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Saturday, June 19, 2010

EDITORIAL 19.06.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month june 19, edition 000543 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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

































































Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi cannot be faulted for asserting that "the Prime Minister of India does not deal with what every police constable does". The two jobs — that of the Prime Minister and a police constable — are not comparable by any stretch of the imagination, nor are the responsibilities vested in either similar in nature. What Mr Singhvi has iterated is a truism that would be questioned by only the intellectually challenged and hence need not have been stated in the first place, unless, of course, like many others in the Congress he believes that the people of India lack rudimentary intelligence. Such smug arrogance and self-righteousness, however, do not serve to hide a simple fact: Mr Singhvi, like his colleague who had the gall to suggest that questioning Rajiv Gandhi's role in la affaire Warren Anderson, the chairman of Union Carbide Corporation when the world's worst industrial disaster occurred at the firm's pesticides factory in Bhopal, is tantamount to being "unpatriotic", is desperate to prevent the truth about the unseemly episode from becoming common knowledge. This could be either because as a loyal foot soldier of the party he feels it is his bounden duty to save the Congress's first family from public scrutiny and rebuke, or the reason Warren Anderson was assured and given safe passage 26 years ago — American pressure — is as valid today as it was then. It would not be entirely incorrect to suggest Mr Singhvi, who said what he did while denouncing former Foreign Secretary MK Rasgotra for disclosing that Rajiv Gandhi was informed about the assurance given to the American Embassy that Warren Anderson would not be harassed or arrested during his visit to India and had approved of the decision, was being a loyal Congress worker as well as mindful of not compromising American interests, more specifically the interests of multinational corporations.

Yet, all this skulduggery and crude subterfuge is so unnecessary. Let us presume, and there is sufficient evidence to do so, that Rajiv Gandhi knew and approved of the decision to give safe passage to Warren Anderson (of which police constables would definitely not have been aware) because of which he was never brought to trial for a horrendous crime. Would it not make eminent sense for the Government — and the Congress — to admit this upfront? Those in denial mode could have instead said: At that point of time this seemed the right decision; in retrospect it turned out to be an error of judgement. This would have been both graceful and helpful in bringing about a closure to the Bhopal tragedy which the survivors, more than anybody else, deserve to get on with their lives. It would also be the starting point for looking afresh at what more could be done to alleviate the sufferings of those who lived through that night of horror, try to ensure the guilty are brought to book, and such disasters do not occur ever again. Instead, we have the Congress spinning a web of deceit and churning out lies; this honours neither the memory of their departed leader whom they seek to protect nor the memories of the thousands who perished on the night of December 2-3, 1984. More importantly, it inflicts enormous damage on the nation: The world cannot be expected to respect a country, irrespective of its GDP, whose Government is dominated by a party which has no respect for the truth, that too when it involves the lives of its own citizens.








A ffluence has the effect of expanding the boundaries of taste, which is evident from the prices that works of Indian art fetched at the latest Sotheby's sale, although the price for Rabindranath Tagore's paintings were modest compared to the exciting bidding over SH Raza's Saurashtra that went for an astonishing Rs 16 crore plus. Acquisitions, including the competition that a bidding process demands, satisfy the instinct to emerge at the top and so the affluent classes have always fancied art. The more confident they become the bolder is their choice which is reflected in the price at which great works of art are bought. Instead of sticking to the traditional, the wealthier patrons search for contemporary works and the supply, therefore, has grown to meet the emerging demand. Buying at a sale organised by Christie's or Sotheby's has its own value because the market is made to ensure that the works sell at prices that generates greater demand for other such sales in the future. Great as the intrinsic worth of the works of the best Indian artists is, the current market is a creation of the subtle and savvy promotion that auction houses have created.

That more Indians can afford to buy art at prices that break previous records is an effect of the success of indigenous professionals and entrepreneurs, some of whom are now listed among the world's wealthiest. The demand for contemporary Indian art works now is as much a function of the mystique surrounding the emerging economies, with their capacities for escaping relatively lightly scathed from the impact of the worldwide financial meltdown as it is of the less self-consciously parochial style in which the gurus of modern Indian art reveal their genius. The market for Chinese contemporary art is a classic instance of the fashionableness of such works. Whereas once upon a time Indian artists sold primarily to buyers at home, which meant that the prices were never ever near the huge fortune, for instance, that SH Raza's Saurashtra fetched, there are buyers now for the same artists dotted across the world — in India, Dubai, Hong Kong, Britain, Germany and the US. The growing demand for non-Western art is paradoxically an effect of globalisation; in as much as cheaply produced Chinese kitsch and America's Big Mac (with or without Coca-Cola) serve as equalisers in a certain section of consumers, unusual and therefore daringly different acquisition of art is the imprimateur of the brave new global citizen. This, of course, also means the flight of art out of the country of its origin to foreign shores, a phenomenon best demonstrated by the auction of Rabindranath Tagore's paintings. But then again, art should never be confined to any one country or society, but belong to the world at large.








The report that the Government of Pakistan's Punjab province granted as much as Rs 82.77 million to the Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h makes one thing clear: It is not just the Directorate-General of Inter-Services Intelligence and the Pakistani Army that promote terrorism. Political parties — even the ones that swear by their desire to have friendly ties with India — are complicit. The Government of Pakistan's Punjab is led by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), or PML(N), and is headed by Mr Shahbaz Sharif, brother of Mr Nawaz Sharif. Of the total amount granted, Rs 79 million has gone to Markaz-e-Tayyeba, which houses the headquarters of the JuD. The rest has gone to schools the JuD runs in the different districts of Punjab. The Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the JuD are umbilically linked. The former emerged in 1990 as the terrorist arm of the fundamentalist organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h-Wal-Irshad (JuDI).

The LeT was banned in Pakistan in January 2002. It formally wound itself as well as the JUDI up after that but reincarnated itself as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h immediately thereafter. More, it continued to function from its massive headquarters at Muridke near Lahore. It remained flush with funds, having withdrawn most of these from banks prior to proscription, and collecting donations from not only at home but the Pakistani diaspora in West Asia and Europe besides the subventions it received from the ISI.

There has been a slew of international sanctions. Britain banned the LeT on March 1, 2001 along with the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. The US Department of State named the LeT as a foreign terrorist organisation on December 26, 2001. The United Nations Security Council banned it on May 2, 2005. The United States Department of Treasury named four of its leaders — Ameer Hafiz Mohammad Saeed; Operations Commander Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi; chief of finance Haji Mohammad Ashraf; and, fund collector Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq — under Executive Order 13224 which targets terrorists and those providing financial, technological or material support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

Finally, in the aftermath of 26/11, the UN Security Council banned the JuD on December 10, 2008, by listing it as an alias of the LeT and designated Saeed, Lakhvi, Ashraf and Bahaziq as foreign terrorists.

The Law Minister in Pakistani Punjab, Mr Rana Sanaulla, who admitted to the financial grant being made to JuD and MeT, has explained that it had been done after the JuD had been banned — and an administrator appointed by the Government — in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008. The purpose was for the continuance of the social welfare services provided by the schools, dispensaries and hospitals set up by the JuD. The trouble is that Mr Sanaullah has been under the scanner for his links with banned terrorist groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, which severely undermines the credibility of his statement. Nor does the fact that the appointment of an administrator by the Government of Pakistan's Punjab has stopped the JuD and the organisations spawned by it from perpetrating terrorist acts. On the contrary, Pakistan continues to preserve and promote the LeT as one of its instruments for dismembering India through cross-border terrorism and stoking separatist movements and for keeping India out of Afghanistan.

In a despatch published in the New York Times of June 15, Alissa J Rubin states, "Officially, Pakistan says it no longer supports or finances the group. But Lashkar's expanded activities in Afghanistan, particularly against Indian targets, prompt suspicions that it has become one of Pakistan's proxies to counteract India's influence in the country." She adds, "They provide yet another indicator of the extent to which Pakistani militants are working to shape the outcome of the Afghan war as the July 2011 deadline approaches to begin withdrawing American troops." Her despatch continues, "A recent Pentagon report to Congress on Afghanistan listed Lashkar as one of the major extremist threats here. In Congressional testimony in March by Pakistan experts, the group was described as having ambitions well beyond India."

Ms Rubin quotes a senior NATO intelligence officer, whom she interviewed, as stating on the condition of anonymity that the LeT was now active in six or eight provinces in Afghanistan. According to him, "They are currently most interested in Indian targets here, but they can readily trade attacks on international targets for money or influence or an alliance with other groups," he said. She further cites a number of experts as saying that the LeT presents more of a threat than even Al Qaeda as its members are from the region and are less readily identified and less resented than the Arabs who make up Al Qaeda's ranks. Experts also say that the LeT's capabilities have grown in recent years following the relocation of many of its operations to Pakistan's tribal areas where it trades intelligence, training and expertise with Al Qaeda, Taliban and Sirajuddin Haqqani's insurgency network.

As the case of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana and other instances of the LeT's activities show, its tentacles extend not only to Afghanistan but the world over. While India has so far been the principal target not only at home and Afghanistan, there is no reason that the United States or European countries can view the development with indifference. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the Amir, whether directly or by proxy at any given point of time, of the LeT-JuD web of organisations, is pathologically anti-West, specifically anti-American. In Descent into Chaos: How the War against Islamic Extremism is being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Ahmed Rashid quotes Hafiz Mohammad Saeed as saying, "The powerful Western world is terrorising Muslims. We are being invaded, humiliated, manipulated and looted. How else can we respond but through jihad? We must fight against the evil trio, the United States, Israel and India. Suicide missions are in accordance with Islam. In fact, suicide attack is the best form of jihad."

This is just one of the many similar statements by Saeed, who remains at large. Meanwhile LeT-US clashes have begun. Ms Rubin's report mentions a joint American-Afghan Special Operations force killed nine militants and captured one following a firefight in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. It quotes a senior American military official as stating that all of them were Pakistanis and "a concentration of them were LeT".







Emotion is defined as a mental state having to do with the arousal of strong feelings such as love, fear or anger. Intellect is the ability to learn and reason and the capacity for knowledge and understanding. Knowledge and experience are key factors in shaping one's intelligence.

Both are equally important. The question is: What should be the deciding factor in any activity that we undertake? The answer is simple: Intelligence. Why? Let us see what happens on a regular basis in our lives.

When we speak, do we say what is in our best interest or keep quiet because that would have been wise? No! We speak first and then suffer the consequences. Do we watch, especially on television, what serves us well and does not pollute our consciousness? No! We routinely watch that which is positively harmful. How about reading? How many of us read scriptures at all, never mind routinely? The same goes for writing where we try and evoke emotions in the minds of our readers rather than share wisdom. How do we choose marriage partners? What about the choice of friends?

Do we ever befriend someone who is critical of us? Rarely, for most of us are addicted to the effects of flattery. Hear any preacher and you will notice that he or she is more interested in rousing your emotions rather than helping you link with god. How do we deal with others — with wisdom or emotion? What does such an approach do to us? It gets us in trouble. We get sidetracked from our goals. We do not achieve all that we could have and we do not progress in life.

Let us first accept that emotions will always be there. They have an invaluable role in our lives. But they should be tempered with intelligence as and when required. One should gather as much knowledge as possible and apply it. In short, one should weigh all emotions against the call of our intellect before taking any decision. What would be the result of such an exercise? Our lives will move in a steady upward curve, without violent ups and downs. Now, isn't that what we really want?








On the night of June 25, 1975 I had dinner with Jayaprakash Narayanan (JP) and a few others. Nanaji Deshmukh had asked me to be with JP for the entire day so that I could ensure that JP would come to Ramlila Maidan at exactly 6 pm.

I knew JP ever since he and his wife, Prabha, had visited Harvard University in 1968, where I was a young professor of economics then. JP was in my care for three days, and I had arranged his public programmes for Indian audiences. JP took a great liking for me, and so when I returned to India to teach, at his behest I had to spend six months in Madurai district as a Sarvodaya worker.

It was I who introduced Nanaji to JP, and was instrumental in preparing JP's mind over three years 1970-73 to associate Jana Sangh with his student movement in Bihar. I was a Jana Sangh office-bearer from 1971 onwards till its merger with the Janata Party in 1977.

On that fateful day of June 25, JP was to address with Morarji Desai a mammoth public meeting that Nanaji was organising to demand Indira Gandhi's resignation. Her election to the Lok Sabha had been set aside by Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha, a Judge of the Allahabad High Court hearing the petition filed by Raj Narain.

But arranging the Ramlila Maidan public meeting had led to a clash of egos between the two stern Gandhians, JP and Morarjibhai, over a typically Gandhian issue of punctuality. The Delhi Jan Sangh president, Madanlal Khurana, had in the posters put 5 pm as the time of the public meeting. JP felt it would be too hot at that time in summer for the people to come, so he said that he would come at 8 pm. But Morarji, being a stickler for punctuality, insisted that he would turn up at 5 pm and if JP did not arrive by then, he would leave the meeting and go home. Thus there was a crisis, and Nanaji wanted me to resolve this cold war between these two leaders.

As a result I spent the whole of June 25 shuttling between short spells with a curt Morarji at Dupleix Road ( now known as Kamaraj Marg) and long discourses with smiling JP at Rouse Avenue (Deendayal Upadhyaya Marg), and finally resolved that both would come at 6 pm. I was then given the task to further ensure that JP does not change his mind and that I accompany him to the podium, and sit next to him.

I recall this today to emphasise that the problems that we, who had opposed Indira Gandhi (Mrs G-I) faced, were much simpler then than the problems that the Opposition faces in countering Sonia Gandhi (Mrs. G-II) today. In fact the triviality of the quarrel as to what time to arrive at the public meeting highlights that there was no difficulty in taking a stand on fundamentally important issues.

To begin with, there were then only a few in the Opposition who were ambivalent whether or not to oppose the policies of Mrs G-I and her government. There were some who were, but they were the exceptions. Opposition, therefore, to Mrs G-I posed no dilemma.

But in the Emergency, paradoxically the process of political sanitisation of the Opposition had begun. Some could not bear the tribulations of the prison, and had written apology letters which were later used to blackmail them when Mrs. G-I was out of office.

Today with Mrs G-II the situation has become truly Byzantinian. It has turned 180 degrees from what the situation was in the 1970s. Since 1998, the era of political "match fixing" between leaders of the ruling and Opposition parties began in full swing.

Now, we see the spectacle of Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, Lalu Prasad and many others in the Opposition seeking favours from Mrs G-II to escape from criminal prosecution or assurance that their illegal foreign bank accounts are not made public. By this, the Opposition is diluted and in turn the ruling party's atrocities remain unexposed. The weak protest against the Spectrum allocation if contrasted with the relative miniscule Bofors corruption brings this cartelisation or match fixing of politics.

This match fixing has been extended to elections too whereby a weak candidate can be clandestinely — and for a price — assured for an Opposition stalwart and vice versa. The media, which could rip apart these sordid deals and expose them, is shackled by a lack of Opposition follow up in Parliament and the Assemblies. This enables the government to be the predator with the media barons, and even sometimes for media persons, life-threatening.

The judiciary is affected by this match fixing. Who would, in the loneliness of the judicial chamber, want to be left holding the bag in a life and death case? It is therefore unlikely to see a Jagmohanlal Sinha in these circumstances of today.

One consequence of these cozy relationships is that the will to fight and oppose is sapped. During the 1970s there was a zest to fight. We saw Chandrashekhar, Jyotirmoy Basu, Madhu Limaye, and even Raj Narain who made those sitting on the government benches in Parliament shiver when they stood up. Walkouts were rare. Adjournments almost never happened. Today, walkouts are routine and adjournments frequent, making it very convenient for all concerned.

Central Hall was a crowded and lively place in the 1970s, where there was animated discussion on issues. Today, it is as dull and sparsely populated — as it was during the Emergency. Most discussions revolve around who is close to Sonia and who has fallen out of her favour. No Congress MP would today like to be noticed sitting sipping coffee with anyone she does not like. In the 1970s it was not like that.

There is thus a disguised replication of the Emergency today, and there is not any political formation which is ready to take on this Emergency-like situation frontally. This also can be seen in media manipulation, which is de-facto censorship. This deemed censorship has been compounded by the 24/7 news channels which need to fill time slots to earn advertising revenue. The constant repetition of an embroidered truth, or a dressed up falsehood makes it the whole truth.

The demonisation of Narendra Modi is an example of perverse and de facto press censorship through media management. Modi may or may not be an angel, nevertheless he has produced an economic miracle unparalleled in the history of any state, including the progressive Gujarat itself.

But there no balance in slandering of Modi that goes on, day in and day out orchestrated in a section of the media with clear links to Mrs G-II.

The Gujarat riots of course are a shame on any society, but why does nobody refer to Godhra? Or what about responsibility for the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, not to mention the contrived Operation Blue Star that destroyed the Akal Takht? Has either Rajiv Gandhi and Mrs Gandhi-I been targeted the way has Modi been? Clearly such targeting would not be possible unless there was a de facto press censorship.

In the 1975-77 period, we had a tested leadership who were Freedom Fighters such as JP and Morarji, backed by the organisation of the RSS that survived the Emergency by going underground. The situation was also sharply defined between those who wanted democracy and those who thought that India did not deserve it.

Today the situation is much more pernicious. We have the form of democracy but its content has been corroded. We have leaders who failed to live up to the main promises they had made to the people and lack the legacy which JP and Morarji had. A pall of cynicism and despair has descended on the middle class, who now think freedom is not in peril because we were victorious against the Emergency. Democracy they think is a settled fact in India.

Thus, those in power do not have to declare an Emergency to be above the law and hollow out democracy. The struggle against the Emergency thus paradoxically has produced a complacency which will debilitate civil society and make it impotent when the de facto Emergency is finally acknowledged and it becomes necessary to oppose it.

The writer is president, Janata Party








Every five years we recall the summer of 1975 when the history of modern India was given a wholly new course by Indira Gandhi through the imposition of the Emergency. Now it is time for reminiscing on the 35th anniversary of that fated day, June 25, 1975 and I do so with grave forebodings because the passage of time has eroded much of our moral high ground vis-a-vis that ugly period. It is possible now to be a little more truthful than before, not only because many of the actors of that era have passed on, but also for the fact that we may be moving towards the juxtaposition of circumstances that may prove fortuitous for the inheritors of Indira Gandhi's political legacy to clamp another Emergency on us.

But I begin by using my vantage point as an official in Parliament House to stress a point which has so long gone unacknowledged by people arbitrating on what future generations should know about the Emergency. I was then the Director of the Records and Research section of Parliament and can vouchsafe that Indira Gandhi did not deviate from the essential of the letter and spirit of the Constitution. It must be placed on record that she kept both houses of Parliament functional throughout the 21-month period. And any scholar today would marvel at the freedom with which MPs discussed the functioning of government during the period and even got away criticising the Emergency. Wonder of wonders, nobody ordered me to excise the speeches of Somnath Chatterjee and Purushottam Ganesh Mavalankar. At the height of the Emergency the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution was celebrated by, among other things, the publication of a commemorative volume of essays. This 700-page document was released in 1976 and at least four of the contributors — Chatterjee, Ashoke Kumar Sen, Rabi Ray and Mannulal Dwivedi — wrote articles critical of the way civil liberties and fundamental freedoms were being undermined by zealous officials. Sen, who was a leading Congress figure, reiterated: "It is for the government to ensure that all powers to the Executive flows from Parliament."

Today, the worst excesses of the Emergency are recalled, and rightly too because we must ensure that it never happens again. But they don't tell the entire story because those who followed Indira Gandhi did not permanently secure India from another round of abuse. How many of the new generation are aware that despite the 44th Amendment to the Constitution (1978), we are still at the mercy of the Indian political classes' undemocratic tendencies? The Constitutional legitimacy of the 1975 Emergency, which gave a government the right to declare suspension of the Fundamental Rights in the event of external aggression and internal disturbances, can still be invoked because the 44th Amendment retained the essential privilege of an entrenched regime to interpret the precondition of "armed rebellion" in its favour. The leeway seized by Indira Gandhi in turning Jayaprakash Narayan's movement to her advantage could, hypothetically, be repeated by the increasingly unpopular UPA-2 with Maoist insurgency. In 1975, all that was necessary was a communication from the Prime Minister to the President impressing upon the highest office the gravity of the situation. The 44th Amendment gave that power to the Cabinet — and everybody knows how powerless the will of the Cabinet is before the temper of the Prime Minister.

I was awakened to this problem recently at a closed-door meeting of intellectuals and retired administrators convened by a senior minister of UPA-2. It was an off-the-record session, organised ostensibly to discuss the performance of the government at the end of its first year in office. The minister, after his harangue on the "achievements", finally asked each of those present for their opinions. Surprisingly, not even one of the assembled persons had anything positive to say about the way UPA-2 has gone about its work and most of them even added some grim prognosis. This left the minister visibly irritated and he remarked in his summing-up reply: "If all of you hold this opinion of the government and if what you say is true, then it only shows that another Emergency is necessary."

This only shows how skin deep is our political rulers' commitment to democratic ideals. Those who rest assured that nobody would "dare" impose another Emergency on this nation has, to begin with, a very flawed understanding of our political class. As I had lived and worked under the Emergency, I can say with authority that the common man's perception of democracy and its actors is so dim today that he would not really protest if firm steps are taken to discipline the 'masters' and make them behave as true 'servants' of the people. The primal concern of the aam admi is his narrow set of needs. That is why, the aam admi still nurtures fond memories of the Emergency period because it was the only time in the history of free India when trains ran on time; the bureaucrats were accountable for shoddy services; corruption was under check and the rule of Law prevailed in most aspects of life. Apart from the chattering classes in Delhi and some state capitals no one had any complaints about Press censorship and the detention of senior political leaders. The latter was even sanctioned under the Constitution. As for Press censorship, L.K. Advani's famous observation on the role of the media during the Emergency ("You were asked to bend but you crawled") still rings true. Today, the credibility of the India Press is at rock bottom and everybody sees it as just another commercial activity.

The excesses committed by Sanjay Gandhi and some officials made the Emergency very unpopular from the beginning of the second half of 1976. Most of the crimes were committed in the name of "Madam" with the big boss herself unaware of them. It is difficult to see an otherwise astute leader like her allowing atrocities to be committed on the Muslims and backward castes, the same who constituted the biggest vote block of the Congress. Also, because south India was largely free of the Sanjay menace, the electoral fortunes of the Congress in that part of India were not as bad as in the north. The Congress won most of its 153 seats there and its principal ally, MGR's ADMK, won 19 seats in Tamil Nadu.

So, the length of time and breadth of vision afforded to us by the 35th anniversary should be seized to introspect on whether or not we have been honest to ourselves on the history of the Emergency. The growing hiatus between the politically powerful and the powerless, the yawning rich-poor divide and the collapse of the moral binding of the Indian State breeds public yearning for dictators. And any smart ruling party could seize the opportunities afforded by the loopholes in the 44th Amendment.

The writer is former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha








The first hint of the impending national tragedy came my way on June 26, 1975 when I switched on the radio to listen to the news but found to my surprise the Prime Minister speaking about the imposition of Emergency and arrest of "some" leaders to save the nation from "impending chaos." There was no mention of press censorship. I spoke to some senior Opposition leaders as they were being rounded up in Rohtak — the Haryana town where I was a Staff Correspondent of The Tribune — and members of the civil society and filed a story on the widespread indignation against the imposition of internal emergency.

Within minutes, my news editor was on the line shouting at me for my "indiscretion" and informing me that censorship had been imposed. As a precaution, I didn't spend the night at my place. Next morning, the police raided my residence but couldn't find me. I escaped to Delhi in a truck and sent a telex message to the newspaper office asking for advice. Pat came the reply, "Editor wants you to stick to your guns". It was an order to get arrested.

My wife was furious. Ignoring my pleas, she went to meet the editor at his residence. He refused to see her but his wife asked her to persuade me to surrender to the police immediately lest the editor was made to suffer for "hiding" me. "My husband is unwell and old. He wouldn't survive a jail term. Your husband is young and sturdy, he can withstand prison hardships," is how the editor's wife put it. My wife was shocked but not I. I knew my editor had a golden pen but feet of clay. He wrote stinging editorials against Mrs Gandhi after her election was invalidated by the Allahabad High Court but changed track after the imposition of Emergency and wrote that she was "steel-willed" and had "saved the nation from disruptive elements."

After my arrest under MISA, the newspaper ordered the disconnection of the telephone at my residence and released my salary for the period I was under illegal detention only after Mrs Gandhi lost the election. This was how a newspaper run by a public trust behaved during the Emergency. The mighty of the media shamelessly surrendered before the dictator. This is not to say that a few journalists did not fail to wage a sustained battle against the Emergency and press censorship.

I had established contacts with the leaders of the underground movement before I went back home to enable the police to arrest me. These contacts were maintained throughout the Emergency with the help of my six-year-old daughter — Shuchita — who would smuggle into the jail underground literature during my family's fortnightly meetings with me in Mahendergarh Sub-Jail. Throughout my period of incarceration I received information about the government excesses, public outrage and underground activities. Thanks to my daughter, who was nick-named "smuggler" by the inmates, we also sent out articles and commentaries on the Emergency which were carried in the weekly, Darpan, which was clandestinely printed and circulated throughout Haryana by the underground.

Immediately after I was arrested under MISA, I was served with a notice informing me of the "grounds" of my detention. The only reason advanced by the government was that on the afternoon of June 23, 1975, I had addressed a secret meeting of youth in the compound of a local college in which I provoked them to resort to violence to throw out the government. I decided to challenge the grounds to expose the official lies. I wrote back that on that particular day I was on a professional visit to Karnal to do a story, had had lunch with the Deputy Commissioner at his residence and had filed my story from the office of a local paper called Karnal Telegraph in the evening. All these facts were verifiable. Within a fortnight, the jailer told me he had received my release orders. As co-prisoners gathered to give me a send-off, the jailer confided in me that a police officer was waiting outside to re-arrest me under a new warrant under MISA. The Emergency regime had since amended the Law and there was no requirement to provide grounds of detention to persons arrested under MISA.

I had a rather busy schedule during my prison days. I read some 300 books, kept a diary and exercised for about two hours daily, besides listening to BBC, VOI, Radio Moscow and AIR on my transistor. For some months, with the help of a co-prisoner, I brought out a tri-weekly, bi-lingual wall paper. It became popular as it carried news gathered from various radio stations, commentaries on the happenings in the country and juicy news about the incidents inside the jail.

The inmates enjoyed the sharp criticism of the Emergency regime but a former MP took serious objection to a report in the paper that he had violated a norm by clandestinely eating mangoes without sharing them with other inmates. He made such a hue and cry, that we decided to stop bringing out the newspaper. So much for the commitment to Press freedom by the same people who oozed opposition to press censorship imposed by the Emergency regime.

-The writer is Columnist and Director, Indian Media Centre









JUSTICE S N Dhingra's lambasting of the Delhi police for their failure to protect young people who marry against their parents' wishes or elope is very much in order. He is right to observe that our policemen often look the other way when young couples are hounded, even killed, by backward- minded guardians in the name of family honour.


The case Justice Dhingra was hearing is a case in point. A girl had run away from home and had sought protection of the court against her parents who she feared would kill her were they to know that she was pregnant.


The man she had eloped with is in jail on charges of rape filed by the girl's family on the alleged ground that the girl was a minor.


The same policemen, who shoo away hapless poor people who want a case registered for a crime, promptly arrested the boy without even verifying if the girl was a minor. Incidentally, the Delhi Legal Service Authority which is fighting the girl's case has medical records to prove the girl is above the age of 17.


This is not a one- off case. It is quite common to hear of boys who run away with a girl being locked up by the police on rape charges while the girl's family wreaks vengeance on her. That policemen often connive with the girl's family in such cases was evident in the Manoj- Babli case of 2007 where cops entrusted with protecting the couple leaked their whereabouts, leading to their murder.


Clearly, most of our policemen harbour the same prejudices that push people to kill for " honour". Someone has to tell them that the law has a different take on this issue, and that they are custodians of the law.







THE Bhopal gas tragedy and the terrorist bombing of the Air India Boeing 747 Kanishka in 1985 have one thing in common— they are both yet to provide closure for the victims. While Bhopal has its living dead— the generation that has lived with the physical consequences of breathing the poison gas— the kin of those killed in the Kanishka bear the psychological scars left over from the tragic loss of their near and dear ones and the shoddy handling of the affair by the Canadian government.


Though the airliner was Indian, most of those traveling on the aircraft were Canadian citizens. The conspiracy to place the bomb on board was hatched in Canada by Canadian nationals and the report by the commission headed by Justice John Major acknowledged on Thursday that the Canadian government, particularly its security services, could have done much more to prevent the tragedy.


A series of missteps and downright sloppy work resulted in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service ( CSIS) ignoring definite warnings of a terrorist conspiracy by Khalistani Sikhs in the Vancouver area. After the bombing, the two not only misled each other but the Canadian authorities. The candour of the commission's findings and an acknowledgement of the fault of the government agencies should bring partial closure to the kin of the dead in India and Canada.


Tell us if you have kissed

ONCE again, the Ambani brothers have left the world guessing as to whether they have finally made up, in a state of truce or still at war. For most Indians, any of these scenarios provide fascinating entertainment. After all, the brothers are two of the richest Indians on the planet and have a combined business footprint touching nearly every aspect of dayto- day life in the country. For the country as a whole, though, as well as the 12 million odd ordinary shareholders of the various companies in their empires, it means much more.


Since the formal carving up of Dhirubhai Ambani's legacy five years ago, a significant part of the energies and managerial bandwidth in both the Mukesh and Anil Ambani groups has been diverted to scoring points in the battle between the feuding brothers.


Other shareholders, and, arguably, the economy, have lost out as a result. If they are indeed at peace, the two owe it to the nation and their shareholders — to affirm this unambiguously in public, and get on with what they do best — creating wealth. For themselves, their shareholders and the nation.








PRAKASH Jha's Raajneeti , riding on the aura of India's First Family in politics, has been bringing in the crowds in a manner that recalls a longago, pre- multiplex, pre- popcorn era when audiences actually thronged large cinema halls and catcalled or whistled from the front stalls.


It is the popularity that the film seems to enjoy that demands a deeper engagement with it. If Raajneeti had sunk without a trace, what it seeks to project and portray would hardly have mattered. But in the full splendour of stereophonic sound and 70 mm breadth, with Sachin Krishn's lenses capturing the heat and dust of un- named but distinctly heartland India with great verisimilitude and Jha himself appearing to be a Coppola on speed, it becomes important to hit the pause button and re- consider the film.


All the more because the film's audiences defy definition — Raajneeti has won enthusiastic reception across the spectrums of class and region. It has done well in both metropolitan India and small town India; in the peninsula and among the Indian diaspora abroad.




So the question: Is this extraordinary success a public endorsement of the view that Indian democracy is a hollow, feudal and corrupted thing; that it is just an elaborate charade to hoodwink the great unwashed of this vast land? Because that, decidedly, is the central message of the film, going by the unsavoury array of blood- thirsty politicians it showcases. Its heroes behave like villains, and its villains occasionally conduct themselves like heroes, but both categories think nothing of blowing up cars that carry their opponents — making it look as easy as dialing a number on a mobile phone! They bludgeon their enemies with baseball clubs, hurl blood- curdling abuses at each other, yowl for revenge or quietly conjure up situations that Genghis Khan may have done at a particularly clairvoyant moment.


In the Raajneeti version of Indian democracy, elections exist to bring the already powerful to power once again. Their verdicts are decided by controlling officials and by manipulating electronic voting machines. In the process, the 714 million voters of the country have been reduced to a pastiche of faces, mere dusty hordes watching helicopters land, running widely through village bylanes or screaming approval of what a khadi- clad leader pronounces from the stage. The political stage, incidentally, is always dramatically projected as larger than life by Jha, perhaps to symbolise the overweening presence that politics has in the life of the country.


This is not, of course, to say that there is nothing in the film that recalls contemporary politics in India. No one would dispute that the political malevolence portrayed in Raajneeti is present in today's India. But it is certainly not the whole reality. And there lies the conundrum.


The film's treatment is disturbing precisely because it presents itself as a credible representation of Indian politics as a whole. It does this by cannibalising bits and pieces from events that are still fresh in living memory — as, for instance, images from the funerals of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi — and mounting them so cannily as to appear faithful to the original.



Such ersatz reality is used to devastating effect in the film's portrayal of women in politics. Here you have the Katrina Kaif figure clad in saris, waving to crowds, climbing on to the political dais and speaking into mikes in close mimicry of a Sonia Gandhi. But if one were to go by the Raajneeti narrative, women exist in Indian politics only to consolidate the power built by patriarchal and feudal forces and have no agency of their own.


Indeed, they can only merge in the political arena in one of three ways. By allowing themselves to become puppets in the hands of the men who control them and who decide when and how they should make their appearance before the public — as in the case of Indu Pratap Singh, played by Katrina Kaif with her oh- so- Sonia mannerisms. She is buffeted around thanks to the machinations of her recalcitrant boyfriend and the ambitions of a wealthy father. Two, by prostituting themselves like the female politician from Sitapur, played by Shruti Seth, who wears her sari pallav on her sleeve and spends her free time shopping in malls.


The lady will do anything for a " ticket" to contest the elections, and she adopts her patrons and betrays them depending on who is in power. Three, by remaining behind the scenes and mothering political dynasties, steadfastly turning their backs on their own needs and ambitions, and assiduously protecting the interests of their ' legitimate', political children, much like the character played by Nikhila Trikha.


In fact, it is striking that the only woman character in the film to display a spark of independent will and social concern in Raajneeti is unsurprisingly a foreigner — the Irish American girlfriend of the protagonist played by Sarah Thomp- son — who tries at least to intervene and save a woman from being abducted before her eyes. Her Indian counterparts, in contrast, just hunker down, shut their eyes to the mayhem that is happening around them, and play the roles that are assigned to them.


These women are ringing endorsements of the oft- heard argument that women are essentially non- serious about politics and really have no place in Indian democracy.


Which is why the question whether the popularity of Raajneeti lies in its qualities of cinematic persuasion or in its ability to faithfully mirror the popular view of politics and political women in the country, becomes important. If it is the latter case, then there are disturbing implications for Indian democracy in general and, more specifically, for women's participation as equal partners in the political sphere.



Today, 17 years after the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments became the law of the land, there is unassailable evidence from the ground that women have — in innumerable panchayats and municipalities across the country — become independent agents of change, articulating the interests of ordinary people.


In spite of this and despite 14 years of activism over the Women's Reservation Bill, there continues to be great resistance to the emergence of women as people's representatives in state assemblies and Parliament. The portrayal of political women in such a retrograde manner in Raajneeti only goes to buttress a patriarchal political status quo at a time when the Women's Reservation Bill hangs in a limbo awaiting the Lok Sabha's nod and political parties seem prepared to give it a quiet burial yet again.


When the Women's Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha in March, Lalu Prasad Yadav, the Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo, had declared that he would allow the Women's Bill to be passed in the Lok Sabha only over his dead body.


His other great comrade- in- arms in this battle, Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav, had even stated that the Bill would destroy Indian democracy.


Today, the two stalwarts may just as well distribute free tickets to Raajneeti to get their point across. It makes the same argument, and does it so much more convincingly.

The writer is director, Women's Feature Service









GROAN! Not another 600- word whatchamacallit on that thingamajig called iPhone 4. We are bored of it already. Yeah, yeah, we all know that it is the best thing to happen to mankind since the baker who thought of slicing his loaves of bread thus eliminating at least one knife from kitchens.


But really, that's not the objective of this column, I swear. The Apple iPhone 4 is not even out in the market yet, and it won't be in India for another four months at least.


And even when it arrives, our telecom operators would have only just moved to a 3G network.


Upgrading to 4G is going to be one hard ride.


That, however, should not stop us from being prepared. Which is why, this column is about the HTC Evo 4G, a phone that was released in the US on June 4, four days after the announcement of the Apple iPhone 4 and 20 days before its launch on June 24, a date that eventually may be pushed to July 12 because of the unprecedented demand. In complete contrast with the fanfare that accompanied the iPhone 4 launch, the Taiwanese telecom manufacturer launched its Evo in the quietest manner possible. But can it match up to the iPhone 4? In three words, the answer is: It sure can. And in some feature sets, it's even better than the iPhone 4. There is one small problem, though. Purists don't call it a 4G phone yet; its protocol is half a notch below actual 4G speeds. But who cares as long as it is faster than 3G? And yes, just in case you wondered whether the iPhone 4 has 4G network access, no, it doesn't.


Compare the two phones. The iPhone 4 has a 3.5 inch display; the Evo 4G has a 4.3 inch screen. Both phones have a dual camera set up for live videocalling, but the iPhone 4 camera is only 5- megapixel while the Evo camera has 8- megapixel resolution.


Apple has not specified the front camera resolution; the Evo has a 1.3 megapixel camera in the front. Not bad.


Both phones have live videocalling, but the iPhone Facetime video calls are restricted to Wi- Fi networks and Apple said it is working on building new software that will allow it to run over the 3G network too. The HTC Evo is evolved; it already works on 3G and 4G networks.


And it is as sexy as the iPhone 4.


Well, perhaps not as sexy, but it comes close. Real close.


Y OU know what all of this means, right? It's simple; for the first time since Apple decided to reinvent itself, it is facing the strongest competition in terms of design as well as in content and engineering. As renowned technology writer David Pogue said in his review of the Evo in the New York Times on Thursday: " It's another great- looking, blazingly fast app phone made by HTC and running Google's Android operating system.


Android gives the phone more complexity than the iPhone ( its obvious rival), but also provides some sensational features: speech recognition that lets you type by speaking, almost anywhere; an excellent, free turnby- turn GPS navigation program; and a wireless app store stocked with more than 70,000 little programs." And lest we forget, it can also run Flash video content which means you can access most of the videos that are on the Web.


The iPhone can't because of its CEO Steve Jobs' hatred for Flash and love for the rival software called HTML5.


Meanwhile, another review on Engadget added: " A big, big part of the EVO's draw is the 8 megapixel autofocus camera with dual LED flash and— drum roll, please— yes, 720p video recording. The shots had a little bit more splotchiness and noise ( er, make that noise reduction) than we would've liked, but they still looked just great scaled down to monitor size; as with pretty much any phone camera, you're not going to want to blow these up and frame them for an art exhibition." The guys at HTC are leaving no stone unturned to beat the iPhone 4. In that quest, they have already beaten the Palm Pre. Perhaps the iPhone 4 next?



IF SOMEONE told you that it is text and pictures that are going to drive the Web, tell him to go take a hike. The only reason that broadband is in such great demand is video. Make no mistake. In the US alone, each user averages 15 terabytes of video bandwidth consumption a month. India is not too far behind, at least from anecdotal evidence since there is no definitive survey of online video usage.


Anyway, this post is not about online video consumption, but what you can do with it. Or at least what you can do on YouTube, the world's top online video sharing site. It has introduced an online video editing software that will allow users to post their videos online and edit them on the go, without the help of any additional software.


In a post published on the official YouTube blog, parent company Google said: " Video editing usually requires installing software packages and having a fair amount of technical savvy. But we think video editing should be fun and easy, so we're introducing a new tool that anyone could figure out: it's an online video editor, now available in Test- Tube, our ideas incubator.


Without installing any software, it allows you to:


Combine multiple videos you've uploaded to create a new longer video


Trim the beginning and/ or ending of your videos


Add soundtracks from our AudioSwap library of tens of thousands of songs


Create new videos without worrying about file formats and publish them to YouTube with one click — no upload necessary." Perhaps it is time that Apple CEO Steve Jobs forgot his hatred for Flash


( Apple iPhone users, therefore cannot watch most online videos) and get going on introducing online video.


3D on your gaming device? Why not?

NINTENDO Wii is possibly the world's largest gaming console, outselling both Microsoft's Xbox 360 as well as Sony's PlayStation3. But now, it is reportedly adding a feature that will scare the pants out of Wii's rivals— 3D. At the Electronics Entertainment Expo ( or E3) in Los Angeles, Nintendo released the Nintendo 3dS. A report in the Wall Street Journal says: " Most 3- D technologies create the illusion of depth on a flat screen by presenting different images to the left and right eye, typically using special glasses. Creating the effect using a display alone— a technology called autostereoscopic 3- D— is more difficult. One challenge is that the images generated by such displays can appear blurry, particularly when viewed at an angle." It added: " Since TV is typically viewed by more than one person at various angles and distances, most companies rolling out 3- D TVs have opted for battery- powered glasses to present different images to each eye. TV makers have said it will be at least five years before a glassesfree 3- D television will be ready for mass production." What the release of James Cameron's Avatar has done is to inspire those who were in the entertainment industry to go 3D and make it work!







THIS is good news for students aspiring to be engineers or doctors.


A common entrance exam will soon replace the AIEEE ( All India Engineering Entrance Examination) and the AIPMT ( All India Pre- Medical Test) conducted by the CBSE. With the aim to de- stress students by reducing the multiplicity of entrance exams, the new combined test should be in place as early as next year.


Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal, who chaired the state education ministers' conference in the Capital on Friday, said: " The states have shared our childcentric vision of education." He added that the government was working towards putting in place a common exam for students after Class XII that would test their aptitude.


Sibal said students opting for the medical sciences would appear for a


paper in biology and those opting for engineering would appear for a paper in maths, while physics and chemistry would be common for both.


" There is no need for two exams," he said. " We are currently debating whether it is possible to have a common exam after class XII that will test general awareness and aptitude. This will reduce the burden on students," he added.


The minister said " the intention is to give weightage to Class XII marks" which, along with the common test, would be the admission criteria in colleges and universities.


The marks of different boards could be equalised through a mathematical formula for weightage.


Sibal said even the Indian Institutes of Technology ( IIT), which are making changes in their admission process, would give greater weightage to Class XII marks. " The IITs feel they are not getting the best of students as coaching is expensive and lots of rural talent gets left out," the minister said.


Emphasis on Class XII marks would also enable students from economically weak sections to join the elite institutes.


Sibal stressed that all this was being debated and the scheme was yet to be worked out, after which it would be discussed with the states. " We are trying to have a system under which students will not have to appear for exam after exam. We want to test the students' intelligence and aptitude," he said.


Apart from this, Sibal stressed on the common core curriculum for science and maths.


The Council of Boards of School Education ( COBSE) has already prepared a common curriculum for science and maths and Sibal exhorted the state boards to adopt the curriculum.


This would help hold a common entrance test and create a level playing field, he said.


As the exam content needed to be changed continually, the minister said the government was setting up a National Institute for Assessment and Evaluation.


This would act as an advisory body and help school boards develop systems of evaluation.


As education should not be confined to textbooks, Sibal spoke of compulsory physical education. And students would also need to inculcate value education, for which a national curriculum framework will be developed. With the states on board, Sibal announced the above points as the agenda for his ministry in 2010- 2011.


Maoist ' wanted' in Gujarat held in Capital




A SUSPECTED Maoist, who is alleged to have played a key role in setting up the state committee of the banned outfit CPI ( Maoist) in Gujarat, was arrested from Delhi, the police said on Friday.


Abdul Shakeel Pasha was arrested by a team of the Delhi Police special cell from R. K. Puram in south district, a senior officer said.


The Gujarat Police had circulated a look- out notice against Pasha, who was living in the Capital. He was allegedly involved in organising Maoist activities in Surat district.


According to the police, Pasha, who is a lawyer and member of several human rights organisations, is in charge of the state area committee of the banned outfit. " We came to know about Pasha during investigation of a case registered a few months ago against several persons. Eleven of them were arrested for indulging in Maoist activities in the state," Surat range inspector- general A. K. Singh said. " It emerged during investigation that Pasha, who was a high- ranking cadre in the former People's War Group before its merger with the Maoist Communist Centre of India in 2004, had played a key role in setting up of state committee of the CPI ( Maoist) in Gujarat," he added.


He also looked after recruitment of cadres for the banned outfit in the state, and described his arrest as a significant catch.




SPENDING extra doesn't really matter if it helps you retain a sprawling bungalow in Lutyens' Delhi.


Ask Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan.


The " mass leader" from Bihar, who had once made it to the Guinness Book of Records for winning an election with a record margin, suffered a humiliating defeat in the last Lok Sabha polls. The shock was compounded because the Dalit leader's 12 Janpath abode of many years came under threat. Paswan was expected to vacate it but he opted to pay the rent at market rates for several months after the poll results. Now that he has finally managed to enter the Rajya Sabha with help from Lalu Prasad, Paswan can heave a sigh of relief. He can continue to live next door to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.


Spoils of battles


FOLLOWING its recent successes against the Maoists, the CRPF has started sharing the details of recoveries made from the rebel camps.


While complete lists of things such as generator sets, printer cartridges, solar panels and 30 kg of dried fish found at a camp in Jharkhand were shared with the media some days ago, the CRPF also spelt out what it found during a raid on a Maoist hideout in West Midnapore recently. The list read: Coconut oil bottles, scissors, needles and thread, glasses, soaps, screwdrivers, bed covers, safety pins, books, measurement tapes and tarpaulins. According to the paramilitary force, the recovered items show the level of preparation by the Maoists to wage a long war with the forces.


Friendly overtures


UMA Bharati once accused Pramod Mahajan of serving her " leftovers". But she was clearly over- anxious to make amends when she flew with L. K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and Ravi Shankar Prasad to Raipur earlier this week. The sanyasin was at her charming best as she happily ate a heavy breakfast of alu- parathas and curd with her fellow travellers. In the chopper ride to Kawardha beyond Raipur, the sadhvi even smiled benignly at Prasad who joked about her constant companion, a tiny figurine of Lord Krishna whom she lovingly calls Gopal and even agreed to place the figurine on a seat.


Clearly, the need to get back to her parent party has smoothed the rough edges. The BJP is only waiting to see how long the bonhomie lasts.


Tactful diplomacy


INDIA may not have donned the role of a major interlocutor in the West Asia crisis, but it recently played a crucial role to avoid a potential fac











Intra-party fisticuffs over choice of candidates. Inter-party accusations of poaching, ambushes and even kidnap. Netas in political wilderness, 'outsiders' in geographical limbo and near-retirees in professional transit seeking parliamentary parking place. Business tycoons diving into the poll fray as independents backed by sworn political enemies. And legislators incarcerated in five-star hotels so that their loyalties didn't gallop away with the highest bidders. No, that's not the script of a multi-starrer on Indian raajneeti. That was the race to fill seats in the Council of, States.

The House of Elders is an august institution. All who enter its hushed portals - so the political bible says - are exemplars of sobriety and sagacity. But surely there's no law against stakeholders in Rajya Sabha club membership offering mirch masala Bollywood style? Take the 79 BJP MLAs who were herded into a swanky resort outside Jaipur, reportedly to rid them of evil thoughts like cross-voting and defection. Was it pure accident that, there, they watched a new film on political skullduggery called Raajneeti? Too bad the DVD was pirated, making the film-maker breathe fire about "lawmakers" turning into "lawbreakers". In self-defence, the BJPwallahs could ask: if raajneeti's far dirtier tricks can be exposed on-screen for public enlightenment (and possible political emulation), why demand piety off-screen?

Besides, their hotel stay was less recreational than educational: many rookie MLAs were taught "how to vote" in legislatures. This rigorous training was punctuated by equally strenuous dips in the hotel pool. What's wrong if initiation was completed with a filmy lesson on political conspiracy and violence? Thus schooled, could any MLA vote by 'conscience' against the legal luminary backed by his party? So it is that the ex-legal defence of a Parliament attack accused entered the upper House with the help of the BJP, a party big on national security! When Operation Rajya-neeti is on, Operation Parakram is obviously history.

If BJP and Congress were both worried about MLAs goofing up, they hadn't bargained for their goofing off. In Orissa, their partymen were allegedly "abducted" not by aliens but the ruling BJD! The latter dismissed the charge, going on to trounce its adversaries. Last heard, the case of the missing MLAs has been put down to willed truancy, not netanapping. In Bihar, D-Day stood for Ditchers' Day across parties, with not even the fear of Maya taming BSP flock. Clearly, no would-be 'Elder' smooth-sailed like LJP's Paswan, who's now hugging ally Lalu harder. At a political loose end, birds of the same feather take stock together. Especially in Nitish's Bihar.

Recall that Nitish's JD(U) had earlier reminded the EC of its "constitutional" duty to foil poll-time intrigue and sabotage. Today, the EC's probably in deep philosophical thought on the subject of political fidelity. For, it seems little can stop back-room backscratching, be it party whips, high commandeering, hostage crises in luxury resorts or EC bosses eating politicians for breakfast. In short, riders on the electoral storm rarely say: horse-trader, pass by. Raajneeti, zindabad.






Imagine you kiss your child goodnight. You go back to your room to sleep. During the night, poisonous gases fill your child's room, suffocating him. In the morning, when you go to wake him up for school, you find him dead. I am sorry to create this gory visual, and i hope and pray this never happens to you. However, this is precisely what happened to thousands of families in Bhopal in 1984.

Many factors led to, and could have prevented, the incident. The location of a poisonous chemicals facility so close to the city, poor maintenance of equipment, cutting corners on safety by management, previous warnings about plant safety, labour issues - all these have been identified by studies post the incident. There are clearly two guilty parties - the company Union Carbide that owned the plant, and various government authorities that gave various approvals for it.

More disturbing is the post-incident handling of affairs by our government. It is reported that the government actually assisted Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide India Limited, in leaving the country. The other accused were punished after 25 years, after getting two-year sentences, and were out on bail after paying Rs 25,000 bonds.

Compare this to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 65 km away from the US shoreline. The spill started in April due to an explosion on board Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig leased by BP, one of the world's leading oil exploration companies. So far the only human casualties are around 11 people who died during the explosion. The spill, while causing significant damage to marine life and ecology, is not expected to cause any further human casualties.

The US government, however, is sparing no effort in bringing BP to book. President Barack Obama himself has made several anger-filled statements about BP's 'recklessness' and doing 'what it takes' to get BP to fix it. Such is the fear of the US government's resolve to teach BP a lesson that BP shares have lost half their market value since the spill began - or a value decline close to $90 billion. Analysts estimate that BP may have to compensate up to $1,000 for every barrel of oil spilled (incidentally, the Bhopal accused came out on bail for around half that amount). BP had to cut its dividends, risks a takeover and has already spent billions trying to plug the leak.

That's how you teach big corporates a lesson. You make the cost of playing with safety so high that they never even dream of short cuts. While it is unfortunate that one incident can wipe out a global corporate, there is no other choice. One big guy punished changes the way thousands of other companies think. I can bet every oil company right now is evaluating its safety procedures. To protect marine life and related industries, even the business-friendly US government is ready to - as a White House spokesman said - "put the boot on BP's neck".

Back home, it is a different story. In a village in Punjab, kids are having neurological problems as there is uranium in the water due to pollution by a nearby plant. And Bhopal, the mother of all industrial disasters, is serving as an example of how cheaply our government values Indian citizen's lives.

Let there be no doubt, the government is as much a culprit in Bhopal as Union Carbide. Every plant approval, safety norms and inspections also involve government authorities. Palms are greased, relationships are made and the good Indian businessmen learn to manage government officials. After all, the skill of doing business in India is managing the system, not innovation or better products. The nexus between rich people and government servants is strong, and you will often find one in the other's living rooms in the evenings.

Why do so many politicians socialise with industrialists? Over dinners, they bond and plan their kids' education and their wives' shopping trips. Over parties, they shake hands over approvals. It all seems perfectly harmless. After all, what's wrong in making friends? However, trouble happens when disaster strikes. The first person the politician/bureaucrat helps is the industrialist, not the suffering people. I'm sure Anderson knew the right people. And he used his contacts to make his escape. The little kid who got gassed didn't have contacts. Neither did he have a government representative who would bang his fists on the table to get him justice. Because, quite simply, people here are cheaper than fish.

All hope is not lost, however. We can still learn our lessons and do a couple of things. One, our laws need to be amended for corporate disasters. They make a mistake, they have to pay - heavily. Two, politician-industrialist socialising should not be encouraged. A politician making social visits with industrialists, while it can't be banned, should definitely be disclosed. Finally, our golden opportunity comes when Obama visits in November. If he can scream so much for fish, surely we can tell him what an American company did to our kids. He loves to appease, and maybe we can get a large amount for the victims. But for that, some leader will have to bang his fists on the table for the people of Bhopal. Do it, for we don't want anyone to suffocate our kids again -ever.

The writer is a best-selling novelist.







The decision of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to offer permanent service commission to women officers in diverse non-combat fields is welcome. In doing so the IAF has taken a significant step towards ensuring equal opportunities for women in the armed forces. Women officers, at least in the IAF, will no longer have to compulsorily retire at the end of their short service commissions. Nonetheless, in order to ensure genuine equality, women officers should also be allowed to serve in combat roles.

It is unfortunate that the Indian armed forces have denied themselves a huge pool of human resource by barring women from combat roles. The trend is born out of the male chauvinistic attitude that dominates the forces. Presently, female cadets are only trained for support roles. Hence, there are no women fighter pilots, no women officers on warships and no women soldiers in any division of the armed forces that could possibly see frontline action. The excuses for this are many, ranging from "women are incapable of combat roles" to "male soldiers won't take orders from female officers". This betrays a deep-rooted malaise within the defence services that must be fought tooth and nail.

If a particular female cadet makes the cut, and despite knowing the risks involved chooses to opt for a combat role, it is only fair that she is given that opportunity. Concerns related to marriage and maternity can all be easily dealt with. If other air forces, including the Pakistani Air Force, can have women fighter pilots, there is no reason why the IAF can't follow suit. We must keep up with the times, and in the interest of equality and better human resource utilisation, allow women in our armed forces to serve in combat roles.





While the Indian Air Force's move to grant its female personnel permanent commission is a welcome one and long overdue, it is also as far as the move to establish 'equality' between the sexes in the armed forces should go. According to current policies, women in the Indian military are still not allowed in combat roles. And that is how it must remain. The policies are in place for good reason and in keeping with the norm in the vast majority of armed forces around the world. Tampering with them for the sake of misplaced political correctness would be a foolish thing to do, compromising the military's effectiveness.

The basic reason for not allowing women in combat roles, of course, is simply that for the most part they are physically unable to match up to the required standards. This is medical fact - women's bones are less dense and more liable to break than men's and they lack the latter's muscle mass and upper body strength as well - not discrimination. The psychological aspect is a factor as well. Studies and the experiences of various armed forces have shown that male soldiers are far more likely to react in an instinctually protective manner, potentially ignoring training and mission objectives, when they see a female comrade wounded than a male. Enemy combatants are also less likely to surrender to female soldiers than male. Taken together, these show clearly the degradation in the fighting ability of a frontline combat unit that includes women.

This is not an issue of gender equality; that would be misreading the issue. It is simply one of the sexes being better suited to different roles. By all means, let female personnel serve in the military on equal footing with men - but shoehorning them into roles they will perforce perform at less than optimal levels would be foolish when the stakes are the lives of those involved.







Washington : It's a World Cup TV advertisement for a car. A widow and her son are in a funeral home. The widow speaks sadly, in a non-English tongue, and the son translates: "She says my father was very loyal." She mumbles again and he says: "At least to football." The camera cuts to the body of the departed old man in his coffin clutching a football, wearing shorts, soccer boots and the jersey of his club. A voice-over chips in to claim that the car company scores Number One in customer loyalty.

As the World Cup championship in South Africa rolls into its second week, questions about loyalty occasionally crop up among television audiences here during halftime arguments and post-mortems of matches. A gathering of NRIs in Northern Virginia became lively over who was supporting which nation. A high school lad, who had moved recently from India to the US with his parents, exclaimed to a long-time, older resident: "But how can you support the US? How can anyone?"

Taken aback for a moment, the man replied: "I guess because i live here."

The lad sat back, looking confused. He had grown up in a social environment in which bashing the US was common, whether in sports or in foreign policy. In his experience he would be an outcast among friends and family if he rooted for the US. Besides, the US was a big zero in football with no chance of winning the Cup.

Well, after a bit of soccer-style to and fro among those present the lad probably understood the need to separate the various worlds he was living in and the multiple loyalties he would inevitably have to develop in search of identity. An immigrant's self-identity always has a touch of schizophrenia in it. But multiple personalities perhaps become easier to deal with if we separate them by situations.

I remember an evening in Mumbai years ago watching tennis on TV with friends when the American Roscoe Tanner was matched up against the South African Kevin Curren at Wimbledon. One friend, a fiercely left-wing artist, was roaring out from time to time in support of the South African. "I will never support an American," he declared. But he seemed ready to support a white man from then apartheid South Africa. I asked why he would not separate his preferences in sport from what he felt about other issues. "Never," he replied. "I'll oppose Americans wherever they are."

Sometimes our views are rooted in ideology; sometimes they emerge out of our natural support for the underdog, with the United States being generally viewed as an arrogant top dog in every field. In World Cup football, however, the structure of global power is different. The US is a clear underdog, a struggling emerging power, much like Brazil and India are outside the football stadium. Inside, Brazil is the undisputed superpower. They have won the Cup five times, more than any other nation. And to a diehard football fan Pele is greater than, say, Thomas Jefferson.

In another living room, where the gathering was more multinational in origin, support for the US team against England - note, never the 'United Kingdom' in football but 'England' waving a white flag with a scarlet cross on it - was wider. A couple of Irish-Americans, who are known to be fanatical supporters of Ireland which hasn't qualified this time, rooted for the team from their current home. A Frenchman would, of course, never support England and he didn't. A friend from Ivory Coast supported the Americans because he did not want the English to win since they were more likely to pose a threat to the Ivorian team.

India is ranked 131 in world soccer with little chance of making it to the Cup in our lifetimes. So we backed the US, except one who supported England because he had studied there. The lone Englishman present was torn between divided loyalties because he was a citizen of both nations. But his agony gave way to an almighty roar when England scored the first goal. The rest of us were stone silent. Until that ball slipped through the English goalie's hands....









The disturbing photographs of carcasses of animals and fish lying on the dry bed of Haryana's Sultanpur Lake, India's smallest national park, have many stories rolled into one single frame. For starters, they are a damning indictment of the state of India's wetlands, the transitional zones between permanently aquatic and dry terrestrial ecosystems.

Wetlands are important because they recharge aquifers, are habitats for indigenous and migratory birds, help stem flood erosion and also serve as ecotourism spots. Yet, they, like Sultanpur, often fall prey to environmental and anthropogenic pressures. India is a signatory of the Ramsar Convention and, therefore, the government is duty-bound to save these resources.

What, however, stands out in the Sultanpur story is the complete business-as-usual attitude of the people who look after the lake. Asked about the dry lake, an officer nonchalantly said that there was nothing to be perturbed about because the lack of water will only help get rid of the unwanted African Black fish that eat up smaller fish, the food of migratory birds. Unless the official had a dry sense of humour, surely, this is a drastic way of getting rid of one species of fish. How did this predatory fish come to be in the lake in the first place? What about the collateral damage like animals that depend on the water body for drinking? However, the good news is that the government has come out with a draft regulatory framework for wetlands conservation.

But the larger story is one of the severe water crises across the country. The lake did not get water from the Western Yamuna Canal because it was diverted for farming purposes. If it is farming versus environment here, in other parts it is a straight fight between farming and drinking water. Then there's also the three-cornered fight among industries, agriculture and drinking water needs of human beings. In many places, industrial pollution has also made

the availability of water a challenge. With rapid urbanisation, such conflicts will only rise. These will remain unresolved unless and until conventional water management strategies are overhauled and new water governance structures are put into place. We need a better understanding of our rights and entitlements to water, a sustainable livelihood  (and also human rights) framework that meets the minimum needs of all.






There are ten hurdles that we must overcome to re-configure our society along the grain of human civility. It's not easy, but we have to try.

No believer can be so credulous as to have never felt Doubt, no unbeliever so sceptical as to have never experienced grace.

I hear the ring of truth in Tennyson's lines:

"There lives more faith in honest doubt. Believe me, than in half the creeds."

Fali Nariman, one of the most honest of men I have known, has recently published an absorbing autobiography, Before Memory Fades. A little earlier, in a foreword to the memoirs of a man of deep faith, Russi M. Lala, Fali wrote: "Whilst I too believe in God, I don't believe that God concerns himself with the fates and actions of individual human beings — in their daily chores, in their pettinesses and quarrels, in their moments of joy and sorrow… As a Zoroastrian I believe that good and evil exist as separate forces and that the world we live in is a 'battlefield'."

That statement reminded me of a school-time experience. I was about seven or eight. My class had been asked to do an artwork with 'original' themes. Singularly deficient in original ideas, I asked my brother Ramchandra for ideas. After listening to my 'problem', he asked me to fetch paper and pencil. And then he 'dictated' the drawing to me.

"First," he said, "draw a triangle on one side of the paper." I drew the thing. "Now draw another facing it, only make this one stand on its head." Being unsure of how to draw an inverted triangle, I turned the page round and drew the second one. 

"Now shade the one that is upside down."


"Good. Now, what do you see?"

"One triangle empty…"

"Not 'empty', but seen in outline only."

"And the other one dark."

"Not 'dark', but shaded, shadowy."


"The one that is seen in outline stands for the forces of Good…"

"The other one is Evil?"

"No, not Evil… it stands for… the Asuric forces in the world."


"Asuric, as opposed to Sura-s, or the Deva-s."

"Oh, like Ravana and Rama."

"The world has Sura-s and Asura-s, the two are in constant logjam, the one trying to neutralise the other."

"Who wins?"

"That is not the point."

"Then what is the point?"

"The point is that both of them are there and you can choose to be on one or the other side."


"So, is that okay?"

"I suppose so…"

"So you have here an unusual drawing, a very unusual drawing."

"What shall I call it?"

"What do you think you should call it?"

"I am asking you."

"And I am asking you."

"Good versus Evil?"

"Call it 'Good and Evil'".

I cannot remember how the drawing was received, but the memory of that art lesson has never left me, nor has the phrase 'Asuric'. It comes back to me often, especially when prayer overpowers me. I pray a-tremble. If both forces exist, Someone has validated both, given them both space to slug it out and if as Nariman believes, we live in a battlefield, we have it well and truly cut out for us.

Why, I ask myself in such moments, why is it that despite sages and seers, despite statesmen at the helm and steersmen at the stern, despite a most civilised and civilising Constitution and several exemplary laws, why do we see so many agonies and anxieties in our land?

And I find myself regularly invoking Grace, in 'battlefield' despair and frenzy, for a way out of some of our common agonies. They number many, but I will enumerate ten, preamble-fashion:

May 'We, the People of India' having solemnly resolved to re-configure our society along the grain of human civility:

1. Hearken to the edicts of the Emperor Asoka to see why trees are important, and extend that awareness to cover forests, water bodies and commons that 'developers' eye as cunningly as raptors spot their prey.

2. Recognise in the animal and floristic motifs of Asoka's Lion Capital a duty cast upon us to treat wildlife and the habitat it is inseparable from, as a bequest of natural integrity, not 'an ecological luxury'. And to understand that if we must slaughter animals for food, we do so with some humaneness, knowing that the cow and the hog are as aware of the approach of pain as we are.

3. Read Rabindranath Tagore's Visarjan so as to see how horribly mistaken we are in sacrificing animals at the altar under the impression that religion thrives over the jugulars of a kicking ungulate.

4. Reach our own times and see that zoonotic pandemics and vector-borne diseases are 'caused' by our unscientific and unhygienic methods of mass-rearing, bulk animal-farming, solid-waste (mis)management and sewage-accumulation.

5. Acknowledge the fact that our demand for water is increasing while the supplies are static.

6. Observe and begin to address the fact of overcrowding as a sign not of our 'population rising' but of short-termism in our designs for development, in our suburban and urban planning modules, and our fixation with 'growth' as distinct from an ecologically sustainable lifestyle for the nation.

7. Understand too, that 'overcrowding' entrenches male-dominance and is particularly unkind to large sections of India's daughters for whom earlier-than-legal marriages continue to be a curse.

8. Examine self-critically our society's penological ethos which wants individuals on 'death-row' hung but co-exists with 'honour' killings, trafficking, domestic violence that abuse 'liberty'.

9. Re-assess our fascination with anniversaries, statues, felicitations and commemorations involving massive public expenditure when time, money and energy of all kinds need appropriate, not ostentatious deployment.

10. And, finally, see how money plays its part in India from cricket to telecom, from elections to art auctions, from real estate to virtual worlds, giving much-valued support to techno-commercial India, but leaving Himalayan, coastal and littoral India, and the India of forests with its tribal inhabitants to a different 'equality in status and opportunity'.If we were to adopt and give to ourselves these tasks, would we carry the battle between Good and Evil to near where Good may prevail? I don't know but it would be unnatural not to try. Trying would give one the moral authority to meet the Creator's  eye and ask in the words of an old Hindi film-song:

'Duniyaa banaane waale, Kyaa tere man mein samaayi, Kaahe ko duniyaa banaayi?'

( Gopalkrishna Gandhi was the Governor of West Bengal from 2004 to 2009. The views expressed by the author are personal.)






At the border of West Bengal and Jharkhand where Lalgarh lies, it was once common to see adivasi hunters bringing home the kill slung from a bamboo pole. Almost everyone has seen the high culture version, sepia prints of maharajas and ICS-wallahs bringing home tigers to be skinned. But on Thursday morning, a modern travesty of those images appeared in the papers — dead Maoists, some of them women, slung from poles by their wrists and ankles like the quarry of the hunt. They're only pictures, but pictures matter.

The first offensive against the Maoists in Lalgarh on Wednesday was a strategic success. A small arsenal has been seized and, more importantly, radio sets which may have been looted from the CRPF camp in Silda. They constituted a serious security risk, since the Maoists may have used them to eavesdrop on frequencies used by the security forces. But the operation was not an unqualified success, because those newspaper images are going to haunt the home ministry. And now, the solitary 'Maoist' taken alive has been revealed to be a mentally-challenged mute boy.

The battle against Maoism is partly a contest for hearts and minds, and how it is advanced by such imagery is not obvious. The way the villager sees it, Maoists are counterpoised against the government on the scales of power. Power which is gauged by the primordial index of the ability to inflict arbitrary violence. The challenge is to highlight the legitimacy of the government versus the illegitimacy of the cadre. If they are seen to be equally brutal and arbitrary, the purpose is defeated. In fact, if the paramilitaries had not indulged in arbitrary violence against villagers while breaking the siege of Lalgarh a year ago, maybe they would not have had to remain engaged there.

Nationally, publicity like this squanders the advantage that the government now enjoys among the majority. They would never support far Left methods anyway, and they are exasperated with random Maoist violence. But they are also sensitised to State brutality and a vocal section will oppose it. Some, of course, will argue that Maoists deserve no better, having declared war against the Indian State. Well, so have the Pakistanis on several occasions. I don't recall their battlefield casualties ever being treated like this.

The Maoist issue is on the radar of the international community, which becomes an interested party in every conflict these days. India has a rather poor human rights record. We are seized of the problem after decades of judicial action, but much remains to be done. The Supreme Court ruled against narco-analysis, which is classified as torture in several countries, only a month ago, though on legal rather than humanitarian grounds. We can do without needlessly callous or brutal behaviour from the State at this point.

We have had a long history of the ultra-Left being savagely put down. Even in the cities — Kolkata was a battleground in the 70s. There's a long history because a brutal State response works only temporarily. The current wave of Maoist assertion has to be put down but now, brute force alone will be even less adequate than in the past. Because now we get the picture, and image matters more than ever before.

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

The views expressed by the author are personal








Some very unsettling photographs have surfaced after an anti-Naxal operation in West Midnapore, showing security forces carrying back enemy corpses like dead meat. The home ministry has expressed its unhappiness over the "animal-like" way in which the bodies of men and women were carried, strung up on bamboo poles.


The home ministry said it was unclear whether it was CRPF men or Bengal police carrying the bodies, and whether an official photographer took the pictures, or whether many photographers were allowed. However, that is mere finessing — the question is not about the photographs, but what the photographs reveal. Our moral lens has to honour the humanity of the "enemy", even in a situation as extreme as this. As the ministry itself pointed out, the sense of recoil that Indians felt at the bodies of our security forces are mistreated should extend to insurgents as well. Disrespecting human death offends the laws of war and peace.


Conflict produces dead bodies, and there have been all too many on both sides as the state responds with a new ferocity to the destructive Maoist insurgency that attacks its very foundations. The Maoists justify their violence as a revolutionary intervention, one that finally puts an end to the daily crisis in which India's tribals are plunged. However, as the security forces take them on, it is crucial to end the crude symmetry that some observers draw between the actions of the two sides. The difference between the state and the marauding Maoists needs no pointing out, but the security forces must remember, even in pitched battle situations, that they are also a repository of public trust.






You really cannot take it with you. Perhaps that is essentially what Warren Buffett and Bill Gates intend to try and remind their fellow-billionaires with their new campaign. Through persuasive dinners, letters, and leading by example, America's richest men are trying to ask the 400 Americans on the billionaire list with them to give away at least 50 per cent of their wealth to charity. Their personal transition continues apace: the control-freaky software geek turning into the earnest policy wonk and expert on mosquito nets and African schools; the curmudgeonly master-investor turning into a crusty old giver — but still examining, comparing, evaluating the best destinations for his own dollar.


That is, indeed, the extra twist that the Buffett-Gates generation has given to charity. Charity in America has become much more than wealthy people's wives organising fundraising dinners, or families burnishing up the family name with a large donation here and there. The disposal and dispersal of large fortunes is now planned with as much careful meticulousness as was their accumulation. This came just after the revolution that Bill Clinton introduced after he left office — pushing the non-profit sector towards the look and feel of professionalism, introducing bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young people from the private sector, and helping it work with instead of against government.


Europe's elite has not yet transformed itself this way. Many believe this is because of their differing casts of mind: Americans believe they have earned their wealth, and trust few others to give it away, while Europeans embed their good fortune in their society's structure of support, and expect their governments to do good works for them. But India's wealthy, of whom we've all heard so much? Their charitable contributions are minuscule in comparison, and nor do they expect their state to do it for them. There's a troubling question here: what will it take for the Gates-Buffett-


Clinton consensus to percolate to India's elite? Perhaps we need to look at what prevents nonprofits in this country from appearing like truly professionalised and worthy destinations for vast chunks of people's fortunes.







At a time when India is trying to deepen its partnership with China and rebuild trust with Pakistan, it would seem counterproductive for Delhi to raise objections to Beijing's sale of two power reactors to Islamabad. After all, as Beijing says these reactors are meant to produce electric power, so badly needed in an energy-starved Pakistan, and will be under international supervision. Yet, we believe Delhi is right in expressing its concerns to Beijing. That it was done quietly through diplomatic channels underlines the seriousness of Indian purpose as well as its good faith in wanting to build a partnership with China on the basis of an honest discussion of divergence when it arises.


The Chinese decision to expand its previous nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, in violation of the guidelines of the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, raises three important issues for Delhi. First, although the proposed cooperation is ostensibly for peaceful purposes, India has reasons to be wary given the past record of clandestine military nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan. India would want to be sure that China is not furthering its collaboration with Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme under the guise of civilian cooperation. Second, those who compare the Sino-Pak deal with the India-US civil nuclear initiative miss an important difference. India and the US had to go through a tortuous process of revising the NSG rules and the US domestic law; China is now offering a similar benefit to Pakistan without any due process or international debate on the merits of nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, whose record as a proliferator is so disturbing. Finally, if the deal is motivated by Beijing's strategic consideration to maintain nuclear parity between India and Pakistan at all levels, Delhi is duty bound to contest this hostile proposition in Beijing.


In the last few years India has sought to build a relationship with China without a reference to Pakistan. Beijing should not take that positive Indian approach as a license to do what it pleases with Islamabad. Beijing's unwillingness to respect Delhi's security concerns will severely limit India's domestic political space to expand mutually beneficial engagement with China. Beijing often complains about the widespread and what it sees as an unreasonable perception of a "China threat" in Delhi. Beijing should recognise that its proposed nuclear deal with Pakistan without an explicit approval of the NSG cannot but reinforce its image as as an "irresponsible" power. When combined with the potentially inescapable conclusion in Delhi that Beijing will remain forever insensitive to India's security concerns in Pakistan, the theory of a "China threat" can only gain ground in India and undermine the promising possibilities of a Sino-Indian partnership









The government is naturally worried about inflation, especially food inflation. Consequently, the Core Group of Central Ministers and State Chief Ministers on Prices of Essential Commodities set up a working group of CMs (Haryana, Punjab, Bihar, West Bengal) and this group has suggested that the government encourage Indian companies to buy land abroad (Canada, Myanmar, Australia, Argentina and ASEAN have been mentioned) for procuring pulses and oil-seeds, with long-term supply contracts.


Long-term supply contracts is one proposition, buying land abroad is another. Typically, unless government policies stand in the way, the corporate sector knows what makes commercial sense. Therefore, without waiting for the working group's advice, several (one count has more than 80) Indian companies have already bought land in Africa, especially eastern parts like Ethiopia, Madagascar, Kenya and Mozambique. Nor is this an Indian phenomenon. If anything, India woke up a bit late in the day. IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) has something like a database and policy brief on "land grabbing" by foreign investors in developing countries. This phenomenon followed global food price inflation preceding the global financial crisis and recognition that medium-term trends behind high food prices weren't going to disappear. There would be pressures on natural resources and environmental factors, there would be restrictions on free cross-border trade of agricultural products, and so on.


A quote from that IFPRI brief is interesting. It says, this has been a means for "countries short in land and water to find alternative means of producing food". Is India short of either land or water? Contrary to what people often think, we are short on neither. Cross-country comparisons often suffer because of time-lags in data. Subject to that, we have around 510 people per unit of arable land. Bangladesh has 1200, South Korea has 2275, Japan has 3046, China has 1217 and Malaysia has 1687. Arable land numbers (as share of geographical area) in India are extremely high. It is a different matter that arable land is not optimally used for a variety of reasons — lack of irrigation, small-holder agriculture, government intervention in production, storage and distribution of agricultural products, government controls in land markets, inefficient public expenditure in the rural economy, and so on. Policies have been designed to keep people in low-productivity and subsistence-level agriculture, not pull them out of farms. The CMs of Punjab and Haryana could have told the CMs of Bihar and West Bengal how average agricultural productivity levels could have been doubled without venturing abroad. In FDI, China is perceived to be a competitor in Africa. The Chinese could have advised all four CMs how average agricultural productivity levels could have been increased by a multiple of six, without venturing abroad.


Much the same can be said of water. With India's levels of precipitation, there should be no shortage of water, either of the drinking or irrigation variety. Cherrapunji is in Meghalaya. Once upon a time, it used to figure in GK books as the wettest place on earth. (If one takes a specific month, Cherrapunji still holds the record in July 1861. But if one takes average for the year, Hawaii and Columbia are contenders.) Is there any logical reason why Cherrapunji should face an acute shortage of drinking water for most months of the year?


Energy is a different matter and foraying abroad in pursuit of energy is understandable. But given India's agro-climatic conditions, India should be exporting agricultural commodities to the rest of the world, not importing it. Provided the internal policies are in place. All said and done, domestic agricultural and rural sector reforms may have been talked about since 1991, but they have not been implemented. Therefore, in the aggregate, the supply curve has been vertical, inelastic to use the economist's expression. On this, increased demand (NREGS, farmers' debt relief, hikes in procurement prices, increased rural income, shifts in consumption) has been superimposed. While there has been mismanagement, including on external trade, that's the underlying cause of food inflation.


Food security may mean food security for the country, or it may mean food security for the individual, and the implications are different. Yes, many people in India are malnourished and suffer from hunger. We can quote from IFPRI reports and the Global Hunger Index. Yes, we need to identify the poor and subsidise them. And yes, we are going round and round in circles deciding that. But no, there is no food security issue for India. In any event, food security for the country doesn't mean India has to be self-reliant in producing every agricultural commodity under the sun. As long as we are able to pay for our imports and don't have a balance of payments problem, what's the issue? It is time we gave up PL-480 mindsets and the arm-twisting that followed. But for that, we wouldn't have had the Green Revolution. The point about national food security is that there is a question of price competitiveness and for edible oils and some dairy products, we are probably better off importing. (Pulses are different.)


What do we then make of working group's recommendation that government should "encourage" Indian companies to buy land abroad? Does it mean there should be fiscal incentives? With contemplated tax reform, that's impossible. Does it mean capital account restrictions should be relaxed? That makes sense. Perhaps we should ask those 80 companies why they went abroad. They will probably mention easier land acquisition procedures, lower prices, availability of large and contiguous land and increasing consumer markets in Africa. That's a bit like pointing to the high costs of doing business in India (documented by the World Bank in Doing Business indicators) and using that as an argument for domestic Indian investments in manufacturing exiting abroad. The best "encouragement" thus is not to introduce domestic agro reforms and certainly not permit corporate investments in land markets. By messing up the education sector, we encouraged students, faculty and even educational establishments to head abroad. By not providing opportunities at home, we encouraged migration abroad. Instead of the expression "brain drain", we'll now coin an "grain drain". Food price inflation (and the land acquisition debate and the Naxal issue) should've been a trigger for introducing domestic agro reforms. The global crisis should also have switched focus to looking for endogenous sources of growth. The discourse on double-digit growth should also have highlighted an increment of 1.5 per cent to GDP growth that will come from rural sector reforms alone, including broad-basing income and consumption growth and serving the "inclusive" agenda. Instead, we will negotiate with partner countries so that they ease their land acquisition procedures. All is not quite well.


The writer is a Delhi-based economists







The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 does not merely guarantee a right to admission and be educated in a school. It also guarantees against expulsion from school. Indeed, the right not to be expelled is a logical extension of the fundamental right to education. The act states in express terms that a child shall not be expelled from school till the completion of elementary education (Section 16) and shall not be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment (Section 17). If compulsory education is targeted to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups, the right against expulsion shall be targeted for every child, whether he or she belongs to weaker sections or the disadvantaged. Two recent examples have brought this issue into focus. In one case, the child took her life through suicide after she was expelled from school, and when the state ordered an investigation, it was to ensure that such incidents did not happen in the future. In yet another case, all was not lost; an order of injunction by the high court against compulsory expulsion saved the day — and so too, the children's immediate future, when the school made mandatory the payment of tuition fees in one lump sum per term and refused to receive monthly payment with a threat of expulsion. We have lessons to learn from both.


In Mohini Jain (Ms) v State of Karnataka (1992), the Supreme Court for the first time expounded the right to education as a fundamental right. It arrived at this result through the constitutional exordium of justice, liberty and equality; referred to Article 21 of the Constitution that guarantees the right to life, which ought to include right to dignified life; and made use of the Directive Principles of State Policy in its endeavour to secure to its citizens free and compulsory education. In Unnikrishnan (1993), the court again gave an interesting dimension to the fundamental right to education as being available even against a private institution but took a beating in T.M.A. Pai (2002), insofar as the latter judgment recognised a greater autonomy for privately-run educational institutions. In P.A. Inamdar (2005), the Supreme Court said that unaided institutions (both minority and non-minority) could claim an unfettered fundamental right to choose the students for admission, subject to the procedure being fair, transparent and non-exploitative.


Hitherto, attention has always been on admission to colleges for students and the right to establish and administer colleges and the extent to which state intervention is possible in the context of the right to education. There was but one occasion in Bijoe Emmanuel (1986) when three students, who being Jehovah's Witnesses conscientiously objected to being compelled to sing national anthem, were expelled by virtue of administrative instructions from the state's educational authority. The SC intervened on behalf of the students by striking down the expulsion order and directing re-admission into their school. The court added that "our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our Constitution practices tolerance; let us not dilute it."


A child should never be faced with a prospect of being turned out of school even for non-payment of tuition. The fee shall only be taken as a debt to a school, which could be enforced as any other financial obligation. The right of enforcement, could, if at all, be protected as a first charge against the assets of the parent. Should an errant behaviour of a minor student be a ground for expulsion? The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, known as the JJ Act, provides for temporary care and custody of children who are in conflict with the law. A child that may have to be removed for extraordinary reasons of commission of offences shall be restored to mainstream schools as soon as favourable reports come in from monitoring agencies. The JJ Act already contains a provision for the parents' participation in sharing expenses for the maintenance of children for running children's homes — and, in case of indigent parents, requires the state to extend assistance. Will it not be apposite that the provision is amended suitably to cover also a situation of a parent not being able to afford continuation of education of children due to change in circumstances, such as loss of job for a parent or other causes of impoverishment?


A school that expels a student shall be made to do so at the peril of withdrawal of recognition and state grants, by suitable amendments to the respective state regulatory legislation for administering private schools. Even without legislative changes, the right to education, if it is seen as a fundamental right and what is more, a human right, expulsion of student from any school, for any reason whatever, shall soon be a forgotten expression.


The writer is a judge at the Punjab and Haryana high court, Chandigarh







There is a big lacuna in the current debate on caste census: none of the contributors has considered the nexus between caste and marriage. According to law, an Indian citizen has freedom of choice in selection of spouse for marriage. S/he can marry under the Special Marriage Act. However, for the vast of majority of people this freedom is taken away by caste custom, by what sociologists call the rule of caste endogamy (marriage within caste). For most members of every caste it is a traditional value. However, Westernisation and modernisation during the last two hundred years or so has created new values due to which increasing numbers of individuals wish to exercise the freedom of choice in marriage by marrying outside of caste.


Let us recall that in the initial period of change, many individuals had to face strong opposition from the tradition-bound members of their caste. I do not have space here to narrate the nature of that long and complex struggle, which was also linked with the nationalist struggle. It is clear however that the opposition to endogamous marriage has gradually softened, and more and more individuals are exercising the freedom of marrying outside their caste, such that a whole new class of caste-less individuals has now emerged, however small that class may be.


The opposition to marriage outside caste has of course not disappeared. We still hear and read about terrible punishments meted out to young boys and girls for marrying outside their caste. Various social forces continue to restrict this freedom. The reservations and the census based on caste and tribe are two of these forces. All of the thousands of castes and tribes, including those listed as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes, are endogamous groups. A caste or tribe is always considered a hereditary group. One acquires its membership by birth. But, heredity is derived from parenthood, and parenthood depends on legitimate marriage, which in caste society depends on both the parents belonging to the same caste. This seemingly trivial fact is crucial in determining membership of a caste or tribe. Whenever a person claims a benefit from the government as a member of a SC, ST or OBC, s/he has to produce a certificate of membership of that caste or tribe. When this certificate is disputed in a court of law — as indeed many such certificates are disputed — the judiciary applies the test of legitimate parenthood and marriage in a particular caste or tribe.


Since the SC, ST and OBC lists are comprised of numerous endogamous castes and tribes, any support for continuing these lists amounts to supporting endogamous marriage. A census based on caste also does the same. Both go against the individual's freedom in choice of spouse for marriage.


As mentioned above, the jurists protect this freedom of the Indian citizen, but they also support caste and tribe endogamy inherent in the three categories of backward classes. They thus contribute to restricting the same freedom. The judiciary of independent India has inherited the definition of caste as an endogamous group from the colonial jurists, and the latter had accepted it from the Shastris and Pandits as expert advisers on traditional Hindu law and custom. Thus the present jurists continue to apply the same scriptural notion of caste. When the Supreme Court or a high court demands statistical data from the government about thousands of castes and tribes in the SC, ST and OBC lists, they are presuming that these castes and tribes are out there in the open to be measured as discrete endogamous units. There is a contradiction here.


Many political leaders as well as intellectuals, including social scientists, talk about freedom of the individual on the one hand but support the caste and tribe based reservations and census on the other, both of which negate the freedom in the realm of marriage. And all in the name of eradication of caste! This is another contradiction.


These intellectuals and social scientists often argue that in politics based on caste and tribe we have only identity politics, and there is nothing wrong about it. But, these identities were created and are supported by denial of a vital freedom.


At a recent seminar on backward classes, when I raised the above point, a distinguished social scientist said, "Marriage is messy. We do not understand it." Many of the intellectuals, including social scientists, who look at Indian society only in terms of political power, close their eyes when confronted with non-political dimensions of society.


The author is former professor of sociology, University of Delhi.







When assessing nations, there are statistics and then there are the intangibles. Inflation and unemployment don't tell you much about patriotism, optimism and the sense of shared identity that make or break societies. South Africa is a case in point.


I spent part of my childhood in a South Africa that marked my imagination because it combined light and shadow as no other place: a succession of sunlit afternoons in gardens of avocado trees and jacaranda punctuated — as you drove from one barbecue ("braai") to the next — by glimpses of ragged blacks being herded into police vans.


"I supposed they don't have their passes," some relative would mutter and the mind of a London-born child of South African parents would wrestle with what that meant. Gradually the white supremacist apartheid system came into focus.


It was about denial — of skills to blacks, of mobility to blacks, of a living wage to blacks, of the very humanity of blacks. In the mind of the Afrikaner, with its Biblical justifications for oppression masquerading as separateness, the black majority was good only to be "hewers of wood and drawers of water" — if that.


This South Africa of my youth saw the world as "anti-TWOL" — a silly acronym for a so-called traditional way of life. Among these "traditions" was branding inter-racial sex a crime. Cataclysm always loomed. The imagined bloody end of an unsustainable system was not the subject of small talk but a lurking spectre.


And here we are, two decades after Nelson Mandela walked out of captivity, in a South Africa hosting the most-watched sporting event on earth, the World Cup, and


doing so in a spirit of unity that has blacks and whites alike draped


in flags, blaring on the plastic horns known as vuvuzelas, and rooting for the "Bafana Bafana" — the boys.


The team is mediocre. South Africa will probably become the first host nation ever to fail to qualify for the second round. That would be sad but in the end immaterial. This particular World Cup is political. It is an affirmation of a nation's miraculous (if incomplete) healing, of African dignity, and of a continent that deserves better than those tired images of violence and disease.


"The country is going to the dogs," — I still hear it as I heard it long ago in different guise. What did I say about statistics? There are plenty of them.


This is still a country where only 60 per cent of dwellings have flush toilets, where an estimated 6 million people are HIV positive, and where unemployment runs at 25 per cent. High walls — and 300,000 private security guards — testify to high


murder rates.


To all of which I say: People have unrealistic expectations. They want to fast-forward life as if it were a gadget. You don't erase the effects of a half-century of apartheid in a generation. "Non-racialism" — President Jacob Zuma's commitment — is not the state in which South Africa


lives, any more than the United States does.


Still, what I see is grandeur: a country of 49 million people, 38.7 million of them black, 4.5 million of them white, the rest mixed-race or Asian, that has held together and shunned Zimbabwean unravelling or Congolese implosion. Do not underestimate the South African achievement.


I sat this week in a packed stadium in the capital, Pretoria, as a vuvuzela crescendo greeted the Bafana and a white woman led 11 black kids — team mascots — onto the pitch. The horns fell silent for the Uruguayan national anthem. When South Africa lost 0-3, the response was dignified, peaceful: the intangibles of nationhood.


Let's talk vuvuzela for a moment. Players have complained. Facebook pages are dedicated to banning it. Ear plugs are selling briskly among European fans. Intolerable horns!


I have news for the discomfited: This is actually Africa. The horn sounds to summon. From the kudu horn made from the spiral-horned antler to the plastic horn is not such a great distance.


The vuvuzela carries powerful symbolism. Rugby, the traditional sporting stronghold of the white Afrikaner, has shunned it. Soccer, dominated by blacks, has embraced it. Yet today Afrikaners flock into black Soweto to watch rugby and whites and blacks both carry their vuvuzelas into World Cup games.


I'm sorry, French players will have to suffer their headaches: these are not minor political miracles. As one comic here tweeted: "After one weekend Europe wants to ban the vuvuzela — if only they'd acted this fast when banning slavery!"


The other day I was talking to a distant relative, an economist named Andrew Levy. He said: "I don't fear for my life, and that's the miracle of South Africa. I say hello to a black in the street and he'll say hello to me in a friendly way. I know I might get killed in the course of a robbery, not because I'm white, not because they hate me, but because there's poverty. I'm a patriot in the end. I love this country's beauty. And when I see the unity and good will the World Cup has created, I believe we can succeed."








The Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 has been compounded by miscarriage of justice, lack of accountability, utter failure of corporate responsibility and, above all, a pittance of relief given by Union Carbide. It demands a humane response now, because the issue is still alive.


In all accidents resulting from human failure or vagaries of nature either on roads, railway tracks or the waterways, the state's routine response is to grant ex-gratia monetary relief to the living and the dead. The spontaneity of response in such situations can minimise their suffering, but not mitigate it altogether. In the case of the Bhopal tragedy, too, the initial response was similar. Ex-gratia payment of Rs. 1500 to families having monthly income of Rs. 500 or less was sanctioned. Widow-pension of Rs. 200 (later Rs. 750) was provided, among other relief measures which, considering the enormity of the catastrophe, were all too insufficient. There were complaints of mismanagement in registration and distribution of relief.


Prosecuting the guilty and fixing accountability is always assigned to courts, administrative probes, commissions of enquiry etc., which have a life of their own. Human suffering is prolonged, truth suffers and the public is brutalised.


The criminal justice system has been found wanting on all accounts. The charge-sheeted persons have been let off with punishment which is far too lenient. And the out-of-court settlement of monetary compensation of 470 million dollars given to the lakhs of victims and their families with an inhibiting clause against any appeal is like giving alms to the beggars that the Bhopal gas victims have been reduced to.


The provision of speedy justice is an obligation cast on the state. The Supreme Court in its judgment in the Best Bakery Case has dwelt upon the concept of fair trial saying "the concept entails the familiar triangulation of interests of the accused, the victim and society...It will not be correct to say it is only the accused who must be fairly dealt with. That would be turning a Nelson's eye to the needs of the society at large and victims, their families and relatives."


The jurists must find answers to why the court was not allowed to conduct a trial on the charges framed by it on the basis of CBI report; why the trial court could not invoke section 357 of the CrPC., especially, when the gravity of the charge had been toned down only to section 304(A) IPC. Section 357(b) of CrPC empowers the court to order: (b) " the payment to any person of compensation for any loss or injury caused by the offence, when compensation is, in the opinion of the court, recoverable by such person in a civil court;"And, finally, will this violation lead us to despairingly question whether CrPC, IPC and Indian Evidence Act are, indeed, capable of delivering justice when it comes to the destruction of the lives and properties of the poor workers by those who are entrusted with their protection?


In his book It was Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, Dominique Lapierre has written about Carbide's past: "Carbide was to find itself condemned to heavy fines for having poured highly carcinogenic products into the Kanawha and the atmosphere. An enquiry conducted in the Seventies was to reveal that the number of cancers diagnosed in the occupants of the valley was twenty-one per cent higher than the American national average. The incidences of cancer of the lung and endocrine glands, and leukaemia in particular, were among the highest in the country." But Union Carbide learnt no lesson from this indictment. Driven by considerations of productivity and profiteering, Carbide did not care that a chemical meant to exterminate a wide range of parasites for protection and safety of human beings would kill the very poor workers who were helping them to produce it. The nation would have been saved the Bhopal tragedy if their past had served any guide.


The current debates in the media and public have brought into sharp focus three most important issues — failure of the justice delivery system, failure of corporate responsibility and inadequacy of monetary relief. The criminal justice system can still be reactivated, and shaken out of its sluggishness of the last 26 years. No corporate entity should be allowed to conduct its business without having in place a written undertaking of social responsibility. An act of Parliament can be the only means to ensure this. In Albert Einstein's words, quoted by Lapierre: "Concern for man himself and his safety must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavours. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations." India has a Parliament capable of rectifying all wrongs — judicial, legislative and executive — even belatedly. No other institution expresses the people's will more eloquently. Today the will of the people is all too palpable: to augment relief to the victims of Bhopal.


The worth of human life can never be measured in terms of money. Union Carbide has definitely failed in its corporate responsibility when it agreed to give compensation of a sum of just 470 million dollars. Now it is for state to consider whether, by a resolution of Parliament, liberal compensation in India's own currency can be given to survivors. It is worth recalling that the government of Belarus spent 20 per cent of its national budget on alleviating suffering caused by the Chernobyl accident. Today our government is well endowed to take such an extraordinary decision. And to add to that, a willing nation will not grudge any contribution — like the education cess that is now being charged from partners in the national effort to alleviate the suffering of Bhopal.


We live in an age of human rights and right to information. Giving a life of dignity to the survivors should push all our deliberation. There is a strong case to exercise the right to information to expose those responsible for Bhopal tragedy. Relief should flow abundantly. This, perhaps, is the only way left now to atone for what could not be done in the past. It is late, no doubt. But, as the saying goes, it is never too late.


The writer is member, National Human Rights Commission








The LSE study on the ISI being quoted around the world has ruffled many feathers in Pakistan. The News reported on June 14: "The study drew an angry reaction from the military. 'It is a part of a malicious campaign against the Pakistan Army and the ISI,' army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said... It also said President Asif Zardari was reported to have visited Taliban prisoners... where he is believed to have suggested support for them... Presidential spokeswoman Farah Ispahani dismissed the allegations as 'absolutely spurious'. She said there 'seems to be a concentrated effort to damage the new Pakistan-American strategic dialogue'."


Nevertheless, Hafiz Saeed was seen rubbing shoulders with Pakistan's religious parties, reported Dawn on June 14: "Hafiz Saeed stood alongside mainstream religious party leaders on Sunday as his Jamaatud Dawa held a march to condemn Israeli atrocities... Hameed Gul, former ISI chief, was also present. The occasion was also used to oppose the expansion of army operations against militants... It was the second public activity of Saeed... after being released from house arrest."


Kyrgyz crisis


The death of two Pakistanis in Kyrgyzstan's internal upheaval continued to grab headlines. Two students have been killed and at least 10 taken hostage, Dawn reported on June 14. It added on June 15 and 16 that the government decided to send three air force planes to Kyrgyzstan to bring back the 269 Pakistanis stranded there and that 260 students were safely flown home.


Karachi rattled


Violence has again gripped Pakistan's largest and richest city, Karachi. Daily Times reported on June 14: "To control ongoing targeted killings and sectarian violence, Sindh Home Department has prepared a list of 175 activists of banned religious organisations... These activists... have been released from prisons... the city is returning to normalcy after three days of violence, for which the police give credit to the deployment of police and Rangers in sensitive areas."


The president had to step in yet again to vow his sincerity to restoring peace, reported The News on June 15: "President Zardari decided to clamp down on the banned outfits and launch a ruthless operation against them to restore peace..." On June 16, Dawn reported the first remedial measure: "Pakistan has banned public political meetings in Karachi to control target killings." Daily Times added on June 17 that a "red alert was declared in the city."


Hunter hunted


An armed American was caught by Pakistani police while in "hot pursuit" of Osama bin Laden, reported Dawn on June 15: "Gary Faulkner, a US national, has been arrested from Kalash valley while trying to cross into the Nooristan province of Afghanistan... Faulkner had entered Chitral as a tourist on June 2... He went missing on Sunday... A heavy contingent of police rushed from Chitral and spotted him... During interrogation, he said he was going on a 'mission to decapitate Osama bin Laden'."


Dawn added on June 16 that interrogation revealed he had been to Chitral several times in the past three years. On June 17, another report quoted him as saying "he was obeying an order from God to avenge 9/11."


Faking degrees

Legislators in Pakistan are under a cloud of fake educational degrees, reported Dawn on June 15: "The Election Commission has sent degrees of 228 lawmakers to National Assembly's Standing Committee on Education for verification by the Higher Education Commission (HEC)... The panel ordered the unusual step after lawmakers were found to be holding fake degrees... It was decided to get degrees of all lawmakers verified and asked the EC to provide copies which would be sent to HEC." After a PMLN legislator was found to have a fake BA degree, party chief Nawaz Sharif reacted strongly and asked his legislators "who hold fake degrees to quit their seats," reported Dawn on June 17.


Indus saga


Land acquisition issues threaten Harappa's archaelogical heritage. Dawn wrote in an editorial on June 16: "Some 358 acres of the protected Harappa archaeological site land is reportedly under threat of occupation by citizens claiming ownership. The dispute between the archaeology department and the claimants goes back several years. The latter demanded the market price for ceding their land, while the archaeology department offered them only one-fourth the amount... with colonial-era land acquisition laws favouring government departments, the claimants now want to occupy the area willy-nilly."








The India-China bilateral relationship, always complex, has tended to oscillate between highs and lows over time. However, bilateral ties received a definite fillip after the unprecedented coordination between India and China at the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009. There are more gains to be made through cooperation in international fora. For example, India and China stand to gain by coordinating efforts to push for a revamp of the international financial structure where emerging economies have a greater say—some progress has already been achieved in terms of voting rights at the Bretton Woods Institutions. Unfortunately, the budding bilateral engagement may now be dented by China's reported decision to sell two nuclear power reactors to Pakistan in clear violation of the rules set out by the Nuclear Suppliers Group that govern international nuclear commerce. China, of course, claims that the sale of reactors is for peaceful purposes only and that an energy starved Pakistan desperately needs this assistance. But given the past record of nuclear cooperation for military purposes between China and Pakistan, India has every right to express serious reservations. India needs to be sure that the purpose of this sale isn't to strengthen Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme. Remember also that a potential China-Pakistan nuclear deal is very different from the Indo-US nuclear deal. Any attempt to draw a parallel is misplaced, because the Indo-US nuclear deal had to pass through a rigorous process that involved the revision of US domestic law, NSG rules and some seriously hard negotiations. India, and indeed the wider international community, cannot allow Pakistan and China to proceed with this deal without any international debate and scrutiny, particularly since Pakistan has an awful record as a proliferator.


Sensibly, India has, for now, chosen to express its discontent quietly through established diplomatic channels. That shows India's seriousness to keep the bilateral relationship with China on a strong footing. India has also tried to define its relationship with China, in recent times, without reference to Pakistan. We have argued on many occasions in these columns that India must stop viewing China with paranoia and that there is tremendous opportunity in enhancing engagement between the two countries. However, Beijing needs to play its part in increasing the trust. It could begin by showing an appreciation of India's concerns on the issue of its 'nuclear deal' with Pakistan.







For some years now, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have been topping the world list of the richest men. Ditto for the list of philanthropic contributions (only 17 people on the Forbes 400 American rich list are in the same league of giving). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose spending is broadly targeted towards global health, global development and programmes for improving education in the US, is the largest of its kind in the world. In 2006, Buffett jumped aboard by pledging the bulk of his considerable wealth to this foundation. But the two men have now upped the altruistic ante by launching a campaign to persuade all of American billionaires to donate 50% or more of their wealth to charity. They have set up a Web site by the name of, where their peers are invited to make a moral commitment (rather than a legal one) to donate more. This drive comes at a time when the Giving USA Foundation has recorded the deepest ever declines in giving for a second year in a row. Yet, the fact remains that ordinary Americans have long set an example in donating generously and the Buffett-Gates pledge claims inspiration from this long-standing tradition. Katrina or Haiti, nature-driven or man-made disasters, common folk or celebrities, the world has had cause to be impressed by American philanthropy time and again.


Consider the top Indian business people and you find a vastly different situation. Sure, there would be this school or that hospital that could prove an exemplar. In the big scheme of things, however, our country currently doesn't boast anyone in the Buffett-Gates league of philanthropy. Hopefully, the situation will be different in the future. Perhaps it's the pragmatists that are taking a lead right now. A brand consultancy called Cone conducted US-centric research in 2008, which showed that 79% of consumers would switch to a brand associated with a good cause and 38% of them had bought a product associated with a cause. As similar findings emerge from elsewhere in the world, more corporates are becoming interested in philanthropy. Making a clear, demonstrable difference as well as operating with full transparency will remain the yardsticks for judging corporate social responsibility. But even the cynics have to admit that the Buffett-Gates duo is operating in a different league.









Fifteen years ago the fashion in British financial circles used to be self-regulation by each segment of the market-insurers, building societies (mutuals), hedge funds, etc. Banks were meant to be regulated by the Bank of England. There was a Securities and Investment Board to regulate the stock markets. Then self-regulation went out of fashion. The Bank of England had some bank failures on its watch—BCCI, Barings (thanks to Nick Leeson), Johnson Matthey to name but three. So when New Labour came to power the structures were changed. Financial Services Authority (FSA) was set up to have a regulatory overview of all the segments of the financial industry, including banks.


The FSA was set up on the idea that the different segments were interconnected and hence needed a single regulator. The Bank of England was left with not much to do but a tripartite arrangement was formalised between the Bank, FSA and the Treasury with quarterly meetings. This experiment proved disastrous. It may be that the big meltdown in the financial markets in 2008-09 may have been impossible to prevent, no matter what arrangements were made. After all the US, the UK and the EU had different institutional arrangements and they all failed to spot the trouble.


Still each country is reforming its own system in its own way. The UK with a new coalition government has just announced its own rearranging of the regulatory furniture. The Bank of England will be in charge of macro-prudential supervision. The FSA is to be chopped up. Its bank supervisory staff will be put under the Bank of England as a Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA), with the CEO of FSA transferred to the Bank of England as deputy governor in charge of PRA. This is the micro-prudential function. The parts of the FSA that looked after consumers' protection and consumer education will be hived off in separate parts.


This legoland exercise apart, there is still a debate to be had on what sort of banking we need. The US is debating the issue of large versus small banks, Glass-Steagle a la Volcker and the toxic swaps, which excite fear and loathing in the context of a large bill going through Congress. The UK has just had a report on banking reform from a commission appointed by the private consumer watchdog Which? magazine. The government, in turn, has now appointed an official commission to report on banking structures to validate or improve upon the Which? report. Here again, large versus small banks, universal versus single purpose banks will be debated.


There is, therefore, now a lot of uncertainty in the financial markets as to what the future of banking is to be and how the new structures will work. The government will need to legislate to break up the FSA and assign new powers to the Bank of England. By the time it has done this, the report of its newly appointed commission will be in. Then again, there will need to be new legislation. All this may take at least two years.


It is not clear to me that it is structures that caused the problem rather than behaviour. This is because different types of regulatory institutions, on the two sides of the Atlantic, did not make much difference. Canada has managed to escape the meltdown because it has a much more conservative banking industry. Sweden went through a bloodbath in the early 1990s and reformed its banking and so escaped the meltdown this time. The issue is risk-taking behaviour and the incentives offered for excessive risk taking. The trigger was the availability of cheap credit, thanks to over-saving by Asian economies, which was lent to the OECD nations. For their part, the OECD governments were overspending and borrowing the money from the Chinese. They also encouraged households to incur debt. Cheap credit lowered the cost of risk taking on part of bank lenders and other financial agents. The causal sequence has been the same in every financial crisis for the last 200 years—cheap credit, excessive risk taking, bad loans, asset bubbles, bust. The only things we have changed are the financial innovations that each generation has been seduced by into thinking that "this time it is different." (To echo the title of the excellent book by Rogoff and Reinhart.)


So we wait to see if this new structure will solve the problem of financial crises. I doubt it, but at least there is a debate on the appropriate role of banks in modern economies. Macroeconomics has avoided integrating banking into its theories and now we know the cost. We may also begin to fashion research on how different cultures of banking lead to different susceptibilities to contagion and crisis. Who knows? Maybe our knowledge will be better the next time around.


—The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer








Chinese workers are unhappy. They have been acting to express their unhappiness. Strikes against car producer Honda have closed production down. A spate of suicides in Foxconn, the huge contract electronics supplier in Shenzhen, caught the attention of the world. Honda is a Japanese MNC, Foxconn is a Taiwanese MNC. In both cases worker action has secured high levels of publicity and offers of wage increases of 20-30%. Chinese wage increases are good news for the world. But the absence of independent unions to channel and negotiate discontent could be a big problem for China.


Wage rises are good for Chinese workers, and especially so if they reflect a genuine tightening of the labour market. This may well be happening after the years of extraordinary capital accumulation and an emerging decline in young new entrants to the labour force. Wage increases can also reduce inequality, after years of sharp increase in income and wealth differences, which constitute a political time bomb. This is also good news internationally. Wage growth can contribute to international re-balancing through supporting domestic consumption and real exchange rate appreciation. And it will, over time, induce the upgrading of Chinese production processes, and an associated shift in the more labour-intensive parts of manufacturing supply networks to lower wage countries. This could potentially benefit India and lower the wage scale in Bangladesh, provided the domestic environment for investment is good.


What is problematic for China is the absence of independent unions. An irony of communist China is that state-controlled unions typically work with the state and party to ensure a good investment environment for domestic and foreign investors. That helped support rapid capital accumulation and growth. But as the labour market tightens, aspirations rise and the complexity of negotiations increases, it has substantial problems. Independent unions are, in fact, highly desirable for inclusive development in a capitalist society. Neither free-wheeling capitalism nor paternalistic state regulation does a good job of jointly meeting societal demands and the needs of growth. Free-wheeling capitalism falls short because of the large asymmetries of power between firms and workers. The tough head of Foxconn may well be good for capitalist dynamics, but there is a need for counterweights to ensure worker rights are respected. And conditions at Foxconn are reportedly much better than in many firms, let alone in the unorganised sector. Absent structured mechanisms for worker protection and negotiation, and discontent will get channelled into other forms of action—illegal action or the desperate action of worker suicides.


Heavy-handed government regulation is also problematic. Regulation typically only applies to large firms in developing countries, raising the costs of labour hiring and creating the paradox of an anti-labour bias in investment. This is all too familiar from India's organised sector. Outside large firms, regulations are at best ignored, and at worst, become a fertile source for bribery and abuse of small firms.


So what is desirable? Genuinely independent unions, competitive product and labour markets, and a regulatory structure that supports freedom of association and basic worker rights are complements, not alternatives. Unions working in competitive markets can help protect and represent workers without creating protected enclaves. Unions are significantly distorting when embedded in protected markets or political patronage. Moreover, in developing countries, unions often need to take non-traditional forms, helping organise informal workers and negotiating with the state. India's Self-Employed Women's Association is an excellent example, now with some 1.2 million members.


This is where China has problems ahead. Party and government may like to see better conditions for workers. But support for genuinely independent unions looks highly unlikely. After all, independent unions have also played major roles in the transitions to democracy, from South Korea to South Africa. There is often a tendency to decry unions as a source of distortion, protection of entrenched groups and a burden on growth. This sometimes happens. But the broader picture is that independent worker organisations are a central and invaluable part of society, both to protect the rights of workers and as a functional aspect of a capitalist economy. Providing the environment for this is an important part of the institutional and policy agenda for any developing country. It will be a particularly tough challenge in China, given the threat it brings to the hegemony of the communist party. There could be a lot more expression of worker discontent in the years to come.


—The author is at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Centre for Policy Research










The world of mutual funds would be a lot better if there were demats. Just imagine, an investor, regardless of which fund houses he invests in, gets to check what his portfolio value is daily. Private bankers provide this service to high net-worth clients. Close to one crore mutual fund investors would get the same—at a cost though.


Today, a mutual fund investor has to grapple with operational issues. For example, investors are given multiple folio numbers for investments in different schemes and fund houses. And over the years, they accumulate multiple folios that they can't keep track of. And usually, at the end of the financial year, multiple mails of fund houses hound them with statements informing cost of units and their current NAV, causing investors to lose track of their investments. Some fund houses are even known to smartly ignore investors who they categorise as 'dormant'. This is because mutual funds charge their assets annually regardless. Some fund houses are also on a cost-saving drive and often don't send statements.


Against this backdrop, there is a strong case for having demats. But then, why should investors foot the bill? A fund house expert said that fund houses would monetarily benefit if demats are opted for by mutual fund investors. Today, mutual funds charge 7-10 basis points to scheme assets annually—although most of their costs are, actually speaking, volume-led. Thus, it doesn't cost more to send a statement of Rs 10 crore worth of holdings than one of Rs 5,000. Yet fund charges individual schemes on a value basis. Perhaps the solution lies in working out a common registrar and transfer platform. Today, there are two main players—CAMS and Karvy—who are providing these services. Having a common platform could rationalise costs for fund houses as well as give investors a chance to hold one account statement across fund holdings. To begin with, mutual funds could absorb these costs—as it will benefit them in the long run. Perhaps, the investors could be charged, but then it should also be within the overall cap of expenses for various categories of schemes. Are mutual funds game?










The government is to be commended for not only proactively seeking feedback on the draft Direct Tax Code (DTC) but also for responding positively to that. The first version of the code, released in August 2009, attracted plenty of interest from both professionals and lay people. The revised code, once again thrown open for a public discussion, is less rigorous than the earlier one in the crucial realm of personal and corporate taxation. However, in the process of allaying tax payers' genuine apprehensions, it might have departed from the original objective of ushering in a simplified tax system, with low rates and minimal exemptions. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of the tax treatment of retirement benefits. The EET method (Exempt savings, Exempt interest on savings, but Tax withdrawals) proposed in the earlier version was meant to remove certain anomalies. Withdrawals from the retirement benefit schemes such as the provident fund and insurance schemes would have been taxed. The revised draft restores the tax exemption on the more important savings schemes, which is a welcome development in a country where high quality social security schemes are few. Promoting long-term contractual savings has been a national priority and taxing withdrawals of retirement benefits would have been a major disincentive to savers, insurance companies and others. In another departure from the earlier draft, the tax deduction for interest paid on housing loans will remain. It will protect to some extent home-owners from the vagaries of interest rate movements.


Companies will appreciate the decision to continue with the minimum alternate tax (MAT) on book profits rather than on gross assets as was proposed in the earlier version. The code was meant to curb some sharp practices such as padding up the value of assets, but industry associations and tax professionals argued convincingly against using gross assets as the basis since that would have been unfairly burdensome on capital-intensive and long-gestation projects besides loss-making companies. On many other debatable points, such as the powers to override tax treaties and the special concessions to the SEZs, the revised code has provided clarifications. There could conceivably be further revisions of the code before it is notified next year. In the meantime the government will do well to manage expectations. For instance, it is unlikely that individuals and corporations, having won back their concessions, will also get the benefit of considerably lower tax rates. And despite the best intentions to keep the code simple, there will still be a plethora of rules and exemptions.






As the International Whaling Commission prepares to hold its 62nd annual meeting from June 21 in Agadir, Morocco, there are strenuous attempts by a few nations to get the moratorium on the slaughter of whales lifted. The 24-year-old ban on commercial whaling has become an emotive issue for Japan, which cites historic and cultural reasons to justify its abhorrent hunts. There are some disturbing indications that behind the scenes, the cosmetics and food supplement industries may also be driving the agenda. The ban has not deterred Japan from sending factory ships each year into faraway Antarctic waters to hunt minke whales, and process their meat for sale. It has done so by invoking the IWC provision that allows the unilateral issue of permits to kill whales for scientific experiments. Iceland also used this loophole to launch a similar programme four years ago, while Norway has resorted to an objection clause to claim exemption from the moratorium. Such reasoning has become wearisome to the global conservation community, which finds little science emerging from the harpoons. The systematic violation of the ban has, on the other hand, seriously eroded the credibility of the IWC.


It would be monumental folly to accept the 'compromise' proposal circulated in April by two senior IWC executives, including the chairman, to partially lift the ban on whaling commerce. Under that proposal, there will be small kill quotas for the existing whaling nations — Iceland, Norway, and Japan — and closer monitoring. The apprehension is that this measure could open the door to an enlarged whaling programme, attracting new entrants and marking a return to the 20th century horrors of large-scale massacres. What the IWC should really sponsor is more science for conservation. The argument for true research is forcefully made by Australia, which has petitioned the International Court of Justice on Japan's violations. A government-funded 2009 study titled "Conservation and Values: Global Cetaceans Summary Report" points out that only a few of the 86 species recognised by the scientific committee of the IWC have been closely studied. There is a major void in knowledge about the biology, ecology, and status of the others. For instance, although the pro-whaling group says there are enough minkes to allow hunting, the Red List of the conservation body IUCN says data on the species are "deficient." Meanwhile, threats to whales from other human-made causes, such as fisheries conflicts, noise disturbance, ship strikes, and pollution are growing. The Agadir meeting will serve a useful purpose if it can strengthen science and consider ways to enforce the ban.










The verdict in the Bhopal gas leak criminal case convicted officers of Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) for rash and negligent acts causing death, and imposed the maximum penalty of two years. The offence arose from the leakage of methyl isocyanate gas on December 2, 1984 from the company's factory, which caused the death of several thousands of people and maimed several lakhs. Predictably, there is outrage not just at the disproportion between the consequences of the act and the sentence. It is deeper because the victims have got a raw deal on all fronts. A Group of Ministers, now examining action, met on Friday and is to finalise the recommendations shortly.


A revisit of events shows that the Government of India (GoI) bears responsibility in several ways. It allowed the plant to be located in a thickly populated area, with the knowledge that it was handling toxic gas. Its inspectors failed to enforce safety standards. Its culpability increased several fold after the world's worst industrial disaster took place.


The GoI took over the right to litigate, exercising the power of parens patriae, and thus prevented the victims from filing suits through their lawyers. It did not match this power with results or responsibility. It filed a suit in the U.S. court where it laid a claim for $3 billion on behalf of the victims. The last thing the Union Carbide Corporation USA (UCCA), the holding company, wanted was to be a defendant in its home country. It would face American tort lawyers, the most aggressive breed of the legal profession, who commonly secure verdicts or settlements for huge sums. The case would come before judges who are used to managing mass party actions efficiently, and a jury of common people, who could be expected to react to the magnitude of the suffering. The GoI lost on the preliminary issue of jurisdiction; Judge Keenan of the U.S. District Court sent the case to India. Round One to UCCA.


During the 26 long years taken to give the verdict ( the responsibility for which is also laid at the door of the Indian legal system), two major events took place, ensuring that the case was a lost cause even before it went to trial. On February 14, 1989, the GoI agreed to a settlement with UCCA before the Supreme Court. It agreed to accept $470 million, 15 per cent of its claim, in full settlement of all civil and criminal claims arising out of the disaster. (Round 2 to UCCA).


The GoI's justification was the delay in Indian courts, and the immediate necessity of providing relief to the victims. The protective parens patriae did not think it fit to provide such interim relief from its resources, which would have made this settlement unnecessary. The GoI did not give the Bhopal victims prior notice of the settlement. The resulting outcry led to the Supreme Court modifying it two years later; the criminal cases were resuscitated; the monetary settlement and cessation of civil liability stayed undisturbed. However, Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, writing for the majority, held that if the figure of $470 million was not adequate to compensate the victims, the GoI should make good the deficiency. This arose, he said, from the circumstances of the case and the obligations of a welfare state. A dissent on this aspect was entered by Justice A.M. Ahmadi, who asked why the Indian taxpayer should be burdened with this liability when the government had not agreed to bear this liability and was not guilty of wrongdoing.


In 1996, a two-judge Bench diluted the charge from Section 304 para 2 ( knowledge that the act would cause death ) to Section 304 A (rash and negligent act causing death) of the IPC. The penalty came down from 10 years to 2. (Round 3 to both UCCA and UCIL). The GoI defended the case and lost it. It is settled law that the court does not interfere with the trial of a case unless the complaint or charge sheet, accepted without demur, does not make out the offence. The charge sheet clearly stated that the factory in Bhopal was deficient in many safety aspects, its design and safety measures provided by UCCA were deficient, safety norms were not adhered to, factory officers failed to alert the district administration in time, and that all concerned had knowledge that the release of the gas would cause lethal destruction.


The District Court and the High Court found that a prima facie case had been made out by the prosecution requiring the accused to face trial. It would take the strongest legal reasoning to reverse this stand especially given the facts of the case. Justice Ahmadi's reasoning, contained in one paragraph, fell well below this mark. He startlingly held that "Even assuming that it was a defective plant and it was dealing with a very toxic and hazardous substance like MIC, the mere act of storing such a material by the accused … could not even prima facie suggest that the concerned accused thereby had knowledge that they were likely to cause the death of human beings." In his view, the charge had to make out that the accused had knowledge that by the very act of operating the plant "on that fateful night," they were likely to cause death. This would mean that the knowledge and the acts are restricted to that fateful night. Logically, it would follow that only the plant operators on duty that night would be liable; those who designed and operated it with deficient safety systems would not be. The GoI accepted this judgment, failed to ask for its review or for a larger Bench to hear the matter, considering that the court was dealing with a disaster of epic proportions.


The Group of Ministers will doubtless examine the legal options of reviewing the Ahmadi judgment, and securing Warren Anderson's presence (he jumped bail, and UCCA and he were declared absconders after they kept away from the trial in Bhopal.) The GoM may also examine if civil and criminal proceedings can be launched in the U.S. against Union Carbide and Mr. Anderson. Judge Keenan's order would be no defence for them, since he predicated it on their accepting the jurisdiction of the Indian courts. All these are difficult courses given the passage of time, conclusion of the trial and the cap on civil and criminal liability.


One remedial action remains, which is what the victims need foremost, and that is entirely in the hands of the GoI. Justice Venkatachaliah made it clear that the GoI would be liable to make good any shortfall in the compensation amounts. The compensation of $470 million was premised upon the number of about 3000 deaths and 30,000 injured. Over the years, the death and injury toll attributable to the gas leak is far higher than what was then officially recorded, with succeeding generations inheriting the health and environmental disabilities. A recent estimate puts the figure at 5,74,367 victims. The GoI should now arrange for a credible current calculation of compensation requirements (its claim in 1986 was for $3 billion), provide the balance funds itself and ensure speedy disbursement. Public policy and moral and legal considerations demand that it does so.


(The writer is Senior Advocate.











While the draft of the Press Council of India's yet-to-be released report on the 'Paid News' scandal links that trend to earlier devices like 'Private Treaties' and Medianet, the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had already written to the PCI a year ago, warning of the possible outcome of Private Treaties. Interestingly, the letter was from the Officer on Special Duty of SEBI's Integrated Surveillance Department.


The SEBI letter warned that "Private Treaties may lead to commercialisation of news reports since the same would be based on the subscription and advertising agreement entered into between the Media group and the company. Biased and imbalanced reporting may lead to inaccurate perceptions of the companies which are the beneficiaries of such private treaties."


"It has been observed that many media groups are entering into [these] agreements, called 'Private Treaties,' with companies which are listed or coming out with a public offer, for a stake in the company and in return providing media coverage through advertisements, news, reports, editorials etc." So wrote SEBI to the Chairman of the Press Council on July 15, 2009.


"The Press has the role of providing fair, unbiased news to the public and financial press has to play an independent role of providing crucial, timely and factual information to investors," SEBI wrote. "It is our concern that such agreements may give rise to conflicts of interest and may, therefore, result in dilution of the independence of the press vis-a-vis the nature and content of the news/editorials in the media of companies promoting such agreements."


"It is understood," wrote SEBI, "that Private Treaties are agreements between media groups and companies to promote and build 'brand' of the company through print or electronic media which the media group owns, in exchange for shares of such company." The letter has attachments which consist of printouts "from the websites of some of these media groups, listing out the companies with which the media group has such an arrangement and explaining the purpose thereof."


After a series of stories in The Hindu on 'paid news,' particularly during the 2009 elections, the Press Council, taking note of the issue, asked the Election Commission of India for its opinion on the matter. The Press Council had already set up a two-man subcommittee to inquire into and prepare a report on the subject. The report of that committee (detailed in The Hindu, April 22: Paid news undermining democracy: Press Council report) is yet to be released. Their draft report ran into rough weather, with a few Council members opposed to naming names. (Which the report does extensively, though providing substantial space to the rebuttals and denials of those named.)


On Thursday, the Election Commission of India directed chief election officers of all states to give serious attention to the paid news phenomenon which, it said, "is assuming alarming proportion as a serious electoral malpractice, has been causing concern to the Commission in the context of conduct of free and fair elections." The 'paid news' trend now seems firmly identified as a corrupt practice. The ECI has called for "maximum vigilance" so that the incidence of paid news "in the context of elections is arrested."


Meanwhile, the blocked PCI report also links 'paid news' and 'private treaties. One of its authors, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, told The Hindu: "There is indeed a vital link between paid news and private treaties. One is in the political sphere [which is paid news]. And second, in the sphere of business and commerce [i.e. Private Treaties]." The draft report dwelt on the nature and extent of those links at some length — again naming names quite plainly. Mr. Thakurta also says that the Private Treaties were "robbed of some of their sheen during the 2008 financial crisis that saw stock market indices plummet." That's when 'paid news' came in as a device that bypassed tax laws while flouting electoral laws and norms. And which also worked for politicians who could now exceed the poll spending limits without fear of getting caught.


In its letter to the Press Council Chairman, SEBI worried that "though the Press Council has Norms of Journalistic Conduct, which require journalists to disclose any interest that they might have in the company about which they are reporting, no such requirement exists in case of media companies holding stake in the company which is being reported/covered."


The SEBI letter urges the Press Council "to take up this matter and consider the following: 1) Disclosures regarding stake held by the media company may be made mandatory in the news report / article/editorial in newspapers / television relating to the company in which the media group holds such stake.


2. Disclosures on percentage of stake held by media groups in various companies under such 'Private Treaties' on the website of such media groups be made mandatory.


3. Any other disclosures relating to such agreements such as any nominee of the media group on the Board of Directors of the company, any management control or other details which may be required to be disclosed and which may be a potential conflict of interest for media group, may also be made mandatory."


The authors of the Press Council inquiry in fact reproduced these recommendations in their report. However, owing to the resistance of a few PCI members, the final report is yet to be released. SEBI concluded its own letter with these words: "As free and unbiased financial press is crucial for the development of securities market, particularly with respect to aiding the small investors to take a well-informed decision, it becomes imperative that steps be taken to address this issue at the earliest."









As World Cup drama unfolds on the African soil for the first time in history, it may be apt to examine the question: Whither Africa? This is particularly relevant as 17 African countries celebrate completion of 50 years of their freedom this year.


Since the 'scramble for Africa' among European powers for establishing colonies in Africa in the 19th century, the continent has come a long way. On its journey, it has passed through a cycle of exploitation, stagnation, hope, setback and subsequent explosion of new expectations. The past decade seems to have witnessed the second 'scramble', the competition among 'old' powers — the U.S. and the EU — and 'new' powers — China, India, Russia and Brazil, not to speak of ASEAN, Turkey and Iran — to re-engage Africa. Will the coming decade see African countries moving on the road to faster development?


What is required is a realistic evaluation of how Africa has performed in the years since Ghana became the first country to attain Independence in 1957. The late 50s and early 60s represented a special moment in African history as country after country overthrew the colonial yoke. This was the age of hope and of giants such as Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Ben Bella, Senghor, Lumumba and Nyerere. Soon, however, hopes were belied as parts of the continent were engulfed in conflicts. Africa had been caught in the vortex of post-colonial tensions. Neo-colonialism and cold war-related compulsions ensured that both democracy and development suffered enormously. According to one calculation, Africa went through 70 coups and 13 presidential assassinations between 1960s and late 1980s.


Regenerated optimism


The past two decades have regenerated optimism. The end of apartheid and emergence of a democratic South Africa was a big boost. In 1994, there were only eight democracies; today the number is 35. Economic performance has been improving. Between 1995 and 2005, GDP growth rate increased, averaging 5 per cent in 2005. Projections for 2011-12 indicate that growth would be between 4 and 5 per cent. However, these figures can hardly conceal the stark reality of poverty and its brutal consequences in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Television images of emaciated children, teenaged soldiers brandishing guns, and congested urban settlements

infested with crime still define our idea of Africa. News stories about disastrous impact of HIV/AIDS, grossly inadequate facilities for health and education and poor governance continue to pour in. Besides, new challenges such as climate change, likely conflicts on water, energy security, and deepening marginalisation in world affairs complicate the situation.


Are Afro-pessimists right then in claiming that Africa's angst would not end in foreseeable future? Africa has been running behind other regions of the world in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. UNDP estimates that, by current trends, Africa would be unable to halve extreme poverty by 2147 AD.


I do not share this pessimism. Having spent seven and a half years in Kenya and South Africa and having travelled extensively in these countries as well as elsewhere on the continent (i.e. Lesotho, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Egypt and Algeria), I have experienced, first hand, a strong yearning for change. The role of that deep yearning in hastening transformation is important. I have also witnessed talent, creativity, hard work, discipline and dedication on part of youth, women, civil society, media and business. They do not merely clamour for change; they have been working for it.


My considered view is that Afro-optimists are right in maintaining that Africa's turn too will come. But the important stipulation is that it will have to do more to achieve it. This task would become easier if its key international partners become more enlightened and less selfish.


What more can Africa do to secure its salvation – nirvana if you please, from poverty, disease, corruption, conflict and marginalisation?


Mbeki's prescription


Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's President from 1999-2008 and an intellectual giant, offered a thought-provoking prescription at an address in Pretoria on May 27, 2010. Referring to a World Bank report, issued in 2000, which suggested how Africa could "claim the 21st century," Mbeki observed that its suggestions were "correct and unexceptionable," but he emphasised that two important elements were missing. One was the need for Africans "to recapture the intellectual space" and to develop their "intellectual capital" so that they themselves could define their future. The second was the need to take necessary steps to ensure that Africa occupied its "rightful place within the global community of nations."


In order to achieve its goals, suggested Mbeki, Africa should consider the following "Six Steps Forward": build and nurture intellectual cadre committed to transformation of Africa; develop the capacity of state, government, business, and civil society institutions; resurrect African Renaissance Movement; achieve African cohesion resulting in Africa speaking with one voice on matters of common interest; and develop the media and means to communicate correctly about Africa's present and future. In my view, Mbeki's suggestions deserve wider attention.


About Africa's role in the world, the old colonial mindset seems to be alive and kicking. Recently a senior French minister called Africa "our El Dorado", a legendary city of gold. France reportedly wants to ensure broader influence in Africa, seen as "a frontier for profit-making." Many American, EU and Chinese companies seem to share this perspective.


Will Indian companies be different? Will they give to Africa as much as they receive from it, if not more? This is perhaps what Ratan Tata had in mind when he recently recalled that South Africa had been a victim of "exploitative and extractive enterprise". He suggested that India and South Africa could have "a different relationship", one based on mutual benefit and genuine partnership. His advice applies to all Indian companies operating in Africa, not just in South Africa.


Friendly governments such as India can certainly help Africa in its efforts to increase its representation in the institutions of global governance. India should take the lead in extending strong support to Africa's demand for greater representation in G-20.


Many African governments have let down their peoples. They will have to shape up. But, people's real hope lies in strengthening the triad of civil society, business and African Diaspora. The more these stake-holders contribute, by working together, towards empowering public opinion and curbing negative tendencies of governments, the more they will bring the day of salvation nearer. International partners should help by creating a stronger synergy with this triad.


A word of advice for African governments: they need to craft their own version of 'Look East' policy. If they give greater priority to Asia rather than the EU and the U.S., they would discover that Asia, stretching from India to Japan, has much to offer and share with them.


At India-Africa Forum Summit in Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke of India's wish "to see the 21st century as the Century of Asia and Africa with the people of two continents working together to promote inclusive globalisation." These words struck a chord in many African capitals.


Amidst a rising crescendo of excitement before the World Cup began, South African President Jacob Zuma proclaimed grandly: "Africa has arrived." Maybe, but realists are unlikely to agree.


Mother Africa would have "arrived" when democracy, peace and progress touching all her children, prevail on a lasting basis.


( A retired diplomat now, the writer served as India's High Commissioner to South Africa and Kenya.)








A quarter century on, the egregious debate in the media is about why Warren Anderson, then chairman of Union Carbide Corporation, was allowed to leave India once he was already here, having arrived to make a damage assessment and calculations of compensation payments. The Opposition parties are making a blood sport of it, but others are participating with no less self-righteousness and enthusiasm — every former bureaucrat even remotely associated then with senior-level decision-making in Bhopal or New Delhi is being wheeled out by an eager media. Worse, instead of showing the way and taking the bull by the horns, a defensive Congress Party is intent on ruining its own case by seeking to shift the "blame" on to everyone else in the party hoping that the late Rajiv Gandhi should come out of it unscathed, in the process accepting that blame was inherent in the government's decision to allow Mr Anderson to return home without subjecting him to punishment or mob justice.

In a country with continental size problems of development and growth, this shows a baleful poverty of politics. The absence of political imagination that the response to the Bhopal disaster has produced mimics affairs in a banana republic, where a wide berth is given to the notion of considered debate and the rule of law. Coping with the world's worst industrial disaster which took thousands of lives, maimed nearly half a million people and caused environmental damage of incalculable proportions deserved a mature and considered response if the aim was to secure justice and rehabilitation for the victims. Punctilious collation of evidence to fix responsibility on key functionaries of the company — for faulty plant design or careless operation — was never part of the debate. Even now it appears to be the last thing on the minds of our political gladiators.

As some sober voices have tried to point out, the Union Carbide chief would never have agreed to visit India to assess the situation after the accident if he knew he would be thrown into jail, or be permitted to be beaten to pulp by a lynch mob. It is hard to deny that a visit by the highest company functionary was a pressing need, and this would not have materialised if the executive in question wasn't given an assurance of "safe passage", which has now come to acquire the unwarranted connotation of collusion. This discussion ought not to have been about multinationals versus the world's poor, about capitalism and socialism, or about imperialism and its servitors. Mistakenly, and sadly, that is the way it is going, and the system is running for cover as the media has a field day, having grabbed — for zero price — yet another filler between television advertisements.
There is time yet for sober reflection and appropriate action. The real fight is about proper compensation for the families of those who died and for those who suffered; it is about an environmental cleanup in and around Bhopal; about instituting appropriate legal safeguards. The compensation paid out so far is less than Rs 20,000 per capita, far less than what victims of a railway accident get. This is where the government's focus must lie. Of course, Mr Anderson's advanced age cannot be proof against prosecution, provided adequate and appropriate evidence is forthcoming which can stand the test under American jurisdiction. The US government has helpfully changed its stand to say it will give due regard to an Indian request for the former UCC chief's trial. But for that, India must offer a presentable case, and work hard to raise awareness in America about the miscarriage of justice for the poor workers of the Bhopal plant.








After 25 years, the Bhopal gas tragedy continues. The Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) factory, which had spread devastation in Bhopal on the night of December 2-3, 1984, continues to pollute the city of Bhopal and harm its residents. According to the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board, about 8,000-10,000 MT of hazardous waste lying at the factory site is leaching into the groundwater, causing countless diseases and birth disorders among the local population.

The Madhya Pradesh high court is seized of a public interest litigation since 2004 to determine whether Dow Chemical Company is liable and responsible for the clean-up of this factory as the successor in interest of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). From media reports it appears that both home minister P. Chidambaram and road, transport and highway minister Kamal Nath, who were ministers for finance and commerce respectively in the first United Progressive Alliance government, were of the view in 2006-2007 that a "Site Remediation Trust" be set up to let Indian corporates fund and implement remediation activities, leaving Dow free of any obligation.

This recommendation of the Government of India is a reminder of its infamous settlement with UCC in 1989 where all the claims for compensation of the people of Bhopal were settled for a paltry sum of $470 million contrary to the law of compensation in India, sending a signal to the world that the security of the people of India was for sale in lieu of foreign investment.

There can be no doubt that it is impossible for any legal system to ever adequately compensate a person for the loss of a child, a life partner, family or community. And yet, acknowledging this inability the law on compensation the world over has developed on the principle of restitution in integrum, which is at least to ensure that a person entitled to damages or compensation should as nearly as possible get that sum of money which would put him/her in the same position financially as s/he would have been if s/he had not sustained the wrong.

India is no stranger to this universal maxim of compensation. The law on personal injury has been codified by various statutes in India, including the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923. All these legislations provide that when a person suffers an injury or death on account of the intentional or accidental actions of another person, the calculation of damages is done in a manner that the loss of earning caused to him over his lifespan is to be made good to him as damages. This sum is arrived at normally by multiplying the monthly income earned by a person with a multiplier. This multiplier ranges from five (for people above 60 years of age) to 15 (for children up to the age of 15). So someone who earned Rs 3,000 per month but was killed at the age of 15 would be entitled to a compensation of Rs 60,000. For children and unemployed people the monthly income is assumed to be Rs 15,000. The statute stipulates that no compensation can be below Rs 50,000. In addition to the loss of income calculated as above, the injured or next of kin of the deceased are entitled to general damages for funeral, medical expenses et cetera are also to be granted.
Unlike US President Barack Obama who is seeking even consequential damages (indirect loss of income) from BP oil and has forced them to set up a fund of $20 billion for the spill in the gulf of Mexico, where not a single American life was lost, we in India can at least expect our government and courts to ensure that errant companies pay damages in accordance with the law.

The 1989 Bhopal settlement entered into by the Government of India was arrived at by fixing an ad hoc amount of $470 million as full and final settlement for the entire civil and criminal liability of the UCC. In arriving at this settlement, the Union of India did not bother to even quantify or identify the actual loss or damage caused. There was no environmental assessment of the damage caused or on-going damage. The total gas affected people were assumed to be 1,05,000 (including 3,000 fatal cases) when, in fact, the figure turned out to be 5,74,367. No reasons were accorded for why the compensation was calculated on this ex-gratia basis rather than on the established legal norm of compensating each individual for their loss of income.
What is even more ironic is that this blatantly unjust settlement was upheld by the Supreme Court, not once but twice — in its original order of 1989 and in the subsequent order rejecting a review in 1991, the honourable judges held that "settlement cannot be set aside on the ground of insufficiency of settlement fund — just compensation in such mass tort action is to arrive at an approximate compensation to the loss suffered by a rough and ready process when liability of the tort-feasor has not firmly been established by going into complex questions involved in such actions. In the event the fund to be insufficient in the future, Government of India as a welfare state should make good the deficiency". In the final analysis each Bhopal victim got approximately Rs 12,000 each, if at all.

This so-called rough and ready basis is not only contrary to the law of the land, but is completely unfounded and arbitrary. Fortunately, this ambiguous precedent of the Supreme Court has not been followed by Supreme Court itself or any subordinate court.

The Supreme Court in the matter of Lata Wadhwa vs State of Bihar, while adjudicating the damages for persons deceased and injured in a fire that occurred at a function in a Tisco factory, appointed the Justice Chandrachud Committee which calculated the damages for each victim — man, woman and child — based on the multiplier method to arrive at their prospective loss of earning. While finalising the compensation on the basis of this report, the Supreme Court, observing that loss of a child to parents is unrecoupable and no amount of money could compensate the parents, doubled the recommended compensation, granting each victim more than Rs 2 lakhs.

The Delhi high court went a step ahead in the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy that claimed 59 lives in 1997 on account of negligence of the owners, awarding not just damages on loss of earning but penal damages totalling Rs 2.26 crores each to the victims.

The Madhya Pradesh high court, which is seized with the question of the liability of Dow Chemicals, and the Supreme Court of India, which could review its judgment of 1991 upholding the Bhopal settlement of 1989, by way of a curative petition either at its own instance or on the certification of a senior advocate, stand at a crossroad. History will judge them for the route they take as guardians of our Constitution.


Nandita Rao, an activist and lawyer, has been practising at the Delhi high court since 1998. She has worked on several public interest cases.








Frankly, the only person coming out like a decent human being in the ongoing Bhopal trial court conviction of seven high-profile people associated with the world's worst industrial disaster, is veteran lawyer Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney General of India. I am sure he sleeps well at night and is able to look himself in the eye when he wakes up without cringing. He recently revealed how a prominent legal firm (J.B. Dadachanji and Co.) tried to rope him in to defend what we all know was indefensible to begin with. They had most of the other top drawer lawyers like Nani Palkhiwala, Fali Nariman and Anil Diwan in their kitty by then. Soli flatly refused to jump on the bandwagon, saying the victims of the disaster probably needed his advice far more! This was a brave decision which may have isolated him from the other legal brains who had signed on to represent Union Carbide and protect the interests of the American company. But that's Soli. Nothing new about such a strategy. It is the same story today — any legally compromised corporation which is able to flaunt big bucks resorts to exactly the same strategy — buy up the best legal brains in the Lawyer Supermarket and make sure the other side is starved of equally powerful representation. Such intimidatory tactics have been going on for decades, and New Delhi is full of high-profile hustlers who charge by the micro second, rarely read briefs and are the real power brokers in a town that thrives on little else but that elusive entity — power.

In such a cosy environment, where the Big Boys' Club consists of ridiculously paid lawyers who reputedly fix any and every loophole in their clients' favour, it is indeed reassuring to know that at least one man from the same tribe did stand up when he had to and had the moral courage to say "No". It has come to a stage when all a corporate crook needs to get away with blue murder (in the Union Carbide case, literally so) is to hire the best legal eagles on the shelf — the whole lot (cheaper by the dozen?) and then play the nasty waiting game. Our system is such, as the Bhopal issue has once again established. The world must be laughing at us —from 1984 to 2010, this is the "progress" we have made. And look at the absurd outcome of that progress — Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide Corporation CEO who flew the coop with enviable ease right after 20,000-plus Indians had perished in the most blood curdling way, is busy enjoying his autumn years in the Hamptons where he lives a luxurious, retired life. He is a doddering old man now… no point in going after him. Besides, he knows and we know, America is hardly likely to let us get our hands on a person known as the Butcher of Bhopal. That was a given then, it is a given now — as we are discovering to our horror. Three days after the gas leak had effectively flattened the town, Anderson was given a great send off by the then chief minister Arjun Singh. Tapes and TV footage of that cowardly exit show a cocky Anderson declaring, "House arrest or no arrest, bail or no bail, I am free to go home. That is the law of the United States… India, bye-bye… thank you". Such was the arrogance of the man, and the shameless complicity of the Indian administration, that cringe-making visuals of that ignominious exit show our spineless policemen and other officials saluting him as he escaped his rightful punishment in India and flew back home to freedom.

The question to ask is: What has changed today, if anything? It still works in the same nauseating way. Is anything further going to be done to the desi directors who are out on bail? Not a chance. They must have laughed at the ridiculousness of it all when they had to put in a mandatory appearance in court recently before climbing into their individual limos and rushing off to the nearest club for a gin-and-tonic to calm those nerves. These men fall into the "pillars of society" category — they are well-respected individuals with impeccable social pedigrees. But the fact remains a court has found them guilty (so what if the verdict was delivered 25 years after the crime was committed?). They still remain convicted men who are out on bail. Just like other criminals. The nature of their crime is monumental and repugnant. But what they and their mighty lawyers must be banking on right now is the great advantage that delayed justice provides to perpetrators of unspeakably gruesome crimes in our country. Wearing down victims is just a small part of the overall strategy. And if the families of those who lost their loved ones experience a deep sense of frustration, helplessness and rage, well, too bloody bad. This is India — have money, will win. No matter how serious the crime — and in the Carbide case, the world agrees it can't get any more heinous or callous. But what does anybody care? Pitiful compensation is supposed to take care of the emotional loss suffered by these people who have battled on for so many years in the hope their wounds will finally be healed once the criminals are brought to justice. Now, even that hope which has kept them going for so long is dwindling rapidly. They must watch the nightly buck-passing taking place brazenly across TV channels and save their tears in sheer disbelief. Arjun Singh says one thing, Arun Singh another. While even mentioning Rajiv Gandhi in passing is seen as sacrilege. This is the sorry environment we foster — whether it is probing the Indian Premier League scandal or providing justice to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims.

Soon, even this will become a dead story. The engineered fury of a few will vanish just as soon as it manifested itself. The men who were prosecuted will nonchalantly continue their golf and gin-tonic routines, safe in the knowledge kuch nahi hoga.

And the ageing Warren Anderson will eventually die a peaceful death in the Hamptons… unlike the over 20,000 Indians who weren't as lucky when they gasped their last breaths in distant Bhopal 25 years ago.
Wah! India! Wah! Union Carbide Corporation ko sirf saat khoon nahi balki bees hazaar khoon maaf!


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The public inquiry by a retired Canadian supreme court judge John Major into the explosion aboard Air India Fight 182 over the Irish Sea in June 1985, which was released on Friday, may appear to serve no purpose. The tragedy occurred 25 years ago. There were no survivors— 328 Indians died. The culprits — Sikh terrorists — have been punished.


But the Canadian government and the public felt the need to know whether something could have been done to foil the terrorists' diabolical plan. The answer that judge Major has given is that the Canadian Mounted Police (CMP) and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) had enough actionable intelligence to prevent the disaster, and that the two agencies could not act because they did not share the information that each one of them had. Does it sound familiar?


This was indeed more or less the conclusion that the Subrahmanyam committee had arrived at in its inquiry into the Kargil fiasco. There was no coordination among the different intelligence agencies, it said. It should perhaps lead to the conclusion that governmental agencies are universally inert and inept. The conclusion should not come as a surprise. But it is necessary to determine the facts that led to failure. Major's report should alert both governments and the public that terror attacks can be foiled if information that is available with the different agencies is put together and used. The lessons are not lost because of the lapse of time, in this case 25 years.


In India we have a tradition of commissions of inquiry in many of the major disasters, but very rarely are these reports made public and discussed. The Ranganath commission which inquired into the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in October 1984 in the wake of the assassination of Indira Gandhi did not dwell on whether timely deployment of forces could have prevented the massacre. There is the Srikrishna commission on the communal riots in Mumbai but there has been no public discussion about it. Similarly, the Liberhan commission on the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992 does not say whether the state and central governments could have taken timely action.


Unfortunately, no commission of inquiry has looked into the causes of the lethal gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal in December 1984. There has been no inquiry into the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 1992. The conclusions would bring home the painful truth of where governments failed. It is a necessary first step to sit up and take note, and plug the loopholes.







I am beautiful. No, don't look at the photo printed here. Really, I am beautiful. I was told so — more times during my 10-day stay in Beijing than I have ever been in all my 45 years. The comment usually preceded another one about my big eyes and then a congratulatory comment to my husband, who was "so lucky" to be married to me.


To be brutally honest, we fell for it on Day 1. The husband and I had landed in Beijing at an unearthly hour, woken up what felt like 10 minutes later to have breakfast, and then plunged straight into meetings. So, at sunset, when we strolled down from our hotel to see the flag being taken down at Tiananmen Square, we were not, to put it mildly, 100% there.


Several guides approached us with offers to take us on tours, take us for tea ceremonies, all of them warning us against other similar offerings that were scams.


The husband, with his trademark disingenuous smile, was the perfect target. I had to pull his elbow and hiss a no at our potential guides.


A young Chinese girl came up to us and said, "Excuse me, where are you from?"
 "India," we said. By that time, another girl and a boy had also come up to us.


 "India? Beautiful country. You have Buddhists there?"


The disarming had begun. "Buddha was born in India," I said proudly.


 "Oh, you speak such beautiful English. We are Buddhists. We are students, we learn English. Maybe we can speak English with you and learn?" An earnest discussion ensued. They were from a small town in China, in Beijing for the first time. And they were so lucky to have met us. Maybe we could have dinner together?


The husband agreed immediately. I was not so sure, but mainly because they were rather noisy and I was still in jetlag mode. They took us to what looked like a little house, but turned out to be a restaurant, but with separate rooms instead of tables. Maybe this was what restaurants in China were like?


We went through a tea ceremony and then the menus came around. No prices on the menu. I dug the husband in the ribs. "Don't worry," he said benevolently. The students ordered dinner. It didn't seem like an extravagant order, so I relaxed a bit. Finally, the bill came around — 2,250 yuan. More than $300!

That was when the husband had the first flash of common sense he'd had all evening. "So," he said, "our share of this would 800 yuan?" The boy in the group said, "1,000 yuan." So we paid up. As they walked us to the end of the street, the boy went off to use a public toilet facility.


Luckily, the bill had sobered us and we declined all offers for further interaction. Back at the hotel, I picked up my wad of Wikitravel notes, which I'd not had the time to read thus far. There it was — the tea ceremony scam, which we'd just witnessed close up. The bladder heavy boy had obviously run back to the "restaurant" for their share of the kill.


There was the young girl who said she could arrange a tour to the Great Wall, but that's not how she began. "You have a beautiful wife," she told the husband. "You are here on honeymoon?" Show me one middle aged couple that could walk away from that. The slightly wiser husband quipped back, "Yes, here on honeymoon, but not my wife, my friend's wife." She looked dazed at that little bit of info, but brightened up when he proceeded to quiz her on Great Wall tours.


There were the two men who asked if they could click a photo with us as we sat at an open air cafe on Wanfujing Street. We complied happily, holding their hands and beaming at them. The coin dropped when they asked us for 50 yuan for the pleasure. We didn't pay up.


When I finally signed up for a Great Wall tour, I went through the hotel where we were staying. The concierge warned me I would be taken to a shop, but there was no obligation to buy. Naturally, I bought a quilt. But it was silk, for god's sake!


Beijing is full of scamsters — each one more ingenuous than the next. The sheer artistry that was brought into play was admirable. But by the end of the first week, we'd decidedly ruefully that we needed to get "C#1" tattooed on our foreheads. I will leave it to you to decipher what the "C" would read.







"Complex goals are best achieved indirectly," says leading British economist John Kay. Which is why the world's richest people do not pursue money as their primary goal. Take Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Gates' primary interests are in computers and business, not in making money. Buffett is fabulously rich but does not lead an ostentatious lifestyle. Kay, who publishes a weekly column in the Financial Times, talks about his latest book Obliquity — How Our Goals Are Best Pursued Indirectly, in an interview to DNA.


What is obliquity?  

Obliquity is that complex goals are often best achieved indirectly. As an economist I was brought up on the idea that people went around maximising things, but actually they don't. What people do is balance. Often, they steer like a boat along a winding river, some times you get too close to one bank and sometimes to the other and you have to move back towards the middle. That's the kind of process of adjustment and adaptation that is necessary to either achieve personal or business success.


The happiest people are (thus) not the ones who pursue happiness, the most profitable companies are not generally the most profit-oriented and the wealthiest people are not the most materialistic. The point of this is that people are not pursuing any single thing.

Why do you say the world's most profitable companies are not profit-oriented… 

They are not exclusively profit-oriented. Businesses that are most profitable and are able to sustain profits in the long run are actually people building great businesses and building a great relationship with customers, relationship with employees and relationship with suppliers. On the other hand, businesses that are most profit-oriented, like Enron, Bear Sterns, or for that matter Lehman Brothers, are not in the long run profitable because they are pulled apart by the greed of their own employees.

Can you give us another example?    

Take the case of ICI, which was Britain's leading industrial company for most of the twentieth century. Their (original) purpose was about the responsible application of chemistry to business. And they did it. The company began in dyestuffs and explosives. It moved into new chemical businesses like fertilisers, petrochemicals and finally into pharmaceuticals in applying chemistry to business in different ways as the needs of the wider economy changed. In the 1990s, they very explicitly abandoned that kind of goal in favour of shareholder value. They disposed of many of their traditional businesses and bought a battery of new ones and paid too much for the businesses they bought. As the company declined rapidly, it disappeared in 2007. So the responsible application of chemistry not only created a better business than did the attempts at creating value: it also created more value. So it's a process of adapting, a very loose general idea, to changing particular circumstances over time.

Do you see businesses doing that these days?

I see businesses being more and more engaged in a kind of very short-term targeting, managing their quarterly earnings and satisfying the stock and financial markets. So I think people are much less inclined to see business in the way that I have just described than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago. It's a greater financial orientation and more instrumental conception of the nature of business.

Did the attitude of companies to be profit-oriented lead to the recent financial crisis?

In the financial sector, Lehman would be an archetype of this. Organisations that were not really organisations at all but were a collection of individually greedy people. The objective of making profits as an organisation is not one which is going to appeal to anyone really. People who have a profit orientation would rather make profits for themselves, which is what people in these businesses did. A corporate culture that extols greed is, in the end, unable to protect itself against its own employees. Nor does the business with such a culture attract public sympathy when things go wrong.

Do you think investment banks like Goldman Sachs, which were equally responsible for this greed, will continue to survive?

I think that is a complicated story. One thing that differentiated Goldman was a corporate culture that Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers lacked. There was very little culture about Bear Sterns and Lehman, but greed. Goldman has a corporate culture even though not necessarily a very attractive one. And that's a part of Goldman's strength relative to the others. I think in a free market it would not survive. The truth is Goldman survives essentially because of the political clout it has developed. What has happened on Wall Street is that powerful financial institutions have accumulated a lot of wealth and used that wealth to gain political power which reinforces their initial position.

In your book you say that the richest people are not always materialistic…

The richest men in the world at the moment are Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Gates' first interests are in computers and business. And money is secondary to that. Buffett is a strange story because while being fabulously rich he does not lead an ostentatious lifestyle. It is rather clear that money to him is a matter of keeping score rather than something you go out and spend. And that's not surprising. It is what makes these people very rich. They are driven by the passion for the activities they engage in. There is a large capacity for self-destruction about having greed as the primary motivation and we have seen lots of examples of that in the last few years. And that did not happen to the likes of Gates and Buffet, as greed was not their motivation to begin with.

What is the essential message that you are trying to send out through this book?

It is an attack on what I call bogus rationality. The world in which we are pretending to make decisions through a kind of formal, spelled out process, is really not the reality. It gets in the way of making good decisions and of understanding the ways in which we do and should take decisions.

What do you mean by bogus rationality?

Bogus rationality is probably best described as the kind of rationality that says this is the way we are going to make decisions in a world in which we think we know much more  than we (actually) do and believe we have much more control over it than we (actually) do. We pretend the world is like that in order to make decisions in this kind of way. And that's what I mean by bogus rationality. It is a process which has the appearance of rationality but in the end it doesn't. It isn't rational.







Restaurants with views have become somewhat passé.  To eat at a great height with the world at your feet is a splendid feeling; and certainly was so in the 1970s when such restaurants were in vogue.  I remember as a child going to the Post Office Tower in London, an iconic 60s landmark, which boasted a revolving restaurant on the top.  There was excitement at the constant changing views of the city the restaurant afforded, from the verdant Regents Park to the white Fitzrovia.  


There was the Chinese restaurant atop the Searock in Bandra, the food was terrible Indo-Chinese, but that is not why people went.  It was the fact that it revolved.  The revolution took us from the jaded magnificence of Bandra Fort, the decaying sanatoriums of Bandra Bandstand to the shimmering blue waters of the Arabian Sea.


For a more urban view, there is the Pearl of the Orient restaurant atop the Ambassador Hotel at Churchgate which still revolves.  This restaurant, like the hotel, exists in a kind of 70s time warp.
However, recently I was privileged to dine at a restaurant which boasted the most magnificent view, and was also an exceptional restaurant.  The restaurant was Galvin at the Windows, at the London Hilton, sitting atop 28 floors, the panoramic view erupted from the very heart of London (technically Hyde Park corner) and was awe-inspiring and intoxicating. It is a serious French restaurant run by two brothers, Chris and Jeff Galvin who also run the marvelous Bistro at Baker Street.  The food here is much grander than the Bistro cooking: it is the Michelin style of grand cooking.  It is also substantially more expensive, but not outrageously so.  With the recession on, you have several fixed price options, the two menus were 4 courses at £45 or 7 courses at £65, which given the quality of the cooking ingredients is not unreasonable.  For this you get an exquisite mackerel tartar with avruga caviar as a first course, a beautifully prepared turbot, followed by Welsh spring roasted lamb of great delicacy and  excellent puddings.  I had the house favourite which was the combination of a milky pannacotta set off by the intensity of poached cherries.


If the Galvin at the Windows scores as the restaurant with the grandest view of London, Asiatec sitting atop the 30th floor of the Mandarin Oriental in New York, must rank at its equivalent in Manhattan, taking in a splendid sweep of the Central Park.  It also provides a brilliant and sophisticated European Asian fusion cuisine which really works.  In Mumbai if one forgets the Pearl of the Orient revolving restaurant, the restaurant which has the most stunning of views, is Souk at the Taj at Apollo Bunder.  It is great for lunch when you can see across the harbour, the dockyards and the bustle of the city and the mezze is the best in Mumbai.









The John Major Inquiry Commission to look into the 1985 Air India Kanishka bombing has come down heavily on the Canadian government for its failure to prevent the tragedy in which 329 persons, mostly of Indian origin, lost their lives. The commission has not minced words in saying that "a cascading series of errors contributed to our police and security forces failing to stop the bombing" and has called it a "Canadian atrocity". It has pointed out that despite this "largest mass-murder in Canadian history", the national security continues to be badly organised between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Services (CSIS). This stinging rap for the Canadian authorities may lower the pressure on the Indian government somewhat, considering that it too has faced the heat because the perpetrators of the heinous crime are still at large. It has been facing criticism in spite of the fact that the bomb that blew up Flight 182 was manufactured in Canada as part of a plot that was hatched in Canada.


It has been established beyond doubt that the plane crashed because of a bomb, but despite years of criminal investigation, there has been just one conviction against a British Columbia mechanic, Inderjit Singh Reyat, who assembled bomb components. Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik were arrested and charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy 10 years ago but British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson acquitted them because he found that the main witness in the case was not credible. How can the families of the victims rest easy when the killers continue to be moving freely?


Ironically, the commission has offered little to the bereaved families except for calling for an independent body to be created to recommend an appropriate ex gratia payment and to oversee its distribution. To those who have waited 25 years for justice and relief, that may amount to no more than passing the buck. 








The proposed China-Pakistan civilian nuclear deal is a matter serious concern. The deal, under which China will set up two additional nuclear plants in Pakistan, will be in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), not signed by Pakistan. The NPT prohibits nuclear trade with the countries which are not signatories to the treaty. China's argument that its commitment to supply the two nuclear reactors to Pakistan dates back to the period before 2004, when Beijing had not joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), is not convincing as the delivery of the controversial consignment will take place only now. The US rightly insists that the deal must be approved by the NSG — scheduled to meet next week — in the manner it gave its nod for the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement.


However, the required NSG approval of the Sino-Pak nuclear deal is unlikely to come about in view of the dubious track record of Pakistan. It is too well known that Pakistan has been deeply involved in the proliferation of nuclear weapon technology to various countries. Pakistan's disgraced nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan virtually ran a nuclear mart when he provided all kinds of support to North Korea, Iran and Libya (no longer in the race) to acquire weapons of mass destruction. China, too, has been guilty of nuclear proliferation, though its controversial role has not been discussed as much as that of Pakistan. China's role in Pakistan's emergence as a nuclear-weapon state cannot be ignored. India's hopes of better relations with China in the wake of cooperation between the two countries during last December's climate change summit at Copenhagen have been shattered.


The China-Pakistan nuclear deal is being clinched at a time when the world is worried about Pakistan's nuclear

weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban. The US and the rest of the world must prevent the deal from becoming a reality. It is learnt that the US may not go beyond expressing its concern over the alarming development as it expects some concessions from China over certain issues dear to Washington DC. If the US does not act decisively, the Obama administration's claim that nuclear non-proliferation is one of its top priorities will prove to be hollow. 









While the food prices have remained at an acceptably high level, the prices of non-food and non-oil products have also shot up as a result of increased demand and fast economic growth. The economy is on a roll but those with uncertain means are bound to feel the heat. It gives the marginalised no relief if someone in the government blames price rise on a global trend. Food prices may cool if the monsoon proceeds normally. Besides, last year's high base effect will ensure food inflation falls in the coming months from the present 16.74 per cent. Core inflation, based on the wholesale price index, has touched a 19-month high of 10.16 per cent.


Apart from increased pain for the poor, the double-digit inflation rate may drive the RBI to up the cash-reserve ratio and the repo rate at its meeting next month-end. This would see interest rates inch up. The RBI is trying to tighten monetary policy, which was loosened up in phases a couple of years ago to cope with the global meltdown. Since the euro zone woes have raised concerns about the global recovery, the government is sending signals to the RBI to refrain from taking any "excessive step". Both Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Chief Economic Adviser Kaushik Basu have given the RBI enough hints to maintain the status quo.


The RBI has a tough call to take in balancing growth and inflation, no doubt, especially because the core inflation figure of 10.16 per cent is tentative and the actual number must be higher. For instance, the wholesale inflation figure forecast for March was 9.90 per cent when the actual turned out to be much higher at 11.04 per cent. Even if the RBI takes the government line and avoids a rate hike, there is little possibility of oil price decontrol as long as inflation stays at such unacceptable levels.

















Except for double-digit food inflation and general inflation (measured by the Wholesale Price Index) around 9 per cent, the Indian economy seems to have come out of the global recession that hit the world with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in October 2008. For a large part of Europe, recession is still a reality with many countries going bankrupt and burdened with huge sovereign debts. Fiscal mismanagement in some of these countries has led to huge government spending cuts that have had severe repercussions on people's incomes and jobs.


India by comparison has done relatively well and India's GDP growth has picked up to 7.4 per cent (taking into account that of the last quarter) and industrial growth also is laudable at double digit --- 12.2 per cent. Exports are doing well again (recently at 36 per cent) and in general there is recovery and growth in the services and corporate sectors. All this does show that India has the kind of resilience some industrial countries do not have. It also shows that India's social policies have been able to weather the worst aspects of the current downturn, and there has not been the kind of high unemployment experienced in the European countries. But, perhaps, it is too early to feel complacent about India's relatively quick recovery and "business as usual" scenario. There ought to be caution against future problems that can crop up and ruin the scene.


One aspect of the recovery process has been that the service sector in India has not been much affected, and in 2009 its growth has been around 8 per cent. Both exports and industrial growth suffered but not the service sector. Since the service sector usually employs educated and English-speaking persons belonging to the middle classes, India has not faced the problem of slack consumer demand faced in the Western countries. India's big stimulus package also helped, especially as it gave additional incomes to more than 18 million government employees in the form of Pay Commission rewards. For a short while, however, the aviation and hospitality sectors were adversely affected by the global downturn but, in general, the software and BPO services were not much affected.


The service sector employees' buying power has been the mainstay for sustaining the demand for consumer goods and consumer durable industries, including the automobile industry. But now with the whole of Europe being more or less involved in the second economic crisis, the scene can change and any reduction in demand for services from India would affect the growth of this sector.


There can also be a further slowing down of the village economy in various parts of the country because of its dependence on agriculture. There are reports that agriculture is not going to grow at the expected 4 per cent (last year's agricultural growth was only 0.2 per cent) as there may be another monsoon deficit. There are also long-standing problems in agriculture that need to be addressed like irrigation, availability of credit, good quality seeds, storage facility and marketing channels.


If agro-industries can be started successfully in villages, more employment can be generated in the rural areas, and per capita incomes would rise. This is important for eradicating malnutrition persisting in the countryside which could be because of lack of regular wage employment. India has the highest number of malnourished children in the world and 45 per cent of children below the age of 5 are malnourished. There is the fear of malnutrition rising with food prices going up, specially among farm workers.


Why food prices are going up despite all efforts by the government is hard to explain. If it is a matter of supply and demand mismatch, huge imports of foodgrains and sugar should have taken care of the situation. Also, there are 60 million tonnes of foodgrains lying with the Food Corporation of India — why is it that the minimum stocks requirements are being strictly maintained when the release of foodgrains could bring down the prices?


If food prices remain high, many families will cut back on their children's educational requirements and on health care expenditure. Illnesses will not get treated on time and children's books and educational aids will have to be curtailed. This is because in India 58 per cent of the household expenditure goes towards food as compared to less than 10 per cent in industrial countries. Food is the most important part of the household budget and people curtail buying non-essential industrial goods.


There could be a lagged effect of high food prices on demand for industrial goods. If the demand coming from agriculture for industrial goods slackens, industries may be left with huge inventories that will lead to the postponement of investment and lower industrial growth in the future.


Regarding finding jobs for people in the rural areas, the government's resolve to expand the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is an important step. The NREGS has been successful in the past as it reduced starvation for many and gave jobs to 4.4 crore workers. Hopefully, many more will benefit from the scheme, but it will not be enough to eradicate malnutrition. A more targeted scheme is needed. The National Rural Health Mission should also be able to deliver health services more efficiently to the rural population, but the government has to ward off corruption and mismanagement.


In all the Union budgets in the recent past, allocations for health and education have been regularly enhanced, but the execution of these schemes, which falls under the states' domain, is far from satisfactory. Without proper health care, the productivity of workers will suffer. One of the main reasons for rural poverty is low productivity of workers.


There is also the Maoist problem, which is escalating on a daily basis. The Maoists get their recruits from those who are excluded from the government's welfare schemes. The importance of the rural poverty alleviation schemes lies in their being able to deliver quality services that cater to the urgent needs of all poor areas, but this is usually not the case.


Thus, the rural schemes that are actually Centrally sponsored but whose delivery and implementation lie with the state governments will need more monitoring from the Central authorities or, better still, the civil society. It is also about time to think of rural industrialisation urgently because it is the rural areas that are the hotspots of insurgent activities.


Instead of emphasising on external relations, perhaps it is time to turn inwards to the remotest rural areas which have no TV coverage and remain isolated and invisible. Our leaders should visit these areas more frequently than taking trips abroad for attending conferences and having meetings, and find out for themselves the needs of the people and address them on an urgent basis. That is the only way to come out of recession completely and save many lives from disaster.








On a visit to Mark Twain's house in the US, I was especially keen to see his study, the place where all the brilliant humour and satire had been produced.


Rather surprisingly; the room originally designed for the purpose had been abandoned — it had too much view! Mark Twain found the garden views so enchanting that he would spend hours gazing out pulling at his pipe — very often drifting off to sleep! No wonder, he opted for the billiard room instead, where he could conveniently spread pages of his manuscripts on the large table.


Far away from the cold, mid-western landscapes of north America, another famous writer and a maestro of the tragi-comic genre, some years later had similar window problems. R.K. Narayan, the Malgudi Man, passionately built a new house in Mysore with an octagonal study and eight bay windows, but soon found the pastoral view of the Nandi hills from the windows so distracting that he could hardly get any work done. At other times, schoolboys and temple-goers kept plucking flowers from the frangipani tree planted in his garden; and he had to shoo them off with frantic shouts from the bay windows. The much cherished windows had to be curtained off.


But Ruskin Bond, the bard of Himalayas, too has a much celebrated window, which he loves. His tiny study on the first floor has a cute little opening which allows him commanding views of the Mussoorie hills and of the narrow road leading up from the Landour bazaar.


On my first visit to his house he had given me some directions; one of them being about a staircase painted in red leading to the cottage upstairs. When I reached the place, huffing and puffing after a steep climb, I managed to find the red staircase but it was ferociously 'guarded' by a pack of menacing pariah dogs! The moment I would go near the steps, they would snarl, gnawing their teeth, and come charging for me — petrifying me with their great "bond" for the master!


At long last, I heard a cheery, "Oh! Hullo …" from Ruskin Bond waving from the window above, his cherubic smiling face grinning with amusement, "no, no, they won't say anything, come up." I was a much relieved man.


Notwithstanding all such "window insights", I designed a large one for my own study, to enjoy the garden views with a pine tree and bird house. The tree is always crowded with magpies, crows, squirrels; and occasionally lapwings, koels and sunbirds too.


The window is never shut, never mind, if nothing ever gets written. I can always turn to a book.









There is more than enough money in the government treasury, given by Union Carbide, to take care of about 20,000 victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy that struck on December 3, 1984. But, it seems, political will lacks the human touch to wipe their miseries.


Over 15,000 people had reportedly died in this biggest industrial disaster of the world following the leak of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas from the Union Carbide plant.


Even 26 years after the shocking incident, the survivors and their families, who continue to suffer health damage from exposure and contaminants in drinking water and food, are running from pillar to post to get adequate compensation. Most of them get a pittance every month.


This is despite the fact that a corpus of $470 million (Rs 710 crore), set up in February 1989, has swelled substantially with interest accrued for over 21 years. Instead of distributing the huge principal amount among the families of the dead and surviving victims, and using it also for cleaning up Bhopal's air and ground water pollution caused by the gas leakage, only a small portion of the interest amount is being used in an insignificant manner.


About 70 tonnes of poisonous residue is still required to be cleared as it has contaminated the soil and groundwater at Carbide's pesticides plant (now owned by $45 billion American multinational Dow Chemicals Company) and penetrated vegetation and animal tissues in the surrounding area.


No one bothered about the victims till June 7, when 26 years after the tragedy, the trial of the accused, mostly former officials of the Union Carbide, concluded. The judgment attracted widespread criticism from social activists, political parties and survivors of the tragedy as the punishment was shockingly too low - two years of imprisonment with a fine of Rs 1 lakh under main Section 304-A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code, and a little more under other IPC provisions.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 14 directed a Group of Ministers headed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram to assess the remedies available in the light of the court's verdict. The dramatic arrest of the then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson in Bhopal, a few days after the tragedy, and his subsequent escape from India under government protection the next day is now causing heavy embarrassment to the UPA government.


This is the second such GoM on the issue. The earlier one, during the previous UPA regime, was headed by Arjun Singh who, ironically, was the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister when the gas tragedy took place. The first GoM hardly held any meetings.


Pursuant to the settlement with the Union Carbide, as far back as on February 14-15, 1989, a sum of $470 million (Rs 710 crore) was deposited with the government. Notwithstanding the deposit of this amount to be paid as compensation to the victims a substantial part of the corpus still lies with the government treasury and has swelled, having accrued interest for over 21 years.


Meanwhile, a Supreme Court judgment delivered on September 13, 1996, has also come under attack from various political quarters asking why did the apex court 'dilute' the charges against the accused. On a petition moved by the accused, the Supreme Court had 'amended' the charges from Section 304 Part (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) to Section 304-A (causing death by negligence).


A former Chief Justice of India, Mr Justice A. M. Ahmadi, has become a target for this 1996 judgment. In fact, Ahmadi was not alone responsible for this judgment. It was delivered by Mr Justice S. B. Majumdar sitting on the division bench with the CJI Ahmadi. Interestingly, in 1991, it was Ahmadi who had concurred with the then CJI, Mr Justice Rangnath Mishra, preventing the dropping of all criminal proceedings against Union Carbide.


By an order dated February 14-15, 1989, the Supreme Court had accepted the settlement arrived at between the government and Union Carbide for the total sum of $470 million. This order directed that all criminal proceedings against Union Carbide would stand withdrawn and no further criminal proceedings would be entertained.


The Supreme Court in a later judgment reported in (1991) 4 SCC 584 (per Ranganath Mishra, CJI) and Ahmadi concurring held that the decision to quash all criminal proceedings against Union Carbide and grant immunity from future prosecution was "bad and liable to be reviewed." Only after this, the prosecution against Union Carbide was reopened and the guilty were prosecuted. But for this judgment Union Carbide or any of its officers would not have been prosecuted.


Ahmadi is also facing criticism from the BJP quarters for being appointed (after his retirement) as the chairman of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust (BMHT) set up by the apex court to look after the welfare interests of the victims. It is being alleged that this amounted to a 'conflict of interest' because he had earlier as a Supreme Court Judge heard the Bhopal gas case related petitions.


Actually, the decision to appoint Ahmadi as the trust's chairman was taken by a three judge bench of the Supreme Court on May 15, 1998. The Supreme Court had also considered the names of two former CJIs – Mr Justice P. N. Bhagwati and Mr Justice R. S. Pathak. "If there was a conflict of interest, would the apex court have appointed Ahmadi?" asked a senior official of the Supreme Court.


All parties were represented before the Supreme Court on May 15, 1998, and continued to appear till July 25, 2008. They included the NGOs representing the victims. No one objected to Ahmadi's appointment. Ahmadi on July 14, 2008, and on June 20, 2009, wrote to the then CJI, Mr Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, requesting that he be relieved as BMHT's chairmanship. But he was urged to continue by a judicial order of the Supreme Court.


Sympathising with the gas tragedy victims for being treated "like vegetables" by the politicians representing various governments at the Centre and Bhopal since 1984, a woman activist said: "The sudden concern in New Delhi now for them is like shedding crocodile tears."








In the village where I live in Goa, one can see women carrying hay or fish in baskets on their heads. There is nothing unusual in that as I am sure rural India is full of such sights. What is different is that the women are in jeans or some such modern dress. My milkman is not a man. She is a girl who wears long comfortable shorts, comes in a car and is doing her Master's degree.


These are all women evolving out of their stereotypes in society and consciously or unconsciously choosing hitherto new paths in their social journeys. All these women who go about their daily work, irrespective of being aware whether they are making any statement or not, are admirable women. And quite a pleasant surprise too.


Education has helped women build up their confidence. Globalisation and the media have helped even the ones who are not fortunate enough to be formally educated. Women are getting acquainted with other women all over the world and perhaps want to adapt their lifestyle and dress code, as it is in many ways, liberating. Women are asserting themselves in careers that were traditionally male domains. They often outshine men in academic performance. They are on TV, quite candid and articulate about their views and lives. They are in politics, at ease and in command. They are in the forces, intelligent and physically trained.


That demure, shy, submissive woman is not as common as she used to be. Today's woman is doing all the things she can, not really with a sense of rebellion but because she is capable of doing them and knows it. Since women form half the population of this country and half the population of this country is at the basic subsistence level, we need to focus on "poor women". Many of them have seen the lifestyle of the rich and the emancipated women, in the media or in reality, and thus want the playing field to be levelled so that they too can reach that status.


Any party like the BJP or Ram Sene Or Shiv Sena, which emphasises on traditional values and berates women for embracing modernity, is not going to be very favourably viewed by the modern Indian woman of any class. This woman, who has got enough exposure, knows that only the political party that has an agenda of development and takes concrete steps towards development will win her over. Traditional values maybe sacrosanct for most Indians and we are still a very traditional people, but that in no way stops us from having some modern views, ethics and lifestyle.


Women have often been transcending the limits set by society but this has been accompanied by a fair amount of guilt or uncertainty as women are trained from childhood to always keep in mind the society and "what people will think". However, women today have gone a step further and have rejected that sense of apology or guilt and have made choices in marriage, career and social behaviour without feeling any mortifying self-doubt.


Many women I know are social drinkers and yet perform various religious rites like Karva Chauth with equal ease and real devotion. But why should the two things be mutually exclusive? Now when the modern woman talks of bungee jumping or of joining the police or goes to drink in a pub, she is merely doing it because she does not see any contradiction in it with regards to her 'inner being' or her 'social self'. She is not on a binge of trigger-happy rebellion or erratic behaviour. She is merely exercising a rational choice, which education, social exposure and development have presented before her and is as correct or as fraudulent in that choice as men are and have been.


And all of this has been possible because India is a democratic and secular country and our women are not in purdah or living a half-hidden existence as many women in non-secular countries do. Thus being secular and non-communal is fundamental to the progress of women and Indian women are already aware of that and they would not like to go back to purdah, literal or metaphorical.


The writer is a free-lance journalist based in Goa









Efforts are on to bring the Taliban faction headed by Sirajuddin Haqqani to the negotiating table along with the Afghanistan government. Pakistan seems to be playing a key role in the move for rapprochement between the two sides. A June 16 Dawn report said that "preliminary contacts have been established" with the Haqqani faction's leaders with a view to having a peace agreement with it.


The attempt to make them leave the path of insurgency is related to President Hamid Karzai's idea of inducting the "good" Taliban into the government.


But why is Pakistan so much interested in reconciliation between the Afghanistan government and the Haqqani Taliban faction? According to Business Recorder, "Since the Haqqani group virtually controls five bordering provinces —- Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Logar and Ghazi —- its decision to join the peace and reconciliation process would improve the security situation in that area with a concomitant positive fallout in Pakistan's adjacent areas, especially North Waziristan."


Leaders of the Haqqani faction are believed to have close relations with the Pakistan government. Their entry into the Karzai government will help Islamabad protect its interests in Afghanistan. The Pakistan government is working feverishly on how to realise its dream of having the much-talked-about strategic depth in Afghanistan after the US and other foreign troops begin their pullout in July next year.


The path of the Haqqani faction's entry into the Karzai government is free from the most difficult roadblock after the recent resignation of the all-powerful National Directorate of Security chief, Amrullah Saleh. The Haqqanis, who are Pashtun, hated Amrullah, a Tajik, as much as they do the Americans. They accused Amrullah of being involved in last year's major missile attacks on the Haqqani network's headquarters, leading to the killing of many family members of Moulvi Sirajuddin Haqqani.


According to Dawn, "it seems unlikely that the Haqqani network will engage in any manner of talks, even with an Afghan such as Hamid Karzai, without the blessings of Mullah Omar."


The Haqqanis, it is believed, cannot go against the wishes of the main brain behind the Taliban extremist movement despite the fact that they have been operating almost independently all these years. If the Haqqani leadership is taken on board by the Karzai government that will amount to Mullah Omar also having an indirect entry into the Kabul regime. Will the US allow the surviving Taliban supreme leader to come back to power through the Haqqani network?


Zardari's surprising move


President Asif Ali Zardari has asked all the sitting parliamentarians belonging to his party, the PPP, to submit a "loyalty affidavit" to him soon. This has led to speculation about what he has up his sleeve. Newspapers and TV channels have described these "affidavits" as resignation letters sought in the wake of the growing tension between the government and the judiciary.


The Pakistan Supreme Court has taken a serious view of the government's reluctance to initiate steps with regard to Mr Zardari's controversial accounts in Swiss banks after the historic verdict on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).


As The News of June 18 says, "The possibility of a 'conspiracy' outside parliament has been raised, but there is no way of knowing whether this is a creation of the kind of paranoia we have seen so far in the past, or whether the President and his aides are aware of something being cooked up behind closed doors."


The Pakistan National Assembly has completed only half of its term





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Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, flew into Washington earlier this week to face a grilling from members of the US Senate. As he stepped out of his limousine to enter the Capitol building, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) swooped down and arrested him on the charge of "culpable homicide reducible to criminal negligence". BP, after all, had ignored several safety warnings about its drilling operations and cost-cutting decisions, before an explosion sank its rig, Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 people and sending millions of gallons of oil towards nesting pelicans on the US coast.

 The FBI spirited Mr Hayward away to a safe house. After waiting for over half an hour for Mr Hayward to make his appearance, the chairman of the Senate committee made enquiries about Mr Hayward's whereabouts. On learning what had happened, he got in touch with the White House, demanding that Mr Hayward be released so that he could face legislators. Mr Obama had already agreed to meet Mr Hayward and the chairman of BP, Carl-Henric Svanberg, so his chief of staff phoned the FBI director to plead executive privilege and got Mr Hayward released.

Mr Hayward was then taken in an FBI car, accompanied by senior FBI officers, and released at the steps of the Capitol building. Reporters were surprised to see Mr Hayward back at the scene of arrest so quickly, and to all appearances a free man. The frontline FBI agent who had arrested Mr Hayward told TV reporters that he did not know why the BP CEO had been released; he had got a phone call from his superiors, who ordered him to release the prisoner. The driver of the car told reporters that he didn't know who his passenger was until the last minute.

When Messrs Hayward and Svanberg met the president at the White House, the Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives charged that this showed government complicity in a cover-up. Mr Svanberg did not help matters when he referred to victims of the oil spill as "small people". He later apologised, but Washington's leading newspaper said the comment reflected the arrogance of large, multinational corporations.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama was asking BP to suspend all dividend payments to shareholders until it paid for the damage caused by the oil spill. BP maintained that while it sympathised deeply with the pelicans which had suffered on account of the oil spill, the accident had occurred in international waters and the company was only bound by international law. Also it would have to review further drilling in US oil fields — a threat that promptly brought the Republicans out in support of the company, shouting "Drill, baby, drill!"

There was speculation on New Deal Television (NDTV) that BP's tough stance was the result of support from the British prime minister, who was concerned that suspending BP's dividend payments would affect the incomes of millions of shareholders in Britain, and trigger the world's first triple-dip recession. Another channel, TV1776, aired the suspicion that diplomatic pressure from the former colonial ruler of the US would force Mr Obama to back off.

Meanwhile, the Senate decided to set up America's first EGOS (Empowered Group of Senators) to review the oil spill liability cap of $75 million. Mr Obama, meanwhile, was demanding $20 billion from BP. At the time of writing, BP was planning to go to the US Supreme Court, where a certain judge... .

Fact: The BP CEO appeared before the Senate, there was no arrest; the CEO and the BP chairman met Mr Obama, who has got his $20 billion — though he had no legal power to demand it. (As Deep Throat might have said immediately after Bhopal: Follow the money, not Anderson.)







With talk of a G2 running the world, there is no more important question for India than to form a judgment on where China is headed economically and politically. This is the subject of this column and the next.

 First, the economics. In many ways, there are eerie parallels between assessments of the Chinese economy today and Japan's at the end of the 1980s. Remember books called "Japan as No. 1", just before the Japanese stock market and property bubble collapsed and Japan entered a near two-decade period of economic stagnation and deflation. Whilst the Japanese accumulated trade surpluses were used to go on a shopping binge from movie studios to Impressionist paintings, which had to be sold at a loss with the subsequent economic retrenchment. The preceding investment boom was caused by dodgy investments promoted by low interest rates which often had negative real rates of return (See my "The Japanese Slump",, so that the household sector "managed to incur real capital losses of 405.8 trillion yen" on their accumulated savings of 1,250 trillion yen between 1970 and 1988, as estimated by Albert Ando.

China today is being congratulated for its massive fiscal and monetary stimulus which, after a short growth recession, has returned it to its 10 per cent per annum growth path. But unlike the source of past growth through labour-intensive exports, this recent growth surge is entirely due to massive public investment, mainly in infrastructure, which Yao Yang of Peking University argues has very low rates of return. Whilst the accumulated foreign exchange reserves of $3 trillion, held in large part in US and eurozone public debt instruments, are beginning to look more like the unprofitable deployment of Japanese surpluses by its private sector in the 1980s. For, with the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone and an incipient one in the US, these Chinese massive holdings of US and eurozone government bonds are beginning to look like the subprime mortgages held by US banks before the Great Crash, with dire consequences for the returns on this deployment of the massive savings of the Chinese people by the state. Finally, the large monetary easing has led to a bubble in the property market, again echoing pre-bust Japan. So, is the latest adherent to the "Asian" model likely to meet the same fate as its parent?

I do not think so for a number of reasons. The first is that, in Japan, the destruction of its savers by its corporation's low-return investments occurred a decade after the rapid and productive growth based on "catch-up" in the 1960s and 1970s. China is still in this catch-up phase and the bad investments it may have made in its recent investment splurge will probably come out in the wash. With savings rates remaining high, until the demographic dividend ends with the ageing of its population after 2025 and abundant productive opportunities available for industrialisation to expand beyond the coast, and with an elastic supply of labour in a relatively free labour market, it should be able to maintain its stellar growth rate. But this will require it to switch production away from exports to the domestic market. For, the old export-led growth model is unlikely to be tolerated for much longer by the US and Europe. There are already signs that Chinese policy-makers recognise this, and as their political legitimacy depends upon generating fast labour-intensive growth, they are likely to make this switch in the very near future.

Second, the authorities are already trying to reign in the housing boom by reversing the monetary easing undertaken during the financial crisis. Third, they are likely to introduce greater exchange rate flexibility fairly soon, which should ease trade tensions concerning their exports. Fourth, as long as the US and Europe do not resort to the traditional route of inflation whereby debtors in the past have conducted their "euthanasia of the rentier", the large foreign exchange reserves will continue to give China considerable economic and diplomatic leverage in its economic relations with the rest of the world. Finally, the reported tensions about rising wages in the coast far from being a sign of distress are the natural accompaniment to the massive increase in the demand for labour its past export-led growth has led to in these regions, and can be easily accommodated as is already being signalled by the authorities. So, for at least the next decade, the Chinese should be able to maintain their 9-10 per cent per annum growth rates. There is no immediate danger that they will end up like Japan in the late 1980s.

But there is a longer term danger in following the "Asian model" after the catch-up phase ends. In an important book, Yaseng Huang (Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics) has argued that the authoritarian state-led capitalist model that the Chinese have followed since the 1990s, after the more liberal entrepreneurial capitalist model instituted by Zhao Ziyang in the 1980s, is inferior to the Indian model because of the stunted size of the Chinese indigenous private sector and the continuing reliance on financial repression which are its hallmark. His most alarming finding is that there has been a marked decline in total factor productivity in China since the late 1990s. India, he argues, has progressed further than China in financial liberalisation, and its private sector-led model since 1991 has fostered indigenous entrepreneurship, whereas China is still dominated by highly profitable state monopolies with "private sector businesses operating on the margins of technology and innovations". This has meant that India has generated growth rates close to China's with much lower investment. He also notes that in 1980, China started with an infrastructure disadvantage compared with India, and yet had spectacular growth rates. So, like India today, "FDI and infrastructural investment played a minor role in China's initial economic take-off". They have followed rather than led growth. He concludes that India has a better chance of maintaining high, sustainable growth rates than China. Talk of a G2 dominating the world economy is thus premature.








In 1949, the Chinese Railway (CR) network added less than 22,000 km of poorly maintained, war-damaged lines. By 2008, its network touched 80,000 route km — 36 per cent double-tracked and 35 per cent electrified. During 1950-1980, China added 107 railway lines, stretching over 30,000 km, and has plans to extend the network to 20,000 route km by 2020 — 50 per cent of it double-tracked and 60 per cent electrified. With an audacious investment programme, CR, like the country's most dramatic burst of wealth creation, inspires awe as much as envy.

The Chinese railways trailed Indian Railways (IR) technologically until the 1980s. In fact, even in 1990, its 24,800-km core network with an annual density of 30 million gross tonnes or more had largely 50 kg/m and 43 kg/m rails; as many as 55 per cent of the wagons were with plain bearings. Until 1980, steam locomotive continued to remain its mainstay, carrying 76 per cent of its traffic. Today, IR, lost in shibboleths of systematic self-destruction, lags way behind CR, and has no tangible strategy for growth. On the other hand, CR, now the world's second largest freight railway system and the largest passenger system, has by far the highest traffic density (passenger-km and tonne-km per km of line) —it is 10.5 times the world average. Its output per locomotive, per freight car, per passenger coach is among the highest.

 CR's priority development plans have centred on high technology and a judicious mix of traffic routes for passenger trains running at 200 kmph and freight trains at 120 kmph. Travel time has been reduced by increasing service speeds and reducing train stops. Between 1997 and 2007, CR carried out six stages of "speed raising": maximum train speed that was generally around 80-100 kmph in 1991 has gradually been raised to 160-200 kmph on popular passenger corridors. The first 300-kmph electric multiple unit (EMU) train set was inaugurated in August 2008 between Beijing and Tianjin. CR is currently constructing 350 kmph passenger dedicated lines (PDLs). The combined length of PDLs by 2020 will be 16,000 route km; another 35 mixed traffic lines will be equipped to operate at 200-350 kmph.

CR is busy developing its capacity and quality for freight and passenger traffic in line with the economy's astounding growth. It already operates 2,700 m long, 20,000-tonne heavy- haul coal trains. Its containerised freight is forecast to reach 400 million tonnes by 2020 compared with just 64.5 million tonnes in 2006.

As CR is poised to have the largest high-speed rail network worldwide, it will have a similar seminal infrastructure for heavy-haul freight transportation. The principles underpinning the Mid-to-Long Range Railway Network Plan (MLRNP), 2003, approved for CR by the State Council, include: Coordination of rail development with that of other transport modes; separation of passenger and freight transport on constrained busy trunk lines to increase capacity and improve service; development of inter-city fast passenger networks; expansion of the rail network to support and encourage sustainable economic development, regional development and national defence; raising the local content of railway equipment and promotion of local railway manufacturing.

In 1991, the Chinese government enacted a Railway Law, which gave the Ministry of Railways overall control of policy, technical standards, planning, investment and finance, leaving just the day-to-day management and delivery of rail transport services and infrastructure to the regional railway administrations (RRAs). For raising capital for new constructions, a surcharge was applied to all freight traffic in 1990. A second surcharge was introduced in 1993 for freight moving on electrified lines and was used for extending electrification over the network. In 2005, China opted for public-private partnerships for new constructions, including the PDLs. Local railways in China came into being in 1960 essentially as feeder lines financed by respective local governments. Joint venture railways, established first in the 1990s, account for more than 50 per cent of the new constructions.

CR's track structure is being constantly upgraded: PDLs will all have ballastless track and the heavy-haul high-density Daqin line, originally laid with jointed 60 kg/m rail in 25m lengths on the east-bound loaded track, is being replaced by continuously welded 75 kg/m rail on 2,600-2,700 mm long sleepers laid at 1,840 per km. Four large equipment maintenance bases are due to be completed by 2013, one each at Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou. These will be aided by 35 modern satellite depots across the network. Concomitantly, several state-of-the-art signalling and communication systems have been planned.

China has emerged as a strong manufacturer of railway equipment as much as a burgeoning market for it. By 2020, China will potentially be the global leader in rail technology. Technology transfer from Japanese and European companies has enabled China's railway supply industry to acquire the knowhow to build rolling stock ranging from 350 kmph EMUs to heavy-haul locomotives. Matching advancements have been made in track and signalling technologies. On dedicated heavy haul corridors, such as Daqin line, wagons of aluminium or stainless steel body with 25 tonne axle load, fitted with rotary couplers, and for up to 120 kmph operation, are being introduced progressively.

The whole approach has been pragmatic coupled with bold initiatives, clarity, and continuity. Major rationalisation measures initiated by CR have entailed massive investments as well as drastic disinvestments. Many railway stations with low volume of freight have been closed; short distance passenger traffic has been actively discouraged to release capacity for longer distance rail travel. Following a "productivity layout adjustment", locomotive depots, passenger car depots, vehicle depots and passenger transportation sections and train crew districts were all reduced.

In an important reform in 2005, a whole tier in the CR management structure, the sub-administration level of regional administration (akin to divisions on IR) was abolished, leaving RRAs with a direct line of management to depots, stations and yards. By 2005, CR transferred some 900 schools and colleges and 400 hospitals to local governments. Surplus staff not directly involved in railway operations were put on the RRA rolls in what are called diversified economy companies set up in 1985.






The expectations of Indian cricket fans include watching their favourite game at the time most convenient to them. It doesn't matter where a match is played. If the Blues are in action, schedules must be shuffled to give desis their fix at times when they are most likely to be relaxed and receptive to advertising.

 This is a natural function of being the major market. By some estimates, India produces close to 80 per cent of cricket's global revenues and if you add in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, that share rises further.

The concentration of the fan-base in three contiguous time zones may be a key reason why cricket is unlikely to expand its mindshare elsewhere. In the 21st century, more than cultural barriers, time zones are a deal-breaker for propagating sports. Before you learn a game, let alone love it, you need exposure to its best practitioners. If you are normally asleep or at work when that exposure is available, you will never get it.

Time zone differences explain why, despite Bart King, millions of cricket-playing immigrants and Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, most Americans don't have a clue about cricket. It is also why few Indians are fanboy-ish about Nascar, World Series baseball, basketball, ice hockey, etc. The best live footage is aired at inconvenient IST.

This is a 90-degree inversion of anthropologist Jared Diamond's assertions in Guns, Germs and Steel. Diamond postulated civilisations spread easier along East-West axes and hence, across "wide" landmasses (assuming North as "up") such as Eurasia, than on "long", thin landmasses, such as South America.

This is because climates are similar in the same latitude. So, innovations in terms of farming and animal husbandry translate easily. Rice cultivation for example, may have started in south China. It was adopted across Asia along with the use of domesticated water-buffaloes to do the grunt work. But Inca crops and animal workforce (llamas, vincunas, etc.) could not be adopted by other South Americans due to climatic differences.

In contrast to climate, time-change occurs from East-West. So, it isn't easy to cater to two audiences that are far apart in East-West terms. Two places are more likely to watch the same game if they lie along the same longitude, or relatively close, even if the North-South separation is large. This is probably somewhat true for other information-heavy entertainment. But sports audiences demand live services, which may not be quite so critical, for movies or soaps.

It wasn't always this way. Pre-TV and Internet, global sports consisted of many fragmented, isolated markets. The inter-connections were strongly cultural. We live with that legacy. Ashes watchers in UK-Australia are inured to eight-hour time differences. Latin Americans watching the European football leagues and vice versa also tune in at equally weird hours.

But the new dynamics are inescapable. If a sport is to be popular and economically viable in the 21st century, it must generate revenues through live, electronic viewership. Think of any given sport as a business vertical, which delivers real-time feed across 360 degrees of longitude. Different global regions have different penetration (physicists define this as anisotropic). Time schedules are skewed to accommodate the biggest markets. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to increase penetration in under-developed markets.

There are relatively few sports that are isotropic in the sense of having more or less even global penetration. Football definitely. Perhaps tennis and golf, though neither has the same levels of mass popularity as football.

Unless somebody finds a creative way to crack the time-zone barrier, or the world switches to being much more flexi-time in its attitude, it is unlikely that any new sport will ever challenge football. This is why, on a personal note, I'm thankful that South Africa is close in terms of time zones.







As I walked up the stairs to our flat with the wife after fetching her back from office (post-retirement, I am the family driver), we saw the front door wide open. There is someone in the flat, she said in panic. There wasn't. It was something perhaps more serious. I had forgotten to pull the door shut on my way out. How could you do this? said the look in her eyes. I was just absent-minded, my look said in reply.

 Truth is, there is more to it than that. I have this great aversion to locking up doors. I don't mean when leaving house, but otherwise. When I am reading the papers in the morning, it is wonderful to be able to look up and out. And should there be trees on the street in front with their boughs framing the view, and squirrels jumping from bough to balcony and back, there can scarcely be a better view in a city residential neighbourhood.

I have on occasions been found guilty of leaving the door to the balcony (the one that gives the view) open when going to bed late at night and brushed aside the so-called transgression. Who will come to steal anything form our flat, I have asked the wife, adding, for good measure, how much gold have you got? But leaving the front door open when going out, with only a pulled-shut but unlocked ground floor door in between residence and street, is overdoing things a bit. I can only attribute it to my subconscious protest against locking up doors and windows that make a dungeon of your home.

The fault is really my late grandfather's, who built this large house 70 years ago with wide verandahs and rooms with many doors and tall windows all of which you could never close in time when there was a Kal Baisakhi storm because there were too many. The prime spot in the house was the first floor terrace in front of my grandfather's bedroom, ideally suited to enjoy the pleasant evening breeze Kolkata is famous for. A small corner of it was invaded by the overhanging branches of a massive neem tree beyond our boundary wall on the playing field next door.

Family folklore has it that Dr B C Roy, then a practising physician, came to examine my ailing grandfather in the late 40s. As he was leaving, my father asked him where he could take my grandfather for a recuperative vacation. The legendary doctor is supposed to have looked at the neem tree fringed terrace and said, this is good enough. When you grow up in a house like that, your claustrophobia trigger point is pretty low.

The wife thinks that my desire to leave doors and windows open borders on an obsession. Why not go and live in the centre of a football field, she taunts. Can't afford to buy a football field, I reply in all seriousness. I do realise that there is also the question of privacy. I am not saying leave the bedroom door open, I am saying how can you survive in a living room which is an enclosed, suffocating space?

The fault is also with the weather of Kolkata, where your quality of life is incomparably different, depending on whether a house is airy or not. I am sure I would have grown up differently had I done so in Delhi where the need to keep out the intense dry heat that earlier defined a lot of the year (until climate change made everything unpredictable) gave rise to traditional architecture that mandated thick walls and just a few narrow doors and windows.

The tendency to leave things unlocked first caught my friends' eyes decades ago, when once, while getting out of my car, they realised that I had left it unsecured for the night. You didn't lock the car, they chorused. Hard put to find an excuse, I replied somewhat lamely, who will steal this third-hand Fiat. Things have, if anything, got better for me over the years. As India has prospered, thieves have raised their standards. They have no use for our old clothes or older stuff in the kitchen.

Be careful about your VCR, my friends used to say while trying to get me to be more "responsible". The current object of any value in our flat which is easy to walk out with is the laptop. But I remain an optimist. Obsolescence in electronics these days comes so quickly that thieves have only a small window of opportunity after which even the electronic gear lying around is depreciated to zero.

Besides, to come back to the open door which gave the wife a heart attack, I wish everybody would pay some heed to the laws of probability. I don't leave the front door open all the time and local thieves do not know that our front door is open once in a while. What is the probability that a thief will choose to look in precisely on that rare occasion when I have been careless?

One of the loveliest endings to a movie that stays in mind is that of The Perfect Storm. The fishing crew know that their battered boat will not survive the storm and any moment they will go down with it. But as they wait, one of the crew members feels he cannot meet his end enclosed in the boat. So he jumps out and is swallowed up by the mountainous waves, with the last image being of him remembering his girlfriend onshore.






When Macaulay said in his Minute on Indian Education, 1835 that he wanted "a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals, and in intellect", he missed out on one crucial point: how cultural differences often mean that a literal understanding of what someone says is often a world away from real understanding. We picked up the English language all right and along with it the opinions, morals and intellectual apparatus, but did we get the metaphors of the language quite right?

For instance, how many of us could decode the irony (and literary allusions) which lies behind the expression "up to a point", which is used to say, "No, not in the slightest"? Did we learn that Brits make their point in an indirect way that plain-speaking Indians, or second-language learners, find baffling. More examples. "I hear what you have to say", which can be taken to mean, "he accepts my point of view" but which really means, "I disagree with what you say and don't want to discuss it any further"! Similarly, when Brits say, "With the greatest respect" (which has somehow crept into Indian English for its wrong usage), it is an icy put down which could be taken to mean, "I think you are wrong". You could go on giving examples but a quick run-down can be had from Michael Quinion's Why is Q Always Followed by U?: Word-Perfect Answers to Most-Asked Questions About Language (Particular Books, Imprint of Penguin Books, Special Indian Price Rs 399).

 Quinion, who had worked as one of the editors on the massive Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and later established his own website, teases out the truth behind the quirks of English language. As a reference book, he responds to hundreds of linguistic queries to which there is no end, given the fact that English today is the world's lingua franca, borrowing words and expressions from all over the world, particularly American English that now dominates the spoken and written world.

Reference books of this kind are easy to read and enjoy but extremely difficult to review comprehensively: it is easy because their great advantage is their variety, the promise of containing something for every reader — dipping backwards and forwards, you can put it down, wander around, and return to it afresh. But they can't be covered in any kind of depth because of the sheer number of entries that attempts to cater to every kind of reader, the commoner and the semi-specialist. So, stick to the first category for the most part; you could check out the rest according to your tastes and inclinations.

Aunt Sally: The original Aunt Sally was a game but in its popular sense today, it is a person or thing that is set up as an easy target for criticism, abuse or blame. In political circles, it is often used to deflect attention from the real issues and waste opponents' time.

Bells and whistles: It usually refers to non-essential features added to a piece of technical equipment or a computer program to make it superficially more attractive without enhancing its main function. It has now spread way beyond its American homeland. In usage, it has widened beyond technical contexts.

Beyond the pale: It means an action that's regarded as outside the limits of acceptable behaviour, or one that is objectionable or improper. "I look upon you, sir, as a man who has placed himself beyond the pale of society… ."

Big cheese: The most influential or important person in a group, though it is often used in a derogatory way to refer to somebody self-important.

Blighty: An affectionate way of referring to Britain. It is also a mildly disparaging way by which certain former colonials refer to the UK.

Blow the gaff: A slangy reference to revealing something that others would keep hidden.

Brownie points: A reward for some small favour or as a sign of approbation.

Bulls and bears: In stock exchange parlance, bull and bear relate to being "long" or "short" of a particular security. A bear sells shares (sometimes shares s/he doesn't own); a bull buys shares hoping to sell them at a higher price later.

Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth: A very old expression that refers contemptuously to a person who appears gentle or innocent but isn't as harmless as he looks.

By and large: In general, on the whole; everything considered; for the most part.

C3: Bertie Wooster in PG Wodehouse is C3. It comes from some form of government grading or rating system. It is the antithesis of A1, that is the top of the grade.

Can of worms: Origin is difficult to pin down but it had a great revival with the banking meltdown in 2008. In a metaphorical sense, it means to examine some complicated state of affairs.

Chestnut: OED describes it as "plausible": that old "chestnut".

This only takes you halfway down to "C": there's lot more to explore. But here are some that you might like to check out because they are not given in the usual run of dictionaries: Cloud Nine; cock-and-bull story; cockles of your heart; cock up; compleat and complete; cry all the way to the bank; dogsbody; dribs and drabs; dude elephant in the room; not by a long chalk.

There's a lot more that we think we know but usage has changed; we would do well to check it out. In any case, reference books of this kind should always be around.







The controversy over Calcutta's La Martiniere for Boys is a reminder that many of the institutions — public service utilities, newspapers, nursing homes and clubs — that were in robust health in 1947 are barely recognisable 63 years later. Yet, thanks to an upwardly mobile population's yearning for education, all English-medium schools throughout the country are bursting at the seams.

The effects of this rapidly growing demand were, perhaps, indirectly responsible for the recent melee outside the school gates. The immediate provocation was the alleged suicide of a 13-year-old schoolboy whom the principal had caned. It would not be right to comment on the tragedy. Kapil Sibal's claim that the principal saying sorry "is not enough" imprudently prejudged the matter even though he added that since La Martiniere is a private school, it's for the Indian Council for Secondary Education to take up the matter.

 Corporal punishment is not the issue. Nevertheless, it must be said in passing and as a general rule that if the law has outlawed caning, "the law is a ass — a idiot", as Dickens's Mr Bumble so elegantly put it. No doubt liberal hackles will shoot up sky-high at that suggestion but there is much earthy wisdom in the old adage about sparing the rod and spoiling the child.

A judiciously sparing use of the rod or cane by a wise and sympathetic schoolteacher never did a pupil any harm. Aberrant cases of excess and abuse don't disprove that; all they prove is that some teachers may not be up to the task for which they are paid. That human failing lies at the heart of many of India's problems. Perhaps errant teachers (and some lawmakers) would benefit most from what Martinians (and other schoolboys) used to call six of the best!

But old Martinian though I am, I must hasten to add that no sentiment colours my account of these events. The school long ago ceased to bear any resemblance to the La Martiniere I left 58 years ago. Only the name and the building remain at all familiar. And they, too, are becoming unfamiliar through use and interpretation.

The name is now plastered six or seven times on the school's walls, pillars and in banners above its gates. I wonder if they fear that it might be stolen or sold unless possession is repetitively flaunted? Or is this advertising to attract custom? There wasn't a single name plate in my time. But no one thought the building — which seems to be threatened more and more as the surrounding playing fields shrink to make way for ugly commercial structures — was anything but La Martiniere. Good wine needs no bush, as they say.

Public attention was aroused when a father's complaint that a teacher had demanded a laptop to promote his son prompted the teacher's arrest. Whatever the truth of the charge — and the matter is sub judice — such is current cynicism about the big and immensely popular English-medium schools that no one dismisses such stories out of hand. Such schools are the temples of modern India. They are immensely coveted status symbols, portals to a prized career in the globalised future. The figures bruited about as unofficial admission charges suggest an organised underground market in which what parents must pay depends on who they go through. That's what parents, educationists and officials should have taken up long ago. But nobody thinks it's in his (or her) interest to do so.

It's not just La Martiniere. It's not just schools. India would not have featured prominently in Transparency International's list of the most corrupt countries if there had not existed a tacit (and often not so tacit) compact on greed. Everyone has something to gain — or lose — from a system that no longer works without speed money.

I recall a judge censuring prosecuting and defence counsel for colluding to drag out hearings to inflate their fees. It's no secret either that lawyers, like doctors, demand cash from clients and issue no receipts. Ironically, even qualified tax consultants do the same, charging, in addition to their own under-the-table fees, unspecified sums in cash to grease palms at the tax office.

Rajiv Gandhi argued that the solution lay in a strong consumer movement. But how can a movement succeed if the police, bureaucracy and judiciary are hand in glove? Rajendra Prasad's warning about corruption proving the nail in the Congress Party's coffin now applies to the country at large. La Martiniere's crisis only highlights the national rot.






A week in small town Europe with lousy service (by my spoilt Indian standards) and lots of avoidable Do-It-Yourself clarified my understanding of our service economy. It was further sharpened by a conversation I had with a receptionist at a hotel in a town with 150,000 population. When I explained to him that we were undertaking a census, his mind boggled and he said that we probably needed to use half of India to count the other half!

Actually something like that seems to be happening. In my building in Mumbai, the census person came and told the manager of the building society to distribute the questionnaire to all of us and to make sure that someone was at home on a particular day, all ready with the answers. He, in turn, told the watchman who informed each flat via its domestic staff and then via a circular from the society that was distributed by another watchman. So, for 16 flats with probably 100 people living in them, there were 20 people involved in the exercise. Did it need that many people? Well, everyone except the census people was doing it part-time, each spending a tiny amount of time on the job. It didn't really add up to that many man-hours. Was it more expensive than if it involved just one or two persons? Not to the Census Bureau because they only paid for their person, while the rest of the activity costs were effectively shared by all of us who pay for the watchmen, the manager and our domestic staff. A cumbersome process? Not really, because it was a well-oiled process and the job was done smoothly.

 The fact is that we have lots and lots of people; and people doing things for each other at a price is what a service economy is all about. It's not software exports that are reflected in our service economy numbers but all these many people performing services for each other at a price. Our consumption structure is a lot of people consuming a little bit and adding up to a lot. Our income structure is a lot of people earning a little bit, each adding up to a lot (in the top five economies of the world in terms of purchasing power parity but number 162 in per capita income ranking). Similarly, the structure of our service economy is a lot of people doing a little bit each of the service task to be accomplished. It is a cost-optimised model that works for us and spreads the earnings around. We need to stop thinking that progress or the holy grail of modernity is to find ways to do tasks that eliminate people, or to have fewer people doing more things. And why? Why keep customers waiting at cash counters in shops because the cashier has to fold the clothes and put away the hangers while the queue becomes long or to have secretaries walk down to the canteen to get you the coffee (that's expensive use of skilled labour for unskilled jobs) or have the hotel receptionist keep you on hold forever because he has to talk to someone through getting connected to the Internet, etc. Is it so that costs are kept low, customers are dissatisfied and a small number of people make more money?

But, of course, disguised unemployment is wasteful and a no-no. But first we need to think about what this actually is. The chap who stands in front of the toll booth to take the cash from the driver and give it to the man in the booth and vice versa shouldn't be there. He doesn't add any value. But if 10 of them can run down the long line of cars and collect the toll from the cars at the back of the long queues so that they can just sail through the toll gate, then they do add to system efficiency.

At some airports, there is this established practice where people hold the name board and wait for you, while the driver of the car does something else with the time saved — probably has tea or catches a nap. Is that extra person adding value? Of course, he is because he is taking some of the pressure off the overworked driver who can then work some more after a brief rest. The driver presumable pays this person something because he finds the service valuable. This is the service economy, not wasteful or inefficient ways of doing things.

The idea that more people performing a task is wasteful flab needs to be re-examined. Market forces always work and we have an intensely competitive service economy. Therefore, it probably is a more efficient, finely calibrated work grade pricing model.

The author is an independent market strategy consultant










It's not clear whether US President Barack Obama should be held responsible for it, but the fact is that french fries are clearly chipping away at the moral edifice of the world.

When the most powerful man in the world defies the most powerful wife in the world and orders those deep-fried potatoes — as he did last month during a visit to upstate New York — a message is sent out to those millions on the verge of, or in the throes of, obesity: go forth and masticate.

No wonder America's fries-mania seems to be spiralling out of control. Last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a man brandished a machete when he was denied a $1.78-order of french fries from an all-night restaurant as he had no money to pay for it.

He then decided to have his spuds and raid the till too, but the smart waiter persuaded him to depart with just a smaller order of those delectable fries. Now in jail with bail fixed at $50,300, he has plenty of time to repent for his greed. The same week, french fries were the weapon of choice when a fight broke out in a drive-through burger joint in Michigan.

This has led to alarming speculation that countless other potato battles are raging underground, unbeknownst to US law enforcement agencies, taking a cue from the president's open support of their addiction.

Now there is evidence that the malaise has spread beyond US borders. First, Carrie Bradshaw and her Sex And The City friends were transfixed by the sight of a burqaclad woman devouring those suggestive sticks with a fork in West Asia in their latest movie. Then, just this week, the Swiss seized a tonne of 'contraband' frozen fries being smuggled from across its border with France. This even though France is not the progenitor of the starchy snack that bears its name; Belgium is the culprit. It's clearly time for direct action before the world is left in 'taters... a







Taxes are necessary to help the government of any country to function. The more comprehensive the tax base, the more moderate can be the tax liability for individuals and corporations.

And that was what the draft direct taxes code (DTC) had hoped to achieve, however harsh some of its proposals may have been. But it now seems the government does not have enough will to comprehensively expand the tax base, and that is the real reason to shelve plans yet again to introduce the exempt-exempt-tax (EET) method for taxing withdrawals from long-term savings schemes.

Difficulty in implementing a universal social security in the near future and also administrative , logistical and technological challenges are only excuses to delay migration to the EET method. In any case, technological challenges can be overcome — India has the software prowess to do it.

Putting in place a universal social security is difficult, particularly because finding resources for the purpose would be difficult. In any case, even countries that have social security benefits are being compelled to encourage to their citizens to actively save more for retirement, given slowing birth-rates of the last few decades.

Rather than looking at models in richer nations , India needs to encourage its people to save intelligently for their retirement. Tax incentives that allow 100% deduction from income for a large amount such as Rs 3 lakh, as proposed in the draft DTC, can encourage people to save more. But it is difficult for a government to forego tax completely on large amounts of income, and so it must tax that income at some stage. The EET method allows individuals to defer their tax liability to a stage when amounts are withdrawn. The downside is retirement incomes would be taxed, and that may seem cruel.

To keep the pain to a minimum, the solution lies in keeping the tax slabs wide and tax rates moderate. The draft code had proposed to tax incomes below Rs 10 lakh at 10%, and that should not hurt most people. But even a moderate tax can be penalising when a large withdrawal is made to invest in a house or for a marriage. The government could build in some exceptions and draw up a firm roadmap to migrate to the EET model.







The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has done well to recognise the need to deregulate interest rate on savings bank (SB) accounts.

These are the only savings products in the banking arena on which the interest rate continues to be fixed by fiat (presently set at 3.5%).

What is surprising is that unlike small savings (provident fund, post office accounts, etc) where we already have three committee reports in hand, and now possibly a fourth, there has been virtually no discussion on deregulating savings account interest rates. Not until now. Yet, it's not as though savings accounts have not been touched by reform.

Beginning April 1, 2010, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has abolished the archaic system of calculating interest due on savings accounts based on the minimum balance in the account between the 10th and 30th of the month. Interest is now calculated on daily balance. The next logical step for the RBI would be to follow this up by freeing the interest rate structure on savings accounts altogether. After all, if interest rates on all other deposits are now set by market forces, there is no reason why the interest rate on savings accounts should alone be set by fiat.

The argument that deregulating interest rates on SB accounts would expose small savers to the vagaries of the market does not wash. Ever since we junked the planned economy model in favour of market-driven growth, the aam aadmi has been exposed to market forces in almost every sphere of life; and going by poverty figures, has fared far better than in the past! So, there is no justification for clinging to administered interest rates on SB accounts.

From the banks' perspective, if the argument against deregulation is that it might lead to rates being bid up to unviable levels, again the fear is misplaced. This has not happened with fixed deposits, so there is no reason to expect it will with SB accounts. Banks are now quite experienced in pricing liability products and it is quite possible that once rates are freed, new products tailored to particular sections of society will emerge.

But until rates are fixed, there is no incentive for banks to make these accounts more attractive. Hopefully, deregulating interest rates will act as the much-needed catalyst for change. a







The strategy at Intel is changing. From a pure computer company, it is moving towards being a computing company. Its microprocessors will now be

seen in all kinds of devices, be it a netbook, a mobile phone, a tablet or even embedded devices inside digital signages, ATM machines, point-of-sale terminals and smart TVs. Navin Shenoy, vice-president and general manager at Intel Asia Pacific, says the company is working on a product roadmap to fulfil the new vision, a proof of which can be seen in its partnership with Google for the announcement of Google TV recently.

The gap between devices is narrowing. A Blackberry today has as much computing power as a laptop five years ago. Going forward , ATMs and digital signages will be updated through the Internet with real-time ads, and will be intelligent too. TVs would be smart TVs. "Our vision is that as the Internet sweeps across all sorts of electronic devices, and it will, Intel is no longer a computer company but a computing company, and our microprocessors will be found in all of those devices," says Mr Shenoy.

Intel is aggressively working on a product roadmap for new devices. "There are proof points already. Last week, we were one of the participants in the Google TV announcement . It will bring the Google paradigm to television with which you can search for specific content that you want to watch on television.

You don't wait for the content to be delivered to you, you go to the content that you want to watch. All that is enabled by the microprocessor and you need the intelligence to do those kinds of things," he says. But whatever we do with the new devices will be incremental and on top of desktops, notebooks and servers that Intel is known for.

But you are not there in the phones category today? "We are in the process of entering that market. Our first product is called Moorestown that we introduced about a month ago. The chip (Moorestown is the code name) will appear in smartphones mid-2011 . We are working with a few partners to get those products ready. It will be much more about computing and the Internet than it will be about making a phone call."

Of course, you can also make a phone call, says Mr Shenoy, but the use-case will be different. Take, for example, how people are using their iPhones today. "They are spending more on doing other things than make a phone call — searching for things, reading the news, going to YouTube. It's a different usage model and we believe that is the future of the smartphone."

Will that happen in India? "Absolutely, I believe that will happen in India."
The first-ever application store was launched by Airtel here that got a great response . "That goes to show you again that there is latent demand for those kinds of things. Internet-enabled phones — we want to be part of that and we think there will be a big market for Intel in India," he says.

What is your strategy for the new tablet market? "We have just announced a tablet-specific roadmap, a tablet-specific microprocessor . It will be a very optimised silicon for the tablet market." Intel has the Atom microprocessor that will have various derivatives for other devices. That would help in using software seamlessly across all the devices. "That is the crux of our strategy, to be able to deliver that consistent experience to the consumer across whatever device," he says.

So, Intel as a company will never get into products other than microprocessors? "Never is a long time. The strategy now is to enable manufacturers build products around ours, though you might see us doing a little more than we do in the PC industry . We might actually do software. We have an initiative called MeeGo, which is an operating system for smartphones optimised for our Atom microprocessor. It could be used for smartphones, smart TVs, embedded devices and others. So, we'll not just be about the hardware but about software too that sits on top of that. Then we can deliver the full solution to a manufacturer ," says Mr Shenoy.

Intel also has an initiative called Appup, which is an app store through which it has been targeting netbooks initially but will expand to smartphones.

"So, you'll see us do a little more in the solutions stack. Maybe not in the end-device but more software- and service-related elements," he adds.a








For Aman Ki Asha, an Indo-Pak peace project, let us recall a chapter from the Book of Mirdad (1962) written by a Lebanese, Mikhail Naimy who was contemporary and biographer of Kahlil Gibran.

Prince of Bethar governs a rich kingdom. His neighbour, another king, wishes to wage war on Prince of Bethar to loot his wealth . Bethar approaches Mirdad, the mystic, to help him avoid bloodshed. Mirdad asks Bethar to define his priority. Does he really need peace? What prevents him for having peace? How much are his riches worth? Bethar declares that he wants peace at any cost.

Mirdad finally tells him to gift all his riches (' rubbish all his riches' ) to the rival king as net value of his material wealth is very small for ensuring peace that will save lives and properties of many in both the states. When Bethar's opponent will realise that value of your 'riches is rubbish' , he will figure out that this war is not worth that trash. This is the only way to peace.

This dialogue in the book is described as follows: Mirdad: Did you not say you would have peace? Prince: Aye, peace would I have. Mirdad: Then do not fight. Prince: But my neighbour insists on fighting me; and I must fight him that peace may reign between us.

Mirdad:You would kill your neighbour that you may live with him at peace! How strange the spectacle! There is no merit in living at peace with the dead. But a great virtue it is to live at peace with the living. It is your throne, your wealth, your glory and the things to which you are a prisoner that your neighbour wants to fight you for. When you have cast them out upon the rubbish heap, your neighbour will halt his march, and sheath his sword, and say unto himself — were these things worth a fight, my neighbour would not have cast them away upon the rubbish heap.

Blinded by his power and ignorance , Bethar called Mirdad a lunatic and had him chained by his men. The moral is that our mind and actions chase transitory trash of treasures though peace we seek. Peacemakers have to fight a battle within their own minds for achieving calm.

India and Pakistan threaten each other a war for potential peace. Both need to resolve their internal conflicts before they can talk about peace. Will the current and future generations remain in perpetual fear of 'mutually assured destruction' —MAD phenomenon . When two neighbours start speaking Aman Ki Bhasha in silence and sincerity, Aman Ki Asha can be expected.








In just three years and six films, Ranbir Kapoor's asking price has touched Rs 10 crore, a feat few can match, at 27. Though this fourth-generation Kapoor may loathe becoming a slot machine for the success-hungry Hindi film industry, for now, he is definitely the most bankable actor in his age group. And he has a long run ahead with no competition snapping at his heels. A peep into the mind of GenNext of Bollywood, as he puts up his feet, relaxes and sips green tea to soothe his sore throat. In conversation with ET:


It means everything. Filmmaking is a profession, an art which is a very expensive commodity. If it does not have any commercial gain, it does not make any sense. Having grown up in a film family, I have always been shielded from the business of cinema. But slowly, as a working professional, you realise, what the value of a commercial hit is.

Critical acclaim is fine, but unless it's watched by hundreds of people and makes profit for all, it does not make sense. We do not make movies for ourselves or for our friends. We are trying to impress an entire nation of moviegoers which means we need a good wholesome, entertaining film — that's the bottomline of every film.


Definitely, you feel gutted when a film does not do well, especially a film you really believe in. But then, that's the beauty of cinema, you never know what runs and what doesn't. But when a film like Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, makes only a certain amount of money it's not enough.

If a film does not run, there are no reasons — it has not run because the audience has not connected to it and you have to take the blame for it. You cannot live in denial or a fool's paradise and say this was wrong or that was wrong. You have to think in retrospect, take the blame and move on — make another film and hope
it does well.


It has to be instinctive for me. I have never had a plan. It's also about being at the right place at the right time. There are certain moments in your life when you get five offers, out of which you like one, not because it's the right film to do at that time in your life, but because that film connects with you, the character connects, the director has a good story to tell — all of which are important and you go with your gut. Some films do well while some don't.

But because Rocket Singh failed at the box-office, it's not as if I would change my notion of deciding on films. I would still do a Rocket Singh because that's the kind of cinema I connect with. For me, Rocket Singh and Wake Up Sid are films I connect with. An Ajab Prem is a commercial success but it's a world I do not know, it's fictitious, it was a comedy, while I know Harpreet and Sid — these are characters I have hung out with. So, it's all subject to the beliefs that you have about cinema.


Everyone has one mother belief — I know I have one too but I can't sum it up in words. I know I have a goal but I do not know what it is. I believe you can be the greatest actor alive or the greatest star possible but the problem with me is that I want to be both — when I die I want to be remembered as a great actor and a big star, not someone who was just part of the movies.

I want to contribute to the film industry, I have a legacy to carry forward — but it is not something which bogs me down. In fact, I am extremely grateful that I have been born in this family. Yes, I have got it easier than possibly millions who come to this industry, but I too have my own struggles which may not be of the same magnitude but that does not take away my struggles.


Watching classics was a huge learning curve. Take Do Bigha Zameen — it's a film where the characters work. You are connected with a world which was way back there and yet today's audience can connect — that's the power of cinema. The classics had films which were not just topical but dwelt on human traits, like say Mehboob Khan's Andaaz or all of Guru Dutt's films, from Pyaasa to Kaagaz Ke Phool (my favourite).

In fact, the latter is one of the greatest films of Indian cinema — Guru Dutt had a story which he really believed in, which he thought would make good cinema. Today, people do not put their all into a movie because there is always a next one, a back-up which may take you out of a rut. For those filmmakers their film was their life. There are many examples of people who mortgaged their houses to raise money to make the film. They made movies like kings.


The day I was born. Born to a film family, my life has always been films. I have known no other 'normal' way of life apart from movies. Story sittings, music sittings and actors and 'glamorous' actresses coming home, donning make-up, was all part of my growing-up years. There was no eureka moment, the connect with cinema happened subconsciously, it could have been watching a Shahrukh Khan running in slow motion or a Mithun Chakraborty doing disco dancing. I have grown up watching movies, from Guru Dutt to the trashy ones as well, mainly the early to late 80s ones.


When I was in the US, I started getting a lot of film offers from really good directors and then I saw Devdas. I connected to the magnanimity, the performances and the vision. Maybe because I was in the US and seeing a Hindi film, not one shot on foreign locales or influenced by DKNYs etc. It was a film I was proud to show my fellow American students who were blown by the colour and glamour. I decided here was a director I really wanted to work with.

Without asking my parents, I made a resume of my work and dropped it in at his house. I met up with him the same evening. He asked why I wanted to assist him and not act? I convinced him that I wanted to be an assistant director before I essayed a role. There is no school like that of a film set, it's hands-on, seeing the legends perform, costumes, music — it's a world that you just have to surrender to.

From the protected life I had led so far, the year working with SLB, really hardened me. I am really grateful to him for giving me so much as a film student, as an assistant and as a person. Using public transport, spending from my pocket money to go to work (may sound pseudo intellectual to say so) really showed me a different side of life and I realised the value of a lot of things. Whatever I know about films or acting, I always attribute it to Mr Bhansali.

Being an AD, is hard life, from 5 am to 4 am with an hour of sleep, first to arrive, last to leave. In fact, once, he was really pissed of with us, he made us (me and another AD) kneel down for two-three hours.

Watching Amitabh Bachchan act on the sets of Black I saw how much an actor contributes and what level he can take a film to. I was never a big AB fan because I came in much later into this world. After I saw his talent and passion, my own passion for becoming an actor grew hundred-fold.


It may have not worked commercially but it was a story I really connected to, one I gave two years of my life to. I understood why SLB wanted to make this film. In fact, he had three films in his mind then-a Romeo and Juliet set in Gujarat, Saraswatichandra and this one based on Dosteyeskvy's novel, Four Nights of a Dreamer. So Sonam and me, did a photo shoot — this kept coming back to us. I would debut in Saawariya again. It made me what I am today, it was my film school, my training.


I don't live in a fool's paradise. Besides it doesn't scare me because I haven't reached where I want to reach. I also feel that I have got a lot of undeserving attention as well. Yes, my movies have been appreciated and my work has been liked. Because of my family's contribution to cinema, blessings, being at the right place at the right time, luck, so many factors have played a role.

Of course, I am arrogant enough to say that I have talent. I know my work, I love my work. It's not even overhyped in my head about being part of a movie. It's like waking up in the morning, brushing my teeth, having my breakfast, driving my car to the film set, working the entire day, breaking for lunch, continue working, being intelligent and doing something that you love, packing up and coming home and sleeping. These are normal days for me. I don't live in a fantasy world myself.

For me, being an actor is something I am very passionate about. But it's a profession, one which I have chosen to make as a way of life. It's something that I enjoy doing, though I do have a reality check on it. I can't float with what people have to say, the characters I play and the make up I wear. There is a sense of reality. I need to keep my

sanity in check.


Yes. I do feel complacent but I also feel I am deserving, because I have worked hard and I feel I am talented enough. I have worked with directors who have propelled me to be where I am today. I have played certain characters which writers have written. I haven't really thought about it. I am happy. Life's good and my parents are proud. Money was never an issue in my life. I have grown up in luxury. So, it was never my drive. My drive has always been to be the greatest. Raj Kapoor is my idol and I want to achieve what he's done. It doesn't come easy and there is a lot of hard work involved.


I was born with that brand and it's part of my priority. Revival is the wrong word because nothing needs a revision. In films, nothing is forgotten. All one needs to do is start a movie. The adjectives like re-start, revival are attached by others. There is nothing like RK has come back from the dead.

ON SHRI 420...

I love everything about the movie — the simplicity, the music and the world. You connect with films and characters like that. Another example is Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful. You want to follow their story, want them to win, laugh with them and cry with them. There are two aspects to being an actor. The audience has to connect with your performances and it has to like you as an individual.

If you are not a likeable person then, however good an actor you may be, you will not succeed because the audience has to connect with you as a person also. I do not mean that you have to put up this facade but you should be as real as possible and honest to your work. And you have to smile. It's not very hard to do all these things.


I used to watch two movies a day, before I started working as an actor. Now that I am a part of movies, I have become a bit arrogant and think there is no need to watch them anymore. But that's something that I have to correct because its an organic process. One has to be aware of what the world is making and the kind of levels cultures are reaching. It was a passion first but I have to use it as an exercise now.


I connect with their sensibilities. But I will work with directors like Mr Bhansali any day of the year because they are great directors. Age has nothing to do with it. My grandfather made his first movie when he was 21. You meet a director, be it 40 or 20, you can tell if this guy has a story to tell. If he has, you become selfish and want to be a part of his movie.


Ayan (Mukherjee) is going to be one of the finest directors in Indian cinema because of his exposure to life. He has taken in a lot as an individual from music, movies and performances. He is someone whom anyone can connect with. Take Mr Prakash Jha. He is from Bihar and is very rooted. I had a great connect with him because he is a director who had a story to tell. He spent four years nourishing this dream. He is someone who is at ease talking to Nana Patekar and he can connect with me as well. That's the thing you are receptive to. If you see such individuals, you become receptive and start developing those qualities within.



There are few films and few characters that you connect deeply with. Here, I had good dialogues as well as good background music to fill my silences and I had a good director who had a vision of this character. Besides, you give a character a purpose to be grey and he ceases to be so. Here he was not a villain who is raping women. His cause was for the family and family is a very strong element in our cinema.

Again, it was an organic process for me. It took a couple of days of shooting to know the character, to do a couple of scenes and then understand him. After the release of the film, I don't think I contributed to this movie as much as I could have because I didn't understand the complexities at the time I was doing it. Maybe, I was inexperienced. When I was dubbing the movie and I went 'Oh! This is what it meant'. But the director just knew and he guided me.


I suck! I never like myself. I am not one of those actors who constantly look at themselves in the mirror. I feel I have really bad hair, big forehead, a long face, have a big upper torso and thin legs. This is the sense of reality I have about myself. About my movies, I feel I am a good actor but I always feel 'I missed it!' On the whole, it works. Because if a movie works, everything works. Hit hai toh fit hai. But as an individual character, I have some problems. I hope I have this all my life. It will instigate and drive me always.


It is a star-based industry. Actors drive scripts and the audience to the cinema house. If you make a great film and don't have SRK or Aamir Khan in it, how are you going to show it to the world? In Raajneeti's context, I know I have a certain fan following among youngsters. Katrina is a big star. But at the same time, Ajay Dvgan brings his own audience. Nana Patekar, Arjun Rampal and Manoj Bajpai bring in theirs. So everyone's audience put together makes the success of a movie. If there were five people, we all have contributed equally. The film is successful, that's what's important.


Price is important. But in this industry, the price is subject to the success of your last movie. Money has never been a driving force for me. But money is the barometer of how successful you are. I don't understand how certain producers put a certain amount on an actor. If my movie does a business of Rs 80 crore, and SRK's movie also rakes in Rs 80 crore, that doesn't mean I should be paid as much as SRK is paid.

Because SRK will guarantee you 10 times the success than I can. Yet, it feels great that I am 27 years old and making so much of money. But money is something that will come and go but will never affect me. A film will affect me more than money.



That is an immature dream I have. But like I said, how I meet directors and say that he has a story to tell, I don't have a story to tell right now. I am incapable of directing a movie right now. Tomorrow, if I make a movie, people will give me money but it would be a bad movie. I don't wish to make a bad movie.


Being practical is not a bad thing. I think my generation lives in an ideal world but I am a dreamer as well. There are things that disconnect me from life and reality. I dream about everything from movies to football.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




After 25 years, the Bhopal gas tragedy continues. The Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) factory, which had spread devastation in Bhopal on the night of December 2-3, 1984, continues to pollute the city of Bhopal and harm its residents. According to the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board, about 8,000-10,000 MT of hazardous waste lying at the factory site is leaching into the groundwater, causing countless diseases and birth disorders among the local population.

The Madhya Pradesh high court is seized of a public interest litigation since 2004 to determine whether Dow Chemical Company is liable and responsible for the clean-up of this factory as the successor in interest of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). From media reports it appears that both home minister P. Chidambaram and road, transport and highway minister Kamal Nath, who were ministers for finance and commerce respectively in the first United Progressive Alliance government, were of the view in 2006-2007 that a "Site Remediation Trust" be set up to let Indian corporates fund and implement remediation activities, leaving Dow free of any obligation.

This recommendation of the Government of India is a reminder of its infamous settlement with UCC in 1989 where all the claims for compensation of the people of Bhopal were settled for a paltry sum of $470 million contrary to the law of compensation in India, sending a signal to the world that the security of the people of India was for sale in lieu of foreign investment.

There can be no doubt that it is impossible for any legal system to ever adequately compensate a person for the loss of a child, a life partner, family or community. And yet, acknowledging this inability the law on compensation the world over has developed on the principle of restitution in integrum, which is at least to ensure that a person entitled to damages or compensation should as nearly as possible get that sum of money which would put him/her in the same position financially as s/he would have been if s/he had not sustained the wrong.

India is no stranger to this universal maxim of compensation. The law on personal injury has been codified by various statutes in India, including the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923. All these legislations provide that when a person suffers an injury or death on account of the intentional or accidental actions of another person, the calculation of damages is done in a manner that the loss of earning caused to him over his lifespan is to be made good to him as damages. This sum is arrived at normally by multiplying the monthly income earned by a person with a multiplier. This multiplier ranges from five (for people above 60 years of age) to 15 (for children up to the age of 15). So someone who earned Rs 3,000 per month but was killed at the age of 15 would be entitled to a compensation of Rs 60,000. For children and unemployed people the monthly income is assumed to be Rs 15,000. The statute stipulates that no compensation can be below Rs 50,000. In addition to the loss of income calculated as above, the injured or next of kin of the deceased are entitled to general damages for funeral, medical expenses et cetera are also to be granted.

Unlike US President Barack Obama who is seeking even consequential damages (indirect loss of income) from BP oil and has forced them to set up a fund of $20 billion for the spill in the gulf of Mexico, where not a single American life was lost, we in India can at least expect our government and courts to ensure that errant companies pay damages in accordance with the law.

The 1989 Bhopal settlement entered into by the Government of India was arrived at by fixing an ad hoc amount of $470 million as full and final settlement for the entire civil and criminal liability of the UCC. In arriving at this settlement, the Union of India did not bother to even quantify or identify the actual loss or damage caused. There was no environmental assessment of the damage caused or on-going damage. The total gas affected people were assumed to be 1,05,000 (including 3,000 fatal cases) when, in fact, the figure turned out to be 5,74,367. No reasons were accorded for why the compensation was calculated on this ex-gratia basis rather than on the established legal norm of compensating each individual for their loss of income.

What is even more ironic is that this blatantly unjust settlement was upheld by the Supreme Court, not once but twice — in its original order of 1989 and in the subsequent order rejecting a review in 1991, the honourable judges held that "settlement cannot be set aside on the ground of insufficiency of settlement fund — just compensation in such mass tort action is to arrive at an approximate compensation to the loss suffered by a rough and ready process when liability of the tort-feasor has not firmly been established by going into complex questions involved in such actions. In the event the fund to be insufficient in the future, Government of India as a welfare state should make good the deficiency". In the final analysis each Bhopal victim got approximately Rs 12,000 each, if at all. This so-called rough and ready basis is not only contrary to the law of the land, but is completely unfounded. Fortunately, this ambiguous precedent of the Supreme Court has not been followed by Supreme Court itself or any subordinate court.

The Supreme Court in the matter of Lata Wadhwa vs State of Bihar, while adjudicating the damages for persons deceased and injured in a fire that occurred at a function in a Tisco factory, appointed the Justice Chandrachud Committee which calculated the damages for each victim — man, woman and child — based on the multiplier method to arrive at their prospective loss of earning. While finalising the compensation on the basis of this report, the Supreme Court, observing that loss of a child to parents is unrecoupable and no amount of money could compensate the parents, doubled the recommended compensation, granting each victim more than Rs 2 lakhs.

- Nandita Rao, an activist and lawyer, has been practising at the Delhi high court since 1998. She has worked on several public interest cases.





The woes of senior IAS officer Mr S. Balasubramanyam are far from over. He worked in the prominent disaster management department for quite some time when Mr Dinesh Kumar was commissioner. When Mr Kumar left, Mr Balasubramanyam was given full charge. But that lasted only till Mr Radha took over as commissioner, and Mr Balasubramanyam was made special commissioner. As disaster hardly strikes every day, Mr Balasubramanyam spent much of his time twiddling his toes. So, when he was recently appointed MD of the state warehousing corporation, he rushed to his new office, only to find that it looked very much like a warehouse itself.

Bitching behind the Chief minister's back

Talk about doublespeak. A senior Congress senior leader from the state, now bestowed with some responsibilities in the AICC office in Delhi, is known to meet party leaders whenever he visits Hyderabad and talk ill of the Chief Minister. But when he meets the CM, he assures him he will continue in office till 2014. Some days ago, Mr Doublespeak met the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and tried to convince her that Mr Rosaiah is not delivering the goods in the state. Not one to tolerate fools gladly, Mrs Gandhi reportedly ticked him off and told him not to meddle in the affairs of the state, and said the Chief Minister will serve his full term. Not a whit embarrassed, the resourceful leader shamelessly contacted Chief Minister Rosaiah to tell him not to worry, the party high command was with him. "I am telling you that you will complete the full term as Chief Minister, I will repeat it, sir, full means 'F-U-L-L'." Mr Rosaiah, who was perfectly aware of the games the leader was playing, merely smiled. This being politics, the very people to whom the AICC leader had been bitching about Mr Rosaiah, had informed the CM about it.

Flying high on the wings of energy

With several officers in the energy department going off on foreign tours, can consumers expect to benefit from the knowledge and expertise they have acquired from their visits? APGenco's managing director, Mr Vijayanand, went to South Korea recently on a training programme. As soon as he came back, principal secretary, energy, Mr Sutirth Bhattacharya, was off to the United Kingdom on a private mission. Even before he returned, Singareni Collieries CMD, Mr S. Narsing Rao, embarked on a grand tour of the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, France and Switzerland! And now, the APTransco CMD, Mr Ajay Jain, is about to leave for China. If you want to see the world, just join the energy department.






A quarter century on, the egregious debate in the media is about why Warren Anderson, then chairman of Union Carbide Corporation, was allowed to leave India once he was already here, having arrived to make a damage assessment and calculations of compensation payments. The Opposition parties are making a blood sport of it, but others are participating with no less self-righteousness and enthusiasm — every former bureaucrat even remotely associated then with senior-level decision-making in Bhopal or New Delhi is being wheeled out by an eager media. Worse, instead of showing the way and taking the bull by the horns, a defensive Congress Party is intent on ruining its own case by seeking to shift the "blame" on to everyone else in the party hoping that the late Rajiv Gandhi should come out of it unscathed, in the process accepting that blame was inherent in the government's decision to allow Mr Anderson to return home without subjecting him to punishment or mob justice. In a country with continental size problems of development and growth, this shows a baleful poverty of politics. The absence of political imagination that the response to the Bhopal disaster has produced mimics affairs in a banana republic, where a wide berth is given to the notion of considered debate and the rule of law. Coping with the world's worst industrial disaster which took thousands of lives, maimed nearly half a million people and caused environmental damage of incalculable proportions deserved a mature and considered response if the aim was to secure justice and rehabilitation for the victims. Punctilious collation of evidence to fix responsibility on key functionaries of the company — for faulty plant design or careless operation — was never part of the debate. Even now it appears to be the last thing on the minds of our political gladiators. As some sober voices have tried to point out, the Union Carbide chief would never have agreed to visit India to assess the situation after the accident if he knew he would be thrown into jail, or be permitted to be beaten to pulp by a lynch mob. It is hard to deny that a visit by the highest company functionary was a pressing need, and this would not have materialised if the executive in question wasn't given an assurance of "safe passage", which has now come to acquire the unwarranted connotation of collusion. This discussion ought not to have been about multinationals versus the world's poor, about capitalism and socialism, or about imperialism and its servitors. Mistakenly, and sadly, that is the way it is going, and the system is running for cover as the media has a field day, having grabbed — for zero price — yet another filler between TV advertisements. The real fight is about proper compensation for the families of those who died and for those who suffered; it is about an environmental cleanup in and around Bhopal; about instituting appropriate legal safeguards. The compensation paid out so far is less than Rs 20,000 per capita, far less than what victims of a railway accident get. This is where the government's focus must lie.







Invited for a Sotheby's pre-auction lunch, where Indian art was on display for potential buyers, the first person I met was the inimitable M.F. Husain, shoeless as usual, looking as happy as a child. There is a certain calm about him: he is a man who has painted life in every colour and eliminated the shade of rancour. He carries on creating his own world of myriad hues, and no one can touch him where he is today. Looking at him walking barefoot in one of the most expensive parts of London, with his paintings being sold for several millions, an international celebrity close to completing his centenary, the pettiness of those who want to destroy his work recedes in stark contrast. Such success makes one immune to the barbs of lesser mortals. So while the Indian media and hypocritical politicians may occasionally weep that one of India's most talented son is forced to live in exile — let me tell you that Husain is a happy man, even if we would wish he languished in homesickness!

Meanwhile, not unexpectedly, most of the paintings and sculptures on display sold at the subsequent auction for much more than the reserve price. This fact should be genuinely celebrated and not buried in mock outrage. We must remember that these sales are transparent and legitimate. There was a dismal era, not far back, when we were all ruing the theft and black marketing in ancient Indian art. And there was also a recent period when contemporary Indian art was at the bottom of the pile. Now, both old and modern Indian art is the flavour of the month, with constant exhibitions and burgeoning sales.

Of course, this Sotheby's auction had become controversial thanks to the inclusion of Rabindranath Tagore's paintings from the Dartington Hall Trust, the proceeds of which were to be given back in aid of the trust. There is, indeed, good reason to be concerned because when art or literature of historical importance goes into private hands it is always difficult to seek it out again. The Dartington Trust (to whom Tagore had bequeathed these paintings) has always maintained that, according to its rules, it cannot donate the paintings to anyone, including the Indian government — and that it did hope that many of the paintings would find their way back to India. How unfortunate that no one was able to scrape together the money to gift this enormously valuable collection back to Tagore's country.

I have to say that when I did finally see the vibrant Tagore paintings, like any other Indian, I was also (momentarily) overwhelmed by a sense of loss. From behind the glass the translucent colours and yearning eyes seemed to accuse us of carelessness. Tagore is, beyond doubt, a heritage worth preserving — and his genius should not be allowed to be dissipated. So why couldn't these paintings be housed in India? Or is this really a needless controversy? Perhaps the time has come to properly examine and take stock of why we are still not being able to protect and ring fence important works of art, cinema and literature.

Does the private sector, then, finally, have a role to play? Is the time right for alternative museums — run by private trusts to be set up — so that in case the government cannot bid to buy a piece of art, some privately run museum could do so? Perhaps money could also be raised by these museums, from the public, in specific cases. This often happens in the UK especially when paintings have been kept within the country by a determined fundraising drive.

We have also experienced that public spirit in India — but somehow not in the field of art — which has for far too long been considered the responsibility either of the government or of art galleries and auction houses. There should be now an attempt to create a third alternative — private-public partnerships for museums — so that if money is required, it can be easily sourced to save India's heritage, whenever it comes up for sale. Unless we do this urgently, these kinds of situations are going to come up again and again and we will be helpless to prevent the loss of our heritage.

The writer can be contacted at [1]

Meanwhile, I did some rather nostalgic self indulgent theatre viewing the other day. I went to see the vintage rock musical Hair — a late 1960s play which had been considered scandalous in its first avatar. It even had naked actors (all flower children espousing free sex) gathered on stage to face an outraged audience. Full frontal unabashed nudity! — accompanied at times with rather raunchy gestures. The most revolutionary part of the production was the music and the long unkempt hair. Of course, I had been far too young to see the play at the time — and now, properly "all-growed-up" I decided to see its revival at Shaftesbury Avenue.
From the opening energetic number The Age of Aquarius a song that many in India will remember, there were also other numbers which were not so popular for obvious reasons, given their startling lyrics. For example, Sodomy, fellatio, cunninlingus, pederasty… father, why do these words sound so nasty? The play was deemed radical at the time because it was staunchly anti-war, and because it had a long on-stage drug-induced sequence. It also had a strong Indian connection with most of the hippies on stage wearing beads and batik and longing to go off to India to lead a simple life baking bread. (Many of those long haired 1960s flower children are still undoubtedly wandering around in Manali and Goa!). The play still contains a sequence of Hare Rama Hare Krishna chanting devotees swaying in tandem. I am surprised no Right-wing Hindu fanatic has as yet called for a ban on this heady mix of sex-drugs-free love and the invocation of Indian gods!
Watching it today, nearly 40 years after it was first written, one is no longer taken aback by the obvious. In fact, I was heartily amused by the innocence of the "flower children". What was literally hair-raising in the 1960s is merely quaint today. Nudity on stage is commonplace in the present — and "foul" language is heard constantly on prime time television. We have all changed a great deal and our ability to be shocked has been reduced dramatically.
Yet, despite our present tough veneer, the play has still managed to deal a bitter blow at the end — with the visual of an American soldier lying dead on top of an American flag. Some things horrify only because they still have not changed. In the 1960s young soldiers were dying in the Vietnam war and they are, sadly, still dying — but in a different battlefield. The children of peace, the flower children and the hippies had hoped that by placing a flower in the barrel of a gun, they would silence it. On the contrary, the sounds of battle rage on — and this time our anger against war has become mute. Unlike the anti-war protesters of the 60s who came out in their millions all over the world, now the protests are smaller, and with decreasing impact. It is this message which the play leaves you with and it is this which makes it remain relevant today.

- The writer can be contacted at [2]






Frankly, the only person coming out like a decent human being in the ongoing Bhopal trial court conviction of seven high-profile people associated with the world's worst industrial disaster, is veteran lawyer Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney General of India. I am sure he sleeps well at night and is able to look himself in the eye when he wakes up without cringing. He recently revealed how a prominent legal firm (J.B. Dadachanji and Co.) tried to rope him in to defend what we all know was indefensible to begin with. They had most of the other top drawer lawyers like Nani Palkhiwala, Fali Nariman and Anil Diwan in their kitty by then. Soli flatly refused to jump on the bandwagon, saying the victims of the disaster probably needed his advice far more! This was a brave decision which may have isolated him from the other legal brains who had signed on to represent Union Carbide and protect the interests of the American company. But that's Soli. Nothing new about such a strategy. It is the same story today — any legally compromised corporation which is able to flaunt big bucks resorts to exactly the same strategy — buy up the best legal brains in the Lawyer Supermarket and make sure the other side is starved of equally powerful representation. Such intimidatory tactics have been going on for decades, and New Delhi is full of high-profile hustlers who charge by the micro second, rarely read briefs and are the real power brokers in a town that thrives on little else but that elusive entity — power.

In such a cosy environment, where the Big Boys' Club consists of ridiculously paid lawyers who reputedly fix any and every loophole in their clients' favour, it is indeed reassuring to know that at least one man from the same tribe did stand up when he had to and had the moral courage to say "No". It has come to a stage when all a corporate crook needs to get away with blue murder (in the Union Carbide case, literally so) is to hire the best legal eagles on the shelf — the whole lot (cheaper by the dozen?) and then play the nasty waiting game. Our system is such, as the Bhopal issue has once again established. The world must be laughing at us —from 1984 to 2010, this is the "progress" we have made. And look at the absurd outcome of that progress — Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide Corporation CEO who flew the coop with enviable ease right after 20,000-plus Indians had perished in the most blood curdling way, is busy enjoying his autumn years in the Hamptons where he lives a luxurious, retired life. He is a doddering old man now… no point in going after him. Besides, he knows and we know, America is hardly likely to let us get our hands on a person known as the Butcher of Bhopal. That was a given then, it is a given now — as we are discovering to our horror. Three days after the gas leak had effectively flattened the town, Anderson was given a great send off by the then chief minister Arjun Singh. Tapes and TV footage of that cowardly exit show a cocky Anderson declaring, "House arrest or no arrest, bail or no bail, I am free to go home. That is the law of the United States… India, bye-bye… thank you". Such was the arrogance of the man, and the shameless complicity of the Indian administration, that cringe-making visuals of that ignominious exit show our spineless policemen and other officials saluting him as he escaped his rightful punishment in India and flew back home to freedom.

The question to ask is: What has changed today, if anything? It still works in the same nauseating way. Is anything further going to be done to the desi directors who are out on bail? Not a chance. They must have laughed at the ridiculousness of it all when they had to put in a mandatory appearance in court recently before climbing into their individual limos and rushing off to the nearest club for a gin-and-tonic to calm those nerves. These men fall into the "pillars of society" category — they are well-respected individuals with impeccable social pedigrees. But the fact remains a court has found them guilty (so what if the verdict was delivered 25 years after the crime was committed?). They still remain convicted men who are out on bail. Just like other criminals. The nature of their crime is monumental and repugnant. But what they and their mighty lawyers must be banking on right now is the great advantage that delayed justice provides to perpetrators of unspeakably gruesome crimes in our country. Wearing down victims is just a small part of the overall strategy. And if the families of those who lost their loved ones experience a deep sense of frustration, helplessness and rage, well, too bloody bad. This is India — have money, will win. No matter how serious the crime — and in the Carbide case, the world agrees it can't get any more heinous or callous. But what does anybody care? Pitiful compensation is supposed to take care of the emotional loss suffered by these people who have battled on for so many years in the hope their wounds will finally be healed once the criminals are brought to justice. Now, even that hope which has kept them going for so long is dwindling rapidly. They must watch the nightly buck-passing taking place brazenly across TV channels and save their tears in sheer disbelief. Arjun Singh says one thing, Arun Singh another. While even mentioning Rajiv Gandhi in passing is seen as sacrilege. This is the sorry environment we foster — whether it is probing the Indian Premier League scandal or providing justice to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims.

Soon, even this will become a dead story. The engineered fury of a few will vanish just as soon as it manifested itself. The men who were prosecuted will nonchalantly continue their golf and gin-tonic routines, safe in the knowledge kuch nahi hoga.

And the ageing Warren Anderson will eventually die a peaceful death in the Hamptons… unlike the over 20,000 Indians who weren't as lucky when they gasped their last breaths in distant Bhopal 25 years ago.

Wah! India! Wah! Union Carbide Corporation ko sirf saat khoon nahi balki bees hazaar khoon maaf!

— Readers can send feedback to [1]







"Sauce for the goose

Costs a dollar or three –

Bismillah Hotel

Ki daal hein free!"

From Charrasology's Chimes by Bachchoo


(Being the most innovative medium in the subcontinent, this newspaper has allowed Mr Dhondy to interview himself regarding his latest mission in India)


FD: So why are you in India?


fd: Well, FD, there has been a great deal of controversy in the international press about the announcement by a first time Bollywood director that he is making a film on the love life of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. The announcement has stirred the UK newspapers to pour scorn on this enterprise which they say is in bad taste. I have, on the contrary, seized the time, as the Black Panthers used to say, and am now in India looking for gullible producers who will buy my latest film script which is all about the love life of Satan.


FD: I'm sorry, I thought you said...


fd: Arrey yar Satan. Brand name from the Bible. Or Muslim "Shaitan", the Zoroastrian Ahreman or his avatars, the ugly little fat devils we see squirming under the feet of Lord Shiva or Vishnu.


FD: Achchaa. Lekin, he is not very popular.


fd: Yeah, but brand recognition is there! Bound to be superhit. I know from my childhood that he was the source of all evil and of every act of deception, destruction and motivated temptation since God created the world. But no one is all bad. There are two sides to every genocide. We must understand Satan's motivations, plans, problems and fears. I call it tension and intention. After all he was a great leader responsible for making trains run on time, building roads on which the oncoming traffic was separated from the ongoing by a barrier and for building a cheap car which the general public could afford.


FD: Surely, these things have been done by other people. There was once a railway minister in India called Lalu who made the trains run nearly on time. Then our numerous public works departments which, give or take a bit of adulterated concrete and the nuisance of dug up roads — (India Ek Khod?) — have built just such divided roads and there is even someone, with the help and encouragement of a chief minister, manufacturing a common man's motor car.


fd: Tell me more! For an appropriate inducement, I can write Bollywood films praising all these people — after I've finished with Satan.


FD: You are writing from Satan's point of view. Surely a fellow called Milton has done this in Paradise Lost? Are you doing a Bollywood by copying Hollywood?


fd: Oi, don't be cheeky. As far as I know, and we can check this on the Internet if you want to bet, Milton never worked for Hollywood. Truthfully, I have looked at Paradise Lost, but it's quite not-happening yaar. No songs, dances, nothing. And too long. I also did deep research into Goethe's Faust and a film called The Devil Wears Prada, to get an idea of design, but I haven't stolen ideas. My film concentrates on Satan's love life in his last few days.


FD: Last few days? Satan is not dead.


fd: I think you are mixing up characters. It's Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson who are not dead. Satan is as dead as that fellow Dodo. Suicide. Him and his woman, when he realised that he was losing and humans were turning away from evil.


FD: What?? I thought you said you were using India as the setting.


fd: Aap ka matlab? Of course, where else? There will be some tax-break scenes in Australia and Switzerland because the Dubai investors like the snow.


FD: Cashting ho gayi?


fd: Babu, mein hoon writer. You must ask our first-time director, my son Mussollini Goebells Dhondy. Lekin, since you asked, I can tell you that Satan is played by a very accomplished Bollywood actor and his girlfriend is played by a Bollywood actress who has more beauty than bra... and quality.


FD: Why these stars?


fd: Very simple. The actor is the only one who readily agreed to grow horns for the role. If these don't grow naturally through a process of indulgence in shameful and pagan rites, some German doctors have been approached to equip him through transplants. As for the actress, she is very, very sensitive and intelligent and a great researcher into the history of evil and that's exactly the kind of woman that Satan would have chosen to marry.


FD: The people of all religions have condemned your attempt to put Satan on the silver screen. There has been a hue and cry in the Vatican, in Canterbury, in Saudi Arabia, in the caves of Tora Bora, in Parsi Colony in Mumbai, in the Confucian Aryanic Zenophone Bhagwartsandall Ashram (CAZBA) of San Diego and in the headquarters of British Petroleum. Aren't you afraid that someone will attack you?


fd: No.


FD: Is there any truth in the fact that...


fd: A fact is by definition a truth.


FD: What I meant was, is, was... is it true that you are just trying to get your name in the papers by announcing this sort of witless nonsense and that you have no intention of making and marketing such a film but are simply trying through the negative publicity you are bound to get to boost the share price of your failing film company?


fd: Speak to me through my attorneys!


FD: And finally, we all know that the world is moving towards integrated casting, but just as it would be the laughing stock of the world for a German actor to play Lalu Prasad Yadav, say, or for Indians to try and play Adolf Hitler or Eva Braun, wouldn't it be absurd for an Indian to play Satan? I mean Satan wasn't Indian was he... was he?... I read on a blog... what I mean to say is Satan is evil, corrupt, egotistic, bureaucratic, greedy, tells lies, has no consideration for the next human being, brings discord and confusion, suffers from really bad taste etc. etc... I suppose...


fd: In the words of my distant cousin Feredoon Brooklynbagelwala: "Go figure











"CLOSURE" is a much over overused term these days, nothing can ever erase traumatic memories of the killings of loved ones. The families of the 329 passengers on flight AI-182 on 25 June 1985 that was blown up by Canada-based Khalistani terrorists will ridicule the contention that "time is the great healer": each in their own small way must frequently re-live the Kanishka tragedy. Yet they will find reason to recognise as significant ~ to expect appreciation would be asking much too much ~ the just-submitted report of the inquiry commission by the former Canadian Supreme Court Justice, John Major. For though it has come too late ~ 25 yeas after the disaster ~ to pin down the key suspects in the sinister, vengeful sabotage (for a variety of factors they have eluded judicial punishment), the Commission has not flinched from flaying the federal government for lax security. "Government agencies were in possession of significant pieces of information that taken together would have led a competent analyst to conclude that Flight 182 was at a high risk of being bombed by known Sikh terrorists", and the Commission also observed that the failure to prevent "the largest mass murder in Canadian history" was the result of a "cascading series of errors". If some folk in India nursed apprehensions that the laxity was influenced by the fact that the Air-India service was patronised by essentially ethnic travellers, or that the Canadians did not react as powerfully as they might have had the majority of the victims not been of Indian origin, the Commission's scathing observations on the authorities might provide a little relief. Once again the impartiality of the law has been reconfirmed. Just how much financial compensation will now be awarded, and the effectiveness of the revamped security system the Commission has demanded, are issues only the future will unravel.

The importance of the probe report is the powerful messages it sends out to aviation security officials the world over that there is no room for complacency. That it has not spared an institution as reputed as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is reassuring: there is often a tendency to protect "one's own" in a matter under international focus. Hopefully the signal that Indians are not a lesser people will register with the staff at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi who have been insulting when rejecting visa applications from members ~ even retired ones ~ of Indian security services.








THE timing of the rehabilitation package announced for people in Maoist-hit areas of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia ~ the day after the joint forces killed extremists – is perhaps meant to signal that the iron fist wears a velvet glove. That while acting ruthlessly against extremists, the administration will encourage local people to return to the mainstream. This has been part of conventional wisdom but is often diluted by suggestions that no gestures would be appropriate till the Maoists lay down arms. While the latest move from Writers' Buildings suggests a symbolic shift, inevitable and embarrassing questions on what the administration should have done in chronically undeveloped parts of the state are bound to arise. If the chief secretary expects  people to be delighted by the offer of rice at Rs 2 a kilo, bicycles for girl students, more hostels, deep tubewells and medical camps in jungle areas, he must be prepared to explain why they were deprived of these basics all these years. The arrival of the Maoist menace that compelled the government to deploy joint forces, causing a further dislocation of normal life, cannot explain why  schools have been non-functional, ration shops closed and medical facilities non-existent over decades when the ruling party was in complete control. To that extent, the state makes only a pathetic case for itself by declaring that its hands were tied because of the insurgency over the past one year.

The question now is whether people would consider the package as a sincere effort towards long-term development or simply as a means of damage control when the Left finds itself in dire straits. There are further complications in the cases of hundreds who have been detained on the suspicion of having Maoist links and are to be released on specific conditions. Whether this would yield the desired results will depend on the prospects of regaining trust that has been lost and whether the local population can feel more comfortable as joint forces take up the offensive in the jungles. What is more important is whether the package can in fact be executed when the administrative machinery is virtually in tatters and officials as much as people are in the grip of fear. There are hurdles still to be crossed.









IT has taken Britain close to four decades to realise that Northern Ireland's Bloody Sunday ~ 30 January 1972 ~ was "both unjustified and unjustifiable". This must be the remarkably astonishing feature of the apology advanced by Prime Minister David Cameron, who by a quirk of circumstance has had to wear the mantle of the repentant and to atone for the mistake of another generation. For, the Conservative leader wasn't even a member of parliament when Lord Saville began his inquiry in 1998, the year itself a testimony to the inexplicable delay. Bloody Sunday now haunts the new British Prime Minister who presented the 5,000-page Saville report to parliament on Tuesday. Tragically it involved the shooting of 13 protesters who, as it now turns out, were unarmed. Britain has acknowledged that there was no justification for the shooting of civilians during a civil rights march in Londonderry. It was a tragedy that dramatically altered the course of the United Kingdom's history. Such accidents shape history. So does sober reflection. Memories still rankle. Small wonder that Mr Cameron was cheered by the huge crowd that had gathered in Londonderry to watch his performance on a giant screen: "What happened should never, ever have happened. For that, on behalf of the government , and indeed our country, I am deeply sorry." The Prime Minister's apology, read with the Saville report, is a searing indictment of British governance in the 1970s. Well may the kin of the unarmed Catholics exult: "The great lie has been laid bare."

 Indeed, the tragedy of Northern Ireland is embedded in Bloody Sunday. The incident  triggered three decades of sectarian strife ~ rather mildly referred to as "Troubles" ~ in which an estimated 3,600 people perished. It is an open question whether the soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday violence, who claim to have fired in self-defence, will be prosecuted after 38 years. Altogether, it has been a blot on British history. And the truth has been brought home at last.








WITHOUT approving it one can at least understand the nauseating exhibition of sycophancy displayed by Congress politicians who tried to explain the safe passage to America granted to Warren Anderson after he was arrested. They wanted to protect the reputation of Rajiv Gandhi. But why should senior bureaucrats tie themselves in knots while recounting the events of 1984? They were only carrying out orders. Or has the odious doctrine of "committed bureaucracy" bequeathed by Indira Gandhi got ingrained so deeply in them that they continue to live by it years after retirement? Had the ministers and officials concerned spoken candidly at the outset they would have saved themselves unnecessary embarrassment.

Piecing together the garbled disjointed information eked out in bits and pieces this is what seems to have happened. After the Bhopal gas disaster the Union Carbide head Warren Anderson wanted to visit the site to assess damage and prospects of controlling it. But he wanted guarantee of safe passage back home. He conveyed this to the appropriate US authorities. President Reagan telephoned Rajiv Gandhi and explained the situation. Possibly he pointed out that it would be better for all concerned if Anderson personally inspected the site than not visit India. Obviously, Rajiv Gandhi concurred. The guarantee of safe passage was given.
Rajiv and Arjun

DUE to lack of communication Arjun Singh was unaware of this commitment. He arrested Anderson. On learning this Rajiv must have apprised him of what had occurred. Thereupon Anderson was released and flown to Delhi in a state aircraft. From there he returned safe to the US as had been promised to him. This was almost immediately after the tragedy when the culpability of Anderson may not have been even properly assessed. Does this sound so terrible?

Now recall how this simple truth was handled by Congress politicians. They spoke half-truths, committed self-contradictions, and appeared like a bunch of liars before the whole nation. Next consider how the conclusive truth came out. Former US diplomat Gordon Streeb, who was the deputy chief of mission of the US embassy in New Delhi when the Bhopal gas tragedy occurred, gave an interview to the news agency, IANS. Streeb after retirement joined the Carter Center and was close to former President Jimmy Carter.  

Streeb said Union Carbide contacted the embassy wanting its chairman Anderson to fly to India to inspect the damage and show "concern for the victims" at the "highest level of the company". Streeb said that Anderson came to India only after getting a "safe passage" guarantee from the Indian government. In an e-mail sent to the agency Streeb wrote: "The issue was whether he would be guaranteed access to the site and eventual safe return to the US. This was a reasonable precaution since legal systems differ so widely around the world."
With Ambassador Harry Barnes out of India, Streeb was dealing with the Ministry of External Affairs. According to Streeb, MEA indicated that "it would be a very welcome gesture if Anderson could come to India and that the government of India could assure him that no steps would be taken against him during his visit". Streeb said that his chief interlocutor was Foreign Secretary MK Rasgotra. When IANS contacted Rasgotra it was told that he was not available. In a second attempt Rasgotra came on the line. He reportedly said: "I have nothing to say." Told that Streeb described him as the interlocutor Rasgotra reportedly said "That is bloody nonsense!"

Truth denied

ON second thoughts, Rasgotra appeared reconciled to speak the truth. In an interview to Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN, Rasgotra acknowledged the substance of all that Streeb had said. What was the need for him to deny the truth in the first place? Even to CNN-IBN Rasgotra tried to give a spin to the events that made him look even more ridiculous. He admitted that Reagan must have phoned Rajiv Gandhi. He admitted that Rajiv Gandhi approved of the decision to release Anderson. He admitted that the decision in his view was sound. But because Rajiv, who was also Foreign Minister, was not available to Rasgotra due to electioneering, the actual nod to release Anderson was obtained from Home Minister Narasimha Rao. 

From this Rasgotra tried to conclude that it was Rao's decision to release Anderson and Rajiv merely concurred. Does Rasgotra seriously believe that Rao as Home Minister was not in the loop regarding events including Reagan's phone call to Rajiv? How does he know that Rao was not in touch with Rajiv even during his electioneering? Rasgotra is of course exceedingly smart. He knows all this and more. Then why did he make such a lame effort to shield Rajiv and blame Rao for the ultimate responsibility of Anderson's release? Or does he imply that Rajiv as PM was such a dummy that he did whatever Rao told him? Draw your own conclusions.
Focusing on Anderson's flight obscures the criminal omissions subsequently. Instead of addressing the serious systemic failure exposed by the Bhopal tragedy the mindless twits of the establishment are busy shifting blame from one dead leader to another. Making Arjun Singh the fall guy didn't work. So let's nail arasimha Rao! This charade is worse than pathetic. It is tragic.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonis







Twelve months after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's bitterly disputed re-election, Iran has put on a different garb. The one-year anniversary of the protest was celebrated quietly. There was no major demonstration. Iranian dissidents' techno-euphoria is a thing of the past now as there has been a nationwide shutdown of internet and cell-phone access. Whereas Iranians living in Iran have friends and family to share their grief with, for thousands more who were forced to flee Iran post-election, the future looks gloomy and their return to Iran uncertain. Arash Bahmani, a journalist from Gilan, northern Iran, now lives in a small room in the outskirts of Paris. He is waiting to go home. Dharitri Bhattacharjee chats with him about his hopes for a democratic Iran.

Does it depress you that the one-year anniversary of the protest was observed in such a muted fashion in Iran?
Maybe, and maybe not. Many of us - I mean, people of the green movement - thought we could defeat the "Islamic Republic" soon and then live in a democratic Iran. That did not happen. Now we know that democracy is born only after years of toil. Even after one year, government continues to repress and torture. But people still believe in non-violent struggle. As long as we are alive, I feel we can win.

Do you think 20 June will be observed as a mourning day the world over for Neda Agha-Soltan considering that her death became the iconic symbol of the Iranian protest ?

I wish. But as you know, the world did not support our struggle. The US and EU said many times that they support the "green movement," but when the time came everyone watched silently.

How did you spend your Sunday (13 June 2010)? Were you nostalgic, pensive or disillusioned?
When I think about the last year it gets hard. We had protests here in Paris and I was there. But when I think about my friends and my people who were killed last year, I just cry.

Can you share with us your experience of the protests during the week following 13 June, 2009 ?
Killing, teargas, shooting, shouting, millions of people, guards… I think on 13 June 2009 under the banner of the green movement Iranians followed great historical men like Gandhi, Luther King, Nelson Mandela. Can you imagine three million people protesting over 20 kilometers (sic) in silence? And can you imagine our surprise when guards started shooting at their own people? Boys and girls who were arrested were later raped in jail.

What is the future you seek for Iran?

We seek a secular and democratic Iran, a country that believes in peace and human rights.

On his website, Mir Hossein Mousavi (Opposition Leader) said: "We have to expand social networks, (and) websites, these are our best means. These work like an army. This is our army against their military force." Don't you think the retreat from public protest is likely to be considered by government officials as a victory against a popular movement that last year appeared so close to toppling the hard-line Islamic regime?
I don't think so. You know, we can start a protest, but what will happen? Again, people will get killed. We don't want to build a government at the cost of more human blood. The Islamic Republic may think that they have won, but that's not the truth. They win in the streets only, but they can't win in our head and heart.

When did you exactly flee Iran ?

January, 2010.

Can you describe what prompted you to flee ?

A judge in a "revolution court" said that I must go to jail for eight years and I was forced to escape. I sought the help of smugglers. They charge around $10,000. I escaped through the Iraqi Kurdistan region, which has long been characterized by unsteady central government control.

You say in your BBC interview that "we" escaped. Who were the rest ?

A: I mean, many friends, just like me. I saw them in Iraq and then in France. As you know, after the election, about 6,000 Iranians escaped.

Were you married then ? Did your wife escape with you?

No, I was not married then.

You are married. Tell me something about your wife. Was it a love or arranged marriage ? What is her profession? Is she politically active?

It was a love marriage. We were friends for four years. She studies Law. Actually she must be a lawyer by now. But because of what I'm doing, they didn't permit her to be with me. She is also a journalist.

I ask about your wife because the protests in 2009, especially for women, were as much about their own freedom as it was about voicing their frustration against the government. Many women hit the streets because Mr Ahmadinejad has been a catastrophe for women. Your response?

I think I agree with you. Maybe it's a joke for you and your readers, but in Iran, women can't choose their clothes, they can't divorce, they can't leave the country without their father or husband's permission. Iranian women are a big help to the green movement.

Iranian academic and writer, Azar Nafisi, of Reading Lolita in Tehran fame believes a regime change will not be enough; that only a change in mindset can lead to greater freedoms for women. Your response?
I agree. I don't know if you read The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria. I agree with him in that we must change our ideas about women and religion.

How do you keep in touch with your family members in Iran. Neda Agha-Soltan's family was not able to mourn her publicly. Is your family also under surveillance or other kinds of pressure ?

Ever since I went to the University my family has been under pressure. I keep in touch through internet.

You are in exile, but you do not use a nickname.

Yes. You are right. But I hate to do something using a nickname. Also, because I am so open, they (Iranian government) can't do anything to me. If anything happens to me, everyone will blame the Islamic Republic.

You were the editor of Gilan-e Behtar, a weekly newspaper published in northern Iran. What do you do now ?
I'm a journalist.

What are your impressions of the 1979 revolution? What did it change for Iran, in terms of leading it towards greater freedom ?

It was good and bad at the same time. The revolution was against dictatorship, but it led to another dictatorship. There is a famous expression about the revolution in Iran, "people knew what they didn't want, but they didn't know what they want."

If change comes to Iran, what implications do you think it will have for the rest of the Islamic world ?
I think disappearance of political Islam in Iran can improve situation in the world in places like Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.


What is the happiest memory of your life in Iran ?

I never forget the days before election. Those days we thought that we could change everything.

What is the most difficult thing about staying in exile, away from the country you so love ?

Staying away from friends and family, knowing that I may never see them again. The worst thing is that I only have memories. I have no freedom. You know, my best friend is in jail....








How the mighty have fallen! At one time, he was part of Sanjay Gandhi's brigade. Later, he hitched his wagon to Rajiv Gandhi's stars and prospered. He flaunted his proximity to the family. During UPA-I, he treated even the head of government with lordly disdain. Good times don't last. After his win in the last general election, he was hoping for a larger responsibility. Instead, he was cut to size and sent to a less important ministry. He accepted his fate since there was no court of appeal.

Then came the bolt from the blue. A CBI investigation into NHAI has brought some of his close associates under focus, with the needle of suspicion pointing towards him. And now the Damocles' sword hangs over him in the forthcoming reshuffle. Will his extensive networking, which includes a steel baron, help in bailing him out?

Talking of a reshuffle, jockeying is on. It was to have taken place quite some time ago, but the government was hamstrung by one scandal after another -- IPL, the Pawar Pariwar's doings, Bhopal, the Nira Radia affair, not to mention other pinpricks. And in the recast, strangely, everybody seems to want everybody else's portfolio. Anand Sharma, it seems, wants SM Krishna's job who in turn desires Kapil Sibal's. And Sibal seeks Anand Sharma's domain. And Azad and Ambika seem keen to return to party HQ? And GK Vasan wants some portfolio other than Shipping because of the Ram Sethu canal. Initially, he preferred to go back to state politics.

Touch wood, not steel

Touch wood, and it is sure to come good. A PSU boss decided that it would be wise to observe propitious timings while embarking on a new career. Taking over a Maharatna riddled with scams, he took the soothsayer's advice of leaving for his new office well after "rahukalam" and entered his chamber at the "ordained" time, to be welcomed by the pujari with the auspicious "aarti". One really cannot blame him because the organisation is in the throes of a massive update, and to unravel the enigma involving about a lakh of crores would take him quite a while. It is a price which many PSU chiefs have to bear, before they too partake in the spoils.

Well, Sir, being superstitious is not enough to SAIL through the problems. It would be wise to tackle it with skill, and the ability to handle the netas and babus with honesty.

A festering wound

The Bhopal tragedy continues to simmer with more startling revelations. Everybody is in an awkward position. Having been beneficiaries in varying degrees, they have all taken to castigating Union Carbide as a full-time occupation. One got a lifetime engagement, a privilege accorded only to royalty. A similar event, of course of far lesser magnitude with no loss of lives, is raging in the US where Obama is seen to flex his well-toned muscles and twist BP into coughing up billions of dollars.

BP may well oblige Uncle Sam who, alas, does not see reason in compensating adequately the Bhopal victims. To excoriate Union Carbide or Warren Anderson may well deflect the responsibility from people like Keshub Mahindra and the monitoring agencies, but the pressing need is to make good the loss to victims and their families for all that they have been through in the past 25 years. The treachery of whittling down the compensation is bigger than allowing Anderson to get away. To take a leaf from Obama's diary, why not force the errant company to set up an escrow account for compensation claims?

Corporates are accustomed to doing what they think is best for them.. It has to be ensured that the company is not even remotely connected with the clean-up process. It was responsible for this monstrous tragedy and entrusting them with the clean-up is like having a criminal in charge of the crime scene.

That the country had to be awakened rudely about this tragedy speaks volumes about corporate social responsibility and conscience. One can understand the muteness of the Chambers which speak out of turn only on issues affecting the barons, but what passes understanding is the silence of the righteous Prime Minister, whose singular focus is on getting through the Nuclear Liability Bill. Is history bound to repeat itself, first as a tragedy and then as a farce?

Swift response

It has been announced that the government will introduce "irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act. This will provide succor to many a distressed spouse.
What has not been announced is that the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill 2010 which was cleared by the Cabinet last week will bring succour to the daughter of a senior cabinet minister from Western India. She had earlier filed a petition questioning the validity of Section 13B (divorce by mutual consent) of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955.

Since the provision required the consent of both spouses as a necessary ground for divorce, she complained that the law could not force her to remain in wedlock if her husband chose to withdraw consent. In this connection, the court has sought a response from the Centre on whether the "consent'' violated a person's fundamental right.

In six months, the government moved to bring about the change. It would be heartening if the Government acted swiftly in other cases as well.

In a greed-is-good culture, everybody's hand is in the till. So these two different narratives have the same strain. In a secret note, it is said that the 62nd battalion had indulged in picnicking before being massacred on their way back and "taken away chicken and utensils for free from the local villagers in Dantewada" thus leading to resentment. The CRPF feels that the wrath of the local villagers could have led to their slaying by way of movements of the personnel having been tipped off to the Maoists.

The infection has spread to the Maoists. It is reported that they have struck a secret deal to hand over 10,000 acres of forest land to corporate houses in at least four districts of Jharkhand without the government's knowledge. Those districts are totally under their control. What about the Forest Act of 2006 which prohibits the sale of forest land?

An amnesty scheme is being worked out in Orissa by charging a one-time fine on all illegal mines. Once miners pay what is relatively a pittance, they would be allowed to continue digging ore after securing their clearances. The Forest Conservation Act does not provide for any penal liability that post-facto legitimises illegal activity that has been carried on for decades.







Arjun Singh had clearly said there was deterioration of law and order after the Bhopal gas leak. People's anger was also very high. Therefore, it was thought right to send him (Anderson) out of Bhopal.
Union finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

We would work to simplify the taxation system and ensure 40-50 gallons of filtered water for each head per day. Trinamul's board would go all out to provide better civic services and make the city at par with international standards. We also promise to maintain direct links with every citizen and try and address their issues at the earliest.

Sovan Chatterjee, Mayor, KMC.

I have full faith in the Indian Constitution. I know that the Constitution and maa, mati and manush are interlinked. So swearing both in the name of maa, mati and manush and the Constitution is not wrong to me.
Indrajit Bhattacharjee, Trinamul councillor.

We have worked for the poor and we have made mistakes. Our mistakes have gone to the advantage of the Opposition.

West Bengal industries minister Nirupam Sen.

The board (of the school) made it abundantly clear that corporal punishment was strictly prohibited. I apologised to them. It will not be practised any more. It may be difficult to manage boys without strong disciplinary measures but with it being banned we will look for methods that are innovative and effective.
Sunirmal Chakravarthi, Principal, La Martiniere for Boys, Kolkata, after reports on the punishment meted out to a student who later committed suicide.

The Nuclear Liability Bill is meant to safeguard the interests of the US companies who will supply reactors to India.

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat.

This teacher had just joined us few months back and is still on probation. So as the first step the university has decided to stop the confirmation of his appointment, which is due to happen once he would complete a year of probation.

Suranjan Das, Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, after Saibal Mukherjee was found guilty of sexual misconduct.

The Haj pilgrimage this year will end in an utter fiasco if the Prime Minister does not intervene and take matters in his hand. There is no authority to take decisions. We will ask the Prime Minister to intervene at the earliest. It is sad that there is no person like Shashi Tharoor at the helm of affairs. But the government should not hesitate to make use of his expertise, otherwise pilgrims are going to suffer this year.

Mujibur Rehman of the Karnataka Haj Committee.

In the last 63 years since Independence, all the major political parties of the country have been fighting elections with funds arranged by the capitalists and industrialists and hence it was quite natural for them to prepare policies to safeguard the interests of fund-managers...These all can be undone if you help form a BSP government.

BSP chief Miss Mayawati, campaigning in Bihar







There was a time when outsiders debunked Calcutta as a lost city. The city's very own communists cried foul when Jawaharlal Nehru called it a "city of processions" and when, decades later, Rajiv Gandhi dismissed it as a " dying city". But for many years now, Calcutta has inspired little but self-loathing among its own inhabitants. It must be a very dismal state of affairs for a city when its own residents consider it a shame to live there. Calcutta has come to represent all that is wrong in metropolitan life. Given the quality of its air or water, the filth on its roads or the utter lawlessness of its vehicular traffic, a healthy and dignified civic life has become almost impossible in Calcutta. No tears need, therefore, be shed for the exit of the Left-ruled civic board. In fact, the change of guard at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation headquarters could be a time of hope even for long-despairing Calcuttans.


Changing Calcutta is not so much a matter of financial resources as of a new vision and determination. The civic board's revenue may still be much smaller than that of Mumbai or New Delhi. But financial help from organizations such as the Asian Development Bank and projects such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission has now made a big difference to the resources available with the CMC. For all its faults, the outgoing Left-ruled board too expanded the sources of tax revenue. What it lacked, however, are a vision for a renewal of the city and a work culture to bring about qualitative change. And the biggest hurdle to those was a political approach to civic management. The new mayor, Sovan Chatterjee, has been a councillor long enough to know why the CMC is such a miserable performer.


It may be unrealistic to expect that the new Trinamul Congress-run board would keep partisan politics out of its strategies for remaking Calcutta. Nothing much may change if Mr Chatterjee's energies are spent merely on trying to score political points against his leftist rivals. With the elections over, he must leave all the hot air of the poll campaign behind him and get on to real business. Involving experts in urban planning and management could be a useful strategy for him. He could take a leaf out of the book of what Pittsburgh, the American city once famous for its steel industry, did in order to reinvent itself. The decline of the steel industry left the city tottering on the brink of an economic and civic collapse. In an ambitious strategy to revive the city, its administrators formed a panel comprising a wide variety of experts and finalized the "Pittsburgh Pledge". The success of the venture made it something of a model for the rejuvenation of a city in decline. Only drastically big measures can unleash the process necessary for Calcutta's renewal. Mindless populism should have no place in that vision of reconstruction.










The great German sociologist, Max Weber, once made an important distinction between universities on the one side and religious seminaries and political parties on the other. Seminaries and parties upheld a particular ideology, and made it mandatory for their members to believe in it. However, universities were emphatically not centres of indoctrination. Their professors could not, or at least should not, propagate their own political or religious beliefs. Rather, they should teach the student "facts, their conditions, laws and interrelations", serving in this manner to "sharpen the student's capacity to understand the actual conditions of his own exertions…." Weber added that "what ideals the [student] should serve" — "what gods he must bow before"— these "they [the teachers] require him to deal with on his own responsibility, and ultimately in accordance with his own conscience".


The Indian teacher of my acquaintance who most nobly upheld this intellectual credo was Anjan Ghosh, who died earlier this month in Calcutta. Anjan took a first degree in English Literature, before doing an MA and M.Phil in sociology at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. He then commenced a PhD, taking as his topic of research the life and labours of mineworkers in Dhanbad. He taught briefly at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, before moving to a position at the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta.


In 1980, I joined IIM Calcutta to do a doctorate in sociology. Anjan Ghosh was one of my teachers. He was, like many thoughtful Indians those days, a Marxist. As a college student, he had attended the famous founding rally of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) on the Calcutta Maidan. He believed the Naxalites were more engaged with the peasantry, as well as more sympathetic to questions of culture, than the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist). However, he was a fellow traveller rather than a fully paid-up member of the new party. He cherished his intellectual independence too much for that.


Anjan was formidably well-read in the Marxist scriptures. That, and a goatee he wore, led to his being named 'Lenin' by his JNU friends. However, as my own experience showed, Anjan kept his political beliefs completely out of the classroom. He knew that there were great social theorists other than Karl Marx. With him I read both Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and Emile Durkheim's The Division of Labour in Society. While never a narrow patriot, Anjan believed that the contributions of Indian scholars had been ignored by a West-obsessed academy. He admired M.N. Srinivas and André Béteille in particular, both for the elegance of their prose and for the subtlety of their arguments. Through him, I came to admire them for those very reasons.


Among the gifts Anjan bestowed on me was an introduction to the charmed circle of intellectuals that hung around the journal, Frontier, then edited by the lapsed poet and lapsed Marxist, Samar Sen. From the IIM campus in Joka, I made a weekly journey to the Frontier office in central Calcutta, where Samarbabu and his devoted assistant, Timir Basu, discussed the contents of the forthcoming issue and allocated tasks to each of us. Intellectuals are a selfish, solitary species; this, on the other hand, was an exercise in collective, collaborative, work that enriched all those who participated in it.


Many left-wing intellectuals take great pride in their social commitments, but their words generally speak louder than their actions. Not Anjan Ghosh. Aside from his involvement with Frontier, Anjan was also active in the film society movement, and in the human rights movement. He had a close association with the People's Union for Democratic Rights, based in Delhi, and with the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, based in Calcutta. His work outside academics was undertaken with a characteristic lack of fuss, and with no self-advertisement whatsoever.


As a Marxist, Anjan Ghosh was also unorthodox in his appreciation of caste as an organizing factor in Indian society. In 1979, he wrote a precocious essay in the Delhi journal, Seminar, with the innocuous title, "The Seventh Indian". This dealt with the social predicament of the Dalits, who, despite being one-seventh of India's population, had been largely ignored by sociologists and Marxists, and largely condescended to by political parties. A little later, he wrote a longer essay in a Bengali journal on how, and why, caste was not simply an 'epiphenomena' of class. These ideas are now widely accepted by Marxists, but, in articulating them in the late 1970s, my teacher was roughly 20 years ahead of the curve.


In 1984, Anjan Ghosh joined the faculty of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Calcutta. By then, his disenchantment with left-wing orthodoxy had led him to abandon his research on the working class, which is considered by the Marxist catechism to be the advanced guard of the revolution. Some years later, he took leave from the CSSC and went to the University of Michigan to do a PhD, in its famous history and anthropology programme. He wrote an elegant thesis (sadly, never published in book form) on the social role of rumour in intensifying communal violence in 20th-century Bengal.


A bibliography from 2007, available on the web, lists some 40 scholarly essays published by Anjan Ghosh — on topics ranging from caste and religious violence to ethno-nationalism and the environmental impact of coal mining. But Anjan also had a profound influence on the writings of other scholars. He was a born teacher, who, for family reasons (an aged mother to whom he was an only son), had to be based in Calcutta, a place deeply inhospitable to sociological enquiry. One reason for this is the long stranglehold on the city's universities of a somewhat mechanical variety of Marxism. Since Karl Marx spoke of 'political economy' and 'historical materialism', his followers have allowed a honourable space in the academy for the scholarly disciplines of economics, politics and history, They have not been so well disposed to sociology, which their twin Fatherlands, the Soviet Union and Communist China, both dismissed as a 'bourgeois' science.


Had Anjan Ghosh been permitted to teach in Delhi or Mumbai, he would perhaps have more fully come into his own. Even so, he influenced very many young sociologists and anthropologists, whom he met at conferences or at the annual 'Cultural Studies' workshop he helped organize. I myself owe more to Anjan Ghosh than to any other scholar. He taught me in the lecture theatre, but also in the tea shop. Every morning, I would meet him as he got off the staff bus that conveyed the IIM's faculty to the Joka campus. Every evening, I would walk with him to the bus stop to catch some last remarks before he went home. Through those addas, he encouraged me to be less parochial, by reading scholars not prescribed in my syllabus and by venturing into disciplines that I was not formally trained in. And he never, ever, imposed his ideas or beliefs on me. The conclusions I eventually arrived at were my own responsibility, a product of my own conscience.


Marxism and Marxists can be crude and strident. Anjan Ghosh, on the other hand, was a gentle, cultured, and utterly civilized human being. He humanized everything he touched, and made every student he taught more curious as well as less egotistic. By the end, Anjan may have stopped calling himself a 'Marxist'. But even in the days he wore the label proudly, he was, in the classroom, remarkably undogmatic. In not seeking to impose his beliefs on his students, he was so very unlike most social science professors in Calcutta, and beyond.



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





The revised draft of the direct taxes code released on Tuesday is a compromise between the best principles of taxation and the need to promote savings in a country with no effective social security net. An ideal taxation system discourages exemptions and concessions as they create complexity, affect the uniformity of application, promotes litigation and political discretion and allows more powerful tax payers to evade taxes. India's tax system was riddled with these problems and the original code released last year was an attempt to solve them. But the code seems to be based on a realisation that exemptions and concessions have a major role in encouraging savings. A high rate of savings is necessary for financial security in later years of life and for the growth of the economy.

Therefore, the most controversial proposals in the original tax code — taxing retirement benefits and imposing a minimum alternate tax (MAT) on companies based on their assets — have been dropped. The first will please individuals, especially in the middle class, and the second corporate entities. Provident funds, long-term savings schemes and retirement and pension plans will be exempt from taxation at the time of investment, accumulation and withdrawal. The earlier proposal was to tax them at the withdrawal stage. The tax relief available for home loans will also continue. If these exemptions had been discontinued there would have been less incentive for individuals to save and many would have been in dire straits after their retirement. The prime minister had accepted the merit of the argument and supported it. Companies would welcome the proposal to impose MAT on profits, rather than on assets, because otherwise even loss-making firms would have been forced to pay tax. The entire corporate sector had opposed the earlier proposal. But this may lead to evasion of tax by companies which manipulate their books and suppress or divert profits. On the other hand, a tax on assets would have burdened capital intensive companies and those with a long gestation period.

Even after the changes in many areas, the tax system will be simpler and easier to implement than the existing one. The new tax rates have not been mentioned and may be finalised only after a public discussion on the revised code. It may not widen the tax base and may not do away with all the distortions in the system but is still a step forward.








A Sino-Pakistan deal under which China will provide Islamabad with two new nuclear reactors is cause for global concern. The two 650 MW reactors will be built at Chashma over the next seven years. While Pakistan has sought to justify the deal on the grounds that India signed one with the US a couple of years ago, China maintains that the reactors for Pakistan are for peaceful purposes. Power-starved Pakistan's quest for energy is understandable. But its poor proliferation record raises serious concern over the deal. In agreeing to engage in nuclear trade with Pakistan, China is violating Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines, which forbid such trade with countries that are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Pakistan and China's contention is that if the US could sign a nuclear agreement with India, also a non-signatory, why can't they?

Bracketing India with Pakistan on nuclear issues is ridiculous. India has had an exemplary record on nuclear non-proliferation. The role that Pakistan has played in the nuclear programmes of Libya, Iran and North Korea is well documented. Right through the 1980s and 90s, India was crying itself hoarse on the Sino-Pakistan collusion on nuclear weapons and missiles. It raised the alarm over China's violation of its obligations under the NPT. Yet the US and other countries chose to turn a blind eye. That appeasement of Beijing and Islamabad encouraged Pakistan to trade in nuclear materials and technology, leaving the world to grapple with the problem of unstable regimes like North Korea possessing nuclear weapons.

There are reports that in its bid to get Beijing to support sanctions against Iran, the US might have entered an understanding with China to keep its nuclear support to Pakistan limited. There is a section in the US which believes that a nuclear deal with Pakistan is necessary to get that country's support in the war against terrorism. US nuclear corporations are eyeing a slice of the nuclear business that Pakistan offers. There is a real possibility, therefore, that the US, despite its statement that it will object the Sino-Pakistan nuclear deal, might just not do enough to stop it. As for China, it has viewed its nuclear co-operation with Pakistan as important to keep India under check. In the process, it is undermining global security.







Although the government has been announcing a procurement price, there is no assured procurement of the produce.



Every time you want to cook dal you have to think twice. There was a time when dal-roti was the common man's food. With prices hitting the roof, dal has disappeared from the poor man's platter.

For over 40 years now, dal production continues to stagnate. Production remains in the bracket of 140 to 160 lakh tonnes a year. To meet the gap in demand and supply, India imports roughly 30 to 40 lakh tonnes of pulses from Myanmar, Canada and Australia.

While you are wondering as to why India cannot produce 30 to 40 lakh tonnes more pulses every year, a Working Group of Chief Ministers has suggested that Indian companies be encouraged to buy land abroad to grow pulses, in order to meet the domestic demand. Formed in April this year, the Working Group is headed by Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and also includes chief ministers of Punjab, Bihar and West Bengal.

The draft report of the working group states: "We should seriously consider these options (of buying land abroad) for at least 20 lakh tonnes of pulses and 50 lakh tonnes of oilseeds for 15-20 years." I feel there can be nothing more stupid than this recommendation. Nor is there anything new in this suggestion. Many decades back, the then Agriculture Minister Balram Jakhar too had made a similar suggestion asking Indian companies to engage in contract farming for pulses in Africa.

All such fanciful ideas are cropping up at a time when common sense has disappeared from public policy. Cultivating pulses abroad and then shipping it back to India is one such idea. At a time when farmers in India are passing through terrible distress, with more than 40 per cent of them wanting to quit agriculture if given a choice, I thought boosting domestic production of pulses could be one approach to make farming more profitable.

First, let us examine why is it that India is unable to produce more pulses? After all, an additional 30 to 40 lakh tonnes should not be much of a problem. Only a few days back, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the prime minister, had announced a hike by about 30 per cent in the minimum support price (MSP) for kharif pulses, including tur or arhar. The underlying objective seems to be to increase production.

By providing a respectable price to growers, the government has made its intention clear that it is looking forward to increase crop productivity by attracting more farmers to undertake cultivation of pulses. But what it has failed to visualise is that increasing the MSP for pulses is only one of the mechanisms to increase production. We need to understand that price alone cannot do the magic.

Attract investment

Higher prices have to be backed by an enabling environment for the farmers to invest in pulses or oilseeds. And this is where India has failed the farmers. Also, there is no dearth of technological innovations to improve productivity. The National Research Institute for Pulses, Kanpur, along with other research centres have already developed more than 400 improved pulses varieties.

Now where the problem lies is that even after the heady days of Green Revolution, what is not being realised is that the production of wheat and rice (the two most important staples) went up not only because of the high-yielding varieties but because the policy makers had ensured an assured price and an assured market to the growers.

MSP is an assured price to growers, and becomes an incentive for the farmer who would normally be squeezed out by the trade at the time of the harvest. At the same time, the government set up a procurement system through a network of mandis. Whatever flows into the mandis and is not purchased by the private trade is mopped up by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and other government agencies.

This means that farmers got an assured price and an assured market. They know that the labour they put in to raise a crop does not go waste. And it is primarily for this reason alone that production of mainly four crops — wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton — has gone up. These are the only four crops where the market is assured, whether through the FCI purchase or the Cotton Corporation of India or by the sugar companies, and therefore the production of these crops has been steadily on the rise.

Pulse production has not increased primarily for the same reason. Although the government has been announcing a procurement price, there is no assured procurement of the produce. More often than not farmers growing pulses have to resort to distress sale in the absence of an assured market. What is, therefore, required is that instead of encouraging Indian companies to lease out land abroad the emphasis should be to identify regions where pulse production needs to be encouraged within the country, and then set up a series of mandis.

The government must give a commitment to farmers that it will, from now onwards, start procuring pulses in addition to wheat and rice. Just provide an assured market, and be ready for a bountiful supply of pulses all through the year.








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 10 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)







My summer vacations were filled with many meaningless deeds.


A simple child that feels its life in every limb, what should it know of the useful and the useless? But the mother, with her focus on the child's 'future' didn't think so. "She has wasted the entire holiday doing nothing," she lamented. "It was my mistake. I shouldn't have sent her to our hometown for the holidays. Next year I will put her in some summer class here."

"When does your school start?" I asked, just to make conversation with the sprightly six-year-old. "Tomorrow," she said crisply. Her mind, I could see, was not on the topic I had opened.

"I can do this," she said. With eyes dancing in happiness and mischief, she moved her eyebrows up and down, alternately and rapidly. The child in me couldn't resist an attempt at imitating that. But I failed both in speed and rhythm. The girl laughed triumphantly. "I can touch my nose with my tongue", she said and went on to demonstrate the difficult act.


"Wow!" I said in appreciation. "I can't do that!" "I can touch my nose like this," she said circling her arm around the head from behind. "I can do that," I said with confidence as I remembered to have done that easily once upon a time. But I had underestimated the damage that age does to the muscles.

"That's enough!" the mother cut in. "You learnt only these silly things in the holidays." Silly things? How could anything that was a source of so much happiness and pride be silly? But I knew better than to take the child's side openly and make parenting more difficult for the mother.

The child's antics stayed with me all day. I remembered my summer vacations and the many meaningless deeds that they were filled with. One summer I remember practicing to be the dancing doll and mastering the art of shaking the head and the torso independently. When was the last time I did something like that, just for the fun of it? I went over the daily routine in my mind and realised that every single act was 'purpose' driven.

But the child's 'silly' play was so infectious that I managed to throw the 'purpose' out and practice the eyebrows lifting act. I was so hooked to it that I was doing it, unconsciously, even in the presence of a friend. "What are you doing?" she asked, horrified.

I confessed that I was aiming to master the technique of lifting the eyebrows rhythmically. "Well, it is a good exercise for both sides of the brain," she declared knowingly, "It might even keep dementia and Alzheimer's at bay."

She has ruined it. The feat is no longer fun because a purpose has been attached to it. Moral of the story is that since growing up is a one way street, one must not rush the children down the path.




******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




There has been a lot of talk, for a long time, about reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions. Far too many countries have found Iran's oil wealth simply too hard to resist. There are encouraging signs that for at least some major players, patience with Tehran may be running out.


A week after the United Nations Security Council approved a fourth round of sanctions on Iran, the European Union adopted even tougher penalties. Japan, South Korea and Australia are expected to follow soon.


American sanctions on Iran — many dating from the 1979 Islamic Revolution — are already the most stringent in the world. But four years after the Security Council first ordered Iran to stop enriching uranium, Europe is still Iran's biggest trading partner.


The latest Security Council sanctions are primarily focused on cutting off Iran's access to the international financial system and ending dealings with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which runs Iran's illicit nuclear program and much more. The resolution still gives countries too much discretion. It calls on — rather than requires — states to close Iranian banks with any links to the country's nuclear or missile programs. And it urges them to deny insurance coverage to Iranian shipping and other businesses with any links to proliferation.


At a meeting this week in Brussels, European heads of state adopted rules that could close many of those potential gaps and added more restrictions, banning European companies from making new investments in, or otherwise assisting, Iran's oil and gas industry.


European ministers will now have to decide which Iranian companies are off limits and which European products and deals are affected. We are sure there will be considerable lobbying in Brussels by countries and companies to let favorites off the hook. The leaders need to instruct their ministers to hang tough.


That means closing all of Iran's suspect banking operations in Europe and strictly limiting business between European and Iranian banks. It means banning all business with Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-affiliated entities (no matter how hard the Iranians try to disguise those links) and sanctioning European companies that violate this prohibition. It also means banning European companies from selling insurance services to any Iranian entities with ties to the Revolutionary Guards or the nuclear program.


European banks have been gradually weaning themselves from business with Iran, and industry giants like Siemens of Germany say they will make no new investments there. But Siemens also has insisted on fulfilling existing contracts, raising doubts about its sincerity.


Russia has played a cynical double game with Iran for far too long, watering down sanctions resolutions and then ignoring them. So we were — cautiously — encouraged when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia told France last week that Russia would freeze the planned delivery of S-300 air defense missiles to Iran. (American officials say that is not required under the United Nations sanctions.) We found it encouraging that the state oil company, Lukoil, has announced it is dropping an Iranian oil project. Those commitments will need to be closely monitored.


China — despite voting for all four rounds of sanctions — is increasing its investments in Iran. Washington, Moscow and Brussels all need to call Beijing out.


As it pressed its offer of engagement, the Obama administration intentionally downplayed possible punishments for Tehran. Iran's leaders have responded with bluster and insults — all the while churning out more enriched uranium. On Wednesday, the White House blacklisted more than a dozen additional Iranian companies and individuals with links to Tehran's illicit nuclear and missile programs.


Congress — rarely known for its subtlety on such matters — is working on its own, even tougher sanctions legislation. Details are still being negotiated, but it is expected to call for punishing foreign companies that sell refined gasoline to Iran and do other business there. At a time when Europe is finally putting some real pressure on Iran, any bill must be worded very carefully and give the White House sufficient waiver power.






Do people have a right to privacy in a closed telephone booth? In 1967, the Supreme Court said they do and prohibited government eavesdropping there without a warrant. But what about a cellphone with no booth? What about a phone that also sends messages, scours the Internet and records your exact location?


Technology is evolving too quickly to fit into easy legal formulas. In an opinion issued on Thursday, the Supreme Court told government employees that they cannot expect privacy when using government machines, but, thankfully, did not remove the expectation of privacy for most other users of electronic communication.


The case was about an Ontario, Calif., police sergeant, Jeff Quon, who had been given a text-messaging device by his department. The department had made it clear that officers had no right to expect privacy when using city computers, though it was not explicitly stated that this rule also applied to text messages.


When department officials considered raising the quota of free messages, they asked the wireless company for a transcript of texts from Sergeant Quon and another employee. In the course of that review, Sergeant Quon's superiors discovered that most of his messages were not official but personal, some of them sexual suggestions to his wife and his mistress.


Sergeant Quon sued the city, saying this search was illegal under the Fourth Amendment. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld his position. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed that decision, but its opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was deliberately narrow.


It made clear that for now such searches are considered legal only when the employer is a government agency, when the employee is using government equipment and had been warned not to expect privacy, and when the search was conducted for a legitimate work-related purpose.


Justice Kennedy wisely resisted using the case to impose a sweeping new privacy doctrine on electronic communication, even when a device is owned or paid for by an employer. The impact of this technology on society is changing too rapidly to be the subject of a judicial fiat now, he said. Cellphones are widely considered essential means of self-expression, he pointed out, but the phones are so cheap that employees can afford to buy their own.


It is clear now that government employees should not assume their messages are private when using government equipment. Private employees should think twice when doing the same thing on office equipment, because many employers maintain the right to inspect all such messages. The government should always be required to get a warrant before rummaging through the messages of private citizens, whether on computers or phones. The court must keep that phone booth intact








It's no surprise to political realists that once Sharron Angle secured the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in Nevada as a Tea Party insurgent, she would soften some of her most pugnacious stances. Sure enough, she is toning down her calls for abolishing the energy and education departments, phasing out Social Security and repealing the income tax.


But Ms. Angle has shown no inclination to explain or alter her most alarming rhetoric — her repeated references to "Second Amendment remedies" and other teases about armed revolution. Her statements across the past six months — when she was winning national attention dishing right-wing polemics — were some of the most offensive and inciteful to be heard in this year's welter of extremist alarums.


"Our founding fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government," Ms. Angle told one conservative talk-show host in January. She talked once more of guns and politics last month, suggesting that conservatives might have no choice but to turn to violence if she failed to defeat her opponent, the Democratic Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, in the November vote.


"The nation is arming," she told The Reno Gazette-Journal. "What are they arming for if it isn't that they are so distrustful of their government? They're afraid they'll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways. That's why I look at this as almost an imperative. If we don't win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?"


The next step should be Ms. Angle's explanation to Nevada voters of why she sees no harm in loosing such incendiary rhetoric. Pandering to gun ownership may be a political grail in Nevada politics, but this has crossed all acceptable lines.







As a particularly dismal legislative session limps to a conclusion in Albany, lawmakers have a chance to do something right by ending the logjam over no-fault divorce. New York is the only state where a court must find fault before granting a divorce unless the spouses have lived apart for a full year under a formal separation agreement — a proven formula for inviting false testimony, endless litigation and generally making divorce far more painful than it needs to be.


On Tuesday, the State Senate approved sensible legislation that would allow marriages to end without one spouse alleging fault, such as cruel and inhumane treatment, adultery or abandonment. The bill cleared the chamber by a vote of 32 to 27, with all but two Democrats and just two Republicans in support. Its core provisions would permit a divorce to be granted based on irreconcilable differences once custody and financial issues have been resolved — no airing of the bitter and highly personal details of the breakup required.


The measure's chief Senate sponsor, Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a Democrat from Westchester and the Bronx, deserves ample credit for pressing the reform in the face of misplaced opposition from the Roman Catholic Church and some advocates for women.


What is needed now is a similarly strong show of leadership in the Assembly. Speaker Sheldon Silver says he supports "the concept" of no-fault divorce, which we hope is an encouraging sign. All too often in Albany, badly needed legislation gets approved by one chamber only to die amid phony excuses in the frantic rush before adjournment. The no-fault bill passed by the Senate must not become the latest example.










President Obama's relationship with America, like many a young marriage, is growing sour.


That's my surmise after reviewing recent polling and watching the carping that followed his Oval Office speech (which I thought was just fine, by the way).


It is becoming increasingly apparent that the magic has drained away. Even among his most ardent supporters, there now exists a certain frustration and disillusionment — not necessarily in the execution of his duties, but in his inability to seize moments, chart a course and navigate the choppy waters of public opinion.


What's left for many is a big plume of disappointment and sadness lurking just beneath the surface.


Desperate to escape eight-years of an abusive relationship with a reckless cowboy and scared by a calculating John McCain who chose a feckless running mate, America was charmed by Obama's supernal speeches and inspired by his vision of a happier ever after.


But once the marriage was official, reality set in and Obama tried to lower expectations. Life would not be lit by the soft glow of an eternal sunrise. Change would come slowly; pain would be felt presently; things would get worse before they got better.


In addition, he had to make tough choices (and not always the right ones) to steer us out of our darkest hour and secure a better future. He wasn't always elegant in method or clear in message, and that allowed the more cynical side of America to find a footing and feed its fear.


This has left many on the left duking it out in a death match of finger-pointing, back-biting and navel-gazing. They have gone from applauding to defending, a turn many secretly resent and increasingly reject. A USA Today/Gallup poll released earlier this week found that 73 percent of Democrats thought that the president had not been tough enough in dealing with BP in regards to the oil spill. That was the same as the percentage of Republicans who thought so.


So this is where the rubber meets the road, for Obama and the country. Wooing and being wooed was the fun part. But everyone knows that maintaining a healthy and positive relationship always requires work.


The first step is acknowledgement: There is blame on both sides.


On one side is America — fickle and excitable, hotheaded and prone to overreaction, easily frightened and in constant need of reassurance.


On the other side stands Obama — solid and sober, rooted in the belief that his way is the right way and in no need of alteration. He's the emotionally maimed type who lights up when he's stroked and adored but shuts down in the face of acrimony. Other people's anxieties are dismissed as irrational and unworthy of engagement or empathy. He seems quite comfortable with this aspect of his personality, even if few others are, and shows little desire to change it. It's the height of irony: the presumed transformative president is stymied by his own unwillingness to be transformed. He would rather sacrifice the relationship than be altered by it.


Add to this tension the fact that conservative Blue Dog Democrats are doing everything they can to keep their jobs and Republicans are doing everything they can to make Obama lose his, and it only aggravates the situation.


As NPR's Ron Elving wrote about a recent NPR poll that held a dire prediction for the Democrats in November: "The House Democratic majority is, as always, a struggle between the 'sitting pretty' faction that's safe (this year as always) and the more fragile 'scaredy cat' faction that could be carried off by even the gentlest of anti-incumbent breezes." The "scaredy cats" are the Blue Dogs.


In the Senate, Democrats are struggling to get Republicans to play ball. For instance, a Gallup poll released this week found that about 60 percent of Americans approve of Congress passing new legislation this year that would increase spending in order to create jobs and stimulate the economy. However, the same day that the president wrestled $20 billion from BP for a fund to be used to compensate those affected by the oil spill, Senate Democrats trimmed nearly $20 billion from the already-trimmed jobs bill in an effort to woo Republicans. Didn't work. On Thursday, the Senate voted to block the bill.


The next step is compromise. Both sides will have to give a little.


America has to grow up and calm down. Expectations must be better managed. On balance, this president is doing a good job — not perfect, but good — particularly in light of the incredible mess he inherited. The Web site is tracking more than 500 promises Obama made on the campaign trail. Of the 168 promises where action has been completed, they judge Obama to have broken only 19. That's not bad, and it must be acknowledged. We have to stop waiting for him to be great and allow him to be good.


For Obama's part, he needs to forget about changing the culture and climate of American politics. That's a lost cause. The Republicans and their Tea Party stepchildren are united in their thirst for his demise. Furthermore, a May Gallup report stated that Obama's "first-year ratings were the most polarized for a president in Gallup history," and his "approval ratings have become slightly more polarized thus far in his second year." The U.S.S. Harmony has sailed. The president should instead re-evaluate the composition of his inner circle (which could use a shake-up) and the constitution of his inner self (which could use a wake-up). Allowing himself space to grow and change does not have to undermine his basic view of himself. There is a lot of space between a caricature and a man of character.


In other words, the president must accept the basic fact that he, as the agent of change, must himself be open to change.








Americans have always raised their children to believe in the power of the dream. This is probably why hundreds of thousands of young people are certain they are destined to become the American Idol. Or Next Top Model. Or marry a Jonas Brother.


A few of these dreamers grew up to run oil companies. They believed with all the power of their fierce, tiny hearts that they could drill farther and farther down into the ocean without ever having a really big accident. We learned that from the oil C.E.O.'s who trotted over to the Capitol recently and testified that their plan for handling a huge deep-water spill is not to have a huge deep-water spill.


Their official, on-paper contingency plans were completely impractical. Yet the dreaded Minerals Management Service, which oversees oil drilling, rubber-stamped them. This is because the M.M.S. is bad and we hate it. Also possibly because of a Congress-passed rule that gives the agency, which has 60 inspectors overseeing nearly 4,000 drilling platforms, only 30 days review time.


We now know that as things stand, no amount of will and work can contain a deep-water spill once it happens. So President Obama suspended drilling for up to six months so we can get a handle on this stupendous, terrifying problem.


Politicians were outraged. Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi came out foursquare against the suspension because, as he argued succinctly: "This is the first time anything vaguely like this has ever happened." Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said the moratorium could cause "even more economic damage than the spill itself," although she did add that "we have to make sure that these 33 floating rigs that drill in deep water ... are safe."


Which they will be. If you believe hard enough, things will work out. Also, Justin Bieber may ask you to the prom.


Right now, the legal limit on an oil company's responsibility for economic damage done by a spill is $75 million, which is obviously not remotely enough. But a bill to eliminate the cap is being stalled in the Senate by members who argue that it will hurt smaller oil companies who cannot afford to cover that kind of cost.


"If you have it too high, you are going to be singling out BP and the other four largest majors and the nationalized companies, such as China and Venezuela, and shutting out the independent producers," said Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.


In other words, it is wrong to limit deep-water drilling opportunities to companies that can afford to pay restitution if they screw up. Because there will be no more screwing up. We have decided.


\Representative Joe Barton, a Republican of Texas, has a crush on the oil industry of a size that's seldom been equaled outside of "High School Musical." Last year in a committee hearing, Barton attempted to show up Energy Secretary Steven Chu by suddenly asking him to explain, as briefly as possible, "How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic ocean?"


While the startled Chu started to talk about shifting tectonic plates, Barton beamed smugly. "I seem to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question: where does oil come from?" he twittered.


This week, Barton became the star of another hearing, which was convened to grill Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP. The rosy-cheeked Englishman had the kind of dopey sullenness you might find in an underachieving student at the Hogwarts detention room. But Barton seemed smitten, and he apologized to BP for the president's "shakedown" of the company for a $20 billion fund to compensate the people of the gulf for the effects of the spill. This is perhaps not the stupidest remark any elected official has ever blurted out, but possibly the dumbest that ever came in the form of a prepared statement.


Every Democrat in Washington did the happy dance. The party could not point out too often that if the Republicans took control of the House, Barton would be leader of the House energy committee.


The House Republican leadership was terrified that people would sense Barton wasn't the only member of the party who loathed the president's BP coup. Using all the strong-arm tactics they failed to employ with the congressman who yelled "You lie!" during the State of the Union address, they pried a sort of retraction out of Barton.


The first effort fell short. But, finally, the office of the minority leader, John Boehner, sent forth a version in which Barton apologized for the apology, as well as for the use of the term "shakedown." Which is kind of funny because "shakedown" is exactly the word that the Republican Study Committee used to denounce Obama's deal right after it was announced.


But the Republican leadership has a dream that they never agreed with anything that Barton said. They hatehatehate BP. Also, they are hoping that Miley Cyrus moves to their hometown and becomes their best friend.


Bob Herbert is off today.







Princeton, N.J.

SINCE Israel's deadly raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara last month, it's been assumed that Iran would be the major beneficiary of the wave of global anti-Israeli sentiment. But things seem to be playing out much differently: Iran paradoxically stands to lose much influence as Turkey assumes a surprising new role as the modern, democratic and internationally respected nation willing to take on Israel and oppose America.


While many Americans may feel betrayed by the behavior of their longtime allies in Ankara, Washington actually stands to gain indirectly if a newly muscular Turkey can adopt a leadership role in the Sunni Arab world, which has been eagerly looking for a better advocate of its causes than Shiite, authoritarian Iran or the inept and flaccid Arab regimes of the Persian Gulf.


Turkey's Islamist government has distilled every last bit of political benefit from the flotilla crisis, domestically and internationally. And if the Gaza blockade is abandoned or loosened, it will be easily portrayed as a victory for Turkish engagement on behalf of the Palestinians. Thus the fiery rhetoric of Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appeals not only to his domestic constituency, but also to the broader Islamic world. It is also an attempt to redress what many in the Arab and Muslim worlds see as a historic imbalance in Turkey's foreign policy in favor of Israel. Without having to match his words with action, Mr. Erdogan has amassed credentials to be the leading supporter of the Palestinian cause.


While most in the West seem to have overlooked this dynamic, Tehran has not. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used a regional summit meeting in Istanbul this month to deliver an inflammatory anti-Israel speech, yet it went virtually unnoticed among the chorus of international condemnations of Israel's act. On June 12 Iran dispatched its own aid flotilla bound for Gaza, and offered to provide an escort by its Revolutionary Guards for other ships breaking the blockade.


Yet Hamas publicly rejected Iran's escort proposal, and a new poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 43 percent of Palestinians ranked Turkey as their No. 1 foreign supporter, as opposed to just 6 percent for Iran.


Turkey has a strong hand here. Many leading Arab intellectuals have fretted over being caught between Iran's revolutionary Shiism and Saudi Arabia's austere and politically ineffectual Wahhabism. They now hope that a more liberal and enlightened Turkish Sunni Islam — reminiscent of past Ottoman glory — can lead the Arab world out of its mire.


You can get a sense of just how attractive Turkey's leadership is among the Arab masses by reading the flood of recent negative articles about Ankara in the government-owned newspapers of the Arab states. This coverage impugns Mr. Erdogan's motives, claiming he is latching on to the Palestinian issue because he is weak domestically, and dismisses Turkey's ability to bring leadership to this quintessential "Arab cause." They reek of panic over a new rival.


Turkey also gained from its failed effort, alongside Brazil, to hammer out a new deal on Iran's nuclear program. The Muslim world appreciated Turkey's standing up to the United States, and in the end Iran ended up with nothing but more United Nations sanctions.


In taking hold of the Palestinian card, Prime Minister Erdogan has potentially positioned Turkey as the central interlocutor between the Islamic/Arab world and Israel and the West, and been rewarded with tumultuous demonstrations lauding him in Ankara and Istanbul. Meanwhile, the streets of Tehran have been notably silent, with Mr. Ahmadinejad's regime worried about public unrest during the one-year anniversary of last summer's fraudulent elections.


Prime Minister Erdogan has many qualities that will help him gain the confidence of the Arab masses. He is not only a devout Sunni, but also the democratically elected leader of a dynamic and modern Muslim country with membership in the G-20 and NATO. His nation is already a major tourist and investment destination for Arabs, and the Middle East has long been flooded with Turkish products, from agriculture to TV programming.


With Turkey capturing the hearts, minds and wallets of Arabs, Iran will increasingly find it harder to carry out its agenda of destabilizing the region and the globe. For Americans, it may be hard to see the blessings in a rift with a longtime ally. But even if Turkey's interests no longer fully align with ours, there is much to be gained from a Westernized, prosperous and democratic nation becoming the standard-bearer of the Islamic world.


Elliot Hen-Tov is a doctoral candidate and Bernard Haykel a professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton.








PICK any of the hospital dramas that have run for decades on American TV, and chances are the heroes are the doctors, running to a patient's bedside to save a life whenever an alarm goes off.


Doctors can indeed be heroes. But when a patient takes a sudden turn for the worse, it's the nurses who are usually the first to respond. Each patient has a specific nurse assigned to watch over him, and it is that nurse's responsibility to react immediately in the event of an emergency.


That's getting harder to do, though. Cost-cutting at hospitals often means fewer nurses, so the number of patients each nurse must care for increases, leading to countless unnecessary deaths. Unless Congress mandates a federal standard for nurse-patient ratios, those deaths will continue.


A few states already have minimum ratio requirements, most notably California, which in 2004 instituted a one-to-five ratio for surgery patients — as well as a one-to-four ratio in pediatrics and a one-to-two ratio in intensive care — after a decade-long fight led by the California Nurses Association.


Laws like these could make a huge difference nationally. A recent study led by Linda Aiken, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, found that New Jersey hospitals would have 14 percent fewer surgical deaths if they matched California's ratio, while Pennsylvania would have 11 percent fewer. Professor Aiken looked at surgical units only, but it's reasonable to assume that the percentages would apply on any hospital floor.


The reason is simple. The fewer patients each nurse oversees, the easier it is to respond when a patient has an emergency, like a sudden, severe decline in oxygen saturation, a precipitous drop or rise in blood pressure or a heart rate that suddenly skyrockets. A nurse juggling the needs of too many patients might not have the time to notice, let alone respond.


Nevertheless, hospitals have resisted mandated ratios. While higher personnel costs are most likely at the core of their opposition, they also argue that hospitals that already have good ratios will use the standards to justify cutting the number of nurses on each floor.


This is a reasonable concern, but one that rarely if ever proves true. In more than a decade of research, Professor Aiken reports never seeing such reductions in the wake of mandated ratios. Moreover, if hospitals were so callous, why do many — including my own — often meet or exceed California's standards?


Moreover, it's not as if such low ratios are a luxury; there's a reason why minimum ratios are also called "safe staffing levels." Say a nurse can't come in because of a family emergency. Then another nurse becomes ill and has to go home. The charge nurse will call around to other staff members, trying to find last-minute replacements. But sometimes there's no one to come in and no nurses available at the last minute to "float" to the understaffed unit. The lower the ratio, the more likely the nursing staff will be able to cover if and when personnel suddenly become unavailable.


The real issue, of course, is cost. There's no denying that hiring more nurses is more expensive in the short term. But having too few nurses leads to burnout, not only because it's too much work, but because good nurses quit from the stress of knowing they can't keep their patients safe. Mandated ratios could ultimately save money, because they would reduce both staff turnover and the number of patients who become critically ill due to insufficient care.


And it's true that, as some argue, the nurse-patient ratio is not the only factor in improving the quality of care. But the data provided by Professor Aiken and others clearly shows that hospitals with the best staffing ratios have the best outcomes overall.


The benefits of mandating nurse-to-patient ratios are so compelling that last year Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, introduced a bill to set national standards, while Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, offered similar legislation in the House. Yet both bills have languished in committee.


On television the doctors and nurses always arrive in time to help a struggling patient. In real life, when nurses are overworked, a patient in distress may be overlooked.


To be the nurse in such situations feels horrible. But for the patient it can be far worse.


Theresa Brown, an oncology nurse, is a contributor to The Times's "Well" blog and the author of "Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything In Between."










Local health officials were right to question Riverbend officials Thursday about possible violations of federal regulations that govern the marketing of tobacco products to children. The agencies they represent, after all, are charged with protecting the health of area residents of all ages, and tobacco products are one of the leading causes of death in the nation. It never hurts to seek the truth when the health and well-being of people is at risk.


Riverbend officials, in turn, probably were correct when they responded to the queries by saying that the tobacco vendors at the festival that are offering free samples to patrons of legal age "are absolutely in compliance" with applicable laws. The challenge-and-response cycle here is simply another skirmish in what seems to be a never-ending war between those who sell tobacco products and those who are determined to slow or stop such sales in the name of public health.


The challenge issued by health officials here is part of a broad, multifaceted national effort to curb the marketing of tobacco products to the young. There's a reason that endeavor continues unabated and that tobacco companies fight it at every turn. Tobacco users are a self-limiting market. Tens of thousands of users sicken monthly and well over 400,000 die annually from using various forms of tobacco products Experts report that use of tobacco products now accounts for 20 percent of deaths in the United States every year.


Perfect target audience


If tobacco purveyors want to remain profitable, then, they've got to keep current tobacco users smoking and using other products. More importantly, they've got to create new customers to take the place of those who sicken and die. Impressionable youth are the perfect target audience for tobacco marketers, though strict laws passed in the last couple of decades have limited the more egregious campaigns to attract kids to tobacco products.


Even so, tobacco companies have proved successful in tip-toeing around the law to exploit the youth market. A spokesman for the American Cancer Society reports that about 1,000 youngsters become addicted to tobacco every day. Another 4,000 try their first cigarette every day.


Those facts probably were foremost in the minds of the local health care groups when they questioned Riverbend officials about the availability of tobacco samples at the festival. Camel, USA Gold and Longhorn vendors offer tobacco products. Their activity, it appears, meets current legal standards.


Camel and USA Gold operate from fully enclosed tents. Longhorn's base is an enclosed trailer. All three verify age -- 18 and over -- through IDs before allowing entry into their area, and each cards individuals again before providing a free sample. That meets the letter of law. It does not address the morality of providing samples of products proven to be linked to illness and death.


What understandably concerns local health officials in this instance is that the tobacco vendors are located near the festival's Children's Village play area. They worried that youngsters might incorrectly assume that tobacco products are somehow acceptable since their presence obviously is sanctioned by the festival. That's a legitimate concern, though addressing it does not fall into the legal realm.


The health advocates' request that Riverbend officials make the festival a smoke-free event would satisfactorily resolve the problem, but there is no indication at present that will occur. Tobacco companies, like all other vendors, pay a fee to operate on the festival grounds. Riverbend officials are unlikely to forego what is probably a lucrative source of revenue as long as the tobacco vendors comply with current legal requirements.


The tug-of-war here and elsewhere between those who want to restrict the availability of tobacco products and those determined to sell them will continue to play out beyond the confines of Riverbend. The rules that govern tobacco sales and marketing, though, are changing. Indeed, several new laws become effective Tuesday,


The new regulations include a ban on terms such as "light," "low" and "mild" in the advertising, marketing and packaging of tobacco and smokeless tobacco products. Health officials argued for the change because they rightfully fear such terms suggest that products labeled that way are somehow less dangerous than regular ones. Research has proved that is not the case.


In addition, advertising and packaging for smokeless tobacco products will carry new and larger health warning labels. Similar requirements for cigarettes take effect in 18 months


New guidelines


New laws also restrict the type of events tobacco companies can sponsor and establish new guidelines to govern marketing efforts -- logo clothing and sample packs, for example -- aimed at the youth market. The legislation also bans selling cigarettes in vending machines except in areas restricted to adults.


Predictably, the new rules do not sit well with the tobacco companies. They fought them tooth and nail during the legislative process. They'll continue to do so, no doubt, though the effort will be far less visible and far more subtle. The new statutes won't end the on-going battle between regulators who want to promote a healthy lifestyle and the tobacco companies. They likely will alter the game. The immediate outcome is uncertain, but there is one thing that won't change.


Tobacco companies will continue to seek ways to market and sell their product, despite challenges posed by new laws or by advocacy groups that rightly question the presence of tobacco vendors at sites where impressionable youngsters congregate.




21 candidates for Congress!


With longtime, able and admirable Congressman Zach Wamp having decided not to run for re-election this year, choosing to run instead for governor of Tennessee, there has been a rush of candidates who would like to represent Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District in Washington.


There are 21 congressional candidates -- count 'em!


* Eleven are running for the Republican nomination in their party primary Aug. 5.


They are, in alphabetical order, Tommy Crangle, Chuck Fleischmann, Tim Gobble, Harvey Howard, Jean Howard-Hill, Van Irion, Rick Kernea, Basil Marceaux Sr., Art Rhodes, Robin Smith and Grover Travillian.


* Four are seeking to win the Democratic nomination in their party primary Aug. 5.


They are Alicia Mitchell, Brenda Freeman Short, Brent Davis Staton and John Wolfe.


* Six candidates are runnin xg as independents, to join the Republican and Democrat nominees in the November general election showdown.


They are Don Barkman, Mark DeVol, Gregory C. Goodwin, Robert Humphries, Mo Kiah and Savas T. Kyriakidis.


Some of the 21 candidates have been busy, organizing their campaigns, making voter contacts, raising funds, giving statements on the issues, explaining their positions and shaking hands. Others have not done much to increase their "visibility." Some of the candidates are significant and sound in their principles. Some remain virtually "unknown."


There is not much time for candidates to introduce themselves in detail before Aug. 5 -- and for voters to become informed about their philosophies, qualifications and what they would like to do if elected to represent us in Congress.


Some of the candidates have come to the Times Free Press to introduce themselves to the public through our news columns, answering questions and making statements to inform voters. Some have not generated much attention.


The decisions that voters in the 3rd Congressional District make in the August primaries and the November general election will be very important as our new member of Congress goes to Washington to represent us for the next two years.


We have begun to report their views in our news columns, with more information to come.


May all of us as voters seek to inform ourselves to make the best choice for our home district and our nation as a whole.







Chattanoogans have been excited by each phase of Volkswagen news since the company fortunately decided to build its big, new plant here in Chattanooga. And now the "first Chattanooga VW" has been built here, at Enterprise South Industrial Park. That's exciting.


While local VW CEO Frank Fischer is working toward the time when about 2,000 local people will be making thousands of Volkswagens, the very first local Volkswagen is "good news."


"That's a big milestone," said Guenther Scherelis, VW's general manager of communications. It is, indeed!


The first local VW is a midsize sedan. It was loaded on a truck to be taken for actual road testing and evaluation.


We will continue to be excited by each phase of progress as Volkswagen invests $1 billion locally, and puts thousands of people to work.


In addition, there will be many local suppliers, with many local employees, making contributions to Volkswagen's success, and growth in production.


While one VW has been built here, just imagine the excitement and positive economic impact when 150,000 Volkswagens will be rolling off local production lines annually, after full local VW production gets under way in 2011.


That's just a few month away!


All Chattanoogans should be eager to encourage Volkswagen's success. It will be of immeasurable importance to people throughout our whole Chattanooga economic area.

iding a gift of life








Russia is not a particularly tourist friendly country. In fact the cold war mentality of being suspicious of foreigners still seems to dominate the social culture.


I recently went to Russia with my sister for a tourist visit. Trying to find our way in St. Petersburg and Moscow at times proved difficult for us. When you want to ask a question, firstly it is difficult to get the attention of a Russian. Even if you have eye contact and ask with agonizing eyes, they may turn their head away. Second, when you prove successful in getting the attention of a person, it is difficult to communicate.


As my sister and I were struggling to find our way talking to each other in Turkish, once we got help from Gagavuz Turks, another time from an Azerbaijani, and another time from an Uzbek. How can I not be impressed? When the former Prime Minister and President Süleyman Demirel said in the early 1990's that Turkish is spoken from the shores of the Adriatic to the Chinese wall, it was perceived to be too ambitious and Turks were criticized for having "imperialist aims." Yet this is a simple fact. There is a large geography in Eurasia where Turkish is spoken.


Yet I could not agree more with the Russian experts I met in Moscow who told me that Central Asia will be the new struggle ground between Russia, the United States and China and that Turkey is currently not an important player in this geography.


The recent crisis in Kyrgyzstan is testimony to the absence of Turkey in this critical geography.


Turkish experts who monitor the region closely knew that a bigger crisis was coming in that ex-Soviet republic. No one was caught unprepared for the crisis except the government. Yet, had the government shown interest in the region, it would have seen the signals that said, "A crisis is coming."


"Do you know the name of the minister who is responsible for the Turkic republics and Turkic communities abroad?" Ahat Andican, a former minister who, prior to 2000, had assumed this portfolio, asked me. I must admit that I was not even aware that a minister had such responsibility in his portfolio. Apparently it is Faruk Çelik. As a journalist I should have known better. But I can imagine not too many journalists in Turkey are aware of Çelik's additional portfolio.


At any rate, few in Turkey, except the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will contest that politically Turkey has been indifferent to Central Asia. Yet if we are to talk about a shift of axis, from economists to the experts of international relations, everyone admits (except the Americans and the Europeans) that the power centers in the world are moving from West to East. But as Sinan Oğan a Turkish academic argued, the shift is toward Central Asia and South East Asia, not toward the Middle East.


A few days prior to the crisis in Kyrgyzstan, Turkey hosted the summit of a regional organization dedicated to increase security in Asia. The meeting of heads of state of Conference on interaction and confidence building measures in Asia, or CICA, which included representatives from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, was overshadowed by the flotilla crisis. I was told by a Turkish diplomat just few days ahead of the summit, where Turkey was supposed to take over the presidency, how the Foreign Ministry was looking ahead to revive the organization few in the world knew about. Turkish diplomacy was getting ready to give a fresh breath of air to give impetus into an organization that it deemed functional for the stability of the region.


Yet, instead of talking about the upcoming crisis in Central Asia and ways to prevent it, Turkish diplomacy spent all its time and energy trying to get a note on the total condemnation of Israel into the summit statement.


One has to admit that it is only natural that Turkey would be spending all its energy following the murder of nine of its citizens by foreign soldiers.


Obviously I am not grateful to Israel, for making the fatal errors that unfortunately drag Turkey to time and energy consuming crisis. But I leave the noble duty of criticizing Israel to their journalists, who so far have been doing a good job. (And to my knowledge, those critical of the government were not accused of being agents of Turkey.) And while they are doing their job, let me do mine, at the expense of being called an agent of Israel.


A government that aspires to be a regional and even a global player should think twice when facing a player that can commit fatal errors. This in turn will help avoid circumstances where the whole of diplomacy is high jacked by a single issue and leave room for other issues to concentrate on








I want to step aside of political discussions today and focus on education, which I believe is more vital.


One of the most important non-governmental organizations in education, Education Reform Group, or ERG, released the 3rd Education Follow-up Report/2009 the other day. Professor Üstün Ergüder presented the report as Professor Nurhan Yentürk penned down the foreword and Professor İpek Gürkaynak wrote conclusion remarks. Change and development in education in Turkey are put under microscope in the text.


We see that positive and negative developments overlap.


Successful results in pre-school education


Let's look at positive developments first. A very positive development has been observed in school registration percentage in primary school period, which was 96.5 percent in 2008-2009 and jumped to 98.2 percent in 2009-2010. However, non-attendance figures cast a shadow over the success. Non-attendance jumps from 2.9 percent to 4.2 percent among girls and from 3.5 percent to 4.4 percent among boys. We see that the nonattendance percentage goes up in northeastern Anatolia, 9.1 percent, way above the national average.


Another positive development is in the numbers of pre-school education. A total of 175,000 children in 2009-2010 started school. The school registration percentage for the age group of 36-72 months rises from 23 percent to 27 percent, for 48-72 months from 33 percent to 39. The ERG notes that the policy of supporting pre-school education in 32 pilot provinces as though it is mandatory, has given "successful" results. In these cities for the age group 60-72 months. School registration percentage went up from 71 percent to 93. But the increase in percentage is lower in other cities, from 48 percent to 57 percent. Currently, three of every five children start school at the age of 5.


No progress in learning skills


I believe the most thought-provoking result of the report is the failure in learning process. In other words, no progress has been made in educational qualities.


According to the ERG report, "In the light of international assessments, most primary school graduates fail to gain skills in Turkish and Mathematics classes."


"Despite all efforts," the report reads, "no progress has been made in learning skills among children." Fifty-two percent of students who participated in the Program of International Student Assessment, or PISA, exams in 2006 failed in math, 46 percent failed in science.


The ERG warns that the most urgent and necessary intervention should be made in the enhancement of education quality, pointing out the main issue as teacher's problems. What has been done so far is "inadequate" according to the ERG.


Secondary school education stands not so well


Secondary school system needs re-structuring, reads the report emphasizing the importance of a radical reform. At this point, we see troubling school registration figures: Only half of the youth at the age of 15-19 attends school. One fourth of boys and nearly half of girls neither go to school nor do they work.


The most striking result in the report is that girls stop attending secondary school because of not their own will. Boys, on the other hand, free in their choice. The ERG also states that the percentage of secondary school dropouts is so high. In the period 2008-2009, it was 11.3 percent of the total.


Education budget needs to be increased to 6 percent


One of the most important criticisms the ERG makes is that education budget falls short. According to the report, although public funding for education increases since 2004, it is not enough. As the Turkish economy grew 40 percent in the period 2001-2008, new resources were allocated for education. However, governments showed no intention to earmark a lump sum of money for education.


It is cited in the report that education expenditure per student since 2008 has dropped drastically. Share of education in the gross national product is 3.9 percent in 2010. According to the ERG, this is way below the global figures.


At this point, the ERG suggests the government to allocate more for education budget starting with the 2011 budget and increase it gradually in order to bring it up to 6 percent by 2015.


I support the ERG's suggestion. It is the high time for Turkey to make the education budget number one item on the agenda.


* Mr. Sedat Ergin is a columnist for the daily Hürriyet in which this piece appeared Friday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.








The nationalist-conservative circle in which the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, confines itself is tightening more every day. Fatal communication errors in foreign policy, reformist initiatives inside turning null-and-void and violence gradually escalating in the Kurdish question are harbingers of unpleasant days yet to come. People are in quest of something different, have high expectations from Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the new chairman of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP. However, the image of the party has changed, and the mentality remains exactly the same. Here is a shivering example.


Hakkı Suha Okay, Kemal Anadol and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, as the deputy parliamentary group leaders of the party, had asked the Constitutional Court for the annulment of the Foundations Law. The 41-page legal reading produced by CHP to support its claim targets a total of 165 non-Muslim foundations serving around 100,000 Turkish citizens. Fortunately, Thursday the Court rejected CHP's claim with the exception of a minor article. I picked up a few paragraphs from the claim to show the xenophobic and paranoiac mentality that surrenders CHP.


Sèvres paranoia and enmity against non-Muslims


"Foundations set up by religious communities in Turkey will be able to group their members around legal entities. For a foundation established by a religious community to gain such organizational power will never create positive results in Turkey. As a matter of fact, such organizational structuring based on religious communities presents a great deal of danger to the national interests and national security of Turkey due to unlimited donations and aid opportunities."


"Foundations established by religious communities via [the Armenian] diaspora and lobbies, and foundations by others via Soros-like funds may present a great deal of threat for the national security of Turkey. In other words, unlimited donations not subject to any public supervision may create suitable environment for the activities of Soros-like funds, of anti-Turkey lobbies and the diaspora. Therefore, they present a serious threat to Turkey's national security."


"For the foundations of the Armenian minority, how will reciprocity with Armenia or any other state be built as Armenians, in particular, keep the 'so-called genocide allegations' on the world agenda nowadays. Granting foundations the right to acquire real estate is one of the biggest one-way compromises that Turkey makes. Besides, it sets the ground for the establishment of 'Greater Armenia' as imposed in the Sèvres Agreement (sic), which was torn apart following the [Turkish] War of Independence. Armenians have never withheld their demand of land in our country and kept this issue on the agenda by compensation calls. This is nothing but surrender on what the Armenian Diaspora and ASALA tried to obtain through lobbying and terror."


Let's let the slain Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink answer this. During a similar legal attack in 2005 he had written to me the following: "The rights of non-Muslims in Turkey are guaranteed by the Lausanne Treaty. The Lausanne Treaty is not only a founding agreement praised by lay republicans, but also an umbrella under which minorities are protected. The Lausanne Treaty cites in many articles that minorities are allowed to build new schools, new institutions and new foundations. And Article 37 states that the articles protecting minorities cannot be removed by any law or directives, and new laws to be adopted cannot be superior to those articles. However, some laws adopted in the Republican era, for instance the article of the Civil Code that targets non-Muslim foundations, which reads 'foundations for the benefit of communities are not allowed,' is definitely against Lausanne."


As the CHP is stuck in the 1920s, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg asked for the return of a Greek orphanage in Büyükada, owned by a foundation and usurped by the state, back to the Patriarchate. And the Ecumenical Patriarch wants to transform the building into an environment protection center. This is how the homeland is protected, not through CHP's nonsense








Last week in Istanbul, I paid special care to what Pierre Lellouche in particular said during a meeting held by the Paris Bosphorus Institute, an affiliate of the Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association, or TÜSİAD.


Lellouche is the minister for European Affairs in Nicolas Sarkozy's government. He closely follows Turkey.


During an interview years ago in Istanbul, Lellouche explained in detail why he supported Turkey's European Union membership bid. It is not a secret that after he joined the Sarkozy administration, Lellouche had a change of heart about Turkey.


In fact, he says, "France doesn't entertain Turkey's EU bid at all."


There is no clear-cut explanation for such a negative French attitude.


It could be extremely naïve if we expect an explanation such as "We are against Turkey's membership because of demographic structure" or "because of its Muslim identity."


However, people are curious about the logic behind saying "no" right at the beginning of the accession process, as Kemal Derviş pointed out in the same meeting,


Strange reasoning


Lellouche is embracing quite strange reasoning nowadays: "Turkey is making progress to be a regional and economic power. If it were an EU member, Turkey couldn't have acted so freely," he said.


I think he means, "Let Turkey and the EU proceed on their separate ways."


But it is not that simple…


Despite France blocking the opening of many negotiation chapters, the process continues in the EU whether you like it or not.


What do the French people think of Turkey as Sarkozy preserves his negativity?


Professor Hakan Yılmaz of Boğaziçi University, who made an original presentation on European public opinion at the meeting, said, "French people are weighing what their political leaders say about the membership."


As the British look at the media, Germans look at Turks living in their country. What leaders say is important for the French.


This means unless Sarkozy quits his negative attitude, the public's opinion on Turkey is not likely to change in France.


Elites' attitude in France

What's the attitude of the French elite toward Turkey's membership? French researcher Dorothee Schmid conducted research for the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, or EDAM, a think-tank organization in Istanbul. The results were quite interesting.


Published in 2005, the book titled "Yes to Turkey," by former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, now becomes critical in debates over Turkey's EU accession. The reason is the concerns, which Rocard addressed in his book, that if Turkey fails to integrate with Europe, its political axis could shift to the East or in an Islamist direction.


In a period where the West is discussing what happens if "the foreign-policy axis of Turkey shifts," the French elite have brought Rocard's book back on the agenda. This is not surprising.


Another result of the research is about businessmen. French business circles avoided adopting a clear attitude on Turkey's EU bid in 2006-2007. But they are now speaking freely due to Turkey's economic success in recent years.


At the beginning of the week, the Turkish-French Business Forum convened with the participation of 200 Turkish and French businessmen. The forum proves that Turkey has gained French businessmen's support.


However, there is other side to the coin. The "taboo" developed against French companies in public procurements may have a negative impact on French businessmen.


Touching upon the "Season of Turkey" that lasted 10 months in France, Schmid said hundreds of activities played a positive role on French businessmen.


How well Sarkozy listens to the elite, however, is doubtful.







Can someone, anyone, tell me what is so interesting about four women over the age of 45 being just as obsessed by sex as adolescents discovering their breasts for the same time?


OK. So it began with Candice Bushnell's book. Then it was turned into a series that featured a skinny writer, a (fake) red-headed lawyer, a Park Avenue princess and a too-good-to-be-true nymphomaniac. Women around the world between the ages of 30 and 45 watched the whole series at least twice, and sympathized with Carrie's agonizing over men, Miranda's agonizing over becoming a senior partner, Charlotte's agonizing over marriage and Samantha's agonizing over her next orgasm.


Men were also fascinated by the series. The male lead, Mr. Big, was everything Turkish men strived to be: tall, rich and successful, with a chauffeur-driven car, a vineyard in California, a red wall in his bedroom, a young, well-born wife and an intellectual mistress. And he was, after all... Big.


In the late '90s and the early 2000s, the "Sex and the City" characters became pop-cultural reference points. "I think I met Aidan," a friend told me, and I instantly realized that she had finally met a straight-forward, descent sort.


"Don't do a Carrie on me," my then-boyfriend said, and I sensed I was one step away from being dumped for being an insecure wreck.


Then, of course, Hollywood had to exploit the film opportunities: "Sex and the City," the movie, came out – with its four stars older, but not necessarily wiser. We witnessed Carrie's jilting at the altar and Samantha's men(o)pause. Admittedly, the only glamorous thing about the movie was the six wedding gowns – designed by Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta and others – and the fancy shoes. The movie was more like a fashion catalog and the aging stars, unable to hide their thickening waistlines and fallen faces, were far from the "girls and boys" of the TV version. Even Big appeared less, er, imposing.


I left the movie assured that I had left "Sex and the City" (or at least that sex and that city) firmly behind me.


Ah, but suddenly this summer, out came "Sex and the City II" – this time a tourism catalog rather than a fashion show. There was our old (and newly botoxed) friend Carrie, still ever-so-insecure with Big; Miranda with her vivid red hair re-dyed; Samantha with a fresh dose of sexual overkill; and Charlotte with a sexy new nanny. In this "Arabian Tales" for brand-conscious neo-liberals, the girls allegedly went to Abu Dhabi (in fact, the movie was filmed in Morocco), a city that they first loved and then fled.


"Why did you ever wanted to see that movie anyway?" asked my Big.


Ah, old habits die hard! So, it seems, do old TV sitcoms...








We birds cannot understand the obsession that you humans have with noise. We observe you in your cars, having your noise-making machines blasting away at the highest level of decibels for what you call music. The pleasure boats going up and down the Bosphorus every day produce so much noise that it even scares away the fish. Wedding parties are so loud that sometimes the married couple cannot even understand if they finally got married. But this phenomenon is a global one, taking place in all countries of the world that have electricity. The noise of your so-called music has become so loud that it overshadows the noise of traffic and prevents us from sleeping at night.


Fortunately there exist polite humans who plug their ears into portable music machines and at the highest possible volume, enjoy what they call music. But at least they do not bother other humans or us birds.


We are trying to find out why you have this obsession with noise and after much bird-brained thought we reached the following conclusions. One reason may be that humans no longer wish to engage in conversation with their friends since it is impossible to have any kind of discussion under such noisy circumstances. Another reason may be that humans may become invigorated by loud noise since it also increases the beat of the human heart. These are the only reasons we could find to justify your obsession but even these reasons do not make much sense.


Before humanity technologically regressed by inventing these noise-producing gadgets, the world was indeed a better place. Music was played and produced by humans in a natural way. The guitar was not attached to electronic sound amplification systems and produced soft, natural and beautiful music. The same applied to the trumpet, the accordion, the violin and to all other musical instruments. Humans enjoyed that music and even accompanied the music with songs that they themselves sang. They could also speak among themselves while listening to natural music. In places of human entertainment, the voice of a singer came out naturally without being connected to amplifiers, as did the accompanying music from the orchestra or from the band. In this way the quality of entertainment was at a high level and the music was greatly appreciated since it had quality.


Finally there is one more issue involved here that has to do with human deafness. If humanity continues to listen to music at such high decibels, it will end up stone deaf. And then perhaps you humans will start enjoying the noise of silence. And who knows, since you will not be able to communicate among yourselves, you might even develop the telepathic abilities that all humans possess but do not know about.


Ponder our thoughts dear humans for the benefit of your ears.









If in a country a lower court can turn a blind eye and deaf ear to repeated demands of the Supreme Court of Appeals and instead of sending the dossier on the trial of a provincial prosecutor – who anyhow must have been tried at the court of appeals, not at an ordinary lower court under the existing laws of this country – and plays a ping pong game with it together with some other lower courts no one can say that there is a proper functioning of the judicial system in that country.


One day the dossier is in Erzurum. The other day it is sent to Istanbul. The next day it is back in Erzurum. The following day it is in Diyarbakır. Then on the way back to Istanbul, the dossier makes a short stopover in Erzurum. Alas, it returns once again to Erzurum. Or, is it now in Diyarbakır? Who knows where the dossier is? In the mean time, the Court of Appeals where the Erzincan Provincial Prosecutor İlhan Cihaner is being tried for the "crimes related to his duty" he was alleged to have committed while in office, sends one request after another to the Erzurum court and demands the Cihaner file be sent to it so that a decision could be made whether the case against Cihaner at the Supreme Court of Appeals and the ongoing but not progressing trial against Cihaner at the Erzurum court on charges of his involvement in the so-called Ergenekon gang might be merged as demanded by Cihaner's advocates.


According to the laws, a first-degree prosecutor or a provincial chief prosecutor could only be tried at the Court of Appeals. A prosecutor with special powers (after the dissolution of the State Security Courts, or DGMs, under EU pressures those courts were converted to special heavy criminal courts and the former DGM prosecutors were converted into prosecutors with special powers. That is in reality nothing changed) ambushed the house and office of Erzincan Provincial Prosecutor Cihaner. While under existing laws detention and arrest should be exceptional, like all other nationalist, Kemalist "headaches" of the Islamist government, Cihaner was detained and taken to Erzurum where the Heavy Criminal Court (the former DGM) ordered his arrest. Repeated appeals by Cihaner's defense attorney for the release of his defendant were turned down. While the Supreme Court of Appeals, which had already launched a probe against allegations that Cihaner was engaged in some crimes pertaining his duty as prosecutor, was demanding Cihaner's dossier be sent to Ankara to consider whether the higher court and the lower court cases against Cihaner could be merged as demanded by the defense of the arrested prosecutor, the Erzurum court preferred to sent the dossier to Istanbul with a demand that the "Erzincan Ergenekon case" should be considered as part of the overall Ergenekon trial. The Istanbul court rejected the demands and sent back the file.


Frustrated, are you not? This is a very long and rather complicated story demonstrating the rather strange, painful and indeed ugly fight waged by some dark Islamist dens of power against everyone who resist engaging in some sort of an allegiance relationship with political Islam and its present-day representative the AKP governance.


Eventually, the Supreme Court of Appeals, frustrated with its failure to obtain the dossier against Cihaner from the Erzurum court decided in its previous hearing to consider yesterday the demand of the defense for a merger of the lower court case against the prosecutor with the Court of Appeals case based on whatever available (the CDs and such) and "with or without" the Erzurum court sent the file.


The development, of course, was immediately condemned by the government and in the pro-government media as a "legal coup" by the Court of Appeals against the Erzurum Heavy Criminal Court in clear violation of the principle of "independence of courts."


Confused, are you not? What's happening is indeed yet another sad manifestation of a judicial tragicomedy continuing in this country. A prosecutor hunting another prosecutor. A court insisting on processing a case against a prosecutor despite clear rules that the prosecutor must be tried at the Supreme Court of Appeals. The lower court refuses to hand over the dossier of the tried prosecutor to the court of appeals. The court of appeals decides to consider the merger of two cases whether or whether not the lower court sends the dossier. Without considering the dossier and the charges – which are all based on telephone wiretappings and information provided by some secret informants – the court of appeals decides for the merger and release of the prosecutor and all other defendants of the case pending outcome of the trial.


What is wrong, what is right? Total confusion demonstrating the sad situation of Turkey








Following a historic "no" vote at the United Nations Security Council, or UNSC, the other week, the relationship between Turkey and the U.S. has been going through a difficult patch. Prior to the vote, through different channels, the U.S. administration officials and various Congressional members reflected their pre-anger mode to the Turkish side, if the Turkish side were to go against the sanctions. Some seasoned foreign policy experts also reflected this anger and stated repeatedly that a 'no' vote at the UNSC against the U.S. might bring serious consequences to bear.


However, the most powerful component of the Washington policy making body, the White House, has chosen to stay quiet, at least publicly, after the Turkish revolt in New York. Both run up to the UNSC vote, and its following hours and days, the U.S. Administration officials cautiously treated the situation and avoided making angry remarks.


The White House senior administration officials summoned the Turkish press members to the White House to explain the U.S. position clearly, right after the UNSC vote. The officials seemed relaxed or even careless while responding to the questions of the Turkish press about what just happened and what others might follow. When I talked to another White House official on the same day that the meeting was conducted, the only thing I heard from this official was that "the White House is frustrated" and does not know what to make of Turkey's stance.


A week after the flotilla crisis and a few days before the UNSC vote on the sanctions package against Iran, I talked to another senior White House official who has been closely involved with matters regarding Turkey day in and out. The Senior official told me that "Turkey's Iran policy should not be over-analyzed." The official went on saying that "Turkey, like the U.S., also does not want Iran to have nuclear weapons... Friends sometimes can disagree." Talking with a senior White House official on the phone, who tells me that Turkey's Iran policy should not be over-emphasized, was pretty shocking.


So, how is it possible that on the one hand the U.S. administration officials have been extremely cautious and calm while commenting on the relations between the U.S. and Turkey, but about every other indication in Washington signals the exact opposite of this "calming" posture?


The answer lies mostly on President Obama and his never understood Middle East policy. Obama has changed his tones radically throughout the sixteen months of his presidency while directing the Arab-Israeli peace process as well as the policy on Iran.


Obama, on the Arab-Israeli front, first tried to push back the right wing Netanyahu government, hoping that it would either compromise or collapse. When the White House saw neither is happening, then it started to backpedal only to run over the Abbas government this time.


Obama's Iran policy also sounds like another backpedaling story. Obama, who just could not decide whether to try for more diplomacy or to work harder to bring heavier sanctions against Iran, intentionally or not, misled the Turkish party.


I asked Mr. Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary, whether there were any mixed signals that came from the White House run up to the UNSC vote that might have misguided Turkey. Mr. Gibbs, instead of giving direct answer on this "mixed signals" question, stated simply that the White House disappointed Turkey's stance at the Council vote.


Apart from sending just too many mixed signals to the outside world, the Obama administration is also in a place that cannot afford to loose a Muslim ally. Obama, and the Democrats, for years, accused the former administration for mishandling the relations with the Muslim world. Now after 8 years of "mistaken" policies, how can the Obama administration elucidate loosing the U.S.' one of the oldest Muslim allies in the world.


Though the president's silence does not necessarily stop leaders and members of the U.S. Congress to whip and threat Turkey. Some of the Congressional leaders already began talking about bringing the Armenian genocide resolution, which passed at the House of Foreign Affairs Committee a couple of months ago, back to the House floor soon. It must be noted that there is no strong break left In Washington these days to prevent such resolution reaching the House floor and put on a vote eventually. The most used argument for Turkey's importance is its "strategic alliance," or "importance" to the U.S. These days nobody in Washington talks about these attributions anymore.


The BP rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico and oil leak that has been following for two months, which became the biggest environmental catastrophes in American history, has weakened the Obama presidency dramatically. Obama, who once gave the most exhilarating messages of our times through his magical speeches and words, suddenly became another politician with very limited powers, who is even not being able to "plug the hole." And weak standing, also would make it very difficult for Obama to interfere in Congress, particularly if there is a strong consensus on any given matter.


When I talked to another Senior White House official on Thursday and told him that statements that came from the U.S. Congressional members during the week leaves no other choice but to write some terrible scenarios for the relationships between the U.S. and Turkey. The senior official told me that he has nothing to add to this analysis!


While the Turkish delegation was in Washington, the head of TUSIAD, Mrs. Umit Boyner was also in Washington and met with the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday late afternoon for about 40 minutes. Following the meeting, Mrs. Boyner gave a press conference and stated that their meeting with Clinton was dominated by the Iran's nuclear program and the Israeli-Turkish problems. The Turkish Parliamentary delegation could not secure an appointment with Mrs. Clinton, instead, grudgingly, they settled for a meeting with Mr. Philip Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs








Who defused Osman Can's recommendation in the AKP?

Osman Can, the Constitutional Court rapporteur, made a move and said: "If some parts of the constitutional amendment package are annulled, let Parliament neglect this decision." Can's suggestion has caused a public stir. Opposition parties' spokesmen criticized him for "causing a constitutional crisis and chaos." Can is a jurist popular in the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, circles. AKP officials and supporters applauded his suggestion as some parliamentary deputies backed him. But that was not enough. They got into the details of his suggestion, discussed it and brainstormed if it is applicable. If the Constitutional Court squashes the amendment package, the AKP top officials could not only scold the high court but, thanks to Can's formula, could do more.


Although "neglecting the Constitutional Court" seemed appropriate at first, it could create problems in the future, AKP officials thought. Risks were laid on the table. Following a speech by an influential name in the Cabinet, Can's formula was shelved quickly. That name was Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek.


The AKP in the central executive committee meeting this week discussed Can's offer not to publish the Constitutional Court's decision in the Official Gazette. Legalists briefed other AKP officials, and possible outcomes were interpreted. It was quite interesting that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan uttered not a single word on Can's formula. Erdoğan didn't say anything but was all ears to assessments. He only said: "Let's prepare as if the package will not be squashed by the court and work hard for the popular vote." Then Çiçek took the podium.


"An original and debatable suggestion," commented Çiçek, who then objected: "But the formula cannot be accepted because it is against the state not to publish the court's decision in the Official Gazette. This could create chaos…"


Remarks of Çiçek, as a veteran jurist and politician, suddenly changed the atmosphere in the AKP. And legalist executive committee members even had to support Çiçek against Can. Because of Çiçek, Can's formula was differed, and the issue was dropped.


As top AKP officials shelved Can's suggestion, the officials reached another decision about the timing of the court's decision. The court decision is expected on July 5, so the AKP's executive committee brought this to attention. Most members agreed that Parliament should remain open on that day. That is to say the AKP will not call for summer break on July 1, and deputies will work until July 5. Naturally, the approach has brought into the fore some speculations on "if the package is dropped, an early election may be the case." However, unless something really extraordinary happens, the AKP front has no intentions to go for an election. The ruling party seems to adopt a stance only for the possibility of a negative outcome…


The AKP's tactic to make Parliament work


For the last few years, the AKP has stayed for overtime in Parliament before they adjourn for summer because of bills piling upon bills. This doesn't change this year either. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan aims to pass about 30 bills in Parliament. According to the bylaw, Parliament adjourns on July 1. But the AKP deputies are tired, and it is getting difficult to have a quorum for meetings. So, the AKP group found a way. Erdoğan will make surprise visits to Parliament. The AKP deputies will be present in the plenary. It seems that, until the summer break, the AKP representatives will have more sleepless nights.


'No whiskey, have fruit juice'


Mahmut Işık, former deputy of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, is a social democrat. He was sentenced to pay damages to the former Rize deputy Şevki Yılmaz for calling him an animal. Yılmaz is known for his radical moves. They were on the same plane recently. "I paid 6 billion Turkish Liras compensation. You will order drinks at the airport," said Işık. Yılmaz agreed. But when Işık said he would have whiskey, Yılmaz opposed: "I won't order whiskey, have some fruit juice with no alcohol." But Işık responded quickly: "You go ahead and drink fruit juice. I will pay both the compensation and for the whiskey…








The way we prepare our presentations and reports and how we actually present them are quite different from culture to culture. In some business cultures - mainly American - reports and presentations start with executive summary statements or titles and then talk about the content and end with a conclusion, which ties back to the executive summary. Presentations contain several visual effects, including some video clips where necessary, to keep the attention of the audience and deliver the right message. The intention is more on delivering an idea without getting into many details. A new trend is also to surprise people with some nice factual videos. The video has a strong soundtrack, where facts and figures or assumptions like "Do you know that by 2020, 250 million Chinese businesspeople will be traveling around the word?" or, "We service four clients per second around the world." This has become a fashion even for the board presentations of the companies.


Reports have the same structure. They usually start with an executive summary and end with a "tie-back" statement. They contain many charts and, where possible, visual effects. 


The other way is used mainly by the Germans. This starts with an introduction, continues with a body and ends with the conclusion. Presentations contain less pictures and videos but more text, while the audience cannot even read most of them. That's why the presenters prefer to give the audience every single detail by focusing on the subject and assuming their ultimate hunger for the topic without making much effort to entertain and keep the attention going at the same time. The aim is to go deep rather than dwell on the surface. 


Reports have the same style and even more detailed information. In fact, everyone around the world knows that a German manual contains all the information you need. It even contains details you do not need, but gives you such comfort that one day, if you need them, they will be there waiting for you. 


In Turkey, presentations and reports have a similar structure: introduction, body and conclusion. What I call the conversational approach, like talking to your friends about a topic, is the most preferred presentation style. It is very convenient as it does not need any advanced preparation. The average Turkish presenter usually likes to write down his or her speech and reads it through rather than using slides, pictures and videos.


Responses to presentations and reports also differ in each business culture. If you are presenting in the Netherlands - the same goes for Germany - they can interrupt and ask you so many questions, it can start to get to your nerves. It is a way to show how much attention they give to you. They can also deliver critiques, which can make you think as if they do not like your presentation, but in the end, they surprise you by coming over and congratulating you for a great presentation. 


Turkish, American and Japanese reactions to presentations are strangely very similar. They listen very carefully without interrupting that much. An American might ask a couple of questions and make some supporting remarks like "great job," but those do not mean anything as far as their opinion at the end goes. They are made to encourage you to get your point across. Turks and the Japanese usually listen without interrupting. Japanese nod their heads as if they agree with all the things you say, but yet again this does not mean they really do. It is a gesture of respect for the presenter. Turks do not even do that: they just listen carefully and react at the end. During the question and answer sessions, they love to make long statements and provide opinions rather than asking questions. That is an indirect way of showing interest in your topic. Don't tell them things like "I do not understand your question," rather, make your comment on the statement made.


Whatever style you have, in Turkey the recipe for success is as follows. Prepare a colorful presentation with pictures and videos. Use as little text as possible. Don't forget the facts that might surprise the audience. Use a conversational tone as if you are talking to your friends and save the punch line for the end.


Zafer Parlar is the founder of istventures, which supports international companies in their market entries and development in Turkey, as well as Turkish companies in their local operations and expansion plans abroad.








In this article, I want to respond to two different questions. One of these questions is about health insurance, whereas the other about property sales agreements. The first of them is from Barbara. She says:


"Dear Sadettin,


My husband and I are retired British citizens now living in Turkey. My husband is 67 years old and I am 61 years old. Is there any health insurance available to us for a sensible premium at our age? We do not work or have any other health insurance, but we are in receipt of a British pension. Do I need to be a Turkish citizen for health insurance? Regards."


Dear Barbara, for health insurance in Turkey you have two options. Firstly, you can purchase a private health insurance package. The presence of private health insurance has significant advantages in terms of health problems. The most important one of these advantages is that you don't have to go to public hospitals. In Turkey, many private hospitals have agreements with international insurance companies. Thus, as an insured person, you can apply to the hospitals that you prefer. In this case, depending on the content of your insurance policy, treatment costs will be covered by the insurance company.


The other option for health insurance is you can apply for universal health insurance. But there are certain conditions for it. According to Law number 5510, "Foreigners who aren't insured according to foreign legislation and have a residence permit in Turkey are considered insured under the universal health insurance regime. But the reciprocity principle is taken into consideration in granting that right." Accordingly, you must reside in Turkey for at least one year to be the right holder. If your stay in Turkey has not been completed for one year, you cannot apply to universal health insurance. After one year, a general health insurance premium is begun. Additionally, if your health problems in Turkey are covered by the U.K. Health Insurance System, you cannot join the UHI in Turkey.


The other question came from Susan. She asks about property sales agreements. She says:


"Dear Sadettin,


I have read your article about 'Informal property sales agreements'. This article was written as if for me. I have bought an apartment from a land agent in Muğla, Turkey. However, the sales agreement was made in notary. According to your article, is this agreement invalid? What should I do about it from now on? Best regards."


Dear Susan, as I mentioned in my previous article, an informal property sales agreement is not valid under Turkish law. Besides, sale agreements made in notary are not completely informal. This document gives you some rights. However, you must register it at the Land Registry Directorate. Because the ownership of a property can only be registered at the Land Registry Directorate, it is the only authority where the title of a property can duly be transferred. It is a basic rule that a property should be registered with the Land Registry Directorate in order to conduct any kind of transaction related to it.


For your questions:








After a trip to abroad, one can get really depressed coming back to Turkey. Actually the wave of depression starts on the flight back if you are flying Turkish Airlines. Don't get me wrong. Although delays are unfortunately becoming the rule, rather than the exception with THY, it offers no doubt the best hospitality. The food is ample and delicious, and the crew very helpful.


The reason for depression is the Turkish newspapers. After a few days of absence, you can't escape the burning urge to have an idea of what is going in the country. It is very rare to see something refreshing lately. It is the crisis with Israel, the increasing terrorist acts, or a new round in the war of words between the ruling government and the opposition.


That's why an ironic smile took over my face, when I got the International Herald Tribune's June 10 edition, which had as a front page story an article titled: "In Sweden, the men can have it all."


The story is about how generous parental leave is at the heart of a new definition of masculinity.


Eighty-five percent of the Swedish fathers take parental leave, according to the article, which said the laws that require fathers to take at least two months of the generously paid, 13-month leave reserved for couples have set off a profound social change.


"In this land of Viking lore, men are at the heart of the gender-equality debate. The pony tailed center-right finance minister calls himself a feminist, ads for cleaning products rarely feature women as homemakers, and preschools vet books for gender stereotypes in animal characters.


At the first glimpse of the story, my reaction was, "What a luxury to have an article on gender equality as a front page story." But the more I read, the more the comparison with Turkey became interesting.


We all know how as a conservative figure Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cherishes family and family values. He is notorious for calls to have at least three children.


But due to limited access to childcare, bearing and raising children imprisons women to the household and deals a serious blow to their professional careers.


For the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, that's not a problem. Although you see more and more headscarved women, some of who constitute the main base of the party's constituency, in the economic life, the view that the woman's place is in home still dominates the AKP's mentality.


In view this paternalistic approach. It would have been futile to suggest that the government to impose obligatory "parental leave" for fathers.


But the prime minister and the AKP decision makers might change their idea when they hear that Sweden has one of the highest birth rates in Europe, where population is in fact declining. In addition birth rates have increased 20 percent over the past 10 years. No doubt this is also because of "daddy leave."


Sweden was always keen on relieving working mothers. Children had access to highly subsidized preschools from 12 months and grandparents were offered state-sponsored elderly care. A parent on leave got almost a full salary for a year before returning to a guaranteed job. In 1974 Sweden became the first country to replace maternity leave with parental leave.


But at that time few men took parental leave and they were named "velvet dads," according to a New York Times article.

Introducing daddy leave in 1995 had an immediate impact, said the article. No father was forced to stay home, but the family lost one month of subsidies if he did not. Soon more than eight in 10 men took leave.


The prime minister might also be impressed that the shift in fathers' role is perceived as playing a part in the lower divorce rates in Sweden.


In the rural and conservative world from where the prime minister came, women might be more acquiescent to staying home to look after kids and divorce is usually not an option for them when the marriage does not work.


But in urban Turkey, working women are less inclined to have several babies, and divorce is becoming a frequent phenomenon, especially after the birth of a first child, as working couples find it more and more difficult to raise a child while continuing their careers.


Involving fathers in parental leave might be a way to increase appeal to the prime minister's ambition









The Bank of Punjab scam looks set to keep us entertained for some time to come – and may also induce unfortunate cardiac events in those who thought that their opaque dealings with it in the past would remain forever hidden from view. The principal accused in the case and former president of the BoP has offered to cut a deal with NAB investigators – you give me a free pardon and I will spill the beans. This is a new development, as Hamesh Khan has hitherto been frugal with his bean-spilling, pleading that he had become the jam in the sandwich between his corrupt juniors and a meddling and influential Board of Directors (BoD). The NAB response has been that it was not within its gift to give him a pardon and that he should talk to his legal advisers and this is doubtless the legally correct thing to say; but a deal may be in the offing. If a deal is done we have hints of what may be to come. Hamesh has alleged that members of the BoD had brought pressure to bear on him to loan Rs9 billion to Harris Steel. He is also accusing the Punjab chief minister of strong-arming him into making a loan of Rs8 million to the chief minister's son who owns a sugar mill in Punjab.

Then there is the matter of the sale of the Phalia Sugar Mills that was owned by the famous Chaudhrys of Punjab to the Colony Group of Fareed Mughis Sheikh – using a loan granted at a time when Fareed Mughis Sheikh was a member of the BoD of the BoP. Moreover, Fareed was appointed to the BoD a mere month before the Phalia Sugar Mills deal was done – which appears to be the circumstantial equivalent of a smoking gun. The beans that are about to get themselves spilt are all hotly denying any wrongdoing, and it is not for us to prejudge the case, but it is clear that there was massive wrongdoing. Some of those doing the wrong were the highest and mightiest of the province – inevitable because the BoP was doing big business, and big business rarely involves the ordinary depositor with a current account. There may be nothing inherently wrong with big and powerful people doing big and powerful things but big and powerful people are obliged to abide by the law as are those smaller and less powerful. We are beginning to challenge the orthodoxy that says there is one rule for the rich and another for the poor, and that can only be a good thing.







The latest global attitudes survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Institute shows a dramatic decline in the standing of the president. Compared to 64 per cent last year, only 32 per cent of people hold a favourable view of Mr Zardari. The format of a survey does not leave much scope for explanations or detailed opinions. But it is not hard to understand why there has been so dramatic a change in presidential popularity. It is obvious that most citizens now see him as a key reason for the problems we face as a nation. There have been so many detailed accounts of corruption and wrongdoing that it is hard to believe they can all be inaccurate or the figment of imagination, as the aides of the president would have us believe. The continuing affair of the Swiss cases, the failure to implement the NRO, the manner in which cronies have been favoured and the lack of effective governance are certainly factors in Mr Zardari's dramatic fall from grace.

There are other issues too. The perception is that the president has done little to help the state he heads. Indeed, his talk of conspiracy and the paranoia that underscores a great deal of what he says in public have added to the air of uncertainty we face. This in turn has discouraged investment and held up the economic recovery we so badly need. It is true that nepotism is not a new feature as far as the affairs of Pakistan go. But the height to which it has been taken in Islamabad exceeds anything seen in the past. We have a culture in place of cronyism that is contributing to the weakness of institutions and damaging the image of the country. While this continues, we have wildly hypocritical talk of dedication to the people or efforts to improve their plight. The results of the survey have presumably reached some eyes within the presidency. Past practice has been to bring only good news to the attention of leaders. But even so there must be others close to the president who are familiar with the results coming in through this and other surveys. They must also know that people ask why the president will not give up his post for the sake of the nation he claims to serve. Fewer and fewer people appear to believe he is doing any good – and in this there must be a message which cannot indefinitely be ignored.













The Sindh High Court has issued orders preventing the KESC from hiking up power for the moment. Nepra had announced the power hike a short while ago. Various petitioners who moved the court have argued that the raise is based on flawed evaluations and would burden consumers. Certainly, the impact of past increases in the cost of power has been felt by millions. So far, the protests of people, the pleas in newspapers or even the stories of suicides in response to an increasing financial burden have left authorities unmoved. It is to be seen if some relief can be offered by courts. But what is clear is that people are growing increasingly desperate and that they have no faith in government decisions. For them the courts offer a forum that can help redress grievance.

What is striking, however, is the growing sense of grievance against bodies that represent state power. People see official institutions as oppressors. The potential implications of this go well beyond the question of the figure that appears at the bottom of utility bills or even the impact they have on households. The matter at hand is more fundamental and involves the crucial issue of trust. This should lie at the heart of relations between citizens and the state. What we see today is a breakdown in this and a growing chasm that divides people and their rulers. The courts can take up the issues raised before them and give out their verdicts. But this alone will not repair the link that has been broken or recreate the bridges that should exist between rulers and the ruled.







The Sunday Times made the sensational, albeit nebulous, claim based on a report ostensibly commissioned by the London School of Economics that "there is growing evidence that the government in Islamabad arms the (Taliban) insurgents, gives them targets and has seats on their war council." Accusing Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, the ISI, of backing the Taliban is virtually as old as the Afghan conflict itself. In fact, many Western analysts, and some of our own, consider the Taliban a creation of the ISI.

However, what is a first is the accusation in the report is that President Zardari is in cahoots with the Taliban. According to the report, the president and a senior ISI official recently met 50 high-ranking Taliban commanders in jail and assured them of the government's support. Five days after the visit a handful of Taliban prisoners were set free in Quetta, the seat of the so-called Quetta Shura.

A presidential spokesman has vehemently denied the ludicrous report implicating Zardari, who is generally viewed as pro-Western and anti-Taliban. At the most he can be accused of abdicating the Afghan policy to COAS Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani and his trusted ISI chief, Lt Gen Shuja Pasha.

President Zardari, unlike his predecessor, has managed to have a reasonably good rapport with the Afghan president. But Karzai's credentials as an honest broker have increasingly become suspect in the eyes of his Western mentors. Perhaps that is why the Pakistani leader has also been implicated in the messy equation.

An ISI official expressing real or feigned surprise at the charge has admitted fostering contacts with militant groups. However, he said that, "to say we are sitting on their council, directing them and playing a game hurts me a lot, given the price we have paid."

The timing of the LSE report is ominous. It has been released at a time when NATO and US forces have become increasingly bogged down in Afghanistan. While casualties have mounted in recent months, the much-touted offensive in the Taliban home base of Kandahar has been delayed for months. The consultative peace jirga held in Kabul on June 2 endorsed the Karzai government policy of negotiating with the Taliban "to bring them into the political mainstream." For the West it is adding insult to injury.

The Afghan president has refused to clearly accuse the Taliban of the abortive attack on the peace jirga. One report quoted him as saying: "I don't know who did it!" While another report claims that he believes that the US and not the Taliban are responsible for the rocket attack on the conference.

As a direct outcome of the attack, President Karzai's long-trusted intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, a former aide of the late Ahmed Shah Massoud, and Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar were forced to resign. This is seen as a setback both for the US and the Indians. Saleh is a long-time ISI-hater who considers the Pakistani intelligence agency as Afghanistan's enemy number one. Obviously, Karzai, himself a Pakhtun, no longer considers them loyal.

Despite Karzai's fence-mending sojourn to the White House last month, a deep schism persists between Washington and Kabul. The US by questioning the transparency of the presidential elections held in autumn last year robbed Karzai of his legitimacy as a leader. The so-called drawdown plan of US and NATO troops by July 2011 does not sit well with the Afghan leader.

So far as Washington is concerned, it views President Karzai's contacts with the Taliban as highly suspect. The US is not happy about the secret meetings Karzai's half brother and trusted lieutenant Ahmed Wali Karzai had with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former deputy commander of the Taliban. Neither was the ISI happy about these contacts. Hence, Baradar was arrested early this year by the very ISI which was housing him in Karachi.

Some analysts contend that Karzai has lost faith in the ability of the American and NATO forces to prevail in Afghanistan. Having serious doubts that the Americans and NATO forces can ever defeat the insurgents, he is trying to strike a secret deal with the Taliban and Pakistan. According to a US official quoted in the New York Times, "there are deep fissures among Afghan leaders how to deal with the Taliban and with their patrons in Pakistan."

In an interview Karzai's discredited intelligence chief has claimed that the Afghan president was strongly involved in a more conciliatory line towards Pakistan. According to him, Afghanistan will be forced to accept "an undignified deal" with Pakistan. He has also claimed that he was removed on Islamabad's insistence.

In this backdrop the timing of the LSE report based on a discussion paper appropriately titled as "The Sun in the Sky: the Relationship between Pakistan's ISI and Afghan Insurgents," is ominous. The author, Matt Waldman of Carr Center for Human Rights Policy of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, is quintessential establishment. He has been an Oxfam official in Kabul as well as a defence advisor to the UK and European parliaments. With little or no knowledge of Dari or Farsi, it is a miracle that he had a meaningful conversation with so may unnamed Taliban sources.

The paper concludes that Pakistan's "involvement in a double game of this scale," could have major geopolitical implications and could even provoke US counter-measures. However, the report concedes that the powerful role of the ISI, and parts of the Pakistani military requires their support. It suggests the only way to secure such co-operation is to address the, "fundamental causes of Pakistan's insecurity, especially its latent and enduring conflict with India. This requires American backing for moves towards a resolution of the Kashmir dispute."

It is obvious that commissioning of such reports and selective leaks in the Western media are meant to tighten the noose around Islamabad's neck to change its historic India-centric strategic paradigm. Implicating the Pakistani civilian government as being an active backer of the Taliban has further upped the ante.

So far as the ISI is concerned, its fine distinctions between the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Punjabi Taliban, the Kashmir- and India-specific Taliban and, last but not least, the good and the bad Taliban, are losing their relevance as fast as the West is losing patience in Afghanistan. In the final analysis, it is only one Taliban which is the nemesis of the West, eating into the very entrails of the state. More so for Pakistan!

The demand for the Pakistani army to start an attack against Taliban sanctuaries in North Waziristan will gain further impetus though such damning reports alleging a real or perceived nexus between the ISI and the Taliban. The ISI wants to be part of any future negotiations with the Taliban. President Karzai, opening his own channels not entirely approved by Washington, is a window of opportunity for the ISI. It puts Islamabad in a relatively advantageous position to safeguard its interests in a post US and NATO forces withdrawal from Afghanistan.

President Karzai's removal of some key anti-Pakistan officials from his cabinet has cleared the decks for some kind of role for Islamabad. Nevertheless, the ISI cannot win a popularity contest in Afghanistan where it is viewed as overbearing and interfering, but at the same time a necessity by the Pakhtuns.

The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email:







What became of the promises of roti, kapra aur makan and revenge against the murderers of Benazir Bhutto, grounds on which the PPP received a mandate? How much betrayal will the people tolerate while allowing themselves to be treated like lambs? Of course, they come out and protest, in separate groups, when the festering problems become unbearable, which the government ignores. But there is no organised and united movement as we saw against Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, or that of the lawyers against Musharraf, even though conditions are much worse now than ever before.

The glaring difference between those uprisings and the scattered demonstrations these days is lack of leadership and the non-involvement of political parties in the protests of the people. The smothering factor is the curse of reconciliation which has done no good to the country and is visibly another term for widespread corruption and chaos. Why complain? Join the feast of government and load up to your heart's content with total impunity, is the essence of politics and governance today. Reconciliation has given us democracy based on one-party rule, in which absolute opposites have combined to let the government run amok while they get their pound of flesh.

Transparency International has disclosed that while in 2004, 45 billion rupees were lost in corruption, in 2009 the figure went up to 195 billion rupees, and now it is a whopping 245 billion rupees only until the middle of the year, while the doors of all anti-corruption and accountability institutions remain jammed shut. No surprise at this, when we have a president who is under trial in multiple corruption cases which, as always, he refuses to face and is surrounded by his jail mate criminals, ministers and advisors who, like him, were absconders in a variety of corruption cases and have been salvaged by the American-sponsored deal with the military dictator. Under this, while Musharraf's sins have been forgiven, the current rulers came into assemblies and government shielded by the unconstitutional and immoral NRO which has, not a moment too soon, been struck down by the Supreme Court. But to no avail.

The NRO-produced setup continues while the restored cases are either not being faced or are being dismissed for want of prosecution. The net result is bad governance and loot and plunder with a vengeance, not only of public funds, but also any other source that can be accessed.

Since all anti-corruption institutions have either lost their teeth or are themselves drowned in corruption, the only remaining hope are the courts. But these also seem to have exhausted their punches and are reduced to the last blow under Article 190 of the Constitution which will bring in the armed forces. The better solution, then, would be for the people to shed their somnambulism and take charge.

Change of government has become a desperate need, but Zardari will not quit. Right from the start he has had to swallow one indignity after another: He transferred the ISI to civilian control but had to hastily return it the next day. He restored the judges in panic at 2 a.m. in the face of the long march after having broken his promise to do so four times. Similarly, he had to withdraw the emergency and governor's rule in Punjab which he had imposed some days earlier. The National Security Authority was suddenly taken away from him and given to the prime minister reportedly because Zardari could not be trusted in such a sensitive position. He finally caved in on the issue of giving extensions and appointment of new judges to the Supreme Court after adopting a stubborn negative position.

Most important of all, he had to do after two years of resistance what he should have done within fifteen days of the PPP government's coming into power, and that is to pass the 18th Amendment and do away with the harmful contents of the 17th Amendment. Of course, the 18th Amendment is a trick amendment and lacks honesty: what has been taken away with one hand--i.e., presidential powers--has been sneakily given back with the other--i.e., dictatorship for life for the party chairman, with powers to sack the prime ministers and members of the assemblies.

So far so good for the conciliators, but the people are in agony and angry. They can no longer be manipulated by fake jobs and charity under the Benazir Income Support Scheme. (It is reported that out of the Rs70 billion provided for this purpose in the previous budget, only Rs17 billion reached the people while the rest disappeared into bottomless pockets.)

How much more pain can the people endure and when will the nation rise and express its will?

The political parties and leadership have let the people down. Nothing short of a genuine revolution will suffice now to uproot the deep moral degeneration that has taken hold at all levels of our society. There is urgent need to change the mindset of the people. So now sights have to be focused on the lessons of history. When life becomes unbearable and a movement is born, new leadership emerges from within the revolution. Who had heard of Robespierre and Danton before the French Revolution, Lenin before the Russian Revolution, Mao before the Chinese Revolution or Castro before the Cuban Revolution? The people must not look outwards for guidance but search for leadership within their own ranks. In a country of more than 170 million people clamouring for redemption, it should not be hard to find.

The writer is chairman Sindh National Front







This comment is a review of the health sector policy announced in the budget speech as part of which a new health insurance scheme will be launched for the poor under the rubric of the federal government's safety net program.

There are two elements in this policy intent. One relates to protecting the poor and the other centres on the means of enabling that. The standalone rationale for both of them is strong.

In principle, the decision by the government to financially risk-protect the poor against the vicissitudes of health is an admirable step since health problems constitute the most common economic shocks faced by poor households, as evidenced by the Planning Commission data. On the other hand, health insurance is a proven means of achieving financial risk protection. However, it must not be perceived that health insurance is the only way of protecting the poor against the risk of healthcare shocks in Pakistan's context given that there are other simpler ways of enabling that.

Before I dilate how that can be the case, some conceptual clarifications about the state's role in health financing are offered. The state is meant to ensure that health is financed through public means; either through 'revenues' or by 'pooling' financial resources. There are two ways of ensuring the latter: one is through insurance and the other is by creating pools of funds, through which cash transfers are made to fund waivers in hospitals for the poor. The idea central to public means of financing is fundamental to protecting people against having to pay out-of-pocket to access healthcare. Some developed countries, which provide universal health financing coverage predominantly, use revenues to finance healthcare, as in the United Kingdom whereas another group of countries, of which Germany is the prototype, use insurance as a means of pooling.

Pakistan's health system is modelled on the UK's National Health Service. The Bhore Commission Report (1946), which served as the basis of institutional planning immediately after Pakistan's inception and the Beveridge Report, the blue print for the UK's National Health Service, had common authors and emerged around the same time. Pakistan's public health system, therefore, has a strong post-colonial imprint with a 'national health services' model operating, albeit with several gaps. Revenues finance the public system, which comprises over 15,000 health service facilities. Of course there are many pitfalls, lapses and gaps within this arrangement. Absent and 'ghost' health workers, closed basic health units, overcrowded hospitals, poor quality and performance are well-described manifestations of Pakistan's graft-ridden state health system, where inefficiencies are pervasive. This notwithstanding, its original character which embodied universal coverage principles must be brought to bear if any improvements are to be envisaged through reform measures.

Within this context, it must be appreciated that in this health systems model there is a multi-layered system of social protection already operational. Notional costs are levied at primary healthcare facilities for consultations. In hospitals, some costs at notional but most user's charges are subsidised. There is a mechanism to waive user's charges for the poor and a system functioning to label 'the poor' so. Essentially a local government certified Zakat certificate entitles the needy to free services that involve a user charge in public hospitals up to a limit of approximately 20,000. Over and above this, high-cost diagnostic and invasive procedures not funded through Zakat are meant to be financed through Bait-ul-Mal.

These instruments do have their share of problems. Narrow coverage, poor targeting, lack of predictability about the size of the envelope, opportunities for patronage and abuse, lack of transparency in the use of resources, and corruption scams are some of these. However, with the right 'targeting tools' interfaced with the National Database Registration Authority and appropriate tracking technologies, some of these systemic fault-lines can be cemented. There are hospitals where these instruments are making a positive impact despite existing weaknesses and there is every reason to believe that their effectiveness can be enhanced with remedial measures.

Within this context, if the government's intent evident in the budget speech is to enhance financial risk protection for poor families, then the most plausible thing to do would be to ensure preferential access of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) target families to exemptions/waivers in the existing social protection programmes. Various identification tools can be used for such families, which can allow them a special status in existing arrangements. The additional cost incurred in treating these patients through Zakat and Bait-ul-Mal can then be off-set by funds, which the government envisages allocating for health under the BISP and which currently, are earmarked for insurance.

If appropriately implemented this strategy will help achieve the objective of "improving access of target families of BISP to health care services" with far greater rigour, and efficiency compared to the health insurance route currently being explored.

In the proposed model, there would be no need to get into complex institutional reorganisation from the governance standpoint, which is needed to support the shift in health financing implicit in the new model being envisaged. The risk of alienating the departments of health would be minimised since strengthening the existing arrangements would also be in their interest. The potential of garnering their support as a result thereof would be high. Thorny considerations of commercial viability vis-à-vis returns on public investments would also become irrelevant.

Most importantly, the proposed model would not restrict 'covered' healthcare costs to Rs25,000, which is what the insurance ceiling will allow for a family per annum. Instead, it will allow financial risk protection against catastrophic health expenditures, which involve much higher healthcare costs. In fact, this in essence, should be the objective of any health-related social protection programme. Furthermore, the strategy could have a positive knock-on systems-wide effect given that this would also be an opportunity to address some of the systemic avenues for exploitation, which exist within current channels.

The argument in favour of health insurance for this population in terms of its potential to draw on the private sector to deliver state-financed services is also somewhat out of line. On that score, population-based data from Pakistan Social and Living Standard Measurement Survey is telling in relation to the predominant role of public hospitals for the category of services being considered. This further substantiates the need to strengthen social protection financing.

Here it is acknowledged that levering the outreach of the private sector for delivering essential services is a critically needed reform measure. But there are significant legislative and institutional implications, for which the ground is not prepared yet. It is also acknowledged that health insurance, per se, is an important health financing strategy with its own applications even in Pakistan's health system, where revenue is the main public means of financing health and that there are ways in which the base of social, private and community health insurance and Takaful can be broadened.

In sum, the standalone rationale and merit of the reform measures is not being questioned. It is a question of achieving clarity in the policy objective and structuring the most appropriate means of achieving that. If the priority is to financially risk-protect the poor for health and to do it in the most cost effective and straightforward manner, then the government must rethink its current technical approach. The discouraging response of insurance companies to the expression of interest for the programme, admitted by the BISP managers, is also evidence of the need to do so.

The writer is the author of a recently published book on health reform, Choked Pipes. Email:







It was interesting to read in the newspaper that the Punjab government had instituted a task force to conduct 'door-to-door Luxury Vehicle Tax recovery on imported cars'. Since I had never seen anything below a Mercedes C-Class bearing the emblem of the provincial government, I started musing on how comical a situation it would be if one of the chaps responsible for the 'recovery' turned up at one of the ministers' house for inspection and ended up losing his job.

The fact remains that the only people who manage to import exotic cars are those who hold important posts or those who have been facilitated by the people in office. How else is it possible to smuggle a nearly two-tonne piece of precision machinery that costs much more than an honest man makes in a lifetime into a country without a scratch or a dent? I doubt anybody in his or her right mind would trust a half-baked pirate and his rundown ship to do the job.

No, such people have no need to resort to such means. For them it's either a matter of making a phone call or writing a small cheque to the customs official at the dock. Corruption has become so widespread in our society that those who try to play it by the books get left behind.

But whose fault is it really that the rich find it so easy to get away with anything while the poor receive the brunt of our criticism for their moments of weakness or their desperation? It's easy for us to have generalised and short-sighted opinions about them, all the while remaining oblivious to the grinding machine that is our society, and how it perpetuates such negative attitudes among the people.

The minimum wage in the country stands at Rs7,000, while expenses exceed far beyond.

Food and water are common necessities, yet even those aren't guaranteed to the poor. A balanced diet should consist of the right amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibres, vitamins and minerals, but raising a family of seven (the average size of a family unit in Pakistan) with an income as low as Rs7,000, is a daunting task if not completely impossible.

The upper class is exploitative, and through its exploitation, it has driven the poor to the very edge of the abyss from where they can see no reason or rationale and their only instinct is to survive by whatever means necessary.

The financial gap is too great. The rich continue to get richer while the poor get poorer and poorer. It is becoming harder for people to uplift themselves as prices of basic commodities go up exponentially while their salaries remain at a standstill.

Several politicians, who I wouldn't care to name out of fear of my own security, continue to build extravagant and lavish houses all over the town, with the money they have earned sitting in air-conditioned assemblies, while the workers who toil in the sweltering heat, building castles for these people, cannot even be sure of a good meal, if any at all.

There is no party to fight for these people's rights. There is no Robin Hood going around stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. So, if we really leave them to fend for themselves in a system as harsh and unfair as this, shouldn't we expect the crime rate to go up and theft to become the new profession of the masses?

But alas, the government remains unsympathetic. A new guillotine by the name of Value Added Tax hangs precariously above our heads, and for those who cannot afford to pay it, may god be their saviour.

The writer is an A level student at Aitchison College, Lahore. Email:








Former president Pervez Musharraf's loyalists have started assembling under the banner of the All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML)–the latest addition to the ever-growing number of political parties in this polarised and politically divided country. However, the APML has been launched more with a whimper than a bang. So far, even those political heavyweights who were once close to Musharraf have stayed away from its ranks. It is the duo of Barrister Mohammed Ali Saif and Gen (r) Rashid Qureshi who are its most prominent faces.

For Musharraf, the loyalty of these two may be a source of solace, but in the world of electoral politics, their reach and effectiveness in organising and introducing a new platform remain questionable. Musharraf's fan following on Facebook may be in the tens of thousands, but when it comes to running a political party it is the team that matters. And Musharraf's team seemsed wanting at the launch. Even some of his aides termed the event a "soft-launch."

It is not just the apparent absence of a strong team which should be a matter of concern for Musharraf; it is the changed ground realities that will be the real challenge for him if he decides to return and take part in politics. After all, it is one thing to rule the country for almost a decade as an all-powerful army chief or president and a totally different thing to be an underdog. The experience can be traumatic.

Will Musharraf be able to take the heat and sustain the pressure in the presence of formidable opponents such as Nawaz Sharif and the militant groups backed by Al Qaeda and the Taliban which would be breathing down his neck? And that's not all–the judges of the superior courts will now be free to dispense justice. Meanwhile, the media would like to have its pound of flesh. Indeed, Musharraf will be walking through a political minefield if he really decides to return. Without the tactical support of the country's powerful institutions and his foreign friends, even the chances of his remaining afloat would be slim.

Apart from these inherent difficulties which Musharraf is likely to face when he starts his new political journey as a civilian, there are pertinent questions about the vision and scope of his party and its ability to make a difference on the political landscape of Pakistan.

If Musharraf's APML really takes off, will it provide a more democratic and honest leadership? Will its composition be any different from that of the major parties, dominated by feudal lords, powerful tribal chiefs, industrialists and traders? What different social, economic and political agenda will it offer? And, most importantly, will it be more pro-people?

The question of Musharraf's political future is also as important as the role, vision and political dynamics of his APML. At the age of 67 years, what miracles do his followers expect of him, none of which he could perform as the all-powerful military ruler of the country? Many of the choices he made and decisions he took undermined the very vision he announced after seizing power in October 1999. His political journey, which started with promises of restructuring the country's economy, politics and electoral system, is a sorry tale of political expediency and compromises.

No wonder most of Musharraf's legacy proved short-lived–from his desire to keep what he called corrupt politicians out of the ring to his much-trumpeted local bodies system. None could stand the test of times. When he left power, Pakistan was just as fragmented, divided and corrupt as it was before him. Only the level of violence and terrorism had increased despite the fact the Musharraf took the prudent decision of siding with the international community in the US-led war against terrorism.

However, his planned return to the political fray does not appear to be well-thought-out and promising.

Even the name Musharraf chose for his politics–All Pakistan Muslim League–is one of the most misused and abused names in our history. The party which led the independence movement under one of the most upright, honest and incorruptible leaders, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, perhaps died with him. And since his death in September 1948, some of Pakistan's most corrupt, opportunistic and undemocratic politicians have used the name of this party to serve their vested interests.

Even now, all the various factions of the Muslim League, including those of Nawaz Sharif, Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Pir Pagaro, to name a few, bear no resemblance to the party of the Quaid-e-Azam, which was driven by his vision for Pakistan. Musharraf in his heyday first patronised the PML-Q and then chose it to advance his political career. This is symbolic and reveals a lot about the future of the APML. It is eyeing leaders and workers of the PML-Q, its dissident faction and other smaller parties to build a base.

However, apart from the few third- and fourth-tier politicians who have joined Musharraf's party, the so-called heavyweights appear to be in a wait-and-see-mode despite assurances to the former president of their loyalty.

Musharraf could have a possible role in the larger scheme of things in Pakistani politics if the first- and second-tier politicians, who can beg votes on the basis of their personal strengths, start joining his party with the covert blessings of a section of the Pakistani establishment. But from the way things are developing, there are slim chances of this happening in the near future.

To expect Musharraf to conduct populist politics will be expecting too much of him. The problem is not just the fact that Musharraf's personality is not fit for this kind of politics, the issue is that the times have changed. Now, external factors will play a major role in determining whether he stays relevant or not.

Musharraf's second innings in politics promises to be on a much weaker and uncertain wicket. Does he have the resolve to deliver and make a difference? Enjoying a Facebook following and a large fan club is one thing, but translating it into political action is a different ballgame.


The writer is business editor, The News. Email:







The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

The outrage expressed by our mullah brigade over Nawaz Sharif's supporting words for Ahmedis after a terrorist attack that claimed the precious lives of over 80 Pakistanis belonging to this minority community establishes beyond doubt that this lot lacks compassion, is morally depraved and yet audacious about preaching and practicing bigotry. The mullah reaction to Nawaz Sharif's statement calling Ahmedis our brothers and sisters and an asset for Pakistan provides support to the urgent need for actively working toward rendering these self-proclaimed guardians of religious and moral values irrelevant in our polity. What kind of human beings cannot find it in their heart to express support and sympathy for families of innocent fellow citizens who have lost their lives in a place of worship?

As Ahmedis have been declared to be a minority sect, does the preamble of our Constitution not state that, "adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities"? Does Article 2A not mandate that, "adequate provisions shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures"? Does Article 20 not furnish the guarantee that, "each citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion"? And does Article 25 not document the foundational principle that forms the basis of the contract between the citizen and the state when it reiterates that, "all citizens are equal, before law and are entitled to equal protection of law"?

How many incidents of terror against Ahmedis and subsequent exhibition of abject callousness by self-proclaimed guardians of faith will it take for us to acknowledge that we are rubbishing our Constitutional guarantee of equality amongst citizens? How many cases of violence and arson targeting Christian households will it take for us to realize that we have become a society where even the right to life of those professing a faith other than Islam remains at the mercy of angry mobs? How many false blasphemy charges and asylum petitions in foreign countries will make us realize that we have institutionalized religious persecution in Pakistan?

And yet knowing fully well that our blasphemy law is prone to abuse, no government or political party is willing to cause amends out of fear of instigating our mouth-frothing mullah brigade. If Mr Sharif, as head of the largest mainstream center-right party, cannot sympathize with a minority community without attracting the wrath of the mullah brigade as well as allegations of apostasy, what does "the right to profess, practice and propagate" one's religion mean even for ordinary Muslims in Pakistan?

It is about time we engage in a candid debate about the desirable role of religion in the state and the society. What does Article 2 of the Constitution mean when it states that, "Islam shall be the state religion of Pakistan"? This article needs to be read together with Article 2A, which states that, "Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah." Article 31 further requires the state to "provide facilities whereby [Muslims of Pakistan] may be enabled to understand the meaning of life according to the Holy Quran and Sunnah." And then Article 227 mandates that, "all existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such injunctions".

Notwithstanding the arguments against Article 2 and the desirability of being a Muslim state as opposed to an Islamic state, the Constitution in its existing form only endorses a 'minimalist' approach to religion. One, it unequivocally provides that non-Muslims are equal citizens with all attendant rights and liberties. And two, even its Islamic provisions require that (i) laws in conflict with Islamic injunctions be struck down, and (ii) Muslims be 'enabled' to live their lives in accordance with Islamic teachings. If the Constitution were to take a maximalist view of Islamizing the state and society, it would have mandated that 'Muslims shall live their lives in accordance with the teachings of Islam.'

Thus, despite documenting the primacy of Islam as the majority religion, the state's role under the Constitution remains that of a facilitator i.e. of making provisions to enable people to practice Islam in their individual lives if they so wish, without authorizing the state to enforce religion. Unfortunately, when it comes to non-Muslim citizens, the constitutional promise of equality has been turned into a farce, and when it comes to Muslims, the distinction between facilitating religion and enforcing religion has been lost on us. Together, this makes us an intolerant society wherein obscurantist views and practices thrive. But the cure for bigotry and intolerance doesn't lie in adding or deleting various texts from the Constitution and laws of Pakistan. Such amendments will need to be the consequence of social renaissance and change, and not its cause.

And such social change cannot be instilled without reconsidering our approach to religion, person liberties of citizens and the composition of the mullah brigade that has annexed to itself the right to speak in the name of God and shove their wishes and whims down other people's throats. Our society has reconciled with an approach to religion that is coercive and embraced a class of preachers that is uneducated, economically vulnerable and socially backward. For example, as primary school students, we had a Quran tutor who sold candies on the side for subsistence. Tired of his work as a street hawker between prayers, he would regularly dose off while we read the Quran. He brought along a 'hunter' (a wire contraption for disciplining purposes) that he would occasionally use.

Even at a young age one had a sense that he commanded no respect socially and could certainly not be mistaken as a role model when it came to moral or ethical values. During secondary and high school the Islamic studies teacher was better. But even his approach to inspiring students to abide by religious edicts was based in instilling in each one of us the fear of hell. The experience during the Friday congregation is no different. Even if one doesn't dread an imminent terrorist attack, the pain of sitting through a sermon comprising the prayer leaders self-righteous political thoughts and pristine worldview is excruciating. Notwithstanding Ziaul Haq'a antics and introduction of Islamic Studies at all levels, the nature of formal religious instruction one gets in school and college can hardly be called education. And this is the state of our premier educational institutions. The excessive entanglement of young madrassa students with terrorism and violence only highlights the kind of monstrosities most of our madrassas have become.

As a society, we have allowed the understanding and propagation of God's divine message to be relegated to a mullah brigade that constitutes the more uninformed, unenlightened and regressive section of our society. As a state, we refuse to afford protection to anyone professing and practicing religion in a manner that challenges the views held by this blighted mullah brigade. As a consequence, the ability of the mullah to define the contours of religious debate and his hegemony over the meaning and purpose of God's message has become firmly entrenched. This will need to be changed urgently if we wish to cure the afflictions of religious coercion, intolerance and violence that haunt us on a daily basis. The policy of not confronting the mullah, his proclaimed monopoly over matters of religion, and his retrograde worldview is simply not viable any longer if we wish to become a society that values and protects human life and liberty.









PRIME Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has once again talked about the need for national consensus and reconciliation, this time over the issue of implementation of the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Chairing a meeting on Thursday held to review the status of the implementation of the vital Amendment, he pointed out that the landmark Amendment was adopted with consensus and hoped that the same spirit would be demonstrated in its practical implementation.

The reconciliatory approach adopted by the Prime Minister would surely go a long way in smooth implementation of the provisions of the 18th Amendment. No doubt, things have been made pretty clear in the Amendment but differences do crop up when it comes to translation of the written words into practical actions. There is a huge task of transferring assets, funds and authority to the provinces which would strengthen provincial autonomy and there could be differences over interpretation of different provisions and clauses, as we have witnessed in the case of imposition of Value Added Tax (VAT) where the Centre and the Sindh Government were unable to synchronize their positions despite several rounds of intensive negotiations. However, we are sure that in the presence of the Prime Minister, who has, with the passage of time, emerged as a trouble shooter, issues that may crop up would be sorted out amicably and in the spirit of national reconciliation. Already, this highly laudable policy of Mr Gilani has helped avert or dilute serious crises at different points of time during the last two years. Every time, when a showdown between pillars of the State or interest groups seemed imminent, the Prime Minister took initiative to save the situation not only for his own party but also for the sake of the system and the State. It is because of the Prime Minister's soft-pedaling that he has created an enviable place for him even in the present highly complex and treacherous environment. He enjoys good relations not only with the Opposition and the provincial leadership but also with those who represent other powerful pillars of the State. It is worth mentioning that tension has been prevailing between the Executive and the Judiciary because of short-sighted conduct of some people in the Government but the Prime Minister's goodwill gestures and remarks even evoked favourable response from the worthy Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who gave repeated assurances that the courts were not a threat to the system. There is extreme polarization in the country which became evident once again because of the extremist conduct of some political parties and figures over the issue of Kalabagh Dam and also the other fissiparous tendencies that surface here and there. In this backdrop, the serious, mature and cool handling of the situation by the Prime Minister is a blessing for the country and we pray others too follow his footsteps for the sake of larger national interests.







CHAIRMAN Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Tariq Majid's well-prepared and well-worded speech, delivered at a convocation of the National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad on Thursday echoed national sentiments and aspirations over the issue of the country's nuclear programme, which remains focus of our enemy for obvious reasons. The General, who is known for his straight-forward statements, has touched those aspects of the issue that raise concerns, off and on, among people of Pakistan due to venomous propaganda launched by anti-Pakistan lobbies and rebutted criticism of the country's nuclear policy and programme in the strongest possible terms.


Though Pakistan has a consistent policy on issues of non-proliferation, nuclear safety and deterrence yet General Tariq Majid has made categorical and unambiguous statement, not only galvanising the stand of the country but also poured cold water on designs of our enemies. The most striking aspect of his policy statement related to the global plan to clip wings of the nuclear Pakistan through the trap of Fissile Material Treaty (FMT). Without mincing any words, he has pointed out that the proposed FMT was Pakistan-specific and, therefore, not acceptable to the country. It is regrettable that for the last three decades efforts are being made to push forward only Pakistan-specific instruments in the realm of nuclear proliferation. As Pakistan's nuclear programme has crossed all thresholds and reached to a point of no-roll-back, FMT net is being laid to achieve this objective through denial of access or production of fissile material over a period of time. This is in sharp contrast to the attitude of the world powers towards India which is being supplied not only dubious nuclear technology but also the fissile material, enabling it to pile up enough material for decades to come. Similarly, General Majid has rightly pointed out that the issue of security of our nuclear weapons and assets has become a non-issue and the world should move beyond that. It may also be pointed out that the Pakistani nation is indeed indebted to the time-tested friend China that is providing the much-needed cooperation in the form of civilian nuclear technology. Beijing has rejected American criticism of Sino-Pak nuclear cooperation by declaring that it would go ahead with its plans to build two new reactors for the country. The statement came as the Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was in China on a productive visit aimed at forging collaboration between the two countries.







FOLLOWING worldwide condemnation of its aggression against the peace flotilla meant to express solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza, the Jewish State appears to be moving towards easing of the illegal and immoral restrictions on movement of goods in and out of Gaza. The Israeli Cabinet is reported to have taken a decision to add more items that would be allowed entry into the region besieged for the last three years.

Israel and its patrons are trying to project the new development as big concession for people of Gaza but in reality the measure exposes the cruel nature of the crippling restrictions imposed by Tel Aviv. The items that were previously banned and now allowed entry into Gaza include things like chocolate, spices, potato chips, toys and juices, betraying claims of Israel that the blockade was aimed at preventing flow of weapons and materials that could help Hamas strengthen its position. Even now, most of the items of daily use and much-needed construction material are now allowed despite a UN appeal for the same to allow people of Gaza rebuild their homes destroyed by Israel during attack on the territory last year. Anyhow, whatever change is visible in the attitude of Israel is mainly because of the bold initiative of Turkey that arranged the peace flotilla and also gave sacrifices for the noble cause. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not stop at that and to express complete solidarity with the cause of people in distress in Gaza, he has recalled his Ambassador from Tel Aviv and at one time he even announced to lead another aid flotilla. We salute the upright stand adopted by the Turkish leadership despite various odds and hope that other members of the Ummah would also adopt the same approach in similar circumstances.









An American citizen by the name Gary Brooks Faulkner has been arrested in FATA near Pakistan-Afghan border. He is reported to have told police a 'cock and bull' story that he was searching for Osama Bin Laden. He was carrying a gun, a sword, a dagger and night vision goggles, which Pakistan army did not have till recently. Of course, the real motive of his odyssey to Pakistan would be known only after investigation, but there is a possibility that American embassy would intervene like it did for other diplomatic personnel who were apprehended roaming around with sophisticated weapons showing utter disregard to Pakistani law. US embassy may try to convince Pakistan that he was just a crazy person, therefore he should be released. The question could be asked that when Faisal Shehzad is arrested in America, all fingers of accusation are pointed towards Pakistan. It is possible that an accused tells lies to avoid harsh methods employed by American intelligence, but the media without waiting for the findings of investigations pass judgments that Pakistan is either behind these elements or it is not doing enough to control extremists.

According to news agency report, the 52-year-old California construction worker arrived in the picturesque mountain border province of Chitral on 3rd June, which borders the Taliban stronghold of Nuristan in Afghanistan, After hotel security guards noticed he had vanished on Sunday night, a search party was dispatched. After a 10-hour manhunt they found Faulker some 14 kilometers (9 miles) from the Afghan border, according to police official Mumtaz Ahmad Khan. Faulkner was also carrying night vision goggles and a dagger to go along with his sword and a gun. Agency report adds: "He has since been shifted to police custody in Peshawar, capital of the Khyber Pakthunkwa province. US bloggers have latched on to his story, calling Faulkner an 'American ninja' and a Christian warrior to downplay his guilt. Richard Snelsire, a US embassy spokesman, has said that the US consulate in Peshawar is aware that a US citizen has been detained and is seeking consular access.

According to press reports, the Obama administration has decided to object to a Sino-Pak civilian nuclear deal for establishing two atomic reactors in Pakistan when it comes before the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting in New Zealand next week. The plea is that it will violate international guidelines forbidding nuclear exports to countries that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or do not have international safeguards on reactors. State Department spokesman Gordon DuGuid said the US government "has reiterated to the Chinese government that the United States expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations". One does not understand why the US and the West prop India and NSG waives conditions when it is a matter with India, but jump into action when Pakistan tries to sign similar nuclear agreement with China, especially when Pakistan had requested India to ink similar agreement with Pakistan.

The US and western countries have an egregious record of displaying double standards - one for them and their strategic partners and the other one for those who refuse to fall in line with the agenda to promote their interests. Whereas the US in the past had been critical of Pakistan's peace accords with the Taliban in Waziristan and Swat on the pretext that by doing so an opportunity was provided to them to reorganize, President Barack Obama had more than once expressed his wish to make some arrangements with saner elements in Afghan Taliban before the congressional elections. Anyhow, a diplomatic source said that negotiations with the tribal groupings of the Taliban foot soldiers were already taking place. And the Americans had contacted such groups in Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktia and Paktika provinces. Similar talks were also held with Afghan militant leader Gulbadin Hekmatyar because 'they never had any link to Al Qaeda', one senior diplomat said.

The big powers indeed have their own imperatives or compulsions, and even when they are allies they become nonaligned, as the US and the western countries did during 1965 and 1971 wars between India and Pakistan. The US may have set its own priorities but, apparently, every issue seems to be important to the super power, be it war against terror, nuclear non-proliferation, narcotics control or containing China - if not now then at a later stage. The US and the West will continue changing stances as and when it suits them. Anyhow, the way the US has treated Pakistan - a friend that stood by its allies for about half-a-century, got dismembered as a result of its involvement in military pacts, and even risked its very existence by becoming the frontline state against another super power during the Afghan crisis - is deplorable.

By entering into strategic partnership and inking nuclear deal with India, the US leadership had not only disappointed Pakistan but also spawned despondency in Kashmir, And this led to disturb the balance in South Asia to the chagrin of Pakistan and small countries in the region. American journal 'The New Yorker' has published a report from Seymour Hersh titled 'Pakistan Nuclear Security Plan', about alleged vulnerability of Pakistan's nuclear assets and facilities. Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Tariq Majid has dismissed the report as 'absurd and plain mischievous'. He said Pakistan did not need any foreign help to guard its nuclear facilities because they were already well-protected. The statement said: "As overall custodian of the development of our strategic programme, I reiterate in very unambiguous terms that there is absolutely no question of sharing or allowing any foreign individual, entity or a state, any access to sensitive information about our nuclear assets. Our engagement with other countries through the International Atomic Energy Agency or bilaterally is to learn more about best practices for security of such assets and are based on two clearly spelt-out red lines - on intrusiveness and our right to pick and choose."

In May 2009, CIA Director Leon Panetta had said that the United States does not know the location of Pakistan's nuclear weapons but is confident the country has secured them. The CIA director was asked about Pakistan's nuclear programme at a forum organized by the Pacific Council on International Policy days after his 'evidence' that Pakistan was adding to its nuclear weapons systems and warheads. One does not understand the unwarranted concern about Pakistan's nukes when Pakistan is only pursuing its minimum deterrent policy in the face of threats from a hostile neighbour. Pakistan's political and military leadership however should ponder over the fact that Indian RAW has been given free hand to fund insurgents in Balochistan and FATA.

The CIA and the RAW, with the support of terrorist state Israel's Mossad had last year created another intelligence setup in Afghanistan namely Research and Analysis Milli Afghanistan (RAMA), and all of them have coalesced to destabilize Pakistan. Against this backdrop, Pakistan cannot lower its guard, and would counter intrigues against it.








Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia, bordering Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The mountainous region of the Tian Shan covers over 80% of the country; Kyrgyzstan is occasionally referred to as "the Switzerland of Central Asia", as a result, with the remainder made up of valleys and basins. Bishkek in the north is the capital and largest city, with approximately 900,000 inhabitants. The second city is the ancient town of Osh, located in the Fergana Valley near the border with Uzbekistan, which is the location of the current rioting. The nation's largest ethnic group is the Kyrgyz, a Turkic people, who comprise 69% of the population. Other ethnic groups include Russians (9.0%) concentrated in the north and Uzbeks (14.5%) living in the south. Small but noticeable minorities include Tartars (1.9%), Uyghurs (1.1%), Tajiks (1.1%), Kazakhs (0.7%), and Ukrainians (0.5%), and other smaller ethnic minorities (1.7%). The population of Kyrgyzstan is 80% Muslim, 17% Russian Orthodox and 3% other. During Soviet times, state atheism was encouraged. Today, however, Kyrgyzstan is a secular state, although Islam has exerted a growing influence in politics.

The Kyrgyz are mentioned some centuries earlier in the Chinese chronicles, particularly in 201 BC under the name Gegun, which is a Mongolian term, and has the singular form "Kyrkun". The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Uyghur Khanate in 840 A.D. With the rise of the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century, the Kyrgyz migrated south, but were conquered by Genghis Khan in 1207. In the late nineteenth century, the majority part of what is today Kyrgyzstan was ceded to Russia through 2 treaties between China and Russia in 1876. Soviet power was initially established in the region in 1919. On 5 December 1936, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic was established as a full republic of the Soviet Union. In 1989 protests flared up against the discriminatory policy of the Soviet government directed at pushing ethnic Kyrgyz inhabitants out of major cities, which could then be occupied by new settlers from Russia and the other Soviet republics According to the last Soviet census in 1989, ethnic Kyrgyz made up some 22 percent of the residents of Frunze (Bishkek), while more than 60 percent were Russians, Ukrainians, and people from other Slavic nations. Kyrgyzstan was the most Russified republic in the Soviet Union, according to the census, as more than 36 percent of all Kyrgyz citizens said Russian was their first language.

In June 1990, ethnic tensions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz surfaced in the Osh Oblast, where Uzbeks form a majority of the population. Violent confrontations ensued, and a state of emergency and curfew were introduced. Order was not restored until August 1990. In December 1990, the Supreme Soviet voted to change the republic's name to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. On 21 December 1991, Kyrgyzstan joined with the other four Central Asian Republics to formally enter the new Commonwealth of Independent States. Kyrgyzstan gained full independence a few days later on 25 December 1991. The following day, 26 December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

The tensions that had been simmering in the Central Asian State of Kyrgyzstan, since April this year after the ouster of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has finally erupted in the form of full scale violence. Several instances of ethnic violence in Central Asia during the past 20 years are indirectly attributed to borders drawn between Soviet republics by communist dictator Josef Stalin. Historians say those borders were created on purpose to divide and conquer ethnic groups by pitting them against one another. Many Uzbeks and interim Kyrgyz President Rosa Otunbayeva are blaming the latest round of unrest on ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, whose base of support was in southern Kyrgyzstan. Ms. Otunbayeva says his motive is to disrupt a constitutional referendum on reducing presidential powers scheduled for later this month. The violence that has erupted between the ethnic groups of Uzbeks and Kyrgyz people, has taken a toll of more than 100 deaths and over 1600 injured. Both the US and Russia maintain air bases in Kyrgyzstan. In northern Kyrgyzstan we find the Manas Air Base which is used in the supply line for a large portion of the supplies and troops between the US and Afghanistan. Occasionally there is a ground supply route through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan, but this is closed periodically as it is vulnerable to attack. It was closed seven times last year. The Manas air base is therefore a critical doorway to the Afghan corridor. Without it, the Americans would be restricted in attempting to continue their engagement. Since U.S. President Obama decided to expand the war in the Afghan theatre, its importance has sharply increased. Russian air base in Kyrgyzstan, the Kant Air Base, makes Kyrgyzstan one of the few countries with the distinction of being a home to both superpowers. News that "United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself" is likely to affect the fate of Kyrgyzstan too. The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe. An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium," a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

This would considerably alter the exit plans of USA and the Kyrgyz imbroglio needs to be watched closely as both the US and Russia have so far made little or no efforts to stop the rioting calling it an internal matter of the Kyrgyz people. Perhaps there is more than what meets the eye in the current situation.








The perception regarding widening gulf between Pakistan and US relationship is increasing manifold day by day due to some irresponsible statements of officials in relation to war on terror, Pakistan Nukes, democracy, Intelligence and security agencies. American intelligence agencies even sometime never did intelligence sharing with the host authorities despite carrying out operations from Pakistani territory. In this connection, the incident of U-2 of the past and drone attacks of the currant era are the examples of miss trust between two states. Gareth Porter writes in story , "the U.S, Central Intelligence's refusal to share with other agencies even the most basic data on the bombing attacks by remote-controlled unmanned predator drones in Pakistan's northwestern tribal religion, combined with recent revelations that CIA operatives have been paying Pakistan to identify the targets, suggest that managers of the drone attacks programmes have been using the total secrecy surrounding the programme to hide abuses and high civilian causalities.

At the same time it might not be wrong of acknowledging from the outset that our foreign policy makers have never kept national interests on the forefront while making policy and establishing international relations. Most of the time international relations and foreign policy have been prepared while keeping in view the whimsical approach of the rulers. Though, Pakistan since her inception joined American and western block but somehow trust deficit in diplomatic relations between them somehow could not be reduced. At the end of cold war in 1990, Pakistan lost precious time in adjusting to the new realities in the changed world. The world is in the midst of radical transformation and it has posed new challenges to Pakistan's role in regional and global affairs.

In the contemporary time Pakistan has also been placed in a very precarious position and new International/Regional environments has under gone a major transformation over the last couple of years. The post