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Saturday, June 26, 2010

EDITORIAL 26.06.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month june 26, edition 000550 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

  1. FURTHER PUNISHMENT
  2. TOP COP UNDER FIRE
  3. BUT MCCHRYSTAL HAS A POINT - ASHOK MALIK
  4. ALONENESS AS PATH TO SELF-KNOWLEDGE - AJIT BISHNOI
  5. CASTE CENSUS AND ITS IMPLICATIONS - CP BHAMBRI
  6. CASTE, DISPARITY AND THE FUTURE - RAJESH SHUKLA
  7. THE GROUNDSWELL FOR POLITICAL ACTION PERSISTS - MIRZA ASMER BEG

MAIL TODAY

  1. THE GOVT HAS ONLY FUELLED THE INF LATIONARY FIRE
  2. IF JASWANT WHY NOT UMA?
  3. POSTURING OR THE END OF A LONG ALLIANCE? - BY BHARAT BHUSHAN
  4. CWG MUCH MORE THAN AN EVENT FOR THIS FAMILY - QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. LESS RULES, MORE BUREAUCRACY, PLEASE - KANTI BAJPAI
  2. MEMORY HOLDS THE DOOR - DEEPAK RANADE
  3. THE SHIFT IS NOT FEASIBLE
  4. FACE BOOK AND SEER SOCCER
  5. YUAN BETTER THAN DECREPIT DOLLAR -RUDRONEEL GHOSH
  6. LET THE CHILDREN FLOWER - MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. FIXING WHERE THE BUCK STOPS
  2. WHAT LIES BENEATH - R.K. PACHAURI
  3. THE MEDIA VOLCANO IS ABOUT TO ERUPT -  PRATIK KANJILAL

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. SHAPE OF MONEY
  2. FREE AT LAST
  3. BOUND BY OPTIONS
  4. RED CORRIDOR, RED ECONOMY - BIBEK DEBROY
  5. A COUP IN CANBERRA - ASHUTOSH MISRA
  6. JASWANT, JASWANT - SAUBHIK CHAKRABARTI
  7. THE RENMINBI RUNAROUND
  8. RUNNING OUT OF TALK TIME - SATISH CHANDRA
  9. A CHANGE IN TONE - RUCHIKA TALWAR
  10. SOLD FOR A SONG - SHAMNAD BASHEER

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. FINALLY, DECONTROL
  2. IPHONE, YOU QUEUE
  3. IT'S A BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS - RAJESH CHAKRABARTI
  4. PLANNING COMMISSION REFORM IS HARD - P RAGHAVAN
  5. TIME FOR A DEDICATED BROADCAST REGULATOR - ASHISH SINHA

THE HINDU

  1. SMALL RECOMPENSE
  2. OF MARRIAGE AND MURDER
  3. ARBITRATION & KISHENGANGA PROJECT - RAMASWAMY R. IYER
  4. GOM ON RAJIV AND BHOPAL: SLOPPINESS OR COVER-UP?
  5. ACCOUNTING FOR SUCCESS  - BAN KI-MOON
  6. FATHER'S STASH OF BOOKS FROM LONDON, MOTHER'S STORYTELLING - JULIET RIX
  7. JOBS CREATED AND DISPLACED - STEVE LOHR

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. PEOPLE LEFT TO MERCY OF MARKET FORCES
  2. PLAINSPEAK ON HILLS - FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. REFORM POLICE, SPARE US THE TORTURE - ANTARA DEV SEN
  4. PLAYING WITH FIRE - JAGMOHAN

DNA

  1. GOOD SENSE —AT LAST
  2. 'IT WON'T BE EASY TO EXTRADITE ANDERSON' - UTTARA CHOUDHURY
  3. WORDS THAT DESCRIBE WINES - MAGANDEEP SINGH

THE TRIBUNE

  1. GOVT BITES THE BULLET
  2. A TOUGHER BILL
  3. EXAM REFORM FOR IITS
  4. BHOPAL AND KANISHKA TRAGEDIES - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  5. EMERGENCY & ANARCHY - BY RAVI K. MAHAJAN
  6. KARGIL REVISITED: NEED TO REMEDY THAN DEFAME - PREMVIR DAS

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. 98 VERSUS TWO PER CENT

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. BOARD SEAT, ANYONE? - T N NINAN
  2. THE GREAT CHINESE QUEST - PREMVIR DAS
  3. KISS'N'TELL IS NOW KISS'N'SUE - SUNIL SETHI
  4. A PASSAGE TO ISRAEL - K NATWAR SINGH
  5. CZESLAW MILOSZ'S LAST BOW - V V
  6. HOW DEVELOPED IS BIHAR, REALLY? - ADITI PHADNIS
  7. THE GLOBAL GOVERNING BOARD – NEHA CHOWDHRY
  8. INDIA THEN AND NOW - WHAT HAS CHANGED? - BIMAL JALAN

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. A LEG UP FOR OIL REFORMS
  2. GREAT EXPECTATIONS
  3. EXPELLED, THEN EMBRACED
  4. DEAL TIME AT TORONTO G-20 SUMMIT
  5. HEALTH, SAYS DONY ALEX  
  6. K K KAPILA - GGANAPATHYSUBRAMANIAM
  7. INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS ARE OXYMORONS  - V RAGHUNATHAN
  8. SECRET OF TEEN POWER  - VITHALC NADKARNI

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. PEOPLE LEFT TO MERCY OF MARKET FORCES
  2. PLAINSPEAK ON HILLS - BY FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. RULES TO ENTER CMO
  4. REFORM POLICE, SPARE US THE TORTURE - BY ANTARA DEV SEN
  5. SEX AND THE CHURCH - BY KISHWAR DESAI
  6. PLAYING WITH FIRE - BY JAGMOHAN

THE STATESMAN

  1. RECURRING DISGRACE
  2. ASKING FOR THE MOON
  3. STATE OF THE HILLS
  4. 35 YEARS LATER  - MG DEVASAHAYAM
  5. SYRIA'S 30 YEARS OF FEAR
  6. THE WEAKER SEX? - SUDHA PALIT
  7. DO THEY TEACH FROM THE HEART?  - JAGMOHAN CHOPRA

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. HISTORY PLAYS FOOTBALL
  2. WHAT BHOPAL EXPOSES - SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

DECCAN HERALD

  1. PLAIN TRUTHS
  2. CHANGE OF GUARD
  3. HAIL THE CORRUPT! - BY RAMAKRISHNA UPADHYA
  4. BHAJPA'S 'SWABHIMAN' - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
  5. KINDNESS OF A STRANGER - BY SRABANI MUKHOPDHYAY

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. FULL DISCLOSURE
  2. WHAT IS ALBANY DOING?
  3. WHAT THE GULF CAN'T AFFORD
  4. THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO LEAD
  5. WORSE THAN A NIGHTMARE - BY BOB HERBERT
  6. TAKE THE LONG VIEW - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
  7. THE AGE OF NANCY - BY GAIL COLLINS
  8. FIGHTING CRIME WHERE THE CRIMINALS ARE - BY HEATHER MAC DONALD

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. FINANCIAL REFORM ON TAP
  2. NO GOP HEART FOR THE JOBLESS
  3. ALSTOM'S 'CLEAN POWER' JOBS
  4. HOME SALES AND 'FREE MONEY'
  5. PRIVATE VS. PUBLIC PAY GAP
  6. GEN. PETRAEUS IN THE 'BRIER PATCH'

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. BRING YOUR CARING HUSBAND INSTEAD OF YOUR NANNY ON HOLIDAY - BARÇIN YİNANÇ
  2. LOSS OF MIND - NURAY MERT
  3. ANKARA'S WASHINGTON MISREADING - ILHAN TANIR
  4. EROSPOLIS - FORBIDDEN PLEASURES - NAZLAN ERTAN
  5. A BIRD'S EYE VIEW AFGHANISTAN - NOW WE KNOW WHY
  6. THE CORRIDOR - THE INITIATIVE RESUMES BUT HOW? - GÖKSEL BOZKURT
  7. WHY IS TUSIAD SPEAKING UP? - GİLA BENMAYOR
  8. TURKEY CANNOT SETTLE THE KURDISH QUESTION ON ITS OWN ANYMORE - CENGİZ AKTAR
  9. HAND GESTURES - ZAFER PARLAR
  10. KILIÇDAROĞLU EXPOSES HIMSELF - YUSUF KANLI
  11. IF EFFORTS COULD BE DIRECTED AGAINST THE PKK - MEHMET ALİ KIŞLALI
  12. RESIDENCE PERMIT REGULATIONS - SAADETTİN ORHAN
  13. KEEPING THE PROMISE - SHAHID NAJAM

I.THE NEWS

  1. THIS IS THE LAW
  2. HARD ROAD
  3. FUTURE RISKS
  4. THE WAY THE WORLD SEES US - ARIF NIZAMI
  5. RISE OF THE DRUGS TRADE - HUZAIMA BUKHARI AND DR IKRAMUL HAQ
  6. FOR A PEOPLE-FRIENDLY VISA REGIME - MANVENDRA SINGH
  7. PROSECUTING TERRORISTS - ERUM SAJJAD GULL
  8. OUR DEATHTRAP - BABAR SATTAR
  9. FAITH AND DEVELOPMENT - SAYEEDA WARSI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. FMS' AGENDA SHOULD INCLUDE CORE ISSUES
  2. MINISTERS RAISE ACCUSING FINGERS AGAINST HAFEEZ
  3. SHARPLY REDUCING WATER FOR CITIZENS
  4. SYMPTOMS OF REBELLION OR PANGS OF DEFEAT - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. SCO: A NEW OPENING - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  6. TESTING MOMENTS FOR THE NSG! - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  7. JEHAD AGAINST TERRORISM! - MUHAMMAD AZAM MINHAS
  8. ISRAEL AS BIG SUPPLIER OF WEAPONS TO INDIA - MICHAEL WILLIAM

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. SPEEDY TRIAL ACT
  2. OLD VEHICLES
  3. JUST DO IT..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS
  4. DEVELOPMENT MECHANISM OF BANGLADESH - SULAV CHOWDHURY
  5. COMBATING TERRORISM  -  GOPAL SENGUPTA
  6. FOR DEMOCRACY, SOCIAL JUSTICE MUST TAKE ROOTS - KHALID HUSSAIN

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. THIS WAS A COUP WE HAD TO HAVE
  2. MEMO TO THE LEADER: IT'S THE ECONOMY, JULIA
  3. JULIA GILLARD'S JOB IS TO REBUILD LABOR

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. QUICK AND DIRTY: GILLARD'S NSW-STYLE RISE TO POWER
  2. ONE LUMP OR TWO: LOWDOWN ON SEATS
  3. DAY TWO OF THE GILLARD ERA DAWNS ON A NICE SET OF NUMBERS

THE GUARDIAN

  1. UNTHINKABLE? BURYING THE HATCHET

 THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. ELDERLY PARTICIPATION
  2. GLOBAL WARMING FIGHT FIZZLES
  3. APPRECIATING THE RENMINBI - BY KEVIN RAFFERTY

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

FURTHER PUNISHMENT

PREPARE TO PAY MORE FOR FOOD


The UPA Government's decision to free petrol from all pricing controls — which has led to a steep increase in its price — and raise the price of diesel as well as LPG and kerosene could not have come at a worse time. While as a principle it is fine to dismantle the administered price control regime for petroleum products so that their prices are at par with market rates instead of being depressed with massive subsidies, the state of the economy as of today does not permit such experimentation with reforms. Inflation continues to rise despite several assurances by the Government to rein in prices, especially those of essential commodities. It is obvious that Friday's price hike will adversely impact both wholesale and retail prices: The Government says inflation will climb by nearly one per cent; a more realistic figure would be in the region of two per cent. In other words, food inflation could hover at around 20 per cent or even breach that mark. It could be argued that a cut in fiscal deficit on account of a lower subsidy burden would eventually ease inflation and, in the long-term, benefit the people. But this is like a pie in the sky. The Prime Minister's personal pledge to control inflation, reiterated on several occasions, have proved to be hollow and it would be unfair to expect people to believe Government's assurances after Friday's price hike which, curiously, has been timed with the upcoming G-20 summit in Toronto: Is the purpose to comply with the Pittsburgh G-20 summit decision to cut energy subsidy? While those who are not bothered about the masses and look at economic reforms in isolation of social realities will no doubt welcome the Government's decision, it does not mean that the latest price hike must be accepted without protest. The Prime Minister and his advisers are more obsessed with GDP figures, which do not reflect the well-being of the vast majority of Indians but pander to the fancies of those who do not have to bother about where their next meal will come from, apart from helping investors looking for quick profits in the stock market. But that does not amount to alleviating the misery of those who now will have to pay more for their food while trying to make ends meet with inelastic and even falling incomes.


If the UPA Government, more so the Congress, has steadfastly worked towards anything, it is in disinheriting the aam admi, the common man, the wage-earner, the salaried class, and denying a better life to the people of this country. That this is a gross violation of its electoral promise and mocks at its vacuous commitment cannot be over-stressed. Of course, there is no percentage in expecting any better from an uncaring Government and an insensitive Prime Minister who is more focussed on appeasing the US and mollycoddling Pakistan than in managing national affairs. Nor can much be achieved by way of despairing over the incumbent regime's astounding decisions. What can be done is to vote against those who are party to Friday's decision whenever and wherever elections are held. It is not sufficient for the Trinamool Congress and the DMK to say that they are opposed to the exorbitant hike in fuel prices and its consequent impact on inflation but will continue to remain part of the Government. If the Congress's allies are truly opposed to the price hike, they must make their opposition felt by forcing a roll-back. Or else they must explain to the people why they have chosen to collude with the Congress in punishing the hapless people of India.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

TOP COP UNDER FIRE

A CONSPIRACY TO HELP JIHADIS?


The Kerala Police has shocked the National Investigation Agency as well as the people of the country by parading LeT boss Thadiyantavide Nazeer and his aide Shafaz, responsible for several terror attacks, including the 2008 Bangalore bombings, before the media without masks and letting them publicly declare Abdul Nasser Madani innocent. Equally shocking is the revelation that Kerala IGP Tomin J Thachankery, an IPS officer, had promised some of Nazeer's associates in Qatar safe passage to India just three months back. Still, Kerala's Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, a CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, expressed no worries over any of the two incidents when he said that it was up to the NIA to look into the Nazeer affair and that the Chief Minister had asked the Centre to order a probe into the Thachankery scandal. Mr Thachankery's Qatar mission cannot be seen as an isolated incident as he had visited Bangalore immediately after the arrest of Nazeer allegedly for preventing him from mentioning some names to the Karnataka Police. The NIA and the Union Home Ministry are convinced that neither the ordinary Kerala Police constables who had taken Nazeer to court without a mask — not once but twice — nor the IGP would do what they did without clearance from political authorities. The Centre has already started investigations into the conspiracy behind both the incidents. However, not many are surprised because of the CPI(M)'s connections with Madani and Mr Thachankery links with Mr Kodiyeri Balakrishnan are no secret.


To the NIA, the Nazeer-Shafaz affair has posed operational hurdles just when it is getting to the bottom of the six terror cases it is investigating in Kerala. The claim of Nazeer, despite his signed statement about the role of Madani in the Bangalore blasts, that he had not named the Islamist leader to the Karnataka Police, has caused some credibility problem to their probe into the 2008 bombings, at least among people in Kerala. At the same time, the appearance of Shafaz's face in the media is now threatening the legal validity of the identity parade for him for which the NIA had made arrangements. The Kerala Police, through its act, has thus caused some damage to the probe into the complicated terror cases. A Bangalore court has issued non-bailable warrants against Madani, the 31st accused in the blasts case, but arresting him from Kerala would be a Herculean task for the Karnataka Police in the face of the new developments and revelations. Madani's PDP was an informal ally of the ruling CPI(M) in the last Lok Sabha election and the party has not shown any regret for that friendship till this moment despite sharp criticism. It would take a lot of perseverance on the part of the investigators to find out the actual extent of Kerala's terror network in this context.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

BUT MCCHRYSTAL HAS A POINT

ASHOK MALIK


What does one make of US President Barack Obama's sacking of General Stanley McChrystal as Commander of the International Security Assistance Force and the United States Forces in Afghanistan? First, it would be pertinent to consider precedents.


Tensions and conflicts between military commanders and political leaders are not unknown. As far back as 1905, the tussle between George Nathaniel Curzon, then Viceroy of India, and Horatio Herbert Kitchener, then Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, became very messy. Ostensibly, the argument was over military reforms. Actually, it was a power struggle, with Kitchener wanting to concentrate more and more authority in his office and reduce the oversight of the Viceroy.


In the end, Kitchener won and Curzon had to resign. A resourceful and cunning man, Kitchener lobbied politicians in London, masterminded an assiduous campaign in the British Press and outmanoeuvred Curzon. If nothing else, this proved a clever General could be a smarter politician than a patrician if even naïve civilian incumbent.

In 1998, India encountered a small-scale repeat of the Curzon-Kitchener battle. Mr George Fernandes, then Defence Minister, recommended the dismissal of Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat as Chief of the Indian Navy. Adm Bhagwat had refused to accept the right of the Union Cabinet to appoint the Deputy Chief of Navy Staff and had instead handed the job to another. He had also voiced his criticism in the media. After his sacking, his wife charged the BJP-led Government with prejudice because she was a Muslim.


It was patent nonsense, of course, and Adm Bhagwat was guilty of insubordination. Nevertheless, like Kitchener, he had his supporters in the media and got his 15 minutes of fame. The larger institutional battle — between a duly-elected civilian Government and a military commander — was, however, a no-brainer. Adm Bhagwat had to walk into oblivion.


America's most famous General-President stand-off occurred 60 years ago, during the Korean War. As Commander of the United Nations forces on the Korean peninsula, Douglas MacArthur was not satisfied with the liberation of South Korea from invading North Korean soldiers. He wanted to expand the war deep into aggressor territory and came up with an audacious plan to neutralise the Chinese threat once and for all. MacArthur was clearly taking a politico-strategic call and seeking to impose revised political goals on the war.

 

Had he succeeded, he may have ended the Cold War in Asia even before it had begun.


Understandably, President Harry S Truman was cautious and wanted to limit the war to narrow, achievable objectives. In 1951, he dismissed MacArthur from his command. This ended the career of one of the greatest warriors in human history.


As is evident, each of these cases is very different. Kitchener was more of an intriguing politician than Curzon. MacArthur was a visionary in that he foresaw the Cold War and the Communist threat, but few politicians would have bought into his proposal of a cataclysmic, all-out war. Having just come out of World War II, Truman may have calculated his country didn't have the will for a second successive extended conflict. Also, the idea that MacArthur was reportedly open to using nuclear weapons may have worried Truman, who was still living down ordering the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Given this backdrop, what does one make of the McChrystal affair? There is no doubt that his interview-based profile in Rolling Stone magazine was not a good idea. While there are few if any direct quotes in the article to implicate Gen McChrystal — his aides are quoted as saying the more damaging things — the fact is the writer of the piece was an embedded journalist with the McChrystal team for a few weeks and the General must have known who was saying what to him.


In the article, Gen McChrystal comes across as a very different man from his President. He is instinctual, with an inspirational, let's-get-out-there style. On the other hand, Mr Obama sees himself as a reserved intellectual. More important, as a soldier Gen McChrystal believes in clear-cut goals, while Mr Obama is decidedly wishy-washy in his positioning.


This does not justify Gen McChrystal's utterly stupid actions in front of a journalist. As Rolling Stone records, the General refuses to read an e-mail from Mr Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan-Pakistan, and allows his aides to tell the writer that he doesn't think much of the US Ambassador to Kabul or of Vice-President Joe Biden or of Mr Obama.


Faced with such provocation, Mr Obama had to act. Already his ratings are slipping because of the handling of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is possible that if there were no oil spill crisis, Gen McChrystal would have got away with merely an admonition. Yet, under siege, Mr Obama had to be seen to be doing something. The dismissal of Gen McChrystal offered the most convenient opportunity.


Even so, there is a larger point for Mr Obama to consider. As the Rolling Stone article stresses, despite their personality and background differences, citizen McChrystal did vote for candidate Obama in the presidential election of November 2008. If Gen McChrystal is now so disappointed with the man he helped elect, surely he is not alone. The broad-based coalition that Mr Obama put together — with his original White liberal supporters being joined by African-Americans and finally blue-collar Whites from the mid-western heartland of America — is now in tatters.


In sacking Gen McChrystal, Mr Obama can't run away from the fact that the dozens of civilian busybodies he has appointed to deal with the AfPak region have left the US more confused than ever before. In particular, Lt Gen Karl Eikenberry, the American Ambassador in Kabul, has been accused of undermining Gen McChrystal's military strategy to take on the Taliban. His controversial cables to Washington, DC, have pointedly been leaked to newspapers. Such bloody-mindedness is only matched by Mr Holbrooke, a self-appointed viceroy who is now the most unwanted man in not just South Asia but in the Obama Administration but who refuses to do the honourable thing and quit.


Maybe Mr Obama will now get rid of Lt Gen Eikenberry and Mr Holbrooke too. What will he do, however, about his rapidly declining, all-over-the-place presidency.

 

 malikashok@gmail.com

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

ALONENESS AS PATH TO SELF-KNOWLEDGE

AJIT BISHNOI


One may live in a palace or a hut but the first house one lives in is the mind. Only when one leaves the precincts of this house does one enter the material milieu. Is it not a fact that we do not notice our surroundings when we are engrossed in thought?


If we agree that one's mind is the first dwelling place of one's soul, it becomes important that this house be kept clean and made beautiful — more beautiful than the concrete buildings we live in. The question is whether or not one does the same. The answer, unfortunately, is a big no.


Why else do we try and escape our minds? Why are we scared to fall asleep even when we want to? Conversely, why do we pop sleeping pills so readily, scared that our minds will not allow us to fall asleep? Why is there a television set even in our bedrooms? Why do we switch on our television sets as soon as we step indoors? Why is waiting such a pain, sans a magazine or TV? Why do we keep calling up others on our cell phones even when the calls have zero purpose? Why are we addicted to our laptops, e-mail and instant messengers? Why do we settle for the company of people of doubtful utility? Is the company of one's own mind so undesirable?


If we do spend some time with our minds, we can put it to good use. Problems can be solved, decisions made. How else do writers and artists operate if not by their minds? Nevertheless, we continue as if the company of our minds is akin to solitary confinement. Our minds are no longer our friends. If we do spend time with them, they flood us with negative thoughts, psychoses, lust and bad dreams. What traps us in the vicious circle of desire if not our impure minds?


How can we purify and befriend our unfriendly minds? Let us seek answers from the Bhagvad Gita. In verse #6.35, Krishna advises practice of detachment. In verse #18.65, he counsels linking to himself. In verse #16.12, he criticises unlimited material desires. There are several other verses which have valuable guidelines. We cannot escape our minds. They are the seat of our souls that accompany us in our afterlives and beyond (verse #15.8).

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CASTE CENSUS AND ITS IMPLICATIONS

HOW CAN COUNTING HUMAN BEINGS AS COWS, BUFFALOES AND GOATS LEAD TO POLITICO-SOCIO-ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR THE BACKWARD CASTES? FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL CONDEMN TODAY'S POLITICIANS FOR ALLOWING THIS TO HAPPEN
CP BHAMBRI

 

Saturday Special this week has been conceived against the caste conundrum currently sweeping northern India. It is a storm with more than one eye and no follower of the rhetoric can avoid asking the obvious question: where does this lead India? At this time, a book by Rajesh Shukla, Caste in a Different Mould: Understanding the Discrimination (Business Standard publication, 2010, Rs 895) has appeared to place the citizen-consumer's position in perspective. This is the first attempt by a scholar to use a cross-country sample to quantify the impact of education, urbanisation and occupation on the income levels of different caste groups (Main Article). Shukla, as Chief Statistician of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and now Director of NCAER-Centre for Macro Consumer Research, has powered his book with data from India's premier economics think tank. One of the many useful characteristics of this book is variegated data on how caste categories are economically faring in contemporary India, particularly under reservation policies.


Has caste-based reservations substantively raised the level of lives led by the so-called 'backwards'? In a summer dominated by news about "honour killings", this question receives no attention at all. We present Mirza Asmer Beg, a Professor with Aligarh Muslim University, who described the core reasons supporting the birth and flourishing of identity politics, namely the arguable fruits of reservation. It would be wrong, he writes (The Other Voice) to focus on only the deprivation faced by the so-called lower castes because it camouflages other kinds of discriminations like economic poverty, which may or may not be truly consistent with caste.


As if casteism in politics and economics was not enough, the leaders of modern India have now stretched the debate to bizarre heights by seeking to revive the caste-based Census enumeration policy which was given up 80 years back by India's British masters. By proposing to institutionalising enumeration by caste, the leaders behind the move would also be committing the inappropriate act of giving acknowledgment to a term — caste —which the Constitution of India has consciously refused to recognise. The Constitution has used the word 'caste' only twice — in Articles 15 and 16 — to forbid the State from practicing discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, race, sex, etc. While the founding fathers did issue the term 'Scheduled Caste', but in a restricted context.

The post-Independence State has consciously followed public policies which have institutionalised and solidified anachronistic inherited systems of Jatis, up-Jatis (castes and sub-castes) because the real consequence of caste-based "preferential policies", popularly known as "Politics of reservations" is that the State has accorded a "legal" status to the hoary tradition of hereditary castehood.


If the Constitution of India provides every citizen a few fundamental rights without any consideration or difference based on religion, caste, creed and gender, the makers of public policy are guilty of ignoring some fundamental principles of equality. The process of casteisation of society by political parties appears unstoppable and the latest nail in the coffin of the idea of an egalitarian India is the proposal (or demand) to conduct Census 2011 along caste line.


It deserves to be clearly stated that our British colonisers had initiated the practice of having caste-based headcounts, which they themselves discontinued in 1931. They found that caste-based data cannot be authentically collected by enumerators during the Census exercises. It was logical for the British colonisers to identify Indians along caste lines they London perceived India as a fragmented nation. It also suited their divide-and-rule policy.


How the governments of free India could dumbly toe the coloniser's line is a matter of mystery. While formulating their public policies they kept in mind only "sectional interests" of castes and communities. If such a definition of India is accepted by every political party or group or leader, it is logical to pursue this approach. So the Census of 2011 should be conducted by enumerating the thousands of castes and sub-castes of fragmented India. The thousands of fragmented Jatis and up-Jatis should be documented by the Census officials.

It is not without reason that casteist political leaders like Lalu Prasad, Sharad Yadav and Mayawati, along with sectarian Congressmen like Veerappa Moily and BJP leaders like Gopinanth Munde are pushing for this retrogressive system. It deserves to be stated that the idea of a caste-based Census was not on the agenda of the Congress, the BJP and Communists. It has been forced on the nation's psyche by the beneficiaries of caste-versus-caste politics, the same who have mobilised the Yadavs, Jats, Kurmis, Gujjars, etc. They are out to superimpose the coloniser's perception mixed with narrow, domestic sectarianism. The logical interpretation of identifying every individual on the basis of 'caste by birth' is that instead of an all-India nationalistic consciousness, what is promoted is caste-based customs, caste-based symbols and caste-based loyalties.


Why has a socially regressive and reactionary demand like caste-based enumeration been raised by the casteist political formations? The answer to that is obvious — seek out more issues for sustenance. They expect the Census process to come out with revelations of more caste groups being poor or backward or needy of reservations. They hope to win extended stays for themselves in the political arena by picking up these nuggets of information and converting them into noisy slogans. The story will not end there. Without waiting for the tabulation and scientific analysis of the Census data, these leaders would court voters using greater reservations as a plank.


The upshot is that notwithstanding caste-based censuses, a proper enumeration by caste may never be possible. This is because when the enumerator, usually a schoolteacher, goes out to fill the forms, there would be no option but record whatever the respondent householder states as the caste formation of the family. This cannot be verified because the enumerator is unlikely to be coached with information about local variants of caste nomenclature. Besides, it would take years of solid analysis to collate the information collected from various parts of India owing to the diversity of sub-castes and their changed profile from region to state. A caste may be considered 'backward' in one state, but not so in another. So, a national census would produce very confusing data sets, which is definitely not good for policy formulation.


But our casteist politicians are not interested in the science of caste-based enumeration. They are only interested in creating vote banks by promising caste-based benefits by the governments controlled by them. Casteism and fragmentation of society are not the concerns of Indian political leaders till they manage to win an election and govern on the basis of quid pro quo withcaste groups.


Caste-based census results give politicians the opportunity to duck out from their duties to the larger nation. They begin to operate in a narrow channel and Indian laws would soon resemble the diktats of caste panchayats. Civil society everywhere in India has reacted with horror to the Indian State's veritable suicidal step of officially dividing up its citizens. What next? Caste-based electorates?


The writer Emeritus Fellow, Jawaharlal Nehru University

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CASTE, DISPARITY AND THE FUTURE

SEMINAL RESEARCH INTO HOW THE BALANCE OF ECONOMIC POWER LIES WITH THE SO-CALLED "UPPER CASTES" EVEN SIX DECADES AFTER RESERVATIONS COULD ALSO TRANSFORM OUR MINDSETS ON THE GENERAL PROFILE OF INDIA'S HETEROGENEOUS POPULATION. ONLY HIGH SCHOLARSHIP, NOT POLITICAL RHETORIC, CAN EXAMINE THIS PROBLEM

RAJESH SHUKLA


To even the most casual observer, India's demographic structure is heavily tilted in favour of the upper castes — whether in terms of the incomes they earn, the jobs they hold, the kind of education they receive. The "upper castes", for instance, comprise just 34.1 per cent of the country's population, but account for 45.4 per cent of the total income of the country. The SC comprise 16.8 per cent of the population but earn just 11.8 per cent of the income. The ST are not much better off, making up 8 per cent of the population but only about 5 per cent of the income is earned by them. The OBC are your "average Indians" — they account for about 41 per cent of the population, a figure that's remarkably similar to their share (37.7%) in the country's total income.


While this tells an important story in terms of the caste agitations that have formed the bedrock of India's politics over the years — this is not the complete story. What is needed to be told is the story behind the broad numbers: a story that is largely dependent on the levels of education that members of various communities get, on the types of jobs they are engaged in, and even where they live. In other words, caste politics may have little to do with the way various castes have fared, or not fared, in the period since Independence.


The castewallahs will have you know that you cannot get good jobs without a good education. You can't expect parents without good jobs to either have the money or the temperament to educate their children. Hence, the need for reservations in jobs and educational institutions. While some part of this is undoubtedly true, it is important to interpret the figures with care.


While OBC make up 41.1 per cent of the population, they comprise 35.5 per cent of the total number of graduates in the country. So, the level of discrimination is not as serious as it has been made out to be. Their share in other related categories — 35.8 per cent of the total in the category of 'professional, technical and related workers' and 33.6 per cent of 'administrative, execute and managerial jobs — also provides little evidence of OBC being discriminated against in education or employment.


However, it is different with SC and ST. though they form 24.9 per cent of the population, they make up just 14.2 per cent of graduates, 16.1 per cent of 'professionals' and are engaged in 11.8 per cent of the 'managerial' jobs.

Interestingly, when it comes to the share in expenditure, the caste bias is a lot less strong. With just under 25 per cent population share, SC and ST spend 18.2 per cent of the total spending in the country. OBC, with a 41.1 per cent production share, account for 39.1 per cent of the expenditure. The reason for the lower-caste bias, of course, has to do with the saving patterns. SC and ST spend most of their income and hence account for a mere 13.3 per cent of the country's savings.


Not surprisingly, given their low-income levels, SC and ST form a larger share of the lower income quintiles: they comprise 41.9 per cent of the lower income quintile and 32.1 per cent of the one just above that but only 12.2 per cent of the total in the top quintile (Note: a "quintile" in statistical terms is one of five equal proportions). Showing that OBC are nothing but the "average Indian", their share in each income quintile is roughly the same as their population share. So, they comprise 39.6 per cent of the lowest income quintile, 43.2 per cent of the next one, 44 per cent of the third and 35.7 per cent of the highest income quintile. The upper castes, with 34.1 per cent of the share of the population, comprise just 18 per cent of the lowest quintile and 52 per cent of the topmost level.


Put another way, more than 33 per cent of ST are in the lowest income quintile; the figure is 27 per cent for SC, 17 per cent for OBC and under 10 per cent for the "upper castes." At the top end, 11 per cent each of SC and ST are in the highest income quintile, along with 19 per cent of OBC and 34 per cent of the "upper castes." Given the wide differences in income levels across caste groups (Rs 40,752 per annum for ST vs. Rs 86,690 for the "upper castes"), it would be logical to expect inequality levels to be very high as well. This, however, is not true. Income inequality levels are broadly similar across all caste groups; if anything, they are slightly higher for the upper castes.


Then there is greater inequality across education levels. For instance, the difference between what an upper caste illiterate and an ST illiterate earns is 1.4 (Rs 31,511 per year vs. Rs 22,456) as compared to 3.7 between an illiterate ST and a graduate ST (Rs 22,456 vs. Rs 85,023) and 4.2 between an illiterate "upper caste" and a graduate "upper caste" (Rs 31,511 vs. Rs 1,35,086). Since over half of all graduate households are upper caste, it is hardly surprising that the so-called "upper castes" have the highest income levels.


Interestingly, there are significant differences in the spending levels of each caste even within various types of groupings. So, ST in the lowest income quintile spend just 4.6 per cent of their income on education as compared to 8.6 per cent for ST in the top quintile. The "upper castes" in the lowest quintile spend 6.5 per cent of their income on education. Given the difference in their average annual household incomes (Rs 40,753 per year for ST vs. Rs 86,690 for "upper caste"), this means the average ST family in the lowest income quintile spent Rs 905 on education versus Rs 2,018 in the case of the upper castes. Similarly, in the category of labour households, the ST family spent 4.1 per cent in contrast to 5.6 per cent by the upper caste family — in absolute terms this means an expenditure of Rs 915 by the ST and Rs 1,708 by the "upper caste".


The "upper castes" spend the most. They earn more than double than the ST and spend a less than double. As a result, "upper caste" families tend to save about 31 per cent of their annual incomes as compared to 26 per cent for ST, 19 per cent for SC and 24 per cent for OBC. SC and ST have the lowest ownership of durables while the "upper castes" show the highest ownership patterns. So, while 6 per cent of Indian households have a car, this varies from 2 per cent for SC/ST households, rising to 10 per cent for the "upper castes". For colour TV, the average for the country is 37 per cent; for ST, it is just 17 per cent, while for the "upper castes" it is a whopping 53 per cent.


The writer is Director, Centre for Macro Consumer Research, an autonomous wing of the National Council of Applied Economic Research

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

THE GROUNDSWELL FOR POLITICAL ACTION PERSISTS

THE RESULT OF THE 2009 GENERAL ELECTION CARRIED THE HINT THAT CASTE POLITICS HAS HAD ITS DAY. BUT POLITICIANS LIKE HOODA AND JINDAL CONTINUE TO ENSURE THAT "IDENTITY POLITICS" REMAINS RELEVANT AND THEY FOMENT RETROGRADE IDEALS TO ENSURE IT

MIRZA ASMER BEG


We all have multiple identities. Identity politics survives by playing up some particular aspect over all others, trying to submerge the loyalties generated by rival identities. As all of us have different identities, then whether to attach more importance to one identity over the other should be ultimately for us to decide. The main problem arises when we fail to prioritise these identities. The belligerent identifications with one identity may foment discrimination and violence of the worst kind. The case in point is the complex issue of identity politics in India, relating to caste identifications. In a country characterised by the politics of scarcity, the attractive short cuts which peddlers of caste offer are too tempting for the ordinary person to resist.


The potential relevance of appealing to the sectional interests of the under-privileged castes cannot, therefore, be denied, given the social inequalities that characterise India. A national survey by NCAER quantifies the obvious, by stating that the average per household income of Dalits is approximately Rs 45,900 per annum, as opposed to about Rs 86,700 for upper caste households.


Another peculiar trend in Indian politics is that identity politics was seen to have received a big setback in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, when the likes of Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan saw their parties perform far below expectations. It was said after the 2009 election that identity politics was dying and that economic development is the key to success.


Still, it appears that it is premature to write the obituary of caste on the basis of a lone election. We have seen recently electoral compulsions forcing politicians to walk a fine line on the evils of 'honour killings'. They failed to show the courage to openly condemn these grisly murders for fear of losing caste support. Politicians like Naveen Jindal and Bhoopinder Singh Hooda, who belong to the Congress, supposedly a party against identity politics — are seen to be supporting the hawkers of caste in placating vote banks.


However, if social equality is an important national goal, we must be conscious of the fact that equity often results from solidarity of disadvantaged groups. The under-privileged in India do have good reason to act together to resist the continuation or inflection of their disadvantages. Those who proudly announce that they are opposed to identity politics are also, in effect, opponents of joint action by the socially under-privileged. But remedying of a persistent inequality may sometimes be greatly helped by such group action.


In Indian society, ridden as it is by caste-based divisions it would be wrong to focus on only the deprivation faced by the so-called lower castes because it camouflages other kinds of discriminations like economic poverty, which may or may not be truly consistent with caste. As the NCAER data reveals, the average household income of Dalits increases as they go up the educational ladder. Where the average per household income of illiterate Dalits is about


Rs 30,630 per annum, it rises to approximately Rs 1,09,147 for Dalits who are graduates, which is much higher than the average income of upper caste households.


However, as social equity is an important goal, reservation for the extremely deprived was originally devised as an instrument of affirmative action. The objective was to overcome and overwhelm the narrow identities. But continuation and extension of groups covered by reservations might help to perpetuate these divisions, by creating an interest


to heighten these identifications. Consequently, reservations intended at creating equity, have ended up becoming self-perpetuating sources of divisiveness. In addition, reservations of a large section of population on one pretext or the other, has adversely affected the efficient functioning of the economy and services which eventually concern all citizens.


Nevertheless, civil society in India, which should have been seized of this vital issue of social equity and reservations as a possible tool to realise the Constitutional ideal, is generally found to be miles away from an informed debate — ignorance and prejudice mark attitudes to this vital issue. This was brought into sharp focus by a survey carried out by CNN-IBN-Indian Express in five major cities of India, which showed that on the vital issue of reservations, 52 per cent of those polled had not heard of the Mandal Commission and 39 per cent were not aware of the government's decision to reserve 27 per cent of Central higher education seats for OBCs. Only 14 per cent had comprehensive knowledge of the reservation controversy. Three-fifths of the upper castes remained hostile to a caring-and-sharing model of society.


In the present context, rather than being 'for' or 'against' reservations in the context of caste-based divisions, what we need is a more empirically informed reasoning, which should guide us in framing policies which can be fruitfully operationalised. We need to stop pretending altruism and start designing policies for the poor which really work. We need to think more in inclusive rather than exclusive terms.

 

 As told to Gulam Jeelani-- The author is Professor, Department of Political Science, AMU, Aligarh


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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

THE GOVT HAS ONLY FUELLED THE INF LATIONARY FIRE

 

DOING the right thing and doing the right thing at the right time are two entirely different things. The government's track record on tackling thorny economic issues has been similar to our judicial system. While it has generally done the right thing, the long delays in coming to grips with some pressing, but politically sensitive issues have often ended up creating a bigger issue as a result.

 

The decision to decontrol petrol prices and effect an immediate increase in the prices of major fuels and cooking gas is a good example of doing the right thing at a bad time.

 

Fuel prices should have been made fully market- driven long ago. Despite having decided to do so years earlier, the government had dithered on taking the final step till the situation had got out of hand. Last fiscal, India spent nearly Rs 15,000 crore on oil subsidies.

 

Allowing state- owned fuel retailers, which were incurring heavy losses on selling fuel below cost, to sell at market prices will change their fortunes and reduce the government's deficit by a huge margin, freeing up money for productive investment in badly needed infrastructure, services and poverty reduction programmes.

 

That's the good news.

 

The bad news is that it will push up inflation, already at record highs, by at least one per cent more. As fuel is a core input, there will be downstream escalation on the price of most products, increasing the burden on the consumer even more. The government has so far abjectly failed to control inflation in food and primary articles, which have little to do with global cycles.

 

By dumping a stiff hike on fuel at this system, the government has also signaled that it is willing to sacrifice the long- suffering middle class at the altar of political expediency.

 

IF JASWANT WHY NOT UMA?

THE return of Jaswant Singh back to the BJP fold is in many ways a vindication of LK Advani. In spirit, Mr. Singh's book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah was in line with Mr Advani's comments on the founder of Pakistan. That Mr Advani never recanted his comments on Jinnah made Mr Singh's expulsion ethically untenable. This shows that the BJP has made peace with a serious violation of its core Hindutva ideology.

 

What the party has still been unable to deal with is criticism of the top leadership, as was the case with Uma Bharati, who was expelled for criticising Mr Advani. Unlike both Jaswant Singh and LK Advani, her commitment to the Hindutva cause has been beyond question.

 

It is unfortunate that a leader with a mass base who was also a popular chief minister remains a persona non grata even five years after being expelled. In fact it is Uma Bharati's mass appeal that makes her a threat to the BJP leaders at the centre who – with the exception of Sushma Swaraj — lack such support.

 

To overcome its present crisis, the BJP needs mass leaders at the national level who would energise the party cadre. Jaswant Singh is clearly not in this mould. It is sad that the party with a difference has become just like the Congress, where mass leaders are considered more a threat than an asset.

 

ASIA CUP TRIUMPH AT LAST

INDIA'S Asia Cup triumph has not only broken a 15- year jinx on the continental tournament, but also exacted sweet revenge on Sri Lanka for the defeat in the tri- series final in Zimbabwe recently. Also don't forget that barring the ' golden era' in the early 1980s, when they won four big ODI tournaments, including the 1983 World Cup, India's track record in the finals of one- day competitions has been dismal.

 

The previous ODI title that India won was the Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka in September last year. Hopefully, the win will infuse some much needed confidence into the team before the Test series with Sri Lanka begins.

 

More crucially, this triumph is important in terms of preparation for the next February- March 2011 World Cup. As captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni recently pointed out, the road to the World Cup begins with the Asia Cup.

 

The selectors need to test out a few more youngsters in the coming series so that a pool of players is identified — and groomed — for the World Cup.

 

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MAIL TODAY

POSTURING OR THE END OF A LONG ALLIANCE?

BY BHARAT BHUSHAN

 

THE advertisements projecting Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as a friend of Bihar in Patna newspapers were in a sense unexceptional. They were not meant to offend. The picture of Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar at an election rally in 2009 was already in the public domain. The text of the advertisement did not seek to create any public discord. And the Bihar businessmen from Surat who paid for the advertisement were genuine.

 

Having enjoyed a fruitful and public political alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP), where was the need for Nitish Kumar to pretend as if a closet affair had suddenly been outed? Was it the potential damage the Modi ads could cause to the electorate that Nitish was so assiduously wooing explain why he started the war of words with the BJP? There is also pressure from a section of JD( U) that the party must go it alone to improve its electoral performance.

 

Strategy

 

The 2009 Lok Sabha election results proved that the fortunes of the JD( U) were on the rise. The party's vote share went up to 24.05 per cent in the Lok Sabha elections, up nearly four percent from 20.46 in the November 2005 assembly elections while the BJP's share shrank by about two percent.

 

However, the subsequent assembly bypolls necessitated by many of the party MLAs graduating to the Lok Sabha had a sobering effect on the JD( U). The party contested 12 out of the 18 seats up for byelection but managed to win only three — its arch rivals RJD and LJP won six and three seats, respectively. The BJP managed to win only two out of the six seats it contested. Contrast this with the fact that the NDA alliance had won 13 of these 18 seats in the 2005 polls. The enthusiasm of the go- it- alone brigade in the JD( U) was, therefore, somewhat dampened.

 

Nitish Kumar has all along been working on a two- pronged strategy — splitting the Dalit vote and wooing the Muslims. This made sense given the overall caste equations in the state.

 

In the 2005 assembly elections the castes that lined up behind the JD( U)- BJP alliance were the Koeris, Kurmis and Yadavs ( because of JD- U) and the landed Bhumihars, Brahmins and Rajputs because of the BJP. A section of Bhumihars also supported the JD( U) because of the representation they found in the party.

 

The remaining Yadavs and large sections of the Muslim voters were with Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal ( RJD) and the Dalits with the Lok Janshakti Party of Ramvilas Paswan. If Nitish had to keep the option of ditching the BJP open, then at some point he needed to take the Dalits and Muslims along with him.

 

To split the Dalit vote he set up the State Mahadalit Commission on the presumption that some Scheduled Castes were more deprived than others ( designated, Mahadalits) and government programmes must target them. In its first report, the commission declared that all Scheduled Castes in the state except three — Rajaks ( washermen), Rams ( Chamars) and Paswans — qualified as Mahadalits. A clutch of schemes were started for them like free school uniform for their children, free transistor radio for each family and guaranteed homestead land.

 

Then came the second report of the commission which claimed that Rajaks and Chamars also qualified as Mahadalits.

That left only the Paswans — represented by rival Ramvilas Paswan — out of the Mahadalit ambit.

 

As for the Muslims, splitting them would not be easy. They were, therefore, sought to be won over as a group through special government programmes.

 

All Muslim students who got a first division in their matric examination were given a one time scholarship of Rs. 10,000; commercial skill upgradation of Muslim girls was undertaken free of cost under a scheme called " Hunar"; the Hunar graduates were granted Rs 2,500 for a tool- kit under another scheme called " Auzar"; informal schools called " Taleemi Markaz" were set up for out of school Muslim children in their habitation ( Muslim Tolas in villages) run by a local but qualified Muslim boy or girl; interest free loans were given to Muslim weavers; and to top it all, the state government granted about 100 acres of land in Kishanganj to the Aligarh Muslim University to set up its Bihar state branch.

 

While this wooing was going on, Nitish Kumar suffered a setback as the landed gentry — especially the Bhumihars started deserting his party. The reason for this was the sharecropping law that the government was suspected of bringing in.

 

Land

In April 2008, the D Bandyopadhyay Commission set up by the Bihar government submitted its report on land reforms. It was not tabled in the legislature but copies were distributed to the legislators. It sparked fears of land ceiling and giving permanent tenancy rights to sharecroppers akin to the bargadari system of West Bengal through a standalone Bataidar ( sharecropper) Act.

 

The commission had apparently proposed a ceiling of 15 acres on agricultural land. That would free up about 21 lakh acres of land from the landlords for distribution among the nearly 11 lakh landless workers in the state. The alarmed landed castes rebelled and JD( U) believes that this resulted in its election debacle in the 2009 assembly by- elections.

 

Since then the government has been on the back foot on implementing the Bandyopadhyay Commission report. However, the seeds of suspicion about the government's intention have been planted among the Bhumihars.

 

Nitish Kumar is trying now to woo Bhumihar leaders back. He has won back the support of JD- U's Jehanabad MP Jagdish Sharma, who had rebelled after his wife Shanti Sharma was not fielded in the by- election from his traditional Ghosi assembly seat. Former Jehanabad MP Arun Kumar, who was in the Congress and the LJP after falling out with Nitish Kumar — is also rejoining JD( U).

 

After the resignation of Lalan Singh as the Bihar JD ( U) chief, Nitish Kumar picked another Bhumihar Vijay Kumar Choudhary as his successor in a bid to placate the community.

 

Future

Against this background came the Narendra Modi ad blitz. Local BJP leaders had also put up hoardings describing how Gujarat had come to Bihar's rescue in the aftermath of the Kosi floods.

 

Indeed, it had — sending not only the Rs 5 cr which a miffed Nitish Kumar returned but also deputing Gujarat state government officials, doctors and ambulances in flood affected areas for nearly two months.

 

However, Nitish Kumar could not let his sustained efforts with the Muslim voters go down the drain — being shown smiling and holding up the hand of a man who the Muslims hate viscerally.

 

Hence, the public posturing. The question, however, is whether this will get out of hand. Will Nitish now be more inclined to listen to those of his party men who want him to ditch the BJP and go it alone in the November assembly elections? The alliance has obvious electoral advantages — the Bhumihars trust the BJP and its ability to attenuate any policy adventurism which might harm their interests. As of now it would seem that Nitish only wanted to show the Muslim voters that if it came to a crunch, he can take on the BJP. That limited purpose has been served.

 

bharat.bhushan@mailtoday.in

 

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MAIL TODAY

THIRD UMPIRE

 

CWG MUCH MORE THAN AN EVENT FOR THIS FAMILY

QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI

 

WHEN the Commonwealth Games take place in Delhi in October, a well- known family of sportspersons will, as usual, be making a contribution. Originally from Alwar in Rajasthan but based in Delhi, three of the four members of the family have represented India in squash, in which one of them has a world record to her name. They will be making a difference to the CWG in their own quiet way.

 

Siblings— Bhuvneshwari Kumari, Yogendra Singh and Sohini Kumari— will play a major role in conducting the CWG squash event. Yogendra, the eldest among them, has been appointed tournament referee by the World Squash Federation, Bhuvneshwari joined as deputy competition manager ( squash) last week and Sohini is sports manager ( squash).

 

Their father Yashwant Singh is a member of the CWG organising committee. And as chairman of the Indian Olympic Association Athletes' Commission and director of Arjuna Awardees' Association, he continues to be a vital link between retired sportspersons and the IOA/ sports ministry.

 

Yogendra, who took part in the World Championships and Asian Games in the 1970s and 1980s, says that conducting the CWG squash tournament would be the pinnacle of his professional career. " I will be heading a team of 30 referees. It is by far the greatest honour that I can get, especially as the Games are being held in my country," said the man who became the first Indian to get the Level- II coaching and referring certificate in 1992 and now officiates around the globe.

 

Padma Shri Bhuvneshwari, who shares the world record of 16 successive national squash women's singles titles with the legendary Heather McKay of Australia, has this to say about her new assignment: " The game has given me so much, so I have got to give something back to the game." Sohini represented India in tennis and squash and won the national doubles tennis title for six successive years beginning 1989. She is also a qualified professional tennis coach and coaches at Mayo College, Ajmer, alongside Yogendra, who teaches squash there. The three will be forging a formidable troika at the Games.

 

The siblings would probably not have achieved so much but for their sports- loving father.

 

Yashwant, a former president of the World Bicycle Federation as well as the sport's Indian body, is as well known for his impeccable behaviour in addition to his accomplishments as an administrator. He can also be called ' Mr Fix It' for helping solve all kinds of problems that athletes face. From delays in receiving pension to getting insurance policy returns to renewing their Arjuna Award winners' train passes besides other problems, Yashwant, 70, is ever ready to assist them with a smile. Besides, Yashwant's charming smile mesmerises whoever visits his office at Olympic Bhawan.

 

So, it was hardly a surprise when former badminton ace Aparna Popat recently presented him with a box of chocolates as a mark of gratitude.

 

Later she wrote: " It was a small gesture to acknowledge the tremendous work you've put in for sportspersons like me. I really appreciate all the help you have provided me over the years and your large- heartedness stands out in an otherwise grudging society." Yashwant, picks the handwritten letter written by the 1962 Asian Games football gold medallist FA Franco as the best of the 100- plus letters of appreciation he has received. After he helped the Goa- based player solve his LIC policy problem, he wrote to him: " And as God said to Abraham, may your tribe increase a hundred fold, I repeat aloud the Lord's words and say to you ' may your noble tribe also increase a hundred fold'." Another letter is extremely special to Yashwant is from Asian Games gold medallist Kamaljit Sandhu. " All Indian sportspersons are very lucky to have a person of your character in a position [ from] where you can contribute towards uplifting their self- esteem."

 

NO TAKERS FOR ASIA CUP DUE TO FIFA

THE ongoing football World Cup and the dwindling stakes of the Asia Cup has forced the producers of the cricket tournament to cut down on the production costs. Nimbus, which holds the rights for the Asia Cup, made drastic cuts in hiring professional cameramen and reduce the number of cameras to cover the four- nation tournament that concluded on Friday with India winning the title in Dambulla.

" Not only did they reduce the number of cameras, but they did not hire the experienced cameramen that are usually involved with the coverage. This time they took less experienced cameramen who are being paid much less," said someone close to Nimbus.

 

He also said that TEN Sports, which has the rights for the three- Test India- Sri Lanka series, beginning on July 14, is also expected to employ the same policy.

 

" India is playing Sri Lanka too often, and this has diminished the interest in the contest. Sri Lanka played a Test series in India in November- December. Like Nimbus, TEN Sports is also going to feel this pinch and there are clear indications that they will also cut down on production costs. As if the Asia Cup and the Test series were not enough, India and Sri Lanka will lock horns in a tri- series along with New Zealand immediately after the Tests."

 

TAKE THESE STATS WITH A PINCH OF SALT

STATISTICS can do wonders. They can be used to reveal the real picture as well as hide it. A compilation of statistics from Test matches, ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals has highlighted some trends. Since the ICC has come up with these to project that " all is well" with the game, they should be taken with a pinch of salt. ICC, however, terms these figures as being " extremely positive". For teams' stats, a three- year period has been used to study the trends while for players the corresponding period is seven years. And at other times, no period of assessment is given.

 

On the raging debate— that too much international cricket is being played these days— ICC has used select periods to throw up numbers that suit it. ICC says that the nine Test nations on an average play 78 days in a year. India, Australia and England play around 95 days on an average. And the average number of days the world's top 20 cricketers play has fallen by 10 per cent— from 72 days to 65 days per year.

 

The T20 format has made a big impact on the scoring patterns of batsmen in Tests and ODIs.

 

In Tests, the average run rate has increased to 3.30 runs per over in 2009- 10 from 2.87 in the 1990s. In ODIs, the run rate reached the highest ever average of 5.19 ( 260 runs in 50 overs).

The corresponding rate was 5.04 last year and 4.97 over the previous five years.

 

ICC says there have been improvements in another issue of concern— the slow over rate, though it doesn't give the period for which the statistics are being compared. It simply says that in Tests, now 14.05 overs are being bowled in an hour ( earlier 13.91) and in ODIs, the figure is 14.38 ( earlier 13.93).

Qaiser. ali@ mailtoday. in

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDIT PAGE

LESS RULES, MORE BUREAUCRACY, PLEASE

KANTI BAJPAI

 

One of the favourite sports of India's middle classes is bureaucracy bashing. It is an easy game to play and can be quite a lot of fun. Everyone has their favourite, outrageous story about an encounter with the bureaucracy. The inefficiency, corruption, insensitivity, stupidity and Kafkaesque circularity of bureaucratic procedures and rules are legendary. That India's bureaucracy is one of the most stifling and difficult to deal with has now been revealed in a survey. Over a thousand expatriate business executives rated India's bureaucracy the most annoying in Asia.


Good governance and a progressive society require a capable bureaucracy. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the central swathe of India, in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. It is perhaps no accident that these are the areas most affected by tribal disaffection and Maoist insurgency. The presence and reach of the Indian government and the ability of the state to deliver basic amenities and services here are abysmal. At least one of the reasons for this is that there are simply not enough bureaucratic bodies on the ground. Quantity is not everything, but quantity means quality at some point. If you don't have enough civil servants, you cannot have quality governance.


The problem with India is not, as we in the middle class imagine, that we have too many idle and corrupt bureaucrats. The problem is that we have too many rules and regulations and too few officials to implement and monitor the regimes, and bring to book those who flout the rules and regulations. As India's population grows, the disequilibrium is only going to grow: more rules and regulations to be applied to more and more people by a bureaucracy that is not big enough.


Here are some figures to ponder. The Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the apex domestic civil service, numbers about 5,000 officers -- in a country of 1,200 million people! That works out to four officers per million people. Until the early 1990s, the government was recruiting about 150 IAS officers per year. Then, in the 1990s, due no doubt to the fiscal crisis and the desire to downsize the state, recruitment per year reduced to 50-60 officers. Today, the government is trying desperately to return to the 150 per year figure. Frankly, even this is ridiculously low for a country as big and as complex and democratic as India.


Then look at the Indian police. India has about 1.13 million policemen. China has 1.7 million and the US, which is one-quarter of India's size in terms of population, can boast of over 8,00,000 policemen. Germany, with a population that is one-fifteenth India's, has a force of 2,50,000. The ratio of policemen to the population in India is 0.95 -- lower than that of Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Estonia, Moldova, Slovenia, Kyrgyzstan and Lithuania. In a list of 48 countries, India ranked 47th in terms of the policemen to population ratio. Does this make sense? No one wants a police state, but law and order, from the most basic level to the highest, that is, dealing with terrorism, requires a force that has enough personnel. The terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008 taught us several things about law and order and emergency management, but one lesson is clear enough: India simply does not have enough policemen, both officers and other ranks.


The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is another egregious example. The IFS has 670 officers, spread over 119 missions and 49 consulates. That works out to an average of four officers per embassy. Here is a comparison. Singapore, a city-state, has 487 diplomats. The UK, with a population of 55 million, has 3,600, and the US has 20,000. The IFS has begun to discuss an expansion, but its ambitions seem tame. A figure that is doing the rounds as the ideal number is 1,000 officers. That would make the IFS slightly bigger than Belgium's service.

A conclusion: either we expand the bureaucracy or else the government will gradually wither away to the point that India will join the ranks of failed states. That would be a calamity for the Indian people.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDIT PAGE

MEMORY HOLDS THE DOOR

DEEPAK RANADE

 

Nostalgia is often a pleasurable pain. But pain, nonetheless. Unpleasant memories could create bitterness while pleasant memories tend to fill one with happiness and a desire to relive the experience. Some perceive nostalgia as part of emotional baggage, and question its biological relevance.


From an anthropological standpoint, remembering where the waterholes were in a situation where the supply of water is never constant is a valuable memory input. Similarly, knowledge of the precise location of food sources is important when supply tends to fluctuate. As a recording device, memory provides vital information in trying situations. However, the bank is also filled with a wide-ranging mix of seemingly trivial and redundant data.

The colour of the dress your first date wore on that first day, the tears that coursed down your mother's cheeks after she'd spanked you and the fight you had with your classmate in school over jumping the queue these are all recorded somewhere in our memory bank. In fact, our identity and ego are but an aggregate of all recorded data. Individual identities take shape on the basis of all past events and feelings, experiences and situations that find place in a corner of the brain. Cognitive focus or concentration lends a criticality to this unique and biological data processing system.


Perception, too, plays a crucial role in this recording mechanism. What is assimilated and stored is an outcome of what is perceived. A pragmatic person may therefore not perceive an event in a complex way. If a pragmatic person's friend or colleague encountered him on the street and passed by without a greeting, such a person he would record it as an event, a megabyte of mere oversight. But someone with a more complex perception could interpret this as part of a grand conspiracy. His memory would record it not just as an event megabyte; it would perhaps be a gigabyte of associative emotional data.


Studies have shown that the most vivid autobiographical memories have been of emotional events rather than of any empirical or neutral event. Consciousness is the turntable that keeps rotating while ego is the pin that records grooves on the record. Memories are grooves made by ego on unformatted consciousness. Identity is consciousness formatted by the perceptive ego.

 

The sense of self as a discrete entity makes all awareness an interaction between self and environment. Interaction is all about duality. But in moments of extreme pleasure or thrill, there is no interaction; there is only a sense of being.


There is an invisible time zone between self and environment. The sense of discreteness disappears momentarily. In those fleeting moments, there is nothing to record. The present has no access to any data. In fact, the present is the moment just prior to the beginning of the process of recording. The dominant temporal lobe is the warehouse of all data. It is an integral part of the limbic system that is phylogenically the oldest in the evolution of the brain. It was linked with emotional responses required for survival and reproduction.
Considering that the limbic system is one of the oldest, all emotional augmenting of mundane events are perhaps vestiges of primitive behaviour, and so is not evolved. In this context, a patient suffering loss of memory may be temporarily or otherwise `liberated' from stored data and its effects, though this is a source of anguish for near and dear ones.

The writer is a consultant neurosurgeon. www.neuroconsciousness.blogspot.com

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

THE SHIFT IS NOT FEASIBLE

 

The ADB report suggesting the yuan as an alternative to the US dollar uses the economic logic that after the global financial crisis, the dollar has become increasingly suspect with its sustainability thrown into question. But the problem with this thesis is that the spectre of a global meltdown has actually led a number of countries to bank even more heavily on the dollar. Given how heavily they have invested in it, pulling out now is simply not an option. And even now when the markets are hit, as during the stand-off between North and South Korea, the dollar remains an immensely attractive safe-haven option. After all, China might be a $4 trillion economy but the US is a $14 trillion one.


If the yuan were such a strong currency and the dollar such a weak one, why have the Chinese followed a policy of pegging the yuan to the dollar? That only proves that Beijing wants to free-ride on the international system without assuming concomitant responsibilities. Keeping the yuan pegged at an artificially low level has, in no small measure, contributed to the global financial crisis. If it were to become the global reserve currency it would, at the very least, have to be freely convertible. Does Beijing have the gumption to do this?


Let's not forget the political side of the equation as well. Given the wariness with which China is viewed in many parts of Asia as well as in Europe, it seems unlikely that those countries would choose to integrate their economies in this fashion. For all its talk of more flexibility, the yuan is likely to be controlled by Beijing in the foreseeable future, not the free market. And that makes it too great a risk for New Delhi or London to buy into.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

INTERVIEW

FACE BOOK AND SEER SOCCER

 

Face it. Ordinary mortals are denied one talent for which they'd give both arms and maybe even a few toes. It's the ability to read faces or minds (or, preferably, both). Blessed are those who have this gift, not least because they're hotly pursued in high circles.


If it's high circles like Pakistan's foreign office, the sought-after physiognomy expert is a certain director general (South Asia). This official, they say, has enviable skill at X-raying mugs and divining what their owners are thinking. Instead of the welcome party demanded by protocol, this 'face-reader' who can also tell the near-future on occasion reportedly received India's foreign secretary when she landed in Rawalpindi to push bilateral baat-cheet. If mind-probe were indeed his brief, we need no longer worry. Indo-Pak bonhomie depends on both sides walking their talk. So, our neighbours had nothing short of a brainwave: get to hear what the Indians have to say, plus get to confirm if they mean it. Jadoo, kya?


Suppose Indian diplomats were actually face-booked. Suppose also the secrets of their minds and more important their hearts were unlocked. Why, it's cause for cheer. Interlocutors across the border will then surely know that India's hand of friendship is for real. If anything, man's sixth sense deployed in its myriad forms can do wonders for global diplomacy. We could get to foresee which bilateral bhai-bhai would score and which wouldn't.

It's much like global sport. However many readers of faces, minds, numbers, tea leaves, tarot cards or celestial bodies professional bookies consult, the best 'seer' today happens to have eight tentacles. Meet Paul the psychic octopus in an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany. Having predicted the winners of football games since 2008, he's now hitting bull's-eye foretelling 2010 World Cup soccer match outcomes. Give Paul two boxes of treats marked by country flags of the opposing teams. Whichever box he picks first, the flag-bearers go on to win! More, this bookies' poster-Oracle has beaten competition from other football 'forecasters' like Leon the porcupine and Petty the pygmy hippo. That too, with no fancier aid than an appetite for mussels-in-a-box. And to think neuroscientists use all the complex paraphernalia of psychiatry, psychology, behavioral sciences and high technology only to tell whether consumers use sunscreen or hair dye as 'predicted' by their brain scans. Bah!

Idea. Why not hire Oberhausen's denizen of the not-so-deep to do psy-ops for India's netas and babus? For instance, should Paul get here and start predicting election results by picking snacks from packs stamped with party symbols, poll candidates can save millions by firing all those misfiring astro-pundits and crystal ball gazers. Psephologists could stop shooting numbers in the dark. Met office guys could also seek help to become more reliable rain conjurers. Great. That still leaves the problem of plumbing what lies behind the countenance of political nayaks claiming to be people's sevaks. Any good mind-dissectors around this side of the Wagah?

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

YUAN BETTER THAN DECREPIT DOLLAR

 

The US dollar is no longer what it used to be. The logic behind the Bretton Woods system that first established the greenback as the international reserve currency, and thereby certified America's dominance in the global economy, no longer exists. Hence, it is time that the US dollar is shunned as the international reserve currency and replaced with an appropriate alternative. And the only currency that fits the bill is the Chinese yuan.


The American economy, having been mauled by the recent economic downturn, is struggling to get back on track. Though the Obama administration's financial stimulus has managed to stop the bleeding, there is still quite a long way to go before the American economy is restored to robust health. On the other hand, the economic downturn has resulted in a shuffling of the global order with Asian economies such as China and India emerging stronger than before.


There is no doubt that the Chinese economy today is the strongest in the world. Despite the global economic crisis, it posted an amazing 8.5 per cent growth in 2009. Beijing holds as much as $2 trillion in reserves and recently took a meaningful step towards greater monetary flexibility by letting the yuan appreciate vis-a-vis the greenback a move that could very well see the renminbi float free in the near future. It has also taken significant steps towards greater currency convertibility by undertaking currency swaps with several central banks such as those of Argentina, Hong Kong, Indonesia, etc. In such circumstances, holding on to a decaying greenback is absurd. It simply doesn't reflect reality. The global economy needs a strong currency to act as a stabilising force. With the dollar losing its heft, the world should consider the yuan as an alternative.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

LET THE CHILDREN FLOWER

 

It should come as no surprise that even after great public outrage over the tragic suicide of 13-year-old Rouvanjit as a result of being repeatedly subject to traumatic forms of punishments, the principal of Kolkata's La Martiniere School has justified the caning and other forms of humiliation inflicted on the class VIII student as a necessary means of disciplining him. One supposedly serious allegation levelled by the principal to justify corporal punishment is that Rouvanjit exploded a stink bomb in class! It shows that despite their avant-garde pretensions, many of our elite English-medium schools have not outgrown the moral dictum of their Victorian founding fathers: "Spare the rod and spoil the child."


Today's notions of child upbringing among the educated middle class demand constant disciplining, constant nagging, teaching children to behave themselves to fit into the supposedly orderly world of adults. After they have been taught to say "mama-papa", the two most important words dinned into child minds by the school system and parents alike are "thank you" and "sorry". To this is added the maddening pressure to "succeed" in a highly competitive world with tests and exams starting from nursery onwards which subject tender minds to robotic academic discipline, with every child expected to be equally good in all standard subjects taught in highly regimented school classrooms irrespective of the child's abilities, inclinations, desires or talents.

By contrast, some traditional notions of bringing up children in India make far greater allowance for the unique privileges of childhood and the liberties children are entitled to. For example, in most traditional and semi-traditional families in India, expectant mothers hang a portrait of Bal Gopal right opposite their beds so that they can see baby Krishna's visage first thing in the morning as an aid to having their prayers for a Krishna-like child rewarded. Why Krishna, and not Ram or any other god or goddess?


Socially conditioning expectant mothers to desire a Krishna-like child is to prepare them for the joie de vivre that most children are intrinsically gifted with. Krishna is supremely naughty, forever tricking his playmates and playing pranks on his mother and other village folk. Stealing butter is his favourite sport not because he is ill fed or deprived of his favourite food but because he enjoys playing naughty tricks. He lies and cheats while playing games with other children and teases young girls and women no end. This Krishna leela has been celebrated in our mythology, paintings, literary creations, dance and music through the ages.


To see an image of baby Krishna in each child is to recognise the divinity of every child and learn to delight in their making sense of and negotiating with this world in their unique way, including through naughty pranks and childish tantrums. Children don't need air-conditioned classrooms, expensive schools, toys and exotic entertainment to make them happy. They need unconditional love and a sense of security from the adults responsible for their well-being. They are as happy playing with mud or sand, chasing butterflies or simply running around, jumping up and down, or cracking stink bombs.


One would have expected that after Aamir Khan's insightful and moving film Taare Zameen Par, at least teachers of elite schools would have imbibed the basic lesson that regimenting children is not the best way to educate them. Each child is unique and should not be expected to become a flawless assembly line product or behave like a little saint! Real education lies in enabling each child to discover his own genius within. The present-day school system revolves around penalising you for your weaknesses and mistakes and the inability to tread the beaten path in learning predetermined skills. The film held up a mirror to all adults parents and teachers alike to show how the system of education we have come to value is so designed that only a few lucky ones can succeed in the rat race and that too by destroying or suppressing much of their creative abilities and innate joy. During the years i taught in a Delhi University college, i steadfastly refused to accept examinership because it involved marring young lives by "failing" them or grading them in ways that left permanent scars.

While a few lucky ones come out successful, most of our modern-day baby Krishnas just manage to get by while a large number are simply crushed under the burden of living up to the neurotic expectations of adults. Our education system is making nervous wrecks out of otherwise perfectly healthy individuals by privileging robotic learning and cut-throat competition which takes all joy out of learning and makes children slaves to the insane world we have created under the pretence of promoting excellence and rewarding merit. HRD minister Kapil Sibal needs to put this issue centre stage in his attempts at reforming India's education system.


All those parents holding stage-managed demonstrations to defend La Martiniere School's disciplining methods better remember, their child could be the next victim. In fact, it is not enough to demand that the principal and teachers of La Martiniere who traumatised little Rouvanjit be made to resign. They should be charged with and tried for abetment to suicide, no less.


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

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OURTAKE

FIXING WHERE THE BUCK STOPS

 

Riots seem to bring out puzzling characteristics in officials, politicians, the perpetrators and eyewitnesses. None of them ever seem to remember having seen or heard anything despite enormous losses of life and property. This has led to a situation where victims wander in a twilight zone of denials and half-truths for years. The revised Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill 2010 seeks to ensure accountability and punishment in the event of a riot. The most important feature of the new bill is the onus put on the interventionist role for the Central government as well as enabling it to set up a unified command.

It does not spare officials either for sins of omission or commission and has recommended stiff penalties for those found guilty. The victims who have usually been helpless bystanders have come under the purview of the bill in that they will now have the right to access information about legal proceedings and documents and can be heard at all stages of the investigation and trial. The Cabinet is yet to make at least 80 amendments to the bill before it is introduced, most probably in the monsoon session. Public servants and the police will find it hard to take cover under the excuse that they were waiting for orders from above or to suffer from selective amnesia. The bill clearly holds them responsible for inaction, or worse still, collusion. We have seen that in the riots in Gujarat, Bhiwandi, Moradabad, even the 1984 Sikh riots to name a few, cases fell by the wayside because officialdom and the police either did nothing or were complicit in the crimes. The victims of many of these carnages have had to wait decades for justice and many are still in limbo.

There is bound to be friction between the Centre and state over the enhanced powers of the former in riot control. And there is no doubt that this issue will be politicised. But, at least it goes some way to enable people to know where the buck stops. The bill was first introduced in 2005 and then withdrawn. It was passed by the Cabinet in 2009 but found to be inadequate. The fact that so much thinking and fine-tuning has gone into it suggests that the government is at last serious about tackling this barbaric trend. Of course, there are several things that need to be streamlined to speed up the investigative process and the registration of cases. The bill alone will not be able to prevent riots. But once it becomes clear that the culprits cannot get off so easily, hopefully their incidence will become much less.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

WHAT LIES BENEATH

R.K. PACHAURI

It was in 1989 that Ali Shams Ardekani, former deputy foreign minister of Iran, and I came up with the concept of the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline. In 1990, I invited Ardekani to present this project at an international conference organised by us at New Delhi, and it received considerable interest, resulting in the Government of India pursuing it seriously in the ensuing period. There were obvious concerns from the Indian side, on the risk of a critical part of the pipeline that will pass through Pakistan, particularly the Balochistan region.

To create some level of assurance, we managed to get the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support a project involving energy cooperation between India, Pakistan and Nepal. The focus of this project was to develop an ironclad agreement for the IPI pipeline. We were able to get the involvement of two politicians from each country to ensure that the exercise was not merely a pipedream put forward by academics and researchers but something that politicians, in at least India and Pakistan, found acceptable. The two Indian politicians who participated in the exercise were Jaswant Singh of the BJP and Mani Shankar Aiyar of the Congress. Of the two Pakistani politicians who took part in the project, one was Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the current foreign minister of Pakistan.

Back then, Iran was eager and almost desperate to sell gas to India and Pakistan at very low and stable prices, a situation which has drastically changed today. Today, the IPI pipeline, as far as India is concerned, won't only be a difficult political proposition. With the pricing arrangements being offered by Iran, its economic viability has become questionable. Meanwhile, Pakistan reportedly signed an agreement recently for a pipeline to get gas from Iran with a total investment reported to be in the range of $7 billion. India is not part of this project, even though it was originally conceptualised and developed by an Iranian and an Indian.

Today, Iran is being subjected to escalating UN sanctions to which even China is a party, much to the disappointment of Iran. Fifteen years ago, however, the situation was different because Iran was not known to have started work on nuclear technology, and the rest of the world, except the US, did not have serious political or diplomatic problems with it. At that stage, I recall a conversation I had with the then Under Secretary of State to whom I pleaded that the US should initiate a dialogue with Iran, which will strengthen the moderates' position in that country. Perhaps India could have played the role of an honest broker in bringing about a thaw in US-Iran relations.

Whether India will ever be able to take advantage of Iran's abundant reserves of natural gas is questionable. But it should focus on the bigger issue of its relations with fractured societies. Clearly, the lesson from Iran will have important implications on our dealings with Pakistan. Pakistan is not a monolithic society. A growing number of Pakistani moderates want both peace with India and an elimination of terrorism — which was earlier aimed largely at India but now poses a threat to peace and stability in Pakistan itself. The prime minister's efforts in this regard show his wisdom, sagacity and vision, the exercise of which will benefit both nations.

A new complication, which makes the need for peace with Pakistan more urgent, is the discovery of precious minerals in Afghanistan by the US Geological Survey. Of critical importance are the reserves of lithium, a metal that's essential for the production of efficient batteries. If India were to move towards electric vehicles — which it cannot avoid for long  — easy access to large reserves of lithium, like the ones discovered in Afghanistan, will be hugely beneficial.

But, clearly, access to Afghanistan's mineral resources will be out of question if our relations with Pakistan remain strained. In fact, it is not inconceivable that, like with an oil-rich Iraq, the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, and their dominance in the area, could become a permanent feature. An understanding with Pakistan could perhaps ensure earlier withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and its peaceful development.

The central theme of the last South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meeting, held in Bhutan in April this year, was climate change. It is a challenge that afflicts all countries in South Asia. To overcome water scarcity through cooperation and collaboration or use solar energy on a large scale in the Thar Desert and other regions, peace between India and Pakistan is a prerequisite.

Now that serious attempts are being made to resume the composite dialogue between the two countries, people in India must support the effort. The strategic implications of Afghanistan's newfound mineral wealth need to be viewed in a strategic context. We cannot change our neighbours and, today, we cannot ignore the fact that our neighbour's neighbour has become mineral-rich overnight.

(R.K. Pachauri is Chairman, Intergovernmental  Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Director-General, The Energy & Resources Institute (Teri) The views expressed by the author are personal.)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

SPEAKEASY

THE MEDIA VOLCANO IS ABOUT TO ERUPT

THE NEW ICELANDIC LAW PROTECTING WHISTLEBLOWERS THREATENS THE FUTURE OF US FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN

 PRATIK KANJILAL

 

The unjust war in Afghanistan is reeling under a media offensive. General Stanley A. McChrystal, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) chief in Kabul, has been blown away by a story in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. Reeking of eau de gonzo, `The Runaway General' depicts McChrystal and his entourage as locker room louts stiffing the finger to limp- wristed Washington. The miasmic eau emanates from the soldiers, not the jour- nalist, who has the quotes to back his story.

 

Meanwhile, the whistleblower magnet WikiLeaks.org is releasing its second block- buster video of the season -- footage of the May 4, 2009, massacre in the Afghan village of Granai, where heavy bombing killed at least 100 civilians, most of them children. In April, it had released stom- ach-turning footage of a gunship attack in Baghdad in 2007, titled `Collateral Murder'.

 

Taken by the Apache's gun camera, it shows civilians being machine-gunned after the telephoto lens carried by a Reuter pho- tographer is mistaken for a rocket-pro- pelled grenade (RPG). It's become a black joke on the internet: "That's not an RPG, that's a Canon!" When a van carrying scho- olchildren pulls up and the driver tries to help the wounded, it is also blown away.

 

Both acts violate the Geneva Convention.But what's truly shocking is the soundtrack. It reveals that the copter is crewed by sub-humans with no ethical faculty.While killing civilians, they talk like video gamers shooting for high scores. "Look at all those dead bastards," crows one as the dust settles.

 

Now, Wikileaks is releas- ing the video from Granai, where the civilian death toll was ten times more than shown in the Baghdad footage.No wonder the Americans are seeking the "cooperation" of Julian Assange, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks. For some weeks it was feared that they were hunting him. Wonder why they couldn't find him -- he appeared recently on a panel of the European Parliament.

 

But then, Americans aren't very good at finding people. Consider the elusive super- star Osama bin Laden -- 27 audio and video hits and counting, and he's still on the loose.

Mainly, Assange has been in Iceland, helping to forge the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative. Last week, Iceland's par- liament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution for media law reform moved by an all-party group of 19 MPs. Laws will now be passed for the protection of free speech, whistleblowers and anonymous sources and against Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (Slapp) suits and `libel tourism', in which an aggrieved party in one country uses the courts of another country with favourable libel laws to sue a newspaper, journalist or blogger in a third country.

 

Iceland is internationalis- ing media law and bringing it up to speed with the infor- mation age, and it will make money off it, too. Which it needs to recover from the economic crisis triggered by bank failures. Soon, Iceland could become the Grand Caymans of investigative journalism and blogging, with huge server farms and the head offices of media organisations.

 

I worry for the future of the US war machine. Media control, embedded jour- nalism and manufactured patriotism are primitive methods, unequal to the media volcano that Iceland is unleashing. And in Afghanistan, McChrystal has been replaced by General David Petraeus, the man who fainted at a Senate hearing while facing hard questions about Afghanistan. Serio- usly, I worry.

 

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine pratik@littlemag.com The views expressed by the author are personal

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SHAPE OF MONEY

 

The euro has faced rough weather of late, but the ease with which members of the EU abandoned their long-held currencies for this common one has often been attributed to its sturdy symbol. Drawn from the Greek epsilon, it has two lines vertically drawn through, said to represent stability. Therefore, presumably, local currencies were junked for the euro's steadying promise — though it did not stop local populations across Europe from complaining that in the switchover retailers cleverly included a price hike. Nonetheless, the euro symbol was also bland enough to avert any nationalist opposition to its adoption.

 

No such worries cloud India's horizon as we give the rupee a symbol. On Thursday, the Union cabinet put off a decision on what symbol to adopt — a shortlist of five symbols is reportedly ready. But a timetable is presumably on the government's mind, given that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in the last budget speech: "In the ensuing year we intend to formalise a symbol for the Indian rupee, which reflects and captures the Indian ethos and culture." That is high ambition, but the minister was obviously conscious of the fact that currency symbols often become shorthand for the country too.

 

So, at a time when India is becoming more confident of letting the rupee find its value against other currencies — it's a relative change — it may be apt that its symbol is being found through open competition.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FREE AT LAST

 

The UPA's decision to free oil prices is overdue by years, but welcome nonetheless. For a very long time, every informed observer of the Indian economy has known that a rationalisation of government fuel subsidies is essential. Yet garnering the political will has predictably, if regrettably, been slow. But even if late, the decision is momentous. It also comes when prices are already rising at over 10 per cent. By the government's own estimates, higher fuel prices might push inflation up further, perhaps by as much as another percentage point. Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu says that this one-time spike in inflation might last about six months; whether we are still on course for the "5 to 6" per cent end-year inflation that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke of is uncertain.

 

The truth is that, these concerns notwithstanding, inflation could not have held off the decision. Nor should temporarily higher inflation due to an increase in costs cause the Reserve Bank of India to reconsider its monetary stance. India's fuel subsidy regime has been an unholy mess, a zig-zag of cross-subsidies and leakages. Entire sectors, and many of them, have been crippled or distorted by this pointlessly Byzantine edifice of "well-meaning" state intervention. It has crushed the growth of oil marketing companies, and the professionalisation of the energy distribution sector. And, of course, it is a quarter of the government's estimated subsidy bill of Rs 1,20,000 crore. Given the dangerously high fiscal deficit and the continuing calls on the government's purse from its ambitious social sector programmes, it would have been disastrous if this decision had not been taken — not least to inflation, in the medium term.

 

What now? First of all, it should be noted that this is not the whole task. The complete rationalisation of India's fuel economy, and its reorganisation along market-driven lines, will require more than just allowing pump prices to float. The government cannot keep its eye off that ultimate goal. The second point to take forward is that, now that Indian consumers are forced to pay the real price of oil, we should be on alert for our entrepreneurs looking for lower-tech, greener solutions. That's another reason this can only help.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BOUND BY OPTIONS

 

Sceptics can pick any number of nits in India's renewed engagement with Pakistan, marked by the talks between the two foreign secretaries in Islamabad on Thursday, the on-going exchanges between the home ministers in Pakistan this weekend, and the planned dialogue between the two foreign ministers next month. Some would say it is a departure from Indian's earlier position that it would not talk unless Pakistan brings the plotters of 26/11 to book. Others would argue that Pakistan has neither the will nor the capacity to deliver on any promise to prevent its territory from being used by anti-India terrorist groups. The Pakistan army's investment in the Lashkar-e-Toiba, some would insist, means that no action will be taken against the LeT whatever might be the evidence that India puts on the table. Any dialogue with Pakistan, the critics conclude, is either unproductive or counter-productive.

 

The critics reflect the widespread national frustration at the failures of the peace process with Pakistan. None of them, however, offers a credible answer to our enduring security dilemmas with Pakistan. That probably is one reason why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has disregarded the attacks on his Pakistan policy from the national security hawks in Delhi. Dr Singh knows (as did his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee) that suspending the talks with Pakistan after a major terror attack loses its shock value quickly and there is no option but to resume talks after a decent interval. That discomforting experience should tell us two important things. One, Delhi can't eliminate the sources of terrorism in Pakistan through political give and take. The links between the terror groups and the state agencies in Pakistan are now too entrenched. Second, dialogue is not a favour that India offers to Pakistan and withdraws when the mood sours. It is in India's interest to maintain a dialogue with our nuclear armed neighbour that is at once a source and target of violent extremism and is increasingly unable to exercise effective authority over its own territory.

 

Talking to the formal civilian structures in Islamabad should be one, and not necessarily the most important, element in India's engagement with Pakistan. That should include a major effort to deal with all the major institutions, including the army and the intelligence agencies. India must also embark on a substantive dialogue with the political classes across the border as well as the many international stakeholders in Pakistan's stability. It is only through a sustained engagement, with no expectation of short-term results, that India can hope to engineer a long overdue internal change in Pakistan that overturns its current policy of instrumentalising violent religious extremism. The emphasis on the long-term means now is as good a time as any to begin a patient engagement with Pakistan.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

RED CORRIDOR, RED ECONOMY

BIBEK DEBROY

 

The government now plans to spend Rs 100 crore for every left-wing extremism affected district, and there are 34 of these. As a minor issue, one would like to know names of these 34 districts and it is remarkably difficult to obtain a list. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) clearly possesses such a list, because that number 34 is consistently mentioned in assorted MHA publications, including annual reports. However, I haven't been able to obtain a complete list from any MHA source. The ministry of tribal affairs has a list of 33 districts and so does the Planning Commission: Khammam (Andhra Pradesh), Arwal, Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui, Jehanabad, Rohtas (Bihar), Bastar, Dantewada, Kanker, Rajnandgaon, Surguja, Narayanpur, Bijapur (Chhattisgarh), Bokaro, Chatra, Garhwa, Gumla, Hazaribagh, Latehar, Lohardaga, East Singhbhum, Palamau, West Singhbhum (Jharkhand), Balaghat (Madhya Pradesh), Gadchiroli, Gondia (Maharashtra), Rayagada, Deogah, Gajapati, Malkangiri, Sambalpur (Orissa) and Sonebhadra (Uttar Pradesh). Perhaps one more district from Andhra has been added, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram or Visakhapatnam.

 

After all, apart from severity of LWE, there is a question of Central largesse. This additional Rs 3,400 crore is exclusive of what is spent on security, such as through the SRE (security related expenditure) scheme. Under this, the Centre bears a certain percentage of expenditure on modernisation of state police.

 

According to reports, this additional money will be spent on roads, electricity and drinking water. Plus there is an issue of implementing the PESA (Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. The issue that LWE cannot be handled as a pure law and order problem and there is a governance-cum-development deficit is a fair point. It was flagged comprehensively in Planning Commission's April 2008 task force on "Development challenges in extremist affected areas".

 

However, several questions arise. First, there has apparently already been a lot of public expenditure. During UPA-I, there was a special development package of Rs 20,000 crore, spread over three years and concentrated on these 33 districts and another 22 contiguous ones. Other than specific items (health centres, schools, hostels, skill development), this encompassed housing through the Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY), roads through Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), rural electrification through Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY), employment through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and telecom through Bharat Nirman. Government employees were given additional incentives for working in LWE areas. There was also supposed to be splicing with MPLADS. Other than drinking water (not explicitly covered), all other development activities proposed now were therefore already supposed to be covered. If that public expenditure splurge did not work, what makes us think the present one will?

 

To the extent information is available, the Planning Commission now has a website on what is happening in these 34 districts on PMGSY, NRHM (National Rural Health Mission), SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan), RGGVY, MGNREGS and drinking water. This makes for depressing reading and here are just two instances: 0.72 per cent of habitations in Khammam have been covered under PMGSY, 7 per cent of BPL households in Kanker have been covered under RGGVY. It is a separate matter that this information is dated. Information is missing. If this new integrated action plan is being worked out by the Planning Commission, as has been reported, why can't it work with other ministries and departments to collate information first? There has been another report that the Planning Commission will now become a Systems Reforms Commission.

 

Perhaps one should begin with 33 or 34 LWE districts, high on everyone's agenda.

 

To the extent that states have to offer matching grants on Central schemes, why have these not been available? Why has money available not been spent (utilised)? When money is spent, why has it not led to tangible improvement in outcomes? Once upon a time, before the merger of PWG and MCC in 2004, the LWE movement used to work in silos and the merger seems to have increased synergy. Why do government ministries and departments continue to work in silos? Even more interestingly, why is there this variation in efficiency of public expenditure across states, and within the same state across districts?

 

There is another question that is intellectually interesting and not much research attention seems to have been paid to this. Roads, electricity and drinking water are important and so are poverty, literacy, female work participation rates, etc. On an average there is correlation between deprivation on these criteria and presence of LWE extremism. However, that is on an average. Not every district that is so deprived has LWE violence and not every district that has LWE violence is relatively deprived to the same extent on these economic criteria. Therefore, in looking at simple correlations with economic backwardness or shares of tribal population, we may be over-simplifying. For instance, beyond economic backwardness, there may be a sense of social and political marginalisation, non-existence of redress mechanisms, bypassing by the law and order machinery. Should one therefore have a centralised template, imposed top-down from Delhi, and assume it will solve the problem? Or should the integrated action plan evolve from below, from the level of districts? There is no doubt Balaghat needs roads. But that does not seem to be the primary issue for Aurangabad. Rural electrification is important in Rayagada, but less so in Rohtas.

 

Beyond inherent inefficiency in government delivery, there is also a point about acceptability of such public expenditure programmes by LWE groups. For example, is it universally true (across all districts) that LWE groups accept MGNREGS, but resist developmental activities? MGNREGS is an intriguing one. On an average, there is positive correlation between existence of LWE activity and larger shares of adult males in the population. MGNREGS is known to have reduced out-migration, chiefly of the male variety. Has it then also reinforced (instead of reducing) LWE violence?

 

The red corridor is also financed by a red economy and this is believed to thrive on 10-15 per cent levies, the favourites being traders and construction companies. If that is the case, roads delivered by private sector construction may be more acceptable than electricity and drinking water, delivered essentially by the public sector. In the former case, linkages presumably already exist, at least in some districts, perhaps explaining why road construction works better in Andhra than in Maharashtra. At the level of research, there is much we don't know and consequently resort to generalisations. While in general development and governance deficits are issues, we need to disaggregate and decentralise plans. Else, like earlier public expenditure programmes, this template will also fail.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based economist

 

express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A COUP IN CANBERRA

ASHUTOSH MISRA

 

On Thursday morning, just as Australia was coming to grips with the exit of the Socceroos from the World Cup, another drama was unfolding in Canberra. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's exit was a first on many counts. Rudd earned the distinction of being the first elected PM to lose office thanks to his own party, even before his tenure came to an end; his deputy for four years, Julia Gillard became the first female PM — and was sworn in by the first female Governor General, Quentin Bryce.

 

In an extraordinary turn of events, Rudd held discussions with the Australian Labor Party (ALP) caucus on Thursday morning to chart out a strategy to resurrect his plummeting ratings — from 70 per cent to 30 per cent recently. It is believed that, sensing the lack of support within the ALP caucus, Kevin Rudd rejected the idea of ballot voting and instead offered to step down. Julia Gillard's explanation in her first press conference was that she had to step in because "a good government was losing its way... and the Rudd government did not do what it should have done and at times lost track." It was a strong statement — seen as vindication of opposition criticism of a government in which Julia Gillard herself had been a leading figure.

 

The unamused leader of the opposition Liberals, Tony Abbot, said, "The Labor mafia has chucked out a prime minister elected by the people of Australia... it's an ugly assassination." Labor's website was instantly bombarded with messages like "We want our vote back", "It's disgusting", "Can't believe how Kevin was thrown out". Rudd, in a speech about his achievements of the last four years, was flanked by his wife and sons and choked repeatedly while speaking.

 

His two major legacies are undoubtedly, first, steering Australia through the financial crisis, through tough-talking with financial institutions and quick stimulus packages; and second, offering a historic apology to the lost generations of Aboriginals within days of taking his oath of office.

 

Gillard faces two critical issues: the Emissions Trading Scheme and carbon pricing, which Rudd failed to get passed by parliament; and the proposed 40 per cent super mining tax which had an entire industry up in arms. She immediately announced negotiations with the mining industry and ordered the withdrawing of pro-tax advertisements. Still, as Abbott claimed, she did not seem too inclined to change Rudd's policies over the issue.

 

Encouragingly, though, within a few hours, the stock market rose by 16 points and the Australian dollar grew stronger. Her decision-making in critical matters is considered more inclusive, unlike Rudd's; but it is yet to be seen whether she can maintain this style when tough policy decisions will have to be taken on climate change, the mining tax, health reforms, education and the ALP's own internal reforms. Elections should be expected in two or three months' time; by October or November the shape of the new government will be determined.

 

But what does her ascent mean for India-Australia relations?

 

Under the Rudd government there was a steady growth in bilateral trade and investment — but at the same time ties were repeatedly rocked. First over the Harbhajan Singh controversy, then over the denial of supply of uranium, and then lately the attacks on Indian students in Australia. New Delhi should certainly hope for a turnaround in relations, and receive more attention than before. Even as the Mandarin-speaking Kevin Rudd underlines an added emphasis on and a heightened engagement with China through the establishment of a new AUD 100 million China Centre at the Australian National University, Julia Gillard managed a much smaller, but symbolically significant AUD 8 million for a new Australia-India Institute at the University of Melbourne. It was she who, in September 2009, following the attacks on students, paid a five-day visit to India to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and resurrect plummeting relations. While she may have sounded less than convincing when answering questions about the situation, her five-day long visit nonetheless underpinned the importance she attached to relations with India.

 

Should she be elected as Australia's next prime minister in the yet to be announced elections, the key concern for New Delhi would be: can she reverse Kevin Rudd's veto over the supply of uranium to India? If one goes by the stand of the ALP, it is unlikely that the party ideology would allow the supply unless India signs the NPT. But in the strategic community here there is a growing sense, much endorsed by the business community, that under the next government — most likely still led by Labor — pragmatism may override idealism and the supply of uranium may be approved before it loses its political and economic value.

 

The writer is at the Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University, Queensland

 

express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

JASWANT, JASWANT

SAUBHIK CHAKRABARTI

 

I see everything twice — thus Yossarian at a military hospital, in Catch-22. Why Catch-22, though? In this column? Because, sometimes, I see everything twice. Also, sometimes, I hear everything twice.

 

Back-to-BJP Jaswant Singh, shelves packed with books in the background, on NDTV 24x7, an exclusive interview. The same evening, Back-to-BJP Jaswant Singh, shelves packed with books in the background, on CNN-IBN, an exclusive interview. Me, in modern civilisation's classic TV-viewing pose, that is, semi-prone on a comfy living room recliner, mind and brain slowly adjusting to the blatting from the box, watching the same guy, the same background — twice. Okay, maybe the bookshelf seen on NDTV was not the same as the bookshelf seen on CNN-IBN. Maybe. I am not sure. But even if it was, it made no difference. I was seeing everything twice.

 

Scary, no? Made worse by the fact, as I said earlier, that perhaps I was hearing everything twice, too. It's a closed chapter, I heard Jaswant say to NDTV, to a question on whether the Jinnah thing is all done and dusted with. It's a closed chapter, I heard Jaswant say to CNN-IBN, to a question on whether the Jinnah thing is all done and dusted with. The hurt and humiliation, I heard Jaswant say to NDTV. The hurt and humiliation, I heard Jaswant say to CNN-IBN. The grace and generosity of Lalji Advani, I heard Jaswant tell NDTV. The grace and generosity of Lalji Advani, I heard Jaswant tell CNN-IBN.

 

Not just scary, but eerie. And if I felt this I can only imagine how NDTV and CNN-IBN must have felt. I mean, as competitors they must be checking up on each other, right? So, NDTV gets an exclusive with Jaswant where he says "closed chapter", "hurt and humiliation", "grace and generosity", NDTV is so happy, and then it checks out CNN-IBN, which says it has an exclusive with Jaswant, where he says "closed chapter", "hurt and humiliation", "grace and generosity", and how does NDTV feel? Or reverse the process, how does CNN-IBN feel? Scary? Eerie?

 

Guys, there's a way out. Of course, both of you, and others, can have exclusives with the same interviewee on the same day (note to readers: I have explained how this is possible in an earlier edition of this column). But let the two (or more) mutually coexisting exclusives sound less inclusive, if you know what I mean. So and taking the Jaswant interview as the demonstration case, here's what you need to do.

 

Let Jaswant say "hurt" to NDTV and "humiliation" to CNN-IBN; "Lalji's grace" to NDTV and "Lalji's graciousness" to CNN-IBN; "closed chapter" to NDTV and "closed book" to CNN-IBN. Or the other way around. Done this way, and by the strict rules of Indian broadcast journalism, the two Jaswant interviews will have to be deemed strikingly different. NDTV will be happy; it can say, exclusive, Jaswant to NDTV, I am touched by Lalji's grace. CNN-IBN will be happy; it can say, exclusive, Jaswant to CNN-IBN, I am touched by Lalji's graciousness.

 

I will be happy; at least I won't hear everything twice. And going forward into the future, to borrow a terrific tautology NDTV 24x7 deployed while interviewing Jaswant, maybe, one day, I won't see everything twice either.

 

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE RENMINBI RUNAROUND

 

Last weekend China announced a change in its currency policy, a move clearly intended to head off pressure from the United States and other countries at this weekend's G-20 summit meeting. Unfortunately, the new policy doesn't address the real issue, which is that China has been promoting its exports at the rest of the world's expense.

 

In fact, far from representing a step in the right direction, the Chinese announcement was an exercise in bad faith — an attempt to exploit US restraint. To keep the rhetorical temperature down, the Obama administration has used diplomatic language in its efforts to persuade the Chinese government to end its bad behaviour. Now the Chinese have responded by seizing on the form of American language to avoid dealing with the substance of American complaints. In short, they're playing games.

 

To understand what's going on, we need to get back to the basics of the situation. China's exchange-rate policy is neither complicated nor unprecedented, except for its sheer scale. It's a classic example of a government keeping the foreign-currency value of its money artificially low by selling its own currency and buying foreign currency. This policy is especially effective in China's case because there are legal restrictions on the movement of funds both into and out of the country, allowing government intervention to dominate the currency market.

 

And the proof that China is, in fact, keeping the value of its currency, the renminbi, artificially low is precisely the fact that the central bank is accumulating so many dollars, euros and other foreign assets — more than $2 trillion worth so far. There have been all sorts of calculations purporting to show that the renminbi isn't really undervalued, or at least not by much. But if the renminbi isn't deeply undervalued, why has China had to buy around $1 billion a day of foreign currency to keep it from rising?

 

The effect of this currency undervaluation is twofold: it makes Chinese goods artificially cheap to foreigners, while making foreign goods artificially expensive to the Chinese. That is, it's as if China were simultaneously subsidising its exports and placing a protective tariff on its imports.

 

This policy is very damaging at a time when much of the world economy remains deeply depressed. In normal times, you could argue that Chinese purchases of US bonds, while distorting trade, were at least supplying us with cheap credit — and you could argue that it wasn't China's fault that we used that credit to inflate a vast, destructive housing bubble. But right now we're awash in cheap credit; what's lacking is sufficient demand for goods and services to generate the jobs we need. And China, by running an artificial trade surplus, is aggravating that problem.

 

This does not, by the way, mean that China gains from its currency policy. The undervalued renminbi is good for politically influential export companies. But these companies hoard cash rather than passing on the benefits to their workers, hence the recent wave of strikes. Meanwhile, the weak renminbi creates inflationary pressures and diverts a huge fraction of China's national income into the purchase of foreign assets with a very low rate of return.

 

So where does last week's policy announcement fit into all this? Well, China has allowed the renminbi to rise — but barely. As of Thursday, the currency was only about half a per cent higher than its typical level before the announcement. And all indications are that watching the future movement of the renminbi will be like watching paint dry: Chinese officials are still making statements denying that a rise in their currency will do anything to reduce trade imbalances, and prices in the forward market, in which traders agree to exchange currencies at various points in the future, suggest a rise of only about 2 per cent in the renminbi by the end of this year. This is basically a joke.

 

What the Chinese have done, they claim, to increase the "flexibility" of their exchange rate: it's moving around more from day to day than it did in the past, sometimes up, sometimes down.

 

Of course, Chinese policy makers know perfectly well that although US officials have indeed called for more currency flexibility, that was just a diplomatic euphemism for what America, and the world, wants (and has the right to demand): a much stronger renminbi. Having the currency bob up or down slightly makes no difference to the fundamentals.

 

So what comes next? China's government is clearly trying to string the rest of us along, putting off action until something — it's hard to say what — comes up.

 

That's not acceptable. China needs to stop giving us the runaround and deliver real change. And if it refuses, it's time to talk about trade sanctions.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

RUNNING OUT OF TALK TIME

SATISH CHANDRA

 

The next three weeks will be marked by a flurry of India-Pakistan exchanges in Islamabad. These comprise the

India-Pakistan foreign secretary-level talks on June 24, Chidambaram's discussions with his counterpart Rehman Malik on terrorism related issues on the sidelines of the SAARC interior ministers meeting on June 26, and the foreign minister-level talks in mid-July.

 

It may be recalled that the PM, in his statement on July 29, 2009, in the Lok Sabha, had made engagement with Pakistan contingent on its taking action on terrorism. Subsequently, in the foreign secretary-level talks held in New Delhi in February 2010, while several issues were discussed, those were primarily in response to the points raised by the Pakistan side; our focus was on terrorism. In her media briefing of February 25, 2010 our foreign secretary stated that the "time" was "not ripe to resume" the composite dialogue because "a climate of trust and confidence" had to be created, underlining that the "Mumbai attack erased the trust and confidence that the two countries had painstakingly built during the period 2004-07."

 

These parameters have since mutated as evident from the foreign secretary's assertion on June 13 at a meeting organised by the Delhi Policy Group, that "for bridging what is called the 'trust deficit' between the two countries, we are ready to address all issues of mutual concern through dialogue and peaceful negotiations." This assertion signifies that the dialogue process will be "composite"-plus, and that the trust deficit is to be addressed not squarely by Pakistan's eschewing of terrorist activities directed against India but by dialogue and negotiation!

 

While this approach is prima facie at variance with the PM's Lok Sabha speech and with the foreign secretary's February 25 statement, it is in tune with the PM's belief that there is no option but to talk to Pakistan and that terrorism should not be allowed to impede the peace process — as jointly declared by him with Musharraf, way back in September 2005 in New York. The positions taken by our government post-Mumbai not to talk to Pakistan were no more than temporary tactical adjustments in deference to an outraged Indian public opinion which naturally found unpalatable dialogue with a Pakistan bent on inflicting terror on India. Our re-engaging Pakistan at a time when it is upping its involvement in terrorism directed against India, as evident from a doubling of the infiltration bids over last year's levels in J&K and increased incidents of cross-border firing, is testimony to the strength of the PM's commitment to the dialogue process.

 

Normally, it is hard to argue against dialogue. But these are not normal times and Pakistan is not a normal country. As suggested by a recent Rand Corporation study, Pakistan has been supporting militancy since 1989 for "bleeding India into concessions", the ISI will continue to support "India-focused militants, and "vested interests" (read Pakistan army) will seek to preserve a "state of confrontation with India." In these circumstances, our seeking dialogue with Pakistan, a country which has no abiding interest other than hurting India, is ill-advised. Not only is it unlikely to achieve any meaningful results but will be seen as a sign of weakness by Pakistan, further emboldening it to up the ante in its involvement with terrorist actions directed against India.

 

Given the PM's interest in the dialogue process, Pakistan's interest in it as a means of deflecting international pressure to sever its links with terrorism, and the US interest in keeping both countries talking, it would be reasonable to assume that the pace of bilateral exchanges, both on the front and back channels, will pick up in the next few months. It may even yield some results on a few peripheral issues; but resolution of critical issues will come only if India does all the running. Concessions made by the government for resolution of issues like Siachen or Sir Creek will not induce Pakistan to eschew the use of terror against India, and to accept a settlement in Kashmir on the basis of the status quo in terms of the existing borders. Past experience has shown that Indian generosity, as in the case of the Indus Waters Treaty, under which we settled for only 20 per cent of the flows of the Indus Waters as against a legitimate entitlement of 40 per cent, or in the case of the Simla Agreement, under which we returned about 5000 sq kilometers of territory captured by us in 1971 and facilitated the return of 90000 POWs in our custody without any formal quid pro quo, has never been appreciated by Pakistan.

 

Not only is the efficacy of the dialogue process suspect, its longevity is also in doubt. Can it survive another Mumbai? The answer is no — at least for all those who carry with them the sense of outrage in the country against Pakistan at the time of the Mumbai incident. Since another Mumbai is on the cards sooner rather than later, it is a safe bet to assume another hiatus in the freshly resumed talks within a year.

 

Those in favour of the dialogue process argue that there are no other viable options short of war. This is fallacious. The fact that India has never sought to penalise Pakistan for using terror as an instrument of foreign policy against it does not mean that it cannot do so. Indeed, it is the failure of successive governments to penalise Pakistan in its use of terror against us that has encouraged it to refine this exercise into a fine art.

 

Pakistan's penalisation could be undertaken through adoption of a portfolio of measures including some of the following :

 

* A vigorous international campaign to project Pakistan as a terrorist state seeking imposition of sanctions against it including suspension of military and economic assistance. Such a campaign will only be credible if India insists that talks will be contingent on Pakistan dismantling the infrastructure of terror.

 

* Exploitation of Pakistan's faultlines in Sindh, Balochistan and the Northern Areas.

 

* Covert action to take out Pakistan-based terrorist elements and their supporters.

 

* Minimising the flows of the Indus waters to Pakistan through the full exercise of our rights over their use, as legally permitted under the Indus Waters treaty. Moreover, notice should be served on Pakistan for the renegotiation of the Indus Waters Treaty under which India gets much less of the waters than its legitimate entitlement.

 

* The Indian community in the US should be mobilised in order to prevent the US government from mollycoddling Pakistan. Additional pressure should be brought to bear, through the multi-billion dollar arms and industrial contracts in the works.

 

The writer was deputy national security advisor from 1999-2005

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A CHANGE IN TONE

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

First a meeting between top diplomats of India and Pakistan, and then a bilateral engagement between the home ministers of both the countries at a regional conference: two back-to-back high level meetings between India and Pakistan seemed to bring anti-India tempers low in the Pakistani press.

 

In the run-up to this conference, preliminary discussions laid down that the "trust deficit between Pakistan and India is proving to be a major hurdle in moving ahead on a proposal to set up a regional police network, SAARCPOL," reported Daily Times on June 25. Their editorial stated: "The meeting between Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir was not expected to yield any major breakthrough... But the meeting exuded optimism and positive understanding. Their joint briefing to the media indicates the two sides have engaged constructively. There is a visible shift in the tone of India since the SAARC conference at Thimphu in April." Dawn also commented on India's "tone" on June 25: "But, more worrying was a warning from the Indians that the trust building process was not insulated from any future terrorist incident."

 

Persian riddle

 

Richard Holbrooke, while in Islamabad, urged caution with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Dawn reported on June 21: "'Pakistan should be wary of committing to an Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline because anticipated US sanctions on Iran could hit Pakistani companies', he said. 'Pakistan has an obvious, major energy problem and we are sympathetic to that, but in regards to a specific project, legislation is being prepared.' he said." His instructions were immediately obeyed by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, reported Daily Times, quoted him on June 21: "if the pipeline falls under the restrictions imposed by the US on Iran, Pakistan will not violate international laws." Qureshi's boss, PM Yousaf Raza Gilani his words a day later.

 

This expectedly stirred a debate in Pakistan, accusing the government of being deferential to the US. Hence, this defence: "The UN resolution doesn't stop Pakistan from carrying on with the pipeline because China and Russia ensured Iran's energy sector isn't targeted when UN resolution 1929 was passed by the UNSC," The News quoted the foreign office spokesman on June 22.

 

The PM was close at hand for damage control. Dawn reported on June 23: "In a display of verbal acrobatics, PM Gilani turned his back on a statement he made less than 24 hours earlier... he explained Pakistan was not bound to follow the US restrictions placed on Iran though it would abide by 'any UN sanctions'. Chances are he was encouraged to explain his earlier statement by the Foreign Office."

 

In Benazir's memory

 

On Benazir Bhutto's 57th birth anniversary, blood flowed aplenty. Daily Times reported on June 21: "Blood camps have been set up at various places including at Liaquat Bagh, where Benazir was assassinated." Her husband also contributed, reported Daily Times on June 22: "President Asif Zardari donated blood and launched a three-day national blood-donation campaign... The collected blood will be given to the army." Dawn reported on June 22 that the first Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Awards were announced by the PPP in the fields of democracy, human rights, women's empowerment and social causes. Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi received the award for her service to democracy.

 

The degree fakers' club

The uproar of the week was the fake degree scam in Pakistan's legislatures. Another PMLN parliamentarian from Gujranwala was found to have a fake BA degree. Only graduates are eligible to contest elections, according to Pakistani law. Dawn reported on June 22: "An election tribunal of the Lahore High Court...directed the Election Commission to hold fresh elections... within 60 days." The drive to weed such "fakers" out of legislatures is being throttled, reported The News on June 22: "The fake degree holders... are all out to kill the ongoing exercise of verification of their degrees by the Higher Education Commission." Pressure is reportedly being exerted even from PM and CM secretariats. The News added on June 24 that vice chancellors and registrars of universities have been warned of imprisonment if found verifying a fake degree. Dawn added on June 25: "SC ordered the Election Commission to initiate action against accused legislators."

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SOLD FOR A SONG

SHAMNAD BASHEER

 

"Bhagwaan teri duniyaa mein insaan nahin hai" — Shakeel Badayuni's memorable words set to a melancholy tune by Ghulam Mohammed (the music director of Pakeezah) — holds a foreshadowing of Ghulamji's fate. He died in penury, despite his works minting lakhs (in those days) for the film producer who commercialised and marketed his art. He was not alone in this predicament; the wife of the legendary music director Khemchand Prakash was found begging on the streets of Mumbai soon after his unfortunate demise.

 

The word "inequity" could not have found a better situational fit than this — to this day, Bollywood artists (music composers, lyricists and scriptwriters, whose works are incorporated into films ) are forced to sign away entire copyrights to film producers for a measly lumpsum, even as their works reap crores at the box office.

 

Sample this clause, extracted from one of the Bollywood contracts: "the Lyricist expressly acknowledges and agrees that the Producer shall be considered the first author and owner of the Lyrics... without condition.. of any kind, and free and clear of any and all claims for royalty... The Lyricist irrevocably and unconditionally waives all rights in respect of the Lyrics to which he is now or in the future entitled to under the Copyright Act."

 

Not content with snatching away all economic rights to future returns, this legal parchment goes on to strip creative minds of their very right to claim authorship. Little wonder then that the government is now attempting to redress this injustice through a set of statutory amendments to the copyright act.

 

Should these amendments come into force, artists would be considered as authors/first owners of their works and would, notwithstanding any assignment, retain the right to receive royalties from the commercial exploitation of their works. Even someone with no knowledge of copyright basics is likely to agree that this sounds just and fair.

 

And yet, if the proceedings of a recent parliamentary committee tasked with examining the desirability of these amendments are anything to go by, one finds that film producers are up in arms. They have threatened to shut down Bollywood. More worryingly, it has been hinted that artists may not get credit for their works in future.

 

India's proposal to amend the copyright act to ensure better returns to artists is not without international precedent. Not only do European countries such as Germany and Austria prohibit copyright assignments by authors, they also stipulate that, notwithstanding contractual arrangements to the contrary, authors are to be "equitably" remunerated for the commercial exploitation of their works by third parties.

 

However, laudable as the present set of Indian amendments is, they do not go far enough. First, the amendments provide for a right to royalty only when the underlying works (lyrics and music compositions) are exploited separately from the film or sound recording. In line with international practice, a right to remuneration ought to accrue on every exploitation of the underlying work, whether as part of the film or sound recording or separately.

 

This is best done by simply prohibiting any assignment or exclusive licensing by the authors of such works in favour of any third party, except to their legal heirs and collecting societies. Such a bar would ensure that the author continues to retain ownership of her works that have been incorporated into a movie and can claim continuing royalties for its exploitation.

 

Secondly, as it stands now, the right to royalty applies only to lyrics and musical compositions. It should extend to all underlying works that are incorporated into a film, including the script, which may be treated as literary/dramatic work.

 

Thirdly, the amendments aim to incentivise authors to join collecting societies by stipulating that authors can assign their "right to royalty" to a collecting society. Such societies are likely to strengthen the negotiating power of authors to ensure fair returns for the exploitation of their creative genius. However, there is no need for an author to assign away her rights to such a collecting society. A mere license to administer such rights in favour of the society would suffice.

 

In short, if the real mischief sought to be remedied by the government is the contractual exploitation of artists, it should simply prohibit them from assigning away any of their copyrights. The concept of a separate "right to royalty", as crafted under the present set of amendments, is jurisprudentially and practically problematic and needs to be done away with.

 

Although such a bar on assignment is likely to impact the freedom of contract, it is imperative from the vantage point of social justice. An excellent parallel is the Minimum Wages Act, where even if a destitute labourer wishes, she cannot contract to perform the labour at rates below statutorily prescribed levels. In a similar manner, authors too should be divested of their right to sign away rights for a measly lump-sum amount. Only such a revolutionary change in our copyright regime can help infuse some "insaniyat" into an industry given to rampant exploitation.

 

The writer is ministry of HRD professor of IP law at NUJS, Kolkata

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FINALLY, DECONTROL

 

The UPA government finally bit the bullet and moved to decontrol the administered prices of key oil products at an EGoM on Friday. The decision will result in upward revisions in the retail prices of petrol, diesel, LPG and significantly even kerosene—the government has, until now, largely stayed away from tinkering with the price of kerosene, viewed as 'poor man's' fuel. We, of course, welcome the government's bold, reformist decision. As we had argued on a number of occasions in these columns, there was no rationale for the government to subsidise the largely middle-class consumers of oil products. And even for the poor who buy kerosene and other products, we had argued that the government should consider a direct cash transfer subsidy, rather than the distortionary control it exercised on retail prices. From now on, retail prices of oil products in India will be linked directly to global prices. These will on occasion be high and on occasion fall, just like the prices for all other commodities do. And given that the government had long freed its control over other commodity prices (steel, for example), it was about time, it ended its control over oil prices.

 

The most immediate beneficiaries of the move will be the state-run oil-marketing companies, which can finally break out of the vicious cycle of under-recoveries. That is good for the companies' bottom line and for their minority shareholders, who bore the brunt of the long period of losses these companies had to face. It is also good news for private sector companies that wish to enter the retail business in petroleum products—it was not possible for them to exist in a market where firms could only survive on the back of government subsidies. The government will, of course, be relieved of a huge subsidy burden that has been an unnecessary strain on the fiscal deficit. In the end, fiscal concerns may have forced the government's hand on decontrol. Now, the government can justly claim credit for radical reform of both the fertiliser and oil subsidy regimes. It has sent out a strong signal on its commitment to fiscal restraint. Of course, middle-class consumers are unlikely to be pleased at the sudden upward revision in prices but their consumption choices will now be more rationally guided by market prices rather than artificially subsidised prices. That will be a great boon for India's climate change mitigation efforts as...

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IPHONE, YOU QUEUE

 

Left-handed owners have been having particular trouble with their newly acquired, highly prized iPhone4s. It's got some sensitive areas, Steve Jobs has admitted. A certain kind of grip around these areas interferes with antenna performance and the signal drops. Jobs's advice to disgruntled folks: "Just avoid holding it in that way." Glitches with video screens are also getting tweeted quite a bit. But there's no gain without pain, right? On the euphoria side, too, there is plenty tilting the scales. Fans have been calling this the best-looking iPhone yet, with the most significant physical overhaul since its 2007 debut. Back then, it was launched in five countries and became an instant hit. For months, there were people queuing up outside Apple stores to pick it up. It offered a whole new generation of user experience and was promptly categorised as cool. So much has changed so fast since then. Smartphones have gone mainstream. Apple has moved from a niche player to leading one of the fastest-growing segments in the technology industry—mobile computing. Its market cap has outstripped that of Microsoft! Yet, here we go again. Apple continues to march to its own drumbeat. Never mind how market attention has been moving South, the new iPhone, like its first avatar, has been launched only in five countries—the UK, France, Germany, Japan and the US. The pre-order frenzy suggested that the queues would also be just as long as before, crashing Apple's systems last week. Once again, people spent the night tented out on pavements to get the new iPhone and the associated cool cred.

 

All of this confirms that Apple's branding remains as enviable as ever. Its customers remain fervently religious. It sceptical competitors, never mind their dedicated engineering advances and marketing gains, don't appear to have made a dent in the company's sleek geek affect. How long this will last, nobody knows for sure. What's certain is that the market is changing. Android's share is catching up with Apple's even as Blackberry continues to lead US sales and other vendors are aggressively proliferating elsewhere. What's equally certain is that smartphones will be the principle go-to digital devices in the foreseeable future. Integrating word processors, cameras, the Internet etc (it has been predicted that some video produced on the iPhone will win at Cannes next year), these devices will see increasing competition. That's plain good news for the consumers.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

IT'S A BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS

RAJESH CHAKRABARTI

 

They say the blackest of the clouds have a silver lining. It is possible that the ongoing Maoist violence will finally focus the nation's attention on how to deal with the tribals who constitute about 8% of India's population. Whoever be the real masterminds and executors of the Maoist violence and wherever they may be getting their ideology, funding, strategy advice and weaponry from, it is undeniable that today they enjoy some support from a broad section of the tribal belts in central and eastern India. Yes, there may certainly be cases where the tribals are threatened or forced into providing protection, but broadly speaking the tribals, or at least large sections of them, are more sympathetic to the Maoists than to the Indian state. Whether or not the war against the Maoist needs to be won by force or through dialogue, the fact remains that for the long run India needs to win the 'hearts and minds' of the tribals and take them along in its journey to progress.

 

That is far from simple. And let's not keep blaming the state and the bureaucracy for the neglect with which they have treated the tribals for the last 60-plus years. This is not to say that such blame is misplaced, nor that the tribals have not been repeatedly shortchanged, exploited and even relocated in the name of development projects. But our approach to the tribal issue has been marked by confusion at a more fundamental level.

 

Take the most basic issue of integration. Almost by definition, the tribals are disconnected from the Indian mainstream. Whether this isolation is voluntary or forced by violent invaders in some hoary past is immaterial. The question is what to do about it now. The official line is to integrate them into mainstream by providing education and other facilities. But civil society protests are common. Let them be—it is argued—let them live their lives in perfect harmony with nature, with their traditional sustainable modes of the exploitation of nature. Just don't interfere.

 

The problems with that approach are manifold. Does it mean we create reserve areas with tribal communal ownership of, or special rights to, natural resources [as in the Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006] and then leave them untouched by modern gadgets and practices? How about modern medicine? Should the larger society remain comfortable with the quacks handling childbirths and illnesses in tribal areas? If that is not acceptable and if the use of modern medicine leads to a rise in tribal population by raising life expectancy, would the natural resources earmarked for them be enough to sustain them in the long run? Would their methods of natural resource usage still remain balanced if their populations rise? If not, should the larger society be worried about the environmental impact? The problem becomes worse when we take into account the fact that often the tribals inhabit areas rich in mineral deposits.

 

Integration is no simple matter either. Without making a sweeping generalisation, tribal ethos and life-views are often very different from those of the mainstream. In particular, savings and planning for the future are elements that are missing in their way of thinking. Without criticising the underlying philosophy—indeed spiritual leaders and psychologists exhort us to achieve exactly what these people practise naturally—this poses several practical problems. Tribal children have a much higher school drop-out rate. Tribal labourers are often less regular than others. Labour movement is extremely difficult, even with the best incentives. The mainstream system just does not know, nor cares to find out, special ways of motivating the tribals. As a result, decades of reservations in education and jobs have brought mighty little to most of these communities.

 

At the end of the day, non-integration is not an option, simply because it is impractical and unsustainable in the long run. The question is how to make the process of integration more humane, fair and effective. Of course, all this begs the valid question—what gives the mainstream the right to decide the fate of these societies? The only answer to that is to declare large tracts of forests and mineral-rich areas as autonomous areas ruled by the tribal councils. As the US experience with Indian Reserves show, that is hardly the road to either development or fair treatment. Direct subsidies and exposure to national electronic media may be a good starting point.

 

Like it or not, in a few more decades, tribal lifestyles will be things of history. No point bemoaning it, some changes are inevitable, nature does not allow anachronisms, which is what isolation is in today's rapidly globalising and integrating world. Let's accept it and help the tribals transition to the mainstream.

 

—The author teaches finance at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

PLANNING COMMISSION REFORM IS HARD

P RAGHAVAN

 

Restructuring of the Planning Commission and the planning process has been the constant refrain of economists since the initiation of the big bang market reforms in the early 1990s. But, even though four Five-Year Plans have been rolled out since then, there has been no significant change in the plan body or its functioning. The issue has resurfaced as the government has to start work on the Twelfth Plan, with reports of new efforts being made to transform the Planning Commission into a system reforms commission.

 

So what are the prospects that this new effort to rework the Planning Commission and the plan framework will be more successful than earlier ones? The task looks formidable for two reasons. First is the institutional resistance from within the Commission, motivated by fears of a further shrinkage of its already downsized role. Second, and more important, is the lack of any experiments related to planning in a rapidly growing market economy in a globalised world, which India can adopt.

 

This is in stark contrast to the scenario when India set out to etch out a new path of planned development in the 1950s. Contrary to popular belief, planning efforts initiated here were not solely influenced by the Five-Year Plans of the erstwhile Soviet Union and other eastern European economies. An equally important stimulus was the flurry of national plans unfurled in major market economies, including in the US, which set up the National Resources Planning Board in 1933, the only national planning agency in the country's history.

 

The popularity of planning in market economies peaked in post-War Europe with the Marshall Plan, persuading participating countries to draw up four-year plans and annual plans to avail of support. Western opinion was also broadly supportive of Indian planning, only clashing with the Mahalanobis idea of focusing on heavy industries to accelerate growth, on the grounds that India had no comparative advantage in capital-intensive industries.

 

The primary strategy followed by Indian planners was to focus on investment planning, the scarcity of which necessitated the rationing of investments to the priority areas that would facilitate faster growth. The constraints were challenging, especially on the foreign exchange front, which they sought to overcome using regulatory instruments like licences.

 

But the gains from planning soon fell far short of expectations. The planners' intense preoccupation with regulatory issues slowly shifted their focus away from the development tasks. The innovative development strategy adopted in the early years soon gave way to a complex regulatory framework, which slowly crystallised to become the dominant symbol of Indian planning.

 

Consequently, the reforms initiated in the early 1990s focused on dismantling the licence regime and extending the sphere of private sector operation into new areas. The share of the private sector out of the total investments in the economy rose from less than half in the mid-1970s to almost four-fifths in more recent years. This has significantly shrunk the space for investment planning, especially since private sector investment was freed from the licence regime—the main instrument used by the planners to steer investments and determine the growth path.

 

But, despite repeated efforts, the government has still not been able to navigate to a new framework that would facilitate a new proactive role to the Planning Commission. The half-hearted efforts made by the commission to delve into regulatory issues and workout efficient market mechanisms to mobilise investments and improve competitiveness, especially in the infrastructure sector, have been fiercely resisted by the nodal departments of the government.

 

The turf of the Planning Commission has shrunk sharply to guiding the public sector plan investments. But even here, the focus has been on ensuring some semblance of discipline in fiscal management rather than on strategies to improve the quality of investments so essential for improving productivity and facilitating faster growth.

 

An option open for reinventing the Planning Commission is to strengthen its role as a prescriptive agency that can work out policy choices and new mechanisms to create more effective incentives for market agents and spur growth. But this will be again resisted by the different ministries, which may feel threatened by such intrusions into their policy space.

 

The government's decision to adopt a gradual approach and nibble at the edges to usher in slow changes rather than to go in for a sudden radical revamp of the Planning Commission has to be seen in the context of such obstacles. To conclude, one can safely say that etching out a new role for the commission without treading on too many toes is likely to be more difficult than anticipated, if the lessons of the last two decades are anything to go by.

 

p.raghavan@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

TIME FOR A DEDICATED BROADCAST REGULATOR

ASHISH SINHA

 

After upsetting most telecom operators over its recommendations on 2G spectrum, Trai may also face the heat from broadcasters, cable operators and DTH companies. The recent exercise by Trai to revise the tariffs for cable channels has gone waste, apparently. The regulator may not have found workable answers to questions like what should be the minimum monthly bill of the consumers watching cable TV, what should be the division of revenue between the broadcasters, DTH operators and local cable operators, or how the unaccounted annual subscription revenue worth over Rs 16,000 crore from 90 million cable homes gets reflected in the accounts of stakeholders.

 

If Trai reduces the content cost on the DTH platform, the cable industry will also respond at the risk of destabilising the entire value chain of the business—from broadcasters to distributors of content, because input costs have only gone north while consumers demand lower outgo. This means the mess in the existing broadcast and cable business will continue for some more time or even years.

 

Trai has gone about a tariff-revision exercise for the cable and broadcasting sector in a meticulous manner as it has to make submissions in the Supreme Court. It appointed a private consultant, got surveys done on cable pricing and engaged stakeholders in long meetings. But if there are no clear answers and pessimism has crept into the minds of most stakeholders, then it may be the right time to pose a different set of questions. Was there something lacking in the exercise or did Trai miscalculate the gravity of the issues of tariff in the industry? Or is there a need for having a specialist, full-time regulatory body for the cable and broadcasting sector?

 

The nodal I&B ministry has kickstarted the process of establishing a dedicated sector regulator that can put recommendations into actions or decide issues at a fast pace. Meanwhile, the consumer will continue to suffer by shelling out huge and uneven cable bills for watching outdated, analogue cable TV even as it fights a losing battle with the new technologies—digital cable and DTH. Can this be the beginning of the end of Trai's role when it comes to the cable and broadcast sector?

 

—ashish.sinha@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

SMALL RECOMPENSE

 

After more than 25 years of apathy and callousness on the part of successive governments at the Centre, the decision of the Union Cabinet to enhance compensation to the victims of the Bhopal gas leak calamity, and carry out environmental remediation is a small step forward. Delays and denials have sapped the energy of the survivors fighting for justice. Nothing the government can ever do will come close to relieving them of suffering or making up for their losses. The Cabinet went by the recommendations of the Group of Ministers constituted to examine "all issues" relating to the calamity, including the extradition of 89-year-old Warren Anderson, ex-chairman of Union Carbide Corporation. According to the minutes of the meeting of the GoM, obtained by The Hindu and made available at www.thehindu.com, the GoM felt that, for practical reasons, the classification of claims and cases made by the Welfare Commissioner for Bhopal Gas Victims "would have to be accepted." The numbers thus have no relation to those proposed by activists and non-governmental organisations. But within the old classification of death (5,295 persons), permanent disability (3,199), cases of cancer (about 2,000) and total renal failure (about 1,000), and temporary disability (33,672), the GoM went for enhanced compensation. The maximum amount is Rs.10 lakh, less the amount already paid, in the case of death, and the minimum is Rs. one lakh, less the amount already paid, in the case of temporary disability. After all these years and considering the enormity of the tragedy, these amounts seem pitiful recompense, small change indeed.

 

The GoM was perfectly aware that after what happened on December 7, 1984, there was virtually no chance of having Mr. Anderson extradited from the United States to face Indian justice. Nevertheless, it virtuously recommended that the Central Bureau of Investigation be directed to put together additional material in support of the extradition request. It is a shock to learn that the Ministry of External Affairs has no record of the Anderson visit. Relying on "contemporary media reports," the GoM report offers the surmise that "he visited India on an oral assurance (it is not known by whom) of safe passage, and he left India presumably on the basis of that assurance." It claims that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was briefed on "the matter" only after Mr. Anderson left the country. G.K. Reddy's authoritative Page 1 story in The Hindu of Saturday, December 8, 1984, reproduced on the opposite page and analysed separately in this issue, gives the lie to this piece of fiction. The retreat from a firm and just course of action — the sell-out of the interests of the victims witnessed on December 7, 1984 — is of a piece with what happened over the next quarter century.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

OF MARRIAGE AND MURDER

 

Concerned about the spate of recent 'honour killings,' the Supreme Court of India has asked the Centre and eight State governments to submit reports on the steps taken to prevent this barbaric practice. The Court's decision, which has come in the wake of a petition filed by an NGO that seeks a broad and comprehensive strategy to combat honour crimes, could be just what is required to make those in power come down hard against those responsible for them. Already, the central government has indicated it would bring in a new law that will make the punishment for honour killings, which are carried out mainly against young couples who marry outside their caste or within their gotra or agnate, extremely stringent. While those responsible for the crimes are relatives or members of the same caste as the victims, such killings often have the sanction of the khap panchayats, which exercise power over families belonging to the same gotra in neighbouring villages. The new law is likely to target khap panchayats, irrespective of whether they actually approved of the killing. Further, the government has suggested that unlike ordinary criminal law, which requires the prosecution to establish guilt, the new law will reverse the onus of proof, leaving those accused to prove their innocence.

 

Although Haryana has made the most news recently for honour killings, the practice is prevalent in parts of other north Indian States such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, and Jharkhand. The absence of a strong political will to crack down on the illegal diktats of khap panchayats — which, apart from licensing murder, levy fines on and order social boycotts of those who bring alleged 'dishonour' to the community — is directly related to the fear among politicians of alienating their caste constituencies. To make matters worse, instead of protecting the legal right of adult couples to marry or be together as they choose, the police often act at the behest of parents and relatives by pressing criminal charges (usually abduction and rape) in an attempt to sunder the relationship. Traditional notions of 'honour' and 'dishonour' do have sociological dimensions. But only cultural relativists will justify the obscurantist prohibition and vicious intolerance of same gotra marriages, especially after the Hindu Marriage Disabilities Removal Act 1946 removed the legal 'disability' against them. Nothing can justify the savage punishments being inflicted on young people for exercising free choice in marriage or personal relationships. While a lot of work needs to be done to change social attitudes, it is imperative to take tough legal measures to prevent vicious crimes in the name of caste, gotra, identity, and tradition.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

ARBITRATION & KISHENGANGA PROJECT

IT SHOULD NOT BE EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO ARRIVE AT A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT ON THE RECONCILIATION OF THE CONFLICTING INTERESTS OF THE KISHENGANGA AND NEELUM-JHELUM PROJECTS, AS ALSO ON THE EXTENT OF AGRICULTURAL USE THAT NEEDS TO BE PROVIDED FOR, AND ON THE 'ECOLOGICAL FLOWS' THAT MUST BE MAINTAINED.

RAMASWAMY R. IYER

 

The Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project in Jammu & Kashmir is proceeding towards arbitration under the Indus Treaty 1960. This article is an attempt to explain the issues involved for the information of the general public, without expressing any personal opinions on the issues that are going before a judicial body.

 

While water-sharing in the Indus system stands settled by the Indus Treaty 1960, divergences are possible, and have occurred, over the question of the compliance of Indian projects on the western rivers with certain stringent provisions of the Treaty which were meant to take care of Pakistan's concerns as a lower riparian.

 

The Treaty recognises three categories of such divergence: 'questions' to be discussed and resolved at the level of the Indus Commission, or at the level of the two governments; 'differences' (that is, unresolved 'questions') to be referred to a Neutral Expert (NE) if they are of certain kinds (that is, broadly speaking, differences of a technical nature); and 'disputes' (going beyond 'differences,' and perhaps involving interpretations of the Treaty) that are referable to a Court of Arbitration. In the Kishenganga case, both 'difference' and 'dispute' come into play. Pakistan has proposed the reference of certain technical issues to a Neutral Expert, and the submission of a couple of other issues to a Court of Arbitrators.

 

The Kishenganga is a tributary of the Jhelum. It originates in J&K, crosses the Line of Control, runs for some 150 km in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and joins the Jhelum (in PoK). India proposes to build a dam on the Kishenganga shortly before it crosses the LoC, divert a substantial part of the waters of the river through a tunnel to the hydroelectric project (330 MW, that is, 110 MW x 3) located near Bonar Nala, another tributary of the Jhelum, and then return the diverted waters, after they have passed through the turbines, to the Jhelum via the Wular Lake.

 

The 'differences' to be referred to a Neutral Expert will be regarding the compliance of the project features with the conditions and restrictions laid down in the Treaty (design of the project, quantum of pondage, need for gated spillways, placement of the gates, etc.). This reference, which will be somewhat similar to the reference to the NE in the Baglihar case, will not be discussed further in this article.

 

The main 'dispute' to be referred to a Court of Arbitration is on the issue of whether the diversion of waters from one tributary of Jhelum to another is permissible under the Treaty. Art. III (2) of the Treaty requires India to let flow all the western rivers to Pakistan and not permit any interference with those waters, and Art. IV (6) calls for the maintenance of natural channels. If we go by these provisions, the diversion of waters from one tributary to another seems questionable. On the other hand, there is another provision (Ann. D, paragraph 15 (iii)) which specifically envisages water released from a hydroelectric plant located on one tributary of the Jhelum being delivered to another tributary; this seems to permit inter-tributary diversion. The correct understanding of these provisions and the determination of the conformity of the Kishenganga Project to the Treaty is a matter for the two governments to agree upon, or for the Court of Arbitration to decide.

 

Any diversion of waters from a river is bound to reduce the flows downstream of the diversion point. It is true that the diverted waters will be returned to the Jhelum, but there will certainly be a reduction of flows in the stretch of the Kishenganga (some 150 km) before it joins the Jhelum. This will affect not merely certain uses of the waters but also the river regime itself and the ecological system. It may be true that only a small part of the waters (30 per cent or so) flows from the Indian part to the Pakistani part and that the rest (70 per cent) of the flows arise after the river crosses the LoC. However, the diversion of a substantial part of the former by India will undoubtedly have some impacts downstream.

 

Assuming that diversion from the Kishenganga to another tributary is found permissible, there is a condition attached: the existing agricultural use and use for hydro-electric power generation on the Kishenganga in Pakistan must be protected. There is indeed some existing agricultural use along the Kishenganga (Neelum) in PoK. Pakistan is also planning the Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric project at a point on the Neelum before it joins the Jhelum. These claims of existing uses will probably be contentious issues between the two countries, with reference to (a) the crucial date for determining 'existing use' and (b) the quantum of existing use.

 

Arbitration is action under the Treaty and is therefore not a matter for concern. In this case, the arbitration process has already been initiated. However, it seems to this writer that even at this stage an effort should be made to reach an agreed settlement on this project. The reasons for saying so are as follows:

 

First, arbitration by a court of seven arbitrators of the highest international standing will be a very expensive process; it may also take a long time — possibly several years.

 

Secondly, arbitration is essentially an adversarial process. Each side will try to make the strongest possible presentation of its own case, and question the other's. The media in both countries will keep reporting developments in the case, probably in a partisan manner. All this will definitely cause an accentuation of strained relations between the two countries.

 

Thirdly, the outcome of the process is uncertain. There are three possibilities: a clear negative finding (that is, the diversion of waters is impermissible under the Treaty), in which case the project will have to be abandoned; or a clear positive finding (that the diversion is permissible) in which case, the project can go ahead as planned; or a mixed finding that the diversion is permissible but must be such as to minimise adverse downstream impacts, in which case India may have to reduce the planned diversion and let a larger quantum of waters flow down. It would be very rash to predict the outcome of the process, but undertaking that rashness, the author would venture to suggest that a mixed finding seems more likely than a categorical one (positive or negative).

 

If that tentative forecast seems plausible, is it really necessary to go through a costly and time-consuming process of arbitration to arrive at that result? Is it not possible — and more sensible — for the two countries to try for an agreed settlement of the dispute even at this stage? It should not be extremely difficult to arrive at a satisfactory, negotiated settlement on the reconciliation of the conflicting interests of the Kishenganga and Neelum-Jhelum projects, as also on the extent of agricultural use that needs to be provided for, and on the 'ecological flows' that must be maintained.

 

A second issue that Pakistan proposes to refer to the Court of Arbitration is the legitimacy of drawdown flushing of the reservoir for sediment-control. This is not specific to the Kishenganga project but is a general issue applicable to all future projects. In the case of Baglihar, the Neutral Expert had strongly recommended periodical drawdown flushing of the reservoir as a means of sediment control, which (in his view) was part of proper maintenance, and had observed that while the dead storage could not be used for operational purposes, there was no objection to its use for maintenance purposes. Pakistan has been unhappy with that recommendation, but could not challenge it as the NE's findings are final and binding. It is now raising this as a general issue before the Court of Arbitration. Three questions arise:

 

(i) Can an issue on which a NE has given a final and binding finding be raised again before another NE or a Court of Arbitration?

(ii) If the NE's finding is applicable only to the particular project in question and not to others, should we accept the position that there can be substantially different (even contradictory) principles (laid down by different NEs) applying to different projects?

 

(iii) If drawdown flushing is ruled out, then must the corollary of heavy siltation and reduction of project life (as in the case of Salal) be accepted as inevitable? If so, does this not amount to ignoring the words "consistent with sound and economical design and satisfactory construction and operation" and again "unless sediment control or other technical considerations necessitate this" in the Treaty?

 

These questions will no doubt be argued before the Court by the two countries

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

GOM ON RAJIV AND BHOPAL: SLOPPINESS OR COVER-UP?

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT



This is how The Hindu of December 8, 1984, covered the drama of Warren Anderson's arrest and release.

 

As our front page story notes, the Group of Minister's conclusion that "contemporary media reports also indicate that the Prime Minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi, was briefed on the matter after Mr. Anderson left the country" is factually incorrect.

 

Assuming that G.K. Reddy's reports in The Hindu (especially his front page story of December 8, 1984) are part of the "contemporary media reports" referred to by the GoM, its conclusion is either a careless misreading of the reports or, more likely, a clumsy attempt at a cover-up.

 

The irony is that in attempting to provide Rajiv Gandhi with an unnecessary alibi for one of the many sideshows of the gas tragedy — how Union Carbide Corporation chief Warrant Anderson came to be arrested and released so quickly on December 7, 1984 — the GoM will likely ensure the late Congress leader and Prime Minister remains at the centre of political controversy.

 

The Hindu's editions of December 8 and 9, 1984 indicate that attempts to cover up the truth about the arrest began on the very day he was jailed and then released. G.K. Reddy writes: "After the Central government's intervention, it was stated that Mr. Anderson and others were only taken into protective custody and lodged in the company's guest house to save them from mob violence."

 

On December 9, The Hindu carried a Bhopal dateline report from UNI and PTI showing that the cover up had been extended to include Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh. The report says that in a press conference, Mr. Singh denied the Prime Minister was consulted in connection with the arrest and release of Mr. Anderson, though he was "informed". "The Central government was not in the picture at all," he said. The Times of India on December 9 carried a similar report about Mr. Singh making the contradictory claim that the Prime Minister was "informed", but not "consulted".

 

The Hindu's December 8 report also brings into question the GoM claim that "there are no records in the Ministry of External Affairs of his visit or who he met on his visit". Mr. Reddy's report says that the "Cabinet Secretary called a meeting of senior officials from External Affairs, Home, Petroleum and Chemicals and Law Ministries to examine all these aspects, before some of them met Mr. Anderson later tonight." It is unlikely that a meeting of this kind devoted to dealing with the UCC chief would have produced no paper work.

 

A Hindustan Times report of December 10 also throws doubts on the GoM's claim of there being no MEA records. It says that the Ministry actually issued a statement about the cancellation of a press meeting with Mr. Anderson on December 9.

 

Another curious discrepancy between the Group of Minister's report and the record as established by The Hindu at the time surrounds the provisions of the Indian Penal Code under which Mr. Anderson was arrested. The GoM report notes in paragraph 16 that an FIR was registered at the Hanumanganj police station on December 3, 1984 against Carbide officials which mentioned only Section 304-A (gross negligence) and no other section. But the reports by G.K. Reddy and PTI note that Mr. Anderson and others "were arrested" as soon as they landed in Bhopal from Bombay "under seven different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Sections are: 120B (criminal conspiracy), 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 304A (causing death by negligence), 426 (mischief), 429 (mischief in the killing of livestock), 278 (making atmosphere noxious to health), and 284 (negligent conduct in respect of poisonous substances)".

 

In fact the bond which Mr. Anderson signed in Bhopal prior to his release also noted:

 

"I have been arrested by Hanumanganj Police Station, District Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India under Criminal Sections 304 A, 304, 120 B, 278, 429, 426 & 92. I am signing this bond for Rs. 25,000/- and thus undertaking to be present whenever and wherever I am directed to be present by the police or the Court".

 

Since Section 304 is a 'non-bailable offence', i.e. bail can only be granted by a judge and not on the basis of a bond, were legal corners also cut to ensure Mr. Anderson was released immediately? The prior grant of safe passage meant he should never have been arrested in the first place. This is why Reddy writes of the "deplorable lack of coordination" between the Central and State governments. Instead of using its privileged access to official records to clarify these secondary issues once and for all, the GoM's efforts are likely to invite charges of a cover-up.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

ACCOUNTING FOR SUCCESS

BAN KI-MOON

 

Next week, the leaders of the world's largest economies will gather in Canada. Many of the questions on the summit table echo concerns around kitchen tables everywhere.

 

Will the troubles in the Eurozone plunge the world into a double-dip recession? Can the upswing in emerging markets offset the slide elsewhere?

 

Are we finally emerging, like survivors of a hurricane, to assess the extent of the damage and the needs of our neighbours? Or are we standing in the eye of the storm?

 

In a very real sense, the answers to all these questions depend on us — and how we manage the world economy over the coming period.

 

One encouraging sign is that there is a growing recognition among leaders of the need for increased accountability.

 

Now more than ever, we must be accountable to the most vulnerable.

 

The moral argument is clear. After all, those least responsible for the global economic meltdown have paid the highest price – in lost jobs, higher costs of living, growing community tensions as families struggle to make ends meet.

 

But the economic rationale is equally compelling. Like never before, global economic recovery depends on growth in developing countries. Those who have been hit the hardest are also our best hope for driving prosperity in the future.

 

Despite substantial stimulus efforts in many countries, the evidence shows that these have not always "trickled down" to meet the immediate needs of the poorest and most vulnerable. We are seeing the greatest dynamism in the emerging economies, but also the greatest pain. Far too many are left on the sidelines.

 

In developing regions, many workers have been pushed into vulnerable employment. The ranks of the global unemployed have grown by 34 million, and another 215 million women and men have become working poor. And, for the first time in history, more than one billion people are going hungry worldwide.

 

A recovery is not meaningful if people only learn about it in the newspaper. Working women and men need to see it in their own lives and livelihoods.

 

Simply put: A real recovery must reach the real economy.

 

As we look ahead, what does accountability mean in practical terms for people?

 

First, we must be accountable on delivering quality jobs. The global jobs crisis is slowing the recovery as well as progress towards reducing poverty in developing countries. It is time to focus on human development and decent work, particularly common sense investments in green jobs. Quite simply, economic recovery can't be sustainable without job recovery.

 

Second, we must be accountable to those hardest hit by the crisis, especially women. Throughout the world, women are the social cement that hold families and communities together. One of the most effective investments we can make is maternal and child health. The leaders' meeting in Canada can support our global effort to adopt and resource a global action plan on women's and children's health.

 

Third, we must be accountable for our promises. The world's leading economies have committed to double development aid to Africa and boost progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. More resources can transform lives and whole societies.

 

We know what works: investing in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria; delivering on commitments made last year to guarantee food security and help small farmers increase productivity and access markets through supporting national plans; ensuring that every child has access to primary education.

 

I recently visited a Millennium Village Project in Malawi and saw for myself how targeted, integrated investments in health, education, and technology can spur dramatic growth. Just three years ago, many in the village were on the verge of starvation. Today, they are selling surplus grain in markets throughout the region.

 

Smart investments create jobs and opportunities that spread far and wide.

 

Economic uncertainty cannot be an excuse to slow down these efforts. It is a reason to speed them up.

 

In an era of austerity, we must be wise with limited resources. Accountability is not charity. It is central to a coordinated global recovery plan.

 

Focussing on the needs of the most vulnerable can spur economic growth today and lay the foundation for a more sustainable and prosperous tomorrow.

 

In our interconnected global economy, it turns out that being accountable around the world is also smart accounting back home. — Courtesy: U.N. Information Centre, New Delhi.

 

( The writer is Secretary-General of the United Nations.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

FATHER'S STASH OF BOOKS FROM LONDON, MOTHER'S STORYTELLING

JULIET RIX

 

My father brought back from England an extraordinary collection of books. He came to London [from Nigeria] to train as a lawyer and my mother brought me (aged one-and-a-half) a year later and we stayed for about six years. His plan was that back in Nigeria he would have time to read all these books: the classics — Homer, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky — and the great books on economics and philosophy. But he got carried away with being a successful young lawyer and didn't get round to reading them. They gathered dust, and every now and then he'd say to me, "Ben, dust the books — but don't read them!" That made the books fantastically attractive. I don't know if he did it on purpose. I wouldn't put it past him. I would sit on the floor cross-legged dusting a Dickens or Shakespeare, then I'd read for hours until I'd hear his voice, "Ben, what are you doing?" and I'd start dusting again. Books still have this tension for me — the do and don't, the possibility of danger, of secret knowledge. It makes them very potent.

 

My mum, Grace, was quite different. She was gentle and very tough at the same time, and she never told me things directly. She never said "don't ... " — she knew that would make me do whatever it was. Instead, she would tell me a story. There were no clear morals, but her stories had an air around them. They were telling you something, and you had to work out what. Some took me 20 years to get. Her mother died when she was just three or four, and she was shifted around between aunts. She knew what it was like to grow up unprotected — that raw King Lear condition with nothing between you and the cold winds of the world. It made her very sensitive to other people's sufferings. She would say to me, "I can live next door to a hungry lion." She meant she could get along with all types and bear their awkwardness and nastiness. I can't live up to that.

 

When we got back to Nigeria (when I was about seven) we moved around a lot. That came to a stop with the civil war. My mother was half Igbo [from the south-east of Nigeria] while my father was Urhobo, from the Delta region, so the war was a family thing. We spent a lot of time hiding Mum — and I nearly got killed. I'm still stunned by what people are able to do to their neighbours.

 

One of the greatest gifts my father gave me — unintentionally — was witnessing the courage with which he bore adversity. We had a bit of a rollercoaster life with some really challenging financial periods. He was always unshaken, completely tranquil, the same ebullient, laughing, jovial man. I learned that life will go through changes — up and down and up again. It's what life does.

 

My parents lived to see their unruly child come through and win the Booker prize, but one day in my 30s, I got this impossible call from Nigeria to say that my mother had gone. We never think that our mothers will die. It was like suddenly an abyss opened at my feet — I was standing on nothing. It was the strangest thing. Her passing away ripped the solidity out of the world. For a few weeks, I'd be walking along and suddenly I'd be unable to stand straight and I'd hold on to a lamppost and find the lamppost wasn't solid either. That was a turning point for me. It began a great journey. I don't feel I need to lean on lampposts any more. You need internal lampposts — and a few good friends. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

( Ben Okri's latest book, Tales of Freedom , is published by Rider Books.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

JOBS CREATED AND DISPLACED

STEVE LOHR

 

The impact of innovation, by its nature, is unpredictable. But the pattern by which new technologies and high-tech businesses create jobs across the economy is well established. Take the Internet and Google.

 

The search giant employs thousands of people — programmers, mathematicians, statisticians, marketing and sales people, administrators and managers. But its success ripples to create other jobs as well: service workers and suppliers of everything from computers to food. Real estate brokers and car dealers have benefited from Google's wealth. More broadly, the spread of Internet technology has meant that most companies have their own websites. The companies hire software programmers, computer technicians, graphics designers and online advertising salespeople. And the job-creating ripples continue.

 

Smarter computing technology, experts say, ought to make the most skilled workers — in science, the arts and business — even more productive and prosperous by freeing them from routine tasks. Their prosperity translates to spending that creates jobs in stores, schools, gyms, construction and elsewhere.

 

Artificial intelligence, experts say, should also generate new jobs even as it displaces others. The smart machines of the future will need programming, servicing and upgrading — work done, perhaps, by a new class of digital technicians. The intelligent machines, experts add, will be specialists in a field, like the medical assistant project at Microsoft. They must be tailored with specialized software, perhaps igniting a new industry for artificial intelligence applications. Of course, no one really knows just what artificial intelligence will mean for jobs and the economy, but the technology is marching ahead. — New York Times News Service

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

PEOPLE LEFT TO MERCY OF MARKET FORCES

 

The landmark decision of the government to peg the price of fuel to international prices is a game-changing event. It sends out a signal that it is serious about pushing across its reform measures and, in this case, it means transferring the international prices to the domestic prices which is now complete. Hitherto food and manufacturing prices were tied to international prices and one can see the effect of food on domestic inflation. This imported inflation is going to be even worse in the case of fuel where the government has raised the price of petrol by Rs 3.50 per litre, kerosene, which is the poor man's fuel, by Rs 3, and diesel by Rs 2 with a proviso that it will soon be freed from government control. Unlike the case of food, India is totally dependent on imports for fuel — more than 70 per cent of our requirements are imported. There was a time when former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, a proud nationalist, wanted India to be self-reliant in oil, but after her this spirit flagged. Oil exploration companies found it less profitable to hunt for oil and imports escalated over the years, leaving the country at the mercy of the oil-producing countries. Only lip service is paid towards scouting for oil resources and developing alternative sources of energy. India has huge reserves of shale gas but till today there is no serious effort to exploit this resource. China, for instance, is going all over the world, particularly to Africa and Venezuela, and successfully tying up oil exploration deals. We move like dinosaurs and have all kinds of compunctions. Our leaders lack the India-first, country-before-everything spirit of Indira Gandhi and the Chinese where their country is concerned. There is a bankruptcy of ideas, political will and the energy needed to work for the country.


The chief economic adviser (CEA) in the ministry of finance, who himself has been imported recently from the US, expects an increase of "0.9 percentage points in the monthly wholesale price index inflation". He is silent on the impact at the retail level, which could be much higher. According to him, these changes will cause the fiscal and revenue deficits to decline, and, consequently, exert a downward pressure on prices. He says the move will rationalise the way we spend money, the kinds and amount of energy we use, and the cars we manufacture. "It is an important step in making India a more efficient, global player," he says. In an ideal world it would. But those who have money use their cars and energy without care. Those on expense accounts are even worse. It is the economically weaker sections, and those just above, who will be affected most by the cascading effect of this continuing price rise.


It is a big game change for the people as the government has set the direction it is taking for the future. Leaving such a basic need to the whims of international market forces that we do not understand or comprehend means leaving the masses in the lurch. The government has said it would intervene if prices climbed too high, but it has not specified what "too high" means. A mature economy would be able to absorb shocks from the international market, but for an economy like India's it does not seem fair. It would have been fair had the government put in place a nationwide public distribution system. It has already thrown up its hands shamelessly on this score. A PDS system would have mitigated the price rise.


It's a win-win situation for the government which pocketed Rs 1,06,000 crores from the 3G auction and didn't want the subsides to spoil the party. This tying up of Indian fuel prices to international prices will trim its subsidy burden to just Rs 53,000 crores for the year from Rs 74,300 crores.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

PLAINSPEAK ON HILLS

FARRUKH DHONDY

 

 "Underneath the lamplight

She stood those tortured hours

Waiting for the ones who knew

She wasn't selling flowers."

From Bictorian Bull

by Bachchoo

 

I am in Dalhousie, a settlement on five hill in the foothills of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, surrounded by the Punjab where all roads seem to lead. I have lost my way twice walking down and up the mountain roads of this beautiful natural spot, a colonial town, entirely now Punjabised, if that's a word, a suburb of Delhi with hill folk thrown in.


I am the guest of a friend and his family and, very grateful for his sumptuous hospitality meet the elite of the hill resort at his lunch and dinner parties and am courteously included when his guests reciprocate with invitations for a drink, a barbecue or dinner. Most of the people I meet during this short sojourn, which I am using to finish some pieces of sustained writing, discuss the weather — here, on the plains and in London, talk about literature, international and national, discuss their pastimes of golf, tennis and their keep-fit regimen, talk international politics assessing Barack Obama and the almost new coalition government of the UK's David Cameron with acute analysis and even committed concern, a contrast to the annoyance and disgust which they profess for the latest news of the tactics of the Bharatiya Janata Party to get their nominees into the Rajya Sabha or the antics of the Shiv Sena in calling a strike of rickshaw and taxi firms and drivers.
These are international people who can discuss the shopping, art and wines of Europe and, perhaps with greater familiarity, the prices and promises of America.


There are local topics of course — the access to the Internet, the flexibility of civic supplies and, interminably, how much their houses have acquired the trappings of modernity — the constructed cutting that makes it possible for the 4x4 to drive to the front door of the house, the storage tank for water that defies all shortage of supply, the annexe which can be rented out as a summer getaway.


I encounter these gentle folk, people I have inevitably already met, as I take an evening walk, a necessary ritual of being here.


The town was named after the Viceroy of India who introduced the infamous "Doctrine of Lapse" whereby Indian Kings without heirs would cede their territories to the British East India Company.(cf. Many books and films including Satyajit Ray's The Chess Players). In London I met a direct descendant of this reviled Viceroy who told me that his illustrious or infamous ancestor had never been to the place and didn't in fact found the resort. It was named after his departure from India or even from this mortal dispensation. It somewhat surprises me that no politician of Himachal Pradesh, a relatively new and presumably possessively inclined state has sought to rename the town. After all, "Bombay" and "Madras" despite not being Hastingspur or Curzonabad had to go. Compared to Dalhousie, their names were in the scheme of things inoffensively neutral. (Indians pronounce the name as "Del-How-Zee" even though the British retain the Scottish pronunciation for the name: "Del-hoo-zee", though in my brief sojourn I haven't seen any itinerant Scotsmen here).


The people I do pass on the beautiful mountain walks are either those I have met at the lunch parties taking their pre-prandial exercise, middle-class Punjabi families waving holiday sticks and moving noisily along or gangs up from the plains for a break in the hotels clustered around the armpit of the hills know as the town centre. I also pass, every hundred yards, the servants of the "barabecue-Tandooratti" crowd walking the family dogs and then at larger intervals, coming out from paths in the lower hill or descending from the "pug-dandis" of the upper slopes, the hill peasantry who live in the shanties of the town or in the ramshackle constructions of the villages which one can see dotted about the distant deep and wooded valleys.


As one passes these socially distinct individuals or groups, or they overtake you in their determination to keep the tandoori calories in check, we greet each other. It's always a "hi", "hello", "good evening" or even an English exchange about the weather, the wonderful view or the sighting of a langoor, the black and white fluffy monkeys of these parts. Walking though is a serious business it makes impatient and brief encounters, the political niceties are left to the encounter at the dinner party under the stars.


The local taxis, white personnel carrier vans for the most part, driven by brazen horn-blowers and packed with the non-home-owning or non-bungalow-renting type of tourist, twist at high speed around the mountain curves, treat the hair-pinned roads as though they were Ludhiana streets and drive close enough to walkers to drive them off the cliffs.


If the local holiday-makers, the ones you haven't met at the cocktail pass you on foot, you might smile and say a "namaste", in recognition of being the only humans at least five minutes from civilisation. The isolation of the hills breeds a bonhomie. You may get a "namaste" in return or, more usually, a stone-faced denial of your existence.


With the people of the hills, the natives of Himachal, sons of the soil of the state, one doesn't even attempt a "namaste". They wouldn't understand. Dalhousie and, I suspect, the other ex-colonial hill towns of India, are divided worlds. At least two.


They originated as such. The houses which today are Indianised still have old colonial names. There is Snowdon, the house now dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore which was once the object of Welsh nostalgia. Then there is the oddly named "Param-Dham Norwood" with its oxymoronic dedication to the Vedas and a south London district.


The vestigial nomenclature of the Raj mixing in with modern India is the least of it. Dalhousie, providing a resort for the upper classes of the plains, some of them citizens of the international sphere and providing subsistence, if that, for those who don't deign to greet you on your walks, doesn't strike one as a reproduction of colonial India. It is more accurately the terracing of modern India.


Away from Dalhousie, a long way in economic and political complexion, the disparity has led to militant despair. What is so plain in this Himalayan resort is true on a much greater scale of any town in India. The difference is only that in, say, Mumbai the vast disparities are part of the productive terrain. Dalhousie is a resort to which people come leaving the causes and capitalistic justifications for the disparity behind.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

REFORM POLICE, SPARE US THE TORTURE

ANTARA DEV SEN

 

There's this old joke about our cops. The Government of India is trying to catch a lion hiding in a particular forest and summons the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the state police. The investigators get busy.


The IB enters the forest, places animal informants throughout the jungle and questions all plant and mineral witnesses. After six months of extensive investigations they conclude that lions do not exist. The CBI goes in. After three weeks with no leads they burn the forest, killing everything in it, including the lion. "It's been taken care of", they say smugly.


Meanwhile the state police had gone into the forest. And were found the next day clustered around a tree where they had tied up a rabbit. As they beat up the terrified little creature, the cops roared, "Bol tu sher hai! Saala bol! (Say you're a lion! Admit it, saala!)"


Our faith in our law and order mechanism is clear from this joke. That the police use torture as their primary tool of investigation is a given. We know this does not help catch the culprit. And that the ordinary citizen has no escape from this absurd drama is clear from our seeking refuge in jokes.
As far as I remember, India tops the number of incidents of police torture and custodial deaths in a democracy. Deaths in police custody and in prison are routine, and increasing. They are even passed off as deaths in police "encounters". But whatever the mounting figures for custodial deaths, a much higher number of victims of police atrocities live on, broken in body and mind, maimed forever physically, mentally and psychologically or dumped back home to die. And even 13 years after signing the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (known as Convention Against Torture or CAT) we have no qualms about it.


Today is International Day Against Torture. On this day in 1987 the CAT came into force. And exactly 65 years ago, on June 26, 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed. Over the years the world has become kinder and gentler in parts, but there are creepy dark patches. India happens to be one such scary blotch, where the world's largest democracy continues to use savagery as a valid administrative principle. Torture is our short cut to investigating crime and maintaining order. We have no law against torture, and we have skilfully dodged ratifying the CAT.


Thankfully, there are chimes of change. Two important steps in the last two months bring us closer to internationally accepted levels of civility and ratifying the CAT. First, the much awaited Prevention of Torture Bill (2010) was introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha. India has no specific law against torture, which allows the police and other officers in uniform like the armed forces to get away with the most atrocious crimes against humanity. For the first time India could have a stand-alone law against torture, which defines "torture" clearly and provides punishment. It could send guilty public servants to jail for 10 years. The bill has drawbacks, but is a step in the right direction.


Second, the Supreme Court has ruled against the use of narco-analysis, lie detector tests and brain mapping. These are illegal, the court ruled, and when done without the consent of the suspect, violates the Constitution. They infringe our rights to fair trial and against self-incrimination. The order talked of the need "to arrive at a pragmatic balance between the often competing interests of personal liberty and public safety" and refused to justify "the use of torture or other improper means for eliciting information".

Which is again a progressive step. The panic over terrorism and security concerns makes us justify savagery, with horrendous anti-terror laws being introduced that play havoc with the lives of ordinary citizens. We refuse to recognise the difference between a real and a sham fight against terror. Terrorising and torturing innocents may make our law enforcers look efficient, but doesn't make us more secure. The lions we seek roam free as we slyly frame rabbits.


In fact, torture increases our terror quotient and internal security risk. State brutality pushes desperate people into the arms of rebels, who promise justice and a better life. Maoist violence and the extremism in Kashmir and the Northeast are nurtured by the state, fed by the anger of long-suffering people frustrated with the state's neglect and torture. Because the violence and brutality of our uniformed forces is legalised by our lack of proper legislation against torture, the traditional impunity of the police and the enforcement of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in acutely disturbed areas.


So the Prevention of Torture Bill and the Supreme Court order against narco-analysis are firm steps towards a less savage state. They would also pave the way to India's ratifying the CAT and improvingg our image internationally.


But we need more than image. We need to enact and implement laws to deliver justice to Indians. Merely having an anti-torture law will not be of much use, for example, without a separate investigating agency for torture. The police are unlikely to find fault with their own, so victims have little hope of a proper case against their tormentors. Besides, cases linger on in courts forever, crushing any hope the victims may have of justice.
Also, as long as the police remain lackeys of politicians there will be no fair play, and the state machinery will be used as the personal army of the powerful to protect friends and frame the less friendly. And they will continue to use torture particularly against the most disempowered — traditionally the dalits and Muslims get the worst treatment — they will continue to rape and molest women, and inflict filthy verbal and physical abuse on the less privileged.


So to actually free ourselves of police torture, we need more than laws — we need police reform. Days ago you saw pictures of a 75-year-old hung from a tree in a Rajasthan police station and beaten brutally to extract a confession. Jaidev, the old man, swears he is being framed. But for every incident of police torture you see on television or in the papers, there are thousands more that you will never know of. And it does nothing to deter crime. It's plain stupid.


In short, it is in the interest of the state to prevent torture. If we want to catch the lion, we need to stop being happy beating up rabbits.

 

Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine.

She can be contacted at sen@littlemag.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

PLAYING WITH FIRE

JAGMOHAN

 

After attainment of freedom, the framers of the Constitution made fairly sound provisions for the advancement of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and also for "educationally and socially backward classes". For some time, the nation's polity had a smooth sailing. The leadership of the time had a constructive outlook and sensed the dangerous potential of doing any thing that would keep the vice of caste alive.


In 1955, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru himself took the initiative in rejecting the report of the Kaka Kalelkar Backward Class Commission which, inter alia, recommended reservation of jobs for backward castes whose number was reckoned as 2,399. It was made clear by his government that the caste-based reservation would obstruct the growth of a truly secular, cohesive and egalitarian society. Again, in his letter of June 27, 1961, to the chief ministers, Nehru referred to the demand for reservations on grounds of caste, and warned: "This way lies not only folly but disaster". Indira Gandhi, too, was conscious of the perils to which the country would be exposed if the caste-factor was allowed to occupy a larger space in its political terrain. She, therefore, kept the report of the second Backward Class Commission, popularly known as Mandal Commission, submitted in 1980, in the cold storage for about a decade.


Soon, however, a new crop of leaders emerged on the political stage, who did not hesitate to even play with fire to secure a few short-term electoral gains. For them, caste became a tool of manipulation, an instrument for stoking petty and parochial loyalties. They remained oblivious of what insightful observers of the Indian scene, like Sir Valentine Chirol, had said: "Hinduism could not build a nation because one vital structure (caste) which it did build was the negation of every thing that constituted a nation".


In 1990, caste acquired new depth and dimensions in Indian politics, when Prime Minister V.P. Singh, in search for a larger power-base and in an attempt to upstage his rival, Devi Lal, suddenly announced acceptance of the Mandal Commission's recommendations and fixed a quota of 27 per cent of government jobs for the backward classes and also reserved 27 per cent seats in medical, engineering and professional institutions for students belonging to these classes.


The caste propelled approach of the politicians was somewhat diluted by the Supreme Court in its judgments, delivered on various writ-petitions filed before it. Besides restricting reservations to 50 per cent and excluding "creamy layer" of the backward classes, the court held that the caste alone could not be a basis for enlistment as a backward class; the other factors such as education, income and occupation, would have to be considered. It seemed to suggest that the best form of affirmative action was to classify groups of people by their economic and social status.


Hardly had the conflict-ridden fall-outs of the reservations for the backward classes settled than the demand for enumeration of castes in the census was raised. Even if all the operational difficulties with regard to settling claims are ignored and the demand is conceded, the vested interests, whose appetite for exploitation of caste has been whetted, would not end their game at that point. They would press for reservations for Muslims and other minorities, and then for reservations in private sector. Nor would they stop to ponder over their obligations under Article 51A(e) which requires every citizen to transcend sectional loyalties and promote the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India.


All this is bound to turn the Indian Constitution upside down. Both the society and the state would get fragmented and the separatist instinct would strike a deeper root in the peoples' psyche. In the past, it were the vested interests of the upper castes that destroyed the "will to nationhood". Now another kind of vested interest is at work. It is perpetuating politics of caste, creating divisive votebanks, undermining overall machinery of governance and pushing the Indian state to a position where it would become nothing more than a big tree with a hollow trunk, ever exposed to the risks of collapse. In his concluding speech, delivered at the time of adoption of the Indian Constitution, B.R. Ambedkar expressed his apprehensions about the role of "our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds". Are we not now feeding our old enemies and causing our unfortunate history of division and discord to repeat itself?


In the light of what I have said above and in the first part of this article, two basic measures need to be taken. First, it should be effectively propagated, by way of a strong religious and social reform movement, that caste is against the basic structure of Hinduism and to practice it is to violate this faith. Every effort should be made to eject caste from the mindscape of Hindus. This would certainly help in changing the traditional outlook of the entire Indian community on caste.


Secondly, constructive approach should be adopted to extend social justice to all the deprived and disprivileged. We must not fight not for the rights of castes and clans but for the human rights of the needy. Caste, in fact, should be constitutionally abolished. No other country, rich or poor, has it. After a specified period, no one should be allowed to use his or her caste with regard to any matter, public or private. This would be the best way of removing the chronic infection of caste from our system and ushering in a healthy era of casteless society. Years ago, Dr Rammanohar Lohia had observed: "The revolt against caste is the resurrection of India".

 

Let us carry out this revolt without any further delay.


We must have a democracy, and not a castocracy. But this democracy should be propelled by an awakened conscience. A fully charged lamp of compassion must provide warmth to its cold layers and lift up all those who are poor, sick, hungry and uneducated by guaranteeing them state-aided rights to food, shelter, education, sanitation, clean drinking water, medical aid etc.


The country today needs, not heartless forces of neo-liberalism, but root and branch reforms which would create new ethos, attitude and outlook and enable it to give birth to a new civilisation — a civilisation that would sweep away the garbage of our past and rest itself on the "ancient nobility of temper" and modern norms of human rights.

 

Concluded
Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

GOOD SENSE —AT LAST

 

The UPA government has at last decided to bite the bullet and decontrol oil prices partially. While petrol prices are being freed, diesel will be freed "ultimately". Cooking gas (LPG) and kerosene, the holy cows of political populism, will continue to be heavily subsidised. It's not a clean decision, but it's a step forward from the dithering of the last six years of the UPA government.


Committee after committee has recommended various forms of market-determined pricing — the Kirit Parikh committee being the latest — to help the oil marketing companies stay in the black and to avoid punching a hole through the budget, but thus far populism has always won.


To be sure, it's not yet certain that everything that's been announced will indeed be implemented in letter and spirit. The decision to raise the prices of petrol by Rs3.73, diesel by Rs2, kerosene by Rs3 and cooking gas by Rs35 per cylinder will raise a political storm from Left to Right. The government will have to grin and bear it. It has the parliamentary numbers to withstand the pressure, unless key allies like the DMK and Trinamool start developing cold feet. It needs to stand firm.


The former finance minister, P Chidambaram, argued that good economics makes for good politics. But during his tenure he couldn't convince his cabinet colleagues of the political wisdom of it all. But then, politicians have shorter time horizons than most people. The truth probably lies somewhere in-between: good economics can lead to good politics with a little bit of luck and good timing.


As things stand now, with nothing but the Bihar elections on the horizon, this is probably the best time to push ahead with reforms in the oil sector. The immediate impact of aligning domestic prices with international market trends would be a rise in prices — already in double-digits — but with a good monsoon and higher interest rates, inflation should start moderating over the next couple of months.

This is also a good time to explain to the public why oil prices — including diesel at some point in the future — need to be deregulated. We need to confront the myth that people are fundamentally against any increase in prices even if there is good reason for it.


There are many good reasons for deregulating, including conserving fossil fuels and reducing pollution, among other things. The alternatives can also be explained: excessive subsidisation of the non-poor will have to be funded by government borrowings or by printing currency notes, both leading to higher inflation.

 

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DNA

'IT WON'T BE EASY TO EXTRADITE ANDERSON'

UTTARA CHOUDHURY

 

India's renewed effort to secure former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson's extradition has the potential to strain relations with Washington. The subtle message Indian ministers visiting Washington heard from the state department on the Bhopal gas tragedy is "case closed."


"I don't think the issues of extradition are ever purely legal. They are invariably political. The US will seek first and foremost to protect its own interests," said Ashley J Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in Washington.


Mumbai-born Tellis was intimately involved in negotiating the US civil nuclear deal with India as an adviser to former US undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns. He tells Uttara Choudhury in New York that although Anderson has become a lightning rod for a general feeling of injustice on the Bhopal case, the US is unlikely to act on an extradition request.


Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide in 1999 and says all accident liabilities were cleared in a $470 million settlement reached out of court in 1989.


India's request for Anderson's extradition in May 2003 was rejected by the US but do you think it has a better chance now?


I don't think the odds of Anderson being extradited are particularly high. I don't think they were high in 2003 and I don't think they are any higher today. Part of it has to do with the lack of clarity about what legal liability Union Carbide — as the former parent in Danbury, Connecticut — has for the accident in Bhopal. The other part of the problem of course is politics.


US opinion usually treats accidents of this nature as a problem of civil liability rather than criminality. Unless one can show prima facie evidence that the events in Bhopal were triggered by criminal actions and that the chain extends clearly from the operator in India all the way to the leadership of the parent corporation in Connecticut, it will be hard for the US government to accept an extradition request.



So India's fury at President Obama's tough stance against BP and accusations that the US has double standards over industrial accidents will not cut any ice?


Obama has obviously reacted vigorously to BP's role in the Gulf accident but at this point there is no effort to bring criminal proceedings against the BP leadership. It is being handled primarily as a problem of environmental damage which involves civil liabilities. So the president has been insistent that BP keep aside $20 billion as a reserve fund for compensation. It is being treated as a tort case as opposed to a criminal one, whereas the issue of Anderson's extradition shades into the questions of criminality. I think that would be a harder argument to sustain.


I understand the Indian public's fury and frustration that there hasn't been satisfaction with regard to the way the whole Bhopal disaster was handled but that does not constitute sufficient legal grounds for the US government to sustain an Indian extradition request.


Would India be able to get Anderson if it mounted a big lobbying and diplomatic push?

I seriously doubt it. There has to be prima facie evidence that Anderson had effective responsibility for what happened in Bhopal. I'm not saying that such a contention can never be proven in a court of law through a process of trial. It is just that India bears the burden of proof, which is high.


While recommending extradition an Indian government panel noted that there were testimonies that Carbide's bosses knew of the Bhopal plant's faulty design.


This could well be true, but this involves a factual claim which has yet to be established indisputably. Unless that occurs, I am not sure the US would be able to act on an extradition request. It is not enough just to table an extradition request because there is a bilateral treaty — the factual basis for the request would have to be supported by a serious investigation.


The executive branch cannot simply go out and apprehend an American citizen and have him extradited — the individual has strong constitutional rights. India will have to provide evidence that could hold up in American courts because Anderson will challenge any US extradition order if it were to be issued.


The US has extradition treaties with friendly countries but is it a reliable extradition partner? It extradited British executives on Enron charges but Britain has accused America of being unhelpful when it comes to handing over US citizens to foreign courts.


I don't think the issues of extradition are ever purely legal issues. They are invariably political. The US will seek first and foremost to protect its own interests so it is really the balance of interests in any given extradition request that will determine the outcome. If the balance of interests is not in favour of the US, I find it hard to believe that the US government would act on an extradition request.


Hypothetically speaking, it would be easier to extradite a person involved in a terrorist attack in India because there would presumably be enough palpable evidence against him. When you are talking of Bhopal, however, you are talking of a US multinational corporation where the relationship between parent and subsidiary is quite murky. It is hard to believe the US will respond in this case as it might in the case of extraditing a terrorist. It is these complexities that make the difference and they shade quickly into politics before you know it.


Has the Bhopal disaster hurt America's corporate image abroad?

Part of the problem is that it happened 25 years ago. If the issues had been elevated at the time when the accident occurred, the consequences would have been more serious. Everyone recognises that Union Carbide bears some responsibility but how much is unclear; how that translates into American governmental responsibilities is also unclear.


The US is obviously motivated to protect its citizens' interests in the BP case because it happened on US soil. The Bhopal accident, in contrast, occurred abroad. One can argue about moral responsibility, but it's hard to expect the US president today to show the same level of indignation in regard to Anderson's extradition as he has shown in the BP case. There are crucial differences.

 

If the Indian government had taken a more vigorous position in the civil and criminal process then, you might had a different outcome. The moment for getting the kind of satisfaction from the United States that the Indian public is now demanding, I think that moment has passed.

Email: uttara.choudhury@gmail.com

Copyright Permission     www.3dsyndication.com      

 

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DNA

COLUMN

WORDS THAT DESCRIBE WINES

MAGANDEEP SINGH

 

A glossary is what we find at the end of a book where the author writes down words he uses constantly to impress readers but does not remember the meaning of. So let's look at some other commonly dropped wine terms in polite society.


Tannin: The bitter sensation associated with red wines only. Different grapes produce wines with different amount of tannins — Cabernet/Shiraz being the most to Gamay being least. Tannins leave a furry/velvety coat on the inside of our mouth which gives the effect of dryness. Tannins are what give red wines their super-structure and ability to age for long. Remember, it is one thing to have a young tannic wine with promise (pedigree hound) and another to have a crude red with harsh tannins (a rodent). Dry: The sensation of lack of saliva in the mouth. Whites are generally drier than reds. A racy Chardonnay is a good example of a dry beverage. Not to be confused with the parched-throat-after-a-rough-night syndrome (read: hangover).


Fruity: An after-taste like one experienced after eating a fruit basket. Wine has no fruit extracts added hence to find cherry flavours in a Burgundy red means that the sensation left behind is similar to one felt on eating cherries.


Full-Bodied: The sign of the alpha-male…Drinks only "full-bodied" wines! It implies a wine with a lot of complexity of aromas and flavours and a robust structure, which will help it to age gracefully.
Acidic: The same as sucking on a lemon. The intense rush felt on the sides of the tongue, which in adequate doses can be quite refreshing and tongue-twisting in excess.


Terroir: Pronounced "Ter-wah', it's that never-translated French term which refers to the summation of all factors responsible for the quality of a certain wine …in short one word that sincerely justifies a hefty price tag.
Balance: A wine is a tightrope walk attempt. If the alcohol (burn in throat), acidity or tannins are disproportionate, the wine is said to have taken a tumble off the rope. If the wine lacks balance and nothing (except a good tight hammer to the winemaker's head) can ever change that.


After-taste: Connoisseurs prefer the "aromatic persistence of the wine". It is a measure of how long the flavours last on the palate although snottily enough the unit of measurement is called Caudalie.


Legs: Legs in wine have no tactile significance whatsoever. 'Tsk-Tsk' those who tell you they can tell a dry from a sweet wine by the leg formation inside the glass.


Retrolfaction: A nice one to drop around. Your mouth is connected to your olfactory bulb (smelling centre). What we perceive here may or may not conform to what we were smelling earlier; in other words more notes may become apparent. This is called retrolfaction and most oak-aged wines show a nutty/buttery nuance at this stage. That's all folks, or as the French would say — Voilà!


Email: s_magandeep@dnaindia.net

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

GOVT BITES THE BULLET

OIL PRICE REFORMS PUT ON TRACK

 

The Union government's decision to hike the oil prices will hit the poor, push up inflation, annoy consumers and upset the coalition partners, but it is a well thought-out, sound economic decision based on the recommendations of the Kirit Parikh committee. First petrol, and then diesel prices will get market-driven. Kerosene price decontrol has been ruled out. If the UPA has taken a political risk by hurting the poor for whom it has launched inclusive growth initiatives, there are valid reasons to do so. First, the Union Budget for 2010-11 had cut the oil subsidy to one-fifth of last year's level and forced the Petroleum Minister to press for oil price hikes and decontrol.

 

Secondly, the government oil marketing companies — Indian Oil, HP and BP — lose Rs 203 crore daily by selling fuel below its imported cost. Such a heavy loss is unbearable for long. Central and state governments can soften the price rise blow — if they want to — by withdrawing/slashing the taxes on oil, which come to almost half its price. Thirdly, the decision will free up more funds for development projects. The 3G spectrum bonanza will be put to better use. Fourthly, it will help the government rein in its fiscal deficit, currently ruling at a worrying level of 5.5 per cent of the GDP. Fifthly, costlier fuel will lead to its more efficient use and thus cut environmental pollution. Finally, market-linked oil prices will attract foreign investment in India's under-developed energy sector and spur growth of renewable sources of energy.

 

Though such a major decision could not have been taken without their consent, the UPA coalition partners may make the usual political noises for public consumption. No party can be expected to try to destabilise the government, which has alternatives ready, anyway. The BJP economic agenda is not much different from that of the UPA. The main opposition party would have done the same had it been in power. For the Leftist bulls, however, an oil price hike is a real red rag. The oil reform timing is right. There are no elections this year except in Bihar.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A TOUGHER BILL

NO BUCK-PASSING ON COMMUNAL VIOLENCE

 

It is ironical that in a country which swears by secularism and ahimsa, communal violence is a recurring feature even six decades after Independence. The unthinkable happens because of two reasons: one, it has so far been taken as no worse than a routine law and order problem; and two, many a time, even state actors become a party to it. But whether it is the 1984 riots in Delhi or the 2002 Gujarat riots, everyone knows that those have left an indelible mark on the face of the nation. That is why it has become imperative to curb communal violence. A Bill in this regard first drafted in 2005 and introduced in Parliament in November 2006 was too sedate to do so. It has now been reworked into the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill with about 80 changes, and is likely to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.

 

So far, the perpetrators have been able to get away because of lack of coordination between the states and the Centre. The proposed Bill puts the responsibility of constituting a unified command to deal with communal violence in the states on the Centre. That will, hopefully, ensure that there is no attempt to pass the buck. Another redeeming feature is that it makes public servants and officers accountable for acts of omission or commission. An officer, who is authorised to prevent or control communal violence, will be punished with imprisonment up to three years plus fine if he or she exercises the authority in a mala fide manner or wilfully refrains from using the authority vested in him or her.

 

As in health issues, prevention is better than cure. It is the duty of every citizen, politician and party to make sure that nothing is done to precipitate communal tension. By now it has become quite obvious that violence begets violence. It is in everyone's interest that no one be allowed to vitiate the atmosphere and the evil be nipped in the bud. But if some mischievous elements are bent upon spreading the poison, it should be clear to them that punishment would be swift and exemplary. The Bill would be meaningful only if it is implemented in letter as well as spirit.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

EXAM REFORM FOR IITS

NATIONAL APTITUDE TEST IS A WELCOME MOVE

 

The IIT-JEE reform panel, set up in February this year, has submitted its recommendations. It is now for the IIT Council to ratify and implement them. It has been known for some time that the country's premier engineering colleges are not quite happy at the quality of students getting admission in IITs year after year. Ever since the Joint Entrance Examination ( JEE) opted for multiple choice questions and numerical solving skills, the number of students with analytical and communication skills has nosedived. This has also coincided with the mushroom growth of coaching institutes, which train students to mechanically crack the entrance examination, without having to grasp basic concepts. What is more, large sections of students have been led to believe that they can afford to neglect their classes in high school and ignore Board examinations as long as they are able to cope with 'coaching'. Since there are fundamental differences between the teaching at coaching institutes and the teaching offered in schools, the panel's recommendation to place more reliance on Board examinations and a National Aptitude Test is specially welcome. This would force students and teachers alike to attend and engage high school classes, necessary to develop an understanding of both sciences and the arts.

 

With an estimated 4.5 lakh students appearing at the JEE this year for just around 10,000 seats in the IITs, the urgency for reforms was never higher. Paradoxically, while a large number of students who fail to get into IITs deserve better education than they eventually receive in other institutions, an equally large number of students admitted to the IITs fail to meet the rigour there. Students who perform exceptionally well in other engineering colleges can possibly be allowed into the IITs while those who fail to cope with the demands made by the IITs can be moved to other institutions.

 

Brand IIT is far too valuable to the country and they should remain exclusive institutions for the best and the brightest. That should be reason enough for the reforms to be implemented promptly. The over-dependence on coaching institutes, which give an unfair advantage to well-heeled students from urban areas, requires to be neutralised to provide a level playing field to those who are poorer and slower but not necessarily less bright.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

BHOPAL AND KANISHKA TRAGEDIES

WARNINGS IGNORED IN BOTH CASES

BY KULDIP NAYAR

 

In one way, the Air India Kanishka bombing and the Bhopal gas tragedy are entirely two different incidents, far removed in distance and time. Yet both of them, occurring within a year of each other, underline the same point: criminal neglect by the authorities that led to scores of killings. Ignoring the timely warning that the catastrophe was imminent, both the Canadian government and Union Carbide at Bhopal did nothing to avert the tragedies. Even warnings through email were deliberately ignored.

 

It is all right for Justice John Major, who headed the probe in the Kanishka sabotage, to say that "this is a Canadian atrocity" or for the magistrate at Bhopal to take the operators of the plant to task for negligence. But hard words do not minimise the crime, nor do they crush bones. They do not serve even as a balm on the wounds inflicted through sheer carelessness. In both cases, there is no running away from the fact that they were deliberate, intentional murders.

 

As many as 329 passengers, mostly of Indian origin, died in the Kanishka crash. The number in Bhopal was between 15,000 and 20,000. In the first case, a group of extremists planned and executed the bombing of the plane through a time device. The authorities, as the probe reveals, were aware of how the plan was hatched. A person had also reported to the police how he heard a bomb exploding in a nearby forest. The extremists were rehearsing the plot. Still one intelligence agency did not pass on the information to the other and allowed the crime to be committed.

 

A better coordination, as suggested by the probe judge, or an overall supervisory outfit contemplated by the Canadian government, would help. But that is all for the future. What about punishing those who sensed the tragedy was waiting to happen and still kept quiet? Their hands are as much tainted with blood as those of the extremists who had the plane blow-up device. They cannot be allowed to go scot-free. If their crime goes unpunished, as it appears from the immediate reaction by Ottawa, it would amount to condoning murder. And if no head rolls, the government would be seen shielding the men working for police and intelligence agencies.

 

Nothing has been heard about the action on those who planted the bomb. They are said to be roaming free in Canada and thriving without a qualm of conscience. The Ottawa government has to look into the case de novo after the verdict from the fresh probe.

 

It is strange that the Government of India has not taken up the matter with Ottawa. People of Indian origin have been killed. If we are thinking of giving them the right to vote in Indian elections, we consider them Indians in the larger sense. The Canadian government should realise that India cares for the people of its origin. It is a pity that New Delhi does not rise to the occasion when India's prestige is challenged. The way in which it has ignored racial attacks on Indians in Australia gives little hope of action on murder which was planned and carried out from the Canadian soil.

 

This type of timidity has emboldened the Dow Chemicals, which has taken over Union Carbide but has refused to own responsibility, at Bhopal where thousands were killed and lakhs affected health-wise. While Justice Major rightly put the blame on the Canadian government, the Group of Ministers went out of the way to exonerate Rajiv Gandhi, India's Prime Minister, at the time of the Bhopal tragedy. They behaved like loyal members of the Congress party. When the then state Chief Minister, Arjun Singh, says that he had no locus standi, then who allowed Warren Anderson, then chief of Union Carbide, to escape from Bhopal? Anderson was flown to Delhi by a state plane.

 

I do not know whether Rajiv Gandhi was responsible or not. Yet the reason given by the GoM is flimsy. That there was nothing on the record of the archives of the Ministries of External Affairs and Home Affairs is no proof of his non-involvement. A CBI official has said that he was given written instructions by the External Affairs Ministry to go slow on the case. Why has the GoM not commented on that? The report is eyewash and does not hold Dow Chemicals responsible, the company which took over Union Carbide.

 

The GoM, headed by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, has talked about compensation. But who will pay the compensation? Dow Chemicals, not the Indian exchequer. But when he and Kamal Nath, a member of the GoM, were once trying to see that Dow Chemicals was not responsible for any compensation, the Prime Minister was unwise to appoint one as the chairman and include the other as a member of the group.

 

New Delhi must make Dow Chemicals pay the compensation and hold it responsible for removing the toxic material from the site at Bhopal. We should tear a leaf from President Obama's book. He has made London's BP to allocate $2 billion for the damage that the oil spill has created on the American coast. Why should India behave as if it is a client state of the West? We owe them nothing. In fact, they should be tiptoeing to placate a country that has more than a billion people and a huge market.

 

Canada has at least committed itself to compensating the families of those who died in the Kanishka air crash. Dow Chemicals, on the other hand, has refused to do so. Let its conduct - it wants to make huge investment - be its credentials. India does not want it if it is not willing to own the responsibility of rehabilitating and compensating the Bhopal gas victims.

 

Truth will some day catch up with the Congress. It may meet is nemesis in the general election when the Bhopal gas tragedy will reverberate like the Bofors gun scandal did in the country. Rajiv Gandhi lost the polls. Congress president Sonia Gandhi should read the writing on the wall.

 

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THE  TRIBUNE

MIDDLE

EMERGENCY & ANARCHY

BY RAVI K. MAHAJAN

 

Thirtyfive years ago, when as a teenager I was preparing to leave for my nani's house in Delhi, my parents cautioned me to be extra careful as 'Emergency' had been clamped. I had no clue what they were talking about.

 

I found nothing unusual at the Chandigarh bus stand. But as the bus approached ISBT, Delhi, it halted at the specified spot. I moved to the spot where my 'maamu' used to pick me up. I waited for him for about an hour but he did not turn up. I then decided to take a DTC bus but the thought unnerved me. One needed the ability to sprint and the skills of a good wrestler to get into a DTC bus.

 

But to my surprise, there was a long queue. Two well-dressed officials in uniform were guiding people to various queues and warning them against jumping the queues. The arrival of the local bus on time was another surprise but that surprise was shortlived as I was overwhelmed to find that the door of the bus opened at the exact point where the first person in the queue was to board the bus.

 

In the bus, both the driver and the conductor were in uniform. They were at their best behaviour and were guiding passengers with do's and don'ts. How could the "Emergency" change people so much, I wondered. Once I reached my naani's house, I was told that "maamu" could not go to pick me up because of the "Emergency". He had to be in the office and could not leave on any pretext.

 

Life looked unbelievably organised. Shopkeepers kept proper records and displays. No adulteration, no dilution of duty and no beneath-the-table transaction. Cleanliness and courtesies were the norm. Frankly, it was much better than what I recently experienced even in Singapore.

 

Finally, in March 1977 the Emergency was lifted. There were celebrations all around. "Restoration of Fundamental Rights" and "Freedom" became the buzz words. What followed is well known.

 

We have reached a stage now where our "fundamental rights" are not always righteous. We are so free that more than half of India is clamouring for peace. The farmers are forced to sell off their land and encouraged to buy flats and cars; the policemen are more interested in catching those who defy the yellow light, while saluting cars with beaconlamps even if they jump the red light.

 

Babus have become bosses. Auditors now expect honorariums. Serious students are treated at par with those who believe in drinking, dining and dancing rather than studies. Teachers discuss their pay packages more than deliberations on their subjects.

 

Anarchy is the rule and we probably need another "emergency" minus excesses.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED DEFENCE

KARGIL REVISITED: NEED TO REMEDY THAN DEFAME

PREMVIR DAS

 

Eleven years on, the Armed Forces Tribunal has cast aspersions on the integrity of the army's hierarchy. Actions that tend to denigrate the military, which its leaders symbolise, can damage an institution that is critical to the health of the nation

 

The recent judgment of the Central Armed Forces Tribunal (CAFT) casting aspersions on the integrity of the Army's higher commanders and requiring 'the history of the Kargil operations to be rewritten' is as worrisome as it is saddening. The crux of the matter is that the Brigade Commander in the Batalik Sector, Devinder Singh, had given certain advice in April 1999 which was 'brushed aside' by the Corps Commander, Lt Gen Kishen Pal; that consequently, he had few troops to respond to the enemy presence which was much larger than that estimated by Pal and more in line with his own assessment resulting in needless casualties; that the Corps Commander then 'doctored' the 'After Action Report' (AAR) to show that much of the action had actually been carried out by another officer deputed for the purpose; and, in summation, that this 'falsified' reporting had resulted in Brig. Devinder Singh being overlooked for promotion despite his 'bravery and courage'.

 

First, no troops are moved from one formation to another without the knowledge, if not approval, of the Army headquarters, more so during an operation such as Kargil. To say that Pal could doctor his AARs without the knowledge of his Northern Army Commanders or even Army HQ is being utterly naïve of ground realities. So, if command of part of the sector with a certain number of battalions belonging to 70 Brigade (Singh's formation) was assigned to another officer deputed from higher headquarters, it is inconceivable that this fact and, indeed, the reasons for it and the period for which the assignment was being made, had not been discussed between the Corps Commander and also the Director General Military Operations (DGMO) in New Delhi. In all likelihood, the Army Vice Chief was also aware. To say, therefore, that Pal could hoodwink all others by claiming that the deputed officer had conducted the operations, and not Singh, is something utterly unbelievable. So, if a doctored report was put up and allowed to pass, the entire Army's hierarchy should be called to question from top downwards.

]

It is not possible for the Northern Command to allow Pal's report to pass knowing it to be incorrect, if not false. Even if for some reason, both the Northern Army Commander and the Corps Commander were in connivance, the 'mistake' would have been spotted by the DGMO. It defies logic that the entire Army was acting in concert to 'fix' one brigadier. This does not mean that Singh, himself, was not doing a good job or that Pal is not accountable for some serious errors of judgment. But these are two different things.

 

This brings us to the aspect of promotions. In the armed forces, there is need for bravery as well as leadership. It is seldom true that both go 'hand-in-glove'. Very few non-posthumous Victoria Cross winners got promoted to high ranks. It is likewise for our Param Vir Chakra, Mahavir Chakra and Vir Chakra awardees. Bravery and courage are spur-of-the-moment attributes. Leadership allows these qualities to be generated. Just because a brigadier does not get promoted does not mean that he is wanting. After all, only four out of 20 brigadiers might get promoted.

 

One can argue that the selection system should be more 'transparent and fair'. But it cannot change the fact that there will still be 16 'failures' for four promotions. So, if Singh did not get promoted, he was just one of the unfortunates. Kargil is only one relevant part. His annual confidential reports over at least three assignments would have been considered by the Promotion Board alongside those of other candidates of matching experience and performance.

 

This is not to suggest that there are not occasional aberrations. It is precisely in order to provide remedy to such an eventuality that the government has established a recourse to review by an independent authority. Until recently, aggrieved officers could approach the High Court. This process inevitably resulted in delayed redressal by already over-burdened courts. The constitution of CAFT and other AFTs is, therefore, welcome. The CAFT would have considered the issue. After all a former Justice of the Supreme Court was presiding with a former Army Vice Chief as member. They must have found that the brigadier's promotion was justified and this is a valid proposition. Based on this finding, the CAFT should have directed the government to promote the officer with retrospective effect and to give him the consequent financial benefits.

 

But it may have exceeded its jurisdiction in saying that the history of the Kargil operations, as written, was 'malafide' and that it ought to be rewritten. The judgment casts serious aspersion on the integrity of the entire military hierarchy. This aspect should get careful and critical scrutiny and perhaps needs to be appealed before the Supreme Court. On the other hand, if it is now established that several rungs higher than the Corps Commander were in the know and had actively or passively allowed a less than factual report to pass through unchallenged. Action should be initiated against them. Actions which tend to denigrate the military, which its leaders symbolise and represent, can only be counter-productive, and damage an institution which is critical to the health of the nation.

 

(The writer is a former Director General Defence Planning Staff)

 

Though there is consensus over the grit displayed by the Indian soldier, opinions vary on strategy and aspects of higher defence management in the country.

 

I feel that there was one failure overall in the entire episode and that was intelligence failure. Had the intelligence system, which comprises a host of agencies, worked in unison, the outcome would have been a lot different, especially in terms of casualties. As for the operational part, the nation fought well and the Indian soldier proved mettle. There are a lot of lesions to be learnt from the conflict like having multiple access roads and logistic infrastructure in that region, reliable and timely intelligence, maintaining optimum trop levels and finally having a determined approach towards defined objectives.

 

–Lt Gen BS Randhawa (Retd)

Former Director General Rashtriya Rifles

 

The performance of troops on the ground was highly commendable. But after having won a victory, we as a nation of fools ordered an inquiry into it instead of undertaking a quiet internal assessment into the shortcomings. No war anywhere has been fought without having foul-ups and there have been a series of failures even in the most powerful and advanced nations and its intelligence agencies. Also, the air force participation in the conflict did not come in time for which the government is partly to blame.

— Brig Kiran Krishan (Retd)

 

Defence Analyst

The biggest problem with our strategy in Kargil was that we did not open up another front in an area of our choosing. This would have created pressure on the enemy to vacate the occupied heights and thus significantly reduced casualties. Also, our stand on not crossing the LOC was questionable when the enemy had already crossed over into our area. Despite heavy casualties, it was diplomatic pressure that finally prevailed upon Pakistan to withdraw. Even then the Kargil sector is still not fully cleared of enemy occupation. Given the end result, the entire operation and the consequent cost appear to be an exercise in futility

— Col P.K. Vasudeva (Retd)Defence Analyst

Army's Internal Assessment

 

A secret internal assessment undertaken by the Army in 2004 on the directives of then Army Chief, Gen N.C Vij, who was the Director General of Military operations during the Kargil conflict, has revealed several shortcomings in the rank and file as well as operational preparedness. These include:

 

 Senior commanders were late to assess and react to the situation. Many senior officers, including battalion commanders, had an older age profile and were physically unfit for the terrain, climate and the type of operations.

 

 JCOs, the junior commanders, whose experience and bonding with the troops form the Army's cutting edge failed to deliver. There was a severe lack of initiative among the JCOs. Troops rushed in to the war zone were not acclimatised.

 

 A sense of complacency prevailed among officers and men on the belief that the terrain was so tough that there could be no be incursions. Vacating critical posts during winter, lack of ground sensors and the inability of the Military Intelligence to analyse certain inputs proved to be the undoing.

 

 Indian troops maintained a defensive posture and lacked adequate firepower and poise. As the war broke out, the Army concluded that it did have adequate troops in the region to tackle the emerging threat. In addition to inadequate higher caliber artillery guns, the Army did not have committed and trained force levels to deal with Pakistan.

 

 The Udhampur-based Northern Command was stretched and unable to cope with the emerging threat of war

as it had to oversee Kargil operations, man the entire stretch of the LoC, the LAC and the International border as well as conduct counter- insurgency operations in the state.

 

 Special Forces were misused. Many SF units were used as regular infantry to capture objectives. Not only were they lacking in key equipment, but were deployed for a role they were neither equipped nor trained for.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEWS

98 VERSUS TWO PER CENT

THE GOVT IS FIGHTING AN UNNECESSARY LEGAL BATTLE WITH A TINY MINORITY, WHEN INSTEAD THE DISPUTE COULD HAVE BEEN RESOLVED OUT OF COURT

 

The newspapers are describing it as a hat-trick of failure of the State government. It is the third time that the State has failed to "protect" the interest of students who passed the State Board's SSC examination. What is this interest? It is the perception that students who pass the State's SSC board exam, have to face unfair competition from non-SSC kids while seeking admission to Junior College.

 

This SSC versus non-SSC contest has been going on for several decades, but only recently has it received political attention. The amazing thing is that the SSC kids make up 98 per cent of the applicant pool. For instance, this year 12.7 lakh students cleared the State's SSC exam, whereas there are only 8000 kids who have cleared ICSE and another 18,000 who have cleared CBSE. So the State is trying to protect 98 per cent of the population from unfair treatment. In a democracy one often hears about protection of minority interests, but this is a case of protecting the interests of the (huge) majority.

 

Is there any merit to the argument that non-SSC kids have an unfair advantage in securing college admissions? Since they make up only 2 per cent of applicants, statistically they should occupy 2 percent of all college seats. But the fact is that non-SSC kids end up securing most of the scarce "plum" seats like courses with an electronics or biotechnology option. Their representation in the top colleges is disproportionately large. Even though the State has as many seats as aspirants, the really coveted seats are very few. Getting into a good and prestigious college is important. This helps you get a graduate degree from a good college, in case you fail to get through the various competitive exams at the end of Std XII (HSC). The reason non-SSC kids have an edge (unfair or fair) is because their scores were relatively higher, and since college admissions are blind to where you come from, the high scoring CBSE or ICSE get ahead of SSC kids.

 

There should have been an easy way to resolve this. Basically you involve all the stakeholders (parents) and experts, and have extensive consultation, and then arrive at a consensus. The nation has grappled and solved with much more contentious issues like harmonising a nationwide tax system (GST, VAT), or inter-State sharing of river waters. Why can't we solve a relatively straightforward issue like a fair way to cut the cake (of college admissions)? The problem is that it was left till the last moment. No homework, no consultation, no public draft of a prospective policy, no feedback. On top of it the minister recently said that "the Board has a right to decide policies as it deems right".

 

Without homework, without trying to build consensus, especially with parents of opposing camps, this issue unfortunately landed up in the courts. And three times in a row, the fix suggested by the Board fell flat and was rejected by the courts. The first proposal was to suggest that all kids have a percentile score (not an absolute score), which gives you your local standing in your own cohort. This seems most scientific. But unfortunately the State was not able to convince the court. The second proposal was a quota system for all college seats, with 90 per cent for SSC kids. This too was unworkable and the State lost in court, and also lost the chance to appeal in the Supreme Court as it got timed out. The third proposal of "best of five" score for SSC kids also met the same fate.

The fact that this battle went to court, is raging on front pages of newspapers, shows how much importance is given by the parents to this issue and to education in general. If only the State had given the same importance and thought, we wouldn't have the spectacle of the State fighting a tiny minority of determined parents.

 

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

COLUMN

BOARD SEAT, ANYONE?

T N NINAN

At a dinner in one of South Mumbai's luxury hotels, two weeks ago, everyone around the table was full of sympathy for Keshub Mahindra. Those present, well-known figures from the corporate, financial and legal worlds, trotted out a series of arguments: He is in his 80's, and has been such a fine business figure. He has stood for principle all his life, and turned down a Padma Bhushan because Bhopal hung over his head. He was only the non-executive chairman of Union Carbide India; all he got was Rs 250 as sitting fees; how did he know all the technical stuff about risks and safety issues? You know what it was like in those days, an international company wanted a respected local figure to be chairman, and Mr Mahindra was just obliging Carbide... .

There is a counter-view, of course. What was he doing as chairman of the board, if he didn't know what was going on in the company? Surely, safety is a vital issue in a chemical plant, and the safety warnings about the Bhopal plant must have reached the board; if not, the board was clearly negligent about its responsibility to shareholders as well as to staff and the general public. And if the warnings had reached the board, which then did nothing, surely that was something worse than negligence. To be sure, a non-executive director does not have the direct responsibility that an executive director has (a distinction that exists when it comes to bounced cheques), but does he have no responsibility at all?

 Deepak Parekh, frank as ever, has batted for South Mumbai, by stating that no one will want to be a non-executive director if he is going to be held responsible for design flaws in a plant, and that he himself was under pressure from his family to get off various boards, if the price could be going to jail. It is also obvious that Mr Mahindra's real mistake was to accompany Warren Anderson to Bhopal, where both were arrested. No other non-executive director of the Indian company has been touched, and Mr Mahindra too would have been untouched if he had not decided to visit the site of the disaster.

These arguments have merit and, of course, the Indian corporate world needs more people like Mr Mahindra, not less. It is also true that non-executive directors are mandatory in listed companies and that it is actually quite hard to find suitable candidates for board seats — state-owned companies like the Steel Authority of India are unable to do a public issue because they don't have the required number of non-executive directors!

Still, the position of director is more than the sinecure that all too many retired executives seek out because of the sitting fees and profit share, sumptuous lunch and car and luxury hotel room, not to mention the opportunity to feel important and rub shoulders with decision-makers. The position comes with responsibility, especially in matters of safety. But that is the formal position; the reality, as in the Satyam case, is that most non-executive directors (including illustrious names) are rubber-stamps. The irony is that committee after committee charged with recommending corporate governance norms has placed its faith in the appointment of non-executive directors. The truth, though, is that if a company honours the norms of corporate governance, it is almost always because the "promoters" and managements believe in the idea. Look around at the corporate sector and this becomes obvious. Non-executive directors have little to do with it, because all that your garden variety non-executive directors want to do is have their lunch and eat it too

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THE GREAT CHINESE QUEST

PREMVIR DAS

Though the Chinese Navy's operating doctrine has changed from 'near sea defence' to 'far seas operations', China has a long way to go in becoming a real maritime power.

Media is full of reports on China's march towards becoming a maritime power. Ship- and submarine-building have gathered momentum; a new naval base has been commissioned in Hainan, giving easier access to the South China Sea; the Chinese Navy's operating doctrine has changed from "near sea defence" to "far seas operations"; and, as if to prove that this is not mere rhetoric, a Chinese flotilla has been deployed for over a year in counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

 Maritime nations recognise that ships and submarines alone do not make for power. Over a hundred years ago, a US Navy captain named Alfred Thayer Mahan took upon the task of studying European history of the 18th and 19th centuries and used it to identify some key principles which enabled England (earlier Spain) to establish primacy through the use of sea power. Mahan postulated, in his book The Influence of Sea power on History, now the "Bible" of almost every Chinese naval professional, that no nation could become great unless it was a power at sea.

He then proceeded to define the essentials which determined the potential of a nation to become a maritime power. First, he said that there was need for a good coastal configuration with a good number of ports and easy and unhindered access to the sea. Therefore, a two-coast configuration, which the US had, provided inherent advantages; island nations (England) and peninsular countries (Spain) were also well placed. Second, this was not enough, maritime powers had to be of reasonable size. Finally, to be truly credible as a maritime power, a country has to be able to dominate important routes of sea-borne commerce.

For example, Canada, which fulfils the first two criteria, does not qualify on the third criterion. Similarly, tiny Singapore, which sits across one of the most important trade routes, has neither size nor a big enough coastline. Mahan then went on to list another three elements.

One, there had to be a sufficiently large population; two, it had to have a seafaring people; and, three, there had to be a government which understood maritime power, did what was needed to ensure its growth and had the political will to exploit it to the advantage of the nation. It is against these yardsticks that one must look at the road that China must travel.

On size and numbers of ports, there is no ambiguity, China has both. However, it is not a two-coast or peninsular nation and its access to "open seas" can be constrained, in the north by Japan, in the centre by Taiwan and in the south by Philippines, all US allies of some sort. There is considerable trade moving through the East and South China Seas and the route is important, especially for energy movements, but it cannot be said that China dominates them in the same way that India, for example, dominates the East-West Indian Ocean commerce; Chinese energy lifelines from the Gulf can also be threatened.

So, while China may "pass" the geography test, it has negatives to cope with. As far as population size is concerned, it scores high but as far as seafaring character of its people is concerned, it shows up poorly, just as India does, when compared to maritime powers of yesteryears. It is not just the size of mercantile marine, which one can build (much more than India's), or the sailors who crew these ships, or the size of the fishing industry (which is not commensurate with resources, just as in India) but the basic interface which the ordinary man has with the sea and his inclination to a sea-going vocation.

Unlike the US and most European countries, where the people see the sea as a friendly asset to be exploited for leisure as well as for other purposes, in other countries, India and China included, the sea is almost an adversary, to be avoided, if not shunned. Nothing is more illustrative of this difference than the hundreds of sailboats that dot the skyline of even the tiniest American or European coastal town on a weekend and the complete absence of them anywhere in our two countries, even in the biggest and the most affluent ports.

China's seafaring character comes not just from Ming dynasty Admiral Zheng He, who sailed with his flotilla into the Indian Ocean some centuries ago, or the Indian mariners, who took India's culture and religion to the East even earlier; it comes from this basic facility with which people look at the sea. As far as leadership is concerned, China has shown that it now views sea power in strategic terms and is devoting enough care to creating capabilities needed for "out of area" work.

Whether this resolve will also easily translate into using this power to the advantage of the nation's interest is something that remains to be seen. To paraphrase the comment of a well-known British admiral of World War II days, "...ships can be built in three years, even less, but maritime power might take a couple of centuries."

It did not take British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher long to order the Royal Navy 8000 miles away to re-take the Falkland Islands whose thousand-strong sheep-farming community with less than 50 policemen had been taken over by Argentina. It does require great political will but maritime power is of little use without it, in peace as much as in war. We will have to see if the Chinese leadership has what it takes.

"Far seas" operation sounds slick as the term goes but sending three ships to the Gulf of Aden and keeping them there does not pass the credibility test. Ships can go everywhere and remain there if they are provisioned by fuels, rations and so on. But credible operations require an integral logistics line, effective command and control and surveillance, and most important of all, ability to control the immediate air space which only aircraft carriers can provide.

The Chinese do not have these assets. Furthermore, port visits, which friendly nations will provide, are not enough. There is need for comprehensive and permanent base facilities which are needed to sustain, service and repair ships, submarines and aircraft. Even a vastly more versatile military like the US had to create these at Diego Garcia. To expect that some countries will happily provide their ports for use in this manner is highly simplistic. None did this for the Americans and it is unlikely that China will find it any easier.

Therefore, while an Indian Ocean "presence" is possible, it will not be credible, indeed, it will be counterproductive, merely draining away the useful life of machinery or equipment for cosmetic gains. China has a long way to go in becoming a real maritime power.

The author has been commander-in-chief of the Eastern Naval Command

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

KISS'N'TELL IS NOW KISS'N'SUE

SUNIL SETHI

Kiss'n'tell accounts emanating from publishers' offices are usually about other people, not about themselves. Which alone could be the reason why the reading public beyond the bookish world is taking an undue interest in the soured romance between David Davidar, former CEO of Penguin International, and his junior Lisa Rundle in Toronto. This seemingly discreet liaison, conducted for three years via email, text messages and kisses in foreign hotels, against a background of tennis games, love poems and gifts of cream-filled cookies, would have gone the way of many such adulterous associations (they either fizzle out or result in a reordering of domestic arrangements) except for one fact. Kiss'n'tell has now become kiss'n'sue.

Lisa Rundle's suits against Davidar (for sexual harassment) and Penguin (for loss of job) add up to more than $500,000; that's excluding legal costs, for should she win in court, the damages could be way in excess. Not to speak of Davidar's loss of personal reputation and derailment of a brilliant career. A case like this should help melt those heated rumours that circulate in offices and gossips bubbling at the water cooler.

 Rundle's cases are civil, not criminal complaints, so no one is likely to go to jail here. Sexual harassment is not rape, assault or abetment to suicide as are the recent examples of actor Shiney Ahuja and former Haryana DGP SPS Rathore. But their definition is under legal and social re-evaluation, which is why the Davidar-Rundle case has aroused avid interest in India.

In 1988, when Punjab IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj accused former state DGP KPS Gill of "outraging her modesty", the term sexual harassment itself was relatively unknown and the outrage hinged on a single incident. Gill, a much-admired police officer who led the anti-terrorist operations in Punjab, had offensively patted Mrs Bajaj in an inebriated state at a dinner party full of her peers and seniors. The case dragged on for 18 years and went to the Supreme Court. Gill did not go to jail; his term was reduced to a probationary period of "good behaviour" and a fine of Rs 2 lakh. Finally, when the Supreme Court upheld Gill's conviction, Mrs Bajaj recounted that she personally complained to Punjab's Governor Siddharth Shankar Ray, a leading barrister of his time. Mr Ray advised her "to forget it in the national interest" and she described the humiliating years of the battle as "hell".

Sexual politics in the workplace has changed radically since then. Davidar's defence that his relationship with Rundle was "consensual", "flirtatious" and "romantic" does not alter the inescapable fact that he was her boss. The court may face some uncomfortable questions: Is it proper for a company head to regard a junior female colleague as his "closest friend and confidante", to invite her into his office to watch Roger Federer playing and, more important, to grant her a salary increase of $10,000 during a wage freeze?

Possibly the only way to cut costs and end this messy story would be to reach an out-of-court settlement, or else, the ensuing litigation could end up airing more dirty laundry. To prevent such outcomes and avoid unwelcome public attention, many Indian companies have activated HR departments to investigate sexual harassment complaints through internal committees. Should push come to shove, government institutions, including college campuses and armed forces, are obliged to follow guidelines laid down by a Supreme Court-empowered committee. Impartial outside observers are invited to be part of investigations, though one such participant told me that even if the accusation was serious and proved to be true, it was not easy to punish government servants. "How do you sack a sarkari employee?"

Who would have thought that the cloistered world of book publishing (where people are supposed to be poring over manuscripts and measuring their lives in coffee spoons) would send out a public warning to echo the old lyric: A kiss is not just a kiss... .

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

A PASSAGE TO ISRAEL

POLITELY BUT FRANKLY, I PUT IT TO MY ISRAELI INTERLOCUTORS THAT ISRAEL'S SURVIVAL WAS NOT IN QUESTION. ITS INVINCIBILITY WAS

K NATWAR SINGH

During my maiden visit to Israel — 13th to 17th June — I could discern that a dramatic geopolitical-security transformation unfolding in West Asia. Turkey, not Iran, is now the most important, high profile and most influential country in this volatile region. This will give no comfort to Israel. It stirred the waters of the Mediterranean and now faces the flood. Turkey, once a staunch friend of Tel Aviv, is now (at least for the time being) all adversary. The US will attempt a patch-up. That will take time.

Why did I make a trip so late in life? My passage to the Holy Land was triggered by a young and highly intelligent Jewish friend. She is French by birth but has made India her second home. I was invited by the University of Haifa to speak on the laborious subject of "Indo-Israeli relations". I told my hosts that I was not an expert on Israel. That I considered an advantage. An amateur can offer insights and overviews which often elude the expert.

 I also conveyed to my Israeli friends that I was not even an expert on India. No one is. Why? Because every statement about India is true. So is its opposite.

I went to Israel not as a representative of any NGO, think tank, TV channel, newspaper or radio network. I sit on no committee, nor do I allow any committee sit on me. I went in my personal capacity.

Apart from speaking at the Haifa University (what an attractive campus!), I was fortunate to meet several distinguished experts on a variety of subjects — security, research and development, terrorism, counter-terrorism, the Palestinian issue, defence, Indo-Israeli relations (the relationship is on an upward graph), etc. The expert on Iran said that Turkey had sidelined Iran. It was now, and will remain, the key player in the region. (Turkey has succeeded in forcing Israel to ease the Gaza blockade). All these discussions and talks were marked by candour and courtesy. I made it clear that India attached much importance to its relations with the Palestinians. This, however, does not come in the way of our close and cordial relations with Israel.

Politely but frankly, I put it to my Israeli interlocutors that Israel's survival was not in question. Its invincibility was. At the moment it was isolated. So long as the Palestinian issue was not resolved, West Asia would remain a dangerous place. The first principle of diplomacy was to increase the number of friends and reduce the number of adversaries. The present government of Israel, it seemed to me, was doing the opposite. Damage-control cannot be a substitute for policy. Dialogue was the answer. It must be resumed.

I reiterated that the Jews had never been persecuted in India. Six religions coexisted in India. I asked my friends, "Tell me, when did the Jews come to India?" The unanimous answer was 70 AD. No, said I. I quoted from Amartya Sen's book, The Argumentative Indians: "The Jews came to India, it appears, shortly after the fall of Jerusalem, though there are other theories as well, including the claim that members of the Bene Israeli community arrived in the eighth century BCE, and more plausibly, that they came in 175 BCE." This went down well and surprised some of those present.

Almost all those whom I met asked, "How does democracy take root in so diverse a country as India?" My response was brief. The Indian people supported the democratic process. We were good at reconciling contradictions. Crisis-management was India's forte. Finally, centripetal forces ensure that things do not fall apart.

I spent a day in Jerusalem and fell for its magic. Its beauty and spirit came as surprises. Almost every stone has a history. People do live on the edge, but are not frightened of the abyss. The Israelis do not get cold feet. I looked at the Red Sea scrolls and was bowled over. A visit to the Holocaust Museum brought back dark memories of my visit to Auschwitz, when I was ambassador to Poland 35 years ago.

I spoke about the Non-Aligned Movement and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). This discussion was lively. I emphasised that non-alignment was not a doctrine, dogma, pact or alliance. It was a state of mind. The movement needed reinvention. Here, India should take the lead. My audience was polite but politely sceptical as I was about the usefulness of Nato.

Memorable for me was my hour-long meeting with Amos Oz, Israel's most widely read novelist. His books have been translated in 40 languages. He is among the front-runners for the Nobel Prize for Literature. We talked about Tagore and Gandhi. He admired Tagore as a great poet. Gandhi had made a deep impression on him as a young man. We agreed that there was a universality about all acts of Gandhi.

Tailpiece
I told Amos Oz a Gandhi anecdote. A British journalist once asked Gandhi, "Mr Gandhi, what do you think of western civilisation?" The Mahatma replied, "It is a good idea."

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CZESLAW MILOSZ'S LAST BOW

V V

 

When will that shore appear from which at last we see?

How all this came to pass and for what reason?

Czeslaw Milosz: From the Rising of the Sun (1974)

As one grows older, the number of books one feels one must read diminishes; it is re-reading, particularly of the great classics, that matters because no story is ever told in them as if it is the only one. Like music that grows indispensable, it is only the classics that retain freshness because each re-reading "offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading". This applies as much to ancient and modern classics because you cannot help reflecting on how the characters in these books have continued to be reincarnated right down to our times. Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz's selection of writings, Proud to be a Mammal: Essays on War, Faith and Memory (Penguin Books, Central European Classics, special Indian price Rs 399) has been culled from his previous books, The Captive Mind, Native Realm, Collected Poems (1931-1987) and To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays. Like all anthologies of this kind which pick and choose the best, this too belongs to the genre of modern classics that brings all the scattered writings under one cover for the contemporary reader.

 Unlike the Brits who have little taste for ideas disguised as literature, the continentals have even less for creative work without theories to support it. If you look back, there is almost no public role for the literary intellectual in England, unless s/he is a novelist, poet, or playwright, whereas on the continent, a man's imaginative writing often seems to be not much more than a handy way of drawing attention to his ideas. One reason for this could be that Europe (specially Central Europe that has often been described as "the land of pure memory") has been ravaged by the upheavals of history — wars, revolutions, partitions — and the churning of ideas unlike the Brits who have been safely cocooned in their island.

Milosz's 15 essays in this collection deal with ideas: metaphysics, love, memory and beauty. But what dominates these ideas is his overwhelming sense of history — "the cunning of history" to be more precise — that impinged on the lives of ordinary citizens who were constantly under the shadow of the state. Born in the Lithuanian Polish province of tsarist Russia, Milosz saw the Nazi and Soviet empires rise and fall, while his two native lands finally escaped their miserable history to end up safe and free.

But it wasn't without a price. He was liberal-minded, wistful and tolerant in a world which had none of these things. That made him, as he put it, "an ecstatic pessimist". In pre-war Poland, Milosz was stifled by the prevailing Catholic-nationalist ethos; he was sacked by the Polish radio for being pro-Lithuanian. Under Nazi occupation, he worked with the resistance, translating, among other things, Eliot's The Waste Land into Polish for an underground publisher. Before Stalinism showed its real face, Milosz served as the post-war diplomat. In 1951, he defected to the West where he remained almost continuously for the next 40 years.

In his best-known prose work, The Captive Mind, Milosz caught not only the nastiness of the totalitarian ideology but also its seductiveness. An intellectual who swallows the communist medicine of the mind, "attains a relative degree of harmony... preferable to the torment of pointless rebellion and groundless hope".

The chapter that has to be read over and over again is "The GG", or the Government-General, because as a "study of human madness, the history of the Vistula basin during the time... makes excellent material". Yet, the enormity of the crimes committed here paralyses the imagination but the system introduced by GG had nothing to do with the necessities of war; in fact, and this was obvious to every spectator of the events, it ran counter to the interests of the German army.

Quite apart from the monstrosity of the whole experiment, the selective decimation of the population (Jews first, Poles next) had its effects on the economy: "All the large industrial plants and most of the large landed estates were confiscated and turned over to the German administration. After that the communist revolution was easy — all that the state had to do later on, when the Germans fled, was to take over those enterprises that belonged to no one." The great value of these essays is the way Milosz weaves in the history of Central Europe to explain all the revolutionary changes that took place in post-war Europe. Now as the European Union tackles its poverty-stricken eastern neighbours, Milosz's reflections on culture and history could hardly be more topical.

There is a question that always arises when the monstrosities of Nazism and Stalinism are discussed: how did they manage to enforce the system where no questions were asked? Both exploited the potential inhumanity latent in all of us by introducing "the mechanism of minimal hope". "You can go on living if you do this or that to our satisfaction." Though the doing involved a hideous choice, most agreed to fall in line to save their own skin. Milosz has said elsewhere that everything can be imagined except how low we can fall. As a witness to history, he should know.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

HOW DEVELOPED IS BIHAR, REALLY?

THIS IS WHAT ITS PEOPLE WILL EVALUATE WHILE VOTING IN THE ASSEMBLY POLLS

ADITI PHADNIS

The figures are impressive. In 2005, Bihar had 23 lakh children out of school. Today, this figure is 8 lakh. The rate of primary school dropouts was 36 per cent. Today, it is 12 per cent. In 2005, the number of school buildings in Bihar was 49,000. Today, it is 61,000. Only 8,200 schools had a separate toilet for girls in 2005. This number has gone up to 23,200.

Some things, however, are taking time to change. The all-India figure for literacy is 64 per cent. For Bihar, it is just 47 per cent. Female literacy in India is 53.57 per cent. This is just 33 per cent in Bihar.

 In the past, these figures used to be a shameful secret, never spoken about or discussed. However, earlier this month, a team of bureaucrats from Bihar came to Delhi to tell reporters about the achievements they were proud of— and things they still felt ashamed about. The exercise was obviously aimed at telling the world ahead of assembly elections in the state in October-November, all that the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal United (JDU)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government had managed to do. Refreshingly, some bureaucrats were forthright in admitting that a lot remained to be done.

Against the background of the supposed tensions between Kumar and the BJP (the chief minister cancelled a dinner for BJP leaders who were in Patna for a national executive meeting because he was angry about an advertisement that featured him in the same frame as Narendra Modi), the event in Delhi was valuable because it had nothing to do with the smoke and mirrors of politics. Here, just facts were on display.

Three sectors were showcased: Education, health and roads. Parenthetically, reference was also made to the state of Bihar's economy and agriculture. On education, the government said that while it was offering inducements to parents to send their children to school and keep them there, girls from Class 6 to Class 8 were given two sets of uniform, shoes and a school bag, costing Rs 700. The same scheme has been replicated for all children from Class 3 to Class 5. Initially, girls who enrolled in Class 9 were given Rs 2,000 each to buy a bicycle. The scheme proved to be so wildly popular that between 2007-08 and 2010-11, enrolment of girls trebled. So now, it has been extended to boys enrolled in Class 9. Girls from minority communities, scheduled castes and tribes and extremely backward classes have been granted Rs 2,500 each for completing a skill development course.

Bihar started recruitment of teachers through the panchayat, but conceded that quality could an issue. This is now being addressed through a variety of measures.

The crisis on the state's healthcare front was illustrated best in a Planning Commission report submitted in 2007. It said: "NSSO-60th Round (2004) reflected a drastic decline in the share of public health facilities in treatment of non-hospitalised ailments in both rural and urban areas. In rural areas, the share declined from 13 per cent (1995-96) to 5 per cent (2004). In urban areas, it declined from 33 per cent to 11 per cent during the corresponding period."

Since then, it has been an uphill journey, but now funding agencies are so enthusiastic about the health sector innovations in Bihar that money is pouring in. The Gates Foundation has signed an MoU and Bill Gates was in Bihar recently to see for himself how the poorest in the state live. He visited villages to see how the Musahar, a Dalit community that used to trap and eat rats to stay alive, lives. DFID, the official development agency of the government of UK, has also inked agreements to fund programmes to prevent neo-natal death.

The Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam had filed for liquidation. Today, its net worth is Rs 138 crore and is growing. It made a net profit of Rs 80 crore last year.

Some economists argue that it is Bihar's investment in road building and construction in the last three years that is responsible for an overall increase in gross state domestic product (GSDP), and that there is little change in the growth rates of other sectors in the economy. They say that reports of Bihar's economic miracle are driven by newspaper headlines which, in turn, are predicated on state government advertising in these periodicals. This line of argument is as specious as claims that it is honey, and not water, that runs in the Sone today.

The fact is that Bihar's society and economy are seeing changes that haven't been seen in the earlier regime. These could be regressive, or could be progressive. But this much is true: Things are different today and it is this difference that the people will evaluate while voting in October-November this year.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE GLOBAL GOVERNING BOARD

TORONTO WILL SEE THE RISING PROFILE OF EMERGING ECONOMIES IN THE G20

NEHA CHOWDHRY

When heads of government from over 20 of the world's biggest countries meet in Toronto this weekend for the G20 Summit, they will, between themselves, represent 88 per cent of world income and 83 per cent of world trade.

If the first Summit of the G20 in Washington in December 2008 helped impart confidence in collapsing markets, the Summit at London in April 2009 helped infuse into the global economy a huge fiscal stimulus that revived hopes for growth. The third summit at Pittsburgh in September 2009 promised a focus on balanced growth, commitment to resist protectionist measures, phasing out of oil and fossil fuel subsidies and the reform of global institutions to reflect the increasing influence of emerging market economies.

 While the spectre of protectionism has largely been kept at bay (barring the disturbing "Buy US" provisions in the US stimulus plan), global imbalances have swelled in the last year. The reform of the World Bank, with an increased voting power of 3.13 per cent, pushing China into third place behind the US and Japan, has taken place. Yet this still has to occur in the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
 

HEAVYWEIGHTS OF GLOBAL TRADE

G20

Share of world

Inflation#

GDP*

Trade*

Argentina

0.45

0.38

10.20

Australia

1.59

1.30

2.90

Brazil

2.32

1.10

5.30

Canada

2.60

2.60

1.80

China

6.96

8.90

2.80

France

4.57

4.10

1.70

Germany

5.86

15.90

1.20

India

2.12

1.60

10.20

Indonesia

0.73

0.80

4.20

Italy

3.54

0.30

4.80

Japan

8.69

4.60

-1.20

Mexico

1.64

1.90

4.30

Republic of Korea

1.93

2.80

2.70

Russia

1.90

1.89

6.10

Saudi Arabia

0.73

1.70

4.90

South Africa

0.51

0.50

4.80

Turkey

0.74

1.00

9.10

UK

4.74

3.40

3.70

US

26.66

10.70

2.20

Other EU countries

10.25

17.62

6.90

Total

88.53

83.09

 

Source:* Based on World Bank/IMF data # The Economist

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, "When the G20 resumes in Toronto, the discussion should be less about new agreements than accountability for existing ones. Less about lofty promises than real results."

Yet some controversies are already in the air.

First, there is the issue of China's central bank's sudden decision to "strengthen the flexibility" of yuan's exchange rate. Given the fact that Beijing has strongly resisted international pressure to do exactly this for years, the timing of the move is more than suspicious. Clearly, it is an attempt to head off the US which would have certainly brought up the undervaluation of the yuan at the summit. While experts predict that the move is merely symbolic and a large revaluation of the currency is unlikely in the near future, it puts China in good standing leading up to Toronto.

Another controversial issue stems from contrasting statements from the US and the European camps over the manner in which to tackle the global crisis.

In a letter released ahead of the G20 Summit, US President Barack Obama called for fiscal stimulus in the "medium term" to prop up the recuperation of the financial system. Warning of "significant weaknesses", he urged G20 leaders to renew their commitment to execute financial reforms and build up their balance sheets to "safeguard and strengthen the recovery". Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winning economist, has said that by employing a synchronised drive for austerity, Europe would be courting "disaster".

The warning is an unveiled barb at European nations which have been reining in their budget deficits, exacerbated by unwieldy public debts in Greece and Spain.

In contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel espoused the view that a quick exit from fiscal stimulus programmes, reduced spending and budget consolidation were not only the ways out of the crisis, but also the means for preventing a similar event from occurring. Germany is embarking on budget cuts and taxes to the tune of ¤80 billion over the next four years.

The G20 comprises 19 countries, the EU plus four ex-officio members (the chairs of the the International Monetary and Financial Committee and Development Committees, along with the Fund's managing director and the president of the World Bank).

It is the result of the evolution of previous groupings, such as the G8, which were recognised as not adequately representing key emerging market economies which had a vast amount of influence on the global economy. The G8, consisted of France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the US, Japan, with Canada and Russia joining later, was noticeably missing the representation of both emerging markets as well as Muslim countries. With the expanded membership of the G20, powerful emerging market economies such as India and China have been brought on board. There has also been the inclusion of three important Muslim countries; Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — all of whom are key players in their regions.

It is important to keep the scale of the G20 in mind when evaluating its ability to act as the premier forum for international economic cooperation.

Together, member-countries represent 88 per cent of the world's GDP, 83 per cent of world trade, as well as two-thirds of the world's population. According to IMF, 16 of the world's richest countries are members of the group. Eight of the 10 largest exporters in the world, headed by China which earned a whopping $1.2 trillion in 2009, are also members.

According to an OECD report, G20 members are also key contributors to flows of investment — accounting for "78 per cent of global inflows and 85 per cent of global outflows during 2007-2009".

While world growth is projected at 4.2 per cent for 2010, the rate at which various regions are emerging from the crisis differs markedly. The US is growing at around 3.1 per cent, Europe at a dismal 1 per cent. Africa is moving steadily ahead at 4.7 per cent, while key emerging market players such as India, Brazil and China are growing at 8.8, 5.5 and 10 per cent, respectively.

With the global economy still straining under the weight of the crisis and growth being driven largely by emerging market economies (60 per cent of economic output by 2030 according to an OECD report), the G20 leadership must ensure it lends a voice to the large number of countries that do not have a presence at the summit.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

INDIA THEN AND NOW - WHAT HAS CHANGED?

BIMAL JALAN

Many of us who rejoice in India's current record as one of the fastest growing economies would have perhaps forgotten that soon after Independence, India had an equally roaring start. It was a pioneer in development planning, led by Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the most admired figures of the 20th century. What was even more remarkable was that, under government-led planning process with widespread controls, India achieved industrial growth of more than 8 per cent per annum on average between 1954-55 and 1964-65.

And then, it all fell apart. The next 10 years, 1965-66 to 1974-75, were perhaps the darkest period in India's post-Independence history. Industrial growth declined to around 3 per cent per annum, overall growth rate fell to about 2 per cent, and India was faced with frequent balance of payments crises. India had no option but to go around with a begging bowl for foreign aid to meet its minimum requirements.

 By the mid-1970s, there was growing disenchantment with planning and call for liberalisation of the economy. Thus during the presidential address to Parliament on January 5, 1976, the government announced its intention to "remove controls which were no longer relevant to increase production and widen entrepreneurial base". However, nothing much really happened to overhaul the prevailing system.

That was then. Now, fast forward to 2010. It is truly amazing how much India has changed. Instead of being a borrower, it is now a lender to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Its foreign exchange reserves exceed $270 billion — one of the highest among developing countries. This would have been unimaginable even 10 years ago.

India is expected to show a growth rate of 8 to 10 per cent, and may emerge as one of the largest economies in the world in not too distant future. Foreign capital inflows are plentiful, and investments exceed one-third of its GDP.

By common consensus, the year 1991, when India was in the midst of an acute balance of payments crisis and had to pledge its gold reserves to meet debt obligations, was the beginning of the "reform era" which led to a gigantic shift in India's fortunes. The architect of reforms in 1991 was then finance minister (and current Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh. He was given authority by then Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao to do whatever was necessary to get India out of its worst crisis. And he did it with the help of a large structural adjustment loan from IMF and by launching a programme of reforms to liberalise the economy, improve its competitiveness and increase its growth potential.

This much is history. However, as we look back and try to analyse why the post-1991 policy framework could not be adopted prior to the acute crisis, we are faced with what Lester Thurow describes as a "riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a conundrum".

The government that launched reforms in 1991 was formed by the same political party, the Congress, which was also in power during previous decades (with a brief interruption during 1977-79). In earlier decades, the Congress party had a clear majority in Parliament, and Narasimha Rao was an important member of the Cabinet. The country was also fortunate in having Manmohan Singh at the highest policy-making levels in the Ministry of Finance in the 1970s and as RBI governor and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission in the 1980s.

The academic and global policy view in respect of centralised planning had also shifted dramatically in favour of free markets and open economies in the 1980s because of the collapse of Soviet Union, periodic crises in several planned economies, and success of east-asian economies in achieving high rates of growth by opening their economies and promoting capitalism.

The "riddle" is really why the same distinguished leaders, the same political party and the same open and democratic government with a vibrant media had to wait until mid-1991, when it was faced with the worst economic crisis, to launch a comprehensive package of reforms to improve external viability and growth. There are no definitive answers to this historical riddle.

However, looking ahead, while overall economic prospects look bright and secure in 2010, it is important to emphasise that there are also several discomforting issues which are emerging and which require attention of the highest authorities in our country — without delay.

As readers of this paper are well aware, among these are: (a) widening disparities among poor in rural and tribal areas, which constitute bulk of India's population, and relatively well-off sections. At the top of the pyramid are, of course, the dollar billionaires whose assets in recent years have grown to 20 per cent of India's GDP (this, by the way, is higher than GDP of the entire agricultural sector); (b) increasing lawlessness (with one-third to one-fourth of the districts being dominated by lawless elements according to official figures); (c) power of small parties — with a handful of elected members — to determine country's political future; and (d) erosion in authority of the government to improve governance, reduce corruption and deliver public services.

What is also striking is that all the above issues are interrelated and reinforce each other.

Hopefully, effective action to tackle these "systemic", and other current problems (such as, inflation), will be taken soon when the country has a stable government with several distinguished leaders — rather than later in the midst of a crisis. Is UPA-II capable of taking such remedial action?

The author is chairman, Centre for Development Studies, and former RBI Governor

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

A LEG UP FOR OIL REFORMS

FOLLOW UP WITH FULL PRICE DECONTROL

 

 THE government's decision to partially deregulate petro-product prices is welcome, although half-hearted. It will rein in the massive subsidy bill, and boost competitiveness in our large oil economy. With global crude prices hardening, the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) has, rightly, raised the prices of petrol and diesel, reduced the subsidy on cooking gas, tweaked the price of subsidised kerosene, and more. It has decided to make petrol prices wholly market-determined, with no governmental price controls either at the refinery gate or at the retail level. This is perhaps the most significant piece of sectoral reform since the mid-1970s when a panoply of oil price controls were put in place. It remains to be seen, though, how the EGoM's policy decision is implemented. Note that back in 2002, the vexed administered pricing mechanism for oil products was dismantled, officially. But within a matter of months, rigorous price controls for the main oil products were back in place, for the sake of populism!


   We can no longer afford such policy pussyfooting over oil prices. Not revising the retail prices of petro-products despite rising crude costs is fiscally not sustainable. It would mean huge, runaway under-recoveries — the difference between cost price and realised prices — for the public sector oil marketing companies, affect operations and investments of the latter and doubtless worsen our oil security. What's worse, unreformed oil prices would send entirely wrong policy signals, dampen energy efficiency and almost certainly jack up the cost of funds right across the board. After all, in the face of vast under-recoveries, oil companies would resort to large unscheduled borrowings. So, the notion that the government can somehow keep oil prices unrevised has no basis. The way ahead is to quickly decontrol prices of diesel, by far the most used petro-product. Further, the subsidy on LPG, used mostly by the non-poor, needs to be phased out; and the subsidy on kerosene linked to electrification, diffusion of solar lanterns etc. The bottomline is that open-ended consumption subsidies in oil distort pricing, demand and the allocation of resources economy-wide.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

BUT IT'S A DIVIDED G-20 AT TORONTO SUMMIT

 

 THE good thing about this weekend's G-20 Summit in Toronto is that the global economic recovery has now proceeded so far ahead compared to the dark days of 2008 that much less hinges on the outcome of the meet than at any of the three summits to date: Washington, London and Pittsburgh. The bad thing is that precisely because the global economy is on a more even keel, there is much less pressure on the leaders to get down to brass tacks or to present a united front. Indeed, it will be hard to paper over the fissures between member countries. The G-20 that was created as a response to the crisis and growing recognition that key emerging countries were not adequately included in the core of global economic discussion and governance, was never a particularly homogenous group. Even so it has, perhaps, never been as divided as now when the US finds itself at odds with Europe.

 

 The main bone of contention is over the continuance of loose fiscal and monetary policies. The US would like the rest of the world to continue the stimulus packages introduced in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Bros. But the rest of the world, especially Europe post the crisis in Greece, is no longer willing to go along so blithely. This week, the UK unveiled a budget raising VAT and promising to slash spending. It is not the only one. Germany has long been a hawk on deficits and inflation, and Canadian PM Stephen Harper released a letter last week calling for faster deficit reduction. This is a far cry from October 2008 when the then-US President George Bush announced he would host a meeting of the G-20 leaders in Washington in November to address the financial crisis. Then there was a sense of purpose. But that has now been lost. One could argue that not too much should be read into the absence of big announcements (the most probable outcome) since technicalities are being thrashed out by various committees and fora like the Bank for International Settlements. But in the ultimate analysis, issues like global imbalances are political issues that need leaders to sign on. And that, unfortunately, may not happen at Toronto.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

EXPELLED, THEN EMBRACED

BUT WHAT OF JASWANT SINGH'S VIEWS?

 

WE ARE so blasé about our political class turning and twisting, canting and recanting that we yawn as it happens. It's our culture of contortionism, maybe. We did, after all, develop it into a workout. So, when something odd happens, it seems normal. Take Jaswant Singh's return to the BJP. On the face of it, it's routine: a party man who was shown the door, returned. But things become interesting when one remembers the reasons for which he was expelled. Mr Singh was thrown out after he wrote a book on Jinnah, saying the chief architect of the partition was an alright chap. Which, since it made it look silly, riled the RSS pretty bad. There had already been trouble on that front with L K Advani also saying some nice things about Jinnah. Grandiose displays of outrage at such opinions and the book ensued. 'Attack on our core beliefs', shrieked the RSS and wider Sangh Parivar. Now, Jaswant Singh hasn't withdrawn his views, so we now have two big leaders in the BJP who think Jinnah was a great guy. Does this mean the Sangh has had a change of heart? Or, perhaps, Nitin Gadkari's comment on Jaswant's reinstatement, 'past is past', suggests the Sangh no longer cares about history per se, leave alone historical revisionism.

 

But then, in his book, Mr Singh also went after Sardar Patel, whom the BJP badly wants to appropriate. So, is the BJP now alright with a view that holds the 'iron man' responsible for partition? Talk about teasers! But delve a tad deeper and you might find deciding who belongs and who doesn't is a tricky thing with the Right in this country. The same Sardar Patel, for instance, was a Congressman all his life, he even — hold your breath — banned the RSS (the BJP claims his heart wasn't in it, though). So, what's it all about? Political posturings, what else. And, maybe Mr Singh's return is just a show. The BJP hasn't got much going for it right now, so perchance all this makes an impression something's happening, that there's traffic, people are returning! Core beliefs can be covered up for a while.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

DEAL TIME AT TORONTO G-20 SUMMIT

INDIA AND OTHER DEVELOPING ECONOMIES MUST BARGAIN FOR EXTENDING THE WORLD BANK TRUST FUND BEYOND ITS COMMITTED INVESTMENTS IN FOOD SECURITY TO EDUCATION AND HEALTH, SAYS DONY ALEX

 

THE Toronto Summit on June 26-27, 2010, is taking place when most of the Asian economies are back roaring, Europe is in a sort of a tailspin, and US economy is in a recuperating stage. The G-20 forum — which came into prominence as a premier forum for economic cooperation (Pittsburgh summit 2009) — seems to have been effective in certain ways in addressing the recent financial crisis of 2008-09.

 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) found that G-20 countries in 2009-10 were able to generate or save 21 million jobs during the crisis period. G-20 countries, which constitute around 87% of world output, are expected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to grow by 4.6% in 2010. According to the IMF, the advanced G-20 economies, which were in the red in 2009, grew by 3% in the fourth quarter of 2009 (mainly led by US, Canada and Japan), and emerging G-20 economies grew by 8% during the period.

 

The demand-induced higher GDP growth in the emerging G-20 economies has been mainly fuelled by their fiscal stimuli programmes whereas the tottered financial sector and the unravelling of the Greece-led partial European crisis in the advanced G-20 economies has slowed down their growth. The deteriorating fiscal deficits and rising public debts of the advanced G-20 countries with their public debts expected to rise to 104% of GDP in 2010 is a cause for concern.

 

The fourth G-20 leaders' summit in Toronto is expected to examine the global economic scenario with stress on the recovery process, fiscal consolidation process of the economies, reform of international financial institutions such as IMF, way forward for the financial sector reforms and issues related to resolving the eurozone crisis.

One of the other major issues expected to be addressed in Toronto and the Seoul summit later this year and which is also of great concern for India is related to the reform of the International Monetary Fund. In the third leaders' meet at Pittsburgh, it was announced in the communiqué that there would be a shift of around 5% in the quota share of under-represented economies (mainly emerging economies) from over-represented economies (mainly the EU and the US). It was expected by many that emerging countries such as India would benefit from such an arrangement. But according to the present formula, countries like India, Russia, Pakistan and Peru would find their share reduced. There is a flaw in the present formula as it is not representative and is based on an arbitrary 'compression factor'.

 

Ralph Bryant of Brookings Institution, US, has calculated a more representative new formula that raises the combined weight associated with GDP variables, reduces the weights on gross cross-border transactions on unscaled variability and on international reserves, adds a new variable for shares in world population, and introduces ratioshare variables for current-account openness and scaled variability. He finds from this new formula that India, Brazil and Mexico would get a significant increase in their shares. India has to bargain the case of a more representative formula, otherwise the present arrangement will harm India's interests.

 

ANOTHER issue that should be addressed with utmost pragmatism is related to fiscal consolidation or the exit strategies of the economies. The recent statement released in the finance ministers' meeting held on June 4-5, 2010, in South Korea asking for "countries with serious fiscal challenges to accelerate the pace of consolidation" seems unreasonable for countries that are still in a fragile state of recovery.


   Here, G-20 economies should adhere to US President Barack Obama's speech, where he recently stressed that "we must be flexible in adjusting the pace of consolidation and learn from the consequential mistakes of the past when stimulus was too quickly withdrawn". G-20 economies should not hasten the process of fiscal consolidation and let the individual countries work out their exit strategies according to their recovery situation.

The other major agenda that needs to be addressed is related to global imbalances. Just before the Toronto meet, there is some good news from China of abandoning its pegged exchange rate with dollar and shifting to a more flexible exchange rate regime with a certain basket of currencies. But this does not necessarily translate into China appreciating its currency much and reducing the imbalances problem. To reduce the imbalances, the solution has to come by enhancing demand in the current account-surplus countries and, here, overall demand generation in China and Asia would be the step in the right direction. Here, efforts should be made for higher infrastructure spending, reform of the financial sector, raising productivity of the services sector in most of Asia and raising intra-regional trade.


   India being the poorest G-20 country in per-capita terms should stress on issues such as raising the capital base of the World Bank. In the Pittsburgh summit, commitments were made to create a new World Bank Trust Fund to finance investments in food security. India with other developing economies should bargain for extending that initiative to other social programmes such as in education and health.
 The Toronto summit would be the testing ground for G-20 forum to assess its functioning in a post-crisis scenario.


 (The author is researcher at Icrier)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET I N T E R A CT I V E

K K KAPILA

'SAFER ROADS IS TOP PRIORITY'

GGANAPATHYSUBRAMANIAM

 

OVER 1.3 lakh people across the country succumb to injuries from road accidents every year, which translates into 15 people dying every hour. This is appalling, and fatalities need to be reduced on a war-footing. The social and economic costs of the fatalities are high, says K K Kapila, chairman of the International Road Federation (IRF). He is the first non-European to be elected to the post. All arms of the government should work together to make roads safer, says the infrastructure consultant, also the chairman and managing director of Intercontinental Consultants & Technocrats, a Delhi-based consultancy firm that operates in 30 countries.

 

 Nearly 10% of the 1.3 million deaths due to road accidents worldwide happen in India, making it worse than an epidemic. While most road mishaps attract little attention, it is almost like a jumbo aircraft crashing every day here — killing nearly 350 people. This is unacceptable. While the vision of building highways across the country and providing connectivity to all regions is important, the immediate task at hand is to improve road safety and save lakhs of lives.


Unfortunately, most people who die in road accidents are bread-winners in the working age group and the impact on their families is traumatic. The loss to the economy is also significant. The IRF is working with various government departments to make roads safer. This is being done through improved engineering, educating all stakeholders, better enforcement of regulations and effective emergency response. We are also working on uniform traffic regulations across the country and cooperation of state governments in making road safety a reality, he said.

 

 The road transport and highways ministry is piloting these initiatives. "We are planning to involve NGOs in checking violations in overloading of trucks. If the proposals under consideration are approved, checkpoints with weighing facilities will be set up at key highways. Overloaded trucks will be forced to offload part of their cargo and storage facility will be provided for the extra load. No such facility is available now and the proposed system will prevent trucks from getting away with overloading by simply paying a penalty. Local police and NGOs should jointly handle such responsibilities and we are working on revenue-generation models that make the exercise self-sustaining."

 

 Anumber of radical changes have been proposed and these would make roads safer. Would this not require legal changes? Amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act are necessary and I am confident that the government would do the needful, says Kapila. Many changes are basic in nature, such as making it mandatory to paint all bicycle frames in fluorescent orange colour. A similar colour-code is being planned for mudguards of motorcycles and scooters.

 

 How about engineering roads that are safer? Efforts are being made on this front too and the focus is on designing better curves, signages and medians to improve safety.

 

 Simple basics such as keeping roads free of potholes and stones will improve safety. We also need to plan better by building channels along roads for water pipelines, telecom cables, water supply pipelines, power cables and sewer connections. Frequent digging should be avoided and concrete roads are not meant for relaying in bits and pieces.

 

 What we are working on is a multi-pronged strategy, says Kapila. In the case of trucks, the India chapter of the IRF has suggested use of properly-designed wire mesh in the front to ensure that accident victims are not dragged in. There is a proposal to make driving better by getting institutes like ITIs to train drivers rather than leaving it to private sector driving schools.

 

 Another focus area is early settlement of insurance claims of road accident victims. The law ministry has been urged to set up fast-track insurance claim courts for road accident cases with retired judges handling the cases. Setting up hundreds of such courts will mean quicker relief for families of road mishap victims who suffer due to delay in settlement of claims.

 

It is critical to provide timely medical assistance to road accident victims. Nobody should hesitate to take a victim to a nearby hospital as every minute is crucial to save lives, says Kapila. The road transport ministry has written to the home ministry, seeking instructions for police to make sure that those who help accident victims are not harassed. Also, the health ministry has been requested to make sure that all hospitals provide treatment to road accident victims without delay. The Supreme Court has stated that the law does not come in the way of doctors promptly attending to accident victims and this will play a crucial role in saving lives.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS ARE OXYMORONS

V RAGHUNATHAN

 

FOLLOWING Keshub Mahindra's indictment in the Bhopal tragedy, the extent of liability of independent or non-executive directors in corporate affairs is back on the centre stage. Several corporate leaders have raised their pitch for legal immunity for such directors.


This raises many issues. For starters, do all independent directors play the role expected of them? How independent are they? How much do, should, and can they know about the operations of a company in which, at best, they attend four meetings in a year?

 

The very term independent director is a laugh! You can either be independent or a director; rarely both! Just pick up the minutes of any board meeting and check out how often have any significant questions been raised by them. This happens, either because many independent directors open their mouths in the meetings only to pop in a cashew; or because they rarely attend the board regularly, being head honchos of sprawling empires of their own, merely doing a reciprocal favour to help a fellow honcho meet with the independent board membership quota in a reciprocal arrangement; or because they are friends and kinsmen of the promoters from the same community; or because those directors are known to be 'safe bets', because they are pliable gentlemen (often academics from fancy institutions or retired civil servants, and more rarely, ladies!), happy to have been honoured with a seat on the board.

 

When an independent director acts truly independent on a board, his infamy spreads fast, and not only is he out after his first term, he also finds himself unwelcome in other boards as well. So Darwinian adverse selection has mostly rooted out that breed already. Thus, if you are an independent director, chances are you are either a yes man, or a kin of the promoters, or a one far too busy in your empire to care much about what's happening on one of the many boards sit on, or one who has self actualised because you are in a board room!

 

Thus, it is true that most independent directors will have little clue on what's going on in a company. To hold such souls responsible for the affairs of the companies seems unfair. The irony is that it would be equally unfair even if they were truly independent, attended all the meetings and played their expected roles diligently. To that extent the demand to free the independent directors from legal liability seems fair enough.

 

But then how do we make such directors more accountable to their tasks? How do we ensure that companies don't pack the independent quota with yes men, and kinsmen or quid-pro-quo men? Should the government step in and create a pool of independent directors and assign them to companies? Well that would be a remedy worse than the malady. Nor are the companies in a hurry to bring in truly independent directors. So then what's the solution?

 

The solution must be market based. There is a business opportunity here for rating agencies to create not just a CSR rating, but a corporate board's quality rating. The rating could be based on the diversity of a board — diversity of region, diversity of background, diversity of gender; independence and effectiveness of the board members, whether independent or otherwise based on their contributions during the board meetings, action taken on the observations, particularly of the independent board members and so on. Such a rating could bring in the necessary free-market pressure for corporates wishing to improve on their rating from say, D (Dismal) to C (Competent) to B (Best in Industry) to A (A class in itself) may gradually work to the next category.

 

Unless a company keeps its ranking high, it could tell on its stock prices, borrowing rates, credit rating and ability to mobilise funds and so on. The ratings could begin as unsolicited ratings based on available information on the website, questionnaires to companies, etc. Companies that do not respond to the questions or do not share the requisite information are bound to be rated low and exposed for what they are. Such a pressure would encourage solicited ratings from the companies that are more confident of their boards. The raters may even ask for video or audio recorded proceedings of board meetings, and so forth. The possibilities are immense.

 

And finally, it is one thing to talk about immunity to independent or non-executive directors, but something else when it comes to non-executive chairmen? Ideally such an animal must not exist. There is little scope for a suave, smooth and distinguished looking gentleman to decorate a chairman's seat, if he is unwilling to assume responsibility for how the company is run. He cannot enjoy the prestige and perks of being at the head of afancy board, but not share its downside.

 

To address this concern, all companies may be given, say, two years in which to ensure that they will appoint full time chairmen, accountable for their companies, with a term of, say, four years. Any outgoing chairman may be asked to give a year's notice to exit. Either Sebi or the Company Law Board could make this a mandatory requirement.

 

When an independent director truly acts like one on a board, his infamy spreads fast, and he is out after a first term


The solution has to be market-based and rating agencies can be asked to create a quality rating for corporate boards


Non-executive chairmen must also assume responsibility and be accountable for their companies

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

 

SECRET OF TEEN POWER

VITHALC NADKARNI

 

JOHN Selby's The Cool Way to Calmspecifically offers meditation for high school students as a non-religious method for calming emotions, clearing the mind, and feeling good in the body. It's contrary to the stereotype of a bearded guru meditating in some far-off cave in the Himalayan wilderness, he clarifies. He was lucky enough to grow up in a town in California where a "wonderful meditation teacher called Jiddu Krishnamurti spent half of each year". So by the time he got to high school he had a starting notion of how to take charge of his own mind and to use the powerful tool of meditation to help him through his teen years.

 

 Selby says his 'short-form' meditation method for teenagers is something one can do anywhere, anytime — while taking a walk, sitting in class, playing sports or being out on a date. It's supposed to be something one can do anytime; whenever one wants to calm down, to get clear to be able to enjoy life.


   What's more nobody needs to even know that you are meditating, he reassures: "All they'll see is that right in the middle of being upset or confused or otherwise emotionally and mentally a mess, you're able to somehow quickly regain your composure, let go of upset feelings, and attain a sense of personal balance and power that allows you to perform at your optimum, relate with strength and compassion, and in general succeed in whatever you're doing at the moment."


   In the first four chapters, the book goes back and forth between life scenes of high-schoolers trying to apply meditation to their lives. These stories are punctuated by short explanatory paragraphs. Selby has also experimented with what he calls the 'modular' meditation method, where each meditation module stands on its own as a short but complete unit. When these are put together in the proper order, the seven meditation modules also work as a whole as one flows from theme to theme, being taken deeper and deeper with each modular addition.
   So are you ready to start? "Without making any effort, experience the change inside when you begin to turn your inner focus of attention directly toward the physical sensation you're feeling even right now, of the air flowing in, and flowing out of your nose or mouth as you breathe," he exhorts. "Just tune into your breathing with all your mind's power of attention, and watch six breaths come and go; be open to a new experience and change!"

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PEOPLE LEFT TO MERCY OF MARKET FORCES

The landmark decision of the government to peg the price of fuel to international prices is a game-changing event. It sends out a signal that it is serious about pushing across its reform measures and, in this case, it means transferring the international prices to the domestic prices which is now complete. Hitherto food and manufacturing prices were tied to international prices and one can see the effect of food on domestic inflation. This imported inflation is going to be even worse in the case of fuel where the government has raised the price of petrol by Rs 3.50 per litre, kerosene, which is the poor man's fuel, by Rs 3, and diesel by Rs 2 with a proviso that it will soon be freed from government control. Unlike the case of food, India is totally dependent on imports for fuel — more than 70 per cent of our requirements are imported. There was a time when former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, a proud nationalist, wanted India to be self-reliant in oil, but after her this spirit flagged. Oil exploration companies found it less profitable to hunt for oil and imports escalated over the years, leaving the country at the mercy of the oil-producing countries. Only lip service is paid towards scouting for oil resources and developing alternative sources of energy. India has huge reserves of shale gas but till today there is no serious effort to exploit this resource. China, for instance, is going all over the world, particularly to Africa and Venezuela, and successfully tying up oil exploration deals. We move like dinosaurs and have all kinds of compunctions. Our leaders lack the India-first, country-before-everything spirit of Indira Gandhi and the Chinese where their country is concerned. There is a bankruptcy of ideas, political will and the energy needed to work for the country. The chief economic adviser (CEA) in the ministry of finance, who himself has been imported recently from the US, expects an increase of "0.9 percentage points in the monthly wholesale price index inflation". He is silent on the impact at the retail level, which could be much higher. According to him, these changes will cause the fiscal and revenue deficits to decline, and, consequently, exert a downward pressure on prices.

It is a big game change for the people as the government has set the direction it is taking for the future. Leaving such a basic need to the whims of international market forces that we do not understand or comprehend means leaving the masses in the lurch. The government has said it would intervene if prices climbed too high, but it has not specified what "too high" means. A mature economy would be able to absorb shocks from the international market, but for an economy like India's it does not seem fair. It would have been fair had the government put in place a nationwide public distribution system. It has already thrown up its hands shamelessly on this score. A PDS system would have mitigated the price rise.

It's a win-win situation for the government which pocketed Rs 1,06,000 crores from the 3G auction and didn't want the subsides to spoil the party. This tying up of Indian fuel prices to international prices will trim its subsidy burden to just Rs 53,000 crores for the year from Rs 74,300 crores.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PLAINSPEAK ON HILLS

BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 "Underneath the lamplight

She stood those tortured hours

Waiting for the ones who knew

She wasn't selling flowers."

From Bictorian Bull

by Bachchoo

I am in Dalhousie, a settlement on five hill in the foothills of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, surrounded by the Punjab where all roads seem to lead. I have lost my way twice walking down and up the mountain roads of this beautiful natural spot, a colonial town, entirely now Punjabised, if that's a word, a suburb of Delhi with hill folk thrown in.

I am the guest of a friend and his family and, very grateful for his sumptuous hospitality meet the elite of the hill resort at his lunch and dinner parties and am courteously included when his guests reciprocate with invitations for a drink, a barbecue or dinner. Most of the people I meet during this short sojourn, which I am using to finish some pieces of sustained writing, discuss the weather — here, on the plains and in London, talk about literature, international and national, discuss their pastimes of golf, tennis and their keep-fit regimen, talk international politics assessing Barack Obama and the almost new coalition government of the UK's David Cameron with acute analysis and even committed concern, a contrast to the annoyance and disgust which they profess for the latest news of the tactics of the Bharatiya Janata Party to get their nominees into the Rajya Sabha or the antics of the Shiv Sena in calling a strike of rickshaw and taxi firms and drivers.

These are international people who can discuss the shopping, art and wines of Europe and, perhaps with greater familiarity, the prices and promises of America.

There are local topics of course — the access to the Internet, the flexibility of civic supplies and, interminably, how much their houses have acquired the trappings of modernity — the constructed cutting that makes it possible for the 4x4 to drive to the front door of the house, the storage tank for water that defies all shortage of supply, the annexe which can be rented out as a summer getaway.

I encounter these gentle folk, people I have inevitably already met, as I take an evening walk, a necessary ritual of being here.

The town was named after the Viceroy of India who introduced the infamous "Doctrine of Lapse" whereby Indian Kings without heirs would cede their territories to the British East India Company.(cf. Many books and films including Satyajit Ray's The Chess Players). In London I met a direct descendant of this reviled Viceroy who told me that his illustrious or infamous ancestor had never been to the place and didn't in fact found the resort. It was named after his departure from India or even from this mortal dispensation. It somewhat surprises me that no politician of Himachal Pradesh, a relatively new and presumably possessively inclined state has sought to rename the town. After all, "Bombay" and "Madras" despite not being Hastingspur or Curzonabad had to go. Compared to Dalhousie, their names were in the scheme of things inoffensively neutral. (Indians pronounce the name as "Del-How-Zee" even though the British retain the Scottish pronunciation for the name: "Del-hoo-zee", though in my brief sojourn I haven't seen any itinerant Scotsmen here).

The people I do pass on the beautiful mountain walks are either those I have met at the lunch parties taking their pre-prandial exercise, middle-class Punjabi families waving holiday sticks and moving noisily along or gangs up from the plains for a break in the hotels clustered around the armpit of the hills know as the town centre. I also pass, every hundred yards, the servants of the "barabecue-Tandooratti" crowd walking the family dogs and then at larger intervals, coming out from paths in the lower hill or descending from the "pug-dandis" of the upper slopes, the hill peasantry who live in the shanties of the town or in the ramshackle constructions of the villages which one can see dotted about the distant deep and wooded valleys.

As one passes these socially distinct individuals or groups, or they overtake you in their determination to keep the tandoori calories in check, we greet each other. It's always a "hi", "hello", "good evening" or even an English exchange about the weather, the wonderful view or the sighting of a langoor, the black and white fluffy monkeys of these parts. Walking though is a serious business it makes impatient and brief encounters, the political niceties are left to the encounter at the dinner party under the stars.

The local taxis, white personnel carrier vans for the most part, driven by brazen horn-blowers and packed with the non-home-owning or non-bungalow-renting type of tourist, twist at high speed around the mountain curves, treat the hair-pinned roads as though they were Ludhiana streets and drive close enough to walkers to drive them off the cliffs.

If the local holiday-makers, the ones you haven't met at the cocktail pass you on foot, you might smile and say a "namaste", in recognition of being the only humans at least five minutes from civilisation. The isolation of the hills breeds a bonhomie. You may get a "namaste" in return or, more usually, a stone-faced denial of your existence.

With the people of the hills, the natives of Himachal, sons of the soil of the state, one doesn't even attempt a "namaste". They wouldn't understand. Dalhousie and, I suspect, the other ex-colonial hill towns of India, are divided worlds. At least two.

They originated as such. The houses which today are Indianised still have old colonial names. There is Snowdon, the house now dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore which was once the object of Welsh nostalgia. Then there is the oddly named "Param-Dham Norwood" with its oxymoronic dedication to the Vedas and a south London district.

The vestigial nomenclature of the Raj mixing in with modern India is the least of it. Dalhousie, providing a resort for the upper classes of the plains, some of them citizens of the international sphere and providing subsistence, if that, for those who don't deign to greet you on your walks, doesn't strike one as a reproduction of colonial India. It is more accurately the terracing of modern India.Away from Dalhousie, a long way in economic and political complexion, the disparity has led to militant despair. What is so plain in this Himalayan resort is true on a much greater scale of any town in India. The difference is only that in, say, Mumbai the vast disparities are part of the productive terrain. Dalhousie is a resort to which people come leaving the causes and capitalistic justifications for the disparity behind.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

RULES TO ENTER CMO

The recent practice of appointing an officer in the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) from the same community as the person who retires or leaves the CMO has raised some eyebrows. After Mr Subramanyam died in the chopper crash along with Dr YSR, Mr K. Raju was inducted into the CMO. Now that Mr Raju has left to join the National Advisory Council, the name of Mr B. Sambob has been almost finalised. There is much grumbling that merit is being sidelined and other considerations are determining appointments to important posts. While this may be agitating babus, we cynical members of the public can only say: so what else is new?

INEXPLICABLE TRANSFER OF IAS OFFICERS

The world of bureaucratic transfers is a strange one that we mere citizens cannot fathom. Here's the case of an officer who was given a new posting, and yet not given one. Mr Jayesh Ranjan, secretary, tourism department, was transferred and posted as commissioner, AYUSH, exactly a month ago, while Dr Vijaykumar, commissioner, AYUSH, was posted in his place in the tourism department. Nine other IAS officers were also transferred in May. All the transferred officers have taken up their new postings except Mr Jayesh Ranjan. Normally, if an officer is retained in the same position, a cancellation order is issued subsequently. Though a month has passed, Mr Jayesh Ranjan is still in his old position and no cancellation order has been issued.
The buzz in bureaucratic circles is that it's all due to the tourism minister, Ms J. Geeta Reddy, who had been kept in the dark about the transfer. She has reportedly prevailed upon the Chief Minister to retain Mr Ranjan as he was doing a good job. But fellow IAS officers are surprised at this new way of transferring officers on record and retaining them on oral instructions.

WEIRD REASONS TO BAG RTI CHIEF'S POST

A news item in these columns about babus taking up RTI jobs created quite a furore in the state administration. Some felt it was not right for retired bureaucrats to be appointed as RTI commissioners, but many senior officers defended it in the most ingenious way. They pointed out that it was IAS officers who had drafted the Act. The chief secretary, Mr S.V. Prasad, pointed out that it was the Chennai-based IAS officer, Ms Aruna Roy, who quit her job in 1974 and worked for the Right to Information in Rajasthan. Her fight finally won this country the landmark Act empowering people with information. Bureaucrat-turned-politician Jayaprakash Narayan's contribution to the RTI draft bill was hailed by Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and state officer Mr K. Raju also did his bit in preparing the bill. Though others argue that a bureaucrat who has tried his best to hide information from the public all through his 30-35 year career, can't change his mindset overnight and work to disseminate information, senior officers like Mr S.V. Prasad and Mr Jannat Hussain beg to differ. There may be something in the rumour that the latter is in the race for the top RTI post in the state.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

REFORM POLICE, SPARE US THE TORTURE

BY ANTARA DEV SEN

There's this old joke about our cops. The Government of India is trying to catch a lion hiding in a particular forest and summons the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the state police. The investigators get busy.

The IB enters the forest, places animal informants throughout the jungle and questions all plant and mineral witnesses. After six months of extensive investigations they conclude that lions do not exist. The CBI goes in. After three weeks with no leads they burn the forest, killing everything in it, including the lion. "It's been taken care of", they say smugly.

Meanwhile the state police had gone into the forest. And were found the next day clustered around a tree where they had tied up a rabbit. As they beat up the terrified little creature, the cops roared, "Bol tu sher hai! Saala bol! (Say you're a lion! Admit it, saala!)"

Our faith in our law and order mechanism is clear from this joke. That the police use torture as their primary tool of investigation is a given. We know this does not help catch the culprit. And that the ordinary citizen has no escape from this absurd drama is clear from our seeking refuge in jokes.

As far as I remember, India tops the number of incidents of police torture and custodial deaths in a democracy. Deaths in police custody and in prison are routine, and increasing. They are even passed off as deaths in police "encounters". But whatever the mounting figures for custodial deaths, a much higher number of victims of police atrocities live on, broken in body and mind, maimed forever physically, mentally and psychologically or dumped back home to die. And even 13 years after signing the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (known as Convention Against Torture or CAT) we have no qualms about it.

Today is International Day Against Torture. On this day in 1987 the CAT came into force. And exactly 65 years ago, on June 26, 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed. Over the years the world has become kinder and gentler in parts, but there are creepy dark patches. India happens to be one such scary blotch, where the world's largest democracy continues to use savagery as a valid administrative principle. Torture is our short cut to investigating crime and maintaining order. We have no law against torture, and we have skilfully dodged ratifying the CAT.

Thankfully, there are chimes of change. Two important steps in the last two months bring us closer to internationally accepted levels of civility and ratifying the CAT. First, the much awaited Prevention of Torture Bill (2010) was introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha. India has no specific law against torture, which allows the police and other officers in uniform like the armed forces to get away with the most atrocious crimes against humanity. For the first time India could have a stand-alone law against torture, which defines "torture" clearly and provides punishment. It could send guilty public servants to jail for 10 years. The bill has drawbacks, but is a step in the right direction.

Second, the Supreme Court has ruled against the use of narco-analysis, lie detector tests and brain mapping. These are illegal, the court ruled, and when done without the consent of the suspect, violates the Constitution. They infringe our rights to fair trial and against self-incrimination. The order talked of the need "to arrive at a pragmatic balance between the often competing interests of personal liberty and public safety" and refused to justify "the use of torture or other improper means for eliciting information".

Which is again a progressive step. The panic over terrorism and security concerns makes us justify savagery, with horrendous anti-terror laws being introduced that play havoc with the lives of ordinary citizens. We refuse to recognise the difference between a real and a sham fight against terror. Terrorising and torturing innocents may make our law enforcers look efficient, but doesn't make us more secure. The lions we seek roam free as we slyly frame rabbits.

In fact, torture increases our terror quotient and internal security risk. State brutality pushes desperate people into the arms of rebels, who promise justice and a better life. Maoist violence and the extremism in Kashmir and the Northeast are nurtured by the state, fed by the anger of long-suffering people frustrated with the state's neglect and torture. Because the violence and brutality of our uniformed forces is legalised by our lack of proper legislation against torture, the traditional impunity of the police and the enforcement of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in acutely disturbed areas.

So the Prevention of Torture Bill and the Supreme Court order against narco-analysis are firm steps towards a less savage state. They would also pave the way to India's ratifying the CAT and improving our image internationally.

But we need more than image. We need to enact and implement laws to deliver justice to Indians. Merely having an anti-torture law will not be of much use, for example, without a separate investigating agency for torture. The police are unlikely to find fault with their own, so victims have little hope of a proper case against their tormentors. Besides, cases linger on in courts forever, crushing any hope the victims may have of justice.

Also, as long as the police remain lackeys of politicians there will be no fair play, and the state machinery will be used as the personal army of the powerful to protect friends and frame the less friendly. And they will continue to use torture particularly against the most disempowered — traditionally the dalits and Muslims get the worst treatment — they will continue to rape and molest women, and inflict filthy verbal and physical abuse on the less privileged.

So to actually free ourselves of police torture, we need more than laws — we need police reform. Days ago you saw pictures of a 75-year-old hung from a tree in a Rajasthan police station and beaten brutally to extract a confession. Jaidev, the old man, swears he is being framed. But for every incident of police torture you see on television or in the papers, there are thousands more that you will never know of. And it does nothing to deter crime. It's plain stupid.

In short, it is in the interest of the state to prevent torture. If we want to catch the lion, we need to stop being happy beating up rabbits.

- Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine.
She can be contacted at sen@littlemag.com [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

SEX AND THE CHURCH

BY KISHWAR DESAI

Now that we have had Sex and the City, perhaps the time has arrived for another series (and a film) called "Sex and the Church". After the resounding silence of centuries, the ongoing frank and open discussion on the troubled relationship between the church and the sexual practices of those who work for it creates endlessly screaming headlines in the UK. But as society becomes more liberal it is perhaps only natural that issues which were once suppressed are brought into the open and sorted out in full public view. Reformation only takes place through an open debate. In this Internet age, anyway, it is extremely difficult to keep a cloak of secrecy on anything. Appreciably, most of this discussion is taking place at various levels and in all the different kinds of churches which exist in the UK, the Roman Catholic, the Church of England, the Church of Scotland…

The debate is fuelled partly by those who feel that ministers of the various churches are public figures and therefore everything they do must conform to the views of their congregation and the Bible as they understand it... At the same time there are others who feel that there is a pressing need for transparency throughout each church and its organisation. Almost every week ushers in a new controversy, especially as the sexuality of the ordained priests comes increasingly under the scanner. A few months back the child sex abuse scandal had rocked the Vatican, and put even the Pope in a terribly difficult spot, angering many of the victims who felt justice had not been delivered. Another furore which refuses to go away is on the issue of homosexuality amongst ordained men and women.

But should the sexual orientation of a priest or a minister make any difference at all to the community? Despite the emphasis on a more progressive lifestyle in all walks of life in the UK, there has often been a backlash from among the "fundamentalists" who find it very difficult to accept that "men and women of God" can have a gay orientation. In a nation where the law is very tough on discrimination against anyone on the basis of their sexuality, religious organisations lie somewhat outside the purview of the law. And this has made life very difficult for gay men and women who also want to be church leaders.

This week I encountered this debate, once again, during a trip for a book event to Aberdeen, a historic coastal town in Scotland. That pretty and idyllic environment was the last place which I would have associated with a heated debate over a newly-appointed gay minister. It seemed like such a well-knit, thoughtful community that I assumed they would all be progressive and liberal in their views. However a few fundamentalists can be found everywhere on earth! Thus at the Presbyterian Queen's Cross Church whilst I was really thrilled to have a wonderful discussion on my book, I was also quite sorry to find that, recently, the youthful and enthusiastic minister, Rev. Scott Rennie, has been literally undergoing a trial by some fundamentalists who feel that his gay leanings make him unfit to be a minister.

It must also be a particularly galling period for him as he is a local lad — and therefore could have expected some sympathy and understanding on that score, at least. Fortunately, the majority in his congregation is supporting him. And that gives one hope that, as time goes on, individuals will be accepted for who they are.

Rev. Rennie's tribulations may now put Aberdeen on the map (it is certainly creating a storm within the Church of Scotland) — but let me tell you that there are many reasons to visit the city. In fact, the journey from London is completely enchanting, as the train chugs along craggy hills and dramatic cliffs, as well as large expanses of sea with the seagulls wheeling above. There are also lush green farmland, picture postcard countryside with the right number of gambolling fluffy sheep and cattle. This experience was completely unlike my dismal Indian train journeys where I only usually see enormous garbage dumps and scrawny naked bums.

Aberdeen itself is an oil-rich city, with offshore pipelines and underwater oil rigs. (Shades of BP!). It has meant that the city has always had a huge importance for the British economy, and the wealth of its oil barons is more than evident in some of the sprawling granite mansions and the number of golf courses which dot the place. It was also in the news recently because Donald Trump wanted to buy a piece of it and set up another golf course and a mini-city along the beautiful coastline. There were angry local protests, but now most residents are resigned to the fact that Donald Trump's money power will probably win in the end.

The residents of Aberdeen, many of whom I met in a very intense evening of interaction, during my book discussion at the church, seem to be immensely community-driven. Their warmth and hospitality was quite overwhelming. The entire church seating was sold out (the money was going for a charity back in India), and they very efficiently even set up a screen for a documentary I wanted to screen. The thoughtful question and answer session at the end was so moving that one point I almost burst into tears, wondering how people so very far away from India can still find themselves engaged in the problems of marginalised women in India which really do not concern them, directly, at all. The fact that more than 200 copies of my book were sold on the basis of this one event shows the extent to which they allowed themselves to be engaged. Since the topic of my book is female foeticide, many in the audience bought the book specifically for their daughters and their mothers. It was an emotive and thoughtful evening — ending with wine and cheese at the gracious home of my hostess.

Before I reached Aberdeen, even my Scottish friends were unable to tell me about the city, as it seems to be Scotland's best kept secrets: people talk about the golf courses of Gleneagles or the cultural life in Edinburgh. But I found that Aberdeen proved to have a good mix of strong intellectual liberal links (evident in their brave support for Rev. Rennie) and wonderful restaurants… I can vouch for the fabulous fresh fish and red succulent strawberries, especially if they are consumed surrounded by a panoramic 360 degree view of green hilly terrain. What more can anyone want?

- The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

PLAYING WITH FIRE

BY JAGMOHAN

After attainment of freedom, the framers of the Constitution made fairly sound provisions for the advancement of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and also for "educationally and socially backward classes". For some time, the nation's polity had a smooth sailing. The leadership of the time had a constructive outlook and sensed the dangerous potential of doing any thing that would keep the vice of caste alive.

In 1955, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru himself took the initiative in rejecting the report of the Kaka Kalelkar Backward Class Commission which, inter alia, recommended reservation of jobs for backward castes whose number was reckoned as 2,399. It was made clear by his government that the caste-based reservation would obstruct the growth of a truly secular, cohesive and egalitarian society. Again, in his letter of June 27, 1961, to the chief ministers, Nehru referred to the demand for reservations on grounds of caste, and warned: "This way lies not only folly but disaster". Indira Gandhi, too, was conscious of the perils to which the country would be exposed if the caste-factor was allowed to occupy a larger space in its political terrain. She, therefore, kept the report of the second Backward Class Commission, popularly known as Mandal Commission, submitted in 1980, in the cold storage for about a decade.

Soon, however, a new crop of leaders emerged on the political stage, who did not hesitate to even play with fire to secure a few short-term electoral gains. For them, caste became a tool of manipulation, an instrument for stoking petty and parochial loyalties. They remained oblivious of what insightful observers of the Indian scene, like Sir Valentine Chirol, had said: "Hinduism could not build a nation because one vital structure (caste) which it did build was the negation of every thing that constituted a nation".

In 1990, caste acquired new depth and dimensions in Indian politics, when Prime Minister V.P. Singh, in search for a larger power-base and in an attempt to upstage his rival, Devi Lal, suddenly announced acceptance of the Mandal Commission's recommendations and fixed a quota of 27 per cent of government jobs for the backward classes and also reserved 27 per cent seats in medical, engineering and professional institutions for students belonging to these classes.

The caste propelled approach of the politicians was somewhat diluted by the Supreme Court in its judgments, delivered on various writ-petitions filed before it. Besides restricting reservations to 50 per cent and excluding "creamy layer" of the backward classes, the court held that the caste alone could not be a basis for enlistment as a backward class; the other factors such as education, income and occupation, would have to be considered. It seemed to suggest that the best form of affirmative action was to classify groups of people by their economic and social status.

Hardly had the conflict-ridden fall-outs of the reservations for the backward classes settled than the demand for enumeration of castes in the census was raised.

Even if all the operational difficulties with regard to settling claims are ignored and the demand is conceded, the vested interests, whose appetite for exploitation of caste has been whetted, would not end their game at that point. They would press for reservations for Muslims and other minorities, and then for reservations in private sector. Nor would they stop to ponder over their obligations under Article 51A(e) which requires every citizen to transcend sectional loyalties and promote the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India.

All this is bound to turn the Indian Constitution upside down. Both the society and the state would get fragmented and the separatist instinct would strike a deeper root in the peoples' psyche. In the past, it were the vested interests of the upper castes that destroyed the "will to nationhood". Now another kind of vested interest is at work. It is perpetuating politics of caste, creating divisive votebanks, undermining overall machinery of governance and pushing the Indian state to a position where it would become nothing more than a big tree with a hollow trunk, ever exposed to the risks of collapse. In his concluding speech, delivered at the time of adoption of the Indian Constitution, B.R. Ambedkar expressed his apprehensions about the role of "our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds". Are we not now feeding our old enemies and causing our unfortunate history of division and discord to repeat itself?

In the light of what I have said above and in the first part of this article, two basic measures need to be taken. First, it should be effectively propagated, by way of a strong religious and social reform movement, that caste is against the basic structure of Hinduism and to practice it is to violate this faith. Every effort should be made to eject caste from the mindscape of Hindus. This would certainly help in changing the traditional outlook of the entire Indian community on caste.

Secondly, constructive approach should be adopted to extend social justice to all the deprived and disprivileged. We must not fight not for the rights of castes and clans but for the human rights of the needy. Caste, in fact, should be constitutionally abolished. No other country, rich or poor, has it. After a specified period, no one should be allowed to use his or her caste with regard to any matter, public or private. This would be the best way of removing the chronic infection of caste from our system and ushering in a healthy era of casteless society. Years ago, Dr Rammanohar Lohia had observed: "The revolt against caste is the resurrection of India". Let us carry out this revolt without any further delay.

We must have a democracy, and not a castocracy. But this democracy should be propelled by an awakened conscience. A fully charged lamp of compassion must provide warmth to its cold layers and lift up all those who are poor, sick, hungry and uneducated by guaranteeing them state-aided rights to food, shelter, education, sanitation, clean drinking water, medical aid etc.

The country today needs, not heartless forces of neo-liberalism, but root and branch reforms which would create new ethos, attitude and outlook and enable it to give birth to a new civilisation — a civilisation that would sweep away the garbage of our past and rest itself on the "ancient nobility of temper" and modern norms of human rights.

Concluded

- Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister

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THE STATESMAN

EDITS

RECURRING DISGRACE

FREED AS A 'GOODWILL GESTURE'


SUBCONTINENTAL shamelessness has few parallels. Once again, as has happened with sickening regularity in the past, prisoners were released as a goodwill gesture on the eve of the Indo-Pak dialogue. This time they were people who had overstayed in Pakistan, or were rounded up when inadvertently crossing the Punjab border; previously it had been fishermen who followed shoals across the maritime boundary. It has been a gesture favoured by both sides: whichever side of the border the talks are held sees a little emptying of its jails. There is really no goodwill to such action, on the contrary it points to petty mala fides, or worse: for if the persons in prisons had either served out their sentences, or otherwise been deemed fit for release, they should have been set free much earlier ~ not held back to add to the false fanfare that greets episodes in the on-off seemingly endless process. To describe those hapless persons as pawns in a larger chess game would be putting it mildly, even doves trapped in baskets and released on "occasions" have a better time of it. Relieved and thrilled though the latest batch to cross the Wagah-Attari check-post were, they were under no illusions: the foreign secretary talks would have no impact on the plight of other Indian prisoners being ill-treated in Pakistani jails. And the same would hold true of what obtains in Indian jails.


Would something as seemingly trivial as prisoners figure prominently on the agenda of the talks being held at more than one level during coming days? Remember that Musharraf's promise at Agra ~ "as a soldier" ~ brought neither relief nor closure to the families of Indian defence personnel believed to have been taken prisoner-of-war in 1971. Regretfully, even the efforts of human rights activists in both countries have met with only limited success in resolving prisoner-related issues: they are not considered important enough to find specific mention in any list of confidence-building measures. Yet there is emphasis on human contact: is that limited to cross-border movement of rather "visible" delegations but excludes something as humane as restoring an individual's freedom? Stray reports from Islamabad suggest the prisoners might be covered in the larger "humanitarian" section of the "doables" agenda for the foreign ministers meet next month. A good beginning might be the scrapping of the "prisoner parade" as a curtain-raiser.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITS

ASKING FOR THE MOON

UGC ON COLLEGE INFRASTRUCTURE


THE University Grants Commission has fared commendably since its inception; but it may have delivered a parting shot before the National Commission on Higher Education and Research is set up to take over as the overarching authority. So patently absurd is the latest set of proposals that the UGC would seem to be asking for the moon.  Small wonder that Calcutta University has demanded a review of the directives that are applicable nationwide. It is almost as if the UGC is blissfully ignorant of the existing infrastructure of colleges across the country. The affiliating universities run the risk of being penalised if they do not fulfil the UGC's out-of-the-box ideas. Chiefly, a college must have a two-acre campus, every student must be entitled to 15 sq ft of space in the lecture theatres, the libraries must possess 100 different books on each discipline, and the college must maintain a Rs 15-lakh fixed deposit for every under-graduate course. Superficially, some of the proposals may seem attractive. Yet the UGC can't be unaware of the constraints. And the reality that the supposedly mandatory set of recommendations are just not feasible considering the total space an average college occupies. To insist on a two-acre campus will, for instance, render all or nearly most colleges in West Bengal dysfunctional. Stretched further, the search for learning may even revive the thorny issue of land acquisition. Funds will turn out to be the overriding impediment, and there is no indication in the agenda that the UGC will finance the expansion projects. Nationwide it will involve a huge expenditure. And arguably the UGC may cease to exist should the NCHER Bill come through in the next session of Parliament. The question will survive as to what precisely has prompted the UGC to propose the impracticable. Calcutta University's VC uses the language of understatement when he argues that it "will be difficult for any institution to follow the revised regulations." Dr Suranjan Das might as well have added that the UGC is asking for the impossible and the unaffordable when it ought to be focussed on the pursuit of learning.  


Misgivings that the exercise is aimed at attracting private as well as foreign investment are not wholly unfounded. The subtext is concordant with the HRD ministry's plan to open up the campuses to foreign universities, however dubious in their home countries. Like the state health sector, higher education is set to be reserved for those who can afford it.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITS

STATE OF THE HILLS

DARJEELING NEEDS THE RULE OF LAW

 

THE widow of an assassinated Gorkha leader meeting the chief minister to plead for justice revives painful memories of an assurance that "justice will be done" given to the mother of a young man found dead on rail tracks after a controversy over his wedding. While the chief minister, then embarrassed by acts of omission and commission in the police department that he heads, left it to the legal process, the renewed flare-up in the hills following the killing that remains a mystery after more than a month could have more serious social consequences. Especially if the government remains rooted in the indecisiveness that has turned Darjeeling into no-man's land. Bharati Tamang was relying, as all citizens would in the circumstances, on the competence of the police to bring culprits to book and restore a semblance of order to the hills. But she and her colleagues in the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League would not have come all the way to Kolkata and also speak of approaching the human rights commission had they not been concerned that not enough was being done by the local police that was witness to the daylight murder, and by the CID that has been entrusted with the investigation.  
The chief minister's dilemma is understandable. When he is under pressure from different quarters, the last thing he would want to do is to precipitate matters in Darjeeling when Bimal Gurung has gone the Subash Ghisingh way. It might be rather difficult for him at this stage to come down on those named in the FIR. The same people are seen to have taken over the administration by declaring an indefinite strike, now withdrawn after a 48-hour break was granted to allow people to collect essentials. It does no credit to the police to confess they are helpless because the main suspects have crossed over to neighbouring countries. It is more shocking that the hills are held to ransom on the complaint by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha of a lathi-charge. It confirms the alarming dimensions of the lawlessness that has gripped Darjeeling on account of the morcha's agitational politics. Whether central forces are required is an option Writers' Buildings ought to have explored already. It cannot shy away from the basic responsibility of establishing the rule of law.

 

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THE STATESMAN

SPECIAL ARTICLE

35 YEARS LATER 

THE EMERGENCY STILL HAUNTS THE NATION

MG DEVASAHAYAM

 

Emergency was promulgated  on the midnight of 25-26 June 1975. The presidential proclamation read: "In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 352 of the Constitution, I, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, President of India, by this Proclamation declare that a grave emergency exists whereby the security of India is threatened by internal disturbances."  


That dark era haunts the country even after three decades-and-a-half. This time around the state of the nation is such that virtual Emergency still seems to exist. Writing in  Outlook, Arundhati Roy states: "26th June is the 35th anniversary of the Emergency. Perhaps the Indian people should declare that this country is in a state of Emergency."


In the wake of media reports about the government using the latest technology to tap telephone conversations of Nitish Kumar, Sharad Pawar, Prakash Karat and Congressman Digvijay Singh, LK Advani asked: "Is the Emergency back?".  


When the State threatened Maoist sympathisers with imprisonment under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, civil rights activists retorted: "We consider this as an attack on civil society reminiscent of the Emergency era." Anchoring the CNN/IBN 'Face the Nation' debate on the harsh censorship of Prakash Jha's political film, Raajneeti, Sagarika Ghosh wondered: "Are we under Emergency?"


Reality-check  
IN the gruesome Bhopal episode, those blaming Rajiv Gandhi for the "escape" of the Union Carbide chief, Warren Anderson, are being dubbed as "unpatriotic" by Congress minions. This too is reminiscent of the Emergency days when the sycophantic chant was "Indira is India"!


But despite the fact that the Emergency is  recalled whenever any blatantly unlawful act or excess is committed or a statement issued, most people, particularly those of the younger generation, have no idea as to what it is all about.


A brief reality-check on this phenomenon called the Emergency is, therefore, in order. Such a "state of Emergency" should have been preceded by a comprehensive threat assessment covering the "internal disturbance", law and order and mass violence. No such thing was done because no such situation existed. The President just signed a piece of paper sent to him by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Well before the President's signature all leading lights of the Opposition including Jayaprakash Narayan  had been imprisoned under the dreaded MISA. Ministers and senior officials were totally in the dark. Sanjay Gandhi, the dynastic greenhorn, had taken charge and was the master of all he surveyed.  


The Emergency extinguished freedom and liberty of the citizens. With the  President's  proclamation, Fundamental Rights under Article 14 (Equality before Law), Article 21 (Protection of Life and Personal Liberty) and several clauses of Article 22 (Protection against Detentions) stood suspended.  Besides, Parliament enacted several autocratic laws and the executive ordered stringent measures to tighten the noose around the people's neck. The provisions of MISA were made draconian and courts were barred from reviewing them, let alone grant relief to the detainees.

During the Emergency's 20-month run, the Press was severely muffled. People moved in hushed silence, stunned and traumatised by the harrowing developments. The bulk of the civil service crawled when asked to bend. The higher judiciary bowed to the dust and was willing to rule that under the Emergency regime, citizens did not even have the 'right to life'. Politicians, barring honourable exceptions, lay supine and prostrate. I have first-hand knowledge of all these draconian measures because I was then the Collector- cum-District Magistrate of Chandigarh where JP was imprisoned.


The Emergency was far more devious than just denial of personal liberty, arrest and torture of a few thousand individuals and forced sterilisation by the State. It was about basic violations of democratic norms and the crude attempts to legitimise a new type of regime and evolve new criteria for the allocation of rights and obligations. It was the abrogation of any sense of boundary or restraint in the exercise of power, and striking arbitrariness and arrogance with which citizens were turned into 'subjects'. Governance was devastated by the imposition of a highly concentrated apparatus of power on a fundamentally federal society and the turning over of this centralized apparatus for personal survival and family aggrandisement. Parallels  are available only in Nazi Germany. 


Despite its convincing defeat largely due to JP's indomitable spirit and defiant leadership, the Emergency is still haunting the nation. It evokes fear and horror. This is because even today, the Emergency excesses are being benchmarked. They have become reference points for gross violation of human rights by fascist minded 'leaders'. And justice has become a rarity.


The 'Emergency masters' easily achieved their aim of derailing democracy and extinguishing freedom 'without a dog barking'. This was because things happened overnight and people at large were too stunned to react. Yet, hardly anyone, barring some professional sycophants and social climbers, welcomed the development. And in the general elections in March 1977, an enraged public threw out the 'Emergency establishment' lock, stock and barrel. The political fallout of this landslide was significant. Thirty years after Independence, the people had ushered in a democratic alternative to the Congress.  


Shortlived alternative

THIS alternative, however, was shortlived. The Janata formation that JP had put together crumbled under its own weight. Jana Sangh, the core component of this combine, hunted with the hound and ran with the hare. The BJP, its present avatar, harbours some leading Sanjay-cronies and his heir and have turned great votaries of the Emergency-type repression and violation of human rights.  The hardcore disciples of JP are now with Congress enjoying plum ministerial offices.


On the pretext of attracting foreign investment the governments are mortgaging the nation's land and resources to alien business interests and are attempting to 'militarise' the tribal territories to enforce this. Paradoxically, a large section of the media that had stood up against the Emergency now stand polarised in their 'corporatised' avatar. The electronic media's campaigns in favour of militarization and against human rights are the pointers.  


How would the people react should there be a re-run of the Emergency? Will contented middle class and 'tweeting' youth take it lying down? Will the civil services put up some resistance? Will the higher judiciary stand up for freedom and liberty?  How will the tattered and tainted political class respond?  Above all, how will the mainstream media react? These questions have come up because no lessons have been learnt from that horrendous experience. Indeed, there has been no effort to learn. Despite being a crucial chapter of India's post-Independence history, Jayaprakash Narayan's movement and the Emergency have been blacked out from school textbooks and various fora. For instance, a 46-minute lesson on JP, broadcast by the Indira Gandhi National Open University, has nothing on these two historical events.

Winston Churchill's famous words ring loud and true: "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." But all is not lost yet. The eminent historian, Bimal Prasad, who recently completed his ten-volume treatise on JP ~ His Thoughts and Writings is working on JP's biography. The book will deal with his movement and the Emergency. This may be a small step, but it does inspire some hope.

 

The writer is a retired IAS officer

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

SYRIA'S 30 YEARS OF FEAR

 

Not long before Hafez el-Assad died in 2000, Ahmed Hariri predicted what would happen when the official news announced the death of the president. Hariri, an old friend in the Syrian ministry of information, came from the city of Tadmor, east of Damascus. The city, known as Palmyra to Romans and tourists alike, was home to one of the regime's fearsome jails, which stood behind trees not far from the desert road to Baghdad. This was the site of a massacre of Islamist prisoners – perhaps a thousand in all – by Assad's brother Rifaat after an assassination attempt on Hafez. The corpses were rumoured to have been tossed by night into a secret mass grave near a local hill, and have lain unmarked ever since.


Hariri – he died some years ago, which is why I can name him – drew heavily on a cigarette in the back of my car as we sped towards Tadmor. "When our beloved president dies," he said, "all the people of Tadmor will go to the hill. They know where the dead are – more than just those killed by Rifaat. And when they are sure that the president has gone, they will all throw roses on the gravesite in memory of those who lie beneath."
But when Assad died of a heart attack, and a smooth Baathist succession installed his son Bashar as the president, not a soul walked from Tadmor to the mass graves. There were no mourners, no roses, no recognition of the violence that had stained this terrible prison under Assad's 30-year rule.


The eventual relief of Syrians that the young English-trained optometrist Bashar – a gentler figure than his ferocious father – had taken over was so great that no one wished to recall the past. Why dig up a mass grave unless you intend to pour more blood into it?


The subsequent rule of Bashar has not produced the democratic "spring" in Syria which many Arab intellectuals had hoped for, a fact made all too clear in a report published in Washington this month by the Transitional Justice in the Arab World Project, supported by Freedom House. According to the report, Years of Fear, as many as 17,000 Syrians may have "disappeared" during Hafez el-Assad's rule; the 117-page document contains heart-breaking accounts of disappearances and extra-judicial executions, and descriptions of the apparently vain 30-year wait of sons, wives and parents for the return of men who were almost certainly killed in the early 1980s.


But all such reports should carry a red flag. Freedom House, which last year labelled Israel as the only "free" country in the Middle East (Lebanon got a "partly free" coding), receives around 66 per cent of its funding from the US government, including the State Department and USAID. Its roots go back to 1941 – Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the first sponsors when Freedom House was pointing up the evils of Nazi Germany. In the past it has been accused of supporting only pro-Western opposition movements, but its Middle East targets have largely been Arab. Freedom House was also previously led by James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA.
Radwan Ziadeh, who compiled the report, is a long-time US resident exiled from Syria for many years. He runs the Damascus Centre for Human Rights Studies. This does not disqualify his report, but he warns readers in his preface that "for security reasons, we withheld the names of those interviewed and have changed some facts to disguise their identities. Similarly, we have scrambled (sic) the details of many human rights activists and former detainees whom we interviewed." This does not, to put it mildly, bestow total confidence on the report. The Syrian authorities will no doubt seize upon this to debunk its contents.


Years of Fear covers the three-decade rule of Hafez el-Assad, Syria's former air force commander whose long battle to maintain his Alawi rule and whose ferocious struggle against violent Islamist enemies clogged the fetid prisons of Syria with thousands of political prisoners. Using security forces who were often corrupt, he confronted an ever more violent sectarian guerrilla movement whose first major assault came on 16 June 1979 when an army captain, Ibrahim al-Yusuf, led the massacre of Alawi students at the Aleppo artillery school.
A subsequent assassination attempt on the president prompted Rifaat's Defence Brigades' assault at Tadmor in which up to a thousand Muslim Brotherhood prisoners were machine-gunned to death in their cells. By 1980, there was open war between the regime and its opponents. Law 49, of 7 July 1980, mandated capital punishment for those who did not renounce their Brotherhood membership in writing, and a Ghadaffi-style assassination campaign against overseas opponents was ordered.


The Hama uprising in February 1982, in which the old, rebel-held city was virtually destroyed by tank and shell-fire, caused up to 15,000 deaths, according to Ziadeh's report – some put the figure at 20,000. What Ziadeh oddly fails to mention is the underground fighting in Hama in which girl suicide bombers hurled themselves against Syrian troops, and previous violence in the city in which Islamists slaughtered entire families of Baath party officials. There was nothing exclusive about Syria's mass-murderers.
Ziadeh believes that in the early Eighties and later, up to 25,000 men went missing, swallowed into interrogation centres and prisons. "Most such cases occurred before 2000," the report says. "Many detainees have been released during the past few years." A credit to Bashar al-Assad, no doubt.


But in the years before, there was no such compassion. The report quotes a former detainee at Tadmor. "They called on groups of brothers every Monday and Thursday, and executed them by hanging in the courts of Palmyra Prison..." It is a sign of the Middle East's endemic cruelty that Saddam Hussein's regime was infinitely worse than Assad's.


Ziadeh is at his strongest when he lists the vast legislative shield which is supposed to protect Syrian citizens from arbitrary arrest, torture or execution. Section 3 of Article 28 of Syria's constitution, for example, states that "no one may be tortured physically or mentally or be treated in a humiliating manner." A double irony – one which, again, Ziadeh fails to mention – is that the American government, which supports Freedom House, happily renditioned prisoners to Damascus in the sure knowledge that the Syrians would ignore their constitution and torture the suspects to their heart's content. Another Syrian law says that the state must "take the necessary legislative, administrative, and judicial measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearance."


The report suggests that these disappearances indirectly affect up to a million Syrians – five per cent of the population. Amer, who was eight when his father was arrested, recalled: "I cannot speak with anyone about the issue of my father, because this induces fear and makes people suspicious... I have lived as a half orphan, although my father is not officially dead."


A human rights activist told Ziadeh that in some cases buildings were erected over secret cemeteries. In Aleppo, a large mosque has allegedly been built over a mass grave.


Must the sins of the father – whatever those "sins" may be – always be visited upon the sons? Perhaps a president also sometimes asks himself why his father's sins should be visited upon him. But it will surely be a long time before the people of Tadmor scatter roses on those graves.


The Independent

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

THE WEAKER SEX?

SUDHA PALIT


Women are generally portrayed as being victims of all kinds of ill-treatment and exploitation by men. This is easy to believe because they are smaller in size than males. But size can be a deceptive measure by which to judge a woman's overall power.


Medical statistics show that most of the deaths of new-born babies are among males. So, by and large, females seem to have a stronger constitution at birth. Also, women in general have a longer life span than men, as they are less likely to succumb to fatal diseases like heart attacks, except at a ripe old age. Even so, during their prime years, men are known to be physically stronger than women. And unleashed physical strength can cause a lot of damage.


For many years, women have been depicted as the victimised species because of their dominance by males. "Wife battering" and similar terms have been widely used in cases relating to domestic violence. Women who have been subjected to this kind of treatment evoke much sympathy, and special courts are set up to deal with cases like theirs. Movies inspired by such real- life cases have also been made.


But another kind of picture is now emerging. Husbands are not always the offending parties. More and more cases are now coming to light where men are at the receiving end of the persecutory tactics used by their domineering wives. Misogynists might like to give credence to the saying that "marriage is a contract where a man loses his bachelor's degree and a woman gains her master's". Quite recently a case was reported in the newspapers of a man committing suicide because of the constant bickering in his marriage, caused by a nagging and tyrannical wife. When he could not stand the stress any longer, he decided to end it all. Harassed husbands feel it is high time to do something to alleviate the distress that they have been silently suffering at the hands of their marriage partners.


Organisations are now being formed to address such issues, in Jamshedpur (Jharkhand) a full-fledged organisation called Meri biwi se bachao (save me from my wife) has been formed. The organisation was founded in this steel city five years ago and also has branches in nearby areas. Here husbands come to air their marital grievances, and attempts are made to find solutions to their grievances.


It has been found that when a man is the main earning member of the family, the wife sometimes tries to get hold of the property that he has acquired through hard work. In the last few years, there have been quite a few cases of men opting for voluntary retirement under the voluntary retirement scheme. Some wives feel aggrieved that they have not had a say in the amount of their husbands' gratuity and provident fund, and they create no end of trouble for their partners in this context. The men prefer to keep quiet about such matters as they feel that their ego is threatened.


If the money from the VRS is put into a joint account, some wives feel free to draw out what they need for their personal use without informing their husbands. Women sometimes even use their children to emotionally blackmail their husbands so that they give in to their demands. In divorce cases, men are often at their ex-wives' mercy when it comes to parting with property or money in a divorce settlement. Some women have no compunction in bleeding their husbands white.


But female expertise is not confined to material gains. Even physically they can cause damage to their husbands where it really matters. Some years ago, a woman by the name of Lorena Bobbit made headlines when she castrated her husband with a sharp knife. She even had a couple of imitators who tried the same kind of amputation on their errant husbands, and the phrase, "So and so did a Bobbit on her husband," came into usage.
Since women have been clamouring for equality with men, cases of marital injustice should be treated on an equal par for both men and women. The fair sex cannot expect to get away lightly in cases where they are clearly the offending party.

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

DO THEY TEACH FROM THE HEART?

JAGMOHAN CHOPRA


"Do ekam do-o-o-o" (Two ones are two) said Master Hukam Chand in a mixture of Hindi and Punjabi, making the second "do'' (two) last as long as possible. "Do ekam do-o-o-o" repeated the children in chorus. "Do duni cha-a-a-a-r" (Two twos are four) said Master Hukam Chand, again stretching the second "char'' (four) as much as he could. "Do duni cha-a-a-a-r" followed the children in unison. This was how Masterji or Massab, as Master Hukam Chand was popularly known, taught "pahadas'' (multiplication tables) to children in his school, the children's voice reverberating in streets outside the school. Louder you recite the pahadas, sooner you will learn them, Masterji used to say.


Short, chubby and with a slight limp in the right leg, Masterji was a household name in Agra as far as education for the poor was concerned. Born in a lower middle class family in Qila Gujjar Singh in Lahore, he shifted to Agra at the time of partition. Seeing the plight of refugee children in the camps, he persuaded the local authorities to let him run a school for children within the precincts of an old church near Pratap Pura crossing. The school had four rooms, a verandah and open space with plenty of trees, the shade of which came in handy for holding additional classes. The class rooms didn't have any furniture except a rickety table, chair and a worn-out blackboard for the teacher. The children always sat on a durree. Known for his benevolence, Masterji charged the children a fee that was close to nothing. Though kind at heart, he was a hard taskmaster and a strict disciplinarian. Anybody coming late to his class or without doing the work allotted to him, was made to cool his heels out in the sun before being permitted to enter the class. And for the chronic delinquents, there was his trademark "danda'' or baton which he always carried with him, using it whenever the situation demanded. The fear of Masterji among children was so rampant that parents often used to tell their children that if they did not behave themselves, they would be packed off for a stint at Masterji's school.


Masterji had all that was required of a teacher – simplicity, dedication and a missionary attitude. He laid stress on three things: the importance of speaking the truth, the need for having a good handwriting and the criticality of knowing tables till 16 by heart. It wouldn't surprise anyone if a class four child in his school would tell you that 16 x 16 made 256 with as much ease as 6 x 6 made 36. It was common for the rich to send their wayward wards to Masterji's school if found wanting in any of the things Masterji stood for. In his school, use of copies or any kind of paper was discouraged. Writing, be it Hindi or English, was done with a thin bamboo "kalam'' dipped in ink between lines drawn on a wooden rectangular board called "phatti''. And sums were done on a small slate with hardened chalk called "saleti''. Once the phatti or slate was full, it was wiped clean with a moistened cloth to make it fit for more writing.


Masterji's mastery over arithmetic was known all over the city. With clear concepts and easy communication skills, he made arithmetic look like child's play. And with examples of squares, rectangles and triangles drawn from everyday life, he made geometry seem like a cake walk. His favourite saying "Agar woh aise pooche, tum aise kar dena" (if the examiner asks like this, you do like this) was repeated by everyone after school hours. With extreme dedication to his profession and towards his students, Masterji ensured his students were a cut above the rest, giving more established schools a run for their money. Individual tuitions were unheard of in the 50's and 60's. If a student had a problem, he was welcome to consult Masterji at home in the evening at no cost to him. However, unlike today's teachers, Masterji encouraged his students to study in groups and come to him only if necessary.


Today Masterji is nearing 90. His health is failing. Much as he would like to, it is difficult for him to carry on working the way he used to. He would like someone to take his mission forward. Unfortunately, there is no one willing to do so. Teachers like Masterji are few and far between. Teachers are not benevolent anymore. They don't tell you the secret of solving tricky problems in school. They do so during the evening tuitions at home. They spend their time building their own brand image rather than the image of the school they draw their salary from. Rightly or wrongly, the teaching profession, which was once in the dumps as far as money is concerned, is on the upswing with teachers making as much or more money than doctors or engineers, the tuition fee from students far outstripping the salaries they get from school. I am told that teaching today is a Rs 1,000 crore industry, thanks to the coaching institutes that have sprung up all over the country. I also believe that the economy of certain cities in India depends on coaching institutes located there. Will the days of dedicated teachers be back? Will we ever get teachers who teach from the heart rather than with an eye on your pocket? Will teachers tell you the secret of solving a problem in school? Will the days of self-study in peer groups return? I am not sure, but it's time someone did something to improve the quality of teaching in schools and put an end to the coaching hysteria that has come to grip our country. I hope Mr. Sibal is listening.

 

The writer is a freelance contributor

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

HISTORY PLAYS FOOTBALL

 

Football reflects history, albeit with a time lag. The decline of Europe has been a favourite theme of historians at least since the end of World War II. There have been historians though who have argued that Europe went into decline with the onset of the First World War in 1914 and the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution three years later. Historians may continue to debate about the date when Europe's grandeur and dominance ended, but lovers of football will have no hesitation in agreeing that European football lost its scoring abilities in the World Cup of 2010. The record of the major European teams is difficult to believe. France and Italy are out, and out rather ignominiously. England is struggling and so are Germany and Spain. This must be seen in the context of the fact that Western Europe has produced the winners of six of the past 10 World Cups. In this World Cup, two of the major countries of Western Europe are out before the knockout rounds, and either England or Germany will be out by Sunday night. If that is not a dismal performance, it is tough to think of a worse one.

 

It is not just the results of the matches that are astounding — England held to a draw by the United States of America and Algeria; Spain going down one-nil to Switzerland; Germany losing to Serbia; France crushed 2-0 by Mexico; and Italy held to a one goal tie by New Zealand — it is the way these big teams have played that appears almost incredible. Their ball play, shooting and teamwork have all seemed lacklustre and jaded. One common explanation for this is the shadow of expectation: pressure is apparently inhibiting the players. This is hardly convincing. Brazil and Argentina, to take two immediate examples, are also under the pressure of too much expectation but these teams have not wilted. One reason could be the apparent collapse of the famous discipline and organization that lay behind the triumph of Western European soccer. In South Africa, the French players were in open rebellion against the expulsion of striker Nicolas Anelka. England's captain, John Terry, publicly criticized the coach and had to step down; his replacement suffered a knee injury before the World Cup. Similarly, Germany's captain, Michael Ballack, was rendered hors de combat before the World Cup. There are other examples of organizational lapses and bad luck coming together.

 

The sun has set on English football, as it did on the British Empire, perhaps because there are too many ordinary players who, when they play with their foreign colleagues in their clubs, look above average. It is significant that in the continent while the teams of Western Europe are faltering, the new nations — products of the break-up of the Soviet Empire and freed from totalitarianism — are definitely playing more dynamic and challenging football. It is possible that the 2010 World Cup is witnessing the emergence of a new Europe. History might then echo soccer with a time lag.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WHAT BHOPAL EXPOSES

A STRATEGIC ALLIANCE CANNOT BE BASED ON INEQUALITY AND INJUSTICE

SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

 

Barack Obama should be left in no doubt that India expects the yardstick of accountability he is applying to BP for Union Carbide too. But the root causes of the Bhopal disaster lie at home, and despite Thursday's promise of generous funding, nothing has been done to tackle them. There's possibly little that a coalition government can do in the short term, which means that repetitions of the nightmare, not necessarily in the same form, cannot be ruled out as India, sloppy, corrupt but on a roll, actively encourages big industry.

 

Few events so severely indict a society and its values and operations. BP's oil spill was caused by an explosion, Exxon's by a grounded tanker. Both could be called acts of god. The Turkish Airlines DC-10 that crashed just after taking off from Paris, killing all 346 people on board, more closely resembled Bhopal, for the checkers had overlooked a flaw in the aircraft. Distillers' notorious thalidomide pill for pregnant mothers, which resulted in some 10,000 deformed babies, comes nearest for the pharmaceutical testing was grievously at fault. But whereas individuals were to blame in these last two instances, the guilt in India is collective and more indigenous than foreign. The power that multinational corporations undoubtedly wield is so effective here because of our combination of self-seeking politicians, slothful bureaucrats, an instinctive subservience to Americans and a criminally inefficient legal system.

 

It seems clear now that corners were cut and rules waived to grant Union Carbide's manufacturing licence. Early warnings of danger were ignored though it was known that waste was being dumped and contamination spreading. The likely effects of cost-cutting measures and poor maintenance (like soldering instead of replacing broken pipes) were overlooked. Everything can be arranged in India. Even local champions to argue lustily that companies like Enron must be lily-white since bribery is a federal offence in the United States of America.

 

A senior New Delhi bureaucrat sought me out after the tragedy because the paper I worked for had published a strong editorial demanding firm action against Union Carbide. He urged me to soften our line since American law and Union Carbide would never concede what the paper was demanding. One might excuse Nani Palkhivala opposing the Union of India in New York or Fali Nariman appearing for Union Carbide since lawyers claim not to prejudge an issue, but this readiness among highly-placed officials to plead the American case recalls Natwar Singh's comment that South Block is pro-American because eight out of 10 diplomatists want green cards for their children.

 

I came across another instance of that syndrome though in a different context when researching Waiting for America: India and the US in the New Millennium. Indians had reason in 1948 to accuse Josef Korbel, the Jewish Czech head of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (also Madeleine Albright's father), of toeing the American-Pakistani line. Adapting Wilde, middle-class Indians might go to New York (New Jersey more likely) before they die, but Korbel, who was then waiting for American naturalization, might have died if he was refused citizenship. He would have been deported to Czechoslovakia which had become communist since the previous regime sent him to the UN.

 

My adventures with the book, which emphatically asserted that while countries are never "natural allies", India needs the US for economic and strategic reasons, stressed that the connection must be consonant with national self-respect. India cannot be the new Pakistan, as Sitaram Yechury scathingly puts it. Her size, population, resources, strategic potential and civilizational heritage demand American recognition of a more equal partnership. Hence the title Waiting for America.

I was living abroad when the book appeared and received good reviews all round. Then I learnt to my surprise that the publisher had asked the American ambassador to release it and that, having asked for a copy, His Excellency had declined the honour. Anyone who was aware of the book's contents and knew anything of how American politicos think would have expected nothing else. This ambassador, moreover, was a close friend of the president who famously justified Operation Enduring Freedom with the if-you-are-not-with-us-you-are-against-us mantra.

 

There was no launch and no publicity after that mark of ambassadorial disapproval. Waiting for America disappeared from bookshops. It was not visible at the Calcutta Book Fair. Shopkeepers told me they presumed it was out of print since requests for fresh stock were ignored. Direct approaches to the publisher were rebuffed. Eventually, the publisher emailed me to say the book had "not sold well" and would be pulped. A minor incident but revealing, perhaps, of attitudes.

 

Subservience goes beyond calculations of self-interest. The excitement when Obama attended a reception for S.M. Krishna or an ethnic Indian won the Spelling Bee competition has no logic beyond the complex of a colonized people. As The New York Times reported of George W. Bush's "accidental" encounter with Jaswant Singh in the White House in May 2001, "No one in the American press took any notice, but in India the photo of Mr Singh grinning next to Mr Bush was front-page news."

 

It was like the flurry in a Dhaka hotel lobby with flower pots carted in, carpets unrolled and people rushing about. The man I stopped to ask the cause breathed "Ambassador!" and sprinted away. Which ambassador? It was Saudi Arabia's envoy. America's ambassador may not occasion quite the same excitement in New Delhi but the joint secretary I had just sat down to interview in his South Block office (after two abortive appointments) when I was researching Waiting for America jumped up with alacrity when a burly white man strode in.

 

"Hope I'm not disturbing anything," said the acting US ambassador breezily. "I'd come to see So-and-so and thought I'd drop in!" Overwhelmed by the intrusion, my host didn't even bother to acknowledge my goodbye as I slipped out, questions unasked. He is now one of India's senior ambassadors. Why blame a Bihar Lok Sabha member for vowing not to wash for three months the hand that Bill Clinton had shaken? Or Bhopal's police for taking Warren Anderson to the comfort of his company guest house when he was supposedly under arrest? Grovelling is the norm.

 

Anderson's flit isn't the only unsolved mystery. Why have we heard nothing about the saboteur that American papers hinted at? Are some of Bhopal's social activists on the make like American ambulance chasers? A Delhi High Court judge, S. Muralidhar, called the settlement the Supreme Court approved in February 1989 "severely flawed". The Supreme Court decision in 1996 to dilute the charge against Union Carbide prompts more questions. Arun Jaitley and Abhishek Singhvi, legal luminaries at two ends of the political spectrum, argue that Dow Chemicals, which took over Union Carbide in 2001, has no liability for the tragedy. But common sense suggests liabilities go with assets. Guinness, which absorbed Distillers, thinks so, too, since it gave £37.5 million for thalidomide victims. As Britain's Sunday Times, which fought relentlessly for compensation, observed, "The law is not always the same as justice."

 

Common sense also suggests that the top man is responsible for everything that happens in his company. If there is "no concept of vicarious liability" (citing Nariman), how could Keshub Mahindra, Union Carbide India's non-executive chairman, be convicted, no matter how frivolous the sentence? I was only following established practice when as editor I appeared before the West Bengal assembly's privileges committee and took the rap for a junior colleague's indiscretion.

 

Obama will be an honoured guest in November. But there is little reason to go overboard, and none to forget that no enduring strategic alliance can be based on injustice and inequality. India is still waiting for America.

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

 

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

FIRST EDIT

PLAIN TRUTHS

'THE LOKAYU-KTA MUST HAVE SUO MOTU POWERS.'

 

Justice Santosh Hedge has done a great service by speaking the truth while announcing his decision to prematurely quit as Karnataka Lokayukta. While sharing his helplessness, he has exposed the institution of Lokayukta as it has existed for the last 24 years as weak and powerless and cannot effectively discharge its function of fighting corruption and mal-administration in the government. Here was someone who wanted to drive the institution for the purpose for which it was created but found to his dismay that he cannot. The vested interests at every level of government have been so deeply entrenched that they would rather allow a Lokayukta like Justice Hegde to leave in frustration than dig their own graves by heeding to his pleas to strengthen the institution.

Probably, we would never have known the truth had Justice Hegde not gone public with his charge sheet against the government of the day. The political governments that preceded the present one headed by B S Yeddyurappa — and certainly, the bureaucracy — beneficiaries of a powerless Lokayukta. Otherwise, abuse of power would not have progressively worsened over the years. In the face of Justice Hegde's plain-speaking, citizenry has urged him to take back his resignation and fight from within. While one understands the sentiments behind such pleas, it is not really the way forward. At best Justice Hegde could have continued for another year. The civil society, on the other hand, must exert pressure on the government to address the issues that Justice Hegde has raised to strengthen the Lokayukta institution so that it is empowered enough to become an instrument of promoting good governance. It is important to amend the Lokayukta Act to ensure that the top posts of Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta never remain vacant. As Justice Hegde has pointed out, the Upa Lokayukta post has been vacant for over six months because of which it been unable to address over 9,000 pending public grievances. The Lokayukta must also have powers to initiate probe against erring officials suo motu and, most importantly, the power to prosecute thereafter.


Justice Hegde's resignation has put the incumbent BJP government in poor light. The government has an opportunity to redeem itself in public eyes. But that can happen only if it demonstrates enough courage and sincerity by addressing the substantive issues that the outgoing Lokayukta has raised to empower the institution. No purpose would be served by indulging in a blame-game.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

SECOND EDIT

CHANGE OF GUARD

'OBAMA HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO SACK THE GENERAL.'

 

US President Barack Obama's sacking of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the multinational forces in Afghanistan, was necessary although there is some concern that it could plunge counter-insurgency operations there into a bit of uncertainty. McChrystal has been fired not over issues of strategy but for challenging civilian authority. He and some of his senior aides had made some disparaging remarks about Obama, vice-president Joe Biden among others to a magazine. McChrystal's comments were not seriously offensive, prompting some to argue that Obama's response was excessive especially since the counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan are at a critical stage and losing the man commanding the forces there over the past year is not the best move. Still the US president was right in sacking him as the General's remarks undermine civilian control over the military, which lies at the heart of a democracy.


McChrystal will be missed on the ground in Afghanistan. It was under him that the US began implementing its surge strategy. But while the boots on the ground were increased, McChrystal ensured that they would leave a light footprint. Several major offensives were launched over the past year but he enforced rules to ensure greater protection for civilians. He was also working towards handing over more responsibility to the Afghans, besides ensuring limited harm to the civilians. It is said that he was more popular in Kabul than in Washington. Few generals in the world fighting in a hostile counter-insurgency environment can lay claim to this achievement.


The US government has said that its strategy in Afghanistan will remain the same. McChrystal is being succeeded by General David Petreaus, who was responsible for the turnaround in the situation in Iraq. Petreaus was the brain behind the surge strategy in Iraq, which McChrystal implemented in Afghanistan. So the transition need not be bumpy. However, whether he will get on well with Afghan president Hamid Karzai and be as sensitive to civilian protection as his predecessor remains to be seen. Petreaus is taking over the reins of a tough post at a difficult juncture. The White House will be hoping that he will repeat in Afghanistan the miracle he achieved in Iraq.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

HAIL THE CORRUPT!

BY RAMAKRISHNA UPADHYA


The CM had a chance to salvage his and his govern-ment's reputation if only he had responded positively to Lokayukta's anguish.

 

The sad and disturbing developments of the last 48 hours in Karnataka make one thing clear: that chief minister Yeddyurappa is either brazenly insensitive to a growing negative public perception of his government or he lacks the political acumen to 'manipulate' an adverse situation to his advantage.


No doubt, the sheer timing of Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde's stinging indictment of the government and resignation blew a deep hole in the Yeddyurappa government's second anniversary celebration plans and came as a huge embarrassment to the chief minister.


In these days and times, it's perhaps foolhardy to expect a chief minister to take a high moral ground, resign his post and seek re-election. But the least that Yeddyurappa could have done was to cancel a hollow celebration of the 'achievements' of his government and instead hold an introspection with his party colleagues on how best to restore the government's lost credibility, after it took the Lokayukta's Stinger missile hit.


When Yeddyurappa addressed a pre-arranged meeting with the media on Thursday, for over 45 minutes he went through the motions of reeling out his government's accomplishments over the last two years, interspersed with generous barbs at the opposition. But, he seemed to be aware that the media wasn't at all interested in that hogwash and their focus was on how he would defend himself against the Lokayukta's meticulously laid out charges.

Yeddyurappa had a six-page note in his hand which he read out, trying to answer the queries posed by the Lokayukta. He had some half-answers or some half-truths to defend his government's stand vis-a-vis the issues raised by Lokayukta, but none at all to key questions of large-scale looting of the state's resources and the government's disdainful attitude to rampant corruption — which were central to Justice Hegde's charge sheet spelt out the previous day.


Justice Hegde, a respected former supreme court judge, who had launched a relentless campaign against widespread corruption in the administration over the last four years and earned the admiration of the public for his work, had been careful enough not to attack the chief minister directly. Later, he clarified that he had not even named the Reddy brothers in any of his reports, as he did not want to take any names without adequate proof.

Thus, Yeddyurappa still had a chance to salvage his and his government's reputation if only he had responded positively to the Lokayukta's anguish by offering to speed up the hundreds of corruption cases pending against the officials. Short of giving the Lokayukta suo motu powers to take up investigations, he could have offered to empower the body to launch prosecution. It would have given the people some hope that the chief executive too was concerned about corruption and the government was not deliberately shielding the guilty.


Uncourteous
But, sadly, the chief minister was not only unwilling to address any of Lokayukta's main concerns, he was not even prepared to show the courtesy of asking the Lokayukta to reconsider his decision to resign. Yeddyurappa's cryptic 'thank you', dripping with sarcasm, to Justice Hegde, eloquently spoke of his sense of relief to see the back of the crusader against corruption.


If Yeddyurappa has time to sit back and think of the consequences of his reaction to Justice Hegde's exposure, he will realise the double whammy he himself has delivered to the image and reputation of his government: That corrupt officials have nothing to fear in Karnataka and in his scheme of things, honest ombudsman like Justice Hegde are easily dispensable.


Questions have been raised about Justice Hegde 'running away from the battle' or being 'hasty' in resigning when he still had 14 months to go. After all, he was a beacon of hope not only to fight corruption, but the way he helped the poor and the needy to find succour by using his office to goad an insensitive administration to act. There have also been comments that by leaving the office now, he would be 'letting down' those who worked with him.


But these are not fair assessments of a man, who apparently swallowed a lot of indignation to serve the institution he headed. He did put the fear of law in government officials as much as he could. He has probably revealed only 10 per cent of what he went through in the face of a determined administration out to thwart his efforts to clean up the system. He has made his choice and we should respect it. The fight against corruption cannot be carried on by just one Santosh Hegde and it is for civil society to apply pressure on the government to ensure that the legacy he is leaving behind is carried on.


The Lokayukta, with the help of forest officials like U V Singh and R Gokul had just unearthed one of the biggest scandals in mining history by tracking down and trapping 8.5 lakh tonnes of iron ore illegally stocked at Karwar and Belekeri ports. The Lokayukta has seized truckloads of documents and the value of this consignment alone is said to be around Rs 2,000 crore.


Meanwhile, 5 lakh tonnes of the seized material have quietly disappeared as if it was colourless vapour escaping into thin air. In this, both the state and customs officials at ports coming under the Central government, were equally culpable. But we have a chief minister who feigns as if it is some small change that has gone missing and doesn't need any strong action.

 

Justice Santosh Hegde has shown the way and it is for the others to carry his crusade forward.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN PERSPECTIVE

BHAJPA'S 'SWABHIMAN'

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH


When the RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat nominated Nitin Gadkari as head of the BJP, he made it clear that his top priority was to replace old leaders, specifically L K Advani, by getting younger men and women to take over leadership of the party and chalk out programmes more suited to needs of modern times.

 

 

However, at the recently concluded meeting of its executive, nothing seemed to have changed. Far from retiring from active politics, Advani continues to hold the centre stage. There is no sign of infusion of young blood.


The BJP has failed to win the confidence of the Muslims. Besides Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Najma Heptullah, neither of whom count for much, the only Muslim elected to parliament on a BJP ticket was missing from the meeting.
While the Congress has Rahul Gandhi, effectively building a mass following, all that Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun do is being counterfoils, only representing the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.


In the meeting Narendra Modi hogged the scene by his usual vituperative speech delivered in Bhojpuri — designed to win over hearts of Biharis and get even with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.


Except for the presence of Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP think tank comprising Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh were conspicuous by their absence. So windbags, noticeably Narendra Modi, had their way.


Since Sonia Gandhi's description of him as 'Maut ka Saudagar' — merchant of death — had stung him, Modi retaliated by holding her responsible for the deaths of thousands in the Carbide gas leak.


Apart from blaming the UPA government for bypassing states it rules, it accused it of not consulting state governments before appointing governors and chief justices of courts. To the best of my recollection, neither did the BJP when it was in power at the Centre.


I had looked forward to the BJP meet to focus on development programmes they had in mind. I was sorely disappointed that all it came out with carping criticism of the UPA's shortcoming in its eyes without spelling out what it would do to alleviate poverty and ignorance still widely prevalent in the country.


David Davidar

The news that David Davidar had been asked to quit as CEO, Penguin International, has been received with total disbelief by his Indian colleagues and everyone who knows him.


I have known him intimately from the time Penguin was set up in India. It was a business partnership of Penguin International, which held 60 per cent of the shares. The Sarkar family, owners of 'Amrit Bazar Patrika', 'The Telegraph' and a few Bengali magazines, owned the remaining 40 per cent. Davidar looked after the foreign interests and I was nominated by Aveek Sarkar to represent them. We started modestly in a three-room office in Delhi. During the first few months I met Davidar almost every other morning to discuss the pros and cons of manuscripts we received.


Slowly our business built up and in a few years Penguin-Viking (India) became the top publishing house in the country. The credit for this goes entirely to Davidar. Apart from deciding whether to accept or not to accept a manuscript, David used to advise authors how to make them more readable. He did so in the case of my novel 'Delhi: A Novel'. I carried out his suggestions and it made to the top of the best-sellers list in India for several weeks. When Vikram Seth wrote 'The Suitable Boy', he spent a few days with David to go over the manuscript: the novel made it to the top of best-sellers list in the world.


David was, and is, a tall athletic young man. Many young women fell for him. He never cashed in on their infatuation for him. Later, he was often seen in K D Singh's bookstore in Khan Market. His principal aim was not to find out how his publications were doing, but to have a chit-chat with KD's pretty daughter Rachna who ran the bookstore. They fell in love.


Rachna was not Christian but a Sikh divorcee. Nevertheless, David married her and was ostracised by his parents. It was a happy union. David was promoted to a higher post and the couple migrated to Canada in 2003.


Apart from being recognised as the best publishing house manager, David wrote two novels: 'The House of Blue Mangoes' and 'The Solitude of Emperors', both of which sold well. Everytime he visited Delhi, he spent an evening with me. Also, brought me a bottle of Tullamore Dew. He gave up drinking a few years ago.


At 52, Davidar is still as handsome as ever. The woman who has accused him of molesting her was working under him. He fired her for incompetence. She has accused him of bad behaviour at the Frankfurt Book Festival. It sounds like lot of poppy-cock. It appears to be a successful attempt to blackmail him. No one who knows David will believe a word of it. David's rapid rise must have caused a lot of heart-burning among those he superseded. I would also not rule out racial prejudice in victimising him.


Art NouveauThere is an art


To release a fart

At the National Gallery

of Modern Art!


(Contributed by A K Mital, Delhi)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

KINDNESS OF A STRANGER

BY SRABANI MUKHOPDHYAY


Every individual can make a difference. Alone.

 

The other day I saw a young school girl being harassed by a drunken bus conductor, in full public view. I protested with indignation and outrage at the gross violation of a young girl's right to a safe environment. She was a soft target who could not fight back. I lent my support with an angry reprimand threatening to report to his higher-ups if he repeated his offence. At least his lewd attempts were thwarted that day. Call it taking up cudgels for a hapless child, or fighting for the dignity of an innocent victim. But there was much more.

My loud protestations reminded me of a similar incident a long time ago. Perhaps my reaction to this incident was repaying a debt to a total stranger whose act of kindness I could not reciprocate with the two magic words. A warm glow still fills my heart when I recall that hot, humid morning when I encountered the kindness of a stranger.
I remember the day with mixed feelings. Years ago, hurrying down a busy sidewalk towards my college I was accosted by a molester. Having inflicted his ugly power, the coward was about to slink away when an eyewitness accosted him with an angry reprimand. The gentleman was walking just behind me. He had no shining armour; there was nothing to distinguish him from the rest of the crowd. He saw the violation of a lady's dignity and he protested. The perpetrator of the violent act was aggressive and self-righteous. He was confrontational. The gentleman refused to budge. He blocked the burly offender's way and demanded an explanation for his offensive behaviour. In reply he got a 'mind your own business' and a menacing step towards him. I tried to intervene on behalf of the lone Samaritan but the crowd of curious onlookers got in the way. I was forced to walk away. There were college timings and punctuality issues to deal with. I don't know if he learnt a lesson that day but hopefully it was a deterrence. The perpetrator could not get away.


I could not thank him then, the only way I could offer my gratitude was by doing the same that a total stranger had done and stand by an innocent victim to offer resistance to the offender without caring for the consequences. An important lesson I carried away that day. Every individual can make a difference. Alone.

 

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

EDITORIAL

FULL DISCLOSURE

 

Americans vote in secret, but they expect most other significant political acts to take place in the sunshine, from passing laws to making campaign donations. Anonymity in those areas is inimical to a robust democracy, and the Supreme Court was right on Thursday to rule that there is no constitutional right to hide in the shadows when signing a referendum petition.

 

The case involved an attempt last year to repeal Washington State's domestic partnership law, which gave most of the benefits of marriage to same-sex partners. More than 137,000 people signed petitions for a referendum to repeal the law, enough to make it on the ballot. Several groups that supported the law asked the state for the names of those who signed the petitions, using the state's open government act, and said that they planned to post the names on the Internet in a searchable format. (The repeal effort later failed.)

 

James Bopp Jr., the Indiana lawyer whose opposition to campaign finance and disclosure laws brought us the Citizens United case, filed a lawsuit on behalf of several petition-signers, saying the open government act violated the First Amendment rights of the signers. Disclosure of the names, he said, would lead to the social ostracism of the signers, as well as harassment and death threats, though he presented no evidence of this.

 

The court, in an opinion from which only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, sharply rebuffed Mr. Bopp, saying that, in general, the disclosure of names was legal to preserve the integrity of the referendum system. Disclosure is useful in combating fraud, the justices said, detecting invalid signatures and fostering government accountability.

 

This line of thinking follows directly from the Citizens United decision earlier this year, in which the court unleashed corporations to pollute the political environment with unlimited spending but at least allowed full disclosure of those expenditures. "Disclosure requirements may burden the ability to speak," Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote for the court on Thursday, quoting the Citizens United decision, but "do not prevent anyone from speaking."

 

In a concession to Mr. Bopp's argument, the court said there may be limited times when specific circumstances call for shielding the names of petition-signers, and said the lower courts could determine when to do so. Fortunately, at least five justices made it clear that they did not believe that was true in this case. To paraphrase Justice John Paul Stevens's concurrence: show us some actual evidence that a citizen really faces danger in signing a petition. Until then, the sun can shine.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHAT IS ALBANY DOING?

 

Gov. David Paterson of New York has promised to resolve the state's budget battle by Monday midnight. Legislators need to pass the budget, but there's a lot of other unfinished business. Here are some of the items they must attend to before going home to ask voters to re-elect them to the jobs they have done so badly:

 

ETHICS REFORM Legislators have been playing their usual games: proposing "fixes" that would really maintain the corrupt and sordid status quo. There is a slim hope that the Senate will pass a bill to reform the state's rotten campaign finance system, ramping up enforcement for violations and requiring more detail about who is giving how much. The Assembly is tinkering with similar reforms. This needs to move forward now.

 

MODERNIZING THE BUDGET PROCESS State lawmakers must bring their opaque, dysfunctional budgeting process into the rational world: creating a trusted, nonpartisan budget office; shifting the fiscal year from April 1 to July 1 to make it easier to assess tax revenues; finally adopting approved accounting principles.

 

HYDRAULIC FRACTURING Lawmakers should agree to a one-year moratorium on new permits for drilling that uses water and chemicals to blast natural gas out of rocks. That would give experts more time to make certain that drilling does not contaminate water supplies.

 

OTHER KEY BILLS PENDING The Senate has passed a no-fault divorce bill that would end the outdated requirement that spouses accuse each other of abuse, or worse, in order to divorce. Assembly leaders, including Speaker Sheldon Silver, are satisfying divorce lawyers and some church leaders by resisting.

The Assembly has passed an anticrime bill requiring that new semiautomatic pistols sold in New York State have technology that stamps tiny identification markings on bullets. That would allow police officers to quickly match empty casings found at crime scenes to the weapons that fired them. The Senate needs to act.

 

Both chambers have passed bills that would finally give domestic workers the basic rights to time off and sick leave. Legislative leaders need to reconcile them and get this vital legislation through.

 

This list is by no means complete. Just looking at it, New York's voters have to ask: What have lawmakers been doing since January?

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

WHAT THE GULF CAN'T AFFORD

 

In late May, with a broken pipe spewing tens of thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama imposed a six-month moratorium on new deep-water drilling in the gulf and suspended operations at 33 exploratory deep-water wells. These were common-sense moves — a timeout while a presidential commission figured out why the disaster occurred and recommended ways to prevent future calamities.

 

Responding to industry complaints, Martin Feldman, a United States District Court judge in New Orleans, overturned the order. The judge, who owns stock in oil-related companies, described oil and gas drilling as "elemental" to gulf communities and said he was certain a higher court would find the moratorium "arbitrary and capricious."

 

The White House has promised a quick appeal, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has offered to provide additional information to show why the moratorium is necessary. The justification should be self-evident. One calamity at a time is more than enough.

 

Until the Deepwater Horizon accident, industry insisted that the chances of a big blowout were vanishingly small and that, if one did happen, it could quickly respond. We now know that this was flatly untrue; even BP has since conceded that it did not have the "tool kit" to stop the spill or even contain it.

 

Sadly enough, there were plenty of reasons to worry even before the spill. As an investigation in The Times made clear, the device the industry called its last line of defense — the blowout preventer — had failed before, and had never been rigorously tested in deep, cold water.

 

The report from the presidential commission may not be ready until the end of the year. But William K. Reilly, one of the two chairmen of the commission, said this week that he would not recommend lifting the moratorium until he was satisfied that the industry had agreed to adopt safer drilling techniques and that the administration had reformed and strengthened the federal agencies charged with policing offshore drilling.

 

On Wednesday, the Interior Department established a new investigative unit to examine conflicts of interest within the oil industry's chief regulator, the Minerals Management Service (recently renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy). The service has been too chummy with industry, and its lax regulation may have contributed to the Deepwater Horizon spill.

 

The Times investigation added chilling new details on its failure to do its job. Agency officials ignored their own studies about the perils of deep-water drilling, and in some cases their own rules, by giving BP drilling permits without insisting on proof that its backup systems would work at 5,000-foot depths.

 

The pressure to resume deep-water drilling is not going away, even if Judge Feldman's ruling is overturned on appeal. It must be resisted. BP's $20 billion escrow fund — plus a special $100 million account designed specifically to help oil workers — should relieve some of the region's economic stress. But if there is one lesson above all from this disaster, it is that business cannot continue as usual. The economic interests of the oil industry cannot be allowed to trump the long-term health of the gulf and the jobs and the lives that depend on it.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO LEAD

 

When the global financial system was teetering on the brink, the world's leading economies worked together to head off the worst. In coordinated moves, they pumped capital into their banks, guaranteed loans and set up emergency financing for countries sideswiped by the crisis. A few months later, they committed to spend whatever was needed to avoid a global depression.

 

The mood will be very different when the leaders of the Group of 8 and Group of 20 richest nations meet in Canada this weekend. The sense of fear has waned, and many politicians — and voters — have decided that it is time to cut deficits. That may sound good, but it isn't.

 

If everyone slashes budgets at once, it could well tip the world back into a deep recession. If everybody tries to export their way out of their internal slumps, it could compound that problem by unleashing a damaging new round of trade protectionism. The recession already has become an excuse to shirk promises made to the poor. Five years ago, leaders of the G-8 and other wealthy nations promised to increase aid by $50 billion in five years. They are $18 billion short. That isn't just a failure of generosity. Alleviating poverty promotes stability, weakens the appeal of terrorism and helps growth.

 

The biggest risk is the scramble by so many governments to unwind fiscal stimulus in favor of deficit reduction. Spain and Greece may have little choice if they hope to draw back panicked investors. Even countries with strong economies, like Germany, are determined to slash spending. Britain's new government has just pledged to cut its deficit from around 10 percent to about 1 percent of gross national product over five years. That is too soon and too fast and risks worsening and prolonging the country's economic slump.

 

The United States is barely doing better. President Obama is expected to press other countries with the wherewithal to keep spending until their economies, and the global economy, are stronger. Back in Washington, however, he hasn't been able to persuade Congress to move ahead with his own modest stimulus agenda. This week, the Senate failed again to extend unemployment insurance for hundreds of thousands of workers.

 

President Obama needs to issue a clear warning at this weekend's meetings: The crisis isn't over, and the world's economies need to keep working together. He will have a lot more credibility if he pledges to fight harder for his own stimulus policies when he gets home.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

WORSE THAN A NIGHTMARE

BY BOB HERBERT

 

President Obama can be applauded for his decisiveness in dispatching the chronically insubordinate Stanley McChrystal, but we are still left with a disaster of a war in Afghanistan that cannot be won and that the country as a whole will not support.

 

No one in official Washington is leveling with the public about what is really going on. We hear a lot about counterinsurgency, the latest hot cocktail-hour topic among the BlackBerry-thumbing crowd. But there is no evidence at all that counterinsurgency will work in Afghanistan. It's not working now. And even if we managed to put all the proper pieces together, the fiercest counterinsurgency advocates in the military will tell you that something on the order of 10 to 15 years of hard effort would be required for this strategy to bear significant fruit.

 

We've been in Afghanistan for nearly a decade already. It's one of the most corrupt places on the planet and the epicenter of global opium production. Our ostensible ally, President Hamid Karzai, is convinced that the U.S. cannot prevail in the war and is in hot pursuit of his own deal with the enemy Taliban. The American public gave up on the war long ago, and it is not at all clear that President Obama's heart is really in it.

 

For us to even consider several more years of fighting and dying in Afghanistan — at a cost of heaven knows how many more billions of American taxpayer dollars — is demented.

 

Those who are so fascinated with counterinsurgency, from its chief advocate, Gen. David Petraeus, all the way down to the cocktail-hour kibitzers inside the Beltway, seem to have lost sight of a fundamental aspect of warfare: You don't go to war half-stepping. You go to war to crush the enemy. You do this ferociously and as quickly as possible. If you don't want to do it, if you have qualms about it, or don't know how to do it, don't go to war.

 

The men who stormed the beaches at Normandy weren't trying to win the hearts and minds of anyone.

 

In Afghanistan, we are playing a dangerous, half-hearted game in which President Obama tells the America people that this is a war of necessity and that he will do whatever is necessary to succeed. Then, with the very next breath, he soothingly assures us that the withdrawal of U.S. troops will begin on schedule, like a Greyhound leaving the terminal, a year from now.

 

Both cannot be true.

 

What is true is that we aren't even fighting as hard as we can right now. The counterinsurgency crowd doesn't want to whack the enemy too hard because of an understandable fear that too many civilian casualties will undermine the "hearts and minds" and nation-building components of the strategy. Among the downsides of this battlefield caution is a disturbing unwillingness to give our own combat troops the supportive airstrikes and artillery cover that they feel is needed.

 

In an article this week, The Times quoted a U.S. Army sergeant in southern Afghanistan who was unhappy with the real-world effects of counterinsurgency. "I wish we had generals who remembered what it was like when they were down in a platoon," he said. "Either they never have been in real fighting, or they forgot what it's like."

 

In the Rolling Stone article that led to General McChrystal's ouster, reporter Michael Hastings wrote about the backlash that counterinsurgency restraints had provoked among the general's own troops. Many feel that "being told to hold their fire" increases their vulnerability. A former Special Forces operator, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, said of General McChrystal, according to Mr. Hastings, "His rules of engagement put soldiers' lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing."

 

We are sinking more and more deeply into the fetid quagmire of Afghanistan and neither the president nor General Petraeus nor anyone else has the slightest clue about how to get out. The counterinsurgency zealots in the military want more troops sent to Afghanistan, and they want the president to completely scrap his already shaky July 2011 timetable for the beginning of a withdrawal.

 

We're like a compulsive gambler plunging ever more deeply into debt in order to wager on a rigged game. There is no victory to be had in Afghanistan, only grief. We're bulldozing Detroit while at the same time trying to establish model metropolises in Kabul and Kandahar. We're spending endless billions on this wretched war but can't extend the unemployment benefits of Americans suffering from the wretched economy here at home.

 

The difference between this and a nightmare is that when you wake up from a nightmare it's over. This is all too tragically real.

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

TAKE THE LONG VIEW

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

 

This was the week that Democrats cried and Republicans cackled.

 

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey released this week was chock-full of bad news for the left. More people disapproved of President Obama's job performance than approved of it. And the percentage of Americans who thought that the country was headed in the wrong direction topped 60 percent for the first time since the Bush years.

 

According to a Gallup poll released on Friday, the percentage of Americans who identified themselves as conservatives rose to 42 percent. As the report noted, "Should that figure hold for all of 2010, it would represent the highest annual percentage identifying as conservative in Gallup's history of measuring ideology with this wording, dating to 1992." For the record, the percentage identifying as liberals fell to 20 percent.

 

There are many factors contributing to these polls.

 

From the very beginning, the far right assailed this president with calumnious attacks. He was both a craven defender of the country and its borders and a crazed tax-and-spend liberal hell-bent on growing the government and destroying our democracy, one death panel at a time. It seems to have stuck.

 

At the same time, Republican lawmakers latched on to the word "no" like temperamental 2-year-olds. Their strategy: dictate by stalemate. It worked.

 

Add to that a laundry list of other factors: Obama has been an abysmal salesman; Americans' patience has the lifespan of a fruit fly; we are still mired in two intractable wars; the economy has yet to turn the corner; anxiety is mounting over ballooning deficits; and oil is still gushing into the gulf.

 

Taken together, you get a growing sense that things are falling apart on the Democrats' watch.

 

That's the short-term view. Now consider the long view: This is in large part a frightened, angry reflex, fed by a devastating recession. But like the recession, it's also temporary. When conditions improve, Republicans will still have to face an underlying reality: that this is the twilight of their rigid, empty ideology, particularly as it relates to social issues. They must change or wither.

 

A new paper entitled "Demographic Change and the Future of the Parties," by Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a progressive think tank, lays bare the long-term problems facing the Republican Party. In short, the country is becoming more diverse, more educated and less religious — all bad news for Republicans. And at a time when they should be moving closer to the middle, the Tea Party is dragging them farther right and over a cliff.

 

Regardless of the current disenchantment and the venting we're likely to see in November, the larger trends look ominous for the right, not the left. The right knows it, too. In fact, if you listen closely, between the "hell no's" and "you lie's," you can hear the pall of despair falling over them.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE AGE OF NANCY

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

Let us sing a song about the wonderfulness of Nancy Pelosi.

 

What a run she's been on. This week — with the big financial reform package edging toward completion, and the House approving a major campaign finance reform bill — was a reminder of what an incredibly productive speaker she's become.

 

Last winter, when Washington was backing away from the whole health care deal after the Republicans won Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, Pelosi was uncowed. "We'll go through the gate. If the gate's closed, we'll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we'll pole vault in," she said. "If that doesn't work, we'll parachute in. But we're going to get health care reform passed for the American people."

 

I sort of like the image of Nancy Pelosi parachuting in. Would she wear her high heels? Probably not, but her hair would still look as if it had been blow-dried by a stylist on the way out of the airplane.

 

She's a 70-year-old perpetual motion machine who seems, in her public appearances, both ultra-programmed and ultra-intense. Many Americans were first introduced to her when the new speaker sat behind President Bush at his State of the Union speech in 2007, blinking so ferociously that she seemed to be sending out Morse code distress calls from the back of the podium.

 

In conversation, she's a runaway train. Talking about global warming in an interview last week, she warned: "You don't want me to go into the melting of the polar cap and the glaciers and the great rivers of Southeast Asia and the water supply in Tibet and the encroachment of the Gobi Desert and the sandstorms in Beijing and the rise of sea level in all of our maritime areas in the world and. ... I would just recommend you go to Alaska to see what is happening."

 

The Republicans have turned Pelosi into the Demon Grandmother — in ads, a satanic figure in the flames of deficit spending, or a 50-foot monster smashing houses with her big-government feet. (She seems utterly indifferent to the endless public pummeling — although she did express some dismay, in an interview with The Times's Mark Leibovich, that people had been speculating that she might have had a face-lift.)

 

But even the public that likes the legislation she's been churning out tends to underestimate her.

 

Maybe that's because she came up through the ranks of the California Democratic Party, and then the House, with a reputation as a prodigious fund-raiser. It's an idea Pelosi herself isn't comfortable with. She rejects the description of her early party-building activities as being about raising money. "I wasn't a fund-raiser. I was like a small businesswoman," she protested.

 

She is, at any rate, a person who combines the high ideals of politics with a sure grasp of the very practical realities. Some progressives will never forgive Pelosi for caving in to the anti-abortion forces during the health care negotiations or for giving the National Rifle Association an exemption in the new campaign finance legislation. But the real world has limits, and one of them is that there will never be a major bill to emerge from the House of Representatives that doesn't have something regrettable in it.

 

Pelosi has actually been very good on ethics. Under her watch in the House, earmarks are fewer and more transparent. Travel rules are tighter. She fought for the creation of a new in-house watchdog, the Office of Congressional Ethics, pushing it over the wire by one vote. Since then, the aggressive ethics office has won the rancor of investigated members of Congress and the hearts of good-government groups.

 

"She bit the bullet," said Sarah Dufendach, the vice president for legislative affairs at Common Cause. "That was a very heavy lift, to get the House to do that. I give her really high marks for that."

 

Of all the good deeds for which people get punished in Washington, pushing ethics has to be at the top of the list. Your own members resent it, and the public doesn't really give you any credit. It's not likely that people will go to the polls in November and vote Democratic because the House, although still deeply, deeply imperfect, is run with a higher ethical standard than it was before Pelosi got control.

 

She has been around a long time and must have known that from the start. But she pushed anyway. Pelosi is an idealist working in the practical now. She genuinely sees her party as a vehicle for good and her pragmatism is not the least bit cynical. She is the most powerful woman in the country, the most fearless person on Capitol Hill and on track to be one of the most productive speakers in history.

 

I don't know about you, but that kind of knocks me out.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

FIGHTING CRIME WHERE THE CRIMINALS ARE

BY HEATHER MAC DONALD

 

THERE was a predictable chorus of criticism from civil rights groups last month when the New York Police Department released its data on stop-and-frisk interactions for 2009. The department made 575,000 pedestrian stops last year. Fifty-five percent involved blacks, even though blacks are only 23 percent of the city's population. Whites, by contrast, were involved in 10 percent of all stops, though they make up 35 percent of the city's population.

 

According to the department's critics, that imbalance in stop rates results from officers' racial bias. The use of these stops, they say, should be sharply curtailed, if not eliminated entirely, and some activists are suing the department to achieve that end.

 

Allegations of racial bias, however, ignore the most important factor governing the Police Department's operations: crime. Trends in criminal acts, not census data, drive everything that the department does, thanks to the statistics-based managerial revolution known as CompStat. Given the patterns of crime in New York, it is inevitable that stop rates will not mirror the city's ethnic and racial breakdown.

 

CompStat embodies the iconoclastic idea that the police can stop violence before it happens. The department analyzes victim reports daily, and deploys additional manpower to the places where crime is increasing. Once at a crime hot spot, officers are expected to look out for, and respond to, suspicious behavior.

 

Such stops happen more frequently in minority neighborhoods because that is where the vast majority of violent crime occurs — and thus where police presence is most intense. Based on reports filed by victims, blacks committed 66 percent of all violent crime in New York in 2009, including 80 percent of shootings and 71 percent of robberies. Blacks and Hispanics together accounted for 98 percent of reported gun assaults. And the vast majority of the victims of violent crime were also members of minority groups.

 

Non-Hispanic whites, on the other hand, committed 5 percent of the city's violent crimes in 2009, 1.4 percent of all shootings and less than 5 percent of all robberies.

 

Given these facts, the Police Department cannot direct its resources where they are most needed without generating racially disproportionate stop data, even though the department's tactics themselves are colorblind. The per capita rate of shootings in the 73rd Precinct — which covers Brooklyn's largely black Ocean Hill and Brownsville neighborhoods — is 81 times higher than in the 68th Precinct in largely white Bay Ridge. Not surprisingly, the per capita stop rate in the 73rd Precinct is 15 times higher than that in the 68th.

 

Crime rates are not the only thing that drives police strategy — so do requests for assistance from communities besieged by lawlessness. If residents of an apartment building ask their precinct commander to eliminate the drug dealing on their street, officers will likely question people hanging out around the building and step up their enforcement of quality-of-life laws, resulting in more stops. Requests for crackdowns on street sales come far more frequently from minority neighborhoods, because that is where most open-air drug dealing occurs.

 

Some critics charge that the more than half a million stops last year indicate that the department is out of control. But the ratios of stops to population and of stops to total arrests in New York are very close to those in Los Angeles, where last summer a judge lifted a federal consent decree under which the police department had operated for the last eight years. The police stop data in Los Angeles are as racially disproportionate as New York's, yet the judge deemed them consistent with civil rights.

 

For several years, the ratio of stops in New York that resulted in an arrest or summons — about 12 percent of the total — was identical for whites, blacks and Hispanics, suggesting that the police use the same measure of reasonable suspicion in stopping members of different racial and ethnic groups. Just because a stop does not result in an arrest or summons does not mean that it did not interrupt a crime. Someone who is casing a victim or acting as a lookout may not have inculpatory evidence on him on which to base an arrest.

 

No public policy change of the last quarter-century has done as much for the city's poor and minority neighborhoods as CompStat policing. More than 10,000 black and Hispanic males are alive today who would have been killed had homicide rates remained at the levels of the early 1990s.

 

Most minority-group members in the city recognize the enormous benefit from CompStat policing. A poll released last month by Quinnipiac University found that 68 percent of black respondents approve of the job Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is doing, suggesting that the city's civil rights activists do not speak for their purported beneficiaries on this issue.

 

The attack on the Police Department's stop-and-frisk data is based on the false premise that police activity should mirror census data, not crime. If the critics get their way, it would strip police protection from the New Yorkers who need it most.

 

Heather Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of "Are Cops Racist?"

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

FINANCIAL REFORM ON TAP

 

Congress certainly hasn't rushed to pass financial reform. It's been nearly two years since the financial implosion that came close to throwing the world into a global recession. Still, it took an all-night negotiations marathon that finally ended after 5 a.m. Friday to push a bill through a House-Senate conference committee that will help reduce -- but not clearly prevent -- a similar crisis in the future.

 

The bill reconciled separate Senate and House versions in each chamber's conference vote, but did so only on affirmative votes by their Democratic majorities. The Party of No uniformly opposed the final bill. Senate conferees passed the measure by a 7-5 margin; House conferees by 20-11.

 

If the bill is ultimately adopted by the Senate, where filibuster-prone Republicans could still block it, it would do some very good things. Among the foremost measures, it would restrict market trading by banks for their own benefit, and would require them to segregate their and their parent companies' restricted trading activities under separately funded subsidiaries.

 

To protect average consumers, it would create a powerful, independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency, to be housed under the Federal Reserve. The agency would be headed by a single director, and authorized to make and enforce its own rules over a raft of often abusive consumer credit industries that presently are loosely regulated, if at all, by a variety of federal agencies and state governments.

 

The banking lobby had fiercely opposed the so-called Volcker Rule. The strict interpretation of the rule would have banned banks from using their own money to gamble in often lucrative derivatives trading, and would have forced banks to sell off their hedge funds and private equity groups.

 

Lobbyists made some inroads with members of congress, but not as much as was originally feared. Though the final bill would allow banks to continue trading under segregated subsidiaries, it would limit their investments in hedge funds and private equity funds to no more than three percent of a fund's capital, no more than three percent of a bank's tangible equity.

 

Critics contend that's not an onerous restriction, because banks usually do not invest more than three percent in such funds. They also argue that the bill doesn't address the "too-big-too-fail" problem posed by the financial titans. Yet the Volcker Rule's provisions limiting trading in banks that have federal insured deposits is likely to mitigate the too-big-too-fail risks to the public. The bill would, moreover, end banks' use of low-cost funds provided to insured depositories to subsidize high-risk investments.

 

That reform would not represent a return to the bright line division between commercial banks and investment banks that used to apply under the Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed a decade ago. But it would help differentiate the trading activity of commercial banks from the big Wall Street firms, like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which traditionally trade heavily out of their own accounts.

 

Banks, to be sure, are bound to seek new investment vehicles to evade the new rules, but the new bill at least makes a provision that is intended to follow-up on the impact of the bill among financial advisers stock brokers. It would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to report within six months of the bill's enactment on the effectiveness of rules requiring financial advisers to act in their clients' best interest, and to divulge the benefits and compensation they receive from investments they recommend. The SEC may, and should, require similar higher fiduciary standards for stock brokers.

 

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency will broadly benefit American consumers in a range of areas. It will be able to write and enforce fair and transparent rules and maximum fees for most banks, credit unions, credit-card companies, pay-day lenders, mortgage lenders and student loan companies.

 

Though the auto-industry won an unfair exemption from inclusion under the agency's umbrella, it will also be subject to more scrutiny for abusive and bait-and-swap credit tactics.

 

The legislation is by no means complete. It retreats, for example, from regulation of equity-indexed annuities, which many seniors are conned into buying through deceptive marketing techniques. But it does represent a huge leap forward in restricting the banking and credit industries worst abuses. If just a few Republicans will acknowledge its long-sought value, it should become law.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

NO GOP HEART FOR THE JOBLESS

 

When Republicans use fear of adding to the federal deficit to excuse denial of extended jobless benefits to laid-off American workers who yet cannot find a new job, that shows where their heart lies. Had the topic been tax cuts for business to stimulate jobs, they would have rushed to adopt such a measure, even without a pay-as-you-go offset, and even though it would also expand the deficit. But helping jobless workers buy bread and pay rent and utilities while they continue to look for work? Not.

 

They proved their disregard for the plight of workers again on Thursday by mounting a filibuster to defeat a Senate bill that would have extended aid to 1.3 million laid-off workers, whose benefits ran out yesterday. To break the GOP filibuster, Democrats needed a 60-vote margin. Republicans voting in lockstep, and joined by maverick Nebraska's Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, held Democrats to 57 votes, against their filibuster margin of 41 votes.

 

The vote Thursday was the third defeat of the bill to extend unemployment. Absent a sign that Republicans would relent and support the measure, Senate Majority Harry Reid said he wouldn't bring it up again.

 

The Republican logic for defeating extended unemployment aid escapes us. With minimal unemployment benefits, laid-off workers can at least buy some basic necessities for their families while they keep searching for jobs. That means that dollars for unemployment aid keep circulating in the economy through payments for basic food stables, utilities and housing. With additional unemployment aid, many jobless Americans could also prevent being ejected from their homes and apartments, also alleviating the need for public safety-net costs.

 

Indeed, unemployment dollars help prop up consumer demand and thus help other people keep their jobs. When their unemployment funds are chopped off, that valuable turnover spending evaporates, leaving both the economy and laid-off workers in more dire straits, with the latter needing more public aid, and even more jobless workers added to the list of unemployed.

 

Republicans' hard-right turn over the last year against stimulus spending and unemployment assistance reflects the kind of myopic economic approach that may well kill the emerging recovery. Manufacturing orders and jobs are up, but unemployment remains high. The only way it will come down is by working Americans regaining their optimism and contributing to consumer spending. If Republicans can't see the connection, and approve extensions of such basic necessities as unemployment assistance, they will nip the recovery in the bud -- and provide a repeat of their role in furthering the Great Depression.

 

They were told then that premature focus on the federal debt would sink the economy before it had time to heat up and gain sustainable momentum. But they choose to squeeze stimulative spending while their own earlier, more negligent actions were bogging down the economy. Thus they wrecked the 1937 recovery, and it took World War II to right the economy. History now isn't on their side, but they still remain opposed to letting a recovery take shape -- and threaten to wreck it.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

ALSTOM'S 'CLEAN POWER' JOBS

 

With huge quantities of oil unfortunately escaping from a well in the Gulf of Mexico, with pollution problems involved in the mining and use of coal, and with U.S. and worldwide demands for the generation of more power, our Chattanooga area is most fortunate that Alstom Power is investing $300 million and adding 350 jobs to the 600 it already has here -- emphasizing a strategy of "clean power."

 

Alstom's numerous Chattanooga employees will be building steam turbines, turbo-generators and related equipment for fossil fuel and nuclear power generation.

 

Half of the power plants in the United States have Alstom equipment. Alstom's products are applicable to nuclear, hydro, natural gas, coal and wind applications, with solutions for the reduction of pollutants.

 

We are glad that the expansion of Alstom's Chattanooga operations will result in great benefits through additional jobs for our people and a huge boost to the local economy, and that it will provide needed products for power generation worldwide

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

HOME SALES AND 'FREE MONEY'

 

When the market for a particular good or service is weak, that is an indication that many consumers are not willing to pay the price being charged for that good or service. That encourages businesses to manufacture the good or provide the service more efficiently so they can reduce prices and attract consumers.

 

At least that's how it works when government doesn't interfere.

 

But more than two years ago, with home sales flagging, Congress enacted a law to give thousands of dollars' worth of tax credits to people who buy homes. That credit came at the expense of the far higher number of taxpayers who were not going to buy a home and thus could not get the credit. It also added billions to our $13 trillion national debt.

 

The idea behind the tax credit was that it would motivate Americans to buy more homes and would "get the economy moving." And for a time, the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers and $6,500 credit for existing homeowners who buy did boost the market some.

 

But all that "free money" has finally come to a halt with the end of the tax credit in late April. And not surprisingly, the housing market has taken an alarming dive.

 

In the 47 years that the federal government has been tracking sales of new homes, the market has never been this bad. Sales fell a stunning 33 percent in May, just after the credit ended.

 

"This decline takes your breath away," one housing analyst told The Associated Press.

 

Even government "insiders" are deeply concerned about the housing market, and admit that the government credits have not "fixed things."

 

Housing is "a market purely on life support, sustained by the federal government," Federal Housing Administration Commissioner David Stevens said at a conference in May.

 

That is contrary to how our free market is supposed to work -- and that's the problem. Government can temporarily create the illusion of market demand for something -- such as housing or ethanol or government-run rail service -- by subsidizing it with tax dollars. But all too often, when the "free money" runs out, the supposed market dries up, because the true cost of that "something" becomes apparent.

 

The latest housing figures are direct proof of that. And yet, does anyone doubt that very soon some in Congress will be calling for the housing tax credit to be renewed -- at great new expense to taxpayers -- to "boost the market" again?

 

The credit never should have been approved in the first place, and it certainly shouldn't be renewed.

 

Academy alum raises the bar at Carson-Newman***************************************


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

PRIVATE VS. PUBLIC PAY GAP

 

USA Today reported a startling statistic recently, based on an analysis of data from the federal government.

"Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year," the newspaper reported. "At the same time, government-provided benefits -- from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs -- rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010."

 

The article added, "The result is a major shift in the source of personal income from private wages to government programs."

 

Here are some hard figures from USA Today's analysis, which ought to be alarming to those who are concerned about the United States' economic future:

 

* Less than 42 percent of personal income in America in the first quarter of this year was from private wages and salaries. That is a record low, and it is down 2.7 percent just since late 2007.

 

* Meanwhile, a variety of government programs provided almost 18 percent of individual income in the first quarter. That is up 3.7 percent since late 2007. Taxpayer-funded wages for government workers are also rising fast, as much of the $862 billion "stimulus" has gone to prop up government bureaucracy while private-sector workers have been laid off in droves.

 

Those numbers are deeply disturbing, because government cannot produce wealth and income. It can only give out what it takes in from the productive private sector in taxes, fees and such. More government spending is exactly the opposite of what our faltering economy needs.

 

As USA Today noted, those income trends can't be sustained, because "The federal government depends on private wages to generate income taxes to pay for its ever-more-expensive programs. Government-generated income is taxed at lower rates or not at all ... ."

 

Our people are looking too often to government as the source of everything from health care to wages. But government only shuffles wealth around. It can't produce it. We will face economic catastrophe if we do not reduce the size of government and restore it to its proper constitutional functions.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

GEN. PETRAEUS IN THE 'BRIER PATCH'

 

There are many old Joel Chandler Harris stories about "Uncle Remus" and "Br'er Rabbit." Are today's children familiar with them?

 

Well, once when Br'er Rabbit was caught in Uncle Remus' garden, Br'er Rabbit pleaded "not to be thrown in the brier patch."

 

His wily strategy, of course, was that, as a rabbit, he would be quite at home and comfortable in the "brier patch."

 

We thought of that story in connection with the assignment this week of Gen. David Petraeus to command American troops in the very troublesome "brier patch" of Afghanistan.

 

Gen. Petraeus didn't "ask" for that assignment, but as a professional soldier of broad experience, he seems to be just the right man to be thrown into the Afghanistan brier patch.

 

The general must try to support a dysfunctional government, in a dysfunctional country, that is divided into warring political factions. He must try to defeat vicious enemies, stabilize the country and avoid bad international consequences.

 

The general willingly, like Br'er Rabbit, even eagerly, accepted the challenge. We wish him, our American troops there, the Afghan people and all Americans well in seeking a happy -- or at least not a negative -- ending to this real-life story.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

BRING YOUR CARING HUSBAND INSTEAD OF YOUR NANNY ON HOLIDAY

BARÇIN YİNANÇ

 

An article by journalist Sibel Arna, about her impressions of a vacation with her 9-month-old son, has provoked one of the most heated debates in the Turkish press. Arna, who usually is known for her articles on fashion, has started to write about her experiences after giving birth.

 

The article that has led to heavy storms of criticism in the press was about her experience of a boat trip she took with her son. From what she tells us we understand that she took what is known in Turkey as a "blue voyage." She and her friends took a seven-day boat trip on the Aegean, accompanied by her son and his nanny.

 

The first half of the article is about the difficulties she faced: that every time she wanted to swim, her son would start crying, that the whole day would revolve around chasing the baby who was crawling around on the ship and that she also had to worry about his food, etc.

 

Then in the second half, she complained about the nanny's attitude. Basically she illustrated her frustration about what she calls the nanny's wish to enjoy a holiday as well, instead of watching a baby. "After going to Göcek, Rhodes and Simi, our nanny has changed. Despite the fact that she does not know how to swim, she kept talking about her wish to swim as well. She kept talking about how she wished to have her husband and son as well." The article ends up with an insulting comment about other nannys' "performances on holidays."

 

Obviously, a nanny who is paid to take care of a baby is supposed to take care of the baby. It was rather her elitist, condescending style that has led to a storm of reaction. What strikes me the most was the absence of the father in the article.

 

She is not a single mother and my understanding is that the father was also present on the boat. Now, let's not exclude the possibility that the father might have told her journalist wife when she started to write about her motherhood, not to mention him.

 

So perhaps, the father spent a considerable time with the baby, but if that was the case, that did not help Sibel Arna to fully enjoy her cruise, since she tells us in the article she spent most of the time running after her crawling baby.

 

Let's take this case apart. We know that in Turkey, fathers spend less time with their kids, compared to mothers. The usual justification is that after having worked during the day, the father lacks energy to take care of the child. Yet, the situation does not change that much when both parents work.

 

In addition, mothers still take more care of the child, when the usual justification is no longer valid. That is, during holidays, when fathers do not work, the picture is still the same. You would see mothers rather than fathers spending time with the kids.

 

This obviously has to do with the traditional perception of gender roles. The few fathers who took daddy leave back in the 1970's in Sweden were called "velvet daddies."  Now, apparently it's only natural to see dads walking around the park with baby strollers.

 

Turkey's conservatism makes itself felt in this domain, too. In especially urban areas, fathers are discouraged to show their affection to their kids. Yet, as in all cases, things are changing in Turkey, too.  No one finds it odd when a father and son get along well in the kitchen and cook together in a TV advertisement for a oven. Men who know how to cook have become more attractive for woman and they use their culinary talent to seduce urban women.

 

Obviously, there is a long way to go for Turkey to reach the standards of Sweden's gender equality. Yet I hope Turkey will soon see days when fathers devote more time to their kids and enjoy it while doing so

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LOSS OF MIND

NURAY MERT

 

Acts of violence bloodied last week did not only take lives but also caused a great deal of "loss of mind" – or precisely, instigated the existing "loss of mind." Primarily the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, the architects of violence, lost their mind. But more importantly, Turkey, being exposed to a wave of violence, is losing its mind all together, including the government and the opposition.

 

For crisis management is the responsibility of political power in Turkey, i.e. the government and the opposition, not the PKK. In fact, putting the blame on the terrorist organization, its calculations and its possible links means leaving the control of things to the PKK. This is a fact that needs to be understood well.

 

The democratic initiative process was about saving political control of the Kurdish question from violence, but it didn't work. There are multiple reasons for why it didn't. But the most important one is not being able to see that the initiative process cannot focus on the Kurdish conflict only but it should be a democratic mobilization process. Let's see now, this country desperately needs a "democratic reform." Solution of the Kurdish question depends of the success of democratic reform.

 

Responses to political and social demands of Kurds and the disarmament of the PKK, after some point, depended on preparing a democratic and legitimate ground eventually.

 

Since this was not taken seriously, or considered seriously enough, the initiative process unavoidably shattered down at the Habur border gate during the entrance of the PKK militants to the country.

 

The key term of a rooted democratic reform is that it should be built on political and social consensus. Let me remind now "consensus" in this country is not reaching a total agreement with every single citizen. But it is to reach conciliation at the broadest sense and to marginalize others. The government has failed to use this ground because it believed that conciliation means "submission to tutelage." So the government stays away from it and swaying in two opposite ends between authoritarian solution and submission.

 

Most importantly all sides in Turkey, including the government, are a having hard time grasping and absorbing the core of the matter. All know how those who have adopted the official ideology look at the issue. On the other hand, the government circles which start from the opposite direction underestimates the issue in a different manner. But the worst is that the government has a weakness in seeing everything as conspiracy against itself.

 

At this point, the way of how the government and the opposition recognize and perceive issue stuck into scary conspiracy logic!

 

The term of "subcontractors" is the most suitable indicator of the said perception according to which "Israel" is seen as the reason behind the latest events taking place in Turkey! The very same mentality, in the next step, considers the Ergenekon crime gang as part of the "deep state."

 

The Vision magazine of the state-owned Turkish Radio and Television, or TRT, implied that there is a link originating from the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu- an Alevi-pro-Kurdish-PKK link it is! Such a link, which has not been claimed by any but only a referral to the West Working Group, is the reflection of how Vision magazine perceives the issue, beyond a perception about Kılıçdaroğlu.

 

In fact a similar claim was made by daily Vakit. According to their perception, active Alevis inside the PKK are working as a ring of the Ergenekon chain. If you remember a similar approach was also spread following the PKK's Reşadiye attack.

 

It has endless benefits to mull over in details because such perception is not only limited with the TRT's magazine or the Vakit daily, but it also quite dominant spreading in circles close to the government. That is to say, administrators read everything as something that happens to the government, so they govern the country accordingly.

 

As I say the "current government," I mean the administrators who see themselves as the owners of this country, the "real representatives of the people" and the administrators who consider others as the "extension of evil."

 

In this frame of perception, we simply face an evil consisting of Israel, Alevis, and deep state conspiracies!

 

As you see, administrators pre-occupied by such perception handle crisis management in a similar fashion. The focus, naturally, is swept away from a solution process as much as possible to "authoritarian political discourse and measures."

 

In short, this country is being governed by those who fail to understand the real situation we are in, yet still rely on conspiracy theories. And circles that are blinded with the opposite end are forming the opposition. Those who are trying to deal with the issue on behalf of Kurds are back to a point of violence again. May God help us all!

 

* Ms. Nuray Mert is a columnist for the daily Radikal in which this piece appeared Thursday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ANKARA'S WASHINGTON MISREADING

ILHAN TANIR

 

The flotilla attack, which turned out to be one of the saddest events of the Republic of Turkey's recent history, still produces consequences in the Middle East and beyond.

 

Following the attack, Turkey waged a diplomatic war against Israel with every possible instrument that it held in its disposal. Billions worth of military contracts and joint military exercises are canceled, the Israelis started to boycott the Turkish goods along with sending dramatically fewer tourists to Turkey. The leaders of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, have uttered the heaviest words possible in the international diplomacy arena against Israel since then, and received equally harsh responses from Jerusalem.

 

Turkey, in the days that imminently followed the flotilla attack, rightly, acted crossly and mobilized the international bodies to punish Israel. Israel failed to confront the aid ships safely and it will, at some point, have to accept its responsibilities in killing 9 people. In light of this disproportionately heavy intervention by the Israeli Navy commandos, various international actors rallied behind the Turkish position, along with the majority of public opinion.

 

It can be well argued, on the other hand, that the Erdogan government used the flotilla crisis to the limit to exploit it for its own domestic and foreign political gains as well. Sadly, it seems that the hard-hitting rhetoric against Israel is politically very convenient in Turkey, because there are so few minorities left to demonstrate any meaningful backlash against those populist orators.

 

The leadership of the AKP, however, did not stop with waging a diplomatic war. Instead, Ankara chose to cut about all its diplomatic and intelligence ties, most importantly back channel exchanges of information with Jerusalem. The new head of the Turkish Intelligence Service, or MIT, Mr. Hakan Fidan, was also detested by Jerusalem the minute it became clear that Fidan was promoted to the job. The Israeli media, in a rare occurrence, targeted and flaked Mr. Fidan harshly and tended to depict him as someone who has closer ties with Iran than Israel. The Israelis, according to sources who have close eyes on the clandestine services and world, are panicked by a possibility that some of the military and diplomatic secrets that have been shared with Turkey can be passed onto Iran and others.

 

The diplomatic relations also took a heavy hit between Ankara and Jerusalem, when Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel in very early days of the crisis. Since then, with almost no or very little behind the scene communication, Turkey has chosen to shout lauder, and angrier at the Israelis. And this is when the US administration began to draw a line with the Turkish government.

 

Did the AKP sincerely believe that it could push Washington to take a position against Israel, dump it if necessary and support the Turkish position all the way? It appeared throughout the recent weeks that Ankara indeed believed that, through building its own '9-11' rhetoric to convince the Obama administration.

 

It can be safely argued then, that whoever is in the charge of reading Washington on the side of the AKP government, read Washington upside down, and picked up the mistaken insights.

 

The Turkish ambassador to Washington, Mr. Namik Tan, is known with his clear understanding and deep familiarity with the realities of the Washington political theater. It is also confirmed by different sources that the Turkish diplomatic channels did indeed ring the alarm bells continuously in recent weeks to warn Ankara that a stormy weather has been gathering against Turkey in Washington which would be extremely difficult to defy once starts to act.

 

The next question then becomes which other channels are in the loop, between Ankara and Washington that produce many of the miscalculated analyses, which mostly run against the realities of Washington or the official diplomatic cables, and known that they arrive on policy making desks?

 

Nowadays, another huge disadvantage of the current Turkish government is its lack of credible and well-connected backchannel relations with Washington's power houses. It was easy to recognize the negative effect of this missing chain just a week ago when the AKP Parliamentary delegation was in Washington. The AKP delegation was consisted of prominent Parliamentary figures in its ranks to explain Turkey's position in Washington highest officials possible. However, the delegation ended up meeting none of the first class American Congressional leaders, and the US administration officials.

 

For the last few weeks, "no" vote at the United Security Council coincided with the flotilla crisis, and for many, this coincides also validated the arguments that suggest Turkey drifts away from the West. Whether the members of the US Congress know much about the Turkish foreign policy and its newly found regional leadership aspirations, is a different topic. However, various letters have been distributed to the members of the Congress throughout weeks received a record number of signatures. For instance, 87 out of 100 senators did not hesitate to sign on a letter that targeted Turkey's foreign policies, without naming names, next to ask stronger support for Israel from Obama.

 

Turkey now seems to be put in a dog house in Washington for a while. The US administration treats Turkey extremely carefully, and the statements that came from the various State Department officials in recent days, lack excitement, spirit and warmth. This stonewalling attitude of the US administration does not mean necessarily it wishes to alienate the Turkish administration. However, it does signal that it will not tolerate some of the harsher rhetoric that repeatedly come from there.

 

Israel eased the blockade on Gaza last week, and Turkey's role to push Israel in that direction is undeniable. The Turkish administration can build on this noteworthy success and be persistent to see the total end of the blockade in foreseeable future. Though, Turkey also must be able to calculate its priorities and preferences when it comes to new engagement and disengagement policies in the region.

 

Ankara, first, shall start spending more time to read Washington better. The US domestic politics, and the turbulent months ahead will even more complicate the power balance in Washington, most likely resulting a weaker President in few months time along with a stronger legislative branch and the opposition.

 

Ankara cannot afford to misread Washington any longer.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

EROSPOLIS - FORBIDDEN PLEASURES

NAZLAN ERTAN

 

Erospolis, along with half the female population of Turkey, is no longer busy on Thursdays: As of June 24, the popular series, titled "The Forbidden Love" came to a much-awaited end, as the female lead, clad in a white designer's robe, shot herself on the day that her beloved was to wed her step-daughter.

 

The final episode last Thursday was announced in newspapers and on the main news on Kanal D, by the media icon Mehmet Ali Birand, who knew too well that a good portion of Turkish women, if not his highly intellectual wife Cemre, would be glued to the television to watch it. The finale took three hours; my best friend and several other women I know organized an evening around it while the "semi (or is it demi?) high society" of Istanbul bought tickets to watch it collectively and in the presence of some of the actors and actresses on a giant screen in Suada.

 

The Forbidden Love, or "Aşk-I Memnu," by Halit Ziya Uşaklıgil, is a Turkish realist-naturalist novel from published in 1900. It has a very simple plot: Ambitious widow Firdevs has her eyes set on marriage with the wealthy Adnan bey (that is before the law on last names, remember) but Adnan, a widow with two children, Nihal and Bülent, chooses to marry Bihter, Firdevs' younger daughter. Bihter, pushed to marrying the boring old man, falls in love with Adnan's nephew, Behlül. But the young man, after having an affair with Bihter, decides to marry her cousin, Nihal. Bihter commits suicide.

 

The book was adapted as a tele-novella by TRT, when it was the only channel – in black and white. Famous actors, including Turkey's wittiest woman Müjde Ar, who played the ill-fated Bihter, starred in the series. Despite poor filming, long scenes and clumsy dialogues, it was very popular.

 

The new series was a far cry. Directed by Hilal Sayral, the series brought together classical actors with serious theater backgrounds and young stars, modernized the whole story to fit Istanbul life in the 21st century and added many turns and twists to ensure that it would stretch to 70-plus episodes. At one point, the "first" Bihter, Müjde Ar commented that if the story continued any longer, she was worried that Bihter would "end up in a brothel."

 

In the new version, the role of the tragic heroine Bihter was played by Beren Saat, who can be seen nowadays in everything from movies to deodorant advertisements. But it was not only Ms Saat that became an icon: the jewelry shown in the movies, the clothes, the objects and particularly the sheets and table cloths of one of the sponsors, two young designers, all became very popular. Even my brother, oblivious to pop-culture, could not resist buying his wife a "Bihter necklace" by a young designer.

 

But all good things come to an end – and most dramatically. Friday morning, a colleague, a cool-minded businesswoman, admitted that she spent the night crying as she watched the three-hour episode. When Peyker, Bihter's artistic sister, left for the States and the two sisters hugged in tears, I was very tempted to call a friend who was leaving and say something like, "You are also like a sister to me, don't go."

 

My mother and I, at a "teleconference" after the finale, agreed that Bihter should have shot her lover before she shot herself.

 

What makes Aşk-ı Memnu so popular? Ah, as long as there would be young women married to old men for their money and status, as long as audiences love to watch the rich in misery (wasn't that what "Dallas" and "Dynasty" were all about?) and as long as we like viewing televised fashion catalogues, there will be that type of series!

 

And damn good, too. One cannot live on news alone

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A BIRD'S EYE VIEW AFGHANISTAN - NOW WE KNOW WHY

 

We birds were not very surprised when we read a news report in the International Herald Tribune of June 15 that the United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan. We quote from the IHT: "The previously unknown deposits - including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt and critical industrial metals like lithium are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could essentially be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the U.S. officials say... The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, U.S. officials said, and a spokesman for Mr. Karzai on Monday confirmed the report's assessment about the potential value of the minerals."

 

But the most interesting part of the news report is since when has the existence of these deposits been known? We quote again from the same article: "In 2004, American geologists sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s but was cast aside when the USSR withdrew in 1989."

 

Consequently, now we know that one of the main reasons for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was to get their hands on this untapped mineral wealth that perhaps had been known from the time that the British had been there. For the same reason, the U.S. supported the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in their fight against the Soviets. For the same ulterior motive, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan after Sept. 11, followed later on by NATO. And now the U.S. has officially announced the "newly" discovered mineral deposits. But why make the announcement now?

 

As we all know, the U.S. and NATO are facing extreme difficulties in Afghanistan and heavy casualties. They cannot understand yet that they are waging an unwinnable war in hostile territory. However, the announcement of the existence of the mineral deposits might create friction and even civil war between the tribes that are fighting the U.S. and NATO since all would start claiming stakes on the deposits, and this might facilitate the invaders in the war that they are waging in Afghanistan.

 

So now we know why every major power covets Afghanistan. For money and power that may come from the untapping of the mineral wealth. What is tragic, though, is that nobody cares for the Afghan people, who are the only ones to suffer in this ridiculous power game.

 

Ponder our thoughts dear humans for your benefit

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE CORRIDOR - THE INITIATIVE RESUMES BUT HOW?

GÖKSEL BOZKURT

 

As Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rebutted criticisms over the latest developments in the country, he said the Kurdish initiative will continue and the government will never surrender to violence. "If we give up now, warlords and vampires sucking the blood of the youth will win," said Erdoğan. But how will the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, resume the initiative as the bloodshed continues? How will the ruling party stop the nationalist wave rising in the West as the Kurdish people are gained? How will the government prevent the "Turkish question" while trying to settle the "Kurdish conflict"?

 

Although Erdoğan sends messages for the continuation of the initiative, it's being underlined behind the closed doors that the target in the Kurdish initiative cannot be reached anymore. Apparently, the AKP government will not claim the Kurdish initiative strongly enough. Until elections, the AKP will not shelve the initiative for good. However, it will not be pursued effectively either.

 

A "low density" approach will be adopted for the initiative. My impression from the backstage is that this is how the process will be carried out until the elections.

 

The AKP is planning to pass the bill on "stone throwing children" this week. The ruling party shows, however, no intentions to seek a legal regulation on the initiative after that. To expect solid, visible, big, important changes is just a dream.

 

Until the elections, which the rumor is in the AKP backstage is that elections may be held in May or June of 2011, the AKP will rather focus on not to have a "Turkish initiative" because the government has to deal with the "Turkish conflict" while trying to settle the Kurdish question. Funeral ceremonies of the soldiers killed in the PKK attacks have fomented nationalist reactions. The AKP is quickly losing votes in the West. In fact, the AKP deputies from the Aegean, Black Sea, Mediterranean and Central Anatolia have begun to convey the disturbance rising from party grassroots to the party administration. Opinion polls highlight the drop in AKP votes.

 

This is alarming for Erdoğan and his team. The governing party makes plans to tame down the nationalist rage in Western Turkey and to change the situation for its own good.

 

The AKP feels obligation to step back in the Kurdish initiative in order to narrow the gap between itself and constituents in the West, and to push the break for a while. The AKP believes claiming the Kurdish initiative especially as funeral ceremonies of the soldiers killed by the PKK terrorists are held one after the other, might speed up the decline in votes. For this reason, the AKP will take it easy with the Kurdish initiative and let it cool for a while. But later, the AKP will make a leap forward in Western provinces. The ruling party will highlight successes of the last eight years during the propaganda period. For that, Erdoğan has already asked parliamentary deputies to visit election districts and to work hard.

 

What are the Kurdish deputies of the AKP thinking? It seems that they are extremely disturbed by the situation at this stage of the Kurdish initiative. They believe the initiative must go on, but see how impossible it is in the face of the reaction coming from the west of the country.

 

A Kurdish AKP deputy says "Mr. Minister has launched the initiative at the Police Academy. Everyone including artists and authors were asked of their opinions, but Kurds. It was all known from the beginning how the initiative will end."

 

Nationalist members of the AKP have started to say "We had said it." It seems that the AKP will go through a payoff for the Kurdish initiative…

 

And the initiative will continue slowly. Perhaps a few moves could be made but never be a strong will to claim it.

 

Workers made everyone cry

 

Blue Jean Sand Wash Workers Solidarity Committee Chairman Professor Zeki Kılıçaslan said Turkey is the first country where the deadly silicosis disease has been seen in textile sector as the number of patients approaches to 600, 5,000 workers in the sector may be unaware that they could be affected by silicosis. Workers demand social security and an awareness campaign for 5,000 laborers. A blue jeans sand wash worker told Kemal Anadol of the CHP "I will die anyway but at least my children will not face any financial difficulty," as he made everyone cry. Politicians visited the workers in a quite emotional atmosphere and promised to solve this problem.

 

The second socialist deputy from the AKP

 

The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, parliamentary deputy Ufuk Uras plums himself on "I am the only socialist member of Parliament." But now he has a rival from the AKP. The AKP İzmir Deputy Erdal Kalkan said backstage "I am a socialist. And my involvement in the AKP doesn't change the fact." Kalkan was previously a member of the CHP and transferred to the AKP together with Ertuğrul Günay in the wake of the 2007 general elections. With Kalkan's move the number of socialist deputies in Parliament rises to two. Let's see if there could be a third one

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHY IS TUSIAD SPEAKING UP?

GİLA BENMAYOR

 

Known as the Bosses' Club, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association, or TÜSİAD, is speaking up more against terror, which is lately taking Turkey into a new wave of violence. Remember the striking statement of the TÜSİAD Chairwoman Ümit Boyner earlier this week.

 

Her remarks on escalating terror at the meeting "Regional Development and the Role of Business World" that took place the Black Sea province of Trabzon were courageous. "The state is obliged to protect citizens' right to live."

 

State is responsible

 

Who is responsible if terror takes away our right to live? Of course it is the state. If people in a country are living in fear because of terror, if they are concerned for loves ones every single minute, the state is responsible, is it not?

 

In the TÜSİAD High Consultation Council meeting held at Çırağan Palace in Istanbul, everyone was congratulating Boyner for her statement in Trabzon.

 

Without a doubt, she added her move, "feminine sensitivity," and claimed the "right to live." She spoke from the heart.

 

Who decides the rhythm of terror?

 

The bold remarks of Boyner in Trabzon continued in Istanbul, too. I especially noted a few of her sentences:

 

"We believe it is necessary to explain how Turkey has to follow an action plan controlled by the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party] PKK and how a few men, whose only reason for life is to fight, in İmralı [an island in the Marmara Sea where Abdullah Öcalan, former chief of the terrorist organizations serves a lifetime sentence] or in the Kandil Mountains determine the rhythm of terror."

 

Boyner said: "We demand transparency in the process of explaining how youngsters are being killed. Those who die are a part of us." Young soldiers are killed by PKK terrorists and youngsters die in the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq.

 

All are our children, are they not?

 

In order to stop the bloodshed and polarization, both deepening every day, Boyner wants everyone, including TUSIAD, to speak up more.

 

"If we speak in difficult times, this is important. We have to speak up. The only thing that should be silenced in Turkey today is arms. We have to find a way to do this."

 

Highest indirect tax burden

 

At this point of her speech, the TUSIAD chairwoman asked a quite critical question and answered it too.

 

"All right, but where do you get this right to speak up on behalf of the entire society, some ask. Figures are the answer to this."

 

Here are the figures Boyner said:

 

Sixty-five percent of private production is made by TÜSİAD members. Fifty percent of registered employment is provided by TÜSİAD companies. These firms pay insurance premiums and work under ISO standards. Eighty-five percent of the country's export and import volume, not including energy, is filled by TÜSİAD members.

 

Ninety percent of corporate tax, which is a very important item on the state's income list, is paid by TÜSİAD members.

 

Therefore, not only in Turkey, but also around the world TÜSİAD carries the "highest indirect tax burden." Now, is it not TÜSİAD's right to ask where their money goes and how resources are being used?

 

Then we all will ask where resources are being directed and whether or not they are being spent to protect our freedoms and rights and those of our children. We will ask whether they are being used to scale up prosperity or in building a good education system in order to guarantee the future of our children. We will express ourselves in order to reach these targets

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TURKEY CANNOT SETTLE THE KURDISH QUESTION ON ITS OWN ANYMORE

CENGİZ AKTAR

 

As our government tried to reshape the Middle East and iron out the problems of the world, we were violently brought back to domestic realities.

(Here is a good example of why a country having internal problems cannot act freely outside. Why can we not revoke military contracts with Israel? Because the military is engaged in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.)

 

After eight years in government, it is impossible for our leaders look for an excuse for the spiral of violence and say, "Whenever Turkey decisively makes progress to become a big country, some dirty hands get in the way." If we presume that the author of these recriminations, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, refers to external forces in his claim and think for a second that such instigation is possible, that means Turkey is vulnerable to such outside forces as it fails to resolve its problems. The grand art is to not allow the PKK to grab arms or external forces, if any, to use the PKK.

 

As was the case in all other reformist initiatives, the government has turned the democratic initiative toward Kurds into a void due to lack of vision and technical expertise to resolve the conflict. At the point we stand today, we see that the PKK acts on its own way beyond, out of control of any internal or external centers. With the PKK talking about "democratic autonomy" or, in other words, forming a Kosovo-like self-government, and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, getting prepared to boycott the constitutional referendum, Kurdish decision-makers do not care about anything anymore. We are at a point where there are no longer any interlocutors on either side.

 

From democratic initiative toward mediation

 

The government took a very courageous step with the democratic initiative. But it failed to develop it as is the case in many problematic areas. It was assumed in the past that the Kurdish question was a simple economic-development matter. But then it was decided that the demands for identity and democratic rights were not a joke. Yet again, the issue was reduced to the classical formula, "If the Kurdish conflict is to be settled, the state will care of it." Therefore the question of "who will be the interlocutor" was avoided.

 

As for the democratic opening, the government systematically avoided having even a handshake with the elected representatives of Kurds in the Parliament. As Kurdish deputies were not accepted as interlocutors, only imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan remained to talk with. Few symbolic actions toward Kurds were considered sufficient to substantiate the democratic opening. Nearly 1,300 members of elected municipal and other Kurdish officials were arrested, the children throwing stones at the police were sent to prison and those Kurds returning from the Makmour camp in northern Iraq and the Kandil Mountains were detained, contrary to what was promised. The judiciary keeps assaulting the members of the BDP and the shuttered Democratic Society Party, or DTP.

 

The most dangerous processes are half-complete reform processes. There is nothing worse than bringing efforts to a halt after challenging taboos and raising hopes. Moreover, you end up giving your enemies and rivals a perfect argument to blame the democratic opening as the cause of the recent rise in violent action.

 

If one pays due attention to the initiatives left incomplete, one sees that all are about age-old issues of this country: the Armenian, Greek and Kurdish questions. These are fundamental problems going back to the foundation of the Republic. As they have survived since then, solving them is really difficult. Neither the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, nor any other political party has sufficient willpower to solve them and end the "wars" once and for all. The language and the concepts used over these conflicts mostly leans on military, or at least confrontational, solutions. Despite recent declarations to continue the democratic initiative, members of the government inescapably lean toward the language of conflict.

 

The extensive and careless use of the word "terror" has made the Kurdish question totally obscure and non-understandable. The PKK is an organization that at times carries out acts of terror but in essence fights for a cause. And today, alienation and estrangement – and thus, the danger – have reached such a level that a cease-fire can only be reached through a mediator as big as the United States. Two of the golden rules of mediation initiatives are the due perception of stalemate by parties, where no winner can emerge, and the analysis on where the cost of solution would be less than that of the continued fight. Often sides are incapable of perceiving and properly evaluating these two rules and yet a mediator is needed.

 

Parallel to the search for a cease-fire, commissions consisting of national and international experts should be set up, rather than having the present day's amateurish organizations solely focused on security.

 

Commissions on decommissioning of arms; amnesty, repatriation and rehabilitation; regional policy; truth and reconciliation; and education, Constitution and laws should be considered to produce policies not for brotherhood, but for not fighting against each other, not to die and to live together perhaps someday in the future

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

HAND GESTURES

ZAFER PARLAR

 

One of my teachers at the university used to do this a lot. When she was pointing something on the book, she was putting her thumb between her pointing finger and middle finger. I can imagine already the smile on Turkish readers' faces. We do not have the middle finger gesture in Turkey, but in place of that, we do exactly like I described above. Imagine yourself in a meeting discussing a report and the guy next to you keeps on doing this, or for non-Turkish readers, he is constantly showing something on the report with his middle finger. How long can you stand this? Let's increase the flavor. I was visiting a friend's home in Mexico and guess what! The Turkish way I explained was right on top of the fireplace as an art piece. With a red face I asked what it symbolized and he told me that his Brazilian wife brought it from Rio and it means good luck. There you go…

 

We can go on with examples. Put your hand next to your face and shake it up and down. In Holland, it means the food is delicious. In Turkey it means, roughly, "If you continue like that I am going to slap your face." What divers use as a gesture to indicate everything is all right under the water means swearing to someone's mom in Venezuela and if you tweak it a bit, it means a certain sexual tendency in Turkey.

 

Like in Italy, in Turkey we talk with hands, especially when things get emotional. It can even go so far that the opposition from a different culture can see this as a threat when combined with the tone of voice. It is actually totally normal. Best thing you can do at that moment is to stay calm and not react the same way. However when the heat is over, you can do the same if you like, on another or even the same issue. The trick is not to get impacted and change the course of your negotiation because of such behavior. If you believe you are under influence or it bothers you, ask for a time out. Things will go back to normal when you get back. 

 

The next area of using hands can be touching. Americans and Asians hate you if you touch them more than a handshake during a meeting. Northern Europeans can live with it. Southern Europeans and Arabs love to touch as a friendly gesture, so do Latin Americans. They do not consider this an intrusion of privacy. Many foreigners find it weird when they see Turks holding the arm of someone they are talking to or two men who know each other well walking hand in hand to a meeting. I can even very well picture that for some of the readers this is even hard to imagine, but yet it is true and indicates a good friendship.

 

A close friend of mine who was raised in Turkey went to study first in the U.S. for his undergraduate, then to Germany for his graduate studies. He came back and started to work for a foreign investment firm selling trucks. They had a sales procedure. They were visiting the truck drivers/owners first in their offices for an introduction. Then they were inviting them to their offices. When drivers/owners arrived, they were first taken to a large meeting room for a video show of the truck and a slide show of technical abilities. Then they walked to the showroom to see the trucks. He told me once that while they were walking to the truck, if the guy was making a hand gesture, such as putting his arm around the shoulder, most of the time this meant that they see him as a trustworthy friend, they will ask for a small discount and buy the truck. Even though he is from this culture, at the beginning he found this very weird, but got used to this.

 

One extreme example is to see some of the negotiations while buying cattle or even a house in rural areas of Turkey. Parties start shaking hands and do not stop until they reach an agreement. It is quite traditional to do this all around Anatolia. The intention is to get the other party a bit tired and agree on your number. You do not witness this while you are negotiating in a boardroom, but you will find the traces of this behavior while your Turkish opponent is running a marathon with you and looking for an opportunity to get you tired and give in.

 

Couple of tips to handle these differences while you are doing business and/or managing your colleagues in Turkey: first, don't overreact with an aggressive non-verbal or verbal response if they touch you a little more than you normally anticipate. You might offend your Turkish opponent who believes you are a good friend. Second, do not get carried away when someone is using extensive hand gestures. Third, when you do the same, make sure you are not making figures with your hand which can be misinterpreted by the Turks as my teacher did without being aware. 

 

Zafer Parlar is the founder of istventures (www.istventures.com), which supports international companies in their market entries and development in Turkey, as well as Turkish companies in their local operations and expansion plans abroad. He can be reached at zafer.parlar@istventures.com

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

KILIÇDAROĞLU EXPOSES HIMSELF

YUSUF KANLI

 

Even though people living in the affluent districts of major Turkish cities, and foreigners who believe those

districts represent the average Turk might fail to realize it, in most parts of rural Anatolia and in the urban purlieus or suburbs that converted big cities of the country into obese villages, the practice of arranged marriages still continues, although less frequently and somewhat differently than in the past.

 

The traditional practice of fixing a marriage occurred by sending the old women of the neighborhood, or some elderly female members of the man's family, to see the potential bride during a social event. Then those people would decide on behalf of the prospective groom whether the girl, her family and the wealth and social status of her family were "fit" for the groom and his family. The arranged marriages of today are instead "marriages of convenience." Unlike the past practice that did not allow the prospective bride and groom to meet each other at all almost until they entered the bridal chamber after the marriage ceremony, the marriages of convenience today are fixed by the brides and their grooms with economic, social and some other considerations.

 

Last week, President Abdullah Gül convened a National Security Council meeting in Istanbul with the civilian and military security Cabinet to review future measures against rising separatist terrorism. Meanwhile in Ankara, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, new leader of the opposition Republican People's Party, was at working luncheons with the ambassadors of the European Union countries and then with the U.S. ambassador. During these luncheons Kılıçdaroğlu's attempted to show the "changed leadership" and "changed policies" of his party. Kılıçdaroğlu's party has apparently abandoned its "perennial opposition" place in Turkish politics and started sending out messages, that after 50 years since it left its last majority government, wants to come to power "to show the difference" of an "honest and uncorrupt government," and to potentially remedy the mounting domestic and foreign problems of Turkey.

 

Ambassadors were no replacement for the "old women" sent to see the "propriety" of the "prospective groom," for only the bride and the Turkish electorate can approve Kiliçdaroğlu's elevation to the bridal chamber of governance. Yet, Turkey is not an inward-looking country cut-off from the rest of the world, and anyone aspiring for the leadership of Turkey cannot have the luxury of neglecting to explain himself and his ideas to the economic, political and security allies of Turkey; even if there are serious doubts today that Turkey is drifting fast from the democratic societies of the West toward becoming a Middle Eastern autocracy.

 

Will the "perennial opposition CHP" of former leader Deniz Baykal turn into a "governing party CHP" under new leader Kılıçdaroğlu? What did Kılıçdaroğlu say to the ambassadors, and did he manage to convince them that under his leadership the CHP has become a "viable alternative" to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, governance of Turkey?

 

Quite a few of the EU ambassador sat through that dinner with the prejudice that with or without a leadership

change it was impossible for the CHP to become a "viable alternative" to the AKP governance of Turkey.

 

Thus, in this first face-to-face serious discussion between the ambassadors and Kılıçdaroğlu, the CHP leader found an atmosphere to frankly express his criticism of the Western attitudes towards Turkey, and listen to the criticisms. At the end of the week, as a European ambassador said, Kılıçdaroğlu managed to make a good impact on the ambassadors, impress them with his soft but determined approaches to the issues, and of his sincere commitment to the social democratic principles and Turkey's European vocation. Apparently, the ambassadors were particularly impressed with his description of Turkey's trans-Atlantic and European ties as a "togetherness in good and bad times." The ambassadors came out of the luncheons convinced that there is a "viable political alternative" to the AKP governance in Turkey.

 

Kılıçdaroğlu came out from this exposure successful. Yet, the decision will eventually be made by the real bride, the Turkish electorate

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

IF EFFORTS COULD BE DIRECTED AGAINST THE PKK

MEHMET ALİ KIŞLALI

 

One of the most vital topics of the day is the lack of intelligence available in fighting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

 

Consecutive PKK attacks recently killed many people. This is a sign of the state's weakness in gathering information. Indeed, every book stresses the importance of intelligence in the fight against terror.

 

I do not know how the General Staff arranges its intelligence, in which manual, for example, and how important this is to the military. But the latest United States manual, which it has used since 2007, contains 56 pages of information on the issue.

 

So, I scanned through the "Counterinsurgency Field Manual" prepared by Gen. David Petraeus now being used by the Land Forces and U.S. Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I wondered why we have not used state facilities for more intelligence while fighting the PKK.

 

I also thought about the efforts put out to prepare tens of thousands of pages of indictments for the Ergenekon criminal gang case in which secret information is used. Findings were not collected properly; therefore, they cannot be regarded as evidence, but it is obvious how much the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, is harmed by this information regardless of its legality.

 

Many military officers and retired officers were detained and kept in prison for months before they faced the court. I can imagine the atmosphere these incidents created in society. And now, with the effect of such a scary atmosphere, the accused, who could not even seek their rights at the beginning, are speaking up. With the help of public opinion, they are now being released one by one.

 

We've heard claims that the "secret activities" against the military members or retired military officers were the product of intelligence. Some of this information was allegedly gathered through wiretapping and from secret documents.

 

I wonder if some part of these efforts were exerted against the PKK instead of used to paralyze the TSK, would this not be better?

 

Intelligence has always been crucial, even vital, in counter-terrorism activities. Coalition governments in the 1990s prioritized intelligence and reached decisions at times when there was no accord among the state institutions gathering information. The suggestion was made that the government take necessary measures to have more cooperation. Various state bodies of intelligence generally did not share information, which was harming the state.

 

Decisions were made that would have brought different intelligence departments into cooperation with each other, yet all went unimplemented. And today the former Istanbul governor appointed as the undersecretary of the new intelligence office again says, "We'll bring intelligence units together."

 

Currently the impact of the efforts to collect data against suspects considered members of the TSK after the Ergenekon investigations on the number one security force is being discussed. For instance, veteran politician and generally wise man Hüsamettin Cindoruk spoke to daily Vatan about how the TSK is affected by the situation. He is questioning whether the military can live up to the expectations of its service.

 

What a pity!

 

I wish the efforts to collect data used to figure out suspicious activities in different ranks of the TSK, or some part or these efforts, would be redirected and instead used to reveal the PKK's activities, which are hurting this country badly.

 

* Mr. Mehmet Ali Kışlalı is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece appeared Friday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

RESIDENCE PERMIT REGULATIONS

SAADETTİN ORHAN

 

Residence permit regulations – 1

 

Getting a residence permit is a common legal issue for foreigners residing in Turkey. How and where do they get residence permits? What type of residence permit do they need and how long do the permits last? These questions and many like them exist. To answer these questions, I will discuss the topic on several fronts.

 

Who needs to get a residence permit?

 

Foreigners holding work, student and tourist visas can reside in Turkey during the 90-day visa exemption period without a residence permit. Extensions for tourist visas may be granted for an additional three months. However, those who wish to stay longer or work in Turkey should obtain a residence permit. In order to apply for a work permit in Turkey, the applicant must first have a residence permit valid for at least six months. The application can be filled out at the Foreigners' Department (located at police headquarters) in the jurisdiction in which the applicant lives.

 

What type of residence permits exist and how long do they last?

 

Residence permits are obtained for different purposes. Long-term residents, tourists, and residents who work are some of the persons who need residence permits. The longest term a resident permit is granted for is five years. However, usually, only two-year residence permits are given upon an initial application. After a residence permit expires, it can be renewed four times. Persons who wish to extend this period must apply again to the security authorities within fifteen days of the permit expiration date. In Turkey, permanent work permits are given, but permanent residence permits are not given.

 

Changes should be reported!

 

If foreigners with a residence permit changes their places of residence, they must report this fact within forty-eight hours to the police or gendarmerie stations nearest both the old and the new residences either in person or by registered letter. Foreigners with residence permits must report changes in their marital status by a signed statement to the security authorities in their district within fifteen days of the change. They must also have their new status registered in their residence permits.

 

Resident Permit Requirements

 

Foreigners must apply to the local security directorate (emniyet müdürlüğü) with the following documents.

 

· Five recent passport-sized photos

 

· A valid passport (with the original passport and photocopies of the last entry stamp and personal details)

 

· A residence declaration form duly completed

 

· A valid Turkish visa

 

· The application fee.

 

Additional documents may be requested in some cases such as in marriage to a Turkish national, the purchase of property in Turkey or for employment with a private company. In these cases, the application process will be expedited and the initial validity period of the permit will be longer. In practice, the officers require the applicants to submit a bank statement proving the good financial standing of the applicants.

 

Nationality is important!

 

The applicant's nationality is important in the process of obtaining a residence permit. GROUP A country citizens and GROUP B country citizens are subject to different regulations regarding the residence permit process.

 

GROUP A Countries are EU member countries and OECD member countries (USA, Germany, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Holland, United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, New Zealand, Greece, Ireland, Czech Republic, Hungary, South Korea, Mexico, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Malta and Greek Cyprus). GROUP B Countries are all countries other than GROUP A Countries.

 

I will continue discussing this issue in my next article.

 

For your questions: sadettin.orhan@hdn.com.tr

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

KEEPING THE PROMISE

SHAHID NAJAM

 

On June 23, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released the annual assessment of progress on the eight Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs. The report highlights a number of successes and advances in the achievement of the goals, while also bringing out the human impact of inadequate progress on many of them.

 

The commitments, made by virtually every country at the U.N.-sponsored Millennium Summit in 2000, are organized around eight targeted goals: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development.

 

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2010 helps set the stage for the September 2010 summit at the United Nations. It comes out only days before accountability for aid commitments is discussed by the Group of 8 at their meeting hosted by Canada.

 

"This report shows that the Goals are achievable when nationally owned development strategies and policies are supported by international development partners," Secretary-General Ban said.

 

According to the MDG Report 2010, important gains have been achieved in maternal and child health. The fight against killer diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis also recorded progress. In addition, the report cites big gains in getting children into primary schools in many poor countries, especially in Africa; strong interventions in addressing AIDS, malaria and child health; and a reasonably good chance of reaching the target for access to clean drinking water.

 

The share of people in the developing world who subsist on less than $1.25 a day, in constant U.S. dollars, dropped from 46 percent in the baseline year of 1990 to 27 percent in 2005 – led by progress in China and southern and Southeastern Asia – and is expected to tumble to 15 percent by the target year of 2015.

 

However, there is still a long way to go to fully achieve the goals. According to the report, although significant progress has been achieved in several fields, much more needs to be done to reach the targets globally. It is clear that improvements in the lives of the poor have been unacceptably slow, and some hard-won gains are being eroded by the climate, food and economic crises. Billions of people are looking to the international community to realize the great vision embodied in the Millennium Development Goals.

 

The findings of the report reveal that only half of the developing world's population has access to improved sanitation, such as toilets or latrines; girls in the poorest quintile of households are 3.5 times more likely to be out of school than those from the richest households, and four times more likely than boys from this background; and less than half of the women in some developing regions benefit from maternal care by skilled health personnel when giving birth.

 

The MDG Report 2010 also indicates that progress against hunger has been impacted more severely by economic troubles. The ability of the poor to feed their families was hit consecutively by skyrocketing food prices in 2008 and falling incomes in 2009. The number of malnourished, already growing since the beginning of the decade, may have grown at a faster pace after 2008.

 

Turkey and the MDGs

On June 9 and 10, representatives from 25 countries from around Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States came together at a Regional Conference on Millennium Development Goals in Istanbul. Hosted by the government of Turkey and co-organized by the State Planning Organization of the Prime Ministry, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the MDG+10 Conference was inaugurated by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

 

The conference reaffirmed Turkey's strong commitment to and record of success toward the Millennium Development Goals, particularly maternal and child health and poverty. The National MDG Progress Report was launched by State Minister Cevdet Yılmaz at the conference.

 

A test for global partnership for development

 

The MDG Report 2010 is an important input for the U.N. secretary-general's September summit, where he will urge world leaders to accelerate the global partnership to achieve the MDGs. Only five years remain until the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, therefore adoption of a global action agenda for accelerating progress towards the goals at the U.N. Summit in New York in September is crucial.

 

While financing the MDGs needs to start at home, with developing countries raising and allocating domestic revenues, the donor community must deliver on its long-standing promises of greatly expanded official development assistance, or ODA. Although ODA reached its highest level ever in 2008, large gaps in meeting commitments remain.

 

Our world possesses the knowledge and the resources to achieve the MDGs. Falling short of the goals would be an unacceptable failure, both moral and practical. If we fail, many of the dangers in our world – instability, violence, epidemic diseases, environmental degradation, runaway population growth – will continue posing daunting challenges to the extreme detriment of especially the poor and the marginalized.

 

We must not fail those billions of people who look to the international community to fulfill the promise of the Millennium Declaration for a better world. Together we must keep the promise.

 

* Shahid Najam is the U.N. resident coordinator in Turkey

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THIS IS THE LAW

 

As the 'fake degree' event rolls downhill it is picking up mass as it goes, and embedding within it a significant number of our legislators who have yet to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they do in fact hold the academic qualifications that they claim. Further weight has been added by the Supreme Court's order to the Election Commission to take action against all those who are shown to have used forged or fictional documents to gain their positions; and further for sessions judges to try and decide these cases within three months. This is new territory. Additionally the SC has defined exactly what a 'corrupt practice' is and that anybody found guilty of a corrupt practice under the definition will be disqualified for a fixed term from being a member of any assembly. It is this kind of robust judgment that is going to enable the courts, the civil service and those having to do with the business of the legislature to come down hard on those who fraudulently find their way to power and privilege.


It serves notice on current and future politicians that a line has been drawn in the sand. A line over which you do not step, which is designed to bring a little more honesty -- a little more honour -- to public political service than is currently the case. It is no longer acceptable to lie and cheat your way into parliament or any other assembly, no longer acceptable that any document that you present in pursuit of your political goal is false or less than exactly what it purports to be. This applies not just to academic qualification, but to every other document allied to political access. The judiciary has given the Election Commission the power to pursue those that seek to bend the law; and it is for sitting members of the assemblies to prove that their academic documents are bona fide, and if not so, then their seats are forfeit and there is a by-election. This is the law of the land. Keep it.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

HARD ROAD

 

Pakistani and Indian officials would do well to invest in some heavy-duty walking shoes. It is clear the road they will be striding along in the weeks and months ahead is an uphill one, marked by potholes, stones and other obstacles. As they met in Islamabad ahead of talks between the foreign ministers of both countries, foreign secretaries Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir have already made it quite clear they understand this. Ms Rao was concerned about the possibility of further terrorist attacks. Mr Bashir is reported also to have brought up the issue of Kashmir as one that stands at the core of the differences between India and Pakistan. While the issue of terrorism came up again and again, with both nations agreeing not to give space to such forces, it was notable that the tone of the talks was distinctly more upbeat than in the past. Both acknowledged this in their comments. This attitude could play a huge role in making the trek ahead a more pleasant one for both nations.


Tough issues were brought up. This of course is inevitable, and essential. Especially encouraging was the effort made to address a set of humanitarian issues. Both foreign secretaries agreed it was important to move quickly towards tackling the issues of fishermen, prisoners and other groups that suffer because of the bureaucratic mechanisms in both countries that so often result in them spending long periods in jail. The possibility of relaxing the visa regime, notably for journalists, was also raised. This of course forms a part of the 'Milne Do' campaign run by the Jang Group and the Times of India Group under the 'Aman ki Asha' umbrella. The media can play a huge role in challenging prejudice and creating goodwill. Allowing media professionals to meet more freely would be a significant step in the right direction. As the foreign secretaries said, there is then much to be positive about; the new sense of optimism brings hope. But it is important also to be realistic. Many issues still lie ahead; they will need to be tackled calmly and resolutely, one at a time. India has yet to be persuaded to resume the composite dialogue. The effort to win it over must continue so that the goal of a lasting peace can be achieved.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

FUTURE RISKS

 

The five -- two of them of Pakistani origin, one of Egyptian origin and one each originating from Eritrea and Yemen -- will now serve up to ten years in jail plus having to pay a fine of Rs70,000 each. They are all in their 20s, met over the internet and came from Alexandria, Virginia. American home-grown militancy has paid us a visit and the men have paid the price. There is nothing to suggest that they were radicalised here, or that they had been recruited by any terrorist group operating in the US, they were entirely self-starting and won't be the last of their kind. These men were not the highly trained terrorists produced by Al Qaeda; they were rank amateurs who were quickly spotted by our security services.


The phenomenon of self-radicalisation has grown. High-profile examples of the genre have surfaced in the UK and the US recently, with the Times Square bomber being the most prominent. They are not the product of extremist teachings in madressahs, are often educated and middle-class, articulate and sometimes successful professionals. Whilst they are diverse in their origins they share a commonality – rage. They are angry at what they perceive as an affront to their faith, at being marginalised or discriminated against. They are angry about cartoons, Facebook, western intervention in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the rise of racist politicians in Holland and other European countries, proposals to ban the hijab in France and not to allow mosques to be built with minarets in Switzerland. They are angry about a spectrum of causes and issues. Some of them will gravitate in our direction. Some will quickly find a place in groups happy to accommodate impressionable western-based men and women, train and indoctrinate them and send them back. Others will disperse in the terrorist system and a few will get themselves caught. It is for their countries of origin to address why it is that they took the path they did. Future risks are going to have their birth far from these shores; we are not the only nursery for extremism.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE WAY THE WORLD SEES US

ARIF NIZAMI


During the course of the week, three surveys have been released in the media that do not show Pakistan in a good light. The so-called Failed States Index 2010, ranks Pakistan as the tenth state amongst the ten states that top this year's Failed State Index. The survey is being published for the past six years by the US Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace.


The Washington-based Pew Research Center's survey of 22 countries has been conducted basically to judge President Obama's popularity, or lack of it, amongst the participating countries. Only eight per cent of Pakistanis approve of the US president's foreign policy, in sharp contrast to India where 73 per cent approve it. Understandably, 56 per cent of Pakistanis oppose US anti-terror efforts and 65 per cent are opposed to the presence of US troops in Afghanistan.


Amongst the countries surveyed, people in only four--China, India, Brazil and Poland--say economic conditions are good. All these four countries weathered the global recession well. Only 14 per cent of Pakistanis are satisfied with national conditions and a mere 18 per cent think the economy is in good shape. Although no fewer than 69 per cent in Pakistan worry that extremists could take control of the country, support for suicide bombings has slightly gone up in the past year. It had declined from 33 percent in 2002 to five per cent in 2009, but has risen to 8 per cent in 2010.


It is no revelation that according to this survey President Zardari's popularity has plummeted by half and the obvious beneficiary is opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharif.


Of the three surveys, the most surprising results on Pakistan are contained in the Freedom House survey for 2009. It places Pakistan in the company of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen where, "violent Islamic extremism" continues to plague the countries.


We might pride ourselves on our incipient democratic institutions, a free and vibrant press and an independent judiciary, but according to the model devised by Freedom House, barring Afghanistan, Pakistan fares the worst in the region. The 2009 freedom status bases itself of categories of "not free," "partly free," or "free," with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least in terms of political rights and civil liberties.


According to this criterion, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh are declared as electoral democracies while Pakistan is not even considered an elected democracy. In the categories of political rights and civil liberties India scores 2 and 3, respectively. Pakistan gets a rating of "partly free" with a score of 4 and 5, in the same categories.


Giving reasons for Pakistan being rated poorly, the report states that the country has remained mired in official corruption and extremist violence. However, it notes as positive signs "initial reforms of the tribal areas and the peaceful resolution of the judicial crisis, including the reinstatement of the chief justice if the Supreme Court and restoration of a large measure of judicial independence."


The common thread among the surveys conducted by the prestigious institutions is that none of them have little to about Pakistan that is positive. But is the situation is really so bad, or is it being portrayed as such?

Few will disagree that the country is a chronic case of poor governance. Successive governments have refused, or are unable, to do anything about this. Apologists for military regimes, especially those who collude with them, argue that military strongmen are better than civilian rulers in governance. But they ignore that it is the military, by virtue of its repeated interventions, which is responsible for the destruction of most institutions of the Pakistani state.


Endemic corruption and lack of transparency in governance has been cited in all the surveys for Pakistan's poor standing. The present government has been singled out for criticism on this count. Tales of corruption, misuse of power, squandering of public funds for personal or political gains, and cronyism and nepotism adorn the columns of newspapers and dominate the airwaves virtually everyday.


Despite the fact that various parliamentary committees and the superior courts are increasingly asserting themselves and taking note of these shenanigans of the powerful, the trend produces little effect in practical terms. The present government has completed half of its tenure. Yet, not a single minister or government functionary has been shown the door on charges of corruption or misuse of power.


The other day, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani complained to the US president's special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, that world "inaction" was accentuating Pakistan's financial crisis and extremist elements were taking advantage of the delay in delivery of assistance to Islamabad. Holbrooke assured the prime minister that Washington would do everything to expedite assistance for its ally, and play its role in the forthcoming Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting.


However, unless Islamabad gets its act together by fulfilling the US agenda in the region, as well as bringing a modicum of transparency in its financial dealings, funds will remain hard to come by. Hence, Pakistan's merely going around with a begging bowl for more assistance will not produce improvement in our economic situation.

Bold and structural changes in our economic policies are the need of the hour. Not only do we have to get out of the vicious circle of debt, we also have to spend a greater part of our GDP on improving indicators like health, education and other areas of social development. Increases in the defence budget alone cannot solve the problem of extremism. Alleviating poverty by improving the economy and drastically increasing social spending can deal with the problem in the long run.


President Zardari, speaking on the occasion of the 57th birth anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, correctly enumerated the achievements of his government for strengthening democracy. These included the passage of the 18th Amendment for the restoration of the supremacy of parliament, the NFC Award, the Balochistan Package and the renaming of NWFP to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He also vowed to defeat real or perceived conspiracies against democracy.


He can rightly claim that in a relative sense democratic culture has flourished on his watch. There are no political prisoners in the country, the media is free and assertive, the judiciary is fearlessly independent and, despite periodic shouting matches between them, politicians by and large are practising consensual politics. The biggest saving grace is that the military has studiously kept itself out of politics.


Despite these pluses, why is it that the world sees Pakistan as "the most dangerous place" and as a failed state? Over the years our optics have become so bad that labels like "failed state" no longer seem to bother us. Pakistan got this label in the late nineties, during Nawaz Sharif's tenure as prime minister. He correctly retorted that perhaps there could be some truth to the charge in the previous few decades but this was no longer so. Perhaps Nawaz Sharif failed to perceive that the rot had already started.


One way of dealing with the problem is to recognise it and start dealing with it. In terms of demographic pressures, internally displaced persons, the fragmented elites and external intervention we are placed close to Somalia, the most failed of the failed states. Simply put, we are in a state of war with the very elements which successive governments, military and civilian, have nurtured over the years. Now the chickens have come home to roost.


This may seem somewhat unfair. But the right course to follow for our ruling classes, primarily the feudal-military-industrial elite, is to do some introspection about the direction the country should be taking. Another military intervention would lead us further down a pit that is already bottomless. However, in order for democracy to work the stakeholders need to drastically reorient their present bearings. Especially those in power.


The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email:arifn51@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

RISE OF THE DRUGS TRADE

HUZAIMA BUKHARI AND DR IKRAMUL HAQ


Since the wanton attack on September 11, 2001 on New York's twin towers, symbols of America's economic might, the world is a changed place. It has changed for the worse. In the name of fighting terrorism certain vested interests are colonising oil- and mineral-rich countries and lending support to the drug trade and mass acceptance of fascism in the name of reforming the world. Strangely, the terrorist groups are thriving on drug money -- see details in well-researched book, Seeds of Terrorism by Gretchen Peters -- but the forces in Afghanistan are looking the other way.


The Taliban regime of Afghanistan, according to a report in The Economist (August 16-22, 2003), had clamped down on poppy cultivation with an iron fist. It banned it completely in 2000. Production collapsed from its peak of over 4,500 tonnes in 1999 to 185 tonnes in 2001. However, the ban did not cover trade, and opiates kept on flowing into Central Asia. After the demise of the Taliban, poppy cultivation reappeared with a vengeance, with the brother of Hamid Karzai accused of leading the heroin trade. According to UN estimates, production was 4,400 tonnes in 2009. Afghanistan dominates the world production of opium, with almost three-quarters of the total annual global yield. Afghanistan is a marginal country. About 80 per cent of Afghans depend on what they can grow. But Afghanistan lacks water and cultivable land. Even in the halcyon 1970s, less than 5 per cent of the land was irrigated. The war halved that. Then during the seven-year-long drought in some places, most of the livestock died and staple crops failed. In the south and south-west of the country, water tables are dangerously low. Even with the best possible governance, that part of Afghanistan is a poor proposition.


In the 1980s, the Afghan mujahideen resisting Soviet occupation had received generous American support. But in 1989, when Russian troops packed their bags and went home, American interest in Afghanistan waned. Once the Central Asian countries had become independent from the former Soviet Union in 1991, America concentrated its attention in the region on Soviet nuclear leftovers, the decommissioning of which it hailed as a great success. When the Taliban took over in 1996, the Americans did not seem overly concerned that the bearded rulers and their Al Qaeda friends were supporting radical Islamic groups in Central Asia.


The ground for religious extremism remains fertile. Poverty, lack of political freedom, ignorance about Islam that is exploited by ruthless outsiders and money from the drug trade make up an explosive cocktail. Most of the region's economies have still not fully recovered from the collapse of the Soviet system. Poverty is widespread in all the countries, especially in rural areas, and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. For many local politicians, such economic factors, along with natural disasters and border problems, constitute far bigger headaches than Islamist radicalism. Opposition forces in Central Asia, together with human-rights activists, argue that the Islamist threat is being exaggerated to crush all forms of dissent, religious or otherwise. But even those who think that Islamist radicalism and terrorism are real dangers criticise the governments' heavy-handed methods of controlling religion.


For many Afghans living in rural areas, producing opium is the only way to survive. Before the 2000 ban, prices had slumped to $35 a kilo, or $1,100 a hectare, an income close to that for legal crops. But since then prices have risen again, making poppy cultivation correspondingly more attractive. At the end of 2009, farmers could get $540 a kilo, or over $16,000 a hectare, which no other crop could rival. In 2009, opium production in Afghanistan generated up to $1.2 billion, or almost 20 per cent of GDP.


The neighbours of Afghanistan are making profits from the windfall: criminal groups from Central Asia, says the UN, made profits of $4.2 billion from the trafficking of opiates in 2009, equivalent to 7 per cent of the region's GDP. Tajikistan is by far the worst affected by the drug plague, thanks to a combination of history, poverty and geography. During the civil war, drugs were a valuable source of cash for buying weapons. Although the conflict officially ended in 1997, warlords and officials continued to draw on this source of income.

In the late 1990s, the drugs trade was believed to be a source of finance for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist group which had bases in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. After the war in Afghanistan, the IMU lost most of its influence, but the drugs trade continues, with organised criminals taking the place of political or religious activists. In a survey conducted by the Open Society Institute, eight out of ten of those polled said, hardly surprisingly, that the main reason to turn to drug trafficking was to make big money. Geography also contributes to Tajikistan's drugs problem: at 1,400 kilometres, the country's border with Afghanistan is longer than its Cen


The Afghan government has made some progress. Poppy-growing has been declared illegal. A new policy body, the Counter-Narcotics Department, or CND, has been instituted to direct drug policy in key ministries. The CND is being bankrolled by the British government. But it remains woefully ill-equipped. Almost none of its staff officers has any relevant experience. There is little money for communications or vehicles and nothing at all for intelligence-gathering. An attempt to buy out farmers only encouraged more areas to be planted with poppies, so something more radical and innovative is needed: the insertion of several hundred counter-narcotics police officers about the country. The narco-cops would need to eradicate poppy cultivation. They would have to be supported with EU-funded initiatives such as the purchase of wheat at above market prices and money for irrigation, husbandry and rural credit schemes.


All those who played a part in wrecking Afghanistan have a responsibility to help put it back together. Few expect Russia to cough up for the carnage unleashed by the Soviet Union, but it could supply survey maps and geologists to help Afghanistan exploit its own natural resources. If Afghanistan could discover a legal export -- gold and gemstones being possibilities – to match opium, it might yet prove the pessimists wrong.


(June 26 marks the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking)


The writers are visiting professors at LUMS. Email: huzaima@huzaimaikram.com and ikram@huzaimaikram.com

 

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