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Sunday, June 20, 2010

EDITORIAL 20.06.10

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: editorial@samarth.co.in 

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month june 20, edition 000544 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

  1. BHOPAL HAS RETURNED FROM THE DEAD - CHANDAN MITRA
  2. MERITS OF BEING A STAID PARTY - SWAPAN DASGUPTA
  3. RIP VAN WINKLES WAKE UP TO BHOPAL - KANCHAN GUPTA

MAIL TODAY

  1. RAILWAY RECRUITMENT SCAM A WAKE UP CALL FOR MAMATA
  2. SIBAL'S RIGHT ON THE BUTTON
  3. CANING IS BRUTAL NOT PEDAGOGIC - BY PALASH KRISHNA MEHROTRA
  4. PRESCRIPTIONS  - RITU BHATIA
  5. CASH- STRAPPED STATES  - BY KAVITA CHOWDHURY IN NEW DELHI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. 'I HAVE NO TAKE ON SUPREME COURT'S VERDICT ON CARBIDE'
  2. G20 SHOULD BE T20, GLOBAL TRUSTEE
  3. KAMALESH SHARMA & ABDOU DIOU
  4. PRISONERS OF INDIA-PAK CONFLICT
  5. MAKING POWER AS THE SUN SHINES  - SHOBHA JOHN
  6. SELLING FAMILY SILVER TO FUND PROFLIGACY - SWAMINATHAN S NKLESARIA AIYAR
  7. ANDERSON LAUGHED AT INDIAN LAW AND STATE - M J AKBAR
  8. IDENTITY CRISIS OF A SCHOOL FOR 'GENTLEMEN' - SWAPAN DASGUPTA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. IN DEFENCE OF RAJIV - KARAN THAPAR
  2. HEAT AND GAS - INDRAJIT HAZRA
  3. TRAN-SPORTED  - SOUMYA BHATTACHARYA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. 'IF THE MINISTER GETS INVOLVED IN THE DAY TO DAY RUNNING OF TRAINS, THAT'S A DISASTROUS SIGNAL'
  2. MARKETING AS MANIPULATION - SHOMBIT SENGUPTA
  3. NOT ANOTHER REPORT - TAVLEEN SINGH
  4. IT'S NOBODY'S FAULT - MEGHNAD DESAI
  5. BADMINTON IS NOT CRICKET - COOMI KAPOOR
  6. ISN'T IT IRONIC?

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. OVERSEEING PHARMA MERGERS THROUGH COMPETITION LENS? - PRADEEP S MEHTA
  2. MARKETING AS MANIPULATION - SHOMBIT SENGUPTA
  3. YUVRAJ SINGH: THE COMEBACK MAN - BORIA MAJUMDAR
  4. CASE OF EURO CRISIS, BREAK DEUTSCHE MARK GLASS - MARK GILBERT

THE HINDU

  1. IT WAS I WHO LOST, NOT GANDHIJI - DHIRENDRA SHARMA
  2. THERE'S A FULL MOON OVER INDIA AND GANDHI LIVES AGAIN… - KUSUM CHADDA
  3. THE AIR WAS THICK WITH TOXIC FUMES AND PEOPLE LEFT THE CITY IN DROVES - CHARUKESI
  4. NOT FLOWERS, BUT FLAMES OF BHOPAL - SANDHYA BANDA

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. SPARE THE ROD, SAVE THE CHILD
  2. 25 YEARS OF NEGLECT - ARUN NEHRU
  3. A BABU'S LEGACY - DILIP CHERIAN

DNA

  1. SHAREHOLDER VALUE IS FAILING AS A MANTRA - R JAGANNATHAN 
  2. FREEDOM'S BLARING HORN - ROGER COHEN
  3. MESSAGE FOR CHINA FROM THAILAND'S RED SHIRTS - DANIEL A BELL

THE TRIBUNE

  1. POLICE LOSING BATTLE AGAINST CRIME
  2. NRIS' PROBLEMS: A COMPOSITE INDIAN LAW NEEDED - BY RANJIT MALHOTRA
  3. MURDER FOR 'HONOUR' - BY RAJBIR DESWAL
  4. BEFITTING HONOUR FOR SUBBA RAO - BY HARIHAR SWARUP
  5. MIG 21 IS NO FLYING COFFIN: BALDEV SINGH - BY SHUBHADEEP CHOUDHURY

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. MURPHY'S LAW AND KARMA
  2. HEEDING THE CALL OF THE AFRICAN CONTINENT - NEHA CHOWDHRY
  3. NET ASSESSMENT IN DEFENCE POLICY - DHRUVA JAISHANKAR
  4. SREELATHA MENON: MEDIA OF THE MASSES - SREELATHA MENON
  5. 'DEVELOPMENT SHOULD NOT BE A ZERO-SUM GAME' - NIRUPAMA RAO

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. SELLING FAMILY SILVER TO FUND PROFLIGACY: S A AIYAR
  2. BROADBAND WIRELESS ACCESS

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. SPARE THE ROD, SAVE THE CHILD
  2. 25 YEARS OF NEGLECT - BY ARUN NEHRU
  3. THE THRILL IN OBAMA-US MARRIAGE IS GONE - BY CHARLES M.
  4. A BABU'S LEGACY  - BY DILIP CHERIAN
  5. 'NO OPPOSITION JUST FOR SAKE OF IT'  
  6. A BABU'S LEGACY - BY DILIP CHERIAN

THE STATESMAN

  1. SELLING A LEGACY
  2. TOWER 'BLINDED' 
  3. BIRTHDAY APPEAL
  4. NEITHER FISH NOR FLESH - MARTIN KÄMPCHEN
  5. URBANE ANGST - ISHAN JOSHI
  6. 'GAMES WILL IMPROVE IMAGE OF INDIA'
  7. WHY BERLIN CANNOT FORGET THE STASI – TONY PATERSON

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. NEITHER AGE NOR CUSTOM
  2. TO SCHOOL ON AN ELEPHANT - MALAVIKA KARLEKAR

DECCAN HERALD

  1. STATE'S LARGESSE TO HELP IN TN TEMPLE RENOVATION
  2. M R VENKATESH IN CHENNAI
  3. A HARDER NUT TO CRACK - MAHESH UPPAL

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. NOT TOO LATE TO HELP GUSH KATIF EVACUEES
  2. MY WORD: WHEN IRISH EYES AREN'T SMILING - BY LIAT COLLINS
  3. A PEACEMAKING LESSON FROM THE PEOPLE OF DERRY - BY RORY FITZGERALD
  4. POLAND'S PRISONER DILEMMA - BY SHAI BAITEL

HAARETZ

  1. ISRAEL OR IMMANUEL?
  2. QUIET OVER BROOKLYN
  3. BY SHLOMO SHAMIR TAGS: ISRAEL NEWS
  4. GIVE THEM AN INQUIRY - BY ZVI BAR'EL
  5. THE PATRIOT - BY GIDEON LEVY TAGS: ISRAEL NEWS
  6. THE CHALLENGES OF A ONE-STATE SOLUTION - BY CARLOS STRENGER
  7. NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO SCAPEGOAT ISRAELIS WHO ARE CRITICAL OF ISRAEL - BY DANIEL SOKATCH AND RACHEL LIEL

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. ANOTHER BAD IDEA FROM ARIZONA
  2. CONGRESS DEFENDS THE BIG GUYS
  3. BASICS FOR HAITI
  4. THE HALF-LIFE OF PHONES
  5. LETTER FROM ISTANBUL, PART 2 - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  6. CLEAN THE GULF, CLEAN HOUSE, CLEAN THEIR CLOCK - BY FRANK RICH
  7. WEDDINGS FOR EVERYBODY! - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  8. IN IRELAND, TUESDAY'S GRACE - BY BONO
  9. MY FATHER'S GIFT TO ME - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  10. THE MAN WHO LEFT, THE FATHER WHO CAME BACK - BY RICHARD SNOW
  11. THE TOYS ARE US - BY DAVID HAJDU
  12. GENERATIONS IN THE BALANCE - BY DANIEL JUDT AND TONY JUDT

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. THE INDEPENDECRITICISM BEYOND THE PALE
  2. WANT ECONOMIC BOOM?
  3. WARNING LABEL ON THE CONSTITUTION?
  4. THE FEDERAL PEANUT PATROL
  5. A DIFFERENT KIND OF 'TOURISM'

I.THE NEWS

  1. BANKING BUSINESS
  2. ANOTHER SCAM
  3. BOLD AS BRASS
  4. ON MEETING FAMOUS PEOPLE - AAKAR PATEL
  5. ON CONSENSUAL ISLAM - ARSHAD ZAMAN
  6. CAPITAL SUGGESTION - DR FARRUKH SALEEM
  7. A BONFIRE OF OUR DEGREES - GHAZI SALAHUDDIN
  8. OVER THE TOP - MASOOD HASAN

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. HAFEEZ TALKS OF RISKY FUTURE
  2. RECOVERY OF PLUNDERED WEALTH
  3. DANGER OF DERAILMENT OF DEMOCRACY
  4. THE ECONOMY IS BLEEDING - DR ZAFAR ALTAF
  5. TIMES SQ, OPERATION NWA & CONSEQUENCES - IFTIKHAR BUTT
  6. NEED TO TIE LOOSE ENDS! - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  7. ISRAEL'S TERRORISM -MUHAMMAD AZAM
  8. TURKEY'S GAIN IS IRAN'S LOSS - BERNARD HAYKEL

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE MENTAL HEALTH STORY THAT WON'T GO AWAY

THE KOREA TIMES

  1. 'PILOT KILLERS'
  2. STILL TOO EARLY
  3. CAN EMERGING MARKETS SAVE WORLD ECONOMY? - BY MOHAMED A. EL-ERIAN AND MICHAEL SPENCE
  4. HOW CAN US GET ITS MOJO BACK? - BY ANN MCFEATTERS
  5. SENATE RUNNING OUT OF ENERGY - BY DALE MCFEATTERS

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. ADAPTING TO THE DIGITAL AGE
  2. A NEW TOKYO LANDMARK
  3. A PRESUMPTUOUS COMMAND OF OIL - BY KEVIN RAFFERTY
  4. TRY TO IMAGINE IF NUCLEAR DETERRENCE FAILED - BY DAVID KRIEGER

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. THE WEEK IN REVIEW: DEMOCRATS 0 - GOLKAR 3
  2. SOCCER AND POLITICS
  3. JENNIE S. BEV, SAN FRANCISCO
  4. IF YOU WANT TO PERFORM SELF-SURGERY - NURY VITTACHI 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

BHOPAL HAS RETURNED FROM THE DEAD

THE UNION GOVERNMENT IS SET TO BUY SILENCE THROUGH FRESH PAYOUTS TO KEEP THE CONGRESS'S GUILTY SECRETS UNDER WRAPS

CHANDAN MITRA


Unusually for an event that happened more than 25 years ago, the Bhopal gas tragedy has dominated mindspace for two full weeks since the trial court pronounced its verdict on the guilty men on Monday, June 7. Once the judgement came, skeletons began to tumble out of a range of cupboards, causing acute embarrassment to the Government in Delhi as well as the Congress. The Prime Minister acted with uncharacteristic political acumen by quickly constituting a Group of Ministers (GoM) under workaholic Home Minister P Chidambaram and it seems its report will indeed be submitted within the stipulated 10-day deadline.


The likely contents of the GoM report are not difficult to anticipate. In fact, the most important part has already emerged with the suggestion that the Planning Commission will release Rs 984 crore as grant for rehabilitation, compensation, cleaning up and other leftover jobs of the humungous tragedy. Two rounds of compensation have already been distributed to the victims, ranging between Rs 10 lakh for the families of the deceased to Rs 50,000 for those marginally affected. Having visited Bhopal thrice in the last 10 days, I found that the victims do not seriously expect money to come their way. Most have managed to rebuild their lives; even though anger persists, optimism does not flow in abundance.


The gas leak devastated some of the poorest parts of the city, inhabited largely by Muslims. It is a measure of their resilience, ironically moulded by fatalism that enabled them to revert to their homes and jobs as they tired of waiting for official largesse to come their way. Another dose of compensation will obviously be welcome but nearly 26 years after the event the money can hardly be expected to reach those who most needed it in the tragedy's aftermath. In fact, over 3,000 listed victims are yet to collect their dues because they have left what they believed was an accursed city and migrated elsewhere.


Therefore, additional compensation is not the core issue as we revisit Bhopal 1984. Arguably, there are ongoing concerns over rehabilitation, reclamation of the devastated localities, relocation of toxic waste, and regeneration of groundwater contaminated by the seepage of chemicals. It is unbelievable that after more than two decades even the waste has not been shifted out of Bhopal because authorities continue to quibble over who should pay for it and where it should be dumped. While the Government contends that Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemicals) must bear the costs, the company cites various judgements to say that its responsibility is over. The Madhya Pradesh Government has started to remove the waste but the chosen location, on the outskirts of the industrial town of Pithampura, is being resisted.


NGOs continue to cry hoarse over groundwater contamination around the UCC plant, but the State Government says it spent Rs 14 crore laying pipelines to provide clean water to these colonies so that they don't have to tap groundwater. Interestingly, property developers seem to have decided that the vicinity of the erstwhile factory is a perfect spot to construct high-rise apartment blocks. Accordingly land prices there have gone up significantly.


To my mind, these are nuts-and-bolts issues that should have been resolved long ago but weren't thanks to proverbial bureaucratic sloth. Hopefully, the new package will pave the way for these matters to be sorted out without further delay. Basically, there are two facets to the reopening of the Bhopal case — administrative and political. While the administrative lapses have no doubt been Himalayan, we are probably heading towards closure on these issues. But the political aspect has got revived in a big way and till convincing answers are given to the queries raised in the last fortnight, the ghosts of Bhopal will not be excised.


Three things are clear. First, Warren Anderson came to India by arrangement with the Government, having been assured "safe passage" by the Ministry of External Affairs in consultation with the political leadership. Second, the Central Government ordered the State Government to give instant bail to Anderson when he was put under house arrest in Bhopal, and flew him back to Delhi by official aircraft where and he interacted with senior officials during the brief sojourn. Third, despite the specious arguments advanced by the ruling party, Anderson could not have flown in and out of India without the knowledge and consent of the highest political authority, namely, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.


It is apparent that the Government went out of its way to appease Union Carbide and its then chairman in the purported belief that bending backwards would open the flow of US investments to India. This assessment belied the sycophantic mindset of India's foreign policy establishment as well as political leadership. The fear of annoying Uncle Sam was so all pervasive that the Congress threw caution to the winds and treated Anderson as if he were a visiting Head of State! In that sense, the Indian Establishment equated one US-based multinational company with the US Administration. Is it surprising that stories are being carefully planted about then President Ronald Reagan having a telephonic chat with Rajiv Gandhi, presumably to direct the Prime Minister to fall in line? Incidentally, this was first hinted at by Congress general-secretary Digvijay Singh who has since been asked to shut up.


On the backfoot, the Congress has tied itself up in knots. Mr Pranab Mukherjee's semi-credible claim that Anderson had to be "rescued" from Bhopal because of a law and order threat has now been completely contradicted by the interview to CNN-IBN by Mr MK Rasgotra, former Foreign Secretary. Initially, the effort was to put the blame on then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh so that Rajiv Gandhi could be portrayed as a babe in the woods who knew nothing of the shenanigans of his partymen. This incredible line of defence fell apart almost instantly and now Mr Arjun Singh is threatening to bare all! PV Narasimha Rao was dragged into the picture as the next fall guy but a robust riposte from his son seems to have smothered that diversionary tactic.


The fact is that the Congress cannot run away from the guilt of Bhopal. It seriously underestimated the extent of the tragedy and was happy when former Chief Justice AM Ahmadi converted the case into one caused by negligence, that is, an accident. It was the agreement, which the Union of India initialled in 1989 with Union Carbide that quashed all claims of justice for the victims of Bhopal. The Government is now trying to apply a soothing balm by doling out taxpayers' money. But the guilty men sitting in America have been allowed to get away through what amounts to a conspiracy against the people of Bhopal. India did not cause the gas leak; those who did have got away paying a mere $ 478 million. And we are left to pick up the bill for the devastation only because the Government must keep the Congress's guilty secrets under wraps.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

MERITS OF BEING A STAID PARTY

SWAPAN DASGUPTA


Has the BJP been at the receiving end of a malevolent evil eye? This is a question that is being asked not merely by the party's sympathisers and well-wishers but by a multitude of fence-sitters who believe that, to be workable, the system needs a buoyant and effective Opposition.


The search for a supernatural explanation of the public relations disaster of the National Executive session in Patna is compelling. Having fulfilled its role as an Opposition reasonably well in the five months or so since Rajnath Singh was replaced by Nitin Gadkari, the BJP had every reason to believe that the National Executive meet would be purposeful in a non-spectacular way. It is not that anyone expected the Patna session to come up with any miraculous 'war forward' strategy. The most optimistic expectation was that it would give a chance to Gadkari's office-bearers to familiarise themselves with the aggregate national mood in the party. At best, the party could have deliberated how it made an ass of itself in Jharkhand.


Instead what happened in Patna was unexpectedly bizarre. The relationship with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, which has been exemplary for the past 12 years, was soured by some propaganda over-kill from Gujarat. To this was added media sniggers at the BJP's eccentric decision to reward Ram Jethmalani with a Rajya Sabha seat from Rajasthan.


The Jethmalani affair is likely to be relegated to a footnote, at least till the flamboyant lawyers chooses to score his first self-goal. But the same cannot be said of the simmering tensions between the Janata Dal (U) and the BJP in Bihar. With just a few months to go for the Assembly election, the acrimonious undercurrents could either break the alliance or make it look politically incoherent. Either way, the advantage will pass from the NDA to Lalu Prasad Yadav and the Congress.


To believe that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has emerged as the wild distraction is over-simplistic. Modi does have fierce partisan support all over the country. It is also undeniable that there is a large section of the BJP which believes that all transitory arrangements should be dispensed with and Modi anointed leader. It is entirely possible that some of these elements used the Patna meeting to wave the flag for a new 'Hindu hriday samrat'.

Nitish need not have reacted intemperately to the internal developments within the BJP. The inclusion of a photograph of the famous Nitish-Modi wave in Ludhiana last year in a BJP-supported advertisement wasn't an offence that warranted the social boycott by one Chief Minister of another Chief Minister. Silence would have done him no harm.


Yet, the mere fact that Nitish did derail the BJP National Executive meet is significant. It suggests that he nurtures a profound irritation with 'communal' elements in the BJP. The Bihar Chief Minister wants a BJP with which he is in ideological sync. This is about as likely as the JD(U) shedding its Lohia-ite temperament and embracing the BJP's Integral Humanism.


But while Nitish may be faulted for actually believing the media hype about him emerging as the great hope of 'secular' non-Congressism, there is some incomprehension as to what the BJP hotheads were after. Modi, it would seem, is being used by a section of the Bihar BJP for some ideological grandstanding aimed at pushing Nitish into a corner. Predictably, there is a caste dimension to this brinkmanship. But those familiar with the bickering in Odisha that preceded and followed the Kandhamal disturbances will not be blamed for nurturing a sense of déjà vu. An exasperated Naveen Patnaik broke a 11-year alliance with the BJP because he felt that the junior partner was no longer in a position to deliver an incremental vote. If Nitish starts believing that the BJP presence will undercut his own vote-bank without bringing in compensatory support, he may have no option but to ditch the NDA and target the Congress and RJD vote.


The BJP may be quite right in believing that no alliance can exist without mutual self-respect. The implication is that Nitish has punctured the BJP's self-esteem and that the party must flex its muscles, if only to prove its worth to its own support base.


In theory such a tit-for-tat approach is unexceptionable. But there are two problems. First, elections in Bihar are around the corner and it does neither the BJP nor the JD(U) any good to lose the battle. Second, since 2004 the BJP has been steadily losing allies without making any independent headway. Its relations with every existing ally — be it Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and JD(U) — are strained. It will do the BJP's national standing incalculable harm if Nitish decides to go his own way. It will reinforce the image that it is a difficult customer and potentially untrustworthy.


Since the 2004 defeat, a section of the BJP has believed that for the party to advance it must go it alone. This approach is also premised on the belief that a more belligerent Hindu stand will garner additional support. As of now, there is no evidence to suggest that India is reverting to the mood that prevailed during the height of the Ayodhya dispute. Nor is there anything to suggest that the BJP has been galvanised by another big idea which, in due course, will capture the national imagination. As a consequence of running purposeful State Governments, the BJP has become a staid, conventional party with some impetuosity on the margins. Its radical days are behind it.


The tragedy is that the party seems temperamentally disinclined to accept this reality. It seems to be forever in search of heady excitement. The result is that its good work in running State Governments and managing the national Opposition is offset by unthinking flamboyance that neither adds to its appeal nor enhances the comfort level of its allies.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

RIP VAN WINKLES WAKE UP TO BHOPAL

KANCHAN GUPTA

 

It's extremely unflattering for media, especially the so-called national television news channels, that after a fortnight of sustained hyper-coverage of events related to the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal and outpouring of anger over nobody being punished for the horrific death of 15,342 people, there appears to have been little, if any, impact on the masses that populate this country. Just because the politically correct in media have suddenly woken up to a gruesome mass murder that occurred 26 years ago and decided to make common cause with perpetually aggrieved jholawallahs — it has helped fill column space and air time during Delhi's silly season — does not mean everybody else is equally energised.


The popular Gujarati newspaper Sandesh had an interesting story about aspiring journalists who appeared for this year's entrance test for the media course offered by Saurashtra University. I have no idea about the quality of the course, but it would be safe to presume that those who applied for admission are from average middle-class families, representatives of what political parties, particularly the Congress, refer to as aam admi — the common man, average Indian, or whatever term you may want to use for the masses. The answer scripts have revealed that among the applicants are those who believe Warren Anderson is a Hollywood superstar and (though not connected with the Bhopal tragedy) Teesta Setalvad is a Bollywood actress.

 

Cruel and uncaring as it may sound, the fact is that most people do not really care about whether Warren Anderson, who was chairman of Union Carbide Corp, the US-based parent company of Union Carbide India Ltd when lethal gas leaked from the company's ill-maintained pesticides factory with virtually no plant safety system in place on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, was allowed safe passage by the then Congress Government at the Centre headed by Rajiv Gandhi under American pressure or for reasons that, if stated in print, could invite charges of libel and defamation. It's not only cynicism that prevents a mass upsurge bordering on rebellion against a 'system' that allows criminals to walk free but also certain unsavoury facts that cannot be wished away.


In a country with appalling poverty levels — we are yet to figure out how many millions of families live below the poverty line — there is little or no appreciation of the value of human life. Those of us who are beneficiaries of an unregulated market economy allow ourselves to be persuaded by glib talk of India as an emerging global power and are impressed by GDP figures that by no means reflect gross domestic well-being. For us, India is shining. Those who struggle to make ends meet, and they do not necessarily belong to the underclasses, know claims of prosperity are bunkum. For them, life is a drudge, an unexciting passage of days, weeks, months and years in the hope that things will improve, which, of course, won't happen in their lifetime. Incremental betterment, when it happens, is wiped out by inflation which the Prime Minister wants the people to grin and bear, as if it's their bounden duty to silently suffer his indifference and incompetence.


The political resolution adopted at the BJP's National Executive last weekend had a revealing paragraph which should provide the thinking classes with some food for thought: According to the Planning Commission, 27.3 per cent of rural households are below the poverty line. The NC Saxena Experts Group, basing its estimates on calory intake, says 50 per cent of rural households are below the poverty line. The Arjun Sengupta Commission has found that 77 per cent of the population lives on less than Rs 20 a day and said this should be the basis for determining poverty levels. The Suresh Tendulkar Committee, on the other hand, has concluded that 37.2 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.


So, nobody really knows either the extent of poverty in India or the number of people who are barely able to keep body and soul together. Just as nobody really knows how many people actually died and were injured in the Bhopal disaster even 26 years after the ghastly incident. Nor do the authorities have any comprehensive statistics on compensation paid to victims over the years and their rehabilitation.


I had asked our bureau chief in Bhopal to access relevant details from the officials handling relief and rehabilitation. And here is what he could ferret out. More than 11,000 people affected by the disaster are still waiting for the compensation awarded to them simply because there's no way of contacting them, or so we are told. This despite the elaborate bureaucratic machinery that was set up to deal with compensation claims. Mr Bharat Bhushan Shrivastava, one of the officials involved with disbursing compensation, told this newspaper that he and his colleagues are still waiting for 11,735 people who have been awarded compensation in different categories to turn up and collect their money. "We have sent several notices to them at their addresses, provided lists of such claimants to voluntary organisations and widely circulated their names, but to no avail."


Who are these claimants? Are they real people without real addresses as most poor people in this country are? Were they migrant workers who lived in the shanties that were allowed to proliferate in the vicinity of the hazardous factory? Did they move to industrial slums with open drains carrying toxic wastes in other cities after the disaster? Or are they ghost claimants whose names were submitted by racketeers who are now unable to produce people whose identities match those recorded on paper? Or is this part of the elaborate charade mounted by jholawallahs, ironically funded by foreign donors, who have made Bhopal's tragedy into a prosperous enterprise? Why is it that media has never bothered to seek answers to these questions over the past 26 years? Why has no RTI been filed as yet?


It's easy to wax eloquent on the plight of Union Carbide's victims and berate America. But shouldn't we also look within? Do we really care for the poor for whom we now feign treacly concern? Do we really want them to rise above poverty levels through higher wages? What would that do to profit margins, India as a favoured destination for investors looking for cheap labour, and stock prices? Or is the outrage we read about in newspapers and hear on television just so much poppycock and no more? A reality game show by another name? Little wonder that in Saurashtra youngsters believe Warren Anderson is a Hollywood superstar and Congress spokesman Manish Tewari condescendingly declares that anybody pointing a finger at Rajiv Gandhi is being "unpatriotic". We do live in a wondrous land.


Follow the writer on: http://twitter.com/KanchanGupta. Blog on this and other issues at http://kanchangupta.blogspot.com. Write to him at kanchangupta@rocketmail.com

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

RAILWAY RECRUITMENT SCAM A WAKE UP CALL FOR MAMATA

 

THE Central Bureau of Investigation's expose of the scam involving leaks in the Railway Recruitment Board ( RRB) examination gives the lie to Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's much- touted clean- up of the railways.

 

The scam is an embarrassment for the minister in more ways than one. Firstly, the now suspended chairman of the Mumbai RRB, SM Sharma, was one of the 20 new RRB chiefs appointed by the minister to clean up the process of railway recruitment. Secondly, the idea of a common entrance replacing the earlier system of separate examinations held by different RRBs was done to prevent the corruption and malpractices that plagued the earlier system.

 

Clearly, the so- called " clean- up" by the railway minister has been a cosmetic exercise.

 

Replacing 20 RRB chiefs appointed by the previous administration was meaningless without a system of checks and balances being put in place.

 

The introduction of a common entrance was a welcome move following the earlier instances of leaks in different centres. But this should have been done with more thoroughness.

 

The episode has harmed the credibility of what was otherwise a good idea, and also harmed the cause of further reforms.

 

The elaborate and well- oiled network of the scamsters that spread across different centres clearly shows that the rot in the railways goes beyond a few errant officials. That corruption begins at the level of entry itself, is a testimony to its entrenchment in the system. What sort of professional ethics can be expected of those who get selected for government jobs after paying large sums of money as bribe? The least that the Railway Minister can do now is to walk the talk on her clean- up of the railways. One thing Mamata Banerjee prides herself on is her probity. But the results of her much- hyped but half- hearted clean- up exercise are before us and her ministry, at least, has been found wanting.

 

The scam should not be used to block the case for systemic reforms in the railways.

 

Rather it should stress the need for much more effective mechanisms of accountability in the system.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

SIBAL'S RIGHT ON THE BUTTON

 

HUMAN Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal has once again come up with a practical and worthwhile suggestion to reduce the examination stress of our young students. At the state education ministers conference, Mr Sibal proposed that the Central Board of Secondary Education- run All India Pre- Medical Test ( AIPMT) and the All India Engineering Entrance Examination ( AIEEE) be merged. The idea is brilliant in its simplicity.

 

Common to both examinations will be physics and chemistry papers. What separates a potential engineer from a doctor is that the former discipline requires a good knowledge of mathematics, while for the latter biology is mandatory. Currently those wanting to try their hand at both streams need to appear for two separate set of examinations.

 

The aim is also to link these aptitude tests with the Class XII school- leaving examinations where the students are tested for their knowledge of their subjects. Currently many students take an either- or approach and forgo the chance of scoring high in their Class XII exams to get top grades in their engineering or medicine entrance tests.

 

As part of this reform, Mr Sibal has also unveiled the idea of a common core curriculum prepared by the Council of Boards and School Education ( COBSE) for mathematics and science for all the school boards in the country. This will raise standards all around and create a level playing field. This is an important idea, one which is aimed at standardising the education that children get across the country. Different boards with varying standards result in leaving some of the students handicapped, whether it is in terms of their proficiency in science and mathematics, or language.

 

Mr Sibal has taken the right approach to place these proposals for a wider debate. No one likes to have a policy, howsoever good, to be rammed down his throat. By placing the proposals for discussion before the state education ministers, he can expect a feedback which ensures that the final policy is based on consensus and is faithfully implemented.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

CANING IS BRUTAL NOT PEDAGOGIC

BY PALASH KRISHNA MEHROTRA

 

THIS happened in class seven or eight. Over a period of a week, I was beaten in school almost every day for infractions ranging from whispering to chucking a scrunched- up paper ball. The beatings had two effects. One: they stopped having an effect. I stopped caring whether I did the right thing or not. It made me stubborn. I said to myself, " Beat me as much as you can, I really don't care. So f--- you. " Caning had, in my case, ceased to be an effective deterrent. I also became withdrawn and quiet, started living more and more in an imaginary world, cut off from my immediate surroundings. I lost all respect for authority. The effects would linger for years.

 

I relived those memories a couple of years ago while working on an anthology that put together two hundred years of the Indian school experience. After all, the anthology, in many ways, was also an attempt on my part to excise the ghosts of my own past. Rouvanjit Rawla's suicide— the ultimate act of defeat and revenge— brought those nightmarish school memories right back.

 

Defence

 

In his defence, Sunirmal Chakravarthi, the headmaster of La Martiniere, has proffered the most pathetic lines of argument from saying that it was part of school tradition ( dude, what about you broke a current law?), to saying that the boy went home cheerfully after being caned. If this is what happened, then caning had obviously lost its sting for the boy. In which case, why persist with an ineffective measure? More likely, the boy put a brave front on it— you don't want your tormentor to also have the satisfaction of knowing that he has caused you pain and trauma. So you smile. It's the least you can do.

 

Chakravarthi has also tried to insinuate that the time lag between the caning and the boy's death— around four days— proves that there was no link between the act and his suicide. This is patently rubbish.

 

Chakravarthi has formulated some kind of arbitrary timeline of cause and effect. For there to be a direct link between the caning and the suicide, the boy should have killed himself within an hour of the caning.

 

Anything beyond that should be attributed to external intervening factors.

 

Finally, he has tried to wash his hands of the affair by saying that he gave the boy " only two light strokes". Everyone's pain threshold is different. What might be mild for one person, might not be so for another. One lady principal even tried to defend Chakravarthi by saying that today's children had become fragile and had to be handled differently, thus suggesting that the fault lay not in Chakravarthi for using outdated means of discipline but in the boy for being a twenty- first century hypersensitive baby.

 

In such debates, caning often becomes an idea, an abstract word. Adults, who take part in these discussions, have little memory of what happened when they were little, and are thus incapable of expressing empathy with the victim, often tending to dismiss it all by saying, " Even I went through it and it did me no harm." For a thick description of caning, which brings out in full the perversion and cruelty of the act, let's turn to a passage from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in which Joyce describes a schoolboy being beaten: " The soutane sleeve swished again as the pandybat was lifted and a loud crashing sound and a fierce maddening tingling burning pain made his hand shrink together with the palms and fingers in a livid quivering mass. The scalding water burst forth from his eyes, and burning with shame and agony and fear, he drew back his shaking arm and burst into a whine of pain. His body shook with a palsy of fright and in shame and rage he felt the scalding cry come from his throat and the scalding tears falling out of his eyes and down his flaming cheeks."

 

Society

 

Later, the ' fragile' Stephen Dedalus, sits alone, ruminating on what's just happened: " It was wrong; it was unfair and cruel: and, as he sat in the refectory, he suffered time after time in memory the same humiliation until he began to wonder whether it might not really be that there was something in his face which made him look like a schemer and he wished he had a little mirror to see. But there could not be; and it was unjust and cruel and unfair." Some of these thoughts must have been coursing through young Rouvanjit Rawla's head when he reached for the rope he would use to hang himself.

 

Caning, like ragging, refuses to go away, despite there being laws to the contrary, because there is widespread societal consensus that these are necessary ' ings', part and parcel of an Indian boy's path to manhood, fundamental to his coming of age.

 

Also, there is little resistance to corporal punishment in schools because more often than not Indian children are also beaten at home. The two systems, home and school, exist in tandem with each other.

 

Another reason for its acceptability is the fact that mere access to good education is a big thing in India. This, after all, is a country where seventy million pounds in aid meant for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan go missing, are spent on buying luxury beds and aircons for officials rather than putting up new classrooms. When just putting up a classroom is such a major challenge, what happens inside the classroom, how education is actually delivered, is fairly low on our priority list.

 

Rights

 

While arguing against corporal punishment, liberals tend to reduce it to caning, often forgetting that there are a host of other punishments, often instituted in place of caning, which are equally cruel, and can also turn fatal. There are enough instances of boys fainting, even collapsing to death— especially those with undetected heart ailments— after being made to do rounds in the field under a relentless summer sun, or of a misdirected slap that led to the rupturing of an eardrum.

 

Hockey sticks rather than canes proliferate at Bishop Cotton, Simla; Sanawar boys grow up doing military style push- ups; HPS ( Hyderabad Public School) boys pass into manhood doing frog jumps; while a friend from Mayo recalls being made to stand in the ' murga' position for two hours.

 

And when I was teaching at Doon, the sight that greeted me every morning after breakfast and just before assembly was a row of boys frozen in " press- up position". Indian schools need to delink punishment from physical pain and exertion, and its corollary, humiliation. We need to learn from schools like Sardar Patel and Rishi Valley, as also from the white West which relies more on humane policies of carrot and stick, like detentions and withdrawal of privileges.

 

In the West, the debate about corporal punishment has centred on the language of rights. Plato onwards, women, children and animals were put in a separate inferior category from men. It was ok for a man to beat his wife, his child and his horse. This changed in the 20th century: women's rights came first, followed by those of minors and animals.

 

The Indian middleclass, which is English- speaking and enjoys living standards on par with its western counterparts, has borrowed selectively from the West.

 

Within this class, it is no longer okay to beat your wife or even your dog, but children, hmm, well that's a different matter.

 

Until that mindset changes, I'm afraid Indian schoolboys will just have to bend over and take their lops.

 

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MAIL TODAY

                                                                                                                                                              COMMENT

PRESCRIPTIONS

RITU BHATIA

 

THE LATEST ISN'T ALWAYS THE GREATEST

OUR needs change as quickly as our underwear these days. New, extra savvy briefs have been developed by US scientists in response to the growing need for wearable healthcare monitoring systems. These " smart" briefs can measure your blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs via an electronic biosensor in the waistband, making each moment spent in them meaningful.

Apart from life saving functions, the latest undies have educational features too. A ' Grow- Your- Own- Rice bra' developed by Triumph International was recently showcased in Tokyo.

 

The bra transforms into a rice growing kit and allows the wearer to cultivate rice anytime, anywhere. It comes well equipped with gardening gloves, a water hose as a belt, seeds and recyclable plastic pots that double as cups. The lingerie company says the bra was created with the idea of familiarising people with rice farming. An earlier bra developed by the same company generates enough electricity to charge a mobile phone, clearly a good choice for a woman who spends most of her time travelling.

 

From being passive garments, intended to provide hygiene, body support and some measure of fashionable sexiness, our underwear has transformed into active, almost animate beings. It beeps and buzzes in the middle of business meetings; sprouts grass in mid- air and generates enough heat to make us cringe.

 

Our bras and panties will end up making obtrusive demands on our attention, competing with our cell- phones and children, forcing us to focus on the information bursting from them. Worse still, we actually succumb. That's because we're hardwired to respond in the most primal way to immediate demands being made on us by our computers, telephones and other electronic gadgets.

 

In fact we don't even get the eight uninterrupted minutes a day mandated by scientists ( minus impositions made by our phones, TVs and computers) to get our creative minds going. Considering this dismal situation, it's a wonder that we would actually choose to take on the inevitable dilemmas likely to arise with undies that have an electronic device embedded in them. The added bulk and the difference between the lifespan of the garment and that of the gadget ( the gadget is likely to be going strong even when your briefs are threadbare) — are the ingredients of an undergarment nightmare! You may even be tempted to burn your bra after all.

 

A cellphone with a camera, music, e- mail and TV may seem as attractive as lacy briefs equipped to save our lives, but the reality is that all this technology is rewiring our minds, slowly turning us into schizophrenics.

 

We are gradually losing track of who we are and what we need. Every single item in our lives has so many features that we have almost forgotten the original function of virtually everything we own. Are we wearing our briefs to cover up, or because we need to keep tabs on our blood pressure? Is our net brassiere intended to provide us sensuous pleasure — or is it more important as a tool in agriculture? Let's face it, wearable technology may not be the best choice.

 

So before you invest in the latest underwear that charges your phone or monitors your temperature, do consider buying a portable device with the same functions. Also, remind yourself about the benefits of minimalism. It may not be the mantra of technologists, but less is certainly more, especially when it comes to underwear.

 

CHOOSE AN ARTY DOCTOR

Before you choose a doctor, make sure he is an art lover: Doctors who are well versed in art are much better at assessing patients' symptoms, according to research conducted at Harvard Medical College. Cambridge based researcher Joel Katz has spent the past six years proving that doctors will be better at their craft( which relies on their left- brain logic) if they develop their right brain by becoming well- versed in art.

 

First and second year Harvard Medical students now vie to get into Katz's 10- week course that uses Boston's Museum of Fine Arts to teach future physicians how to critically analyse famous paintings. Those who take the art course typically show " a 50 per cent improvement" in assessing a patient's symptoms, says Katz, himself an internist. Today the premium placed on creative breakthroughs is especially high and a person who has just the right balance of left- brain logic and right- brain creativity is much sought after.

 

MAKING THEIR OWN CHOICES

Around the world, women are having half as many children as their mothers did. These include the poorest and least educated females, putting family planning experts who said that women would start having fewer children only when they received education or escaped poverty to shame. For the first time in history, women are choosing to chuck the social obligation of marriage and child bearing, unknowingly defusing the population bomb.

 

Whether factory workers in Dhaka, bar girls in Bangkok or office goers in Shanghai, women are brimming in cities, leading the urbanisation of the planet. More and more women are leading independent working lives rather than succumbing to a life of child bearing and raising. In Japan, half or more 30 year old women are unmarried whereas in South Korea the figure is 40 per cent. In Bangkok, a fifth of all women are single at 45. Manila, Singapore and Hong Kong are not far behind. Experts are unsure about whether women flock to urban centres for jobs or to attract mates, but the fact is that they are living there, without dependents. More than 60 countries that include Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Vietnam already have fertility rates at or below the rate needed to maintain their populations long- term. India lags behind, but is expected to get there within 20 years.

 

SWEATY MEN & MOSQUITOES

IF YOU are a man who enjoys a workout, the chances of your getting bitten by mosquitoes is high. According to a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, mosquitoes actually enjoy biting men more than they do women.

This has to do with their greater body size. Other factors that determine whether a person is a mosquito magnet or not is their body smell and how hot they are. Cues like body temperature, carbon dioxide in the breath and certain skin chemicals like lactic acid direct mosquitoes towards finding their next meal. Exercise boosts the levels of all three signals, making people more vulnerable to mosquito bites during or after exercise. Women who are pregnant also attract mosquitoes for the same reasons. A Lancet study in 2000 found that the pregnant women attracted twice as many mosquitoes. This is because pregnant women exhale more carbon dioxide and have higher body temperatures, drawing mosquitoes to them more easily.

ritu.bhatia@mailtoday.in

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MAIL TODAY

NEWS

CASH- STRAPPED STATES

SPOIL SIBAL'S REFORMS

BY KAVITA CHOWDHURY IN NEW DELHI

 

ABOUT a year after the passage of the Right to Education ( RTE) Act, funding for its implementation remains a bone of contention between the Centre and the states.

 

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education ( CABE) — the highest advisory body in education — on Saturday. The states demanded that the Centre foot 90 per cent of the cost.

 

With fresh inputs — both infrastructural ( pucca buildings, playgrounds, library, toilets, etc) and manpower related ( one trained teacher per 40 students) — required under the RTE, the states are demanding that the Centre meet the lion's share of funds.

 

The National University of Educational Planning and Administration, has estimated that the requirement of funds for implementing the RTE Act over five years has escalated from Rs 1.71 crore to Rs 2.31 crore. Of the revised figure, Rs 85,000 crore will be required in the first two years itself.

 

However, human resource development minister Kapil Sibal made it clear that the demand for 90 per cent central funding " won't be realised". " The matter is before the Expenditure Finance Committee ( EFC). We will urge it to make a greater contribution. It is for the government to decide.

 

The states have pointed out practical problems. And we will be moving the EFC for greater contribution to help realise this national commitment," he said.

 

He added that the government had factors such as the food security Act to consider before it could look into how the ( RTE) " national mission and commitment" could be fulfilled.

 

At the CABE meeting, education ministers highlighted the inability of their states to bear the financial burden of implementing the Act.

 

West Bengal education minister Partha De demanded that the Centre should amend the RTE Act to relieve the states of their financial burden.

 

" The states and local bodies have been made to ensure the right to education to every child. Raising such funds is beyond our capacity. Impossible things are being expected of the states," he said.

 

The education minister of Uttar Pradesh said: " Since you ( the Centre) take the credit for RTE, you bear the cost. And if you did not have the funds, you should have passed the law only when you had the funds." Referring to the RTE Act provision that private schools should admit 25 per cent poor students, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat pointed out that they had adequate capacity in state government schools to teach such children. " Why should we send them to private schools and then compensate the schools for it?" the Gujarat education minister said.

 

Punjab, in turn, pointed out that the cost of providing uniforms to the students alone came to Rs 250 crore. " Where are we going to get this money?" an official of the Punjab government said.

 

Kerala education minister M. A. Baby said: " The Centre has a note printing machine and ( still resorts) to deficit financing, while the states enjoy no such option." Sibal retorted: " The PM is trying to bring down the deficit.

 

So, if we print more currency you know what will happen." He reminded the states that the central government's flagship education programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan ( SSA), will be the primary vehicle for the RTE Act implementation.

 

The Centre bears 55 per cent of funding for the SSA. HRD minister Kapil Sibal at the Central Advisory Board of Education meeting in New Delhi on Saturday.

 

 

CBI arrests army major for taking bribe

 

Mail Today/ New Delhi

 

THE Central Bureau of Investigation ( CBI) arrested an Army major in Mumbai on Saturday for allegedly demanding bribe from at least 36 army candidates.

 

Major Dipendra Bhushan, who oversaw the army's pre- entrance medical examinations, was caught accepting Rs 50,000 from a recruit who had earlier approached the CBI with a complaint of bribery against the major.

 

Major Bhushan allegedly demanded that candidates pay him if they wanted to clear the army's medical examination – a requirement if they wanted to become soldiers.

 

The CBI is currently trying to ascertain if Major Bhushan accepted bribes from the other candidates.

 

" As per our initial interrogation of Major Bhushan, it is clear to us that he contacted 30- 35 candidates who were to appear for medical examination and asked for Rs 50,000 from each one of them," a senior CBI official said.

 

" One of these candidates approached the CBI this morning with a complaint and we laid a trap," the official said.

 

The CBI said Major Bhushan had arrived in a private car with his driver, Bharat Oram, to collect the money from the recruit when he was caught.

 

The driver has also been arrested.

 

" If he approached 35 candidates, as per our information, he was looking to pocket a neat bribe amount of Rs 18 lakhs," a CBI official said.

 

According to a CBI source, the Army has been informed of Major Bhushan's arrest. The Army is expected to initiate a court of inquiry into the incident.

 

STATE Subjects

KARUNA CORNERED

CALL IT a quirk of fate that Tamil Nadu chief minister and DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi finds himself in a corner. When it comes to Tamil, the octogenarian makes sure he is second to none in championing the cause of his mother tongue. But, he is reaping what he had sowed and the ruling party stands isolated in the political spectrum over the issue of making Tamil the official language of the Madras High Court.

 

But for the DMK, every other political party has made a beeline to the high court and its Madurai Bench to press for the demand. Even the Congress has expressed support for the cause.

 

For Karunanidhi, this was unpalatable as the issue was distracting attention from the World Classical Tamil Conference, the jamboree which his government is holding next week to resurrect his sagging image.

 

A poll gone wrong

 

BAHUJAN Samaj Party ( BSP) president Mayawati addressed a rally at the historic Gandhi Maidan in Patna the other day to kick off her party's election campaign in Bihar. She hit out at chief minister Nitish Kumar and claimed that her party's base had increased manifold since the last assembly elections in the state.

 

Exhorting partymen to get into the election mode, she asked them to chalk out poll strategies ' secretly' in their fight against the likes of Nitish Kumar and others in Bihar.

 

But five of her legislators probably took her advice literally. Four of them went on to vote for the RJD nominee while one BSP MLA voted for the JD- U candidate in the biennial Rajya Sabha elections on Thursday.

 

This is in spite of the fact that they were supposed to vote for Independent candidate Uday B. Garudachar, a Bangalore- based millionaire who had the support of the party's high command before he filed his nomination papers. Since the BSP did not use a whip and gave a free hand to its MLAs, they chose to vote for the candidates of the RJD and JD- U.

 

Identity crisis?

 

FORMER union minister Ananth Kumar has virtually disappeared from the political scene in Karnataka. He may be busy with the party's national affairs, but his followers are certainly missing him in Bangalore.

 

With his bete noire B. S. Yeddyurappa entrenched in the chief minister's chair, Kumar's visibility in the state has almost been reduced to zero. Even during the recent Rajya Sabha elections, he maintained a low profile.

 

Is it a case of identity crisis?

 

Gowda's dream

 

THOUGH his party has lost almost every recent political battle, former prime minister H. D. Deve Gowda continues to dream of the demise of the BJP government in Karnataka.

 

Recently, at a press conference, the JD- S boss indicated that the farming community was upset because of the antiagricultural policies of the BJP. " This government will not last long," was his verdict. If only Gowda's dream was to come true...

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THAT MATTERS

'I HAVE NO TAKE ON SUPREME COURT'S VERDICT ON CARBIDE'

 

At 81, Fali Sam Nariman , elder statesman and conscience keeper of the Indian Bar and former member of the Rajya Sabha, has decided to do some remembering about a life lived amid controversy and the search for justice and truth. Nariman's autobiography, "Before Memory Fades", comes at a particularly apt moment. He represented Union Carbide in the Bhopal gas leak case and his memoirs have added to the controversy sparked by the June 7 verdict imposing a light penalty on those responsible for the tragedy. In an interview to Manoj Mitta , Nariman shows no sign his memory is fading. Excerpts:


You received a lot of flak for appearing for Union Carbide in the Bhopal gas leak case. Given your credentials as a human rights defender, do you, in retrospect, wish you hadn't accepted that brief?
As the poet says: "We look before and after and pine for what is not....."


What is your take on the controversial Supreme Court verdict of 1996 reducing the liability of Carbide officials from culpable homicide to death caused by a rash or negligent act?


I have no "take" on what, after 15 long years, has now become, as you say, a "controversial Supreme Court verdict", especially after a very distinguished retired Chief Justice has publicly expressed his own views.


You say that Soli Sorabjee became attorney general of the Vajpayee government after you declined the post. In what seems like a counter disclosure, Sorabjee has said you got the Carbide brief after he declined to take it. Is this mere rivalry between two Parsi legal eagles?


If Soli has now said, as you suggest, that I was briefed in the civil litigation in the Carbide case after he had declined the brief, I would say: "fair enough". As regards the "rivalry" between us, for a long while we were rivals, later un-friendly rivals, but now, in the evening of our lives, we are friends." Please don't disturb us in the evening of our lives!


What is it about your tiny Parsi community that has it churning out legal luminaries?

There is one thing about "our tiny Parsi community" that you must know, which is that to us (or at least to most of us) the one thing greater than being a Parsi is being an Indian. I am proud of the fact that our community rejected the offer made at the time of drafting of India's Constitution — to Anglo Indians and Parsis alike — to have, for at least 10 years, one special representative in Parliament. Sir Homi Mody said in the Constituent Assembly that Parsis would rather join the mainstream of free India. And we did. We have no regrets. I must also tell you that the "tiny Parsi community" not only churns out legal luminaries, but produces geniuses in the medical field as well. As to how it is that we have been formidable in the legal and medical world, I just cannot say. But I like to think that it is because of our religion — a religion of good morals, which Parsi Zoroastrians find difficult to explain, but easy to live by.


Though the case that laid down the existing system of judicial appointments is one
of your biggest triumphs as a lawyer, why do you now say you would have preferred to lose it?
I would have preferred to lose the case because of my extreme anguish at the current state of ground realities in the matter of appointments of Justices.


It's interesting that you appear to believe that the two most influential judges of the Supreme Court so far have been Justice Subba Rao for his political agenda and Justice Krishna Iyer for his social agenda. Why?
Because these two judges showed to their generation of justices, and the generation after that, as to how to approach cases that came before the highest court. It is because judges with a political or social agenda are so few in number that they are long remembered.I have always considered it significant and beneficial for the development of the law in India that judges-without-an-agenda have been the more numerous.


As a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, your most important intervention was in suggesting that before investigating corruption allegations against senior officers, the CBI should get approval from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) rather than the government. Didn't the rejection of your proposal show that all political parties are united in shielding corrupt officers?
Perhaps not consciously— but the effect has been that corrupt officers at the higher levels are shielded from being investigated by the CVC.


From your personal experience of Parliament and the Supreme Court, which of those two institutions is the more compromised?

The two great institutions of state to which I have been privileged to belong do appear from time to time to "compromise" themselves, as you say. However, I must assure you that but for these two great institutions we would never have emerged as a vibrant democracy. The late Justice R S Pathak once used a nice metaphor when I asked him how he would like to be remembered as a judge of the Supreme Court. He told me, with becoming humility: "Every judge when he leaves the court must satisfy himself that he has left a little brick of his own making in that great edifice that is the Supreme Court of India."


What prompted you to write an autobiography now?

The constant requests of my friends and the persistence of my publisher. After being in legal practice for 67 years, I was at first reluctant to write about my professional life because of what C K Daphtary once told me when I pleaded with him to write his own memoirs. "What?" he said angrily, "shall I write one like Setalvad did?" He was referring to the autobiography of a great attorney general Motilal Setalvad — in part self-eulogizing. But I was getting on in age and getting forgetful as well, exemplified in that Mathew Arnold quote at the very beginning of the book: "And we forget because we must, and not because we will." So I compromised. I wrote out the story of my life at the Bar trying to keep the old ego strictly under control. If I have not wholly succeeded, it is only because a man's ego just cannot be suppressed!

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THAT MATTERS

 

G20 SHOULD BE T20, GLOBAL TRUSTEE

 

If the G20 really does represent the changing face of power in the world, then its first priority is to represent the silent voice of those without that power. Some 90% of the world's GDP will be assembled at the G20 summit in Toronto on June 26; but 90% of its countries will be absent. The G20 needs to see itself as the 'T20', the trustees of the world's interests; it cannot claim economic leadership unless it shows concern for those who are absent from its table.


Here is a three-point agenda, with practical action to match, that should be on the mind of any global leader aspiring to act for the global good.


First must be the international commitment to eliminate the wasted human potential and obscenity of absolute poverty. Ten years ago, the world agreed that by 2015 it would have achieved the Millennium Development Goals. The world will fail in this task without new effort, new thinking and new funding. The communities of small and vulnerable states are hit especially hard. There are green shoots of recovery in the larger and richer states. But the small and vulnerable are suffering the most as a result of crises which were not of their making.

With tax dollars scarce and aid levels barely rising, new sources of money are required for development. The World Bank indicates that $315 billion is required to meet the gap between what developing countries require and what is currently available in 2010 alone. The G20 should endorse a serious action plan to identify innovative potential sources of non-sovereign financing, embracing widespread consultation with those not at their table, to fill the funding gap.


Second should be women — the real barometers of health and the heart of any society. The current fractions are skewed: half of the world's population bears considerably more than half of its problems. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the post-crisis economy, women are pivotal. Prime minister Stephen Harper has rightly put this issue at the heart of Canada's G8 work, and the G20 can follow suit. Women's concerns should be central to policy for tackling growth and development, not a politically correct afterthought.

Maternal and infant mortality figures are a disgrace as around 500,000 women die each year in childbirth and 40% of all infant deaths occur within the first month of life. An army of 500,000 new midwives worldwide would change all that for good, and should be endorsed as a goal to be achieved through a roadmap to be implemented at national, regional and international levels. Meanwhile, the G20 is also looking at new support for small and medium enterprises. The lion's share of this support should go to the agents of change and growth in society with the most potential — women.


Third is rising global temperatures and climate change. Whatever the differences over the causes and the responses, one piece of evidence is indisputable: the worst impacts are already being felt by the countries least able to bear them. International support is needed to help them plan and finance changes to their economies and livelihoods. Part of that support is needed now, for the most immediate needs of the most vulnerable countries. A $10 billion start-up fund to help poorer countries to adapt and mitigate was agreed at the UN Summit in Copenhagen in December.


Evidence is in hand to show how the funds can be put to good use by those in greatest need. But none have yet seen the colour of this money. Ten per cent of that $10 billion should be released immediately for those countries under existential threat whose needs cannot wait until the UN process is complete. The G20 — the largest and richest countries on the planet — should deliver on their financial pledges of Copenhagen to support the smallest and poorest, even while negotiations on emissions and other climate change issues continue.

Another valuable and practical step would be to develop ways of accrediting or validating the national climate change action plans of developing states. There are around 20 major funds providing finance even now for states to implement adaptation and mitigation plans. But each fund requires a separate key to unlock its potential. Small and vulnerable states need a master key to access them all with ease and speed. Just as 'poverty reduction strategy plans' have improved access to financing for development, there is a need for similar access to financing for climate change.


Kamalesh Sharma is Commonwealth secretary-general and Abdou Diouf is secretary-general of La Francophonie

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

PRISONERS OF INDIA-PAK CONFLICT

 

When nations go to war, ordinary families pay the price every time a beloved husband, son, brother or father comes home in a body bag. When two nations remain in a constant state of war, it is Everyman who pays the price of appearing to be the enemy.


This week's Special Report chronicles exactly that. It might almost be a remake of Mehreen Jabbar's 2008 film Ramchand Pakistani, which told the story of a low-caste Hindu man and his son, Ramchand, who accidentally cross into India from Pakistan and end up spending five years in a prison. Meanwhile, Ramchand's mother is left wondering what happened to them. One week is a long time in politics. Five years can be an eternity for a family parted it knows not how — or why. It falls apart. The film shows Ramchand and his father as guilty by suspicion because they came from "enemy" country.


As all the reports on this page illustrate, there are many Ramchands on both sides of the border. Prisons in India and Pakistan are teeming with unfortunate "illegal aliens" — Pakistani and Indian — whose only crime is to have entered the neighbouring country by mistake or overstayed their visa. In the sub-continent's colonial neo-officialese, it's called violation of the Foreigner's Act and Passport Act.


The Geneva Convention, which both the countries have signed, requires humane treatment of civilians. In the subcontinent, this convention is followed selectively. When citizens from any country other than India or Pakistan violate the visa law on either side of the border, they are fined or deported. But if an Indian is caught in Pakistan or vice versa, it is Ramchand Pakistani every time.


Now, as the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries meet in the run up to home minister P Chidambaram's visit to Islamabad, is there hope?


Punjab
He is 16 and a victim of the politics of hate between two countries. Salim has spent two years in a home for juvenile criminals. It's a small house with three dingy, airless rooms. Salim shares a small room with 33 others, aged between 12 and 18. As the mercury rises and electricity supply trips, the three-room house becomes stiflingly hot.


There is no clean drinking water to be had. As the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries meet in the run up to home minister P Chidambaram's visit to Islamabad, Salim is fervent about peace at any cost. "I can only pray to god for improvement in India and Pakistan's relations. Only then I will be able to get out of this place," he says.

It shouldn't have come to this. The son of a farmer in Bahawalpur, Salim crossed the border by mistake at Hussainiwala in May 2008. He didn't have a passport or a valid visa. Arrested by the BSF, the boy, then 14, was sent to the juvenile home. Ever since, life has been hellish for an adolescent who is regarded an enemy agent by the other inmates. Often, Salim gets into fights with those who make caustic remarks about his nationality and religion.


Why is he still here? Salim has served out the sentence for his "crime", the Punjab government has withdrawn the criminal case against him. And yet he awaits repatriation to Bahawalpur. "Salim's case was sent to the Union home minister after withdrawal of all criminal cases against him in Punjab and now the ministry of home affairs is waiting for the nod from their Pakistani counterparts for the verification of boy's antecedents in Bahawalpur," said Chhinder Pal Kaur, chief development project officer in Faridkot and supervisor of the juvenile home.

Salim is nervous. It may take months or years for him to get home. But it says something about the indomitable nature of the human spirit that he doesn't dare to think he never will.

— Priya Yadav & Balwant Garg


Rajasthan
One wintry morning seven years ago, Gulam Shabbir's ailing father asked him to borrow some money from the neighbours for food. The family had eaten nothing for days. Unable to bear the sight of his parents' hungry faces, Shabbir left his home in Khiparo tehsil of Sangadh district in Pakistan and started to beg in the villages along the border in the desert.


Thirsty and tired, he got disorientated and wandered among the sand dunes. That was when he ran into a Border Security Force patrol. Before he found out he was in India, Shabbir was in prison in Jaisalmer. He has been behind bars since November 20, 2003.


Each year Shabbir has spent behind bars might have been a decade. He hasn't heard from or spoken to his parents. Sitting in his cell in Jaisalmer prison, he wonders if they are still alive.


Meanwhile, he has fought a grim legal battle, with barely any help from his government, to be sent home to Pakistan. On interrogation, he was declared "innocent" by the BSF and charged with nothing more heinous than

entering India illegally". And yet he remains incarcerated.


Shabbir finished his prison term on February 25 this year. He was released, re-arrested and thrown into his old cell once again. Police sources say he was taken to the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi for identification but Islamabad is yet to accept that he is a Pakistani citizen. "We are desperately trying to deport him but we are not getting positive response from the other side. We are left with no alternative but to keep him in the prison," says S Parimala, Jaisalmer's Superintendent of Police.


If Shabbir made a mistake, it was in wandering across a border without the requisite paperwork. But what of Arjun Ram, who is in prison in India for "violating visa norms" as he fled religious persecution in Bahawalpur, Pakistan?

Ram's family originally belongs to Ranjitpura in Bikaner, but they migrated to West Punjab many years before Partition. In August 2008, Ram and some of his family arrived in India determined to seek citizenship because they felt threatened in Pakistan. Ram's son Gumana, 45, and the rest of his family arrived in Jodhpur on April 6 last year.


With his whole family in India, Ram began the process of resettlement, travelling to their ancestral village in Bikaner to fix a daughter's marriage. But their visas were only valid for Jodhpur and in June last year Ram and his son were arrested under the Foreigners Act and dumped in Bikaner jail. The family, which is unable even to meet the men, still waits for their release. There is no word and appears to be little hope.
Shabbir strayed into India. Arjun Ram arrived here with a purpose. As they remain behind bars, they — and the sub-continent — must wonder about a system that makes criminals of innocent people.


—Vimal Bhatia & Ajay Parmar

Jammu & Kashmir

A saas-bahu squabble can turn into an international dispute in this part of the world. In November 2008, Asiya Bibi left her home in PoK after a fight with her husband. Trekking along the Line of Control (LOC), Asiya entered J&K at Rajouri. Ever since, Asiya, wife of Pakistani army havaldar Mohammad Sajjad, has been languishing in Central Jail in Jammu. She has been charged with crossing the LOC "for the purposes of gathering information about deployment of India troops on the LOC".


Asiya says she was fed up with frequent fights with her mother-in-law. One of these led to a tiff with her husband and Asiya left him and her five-year-old son in a huff, arriving on this side of the border by mistake.
It has proved to be a life-changing mistake. It is one that many make — on either side of the border. Salima Bi, 23, fled her home at Khadim Hussein in Poonch, her husband and in-laws because she was tired of being taunted about being barren. She inadvertently crossed into PoK on December 17. Ever since, Salima has been in prison in PoK.


Asiya and Salima are just two of the hundreds imprisoned on account of the relatively minor crime of visa violation. Many Pakistanis imprisoned in India have served their sentences but are yet to be released. Activists say it is more important than ever before.


"To exhibit the humane face of Indian judiciary, the Supreme Court in April this year ordered deportation of 16 Pakistani prisoners who were languishing in jail even after the completion of their prison term," says Bhim Singh, executive chairman of J&K's state legal committee.


Five years ago, Singh had filed a writ petition for the release of about 124 prisoners from PoK, Pakistan and Afghanistan. All of them had completed prison terms and the governments of India and J&K had no case against them. He says international bodies need to take up the case of Indian prisoners detained illegally in Pakistan.
– M Saleem Pandit


Pakistan
When Gujarati fishermen head for the mouth of the Indus, near Sir Creek, they go in search of 'Lal Pari', a fish that is in demand in Europe. But they often reel in a problem that is symptomatic of the troubled relationship between India and Pakistan. They may unwittingly enter the 95-km-long Creek that's claimed by both countries. They may run into Pakistani naval vessels and be captured, thrown into prison and forgotten.


Hundreds of Indians — fishermen from Gujarat — have languished in Pakistani prisons for years. They are so poor, their stories are piteous. A few months ago, an Indian fisherman picked up by Pakistani naval guards, wasn't wearing clothes but dressed in polythene bags patched together.


To this desperation, add the ignominy and horror of indefinite incarceration. The fishermen suffer in prison and their families suffer not knowing what has become of them.


It is the same on either side of the border — or the Creek. A Pakistani newspaper recently reported the case of Mai Aasi, a 90-year old widow who has spent 15 lonely years praying for the return of her two sons and a son-in-law who were arrested by the BSF while fishing in the disputed area. Her husband died when he heard they had been arrested. Mai became blind in the intervening 15 years since she last saw her boys. Some say she shed too many tears ever to be able to see again. She does not know when, if ever, the boys will return.


Some local NGOs and human rights organizations have campaigned relentlessly to raise awareness of the plight of fishermen imprisoned on either side. But they remain in a perilous limbo, denied basic legal rights and treated like prisoners of war.


In 2007, a heartrending story came to light, that of two young Indian boys Piwash Ramjee and Bharat Baboo who had spent two years in a Karachi prison. Ramjee, aged all of seven and Baboo, eight years old, were caught and arrested along with 15 fishermen in 2005. The boys would constantly be produced before the judicial magistrate in handcuffs. They were released only after a long legal battle fought on their behalf by the Ansar Burney Trust International.


"More than 500 Indian fishermen live in pathetic condition in Karachi's Malir and Landi jails. Some of them have even completed their sentence but they are barred from meeting anyone," says Sarim Burney, vice chairman of the Trust.


In May 2008, both countries signed an agreement making it obligatory to "maintain a comprehensive list of the nationals of the other country under its arrest, detention or imprisonment". The two governments also agreed to exchange lists on January 1 and July 1 every year.


So far so good. But no discernible change occurred. There are far too many Ramjees and Baboos in Pakistani prisons.
— Omer Farooq Khan

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

MAKING POWER AS THE SUN SHINES

 

India is 'Sunshine Country', parts of it enjoying at least 250 sunny days every year. Traditionally, we have used solar power wisely and well: to make pickle, dry vegetables, fruit and grain. But India has been less diligent about using solar power to supply its energy needs. Why, considering India is estimated to need four to six times more energy by 2030?


In the next decade, India will need 10,000 MW more than its installed power capacity of 1,59648.49 MW. Are we finally ready to rely on solar power, an abundant, eco-friendly and inexhaustible resource? There are signs the Sunshine Country is thinking harder about solar power than ever before. On Thursday, Minister Of New And Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah helped commission the country's biggest grid-connected solar power plant, in Yelesandra village in Karnataka's Kolar district. In May, some 1,500 villagers in Elephanta Island got electricity for the first time from solar-powered lamps. Tirupati and Mt Abu use solar cookers to make prasadam and attempts are underway for solar powered schemes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

European, American and East Asian companies are poised to jump in once India demonstrates its seriousness about solar energy. It is badly needed, says Dr S Majumdar, senior counselor at the CII-ITC Centre for Excellence for Sustainable Development. By 2020, global installed solar power capacity is expected to be 20-40 times what it's today. Where will the Sunshine Country stand on the league table of solar-powered nations?

That's hard to predict because one of the chief drawbacks of getting solar energy on tap is the capital investment required. So far, the renewable resources ministry has focussed on the social development aspect, says Shirish Garud, fellow and area convenor of Renewable Energy Technology Applications at The Energy and Resources Institute.


Generating solar power is expensive — roughly Rs 15 to Rs 18 a unit, compared to thermal (coal) generation at Rs 1.50 to Rs 2 a unit, says Garud. Majumdar adds that solar projects are also dependent on imported material such as silicon wafers used to make solar cells and panels.


Even so, Garud admits that India, the Sunshine Country, should have focused on developing large-scale solar power projects, the way Germany did. It was only on January 11, that India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission aimed to take installed grid capacity for solar energy to 20,000 MW by 2022.


But even this deadline 12 years on might be a dream too far. Garud says, "The high cost of solar devices, especially photovoltaic (PV), and limited budget have been the main constraints".


As the experts point out, California is a good example of substantial R&D investment ensuring solar security.

But in India, there are scattered solar energy projects, such as Jadavpur University's work on silicon thin film solar cells and Delhi College of Engineering developing the prototype of a solar car. Meanwhile, lone innovators plough their lonely furrough, such as 16-year-old Amandeep Singh from Hanumangarh in Rajasthan, who made his first prototype of a solar laminator in 2002 for a mere Rs 700.


Professor Anil Gupta of IIM, Ahmedabad, and executive vice chair of the National Innovation Foundation says India "has got locked in the PV cycle, which is costly. We didn't try greenhouse innovations on a large scale, like China where a revolution has taken place through farmer innovations. Where are the funds for solar innovations? Or the fabrication labs, polytechnics and ITIs with courses on solar tech? Distribute mobile labs to provide fabrication facility to grassroots innovators and watch solar innovations increasing manifold."


Gupta makes an important point. As every company awaiting its big chance knows, key opportunities lie in India to run water heaters, cookers, lanterns, street lights or water pumps off solar power. It is not enough for just a few households in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka to be using solar power for all these processes, says Garud, the marketing and manufacturing have to become big business and attract the urban and yuppie consumer.

Till that happens, it's hard to see solar energy becoming a sunshine industry in India.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

SWAMINOMICS

SELLING FAMILY SILVER TO FUND PROFLIGACY

SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR

 

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is smiling. He had hoped to get Rs 35,000 crore from auctions of spectrum to telecom companies for 3G and broadband wireless access. In fact, the auctions fetched a whopping Rs 106,000 crore.


Thanks to this bonanza, government sources claim that the fiscal deficit will now be only 4.5% of GDP, against the budget estimate of 5.5%. At a time when fiscal deficits in other countries (notably Greece) constantly exceed budget estimates, the government claims that India is moving, virtuously, in the opposite direction.
 Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have greeted the news by pouring fresh millions into Indian stock markets. In May, FIIs pulled a whopping $2 billion out of the stock markets, sending the sensex crashing. But they are now flooding back, buying more than half-a-billion dollars of stock last week. They feel that the fall in the fiscal deficit will release additional bank funds for borrowing by the private sector, help lower interest rates, and thus boost the economy.


 Alas, this apparent improvement in government finances is largely illusory. The fiscal deficit is the difference between the government's tax revenue and spending. This gap can be met in two ways — by borrowing more, or by selling more of its assets. The net worth of the government — assets minus borrowings --- will be exactly the same whether it borrows more or sells more. So, selling more is not superior to borrowing more, as the government — and the stock markets — seem to think.


  Seen in this light, the spectrum sales have not really improved the government's finances. It remains profligate, spending far more than it gets. The fact that a greater share of this overspending will now be financed by selling assets rather than borrowing does not change the underlying reality of overspending.
   Spectrum sales are being counted as revenue by the government. In fact, revenues are income streams like taxes that yield money year after year, on a sustainable basis. Selling spectrum provides a one-time gain that cannot be sustained.


So, the spectrum sales of Rs 106,000 crore must not be viewed as a great success. Rather, they represent a big upfront levy on telecom companies — and through them on telecom users — to finance government overspending.

 

 Some readers might think that, with the government borrowing less from banks to fund its deficit, more bank money will be available for productive investment, spurring the economy. Alas, this is not so. Telecom companies have to borrow enormous sums from banks to pay for the spectrum. So, after the spectrum sale, the lower government borrowing requirement will be fully offset by the higher borrowing requirement of telecom companies. No bank funds will be freed for productive uses by the private sector.


Hence there is really no case for celebration or for stock markets to boom. The government has simply sold some family silver to finance its overspending, and its underlying financial situation remains unchanged.
   Readers will ask, isn't it a good thing to auction spectrum rather than gift it to favoured telecom companies, as happened in the case of 2G spectrum? Aren't auctions necessary to check crony capitalism and corruption?


Yes indeed, we must have auctions to ensure transparency and check crony capitalism. But this auction was wrongly designed. Telecom companies should have been asked to bid not for a onetime purchase of spectrum, but for the percentage of revenue they were willing to share with the government indefinitely. This would have been transparent and fair. It would not fetch an instant bonanza of Rs 106,000 crore, but it would have produced a sustainable stream of revenue in the years to come. The government's share of telecom revenue would have risen over time with increased telecom use. That was the way to go.


 The government also plans to sell equity stakes of up to 10% in several government companies. These sales too are being counted as revenue, and so will appear to reduce the fiscal deficit. In fact, these too will represent a sale of family silver that simply finances overspending rather than reduce it.


Now, if the government sold a majority stake in public sector units, allowing new private sector management to take over, that would hugely improve efficiency. But only minority stakes will be sold.

 

 In sum, asset sales must not mislead readers to think government finances are improving. On the contrary, the government's unwillingness to decontrol petroleum product prices, and its seeming commitment to ever-rising subsidies, spell danger. We need a more honest presentation of government finances, not the smoke and mirrors that have become standard practice.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

OUT OF TURN

 

ANDERSON LAUGHED AT INDIAN LAW AND STATE

M J AKBAR

 

It is odd that the g ove r n m e n t should have chosen law and order as its final alibi after some exhausting self-laceration in its search for a credible explanation for the escape of Union Carbide's Warren Anderson on December 7, 1984.


Why do we say "law and order" rather than "order and law"? Simple. Law comes before order. Law defines the nature of order. Law is the difference between civilization and chaos. Law is evolutionary: the edicts of tribes, chiefs and dynasties lifted human societies from scattered peril to structured coexistence. The laws of democracy have vaulted us to the acme of social cohesion, for they eliminated arbitrary diktat and introduced collective will. The divine right of kings is dead; it has been reborn as the secular right of an elected Parliament.
   A nation that cannot uphold its law cannot preserve its order. When Anderson was smuggled out to safety, the authority of state abandoned the responsibility of state. Excuses, evasions and lies have shifted over 26 years; this central truth has not.


Unsurprisingly, Anderson sneered at the establishment that knelt before him; contempt is the umbilical chord of the colonial, or neo-colonial, relationship. The crux of the Bhopal tragedy is summed up in a few sentences uttered by Anderson as he was escorted out of India on December 7, 1984: "House arrest or no house arrest, or bail or no bail, I am free to go home…There is a law of the United States… India, bye bye, thank you."
   'House or no house arrest': he could not care a damn about those funny-looking policemen (in lathis and khaki shorts?) who had dared to arrest a pillar of the American corporate establishment. 'Bail or no bail': what was a rotten piece of paper signed in an Indian court worth to a lord of Wall Street? Not even the decency of silence. Anderson was publicly, even proudly, contemptuous of those who did not have the courage to interrupt his freedom for a mere industrial disaster in which a few thousand semislave Indians had been gassed to death within hours and thousands more would die over years.


'There is a law in the United States': Anderson had twigged on to a basic truth that the law is a malleable reality for those who are "well-connected" in India. How could Anderson have respect for India's law when those entrusted with its sanctity had defiled it? Anderson laughed at Indian law, and jeered at the Indian state. Compare this with the fact that his company was scared witless at the prospect of an American trial. Carbide fought hard, and successfully, with predictable help from a comprador Indian establishment, to shift the trial from America to India. Their subsequent collusion with Indian courts touched Supreme heights.


British Petroleum knew the perils of entanglement with American justice and shelled out within six weeks of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Big Oil (which is far bigger than Big Chemical) has been forced to put aside $20 billion for the repair of the environment after an ecological disaster that has not killed a single innocent human being. Technically, BP need not have paid more than $75 million. The first demand on Carbide, 26 years ago was for $15 billion. It has paid the equivalent of just one billion dollars (at today's prices) for the death of nearly 20,000 people and the horrific maiming of over 100,000.


Barack Obama slipped on a bit of oil himself when the spill began. He thought playing to the gallery would subdue the clamour, while BP contained the damage. He upped the ante (it became an environmental 9/11) even while his National Guard helped BP by hiding affected bird-life from media cameras. Obama began to taunt the British in British Petroleum, perhaps because he found it easier to attack a nation than a multinational; but public opinion was not to be mollified by rhetoric.

 BP paid America out of fear, not because of a demand order from its conscience. Carbide had nothing to fear, and never possessed a conscience. QED. BP will not pay a dividend this year. Carbide paid a dividend even after Bhopal.


'India, bye bye, thank you': those famous last Anderson words. Bye bye; this is a divorce, not a separation. There might be some alimony in it, but don't start shopping until the cheque is in the bank.


 Accusation is the easy exit route from Bhopal. Introspection will take us back to the beginning. Betrayal is impossible without trust. We did not trust Carbide to be honest. We trusted our political class, and it continues to search for new and inventive ways to betray us again.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

IDENTITY CRISIS OF A SCHOOL FOR 'GENTLEMEN'

SWAPAN DASGUPTA

 

In the past fortnight, La Martiniere, Kolkata, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The tragic suicide of 13-year-old Rouvanjit Rawla, a student devastated by insensitive teachers and harsh punishment, has incensed people and disgusted the alumni. Was the tragedy an unhappy aberration or symptomatic of deeper institutional rot?


Having spent an exhilarating six years in La Martiniere, it is difficult to believe that the values that governed the school have changed so much. Being caned by the principal was not unheard of in the 1960s, but it was rare. A clip behind the ear for talking out of turn or being asked to run three rounds of the school grounds for picking a fight were the usual forms of punishment — and these were accepted by staff, students and, for that matter, parents, as part of schooling.


 Discipline also extended to personal grooming. Polished leather shoes were obligatory, tight trousers were not and long hair would often result in the school barber being summoned for mass haircuts. La Martiniere was not known for scholastic rigour but it acquired a reputation for smartness. In the world of petty snobberies, this mattered.


 Punishment was governed by an unwritten code of fairness that applied to both students and teachers. After all, the primary responsibility for maintaining school discipline fell to the student prefects. These were coveted appointments based on leadership abilities and trust. Just as a 'house captain' couldn't misuse his authority to appropriate a junior's pocket money, it was unthinkable for a teacher to demand a bribe from a student.
   In today's La Martiniere that trust has broken down. The moral assumptions that governed school life don't seem to be shared by all, least of all the school authorities. The transmission of tradition from one generation to another has been disrupted.


Admittedly, we were a caricature of a minor English public school. There was the school's elaborate coat of arms; a lusty school song sung on important occasions; a school prayer; a morning service led each day by the principal that followed the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer; and even something called the 'Maxims' — a collation of homilies, including the need to maintain a sense of humour on all occasions.

 Tradition was a defining feature of school life. The school 'houses' were named after three imperial heroes — Warren Hastings, Job Charnock and Lord Macaulay — and the founder, Claude Martin, a colourful French adventurer who made a fortune serving the British. And there were the rolls of honour stretching back to the 1830s, listing the boys who had won the gold medal and the 'good conduct' medal.


 When I left school in 1971, many of these traditions had already begun to look jaded in a rapidly changing India. La Martiniere's emphasis was on producing gentlemen — well spoken, well groomed, at ease in a jacket and tie and possessing good table manners. Ideally, they would be at home in a 1930s Anglosphere that, tragically, no longer existed.


 Did the school succeed in its noble mission? Did that wonderful athlete who was naturally awarded the 'good conduct' medal on Founder's Day do anything worthwhile in life? Whatever happened to that lanky boy who was such a good opening batsman? Did they make a meaningful mark? Or were they brushed aside by an India that had redefined its values and priorities?


   Today's La Martiniere faces a crisis. But it isn't the only one. In 1947, the departing British left behind many institutions that had sought to remake little corners of India into England's green and pleasant land. In time, control of these institutions passed from those who stayed on to the Anglo-Indians and, finally, to the 'native Christians'. Yet, these schools weren't really Christian in the way the Jesuitrun schools were. The attachment to the Church of England (and its successor churches) was nominal, and 'Christian education' was a euphemism for 'English education'.


 Today's parents demand an English-medium education that doesn't end with fluency in the English language. They expect rigorous teaching, scholastic excellence and an upbringing that will facilitate entry to an IIT or an American university. The likes of La Martiniere aimed at producing 'gentlemen' and 'ladies' in a more settled age. They could have reinvented themselves, as many public schools in England have, blending tradition with cutting-edge modernity. The 'secular' Indian public schools, moved beyond their narrow gentlemanly focus to embrace the excitement of the capitalist dream. They made the transition to a new India.


 La Martiniere, unfortunately, got trapped in a self-serving, church-run ghetto. Lacking direction, it is living off its inheritance and real estate. Maybe, the Church of England should consider reclaiming what it bequeathed to unworthy natives.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

SUNDAY SENTIMENTS

IN DEFENCE OF RAJIV

KARAN THAPAR

 

There's no point searching for proof that Rajiv Gandhi was involved in Warren Anderson's 'escape' from India on December 7, 1984. Whether it exists or not, it's unlikely to be found except by luck. And you can't determine good fortune. But, equally, you don't need 'proof'. Approach the matter through logical deduction and it becomes indisputable — indeed, almost unquestionably so — that he either knew or, at least, approved.

All you have to do is ask a simple question: is it conceivable that the prime minister was not aware that Warren Anderson was spirited out of Bhopal in a government plane and sent to Delhi — where he met the home minister and the President, if Arun Nehru is to be believed — and certainly the then foreign secretary, M. K. Rasgotra, who has admitted as much to me, before departing for America on a commercial flight? After all, we're not talking of an ordinary tourist but the principal accused in the world's worst-ever industrial disaster killing over 2,600 and injuring tens of thousands more (as the tally was on that date).

Rationally speaking, the answer has to be no. Rajiv Gandhi must have — indeed, ought to have — known. He was, after all, foreign minister as well as prime minister and, thus, Rasgotra's boss. But let's for argument's sake assume the answer is 'yes'. Unbelievable though it might be, he did not know. Two further questions now follow. First, what does this tell us about Rajiv Gandhi's authority and control? To raise this is to answer it. There's no need to say more.

The second question is the clincher. What did Rajiv Gandhi do when he found out? If he did not agree with the decision to let Warren Anderson slip away he should have blown a fuse. The prime minister's anger should have been frightening to behold. Heads should have rolled. Inquiries should have been ordered.

But did that happen? No. So what does that tell us? Quite simply that either the prime minister knew or, at least, concurred with the decision and found nothing wrong with it.

Now, flip the discussion and let's ask was this really such a terrible thing to permit? Before you answer, consider the following. At the time Anderson was only charged under Section 304A (negligence) and not 304-II (culpable homicide). Second, he could not have been kept under arrest indefinitely. Third, whenever bail was granted there was a chance he'd leave and never return, despite solemn promises to the contrary. Fourth, the risk this would happen was not a ground for refusing bail. Fifth, a prolonged arrest without bail would have smacked of persecution and, worse, put off investors who, at the time (and it was a very different era), India sorely needed. Sixth, and most importantly, he was granted safe passage — making the arrest a grave breach of promise.

For all these reasons you can credibly argue that letting Anderson go was the sensible thing to do, and in India's interest. Alas, the Congress doesn't realise that.

By refusing to recognise these obvious arguments the Party has tied itself into knots. In insisting that Rajiv Gandhi knew nothing of Anderson's departure they've converted their icon into either a fool or a knave or both. And by failing to point out that Anderson had to be released and that it was, additionally, wise to do so,  they've encouraged the impression it was a heinous thing to do.

Will someone please protect Rajiv Gandhi from his heirs and successors?

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

HEAT AND GAS

INDRAJIT HAZRA

 

I need a hair cut. The Delhi heat must be getting to me. How else can I explain my peculiar behaviour over the last three days: driving to Ashoka Road every morning before going to work, going past the All India Congress Committee office on 7 Ashoka Road, and then stopping the car just outside 17 Ashoka Road for some 15 minutes while the car stereo plays the Stokes' song 'Heart in a cage' three times in a loop.

On Friday when I went out to pursue my latest pre-midlife crisis hobby, I saw a TV crew of four young people sitting on the kerb directly outside the closed gates of 17 Ashoka Road. It was clear that they were bored and that like me — but with a much more tangible purpose — this group was also coming every day and hanging out outside this sprawling central Delhi bungalow. They either hoped to be let in by the hidden-from-view guards inside the gate, or catch the main resident of No. 17 taking a chukker out of the bungalow walls in a white Ambassador with a red light. In the three days of quarter-hour installments that I was outside the house of Congressman and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh, I saw only one police vehicle come out of the gate.

Since public interest in the Bhopal gas tragedy and in former Union Carbide Chairman Warren Anderson's 'safe passage' has been resuscitated after the recent court verdict, I have been eager to take a look at, if not actually meet, Arjun Singh.

My purpose is neither journalistic nor activistic. I just want to see the man who, as CM of Madhya Pradesh in the aftermath of the December 2-3, 1984 'accident', retained a disposition befitting a Rewa Rajput running off to his ancestral Kerwa Dam palace when death comes to town. Not many people can do that without being at least tagged as an incompetent administrator guilty of dereliction of duty.

If Finance Minister and fellow Congress veteran Pranab Mukherjee is to be believed, Anderson, charged with manslaughter, was chaperoned out of India after being arrested and released on bail by the Madhya Pradesh Police in Bhopal on December 7, 1984. Last week, Mukherjee said that "it is very clear from the statement of Arjun Singh, which was published in The Times of India on December 8, 1984, that the law and order situation in Bhopal would have deteriorated and people's frenzy and temper were running high. Therefore, it was thought necessary to send him [Anderson] out of Bhopal." The fact that "out of Bhopal" had to be as far away as Long Island, New York, is, I guess, understandable considering the long arm of the methyl-isocyanated mob.

Of course, highlighting only Anderson or Arjun Singh in the whole tawdry affair of post-Bhopal dealings of the Eveready-charged Government of India is missing the wood for the whole darn furniture, considering that 'proper' compensations are yet to be doled out and still-existing toxins in Bhopal are yet to be removed. But let's not make a fetish of the forest-like 'no-individuals-please' system either.

It could be just sheer coincidence that just when the nation (including a few of us staking out outside 17 Akbar Road) wants the ruling party — which was also the ruling party both in Bhopal and at the Centre the day Anderson was tucked into a blue ambassador with a red light on it, providing the first leg of a remarkably short journey that would take him "out of Bhopal" — to shed some light on Anderson's 'safe passage', the reconstituted Group of Ministers on Bhopal has reportedly backed the hike in compensation for gas victims and will be finalising its report tomorrow.

But it could be no coincidence also.

Since some dead men out of favour have the lovely quality of not being able to speak, I bet my two Indane gas cylinders that Anderson's 'safe passage' will be kitted out as a decision taken by the then Congress Home Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao with the still wet-behind-the-ears PM Rajiv Gandhi not smelling a whiff of this Government of India decision at all.

Arjun Singh told this paper this week he has "no locus standi" on the Bhopal issue. I'll keep locus sitting in my car outside his house from time to time anyway. Told you I need a hair cut.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

TRAN-SPORTED

SOUMYA BHATTACHARYA

If you were a small boy in Kolkata in the 1970s, you supported only one international football team: Brazil. My father and uncles and all their friends supported Brazil; and all my friends did as indeed did their fathers and uncles. Sporting allegiance is often passed on from generation to generation.

Brazil, we knew, played beautiful football, and, in certain circles in Kolkata, you were brought up to believe that as a Bengali, you had no choice but to be an aesthete.

All that changed in 1982. In sport, it's rare for a fan to switch loyalties. It's rarer still for half the football fans in a city to switch loyalties at the same time. It's a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. But this was triggered by a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon: Diego Maradona.

For fans of my generation, Maradona — flawed, angry and more sinned against than sinning in that tournament, kicked and hacked by every defender he came up against, preternatural in his reflexes, superhuman in his skill, slaloming and leapfrogging across the pitch with his demeanour informed by a punk-rock swagger — became a mascot.

No, I won't get started on what he did in the 1986 World Cup.

So now I have passed on my allegiance to my daughter. A World Cup is always a good time for seeing how things have changed in the four years since the last one was held. As I see Oishi now, I feel a twinge of nostalgia for the four-year-old she had been in 2006.

She watched the game only fitfully in those days; she knew the terrace chant (Ar-gen-tina! Ar-gen-tina!), but would only occasionally cheer and shout along with me at Argentina games.

This time, she is deeply involved. She knows the players because she has followed them in European league football. She is busy plotting the progress of the side she supports; and she  worries about whom Argentina will meet in the Round of 16.

Now, we chant in unison: Ar-gen-tina! Vamos, vamos!

It helps that Maradona is the manager of the current team. Days before the Cup began, she flicked through El Diego: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Footballer, and asked me tell her again of the man's exploits and his operatic life.

We watched Argentina's first game against Nigeria together. And the second against South Korea together but apart, speaking on the phone at half-time and texting each other at critical moments.

There are few things like watching sport together. Because when it is sport, one isn't merely watching. It is a participatory exercise. It fosters a rare sense of togetherness, a rush of adrenaline and a glimpse of beauty and drama that transport us to a realm beyond our ordinary lives.

I'll make the most of this World Cup. When the next one comes around, and she is on the brink of becoming a teenager, who can tell how things will be?

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

'IF THE MINISTER GETS INVOLVED IN THE DAY TO DAY RUNNING OF TRAINS, THAT'S A DISASTROUS SIGNAL'

 

Coomi Kapoor: Mamata Banerjee has recently triumphed in the West Bengal civic polls. Why, then, does she have a negative image in the media—she is seen as a sort of maverick, somebody who lacks the maturity and statesmanship expected of a minister?

 

There are two parts of the media: one is the regional media which is solidly on the ground; and one is the national media. As far as the English media is concerned, it is more elitist. It is totally tilted towards a convent culture. So somebody who doesn't fit into that profile is laughed at. We have seen it happening with so many people like Lalu Prasad Yadav. Nobody can believe that a single lady with no political godfather or godmother, not even a neighbour who was somewhere close to politics, can rise on her own, fighting money, muscle power and a part of the media. Whatever she has achieved is single-handed and this has caused a sense of disbelief.

 

Coomi Kapoor: The way she is running the Railway Ministry has been criticised. She is almost never in Delhi, she seldom attends Cabinet meetings; she says that even if the railway finances are not balanced, she will not increase rates.

 

I think we have to understand the system aspect of it. The railways are run by the Railway Board. And that's the way it should be. If the minister gets involved in the day to day running of trains, that's a disastrous signal. And if you say she doesn't attend meetings, show me one file that is pending. What do you want at the end of the day? You want efficiency? Indian Railways is very efficient. I find it very strange that you track Mamata Banerjee missing Cabinet meetings but ignore many others who do not go. Why don't you talk about that? I haven't understood this bias. Is that because she is a woman?

 

DK Singh: Are you saying a ministry can be run in absentia?

 

The PM is the mukhiya of the entire Cabinet. The buck stops there. He has to travel all over the world. Many times you don't find the PM in the House even when Parliament is in session because he needs to travel, that's his duty. We all are duty bound to our constituencies and to our states. That's our federal structure. Take a tally: 99.9 per cent of the time, Mamata Banerjee has answered her Ministry's questions in Parliament. She was the first one to go to the Jnaneshwari Express accident site and she stayed till the last passenger was taken care of. That's the way she is. In today's world of technology files travel. You could be in Florida and running your show as efficiently as you could be while sitting in the office. There is also no hard and fast rule that you have to be present at work. At that rate, the Prime Minister would have to be in office 24-hours a day.

 

DK Singh: How do you justify a minister questioning the government's policies, especially on Naxals?

 

This is another bogey that has been created: Mamata is soft on Naxals, she is soft on Maoists. In fact, she was the first one to ask for a ban on the Maoists. As far as West Bengal is concerned, most of the areas with a Maoist presence — Purulia, West Midnapur, Bankura - have no Trinamool Congress presence. Not at the panchayat or nagar palika levels, or MLAs and MPs. In the last elections we got some seats there, but otherwise we have no presence at all. The CPM has got people there. If you revolt against the CPM, you automatically become a Naxal, a Maoist and get branded. When I spoke about Nandigram, the Left said, 'they are all Maoists'. Now the elections have taken place. How come we don't hear about the Maoists in Nandigram? Where have they gone? When the railway accident took place, Mamata was told by the police that it appeared to be a blast and was probably carried out by Maoists. Mamata's first reaction to the media was the same — that it appears to be a blast by the Maoists. She never hesitated saying that. Today, you cannot talk about the Naxals or the Maoists and issues like development or mining rights because if you do, everyone accuses you of being soft. The so-called Maoists don't believe in democracy, they don't believe in this present day set up. So, why would they believe in Mamata? Mamata believes in democracy. She is one of the most patriotic persons I have ever come across.

 

DK Singh: So, the TMC is fully with the government on Naxals?

 

All I am trying to say is this: there is no way you can be on the side of a force which is perceived to be not with the nation, be it the Maoists or anybody else.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Are you then saying that there is no disagreement between the TMC and the Government?

 

What we need to do is identify those who are actually Maoists. You have to segregate them. We are painting everybody with the same brush. As per our theory, the ones who are revolting against the Left in West Bengal are suddenly branded Maoists, Naxals. The 'janta' is getting sandwiched between the bullets of the security forces and those of the Maoists.

 

Seema Chishti: You are a very important ally of the UPA government, so is the DMK which has a plethora of cabinet ministers. Why hasn't TMC sent as many ministers?

 

The reason was very simple. We were needed in West Bengal. Every day I find a murder in my constituency—I

have to be there. You are required to be there. Also, elections are coming up. All of us can't be out of West Bengal.

 

The decision was taken only after due deliberation. Ours is an absolutely democratic party: people sit, they talk, they decide the pros and cons. Even I said that at this point in time it was better to have only one representation in the Cabinet. The stability of the Central government was very important otherwise it would have been easier to provide support to it from the outside. But that would not have given the signal we have given that we are solidly a part of the UPA II government.

 

Teena Thacker: There have been allegations by some junior ministers that they don't get much liberty. What happens in your ministry?

 

I have been very fortunate—and I am not being a sycophant—to have Ghulam Nabi Azad as the senior minister because whatever I want, he gives me. There is no issue on that at all. When some ministers were going to the PM to talk about their workload, journalists asked me if I also had a complaint, and I said yes, I have—he (Azad) gives me too much work!

 

It all depends on the niche you carve out for yourself. There are many areas in the Health Ministry which do not fall into the category of routine work, like the national health portal. It is huge. No country in the world has thought of a national health portal. At a national level, I am trying to get everybody onto an electronic medical record, I am trying to get medical mobile vans wherever we can't have units. I have tied up with the railways to give us land wherever it can. There are 8,000 stations so we are planning to have diagnostic centres and OPDs there. Such work is not a part of routine work, you don't have to keep on signing files. A lot of work needs to be done. And there is no senior minister who would say no to a junior minister, because ultimately, the credit will go to the senior minister. I have been very happy with the role of MoS, it couldn't have been better.

 

Maneesh Chhibber: We hear a lot about what the Left government has not done in West Bengal. What is your

party's vision, how do you plan to run the state?

 

We want to re-establish law and democracy. Without democracy there is nothing. The police and the bureaucracy have been politicised. The reason we talk about Naxals or Maoists is that everything is politicised and that is true for most parts of the country. The moment you politicise all agencies, including the police and the bureaucracy, you don't get the correct picture. West Bengal used to be the gateway of India. It used to be number one, but today it doesn't count. That's why most of its youth is leaving the state.

 

Maneesh Chhibber: There is an impression that in your dealings with the Congress there is no trust. How does that affect your position?

 

Today, if you go to a TMC office you will find photographs of the Congress family, of Gandhiji, of Netaji, of Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi. The ethos is the same. The only difference is our perception that the CPM and the Left Front have used the police and goons to kill innocent people and Congress does not agree with us. We have had seat adjustments during the Lok Sabha elections. This time, in the civic polls unfortunately, we couldn't work it out. In the last municipal elections we had 42 seats, this time we got 95. Last time the Trinamool Congress by itself had four boards; today we are going to form about 50 boards. We must be doing something right. Congress is a national party and it must have realised the people in the state do not want the Opposition vote to be divided. They don't want to see the Left at all. This is the writing on the wall.

 

Coomi Kapoor: In view of the antagonism between the two parties during the civic polls, what about the assembly elections?

 

This time, the problem was more at the local level. At the end of the day, you must listen to the masses. As far

as the masses of West Bengal are concerned, the verdict is loud and clear: they want a change for the better. And that is what we have promised.

 

Coomi Kapoor: In an alliance there are unwritten rules. How do you explain TMC taking away senior leaders of the Congress in the state?

 

At the senior level, Mamataji has never taken a single person from the Congress party. We are still part of the UPA-II. I am very confident that things will change.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Tell us about your relationship with Mamata. How did you first meet her and how did you become a Bengali leader?

 

I have never lived anywhere other than West Bengal. I have never considered Delhi my home. It is all temporary, makeshift. My thoughts are in Bengali and I am an Indian at the end of the day.

 

My first meeting with Mamata was at Allahabad railway station. I had gone to campaign for VP Singh, and she had gone to campaign for his opponent in that very famous by election of 1998. She just said hello to me and asked where I was seated. I said I was still on the wait list. She said, 'what do you mean wait list? I have got two seats, there is a friend with me. We will sleep on one and you take the other one'. That really touched me and I thought here is a person with such a big heart. That was the beginning. From the inception of the party I have been there. Even when she was to be thrown out of the Congress, I told friends in the Congress not to make the mistake of throwing her out. I tried my best to make sure she remained in the party but it did not happen. When Mamata was expelled, she said that all of us should be together. I told friends in the Congress they had to understand that in Bengal we have to fight the CPM and Mamata is a person with conviction. That's how I shifted to Mamata from Congress. I remember during Singur and Nandigram, my golf club friends asked why we were driving away the Tatas. They had no idea of the ground reality. The issue was very simple: the might and the power of the state versus the right of the individual. In the parliamentary constituency of Hooghly which includes Singur, we had a lead of 32,000 votes. How do you get that if the people are not with you?

 

Teena Thacker: You were to go to the US for the Indo-American strategic talks but due to the West Bengal civic polls you did not go. Do you think it was a wise decision?

 

When you have a fire at home you cannot go to party. I am not trying to say that going to the US was a party. But there was a fire at home. And there were atrocities in my constituency. There were cases of mass molestation. How could I have left? Had I left, you would have asked how could I have left when people were being molested and killed? At the end of the day, I am representing India and the people of my constituency Barrackpore and West Bengal. For the record, my inclusion in the team was at the last moment; Ghulam Nabi Azad was supposed to go. I was not irreplaceable. But you have a point and I am glad you asked.

 

Kanupriya: What is your take on the general perception that political activists never make effective politicians?

 

If you go through a freedom movement, almost everybody was a so-called street fighter — Gandhiji, for one. If

you go by history, people have had to struggle because if you do not struggle, change will not come. And change comes when you represent the people. If the people did not want change, if the people of Nandigram and Singur did not have a movement, nobody could have given them leadership. People have gone there and said a lot of things but nothing would have happened. At the end of the day, it is the representation of the people that counts.

 

Transcribed by Geeta Gupta

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MARKETING AS MANIPULATION

SHOMBIT SENGUPTA

 

Europe does not consider marketing to be an economic strength that serves organisations and societies. Marketing is generally believed to be pure manipulation that sells a product by fooling people. Sometimes it's even perceived a vulgar weapon to bulldoze and overdose the masses with. Exploiting the consumer's mistrust for marketing, hyper markets and supermarkets started their own retail brands called private labels as extensions of organised brands to be sold only in their stores. Private labels duplicate most fast moving consumer goods and price products at least 25 per cent lower than big brands. Shops like Leader Price in Europe and Dollar Store in the US have emerged to espouse high discount prices. This anti-marketing force against overpriced branded products is a growing business sect emerging in all countries. Private labels cannot think of advertising as they have too many products. They take advantage of the awareness of big brands and create good quality low priced products to sell alongside them at the retail.

 

Business driven Americans are, in general, attuned to marketing. Americans assign power and recognition when money is quoted. The success of Donald Trump, Bill Gates, George Lucas, Hugh Hefner, Stephan King or Bob Dylan among others is glorified in terms of their wealth.

 

In every aspect of life, be it business, films, writers, musicians, even literature, success is measured in scale and money. The term 'bestseller' was coined to market literature through quantitative measurement of a specific number of books sold. Should a book be equated to a consuming product's multi-mega sale, like beefsteaks sold in kilos in a hypermarket? Shouldn't 'highly read' replace 'bestseller' to define this category that grows intellect or creates fantasy? Being in the Top 5, Top 10 or Top 50 of the musical hit parade originated here to measure a singer's commercial success. Money, size and scale for all subjects are entrenched as positive endorsement in American culture.

 

My observation is that the US context of marketing means being clever and intelligent enough to make money. The more marketing oriented you are, the more respect you gain. Making money is crucial and not negotiable, and having money translates to being on top of everything. Commerce drives marketing, making it a revered subject at both the workplace and in business schools.

 

American big city lifestyle is dazzling, but in contrast the American farmer says he cannot use any marketing tactics as he is produce strapped for money. As per a research finding, farmers consider theirs to be the country's most neglected profession, with agricultural imports destroying their earnings. The farmer resents getting short-changed by the consumer who rejects his high priced American produce for imports. This undercurrent of hard times in American farms is likely to reverse their livelihood dependence on agriculture.

 

When manufacturing of Western branded products is outsourced to emerging economy countries, some American and European consumers doubt the product's quality. But anti-marketing consumers for whom brands mean some marketing brush up with no real substance are quite happy with these cheaper products.

 

After about 11 million Americans lost their jobs in the recent recession, "offshore outsourcing" has become a dirty concept. To win consumer confidence and be politically correct, US companies are now showcasing their contribution towards American job seekers. American Apparel brand is appeasing the public by advertising their product uniqueness to be "Made in Downtown LA, Sweatshop Free." They earn the consumer's wallet share by emphasising US manufacturing facilities, not outsourced to foreign sweatshops. Similarly Starbucks communicates, "Every Latte, Every Cappuccino 100% Fair-trade Coffee" in every coffee cup, meaning they practice fair-trade in procurement. I've heard the Governor of Michigan say on television that America should be an exporting country, not import oriented.

 

Among the best marketing jobs to date is the UK's organised marketing of imperialism. British cultural infusion into their colonies was akin to slow poison that finally consumed their subjects.

 

Just a handful of British traders spread the English culture into India. Today nobody faults an Indian who does not speak his mother tongue correctly, but if he should use improper English, he will lose his social status. Implementing the British way of life in a colony was the finest marketing action of the British race. Whichever country they went to, they drove the indigenous people to adopt English culture.

 

Free trade and commerce is pushing emerging economy countries to follow the Western marketing model by default. The English language has been the unsurpassed marketing coup by becoming the globally recognised business language across the world. American marketing has always feted the large, whether in cars or hamburgers, and on getting more value, starting with "More bang for the buck" as they say in advertising parlance. Western business practices have influenced emerging countries without taking into account the societal aspects of our billions. The dichotomy is that India and China are now downloading new complexities in the front yard of Americans and Europeans by overpowering them with issues relating to outsourcing and organised immigration.

 

After their World War II defeat, Japan was disallowed from manufacturing defence weapons. So they set out to conquer world markets with the ingenious weapon of high quality miniaturisation. They copied fundamental Western invention and obsessively created high quality miniaturised products to win consumer hearts across the world. India needs to think of how to market Indian brands that reflect outstanding quality, functionality and emotive factor without the constrained perception of cost advantage being considered low profile, low cost and low quality. Only by packaging cost, quality and aspiration at every price point can Indian brands meaningfully surprise global markets and get recognised in digitalised 21st century.

 

Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management. Reach him at

 

www.shiningconsulting.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

NOT ANOTHER REPORT

TAVLEEN SINGH

 

Is it just me or do you notice the whiff of deception that emanates from the Group of Ministers currently discussing Bhopal? For the committee to be constituted at all worried me and when Congress ministers and spokesmen started answering every question on Bhopal with 'there is a Group of Ministers...' I became increasingly convinced that this GOM is no more than a device to facilitate more duplicity and deceit. What can it tell us about what happened that the whole world does not already know?

 

We know that an American company called Union Carbide manufactured poisonous gas without adequate safety precautions. We know that it tried afterwards to blame it all on its Indian subsidiary. We know that thousands of people died, thousands more were maimed and thousands of women gave birth to babies with horrible birth defects. We know that they were paid a pittance as compensation. We know that no government in Delhi or Bhopal in the past 25 years made the slightest effort to rectify the harm done. We know that justice was not just delayed but turned into a joke. We know that the people who live around the poison factory continue to suffer diseases caused by unclean water and polluted air. We know that the public health services they are forced to rely on are appalling. So, exactly what is the purpose of this Group of Ministers?

 

Is its main purpose, as cynics believe, simply to ensure that the blame does not end up falling on Rajiv Gandhi? If this is true then it will be a complete waste of taxpayers' money since the general perception (despite the strenuous efforts of Congress Party spokesmen) is that the buck stops with the Prime Minister. In 1984, that Prime Minister was Rajiv Gandhi. But, there were other prime ministers who came after him and they are as much to blame. Chandra Shekhar, Deve Gowda, IK Gujral, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh. Why has no Prime Minister in the past 25 years been troubled by the terrible suffering of the victims of the worst industrial accident in the history of industry?

 

If all that needs to be done now is to apportion blame then it must be apportioned between all of them but it would be an irrelevant exercise. It no longer matters. What matters is for us to try and understand why the Indian state always ends up failing its weakest citizens. What matters is making sure that those who suffered receive enough compensation to rebuild their broken lives. This needs to happen without the usual bribery and corruption and without the usual delays even if it means giving the task to the NGOs who have done more to help Bhopal's victims than any government has.

 

Call me an old cynic but I very much fear that the Group of Ministers has been constituted mostly to divert attention from doing what really needs to be done. Other than compensation to the victims what we need to know is what action will be taken against the officials in Delhi and Bhopal who failed to do their duty in the past 25 years? Will they be identified and punished? What we need from the current Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh are details of what measures he has taken in the past six years to help the victims. How many have been provided with decent homes? How many of their children have been put through proper schools? How many have access to clean water? How many have access to proper healthcare? What has his government done to make sure that at least these things happen?

 

Then there are things that only the Prime Minister can do. He must take whatever steps need to be taken to ensure that the Indian justice system never takes 25 years to decide a case of such importance. Why did it take so long to identify and punish the culprits in a case in which everyone knew who the culprits were? It is a question the judiciary must address if we want to restore faith in the Indian justice system.

 

What Union Carbide's criminal negligence proved most effectively was that in India you can get away with killing large numbers of desperately poor people because their lives are worthless in the eyes of the Indian state. This is almost the most shameful aspect of what happened in Bhopal on that horrible December night in 1984. We do not need yet another report by yet another group of ministers to tell us that what happened must never happen again. The only way to ensure this is by identifying and publicly punishing those who failed the victims in every way at every step. Warren Andersen is far from being the only guilty man.

 

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

IT'S NOBODY'S FAULT

MEGHNAD DESAI

 

Arjun Singh is a secular politician. Indeed, he is also a Congress politician and a faithful servant of the Dynasty. Hence, he can do no wrong. Secularists, especially Congress secularists, are never at fault, be it aiding and abetting the killing of 3,000 Sikhs or allowing Shiv Sainiks to attack Muslims, as they did in Mumbai 1993, or for that matter letting Warren Anderson escape despite the death of thousands of Bhopal citizens. They are never brought to trial; indeed, they are regularly rewarded.

 

Yet, no Congress member is entirely innocent. The crucial point is whether he is about to embarrass the memory or the person of anyone at the top. Natwar Singh was secular and faithful, but he seemed to embarrass the Party leadership and out he went . No trial, no due process; he just became a non-person as far as the Congress was concerned. So Arjun Singh is safe unless someone finds that if he escapes the finger may point higher up all the way to Rajiv Gandhi. This is the point at which Arjun Singh could become a non-person.

 

When that moment arrives, as it well might, Arjun Singh would be well advised not to resist. He has already once before embarrassed the powers that be by speaking about Rahul Gandhi out of turn. This time is the second and last chance not to get it wrong. If he does resist, he will suddenly find Income Tax officers at his doorstep, a disproportionate assets case against him and the CBI (Congress Bachao Institution) will be in his hot pursuit.

 

In none of these issues do the people of Bhopal matter a jot. Their city may be ruined but for 26 years no one

has cared to de-toxify the site. It is all right for ordinary Indian citizens—aam aadmis—to live in squalor and even perpetual danger. This will become a contentious problem only if the BJP can be somehow blamed for neglect. This is because only Opposition parties do wrong, especially if they are non-secular (and not needed for the Congress to win elections as in case of Raj Thackeray).Cases for disproportionate assets can only be launched against non-Congress politicians (but withdrawn if their votes are needed in Lok Sabha). Income Tax raids are only meant for non-allies.

 

The reason for this was well explained by a prominent member of Congress, an ex-Cabinet Minister on a TV channel. He said the Constitution does not guarantee justice. It only provides for the Rule of Law. The purpose of the Rule of Law, I presume, must be to keep the lawyers busy but not to secure justice. This is why we will now go through various contortions about who changed the charges under which Warren Anderson was held. Years will be taken up fighting the escape of the guilty party 26 years after the event, in full knowledge that the person in question will not be extradited. If by some chance there was a possibility of extradition we can rely on CBI to lose the original papers or appear in a foreign court under-prepared ( recall Quattrocchi).

 

The most important point is that no Congress member in any sort of elected authority, either at the state level in Madhya Pradesh or at the Central level, was responsible for the departure of Warren Anderson from India. Perhaps, a policeman will be discovered for having taken the law in his hands and letting Anderson escape. But no elected member, no politician, no Congress politician, will be held responsible.

 

Just compare this superior Indian way of conducting our affairs with the way in which US President Barack Obama is conducting his campaign against BP where only a dozen or so people have died. We believe in ahimsa and we follow Gandhiji's teachings. We don't abuse our guests even if they have caused severe environmental damage and caused the death of 15,000 people. BP has to create a fund to compensate Americans who have suffered economic damage due to the oil spill. BP CEO Tony Hayward had to appear before Congressional Committees and even face some harsh words from the President.

 

But that's not our way. No harsh words, no parliamentary investigation. We are not like the US. We are a Secular Socialist Democratic Republic.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

BADMINTON IS NOT CRICKET

COOMI KAPOOR

 

Former cricket captain and Lok Sabha member Mohammad Azharuddin has no connection with badminton, except for the fact that his gym in Hyderabad is frequented by some badminton players. Nevertheless, Azharuddin was so confident that he would win the election to head the Badminton Association elections this month against the incumbent V K Verma, that he accompanied Vice President Hamid Ansari on an official trip to East Europe on the eve of the election. Azharuddin presumed that since Sports Minister M S Gill had suggested he contest, he was sure of victory. Gill thought Azharuddin's victory would be a vindication of the Sports Ministry's controversial new guidelines that no president of a sports body should serve for more than 12 years. Verma, who had completed three terms as president, was standing for re-election. However, the script did not go as planned by the Sports Minister. While he was in Prague, Azharuddin got an urgent call asking him to return to India. In Croatia, the Congress MP left the delegation and flew back. On his return, Azharuddin discovered that despite Gill's backing, most state badminton associations did not endorse his candidature. The cricketer decided to bow out of the contest and Verma was elected unopposed for a fourth straight term.

 

Itna saaf nahi

 

With widely respected veteran journalist, S Nihal Singh, resigning shortly after being elected president of the India chapter of the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), the funding and control of the NGO, which is an associate body of SAARC, has come in for questioning. The soft spoken Singh appears to have been provoked when he discovered that long time secretary general of the Pakistani chapter, Imtiaz Alam, calls the shots and the Indian president has little say. The funding for SAFMA originates mainly from Norway and Denmark and is routed through Alam. The objective of SAFMA, which is headquartered in Pakistan, is to work at strengthening Indo-Pakistan ties through the media, though some journalists see it simply as an opportunity to visit neighbouring countries free of cost. Unlike the Indian chapter, which had had three changes of guard since its inception, Alam, a well known human rights activist, has remained secretary general of the Pakistani chapter since it was founded more than a decade ago.

 

Idol Talk

 

An NRI sought Subramanian Swamy's help in getting the British government to hand over an old idol of the goddess Saraswati, which is now in the British Museum. Swamy has some expertise on the subject. During his brief period as law minister he initiated the process for the return of the priceless Nataraja idol stolen from Tamil Nadu and eventually sold to the Getty foundation. Reclaiming the Saraswati may not be as simple as getting back the Nataraja, which was seized by the British authorities while it was in transit to the US. The law in the UK stipulates that trustees of the country's five top museums do not have the power to dispose of any historic artifact, which forms part of the museum's collection. The Greeks, after all, have been demanding back the Elgin marbles for over 200 years without success, nor have we made any progress in retrieving the Amravati stupa.

 

Power shift

 

The Congress-led government has clipped the wings of Sharad Pawar's lieutenant, Praful Patel. The Civil Aviation Minister was not consulted on the appointment of Air India board members and the selection of Arvind Jhadav as chairperson of the airlines. Jhadav does not report to his minister but liaises directly with cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar. A few months ago, a committee of secretaries was set up to oversee the national airline, giving the minister little say in its management.

 

Key man

 

One man who probably knows more about every aspect of the Bhopal gas tragedy than anyone else is Shyamal Ghosh, who was joint secretary, Department of Chemicals and Petroleum, when the leak occurred. Ghosh was the key official whom everyone in the government consulted. His services were so invaluable that he continued in the same post for eight years instead of a maximum of five years. In fact, he was referred to jokingly in the corridors of power as the secretary of Bhopal. After two extensions, the personnel department finally posted Ghosh to his home state and a farewell party was hosted in his honour. But his transfer orders were overturned after the Attorney General protested that his presence in Delhi was essential. Surprisingly, the TV channels who have collared all and sundry connected with the case, do not seem to have spoken to Ghosh.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ISN'T IT IRONIC?

 

It's funny how things work out sometimes. The two men running the White House have very different relationships with the press; one is warm and one is frosty. One's relationship is more JFK, and one's has self-pitying echoes of Nixon.

 

By all rights, you'd think it would be Joe Biden who would resent journalists for kicking him around for years. It was the press, me included, who reported on the problems that led him to drop out of the 1988 presidential race. It was the press that delighted in Biden's foot-in-mouth syndrome in 2008 and played up the exacting Barack Obama's occasional chagrin at the über-exuberant Joe as they began their odd-couple partnership.

 

Yet the vice president is so lacking in any vengeful feelings for past reporting that left him for dead, I sometimes wonder if he's really Irish.

 

Biden gave a press party at his house recently with a beach theme—complete with Uzi-size squirt guns and water slides. Whenever you see politicians in a relaxed or stressful situation, beyond the usual teleprompter speeches and scripted photo ops, you learn something about those charged with making life and death decisions. You may even pick up some news.

 

We learned there that Joe Biden has been assigned the press portfolio. This is remarkable, given that it was Obama who was hailed as the charming new JFK, the mesmerising leader who beguiled an infatuated press, as the 'Saturday Night Live's' kit went, to plump his pillows.

 

But that skit was more of a caricature of some ideological cable guys and besotted columnists— including some conservative—than a realistic portrayal of his relationship with the "working" press.

 

The press travelling with Obama on the campaign never had a lovey-dovey relationship with him. He treated us with aloof correctness, and occasional spurts of irritation. Like many Democrats, he thinks the press is supposed to be on his side.

 

The patrician George Bush senior was always gracious with reporters while conveying the sense that what we do for a living was rude.

 

The former constitutional lawyer now in the White House understands that the press has a role in the democracy. But he is an elitist, too, as well as thin-skinned and controlling. So he ends up regarding scribes as intrusive, conveying a distaste for what he sees as the fundamental unseriousness of a press driven by blog-around-the-clock deadlines.

 

The 21st-century press beast is a scary multimedia monster, caught up in the trite as well as the vital, and reporters rarely can be as contemplative as the cerebral Obama would like.

 

Sometimes on the campaign plane, I would watch Obama venture back to make small talk with the press, discussing food at an event or something light. Then I would see him literally back away a few moments later as a blast of questions and flipcams hit him.

 

But that's the world we live in. It hurts Obama to be a crybaby about it, and to blame the press and the "old Washington game" for his own communication failures.

"On health care, Obama told single-payer liberals that they had to deal with the world as it is, not as they wanted it to be," said Jonathan Alter, the author of The Promise, about Obama's first year in office. "But he doesn't take his own advice when it comes to the media. Obama refuses to deal with the media world as it is. He's holding out for the media world that he wants. But that will never be. That disdainful attitude toward 24-hour cable culture is slowing his political reflexes. We're seeing that in the oil spill. I don't think it's personal with him. It's not that he despises reporters as human beings, like Nixon. He does scores of interviews and he doesn't rage behind closed doors. But if he doesn't make more concessions to Washington as it is, he's going to hurt his presidency."

 

Now that Obama has been hit with negative press, he's even more contemptuous. "Hes never needed to woo the press," says the NBC White House reporter Chuck Todd. "He's never really needed us."

 

So, as The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz writes, the more press-friendly, emotionally accessible, if gaffe-prone Biden has become "the administration's top on-air spokesman."

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

OPINION

OVERSEEING PHARMA MERGERS THROUGH COMPETITION LENS?

PRADEEP S MEHTA

 

Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is worried about the impact of mergers in the pharmaceutical sector on prices of medicines, while the corporate affairs minister, Salman Khursheed, is yet to decide whether the merger provisions of the Competition Act, 2002, are to be notified. The potential victims of unregulated mergers are the poor consumers, who may end up paying more, while a sound regulatory policy willed by the parliament to protect and promote their welfare is unable to evolve.

 

The merger & acquisition (M&A) spree in the Indian pharmaceutical market has the potential to distort competition and subject consumers to increase in prices of medicine. The health minister's concern is not at all unfounded. The utility of the Competition Act, 2002 , as a forward looking tool for the protection of both business and consumers against possible abuse of dominance, cannot be re-emphasised.

 

While no one disputes the counter arguments that such M&As could help provide synergies between innovator and generic manufacturers, thereby helping Indian companies as well as the economy at large, the concerns regarding potential competition distortions and abuse of future dominance remain unanswered. In any case, having such cases under the lens of a competition authority does not imply that the companies will not be allowed to enter the Indian market, but rather fences would be put in place to regulate their behaviour. It is very rare that competition authorities have rejected mergers, but approve potentially harmful ones with some conditionalities.

 

It is a fact that any innovator would devise possible means to try and stop generic drugs from competing with the original product once the patent has expired. Anticipated benefits from entrance of MNCs in the generic drug business would largely require the companies to help promote generic drug manufacturing once their patents have expired. Whether these companies would be happy to allow generic drugs to continue to compete with their original products is a big question, which, however, is not the main subject of this article.

 

MNCs, which recently entered the Indian market, include Abbot Labs (by acquiring Piramal Healthcare), Sanofi-Aventis (which purchased Shantha Biotech), Fresenius Kabi (through Dabur Pharma) and Daiichi Sankyo (which bought Ranbaxy). They joined other MNCs such as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Novartis, which were already present in the Indian market. While nobody disputes the fact that these companies were attracted by the potential in the generic drug market rather than the desire to engage in anti-competitive practices, it cannot be ignored that these companies have the potential to engage in such practices if opportunities present themselves.

 

Such opportunities are indeed likely to present themselves in the near future. Data released in various newspaper articles shows that the hold of MNCs on the Indian pharmaceutical market is increasing; the top four firms now include only one local company (Cipla), a complete contrast to the situation in 2008 when GSK (now ranked fourth in terms of market share) was the only MNC in the top 10. Collectively, MNCs have now cornered about 25% of the market share.

 

The situation is not yet alarming. The market is still far from being highly concentrated, as there are many firms in the market, with the top firm still below 7% market share. But with more investment in R&D, which is actually the cited rationale for the mergers, the gap between MNCs and local firms is going to increase. The fact that Abbott was willing to pay a price that is nine times the value of the company is evident of this future growth potential. A pattern is indeed developing where the market is being slowly transformed from a very competitive one to one dominated by few companies. If such companies were to dominate the market, there is nothing that can stop them from abusing the position if they believe they can get away with it. An interesting question then arises whether these companies have a history for respecting competition laws under different jurisdictions.

 

A look at the competition cases on the global scene over the past years will reveal that these companies are no saints, in so far as respecting competition laws. Sanofi-Aventis, for example, was part of the famous international vitamins cartel, which according to published research, has been convicted of price fixing for more than ten times in its history. GSK has been a subject of investigation under EU and Greece competition laws under allegations of abuse of dominance in the pharmaceutical market. A lawsuit was filed in April 2004 against Abbott Labs after it was accused of abusing its monopoly over an essential anti-retroviral drug to overcharge tens of thousands of AIDS patients. Early this year, Mexico's Federal Competition Commission fined Fresenius Kabi and two other firms for rigging government tenders for insulin. To expect that these companies will behave like angels in the markets in India might be expecting too much.

 

While it can be said that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) would be monitoring the companies when they are in the market, other competition authorities, who are more experienced in monitoring and investigating cases than CCI, have taken steps at controlling potential abuse during the M&A approval stage. In South Africa, GSK's merger with Aspen Pharmacare was approved but subject to conditions aimed at ensuring continued availability of generic medicines at cheaper prices by licensing other generic drug manufacturers. In the EU, Abbott's acquisition of Solvay Pharma was approved subject to the divestment of one business of Solvay's subsidiary (the Cystic Fibrosis testing business). The EU also approved the acquisition of Zentiva by Sanofi-Aventis on condition that it divest fifteen drugs from their production line in six European Union member states.

 

If the EU is afraid of letting the companies dominate the market, even with its investigative strength, should we also not worry? It is, therefore, that I have often argued that there is an urgent need for CCI to be empowered to assess and regulate all mergers. This is only to ensure that if they potentially harm competition, then steps are taken to ensure that the harmful effect is diluted. The argument is not, and has never been, that MNCs should be stopped from coming to India or Indian MNCs from going out.

 

—The writer is the secretary general of CUTS International. Cornelius Dube of CUTS contributed to this article

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

OPINION

MARKETING AS MANIPULATION

SHOMBIT SENGUPTA

 

Europe does not consider marketing to be an economic strength that serves organisations and societies. Marketing is generally believed to be pure manipulation that sells a product by fooling people. Sometimes it's even perceived a vulgar weapon to bulldoze and overdose the masses with. Exploiting the consumer's mistrust for marketing, hyper markets and supermarkets started their own retail brands called private labels as extensions of organized brands to be sold only in their stores. Private labels duplicate most fast moving consumer goods and price products at least 25% lower than big brands. Shops like Leader Price in Europe and Dollar Store in USA have emerged to espouse high discount prices. This anti-marketing force against overpriced branded products is a growing business sect emerging in all countries. Private labels cannot think of advertising as they have too many products. They take advantage of the awareness of big brands and create good quality, low-priced products to sell alongside them at the retail.

 

Business driven Americans are, in general, attuned to marketing. Marketing occupies an embellished social stature in this 300-year-old Caucasian civilisation, and has become almost a religion. When history and heritage have comparatively low bandwidth, people use scale and wealth to establish dominance. Americans assign power and recognition when money is quoted. The success of Donald Trump, Bill Gates, George Lucas, Hugh Hefner, Stephan King or Bob Dylan among others is glorified in terms of their wealth.

 

In every aspect of life, be it business, films, writers, musicians, even literature, success is measured in scale and money. The term 'bestseller' was coined to market literature through quantitative measurement of a specific number of books sold. Should a book be equated to a consuming product's multi-mega sale, like beefsteaks sold in kilos in a hypermarket? Shouldn't 'highly read' replace 'bestseller' to define this category that grows intellect or creates fantasy? Being in the Top 5, Top 10 or Top 50 of the musical hit parade originated here to measure a singer's commercial success. Money, size and scale for all subjects are entrenched as positive endorsement in American culture.

 

My observation is that the US context of marketing means being clever and intelligent enough to make money. The more marketing oriented you are, the more respect you gain. Making money is crucial and not negotiable, and having money translates to being on top of everything. Commerce drives marketing, making it a revered subject at both the workplace and in business schools.

 

American big city lifestyle is dazzling, but in contrast the American farmer says he cannot use any marketing tactics as he is strapped for money. As per a research finding, unable to make a living in their own farms, farmers consider theirs to be the country's most neglected profession, with agricultural imports destroying their earnings. They corporatise their farms, stay in joint families to save on earnings, and end up making around $1.4 million on 3,000 acres of land. The actual earning from that farm can be a meager $70,000 per year inclusive of taxes to be paid. They say large American corporations have no qualms about importing cheap foreign produce to gain higher profits at their expense. The farmer resents getting short-changed by the consumer who rejects his high priced American produce for imports. This undercurrent of hard times in American farms is likely to reverse their livelihood dependence on agriculture.

 

When manufacturing of Western branded products is outsourced to emerging economy countries, some American and European consumers doubt the product's quality. But anti-marketing consumers for whom brands mean some marketing brush up with no real substance are quite happy with these cheaper products.

 

After about 11 million Americans lost their jobs in the recent recession, "offshore outsourcing" has become a dirty concept. To win consumer confidence and be politically correct, US companies are now showcasing their contribution towards American job seekers. American Apparel brand is appeasing the public by advertising their product uniqueness to be "Made in Downtown LA, Sweatshop Free." They earn the consumer's wallet share by emphasising US manufacturing facilities, not outsourced to foreign sweatshops. Similarly Starbucks communicates, "Every Latte, Every Cappuccino 100% Fair-trade Coffee" in every coffee cup, meaning they practice fair-trade in procurement. I've heard the Governor of Michigan say on television that America should be an exporting country, not import oriented.

 

Among the best marketing jobs to date is the UK's organised marketing of imperialism. British cultural infusion into their colonies was akin to slow poison that finally consumed their subjects.

 

Just a handful of British traders spread the English culture into India. Today, nobody faults an Indian who does not speak his mother tongue correctly, but if he should use improper English, he will lose his social status. Implementing the British way of life in a colony was the finest marketing action of the British race. Whichever country they went to, they drove the indigenous people to adopt and swear by English culture.

 

Free trade and commerce is pushing emerging economy countries to follow the Western marketing model by default. English language has been the unsurpassed marketing coup by becoming the globally recognised business language across the world. Slavery has migrated from the physical to the colonial to the intellectual level today.

 

American marketing has always feted the large, whether in cars or hamburgers, and on getting more value, starting with "more bang for the buck" as they say in advertising parlance. Western business practices have influenced emerging countries without taking into account, conforming to, or seamlessly meshing with, the societal aspects of our billions. The dichotomy is that India and China are now downloading new complexities in the front yard of Americans and Europeans by overpowering them with issues relating to unemployment, outsourcing and organised immigration.

 

After their World War II defeat, Japan was disallowed from manufacturing defence weapons. So they set out to conquer world markets with the ingenious weapon of high quality miniaturisation. They copied fundamental Western invention and obsessively created high quality miniaturised products to win consumer hearts across the world. India needs to think of how to market Indian brands that reflect outstanding quality, functionality and emotive factor without the constrained perception of cost advantage being considered low profile, low cost and low quality. Only by packaging cost, quality and aspiration at every price point can Indian brands meaningfully surprise global markets and get recognised in digitalised 21st century.

 

—Shombit Sengupta is an international Creative Business Strategy consultant to top managements. Reach www.shiningconsulting.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

OPINION

YUVRAJ SINGH: THE COMEBACK MAN

BORIA MAJUMDAR

 

He certainly looked out of sorts in the West Indies. So much so that Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to move him to fine leg from mid wicket, hoping that balls don't go to him that often. He was slow, jaded and a shadow of the past. In batting too he appeared lazy, the feet weren't moving and the match winner in Yuvraj Singh seemed all lost.

 

However, the Yuvraj Singh I met at his Gurgaon home on June 15 looked totally different. The focus is back; as is the determination. He has surely shed a few kilos and the slight bulge around the waist looks toned. Up early he had already done a fitness session when we caught up over nimboo pani. He wasn't in the mood for an interview and repeatedly kept saying that he wants to let his bat do the talking. I was delighted and relieved at his candid confession—he had a bad phase but the Tri colour on his chest is his most coveted possession. That is where he belongs—the 22 yards in the middle and he is doing all he can to get back. It was inspiring to see him rise to the challenge rather than sounding depressed at getting dropped.

 

Talented cricketers, most of them in fact, reach a phase in life where they either turn the tables completely or disappear into oblivion. Yuvraj, the champion, is in such a phase of his career. The biggest-ever one day competition on Indian soil is just months away and India needs him to finish the games as also to lend solidity in the middle overs. His blistering sixes can get the fans to raise the decibels, so very necessary when you play at home. And to achieve all this, he first had to come to terms with it all in the mind. Having met him and spent three hours with him, I can confidently assert that he has made the adjustment and it is only a matter of time before we see the old Yuvraj Singh take the field.

 

After a rigorous three weeks at the NCA in Bangalore, which he claims has done him a world of good, he is currently playing in a domestic competition in Delhi. Time spent in the middle is always of value and Yuvraj, to his credit, has already notched up a superb 150 and a well-composed 70 against the likes of Ishant Sharma. All of these runs, he is right in claiming, are doing their part in getting him back to the groove after a disastrous season of injuries.

 

In hindsight, it appears that the selectors got it wrong in picking him for the world cup. Out of action with a broken finger, he rushed back to play the IPL—a decision that was ill-timed. Not a single 50 in the 14 matches was indication enough that he wasn't in the best of form and the world cup was too big an occasion to risk him. We did take the risk and suffered the consequences. Since then, however, it has been a different story. He has had the time to self confess, talk to some of his mentors and realise that his talent is too precious to waste. And he is trying his best to make a comeback, a process that is painful for sure, but the rewards are only too huge, reason enough to endure the pain.

 

There's little doubt that he is one of the champions of the game and we need him in world cup 2011. And let me take a risk and say that from what I have just seen. I am confident that India will get back its match winner just when it matters the most. The jadedness has disappeared and the batting hunger is back. It will soon be time to unleash him yet again.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

OPINION

CASE OF EURO CRISIS, BREAK DEUTSCHE MARK GLASS

MARK GILBERT

 

Juergen Stark keeps a framed sheet of deutsche marks bearing his signature on his office wall at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. He should consider adding a sign saying "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass."

 

The rescue package cobbled together to prevent Greece from defaulting has trashed investor confidence in the common currency project. I hope the Bundesbank, where Stark learned the craft of central banking before joining the ECB's board, has a locked safe somewhere in the basement containing a blueprint for a euro exit strategy.

 

The "New Normal," as the bond mavens at Pacific Investment Management Co have dubbed the post-credit crisis environment, turns out to be a world where scenarios move from impossible to inevitable without even pausing at improbable. Flocks of black swans go winging by with a frequency that is dulling our sensitivity to just how extraordinary these financial times are. Call it crisis fatigue.

 

The next market earthquake—a derivatives black hole in the accounts of a big bank, a failed government bond auction by a euro member, war in Korea, a hedge fund relearning the lesson that markets can remain irrational longer than you can stay solvent—poses bigger risks than usual. Not only is the universe of money more dysfunctional than ever, policy makers are almost out of ammunition and ideas.

 

The new normal is decidedly weird. Consider your likely response if I had bet you three years ago that the following would come to pass: many of the world's biggest banks are state-controlled; a global tax on securities trading looks inevitable; the financial industry is hooked on central bank liquidity, with firms still unwilling to lend to each other; the corporate bond market is shut; policy makers have resorted to buying government debt to cap surging borrowing costs; some nations are unable to borrow at all; and Germany wants to ban some sovereign credit-default swap trades to divert the spotlight away from the spreading collapse in government creditworthiness.

 

The money markets are dying as the financial community decides it's safer to recycle tarnished debt for cash via the central banks rather than risk lending and borrowing with the institution next door. Transactions between US commercial banks have slumped to about $162 billion from a peak of $494 billion in September 2008, the month that Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc filed for bankruptcy protection. The ECB said last week it expects European banks to have even bigger loan losses this year than in 2009. The new normal makes the Federal Reserve and the ECB the lenders of first resort. There's no way central banks can switch off their life-support machines while the money markets are still a heartbeat away from flat-lining.

 

The ECB said this week it now owns 40.5 billion euros ($48 billion) of euro government bonds. Trouble is, there's no transparency about what it has bought. Government money distorts the information channel that is supposed to flow from open-market prices. Why would I risk buying Greek debt if the deep pockets of a central bank are soaking up Spanish bonds, or adding to my Portuguese investments when it might be hoovering up Irish securities?

 

So, Germany's borrowing costs have dropped to a record as investors seek the safety of bunds. Everyone else, though, is getting hammered, as contagion infects the core members of the euro region as well as the so-called peripheral borrowers. Government would do well to remember that money managers are under no obligation to lend to them by buying their bonds.

 

France, AAA rated and shoulder-to-shoulder with Germany when the euro was being created, pays about 55 basis points more than its Teutonic neighbor to borrow for 10 years, triple the average spread in the past five years. Spanish 10-year yields have soared to 4.66%, higher than they were before the European Union set up its 750 billion-euro aid package.

 

The EU lifeboat, called the European Financial Stability Facility, will sell bonds guaranteed by the euro members if a nation requests aid. If you told your grandmother that the solution to too much debt was to borrow more, you'd get a well-deserved spanking. It's also the Bundesbank's worst nightmare come true. Joint and several bond issuance was supposed to be outlawed by the euro's bylaws, to prevent the profligate from hitching a free ride on the backs of the fiscally disciplined.

 

Bondholders aren't the only sufferers. Equity investors should also beware, because every profitable industry will start to look like a piggybank to governments anxious to raise revenue wherever they can. Australia's tax on mining companies and Germany's move to impose levies on banks, air travel and nuclear-power plants are just the beginning. And the global authorities are only just embarking on their efforts to increase banking regulation; do you really want to bet against the law of unintended consequences kicking in good and hard? After unleashing Keynesian pump-priming of unprecedented proportions, governments are about to try a second never-attempted-before experiment, as they struggle to tighten their belts even while trying to clamber out of recession. "Time, devaluations and debt restructurings might be the only way out for many nations," Anthony Crescenzi at Pimco, which runs the world's biggest bond fund, said in a research note. Printing money to resuscitate the economy is "a magic elixir that has morphed into poison," he wrote.

 

Instead of handing out euros to bail out its neighbours, maybe the Bundesbank should warm up the printing press and prepare to start stamping out deutsche marks to replace those devalued euros.

 

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THE HINDU

OPEN PAGE

IT WAS I WHO LOST, NOT GANDHIJI

DHIRENDRA SHARMA

 

Today, as a nation we enjoy the freedom of expression and the constitutional right to protest. But disruptive politics is counter-productive particularly when we have various democratic forums to protest and seek redress — the Assembly, the judiciary and the free media. The origin of disruptive tactics can, however,be traced to the Freedom Movement. On August 9, 1942 the entire Working Committee of the Indian National Congress was arrested in Bombay, including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and the Frontier Gandhi Badashah Khan. The Colonial Raj had unleashed a war on 30 million unarmed people. But before he could be taken away, Gandhiji gave a messianic call to us: "Do or die. But consider yourself a free nation." In Winston Churchill's war system, there was nothing to match this political mantra — satyagraha.

 

The Gandhian satyagraha was a clear rejection of the prevailing politics of power. The 20th century produced two icons, Gandhiji and Mao Tse Tung. Both struggled for equality and social justice and for liberation from political and economic oppression. But the difference between the two was that for Mao "the power grows out of the gun" while for Gandhiji the power rested in truth, love and understanding. For the Mahatma, the struggle for social justice was universal and eternal. Not just against any one race, region, or religion. He led the oppressed "low-caste" Hindus to march into the temples that were the preserve of the "upper castes."

 

At that historical juncture, we had no guns, and no nation came to our help. The western powers led by the U.S. were fighting Germany and Japan. The British in India were supplying war material to the West Asian fronts and to the East. It was then that we had adopted the tactics of disrupting the colonial regime. Anything that carried the official seal of the Empire became the hate symbol for the Indian people. As members of the Monkey Brigade ( Vaanar sena), it was heroic if we could damage public property — burn a military vehicle or destroy a railway station, thus weakening the British war machine. But today, destroying public property or disrupting commercial activity affects the life of the people and in a chain reaction, obstructs the entire social and public service systems.

 

Indira Gandhi announced in 1980 the decision to build a nuclear power station at Garhmukteshwar (Narora) on the banks of the Ganga, located close to an earthquake fault. That was the area where her party was pitted against a powerful local opponent in a predominantly Jat constituency in western Uttar Pradesh. My study confirmed that being in the high seismic zone, the Narora site was the most inappropriate for an atomic power station. I organised a signature campaign armed with the scientific findings and took the issue to all party leaders, who, however refused to see the danger.

 

Scientists agreed that Narora was a wrong decision but refused to sign the petition. At the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, I was told their jobs and research grants were at stake.

 

I organised a protest march at the site of the Narora Atomic Power Project. A few hundred students from the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Lady Shriram College assembled there. As I was explaining the radiation hazards to the villagers and a few engineers and the officials in front of the high security perimeter, a woman reporter came up to me and said that she had heard an officer prompting local village boys to grab the girls, the "Dilli-walis."

 

I regrouped our boys, placing them in a protective formation around the girls and over the mike narrated the incident with a warning to the plainclothes intelligence officers against adopting such disruptive tactics. But a more disappointing experience was yet to come. A former Member of Parliament, dressed in khadi, arrived on the scene. Since the project posed a potential threat to his village community, I asked the ex-MP to mobilise local support. After some time, the political leader came to me:

 

"Professor saab, if you take me as your leader, your anti-nuclear campaign can really be a great political success."

 

"Oh, netaji (leader), you are most welcome. Kindly, lead the campaign," I was overjoyed to find a local political support.

 

"O.K.,then." And the leader whispered to me: "Tell your boys and girls to attack the securitymen. Two-three boys should snatch the gun of one policeman soldier, the girls will gherao (surround) the other personnel and the rest of us will push ourselves inside the gate, shouting, Halla Bol, Zindabad, and 'nuclear power, down, down."

 

"But our campaign is Gandhian. We want no trouble. If we crossed the line forcing our entry, the policemen will hit back. Our students will get hurt. I propose no confrontation." I ordered my students to show no disrespect towards the security personnel, as they are our friends, and protectors, not our enemy!

 

The ex-MP walked away in disgust: "If you cannot provoke a firing and take a few casualties, you cannot build a campaign. If one student gets shot – you will be headlined in newspapers. Your campaign will get huge public support. Your peaceful anti-nuclear campaign is dead from the start."

 

How right he was! My campaign was dead. My Science Policy Centre at JNU was closed. No political party, no scientist came forward to take up the anti-nuclear campaign in India. You may charge me with failure, or political naivete. But as Lewis Carroll said, the slightest approach to a false pretence was never among my crimes.

 

( The writer is former Chair: Science Policy Centre, Jawaharlal Nehru University and is the author of India's Nuclear Estate . Email: dhiren.sharma32@ gmail.com)

 

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THE HINDU

OPEN PAGE

 

THERE'S A FULL MOON OVER INDIA AND GANDHI LIVES AGAIN…

KUSUM CHADDA

 

There has been a lot of discussion in the media about Gandhian methods and their efficacy. There have also been references to Gandhiji's fads and quirks — especially his ideas about sex and continence.

 

I was attending a workshop in Kuala Lumpur. It was ostensibly about how to run a business and earn more money. The programme was interspersed with music and short experiential exercises. At one such session, the trainer played the famous American singer John Denver's song 'It's About Time', which began with the lines "There's a full moon over India and Gandhi lives again/ Who's to say you have to lose for someone else to win?"

 

The inspiration behind this song was Denver's visit to India in the 1980s to pay respects to his spiritual guru Swami Muktananda as also his chance encounter with the members of the film fraternity who were on board and were going to Delhi to launch the film 'Gandhi'. As the plane neared Delhi, Denver looked out of the window and saw the full moon in its pristine glory shining over India. The song writer in Denver was overwhelmed that nature conspired to make him empathise with the humanity at large through the prodding of a great soul, Gandhiji.

 

The powerful words of the song, coupled with Denver's mellifluous singing, cast a spell on the participants who had gathered from different corners of the world. Joining hands and forming a circle of 500-plus, they sang in unison — "Who's to say you have to lose for someone else to win?"

 

Gandhiji taught us this truth in so many ways. He was the master of non-violent communication that led to win-win situations. He was against class war because it had the seeds of violence in it and the potential for hate on the part of those who lose. He suggested that the rich act as trustees of their wealth and see to it that the last man gets a decent life before enjoying what they have in excess. Though a lawyer, he did not support litigation. Rather, he promoted out-of-court amicable settlements. He propagated 'heart unity' to solve the communal question.

 

The communal divide was sought to be closed by understanding each other's religion better and accommodating one another. The crux of his campaign against untouchability was directed towards the heart of those who practised the evil because even if one is convinced that one is doing the wrong, it takes a long time to emotionally accept that and change one's behaviour.

 

Gandhiji ruled out violence because it denigrated the practitioner; it was irreversible and, therefore, not to be practised by fallible human beings; because once practised, its threshold would increase with every successive attempt; also, it overlooked the fact that every human being is capable of love. Besides, violence did not lead to the resolution of conflicts because it always led to a win-lose situation — "For the first is just the last one when you play a deadly game. It is about time we find out it is all of us or none" (Denver).

 

He tellingly conveys Gandhiji's thoughts when he croons —"There's a man who is my brother, I just don't know his name/ But I know his home and family because we know we feel the same/ And it hurts me when he is hungry and when his children cry/ I too am a father, and the little one is mine." When Gandhiji felt sad over the London bombings during the Second World War he was echoing these very sentiments. It is 'about time' we recognised the truth of Gandhiji's words and act on them.

 

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THE HINDU

OPEN PAGE

THE AIR WAS THICK WITH TOXIC FUMES AND PEOPLE LEFT THE CITY IN DROVES

CHARUKESI

 

In the early hours of December 5, 1984, travelling in the Grand Trunk Express from Chennai to New Delhi, on our way to Amethi, my photographer friend Yoga stood near the entrance of the coach, door wide open, when the train was in the outer, to see the name of the station approaching next. He could not stand for more than a few seconds and returned to his seat complaining that he had suddenly developed itching in the eyes. When the train chugged into the station we noticed, it was Bhopal. The platform was buzzing with unusual noises. Within minutes, we came across several men and women boarding almost all the sleeper coaches and reserved compartments, many of them with their eyes blindfolded! Railway authorities requested the passengers to accommodate them in the coaches so that they could reach Delhi for treatment. We were surprised to see so many of them on the platform too, waiting to board the train.

 

There was one father-son duo who sat near us. I asked them how so many people had been affected all on a sudden. Then the father told us that there was a poisonous gas leak from the Union Carbide chemical factory that thousands had died while hundreds had been afflicted with eye infection. Their vision has been affected and they were going to Delhi for treatment. We could see the factory from the train just across the station.

 

I immediately looked at my photographer friend, who was now wiping his eyes with his handkerchief. Sure enough, the methyl isocyanate gas had polluted the atmosphere.

 

We asked the gentleman what the government officials had done to face the calamity. 'Where is your Chief Minister? Did he visit the area?' I queried. The son kept quiet, but the father answered. "He had left for Indore last night itself." I do not know whether that statement was true, but it was shocking.

 

When we reached Delhi, our host took us to a Tamil-speaking ophthalmic surgeon at Karol Bagh. He checked my friend's eyes thoroughly and prescribed eye drops. By evening, fortunately, his eyes became normal.

 

The next evening, with the sensational story and the photographs, we reached the Delhi airport to pass on the envelope to a Tamil Weekly's editor in Chennai. (There was no courier service then.) There was commotion inside the airport. A correspondent of an American newsmagazine was seen shouting at the authorities. He climbed on a table and questioned the police, "How dare you arrest Warren Anderson?" An airlines pilot who accepted the envelope from us stood watching the man and said before leaving, "He is unnecessarily creating a scene!" The American journalist was indeed creating a ruckus.

 

What makes me think about the ghastly tragedy now is why there was no big noise in the capital about the incident then. The entire city was abuzz with election rhetoric, but I did not hear anything about the tragic incident of Bhopal. Even at 24, Akbar Road, the Congress headquarters, this was hardly debated. It was only the election fever that had caught on everywhere. We left for Lucknow the next day and from there to Rae Bareli. We returned to Lucknow to attend an election meeting addressed by Rajiv Gandhi. Here also, no speaker mentioned the Bhopal gas disaster in the public meeting.

 

I presume that the uproar created by the tragedy must have been confined to Bhopal and the matter must have been left to be dealt with by the Chief Minister and the State ostensibly by the Centre in view of the general election. This is borne out by the notings of a secret document of CIA, No.1852 available on the website, under the title "India – Political Implications of Bhopal Disaster', approved for release in 2002. It reads thus:

 

"The Indian press reports that most public criticism over the poison gas leak in Bhopal has been directed at the Indian management of the Union Carbide subsidiary and the Central Government in New Delhi for inadequate safety precautions and relief measures. The Madhya Pradesh State Government has filed a criminal negligence suit against the subsidiary.

 

"Comment: With Indian national elections just over two weeks away, both State and Central Government politicians are trying to deflect blame from themselves to the subsidiary and to wring compensation from its parent company. The Central Government's quick release of the Union Carbide Chairman from house arrest yesterday, however, suggests that New Delhi believes State officials were overly eager to score political points against the company. Public outcry almost certainly will force the new Government to move cautiously in developing future foreign investment and industrial policies and relations with multinational – especially US – firms. The incident is not likely to have a major effect on the election results."

 

This noting must have been done on December 7, 1984 itself although it was released to the public only in 2002. (This could be inferred from the words 'from house arrest yesterday'). It is also clear that it was only the Central Government that released Anderson. The Bhopal disaster is debated only when compensation issues are discussed or any judgment is delivered by the courts. Otherwise, the issue is buried deep.

 

There is no doubt that the disaster has been a major one and the discussions on the court verdict or the arrest and extradition of Anderson now are a sheer waste of time. First the blame game has to stop. The only remedy is adequate and expeditious settlement of compensation to the victims who are alive and to the legal heirs of the dead.

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THE HINDU

OPEN PAGE

NOT FLOWERS, BUT FLAMES OF BHOPAL

SANDHYA BANDA

 

In the wake of the recent Bhopal judgment against UCIL and its officials, the general public's outrage and the media's continuous coverage are a bit soothing after all these years of snubbing the survivors' struggle.

 

Since I am an optimistic person, I would like to think that people's questioning will make our government accountable; that the government and the legal system will ensure corporate accountability notwithstanding their nationality; and that our democracy (Parliament, Cabinet, bureaucracy, legal system, and media) will serve the interest of the poorest of the poor.

 

Keeping the issue alive, the aam aadmi and the media will not relent until the survivors of the Bhopal disaster have access to good medical rehabilitation programmes and clean water. Besides, there are issues such as clean-up of the highly-polluted site and making Dow (which bought the Union Carbide) pay for the clean-up in addition to the other liabilities. Then comes the all-important question of extradition of Warren Anderson.

 

By the way, I would like to see an apology made to the survivors, and the deceased families by our governments, the Supreme Court, UCC, Dow Chemical, and UCIL.

 

In the past 26 years of struggle, what touched me most is that women of all ages in Bhopal kept this struggle alive for this long period with the help of known and unknown dedicated volunteers/activists. Though the survivors' plight is heart-wrenching, their spirit is undefeatable. Their consciousness is at such great heights that they didn't want any other human being suffer like they did. Their struggle for justice, though a thorny and unending journey, never left the path, and still continues.

 

The survivors, including women and children, marched on foot from Bhopal to Delhi — a distance of around 800 km — to present their case three times, in 1989, 2006, and 2008; the women and children were beaten up by police and put into jail in Delhi and Bhopal on a number of occasions; their struggle was ridiculed from time to time; they were treated like culprits rather than as victims; and though they keep losing their loved ones continuously every month, every year, their relentless struggle for justice goes on.

 

I met Rashida Bee in Delhi in their camp in 2008. Her strength of character is inspirational for one and all. Though she lost six of her family members to the disaster and contamination, her indomitable spirit continues to guide and support other survivors. She seems to reflect the spirit of all the women survivors and their community in Bhopal. She travelled not only to many places in India but worldwide as well and received the Goldman Environmental Award (equivalent to the Nobel Prize) with the other survivor leader, Champa Devi, in San Francisco, U.S. While receiving the award, she declared that the women of Bhopal were not flowers but flames. Yes, flames which will consume all the wrongdoing.

 

What did they do with the award money? They created a trust fund to support the women struggling similarly across the country. Talk about sharing and giving, and I wonder: what did we give these amazing women except the sheer injustice and betrayal?

 

( ram_sandy@yahoo.com)

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

SPARE THE ROD, SAVE THE CHILD

 

The tragedy of a young Kolkata schoolboy taking his own life, which came to light recently, exposes more than anything else the thoroughly bureaucratised nature of the educational system our schools have become a part of. A school whose tradition stretches back more than a century was expected to have presented a more dignified

and humane face to the world in the wake of a heart-wrenching suicide, if for no other reason than to be mindful of its brand value. Corporal punishment in our schools is a regrettable fact of life, and no one can be greatly surprised by its routine use even in famous educational institutions. What was hard to accept were the regimented arguments presented on television by spokespersons of the school and its management in defence of corporal punishment, wholly unmindful of the context of tragedy that had placed the school in the public eye.
A management representative noted in a boorish tone of defiance, while rejecting a link between the caning of the child in question and his suicide at home three days later, "What should we do with the principal now? Hang him?" To hear an educationist speak in such language was shocking. It exposed his lack of command of the developments in the field of education that have taken place in recent years as well as in the area of child psychology, not to speak of his utter disregard of the law of the land. Indeed, it passes comprehension how individuals such as these are retained within the educational system, or can be a part of a school that is supposed to inculcate enlightened values. The school in question has taken a long time to appreciate the reasons that have produced an outcry in the country following the suicide of its pupil rendered distraught after his public humiliation at the hands of the authorities. In the wake of public scrutiny, it has banned caning by teachers. This was the least it could have done. It is still not wholly clear if all forms of corporal punishment have been placed out of bounds, even if the principal were to order them. The Church authorities who manage the school should take it upon themselves to get the tragic episode inquired into by a group of independent experts. Such a public inquiry would show whether or not there was a causal link between the suicide and the events surrounding the boy's caning a few days earlier. It is naïve, disingenuous or self-serving to proclaim in advance that there can be no possible cause and effect connection merely because of the 72-hour gap between the two episodes. If the Church authorities shy away from an independent inquiry, there is no reason why the government should not intervene. Caning contravenes public law, and the episode has nothing to do with the autonomy of minority educational institutions. The holding of an unbiased public inquiry will send the right signal across the school system throughout the country.


The idea of punishment for a transgression in human societies has to do with the safeguarding of interests of its constituent individuals as well as community interests. Even so, the punishment cannot be whimsical, arbitrary or disproportionate to the infraction. In civilised societies it is invariably articulated in accordance with an acceptable code of laws. In the school system, the notion of punishment must derive from wholly different principles, and cannot be divorced from building a child's creative and intellectual faculties and personality. It cannot be another name for adult brutality practised by teachers on a captive body of pupils.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

25 YEARS OF NEGLECT

ARUN NEHRU

 

After 25 years we all have woken up to the Bhopal gas tragedy. But before we say or do anything, it would be in the fitness of things to tender an apology to the people of Bhopal on behalf of the nation and its institutions. The next step should be to reflect on why it took 25 years for all of us to think of the more than 20,000 people who died and those who still suffer. We still do not know if it is safe to live in Bhopal.

 

We have a rotten system which, over the years, has been designed to cater to those in governance and the circles close to them, both at the Centre and in the states. If we ignore the blame game, move beyond the events that took place on December 7, 1984 — the day Warren Anderson, the then CEO of Union Carbide Corporation, left Bhopal — and concentrate on the facts, we will see why the case was scuttled 1995 onwards.


To find answers, we would have to examine in depth the role of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the home ministry and even the Prime Minister's Office, then under the control of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. Along with the details of the case we must check what the Supreme Court said. Was the case diluted by the investigating agencies at any stage? Did any lobbying take place in favour of Union Carbide in the 1990s? If yes, then what influence was exerted on the government? The reality is that former Chief Justice of India A.H. Ahmadi, facing flak for his 1996 verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy case, diluted the charges and the case was finished. But since then, till 2010, four successive governments at the Centre — formed by the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Janata Dal supported by the Left and several regional parties — did nothing to review the matter.


Union law minister M. Veerappa Moily can be rather emotional at times but I share his sentiments. Hopefully, his reaction will accelerate the process of judicial reform. Unless we have an effective system of accountability we will continue to be confronted with situations where we will have many judgments going back 10, 15 or 20 years and, instead of looking at the present and planning for the future, we will only be living in the past.
I have no doubt that the group of ministers (GoM) set up by the Prime Minister to examine the trial court's decision will return a positive verdict on the compensation issue along with other facilities that must be provided to the victims. The GoM, I am certain, will do everything possible to extradite Warren Anderson, and hold Dow Chemicals to account for all the financial damages and the cleaning up of the abandoned factory. Anyone in a powerful position found to be associated with these firms would be courting political disaster.
Politics is run by public perception, not by smart legal arguments. But, at the same time, we must not attribute motives as the politics of 2010 is very different from the situation in 1984. Details of the events of December 1984 in Bhopal have been available on several websites for some time. And if anyone had done their homework and downloaded the relevant information, there would be little confusion and the wasteful blame game would have never started. Even today many in the media are making "fresh disclosures" of events that have already been reported in 1984.


Much has changed with the statement of former foreign secretary M.K. Rasgotra. Mr Rasgotra has said that the then home ministry, under P.V. Narasimha Rao, had assured "safe passage" to Mr Anderson even before he arrived in India to take stock of the Bhopal gas leak. A great deal of speculation has come to an end with this revelation and the narration of behind-the-scenes activity by various writers, including Raj Kumar Keswani in the Chandigarh-based Tribune newspaper on June 11, 2010.


While we continue to speculate about what was right or wrong with wisdom or ignorance of hindsight, the fact is that in 2010 we cannot, with any accuracy, know what was the ground reality in Bhopal in 1984. Arjun Singh, the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, was the man on the spot and acted to the best of his ability.
Of course, the facts and the steps taken are best known to those who were in the loop. The reason, perhaps, for the continuing blame game is that there are several versions of the events of December 7, 1984, and several little pieces that don't fit the picture that is being put forward. For example, there are two versions of how and why the decision of granting "safe passage" to Mr Anderson was taken. One version claims it was done before his arrival, while another claims that it was a decision taken after he was arrested and the American embassy started exerting pressure.


As the GoM meets on a daily basis to resolve the issue of rehabilitation and compensation for the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, the media is busy investigating issues that led to the dilution of the charges and everything else connected with Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals. This issue will not fade away soon and I wish there was a better way of effecting change in our system. Do we need a disaster of this nature to spur us to action?
We all have the right to express our opinions but we must ensure that the victims have the final say. But for the families of those who perished, those who continue to suffer and those who had the courage and resolve to keep fighting, whatever we do today will not be enough. The fact is that we neglected them for 25 years.

 

Arun Nehru is a former Union Minister

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

A BABU'S LEGACY

DILIP CHERIAN

 

With the Ambani brothers no longer at war, will the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) breathe easy? It had received some unwelcome attention during the tenure of its former chief V.K. Sibal. Though Mr Sibal has now left, the spotlight has remained fixed on the organisation, with the Central Vigilance Commission and the

Central Bureau of Investigation continuing investigations into various allegations against Mr Sibal even now. One obvious fall-out is the growing restlessness of professional babus working in the directorate. Many of these babus are actively seeking repatriation to their "parent" departments or state-owned firms in order to avoid grilling by investigators.


S.K. Srivastava, Mr Sibal's successor at DGH, according to sources, has expressed his helplessness, saying he cannot force the babus to stay on. Apparently, he has discussed the issue with petroleum secretary S. Sundareshan. Subsequently, an open-house session was held to discuss the employees' concerns. But apparently this "confidence-building" measure has failed to stem the exodus from DGH.

 

IPS row

The government's efforts to fill the 657 vacancies of Indian Police Service (IPS) officers have been stymied by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). In what is being perceived as a setback to the home minister's battle against Naxals and terrorism, the UPSC rejected P. Chidambaram's suggestion to recruit IPS officers from amongst young Central and state police officers.


The home ministry had proposed to induct 70-80 officers annually from this pool for the next seven years, besides the 150 IPS officers recruited through the civil service examination and through the promotion quota of the states. Mr Chidambaram's proposal was based on the recommendation of the panel headed by a former IPS officer Kamal Kumar.


The home ministry babus will now push the Prime Minister's Office to help implement the scheme. But while they believe that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's approval would "overrule" UPSC, it remains to be seen whether this strategy will succeed.

 

Fighting graft

In its fight against corrupt babus, the government is now concerned about the invariable delays in processing cases, which it plans to check by constituting a high-level panel to fast-track corruption cases involving babus. The new panel would be headed by former Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) chairman P.C. Hota, with former chief vigilance commissioner P. Shankar and former personnel secretary Arvind Verma as members. The panel will be provided logistical support by the department of personnel and training.
While it is mandatory for all corruption cases to be referred to the recruiting authority — UPSC, most cases were referred just before the tainted babus retired. Consequently, the UPSC did not get sufficient time to examine the cases and recommend disciplinary action. The new panel would hopefully fast-track cases and punish the tainted while in service.

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DNA

COMMENT & ANALYSIS

SHAREHOLDER VALUE IS FAILING AS A MANTRA

R JAGANNATHAN 

 

Some two months ago, Unilever CEO Paul Polman stunned the markets by announcing that he wasn't overly concerned with delivering shareholder value. "I do not work for the shareholder, to be honest; I work for the consumer. I am not driven and I don't drive this business model by driving shareholder value," he told Financial Times.

 

A year ago, Jack Welch made a similarly astonishing statement to the newspaper. "On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world." Is this Neutron Jack, the man who won high marks from Wall Street for delivering shareholder value when he was CEO of GE, speaking? Or is shareholder value suddenly becoming a bad word? In the post-Lehman, post-Goldman Sachs, post-Obama world, has profit become a dirty word again? Are company CEOs becoming politically correct and bowing to the wolves of Main Street rather than the bulls of Wall Street?

 

The answer is all of the above, but there is also a larger truth behind it all: you can't achieve success by pursuing any one simplistic goal. As authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras argue in Built to Last, "Instead of being oppressed by the tyranny of the "or", highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the genius of the "and" — the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time."

 

So when Polson says he's not working for the shareholder, he can't probably mean it. Ditto for Welch. What they are saying is that CEOs have to pursue several goals simultaneously — they have to deliver customer value, they have to motivate employees, and they have to serve society. In the process, they will take care of the shareholder.

 

Economist John Kay, who was interviewed in DNA on Saturday, June 19, makes much the same point. He argues that the most profitable companies are not necessarily the ones which focus exclusively on profits. By implication, this means Polson is also wrong in his other assertion that he is only working to deliver customer value, though nobody can object to the basic idea.

 

Vineet Nayyar of HCL Technologies, who has recently authored a book titled Employee First, Customer Second may also be on the wrong track. I have not read the book, but the title says it all and the case is overstated. If employees are always first, no enterprise can survive. You only have to look at government and public sector employees to know that little gets done when employees are put ahead of customers.

 

It's possible that CEOs and management gurus deliberately take angular positions in order to sell their ideas. Putting one stakeholder first can be a short-term priority for companies that have ignored a constituency for long. If your company has fared well, but your employees have not, it is time to put employees first for a while. If your employees are happy but your customers are deserting you, it's time to court customers.

 

If both employees and customers are fine, and shareholders are unhappy, you need to ensure that they get worthwhile returns. If all these constituencies have no issues, but society is unhappy because you are dumping toxic chemicals in the rivers or ruining the environment through unsustainable mining activities, you have to address these concerns.

 

A business enterprise has many stakeholders, and you cannot ignore any of them for long. This is why Gandhi advocated the trusteeship concept, where the owners of an enterprise try to maximise the welfare of all stakeholders, and not just themselves. The idea seems utopian, but Bill Gates would not disagree with it. Beyond the normal advantages of being rich, he is funnelling his immense wealth steadily into social causes all over the world. Exactly what Gandhi would do.

 

Many family-owned business houses in India have low credibility because they put shareholder value — that is themselves — above everything else. Very often they don't even deliver that, as shareholder value also means taking the interests of minority shareholders into account. This they often don't do.

 

The bottomline is this. If you put shareholders first, your society may lose out. If you put employees first, your customers may be shortchanged. If you put customers first, your employees may be neglected. And if you put society first — which is what government companies are supposed to do — you may end up destroying customer trust, losing employee loyalty, and decimating shareholder value.

 

This is what the government is doing with oil and telecom companies. The employees are unhappy, competitors are winning, taxpayer money is being wasted, and society is the ultimate loser.

 

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DNA

COMMENT & ANALYSIS

 

FREEDOM'S BLARING HORN

PLAYERS HAVE COMPLAINED. FACEBOOK PAGES ARE DEDICATED TO BANNING IT. EAR-PLUGS ARE SELLING BRISKLY AMONG EUROPEAN FANS. BUT THE INTOLERABLE VUVUZELAS — SHUNNED BY WHITE-DOMINATED RUGBY AND EMBRACED BY BLACK-DOMINATED SOCCER — CARRY A POWERFUL SYMBOLISM

ROGER COHEN

 

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-T.W.O.L." — 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 specter.
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 percent of dwellings have flush toilets, where an estimated 6 million people are HIV positive, and where unemployment runs at 25 percent. 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 unraveling 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!" —NYT

thinksunday@gmail.com

 

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DNA

COMMENT & ANALYSIS

MESSAGE FOR CHINA FROM THAILAND'S RED SHIRTS

IT IS NOT HARD TO IMAGINE A CHINESE-STYLE RED-SHIRT REBELLION, WITH POPULIST LEADERS TAPPING RESENTMENT AND HOT-HEADED YOUTH TORCHING SYMBOLS OF POWER AND PRIVILEGE IN BEIJING. THE GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR IS ABOUT THE SAME IN BOTH COUNTRIES, AND THERE ARE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF CLASS-BASED DISTURBANCES IN CHINA EVERY YEAR

DANIEL A BELL

 

Whatever the effects of political turmoil in Thailand, they are not helping the cause of democracy in China. If a relatively well-off and religious country known as the "land of smiles" can so rapidly degenerate into bloody class warfare, what would happen if the Chinese Communist Party lost its monopoly on power? It is not hard to imagine a Chinese-style red-shirt rebellion, with populist leaders tapping resentment and hot-headed youth torching symbols of power and privilege in Beijing. If multi-party democracy leads to violent and uncompromising electoral blocs, then most reflective people will prefer one-party rule that ensures social stability.


Still, it would be a mistake for the Chinese government to treat the events in Thailand as an excuse to postpone political reform. The gap between rich and poor is about the same in both countries, and there are tens of thousands of class-based "illegal disturbances" in China every year.


The Chinese government is promoting social welfare in the countryside, but it must also give more institutional expression to social grievances. That requires more representation by farmers and workers in the National People's Congress and sub-national legislative organs, more freedom for public-spirited journalists to investigate cases of social injustice, and more freedom for civic organisations to act on behalf of the environment and those who do not benefit from economic reform.


Can China open up without going the way of multi-party rule? In fact, the great nineteenth-century British political thinker John Stuart Mill advocated liberal government without multi-party rule. In his classic work Considerations On Representative Government, he denounced "the shibboleth of the party." In a democracy, the party of the majority is most likely to be constituted by those "who cling most tenaciously to the exclusive class interest."


Instead of multi-party politics, Mill favored democratic elections constrained by such mechanisms as extra votes for the educated and institutional mechanisms to protect the rights of minorities. In Mill's view, an open society ruled mainly by educated elites is the most desirable form of government.


In a similar vein, the Confucian tradition has long emphasised the value of political meritocracy. Confucius himself emphasised that everybody should have an equal opportunity to be educated. But not everybody will emerge with an equal ability to make informed moral and political judgments. Hence, an important task of the political process is to select those with above-average morality and ability. In subsequent Chinese history, the meritocratic ideal was institutionalised by means of the Imperial examination system.


Confucians do not oppose electoral democracy, but they argue that it must be constrained by meritocratically selected political leaders who look after the interests of non-voters. Democracies can do a good job of representing the interests of voters, but nobody represents the interests of non-voters — including future generations and foreigners (consider global warming) — who are affected by government policies. That should be the task of meritocratically selected elites.

As it happens, the Chinese Communist Party is becoming more meritocratic. Since the 1980s, an increasing proportion of new cadres have university degrees, and cadres are promoted partly on the basis of examinations. But choosing educated elites is only part of the story.


The elites are also supposed to rule in the interest of all, and to allow for their voices to be heard. In practice, it means a more open and representative political system, but not necessarily multi-party politics.
Copyright: Project Syndicate

 

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THE TRIBUNE

PERSPECTIVE

POLICE LOSING BATTLE AGAINST CRIME

COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION WILL HELP ACHIEVE BETTER RESULTS, SAYS SANKAR SEN

 

Today democratic countries are haunted by the spectre of rising crime and lawlessness. There is crisis about public security and at the centre it the police to enforce laws and maintain order. People seem to feel that the police are not able to offer adequate protection to them.

 

The police say, if they are given more resources, especially personnel, they will be able to protect community against crime better. This, according to many criminologists, is a myth.

 

David Bayley has argued in his book, Police For The Future, that differences in crime rates cannot be attributed to variations in the number of police. In the US, between 1970 and 1990, the number of full-time police officers rose by 70 per cent but the serious crimes rose by 78.8 per cent and violent crimes by 147 per cent. In the UK, police per capita rose by 12 per cent and crime rate by 67 per cent. In Canada, it is 16 per cent and 34 per cent respectively.

 

There are studies to show that even when the number of police has been reduced in some areas due to budgetary crisis or as a result of strikes, crime rates have remained unaffected. During the police agitation in 1978 in Orissa's Rourkela (where this writer was then the Range DIG), policemen were not on the roads for nearly a week and the authorities had to organise night patrolling through citizens' groups and Home Guards. However, there was no increase of crime during this period. Indeed, there was a decline.

 

It is increasingly felt that in the battle against crime, the police require active support and cooperation of the public. Empirical researches demonstrate that arrests and better detection by the police, common indicators of efficient police performance, do not have any significant impact on reduction of crime. It may sound strange, but it is a fact that crime rate is not affected by the success of the police in solving crime.

 

Consequently, police leaders and administrators have to think of using police resources far more proactively for meeting the challenges of crime. The police have to think of ways and means of preventing it. According to Ostrom Elaner, crime prevention is an activity in which the public must also be actively engaged. They must become co-producers of public safety. For taking the challenge of crime prevention seriously and purposively, the police will have to break with past practices and adopt new strategies. Consultation, adaptation, mobilisation and problem solving are some of the important elements of the new strategy.

 

The police will have to evolve mechanisms for discussing crime prevention strategies with the members of the community by deepening contacts and holding regular meetings. This is happening in many of the democratic countries of the West. The police should adapt itself to the changing situations. Instead of relying on general policies and strategies formulated at Police Headquarters, the local commanders should devise strategies to suit local needs. For effective crime prevention, responsibility for formulating action plans has to be given to the frontline personnel.

 

The formal and informal structures of authority in policing are not congruent. Sector policing in London, which has been started since 1991, tries to achieve the same goal. Police divisions are divided into two or three sectors. Each sector is under an inspector who, with his subordinate officers, plans appropriate strategies for the sector in consultation with members of the local community.

 

We should also decentralise functions and give more power, authority and budgetary independence to the local commanders.

 

Organisational development studies in the early 80s by people like Tom Peter tried to dispel old notions. Peter pointed out that men on the frontline possess as many creative ideas on how to improve processes and find solutions to problems as top-level managers.

 

The police should also increasingly mobilise the resources of the community to prevent crime. In many American cities, civilians are actively involved in intercepting and spotting criminal behaviour. The drivers of radio-equipped taxies, delivery vans and telephone repair vehicles are sometimes trained to spot criminal activity and notify to the police. Volunteers wearing distinctive caps and arms-bands move in areas where criminal activity is likely to take place.

 

In India, similar endeavours have been made occasionally, with some success, by energetic Police Chiefs. But no sustained effort has been made to mobilise the resources of the community for crime prevention. Today, when most governments are facing financial crunch and there is enormous pressure on government budgets, substantial augmentation of police staff and resources will be expensive and difficult.

 

Mobilisation of the community can be one of the practical means of augmenting the crime-focussed resources of the police. Similarly, in states affected by Naxalite violence, community mobilisation is more important than sheer augmentation of the police staff.

 

We should also adopt a problem-solving approach which will enable the police along with the community to identify and address the real causes that lead to crime. This calls for a departure from the reactive incident-driven stance of the police. In the US, Herman Goldstein developed the concept of problem-oriented policing which has encouraged the police to think somewhat differently about its role. Problem resolution, according to Goldstein, constitutes the true work of policing.

 

Whenever there is a sharp rise in crime and disorder, the police opt for strong and, if necessary, extra-legal methods because of public demand for stringent action against the criminals. This is dishonest law enforcement, which exploits the public's fear of crime. Ultimately, this does not help because it cannot tackle the true causes of crime and disorder.

 

Crime is a product of complex biological and social and economic conditions. Its prevention requires meaningful intervention after proper study and analysis. Public support is also essential. Law enforcement officers know that because the crime suspects are not identified readily, most crimes remain unsolved. Japan is an exception among the developed countries where the police solve about 58 per cent of the crimes. It is 21 per cent in the US, 35 per cent in the UK and 45 per cent in Canada. The police initiative's success to reduce crime is often determined by a factor outside police control — the time taken by victims and witnesses to notify the police.

 

Japan has succeeded in keeping crime rates low. Japanese police make tireless efforts to encourage co-operative crime prevention. During their visits to the citizens' homes, the police officers there distribute crime prevention material, discuss crime in the area, make security inspections and raise the level of consciousness about the dangers of victimisation. The police in the US reassure the public that their fears of crime are exaggerated and the crime situation is not so bad as they imagine.

 

True, mobilisation of community support in India is not an easy task in view of the alienation of the police from the community. However, against the backdrop of growing crime and disorder, the people will come forward to help the police only when the police are able to convince them that they genuinely want to help them. 

 

The writer, a former Director General, National Human Rights Commission, is currently Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi

 

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THE TRIBUNE

PERSPECTIVE

NRIS' PROBLEMS: A COMPOSITE INDIAN LAW NEEDED 

BY RANJIT MALHOTRA

 

WITH increasing cases of litigation involving Indian jurisdiction, questions have arisen over the enforcement and execution of foreign judgements and overseas arbitration awards when they are sought to be implemented in India. There is a need to examine the current position in law so that possible solutions can be evolved in Indian jurisdiction. The focus is on disputes of a civil nature, especially with reference to enforcement of foreign matrimonial judgements in Indian jurisdiction

 

Primarily, we are looking at the limited personal legal baggage of the NRIs. Matrimonial laws differ from country to country. Men and women migrate to different countries to settle or work and likewise foreign nationals come to India. It is quite normal where Indian nationals have been marrying foreign nationals either in India or abroad and even both spouses are foreign nationals but of Indian origin and are getting married in India.

 

Often, a foreign national of Indian origin, resident and domiciled overseas, marries a spouse from India. Breakdown of a marriage in such a situation leads to complicated cross-border legal problems in the Indian jurisdiction as we do not have a consolidated, codified private international law, specifically addressing such situations. These problems arise due to cross-border migration and the parties generally have their domicile in one country and either of the parties attempt to obtain matrimonial relief in a jurisdiction of their choice and convenience, financial implications being a major predominant criteria in divorce litigation all of which leads to a conflict of law. The result: the parties to the litigation end up with simultaneous court orders from different jurisdictions.

 

The Supreme Court of India, in Y. Narasimha Rao and Others V. Y. Venkata Lakshmi and another (JT 1991 (3) SC 33), observed that: "The rules of private international law in this country are not codified and are scattered in different enactments such as the Civil Procedure Code, the Contract Act, the Indian Succession Act, the Indian Divorce Act, the Special Marriage Act etc. In addition, some rules have also been evolved by judicial decisions. In matters of status or legal capacity of natural persons, matrimonial disputes, custody of children, adoption, testamentary and intestate succession etc. the problem in this country is complicated by the fact that there exist different personal laws and no uniform rule can be laid down for all citizens. The distinction between matters which concern personal and family affairs and those which concern commercial relationships, civil wrongs etc. is well recognised in other countries and legal systems. The law in the former area tends to be primarily determined and influenced by social, moral and religious considerations, and public policy plays a special and important role in shaping it…"

 

The basic provisions regarding enforcement of judgements and orders of foreign courts in India contained in the Indian Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, is an enactment to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the procedure of the courts of civil judicature in India. The substantive provisions of law are contained in the parts of the code which are dealt with in the sections whereas the procedural provisions are set down in the corresponding orders and rules contained in the code.

 

It is in this context that Section 44 A of the CPC lays down the provisions for execution of decrees passed by courts in reciprocating territories. A reading of this provision indicates that for a decree of a foreign court as a reciprocating territory to be executed in India, the foreign country must be so notified by the Government of India in the official gazette. Most countries including the UK have been so notified by the Government of India.

 

Sections 38 and 39 are dealt with in Part II of the code relating to execution Section 13 of the Code with regard to validity of foreign judgements is very important, which states that a foreign judgement is not conclusive in the following situations: where it has not been pronounced by a court of competent jurisdiction; where it has not been given on the merits of the case; where it appears on the face of the proceedings to be founded on an incorrect view of international law or a refusal to recognise the law of India in cases in which such law is applicable; where the proceedings in which the judgement was obtained are opposed to natural justice; where it has been obtained by fraud; and where it sustains a claim founded on a breach of any law in force in India."

 

The most commonly adopted ground used as a defence under Section 13 CPC is that the judgement and decree of the foreign court is not based on the merits of the case and hence cannot be executed in India.

 

Indian Law reports contain a number of judgements on matters relating to marriage, divorce, maintenance, succession, settlement of matrimonial property, child custody, parental abduction of children from foreign jurisdictions in matrimonial disputes and cases relating to adoption.

 

These foreign court orders once having been passed are sought to be enforced or executed in India through the medium of the courts. A very common issue pertains to recognition and indirect implementation of divorce decrees of foreign courts produced in India by spouses residing in foreign jurisdictions. In 1991, the Supreme Court of India laid down fresh guidelines for the recognition of foreign matrimonial judgements by Indian courts.

 

The Supreme Court has made it clear that Indian courts would not recognise a foreign judgement if it had been obtained by fraud, which need not be only in relation to the merits of the matter but may also be in relation to jurisdictional facts. By this ruling, it declared a divorce decree passed by a US court unenforceable in India. Interpreting Section 13 CPC, the court laid down broad principles to be followed by Indian courts with special emphasis on matrimonial judgements.

 

Likewise, in Neeraja Saraph vs. Jayant V. Saraph (JT 1994 (6) SC 488), the apex court came down heavily on the erring non-resident husband residing in a foreign jurisdiction who had abandoned his Indian wife without providing for any maintenance to her.

 

The rulings in 1997, 1999 and 2003 clearly indicate that irrespective of any direction or order of a foreign court, the present law requires the court to act in the best interest and welfare of the minor child in child custody matters. More recently, the Supreme Court has followed a reverse trend approach in child removal matters by ordering return of the removed/ abducted child to the country of habitual residence. As of now, there have been conflicting judgements by the Supreme Court on the position of law.

 

As a large number of NRIs now live abroad permanently, we need a composite legislation to deal with their problems so that foreign courts' rulings are not imported to India for implementation of their rights. 

 

The writer, a Felix Scholar, is a Chandigarh-based lawyer specialising in Private International Law 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

MURDER FOR 'HONOUR'

SCRIBES' TESTIMONY ENOUGH TO PUNISH CULPRITS

BY RAJBIR DESWAL

 

THE Tribune editorial, "Killings in Delhi: Hang culprits to root out the malady" (June 17) on the murder of Asha Rani and Yogesh Kumar allegedly by the girl's father Suresh Kumar Saini and uncle Om Parkash could not be less harsh. The gruesome lynching of lovebirds in the name of protecting honour reported frequently from various parts of the country need to be checked.

 

Honour, reputation, status, dignity, prestige, ranking, all make stuff for motive to do away with the lives of the violators of the above kind, when they are perceived to be transgressors of these attributes, particularly by people who still live in medieval times.

 

Whenperpetrators of crimes like honour killing defend and justify their act, they cannot be brought to justice in the normal laid down (due) process of law but a more stringent one. What else we should do with criminals who flaunt victory signs and tell the media for the record, "Yes, we did it and we feel we are justified in doing it?" Surprisingly, Suresh Kumar and Om Parkash admitted before media persons, including beaming TV cameras that what they perceived was not a crime but an act to defend their "honour and prestige".

 

The killers in Delhi admitted their guilt with no regret, no compunction, no mellowed disposition of character and conviction, but with an audacious, fairly overt and expressive body language, in justifying their criminal act, in an unabashed and shameful manner, as if to claim a trophy or a citation, for upholding the so-called honour.

 

During the trial, these criminals will defend themselves pleading not guilty, employing various alibis, arguments and subterfuges of having been suddenly provoked, abetted, and thus having become victims of a temporary loss of sense, acting with no mens-rea but as a reflex action propelled by dyed-in-the-wool societal dire straits, blah blah blah!

 

In the case of honour killings as a sequel to the diktats of khap panchayats in Haryana, where the entire village community spares no witness to prosecute the perpetrators of such crime, their silent support allows no other direct, oral, forensic or circumstantial evidence to be gathered.

 

Where is the remedy? How can the legal process be reformed to bring such culprits to justice? How to cumulatively rely on (unavailable!) direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, oral testimony and forensic evidence to help prosecute such criminals? The time has come to reform the judicial process by incorporating some resilient but effective tools to bring such criminals to book.

 

The increasing trend of electronic and print media covering such incidents promptly should come handy in leading evidence. This does amount to extra-judicial confession (Section 21 of the Evidence Act). Such TV footage and print media reports should help courts examine so far as proof, presumption, assumption, inference are concerned, particularly in the absence of any direct evidence.

 

An extra-judicial confession, bearing on various attendant circumstances, would help courts infer the occurrence of the fact in dispute, if it is made by someone not before a magistrate or in a court, which can be proved by the witnesses who had heard the speaker's words, constituting the confession.

 

In Sahoo vs. State of UP (1966), when a father-in-law killed his daughter-in-law, he said to himself, "I have finished her and with her the daily quarrels,". This statement was held to be a valid confession because it is not necessary for the relevance of a confession that it should communicate to some other person.

 

Thus, the statements by accused persons like Suresh Saini and Om Prakash which are transparent confessions in their most naked, audacious and shameful form, can be proved in the court of law by citing media persons as witnesses. This writer is convinced that there is an imperative need for enacting a law for witness protection.

 

Clearly, media persons' testimony is admissible as extra-judicial confession under Section 21 of the Evidence Act. If these are insulated against any onslaught and also not likely to be won over, they will generally not turn hostile and will dispose in the court of law as independent witnesses.

 

Not that in all cases such media persons should be cited as witnesses but certainly for cases like honour killing, when no other circumstance is obtaining, there is no harm in resorting to this alternative.

 

As media persons recorded the first-hand account of the conduct of the culprits, they are responsible professionals and would not be counted as interested witnesses against defence or prosecution. Their testimony with their recordings, etc. can be treated as scientific evidence and this should be deemed adequate enough for purposes of bringing the guilty to book, in a manner as if an independent third party has heard the accused admitting his guilt.

 

Some North-Eastern states have done this in some cases to prove insurgency and separatist inclination of certain very active and articulate advocates of 'separatism' intending carving out ethnic and political chunks out of India by waging war against it.

 

In the case of Suresh Kumar Saini and Om Parkash, even much after the crime was committed, they were on a 'high'. It was as if they were drugged with an acquired sense of superior sensibilities in seeking to maintain and restoring their so-called honour and to appear as heroes in the perception of their relatives, caste community and social group.

 

The writer is the Inspector-General of Police, Haryana, Chandigarh 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

BEFITTING HONOUR FOR SUBBA RAO

BY HARIHAR SWARUP

 

TWO images of Gandhian Subba Rao conjure up as he receives the Anuvrat Ahimsa International Award from former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The first dates back to April 14, 1972 when bowing to his moral pressure dreaded dacoits of Chambal — Mohar Singh and Madho Singh in the main laid down their arms at the feet of a portrait of Gandhiji. Sarvodaya leader Jayaprakash Narayan was present.

 

This correspondent was witness to this historic event which made national and international headlines. The second was when Subba Rao acted as an interpreter of Congress President K. Kamaraj. As is known Kamaraj could speak only Tamil and sometimes Subba Rao translated his public speeches in Hindi.

 

Way back in 1970, with the money Subba Rao got as Director of Gandhi Darshan Train, he founded the Mahatma Gandhi Sewa Ashram at Jaura town in the Chambal Valley of Morena district of Madhya Pradesh. The Ashram was the venue of the surrender of dacoits. The success was followed by the surrender of outlaws at Bateshwar in Uttar Pradesh and Talabshahi in Rajasthan.

 

Later, Subba Rao and his associates worked for the rehabilitation of the surrendered desperados' families and also the families of their victims. He organised a cycle rally, covering 47 villages of Chambal Valley to identify people's problems at grassroots level and their solutions were found at the administrative level.

 

Presently, the Ashram organises Khadi and Gramodhyog camps, youth leadership camps, employment generation camps and programmes related to employment of rural people. The Ashram is the centre of Gandhian constructive work which includes running of charkhas in more than 300 families providing employment to more than 500 people.

 

For the last six decades, Subba Rao, along with a group of youth, has been organising camps in every corner of India, especially in insurgency-hit regions like North East, Jammu and Kashmir and the Naxalite affected states. He met leaders of the banned organisations which have adopted violence as a form of struggle, in jails and persuaded them to follow the Gandhian path of struggle.

 

Born in Karnataka on February 7, 1929, Subba Rao is affectionately called Bhaiji, meaning elder brother. His father Nanjundaiah was an advocate of repute, known for refusing unjust cases. Along with his three brothers, Subba Rao started singing devotional songs at the tender age of ten in the Ramakrishna Vedanta College, Malleshwaram. He donned Khadi dress.

 

His first experience with India's freedom movement was on the morning of August 9, 1942 when he along with other school students, boycotted classes.

 

The young Subba Rao was caught writing "Quit India" on the street wall and roads by the police but released because he was only 13. Since then, he became active in the freedom struggle. He actively participated in the Students' Congress activities and Rashtra Seva Dal programmes. Under the banner of a local organization, Gandhi Sahitya Sangh, he led youths to organise adult education programmes in labour colonies.

 

Subba Rao came in contact with his mentor, Dr N.S. Hardiker, in 1948 during a camp in Chitradurga, Karnataka. After completing law graduation, he joined the headquarters of the Congress Seva Dal at the invitation of Dr Hardiker in 1951. Though the invitation was for one year, Subba Rao never went back. His major achievement was to persuade the Chambal valley dacoits to surrender in the presence of Jaya Prakash Narayan.

 

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THE  TRIBUNE

OPED

MIG 21 IS NO FLYING COFFIN: BALDEV SINGH

BY SHUBHADEEP CHOUDHURY

 

Squadron Leader Baldev Singh, Chief Test Pilot and Executive Director, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bangalore, has more than 6000 hours of flying to his credit. Having flown fighter jets for the IAF, the gutsy Sikh has been doing test-flying for HAL for over 24 years with élan. In an interview to The Tribune in Bangalore, he shares his experience as a test pilot.

 

Excerpts:

 

Q: You are a Sikh. How did you come to Bangalore?

 

A: Our family originally belonged to Keer near Lahore. My father was working in an ordnance factory there. After Partition, the family came to Delhi and then to Dehradun. My father got a job in Bangalore where I was born in 1955.

 

Q: What about your Punjab connection?

 

A: My maternal uncles are in Amritsar and Mohali. While in the IAF, I was posted in Chandigarh, a place of special significance to me. I met my wife there.

 

Q: Why did you leave the IAF and join HAL?

 

A: I joined IAF after passing out from NDA. Later, I did a test pilot's course in Bangalore and then I went to HAL on deputation. When HAL offered me a job, I accepted it. I liked the thrill that the job entailed and the pure fun of participating in the development of something new attracted me. Besides developing indigenous aircraft and manufacturing aircraft under license from foreign companies, we at HAL are also involved in the indigenisation of various aircraft components which are also checked out during test flying.

 

Q: Is it a thrilling job?

 

A: Yes. Test flying teaches one something or the other everyday. You discover something new about the machine and something new about yourself also. The pilot's skill levels are also tested. Test flying is like going up to a cliff's edge, and coming back safely. It's not prudent for one to proceed beyond the cliff's edge. Otherwise, you will step into danger. As for test pilots, you push the machine to the maximum, but should not go further.

 

Q: I have seen you flying the advanced jet trainer, Hawk. Which other planes do you fly?

 

A: We carry out test flying in Nasik and Kanpur also, besides Bangalore. In Nasik, we have Sukhoi 30, Mig 21 and Mig 27. In Kanpur, we have Dornier, HPT 32 and Avro. I fly all these planes.

 

Q: There have been many accidents involving Mig 21s. The media started calling it the "Flying Coffin". Is Mig 21 accident prone?

 

A: There is no problem with Mig 21. I have flown Migs many times for 1400 hours out of my total flying hours of 6000. As we fly Migs more than any other plane, the number of accidents recorded against the plane is higher than other aircraft.

 

Mig sorties are also of a shorter duration as compared to other fighter aircraft. As a result, the plane has to do more sorties than other aircraft.

 

Q: You have flown 50 kinds of aircraft. Which one do you like most?

 

A: Every aircraft has its own charm. It is hard to single out anyone in particular. I, however, find the Jaguars the best for low level operations. For doing aerobatics there is no match for a Mirage 2000.

 

Q: Have you flown the Tejas, the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA)?

 

A: Flight tests of Tejas are being carried out by the National Flight Testing Centre (NFTC). However, production of Tejas for delivery to the IAF is going to start and we shall be flying the aircraft.

 

Q: What is a test pilot's secret of success?

 

A: You got to have passion for the job. Otherwise, you cannot succeed as test pilot. I shall like to fly till the day I die or my health allows me.

 

Q: Does the stunt flying during air shows has any use for real air battles?

 

A: At an air show the manouevring capability of the aircraft is shown. However, not all what you see has a direct relevance to its' role in the war. Some of these stunts are carried out only for display purposes.

 

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

EDITORIAL

MURPHY'S LAW AND KARMA

BHOPAL TRAGEDY AND INDIA'S 'REVOLUTION OF RISING EXPECTATIONS'

India is a land of death by accident. The website of the National Disaster Management Authority lists at least 13 different types — divided between 'manmade' and 'natural' disasters. Manmade ones are sub-classified under nuclear, chemical, mine, biological, cyber and environment. Infrastructure and transport sectors are not listed separately but one can imagine that more people die in road, rail and fire accidents every year than in all these categories of man-made disasters put together. The NDMA also has a list of natural disasters that include earthquakes, floods, river erosion, cyclones, tsunamis, landslides and avalanches and forest fires. Many of these can also be traced to human error or the combined impact of human actions — like floods, soil erosion, forest fires and even landslides. Hundreds of thousands of lives are lost every year and crores of rupees lost to the nation. With every accident there is breast-beating, remorse, finger-pointing, etc. etc, and the drama goes on. Let's face it — human lives come cheap in this part of the world. Nothing else explains the callousness with which most Indians still deal with potential sources of disaster. So, while an accident like the Bhopal gas leak tragedy makes everyone angry about corporate callousness, the fact is that in most people's normal lives they live with potential sources of accidental death — from unsafe electrical wiring that can cause fires, to potholes on roads that can kill, and the consumption of contaminated water and food.

Murhpy's law works with a vengeance in India. If something can go wrong, it will. Interestingly, this is the popular hand-me-down version of Murphy's law. The original formulation is far more sophisticated. Attributed to Major Edward A. Murphy, Jr. (1918-1990), an American aerospace engineer who worked on safety-critical systems, the textbook version of the so-called 'Murphy's law' is: "If there's more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way." It is not a scientific law, in the sense that it would fail the test of falsifiability. Nothing's perfect. But it helps make one cautious, take pre-cautions, adopt measures to prevent, mitigate and reduce the likelihood of disasters. Based on this understanding of human error all modern systems and organisations have developed methodologies to deal with potential sources of disaster and death. Yet, accidents happen. It is not, therefore, in preventing an accident that we must judge our ability to beat Murphy's law, but in our ability to deal with the consequences. If something will go wrong, because it can, then one must pay as much attention to preventing accidents as to dealing with accidents. Disaster management and response are as important as disaster prevention. Disaster management is a human science — that is, it is as much about systems as it is about people. In India, Murphy's law can work with both. Systems that can fail, will fail; and, people that can make mistakes will make mistakes.

This is not just because of the Indian chalta hai attitude, though such an attitude must take a large part of the blame. Indeed, the chalta hai attitude is itself a by-product of a more deep-seated psychology of karma. Whatever happens is supposed to happen. It is in our fate, in the lines of our palm, in the furrow of our brow. While 24x7 television anchors may get worked up, and impatient civil society activists angry, the ordinary Indian sits patiently for help, assistance, compensation, rehabilitation, justice because that is one's karma — to wait. But that is changing, and there is a 'revolution of rising expectations' in India. People expect more. Which, in part, explains why there is so much more opprobrium about the Bhopal gas tragedy today than there was a quarter century ago.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

NEHA CHOWDHRY: HEEDING THE CALL OF THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

WITH INDIA'S MARKETS IN THE WEST FALTERING AS A RESULT OF THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS, INDIAN FIRMS STAND TO GAIN BY STEPPING UP INVESTMENTS IN AFRICA

NEHA CHOWDHRY

Indian investments in Africa need to be honest, to make a business of it," said Vinod Dhall, director of corporate planning for the Mac Group, which invests in the East African and Tanzanian markets. Dhall has been in Africa for 12 years and has noticed a "changing ethos" in the manner that business is done in Africa.

Africa is the way forward for Indian investment. This is the message that Bharti Airtel sent to the subcontinent with its move to acquire the African assets of Kuwait's Zain at $10.7 billion. With tele-density standing at a mere 30 per cent in the continent, Airtel has the potential to reap huge gains from the deal.

 Airtel is not alone. The Tatas were their predecessors and have made close to $1.6 billion worth of investments in the continent.

Other private groups such as Reliance Industries, Mahindra and Mahindra,Videocon, Ashok Leyland, Dabur, Godrej, Dr Reddy's Labs, NIIT, Essar, Suzlon and Kirloskar have already made their foray into the Dark continent.

With its deep historical linkages to India, two million-strong Indian diaspora, burgeoning middle class and rich natural resources, Africa has the potential to solve both India's simmering energy security issues as well as provide a large, dynamic market for India goods and services.

India needs Africa's huge oil and gas reserves, standing at around 16 billion metric tons and 500 trillion cubic feet respectively, to allay/meet its huge demand for energy. Today, India is the fifth largest consumer of energy and imports 70 per cent of its oil needs. Africa covers about 20 per cent of these imports.

Yet, compared to China's investment of $109 billion, Indian investment of about $40 billion — which has been largely private sector investment — has not grown as quickly.

This stems from a mixture of ambivalence from Indian industry towards Africa and uncertainty as to the regulatory abilities of various governments. Dhall observed, "There is hardly any trust in government standards and rules to incentivise long-term investments."

K V Bhagirath, the Indian High Commissioner to Tanzania, pointed out that "Indian companies need to be bolder when coming into Africa." He emphasised that "there was a lot of good will for India and it would be warmly welcomed on the continent." India is Tanzania's largest trade partner.

One of the largest obstacles Indian businessmen face coming into Africa is in understanding its large diversity. "Africa is a not a country, Africa is a continent and must be treated as such," warned Marten Kapewasha, the Namibian High Commissioner in India. He pointed to the fact that different African countries would have very different things to offer India.

This can be seen from the disparate growth of the continent. The Asian Development Bank reported that East Africa, which was the least affected by the global financial crisis, will grow at an average of 6 per cent in 2010-11 — the highest on the continent. South Africa and Central Africa will grow more gingerly at 4 per cent while North and West Africa together will grow at 5 per cent.

Today, African trade constitutes around 6.4 per cent of India's total trade. Trade between them has increased considerably, from $4.9 billion in 2000 to nearly $40 billion in 2008. This is expected to expand by over nine times to $150 billion by 2012, according to the The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.

Governments have taken measures to increase the inflow of capital. Sudan, for example, allows foreign investors to own all of the capital of the company, while Mauritius reduced the rate of corporate tax to 15 per cent. Many African countries have also undergone banking reforms to give credibility to the financial services sector.

Demographically, half of the country is below the age of 20 and speaks Western languages and the workforce is available at a lower cost than in many other developing countries.

While investments have largely been in the extraction sector of various African countries, there are many other sectors that hold promise for Indian industry.

In Kenya, Indian investors are involved in financial services and pharmaceuticals. In Ethipoia, it's engineering and agriculture. Namibia offers the promise of diamonds and uranium, while Sudan has its huge oil and gas sector.

Important schemes are in place to enhance economic relations. The Focus Africa Programme (2002 -2007), conducted by the Export Import Bank of India offered subsidies in exports to Indian companies trading with African nations. It also gave lines of credit to governments in Africa and regional blocs.

The 2008 India-Africa Summit was a blueprint for partnership and resulted in development pledges, credit lines worth $5.4 billion, five-year grants of $500 million and an opening of India's economy to all the LDCs.

Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna have pointed to the need to build win-win partnerships on the continent to develop Africa. Mr Kapewasha echoed this sentiment, saying that Africa wants to approach their relationship with India as an equal partner.

As such, India's investment in Africa should follow a model that emphasises the development of the local people, through technology transfers, training and local development practices.

With India's traditional markets in the West faltering after the effects of the global financial crisis, Indian companies have much to gain from looking towards Africa as the next big investment destination.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

NET ASSESSMENT IN DEFENCE POLICY

NET ASSESSMENT INVOLVES SIMULATIONS, OPPOSITION ANALYSIS, CRITICAL REVIEWS AND LOW-PROBABILITY, HIGH-IMPACT CONTINGENCY PLANNING

DHRUVA JAISHANKAR

Net assessment involves simulations, opposition analysis, historical and cultural studies, critical reviews and low-probability, high-impact contingency planning.

The 1980s witnessed an extraordinarily fervent debate in the United States about the ability of the Soviet military to inflict a decisive conventional defeat in Europe against American and Nato forces. At the policy-making level, the debate swung between those who believed that the US and Nato could thwart a Soviet blitzkrieg but still required nuclear weapons in Europe as a deterrent, and those who believed that the West would likely be defeated in a conventional conflict but had a chance of defending itself successfully.

 At the same time, the public debate that took place in the media was dominated by overwhelming pessimism. Commentators argued, with a conviction bordering on certainty, that the Eastern Bloc had the means and ability to overpower Nato on the plains of central Europe. This debate revolved almost exclusively on the balance of conventional ground forces and it continued right until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the concomitant dissolution of the Warsaw Pact.

Over the course of the wider debate, the optimist camp pointed to at least four fallacies in the pessimistic arguments. First, in their view, the pessimists unquestioningly believed the assessments of US commanders — particularly the Supreme Allied Commander-Europe — without considering their vested bureaucratic interests in exaggerating the Soviet conventional threat. An inflated threat assessment was, after all, a means of consolidating the alliance and securing additional resources. Second, they assumed that because the Soviets had performed a particular exercise or had written about a certain plan or tactic, that they had the ability to execute it, which naturally inflated Soviet capabilities.

Third, the pessimistic view was unduly influenced by work in the classified intelligence realm, which relied upon a large number of sources, but fell short on analysis due to the vagaries of intelligence production. And finally, pessimistic scenarios tended to favour the offence, on the grounds that it held the initiative and could employ an element of surprise, with little regard for the fact that defence rendered substantial advantages of its own.

If this sounds eerily familiar, it should be no surprise. The context and ensuing discussion have shockingly similar parallels to some of the ongoing debates in India over the Sino-Indian balance. Media reports, often citing anonymous army sources, reveal the service's woeful unpreparedness in dealing with a hypothetical conventional offensive by China. There is little consideration of the air balance in these analyses, let alone the role that nuclear weapons can — and do — play as a dampener of conflict.

The collective assessment in the public domain of China's military modernisation programme, based on piecemeal reports of varying levels of reliability, produces a picture in toto of 'the ten-foot-tall Chinese'. There have been few, if any, unclassified Indian studies of the ability to hold sparsely-populated mountainous terrain in the event of a conventional attack by China. Nor, outside the government, have the wider political implications of a hypothetical Chinese conventional assault been seriously thought through.

The Indian public debate would benefit tremendously from enhanced net assessment. The purpose of net assessment — a concept that took hold at the US National Security Council and subsequently at the US Department of Defense with the establishment of the Office of Net Assessment in the 1970s — is to provide an objective and rigourous evaluation of military competition. This could involve simulations, opposition analysis, historical and cultural studies, critical reviews, and low-probability/high-impact contingency planning.

The absence of such analyses is being remedied in Indian governmental circles, with the National Security Council Secretariat taking much of the initiative. However, far more needs to be done in the public domain, both as a means of restraining wild speculation and providing context to those media reports that do reveal thinking within the Indian armed forces and the national security establishment.

Whether or not India presently underestimates or overestimates its position, comprehensive and objective assessments of current and potential military competitions would result in necessary course corrections. Areas of weakness could be identified for further resource allocation while imprecise exaggerations would prove less distracting. An open and cooperative government and responsible media can help produce a more accurate picture of where India stands with regards to its military preparedness. But with New Delhi home to an ever-growing number of think tanks and policy research institutes, the task also falls upon them to ensure that the public debates on India's multiple military endeavours remain in perspective.

The author is programme officer for Asia at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and fellow at the Takshashila Institution (dhruva.jaishankar@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

SREELATHA MENON: MEDIA OF THE MASSES

MOBILE-BASED NEWS SERVICES HAVE OPENED THE MEDIA FOR THE RURAL POOR

SREELATHA MENON

 

Dial 080-40952044 and you are transported to another world in a village in Chhattisgarh's Rajnandgaon. A reporter, Bhanu Sahu, tells you how women panches in a village are not getting payments under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme as their names are not in the muster roll. She says male panches are getting paid even without working under the scheme. The reporter says this is the state of affairs in other parts of the district too where genuine payment claims are being denied. In barely two minutes, you listen to the story of this far-away village as mobile-based news service CG Net Swara gives daily news snippets of areas that are least reported about and are vital for the media as well as the government.

 

 Another story is about a single-teacher school in Kangri village, where classes have been suspended as the teacher has been called for census operations.

Swara was the brainchild of journalist Shubranghshu Chaudhry, who implemented it with a scholar from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as part of a fellowship project under Knight International.

Now, it has become an outlet for information from the most interior of villages, not only in Chhattisgarh but also Orissa, Jharkhand and southern Uttar Pradesh bordering Chhattisgarh.

But since it is focussing on tribal areas which also happen to be Naxal-affected, it is also causing concern to security and intelligence agencies. The service had to be stopped for some time and was revived with a new number.

The question is whether these services, which help people in villages get heard, should be banned or monitored?

So far, there is no agency to monitor the service.

Meanwhile, there is another mobile-based news service, called Gaon ki Awaaz, started by a journalist from Noida-based International Media Institute of India and aired in Uttar Pradesh. The area being covered is the Mathura region.

Whether these services are universally accepted or not, a new tool has been unveiled for use of those who wish to tell stories of the marginalised sections of the country or outside.

If phone news service numbers are popularised, people, in Jharkhand or Sikkim, will be able to air their stories by just making a call. That, it is said, will be the beginning of the end of the rural-urban divide as well as the people-media divide as the citizen takes over.

Shubranghshu Chaudhury and his wife Smita are running Swara almost alone from New Delhi with a few activists in villages providing stories. For the service to be effective, people should be in a position not only to run the service but also be familiar with the number.

Today, Swara has just three stories and a new number which has to be popularised among tribals. There is fear of the number being misused. Smita says the solution is for the government to monitor those who run the service rather than discourage or stop it.

She says Swara may be replicated in other states. However, a better thing will be more services coming up in other states or representing other interests. This will ensure that people hear stories about Dalits, Muslims, other minorities, students, women, children by calling up different numbers. This will mean more news for print and electronic media and more corrective action, wherever necessary. This will also mean more open windows and less social vermin.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

'DEVELOPMENT SHOULD NOT BE A ZERO-SUM GAME'

NIRUPAMA RAO

When the searchlight is turned on what we — as India — do in Afghanistan, the vista is clear. India is engaged in developmental and humanitarian work to assist the Afghan people as they build a peaceful, stable, inclusive, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan.

The landscape of destruction must change. India neither sees Afghanistan as a battleground for competing national interests nor assistance to Afghan reconstruction and development as a zero sum game. Indeed, may I venture the proposition that development and security in the entire region of South Asia should not be a zero sum game.

 Our $1.3-billion assistance programme is aimed at building infrastructure, capacity building in critical areas of governance, health, education, agriculture, etc, and generating employment. We have paid a heavy price in terms of the lives lost of our citizens who work in Afghanistan, as we are targeted by those whose agendas conflict with the emergence of a strong and stable Afghanistan.

Last year, over 300,000 Afghans – mainly women and children – trekked long distances to avail of free medical treatment from the Indian Medical Missions across Afghanistan. The economy of battle-scarred Nimroz province was transformed with the building of the Zaranj-Delaram highway and the homes of the people of Kabul have been lit after more than a decade by the Pul-e-Khumri transmission line from the Uzbek border.

The security of Afghanistan and what happens there impacts us, as a country in the region, as a close neighbour whose ties with the Afghan people stretch into antiquity. A stable and settled Afghanistan is what we seek and quest for. It is important also that for such a structure to be durable and enduring, Afghanistan's neighbours, and regional partners, will need to be in the picture — both by consultation and by adherence to the principle of non-interference in the country's affairs, and by eradicating transnational terrorism.

I will now focus on the dynamics of our relationship with Pakistan. The last sixty years have had more than their share of bitterness, recrimination, mistrust, misunderstanding and miscommunication. There is a trust deficit. Some also refer to a vision deficit, especially since India has over the years sought to spell out a broader vision of our relationship while a similar definition has not been easy for Pakistan to enunciate.

Therefore, there is need for articulating a common definition of what kind of relationship we want for the future. The welfare of our millions should be the common denominator of our efforts. So, what has gone wrong so far? While some would trace the current state of India-Pakistan relations to the circumstances that led to the birth of the two countries, others would blame events thereafter. But what is important for us today is to try and assess the reasons underlying the existing state of this relationship and to think afresh on the way forward. It is only through such an analysis that we can overcome the difficulties in our relationship.

And, as we commence this exercise, it is important to reiterate a few points. We seek a stable, peaceful, economically progressing Pakistan. Secondly, we sincerely desire peace with Pakistan. Thirdly, we have to learn to live with the asymmetries in our sizes and capabilities. Such differences of scale should not deter us from working with each other. Pakistan should shed its insecurity on these counts.

Fourthly, India is a neighbour which has exhibited true restraint despite misguided and serious provocations. Fifthly, the entry of radical ideology into the domain of religion must be prevented. Terrorist forces are also increasingly battling for larger space in a deathly struggle that seeks to overwhelm moderate, democratic forces in Pakistani civil society.

The writing on the wall must be seen.

(Excerpts from an address by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao at the conclusion of the India-Pakistan-Afghanistan Trialogue organised by the Delhi Policy Group in New Delhi on June 13)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

SELLING FAMILY SILVER TO FUND PROFLIGACY: S A AIYAR

BROADBAND WIRELESS ACCESS

 

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is smiling. He had hoped to get Rs 35,000 crore from auctions of spectrum to telecom companies for 3G and broadband wireless access. In fact, the auctions fetched a whopping Rs 106,000 crore.


Thanks to this bonanza, government sources claim that the fiscal deficit will now be only 4.5% of GDP, against the budget estimate of 5.5%. At a time when fiscal deficits in other countries (notably Greece) constantly exceed budget estimates, the government claims that India is moving, virtuously, in the opposite direction.


Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have greeted the news by pouring fresh millions into Indian stock markets. In May, FIIs pulled a whopping $2 billion out of the stock markets, sending the sensex crashing. But they are now flooding back, buying more than half-a-billion dollars of stock last week. They feel that the fall in the fiscal deficit will release additional bank funds for borrowing by the private sector, help lower interest rates, and thus boost the economy.


Alas, this apparent improvement in government finances is largely illusory. The fiscal deficit is the difference between the government's tax revenue and spending. This gap can be met in two ways — by borrowing more, or by selling more of its assets. The net worth of the government — assets minus borrowings --- will be exactly the same whether it borrows more or sells more. So, selling more is not superior to borrowing more, as the government — and the stock markets —seem to think.

Seen in this light, the spectrum sales have not really improved the government's finances. It remains profligate, spending far more than it gets. The fact that a greater share of this overspending will now be financed by selling assets rather than borrowing does not change the underlying reality of overspending.


Spectrum sales are being counted as revenue by the government. In fact, revenues are income streams like taxes that yield money year after year, on a sustainable basis. Selling spectrum provides a one-time gain that cannot be sustained.


So, the spectrum sales of Rs 106,000 crore must not be viewed as a great success. Rather, they represent a big upfront levy on telecom companies — and through them on telecom users — to finance government overspending.

Some readers might think that, with the government borrowing less from banks to fund its deficit, more bank money will be available for productive investment, spurring the economy. Alas, this is not so. Telecom companies have to borrow enormous sums from banks to pay for the spectrum. So, after the spectrum sale, the lower government borrowing requirement will be fully offset by the higher borrowing requirement of telecom companies. No bank funds will be freed for productive uses by the private sector.


Hence there is really no case for celebration or for stock markets to boom. The government has simply sold some family silver to finance its overspending, and its underlying financial situation remains unchanged.


Readers will ask, isn't it a good thing to auction spectrum rather than gift it to favoured telecom companies, as happened in the case of 2G spectrum? Aren't auctions necessary to check crony capitalism and corruption?
Yes indeed, we must have auctions to ensure transparency and check crony capitalism. But this auction was wrongly designed. Telecom companies should have been asked to bid not for a one-time purchase of spectrum, but for the percentage of revenue they were willing to share with the government indefinitely. This would have been transparent and fair. It would not fetch an instant bonanza of Rs 106,000 crore, but it would have produced a sustainable stream of revenue in the years to come. The government's share of telecom revenue would have risen over time with increased telecom use. That was the way to go.


The government also plans to sell equity stakes of up to 10% in several government companies. These sales too are being counted as revenue, and so will appear to reduce the fiscal deficit. In fact, these too will represent a sale of family silver that simply finances overspending rather than reduce it.


Now, if the government sold a majority stake in public sector units, allowing new private sector management to take over, that would hugely improve efficiency. But only minority stakes will be sold.


In sum, asset sales must not mislead readers to think government finances are improving. On the contrary, the government's unwillingness to decontrol petroleum product prices, and its seeming commitment to ever-rising subsidies, spell danger. We need a more honest presentation of government finances, not the smoke and mirrors that have become standard practice.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SPARE THE ROD, SAVE THE CHILD

The tragedy of a young Kolkata schoolboy taking his own life, which came to light recently, exposes more than anything else the thoroughly bureaucratised nature of the educational system our schools have become a part of. A school whose tradition stretches back more than a century was expected to have presented a more dignified and humane face to the world in the wake of a heart-wrenching suicide, if for no other reason than to be mindful of its brand value. Corporal punishment in our schools is a regrettable fact of life, and no one can be greatly surprised by its routine use even in famous educational institutions. What was hard to accept were the regimented arguments presented on television by spokespersons of the school and its management in defence of corporal punishment, wholly unmindful of the context of tragedy that had placed the school in the public eye. A management representative noted in a boorish tone of defiance, while rejecting a link between the caning of the child in question and his suicide at home three days later, "What should we do with the principal now? Hang him?" To hear an educationist speak in such language was shocking. It exposed his lack of command of the developments in the field of education that have taken place in recent years as well as in the area of child psychology, not to speak of his utter disregard of the law of the land. Indeed, it passes comprehension how individuals such as these are retained within the educational system, or can be a part of a school that is supposed to inculcate enlightened values. The school in question has taken a long time to appreciate the reasons that have produced an outcry in the country following the suicide of its pupil rendered distraught after his public humiliation at the hands of the authorities. In the wake of public scrutiny, it has banned caning by teachers. This was the least it could have done. It is still not wholly clear if all forms of corporal punishment have been placed out of bounds, even if the principal were to order them. The Church authorities who manage the school should take it upon themselves to get the tragic episode inquired into by a group of independent experts. Such a public inquiry would show whether or not there was a causal link between the suicide and the events surrounding the boy's caning a few days earlier. It is naïve, disingenuous or self-serving to proclaim in advance that there can be no possible cause and effect connection merely because of the 72-hour gap between the two episodes. If the Church authorities shy away from an independent inquiry, there is no reason why the government should not intervene. Caning contravenes public law, and the episode has nothing to do with the autonomy of minority educational institutions.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

25 YEARS OF NEGLECT

BY ARUN NEHRU

After 25 years we all have woken up to the Bhopal gas tragedy. But before we say or do anything, it would be in the fitness of things to tender an apology to the people of Bhopal on behalf of the nation and its institutions. The next step should be to reflect on why it took 25 years for all of us to think of the more than 20,000 people who died and those who still suffer. We still do not know if it is safe to live in Bhopal.

We have a rotten system which, over the years, has been designed to cater to those in governance and the circles close to them, both at the Centre and in the states. If we ignore the blame game, move beyond the events that took place on December 7, 1984 — the day Warren Anderson, the then CEO of Union Carbide Corporation, left Bhopal — and concentrate on the facts, we will see why the case was scuttled 1995 onwards.

To find answers, we would have to examine in depth the role of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the home ministry and even the Prime Minister's Office, then under the control of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. Along with the details of the case we must check what the Supreme Court said. Was the case diluted by the investigating agencies at any stage? Did any lobbying take place in favour of Union Carbide in the 1990s? If yes, then what influence was exerted on the government? The reality is that former Chief Justice of India A.H. Ahmadi, facing flak for his 1996 verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy case, diluted the charges and the case was finished. But since then, till 2010, four successive governments at the Centre — formed by the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Janata Dal supported by the Left and several regional parties — did nothing to review the matter.

Union law minister M. Veerappa Moily can be rather emotional at times but I share his sentiments. Hopefully, his reaction will accelerate the process of judicial reform. Unless we have an effective system of accountability we will continue to be confronted with situations where we will have many judgments going back 10, 15 or 20 years and, instead of looking at the present and planning for the future, we will only be living in the past.

I have no doubt that the group of ministers (GoM) set up by the Prime Minister to examine the trial court's decision will return a positive verdict on the compensation issue along with other facilities that must be provided to the victims. The GoM, I am certain, will do everything possible to extradite Warren Anderson, and hold Dow Chemicals to account for all the financial damages and the cleaning up of the abandoned factory. Anyone in a powerful position found to be associated with these firms would be courting political disaster.

Politics is run by public perception, not by smart legal arguments. But, at the same time, we must not attribute motives as the politics of 2010 is very different from the situation in 1984. Details of the events of December 1984 in Bhopal have been available on several websites for some time. And if anyone had done their homework and downloaded the relevant information, there would be little confusion and the wasteful blame game would have never started. Even today many in the media are making "fresh disclosures" of events that have already been reported in 1984.

Much has changed with the statement of former foreign secretary M.K. Rasgotra. Mr Rasgotra has said that the then home ministry, under P.V. Narasimha Rao, had assured "safe passage" to Mr Anderson even before he arrived in India to take stock of the Bhopal gas leak. A great deal of speculation has come to an end with this revelation and the narration of behind-the-scenes activity by various writers, including Raj Kumar Keswani in the Chandigarh-based Tribune newspaper on June 11, 2010.

While we continue to speculate about what was right or wrong with wisdom or ignorance of hindsight, the fact is that in 2010 we cannot, with any accuracy, know what was the ground reality in Bhopal in 1984. Arjun Singh, the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, was the man on the spot and acted to the best of his ability.

Of course, the facts and the steps taken are best known to those who were in the loop. The reason, perhaps, for the continuing blame game is that there are several versions of the events of December 7, 1984, and several little pieces that don't fit the picture that is being put forward. For example, there are two versions of how and why the decision of granting "safe passage" to Mr Anderson was taken. One version claims it was done before his arrival, while another claims that it was a decision taken after he was arrested and the American embassy started exerting pressure.

As the GoM meets on a daily basis to resolve the issue of rehabilitation and compensation for the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, the media is busy investigating issues that led to the dilution of the charges and everything else connected with Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals. This issue will not fade away soon and I wish there was a better way of effecting change in our system. Do we need a disaster of this nature to spur us to action?

We all have the right to express our opinions but we must ensure that the victims have the final say. But for the families of those who perished, those who continue to suffer and those who had the courage and resolve to keep fighting, whatever we do today will not be enough. The fact is that we neglected them for 25 years.

- Arun Nehru is a former Union Minister

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE THRILL IN OBAMA-US MARRIAGE IS GONE

BY CHARLES M.

U.S. President Barack 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 per cent 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 National Public Radio'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 per cent 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 US President is doing a good job — not perfect, but good — particularly in light of the incredible mess he inherited. The website PolitiFact.com 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 polarised for a President in Gallup history", and his "approval ratings have become slightly more polarised thus far in his second year". The USS 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 US President must accept the basic fact that he, as the agent of change, must himself be open to change.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

A BABU'S LEGACY

BY DILIP CHERIAN

With the Ambani brothers no longer at war, will the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) breathe easy? It had received some unwelcome attention during the tenure of its former chief V.K. Sibal. Though Mr Sibal has now left, the spotlight has remained fixed on the organisation, with the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central Bureau of Investigation continuing investigations into various allegations against Mr Sibal even now. One obvious fall-out is the growing restlessness of professional babus working in the directorate. Many of these babus are actively seeking repatriation to their "parent" departments or state-owned firms in order to avoid grilling by investigators.

S.K. Srivastava, Mr Sibal's successor at DGH, according to sources, has expressed his helplessness, saying he cannot force the babus to stay on. Apparently, he has discussed the issue with petroleum secretary S. Sundareshan. Subsequently, an open-house session was held to discuss the employees' concerns. But apparently this "confidence-building" measure has failed to stem the exodus from DGH.

IPS row

The government's efforts to fill the 657 vacancies of Indian Police Service (IPS) officers have been stymied by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). In what is being perceived as a setback to the home minister's battle against Naxals and terrorism, the UPSC rejected P. Chidambaram's suggestion to recruit IPS officers from amongst young Central and state police officers.

The home ministry had proposed to induct 70-80 officers annually from this pool for the next seven years, besides the 150 IPS officers recruited through the civil service examination and through the promotion quota of the states. Mr Chidambaram's proposal was based on the recommendation of the panel headed by a former IPS officer Kamal Kumar.

The home ministry babus will now push the Prime Minister's Office to help implement the scheme. But while they believe that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's approval would "overrule" UPSC, it remains to be seen whether this strategy will succeed.

Fighting graft

In its fight against corrupt babus, the government is now concerned about the invariable delays in processing cases, which it plans to check by constituting a high-level panel to fast-track corruption cases involving babus. The new panel would be headed by former Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) chairman P.C. Hota, with former chief vigilance commissioner P. Shankar and former personnel secretary Arvind Verma as members. The panel will be provided logistical support by the department of personnel and training.

While it is mandatory for all corruption cases to be referred to the recruiting authority — UPSC, most cases were referred just before the tainted babus retired. Consequently, the UPSC did not get sufficient time to examine the cases and recommend disciplinary action. The new panel would hopefully fast-track cases and punish the tainted while in service.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

'NO OPPOSITION JUST FOR SAKE OF IT'

Nitin Gadkari, who has been the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president for about six months, appears very different from his predecessors. In an interview to Olga Tellis, he speaks of his desire to get back old party members without pre-conditions as he believes in "adding instead of subtracting members". The BJP leader also speaks of coming together with the Left, even with the Manmohan Singh government, on issues concerning the poor.

Q. You have been wanting to get back party members who had left the BJP, or had been asked to resign. Has your latest meeting with Jaswant Singh, who had eulogised Jinnah, met with any success?
A. I want to strengthen the party. I believe in the politics of addition, not subtraction. I have had discussions with them and it is now for the party to take a decision. There are no pre-conditions on those who wish to return. Yashwant Sinha is already back in the party.

Q. How long do you think it will be before Mr Jaswant Singh joins the party?

A. As soon as the party takes a decision.

Q. There was a lot of controversy surrounding Ram Jethmalani being given a Rajya Sabha ticket. Why did the party decide to give Mr Jethmalani the go-ahead when there was such opposition to the move, considering that he had contested a Lok Sabha election against Atal Behari Vajpayee?
A. As you saw in Rajasthan, from where he got elected, we got four votes more. So there was complete unity in the party. Mr Jethmalani is a very good lawyer and we need his help. He is experienced and he came to me saying he wanted to come back to the party. We believe in tolerance and this is an important part of our political culture.

Q. Is that why you don't mind joining hands with the Left in Parliament?

A. My feeling is that political untouchability is not good. The Left and the BJP should come together. We can have political differences but on issues concerning the poor we should fight together. I don't even mind cooperating with the Manmohan Singh government on issues concerning the poor. I don't want to oppose for the sake of opposing. I am a liberal democrat and I believe in progressive thinking. It is the culture of our party. I'm not biased.

Q. What is the biggest problem you have encountered in the six months since you took over as president of the BJP?
A. My biggest problem is the media. For the last several years they have been targeting the BJP, and this is unfortunate. They never target the Congress like this. I have started discussions with them, and am interacting with them. I have even visited their offices. I don't want publicity. I only want them to understand my party. Where we are wrong they can certainly correct us.

Q. What about the fight between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar?

A. It was unnecessarily blown up in the media. It was all over one advertisement — an issue that was hardly important. But it was blown up. Everything is now resolved.

Q. The media probably attacks you because they find your party anti-secular.
A. What does "secular" mean? We need a secular government, police force, media etc. My feeling is that an individual alone cannot be secular. We (BJP) believe in justice for all and appeasement of none. For the Congress, "secular" means appeasement of terrorists and minorities for vote politics. I don't understand why we should have separate laws for Hindus and separate for Muslims. Why should we allow talaq? Is there a separate law for Hindus in Pakistan?

Take the Congress. It has been criticising the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), yet they and their ally formed an alliance with it for the Legislative Council elections. The MNS gave six votes each to the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. Both these parties have blackmailed Raj Thackeray to vote for their candidates.

The Congress is the most communal and casteist party. Why is it not implementing the Supreme Court verdict on Afzal Guru? Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit has said that former Union home minister Shivraj Patil had told her to delay the decision. They let the criminal of Bhopal, Warren Anderson, flee the country because they feared that his presence would create a law and order situation. They are saying the same thing about the delay in hanging Afzal Guru. Yet, the Congress is paraded as nationalist and secular and we are criminals.

During the Vajpayee regime we elected A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as the President of India, and the Congress objected. So these (issues of communalism and secularism) are misconceptions in the media. I am a small karyakarta (worker). I began my career in the party sticking posters on walls. Today I am the president of the party. Can Dr Singh or P. Chidambaram or Pranab Mukherjee ever dream of becoming Congress president? The post is reserved for one family. Yet, the media sees no good in us and only good in the Congress.

Q. There is criticism that you have not been able to unite the party and there are different factions?
A. That's not true. As I said, we got four extra votes in the Rajya Sabha elections in Rajasthan. How would that happen if we were not united? It was Congress MLAs who cross-voted in favour of the BJP candidate.

Q. And what about the criticism that you spend more time in Mumbai and Nagpur than in Delhi?
A. I spend barely three days a month each in Mumbai and Nagpur. The rest of the time I travel round the country meeting our workers and arranging training programmes for chief ministers on good governance, and for the karyakartas.

Q. What is the major change that you have brought into the BJP?

A. We have shunned power politics and are concentrating on raj, vikas and rashtra. The 21st century politics will be for development and progress. We had organised a good governance conference for training chief ministers and advised them to focus on the general well-being of the downtrodden. Politics should be for social reform. We have prepared reports on incursions of the Chinese on our borders into Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. Our committee is yet to visit Uttarkhand where also there have been Chinese incursions.

***************************************


DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

A BABU'S LEGACY

BY DILIP CHERIAN

With the Ambani brothers no longer at war, will the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) breathe easy? It had received some unwelcome attention during the tenure of its former chief V.K. Sibal. Though Mr Sibal has now left, the spotlight has remained fixed on the organisation, with the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central Bureau of Investigation continuing investigations into various allegations against Mr Sibal even now. One obvious fall-out is the growing restlessness of professional babus working in the directorate. Many of these babus are actively seeking repatriation to their "parent" departments or state-owned firms in order to avoid grilling by investigators.

S.K. Srivastava, Mr Sibal's successor at DGH, according to sources, has expressed his helplessness, saying he cannot force the babus to stay on. Apparently, he has discussed the issue with petroleum secretary S. Sundareshan. Subsequently, an open-house session was held to discuss the employees' concerns. But apparently this "confidence-building" measure has failed to stem the exodus from DGH.

IPS row

The government's efforts to fill the 657 vacancies of Indian Police Service (IPS) officers have been stymied by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). In what is being perceived as a setback to the home minister's battle against Naxals and terrorism, the UPSC rejected P. Chidambaram's suggestion to recruit IPS officers from amongst young Central and state police officers.

The home ministry had proposed to induct 70-80 officers annually from this pool for the next seven years, besides the 150 IPS officers recruited through the civil service examination and through the promotion quota of the states. Mr Chidambaram's proposal was based on the recommendation of the panel headed by a former IPS officer Kamal Kumar.

The home ministry babus will now push the Prime Minister's Office to help implement the scheme. But while they believe that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's approval would "overrule" UPSC, it remains to be seen whether this strategy will succeed.

Fighting graft

In its fight against corrupt babus, the government is now concerned about the invariable delays in processing cases, which it plans to check by constituting a high-level panel to fast-track corruption cases involving babus. The new panel would be headed by former Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) chairman P.C. Hota, with former chief vigilance commissioner P. Shankar and former personnel secretary Arvind Verma as members. The panel will be provided logistical support by the department of personnel and training.

While it is mandatory for all corruption cases to be referred to the recruiting authority — UPSC, most cases were referred just before the tainted babus retired. Consequently, the UPSC did not get sufficient time to examine the cases and recommend disciplinary action. The new panel would hopefully fast-track cases and punish the tainted while in service.

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THE STATESMAN

EDITS

SELLING A LEGACY

BUT THE NAME IS THE BRAND


THERE are perhaps valid concerns over the manner in which a set of Tagore paintings has moved into private hands through an auction in London, with little hope of these rare works returning to the public domain. But those who are distressed by the sale and have questioned motives of the trust that had been expected to look after these priceless gifts to Leonard Elmhirst, an associate of the poet, might look at the relentless manner in which Tagore's legacy has been marketed in India. In recent times, Tagore has become a rallying point for even political outfits that had regarded him as a "bourgeois poet'' while his name has been used by institutions that are plagued by incompetence and neglect. Many others could be looking at the 150th birth anniversary for making quick gains rather than for protecting the poet's idealism and humanist traditions that in the hands of Visva- Bharati have become a sad anachronism. The tears that greeted Dartington Hall's claim that the paintings needed to be sold to mobilise resources may have been shed with conviction had there been greater sensitivity within the country.


 This is not to suggest that serious efforts could not have been made when the Sotheby's event came to light. The financial stakes were such that only the government could have intervened, perhaps so that the paintings added to the rich collection at an institution like the National Gallery of Modern Art. Whether the ministry of culture, which is said to have abundant funds at its disposal for protection of art heritage, responded to the challenge with a sense of purpose after appeals from across the country is something only the bureaucracy can confirm. But the initiatives that may have been taken lost out, alas, to market forces. There are two thoughts though that survive. One, that Tagore has been revived as an international icon with the hope that his ideas will find a wider awareness. And, second, that the legacy of colours that survives in Santiniketan and Kolkata ~ depleted as it is by human failure ~ will get more attention than it does now. That must, of necessity, be our consolation prize.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITS

 

TOWER 'BLINDED' 

NO WAY TO MANAGE AIRPORTS


COMMON the malaise may be in Indian cities, the digging by one civic agency disrupting the services of another. But is as major an international aviation hub as Mumbai airport equally prone to such disjointed functioning? That would be the query causing the air traveller to shudder after reports that some digging  near the runway early on the morning of 15 June ruptured a cable; and led to air traffic control losing power for all of 21 minutes. And dangerously losing contact with 19 planes either in the sky, or on the ground awaiting take-off instructions. That the back-up power also failed confirms a sorry state of maintenance and supervisory affairs. Who permitted unmonitored digging in the operational zone? Was nobody aware where the power lines ran? Even if it was something as simple as preventing the accumulation of rain water during this monsoon season the airport management has awkward issues to explain. Is it casual, is there no control over the various agencies that function in  the complex, but does the safety of aircraft and passengers count for nothing? Finally, what role did the private operator of the airport ~ one granted additional user development fees by a benevolent minister at public expense ~  play in this inadequate provisioning of back-up facilities? If the GVK group is responsible for the power failure, will the government penalise it in any manner?


The Directorate-General for Civil Aviation has ordered an inquiry: frankly, that inspires little confidence. Count has been lost of the number of probes it has conducted into a wide gamut of goof-ups in recent times without a degree of safety-consciousness, efficiency or accountability being injected into airport operations. True that in comparison with some of the other several "near misses" in recent weeks the "tower" being blinded for 21 minutes would be deemed no big deal. Yet that irresponsible, unprofessional attitude permeates virtually all aspects of what constitute airport operations. And nobody seems perturbed. At least not perturbed enough to take firm remedial measures and offer a modicum of reassurance to the paying passengers. Frequent, and from various quarters, have come calls for a comprehensive clean-up ~ from Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan downwards ~ but cover-ups, buck-passing and gross mismanagement remain rampant. Does UPA-II deem keeping its patchwork composition intact a matter of higher priority than aviation safety? Maybe that explains why some of the Congress' allies fly so high.


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THE STATESMAN

EDITS

BIRTHDAY APPEAL

FOR A FREE MYANMAR 

 

THERE was a profound element of pathos in Friday's celebration ~ if that is the word ~ of Aung San Suu Kyi's 65th birthday within the confines of her house. The West must now respond to her desperate appeal advanced through a confidante ~ to use their freedom to help Myanmar achieve the same. "Please use your liberty to promote ours," reads the handwritten message that has been made available to a section of the British press. It is a passionate appeal made on behalf of an icon of democracy, one who has spent the better part of the past two decades in confinement. The appeal, coinciding with her birthday, comes when her struggle for democracy has reached a tragic denouement. Her National League for Democracy has been proscribed for not accepting  the junta's terms of the electoral engagement; a breakaway faction will yet participate in the shambolic elections, in effect a betrayal of Suu Kyi. This is the worst that could have happened. Her isolation merely deepens as Myanmar is set to go through the motions of an election that will further entrench the junta.  This is the grim background of the appeal to the West, which could have been addressed to India as well.  She has been marginalised both physically and politically.

 

Aside from her friend's appeal, it is a salutary development that Suu Kyi's birthday occasioned a rare meeting of a group called the Elders, at the behest of Nelson Mandela.  Though as the chairman of the group, Desmond Tutu delivered a sharp message, it remains for Western governments to prevail upon the junta. "National processes in Myanmar have been usurped by the military government ~ they do not serve the people." The democracies of the West and the world at large, pre-eminently India, will have to do more for Myanmar than they have thus far.  Let her birthday signal the start towards a free Myanmar.

 

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THE STATESMAN

SPECIAL ARTICLE

NEITHER FISH NOR FLESH

AN EMOTIONAL APPROACH TO A VEGETARIAN LIFE

MARTIN KÄMPCHEN


NEVER will I forget that scene when I walked across one of Vienna's most lively and colourful markets, the Naschmarkt. I passed by a fish stall with a burly man standing behind a table killing a fish with blows to its head by a blunt instrument. All the while he was talking and laughing with some women who perhaps waited for him to get his job done. It was a peaceful, relaxed scene. Still it upset me greatly. I was in my early twenties, a student, joyously absorbing the variety of life in a big city.


Of course, I was a meat and fish-eater by upbringing and often went to the butcher's shop to buy myself a steak. A vegetarian diet was not known in my childhood even as a concept. In fact, I enjoyed what in German we call a Tartarbrötchen. That is finely minced raw meat of best quality mixed with egg-yolk, onions and pepper spread on a buttered bun. Mmm, delicious! When I tell my Indian friends that I ate raw meat in my youth, they roll their eyes in disgust and consider me a cannibal. And now I am a convinced vegetarian who, once the decision was taken 35 years ago, never regretted it thereafter and never felt tempted when he saw others digging into their chicken leg. How come?


That scene in Vienna stuck to my mind. It shocked me that a man, while killing, was able to amuse himself with gossip. Even then, as a non-vegetarian I thought that these two activities did not fit together. Killing to obtain food, was to me a sombre, although necessary, activity. Attention to the animal in one's grip was, I felt, the least honour one must give to it.


Since childhood I was myself unable to kill except a fly, a wasp, or an ant. These are animals which are too tiny for us to observe their reactions to pain and to impending death. They do not cry, they have no "face" which can express fear. Thus, they are almost like lifeless objects when you make them lifeless. But my comrades who went after birds probably called me faint-hearted.


When I mention in Europe that I am a vegetarian, most people remark that they thought I would be one as I live in India. They do not know that a vast section of the Indian population is not vegetarian at all and that no religion which flourishes in India, except Jainism, forbids the consumption of meat and fish as a general rule. Europeans identify Indians with vegetarianism and are surprised to hear that in the area where I live the majority love fish.


How, then, did I become a vegetarian in the midst of Bengali society? After I arrived in India as a young man, I stayed at the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram at Narendrapur, south of Kolkata, for three-and-a-half years. We, the monks and the ashram guests, were fed well. We had a bowl of milk and fruit in the morning. For lunch, we ate a small piece of fish every day. The fish were caught from the large pond inside the ashram campus. They probably were all of the same species. And the kitchen boys prepared them in the same way every day. I had started meditating earnestly every morning and evening and felt composed and satisfied with the direction my life took. Two years later, I went home to visit my parents. They realised changes in me, but many complimented me for not having become a "grass-eater" like goats and sheep. I remember that I myself thought it was a mere fad of hippies and India-freaks to switch to vegetarian food.


Returning to Narendrapur, and continuing my practice of meditation, I slowly grew uneasy eating fish. I realised with increasing acuteness that it was pieces of dead animals I was eating. Dead bodies! Carcasses! With fish-food one often can still see the entire shape of the animal, its head and its tail, and often eating a fish-head is considered an especially delicious treat. As my sensibilities became more and more refined, the impression created in my mind was that, day after day, I was eating the identical piece of fish all over again. I asked not to be served fish. Worried that I may get weak in the sultry and hot climate, the swami in charge ordered to give me a piece of chicken every day. But my time was up! Another two or three months later, I began to choke on my chicken leg and I surrendered.


The "problem" with meditation is that it makes you react to the outside world differently. The general view is that meditation gives you "detachment" from "wordly things". While this may be true on a certain mental level, meditation also gives you a more acute sense of what is happening around you. You feel more severely the pain of a beggar or of a dog being beaten. Your sense of joy also becomes stronger, even your sense of sensual enjoyment. So, while for 20-odd years I never "saw" the living animal in a dead piece of fish or meat, now I did, and I could no longer fight back my revulsion.


One of my gurus, Lanza del Vasto, an Italian disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave, once beautifully wrote (I quote from memory): "You have smashed that worm under your feet! Well done! Now bring it back to life." He wanted to say that the smallest, most unimportant animal that you may crush thoughtlessly, is superior to our human abilities. It is beyond us to create life, not even the smallest creature. Life is such a mysterious and majestic entity that men can liquidate it, mould or distort it, but with all their knowledge and power they are unable to make it. If we cannot make life, what business do we have to unmake, to kill it?


I grew up in a rural area of Germany with a farmer's family as our neighbours. They occasionally killed a pig to sell the meat or the sausages they prepared from it. Before they drew the gun to shoot the animal in the head, they sent me home. I was allowed to be back only after the animal was hung up and slid open. We ate the sausage, especially Blutwurst (sausage made of pig blood) with relish. So as boys we did have an experience to understand where the meat we eat comes from. But most boys and girls in Germany never associate the meat with the animal on whose bones it has grown. Meat comes from the butcher's shop, full stop! So, not much sensitivity about the act of eating meat can be expected. Few people take a conscious decision whether to be a non-vegetarian or a vegetarian. Although, I agree, the number of vegetarians has grown tremendously in Germany, especially in educated society. No restaurant, even one for the "common worker", would forget putting a few vegetarian dishes on its menu. But in my youth, eating out invariably meant to have a meal with meat or fish.


In India, we have a fair chance of associating the meat we eat with the animal it comes from. In small towns as well as in big cities we have the meat shops with bleeting goats waiting in front. Partly cut-up bodies hang from a hook. We see beheaded chicken lying in their blood. In Bolpur, I have observed that the butchers do take the animals behind their shack to slid their throat. I wonder whether they all do it. Or do some act like that fish-seller in Vienna? Anyway, we in India have a true chance to see how life transforms into a dead body and, seeing it, make a conscious decision whether we want to be part of such a process or not. I often hear from friends who keep domestic animals that they are unable to kill and eat the goats or sheep they have reared themselves. An emotional attachment has developed which prevents them. So they sell their animals. Others have developed an emotional attachment to life as such and are unable to take it.

The writer is a German scholar, based in Santiniketan

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

URBANE ANGST

HIMACHAL HIGH

ISHAN JOSHI

 

It's a truism but no less true for it that tourism can be a game changer for local economies and communities. Provided, of course, it is promoted intelligently and there is capacity building on the supply side to ensure its impact, good and bad, can be absorbed without trauma ~ social, economic and ecological.
The relatively tiny state of Himachal Pradesh, where this column comes to you from, one of the original "tourism states" of the country, is still struggling, and struggling hard, to find a balance between tourist-rupee generated prosperity and tourist-rupee ruined peace. But is does seem to have managed, better than most of its counterparts and Goa is a good example, to have kept it together. Indeed, I'll go further and say it's moved to a level where a comparable Indian example is soon going to be difficult to find.


Himachal, as the name indicates, is a Himalayan state with all the natural beauty that cachet brings with it and its proximity to major (north) Indian cities including the Capital gives it an obvious locational advantage. But if these were the only criteria, there ought to have been at least four to five other states in contention. So, what makes Himachal special?


To start with, there is political consensus on tourism being an essential good. This message seems to have filtered through to the bureaucracy which, while nothing special though it does have a few good women and men like all officialdom does, is under pressure both from above and below to deliver. Panchayati raj institutions, the crucial link for constant infrastructure upgrades, are on board. Roads, telecommunication and hospitals are in better shape than in almost any other part of the country and that's saying a lot given the topographical conditions peculiar to hill states. And the emphasis on education since the state was founded by successive (both Congress and BJP) regimes is bearing fruit. Put it this way: When the biggest grouse of a regular joe in the tourism industry is not law and order, infrastructure et al but that "corruption is all that's holding us back from achieving European standards", you know who is winning. This is not too belittle the enormity of the corruption issue, naturally, just to put it in perspective.


Then, there are the people. I don't know how to convey an impression of the Himachalis without making it sound like a neo-colonial generalisation wherein all sense of sociological subtlety is lost, but the fact is that they are among the most hardworking, in a pull-yourself-up-from-the-bootstraps kind of way, people I have come across. They want to do well for themselves, and want their children to do better than they have done. Plus, and here's where the protests from grubby, intellectual types may rise to a roar, they are also cheerful, presentable and clean ~ personal hygiene is a very tough call in cold, mountainous regions as anybody who has travelled without the luxuries of hot water and a flush would tell you. Most of all, though, and perhaps because honour is my favourite word, Himachalis are among the few communities remaining in India who understand the concept. O, and the women are very pretty too.


All the above, let me clarify, while obviously a personal opinion and commentary from the outside, as it were, is not just the outpouring of a smitten, first-time punter. I feel able, even qualified, to write on the the Himachal-tourism interface because I have spent my own, and earlier my mother's, hard earned money here, over three decades.


The first trip in my life was to Manali; with my parents when I was a two-year-old, and other holidays to the state followed including one spent at Wildflower Hall when it was government-run and therefore affordable for a history lecturer and her kids. Summer camps as a schoolkid where rough-and-ready by the Beas, cheap holidays from Delhi as a non-earning adult and an insides reorganising bus ride away from ISBT were to Himachal; I learnt climbing here, I summitted my first peaks here (Gulaba and Brighu) and I earned by trekking spurs here (before wantonly deserting Himachal for Ladakh because the Army wouldn't give us permission for the Manali-Leh road trip; not that I blame them, the bunch of us were certified security risks). The reason I share, in an almost puke-worthy Oprahesque fashion even, is that nowadays one can still get some of this if with enigma variations such as a night at Wildflower Hall setting one back tens of thousands of rupees though they do have an infinity pool (my recommendation: just visit the place to look around, have coffee for a few hundred bucks, and leave, like I did). But you can also go to an eco camp, live in a luxury tent, sign-up for a homestay with a Himachali family, spend your ill-gotten wealth at seven star resorts, live for a week in an all-facilities chalet cut-off from the rest of the world, or spend a month in a mud-and-stone traditional Himachali house with cattle for company on the ground floor.


It's the 'O' word that makes tourism come together and Himachal Pradesh has it: Options.

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

'GAMES WILL IMPROVE IMAGE OF INDIA'

 

The Queen's Baton relay enters its last leg when it crosses the Wagah border on 25 June as Delhi gears up to host the Commonwealth Games 2010, 28 years after the 1982 Asiad. Despite several hiccups along the way, things appear to be more or less on track for the mega sporting event. At the helm of affairs is the chairperson of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, Suresh Kalmadi, who has already faced several brickbats over the pace of preparations but is confident of receiving bouquets after the October Games. He is an elected MP from Pune and has been president of the Indian Olympic Association since 1996. A life-long sports enthusiast, he promoted sports at the state and national levels even when he was minister of state for railways in 1995-96. He was largely responsible for the successful hosting of the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune in 2008. In an interview with ABHIJEET ANAND, he expressed supreme confidence about conducting a world-class event in October.


Do you feel nervous about Delhi's preparedness for the Commonwealth Games that are only about three months away?


No, not at all. It will be the best-ever Games.


On what basis are you confident of holding the best-ever CWG?

We are getting support from everywhere. The Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, the chief minister, the group of ministers headed by S Jaipal Reddy, the urban development minister. We are working as a team, as team India. We are moving ahead. So, I believe this will the best-ever Games. In between, the Commonwealth Games associations had some doubts. But the head of the Commonwealth Games Association of Australia has said that India has the potential to hold a great Games, even better than Melbourne. It has been 28 years since the Asian Games were held. Things have moved on. We have a lot to learn. We have a team of 1,000-odd people and among them 60 are foreigners. We have learnt a lot from the foreigners; they are imparting their technical knowledge. Now, we have a team that is ready to take on any big event.


Is the top brass of CGF satisfied with the preparations made so far? What concerns did the Coordination Committee raise in recent meetings?


Members of the coordination committee were here and were generally satisfied. The last meeting of the coordination committee we had was the best ever. They were so satisfied that though they were supposed to visit again, they have said they won't come back again for any meeting. Also, I had a meeting with the Commonwealth Games Associations in London. They were generally appreciative and all the 71 countries will come. There was a conference of the chef de missions of 71 countries and they have gone back very happy.


What plans are being made for the opening ceremony?

The opening ceremony plans are secret. We will not disclose it till the end except that A R Rahman will be delivering the theme song. Mr Ric Birch will be the consultant for the opening ceremony. He was also the consultant for the Beijing Olympics. This is an event that will reach out to the world. So, the technical specifications should be of global standards.


How do you assess the preparation of Indian athletes? How many medals do you see the host country winning? Shouldn't it aim to be at the top of the tally?

As host country we will have a good tally. We will come third in the whole Games. The PM has been good enough to give nearly Rs 700 crore for training of athletes. So, they are getting a good diet and good accommodation. And, for the first time, great scientific training.


What about the training of people to man the venues, serve as guides, volunteers and so on? Is there any genuine "spirit" that indicates that the people of Delhi are enthused?


We had many programmes. There was an event called "200 days to go" at India Gate in which many events, including painting competitions were held and many turned out. Now that the infrastructure has come up and everybody knows that the event will be held, there is much enthusiasm. A lot of people are asking what they can do. There were 45,000 applicants for volunteering out of which we have selected 30,000. Amity University is providing the training for the volunteers. There is a lot of spirit. Many people are offering their residences for tourists under the bed and breakfast scheme. Around 6,000 have registered so far. The figure will go up as the CWG approaches.


Are the top performers from all participating countries likely to come to Delhi? There are reports of some preferring other international meets within a few weeks of the CWG.

 

You know, we are getting the largest teams this time. We already have the largest number of general entries from some countries. Entries are filling up. Entries by name will arrive later. Australia, England and Canada are sending their largest squads ever. One problem was the security aspect but CWG associations have gone back fully satisfied after the chefs de mission conference.

 

Are you confident of raising enough money to repay the loan of Rs 1,600 crore the Organising Committee took from the government. What about the shortage of sponsors?


We have no shortage of sponsors. Whatever money was taken from the government, we have got that much money raised from sponsors. We have generated money from the sale of broadcasting rights, sponsors and sale of tickets and merchandise. The earning from the television rights has already crossed our targets. Broadcasting rights have been sold to many countries. We have got an adequate number of sponsors. Most of the sponsors will come in the last three months. The ticket sales have begun and the response to it is tremendous. We are confident of raising enough money.


Are you getting the right kind of support from the  ministries at the Centre?

Yes, I am happy to say that the ministries are supporting us on the direction of the Prime Minister. Holding the Games is a national duty. It will improve the image of India.


Has the spat with the sports minister, M S Gill, over the tenure of sports federation chiefs affected the functioning of the Organising Committee?


I do not want to get into this. This issue has been taken up by the International Olympic Committee. IOC is the right forum for these issues. I am unhappy about the timing. Our focus should be on winning the maximum number of medals. There should be no diversion from the Games.


Everybody is concerned about the CWG. Dr Gill has been supporting the Games. We have no problem with that. All other things are different. We can talk about it later.

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

WHY BERLIN CANNOT FORGET THE STASI

TONY PATERSON


If it wasn't for their metal seals stamped with the letters "MFS", the innocuous-looking, airtight preserving jars displayed in the dilapidated building on east Berlin's Ruschestrasse might be mistaken for bits of retro kitchen equipment. Yet their purpose was once far more sinister. They still contain the patches of fabric that were used by former East Germany's hated Stasi secret police to catch opponents of the regime.


Anyone who has seen the award-winning film, The Lives of Others, will recall how Stasi dogs tracked down anti-communists after having their noses rubbed with cloths impregnated with a suspect's sweat.
Next to the jar display are detailed instructions on how to use the so-called "smell cloths". A diagram shows a special Stasi chair containing a false bottom on which the cloths were placed without the suspect noticing. "The subject must remain sitting for at least 10 minutes if a reliable sample is to be obtained," the accompanying Stasi manual states blandly. The letters on the jars' metal seals stand for "Ministry For State Security" – the official name for the Stasi.


The exhibits are among hundreds of secret police relics, ranging from tiny spying cameras and bugging microphones to a snack bar used by Stasi officers during their breaks from surveillance, which stand as if frozen in time in Berlin's former Stasi headquarters.


Yet the mammoth 1.1 million square foot former secret police complex, turned into Germany's main Stasi museum in the months that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall, is at the centre of an acrimonious dispute over how best to remember the country's divided past. The row involves Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative-liberal government, city planners and the erstwhile opponents of East Germany's Communist regime.
The German government, which has been criticised for failing to adequately address the country's history prior to reunification in 1990, wants to take over the building and turn it into a national memorial. The local Berlin borough, which is sick of its reputation for being the home of one of the nastiest secret police forces in history, would like to see the entire complex demolished.


Yet the former East German dissidents who have been running Berlin's Stasi museum for the past two decades fear both options so much that they have defied government orders to vacate the premises and are now squatting in the building and refusing to budge. "Obviously, we don't want to see our museum demolished," said Jörg Drieselmann, a former East German dissident who is the museum's director. "Neither do we want to be taken over by the government. We are afraid that they will sanitise the place and destroy the authenticity that makes Berlin's Stasi museum unique," he told The Independent. "We were supposed to get out on 31 May, but nobody has come to evict us so far. Effectively, we are squatters," he added.


As a result, all government funding for the museum has been cancelled since the beginning of June. Mr Drieselmann, 53, was jailed in East Germany when he was a teenager. The Stasi incarcerated him in one of their interrogation prisons in the city of Erfurt for opposing the regime. He subsequently left the country after the then West German government paid for his freedom. In January 1990, six weeks after the Berlin Wall fell, he was among a group of regime critics who stormed Berlin's Stasi HQ and occupied the building in order to stop the secret police destroying their files.


The regime's critics formed an organisation called Anti-Stalinist Action, which has been running Berlin's Stasi museum in the former secret police headquarters ever since. Mr Drieselmann is an expert on the Stasi and was chief historical adviser during the making of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's film, The Lives of Others. "I had to re-write most of the script to make the actors speak like real Stasi officers," he joked last week. Along with his former dissident colleagues, he is appalled at the idea of the museum being taken over by the government. "It will be another example of the west taking over the east," he insists.


There can be no disputing Mr Drieselmann's boast that his Stasi museum is authentic. Its centrepiece is a long, wood-panelled corridor with offices leading off it on the first floor of the main 1960s building. It was once the nerve centre of a secret police state in which more than 280,000 of East Germany's 16 million inhabitants worked as Stasi officers or secret police informers.


The first floor contained the offices of Comrade Erich Mielke, the reviled Stasi chief who ran the organisation with Stalinist dedication until the bitter end. The floor was used as a location in the filming of The Lives of Others. Its exhibits include Mielke's special emergency phone, which enabled him to talk instantly with other Warsaw Pact secret police chiefs. Its centrepiece is the original Stasi conference room complete with an oil painting by Wolfgang Frankenstein, Mielke's favourite artist. The picture depicts heroic East German militiamen comforting a group of young women workers while in the background their comrades build Berlin's "anti-fascist protection barrier" – Stasi speak for the Berlin Wall.


Mr Drieselmann says he fears that all this could be lost if the Ministry of Culture goes ahead with its plans to take over the building. The ministry wants to modernise the complex and install the kind of computerised "interactive" elements that are a feature of museums across the globe.


Helge Heidemeyer heads the government agency that has been given the job of revamping the museum. He points out that private individuals have a virtual monopoly on recent German history as most of the Berlin museums dealing with the former East Germany are in private hands. He argues that there is a pressing need for an official, state-run museum to redress the public-private balance and says his office is more than ready to collaborate with Anti-Stalinist Action. "It would be an ideal opportunity," he insists.


However, Mr Drieselmann says that his museum already attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year who pay an entrance fee of €4 (£3.30) each. He spends much of his time conducting classes of schoolchildren around the building and playing Stasi-dissident role games with them to increase their understanding of what East Germany was really like. "We don't need interactive elements," he insists.


The uncertainty hanging over Berlin's Stasi museum has been compounded by local politicians in the city's Lichtenberg borough. They are fed up with the district's sinister reputation thanks to the secret police, one which has proved as difficult to shed as an indelible stain.


The Independent

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NEITHER AGE NOR CUSTOM

 

At what age does a teacher stop adding value to his profession? Some countries would say that there can be no fixed age, only achievement and accountability. Social security policies in countries like the United States of America are an important factor too in decisions regarding when to retire. But the Union human resource development ministry feels that longer years of work, together with higher pay, would go a long way towards making teaching more attractive. The sixth pay revision for university and college teachers says teachers should retire at 65 rather than at 60 years of age. Although the Centre is willing to pay — for a time — 80 per cent of the additional cost incurred by the new pay, states will get the funds only if they raise their teachers' age of retirement. But some states, including West Bengal, feel that the allocation of funds cannot be made conditional. This undermines the states' independence with regard to subjects on the concurrent list. Education has been on that list since the late Seventies.

 

The states do have a point, although their arguments are either legalistic or partial. To Rajasthan's argument of the need to let the old yield place to the new, the HRD minister had a ready reply: with 32,000 colleges by 2020, the younger generation would have no problem. It is rather the dearth of qualified teachers now that is worrying; Madhya Pradesh has raised the retirement age to 65, while many states allow re-employment, for two years after 60 and then year by year till the teacher is 65. Of course, the teacher gets no increment during this period.

 

But this points to the broader argument that the states might present, that of flexibility. In principle, a state should be free to adjust conditions in its educational institutions to a reasonable extent according to the situation in the region. This is apart from the fact that teachers operate under different conditions in different types of institutions. Certain research institutes, for example, offer no pension. Then, there are two types of provident fund. These are meant to be optional, but some institutions offer no options. Yet security after the required years of service should be one of the factors in fixing retirement age. A mandatory age of retirement with no parity in retirement conditions cannot make a profession attractive. Keeping the best brains in the profession would need focused incentives instead of an inflexible age limit. For example, institution- or faculty-building and acquiring funds require experienced teachers with wide networks of academic connections. Similarly, research and teaching in certain subjects may need cutting-edge skills and updated knowledge. Debating over an inflexible age of retirement without a system of accountability and incentives in place is unlikely to improve the quality of education or teaching.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

TO SCHOOL ON AN ELEPHANT

WOMEN SCHOOLTEACHERS IN EARLY TIMES HAD A LOT TO CONTEND WITH

MALAVIKA KARLEKAR

 

By the end of the 19th century, school teaching became a favoured occupation for early women professionals. The reasons have not really changed over the last century-and-a-half: social respectability, hours that can be managed with running a home and a safe, confined environment encourage women to become teachers the world over. In India, neighbourhood schools as well as those for girls were obviously preferred, often with students and teachers going to school in curtained tongas, carriages and, later, buses. However, there were a few intrepid ones like Sarah Massey, who not only chose to work in a school in the Terai jungle around Dehra Dun, but also to use an elephant as her usual mode of conveyance. When in her eighties (she was born in 1888), Sarah Barakat Ullah (née Massey) hand-wrote memories of her life that have been preserved by her granddaughter, Jamila Verghese. Apart from the written text, there are many photographs that tell the story of this unusual family, cataloguing, among other things, changing sartorial styles, and, of course, Sarah's life with the family's Ford and with Kishan Piyari, the elephant (photo).

 

As is the case for many women in her generation who wrote, these accounts were meant for Sarah's children and grandchildren who often wanted to know more about her life and background. Her paternal ancestors came from Afghanistan and the doughty Pathans soon converted to Christianity. Sarah writes that her mother was brought up in a mission, having been left there by her recently-widowed father who could not cope with a brood of nine. As he was a Brahmin, the missionaries called the young girl their little "Brahmini".

 

Sarah comments that "schools were not in such abundance in those days, and very few girls went out to places of learning unchaperoned. One day, a young Pathan, an Inspector of Schools named Rahmat Masih came a-calling. He had come to the Mission in search of a bride. He found the 'little Brahmini' of the Mission, interested [sic] and as knowledgeable in theology as he was. Looking at this likely pair, Dr. Lucas said, 'Why don't we marry the Pathan to the little Brahmini?'" And so it was that Rahmat married the young Brahmini who, over the years, also bore nine children.

 

When Masih — who had become Robert Massey when he had worked briefly in the railways — was with the Scottish Mission in Muzaffarnagar, his daughters went to school in nearby Dehra Dun. The journey was long and tedious and transportation painfully slow. Sarah recounts that the first lap was in a train that "took us to Saharanpur, and there being no further train connection, we continued on our way in 'ekkas' (one-horse-drawn vehicles) in which two or three persons could sit. It was only after this never ending journey that we reached school". Being on the move obviously never bothered Massey — his daughter comments that he was "always juggling jobs" — and he soon set up a company called R. Massey and Sons in Dehra Dun. Its high point came in 1914 when it imported India's first Ford car. Years later, Sarah's son recounted in Ford News, January 11, 1980, the excitement that ensued. "People came by train and bullock cart to see the car. A crowd went to the station to watch the 'engine' with rubber tyres being unloaded. It took an hour to fit the wheels and open the hood. The huge packing case was bought by a hawker to serve as a shop. Some 14 men, women and children climbed on the car and were given their first motor ride up to the family's garage." A photograph memorialized the occasion with Sarah standing by the side of the car in a long gown, with a dupatta wound elegantly around a sun bonnet; her younger siblings sit gleefully atop the bonnet of the Ford.

 

By this time, Sarah was well established in the school that her missionary colleague and a doctor, Vrooman, had started. The doctor had been personal physician to the Maharani of Tehri Garhwal, and when she felt the time had come for her to retire, she decided to start a training school for boys. Parting gifts are not unusual, but who leaves with an elephant? Sarah writes, "The Maharajah Sahib presented the dedicated doctor with the palace's much loved hathni, Kishan Piyari, an old and reliable elephant, a friend who had served three rajahs faithfully, but was now too old to perform the arduous routine set for a palace elephant. So Kishan Piyari was honourably pensioned off, and became Dr Vrooman's most reliable means of transport after her beloved horse." The school for boys was started in a small place called Bhogpur in the heart of the Rishikesh jungle. Vrooman asked Sarah to join her in training 30 or so boisterous boys to become, as she writes, "model Indians"; "civilization" for them was across the unpredictable Song River, the elderly Kishan Piyari their chief source of transportation. Nor was it always an easy ride: "This ponderous pachyderm was extremely careful when she crossed the turbid monsoon waters of the Song.... She was only used by us when the river was high, otherwise we usually crossed the Song on horseback. When the stream was in flood, [she] would feel the surface of the water gingerly with her foot. If she felt even small stones rolling with the current, she would simply refuse to attempt the crossing. Her diet needed to be carefully maintained, and the mahout thought little of kneading the ten seers (a little less than ten kilos) of atta that went into feeding [her] by walking vigorously in it with bare feet!"

 

While some of the students were children of the Maharaja's officials, others were too poor to contribute, but paid in kind. Prem Singh's "Gurkhali [sic] mother crossed the eight miles of jungle between the school and civilisation with ten seers of potatoes from their field on her back to pay for her son's education." Sarah says that dignity of labour was unheard of in those parts — not only did students come with their lower-caste servants carrying their baggage, but also many baulked at having to sow and hew in the school garden. She adds piously that such notions were quickly dispelled from the minds of her charges. Life with the boys whose ages were in the range of six to 14 years was not always easy. Sarah recounts a full moon night of horror when, on her rounds of the dormitory, she found it empty. She was in charge as Vrooman was away on work. Running around the school in desperation calling their names yielded no result, nor apparently, did her fervent prayers. However, when she went back to the dormitory at 4 am, each boy was "sleeping blissfully in his bed". A flustered Sarah later told Vrooman about this; her unfazed response was, "These are hill boys, Sarah dear, and it was a full moon night. You can't expect them to stay in bed while the water is beckoning, can you?" When they knew that punishment was not at hand, the boys took her to the source of their pleasure. While water containers were filled, the boys extracted permission to swim in the spring waters "officially".

 

Nature and animals remained a defining point in the school's life: a bullock cart soon joined Kishan Piyari and Durga, "a poor woman out of job and in debt", used a mule to carry spring water to the school. Vrooman had had to work hard to persuade the army not to shoot the animal who was "declared a most recalcitrant animal". Every now and then, of course, his obduracy showed as, just when he reached the school after trudging three miles with his precious load, he would suddenly roll over, jettisoning the pots and their contents. Poor Durga had to start afresh — but this was nothing compared to Sarah's anguish as a cobra hissed in a rose bush, and her nightly vigil against scorpions and their ilk made for several dramatic moments. Clearly, early women schoolteachers had often to contend with much more than educating children — and Sarah's adventures provide us with vignettes that validate the cliché, pioneering zeal.

 

karlekars@gmail.com

 

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

STATE'S LARGESSE TO HELP IN TN TEMPLE RENOVATION

M R VENKATESH IN CHENNAI

 

An assistance of Rs one crore from Karnataka will help in expediting work taken up.

 

One may well wonder what synergies can a small, ostensibly nondescript village panchayat, Thiruvahindrapuram in Tamil Nadu's Cuddalore district, about 185 km from Chennai, offer to India's 'Silicon Valley' led by Bangalore as the 'Knowledge Hub of Asia'.


But Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, from hindsight seems to jell better with the insight of the 'whole being more than the sum of its parts', when he made a quiet visit to the ancient Sri Devanatha Swamy Temple there recently with a prayer on his lips.  


Despite the sparks over the controversial 'Hogenakkal water supply project', Yeddyurappa struck culturally empathetic chord when he came down to worship at that Temple, believed to antedate to the Ramayana period, and which houses the oldest shrine in the country to Lord Lakshmi Hayagriva (Vishnu with a horse-face) symbolising 'knowledge'.


Going by its manifest architectural style, it is probably a late Chola period temple, says its chief priest Narasimha Bhattar. For instance, some of the earliest stone inscriptions in this temple that goes back to 'Kulothanga Chola-I (1070-1120 CE)' era, also lends credence to that interpretation.


However, legend has it that this temple- where the presiding deity 'Devanatha Swamy' gives 'darshan' in his trinitarian form, encompassing Lord Shiva and Brahma too, is 3000 years old, claims Bhattar. The hillock 'Oushadagiri' on its southern fringe is believed to be a piece of the 'Sanjeevini mountain' of medicinal herbs that fell there when Hanuman flew with it to Lanka to resuscitate Lakshmana in the 'Ramayana' epic, he pointed out.


Even more, what adds lustre to this wondrous temple is the Lord Hayagriva shrine atop this hillock, where the 13th century Vaishnavite preceptor, Sri Nigamantha Maha Desika had a vision of the God, hailed in the Hindu pantheon as the 'God of Knowledge' for having restored the 'Vedas' to Lord Brahma after he was pitiably robbed of it by  demons.


Mr Yeddyurappa on his first visit to this temple recently, was astounded as the legend behind it was unfolded to him, officials involved in his visit told Deccan Herald. Sri Vedanta


Desika, who went on to flourish as one of the 'greatest, unparalleled scholars of Sri Vaishnavism' had spent nearly 40 years in Thiruvahindrapuram doing penance to invoke Lord Hayagriva's blessings before all the 'Vedashastras' were taught to him on the hillock. Youth seeking good education and speechless children yearning to speak throng in large numbers to it for that very reason, temple officials said.


"Yeddyurappa came alone, worshipped Lord Hayagriva and spent some time at the temple" sources said. Accompanying officials of the State Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Department took the opportunity to also inform him about the renovation work going on.

Though some of his predecessors from Karnataka had also visited this temple in the past, this was an intriguingly low-profile visit with Mr Yeddyurappa's office informing the district administration just a day in advance to facilitate security arrangements, an HR and CE Department official said.


A pensive Yeddyurappa said nothing then. But the rich tapestry of myths, legends, devotional-hymns and history that the Thiruvahindrapuram temple stands for over the ages apparently moved him deeply as he returned to Bangalore. A week later, a simple but utterly surprising letter from him to the HR and CE Commissioner here said Yeddyurappa's Government will donate Rs one crore towards that temple. The draft for the amount was handed over to Tamil Nadu officials a few days back.


It is by no means a small amount, say excited HR and CE officials here on Yeddyurappa's offer. Massive renovation costing about Rs three crore has been taken up at the Thiruvahindrapuram temple, which the officials hope to complete by March 2011 when a fresh consecration will also be done.  


"Mr Yeddyurappa's extraordinary gesture is timely and will speed up the renovation," says an official. If the 'Hogenakkal row' was feared to drown the 'statue diplomacy' he initiated last year with the installation of the Tamil Saint-Poet Thiruvalluvar statue in Bangalore, followed by unveiling of the Kannada poet Sarvajna statue in Chennai, Yeddyurappa's largesse to the Thiruvahindrapuram temple now could help revive that spirit, feel officials. It is yet again the 'virtues of episteme' that seems to fondly cement forgotten, latent ties between a 'Temple of Knowledge' and the 'Knowledge Hub of Asia'

 

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DECCAN HERALD

SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT

A HARDER NUT TO CRACK

MAHESH UPPAL


An enabling environment will be key to Broadband growth.

 

Why is Broadband so important. Can we deliver Broadband services as widely and cheaply as mobile phones that everyone seems to carry these days?


Broadband services can help to move large amounts of data e.g. text, music, video etc., and enable faster Internet access. It could be invaluable for entertainment and expanding nationwide access to education, health, government and financial services where efficient information exchange is key. Broadband networks can deliver the additional bandwidth to support Indian challenges of multiple languages, widespread illiteracy etc. They can compensate for poor physical infrastructure that makes travel difficult  and expensive, especially for the poor. Admittedly, broadband alone will not solve these development challenges, but is a key enabler for meeting them. For this nationwide Broadband is key.


Twenty years ago, promoters of mobile phones attracted ridicule. Even experts saw mobile phones as an unaffordable luxury for developing countries. Today, India has nearly 50 crore mobile connections, adds roughly 1.5 crore new mobile subscriptions each month and monthly bills of barely Rs 150. Several studies have highlighted how poor people use phones to increase incomes and improve family and social life.
But Broadband may be a tougher nut to crack. Demand and supply are both a challenge. Data services, even Internet use are not as readily familiar as talking on the phone. Computers are more complex than mobile phones that anyone who recognises basic numerals can use. Uninitiated users cannot justify expense on the service since they find it of little interest to them. Owners of telecommunication networks  need to invest in technologies like optical fibre or 3G and Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) and new equipment to provide capacity to support millions of users exchanging large amounts of music, video, films. Even those foxed by technology or terminology now know that costs may be daunting. Recall  3G auction raised Rs 67,000 crore! 

However, the success of mobiles shows that technology or its price is just one factor that impacts availability. The economics of  mobile services is more attractive in India than in most other countries. Thanks to our population, the same wireless tower serves several times more users than say in Copenhagen. Prepaid cards, that over 80 per cent of subscribers use, have made budgeting for services easier for the poor. The familiar "Missed Call" takes budgeting to new creative heights! Telecom operators save huge costs in billing and bad debt that deter private investment in sectors like power. Prices in India for wireless network technologies and handsets are a fraction of what richer countries paid and are still falling rapidly. Close to 12 operators competing in every state, a level unheard of elsewhere, has driven down user prices to unimaginable levels. In short, India offers a unique 'ecosystem' or environment for speedy rollout of mobile services.


Currently, Broadband access in India is lower than even Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Belarus. In a sector where growth is often exponential, India is struggling to meet targets.

  
But there are new opportunities too. For instance, 3G based phones can often substitute for more expensive computers. 

An enabling environment will similarly be key to Broadband growth. Government and TRAI have a key role in creating the enabling environment for Broadband. Creative regulation of 700 MHz spectrum can slash Broadband costs without compromising market competition. Publicly funded infrastructure and content of BSNL and Doordarshan respectively can improve supply and boost demand. Controversy deters serious investors. Recall Korea leads in Broadband primarily due to state support. Can the stakeholders create an environment for Broadband growth? Time will tell.


(The writer is a consultant on telecom regulatory issues.)

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

NOT TOO LATE TO HELP GUSH KATIF EVACUEES

It's been almost five years since over 9,000 Israeli citizens were forcefully uprooted from their homes in 25 Gush Katif and Northern Samaria settlements, most of them thriving veteran communities. Last week, the state commission of inquiry entrusted with investigating their ongoing plight issued its definitive report. It concluded that the state, which ceremoniously promised "a solution for every settler," had turned the evacuees into "refugees in their homeland."


Summing up his nearly 500-page report, the commission chairman, retired deputy chief Supreme Court justice Eliyahu Matza, minced no words: "The state failed, and its failure was absolute and abysmal."

 

The report abounds in dismal details: Most evacuees still languish in caravan sites; in most cases, construction of permanent housing hasn't begun; the rate of unemployment among evacuees is double the national average and 15 times greater than what it was among them pre-disengagement; many are only nominally employed in artificial ad hoc programs and earn markedly less than preevacuation; some evacuees are doing incongruous minimum- wage work; most evacuees used up all their compensation for day-to-day living expenses and are now penniless; previously prosperous farmers have been reduced to dependence on the dole.


THE PREVALENT vogue is to quibble about who is to blame. Some fault the evacuees – who in many cases delayed cooperation or refused altogether to cooperate with the relevant government authorities – for their sorry lot. The Matza Commission itself noted that "a substantial number of evacuees themselves, as well as some of the communities that were to absorb them, contributed to the problem." Nevertheless, the commission maintained that "the authorized branches of government are primarily responsible. The government evicted these people from their homes."


Indeed, the evacuees were coerced into hardship not of their choosing; they didn't ask to be displaced. And even the most cooperative, so-called non-ideological settlers, particularly from the three northernmost Gaza Strip settlements and the four North Samarian ones, have largely ended up as disgruntled as the rest.


All these families underwent severe trauma. Nobody simply "moved house." As the commission phrased it, the state "inflicted injury on a large number of people."


Their world collapsed upon them. Acknowledging this should have nothing to do with whether one approves of their politics or not.


Large families were thrust into glorified fiberboard trailers that began to fall apart in the first winter. Many families started to disintegrate, illness – both physical and psychological – grew rampant, youths were disconsolate, and previously well-off families became destitute.


The least Israeli society owes the evacuees is to guarantee them a fair equivalent of what they were forced to lose. For example, if evacuee groups insist on living together in communities, as they did previously, this is certainly their prerogative. As the commission justly noted, "this is a question of human rights, of basic human decency and of Jewish morality."

Perhaps the most disconcerting summation came from panel member Prof. Yedidya Stern, who described the process as "a human rights failure and an inexplicable failure of democracy… an inability to find relief for people hurt by their own society… Nobody was out to deliberately hinder the evacuees, but official organs failed to function," he lamented. "Officials didn't seek to sabotage resettlement prospects, but an intractable situation was created."


Incompetence and bureaucratic stalemates are sometimes harder to combat than outright ill will.


THE QUESTION now is whether the commission's exhaustive investigation and its resultant findings can improve matters. The commission made it clear that the evacuees must be fully resettled by the end of 2011. Matza added that while the blame for the failure lay with previous governments, the buck had been passed to the current Netanyahu administration. "If it doesn't solve the problem, it will become accomplice to the failure," he justly warned.


This government, which would doubtless regard itself as well-disposed toward the evacuees, must rise to the challenge. Disengagement was implemented in the name of the entire nation. We owe it to those whose lives were turned upside down to give them the appropriate opportunities to recover.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

MY WORD: WHEN IRISH EYES AREN'T SMILING

BY LIAT COLLINS

 

Warning. If you don't feel nauseous – or at least nauseated – by the end of this paragraph, check your pulse. Either your heart's stopped beating or it's in the wrong place. Among the news from Afghanistan that came and went recently almost without being noticed, were reports that the Taliban hanged a sevenyear- old boy for "spying."

The execution of the boy – whose name I sadly could not find – reportedly took place on June 8. He is believed to be the victim of a "revenge" attack.

 

Daoud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the provincial governor of Helmand, told Fox News that the killing happened days after the boy's grandfather, a tribal elder, spoke out against militants in their home village of Heratiyan.

I first came across the story while following the news of a suicide attack at a wedding party in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in which 39 people were killed. AP reported that the Afghan government suspects the Taliban carried out the attack because Afghani policemen were among the family present at the wedding.

It reminded me of the November 9, 2005, al-Qaida-led, triple hotel bombing that killed 60 people in Jordan. Among the perpetrators were a husband-and-wife team who entered a hotel ballroom in Amman and tried to detonate themselves as close as possible to the bride and groom celebrating their wedding there. The wife's explosive belt failed to detonate although she was later sentenced to death by a military court. By then, her husband was already enjoying, at least as far as she could assume without being closer to him, 72 virgins in the sort of heaven you go to if blowing up weddings is your thing.


Another tragic story was the murder of F.-Sgt. Yehoshua "Shuki" Sofer, 39, who was shot in an ambush on a police car traveling from Beersheba to Jerusalem on June 14. Sofer was due to be married in three months. "Sweetie, all of our wedding guests have come to accompany you on your final journey," sobbed his fiancee, Einat Blum, at his funeral.


Meanwhile, nearly 30 NATO troops were killed in Afghanistan in the first two weeks of June.


WHY DID all these stories come miserably to mind? Well, watching my eight-year-old son following the World Cup in South Africa and trying to make sense of global politics might have something to do with it. Questions like: "Mum, do we have ties with Algeria?" I can answer. The "Who's better for Israel: Denmark or Holland?" is a little harder.


And when Israelis find themselves actually rooting for Germany, you know that times are hard.


I have long thought that soccer is proof that there will always be wars, there is something so tribal about it.


Mind you, this month's elections in Belgium, host to both NATO and many major European Union institutions, demonstrate that the idea of cross-cultural unity is more of a dream than a sustainable, achievable reality.


But young boys should be interested in soccer and pretending to be detectives or spies. Sometimes you really stop short and wonder what kind of world they are going to inherit when grooms are gunned down just before their wedding or the celebrants massacred during the party. (And who in Israel can forget the suicide bombing of Cafe Hillel in September 2003 in which 20-year-old Nava Applebaum was killed along with her father, Dr. David Applebaum, and five others, on the eve of her wedding? That attack was so close to my home that my apartment windows rattled with the blast.) The other reason the horror stories merged together was the way in which it is clear that much of the global village still doesn't understand the nature of global jihad. Or Israel's costly role in fighting it.


The recent capture of the suspected Mossad agent Uri Brodsky in Warsaw for allegedly assisting the assassins of Hamas arch-terrorist Mahmoud al- Mabhouh in Dubai in January has strained relations with both Poland and Germany, among Israel's closest friends in Europe.


And Ireland, which has lately proved an Israel basher with the blarney touch, on June 15 followed the lead of Australia and the UK and expelled an Israeli diplomat for allegedly using forged passports in the affair.


"The misuse of Irish passports by a state with which Ireland enjoys friendly, if sometimes frank, bilateral relations is clearly unacceptable and requires a firm response," announced Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, adding a condemnation for Israel's alleged role in ridding the world of Mabhouh.


"Many allegations have been made against Mr. Mabhouh which, if true, would categorize him as a committed terrorist," Martin said. "The Irish government does not believe that states should fight terror with terror. As a matter of principle, Ireland opposes extrajudicial killings. We believe that states have a duty to operate according to the law and to respect that way of life that terrorists seek to destroy."


Well, best of luck to you. Israel is also committed to international law, even though that law is not particularly effective in protecting us. Maybe we could send Richard Goldstone to investigate what the murderous Mabhouh was up to in Dubai? Or perhaps, there are some British investigators available now the 12-year inquiry into Bloody Sunday has finally ended, concluding, as we suspected, that the killing by British soldiers of 14 Catholic demonstrators in Northern Ireland in 1972 was "unjustifiable."


WAR IS hell. And diplomacy, to paraphrase Prussian thinker Carl von Clausewitz, is war by other means.


The expulsion of the diplomat is likely to further strain ties between Israel and Ireland, already tested when the Irish-owned Rachel Corrie tried to break the naval blockade of Gaza, a la Turkey's Mavi Marmara, but mercifully without the violence. That's probably because the majority of the Irish would-be blockade breakers were dedicated to the idea of peace and justice for the Palestinians, while the hard core of passengers aboard the Turkish ship were interested in breaking Israel. Now Israel is bracing for the Iranian flotillas.


Ellen Lefrak, an artist friend who splits her time between Ireland's Westport, County Mayo and Jerusalem, describes the situation as "sad, especially as the two countries have a lot in common."


She feels the Irish media portray a slanted view of Israel. As a result, some of the people she meets now actually question Israel's right to exist.


On a visit in Ireland years ago, I found the Irish undeniably friendly and interested in Israel. And curious about my surname. Indeed, there is not a drop of Irish blood in me, but my grandfather in England changed his surname from Cohen at the beginning of World War II, when it seemed likely that Germany would invade. Not that having an Irish surname instead of a Jewish one would have saved the family, we now know.

Most of the people I met had heard of – and were proud of – the late Irish-born president Chaim Herzog. But they were taken aback when I said that Israel had also had an "Irish" prime minister.


Yitzhak Shamir assumed the nom de guerre Michael Collins, after the Irish republican, when fighting for independence from the British.


We're still waging the battle for independence and security. If only all those shocked by the thought of wedding dreams blown to pieces and murdered seven-year-old boys would realize that this is their fight too. And being polite to the likes of "Mr. Mabhouh" is not going to win it.


The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post. liat@jpost.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

A PEACEMAKING LESSON FROM THE PEOPLE OF DERRY

BY RORY FITZGERALD

 

On January 30, 1972 British paratroopers opened fire on unarmed civilians on a civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland; 14 were killed, seven of them were teenagers.


Only now have the events of that winter's day been put to rest with the publication of the Saville Inquiry's report. The inquiry was set in motion by Tony Blair in 1998. After 12 years, 30 million words of testimony and £191 million, it tells us what everyone here in Ireland already knew: "On balance," it says, the British soldiers fired first, on unarmed civilians. "In no case was any warning given before soldiers opened fire" and none of the soldiers "fired in response to attacks or threatened attacks by nail or petrol bombs."

 

The soldiers later "knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing."


Lord Saville's findings also confirmed that many of those shot were fleeing the troops or assisting the wounded. After the report's publication, Prime Minister David Cameron told a hushed House of Commons: "The conclusions of this report are absolutely clear.


There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong... The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of our armed forces and for that, on behalf of the government – and indeed our country – I am deeply sorry."


BLOODY SUNDAY was the spark that ignited a fire in Northern Ireland that was to burn out of control through the subsequent decades of murder and sectarian hatred.


The British government's initial report, the Widgery report, only added fuel to the fire: It whitewashed events, and disparaged the dead, accusing the victims of firing weapons or handling bombs, heaping insult on top of grief. These false conclusions were based in part on faulty forensic evidence.


Many have already derided the inquiry as a pointless waste of time and money. Yet its true value may not lie so much in the report itself, but in the reaction to it: In Derry, several families triumphantly quoted the report, joyful that it at last cleared the victims of the allegations that they had been gunmen or nail-bombers.

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother, Michael, was killed by the paratroopers, told the crowd outside the Guildhall: "What matters above all else – what has been in our constant thoughts all these years – is the innocence of our loved ones. That's the verdict we wanted. That's the verdict we have today. That will be the verdict of history for all time.


That is what matters."

AT LAST, we have truth about Bloody Sunday. So what next? There is speculation that the soldiers involved in the killings will stand trial for murder. Yet vengeance is not what the relatives of the victims want: Jean Hegarty, whose 17-year-old brother, Kevin McElhinney, was shot on Bloody Sunday while crawling to safety, has said she wanted the paratrooper who killed him to explain his actions in court, but not be sent to prison.

The peace process has seen the release of a huge number of convicted paramilitaries, she noted, saying: "I have no great desire to see a [now] 60-yearold man go to jail."

Eamonn McCann, chairman of the Bloody Sunday Trust, who was on the 1973 march and witnessed the events, said: "That would be the majority opinion in Derry and also among the families."


It is this beautiful, inspiring spirit of forgiveness in the face of injustice, suffering and death; this absence of hate, this absence of vengefulness; these are the stones upon which lasting peace will be built.


Perhaps the 14 people killed on Bloody Sunday, and the 3,000 other people killed in Northern Ireland's troubles, including 700 British soldiers, will not have died in vain if the centuries old scars of division on this island are at last healed because their loved ones choose to forgive.


Even if the word "sorry" never cost so much, the forgiveness it has engendered is priceless.


Northern Ireland's experience is now being offered as a template for conflict resolution throughout the world.

The political agreements, treaties and power-sharing executives all played a role, but if there is one eternal lesson that the people of Derry can today offer the world, it is this: The true fount of peace lies in not in the machinations of politicians, but in the hearts of ordinary people – in the quiet dignity, humility and strength that is required not to strike back in vengeance, but to rise above the human desire for retribution that has always been the engine of human conflict, and to somehow find the grace to forgive.


The writer is an Irish journalist. He specializes in political, legal and religious affairs.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

POLAND'S PRISONER DILEMMA

BY SHAI BAITEL

 

Having to reconcile between its obligation to extradite an alleged Mossad agent to Germany and its commitment to fight terrorism,Poland now finds itself in an awkward position.

 

The case of an Israeli citizen arrested in Poland and wanted in Germany for document fraud in connection with the assassination of a senior Hamas commander in Dubai in January brings up a fascinating question: How can a conflict between national interest with regard to two friendly countries and the application of the law be reconciled? How do you maintain friendship and an understanding between the three countries – Poland, Germany and Israel – who are bound by shared values and a sensitive past, if enforcing a certain law might rock the foundation of that friendship? On June 4 an Israeli citizen, identified as "Uri Brodsky," suspected of illegally acquiring a German passport in 2009 for one of Hamas leader Mahmoud al- Mabhouh's alleged assassins, was arrested at Warsaw's airport after Germany issued a European arrest warrant for him.

The mutual relations between Israel, Germany and Poland are unique. Germany and Poland share a painful history and experience of World War II and the Holocaust, which were catalysts for the establishment of the State of Israel. Germany's acknowledgment of the horrors inflicted by the Nazi regime and Poland's owning up to some dark chapters of its history – while also being a victim of Nazi Germany – were the cornerstones of the deepening relationship between the three countries. Germany's and Poland's solid support is evidence to their unwavering commitment to Israel's existence and security. ver the years the three countries have collaborated in a vast range of areas, such as economy, science, culture and also security matters, promoting shared democratic values which stand in stark contrast to the experience of World War II. The protection of these values has led the free world to a uniting consensus over the most challenging campaigns of all times – combating terrorism.


This campaign marks the strong alliance between Israel and the West at the end of the 20th century into the 21st of facing the challenge of international terrorism and the various means to fight it successfully. This sentiment was only strengthened after the tragedy of 9/11 and positioned the fight more centrally in the delicate chapter of international relations.


POLAND IS a democratic country with a clear separation of the three branches of government.


Bound by an international treaty of extradition while heavily invested in a campaign against terrorism, it is facing a conflict that arises from the case of a friendly country fighting terrorism. How can the judicial system make a decision that will not contradict Poland's role and commitment to combat terrorism? Poland, having to reconcile between its European obligation to extradite and its commitment to fight terrorism internationally now finds itself in an awkward place morally. Its commitment to Israel's existence and security might contradict with a legal decision to hand over an Israeli citizen to German authorities. This is bound to raise eyebrows and will likely be viewed as a turn of a cold shoulder by Poland. Even if found guilty, the Israeli citizen was operating in the context of fighting terrorism.


Based on the above, one would reasonably assume that the Polish government hands him over to his country's authorities.

This would reflect a just decision by the executive branch, represented by a leadership committed to Israel and to the international consensus to combat terrorism.

However, this case is handled by the judicial branch which can easily extradite him within the European Union, without taking into consideration values, standards and other elements relevant to Poland's national interest, which are broader than the letter of the "dry" law.


A legal decision to fulfill Germany's request and extradite has the potential, even the likelihood, to embarrass the Polish government greatly, and possibly create tensions with world Jewry.


The justice system in Poland would be doing the government a big favor if it would inject into its deliberations the values and standards that it is expected to consider, morally and historically.


These may not be found in the dry law but are in compliance with Poland's unwritten commitment to Israel, and with the international effort of fighting terrorism effectively, so that terror is prevented not just in Israel today but also in Poland and Germany tomorrow.


The writer has served in the Justice Ministry and at the UN. He holds an LLM in international law as well as degrees in law and Middle East studies.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ISRAEL OR IMMANUEL?

AT THE ROOT OF THE STRUGGLE IN IMMANUEL LIES THE ISSUE THAT, ON THE FACE OF IT, HAS ALREADY BEEN DECIDED: CAN A SECTOR, COMMUNITY OR GROUP, IN THE NAME OF ITS OWN PRIVATE CONSTITUTION, DISCRIMINATE CONTRARY TO THE LAWS OF THE STATE?

 

At the root of the struggle in Immanuel lies the issue that, on the face of it, has already been decided: Can a sector, community or group, in the name of its own private constitution, discriminate contrary to the laws of the state? Not every candidate can be accepted into every club, association or kibbutz, but the standards must be transparent and in line with the Basic Laws.

 

Since the Supreme Court ruling on Katzir, for example, no community is entitled to reject a person only because he is Arab. In reality, it is still possible to maneuver and make it hard for the candidates, but if they insist, the law is on their side, and the law must be enforced and respected. At this stage, the struggle over Immanuel is not internal but external, against those who refuse to recognize the authority of the court, whose decisions they must obey even if they don't like them.

 

The influence of rabbis, who are considered to be great jurists, must give way to rulings by Supreme Court justices. As has been said repeatedly, Israel was established to be a state with a Supreme Court, not one ruled by religious law. The Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox parents in Immanuel who are disturbed by what they consider religious laxity among Sephardi ultra-Orthodox parents sought to ignore the court's ruling. The original problem they stirred, the problem of discrimination, has now become an issue of principle regarding contempt for the rule of law.

 

The response was violent, with many hundreds of people demonstrating, and in the hope that the police would hesitate, the judges panic and the politicians surrender. When the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox parents showed up for two weeks of incarceration, they did so partially - only men. Their ploy worked: Late in the week the government backed their stance and said the women should continue to be allowed to avoid punishment.

 

This is a power struggle - as simple as that - and those who want to see a state of law and equality exist, in which halakha does not dictate everyday life, must not give in. It is always easier to pull back from confrontation - to evade, maneuver, concede and compromise for the sake of peace at home at the expense of the victims of discrimination. Basically, the accumulation of little defeats alters Israel's image until it becomes unrecognizable.

 

In the 21st century, Israel needs to decide where it belongs: in the OECD or in Immanuel. It is imperative to bolster the court and remind the ministers, MKs and parties of their responsibility and obligation to preserve the rules of the democratic game and back the Supreme Court's rulings.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

QUIET OVER BROOKLYN

AS SOON AS PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU'S RIGHT-WING GOVERNMENT TOOK OFFICE IN JERUSALEM, IT SEEMS THE AMERICAN JEWISH RIGHT FELL ASLEEP.

BY SHLOMO SHAMIR TAGS: ISRAEL NEWS

 

A pro-Israel rally was held in faraway Helsinki, and in Los Angeles - not known for its Jewish activism - an alert Israeli consulate took 5,000 people into the streets in a demonstration of support. But in Brooklyn's Boro Park, which is home to 150,000 to 200,000 Jews, many of them ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic, there was no show of support for Israel during these difficult times and none seemed to be forthcoming. And this in a community that prides itself on being the biggest stronghold of the right among American Jews.

 

Nor was there a single rabbi of theirs seen among the scores of Orthodox rabbis in Flatbush or among their colleagues in Queens, who call the tune for the right-wing communities. No one to protest against Israel's isolation or the threats to its reputation or to counter the PR distress. Nothing in recent months seemed to constitute a real emergency, one that by talmudic instruction requires Jews to take to the streets.

 

As soon as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government took office in Jerusalem, it seems the American Jewish right fell asleep. The fierce controversy over construction in East Jerusalem, U.S. President Barack Obama's harsh statements about Israel, the Goldstone report accusing Israel of war crimes, the torrent of international condemnations in the wake of the flotilla raid - all failed to draw rabbis and community activists out in mass demonstrations of support for Israel.

 

In fact, one can confidently say that Israel's political problems have been taken off the agenda of Orthodox synagogues and rabbinical organizations like the Rabbinical Council of America and Young Israel and were ushered out of the public discourse of the community's right wing. "I can't explain the silence of the Orthodox community," admits Dov Hikind, a former aide to Meir Kahane, who today serves as a New York State assemblyman for Boro Park and parts of Flatbush.

 

"It's not laziness or tiredness," says a veteran community activist in Brooklyn, who asked to remain anonymous. "Some from the generation of rabbis and politicians who led the struggle against the Oslo Accords have died, and others are in retirement homes. Israel's political elite does not have a single figure with whom they can identify and use as an example of dedication and loyalty to values."

 

There has not been a consensus about any Israeli issue since the long-gone days of protest on behalf of the Soviet Jews. But the right always loved controversy that stirred the enthusiasm of rabbis, politicians and the rank and file. The Oslo Accords, for instance, prompted protests against the government of Israel and especially against then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. But it seems the last time the right wing had an opportunity to actively protest was against the Gaza disengagement.

 

Recent studies have claimed that many in the Jewish community, especially its liberal wing, are distancing themselves from Israel and feel alienated by its current policy. It now transpires that the Orthodox, who constitute the majority of the right-wing camp and who once would have seen neglecting to support a right-wing Israeli government as nothing short of heresy, have lost their trust and confidence in the Netanyahu government.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

GIVE THEM AN INQUIRY

RATHER THAN INVESTIGATING ISRAEL'S DEADLY RAID OF THE GAZA-BOUND AID FLOTILLA, AN INTERNATIONAL INQUIRY SHOULD LOOK INTO HOW ISRAEL MANAGED TO SELL ITS DESTRUCTIVE GAZA POLICIES TO THE COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD.

BY ZVI BAR'EL

 

They want an international commission of inquiry to investigate the events of the raid on the Gaza flotilla? No problem - on condition that it is truly international: the kind that has UN secretaries-general over the years give testimony, as well as U.S. presidents, European leaders, Turkish presidents past and present, and all those who turned their backs when they knew what was going on in the Gaza Strip and agreed to the siege policy until the flotilla. All those who allowed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to go on undisturbed and who felt that Gaza was a humanitarian, not a political problem.

 

It is fascinating to read UN resolutions on the Gaza Strip. They are perfectly laid out and usually begin with words like "we call on the sides," "we regard with gravity," "we support the Arab initiative," "we endorse previous UN resolutions," which were never implemented, of course. Empty words that were wasted on the sentences in which they were used. There was no banging on the table, not a single resolution on dispatching an international force, as if Gaza were not a combat zone but an unavoidable natural disaster; something the aid organizations should handle, not the politicians; a solution with aid convoys, not sanctions.

 

True, Israel is the one that imposed the siege and jailed 1.5 million civilians in a prison into which it threw food and medicine, following a very orderly list and in line with the number of calories each person needs to survive. Everyone watched, heard and remained silent - the Turkish prime minister and president, who until Operation Cast Lead did not really raise their voices, two American presidents, two UN secretaries-general, and European heads of state. In other words, they spoke endlessly, initiated resolutions, tried to mediate, but in the end raised their hands in surrender. After all, it is an internal Israeli-Palestinian matter that does not really pose a threat to world peace. A million and a half jailed Palestinians? It's Hamas' fault, not Israel's.

 

Until suddenly it turns out that the Gaza Strip, an empty area without petroleum or diamond wealth, strategically insignificant for the powers, could stir an international crisis. Relations between Israel and Turkey hit a reef, relations between the United States and Turkey are being reevaluated, the Jewish lobby is working overtime in Congress to push the administration to censure Turkey, Germany and the United States are trying to mediate between Israel and Turkey, and Turkish assistance to the international force in Afghanistan is being weighed. Meanwhile, Turkey enjoys great popularity in the Arab and Muslim world, but also threatens the Egyptian and Muslim monopoly for resolving the conflicts in the region. And Israel once more appears to be an irrational burden on U.S. policy in the region.

 

It also suddenly turns out that when the Gaza Strip manages to stir an international crisis, it is possible to ease the conditions of the siege. The list of items that can be imported is stretched like a rubber band. And people are beginning to talk about conditions for operating the Rafah crossing, the European Union is once more proposing to come back and supervise it, and mostly, Washington has awoken and is flexing a muscle. Not because the people of Gaza have been transformed into something the world is genuinely interested in; they have become a strategic threat. Where were all these critics, all the countries that have signed the UN's human rights conventions, when the siege was put in place and the blockade became asphyxiating?

 

An international inquiry into the foolishness of Israel's policy is unnecessary. There is no need to busy the world with something that is obvious and needs no proof. An international inquiry into the reasons and ways Turkish citizens were killed should also not be created. This is a subject for a joint Turkish-Israeli inquiry that should be set up quickly.

 

An international inquiry should have a different mandate: to look into how Israel managed to sell its destructive policy to the countries of the world, how they agreed to the jailing of 1.5 million people without a UN resolution. They should look into the international significance of the fact that a member of the UN decides to take such a step, and the international organization that now wants to investigate can't prevent that step, or forcefully act to cancel it. This is not a commission of inquiry against Israel but against UN headquarters in Manhattan. This is also the reason that such a committee will not be formed. It is much simpler to reach a plea bargain with Israel.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE PATRIOT

WHAT DOES THE ISRAELI PATRIOT WANT? WHAT STATE EXACTLY DOES HE DREAM OF BEFORE FALLING ASLEEP AT NIGHT? WHAT SOCIETY DOES HE HOPE FOR WHILE IMMERSED IN HIS MORNING ROUTINE?

BY GIDEON LEVY TAGS: ISRAEL NEWS

 

What does the Israeli patriot want? What state exactly does he dream of before falling asleep at night? What society does he hope for while immersed in his morning routine? Incitement, slander and boycott campaigns have recently been launched here against Turkey, Sweden, the High Court of Justice, B'Tselem, the New Israel Fund, the media, Richard Goldstone, Noam Chomsky, Elvis Costello, the Pixies, Ahmed Tibi, Hanin Zuabi, Tali Fahima, Barack Obama, Anat Kamm and the rest of the world, and also a bit against yours truly. A hypocritical, fallacious and depressing worldview emerges from these campaigns.

 

No, he is not a villain, the Israeli patriot - he is merely brainwashed and blind.

 

He would like to live in a democracy - of course he wants democracy; after all, he was taught in school that it is a good thing, and he boasts to the world that Israel is "the only democracy in the Middle East." But it's a democracy without most of its mechanisms. He is satisfied with elections and majority rule: The majority will make the decisions, and to hell with the minority.

 

The Israeli patriot wants to open a newspaper and turn on the television and see what's going on in the world - but only a world in which everything is good. Well, if not the entire world, then at least Israel, as long as it's all good. He wants to take in lots of World Cup soccer, entertainment programs, loads of gossip, and most importantly - only good news. He wants only commentators who "smash" the Arabs and "bash" the left-wingers and other Israel haters, and who call for strikes on Gaza, Hezbollah, Iran and Istanbul again and again.

 

He is a man of peace, the patriot, but he also wants a war once every two to three years and he wants the media to say so, too. He doesn't really want to know what happened during Operation Cast Lead, or what the world - which hates us - thinks of us and why. He doesn't want to know what is going on in the territories or among the poor, screwed, underprivileged people.

 

But wonder of wonders, if he feels deprived, where does he run? To the newspapers and the TV, which he loves to hate. He also loves to hate those left-wingers from the High Court of Justice, but the moment he's in any kind of trouble, where does he turn? To the court, of course.

 

The Israeli patriot wants the world to love us unconditionally and without limits. Yet at the same time, he wants to ignore the whole world and spit contemptuously on its institutions, conventions and laws. He wants a package deal with Turkey, all-inclusive, but not including listening to what the Turks have to say. He wants to spread white phosphorus in Gaza and have the world recite, like himself, that it's white rain. He wants the United Nations to impose sanctions on Iran, but to disregard its own resolutions related to Israel. He wants a half-Iranian regime here, but portrayed as liberal in all the tourist guidebooks.

 

The world according to the Israeli patriot consists, in fact, only of the United States - but even then only to a certain extent. Obama's America is also starting to get suspicious. The patriot wants America to foot the bill and shut up. He wants the Jewish world to contribute money, to embrace us, to come here in masses with the Taglit-Birthright program. But if J Street, JCall, Goldstone or Chomsky arise from among the Jews, he will hasten to brand them anti-Semites. They're either with us or against us - even the Jews.

 

He wants a Knesset that represents the people, meaning his kind of people - without Ahmed Tibi and Hanin Zuabi, preferably without any Arabs at all, and if we must then only Ayoob Kara. Let them travel overseas to stretch out on tzadiks' graves, but only in Jewish communities, not in Libya. Let them fight to free abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, but not the myriad prisoners of their own people.

 

Shalit? The Israeli patriot wants his release, as all Israelis do, but not, under any circumstances, in exchange for freeing terrorists. He also wants NGOs around and donations coming in from abroad, but only to synagogues and hospitals. And above all, he wants to protect Israeli soldiers and their commanders, unconditionally. They must remain immune from any criticism. They killed two women waving a white flag in Gaza? They shot a Jerusalem driver at close range? They killed - perhaps unnecessarily - Turks on a flotilla? Anyone who mentions such things is a traitor.

 

This is the patriot's impossible country. It is doubtful whether even he actually enjoys living in it. So when will he criticize his beloved country? In the never-ending traffic jam, in the endless queue, and of course, when the IDF isn't killing enough. Any other criticism? No thank you, I'm a patriot.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE CHALLENGES OF A ONE-STATE SOLUTION

ISRAEL WOULD DO WELL TO APPLY SOME OF THE FEATURES OF THE ONE-STATE SOLUTION: TO BECOME A TRULY LIBERAL, SECULAR STATE WITHOUT ETHNIC DOMINANCE IN WHICH SUBGROUPS NO LONGER TRY TO IMPOSE THEIR WAY OF LIFE ON EACH OTHER.

BY CARLOS STRENGER

 

In a recent op-ed ("Is there another option?" June 2 ), Moshe Arens suggested that the option of one state west of the Jordan with full citizenship for all Palestinians should be given serious consideration.

 

The one-state solution is advocated by a number of Palestinian intellectuals and is becoming rather popular in the European left. Their reason is generally that the one-state solution would give more justice to the Palestinians, and this position is mostly seen as anti-Israeli. On Israel's extreme right, holding on to the Greater Land of Israel is also a popular position, generally held on theological grounds.

 

Arens raises the idea from a different standpoint, because he is a secular liberal who indeed believes in full equality for Israel's Arabs. Even though I have for years argued that the one-state solution is not feasible, Arens' idea needs to be explored, at least as a thought experiment, because it may well be that the window of opportunity for the two-state solution is about to close. So far no Israeli government has succeeded in implementing it; Palestinians are beginning to reject it, and Israel may not be able to uproot more than 100,000 settlers.

 

In his political career, Arens has indeed tried to increase equality for Israel's Arabs, and he deplores Israel's failure in doing so. He told me that this failure was his strongest motivation for writing the article. Thinking about this failure requires us to face the fact that Israel has been in a culture war for most of its existence - and not only with respect to Israel's Arab citizens. Israel's elections ostensibly seem to be about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in reality they are a reflection of the tensions in Israeli society: religious versus secular, Ashkenazim versus Sephardim, Jews versus Arabs.

 

Of course, many people will not accept Arens' assessment that there are only 1.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, and Palestinians are unlikely to accept the exclusion of Gaza from the new state. But even in Arens' scenario, Israel would de facto become a binational state. Jewish cultural hegemony would have to be largely renounced and give way to a multicultural model.

 

Arens' idea raises a real challenge for Israel: It would, for the first time, have to face the task of radically revising its political system and culture and to think carefully about how ethnicities, religions and worldviews can truly live side by side with each other instead of struggling for cultural hegemony.

 

One consequence of Arens' idea is that the state would have to sever its ties to all religious institutions, and would have to become completely secular, along the French or U.S. model. Both Jews and Muslims would have to accept that religion cannot play any role in affairs of state, and religious institutions would become completely voluntary and communitarian. To avoid tensions between the various religious groups, and between religious and secular lifestyles, the Swiss confederative model might be considered. The federal government's involvement in the cantons' internal affairs would be low to allow for maximal cultural flexibility.

 

Both Jews and Palestinians would have to be willing to renounce the struggle for hegemony. The political culture would have to be structured in a way that avoids such a struggle. Jews would have to be willing to accept Jabotinsky's suggestion that the president of the state could sometimes be Jewish and sometimes Arab.

 

Of course, the most attractive feature of the one-state solution is a complete restructuring of the Middle East. Arab rejection of a fully liberal Israel/Palestine would no longer have a case. Of course, radical Islamists might continue to object to the presence of non-Muslims, but most Arabs would feel much more comfortable with a binational state.

 

I continue to be skeptical about the one-state solution. I am afraid that it will be very difficult to implement, and it is almost unimaginable that a cohesive society would emerge after a century of bloody conflict, particularly if you consider that even states like Belgium are on the verge of falling apart. Economic inequality, which is very high in Israel today, would increase even further and create huge problems.

 

But Arens' challenge must be taken seriously. First, we are close to the point at which only the one-state solution will be possible. Second, because even if the two-state solution would finally be achieved, Israel would do well to apply some of the features of the one-state solution: to become a truly liberal, secular state without ethnic dominance in which subgroups no longer try to impose their way of life on each other. It should think about a confederative structure, because this might conceivably end Israel's current culture war.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO SCAPEGOAT ISRAELIS WHO ARE CRITICAL OF ISRAEL

IT IS PERHAPS UNDERSTANDABLE THAT MANY SEEK A PERSON OR ORGANIZATION ON WHOM BLAME CAN BE PLACED, SO THAT THEY MAY BE SENT INTO THE POLITICAL WILDERNESS, CAST OUT OF THE COMMUNITY, NO LONGER ALLOWED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CONVERSATION. UNDERSTANDABLE, PERHAPS, BUT WOEFULLY MISTAKEN.

BY DANIEL SOKATCH AND RACHEL LIEL

 

In the aftermath of the flotilla incident off Gaza, Israelis and supporters of Israel are even more anxious and apprehensive than usual - worried about the implications of those events, and searching for the best way forward.

 

Some of Israel's leading lights - politicians, former military brass, intellectuals - have questioned the wisdom of Israel's raid on the MV Marmara, and are struggling publicly with love for their country, and fears for its future. Others chose to immediately close ranks and throw up defenses.

 

It is perhaps understandable that many seek a person or organization on whom blame can be placed, so that they may be sent into the political wilderness, cast out of the community, no longer allowed to contribute to the conversation.

 

Understandable, perhaps, but woefully mistaken.

 

As easy as it may be to attempt to scapegoat those who voice opposition to official Israeli policy, it is neither helpful nor wise. The former members of Knesset who have decried the loss of life; the Israeli naval reserve commanders who wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge an
independent inquiry; the Israeli novelists and commentary writers and professors and nonprofits and ordinary people who have questioned the Gaza blockade itself - all have Israel's best interests at heart.

 

All seek a solution that will leave Israel stronger and safer. Their efforts are not to undermine Israel, but to build a better Israel.

 

This in stark contrast to some on the world stage who would, indeed, delegitimize Israel and wish it removed from history. We do not question that there are nations, international NGOs and demagogues who wish to see Israel disappear. On one hand, we have those who would see Israel strengthened; on the other, those would happily see it destroyed. Never, perhaps, has it been more important to see the difference between the two. This is the real red line, the line between the loyal opposition and Israel's real enemies.

 

As the new leaders of the New Israel Fund, we have the tremendous good fortune to work with many Israeli organizations that act on the promise in Israel's Declaration of Independence to "uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex." Some of these nonprofits advocate for new immigrants; some work with the poor of the periphery, others focus on civil rights.

 

We have seen these organizations buoyed by success, and watched them face down angry opposition.

 

Advocating for social justice in Israel, we watch the ebb and flow of political discourse and have, at times, worried for the State of Israel's democracy. In a country that so often lives in fear, the
temptation to simply shut down those with whom we disagree is particularly powerful.

 

Yet for all our experience in Israel and in the Jewish world at large, we have never seen the impulse to muzzle the opposition expressed as bluntly as it is today. We can't help but be reminded of the backlash, which led, ultimately, to the assassination of a prime minister.

 

Scapegoating the loyal opposition, smearing the good names of people dedicated to advancing Israel's democracy, and demonizing those who seek genuine pluralism is not what Israel needs right now. Pushing away those who love Israel enough to engage honestly with its mistakes will not
make Israel stronger, but will in fact delegitimize its standing as a democracy in the eyes of the world.

 

In our positions with the New Israel Fund, we often come into contact with individuals or organizations with whom we do not entirely agree. Love of Israel and dedication to its survival, we've found, takes many and varied forms, and democracy works best when all are given a chance to speak. A word here or a phrase there may make some uncomfortable, but what is most important is to look at the body of an organization's work, rather than don blinders and focus narrowly on any disagreements we
might have.

 

There are limits, of course, in any democracy, and we're not required to open the conversation to include those who would see the democratic state of Israel destroyed. But neither are we served by shrinking Israel's democracy to include only those who support governmental policies at all costs. Indeed, that's not democracy by anyone's definition, not at all.

 

Now is not the time to shut down discourse and seek scapegoats from among those Israelis and supporters of Israel who take issue with some of the policies of the Netanyahu government. Now is the time to listen closely to all the voices that Israel's democracy offers, and work together to find real solutions that will lead to equality for all, a lasting peace, and true security.

 

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

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER BAD IDEA FROM ARIZONA

 

Not satisfied with a shameful new law that invites, indeed demands, racial profiling, some Arizona politicians are now pushing for a law that would deny citizenship to babies born in Arizona whose parents cannot prove they are legal immigrants.

 

The 14th Amendment, adopted after the Civil War, states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." It could not be clearer.

 

The Constitution apparently does not matter to these politicians. They also do not seem to care that Arizona is earning a national reputation for intolerance and racism — and if it continues this way will pay an economic price in boycotts of its lucrative tourism industry.

 

When State Senator Russell Pearce first started pushing for a law that requires police forces to stop and check anyone who appears to be an illegal immigrant, he was dismissed as a crackpot. The legislation passed both houses of the Republican-controlled Legislature with distressingly large majorities. Gov. Jan Brewer then proudly signed it into law.

 

Now Mr. Pearce is at it again with this new proposal, meant to end what he calls the "inadvertent and unforeseen" consequences of the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause. He pins it all on the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof," arguing that the babies of illegal immigrants — like the children of foreign diplomats — do not have full allegiance to this country, and thus do not deserve automatic citizenship. It is a spurious argument.

 

Mr. Pearce's bill, we fear, is likely to get a sympathetic hearing in Arizona's Legislature. Governor Brewer told interviewers this month that illegal immigrants should leave and take their citizen children with them.

 

President Obama, who has criticized the first Arizona law, has so far failed to use his power to block it, though his administration is preparing a lawsuit to do so. He needs to reassert sole federal authority over a rational and humane immigration system, and stop Arizona and other states from creating a crazy quilt of harsh statutes, some crazier than others.

 

Until the president and all people of conscience stand up to these bullies, they will keep pushing. The Constitution and the civil rights of thousands of people must not be violated this way.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

CONGRESS DEFENDS THE BIG GUYS

 

In the first week of talks over a financial regulatory reform bill, Democratic lawmakers — in some cases with apparent White House backing — have been defeating or delaying reforms to protect individual investors. Instead, they are catering to corporate interests that prefer the status quo — and write big campaign checks.

 

At its most basic, this bill is supposed to restore stability and fairness to the markets and give Americans some confidence that their efforts to save and invest will not be undone — over and over again — by the destructive excesses of banks and corporations.

 

Those goals are being undermined by cynical maneuvers. Here is the damage assessment:

 

COOKING THE BOOKS. A majority of Senate negotiators, including two Democrats, approved a bad provision from the House version of the bill to exempt most publicly traded companies (those worth less than $75 million) from an antifraud auditing requirement in the Sarbanes-Oxley law, passed in 2002 after the Enron debacle. The argument is that the audits are too burdensome, but research shows that they reduce errors and fraud, and that refinements to the law from 2007 have made them less onerous. The upshot is that a bill that is supposed to be about strengthening regulation would instead end a safeguard against financial fraud.

 

KEEPING CORPORATE BOARDS SAFE FOR CRONIES. Both versions of the reform bill clarified the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission to make it easier for shareholders to nominate corporate directors. The clarification is useful, because the S.E.C. has been threatened with lawsuits from industry-supported groups if it writes new nomination rules. The reform would give shareholders a chance to shake up boards that have become rubber stamps for management decisions.

 

Then, last week, Senator Christopher Dodd gutted the Senate version, with the reported encouragement of the White House. He proposed that shareholders must hold an ownership stake of at least 5 percent to nominate a director, a level that would be exceedingly difficult to reach. As such, his proposal would effectively kill shareholders' ability to more efficiently influence boards.

 

House and Senate negotiators have not yet reached a decision. The correct approach is to allow the S.E.C. to write and enforce the rules as it sees fit.

 

SHORTCHANGING THE S.E.C. The Senate's version of reform would allow the S.E.C. to finance itself through fees it already imposes on securities transactions and corporate filings, rather than having Congress decide its budget each year. The House was on board with the idea. Self funding would help ensure adequate resources.

 

But lawmakers who stand to lose control of the S.E.C. budget have objected, leading some of them to seek a deal that would somehow retain the power of Congressional appropriators. In the best interests of the S.E.C. and investors, supporters of self funding, including Senator Charles Schumer of New York, need to hang tough.

 

Among the other unresolved issues is a long overdue reform to require brokers who give investment advice to act in their clients' best interest. The House version is in favor of imposing a fiduciary duty; the Senate version lamely calls for a study and other delays.

 

If lawmakers are unwilling to enact fundamental investor protections, there is little hope that they will act boldly on far-reaching structural reforms, like curbing banks' risky involvement in derivatives dealmaking and establishing a strong new regulator for consumer financial protection.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BASICS FOR HAITI

 

The list of what needs to be fixed in Haiti is distressingly long, and progress has been frustratingly slow. But two areas require urgent attention from the Haitian government and its main international backers, the United Nations and the United States:

 

KEEP WOMEN AND CHILDREN SAFE. More than a million people are still displaced, many living in crowded refugee camps with only rudimentary protection from the summer's torrential rains. Sexual assaults are widespread, and for girls and women, who are frightened even to use showers or toilets, life is horrible.

 

The camps need more lights and more security patrols. It was good news that the U.N. decided to send 680 more police officers to Haiti — bringing its police force there to about 4,400 — including an all-female unit of about 100 Bangladeshi officers. More needs to be done.

 

PLAN FOR ELECTIONS. To move forward with rebuilding plans, Haiti needs a legitimately elected government.

 

Voters were supposed to choose a new Parliament in February; the January earthquake made that impossible. Parliament has disbanded, and President René Préval, whose term expires next January, is ruling by decree. The country still does not have an official date for the next presidential and parliamentary elections.

 

Mr. Préval has said informally that he wants elections on Nov. 28, but he has yet to issue the necessary decree. Without a schedule, donors will not commit the $38 million needed to organize elections. Haiti's electoral council, whose nine members were hand-picked by Mr. Préval, has been roiled with corruption and infighting.

 

Haiti needs to start working right now to update electoral records, set voting procedures for displaced people, issue identity cards for the many Haitians who have lost all of their documents, and educate voters on where to vote. And it needs an electoral council to run the vote made up of honest, competent public servants, not political hacks.

 

This month, Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, issued a report in which he urged the State Department to press Mr. Préval to set an election date and to reorganize the electoral council to restore its legitimacy among skeptical Haitians. Mr. Préval has been frustratingly disengaged from so many of his country's urgent problems. He needs to fulfill his responsibility and set the stage for fair elections. The last thing Haiti needs right now is a prolonged constitutional crisis.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE HALF-LIFE OF PHONES

 

June comes, and a new iPhone is introduced to the world, creating a shock wave of obsolescence. In the aftermath of first-day preordering chaos last week — caused, apparently, by a major computer glitch — it is worth thinking about the cycle of novelty and the very brief half-life of handheld electronics. There is something feverish in the rush to adoption, something almost obsessive in the way our desires are driven by these objects. The question is rarely ever, do I need a new phone? It is almost always, do I want one?

 

Few objects on the planet are farther removed from nature — less, say, like a rock or an insect — than a glass and stainless steel smartphone. And yet the materials of which it is made have ultimately all been abstracted from nature, resources consumed in the long chain of the manufacturing process, very few of which — apart from the packing materials — have been recycled. Nearly everyone who buys an iPhone 4 will be replacing an older phone, which means a cascade of discarded phones, some handed down to other users, some recycled, some disposed of in appropriate ways, and some simply junked.

 

How many cellphones have you owned so far? The answer will depend on your age and technical savvy. But if you have been using cellphones, as many of us have, since the mid-1990s, the answer may well be a dozen or more. And the pace of change — the in-built functionality of smartphones — is only increasing, which is likely to mean an even faster rate of replacement. We are not immune to techno-lust or the seduction of great product design or even the unattainable quest for call clarity. But we look forward to a day when new phones are made from the carcasses of our old phones and the cost of obsolescence is not so high.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

LETTER FROM ISTANBUL, PART 2

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

Istanbul

I leave Istanbul with four questions that Turks asked me echoing in my head. Forget the answers, just these questions will tell you all you need to understand the situation here. The four questions, which were asked of me by different Turkish journalists, academics or businessmen, can be summarized as follows:

 

One: Do you think we are seeing the death of the West and the rise of new world powers in the East? Two: Tom, it was great talking to you this morning, but would you mind not quoting me by name? I'm afraid the government will retaliate against me, my newspaper or my business if you do. Three: Is it true, as Prime Minister Erdogan believes, that Israel is behind the attacks by the Kurdish terrorist group P.K.K. on Turkey? Four: Do you really think Obama can punish Turkey for voting against the U.S. at the U.N. on Iran sanctions? After all, America needs Turkey more than Turkey needs America.

 

The question about the death of the West is really about the rise of Turkey, which is actually a wonderful story. The Turks wanted to get into the European Union and were rebuffed, but I'm not sure Turkish businessmen even care today. The E.U. feels dead next to Turkey, which last year was right behind India and China among the fastest-growing economies in the world — just under 7 percent — and was the fastest-growing economy in Europe.

 

Americans have tended to look at Turkey as a bridge or a base — either a cultural bridge that connects the West and the Muslim world, or as our base (Incirlik Air Base) that serves as the main U.S. supply hub for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Turks see themselves differently.

 

"Turkey is not a bridge. It's a center," explained Muzaffer Senel, an international relations researcher at Istanbul Sehir University.

 

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey has become the center of its own economic space, stretching from southern Russia, all through the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and down through Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Middle East. All you have to do is stand in the Istanbul airport and look at the departures board for Turkish Airlines, which flies to cities half of which I cannot even pronounce, to appreciate what a pulsating economic center this has become for Central Asia. I met Turkish businessmen who were running hotel chains in Moscow, banks in Bosnia and Greece, road-building projects in Iraq and huge trading operations with Iran and Syria. In 1980, Turkey's total exports were worth $3 billion. In 2008, they were $132 billion. There are now 250 industrial zones throughout Anatolia. Turkey's cellphone users have gone from virtually none in the 1990s to 64 million in 2008.

 

So Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees himself as the leader of a rising economic powerhouse of 70 million people who is entitled to play an independent geopolitical role — hence his U.N. vote against sanctioning Iran. But how Turkey rises really matters — and Erdogan definitely has some troubling Hugo Chávez-Vladimir Putin tendencies. I've never visited a democracy where more people whom I interviewed asked me not to quote them by name for fear of retribution by Erdogan's circle — in the form of lawsuits, tax investigations or being shut out of government contracts. The media here is rampantly self-censored.

 

Moreover, Erdogan has evolved from just railing against Israel's attacks on Hamas in Gaza to spouting conspiracy theories — like the insane notion that Israel is backing the P.K.K. terrorists — as a way of consolidating his political base among conservative Muslims in Turkey and abroad.

 

Is there anything the U.S. can do? My advice: Avoid a public confrontation that Erdogan can exploit to build more support, draw U.S. redlines in private and let Turkish democrats take the lead. Turkey is full of energy and hormones, and is trying to figure out its new identity. There is an inner struggle over that identity, between those who would like to see Turkey more aligned with the Islamic world and values and those who want it to remain more secular, Western and pluralistic. Who defines Turkey will determine a lot about whether we end up in a war of civilizations. We need to be involved but proceed delicately.

 

This struggle is for Turks, and they are on it. Only two weeks before the Gaza flotilla incident, a leading poll showed Mr. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, known as the A.K.P., trailing his main opposition — the secularist Republican People's Party — for the first time since the A.K.P. came to office in 2002.

 

That is surely one reason Erdogan openly took sides with one of the most radical forces in the region, Hamas — to re-energize his political base. But did he overplay his hand? Up to now, Erdogan has been very cunning, treating his opponents like frogs in a pail, always just gradually turning up the heat so they never quite knew they were boiling. But now they know. The secular and moderate Muslim forces in Turkey are alarmed; the moderate Arab regimes are alarmed; the Americans are alarmed. The fight for Turkey's soul is about to be joined in a much more vigorous way.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

CLEAN THE GULF, CLEAN HOUSE, CLEAN THEIR CLOCK

BY FRANK RICH

 

PRESIDENT Obama is not known for wild pronouncements, so it was startling to hear him liken the gulf oil spill to 9/11. Alas, this bold analogy, made in an interview with Roger Simon of Politico, proved a misleading trailer for the main event. In the president's prime-time address a few days later, there was still talk of war, but the ammunition was sanded down to bullet points: "a clean energy future," "a long-term gulf coast restoration plan" and, that most dreaded of perennials, "a national commission." Such generic placeholders, unanimated by details or deadlines, are Washingtonese for "The buck stops elsewhere."

 

The speech's pans were inevitable, but in truth it was doomed no matter what the words or how cool or faux angry the performance. The president had it right the first time — this is a 9/11 crisis — and only action will do. The sole sentence that really counted on Tuesday night was his prediction that "in the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well." He will be judged on whether that's true. The sole event that mattered last week was his jawboning of BP for a $20 billion down payment of blood money — to be overseen, appropriately enough, by Kenneth Feinberg of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

 

That action could be a turning point for Obama if he builds on it. And he must. In this 9/11, it's not just the future of the gulf coast, energy policy or his presidency that's in jeopardy. What's also being tarred daily by the gushing oil is the very notion that government can accomplish anything. The current crisis in that faith predates this disaster. In the short history of the Obama White House, two of its most urgent projects, reducing unemployment and pacifying Afghanistan, have yet to yield persuasive results. The dividends on the third, health care reform, won't be in the mail for years.

 

Given that record of incompletes, the government's failure to police BP and the administration's seeming impotence once disaster struck couldn't have been more ill-timed. And there's no miracle fix. Obama can't play Aquaman in the gulf, he can't coax a new jobs program out of a deficit-fixated Congress, and he can't quit Harmid Karzai. Indeed, if the president had actually outlined new energy policies Tuesday night, they would have been dismissed as more empty promises from a government that can't even measure the extent of the spill.

 

While Obama ended his speech with an exhortation for prayer, hope for divine intervention is no substitute for his own intercession. He could start running his administration with a 9/11 sense of urgency. And he could explain to the country exactly what the other side is offering as an alternative to his governance — non-governance that gives even more clout to irresponsible corporate giants like BP. As our most popular national politician, Obama still has power, within his White House and with the public, to effect change — should he exercise it.

 

Some exposure to the voluminous investigative reporting incited by this crisis might move him to step up his game. After all, the muckraking of McClure's magazine a century ago, some of it aimed at Standard Oil, helped fuel Teddy Roosevelt's activism. T.R. called it "torrential journalism," and a particularly torrential contemporary example is a scathing account of Obama's own Interior Department by Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone, a publication often friendly to this president. Dickinson's findings will liberate Obama from any illusions that the systemic failure to crack down on BP was the unavoidable legacy of the derelict Minerals Management Service he inherited from Bush-Cheney.

 

In Rolling Stone's account, the current interior secretary, Ken Salazar, left too many "long-serving lackeys of the oil industry in charge" at M.M.S. even as he added to their responsibilities by raising offshore drilling to record levels. One of those Bush holdovers was tainted by a scandal that will cost taxpayers as much as $53 billion in uncollected drilling fees from the oil giants — or more than twice what Obama has extracted from BP for its sins so far.

 

Dickinson reports that Salazar and M.M.S. continued to give BP free rein well after Obama took office — despite the company's horrific record of having been "implicated in each of the worst oil disasters in American history, dating back to the Exxon Valdez in 1989." Even as the interior secretary hyped himself as "a new sheriff in town," BP was given a green light to drill in the gulf without a comprehensive environmental review.

 

Obama has said he would have fired Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, but his own managers have not been held so accountable. The new director of M.M.S. installed by Salazar 10 months ago has now walked the plank, but she doesn't appear to have been a major player in lapses that were all but ordained by policy imperatives from above. The president has still neither explained nor apologized for his own assertion in early April that "oil rigs today generally don't cause spills" — a statement that is simply impossible to square with Salazar's claim that the administration's new offshore drilling policy, supposedly the product of a year's study, was "based on sound information and sound science."

 

The president must come clean and clean house not just because it's right. He must rebuild confidence in his government for that inevitable day when the next crisis hits the fan. That would be Afghanistan, and the day is rapidly arriving. Already Obama's chosen executive there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is calling the much-heralded test case for administration counterinsurgency policy — the de-Talibanization and stabilization of the Marja district — "a bleeding ulcer." And that, relatively speaking, is the good news from this war.

 

The president's shake-up of his own governance can't wait, as tradition often has it, until after the next election. The Tea Party is at the barricades. When Obama said yet again on Tuesday that he would be "happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party," you wanted to shout back, Enough already! His energy would be far better spent calling out in no uncertain terms what the other party's "ideas and approaches" are. The more the Fox-Palin right has strengthened its hold on the G.O.P. during primary season, the sharper and more risky its ideology has become.

 

When Rand Paul defended BP against Salazar's (empty) threat to keep a boot on the company's neck, he was not speaking as some oddball libertarian outlier. His views are mainstream in his conservative cohort. Traditional Republican calls for limited government have given way to radical cries for abolishing many of modern government's essential tasks. Paul has called for the elimination of the Department of Education, the Federal Reserve and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The newest G.O.P. star — Sharron Angle, the victor in this month's Republican senatorial primary in Nevada — has also marked the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security and Medicare for either demolition or privatization.

 

Pertinently enough, Angle has also called for processing highly radioactive nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. If Americans abhor poorly regulated deepwater oil drilling, wait until they get a load of nuclear waste on land with no regulatory agency in charge at all. The choice between inept government and no government is no choice at all, of course. But there would be a clear alternative if the president could persuade the country that Washington, or at least its executive branch, can be reformed — a process that demands him to own up fully to his own mistakes and decisively correct them.

 

While the greatest environmental disaster in our history is a trying juncture for Obama, it also provides him with a nearly unparalleled opening to make his and government's case. The spill's sole positive benefit has been to unambiguously expose the hard right, for all its populist pandering to the Tea Partiers, as a stalking horse for its most rapacious corporate patrons. If this president can speak lucidly of race to America, he can certainly explain how the antigovernment crusaders are often the paid toadies of bad actors like BP. Such big corporations are only too glad to replace big government with governance of their own, by their own, and for their own profit — while the "small people" are left to eat cake at their tea parties.

 

When Joe Barton, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, revived Rand Paul's defense of BP last week by apologizing on camera to Hayward for the "tragedy" of the White House's "$20 billion shakedown," the G.O.P. establishment had to shut him down because he was revealing the party's true loyalties, not because it disagreed with him. Barton was merely echoing Michele Bachmann, who labeled the $20 billion for gulf victims a "redistribution-of-wealth fund," and the 100-plus other House members whose Republican Study Committee had labeled the $20 billion a "Chicago-style shakedown" only a day before Barton did.

 

These tribunes of the antigovernment right and their Tea Party auxiliaries are clamoring for a new revolution to "take back America" — after which, we now can see, they would hand over America to the likes of BP. Let Deepwater Horizon be ground zero for a 9/11 showdown over the role of government. There couldn't be a riper moment for Obama, as a man once said, to bring it on.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WEDDINGS FOR EVERYBODY!

BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Everything about the climax of the legal quest to overturn California's ban on gay marriage was appropriately cinematic — even the month best to imagine two men atop a wedding cake or two women walking down the aisle.

 

"It may be appropriate that the case is coming to closing argument now," Chief Judge Vaughn Walker said with a twinkle. "June is, after all, the month for weddings."

 

The Federal District Court trial that seems tailored for a made-for-TV movie features the remarkable odd-couple pairing of two lawyers who have already been depicted in a made-for-TV movie, "Recount," about their rivalry in another historic trial, Bush v. Gore. The conservative Ted Olson now prides himself on being "an honorary lesbian," and the liberal David Boies now prides himself on upbraiding Barack Obama for not pushing to give gays the same shot at marital bliss — and misery — that people like the president's parents got when interracial marriage was legalized.

 

Officiating from on high was the dapper and quirky, silver-haired, silver-tongued, silver-goateed Judge Walker,

who would have been played in a 40s movie by Clifton Webb. The anti-Ito, Judge Walker moved the trial along

without preening for the media, asking thought-provoking and occasionally droll questions of lawyers for both sides. Walker is something of a character who invites magicians to perform at the annual court conference and who once made a mail thief wear a sign that said: "I have stolen mail. This is my punishment." Heightening the dramatic possibilities, he is also, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, gay himself, which might give Prop 8 proponents ammunition to claim bias if he rules against them.

 

Chad Griffin, the gay former Clinton aide who is the strategic mastermind of the legal battle against Prop 8, is handsome, boyish and clever, right out of central casting with hip glasses and sharp suits.

 

In his two-hours-plus closing argument Wednesday, Charles Cooper, the slim, white-haired lawyer arguing against same-sex marriage, evoked the Paul Newman character in "The Verdict," a man who was out of his depth against a superior legal team.

 

But Paul Newman was able to lift it in time to save his case. Cooper appeared not to have his heart in his endgame. He didn't even stay for the Q. and A. part of the news conference after court on Wednesday. Like he had somewhere more important to be in the middle of the afternoon following arguments on a landmark case?

 

His close was so lame that if you didn't know better, you'd think he was trying to throw the case. Maybe he was shaken by the fact that some of the defense witnesses had bailed, intimidated by the Boies deposition process. Another defense witness, David Blankenhorn, the president of the Institute for American Values, a group that studies marriage and families, inexplicably ended up helping the plaintiffs when he said that heterosexual couples have been busy "deinstitutionalizing" the institution of marriage, and that adoptive parents are as good as natural parents. He also said that "we will be more American on the day we permit same-sex marriage" and give gays human dignity.

 

Cooper failed to reflect the fervor of the anti-gay-marriage proponents who frothed in 2008, direly warning that marital parity would cause moral damage, hurting children, helping the devil and destroying civilization.

 

He tepidly offered an apocalyptic warning: "Without the marital relationship, Your Honor, society would come to an end." He blamed "irresponsible procreation" — even though heterosexuals are the more likely perpetrators.

 

At one point, Cooper was pressed by the judge, who said, "I don't mean to be flip," but went on to ask the lawyer what testimony in the case supports the proposition that the object of marriage is procreation.

 

Cooper said he didn't need evidence of that point, surprising the judge, and argued that, even if that was wrong, Judge Walker should uphold the law because the people of California had voted for the same-sex-marriage ban.

 

Walker seemed bemused, as he did through much of Cooper's stumbling close. "But the state doesn't withhold the right to marriage to people who are unable to produce children of their own," the judge said. "Are you suggesting the state should?" Cooper said no, failing to offer any compelling argument for discriminating against same-sex couples.

 

Olson was at the top of his game as he concluded the case and got a standing ovation from those watching the proceedings onscreen in the overflow room.

 

"And I submit, at the end of the day," he said, " 'I don't know' and 'I don't have to put any evidence,' with all due respect to Mr. Cooper, does not cut it. It does not cut it when you are taking away the constitutional rights, basic human rights, and human decency from a large group of individuals."

 

.                                   ***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

IN IRELAND, TUESDAY'S GRACE

BY BONO

 

Dublin

ONE of the most extraordinary days in the mottled history of the island of Ireland was witnessed on both sides of the border last Tuesday.

 

The much-anticipated and costly Saville report ... the 12-years-in-the-making inquiry into "Bloody Sunday," a day never to be forgotten in Irish politics ... was finally published.

 

On that day, Jan. 30, 1972, British soldiers fired on a civil rights march in the majority Catholic area of the Bogside in Derry, killing 14 protesters.

 

It was a day that caused the conflict between the two communities in Northern Ireland — Catholic nationalist and Protestant unionist — to spiral into another dimension: every Irish person conscious on that day has a mental picture of Edward Daly, later the bishop of Derry, holding a blood-stained handkerchief aloft as he valiantly tended to the wounded and the dying.

 

It was a day when paramilitaries on both sides became the loudest voices in the conflict, a day that saw people queuing to give up on peace ... mostly young men but also women who had had enough of empire and would now consider every means necessary — however violent or ugly — to drive it from their corner.

 

It was a day when my father stopped taking our family across the border to Ulster because, as he said, the "Nordies have lost their marbles." And we were a Catholic-Protestant household.

 

Contrast all this with last Tuesday ... a bright day on our small rock in the North Atlantic. Clouds that had hung overhead for 38 years were oddly missing ... the sharp daylight of justice seemed to chase away the shadows and the stereotypes of the past. No one behaved as expected. The world broke rhyme.

 

A brand-new British prime minister, still in his wrapping paper, said things no one had imagined he would ... could ... utter ....

 

"On behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry."

 

And there was more ....

 

"What happened should never ever have happened," said the new prime minister, David Cameron. "Some members of our armed forces acted wrongly. The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces. And for that, on behalf of the government, indeed on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry."

 

It was inconceivable to many that a Tory prime minister could manage to get these words out of his mouth. It was also inconceivable — before he uttered the carefully minted phrasing — that he would be listened to by a hushed crowd gathered in Guildhall Square in Derry, a place not famous for its love of British leaders of any stripe, and that he would be cheered while speaking on specially erected screens that earlier had been used to relay images from the World Cup.

 

Thirty-eight years did not disappear in an 11-minute speech — how could they, no matter how eloquent or heartfelt the words? But they changed and morphed, as did David Cameron, who suddenly looked like the leader he believed he would be. From prime minister to statesman.

 

Joy was the mood in the crowd. A group of women sang "We Shall Overcome." There was a surprising absence of spleen — this was a community that had been through more than most anyone could understand, showing a restraint no one could imagine. This was a dignified joy, with some well-rehearsed theatrics to underscore the moment.

 

As well as punching the sky and tearing up the first "Bloody Sunday" inquiry — a whitewash by a judge named Lord Widgery who said the British troops had been provoked — these people were redrawing their own faces from the expected images: from stoic, tight-lipped and vengeful to broad, unpolished, unqualified smiles, unburdened by the bile the world often expects from this geography.

 

Derry is a community and these Derry people looked like guests at a wedding — formal only for as long as they had to be, careful of their dead but not at all pious. Some began to speak of trials and prosecutions but most wanted to leave that talk for another day.

 

Figures I had learned to loathe as a self-righteous student of nonviolence in the '70s and '80s behaved with a grace that left me embarrassed over my vitriol. For a moment, the other life that Martin McGuinness could have had seemed to appear in his face: a commander of the Irish Republican Army that day in 1972, he looked last week like the fly fisherman he is, not the gunman he became ... a school teacher, not a terrorist ... a first-class deputy first minister.

 

Both Mr. McGuinness and Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, seemed deliberately to avoid contentious language and to try to include the dead of other communities in the reverence of the occasion. Though a few on the unionist side complained that the $280 million spent on the inquiry, commissioned by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998 and led by Lord Saville, a top judge, could have been used to improve Northern Ireland's schools or investigate unionist losses, they mostly accepted the wording of the report that the deaths were "wrong" and "unjustified"; Protestant clergymen spoke of "healing" and held meetings with families of the victims.

 

Healing is kind of a corny word but it's peculiarly appropriate here; wounds don't easily heal if they are not out in the open. The Saville report brought openness — clarity — because at its core, it accorded all the people involved in the calamity their proper role.

 

The lost lives rose up from being statistics in documents in the Foreign Office to live once again. On the television news, we saw them ... the exact time, the place, the commonplace things they were doing ... William Nash, age 19, shot in the chest at close range, his father wounded trying to reach him ... William McKinney, age 26, shot in the back while tending the wounded ... Jim Wray, age 22, shot twice, the second round fired into his back while he was lying on the ground outside his grandparents' house. We saw their faces in old photographs, smiles from 38 years ago ... the ordinary details of their ordinary and, as Lord Saville repeatedly pointed out, entirely innocent lives.

 

It's not just the Devil who's in the details ... God, it turns out, is in there too. Daylight ...

 

Even the soldiers seemed to want the truth to be out. In the new report, some contradicted statements they had been ordered to make for the Widgery report.

 

It is easily forgotten that the British Army arrived in Northern Ireland ostensibly to protect the Catholic minority.

 

How quickly things can change.

 

In just a couple of years, the scenes of soldiers playing soccer with local youths or sharing ice creams and flirting with the colleens had been replaced by slammed doors on house-to-house raids ... the protectors had become the enemy ... it was that quick in Derry.

 

In fact, it can be that quick everywhere. If there are any lessons for the world from this piece of Irish history ... for Baghdad ... for Kandahar ... it's this: things are quick to change for the worse and slow to change for the better, but they can. They really can. It takes years of false starts, heartbreaks and backslides and, most tragically, more killings. But visionaries and risk-takers and, let's just say it, heroes on all sides can bring us back to the point where change becomes not only possible again, but inevitable.

 

A footnote (some light relief), November 1983:

 

U2 is in a studio in Dublin, playing its new song, "Sunday Bloody Sunday," to the record company. The melody is a good one but the lyric is, in hindsight, an inarticulate speech of the heart. It's a small song that tries but fails to contrast big ideas ... atonement with forgiveness ... "Bloody Sunday" with Easter Sunday. The song will be sung wherever there are rock fans with mullets and rage, from Sarajevo to Tehran. Over time, the lyric will change and grow. But here, with the Cockneyed record company boss at the song's birth, the maternity ward goes quiet when the man announces that the baby is "a hit"... with one caveat: "Drop the 'bloody.' 'Bloody' won't bloody work on the radio."

 

Bono, the lead singer of the band U2 and a co-founder of the advocacy group ONE and (Product)RED, is a contributing columnist for The Times

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

MY FATHER'S GIFT TO ME

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

YAMHILL, Ore.

When I was 12, my father came and spoke to my seventh-grade class. I remember feeling proud, for my rural school was impressed by a visit from a university professor. But I also recall being embarrassed — at my dad's strong Slavic accent, at his refugee origins, at his "differentness."

 

I'm back at my childhood home and reflecting on all this because abruptly I find myself fatherless on Father's Day. My dad died a few days ago at age 91, after a storybook life — devoted above all to his only child.

 

Reporting on poverty and absentee fathers has taught me what a gift fatherhood is: I know I won the lottery of life by having loving, caring parents. There's another reason I feel indebted to my father, and it has to do with those embarrassing foreign ways: his willingness to leave everything familiar behind in the quest for a new world that would provide opportunity even for a refugee's children.

 

My father, an Armenian, was born in a country that no longer exists, Austria-Hungary, in a way of life that no longer exists. The family was in the nobility, living on an estate of thousands of acres — and then came World War II.

 

My father was imprisoned by the Nazis for helping spy on their military presence in Poland. He bribed his way out of prison, but other relatives died at Auschwitz for spying. Then the Soviet Union grabbed the region and absorbed it into Ukraine, and other relatives died in Siberian labor camps.

 

Penniless, my father fled on horseback to Romania but saw that a Communist country would afford a future neither for him nor his offspring. So he headed toward the West, swimming across the Danube River on a moonless night. On the Yugoslav side of the river, he was captured and sent to a concentration camp and then an asbestos mine and a logging camp. After two years, he was able to flee to Italy and then to France.

 

My father found that despite his fluent French and university education, France did not embrace refugees. Even children of refugees were regarded as less than fully French.

 

So he boarded a ship in 1952 to the United States, the land of opportunity — even though English was not among the seven languages that he spoke. His first purchase was a copy of the Sunday New York Times, with which he began to teach himself an eighth language.

 

He arrived as Vladislav Krzysztofowicz, but no American could pronounce that. So he shortened it to Ladis Kristof.

 

After working in an Oregon logging camp to earn money and learn English, he started university all over again at the age of 34, at Reed College. He earned his doctorate at the University of Chicago, where he met my mother, Jane, and in his 40s he began a career as a political science professor, eventually winding up at Portland State University.

 

Because he never forgot what it is to be needy, my dad was attentive to other people's needs. Infuriatingly so. He picked up every hitchhiker and drove them miles out of his way; if they needed a place to sleep, he offered our couch.

 

Seeking an echo of his old estate, my dad settled us on a farm, which he equipped with tractors and an extraordinary 30,000-volume library: From chain saws to the complete works of Hegel (in German), our farm has it all.

 

At the age of 80, my father still chopped firewood as fast as I did. In his late 80s, he climbed the highest tree on our farm each spring to photograph our cherry orchard in bloom. At 90, he still hunted.

 

I know that such a long and rich life is to be celebrated, not mourned. I know that his values and outlook survive because they are woven into my fabric. But my heart still aches terribly.

 

As I grew up, I came to admire my father's foreign manners as emblems of any immigrant's gift to his children. When I was in college, I copied out a statement of his:

 

"War, want and concentration camps, exile from home and homeland, these have made me hate strife among men, but they have not made me lose faith in the future of mankind. ... If man has been able to create the arts, the sciences and the material civilization we know in America, why should he be judged powerless to create justice, fraternity and peace?"

 

I taped it to my dorm room wall, but I didn't tell him. It felt too awkward. And now it's too late. Even this column comes a few days too late.

 

So my message for Father's Day is simple: Celebrate the bequest of fatherhood with something simpler, deeper and truer than an artificial verse on a store-bought card. Speak and hug from your heart and soul — while there is still time.

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE MAN WHO LEFT, THE FATHER WHO CAME BACK

BY RICHARD SNOW

 

MY father, Richard B. Snow, was happily running his own Manhattan architecture practice when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and he was quickly taken into a service that needed people who knew about structures.

 

The Navy gave him a good job: he put on a nice, new uniform and every couple of days went to Brooklyn or Staten Island to inspect new shipyards and barracks and all the other buildings being conjured up by the war, making sure that the support beams were in the right places, that there were enough fire hydrants. On the way home to sleep in his own bed, he'd be saluted by sailors back from fighting the German U-boats in the Atlantic.

 

He hated it. Years later, he said: "I began to feel, I'm riding up and down in the subway in a uniform. What kind of a way is this for a man my age to spend his life when we're really engaged in a war?" Born in 1905, he was over-age for combat service, but eventually he told my mother that if she let him put in for sea duty, he would write her every day. She reluctantly agreed. He came very close to keeping his promise.

 

Recently, I started reading his letters for the first time, and it was both comforting and startling to see his familiar handwriting, spiky and vigorous, which had changed not a bit from when he wrote this correspondence until he died, at 95, in 2000. They were terrific letters, I thought, and the more of them I read, the more I appreciated how his military career echoed that of the millions of Americans who during those years had left familiar jobs for an unknown and likely perilous one.

 

Like every other sailor since the days of the Ark, he did his share of grousing. But he slowly learned his place in the Navy, first at the submarine-chasing school in Miami, then a shipyard in Orange, Tex., and took increasing satisfaction in it. "I feel there is no comparison between what I was doing in New York and what I am doing here, both in the work itself, and as a preparation for my job at sea when I get to it," he wrote.

 

He got to it in September 1943, when he became first lieutenant on a new destroyer escort, and went on to

spend nearly two years in the North Atlantic hunting submarines.

 

Atlantic duty was hard and dangerous. One rainy April morning, Lt. R. B. Snow saw his sister ship, the Frederick C. Davis, hit by a torpedo and take 115 men to their deaths, and he was part of the daylong action that finally destroyed the German sub. But he came through it all without a scratch. After the war, he returned to his office delighted he still had a job — indeed, owned the job — and eager to resume architecture.

 

But it is good to remember that war can vex the spirit in subtle and unexpected ways. He sat at his drafting table, and did nothing. Not for days, not for weeks. There were plenty of commissions, and he had no pressure on him: his partner, who had run the business during the war, urged him not to worry. Of course it will take a while, Dick, he said. It did. My father soon left the firm he had founded.

 

A couple of months later, my mother got a phone call from him in the middle of the day. He was standing on a subway platform, calling to say goodbye. Don't! she said. Come home now. You need to rest. Just come and talk it over with me ... He hung up. She sat in a chair and waited. Hours after my father made his farewell call, my mother, still rigid in her chair, heard his key in the lock. I don't believe he ever spoke of how he spent that afternoon and evening, but he had come home for good.

 

From his ship, he had once written her, "I like the morning watch best, in spite of having to get up at 3:15 a.m. to start it, for there is something very pleasant about starting the watch in total darkness — often with no visibility whatever, and gradually, imperceptibly, have a little light steal over the ship, coming from no apparent source. Later it is intensified on the eastern horizon — and finally if it is not too cloudy you see the sun rise."

 

And that's the way he healed, coming imperceptibly from total darkness into the everyday light. Eventually, he joined another firm, and went on to design buildings for four more decades. During that retrieved life, he had me.

 

He was an uncommonly lively and interesting father, I think now, but I really had little idea of that at the time. I was just glad, in the self-conscious way children are, that he didn't seem too different from anybody else's father. I knew he'd been in the war, but so had most of my friends' fathers, and it made no particular impression on me: if I thought of his military service at all, it was as just one more civic thing that happened to grown-ups, like voting, or going to P.T.A. meetings, or spending a morning at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

 

Then, a decade after the war ended, his old skipper, Capt. John Greenbacker, brought a destroyer into New York Harbor and invited my mother, my father and my 7-year-old self out for a ride. It was a fine, bright day and I was thrilled to enter a sharp-edged gray world full of enticing machinery.

 

We went up on the bridge when it came time to cast off and back away from the pier, a feat that Captain Greenbacker achieved with no fuss whatever, just a few quiet words to the helmsman. When he'd got his ship's nose pointing downstream, the captain turned to my father and asked, "Want to take her out, Dick?" And my father — my father in his drab-brown, standard-issue father suit — was saying things like "steady up on oh-eight-oh," to blue-clad demigods who jumped to do his bidding.

 

I couldn't have been more surprised if he'd taken wing. My comfortable present swung like a door giving on the past as I realized that this man had not been put here solely to buy me Good Humors and make sure that I got to bed on time. This is a lesson, however administered, that no son ever gets over.

 

Richard Snow, the former editor of American Heritage magazine, is the author of "A Measureless Peril: America in the Fight for the Atlantic, the Longest Battle of World War II."

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE TOYS ARE US

BY DAVID HAJDU

 

NEARLY 2,000 years after St. Paul of Tarsus wrote his poetic epistles to the people of Corinth, we still equate our capacity for selfless love with the putting away of childish things. That is to say, the time comes for each of us to grow up and pack up our toys.

 

The ennobling, terrifying drama of outgrowing toys has played out many times in stories and songs — most recently in this weekend's Pixar release, "Toy Story 3" — and these well-loved tales tell us at least as much about the times in which they were created as they do about the time of life when children abandon their dolls and action figures.

 

Consider Margery Williams's 1922 story "The Velveteen Rabbit." With its portrayal of the old-fashioned plush bunny endangered by arrogant mechanical playthings, the book functioned in part as a critique of the dehumanization of the machine age. I still remember being read the story by my mother and father, who grew up in the late '20s and '30s and held it so dear for so long that they bought a copy for my first son when he was a child, 20-some years ago.

 

When the stuffed bunny's owner falls ill and the toy is consigned to be destroyed in a bonfire to prevent the spread of germs, the story moves from timely social commentary to more timeless mysticism. My Catholic mother saw saintly virtue in the rabbit's near martyrdom and, through the miracle of crying a real tear, quasi-messianic resurrection. That reading suggests a comparison with the Book of Job, as if the sick boy's abandonment of the bunny for a fancier toy was something akin to divine inscrutability.

 

I've never warmed up to the story, perhaps because my mother loves it so, but my oldest son has adored it, probably for the same reason. The generational dynamics among children, parents and grandparents tend to color story time.

 

My other two children preferred the rosy portrayal of a boy and his stuffed-pillow chums collegially parting

ways at the end of "The House at Pooh Corner." At the close of A. A. Milne's book, Pooh and Tigger and the whole population of the Hundred Acre Wood are so content with Christopher Robin's plan to take leave of their world (for boarding school, or wherever it was that he was going) that they throw him a big goodbye party under a tree. Such is the book's cheery sense of duty well served.

 

Pooh and company's attitude is certainly more civilized than the self-pity at the heart of my generation's beloved song, "Puff, the Magic Dragon." Magical only in the playful company of his owner, Jackie Paper, the titular dragon in Peter, Paul and Mary's parable of '60s disillusionment winds up sorrowfully slipping into his cave, apparently to die.

 

True to this genre, "Toy Story 3," which revolves around the trauma the plastic characters face when their owner, Andy, goes to college, raises provocative questions about a fittingly topical subject: the graying of the American population in 2010. For the toys, to have no one playing with them is to have no reason for being; they suddenly feel the obsolescence of retirement, the pains of old age, the anxiety of death's approach. Echoing the fears of a great many real aging people, that weathered old spud, Mr. Potato Head (speaking through Don Rickles), exclaims: "Don't you get it? We're finished — obsolete, over the hill!"

 

With Andy off to college, Woody and the gang end up donated to a day-care center called Sunnyside, which the film portrays as a toy retirement home unnervingly like the place where my octogenarian parents now live. Disillusionment awaits our protagonists, as it usually does in portrayals of late life made in a culture fearful of age, and, with its toy bins like prison cells, Sunnyside slyly revises Dickensian tropes about institutional care as incarceration.

 

Watching the film as both a father and a son, I realized that Woody and Buzz stand for an idealized conception of moms and dads as selfless, wholly subservient providers of unconditional love. As much as this view of parenthood is a fantasy, it is one held dear by both grown-ups and their offspring, including my parents and me. And it yields only in the face of aging, which forces us to confront the humbling, myth-busting reality that parents have multiple emotional priorities.

 

Indeed, for all the toys' talk about the glories of being played with, very little screen time is ever devoted to showing Andy actually doing anything with them; when we do see Andy flopping Woody around like a bean bag, neither of them seems to be having much fun. In Andy's presence, the toys are inanimate — polyethylene, wires, patches of cloth. Only when he leaves the room, when the toys are not serving him as impassive objects of his fancy, do they come alive.

 

Like all parents, the toys clearly have unique, vital identities apart from being providers of boundless love. Like many parents, too, the toys fail to realize this until late in life, when the truth is hard for all involved to take. I'm planning on taking my 7-year-old son to the movie, and I think I may drive out to the retirement home and see if my parents want to join us. I'm sure they'll come. They would do anything for me.

 

David Hajdu is a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

GENERATIONS IN THE BALANCE

BY DANIEL JUDT AND TONY JUDT

 

DANIEL Had I been 18 in November 2008, I would have voted for Barack Obama. However, being 14, I settled for voicing my support for him and expressing joy at his election. I believed, innocently, that his administration would put its foot down, stamping out the environmental crisis that his predecessors had allowed to fester unnoticed. I felt Mr. Obama knew how to do the right thing morally, even if it meant going against the "right thing" politically.

 

Less than two years later, I have become hugely pessimistic about the moral resolve of our government and corporate world. Deepwater Horizon has been the tipping point. I was already skeptical: an increase in offshore drilling, our government's passive stance at Copenhagen and the absence of any environmental legislation saw to that.

 

But BP made me realize that the generation in office just doesn't get it. They see the environmental crisis in the same light as they see political debacles and economic woes. Politics pass and economies rebound, but the environment doesn't. It's that sense of "We'll get that done right after we have dealt with everything else" that makes me so angry. The world is not an expendable resource; fixing the damage you have inflicted will be the issue for my generation. It is that simple.

 

 

TONY Well, I am 62 and I did vote for Barack Obama. I held out no great hopes. It was clear from the outset that this was someone who would concede rather than confront — and that's a shortcoming in a politician, if not in a man. We have seen the consequences: not in the Middle East, nor in economic regulation, nor over detainees, nor in immigration reform has Mr. Obama followed through. The audacity of hope?

 

As for the corporations, we baby boomers were right to be cynical. Like Goldman Sachs, oil companies are not benign economic agents, serving a need and taking a cut. They are, in Theodore Roosevelt's words, "malefactors of great wealth." But our cynicism dulled our response to truly criminal behavior: "They would do that, wouldn't they?" It is one thing to watch while Goldman Sachs pillages the economy, quite another to be invited to stand aside while BP violates the Gulf Coast. Yes, we should be a lot angrier than we are.

 

We are staring into our future and it does not work. The gush of filth is a reminder that we have surrendered our independence to a technology we cannot master. Our energies are misdirected to expensive foreign wars whose purposes grow ever more obscure. We rail at one another in "cultural" clashes irrelevant to our real problems.

 

Meanwhile, the clockwork precision of our classical constitution has ground to a halt — depending as it does on a consensus that no longer exists. Taking the long view, this is how republics die. "Someone" clearly has to do "something." What do you propose?

 

DANIEL Just as you are too forgiving of unacceptable corporate behavior, maybe you are too resigned politically. To actually effect change, you need to come in thinking that real change is possible. My generation saw things that way; that is why so many young people supported Mr. Obama. Perhaps more than any other constituency in the United States, we believed that engagement would make things happen. But the more we are told that crises are to be expected and cannot be prevented by those in power — that we must put our faith in God, as the president advised on Tuesday — the more our faith in government slips away.

 

Politicians depend on the public: given a strong enough consensus, they will act. That's what I would have had you do — and that's what we have to do now: build a consensus and act. Your generation talked a lot about engagement. So engage. Use the lever of public opinion to force strong environmental legislation.

 

In reconciling ourselves after BP to "getting back to normal," we will have missed a vital opportunity. We need a new "normal." And we need to ask ourselves new questions: not whether we can afford to invest in a different way of life — solar energy, mass transportation, the phasing out of our dependency on oil — but how long we can afford not to. You owe us this.

 

 

TONY I am a little queasy about all this generation talk. After all, I am the same age as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, but I take no responsibility for them. Actually, while I agree that we need to build a national consensus, I don't think the challenge is to convince Americans about pollution or even climate change. Nor is it just a matter of getting them to make sacrifices for the future. The challenge is to convince them once again of how much they could do if they came together.

 

But that requires leadership — and I can't help noticing that you rather let the president off the hook. After all, if you and your contemporaries have lost faith in the man and "the system," that's partly his fault. But you, too, have a responsibility.

 

Coming together to elect someone is not enough, if you then go back to texting and Twittering. You have to stay together, know what you want and fight for it. It won't work the first time and it won't work perfectly, but you can't give up. That, too, is politics.

 

You are wrong to think that I have lost faith in government. Big government built this country. Without it there would have been no transcontinental railroad. Land-grant colleges — the glory of American public education — were the work of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The nation invested substantial sums of money for the public good: remember the Marshall Plan, the G.I. Bill and the Interstate highways, without which our postwar economy could never have boomed as it did. And don't forget the Civil Rights Act: a hugely controversial moral revolution that took great political courage.

 

I have not lost faith in government — but I worry about whether today's politicians are up to the challenge.

 

 

DANIEL You're right — I do let the president off a little. But to have so many young people help elect a government after years of skepticism is no small feat. He almost single-handedly instilled political vigor in those of us who knew only shame over the previous administration. Without that surge of hope and thirst for action it is very possible that most members of my generation would have abandoned politics in disgust before they even began. For that mobilization, we have Mr. Obama to thank.

 

Of course he deserves criticism. But what we must not do — both as a generation and as a nation — is to let our disillusion devolve into pessimism and laziness. What we now face is a moral challenge from which we cannot back down.

 

I was afraid that in your skepticism you had lost faith and given up — you have to admit that the radicalism of your generation never quite lived up to its potential. You always say that politics is "the art of the possible": but if we could turn our anger into positive action, then surely the possible becomes a whole lot more probable. Is anger a wise guide to action? Admittedly, if used for the wrong causes or taken the wrong way, it can be disastrous. But isn't it better than sitting back and complaining while we are led over the edge?

 

 

TONY Yes, it is not beyond us to sacrifice in the present for long-term advantage, to set aside the pursuit of quarterly economic growth as the supreme goal of public policy. We offer ourselves easy choices — high taxation or free markets — and are then surprised to learn that they do not speak to our needs. Technological fixes are the hubris of our time. But as the folks at BP have helpfully demonstrated, there is a limit to how many caps you can put on a leak; sometimes you need to start afresh.

 

The challenge goes beyond oil slicks and moral revulsion. In the bigger picture, big oil has no long-term future: sooner or later the contemptible little sheikdoms that have arisen upon a pool of liquid greed will sink back into the desert. But why should BP and the emirs script the endgame? Nothing manmade is inevitable: Chinese capitalism — unregulated profit accompanied by serial environmental catastrophe — is not the only possible future.

 

The president spoke on Tuesday of pressing forward with Congressional legislation. But at the moment that amounts to little more than "cap and trade": a shell game for corporations that has been tried in Europe and already been found wanting.

 

What we need is a Marshall Plan for the 50 states. Federal money raised from defense savings and, yes, taxes — a loan to our successors — should be made available on condition it is spent on public infrastructure, mass transit, renewable energy and education. Anything less is unworthy of the crisis that a 60,000-barrel-a-day leak has unleashed. Are you up to it? If you want to change the world, you had better be willing to fight for a long time. And there will be sacrifices. Do you really care enough or are you just offended at disturbing pictures?

 

 

DANIEL We have no choice but to care enough. The sacrifices you foresee are nothing compared to the ones we will be forced to make if we sit back and wait. Most important, we don't have the luxury of fighting for a long time.

 

Look, we are powerless and will be for a while to come. In fact, we are in the worst possible position: we are old enough to understand better than you what has to be done, but far too young to do it. All we can do is say it.

 

Daniel Judt is in the ninth grade at the Dalton School. Tony Judt is the author of "Ill Fares the Land" (and his father).

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

CRITICISM BEYOND THE PALE

 

With November elections just 20 weeks away, Republicans are scrambling to trash President Obama and his tattered electoral coattails from virtually every angle. But Texas Rep. Joe Barton's appalling apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward on Thursday for President Obama's determined negotiations to secure the oil giant's creation of a $20 billion compensation fund was beyond belief.

The money will go directly to Gulf Coast residents and businesses for their economic losses due to BP's interminably tragic oil spill. Rep. Barton's misplaced criticism just underscores just how extreme and blindly partisan the nation's political dialogue, if it can charitably be called that, has become.

 

"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White Hous e yesterday," Rep. Barton told the BP chief in Thursday's congressional hearings, referring to Mr. Obama's efforts to secure the company's commitment to the compensation fund.

 

"I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown," Rep. Barton continued. "I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is -- again, in my words -- amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize."

 

Rep. Barton owes a larger apology for his comments to the multitudes of Gulf Coast victims of BP's disastrous spill. BP apparently caused the spill, now in its 62nd day, by cutting corners on safe operating standards. It then egregiously underestimated the size of the spill for more than half of that time.

 

BP finally admitted last week that the spill may be upwards of 60,000 barrels a day, or 2.5 million gallons a day, or more. That stunningly dwarfs the Exxon Valdez spill of 10.8 gallons in 1989. The scope of the damage is epic: it is rapidly destroying the natural resources, cultural and economic fabric which have nurtured the coastal communities' way of life for generations. The damage will last for many years to come, and may never be entirely remediated -- all because BP's management endorsed or tolerated risky operating procedures.

 

That Texas' Rep. Barton would explicitly attack the president's role in securing BP's commitment to a compensation fund is wildly inane and utterly wrong. BP has paid out barely $50 million so far in compensation to people and businesses that it has put out of work. The $20 billion fund it has now promised to finance will not be enough to cover the final damages. Victims badly need compensation immediately to carry on with their lives. How Rep. Barton can criticize the president's role in expediting such necessary aid escapes us.

 

In fact, Mr. Barton's action likely owes to two factors. One is his long and cozy relationship with the oil and gas industries, which have poured roughly $1.5 million into his campaigns since he was elected in 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

 

The other is the Republican quest to denigrate Mr. Obama's every action, regardless of its merit. Such spurious attacks have become illogical and unending. Mr. Obama is being blamed both for the BP spill and for not stopping it, for not acting fast enough and not doing enough, to "stepping on BP's neck" and, now, to shaking the company down to compensate its victims.

His pressure on BP to make it begin paying for its inexcusable Gulf Coast spill is admittedly far different from former Vice President Dick Cheney's closed meetings with oil company executives to quietly arrange their cozy drilling agreements with the previous Bush White House. Mr. Obama's meeting with BP officials was for a more just purpose. If Republicans will criticize him for that, their knee-jerk obstructionism knows no bounds.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

WANT ECONOMIC BOOM?

 

Do we really want an economic boom -- enough to do what it takes to produce one?

 

Sure we do (we say).

 

We don't like the fact that we are in an economic crisis, with high unemployment, that could get worse.

 

Then hadn't we better begin doing more of the things that history has proved produce economic "good times"?

 

When did you ever see "high taxes" produce a booming economy? So wouldn't cutting taxes be a big impetus to economic expansion and recovery?

 

Oh, but we are currently running big federal government deficits -- $1.5 trillion a year! So if we cut taxes, wouldn't we have bigger deficits?

 

We would -- unless we cut unnecessary government spending and used the freed-up tax-cut money to expand our economy and to produce more really productive jobs as well as goods and services that people want to buy. That would grow tax revenue while keeping tax rates low.

 

We need to be more productive, and we need to cut taxes to leave more money in our productive people's hands for free-enterprise activities to produce more good jobs and good paychecks.

 

But instead, we have a federal budget of $3.8 trillion, that runs $1.5 trillion in the red despite too-high taxes. That adds to our $13 trillion national debt, on which we are taxed to pay hundreds of billions of dollars just in interest each year.

 

Is that a formula for prosperity?

 

Government is necessary. It is vital to do many things. Read the Constitution to see what they are. But what if we then required government to quit doing all of the things that are not listed in the Constitution as government's job?

 

What if we really turned free enterprisers loose -- with our people retaining enough of their own earnings to invest in free enterprise?

 

What an economic boom that would produce!

 

And with economic boom instead of recession, lower taxes could provide enough money to finance constitutionally limited government -- in the black. Wouldn't that make sense? It used to work when we tried it. But we haven't tried it lately. We have had serious debt and other economic troubles because we have defied the Constitution and experience.

 

Do you wonder why we don't cut government spending, cut government taxes and turn free enterprisers loose to generate more jobs, to make all of us better off? We could pay lower taxes, with government collecting more money on a bigger economic base. We could finance government, balance budgets, reduce debt and interest, and produce more jobs.

 

We all know we can't defy gravity without certain consequences. So why do we try to defy economic gravity

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

WARNING LABEL ON THE CONSTITUTION?

 

It is bad enough that liberals in Congress, judicial activists on the Supreme Court and our president all too often do not uphold the principles laid down by the United States Constitution.

 

Now, incredibly, a publishing company has placed "warning labels" on its reprints of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and other documents that brought the United States into being and made it the greatest nation in the history of the world.

 

Wilder Publications advises readers of the documents that "This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today."

 

As if that were not absurd enough, it goes further: "Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work."

 

The problem America faces is not that our vital founding documents fail to reflect sound values. The trouble is that we do not uphold the clear meaning of those documents.

 

We are in a time of crippling illiteracy about the Constitution -- and especially about its limits on the power of the federal government.

 

The big problem is that adults and children do not read and understand the Constitution at all. We certainly don't need a current publisher "warning" schoolchildren's parents about its supposedly defective values. The only warning that ought to be attached to our founding documents is that Washington no longer pays attention to them.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

THE FEDERAL PEANUT PATROL

 

We have long opposed unconstitutional taxpayer subsidies for peanut production and for other farm products. But we also oppose government dictation that threatens peanut farmers' livelihood.

 

Peanuts have been served on commercial airline flights for decades, but the federal government now is considering forbidding that. The reason is that some Americans are allergic to peanuts, and a few have severe allergic reactions.

 

We sympathize with allergy sufferers, but is it really government's job to set those rules? Will bagged peanuts next be banned from grocery stores because someone with an allergy might get too close to them and have a reaction? Must roadside stands in the Smoky Mountains cease and desist from selling boiled peanuts? How about ballparks? Must they also give in to a government "peanut patrol"?

 

This may seem like a minor issue, and surely nobody would be greatly harmed by not being served peanuts on a plane. But a government that is powerful enough to abridge our personal liberty on such a small matter is powerful enough to take away our freedom on much more important matters.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

A DIFFERENT KIND OF 'TOURISM'

 

We had heard of illegal aliens coming across the U.S. border from Mexico just prior to giving birth so their children may claim U.S. citizenship. But it is apparently not only impoverished illegals from south of the border who take advantage of the constitutional loophole that grants citizenship to anyone born in this nation.

 

The plush Marmara Manhattan hotel in New York City advertises so-called "birth tourism" packages to foreign women who want their children to enjoy the rights and benefits of American citizenship. Expectant mothers pay thousands of dollars to stay at the hotel for a month. When they bear their children here, the children automatically become citizens, even if the parents have no intention of pursuing citizenship themselves. Among other things, the mothers' stays at the hotel include a cradle and gift set.

 

And New York isn't the only place this is happening.

 

In an ABC News article, one mother from Turkey said, "We found a company on the Internet and decided to go to Austin (Texas) for our child's birth. I don't want (my daughter) to deal with visa issues. American citizenship has so many advantages."

 

What's more, if that child eventually returns to the United States as an adult, citizenship entitles him to sponsor the legal immigration of the rest of his family to this country.

 

This is all apparently "legal." But that does not make it any less outrageous or manipulative of our system. America freely welcomes many visitors from around the world. But those who want to be citizens or want their offspring to be citizens ought to follow the normal immigration process.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BANKING BUSINESS

We must hope the Supreme Court's hearing into a case involving the writing off of loans worth Rs54 billion by commercial financial institutions will lead to a system where such malpractice is curbed. The case is also a reminder that corrupt practices have existed, and prospered, over many years and are not necessarily a feature under the present government alone. The three-member SC bench had taken suo moto notice of a report that appeared in this publication in 2007 which cited another, secret report revealing how the financial team of former president Pervez Musharraf had ordered the massive write-offs in 2002. The court has now sought details from the State Bank of Pakistan of loan write-offs by financial institutions since 1971. The details, if they are put before the court, could offer a fascinating insight into the rise of corruption in the country and the involvement of bigwigs in this. Certainly, the perception is that wrongdoing has been growing from one decade to the next. Since the late 1980s, the fall of every government has brought forth revelations of loans given to persons who held influence and power and how these were then written off, allowing the wealthiest in our land to walk away with even more money jangling in their pockets. The Bank of Punjab scam is of course the latest involving just such deeds. But there have been other similar scandals before. Unless better mechanisms are put in place there will almost certainly be more.


As Justice Ramday, one of the judges hearing the case, remarked, the fact is that swindlers in our society occupy top posts while victims flounder on the streets. He pointed out that while loan write-offs for the influential were common, those who took money from banks to build houses and struggled to pay back the sums often found their property confiscated. The horror stories regarding the hiring of henchmen by banks to recover money from defaulters on minor loans have become more and more commonplace in recent times. The plunder of banks by those who talk only in millions continues. As a consequence of inadequate regulation to prevent this, financial institutions have collapsed with accountholders losing a lifetime of savings through no fault of their own. The issue of efforts made to recover loans from defaulters has also come up. The answers put before the court could suggest what needs to be done to salvage the system and prevent the culture of loot that has been created. It is quite true, as the counsel for the commercial banks commented, that the writing off of loans is sometimes a legitimate practice. But in our country it has become a means to grant political favours. Such practices must be ended if the banking system is to be saved.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER SCAM

 

These days we hear so many accounts of scams that the mind boggles at the means people in responsible positions come up with to acquire money illegitimately. According to a report in this newspaper, the Public Accounts Committee is currently investigating a Rs4 billion scam in the National Logistics Cell, which started in 2003, and involved three retired senior army officers as well as two civilians. The methodology they used was to invest NLC funds in the stock market -- at a huge cost to the institution. Even pension funds were dipped in. The scam is of course just one part of the climate we have created in the country where corruption thrives and grows at the pace of vines in a tropical rainforest. The danger is that, like the vines, the strength will be sapped from the structure they wrap themselves around. This indeed has already happened. Our state is a greatly weakened one, barely able to keep itself upright.


So what is to be done? It is true there are no simple answers. But countries that include Bolivia and states in Africa have in some cases been able to tackle corruption entrenched within their systems. The degree of success they have achieved varies. But we have still to even embark on such an effort. Existing evidence indicates the graph depicting corrupt practices continues to rise. There has also been suggestion for many years that people from all walks of life are involved in tackling this issue. It would be wise to adopt an overall strategy to deal with such wrongdoing and ensure no one is left out of the net. The failure to ensure this in previous years has in fact created the growing crisis we live with.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BOLD AS BRASS

 

It was 2.20 in the afternoon when the gunmen struck, attempting to free their comrades from the custody of the police at the Karachi City Courts. The encounter was brief and bloody and by the time the firing stopped one policeman had died. Also dead was one of the gunmen, five people, including innocent bystanders, were injured and all four of the men being held were reported to have escaped. The raid was quickly claimed by Jundullah, a banned outfit, and the men freed were being held in connection with the Ashura blast last December.


Within minutes of the raid being over lawyers who were present at the time were remarking that with just one exit to the courts – the other being blocked by a wall – it should have been easy to stop the raiders leaving, but there was apparently no security on the single exit and they were swiftly away with their prize. This is not the first time that terrorists have attempted to retrieve their colleagues nor will it be the last, and it is impossible not to note the laxity with which these men were guarded and the ease with which those who came to free them were able to conduct their operation. Time and time again failures in security allow dangerous criminals and terrorists to escape from police custody or get themselves rescued. It happens with such regularity that one has to wonder just how determinedly the police are guarding their charges, and whether there might be sympathisers within the police who are busy looking the other way when the incident begins. This does not appear to be the case in the latest incident and one policeman died fighting at close quarters with the terrorists. Notwithstanding that – why was the only exit wide open and unguarded? We may suspect, but never know.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

ON MEETING FAMOUS PEOPLE

AAKAR PATEL


The first really famous person I saw was Sanjay Dutt. This was at a palace in Dumas on the outskirts of Surat in 1981. A group of us were on a picnic hosted by Tajwar, my classmate whose cousins, the former nawabs of Sachin, owned the palace. Sanjay Dutt had come the previous night, staying over during a hunt and was with Tajwar's cousins Raza and Faisal, by the time we arrived. "Shooting ho rahi hai," said one of the palace servants to us, and we dumped our bags and ran to where he pointed, expecting to see a movie set.


What he had meant was shooting guns, of course. A group of young men, all in their late teens and early 20s were packing their rifles after some target practice. Tajwar and I were 11 and awestruck by the tall and fair Dutt, who would have been 21. His debut film Rocky had just been released and made him a star. My sister Akruti, a fan of Dutt's, refused to come and shake his hand, and when she finally did, burst into tears and fled. Sanjay Dutt smiled, as if this happened all the time.


When I had just moved to Bombay, in 1995, a rich friend from Surat took me to lunch at an expensive restaurant in the Sun 'N Sand hotel, located in the suburb of Juhu. We were hunched over soup when the room fell silent. I turned around to see what was happening, and two very tall men were leaving the restaurant. They wore off-white shirts and trousers. It was Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek. They had been eating at a table in a corner, and those around them did not disturb their meal, which I thought was civilised. It wouldn't have happened in other cities, certainly not in Surat.


The restaurant that I go to most often with clients is Royal China, in Bandra, the suburb of Bombay where I also live. It is quite a nice place, and serves dim sum, the steamed dumplings that Chinese eat for breakfast or tea but the rest of the world eats at lunch (Bombay even eats them for supper). Royal China is always full of Bollywood actors and this year alone I have seen Kareena Kapoor (tiny, white), her sister Karisma (dazzling), Lara Dutta (pudgy, unimpressive) and Deepika Padukone (statuesque and excellent body).


One afternoon, my father was visiting and I had taken him to Royal China for lunch. He's quite alert and when we entered, he noticed Asha Bhosle at another table. We sat down and were talking about something, but he seemed distracted. Then he excused himself and got up. I was terrified to see him striding straight towards her. I hid behind my mobile phone, and when a few minutes had passed, I glanced again and they were still talking. He was standing and moving his hands about expansively and she was smiling at him. When he returned to the table, I wanted to snap at him saying he mustn't do such things in Bombay. But he was so pleased with himself that I didn't.


On a visit to Pakistan once, by some strange coincidence, I kept bumping into Zaheer Abbas. We met three times, twice at airports, waiting by the luggage conveyor. I would walk up to him (not many recognised him) and shake his hand and introduce myself: "We met in Islamabad" or "We met only day before yesterday in Multan!" He was very gallant and said: "Of course, of course" though I don't think he remembered at all.


On another visit, I was taken by a friend in Lahore to Yusuf Salli's famous haveli in the old city. We got there late, and there were no famous people there (or at least none that I recognised). There were some beautiful women, as there are at all gatherings in Lahore. The refreshment was fine and soon I was in a good mood. I walked around the haveli imagining what it would be like to live there (difficult, because the architecture is old-style and uncomfortable).

There are some rare photographs on the walls, including some of Allama Iqbal, whose grandson Salli is. There was also a photograph of Altaf Hussain Hali. I had just started to read Urdu then and began to show off by reciting the opening lines of the Musaddas: "Pasti ka koi hadd se guzarna dekhe, Islam ka gir na ubhar na dekhe, maane na kabhi ke madd hai har jazar ke baad, darya ka hamarey jo utarna dekhe. Kisi ne Buqraat se poocha..."

But the women weren't interested, and I don't think anyone around knew Hali or cared about what he had written.

Another time when my showing off embarrassed me a little was when Bollywood's great poet Gulzar, whose real name is Sampooran Singh, visited the office of the Gujarati newspaper I was working for in Ahmedabad. He came to where I was sitting and noticed the poem I had pinned to the wall. It was Habib Jalib's angry slogan: Aise dastoor ko, subh-e-benoor ko, main nahin maanta, main nahin jaanta. Gulzar smiled. I was eager to explain. "Jalib," I said. "Pata hai," he said, and sat down. He is the most elegant and natural famous person I have met. He skipped the Academy Awards ceremony, where he won an Oscar for writing Jai Ho, because he didn't want to miss his 7 am tennis practice at Bandra Gymkhana. I visited his house once, which is quite close to mine, and asked him about his days growing up in Jhelum, and he remembered them warmly. I asked him if he had ever visited Pakistan. He said he hadn't. I asked him why. "What's the point?" he asked, "it won't be as I remember it."


A man who also moved during Partition but is more angry about it is L K Advani, whom I met when I was on the Editors Guild. He was taller than I thought he would be, and fairer. His handshake was soft, but that might be because he has to shake many hands through the day.


Perhaps 10 years ago, I went to the annual event of the CEAT cricket ratings. I was taken by my colleague Clayton Murzello, the sports editor at the Mid Day newspaper, a job he still holds. We had to put the paper to bed first, and by time we came dinner had already been served. I noticed Gavaskar standing by himself at the buffet with his plate. He saw us passing by and reached out to grab Clayton, who is a very large man. "Do Azhar," Gavaskar demanded. Clayton, who is also a very shy man, tried to wriggle away but Gavaskar held on to his shoulder. "Chal, do Sachin then," Gavaskar said. Clayton giggled and looked away. I was in shock and stood motionless. Then Dilip Vengsarkar strolled over, plate in hand, and wanted to know in Marathi what was going on. Gavaskar told him. Vensarkar was stern: "Do Azhar now!"


Clayton conceded. He composed himself and began to mime Azharuddin's after-match comments, earnest and banal. Then he did Sachin Tendulkar, and then others. Soon both Gavaskar and Vengsarkar were doubled over in laughter, putting their plates aside and wiping tears from their eyes. This is when I realised that Clayton was a first-rate mime. Actually I realised this later when I observed him, rather than two batting legends acting like 11-year-olds, giving each other high-fives, and missing.


I think the person Clayton does best is Javed Miandad, who refers to Clayton as 'Clinton' in his nasal voice. He also does Kapil Dev really well, and Kapil, a Jat from Haryana, refers to Clayton always as "James", perhaps because it's the only Christian name he can remember.


Mid Day's anniversary falls on June 27, and this year I have again been invited to the party by its outgoing owners, the Ansaris. A few celebrities will show up and I am wondering whether I should go. I always consume more than I should at that party, which is a brunch, and then make an ass of myself. The party is always held on the rooftop of the Oberoi hotel with its sweeping view of the sea. Once I was at the bar waiting for a refill when Ravi Shastri was next to me. "Where's Clayton?" he asked. "Probably not invited," I quipped. Shastri was puzzled. "Only editors are called," I explained. Shastri was disgusted that someone like Clayton be left out because of hierarchy, and sometimes the real celebrities are around us.


The writer is a director with Hill Road Media in Bombay. Email: aakar@hillroadmedia.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

 

ON CONSENSUAL ISLAM

ARSHAD ZAMAN


There is a quality to Ayaz Amir's columns--wise, without being pretentious, with a seriousness wrapped in laughter--that can only be admired. Yet in the seductive laughter of his columns there can on rare occasions be ideas and recommendations that can provide fodder to a demagogue.


In a recent column (The News, June 11), Ayaz Amir recommends that: "Public opinion must be educated into demanding that if it is Islam we want it should be consensual Islam, not Zia's self-serving version which has deformed our laws and created our restricted society." But there is no compulsion in Islam (al-Baqara, 256); so "consensual" here must mean "by consensus" rather than "by consent." If so then, Zia-ul-Haq apart, this recommendation blends an authoritarian liberalism with an anti-authoritarian view of Islam that may not be faithful to either liberalism or Islam.


From a purely secular liberal viewpoint, the phrase "public opinion must be educated" is alarming for it opens the door to, if not encourages, an authoritarianism that encompasses fascism. Is this not, after all, what the Jamaat-e-Islami or--the bête noire du jour--the "Taliban" are accused of, albeit with a different Educator? What is the "War on Terror" if not a project to "educate" public opinion in the Muslim world? The liberal position, surely, must be that propaganda and war--the "education" of public opinion--is not an appropriate activity for government (at least on its own citizens).


What then of education proper? Surely, the government must determine the content of school curricula? Certainly, but before we advocate doing this consensually, in a democratic fashion, let us recall that in 1897 the Indiana General Assembly sought--but mercifully, failed--to pass a bill to establish scientific truths, including changing the value of the mathematical constant pi (the circumference/diameter ratio) to 3, by legislative fiat. Mathematics, clearly, should be left to Mathematicians and not settled by an Act of Parliament. Also, we all agree that the most cherished values of a people--like Basic Rights--must be protected from parliamentary consensus.

If consensus on the interpretation of Nature (the "text" of science) must mean the consensus not of parliament but of scientists (from the Latin, scientia, knowledge, or 'ilm; hence scientists, 'ulama), then the same must apply to consensus on the interpretation of Revealed texts. We are led thus, by force of logic, to the classical Muslim view: Islam is defined by the ijma' (consensus) of the `ulama (scholars). In the classical view, this consensus--more correctly, these consensual viewpoints, since multiple opinions are perfectly admissible and common--is then put to the test of popular acceptability by the practice of the Muslim nation (umma) over time, the final arbiter of scholarly differences.


Islam, then, is "consensual Islam" (the adjective is superfluous), as long as this consensus is understood in a far more nuanced manner than in parliamentary democracies in the West. In England, by a decision of the Privy Council, with two Archbishops dissenting, belief in hell ceased to be a part of (Anglican) Christianity, through an Act of Parliament. This kind of consensual Islam--better called, parliamentary Islam--is unlikely to be acceptable to most Muslims. This, historically, has posed an insurmountable problem to the project of transplanting English legal and political traditions to colonised--and post-colonial "independent"--Muslim societies.

Since this involves nothing less than re-imagining Islam in the light of Western Reason, let us remind ourselves both of the undisputed Christian antecedents of Western Reason, and of certain empirical differences in the careers of Christianity and Islam that create pitfalls in treating the two as essentially similar. Since the first are well known, let us confine ourselves--with all the dangers that a superficial treatment of a weighty subject involves--to noting four differences between Christianity and Islam that bear on our concerns. First, Muslims hold the Quran to be the literal word of God, while the Bible (New Testament) consists of accounts of the apostles, comparable to the Hadiths. Second, the Quran and the Hadiths are rich in legal texts, which are notable by their absence from the Bible.


Third, unlike the text of the Quran, there is no agreed text of the Bible: a distinguished graduate of the Princeton Theological Seminary, Professor Bart D Ehrman puts it this way: "…we don't have the originals... Moreover, the vast majority of Christians for the entire history of the church have not had access to the originals... Not only do we not have the originals, we don't have the first copies of the originals. We don't even have copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies of the copies of the originals… Possibly it is easiest to put it in comparative terms: there are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament."

Fourth, there is no Church or clergy--against which the philosophes of the European Enlightenment railed-- in Islam. The `ulama are scholars, working as individuals in their private capacity, and do not constitute a corporate order like the Church, in struggle with which the European State emerged. The birth of all modern ideas--including those on law and politics--was in reaction to the scandalous excesses of the Catholic Church. In reaction to these, there was a re-birth (renaissance) of secular society and an unsuccessful re-formation of Christianity that was consolidated under the light of scientific reason (the Enlightenment) in which the Church and the Bible were displaced from the political sphere, that was to be secular, rational, and consensual (in a populist sense).


In other words, the nature of the Bible--which even the Church claimed was inspired, not revealed, which had few do's and don'ts, and whose text itself could not withstand the scrutiny of internal (German) Biblical Criticism--allowed Christian-Modern parliaments to establish near exclusive rights over the making of laws, and to confine politics to secular concerns. The existence of the Church (or churches) facilitated negotiations between the King (or, the State) and the accepted guardians of Christianity, and lent legitimacy and finality to the compromises reached.


These conditions simply do not exist in Islam and among Muslims. That is why the solution does not lie in one party "educating"--by budgetary allocations or military action--the other, but in working out a way to live with irreconcilable differences. The body politic must accommodate the Mulla and the Jentelman, without one seeking to eliminate the other. In this, arguably perhaps, Muslim history may be a better guide than Christian-Modern history. As Allama Iqbal had put it, neither Mustafa (Kemal Pasha) nor Reza Shah (I) display it, for the Spirit of the East searches for a Body, anon (with apologies for the horrible translation).


The writer blogs at afpakwar.com

Email: arshadzaman@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CAPITAL SUGGESTION

DR FARRUKH SALEEM


There's good news and there's bad news. The first piece of good news is that our public debt, internal plus external, which stood at 79.8 per cent of our GDP in FY-2002, has now come down to 55.5 per cent of GDP. Second, our external debt and liabilities, which stood at 36 per cent of our GDP in FY-2004, have come down to 30 per cent of GDP. Third, per capita income has gone up from $669 in 2003-04 to $1,046 in 2008-09; a healthy 56 per cent jump over five years.


To be certain, our government has been taking on additional debt -- both external as well as internal -- but the rate of economic growth, over the past decade, has actually been faster than the rate of debt growth. As a consequence, accumulated debt as a percentage of GDP came down -- rather sharply so.


To be sure, between 1997 and 2001 almost all our macroeconomic indicators had sunk down into the pit. In 2000-01, GDP, for instance, recorded a measly growth of two per cent. The following year GDP grew by 3.1 per cent and then 4.7 per cent in 2002-03, 7.5 per cent in 2003-04 and finally peaked out at nine percent in 2004-05 (the year that Pakistan recorded the 2nd highest GDP growth on the face of the planet).


Now, the bad news. Debt grew the fastest when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister. Debt, as a percentage of GDP, shrunk the fastest when General Musharraf was at the helm of affairs. Our external debt and liabilities, as a percentage of GDP, shrank for at least four years starting 2004 and bottoming out in 2008. Since 2008, the curve has once again turned in the wrong direction -- and that too rather steeply (between 2008 and 2009, external debt alone has gone up by a dreadful $3 billion, or $8 million dollars a day).


As far as public debt is concerned, things are not as bad as they were ten years ago. As far as external debt is concerned, things are much more manageable now than they were ten years ago. But, if all the additional debt that has been taken on over the past year is any indication then things are heading down the gutter faster than an iron ball through a pool of water.


Public debt is both good and bad. Most -- if not all -- governments need debt to fill their financing gaps and to meet their developmental objectives. If debt is used to increase productive capacity then debt accelerates economic growth -- the good part. If debt, on the other hand, is mismanaged then it increases interest rates, scares away investors and impedes economic growth.


In short, our current public debt scenario isn't all that bad. Pakistan's public debt at 55 per cent of GDP actually compares favourably with India's 58 per cent of GDP and Sri Lanka's 78 per cent of GDP. At the other end of the spectrum are countries like Russia at 6.8 per cent of GDP, Hong Kong at 14.5 per cent and China at 15 per cent. So we have both good as well as bad news but the problem is that 'good news crawls on its belly while bad news has wings'.


The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

A BONFIRE OF OUR DEGREES

GHAZI SALAHUDDIN


One headline in an English daily on Friday says, "Sorry, the MPA is not a graduate". It is related to a report submitted to the Lahore High Court by the University of Sindh, with reference to the disputed degree of a Punjab Assembly member of the PML-N.


But this, certainly, is not an exceptional news item. There are so many of them – more than we had initially suspected. On a day when the attendance in a legislature is very poor, not so unusual though it is, the members who hold fake degrees may even win a vote of confidence.


According to one report, the Election Commission has sent degrees of 228 lawmakers to the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Education for their onward transmission to the Higher Education Commission for verification. Our lawmakers number 1,170. With this percentage of suspicion about their degrees, what was the Election Commission doing when nomination papers for the 2008 Election were filed?


We have had some cases of resignations from the legislature on this basis, including the examples of how the same person is given the party ticket for the re-election, since the condition for a candidate to be a graduate is not there any more. There is a report in The News that an election tribunal of the Lahore High Court imposed a fine of Rs10,000 on a PML-N MNA Rohail Asghar for wasting the court's time. Yes, the case relates to a fake degree.

So much so that Nawaz Sharif, the quaid of his faction of the Muslim League, was forced to say that members of assemblies holding fake degrees should resign from their seats forthwith, otherwise they would have to lose their party membership as well. Does this also mean that this is finally being taken as a moral issue and an attempt is being made to improve the image and the credibility of the political class?


Incidentally, younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, who is seen as a doer in politics, was also constrained to refer to this issue. In a recent statement, he said something to the effect that yes, it was wrong to contest election on the basis of a fake degree, but this crime was not greater than the break-up of the country or the ill-advised assault on Kargil.


Think again. Irrespective of the level of crime that submitting a fake degree to the Election Commission is considered, the very act of lying may be equated with perjury. And perjury is something that is never excused in countries where some political traditions are honoured. When a politician is caught at it, his or her career is almost finished.


Besides, this is very obviously a moral issue. If you are not a person of good character and if you are willing to commit an act of forgery that must be known to a group of people, you can stoop to any level for power and privilege. Remember that adage, "The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton". What does this mean? Can we not say that we lost Dhaka because our politicians lacked character and moral values?


It is true that a politician does not need to be a graduate to be elected to an assembly and to function properly as its member. But in a larger sense, it is necessary for members of our assemblies to be intelligent and capable of an insightful discourse on issues that come up for discussion in a legislature. On this account, too, the credentials of our elected politicians are very deficient.

We do have some very gifted and credible members in our legislatures. But the majority would seem to belong to low graders in any educational institution. How they behave is also not a good promotion of the playing fields of their schools. If you watch television news and read your newspapers – readers of newspapers being in a frightful minority – you know what has been happening.


One more headline for you: "Fozia Behram slaps Sajida Meer". Both of them, incidentally, are MPAs of the Pakistan People's Party in the Punjab Assembly. This incident happened in the lobby of the assembly building. One of them is reported to have threatened the other with this remark: "My driver has already killed seventeen people…"

Leaving such aberrations aside, the overall quality of debate in our legislatures remains very poor. We have just had budget sessions in the parliament and provincial assemblies. It is interesting how they scurried around the subject. One headline: "Kalabagh issue turns the house into a fish market". Another headline: "Punjab Assembly, never a dull moment". One of the things the paper found amusing was a suggestion from a PPP member that the speaker's chair should be washed since dictator Zia had once sat on it.


In the midst of all this, we do have some dire warnings from some of our legislators about the gravity of the present drift. For instance, there was this quote by the PPP's respected senator, Raza Rabbani, who said, "I sense a bloody revolution coming that will eliminate the country's elite".


When and if this revolution comes, will it still find our elected politicians fighting it out with their opponents on talk shows? I think that the impression our lawmakers are projecting on talk shows is greatly detrimental to their credibility in the eyes of the ordinary people. The real pity is that in spite of all these shows on every news channel, though the pool of participants remains stagnant, the regular viewers of the channels do not get any wiser about the national state of affairs. On the contrary, confusion about who is doing what – and saying what – continues to deepen.


This, in fact, is my lament. Democracy, if we know what it means, should have the capacity to generate a high level of dialogue not just within the legislature but in society as such. We do not have that environment. Intolerance that is also bred by the official patronage of religious extremism is surely a major problem. But we also refuse to be rational and knowledgeable in areas in which it is safe to argue one's case.

 

Frankly, I have chosen the fake degrees of our lawmakers as a peg for this column to be able to stress, one more time, the moral and intellectual deprivations of our society. A budget relates to material things, to money. But no amount of financial resources can compensate for the lack of fundamental human values and intellectual as well as cultural reserves of a society. There is no IMF anywhere in the world to bail us out in this respect. Unfortunately, so many of our educational institutions, even when they award legitimate degrees, are not able to teach us to think.


The writer is a staff member

Email:ghazi_salahuddin@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

OVER THE TOP

MASOOD HASAN


Why is just about everyone going about the countryside with hanging faces? Now what's wrong as the prime minister is bound to ask sooner or later? What's the point of dragging your feet, particularly when you are not wearing shoes? There's simply no percentage in it. Ask Dr Hafeez, the newest thing to hit us since the iPad.

The Mercs are hissing, the BMWs are purring and the corporate jets are shimmering. Pakistan under the dynamic leadership of President Zardari, a man whom nobody has seen for two years including his valet (some say actually President Zardari hasn't seen himself either for two years), is forging ahead. We don't know where exactly is it forging but it is ahead. Another budget has been successfully passed. Since this one is totally pro-poor, ('this one's for you, babe,' said Dr Hafeez as he passed the budget on his way to that ugly building), the masses are dancing in the aisles and roosters led by Junaid Jamshed who discovered Islam in a dark alley and belting out the national anthem every morning. Jamshed Dasti is the new flavour of the month and the ultimate role model for all future generations. All he now needs is Ammar Belal to dress him and Tariq Amin to give him a makeover and he is made.


The foreign minister – no it is not Yousuf Raza Gilani, who, let me remind you, is the prime minister, divides his time wisely between kissing velvet-coated shrines in ye olde hot and dusty Multan and toasting Hillary Clinton in foreign lands. Taxation is in, power is out, lawlessness is thriving and the open season on Ahmedis is still far from over. The Hunza lake is driving everyone up the wall except they forgot to build a wall. When it breaks it will destroy many things but these will not include the top guys who slept while the situation deteriorated and are now running like headless chickens. They will all get promotions and be on the 23rd March and 14th August list of the medal marathon. Only the poor will perish but they are expendable in Hunza as indeed they are in the rest of this country which is heavily favoured by the Lord.


As people have learnt, all leaders here are patriotic and dynamic, as always, all state banquets are simple yet impressive, all pronouncements issued from the capital are auspicious yet far reaching and all foreign tours are important and resounding successes. Captain Crook, ball-devouring Sahibzada Shahid Afridi has successfully led Pakistan to another defeat and bloody Shoaib Akhtar has actually bowled ten overs with increasing difficulty in many short shifts and taken three wickets – true, two of them hapless tailenders. They should induct him in the weight-lifting squad and spare us more embarrassment but Ijaz Butt has lost his marbles and cannot locate them for love or money.


Our hardworking – no rest for the wicked, sorry pure, leaders led by the prime minister have successfully sorted out complicated problems of the erring west and gone to all corners of the globe to tell the world how to run their countries, manage their finances and guide their governments while maintaining the same vision as Mother Teresa. We have not shied away from such dead end places like Brussels (not a fun place unless you are into sprouts), and Bonn, to name two dreary hole-in-the-ground spots and ploughed our way there, through rain, snow, hail and all kinds of shit, to take the podium and in a language that sometimes sounds like English, held forth and shown the world.


What we have shown we are not exactly clear but it did draw a gasp from the audiences. Give our boys any topic and they will tell you what you need to do. There has been some mild criticism of the prime minister spending too many euros on limos and he has rightfully decided that henceforth it would be more sensible and in the larger interests of Pakistan, particularly the poor, to simply purchase half a dozen limos and place them in every capital of the world. It's a good investment and as for the limo-rental crocodiles, they can go skin someone else like the Arabs.


I am more and more convinced that Pakistan is not only the citadel of Islam (why aren't dates our national fruit?) but also the world's most unique welfare state. Look at the amount of welfare this country offers to all who live here. Take our constitution – well that is an unfortunate turn of phrase because it has already been taken so many times. What miracles haven't we performed with it? While others, obviously less brainy than us, drafted their constitutions, had these typed up, bound and put away safe from termites, dictators and silverfish, we kept ours open for visitor's comments and by golly we got them all the time.


Today our constitution resembles my Algebra copy of class 8. Hopelessly gifted as I was, I could not for the life of me understand what good could Algebra do to mankind, a position I happily maintain. Thus my copy was a mass of cuttings, entire lines scratched out and too much gibberish on the margins for anyone to make any sense of. The great constitution looks the same and I have a lurking suspicion it might be after all my long lost Algebra copy. We have thankfully or as Captain Crook Afridi would say, 'Thanks be to Allah,' not given it a revered status but invited everyone to freely make changes in it, the only proviso being that you should not have read a word of it.


So governments of the day and night and nameless legislators played games with it, each one building-in self-serving insurance policies into the wretched document so that no one could catch the men who made Pakistan everything except 'Pak'. Self-preservation is an important asset here particularly if we are shady. Dictators – all Pakistanis love guys with guns, who had not read more than, 'left, right, left, right. Halt'– made changes as if they were ordained to do so and sent to earth for this great task. President Ziaul Haq, loved to distraction by the people, strutted about the national stage, and dismissed the constitution as a scrap of paper he could tear anytime. We gave the freedom of choice to everyone to do as they pleased. Wags maintain that the real constitution is in tatters and can be found in Toba Tek Singh.


Taxes, the bane of everyone's life, do not exist here. No one pays taxes. It is against the law. The president has no income, so he cannot pay taxes anyway. Everyone who is anyone is a farmer. They have no income and they never tax agriculture, so they don't rightly pay any taxes. Most don't even own a car. The army fat, portly and unable to do much more than pore over property maps, is beyond taxes. If at all they pay taxes these probably go back to their welfare setups and back to them again. Your right hand knowing what your left is doing.


And you can break all traffic laws. Simply put a green plate on your car, add golden letters and place a name plate that says, 'MNA,' 'MPA,' 'Senator' or even 'Zilla Councillor'. You are instantly untouchable. Those who break the laws are never punished because a good welfare state does not punish its people, so whether it is siphoning off billions, defaulting on bank loans, selling family silver for a song, pocketing monstrous commissions, this good country will not arrest you. Every good Paki knows this golden rule. Now so do their offspring. Hallelujah.


The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: masoodhasan66@gmail.com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

HAFEEZ TALKS OF RISKY FUTURE

 

FINANCE Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh has warned that the country's economic situation is grave and if we do not rise above political interests, the future of our nation shall be at risk. Winding up the discussion on the budgetary proposals for the next year in the Senate on Friday, the Minister said, "he can understand the mood of the nation to gain self-reliance but we cannot reach the goal without participation of all stakeholders."

There is no denying the fact that with the passage of time the down-slide in different walks of life and especially the economy is becoming more vivid and that is why Dr Hafeez Sheikh deserves the credit for raising the alarm bell. The facts explained by the Minister are known to everybody but even then his observation is quite relevant and timely as it comes from an official having deep inside of the actual situation. This realisation is good but the question arises whether or not actions are being taken to stem the rot. Dr Hafeez Sheikh made similar candid remarks during his budget speech but the budgetary proposals for the next financial year do not fully reflect his thinking or philosophy, may be because he assumed charge of the Finance Ministry only recently or due to pressure from the powerful lobbies. When the Minister talks about participation of all stakeholders then it necessarily means that the privileged sections of the society especially those who have not so far paid their due taxes should be brought into the tax net. It is painful that the agricultural income is still exempt from income tax, rather big landlords earning millions are getting subsidies on fertilizers and tractors. The Minister has called for adoption of austerity measures but instead non-development expenditure has been increased and the budget contains no meaningful move to bring down administrative expenses. He is also advising cut in borrowings but we obtained record loans from the IMF during the last two years and are still poised to get more. There is phenomenal increase in remittances by overseas Pakistanis and foreign aid has also increased significantly following passage of Kerry-Lugar Bill yet despite that we are resorting to more and more borrowing, which shows that there is something seriously wrong with our expenditure. Anyhow, so far we concentrated more on politics but one hopes a professional like Dr Sheikh would focus on economy and come out with innovative ideas to make a difference

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

RECOVERY OF PLUNDERED WEALTH

 

WHILE hearing a suo motu case of the written off loans, the Supreme Court Friday expressed its resolve to recover each penny of the plundered national wealth. For this purpose the apex court has ordered the State Bank of Pakistan to provide the list of waived off loans from 1971 to date so as to enable it to proceed ahead.

The issue of massive corruption through getting loans written off had been agitating the minds of the people and successive Governments had resolved in the past to recover such loans but nothing came out of that as the defaulters were well connected people and exercised their influence to dump the issue under the carpet. Though it would be difficult to deal with thousands of cases, as old as forty years and many of those who got the loans from banks might have expired, yet recovery of billions of rupees of defaulted loans would be a great service to the debt ridden country and its poor people. According to details provided by the State Bank to the Supreme Court Rs 256.665 billion loans had been written off from 1971 to 2009. We think the present independent judiciary can make a breakthrough, as the defaulters are well aware that the apex court would not spare the wrong-doers. The Chief Justice has rightly observed that the court would be calling all those people to pay back the loans otherwise criminal cases would be registered against them. To deal with the matter, the apex court may consider evolving a mechanism for speedy disposal of these cases because those involved would come out with many excuses to save their skin. In the first instance, their bank accounts could be frozen and assets placed under the jurisdiction of courts so that they should also feel the pain. It is also necessary that the defaulters should not only be made to repay the original loans but cumulative interest and reasonable amount of fine as well so that the losses suffered by financial institutions and the people are fully recovered.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DANGER OF DERAILMENT OF DEMOCRACY

 

A PANEL of experts at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies at Washington has come out with a gloomy picture with regard to future of democracy in Pakistan. It has observed that the future of democracy in Pakistan and whether it survives the next ten years is not certain.


Despite shortcomings of various sorts, there is consensus in Pakistan that the Government should complete its five-year mandated term and there should be no derailment or intervention in the system. This shows that people have learnt lesson from the past but one cannot rule out the possibility of such an unfortunate development if steps are not taken to check effectively the increasing disenchantment of the people with the prevailing situation. This state of affairs, one may point out, is the product of the Government's own follies and failures as instead of focusing on delivering to the people it invited unnecessary troubles and crises and opened different fronts, at times giving an impression as if the system was on the verge of collapse. There is nothing of the sort of governance and people have started openly asking question whether Pakistan should be first or democracy should be first. It is perhaps in this perspective that the panel of experts at the FDD expressed pessimism about the future of democracy, which would give further fillip to the already disgruntled elements in Pakistan. There is nothing wrong with the system as the democracy is effectively delivering in majority of States but here those at the helm of affairs are more centred on self-interests than improving the lot of the people. Corruption is rampant and good governance is nowhere to be seen. It is time that all political parties especially those having stakes in the present set-up would listen to this and similar other warnings and take steps to improve governance, which is the only guarantee against any outside intervention.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

THE ECONOMY IS BLEEDING

DR ZAFAR ALTAF

 

If any economy is hemorrhaging it is Pakistan's. It is always so after the rape that the tyrannical governments create in the economy. Their power of killing puts them in the driving seat. They come with one agenda that Pakistan is going to disintegrate and they are the only ones that come in to save for a few months and then they stay on for over ten years till the cup is full of their perverted integrity and then they seek the favors of the west who are only too pleased to provide this kind of support and since these guys are infants of civil management whatever the west tells them they do. Poodles!! The west sweetens their actions by some expenditure and the net result has been their ability to destroy management fabrics build and evolved over centuries. Instead of invigorating these institutions built over years of experience they destroy it. With it they have destroyed the very strength of this organization. Now the policemen that I have spoken to speak of the tremendous pressure o them and the result is excessive pressure.


I am speaking of the role of the district officers who had broadly three hats and anything else that the government wanted them to do. As deputy Commissioner the district officer was responsible for the executive authority of the governments. As District magistrate he was responsible for the criminal procedures to keep the area of his responsibility under governance. As collector he was to work on the agrarian system and to do so under an administration of the rural economy and as an appellant authority worked the rights of the rural economy. Who does what now? Whenever there was a problem they were to take the issue without waiting for the directions from anywhere. I used to tell the industrialist that they will have to suffer the consequences of their diatribe against any one that tried to regulate them. They can have the outputs of their inputs. So the social system will ensure that the fear will be in the system. I have besides this looking at the economy and the players that have prostituted the system. Talk of the land mafia but where was this started and who was responsible for this? Come on was it not the uniformed and did they not pervert all the rules of the game. One, two, three ad infinite and so on in terms of allowing the rules to be stretched and to do badly by the country and its people. I have to preserve my unborn grand child and ensure that they are well looked after. The result almost 3 million hectare of land went away from agriculture and to land mafia for creating riches and greed in the system. Every time some one tried to manage the system he was downed by the corrupt practices of the powerful.


There is a more serious position that requires action. The economy has been under pressure by the commodity expenditures and these flows from policy issues on the price support system. The wheat procured was so expensive that the amount under storage cost the country over 1 billion rupees per month. These economic stalks were dead stalks but once the management plays a public sector intervention then the end result is what I have mentioned. The requirement under strategic reserve is much less. This has to be calculated on the basis of two months or three months reserves in case of emergency.


The public corporate sector is another source of loss that the country cannot bear any more. The Pakistan steel mills, the Pakistan International airlines and all those sector in the public sector that are a source of weak management practices and do not earn anything from the sector. The private sector as the world knows is not available in Pakistan for these MNCS and local corporate sector can hardly be called private sector for they are in the habit of milking the government and this is quite obvious from the actions that have taken place. Any sector that one wants to see one will see subsidy to the corporate sector. These are not hidden subsidies. Blatantly demanded and blatantly supported by the institutions of the west. Unashamed of the actions that they do not support in their own country but since these actions help their own corporate sector milk the economy why not. These 'Frangis' are at the best as they are articulate and we do suffer from an inferiority complex.

If we do not stand on our own two feet why should the west have us do this. The imperialism based on economics is one of the worst that one can see and it is far worse then the physical presence for now they control our minds and determine a mind set. The recurring benefit that they take is any one's guess. The mind is now under pressure and the Atta Dur is responsible for this; this linking the mind development with the culture and the control of young minds by the west. The effects of their conveniences are so obvious that one wonders why no one sees this. If they do they are still not able to do anything as the scholarship is not given to the poor but to the rich. So do dead assets of natural resources they are also involved in the siphoning off the money assets for their relatives and themselves. Gone are the neutral days of education that the west was used to give to the east. The fault does not lay their but with us and our myopic actions. Such is the living Pakistan whose independence is a myth. ZAB said so in no uncertain terms. Why is it that our elites play the game of the west? I do not think that they are even aware of what they are doing otherwise so many of them would not be rushing for the green card from the USA or nationality of other developed countries.


Moneys will be paid to these institutions to send more of our young impressionable minds to these countries so that we are paid slaves of the west. When will this end? Never is a difficult word to accept. Who and how will it end? There is no short cut and there is a requirement of putting one's shoulder to the wheel. Is there a going philosophy that is available to the ordinary person? Can we build any one like the philosopher Iqbal? Do we have the ability to understand the likes of people who stay independent and take on the powers that be mentally and not physically? There is great doubt at the moment for the teaching class is not there. These teachers do not have wards as their responsibility. They are money making machines and the greed has got to them. As a result they are unable to take decisions, unable to muster courage, unable to have any convictions. It is above all the weaknesses in the human systems that have to be addressed and then we can go forward. Then and only then. The human element has been badly perverted. The 70% odd livings in the villages have no right to live and to seek the betterment of their sons and their daughters.


Sirs, madams I give you an inequitable Pakistan? How then can we survive? You may be left with a laments and that is not good enough for policies to be articulated. There is much to be done? There are convictions to build and there is servility to go? How? The meanness and the rapacity of the powerful is a known factor. The mountains have to be conquered and many rivers to cross so try buckling your systems. Next time it will be the white elephants of the agriculture sector and where they are lodged and how that has been done in and by whom. Do you know how to spend 80 lakhs of rupees in refurbishing a room? If not come to me I will send you to the right spot. Spend tax payer's money for conveniences bordering on the idiotic. There are important lessons as to what not to do. The meanness of giving jobs to parochial persons is to be deprecated. Take the case of any ministry and any attached department and you will realize how mean we have been. The poor will have to be part of the stakes of this country. I always have a laugh when the west tells us to have meeting with the stake holders? What and who are the real stake holders? I leave you with the thought.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

TIMES SQ, OPERATION NWA & CONSEQUENCES

IFTIKHAR BUTT

 

A peek at Pakistan-US romanticized picture of relationship in the recent past shows a sudden rupture. It was caused in a most uncouthed manner-the worst example of blatant violation of diplomatic norms and transgressing all moral and ethical peripheries. The traumatic words came from no other than American secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton who hurled threats at Pakistan a declared faithful and committed friend and a trusted frontline ally in the war on terror. This happen in a television interview after Time Square Faisal Shehzad bomb episode blown out of proportion by U.S. administration and its media and of course Pakistan Government's apologetic stance. She spewed, "If heaven forbid an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have successful "there would be very serious consequences".


Perhaps that was not enough to satiate her blood thirsty instinct. There was more to come, a series of challenges to Pakistan from U.S. Hillary's threats were followed by the arrival of CIA chief Leon Panetta and National Security Advisor James L Jones in Islamabad. They delivered U.S. President Barack Obama's pithy message for President Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani containing threats of Hillary's kind plus presumably a very very short time frame for a military thrust into North Waziristan.

The "consequences" have been further elaborated by Washington Post, a privileged newspaper who has weird access in White House, Pentagon, CIA and state department etc. The U.S. administration also obliges the Post with "scoops" when a "feeler" good or bad is to be sent to some country. Quoting reliable military sources it says U.S. is considering unilateral strikes on Pakistan in case of catastrophic attack coming from tribal areas on American soil because CIA operated drone strikes are not working. Air strikes would be most effective option to contain Al-Qaeda threat, telling the Post further that U.S. has to be watchful not to harm its military relationship with Pakistan.


Perhaps Obama's administration has forgotten that Pakistan is a sovereign state with a democratically elected government in place. The people of Pakistan are more aware, more conscious of their rights and security and fully differentiate between a real friend and an enemy in the guise of a friend. Perhaps Obama's administration is still under misconception that Musharraf's junta is still ruling. Bush's "friendship" policy with that quisling could be again revived. It needs to be mentioned here that U.S. efforts are already underway to install Musharraf as Prime Minister. The time will tell how the people of Pakistan react to U.S.'s new strategy to rehabilitate and reestablish Musharraf as their new agent who is suited to all their needs. Musharaf's ever ready yes sir to his patron's do more paid him well but it cost the nation's pride and independence.


US should not forget that Pakistan is not a vassal state. Its patriotic army is fully capable professionally to retaliate any strike from anywhere on its soil. Our tribal areas are under CIA operated drone attack since Musharraf days. Thousands of innocent people along with their hearths and homes have been annihilated. Drone attacks continue leaving behind scenes of terrible carnage. Enough is enough. It is high time the government reconsidered its overt and covert, old and new commitments and operations with U.S. and let it be known to the people of Pakistan. Pakistan's relations with U.S. have always been beset with latter's betrayals, double crossing, jetty and desertions. Post 9/11 a parvenu military dictator who had toppled a democratic government was at the helm. He got accomplished every wish every military mission of US and its allied forces. Black Water, its presence and weird movements were reported by media but Musharraf administration denied it all the time. The present government's big wigs are continuing their predecessors' policy of keeping the people in dark. The US has about 2 to 3 years old history of military strikes inside Pakistan. June 2008 was the time when NATO forces launched an attack inside Pakistan. They bombed Mohmand Agency where Pakistan army was present. Besides army personnel's casualties scores of innocent civilians were killed, angry public demonstrations followed. Pakistan protested to U.S. The fate of protest was obvious. Senator Carl Lavel who was chairman of U.S. armed services committee in a statement said Pakistan's sincerity is doubtful and allied forces present in Afghanistan should be allowed to strike inside Pakistan. To bring about peace Pakistan was concluding peace accords with local tribal leaders which American disapproved. America continues to express its openly that it did not trust Pakistan and its ISI. ISI, they say have, longstanding links with Taliban leaders who fled Afghanistan in 2001 and are in Baluchistan which is serving as a sanctuary for them. Pakistan's leaders may display over tolerance but people here hate U.S. and would not show any patience where this country's sovereignty is challenged. And this is not the first time Pakistan's sovereignty was breached. Like Obama predecessor Bush had also given carte blanche to his armed forces in Afghanistan to launch attacks inside Pakistan. The same policies are in place. It is time Pakistan quits US's war on terror, the war of American interests. Pakistan playing a fall guy has suffered unimaginable losses in terms of its innocent people, economy, peace, honour and lot more. And to "assuage" U.S. roles out peanuts to this country, exploiting at her all the way. Pakistan has become a play thing for American leaders.


On the other hand Pakistan arch enemy, India, is being wooed. After hurling threats to this country US assures India all help for Security Council membership. Hillary warns Pakistan that arms given to Pakistan by US would not be used against India. Britain and other European countries including India are the spitting images of US. They all foster a united front when it comes to Pakistan military leaders' good working relationship developed by Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani awfully irked India. ISI remains a most dreaded and scary agency for RAW, CIA, MOSAD covertly and jointly operating against Pakistan from their dens in Afghanistan. They have established their spawning grounds in the tribal areas. The eagle-eyed ISI is watchful and vigilant to contain these saboteurs' disruptive activities. Imagine a solo agency encountering internationally notorious monsters.


Be warned that Pakistani armed forces would be ever ready to retaliate any unilateral strike on its soil with people's complete confidence in their army and democratic government's full support no power on earth can infringe the sovereignty of Pakistan. Who knows after Dr. Aafia what is happening to Faisal, what psychological methods and physical pressure he is being subjected to for extracting "confessions". This seems to be a second chapter of 9/11 staged drama to continue Bush declared crusade. Iraq and its oil is completely under US control. They have yet to find access to Central Asia's wealth through Afghanistan and also Pakistani nukes which irk them most. But US is bound to be divested of its superpower title here when there will be Armageddon. A bully country will cease to exist.


—The writer is a Senior Journalist and formerly senior fellow IPRI.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

NEED TO TIE LOOSE ENDS!

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

 

Capacity limits of our lower courts have all along been recognised as a domain wanting qualitative strengthening. This coupled with inadequate facilities for scientific investigations and lacklustre prosecution methodologies have been the main factors responsible for the lawlessness and unenviable governance in our country. These inadequacies now haunt us in the face when we hear that most of the people indicted in heinous crimes go scot-free from our lower courts. Recent flurry of acquittals of alleged terrorists has once again brought fore our capacity (read incapacity) to investigate and try terrorism-related crimes under sharp focus.


Recently an Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC) has acquitted eleven persons accused of having involvement in different acts of terrorism as the prosecution could not present substantial evidence against them. In similar verdicts, at least 33 alleged terrorists have been released by ATCs, within the last couple of weeks, mostly because of lack of evidence. These alleged terrorists had undergone trial for nine suicide attacks carried out in twin cities during 2007-8. These incidents of terrorism accounted for loss of 150 innocent lives and a large number of those who were injured.


Out of the latest lot to be acquitted, six were charged with bombing Islamabad district courts and Aabpara market in July 2007. Prior to this, those tried for four suicide attacks on military targets in Rawalpindi, bomb attacks on Islamabad's Marriott Hotel and an attack on Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in December 2007, were also acquitted. It is alarming that some of the acquitted guys were later found involved in similar acts of terrorism else where. Irrespective of the matter whether the acquitted ones were innocent and wrongfully charged, or guilty but acquitted due to lack of evidence, our composite national inability to debilitate terrorists is rather frightening. If the acquitted were not guilty right from the outset, its speaks poor of law enforcing agencies who rounded up innocent people and made them undergo the agony of investigation and trial for the crimes they were never associated with. On the other hand, if they were guilty, it radiates out a portentous signal that the state is not serious about bringing the militants to book. Enhanced security alone is not enough to foil attacks unless the captured criminals are appropriately punished.


It is a reality that our investigating personnel and law administering officials were never trained to handle the sort of crimes which terrorists have come to commit since 2007. Correspondingly, infrastructure for requisite forensic support is also lagging behind. Criminals are ahead of investigators in terms of imagination and innovation. Scientific investigations lay the foundation stone for the prosecution to convince the courts through incontrovertible evidence. This inadequacy need to be made up through training and provision of requisite investigative tools compatible with the pattern of crimes.


As if field level shortcomings were not enough, a common man is terrified to learn that due to sheer negligence the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance 2010 has lapsed after completing its constitutional life. It means that umbrella legal cover to the amendments made in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 authorising the government to catch and try suspects involved in aiding and abetting terrorists is no longer available. This would further weaken the prosecution side to process a large number of pending cases. Legal experts opine that the demise of the ordinance has deprived the government of important powers under which it has been interrogating the arrested terrorism suspects and taking action against members of banned organisations. During the previous year the application of Anti-Terrorism Ordinance was extended to the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where security forces are dealing with a large number of such cases. It was under the lapsed ordinance that the government had acquired powers to keep persons arrested on terrorism charges in detention for 90 days without producing them before any court of law.

Likewise, courts had been deprived of powers to grant bail to a person accused of an offence under the terrorism act punishable with death or imprisonment for life or imprisonment exceeding ten years. Moreover, the government had obtained the powers to seize any FM radio station for broadcasting programmes glorifying terrorists or terrorist activities.


Lapsed ordinance had placed restrictions on banks and financial institutions on providing any loan facility or financial support or issuing credit cards to members of proscribed outfits. It also barred members of all banned organisation from obtaining passports and travelling abroad.


Another important aspect of the ordinance was cancellation of arms licences that had already been issued to members of banned organisations. It had also extended the scope of the anti-terrorism act to those individuals seen as intimidating or terrorising the public, social sectors, business community and preparing or attacking the civilians, government officials, installations, security forces or law enforcement agencies. Jurisdiction of the anti-terrorism courts had been extended to Islamabad Capital Territory as well. With the lapse of this ordinance, the internal component of our national efforts against terrorism stands handicapped. Time and again non confidence has been expressed by the public in the functioning or lower tiers of our judiciary. Mass acquittal of terrorists further reinforces this perception. Lower judiciary needs focused attention to improve the quality of their decision making processes. Over turning of decisions of lower courts by appellate courts should be taken as personal failure of respective lower court judges; there should be a criteria to link this aspect of professional performance with career progression of judges.


There is a need to undertake a comprehensive and thorough professional ground work for revamping of procedures and practices to put the judicial house in order, especially at ATC level. To enable the judicial system to prevent terrorism, a professional strategy needs to be evolved, whereby courts are presented with sufficient evidence for conviction. During these defining moments, it would be our collective failure towards a national cause if we cannot prosecute and punish the perpetrators to heinous crime out of sheer inefficiency, incapacity, inability and lack of will.


—The writer is a national security analyst & former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

ISRAEL'S TERRORISM

MUHAMMAD AZAM

 

The banditry committed by Tel Aviv on the peaceful Gaza aid flotilla on the high seas, in which 09 Turkish peace activists were killed and Scores from different nationalities were also injured seriously. Certainly; hearts of Pakistani people, are weeping along with the families of killed and injured as usual. It clearly shows that it was/is committed with US green signals. Coinciding with raid on Gaza; Israel has conducted her biggest ever savage exercise on peace flotilla for reminding the world that she was/is above the International Law [IL] and the Security Council's conscriptions. Israel was subjected to scathing criticism by the Security Council in response to the savage attack by Israeli coward army on a civilian flotilla which was trying to breach her Gaza blockade upto some extent. This is called terrorism. And, also, what is going-on in occupied Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iraq? Note it claimer of international peace.


Turkey had proposed a statement that would condemn Tel Aviv for violating IL. She, also, demanded a UN investigation against those responsible for the piracy and pay compensation to the victim families. It also called for the end of the blockade of Gaza. But, attempts of Ankara to issue a formal condemnation were stalled when Washington rejected the strong-worded move – this shows clear-cut involvement of Uncle Sam in this terrorism against Muslim Ummah.

 

Administration in Washington refused to endorse a statement that singled out Israel, and proposed a broader censure of the violence that would include the assault of the Israeli commandos as they landed on the deck of Turkish civilian ship. The US was virtually become alone in the world for her embarrassingly mild rebuke to Israel. After unilateral support by US; Tel Aviv, dared to reject calls from the UN and others for an "International Investigation" of her none-sense raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla of the civilized world. The massacre of nine Turkish civilians aboard the flotilla, loaded with humanitarian aid, is the latest chapter in a long record of Israeli state terrorism, which is emblematic of the criminality that increasingly trying to dominate world affairs. Though denunciation of Israel in the Security Council is not uncommon yet; scathing criticism at the emergency session by Turkey and Lebanon was notable for both its forcefulness and for the broad array of countries demanding an independent investigation into the decision for firing on civilians, who were on humanitarian mission – this is called terrorism, try to understand Uncle Sam and her followers. Turkish Foreign Minister called the attack of her "fast friend" as tantamount to banditry, piracy and a murder conducted by a state. Turkey's once close relations with Israel are markedly deteriorating since Israel's invasion of Gaza in 2008.

The world witnessed that in October 1985, four members of the Palestinian Liberation Front [PLF] had hijacked Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro sailing from Alexandria to Port Said. It was a slipshod operation in which the hijackers killed a disabled American Jewish passenger Leon Klingh offer and threw his body overboard. This single incident had created headlines around the world and polarized people over the Palestinian cause, and prompted the lawmakers to enact new legislation making it an International Crime for anyone to take a ship by force. In the present incident when Israel had killed nine Turkish passengers [plus] ship hijacked with all the passengers as hostage. Tel Aviv with the help of solely US rejected, even, the UN calls for International investigation making a mockery of Article 3 of the 1988 Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation.


The world should awake now really against these terrorist "States" for establishing peace on this planet. It is an International Crime [IC] according to Rome Convention to seize or exercise control over a civilian ship by force and to injure or kill any human beings. The Treaty inked clearly one cannot attack a ship and then claim self-defense; if the people on board resist the unlawful use of violence. In other words, according to International Law [IL] the actions of the Israeli commandos were beyond the law and those responsible should not be treated differently than the Somali pirates who are also in the habit of boarding ships by force. Massacring about nine Turkish and injuring scores more, the international reaction was prompt and devastating naturally against Israel – a State whose nuclear arsenal is packed with 200 atoms small and large. Even than US, UK and their coterie are silent over it and instead imposed a fourth round of sanctions on a Muslim county – Iran – which is trying to enrich uranium for peaceful energy purposes. And, this is right of every State, honestly writing. Why is Israel allowed to get away with arson and loot, world should reply? In a premeditated attack, Tel Aviv showed once again disdain to human life and International Law openly. At least Washington owes a strongest explanation to the UN over her support to a Terrorist State for flagrant violations of IL and treaties.


The peaceful flotilla was not carrying lethal arms; it was only carrying bags of cement, electric wheelchairs, toys, medicines and water purifiers for the beleaguered Gaza citizens. They were not Hizb'Allah fighters from Lebanon who had come to maul the so-called brave Israeli army. Either Israeli soldiers fight like a bunch of old women - which Hizb'Allah says they do – or; they intended to massacre those on board to make sure that no other peace activists get involved in trying to help the Palestinian citizens of Gaza held hostage by Israel. Once again Israel will pay a heavy diplomatic price that can not be considered ahead of time. Again, the Israeli propaganda machines have managed to convince the brainwashed Israelis, and once more no one asked the question; what was it for? Why were the soldiers thrown into the trap of pipes and ball bearings and what did they get out of it? And what did they have instead? A country that is rapidly becoming embodiment of isolation; a place that turns away intellectuals shoots peace activists and cuts off Gaza and reduces it to a concentration camp. Lo and behold, Israel now finds herself in an international blockade.


It is not for the first time that Israel is increasingly breaking away from the mother-ship and losing touch with the world, which does not accept her actions. There is no one around the world, not a newsman or an analyst, other than her conscripted chorus, who could utter a good word about the lethal attack on the "Peace Flotilla." It is time to return the keys to their rightful owners of the Israeli State – the world knows very well, UK especially. Most importantly, it was/is a turning point; the curtain has been ripped away. The world will no longer accept Israeli State's terrorism.


—The writer is a freelance columnist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

TURKEY'S GAIN IS IRAN'S LOSS

BERNARD HAYKEL

 

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 behaviour of their long-time 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 favour 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 Centre 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 destabilising the region and the globe. For Americans, it may be hard to see the blessings in a rift with a long-time ally. But even if Turkey's interests no longer fully align with ours, there is much to be gained from a Westernised, prosperous and democratic nation becoming the standard-bearer of the Islamic world. The writer is a professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton. —The New York Times

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE MENTAL HEALTH STORY THAT WON'T GO AWAY

 

THE resignation of the chairman of the National Advisory Council on Mental Health, John Mendoza, demonstrates the gap that exists between rhetoric and reality when it comes to federal government funding of the nation's mental health services.

 

''It is now abundantly clear that there is no vision or commitment from the Rudd government to mental health,'' Dr Mendoza wrote in his resignation letter, obtained by The Sunday Age.

 

Dr Mendoza's letter graphically illustrates the failure of the nation's mental health policies to date. Prisons are full of the mentally ill, he says, and recent data shows hospital beds for the mentally ill are declining by an average of almost 4 per cent a year. ''People from lower income groups experience higher rates of suicide, have even poorer access to any mental health care, are imprisoned (often repeatedly) rather than provided mental health care and face far greater social exclusion than other Australians,'' he writes. ''People with serious mental illness are among the most vulnerable of all Australians. Yet the Rudd Labor government has ignored their need for investment in services now.''

 

His assessment was foreshadowed in March by Professor Ian Hickie, who heads the University of Sydney's brain and mind research institute. Commenting on the federal government's heath reform blueprint, he said: ''It is inexplicable that a clear direction about the governance and funding of mental health has not been made yet in the reform plans.''

 

Mental health experts agree that young people are in particular need of mental health services. The Australian of the Year, psychiatrist Patrick McGorry, has said mental illness among those in the 15-to-44 age group dwarfs every other health problem, with an estimated 750,000 young Australians in need missing out on treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment for mental health disorders have been found to be effective - and can also reduce the incidence of problems associated with mental illness such as homelessness and alcohol and drug abuse. Investment in early intervention makes sense. ''If you come in with chest pain or a lump that might be cancer, the doors will swing open, but if you come in with a mental health problem in its early stage, the door will slam in your face,'' Professor McGorry has said.

 

Another complication is that a mental health reform begun by the Howard government in 2006 has been criticised for being too costly and for failing to target young men in particular. The Better Access program sought to expand the number of counselling services eligible for a Medicare rebate - including social workers, psychologists and occupational health workers in the mix. The blowout in the cost of the program has led to calls for it to be pared back. An independent assessment needs to be made of how effective the counselling in the expanded program is for the people receiving it. Although the Howard government hoped the program would result in a decline of taxpayer-subsidised antidepressants, the number of prescriptions written in Australia for these drugs since 2006 has increased by 382,738 to more than 12 million last year.

 

In the meantime, anomalies that leave children with severe mental illness with inadequate care, as reported in The Sunday Age today, need urgent attention - to ease their suffering and the suffering of their families.

 

It is shameful that mental illness is still not treated with the same understanding as other medical conditions. The loss of human potential that comes with this neglect is a national disgrace.

 

And another thing …

 

MASTERCHEF proves that hope springs eternal. Usually television is populated with impossibly cheery young blondes and square-jawed blokes who might not be gorgeous but aren't bad-looking either. Generally, only the men can grow old. With some exceptions, women seem to disappear after a certain age. Few ever have a grumpy day because TV-land is Pleasantville in primary colours. But MasterChef, apart from raking in millions of dollars, has changed that dynamic. It has made the careers of three blokes who aren't exactly regular commercial-TV contenders. Apologies for pointing it out, but one is only slightly less bald than an egg, another has a strange penchant for cravats, last considered fashionable about 100 years ago. All three hosts have more than the required number of chins. These blokes represent hope. Super-sized.

 

Source: The Age

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THE KOREA TIMES

EDITORIAL

'PILOT KILLERS'

TIME TO FIND REPLACEMENT FOR AGING F-5 JETS


Three F-5 fighter jets have crashed this year alone, claiming the lives of five pilots. On Friday, an F-5F jet went down off the nation's east coast, less than an hour after taking off from an airbase in the port city of Gangneung, 237 kilometers east of Seoul. The tragedy took place while the pilots were returning from routine training.


The accident occurred after two F-5F jets crashed into a mountain near Gangneung in March, killing three pilots who were also on a training mission. It might not be seen as a surprise, given that 11 F-5 jets have crashed since 2000. These planes had better have their name changed to the ``killers of pilots."


How can the Air Force ensure an airtight defense system as the fighters continue to go down during training missions? First of all, the military authorities should go all-out to find what went wrong with the jets. In most plane crashes, bad weather conditions, poor maintenance or pilot error are usually blamed.


The repeated crashes raise a question: Should the Air Force keep operating the F-5s or replace them with safer fighters with more sophisticated technology and better performances? It seems that the nation cannot decommission the aging jets due partly to a lack of budget.


But, doing nothing, with the high risk of crashes, would be far costlier, taking into account the human sacrifice and the porous air defense network. The latest crash comes not long after a North Korean submarine's torpedo attack on the South Korean frigate Cheonan that killed 46 sailors near the tense maritime border with the North in the Yellow Sea on March 26.


The military is now under criticism for a lack of discipline and negligence in preventing the worst peacetime naval tragedy and managing the crisis after the enemy attack. The role of the armed forces is to maintain preparedness to thwart any attempt by the nation's enemies to infiltrate its territories. The military cannot maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula without doing its best to ensure its vigilance and watertight postures.


In this regard, the Air Force must overhaul its capability to defend the skies from potential enemy attacks. It deployed the ageing supersonic F-5 jets, developed by Northrop of the U.S., between 1982 and 1986. This means that it is time to find replacement for the fighters whose life span averages 30 years.


Now, the government should speed up the process of developing its own prototype fighter plane so that it can substitute the outdated F-5 jets which account for 35 percent of the nation's total 480 fighters. We hope that there will be no more crashes.

 

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THE KOREA TIMES

EDITORIAL

STILL TOO EARLY

DON'T EASE ANTI-SPECULATION REGULATIONS NOW



The Lee Myung-bak administration should not give the wrong signal to the sluggish property market by floating the idea of softening real estate-related regulations. Policymakers may easily yield to temptation to take market-boosting measures to prevent property prices from falling further by stimulating transactions of homes.


However, they must keep in mind that it is still too premature to ease or lift some of the regulations that were put in place to fight rampant property speculation well before the 2008 global economic crisis. The housing market has been in the doldrums since the subsequent worldwide recession. Needless to say, the slumping market has an adverse effect on the nation's efforts for economic recovery.


But, what's more important is that the government should keep the regulations in order to avoid a repeat of property speculation that had erupted during the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration. Officials had better not forget that Koreans are second to none as far as real estate speculation is concerned.


It is not to say President Lee's economic team should turn a deaf ear to the fact that construction firms, especially small- and medium contractors, are now suffering a setback due to the depressed housing market. No one can deny that the building sector plays an important part in the economy. It is also necessary to inject fresh air into this industry to help speed up growth recovery.


But the real problem is that once the regulations are relaxed, the nation is feared to be haunted again by the specter of speculation. In conclusion, it is not the right time to ease regulations on mortgage loans by raising a cap on the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio or the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.


The DTI ratio is designed to prevent homebuyers from getting bank loans beyond their repayment capacity. The LTV ratio is also aimed at putting a cap on homeowners' outstanding debt in proportion to the market value of their property. These two measures are effective tools to make it harder for individuals to recklessly purchase homes with bank loans.


Considering the present situations, it would be impossible to boost property transactions if the authorities raise the cap on the DTI or LTV ratios. The embedded cause of the property market downturn is attributed to the fact that more and more people are delaying the purchase of apartments and houses because they believe home prices will decline further.


Another problem is that construction companies have rushed to build apartments, riding the wave of property speculation. The number of unsold homes is now estimated at around 110,000 across the country. The building firms should be held responsible for their risky business operations.


That's why the authorities should first push for drastic restructuring of the reeling construction sector. A potential crash of the property market could drive not only indebted homeowners but also financially-troubled builders to the brink of bankruptcy that would shatter the banking system and the economy. Policymakers should take more fundamental measures to prevent such a catastrophe from becoming a reality.

 

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THE KOREA TIMES

COLUMN

CAN EMERGING MARKETS SAVE WORLD ECONOMY?

BY MOHAMED A. EL-ERIAN AND MICHAEL SPENCE


MILAN ― Over the past two years, industrial countries have experienced bouts of severe financial instability. Currently, they are wrestling with widening sovereign-debt problems and high unemployment.


Yet emerging economies, once considered much more vulnerable, have been remarkably resilient. With growth returning to pre-2008 breakout levels, the performance of China, India, and Brazil is an important engine of expansion for today's global economy.


High growth and financial stability in emerging economies are helping to facilitate the massive adjustment facing industrial countries. But that growth has significant longer-term implications. If the current pattern is sustained, the global economy will be permanently transformed.


Specifically, not much more than a decade is needed for the share of global GDP generated by developing economies to pass the 50 percent mark when measured in market prices.


So it is important to know whether this breakout growth phase is sustainable. The answer comes in two parts. One depends on emerging economies' ability to manage their own success; the other relates to the extent to which the global economy can accommodate this success. The answer to the first question is reassuring; the answer to the second is not.


While still able to exploit the scope for catch-up growth, emerging economies must undertake continuous, rapid, and at times difficult structural change, along with a parallel process of reform and institution building.


In recent years, the systemically important countries have established an impressive track record of adapting pragmatically and flexibly. This is likely to continue.


With government policy remaining on course, we should expect a gradual strengthening of endogenous domestic growth drivers in emerging economies, anchored by an expanding middle class. Combined with higher trade among them, the future of emerging economies is one of reduced dependence on industrial-country demand, though not a complete decoupling.


Distribution as well as growth matter. Emerging economies still need to manage better their growing domestic tensions, which reflect rising income inequality and uneven access to basic services.


A failure on this front would derail their strengthening domestic and regional growth dynamics. This is better understood today, with distributional aspects of growth strategy being firmly placed on emerging countries' policy agendas.


While emerging economies can deal with the economic slowdown in industrial countries, the financial-sector transmission mechanism is more challenging.


Today's low interest-rate environment is causing a flood of financial flows to emerging economies, raising the risk of inflation and asset bubbles. The hiccups in Western banks have served to disrupt the availability of trade credits, and, if amplified, could destabilize local banks.

These risks are real. Fortunately, several emerging economies continue to have cushions and shock absorbers. Having entered the 2008-2009 crisis with sound initial conditions (including large international reserves, budget and balance-of-payments surpluses, and highly capitalized banks), they are nowhere near exhausting their fiscal and financial flexibility ― and hence their capacity to respond to future shocks.


Overall, emerging economies are well placed to continue to navigate successfully a world rendered unstable by crises in industrial countries. Yet, again, the decoupling is not complete.

 

A favorable outcome also requires industrial countries' ability and willingness to accommodate the growing size and prominence of emerging economies. The risks here are significant, pointing to a wide range of potential problems.

The flow of knowledge, finance, and technology that underpins sustained high growth rates in emerging economies is closely linked to an open, rule-based, and globalized economy.


Yet this global construct comes under pressure in an environment in which advanced cou