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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

EDITORIAL 23.06.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month june 23, edition 000547 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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



















































  3. ON THE UP?
















  2. GROUP OF 16

















As was expected, the Congress, operating on the twin-assumption that public memory is terribly short and money can not only buy silence but also convert opponents into supporters, has sought to put the lid on la affaire Warren Anderson rather than risk any further damaging revelations about the party's collusion with Union Carbide Corp and Rajiv Gandhi's role in letting the American fugitive from Indian law escape unpunished despite the enormity of the crime committed in Bhopal 26 years ago. The Group of Ministers headed by Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram has proposed a Rs 1,500-crore package, apart from reopening of cases and appealing against the Bhopal District Court judgement of June 7. The re-initiation of legal proceedings, of course, is no more than an eyewash; it is anybody's guess as to whether the Supreme Court would be willing to review and set aside its own judgement that diluted the charges against the prime accused, including Anderson, thus making a mockery of the criminal justice system in the country. But since fresh pay-outs to the victims of the world's worst industrial disaster require only administrative approval, it is entirely possible that the Government will go ahead with the proposal, according to which an enhanced compensation of Rs 10 lakh for each of the dead will be paid to the next of kin; Rs 5 lakh will be paid to every permanently disabled person and Rs 1 lakh to every temporarily disabled person; and, Rs 2 lakh to each of those stricken by cancer and other serious ailments caused by the toxic gas that leaked from Union Carbide's pesticides factory in Bhopal on the night of December 2-3, 1984.

Since the compensation paid to the victims under the agreement reached between the Union Government and Union Carbide in 1989 was far too little and too late, it would be unfair to grudge them the enhanced pay-outs. That's the least that can be done to lessen the burden of their misery and ameliorate the suffering inflicted on them by Union Carbide which wilfully neglected safety measures at the hazardous factory and saved money by reducing expenses on routine maintenance of equipment and tanks meant to store lethal chemicals. But, and this needs to be stated unambiguously, it is morally, if not also legally, wrong to make India's over-burdened tax-payers carry the can for an offence committed by a greedy American multinational corporation known for unethical business practices. The Congress will no doubt claim credit for the enhanced compensation, but the bill for the largesse will be paid by the people of India and not those responsible for the shocking mass-murder: This is neither just nor fair, but a farce that will only serve to compound the appalling miscarriage of justice.

If the Congress is sincere about atoning for its sins of omission and commission, it must take three decisive steps. First, it must adopt the principle, expounded by the US, that the polluter must pay. Second, the flawed $ 470 million 'settlement' between the Government and Union Carbide should be scrapped through a resolution of Parliament. It was an iniquitous deal and must be rendered invalid. Third, every effort should be made to make Dow Chemicals, the new owners of Union Carbide's assets, to shoulder the liabilities of 1984. Last, though not least, only the deserving should be the beneficiaries of the new compensation package — it shouldn't become a free-for-all tax-payer funded campaign to promote the Congress's electoral interests. Anything less than this is unacceptable.







Kerala is perhaps the only State — among those preparing for Assembly polls next year — where the Congress is hoping to score an impressive victory. But notwithstanding the hopes of the high command, the party's chances are getting weaker by the day in this southern State as community-based outfits, which represent significant voting blocs, are bidding farewell to it. The announcement of the Nair Service Society on Tuesday that it is no longer desirous of the Congress's company has come as a shock for the party. The Congress can realistically believe that the Left is set to face its worst-ever defeat in West Bengal but the party that leads the UPA will not be the winner; that honour shall go to the Trinamool Congress. The situation in Tamil Nadu is not much different. Even if the AIADMK of Ms J Jayalalithaa fails to make a comeback, it will be to the advantage of the DMK of Mr M Karunanidhi, who at the moment is busy playing the 'Tamil card'. The World Tamil Conference which begins in Coimbatore on Wednesday is clearly aimed at positioning the DMK as the protector of Tamil identity. As things stand now, the CPI(M)-led ruling LDF in Kerala is sure to lose the Assembly election though not due to the Opposition's anti-Government campaigns but because of the Left's own infighting, anti-people policies and administrative failures. A UDF victory is almost sure next May, but the Congress, as the leader of this front, is unlikely to have much to feel ecstatic about, nor can anybody predict the margin of the victory.

The NSS, the umbrella organisation of Kerala's Nairs who constitute more than 14 per cent of the State's population, has made it clear that it does not even want to talk with the Congress. The Congress's relationship with the NSS snapped last year when the high command parachuted Mr Shashi Tharoor — an 'alien' Nair as far as the NSS is concerned — into Thiruvananthapuram constituency as party candidate instead of State Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala, much to the dislike of the Kerala PCC and the Nairs. When PJ Joseph, a Minister in the LDF Government and a long-time ally of the Left, merged his Kerala Congress group with that of Mr KM Mani, a constituent of the UDF, it effectively became a union of almost the entire Christian community in the State. The Congress objected to the merger, saying that no additional Assembly seats would be allocated to that party, but Mr Mani has chosen to ignore these barbs. With the Muslim League claiming influence over majority of the Muslims and the Mani-Joseph Kerala Congress holding sway over the Church, the Congress in Kerala is set to become weaker. In a sense, the Congress's vote-bank politics has begun to boomerang.







Trust deficit is the new term echoing in Track II. At a recent Afghanistan-Pakistan-India trilateral dialogue, the deficit of trust was palpable. Not only is it deeply embedded in India-Pakistan relations, it is also currently even more starkly manifest between Afghanistan and Pakistan. An Afghan Minister said that as long as Pakistan considers the Afghan Taliban as a strategic asset and provides sanctuaries to them trust deficit will remain the core issue between them. Security is the burning issue, noted another Afghan participant, but surprisingly it finds no mention in the Joint Declaration on Next Steps of Afghanistan-Pakistan Comprehensive Cooperation of March 2010.

Without Pakistan's cooperation peace will elude Afghanistan. As a Sri Lanka-type military solution is unthinkable in Afghanistan, Reconciliation and Reintegration with the Taliban is deemed essential for American troops to begin thinning out by July 2011. This, too, does not seem feasible without Pakistan's help, as was evident from the ISI rudely interrupting the secret peace talks between President Hamid Karzai's Government and the No 2 in the Quetta Shura, Mullah Abdul Ghani Biradar, who was made to disappear.

The three-day grand Peace Jirgah of 1,600 delegates held earlier this month in Kabul, which was briefly interrupted by suicide-bombers, produced 16 recommendations chiefly about establishing peace by reconciling with "our opponents". Mr Karzai does not refer to the Taliban as terrorists but "our southern brothers". As a goodwill gesture prior to the Jirgah and against the advice of his intelligence chief, Mr Karzai released a few high-grade Taliban who promptly rejoined the resistance. Mr Karzai consulted all the political parties in Pakistan with the Awami National Party in North -West Frontier Province renamed as Khyber Pakhtunwa) sending a delegation to Kabul.

The Jirgah approved the formation of a high level commission at provincial and district levels to make peace with the Taliban. The Jirgah's recommendations are to be presented at the Kabul conference on July 20 for ratification.

A majority of the Afghans are united in their conviction that while reintegration of Taliban foot soldiers is possible, reconciliation with the top rung leadership is nearly impossible as they will not negotiate. Their reasons are that the Taliban are fighting the Afghan constitution, want foreign forces to leave and most of all believe they are winning the war with time on their side.

The 16-point Kabul declaration following the Jirgah was a shrewd act of public diplomacy — a message for the Taliban, the Kabul Government, Afghan- istan's neighbours and the international community that Afghans are committed to holding parliamentary elections in September 2010, respecting human rights and democratic values.

Some Afghans feel that the West is trying to sub-contract Afghanistan to Pakistan and the last thing they want is the return of the Taliban. While Soviet troops in Afghanistan were regarded as occupation forces, Western military presence is welcome and is not regarded as cause of insurgency. The Taliban, we were reminded, predated the arrival of US-led Nato forces. The Jirgah, in fact, asked for a long-term commitment from the foreign forces.

The Afghans emphatically refer to the 'external factors' which will neither allow R&R nor permit easing of tensions astride the Durand Line. Every day, 30,000 people cross the border along which Pakistan has 245 border posts and Afghanistan 42. The level of distrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan is so high that the US has interposed itself in the trilateral border commission. Officers have been located at joint intelligence centres at Kandahar, Quetta and Peshawar. Yet, when it comes to operations on both sides of the border, there is no coordinated hammer-and-anvil strategy to prevent the Taliban from crossing over.

The Taliban — whether it is Afghanistan, Pakistan or India-oriented — is variously labelled as a demolition squad, a band of thugs and anarchists (Pakistan's Interior Minister, Rahman Malik calls them 'Zaliman') whose aim is to dismantle Governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan to establish Islamic states. They may be targeting different objectives but are focussed on the overall aim of returning the region to the Stone Ages. While all the Taliban are operationally interlinked, victim countries have no common security architecture to fight them.

The Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism, which India and Pakistan explored unsuccessfully, has been buried. The Pakistan military establishment which determines cross-border operational strategy is still obsessed with strategic depth on the East and West. Almost everyone at the 'trialogue' called the concept of strategic depth as flawed but privately Pakistanis do confide that their Army considers strategic depth as important as their nuclear arsenal. The segmented approach to fighting the Taliban arises from this strategic calculation — employing Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan and LeT/Jaish-e-Mohammed in Jammu & Kashmir and India. It is unlikely that this policy will alter anytime soon.

Afghans complain that their soil is being used for a proxy war between India and Pakistan. The Pakistani Army has frequently used the argument which is supported by US Generals that resolution of Kashmir, India scaling down its activities in Afghanistan and barring Indian Army from training Afghan security forces will allow Pakistan's security forces in the west to fight with greater strength and vigour. The numerous attacks against Indian interests in Afghanistan, including the three against its Embassy in Kabul, Afghans say, were masterminded by the ISI and outsourced to the Haqqani network and the LeT.

Afghans want India and Pakistan to resolve their differences so that energy and resources wasted in cancelling each other can be better invested in socio-economic development and stability in Afghanistan. Cooperation rather than confrontation in Afghanistan has been a pressing new item for discussion in the composite dialogue, predating Balochistan and water.

Trilateral conversations between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the primary victims of Talibani terrorism, are restricted to Track II and show little promise of being converted into any meaningful counter-terrorism mechanism. The three have previously cooperated in the construction of the mausoleum of Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Why not a Mahatma Gandhi-Mohammad Ali Jinnah hospital in Kabul to make a fresh start in trilateral cooperation ?

The key to stability in Afghanistan lies with the Pakistani Army and the ISI. Till these two institutions are cut to size by the people of Pakistan, the trust deficit between India and Pakistan and Afghanistan and Pakistan will prevail and undermine the stability of the region.







This refers to the article, "Friendship that binds" by Rajiv Bhatia (June 21). Though Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa's recent visit to India is significant in many ways, the issues of post-war resettlement of displaced Tamils and growing Chinese presence in Sri Lanka will soon play a major role in the bilateral relations of the two neighbours. On its part, Sri Lanka needs to address both issues honestly. It is sad that even a year after the decimation of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan Government has no clear post-war plan for Tamil-dominated areas.

A large number of Tamils displaced during the civil war are still living in refugee camps. Despite an unprecedented victory in the parliamentary elections with 60 per cent mandate from voters, Mr Rajapaksa is yet to tackle Sinhala chauvinists whose anti-Tamil belligerence remains an obstacle in the devolution of power to the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

While entirely undesirable and uncalled for, the delay in addressing Tamil concerns continues to breed discontent among India's Tamils as is evident from often violent protests in Tamil Nadu. Though the LTTE leadership has been eliminated, its supporters are active among the Tamil diaspora around the world. Since these elements are bent upon creating trouble for Sri Lanka in foreign lands, Colombo needs New Delhi's support to neutralise their influence. It is also true that in absence of India's helping hand, Sri Lanka might face censure from the US and the International Monetary Fund over alleged violation of human rights.

China's increasing influence in the neighbourhood is of great concern to India. Beijing's growing interest in Colombo's affairs is aimed at establishing more than a naval base at Hambantota. Keeping this in view, India has sought the permission of the Sri Lankan Government to open a Deputy High Commissioner's office in Kandy and a consulate in Hambantota. Sri Lanka must understand that it is India and not China that can help safeguard its strategic interests owing to the former's geopolitical advantage.







The world economy took a pounding during the financial crisis. Just as it was finding its feet, the European debt crisis rocked it back on its heels. Despite all the warnings of doom, the world economy has, in fact, been quietly mending itself. The economic picture looks far better now than it did a year ago although some rough patches lie ahead.

The recovery has been supported by an extraordinary amount of fiscal and monetary stimulus. The major challenge for G-20 leaders is to design and time the exit from these stimulus measures in a manner that doesn't stall the recovery but helps secure medium-term fiscal and financial stability.

The new Brookings-Financial Times TIGER (Tracking Indexes for the Global Economic Recovery) takes the pulse of the world economy and individual G-20 economies. It is a composite measure that combines information from indicators of real economic activity (GDP, employment, industrial production, trade), financial indicators (stock market indices, stock market capitalisation and, for emerging markets, bond spreads relative to US Treasuries) and indicators of business and consumer confidence.

The composite indices reveal five dominant themes. First, the global economy turned the corner by mid-2009 and has strengthened gradually since then. Growth rates of many indicators rebounded strongly after plunging into negative territory during 2008. These high growth rates are starting from a lower base and there is still a lot of ground to make up before the indicators are back at their pre-crisis levels.

For instance, growth rates of industrial production in many G-20 economies are now higher than before the crisis but, because growth rates fell sharply during 2008, the levels of industrial production are still below pre-crisis levels. Still, the recovery has clearly gathered momentum. Some indicators such as global trade are already at or slightly above their pre-crisis levels.

Second, the recovery has been uneven. Growth rates of industrial production and trade volumes have recovered strongly, while the recovery in GDP and employment has been modest at best.

Third, the performance of world financial markets outpaced that of key macro variables in 2009. In recent months, however, financial markets have dipped, partly because they have been rattled by the problems in Europe. This could signal difficult times ahead or might be just a temporary pullback from an earlier surge of unfounded optimism.

Fourth, confidence measures have regained some of the ground they lost during the worst of the crisis. Business confidence is still rising gradually but consumer confidence in advanced economies has been stuck in a rut in recent months. Resurgent business confidence is a positive sign as it could boost investment.

And finally, emerging markets felt the effects of the global crisis later than the advanced economies and have also recovered more sharply, with particularly strong recoveries in China and India. So far in 2010, emerging markets are still barreling their way to a strong performance despite the problems that have beset advanced economies. Perhaps, in a long-term structural sense, they are becoming less dependent on advanced economies.

We are certainly not out of the woods yet and a number of risks could well stall the recovery, which is far from entrenched or robust. Weak consumer confidence and minimal employment growth could dampen the recovery if they translate into tepid growth in private consumption. Rising inflationary pressures in some emerging markets may lead to a tightening of monetary policies that would tone down growth in those economies.

Financial markets in many advanced economies are still in perilous shape, with the European debt crisis creating concerns that some European banks have significant exposure to sovereign debt of countries in dire fiscal straits. In other advanced economies such as the UK and the US, uncertainty about the impending changes to the regulatory landscape and the macro environment are causing financial institutions to conserve capital and limit credit growth. This could hold back both investment and private consumption growth.

Rising levels of debt in the advanced economies pose serious risks of macroeconomic and financial stability. According to the IMF, the median ratio of gross public debt to GDP for advanced economies has risen from 44 per cent in 2007 to 71 per cent in 2010, and is likely to rise to 76 per cent by 2015. The corresponding numbers for emerging markets for those three years are 32 per cent, 39 per cent and 39 per cent, respectively. These high and rising debt levels of advanced economies will soak up a lot of world savings, reduce global potential output growth, and create a risk of inflationary spirals in the future.

There is also a risk of resurgent global imbalances, with many features of the world economy resembling the situation in 2006-07. Large and rising Government budget deficits in the US and many other advanced economies, along with low rates of private saving, are likely to lead to an expansion of current account deficits in these countries. Despite its rising deficits, however, the US dollar's position as a safe haven currency has been strengthened by the problems in Europe, leading to large capital inflows and low interest rates in the US.
The combination of low interest rates in the US and weak growth prospects of other advanced economies has led to a surge of private capital inflows to dynamic emerging economies, which are intervening heavily in foreign exchange markets in order to moderate currency appreciation. The resulting buildup of foreign exchange reserves is being recycled in the form of official purchases of the US Treasuries, thereby perpetuating imbalances.While emerging markets have grown strongly, they are not large enough to become drivers of world consumption growth. In tandem with the continued export dependence of China, as well as large advanced economies like Germany and Japan, this portends significant trade tensions in the years ahead, particularly if employment growth remains weak in the US and other major economies.

There is a deep tension now between measures to sustain the recovery and measures to bring public deficits and other byproducts of stimulus under control. G-20 leaders, especially those of advanced economies, need to display at least half as much alacrity in designing exit policies as they did in aggressively using fiscal and monetary stimulus to pull their economies back from the brink of cataclysm during the crisis.


 Eswar Prasad holds the New Century Chair in International Economics at Brookings. He is the Tolani Senior Professor of Trade Policy at Cornell University and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was previously head of the Financial Studies Division and the China Division at the IMF. Excerpted from Recovery or Relapse: The Role of the G20 in the Global Economy, published by Brookings to coincide with the G20 meeting on June 26 in Toronto.








In 2006, the Canadian Government appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court Justice John Major to investigate the blowing up of Air India Flight 182, Kanishka, mid-air on June 23, 1985. The explosion was caused by a bomb planted in a piece of unaccompanied baggage by Khalistanis belonging to Babbar Khalsa, headed by the late Talwinder Singh Parmar of Vancouver, Canada.

The report of the Commission was released on June 17, 2010. The Commission has found that a "cascading series of errors" by the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service allowed the terrorist attack to take place. The following is the second instalment of relevant extracts from the report:

Despite its awareness of the threat and of the identity of the potential protagonists who might carry it out, the CSIS appears to have obtained little important new information of its own about the Sikh extremist threat or about the Babbar Khalsa or about Parmar from the fall of 1984 through to March of 1985. The major reason for this gap lay in the state of the warrant approvals process that had been put in place by the CSIS Act in June 1984.

On the ground, CSIS British Columbia investigators were aware of the urgent nature of the threat from Sikh extremism and of the inadequacy of their information resources to deal with it. They simply had no information sources of their own and had been totally unsuccessful in recruiting sources within a Sikh community that was somewhat insular and vulnerable to intimidation by the extremists. They soon concluded that they needed surveillance and electronic intercepts in order to be able to understand and respond to the increasing threat.

The institutional response to the request to approve a warrant to intercept Parmar's communications demonstrates a fixation with form over substance and, despite protestations to the contrary at the time and subsequently, suggests a lack of appreciation of the reality of the threat.

The civilianisation of the CSIS was in part a reaction to the RCMP Security Service excesses in its investigation of the Front de Libération du Québec (the "FLQ") and extremist Quebec Separatists. Under the RCMP Security Service, while electronic intercepts had required approval, the process was informal, simply requiring a request to the Solicitor General, the Minister responsible for the RCMP (and later also for CSIS). With the creation of the CSIS, as one of the means to protect civil liberties from unjustifiable intrusion by or on behalf of Government, a new system of judicial supervision of certain intelligence operations was instituted, including a requirement for judicial approval for intercepting private communications. This new protocol was to apply prospectively but also was intended to cover existing intercepts that had been approved by the Minister.

There was an explicit requirement that existing intercepts had to be reviewed internally and approved by the Solicitor General and then by a judge of the Federal Court, all within six months of the coming into force of the CSIS Act, i.e. by January 1985.

When added to the considerable stresses and strains that accompanied the rushed transition to CSIS from the RCMP Security Service, it was entirely foreseeable that this warrant conversion process would be the source of added pressure and potential misadventure. The foreseeability of the problems that might be caused by the requirement to devote considerable resources to the conversion process should have called for added care and attention to ensure that the process would be capable of meeting new needs that would arise and not just of preserving existing arrangements. Instead, the response of the CSIS was to prioritise existing warrants and to defer new applications, with the exception of only those deemed most urgent. As CSIS understandably would want to avoid disrupting existing investigations, in theory, this process could be considered a sensible policy; in practice, its effectiveness depended on the Service's ability to respect the new needs that were more urgent.

The evidence before the Commission indicates that, despite the priority afforded to the warrant conversion process, it was possible to secure a warrant in an extremely short timeline to respond to a perceived urgent priority, as occurred in an area other than the threat of Sikh extremism. The protracted wait for the processing of the Parmar warrant application either demonstrates an unthinking application of the concept of priority of existing warrants or, more likely, reflects the lack of appreciation of the true urgency of the threat of Sikh extremism.

Despite certification by the existing chain of command in BC as well as by the Headquarters counterterrorism hierarchy, and despite increasingly pointed memoranda from the front lines in BC, the application for the Parmar warrant lay dormant for months while the conversion process went forward. Then, after proceeding through multiple steps in the complicated, and still in flux, approval process, it was further delayed for an additional month by what turned out to be an irrelevant issue raised by the Minister's Office. Although the final steps leading up to the submission of the warrant to, and approval by, the Federal Court proceeded relatively quickly, the total time from the request for a warrant to the date of approval was over five months. This lengthy delay was entirely disproportionate to the heightened threat and the demonstrated lack of intelligence sources available to respond to it.

The subsequent course of the BC investigation confirms the theme of inadequate resourcing and indicates that execution on the ground was not sufficient for the seriousness of the threat being dealt with. Eventually the BC investigators did get approval both for electronic intercepts and for physical surveillance coverage on Parmar. As will be seen, the story of neither effort is particularly edifying.

-- To be continued








True, this might have worked to some extent in Soviet bloc Central Europe and even to some extent in China but the Middle East doesn't fit that model. Here we see the inability of people so smart that they cannot understand other societies are really different to visualise an ideological dictatorship at the peak of its power and quite ready to murder people:


·  The regime decides who does or doesn't do business on the basis of loyalty, pay-offs, and giving its officials a big cut. So if you want to make money, perhaps you better not trouble the guys with guns or challenge the status quo. Incidentally, this is how Middle East societies have kept the independent middle class at bay and is one reason why there isn't much democracy.


·  With "politics in command," as Mao Zedong put it, the business sector, and indeed the living standards of the masses, are subordinated to the struggle. If Hamas wants to launch a war against Israel it isn't going to worry about the damage to infrastructure, as we have already seen.

Everywhere in the world, the common people may just want the "same thing," a bigger refrigerator, a car, and better education for their children. The thing about dictatorships, however, is that nobody asks them their opinion and instead to some extent shapes their opinion through ideology, force, and indoctrination.


·  No opposition parties are permitted to function in the Gaza Strip and those individuals too active on behalf of Fatah are periodically arrested, lightly tortured, and inhibited from acting.


·  Fatah folk spend a good bit of their time trying to prove they are just as militant, or more so, in fighting Israel and the West as their Hamas rivals.


·  Hamas people really believe that the deity is on their side, that their enemies are satanic, and that victory is inevitable. If you want to get some sense of the intensity of this passion, take an Ivy League professor's view of the Tea Party people and multiply it by ten. Except that in Hamas there is willingness to torture, maim and kill, along with the belief in divine guidance. (This space left blank so you can insert a suitable joke.)


·  There aren't elections in the Gaza Strip so if you get a majority what difference does it make? To quote Mao again, in this case political power really does come out of a barrel of a gun.

And if you still aren't persuaded, just consider how successful the strategy of promote business, build prosperity, and raise living standards as the road to democracy plus moderation has worked in such places as Islamist Iran, Syria, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

By the way, if you take the middle initial of the last US president, "W," and that of the current US president, "H," you get the initials for White House. Coincidence? Or perhaps the basis for a new Middle East peace plan!

 Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal.








' PEACEKEEPING' was clearly not on the mind of Pakistani army's Lieutenant Murad when he opened fire on a CRPF camp in Liberia. It is unprofessional, if not criminal, on the part of the officer that he exported the Indo- Pak hostilities while on a peacekeeping operation. He has harmed the credibility of the Pakistani army, which is the largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations. Though Pakistani army officials have dismissed Lieutenant Murad as being " mentally imbalanced", the fact that Indians were the object of his ire is probably a consequence of the virulently anti- India indoctrination of the Pakistani army.


Hostility to India has always been the raison d'être of the Pakistani army, which, in General Parvez Kayani's own words, is " India centric". In fact the army has used hostility to India to maintain its hold over Pakistani society and polity. The anti- India discourse is not just political but is also infused with emotive religious and cultural rhetoric. This indoctrination is visible in ' Pakistan studies' textbooks that emphasise concepts like jihad and antagonism towards non- Muslims serves to promote an obscurantist viewpoint. This indoctrination is most deeply rooted in the armed forces.


At the root of the Pakistani army's grandiose anti- India rhetoric lies its inherent insecurity given the natural asymmetry between the two countries. Lieutenant Murad's trigger- happy adventure, which was accompanied by religious war- cries, is clearly a manifestation of this pathology. For its own sake and for the sake of the people of Pakistan, the Pakistani army should put an end to these discourses of hate that will eventually wreak havoc on Pakistan itself.



SPECULATION that former Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin could be paid an annual salary of Rs 10 crore — or about Rs 84 lakh a month — if he is hired to head the public sector Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd has evoked anger in several quarters especially in the public sector ( PSU) fraternity. By all accounts, and not merely by PSU standards, this is a very large sum. The contrast is starker when compared with present chief executive Kuldeep Goyal's annual salary of Rs 12 lakh.


However, if we expect our PSUs to be handled professionally, we cannot expect their top executives to be paid peanuts. The second PSU pay revision committee, headed by retired Supreme Court judge M. Jagannadha Rao had recommended performance- linked pay for PSU employees which formed the basis for substantial salary hikes for public sector bosses. But, none of these honchos are being paid even close to what is being talked about in connection with Mr Sarin.


BSNL is a huge public sector enterprise with around three lakh employees and an annual turnover of over Rs 35,000 crore. But, it is unable to push up profits. This is good reason to introduce new business tactics and take on board top professionals. If good money is what will get them in to show results — when rival firms in the private sector are doing the same — then, so be it.



BRAZILIAN footballer Luis Fabiano who scored a goal against Ivory Coast on Sunday after the ball twice touched his hand may have been honest enough to admit the truth later, but his logic that a bit of doubt was needed to make the goal beautiful, is nothing but semantic jugglery. He probably hopes that his goal will come to be assigned a place similar to Diego Maradona's ' Hand of God' goal against England at the Mexico World Cup in 1986.


This is wishful thinking. What was permitted to one of the greatest footballers the game has seen is unlikely to be allowed to a lesser player. Then, the quarter- final match between Argentina and England in the 1986 World Cup was played just four years after the Falklands War and so Maradona's brace in that match was sweet revenge for his country. This was also the match in which Maradona scored what has been regarded as one of the greatest goals in football's history. Most importantly, since that infamous goal may have played a role in Argentina eventually lifting the World Cup is why the current Argentine coach can rightfully claim that there has been only one Hand of God goal.







THREE days from now, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram will visit Islamabad to attend a meeting of the home ministers of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation countries.


As the tough talking Home Minister, Chidambaram has been the face of India's counter- terror response since the terrible Mumbai attack of November 2008.


The big question is whether he will forge an independent second track in dealing with Islamabad, or he will be content to be an adjunct to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Track- I process. Mr Chidambaram knows well, as was evident in the case of the 76 police personnel killed by Maoists in April, that with power comes an enormous amount of responsibility.


He would have to answer for any major terrorist strike on Indian soil. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, has the luxury of taking the high road, talk of " trust deficits" and history.


In their own way, both engagements are important and necessary. Security constitutes an enormously important element of our relationship with Pakistan.


It is useful to have the minister directly involved in managing it dealing with his counterpart in Pakistan. With Prime Ministerial summits, there are always huge expectations which, in our current circumstances, cannot be met. Yet there is need for high- level practical relations between the two countries.




You may argue that there is a world of difference between the authority of the union home minister of India and his Pakistani counterpart, Rehman Malik, who is actually hanging on to office with the help of a presidential pardon. But we can only work with the tools in hand. Authority in Pakistan is fragmented, notwithstanding the efforts being made to strengthen the hands of Parliament and the Prime Minister through the 18th Amendment to the constitution. There will be many who will argue that there is little point engaging with Islamabad in the present climate of enervation there.


But the issue is whether India needs Pakistan more than they need us. I would argue that it is India that needs Pakistan more because of the latter's ability to destabilise our country and distract us from the task of economic growth and allround development. This imposes a bigger challenge on us to craft our policies in such a manner that we can overcome the obvious problems and try and obtain positive outcomes.


Of course, this is easier said than done.


As it is, the discourse seems to be stuck in Islamabad's point of view at the level of India's demand for Pakistan to root out the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage.


From the Indian point of view it seems stuck at Islamabad's insistence that the two countries resume the composite dialogue.


Ironically, composite dialogue was an Indian device aimed at ensuring that the subject of the India- Pakistan dialogue is not confined to Kashmir, and only Kashmir.

Chidambaram's visit is in itself a build up to the visit of External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna later in July. A positive outcome of the Home Minister's visit could set the stage for a successful visit by Mr Krishna, which could lead to a full- fledged resumption of the Indo- Pakistan dialogue process.


That may be the official scenario, but reality is bound to intrude.


One problem is that in the last five years, the ground situation has changed dramatically in Pakistan. India, on the other hand, has witnessed great change, but on a largely evolutionary track. In 2009, according to a recent RAND Corporation study, there was a 48 per cent increase in attacks in Pakistan over the 2008 levels.


Further, these attacks have become more complex. Thus the April attack on the US consulate in Peshawar used a truck bomb, machine guns and rocket launchers.


More alarming has been emergence of a kind of Terror Central in North Waziristan where a conglomeration of groups are sharing personnel, knowledge and facilities to mount or plan complex attacks not only in Pakistan, but in countries like the United States and India.


The Rand study also acknowledges that using militant groups is woven into the DNA of Pakistani policy since independence and that this is in turn gets public support because it is linked to " historical and social milieus of jihad, which has long been viewed as a legitimate mode of conflict." Nuclear weapons have, if anything, strengthened this tendency.



While we may be progressing in beginning with a Home Minister- level dialogue, we have yet to hear from the Pakistan Army. Over the last couple of years there have been aborted efforts to get the armed forces of the two sides to interact with one another. That has yet to happen. Though such an engagement appears to be a positive thing, were it to take place, there are question marks about what it can achieve considering the enormous asymmetry between the role of the Army in the Pakistani system and its limited role in India.


India's aim has to be to alter Pakistan's strategic behaviour. This is, given the situation, an enormous exercise. Yet, we have barely scratched the surface of the problem.


In the meantime, things are going from bad to worse in Pakistan. In 2007, Pakistan was listed 12 in a Failed States Index brought out by the Foreign Policy magazine, in 2010, it has gone up two notches to rank No 10; Somalia is number one on the list and Afghanistan number six. The irony is that despite this, Islamabad is gambling that its proxies will soon " win" in Afghanistan. All that this " victory" will achieve, perhaps, is that both countries will move a notch or two towards Somalia's status.


Yet, the Prime Minister is right in saying that Pakistan is a neighbour and we have no options but to try and improve relations with it. But whatever be the strategic imperative for them to resolve their problems and come closer to each other, it is the tactical problems that compel attention. Nothing is more compelling for most Indians today than the need to prevent the recurrence of a Mumbai- type attack. Yet, when you look at the record, it is impossible not to come away with the conclusion that Islamabad has done precious little.




It is not a matter of dealing with the big issues like Hafiz Muhammad Saeed's status, but the provision of information about the people who planned and directed the Mumbai attack. We know that there is a huge trust deficit between the two countries.

But this is a deficit arising from the willful actions of Islamabad. But it most certainly cannot be surmounted by pretending that the problem does not exist, that it will be overcome with the passage of time or that New Delhi must pander to some Pakistani fantasy about India's activities in Balochistan and Afghanistan.


The Mumbai attack has become something like the October 1962 Chinese attack on India— a watershed event that has seeped deep into the public consciousness.


Indeed, this is not something that just the Pakistan government needs to address, but the denizens of the South Block as well.


Mr Chidambaram's sojourn in Islamabad suggests one way that this can be done— through practically addressing the problem, rather than garbing it in diplomatese like " trust deficit". We can only hope that it will yield the outcomes we have been waiting for. But don't bank on it. This is a long haul.








IT IS election time again in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. On Monday, The Election Commission announced the schedule for by- elections to 10 assembly seats in the region. They are to be held on July 27. The byelections were necessitated due to the resignation of 10 MLAs of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and one each from the Telugu Desam Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party in February to put pressure on the Centre for granting statehood to the Telangana region.


However, the EC announced the schedule only for 10 seats, as the election petitions for two other seats— Siricilla and Vemulawada in Karimnagar district — are pending in the court.


The by- elections have evoked a lot of curiosity among political observers, for they are being considered a sort of referendum on the Telangana issue. It is a litmus test for the TRS in particular, which has put the Telangana issue at the forefront by going in for the byelections.


The TRS has to win back all its seats at any cost and even if it loses a couple of seats, it will give scope for prounited Andhra leaders to proclaim that there is no Telangana sentiment.


Moreover, the committee headed by Justice BN Srikrishna, constituted to look into the Telangana demand, is already in the final stages of consultation with all the stakeholders.


A negative result for the TRS in the by- elections is likely to influence the decisions of the committee. Keeping this in mind, the TRS, through various Telangana outfits including the Joint Action Committee of political organisations and student groups, made desperate attempts to pressurise the Congress and the TDP not to field candidates in the byelections and see that the candidates who had resigned get elected unanimously. Even other Telangana protagonists like Nizamabad MP Madhu Yashki of the Congress and Palakurthi MLA Errabelli Dayakar Rao of the TDP tried to prevail upon their respective parties to withdraw from the contest, stating that the people of Telangana would not vote for anybody except the resigned candidates.


However, the Congress high command firmly decided that the party should contest the by- elections, since staying away would send the wrong signal to the people in the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions that it had succumbed to the Telangana demand. And with the Congress deciding to field its candidates, the TDP has also thrown its hat in the ring. Both the parties have apparently realised that they have nothing to lose by contesting the polls.


If they win even a couple of seats, it would strengthen their base in the region. And if they lose, they can claim that they had not lost anything, as the seats originally belonged to the TRS and the BJP. Now, the TRS is worried about retaining all its seats.


With K Chandrashekhar Rao's appeal to the Congress and the TDP to withdraw falling on deaf ears, his supporters are now threatening the two parties of dire consequences if they contested the elections. Telangana JAC chairman M Kodandaram called upon the people of the constituencies not to allow the Congress and TDP candidates to enter the villages for campaigning.


And some student groups from the Osmania University have threatened violent attacks on such candidates.

The state police also fear a lot of violence during the electioneering.


They have asked the Centre to deploy 80 companies of paramilitary forces to maintain peace during the by- elections.


Director General of Police RR Girish Kumar warned that strict action would be taken against those creating trouble during the by- elections.


The police are gearing up to face any eventuality during the electioneering.



WHAT'S in a name, one might ask. But the naming of districts in Andhra Pradesh after departed political leaders has been a trend in the state.


The Rosaiah government's decision last week to rename Kadapa district as YSR district, after the former chief minister, who died in a helicopter crash on September 2 last year, has triggered similar demands from different parts of the state. However, there is a stiff resistance to the renaming of Kadapa.


Senior TDP leader K Yerran Naidu said that if Kadapa district could be named after YSR, then the government should also consider renaming of Srikakulam district after freedom fighter Gowthu Lachanna and Vizianagaram district after its erstwhile ruler PVG Raju. Then, there have also been demands for naming Guntur district after veteran socialist leader late NG Ranga, Krishna district after former chief minister NT Rama Rao, East Godavari district after revolutionary freedom fighter Alluri Seetharama Raju and Adilabad district after tribal hero Komuram Bheem.


In the past, Ongole district was renamed as Prakasam district after former chief minister of the state Tantuguri Prakasam Panthulu and more recently, Nellore district was renamed as Potti Sriramulu district, after the person who starved himself to death for the separation of Andhra from Madras presidency. And three decades ago, Ranga Reddy district, named after freedom fighter KV Ranga Reddy, was carved out of Hyderabad.


Who knows, all the 23 districts in Andhra Pradesh might get named after some leader or the other in the years to come.






THE re- focus on the Bhopal gas tragedy seems to have brought everyone together. Many human rights activists working for the survivors in the Madhya Pradesh capital have called on senior Union ministers and Opposition leaders to lobby for support.


During a recent interaction, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, was said to have sought to categorise the list of the dead on the basis of religious identities.


Probably realising that she was treading on a thorny path, she hastened to add that she was seeking the information to emphasise the point that death, particularly during calamities, has " utter disregard for religious characteristics". Anyone convinced?



NOWthat the football fever is on, some Congress leaders were heard taking an inhouse stock of selfgoal specialists. AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh and Union environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh emerged on the top in this count.


Diggy Raja, however, beat Jairam for consecutively scoring two self- goals on the Maoist issue and then giving a clean chit to Arjun Singh on Warren Anderson's release. Jairam has been rated as the master of the foot- inmouth disease. His statement from China on India's foreign strategy is considered the ' gem' of a same- side goal.


Then comes Satyavrat Chaturvedi, who recently made intemperate remarks against ally leader Sharad Pawar and also Arjun Singh.


The surprise entry is Delhi CM Shiela Dikshit for blaming Shivraj Patil for the delay in the hanging of Afzal Guru.


The former home minister- turnedgovernor, who is not known as a quick thinker, played safe, refused to come to his own defence and politely declined to comment.



UTTARAKHAND'S leader of the Opposition, Harak Singh Rawat, is in a spot.


The Congress high command has ordered an internal probe to investigate if the party leader is indeed guilty of any wrongdoing. It has been alleged that Rawat had grabbed the land of a member of the minority community.


The matter relates to 2003 when Rawat was revenue minister under N. D. Tiwari. The state's minorities commission is making sure that the heat is turned on Rawat.



THE BJP- JD ( U) feud has enthused the team of Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan. The duo wants the Congress to join a grand alliance to defeat Nitish Kumar and the BJP. The Congress is, however, less than enthusiastic in joining hands with the two. Senior Congress leaders are waiting for AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi to return from abroad to take a call on the matter.

Auto ride costly but




YOU will have to pay up to 35 per cent more to travel in an auto in Delhi, according to the revised fare the state government announced on Tuesday.


" The base fare has been raised from Rs 10 for the first kilometre to Rs 19 for the first two, while for every subsequent kilometre travellers will have to pay Rs 6.50 as against the current fare of Rs 4.50," transport minister Arvinder Singh Lovely said.


The black- and- yellow coloured taxis that currently charge Rs 15 for the first kilometre and Rs 8.50 for every subsequent kilometre will now take Rs 20 for the first kilometre and Rs 11 for every subsequent kilometre, Lovely added.


The new fares will be enforced from Thursday, a transport official said.


Fares of radio taxis that charge Rs 15 per kilometre and bus fares remain unchanged.


Lovely said now that the fares had been increased, transport officials will go hard on auto drivers who don't travel by meter, refuse to take passengers or overcharge.


" We are setting up a call centre where travellers can complain about errant drivers. The operating permits of those found to be flouting rules will be cancelled," he said.


According to transport officials, the government has made it mandatory for auto drivers to install global positioning systems ( GPS) in their vehicles as a monitoring mechanism.


Lovely said that the government had earlier decided to raise the existing fare of Rs 4.50 for every kilometre after the first to just Rs 6, but eventually raised it to Rs 6.50 to factor in the cost of installing and maintaining GPS devices.


" The systems will have to be installed within six months.


Those who fail to do so will lose their operating permits," Lovely said.


The government plans to link the GPS devices to a transport call centre through a central server, making it easy to locate an auto and direct it to any traveller who calls for a vehicle, a transport official revealed.


Auto drivers, however, are unwilling to foot the bill for the GPS device that costs Rs 15,000 and requires Rs 1,500 every month for maintenance.


Rajendra Soni of the Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh said: " We will install the device if it helps commuters but the government should finance it." The good news for commuters is that they will soon also have the option of travelling in taxis at almost the same fare as that of autos.


Lovely said a flat rate of Rs 10 per km had been fixed for a new taxi service that will be run by private as well as individual operators.


He added that only vehicles having engine power in the range of 700 cc to 1,000 cc will be allowed for the service.


" Vehicles in this range include Maruti Omni, Alto and Wagon R. The process of issuing licences for the service has already begun. We want to launch it in five to six months," Lovely said.




HOURS after 80,000 taxis and a lakh autos went off the roads in Mumbai on Tuesday demanding a fare hike, the Maharashtra government announced that it has proposed to hike auto fares by Rs 2.


The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority ( MMRTA) is expected to announce a formal decision in the backdrop of the recent CNG price hike.


" We have proposed basic fare hike from Rs 9 to Rs 11 and Rs 5 to Rs 6.50 for every subsequent kilometre," transport minister Radhakrishna Vikhe- Patil said.


" The decision is expected tomorrow ( Wednesday)," a transport official said.


Auto unions are demanding that the minimum fare be increased by Rs 6 and Rs 8 for every subsequent kilometre.


Terming the strike as illegal, Vikhe- Patil said it should be called off before talks can be held.


He was speaking after a meeting of the sub- committee, appointed by the state government, with the auto unions and transport officials.


Nitesh Rane, whose Swabhiman Sanghatana gave the call for strike, announced it was being called off following the government proposal.


On taxi fare hike, Vikhe- Patil said the MMRTA would convene a meeting this week and take a decision.


The taxi union is asking for a hike in the minimum fare of black- and- yellow taxis from Rs 14 to Rs 16.


There were clashes between rival union members over claiming credit for the hike.


Some union members and mediapersons were roughed up outside the RTO office in Bandra where the meeting was held.








Twenty-six years after the Bhopal gas tragedy there is finally a flicker of justice. That the Group of Ministers (GoM) tasked with re-evaluating the horrific industrial disaster has come out with fresh recommendations on compensation to the victims, decontamination of the gas plant site and legal measures to ensure that those guilty get their just desserts is welcome. Better late, as they say, than never.

The recommendations are that the next of kin of those who perished on that dreadful night in December 1984 will be provided with a compensation amount of Rs 10 lakh, those with permanent disabilities can hope to receive Rs 5 lakh, while those with lesser injuries and patients of cancer and renal problems will get Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh respectively. These amounts, though significantly enhanced from paltry sums that were offered earlier, would still need to be disbursed properly. Plus, the government would do well to re-evaluate the classification of victims. According to its estimates 5,300 people died due to the poisonous gas leak, disregarding the thousands more who perished in the aftermath.

Although the prescriptions of the GoM are on the whole positive, there is reason to be sceptical on certain fronts. For example, the government plans to force Dow Chemicals ^ the company that bought over Union Carbide -- to foot the bill. While it should vigorously pursue this course, establishing liability at this late stage is easier said than done. Similarly, even though it is commendable that the GoM has recommended that legal measures be looked at to reverse the 1996 Supreme Court ruling that diluted the charges against the operators of the gas plant, it is improbable that the US authorities will agree to extradite former Union Carbide boss, 91-year-old Warren Anderson, on filing of a fresh extradition request by the government.

Given the parsimony in compensating victims over the last 26 years, the proposal to set up a Rs 100 crore memorial at the site of the toxic gas plant is extravagant and unnecessary. Instead, the government should focus on cleaning up and decontaminating the gas plant site and ensure that the systemic shortcomings that brought us to this pass are quickly mitigated. In this regard, it can work out a comprehensive industrial disaster legislation that fixes culpability and provides for a transparent mechanism for disbursement of compensation money. Significant deterrents need to be in place to avoid a repeat of a tragedy like Bhopal.







Last weekend, China okayed a more flexible exchange rate for the yuan. This Monday's surge of the yuan to the highest point against the dollar since 2005 seemed to suggest the surprise move wasn't just a bid to dodge multilateral pressure at the upcoming G20 summit. By China's own admission though, currency recalibration will be modest and gradual. Even so, it's welcome. It signals that China wants to be viewed as a team player on the multilateral stage. Its policy shift fits with a crucial G20-backed rebalancing effort that requires the US to trim debt-fuelled consumption and China to commit to greater domestic demand-led growth. A skewed G2 equation at the core of global economic imbalances -- America spends, borrows and imports; China saves, lends and exports -- has long needed correcting. Key to this process is China's undertaking of currency reform.

For its booming growth to be sustainable, China needs to boost consumer spending. With the country's market opening up more to foreign products, Chinese businesses would gain by becoming more globally competitive in the long run. Besides, the post-Lehman crisis has exposed the risks of depending too heavily on export-fuelled expansion, with countries like China, Japan and Germany waking up to the need to make structural changes. By manipulating its currency, China has been risking a protectionist backlash from affected nations, particularly the US. The trade wars that could result wouldn't be in China's interest. Where India's concerned, exporters of products from textiles to engineering goods don't want to be priced out unfairly from huge markets like America and Europe. Their hopes are up. But much depends on how far China's actually willing to go with currency appreciation. The world will have to wait and watch.







To turn a metaphor around, what can't be endured must be cured. Trust is the key curative ingredient in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's nuanced strategy of structured re-engagement with Pakistan. And yet the meetings between home minister P Chidambaram and external affairs minister S M Krishna with their Pakistani counterparts on June 26 and July 15 respectively mark a fundamental shift in the balance of diplomatic power between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan's decades-long attempt to acquire parity with India is over. Despite the Pakistani army's braggadocio, its deployment of over 1,00,000 troops in the recently renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region (formerly known as the North West Frontier Province) has significantly weakened both its fighting capabilities on the LoC and its morale. The economic disparity between the two countries is growing. India's GDP is now nearly 10 times Pakistan's. Power shortages are crippling industry and everyday life in Pakistan. The entire country generates a mere 11,800 MW of electricity per day on average (Maharashtra alone generates more) and faces a daily shortfall of nearly 4,000 MW.

While the inevitably long drawn out appeal process against the death sentence given to Mohammed Ajmal Kasab will continue to cause public disquiet in India, the arrest of failed New York bomber Faisal Shahzad has seriously weakened Pakistan's ability to run with the Taliban hares and hunt with the American hounds. Washington has woken up.

The prime minister's strategy of re-engaging Pakistan couldn't be better timed for three other reasons. One, the eighteenth constitutional amendment has given Pakistan's National Assembly greater parliamentary power than it has had since the time of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the early 1970s. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani may still be the power behind the throne but on the throne sits a significantly empowered prime minister.

Two, ISI-created terror groups in north Waziristan led by Sirajuddin Haqqani are being relentlessly pursued by the US following the interrogation of Shahzad. Washington is forcing Islamabad to dismember Pakistan's "strategic terror assets" designed by Rawalpindi GHQ to remote control a Talibanised Afghanistan after the Americans leave. That strategy now lies in tatters.

Three, India's conventional military strength is being quietly burnished. The Indian navy has already commissioned an advanced stealth ship (INS Shivalik) and two more stealths (INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri) are expected to enter service next year. The navy has begun a two-year sea trial of INS Arihant, its first indigenously built ATV nuclear submarine, and will have a fleet of six by 2020. A nuclear-tipped supersonic cruise missile, BrahMos, is under classified development and will join the Agni-III whose range is 5,000 km. The navy's aircraft carrier (INS Vikramaditya) and nuclear submarines, supplemented by land-based and air-fired missiles, form a deadly triad of offensive military capability.

The prime minister is a pacifist but knows that to win the peace you must first possess the means to win a war. He now has those means and they immeasurably strengthen his negotiating position. But while talks with Pakistan are necessary, they must serve one clear purpose: a permanent end to state-sponsored terrorism by Pakistan. From this will emerge a modus vivendi on Kashmir and water, closer economic cooperation, stronger trade ties, easier travel and more people-to-people contact.

The Indian home minister's mandate at the SAARC home ministers' summit beginning in Islamabad on June 26 is to carry the prime minister's dual strategy forward. The first part of that strategy is to narrow the trust deficit with Pakistan's civilian government through purposeful re-engagement between the two countries' home and foreign ministers. The second part of the strategy is to assess whether the Pakistani army's adversarial mindset has changed significantly.

The influence of General Kayani, whose tenure ends on November 29 and may not be extended, is waning as Pakistani civil society, a reinvigorated judiciary and the democratically elected government reassert themselves. Washington no longer trusts him, especially after Shahzad's handlers were traced back to the ISI. New economic and geopolitical realities have shrunk the ambitions of even the hawks within the ISI who have long made a profitable living out of Pakistan's adversarial relationship with India.

Chidambaram's iron fist may be clothed in velvet as he meets Pakistan's leaders in Islamabad this weekend but he will leave them in no doubt about India's intent: peace is a prize to be won for the entire subcontinent. It is a prize necessary for India to pursue its expanding global agenda without being distracted by a renegade neighbour. And it is necessary for Pakistan so that it can extricate itself from decades of misguided military adventurism and state-sponsored terrorism that have cost so many innocent lives.

Talking to, and trusting, Pakistan is vital for long-term peace in the subcontinent. But peace, like any other prize worth winning, carries collateral obligations. It is, for instance, the constitutional obligation of a government to protect its citizens and, in the event of a terrorist attack against them, bring the perpetrators to book. The prime minister, as his government re-engages Pakistan across a raft of issues, must honour that principal obligation by ensuring that terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim are brought swiftly to justice.

The writer is chairman of a media group and an author.







Why is the airline going international?

Going international was not an emotional decision for us. We want to better utilise our planes. These operations will be an extension of our domestic services. The delay in launch was because we got permission to fly to only three countries -- Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives. But we want to launch from Sri Lanka first as it will take us just 45 days to put things in place. But the government has concerns about overcapacity, which we have addressed.

Can passengers expect low-cost tickets internationally?

SpiceJet has the lowest ticket price in terms of cost per km and we should be able to leverage that advantage here too. Our costs will anyway be less. Just take sales tax on aviation turbine fuel, which is a major expense of our domestic operations. This would be nil internationally. So yes, passengers can expect budget prices.

Why isn't SpiceJet flying to lucrative Gulf routes?

Many Gulf carriers such as Emirates, Etihad and Air Arabia are already flying to many places in India. They have deep pockets and are fiercely competitive. As an LCC with thin margins, we don't want to take them head on now. We would like to explore West Asia later though.

SpiceJet hasn't had a head of operations for over a year now. This would surely have affected the working of the airline.

We haven't been able to find suitable candidates to go with our youthful image. Presently, I am looking after matters and we are doing fine.

Why then are pilots leaving your airline?

They are leaving for better opportunities and this is no more or less than it is in other airlines.

What is SpiceJet doing to induct more Indian captains?

We are on a good training spree and upgraded 14 first officers last month to captains. Even then, it'll take us two years to be completely free of expats.

Indian carriers have to complete five years of domestic operations before they can fly international, while foreign airlines have no such stipulation. Is that fair?

No. Foreign carriers have taken over Indian skies. If we and Indigo had been given permission to fly international earlier, airlines like Air Asia wouldn't have made it big in India. These norms should be relaxed to two years. We should have a level playing field.

How did SpiceJet break even despite recession?

Recession was an opportunity for us to better ourselves. From January 2009 till March 2010, we didn't take a single plane delivery. Instead, we utilised our planes harder and filled them better. We focused on costs, services and training. With demand back now, we are hiring.

You have a new owner with deep pockets.

This development should have a positive impact on the company. Our investors are very optimistic and have expressed the same to us.







Romeo must die. And so must Juliet, if she and her star-crossed lover happen to belong to different castes -- or to the same gotra -- and decide to get married. So-called 'honour killings' have become a macabre trend: a new incident is reported almost every day in some part of north India.


What is the reason behind this new killer epidemic? It's often remarked that though India has only one official time zone -- Indian Standard Time -- in actual fact different mental time frames -- often a century or more apart -- jostle each other and, not infrequently, collide headlong with fatal results. Increasingly rapid urbanisation is one of the main factors involved. Not only are more and more people -- particularly younger people -- moving into towns and cities in search of livelihood, but urban areas, under the strain of migrant populations, are expanding to swallow up what was once the rural hinterland. The result is often not just a physical but a massive cultural dislocation in which traditional norms and taboos are inevitably challenged or broken. Equally inevitably, there is a backlash in which the self-appointed custodians of a community's moral and social codes -- in this case the khap panchayats -- take it upon themselves to punish those who transgress such codes.


Most, if not all, of these traditional codes relate to caste, particularly when it comes to marriage. Inter-caste marriage is widely seen -- and not just by the newly urbanised or semi-urbanised -- as a cultural pollutant that defiles the caste purity not just of the immediate families involved but of the entirety of the two communities concerned. However, with urbanisation -- and the relatively greater economic emancipation of women that often, thought not always, comes in its wake -- these age-old caste barriers are becoming increasingly porous, or irrelevant. Unlike in villages and rural areas where caste is your unalterable destiny, in the melting pot of urban India, the contours of caste are less rigidly defined. Your gram panchayat certainly knows your caste and expects you to behave accordingly; your BPO employer and your call centre colleagues may well be ignorant, or indifferent, about your caste, leaving you free to marry or to socialise with whoever you will.


This is the source of the conflict that leads to the murder of inter-caste couples, the revenge of tradition against the heresy of modernism. How is it to be combated, and potential victims protected from such atrocities? The first thing is to stop calling such despicable acts 'honour' killings: there is nothing whatsoever honourable about them; if anything, they bring dishonour to the perpetrators and to our society as a whole for allowing such crimes to take place. These 'dishonourable' killings are premeditated murder, and ought to be treated as such by law enforcers.


Deplorably, thanks to vote-bank politics, a number of politicians, including the current CM of Haryana, have taken a supportive view of the khap panchayat's ban on same-gotra marriages. If same-gotra marriages are 'incestuous', as the khaps insist they are, shouldn't by the extension of this logic inter-caste marriages be preferable to same-caste marriage to prevent inbreeding?


The Supreme Court has taken the lead by issuing a notice to the Centre and to eight northern states, including Haryana, to explain what steps they have taken to prevent caste- and gotra-related murders. Social activists, in Haryana and elsewhere, are raising awareness about the issue through PILs, street theatre and other means.


Perhaps what is needed is organised mass marriages, conducted under government auspices, where irrespective of caste or gotra, nuptials can be solemnised by the mutual consent of couples and the blessings of a truly secular state.


Such a state could not promise that marriages are made in heaven. But it could guarantee that caste-controversial marriages can be made in a sarkari haven.







It would seem that the abomination called khap panchayats are headed by individuals who could rival Gregor Mendel, given the way they are able to predict genetic flaws in same caste marriages up to seven generations. The Supreme Court has made it clear that it has no time for the bizarre excuses to murder young people who dare to oppose the khaps and marry a partner of their choosing.

The latest Wild West version of justice is the killing of a couple four years after their inter-caste marriage, ostensibly by the girl's brother. The seven states where these so-called honour killings are prevalent have been directed by the apex court to demonstrate their responses to this regressive social trend. The court should also set a deadline for this as further delays will mean the deaths of more innocent people.

That these self-appointed custodians of morality have no fear of the law is seen from the manner in which they proudly proclaim their determination to put 'offenders' to death in full view of television cameras.

Apart from one court verdict awarding life to five people found guilty of murdering a married couple from the same gotra in March, the killers have got away for want of effective prosecution and lack of evidence and witnesses. This cavalier attitude on the part of the law has emboldened the Torquemada-like justice dispensers to include same village marriages in their lengthening list of taboos.

The khap advocates had earlier tried to get the government to amend the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 to include a ban on same gotra marriages. The government wisely refused to cave in to pressure. The same, however, cannot be said for several elected representatives who have directly or indirectly signaled their approval of khap justice on the grounds that these panchayats are traditional bodies devoted to community service. And, these are people bound by the Constitution to serve the people. Mercifully, the law has been unequivocal in its condemnation of this barbarism and this is reflected in the Supreme Court's latest directive.

Of course, there must be efforts to change social attitudes. That many couples are willing to risk death to marry a person of their own choice shows that the society increasingly does not accept this medieval morality.

But it is only when the khaps understand that murder under the law is just that, whatsoever be their perverted logic, that the real fight against these backward elements will be joined. The first step in this is to ensure that the police keep aside personal prejudice and do their duty to protect young couples and politicians at least refrain from making half-baked statements with an eye to votes.





Better late than never. The West Bengal government, known for its penchant for kicking a ball in pastures green to the chagrin of non-playing agriculturalists, has a cunning plan this World Cup season.

To be organised by the Bengal police, the Left Front-government is planning to start a bona fide football tournament in 'Maoist-infested' Lalgarh, with youngsters from three Maoist-affected districts of the state participating. And that's not all. The plan is to send the best player of the tournament to be trained by German club Bayern Munich in, you guessed it, Munich.

Since TV reality shows like Indian Idol, which have done their bit to bring youngsters from disaffected areas like Kashmir and the North-east into the mainstream, have not proved enticing enough for Bengal, this football tournament could do the trick to wean proto-Maoists away from the revolution.

Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh stated that these football matches involving youngsters from Maoist-dominated areas of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia will be essentially to "separate the common people from the ultras' influence". How this will manage to exclude young Maoist sympathisers with great football skills is yet to be worked out.

The best player will, according to plans, be sent by the state government, at its expense, to Germany. Before you start saying, "Mein Gott!" remember that Bayern Munich wanted to set up a football complex in Burdwan district some time ago.

Rather intriguingly though, Singh stated that "after the matches, the participants will be served a meal," adding that "food is one of the reasons that took the youth towards the Maoists". Yes, sauerkraut, schnitzel and wiener for the revolution with a little vintage Baader Meinhof beer on the side.






Later this week Home Minister P. Chidambaram visits Pakistan. He is likely to discuss terror investigations with Islamabad and seek help on specific cases, such as those related to the Mumbai attacks of 26/11. In the past few days, there has been a bit of confusion between the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Home Ministry on the issue of Muhammad Arif Qasmani and whether or not India should press for his questioning. Who is Arif Qasmani? On June 29, 2009, the United Nations Security Council al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee added him to the list of individuals subjected to "assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo". The UN document said Qasmani was born in 1944 and lived on Tipu Sultan Road in Karachi. He was described as the "chief coordinator" of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) "dealings with outside organisations".

In particular, Qasmani was accused of having "worked with LeT to facilitate terrorist attacks… [including] the February 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing in Panipat, India". The dossier was long. Qasmani was charged with using money received from Dawood Ibrahim to "facilitate the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai", and with providing logistical support to al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, including helping them escape from Afghanistan after 9/11.

There is zero doubt in New Delhi that Qasmani is a dangerous man. However, will Chidambaram add him to the list of those Indian investigators want to interrogate in the matter of the Samjhauta Express attack? On February 18, 2007, the train that unites India and Pakistan was bombed shortly after it left Delhi and as it was passing Panipat (Haryana), killing about 70 people.

Why then are Indian internal security officials almost underplaying the Qasmani angle? Why is there no guarantee Chidambaram will seek access to Qasmani?

The clues lie in May 2010, when the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told the media that, "The link between the Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta and Ajmer blasts is that the bombs had the same arming devices." In recent weeks, authorities in New Delhi as well as the states have linked four terror attacks: Mecca Masjid (Hyderabad, 2007), Ajmer Sharif (2007), Malegaon (Maharashtra, 2008) and the Samjhauta Express. Apparently suitcase locks used for triggering explosions on the Samjhauta train resembled tin bombs used in Hyderabad and Ajmer.

All these attacks have been attributed to Hindu extremist groups. They have been traced to a network that includes Lieutenant Colonel S.P. Purohit, the military intelligence officer believed to be a key organiser of a Hindu militia. If this is true, Hindu terrorism has emerged as a clear and present danger. It may not be as lethal as Islamist terrorism for the moment, but the need to combat it is non-negotiable. If Purohit actually murdered citizens who, as an army officer, he was duty-bound to protect, frankly he is worse than a terrorist.

Yet, if this gang is responsible for the Samjhauta carnage, then what did Qasmani do and why is his name still on that UN sanctions list? Presumably the Security Council acted against him after inputs from various sources, including the Indian government. If so, doesn't somebody in the CBI, or in the Indian government, need to clarify and perhaps update the UN?

That question disguises a more compelling problem. Despite the efforts of Chidambaram, India's battle against terrorism remains trapped in the amateurism of state police forces and easy manipulation by politicians. After each terror attack, the police is under intense pressure to 'do something'. What follows is a flurry of activity and sombre but ultimately empty media leaks. The investigating officer is sometimes more worried about what his home minister in the individual state thinks of him than cracking the conspiracy. As such, the motivations, obsessions and politics of the provincial minister overwhelm India's battle against terrorism. They influence the course of the investigation.

This has created a ridiculous situation. In 2007, Hyderabad police was quick to blame Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HuJI) for the Mecca Masjid attack and arrested many local Muslim youth. Today, it is Abhinav Bharat that is blamed and the Muslim youth have been declared innocent. In both instances, media leaks have trotted out 'incontrovertible evidence', as if the police always has 'proof' and jargon to prove anything against anybody. In Rajasthan, the needle of suspicion changed direction when the BJP was voted out in 2008 and the Congress elected.

Without going into who is right and who is wrong — bluntly, it is increasingly impossible to tell — this destroys credibility. It shows India's internal security apparatus in a very poor light.

Most egregious is the case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, killed in an encounter in November 2005. The operation that neutralised him involved the police forces of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. It had the concurrence and passive participation of federal agencies. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) had in its possession wire taps that established Sohrabuddin talking to Dawood and agreeing to take delivery of an arms consignment in Kerala.

Nevertheless, today the Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh governments are looking the other way. The IB has been silenced. The CBI is attempting to present Sohrabuddin not as a terror auxiliary but an ordinary criminal running an extortion racket in cahoots with Gujarat police officers and ministers. Like Qasmani, Sohrabuddin has become a political plaything. It's disturbing.

Ashok Malik is a Delhi-based political commentator. The views expressed by the author are personal.







The government's selective amnesia is astonishing. When the minister of rural development and panchayati raj (MoRDPR) and the minister of state for environment and forests (MoEF) announced a `new initiative on pan- chayats and forests' on May 19, they appeared to have for- gotten about the legislative developments that their own government recently introduced.


The `new initiative' proposes actions that democratise forest management, by bringing relevant functions under the purview of panchayat institutions in keeping with the 73rd Constitutional amendment (1993), and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (Pesa) Act 1996. The latter is applicable to Schedule V areas (predominantly tribal). It's a progressive move, much needed to break the bureaucracy's stranglehold on forest and protected area governance. However, the initiative falls short of what is mandated by the two new laws, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (in short, Forest Rights Act or FRA) and the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act (WLPA) 2006.

Here's how: The initiative states that in areas under Pesa, gram sabhas/panchayats, not the district forest officer, should control Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs). In the rest, JFMCs should have `organic linkages' with the panchayat bodies.


The FRA already empowers gram sabhas to set up for- est protection committees to manage and conserve forests claimed by them as community forest resources under Section 3(1)i. These would eventually replace JFMCs. It's possible that in some cases gram sabhas might convert JFMCs, their own forest protection committees or myriad other community conservation institutions into forest com- mittees under FRA. But it is entirely the gram sabhas' pre- rogative. It's another matter that forest departments in most states, fearing loss of power, are resisting such a move.

It's this reluctance and obstruction that the two ministries should tackle with the ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA).


The MoRDPR/MoEF initiative says that there will be prior consultation with panchayats in matters of relocation and declaration of sanctuaries, with respect to the Wild Life Act (WLPA). However, this ignores the fact that for relocation, both the WLPA and the FRA now require gram sabha consent, not merely consultation. Moreover, areas within existing or proposed protected areas (sanctuaries and national parks) can be claimed as community forests, and eventually this may force governance changes towards co-management or community-based management (as, inci- dentally, is happening across the world).


The MoRDPR/MoEF initiative talks of harmonising the Indian Forest Act, the Forest Conservation Act and Pesa.

Good. But why leave out the FRA? Especially given that the MoEF has itself, with the MoTA, set up a committee to recommend what policy changes are needed in forest gov- ernance, to implement the FRA.


The MoRDPR/MoEF initiative says that "issues such as definition and ownership of minor forest produce" would be "sorted out shortly". Ownership of MFP was given to villages in Schedule V areas by Pesa in 1996, but never implemented; it is again given in the form of rights of usage and management, under FRA. Yes, some aspects of defi- nition do need to be sorted out, especially for instance where states like Maharashtra are trying to remove bamboo from the list of MFP. But more important is to work out how the ownership and rights will be exercised, in ways that bene- fit local people and ensure conservation -- issues that remain unexplained by the MoRDPR/MoEF note.


The note also states that "JFMCs are the only partici- patory institutions in place for implementing forestry pro- grammes". This is outright wrong. There are thousands of self-initiated forest protection committees in at least a dozen states in India, working with or without help from NGOs and government agencies. MoEF has itself funded a study on some of these, published in 2009. It is strange that the note mentions all the laws relevant to forests and people, except the FRA. Surely, this cannot be a mere mistake, or a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Is it because Pesa, having been rendered toothless by state governments, does not threat- en the entrenched power of the bureaucracy, whereas the FRA, backed by rising grassroots mobilisation, does?


What these and other relevant ministries need to do is facilitate grassroots processes of decentralised forest man- agement, using the mandate provided by the new laws.

They should help build capacity where it does not exist, strengthen innovative institutions of cooperation between gram sabhas, tribal village councils, government depart- ments, and larger landscape bodies, help monitor the ground situation to ensure conservation is taking place and the really needy are benefiting from forest use. Above all, these ministries need to go all out to change bureaucratic mind- set that want to hold on to power. This cannot be done by continuing to promote iniquitous institutions like JFMCs, and ignoring legislative changes that herald in more equitable arrangements.


Ashish Kothari is with Kalpavriksha, Pune The views expressed by the author are personal

The government's selective amnesia is astonishing. When the minister of rural development and panchayati raj (MoRDPR) and the minister of state for environment and forests (MoEF) announced a `new initiative on pan- chayats and forests' on May 19, they appeared to have for- gotten about the legislative developments that their own government recently introduced.


The `new initiative' proposes actions that democratise forest management, by bringing relevant functions under the purview of panchayat institutions in keeping with the 73rd Constitutional amendment (1993), and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (Pesa) Act 1996. The latter is applicable to Schedule V areas (predominantly tribal). It's a progressive move, much needed to break the bureaucracy's stranglehold on forest and protected area governance. However, the initiative falls short of what is mandated by the two new laws, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (in short, Forest Rights Act or FRA) and the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act (WLPA) 2006.

Here's how: The initiative states that in areas under Pesa, gram sabhas/panchayats, not the district forest officer, should control Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs). In the rest, JFMCs should have `organic linkages' with the panchayat bodies.


The FRA already empowers gram sabhas to set up for- est protection committees to manage and conserve forests claimed by them as community forest resources under Section 3(1)i. These would eventually replace JFMCs. It's possible that in some cases gram sabhas might convert JFMCs, their own forest protection committees or myriad other community conservation institutions into forest com- mittees under FRA. But it is entirely the gram sabhas' pre- rogative. It's another matter that forest departments in most states, fearing loss of power, are resisting such a move.

It's this reluctance and obstruction that the two ministries should tackle with the ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA).


The MoRDPR/MoEF initiative says that there will be prior consultation with panchayats in matters of relocation and declaration of sanctuaries, with respect to the Wild Life Act (WLPA). However, this ignores the fact that for relocation, both the WLPA and the FRA now require gram sabha consent, not merely consultation. Moreover, areas within existing or proposed protected areas (sanctuaries and national parks) can be claimed as community forests, and eventually this may force governance changes towards co-management or community-based management (as, inci- dentally, is happening across the world).


The MoRDPR/MoEF initiative talks of harmonising the Indian Forest Act, the Forest Conservation Act and Pesa.

Good. But why leave out the FRA? Especially given that the MoEF has itself, with the MoTA, set up a committee to recommend what policy changes are needed in forest gov- ernance, to implement the FRA.


The MoRDPR/MoEF initiative says that "issues such as definition and ownership of minor forest produce" would be "sorted out shortly". Ownership of MFP was given to villages in Schedule V areas by Pesa in 1996, but never implemented; it is again given in the form of rights of usage and management, under FRA. Yes, some aspects of defi- nition do need to be sorted out, especially for instance where states like Maharashtra are trying to remove bamboo from the list of MFP. But more important is to work out how the ownership and rights will be exercised, in ways that bene- fit local people and ensure conservation -- issues that remain unexplained by the MoRDPR/MoEF note.


The note also states that "JFMCs are the only partici- patory institutions in place for implementing forestry pro- grammes". This is outright wrong. There are thousands of self-initiated forest protection committees in at least a dozen states in India, working with or without help from NGOs and government agencies. MoEF has itself funded a study on some of these, published in 2009. It is strange that the note mentions all the laws relevant to forests and people, except the FRA. Surely, this cannot be a mere mistake, or a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Is it because Pesa, having been rendered toothless by state governments, does not threat- en the entrenched power of the bureaucracy, whereas the FRA, backed by rising grassroots mobilisation, does?


What these and other relevant ministries need to do is facilitate grassroots processes of decentralised forest man- agement, using the mandate provided by the new laws.

They should help build capacity where it does not exist, strengthen innovative institutions of cooperation between gram sabhas, tribal village councils, government depart- ments, and larger landscape bodies, help monitor the ground situation to ensure conservation is taking place and the really needy are benefiting from forest use. Above all, these ministries need to go all out to change bureaucratic mind- set that want to hold on to power. This cannot be done by continuing to promote iniquitous institutions like JFMCs, and ignoring legislative changes that herald in more equitable arrangements.


Ashish Kothari is with Kalpavriksha, Pune The views expressed by the author are personal







The contemporary image of societal mores vis-à-vis the Indian woman, as portrayed in Prakash Jha's film Rajneeti, is a deeply disturbing experience. Its layered and complex patriarchal narrative is woven around gender and politics. It is, to my mind, the most power- ful and problematic comment on societal mores regarding gender, where the four main women characters move within a vortex of vio- lence, attempting to hold a mirror to our times.


There is Mamta, the idealistic child of the leader of the biggest political party who has rejected her father's politics, but is eventually forced to give up her first-born -- conceived out of wedlock -- to marry into the right politi- cal family. Then there is Indu, the only child of a business magnate, who is also forced into a marriage of political convenience, despite her one-sided passion for her husband's younger brother, Samar. There is the woman political worker who, in the hope of a party ticket, allows herself to be subjected to sadomasochistic sex with the party leader's heir appar- ent -- the same man Indu is later forced to marry. Finally there is Samar's American girlfriend, Sarah, who walks right into the muck of Indian politics. She is perhaps the only woman in the film who breathes and feels like a normal human being, mak- ing her revulsion apparent, despite her love for Samar.


Does this film indeed mirror the times or is it a Dracula tale? The women who are tossed, teased, tasted and twisted by politics onscreen are characters of a drama we see unfold in the media everyday -- women who are killed for honour by their lovers or families; victims of acid attacks and revenge rape. The film shows a society as it is, complete with its depravity.


If art indeed mirrors life, then, despite all the efforts of the State and civil society, the dawn for women's dignity is yet to arrive. What should one make of the fact that the only image of dignity in the film is a woman from an alien land? The question to be asked by all thinking Indians is: what status do they accord to gen- der? Jha has given us a lot to mull over.


Syeda Hameed is a writer and Member, Planning Commission The views expressed by the author








In line with its "development offensive" in Naxal-affected areas, the Centre signals that it would get cracking on the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, in order to get recalcitrant states to grant tribals complete rights over minor forest produce. Enacted in 1996, PESA was a giant structural shift meant to empower gram sabhas (vis-a-vis panchayat representatives and state civil servants) to take the helm and protect community resources which include forest produce and water bodies, be consulted on land acquisition, mining projects, etc, and have the decisive say in all development projects intended for them.


Despite its clear need in Maoist-affected tribal areas, the act has been cheerfully disregarded. States rely on their own agencies which exclusively collect and trade such produce, and refuse to hike prices. The unspoken hope is that dismantling these systems would undo the grip of the contractors who buy the forest produce from tribals, and thus snip off the steady funds supply to Naxalites. Fifty per cent of forest revenues and two-thirds of forest exports come from such produce, which includes bamboo, sal seeds, tendu leaves, etc. Not only would the pay-offs to powerful intermediaries end, this would personally enrich forest dwellers and give them greater economic stakes in their land. It could give them real choices.


That's a fine plan, but the record is not encouraging. After all, PESA has been around for more than a decade, but it has been persistently undercut by the states. Its own assumptions have worked against it — gram sabhas are amorphous entities, not operational bodies, and are as vulnerable to manipulation and pressure. Many of these entitlements are unexercisable, and what's more, there are already strong and pointed laws to give tribals greater control and livelihood rights. The Forest Rights Act already gives them full rights to


minor forest produce. Yes, deepening and widening PESA entitlements is the way to go, but that may be about as empty as saying that it must aim to give greater power to the powerless.







Trade is the surest indicator of the importance the seas retain. Even a rudimentary study of the volume and percentage of global trade carried on via maritime routes will unambiguously emphasise the need for using the seas and, in order to do so, putting in place all necessary infrastructure. And where seaborne trade is concerned, that infrastructure begins with the port, and encompasses shipbuilding, manpower training and so on. The decision to convert the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust into a public sector undertaking is the right stepping stone to the eventual corporatisation of all major port trusts. At present, India has only one corporatised port — Ennore — out of 12 major ports, the remaining 11 of which are governed by port trusts, while the 187 non-major ports (many of which however are not functional) too contribute to


India's maritime trade. Given the Indian shipping sector's potential to fuel growth and the quantum of global maritime trade, clearly that is too little infrastructure, compounded by the lack of skilled manpower.


However, the problem is not merely one of tangible lacks. The infrastructure that exists — and that which will be built — will have to be efficiently managed. Therefore, corporatisation is a move to a better administrative model which will facilitate greater autonomy and profitability for individual ports. The practice of the Tariff


Authority for Major Ports imposing restrictive tariffs on port trusts (under the Major Port Trusts Act 1963) and thereby shooting up port charges is an anachronism that will not help the ambitious National Maritime Development Programme which aims at modernisation and expansion of Indian ports through the public-private partnership model. Without significant capacity expansion (targeted for a 1,200 million tonne enhancement by 2012) on the one hand and a port's freedom to fix tariffs and compete with other ports on the other, India will fail to profitably leverage its 7,500 km-plus coastline and the largest merchant fleet among developing nations (which nevertheless is a negligible fraction of the global fleet).


Corporatisation of major port trusts into PSUs is therefore just a beginning, which must go all the way and see increasing investment of and management by private capital, whereby Indian ports can in future operate in a less protective and immensely more competitive environment. Along with expediting the NMDP, the need is to simultaneously develop shipbuilding and skills training. An integrated approach to ports, shipping and the inland waterways will see a manifold increase in India's share of the global shipping tonnage and consequent benefits to the economy.








As the debate on caste enumeration has intensified, no one finds it any longer necessary to give or seek clarification as to how, and in what precise terms, caste returns are to be introduced in the 2011 census. It is widely assumed that it is going to be on the lines of the 1931 census: the caste of every Indian is to be recorded and graded. This is despite the fact that caste


today is unrecognisably different from caste in 1931, and it cannot be described or known in terms the British devised in the censuses they held, or by the tenets of social


anthropology they applied. Also, the purpose of enumeration today is radically different from that of the British rulers. As such, the idea of an universal caste census — that is, docketing every Indian by caste — is not just impractical, but against the spirit of the Constitution.


Yet, such an absurd proposal which is not feasible and least desirable is being seriously discussed on public forums and is not negated by the government. Perhaps the idea is to buy time, keeping the debate in a state of confusion while a group of ministers pushes it on the back-burner. But it is not inconceivable that the idea of the government and of OBC leaders really is enumeration of every Indian by caste. If that happens it would be the saddest day for Indian democracy.


It is not difficult to anticipate some long-term consequences such a comprehensive caste census might create. First, it would permanently put caste identity over all other identities. Second, it would legitimise subjugation of individuals to the authority of caste and to its hegemonic, often mafia-like, leadership. Third, it would severely undermine social and cultural identification of people with non-caste socio-economic and cultural categories such as the middle class — which is the emerging and enlarging identity for a growing number of Indians. Fourth, it would permanently reduce India to a democracy of communities rather than make it a democracy of free citizens, voluntarily associating with collectivities representing their political, cultural or economic choice.


It is therefore important that the issue of introducing caste in the census is grounded in the policy discourse, and issues of implementation taken into account.


First, the Constitution provides for reservations as well as dispensing of other benefits to OBCs where they are not (already) adequately represented. Unlike for SCs and STs the constitutional requirement is adequacy and not proportionality of their presence in jobs and educational seats. This has enabled a fair assumption that their representation in the legislatures does not require any constitutional or legal provision, for their huge numbers in the population would ensure their electoral and other political representations. Yet, the constitutional requirement of assessing adequacy of representation cannot be satisfactorily met until reliable information about their caste/ community-wise numbers (in the population and in jobs) is officially available.


Second, an OBC-caste census is eminently feasible. Unfortunately it is not widely known that this issue has been empirically resolved and specific groups — castes and communities from every religious denomination (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian) — of the OBCs have been identified through procedures recommended by the Constitution and elaborated by the law courts. The lists of the OBC communities have been Centrally streamlined and reconciled with the states lists by commissions appointed for the purpose. All that is involved here is that a census investigator be officially supplied with a list of identified OBC castes in a region — as is the case with the SC/ ST lists — against which he/ she can record the respondent's caste.

Third, making the numbers officially available for the already identified and listed groups would put an end to what is today an open-ended politics of contentions about entry into the OBC category and for escalating claims to different types and extents of benefits by those inside the category. The politics of the '80s and '90s largely thrived on such a state of semi-institutionalised and unevenly implemented policy. The result is: a large part of benefits have been cornered by a few, politically powerful and socially influential OBC groups who virtually have blocked benefits from going down to a large number of smaller, poorer and powerless OBC communities.


Thus seen, the idea of "including caste in the census" should strictly be confined to OBC enumeration — required for the limited objective of just and proper implementation of the prevailing policy. But if the decision is postponed, or altogether avoided, it is likely to push what is perhaps a politically manageable policy issue today into a vortex of politics — a politics that might give a new lease of life to the dying politics of the '80s and '90s.


OBC enumeration might, however, radically change the nature of OBC politics that we see today.


First, a formidable vested interest is at play in not allowing any public debate, let alone implementation, of the exit policy (from reservation). The policy should have been implemented by 2003, as was required by the Supreme Court judgment in the Indira Sawhney case. But politics prevailed over the policy and the task set by the apex court for the government remains unrealised till today. But now, if the listed OBC communities in every state are enumerated and the figures are analysed in correlation to other socio-economic and educational data obtained through the census, it will at once become evident which communities among them can no longer be counted as backward.


Second, dissemination of such new information will inevitably create political awareness among the lower rungs of the OBCs about the unjust implementation of the policy by which only a section of the OBCs have benefited. Such change in perceptions might privilege the discourse of rights and justice over the one that has degenerated today into viewing backwardness unidimensionally as a permanent condition of some castes and development as a property intrinsic to others.


Third, the census data can lend strong political content to the otherwise known fact that the dominant OBC communities are no longer embedded in backwardness, thanks to their increasing participation in development processes, but more particularly the structural divisions and differentiations within each of them where unity is not underwritten by sharing poverty or their members exhibiting a common social outlook. In fact, with overall development and reduction of poverty in the country, the structural linkages between caste and backwardness are increasingly becoming weaker, in different degrees, for all communities. The issue therefore is not whether, but for how long, the old politics will survive in the changed reality.


All this, if the census data on the OBCs are collected in the first place and then analysed, presented and used for the purpose of just and efficient implementation of the prevailing policy — that is, to make benefits travel down to the "last OBC", while continually creaming off the upper layers. Such policy will remain relevant till the systemic connection of caste to backward-ness is randomised and its social-structural basis is thinned down.


The writer is at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi








A year and nearly a month to the day — and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa marked "Victory day" last Friday with the island's biggest military parade ever. It wasn't just a year without the LTTE that the president had to be proud of; the parade down Colombo's Galle Face came days after very successful talks with both India and China.


In Delhi his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh resulted in several assurances: he signed seven agreements worth thousands of crores; commitments to rebuild rail-lines, the airport, a harbour, a stadium and a cultural centre in Jaffna. Within hours of returning to Colombo, Rajapaksa received Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang — and signed six agreements detailing cooperation in technology, industry, information technology and construction, and taking forward the 550 million dollar Hambantota port project.


Amidst the cheer though, Rajapaksa has also had to face some tough questions. First, in New Delhi, India made its concerns over rehabilitating Tamil IDPs (internally displaced persons) clear. And then from the UN, that is set to announce a panel to inquire into human rights complaints in Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa has angrily denied the human rights allegations and responded to questions over rehabilitating Tamil IDPs with a promise that the remaining 54,000 people still registered as living in the camps would be sent home in the next 3-6 months. But shutting down the camps can only be the beginning. The promise of justice to Tamils, devolution of power to the region, holding provincial elections and the full implementation of the 13th amendment to the constitution are all promises that must be kept if the dreaded terror group is to be denied a chance to regroup. Rajapaksa himself seems aware of that danger. He appointed an eight-member "Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation" to recommend measures to ensure "that there will be no recurrence of such a situation."


Several separate and seemingly insignificant events in the past few weeks should tell the government there is little time to rest on military or electoral laurels. The first occurred in Philadelphia, USA, at a conference of the new "transnational government of Tamil Eelam" (TGTE) — representatives of the Tamil diaspora in nine Western countries. According to the TGTE's website they began proceedings on Prabhakaran's death anniversary, with pledges to keep his dream of Eelam alive.


Later in the month, Tamil nationalist groups were able to force one of India's most powerful film families, the Bachchans, to cancel their trip to Sri Lanka for the IIFA film awards. Days later, Indian security agencies sat up with a start after train tracks in Tamil Nadu's Villupuram were blasted, possibly by LTTE supporters. Three suspected Tigers were arrested on Sunday. In Malaysia, Interior Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has now warned that the LTTE's new leadership is using that country as shelter and a logistics base. None of these events individually, and even taken together, signifies much by way of the Tigers' resurgence; but they are warning flags that must have been marked by the Sri Lankan government as it tries to script a success in its efforts.


It need not look too far for examples of how it could go wrong. The fall of Kabul in November 2001 was welcomed by all in Afghanistan except the defeated Taliban. Within weeks more than 60 countries had pledged more than 15 billion dollars for the reconstruction effort, towards the promise of a new Afghanistan. With each passing month that promise faded. Eight years later (and despite 38 billion dollars in American financial assistance alone) only 2 per cent of Kabul has round-the-clock electricity and access to clean water is the lowest in the world, at 22 per cent. As a result, just two years after the fall of Kabul, some were beginning to predict the resurgence of the Taliban. Eight years later, international forces battle a fully re-strengthened Taliban force, and the Karzai government's Jirga discusses making peace with the very men they once swore to protect their people from.


While the situations in Sri Lanka a year after the LTTE and post-Taliban Afghanistan are far from comparable, the common lesson is that time and goodwill run out very quickly. It should also be remembered that the Sri Lankan army didn't win its war against the LTTE on its own. India's moral and naval blockade ensured LTTE fighters were starved off supplies as well as escape routes; the US and Canada's financial strictures turned off the terror-funding tap.


It will take a similarly consistent and consolidated international and domestic commitment to keep the peace and win justice for the people in the island's North and East. For as so many other nations that have battled insurgents claiming to fight injustice have found: the absence of violence is never peace, merely the presence of an opportunity for it.


The writer is deputy foreign editor, CNN-IBN







The real issue before the forthcoming NSG meeting is getting increasingly obfuscated. It is sought to be portrayed as China building two more reactors in Pakistan getting around the NSG guidelines, and Pakistan claiming a kind of parity with India's exceptionalism, but this is a superficial view. If Pakistan gets two more power reactors under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that alone should not worry India and the international community. The more reactors are built in Punjab, the more vulnerable Pakistan will become to retaliatory strikes to their threatened India-specific first strike. Progressively, this posture will lose credibility. India wants Pakistan, which is short on energy, to develop economically. Therefore, the additional Chinese reactors by themselves cannot be an issue.


The real issue is the following. According to US nuclear scientists Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman who wrote The Nuclear Express, Deng Xiaoping took a decision to proliferate to selected Marxist and Islamic countries in the early '80s including Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. Dr A.Q. Khan's revelations have disclosed the entire saga of Chinese proliferation to Pakistan and the US looking away as a price for Islamabad's support to the jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. These disclosures stand vindicated as the Pakistani judiciary has exonerated Khan of all wrongdoing. It stands to reason that the Chinese proliferation to Pakistan and proliferation by both countries to Iran were deliberate state-led acts. All subsequent Pakistani proliferation attempts to Iran and Libya were state-sanctioned, and Khan was acting with full approval of successive governments and army chiefs in Pakistan. One of the mysteries about Khan not discussed in the Western media is his CIA link. Former Dutch Prime Minister Dr.Rudd Lubbers has revealed on more than one occasion, including at a conference in the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, that the Dutch authorities that detained Khan twice in 1975 and 1986 had to set him free on CIA's intervention.


Reed and Stillman maintain, after elaborate discussions with the Chinese nuclear establishment, that the 35th Chinese nuclear test at Lop Nor on May 26, 1990 tested a Pakistani-assembled Chinese-designed fission weapon (Chicom-4, the design of which was recovered from the cargo destined to Libya on board the ship BBC China in October 2003, wrapped in the bag of Khan's Islamabad dry-cleaner). It is a remarkable and under-analysed coincidence that Robert Gates, as the deputy national security advisor, led a team to Islamabad just a few days before the test. It is admitted that he discussed the nuclear issue with General Aslam Beg and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. It is not known whether they discussed the impending Pakistani test in China.


The non-proliferation community welcomed China, with this ongoing proliferation record, as a nuclear weapon state into the non-proliferation Treaty(NPT) in 1992. Though it is argued by some Chinese academics that China's proliferation took place before it joined the NPT, and that it abides by the treaty ever since, China was caught red-handed supplying crucial ring magnets to Pakistan in 1995. The US accepted the totally implausible story that the supply was without the knowledge of China's central authorities. The NPT community and the NSG kept mum.


China managed to insert a clause aimed at India into the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty draft, totally in violation of the Vienna Convention on Treaties, that the treaty would enter into force only when India which was totally opposed to the treaty, signed and ratified it. This was a challenge to India's sovereignty. The NPT community went along with China, flouting international conventions.When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had indicated a commitment of only two power reactors to Pakistan. Now China claims an unnotified right of grandfathering two more reactors. Meanwhile the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has reported using the plutonium from the Khushab research reactors. Pakistan has already exceeded India's nuclear arsenal and in coming years, is likely to exceed India's arsenal manifold. Western analysts, who are not familiar with the strategy of credible minimum deterrent, talk of an impending arms race between Pakistan and India.The real issue they overlook is the Pakistani nuclear arsenal's destabilising effect on West Asia and the strategic gain for China from that phenomenon.


On June 7 this year, The Washington Post disclosed that a former CIA officer who managed intelligence reports

on Saudi Arabia has sent an uncleared manuscript to Congressional offices claiming that China supplied nuclear

missiles to the kingdom early in the George W. Bush administration." I believe the People's Republic of China delivered a turnkey nuclear ballistic missile system to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the course of several years beginning no later than December 2003," writes Jonathan Scherck in a self-published book, Patriot Lost. It may be recalled that in the 1980s, even as China was proliferating muclear weapons to Pakistan, they sold CSS-2 long range missiles to Saudi Arabia. Since Saudi Arabia was financing the Pakistani nuclear programme it was a logical inference that when Saudi missiles needed warheads they would come from Pakistan. By the same logic the additional plutonium warheads under production in Pakistan are likely to find their vectors in Chinese-supplied missiles in Saudi Arabia. Shia Iran finds itself confronted on two sides by Sunni nuclear-armed powers. Iran has an experience of weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapon) by its Sunni leadership (Saddam Hussein). They face millennium-old Sunni hostility, al-Qaeda and its associates patronised by the Pakistan army regularly target Shias even while praying in mosques. Western analysts are right to worry about an arms race in West Asia. But the origins lie not in Iranian proliferation, but in Chinese-Pakistani proliferation. Iran is only trying to protect itself. The arms race is already on.


The Chinese are believed to be providing Iran with missile technology. They have supplied Saudi Arabia missiles. They are now attempting to sustain Pakistan's plutonium warhead production under the cover of supplying two more power reactors.What does China gain out of this? They get oil and oil exploration rights on a preferential basis from Iran which relies on China for lightening its sanctions burden and for missile technology. It gets oil from Saudi Arabia.for exchange of missiles. It will use Pakistan and the Pakistani army to make the US and NATO position in Af-Pak area unsustainable and to bring Afghanistan, with its $ 3 trillion of newly discovered mineral riches under its control. It may convert Gwadar into a homeport for its nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean as suggested by some Pakistani naval officers. The core issue before the NSG is whether they will allow China to get away with it.


The writer is a senior defence analyst








Long years ago, Mao Zedong compared China's relationship with Korea to that between "lips and teeth". Beijing has never left any one in doubt that it would secure, at any cost, its vital interests in the Korean peninsula that is tied so closely to China.


Whether it involved confronting the United States in a war in the early 1950s or its on-going indulgence of the North Korean regime's bad behaviour, China has been determined to prevent any harm to its rather sensitive "lips" in the Korean peninsula.


No wonder then that the external affairs minister S. M. Krishna's visit to Seoul last week got a bit of Beijing's attention. Just as South Block takes note of every major Chinese move in its periphery in the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean, Beijing does monitor the Indian diplomatic forays in its East Asian frontyard.


And it is not often that Indian leaders travel to Korea and they rarely talk high politics. While India's economic relationship with South Korea has significantly expanded in the last two decades, political relations have tended to lag. It is only after Delhi invited the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to be the chief guest of this year's Republic day celebrations that a new dynamic between the two has begun to shape up.


Krishna's task last week in Seoul was to start turning the words in the bilateral declaration on strategic partnership issued during President Lee's visit into concrete steps. As elsewhere these days civil nuclear cooperation was high on Krishna's agenda in South Korea, which has one of the world's most advanced civilian nuclear power programmes.


The Korean companies surprised the world last December year when they won a US$ 40 billion contract for building power reactors in the United Arab Emirates against stiff competition from French and American-Japanese reactor builders.


Krishna has also sought to expand Delhi's collaboration with Seoul on space technology. He invited South Korea, which has embarked on an ambitious space programme of its own, to join the Indian expedition to the moon with Chandrayaan-2.


He has also invited Seoul to pool its naval resources with India in promoting maritime security. As major importers of oil, both South Korea and India have a strong stake in protecting the sea lines of communication between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The coast guards of the two countries conduct an occasional joint exercise and this could be extended to the navies. As India seeks to expand its domestic defence industrial base, the advanced sectors of the Korean industry can make a major contribution.


An early visit to South Korea by the defence minister A. K. Antony could help turn the many natural complementarities between the two nations in the security sector into mutually beneficial and long-term cooperation.


Eastward, Ho!


If Krishna was focused on bringing Korea into the ambit of India's Look East policy, our navy has just completed one of its frequent deployments to the South China Sea that began in 2000. During a month long deployment, an Indian naval contingent of four ships made port calls at a number of countries including Vietnam, The Philippines, Brunei, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.


As the flotilla returned home, the Indian navy deployed four Dornier aircraft in Singapore for four days to conduct co-ordinated reconnaissance in the strategic waters of the region that link the Pacific Ocean with the Indian.


The naval foray comes at a time when there is growing concern in the region at the assertiveness of the PLA navy and Beijing's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea.


Indian Ocean


Meanwhile, the expanding Chinese maritime profile in the Western Indian Ocean is driving India to pay more attention to the region. The Chinese President Hu Jintao had visited Mozambique and The Seychelles in 2007 and Mauritius in 2009 as part of two very impressive and consequential trips to Africa.


Delhi is now stepping up its own engagement of Mozambique and the two island states that straddle across the southern SLOCs of the Indian Ocean. India already has significant naval engagement with these states.


India hosted Seychelles President James Michel earlier this month. Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna is now traveling to Mauritius and Mozambique early next month with a brief stopover in Seychelles.


Krishna's focused trips to critical regions of interest to India — Central Asia, East Asia, and Western Indian Ocean — suggests the external affairs minister has begun to hit his stride.







Furious debates among policymakers about the proposed national food security law largely revolve around its financial repercussions. The Planning Commission is finally coming around to accepting the Tendulkar Committee's estimates of 37.2 per cent BPL population or 8.5 crore BPL households. The fiscal burden in implementing the food security law for 37.5 per cent BPL population, with each household being


provided 35 kg food grains, is estimated to be Rs 40,400 crore. The present food subsidy to FCI is Rs 60,000 crore.


To better understand the implications of the food security law, states can be broadly categorised into food deficit/ net food importing states and food surplus/ net food exporting states. While some of the net food importing states such as Bihar have demanded the subsidy in cash as food coupons to the BPL households rather than in kind, the primary interest of the net food exporting states like Punjab and Haryana is to safeguard farmers' interests in terms of remunerative prices for their produce at the time of harvest. So the interests of the food surplus states lie in maintaining the status quo, i.e., doling out food subsidy in kind rather than in cash. These two conflicting interests need to be reconciled in any efficient implementation of the Right to Food law. This is best implemented if genuine public-private competition is introduced in the mandis at the time of procurement of the foodgrains from the farmer-producers and also at the point of distribution to the consumers. As of today, Food Corporation of India (FCI) is the key statutory implementing agency for both procurement and distribution and here lies the reason for the bottomless pit of national food subsidy. For more effective implementation of the food security law, the distribution function needs to be hived off, with the aim of encouraging public-private competition in both, and also to introduce the element of consumer choice to increase her net welfare.


To address the needs of 8.5 crore BPL households with the present food subsidy budget of Rs 60,000 crores, the average food subsidy per BPL household works out to be Rs 7,060 per annum. This translates to a subsidy of Rs 16.80 per kg of foodgrain for a monthly foodgrain allocation of 35 kg. This level of subsidy is adequate if the average market price of foodgrains is Rs 20 per kg or less. No wonder Nitish Kumar, CM of a net food importing state, wants the food subsidy to be doled out in cash as food coupons. This gives the power of choice to the BPL household to choose in the market between the PDS shop and the private retail shops.


However, the concerns of net food exporting states like Punjab, Haryana, UP, AP and MP in protecting the interests of the producer-farmers is not addressed without state intervention at the time of arrivals in the mandis. State intervention is necessary to ensure minimum support prices for the produce. How can this be achieved with the same level of budgetary support if cash or food coupons are distributed to the BPL consumers? I recommend that BPL households be given a choice in the form of food coupons entitling them to the monthly quota of food grains at Rs 3 or Rs 2 (under Antyodaya Anna Yojna Scheme) from the PDS shop or in case she does not find value for money in the PDS shop, she can choose to encash the food coupon at a private retail shop, who in turn would be reimbursed from the nearest authorised post office or bank. At Re1 per kg of budgetary support for procurement function to feed the 8.5 crore BPL population at 35 kg per month, the procurement agency of the government would need an annual budgetary grant of Rs 3,570 crore. If it is assumed that a support of Rs 3 per kg is adequate to the procurement agency for it to ensure that the prices of the produce do not fall below the minimum support prices, an annual budgetary support of Rs 10,710 crores would be sufficient to procure the required annual quantity of 35.7 million tonnes of food grains for the BPL households. This budgetary support to its own procurement agency would ensure the supply of food grains to every corner of the country through the PDS shops, ensuring competition in both procurement and distribution operations. The balance budgetary support of Rs 49,300 crores may be kept as distribution subsidy, translating to an annual entitlement of food coupons worth Rs 5,800 per BPL household or a support level of Rs 13.80 per kg of food grain. This support would be adequate if the average market prices are Rs 17 per kg or less. With the distribution agency of the government honouring the food coupons at the price of Rs 3 per kg, the consumer would encash the food coupons at the private outlet only if she gets better value for money.


In effect, the distribution and procurement agencies of the government survive in the marketplace on their own strength. The consumer would get greater choice, better quality and competitive prices. Enabling encashment of food coupons at private retail outlets would bring greater competition at the time of procurement in the food surplus states too. However, the bottomline for any successful food security legislation lies in separating the procurement and distribution arms of FCI and freeing them of bureaucratic and ministerial control. The bottom of the pyramid can become a source of rapid econo-mic change and the key is to treat poor people with respect, as consumers.


The writer is an IAS officer. Views expressed are personal.







Preparing to hold an extended Central Committee meet in August to formulate the party's broad political line and devising the tactics for next year's assembly elections, the CPM has hinted at its game plan with regard to West Bengal.


That the CPM is hoping for a rupture in Congress-Trinamool Congress ties is known, but the question is whether the comrades would move closer to the Congress to irk Mamata Banerjee and force a split.


In an article in party mouthpiece People's Democracy, General Secretary Prakash Karat says "the forces which are ranged against the Left Front are not going to be united permanently." He stresses that with the adoption of "correct tactics" and the single-minded resolve to go to the people, the situation can be turned around. He also holds both the party and the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government responsible for the electoral setbacks. The alienation of some sections of the people, he points out, cannot be attributed to the functioning of the Left Front government alone. "The causes of such alienation lie in the political sphere and also in the organisational shortcomings and weaknesses of the party." "The steps that are being taken to overcome the shortcomings and reforge the links with the people are, therefore, to be taken up in the three spheres — governmental, political and organisational which are interlinked," he says.


The Iran interest


The CPM wants the Manmohan Singh government to strengthen its relations with Iran notwithstanding the fresh sanctions imposed on Tehran by the United Nations.


The lead editorial in People's Democracy says although India had gone on record that it does not think sanctions are the way to tackle the problem, the Manmohan Singh government


had fallen in line with the US whenever Iran was targeted in the IAEA.


"It is the IAEA resolution which opened the way for sanctions by the Security Council.


The US keeps patting India on the back for this stance." The CPM nudges the UPA to "realise that India's true interest lies in strengthening relations with Iran and extending our economic and trade ties especially in the energy sector."


Fraying coalition

At a time when the BJP-JD(U) ties in Bihar have come under strain, the CPI has come out in praise of Nitish Kumar. An article in party mouthpiece New Age says a section of the JD(U) — read Sharad Yadav — and the BJP are in league to cut the chief minister to size.


It says that while Nitish used the poster issue for moving away from the BJP, but it was "astonishing" to see that Yadav came forward immediately to assert that there is nothing wrong with the coalition and that relations with the BJP remained cordial. In this context, the article also mentions the contrary views expressed by Yadav and Nitish on the women's reservation bill. "The BJP may have won over Yadav but he is himself losing control over the organisation that is fighting for space with the rising popularity of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has proved himself to be the man of action and of good administration after decades of mismanagement by the earlier rulers of the state," it says. The article adds that Nitish is cutting off from the saffron parivar in the hope of garnering minority votes, with his record of "good rule" in the last five years.


Compiled by Manoj C.G.








Against a global benchmark of less than 24 hours, which ports like Rotterdam and Singapore take to load and unload ships, the spectacle of consignments to India's numero uno port—Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT)—getting blocked for months is a normal phenomenon. The situation, incomprehensible in any major international port, has become quite run-of-the-mill for the Indian ones. With each passing year, the delay in the plan to corporatise all major ports, starting with JNPT, has become monumental but corporatisation is urgently necessary to change the way they are currently managed. Hopefully, a fresh exercise would not meet the same fate as the aborted attempt in the late nineties when the ministry of surface transport and the Asian Development Bank used the expertise of consultancy groups to prepare the guidelines on corporatisation of ports and even introduced the Major Port Trust Amendment Bill in 2001, which lapsed following the dissolution of the thirteenth Lok Sabha. In fact, though the union budget for 2001-02 proposed the corporatisation of the JNPT, the government later developed cold feet and decided to first evaluate the performance of the Ennore Port, India's first corporatised port that began operations in 2002, before proceeding with any substantial changes in the institutional framework. So the port trusts survived the reform attempts and have continued to operate with an umbrella objective of serving public interests rather than maximising revenues or improving profits. Improving the operational efficiencies of the ports has, therefore, ranked way down in the list of priorities. And attempts to reform the institutional structure governing ports have floundered time and again because of the resistance of labour groups and also because of the bureaucracy, as any substantial change would mean a dilution of their control over the port operations.


Of the twelve major ports that come under the Major Port Trusts Act of 1963, eleven are governed by trusts. These consist of motley representatives of the central and state governments, shipping lines, railways, and labour unions and other groups, slowing down the process of decision-making as there is often a conflict of interests between the diverse groups. Also the port trusts have to usually take the concurrence of the government before making decisions, especially those involving larger financial commitments. The delay has also made the users adept at creating short cuts, which themselves are major obstacles to corporatisation—which is expected to steer a way out of the mess. The transformation will give the ports a greater degree of autonomy from the government and help them muster more resources from the market, reducing their dependence on budgetary support. A board-managed enterprise can also attract more professional expertise and even facilitate disinvestments. But such radical changes in the institutional framework will require amendments to the Major Port Trusts Act of 1963 as a first step and the government should not delay spelling out the details on the proposed changes in the legislation.






Soon after mobile penetration started evolving into a big success story in India, policymakers voiced recognition of the fact that mobile telephony could become an important medium for achieving financial inclusion in the country. But many a regulatory hiccup has kept this movement from gathering momentum. Prospects of such hiccups getting smoothened gathered weight this week, with Trai and RBI reaching an understanding over how mobile banking would be regulated in India. Interconnection issues will be dealt with by Trai, while RBI will watch over banking aspects. At a time when Ulips are caught in a regulatory crossfire between Sebi and Irda, telecom operators would be grateful that they won't suffer similar travails. Notwithstanding this neat regulatory division, problems remain with the way in which the bank-led model has been preferred to the one led by mobile operators. Global success stories of mobile banking delivering financial inclusion across under-banked populations have derived, after all, from the latter model rather than the former. RBI considers the bank-led model safer. And it is indeed the case that if mobile banking is to truly take off, security measures will need to be stepped up and consumer data will need to be provided greater protection than is available at present. The bottom line, however, is the extent of our ambitions. Even the RBI governor has conceded that the mobile operator-led model helps accelerate financial inclusion.


An inter-ministerial group set up to establish a framework for delivering financial services via mobiles put things more strongly: "The choice is not whether to embrace change or resist it. The choice is whether to drive change with a plan or be overtaken by it without one." We have seen the government plan for change in various ways, whether via RBI increasing the daily ceiling for banking transactions through mobile phones or with the latest clarification on regulatory roles. But there is an important difference between allowing a scaling up of operations for existing bank customers—who can deposit, withdraw and transfer cash or simply check their account balance or pay their bills over the phone—and extending financial services to the unbanked population. If RBI and the government keep the bulwark up for the bank-led model for too long, they won't be doing mobile banking any favours.









So far, all that China has done is relax the yuan's peg to the dollar. It is still pegged, but to a basket, and not exclusively to the dollar. At one level, dismantling the dollar peg signifies that the worst of the global financial crisis is over, since the dollar peg was introduced in 2008 to cushion Chinese exporters from those effects. We are back to the basket peg of 2005. China has consistently faced criticism because of undervaluation of its currency and this has been linked to its large trade account surpluses. The timing of the announcement is not a coincidence. It reduces flak at the G-20 meeting, suggests China is flexible and for what it is worth, underlines the need for reforming global financial institutions and architecture. The Chinese dilemma isn't different from India's. It is the quantum that is different. Undervaluation is good for exports, especially if exports are low down the value chain and price-sensitive. But if the exchange rate is left to the markets, currency will appreciate and there can be tensions between what trade (or current) account ostensibly requires and what capital inflows do. So, as a central bank buys foreign exchange to prevent appreciation; it increases liquidity and has an adverse effect on inflation because imports become more expensive.


Following the announcement, the yuan has appreciated against the dollar and a lot is being made of this flexibility in currency regimes. Apart from China being seen to be more 'sensible', handling inflation now becomes easier. Exporters focus on efficiency and become more competitive. Instead of depending on exports alone, one looks for endogenous sources of growth. In principle, this is fine. Ceteris paribus, it is good news for India. When India and China compete in similar export markets, and that competition is based on price, our exports become cheaper. And this argument can be extended to bilateral trade, where our current export basket is so narrow that a negative balance on merchandise trade is inevitable. However, one should be careful with such blanket pronouncements. Value of the yuan won't be determined in the market. All that has happened is a transition from a dollar peg to a basket peg. Even if there is more flexibility, there will be central bank intervention. As far as one can make out, there will still be a band with a narrow daily range and an attempt to delink medium-term trends from what is perceived to be 'volatility', an attempt not unfamiliar in India.


Apart from G-20, China wished to fend off flak because exchange rate determination was a thorn in US-China trade negotiations. There is no denying that the yuan has become a bit more flexible. But, given China's manufacturing engine, it is doubtful that the balance of trade surpluses with other countries will disappear. They may become a bit less. Consequently, it is hardly the case that protectionism (there is no other word for it) in developed countries will disappear. Instead of exchange rates, we will move on to standards, anti-dumping, anti-subsidy investigations and labour and environmental standards. Several instruments are available. Given China's size (economy and exports) and strengths in manufacturing, it has been more of a target than India. It is not that India has not been targeted; targeting has primarily been restricted to services, particularly IT. Apparently, China is going to confront an ageing population soon and we will continue to have a demographic dividend window until 2040. Suggestions float around that by 2020 (or earlier if some government sources are to be believed), India's GDP growth will overtake China's. For that to happen, both manufacturing and exports have to take off on a larger scale than before.


If this optimistic scenario emerges, India will face protectionism. When an economy does well, one can't prevent exchange rate appreciation. Most people vaguely remember the first Bric (Goldman Sachs) report. They don't remember roughly one-third of that explosive (especially beyond 2020) increase in per capita incomes (expressed in US dollars) came from currency appreciation. In other words, we had better learn to live with an appreciating rupee and more flexible exchange rate management. It is a myth that the rupee's value is market-determined today. But that myth has to increasingly become a reality. At one time, not so far in the distant past, RBI evidently had a band of sorts. And medium-term appreciation was allowed, after de-linking volatility from secular trends, assuming one can de-link the two. It was also believed (no doubt wrongly) that this 'permitted' appreciation amounted to 10 paise a month, against the dollar. Imparting certainty to exchange rates and cushioning volatility also encourages exporters and importers not to hedge. This can't be desirable either and much of this new uncertainty among traders is because certainty (which shouldn't have been there in the first place) has disappeared. It is good to think of an exchange rate of 30 rupees to a dollar, time period unspecified.


The author is a noted economist







The financial crisis has engendered some new thought processes in the UK. The abolition of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has been hyped into a Cameron-Brown spat, as the FSA was groomed to a position of power by the earlier government, which George Osborne has abolished, or rather reduced to the status of a subsidiary of the Bank of England. Others say that it was a punishment for its failure to tackle the crisis and foresee the Northern Rock Bank crisis. These are stories that may not be germane to us in India, but closing down a regulator brings to the forefront some ideological issues.


Britain tried to follow the single regulator model for markets, which is also under consideration in India, albeit at a stage where the concept of a super regulator is being debated. This is of consequence because our financial system has a plethora of regulators. There is RBI for banking, Sebi for capital markets, Irda for insurance, PFRDA for pensions, Nabard for agricultural finance, FMC for commodity futures trading, Sidbi for SME finance, NHB for housing finance, and multiple APMCs for spot trading in farm products. With different ministries involved, there has been talk of whether there should be convergence to one super regulator. Needless to say, there are ubiquitous pros and cons on both sides.


The British story sort of vindicates the view that a single regulator cannot work well and, therefore, there is a case for having separate specialised regulators for each market. The FSA used to control all financial services, exchanges, firms, small businesses and even high net worth individuals, who had a dotted line reporting. There is also a strong case for separate regulators when markets have to be developed as is the case with, say, pensions, insurance, commodities, etc.


But then there are turf wars across ministries and regulators as players span across different regulators. Banks today are not just commercial banks but have housing, capital markets and insurance divisions. The latest case of Ulips involving Sebi and Irda has been settled for the time being; but the conflict between, say, the FMC and Sebi remains, where players like mutual funds and FIIs are not allowed in the commodity space, as there are separate regulators and Acts guiding each. The Acts are old, with the FCRA (commodities) dating to 1952 and SCRA (securities) to 1956. One has to tread carefully to ensure that risk does not flow from one sector to another. With such a complexity of markets and regulators, it appears that there is need for specialisation or else management will become a problem. But a larger number of regulators resulting in regulatory overlap tends to slow things down.


The other interesting takeaway is the responsibility of the regulator for failure. It may not be true that the FSA has been relegated to a secondary position because of the failure of Northern Rock. If that were so, then the same has to be applied to the Federal Reserve, since it is largely agreed that Alan Greenspan was responsible for the crisis by allowing such a bubble to build up. Clearly, regulators cannot be closed down for failure, as that would make them even more cautious and retrogressive in their overall approach. But the regulator should distance itself from the regulated, or else the former will have to shoulder direct responsibility in case of a systemic failure.


The other issue that is being discussed is the need to break up big banks. Grapevine has it that HSBC and Standard Chartered are already thinking of getting themselves registered in Asia. Again, while this may be an emotional economic outburst against the background of the crisis, it is relevant to us. In India, the talk has always been about consolidation on grounds of gaining critical economic size as well as tackling issues of capital for expansion. The so-called Godzilla syndrome permeated banks' thinking in the last decade, where they looked at one another for possible consolidation stories. However, given the domination of the public sector banks, it was more a case of the private banks looking at one another. Ultimately though, in most cases, consolidation has been more on account of loss of interest of the promoter or shaky financial positions, necessitating mergers.


We have to think harder now on issues of a super-regulator and whether there would really be any value addition. The current system has worked reasonably well and brought about development, at the cost of 'time' perhaps. So regulators should definitely not be closed down for failure.


Finally, there seems to be some merit in not getting carried away with consolidation and a case for better supervision and risk management when it does take place to eschew the build-up of a crisis.


The author is chief economist, CARE ratings. These are his personal views










Now that the spat between market regulator Sebi and insurance regulator Irda over unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips) has been put to rest by the presidential ordinance last week, it is important that the latter comes out with transparent guidelines on the commission that the insurance companies will pay to their agents and raise the lock-in period of the products.


As the current insurance act does not permit a company to pay a commission in the later years, it does not attract agents to continue the policy for a long period of time. Despite the fact that insurance products must be seen as long-term contracts, agents often promote them as three-year products. Distributors of Ulips charge a hefty front-loaded commission of as much as 40% on the premium for the first year and around 20% in the second year.


Insurance companies will now have to rework their products so that investors look at Ulips as a long-term investment and not surrender before maturity. The insurer, instead of charging high costs in the first few years, can recover its cost over the longer term and moderate agent commissions. So, going ahead, the viability of an insurance company will depend on the persistence of the products.


Most importantly, insurance companies will have to ensure that the lock-in period for Ulips be raised from the current three-year period to five years as it is done for bank deposits that are eligible for income tax benefit under Section 80C. This will attract serious long-term investors to put money into the product. Also by limiting the risk cover—mandatory risk cover is five times the annual premium—Ulips may not be meeting the actual level of insurance cover required by individuals. This needs to change.


Analysts fear that with the ordinance, agents will now sell Ulips more aggressively as there is no incentive for distributors to sell mutual funds to retail investors. In fact, after the Sebi ban on entry load for mutual funds from August last year, distributors are finding it difficult to mobilise fresh retail investment and some 70,000 strong distributors have raised their concern at various forums. Insurance companies, too, will also have to go for nation-wide investors' education programme to gain back the confidence of retail investors after the public spat between the two regulators.








"Who am I to interfere with what goes on between the United States and Pakistan? That's a matter for these two countries to consider," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh responded in April 2010. He had been asked, in a Washington press conference, whether India objected to Pakistan and the U.S. reaching a deal on civil nuclear cooperation. The same logic should now apply to reports that China is planning to supply two additional safeguarded nuclear reactors to Pakistan. For those who still look at the region through 'hyphenated' lenses, what is good for Pakistan must necessarily be bad for India. But the reality is not so Manichean. The rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, of which China is a member, prohibit reactor sales to countries that do not have full-scope safeguards. By claiming its proposed export of the Chashma-3 and 4 pressurised water reactors forms part of an earlier agreement with Pakistan that predates its membership of the NSG, Beijing denies the sale would violate the guidelines of the 46-nation cartel. Other NSG members dispute that, pointing to China's 2004 declaration limiting its 'grandfathering' obligations to just the equipment and fuel for Chashma-1 and 2. How this dispute is settled depends on the balance of power within the cartel. India is not a member, and its response should be guided not by non-proliferation theology or anti-Pakistani prejudice but by a careful assessment of what impact the two additional safeguarded reactors would have on Pakistan's strategic programme. The answer is: not a lot.


Pakistan's nuclear weapons arsenal consists mainly of weapons manufactured from highly enriched uranium produced by centrifuges at Kahuta. The unsafeguarded Khushab pressurised heavy water reactor offers additionality along the plutonium route. Since all the current and future PWRs at Chashma will be under IAEA safeguards, there is no fear of any leakage from there to a weapons programme. One could, of course, argue that new reactors indirectly boost the weapons programme by freeing up uranium for exclusive military use. But this argument is true for the external supply of any power source, nuclear or conventional. Chashma-3 and 4 may allow Pakistan to forgo the need to produce electricity from any future reactor it builds and allow it to be run in weapons mode. But an imported coal-fired thermal station would allow the same degree of fungibility. In short, there is no need for India to lose sleep over Chashma. If it is worried about Pakistan's growing stocks of bomb-making material, it should push for the conclusion of a verifiable Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty on a priority basis. Agitating against the sale makes no sense from a diplomatic or strategic point of view.







The case for financial inclusion, which means providing financial services to the vast sections of the population not covered by the formal banking system, is very strong. In India, it implies providing access to a bank account backed by deposit insurance, access to affordable credit and the payments system. For a number of reasons, it is the banks rather than the non-bank intermediaries that should take the lead. The financial agencies operating in the unbanked areas of rural India have not been equal to the task and in any case they offer a limited range of activities compared to banks. If financial intermediaries have to deliver affordable services, they need to scale up and use technology for which they require large capital. It stands to reason that lenders and investors will repose greater trust when the entity is regulated. And when it comes to credibility, banks score because they are tightly regulated. Recent experiences in India and elsewhere also show that regulation and financial inclusion far from working at cross purposes can go hand in hand. In fact, a number of inclusive practices have been fostered by the regulator, the Reserve Bank of India.


Priority sector lending mandated by the central bank has financial inclusion as one of its objectives. Licensing laws have been tweaked to persuade banks to open branches in remote areas. Since access to a bank deposit is considered a public good, the RBI has directed all banks to open "no-frills" accounts, characterised by low minimum balances and charges, but limited facilities. To further improve the access, the RBI has licensed business correspondents and other agents to undertake branchless banking. Newer regulatory guidelines, especially the Know Your Customer (KYC) norms, have stood in the way of financial inclusion because low-income earners and migrants rarely have acceptable identity papers. While the KYC rules have been relaxed selectively, the issue is yet to be fully addressed. Over the medium term, it is hoped, banks will rely on the Unique Identification Numbers (UID) to comply with the KYC rules. Technology is critical for the spread of banking among masses because it carries the promise of reducing transaction costs. By leveraging Indian strengths in mobile telephony with the UID, the reach of banks can be increased manifold. Yet technology has to be harnessed in a way that will benefit all types of customers. The benefits of inclusion will be nullified if technology creates a wall between the customer and the bank










On May 28, 2010, shortly before the appointed midnight hour, Nepal came precariously close to the non-extension of its two-year old Constituent Assembly. After 12 years of bitter, armed conflict that claimed about 13,000 lives, the Constituent Assembly played a crucial role in bringing the erstwhile 'rebel' combatants, the CPN (Maoist) party, into the mainstream politico-legal framework, following a carefully negotiated Comprehensive Peace Agreement and fresh elections. Constituent Assemblies, whose function is to draft Constitutions, have the ability to bring together former combatants within a framework, forcing them to arrive at a common understanding of the founding principles of a nation.


Interestingly, elections at the end of the conflict saw the Maoist party emerge as the largest political party, and therefore the single-largest drafting unit in the Constituent Assembly with 246 seats of around 600 seats. The other two major political parties — the Nepali Congress, and the CPN (United-Marxist-Leninist) — had a little over 100 seats each. The remaining seats were divided among 20 political parties. Significantly, the CPN (Maoists) did not have a simple majority or, better still, a two-thirds majority unlike other historical change-makers — the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa or the Indian National Congress (INC) at the time of independence, which in their times were in a position to draft a Constitution owing to their overwhelming strength in the Constituent Assemblies. Perhaps, they were less distracted by other political quests, and more focussed on drafting their nation's founding document.


Furthermore, in Nepal, India casts a giant shadow over all political activities, formulations and moves. India's foreign policy is oriented towards a position which apparently locates its national interest as being compromised by the single largest political party of Nepal either forming the government or shaping the country's Constitution. The CPN (Maoist) also made some less than astute moves, with its Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal — Prachanda's questionably-timed visits to China.


On that fateful day, as the midnight hour approached, some members of the Constituent Assembly did manage to rise above party politics. Amid swirling rumours of a possible Emergency being declared upon non-extension, I saw the women members of the house — whether they were Maoists or belonged to the Nepali Congress, the UML or other parties — cross party lines, and come together and commence a two-hour chant asking for the Constituent Assembly to be extended. This while their younger male colleagues, who were not involved in the power-plays of their seniors outside the house, sat and watched silently.


Finally the 'big three' political parties arrived at a three-point programme — comprising a commitment to the peace process, a one-year extension for the Constituent Assembly and, finally, the resignation of the current 'compromise' Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal of the UML. And so, 20 minutes before midnight of May 28, 2010, the process of extending the Constituent Assembly commenced which would culminate in a vote to resuscitate the faltering house.


Political gamesmanship and formulas for a 'consensus' government, a code for who will really be Prime Minister, is the major concern of influential politicians in Nepal. The drafting of the Constitution doesn't quite seem to consume them as much as one hoped it would. Constitution-making itself is precariously positioned, in terms of disagreement over constitutional choices. Choices that shape the political and legal fabric of a nation, such as the form of government, presidential or parliamentary, and even the basis of the federal state — whether the federal units should be based on ethnicity or region — are in question. Other significant areas where convergence is needed include the appointment of judges and the nature and number of fundamental rights.


The Constituent Assembly's thematic subject committee reports which came to their conclusion on the basis of a majority vote, usually reflected the CPN (Maoist) position. For instance, in the context of the form of government, the Committee report on the Determination of the Forms of Governance of the State provided that all powers be concentrated in the President. The President is to be the head of state, the government and the military; and will be elected by popular election for a five-year term. This version of a strong presidential system, while suiting the ideology of a tightly regimented cadre-based party, is often at odds with the needs of a fledgling multi-ethnic democracy. A parliamentary system, with the space that it provides for the voices and narratives of all ethnicities and for regional diversity to manifest through a multi-party system, might be wiser. Alternatively, a convergence could be arrived at via a popularly elected Prime Minister in a parliamentary style democracy.


Another area of concern is the method of appointing judges. The Judicial Committee report provides that the head of state, on the 'recommendation' of the 'Federal Legislative Special Judicial Committee' (comprising the Vice-Chairman of the Federal Legislature, the Law Minister, and nine members from the Legislature), shall appoint the Chief Justice and other judges of the Supreme Court. Similar structures are in place at the other levels of the court system. Judges of the Supreme Court are to have a term of four years and are to retire at 65. Another cause of anxiety is that the powers of the Federal Judicial Committee astonishingly include interpretation of the Constitution. All of this disrupts the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. This in tandem with a strong President structurally locates all power in the executive.


Finally, the Committee for Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles has provided for around 30 enforceable and justiciable rights. This includes the fundamental right to food, housing, employment and social security. While in principle, all nations must prioritise such guarantees, in terms of law and jurisprudence, creating fundamental rights that the state cannot implement due to financial considerations implies that the drafters inadvertently compromise the absolute mandate of such a category of rights. It is preferable to have a few generic fundamental rights, for instance the right to life, and within it progressively create jurisprudence that includes for instance the right to food that a state can afford to actively implement.


Back in the political arena, the former monarch, Gyanendra Shah, who was stripped of all power when Nepal abolished the monarchy, has been spotted in public with increasing frequency. Amidst the game of musical chairs for the Prime Minister's seat being played by all the major, and now even some minor, political parties, the obstinate terms of engagement of India and the coy appearances of a deposed despotic monarch in the business of making a Constitution and, therefore, a new nation, languishes. Nepal's political elites need to recognise the historical terms of reference of the Constituent Assembly. They need to set aside their personal quest for power, and focus on coming to a shared understanding of the idea of their country, and draft its character through a Constitution.


(The writer practises law at the Supreme Court of India.)











  1. From the open-ended, maximalist demand of a complete shut down of terrorist infrastructure, the Manmohan Singh government is today looking for incremental progress across a range of vectors
  2. The 'make borders irrelevant' approach is the only game in town and sooner or later all stakeholders in Pakistan will have to be reconciled to it


The visits to Islamabad this week by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Home Minister P. Chidambaram will provide India and Pakistan with the opportunity of erecting the scaffolding for a dialogue process that could eventually allow the two countries to make substantial progress on their core concerns.


India's position on the necessity of dialogue has held steady since the 'Thimphu thaw' in April, suggesting all relevant political and institutional stakeholders are on board. The foreign secretary's speech to the Afghanistan-India-Pakistan 'trialogue' on June 13 has added greater clarity and depth, especially on the question of trust-building. Terrorism continues to be the main obstacle but the Indian analysis of the interplay between terror, Pakistan's internal political dynamics and diplomacy is much more nuanced and sophisticated today than it was a year ago.


From the open-ended, maximalist demand of a complete shut down of terrorist infrastructure, the Manmohan Singh government is today looking for incremental progress across a range of vectors. The trial of the Lashkar-e-Taiba men accused by Pakistan of masterminding the November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai is the most important of these. But India would also like to see forward movement on humanitarian issues, as well as on the cross-border and cross-Line of Control confidence building measures agreed by the two sides in recent years. Ms Rao's remarkable speech also flagged another metric, crucial to the fate of any dialogue process: "We also have to reaffirm the progress made through complex negotiations and dialogue through patient and unsung effort whether in the composite dialogue or back channel diplomacy, during this period."


It was necessary for the foreign secretary to reiterate this point because neither the civilian government in Pakistan nor the post-Musharraf military establishment has so far shown a willingness to embrace the conceptual headway made by Islamabad and New Delhi between 2004 and 2008 on the Kashmir issue. The Peoples' Party government is perhaps wary of accepting the legacy of a dictator, and General Kayani — who may have silently gritted his teeth when Musharraf pushed his 'out of the box' formula on Kashmir with his top commanders — thinks he has better cards to play today.


The truth is that there are no other cards. The 'make borders irrelevant' approach is the only game in town and sooner or later all stakeholders in Pakistan will have to be reconciled to it. While Ms Rao did the right thing by flagging the importance of the back channel, India has to be patient and give the politicians and generals the time and space they need to reinvent the wheel. There is also merit in Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's remark that the back channel cannot make headway if the front channel is stuck. If trust is required to move the front channel again, the amount of trust needed to work the back channel is much greater.


At a recent Track-II meeting of the Pugwash group in Islamabad, Pakistani and Indian analysts and former officials had an animated discussion on terrorism, Afghanistan, water, Kashmir and the nuclear issue. While the two sides disagreed and argued on virtually every subject, the discussions on terrorism produced some clarity. The Pakistani side spoke of the legal difficulties in handling terrorism cases, noting that the high-profile trials of terrorists involved in the bombing of the Marriot hotel in Islamabad and the assassination of the Surgeon-General had unfortunately ended in acquittals. A well-regarded criminal lawyer from Lahore spoke of the difficulties surrounding the trial of the LeT men accused of attacking Mumbai and made a plea for better coordination between the Pakistani and Indian authorities in that case.


The Indian side responded by noting that the fight against terror was only partially a legal one. And that what is needed is a demonstration of political will, something that is lacking in Islamabad's feeble attempts to rein in anti-India terror groups. The Pakistani participants acknowledged this, but argued that their government was weak and couldn't afford to open up too many fronts at the same time. This, too, was disputed by the Indians. At the same time, there was general agreement that the legal case against the 26/11 accused had taken on a significance of its own, that the fragile dialogue process might not survive an acquittal and that, therefore, some coordinated effort needs to put in by both governments to ensure the best possible legal case is mounted against them.


Should meet frequently


In this context, one question Ms Rao and Mr. Chidambaram should seriously examine as they prepare themselves for their visit is whether the endless and somewhat gladiatorial exchange of 'dossiers' with Pakistan is the most efficient way of going about prosecuting terrorists accused of perpetrating a heinous cross-border crime. Granted, there is a trust deficit. But if, instead of exchanging thick manila envelopes, the officials who work on these dossiers were to meet frequently, this may well provide for more efficient if not effective interaction.


India has bad memories of the short-lived Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism and is not in favour of its revival. But functional cooperation between the investigators who have probed the Mumbai attack case on both sides will help Pakistani prosecutors make a rock solid case against Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and the other LeT men now standing trial in a Rawalpindi anti-terror court. Depending on how that process works, more structured interaction between India's National Investigation Agency and Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency should also be considered. This would be one concrete way in which the two sides try to build up a degree of trust.


Second, Pakistan will have to make every possible effort to keep in check provocateurs like Hafiz Saeed of the LeT and tamp down on terrorist infiltration from its territory across the Line of Control.


The third source of building trust is for India and Pakistan to prioritise humanitarian issues, especially the plight of juveniles and fishermen who end up spending a long time in each other's jails for crossing the border illegally because of the absence of proper diplomatic mechanisms. Activating the joint judicial commission to deal with the speedy release and exchange of prisoners who have finished serving their sentences is also an urgent necessity. Deepening existing cross-LoC CBMs, especially those relating to trade, should also be taken up immediately.


Fourth, the two sides should ensure that foreign secretary- and/or joint secretary-level discussions take place

every month to resolve pressing concerns. Meetings at the official level must be held regardless of the state of bilateral relations and would be in addition to whatever formal dialogue structure emerges to address issues and disputes over Kashmir, Siachen, water or any other issue.


The goal of the upcoming round of talks as well as those between the two foreign ministers in July should be to prepare for the adoption of a structured, interim engagement process. Later this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have an opportunity to meet again with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September. If India is gracious enough to invite Yusuf Raza Gilani to attend the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October, that would provide another occasion for the two leaders to take stock of the relationship and settle on an appropriate dialogue structure. The problem of getting Pakistan back on track as far as the 'soft borders' solution to Kashmir is concerned would still remain, of course. One proposal Prime Minister Singh could make at that juncture to demonstrate the benefit of cross-LoC arrangements would be for India and Pakistan to examine whether a single project on the Kishenganga-Jhelum-Neelum with traded electricity might be a better option than building rival hydroelectric projects.










While the current focus of political debate is on 'caste and census,' there is another important aspect that deserves attention. This concerns disability.


For decades after our independence, there was no effort to actually count how many of us have any disability. There were estimates- informed or otherwise- but no factual figures. All our government's plans and budgets, rules and regulations, proclamations and posturing were built upon shaky foundations. A new Ministry was created, staffed and has been operating for several decades on that basis. It seemed to suit every one, except the millions who were thus rendered 'invisible'.


This lasted for 54 years. But, despite their 'invisibility,' the disabled and the NGOs dealing with disability made progress on the ground.


Let me illustrate with an example. There was no government or non-government organisation looking after the needs of children with cerebral palsy, till a young mother of a child with cerebral palsy set up the very first Spastics Society of India, Mumbai (now known as ADAPT-Able Disabled All People Together)) in 1972. The handful of children included her own daughter. Dr. Mithu Alur, our Chairperson, had thus created a unique institution, offering all facilities under one roof, including diagnosis, physiotherapy, physical aids, schooling, parental counselling, etc. Over time, these services also came to include research, teachers training, admission of older children in "normal" schools and colleges, job-oriented training and placements and so on. This model is now replicated in 18 States. Almost all the organisers have themselves been trained at Mumbai. These NGOs operate independently, while forming a Regional Alliance, constantly coordinating, cooperating and learning from one another.


During preparations for the Census of 2001, several NGOs (including us) approached the Census Commission with the request that they should also count the disabled in our country. Obvious arguments were put forward. Approaches were also made through the concerned departments of the Government. Unfortunately, nothing worked; we were simply told that the disabled could not be included. The NGOs were persistent; the matter was taken to the political level. Eventually, it was decided that the Census would include, for the very first time, a counting of the disabled.


However, this historic decision was taken at a very late stage, in the face of consistent opposition by the Census Establishment. Perhaps, their subsequent actions were reluctant and grudging. Perhaps, there was not enough time for the necessary preparations. It is also possible that, despite their best efforts, framing of appropriate questions, their translation into the required languages, training of the enumerators etc. left much to be desired. For all these reasons, the results of the Census 2001 were deeply disappointing for the disability movement.


For example, the Census of 2001 concluded that there were only 2.13 % or 21 million Indians with any kind of disability. This was a fraction of the estimates by most experts. This has since been amply proved by a World Bank report of 2007.


This report was "prepared at the request of the Government of India". In fact, it acknowledges "the guidance of officials of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, guidance provided by an inter-ministerial Technical Advisory Group set up for the work by MOSJE and consisting of representatives from the Ministries of Health, Labour, Human Resource Development and Rural development, as well as an NGO representative." Similarly, it acknowledges the help of officials in several States including Rajasthan, Karnataka, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. In short, the World Bank Team had the full backing and support of the Government of India and many State governments.


The report is entitled 'People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes'. It concludes:


"While estimates vary, there is growing evidence that people with disabilities comprise between 4 and 8 per cent of the India population (around 40-90 million individuals)"


Obviously, there is a vast difference between 2.13 per cent or 21 million 'counted' by the Census of India, and 4-8 per cent or 40-90 million estimated by the World Bank team.


Several NGOs, including ADAPT, have been interacting with the Census Commission, individually or in groups. The Commissioner, Dr. C. Chandramauli, has been positive and open-minded. In a recent letter to him, based on our own experience, and consultations with our regional partners and other experts, we have made a number of recommendations. These take into account the Commission's constraints of space and format, the work already done, and recommendations made by others in the disability movement, like a Delhi-based group which had also held wide consultations. For example, along with the Delhi group, we have endorsed the inclusion of four types of disability in seeing, hearing, speech and movement, repeated from the 2001 census. We have also endorsed the recommended inclusion of Multiple Disability and Mental Retardation. But, since the latter expression is no longer used, we propose "Remembering and Concentration" instead. Thus, there is already an agreement on the types of disability.


Equally important is the framing of questions under each type. Questions must be activity related; these must also be relevant to our circumstances; only then can these elicit accurate responses. For example, the question suggested by us on speech is: "Do you have difficulty in speaking in your usual language?" The latter language is included because, in the course of a research study with UNICEF involving 31,000 children, we had found that children who had migrated out of their home states had a linguistic problem, which may be reflected as a speech problem. We have also submitted Hindi translations of these easy-to- understand questions to demonstrate that similar translations in other languages could be equally easy and understandable.


Contrary to speculations, there is thus a growing meeting of minds between the Census Commission, on the one hand, and several sections of the disability movement, on the other. Thus, we can hope that the Census of 2011 will finally be able to give us a correct count of the disabled in our country, making them truly visible.


( A former ambassador, Kamal Bakshi is Vice-Chairperson of ADAPT, Mumbai.)









In a paper to be presented at the World Classical Tamil Conference, I am going to discuss recent developments in my study of the Indus script. In the book Deciphering the Indus Script (Cambridge 1994), I interpreted the 'fish' sign as Proto-Dravidian * miin 'fish' = * miin 'star', and its compounds with preceding signs as names of heavenly bodies attested in Old Tamil. One newly deciphered sign depicts "a hoofed animal's hind leg." It occurs once before the plain 'fish' sign. Old Tamil taaL 'leg' has a Toda cognate meaning "thigh of animal's hind leg" and denotes a star in PuRam 395. The 'hind leg' sign once precedes a sign that depicts the wild ass. Is the reading taaL '(hind) leg' meaningful in this context?


Just one Indus seal has the wild ass as its iconographic motif; it was excavated in 2009 at Kanmer in the Kutch, next to the only wild ass sanctuary in South Asia. Bones of wild ass come from Harappan sites in Baluchistan, the Indus Valley and Gujarat; the salt deserts of this very area have always been the habitat of the wild ass. Bones or depictions of the domestic horse and the donkey are not found in South Asia before 1600 BCE.


Tamil kaZutai or "donkey" has cognates in Malayalam, Kota, Toda, Kannada, Kodagu, Tulu, Telugu, Kolami, Naiki, Parji, Gondi and Kuwi. Bhadriraju Krishnamurti reconstructs * kaZ-ut-ay and asserts that Proto-Dravidian speakers knew of the donkey. More probably * kaZutay meant 'wild ass' in Harappan Dravidian, and the term was transferred to the similar-looking donkey when this newcomer came to South Asia from the west through the Indus Valley. Rigvedic gardabha - 'donkey' has no cognates in Iranian; it is a Dravidian loan word with the added Indo-Iranian animal name suffix - bha-. I explain * kaZutay as 'kicker of the salt desert', from * kaZ(i) / * kaLLar 'saline soil' and * utay 'to kick'. The wild ass lives in the salt desert and is a vicious kicker.


There is a Hindu myth explicitly associated with the wild ass, the Dhenukavadha of Harivamsa 57. Krishna and Balarama came to a palmyra forest occupied by the fierce ass demon Dhenuka and its herd. Wanting to drink the juice of ripe palm fruits, Balarama shook the trees. Hearing the sound of falling fruits, the enraged ass demon rushed to the spot. Seeing Balarama beneath a wine palm, as if holding the tree as his banner, the wicked ass bit Balarama and started kicking him hard with its hind legs. Balarama seized the ass by those hind legs and flung it to the top of a palm. The ass fell down with its neck and back broken and died. Dhenuka's retinue met with the same fate, and the ground became covered with dead asses and fallen palm fruits. The palm forest, horrible when terrorised by the asses, impossible for humans to live in, difficult to cross, and with a great extent and salty soil ( iriNa), now became a lovely place.


The description of the palm forest as a salt desert confirms that wild asses are meant. The palm tree, Sanskrit taala from Proto-Dravidian * taaZ, is prominent in the myth and its earliest sculptural representations. The wine palm is associated with the wild ass, which inhabits the palm forest and finally falls down from the top of the palm like its ripe fruits. The wine palm is connected also with the ass' killer (his successor as the god of its drink), Balarama, whose addiction to toddy is "an essential part of his character."


The myth also refers to the palm emblem on Balarama's banner ( tâla-dhvaja). In the Rigveda, Indra is invited to drink Soma like a thirsty wild ass ( gaura) drinks in a pond of salty soil ( iriNa). In Kutch today, such ponds are called taalaab. This Persian word comes from Indo-Aryan taala 'pond', from Proto-Dravidian * taaZ 'low place, depression.' Like the camel, the wild ass can quickly drink an enormous amount of water, becoming through homophony the prototypal toddy-drinker. Further homophones of taaZ connect the wild ass with the ebb of tide and its mythical cause, the mare-faced demon of the netherworld who drinks the whole ocean.

Conclusion: taaL (from * taaZ, preserved in Old Kannada) '(hind) leg, stem of tree' (whence taaZ 'tree with a prominent stem' > 'wine palm') is in many ways connected with the wild ass.


( The author, who will be the first recipient of the Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award, is Professor Emeritus of Indology, Institute of World Cultures, University of Helsinki.)








Behind the bland facade of a BP office block in the outskirts of Houston, Texas, I step into an oil industry nightmare: the headquarters for a battle being fought on a distant seabed. Along the corridors, signs point the way to the company's "crisis centre."


Originally designed to provide back-up space to cope with hurricanes, it is now hosting a desperate effort to tackle the first leak to erupt beneath a mile of ocean.


For a giant of a company, these are tense, threatening times. In fact, one of the first sights to catch my eye inside the centre was a notice offering counselling and massages for stress. Some 500 people — mostly engineers — work in here in round-the-clock shifts, and they are doing their best to avoid being distracted by the storm of criticism, lawsuits, bills and allegations raging outside.


Of the multiple crises afflicting the company, their attention is focused on the struggle to tame and then kill the "wild well" gushing beyond human reach in the Gulf of Mexico.


'Unthinkable sight'


In one of the few visits allowed to the media, we are led into a series of rooms where different teams focus on different parts of the fight.


The largest is one running the containment operation — each of the vessels collecting oil from the leak is managed by a team here.


One group is from a rival oil firm, Chevron, because one of their ships is being leased to BP and it is easier not to train new people to direct it. For a highly competitive industry, this would normally be an unthinkable sight.


A neighbouring room acts as a marine traffic control centre. Having as many as 20 ships and rigs crowded into a small patch of sea above the leak carries risks. And across a hall lies BP's equivalent of mission control — a darkened room in which one wall carries projected images from the 12 remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) on the ocean floor.


Before we enter, we are asked to be as quiet as possible. The place is wired for instant communications with the ships handling the robots. The staff, faces cast in the blue-ish light of the screens, are in charge of the only means by which the leak can be contained; only robots can operate at the extreme depths involved.


Will all this succeed? Amid the exhaustion and strain, there is an air of confidence that more oil will gradually be captured and that ultimately the relief wells will block the leak. But not immediately. A centre intended for the sudden, short-lived threat of a hurricane is likely to be busy for some time to come.


— © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate








From all available indications, it appears the action plan suggested by the Group of Ministers to secure justice for the victims of Bhopal might be less than adequate. Had the GoM done its homework properly and gone into the voluminous documentation of the victims' betrayal by the administration and the judiciary, it could have issued a comprehensive roadmap to tackle all aspects of the Bhopal gas disaster. It might not be too late even now for the Prime Minister to place the GoM's recommendations before an all-party committee, as well as the organisations fighting on behalf of the victims for the past quarter century, before it is put up before the Union Cabinet on Friday. This might help ensure that justice is done in full measure. Acting on this half-baked plan would only perpetuate the injustice, and a futile effort to convince people that the government was doing something! The much-hyped Rs 1,300-crore package for the victims is just peanuts — if you consider the 1989 value of the dollar, this amounts to just Rs 350 crores. Trying to get back Warren Anderson, then chairman of Union Carbide Corporation, is undoubtedly welcome, but what about other individuals who too were responsible? The CBI was stopped in its criminal investigation of UCC officials like Warren Womar, whose criminal neglect of the operations manual might have led to the gas leak? Bhopal's chief judicial magistrate had issued a letter rogatory in July 1988 for the CBI to interrogate these officials, but this was later scuttled by the Centre. The GoM's recommendation that the Indian Council of Medical Research undertake a study on the health impact of the gas tragedy over the next 15 years is also welcome, but isn't it a cruel joke on the victims? The same ICMR and its officials showed criminal negligence by callously discontinuing medical research on the disaster way back in 1994. The NGOs working for the Bhopal victims managed to get the Supreme Court to issue an order in 2004 setting up an advisory committee on medical research under the aegis of the ICMR, but that too eventually proved a dud because of the disinterest shown by those who then headed the outfit. Should not these individuals be taken to task as well?

Most inexplicable of all was the GoM's attempts to deal with Dow Chemicals, the American company that eventually acquired Union Carbide Corporation, with velvet gloves. This was unbecoming of a country of India's standing, indeed of any sovereign state. The Prime Minister would do well to seek further expert legal advice on this aspect, rather than simply go by the ministerial panel's recommendation. It is also a bit alarming that the GoM has placed the onus for cleaning up the disaster site on the Madhya Pradesh government. This is a bit like US President Barack Obama asking the governor of Louisiana to clean up the colossal BP oil spill mess in the Gulf of Mexico! Neither the state government nor indeed the Government of India has the technical knowhow to handle chemical toxic waste of this nature. There is technology for remediation available in the West that can separate the chemical from the soil and the groundwater. In August 2006, the technical subcommittee of the task force for removal of toxic waste had said the entire toxic waste should be transported to the US for appropriate remediation. This has been done before in the case of Hindustan Lever, which transported 290 tonnes of contaminated mercury waste from HLL's thermometer factory at Kodaikanal to the US for remediation under the principle of "polluter pays." In Bhopal, however, this principle was shamelessly forgotten by the then state government and its pollution board.








As should have been anticipated, the "temporary" withdrawal by the Naga Students Federation (NSF) of the horrendous 10-week blockade of Manipur has meant no relief to the long-suffering people of the state numbering more than two million. Of the two reasons for this, the foreseeable one is the refusal so far of Manipur's own Nagas, organised under the banner of the All Naga Students Association Manipur (ANSAM), to accept the decision of the NSF that represents the people of Nagaland. Hopefully, the efforts to persuade ANSAM to see reason would succeed soon. But then a sudden new hurdle to the free flow of traffic along the beleaguered National Highway 39 has cropped up.

The truckers in the region have gone on strike because they want protection from "extortion" by multiple groups of "extremists", to say nothing of bribes demanded by government officials. Because they have been subjected to this tyranny for decades, their demand cannot be called unreasonable. Yet, a quick solution to this problem, even an interim one, has to be found so that the people deprived of food, life-saving drugs, petrol, cooking gas and other essential supplies can revert to a semblance of normal life.

However, even if the truckers agree to resume work, the woes of Manipur would not end. For, the withdrawal of the agitation by two rival sets of students would be temporary in every sense of the word and subject to revocation at any moment. Moreover, and no less importantly, the underlying reasons for the bitter hostility and consequent conflict between Manipur and Nagaland, on the one hand, and between Manipur tribes, including Kukis and Nagas, living in state's hill districts and the majority population of Meities residing in the Imphal Valley, on the other, are so bewilderingly complex that they are practically insoluble. These will be discussed to the extent possible presently. First, we must face squarely the paramount cause why not just Manipur but the entire Northeast has been reduced to such a perilous state.

It is the stark failure of the Indian state to do its elementary duty in the chronically troubled region — a failure that is chronic but has attracted attention only during the current crisis in Manipur. As the current rage and revelations about the Bhopal gas tragedy 25 years ago shows, nothing like good governance exists anywhere in this country, irrespective of which party is in power either at the Centre or in the states. At its best governance everywhere in India is perfunctory, even shoddy. Otherwise, no one in Bhopal would have allowed a highly congested cluster of housing to come up around the factory producing a highly dangerous and poisonous gas. Or callously ignored repeated warnings about the world's worst industrial accident waiting to happen. The horror of horrors is that all governments, Central and state, have let the toxic waste lie around the disused Bhopal factory for more than a quarter of a century, without anyone being called to account.

However, the misfortune of the Northeast is that it is denied even the kind of bad and blundering governance that prevails in, say, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Baroda, Barabanki or Burdwan. Just look back at the enormity of what has gone on in relation to Manipur since April 11 and it becomes distressingly clear that the Indian state has virtually washed its hands off the area. The monstrosity of Manipur siege had gone on for full two months before the Union home ministry took the trouble to announce that it would send Central forces to clear the lifeline to Manipur. It did nothing of the sort, of course, because by that time leaders of the NSF had arrived in Delhi to meet the Prime Minister. They condescended to lift the blockade temporarily. They even delivered on their promise but to no avail because of the stand-off between the two Naga student outfits.

Of the various factors behind the abdication of all governmental responsibility in the seven sisters of Northeast India the most lamentable is New Delhi's penchant to look upon the region as a "far-away land of which we know so little and care even less". This approach is compounded by the vague notion that all north-eastern states are alike while the reality is that each state is different from the other six. Indeed, almost each of these states has a diversity of ethnicities within its borders. This should explain the ferocity of the disputes between Manipur and Nagaland because the latter's demand for Greater Nagaland embracing the Kuki and Naga districts of Manipur. That, in turn, should explain why the Manipur government barred the Nagaland leader, T. Muivah (who is engaged in protracted negotiations with the Central government to "settle" the Naga issue) from visiting his ancestral village that lies in Manipur. This was the beginning of the Manipur blockade. But ANSAM has no sympathy for Muivah. It wants Manipur besieged because the Meiti-dominated state government has ordered elections in autonomous districts without any consensus on either the timing of the poll or the law under which it is to be held.

Secondly, the Indian state and society have conspired to establish the principle that whoever has a grievance, actual or imaginary, has a right to burn trains, uproot railway lines, torch buses and block thoroughfares with impunity. However, in the heartland this happens only for a few days at a time. It goes on in the periphery for months even though in this part of India, the few highways constitute the people's lifeline.
Since nothing is more contagious than bad example, the unspeakable khap Jats of Haryana have threatened to besiege Delhi if the law on Hindu marriages is not changed in accordance with their wishes immediately. Would they be shown the same tolerance as that to the vandals blockading Manipur?
Finally, we have got used to listening to long lectures on human rights of even the murderers of innocent citizens. Do lakhs and lakhs of law-abiding citizens have no human or fundamental right to lead a normal and peaceful life, to be able to move around freely and to get their food and other necessaries at normal, not astronomical, prices?







I am writing this article sitting in my office in Cambridge, England. Last year the University of Cambridge celebrated its 800th anniversary. For our institutions in India, the first landmark to celebrate is the decennial. For us, today to imagine an educational institution maintaining continuous existence over eight centuries is very hard, although in the distant past, our own country could boast of the universities of Takshashila and Nalanda which had flourished for several centuries.

A long life for a university is creditable if it has produced distinguished alumni. Walking through this (still small) town one comes across roads named after Tennyson, Chaucer, Barrow, Newton, Herschel, Adams, etc. These names leave you in no doubt that a veritable cultural "Who's Who" is in place here. Traditionally, Cambridge is known for the sciences and Oxford (referred to as "the other place" by Cambridge alumni) for the humanities; although both universities have produced distinguished exceptions to this rule.

By and large the cultural heritage of a city is reflected in how its streets are named. Take Delhi for example. Its major streets are named after kings and emperors of the past and their standard bearers of today, the politicians. I am not a historian, but as a layman my perception of Delhi is of a city obsessed with power and one-upmanship. It is as if everybody who aspires to be anybody, has to be aware of his or her standing. If X,Y, Z are three rising rungs in a hierarchy, then according to some hidden or explicit protocol, a person on rung X cannot talk to one on rung Z without the knowledge and consent of the person on Y.

This may be necessary in a service like the Army or administration where the internal discipline counts for a lot. But I get dismayed when I see this atmosphere in a scientific institution. Science progresses more through arguments and controversies than through yesmanship. It is a field where freshness and independence of thinking has helped. And these traits are more common amongst younger rather than older scientists. But if a hierarchy-based protocol prevents the juniors from opening their minds to the seniors, the quality of research in the institution is bound to suffer.

I encountered an interesting and illuminating example in the following episode. I had called on the director of a leading laboratory with a request for allotment of some lecture rooms for holding a national meet of astronomers. The deputy director had gone over the details with me and we had come to the conclusion that for holding plenary sessions none of the lecture theatres would be adequate as their capacity of 120 just fell short of the typical attendance of 135 that we expected at these sessions. The deputy director therefore suggested that I request the director to make the 300-seater auditorium available.

When we met the director and I broached the subject, he immediately said: "But why do you need the auditorium? The bigger lecture theatres should be adequate". He turned to the deputy director for concurrence, adding that "I think the capacity is 140 if we add a few chairs on the side". Now the deputy director was in difficulty. He knew for sure that there was no way that the capacity of the lecture theatres could be increased by as much as the director had asserted. Yet how could he contradict his boss? So he muttered something like "Very good sir... I think we will somehow manage". The director beamed, well satisfied that he had solved a problem that his subordinates could not handle. Later when the meeting did take place, the inadequacy of the lecture rooms was realised and the plenary session had to be shifted to the auditorium. The last minute change caused the inevitable confusion that could have been avoided if the deputy director had been bold enough to contradict his superior. Science, they say, runs on facts; but here was the second seniormost scientist in the institution unwilling to tell his boss that he had got his facts wrong.

I find that Mumbai has the image of a city of commerce. The "money god" must bless you if you are to do well here. This despite the fact that Mumbai had one of the three oldest universities of British India, has eminent research institutes like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, has a record of encouraging Marathi theatre, etc. Kolkata does convey to me the image of a cultural city just as Bengaluru is for information technology.
Again, the streets of the city may hold clues as to its culture.

The readers may form their own opinion as to whether the city they know supports science and technology through research and development, whether it encourages the performing arts, provides opportunities for artists to display their talents, hosts literary meets or whether it regales in political manoeuvres or delights in its bureaucratic structure. For that will determine its culture.

In the present age of transition many cities are losing their special touch as old heritage gives way to malls and multi-storey buildings. We need to take guidance from the cities of Europe. They have managed to combine the old with the new in a very successful way. We, on the other hand, are very ruthless with the old: from a short term commercial point of view we destroy our heritage and take delight in having got the most cash out of the transaction. This way our much boasted heritage will remain only on paper, as some of the existing past photographs of our cities.


Jayant V. Narlikar is a professor emiritus at Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune University Campus, and a renowned astrophysicist








The group of ministers (GoM) dealing with the resuscitated Bhopal gas leak tragedy of December, 1984 went about its job as though it was working on a blank slate and there was no previous history. It was literally the Rip Van Winkle act, the Appalachian folk tale of Washington Irving in which the idler-hero goes to sleep for 20 years and returns to find everything changed. In the case of the government of India and the GoM it is as though that the world has been standing still these 25 years.


It has announced enhanced monetary compensation to the victims: Rs10 lakh to relatives of the dead. Rs5 lakh to those who have been incapacitated and Rs2 lakh for those temporarily hurt. Of course, the detail was hidden away that whatever the money the victims had received by way of compensation earlier will be deducted from the fresh compensation.


Then it turned to the issue of cleaning up of the toxic waste at the Carbide site that has remained there for the last 25 years without taking cognisance of the changes in ownership of the UCIL. Union Carbide had sold off its shares in the Indian unit to an Indian company in 1994 with the permission of the Supreme Court. The UCIL site has been taken over by the Madhya Pradesh government in 1998. It has suggested that global tenders should be floated for the clean-up of the site and it has allocated Rs300 crore for the purpose.


The third major decision was to explore the extradition of former Carbide CEO, Warren Anderson, pretending to be unaware of the out-of-court settlement that Union Carbide and the government of India agreed to in 1987 by which Carbide paid US$470 million in compensation and in turn the government freed the American company of its civil and criminal liability. Of course, it was much later that the Supreme Court had allowed for the revival of criminal liability.


The Carbide case is extraordinarily messy in every which way. But in true bureaucratic fashion the GoM ignored the tangled aspects instead of disentangling it. The speed at which the course of action has been charted out is quite dazzling without the caveat that this comes after 25 years, of which Congress has been in power at the Centre and in Madhya Pradesh for 15 years.






The face off between the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party — allies in the National Democratic Alliance — is getting curiouser and curiouser. Together, these two parties successfully wrested Bihar from the stranglehold of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar as chief minister has become something of a poster-boy for sound development and good governance.


But now it appears that Kumar would like to fly it alone in Bihar. He has taken on his alliance partner on the issue that is closest to their core — Hindutva. It started with his rage at people publicly thanking Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for helping Bihar after the Kosi floods. Kumar's fury — which his party members and the BJP, both tried to appease — led to him returning Rs5 crore to Gujarat.


This is a significant insult. Earlier, Kumar had stated that he did not want Modi to campaign in his state for fear of losing the minority vote. Now he has reiterated that demand and added Varun Gandhi's name to the list, Gandhi having made a name for himself with some controversial speeches during the last general elections.


The question is whether Kumar is making a play to go for it alone in Bihar or whether someone just has to call

his bluff. Would Kumar create a battle with the BJP if he did not have confidence in his own ability? Would he do it if he still felt that the alliance was beneficial to him in Bihar?


Whether this ploy will work out or not remains to be seen but it is evident that Kumar feels that continued association with the BJP — and especially with its icons like Modi and Gandhi — is harmful to his chances in Bihar and would hand an advantage to his old rival, Lalu Prasad Yadav.


If Kumar's behaviour and anger with a senior alliance partner was not extraordinary enough, there is the matter of the BJP's reaction to Kumar. The party has been scrambling for solutions and has held a number of meetings but not managed to sort out the problem. This is not the first time that an ally has suddenly realised that Hindutva is a stumbling block — it happened earlier with the Trinamool Congress and the Telugu Desam Party, to name just two. The BJP is truly stuck between a rock and a hard place. It needs allies to win elections but it also gets its ideological identity from Hindutva. How can it choose between the two?


However, a choice it seems will have to be made. The BJP is slowly but surely finding itself at a crossroads and so far, it has not shown that it has the mettle to make a choice.








The writer Mark Twain recommended travel as an antidote to "prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness". Stirring out of one's comfort zone and interacting with other cultures, he believed, would help shape "broad, wholesome, charitable" views of men and things. 

As more and more Indians venture out on a foreign strand and see how the 'other half' lives, it raises the hope that they might return home with a finer appreciation of the Hegelian Other and, inversely, gain a better understanding of their own place in the world. 

It appears, however, from some recent accounts of Indian travellers abroad — and of foreigners coming to 'Incredible India' — that that hope rests on infirm foundation. Two recent narratives in this space, both by first-time Indian travellers to our trans-Himalayan neighbour China, are illustrative. 

One dealt in merciless details with the wild range of eating options at Beijing's famed snack streets. And although, to his eternal credit, the narrator himself appeared to have been low on food inhibition and combined an open mind with an open mouth, the entire tone of his first-person gastronomic account appeared calculated to appeal to the 'Eew-yuck, these Chinese will eat anything' factor. 

The other was, again, a first-person account of a couple who were so charmed by a group of English-speaking Chinese youngsters in Beijing that they allowed themselves to be conned into coughing up a disproportionately large amount of money for a tea ceremony. 

Beijing's street snacks readily lend themselves to exoticising, but they are also something of a cliche. Dwelling excessively on them contributes little beyond reinforcing Chinese culinary stereotypes, in the same way that pictures of traffic-blocking cows lolling on Indian streets — which so turn on foreign visitors and TV camera crews — are no more than a lazy visual metaphor for an India where, presumably, anything goes. It is only when travellers can frame these visual stereotypes in a larger perspective that they will have taken the first step on the 1,000-mile journey towards a keener appreciation of other cultures.  

Likewise, the realisation that there are enterprising Bunty-and-Babli con-artists in Beijing wouldn't have come as a shock if the defrauded couple had done the rudimentary research on tourist traps to avoid. The 'tea ceremony' rip-off is the oldest trick in the game, and is an adequately well-documented alert in travel guides. 

If you're sufficiently clueless, you can just as easily be gypped in Bandra as in Beijing. There are just as many tourist alerts for foreign travellers to India, and a reading of their chronicling of their experiences is enough to establish that when it comes to playing artful Bunty-and-Babli con-games, Indians yield to no other nationality on grounds of sheer enterprise. 

Chinese people themselves aren't immune to the enterprising trickery of their home-grown con-artists, and just earlier this week, Beijing police dismantled — I kid you not — a fake ATM machine that had been used to illegally gather card data and PIN codes for unsuspecting customers. 

And somewhat more bizarrely, recently a Hong Kong property developer successfully sold a '68th floor' apartment in a 46-storey complex for a world-record sq-ft price to new-rich mainland Chinese buyers who, venturing away from their cocoon, hadn't evidently acquainted themselves with the Bunty-and-Babli schemes that operate in Hong Kong. 

Should we therefore not travel out of the comfort zones of our minds? Perhaps Mark Twain was a trifle naive: perhaps, as poet Maya Angelou noted, travel cannot prevent bigotry. But there's still the hope that she nursed: that by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.








It takes one tragedy to point to the possibility of another. Thus the day those responsible for the greatest man-made industrial disaster in history were let off with light sentences, the government was forced to reconsider its proposal on its ridiculously low cap on the liability in case of an accident at a nuclear power reactor.

The two are connected. The scale of those killed by the poisonous methyl isocyanate (MIC) on the night of December 2-3, 1984, in Bhopal is unprecedented. Some 3,000-plus people died that night and another 15,000-20,000 in the subsequent months. Tens of thousands of others had to live in pain, crippled by failing lungs, a damaged nervous system and eyes, and women giving birth to deformed babies.

If the two most serious nuclear accidents to date — at Three Mile Island in 1979 in the US, and Chernobyl in the then USSR in 1986 — did not claim as many lives, it was only because they were located in sparsely populated areas and not near a crowded bustee in a city.

It is roughly estimated that the total number of deaths from cancers near Chernobyl may reach 4,000 and 600,000 people were, at the  most, exposed to radiation. The accident and the measures taken to deal with its consequences have cost the Soviet Union — and later Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine — over a $100 billion. Today, social benefits are paid to about seven million people who are considered to have been affected in some way by the Chernobyl accident.

While there were a few deaths after the Three Mile Island (TMI) reactor meltdown, because of speedy evacuation of people from the locality, the subsequent clean-up of the plant and the surrounding area cost only $975 million. More importantly, the accident added the final nail to the coffin of the US nuclear industry. After TMI, no US nuclear plant has been authorised to begin construction.

After the Bhopal gas disaster, the Indian government filed claims of $3.3 billion against Union Carbide as compensation for those killed and the roughly two lakh people whose health had been badly damaged by the MIC. Union Carbide agreed to pay $470million in an out-of-court settlement.

Even this small amount was not fully utilised. The compensation paid by the government to those dead or seriously injured was pathetic and Rs1,000 crore is expected to be left over after the claims settled so far. The area around the plant is still contaminated with dangerous chemicals, the ground water is not safe, and insufficient attention has been given to treating those still suffering.

After the court judgment sentenced seven senior Union Carbide executives to two years in prison, the Central and state governments have been squabbling among themselves about who will handle the cleanup and apportioning blame to score political points. During my two visits to Bhopal in 1984 and 1999, I found the bureaucratic and business elite of the city callous about the sufferings of the poor who were hit most by the gas leak. Many wanted to grab the relief for themselves.  

There is no reason to believe that it will be any different in case the proposed Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill is passed in its present form. To limit the damages payable by companies running nuclear plants to Rs500 crore, or a little more than $100 million, is a joke, considering that just the cost of a clean-up at Three Mile Island was nearly 10 times as much and the Chernobyl nuclear accident's cost to the countries concerned was a thousand times as much. Even the minimal amount paid as compensation in Bhopal was five times as much.

It is especially worrying that the bill is a result of US pressure. Unlike France and Japan, the United States has not built any nuclear reactors for over three decades. Their technology is untested for new reactors. The costs of damage, lives lost and maimed, and the clean up of radiation will be high.

Despite our rushing in to embrace the technology, we must not forget the risks. Casualties from radiation are bound to be high in a country of India's population density. The problem of nuclear waste and its disposal is also critical. Such waste will be dangerously radioactive for tens of thousands of  years, nearly a hundred times as long as the chemicals contaminating the ground in Bhopal.


Compare this with the 5,000 years since the first cities came to be built and 13,000 years since the dawn of agriculture. It takes unbounded optimism to bet our future on a technology that poses such a risk of poisoning future generations.

At the very least we can ensure that the costs to power producers and insurance companies of accidental failure are so high that they will be careful in putting safety systems in place. Otherwise we risk an accident many times worse than that at Bhopal.









It is good that the Group of Ministers on the Bhopal gas tragedy submitted its report to the Prime Minister on Monday. As the Union Cabinet will examine it at a special meeting on June 25, it has not been made public. Nonetheless, among the key issues the GoM discussed in its report were relief for and rehabilitation of the families of the victims of the gas leak 25 years ago. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has said that while the GoM's immediate focus was on providing relief to the affected families, it has also dealt with pursuing Warren Anderson's extradition, the legal options available to the government, the remediation (clean-up) issues and health-related matters. However, the Rs 1500-crore compensation package recommended by the GoM for the victims and their kin is too little, too late.


If the Union Cabinet clears it, the kin of those dead will get Rs 10 lakh, those with permanent disability Rs 5 lakh and those with partial disability Rs 3 lakh. But then, this amount will get reduced further because the money they had received earlier will be deducted from the fresh amount. Many families have lost their bread-earners while many others have been maimed or seriously injured. As it is a tragedy unprecedented in its scale and magnitude, the Centre and the Madhya Pradesh government should consider their plight generously and do justice.


Equally serious is the question of making those responsible for the tragedy culpable. The GoM is apparently silent about it. The victims' association and the Opposition leaders have rued that the GoM has not fixed accountability on anyone at any stage — be it on extraditing Warren Anderson to India or other officials responsible for the accident. Nor did the GoM spell out an action plan to seek a review of the Supreme Court ruling that diluted the charges against seven company officials who are now out on bail with a minor punishment of two-year sentence. How can the leak of 40 tonnes of methyl isocynate on the night of December 2-3, 1984, from the UCC plant that claimed as many as 15,000 lives be treated like an ordinary road accident? The ends of justice will be met only if all those responsible are given exemplary punishment for the world's major industrial disaster. And nobody should be allowed to go scot-free. Only then will the punishment so awarded act as a deterrent.








Indo-Pak talks, slated in Islamabad later this week, will start off with the huge advantage of not having any baggage of expectations. The distrust between the two countries is already so high that neither side would be expecting a major breakthrough in bilateral relations. Indeed, the deliberations already threaten to follow old patterns when Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram meets his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik. Indian concerns over cross-border terrorism, infiltration, ceasefire violation, drug trafficking, fake currency, etc, will predictably be taken up while Pakistan will expectedly question the role of India's Research & Analysis Wing ( RAW), alleged human rights violations in Kashmir and disputes over the sharing of river waters. Both sides, however, seem to be 'cautiously optimistic' about the coming dialogue. The Indian delegation claims to be in an exploratory, and not accusatory, mode on the eve of its departure and Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is on record as saying that Pakistan is not interested in a 'cosmetic engagement' with India. There is no harm, therefore, in keeping one's fingers crossed.


Indeed, there is a discernible thaw in their relationship after the two Prime Ministers met at Thimphu earlier this year on the sidelines of SAARC. The two sides now seem increasingly keen to talk about trade rather than terror, although sharing of 'intelligence' and countering terror will be high on the agenda when both sides meet. Mr Chidambaram is known to be business-like and he can be trusted to convey Indian concerns in as diplomatic a language as possible. With the Indian Foreign Secretary, Ms Nirupama Rao, also slated to hold talks with her counterpart over confidence-building measures and people-to-people contacts, etc, the revival of a joint anti-terror mechanism and more concessions for cross-border trade appear in the realms of possibility.


Even as the two sides grapple over the bottlenecks to peace and stability, time is running out for both. With the US pullout from Afghanistan being merely a matter of time, India and Pakistan both will get singed if they fail to cooperate and work for a stable and peaceful region. Under the circumstances, even token gestures like the grant of the 'Most Favoured Nation' status, to India, which merely means there would be no discrimination in trade practices, setting up universities or hospitals and the exchange of students and academics will go a long way to reduce the trust-deficit between the two countries. 









Global stocks and commodities zoomed on Monday as China let its currency, pegged at 6.83 against the dollar since 2008, rise. The yuan made the biggest single-day gain since its last revaluation in 2005. China is widely seen as getting an unfair advantage in global exports by not letting its currency appreciate. Now when the People's Bank of China loosened its control on the yuan, the rest of the world welcomed it. A stronger yuan would make imported goods cheaper for the Chinese, nudging them to buy more of foreign goods, thus boosting growth in the developed world, battered by European debt woes and grappling with the recovery.


The US, hit by a severe trade imbalance in favour of China, is toying with legislation to penalise Beijing for undermining its exports. Leaders of developed countries are expected to use the G20 summit in Canada (June 26-27) to pin China down. And Bejing's announcement over the weekend to ease currency swaps is cleverly timed and meant to fend off global criticism. Few would take China's sudden turnaround seriously unless the yuan is allowed to find a realistic level against the dollar over a period of time. China unified the exchange rate in 1994, then tweaked it in 2005 and has not allowed the yuan to move up since 2008. Monday's cheer was short-lived as it became known that China's central bank had set the yuan's trading range at Friday's level.


India is among the countries that have suffered as cheap Chinese goods swamped global markets in the recent past. The under-valued yuan has unfairly driven down prices of Chinese products, making it difficult for countries to compete with the rising Asian giant. Even during recession, China's exports stood at $1.2 trillion in 2009 against India's 168 billion. Recession-hit countries are expected to press for a free float of the yuan at the G20 summit. How China dodges the issue will be watched with interest.

















Although the infantry is called the king and the queen of the battlefield, it is treated as a jack of all trades. Despite being the key combat arm, it is lowest on the priority list of modernisation even as it is involved 24x7 in counter-insurgency operations, stretching from Jammu and Kashmir to the North-East and with an increasing probability of joining the counter-Naxalite drive.


Why has the infantry been neglected when it has bagged 80 per cent of all gallantry awards and taken 75 per cent of casualties? Former Army Chief Gen S. Padmanabhan used to say that the Indian Army was fighting a Kargil every 14 months, meaning 517 infantry soldiers were being lost in that period. Why is this insensitivity to casualties and its lagging behind in modernisation? The truth is that the infantry has been taken for granted while modernisation has focused on tanks, guns and aircraft.


Conceptually, marginalisation of the infantry happened when after the Gulf war, strategic thinking veered round to the belief that wars were winnable from the air. In 1991, the Gulf war lasted 42 days, and 38 of these were fought from the air. In 1995, the Bosnia campaign was 17 days' long without any land offensive. The Kosovo war in 1999 was fought for 78 days and entirely from the air. But Afghanistan broke the myth of supremacy of air power. Of the 76-day war, 65 of these were air operations, followed by an 11-day land offensive. The 20-day Iraq war, on the other hand, was entirely a land operation without any preparatory air campaign. The ongoing Afghanistan war is a classic infantry operation.


In this period, the Indian experience was very different: from fighting proxy wars in J&K and the North-East to vacating Pakistani aggression in Kargil, these operations were infantry-focussed and handicapped by constraints like minimum force — no use of heavy weapons — and strategic restraint of maintaining the sanctity of the LoC. No other infantry in the world is tasked to combat asymmetrical challenges without the use of the artillery and the air force. Add cumbersome combat gear, substandard weapons and inadequate equipment — it is a wonder how the infantryman does so much with so little.


There is yet another handicap. India's policy is one of merely containing insurgency — keeping the lid on instead of catalysing a political solution. Kashmir is the best example of the military having created the best conditions for a political solution but the government failing to capitalise on it.


India has not fought a conventional war since 1971 and is not likely to do in the near future. Low-intensity conflict will be the primary challenge of the future. The blame for the neglect of the infantry must be put on successive Army Chiefs, most of whom were from the infantry. Ironically, the Chiefs from other arms did more to advance the case of infantry modernisation than those from the infantry. It was only after Kargil that holes in the infantry inventory began being plugged through fast-track acquisitions. This deviation in the interest of war preparedness was ultimately trumped by probity, leaving behind the Coffingate scandal and a former Defence Minister and Navy Chief being investigated for fraud.


Tinkering began with modernisation, started in the 1990s, to replace World War-II vintage equipment. In 1991, the Review of Combat Echelons was largely an exercise on paper, followed by incorporating lessons from Kargil in 1999. The first serious modernisation attempt was made in 2003 but with a paltry sum of Rs 30 million to provide new weapons, better communications and surveillance, increased mobility and night-fighting capability. Reducing the battle-load of soldiers, improved combat kit projects were undertaken in 2004. Units still struggle with the outdated INSAS rifle and have not found replacement for World War-II sten machine carbine, for example, and battle loads, especially at high altitudes, are still very heavy.


By 2005, the outlines of the F INSAS — future infantry soldier as a system — were conceptualised, leading next year to sharing the concept with corporates in the Army-industry partnership conference in 2006. Integral to Infantry Vision-2020 was this statement, "To field in battle by 2020, infantry soldiers, who can read the battle environment instantly and respond either individually or as a tactical team with speed, precision, lethality and agility, exploiting optimally all the supporting combat components."


F INSAS envisages a man-machine mix of five sub-systems. The weapon sub-system is to be a family of robust reliable and modular weapon system to include four variants — carbine/micro-assault rifle, assault rifle and light machine gun complimented with an integrated site featuring thermal imagery, laser pointers and range finders.


The helmet sub-system will have a head-up display, integrated with the soldier's personal computer and other sensors. The personal computer will be attachable to the backpack frame and connected to personal radio and GPS. The radio sub-system will enable soldiers to receive and transmit voice and data signals. The protective clothing will vary for terrain and extreme climate and will include mine protection boots and smart vests with physiological monitoring systems.


By 2012 the Army expects to field the first version of F INSAS based on available technology. The Infantry Directorate's F INSAS project team has studied the modernisation programmes of 20 countries which has helped in refining its project definition. But a lot of work has still to be done.


Why the F INSAS project took four years to move from Sena Bhavan to South Block is a mystery, explained by insiders as turbulence in the Infantry Directorate. F INSAS was approved by the then Army Chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor, only in January 2009. F INSAS is at the request for information stage before the General Staff Qualitative Requirement is made. It is extremely unlikely that the first version of F INSAS can be fielded by 2012. The delay by current reckoning could be by three to five years, going by the pace of acquisitions — make or buy. The programme will inevitably encounter the DRDO's tall promises.


Officers in the Army are paranoid about probity and say no one is prepared to take chances when weapons acquisition has become a game of political vendetta. Almost everyone at Army Headquarters is agreed that funding is not the problem; it is how to spend it on time. General Staff Qualitative Requirement makers must get the balance among technology, practical application and cost right based on the Indian experience without aping Western infantry models. Levels of sophistry and technology must be commensurate with what soldiers can master without becoming slaves to equipment.


A former Nato commander told a conference recently: "This business of fielding the infantry in multi-mission, multi-role, on digital and network-centric battlefields is great. But for Pete's sake, our soldiers are being blown up by IEDs in Afghanistan. Let's fight this war before preparing for the next…"


Gen James Mattis, the Marine Corps Commander, told American soldiers last month that human interface is the most important item, "we don't want things that take geniuses on the battlefield to operate, and, therefore, need to create systems, organisations and equipment that don't need a master's degree in maths to operate." India's F INSAS General Staff Qualitative Requirement must remember this.








EVER wondered how atheists survive? I often do because, since childhood, I have relied on God heavily to bail me out of tight spots I have landed myself into, turned to Him for support in times of weakness and, very often, folded my hands, closed my eyes and asked Him for whatever I want, for myself and for those dear to me.


And, whenever I do so, I can't help thinking who the atheists look up to when the going gets tough, when hope ebbs and pain peaks and when there is no alternative to looking heavenward for succor. For, it's usually then that miracles have happened for me. In fact, my life is a story of such miracles, big and small.


As a child, there were numerous occasions when I prayed to God with a little more reverence during the morning assembly at school. This usually happened when I forgot a notebook or had unfinished homework. I knew God kept His word when the teacher didn't show up or was too preoccupied to take the class. As I grew up, my belief in Him became stauncher. He, too, never let me down, underlining my faith by manifesting Himself in more ways than one.


A few months after my daughter was born, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. As the doctors prepared for surgery, they asked us to say our goodbyes, warning us that she may not survive the surgery.


I said my last prayer before she was wheeled into the operation theatre. I told God that it was almost unfair to take away my daughter's grandmother even before my little one had started school. I implored, "You can't be unjust if you love me."


When the doctor emerged smiling, I knew a miracle had touched me. My mother recovered and even saw my daughter go to school.


But that's all the time God gave us — just as much as I had asked him for. A couple of months of after my daughter joined school, my mother's cancer reoccurred. The doctor said she only had a few months.


I decided to make one last-ditch effort to please God, thought of my selfishness for a moment and dismissed it, convincing myself, "I'm selfish, that's why I'm human".


In my prayers, I told Him I was keeping my mother's Monday fasts for 16 weeks to please Him. The 16 fasts ended in the last week of June. On the Sunday before the seventeenth Monday dawned, my mother passed away.


My deadline had ended. God had kept my faith yet again. These are only a few instances which have strengthened my faith in God and I owe much of this to my mother.


Even as a 10-year-old, I remember my mother reading out and explaining the abridged English version of the Bhagwad Gita even as I yawned through the 20-minute session. I got my own Christopher Isherwood copy as soon as she thought my faith had been crystalised.


I have carried forward this tradition by occasionally reading aloud a chapter from that Gita to my daughter since she turned four. Surprisingly, she enjoys it though she doesn't understand much.


Today, as my mother's fourth death anniversary nears, I know she's still with me, in the pages of the Gita she gave to me. Her God is now mine, and my daughter's as well. Every night, in our prayers, we turn all our worries to Him, knowing He's going to be awake all night, realising fully that humans, sometimes, may fail us, God never will. As for the atheists, like one of them admits, everything is usually taken care of between "coincidence and convenience". For everything else, there is God!











SMS jokes on the power situation in Punjab started in April this year. People rightly dreaded facing the scorching summer heat with power cuts starting in March itself. A typical joke ran like this "Sukhbir Badal's latest slogan - No if, no but, sirf power cut".


It is June-end now and surprisingly power cuts are limited despite the fact that the state is caught up in a severe heat wave. Politics and restructuring of the erstwhile Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) are partly responsible for the change as well as the person who is the butt of the 'power jokes' - Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.


Politicians in Punjab feel power can make or break a government. The Akalis have all along put their faith in the free power facility extended to the farming community to pull through. However the virtual bankruptcy of the former PSEB which had accumulated losses of Rs 10,000 crore and an outstanding loan of Rs 16,000 crore forced the government not only to withdraw the free power facility but also restructure the power utility.


While farmers now have to pay a nominal rate of Rs 50 per bhp monthly for their tubewell connections, the new power utility Transco is going in for a major overhaul of the transmission system in the state. The new electricity utilities - Powercom and Transco -- have access to more funds now with the PSEB's assets being revalued.


A Rs 650 crore project, which has been taken up post-restructuring six weeks back, will see immediate deloading of seven 220 kv stations and 35 sub stations of 66 kv before the start of the paddy transplantation season. More power will be supplied through high-tension lines and most metres will be outside residences in a phased manner, all of which are part of a project started by the Deputy CM to audit energy and cut losses.


These measures, accompanied by steep power purchase of Rs 1,093 crore in the next few months, are expected to improve power availability in the state. The government expects to provide six to eight hours of power for the agriculture sector during the paddy season, keeping domestic cuts to a low of two to three hours every day and ensuring there is not more than one compulsory weekly off for the industrial sector.


Into the fourth year of its government, the SAD-BJP combine may well see the commissioning of the 540-mega watt Goindwal plant only during its tenure. Sterlite has delayed work on the 1,980 mw Talwandi Sabo project while the 2,640-mw Gidderbaha project is still to take off as finalization of coal linkages have been delayed. The 1320 mw Rajpura plant has only recently been awarded to Larsen and Toubro following a re-tendering process. This means Punjab will still have to wait for another three years to realise its goals on the power front.


Though efforts to strengthen the transmission system are likely to help, the government needs to invest in the power sector itself also rather than being dependent on private players only. It could invest in thermal stations at the pitheads in Bihar and Jharkhand besides investing in central projects to ensure it has a continuous access to reasonably priced power that it can use to fulfill its social commitments in the future also. 








With hydroelectric projects of 6,485 MW already commissioned, 6,341 MW under execution, 3,526 MW at the pre-implementation stage and another 5,651 MW under allotment Himachal Pradesh is on way to becoming the power house of the country. Yet the tiny hill state is not in a comfortable position and faces a shortage of power, thanks to the wrong policies of the government and its utter failure to carry out any sort of reforms in the over-staffed and highly inefficient state power utility even after implementation of the Electricity Act 2003.


A shortfall during the lean winter months, when the generation declines to almost 25 percent due to low discharge, has been a common feature. However, this year for the first time the state faced a shortage even during summer, forcing the state power utility to impose restrictions on industrial consumers. A decade ago the state was selling 1,100 to 1,200 mu (million units) of surplus power and the net inter-state sales exceeded 800 mu but this year there will be net deficit of 316 mu. The winter deficit has been projected at 816 mu of which 250 mu will be met by banking during summer and another 250 mu by contra-banking during winter.


The situation is not likely to ease at least for the next two years even though additional capacity of 600 MW will be added with the commissioning of Allain Duhangan, Malana-II, Budhil, Chamera-III and some mini and micro hydroelectric projects during the current financial year. The state will get only 12 percent free power as royalty from these project. The mega 1000 MW Karcham Wangtoo project is also fast nearing completion but it will provide relief to the neighbouring Punjab which has signed an agreement for the purchase of power at Rs 3 per unit.


The self-defeating policy of successive governments to allow power-guzzling arc and induction furnace-based steel units has led to a situation where the state utility is forced to purchase power every year at exorbitant prices and supply it at almost half the cost. The BJP made it a big issue during the Congress regime in 2003 and alleged corruption but , intriguingly, after coming to power it sanctioned many more such units even though power was not available, plunging the state in deeper environmental and financial mess.


The focus has been on allotment of projects to the private sector and the government is least bothered about their time-bound execution and providing requisite the transmission system. The transmission corporation has virtually remained non-functional because of the failure of the government to unbundle the board ,which itself could not spend more than 10 percent of the funds approved by the SERC for expanding the transmission network over the past three years.


As a result, projects are coming up without a transmission system being in place. While big companies executing Allain Duhungan and Karcham Wangtu had the resources to build their own lines, the small developers are a worried lot. With an identified potential of 23,000 MW to be harnessed about 850 big and small projects, mostly located in far-flung pockets, transmission infrastructure should have been the first priority. Even the "unbundling" of the board will not help much as bulk of the transmission assets are not being transferred to the state transmission utility under the model finalised by the government. Delay in unbundling has ruined the board which has accumulated losses to the tune of Rs 263 crore and running an overdraft of over Rs 700 crore.


Worse, despite the shortag,e the government has allowed the private companies to sell power outside undermining the state's long-term economic interests. The revenue from the power sector has increased from Rs 49 crore to Rs 1300 crore over the past six years but the government has not invested much in the power sector. It is the only state which has not gone for long-term agreements to meet the winter shortfall and it was among the last to approach the Centre for a proportionate share in various Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPP) and as a result got 145 MW. The state could get some relief from power shortage only after 800 MW Kol Dam, 1350 MW Parbati and 412 MW Rampur project, which will come only in the 11th plan, only if the government scrupulously shuns power intensive units, reviews those in the pipeline and secures the right of refusal in private sector projects.








Power, no matter how much of it is available, is always in short supply. Though a tad better than its "big brother" Punjab, Haryana is no exception to the rule this summer as the mercury continues to rise and there is no sign of the rain even as the paddy sowing season is nearly knocking at the door.


The widening gap between the rising demand and the inadequate supply from the state's own resources has forced the government to explore "greener pastures" to bail them out of all-weather peak-time blues.


If the summer heat's fury has meant a lot of sweat for the 50 lakh-odd consumers of the two power utilities, the Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam and the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam, as these invariably end up "over-loaded", the supply seems inadequate to handle the winter's bone-rattling chill too. So, there's never just enough for everybody.


While this year, too, the department has managed power with "outside help", it is at pains to explain that it won't be a summer the farmers, the residents and the industry, faced with unscheduled long-duration power cuts, fret and fume over.


In Haryana, so far, the demand has been hovering around 4,200 MW on an average. This very demand has shot up to 5,000 MW-mark as the sowing of paddy gathers pace.


In comparison, the state is chipping in with a mere 1,500 MW which will go up to about 2,000 MW once the units of power plants, shut down for repair, become functional. However, from all its sources pooled together, the department has put together a supply of nearly 4,500 MW which includes the purchase made especially to cater to the forthcoming paddy season.


The Power Department seems optimistic about its arrangements for the summer season, promising less sweat and more power to its consumers if all goes well. Against a supply of 16 hours to the industry, four hours to agriculture, 12 hours to the rural domestic consumers and 20 hours to the urban domestic consumers, the utilities claim to have given more than the hours fixed for supply in the weeks gone by.


While the supply to the agriculture sector has been increased to eight hours, putting an additional burden of about 1,000 MW to meet this requirement, the utilities are hopeful of being able to tide over the difficult period with the purchase agreements already in place to further augment the supply in the next three months.

The Managing Director, UHBVN, Arun Kumar, explains that the Power Department carried out an assessment of the demand and supply for the paddy season from June to September and identified the gaps in demand.


Based on the report, banking arrangements have been made with Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal , Orrisa , Assam and Kerala. While the Department has organised itself for the peak season, a number of units of various power projects will be commissioned over the next two years, taking the state towards self-sufficiency.


Giving details, the Power Secretary, Madhusudan Prasad, said, "The second unit of the Rajiv Gandhi Thermal Power Project, Kheddar, will be synchronised on coal in the second week of June, the first unit of the Indira Gandhi Super Thermal Power Project, Jhajjar, is slated to be commissioned in September this year while the second and third units will start generation in January and March next year. This is on a sharing basis between Haryana and Delhi. Then, the two units of the Mahatma Gandhi Super Thermal Power Plant, Jhajjar, will be commissioned in December 2011 and April 2012 respectively."










Half the year has passed us, and it is a time those of us in the movie review business may well call the season of discontent. Here we annually lament just how very bleak the year in film is looking, how film-makers we revere have let us down and how the rest of the year seems to hold no promise whatsoever. It's a painful refrain, and going on about how it only gets worse every year – and it does – makes one sound decidedly decrepit.
 Still, this is my first missive in this fresh new space and we ought mark the occasion by focussing on the positives. Indeed, 10 has been quite the dud thus far, bad eggs clearly outweighing the omelette-worthy. In fact, there have been all of two good films in these six months, two very impressive releases worthy of not just critical plaudits and hyperbolic encomiums, but also films that satisfy the bums-on-seats situation. Yes, these two are crowdpleasing works of brilliance, insight and humour but – and herein lies the fascinating rub – they are also both tremendously adult films.

 Abhishek Chaubey's Ishqiya plays with language in a manner both severely profane and casually profound, uses its music better than any film has in the last two decades, and gives us a femme fatale the likes of whom we haven't seen since… well, since folks like Guru Dutt and Vijay Anand – directors who could genuinely think Noir instead of xeroxing a scene and calling it a homage – passed on. It is a sharp, highly nuanced film that offers many a pleasure, not least of which is a glimpse into the Gorakhpur world of S&M roleplay.
   Dibakar Banerjee's Love Sex Aur Dhokha, meanwhile, breaks the rules and goes deliciously raw, and finally gives us a modern Hindi film edgy enough to celebrate. This is the first film that successfully surfs the New Wave we've been dreaming of awhile, a film about voyeurism that fills you with joy, makes you laugh, sickens you and reels you in. It bludgeons you with the truth, unpalatable and seamy, and the cast of newcomers shines even as the Delhi-lovin' director strikes again. And hard.

So what on earth does this mean? How are we suddenly making relevant, powerful, adult films while consummately bungling up everything else, from romantic fluff to farce to, literally, bloody epics? And audiences, flying in the face of conventional trade-punditry, are heralding these bold, sexy, important films while forgoing (most) mainstream buffoonery. Last year's Dev D cracked the dam, and now the deluge seems upon us.

It is quite incredible that two such mature films can flourish and receive unanimous acclaim, and this tiny phase of triumph must be seized upon before the multistarrers stultify the crowds again. Bollywood needs to relentlessly assault the viewers with genuine originality instead of letting it remain a flash in the pan.
 And if it takes some sex to bring them in, serve it up, by all means. Too long has our cinema ignored adults for the sake of family – well, I say leave the kids to Pixar and forge ahead with the grown-up stuff. Now is the time to push buttons, envelopes, boundaries. Get audiences hooked to piping hot awesomeness and they'll be back for more. Because right now, they seem pretty darned famished.



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The Group of Ministers (GoM) that re-examined the legal, human and environmental issues pertaining to the infamous gas leak tragedy at the Bhopal unit of Union Carbide Limited in December 1984, has put together a mix of recommendations shaped by the government's humanism, pragmatism and extant political considerations. If the same decisions had been taken two decades ago, things would not have come to this pass. No single governmental functionary or business executive can be held responsible for the long and unfortunate delay in what is now being proposed to be done. Successive governments were not adequately sensitive to the cries of the victims and their survivors. Far too often did government officials and corporations take a legalistic view rather than a humane view, or indeed a political view. The political space vacated by mainstream political parties was filled by civil society activists who have kept the candle burning. A combination of circumstances, both domestic (like the insensitive comments of the minister for environment and forests about the toxicity of the premises) and external (like the US government's response to the oil spill) ignited a new passion that forced the government to re-examine its earlier positions. Regrettably, however, a large part of the renewed public debate has been excessively politicised, with both the Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party seeking cheap political gains, and a lynch-mob mentality overtaking reasoned discourse on the options available today given the various legal and other developments over the past two decades.


The GoM should be complimented for sorting out issues and prioritising compensation. The government's first and most important responsibility is to the victims of the disaster and their survivors. Their health and livelihood needs must be first addressed. Second, the government must ensure that the factory premises and surrounding areas are cleaned up and rid of any traces of toxicity. Both these are the equal responsibility of the state and the central government. Third, the government must get the corporate entity involved, Dow Chemicals under the circumstances, to accept its moral, if not legal, responsibility and share the financial burden of what is now proposed. The Congress-led UPA government at the Centre has shown its willingness to do something, the BJP government in the state must also do its job. Both parties owe it to the people to stop scoring cheap political points against each other. Finally, the government must re-examine the legal case against those responsible for the accident and close the case once and for all. The focus on the culpability of individuals like Keshub Mahindra and Warren Andersen has become excessively politicised. Too many causes, ranging from Luddite anti-industrialism to left-wing anti-Americanism, have sought to climb on the bandwagon of public anger against governmental and corporate insensitivity. The GoM's reasoned and balanced statement has restored sanity to the debate. The government must now complete the task at hand, so that the people of Bhopal can get on with their lives and India can return to the business of building modern industries.








The abrupt resignation of B M Vyas, managing director of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which owns the Amul brand, several months before his term was to expire, signals a storm brewing over one of the most successful business experiments that India can truly call her own. On the face of it, there is nothing amiss in Mr Vyas laying down the mantle, which he has been carrying for over a decade, and particularly when he has reached 60, the usual age of superannuation in India. There is also no reason to believe that GCMMF is devoid of a second-rung leadership and Mr Vyas is personally indispensable. Hence a properly planned succession should have been already in the works. But this is not how events have unfolded. The provocation for Mr Vyas to put in his papers is apparently the Gujarat government decision to appoint state auditors for GCMMF instead of picking one from the panel of private auditors maintained by the cooperative. This act of the state government appears to be mischievous as there are no serious charges of financial irregularities floating around in the public space. Thus, political interference, or the threat of it, is what appears to have prompted Mr Vyas to throw in the towel. The GCMMF board is made up of political bigwigs of different hues but a government move to destabilise something so closely linked to Gujarat's pride as the Amul story cannot have been allowed to happen without a nod and a wink from the highest authority.


Parts of GCMMF's present woes go back to the stubborn refusal of its visionary leader V Kurien to undertake proper succession planning and, instead, over-staying his welcome well into his eighties. The legendary father of India's white revolution succeeded because he was able to function as a visionary manager without political interference in a cooperative setup, thus combining the best of professional management and stakeholder ownership. The lack of political interference enabled the Anand-type cooperatives to succeed when others didn't. Plus, the absence of a need to keep outside shareholders happy enabled GCMMF and its constituents to cock a snook at competing private dairies. However, Dr Kurien weakened the organisation he created by sticking to the saddle and not handing over the reins in a professional manner to the highly regarded Amrita Patel. The subsequent differences between GCMMF and the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), that Dr Patel has led with distinction, have left an avoidable trail of problems that have hurt the pride and performance of both the institutions. Mr Vyas, who succeeded Dr Kurien and operated with his mentor's autonomy, has had the distinction of successfully introducing new value-added products like ice cream and not rely entirely on the sale of liquid milk. This helped GCMMF take on the challenge posed by NDDB and Mother Dairy. While GCMMF perfected the model in one state, NDDB secured the mandate to take the model national. If both the siblings created by Dr Kurien start to go downhill, then that would be a national tragedy which must be avoided at all cost.








Of all the major couplings that have gained prominence — Jairam Ramesh's "Chindia", Niall Ferguson's "Chimerica", and Martin Wolf's "Chermany" — it is very much the latter that is in the spotlight.

The announcement over the week-end by China to introduce greater exchange rate flexibility is unambiguously good news, provided, of course, that intent is followed up with some actual upward movement of the renminbi. Domestic economic imperatives, and specifically the role of currency appreciation in dampening overheating, have been widely credited as having influenced China's decision. But there is a mystery here. China's competitiveness was getting eroded by two sources: domestic wages and prices which are rising faster than in partner countries, and by the decline of the euro which, combined with China's peg to the dollar, was causing the renminbi to rise in trade-weighted terms. So, why is China, so wedded to the mercantilist export growth model, changing its policies to further aggravate the decline in competitiveness, especially when the global recovery is still looking shaky?

 This puzzle, of course, means that China deserves extra credit for its act of responsible international citizenship, for making its contribution to global re-balancing. From India's perspective, renminbi flexibility will help in two ways: Indian tradable goods industries will get some relief, and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) can now deal with inflationary pressures more effectively, without the additional burden of worrying about the competitiveness consequences of further monetary tightening.

Beyond India, what broader lessons might one draw from China's policy change? The first and heartening lesson is that the G20 worked. It worked by allowing the renminbi to be converted from a bilateral US-China matter (on which little progress had been made for many years) to one in which a broader set of countries had a stake. The brave public pronouncements by the Brazilian central bank and India's RBI earlier this year reinforced this "multilateralisation" of China's currency undervaluation and helped play a constructive role.

True, the United States and its Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner played their cards skillfully, privately chiding and cajoling China without allowing the negativity to spill into the public domain. It is also true that recent sabre-rattling by the US Congress to impose trade measures against Chinese exports may have played a role in persuading China. But that cannot be a decisive explanation because the US Congress has sabre-rattled in the past, often louder, without much impact on China.

Multilateralising the currency issue had two positive effects. It forced China to confront the weight of a broader swath of international public opinion and hence to take more seriously the international consequences of its currency policy. And it also made the politics of changing policy less difficult for China, which can portray the currency move not as a caving in to bilateral US pressure but as responding to the wider international community. That the announcement came a week before the next G20 summit is telling.

The euphoria of crisis-induced cooperation was giving way to cynicism about the G20's ability to induce similar cooperation during "normal" times, when self-interest asserts itself with a vengeance. But the Chinese action is a welcome jolt to that cynicism. Regardless of what happens at the G20 Summit in Toronto over this weekend, the grouping can already count the change in China's currency policy as its victory.

The second implication relates to the "Chermany" coupling. With China having made its contribution, or announced its contribution, to global re-balancing, it is time to demand the same of Germany, which is the other large surplus country in the world economy. Germany has just received a steroidal boost of competitiveness with the decline of the euro. Where China was an intentional mercantilist, Germany has become an accidental mercantilist: "its" currency has declined because the weak economies of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland also share that currency. The irony is that a strong Germany benefited from being yoked to the weak PIIGS. Its current account surplus will now increase even further, aggravating the global imbalance problem.

How has Germany responded? As it always does: by embracing fiscal consolidation. It has indulged its instinct for rectitude that is etched into its collective DNA at the expense of its international responsibilities.

Some have excused this action on the grounds that the tightening involved would be small and back-loaded. But this misses the key point. Germany's action has the wrong sign: it should be expanding demand, not just for the sake of global re-balancing but to provide some growth impetus to its dire southern European neighbours. But it is doing the opposite.

So, one interesting question going forward is this: Will Germany be amenable to international persuasion? The short answer probably is no. Germany could well prove to be an even more difficult partner than China has been for a number of reasons. For one, any signs of outside pressure will lead Europe to rally behind Germany. But the more difficult obstacle will be ideological.

It was easy to rail against mercantilism which, regardless of its intellectual pedigree, has doubtful moral connotations: mercantilism involves doing well but at someone else's expense. Fiscal consolidation, on the other hand, has the aura of moral correctness and virtue. Fiscal consolidation serves to protect future generations. That the consequences of book-balancing will inflict pain and suffering on the current generation only lends it additional virtue as Keynes pointed out. How much more unselfish can a society get? It is a virtuous rejoinder to Groucho Marx's question: "Why should I do anything for posterity? Has posterity ever done anything for me?"

The battle to get Germany to shed its visceral need to always balance the books will, therefore, pit the reckless, today's appetite-slakers against the prudent, deferred gratificationists, the far-sighted custodians of tomorrow, of the future, of our children. Articulated this way, as it increasingly is, this contest is turning out to be no contest at all. The Keynesians are losing comprehensively. And because of that, Germany-bashing is unlikely to yield the success, albeit delayed and minimal, that international pressure on China has.

So, as the travelling road-show that is now the G20 moves to Toronto, the intriguing thought that arises is this: Can the G20, which has had a useful role in averting a global catastrophe in managing to influence a policy change in China, also have a role in getting a G7 country to shed its basic but neighbour-unfriendly instincts? If so, the world will really have changed. For the better.

The author is senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Center for Global Development







All thought of meeting the urban challenge before the country — creating the equivalent of 10 new Mumbais to accommodate 250 million in the next 20 years — is centred on growing existing urban spaces incrementally. But retrofitting urban centres so that they can both grow and be more livable is an almost insurmountable task. The country has neither the governance wherewithal nor the resources needed. Despite this, the one option that is almost instinctively discounted is greenfield cities. Chandigarh remains the only new independent city of any consequence built in independent India. Not only is the vision needed to dream new cities gone, getting the land has emerged as an almost impossible hurdle in the last few years.

 But technological progress in the last 15 years gives some hope. Today, geographical information system technology has captured an incredible amount of digital manipulable data on not just what is on the ground but even under it. To this can be added the software that makes possible overlay analysis, superimposing one map on another. Armed with these two tools, it becomes surprisingly easy and cheap to do the following:

First leave out all the forests, populated areas and intensively cultivated tracks. You are then left with either barren or single-cropped, rainfed, thinly populated areas where subsistence farmers will, if anything, be happy to hand over their land in exchange for a share in a new productive venture. Now look underground to see where there are deep aquifers to meet future water needs. And finally see which of these areas are within 50 km or so of either a railway line or a highway.

From this exercise you can select a handful of contiguous areas, each of 5,000 acres or more, which can become the locations for greenfield cities housing a million each, born out of the confidence and capabilities that 9 per cent growth and newly acquired technological prowess have created. Why 5,000 acres? A minimum critical mass is needed for people to be able to live, work and entertain themselves without having to go out to meet these needs. Conversations with builders suggest that with this much of development in one location, it will be possible to amortise the cost of infrastructure within a very attractive per-square-foot real estate price, enabled by land bought cheaply from marginal farmers. All that the government will need to do is provide a high-speed rail or road link.

Then follow two steps — one easy but the other almost insurmountable. The easy bit is creating a hype over these future cities so as to fire people's imagination. Just as a Frenchman, Le Corbusier, designed Chandigarh, India can invite some of the best architects in the world to design some of these cities. In recent years, there is a global trend for cities to get cross-border talent to design their new distinctive public buildings, the main Olympic stadium in Beijing being among the most recent. Who will not want to live in an affordable, beautiful new city with better quality of life than available anywhere else in the country, provided you get there all that you take for granted in a city?

Here comes the catch. Builders say populating such a city, selling or even renting most of the space created, will take too long in the sense that the payback period will stretch to 10 years or more, making the project unviable. The dilemma is three-fold. You need a big enough development for it to be mixed-use and self-contained; you cannot do it incrementally — expecting people to move in and wait for the hospital to come up once there are enough patients, and selling or even renting millions of square feet of space in one go become almost impossible. See how DLF abandoned two large projects — Dankuni in West Bengal, because the government could not deliver land, and Bidadi near Bangalore, because the property market went bust. If you assume that 50 per cent of the space in a city goes for common areas like roads, parks and water works, a 5,000-acre development means having to sell well over 100 million sq ft. If this seems daunting, remember that over the next 20 years, the country's urban population will be growing on average at the rate of a million a month.

Offices and their employees can move in once local transport, hospitals, schools and shops are there. The precursor of any large development is a tent city. With these come a minimum of transport, health care and retail (shops) services. The construction people who build such projects go there because of incentives. These have to be factored in.

Builders say it will be particularly difficult to sell space to a school or a hospital. So, we may have to amend our earlier statement that the government need only pay for the rail or road spur linking the new city to civilisation. The government may have to heavily subsidise the real estate cost of schools and hospitals. The "gap-filling approach", now used for national highway projects, will have to be adopted.

The challenge is to get the first 20 per cent of people to come in, almost at one go. Once that happens, the rest can follow. The incentive to move into such a city will be the cost of acquiring a superior quality of life at a highly affordable price. My sense is that if you can find the space to build a city for a million with enough water and a proper rail or road link, then planned sequencing and incentives can change geography in five years. The benefits of that will accrue for the next hundred or more.








THE recommendation of a Rs 1,500-crore package for victims of the Bhopal gas carnage by the group of ministers (GOM), while being an implicit admission that justice, including adequate compensation, has been delayed and, so far, denied, is nonetheless welcome. The GOM, which was set up after a Bhopal court recently handed out light sentences to a handful of accused in the 1984 disaster, causing widespread outrage, has sought to address some of the key issues. These include more compensation for the affected people, cleaning up the site and pursuing Dow Chemicals to bear the costs. It is now critical to remember that this compensation must be fairly and justly handed out. There is, for example, huge variance between the number of dead (whose kin will now get Rs 10 lakh as compensation) according to government figures and those put out by activists and other groups. A capping of such figures by the government would mean rubbing salt on the wounds of many of the victims and their families. There is the valid argument that false claims should be prevented. But, equally, there would be many cases where it can be clearly established that a death or a disability or illness occurred directly as a result of the gas leak and attendant exposure. A mechanism, perhaps even a fresh survey of the victims and creating unique Ids of all those compensated, must be established to sort out genuine claims from any fraudulent ones.

 So far, it has been a shoddy story of people accountable for one of the world's worst industrial disasters evading justice, the victims enduring inhuman suffering, and the site of the accident continuing to poison lives and the land. Equally shrouded in infamy has been the government's response till now, and the failure of the judicial process to deliver any remedy. The recent court ruling has now linked industrial safety and accountability to senior management and officials. But chasing Dow for compensation or seeking the extradition of officials may yet be a long, torturous legal affair. For now, given that the government has taken a step to address the issue of compensation, it must implement it in the fullest possible measure. The victims of December 3, 1984, Bhopal, and their descendants have been left to fend for themselves far too long.








 THE steady progress of the monsoons ought to refocus policy attention on India's deeply stressed water economy. There are fast rising demands on water resources generally, together with poorly governed supply systems, with the result that overall balances are precarious. What is worse, there's increasingly reckless mining of groundwater, and aquifer depletion is concentrated in many of the most populated and economically significant areas. Now, we have a highly seasonal pattern of rainfall — about half the precipitation falls in just 15 days. And yet our water storage infrastructure is woefully inadequate, barely enough for 30 days of rainfall, compared to 900 days in the major river basins abroad. Hence the vital need to shore up rainwater harvesting and tank irrigation, and have in place a proactive policy for sustainable water usage. In tandem, the way ahead is to augment public irrigation and water supply services with participatory management, transparency and reasonable user charges. Yet the notion that supply-side solutions would take care of the problem may not gel with the facts and ground realities.

 Consider, for instance, the fact of excessive groundwater drawal and rapidly falling water tables. Over the last two decades, as much as 84% of total addition to the net irrigated area has been groundwater linked. Also, groundwater now provides for over 70% of the irrigated area and about 80% of domestic needs. Already, as many as 15% of aquifers are in a critical condition, and the mavens say the figure would rise to 60% over the next two decades without remedial policy action. Hence the pressing need for dramatic transformation in the way water services are provided for households, agriculture and industry. The policy emphasis must be on entitlements, sustainability and accountability, including provision of water supply by cooperatives and via public-private partnerships. In parallel, we do need to refurbish the large stock of dilapidated water infrastructure and also boost investment for surface water supplies. Groundwater extraction needs to be linked to recharge. The growing crisis in the water sector needs a groundswell of policy initiatives.









 BOREDOM has been identified as a key factor behind England's apathetic performance in the ongoing football World Cup. When England disappointed in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, critics attributed it to players having too much of a good time in the company of what the British tabloids call WAGS (wives and girlfriends). Critics now say England's no-nonsense current manager Fabio Capello has gone to the other extreme by creating a bootcamp culture at the training centre in South Africa. Winger Joe Cole, who was not played in England's first two drawn games against the lower-ranked USA and Algeria, was quoted as saying that "you can't suck the fun out of football." Striker Wayne Rooney, who has so far failed to live up to expectations, was a tad more subtle when he described the daily routine as "breakfast, training, lunch, bed, dinner, bed". Rooney added, "there are only so many games of darts and snooker you can play."

 With England registering just two points and having to win their last group-game against Slovenia on Wednesday to make it to the second round, English fans are not prepared to accept any excuses from their team, which bookies rated just a fortnight ago as the third favourite to win the World Cup after Spain and Brazil. An angry fan lashed out on BBC correspondent Phil McNulty's blog that "when many of the team earn over £100,000 a week, you simply can't defend this performance." Another fan advised Rooney to get inspired by reading books about Pele or about England's World Cup winning team of 1966! England's only consolation is that traditional rival, France, is faring even worse. With French striker Anelka being sent back home after abusing the manager and with the team then refusing to train, the British tabloid Sun has headlined this as 'French Revolution Two'!







FOLLOWING the conclusion of the first India-US strategic dialogue, commentators in the Indian press have nearly uniformly expressed frustration with the lack of action under the Obama administration. To judge whether this dissatisfaction is grounded in reality, we must first ask whether each country has enough reason to invest in a close relationship with the other in the first place.

From the Indian perspective, there seem to be sufficient reasons for an affirmative answer. Accounting for almost a quarter of the world's GDP, the United States is by far the largest economy in the world. It is also the only super power on the globe and likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. It is a democracy that values other democracies. And, finally, it is by far the largest single recipient of India exports of goods and services. If we seek rising economic prosperity and increasing voice in the world affairs, America is a good bet.
   An affirmative answer seems less clear-cut from the US perspective, at least on the surface. True, India is by far the world's largest democracy. But this cannot be a game changer by itself since it has been true for the last 60 years. At $1.25 trillion, Indian economy is just a little more than 2% of the world economy. Globally, it ranks a low 11th in terms of the economic size, ranking behind China and Brazil. Above all, India accounts for less than 2% of the US exports and imports.

 Seen in this context, the puzzle is not why the Obama administration is not doing more to promote ties with India but how India has come to command so much attention on the global stage. The main explanation of this puzzle lies in where the United States sees India going in the next 15 to 20 years.

 In the last seven years, India has grown 11-12% per year in real dollars. Based on the current dynamism in the economy, high and rising savings rate, a young population that is expected to grow younger and the past experiences of countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and China, India can be reasonably expected to sustain a 10% growth in real dollars over the next 15 years. This would turn the country into a $5 trillion economy catapult it into the fourth, if not third, position worldwide, behind only the US, China and Japan. No forward-looking nation — least of all the US — would ignore an economy with such potential.

 But this is not the only factor working in favour of a partnership with India. American perceptions of India are also shaped by the vast numbers of highly successful Indians — a large majority of them first-generation immigrants — that they see around them. While the presence of Indians in the US is not new, their phenomenal success is. In the last 15 years, their influence in the tech and finance industries and higher education has grown as that of no other single group. A year ago, when microprocessor giant Intel decided to put its employees in its TV commercials, the first person it chose was Ajay Bhatt, the inventor of the USB port who had received his first engineering degree in the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. And to ensure that his Indian origins are not lost upon the viewers, it replaced the real Bhatt by an even more Indian-looking moustached actor!

COMPLEMENTING this feature is the presence of 100,000 students from India on the US campuses. The US leadership recognises that these are not any 100,000 students. Instead, they are among the brightest young men and women anywhere who would be among the movers and shakers of tomorrow around the globe. And this flow is likely to continue. Therefore, as a country that looks ahead, the US has plenty of good reasons to seek a longterm partnership with India.


Therefore, it is no surprise that during the first India-US strategic dialogue, the US took great pains to counteract the impression that it lacked enthusiasm for India in any way. The secretary of state Hillary Clinton warmly wrote in the Times of India about what this partnership meant to her and President Obama did the unusual by dropping in on the reception at the state department in honour of the visiting Indian external affairs minister S M Krishna.


How do we then explain the continuing frustration among the commentators in the Indian press? The answer perhaps is that outside of the highly complex security area, there is very little beyond the atmospherics that the governments can do to promote partnerships. Even commentators who deplore the US for failing to match its words with action and exhort it to move beyond symbolism do not offer a concrete set of actions they would like the latter to take. Demands for the removal of certain export controls and access to or extradition of David Headley, which find frequent mentions, do not make a coherent agenda.

While the governments can make some contribution in areas of mutual interest such as research in agriculture and clean energy, cooperation in science and technology and higher education and possibly dialogue on trade and climate change issues, the bulk of the long-term relationship will be built on business-to-business and individualto-individual contacts outside of the government sector, as has been the case to-date. The outsourcing relationship between the two countries did not have its origins in any US government decision to promote it. Nor did the American investors in India or Indian investors in America end up in their respective destinations because their governments placed them there. While continuing dialogue has signalling value, the ultimate key to achieving a true partnership remains sustained rapid growth that turns India into a $5 trillion economy in no more than 15 years.


 (The author is a professor at Columbia University and Non-resident Senior    Fellow at the Brookings Institution)








THE decision to hike, or not to hike the interest rate at this juncture must depend not only on the tools of the 'science' of economics, but also on the art of 'intuition', bordering on wisdom. The hard data, both global and domestic, does not provide auniform and reliable story. The data offers contraindications and a risk prone future. This is why we argue, based partly on insights from the Ficci research, that there is a formidable danger in initiating an interest rate hike, here and now.


The global recovery is at a watershed. US unemployment rate in May stood at 9.3% and EU unemployment rate was at 9.7% in April. And then, there is Damocles' sword of an EU financial crisis, post the Greece imbroglio. Even India's own recovery, based purely on the index of industrial production (IIP) data, has undertones of statistical aberrations.


 An interest rate hike at a time when the industry is struggling to return to a high growth trajectory will adversely impact investments. Although we recognise the implications of a delayed exit, the cost associated with exiting prematurely, could prove costlier.


The IIP has seen some meaningful increase only since October 2009. It rose for the seventh straight month in April at 17.6%, fuelled by the uncanny growth in the capital goods sector which is due to the 'base effect'. This could moderate from June onwards.


The manufacturing sector is also facing supply constraints as is evident from the rise in prices of certain basic raw materials and industrial inputs. Therefore, fostering investment to generate supply is critical now and a hike in interest rate could choke off its potential.


There is also a threat of a liquidity squeeze arising out of 3G payment obligations, advance tax payments, combined with a European crisis which could slow down liquidity inflow through global sources. Given these imponderables, a spike in borrowing cost could put India's expansion mode on a back foot. We can only hope that the RBI will combine economic analysis with its intuitive powers to arrive at a wise decision









POVERTY is multi-dimensional and money-metric indicators such as minimum income or expenditure cannot adequately capture all these dimensions. Attention has therefore shifted to other indicators such as health status that relate more closely to basic capabilities of individuals. As Amartya Sen has reminded us, the correspondence between basic capabilities (e.g., to live a healthy and productive life) and level of income is typically weak. It is, therefore, not surprising that welfare indicators including income/expenditure, health and education reflect a diverse pattern in India. While most indicators have continued to improve, social progress has followed diverse patterns, ranging from accelerated progress in some fields to slowdown and even regression in others. Specifically, a composite index of undernutrition of children under five years is about 60% — or, six out of 10 children are undernourished — tells a grim story of how 'nasty, brutish and short' their lives aretells a grim story of how 'nasty, brutish and short' their lives are, as sketched below.


The most commonly used anthropometric measures are stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height) and underweight ((low weight for age). Stunting is an indicator of chronic undernutrition, attributable to prolonged food deprivation, and/or disease or illness; wasting is an indicator of acute undernutrition, caused by more recent food deprivation or illness; underweight is an indicator of both acute and chronic undernutrition. Children whose measurements fall below a certain threshold of the reference population, based on recent WHO standards, are considered undernourished: stunted, wasted or underweight.


An important feature of these indicators is the overlap between them: some children who are stunted will also have wasting and/or be underweight; those who have wasting will also be stunted or and/or underweight. So there is a need for a more comprehensive measure of child undernutrition. Such a measure is implemented in Gaiha, R, R Jha and Vani S Kulkarni (2010) 'Child Undernutrition in India', Canberra, Australian National University, mimeo.


 Following Peter Svedberg, who has done important work on child undernutrition in India, a new aggregate indicator is constructed that encompasses all undernourished children, be they wasted and/or stunted and /or underweight. This is the composite index of anthropometric failure (CIAF).


The accompanying table points to more pervasive anthropometric failure in terms of the CIAF relative to conventional indicators of being underweight, stunted or wasted. The CIAF is about 59% (or, 6 out of 10 children are undernourished). Among the subcategories, stunting and underweight, and stunting alone account for well over half of the CIAF. Children who fail in all three dimensions (simultaneously wasted, stunted and underweight) account for a non-negligible share (13.5%). The underweight alone account for the lowest share (about 6%).


 Recent evidence suggests that children suffering from more than one anthropometric failure are more susceptible to infectious diseases (e.g., diarrhoea, acute respiratory infection) than those suffering from no failure or just one failure. Worse, these diseases are associated with high risks of child mortality. Our analysis confirms that, except for wasted and underweight and stunted only, in all other cases the prevalence of diarrhoea was higher than in the reference group of no failure. In fact, the highest prevalence rate was among children who were simultaneously stunted and underweight, and those who were wasted, underweight and stunted.

Our analysis of determinants of CIAF yields some new insights. Briefly, the larger the number of five-year old children, the greater is the competition for food and health care, and the higher is the undernutrition. Maternal education reduces it, as it is linked to better child care and healthier diets. Quality of kitchen —whether it has a vent — contributes to more hygienic living conditions. Above all, the higher the income, the lower is child undernutrition. Somewhat surprising is the significant role of food prices in child undernutrition, as changes in relative prices induce substitutions between food commodities and in nutrient intake. Of particular significance, therefore, are prices of sugar, eggs and vegetables. While the price of milk is also positively related to undernutrition, the effect is not so robust. Lowering these prices is thus likely to contribute significantly to reduction in undernutrition. As food price stabilisation continues to elude policymakers, an option is to ensure better distribution of food through the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). Another priority is awareness building for hygienic living while female literacy grows. Although NREGS has contributed to livelihood expansion, problems abound in targeting the poorest.


Thus, a wide range of interventions is necessary that transcend income growth acceleration to ameliorate child undernutrition.

 (Raghav Gaiha is at MIT & University of Delhi, Raghbendra Jha is at Australian National University and Vani S Kulkarni is at Yale University)


Six out of 10 children under six years are undernourished, cuttting their life span
Lowering prices of sugar, vegetables and eggs will reduce undernutrition Else, the government should ensure better distribution of food through ICDS








IT'S more than just an ad. The three-minute 'Write the future' film, first shown during last month's European Club Final, captures that moment of truth when colours, but not colour, suddenly matter; when headlines get written from a single pass or strike which brings abject misery or triumphal exultation to entire nations — as, for instance, when Spain loses to Switzerland — when the world's collective imagination gets hijacked by a sport turned into secular religion.


But this phenomenon emerged only recently. As a blogger notes, the days following World War II had "great masses of people who considered the game to be a pre-historic pastime, a sporting brontosaurus on its way to extinction". Their image of football was of "socially disenfranchised men passing through creaking turnstiles and standing on crumbling terraces beneath dishwater grey skies when players (had) bad haircuts, bad shorts and bad prospects".


Then the great makeover happened. Overnight, the world as we know changed as the pop prophet Bono promised it would. The medium became the message only to rewrite the world's TRP history. Football became "a post-modern religion," as the late Catalan writer, Manuel Varquez Montalban wrote, "one that was perfectly in tune with the commercial needs of mankind, intrinsically linked to business and consumerism. Its cathedrals were stadiums, its gods footballers, its faithful the millions of fans, who not only participated in this ritual every matchday, but practised their faith on a daily basis, thinking about and reflecting on the deeds of their gods."

But it would not be prudent to push that image further: because you might end up with a 'Hand of Clod' sort of self-goal that had British tabloids in a tizzy. For all that euphoria, the transcendence provided by football, alas, is only temporary. Of course, it embodies a 'kinetic beauty (which David Foster Wallace said "was not the goal of competitive sport"). So what does Prophet Bono mean when he says, "One game changes everything"? The Mbombela Statium (which literally means 'many people in a small space') that cost $137 million to build will host only four games, a total of six hours of the beautiful game. After that which of the professional teams would return to patronise it? Still, one should be grateful for small mercies. We shouldn't blame the game for our sins.Ke Nako!



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



From all available indications, it appears the action plan suggested by the Group of Ministers to secure justice for the victims of Bhopal might be less than adequate. Had the GoM done its homework properly and gone into the voluminous documentation of the victims' betrayal by the administration and the judiciary, it could have issued a comprehensive roadmap to tackle all aspects of the Bhopal gas disaster. It might not be too late even now for the Prime Minister to place the GoM's recommendations before an all-party committee, as well as the organisations fighting on behalf of the victims for the past quarter century, before it is put up before the Union Cabinet on Friday. This might help ensure that justice is done in full measure. Acting on this half-baked plan would only perpetuate the injustice, and a futile effort to convince people that the government was doing something! The much-hyped Rs 1,300-crore package for the victims is just peanuts — if you consider the 1989 value of the dollar, this amounts to just Rs 350 crores. Trying to get back Warren Anderson, then chairman of Union Carbide Corporation, is undoubtedly welcome, but what about other individuals who too were responsible? The CBI was stopped in its criminal investigation of UCC officials like Warren Womar, whose criminal neglect of the operations manual might have led to the gas leak? Bhopal's chief judicial magistrate had issued a letter rogatory in July 1988 for the CBI to interrogate these officials, but this was later scuttled by the Centre. The GoM's recommendation that the Indian Council of Medical Research undertake a study on the health impact of the gas tragedy over the next 15 years is also welcome, but isn't it a cruel joke on the victims? Most inexplicable of all was the GoM's attempts to deal with Dow Chemicals, the American company that eventually acquired Union Carbide Corporation, with velvet gloves. This was unbecoming of a country of India's standing, indeed of any sovereign state. The Prime Minister would do well to seek further expert legal advice on this aspect, rather than simply go by the ministerial panel's recommendation. It is also a bit alarming that the GoM has placed the onus for cleaning up the disaster site on the Madhya Pradesh government. This is a bit like US President Barack Obama asking the governor of Louisiana to clean up the colossal BP oil spill mess in the Gulf of Mexico! Neither the state government nor indeed the Government of India has the technical knowhow to handle chemical toxic waste of this nature. In August 2006, the technical subcommittee of the task force for removal of toxic waste had said the entire toxic waste should be transported to the US for appropriate remediation. This has been done before in the case of Hindustan Lever, which transported 290 tonnes of contaminated mercury waste from HLL's thermometer factory at Kodaikanal to the US for remediation under the principle of "polluter pays." In Bhopal, however, this principle was shamelessly forgotten by the then state government and its pollution board.






As should have been anticipated, the "temporary" withdrawal by the Naga Students Federation (NSF) of the horrendous 10-week blockade of Manipur has meant no relief to the long-suffering people of the state numbering more than two million. Of the two reasons for this, the foreseeable one is the refusal so far of Manipur's own Nagas, organised under the banner of the All Naga Students Association Manipur (ANSAM), to accept the decision of the NSF that represents the people of Nagaland. Hopefully, the efforts to persuade ANSAM to see reason would succeed soon. But then a sudden new hurdle to the free flow of traffic along the beleaguered National Highway 39 has cropped up.

The truckers in the region have gone on strike because they want protection from "extortion" by multiple groups of "extremists", to say nothing of bribes demanded by government officials. Because they have been subjected to this tyranny for decades, their demand cannot be called unreasonable. Yet, a quick solution to this problem, even an interim one, has to be found so that the people deprived of food, life-saving drugs, petrol, cooking gas and other essential supplies can revert to a semblance of normal life.

However, even if the truckers agree to resume work, the woes of Manipur would not end. For, the withdrawal of the agitation by two rival sets of students would be temporary in every sense of the word and subject to revocation at any moment. Moreover, and no less importantly, the underlying reasons for the bitter hostility and consequent conflict between Manipur and Nagaland, on the one hand, and between Manipur tribes, including Kukis and Nagas, living in state's hill districts and the majority population of Meities residing in the Imphal Valley, on the other, are so bewilderingly complex that they are practically insoluble. These will be discussed to the extent possible presently. First, we must face squarely the paramount cause why not just Manipur but the entire Northeast has been reduced to such a perilous state.

It is the stark failure of the Indian state to do its elementary duty in the chronically troubled region — a failure that is chronic but has attracted attention only during the current crisis in Manipur. As the current rage and revelations about the Bhopal gas tragedy 25 years ago shows, nothing like good governance exists anywhere in this country, irrespective of which party is in power either at the Centre or in the states. At its best governance everywhere in India is perfunctory, even shoddy. Otherwise, no one in Bhopal would have allowed a highly congested cluster of housing to come up around the factory producing a highly dangerous and poisonous gas. Or callously ignored repeated warnings about the world's worst industrial accident waiting to happen. The horror of horrors is that all governments, Central and state, have let the toxic waste lie around the disused Bhopal factory for more than a quarter of a century, without anyone being called to account.

However, the misfortune of the Northeast is that it is denied even the kind of bad and blundering governance that prevails in, say, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Baroda, Barabanki or Burdwan. Just look back at the enormity of what has gone on in relation to Manipur since April 11 and it becomes distressingly clear that the Indian state has virtually washed its hands off the area. The monstrosity of Manipur siege had gone on for full two months before the Union home ministry took the trouble to announce that it would send Central forces to clear the lifeline to Manipur. It did nothing of the sort, of course, because by that time leaders of the NSF had arrived in Delhi to meet the Prime Minister. They condescended to lift the blockade temporarily. They even delivered on their promise but to no avail because of the stand-off between the two Naga student outfits.

Of the various factors behind the abdication of all governmental responsibility in the seven sisters of Northeast India the most lamentable is New Delhi's penchant to look upon the region as a "far-away land of which we know so little and care even less". This approach is compounded by the vague notion that all north-eastern states are alike while the reality is that each state is different from the other six. Indeed, almost each of these states has a diversity of ethnicities within its borders. This should explain the ferocity of the disputes between Manipur and Nagaland because the latter's demand for Greater Nagaland embracing the Kuki and Naga districts of Manipur. That, in turn, should explain why the Manipur government barred the Nagaland leader, T. Muivah (who is engaged in protracted negotiations with the Central government to "settle" the Naga issue) from visiting his ancestral village that lies in Manipur. This was the beginning of the Manipur blockade. But ANSAM has no sympathy for Muivah. It wants Manipur besieged because the Meiti-dominated state government has ordered elections in autonomous districts without any consensus on either the timing of the poll or the law under which it is to be held.

Secondly, the Indian state and society have conspired to establish the principle that whoever has a grievance, actual or imaginary, has a right to burn trains, uproot railway lines, torch buses and block thoroughfares with impunity. However, in the heartland this happens only for a few days at a time. It goes on in the periphery for months even though in this part of India, the few highways constitute the people's lifeline.

Since nothing is more contagious than bad example, the unspeakable khap Jats of Haryana have threatened to besiege Delhi if the law on Hindu marriages is not changed in accordance with their wishes immediately. Would they be shown the same tolerance as that to the vandals blockading Manipur?

Finally, we have got used to listening to long lectures on human rights of even the murderers of innocent citizens. Do lakhs and lakhs of law-abiding citizens have no human or fundamental right to lead a normal and peaceful life, to be able to move around freely and to get their food and other necessaries at normal, not astronomical, prices?








They're calling him the World Cup's "loose vuvuzela". They're swooning as he spreads the love, jumping into his players' arms like some cuddly bear with diamond earrings and no neck.

They can't get enough of his deadpan quotes, as when he responds to a question about his kiss-and-hug management style by saying he still prefers women, specifically his girlfriend "Veronica who is blonde and 31".

At 49, Diego Armando Maradona is neither blonde nor 31. But he is Mr Unscripted in the age of spin, the Hugo Chávez of global soccer. As coach of an outrageously talented Argentine team, one thrown together in the image of his own extravagant skills, Maradona is having a good World Cup.

To genius much is permitted. And so it should be.

The contrast with some of Maradona's more pinched rivals, including the French coach Raymond Domenech and the England manager Fabio Capello, could not be more extreme. Domenech wears the expression of a man who'd rather be reading Foucault as "Les Bleus" implode and then take to the barricades in open mutiny.

As for Capello, he's imposed a regimen so strict that his players, deprived of their WAGs (wives and girlfriends), look vaguely unhinged. Many European prisons allow conjugal visits; not Capello. Wayne Rooney has gone on a walkabout. The body language of the English players suggests dead men walking.

England right now is to football what the vuvuzela is to music: one note going nowhere.

I've had my doubts about Capello since he stripped John Terry of the English captaincy earlier this year because he had an affair. For an Italian, that seemed a little rich. Discipline is all very well, but Terry's a leader and would have led. England doesn't do the barricades, but insurrection is close.

So here we are, 10 days into the first African World Cup, a power-shift event. And it's proving a nice illustration of the effectiveness of asymmetrical warfare.

Traditional powers with the big guns are struggling: Italy, France, England — even Germany and Spain. The insurgents — Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovenia, Chile, Uruguay, Mexico — are pulling off deadly ambushes (and for once the gutsy Americans are not targets.) Switzerland, in its 1-0 defeat of Spain, proved unpredictable for the first time in history. The cuckoos lost their clocks.

Even North Korea, with zero fans — Kim Jong-ii would not allow them out of his police state — showed surprising tenacity until their Portuguese debacle. They've been using a public gym ("Virgin Active" in Eco Park) to train because they could not afford a facility.

Sorry, they do have 100 "fans", a platoon of Chinese nationals hired by Pyongyang and not available for interview. In the realm of the bizarre, this outfit runs Maradona close.

But the Argentine coach — who tried more than 100 players during the qualifying rounds — wins. He's already told Pelé to "go back to the museum". He's dismissed the UEFA president, Michel Platini, as a know-all (before mumbling an apology).

In shiny suit and shiny brogues, he prowls the demarcated pitch-side area during matches, kicking imaginary balls, looking every inch the caged coach. When it's over he plants a kiss on each player. No Foucault for him, no training manual, no teleprompter, no quote masseur. He'll go with the wisdom of the Buenos Aires shanties.

I said genius. Maradona had it. His "goal of the century" in the 1986 quarter-final against England, when he weaved past six players, lives in memory, as does his "Hand of God" effort in the same game. Both were outrageous. His battles against drugs and obesity since retirement have been as public as they were painful. Like his country, which has every gift but often squandered them as it meandered through the 20th century, he's veered this way and that.

But passion never left him. Maradona knows there's no ballet without a prima ballerina.

In the age of the smothering midfield — using not one but two defensive midfield players is the new, new thing here — Maradona is having none of it. He's playing a winger of silky skills, Angel Di María, the rampaging Carlos Tévez, and that clinical poacher, Gonzalo Higuaín. Above all, in his own No 10 shirt, he has a fellow genius, and fellow little guy (at all of 5-foot-7), the 22-year-old Lionel Messi.

Messi's destruction of South Korea in Argentina's 4-1 victory did not include a goal of his own (Higuaín got three) but included everything else in a footballer's repertoire: dinked passes of breathtaking subtlety, mazy dribbles, swerving crosses, staggering ball control at speed, and 360-degree vision of the pitch. Maradona has rightly told Messi to play wherever he likes.

The beautiful game has traditionally been Brazil's preserve. But Dunga, the Brazilian coach, is one of those two-holding-midfielder guys. He's Mr Dour to Argentina's Mr Drama. Still, Brazil must samba and in Robinho and the awakening Kaká, there have been flashes. An epic battle looms. Brazil may have the discipline Argentina lacks in the breach.

For now, however, the loose vuvuzela approach has trumped WAG control. Score one for the little guys and for unscripted living.







I am writing this article sitting in my office in Cambridge, England. Last year the University of Cambridge celebrated its 800th anniversary. For our institutions in India, the first landmark to celebrate is the decennial. For us, today to imagine an educational institution maintaining continuous existence over eight centuries is very hard, although in the distant past, our own country could boast of the universities of Takshashila and Nalanda which had flourished for several centuries.

A long life for a university is creditable if it has produced distinguished alumni. Walking through this (still small) town one comes across roads named after Tennyson, Chaucer, Barrow, Newton, Herschel, Adams, etc.

These names leave you in no doubt that a veritable cultural "Who's Who" is in place here. Traditionally, Cambridge is known for the sciences and Oxford (referred to as "the other place" by Cambridge alumni) for the humanities; although both universities have produced distinguished exceptions to this rule.

By and large the cultural heritage of a city is reflected in how its streets are named. Take Delhi for example. Its major streets are named after kings and emperors of the past and their standard bearers of today, the politicians.

I am not a historian, but as a layman my perception of Delhi is of a city obsessed with power and one-upmanship. It is as if everybody who aspires to be anybody, has to be aware of his or her standing. If X,Y, Z are three rising rungs in a hierarchy, then according to some hidden or explicit protocol, a person on rung X cannot talk to one on rung Z without the knowledge and consent of the person on Y.

This may be necessary in a service like the Army or administration where the internal discipline counts for a lot. But I get dismayed when I see this atmosphere in a scientific institution. Science progresses more through arguments and controversies than through yesmanship.

It is a field where freshness and independence of thinking has helped. And these traits are more common amongst younger rather than older scientists. But if a hierarchy-based protocol prevents the juniors from opening their minds to the seniors, the quality of research in the institution is bound to suffer.

I encountered an interesting and illuminating example in the following episode. I had called on the director of a leading laboratory with a request for allotment of some lecture rooms for holding a national meet of astronomers. The deputy director had gone over the details with me and we had come to the conclusion that for holding plenary sessions none of the lecture theatres would be adequate as their capacity of 120 just fell short of the typical attendance of 135 that we expected at these sessions. The deputy director therefore suggested that I request the director to make the 300-seater auditorium available.

When we met the director and I broached the subject, he immediately said: "But why do you need the auditorium? The bigger lecture theatres should be adequate". He turned to the deputy director for concurrence, adding that "I think the capacity is 140 if we add a few chairs on the side". Now the deputy director was in difficulty.

He knew for sure that there was no way that the capacity of the lecture theatres could be increased by as much as the director had asserted. Yet how could he contradict his boss? So he muttered something like "Very good sir... I think we will somehow manage". The director beamed, well satisfied that he had solved a problem that his subordinates could not handle. Later when the meeting did take place, the inadequacy of the lecture rooms was realised and the plenary session had to be shifted to the auditorium. The last minute change caused the inevitable confusion that could have been avoided if the deputy director had been bold enough to contradict his superior. Science, they say, runs on facts; but here was the second seniormost scientist in the institution unwilling to tell his boss that he had got his facts wrong.

I find that Mumbai has the image of a city of commerce. The "money god" must bless you if you are to do well here. This despite the fact that Mumbai had one of the three oldest universities of British India, has eminent research institutes like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, has a record of encouraging Marathi theatre, etc. Kolkata does convey to me the image of a cultural city just as Bengaluru is for information technology.

Again, the streets of the city may hold clues as to its culture.

The readers may form their own opinion as to whether the city they know supports science and technology through research and development, whether it encourages the performing arts, provides opportunities for artists to display their talents, hosts literary meets or whether it regales in political manoeuvres or delights in its bureaucratic structure. For that will determine its culture.

In the present age of transition many cities are losing their special touch as old heritage gives way to malls and multi-storey buildings. We need to take guidance from the cities of Europe. They have managed to combine the old with the new in a very successful way.

We, on the other hand, are very ruthless with the old: from a short term commercial point of view we destroy our heritage and take delight in having got the most cash out of the transaction. This way our much boasted heritage will remain only on paper, as some of the existing past photographs of our cities.

Jayant V. Narlikar is a professor emiritus atInter-University Centre for Astronomy andAstrophysics, Pune University Campus, and a renowned astrophysicist






Repentance is the after-fever that the mind suffers following an immoral or tabooed act. It is regret of, and acknowledgement, that one has done wrong and is accompanied by sorrow and contrition. It is connected with a sense of sin or transgression of the moral order.

One type of repentance relates to what wrong one has done — as exemplified by the following lines of Mira Bai:

Had I known that falling in love causes misery,

With the beat of a drum I would have declared all over the town:

Beware! No one should fall in love.

There is also another kind of repentance — of not having done what was required to be done:

The fool knows not and loves the dream he has,

And forsakes the joys of (the Lord's) dominions.

Thus his life gets wasted in worldly trifles.

This kind of repentance is often called remorse.
Repentance has a number of phases. At first, a feeling of regret arises. One remembers the wrongs one has done, and that makes him unhappy. Keerat, the Guru's minstrel, set into verse such sad remembrances in the following words:

I am overflowing with sins and demerits; I have no virtue at all.

I abandoned the ambrosial nectar, and took poison instead.

Attached to maya I am deluded; I loved my children and spouse alone.

And then prays for redemption saying:

O Guru Ramdas, pray, save me by keeping me in your custody.

Such a phase of repentance might also arise if sensual enjoyments dry up and yield no joy any longer, or cause pain instead. One is then gripped by deprivational sadness.

After the phase of regret, starts one of mental restlessness. Then one tends to cry out of remorse over whatever evil he had indulged in. He might then take a solemn vow never to repeat his misdemeanour. That indicates a change of attitude.

There are wide inter-religious differences in the quality and intensity of repentance depending on what is considered as the origin of evil. In the Christian faith, for example, the source of evil is the tempter Satan. In Sikh theology, God Himself is considered the author of good as well as evil. Surprised by this Sikh concept, a Christian would exclaim, "How can God be the author of evil?" However, a little open-mindedness can resolve the paradox. The omnipotent Christian God could have exterminated the rebellious Satan, if He wanted to. But He didn't. Isn't He Himself then responsible for the presence of evil in the world? Apart from blaming Satan for tempting him, a Christian might also blame himself for getting tempted. That often leads to a biting sense of guilt and an excruciating sense of repentance. A Sikh on the other hand would invoke God to divert his mind from evil and blessingly lead him towards salvation.

In Christianity, the painful sense of guilt has led to provision of penitentiary ceremonials including confessional which is considered a sacrament. The Sikh scripture has no room for any such ritual. Not that a devout Christian would not pray to God for help, but he very much also depends on the performance of penitentiary sacraments. The reformation that repentance brings about has a number of aspects as well. The intellectual aspect concerns change in man's concept about God, about evil and about himself. Earlier, he might have thought that he is autonomous, therefore he can do whatever he may wish. One may also deny that God watches. He would have little compunction in doing evil if he can conceal his acts from public glance. He would regret and repent only on account of sad consequences of his acts. Or he might have got some clue to God's Omniscience and that awakens him towards moral fidelity.

One then resolves to reform, change his attitude, and alter or repair his motives. He also has impulsion to seek forgiveness for his past actions.

Repentance, thus, includes self-criticism, realisation of moral transgression, remorse thereof, and a resolve to reform, seeking God's help for his reformation.

— J.S. Neki, a psychiatrist he was director of PGIMER, Chandigarh. He also received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to Punjabi verse. Currently he is Professor of Eminence in Religious Studies at Punjabi University, Patiala.






Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP, made an astounding admission before US Congress last week: after nearly two months of failure, the company and the Coast Guard have no further plans to plug the Macondo oil well leaking into the Gulf. Instead, the goal is merely to contain the leak until a relief well comes online, a process that could take months.

With tens of thousands of barrels of oil leaking from the well each day, this absence of a backup plan highlights a lack of leadership, resources and expertise on the part of the Coast Guard, which from the beginning was compelled to give BP complete control over the leaking wellhead.

Instead, US President Barack Obama needs to create a new command structure that places responsibility for plugging the leak with the Navy, the only organisation in the world that can muster the necessary team. Then the Navy needs to demolish the well.

The Coast Guard, of course, should continue to play a role. But it should focus on what it can do well, like containing the oil already in the Gulf and protecting the coast with oil booms and skimmers. It should also use this crisis to establish permanent collaborations with other maritime forces around the globe, particularly those that can get to a disaster area quickly.

But control of the well itself should fall to the Navy — it alone has the resources to stop the flow. For starters, the Office of Naval Research controls numerous vehicles like Alvin, the famed submersible used to locate the Titanic. Had such submersibles been deployed earlier, we could have gotten real-time information about the wellhead, instead of waiting for BP to release critical details.

The Navy also commands explosives experts who have vast knowledge of underwater demolitions. And it has some of the world's finest underwater engineers at Naval Reactors, the secretive programme that is responsible for designing nuclear reactors for nuclear submarines. With the help of scientists in our national weapons laboratories and experts from private companies, these engineers can be let loose on the well.

To allay any concerns over militarising the crisis, the Navy and Coast Guard should be placed in a task-force structure alongside a corps of experts, including independent oil engineers, drilling experts with dedicated equipment, geologists, energy analysts and environmentalists, who could provide pragmatic options for emergency action.

With this new structure in place, the Navy could focus on stopping the leak with a conventional demolition. This means more than simply "blowing it up": it means drilling a hole parallel to the leaking well and lowering charges to form an explosive column.

Upon detonating several tons of explosives, a pressure wave of hundreds of thousands of pounds per square inch would spread outward in the same way that light spreads from a tubular fluorescent bulb, evenly and far. Such a sidelong explosion would implode the oil well upstream of the leak by crushing it under a layer of impermeable rock, much as stepping on a garden hose stops the stream of water.

It's true that the primary blast of a conventional explosion is less effective underwater than on land because of the intense back-pressure that muffles the shock wave. But as a submariner who studied the detonation of torpedoes, I learned that an underwater explosion also creates rapid follow-on shockwaves. In this case, the expansion and collapse of explosive gases inside the hole would act like a hydraulic jackhammer, further pulverising the rock.

The idea of detonating the well already has serious advocates. A few people have even called for using a nuclear device to plug the well, as the Soviet Union has done several times. But that would be overkill. Smartly placed conventional explosives could achieve the same results, and avoid setting an unacceptable international precedent for the "peaceful" use of nuclear weapons.

At best, a conventional demolition would seal the leaking well completely and permanently without damaging the oil reservoir. At worst, oil might seep through a tortuous flow-path that would complicate long-term cleanup efforts. But given the size and makeup of the geological structures between the seabed and the reservoir, it's virtually inconceivable that an explosive could blast a bigger hole than already exists and release even more oil.

The task force could prepare for demolition without forgoing the current efforts to drill relief wells. And even if the ongoing efforts succeed and a demolition proves unnecessary, the non-nuclear option would give Obama an ace in the hole and a clear signal that he's in charge — not BP.

- Christopher Brownfield is a former nuclear submarine officer and the author of the forthcoming memoir My Nuclear Family









WHATEVER few positives may eventually trickle down to Bhopal's suffering masses will be negated by two undeniable realities. Bad enough the 25-year-delay in putting together a package that superficially appears decent; worse that the action leading to the recommendations of the Group of Ministers was essentially an exercise to contain the severe political damage the Congress-led government was suffering when the verdict of a Bhopal court generated unprecedented public outrage. All the sympathy articulated by the head of the GOM reeks of the insincere lip-service which lawyers-turned-politicians spew so unabashedly. Will UPA-II care to explain why it and preceding Congress governments (not that the interim BJP-led NDA is guilt-free) long glossed over the plight of the victims? Is there a single recommendation of the GOM that could not have been initiated years ago? What came in the way of curative petitions, cleaning up the toxic site, higher financial payments, improved medical cover etc? The answer is uncomplicated ~ there was no political compulsion. And that is all that matters in what passes off for governance in New Delhi these days. Not that everything is nicely sewn up now, there are legal issues to be resolved. Curative petitions are not automatic remedies. "Fixing" Warren Anderson is a catchy token, but by the same token every railway minister and almost every civil aviation minister (particularly the present one) would invite multiple charges of culpable homicide. Without in any way making light of Union Carbide's negligence, what about the negligence of factory inspectors in Bhopal? Who furnished incorrect figures to the Supreme Court on the basis of which the initial compensation was wrested from Union Carbide? What is the future status of settlements facilitated by the apex court, will they be subject to review? There are still too many unanswered questions. Alas, experience would suggest that neither inquiry commissions nor joint-parliamentary committees are effective probe-mechanisms.

The truth counts for so little on Raisina Hill. It is true that probing issues of culpability ~ Anderson's "safe passage" for example ~ were not the GOM's mandate, yet it appears to have bent over backwards to "clear" Rajiv Gandhi. Even his most severe critic would be sympathetic, he was still groping in transit from an aircraft cockpit to the national control panel that is the Prime Minister's Office. Yet to suggest that the greenhorn was out of the loop is ridiculous: the foreign secretary's contention that there was nothing on record to confirm what one of her respected predecessors has stated is less than laughable. Are external affairs conducted on a babu's file? What particularly disgusts is the Congress party making a convenient scapegoat of the man it persuaded to come out of retirement to lead its first post-Rajiv government; the man who had the foresight to set the course for economic reform on which Dr Manmohan Singh was carried to Race Court Road. Is this because PV Narasimha Rao was perhaps the lone Congress leader who did not bow in obeisance every time he drove past 10 Janpath?





Nothing to celebrate

Left slogans drowned by despair 

IT is a sign of the times that the Left Front had to pull out all the stops to fill 10,000 seats at the Netaji Indoor Stadium to celebrate its 34th anniversary. The voices had to be strident but the message that finally came across was that there was hardly anything to celebrate. The anniversary was being held in the shadow of what many in the Left consider a virtual farewell party. At this late stage, the Left will have to depend on a miraculous change in the public mood or serial blunders by its opponents. While some of the smaller partners who have shied away from taking responsibility for the Left's current distress have declared that a turnaround is impossible, Biman Bose insists that the Opposition's gains in the last municipal elections are due to "money and muscle power''.


This reads dangerously like the allegation levelled against the Marxists during days when there was no challenge and is a pathetic confession that there is now an alternative that has mobilised the organisational strength to dislodge the Left. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee carries the fiction to the next chapter to suggest that change means "anarchy'' ~ implying that voters over the past three years have either not fathomed the dangers of courting Trinamul or have been misled into a mass awakening in the cause of a false prophet.

The chief minister is not one to reverse an industrialisation programme that has been blotted by "a few mistakes''. He still believes that an assurance of investment of Rs 7,000 crore will re-ignite the hearts of thousands who have lost their land, been displaced with a promise of a new future or have been deprived of the basic means of livelihood by a callous administration. Nothing said at the anniversary meeting suggested that the government had any regrets for its non-performance or its partisanship, for the systematic way in which the Left has tried to dominate every aspect of social life and for the damage in vital sectors like health, education and food distribution that cannot be undone even if Assembly elections are held on schedule next year. The chief minister has directed colleagues to draw up a roadmap for development for the next six months. What he has not bargained for ~ or is perhaps not willing to acknowledge ~ is a sense of the inevitable that could make the government's performance more uninspiring over the next few months. The orchestrated notes of a "fightback'' cannot drown the groans of despair.








PHOTOGRAPHICALLY it was no classic. Not surprisingly few Indian newspapers carried the agency-circulated picture. Yet a time-enduring saga was captured by the shutterbug when he "clicked" British Prime Minister David Cameron bending to pick up a walking-stick that had been dropped by a war veteran. It mattered little that he was escorting his French counterpart around a military hospital and they had no dearth of aides in attendance. It is just that in some parts of the world the ex-serviceman is an honoured elder statesman. Fifteen years ago when an Indian winner of the Victoria Cross was walking towards a memorial in London (the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II was being observed) he was stunned when an "official looking" car stopped and he was given a ride by a VIP who had "recognised" his ribbon/medal. Hours later the queue at the cash counter in a supermarket made way for him. Not just in the UK: a small post office in the Australian outback boasts a plaque bearing the names of its staffers who "did not return from Gallipoli". 

Contrast this with the way Indian veterans have to make a series of visits to the bank/post office to collect their pensions, how revised rates are not automatically implemented, how even in military hospitals serving personnel ~ and their wives ~ get priority treatment. The issue goes beyond the unfulfilled political promise of one-rank one-pension, it gives an Indian touch to the lines that "old soldiers never die/they just fade away" ~ nobody cares as they wither away. And now they are being exploited: the once prestigious Indian Ex-Services League is a house divided, some vets are being pressured to "return" their medals in protest again a poor deal. Many former "top brass" don't approve, but don't condemn that ~ are they hoping they might also derive some "collateral" benefit?








THE Marxists have initiated a 'rectification' campaign to put in place a democratic system to control corruption after their defeat in the last general elections. In their reckoning, the defeat was due to the entry of non-Communist elements into the party. This has tarnished its image. This assessment is likely to be correct. But how did the leadership allow these non-Communist elements to come in? A proper diagnosis is the beginning of a correct treatment of the disease. The patient will not be cured if the diagnosis is wrong. Malaria will not be cured if antibiotics are prescribed. Similarly, the CPI-M will not be able to revamp the party if it does not make a proper diagnosis of its failures.

The decline of the Marxists had set in immediately after their aggressive efforts to forcibly acquire land from the farmers at Singur and Nandigram. Ironically, their winning streak of the last 33 years can be substantially attributed to land redistribution. The root of this misadventure lies in the rejection of the market. Karl Marx had said that the market merely treats the human being as a raw material. This dehumanization of man is the source of his unhappiness.

Anti-market ideology

THE village blacksmith develops an emotional attachment to the plough because the farmer who uses it is known to him. Both are happy if the plough is strong. But goods made for the market are used by unknown persons. Hence the producer is alienated from the process of production. Manufacturing the plough for the market gives no happiness to the blacksmith. Marx had envisioned a Communist society in which there would be no monetary transaction; there would be a spontaneous emotional bonding between the producer and the consumer; and the people would produce for the pleasure of working.

The Marxists in India are under the sway of this anti-market ideology. Gherao was common in the eighties and nineties. They threw out the industries from Bengal. Jobs dwindled. Then, faced with the grim reality of declining growth rates and incomes, the Marxists made an about-turn. They went about aggressively inviting big businesses, and launched the aggressive land acquisition process to rectify their anti-industry image. The Bengali voter was not amused, however, and he has now meted out a punishment. These problems arose because the anti-market theory was first advocated and then abandoned altogether.

The weakness of Marx's theory is that the source of happiness is said to be a connection with the consumer. A painter enjoys painting not knowing who will buy it. It is enough for him to know that someone has bought the painting. The creation of the painting is pleasurable for him because it suits his temperament. He can express his inner thoughts through that medium. Similarly a farmer enjoys producing cabbage not knowing who will consume it. It seems the true source of happiness is the doing of work that is in keeping with one's temperament. The farmer will scarcely be happy with a painting brush in his hand and the painter at the back of the plough even though they may be producing for their loved ones. The point is that the market helps a worker in finding a job that is suitable to this temperament. The Marxists have gone downhill because they have painted the market as the villain while actually it is a liberator.

Marx had also said that the market fosters inequality. Big companies crush the small producers as the textile companies have done to the handloom weavers in our country. Marx solved this problem by postulating an era of 'abundance'. He said that the industrial revolution would enable production of goods in such large quantities that there would be no scarcity. People would get all they want. But in order to bring forth this ideal situation, the government would for some time have to be controlled by the 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat'. The Communist Party would seize power by force and develop the production to abundant levels.

The problem with this pious dispensation is that there is no check on the "dictatorship". It can become self-serving. Marx, Lenin and Mao; and Dange, Namboodiripad and Sundarayya were all good human beings. The parties established by these good individuals may not, however, be so good. The parties led or established by Mahatma  Gandhi and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee have become corrupt. The Marxists are not far behind. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had walked out of the Jyoti Basu cabinet in 1993 terming it as a 'cabinet of the thieves'. The fact that the Marxists have to undertake a rectification campaign indicates that the party has deviated from its lofty ideals. "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" has been reduced to "Dictatorship of the Powerful". The latter may yet espouse the cause of the poor,  but this is subject to their whims and fancies.

Cosmetic programmes

OTHER mainstream parties contend that the Marxists serve themselves even if they do not admit this in public. They implement cosmetic pro-poor programmes so that the poor can be exploited optimally. They try to extract as much money from the people as possible but not so much to create a political reaction. They throw crumbs at the common man to keep him in a stupor of dependence and helplessness. But the Marxists do not accept this truth. They believe that the government machinery is genuinely interested in serving the people. They thus come up with harmful economic policies. They are in favour of expanding the role of the inefficient and corrupt public sector. They ignore the fact that these have become centres of patronage distribution. They demand that the Public Distribution System, which has become a den of thieves, should be made the mainstay of the country's food security. These proposals are mooted because the Marxists characterize the market as anti-people and the state machinery as pro-people. No wonder public support for them is waning.
The Left will have to revisit its theory of Marxism.  It will have to put in place a democratic system to control corruption among their leaders instead of assuming that they are honest. They will have to formulate  policies aimed at securing the welfare of the poor with a lean State machinery instead of unwittingly supporting the tyranny of the State on the poor.


The writer is former Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.







Last week, US President Barrack Obama succeeded in getting the oil company BP to set aside at least US$20 billion in a fund to meet claims for losses arising from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It is both interesting and heartening that a government is able to pressure a big company to agree upfront to compensate for the damage it is causing. The funds will be used to meet claims for economic losses of local people in the Gulf Coast states for loss of income (for example - from reduced fishing or tourism) and to pay the cost of environmental clean up. Another $100 million fund will be set up to pay workers laid off due to suspension of offshore drilling. BP will also suspend paying dividends so that there is enough cash for the new funds.

Both agreed to this package because of the growing public anger at the negligience of BP and the government's lack of regulatory actions, as well as that after two months the oil is still gushing from the broken BP oil installation.

It has been described as the worst US environmental disaster. But worse ecological catastrophes have been caused by international companies in developing countries, with greater loss to life, income and the environment. But little if any compensation has been paid by these companies. And the governments of the countries whose people own the companies usually turn a blind eye.

The most outstanding case is that of Bhopal in which the emission of poisonous gas from the US-owned company Union Carbide in 1984 affected half a million people, killed 2,300 people immediately, with another 15,000 to 30,000 dying subsequently and many thousands of others maimed seriously. Even now the land and water in the vicinity continue to be contaminated with toxic chemicals that affect human health.
Neither Union Carbide or Dow Chemical which bought the firm in 2001 accepted responsibility for the disaster. The Bhopal factory was sold to a local firm in 1992. An arrest warrant for Union Carbide's then chairman Warren Anderson was issued in India but he has not been brought to trial.

Union Carbide paid $470 million in a deal in 1989 with the Indian government, but this is a small amount, given the enormous numbers of people who died, were injured and continue to suffer.

On 7 June this year, an Indian court found seven former executives of the Indian subsidiary of the company guilty of negligience and they were given sentences of two years' jail, which is being appealed against. The Bhopal residents and their supporters are dismayed at such a light sentence, and that they are still demanding proper compensation.

A second case is Ecuador's Amazon region being contaminated by oil and toxic waste in amounts far larger than the Gulf Oil spill so far. The oil and waste was discharged by Texaco (bought over by Chevron in 2001) when it operated an oil concession in 1964-1990.

The New York Times in May 2009 reported indigenous people in the area saying that toxic chemicals had leaked into their soil, groundwater and streams, and that some of their children had died from the poisoning. It cited a report of an expert (contested by the company) who estimated that 1,400 people had died of cancer because of oil contamination.

The indigenous groups have filed a court case against Chevron for $27 billion in damages. They accuse Chevron of dumping more than 1.3 billion litres of crude oil into the rainforest. Chevron is also said to have dumpted 70 billion litres of toxic waste in pits in the forests.

Experts claim that the disaster has devastated their lands, income and health to a degree far larger than the BP spill in the Gulf. The company paid Ecuador's government $40 million in the early 1990s for clean-up costs, but this amount is seen as much too little given the immensity of the damage.

US Congressman James P McGovern, vice-chairman of the House Rules Committee, visited Ecuador in 2009 and is reported to have written to Obama that "the degradation and contamination left behind by (Chevron) in a poor part of the world made me angry and ashamed... I also saw the infrastructure Texaco/Chevron created that allowed the wholesale dumping of formation water and other highly toxic materials directly into the Amazon and its waters."


A third case is the Niger Delta in Nigeria, a major oil producing region in which Shell and other companies operate. An article in The Observer entitled "Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill: The US and Europe ignore it", describes spilt oil has contaminated swamps, rivers, forests and farmlands in the region."In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico," wrote John Vidal.

A report by environment groups calculated in 2006 that up to 1.5m tons of oil - 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska - has been spilled in the delta over the past half century. Last year, Amnesty calculated that the equivalent of at least 9m barrels of oil was spilled and accused the oil companies of a human rights outrage.

On 1 May, a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline spilled more than three million litres into the delta over seven days and thick balls of tar are being washed up along the coast. Local people blame the oil pollution for the fall in life expectancy in the rural communities to a little above 40 years.

The article quotes the Nigerian writer Ben Ikari, "This kind of spill happens all the time in the delta. The oil companies just ignore it. When I see the efforts that are being made in the US I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards."

It also quotes Nnimo Bassey, Nigerian head of Friends of the Earth International, "We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the US. But in Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people's livelihood and environments. The Gulf spill can be seen as a metaphor for what is happening daily in the oilfields of Nigeria and other parts of Africa."

These cases show a big contrast between what the US administration is doing to hold a multinational company financially accountable, and how similar companies that cause ecological catastrophes in developing countries are able to get away either freely or with grossly inadequate pay-outs.

What the US administration and Congress are doing to get BP to compensate for the environmental and economic damage it is causing is commendable and should be supported. Developing countries should learn a lesson from the US and take similar action in line with the "polluter pays" principle.

And just as importantly, the governments of the home countries of the multinationals should also act to make their companies accountable for their actions when they operate in other countries, and to compensate adequately when they cause environmental damage.

The Star/ANN






Have you ever interrupted childbirth, coitus, a wedding or a graduation ceremony, a funeral or a minute's silence to send a text? Does the thought of going cold turkey from technology make you want to daub your social networking status in your own blood across the nearest brick wall? Is your ideal six-month sabbatical from work an extended period playing World of Warcraft in a windowless bedroom?
If so, then box up your broadband, swallow your SIM and visit a hospital. You could be the country's latest gadget junkie, reared on years of laptop hogging and online high living. People are contracting the computer bug early: according to research published last September by Cranfield University School of Management in Northampton, of 260 secondary school pupils surveyed, 26 per cent spent more than six hours a day on the internet. This battalion of hi-tech tykes yielded 63 per cent who felt they were addicted to the web, 53 per cent who had a compulsive attachment to their mobile phones and 62 per cent who were bought their first computer before hitting the age of eight. But is technophilia really such a plague?

"If teenagers become more withdrawn they run the risk of being developmentally out of step with their peers," says psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham. "It's a very young field of research, but there is some evidence to suggest that girls who spend too much time on Facebook miss out on key developmental steps and could feel immature. Extreme cases can put people's education and employment at risk. Then there are the physical aspects. You can have a poor diet, lose weight, not eat properly. If teenagers are pulling all-nighters they might turn to stimulants, like caffeine or taurine, and there is evidence that can increase anxiety in the long-term."

Teenagers, necessarily, are a high-risk group, as are those who've had a bereavement, separation or redundancy. But no one is free from its impact. Technology experts talk anecdotally of the Texan 13-year-old who developed repetitive strain disorder from texting, or the Korean couple who were building a "cyber-baby" on the internet but neglected to look after their real-life offspring. Scientists quizzed by The New York Times claimed juggling email, phone calls and other incoming information can change how you think or behave. It undermines our ability to focus. Having Twitter, RSS, Facebook, Digg and email feeds open at the same time capitalise on a physiological response to opportunities or threats. This stimulation provokes excitement, in the form of a dopamine squirt, which can be addictive. It can have deadly consequences – which is why talking on your mobile phone while driving was banned in Britain in 2003.

"At the moment people are trying to study the effects of high exposure to technology during the early parts of people's lives," continues Graham. "There are developmental windows in which 'wiring' of the brain takes place. For example, if you have a squint and it is not dealt with in the first five years of your life, part of your visual cortex switches off. It's a 'use it or lose it' principle in neurology and it might have relevance here."
So how can you tell if you've got an addiction? Questions include: "Do you ignore and avoid other work or activities to spend more time on-screen?" But aren't many such choices unavoidable for modern workers – taken subconsciously? Speaking as a journalist who spends eight hours in front of a computer at work before transplanting himself to another desk and computer set-up at home, how can I tell whether I've got this evil sickness?

The Independent








Sequel To A Chitpore Road Disturbance

There was a strike of tramcar drivers and conductors in the northern part of Calcutta on Tuesday, and the early morning service on the Chitpore, Shambazar, Belgachia, and Nimtollah routes was considerably disrganised.
The strike, one of the Tramway Company's officials told a *Statesman* representative, was the result of a disturbance which occurred on a Chitpore car on Monday night. A Babu passenger, asked the conductor to stop at a point between Grey Street and Baghbazar, where there is no stopping place, and the conductor said he could not do so. He stopped the car at the next stopping place, and the Babu, before he got down, struck the conductor. The driver went to the conductor's assistance, others took the Babu's side, and a general *melee* seems to have caused, in the course of which sticks were used.

The disturbance was eventually stopped by the police and it was found that one conductor and the driver were badly hurt on the head, while another conductor was slightly injured. A passenger named Tinga Singh was also seriously injured. All four were taken to the hospital and subsequently a complaint was laid at the thana against the Babu and his friends. Their names are not known, however, and the police are trying to trace them.
In consequence of this disturbance, the drivers and conductors employed on the Northern district cars refused to go to work yesterday morning on the grounds that it was not safe to work there.

Prize medals were awarded to the girls in the Girls' School on Thursday evening at Bhavnagar by the Rani Saheba for fine exhibits in embroidery work put up in the recent exhibition held at Bhavnagar.










The People's Bank of China's announcement that it would allow its currency — the yuan — to appreciate is being taken with three pinches of salt. Cynics see the move as a diplomatic hat tip to the upcoming Group of Twenty meetings in Toronto. For more than four years now, the 'global imbalances' that the world has been trying to deal with have much to do with China's artificially set exchange rate. After the initial euphoria that came with the announcement, the Chinese government was quick to say that the appreciation would be 'gradual'; the rupee — benefiting from a 'sentiment' rally (the belief is that other Asian currencies would benefit as their exports would become cheaper vis-à-vis China's) — appreciated nearly 10 per cent on the first announcement, but lost it all on the second. Other currencies fared similarly.


As most China watchers know, the Chinese government's own economic and political motivations are prime movers. The appreciation will help producers in China: producer prices in May went up 7.1 per cent year on year, mainly because of commodity prices. Exports in May grew 48.5 per cent resulting in a trade surplus of near $20 billion for the month, but profit margins were less than two per cent. A study by the China International Capital Corporation suggested that cheaper imports in yuan terms would have a greater positive impact on those margins than revenue losses in exports. In other words, a stronger yuan benefits those who import and sell into the domestic economy. A stronger yuan could help on the inflation front. A significant import is coal, which is priced in dollars; a weaker currency increases energy input costs for China significantly, especially if one takes Western economists' estimates that the exchange rate of the yuan is between 30 to 40 per cent lower than its actual value. The Chinese government intends to keep economic growth chugging along strongly — which means greater energy input — and more coal imports for power plants; a stronger yuan will contain inflation in energy costs, and that will keep overall inflation down.


In the trade-off between benefits for domestic producers and exporters, a stronger yuan would make products in store chains like Walmart and Home Depot — which import heavily from China — more expensive. That could create an increase in US inflation, and potentially dent a recovery in US consumption growth. But that depends upon the pace in which the yuan appreciates. Some analysts suggest that it could be about six per cent a year. A three per cent appreciation would save the Chinese government $5 billion in oil, iron ore and copper which is not exactly small change.








Coming only days after the prime minister's second visit to Kashmir and his promise of zero tolerance to human rights violations, the recent spate of bloodshed in the valley has taken on a colour deeper than usual. Three youths have lost their lives in close succession and the inescapable tragedy is that the armed forces are once again linked to the deaths. Two died in "routine" firing and one from severe beating at the hands of the police. Together with the disclosure of the fake encounter in Machail that raised a storm shortly before the prime ministerial visit, the sequence of events is taking the valley close to breaking point. It is irrefutable that no matter how sincere the political will — of the government of India, but, above all, of the people of the valley — to get things working in Kashmir, the ham-handedness of the administration and of the keepers of law and order is definitely not helping matters. Naturally, the "quiet diplomacy" launched by the Union home ministry late last year to draw all parties, particularly the separatists, into a dialogue seems to have died a quiet death. The fumbling over Shopian and the consistent reluctance to bring to book the guilty among the armed forces (take the crime in Pathribal) have not only rekindled public mistrust but have also united the separatists and given them back their hold over a helpless people let down by their own government.


The disquiet in Kashmir perhaps could not have come at a worse time. It is bound to undermine India's position in the forthcoming foreign-secretary level talks followed by ministerial-level talks with Pakistan during which India has decided to discuss the Kashmir question. India's "quiet" dialogue with interest groups in Kashmir could have provided the requisite thrust to the re-opening of the back-channel diplomacy, involving the people, that could lead to a workable solution. Unfortunately, the ongoing violence and the deepening trust divide in the valley may continue to negate such chances.










Canada lost its innocence last week. And not merely because an upright former judge of that country's supreme court delivered an excoriating pronouncement that Canada's intelligence and security systems are broken and that victims of those broken systems are treated like adversaries instead of being protected and supported by the State.


Last week was a bizarre week to be in Canada. First, there was a laudable, albeit painful, initiative by its Truth and Reconciliation Commission to make Canadians aware of the cruelty and discrimination that were practised within the fenced compounds of the Indian Residential Schools. These schools, which were opened in the 19th century and flourished in the 20th century, had nothing to do with India. Their history is a sordid tale of collaboration between the church and the State in an effort to 'reform' children of natives who inhabited the land before the arrival of white settlers and prepare those young boys and girls to live in 'civilized' white society.


Two years ago this month, Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, showed exceptional courage and apologized on behalf of the government for its shameful treatment of natives in the so-called Indian Residential Schools. Such treatment included taking native children away from their families to these residential schools, where they were punished if they spoke their language and were converted to Christianity and initiated into Western ways of life.


It is estimated on the basis of documents in Canada's National Archives, which were examined three years ago, that half the children in these residential schools in the early 20th century died from tuberculosis, overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of medical care. And then there was mental, physical and sexual abuse of the children. It may come as a surprise to many readers of this column that the last Indian Residential School in Canada was closed only in 1996.


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up in 2008, began a series of events across Canada last week at which most of the 80,000 survivors of this dreaded school system are expected to testify before the commission at some point in the next five years. The aim of these hearings is to tell and retell the stories of a monumental Canadian wrong and to correct doctored history in the minds of many Canadians in the hope that their people will behave differently in future under similar, but different, circumstances in the 21st century.


Also last week, another judicial commission of inquiry, this one headed by Justice Thomas Braidwood, a retired appeals court judge in British Columbia, exposed the "shameful conduct" of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the death of a passenger at Vancouver airport. The RCMP used a 50,000-volt stun gun on him with fatal consequences. Robert Dziekanski had arrived from Poland to join his mother who was living in British Columbia.


The Polish immigrant, a first-time traveller who did not speak English, became distraught when he could not find his mother at the airport for nearly 10 hours, but the police used stun guns on him at least five times, killing him even before paramedics arrived on the scene.


In the post-September 11 world, when every city in the world is making its policemen more technologically equipped, judge Braidwood's findings are something to think hard about. "I can't help but think if the taser was not there they (RCMP) perhaps would have reverted to their former skills....When the conducted energy weapon was not available, you had one RCMP officer police a whole community without any problem, using the skills they had been taught," the inquiry report observed.


What was worse about the case was that when investigations began into the conduct of the police officers, they cooked up their version of facts to justify what amounted to murder by the men in uniform.


But the biggest loss of innocence last week for Canadians was the release of an inquiry report on the bombing of Kanishka, an Air India plane, 25 years ago killing all 329 people on board. Canadians are shocked that retired supreme court judge, John Major, was convinced enough to assert in his report that the kind of intelligence failure that enabled Khalistanis operating in Canada to put bombs on Kanishka and on another Air India plane on a single day still existed and that sweeping changes were required to remedy the situation. He made ordinary Canadians aware of the huge gaps in securing cargo going in and out of Canada which made their country a vulnerable target for terrorists at a time when the Harper government has its armed forces in Afghanistan and is supportive of global counter-terrorism actions.


For this writer, who is a frequent visitor to Canada, there were other findings in the inquiry report that appeared inexcusably shocking. It was revealed during the inquiry, for instance, that Canadian officers who were tailing Khalistani suspects lost track of them because every Sikh in a turban and Indian ethnic clothes looked alike and the intelligence operatives could not distinguish one suspect from another or a suspect from some other Sikh who was not connected with the plot.


This, in a country of immigrants where a Canadian identity is supposed to include everyone — even those who look different from the original European settlers — was disappointingly discriminatory going beyond the intelligence deficiencies that cost 329 lives. Major reinforced that element of disappointment when he confirmed that the government of Canada behaved in the aftermath of the tragedy as if the Kanishka bombing was someone else's problem involving an Indian plane with passengers who were mostly of Indian origin, notwithstanding the fact that a huge majority of them were Canadian citizens. Since it did not form part of Major's terms of reference, there was no way he could tell us if this was still true.


Many jaws dropped at Major's press conference in Ottawa last week when it was revealed that Canadian intelligence officers who actually witnessed the dry run of the explosion that occurred on-board Kanishka could not record it — or photograph the Khalistanis who set off a trial bomb blast — because they did not carry cameras with them as they followed the suspects to a place where they were having the dry run. The episode could add a variation to the much discredited caricature of a 'flat-footed' policeman by describing its Canadian variant as a flat-footed 'mounted' policeman.


In the next few weeks and months, Canada is most likely to go through a catharsis as it comes to terms with the gaps between perception and reality, not only in its national consciousness but also in areas of practical urgency, such as airport security. But the net impact of the findings of the judicial inquiry into the Air India bomb plot at long last will be that there is no statute of limitations on moral responsibility as Alice MacLachlan, a professor of philosophy at York University, told The Globe and Mail, Canada's premier newspaper last week.


Coincidentally, that seems to be the lesson which the Indian government is learning after ignoring the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, also 25 years ago. "The wrongs of the past, whether it's Air India, or Bloody Sunday or the residential schools, can't always be measured out materially or legally," MacLachlan said. "Part of dealing with the past means negotiating our moral and political relationships with each other, so we find ourselves taking up a language like apologize, forgive, reconcile, come together."


That may well be what the government in New Delhi has to keep in mind as it negotiates a way out of the fallout from a recent judgment on the gas tragedy.








Last week has been remarkable for three high-level inquiries by governments abroad into past misdeeds. On June 15, the British prime minister, David Cameron, placed before his parliament a report on the "Bloody Sunday" killings in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1972, the incident in which 14 unarmed Irish civil rights protesters were shot dead by the British army. The report was severely critical of the British army, naming officers and soldiers involved, and accusing them of giving false evidence. Significantly, it overturned the findings of an earlier British government report which had sought to absolve those concerned.


In the United States of America, on June 17, the chief executive of the petroleum company, BP, faced a Congressional inquiry on the culpability of the company regarding the explosion on its oil rig that was followed by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And in Canada on the same day, the voluminous report of the former supreme court justice, John Major, was released on the bombing of Air India's aircraft, Kanishka, in 1985. It explicitly blamed the laxity of the Canadian security intelligence service and criticized the Canadian government for its indifference to the victims' compensation.


Each government deserves applause for its tenacity in seeking out the truth. These reports come in a week in which accusations have been traded in India over the actions following the Bhopal disaster of 1984. And there is still serious discontent over the inconclusive findings on the Sikh massacres earlier that year.


For the families that have suffered a tragic and unforeseen loss, a credible approach to truth brings some sense of closure. In contrast, governmental obfuscation and prevarication deepen the grief, which eventually turns into anger. So even after the lapse of decades, we owe it to the victims' families to bring about some acceptable finality to the investigations into the two tragic events of 1984.


Seek out


Regarding the Bhopal disaster, the US should have exercised standards of corporate responsibility similar to those it seeks to use for the BP oil spill. Recall that 11 people died as a result of the BP accident whereas more than 2,500 people died or suffered as a result of Union Carbide's negligence. The US president, Barack Obama, has been aggressively outspoken about BP's responsibility for the oil spill and has sought financial compensation, in spite of vociferous criticism from BP's shareholders in Britain. Why has there been no similar action from any US president over the past 25 years regarding Union Carbide's mismanagement in Bhopal?


Double standards have also been used by the Canadian government in the Kanishka case. The uncomfortable truth is that Americans and Canadians attach a relatively lower value to life when the victims are Indian rather than North American. Many of the blogs in Canadian newspapers following the release of Major's inquiry report were downright racist. Our own government must recognize that we reinforce that prejudice by being complaisant when such tragedies occur. Neither of our two largest political parties can be proud of its follow-up actions on Bhopal.


In the past few years, India has increasingly been recognized for its economic success. As the US has shown, power resides in the ability to exercise authority to fix the blame for man-made tragedies irrespective of the nation or nationals involved. To be deserving of respect, we in India must seek out and indict those responsible for the misdeeds of 1984. This is also the lesson of the British inquiry into the "Bloody Sunday" killings of 1972. If correctly handled and credibly communicated, with sincere apologies and appropriate compensation, justice delayed need not be justice denied.



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





The government has woken itself to some action after sleeping over the Bhopal gas tragedy for over 25 years. The Group of Ministers reconstituted after a Bhopal court's judgment earlier this month has recommended a package of steps to bring justice to the victims and to deal with the human and environmental ill-effects of the gas leakage. One major issue was the inadequacy of the compensation. The GoM has proposed disbursal of a further Rs 1,300 crore as compensation to the victims and families. This is inadequate but after the government let off Union Carbide with an out-of-court agreement which provided for only a meagre compensation, it had to bear the responsibility for any further payment. The sovereign agreement makes it almost impossible for the government to make any further demand on Dow Chemicals, which is Union Carbide's successor company, in the matter of compensation. The Indian tax payer is therefore being made to foot the bill.

But the government must pursue all avenues to make Dow Chemicals undertake the cleaning up operations at the factory site. The cleaning up of the toxic site is a very difficult task with financial and technical challenges, which the GoM has decided that the government will get done. The government must approach the court, either here or in the US, to make Dow Chemicals accept its liability in the matter. It is unfortunate that the principle 'polluter pays' has been given the go-by on all issues connected with the Bhopal gas leak. There was even condemnable view within the government that the company should not be pressured on this in view of the investment possibilities in the country. Legal and other means, including diplomatic, should be pursued to enforce accountability on the company. The US action in making BP liable for the huge loss and damage caused by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill should be a lesson.

Simultaneously efforts for a review of the supreme court order that diluted the charge against the culprits and for extradition of the then UCC chief Warrren Anderson should also be made. It is obvious that the law has failed to give adequate punishment for those responsible for the world's worst industrial crime. The new stirrings in the government is a result of the public outrage in the wake of the judgment. Effective and sustained follow-up action is important, lest the cause of justice be forgotten again.









On the occasion of Aung San Suu Kyi's 65th birthday, world leaders and activist groups have called for her release from detention. Suu Kyi is under house arrest. She has been under some form of detention for much of the past 20 years. Her 'crime' is that she leaves Myanmar's powerful generals insecure and unsure of their grip over power. Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide mandate in general elections in 1990. But the military refused to hand over power to the NLD. Instead they strengthened their iron grip and sought to eliminate every threat to their rule. They have found it hard to come to terms with Suu Kyi's immense popularity in Myanmar and outside. Her presence in the public sphere would be a daily reminder that the generals' rule is illegitimate and provide public protest against the junta a powerful rallying point; hence the need to lock her away under some pretext. The latest excuse for denying her freedom and keeping her out of public life is that she violated the conditions of her detention. In 2008, an American supporter entered her lakeside home uninvited. The military has held her guilty of allowing him in. With elections due later this year, the generals are not taking any chances. They want Suu Kyi out of the political arena.
Issuing statements for Suu Kyi's release and candlelight vigils are comforting ways of showing support. But these sporadic campaigns by themselves, are not going to push the junta to release her. What is required is a sustained campaign of diplomatic engagement with the generals to prod them into doing so.

India and China are among the handful of countries in the world that wield some influence over Myanmar's military rulers. Yet neither has been willing to use this to secure Suu Kyi's release. China's silence is easy to figure out. It is not a democracy. But India is committed to the principles of democracy. Not speaking up against the illegal incarceration of one of the greatest pro-democracy icons of our times is unconscionable. Besides, India must wake up to the fact that its long-term interests in Myanmar are best served by the restoration of democracy in that country. It must push the generals to release Suu Kyi immediately.







The market helps a worker in finding a job. The marxists have gone downhill because they have painted the market as a villain.


The marxists have initiated a 'rectification' campaign after their defeat in the last general elections. The thinking is that the defeat was due to the entry of non-communists elements into the party which sullied the image. This assessment is likely to be correct. But it must be asked how did the leadership allow these non-communist elements to come in?

A proper diagnosis is the beginning of a true treatment of the disease. The patient will not be cured if the diagnosis is wrong. Malaria will not be cured if antibiotics are prescribed. Similarly, marxists will not revive if they do not make a proper diagnosis of their failures.

The decline of the marxists set in after their aggressive efforts to forcibly acquire land from the farmers at Singur and Nandigram. Ironically, their winning streak of the last 34 years can be substantially attributed to this very land redistribution. The root of this misadventure lies in rejection of the market.

The marxists in India are under the sway of an anti-market ideology. Gherao was common in the '80s and '90s. They threw out the industries from Bengal. Jobs too went away. Then, faced with the grim reality of declining growth rates and incomes, the marxists made an about turn. They went about feverishly inviting big businesses. And they launched the aggressive land acquisition process to rectify their anti-industry image. The Bengali voter was not amused, however, and he has now meted out a punishment.

The point is that the market helps a worker in finding a job that is suitable to his temperament. The marxists have gone the downhill road because they have painted the market as villain while actually it is a liberator.

Karl Marx had also said that the market fosters inequality. Big companies crush the small producers as the textile companies have done to the handloom weavers in our country. Marx solved this problem by postulating an era of 'abundance.' He said the industrial revolution will enable production of goods in such large quantities that there will be no scarcity. People will get all they want. But, he said, in order to bring forth this wonderful situation, for some time the government will have to be controlled by 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat.' The communist party will seize power by force and develop the production to unheard of abundant levels.

Problem in this pious dispensation is that there is no check on the dictatorship. It can become self-serving. I personally believe that Marx, Lenin and Mao; and Dange, Namboodiripad and Sundarayya were all good human beings. But this is matter of the individual. Parties established by these good individuals may not be so good, however. We see before us that parties led or established by good individuals like Mohandas Gandhi and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee have become corrupt and power hungry.

The marxists are not behind. It is reported that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had walked out of the Jyoti Basu cabinet in 1993 terming it as a 'cabinet of the thieves.' The fact that the Marxists have to undertake a rectification campaign is proof that character of the party has deviated from its lofty ideals.

Dictatorship of the proletariat has been reduced to dictatorship of the powerful. The powerful may yet espouse poor people's problems but this is wholly at their whims and fancies.

Other mainstream parties admit that they are there to serve themselves even if they do not admit this in public. They implement cosmetic pro-poor programmes so that the poor can be exploited optimally. They try to extract as much money from the people as possible but not so much to create a political reaction. They throw crumbs at the common man to keep him in a stupor of dependence and helplessness.

But the marxists do not accept this truth. They believe that not only they, but the entire government machinery is genuinely interested in serving the people. They thus come up with many bad economic policies. They say the role of inefficient and corrupt public sector undertaking should be expanded. They ignore the fact that these have become centres of patronage distribution.

They argue that government school system in which double the number of students fail the exams and permanently spoil their future should be provided with more money. They demand that the public distribution system which has become a den of thieves should be made the mainstay of the country's food security.

These hopeless policy suggestions arise because they characterise the market as anti-people and state machinery as pro-people. No wonder public support for them is waning. After all, no one wants his child to spoil his future in a government school!

Editorial in a leading daily said that a Left political formation will always be relevant so long as poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality afflict society. But in order to sit on this reserved seat, the Left will have to revisit the theory of Marxism. They will have to put in place democratic systems to control corruption among their leaders instead of assuming they are ever honest.

They will have to seek policies that secure welfare of the poor with a lean state machinery instead of unwittingly supporting the tyranny of the state on the poor.








The economic crisis has made it imperative that we forge a more balanced and inclusive global economy.



This time last year, the global economy had reached the nadir of the financial and economic crisis. Since then, a succession of optimistic commentators, economists and others has been pointing to the strength of the recovery: the resurgence in stock markets, the restoration of bank balances, and the reversals in growth rates. At the same time, data have emerged describing the full impact and cost of the crisis, particularly for developing countries, including an increase in unemployment, an additional 53 million people falling below the poverty line and over 100 million more going hungry.

The debt crisis in Greece, which is threatening the entire euro zone, is indicative of the continuing malaise in parts of the world economy. In the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and other developing nations, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been reversed, and it is now unlikely that all of the goals will be achieved by 2015.

Moreover, what momentum there was for the reform of international economic governance has stalled. Apart from macro-prudential regulation and some action on bankers' bonuses and taxation, there have been no fundamental changes to the institutional architecture of economic governance. Indeed, currently some of the most significant changes are taking place at the regional level, involving increased South-South cooperation and integration.

Multilateral initiatives

In addition, changes in policy at the national level in both developing and developed countries for example, from tight macroeconomic policies to a loose countercyclical stance- need to be recognised by multilateral initiatives, such as the MDGs and World Trade Organisation trade talks.

The scale of the financial and economic crisis has made it imperative that we forge a more balanced and inclusive global economy through two channels: measured government intervention in markets and strategic policy action at the national level, and better coordinated and more inclusive economic decision-making at the international level.

For African and other LDCs, which have limited financial resources to mount national stimulus packages or mobilise domestic resources, economic and trade growth needs to be supported by the global community. Such external support should include better market access and entry conditions at the multilateral and regional levels. India is one of the large emerging economies to have granted LDCs duty-free and quota-free market access.

The challenge for African LDCs is to utilise the trade preferences available to them. But market access is only one element in a successful development strategy for LDCs: building a strong productive base in agriculture, manufacturing, and services that can compete internationally is another essential ingredient.

Internationally competitive industries and markets do not establish themselves automatically: they require government investment to support strategic infant industries, and government intervention to correct market imperfections.

As we have seen during the current economic crisis, the market does not always get the prices right, nor does it always provide a level playing field for firms to compete. Governments must create fair markets through the prudent use of macroeconomic policy as well as other regulatory mechanisms, laws, and policies that maintain a healthy environment in which enterprise and economic development can flourish. Competition law and policy is one such area that governments need to get right.

Inspired by our successful experiences in Latin America, UNCTAD decided to set up a Regional Programme on Competition Law and Policy for African Countries — called Africomp — to assist African countries in formulating and enforcing sound competition law and policy.

With generous financial and human resources from Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany, Unctad has been able to launch Africomp for five African countries. In addition, other cooperating partners, including France, UNDP, and the UN Development Account, are funding Unctad technical assistance projects for African countries. These projects will be brought together under Africomp.

However, trade is not sufficient in itself to create the levels of growth and economic development that LDCs are so in need of. Establishing a strong productive sector, which can operate in fair and competitive domestic, regional, and international markets, will also be essential for LDCs. Hope our partnerships with LDCs can be strengthened through Africomp and that African LDCs and India can build on their preferential trade scheme.






'Watch them when you are really grown up!,' chided my mom.


A sizeable percentage of the human race is fascinated by horror flicks. They derive gruesome fascination out of watching haunted houses, possessed dolls, bloodied daggers, decapitated corpses, speaking skulls, extraterrestrials with malevolent agendas, human creatures with cannibalistic tendencies and what not. I admit to being one of those mortals who derive masochistic pleasure by nearly frightening myself to death, watching this genre on celluloid.

I recall the pangs of envy I had felt when the Ramsay's Zee-horror show was discussed among friends with ghoulish relish. Entreaties to get cable TV installed were promptly negated at home and I was advised to catch the news on good old Doordarshan. Hitting my school books seemed a more interesting option. A visit to Bangalore during summer and a cousin reignited dormant passions by telling me about 'Omen.'

Much stimulated, I started coercing mom to get me the ultimate forbidden fruit. My mother, helpless this time, got the video of 'The Good Son' instead. This was an equally blood-chilling tale of a psychopathic soroxicidal boy (or had he killed his brother?). The very night I dreamt of the boy, his eyes evil, coming after me and the next thing I knew was I was being inundated in my bed. "Watch them when you are really grown up!", a cheesed off mom chided the next morning. My 8-year-old cheeks burned in shame.

During the rest of my childhood and even teens, I gave goth and gore an avoid. Then one fine day I decided I was ready to take horror flicks head on. I approached a friend of mine, a Ms X, who is a veteran in this domain. "I say X", I asked "Can you suggest a real delicious scary flick?". "The Hell Raiser, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby....." she began. "Stop! Let me watch these first", I replied before making a dash for the nearest DVD store. "Hey, mind ya", she called after me — "these aren't for the faint-hearted". "Nor for the weak-bladdered, I guess", I smiled ruefully as I recalled the mortification of eons back. Over the next couple of years, I watched many horror movies — good or trashy. Umpteen vampires, Frankeinsteins, Draculas and co. Later, I was weary but not satiated.

A few days ago, I had some stroke of luck as I came across Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho.' The movie's a riveting one — Marian Crayne, a young woman steals $ 40,000 to tide over some personal hangovers. She then checks into a way-side motel. Norman Bates, the shy mild-mannered young owner, welcomes her inside. In between he seems to have an altercation with his mother who seems pathologically jealous of the  'Strange young girls' Norman allegedly entertains. Over dinner in an eerie parlour replete with relics of taxi-dermy, Marion gets a slice of Norman's suffocating life as well. A few minutes later she's murdered in the shower... Rather than being macabre, 'Psycho' is somewhat poignant and has been crafted after having delved deep into the human psyche. After watching it, I reclined on the couch- satisfied. I know which maestro's movie I'll pick up next weekend.







The Emmanuel affair has brought to public awareness the ugliness of Ashkenazi haredi discrimination against Sephardim. Importantly, too, it has shed light on Shas's unforgivable acquiescence to this ongoing discrimination.

Shas's development is a story of Sephardi Jews' uphill battle to, in the words of its spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, "return the crown to its rightful owner." For Yosef, this meant reasserting the dominance of Sephardi Torah scholarship, which, inevitably, would lead to improvement in the status of Sephardi Jews in a haredi society devoted almost exclusively to the learning of sacred texts. But while Shas has scored some victories, Ashkenazi hegemony and condescension persist, as the Emmanuel affair demonstrates.

Ironically, it was discrimination against Sephardi girls in haredi schools that led to the creation of Shas. In 1982, faced with discriminatory quotas, MK Nissim Ze'ev created the party to run in Jerusalem's municipal elections as a means of gaining the political clout needed to offer an alternative haredi school for Sephardi girls. In 1984, Shas was established on a national level after Ashkenazi politicians reneged on a promise to integrate a Sephardi MK into Agudat Israel. Shas enjoyed the backing of Rabbi Elazar Shach, probably the most dynamic and influential spiritual and political leader of the haredim ever. Though Yosef was appointed the nominal head of the party, Shach remained Shas's patron with unofficial veto power.

FROM THE haredi Ashkenazi establishment's perspective, the creation of Shas was an ideal way to indirectly gain the backing of a traditional Sephardi constituency that would never vote for Agudat Yisrael. The assumption was that Shas would faithfully subordinate itself to Ashkenazi rabbinic hegemony – know as Da'at Torah – in all its political decisions.

Shas took its first cautious step toward political independence when party chairman Aryeh Deri supported Shimon Peres's behind-the-scenes attempt in March 1990 to topple his Alignment (Labor) Party's coalition with Yitzhak Shamir's Likud and create a left-wing government coalition willing to make territorial compromises. But Shas was forced to backtrack from what later became known as "the dirty trick" when Shach – in a fiery speech before tens of thousands in which he attacked the "rabbit and pork-eating" Left – demanded that all haredim reject Peres's overtures.

The break with Shach and the haredi establishment came two years later, when Shas joined Yitzhak Rabin's Labor government, which included Meretz as a coalition partner. But the trauma of that break would haunt Deri.

In a speech before entering prison in 1999 for taking bribes, Shas's popular former chairman publicly apologized to the ailing Shach for rebelling against him.


In recent years, Shas has shown deference to Ashkenazi hegemony on various issues. The Sephardi party did not even send its own representative to the 2000 Tal Committee, which was created to find a solution for tens of thousands of haredim who indefinitely deferred mandatory military service, and were, therefore, forced to remain in yeshiva and not work. Shas allowed an Ashkenazi politician to represent it, even though Shas's position on IDF service and employment for haredi men is more moderate.

In 2002, Shas failed to rebuff attacks on Yosef's daughter, Adina Bar-Shalom, who was publicly castigated by the Ashkenazi establishment for running a college that trained haredim to be accountants, social workers and computer programmers. Just two months ago, under pressure from the much smaller United Torah Judaism, Shas withdrew its support for Israel Beiteinu's conversion reforms.

BUT THE most glaring example of Shas's gratuitous kowtowing to Ashkenazi hegemony is the haredi educational system. Almost three decades after Shas made the first step toward creating its own schools, elitist Sephardim – including Shas's own MKs and ministers – continue to prefer Ashkenazi-run schools for their children. Perhaps that is part of the reason Shas MKs – except for the irreverent and independent-minded Haim Amsalem – were maddeningly silent when over 100,000 haredim took to the streets of Bnei Brak and Jerusalem last week to defend their rabbis' call to discriminate against Sephardi school girls.

Shas and Yosef have a unique, often more lenient and open-minded position on an array of issues, from employment to army service to conversions. They also still have a battle to fight against discrimination. Sadly, due to the party's deference to the Ashkenazi establishment, Shas's voice is not being heard.









The construction of what is called the first 'Palestinian settlement' in the West Bank – Rawabi – is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing more of to build Palestine.

Qatar is unlike many of the other Arab countries that support the Palestinians.

Instead of donating lip-service and writing checks to be used in conflict, it has invested heavily in a project with a Palestinian construction company to build a new city in the West Bank called Rawabi.

The Palestinians should be focused on doing more of this; building Palestine, and switching gears from the confrontation-style politics of Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran and a lot of other losers who love to exploit Palestinian suffering.

Even Turkey might consider putting a cork in its rhetoric.


The confrontation politics of the past was a zero-sum game that achieved very little. In terms of Palestinian interests, it's a step backward, not forward, to keep fighting with Israel. Instead of confronting Israel at every corner, Palestinians should spend at least some of their efforts building their country and strengthening not only its economy but national pride.

Building Palestinian cities in the West Bank is just one way to do this.

If Hamas had any real leaders instead of the modern-day bombastic Nassers it has now, they'd spend more time trying to lure Arab world development into the Gaza Strip to build rather than spending all their time with their confrontational go-nowhere rhetoric that helped empower Israel's stranglehold on the Gaza Strip.

We really do need to start building more cities in Palestine, mainly for the day when the refugees will be able to walk out of their camps. We need to give them a quality of life alternative to the sad existence sustained by the charity of the outside world.

Not that the outside world doesn't owe Palestinians a lot. It does.

Rawabi is a brilliant vision of what Palestinian life can be after confrontation with Israel. Palestine can be a better country. It can be the economic hub of the Middle East.

Palestine, in peace, can offer the region far more than as a constant antagonist.

Of course, that means the activists need to stop exploiting Palestinian suffering for their own needs, too.

But mainly, Palestinians need to stop listening to the no-future activists who promise only confrontation.

Rather than flotillas, Palestine needs more Rawabis, places where Palestinian pride can defeat Israeli occupation. Rawabi would be the first modern, planned Palestinian city – a step that officials say will help build an independent state – located about 30 kilometers north of Jerusalem. It's modeled on the typical US suburb.

THE BIGGEST problem is Israel. Israel has been dragging its feet on giving approval for an access road. The Israelis keep saying how much they want peace and how much they want Palestinians to focus on rebuilding Palestine, but while Israel "talks the talk," it doesn't "walks the walk."

The $700 million Rawabi project is funded by the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co. and the Ramallahbased Massar International.

Mortgage loans would be managed by the US Overseas Private Investment Corp., an investment arm of the US government.

The company began pouring foundations this year and anticipates that the first families will be able to move in by 2013.


But without an access road, residents would have to do the "Palestinian-Israeli shuffle" used to navigate Israel's checkpoints and road access restrictions, traveling through narrow winding roads, including on two miles of West Bank land controlled by Israel. Rawabi is located in Area A, which is controlled by the Palestinians. The road access it needs is in Area C, controlled by the Israeli military, and on the ground, by settlers who continue to protest, angry that foreign dollars for settlement construction in the West Bank are going to Palestinians.

Palestinians will continue to have to put up with the warped views of Israeli writers like Yoaz Hendel, who recently wrote in the op-ed "Anti- Jewish apartheid" for Ynet, rather inaccurately, "We [Israelis] got used to the world referring to the war against Palestinian terrorism as apartheid, we got so used to being guilty, to the point of failing to notice that the construction apartheid is happening to be directed against us. The Arabs are allowed to buy homes anywhere, while the Jews are not. The Arabs are allowed to build, expand and engage in familyreunification.

The Jews are forbidden."

No Yoaz, Palestinians are not permitted to live or build anywhere.

Take a trip to my land, for example, next to Gilo: 34 dunams that Israel has frozen so non-Jews cannot build there; land located in the West Bank annexed by Israel on the Israeli side of the wall. Yet Yoaz says it is hypocritical for Palestinians to criticize the settlers, who build Jewish-only settlements while the Palestinians build cities like Rawabi, which presumably is for Palestinians only.

Well, Yoaz, the fact is that the settlers are not building homes in Israel. They are building them in the West Bank. The true comparison would be if Rawabi were being built next to Haifa, for Palestinians only.

Of course, that's a small detail that right-wing Israelis love to ignore.

But if Palestinians are going to move forward, we'll need to ignore the ranting and self-righteous lamentations from both the Israeli and Arab sides.

Build more Rawabis. And in the process of building Palestine, we must find time to negotiate a genuine peace agreement.
The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host.







The tragedy unfolding in Central Asia was quickly misunderstood and twisted for an audience that seeks seemingly deep but actually simplistic explanations.

Around June 10, reports began appearing in the Western media of violent clashes in Kyrgyzstan. They spoke of refugees and ethnic fighting. As days went on, the reports, although conflicting, mentioned refugees numbering in the tens of thousands and a death toll officially reported at around 115, but numbering perhaps as high as 1,000. Almost all the reports noted that the violence was mostly one-sided, with Kyrgyz massacring Uzbeks and the latter fleeing to cross the border into Uzbekistan.

The UN did nothing about the clashes, and as EU leaders remained pragmatically modest in their declarations, reports began being issued by "experts" explaining the situation. Analysis replaced the glaring headlines and gradually the story faded, no longer flashing across the BBC or other major news outlets. The tragedy unfolding in Central Asia was quickly misunderstood and twisted for an audience that seeks seemingly deep but actually simplistic explanations for almost all conflicts so long as they don't involve Israel.


The Economist, probably the most intelligent and serious news magazine in the world, described the violence as "Stalin's harvest." It said it was Stalin who "arbitrarily" divided the Fergana Valley among Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, leaving ethnic minorities in each.

Like the history of Africa or Central Europe, these "artificially created borders became final." The result was clashes that erupted after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. A civil war in neighboring Tajikistan claimed some 50,000 lives in the same period.

A June 14 article in The New York Times described the clashes as "rooted in class, not ethnicity" according to "experts." These experts weren't troglodyte communists hiding out in the basement of some forlorn university but Alexander Cooley of Columbia University's Harriman Institute. In a story reminiscent of the Balkan wars, the article described the Muslim Turkic speakers as having "ethnic distinctions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz [that] are so slight as to be hardly distinguishable."

The secret lies in wealth; "the one that is most responsible for the animosities that led to the recent violence, Central Asian experts say, is economic."


Supposedly the Uzbeks were petit capitalists, kulaks no less (a Stalin-era term of derision referring to successful farmers), who had prospered in business. The Uzbeks had been farmers and the Kyrgyz traditional nomads, and most people are familiar with the fact that pastoralists and settled people are often in conflict. This story of Uzbek success, however, was contradicted by a BBC report the next day in which Nazira, a Kyrgyz, claimed "Uzbeks live in houses made of straw and clay that are built very close to each other.

When one house gets burned – the whole area gets burned. Kyrgyz people live in blocks of flats – those are more difficult to destroy."

SOME REPORTS laid the blame at the government's doorstep. Government troops were accused of colluding with the militia. A secretive paramilitary force of snipers was said to be involved as well, perhaps supporters of the recently ousted president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev. There has been a lot of misinformation about what is taking place in Central Asia. When massacres took place recently in Nigeria, the same "experts" explained, in the words of the UN's Navi Pillay, that "it would be a mistake to paint this purely as sectarian or ethnic violence...

underlying causes... namely discrimination, poverty and disputes over land."

But when similar violence breaks out in Israel between Jews and Arabs, or in the Balkans, it is isn't excused by references to "poverty" and "economics." It is condemned as ethnic-cleansing and racism. Furthermore, the fact that outsiders cannot distinguish a Jew from an Arab, a Serb from a Croat, a Nigerian Tarok from a Hausa or a Kyrgyz from an Uzbek is not reason to believe that the people themselves cannot.

However, it is worthwhile to look to history. In 1917 the Soviets appealed to the "Kyrgyz and Sarts, Turks and Tartars" to "arrange your national life freely and without hindrance."

Soviet ethnologists and leading communists such as Lenin took a special interest in the best arrangement for Soviet Central Asia. To combat pan- Turkism and Islamism they decided to split the region into five ethnically homogeneous republics, the ones that exist today.

Svat Soucek, a Czech-born specialist, argues that the supposedly "artificial" borders were no more problematic than any borders that leave minorities in nation-states. Along with promoting women's rights, the Soviets launched a literacy campaign and standardization of language and culture in the republics which helped fuel a degree of nationalism. In a sense the nationalism replaced the tribalism that had existed before. For Soucek, the "legacy of the past" is not gerrymandering but rather the political and bureaucratic infrastructure which was corrupt, dictatorial and Sovietized.

What set off the violence may never be clearly known, whether it was "orchestrated" as the UN argues, due to a national referendum to be held on June 27 or some other factor. The Uzbeks claim they no longer trust the government to protect them and are calling on the UN to administer their areas. From experiences with UN colonization in Haiti, East Timor, Gaza, Bosnia and Kosovo that surely can't bode well. Why Uzbekistan, patron of the Uzbeks, has stood by so quietly is not clear. Airlifting Russian troops, which the weak Kyrgyz government has requested, may offer a temporary solution, but as the conflict in Georgia illustrated, it can also lead to provocations.

Most strange is the deathly silence from Europe, whose politicians like to get a condemnatory word in about everything. It seems they have taken a break after running out of breath condemning Israel regarding the Turkish flotilla.

And speaking of the Turks, one wonders where they are, since they have taken an interest in involving themselves in the region's affairs and since the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks are Turkic peoples. It would be better for us all if the Turks could focus their ire on squabbles between Central Asian nomads and farmers and away from Iran, Gaza and Israel.

The writer is a PhD researcher at Hebrew University and a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.








What the Left seeks: One catchword is authenticity.

We know what Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao wanted (state control of everything) and how they achieved this goal (brutal totalitarianism); but what do their successors today want and how do they hope to achieve it? It's a curiously unexamined subject.

Ernest Sternberg of the University at Buffalo offers answers in an eye-opening article in a recent issue of Orbis, "Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For." He begins by sketching out what the contemporary far Left (as opposed to the "decent Left") opposes and what it wants.


What the Left opposes: The prime enemy is something called Empire (no definite article needed), a supposed global monolith that dominates, exploits and oppresses the world.

Sternberg summarizes the Left's all-embracing indictment of Empire: "People live in poverty, food is contaminated, products are artificial, wasteful consumption is compelled, indigenous groups are dispossessed and nature itself is subverted.

Invasive species run rampant, glaciers melt and seasons are thrown out of kilter, threatening world catastrophe."

Empire achieves this by means of "economic liberalism, militarism, multinational corporations, corporate media and technologies of surveillance." Because capitalism causes millions of deaths that a non-capitalism system would eliminate, it also is guilty of mass-murder.

The United States, of course, is the Great Satan, accused of hoarding disproportionate resources. Its military oppresses the poor so its corporations can exploit them. Its government promotes the pretend-danger of terrorism to aggress abroad and repress at home.

And Israel is the Little Satan, serving as Empire's sinister ally – or maybe the Jewish state is really the master? From World Social Forum meetings in Brazil to the UN antiracism conference in Durban and from mainline churches to NGOs, Zionism is represented as absolute evil. Why Israel? Beyond the not-so-subtle anti-Semitism, it alone of Western countries lives under a barrage of constant threats, which in turn compel it to engage in constant wars.

"Stripped of all context," Sternberg notes, "Israel's actions fit the needed image of aggressor."

TO FIGHT Empire's superior resources, the Left needs to ally with anyone else opposing it – notably Islamists. Islamist goals contradict the Left's, but no matter; so long as Islamists help fight Empire, they have a valued place in the coalition.

What the Left seeks: One catchword is authenticity: Empire's artificiality makes indigenous culture analogous to endangered species. Culture should be indigenous, organic and sheltered from Empire's crass commercialism (e.g., Hollywood), its bogus rationalism and its false concepts of freedom.

A second catchword is democracy: The Left rejects the distant and formalistic structure of a mature republic and instead celebrates grassroots, non-hegemonic democracy that offers a more direct voice. The democratic process, Sternberg explains, "will proceed through meetings freed from the manipulative reins of law, procedure, precedent and hierarchy."

These high-flying words, however, disguise a recipe for despotism; those laws, procedures, precedents and hierarchy serve a very real purpose.

A third is sustainability. To integrate economies into Earth's ecosystem, the new order "will run on alternative energy, organic farming, local food markets and closed-loop recyclable industry, if any industry is needed. People will travel on public transit, or ride cars that tread lightly on the earth, or even better, ride bicycles. They will occupy green buildings constructed of local materials and inhabit cities growing organically within bioregions. Life will be liberated from carbon emanations. It will be a permanent, placid way of life."

Socialism definitely forms part of this picture, but economics no longer dominates, as once it did.

The new leftist goal is more complex than mere anti-capitalism, constituting an entire way of life. Sternberg dubs this movement world purificationism, but I prefer left-fascism.

He then asks the vital question: Will the Left's latest incarnation once again turn totalitarian? He finds it too early to answer definitely but points to several "totalitarian warning signs," including the dehumanizing of enemies and accusations of mass murder.

He warns of an inflection point when Leftfascists "stand true to their cataclysmic rhetoric and strap on suicide belts or take up arms to become martyrs."

In other words, the dangers are real and present.

So much for those fashionable theories of two decades ago, trumpeted as the Berlin Wall fell, about the end of ideology. The Left retrenched after the fall of Leninism and now threatens humanity with a new version of its anti-Western, anti-rational, anti-liberty, anti-individualist ideology.

The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.








"IT'S THERE, in our daily discourse – Jews calling other Jews 'Nazis.'"


 'The origin of kapo is unclear," says Wikipedia.

"Some think it is an abbreviated form of the word Kameradschaftspolizei (roughly, "comrade police force"), or comes from the Italian word for "head," capo."

At any rate, "a kapo was a prisoner who worked inside German Nazi concentration camps during WWII in certain lower administrative positions.


The official Nazi word was Funktionshäftling, or "prisoner functionary," but the Nazis commonly referred to them as kapos.

"Kapos received more privileges than normal prisoners, toward whom they were often brutal.

They were often convicts who were offered this work in exchange for a reduced sentence or parole."

I knew the word, of course. I heard it first from my mother, on the rare occasions when she talked about her experience in Auschwitz. What moved me to search for a more precise definition of it was hearing a friend raging about a superior at work who behaved in obstructionist and nasty ways toward other employees and with whom she had recently had a showdown.

"He's just a kapo," she said.


I commented to this friend, who works in the media, that she had coincidentally used the term just as I was about to write about the phenomenon of Holocaust terminology being used by Jews to describe other Jews in totally other – and by definition, immeasurably more benign – contexts.

Didn't she feel her use of this terminology trivialized the Shoah? She smiled a bit shamefacedly. "Don't judge people in their moment of anger," she said.

THAT'S just it, though. It is during moments of anger that we swiftly, instinctively search for an apt word or descriptive phrase to express our outrage against those who have evoked that anger.

But when we find ourselves reaching for the words and phrases of an epoch which, out of respect for historical accuracy and our dead, we cannot compare to anything – however maddening – we here in Israel face, we need to clamp our lips firmly shut.

The behavior of my friend's workplace superior, infuriating as it undoubtedly was, perhaps even ill-intentioned, cannot be likened to the way the worst of those German-appointed prisoner functionaries treated those in their power.

'IT'S THERE, in our daily discourse – Jews calling other Jews 'Nazis,'" a thoughtful journalist colleague told me recently. "Politicians are careful to avoid using the word. But among non-politicians, it comes out whenever people feel strongly about an issue.


"You hear those on the Left accusing, for example, Avigdor Lieberman of being "a fascist...

you could almost say a Nazi"; while on the Right, it's the forces sent to evacuate illegal outposts that get compared to 'Nazis riding horses into town.' "I've even caught myself doing it," he confessed, "if only in jest."

FEW who followed the disengagement from Gaza in 2005 will forget the heart-rending television footage of Jewish settlements being evacuated – the weeping and pleading of residents with the IDF soldiers who had come to remove them from their homes; the numb disbelief of those who had believed a last-minute miracle would descend to stop it happening, and didn't; the impassioned cursing of and yelling at the generally stoical, often deeply affected Jewish soldiers ordered there to carry out an unenviable task.

Despite violent confrontation between settlers and soldiers in a few settlements, the nation's sympathies were overwhelmingly with those thousands of Jews who had been encouraged by governments of both Right and Left to build their homes in Gush Katif and were then, after making those settlements bloom, forced to leave through no fault of their own.

But at the same time, there was an unconscionable exploitation of Holocaust imagery by settlers that should never have been allowed, described by Sam Ser in an August 25, 2005 feature article titled "A shocking show of hands": "It started with the orange Stars of David that Gaza Strip settlers wore this spring to protest the prospect of being evicted from their homes. It worsened with the announcement by Elei Sinai residents that they would greet soldiers in striped concentration camp-style uniforms. Then a group of teens started protesting restrictions on entry to the Gaza Strip by scrawling their ID numbers on their forearms with black markers, like the tattoos of Holocaust victims...

"But the final straw came in Atzmona, when a settler couple paraded their eight children in front of television cameras, hands raised and wailing, marching from their home. It was an obvious reenactment of the famous photograph of Jews being deported – at rifle-point – from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.

"'Absolutely disgusting,' said Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem bureau chief."

TODAY, it is haredim from the extremist, non- Zionist Eda Haredit group who seem bent on noisily grabbing headlines via destructive demonstrations and the hurling of Holocaust terminology at police.

"Yesterday," wrote Ben Hartman on June 17, "hundreds of haredim took to the streets of the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Ajami [in Jaffa], throwing rocks and bottles and setting trash cans alight to protest a construction project they say will disturb Jewish remains...

"The rioters repeatedly yelled 'Nazis!' 'Hitler' and 'Eichmann' at police officers..." five of whom were wounded trying to control them.

Mainstream haredi figures have refrained from such obscene comparisons – including during last Thursday's passionate but peaceful massive show of haredi support for hassidic parents from Emmanuel jailed for contempt of court following their discriminatory practices at the local Beit Ya'acov girls school.

They haven't followed the lead of Slonim Admor (Grand Rabbi) Rabbi Shmuel Barazovsky, who lamented to his hassidim a week ago: "To take women, mothers and small children, to [force them to] leave their families and be arrested – I think something of the sort hasn't happened in any civilized country since the war in Germany ended."

Whether the Slonim hassidic parents were discriminating against a group of girls at the school because they were Sephardim, or acting out of excessive religious fervor; and whether the court behaved wisely or foolishly in sending those parents to jail is beside the point. Neither side's actions can remotely be compared to those of the Nazis in WWII, and it was the height of shame for any Jewish leader to do so.

FORMER Shas chairman Aryeh Deri has been trying to help solve the Emmanuel crisis. Interviewed on television last Thursday night, he was asked by Channel 2 news anchor Yonit Levy: "Don't you think the haredim's calls of 'Nazi' and comparisons with Nazi Germany are a bit... exaggerated?" Answered Deri: "I think a law should be passed making it a crime to call anyone a Nazi."

I'd guess many viewers agreed with him. And to those claiming such a law would shackle free speech, I would counter that it would be an acceptable price to pay for helping to prevent trivialization of the Holocaust.

As renowned historian Bernard Lewis wrote in Semites and Anti-Semites (1986): "If the Israelis were no better than the Nazis, then it follows that the Nazis were no worse than the Israelis."

'I SEE I shall have to weigh my words carefully when I talk to you," said my media colleague wryly, after calming down following her run-in with that nasty superior.

"Nothing wrong with that," I retorted. "We all need to."








The fear of serious resistance to expulsion orders accounts for the renewed interest in a solution for settlers that would leave many Jewish communities within a Palestinian state.


It is perhaps somberly appropriate to address this issue of settlers remaining in a future Palestinian state one week after a state investigation committee made its final report on the failed resettlement of the Jewish expellees from the Gaza Strip. Five years from the announcement by Ariel Sharon's agitprop that there was a solution for every settler, most of the expellees are still in limbo.

If this was the best the government could do for the 9,000 former residents of Gaza and Northern Samaria, it is hard to expect a superior performance if such a tragedy is revisited on a population that is twentyfold larger. Once the Israeli peace camp could expect international largesse to resettle the expellees, but the current global financial crisis and the prevailing winds of austerity dash such optimism. The fear of serious resistance to expulsion orders also accounts for the renewed interest in a solution that leaves many Jewish communities within a Palestinian state. It will require the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria to make a Hobbesian choice between principle and peril.

The principled and patriotic decision would be for the communities to remain in place. Jewish "sumud" (steadfastness) will demonstrate to the Arabs that Jews are not latter day Crusaders – an alien entity – but are motivated by their religious and historical link to the land of their forefathers.

The sages in the Talmud, perhaps observing a similar predicament in their era, opined that it is preferable for a Jew to live in the land of Israel even in a city with a non-Jewish majority than to live outside it in an ancient version of Borough Park in Brooklyn.


It is also a matter of simple reciprocity. If an Israeli state can be expected to host an Arab minority approaching 20 percent, then a neighboring Palestinian state can be expected to do the same for Jewish communities rather than emptying its territory of Jews.

UNFORTUNATELY, THE issue of principle clashes seriously with the perilous reality on the ground.

There are no prospects whatsoever that would allow a Jewish minority in a Palestinian state to survive and prosper. Jews electing to remain will consign themselves to suffering and probably martyrdom.

And martyrdom in Judaism is a last resort, not the preferred option.

The benign treatment accorded British nationals in the Republic of Ireland once that country had attained its independence will not be revisited in a future Palestine. Observe the fate of Jewish communities throughout the Arab world, where even the minuscule remnants of the Yemenite Jewish community face persecution and mortal danger.

One can also extrapolate from the dwindling Arab Christian communities: persecution by the Muslim majority has made emigration the preferred option; Bethlehem, once a symbol of Arab Christianity, is effectively a Muslim town. If this is the treatment accorded people who share a similar culture and speak the same language, can Jews expect greater benevolence? A newly independent Palestine can be expected to honor Jewish minority rights at best on the level that newly independent Poland adhered to the provisions of the League of Nations minority treaty – i.e., it will ignore them totally. The Kingdom of Jordan imposes a death penalty on anyone convicted of selling land to Jews. In Israel, by contrast, when the chief Rabbi of Safed exhorted Jews not to sell houses to Arabs, the Israeli legal system came down upon him like a ton of bricks.

One may not even have to resort to pogroms.

Dominating the remaining Jewish communities will be mega-mosques with mammoth loudspeakers that will regale the Jews 24/7 with decibelsplitting calls to prayer. Perhaps the new neighbors will be toxic and noxious factories. If the Jews fail to get the message, we will move on to boycotts, violence against property escalating to violence against individuals, followed by abduction, detention and murder. For form's sake, a Palestinian leader may even issue an intermittent denunciation (preferably in English), but the perpetrators will receive an encouraging wink and a reward. The international community will not lift a finger for fear of endangering the "peace process." The voices of progressivism will intone that the settlers brought it on themselves.

Perhaps a Palestinian state may tolerate a supine Jewish minority that will dutifully appear at anti- Zionist demonstrations. The Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria however will not abjure their Zionist beliefs to make this scenario a reality, while the Arabs will not countenance the presence of a Jewish Ahmed Tibi assertive of Jewish minority rights.

This inevitable scenario could be deterred if the Palestinian state feared a crushing military reaction from Israel or violent retribution from the Jewish populace in Israel that would transpose the situation into the Greco-Turkish case of the 1920s or India and Pakistan in 1947, namely a mutual expulsion of minorities. But this eventuality would be thwarted by Israel's human rights cartel and legal establishment, while military conquest will only bring us back to square one in the conflict and perhaps exacerbate it further.

The writer is a foreign policy columnist and commentator for Makor Rishon newspaper and a contributing editor to The Jerusalem Report. This article was first published in and is reprinted with permission.










The past decade has seen a 33 percent drop in the public's faith in the Supreme Court, according to a decade-long University of Haifa study reported on yesterday in Haaretz.


The crisis in confidence is even sharper with regard to the public's faith in the court system itself, and among the ultra-Orthodox and settlers, doubters far outnumber believers.


The study's findings should serve as an alarm bell for anyone concerned about the future of Israeli democracy, the existence of which depends on a strong, independent judiciary. It is easy to pin the public's lack of confidence on judicial foot-dragging or disappointment in specific court rulings. These explanations, however, are too simplistic.


Those primarily responsible for the public's lack of trust are the politicians who have so doggedly striven to weaken the courts. Their battle has been waged on a number of fronts. The government avoids making controversial decisions or follows inequitable policy based on narrow political interests, such as ensuring welfare payments to yeshiva students. Such issues eventually reach the High Court of Justice, and the presiding justices - not the politicians themselves - are then targeted for criticism by the communities affected by their rulings.


The government has conspicuously ignored certain High Court rulings in recent years, and high-ranking politicians have distinguished themselves in slandering the judiciary. Among them were political figures facing criminal charges - from Aryeh Deri to Ehud Olmert - who sought to intimidate investigators, prosecutors and judges hearing their cases. There were also justice ministers like Haim Ramon and Daniel Friedmann who would undermine and denigrate the court system at every opportunity.


Ultra-Orthodox politicians have stepped up their campaign of defying the High Court, peaking with the protest staged by Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush opposite the prison where the parents of students from Immanuel are being held. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a limp reaction to Porush's actions and left him in his post, proving that he values keeping his coalition intact more than the honor of the Supreme Court.


Netanyahu and his partners in government must pull themselves together and give the judicial system the support it needs to operate properly, first and foremost by adhering to its rulings and condemning those who incite against it. Any other reaction will only deepen the current crisis and potentially lead to the destruction of Israeli democracy.









It is almost 30 years since Menachem Begin gave his now famous reply to the administration in Washington, which threatened Israel with punishment over the Knesset's passage of the bill applying Israeli law and administration to the Golan Heights: "Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic?" For many years, Israeli governments have insisted on maintaining a position of proud independence to friend and foe alike. Everyone should know that we are not a banana republic.


Interestingly enough, just as Israel repeatedly defeated its enemies and grew in strength militarily and economically, it began the slide toward behaving as a vassal of the United States. Ten years ago, under pressure from Washington, Israel canceled a large contract for the supply of Phalcon airborne warning and control aircraft to China. The contract had been duly signed, a large down payment had been made, and Chinese president Jiang Zemin, on a visit to Israel, had been assured that the aircraft would be delivered. But shortly after he returned to China the contract was peremptorily canceled under pressure from Washington.


It was a blow to the close relationship that had developed between Israel and China, and the Chinese leadership, wise to the ways of the world, concluded that Israel was not really independent.


But with Benjamin Netanyahu's second government and Barack Obama's entry into the White House, things have gone from bad to worse. After Obama's Cairo speech, Netanyahu announced, despite his pre-election platform, that he favored the establishment of a Palestinian state. This was followed by the government's decision, contrary to pre-election promises, to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria for 10 months. The humiliation of Netanyahu during his visit to the White House resulted in a decision effectively freezing construction in parts of Jerusalem.


And now after the interception by the Israel Navy of the flotilla of boats that tried to break the blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, the Israeli government, under pressure from the White House, established an investigative committee including international observers. The composition of the committee was not announced until it had been approved by Washington. That set a record for Israeli subservience to Washington. One wonders what will come next.


Not that one should deal lightly with the subject of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. It is an important component of Israel's strategic posture. At least some of Israel's deterrent capability rests on the assumption that the United States would support Israel in any conflict with its enemies.


Therefore the question needs to be addressed: Does Israeli subservience to the United States really strengthen that relationship? After all, that relationship has been built up over many years on a foundation of common ideals, values and common interests. A relationship that has stood the test of time and many differences of opinion over the years, and that has been beneficial to both nations.


Now that the Obama administration has decided to raise the profile of the differences of opinion that existed for many years, Israel giving in to Washington's demands may momentarily assuage tempers in Washington. But the emphasis is on momentarily. Additional demands will be coming, and if they are not accommodated the situation may worsen. In Jonathan Alter's book "The Promise" on Obama's first year in the White House, Obama is quoted as saying: "I know how to handle Netanyahu." And after a year of dealing with him, Obama probably gives himself a good score on this subject.


Has the government's policy of giving in to Washington's demands strengthened the relationship between the two nations? It certainly does not seem that way at the moment. And what if the Israeli government had stuck by its positions - would that have resulted in a crisis? Or by sticking to its principles when vital Israeli interests were at stake, would the Israeli leadership have gained respect in Washington? The jury is still out on this question.


But it is clear that Israeli subservience to American demands does not strengthen Israel's image in the eyes of its enemies and in the capitals of Europe and Asia. The net result of this Israeli policy in recent years is negative. Add to that, and not least important, how Israelis feel about themselves in light of this subservience. After having attained independence at great sacrifice, and having gotten used to a democratically elected leadership determining the nation's course of action, it is a blow to our self-esteem to see our leaders obeying orders that come from abroad.









Something very strange has happened to the Knesset Education Committee headed by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi ). From a committee that is supposed to oversee the government's activities in education, it is turning into a tribunal that summons everyone whose opinions and activities it does not like and brands them with moral turpitude. Apparently chairman Orlev enjoys using the committee to develop an agenda and a new role for himself: the national alarmist.


The following are just some of many examples. Last November, Orlev convened the committee to discuss civics studies in the wake of a report by the (rightist ) Institute for Zionist Strategies, on the grounds that the curriculum emphasizes democracy and does not stress that Israel is a Jewish nation-state. "Israeli children," said Orlev in his summation of the discussion, "are being educated in an inappropriate way ... in democracy studies .... There is a leftist, liberal and universalist bias in civics studies."


In February this year, Orlev adopted the Im Tirtzu organization's "inquiry" into the New Israel Fund - and this time he was even more extreme. The left, he said, referring to Meretz, has become a body that "apart from concern for human rights hardly deals at all with Zionism and values. Worse than that, according to the inquiry, they seek the elimination of the State of Israel. They are defaming the country, just as the spies in the Book of Joshua did."


Since then, apparently Im Tirtzu's heads have become the main academic-educational referents for the Knesset Education Committee, whose members convene frequently and urgently for discussions about betrayal of the homeland. In this spirit the committee's MKs have considered firing "leftist" school principals and have lashed out at university lecturers who, according to an Im Tirtzu report, "are maintaining a reign of leftist terror in academia." They have also rebuked lecturers and stoked a witch hunt against them.


In this context they reprimanded the Holon municipality for "a street exhibition that shows Israel Defense Forces soldiers harming Palestinian children." The transcript of this discussion, from January this year, should be taught in the new Jewish civics lesson. Municipality representatives tried to explain that the picture in question was an advertising poster for an exhibition marking the anniversary of the Geneva Convention, that the photograph expressed the opinion of the photographer and that the right to consider what to show in exhibitions was reserved for the municipality.


However, Im Tirtzu's heads determined that this was "cynical exploitation of freedom of speech with the aim of promoting a campaign of slander and lies against IDF soldiers and Israel ... We contacted the interior minister, and he reacted with contempt and said there is no scope for funding exhibitions by the local authorities ... If you want to disseminate your lies, do it with funding from the European Union."


For his part, Orlev asked whether the picture in question wasn't anti-Semitic incitement against Israeli soldiers. When he did not get a satisfactory answer he concluded that while it is necessary to praise Holon for its cultural contribution, the committee protests against the showing of the exhibition and there will be a further discussion. He also castigated the IDF, which preferred to remain outside the debate, and promised that "the committee will insist that an IDF representative take part in the next discussion."


It seems Orlev, who until a few years ago came across as the moderate representative of the national religious camp, has realized that if he wants a political life his positions have to change with the spirit of the times. In light of the takeover of his community by the ultra-Orthodox national religious (hardali ) spirit, this should come as no surprise. The "values" of violence the hardalis are perpetrating in the national religious education system and all the branches of the religious establishment is sending moderates scuttling into deep cover so nothing bad will happen to them and their families. It is forcing women to cover their entire bodies and compelling children to lie about the way of life in their homes.


Ostensibly, this an internal religious matter. In fact, it is seeping into Israeli society in its entirety and corrupting it. Orlev's McCarthyist energy is a way for him to survive at the head of Habayit Hayehudi. But it means that the Knesset committee is not dealing with matters of education but rather is branding enemies of the people.


In this process it is making no distinctions between trends and views, but rather is adopting the deceptive dichotomy of the Im Tirtzu people and their ilk between "loyal" and "traitor," and between "Zionist" and "anti-Zionist." In this way they have made Orlev, who speaks pleasantly in the name of national unity, and his colleagues on the Knesset Education Committee into the vanguard leading the crushing of Israeli democracy.









If a policeman had witnessed the hit-and-run accident that took the life of cyclist Shneor Cheshin on Friday, would he have killed the driver after catching him? Of course not. But on Friday, June 11, in broad daylight in the middle of a residential neighborhood, a policeman killed a driver who ran into - but did not kill - pedestrians: police officers on foot.


The killing was buried immediately in the giant cemetery called "of no interest to the Israeli public." Why? Because all this happened in a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem (Wadi Joz ), and because the driver's name was Ziad Jilani.


Until his case is decided in court, Tal Mor is rightfully deemed "the suspect in Cheshin's killing." But Jilani was treated to a lightning trial: He was convicted on the spot of intending to carry out a terror attack because the people hurt by his car were Israeli policemen. They chased him as one chases someone defined as a terrorist, while shooting (first in the air, but then in a way that endangered passersby. In fact, a 5-year-old girl sitting in a parked car was injured ).


And then, when he was lying on the ground shot, according to witnesses, he also took two bullets to the head. That is, between the second the man was indicted for intending to run people over in a terror attack, and until the moment a gun was allegedly pressed right up to his head and the trigger pulled, the Border Police on the scene were victims, witnesses, prosecutors, judges and executioners.


The Border Police spokesperson wrote to Haaretz: "Citizens have been killed and dozens injured by vehicle terror attacks that occurred in Jerusalem from 2008 to 2009. The lives of other innocent citizens were saved thanks to the intervention of police, Border Police combatants and civilians who neutralized the perpetrators and prevented more killing. The latest running-over incident ... only by a miracle ended without combatant fatalities. In this case as well, the perpetrator was neutralized after he tried to flee the scene against the law."


When Jilani fled his vehicle into a dead-end alley, did he endanger the lives of civilians? Did the police fear that the Palestinian (after all, they were certain he was not Jewish ) would harm Palestinians in the heart of that Palestinian neighborhood, so they had to "neutralize" him? Who knows, maybe so. Perhaps that was the reason they fired at him when he got out of his car and they chased him, lest he pull a pistol or an assault rifle out of his pants and attack innocent passersby, Palestinians like him.


Down the alley, near his uncle's house, there were no police at the time who could be endangered by a potential weapon or an explosives belt. When he was already lying prone on the ground, apparently injured in his leg, back and arm, were the approaching police still afraid he would draw a rifle and kill them? So that's why they did not bother handcuffing him?


They call the Border Police "combatants," going around the streets of East Jerusalem with their long rifles and helmets. Against whom and why are they doing combat there, between a butcher shop, two vegetable stores, a laundry, a car-repair shop and a sidewalk that serves as a playground?


Israeli police, whatever they are called, are sent to the streets of East Jerusalem as enforcers of government and municipal policy. It is that same policy of intentional discrimination that has brought 65 percent of the 303,429 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem below the poverty line (double the number of poor Jews in the city ) and 74 percent of Palestinian children below that line.


The police serve the government that since 1967 has expropriated 24,000 dunams (8,000 acres ) of land from Palestinians and over the years has built more than 50,000 housing units on it - for Jews only. Police accompany the bulldozers that demolish homes built, for lack of choice, without permits.


It should come as no shock that police feel hostility toward them in the occupied city. Perhaps that is the reason they did not stop and think: It might have been a brake malfunction, the man might have lost his senses or not have been aware of police and border police procedures for opening fire. The reasons Jilani ran into the police could have been brought to light in court.


But they chose, allegedly, to return him to his family with his face imploded after being hit by two bullets, apparently fired into his right cheek. The bullets did not even have a place to come out because, lying there, his left cheek was on the asphalt. Neutralize means eliminate.









Embedded in his criticism of anchorman Yair Lapid, Aluf Benn considered it proper to critique the need for a constitution in Israel, and particularly the Israel Democracy Institute's proposal for one ("A danger called constitution," Haaretz, June 16 ).


Those who are not sensitive to human rights, and especially the human rights of minorities, won't find it difficult to agree with Benn. However, as he positions himself on the other side - the correct side of the divide - of those who care about civil rights, a question quickly arises: Is it possible to ensure human and civil rights without a constitution? That is its main purpose, after all, which is carried out via a document outlining human rights and through judiciary supervision over legislation.


Without a constitution, the majority, in line with the rules of formal democracy, can discriminate against the minority and even strip it of its rights.


This concern does not lack a basis. Suffice it for us to remember the bills that come up once in a while, threatening to destroy the soul of Israeli democracy, and the waves of hatred directed against the Supreme Court whenever it fulfills its duty.


The fact that some totalitarian regimes have beautiful constitutions in theory, but which have no influence in practice, does not suggest that constitutions are by nature irrelevant. In democracies, a constitution can significantly influence the protection of human rights, as can be seen for example by studying the history of the United States and German history after World War II. There is no reason to think that the wisdom of the Gentiles in this matter is something to be sneered at.


The argument that both David Ben-Gurion and Ariel Sharon stuck to a no-constitution tradition proves nothing, because it is doubtful whether either had a genuine commitment to human rights or the rights of minority groups.


Obviously an Israeli constitution must be a good constitution. It is also obvious that no constitution in Israel will enjoy significant support without compromises being made. Therefore anyone who opposes compromise opposes a constitution and prefers the current situation in which the anti-liberal majority can do away with the liberal dimension of our democracy.


The debate over the Israel Democracy Institute's constitution proposal must be based on an accurate presentation of what is being proposed. The institute does suggest - not as part of the constitution - the closing of shopping malls on Saturdays (while pushing for a two-day weekend ). But this is only within a framework of consent in which culture and entertainment, as well as limited public transport, will be available on Saturdays.


The Democracy Institute's proposed constitution does not perpetuate rabbis' control over marriage and divorce. It leaves this matter to a political decision. Only a person willing to risk breaking down the court entirely will support a decision by the judiciary on such a loaded issue.


The institute does, however, suggest establishing a separate body for registering civil partnerships. Saying that such a body is a handicap remains in the eye of the beholder. In my view it is an appropriate solution in the framework of the exigencies of compromise: for those who wish to be married outside the religious court. This would clearly amount to a substantial improvement over the existing situation.


Anyone who believes that the Israel Democracy Institute's proposal is not the best compromise possible is welcome to offer an alternative, as long as it is acceptable for part of the religious community.




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




Until this week, Gen. Stanley McChrystal had a reputation for fierce self-discipline. That makes his hugely undisciplined comments in Rolling Stone magazine — including derisive quotes from his aides about Vice President Joseph Biden and other top officials — all the more puzzling and disturbing.


After reading the article, the first question that comes to mind: What could he possibly have been thinking? Followed closely by: Can, or should, President Obama trust him after this?


The news from Afghanistan is bad and getting worse. Back in Washington, the Obama team is still battling — months after the president committed another 30,000 troops — over how deeply to invest in the war.


Mr. Obama, who summoned General McChrystal to the White House on Wednesday, must either fire his top commander or send him immediately back into the field with a clear mandate to do his job. He must order all of his top advisers to stop their sniping and maneuvering and come up with a coherent political and military plan for driving back the Taliban and building a minimally effective Afghan government.


The Rolling Stone article doesn't suggest any serious policy disagreements between the president and General McChrystal. But the general's quotes about others are both arrogant and indiscreet. He is depicted groaning after receiving "not another e-mail" from Richard Holbrooke, the White House's top civilian adviser on Afghanistan. He makes clear his contempt for the American ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, accusing the retired lieutenant general of covering "his flank for the history books" with a leaked cable questioning General McChrystal's favored counterinsurgency strategy.


The most incendiary quotes, the ones that have drawn the White House's fury, predictably have no names attached to them. "One aide" describes James Jones, a retired general and the president's national security adviser, as "a clown" who remains "stuck in 1985." A "top adviser" is even more insulting about Vice President Biden, who opposed sending more troops to Afghanistan. An unnamed "adviser" says that "the Boss" was "disappointed" with his first one-on-one meeting with President Obama, who "didn't seem very engaged."


General McChrystal has not tried to disavow his quotes or those by his aides. In a statement, he apologized for the profile that he said reflected "poor judgment and should never have happened." That is true.


All of this is a huge distraction at a time when no one involved in the Afghan war can afford to be distracted.


Instead of answering questions about his media strategy, General McChrystal should be explaining what went wrong with his first major offensive in Marja and how he plans to do better in Kandahar. Instead of General McChrystal having to apologize to Mr. Holbrooke and Mr. Eikenberry, they all should be working a lot harder to come up with a plan for managing relations with Afghanistan's deeply flawed president, Hamid Karzai.


Whatever President Obama decides to do about General McChrystal, he needs to get hold of his Afghanistan policy right now.






It was bad enough when the Senate left town for a long Memorial Day break without passing a bill to extend expiring unemployment benefits. It's worse now.


Back in session for nearly three weeks, the Senate still has not acted. That means that 900,000 jobless workers have already lost their benefits, a number that will swell to an estimated 1.6 million people if an extension is not passed by the July Fourth holiday. Lost benefits — the average check is $309 a week — deprives struggling Americans of cash they need for buying food, paying the rent or mortgage and other essentials.


All indications are that when the Senate finally does pass a bill, it will be stingy and cynical — hacking away at jobless benefits and fiscal aid to cash-strapped states, while preserving tax breaks for the wealthy and other well-connected political donors.


The problem, as always, is getting 60 votes to overcome hurdles imposed by the Republican minority. But Republicans aren't the only culprits here.


Passage was delayed last week as several Democratic senators — including John Kerry of Massachusetts, Mark Warner of Virginia and Maria Cantwell of Washington — worked to water down a provision in the bill that would have largely closed an unfair loophole that benefits rich fund managers in investment partnerships. Unfortunately, the senators seem to have won that fight.


This has led to even more maneuvering. Senator Olympia Snowe, a Republican of Maine, is now trying to eliminate another tax provision in the bill. The provision, which would raise roughly $9 billion over 10 years, would stop owners of some small corporations from overpaying themselves in profits and underpaying themselves in salary to lessen their payroll taxes.


At the same time, many lawmakers — mostly Republicans, but not all — are claiming that extending jobless benefits and aid to states is simply too costly. That may sound like good politics, but it is very bad economics. If the government fails to keep spending when the economy is weak, especially on core safety-net issues, it will only worsen unemployment and impede the chances of recovery.


Neither basic economics nor basic decency seems to matter. To win votes for passage, the Democratic leadership has agreed to drop the extra $25 a week that was added to unemployment benefits last year as part of the stimulus package. That would cut $6 billion from the roughly $40 billion it would cost to extend benefits through November. Senate leaders also are considering sizable cuts to the bill's proposed $24 billion aid package for the states.


It's unclear if even those cutbacks will be enough to win passage. What is clear is that unemployment is high, the safety net is frayed and the Senate has other priorities than helping struggling Americans.







President Obama told health insurers on Tuesday not to use health care reform as an excuse to raise the cost of premiums. The warning is timely. With critics still scare-mongering about the supposed cost of reform, insurers in several states have been seeking double-digit premium increases that look hard to justify as necessary to keep up with medical inflation.


The president acknowledged that there are a lot of factors driving up the cost of care. The health insurers have certainly perpetrated a lot of abuses over the years. But at least when it comes to who is responsible for relentlessly rising health care costs, that falls more on the hospitals, doctors and other providers who charge high prices and deliver more services than are medically necessary, and on the drug- and device-makers who push their most expensive products.


Even so, it will be important to monitor insurance rate increases carefully. And the Obama administration must be prepared to push hard. Unfortunately, the reform law did not give the federal government the power to regulate premiums. It did provide some weaker tools to help keep insurance costs down: new rules requiring companies to publicly identify the reasons for unreasonable rate increases; new exchanges where insurers will have to compete for business; and a new office and grant program to help state regulators evaluate and contest proposed rate increases.


The president also unveiled new regulations effective this year that should end some of the insurance companies' worst practices, such as rescinding policies for frivolous reasons after a person becomes sick; he thanked the industry for dropping this tactic earlier than required. He listed a number of other benefits that consumers will see soon, including a ban on lifetime coverage limits.


Mr. Obama vowed to defend the new law against Republican efforts to repeal or weaken it. He still needs to ignite strong popular support for reforms that could transform the American health care system. Requiring insurers to play fair is part of that effort.











In the woods the other day — redwoods and coastal oaks — I stopped to listen to a Swainson's thrush, a bird more often heard than seen. Usually its song is tempered by distance, its maker hidden in the understory. But this thrush was standing on a fallen limb right in front of me. The physical effort of its singing seemed so slight — head tilting, beak parting — compared with the quantity of its delicate, laddering song.


Listening, I found myself wondering about Swainson and how his name became attached to this bird, and to the hawk and warbler that bear it, too. It seems odd to think of this thrush — so much itself — tagged, honorifically, with the name of a 19th-century ornithologist. But perhaps that's no odder than the whole of Swainson's industrious human life reduced to the name of a nondescript thrush, uttered almost without thinking by generations of birders.


It's always this way with species. You go searching for their identity and end up entangled in thickets of human knowledge and language. I think of the effort to describe, in human phrases, the Swainson's thrush's song. According to the Birds of North America Online, the phonetic description goes, whip-poor-will-a-will-e-zee-zee-zee. Perhaps uttered by a more flamboyant soul than me, those syllables come out thrushlike. But I cannot imitate the bird. I admire the song for its otherness as much as its familiarity.


When it comes to identifying bird songs, I'm a little like a novice speaker of a foreign language. I'd like to pretend that I can think in French, but I can't, not without thinking, "I'm thinking in French." I'd like to have the intuitive ease of hearing the thrush's song and not have to say inwardly, "a Swainson's thrush" as I recognize it.


That same afternoon I watched a pair of ravens speaking to each other, one from the top of a Douglas fir, the other hidden in the shadows of an oak. Unlike the thrush, which liberates its song, a raven seems to mouth its voicings. I heard declarative statements and a few interrogatives, some almost philosophical in nature. Then the ravens hoisted themselves on the breeze, circling and making a low arc over where I sat. They peered down as if to see how well trained I was and whether I'd laid out any food.








So this general with the background in intelligence who is supposed to conquer Afghanistan can't even figure out what Rolling Stone is? We're not talking Guns & Ammo here; we're talking the antiwar hippie magazine.


Military guys are rarely as smart as they think they are, and they've never gotten over the fact that civilians run the military.


Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his hard-bitten, smart-aleck aides nuked the president, vice president and other top advisers as wimps, losers and clowns in a Rolling Stone profile meant to polish the general's image.


It was a product of the warrior-god culture, four-star generals with their own public-relations teams, that came from Gen. David Petraeus. And the towel-snapping was intensified by the fact that McChrystal used to be a tough special-ops, under-cover-of-the-night, rules-don't-apply-to-us military guy.


It was bad enough to infuriate even the placid president, who had already told McChrystal to keep his head down once after the infamous London speech, and who was left wondering where those military core values of loyalty, commitment and patriotism were.


As he summoned his top commander in Afghanistan to explain himself, President Obama said that his general used "poor judgment" in the derisive way he spoke, and let his aides speak, to writer Michael Hastings. But aren't we relying on McChrystal's good judgment, putting more lives and billions on the line, to get us out of our ghost war?


It's just another sign of the complete incoherence of Afghan policy. The people in charge are divided against each other. And the policy is divided against itself. We're fighting a war against an enemy that we're desperately trying to co-opt and win over in a country where Al Qaeda, which was supposed to be the enemy, is no longer based.


Even our corrupt puppet doesn't think we can prevail. As Dexter Filkins recently reported in The Times, Hamid Karzai told two former Afghan officials that he had lost faith in the Americans and was trying to strike his own deal with the Taliban and Pakistan.


Afghanistan is more than the "graveyard of empires." It's the mother of vicious circles.


McChrystal's defenders at the Pentagon were making the case Tuesday that the president and his men — (the McChrystal snipers spared Hillary) — must put aside their hurt feelings about being painted as weak sisters. Obama should not fire the serially insubordinate general, they reasoned, because that would undermine the mission in Afghanistan, and if that happens, then Obama would be further weakened.


So the commander in chief can be bad-mouthed as weak by the military but then he can't punish the military because that would make him weak? It's the same sort of pass-the-Advil vicious circle reasoning the military always uses.


McChrystal publicly pressured Obama to do the surge, warning that without it, Afghanistan would be "Chaos-istan." But the president did do the surge and Afghanistan is Chaos-istan.


The surge isn't working. But if it did start working, Hastings's article suggests, the military might ask for a new surge next summer.


McChrystal warns his troops about "insurgent math" — for each innocent you kill, you make 10 enemies. Yet we keep killing and making more enemies.


The Taliban, McChrystal told Hastings, no longer has the initiative — "but I don't think we do, either."


After nine years, more than a thousand troops dead, and hundreds of billions spent that could have been put toward developing new forms of fuel so that all our miseries and all our fun doesn't derive from oil, we've fought our way to a stalemate.


McChrystal painted a vicious circle around his commander in chief. As Stars and Stripes summed it up: "Fire Gen. Stanley McChrystal and risk looking like he's lost control of the war in Afghanistan. Or keep him and risk looking like he's lost control of his generals."


The lean McChrystal, who was dubbed a Jedi warrior by Newsweek, prides himself on his Spartan style. He banned alcohol and Burger King from the Kabul headquarters compound and only eats one meal a day.


But he has met his match in Afghan warriors, who have clobbered every foreign invader since Alexander the Great. The average Afghan fighter lives on grain, a bowl of rice, a bottle of water. How much does it cost by comparison to have a foreign soldier in Afghanistan?


McChrystal never should have been hired for this job given the outrageous cover-up he participated in after the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman. He was lucky to keep the job after his "Seven Days in May" stunt in London last year when he openly lobbied and undercut the president on the surge.


But with the latest sassing, and the continued Sisyphean nature of the surge he urged, McChrystal should offer his resignation. He should try subordination for a change.








Gen. Stanley McChrystal's trashing of his civilian colleagues was unprofessional and may cost him his job. If so, it will be a sad end to a fine career. But no general is indispensable. What is indispensable is that when taking America surging deeper into war in Afghanistan, President Obama has to be able to answer the most simple questions at a gut level: Do our interests merit such an escalation and do I have the allies to achieve victory? President Obama never had good answers for these questions, but he went ahead anyway. The ugly truth is that no one in the Obama White House wanted this Afghan surge. The only reason they proceeded was because no one knew how to get out of it — or had the courage to pull the plug. That is not a sufficient reason to take the country deeper into war in the most inhospitable terrain in the world. You know you're in trouble when you're in a war in which the only party whose objectives are clear, whose rhetoric is consistent and whose will to fight never seems to diminish is your enemy: the Taliban.


President Obama is not an Afghan expert. Few people are. But that could have been his strength. The three questions he needed to ask about Afghanistan were almost childlike in their simplicity. Yet Obama either failed to ask them or went ahead, nevertheless, because he was afraid he would have been called a wimp by Republicans if he hadn't.


The first question was hiding in plain sight: Why do we have to recruit and train our allies, the Afghan Army, to fight? That is like someone coming to you with a plan to recruit and train Brazilian boys to play soccer.


If there is one thing Afghan males should not need to be trained to do, it's to engage in warfare. That may be the only thing they all know how to do after 30 years of civil war and centuries of resisting foreign powers. After all, who is training the Taliban? They've been fighting the U.S. Army to a draw — and many of their commanders can't even read.


It is not about the way. It is about the will. I have said this before, and I will say it again: The Middle East only puts a smile on your face when it starts with them. The Camp David peace treaty started with Israelis and Egyptians meeting in secret — without us. The Oslo peace process started with Israelis and Palestinians meeting in secret — without us. The Sunni tribal awakening in Iraq against pro-Al Qaeda forces started with them — without us. When it starts with them, when they assume ownership, our military and diplomatic support can be a huge multiplier, as we've seen in Iraq and at Camp David.


Ownership is everything in business, war and diplomacy. People will fight with sticks and stones and no training at all for a government they feel ownership of. When they — Israelis, Palestinians, Afghans, Iraqis — assume ownership over a policy choice, everything is possible, particularly the most important thing of all: that what gets built becomes self-sustaining without us. But when we want it more than they do, nothing is self-sustaining, and they milk us for all we're worth. I simply don't see an Afghan "awakening" in areas under Taliban control. And without that, at scale, nothing we build will be self-sustaining.


That leads to the second question: If our strategy is to use U.S. forces to clear the Taliban and help the Afghans put in place a decent government so they can hold what is cleared, how can that be done when President Hamid Karzai, our principal ally, openly stole the election and we looked the other way? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others in the administration told us not to worry: Karzai would have won anyway; he's the best we've got; she knew how to deal with him and he would come around. Well, I hope that happens. But my gut tells me that when you don't call things by their real name, you get in trouble. Karzai stole the election, and we said: No problem, we're going to build good governance on the back of the Kabul mafia.


Which brings up the third simple question, the one that made me most opposed to this surge: What do we win if we win? At least in Iraq, if we eventually produce a decent democratizing government, we will, at enormous cost, have changed the politics in a great Arab capital in the heart of the Arab Muslim world. That can have wide resonance. Change Afghanistan at enormous cost and you've changed Afghanistan — period. Afghanistan does not resonate.


Moreover, Al Qaeda is in Pakistan today — or, worse, in the soul of thousands of Muslim youth from Bridgeport, Conn., to London, connected by "The Virtual Afghanistan": the Internet. If Al Qaeda cells returned to Afghanistan, they could be dealt with by drones, or special forces aligned with local tribes. It would not be perfect, but perfect is not on the menu in Afghanistan.


My bottom line: The president can bring Ulysses S. Grant back from the dead to run the Afghan war. But when you can't answer the simplest questions, it is a sign that you're somewhere you don't want to be and your only real choices are lose early, lose late, lose big or lose small.








ON Tuesday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, was called back to Washington to explain disparaging comments he and his aides made to a Rolling Stone reporter about senior administration officials. The general's ill-advised remarks, which have prompted him to prepare a letter of resignation, will only feed the general sense of despair and impatience that Americans seem to feel about our progress in Afghanistan.


When President Obama announced last year the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the expectation was that progress would be as rapid as it seemed to be during our earlier surge in Iraq, where violence fell more than 70 percent from 2007 to 2008. But only about 21,000 of the reinforcements have arrived; the rest won't be in place until the end of August. Any suggestion that the war is lost is ludicrously premature, and it could prove just as wrong as the naysaying in early 2007 that the Iraq surge had failed at a time when it had barely begun.


It's important to remember that in Iraq the turnaround didn't occur overnight: as a direct consequence of the surge, April, May and June 2007 were among the highest-casualty months of the war. So, too, we are now seeing more killed and wounded among coalition forces and Afghans. Increased casualties are obviously not good news, but they aren't necessarily a sign of impending disaster. They could be the price of victory.


There are also significant differences between the two situations that need to be kept in mind. By the time of the Iraq surge, the United States had been fighting with at least 140,000 troops for most of the previous four years. We have been in Afghanistan longer — almost nine years — but still don't have 100,000 troops there and won't for a few months.


What's more, thanks to our larger commitment in Iraq, by 2007 the enemy had suffered considerable attrition, the civilian population had been exhausted and the United States had shown the will to prevail. These factors were crucial in bringing about the Anbar Awakening, when the Sunni tribes turned against the insurgency. While the Taliban are just as unpopular as the Iraqi militants were — only 6 percent of the population want them back in power — it will still take more time to convince the people of Afghanistan that it's safe to turn against them.


Iraq was also much more violent. Last year 2,259 civilians were killed in Afghanistan. Compare that with 34,500 civilians killed in Iraq in the pre-surge year of 2006 — 15 times as many. And not only was there more violence in Iraq, but much of it was concentrated in Baghdad, so it was easier to show rapid progress by flooding the zone with troops.


In Afghanistan, the violence is much more diffuse, making it harder to measure security gains. Indeed, until recently, many parts of southern Afghanistan had barely seen an American soldier, and there are still critical areas where the Americans lack sufficient troop density to impose their will.


That leaves the news media free to focus on bad news, of which there is no shortage. In recent days, we have been reading about General McChrystal's gaffes; the continuing insecurity in Marja, which Marines entered in February; and the assassination of an important district governor.


Such concerns are valid, but as the head of Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, recently pointed out, what

the public doesn't see is what NATO forces have been doing behind the scenes to create the right "inputs" to carry out a "comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaign." Much of this has involved making sure that troops are operating in ways that will win over, not alienate, the populace.


Top-notch American officers have also been brought in to rejigger an unwieldy NATO command structure. A three-star general, David Rodriguez, was appointed to supervise daily operations in Afghanistan, as Raymond Odierno did for General Petraeus in Iraq in 2007. (General Rodriguez would be the obvious choice for the top job if General McChrystal is fired.)


A new two-star Regional Command Southwest has also been set up to run operations in Helmand Province, enabling the existing Regional Command South to focus its attention on Kandahar. Such bureaucratic shuffling isn't glamorous, but it can set the conditions for future success.


Just as important is the new NATO training mission, under Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, that was set up to supervise the expansion of the Afghan security forces. Thanks to its efforts, the Afghan police and army have grown from 156,000 men in January 2009 to more than 231,000 today, and their quality has improved through intensive mentoring.


The biggest difficulty in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, remains the lack of an effective, accountable government. General McChrystal is starting to address that issue, using intelligence assets to uncover corruption and setting up a new task force to monitor coalition contractors.


Some people will argue that the presence of President Hamid Karzai, who is linked to dirty dealings and predatory officials, makes this an impossible mission. But many of Mr. Karzai's actions (like his decision to fire his interior minister and his intelligence chief, two of the most effective and pro-American members of his cabinet) can be seen as a natural reaction to Mr. Obama's pledge to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011. If you were the president of Afghanistan and you believed that your main ally was abandoning you within a year, you too would be looking to cut deals with the Taliban and various warlords to assure your survival.


In fact, for all of the well-founded concerns about Mr. Karzai, he did display effective leadership at a meeting with local Kandahar leaders on June 13, where he raised popular support to drive the Taliban out of the largest city in the south. Mr. Karzai and other Afghans would be willing to do even more if President Obama were to make clear that our troops will stay in Afghanistan long enough to assure its success as a stable democracy.


By letting his aides mouth off to a reporter, General McChrystal has displayed a potentially fatal lack of media savvy. But he deserves credit for energizing a lethargic command and putting in place the right strategy to turn around a failing war effort. Whether or not he carries it out, his plan can work. We just need to give it a little time.


Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is writing a history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.










IRRESPECTIVE of anything he said, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, committed a clear breach of traditional standards by even agreeing to give an interview to Rolling Stone magazine. Presidents and defense secretaries make policy decisions, and military officers, from the lowest to the highest ranks, are obliged to follow orders without public comment. To be sure, civilian authorities ask military chiefs for private counsel on the best means to fight a war, but final decisions on grand strategy are the responsibility of the president. If a top officer feels strongly that his commander in chief is mistaken, he can resign and take his case to the public as a private citizen.


The precedents are clear. During World War II, Gen. George C. Marshall, the country's highest-ranking officer, was so determined to stay out of politics that he made a point of refusing to laugh at President Franklin D. Roosevelt's jokes. It was Marshall's way of preventing his being co-opted by a president who might wish to use him for political purposes. And Marshall was of course discreet about what advice he gave the president.


In the fallout from General McChrystal's remarks, many have pointed out that when Gen. Douglas MacArthur publicly defied President Harry S. Truman over how to fight the Chinese in Korea, the president fired him. Indeed, MacArthur had crossed a line, and Truman knew he could not be allowed to set a precedent. "If there is one basic element in our Constitution, it is civilian control of the military," Truman later wrote. "If I allowed him to defy the civil authorities in this manner, I myself would be violating my oath to uphold and defend the Constitution."


General McChrystal, however, is not Douglas MacArthur. His misdeed was not an insubordinate demand for a change in grand strategy. Rather, it seems more like a few mindless expressions of irritation at higher authority in a magazine he probably never reads: snidely mocking Vice President Joe Biden with the comment "Biden ... Who's that?"; complaining about frequent e-mail messages from the administration's special representative to the Afghan war area, Richard Holbrooke.


Couldn't one dismiss these remarks as relatively harmless examples of poor taste by a general burdened with a difficult, if not unwinnable, war? If so, the appropriate punishment might be a public slap on the hand. That would certainly insulate President Obama from accusations that he was overreacting to a misstep by a good soldier who has already apologized.


If only things were that simple. It is impossible to believe that General McChrystal didn't know exactly what he was doing. Surely he understood that an interview with a left-of-center magazine would produce headlines across the country. He was reading the president the riot act.


So, while this was not the sort of overt defiance that MacArthur challenged Truman with, it was defiance nonetheless. And the only fitting punishment is dismissal.


There is, in fact, a better historical analogy than the MacArthur controversy: President Roosevelt's approach to Gen. Joseph Stilwell, the top American commander in East Asia during World War II. Stilwell never openly defied the president (except in the privacy of his diary, where he was scathing). He did, however, treat Chiang Kai-shek, China's Nationalist leader, disrespectfully, even calling the generalissimo "the Peanut."


Roosevelt, who believed it was essential to keep Chiang and his armies in the war against Japan, complained that Stilwell could not treat Chiang "the way we might ... the Sultan of Morocco." The president removed Stilwell from command — not because he had directly defied the White House's authority, but because he had lost his usefulness as an instrument of the president's policy.


The same now is the case in Afghanistan. The president will surely take heat if he replaces McChrystal, and critics are already claiming that any reshuffling at the top will make it impossible to begin drawing down American forces next July, as the president has promised. In fact, the opposite is the case: the best way to ensure that we keep to the timetable is to designate a top commander who will closely follow the lead of his commander in chief.


Robert Dallek is the author of the forthcoming history "The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and

Hope, 1945-1953."








IF Abraham Lincoln's experience is any guide, Gen. Stanley McChrystal's fate will be determined by President Obama's judgment of how his firing would affect the war in Afghanistan.


For months during the Civil War, Lincoln chose to ignore insolent behavior by Gen. George McClellan, who served at times as the commander of the Army of the Potomac and the general in chief of the Union Army, arguing that his breaches of protocol were worth tolerating as long as he was exerting a positive influence on his forces.

For example, one night in 1861, Lincoln went with his secretary of state, William Seward, and his young aide John Hay to McClellan's house. Told that the general was out, the three waited in the parlor for an hour. When McClellan arrived home, the porter told him the president was there, but McClellan passed by the parlor and climbed the stairs to his private quarters. After a half hour more, Lincoln again sent word, only to be informed that the general had gone to sleep.


Hay was enraged, writing in his diary of the "insolence of epaulettes" and "the threatened supremacy of the military authorities." To Hay's astonishment, Lincoln "seemed not to have noticed it specially, saying it was better at this time not to be making points of etiquette and personal dignity." He would hold McClellan's horse, he'd once said, if a victory could be achieved.


McClellan's bad behavior did not end. In letters to his wife, he regularly referred to Lincoln as "the original gorilla." He considered the cabinet "some of the greatest geese I have ever seen," and called Seward "a meddling, officious, incompetent little puppy." Still, Lincoln kept him on.


When a critic in Congress demanded McClellan's firing, Lincoln asked who should replace the general. "Why, anybody," the senator replied. "Anybody will do for you," Lincoln said, "but not for me. I must have somebody."


So McClellan remained, until in November 1862 Lincoln finally lost faith in his commander's commitment to the mission, his fighting spirit and his ability to prosecute the war to ultimate victory. Only then did he fire "the young Napoleon."


Doris Kearns Goodwin is the author of "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln."











Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, isn't the first American general to vent frustration with his superiors, but he might be the most thorough. In a Rolling Stone profile that could cost the general his job as soon as today, McChrystal and his top aides fire their verbal Gatling gun full circle.


U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry "betrayed" him so that he could cover "his flank for the history books," McChrystal says.


National security adviser James Jones is a "clown" who is "stuck in 1985," a McChrystal aide is quoted as saying. Vice President Biden is a target of juvenile mockery. Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to the region, and Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass, and John McCain, R-Ariz, are cast as annoying opportunists.


McChrystal was more circumspect in his criticism of President Obama, saying only that the commander in chief's patient review of the war plan was frustrating for him. But his point was made: McChrystal is right, and the wimps in Washington just can't see it.


Summoned to the White House for a meeting today, McChrystal apologized for "poor judgment," and surely that is the most benign description of his actions. Regardless of his frustrations, it is hard to imagine what benefit he saw in allowing them to become so public.


In the best case, he has undermined his relationship with people he has to work with daily, not just disagreeing with their opinions but impugning their motives. Such behavior is not going to help him win the war.


In the worst interpretation, he is challenging civilian authority — an offense that no president can accept.


Either way, he has left Obama with quite a problem, not just with McChrystal but with the war itself. McChrystal would hardly be venting if the war were going well. It is not.


A key operation around the city of Marjah, which McChrystal forecast as a walkover, has bogged down. That has delayed the next critical campaign, a much more challenging push into the Taliban home base of Kandahar, and cast doubt on Obama's objective of beginning to withdraw troops next summer.


In fact, the deadline itself, never a good idea in war, is making the fight harder. It has made both the Taliban and Afghan President Hamid Karzai skeptical of the American commitment. Karzai, meanwhile, has shown himself to be a feckless leader, and the Afghan people seem as distrustful of foreign troops as of the Taliban. Both echo the U.S. calamity in Vietnam, a parallel that in the Rolling Stoneprofile is very much on the minds of McChrystal's staff.


"It's not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win," says McChrystal's chief of operations, Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville. "This is going to end in an argument."


Not exactly an inspirational goal.


So what is Obama to do?


First he must deal with McChrystal, and there he has options.


If he concludes that his commander is a rebel in the mold of Douglas MacArthur, the Korean War commander who bristled when President Harry Truman very wisely refused to let him bomb China, then he has to go.


If, on the other hand, he sees McChrystal more as George Patton, the brilliant World War II general with a titanic ego and insatiable appetite for his foot, then perhaps the president can find a way to confine a chastened McChrystal to war fighting.


But if Obama sees McChrystal as a failure, then it will be hard not to conclude that the war plan is a failure as well. And that's not a problem that firing a general can fix.








Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff made major mistakes in the Rolling Stone interviews. Most troubling is why the interviews seemed necessary to anyone after McChrystal had effectively won the policy debate last fall, persuading President Obama to provide extra forces and support his rigorous counterinsurgency strategy.


At this point, I cannot blame anyone in the Obama administration for having doubts about the McChrystal team's loyalties; the general has lots of explaining to do at the White House today. But mistakes happen, especially for people under enormous stress. These mistakes were particularly unusual and out of character for McChrystal — to my mind, not only one of the most brilliant and most devoted, but one of the most respectful and even kindhearted generals I have ever known. His serious mistakes need to be balanced against his broader track record.


McChrystal was the general who told U.S. and NATO troops to use firepower much more carefully in order to save innocent Afghan lives — because otherwise we could create more enemies than we killed.


McChrystal was the one who after eight long years finally told those in Washington how many forces might really be needed to prevent the Taliban from retaking Afghanistan. McChrystal has the best relationship of any major American official with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who despite his flaws is someone with whom we must work to win this war. Indeed, he recently took Karzai to Kandahar and helped encourage him to give an inspirational speech to local elders, calling for sacrifice and patience in the difficult days ahead.


McChrystal also has good relationships within the Afghan ministries of defense and interior, giving him clout when we request that Afghan officials fire corrupt or incompetent subordinates. He is also well regarded around Kabul by the international military and diplomatic communities — partly because he is always eager to show deference to other leaders despite his transcendent rank and responsibilities.


At this moment, as we enter into perhaps the most crucial six months of the entire war, I hope and pray that President Obama will decide we cannot afford to be without the leadership of such an amazing American.


Michael O'Hanlon is senior fellow at the Brookings Institution,co-author of Brookings' Afghanistan Indexand co-author of Toughing It Out in Afghanistan.







The Supreme Court's view of the First Amendment is growing curiouser.


In January, the court held that corporations enjoy the same speech rights humans do and can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. The consequences are ugly, but at least it was an endorsement of free speech.


In April, the court struck down a federal law aimed at banning depictions of animal cruelty. More ugly consequences will follow, but again the ruling was in tradition of protecting unpopular expression.


Now, in a sharp and troubling turn, the court has denied free speech rights to humanitarian groups— and potentially to academics and journalists — who "knowingly" give "material support" to terrorist groups.


That might be fine if the ruling affected only actual support of terrorism, such as contributing money, arms, transportation or other aid to a terrorist organization. But the law goes further and the court did, too, ruling Monday that it's also illegal to provide expert advice to terrorist groups on how to peacefully resolve disputes, advocate politically for their supporters, or petition organizations such as the U.N. — all activities aimed at turning groups away from terrorism and deserving of First Amendment protection.


The court, in its first post-9/11 foray into the murky intersection of terrorism and free speech, held that such aid "frees up other resources" for terrorists and "helps lend legitimacy" to them. While the 6-3 majority said the law leaves people and groups to "speak and write freely" about terrorist organizations, it hardly seems farfetched that a zealous prosecutor could pursue people for lending "legitimacy" to terrorist groups by publishing academic papers on their history and aims or their reasons for fighting.


Whatever the risks to free speech, the court said, Congress and the executive branch are best able to decide where to draw the line when it comes to national security.


Actually, it's the court's job to guard the First Amendment, not reflexively scale it back at the first mention of "national security." In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer urged that the law be enforced only against those who know or intend that their activities will help a group commit terrorist acts.


That seems like exactly the right balance to strike, and Congress would do well to clarify the law and make it so









Early in the 2008 presidential primary season, when Barack Obama was getting set to go head-to-head with Hillary Clinton in the Nevada Democratic Caucus, he sat down for an interview with the editorial board of a Reno newspaper.


In the course of the interview, the candidate drew a comparison between his campaign and an earlier successful presidential drive.The candidate he invoked was not of one of the Democratic immortals such as Franklin D. Roosevelt or Harry Truman but of Ronald Reagan, a historical miscreant in the eyes of many Democrats.


"Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not," Obama said. He added that "we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."


Obama's comment left him open to attacks from his Democratic opponents, who condemned him as an apostate. But his statement was an early clue to the course that he wanted to emulate. Now, a year-and-a-half into his presidency, both the political dynamics and Obama's response to them bear some remarkable resemblances to those surrounding Reagan. Though die-hard Reagan detractors might cringe from this prospect, Obama might well profit from Reagan's tactical and stylistic approaches to the presidency.


Dueling camps


The Republican Party that accompanied Reagan to the White House in 1981 was unified on only one thing: the remarkable personality of the new president and the issues he championed. Below the surface, however, there were two Republican parties. One consisted of social conservatives who backed Reagan's anti-abortion, pro-nuclear family view, and a quite distinct group of fiscal conservatives who emphasized his tax-cutting proposals and anti-regulation positions.


In like manner, Obama's Democratic Party is divided. There is an ultraliberal wing that favors an quasi-pacifist foreign policy, a loosening of social restrictions on such issues as same-sex marriage, and broad protection for the environment and abortion rights. A more centrist faction wants to concentrate on fixing the economy and reversing job loss and favors moderate reform of financial regulations. The first group regards efforts to enlist centrist Republicans as a fool's errand; the second believes that no lasting reform can be achieved without bipartisan support.


With both Reagan and Obama, it is their personal appeal that serves as the glue that holds this uneasy coalition together. In both cases, promises made to their ideological bases were shunted aside to deal with the problems of the economy that they encountered on assuming office. So while Reagan consistently championed the anti-abortion cause, he never appeared in person at the annual rallies that mark the Supreme Court decision in the Roe v. Wadecase and never pushed for an anti-abortion legislative agenda. Obama vowed to end the Clinton-era policy of "don't ask, don't tell" that prevents gays from serving openly in the military, but he has deferred to the leaders of the armed services to come up with a solution.


The economic problems that Reagan faced when he took office were less drastic than those confronting Obama, but both felt the need to employ strong measures. Reagan faced what was known at the time as "stagflation," a toxic brew of low economic growth, high inflation and an unemployment rate slightly higher than 7%. His antidote consisted of deep cuts in the federal budget and sizeable tax cuts, which were enacted by a Congress split between a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. He got the votes of a number of conservative Sunbelt Democrats in the House known as the "Boll Weevils," a group very similar to the "Blue Dogs" in 2010, many of whom supported the Obama stimulus. It should be noted that the centrists who gave Reagan the votes he needed came from the opposition party; this is a benefit that Obama did not enjoy in 2009 and 2010.


Neither the tax and budget cuts of Reagan nor the economic stimulus of Obama immediately cured the nation's ailments. By the midterm elections in 1982, the unemployment rate was above 10% and the Republicans lost heavily. In 2010, the unemployment rate very nearly approximates the rate of 28 years ago. Reagan came to accept that his "supply side" approach to restoring the economic health of the nation was not working and endorsed Fed Chairman Paul Volcker's use of high interest rates to cure the inflation problem. Throughout this crisis, the eternally sunny Reagan urged Americans to stick with him. The phrase he used was "stay the course." Early in 1983, the economy began a dramatic improvement, and the year concluded with a 7.6% growth rate.


A political apocalypse?


Obama will need to convince Congress that more stimulus is needed and recently asked Congress for $50 billion to prop up the job market. But the severity of economic crisis means that Obama will need to implore Americans to persevere as Reagan did 28 years ago, and they may well respond by rebuking Democrats in November as they did Reagan in 1982. Throw in the uneven government response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the uncertainty of the military effort in Afghanistan and a rising fear about government indebtedness, and the Democrats could be facing a political apocalypse far larger than the one Reagan suffered in 1982.


Where the Reagan-Obama comparison breaks down most dramatically is that the political climate in the early 1980s was far more benign than it is today. Unlike Reagan, who came to rely on the occasional help of Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill, Obama has had little GOP support. A strong Republican showing in November may, paradoxically, improve the political atmosphere by bringing the Republicans into the governing process. But an even more important ingredient will be Obama's ability, as the person looked to by Americans, to project the same clarity and optimism that he attributed to Ronald Reagan.


Ross K. Baker is a political science professor at Rutgers University and is writing a book titled Profiles in Cover. He also is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.








Most small businesses in the USA stay small — or fail. Few grow to have $1 million or more in revenue. So when the non-profit Count Me In organization, which provides support to women entrepreneurs, started seeing former finalists in its Make Mine a Million $ Business competition actually cross the seven-figure mark, the staff wanted to know why. What made these women different? Did they go to Ivy League schools? Maybe they didn't have families to distract them?


The answer might surprise you.


When I caught up with Count Me In founder Nell Merlino at the competition in Newark last week, she told me that these women had something else in common: They all used grocery delivery services. Before they made their millions.


Strange? Sure. But I soon realized that it made sense — and that all of us could benefit from the same mind shift in how we view time and money.


For starters, few of us ask whether we're spending our hours in the best way possible. While grocery shopping can be enjoyable — if you're making a special meal for company, for instance — most of the time you're battling traffic just to stick the same gallons of milk in your cart as you did last week. This is inefficient.


For a fee (FreshDirect here in NYC charges roughly $6 and people tip $3-$4; Peapod, Safeway, Netgrocer and others serve different regions), a grocery service will let you automatically refill the cart and put the driving time on the delivery guy. Not you.


A new financial equation


Now, $10 a week isn't much, but it isn't nothing either. Much of the personal finance literature we've gobbled up during this recession tells people to identify small recurring expenses, cut them and invest the money instead. Ten bucks a week for a year is $500. Invest that $500, and in 10 years you'll have ... about $500, if your time frame was 2000-10, but that's another story.


Million-dollar business owners view things differently.


"I was overwhelmed by their clarity of understanding of the value of their time," Merlino says.


Time spent on one thing is time not spent on something else. You're unlikely to build a million-dollar business spending an hour you could be chasing a $50,000 contract in line at the grocery store in order to save $10. You grow your assets by being "focused on what you're best at" — both at the office, where these entrepreneurs had learned to delegate tasks, and at home, where they outsourced grocery shopping, and sometimes cleaning and laundry, too. Even during the start-up phase when they were watching every penny. They knew that you can spend time to save money. Or you can spend small amounts of money to save time, and use that time to earn a lot more.


Time for a bigger return


That's an idea we could all stand to consider. Yes, Americans need to be better about living within our means. But if we want to boost our household finances, we could spend more time on routine household chores — cutting coupons and making our own laundry detergent, for instance. Or we could spend those hours learning negotiation techniques to ask for a raise, updating our résumés, or even taking on freelance projects.


The first set of actions may be easier, but the latter can generate a bigger return. After all, there's a limit to how much you can cut. But, at least in theory, there's no limit to how much your income can grow if you value your time and use it well. Just ask the million-dollar business owners.


Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think,is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.









The looming legal battles over the central issues in BP's massive and presently unstoppable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have not yet begun to take shape. But Louisiana's U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman apparently has already figured out -- at least for himself -- that the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on new deep-water drilling makes no sense. In his premature ruling on Tuesday striking down the temporary ban, he summarily determined that there is no link between the spill and its consequences and the "immense scope of the moratorium."


Judge Feldman's 22-page ruling, to be sure, is erudite, well annotated in case law, and encompassing in the breadth of the economic scope of the moratorium. But despite his findings, he does not address the broad core issue of safe operations on deep-water drilling rigs.


He acknowledged that agencies under the Department of Interior have authority over safety and public resource issues related to drilling and production in the Gulf. But his ruling seems far more concerned with the broad economic impact of the moratorium in his home region than with the efficacy of a moratorium on drilling while the administration studies the newly documented issues of environmental security and blow-out preventer reliability in the Gulf, and the regulatory infrastructure necessary to assure a spill-free industry.


Judge Feldman, for example, spent considerable time commenting on the economic and jobs values of the 3,600 "structures" (wells and drilling rigs) in the Gulf that supply 31 percent of domestic oil production and 11 percent of domestic marketed natural gas. These are indeed noteworthy and immense. But he seemed oblivious to the need to learn and apply the lessons of the BP blow-out to the 64 percent of drilling leases in the Gulf that are in water over 1,000 feet deep.


In fact, he said he was "unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the findings (in the moratorium memorandum) and the immense scope of the moratorium," which he said is elemental to the Gulf's economy and employees thousands of people directly and affects far greater numbers indirectly.


Notably, he asked, "If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are?'


The answer to that core question is, maybe, or quite possibly.


Federal investigators, however, won't know for sure -- if it's possible to attain that degree of certainty -- until they determine why and how the BP well blew out despite its presumably fool-proof, fail-safe, 5-story, immensely complex "blow-out preventer" -- and all the mechanics inside that well-head building -- failed on the night of April 20.


If it's hard and takes time to find the answer, that's to be expected. The failed blow-out preventer sits 5,067 feet down on the ocean floor and is still spewing oil -- now anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons -- from an oil and gas reservoir some 18,360 feet deep. At 5,000 feet, few submersibles can withstand the pressure that crushes machines, nor can they get inside the infrastructure of the blow-out preventer to determine whether the freezing temperatures immoblized any of the hydraulic valves and parts that are supposed to enable the preventer's operations, especially its last-ditch "ram-shear" technology for cutting off and sealing the well pipe that carries the pressure-driven oil out of the well.


The failure rate of "blow-out preventers" may be 45 percent, according to a confidential study commissioned last year by a Norwegian company, Det Norske Veritas, of 11 blowouts among some 15,000 wells drilled in North American and the North Sea between 1980 to 2006. The New York Times reported on that inside-industry study, among other revelations, on Monday.


The Times also reported on two other industry studies, in 2002 and 2004, that found that even when some blind ram-shear cutters work in shearing off the well pipe, they sometimes fail to seal the well.


There are other troubling reports about how seldom the industry actually tests blow-out preventers before, and after, they are put into service, as well as the huge gaps in regulatory monitoring of the industry. We also now know that the BP well was one of 4 of Transocean's 14 drilling rigs that did not have a redundant ram-shear system, nor an accoustic trigger to activate the ram-shear -- nor did it use double piping with a cement liner. These are all safeguards regularly used by more conscientious companies. The operational shortcuts BP apparently took in shutting down the well also merit serious scrutiny. All of these issues still need to be weighed in new assessments of existing and new wells across the Gulf.


The Obama administration would be derelict and negligent to lift its moratorium before these and other operational issues are addressed in drilling rigs across the Gulf. If Judge Feldman cannot "divine or fathom" these issues, we hope the appeals judge who hears the administration's appeal of his ruling to keep the moratorium in place will have the capacity to consider them.


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One of the constants in any talk about the cost of U.S. health care is the heated discussion about defensive medicine. That occurs when physicians order excessive tests, such as CT scans, to protect themselves against possible lawsuits rather than as a useful adjunct in diagnosing or treating an injury or an ailment. The debate turns on two salient points. The first is the cost the tests impose on the system. The second, often overlooked, is the cumulative risk faced by patients who undergo repeated scans over the course of their lifetime.


The former is relatively simple to calculate. Millions of such tests are performed annually, Multiply that number by the cost of each test -- which varies considerably -- for a dollar amount. Some medical economists put the total at hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. Whatever the number, it is inordinately expensive.


The latter has been more difficult to quantify. That's no longer the case. Recent studies offer a sobering assessment of the risks the tests can pose. The possible perils are significant. The Associated Press recently reported that U.S. patients receive the most medical radiation -- which can increase the risk of cancer -- in the world. Indeed, the average American's exposure has increased by a factor of six in recent decades.


One result, researchers report, is that as many as 20 million adults and 1 million children in the United States now face possible harm because of radiation exposure. The study estimates that up to 2 percent of cancers in the United States at some point in the future could be linked to radiation from CT scans being ordered now. Given that, it is imperative that current standards and guidelines for diagnostic and therapeutic medical radiation be revised to protect the public.


There is movement in that direction. The Food and Drug Administration wants to impose new rules that would require standard dosages for specific tests and to set up a system that would allow patients to keep track of doses. Those rules should be implemented.


Some CT scans, experts say, can deliver 50 to 100 times more radiation than a conventional X-ray. Actual dosage does depend on the part of the body being examined and the machine used, but dangerous levels of exposure can mount up quickly. One physician, for example, reported that he has seen individuals "who are 30 years old who had at least 18 scans done. That is a big problem," he said.


Increased FDA oversight, public education about the dangers of excessive radiation and reminders that ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be a safer but still effective procedure should improve public health in the long term. The best protection against possible harm, though, resides with the patient. He or she should ask if a CT scan or similar high-radiation test is necessary every time a physician orders one for them.







Our country is a huge, productive nation. Just imagine, if you can, everything that all of our people throughout the United States produce in a single year.


It's tremendous!


It is defined as our "gross domestic product."


But our federal government is spending so much more than even too-high taxes produce that the national debt is $13 trillion!


How much is that? It's hard to visualize. But try this:


Our total national debt is 90 percent of our gross domestic product -- everything that our people produce in the United States in a year!


Don't you think we are spending too much and thus owe too much?


It's getting worse.


President Barack Obama's spending plans are going to increase our national debt close to $1.5 trillion in just the next year! That's not all.


Just last year, paying only the interest on our national debt cost American taxpayers $383 billion!


So interest alone on our national debt costs nearly 11 percent of our total federal government outlays each year!


The national debt and interest costs would be a terrible burden in boom economic times. Unfortunately, we are in an economic crisis.


Do you believe our national leaders are being financially responsible in imposing taxes on you, increasing the national debt and imposing a bigger interest burden upon us all?







Suppose the president of a company told you his business earned somewhere between $1.2 million and $2.8 million last year. You might be skeptical, because there is a huge gap between $1.2 million and $2.8 million. You might even wonder whether the executive really knew how much money his company made.


But the federal government is offering even fishier estimates on the number of jobs supposedly "created or saved" under the $862 billion "stimulus" that Democrats passed last year. The money was supposed to jump-start the economy and keep unemployment under 8 percent. Joblessness is now nearly 10 percent, and there is serious concern about a possible "double-dip" recession.


Yet the Congressional Budget Office has put out an estimate of jobs supposedly linked to the stimulus. It says 1.2 million to 2.8 million jobs were "created or retained" by the law.


Do you have any confidence in those figures? After all, that is a big, 1.6 million-job gap between the low and the high estimate. Doesn't that seem more like guesswork than an indication that the "stimulus" is working -- especially when you consider that unemployment has stuck stubbornly around 10 percent and may get worse?


Well, consider the Congressional Budget Office's own words of caution about the jobs estimate.


It says it arrived at its numbers by "using evidence about the effects of previous similar policies on the economy and using various mathematical models ... . Data on actual output and employment during the period since (the law took effect) are not as helpful in determining (the law's) economic effects ... because isolating those effects would require knowing what path the economy would have taken in the absence of the law. ... (T)here is no way to be certain about how the economy would have performed if the legislation had not been enacted ... ."


In other words, the CBO relied on complicated formulas showing what the stimulus should be expected to do, rather than on "actual output and employment" since the stimulus took effect. And even then, the CBO admits it can't be sure the economy is better off with the stimulus than it would have been without it.


There is, unfortunately, little reason to believe the "stimulus" has actually helped the economy. But it has increased our catastrophic national debt, on which we and future generations must pay massive interest. And it has increased the size and power of the federal government, which was already too big and powerful.


We need a swift "about-face" in the November elections to reverse such destructive policies.


Academy alum raises the bar at Carson-Newman***************************************





It should be troubling to all Americans that our federal government plans to sue the state of Arizona to strike down its new law against illegal immigration.


Washington, D.C., is far from the Mexican border, and it has not suffered from the illegal invasion the way that Arizona and other border states have.


The problems in Arizona are legion. Illegals cross private property on the U.S. side of the border in high numbers, causing destruction and leaving large amounts of trash -- to say nothing of endangering landowners who might get caught between the invaders and border agents.


Illegal aliens also use taxpayer-funded health, education and other social services. Some border hospitals have closed outright because they could not afford all the free care they had to provide to illegal aliens arriving in their emergency rooms for treatment.


And, of course, some illegal aliens commit serious additional crimes after they arrive in the United States.


These problems could be greatly reduced if the federal government upheld its constitutional duty to protect the border and enforce our nation's immigration laws. But year after year, Washington refuses to take necessary action -- often insisting on "amnesty" for illegals instead. As a result, we have anywhere from 11 million to 20 million illegal aliens in America today -- though nobody knows the number with any precision. Many of those individuals hold jobs that might otherwise go to some of our nation's millions of unemployed citizens.


Ironically, around the time that the U.S. Justice Department was saying it would sue to keep Arizona from protecting itself from the flood of illegal aliens, the department was also asking a federal judge to dismiss 20 states' legal challenge to ObamaCare socialized medicine. ObamaCare, which is unconstitutional, will impose huge new costs on the states. They want to defend themselves from those costs, just as Arizona wants to defend itself from illegal aliens.


It is a shame that the federal government has failed to protect our borders. But it should not undermine states that are doing what they must to protect their residents from illegal aliens and to safeguard their tax dollars against costly ObamaCare.







What is the definition of "treason"?


The short answer is "giving aid and comfort to the enemy."


In World War II, for example, would you have considered it "treason" if some Americans -- even peacefully -- had given money or technical aid or legal advice to Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany or Emperor Hirohito's Imperial Japan?


What about current situations involving American groups giving money, technical aid or legal advice to terrorists?


The question came before the U.S. Supreme Court. It ruled 6-3 this week that our government does have the authority to ban groups in this country from giving such aid to foreign terrorist groups.


But Justice Stephen Breyer dissented: "Not even the 'serious and deadly problem' of international terrorism can require automatic forfeiture of First Amendment rights."


What do you think on this issue?









Journalists are a diverse and hard-to-describe bunch. Common to all of us is the fact we labor long hours, in often-difficult circumstances, for pay that we universally believe is less than our due. We are complainers, a group whose DNA is coded with dissatisfaction. Also common is the subjective matter of belief in what we do – without the sustenance that a sense of mission provides, journalists tend to drift toward PR and advertising, or other more lucrative professions.


But below these defining common traits, there are many different types of personalities who tend to wind up peopling the world's newsrooms. There are scholars, saints, teachers and those with a spiritual or even clerical outlook. There are groupies sometimes, and charlatans too find their way into our profession. The greatest, however, tend to be warriors at heart. We want to change the world, cast our stone at the wall of indifference, know the unknowable and right all wrongs. As one sage among us put it, "We must comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."


And so the passing of a journalistic warrior, a man of deeply-held beliefs, a scribe who fought what he saw as the good fight for more than half a century, nearly to the moment of his dying breath, is a moment of sadness for all of us at the Hürriyet Daily News. But it is also a moment of inspiration.


For İlhan Selçuk was a warrior who believed in his craft. He died Monday at the age of 83, the editor of the feisty daily Cumhuriyet that embodied the values of the Turkish Republic. We are saddened by his loss but inspired by his example. At times we certainly parted company with some of his views and those of the newspaper he edited. But no journalist in Turkey doubts the belief, the commitment and the passionate sense of mission that were hallmarks of his career.


In some ways, Selçuk's life was a metaphor for the evolution of Turkish journalism. He graduated from the Ankara Faculty of Law in 1950, the same year that multi-party democracy became a reality in Turkey. He worked at many newspapers but joined Cumhuriyet in 1963. Selçuk witnessed coups, endured censorship and endured imprisonment. After internment following the coup of 1971, he developed a code to communicate through otherwise innocuous poems the realities of prison, including his own torture.


The final indignity was his 4.30 a.m. detention two years ago at the age of 85 as part of the "Ergenekon" investigation. He was released two days later, but not before the abusive treatment became synonymous in the minds of many with the excesses of the continuing investigation.


Selçuk penned his final column, a typically feisty polemic decrying the ruling party, America and other random targets, on August 15 of last year. He went out fighting for what he believed in. No journalist can hope for a more honorable end.








In the aftermath of the terrorist attack in the Southeastern town of Şemdinli the other day, top state officials first visited the scene of the attack, a military guard post at the border, and then gathered for an emergency summit at the Presidential Residence in Çankaya, Ankara. To some, this was a remedy and the outcome was expected anxiously. A statement issued after the meeting reads as follows:


"... Assessments have made on the fight with terror. It's been decided to take short and medium term measures in the light of recent developments as review on the structure of personnel as well as intelligence in the region is suggested. In addition, emphasis has made on active coordination with counter-terrorism units of regional and relevant countries. It's been also brought to the attention of media that they should act responsible while informing people about terror-related news in order not to encourage terrorists."


That is to say, what?


Nothing, nada, a big fat zero. Top of the state should forgive me but this is where we stand at present.


Just check the archives consisting of conclusion remarks made in similar meetings for the last 25 years, you see almost identical phrases.


In other words, little came out of the Çankaya summit, as usual.


The "state's mind" is mentioned, but if the issue is to determine an attitude in the Kurdish question and how to react against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, it is more appropriate to talk about the "state's mindlessness" for it insists on not learning any lessons from a quarter century of experiences.


But of course I am perfectly aware that I violate "It's been also brought to the attention of media that they should act responsible while informing people about terror-related news in order not to encourage terrorists" part of the speech.


It means that the "terrorist organization" may be encouraged by my remarks, no matter how unwilling I am.


But I think the terrorist organization will be encouraged by the statement released after the other day's summit anyway. For terrorists will read once again the very same pattern of sentences whish has not changed at all for the past 25 years. So, terrorists will not see the summit as a reason to change their behavior. On the contrary, they will see a structure failing to produce politics. Therefore, they will stick with the "route of their actions" and push for a "change of policy".







The world-encompassing low-cost-airline concept has introduced radical changes in air travel. Ticket prices decreased, but passengers were charged for food and beverages. Baggage weights were limited. Some airlines in the United States have even begun charging for the blankets and pillows handed out during flights.


The share of these extra revenues in the overall turnover of companies is gradually increasing. But research shows that passengers want to have many in-flight services for free, starting with food.


According to a poll conducted by, a website followed closely by airline companies where users can compare flight fees, a great majority of passengers insists on free-of-charge food. Whether it's a simple sandwich or a hearty dinner, passengers want to eat for free, as they used to do.


The top answers to the question "What would you pay for on a flight?" however, included Internet access, sending text messages and buying alcoholic drinks. The poll results indicate only 1 percent of passengers are willing to pay for the use of pillows and blankets.


Experts believe many airline companies cannot offer these services for free, given that the effects of the global recession are still visible in the sector. Market estimates point to an improvement that may take place as of 2012. In parallel, airlines are expected to offer their treats and services for free only at that time.


Another interesting outcome of the poll concerns the requests of passengers who have children. A total of 83 percent of the respondents have flown with their kids in the past year. However, 68 percent of them were not content with the experience. Twenty-seven percent of the respondents said they want a separate area in the cabin for children, because their kids are getting bored during the flights and disturbing other passengers. Some of them even requested a small playroom, particularly on long-haul jets with a wide fuselage, and suggested a professionally trained member of the cabin crew could be assigned to take care of them.


The top criterion of passengers in choosing an airline is the ticket price: 85 percent of the poll respondents prefer airlines with low prices, while only 30 percent choose by brand. As a result of the increasing price awareness, 68 percent of passengers closely follow the prices of weekday and mid-day flights, which are relatively cheaper than the rest, and buy their tickets accordingly. Sixty-two percent of passengers said they are uncomfortable paying extra for overweight luggage. If there were enough room in the cabin, 80 percent said they would want to have their suitcases onboard.








We are all very angry these days.


We can't make decisions when in a state of anger. But especially now we are passing through a stage in which we need to be cold blooded.


The PKK must have evaluated Turkey's international conjuncture and concluded that internally the situation was quite convenient for stepping forward even if it would do some harm to itself.


I'm saying even if it would harm itself, it knows it would not obtain a thing. For the PKK there is no punishment for losing its militants on hand. It is not called to account. Its sole purpose is to hurt Turkey, to anger the public and force us to behave impulsively. To tell the truth, they are quite successful these days.


The return of state of emergency would benefit the PKK


PKK leaders may have many things in mind but I see two important targets.


The foremost is to upset the public and agitate the administration to provide for the return of a state of emergency to the region.


Just imagine going back to precautions taken in the 90s and abandoning the military to manage the Southeast.


People won't be able to travel from one place to another.


Villages suspected to support the PKK will be torn up and burned down. People will be forced to migrate.


Unsolved murders will increase.


People will be arrested without interrogation.


The region will be unbearable.


We saw that movie in the 90s. If the PKK was able to increase its power then it was only because of these applications.


This is what the PKK wants, hopes for or dreams of.


It wants more bloodshed, more fights.


It wants to go back to the old days so that military pressure increases and the people of the region experience so much pressure that they finally rebel. The PKK wants the fighting to increase so that it is able increase its supervision on people of the region.


Thank god the chief of General Staff was the first to notice this game. He said, "There is no need for a state of emergency at the moment," which put us at ease. The prime minister too shared the same view. But the PKK will not give in. As they hit again and again the public will scream, "We want a state of emergency to be announced." I am afraid that with the pressure from public we'll end up with exactly that.


Will we again fall into this trap or will we once more employ the initiative that was initiated by the administration but not managed well because it wasn't brave enough?


Those who believe that the PKK terror can only be solved with weapons will oppose this approach.


They are very wrong.


Now let's leave aside the past. We'll take account of the ineffectiveness of Erdoğan and Atalay later during elections.


Now, let's talk about the initiative as much as we talked about struggle with weapons.


The PKK is fed by fighting that intensifies relations between people in the region.