction to Empire sport was simply the opposite of the Indian retort to imperial games. In India, the nationalist movement from the close of the 19th century made it imperative that cricket be taken up as a non-violent means to compete with the ruling British. In the United States, where independence was achieved a century and a half earlier than India, this need was totally irrelevant. Rather, what was important in the US was to sever all sporting connections with the empire to emphasise an independent American identity. It is this inverse invocation of nationalism that best provides the key to unwinding the old dichotomy, Why baseball, why cricket? in differing global contexts.
The earliest record of cricket in the Americas was found in the 'secret diary' of William Byrd II of Virginia and the date, believe it or not, is April 25, 1709. Subsequent references to cricket date back to Georgia in 1737 and an advertisement in a New York paper for players in 1739. The first recorded American cricket match was in New York in 1751 on the site of what is today the Fulton fish market in Manhattan.
Cricket, records indicate, remained popular in the Americas until the 1860s and the first recognised international match between Canada and USA was attended by over 10,000 spectators at Bloomingdale Park in New York in 1844. Tours to and from the US were common until the 1880s, and the best moment for US cricket came when a United States side defeated the West Indies in an international match in British Guyana in 1880. Though matches between Americans and British residents were played on the American West Coast right through the 1880s and 1890s, cricket, by the turn of the century, had given way to baseball. By the end of the Civil War, baseball's ascendance to the top of the American sporting pantheon was inevitable, if not already complete. Though cricket would experience a revival in the 1870s, it would never again compete with baseball as either a participatory or a spectator sport in the United States. The most compelling question to emerge from this development is simply 'why?'. What were the factors that allowed baseball to prevail over cricket, despite the latter's longer history both inside and outside the US?
It was the 1850s that became the critical decade in this battle for sporting supremacy. As American nationalism emerged and strengthened, baseball, continually forged and moulded to suit the needs of Americans, began to assert a stronger hold on the American public, eventually pushing cricket forever into the margins of American sporting life. It was during this decade that calls for a national game were heard, and it was this decade that saw the term 'national pastime' first written. The need to create a national game grew out of the American desire to 'emancipate their games from foreign patterns'.
If sport is in fact a metaphor (and in some cases a metonym) for war, then cricket simply was not necessary in the United States, as it was in India. The US, having prevailed militarily already against the British (twice) had no need for 'war minus the shooting'. The early date of American independence, coupled with the arrival of American nationalism in the 1850s and beyond, meant that cricket was inevitably the game that had to lose in the battle with baseball.
The truth is that American sports fans still prefer sports that they can identify as 'American'; the internationalisation of professional basketball and baseball in recent years may actually be hurting their domestic popularity. Meanwhile, the least integrated of the major sports in the United Statesthe National Football League and NASCARhave not seen concomitant declines in viewership. The need to assert Americanness in the sporting field still remains a vigorous part of the culture of spectatorship in the US. This need to separate predates the rise of the US to its own imperial status. It first began in the rejection of a decidedly British sport for one that was more 'American'. It is this challenge to carve out a constituency of American cricket fans that will determine if the newest experiment to take cricket to the Americas turns out to be a success.
The writer is a cricket historian
THEY FORAGE THE CITY, COLLECTING AND SORTING OFTEN HAZARDOUS WASTE WHEN THE CITY SLEEPS AND BY DAY THEY ARE GONE. MOST OF THEM ARE WOMEN AND WE HAVE NO LONG-TERM POLICY IN PLACE THAT LOOKS AT THEIR WELFARE OR HEALTH
Millions of waste pickers in India, who play a crucial role in dealing with the perennial environmental crisis of waste, risk their lives and their health every single day.
Oil and water do not mix as the Americans are being forced to accept with the tragic oil spill from a British Petroleum oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. For almost two months now, the struggle to cap the oil well and protect large sections of the country's coastline from being devastated has been the top story in the news and the major concern of the US administration. It is an environmental crisis of gigantic proportions, and purely man-made. Whether in the long-term this will compel Americans to think again about their dependence on fossil fuels and seriously embark on the path of scaling it down and encouraging alternatives remains to be seen. At present, one finds little expression of this in the discussions around the oil spill.
On a much smaller scale, and not so dramatic, was the "accidental" exposure to radiation that affected workers and waste collectors in Delhi a few months ago when they handled radioactive material. At the time when this unfortunate incident took place, the issue of waste disposal, particularly hazardous waste, made the headlines. Follow up articles were written. The lives of those who live off collecting and sorting waste came into our line of vision. But then the issue disappeared.
Every now and then we keep reading similar horror stories linked to waste disposal such as the one about the garbage mountain in Jawaharnagar near Hyderabad where three waste collectors were buried under heaps of garbage. The body of one of them, a 15-year-old boy, was retrieved. But the body of a woman also buried was never traced.
Long term policies that ensure that the safety and health of those who do such an essential job "a community of silent environmentalists" someone called them are not such a high priority any more. One reason is that the people affected are virtually invisible.
Waste collectors around India work silently, often late into the night, sorting out mountains of waste, foraging for anything that can be sold. If you walk down some streets of central Mumbai after 11 at night, you will see an army of waste collectors. Men, women, children are all hard at work. They work through the night and finally manage to get some sleep on the doorsteps of the shops on those streets. By daylight they become invisible, having stowed their belongings in boxes behind the signs of the shops on whose doorsteps they sleep. These are the people of the night, not noticed by those who inhabit the areas in the day.
What is often not entirely appreciated is that a substantial percentage of waste collectors is women. According to a study by the Stree Mukti Sangathan, a group that has organised women waste collectors in Mumbai, 85 per cent of waste collectors in the city are women, five per cent are children and 10 per cent are men. The majority of them are Dalits and landless people who came to the city because of drought in their villages. The age group ranges from 7 to 70 years and 98 per cent of them are illiterate. A survey by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation of 60,000 waste collectors found a similar proportion: 60 per cent women, 20 per cent men and 20 per cent children.
Studies have revealed that 90 per cent of the women waste pickers are primary bread-winners, often widowed or deserted. It is interesting how the sexual division of labour plays out even in the business of waste. While women, and children, do the more hazardous job of sorting and separating the waste, the men deal with the dry garbage, which they transport to wholesalers and factories. As a result, it is the women who are exposed to hazardous waste none of them wear any kind of protective gear and also face the physical problems of constantly bending and carrying headloads of the waste. Look at any group of waste collectors and you will spot the bent old women who have been performing this function for decades.
All their wealth
In the slum-city of Mumbai, waste collectors experience the most acute degree of homelessness. While poor people in other kinds of jobs somehow manage to find some shelter in a slum, irrespective of whether it is legal or illegal, waste collectors sleep next to the garbage they have sorted. This is their "wealth", something they have to protect after they have collected and sorted it until they can monetise it. Hence, near many garbage dumps, even in the better off localities of cities like Mumbai, you see families of waste pickers asleep in the morning. And most often you see only women and children.
As a result of advocacy and campaigns by civil society groups, many cities have now recognised the work of waste collectors and given them some legitimacy. This is an important step but it is clearly not enough. The issues of safety and health have also to be addressed even as their contribution to the city and the environment is recognised.
Why bring up waste collectors at a time when the main environmental issues being debated are the larger issues of global warming, or environmental disasters such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Because you cannot speak of environment without considering the impact on the lives of people. We have hundreds of small-scale and continuing environmental disasters taking place all around us. But we overlook them so long as they do not impact our lives or our lifestyles. Millions of waste pickers in India, who play a crucial role in dealing with the perennial environmental crisis of waste, risk their lives and their health every single day. This is an on-going environmental issue that requires as much attention from ordinary people, the media and policy makers as the larger macro issues.
Email the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
SELF-HELP BOOKS DO NOT OFFER PRE-PACKAGED SOLUTIONS BUT THEY MAY EMPOWER YOU TO SEEK SOLUTIONS AND THEY ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY POPULAR, AT LEAST IN URBAN INDIA.
When I first started writing a self-help book several years ago, I had to ask myself what on earth I was trying to do. Would people actually read a book to find answers to burning questions? Would the quality of their lives really change by merely reading a book? In the west the U.S. and the U.K. self-help books have established themselves as a popular genre. In fact, The New York Times' Review of Books that appears every Sunday and is often what most people use as their principal yardstick in making decisions to buy books, lists 'Advice books' under a separate category, distinct from Fiction, Non-fiction, Graphic writing and Children's books. But what about in our country? Given that we operate on a ' panchayatmode' when it comes to conflict resolution, would we be willing to buy a book to deal with our issues? I still had no clear answers to these questions when my first self-help book was launched in 2002. As it turned out, I needn't have worried, for, the response to not only my first book, but my subsequent books (all 'self-help') was absolutely remarkable. It appears that educated urban Indians are perfectly prepared to use the self-help route to find answers.
However, as one of my email interlocutors asked me, If a marriage is coming apart or one has experienced extraordinary stress, wouldn't one do better seeking professional intervention than reading a book? In an ideal world, yes. But, in our country, there is still a strong stigma attached to seeing psychiatrists or counsellors. As a nation, we don't find it easy to seek help, especially when it comes to something like marriage or stress management that we are all supposed to possess natural expertise at (at best, we'd only consider approaching our family and friends to give us some counsel, however biased this may be). A book, though, can be read in relative anonymity and just like one finds it easier to open up to a stranger on a train, one might find it easier to establish an in-absentia-therapeutic relationship with the author of a book. Compared to suffering in silence, reading a book seems to me a pretty good option.
Expecting people to resolve all their marital or other problems by reading a book would be foolhardy. But what I do expect to happen when one reads a self-help book is that it might jump-start a process of seeking solutions. Rather than believe that nothing can be done, readers do feel empowered enough to seek solutions by talking, listening, reading some more, and maybe even talking to a therapist. In other words, reading a self-help book could be a very vital first step in moving out of the victim mode that most of us fall into when faced with a crisis, to a survivor mode that gets us out of emotional quagmires. But let us not for a moment believe that a book can offer us neat and pre-packaged solutions.
The way I see it, when one is able to obtain an understanding of the dynamics of a relationship such as marriage, or is able to understand what precisely happens in the course of a mid-life crisis or whatever crisis one is afflicted by, one is empowered to act more consciously and make more considered choices. Of course, a lot depends on how the book is written. If it's full of inadequately explained jargon (what has come to be cynically dismissed as psychobabble), then it certainly is conceivable that the reader might end up more confused than empowered. However it's hardly likely that such a book would be a best-seller. So there's a natural check and balance in place. I think the trick to using a self-help book is not to expect it to magically resolve all one's problems, but to rather think of it as a piece in a jigsaw puzzle (a corner piece if the book is a good one). In other words, the book is not going to change your life. But it can empower you to change your life.
That self-help books are here to stay is a well-documented fact of contemporary life. The truth is, we all need help and advice, whether it's on cookery, gardening, adoption, relationships or healing the soul. The sooner we come to terms with this reality the better. Before we dismiss this tendency towards using self-help books as a 'Western' phenomenon, let us remind ourselves of the phenomenal success, in our own country, of the Chicken Soup series or John Gray's series of books on the Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus theme, among others. Obviously, Indian readers are willing to invest in self-help books. This will doubtless spawn a new generation of India-specific, quality self-help books in regional languages as well, and perhaps, sooner than later, self-help books will become a genre that will earn for itself an independent category in national best-seller listings. In the final analysis, if we learn how to use self-help books well as sources of inspiration and mental stimulation than of solutions, we might well find ourselves browsing for these online or at our friendly neighbourhood bookstore, and not just at airport bookstores while we wait for our delayed flight to be called.
The writer is the author of the just-launched Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy and can be contacted at email@example.com
LEADER PAGE ARTICLES
VIVE LA DIFFÉRENCE
THOUGH FRANCE HAS MUCH IN COMMON WITH THE UK, CERTAIN THINGS, LIKE A STRONG SENSE OF COMMUNITY, GENERAL ORGANISATION AND ATTITUDE, ARE MARKEDLY DIFFERENT
Last week, during a short stay with some friends of ours, we visited a farmers' market in a small village in southern France. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of stalls, and the range of goods. In the same village, we went into the local library, staffed by volunteers, and established as a result of the enthusiasm of a small group of people. We met one of the volunteers, an English woman who, like our English friends, lives in the area, and who has been a driving force in bringing the library into being.
We know France quite well. (I paid my first visit in 1949, when the country was slowly recovering from years of war.) I am, nevertheless, constantly surprised by the strong sense of community, and patriotism, national and local, which is such a feature of the country.
Quite small villages want good facilities and take steps to ensure that they are provided. Swimming pools, for example, are common a provision unthinkable in similarly sized communities in the U.K.
Farmers, of course, if they are working on a small scale (which is common in France) do not find it easy to make a living. The farmers' markets are a way of reacting to the threats of a globalised economy, going out to the customer rather than waiting for the customer to come. Yet although they are a response to economic pressures, they undoubtedly touch a community chord.
We broke our outward journey in Paris and were just in time to see the end of a major national effort by farmers to make Parisians aware of the richness and variety of what they have to offer and aware of the problems which they face. A vast array of products, and sheep and cattle, had been on show in the Champs Elysées, that iconic thoroughfare at the heart of Paris. The products came from many different regions of France, a reminder of the size and geographical variety of the country.
Our journey, from Cambridge to southern France and back, was by train. Rail travel provides another reminder of the size of France, and another illustration of the patriotism which pervades it. The trains are comfortable, and in spite of the long distances, generally punctual. (To put things in perspective, on our outward journey from Paris the train was half an hour late starting but that was explained by a blockage on the line. And lest it seems that I have fully bought the "France is best" line, I should record that the trains on our side of the Channel were also on time.)
It is unwise to draw generalised conclusions from limited observation of national differences. Two aspects of British-French difference, however, stand out. One is a difference of organisation, the other a difference of attitude.
Power to decide
Organisationally, France has long been a more centralised state than the U.K., and even at local level the concept that someone is in charge, and can make decisions, is a corollary of that. Even small communes have mayors, with executive powers. A mayor, for example, can in effect decide to provide a library building, or a swimming pool, given a measure of public support. In the U.K., by contrast, traditionally seen (by the British at least) as far less bureaucratic than France, limitations on local government at village level are much greater. The chairman of a parish council certainly could not take an executive decision of a kind possible for his French mayoral counterpart.
The attitude difference is at least as significant. Small rural communities in France tend to be more isolated than in the U.K. (geographically a much smaller country, with virtually the same size of population) and seem therefore to have a greater sense of "ownership". To take a small example, if people want the street to be free of litter, they can quite easily ensure that it is. In the U.K., that is much more difficult to achieve. (My village employs a litter-picker, but his task can be frustrating because there is much through traffic, and people passing through are careless about throwing things in the street a habit which some residents then follow.)
Given today's travel facilities, France is an easily accessible next door neighbour to an extent that was certainly not true when I made my first visit. However much we have in common, every time I go there I am reminded of significant differences. My reaction, frankly, is vive la différence.
Bill Kirkman is an Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College Cambridge, UK. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A SONG FOR ALL OCCASIONS
Though he is mainly known as a ghazal singer, Talat Aziz has sung for films, faced the camera and experimented with musical forms. In a chat with ARCHANA SUBRAMANIAN, he recalls the highs and lows of his three-decades in the music field.
Ghazal and playback singer Talat Aziz hails from an illustrious family, great patrons of fine arts. Born in Hyderabad, Talat was trained primarily by Ustad Samad Khan and later by Ustad Fayaz Ahmed. His first music performance was in Hyderabad but he moved to Mumbai later. Having been in the field for many years, Talat talks about the changes in the music scene, why ghazals are still popular and his stint in movies.
Did you always want to be a ghazal singer?
My journey as a singer started 30 years ago when I cut my first album. I took it up as a hobby. I loved music but I never knew I would take it up professionally. I was exposed to ghazals very early and I loved this genre; that's how I got into singing ghazals.
The music scene in India has changed a lot. Does the ghazal still attract people?
India has seen changes in business, music and other fields. People download music as opposed to buying cd's and cassettes. But the interest for music has grown. There are loyal fans even today; when I performed last month at Chandni Chowk in Delhi about 4000 people were present there. People will follow and listen as long as music has a platform to perform.
What kind of music do you appreciate?
Today I tend to gravitate more towards the purity of sound. It comes to artists as they want to move towards the soul of music. I look at the classical side and also interact with classical artists and get to know more about the musicality of ragas. Sitting, listening and singing help me learn and absorb more.
You sang for movies was this a choice or just experimentation?
That was the need at that time. Movies were experimenting with music. They are seasonal by nature so, when it came to ghazals, they wanted me to sing. I was lucky because the songs I sang are classics today. And that's keeps me going!
Tell us about your first album. Your inspirations?
My inspiration was Mehdi Hassan saheb. He brought in a revolution in ghazal singing with his unique style of blending classical ragas with ghazals. I was among the first few independent artists to be signed on then. Film music was not doing well and there was a need for an alternative form of music to fill the gap. I asked Jagjit Singh to compose music for me and that's how I went on to cut my first vinyl record.
What makes ghazals different from other genres? Why is it still popular?
Ghazals are a unique form. They have two disciplines: poetry and song. It has a niche audience. It's also a blend of two art forms, as it rises from classical Indian art forms. The beauty is that it's very expressive. Ghazal is the only form of music where the thought is completed in two lines.
Do you also compose?
I started composing when I was 19. This January I released an album with songs I had composed and written. Music also happened along the line. It's all integrated that way. It's not the number of albums that count but the quality.
You also tried acting
I felt I could do a decent job as an actor... I think I succeeded. Acting is a different medium and also requires dedication and hard work. I enjoyed it while it lasted and am not averse to doing more as long as it is worth it. The reason I am not doing any now is that TV went in a direction that I personally didn't identify with. I did host a couple of TV shows but wasn't too happy with the outcome. I have an offer of a film based on music but in a very nascent stage. If and when it happens, it will be known to all...
The audience reactions in India versus abroad?
They are equal in their love for ghazals. You have to understand that, regardless of the country, a ghazal lover will invariably enjoy the classic ones as well as new compositions depending on the mood. I enjoy performing before an audience, which is vocal in its appreciation.
You are one of the few classical singers who are credited with experimenting when it comes to singing
True! I have experimented with music as one would like to extend the frontiers as much as one can. I was the first ghazal artist to release a video album, Tasaavur (meaning Imagination), as far back as 1987. I also experimented with fusing different genres like khayal with the ghazal interspersed with blues in 2003 with artistes like Ustad Rashid Khan and Louis Banks. I received kudos and brickbats; you have to be ready for both when you experiment. I will keep trying until my creative juices stop or opportunities dry up.
NO FULL STOPS FOR HIM
HE WON'T LET AGE OR FAILURE DENT HIS CONFIDENCE. INDIA'S GREATEST ROMANTIC ACTOR DEV ANAND TAKES TIME OFF FROM THE MAKING OF HIS LATEST FILM "CHARGE SHEET", TO CHAT ABOUT WHY HE JUST CAN'T STOP WORKING AND ON THE GOLDEN AGE OF HINDI FILMS.
'Guru Dutt was innovative to the core and Raj Khosla lyrical in his approach.'
"Why should I stop when I still have so much to deliver?" asks Dev Anand with confidence sitting at his new Navketan office at Khar, Mumbai. The legendary actor, producer, writer and director takes a break from the editing of his latest production, "Charge Sheet", to talk about his project, forthcoming ventures and his works.The setting sun adds to the romantic image of India's greatest romantic actor as he flashes his million dollar smile.
"I will retire only when I am bed-ridden and absolutely unable to work. I cannot think of idling; my mind is continuously on the move. I have to keep moving with the times.My latest film 'Charge Sheet' is a contemporary murder mystery, which also depicts corruption in the police force. It has some brilliant moments and the entire approach is realistic.Of course the film conveys a message, which you will understand when you see it."
For the 60th year of Navketan Internationals, Dev Anand has written, produced and directed 'Charge Sheet', which also stars Naseeruddin Shah, Jackie Shroff, Ria Sen and many newcomers whom Dev Anand is introducing in his inimitable style."Wait for them and my three new music directors who have composed five golden melodies for 'Charge Sheet' in traditional Navketan style. They will be the stars and composers of the forthcoming days. I am not naming them as I want them to be a surprise package. I also assure you my makeup in 'Charge Sheet' is one that has not been seen in any of my earlier films. I play a retired CBI chief and am confident that my film will be loved by the audience."
In the past three decades, except for an average hit with "Lashkar", Dev Anand has not had a single hit. His films have come and gone unnoticed, unlike in the past when even an average film yielded the maximum initial draw. Dev Anand refutes this view, "My films may have flopped. But that does not indicate I flopped too!Otherwise how can I carry on making films? My next script - a sequel to 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna' - is ready. After the release of 'Charge Sheet', I will concentrate on the film.Two years ago when I visited Kathmundu, I went to Hotel Saltie where 'Hare Rama ' was shot and received a tumultuous ovation from the people. This inspired me to start a sequel with a contemporary angle that of a father and daughter."
Navketan Internationals completed its diamond jubilee last year. Its founder Dev Anand is the only one still working on as usual. Dev Anand sighs, "Navketan is incomplete without a mention of my brothers, Chetan and Vijay; my dear friends, Guru Dutt and Raj Khosla and its musical soul S.D. Burman. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Jaidev, R.D. Burman and Rajesh Roshan also contributed significantly for the growth of Navketan. I am proud that my discoveries - Shatrughan Sinha, Zeenat Aman, Tina Munim and Tabu - are well established names.I promise to contribute many more talents as long I carry on working."
Photo: The Hindu Photo Library
With good friends:Guru Dutt, Raj Khosla and Waheeda Rehman.
The best of Dev Anand's films were those directed by his younger brother Vijay Anand: "Guide", "Hum Dono" and "Tere Mere Sapne". Dev Anand admits, "Vijay Anand understood my strength, style and weakness the best. I responded well to his direction and he was a master of his craft. Chetan Anand was a visionary who excelled in classic themes. Guru Dutt was innovative to the core and Raj Khosla really lyrical in his approach."
His famous puff, lifted left eyebrow, nodding of the head and sartorial elegance made him the matinee idol of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s along with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor.Dev Anand's fast-paced dialogue delivery set the silver screen afire and no other actor could romance heroines as effectively without touching them as Dev did. In fact Rajesh Khanna, Rishi Kapoor and even Aamir Khan have unabashedly copied him in romantic scenes.
Dev Anand explains, "Romance means a feeling of love, pure, serene and sublime. I never look back at the past but when I do I close my eyes and clearly visualise Chetan or Vijay directing me in 'Taxi Driver' or 'Guide'; what commitment and dynamism they possessed! I can also visualise Ustad Ali Akbar Khan composing on his sarod, a symbol of total devotion. And yes, S.D. Burman wielding the baton to countless haunting melodies in his inimitable style and asking me how I liked them."
Dev Anand closes his eyes for a moment and a tear trickles down his cheek.He shrugs and gets back into the present. "As I was telling you, 'Charge Sheet' will set a trend and I will continue contributing to the film industry.The colour version of 'Hum Dono' will be released next month; see how brilliantly it matches the moods and texture of the original."
Dev Anand shakes hands, pats my back affectionately and gets ready to go back to work.The workaholic that he is, he never knows to stop. As he walks, one cannot but remember the famous scene in "Kala Bazar" in which he confronts Chetan Anand to return the bag of money he once looted. The looks the brothers exchange still remain a lesson in acting.
WHY TELECOM WILL PROVIDE BOTH SUNRISE AND SUNSET
In less than a month, the government has mopped up over Rs1,06,000 crore by selling thin air. The 3G and broadband wireless access (Wimax) spectrum auctions garnered high bids, presenting Pranab Mukherjee with an undeserved bonanza. There are some consequences when so much money is paid or earned without effort: one, the taker will waste it, and the giver will struggle to recover the money he spent.
A few weeks ago, I had talked about the risks in giving easy money to government it takes the pressure away from economic performance and reforms. There's no need to repeat those arguments again. But the implications for the telecom sector and its customers are large, and these need to be understood.
The first consequence is faster consolidation. More companies will be hanging up their boots than will be entering the business in future because cost pressures. Counting Airtel, Vodafone, Tata, Idea, Reliance, Loop, RPG Cellular, Aircel, Uninor, Virgin, Shyam, BSNL, MTNL, MTS and Videocon, we already have 15-and-odd players. The entry of Mukesh Ambani through BWA makes it 16, and we are still not finished. Not more than five or six will be able to take the heat of competition. The industry will probably lose two out of every three players over the next decade, if not earlier.
If you don't believe me, consider the damage already done by skittish investors. Between October, 2009, and now, market leader Bharti Airtel's shares have fallen by nearly half. Anil Ambani's Reliance Communications lost nearly two-thirds of its value over the last 12 months. In short, the industry is destroying shareholder value at an alarming pace even before the costs of rolling out 3G and Wimax services kick in.
While Bharti's future may depend on its global plans following the acquisition of Zain, Vodafone is sure to survive. Mukesh Ambani's Wimax entry will blight the prospects of others. The key question is whether the market is big enough for two Ambani telecom behemoths. As for the public sector BSNL-MTNL combine, as long as they remain government companies they can never hit the high notes. It is difficult to count out names like Tata and Birla, but conglomerates will have to tough time trying to remain in too many cash-hungry businesses. The bit players, one can be sure, will disappear sooner rather than later.
The second consequence of paying high entry fees is that revenues will either rise slowly or profits will become wafer-thin. The logic is this: if companies seek to recoup the high costs of spectrum by pricing 3G services high, user growth will be slow. If they start undercutting to build marketshare, their profits will drop dramatically in the medium term. While the big growth area is corporate data services, one cannot see huge revenues from applications like viewing movies and TV serials as money-spinners in the near future. The mobile is not the best device for watching movies, and this activity could remain niche for a while. 3G services have not yet discovered a killer-app like SMS, which drove data services in the first phase of mobile growth.
The third consequence of rapid wireless and broadband growth is unknown health risks. In India, we have paid scant attention to the radiation risks of high wireless usage, whether it is for people living under cellsites, or children using mobiles from a very early age. We still do not have information on what lengthy use of mobile phones does to brain tissues. Caution should be the watchword, but when you have just collected over Rs 1,06,000 crore from mobile aspirants, the government is not going to tell the population not to use their products. It is up to NGOs and the media to build awareness of the potential health dangers of excessive wireless usage.
The fourth consequence is the threat to traditional cable TV. This industry grew like weeds in a policy vacuum, where wires were slung over rooftops and between buildings to offer services to offices and homes. If wireless broadband and dish TV reach critical masses, cable's growth will be circumscribed. One should start preparing the obituary of at least some of the smaller cable players.
The fifth consequence is the rebalancing of power between content providers and mobile companies. Currently, the huge chunk of fees paid by users who download songs, movies or news over mobile phones goes to the telecom operator. Reason: they control the last mile and there are simply too many players providing undifferentiated content for free. But 3G and BWA cannot hope to drive volumes by offering commoditised content. And special content players cannot be denied their legitimate dues. The power balance will move a bit in the direction of content. We are in for interesting times.
THE PARIS HEIST WILL LEAD TO A RISE IN ART THEFT
Last month, a thief broke into the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris and helped himself to five extremely valuable artworks, including a Picasso and a Matisse. Two days later, thieves robbed a private art collector in his villa, making off with another Picasso. Mark Durney, founder of Art Theft Central and business director of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), provides a perspective on the rise in art crime in an interview with Moeena Halim.
What types of theft fall under the umbrella of 'art crime'?
Art crime includes archaeological looting, art theft, vandalism, iconoclasm, the illicit art and antiquities trade, forgery, and fakes, among many other fields. The success of ARCA hinges on its ability to unify professionals from the very diverse backgrounds related to the many fields encompassed under art crime.
Which kind of art theft is the most common?
Unfortunately, statistics on art crime are quite lacking for a variety of reasons. The FBI examined its solved cases and determined that 88 per cent of solved art thefts were actually insider thefts. However, the looting of archaeological sites is a global enterprise and quite likely the most common art crime.
How is India affected by art theft?
India is a culturally rich nation. It is considered by archaeologists mainly as a source country, that is, rich in archaeological artefacts awaiting their discovery, but it also has a fast growing art market fuelled by the influx of wealth into the region. Additionally, due to its history and association with the British Empire - like many commonwealth countries - substantial amounts of its cultural patrimony have been removed and relocated in Western institutions as well as private collections. This can be considered to be almost a cultural diaspora. Education is critical in order to spread a greater awareness of the problem of art theft and its many negative externalities on society from the loss of the cultural record to ways in which looted art/antiquities can fuel terrorism.
What are your views on the latest art heist in Paris?
The recent Paris museum theft underscores the fact that no matter how complex or advanced an institution's security system is, it requires constant attention and maintenance by members of staff. It seems as if human error was the culprit, that is, inattentive night guards and the most obvious, an alarm system that had been broken for two months. Additionally, the amount of time the thief spent in the museum might imply insider knowledge. It was not your traditional smash and grab theft. Also, I think it is worth noting that in the past two months Matisse and Picasso works set records at auctions. The amount of publicity surrounding the two sales might have motivated the thief to nab works by these artists.
Unfortunately, this theft occurred at a world renowned museum, and it was well publicised that the museum had recently undergone a 15 million euro upgrade of its security operations. It is likely that this may lead to an increase in art thefts across Europe, and possibly elsewhere. In criminological terms this is called the boost effect. Essentially, the poor security, the high value attached to the works, and the success of such a large theft could motivate new offenders who see art as a suitable target. Thus, there was actually an art theft from a private residence only a couple of days after the Paris heist.
Apart from tightening security, how can art crime be prevented?
There needs to be a sort of call to arms to reduce the handling of illicit objects as well as greater disapproval for auction houses, galleries, and dealers who work with objects that are considered "dirty" whether they have been looted or are in fact fakes.
What according to you sets art crime apart from other types of crime?
Art crime is one of the few crimes that people consider to be sexy and elegant. While working as a museum security guard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where the largest single art theft occurred in 1990, I was constantly surprised by visitors who upon seeing the empty frames and spaces, where the stolen works once hanged, would declare that they are most likely hanging on "Thomas Crown's" or some millionaire's wall. Additionally, art thieves tend to be more successful than other criminal endeavours. Only 7-10 per cent of art thefts are ever solved. Unfortunately, art's portability, high value, and the lax security protecting it, motivate criminals to steal it. Although these elements certainly prove the uniqueness of art crime, I think it is best to view art crime as another part of the ecosystem of illicit industries, which include the drug and weapons trade, money laundering, and human trafficking. Art crime has very clear connections to the drug trade as it has been frequently used as collateral in exchanges.
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UNESCO FOR SALE: DICTATOR'S LINK TO PRIZE DEVALUES PRINCIPLES
In a better world, my nieces and nephews in Equatorial Guinea would respect our country's president for overseeing the careful management of revenues pouring in from oil, and for using these funds for development. In a better world, my nieces and nephews would honour the United Nations' main cultural institution, UNESCO, for insisting on improving the education and health of Africa's children.
But in the world as we know it, relatively few people love and respect President Teodoro Obiang. His biggest fans might include the high-living members of his family, along with selected business executives in the United States and Europe, where he spends quite a bit of his money. Or certain members of the UN Human Rights Council: during a session in March, some states had the gall to congratulate Equatorial Guinea for its "unequivocal commitment" to human rights.
Board members of UNESCO also seem to love and respect Obiang. They have accepted $3 million from him for a prize named in his honour. The prize is supposed to recognise the work of individuals and institutions, including non-governmental organisations, for scientific research in the life sciences that improves the quality of human life. Perhaps the recipients will love Obiang, too.
It is easy to see where Obiang who seized power in Equatorial Guinea after killing his predecessor gets the money that he tosses around. Since the mid-1990's, Equatorial Guinea has become a large oil exporter.
While Obiang and his family and cronies jet around the world living the high life, my nieces and nephews number among the vast majority of the country's people who remain mired in poverty. Child mortality is high. Free and fair elections do not exist. Arbitrary detention and torture are widespread. The government allows almost no independent news and information.
In 2009, the UN found that Equatorial Guinea had the world's largest disparity between its per capita GDP ranking, which was on a par with Italy and Spain, and its level of human development close to Haiti's. My nieces and nephews have a life expectancy of 52 years.
According to the president's son and heir-apparent, Teodorin Obiang, it is not illegal for a government minister to own a company and to submit bids for government contracts to the ministry that he or she controls. Such brazen corruption would be laughable if its effects were not so debilitating to the country.
Among its avowed priorities, UNESCO lists gender equality, universal education, sustainable development, and ethics. My nieces and nephews in Equatorial Guinea still go to school on an empty stomach. They return home by mid-day to help supplement the household income by selling doughnuts in the streets - at a time when they are supposed to be completing homework. Surviving on less than a dollar a day, as most of my countrymen do, means living without running water, sanitation, or electricity.
Given the mountain of evidence of corruption and money-laundering by Obiang, his family, and his associates, as well as the deplorable living conditions that people in Equatorial Guinea endure, how is it possible that UNESCO agreed to accept Obiang's money and name a prize in life sciences after him? What due diligence was conducted to ensure that the money it received to fund the prize was not actually stolen from the very Africans whose interests UNESCO claims to champion?
As far as the people of Equatorial Guinea are concerned, by offering this prize, UNESCO lends credibility to Obiang and his regime, and becomes complicit in its abuses. UNESCO - not alone among UN entities - seems more inclined to bend over backwards to avoid taking any action that might offend "African sensibilities" on its board. One European ambassador was quoted as saying that African countries were all in favour of the prize, and they had enough supporters to take it forward.
The Obiang Prize is a mockery of everything UNESCO publicly stands for. UNESCO remains unabashed. It has signaled no willingness to withdraw the award or investigate the origins of Obiang's gift.
Wouldn't it be nice if UNESCO and its executive board - particularly the board's African members - actually stood up for African people?
Or maybe they love Obiang's money more than they love my nieces and nephews.
Copyright: Project Syndicate
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FACULTY SHORTAGE DOGS IITS
DHARAM VIR AND S.K. MULLICK PRESENT A BLUEPRINT FOR TECHNICAL EDUCATION REFORMS
Higher technical institutions, including the prestigious IITs and other reputed institutes of engineering and technology are facing an acute shortage of faculty, affecting both teaching and research. This is one of the reasons why the institutes seem unable to make bold strides in several newly emerging areas of science and technology.
The policy makers in the Government of India and IITs have been concerned over the situation and are trying to find a solution to this crucial matter. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, in his address at a function held to mark National Education Day, has said that the state of affairs could not be allowed to persist and the problem of deficiency should be addressed. A credible solution needs to be evolved to meet the challenge of faculty shortage on a sustainable basis.
According to an estimate, as against the sanctioned strength of 3,907 in the seven old IITs, only 2,846 positions were filled up, i.e. 1,066 (27 per cent) posts are lying vacant! The situation in sciences and humanities is quite different there is generally no problem in getting good faculty. The shortage exists invariably in respect of technology and engineering disciplines.
In fact, right from their inception, most IITs had generally been facing problems in attracting good faculty in these areas. When well known foreign universities start their campuses in India in the near future, some teachers of IITs and other reputed institutes may wish to join them.
In the very recent past, there has been some improvement in the number of talented young persons applying from abroad for positions in the premier institutions such as IITs. This is in the nature of reverse brain drain, mainly due to downturn of the economy of the US and other western countries. There is another reason why bright young scientists apply to new IITs. The attraction here is of the opportunity to build up something where one is sure to leave his/her mark.
However, such talented persons have also become very selective as they look for a better working environment and facilities which even very good institutes do not provide. Location of institutes has also become an important parameter for them to apply. They look for the place where their spouses can get suitable jobs and where there are good educational facilities for children.
It is pertinent to identify the reasons for this acute shortage of faculty. The number of good students pursuing M. Tech and Ph. D in engineering is too small to meet the demand of technical institutions. The estimated total output of Ph. Ds in engineering in the country is around 700 annually, whereas, to meet the All India Council of Technical Education's faculty requirements, a supply of Ph.Ds in thousands is needed, particularly in view of the mushrooming of technical institutions in the private sector in recent times.
Most students passing out from reputed institutes get good jobs in private sector and very few go for M.Tech and Ph.D. There is not much of incentive for higher degrees. As for IITs, most of their students who wish to pursue higher education prefer to go abroad. This trend has also been catching up in several National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and other good colleges.
A fairly large number of students, who do B.Tech from IITs and other good institutes, do not stay in technology and look for career options in other fields, i.e. going to a good business school for MBA or jobs, which would help them do MBA later. Good consulting and financial firms also pick up IITians at handsome pay packets in view of their high level of analytical ability as well as good commonly used technological skills. Higher education in engineering is a low priority option for a large number of good undergraduate students.
The pay structure of the IITs' faculty, though best amongst the educational institutions in the country, is too low to attract good students to pursue a career in teaching and research. Students with B. Tech degrees from IITs get starting salary packages which are often higher than their teachers, even Professors!
The IITs are too selective in picking up candidates who apply for faculty positions. They want persons with Ph.D plus three years' experience (excluding the time spent for Ph.D) of research/ teaching for the post of Assistant Professor. For senior positions such as Associate Professor or Professor, even longer teaching/ research experience is required. They do not favour candidates with only research experience even if it is in a company of international repute with excellent R & D facilities.
Normally, industrial research is of classified nature, the publication of work done in industries is discouraged and the emphasis is on patents. The present system of recruitment acts as a dampener for those who wish to migrate from research to teaching institutions.
A few steps have been taken to deal with the problem. The age of retirement of the faculty has been increased to 65 years in Central Government institutions. There is also an option of re-employment up to the age of 70 in IITs. This has, however, not happened in most state-run institutions. The IITs' faculty has been given special pay package as well as a few other incentives. They have also been allowed to hire foreign faculty.
These measures will, however, have a limited impact on the shortage of faculty keeping in view the huge requirement of qualified talented manpower. For instance, the increase in the retirement age and re-employment for five years (after retirement), though very good steps, also mean postponing the problem by a few years.
In the meantime, a credible strategy is required to be put in place whereby IITs, especially the new ones, are able to get young and dynamic candidates on a continual basis. Though the institutes need senior faculty with experience to provide leadership and direction, a good institute is one which has younger faculty in larger proportion. The younger faculty is expected to be specially trained in the emerging areas of science and technology. The challenge, thus, is to attract young talented faculty.
Worthy of consideration in this context is the practice that obtains in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Indian Space Research Organisation. We can learn from the experience of BARC and ISRO as to how they manage their R & D cadres of engineers and scientists. Normally, these organisations do not get IIT pass-outs. Instead, most of their recruits are from other institutions. Yet they have managed to develop science and engineering cadres and have kept India's nuclear and space programmes moving.
This year, about 10.5 lakh candidates appeared in the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) and over 4.5 lakh in the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE). The total number of seats this year in science and engineering disciplines in the IITs along with the Institute of Technology, Benaras Hindu University and the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, is about 9,500, which is less than one per cent of the candidates aspiring to become engineers.
Thus, a large number of good students are unable to make it to the IITs because of the limited number of seats and go to the next tier of institutions. Several of such students, who could not make it to IITs, also have the potential of being groomed as good teachers and researchers. We should devise a strategy to tap this valuable human resource.
For the first time in the history of education in India, higher education has come under the limelight and is in the domain of public scrutiny. There are many reasons for this good performance of educated Indians in foreign countries, opening of economy which has created jobs including high-end ones and the economic growth. There is growing realisation among the public that without a good college / university education, one cannot get a good job and become economically better off.
Today people are willing to pay higher fees for good education, especially in a professional discipline. The time is, therefore, ripe for making a bold strategy to deal with the shortage of faculty in the top institutions of India. The strategy should, therefore, be as under:
A Post Graduate Engineering Education Mission should be launched and various options explored to increase the turnover of M.Tech students. Good institutions, say 50 to 75, should be selected and encouraged to expand their existing Post Graduate programmes or start new ones. They should be given financial assistance with the proviso to bring about the desired structural changes required for PG education.
The number of integrated B. Tech + M. Tech seats in IITs should be increased. At present, the ratio of seats for B. Tech and five years' integrated/dual degree M.Tech in IITs is 2:1. It should be gradually raised to 1.5:1 in a time bound manner.
M. Tech and Ph. D students should be encouraged to share the teaching load, i.e. tutorials or practicals. The concept of Teaching and Research Assistant on the pattern of western universities should also be explored. The required structural changes should be brought about in this regard.
The intake of Ph.D scholars should be substantially increased in IITs and the Indian Institute of Science. Likewise, other institutions should be encouraged to expand their Ph. D programmes.
The IITs prefer to recruit at the level of Assistant Professor. As stated above, the qualification for this position is Ph.D with three years' research/ teaching/ professional experience and the candidate should have demonstrated research capabilities in terms of publications in reputed journals and conferences. Candidates with such qualifications are difficult to get in large numbers. Normally, good universities insist on a few publications as a part of Ph. D and this norm should suffice. The qualifications should accordingly be changed.
Fifty per cent of the vacant positions of Assistant Professor in IITs etc. may be filled up as under: Select appropriate number (say 200) of candidates (holding B.Tech/ M.Tech degrees) every year in various disciplines of engineering for a period of five years through an open national level examination similar to the Civil Services Examination. The strategy should be to pick up as many good B. Techs as possible.
The selection should be based on a rigorous written test in the disciplines concerned, followed by an interview. The selected candidates should be allotted institutes in accordance with merit, preference of the candidates and the availability of faculty positions. They should be sent for Ph. D to the best universities around the world, including India, with the assurance of appointment as Assistant Professor after they finish their studies satisfactorily.
Agreements could be signed with the selected universities. Most of them may agree for tuition waiver as they take a large number of students for MS and Ph.D programmes and provide tuition fee waiver and/ or financial assistance. The Government of India should give scholarships to the selected candidates according to the norms of the universities concerned.
Every selected candidate should be required to sign a bond of appropriate amount to serve the institute for a period of 10 years after finishing his studies. This is to guard against the eventuality that some candidates may not come back and leave the scheme mid-way or after completing Ph.D.
The course work required for Ph.D could be split between IITs or IISc in India and the foreign universities with credit transfer facility. The candidates with M.Tech, if selected, should also have this facility.
The programme should be integrated Ph.D and MS and not just MS. The candidates would be required to complete Ph.D within five years. A condition of publication of papers could also be inserted.
Encourage candidates with experience of research in companies known for research and development work for appointment to senior positions such as Associate Professor and above. Their skills of communication and pedagogy could be tested at the time of selection. Such experts would add tremendous value to teaching as well as research in academic institutions because of their familiarity with the needs of the industry. The institutes of technology need a harmonious blend of both academics and practice.
The IITs are institutes of national importance. Their students must be exposed to the prestigious science and technology projects of our country. They should be encouraged to spend summer internships in the laboratories of the Departments of Atomic Energy, Space, Bio-technology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) etc. This way, the students would get a good exposure of what India is doing in science and technology. Some of them may even get motivated to work for such programmes.
The total financial expenditure for the proposed scheme is likely to be about Rs 1,500 crore spread over 10 years, which is worth incurring for developing faculty for the prestigious science and technology institutes of country. After all, good science and technology is not only the principal driver of a country's economy but also provides the crucial edge to stay ahead of other countries, more so in the age of globalisation. With so much of talent and potential for doing first-rate work, India must not lag behind the world's most developed nations.
Dharam Vir is the State Election Commissioner, Haryana. A former Chief Secretary of Haryana, he is an alumnus of IIT, Kanpur and Kharagpur. Dr S.K. Mullick is a former Professor of IIT, Kanpur
CRIMINALS IN UNIFORM
KASHMIR'S GAINS LOST TO FAKE ENCOUNTERS
BY SUHAS CHAKMA
THE alleged fake encounter killing of three Kashmiris Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Mohammad Shafi Lone and Riyaz Ahmad Lone on April 29-30, 2010 by officers of the 4th Rajputna Rifles led by Major Upender and his team members, including two Subedar Majors and a sepoy from Rafiabad area has once again brought the spectre of extrajudicial executions in Kashmir to the fore. Defence Minister A.K. Anthony was quick to announce that the guilty will be punished. After the police inquiry indicted the army officers, the army ordered its inquiry.
Mr Antony told Parliament that though his ministry received 23 requests for permission to prosecute the army in the last three years, "no permission for prosecution was granted during the same period". Once the public anger fades away, the army authorities will make all efforts to obfuscate justice.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police have been helpless in the face of the Defence Ministry's commitment to protect the criminals in the army. The prosecution of the army officials for fake-encounter killing of Imam Showkat Ahmad Kataria of Doligam-Jabdi-Banihall is instructive. Kataria went missing on October 4, 2006 at around 10 pm from Alamgari Bazaar. The Army claimed that Abu Zahid, a foreign militant from Karachi was killed in an encounter, and buried him. However, after exhumation of the buried body of so-called Abu Zahid from Bazipora-Ajas-Bandipore on February 3, 2007, the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Chandigarh concluded that the exhumed body was that of Showkat Ahmad Kataria and not Abu Zahid. Five army officers of the 13th Rashtriya Rifles Col Vikram Singh, his second in command V K Sharma, Major Rishi, Junior Commissioned Officer Puran Singh and Naik Satya Lal were charged with the murder and criminal conspiracy along with five police officers and a civilian.
When the Srinagar District and Session Court issued non-bailable warrants against the five accused army officers, the Army requested the court to suspend the trial pending the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of the Central Bureau of Investigation versus Brig. Ajay Saxena.
Brig. Ajay Saxena and his colleagues, Lt-Col Brijendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar I Khan of 7th Rashtriya Rifles were charged with Pathribal fake encounter killing in which five civilians were executed on March 24, 2000. The Army claimed the five terrorists responsible for the Chhatisinghpora massacre of the Sikhs on March 20, 2000 were killed in an encounter.
In April 2006, the CBI following an investigation found that the so-called five terrorists killed at Pathribal were civilians killed in fake encounters and filed charges against five army officers before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar. The accused army officers challenged the CBI's chargesheet on the ground that the CBI did not have prior permission of the Central Government to chargesheet them. On June 21, 2006, the CBI replied before the court that the Central Government's permission was not necessary in this case. The J and K High Court also dismissed the appeal of Brig. Saxena and others.
Brig. Saxena and others thereafter filed special leave petition before the Supreme Court on the same ground that no permission was sought from the Defence Ministry as required under the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act. On September 13, 2007, the Supreme Court in its interim order stated "Until further orders, further proceedings before the trial court shall remain stayed."
The last hearing of the SLP filed by Brig. Ajay Saxena took place on Dec 9, 2009 and the pleadings are yet to be completed. However, the Army has been using the September 13, 2007 interim order to stall all the legal proceedings in various cases of extrajudicial executions in Kashmir as was shown by Kataria case.
Dozens of cases pertaining to the regime of permission were filed before the Supreme Court but the court on its part failed to set the case law on the regime of prior sanction from the government. In January 2009, the Supreme Court in the case of Choudhruy Parveen Sultana vs State of West Bengal stated that "all acts done by a public servant in purported discharge of his official duties cannot as a matter of course be brought under the protective umbrella of Section 197 Criminal Procedure Code". The apex court while setting aside the Calcutta High Court order that denied permission to prosecute West Bengal Deputy Superintendent of Police Sahabul Hussain by a magisterial court in Behrampore for threatening a resident to withdraw his complaint held that: "It was no part of his duties to threaten the complainant or her husband to withdraw the complaint."
Will fake encounters like the ones by Brig. Saxena and others be considered part of official duties that would require permission for prosecution of the accused? At present, there is no will on the government's part to consider otherwise, and therefore, fake encounters have become an integral part of law enforcement and counter-insurgency operations.
Promotions for killing alleged terrorists or wanted criminals have further increased fake encounter killings. The National Human Rights Commission recently stated that it alone registered 2956 cases in connection with police encounters in different parts of the country since its inception on October 12, 1993 till April 30, 2010. These figures do not include the fake encounters by the army in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East as the NHRC does not have jurisdiction over the army.
Fake encounters are not only sustaining the insurgencies but also ensuring that the gains made by the governments against insurgencies in Kashmir and elsewhere are lost. India is yet to realise the costs of protecting criminals in uniform.
The writer is Director, Asian Centre for Human Rights, New Delhi
DONDE SETS RECORD IN SEA ADVENTURE
BY HARIHAR SWARUP
Indians were not adventurous like Europeans and they rarely crossed the Indian Ocean in quest for new lands. There was a time when Italian sailor Christopher Columbus sailed in search of the brave new world and discovered America. Vasco da Gama too discovered India via South African's pictures port town, Cape Town, described as Cape of Good Hope where Pacific, Atlantic and the Indian Oceans meet.
Those who have visited Lisbon, capital of Portugal, must have seen the replica of the ship on which Vasco da Gama ventured in search of India. How hazardous their voyages must have been?
The 21st century has demonstrated a different type of sea adventure. Solo voyages are undertaken round the world, spreading over months and sometimes a year. Imagine a sailor alone in a boat, caught in a tossing tempest? Adventure-shy Indians have been lately active participants in sea ventures. Forty-two-year-old Commander Dilip Donde of the Indian Navy became the first Indian to sale solo round the world.
It all began on August 1, 2009 with INSV Mhadei, the first fibreglass yacht constructed entirely in India. He sailed through the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic, the Arabian Sea and also crossed Equator, having made four halts during the voyage Fremantle in Australia, Christchurch, New Zealand, Port Stanley, Falkland islands and Cape Town. Cdr Donde returned to Mumbai last month. He undertook over 21,000 nautical miles of voyage, spread over 276 days. He thus became the 175th solo circumnavigator in the world, the first Indian and the second Asian to have achieved this feat.
The 56-foot-long Mhadei, with 23-tonne displacement, is made of wood core fibreglass with state-of-art navigation and communication equipment fitted on it. It was built by Ratnakar Dandekar of Aquartus Fibreglass in Goa. It is named after the eponymous river Mandovi, better known as river Mhadei in Karnataka from where it originates. Also, Sailors' goddess in the area is called Mhadei.
Donde, a National Defence Academy alumnus and a trained clearance diver in the Indian Navy, was trained by legendary Sir Robin Knox- Johnston, the first man to sail solo and non-stop round the world in 1968-69. As Donde was finishing the trip, he got a mail from Sir Robin, congratulating and welcoming him into the Solo Circumnavigator club as its 175th member.
Donde says the voyage has been unforgettable as he tackled the high seas, battled giant waves and ferocious winds. He proposes to put down his experience in a book. Once the steering of his boat developed snag; it had to be rectified.
Sometimes, the sea remained rough. "Several times, creatures in the sea have surprisingly looked at me. Many a time, the temperature in the sea refused to come down below 32 degree Celsius", he has been quoted as saying.
How did Donde beat isolation? He says, "Mhadei was my constant companion. I would often end up talking to myself. My different roles on the boat, like chef or the skipper, were alter egos I spoke to. There was often other company like the Albatross that would fly along the boat or dolphins and flying fish that would frolic alongside".
Before embarking on the 21,000-mile voyage, Donde stored 600 litres water in the boat's tank and took along a water maker a reverse osmosis plant.
He had also a gas stove on board and a pressure cooker which he used to cook food. He met solo sailors from Australia, the Falkland Islands and Cape Town. Some have gone round the world three times.
At sea, he was a couple of miles away from 15-year-old Jessica Watson, the youngest solo sailor in the world.
FOCUS ON JOB COURSES, SAYS PROF PUNJABI
BY TEJINDER SINGH SODHI
Prof Riyaz Punjabi, Vice Chancellor, Kashmir University, introduced distance education in the state during his tenure as a professor. A doctorate in law, he is an expert in distance education. Recently a team from the Union Ministry of Communication and Information Technology appreciated his work in e-governance.
His colleagues and staff members call him a 24x7 VC, as he is accessible at any time. On the whole, the student community likes him the most.
Prof. Punjabi, who is also a renowned expert on international relations and Kashmir conflict, speaks to The Tribune in Srinagar on various issues.
Q: What are your major achievements so far as the Vice-Chancellor?
A: One of the main achievements is the introduction of e-governance in KU, experts say what other universities across the country were unable to do. In KU, we have done it. Now we have e-governance in examinations, registrations, records have gone computerised. Earlier, students had to face a lot of harassment but now everything is available on the click of a button.
We have a feedback form and I do monitor the grievance cell. The 40 colleges located in the rural areas have been connected with us.
We also introduced course like M.Tech, M.Pharm, MPED, Food Science and Technology and Geo Informatics. Various new departments with many new courses have been opened in the university.
Q: What are the areas you could not focus on?
A: We lack infrastructure. I was pained to see that out of 35,000 students who applied for admission in various post-graduate courses this year, we were able to give admission to only 4,000 students. I have taken up the issue with higher authorities and we await upgradation of infrastructure so that maximum number of candidates could be adjusted.
Q: You are credited for introducing distance education in the state after becoming the Vice Chancellor. What steps have you taken to disseminate distance education to far off areas?
A: The scope of distance education has been expanded; we have introduced various new job-oriented courses. A new Directorate of Lifelong Learning has been launched. We are offering courses in remote places like Gurez, Ladakh and Kupwara.
We have also increased the scope of courses like mobile repairs, electrical and plumber courses. Recently we held coaching classes for AIEEE for which we received 9,000 applications though we took only 300 candidates and 20 of our students qualified the entrance of AIEEE. We also hold coaching for IAS and KAS examinations.
Q: If not an academician what would you have been?
A: I would have been a lawyer, but my interest was always in academics. I also wanted to be an author but again as an academician I authored many books.
Q: You are an expert in International relations and Kashmir conflict. How do you see the issue can be resolved?
A: I would say it is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and the two countries should sit and decide it. The people of Kashmir look for good governance and development and we should create opportunities for them also.
Q: How can we eradicate the menace of unemployment?
A: We should harness traditional courses and introduce new ones. We should enhance the capabilities, we need to defocus and look for new and technological courses which are job-oriented.
Q: How do you see female education in the state, especially at the university level?
A: The trend of women's education is increasing gradually and now we have equal ratio of both boys and girls. Even girls are now doing better than the boys here.
FACTS THAT DISTURB US
DEEPA BHATIA'S NERO'S GUESTS BRILLIANTLY PORTRAYS THE VIDARBHA FARMER SUICIDE ISSUE
Towards the beginning of Deepa Bhatia's powerful documentary Nero's Guests, journalist P Sainath is heard speaking about the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai which brought over 500 accredited journalists to cover the event. The models on the ramp wore cotton clothes, he says. At the same time in Vidarbha, an hour by flight from Mumbai, farmers who grew that cotton were committing suicide at the rate of six to eight a day. There were families with two to three cases of suicides.
These are startling facts and disturbing as they sound in Sainath's voice. I have heard Sainath make these statements during his few talks that I have attended in New York City. But in the film, Bhatia uses actual footage of the fashion show with paparazzi flashing their cameras, and juxtaposes it with footage of Sainath, the rural affairs editor for The Hindu, visiting homes of suicide victims in the Vidarbha region.
Nero's Guests will be shown as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival at New York City's Lincoln Center, starting this weekend and running for the next two weeks. Bhatia, a film editor in Mumbai who has worked on projects ranging from Taare Zameen Par, Rock On and My Name is Khan has made a gem of a compelling short documentary.
One can read Sainath's reports about the hinterlands of Maharashtra, hear his mesmerising talks, but Nero's Guests really brings home the point. Sainath's words have never before seemed this real. It is perhaps, the first time that Sainath, the journalist and speaker is placed in his work environment, whether it is the villagers he visits trying to grasp the magnitude of the loss of every poor farmer's life or when he sits in his cluttered office space, staring at the faces of those who have died and their survivors.
"He is a tireless journalist, never losing sight of the story," Bhatia recently said talking about Sainath, her former professor at Sophia College. "He is emotional about his work and yet has the clarity needed to connect their (the farmers') lives and problems into a larger political and economic context." Bhatia followed Sainath for nearly four years from 2005 to 2009 in Mumbai and within Maharashtra in villages around Yavatmal, Amravati, Akola and Wardha, sometimes travelling for a week at a time and visiting about 20 families during each trip.
Winning Sainath's trust was important to Bhatia. "I think Sainath is quite suspicious of all of us from the film world," she said. "I volunteered to film Sainath giving a talk at St Xavier's College, in 2005. Subsequently, I filmed him speaking at more than 15 venues around the country. I also started travelling with him into the countryside. Even then, there was no real plan to put the material together into a film. I enjoyed working freeflow, learning closely about both the issue and the person."
However, out of this fouryear-long free-flowing shoot, Bhatia's end-product grabs the viewers and does not let go. We hear Sainath talking with confidence and conviction. And there is tremendous irony and compassion in his voice. In covering this story for a long time Sainath has become an expert at reading the minds of the survivors. He says he can tell when the surviving widows may also be contemplating committing suicide. At one point he directs the viewers' attention to a photograph of a young teenager dressed in his late father's clothes. The teenager's troubled eyes reflect the burden he faces of taking over the responsibility of his entire family. And Sainath asks us to look at his mother's body language as she has resigned to a sense of hopelessness.
Again and again Nero's Guests points to this hopelessness. Farmers commit suicide to avoid the spiralling debt. Their surviving family members are overburdened after the loss of the earning family member. There is a sense of desperation. But Sainath and Bhatia do not want us to be like Nero's apathetic guests who had watched their cruel host burn prisoners to light up the night.
MR BALDUF'S DILEMMA
NO ESCAPE FROM MID-AIR TURBULENCE FOR INDIA'S AVIATION BEHEMOTH
Earlier this week, Gustav Balduf, Air India's new Chief Operating Officer, told reporters in Berlin that the airline needed to cut costs and improve passenger services to turn around. This is an unexceptionable statement: controlling costs and focusing on service is, after all, at the heart of any airline's success. But in state-owned Air India's case, Mr Balduf's statement suggests irrational optimism. In theory the nature of ownership doesn't matter as far as performance is concerned, look at Singapore Airlines, but in practice it seems to matter a lot for Air India.
A look at the numbers shows why. For any Indian airline, the big-ticket costs are fuel, staff and aircraft, of which the first two together typically account for a little over half total expenditure. Fuel costs, which account for over a third of expenses, tend to be somewhat rigid since they're linked to global crude prices. However, Air India also has little opportunity to derive the kind of cost efficiencies that can be obtained from negotiating discounts from oil companies for on-time payment because it currently owes them over Rs 1,200 crore. It also owes the Airports Authority over Rs 600 crore for landing and navigation charges. That leaves aircraft and staff costs. Neither is likely to diminish anytime soon, for decisions that have little connection with commercial reality. In 2005, a government committee decided to okay the purchase of 111 aircraft at a stupendous cost of Rs 45,000 crore, a decision that has not only raised borrowing costs but also flies against the cost-effective industry practice of leasing aircraft.
As for staff costs, which account for about 16 per cent of expenditure, Air India's bloated pay-rolls have long been a headache for the airline's management. At 214 employees per aircraft, Air India has one of the worst efficiency ratios in the world (it is comforting to know that there are airlines with worse ratios like state-owned EgyptAir, Air Lanka and PIA). Pure commercial decision-making would suggest that any saving from staff cutbacks will go straight to the bottom-line. But Mr Balduf's ability to do this is constrained by a level of employee activism that has almost become part of the airline's DNA. The 2007 merger between Air-India and Indian Airlines did nothing to diminish this: the new airline inherited 13 trade unions representing a variety of interests from pilots to engineers to ground crew and so on and so forth, each with an extraordinary capacity for self-interested action. In the past year, various unions have gone on strike for reasons ranging from attempts to cut productivity-linked allowances paid to executive pilots and decisions to delay salary payments to tide over cash flow problems to management orders not to talk to the media. Last month, the Air India management's effort to deal with this by de-recognising two key unions representing some 15,000 employees, is unlikely to help matters. First, the two unions will continue to function as registered trade bodies; derecognition only means they'll be excluded from ongoing wage negotiations. Excluding bodies representing more than half the workforce will render wage talks meaningless. More to the point, it is likely to ratchet up the distrust between management and employees, a circumstance that does nothing to help Mr Balduf's goal of improving passenger service. In short, Mr Balduf's strategy for resuscitating Air India is spot on; it's the implementation he's going to find a huge challenge. Especially since the airline's long-time owner, the government of India, pumped in Rs 800 crore to boost its Rs 145 crore capital base last year and it is planning to inject another Rs 1,200 crore. With such a commitment, selling Air India, the only feasible decision for the airline, is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
SANTOSH KUMAR & NEHA MALIKINDIA MUST REDOUBLE ITS EFFORTS TO STRENGTHEN AFGHAN GOVT'S SECURITY CAPABILITIES, AS WELL AS INTERNATIONAL WILL TO CONTINUE AID TO AFGHANISTAN
SANTOSH KUMAR & NEHA MALIK
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent visit to India came at a critical juncture. Recent happenings in Afghanistan have jolted the confidence of those ranged against jihadi terrorism. It seems a matter of time before Western forces withdraw from that country. And the time may come sooner rather than later. The first indications came with President Obama's policy statement at the end of last year that US forces in Afghanistan would be drawn down from 2011 onwards following a surge in 2010. This was followed by the London Conference in January this year which called for a fast transition from the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) to the Afghan Security Forces (ASF).
Despite loud protestations to the contrary, it has become clear that the West is eager to find a face-saving formula to wash its hands off the Afghan imbroglio. According to informed sources, it took all the efforts of President Karzai and some concerned countries to ensure that red lines for accepting the Taliban into the political process were drawn within the London transition plan. Swirling around the official positions was talk of negotiating with the 'good' Taliban to integrate them into Afghan government structures, plans for which are to be presented by President Karzai.
In the event, the Taliban have just to shelve their current fighting mode and bide their time as apparently willing participants in the political process, striking after the withdrawal scenario unfolds. The question is whether the Afghan Government has the military and economic wherewithal to withstand the onslaught. And if not, what are the consequences for India?
It is clear that the Afghan economy will not in the foreseeable future be able to generate the resources needed to finance its security, much less the economic development necessary to address the root causes of extremism. On paper, Afghan GDP has grown well in the last decade except for a drastic drop in 2008. But it still remains at low levels and key indicators present a dismal picture.
Basically, Afghanistan is a mountainous country with scarce agricultural land subjected to the vagaries of harsh climatic conditions. Moreover, the population growth rate (3.45 per cent per year from 2005 to 2010) is the highest in South Asia, with a pronounced share of youth. These combine to produce an unstable mixture. The large informal economy, dominated by poppy cultivation and trade, is in any case beyond the government net. Domestic revenues cover only two-thirds of the government's operating expenditure, and a third of its development expenditure. This does not include the cost of security being provided by US forces and the ISAF.
The Afghan security apparatus will put greater strain on national resources if it is to reach the size required to cope with the post-withdrawal situation. Presently, it cannot prevent terrorist attacks in Kabul, let alone control many of the outlying provinces. Such a scenario spells serious trouble for India. It is not so much that a Pakistan-backed Taliban regime in Kabul will give Pakistan strategic depth in the event of a military conflict with India, as touted by some Pakistani strategists. But it will increase its tactical depth in the proxy war.
What must India do to prepare for such a contingency? Firstly, the time has come for India to redouble its efforts, short of a military presence in Afghanistan, to strengthen the security capabilities of the Afghan government through financing, training and equipping the Afghan army and police, especially counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics formations.
AFGHANISTAN: KEY ECONOMIC INDICATORS
Growth rate of GDP
Gross Domestic Product per
Trade balance ($ mn)
Central government revenues
Sources: (i) Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2010, 2009 & 2008; (ii) World Economic Outlook Database, IMF
Secondly, apart from substantially increasing its $1.3 billion economic and technical assistance pledges, it must enable Afghanistan to generate substantial revenues of its own. This might include encouraging Afghan exports. India has already signed a Preferential Trading Agreement (PTA) with Afghanistan, tariff concessions under which have helped raise Afghan exports to India seven-fold since 2002, largely on account of fresh and dry fruit. The development of rich Afghan natural resources of copper, berillium, gold and semi-precious stones will enhance its export earnings.
However, for Afghanistan's export potential to be fully realised, it is essential that the alternative route through Chahbahar port in Iran to the Indian Zaranj-Delaram road should be developed as a major trade route in cooperation with Iran.
In the longer term, Afghanistan should be enabled to earn revenues from transit trade, taking advantage of its strategic location between Central and South Asia and Iran. Although presently beset by security problems, a visionary project could be the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline between Central Asia and India. Another is the CASA-1000 Project for wheeling hydropower from Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic to an energy-hungry South Asia.
Thirdly, it must be recognised that India's aid, though substantial, cannot be taken to levels which will make a critical difference. Unless the international community can enhance its assistance to Afghanistan in the coming years, especially post-withdrawal, all their efforts will be brought to naught. An amount of $25 billion has been pledged by donors for the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS) for 2008-13, as against a total requirement of $43 billion. The London Conference added a meagre $140 million. India must therefore play a pro-active role in strengthening the international will to continue assistance.
Santosh Kumar is a retired diplomat and currently senior consultant, and Neha Malik research assistant at ICRIER
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
WHEN EVERY SECOND COUNTS
Perumal (name changed) was a happy-go-lucky young man with a zest for life. Until one day, while out biking with his friends he had a head-on collision with a truck on the busy highway on the outskirts of Salem in Tamil Nadu.
As with most small-town youngsters (and often city ones too) he was not wearing a helmet and as a result received extensive head injuries.
Doctors in Salem took one look at him, threw up their hands and told his family to take him to Coimbatore, the nearest town with facilities to treat serious head injuries.
But that meant a close-to- four hour ride on roads that are chock-a-bloc with vehicles on the busy National Highway between Salem and Coimbatore; a ride made more harrowing by the fact that the ambulance, despite its screaming siren and flashing light, was not given priority on the road and had to jostle for space along with the usual motley collection of vehicles, ranging from trucks and buses to tractors, cyclists, bullock-carts and pedestrians found on all our roads, including, at times, on expressways.
The net result was that he made to the Intensive Care Unit of Coimbatore's KMCH a good two hours later than he would have if his ambulance had not been obstructed on the roads. Luckily for him the hospital has one of the best trauma care units in the country so Perumal made it. But not before many anxious moments for himself and his family! Perumal is one of the lucky ones.
An overwhelming number of road accident victims in India either never make it to the hospital in time or reach after so much delay that their chances for survival are greatly (and needlessly) reduced. Why? Simply because there is no dedicated lane on the roads to ensure that vehicles carrying the seriously injured/sick get right of way.
In a scenario where a delay of even a few minutes can make a difference between life and death, such wanton delay because of congestion on the roads is criminal. The government's recent media campaign to sensitise the public about the need to give way to emergency vehicles is, therefore, most welcome.
However, in most of our cities the roads are so congested and the traffic so indisciplined that even if people wish to give way for such vehicles they are simply unable to do so. Take a city like Delhi.
It has some of the widest streets in the country and yet during peak hours there is hardly an inch of space on the roads with the result that even when you hear an ambulance behind, there is nothing you can do except offer a prayer for whoever is inside.
No wonder India has the dubious distinction of having not only the highest number of road accidents but also the highest number of casualties from such accidents. Steps to root out corruption in the issue of driving licences, better roads, traffic signals etc can help reduce the number of road accidents.
But since these can never be eliminated entirely, they need to be supplemented by measures to ensure that as and when accidents to occur there is no delay in getting the victims to hospital.
It's the same story with fire-engines. A few months ago when a devastating fire broke out Stephen Court in Kolkata and many lives were lost, there was a hue and cry over the lack of fire safety measures in buildings. But there was hardly any mention of the difficulties encountered by firemen in reaching the site of the fire quickly.
It is a fair surmise that casualties in almost any fire or road accident would be far fewer if rescue vehicles could reach the site quickly and get the victims to hospital in time.
This is where we need to take a leaf out of the books of many advanced countries where civic authorities leave one lane free for emergency vehicles. Today we are in the midst of a massive road building/widening project.
But unfortunately we do not seem to have given any thought to this aspect of road safety. Yet scarcely a day passes without some horrific report of a serious accident.
In Salem, Perumal's family offers a daily prayer for the ambulance driver who got him to Coimbatore in the nick of time. But for every Perumal who survives there are hundreds who fail to make it to a hospital in time. That can and must change. And it will if we ensure one lane is kept free for emergency (not VIP) vehicles.
INDIA WILL WATCH LANKA TAMIL STEPS
It is a happy augury that the recent visit of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse to New Delhi his first since the comprehensive military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May last year followed by impressive wins for Mr Rajapakse's party in the Parliament election and his personal triumph for the presidency last January covered the widest possible area of cooperation that can be thought of between two countries that have enjoyed a friendship for millennia that rests on a shared ethos and a common system of spiritual as well as modern political values underpinned by democracy. Seven agreements were signed in a wide range of sectors, including defence and security, space, power, railway transportation and oil exploration. Additionally, India has agreed to provide Rs 500 crores toward the resettlement of the internally displaced Tamil refugees whose lives were shattered on account of the military engagement of the LTTE by government forces, besides building 50,000 homes for them. This is a gesture of significance that underlines this country's continuing commitment to securing for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority justice within a federal, democratic and united Sri Lanka, to which New Delhi has always subscribed. The tone of the joint declaration pointed to the maturity of the friendship between the two countries. In this document, and in his talks with the Indian leadership, the Sri Lankan President indicated his eagerness to place relations with his country's Tamil minority within the democratic framework through the use of constitutional provisions. Although President Rajapakse's ideas may not have crystallised on this score, given the domestic pulls and pressures he may have to contend with in the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance, New Delhi may be expected to watch with interest the implementation of steps to sort out the Tamil tangle which caused the quagmire into which Colombo found itself sucked for more than a quarter century. This adversely impacted Sri Lanka's normal growth and political dynamics, influenced the quality of its ties with India from time to time, and also caused the regional security situation to be degraded. In the spirit of friendship with Colombo, New Delhi can seek to play a helpful role in preparing the Tamil minority sections to play a constructive part in their engagement with the government, and to quit living in the past when the LTTE ran the Tamil north and east of the country with an iron hand. Mr Rajapakse has avoided all mention of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution under which devolution of powers to the Tamil areas has been thought of in recent years. It has to be seen if his government provides for an alternative, but equally effective, formulation to safeguard the legitimate interests of the Tamils. Given his government's signal military triumph over the LTTE, and the sweep of his election victories, President Rajapakse can easily be said to have been the most powerful Sri Lankan leader to have emerged in recent decades one who is not required to look over his shoulder in dealing with the world.
MONEY AND POLITICS
BY ARUN NEHRU
I have often repeated the threat our governance faces from the twin issues of terrorism, internal as well as external, and the lack of transparency in fund collection for political parties and leaders.
Political funds are regularly collected by all parties. Anyone and everyone in authority, in the decision-making sphere, is a "collector" of funds of which about 85-90 per cent are in "cash". Check the accounts of any political party, be it a national or a regional party (with the exception of the Left), and then look at the amount of money spent on contesting each seat in Lok Sabha elections. The story will become clear.
No one donating funds to a party parts with their cash to benefit the "middle or the bottom" of the power cycle. "Political donations" are always meant to go to the "top". Every party has its own system of dealing with "contributors" and "non-contributors" there are ministers at the Centre, chief ministers of states and others who have the power to dispense favours.
All this has resulted in several changes in the structure of most political parties. Virtually every political family has a very successful business tycoon and a battery of lawyers, tax consultants and chartered accountants who have evolved systems to deal with the law in case the need arises.
Sadly this money-malice is now impacting our day to day governance and is challenging not just political authority but the very existence of effective governance. A handful of individuals are holding the system to ransom and making a mockery of governance. Should we be surprised that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose integrity is impeccable, is unable to effectively deal with the 2G spectrum corruption issue despite raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and despite documents being leaked to the media to build pressure for early resignations?
No one is interested in finding a solution. Every time an investigation is ordered into a case of extortion or corruption, it is just to create a smokescreen. The best examples of this are in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Look at the control which political parties have over government agencies and look at the ease with which the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the income-tax departments can change positions to accommodate the political swings that are inevitable in coalition politics. We have seen this in three cases recently Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family, Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar and Jharkhand and Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh. In other states, too, the same thing is happening, often involving evidence in cases that are in court.
We have seen the political system being held hostage by "money power" in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, too, and we now see this happening in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. What can one say of Jharkhand where the Madhu Koda scam of Rs 4,000 crores could indict every party in the state if a free and fair probe was ever conducted? The situation will only get worse as political costs escalate. If not checked, it will consume our system of governance.
In today's world a political leader is considered honest if s/he does not take party funds into his/her personal accounts. But a stage will come when all such "honest" individuals in authority will pay a very heavy price for their "silence" or their inability to check corruption, extortion and criminal activity associated with political collections.
The Union Carbide issue is sad. Even after 25 years, there is no justice for the people of Bhopal where 20,000 people died and two generations have suffered immense physical and mental damage. Little good will be done by passing the blame on to each other in what is clearly a collective failure of the system. While we struggle to reform the system at all levels, we should think constructively and look for immediate solutions to reduce the hardships of the people of Bhopal affected by this tragedy.
All we can do even today is pass verdict on events that took place in Bhopal in 1984. Even with the wisdom of hindsight this is never easy. The electronic media is in a frenzy and, sadly, motives are being attributed to many. Several political battles will be fought between the Congress and the Opposition, but there will be few winners as between 1995 and 2010 all the political parties have been in power at the Centre and everyone is "guilty".
I was a Cabinet minister in the 1990 government and a member of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA), and I do not recall a single discussion on the subject of Union Carbide. The events of December '84 are very much in the news but the ground reality in Bhopal is best known to Arjun Singh, the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. He, along with the Intelligence Bureau, would keep the Prime Minister and home minister informed of the situation. There would be many aspects to the issue but in this emergency the first priority would have been to save human lives and prevent a further disaster.
The CCPA meeting at 3 am on December 9, called by the Prime Minister, with Mr Singh present as indicated by P.C. Alexander, indicates the urgency of the situation and I have no doubt that Rajiv Gandhi would have done everything possible and more to deal with the crisis situation as it existed.
We keep talking of the rule of law but in case after case we see verdicts being passed after 20 years. Little has been done to improve the judicial situation though the media has succeeded in reviving certain cases that had been long forgotten, like Jessica Lall, Nitesh Katara, Priyadarshni Mattoo and lately the Ruchira issue. I have little doubt that the uproar on the Union Carbide case in the media, both in India and abroad, will force both the Central and the state government to act.
Law minister M. Veerappa Moily means well, as do the others, but the system is rotten and has always been rotten. What do we need to revise our laws? Twenty thousand dead people and a generation maimed for life? This case must be reopened and the compensation issue re-examined. I am sure that legal experts will find a way to do this on an urgent basis.
If the US had suffered a manmade disaster of this nature it would have probably gone to "war". If in a case such as this extradition was not done immediately, then it's clear that the rules of the power game are very different between the US and countries in Asia than what we often like to believe. We need to understand that India will not become an economic and political superpower by gross domestic product growth of 10 per cent alone. We need a great deal of political will and a change of attitude to get there.
- Arun Nehru is a former Union minister
LET'S GATHER THE COURAGE TO LEAVE KABUL
BY BOB HERBERT
There is no good news coming out of the depressing and endless war in Afghanistan. There once was merit to our incursion there, but that was long ago. Now we're just going through the tragic motions, flailing at this and that, with no real strategy or decent end in sight.
The US doesn't win wars anymore. We just funnel the stressed and underpaid troops in and out of the combat zones, while all the while showering taxpayer billions on the contractors and giant corporations that view the horrors of war as a heaven-sent bonanza. BP, as we've been told repeatedly recently, is one of the largest suppliers of fuel to the wartime US military.
Seven American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Monday but hardly anyone noticed. Far more concern is being expressed for the wildlife threatened by the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico than for the GI's being blown up in the wilds of Afghanistan.
Early this year, we were told that at long last the tide had turned in Afghanistan, that the biggest offensive of the war by American, British and Afghan troops was under way in Marja, a town in Helmand Province in the southern part of the country. The goal, as outlined by Gen Stanley McChrystal, our senior military commander in Afghanistan, was to rout the Taliban and install a splendid new government that would be responsive to the people and beloved by them.
That triumph would soon be followed by another military initiative in the much larger expanse of neighbouring Kandahar Province. New York Times' Rod Nordland explained what was supposed to happen in a front-page article this week: "The goal that American planners originally outlined often in briefings in which reporters agreed not to quote officials by name emphasised the importance of a military offensive devised to bring all of the populous and Taliban-dominated south under effective control by the end of this summer. That would leave another year to consolidate gains before President Obama's July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing combat troops".
Forget about it. Commanders can't even point to a clear-cut success in Marja. As for Kandahar, no one will even use the word "offensive" to describe the military operations there. The talk now is of moving ahead with civilian reconstruction projects, a "civilian surge", as Mr Nordland noted.
What's happening in Afghanistan is not only tragic, it's embarrassing. The American troops will fight, but the Afghan troops who are supposed to be their allies are a lost cause. The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai is breathtakingly corrupt and incompetent and widely unpopular to boot. And now, as the New York Times' Dexter Filkins is reporting, the erratic Mr Karzai seems to be giving up hope that the US can prevail in the war and is making nice with the Taliban.
There is no overall game plan, no real strategy or coherent goals, to guide the fighting of US forces. It's just a mind-numbing, soul-chilling, body-destroying slog, month after month, year after pointless year. The 18-year-olds fighting (and, increasingly, dying) in Afghanistan now were just nine or 10 when the World Trade Centre and Pentagon were attacked in 2001.
Americans have zoned out on this war. They don't even want to think about it. They don't want their taxes raised to pay for it, even as they say in poll after poll that they are worried about budget deficits. The vast majority do not want their sons or daughters anywhere near Afghanistan.
Why in the world should the small percentage of the population that has volunteered for military service shoulder the entire burden of this hapless, endless effort? The truth is that top American officials do not believe the war can be won but do not know how to end it. So we get gibberish about empowering the unempowerable Afghan forces and rebuilding a hopelessly corrupt and incompetent civil society.
Our government leaders keep mouthing platitudes about objectives that are not achievable, which is a form of deception that should be unacceptable in a free society.
In announcing, during a speech at West Point in December, that 30,000 additional troops would be sent to Afghanistan, President Obama said: "As your commander in chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined and worthy of your service".
That clearly defined mission never materialised.
Ultimately, the public is at fault for this catastrophe in Afghanistan, where more than 1,000 GI's have now lost their lives. If we don't have the courage as a people to fight and share in the sacrifices when our nation is at war, if we're unwilling to seriously think about the war and hold our leaders accountable for the way it is conducted, if we're not even willing to pay for it, then we should at least have the courage to pull our valiant forces out of it.
'SPEED WILL BE THE GAME-CHANGER'
Present-day world-beaters may not have someone like Diego Maradona or a Pele in the team, or for that matter a player who can lead the way and win a trophy single-handed. However, many sides do have players capable of making a difference with their sheer speed, on and off the ball.
Speed that simple five-letter word is often the difference between the extraordinary and the merely good in modern football, says former India and Mohun Bagan striker I.M. Vijayan, known as the Black Pearl in his heyday, in an interview to Sayak Banerjee. He also believes that footballers today should have the ability to perform in all positions if they are to excel at the highest level.
Q. What are your views on the changes in today's game of football?
A. Well, if you ask me about changes, I would say the game is only getting faster. It is not that this aspect is restricted only to the top-ranked teams. It is also true of those yet to make a mark in world football.
I do believe that the speed with which players operate today has brought about an overall improvement in their quality. Now, if you are a quality footballer with greater level of skills, you can even avoid sustaining injuries to a good extent.
Q. Do you think footballers should be able to play in all positions?
A. The level of competition in modern day football means it is not possible for any footballer to make a mark restricted to the position he is comfortable at. I don't think such an attitude would take him very far. To be an asset for his team, he would have to move around, go on the overlap if he is a defender, and as a striker try to snatch the ball away from opponents at the half-line itself.
You will see the word "playmaker" is a very common term these days. In other words, every team requires at least a couple of playmakers if things are to go their way.
Q. Coming to the strikers of today, do you think their role has evolved?
A. As I have said earlier, no player can scale great heights by being confined to just one position. Similarly for an out-and-out striker, roaming in and around his comfort zone will render him invalid on most occasions against strong opposition. All-round capabilities are of immense importance now. That being the case, strikers must share the workload along with the other players regardless of the strength of their respective teams.
Q. Are there any differences in the current scenario compared to your playing days?
A. I don't think there is too big a gap between the two generations. According to me, it is the speed of the game today that makes all the difference. In fact, a player's ability to cope with this pace may go on to be a determining factor in this World Cup as well which is being played in South Africa.
This is one area where Indian footballers are lagging. Although there has been some improvement in the last few years, our players need to be even faster if they are to feature and compete at the highest level.
Q. Although it's too early to say, have you so far noticed any changes in the manner of execution from teams so far in the current World Cup?
A. Talking of this World Cup, I would first say that we have had two very good matches on the opening day even though there wasn't a winner. The tournament has certainly got off to a great start with the way hosts South Africa and Mexico performed.
Honestly, I cannot forget Tshabalala's goal. Not many would have expected this youngster to come up with such execution, and so successfully. This particular instance could well be held as a true reflection of the game's higher standards.
Q. Looking at the result of the France-Uruguay game, would you attribute it to the French lack of creativity up front or a clever defending from coach Oscar Tabarez's men?
A. I would put it down to excellent defensive work from both the teams. In fact, this game too was evenly poised. Both France and Uruguay fought hard to break the deadlock, but were undone inside the six-yard circle.
This may be an indication that scoring at will won't be much on show this time. The first two matches are a clear sign of teams having worked harder on their defensive organisation.
THE MONTY HALL DILEMMA
BY ROD LIDDLE
Here's a game to play this evening with your wife or your catamite. It is an incredibly boring game. Take three cards an ace and a couple of jokers. Shuffle them up. Lay the cards face down in front of your partner and tell her that if she picks the ace, you'll give her a bourbon or maybe a garibaldi biscuit. If she picks one of the jokers, however, she gets naught.
Tell her not to turn over the card of her choice just yet, simply to tap it. When she's done that, pick up the two other cards. At least one of them will be a joker reveal this card to your missus and put the other card, undisclosed, back in front of her. Now ask her if she wishes to switch from her original choice. Make a note on a piece of paper of her decision, and also whether she wins the biscuit or not. Repeat this entire procedure about 100 or better still 1,000 times. Make sure you have lots of biscuits ready if she switches every time. This is the Monty Hall dilemma and it was back in the news last week, picked up in the weekend's broadsheets, and has been rolling around the blogs ever since. It resurfaces once in a while and everybody is always dutifully astonished. On this latest occasion it was presented in a slightly different (although pretty familiar) form, at the start of an article by Alex Bellos in New Scientist.
He was quoting a puzzle designer called Gary Foshee who was addressing a symposium in Atlanta and who began his speech with this conundrum: "I have two children. One is a boy born on Tuesday. What is the probability that I have two boys?" This is the Monty Hall dilemma, and indeed my card puzzle, slightly rewritten the same sort of principles apply. In this case, bizarrely, the information that the boy was born on a Tuesday (or any other day of the week) is crucial to the calculation. Without that information, you can calculate the odds by looking at the combinations of two children it is possible to have (gg, gb, bg, bb). As we already know that one child is a boy we can eliminate (gg) and therefore the odds of two boys are one in three. When you add in the information that the boy was born on a Tuesday, however, the probability changes from one in three to 13/27, or almost 50 per cent a huge difference. Once you have listed the equally likely possibilities of children, together with days of the week, you end up with 27 possible permutations, 13 of which are two boys.
Now, I think this is a less startling outcome than my card trick or the Monty Hall dilemma which I promise I'll come to because when you strip it down it is not hugely counter-intuitive. In my card game, the answer is genuinely counter-intuitive. Your wife, or catamite, has chosen a card. You have revealed a joker to her, or him. That leaves two cards on the table in front of her, one of which must be a joker, the other of which must be the ace. So it's surely a 50/50 choice? Her chances of winning will be about one in three if she stays with her original choice, and about two in three if she changes her mind. The reason I suggested playing this game is that almost nobody believes this outcome to be true.
So, Monty Hall. Monty was the compère of a US gameshow called Let's Make A Deal, back in the 1960s and 1970s, in which this apparently strange conundrum arose. She said: "Suppose the contestants on a game show are given the choice of three doors: behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. After a contestant picks a door the host, opens one of the other doors to reveal a goat. He then says to the contestant, 'Do you want to switch to the other unopened door?' Is it to the contestant's advantage to make the switch?" She said, incontestably, that it was. And then her answer was contested, by the nation's mathematicians and one or two Nobel Prize-winners, who all argued that it was 50/50. Almost 1,000 maths PhD chaps wrote in castigating her logic. But the explanation is not terribly abstruse or difficult, if you go back to my card game; if your wife has guessed her card correctly in the first place and refuses to switch then she wins, but there is only a one in three chance of that happening. The chances of her having guessed wrongly, meanwhile, are two out of three, so twice as likely as the lucky guess. So she should switch and, much more likely than not, enjoy her bourbon.
We are bombarded with statistics every day most contain false correlations, misunderstand the idea of "sample space". Nothing is quite what it seems; likelihoods can, with the addition of more information, suddenly become unlikelihoods.
GANDHI IS ALIVE
BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
On the front page of Syed Shahabuddin's weekly The Milli Gazette there was a news item written by its editor Zafarul Islam Khan which I felt should have made headline news of every national daily in all our languages and the top news item of our TV channels. I did not see it appear in any other journal and felt saddened that our media had failed to perform its duty. The article was headlined 'Sikhs rebuild mosque demolished in 1947'. I give a short summary of its contents. There is a village called Sarwarpur around ten kilometres from Samrala town in Punjab. It had a sizeable Muslim population and a mosque with a dome and minarets. In the communal civil strife which accompanied the partition of Punjab in August 1947 most of the Muslim population fled to Pakistan and the mosque was demolished by rampaging mobs of Hindus and Sikhs.
Last year, Sikhs of the village decided to rebuild the mosque and give it back to the Muslims. On May 22 Jathedar Kirpal Singh of the SGPC, the MLA of the village, Jagjivan Singh, and all villagers welcomed Maulana Habibur Rehman Sani Ludhianvi and presented, the keys of the mosque to the oldest Muslim villager, Dada Mohammed Tufail. There were triumphant cries of Allah-o-Akbar (God-o-Creator). Among those present was Mohammed Usman Radanvi, chairman of the Punjab Wakf Board.
My heart swelled with pride at what members of my community had done. They had done what Guru Nanak, whose first disciple Bhai Mardana remained Muslim to the end of his life, would have liked them to do; they had done what the Fifth Guru Arjan, compiler of the Adi-Granth and builder of the Harmandir (today's GoldenTemple), whose foundation stone had been laid by the Sufi Saint Hazrat Mian Mir of Lahore, would have applauded. And so would have Maharaja Ranjit Singh, one of whose Maharanis built the white marble dargah of Data Ganj Baksh, the most popular Sufi shrine in Lahore today.
I don't think its too late for the media to make amends for its oversight. It can still highlight this historic event. Let pressmen and crews of TV channels visit Sarwarpur, reproduce pictures of the rebuilt mosque, interview residents of the village and tell all their countrymen what we need to do to keep it together. They could organise special showings for the destroyers of the Babri Masjid including L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Rithambra, Kalyan Singh, the Hindu Mahasabhaees, Shiv Sainiks, Bajrang Dalis and others who share their venomous views. I think the results will be spectacular. And I am sure our Bapu Gandhi in heaven will be showering his blessings on the villagers of Sawarpur. Don't you agree with me?
Reviving Urdu poetry
One evening Geeti Sen who is currently cultural counsellor with our embassy in Kathmandu brought her son Murad with her. I had seen him as a baby in 1969 when his parents and I lived in the same block of flats on Cuff Parade. He has grown into a handsome young man with many credits to his name. He was educated in the Lawrence School, Sanawar, and got his degree from Sydenham College, Bombay. He went into making films and acting in different institutes in Paris and America. Since his parents split up and his own marriage went on the rocks, he lives alone in Nizamuddin and devotes himself to studying and reciting Urdu poetry. He has given many recitals in different cities in India and Nepal. That evening he got going in my home. I was astounded by his phenomenal memory. If I quoted a couplet of an Urdu poet, he came out with the entire ghazal. It occurred to me that while mushairas are restricted to poets reciting their own works and the better poets usually come on the stage past midnight, there was a better alternative to keep Urdu alive. If schools and colleges in which Hindustani is understood and men like Murad Ali were periodically invited to giverecitations of old and new poets from Meer Taqi Meer, BahadurShah Zafar, Zauq, Ghalib
and Momin down to Iqbal, Faiz, Kaif-i-Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafri and Ahmad Faraz, they could put fresh life into the dwindling love for Urdu poetry which is our priceless heritage. Murad Ali can be reached at G 18/1 Nizamuddin West, New Delhi-110013.
For Jairam Ramesh
With ministers, surprises never cease
One had 'foot in the mouth' disease.
His statements on China
caused some Angina;
But the PM gave him a fresh lease.
Environment minister ruffled some feathers
And helped create some inclement weather.
His diplomatic intrusions
Jai ho, Jai ho, Jairam Ramesh, Jai ho
He is trying to unite friends and foes.
Chinese investments be allowed:
He says -- clear and loud.
But the bloke is treading on some toes.
(Contributed by J.K Mathur, Gurgaon)
IS DELHI'S USP CRUMBLING?
THUS far it may be a ripple rather than a wave: there are few signs that importance is being attached to the demand from local student leaders, the president of the Delhi University Students Union included, that seats for permanent residents of the Capital be reserved in the 18 colleges run by the Delhi government. Yet there would be much sympathy for the demand that at least 85 per cent of the 200,000 Delhi students who pass the CBSE examination be facilitated in pursuing higher education in their home city. That the prestigious Central university has acquired nationwide appeal, and attracts students from across the country, means that local youth often miss the "cut-off" ~ the admission process is highly competitive. What also irks is that a local-quota is in place in most states. Maybe the better way out is to have two shifts in all Delhi government colleges, or indeed set up a new locally-oriented university so that DU retains its status as a centre of excellence, but it would by myopic to ignore the quota-demand. This is the first time a DUSU leader has endorsed it, and now a local BJP leader has jumped on the bandwagon. Even head-in-the-clouds Kapil Sibal cannot ignore ground realities.
In a larger context, however, the demand is scary, it points to Delhi's unique non-parochial ethos coming under strain. Recall that even though the chief minister subsequently backed-off, Sheila Dikshit did refer to the continued population influx putting civic services under strain. Those who so conveniently condemn the Capital as lacking character conveniently ignore the fact that its character has been trampled upon by the endless flow of outsiders resettling in Delhi. The refugees from west Punjab may have been the largest single group, but others too have steadily followed. Not just from the hinterland. And all have been accepted, welcomed as nowhere else. Has the Dilliwallah ~ in contrast to folk in the other metros ~ taken exception to various communities setting up their own cultural and educational organisations, even living in clusters? Regretfully, not all those who move to the Capital for its employment/economic benefits accept it as their home. For long that was "not an issue" but, and regretfully at that, it is in danger of becoming one. Unlike other student bodies, the DUSU does reflect serious political thinking. Is a new crop of "sons of the soil" netas taking root?
CONTAIN THE SPILL, CLEAR THE AIR
When Barack Obama wonders whose "ass to kick" in the Gulf of Mexico, he makes it pretty obvious that he has BP, the British oil company, on his radar. It would be an over-reaction just yet to think in terms of an Anglo-American diplomatic row; yet the oil spill is almost certain to cloud the talks between the US President and the British Prime Minister over the next fortnight, indeed their first interaction since the Conservative victory. The Obama-Cameron meeting could be one of the unpleasant sideshows of the G-8 and G-20 summit in Ontario on 26 June. The "special relationship'' might be slightly soured already if the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson's statement is any indication: "I do think there's something slightly worrying about the anti-British rhetoric that seems to be permeating from America." And from a President who is given to "rhetoric" and bombast. Though the spill has to an extent been arrested, BP has its back to the wall in the face of mounting criticism in the US. Going by last Thursday's statement by the company, the 16 per cent plunge in its share prices has been damaging no less. And the White House is said to be looking for ways to force BP to suspend its dividend payments to shareholders, a primary source of pension. Hence the blunt assertion of the Labour party that when "you attack the dividend, you are attacking millions of pensioners".
The spill has doubtless generated a degree of tension, though not a diplomatic flap. Which explains the anxiety implicit in the State Department's clarification that the spill will not affect equations. For now, it is the economic health of BP that is at stake. Equally is it essential to curb the spillage and clear the environment to the extent possible. And this must transcend the diplomatic shadow-boxing and rhetorical flourishes.
LESSER GODS NEED PROTECTION TOO
LEOPARDS have never been as "lionised" as tigers. Written off as sly and cowardly in contrast to Corbett's lauding "Stripes" as a "gentleman", the fate of "Spots" has aroused only limited concern among conservationists: possibly because of their larger numbers. But with tigers having drastically dwindled, and marginally effective patrolling of Project Tiger reserves, poachers are now training their sights on leopards/panthers too. Encountering little outrage or resistance, since the leopard's cattle-lifting ways and propensity to stray into built-up areas adjoining the forests have earned it no popularity. It would appear that there is money to be made selling their body parts, perhaps passing them off tigers'. Leopard skins fetch prices ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 ~ depending on size, condition, and where the sale is made, and as high as Rs 100,000 on the international market. Over 70 leopards were killed in January-March this year; the figure for 2009 was 290, almost double the 157 of the previous year. Unofficial estimates point to the death toll being closer to 500. At this rate what was once deemed vermin could find itself on the list of endangered species; the present calculation of 8,000 may not offer much long-term comfort. Particularly since the leopard's natural habitat is also shrinking. Awakening to a worrying situation, wildlife enthusiasts are demanding a protection programme for leopards on the lines of Project Tiger; perhaps difficult for even now the lesser of the big cats inhabits forests that are yet to be designated sanctuaries. Another school of thought is not enamoured of species-specific conservation and would advocate identifying forest areas and launching a comprehensive scheme to preserve all flora and fauna. For how long will the government dither over establishing a separate ministry for forests and wildlife to ensure singular focus, create core competence and raise a dedicated wildlife service ~ a combination of forest guards and local police will not be adequate? Jairam Ramesh is sincere but he does have too much in his plate to concentrate on leopards, river dolphins, bustards etc. He would earn the appreciation of conservationists if he made bold to shed some of his "empire" by pressing for forests/wildlife to have a dedicated ministry.
A SOFT CHINA
THE QUICKER THE COUNTRY CHANGES, THE FASTER IT WILL GROW
BY RAJINDER PURI
Most China experts agree that China is changing. But there is little agreement about how it will change. Change in China is compelled by several factors. The one-child policy dictated by the government has led to a demographic imbalance with fewer than desired young people from whom the labour force is recruited. Also, better education and more exposure to global trends has created anger and frustration among workers whose parents were very different ~ hard working and unquestioning ~ that helped create China's economic miracle.
The first sign that China's workers were getting restive came about from a suicide that was highlighted by New York Times. The body of a 19-year-old worker, Ma Xiangqian, was discovered. Investigation revealed that during his last month he worked three times the legal limit of overtime. His work conditions and treatment meted to him were horrendous. Subsequently a dozen other suicide cases among workers occurred. Analysts believe that China's notoriously cheap and ill-treated work force that allowed Beijing to exploit it as a goldmine has ended. Already wages have gone up and are expected to rise further. This means goodbye to China's previous virtual slave labour that attracted foreign investment and enabled multinational corporations to rake in huge profits.
Also, higher wage raises production costs to push up prices of most consumer goods that China exports. Presently the Chinese economy runs on its exports. If higher priced exports shrink Beijing must find alternative markets to sustain its economy. The increased wages of workers are not sufficiently high to make them consumers who can replace export markets. And according to experts the workers will remain inadequate consumers for one more decade.
This then is the economic challenge that Beijing faces. But China's rulers are wisely attempting to convert this challenge into opportunity. Beijing announced a raise in minimum wage to placate the growing assertiveness of workers. This will stimulate domestic consumption, make China less dependent on low-priced exports, and help reduce the dangerous gap between the rich and the poor. One does not see any insurmountable challenge to China's economy.
The challenge however will be political. As the gap between the rich and the poor, however gradually, continues to narrow, as workers and peasants increasingly question authority and assert their rights, as even a stifled Internet makes dissent more vocal, China will have to soften its system. This is where there could be a few hiccups. Here again, problems in the Communist Party government appear open to solution.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao belong to an older generation and were earlier members of China's Communist Youth League that was very active during China's infamous Cultural Revolution. Even between Hu and Wen there is a distinct difference of nuance. The latter was the personal aide to Zhao Zhang who was pro-democracy and strongly opposed the Tiananmen massacre. Hu on the other hand was selected by Deng Xiaoping to administer Tibet which he did with uncommon ruthlessness to lay the foundation of Tibet's current bitterness. Yet, Hu and Wen seem to get along well enough.
However, soon both will be replaced by a younger leadership. The new leaders are expected to be Xi Jinping and Zhou Youngkang. Both are described as "Princelings", the progeny of the Communist elite that participated with Mao but disagreed with his hardline approach. Both Xi and Zhou through their public pronouncements hold out hope of a more soft approach.
The problem arises not from China's Communist Party but from its army. Much before western governments or media publicly recognized the problem this scribe had repeatedly pointed out that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) was acting as the super boss dictating foreign policy to the Beijing government. Unfolding events have brought this out more in the open. Now it is widely acknowledged that the civilian government and PLA most often do not see eye to eye. And when differences arise, it is the PLA that prevails. As Carnegie Endowment China specialist Michael Swaine was quoted: "Many, if not all, officials of the US government believe the current situation is one in which the military has the bit in its mouth and is taking the lead in the issue (of foreign policy) the Communist Party and the foreign affairs apparatus is not terribly happy about it, but is going along with it."
According to reports the Princelings have begun interacting with younger elements of the PLA to modernize and professionalize the army. If they do not succeed in taming the PLA, China could implode. Taming PLA may not be easy. Witness how the North Korean army recently killed three Chinese civilians. Could this have been done by defying PLA? Is that why Beijing's reaction was so low-key?
The litmus test of a new soft China will manifest from how Beijing handles Arunachal Pradesh, as distinct from the rest of the boundary dispute. In 2005 Beijing gave written assurance that it would not disturb settled populations on the border. Later it reneged on its word. One must also watch how Tibet and Xingjian are handled. Only an inflexible self defeating approach can explain Beijing's hostility to the Dalai Lama despite the latter's conciliatory statements.
The quicker China changes, the faster it will grow. Will Beijing's new leaders successfully introduce change? I believe they will. Ultimately China is too big, the stakes are too high, the survival instincts of its smart leaders are too strong, to allow China to implode. But transition to softer China may not be entirely smooth. Soft China would of course promote its hegemonic ambitions more effectively. Beijing, after all, replicates Hitler's model minus anti-Semitism.
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist
WHY MUSLIMS NO LONGER SUPPORT THE LEFT
Abdur Rezzak Mollah believes that had the state government accepted the Sachar Committee report and announced job reservations for Muslims, they would not have deserted the CPI-M, says sk sadar nayeem
CPI-M state secretary Biman Bose has conceded in his preliminary report to the Politburo that the swing in the Muslim vote, especially in Kolkata, spelt doom for the Left Front in the municipal elections. The mandarins of Alimuddin Street had earlier denied, after Trinamul's resounding victory in the three-tier panchayat polls in 2008 and the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, that Muslims who once used to be the party's most dependable vote-bank had turned away. Bose and his party had then failed to read the writing on the wall and did not try to examine the causes for the erosion of its Muslim support base. Bose had said then that propaganda misled some Muslims, not the majority. He was acting like the ostrich.
Muslim opposition to the Buddhadeb Bhattacharya government started growing when land acquisition for the sake of industrialisation began in 2006 in Muslim-dominated Rajarhat and Bhangar. Singur and Nandigram intensified that opposition. Muslims in rural Bengal, especially farmers and agricultural labourers, voted against the CPI-M with a vengeance in the panchayat polls and again in the Lok Sabha elections. The findings of the Sachar Committee reflected the Muslim discontent in urban areas and added to the Left's woes.
In his preliminary report to the Politburo, Bose said that of 18 Muslim-dominated wards in Kolkata, Trinamul bagged 14 while the Left managed to get only four. However, Bose's report is not totally correct. In Kolkata there are at least 28 wards where there is a substantial Muslim presence. Of these 28 wards, Trinamul bagged 22 and the Left got only six, indicating the huge erosion of support among urban Muslims that had stood by the party in the past. Interestingly, this was despite the Left government's bid to woo the community with a 10 per cent reservation in government jobs. It proved that Muslim alienation had deeper roots over three decades of Left rule in the state. The Left had become apathetic towards the problems of Muslims and had treated them only as vote banks. The CPI-M's time-tested poll plank of secularism this time was also threatened when during the civic poll campaign, the chief minister made a last-minute appeal to BJP supporters to vote for the Left Front. It came as a blow to Muslims who were already annoyed with the Left. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's appeal to the BJP made the Muslim community apprehensive about the secular credentials of the chief minister himself.
After the civic poll results, Bengal land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah told this writer that had the state government accepted the Sachar Committee report at the beginning and announced job reservations for Muslims in the state, they would not have deserted the CPI-M. In fact, when the Sachar Committee report first came to light painting a grim picture of the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in the country, especially in West Bengal, the mandarins of Alimuddin Street didn't agree. The chief minister lambasted the report because "it put West Bengal in a poor light. The report didn't do justice to us. It didn't take into account the number of Muslims who got jobs as teachers, as policemen and in so many other sectors".
He was unaware of the fact that there was a general perception among Muslims that the CPI-M government virtually had done nothing for Muslims during its 33 years of rule in West Bengal. And that perception was not without reason. Contrary to what the chief minister claimed about Muslim employment, the data related to Muslim employees in two major government departments shows how abysmally low their representation is. The data which was made available by the two organisations, following an RTI query filed by a Kolkata-based NGO, is self-explanatory. The data says, "The total number of employees in the Kolkata police force is 24,840 of which only 2,267 are Muslims, constituting a mere 9.13 per cent of the overall strength. Of a total 24,840 employees in the Kolkata police, only 414 are women, and only 12 of them (2.9 per cent approx) are Muslims." The figures from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation are worse. "The municipal body has only 1,555 Muslim employees in its workforce of 34,731. Of the 4,556 women employees, only 136 are Muslims comprising just 2.98 per cent." However, when the chief minister realised his folly, he changed his statement and somehow reluctantly agreed... "there is a lot more to do for the development of the Muslims and the Left Front government was doing that exactly".
Interestingly, the chief minister didn't disclose what exactly his government was doing. His remarks, therefore, only made it look as if he was fooling around in the way his party had been doing for so long.
Under these circumstances, the West Bengal government's announcement of 10 per cent reservation for OBC Muslims in government jobs cut no ice.
It was seen as a tactical ploy to draw political capital. If the Left government announced job reservations for Muslims in a hurry, it was because it had realised the challenge posed by the shift in the Muslim mindset. The results of the civic polls indicate that the challenge still exists and may prove costly in the coming assembly elections.
The writer is with Dainik Statesman
FLY FOR ME, ARGENTINA
He is a short, fat, former football player with a graphically documented history of substance abuse and socialisation issues; the semi-literate coach of a national team that just about scraped through to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa under his tutelage, with a penchant for running his car over nosey journalists and firing his air gun at the paparazzi. If it's true that we like our heroes fallible, there is no bigger hero than Diego Armando Maradona.
For a nation with no sporting culture, where IPL Twenty20 is mistaken for sport, and being at the top of the heap of a handful of countries ~ less than a dozen of the world's nearly 200 nations ~ that play the other game is considered an achievement, it is difficult to explain Maradona's magical mystery tour of Mexico 1986, that still yo-yos between the surreal and the sublime in the collective consciousness of all of us who were between 13 and 15 years old at that time. It was a rite of passage like no other. Yes, there were Kapil Devil's in 1983 but pre-teens are not at the cusp of everything and nothing, like fresh teenagers are. Sure, it's all pop sociological, anecdotal drivel at one level; so, for the empiricists amidst you, here's the key factor. The 1986 World Cup was the first time we, in India, saw the greatest sporting competition on earth on our telly live, and in colour. In this mix, throw in Maradona.
It added a whole new dimension to life ~ from staying up all night and into the morning because of the time difference and learning to pronounce Argentinian names, to recognising the pathetic (though precious to them, naturally) strutting of assorted, mainly male, older members of the family when East Bengal beat Mohun Bagan or Simla Youngs won the Delhi league. That was the beginning of the end of footballing innocence in this country and not the live telecast of the English Premier League in the late 1990s, as some sports historians would have it.
Of course life carried on as normal and the boys from Madhyamgram kept winning the Subroto Cup whilst those of us in the Capital's posh public schools continued to be the also-rans. Simultaneously, came the realisation that apart from natural talent ~ and, at their respective levels and in their respective contexts, both Maradona and the Madhyamgram High School footballers of the mid-to-late 1980s had prodigious amounts of it in copious quantities ~ it was about the fire in the belly. When one saw this 5'3, over-muscled, ram of a man scatter all before him on a football field, one got it even if one couldn't articulate it.
Much was ~ and continues to be ~ made of the "hand of god" goal against England in the quarterfinals and the subsequent "goal of the century" in the same match by the same man. While it made perfect sense for the Brit Press to go to town with it ~ it was a hand ball, after all ~ given the animosity between the two nations and a war fought over control of the Falklands/Malvinas in 1982, I couldn't understand ~ and, according to a friend, "subversively still refuse to" ~ how that could have been the defining image of Maradona in Mexico or anything more than a derivative narrative, not to mention a classic example of following the herd.
For me, it was always the semi-final ~ against an unheralded Belgium ~ that made the Legend Of Maradona. He scored, after having got past a few defenders with sublime feints, by chipping, even as he was off-balance, a diving goalie (Jean Marie Pfaff) with the outside of his foot. His right foot. And Maradona, even Pele diehards who refuse to accept the claim of the challenger to the title of "greatest footballer of all time", concede is the best predominantly left-footed player of all time. So, he scored with his weaker foot, in a match that took his side to the World Cup final, and after having been pilloried by all sides for days after the quarterfinal against England. Sometimes, Diego is destiny.
Which brings us to Argentina in the ongoing edition of the World Cup with Maradona as coach (the result of their first match you would possibly already have read on another page of the newspaper you hold in your hands right now). A lot of the smart money is not on Argentina in this tournament, though they certainly are among the favourites to go all the way. It doesn't matter. Because for those of us from the Summer of '86 there can be only one team, and one man, to support.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FAMILY BUSINESS
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA HAS OFTEN FOCUSED ON PERSONAL ISSUES AND HIS LATEST FILM AFTER A LONG HIATUS IS NO DIFFERENT, SAYS KALEEM AFTAB
Francis Ford Coppola has probably heard it said a thousand of times before: Godfather Parts 1 and 2, and Apocalypse Now regularly top lists of people's favourite films, but he seems genuinely elated when I say that it's The Outsiders.
Immediately he asks: "Have you seen the newer version?" Coppola agreed to cut the opening 20-minute sequence to appease distributors when the film received a mixed reaction.
The Outsiders was made during the first low point of his career. His romance One From the Heart had just flopped and bankrupted him. Until 1982, everything, no matter how difficult the production process, had always seemed to come up smelling like roses. His career had been one monumental up, from working for the legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman on Dementia 13 in 1963, to The Rain People in 1969, starring James Caan and Robert Duvall, and his 1970s classics The Conversation, Godfather Parts 1 and 2 and Apocalypse Now.
Peter Biskind described him as the leader of the New Hollywood directors. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg wanted to make the type of films that Coppola was making. The Detroit-born director wanted complete autonomy from the studios to make the type of films seen in the French New Wave. For One From the Heart, he created huge sets of Las Vegas, but what should have been a crowning glory, a small personal film after the excess of Apocalypse Now, became a financial calamity.
So he wasn't in much of a position to argue with the studio when they wanted a new edit of The Outsiders. Coppola states: "The longer version that I originally wanted is the better version. When the film came out there was lots of, 'oh, it's too long'. But the kids know that book so well and would always ask, 'whatever happened to that scene when...?" So because of my granddaughter I put them all back and, fortunately, Warner Brothers went along with making the new version. I think it's nicer."
The year 1983 was productive for the director, as he made The Outsiders back-to-back with Rumble Fish. The two films are a who's who of American male actors of the past 20 years, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Mickey Rourke, and Nicolas Cage all make appearances. Rumble Fish, also based on an SE Hinton novel, is similar in many ways to Tetro. There are several links between the two films: a dreamy kid idolises a mysterious older brother, the two reunited after a period of absence, and both films shot in black and white.
"Well, maybe Tetro is kind of the sibling to Rumble Fish," says the 70-year-old. "I made Rumble Fish because it reminded me of my own brother. In fact the film is dedicated to him. And then when I came to Tetro I had Matt Dillon in mind to play the older brother. I liked working with Matt, but it's tricky, the schedules, especially if you need an actor for a few months, are very hard. These days I'm making these films more as a personal enterprise, I don't make films for money and I don't expect to make money, so I don't have a lot to give to actors."
Vincent Gallo takes on the role once earmarked for Matt Dillon. He plays Tetro, a once-promising writer residing in Buenos Aires. He seems annoyed when his younger brother Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich) suddenly appears, asking questions about an unfinished play that Tetro was working on when he suddenly left America, and bringing up the past. They both share a mutual hatred of their composer father and, through the course of the movie, family secrets are revealed. The parallels between the story and Coppola's own life are also great: he has a brother, August, (dad of Nicolas Cage) and dad is the composer Carmine, who worked on a number of his films.
The 1980s was a period of struggle for the film-maker. Unable to finance the personal films that he wanted to make, he directed several under-rated movies, such as his adaptation of William Kennedy's The Cotton Club, Peggy Sue Got Married and Tucker. His attempt to recapture former glory by completing the Godfather trilogy in 1992 was doomed from the moment that Robert Duvall refused to reprise the role of Tom Hagen.
The 1990s also saw desperate attempts at making big films aimed at the box office: a misconceived Dracula, a poorly received adaptation of John Grisham's The Rainmaker, and then the travesty that was the Robin Williams drama Jack. Aged 60, the director went into a self-imposed retirement, seemingly content to watch his extended family take the plaudits that were once his. Daughter Sofia would make Lost in Translation, while nephews Nicolas Cage and Jason Schwartzman forged fantastic acting careers. However, that urge to be an auteur making personal films would not leave him. In 2007 he returned to the director's chair with the confusing Youth Without Youth.
The theme in Tetro, as it is in most of his films, is the strength and central position of the family unit: not even the most heinous of sins can break blood ties. Now in his favourite territory, he posits: "Well that's a big theme for everyone. We're all part of our families and our earliest ideas of love and betrayal and all those wonderfully human emotions pretty much happen when we're young and, even if you don't have a family, you have these family attachments around you".
There is an air of contentment in Coppola's voice as he says this. It's as if, after all the years of trying to find happiness through the acknowledgement of others, the director has discovered that there is nothing better than pleasing himself.
MARTYR IN THE HOUSE
Everyone likes a bit of sympathy. Men just like more of it. A sneeze or a sniffle, or, Adam forbid, an actual headache, is enough to send a man into a frenzy of self-pity if he has a ministering female close by. A recent study conducted on 3,000 people by Engage Mutual Assurance shows that half the men questioned exaggerated their symptoms, describing a common cold as flu and an ordinary headache as a migraine. They want sympathy, says the report, and although men have fewer bouts of genuine sickness in a year (if that is in comparison to women, then it is no surprise), when they do get a sniffle or two they make sure they have their partners' attention.
For that is the point. Without a partner dropping everything and rushing to the man's bedside with soothing words and fluffed-up pillows, a cool hand on the brow and an anxious phone-call to the doctor, the whole point of feeling luxuriously ill is lost. Many women, it seems, offer sympathy and make their men comfortable even when they do not quite believe in the acuteness of the symptoms. Perhaps that is less kindness than a desire to prevent more moans. Yet the whining men, the study has found, do not take time off from work for too long to rest at home. The underlying assumption is both fascinating and revealing. The study seems to be looking for ways to retrieve some heroism for the male, suggesting he has a stiff upper lip at the workplace. It also lets slip that staying at home means rest for him. But in the bubble-world of middle- to high-income heterosexual couples with two children and a dog and, maybe, a cat that the researchers have investigated, women play as good a game as the men. Home is no rest for them; being working mothers makes no difference. Whether they groan with minor illnesses or not is beside the point they are always rushed off their feet. No one fluffs up their pillows or makes them comfortable. Now this is a point they make frequently and disdainfully. So in the game of martyrdom, as in almost everything else, the women are more efficient than the men.
But Engage Mutual Assurance being a "friendly society" that offers savings, investment and life insurance products (its sample segment for the study gives an idea of its clientele), the research concludes that minor ailments apart, it is important for men to recognize and act on "any genuine health concerns". This is even more revealing. Serious illnesses actually signal their arrival, but the man who would take to bed with a sniffle quickly shuts down all signalling routes. When there is real illness in the offing, he does not want to know. Neither does the woman, although the report is curiously reticent about giving her advice. But in this they are evenly matched; it is only the minor ailments that elicit those familiar, hair-raising moans.
GOOD DIRECTOR OF CALCUTTA
ONE OF THE MOST INNOVATIVE DIRECTORIAL MINDS IN THE COUNTRY
THE THIN EDGE: RUCHIR JOSHI
Think of every clichéd visual of a Marwari you've seen in Bengali plays and films and Shyamanand Jalan could fit it: he was fat, seriously so; he was rarely without a paan in his mouth; he wore thick glasses that looked like they had been made necessary by the close study of too many books of hisaab-kitaab and indeed, being one of the top lawyers in Calcutta, I guess legal documents had contributed to his bad eyesight; when he stood in a room, he occupied half of it with his height and size but also with the bulk of his self-confidence; when he sat, spilling out of most chairs imaginable, he looked every one of his many inches the classic Mero seth.
I first met Shyamanand when I was just out of school. I had watched my father, Shivkumar Joshi, direct Gujarati and Hindi plays, and thus acquired a taste for theatre; I'd seen Sombhu Mitra, Badal Sarkar, Rudraprasad Sengupta and Arun Mukherjee on stage; I had seen the many talented but mostly unsung amateur actors in English, Hindi and Gujarati who met brief glory or ignominy through the dreaded Dharani Ghosh's reviews in The Statesman. The famously erudite and acerbic Mr Ghosh patrolled what was still one of the most lively and varied theatre scenes in the country: you had the serious amateur English drama; you had the Hindi theatre groups; you had the small Gujarati and Tamil troupes; and, lording over all this, you had the vibrant Bangla natok in all its variety, with Calcutta in its last years as the cutting-edge city of Indian theatre.
Coming out of school, I decided I wanted to 'get into theatre'. The problem was, I didn't want to act in either of my father's groups and I hardly knew any others. "Well, Shyamanand is doing a new production," someone in Hindi theatre told me, "You might want to try there." Jalan? But wouldn't that be quite difficult? "Apparently he's doing The Good Woman of Szechuan, very big cast." I didn't mind being a constantly exeunting spear-carrier or whatever, I had no great delusion as to my acting talents, it was a director I wanted to be and I knew the chief route was through experiencing what it was like to be an actor. So, I went up to Shyamanand and asked him if there was any way I could be part of his cast.
"Have you acted before?"
"Only in school plays." I didn't tell him I'd only done bit parts.
"Hm. What plays have you read? Anything from your father's library?"
On much firmer ground, I rattled off several modern English, American and European plays.
"Any Hindi plays, any Bengali? Any of your father's own plays?"
No. I'd seen performances, but reading-wise I was an Angrezi-nerd.
"Any Brecht? Do you know Brecht?"
I'd heard of Bertolt Brecht, much in the same way I'd heard of Shyam Jalan, but no. My tastes ran more to the new British realists and the more recent European masters. Shyamanand's eyes briefly receded behind his glasses. I thought he was going to send me off. Politely, because he got along with my father, but nevertheless with a kick in the pants for a callow know-nothing.
"Okay. We start rehearsals next Tuesday. Be there by six-thirty sharp."
"Thank you! Should I read some Brecht before coming?"
"No. Just come." The man's attention was already on to something else.
What I didn't realize then was that I'd been allowed to attend rehearsals with one of the most innovative directorial minds in India. This large man in a safari suit was the one who more or less discovered Mohan Rakesh; he was also one of the first directors to have Rakesh come to Calcutta and do what they did in foreign theatres: sit with the cast and director during rehearsals and re-fashion entire scripts so that they moved from text-sculptures of the playwright's imagination to live actors effectively performing on stage; he was the one who had propelled Badal Sarkar into the national theatrical consciousness with his Hindi version of Evam Indrajit; he was the first one before all the star Bengali directors latched on to it to do theatre in the round; with every production he'd pushed boundaries, never settling for a comfortable formula or 'signature'. Whenever Jalan began rehearsing a new production, Calcutta's theatre people went on alert as to what he would do next.
By the time I entered the offices of Anamika Kala Sangam on the first day of rehearsals, I'd seen a few directors at work and heard stories of many others. There was my father, all alertness and agility, especially as dress rehearsals neared, leaping on to the stage to sort out something, moving back to see the action from the last row; there was the languid young poseur of a South Calcutta Byron, who'd snake himself into an attention-seeking, fake yogasana and sneer at his actors as he smoked his joint; there had been the school-teachers of varying talent, bringing to the job everything from the martinet of the parade-ground to the hair-tearing Professor Higgins. There were also the stories, the legends: Sombhu Mitra, who would regularly slap any actor who wasn't paying attention; Alkazi, who ruled with a thunderous voice from an imaginary Peacock Throne; Grotowski, who would 'explain' the role by making you sleep in a wet trench in the freezing sub-zero Polish winter; Badal Sarkar in his physical 'third theatre', who would never ask you to do anything he couldn't do himself. Finally, across the road from AKS's office lived another legendary director, one who directed from behind a large 35mm camera, the one they called 'Chhaw-Phoot', whose towering personality and mastery with actors were legend.
Shyambhaiya was completely different. He ran his initial rehearsals like a CEO runs a board meeting, or a farming patriarch in Tuscany a family dinner. There was a long conference table in a tube-lit room. Shyam would sit at the head of the table and ask actors to start reading. Every now and then, he would quietly interrupt and start a discussion, asking what this character was doing, what that character meant when she said something, where was someone standing when they came up with such and such observation. Every line of speech had its own profit and loss account, every implied movement-moment was a morsel to be chewed and tasted fully before it could be swallowed. I was fascinated at first but then I got bored. My Hindi was weak and the combination of the language, the minute dissection of Brecht's text, and the lack of any suitable, same-age female cast members made me look elsewhere. After a couple of weeks, I left The Good Woman of Szechuan for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown being directed in English by Zarin Chaudhuri.
When I told him, Shyambhaiya showed mild annoyance, but he understood. "Hm. Lots of pretty girls in that cast, I believe." His face broke into that mischievous grin which made him look like a naughty teenager himself. "Enjoy yourself!" As a result of my jumping ship, I never got to watch Shyam Jalan move from the conference table to the stage and I still regret it. As I grew older I realized what a dynamo the man was, all the more amazing in a town that was fast becoming quiescent and creatively defeatist. I saw him with people like Richard Schechner and Suzuki, I also saw him deal with young actors and so-called 'nobodies'. There was always a fierce intelligence and a wicked sense of humour propelling a vision of keeping great theatre alive in Calcutta.
Only much later did I realize what a fine actor Shyamanand was himself. When you saw him on stage, he transformed. Suddenly you were looking at a thin carapace of a failed patriarch, his bulk nothing but an empty bubble around huge compromise. As an actor, Jalan was no Mitra or Mukherjee, his range was limited, but within that range, as in everything he did, he went deep.
I've given up trying to explain to outsiders that the 'Awbangalis' who live and work here contribute hugely to making this city what it is: a truly messy, complicated, wonderful melting pot. It is even more difficult to explain that a phenomenon like Shyamanand Jalan could have occurred nowhere but in Calcutta.
INDIAN READERS IDENTIFY WITH MY BOOK, SAYS TURKISH WRITER
IT'S NOT VERY OFTEN THAT A DEBUTANT NOVELIST FINDS HIS BOOK COMPARED WITH 'THE LITTLE PRINCE' BY ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY, 'JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL' BY RICHARD BACH OR 'SIDDHARTHA' BY HERMANN HESSE.
But Turkish writer Serdar Özkan's "The Missing Rose" has not only been compared to these classics by critics across the globe but also been translated into 35 languages worldwide, including Marathi, Hindi, Urdu and Telugu in India. The book, whose English version has been released here by Wisdom Tree, has been able to connect with readers so widely because of its universal theme, transcending the barriers of race, culture, religion and all that, says the 1975-born Özkan, who studied Business Administration and Psychology at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, USA, followed by further studies in Psychology at Istanbul's Bogazici University. He spoke to Utpal Borpujari of Deccan Herald:
How does it feel to get your debut novel translated into 35 languages worldwide?
I feel fortunate because my novel has been published in so many languages in over 40 countries and I have had the chance to interact with many people from so many different cultures and also see how differently or similarly they react to the same story with a universal theme. The journey for this success began with the story, and it took several years. First, a few foreign publishers believed in the story, then as readers loved the book it went on to bestseller lists internationally, triggering more publishers in other countries.
In India too, it is being translated into Marathi, Hindi, Urdu and Telugu. What kind of reception do you expect to your book in India, a country of multitudes of languages?
I believe there is something in "The Missing Rose" which makes it appealing for readers from every culture. I expect a similar reaction from the Indian readers. And they may react to it even more strongly because of the mystical background of India. This expectation is already met to an extent given that the English version of "The Missing Rose" has entered bestseller lists in India as well.
When did you start working on the book? Is there any element of real-life in it?
I began writing fiction full time in 2002 when I was 26. As the idea of "The Missing Rose" started to shape within me, I turned to writing fiction full time. The story is pure fiction. But I believe that some stories are more real than reality. Likewise, a fiction can be more real than real life. I believe and hope that this is one such story.
Your writing draws heavily from mysticism of the East. Was it a conscious effort to do that?
There was no conscious effort, but I am interested in mysticism, the unseen face of life. So naturally, the stories I write are influenced by that.
As an author, how important is it for you to talk about humanism in your writing, as you have done in your novel?
There are so many thoughts and ideas in "The Missing Rose" as well as my second novel ("When Life Lights Up") which is already released in nine countries. But I never make any conscious intention to express or talk about them. When I write a book, I just try to see the story, and that's it. I don't intend to give any message through them. I intend to write books which provide taste, not advice, and stories which go to the heart, not to the intellect. So, if the reader extracts anything from my books, it comes from the story itself and not the author. I believe the best stories are the ones in which the reader forgets the author.
Among Turkish authors, the world till now knew mainly Orhan Pamuk. How would you describe the standards of Turkish literature in English at present?
Unfortunately, there isn't much international interest in the Turkish literature except a few authors. But it is getting better. And the international success of "The Missing Rose" is a sign of that. I believe in the future, literature of Turkey as well as other nations will be more widely appreciated.
Why did you choose to write in English rather than your native language?
I write in Turkish first, and translate it into English myself with professional translators. So I do write in my native language, but also greatly involved in the writing and translation of the English edition as I would like at least the English edition to be 100 per cent representative of my style.
Your book has received quite an encouraging response in India. Have you not thought of visiting India to talk about the idea behind it, particularly as it is getting translated into several Indian languages?
I think there is such an effort by my Indian publisher to design an extensive book tour in India for the book. I am also hoping to be able to meet with the Indian readers in person as I have already received wonderful reader e-mails from them.
CONSPIRACY, POLITICS AND BETRAYAL
"The victims should approach the Supreme Court directly for review of the 1996 order."
The paltry payments made to the victims, the escape of Anderson on a government plane, the neglect of the babies born subsequently with terrible deformities and ailments, the inability of the state to clean the contaminated soil, the petty sentences rendered and the 26 long years in the trial court, all seems separate instances which though regrettable are treated as issues of governance and not one of politics, conspiracy and betrayal. Let's not look at the past, we are advised, let's look to the future to ensure that such an incident does not take place again. But unless we understand the treachery of the past it is impossible to change things for the future.
Rajiv's American connect
Indira Gandhi's death and the appointment of Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister of India marked the end of the era of the Indian version of social democracy started by Jawahar Lal Nehru and the beginning of American style globalisation. Rajiv Gandhi started off well with Ronald Reagan, the then President of United States. It is said that the understanding between these two leaders ultimately led to the pitiable settlement being agreed to by India, the quashing of all criminal liability and the removal of Anderson from Indian soil. Arjun Singh, naturally, will be made the scapegoat as if decisions of this magnitude could be taken without the Prime Minister's approval.
In the power play of globalised politics, all this is understandable though it may make us angry. But the inability of the Supreme Court of India to stand firm and side with the people of India against UCC and the government of the United States of America left many Indians confused and frustrated. The long line of decisions starting from 1989 ultimately left them bitter.
American system better
It was in the interests of the victims to have the cases tried in America where substantial damage would have been awarded. In the Exxon Valdez oil spill case where no one died, $507 million was awarded. In the Vioxx drug case where 47,000 consumers suffered heart attacks, strokes or death, $ 4.85 billion was paid on an average of $103,000 per plaintiff. In asbestos litigation, jury verdicts range anywhere from $ one million to $20 million in compensation per person. In the Lockerbie bombing case Libya paid $ 2.7 billion or $ 10 million per family.
Legal luminaries flocking to represent Dow Chemicals was understandable. Nani Palkhiwala made a strenuous attempt by filing affidavits in the American courts to have the litigation brought to India. The then Attorney General, Soli Sorabjee, argued against giving the victims a hearing and justified the quashing of criminal proceedings. What was inexplicable was the attitude of the judiciary.
In February 1989, in a cryptic three-page order containing no reasons, the Supreme Court accepted the settlement of $ 470 million as "just, equitable and reasonable" and quashed all criminal proceedings. In May, reasons were given after an afterthought. Chief Justice R S Pathak then resigned on being nominated by India to the World Court at The Hague.
After indignant protests in the country, in 1991, the Supreme Court reinstated the criminal proceedings. In 1996, the Supreme Court quashed the charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and voluntarily causing grievous hurt and introduced the death due to criminal negligence charge carrying a maximum sentence of two years. The hands of the trial court were tied. It is now up to the Chief Justice of India to right this historic wrong.
SC must reopen
The Supreme Court must reopen the 1996 decision diluting the criminal charges and reinstate the culpable homicide charge and the charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt. If this is done the accused can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison.
(The writer is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court.)
I. THE NEWS
As the Kerry-Lugar Bill prepares to make its way through the US Senate, the main author of the bill, Senator John Kerry, has issued a detailed letter spelling out a rather dire warning. He has said that with 50 per cent of the fund to be handed over to the Pakistan government, there was a very real danger of funds being misappropriated and of corruption which goes far beyond the issue of the misuse of the money. US Special Envoy John Holbrooke has been informed of these apprehensions. What all this says about Pakistan and its governance is bleak. It is hardly comforting to know that our government is so widely believed to be incapable of using money intended for the betterment of its people with so little responsibility and so little concern. This has of course happened in the past. Even the money that poured in following the quake of 2005 is believed to have been used for purposes other than the work of rebuilding and relief. Some certainly went into pockets. The bitterness generated by this lingers on in many quake-hit zones where even now the after-effects of the disaster can still be seen.
There is a fundamental reason for this. We lack any meaningful system of accountability that can safeguard the use of funds intended for public use. There is also far too little transparency. But there is a still more central problem. This concerns the basic issue of goodwill and the willingness of those who hold political power to work in favour of people. Their lack of commitment to these people is in fact terrifying to behold. The willingness to steal what is intended for them must represent the worst form of moral decay. The warning issued by Senator Kerry should also act as a message to be taken on board. Pakistan needs to think far more earnestly about its image in the world and what this means in real terms. Its growing reputation for corruption means fewer and fewer nations will be willing to offer assistance of any kind. For obvious reasons few want to add to the wealth of politicians who already own palatial homes and retain foreign accounts bulging with funds. This obviously augurs ill for the country's people. As citizens we need to suggest means to prevent the pilfering of money and find ways to ensure it reaches the impoverished masses for who it is intended.
I. THE NEWS
THINGS TO COME
Sindh has unveiled its budget for the coming year and we can begin to get a picture of what might be expected. 'Might' is the operative word rather than 'will', because this year's budget like no other before is a step into the unknown. Firstly and most importantly there is the unknown territory of capacity. Is the Sindh government (or any other provincial government for that matter) going to be able to effectively spend the money that it has been allocated? 'Perhaps' is probably the best that can be said at this stage. Secondly, priorities. It is illustrative that the allocation for law and order at Rs29.6 billion is greater than the budgets for education, health, water and sanitation and the construction of new reservoirs all lumped together. Education gets Rs7 billion, health 10.6, water and sanitation 3.7 and the building of new reservoirs four. There can be little doubt that 'the law and order situation' is going to soak up money like a sponge (and there will be a top-up of Rs1.7 billion for improving the mobility of forces, availability of equipment, arms and ammunition as well as CCTV cameras) but you can buy an awful lot of law and order for Rs29.6 billion. Or not.
Meagre though the health and education budgets are they both represent a substantial increase over that of last year, a direct reflection of increased provincial revenue since the 7th National Finance Commission award. There are plans to construct 100 new comprehensive schools in the next year, and another ten boarding schools. We expect to hear that these projects have started within the month and that we have regular progress reports on their construction. We might also like to hear about the recruitment and training of the teachers who are going to staff all these new schools, but perhaps that is a detail too far. Hospitals are to be upgraded or rehabilitated, the fisherfolk will get new floating jetties, the Thar coal deposits are to be developed (again), water is to be conserved, jails improved and roads built. It would be churlish to doubt the good intent that underpins all of the budgetary proposals. No government sets out to do bad for its people but the people of Sindh need to see these fine words turned into bricks and mortar, and those responsible for budgetary spends need to make sure that commitment goes beyond being a paper exercise.
I. THE NEWS
As officials regarded as competent and honest slip away, one by one, the task of offering good governance appears to be becoming more elusive than ever. There are indications it could become harder still with reports suggesting some still holding posts are also eager to call it a day. Complaints of orders delivered by the powerful and a complete disregard of rules come in from many places. Over the past few months, we have seen key officials opt out from the law ministry in the wake of the pressures they have faced. In the crucial finance sector, we have seen the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan deciding to call it a day. Though former Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin's decision to quit was officially attributed to 'personal' reasons, it is hardly a secret that he had been unwilling to continue because of the pool of corruption that surrounded him and threatened to enmesh him. The fact is that governments, especially in a state as crisis-ridden as ours, cannot survive if they are run on the basis of nepotism and a desire to promote self-interest. This is what is happening today. Even now, others are considering quitting. There are still people in this country reluctant to go along with the dishonesty that exists everywhere. It is a tragedy they are being forced out. What we will be left with is an increasingly inept pool of officials who lack integrity or the will to take the country forward. Rumour has it that even the current finance minister was appointed only after external intervention with top leaders vying to appoint completely unsuitable 'favourites'.
The government must earnestly consider the consequences of its tactics. It may see short-term gain in the appointment of cronies and loyalists willing, without question, to follow orders. But this will also mean a still further decline in the dismal standards of governance on offer. People will suffer and once more questions will be raised about democracy and its worth. The government has so far responded to much of the criticism directed its way by arguing that the problems it encounters such as militancy are a legacy of the previous regime. On some counts this is accurate. But those now in power must keep in mind that questions will grow more strident as time passes. They cannot perpetually hide behind the shield of past wrongdoing. They must instead explain why there has been a failure to deliver on so many fronts and why persons at key places have opted to call it a day rather than co-exist with a set up that is increasingly regarded as both incompetent and ill-intentioned.
I. THE NEWS
GOING ON SUMMER VACATION IN INDIA
One of the rituals of middle-class Indian life is the summer vacation. The weather is brutal in most parts of India before the middle of June, when the monsoon comes.
Schools are shut in this period and most long leave from office is taken at this time. Women also need a break and that's why they go to their mother's house, where they are cared for and restored for a month before being pressed back into service. My mother would cook and clean for 11 months of the year (she still does) and then run off, with us still clinging on, to her mother's house in May.
I was born in Bombay, and since our relatives lived in Surat, vacations were always spent there. We moved to Surat when I was nine and after that vacations were spent in Bombay, or, more often, in Surat and so I did not see much of the world till I was older.
Vacation generally meant not doing what you would otherwise be doing, which was going to school. My memories, and I suspect a lot of other middle-class Indians' memories, of vacation consist mainly of long afternoon hours staring at the ceiling fan.
Thirty years ago, middle class in India meant not being poor, though that definition is no longer true. India now has a significant number of people in 25 cities who would be middle class in the European sense of the term. My guess is that they would number five crore (50 million).
But in the 1970s and 80s, middle class meant that you could get by comfortably, though you didn't have enough money to travel abroad. Those who did would be regarded with awe in school. Unlike Pakistan, India prohibited import of most everyday consumer items till the 1990s, and so even little things brought from abroad, watches, shoes, toys and clothes and household things, would be objects of fascination and passed around for inspection.
While there was no question of going abroad, there was, however, travel.
About 10 days of the vacation were actually spent vacationing, and that was the best part, because you saw new places, like hill stations. The British built dozens of little towns on Indian mountains, where they spent summer months. There's Simla in the north, where after 1864 the capital of India would actually transfer till Delhi got cooler. It's also the place where Indira Gandhi and Bhutto signed the accord that the people of both nations should read more often.
There are British hill stations in every part of India. The north has over a dozen including Manali, Mussourie, Gulmarg and Dalhousie, the east has Darjeeling and Kalimpong, the south has Ooty, Kodaikanal and the west, where I live, has the more modest Matheran, Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar.
The great Indian author Ruskin Bond lives in Dehra Dun, another north Indian hill station settled and made beautiful by the British. I was moved by a story I read a few months ago, which reported Bond, who is 76, walking across the Mall in his town and begging drivers not to honk so much. You have to be made of something special to be that age and yet optimistic about changing Indians.
We have ruined Dehra Dun as we have the other hill stations, though some are still quite pristine. One is Kasauli, where writer Khushwant Singh has his summer bungalow. Kasauli is pretty because there are restrictions about who can build and where.
Gujarati families who are travelling, on vacation or otherwise, can be identified by the enormous quantities of snacks that they pull out, pass around and begin munching on. Like all middle-class Indians -- Hindus and Muslims -- Gujaratis are family-oriented and move around in tight clusters.
You could be at any railway station in India during the summer, and at any airport in the world -- Europe, America, Australia -- and pick out Gujarati families who confidently and unselfconsciously dig into their mounds of food.
Gujaratis are very conscious, however, about what it is that they eat. They are vegetarian because of the strong influence of Jains on their mercantile culture (which is where Gandhi's idea of non-violence also comes from). And within their vegetarianism they are quite parochial and only eat mainly Gujarati food. The clients of India's tour operators, who cart large groups around the world, are mainly Gujarati. One such operator advertised its package tour with the line: Rome ma ras-puri, Paris ma patra. That means eat mango-juice and pooris in Rome and patra (a sort of fried snack) in Paris.
Indians, incidentally, are among the biggest patrons of Paris's Moulin Rouge cabaret and Gujarati families -- mummy, papa, dada, dadi and the kids -- will all take a table to see the women perform.
The most adventurous of all Indian vacationers are Bengalis. They travel everywhere around India and they travel light. One reason could be that they are carnivorous and can eat any sort of food. But they are also excited by the idea of travel. Bengalis are not rich but families save up on money and vacations are taken quite seriously.
While we have been mainly looking at middle-class families, this isn't to say that the poor have no vacation. The man who drives me around, and has little work because I walk to the office, takes his family to Tamil Nadu every year for a month. His salary is Rs8,500 (Pakistani Rs15,500), and he wouldn't be considered middle-class here. But he's off on vacation too. He's Tamilian and I'm Gujarati so the only language we have in common is broken Hindustani.
The language of vacationers in India is Hindi or English, except in the south of India where the neutral language is only English.
One place that exhibits its vacationing customers through the use of language is Goa. It's very popular for holidaying, but not summer vacations. A glorious state that is very different from the rest of India because it has a Portuguese history and a very Catholic culture. The food and drink in Goa is first rate, but it's by the Arabian sea and too hot to visit in summer.
Goa is home to one of the world's strangest rites of passage. Israel has the draft and everyone, male and female, must serve in the army on turning 18 till 21. After three years in the army, about 75 per cent of all Israeli soldiers, about 30,000 people I think, come to India to spend a year. I once asked Shimon Peres, when he was foreign minister, why that was. He said: "After three years of the most disciplined existence imaginable, the kids are aching to go to the most undisciplined place on earth (India)."
The Israelis come with little money and ride around on Enfield motorcycles. They spend most of their time in Goa, where often hotels are advertised only in Hebrew. Now there are also those hotels with signs only in Russian, because of the migration into Israel from Eastern Europe.
Travel makes us liberal. It is impossible to understand India without seeing Europe and countries like Thailand because otherwise we'd think that the rest of the world was also like us.
During the summer vacations it's pleasant to get work over and done with in the early, cooler, part of the day.
One of the things I have been doing these days is rising at six, and writing 30 local news reports for mobile phone users. Our firm has hired someone to do this, but he's only joining at the end of June, so I'm doing them for now. I enjoy writing them because it gives me a glimpse into what's happening. The stories are delivered as a text message, or an SMS as we call them in India. Each story's length may be no longer than 300 characters, about 55 words, and so writing one does not take long. But this morning (I'm writing on Saturday) I came across a story that made me stop and I spent more time than I otherwise would on crafting it. It was about a 19-year-old girl from Gujarat's Surendranagar region. She died of heat stroke while working for a government scheme guaranteeing everyone 100 days of employment a year. Workers are paid Rs125 a day. The girl had been digging a pond in the afternoon when she turned dizzy and then began vomiting. There was no shade or drinking water. She was sent home, where she died. Her parents are entitled to Rs25,000 as compensation. Her name was Poonam, which means the night of the full moon.
The writer is a director with Hill Road Media in Bombay. Email: aakar @hillroadmedia.com
I. THE NEWS
AFTER THE AFGHAN JIRGA
The Afghan Grand Jirga was not expected to produce immediate concrete outcomes for peace in Afghanistan. But this event was an achievement for both Karzai and Pakistan. Karzai always wanted to pursue the path of reconciliation with the Taliban, but the United States opposed all such moves. The US did not support the idea in the initial stages. But the jirga representing all Afghans has endorsed Karzai's plans for reconciliation. Now it will be difficult for the US and its allies to stop the reconciliation process.
The Americans, the Indians and some groups and elements in Afghanistan had made Karzai's re-election as president controversial in the beginning. But this jirga attended by people like Yunus Qanooni and Burhanuddin Rabbani has effectively legitimised Karzai's presidency. President Karzai had been trying since 2008 to remove his anti-Pakistan intelligence chief Amrullah Salih, who was enjoying the backing of the US and India, but had been unable to do so. Probably this jirga give him the courage to remove him.
For Pakistan it is reassuring that its stance of reconciliation with the Taliban during the initial years of the US occupation has now been endorsed by the representative Afghan jirga. Additionally, the jirga recommended excluding the names of Taliban leaders from the United Nations blacklist. On the other hand, India tried in vain to scuttle the whole process with the help of some Afghan partners. But when it failed, it tried to create controversial issues between Afghanistan and Pakistan, like the Durand Line, during the Jirga. But on this front too it failed to win. The Durand Line issue could not make it to the list of the jirga schedule, and the Jirga ratified all those points which Pakistan has been championing from the beginning.
It is heartening that the ideas of Pakistan and Afghanistan on peace and stability in the region are developing consensus. In this regard, the Afghan government has refocused on the peaceful reconciliation process with the Taliban and other resistance forces. For the first time, it is taking concrete steps for excluding the names of the Taliban leadership from the UN blacklist. However, the Afghan issue has become very complicated. Therefore, in the absence of the will and cooperation of the US and its allies, the regional players and neighbouring stakeholders, durable peace in Afghanistan is hard to achieve. In this backdrop, Pak-Afghan support for reconciliation efforts will not restore peace and stability. This cherished goal will be realised if Pakistan, the Afghan government, the Taliban, the US and its allies, and the regional and neighbouring stakeholders join hands to play a constructive role for an end to the war.
The US will never allow Afghanistan to become an Al Qaeda safe haven for launching attacks in the US or other countries. Also, it will not tolerate any regime in Kabul that is against modern Western values.
The Afghan government has its own dilemmas. It does not want its current security dependency upon the international security forces to continue for an indefinite period of time. But at the same time, Kabul wants the international community to remain fully committed to Afghanistan's security against the Taliban and other resistance forces. In this way, the international community will stay relevant to the problems faced by Kabul. Kabul fears that in case of withdrawal of the international forces Afghanistan will again be left at the mercy of the Taliban and other resistance forces. After a return of stability, Kabul will need $3-4 billion annually for security and for its economic survival.
The Taliban have their own concerns. They are insisting that the foreign forces leave Afghan soil. Due to their structure and past experiences, the Taliban will hardly be interested in becoming part of a government or a setup that provides any justification for foreign troops to stay on Afghan soil. Similarly, the Taliban will not accept any political plan devised under the auspices of the US. Their best bet will be a share in the government, with a considerable say in the constitutional and political structure of the country.
Since the issue has many regional and international dimensions, neighbouring countries are also struggling to remove their concerns and preserve their interests in the future Afghanistan. Iran does not want the US to stay in Afghanistan and does not want an anti-Iran government in Kabul. It envisages a Kabul that serves as a market for Iranian cultural and economic products.
Russia and the Central Asian states will not like the US and its allies to stay in Afghanistan for longer than necessary. At the same time, they abhor a Taliban-style religious government in Kabul that could export an extremist interpretation of Islam to those countries.
Of late, China is not supporting the US presence in Afghanistan. It has been working to extend its influence in Kabul. To save itself from future troubles in its Western provinces, the Chinese leadership is also eager to see the possibility of any religious extremist government in Kabul disappear.
India wishes to preserve its historical influence in Kabul and prevent the formation of a government that might lean towards Islamabad. Pakistan is legitimately concerned about any government in Kabul that can be used by India against Pakistani interests. Stability is a cherished goal for Pakistan, but it seeks relations with Kabul on favourable terms. Any government in Kabul that seems close to India or raises issues like the Durand Line will find no place in the good books of the Pakistani establishment.
Internationally, many important countries have got concerns and interests in Afghanistan -- such as Germany, the UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt and Jordan. But the predominant stakeholders are the countries mentioned earlier.
Peace and stability can be restored to Afghanistan under a plan that addresses the concerns and interests of all stakeholders.
The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem.safi@janggroup. com.pk
I. THE NEWS
DR FARRUKH SALEEM
Israel acts strong, firm and sturdy only because the Arabs act feeble, infirm and wobbly. Medinat Yisra'el is united while the Jami'at ad-Duwal al-Arabiyya, the League of Arab States, is divided against itself -- and if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. To begin with, the Palestinians, roughly12 million of them around the world, are deeply divided among themselves. Of the12 million, around 2.5 million live in the West Bank and 1.5 million in the Gaza Strip. Jordan has1.9 million Palestinians, Israel 1.3 million and Syria 600,000. Outside the Arab world the largest concentration of Palestinians is in Chile, 500,000.
Dr George Friedman, an American political scientist, in "Arabs, Israelis and the strategic balance" writes, the Palestinians are "currently divided between two very different and hostile factions. On one side is Fatah, which dominates the West Bank. On the other side is Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip. Aside from the geographic division of the Palestinian territories -- which causes the Palestinians to behave almost as if they comprised two separate and hostile countries -- the two groups have profoundly different ideologies."
Fatah is secular while Hamas stands for Harakat al-Muqawamat al-Islamiyyah, or the Islamic Resistance Movement. Fatah and Hamas continue to be in a state of war with each other. Within the Palestinians this state of war is referred to as 'Wakseh' which means "humiliation as a consequence of self-inflicted wounds". In the Arab world this Fatah-Hamas conflict is known as Sira al-Ikhwah or 'Conflict of Brothers'. For the outside world, this is the 'Palestinian civil war'.
When brothers fight, the outside world takes full advantage. In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian election. The Arab states, along with the US and the European Union, immediately imposed sanctions. The US, Jordan and Egypt then began supplying weapons to Fatah militants. According to French intelligence sources "Hamas' early growth had been supported by the Mossad " American sources insist that Saudi Arabian charities remain Hamas' largest financial supporters.
In 2006, there was the Rimal Neighborhood Shootings. Then came the 2007 Battle of Gaza in which Palestinians killed 118 Palestinians. President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency and dismissed Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. In 2008, more Palestinians were killed by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In 2009, Hamas and Fatah clashed in Qalqilay. Over the past few years, a thousand Palestinians have been killed by Palestinians (more Palestinians have been killed by Palestinians than the Israelis).
Egypt is in a state of war with Hamas and Jordan is severely hostile to Fatah. Saudi and other Arabian Peninsula regimes, writes Friedman, "remember the threat that Nasser and the PLO posed to their regimes. Sometimes Iranian arms get through to the Palestinians. But Fatah doesn't trust the Iranians, and Hamas, though a religious movement, is Sunni while Iran is Shiite. Hamas and the Iranians may cooperate on some tactical issues, but they do not share the same vision." In the final analysis, "The suppression of Gaza is much safer and is something Fatah ultimately supports, Egypt participates in, Jordan is relieved by and Syria is ultimately indifferent to."
Saudi Arabia and Iran fight their proxy battles in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia arms Sunni militants in Afghanistan in order to encircle Shiite Iran. Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are officially secular. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, Brunei, Oman and Yemen consider themselves as 'Islamic states'. Of the 57 OIC member states, Albania, Azerbaijan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon, Gambia, Guyana, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Qatar, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Oman,
urinam, Tajikistan, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and Uzbekistan have established diplomatic relations with Israel.
Two million Muslims were killed by Muslims in the Iran-Iraq War. Three million Sudanese Muslims have been killed by Muslims. More than 300,000 Muslims have been killed by Muslims in the ongoing Darfur conflict. Iraq invaded Kuwait and Syria invaded Lebanon. As of June 7, a total of 29,105 Pakistani Muslims have been killed by Muslims over the past seven years.
Medinat Yisra'el has a landmass of 21,642 sq km and a population of 7.3 million (of which 76 per cent is Jewish and 16 per cent Muslim). Jami'at ad-Duwal al-Arabiyya has 21 countries that cover around 14 million sq km with a population of 340 million spread over two continents. Israel stands united; the Arab League divided against itself.
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: email@example.com
I. THE NEWS
NAWAZ SHARIF'S CHANCE?
A fantasy it would seem to many but just imagine the possibility of Nawaz Sharif changing his political stripes and, lo and behold, becoming a modern, progressive and even a secular leader to challenge the Pakistan People's Party not from the right but from the left. That the PPP has become critically vulnerable on this flank is something we can leave for another time.
Well, even as a fantasy, the thought is prompted by his remarks on the May 28 carnage in Lahore and, more significantly, by the response that came from the religious leaders. My script would be that Nawaz Sharif takes a few days off to reflect on the state of the nation in the company of just a few advisers, remaining inaccessible to the rest of the world. It may be possible to draw an agenda for this reflection.
For instance, there has to be a crash course on history, with specific focus on how Pakistan came into being and how it was led into wilderness. Naturally, this has to be studied against the backdrop of world affairs. What are the lessons that we can learn from what is happening in other countries in the region and beyond? If guest speakers are acceptable, how about inviting Ayesha Jalal for this session?
But the main subject of study in this retreat should be the havoc that has resulted from a virtual 'Islamisation' of our polity. Even the intellectually blind in our society should be able to see that the induction of religion in politics has divided us. This division is prominent in the religious parties and groups themselves. And since they do not understand the ethos of a democratic dispensation, their differences are not creative but terrifyingly inflammable. Just calling Ahmedis 'brothers' can blow a fuse.
My flight of fancy, though I fervently wish it is not entirely wishful, is rooted in the realisation that Pakistan's existence may be threatened if it does not readily change its course and, in a sense, make a new beginning. For that for anything, for that matter we need inspired and visionary leadership. Where will it come from if not from the available, though seemingly awful lot? Yes, Nawaz Sharif is seen as a rightist reactionary. There were those early hints of wanting to become an Amir-ul-Momineen.
But, as Shakespeare said, there is a tide in the affairs of men and in the affairs of nations, in our context. If it is taken at the flood, it leads on to fortune. "Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries". The point is that the rising challenge of religious extremism and intolerance is also an opportunity for a courageous and creative politician. There is dire need for a sweeping rejection of the kind of ideology that has brought us to our present state of desperation. And it is for Nawaz Sharif to "take the current when it serves".
I am tempted to recall how Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who rose under the shadow of a dictator, responded to the call of the moment in the late sixties and created the most powerful political movement after the creation of Pakistan. Look at how his legacy has survived and the PPP is still a formidable force. In fact, it is the mounting failure of the PPP in maintaining its initial thrust that there is obvious scope for a more radical message to the people of this country.
By the way, all our aspiring politicians want to be a Bhutto but they do not have the intellectual vigour and a grasp of history that ZAB had. Indeed, one of our great tragedies was that Imran Khan, who potentially had a tryst with destiny when he entered politics, was led astray when he decided to play on the wicket of political Islam.
When I daydream about Nawaz Sharif's political makeover, I am also conscious of the grim reality. I feel that the real significance of the attack on the Ahmedi places of worship in Lahore has not yet been comprehended by our politicians. In many ways, this was a negation of what Pakistan was meant to be. Yet, Nawaz Sharif is being praised for just condemning it and saying that Ahmedis are "my brothers and sisters". He still did not have the courage to visit the site of the tragedy and condole with the elders of the community.
More than ever before, the liberals in this country feel totally betrayed. There must be a lot of them in a country where religious parties have never won a national election. Yes, a political party professing secularism as its ideal and projecting Turkey as an example will not readily become a popular party. But this is an idea whose time has come and it has to be objectively and peacefully debated in all political circles.
That a paradigm shift in our sense of direction is imperative may be judged by what is happening all around us. It is not enough to re-insert the word "freely" in a clause of the Objectives Resolution that called for making adequate provisions for the minorities "freely to profess and practice their religion". More crucial is to look at the Objectives Resolution itself.
The subject that I have chosen has kept me from reviewing some important events of the week. I wanted to quote from Declan Walsh's piece in 'The Guardian' on the Lahore carnage in which he said that Jinnah's Pakistan now "lies in tatters". An attack on NATO trucks near Islamabad deserves a proper appraisal. Sectarian tensions have resurfaced in Karachi and so have the targeted killings of doctors. Gang war in Lyari, Karachi's PPP bastion, has continued in its second week. Et cetera, et cetera.
However, let me just refer to two assessments of Pakistan by foreign observers, made in structured analyses. Pakistan has been ranked the fifth most unstable country in the world in US State Department's Global Peace Index. It is better only than Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Sudan. We have fallen for the second successive year in this scale.
The Amnesty International has issued a 130-page report on the human rights situation in Pakistan's tribal areas. Reports said that it is based on an extensive survey. The title of the report says it all: "As if Hell Fell on Me: The Human Rights Crisis in Northwest Pakistan". It said that nearly four million people are effectively living under Taliban rule in northwest Pakistan and have been abandoned by the government. The acting head of the Amnesty has remarked that the government "should fulfil its promise to bring FATA out of a human rights black hole".
Would Nawaz Sharif want to read this report, when he has time to think about the ground realities of a country that he aspires, one more time, to govern?
The writer is a staff member
I. THE NEWS
OVER THE TOP
If you agree with Dr Farrukh Saleem the good doctor regularly hits us every Sunday in the solar plexus region, and you have to agree with him, other than the 70 ministers in Islamabad and the 200 ministers in the provincial capitals, the remaining 169,999,730 can take a walk or since they no longer have legs, crawl to the nearest hole and plunge into oblivion. The good doctor has spared many other fat cats the hordes of greasy bureaucrats and down that rotten pole to the petty swindler on the dusty village lane, where it all begins, members of the armed forces, fattened and bloated beyond belief with perks, real estate and a lifestyle that must be the envy of all European playboys, the millions of crooks who sponge off people 24/7/365 and many other vermin that continue to live off their hosts.
This land is brimming over with these and numerous other species. Such is the sad and terrible 'system' that each and every government has polished and used to make their personal fortunes larger than they were before and retiring into the sunset with enough loot to last a few generations if not more. Between this budget and the return of the king of losers, lout Shoaib Akhtar, I can't decide which is worse. Probably Akhtar.
Not that we were expecting a miracle mouth-to-mouth resuscitation plan from another good doctor, Hafeez Sheikh, who is pro-poor which is good news for the poor, who read out the bad news and did the usual meet-the-press pantomime afterwards. But the arrival of the budget is always one more reason to reach for the gun and end it all. When governments fail to do what they are supposed to do govern, they resort to taxes to pay for their inefficiencies and ensuring their stay.
This year is no different. 'Life gets really expensive,' said a screaming headline in an English paper on June 6. It could have been 'even more expensive,' and it still would have been a poor explanation of what life has come to mean to the huge majority of people here their only fault being that they were born here and have little or no options to get out of the gigantic grinders that crush them ruthlessly.
Education is getting peanuts, which is an improvement. The Americans say that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. In our case if you pay the monkeys you will get peanuts for sure. Health gets a wind down of Rs6 billion while Defence budget is up by 17 per cent. I say give the Education and Health budgets to Defence also because if there is no country left (unless the defenders defend it), there is little point in wasting money on useless items like education and health. Education has done nothing for those who made the mistake of getting educated and as for health, well, we all have to die sooner or later. In all this juggling, the cabinet, the country's most useful body quietly cashes in and picks up a walloping 40 per cent more funding.
Pakistanis have to be given the award for stoicism. The huge bulk of the people, almost 130 million live in poverty making do with Rs150 a day, while their president spends Rs1 million a day looking after them. Yet this inhuman division between the rulers and the ruled finds no public outpouring. People get slapped daily all the time yet they simply offer the assailants more opportunities to slap and insult them. Is it that the poor, after decades of exploitation have given up altogether believing that nothing they do will ever make a difference or this a simmering volcano that looks benign from the surface but is seething with lava inside and when it erupts, it will destroy all it sees? Most people say it's the latter and warn of a time, not too far away, when a widespread revolution across the board will unhinge this land. Perhaps unknown to us, our poor have actually accepted Faiz Sahib's famous quip when asked when the great revolution would come, replied, 'It will come, it will come. What's the hurry?'
By and large most Pakistanis do not pay taxes. The contribution of tax payers to the GST is somewhere between Rs0.3 million and Rs35 million but those who do pay taxes there is no shortage of law-abiding fools, seriously question why they are the only stooges that pay taxes since these are never used to improve their lives. As for inspiration from their leaders to pay taxes, they only have to look up and see that miraculously and surely by divine injunction, none of these are able to pay any taxes at all. The prime minister does not even have a car to his name can we, the tax payers, not pass the hat around and get the poor man a Suzuki? Others have astonishing declarations. It would seem that they all hang at the very edge of life and can barely meet daily expenses. The list of declarations made by the VIPs should have been entered into the Booker Award for Fiction, because this is fiction of the highest order. Why is the government therefore bewildered when it moans that taxes are not paid? When those who should be paying, lie their way through, why should the common man remain committed and pay?
It is not the budget I find offensive this budget is the same that we have always had. It is the hypocrisy that is not palatable. Words like 'people-friendly' and 'for the masses' or this year's famous hyphen, 'pro-poor' make me run to the bathroom and retch violently. Why not just shaft the people and say, 'hello this year we are going to shaft you and we promise you it will be better than before.' Why hold your hand over your heart and look saintly because we all know that it is just play-acting?
There are so many things in the budget that all point in one direction the big disconnect between the rulers and the ruled but when you are not prepared to make a real, genuine difference, when status quo remains supreme and you want to get ahead by trampling those that need you most, then all this passes from the realm of governments to that of humanity and it is here that Pakistan is woefully poor and yet the prime minister thinks nothing of spending 60,000 euros on a hotel in Brussels, 120,000 euros on limos and 25,000 euros on dinner.
David Cameron is taking a bus to work and we are jetting about attending every moot where our contribution is zilch. But then Mr Cameron is answerable. Our leaders are not. Having sucked their people dry they will be back for more blood before you can blink an eye.
The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PSM: MORE MONEY GOES DOWN THE DRAIN
THE Prime Minister has approved a hefty package for Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) to bail out the mega project from severe financial crisis. There were two options before him: either to order its closure or pump in massive resources to keep it afloat.
So the decision by Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was made in the larger national interest not only to save the all-important industry but also to secure the jobs of more than 17,000 employees. However the country cannot afford to keep on meeting the losses of PSM or other State enterprises for an indefinite period and corrective measures are urgently needed to run them on commercial lines. According to figures, the sales of PSM plunged to Rs21 billion during the first 11 months (July-May) of the outgoing fiscal year from Rs32 billion in 2008-09. It witnessed a drastic drop in May sales to Rs707.4 million from Rs1.422 billion in April. The share of Pakistan Steel in domestic market of flat products went down drastically and it has been completely taken over by the cheap import substitution. This happened due to incompetence on the part of management of Pakistan Steel, total reliance on imported raw materials and anomalies in the taxation system that denied the vital institution a level playing field. The huge amount approved for PSM would go down the drain unless and until the Government removes anomalies including withdrawal of concessionary SROs, which are being grossly misused by the local industries. If we have to save the Pakistan Steels, there should be a level playing field for the domestic industries and the customs duties should be such that imported products are in no case cheaper than the locals. Pakistan Steels request for exemptions on sales tax at import stage on raw materials and imposition of anti-dumping duty on Hot Rolled products deserve sympathetic consideration on a priority basis to make PSM competitive in the domestic market. At the same time professionals be appointed at Management level and there should be no political interference in running its affairs otherwise it would meet its death sooner than later.
CANCELLATION OF WB GRANT
IN an unfortunate development, the World Bank has cancelled its $750,000 technical grant because of government's inability to use it for strengthening mineral sector institutions despite a one-year extension in the contract period. The Bank had arranged the grant through the Japan Government for long-term institutional strengthening and technical capacity building of the Petroleum Ministry's Minerals Wing and the Government of Balochistan.
This is a classic example of lethargic and unscrupulous working of our bureaucracy, which could not utilise even a grant meant for a specific purpose. It is understood that the Bank would not have offered the assistance on its own and the country must have approached for such cooperation. This in turn involves groundwork involving an elaborate proposal for utilisation of the grant. Then what went wrong and where? This needs to be explored by the authorities concerned and those responsible for this criminal negligence should be held accountable. This is not a solitary instance, as there are scores of other projects for which donors are ready to provide necessary assistance but disbursements are withheld for want of physical progress. Unfortunately, the sponsoring ministries and departments and the Planning Commission prepare project proposals and approve them but there is no foolproof mechanism to ensure physical progress and implementation as a result of which not only cost escalates but sometime the entire project becomes redundant. Same is happening in the realm of foreign scholarships and an impartial probe would reveal that dozens of educational and training opportunities are lost every year due to red-tape and corruption involved. Apart from proper monitoring of the projects, a transparent mechanism should be evolved for grant of foreign scholarships and officials concerned should be penalised for any lapse on this account.
AN EVIL SCO TOTALLY IGNORED
THE two-day Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) ended in Uzbek capital Tashkent with two important decisions. It adopted guidelines for admission of new members into the folds of the organisation with prospects that both Pakistan and India, which are currently having observer status, would be given full membership at the time of next summit and Tashkent Declaration that calls for greater cooperation among the member States to curb extremism, terrorism and separatism.
SCO has already assumed special significance among cooperative organisations with potential to contribute immensely to regional and global peace and prosperity. Basically, it was considered as a counter-weight of NATO and an attempt to check growing American influence in the resource rich Central Asia. Inclusion of Pakistan and India would definitely give the organisation more substance as pointed out by a former Russian Army Chief and political analyst Leonid Ivashov who remarked that, "contrary to Samuel Huntington's concept of the allegedly inevitable clash of civilisations, the SCO speaks about harmonized interactions between different faiths and civilisations and stands for their mutual coexistence." It is the alliance of five non-Western civilisations Russian, Chinese, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist and would, therefore, help promote interfaith harmony. The Tashkent summit rightly focused on extremism and terrorism, which threaten not only peace but also progress and development. It is good that the problem has once again been highlighted with member countries expressing their resolve to coordinate their policies and actions to get rid of this menace. However, we would point out that the summit totally ignored the fundamental and root causes of terrorism, extremism and separatism that are more menacing than the three identified by the SCO. These, among others, include bad governance and lack of transparency, which have easily been ignored by the participating leaders despite the fact that failure of the government on these accounts is escalating the problem of extremism and terrorism. The conduct of the rulers, misuse of their authority, plundering and looting of national wealth through different means and showering of undue favours on choicest ones are giving birth to discontentment and violent reaction. There is also abject poverty in the region and the member countries should join hands to alleviate it meaningfully. It is also a fact that unresolved political disputes are also one of the causes of terrorism and extremism and concrete movement should be made to solve them as per aspirations of the people concerned. The policy of dubbing freedom movements as 'separatism' would not work as people will have to be given their birth right. We hope that the SCO would also address these issues in its future moots, which are prerequisite for genuine and durable peace and progress.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MONEY
DR ZAFAR ALTAF
Some days ago a discussion took place on the obsolete nature of economics and its main ingredient money and since it was at the highest level one held one's opinions to oneself. Opinions at that level cannot be aired for they are fraught with danger. For one there are always some individuals who are better organized and better informed than one s elf so be careful when opinions are aired at that forum. Normally one can take advantage of old age memory but that does not work with the current lot of decision makers. Much that has been stated in the media is verging on the silly and the uninformed. The debate these days follows the familiar pattern of money quantities as if they mattered. Money is neither necessary nor essential as the obsolete economist or pseudo economist or those that think that because they have a captured audience and the louder they shout the batter off they will be and the more days they will carry. It's about time the media stopped these activities because they only make us a laughing stock in front of foreigners. Some days ago they spoke to me of the Pakistan disease of loud talk. They had used a Latin word that I cannot state for I knew very little about the intonations. They were at some pain to explain to me that the word really communicates that the louder one talks the more the chances of making believe that one knows more about the situation at hand.
The real question that is being raised these days is how the 20th century economic theory is holding out at the moment. The doyen of economics Adam Smith was not really the economist of the modern day, arrogant and senile in accepting others views. He was a man of jurisprudence and did not enjoy the free market as has been made out by those that have read into him. He believed that anything that was mean and rapacious had to be done in. All economists are relevant to their times and probably the time has come to state the obvious that the west oriented philosophy of the free market is not workable in Pakistan. That was based on cogent thinking of human behavior for how else can one describe mean and rapacious behavior except by understanding the intangibles and the human psychology of the people's of Pakistan. The Panglossian world is not workable as the Finance Minister's and the Prime Minister's of the D-8 countries have consistently proved by their meetings regularly and playing like the cartel that they want to break but really can do nothing about. The deviations from real economics are substantial and this is borne out by the system of irrationality that has entered the system. Take two examples of greed and lust, both from the most developed of the capitalist country-USA. The banker's behavior and the manner in which they went for the resources and took away the resources of the poor inhabitants of their country need not be condoned. We had one of their ilks as our PM. If he has the courage then he should come here and face the music of graft and hoary stories that are going about him and his boss, leading one to believe that they were animals of a kind that do not have an upright mind.
The other is the greed of the BP and the manner in which they have done want they have done. It is symptomatic of the west that this burden will fall on the poor developing countries. BP is not at all ashamed of what they have done and how they cut corners. The President of the USA is now involved. Why don't they believe in the Panglossian system now and tough words, after the event, like kicking their ass are being used. Funny world when they are adversely involved the world is different. Economics and all those high fluting philosophy go hay wire and serve only interests that are narrow. The aspect that is most worrying in the context of Pakistan is that the world moving as it is by self-interest cannot take a detached view of the developing world and by definition unable to handle the social conditions in these countries. Will the free market conditions apply in Baluchistan or will the psychology of the people be germane to any policy that we make? So why have we failed. The substantive aspect that should have been looked at was to do with the local culture and not something that was at best failed abstractions. Tough. Yes tough and if we do not look out the matter will be tougher as we go along. This then is the issue and we have lost precious time in doing something about it. Mind is what matters in the ultimate and not money and mind must have superiority over these mundane issues of having financial resources.
The trust in God with what the forefathers of USA started has been lost? To them the nation [s] will have to be crucified on a cross of gold. That is how it is and that will continue unless we bring sanity back to the system. This fetish for money is to be explained in terms of money. Credit in historic times was not the most difficult aspect of life. It was humanity that was worked out. Systematically this has been undone by the concept of progress and the monitoring system that was put in place to replace the quality of living by the quantification of the economy. What was the level of the quantification and how did it take in to consideration the networking of humans in to a single cohesive system known as nationhood. Were we a nation in 1947 and are we a nation today and by the way tell me of a definition that is locally conceived.
If the western crises of banking are taken into consideration then why should the rest of the world suffer because of the lust and greed of the few bakers on Wall Street? The myths that are created of the white man's superiority are done in by us because we seem not to exercise our brains. Our legal system is a perversion of the Justinian system and as we go through the various policy issues the irresistible conclusion is that the non-exercise of the faculty has left us in a tottering condition. Is money then superior to ethereal matters? If so have we done anything on the aspect of lenders and borrowers? What is the psychology of the farmer's that take Rs.5000 per crop and then land up in jail for non-payment of loans and what is the Psychology of the big borrowers? Are they part of the political system and if so what have they done? Credit requires a willing lender and a criminally founded large borrower. The one's who can have their loans written off. Has nay one questioned the SBP as to how they have regulated the market and what have they done to those that have siphoned resources with impunity. The modern production system need not be applicable to Pakistan because of the written in inflation in the products that are produced. These are consumption products and require a different aspect of life. Aspects that hold humanity as the center piece of life.
The fetish on siphoning off of resources starts with the elites in the economic infrastructure and that is across the board. The CEOs of these organizations do not understand the implications of what their actions can lead to. Self-interest of nations in the WTO led to its not working. The world economy was being drawn in to the same kind of quagmire that the west finds itself in.
Where the consumption materialism market structure has has taken us; into the pits of the world? We are paying for this with the loss of appetite for nationhood. There is no link between wealth and happiness. Then why this Shylockian attitude of amassing wealth at the expense of one's national psyche and personality? Is money then worse then the drug trafficking that is going on? Drugs pollute the single person while the trafficking money takes away the entire nations personality and psyche? The greed factor has driven demand as high as it has in the marketing structure and all it took was the private sector or the powerful sector behaving as the private sector and doing everything in its power to stifle the living lights out of the poor by tempting them to sell, then seeking exemption from the wealth tax. How greedy and where was the IMF at that time and where is it now? The inter-temporal choices in to the future have to be examined and the future worked out differently. I have been chastised many times for not following the rules of the game but then what rules? Those created by the dead for the living? More later on.
THE FEUDAL COTERIE
DR ALI RAUF
The demand for Pakistan was an ideological call and a dream of a promising future for a common Muslim. For the aristocrats, feudals, sardars and khans, it was a matter of survival. It was evident, that Congress under the leadership of Nehru, planned to abolish feudalism. Prospects of a state were seemed very lucrative, where feudals could retain the lands allotted by the British, in return for their services to the British; not only this, but they could also grab bridles of power and carve a future of their own liking within the nascent state which had tenuous institutuions. With the emergence of the new country, coterie of feudals and sardars toiled and manipulated shrewdly to gain influence and authority in the new state and Muslim League. Thereafter, it is all a story of their exploitation and how they manipulated and abducted whole nation by operating, sometimes overtly, and at others from behind the shadows. They introduced a fascist democracy, in which people are lectured of a democracy but they live fascism.
Let's delve into the annals of our history. Muhammad Masud, a government servant wrote a report about feudalism in Sind and the sufferings of serfs in 1948. Sind government refused to publish it. Later on a committee was formulated to probe into feudalism and suggest solution to this menace. This committee was named as "Doltana Committee", which suggested a maximum of 150 acres of irrigated land to be owned by one family instead of thousands of acres that they presently hold. Preliminary draft of the first five year plan(1955-60) included this demand or the so-called agricultural reform, but the final draft signed by Prime minister Feroz Khan Noon never included any such recommendation. The then chairman of Pakistan Planning Board, Zahid Hussain who had included the above stated proposal in the preliminary draft was dismissed. Later on a set of ineffectual agricultural reforms were introduced during the regimes of Ayub Khan and Bhutto. We can comfortably conclude from the aforementioned facts that feudals have always been influential in government and politics of Pakistan. How many times has the common man felt being alienated from internal and external policies of our country? Most of the times! Because there have never been any policies for the public, for the silent majority. The policies have always been for the feudals, by the feudals and to the feudals. It seems to be an epic satire when they call this façade; democracy. Time and again military dictators have been censured for derailing democracy. In fact, it was the feudals and industrialists grabbing all the benefits, hiding behind the garb of dictatorship at one time; wearing the mask of democracy at others. But the state of affairs and the direction of policies never changed. And they never will, because its not just the mammoth span of land but a feudal culture being fuelled by feudal mentality. To understand this culture we have to understand its history. Agro-based economy coupled with a weak central government or a monarchy predisposed to awarding lands to its loyal officers and chiefs engenders feudalism. The same happened during the Mughal rule. Later on the British awarded lands to those who pledged loyalty to the crown and assisted in undermining local revolts and facilitated a burly British hold over the subcontinent. Since land was the source of power and wealth, these people became the chiefs, Sardars, khans and leaders of the locals. Prime interest of the British was maintenance of law and order so that a systematic and ruthless plunder of the people and land of subcontinent could be carried out. Local landlords were thus, awarded unlimited and unchecked authority to deal with and rule over the serfs being sustained by these vast lands. Development of an extensive irrigation system was an incentive for these land owners and also beneficial for increased agricultural production which greatly uplifted living standards of the British people. Feudals, practically ruled their serfs and their estates enjoyed the status of "state within state". They applied their own laws, established their own courts, maintained private jails and packs of thugs to intimidate the common folk, awarded punishments and owned all the agricultural and live-stock production of lands; giving minimal share to farm workers, enough only to keep them alive so that they continue to serve the master. This despotic life-style bred a certain mentality __ the feudal mentality.
Feudal mentality manifests itself in our politics and society. Abandonment of national and collective interest in favour of vested interest; collaboration and dependence on foreign masters deeming own people as a heard of sheep destined to be employed for the benefit of the shepherd; considering law to be a house-maid which can be done away with, as and when required and steering bureaucracy according to own whims and interest is what we witness all the time. Fear and illiteracy are instrumental in controlling the dependent people. This explains the brute behaviour of our police and incredibly small chunk of budget being spent upon education. There is no coherent educational policy, no standard syllabus and medium of instruction varies from English, Pushto , Sindi to Urdu. Why worry about education? Education only destroys servile attitude and jeopardizes the very roots of feudalism. As concerns the offspring of feudals , they of course need versatile and superior education which is very much available abroad, from where the future masters of the common people of Pakistan get equipped to steer the vicious cycle of exploitation and plunder. Graduates of Oxford and Harvard own the lands where serfs are not allowed even to access primary education. I deem this to be the failure of these renowned institutions to instill even a minor realization of universal human values in these individuals.
Feudal mentality has introduced despotic trends in the political parties and has led to the politicization of bureaucracy and government institutions. Election campaigning is not based on manifestos, but fuelled by family relations, caste considerations and lineage preferences. Local government system had the potential to empower the common folk and smash the feudal monopoly over power; but the system has been abolished by combined, desperate efforts of bureaucracy and feudal politicians. VIP culture, that has pervaded every strata and aspect of society is an expression of feudal mentality. Individuals, who get special treatment because they consider themselves to be above the law and beyond the life-style and hardships being faced by common people; that is the people who pay taxes so that feudals can buy limousines, walk red carpets, employ platoons of guards, dwell furnished mansions and what to talk of getting in the lines of bill-payers; do not even have to pay any bills. Long live the feudal welfare state!
Our neighbour had abolished fiefdoms right after her independence. The same was done by all the nations which aspired to be free, developed and respected. We have to make the choice. Rule of law, progress and education are on one side; and feudalism determined to keep the nation abducted, on the other. "It is better to begin to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for it to abolish itself from below".
MISUNDERSTANDING PAK GOVERNANCE SYSTEM"
Name of the book : The culture of power & Governance in Pakistan
Author : Dr Niaz Ilhan
Reviewed by : Dr Javed A Ansari
Published by : Oxford Univeristy, Press
Price : Rs 795/-
This is a theoretically flawed analysis of the evolution of state craft and governance structures in pre partition India and in Pakistan during 1947-2010. It's central thesis is that states are of two types: On the one hand there are "continental bureaucratic empires" and on the other "the State of Law". The British carefully built a "State of Law" in India during 1785-1947 and gradually dismantled the governance structures and the political culture of the pre existing " bureaucratic empire". This was an eminently successful enterprise in that the "State of Law" guaranteed public order and administered an efficient fiscal system, says Dr. Niaz
But Pakistan's governing elite relentlessly deconstructed this State of Law the groundwork for this dismantling was laid by the Quaid-i-Azam's "original sins"(Chp2) and reverted to the political culture of the "bureaucratic empire" legitimized by the pursuit of "national security, democracy and development". This is why Pakistan today faces "a crisis of governance". Substantiating this thesis requires a critique of the vast literature produced by political philosophers and state theorists Niaz describes the state as "part cognition, part organism (and) bio-mechanical" (p8). This is a fusion of central themes to be found in authors such as Hegel, Weber, Perry Anderson, and some post structuralists. But in describing the characteristics of his "bureaucratic empire" Niaz does not refer to this work at all or illustrate the similarities and differences between his pre capitalist state and that of the "absolutist" states reflected in the writings of for example Brenner, Anderson, Jessop and Poulantzis. He does not even feel the need to critique or operationalize concepts developed by Ferdinand Brandel a post structuralist thinker some of whose ideas are reflected in caricatured form here.
Some of Brandel's books are included in the bibliography (p302-303) but they are not methodically utilized in the text. No serious contemporary political philosopher would accept Niaz's characterization of the "bureaucratic empire" as correct. The idea that "bureaucratic empires" are subject to "arbitrary rule" tantamounts to the absurd view that Law is a creation of eighteenth century Europe and all pre Enlightenment societies were lawless that the Law of the Torah, ecclesiastical law, cannon law and the Shariah are fantasies with no historical existence. Such a claim can be held only by contemptuously ignoring all legal theory and jurisprudence.
The view that the "bureaucratic empire" was characterized by "universal proprietorship" cannot be taken seriously. For if we accept this view we would be forced to concede that there was no private property before capitalism. Similarly the assertion that "society was deliberately atomized by the (bureaucratic empire) state" (p26) can only be described as bizarre there is near academic consensus on the social aloofness and estrangement of the absolutist state. Niaz of course cannot explain the transition from "the bureaucratic" state to the "State of Law" since he takes no notice of the extensive debate on the nature of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. It is here that he could have utilized Brandel's insights most fruitfully but all he does is cite the titles of Brandels books (p12). He begins by describing "the continental bureaucratic empire as the most successful form of the state in world history" (p1). He attributes its disintegration exclusively to the emergence of "weak rulers' and does not realize that this contradicts his quast post structuralest quasi anthropomorphic view of the state as "part cognition, part organism and bio-mechanical'. Or are we to conclude that the state became a state "part cognition, part organism, bio-mechanical" only after the advent of capitalism. This would lead to the view held by many political philosophers that the state did not exist in pre capitalist times. But given Niaz's demonisation of "the bureaucratic continental empire" he cannot of course subscribe to this view.
And what of "the State of Law" whose emergence made possible "the alterability of the human condition in relation to the exercise of state power so central to the Enlightenment and the Revolution"(p38). According to Niaz this State of Law emerged from the five century long struggle between the king and the nobles in England. He does not mention the vast literature which disputes this view (summarized for example by Ellen Meiskins Wood in several books) and does not realize that this description of the emergence of the State of Law invalidates both his view of "universal proprietorship" and his view that there are only two state forms "bureaucratic imperial" or "legal". Again a basic reason for this incoherence is that Niaz does not critique the theoretical works of those who conceptualize the political order of what he calls the "State of Law" Locke or Rousseau or Smith or Kant or the Federalist Paper authors or Rawls or Rorty. He does not realize that these philosophers are advocating and conceptualizing a political order which replaces the Law of God by the Law of Capital as the basis for moral/social legitimacy of the Republic. The Republic is designed to replace the Kingdom God and value is to be determined in the (capital) markets and not with reference to the book of God and the history of the Church. Niaz's "State of Law" is a state where a particular law is sovereign the Law of Capital.
Niaz's failure to understand. British rule in India as the rule of the law of capital leads him to ignore its central feature the supreme objective of British imperial policy. As Amiya Bhagchi, Biplab Dasgupta, Amit Bhaduari, Ranjit Guha, Irfan Habib, Frederic Clairmonte, Michael Kidron and a host of other authors have shown the central purpose of British colonial policy was to maximize the outflow of raw material and capital from India to England. Annual estimates of this outflow during the nineteenth and twentieth centaury have been presented by several authors and Keynes in his famous book on the Indian currency has shown how monetary and exchange rate management played a key role in maximizing resource outflows from India.
Niaz ignores all this exhaustive empirical work and therefore does not realize that it was the imperative duty to maximize resource outflows from India to England which fashioned the structures of the British Indian State of Law (of capital). The designing of the administrative machinery, the emphasis on order at the district level, the substitution of Persian by English as the official language, the cutting of the thumbs of weavers and spanners in the Bengal textile industry, the reconstruction of the canal system in Western India, investment in road and rail networks all leading to the ports to facilitate resource outflow the mass hangings and slaughter following the Indian war of independence of 1857, the tolerance of the emergence of Indian manufacturing industry during and after the First World War, the encouragement and extension of concessions to the Indian nationalist movements all these moves were orchestrated to ensure the maximization of resource flows from India to England. To ignore this fact is to deny that Britain was a colonial power and to argue that Britain came to India on a civilizing mission to convert the Indians to the ideologies of the Enlightenment. Not only does Niaz ignore the extensive literature which documents the colonial nature of British Indian rule, he does not methodically assess the work of the authors and there were many such who defend British rule on the grounds that it was a civilizing mission.
The breakdown of the structures of the State of Law in Pakistan is attributed to the "original sins" "criminality" "arbitrariness" and misdemeanors of Pakistani "mandarins" "praetorians" "guardians" "diwans" and "grand seigneurs" documented at length in chp 2 to 7. Again Niaz does not realize that this contradicts his view of the State of Law as "cognition, organism and bio-mechanism'. If as he asserts the State of Law is a structuralist construction which depends on an instrumentalist balancing of institutional power how can its deconstruction be explained by reference to "original sins criminality" etc. For as argued at length in (chp2 p42-52) the remarkable "esperitiede corps" which sustained British rule in India was itself a product of the structure of governance that had been created by Lord Cornwallis and his successors during 1785-1947. What differentiated the corrupt East India company official and the upright ICS officer was not their moral inclinations but the fact that the later was subject to a system of accountability, authority and legal process which compelled him to be upright. Moreover when "the British transferred power in 1947 the change of regime did not immediately and fundamentally alter the nature or the composition of the state"(p52).
It follows that if the state started disintegrating immediately due to the Quaid-i-Azam's "original sins". (p62-68) this must mean that the State of Law requires some external (external that to its structure) force to sustain it. If we hold on to the idea that the state is "cognitive, organic, bio-mechanistic" (and in my view this is patently false) then we have two possible explanations for its implosion neither of which are explored by Niaz. Post structuralists many argue that the state like any organism produces it's "purpose" and that "purpose" is existential (it's own survival).
The British Indian State was committed to maximizing resource outflow from India because this was necessary for the survival of the total British system. Since this purpose necessarily became irrelevant after independence the state structures which generated it necessarily imploded. Secondly it might be argued that while the state is "cognitive, organic, bio-mechanical" it is not self sustaining. Like the "bureaucratic empire" it has to be sustained by the moral qualities of its governors.
PAKISTAN'S DEFENCE BUDGET 2010-11
DR HUMA MIR
Pakistan's economy is in a shambles. The trauma of terrorism, bad governance, poor economic planning, ineffective and corrupt revenue collection machinery, sky rocketing non-development government spending, a culture of tax evasion had a devastating impact on our economy. Our economic managers are struggling to meet our day to day fiscal needs under the dictates of our lenders since our leadership instead of improving revenue collection and cutting on non development spending decided to borrow from IMF to make up the budgetary shortfalls. Budget making in such environments could not be more difficult. The total national kitty is too small to accommodate the aspirations of all segments of the economy. In the budget document two components stand out, the debt servicing component and the Defence allocations, both of which have grown for their own reasons.
Pakistan's defence budget has traditionally been based on providing stringent funding for the military to maintain a minimum deterrence capability against India. With the phenomenal rise of terrorism, the complete security equation has changed, there is a huge demand for allocations to the armed forces for internal security. In 2009/10, Pakistan's revised Defense Budget was approximately Rs 378 billion, while proposed allocation for 2010- 2011 is Rs 442 Billion showing an increase of 16.5%. Considering an official inflation rate of 12.5%, in real terms it reflects a marginal increase of only 4%. India's defence allocation for 2010-11 is Rs.147,344 crore (Rs.1.47 trillion), up 8.13 percent from the revised estimates of the previous fiscal. Pakistan's Defence Budget translates to approx $5 billion as compared to India's $32 billion.
On a reciprocal basis, Pakistan has had an India Centric Defence strategy. India's attitude does not give us an iota of a reason to change our existing threat perception. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani recently stated "We remain concerned over Pakistan-specific Indian military doctrines such as the COLD START envisaging a limited conventional war under the nuclear overhand, huge increase in the Indian military budget and massive weapon acquisition". India continues to arm itself with most modern sophisticated weapon systems acquired from Russia, US and European sources, even Israel. Indian forces outnumber Pakistan's by a six to one. Pakistan can neither match the Indian numbers nor does it desire a parity. Our need is only to maintain a credible minimum affordable deterrence. Translated into actuality means that, we must have better equipped, better trained and a sleek force capable of countering Indian designs through quality.
India has started considering the Indian Ocean to be its own lake. Its strengthening its Navy by the day. India has plans to induct a fleet of three aircraft carriers in the coming years. Pakistan is forced to acquire naval weapon platforms to counter this threat. It costs dearly but we cannot allow India to develop a capability to choke our ports and our sea lines of commercial communications. Similarly India is planning air domination by spending almost 6 Billion dollars over next three years to acquire state of the art modern fighter aircraft from a verity of sources.
Our War on Terror has particularly contributed to the increase in the Defence Budget. Almost Two Army Corps have been deployed on or near our Western Borders in the Counter Terrorism mode. Simultaneously we are constrained not to lower our guard against the Indians in the East. The dilemma of a two front deployment is extremely strenuous on the Armed Forces limited resources. The Kashmir Corps which remains deployed on war footing round the year is logistically the most expensive formation to maintain. Now that instead of maintaining only one corps Pakistan has to maintain three Corps on war footing, obviously additional resources are required by the armed forces.
The equipment, training and logistic requirements for fighting terrorists and internal enemy is very different from traditional warfare for which the armed forces are equipped and trained. Such operations demand specialised training for counter terrorism, investment in acquisition of latest intelligence gathering equipment, specialised weapon and communication systems as well as unmanned aerial vehicles like drones to search out targets and provide the army with advance information. Acquisition of capability to move troops and supporting logistics etc rapidly in very difficult terrain both by land and air is vital to such operations. The army needs to induct specialised light armoured combat vehicles, transport helicopters as well as protected vehicles for movement of logistics and manpower along roads and tracks infested with Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). The defence budget needs to be enhanced to acquire these capabilities.
The Armed Forces weapons, vehicles and Equipment are undergoing severe wear and tear in the Counter Terrorism operations over prolonged period. All military equipment has a life, Army helicopters and PAF aircraft have life in hours, they need overhauls and replacement. PAF and Army are using a lot of ammunition against our internal enemy which is actually meant for external threat, the same needs regular recouping.
The Armed Forces of Pakistan are stretched all along the length and breadth of the country in the service of the nation. The military is the major institution supporting the calamity affected people through Humanitarian operations like IDPs of Malakand and FATA, people affected by the Hunza lake disaster or the cyclone affectees of coastal Baluchistan and Sindh.
Pakistan is passing through very difficult times. Terrorists and Anti State elements are having the better of us. For the future of our next generations we must contain this scourge before it seeps into the very vitals of our nation. The Armed Forces are at the forefront of our battle against this internal enemy while maintaining a credible defence against India which maintains a threatening posture against Pakistan. Pakistan's resources are very limited and need to be utilised very judiciously. One segment where every paisa spent under the present environment is justified is the Armed Forces and we must not desist from providing them with adequate monetary support.
LONDON TRANSPORT TO EXTOL VIRTUES OF ISLAM
VIEWS FROM ABROAD
The purple, pink and green sign on the yellow London taxi reads: "The rights of women are sacred." This is not some spiritual feminist mantra born of the New Age, but comes out of one of the most traditional religions in the world. The advertisement marks the launch of a campaign to promote a positive image of Islam, a religion not widely known for its promotion of the rights of women. The negative view of a faith followed by nearly 1.6 billion people, or one fifth of the world's population, is the main reason for the launch of the Inspired by Muhammad campaign. Besides London taxis, the advertisements are to appear on Underground trains and bus stops.
After a new poll showed that 58 per cent of people associate Islam with extremism and 50 per cent with terrorism, the campaign is intended to promote a positive Islamic message about the environment and social justice as well as women. The campaign was launched by the Exploring Islam Foundation, a new and privately funded group run by young British Muslim professionals. The YouGov poll of 2,152 adults found that just 13 per cent of those questions believed Islam to be a religion of peace and even fewer, six per cent, associated it with justice. More than four in 10 disagreed that Muslims have a positive impact on British society, nearly seven in ten said Islam encourages the repression of women and fewer than two in ten said Islam promotes fairness and equality.
The campaign was launched at Tower Bridge, an image of London used on postcards throughout the world. Quilliam, the counter-extremism think tank, welcomed the campaign as "a valuable and timely step to help improve relations and foster deeper understanding between British citizens." The last census in 2001 found 1.6 million Muslims living in Britain, or 2.8 percent of the population, making it the second most common religion after Christianity. London had the highest proportion of Muslims in Britain, at 8.5 percent.
Sarah Joseph, editor of the Muslim lifestyle magazine Emel and an ambassador for the foundation, said the campaign made an impact on social network media as soon as it was launched. "The essential viral feedback is that it is positive. People are supportive of the idea of something which is positive and celebratory. I posted it to my Facebook page and immediately 30 people said they liked it and made comments such as fantastic idea." But she added: "The YouGov survey is quite worrying. It seems to show increased levels of ignorance and hostility. It is increasingly worrying that we cannot seem to turn it around in terms of the public's opinion about the faith or about ordinary Muslims. There is a very skewed level of engagement with Islam." Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "Any exercise that helps to create a better understanding and better knowledge of Islam and Muslims is to be welcomed. Many of the difficulties we face stem from people not knowing what mainstream Muslims really believe. This is a step in the right direction. We need more of this." Remona Aly, the foundation's campaigns director, said: "We do not receive any donations from the government. We did not want to be seen to be associated with anyone in particular. We were not going to be tainted by any one organisation."
She also described the poll results as troubling. "It is a cause of deep concern. It indicates that there is a real need for a campaign of this nature. We wanted to promote the universal values that Muslims hold. We are very proud of being British and being Muslim. There is no conflict of identity there and this is the message we want to give to people." The Times
From June till September large tracts of low lying land may be flooded leaving in its wake death and destruction. Geographically Bangladesh is in the Ganges delta, braided with many tributaries which drain into the Bay Bengal. Geologically nearly three fourth of Bangladesh is less than ten metres above the sea level, with most of the land in the floodplains. The monsoon rainfall combined with the relief rains caused by the Himalayas wreaks havoc with unerring regularity each year.
Already there are reports that about 200 villages in the Sylhet district are flooded after flood protection embankments collapsed. Two local rivers Surma and Kushiara are in spate - both flowing at 122 and 172 cm above the danger level, respectively. Dwellings have been washed away, road communications disrupted and schools shut down. People's livelihoods and the economy in general bear the brunt. Already the Government has admitted that more than 50,000 hectares of standing boro rice crop has been damaged by cyclones and floods this year impacting the country's holdings of food stocks. As monsoons have just begun, the scale of destruction not only in Sylhet but across most of Bangladesh will once again be severe.
Maplecroft, the leading global risk monitoring group has mapped nearly 140 cyclones and 66 floods in Bangladesh between 1907 and 2008 with cumulative losses estimated at US$ 30 billion. This graph is all set to rise on account of climate change. A 2001 World Bank report projects a rise in sea levels by about 3.0 mm per year which could literally wipe out the country's flora and fauna, destroy fertile agricultural land, and devour thousands of people in the low lying areas.
The Government has therefore stepped up flood control measures. It has allocated Tk 7 billion to cope with natural disaster in this year's budget. But for Bangladesh this amount is a pittance given the magnitude of the problem. Flood control has to go hand in hand with funds for mitigation and adaptation from the richer countries, which have pushed the low lying countries deeper into the morass. The recent Copenhagen summit envisioned creation of a Climate Change Fund. But that is yet to take off. For the country's leadership, therefore, there are no easy options.
The news of unnatural death of Farzana Kabir Rita and her 13-year old son Kabir Ishrat Paban and 11-year old daughter Raisa Reshmi Payel of Alambagh in the city is painful. The exact cause of death of the victims is not clear.
Unnatural or accidental death is not confined to the capital city alone, it pervades all over the country. The recent Neemtali fire incident and building collapse of Begunbari in the city caused far greater loss of life and property. A news published yesterday in The Independent said only in Khulna-crossfire and terrorism claimed 34 lives in one month. Sadly, everyday in Bangladesh unnatural deaths are taking place. On the fatalistic ground of fait accompli they should not be dismissed as they are the consequences of human actions. Such deaths must be stopped at any cost.
Along with practical actions a change in attitude is needed to ensure security to life. Concerned people should ensure that all facilities which are needed for safe living be provided to people. Unnatural death has multifarious forms but the main ones are fire incidents, building collapse and road accidents. The Neemtali fire incident could not either happen or take such colossal form had there been no chemical factories and chemical items' godowns. People responsible to look after that neglected their duties which led to the fateful incident. Buildings would not have collapsed if RAJUK performed its prescribed duties piously and in extreme cases sternly. Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) is responsible to ensure that only fit vehicles get route permit. If BRTA strictly observes its own rules and remains honest in issuing route permits, accidents on the roads and highways will come down to minimal.
HAVE EYES, CAN'T SEE..!
A woman took her 14-year-old daughter an oldies concert. They were all fans of "oldies" music from the 60's and 70's and felt lucky to get front row seats. When they returned home, her daughter said, "During the show, I looked back and saw hundreds of little lights swaying to the music. At first I thought the people were holding candles, then realized the lights were the reflections off all the eyeglasses in the audience. Mother could you all really see what was on stage after wearing glasses?"
"Of course we could," said the mother, "and we enjoyed it!"
"You all must be blind," said the daughter, "It was so boring!"
And as we laugh at the little girl, I know incidences were we older folk also act blind: I went for a business meeting the other day to a fancy club and the old man, a businessman turned to me and said, "I don't do business with internet people!" "Internet people?" I asked puzzled.
"Yes people who get orders through the net! I believe in going personally to an office, meeting the customer, shaking his hand and then getting down to business!"
"And by the time you do that the man who is Internet savvy would have cracked ten deals!" I thought to myself.
These are those who have eyes but can't see.
There are numerous stories of people who lacked vision. A Hollywood producer scrawled a curt rejection note on a manuscript that became "Gone With The Wind." He had no vision for the success that movie would enjoy.
On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright finally succeeded in keeping their homemade airplane in the air for 59 seconds. They rushed a telegram to their sister telling of this great accomplishment. The telegram read, "First sustained flight today fifty-nine seconds. Hope to be home by Christmas." Their sister was so excited she rushed to the newspaper office and gave the telegram to the editor. The next morning the newspaper headed the story: "Popular Local Bicycle Merchants To Be Home For Holidays." The hapless editor saw the obvious but missed the real story.
Vision is never about seeing the obvious. It's about looking ahead, about seeing what is not there - yet, about seeing the potential that is yet to come.
Like spotting the potential for success in a child who, as is obvious to everyone else, will likely fail. Or recognizing the potential for something good to come from a situation others are writing off as lost!
Don't be like that child at the concert or the old man doing business but instead have eyes that can see far, far ahead..!
BUDGET AND INITIATIVE TO REDUCE RURAL POVERTY
DHIRAJ KUMAR NATH
The budget proposals for the fiscal year 2010-2011 with an outlay of Tk 1, 32 170 crores have been placed before the National Parliament on 10th June, 2010 by the Finance Minister AMA Muhith. The budget proposals appear to be as usual with no remarkable interventions to address the poverty issues or significant commitment for renovations. There is hardly any innovations except dwelling on past initiatives with expansion of areas of operations or increasing the number of taxpayers and beneficiaries. For all purposes, budget appears to be a centralised one having very insignificant interventions to address issues of reformation in any sector like land revenue system or decentralisation of power to local government. One of the approaches is to retain the social safety nets programmes and projects with expanded coverage and more allocations funds. This is perhaps, not the pragmatic way to make visible changes in the income level by overcoming the rural poverty in particular. The proposals contain apparently no positive correlation with the perspective plan or the sixth 5 years plan going to be finalized soon.
The prime objective of the country is to turn Bangladesh into a middle income country by 2021, a poverty free nation, in the year of golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence. To reduce the poverty substantially for achieving this vision, multidimensional approaches must be taken with intensive initiatives. For this purpose, there should be maximum investments in rural areas since 72 per cent of the population lives in rural areas and trying to change their fortunes.
One remarkable initiative has been taken by the government by constituting a National Rural Development Council headed by the Prime Minister. This, in fact, the accomplishment of a long-cherished expectation and can be termed as a landmark in the history of rural development. The coordination and supervision of socio-economic activities and infrastructure development in the rural areas by a high powered council is to ensure sustainable economic growth towards poverty reduction. This is consistent with the declared framework of the policy directives and commitments of the government.
Much more interventions and investments are necessary to make the rural economy vibrant, restore peace and discipline in countryside and modernize the way of living in rural areas. Farming as a way of life for nearly 65 per cent of our population and rural families comprise a substantial majority of the population. For these families, land represents a fundamental asset, a primary source of income, security and status by any consideration. But more than half of these families either lack any access to land or a secured stake in the land they till.
They are landless or marginal farmers who survive on the mercy of nature or at the compassion of the owner of the land. As a result, acute poverty and related problems of hunger, social unrest, humiliation and environmental degradation persist.
Obviously, there are enough opportunities to make radical changes provided commitments could be translated into realties and good governance could be restored in rank and file. Immediately after independence from 1973, Vietnam government began the policy of "land to the tiller" and transferred the ownership to minimum one million tenant farmers which converted Vietnam now a food exporting country. Similarly the government of West Bengal made major land reformation and substantial changes in share-cropping resulting in West Bengal as a food surplus state. There are hundred of examples even in CIRDAP member states where land reforms made significant changes in rural livelihood.
The proposed budget has not indicated anything to bring changes in the system to help poverty reduction through effective interventions like restriction on land ceiling and distribution of surplus land to real farmers. The provision of maximum ownership of arable land was 125 acres during Pakistan regime which has now been brought down to 25 acres. But the surplus land has not been taken to the account of the Government for distribution to landless farmers or deserving population. Similarly khas land and water bodies and vested properties have been grabbed by non-farmers and land grabbers in connivance with land department officials and local influential persons.
Secondly the utilization of fallow lands for production of crop must be taken on priority basis. The country is losing at least 220 hectares of land everyday and 1 per cent of land every year due to soil erosion and indiscriminate housing in rural areas. It is urgent to formulate a rural housing policy with the restriction of housing on agricultural land and water bodies.
Thirdly, price stabilization and agricultural marketing need to be considered on priority basis. The price stabilization of essential consumer items is a very challenging assignment for an elected government due to its political sensitivity. Public at all level irrespective of purchasing power and affordability raise hue and cry even with marginal increase of prices. Price control is thus a critical issue related with production, marketing and international trade. This is also well connected with agricultural marketing mechanism where large numbers of middlemen are involved to form syndicate to control market prices. The government might consider involving more cooperatives societies in the marketing of agricultural produces to ensure fair price to farmers and also maintain the price level stable without leaving any scope to traders to form syndicate and manipulate the market prices.
Fourthly, one of the major interventions is to ensure good governance in land administration. The corruption in the office of the Tehsilder and Sub-Register is so open that it cannot escape the eye of any prudent citizens. These officials in connivance with some touts manipulate the records of rights indiscriminately for depriving the poor and farmers from their legitimate ownership on khas land or vested property. The process of computerization of land records should be completed quickly to restrict the window of corruption and simultaneously remove the old staff involved in land record and land revenue. This is the most vulnerable area where corruption affects all citizens and dismantles the very fabric of value system in the society and thereby makes the image of the government questionable. The budget was almost silent about land reformation or make changes in the land administration system.
Besides, increased productivity and adaptation of climate change must be a challenge to ensure the increase the productivity per hectare. Food safety remains to be the prime concern with indiscriminate tendency of adulteration of all categories of food items including vegetables, fishes and fruits. The demand for generic produces has increased manifold and time is now to respond to change such attitude.
Interventions like safety nets programmes for the poor should not be continued for long time except in case of emergency. There should be institutional approach to ensure sustainability and institutions working in research, capability building and agricultural modernization should be encouraged to contribute more. There are many researches and training organizations like BARD, RDA, BARC, BIDS, BIISS CIRDAP; BRAC, BAU, etc. and these institutions could be allowed to operate with their full capacity.
The budget proposals contain less programme approaches except expansion network of existing programmes like increasing number of taxpayers by 5 lakhs, expansion of defense budget and imposing taxes on the institutional investment on the share market. All these depend on the implementation strategy and efficiency of officials if they do not compromise with the process and are committed to exhibiting better governance at all steps of mobilizing internal resources. Unfortunately, the good governance issue, most critical areas of immediate intervention, has not been emphasized as the nation expected. The budget, in all respects, like a statement of revenue receipts and expenditures which perhaps shall never be able to achieve the Charter of Change as committed to the electorates once and again.
(The writer is a former Adviser to the Caretaker Government)
BANKING ON BIGGER BANKS
Policy is based on theory; theory is based on speculation; speculation is based on prevailing superstition. This rather fanciful syllogism is the basis of most policymaking. It might sound quite silly but take a closer look at the way governments work and no proselytising will be required.
It should come as no surprise that governments create policies based on popular superstition: the raison d'être of a democracy is to represent the people.
A case of such egregious speculation is apparent with the mishandling of the USA credit crisis. Policymakers there are suffering from the syllogistic attribution that the strength of any given economy is linked with the size and strength of its private financial institutions: the banks.
And policy making in allusion to banks starts off with the key assumption that bank runs have to be avoided at any cost. The specious link is the false etiology of risk to size of bank. Regulators are thinking that the bigger the size of the bank the more stable they are likely to be given the gargantuan size of their
Evidently, we are following a faulty chain of logic to another disaster, a follow on from the credit crisis. A smattering of historical knowledge will lay bare the devastation that can be wrought by a series of bank runs: the start of the great depression, among other things. But a smattering of economic knowledge will also tell you that since the 1930's tools have been developed to enable central banks to evade bank runs fairly effectively. So why are US regulators helping fortify the big boys in banking, helping consolidate the industry further and creating behemoths with little practical accountability?
The faulty policy of empowering banks is a direct result of the fear of bank failures, tempered with the superstition that big is safe. The problem with this ratiocination is that bankers in big banks also start to buy into the delusion and start taking bigger risks. It was the high risk lending of banks, especially in the USA, that led to the credit crisis, creating an instability that looked like and could easily deteriorate into a bank run.
In effect, in attempting to build the banks into bigger and mightier institutions, policymakers are encouraging bankers to take on bigger and bigger risks. It might be relatively easy for a government to bail a bank out of a billion dollar bad investment, but what happens when the bailout numbers go into trillions: remember LTCM?
The picture gets more roseate when you factor in other issues like the relation between size and ease of regulation. As the institutions get bigger they become inherently more complex, hence more difficult to regulate. The cost of regulating skyrockets and the added complexity greatly increases
the chances of things going awry.
Instead of finding a cure the malady is being exacerbated, and the question is no longer if but when the next big disaster will strike.
(The writer is an Oxford scholar, a global consultant and lecturer in Business Strategy)
WATER POISONING IN BANGLADESH
TAREQUL ISLAM MUNNA
Over 100 million people in rural southern Asia are exposed every day to unsafe levels of arsenic from the well-water they drink. It more than doubles their risks for cancer, causes cardiovascular disease, and inhibits the mental development of children, among other serious effects.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has referred to the situation in Bangladesh, where an estimated 60 million people are affected, as "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history."
In the May 28 issue of the journal Science, researchers from Stanford University, the University of Delaware, and Columbia University review what scientists understand about this groundwater contamination crisis and offer solutions for the region, which spans Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
Holly Michael, assistant professor of geological sciences in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at the University of Delaware, is a co-author of the article, with Scott Fendorf from Stanford and Alexander van Geen from Columbia University. Fendorf received his doctorate from UD in 1992 and is now chair of environmental and Earth system science at Stanford.
Michael earned her doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and joined the UD faculty in 2008. She traveled to Bangladesh to study the groundwater contamination problem firsthand during her postdoctoral training with the U.S. Geological Survey.
Arsenic occurs naturally in the Earth's crust. Tasteless, odorless, and colorless in solution, the element is a known carcinogen and can be detected in water only through testing.
The source of South Asia's arsenic contamination is the Himalaya Mountains. Minerals from rocks, eroding coal seams, and sediments contain arsenic and are carried into the major rivers that flow out of the mountains, including the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irawaddy, Meghna, Mekong, and Red rivers. The flat, low-lying floodplains of these major rivers are the areas affected by groundwater contamination.
A logical solution is to dig deeper wells to reach uncontaminated aquifers for supplying safe drinking water. However, farmers also want access to this water to irrigate their rice paddies. And that's a problem, according to Michael's research. In 2008, Michael showed through numerical modeling of groundwater flow in the Bengal Basin that an uncontaminated domestic well more than 500 feet (150 meters) could remain arsenic-free for at least a thousand years. However, she projected an entirely different scenario for deep irrigation wells, which use mechanized pumps instead of hand pumps to bring groundwater to the surface. The high volumes of water drawn by these irrigation systems induced a much faster downward migration of arsenic-contaminated surface water into the deep aquifer. "To protect drinking water from arsenic contamination, we recommend that deeper wells only be used by individual households for drinking water and not for crop irrigation," Michael says.
In addition to preserving deep wells specifically for drinking water, she and her co-authors also recommend these measures:
* Reinvigorating well-testing campaigns by governments and international organizations.
* Better use of existing geological data and the compilation of test results to target zones that are low in arsenic for the installation of community wells.
* The re-testing of tens of thousands of deep wells, particularly those that have been used for both domestic and farming purposes.
* The choice of mitigation option can be situation-dependent: filters or other alternatives may be the best choice in some areas.
"Obviously, arsenic-contaminated drinking water is a huge problem from a human health perspective," Michael says. "We've shown that there are some viable options in South Asia, but there is much more that we need to understand."
Currently, Michael is working to model arsenic transport, how it may move in the future in the aquifer system in Bangladesh. She also is working with the World Bank on a study of groundwater sustainability in Bangladesh related to water supply and vulnerability of coastal groundwater to sea-level rise.
(The writer is a columnist and Conservator, Wildlife and Environment)
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
CONTEXT GOES MISSING AS OVERLAND FACES UNFAIR ATTACK
CONTEXT, in journalism, is everything. A quote taken out of context can mean something entirely different to what the speaker intended. Facts strung together out of context can mislead someone to believe something that really didn't happen that way. Omitting context can make villains seem like injured parties, and honourable people seem shady.
The Australian's campaign against Chief Commissioner Simon Overland is not, as the paper insists, a straightforward story of Mr Overland's allegedly illegal conduct during Operation Briars, a secret investigation into police corruption in 2007. Taken in context, the articles are unfair, unbalanced and self-serving. It matters because police corruption and how it is investigated are critically important. To hound Mr Overland over old news, and to equate his behaviour with that of people such as former assistant commissioner Noel Ashby and former police union secretary Paul Mullett, is not only perverse, it is potentially damaging to the anti-corruption cause supposedly so close to the paper's heart.
It's all about ''the evidence'', insists the paper. No it isn't. It's about what evidence is used and what is left out in a complex and murky story. It's about how the evidence is slanted and in what tone it is presented. (Noel Ashby on the front page worrying about the ''stench'' in the Victoria Police? Strange days indeed.) It is also, in this case, about the underlying motive of the newspaper itself.
The key allegation was reported in The Sunday Age in September. It is that Mr Overland, then deputy chief commissioner, breached the law on the allowable uses of telephone intercepts in a conversation with the head of the police media unit, Stephen Linnell. Operation Briars was probing alleged police links to the murder of a male prostitute; for the first time, police command was pursuing evidence that police were involved in gangland hits. The head investigator, Rod Wilson, told Mr Overland that Mr Mullet and suspended detective Peter Lalor - one of the operation's key targets - had been overheard talking about a French ''junket'' Mr Overland was considering. Mr Overland then told Linnell that ''look, you need to be aware I've just got a call from Rod'' about Mr Mullett and Mr Lalor's plotting to leak the French trip to the media to embarrass him.
That's the critical issue - that Mr Overland inadvertently let Linnell know whose phones might be being intercepted for a reason that was not permitted under the law, which says a "permitted use" needs to be for a purpose connected with an investigation into misbehaviour or improper conduct of an officer. Mr Overland says he did nothing wrong, and the Office of Police Integrity told The Sunday Age last year that he had done nothing illegal. We would suspect that Mr Overland regrets the exact words he used that day, although he never mentioned a telephone tap directly. Perhaps he was, in part, trying to prevent embarrassment, but he was also working in a treacherous environment and he - arguably the person who had done most to fight gangland killings and police corruption - was a key target. Allegedly corrupt police have friends and a close friend of a Briars target - Mr Lalor - was Paul Mullett. And Mr Lalor had been caught on a phone tap talking about spreading a rumour about Mr Overland. - The deputy commissioner saw this as another attempt to undermine him - and the investigation.
Just whose actions were most appalling here? Mr Mullett admitted he tipped off Mr Lalor that his phone was being tapped (although he denies any knowledge of Briars). Mr Ashby was accused of telling Mr Mullett who the targets of Briars were, and Mr Linnell admitted improperly showing Mr Ashby the Briars terms of reference.
The OPI's reasoning why Mr Overland had committed no offence, taking into account the context of what was happening has some credence (although it would be helpful if it released its legal advice). ''As is now apparent, Mr Overland was not only being undermined from without but betrayed from within.''
There is one more piece of context. The Australian's stories cannot be read at face value. Mr Overland was sharply critical of its reporting of a terrorism raid last year. The OPI investigated the leak to the paper, and the paper took the organisation to court to prevent its report from being made public. Since then, there has been negative articles about the OPI and now this, against Mr Overland.
It's about ''the evidence'', says the paper, denying any payback in its stories. We think there's enough evidence to suggest otherwise.
Source: The Age
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