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Sunday, June 27, 2010

EDITORIAL 27.06.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month june 27, edition 000551 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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























































Is this the last gasp of a 'Bharat' against the onslaught of 'India'? Or is it a potentially successful rebellion by a beleaguered orthodoxy determined not to yield any more ground to the advancing forces of modernism and Westernisation? In a sense both these hypotheses run concurrently. The sudden spate of so-called honour killings that has gripped North India in recent months probably demonstrates that the old order will not give up without battle and mindsets in rural India are not ready to adjust to change at the speed modernisers wish. It will be a long war of attrition. Significantly, it is becoming increasingly difficult even to identify who is on whose side.

I say this because demonstrably modern politicians, some foreign educated and at ease holding knives and forks correctly at formal dinners, have emerged as apologists for the peculiar social organism called khap. Arguably, this powerful institution does a lot of philanthropic work and occasionally even espouses the cause of social reform, spreading awareness against child marriage and dowry for example. But today the khap is in the dock for ordering or at least vocally endorsing retrograde norms of marriage and denying its members constitutional rights, apart from blatantly defying the law and the duly established judicial process, which upholds the sanctity of individual choice.

Loosely defined khaps are assemblies of sub-castes spanning a number of villages in a defined geographical area. For readers outside the Delhi region who have little knowledge of this peculiar contraption, let me elucidate by referring to various khaps among Jats, such as the Balyan, Malik and Tewathia, among others. Just as Brahmins have divisions like Kanyakubj and Saryupari while Kayasths are divided into sub-castes like Srivastava and Mathur, Jats and others who dominate the hierarchical middle order among Hindus in North-West India are organised in sub-sets, which territorially overlap but determine social behaviour within and outside their respective sub-castes. Interestingly, almost every village throughout India is dominated by one caste and they, acting through the village panchayat, set the social agenda. As a relative of the slain couple, Kuldeep and Monica, in Delhi put it: "Gujars settled here 300 years ago. Rajputs and Muslims moved in later. But they too follow the same rule as us and do not permit marriages within the same village." Although Muslims have no exclusionist rules governing marriage and kinship, usually they tend to fall in line with dominant Hindu caste practices except where they are the majority.

A further complication arises when gotra is introduced into this complex social matrix. In the Hindu scheme of things, everybody has an assigned gotra named after a sage of ancient times such as Gautam, Vishwamitra, etc. The term gotra originates from go-kshetra, that broadly marks the territorial boundary within which cows belonging to a particular rishi and his disciples would graze. Same gotra marriages are generally forbidden because it is assumed that people living within that geographical area originated from the same rishi and are thus brother and sister, no matter how many times removed. Orthodox elements contend that all marriages must be guided by two rules of exclusion, that is, men and women belonging to the same village or the same gotra must not inter-marry, and one of inclusion, namely marriages can be solemnised only within the same caste.

There might have been some rationale behind this in the past when people rarely moved out of villages. But since the advent of the British and the railways, movement of people out of their cloistered villages gained rapid momentum. Migration to cities and small towns has accelerated in recent decades, resulting in the virtual snapping of rural roots. Therefore the enforcement of gotra, village and even caste rules has become almost impossible. A recent academic study suggested that as many as 31.6 per cent of OBC women married outside their caste or religion in Mumbai between 1990 and 2000. However, Delhi's neighbourhood, particularly the agriculturally prosperous regions of Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, remain deeply conservative on social matters. This could be the legacy of the waves of alien invasions the region underwent over the last millennia, which in turn bred a strong sense of self-preservation and defensiveness, particularly regarding the honour of womenfolk who were obviously violated by conquering hordes.

Thus, rural society here retreated into a shell and became over-protective about women. The khap system probably evolved to collectively legitimise this conservatism because the khap panchayat was authorised by common consent to enforce rules of social behaviour, punishing the deviant by ostracisation ("hukkah-pani bandh — meaning no sharing of the common hookah and withdrawal of permission to draw water from the community well). Depending on the gravity of the crime, the khap and sometimes the village panchayat (if the culprits belonged to different castes), could impose fines, order expulsion from the village, publicly admonish or physically assault the errant and so on. The pronouncement of the death penalty, however, seems to be a relatively recent and most horrific addition to the panchayats' powers.

Judging by the recent cases, it appears that wholly illegal and unacceptable imposition of the death penalty is reserved for same gotra or inter-caste marriages. The significant thing is that couples that commit this 'crime' usually flee the village before marriage but are lured back with the promise of reconciliation and thereafter violently beaten to death or hanged from the branch of a tree. Such outrage has become commonplace recently because social mores are steadily breaking down under the impact of urbanisation and examples promoted by TV serials. Besides, police penetration has increased considerably in these areas, which till some decades ago were left to administer themselves and hence the quantum jump in the reportage of such atrocities by an increasingly intrusive media.

Delhi's neighbourhood is witnessing an explosion of such kangaroo courts delivering rough-and-ready justice because the hiatus between a metro that has rapidly become cosmopolitan and its hinterland has widened sharply. Besides, the castes that dominate Delhi's surroundings, especially Jats and Gujars, have always prided themselves for machismo and believe it is the bounden duty of the male to protect, forcibly if necessary, the honour of the family or village female. Unfortunately, the same concern for feminine honour does not usually extend to strangers, especially those who wear 'provocative' attire or move around with other men. They are often considered fair game, which explains Delhi's dubious distinction as India's rape capital. Contradictions that have engulfed villages situated within the metropolis' ever-expanding boundaries are making matters worse. Women from villages located inside the city's urban precincts nowadays study in co-ed institutions and also go out to work, where they interact with 'alien' males and end up establishing romantic liaisons.

Wazirpur is a classic example of a village entombed within a burgeoning modern colony of Ashok Vihar. Here a village, trying desperately to cling on to antiquated norms and code of social behaviour finds itself increasingly besieged by the encroaching city with its different set of morals. But no matter how many 'deviant' young women and their lovers they kill in the hope of terrorising other women and future generations for violating rural orthodoxy, Wazirpur's days are numbered. North India's 'honour killings' are indeed the last, frustrated acts of vengeance by a dying society unable to accept the unstoppable reality of change.







To those who read much into the timing of announcements, there may be reasons to believe that the Government decision to completely deregulate petrol prices and lower the subsidy burden on diesel, kerosene and LPG was linked to the Prime Minister's presence at the G-20 summit in Toronto this week. With a controversy raging between Britain and Germany on the one hand and the US on the other over the validity of sops to tackle the global economic downturn, the Indian decision could well be read as a thumbs-up to the Europeans. With a lesser tax burden than developed countries and the fiscal deficit expected to come down to 4.5 per cent of the GDP once the impact of the price hikes and the 3G auction money are felt on the exchequer, India, Manmohan Singh can legitimately hope, will once again become the acknowledged flavour of the season for Western democracies and Japan.

That the price increases, which are likely to add about 0.9 per cent to the general inflation and raise interest rates, may have a bearing on the competitiveness of Indian manufacturing and services is, however, incidental to the domestic fallout. Even before the Kirit Parekh recommendations proposing the dismantling of the administered prices mechanism for petroleum, the Government already had two other endorsements of the move, one by C Rangarajan and the other by BK Chaturvedi. The UPA could even cite the hesitant moves in this direction by the previous NDA regime — although in their case, sensible economics was offset by a publicity-hungry Minister who insisted on owning up to every price fluctuation and the greed of party apparatchiks for petrol pump allotments.

Whatever the intellectual justifications, the fact that the Government actually took the plunge indicates an enhanced sense of political self-confidence. It is now becoming clear that the Congress feels that inflation and particularly the rising prices of food are unlikely to disrupt the political equilibrium. A section of the middle class, particularly those employed by the private sector, will feel the pinch the most but public sector employees with inflation-linked incomes are not going to be materially affected. Moreover, with the BJP and the Left struggling to find a focus, the UPA calculation that the price hike poses no political threat to the regime seems well founded. Mamata Banerjee will, no doubt, register her displeasure but is unlikely to do anything precipitate.

For the country, the Government's bold move to let the market dictate petrol prices — which implies that prices could also come down — and cut other subsidies is a mixed blessing. On the positive side, the reduction of the fiscal deficit implies more money in the market for the private sector to undertake meaningful investment. At the same time, the rise in interest rates means that companies will have to be extra efficient to remain competitive in a global environment. Indian interest rates are scandalously high and one of the reasons for this is the complete detachment of decision-makers from the productive sector. This is a long-term problem and a legacy of the bad, old socialist days when it was felt that economics was all about drawing up grandiose plans that invariably remained confined to paper and the Left imagination.

The danger of elaborate mega schemes neutralising the positive gains from last Friday's announcement cannot be discounted. It is almost certain that there will be political adventurers insisting that the removal of one set of subsidies should be accompanied by a new set of subsidies, something that is politically better targeted and not so diffused. The victory of Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee in the empowered Ministerial committee doesn't imply that they have won the larger battle in the Congress.

It is worth remembering that the other power centre in the Congress is still governed by the principles of socialist paternalism. Encouraged by what they regard as the 'success' of the NREGS, there is an inclination to enter into a never-ending spiral of welfare handouts. Sonia Gandhi has never articulated her political philosophy with any degree of coherence — as of date her collected political reflections are likely to be accommodated in a slim volume. However, her revealed preferences, actions and the type of people she has nominated to the National Advisory Council suggest an inclination to convert Indian public life to a series of entitlements. Will the savings on fuel subsidies be diverted to other areas which yield direct political dividends?

This is not an academic issue. With the Obama Administration insisting that the world economy could still do with Keynesian sops — an approach that is sharply divergent from the fiscal prudence being pursued by Britain and Germany — there will be a section in India that will insist that this is no time to get obsessive about the fiscal deficit. They are likely to press the point that there is no compelling need to rush things and bring the deficit down from the planned 5.5 per cent of the GDP to 4.5 per cent by 2011.

The tussle between a Prime Minister and Finance Minister looking to enhance India's competitive edge and a Congress president who is inclined to populist measures that are inherently wasteful and inefficient hasn't erupted into the open. The public reaction to the fuel price hike could bring this tension out into the open.

The Opposition parties are faced with a curious dilemma. If their agitation against last Friday's measures does elicit a significant public response, there will be pressure on the Government to either roll back or divert the savings into a NAC-inspired project. Ironically, the Opposition's success will strengthen the hands of Sonia Gandhi vis-à-vis a Prime Minister who seems increasingly intent on carving out a name for himself in history. Politics, it would seem, does end up making strange bedfellows.








It would be an exaggeration to suggest, as was done by a critic of the Emergency late Thursday night, that "... Hitler was Indira and Indira was Hitler, actually!" That comment came after he had drawn some telling comparisons between the Emergency regime of Adolf Hitler and that of Mrs Indira Gandhi. Hitler had imposed Emergency under a constitutional provision, so had Mrs Gandhi. Hitler had killed freedom of speech with censorship, so had Mrs Gandhi. Hitler had a 25-point programme, so did Mrs Gandhi (well, she had a 20-point programme; her younger son, Sanjay, had a five-point programme). A sycophant in Hitler's camp is believed to have said, "Hitler is Germany and Germany is Hitler"; Dev Kant Baruah, who was president of the Congress during the Emergency, affirmed his loyalty by declaring, "Indira is India and India is Indira!" There would be other comparisons, too. For instance, Hitler had his Nazi goons, Mrs Gandhi had her Youth Congress thugs. In Hitler's Germany trains are believed to have run on time, so also in Indira's India, lending credence to the Government's claim that "The nation is on the move."

Yet, despite the stunning similarities that marked free India's loss of liberty during those joyless 21 months of the Emergency that was clamped on an unsuspecting nation 35 years ago on the night of June 25, it would be unfair to describe Mrs Gandhi as Herr Hitler. After all, while the Emergency may have witnessed several outrages, including the incarceration of virtually the entire political opposition, the hounding of those who dared raise their voice against the Government, among them a handful of journalists, and the subversion of the Constitution of India to place Mrs Gandhi above the party and the Congress above the nation, but we were spared the sight of men, women and children being marched to concentration camps, adorned with signboards proclaiming 'Work Liberates', and their eventual death in gas chambers. The closest we came to this was a silly slogan, "Talk less, work more." There were two other equally silly slogans that were ubiquitous. "Emergency: An era of discipline," which was attributed to Gandhian Bhoodan leader Acharya Vinoba Bhave and prominently stamped on postcards and inland letter forms. The other was, "The leader is right, the future is bright."

Having said that, it is not as if people were not bothered about the Emergency regime and life went on as usual in the country's cities, towns and villages. With fundamental rights suspended, the judiciary packed with 'committed' judges and no jholawallahs around to light candles for people who mysteriously disappeared after the proverbial midnight knock on their doors or file PILs demanding they be located and produced in court (even if they had done so their petitions would have been dumped into the nearest dustbin), a strange sense of fear gripped everybody. Some activists did try the habeas corpus route but it was ruled against by the Supreme Court. Four senior judges upheld the Government's view that along with fundamental rights, even the right to life stood abrogated. The only judge who spoke for freedom was Justice HR Khanna: He gave a dissenting opinion, asserting that the right to life and liberty enshrined in the Constitution was inviolable and not subject to executive decree. Not that it helped.

Parents worried themselves sick if their children were not home by sunset. Wives panicked if their husbands were late in returning from work. Friends stopped trusting friends; relatives were cautious in what they told each other; Government employees avoided sharing chai and gossip with colleagues; nobody spoke to strangers. You never knew who had been co-opted by the Emergency mukhabaraat. In coffee houses, popular among college and university students those days — the brew was cheap and cigarettes were shared — the staff discouraged overcrowding at tables. Schools had to seek prior approval for elocution contests and essay competitions. I recall an incensed Fr Powell cancelling the annual elocution contest at our school after a paan-chewing babu refused to clear the perennial favourite, Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" and accused him of "polluting young minds". Not one to give up without a fight, later that year Fr Powell went back to the babu for approval to stage the annual play. What's the play? The Caine Mutiny, Fr Powell replied. This time it was the babu's turn to be apoplectic with rage. Needless to add, there was no annual play.

But these are frivolous details that do not quite capture the enormity of the crime that was committed in the name of 'saving' the nation from the Opposition led by Jayaprakash Narayan. Mrs Gandhi should have resigned after the Allahabad High Court held her guilty of corrupt practices during the 1971 Lok Sabha poll, declared her election from Rae Bareli null and void, and barred her from contesting elections for six years. Instead, Mrs Gandhi imposed Emergency, had the judgement set aside by the Supreme Court, packed off her critics to jails, extended the life of Parliament and subverted the Constitution.

There were horror stories of young men, some in their teens, being picked up and 'sterilised' by zealous district officials eager to meet targets set for them. Overnight all goons and thugs became active members of the Youth Congress and took to wearing white kurtas with Chinese collars in deference to their leader, Sanjay Gandhi, whose meteoric rise to power by virtue of being Mrs Gandhi's son was described by Russi Karanjia as "history's own answer to our prayers". The venerable Khushwant Singh, who was then editor of The Illustrated Weekly, was an unabashed supporter of Mrs Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, and found nothing wrong with their deeds.

Newspaper editors had to send galley proofs to censors who would laboriously read through the text, cross out portions they thought were not in conformity with official policy or had a whiff of criticism or simply because they couldn't understand and and hence were deemed not fit to be published. A copy of next morning's paper had to be hand-delivered to the censors to prove that the might of their blue pencil had not been defied. Not that too many editors were eager to fall foul of the Emergency regime or create problems for the owners of the papers they edited. In fact, a group of editors marched to Mrs Gandhi's residence and presented her with a petition pointing out that the censorship laws were not strict enough and needed to be made harsher. As Mr LK Advani was to later famously comment, "Asked to bend, many chose to crawl."

Mrs Gandhi was not exaggerating when, amazed by the ease with which she had been able to strip the people of their liberty, she told a confidant, "Not a dog barked!"

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TRUTH to tell, the expectations from the Union Home Minister's meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Rehman Malik on Friday were not too high. Given the climate of distrust between the two countries, even the limited engagement that seems to have been managed is an achievement which can be built on in the coming months.


The fact that a scheduled 45 minute meeting went on for more than two hours is an indication that both countries wish to engage each other seriously, as is the meeting between the intelligence chiefs of the two countries.


Without sounding judgmental, Mr Chidambaram pointed out that Pakistan needs to go beyond the trial of the seven persons it has charged for complicity in the Mumbai attacks. India has reportedly provided Pakistan more details about the involvement of the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba/ Jamaat- ud- Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed on the basis of its interrogation of Pakistani- American Daood Gilani, aka David Colemen Headley.


Given his status in the Pakistani system, no one expects Islamabad to act against Mr Saeed, who has recently begun participating openly in public meetings. Headley's association with the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba was quite extensive and spanned several years and he is likely to be in a position to have known some of the organisation's inner- most secrets.


The Home Minister has constructively suggested that in case Pakistan did not wish to give the voice samples of the suspected handlers which were recorded at the time of the 26/ 11 episode, they could turn them over to a third country for forensic analysis. Pakistan needs to understand that fixing the blame for the Mumbai carnage is a key element in reducing the trust deficit with India. For its part, New Delhi must do all it can to obtain the required cooperation from Islamabad.



ONCE upon a time, prosperous Punjab was the envy of the nation. Clearly those days are in the past. The standing of the state has slipped on almost every count. But the most tragic has been the havoc caused by the pollution of its land and waters.

A H EADLINES T ODAY probe has brought out the tragedy that is affecting people in the western part of the state's Malwa region. Scores of babies have been born with genetic defects and deformities. Local officials claim that this could be because of tanneries in Kasur, across the border, which allow their untreated waste to flow into the Sutlej river.


It is important for the government to first carry out an epidemiological survey of the affected districts and determine the cause of the birth defects. It could be the pollution of the Sutlej, but it could well be the general poisoning of the ground water aquifers by the overuse of pesticides.


However, as a first step the government can invoke Article IV of the Indus Waters Treaty and consult with Pakistan to jointly work out ways of ensuring that no effluents and industrial waste are allowed to flow into the rivers that are so vital for the prosperity of Punjab in both Pakistan and India.



WHILE the Haryana Urban Development Authority ( HUDA) is justified in emphasising on due procedures, its methods of implementing them are arbitrary. Its threat to disconnect water and sewage lines of the residents who have failed to obtain Occupation Certificates ( OC) is sheer blackmail.


HUDA officials claim that the responsibility of obtaining the OCs lies with the developers. If so, the punishment for failing to do so should be borne by the builders and not hapless residents.


To add to the residents' woes, HUDA refused to entertain any pleas from them on the pretext that the authority deals with developers and not individual residents. So the residents face punishment without even having the right to appeal! The developers are largely responsible for this mess. Not only did they fail to follow the prescribed procedures, they also misguided residents by telling them to get their sewer connections directly from HUDA. This shows the vulnerability of residents when faced with the arbitrary authorities and the callous developers.


The system operates to the advantage of the big players and needs to be made more sensitive to the concerns of

common citizens.







THEY don't make monsoons like they used to. I wasn't around at the time Kalidas wrote about all the young couples rushing to their bedrooms on the arrival of the first rains of the season, 'what role now, for the father-in-law or the mother-in-law?' but I remember the time when the rains were The Rains and cars were Ambassadors, especially in Calcutta.


At some point in June, just post the vacations, the skies would darken and the downpour would start. We lived in a colony that did not then have pucca roads or closed sewage and soon the gutters would overflow on to the mud of the streets, soon after that the roads would become canals and flow into the already inundated park in front of our house. Within a couple of days it would seem as if we were living in one of those floating houses we had seen in photographs of Thailand or Indonesia, water stretching away in every direction dotted with surreal islands of trees, railings, post-boxes and cars.


All through the day the rain would prick the surface of the huge lake that surrounded us, either in relentless little puncturings or knifing in hard; all through the night there would be the drumming of water on the window-panes, with a tympany provided by some metal structure outside. In a basti, under tiles, tin or tarpaulin it must have been the most anxiety- making sound but if you were a middle-class kid in a concrete house it was the most comforting lullaby imaginable.


Monsoon and school had a strained relationship as well. We kids would wake up praying it had rained heavily enough overnight to make the journey to school impossible, but parents and the high-lumbering schoolbuses had other ideas.



If the bus failed to appear, an intrepid father would roll up his pyjamas or trousers and get the car started. Sailing through the shallow rivers one would receive lessons in how to drive in water, instructions mixed with imprecations at incompetent drivers who endangered the running of their own cars and those of others.


Years later, before they finally disappeared into the maw of humanity's Lost Arts, those lessons came in useful: double declutching to keep the air pumping out of the exhaust pipe in order to not let in the water; the angle at which you had to drive the car so that it was never fully frontal against the waves forming on the street; how you kept wiping the inside of the windscreen to keep clear vision; how the Ambassador, if you knew how to handle it, was superior to any other family car in the floods and so on.


Inside buildings, even the concrete ones, the wetness seeped into everything, books, food, clothes, walls and occasionally electric wires. Reading Garcia Marquez' A Hundred Years of Solitude sitting in an alien New York as a twenty- something I felt an immediate recognition when I came across that great passage where it rained constantly for years in the tropical Colombian town of Macondo. It's not that the rain actually came down for years on end, it's that in a proper monsoon, time itself seemed to stretch and rent like a sodden bedsheet left out by mistake.


If Calcutta was the urban fulcrum of the deltaic monsoon, Bombay's rainy season had a different Malabar majesty. In the Calcutta of my childhood, from June till September, the rains closed things down, enveloping the city in a cocoon of water; in the Bombay of my twenties, the wet season pared open the town and married it to the sea.


Suddenly the division between the vast permanent water out there and the grand pretensions of concrete and tar, of Marine drive, Haji Ali, Worli Seaface and Juhu seemed to disappear in a crossfade of wet grey; it was as if the sea had woken up and decided to start wrestling with the town; its briny fish- marinade smell was everywhere, on the roads, on the trains as they whipped through the deluge, in the houses, in the corner- stalls and Iranis where you cowered with the girl, drinking juice or that terrible Bombay tea, waiting for a pause in which you could both run back to your bed in whatever little room you had secured near Churchgate or Colaba or even some posh PG aunty's flat on Breach Candy.



The difference was the sea and — if you happened to be around Malabar Hill, Peddar Road or Bandra— the sloping roads down which water would cascade, almost washing away the downward traffic as the cars heading the other way fought their way up- hill. The thing one noted was that huge rain or not, nothing ever stopped, no office was ever closed, no rupee of profit was ever relinquished because of the season and presumably no Bombay schoolkid ever scored an offday due to water- logging. There was none of that exhausted traffic- less silence of a flooded Calcutta afternoon and the pesky little Fiat taxis were clearly far better at swimming through the rain than the lugubrious Ambassadors.


If the monsoon regularly smacked Calcutta into submission it brought out the most feral quality in Bombay's citizens; forget the romantic rain scenes in Hindi movies or the longeurs of Inglish fiction- writers from South Bombay, this town in the rain was a war- zone with no quarter asked for and none given.


When I came to live in the northern megalopolis, I had no means of associating the word ' rain' with ' Delhi'. Nu- Dilli to me meant either brutally cold winters or brutally dry summers; equally, the character of Dilliwallas showed no sign of ever having experienced any rainfall, not even of the kind that brought out black suicidal tendencies in Kolkataiyas or warmly homicidal ones in Mumbaikars.


Therefore my first monsoon in Delhi was a revelation. In the middle of this interminable, baking heat some strange foreign substance began to drop from the still- white skies and you realised it was similar to the stuff that fell on Calcutta and Bombay, i. e. a kind of water. Then the skies actually darkened in a way that was familiar and it actually poured down. Bizarre but undeniable.


Did it change the dry and brittle nature of Delhi- ites? Not much, but at least the colours softened, leaves glistened, actual monsoon sweat sprouted from some deep remnant- reservoir of human biology and cars stalled in three inches of water.


Gradually I came to accept that the barsaatis on top of Delhi houses were really put there because of barsaat ; that the northern ' monsoon' could actually be the most beautiful period in the city's season- cycle; that you could transported listening to Bhimsen Joshi singing M iyan ki Malhar even in Delhi, especially if you could simultaneously be looking at Humayun's Tomb in a thunderstorm.



Across the years I understood that losing the monsoon— as we might well do soon in the non- Deccan subcontinent— would evoke some nostalgia for the rains in Delhi as much as it would in Bombay or Calcutta. There would be a difference, of course: except the galis of Chandni Chowk there is none of the close mingling of rain and massed building that you get in Cal or Bombay; on the other hand there is the fresh mitti smell of new rain on dry soil that is almost completely missing from the two tropical metro- messes; there is a sense that this rain is contiguous with rainfall in the rest of the land.


They don't make monsoons like they used to, no, and it's even worse because television and video- players have come and ruined it all for the post ' 82 generations, but I still have hope that each northern Indian city's monsoon will retain some of its specific taste just as mangoes still do.


The writer is the author of The Last Jet- Engine Laugh








THE fast food business is in the news lately for the right reasons. The Economist reports that at a time when traffic to full-service restaurants in the US, Europe and Japan dropped by more than 6 per cent last year, the fast-food business didn't experience any dip because big spenders hit by recession had started 'trading down'.


McDonald's, meanwhile, is basking in the FIFA World Cup glory, despite grumblings about its high-calorie association with an athletic event. Even President Barack Obama, by having a cheeseburger summit with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev at Ray's Hell Burger in the Beltway suburb of Arlington, has lent the much-reviled sandwich a new respectability.


With news of these developments swimming in my mind I went to meet the boss of the Indian operations of McCain, the world's largest producer of French fries — it has to be the largest because McDonald's sources all its fries from the Canadian company. I remembered my first meeting, ten years ago, with a group of potato farmers from Idaho (it was the first time they had been anywhere in the world outside Idaho). They had come to hard-sell their produce to a country that had just got a taste of French fries.


The standard Indian potatoes (we have more than 2,000 varieties of them!), they said, were small and had a high water content (15-20 per cent), which turns them into sponges that soak in cooking oil. If they come now, they may have to go back without much business because McCain, in collaboration with the Central Potato Research Institute, has got farmers in Gujarat, a state traditionally not known to grow the tuber, to produce just what you need to make the perfect French fries (and the humongous specimens you see in the picture haven't been genetically modified).


What's a big plus for these potatoes is that they absorb very little cooking oil. And the good news for Indian farmers, who collectively are the world's third- largest producers of potatoes, is that they can now trade up and go for better- yielding process- grade tubers — according to McCain, its contract farmers in Gujarat are producing twice as much per hectare ( 32 tonnes against 16) as they did before, and naturally, they are earning more.


But that was not my only big discovery. I was checking out how many calories a standard McDonald's serving on French fries packs in — 290 kcal — and I realised that a samosa has much less ( 252 kcal) and a vada pao, the inspiration for the McAloo Tikki Burger, is higher at 295 kcal. Now, compare these with the other snacking options we have ( and I have got the figures I am about to share from information given on the packaging for the products).


From commercially marketed salted peanuts ( 644 kcal per pack) and aloo bhujia ( 630 kcal) to baked chips ( 497- 506 kcal), which people eat in the hope of staying healthy, to even instant noodles ( 402 kcal per serving), just about every snack is loaded with excess calories.


And worse, their fat content goes up from 25 per cent in the case of baked chips to 52 per cent for salted peanuts.


Guess the fat content of a vada pav ? It's just 8.5 per cent.

The samosa has only 13.2 per cent. And the French fries, 14.1 per cent. Can you pass me a samosa , please?



BARACK Obama and Dmitri Medvedev couldn't have discussed state secrets when they dropped in at Ray's Hell- Burger because, according to the Washington Post , the decibel level at the Arlington, Virginia, restaurant touches 72 — which means you have to raise your voice to be heard. Not that it seems to matter to Obama, for this was the second time he dropped in at Ray's ( the name is a figment of its owner Michael Landrum's imagination and has nothing to do with any person). Last year, Obama had stopped by unannounced for a meal with his second- in- command, Joe Biden.


The $ 6.95 cheeseburger Obama and Medvedev bought for lunch has a 10- ounce ( 283.5 gm) patty made from freshly ground, hand- trimmed beef and comes with complimentary sides of watermelon and corn on the cob. The presidents opted for the cheaper option, but they could have spent upwards of $ 17.50 on Ray's signature offerings, like the The Burger of Seville, which has foie gras , the red wine- based bordelaise sauce and white truffle oil.


The Washington Post restaurant critic had one complaint, though: the brioche bread tends to fall apart under the weight and juice of the patty. Not that the president is complaining.



Even as America battles its worst oil spill, and its President spews fire at the Brit company BP, the catastrophe has had an unintended consequence. Red Lobster, a US- wide chain of 680 seafood restaurants with the enticing tagline, ' Come see what's fresh today', will have to pull oysters out of its menu.


The conglomerate, which operates out of Orlando, Florida, sources oysters from the Gulf of Mexico, which is where the oil spill has wreaked havoc. But it's not that the oysters are dying, choked by the gushing gallons of crude oil, but the people with the expertise to harvest oysters have found that they can make bigger bucks by cleaning up the spill.


So, they have abandoned oysters and literally left Red Lobster with a hole in its menu — and it's not likely that these oyster catchers will be drawn back to their original occupation at least till October — they've a lot on their hands, with the undersea well relentlessly coughing up 19,000 barrels a day. Some companies that use oysters have switched over to cold water varieties from the US East Coast, but it costs them three times as much.


So be prepared for oyster deprivation if you're a Red Lobster fan — I became one, I confess, after I got a glass with the bright red lobster insignia for free with a meal loaded with jumbo portions of every kind of seafood, including steamed oysters.



WHEN Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama landed near Kozhikode at the end of his search for " spices and Christians," India was the superpower of the pepper market. India paid for this by becoming the playground of colonial powers but in the new world order Vietnam has edged us out without colonising us — it is the largest pepper producer contributing 30 per cent of the world's supplies.


That's just a part of the story of India being pushed to the No. 2 slot in the world pepper market — 2009- 10 figures released by Spices Board chairman V. J. Kurian show that though Indian exports grew by 5 per cent in the last financial year, pepper saw a decline of 22 per cent in volume and 24 per cent in value.


In 2009- 10, India exported 19,750 tonnes of pepper and earned Rs 313.93 crore, against the 2008- 09 level of 25,250 tonnes valued at Rs 413.74 crore. People in the know have identified three reasons for the drop: stiff competition from Vietnam; decline in domestic production; and sharp fall in the US demand — America, incidentally, picks up 43 per cent of our pepper exports.


The good news for India is that the International Pepper Community predicts the world consumption of pepper to go up by 10 per cent to 3,20,000 tonnes this year — that should translate into a bullish market and a big opportunity for India to regain lost ground because the Indonesian crop has been badly hit by rain.


sourish.bhattacharyya@mailtoday. in








BJP LEADER Sushma Swaraj made it clear that she still prefers the Reddy brothers of Bellary over Karnataka chief minister B. S. Yeddyurappa. During her recent visit to Karnataka, Sushma spent more time with the mining tycoons than even Yeddyurappa. She visited their office and home and met the Reddy clan. The brothers, in turn, turned Sushma's visit into a mega media event.


She was supposed to praise the BJP government for completing two years in office in Karnataka, but ended up praising the Reddy brothers instead!



BIHAR chief minister Nitish Kumar had received a lot of flak last year when he allowed several leaders, who were once close to Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal ( RJD) and Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party ( LJP), to join the JDU. Some of them, including Shyam Rajak, even contested the assembly byelections on JD- U tickets but lost. But that has not prevented Nitish's party from rewarding them. They have all been given plum party posts in a recent organisational reshuffle. Rajak and Bhim Singh, who were in Lalu's party, and Ghulam Rasool Baliawai, who was the minority face of Paswan's party, have all been made national general secretaries of the JD- U. Another new national general secretary is Upendra Kushwaha, who was also rewarded with a Rajya Sabha nomination, earlier this month. Kushwaha had also rejoined the JD- U recently. Being turncoats is certainly no disadvantage in Bihar, at least in a ruling party.



IF NOT at everything, political leaders in Karnataka have been successful in using former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda's trick, which is to shed crocodile tears to gain sympathy of people. On Friday, chief minister B. S. Yeddyurappa had to use his handkerchief to control his tears. Addressing a large gathering on the occasion of the BJP completing two years in office, Yeddyurappa wept for nearly 5 minutes, accusing the Opposition parties of undermining his achievements.


Interestingly, his personal staff lent support to him by wetting their eyes as well! Yeddyurappa is not the first politician to weep in front of large crowds. Gowda started it and Congress leaders Siddaramaiah, D. K. Shivakumar, R. V. Deshpande and BJP leaders D. H. Shankaramurthy and D. B. Chandre Gowda followed him.



WHAT'S the real story behind Mamata Banerjee's recent fallout with painter Shuvaprasanna, hitherto her close associate? Riding on her growing popularity in West Bengal, a section of people close to her are making hay. The painter seemed no different and dragged her into controversy by claiming that she was all set to launch a new satellite Bengali news channel — Ekhon Samay.


A former member of the Calcutta Painters Group, Shuvaprasanna had reportedly approached finance minister Pranab Mukherjee for funds by claiming that the channel was the Trinamool chief's brainchild. Soon Mukherjee found out that neither Mamata nor her party had any stake in the channel. The trick was exposed and the painter left red- faced. Doesn't the railway minister need to be more careful while choosing her cronies?




AMID moves by the political leadership to make the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act ( AFSPA) more humane, army chief General V. K. Singh has voiced his opposition to any change.


The army chief said demands for dilution of the Act were being made for narrow political gains.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised amendments to the Act that gives sweeping powers to the army in Jammu and Kashmir and the North- East, to make it more humane.


Home minister P. Chidambaram is also known to be in favour of diluting some of the provisions of the special powers Act.


The home ministry has finalised its views and sent a note to the Union cabinet.


Comments of the ministries of defence and law have been sought before the Cabinet Committee on Security considers amendments.


Describing the AFSPA as a misunderstood Act, the army chief told a defence journal: " All who ask for its dilution or withdrawal probably do so for narrow political gains. Any dilution will lead to constraining our operations." He went on to emphasise: Army chief General V. K. Singh ( below) is opposed to changes in the Special Powers Act clamped in J& K and the North- East.


" We are very clear on the subject that soldiers operating in hostile environment need legal protection to ensure that they perform their tasks efficiently." Killings of three Kashmiri youngsters by the army in a suspected fake encounter in Machil in Kupwara district on April 29 has sparked off widespread protests in the Valley and strengthened the demand for amending the Act.


Chief minister Omar Abdullah as well as political parties in the state are clamouring for dilution of the Act so that any army personnel involved in extra- judicial killings are held accountable through civilian legal process rather than army's internal mechanisms.


But, General Singh has maintained during the interview that adequate measures have been instituted at organisational and functional levels to ensure that the powers entrusted through the Act are not misused.


" Security forces are required to undertake operations in Jammu and Kashmir in challenging circumstances against highly- trained terrorists armed and equipped with sophisticated weapons," the General said, and added: " So we need requisite legal protection."





PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh has said there are some elements wedded to terrorism outside India, including in Canada, who try to keep the issue of Sikh militancy alive and asked Ottawa to curb such anti- India activities from its soil.


" Sikh extremism, separatism and militancy were a problem in India more than two decades ago. Today, Punjab is at peace and there is growth and prosperity.


There are, however, some elements outside India, including in Canada, who try to keep this issue alive for their own purposes. In many cases, such elements have links to or are themselves wedded to terrorism," Singh, who is in Toronto to attend the G- 20 Summit, told Toronto Star in an interview.


Singh, a Sikh himself, has asked Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in at least two of his three bilateral meetings, to crack down on Sikh extremists in Canada, the newspaper said. Such Indian complaints date back to the 1985 Air India bombing which killed all 329 on board, the worst terrorist atrocity in Canadian history, it said. Their activities are a reason for both governments in India and in Canada to be concerned.


" We have sensitised the Canadian authorities in this matter. We have been pointing out that Sikh extremism in Canada, which has no support in India, is not good for Canada," Singh said. " We feel that vigilance and close co- operation between both governments on the issue is necessary."









In December, Nitin Gadkari came out of Nagpur and became BJP president. He had managed to trounce all the party's Gen Next big names. Was Gadkari exactly what the doctor ordered for the BJP? Six months down the line, the party does not look in the best of health. Mohua Chatterjee caught up with the 53-yearold trained lawyer and asked him the hard questions about adjusting to the role of a top-flight politician in Delhi. Excerpts from the interview:


Ever since you took over as BJP president, there has been a major misadventure in Jharkhand for your party, Bihar which goes into elections in some months is not looking in good shape as far as your alliance with the JD(U) is concerned. Any achievements in the last six months?

• I would say there are quite a few achievements. On the issue of price rise we could reach out to the "aam aadmi" and the UPA government as well as the Congress party has been under pressure on this because of us, whether in Parliament or outside of it. In fact, it has been reflecting in some of the elections that happened afterwards.
Which elections?

• Let's talk about the Domariyagunj byelection. The BJP finished second after BSP, with SP and Congress lagging behind.
Talking of Uttar Pradesh, where does the BJP stand there?

• I have to tell you the party is gearing up in UP. The Domariyagunj poll result is not an aberration. The party is reviving in UP again.

Who is your party's face in UP?

• Some new faces are coming up... I would not like to speak about it now. It will take time for them to emerge as faces of the party. It takes time, but it is happening.

You were listing your achievements in the last six months as president.

• Yes, as far as the organization is concerned, negativity has been done away with, I would say almost 80 to 90 per cent. Indore (BJP's first national executive after Gadkari took over) was a success... in many places internal problems within the party have been taken care of. For instance, in Rajasthan our internal factional troubles had become huge over the last three years, but the party today has overcome almost 90% of it and the election of Ram Jethmalani to the Rajya Sabha proved that the party in Rajasthan was not only unanimous in its decision once it was taken, but he even got extra votes.

   Overall, there is a sense of team spirit in the party now and factionalism (guthbazi) has been contained. Essentially because I do not believe in factional politics... transparency and talking to people is the way out. And it's working.

It's not all that harmonious in Madhya Pradesh is it, with an outsider as state party chief and the possibility of Uma Bharati's return to the BJP?

• Prabhat Jha was a unanimous choice... he has worked for many years in Gwalior... as for Uma Bharati, it will take time... we will talk about her when the final decision is taken. Personally, I feel my biggest achievement is that apart from Chhattisgarh and UP, I have been able to make the rounds of all the states. I have told party workers to increase at least 10% of votes. In Parliament, we are doing extremely well... whichever issue you take up, our performance has been very good.

But in Bihar, it is a mess, all of a sudden?

• I am happy to tell you the problem has been resolved. You will see it soon for yourself.
The BJP has been able to do little in its role of the main Opposition party in questioning the government on the Bhopal gas tragedy issue. Why?

• We are working on it. I am going to Bhopal for a huge rally... there is a meeting in Ratlam where we will finalize our strategy on how to take on the government on this issue. We will announce it after our Ratlam meeting.

After you took over as party chief there have been some changes in the party's daily functioning and by that I mean meetings carry on late into the night etc. That culture is very new for the BJP.

• I agree that the kind of "disciplined" life that is seen in traditional BJP circles was never mine. Getting up early in the morning and finishing off early at night has never been my habit. But, I am a workaholic. From 7.30 in the morning to 2.30 at night my day goes on. I cannot say no, to anyone or to anything that comes up... I try to accommodate maximum work. Also, I am new to the job and naturally every person wants to meet me... I don't know them, they don't know me... it takes time. My problem is also that I cannot refuse to meet anybody, because I don't believe in maintaining a distance. My door is always open. But I also believe in decentralization. And now that I have appointed most of the office bearers, gradually I will not have to deal with everything myself. And the results will start showing.

Indeed, your lifestyle is a bit unusual. You are a foodie and as you say, keep late hours.

• Unlike most politicians I am not really an image conscious person. I do what I like... that keeps me going... if people have to say anything about that, and often they do, I don't take it to heart. I am a happy person and enjoy living at peace with myself.

How will you survive in politics that way?

• I don't believe in internal politics and my intentions are good. So far, that is how I have survived... I am not looking to get anything specific for myself through politics








Power is the glue of politics. That is why a government is expected to be in array and opposition generally in disarray. Ideology is a fickle custodian of unity in an age of convenience. Its absence has eliminated the difference between single-party rule and coalition government. Both are held together by individual or sectarian self-interest, which is why they last. Ideology is a differentiator; it makes a partnership untenable even if the partners consider it sustainable. Sentiment is irrelevant to any political marriage. This is true of all democracies where coalitions become necessary. Politicians live for power; why would they invite a premature death?


 Indian politics, reduced to minimalist, notional ideology, devoid of individual or party accountability, is peculiarly suited to coalitions. If there were accountability, the DMK's A Raja would not remain in Manmohan Singh's Cabinet. Because there is none, the current coalition will survive without either condemnation or confession. An occasional spot of PR-driven tinkering is all that is needed.


 Sometimes alliance parties find it convenient to simulate conflict, but this is public posturing to satisfy populist opinion before an election. Bengal and Bihar are the new templates of posture-politics.


 Mamata Banerjee would, ideally, like to marginalize Congress and usurp the Congress vote. But as long as Congress has some vote she cannot afford to destroy the alliance. There will be variations in the mathematics of the equation, which is perfectly reasonable, since even a municipal election jerks the kaleidoscope to induce new patterns. The entrails of Bengal's May municipal results must have been fully read by now, but a glaring fact was obvious very early: the Left Front did far better against Congress than against Trinamool. Mamata will consequently squabble for additional space, but she has not lost her political marbles. She knows the tensile strength of her alliance with Congress and will not stretch it to breaking point. Nor does Congress care if her nickname in Delhi has become Derailways Minister. The game is political. A new game may or may not begin after the Bengal Assembly elections next year.


In Bihar, Nitish Kumar and the BJP are equipped with multi-megabyte calculators, which work on long-lasting batteries powered by mutually-beneficial ground reality. The photograph of a Nitish-Narendra Modi armshake was not exactly news to the Bihar voter. It made the front page much before the last general election. A substantial number of Muslims voted for Nitish Kumar in 2009 despite that photo because they wanted to thank him for keeping the peace as well as giving them jobs. They knew they were voting for the NDA. Since then, however, there has been some slippage in minority support for Nitish. Nitish's political gasp at the reappearance of the photo was an attempt to buy a few brownie points at easy rates, a familiar tactic of electoral politics. Similarly, the BJP's gruff huff and puff was intended to energize its own core vote. Neither party will win in Bihar if they split their support, and their leaders have tasted the comforts of office.


The real conflicts in the UPA2 era are not inter-party but intra-party. The BJP has done signal service to news media over the past year, feeding it with a constant supply of stories about personal bickering such as the one over Jaswant Singh's Jinnah book. The author-MP's return to the party marks a partial restoration of sense but much more reparation is needed on the long road ahead to credibility. Congress, as the main ruling party, should have been happily becalmed. But it has been restive, pushing unpopular policy decisions such as deregulation of petrol prices while its spokespersons shoot themselves in both feet with gold-medal accuracy. For the first time in years they seem to be happier abroad than in domestic TV studios. Congress is complacent because it believes that it has time to recover before the 2014 general election. The states have dropped off the radar because most of them are in a mess.

 Congress is suffering from insurrection in Andhra Pradesh, abdication in Karnataka, uncertainty in Maharashtra, indifference in central India, bondage in Bengal, futility in Bihar and drift in Punjab. Its spirits are concentrated around a single hope, that Rahul Gandhi will engineer a miraculous rebirth by offering himself as candidate for UP chief minister in a diamondversus-dimple election.


 Regional parties need their share of headlines and so Mulayam Singh Yadav discovers ways in which to expel Amar Singh, while no soap opera could ever have the courage to script any serial akin to the inheritance wars of the DMK. It is perfectly logical that a feudal culture should breed feuds. There is calm in the onewoman party because its leaders cannot expel themselves. The glue of power melts only in the heat of public anger. Corruption, prices and Bhopal have induced a simmer, but it will need more heat to reach boiling point.








So you think that Indian tribals are utterly downtrodden, oppressed and bypassed by national economic development? You think activists are right to view Maoist insurgency as a tribal blessing and the only way forward for such an oppressed group?

   Think again. No less than 17.1% of tribals own colour TVs, 46.6% have bicycles, 20% have two-wheelers, 12.5% have life insurance and 8.5% have refrigerators. That is below the national average of course, but othing like the stark deprivation painted by activists.

   These startling figures come from Caste in a Different Mould by Rajesh Shukla, Sunil Jain and Preeti Kakkar. The book draws on major household surveys by the National Council on Applied Economic Research, especially one in 2004-05. Its main finding is that caste matters much less than people think, while education and location matter much more.

That is good news. The OBCs (other backward castes) show no sign of suffering from discrimination — their income and durables ownership shares are roughly in line with population share. The share of dalits and tribals is below the national average, but not nearly as far below as activists and Maoists would have you believe.

India's average annual household income in 2004-05 was Rs 65,041. Upper caste households averaged Rs 86,690, higher than the national average but not dramatically so. Tribals averaged Rs 40,753, lower than the national average but not dramatically so.


Cynics will say this is too good to be true. Academic Pratap Bhanu Mehta expresses surprise in an introductory chapter that inequality seems so low. Tribals account for 8% of the population and 5.2% of national income. This inequality is strikingly modest.

In the US, the bottom quintile (bottom 20%) of the population gets only 3% of the national income. In India, the bottom quintile gets twice as much. Tribals and dalits account for 24.8% of the population and as much as 17% of national income, clear evidence that some are well off.


One-third of tribals are in the lowest quintile, but as many as 4% of them are well off and in the top quintile. Differences between tribals are as great as all-India differences. Hence block benefits for all tribals (such as job reservation) are not warranted.


Tribal households in hill states average an annual income of Rs 72,052, well above the national average. In other states, tribal income rises in line with state incomes. Tribals average Rs 30,939 per year in low-income states, Rs 44,533 in middle-income states, and Rs 53,176 in high-income states.


 Laws on reservation (and most analyses) make no distinction between tribals in different areas. That is a terrible mistake. Tribals in hill states are privileged, not deprived. The tribal north-eastern states have the benefit of low population, high literacy (boosted initially by Christian missionary schools), and extensive road networks built for defence purposes in these border areas. The north-east also benefits from huge infusions of Central money and substantial income from smuggling. Violent clashes are common in the north-east too, but these are not Maoist: they relate to secession (Nagaland) or inter-tribal tensions (Manipur and the Bodo territories).
Hill tribals constitute a creamy layer, absolutely non-comparable with illiterate tribals in the central Indian jungles. Missionaries worked in the central jungles too, but the number of tribals there was infinitely larger, so the impact on literacy was correspondingly small.


 Tribals in low-income states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh earn slightly less than half the national average. This is a pity, but hardly represents a hopeless state of deprivation justifying violent insurrection. Like me, most readers will be astonished that tribals are not worse off in even the most inhospitable locations. Tribals in these locations can double their incomes by migrating to higher income states, and even more (to Rs 85,023 per year) by migrating to big cities.


Illiterate upper castes earn 1.4 times as much as illiterate tribals. This suggests a modest degree of discrimination. But a graduate tribal earns 3.7 times as much as an illiterate one. Among upper castes, graduates earn 4.2 times as much as illiterates. Clearly education provides a way forward for everybody.


This suggests the foundation of a proactive strategy to combat the socio-economic appeal of Maoism in tribal areas. First, roads and other infrastructure are needed to improve economic possibilities and migration opportunities. Second, education is needed to create skills and lift potential incomes.


The combined effect of infrastructure and education can lift tribals above the national average, as has been achieved in the hill states. The task will be much harder in the central Indian jungles. But it can be done. And it will benefit tribals far more than the supposed blessings of Maoist rule.









I don't get it. Like me, I am sure there are millions of people in India, who don't get it either. Perhaps that is the whole idea — nobody should get what exactly happened in Bhopal 26 years ago. It's the old Indian 'roko' trick – stall proceedings, delay, delay, delay till you wear everybody down (victims included). Hang on patiently till the main protagonists from both sides of the divide are dead and gone. Bas. Case khatam. File closed. End of story. This happens at every level –- from maamuli litigation in a kutcheri to the biggest blockbuster of a showdown in the highest court of the land. Our systems are such. This strategy provides a brilliant alibi for those who wish to evade responsibility… evade the law… get away with crime. The logic being that sooner or later, the damn case will collapse thanks to some loophole spotted by one of our ridiculously paid legal eagles. That's it. Victory ahead. Reprieve for another 20 years guaranteed .Twenty useless years of delays, while lawyers who charge an arm and a leg to read briefs in their dreams, battle it out, indulging in deft shadow boxing that is designed to befuddle clients and keep those obscene fees rolling in. This is how it has always been. This is how it is likely to remain.


 Our courts are more clogged and choked than Mumbai's drains during the monsoons. Equally filthy, too. But is anybody really interested in a clean-up? Naah! It's a little like trying to sanitize the Ganga. Various well-meaning people undertake the huge task of cleaning up India's holiest river and half-succeed. But in that scenario, one can at least claim the attempt is sincere.


What do we do about our legal system? Revamp it, is the most obvious answer. But who is brave enough to initiate such a move? There is far too much at stake and maintaining the status quo suits most of the powerful individuals involved. We are so accustomed to this system, we may not be able to handle radical reform –- if ever that happens. Indians, who go to court for whatever reason, do so with stoic resignation. They know it's going to be a long, long (sometimes lifelong) wait for justice. If they have age on their side, they may not have the money to fight on. And those with the money don't really care one way or the other. Have cash, will fight, becomes their motto as they lasso in every top-notch lawyer, paying some of the biggies staggeringly high retainer fees just to errrr… screw and scare the other side. As the lovely Aishwarya Rai smugly states in a hair care commercial, go get the best…"because you are worth it!"


What a pity we can't wash the Bhopal gas tragedy out of our hair as easily. The only solution for some is to shave their heads and wait for a fresh crop of clean hair to sprout on their bald pates. Unfortunately, victims of the gas tragedy, who are still alive and struggling with a range of medical problems, can't resort to such an obvious solution. They aren't looking for another brand of shampoo –- they want compensation. They want justice. And they are beginning to believe they won't get either.


Warren Anderson, we are told, is too old to travel to India and stand trial. Old age is also being trotted out to protect one or two of the Indian directors of the company recently convicted by the court. Does old age alone provide immunity regardless of the crime? So many doddering Nazi criminals were determinedly hunted down and brought back to Germany to face trial and serve their sentence. Nobody was willing to make concessions for these men. Nobody was ready to pardon them, either. The arrogance and impunity displayed by Anderson when he waltzed away from the scene of a crime that left over 20,000 people dead, is something no self-respecting Indian can or should stomach. Anderson is many miles and several years away from that horrific 'accident' (if one can even call it that). We have seen the man's back forever. No amount of public pressure is going to see him getting on a plane and winging his way to a country baying for his blood. Forget Anderson. It's a waste of time chasing his crooked shadow. But why forget those who are still in our midst? Not just the directors (though frankly, unless we change the laws and redefine the responsibilities of independent directors on various boards, this is going to be a tricky, troublesome zone), but the politicians who have suddenly woken up and are busy indulging in an old Yankee game called CYA (Cover Your Ass). Should we be letting them off the hook?


 All of a sudden, people like Montek Singh Ahluwalia are ready with compensation packages, apologies and pathetic explanations. The people of Bhopal deserve a dignified closure to this ugly chapter in their lives. Now, they are piously claiming they will dole out Rs 983 crore. Oh yeah? Tell us something we don't know. Tell us what will happen to Arjun Singh and his cronies who have blood on their hands. Will any of them ever see the inside of a jail? Not a chance!


 Till then… sorry. It's no goal. The referee has shown a red card. The game's up. Unless, of course, the government owns up… or better still, pays up









The recent release of Mani Ratnam's Raavan and the subsequent response to the film has dominated headlines. I am no trade expert or film critic and reports show the film performed below box-office expectations. It didn't earn much critical praise either. This is not the first time this has happened. Last month, Hrithik Roshan's Kites met the same fate. A big film with big stars and huge expectations — but ultimately, sub-par performance. Heartbreaking though it may be for filmmakers and actors, but the finality of audience verdict is a brutal aspect of show business.

   Even so, in the case of Raavan, the media tended to be more vicious than usual. It almost seemed as if there were great joy in seeing the movie fail. There may be several reasons for this, not least the actual quality of the film. But one possible reason could be Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's presence. From her choice of clothes at events to her film's performance — one misstep and venom spews out in barrels.

Throughout her career, the media has painted Aishwarya as 'plastic', an 'ice-maiden', 'wooden', 'artificial' and a 'non-actress'. This, despite the fact that she has acted in more than 40 films in Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali. She entered the industry as an outsider, without a godfather. Today her face is more recognized globally than any other Indian actor. If she is on TV, people don't seem able to change channel. To top it all, she has transitioned into marriage with her fame largely untouched.

And yet, you will rarely find people accepting, let alone recognizing her success. Why? Why do we, deep down, harbour resentment of our most successful people? Why do we want them to fail? It's that ugly word: envy. We know it is rampant in our society. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan isn't alone. Shashi Tharoor is another example. A fast-rising, first-generation politician, Tharoor was subjected to far greater scrutiny than entrenched politicos, and ultimately made to suffer for it. And, of course, there are several less wellknown rising stars pulled down in organizations every day.


Ash is just an easy reference to address the broader issue of Indian envy. We must learn to deal with this if we want to move from our current feudal society to a talent-driven one. Envy is the pain or frustration caused by another person who has something that one does not. In Aishwarya's case, it could be her looks, her rise to one of the most famous people in the world, her wealth, the opportunities she gets, or the illusion that she must have a happier life than the rest of us. Her rise is rapid and more important, atypical of the Indian way. In India, only children of the rich, famous and powerful become rich, famous and powerful. We find it perfectly normal for children with such a pedigree to have a sense of entitlement. Starkids, politicokids, businesskids — all are seen as highly aspirational. First-generation climbers are seen as crass, undeserving and subject to harder hurdles before they can earn their place in the sun. In the US, Britney Spears became a household name in her teens despite her modest background. She became famous because of her talent for popular music. Something like this would almost never happen in India (unless she is the daughter of someone famous). We can't accept, reward or frankly, deal with talent. Centuries of oppressive class and caste-based rules have made us this way. Stay in your place, make incremental rises, but don't rock the boat. It's a classic feudal setup and it's unfair but it works. It maintains stability in an otherwise complex society.


This must change. The Indian way of rewarding the already rewarded isn't the most efficient way to tap an individual or society's fully potential. At the individual level, an envy-ridden person finds it difficult to be happy or achieve much. As India changes, we may find that the younger generation has bigger dreams and bigger achievements. These need to be celebrated and they will inspire thousands of others. If we continually want to see self-made, fast-rising, successful Indians fail, it only means we don't want our young generation to achieve great things.


The current system doesn't maximize a society's output either. At a macro level, when only the rich are supposed to get richer, there is less incentive to innovate, persevere or be creative. Protectionism and the government-business nexus is enough to protect the wealthy and that's exactly what happens.


We must decide to give up on envy if we want India to change. People's success should inspire rather than make us unhappy. If they falter because they're human, we shouldn't take vicarious pleasure in it. Don't have Ash-envy, be Ash-inspired. This isn't a new concept. In Buddhism, one of the divine principles is 'mudita' — taking joy in the good fortune of other. We need it in India, now more than ever, when we will begin to see lots of ordinary people rising in various fields. Lend them a hand, don't pull them down. There's enough for everyone. Fast achievers are not rocking the boat, they are the people who are saying this boat is outdated and let's move to a nicer, better ship. Are you onboard?









Like Eric Hobsbawm and Manmohan Desai, I have had the good fortune of living through 'interesting times'. I have been a resident of those hinged years when people could still smoke inside cinemas and planes (why do they still install ashtrays in airplanes?); I've seen women's fashion reach a new low when showing the tops of their knickers over their jeans or trousers has not only become acceptable but a preferred form of preening; and I recently realised that schools — most English-medium schools, at any rate — had stopped caning students some while back.

Strangely enough, in all the three aforementioned cases, I can't put my finger on the exact dates when these tectonic shifts in society happened right under my clipper-untouched nose. That may somewhat explain why I was regularly called into the prefect's office in school to be caned for getting low grades in my weekly report card for 'poor attention'.

It turns out that in 2007 when I was continuing to be childish while earning adult money, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had come out with guidelines to check corporal punishment in schools. There's now news that new guidelines are being framed under the Right to Education Act, in which Section 17b already states that "no child shall be subjected to physical punishment and mental harassment in school". What happens at home, of course, is some other law's business.

Corporal punishment has had a strange historiography. The dominant myth is that physical punishment meted out to children in the ordered environs of schools was a Western construct, whose rules  (along with that of the then unpopular 'pastime' of football) were honed in 19th-early 20th century Britain and were  picked up and perpetuated by convent and 'English' schools in India.

That is clever Orientalist bollocks.

The same fanciful notion of romantic kissing being a European invention continues to pass muster to this day. The great historiographer Prof. Wikipedia even mentions that "Hindus sometimes kiss the floor of a temple," shifting Indians snogging into some deep anthropological, post-colonial folder. A culture of not fostering public kissing, helped by decades of not showing people kissing in movies, do not a non-kissing culture make. But, somewhere down the line, even we  started believing that when we kiss we're indulging in something sophisticatedly foreign.

But back to the supple slap or stick. The howls against caning in schools that we heard recently were confined to victims who were 'children of people like us'. The fact that slaps, the traditional 'gantta' (knuckled punch on the head), and thwacks from rulers or sticks continue to shepherd children out of the cave-mouth of adolescence into the bright lights of young adulthood wasn't ever on the radar. So suddenly, like the way WHO nudged hemp-friendly India to make cannabis illegal, corporal punishment in schools is now seen as being much more brutal than the death sentence.

Now, I don't suffer from the saas-bahu syndrome (the woes that I underwent as someone's daughter-in-law must be passed on to my daughter-in-law), but caning wasn't such a big deal in the 80s (barring the post-wump-wump-wump pain on the well-clothed bottom, of course). It was seen as a rite of passage, a well-intentioned  part of school life that earned the 'victim' a few brownie points from fellow classmates who, even if you were a died-in-the-wool wuss, saw you coming out as a pint-sized Achilles.

The truth is that caning — and every other form of corporal punishment seems to be riding on this brand ambassador of school-life pain  — has now indelibly become associated with something vaguely (or not) sexual, something that paedophiles (closet or not) indulge in. That is an argument powerful enough for me — recipient of many canings from teachers male and female, old and young, straight and crooked — to change my mind and want caning to be banned in all schools, madrasas included.

As for whether suspension or staying back in school is a more effective form of discipline than the fear of the slap, I know the answer. I'm pretty sure so do the generations of kids to come.







Do you know what I hate most about this horrible heat? It's the power cuts. You can bear the stifling temperatures in Kuwait, Jeddah or Dubai because the lights don't fail. At least indoors you can be cool. Alas, that's not the case in Delhi. Here, as  the heat gets worse, power cuts proliferate and prolong. The result: the impact of the blistering temperatures is considerably enhanced. What God or nature can't manage on their own the bijliwallahs happily do for  them.

Many nights I've lain in bed sweating and gasping because the lights have gone off. My first response is to  throw the windows open in the hope a cool breeze might blow through but,  instead, hot air, heaving with dust, fills the room. Then, as the minutes  stretch to hours and you wonder if the electricity will ever return, you find yourself swimming in a pool of our own sweet sticky sweat. 

Frustration turns to rage but that only  makes you feel hotter and sweatier. In these conditions even trying to calm yourself is an effort. It only makes you sweat! At last, exhausted and dis-spirited, you fall into fitful sleep.

On such nights I've liberally cursed  the BSES Delhi, the Dikshit government, the Manmohan Singh administration, Indian politicians, our development policies — what a misnomer! — and anyone and everyone else. Then I remember the lights don't fail at the PM's or the CM's. In fact most MPs don't experience power cuts. They either have a special supply of electricity or we — that's you and I — suffer their share of power cuts. And  this only makes my blood boil and I end up sweating even more.

Well, now I have a solution and I want  to bounce it off you. If you agree you might consider pushing it as  well.

I start from the position that power is  a facility we pay for. Our relationship with the supply company is akin to a contract. That means we pay for a constant flow of electricity, at an agreed and unfluctuating voltage level, whenever we need it and for as long as we wish to have it. In return, we accept to pay the charge as fixed by the supply company and each time its enhanced we have no option but to pay more.

This contractual relationship imposes  implicit obligations on both sides. We, as users, must pay promptly and fully. If we don't, we're penalised: fines are levied and, eventually, the supply of electricity can be terminated. But there are obligations on the supplier too. Paramount is that the supply of electricity must be constant and readily available, particularly when adverse conditions  most require it.

So what should happen when this is not the case? Simple. We, the purchasing party — that's you and I —should get compensation. For every hour there is no power we should be entitled to a pay out, to compensate for the suffering we're put through. Second, the quantum of such compensation should sharply increase with each additional hour of power cut. So if it's X for the first hour, it should be X + 1 for the next, X + 2 for the third and so on.

I'm confident that if this were implemented,  power cuts would cease. Why? Because if power companies were made to pay for power cuts they'd make sure there were none. Then we wouldn't need to be VIPs to sleep  comfortably. At least in our dreams, we could pretend to be Sheila Dikshit or Manmohan Singh!

The views expressed by the author are personal







We live in violent times. Each day's newspapers bring us news of more killings: encounters in Kashmir, honour in Kashmir, honour murders in North India, terrorist groups who plant bombs in the name of Hinduism, violent Naxalite attacks and jehadi terrorism from across the border.


In recent times, Indians have done a fair amount of reflecting over the violence. The Maoists/Naxalites, in particular, have been the cause of extensive debate.


But the debate, seems to me, to flounder on a central misconception which, despite masses of evidence to the contrary, continues to reign with- in a section of the liberal intelligentsia.


This misconception is captured in three related statements. The first is: "For a man to give up everything and to turn to violence he must be really desperate and left with no alternative." The second is: "If a man is willing to sacrifice his life, then it is clear that society has given him nothing to live for." And the third is: "It is more impor- tant to understand the roots of the violence and to deal with those problems than to deal with the violence itself".


This three-step construction is employed most often in discussions on the Maoist issue. "The fact that peo- ple have taken to violence in these areas even though they may be killed tells us that we have failed as a socie- ty. We must set that right, not go on and on about fighting the Maoists".


You also hear this (though admit- ted far less often) in discussions of vio- lence in Kashmir. "Why would the Kashmiris take to arms and risk their own lives unless India had left them with no option? We must look at their genuine problems."


And of course, there is the global defence used for suicide bombers and jehadis. "The fact that a man is will- ing to use his body as a bomb tells how desperate Muslims are. The world (and the West in particular) has failed them."


You will note that with each of these constructs, the credibility kept declin- ing. We accepted this construction for Maoists, were troubled by it when it was applied to Kashmiris and were entirely unconvinced by it as an expla- nation for jehadi terrorism.


Now, let's take this further. According to the CBI, Hindu extrem- ist groups were responsible for the Ajmer blasts in October 2002, the Hyderabad blasts in May 2007 and the Malegaon blasts in September 2008.
Perhaps the same terrorists were involved in the Samjhauta Express blast in February 2007.


The people the CBI regards as being behind the blasts have been arrested and now face trial. Many are clearly unrepentant. Why then, do we not say of them: "To resort to violence, Hindus must be treated really badly in India that they are willing to risk death in terrorist activities. We should improve the lot of Hindus in India" Let's take it even further. One notable characteristic of the maniacs who kill young people out of some sense of honour is that they show no remorse for what they have done. They are quite happy to face the legal con- sequences (which include the death penalty) because they believe that they have done the right thing.


But do we even say, "For people to turn to violence against members of their own family and risk death they must have been driven to desperation by the behaviour of their errant rela- tives and left with no choice. We should sort out their family problems before punishing them?" The apologists for Naxalites and jehadis quickly abandon their special pleading when it comes to violent Hindu fundamentalists, let alone rel- atives who practise honour killings.


The different standards they apply to causes they approve of versus those they dislike, exposes the fundamental fallacy behind the people-only-resort- to-violence-when-they-are-desperate- and-have-no-choice argument.


Take the case of the Maoists. I don't think any educated Indian disputes that the Indian State has failed to deliv- er either social justice or even an ounce of prosperity to the hapless tribals of Central and Eastern India. Contrary to the caricature painted by self-right- eous professional activists, the aver- age Indian does not treat the Maoist issue as a mere law and order problem.


But equally, who is to deny that there certainly is a law and order compo- nent to the problem? No State can afford to abdicate control over large swathes of its territory. And if a group declares war on the State then the State must fight back. There is no contradiction between being sympathetic to the problems of the tribals and refusing to allow parts of India to slip into lawlessness.


Nor is it at all clear that people turn to violence only because they are des- perate. Take the example of jehadis.
Osama bin Laden is a millionaire who lived in luxury. The 9/11 bombers were middle class and well-educated. Even our home-grown terrorists tend to come from middle-class backgrounds.

These are not children of deprivation, left with no choice but to turn to violence.


I get particularly annoyed when I hear some liberal activists arguing that 26/11 was a response to the problems faced by Muslims in Gujarat and Kashmir. The terrorists came across the border, they had no real experi- ence of deprivation or suffering at the hands of the Indian State and acted only out of misplaced jehadi fervour.
These were not desperate Indian Muslims striking out against the bru- tal Hindu majority -- even the Pakistanis don't claim that any longer.


Besides, if the jehadis are protest- ing Hindu domination, then why are there many more attacks in Pakistan, a Muslim-majority State? It is a mat- ter of chance that Ajmal Kasab's jeha- di masters sent him to Bombay.


He could just as well have ended up in Karachi and caused havoc there.


It is significant that the they-are- desperate-and-have-no-choice argu- ment is rarely trotted out to justify Hindu extremist violence. Who oppresses Hindus in this coun- try? Why should they be so desperate that they have to turn to violence?


The truth is that these are people who regard violence as an acceptable form of discourse. Such people include terrorists, Maoist revolutionaries, Hindu nutters, jehadi fundamentalists and maniacs with a twisted sense of family honour.


It is dangerous -- and entirely wrong -- to argue that such people are driven to violence because of des- peration. The reality is that they active- ly chose violence.


Three factors lead to violence: strength of feeling, a belief that vio- lence is not morally reprehensible and often, a sense that the violence will go unpunished. Each time we fail to recog- nise this and do not ensure that the perpetrators of violence are tracked down and punished, we strengthen their hands and give them more scope to kill policemen, blow up trains, attack temples and mosques and murder errant relatives.

So, of course we need to deliver social justice to tribals and we need to guarantee peaceful lives to the people of Kashmir. Nobody in his or her right mind disputes that.


But let's stop romanticising Maoist killers. Let's stop making excuses for terrorists. Let's accept that when it comes to the crunch, a murderer is a murderer is a murderer. The views expressed by the author are personal








A 10 on 10 for the class test will not fetch you `very good' or `well done' from your teachers. Instead, for the next one month, your teacher's remark would be: "You have scored a goal!"...All the topics....will be in some way related to football.


Times of India, June 11, Bangalore MATHS TEACHER: If it takes 22 men running after one ball to produce one goal in 90 minutes, how many goals will be produced by 22 men running after 22 balls?


HISTORY TEACHER: Children, the his- tory of India has been the history of some of the most absorbing football matches. Look at the fantastic match played between a local team from Bengal, known as the Siraj-ud-Daula XI versus the visiting British team cap- tained by Robert Clive at Plassey in 1757. Siraj's team had a good run-up to the match, having distinguished itself in the Calcutta League where they had just lifted the Black Hole trophy.


Siraj's men started the attack, led by star striker Mir Madan. The Indian side's weak spot though was their winger Mir Jafar, who seemed to be off- colour. He mispassed and frequently lost possession. In the 37th minute, a stinging right-footer from Siraj beat the English goalie and reached the back of the net only to be disallowed because Mir Jafar was offside.


But it was in the second half that dis- aster struck. Robert's weak shot at the goal went to Mir Jafar who inexplica- bly hit the ball into the Indian goal instead of clearing it. That solitary own goal sealed Siraj's fate. Allegations of match-fixing were rife after the game, although it was by no means the first own goal in Indian history.


Among other significant matches, you should all be familiar with the one in which the Maratha XI led by Chhatrapati Shivaji played the Bijapur Backstabbers led by Afzal Khan. That match was noteworthy for the horrible foul on Shivaji by Afzal Khan. Luckily the referee was watching and Afzal got the red card. Down to ten men, the Bijapur side lost 10-0.


ENGLISH TEACHER: Here is ace English midfielder William Shakespeare's take on the obnoxious but widely prevalent practice of diving: To dive or not to dive, that is the question/ Whether it's nobler in the mind to suffer/ Trying desperately to outplay the defence/ Or to take arms against a sea of troubles/ And by div- ing end them.


MORAL SCIENCE TEACHER: In these godless times, during the World Cup in the year of our Lord 1986, the Good Lord though it fit to vouchsafe a mira- cle unto us sinners. No, I allude not to the goal made by His Hand, but to the one after that, when the Lord God com- manded Hector Enrique to pass to Diego Maradona. Starting the move from His own half, He made Maradona dribble past the vile English defenders Beardsley and Reid and so confused Butcher and Fenwick that they knew not what to do.


God then put His magic into His Chosen One's feet so that they danced the ball around the Fiend that was Peter Shilton, the English goalkeeper. And He did it so that the people would mar- vel at the wonder that He had wrought and sing His praises with one voice by a great shout of "Goooooal." And thus did He through His miracle exalt the One True Religion of Football.


MATHS TEACHER: If ten on ten counts as one goal, what if you get three on ten? Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint The views expressed by the author are personal








It took me a long time to write it. The trouble is, if you project yourself too much, it sounds a little odd because no one wants to know how great you are. So you have to be a little wary. If you have spent more than 60 years in a profession—I have spent 69—it is time to write something because everyone keeps telling that you should write something. My book has just come out and people are still reading it. Most of the criticism is about Bhopal (Nariman represented Union Carbide in the Bhopal gas leak case).


Maneesh Chhibber: Can you take us through your days in the Bar. How have you seen the judiciary evolving?


We all look back and say, "Oh, those were great days and all the judges were much better than the judges of today". But I think each generation has a new stock of lawyers and judges. When I first came to the Bar, law colleges were pretty hopeless. And that is why we revered our part-time professors like Justice Y V Chandrachud and Nani Palkhivala. They were outstanding people who made us love the law more than getting to know it. One great thing about our time was, if you prepared well, the judge would go out of his way to help you. And this was all before writ petitions came into the picture. Writ petitions are a bizarre way of proceeding and today we have a whole plethora of writs. In our days, you had to go through the grind of a civil procedure court, a suit that had to have a cause of action. Today, most young people at the Bar prefer writs. But the young people of today are much, much more brighter than we were because they are exposed to so many things.


Ritu Sarin : What do you think of the tenability of getting Warren Anderson extradited to India?


That's a political decision. I came into the Bhopal case in 1986. Warren Anderson came after the event and left in a few days. Whether he got a safe passage or not is controversial. I have never met him but he certainly did not intend to murder the victims and that is why he came. That is all I can say about him.


Ritu Sarin: You say it was a political decision. Should it have been a political decision, if it was so?


Extradition always is. The problem was that Anderson apparently—and I am surprised that the Government of India has no record of this or at least they say they don't—said he would like to come (to India). It was a huge disaster. No one knew what had happened. So, the government probably asked him to come. He must have said, "Will you guarantee me a safe passage?" and they must have guaranteed him. You must understand that it is a very traumatic experience for not only Bhopal but for all of India. I did defend (Union Carbide) in the civil litigation. The difference between the two sides was US$ 150 million. The government wanted US $500 million and Union Carbide was ready to pay $350 million. The court fixed it at $470 million. But I still remember that when the case came to the Supreme Court, the judges, including Justice Venkatachaliah, kept persisting that this case must be settled. Ultimately, it was settled but it was again reopened. The reopened case was also partially allowed—the criminal case was not permitted to be settled, the civil case was settled—and it has never been the same since.


Coomi Kapoor: Yesterday, a news channel said you regretted taking part in the Bhopal case.


If I were to live my life all over again, I probably would not have taken up this case at all. But when I took it, I thought it was 'a' case. It was not any case because a tragedy of this dimension is not 'a' case. That's something that I did not realise in my enthusiasm. I don't want to take shelter behind the saying that lawyers cannot refuse a case. I could certainly have refused it.


Coomi Kapoor : So would you say that Prof Upendra Baxi had a point when he said that this is not a mere accident, this is a sort of genocide?


I don't know whether you can call it a genocide. I know he says that but it has not been established that it was a genocide. A large number of people died. That's very clear but whether Union Carbide was responsible or not responsible never got established at all because the civil litigation came to an end. And for about 14 years after that charge under Section 302 Part II was dropped, nobody said anything because perhaps people were under the impression that people who are so called responsible, the officials etc, will all be sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. No one told them that the magistrate could never have sentenced them to more than two years. He had no power so you can't blame the magistrate either.


Ritu Sarin: What is the legal tenability of filing a curative petition now?


Somebody has missed looking at Section 3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which says that if a group of people is tried, convicted and sentenced for an offence which entails an imprisonment of, say, two years, then while that conviction and sentencing is in force, you cannot again try the same group of people for an offence with a higher punishment. That is a section in the CrPC since 1898. So what is the use of this curative petition? These people cannot be charged again. Perhaps Anderson can be but not the people who have already been tried—Anderson was never tried because he jumped bail.


Maneesh ChHibber : You recently said you were dissatisfied with the Supreme Court collegium system. But, in a way, you were responsible for the system being put in place.


I absolutely regret it. This is one chapter in my book about the case I won but which I wish I had lost.


Utkarsh Anand: Does the collegium need a re-look?


Definitely. I am completely against the Supreme Court collegium. It detracts from the otherwise great merit of our judges. So it detracts from their merits if they have to do something that is extra curricular. Ultimately, it is a matter of assessment of the Chief Justice.


Tannu Sharma: You had suggested the appointment of something like an ombudsman to look into complaints against judges, at least in the higher judiciary.


Yes, for taking measures "short of removal", as it's known in the US. If a High Court judge or a Supreme Court judge does something wrong, you can't do a thing. You can only impeach him. But the "short of removal" measure means you reprimand the judge, you engage in some disciplinary action against the judge. That was the bill that was proposed in Parliament but ultimately, the members of the committee dropped it because they felt that it might affect the independence of the judiciary.


Maneesh Chhibber : What is your opinion of a possible judicial oversight committee headed by the Vice President?


It is better (than the collegium system). Judges have no time for extra judicial things. Choosing a judge, finding out whether there is something against him or her is a cumbersome process. Today, it is a race (to be in the Supreme Court). Basically, it is because High Court judges retire at 62 while Supreme Court judges retire at 65. If the retirement age of High Court judges were raised, and if you have to ask a judge to come to Delhi to work in the Supreme Court, he would say, "Why should I come to Delhi? I will retire here at 65".


Unni Rajen Shanker: What made you take such a firm decision on the Justice Dinakaran issue (he lent his weight to the movement against Justice Dinakaran being elevated to the SC)? Also, with the controversy still dragging on, what would be a logical end to the issue?


It was not handled well by the former Chief Justice (KG Balakrishnan). You have to do a little bit of persuasion to achieve what otherwise, under the present situation, may not be achievable. A judicial commission was sought to be recommended, apart from my suggestion of an ombudsman, but how the commission will work, I am not very sure. Dinakaran has been one of the most terrible experiences we have had, at least in my professional life. There have been all sorts of complaints (against him) from people of all walks of life.


Coomi Kapoor: What is your opinion of retired judges getting posts in commissions and inquiries?


It's very wrong. Only few say goodbye after their retirement. A P Sen was one of them who did. Let them retire at 70 but when they retire, let them go.


Utkarsh Anand: Shouldn't Justice A P Shah have been promoted to the Supreme Court?


I did say so publicly, in the presence of the Chief Justice of India that (Justice Shah) should have been taken but no other member of the Bar said it.


Tannu Sharma: How do we attract young talent to the Bench?


There is a new thing that is being experimented in the Delhi High Court. Young, bright people are being directly recruited into the judiciary, like it's done in some parts of Europe. So you become a career judge; you don't become an advocate. After going through a certain amount of training, they are promoted to the high court. So the person not only gets a chance but also has a security of tenure. That's how younger people can come. Otherwise today what happens is that young, bright people are taken by corporates and offered astounding salaries. Now who would refuse that?


Mini Kapoor: Do we need norms for judges recusing themselves from cases?


Every judge, I believe, must recuse himself if he feels that it might compromise his views or position. The idea is very clear and precise: the confidence in justice is much more important than actually delivering a just decision. There was a recent infamous decision of a judge of the United States, Justice Antonin Scalia. He used to go duck shooting with Dick Cheney, Bush's Vice President and the question was, should the judge who goes shooting with Cheney then decide his case? Someone raised a question and he wrote a 20-page order saying he should. And he took up the case and decided in favour of Cheney. That is when confidence in justice suffers.


Coomi Kapoor: You come from the Parsi community. Despite being such a small community, how come we see a lot of Parsis in top positions in the legal profession?


Not only in legal profession, in the medical field too. Next to being good Parsis, I think we are also good Indians. And you have to be a good Indian first before being a good Parsi or a good Hindu or a good Muslim.


Krishnadas Rajagopal: Which of the two would you prefer? One, a judge who has studied his case well and before coming to court, has already decided to dismiss it. The other, a judge who would listen to the lawyer but dismiss it in the end.


The other. That is also the second ranking judge in the Supreme Court. His approach is that he does not read too much. He just sees the facts and listens to what the advocate has to say and decides on that basis. So it all depends on your training, where you come from.


Maneesh ChHibber: Do you think PILs should be regulated?


I don't think they should be regulated. There is a lot of good and bad in them. For example, just two days ago, a bench of justices directed all state governments to do something about these honour killings. So these are some of the good ways through which PILs are utilised.


Surabhi Agarwal: What are your views on decriminalisation of defamation?


It should be decriminalised because it is a great source of harassment to some people. Nothing is being done about it in India. You can be sure that Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code is not going away.


Tannu Sharma: What are your views on the entry of foreign lawyers?


In this global world, there is nothing wrong with people from other parts of the world coming here and practising. If you have all sorts of businesses coming in, I don't see why people from abroad can't practise in India. It's just a bogey in our mind that they will come and take our jobs. Our lawyers are extremely competent, they have nothing to worry about.


Coomi Kapoor: You have been very close to The Indian Express and to its founder Ramnath Goenka. Tell us something about him for the younger generation.


He was one of the greatest fighters during the Emergency, along with CR Irani of The Statesman. He wouldn't accept any dictation from the powers and that is what made the press in India a free press. During the Emergency, since he fell foul with the Indira Gandhi government, they started a series of prosecution cases against The Indian Express for non-compliance with petty company laws like not filing your report on time. And the magistrates were told not to exempt Goenka from court appearance. So the poor chap would be constantly on the flight from Bombay to Madras, Madras to Coimbatore defending all these cases. He was a tremendous fighter.


Transcribed by Hamari Jamatia







New York on a hot summer's day appears even to me like an odd place to be writing about Afghanistan. My only excuse for writing about South Asia's problem child in my favourite foreign city is that I happened to be here when the Rolling Stone article caused the sacking of General Stanley McCrystal. A friend sent me the article online and the more I read about General McCrystal the more I realised how sad it was that he would have to go. He seems to me to have understood well the bizarre nature of the war he was fighting and why it has become increasingly unwinnable. There are several things that make this war bizarre and one of them is that there is no way of knowing when to declare victory. We must hope that General David Petraeus understands quickly that Afghanistan is not Iraq and that saying Mission Accomplished will not be easy.


The enemy he has been sent to vanquish are the Taliban and the Al Qaeda but we no longer know if killing every last one of these Islamist warriors will put an end to the worldwide jihad. It may have done in 2001 when American troops first landed in the desolate wilds of the Hindu Kush with a short list of leaders hiding in caves. Since then the jihad has transformed itself into an ideology, a new religion almost, that resonates dangerously with increasing numbers of young Muslims from Bali to Bori Bundur.


Nobody has so far been able to fully understand why, but the one common grievance is a hatred of America and a conviction that the Americans want to take over Islamic lands because of their insatiable hunger for oil. Afghanistan has no oil but according to a recent report it has the world's largest hidden treasure of minerals. Nobody will remember that the Afghans have not had the brains or the technology to exploit this mineral wealth but it will not be long before the word out in the Muslim street is that the Americans went to Afghanistan not to hunt Osama bin Laden but because they knew about the buried minerals.


America's Afghan war makes so little sense that any old absurd rumour is likely to be believed. Why it makes no sense is because we have American troops fighting against an enemy called the Taliban which is financed by Pakistan and Pakistan is financed by the Americans. So, in effect, you have the American government financing the enemy they are fighting. It gets even more bizarre if you remember that the leaders of the Taliban are all hiding in Pakistan. I have no pretensions to being a military genius but wonder, as I write, why Washington is not asking Islamabad for reasons why it supports Sirajuddin Haqqani who is Enemy Number One. What makes even less sense is why when Barack Obama became President of the United States he did not announce a withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan instead of a surge of 30,000 more troops.


In Delhi, when I talk to our experts on the AfPak situation, they tell me that we should be grateful that the Americans are fighting our war for us. What they mean is that it does not suit us to have the Taliban back in power in Afghanistan. We prefer Hamid Karzai but can we really stop Islamist ideology from affecting our own young Muslims by supporting a weak Afghan leader? Personally, I believe that Pakistan and Afghanistan should be left to sort out their own problems so that they would be forced to admit that none of these problems would exist if Pakistani foreign policy had been less duplicitous and if Pakistan's Generals had been wiser.


What has happened has happened. All we can hope for now is that President Obama realises before it is too late that his AfPak policy makes little sense. Either he holds Pakistan responsible for the creation of the Taliban and warns Islamabad that it better find a way of killing the monster it has created or there will be no more American dollars. Or he finds a way of containing Pakistan.


In my humble opinion nothing better could happen than for the Americans to withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible. The most important reason for this is that it would force Pakistan to deal more firmly with the lunatics they have given birth to and once the United States is no longer available to be blamed for all the failures of the Islamic world sensible Muslim leaders may start waking up to the reality that most of their problems are of their own creation. If most Muslim countries today are dysfunctional and dangerous places there have to be indigenous and not external reasons for this.


Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh








VER since the Congress lost its hegemonic position in Indian politics in 1989, coalitions are the rule rather than the exceptions.


And yet there is a lot of learning to do about how to make coalitions effective. Why, for example, has the Bihar NDA coalition fallen apart? Is it because the senior partner at the national level is a junior partner in Bihar? Or is it because the BJP is so desperate that they wish to use Nitish Kumar to whitewash their pin-up boy Narendra Modi? In any case, the Bihar coalition seems to be un-rescuable. In Jharkhand, a similar disaster seems to have visited the BJP by the wayward behaviour of the local dada, Shibu Soren. Small states were created to improve governance but Jharkhand is a classic refutation of that theory.


It is much easier for mining interests and multinationals to corrupt and capture smaller states than larger states.


Of course, along with the end of the Congress hegemony, the Mandal


issue has encouraged the fragmentation of parties along narrow jati lines, especially in North India. For a while it looked as if that strategy wouldn't be viable any longer. Mayawati began to form cross jati alliances. Now Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan have joined together in a Yadav-Dalit alliance just to avoid a drubbing at the next Bihar elections. In both UP and Bihar, the revival of the Congress has destabilised the Yadav-Dalit political fights. The Congress is ready to resume its pre-1989 position as an umbrella organisation for Muslims, Dalits and any other backward/deprived groups with the leadership firmly in Brahmin hands.


This, to a large extent, is an achievement of Rahul Gandhi. He is the first scion of the Dynasty in three generations who has actually done grassroot work before coming to power. His father never found the time and his uncle Sanjay Gandhi started at the top. Indira Gandhi also inherited power and a sound Congress machinery (which she tore apart but that is another matter). If Rahul succeeds in capturing UP and Bihar for the Congress, that would redraw the map of Indian politics for the simple reason that it would guarantee a permanent majority for the Congress at the Centre. And since he is only 40, once he has done that, he will get a long lease on office at the top.


If that were to happen, it will improve India's governance since unlike UPA II there would be some decisiveness at the top. The drift of indecision in UPA II is quite alarming and difficult to explain. Ye t, one also has to worry about the tendency of the Congress to ride roughshod in matters of legality and accountability when it has a large majority. Panditji imposed restraints on himself but his daughter did not. The pathetic farce of Bhopal recriminations shows that when it can, the Congress escapes scrutiny and finds scapegoats.


The only antidote to Congress highhandedness is an effective Opposition. Alas, the BJP is still struggling to come to terms with its double defeat and has not found a coherent


voice. When a Party (with the RSS as its progenitor) has to lock up its MLAs to 'instruct them on how to vote', as the BJP did in Rajasthan, you know no one is in control. The usual hangamas in Lok Sabha apart, the UPA has faced no serious opposition either from the Left or the Right.


It is a pity that the CPM is also unravelling rapidly. It made a wrong move in the US nuclear deal case and got battered in the 2009 elections. It is now about to lose West Bengal and Kerala does not look good either.


But I cheer up when I see lots of Indian politicians in London in the summer. Come here and learn how to make a coalition work. There is a hefty document produced by the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties before they formed the government. In its depth of details and a blending of the rival philosophies, this is a worthy document to study. But then joining politics in UK does not make you a crorepati as it does in India. Yo u actually have to serve the people.







THIS being the 60th year of our Republic, I have been re-reading the Constituent Assembly Debates—that priceless collection of the ideas, reflections and meditations of many of the greatest Indians who not only fought for our nation's freedom but also shaped its post-Independence destiny by producing a republican Constitution that has stood the test time. Of course, the tallest among them, Mahatma Gandhi, was absent in the Assembly, he not being its member. Nevertheless, as Jawaharlal Nehru acknowledged in one of the sessions, "the Father of our Nation has been the architect of this Assembly and all that has gone before it and possibly of much that will follow...(Although he is absent) his spirit hovers over this place and blesses our undertaking." Reading the two volumes of Munshi Papers: Indian Constitutional Documents, published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (whose founder Dr KM Munshi was a leading member of the Constituent Assembly) is an invaluable education about what is undoubtedly the most decisive period in modern Indian history. One is simply overwhelmed by the sheer quality and intensity of the debates, and also the enormous erudition of most of the participants—besides Nehru and Munshi, Dr Rajendra Prasad, who presided over the Assembly, Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Azad, Dr BR Ambedkar, Dr S Radhakrishnan, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Sarojini Naidu and others. One is also struck by how a lot of what they debated over six decades ago sounds relevant even today. Above all, one is pained by the sharp contrast in the standards of debate then and now. A crash course in the Constituent Assembly Debates must be made compulsory for all our MPs and MLAs.


The star performer in the Constituent Assembly was not Dr Ambedkar —notwithstanding the latter-day myth created to make people believe that he was the sole architect of the Indian Constitution—but Nehru himself. Every time he spoke in the Assembly, his words carried the gravitas and stamp of authority of the future leader of the nation. Nowhere is it more evident than in the all-important Resolution on the Aims and Objects of the Constitution, which he moved on 13th December 1946. He spoke twice on the subject, at great length on both occasions, first when he moved the resolution and later when it was adopted after six weeks of in-depth deliberations.


Even by the Nehruvian standards of oratory, the two speeches excel in idealism laced with lyricism.


Indeed, they prefigure the incomparable 'Tryst With Destiny' oration he would make on the midnight of freedom eight months later. "We, who have this tremendous task of Constitution-making", he says, "have to think of the tremendous task of the present and the greater prospect of the future and not get lost in seeking small gains for this group or that." (Emphasis added) Then, using an expression that belongs more to the language of mysticism than of rationality, he adds, "The eyes of our entire past—the 5,000 years of India's history— are upon us. Our past is witness to what we are doing here and though the future is still unborn, the future too somehow looks at us." Nehru reminds the Constituent Assembly that, as India stood at the end of an era and embarked upon a new age, "our forbears and future generations are watching this undertaking of Constitution-making and possibly blessing it, if we moved aright." Eyes of the past? And eyes of the future? What strange concepts are these? Do they make sense to our parliamentarians and legislators, our ministers and bureaucrats, our political leaders, and to all the rest of us? Do we all feel, as Nehru felt at the time of Constitution-making, that the generations before us and the generations after us are watching our actions today? No. Most of us choose to live only for the present, getting lost in seeking "small gains" for ourselves, unaware of and also unconcerned about our responsibility as "trustees of the future" and as "inheritors of a great past".


Nehru, as our first prime minister, certainly committed several mistakes. India continues to pay a heavy price of those mistakes even today. However, I feel that we often judge him too harshly.


Nehru had a sense of history, and a deep pride in India's past that is overlooked by both his uncritical admirers, who only view him as a modernist, and his critics, who believe that he was too westernised.


What is especially instructive for us today is the powerful thought that he passionately articulated in the Constituent Assembly—the actions of every generation are watched by the "eyes of the past" as well as the "eyes of the future". This sublime and sobering thought is rooted in an understanding of human life as an unbroken continuity. Our ancestors continue to live in us, just as we will continue to remain alive in the generations yet to come. This realisation begets a sense of responsibility: What we do with our life today will be judged by whether it is worthy of the best dreams of the past and also the best aspirations of the future.


For more such edification, read the Constituent Assembly Debates.










SOFT-SPOKEN AND intense, the top US soldier in Afghanistan successfully lobbied the President for a surge in troops. Now all he has to do is salvage a faltering war," commented Time magazine as it picked Gen Stanley McChrystal as the runner-up of the `Person of the Year 2009'. Speaking softly is not a virtue the general has at all times, and that may be the one point almost anybody can agree by now: you only have to read his disparaging remarks about his senior civilian colleagues in the Obama administration in a profile (by dire portent, titled `The Runaway General') in Rolling Stone magazine . Intense he is, of course, but to a fault, as it seemed like when he made some inflammatory comments, especially about Vice President Joseph Biden and special envoy on AfPak Richard Holbrooke. What is striking is that Gen McChrystal committed a cardinal sin that goes against the grain of military discipline: he just showed his pent-up emotions on a burning government policy to a journalist.

That was completely unexpected froma man known forhispenchantto take only calculated risks.


So much for the team of rivals President Obama once talked about.


"I welcome debate, but I won't tolerate division," the President finally spokelast Wednesday . And, little overa year after he assumed charge as commander of multinational forces in Afghanistan, Gen McChrystal's star has fallen, and fallen very fast indeed.

He will be replaced by Gen David Petraeus, the "miracle worker" of Iraq.

While announcing the decision, PresidentObamainsisteditwas"achangein personnel but not a change in policy".


The President may wish, but it doesn't appear exactly that way so far.

Within his administration, the festering row over the deadline is taking up much time, and a deeper disconnect over the strategy to adopt to stem the TalibanmomentuminAfghanistanis quickly eroding public confidence among the American public. The President is obviously more worried about the second thing, but it's the first that's doing the greatest immediate damage away from the battlefield.


Putting aside the irony of the man who probably has done more to firm up a competitive vision to reverse the stumbling war effort in Afghanistan than anyone else, the question naturallyarisesastowhyGenMcChrystal had to go on public with his candid take on some of the colleagues he closely works with. Certainly, the AfPak counterinsurgency mission is one of the most complex and consequential initiatives that the US has ever undertaken, over which even the most serious-minded people of goodwill are bound to have real differences. The stakes are getting higher and higher in what is now increasingly being called `Obama's war', and the discussion ought to reflect that. But then, something has shifted since President Obama set a deadline to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan--from July 2011--in the very address at West Point on Decem ber 1 last as he announced the sending of extra troops to Afghanistan. Ever since, the team of rivals in the administration and military side has started unravelling into dys function. The indiscretion on the part of Gen McChrystal in the Rolling Stone article is symptomatic of the faultline and un palatable choices the administration hastocontendwith.


It was no secret, even earlier, that the administration's report card in Afghanistan has been smeared by the continuing differences between civilian officials and military commanders that started with the broad review of strategy last year. One of the two civilian officials Gen McChrystal is quoted as rubbishing, Karl W Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, opposed the counterinsurgency plan and had crossed swords with Gen McChrystal over tactics. Topping the list of unpleasant options the administration faces is the Afghanistan regime led by President Hamid Karzai. The Kab ul government remains so plague by corruption and inefficiency that i has limited legitimacy with th Afghan public. Yet, there is little re course for the US.


The mess has started to grow more chaotic two weeks ago when Gen Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Commit tee that--an ap pearance that madeheadlinesfor the tough-minded general fainting amid sharp ques tioning from Sena tors--the conduct of the counterinon has been a roller surgency operation has been a rollercoaster experience. Gen Petraeus made the case that, six months after President Obama launched a new strategy, the "trajectory... has generally been upward". The response that his comments evoked among the lawmakers was evident: they were clearly discomfited by the facts, including the rapid erosion of initial gains in southern Afghanistan and what seems to be asharpmistrustbetweentheadministrationandPresidentKarzai.


Yet,thekeystickingpointisthedate to start the drawdown of troops, and this is what seems to be holding up the next--and the most crucial--stage of the US/Nato military campaign that began with Operation Moshtarak in Helmand. That is the battle for Kandahar. Petraeus told Senate committe that he would recommend postponing the start of the withdrawal if security conditions and the capability of the Afghangovernmentcouldnotsupport it. That does not mean Petraeus is opposed to bringing some troops home, and he said repeatedly that he supports Obama's strategy . His caution, however, is rooted in the fact that the uniformed military--and counterinsurgency specialists, in particular-have always been uneasy with fixed parametersandtimelines.


In the Rolling Stone profile that was alternately triumphant, humorous,confrontationalandbizarre,Gen McChrystal and his aides repeatedly gloated over the purported failure of the administration attempts to undermine his authority and the inability of his colleagues to muster more reason to the debate over strategy.
Even if that caused the general's undoing, logic dictates that the Obama administrationshould neitherletthe strategy riven by hypocrisy nor commit the folly to embark on an appeasing mode in the AfPak theatre. The July 2011 timeline set by President Obama to start the drawdown of troops ought not be a cut and run.


The `carrot and stick' approach is not a novel foreign policy strategy, especially when you deal with dicey partners like Pakistan.




From the discomfort ZONE Is history dead?

Shombit Sengupta




NOBODY SEEMS to appreciate history as a valuable asset in India. Working for a for-profit educational institution, I recently interacted with school children and their teachers, and to my horror discovered that history was the "boringest of all subjects." Children consider it monotonous and teachers say they are exasperated as students do not connect to past events.


What is the study of the human past? The Greeks call it historia meaning inquiry or knowledge acquired by investigation, in Latin it'sevidens,inItalianvista,inEnglishwisdom.The West follows a strict grid for documentation that has become the monument of history.

At seminars or workshops in the West, to make any point about the present and the future, there has to be a connect with history to establish the benchmark. Only then do people connect to the future.


In India, history has been relegated to a forgotten past, as though it's devoid of value. Even senior management seems uncomfortable when I include it in my coaching sessions, suspecting it may be "non-actionable." If I show black & white pictures as authentic historical testimony, they ask for colour pictures to "make it exciting." It's difficult to explain that being true to history, when only black & white gravure existed as in this case, is important.


We need disciplined documentation to ensure the wheel is not re-invented. Has India mined and stored our rich ancient heritage of practices from different centuries as a repertoire? The West follows a strict grid for documentation. People still play Handel's 17th centuryorMozart's18thcenturymusiccompositions using modern instruments, sound and interpretation as the written notation is unchallengedinposterity.InIndianmusic'sgurushishya tradition, the finer points may get altered with multiple non-grid interpretation, depending on how the disciple captures it.


Historical data, facts and figures in human or natural evolution, socio-cultural, technical or entertainment areas define how society's emulsion in every epoch generates incredible invention. Let's look at a few examples of how and why certain inventions took place and became a part of our daily lives.


The early, mid-1860s history of The Nestlé Company was Henri Nestlé's search for a healthy, economical alternative to breastfeeding for mothers who could not feed their infants. This trained Swiss pharmacist's first customer was a premature infant whom physicians had given up for lost as he could not tolerate his mother's milk or conventional t. substitutes. After Nestlé's new formula saved the child's life, people quickly recognised the a new product's value. Nestle's ultimate goal was f to help combat the problem of infant mortality rdue to malnutrition. Their focus today is on re sponsible nutrition.

h Asayoungster,LouisPasteurshowednospe cial ability, but in high school he became interested in science. He had five children, three of whom died of typhoid fever. This was a cause that motivated him to develop the germ theory of diseasetosavepeoplefromdiseases.Eventually,Pasteursolvedscientificmysteriessuchas the generation of ailments like rabies, anthrax and chicken cholera, and contributed to the world's first and most significant of vaccines.

He died a national hero in 1895.

"Research fuels technology and superior technology leads to superior performance," is the philosophy of Amar Bose, founder of Bose speakers. As an MIT graduate student in 1956, Bose bought a high-end stereo system but was disappointed when it failed to meet his expectations. He later began extensive research to fix the fundamental weakness plaguing high-end audio systems. Today, the Bose brand that stands for "Better Sound through Research" has become the most respected name in sound, from the Olympic Games to the Sistine Chapel, from NASA space shuttles to the Japan National Theatre.


The Internet was designed 1973, and up and running by 1983. Developed by Vinton Cerf and others, this international network of computers delivers information "packets" such as e-mail from one "address" to another.
Tim Berners-Lee became a part of the Internet's complex history of innovation by inventing the World Wide Web in 1989-91.

With mathematicians as parents who worked on the first commercial computer, BernersLee used the Internet to provide universal access to a comprehensive collection of information in word, sound and image, each discretely identified by UDIs (universal document identifier, also known as URLs) and interconnected by hypertext links. Berners-Lee made it easy for people with Internet to contribute and collect information when he gave specifications for HyperText Markup Lan guage (HTML, the code in which websites are written), HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP, the code by which sites are moved in and out of the web) and URLs. He continues to promote the web as an open, accessible, interactive and universal community, and his book, Weaving the Web is about his creation's past, present and future vision.


American Caucasian history is recent, compared to Europe, but they have meticulously preserved it. Take their film industry. You can experience how films are made at the entertainment park of Universal Studios in Hollywood. The real atmosphere is re-created here, from cinematography to acting and editing.
You can enjoy how different scenes of the film Psycho were shot, and feel that you are directing the film along with Alfred Hitchcock. This is an outstanding way of bringing back a sense of history by making people experience it.


I'd love to hear from you, dear reader, about howweinIndiacanbringlivingsubstanceinto history, and drive the grid of knowledge to help future generations benefit from history to invite India to invention.

Shombit Sengupta is a creative business consultant to top management.








A printed letter lacks the personal feeling and emotional affinity a written letter conveys… There is an instant rapport in the written communication which the printed message could never replicate.

Do people still write letters, that is, by hand? This question will seem absurd for a generation intoxicated with gadgets that eliminate face-to-face-interaction and require using fingers to type keys or press mobile phone buttons rather than hold pens to write on paper. Technological innovations bombard us every day at breathtaking speed that we seldom reflect on how our social lives have changed, how social phenomena which held sway for centuries have been rendered redundant, if not totally irrelevant.


Solemn obituaries have been written for the old fashioned typewriter, the pager and the telegram. Let us pause and spare a moment for the vanishing handwritten letter.


For centuries, personal letters were the dominant mode of communication among people. The postman was one of the most awaited daily visitors in the household. Emotions varied from disappointment when the postman said 'no letter' to excitement and euphoria when he handed an inland letter card, a postcard or an envelope. The inland letter was the most preferred mode for personal communication as its contents could be protected from prying eyes.


The card was mostly used for conveying pithy messages not requiring confidentiality. Some chose the envelope as it could enclose several pages.


The younger generation might ask: what is so great about the handwritten letter? Is it not a waste of time to sit down and write on a paper which will anyway take a few days to reach the addressee when the message could be conveyed within seconds by e- mail? The advent of cheap mobile telephony has driven another nail in the coffin of personal letter.


The greeting card has also reduced the need to sit down and write down loving messages to our dear ones. The once mighty pen is used nowadays mostly to put signatures.


A printed letter lacks the personal feeling and emotional affinity a written letter conveys. While reading a written letter one can visualise the writer sitting down and putting down his feelings on paper. There is an instant rapport in the written communication which the printed message or telephonic talk could never replicate. The familiar handwriting of a dear one evokes such happiness and delight that has to be experienced to be believed. People used to preserve letters for years as these humble pieces of paper afforded companionship in absentia.


Writing a letter requires us to slow down, think carefully and put down our thoughts. It adds a new perspective to our thought process. An e-mail or telephonic talk is impersonal and ephemeral. A written letter is a permanent record of communication. The greatest and noblest thoughts that the world has seen have been penned by their authors rather than recorded in print. The letters of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru contained some of their loftiest thoughts. The world would have lost much had great men had used tele- conversations or e- mail to pour out their wisdom.


People used to polish their handwriting skills by writing more and more letters. Writing also helped to improve the vocabulary, whether it was in vernacular or English.


The younger generation is sadly missing one of the most creative and emotionally and intellectually stimulating activities — writing letters. E-mails and texting reflect our inability to pause, think and create thoughts which carry the authenticity of intense feeling. The electronic letters have played havoc with grammar and structure. It is doubtful whether smart kids can write an error-free page with clarity. This is not to generalise the weakness. But the sad truth is known to those who are in finishing schools which teach soft skills to the 'educated' unemployed. Instances of bloomers and absurd letters abound. A techie wrote a letter requesting leave of absence for attending his mother's funeral stating that he was 'responsible' for his mother's death!


The intent is not to trivialise technology. Ironically, this piece has been typed on a computer and sent by e-mail. But the point is that we must occasionally use the pen and paper medium at least for personal communication. My advice to the young people who work at distant places is to try writing a letter to parents for a change. Hearing your voice over the mobile is comforting and reassuring. On the other hand, a telephonic conversation is forgotten soon. But reading your handwriting on paper opens the floodgates of nostalgia and emotional satisfaction which no other medium of communication can replicate. The pen is mighty even in this electronic age. Let us wield it at least occasionally to create islands of tranquillity and happiness in the vast ocean of sick hurry and digital surfeit.









In recent years, the government of India has substantially increased the financial resources for inputs that will help to provide quality education for all. Measures have also been taken to make education more inclusive by providing assured access to disadvantaged sections. The implicit (though rarely stated) expectation is that this financing and access would provide students with time and opportunities to interact with teachers and engage in learning activities.


Surprisingly, little attention has been paid to the proportion of the mandated teaching time that is actually used to engage students in learning and its relationship to student performance and government spending. The number of teaching days mandated by the government is rarely implemented in most of the government schools and colleges. Without looking into this important issue, educational policy reforms may not yield the desired results. Government schools and colleges systematically seem to function in deviation from the official timetables. Strikes, festivals, elections, and delayed opening of academic sessions account for routine disruptions in most schools and colleges, which are estimated to impart education for only 120 days of the mandated 180. It is common to see classes in colleges getting disrupted for several days during elections to student unions or staff associations. Strikes too seem to have become a norm and matter of right.


Teacher absenteeism has been studied in considerable detail, and it has been recognised for long that the loss rates are 25 per cent. Even when they are not absent, teachers may come late. They may also avoid teaching. A Public Report on Basic Education in India found that in only 53 per cent of the schools visited by the research staff all teachers were actually teaching in their classrooms; in 21 per cent of the surveyed schools, teachers were mainly "minding the class." In the remaining 26 per cent, they were talking with other teachers, sitting/standing outside the room, were in the staff room, or were observed in other non-teaching activities. The situation in government colleges may not be very different.


The loss of learning time due to disruptions and absenteeism has an adverse impact on the quality of education. Though correlation studies do not prove causality, published studies do suggest that teacher absenteeism is related to lower student performance. A NASSCOM study recently reported that only 25 per cent of the graduates from the Indian universities were considered employable by industry. What these graduates lacked most were soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving approach. If learning is imparted in colleges for only 120 out of the 180 teaching days, there will hardly be any time for teaching anything beyond the bare syllabus. Even that may not be always completed. In such a situation, what goes on in the name of higher education in most colleges is more a farce than reality.


To make up for the learning time lost to strikes, absenteeism, and lack of timely feedback, some students resort to private tuition. Tutored students are able to perform better in schools and colleges, whereas students of low-income families become disadvantaged. Students from low-income families need more time for learning to read, write and engage in discussions. Classroom interruptions and disruptions have a greater impact on these students in terms of loss of learning time. It has been estimated that such students would need to attend classes for several months in order to attain an equivalent amount of engaged learning time. Wastage adds up over time and creates the risk of failure for poorer students. Educators call this problem the "pedagogy of poverty."


Loss of learning time has significant economic implications for the country. Government revenues pay for teachers' salaries, buildings, teacher training, and materials, and it is expected that 100 per cent of this investment will be used for student learning. For instance, the total Plan and non-Plan grant to the University of Delhi under the XI Plan is estimated at Rs. 2,500 crore. This is meant for an academic year of 180 teaching days. If it actually turns out to be of only 120 days, more than Rs. 800 crore of taxpayers' money will go down the drain. Probably, no institution uses 100 per cent of its time productively, but losses of the magnitude shown in various studies suggest that education costs more than it ought to, or achieves less for what it costs.


There could be several ways of increasing the instructional inputs and outputs if policy or managerial interventions were designed to increase learning time. Such interventions may be institutionally harder, though they would be cheaper on government outlays. Policy dialogue is needed to address the sources of "leakage" at the levels of administration, teacher and classroom, and plan action to eliminate it. The future of the educational reforms will depend on how seriously the government takes the wastage of learning time. The proposed regulatory authority for education must ensure that the time and money the government provides for learning by the students are actually spent for obtaining learning outcomes.


(The writer is Principal, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi. Emai l:









I was spurred to write this article on reading the news item, "Strength of class also counts" ( The Hindu, June 9, Chennai edition), wherein it has been stated that the attention a student gets depends to a large extent on the student-teacher ratio, which in any ideal elementary class should be 25-30: 1. A retired teacher, I can understand the importance of this issue.


Till last year, I was working in an aided higher secondary school with a good reputation. But I opted for voluntary retirement for a variety of reasons, among them the workload of handling unwieldy classes. The school produces excellent results in the board exams and so the demand for admissions is always high. The management has to yield to the tears and pressures of parents. The result is an overflowing population in each classroom and we teachers are helpless witnesses to the phenomenon.


An overcrowded class drains the physical and even mental strength of the teacher. This is what happened in my career spanning 25 years. Since I was handling classes X and XII, I was under constant pressure to produce cent per cent results. A language teacher has to correct double the number of answer papers, of Language Paper I & II. I held special classes on most Saturdays and, on many occasions, I could not manage time for personal work. I was travelling almost two hours daily to reach my school. So it would be very late when I returned home after completing the special class and I had to concentrate on class work late into the night.


All this told on my health. My voice got abused by the necessity of speaking loud to reach out to all students. My forefinger thickened with continuous correction work. In fact, my correction work consumed all my Dasara and Christmas vacations and at the end of every vacation, I returned to school with irritation in the eyes and pain in the neck and back. Social commitments and entertainment were next to non-existent.


Inspirational teachers like Dr. Radhakrishnan could not help me either when I had to face a class of 80 to 90 students. Eye contact with every student was not possible as by the time my eyes surveyed half of the class one period would be over! Practically, it became impossible to look at everyone. That my myopic vision couldn't register faces from the last rows was another matter!


I am not boasting, I have all through been a teacher with commitment. In all my service, I availed myself of only 10 days of medical leave for a surgical operation. I had never exhausted my CL or EL. I say all this only to stress how demanding a teacher's job is, especially when the strength of the class is unreasonably large. You are exhausted and you call it quits.







Is there a way of living extravagantly and still saving the planet?

Extravagance. Amazing cars with powerful engines and huge exhausts and half a kilometre of unleaded petrol per litre, air cons anytime everywhere, huge houses, lots of servants, expensive furniture, real leather, fur, mink, how many of us are drooling as we read this?


Let us admit it. We love extravagance. Unless we have religious reasons to stay away from something or the other, we just have to have everything. Let us just admit it; we are not the Mahatma. That requires an extraordinary strength of mind, and more than a little madness in the blood. How many of us can boast these characteristics?


But we all would like to see a green world, a clean world, one where you see natural beauty everywhere you turn, where breathing is a healthy and pleasing thing to do, rather than a necessity you would avoid if you could (how many times do we walk the city with our hands on our noses?).


So how do we achieve both? How do we achieve that elusive balance between extravagance and environmental-friendly living? How do we enjoy our luxuries without feeling guilty, or wondering whether we are contributing to global warming?


By being aware, of course. You want to buy that car? That incredibly expensive car that people will stare at every time you take it out (or rather, try to spot it, because you are not driving below a hundred when you take that car out)? Go ahead, then, buy it.


But also include walking in your routine. Sure, if you want to zip on the highway, that car makes perfect sense. Sure, if you want to show off to your gym buddies, take it there. But to the grocery store? I am pretty sure those people at the grocery store couldn't care less about the car you come in to buy milk. Walk. Walk to your grocery store. In fact, why don't you chart a mental map? Walk to all those places that are 10-15 minute walk from your house.


When you go shopping, try parking your car five minutes away from the mall and walk. Saves that much petrol, and stops that much pollution. Five minutes can't kill you. And even if you have heavy bags to carry, you could always come back and drive your car to the entrance to take them in, or ask the shop boys to help you. If for no other reason, they will help you for ten bucks out of your pocket.


Can't be bothered to turn off all lights and fans (sorry, a/c) when you are not using them? All right, don't. Can you turn one light off? By turning off that one light, you save that much energy. Just a pinch, maybe, but saving that pinch is better than wasting that pinch, don't you think so?


Too cool to carry your own cloth bag to the grocery store? Ok, don't. But you can at least make sure they put everything in one or two bags, rather than using too many bags, cant you? I am sure that is not much of a sacrifice. But it saves that much of plastic.


Too lazy to find a dustbin on the road? All right, don't. But as you are walking or driving, you will come across garbage heaps on the roadside. Throw your garbage there at least. That way, you are still showing some civic sense, aren't you?


Oh yes, go ahead and spend all the money you have on all the luxuries you can buy. Just make sure that you save wherever you can . That is all you need to do. So stop feeling guilty about all the harm you are causing society, and get involved in some any planet-saving activity. The smallest gesture makes a difference. And the word is awareness .











Water is being used as if it is a never-ending source. Obviously, we cannot decide how much rain we will get, nor can we predict to a good degree of accuracy when would rain occur. The only thing we can do to save ourselves from the dangerous situation of "lack of water to drink while we are thirsty" is to conserve water.


Let us ask ourselves how much water is wasted when we brush our teeth due to the non-stop flow from the tap? Water is also excessively used, rather wasted, while washing clothes and cleaning dishes. Flushing the toilet sometimes excessively when just two mugs of water is sufficient — which of course is a sign of laziness — is another cause of water loss. If just one person wastes so much water, we can well imagine the amount wasted by a family, a town, a city, nay, an entire nation.


Most of us know about these things. Knowing is one thing but realising it and taking steps to remedy the situation is crucial. We can impart the message of conservation to our children in school; the alarming decline in water resources and the ever-increasing need for the precious life giving liquid should be taught to the younger generation today so it will become responsible citizenry tomorrow.


That apart, what can we do? If we are really serious about the situation, we should act now. All of us can all conserve at least a bucket of water everyday if we are prudent in using the scarce resource. Please remember, a bucket of water saved by every individual everyday in our country of billion-plus means enormous.


We may become richer if we have a lot of gold reserves, but we will die if we don't have water. In olden times, people used to say that a person is spending money like water when he is spending too much.


If we continue in that fashion, the situation may get reversed. We need to create a situation where a person will spend water like money. A country with more water reserves will be richer than one which has more money. And India, where agriculture is the primary occupation for many people, water conservation is a must.








After all the sanctimony about ideology that was tossed about when the BJP struck former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh off its rolls ten months ago, it appears the thikanedar from Jodhpur has had the last laugh. Mr Singh, who is thought to zealously guard his sense of honour, has been duly invited back into the party and all concerned are said to be cooing into his ears. Political parties are known to take back those who have been declared renegade. The history of the Congress and the Lohia stream is replete with instances of the return of the prodigal. Not so the communists and the Hindu nationalists, at least not at the top leadership level.
There can be little question that Mr Singh leans toward the Hindutvawadi tendency. In that sense, he is more than just a representative of the Right. However, he has always given the impression of being only a light shade of saffron and was not raised in the hard RSS tradition like most of his colleagues in the BJP leadership. Considering this, he was dispensable and could well have been left out in the cold after being removed for praising Jinnah as a secular politician in a book he wrote. But this would have been uneven treatment, considering that Lal Krishna Advani was rehabilitated after being hung out to dry for exactly the same infraction. The balance is now redressed. Nevertheless, there does still remain a sense of curiousness about the Singh affair. After being expelled at the BJP's chintan baithak in Shimla last year, the former Union minister did not fail to take a swipe at the RSS. For the BJP, this was cardinal sin. The return of Mr Singh does possibly indicate that yardsticks might be changing imperceptibly in the saffron party, although it is far from clear that others who dare mock the RSS might not get away so lightly.

One might say the balance of circumstances worked for Mr Singh. He is sufficiently moderate and suitably modern, one apt to impress the BJP's middle class constituency and the Westernised, English-speaking, upper crust. At a time when the party is still in the dumps after the crushing Lok Sabha defeat, a senior figure with these qualifications might be seen as well worth wooing back. It is also in Mr Singh's favour that he is not a strong faction leader type. Thus, his re-induction is unlikely to ruffle feathers in the Rajasthan unit of the BJP. It might have been a somewhat different story if Vasundhara Raje, with whom Mr Singh had crossed swords, were still chief minister. The tale may also have been different if one of the senior office-bearers of the party had been promoted to BJP president, instead of a rank outsider being appointed to that position. Mr Singh had quite appropriately raised questions about the party not subjecting to scrutiny those who were part of the top leadership team that ran the disastrous election campaign which ended in ignominious defeat last May. None of this team might have easily forgiven the criticism. It is thus fortuitous that Nitin Gadkari, picked from the periphery, is now party chief, and Mr Gadkari can do with gathering as many people who agree to back him at the top.

For this reason, the BJP president might find it expedient to re-induct some of the other high-profile figures who have been out in the cold. Ms Bharti comes to mind. She has also been making the right noises. However, the sanyasin from Khajuraho, for all her iconic status in saffron circles, can be a divisive figure. It is not unlikely that this season Mr Singh may be the lone sparrow to home back on target.








I am not surprised that we have a crisis in Bihar. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is carefully studying the trends of the 2004 and 2009 general elections but it has limited options. In the 2004 elections, the Gujarat riots consolidated the minority vote against the BJP and, despite the charisma of Atal Behari Vajpayee, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was humbled. The regional parties, with a large presence of minority votes, like the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Telugu Desam Party and the Trinamul Congress, distanced themselves from the BJP. Later, in Orissa, Naveen Patnaik won a spectacular victory after breaking the alliance with the BJP. Similarly, in Bihar, Nitish Kumar has very limited options and there is nothing personal in these decisions.

There might be a temporary patch-up between the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the BJP as the situation in Bihar is different from Orissa. Clearly all concerned may be doing their "caste" calculations. The votes will split in a four-cornered fight as besides the JD(U) and the BJP there are the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janashakti Party. Each party is fighting for survival and the Congress will also be a relevant factor with an increased vote share.

It is too early to make estimates but Mr Kumar has done his homework. Like Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal or Naveen Patnaik in Orissa, he is looking at the future but has limited options. One has to literally fight for every seat in the state to get an outright majority.

Here I would like to mention that the third front is again a possibility and can consolidate under Mr Kumar — there will be a temptation for a "grand alliance". Also, this is not going to be an easy decision for the chief minister of Bihar. The decision can go in either direction as there are too many moving parts in this jigsaw puzzle.

Strong regional groups exist but many have been weakened and are in need of a "central" umbrella. Everyone is in touch with each other but in view of past experience a premature decision would be chaotic. Politics is about possibilities and as the Congress consolidates and aspires, so will the third front. I am not very certain what will happen to the NDA as the churning process is on and will take a definite turn by the end of 2012 — the end of four major Assembly elections that together comprise 200 Lok Sabha seats.

A few weeks ago I had written that a major realignment of forces was inevitable as the BJP is no longer in a position to lead a coalition. Like 1989, the BJP can only be a part of a Central structure and this is necessary if it wants to retain Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and to some extent Rajasthan (if Vasundhara Raje is allowed to function) and Karnataka.

In terms of coalition structures, if there is a favourable situation the BJP will not exceed 80-100 seats in the Lok Sabha and 60-80 seats if the situation is negative. The current situation is that the Congress will lose to a strong regional force unless it develops its own cadres in the states but will be better placed against the BJP in a straight fight. This will be reflected in the Assembly elections in Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Here I am indulging in some form of "political" astrology and I see the Congress maintaining its current position, the regional forces consolidating further and the BJP under pressure. I think the position for the 2014 general elections will be clear by the end of 2012.

Leadership and political succession is an important aspect for the future. The Congress has a distinct advantage as it offers an "option" in Rahul Gandhi at the Centre but it lacks adequate leadership at the state level. The BJP, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have strong chief ministers in all the states where it has formed government, barring Rajasthan, where it was bogged down by internal dissent.

The BJP will continue with its internal contradictions unless Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who has the reputation of an able administrator with impeccable integrity, is made to lead the party. The BJP has to accept the positives and negatives of this situation and, unless it does, it will continue to lose to the Congress as "interim" solutions do not work in politics.

The BJP's strength lies in effective chief ministers in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka and Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, but it has lost out in Uttar Pradesh to the Congress and can't afford another loss in Bihar after Orissa. The NDA would have little meaning without the JD(U) and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is rife with internal dissent. The BJP has to take a decision for the future.


WE WILL witness "political accidents", as we see in the chaos generated after the court's verdict on the Bhopal gas tragedy. But I don't think this will influence the course of events in the long term unless the United Progressive Alliance bungles the issue. The initial report of the group of ministers (GoM) is positive and is a small step forward, but this issue will not fade away. Like the 1984 Sikh riots in Delhi and the communal clashes in Gujarat the issue will continue to fester unless justice is rendered.

Several aspects are being investigated by the media, including the legal situation from 1991 onwards taking into account all aspects of the decision, including the arguments of the lawyers, the role of the Central Bureau of Investigation and other official agencies, and all officials associated with the case and their assignments after retirement.

Time is not a relevant factor. Whenever human lives are lost the issue continues to exist. With advances in technology and 24x7 media coverage, issues like the Bhopal gas tragedy, which took place 25 years ago, are creating a bigger impact in the public mind today as compared to 1984.


Arun Nehru is a former Union Minister







Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar's unprecedented one year extension put paid to the hopes of two batches of aspirants for the post. But it is an indication of the high comfort level Mr Chandrasekhar enjoys with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that a tweak in the rules ensured the Cabinet secretary remains in saddle until June next year.

Sources say, the debate has now shifted to 2011 with murmurs about Pulok Chatterji, a 1974 batch Indian Administrative Service officer presently executive director to the World Bank, being a politically favoured frontrunner. According to some observers, the second extension to Mr Chandrasekhar is only to ensure that Mr Chatterji could potentially succeed him when he returns from his World Bank assignment. But that may be looking too far into the future. For now, Mr Chandrasekhar is and remains the nation's top babu — and only a thoroughly botched up Commonwealth Games could derail him.


Appraising babus

After babus heaved a sigh of relief with a Central Administrative Tribunal order stating that babus could actually content their annual confidential reports if they believed that their evaluation was unjust, the Prime Minister's Office has asked the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to then conduct an audit of the district entrusted to a babu. Thus, the annual confidential report (ACR) could now be evaluated on the basis of a babu's progress in developing a district and implementing developmental programmes funded by the Centre.
CAG Vinod Rai has already said that overall performance of a babu in district will now be a major contributor to his ACR. It just does not stop there. A babu's reaction to the CAG's observation and audit will also be noted. The CAG will also be making a briefing of the review to the chief secretary.


With more organisations getting involved in the appraisal system, babus had better watch out!


Sailing on

Steel Authority of India (SAIL) finally has a new chairman, C.S. Verma, formerly finance director, Bhel (Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd), to replace S.K. Roongta who retired last month. But, reliable sources say, Mr Verma's appointment didn't quite come easy. Apparently, officials at the steel ministry had been plugging for a career bureaucrat, but Mr Verma finally prevailed.

In the meantime SAIL has also tied up with Korean steel giant Posco to build a steel plant in Jharkhand. Interestingly, steel secretary Atul Chaturvedi had been rather publicly keen for the tie-up with Posco to actually fructify before Mr Roongta stepped down. Apparently, he believes that only Mr Roongta could swing the deal.
Curiously, speculation about Mr Roongta's immediate future has now been laid to rest. He was angling for the plum post of managing director and chief executive officer of Petronet LNG, but lost out to ONGC's (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited) director (HR) A.K. Balyan. So SAIL gets to coast along free and on its own new course.






Last Tuesday was the second happiest day of my life. Second only to a day in the year 2000 when I asked my wife to marry me and she said she hadn't heard the question. Last Tuesday to me was almost as good as the Great Escape of 2000 AD.

Mumbai, or Bombay as it was formerly known or where the Mehtas lived as it was originally known, today is bristling with problems. We have the world record in rebuilding bridges, for no apparent reason. The world record is not using newly-constructed roads, for want of a suitable chief guest for roads, for want of a suitable chief guest for the inauguration, and, of course, the world record for the short distance longest time.
(The old record was held by a certain C. Columbus esquire who took three years and seven months to go from St. John's Antiqua, to Queen's New York a distance of just 342 miles, and in the bargain missed out on a job interview with a premier bank of the time and hence had to spend the rest of his living days in the garb of a tourist guide.)

It is this third world record that we, Mumbaikars or Bambaiyas, or more appropriately, the Mehtas are most ashamed of. Foreign clients in Mumbai are flabbergasted when they take 35 minutes to go from Nariman Point to Churchgate, or worse when they leave Sakinaka on Tuesday they are mortified to find themselves in the same spot, behind the same rickshaw on Thursday afternoon. We have lost a lot of foreign clients like this. And by lost, I mean expired, kaput, finito, tata. And by tata I don't mean the famous business house, but instead I mean Bye Bye, farewell and Alee Jaeta Cest. (All is lost I surrender).

Last Tuesday, however would have been a vastly different experience especially if you were a foreigner.
Last Tuesday, in the greatest humanitarian act, record in Mumbai or Bombay or the place where the Mehtas lived, our taxis and autorickshaws went off the road.

Some unkind elements say they did this in an act of solidarity to protest the hike in gas and to facilitate a rise in their tariff metres. However, remember even Jesus had his doubts, Gandhiji had a few enemies and they are places in his beloved South Africa where Nelson Mandela may never go. These would be then the most unkind words in the English language equal in unkindness to the words "School has started", and the words "the bar is closed". (Keep in mind these two phrases are often strung together).

Look at the logic in place here. If the taxi union wanted to have a negative effect why would they go on strike? A day with no taxis and autos was a breath of fresh air for all Mumbaikars or Bambaiyas or the Mehtas. A day of fresh air, quite literally. Obviously if they wanted to do something dastardly, something harmful or something negative they would simply turn up at work and operate their vehicles. No my friends, this was no unkind act, but in actuality it was the ultimate act of compassion and kindness.

Thanks to this noble gesture, motorists did the five km journeys in five minutes. One-twentieth of the normal time. Mothers got home from the parlours in time to acknowledge the existence of their children. Father's got home from their workplace in time to tuck their children into bed and clients and business partners went through an entire day without ever once, using the phrase, postpone the meeting.

What prompted this act of compassion. Many theories abound. One is that with the cabbies favourite football team, England, reaching the pre-quarterfinals, a celebration was on offer. (England is the favourite team for all cabbies and autoguys in this Fifa World Cup as they are the only names that they can vaguely pronounce.)
The taximan's union leader M.C. Quadros was migrating to New Zealand. Or the most possible and genuine, they all wanted to spend an entire day learning Marathi.

I interviewed a number of cabbies on Wednesday, but though all three theories were put forward, none were actually confirmed by any of the men in brown.

Mumbaikars or Bambaiyas or the Mehtas, enjoyed last Tuesday like no Tuesday before.

In fact, so happy was the city that I'm told off the record from a taximan friend, that they are considering, keeping all successive Tuesdays in the future as "Taxi Off Day".

Who dare say our city is crumbling? Who dare say our city has no soul? Who says our city is in decay?


Whoever says such unkind things must have only arrived back in the city on the last Wednesday.










Sebi, the markets watchdog, has raised an existential issue for the mutual fund industry. The other day, chairman CB Bhave asked the industry to introspect: "You need to question what the rationale for the industry is". His point: If investors really found value in mutual funds, the latter would not need artificial props to sell its products. "If we have not been able to convince investors even with thousands of schemes, there is some problem with the products."

He could say that again. Though the Indian mutual fund industry seems large with assets of around Rs 7,50,000 crore under management as at the end of May, that figure hides a larger truth. Three-quarters of the money is in income, liquid or non-equity funds. And the bulk of this is corporate moolah, hot money that flows in and out of the industry's coffers depending on liquidity conditions. Prima facie, Bhave's suspicion that the industry is not really delivering real value to retail investors holds good. There is a problem somewhere.

If you were to ask the industry, it will say it is up against two problems: an unsympathetic regulator who banned entry fees and upfront distributor commissions, and unfair competition from unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips), which are actually mutual funds masquerading as insurance schemes. Insurance is apparently easier to sell as an investment rather than as just risk cover.

To be fair, Bhave did try to blast Ulips out of the water, but the finance ministry intervened on behalf of the insurance regulator, Irda, and shooed Sebi away. However, we will come to this point separately. The issue to examine is whether Bhave is right in questioning the industry ability to deliver value to the retail investor.
Let's start with basics: the main value proposition of the MF industry is that it brings market and stock picking expertise at low cost. But entry loads and high upfront distributor commissions neutralise the second advantage and leave only stock-picking skills as the driver of customer value. But here retail investors have other options. Stockbrokers offer advice at almost no cost. Moreover, anyone willing to do a bit of research on the net and read the business dailies can get the same info with some effort. Pared down, the real value proposition of the mutual fund industry is thus saving the investor the hassle of doing his own homework.

On the other hand, there is a downside to investing through mutual funds. Investing through a mutual fund has its own risks. As investment aggregators, fund managers need to buy or sell large quantities of stock. This means they have to restrict themselves to large-cap stocks where their actions do not drive the price up or down dramatically. MFs cannot easily enter mid-cap or small-cap stocks — where the biggest gains reside — because large buying or selling dents the net value accruing to the fund. The upshot: most MFs stick to the big index stocks where their performance is largely comparable to broader index movements. The investor may thus be better off investing in low-cost index funds or exchange-traded funds rather than mainstream, diversified funds. The funds that beat the indices are usually the ones most skilled in timing the markets or those that are just plain lucky. Picking good funds is thus as difficult as picking good stocks.

What emerges is this: if the key (theoretical) value propositions of mutual funds are decent returns, low management costs and safety of capital, many equity funds fail the first two tests and non-equity funds have competition from other avenues with lower risks such as bank fixed deposits, debentures, post office savings schemes, et al. Income and debt funds carry as much risk as equity funds since their net asset values depend on the market prices of their underlying debt investments.

It is in this context that one must see the industry's cribs. Railing against Sebi's diktats is fine if you are really serving the customer and Sebi is getting in the way. But what Sebi has really done is knock the industry crutches down and see if it can walk. If it can't, it should be allowed to ride into the sunset.

The carping against Ulips is also beside the point. Insurance companies are ultimately not going to deliver better investor value by invading the MF turf. If investors are anyway not too happy with MFs, they are unlikely to be any happier with insurance-tinged MFs. This suggests that even the insurance industry may not be delivering value, and may be deliberately misselling Ulips to entice MF investors in the short-term.

Bottomline: Both MFs and insurance companies need to rethink what they are really bringing to the table.








Lakhs of school students are thrown into a quandary each year as the state government comes up with one ad hoc formula after another for college admissions, instead of taking the trouble to tackle the real issues at the grassroots level, says Snehlata Deshmukh, former vice-chancellor of Mumbai University, in an interview with Yogita Rao

What is ailing school education in the state?

The ministers in the state are the supreme authority to take decisions, but they are not well aware of the issues plaguing the grassroots level. The ministers keep changing and therefore there is nobody to work with vision. Even bureaucrats are not permanent in our system. The school education ministry should have a semi-permanent body that oversees the existing system and also helps the minister in taking policy decisions. Members of this body should act as advisers to the state minister. Only academicians should be put in such bodies/committees. They will not be salaried officers, but will work for the government for an honorarium. They can help in giving insightful knowledge to the ministers and random decisions can be avoided.

Every year the state introduces fast-track solutions to bring our students on par with those from other boards. Why is this happening?

The lack of vision and mission is the main reason. Every minister wants to make quick decisions which are most of the time random and not based on any study. They claim they do their homework, but most of these policies are not accepted widely. There is opposition in some form or the other from the opposition party or parents' body or even education activists. A popular idea will not meet such opposition. All the ministers want to bring about some change during their tenure and they end up in controversies. Students getting an artificial spike in SSC percentages was something unheard of. But this year, it was made possible. During our time, getting a distinction was a great achievement. But now several students get above 90 %, which is not a good sign. I really wonder how many of these students are worth their scores. This has a bad effect on their future prospects. Such students are unable to make a mark in the class XII. On the contrary, the curriculum in other boards focuses on overall development, which makes their students smarter.

Curriculum changes have been introduced in the past couple of years. Why do they fail to make a difference?
The state government has to focus on long-term plans. They have to think about changes that can be brought about in the system for the next ten years. A curriculum change cannot be brought about in the manner the state did this year or even last year. They changed the curriculum for math and science for class IX this year and X the next year. Such changes should be introduced in phases. Change in curriculum should be implemented when students are in class I. That way even basics would be covered thoroughly.

Will the Right to Education (RTE) Act bring about any change in the system?

The RTE is meant to bring about positive changes in the system. However, successful implementation is the key. Most of the policies under the RTE are progressive. The main aspect of RTE is that it allows parents' involvement. Until now, parents' activities were very limited in school. Most schools do not have a Parents Teachers Association (PTA). In schools where they exist, they are very inactive. With RTE, parents will become active members in the decision-making process and, therefore, it may bring about some change. But the state has to ensure proper implementation of the Act, which is a mammoth task. Problems like fee hike and poor teaching quality can be taken care of, if parents are part of the process. Parents should, of course, not take undue advantage of their power. They should not end up harassing the school managements.


What can be done to improve the quality of our board?

If a common curriculum is followed across the country or even a common curriculum across the state, it will help solve the admission woes. If it is the same, there will be no divide between students during admissions to junior colleges. The policies will not be unfair and, therefore, students will be taken only on merit. (The Union human resource development minister) Kapil Sibal's idea of having a common curriculum should be taken seriously and all states should adhere to it. Secondly, quality of teachers should be improved. Teachers these days are not even B Ed graduates. In primary schools, even teachers with HSC and a diploma are hired, because of which the quality of education has gone for a toss. Also the state government should focus on the student-teacher ratio. A teacher singlehandedly cannot handle a class of 60-70 students. It has to be brought down to 1:30. Only such fundamental measures can help save the education system in the state.

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Mao Zedong once famously called for the Chinese to "let a hundred flowers bloom." Soon, however, he was recoiling from what he saw as a chaos of competing ideas. Today, the world seems to be entering a period when, if not a hundred, at least a dozen varieties of weltpolitik are being pursued by great and emerging powers alike. Reconciling these competing strategic visions of the world, in particular of global crisis, will make international diplomacy more complicated than ever.

The intervention by Turkey and Brazil into the globally divisive issue of Iran's nuclear programme is but the latest, and also the clearest, sign of this new element in global affairs. In May, the Iranian, Turkish, and Brazilian leaders met in Tehran to conclude an agreement that would supposedly have Iran deposit 1,200 kilograms of lightly enriched uranium (LEU) in Turkey, which, in exchange, would send 120 kilograms of enriched fuel to be used in Iran's research reactor.

Russia proposed this kind of swap earlier, but Iran declined the offer, and the version agreed with Brazil and Turkey was likewise intended to forestall Iran's ability to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used for nuclear warheads. But its other intention was probably to stymie American efforts to adopt new United Nations sanctions on Iran.

It is too soon to tell if Iran's desire to obtain nuclear weapons has been delayed. The International Atomic Energy Agency has not ruled against the agreement, and I am informed that the Brazilian/Turkish brokered deal does not violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran, as a signatory, is obliged to adhere. Nevertheless, the effort to preempt American strategy clearly failed, as new UN sanctions were implemented earlier this month.

As the deal was intended to avoid a nuclear standoff with Iran, why was there so much outrage in the US and the West? I fear it is because the US found itself denied its primacy in setting global policy on Iran. Instead of trying to explore the possibilities presented by the Brazilian/Turkish opening, the US quickly pushed the UN Security Council for more sanctions (the fourth round so far) on Iran. This forced Brazil and Turkey, both currently non-permanent members of the Security Council, to vote against the sanctions resolution.
The result? This vital vote was robbed of unanimity (Lebanon also opposed it).


The UN sanction vote was also heavily influenced by another small country with a weltpolitik: Israel. In February, a high-level Israeli delegation visited Beijing to present the Chinese leadership with "evidence" of Iran's atomic ambitions. The Israelis then explained to their hosts — in considerable detail — the potential economic consequences for China if an Israeli strike on Iran should become necessary in order to stop Iran from fulfilling its "nuclear ambitions."

China appears to have taken the message to heart, as it voted in favour of sanctions on Iran for the first time.


Iran responded by calling China's vote "two-faced."

The emerging stew of weltpolitik thickened even more with Israel's pre-emptive move in international waters to stop a flotilla supposedly bringing relief aid to blockaded Gaza.

For it was on a Turkish flagged ship that Israeli forces killed nine people, causing a near-rupture in Israeli-Turkish relations.

To be sure, this complex web of interconnected events reflects the declining global role of the US. But it also demonstrates the robust assertion of national interest by new players on the global scene.
Brazil, Turkey, and, yes, Iran are all clearly keen to demonstrate their political and foreign-policy independence. Brazil wants to prove that it deserves a permanent seat on the Security Council. Turkey seeks to re-establish its Islamic identity and "Ottoman" influence over the Middle East, thereby flexing its diplomatic muscles for a European Union that has all but rejected Turkish membership. And Iran simply wants to show once again that it will not kowtow to the "Great Satan."


All of these motivations critically challenge US global diplomatic primacy. But America had better get used to these types of diplomatic cat's cradles. For there are other powers, both emerging and established, with global foreign policies of their own - India, Indonesia, Japan. And regional players like South Africa, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, and South Korea among others, will also have to be reckoned with in future regional disputes.

This increasingly complex web of intersecting national interests is the face of international diplomacy in the twenty-first century. Ancient rivalries and atavistic feuds may or may not be part of this; only future crisis will tell. But this amalgam of competing strategic visions probably marks the end of America's post-Cold War power.

With the entire world affected by turmoil in the Persian Gulf and greater Middle East, perhaps that is all to the good. Surely, the national interests of the US and the West are not the only ones that matter. Why, then, should the rest of the world leave the resolution of these disputes to America alone?
The era of US diplomatic hegemony has drawn to a close. And it would be a grave mistake to think that a condominium between the US and China will impose global order in the way that the Cold War-era US/USSR superpower rivalry did. Too many powerful countries now feel able to flex their diplomatic muscles in defence of their interests. Mao's hundred flowers may have bloomed only briefly, but today's myriad species of weltpolitik are certain to bloom perennially.







We are witnessing the Atlantic era's end and the Asian Century's advent, says Ash Narain Roy


Today is like yesterday in a world without tomorrow". This lament by a Latin American bard typified the painful present and the uncertain future of most of the third world for major part of the 20th century.


The United States, on the other hand, it was said, was born rushing into the future. As 'Old World', Europe had its own advantages. Colonisation and colonial exploitation allowed Europe to fatten itself on some one else's feed. Japan worked hard to find its way to the top. While the first world held sway, the third world appeared destined to live in misery.


But as George Will says perceptively, "the future has a way of arriving unannounced." Russia, the other super power, lost not only parts of its territory but also the zeal to fight. Its economy shrank and its global influence waned. The second world suddenly disappeared.


Today, the wheel seems to be turning full circle. The US, Europe and Japan are all in trouble. The US remains and will remain a vital global player that can enhance or restrict the aspirations of new powers. But it is on a declining curve nevertheless.


In 2003, the US accounted for 32 per cent of global output and the developing world's share was 25 per cent. In 2008, these got neatly reversed. At a different level, while Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) currently account for 14.6 per cent of world GDP, BRIC's share in global economic development has exceeded 50 per cent.


A new Iron Curtain is rising in Europe. The fault lines of the new Iron Curtain are the same that divided Europe 50 years ago. Europe's North-South divide is also becoming visible. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed feckless Greeks and Latins for Euro debacle. Germans are proud of their wage discipline. Obviously, cultural Germans and cultural Latins are unable to meet half way in Europe. What an irony that the Euro which was launched with so much fanfare should become an engine of intra-European hatred.


Japan, a country known for its egalitarianism, has now discovered that it has a large and growing number of poor people. One in six Japanese, that is 20 million people, lived in poverty in 2007. The Japanese government had been keeping these statistics secretly. The poverty level in Japan is close to the figure for the US (17 per cent). Japan is walking a financial tightrope with a public debt mounting bigger than that of any other industrialised country.


Japan's revenue is roughly 37 trillion yen and debt is 44 trillion yen in fiscal 2010. Its debt to budget ratio is more than 50 per cent. Without issuing more government bonds, Japan would go bankrupt by 2011.


Such is the state of affairs in the first world. The bi-polar world came crashing down after the collapse of Marxism. And now the unipolar world is on its way out. The liberal West had hoped that the new world order would emerge from the ruins of the Communist world. Instead, it seems to be emerging from the ashes of footloose capitalism and the market jehad.


The market, says Alvin Toffler, is a tool, not a religion, and no tool does every job. Alas! To many it is too late to realise.


Where and how is this change happening? The centre of gravity of global politics is shifting from the North Atlantic to the East and the South. The rise of China and India is a game-changing phenomenon. The greatest strength of "chindia" is that it is a mega market for almost every product and service.


At a time when the US and Europe are wrestling with the financial mega crisis of 2008, both China and India are virtually booming. As far as India is concerned, thanks to its prudent monetary policy, it remained largely insulated from the crisis. The capitalist world is now realising the dangers of living beyond its means.


One could argue that after all, China and India are reclaiming their lost glory. The two were major economies in the 17th and 18th centuries. In a sense, one is witnessing a slow move towards a more equitable global equilibrium. According to one calculation, India and China could be back to contributing 50 per cent of the world's GDP by 2020, which they did till the 19th century.


The present combined GDP of India and China in Purchasing Price Parity terms is bigger than that of the US, while the BRIC countries have among them a larger GDP than the European Union. In the next two years, India's GDP will become bigger than that of all 10 ASEAN countries combined. In a decade's time, India could overtake Germany and Japan.


China and India are not the only powers on the horizon. Brazil, South Africa and maybe, Indonesia have their stories to tell as well. Way back in 2003, President Lula of Brazil said very bluntly, "We will not accept any more participating in international platforms as if we were the poor little ones of Latin America, a 'little country' of the third world…This country has every thing to be the equal of any other country." When George Bush visited Brazil a few years later, he acknowledged, "Brazil is big!"


The nuclear swap deal struck by Brazil, Turkey and Iran may not be the model that India would like to follow. But it has clearly demonstrated that the US power s being usurped. It is the pro-active approach of BRIC, IBSA (India-Brazil- South Africa), BASIC (Basic group of countries include Brazil, South Africa, India and China) and other such platforms that President Obama has thrown the G8 into the trash heap of history.


The G20 is now the primary workshop to deal with global financial crisis. After all, Obama has realised that the power grids of the existing anachronistic global institutions don't match the real world.


The idea that China, India, Brazil and some others would lead the twenty-first century would have been dismissed only two decades earlier. If China had the Tiananmen Square baggage and India was stuck in the quagmire of the Hindu rate of growth, Brazil did not know how to deal with the debt bomb. The global economy was anchored in America, Western Europe and Japan.


Unlike the present world order, the new global order will be different. The western domination will not be replaced by another form of domination. The western coercive paradigm itself will be rejected. The rise of new powers will help put the wolf back in the cage. Mercifully, one single power dominating the world seems unlikely. President Obama said the other day, "No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed."


The world is witnessing a new geopolitical paradigm — the end of the Atlantic era and the advent of the Asian

Century. Laurent Cohen-Tanugi, author of The Shape of the World to Come, calls it "a historic change." It is the first time in modern times, says Cohen-Tanugi, that the wealth and world's population are concentrated in the same place. While China, India, Brazil, Russia and certain others have a long way to go, hundreds of millions of people are actually coming out of poverty and joining the middle class.


This emerging world's revolution is a historic comeback for countries like China and India. As is widely known, before the Industrial Revolution, China accounted for about 30 per cent of the world economy, India about 15 per cent and Europe about 23 per cent. We are now witnessing a comeback of the world's old powers to the forefront again. Didn't George Orwell tell us that who controls the past controls the future and who controls the present controls the past?n


The writer is Associate Director, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi







After the British Indian government decided in 1936 to open state-owned radio stations in India's metropolitan cities, radio stations were opened at Calcutta, Bombay, New Delhi and Madras. The fifth was opened in 1937 at Lahore, the Punjab Province's capital, with a modern studio complex.


From 1937 to 1947, All India Radio (AIR) Lahore served as the cultural melting pot and an information and entertainment hub of all the Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs of Punjab. Then came August 14, 1947, the Independence Day of Pakistan, when this radio station got converted into Radio Pakistan Lahore.


The communal atmosphere in Punjab was getting disturbed since March, 1947. But since Lahore was the seat of administration, the communal harmony at AIR Lahore remained remarkably undisturbed for a very long time. But as the movement of religiously divided mankind gathered momentum in August, the radio station started losing its Hindu and Sikh staff members.


From 15th of August Radio Pakistan Lahore became the instrument of carrying out the policies and programmes of the newly formed Government of Pakistan. On the Indian side the cities of Amritsar and Ferozepore were getting flooded with refugees coming from all the districts falling in the Islamic nation of Pakistan. Amritsar's population, which stood at 400,000, lost half of its population, which happened to be Muslim. But what the city got in return was twice and thrice of what it lost.


The Khalsa College, the Fort Gobindgarh, the Golden Temple with its serais, the Durgiana Temple and all the schools and colleges in the city got flooded with refugees. The same was true in Ferozepore too. The Government of India had appointed two senior Indian Civil Service officers — Sardar Tarlok Singh and Dr Mohinder Singh Randhawa — to quickly move the incoming refugees from Amritsar, Ferozepore, Fazilka and Pathankot to other places in Punjab, Delhi and the other provinces of India.


Rehabilitation of the refugees was a gigantic task. Many had lost their blood relations in the communal frenzy and many families got scattered without a clue. There was no way to trace the lost family members. Everybody felt the necessity of having a dedicated radio station to announce the names of lost refugees and their former places of residences. This message was forcefully conveyed to the interim Government of India in New Delhi.


This writer's late father Sardar Sochet Singh was a senior official in the administration of erstwhile Kapurthala State. He was privy to some of the information about the flood of refugees entering India. He told me some of the refugee-related stories.


In 1947 itself, the Government of India decided to open two transmitting stations in East Punjab. At that time India had very few spare radio transmitters. Most spare medium-wave transmitters were meant for emergency duties to fill in for under repair high powered transmitters. Two transmitters of the one kilowatt power denomination each were dispatched to Amritsar, the premier gateway of India and Jalandhar. Construction of the transmitting towers and the buildings took several months.


Between June and September of 1947, both transmitters started functioning. The new combined radio entity was named All India Radio Jalandhar-Amritsar. Most refugees were still not settled. The first task before these radio stations was to announce the names, villages, tehsils and districts of the missing individuals.


The daytime range of both radio stations was a little more than 15 miles. Therefore, the broadcast hours were mostly in the evenings after sunset. Both stations used to go on the air between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and then between 6 p.m. and 10.30 p.m.


AIR Delhi started two news bulletins one each in the morning and evening to be relayed by AIR Jalandhar-Amritsar. The first news bulletins were in Pothohari dialect of Punjabi language. Later, the dialect was changed to Standard Punjabi spoken in Lahore division in Central Punjab. The bulletins in Standard Punjabi are still continuing.


All the staff artists and casual performers at Lahore Radio Station were approved by the new radio outlet. The programme for rural listeners was initially used for broadcasting information on the refugees. Later, as the problem came under control, announcements about weather, commodity prices, innovations in agricultural techniques etc. started being broadcast.


On the information front, especially for the farmers and agricultural labouers, AIR Jalandhar-Amritsar became very successful, but on the entertainment front, it always played a second fiddle to Radio Pakistan Lahore. East Punjab's most popular singer Surinder Kaur moved to Bombay in 1948. Her elder sister, also a very popular singer Parkash Kaur settled in New Delhi. In 1952, Surinder Kaur also moved to New Delhi. They both performed extensively at AIR Jalandhar-Amritsar, but as guest artists from New Delhi.


In 1952, after the first elections to Parliament, Dr B.V. Keskar, a scholar of eminence, was appointed the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting. It was he who was instrumental in developing a master plan to replace the low powered transmitters with high-powered transmitters.


This plan led to the strengthening of the radio station at Jalandhar to 50 kilowatts and the closure of the radio station in Amritsar. Since 1953, AIR Jalandhar is counted amongst the most powerful capital stations of India But the fate of Amritsar station is still in a state of flux.









Contrary to popular belief, the Supreme Court ruling on Narco and other scientific tests has not come as a surprise or a bolt from the blue for the investigating agencies. There may be reasons for some disappointment but in effect the judgment has simply reiterated the already existing guidelines of the National Human Rights Commission on the subject. With the Supreme Court backing it has, of course, become the law of the land.


In 2000, the NHRC issued guidelines on the polygraph test and made it voluntary on the part of the accused or suspect. It ordered that the consent has to be recorded by a judicial magistrate. It was also decided that the person will be explained about the importance and implication of the test by his own lawyer other than the police. With such clear guidelines, not many tests were being conducted due to the unwillingness of the suspected person.


It is mostly because of graphic descriptions on the electronic media that people have an impression that every other suspect was being dragged and drugged in police stations. If you think about more than 21 lakh cases registered under the Indian Penal Code annually, not even .1 per cent cases go for any scientific tests. And those high profile cases which reach that stage are mostly done as per the NHRC's rules.


The 251-page apex court ruling has, however, raised the important question of "tensions between the desirability of efficient investigation and the preservation of individual liberties." This bigger question has been dealt with by the court time and again and this judgement is much more important for being the latest in the series. The verdict has clearly gone in favour of individual freedom and liberty.


The balancing act between individual freedom and societal need has been a matter of debate since the beginning of the civilization, more so in modern age. The western societies have generally favoured personal freedom. But while the West has valued right to liberty to its members it has also made arrangements to ensure that criminals don't go scot-free .


In our case, it has been a little different story. We have gone out of the way to ensure personal freedoms of the individual as envisaged in our Constitution but there has been no effort to see that denial of justice is also violation of rights. Right to liberty has been well emphasised but right to justice has often been denied. In fact, the importance of fundamental rights coupled with general disbelief on police has slowly but steadily made our judicial system accused-friendly. Thus, people who have committed the most heinous crimes are either not punished or punished with so much of delay that it loses any meaning to their victims.


Interestingly, the government and the courts find it easy to enforce the rights which have no financial implications. Thus, while enforcing right to liberty we are very active but while giving right to employment we could silently wait for 60 years. But right to personal freedom and liberty also comes with a cost. The cost is invisible but very high.


The society does not pay it in terms of money but some of its members pay it. It is a Catch 22 situation. If we allow police and enforcement agencies to go all out in solving and detecting crimes, it affects the persons who are suspected or accused for the crime in question. There will be better detection and control of crime but with a high possibility of excesses, even against those who are innocent.


On the other hand, if the suspect's right is held so high, many criminals will never be caught. If a crime goes undetected and guilty goes unpunished this is a double punishment to the victim. It is easy to say let the 99 guilty go unpunished but one innocent should not be punished. This lofty idea of justice looks great only on the face of it.


In the given situation, we have to compromise with one of the things. Either we are willing to forgo a bit of our individual freedoms or we get ready for a little less detection of crime. This raises the question: Is there any way by which crimes can be detected and controlled without compromising with individual freedom? Yes, by strengthening the criminal justice system and empowering the police with resources. 


Over 60 lakh criminal cases, including 21 lakh under the Indian Penal Code, are registered annually and investigated at one police station or the other — the basic and most important unit in the criminal justice system. From FIR of the crime up to the end of investigation, the cases are dealt with at the police stations. The expenditure on a normal case in a normal police station would be a mere few thousand rupees. Neither the police have enough manpower nor resources to investigate these cases properly, detect the crimes and prove the guilt of accused in the court beyond reasonable doubt.


A police station is meant to investigate cases. But it has some more jobs to perform: prevention of crime by patrolling, etc., law and order, VIP security, duty during fairs and festivals, passport verification, intelligence collection, conducting exams to elections, traffic management, taking on terrorists and extremists, stopping trafficking of humans and smuggling of timber, stopping illegal liquor to catching narcotics.


All this has to be done with a physically stressed, ill-trained, low paid and de-motivated manpower. There have been recommendations to improve police infrastructure. But police is a non-Plan subject where money can be spent only with reluctance and disdain.


The only way by which police stations can handle the investigation of cases and deliver justice is by adequate resources, professional competence and good service. This requires mammoth expenditure and efforts, which is accepted in discussions but missing in implementation. Our options are only three. Either we lose a bit of personal freedom or the right to justice or else some money to improve the justice delivery mechanism. In the given situation, the third one is the only option. n


The writer, an IPS officer of Orissa cadre, is presently Senior SP, CBI, Kolkata

















Even as the controversy over the mercy petition of death row convict Afzal Guru in the Parliament Attack Case continues, the People's Union for Civil Liberties' national general secretary, Dr Pushkar Raj, advocates

abolition of the capital punishment, maintaining that it defies the very concept of justice. In an interview to The Tribune in Jammu, he says that death sentence won't help check the crime rate across the world.




Q: Why do you oppose capital punishment?


A: It is unacceptable in a civilised society. There is no research to suggest that it brings down the crime rate. The fact that over 118 countries have abolished capital punishment proves that violence as revenge in the name of justice is increasingly becoming unacceptable in the contemporary society.


There is also the moral argument that if we cannot create life, we have no right to take it away. In fact, death penalty demeans the state and makes society more violent. This is especially worse for a society like ours that is inherently violent. A true democratic country represents the will of all the people, not the majority.


Q: How do you look at the history of capital punishment in India since Independence?


A: Capital punishment here has been death by lottery. There are no foolproof standards. This could be acceptable when the quantum of punishment is say, one year to ten years of jail in which case if one is wrongfully convicted, he could be released if new facts emerge. But what about a person who has been proved innocent after he is killed by the state?


Moreover a trial judge may award death, a high court judge may overturn it and then the Supreme Court might concur with the trial judge. There is also the state's discretion to appeal. So where is the objectivity?


Q: Death sentence is awarded to pacify the collective consciousness of society. Your take?


A: This is startling. If society is so blood thirsty that a person's death will pacify it, can the state assume this on behalf of society? Don't we have enough of violence that we wish to institutionalise the state violence in the form of capital punishment?


Q: Is it not a minority view?


A: Yes, it is so. Look at the extra-judicial killings. If a criminal is killed in cold blood, nobody protests. The due process of law takes a back seat. Murder in actuality is condoned in Indian society.


Q: What is the status of human rights in the country?


A: It is terribly sad. Over the last decade, it has deteriorated. The kind of development pattern we have chosen in the face of globalisation is affecting the rights of tribals, farmers, workers and the poor. Peaceful peoples' movement like the Narmada, Nandigram and Singur never catch the government's sight. In insurgency-prone areas, security forces are accountable to none and use draconian laws against innocent people. Human rights activists are falling victim to such laws.


Q: How do you perceive the Maoists' movement?


A: Maoists have a mission and a method to achieve that. No human rights organisation that works within the framework of the Indian Constitution can agree with them. As for violence, the state must deal with them as it should deal with any illegal action of any person or group. But the state is bound by the Constitution. It must respect the due process of law. It cannot use extra-legal methods, whatever the provocation.


Q: How human rights can be improved?


A: Human rights bodies need to be proactive at the Central and state level. We should have human rights commissions in all the states. Now only 18 states have them. They should have all infrastructural facilities. Those appointed to these bodies must have credibility. Right now, these bodies do not inspire confidence.








Prof Dong Youchen, a Chinese scholar, is little known in India. Few know that he has spent a life-time researching and translating the works of Rabindranath Tagore into Chinese and was honoured this year with Bangla Akademi's prestigious Rabindra Puraskar. The award is recognition of Prof Dong's life-long work of translating Tagore into Chinese, a difficult language to learn.


It was over 60 years back that Dong, as a student, had his first encounter with Tagore at a Chinese middle school. A Chinese translation of excerpts from Gitanjali was compulsory reading in the literature course. A fire was ignited here in the life of the Chinese Professor since then and it still glows.


There is something unusual about Dong's simple manners, not feign humility, and his love for discipline and hard work that are typical of rural people from north China. Even his tall frame, broad forehead and round face show his northern Chinese links. Like most Chinese of his generation, the rural roots are still strong in his life and personality.


Born in a peasant family in the Jilin, one of the most picturesque provinces of the northern China, close to the Russian border, Dong grew up helping his peasant parents in the fields, spending most of his early years in the village. The life of Chinese peasants those days was hard. But he loved the serenity of the village life and that was the reason why he loved Shantinekatan.


It was not so good when Dong decided to devote his life to translating and researching Tagore. The first spark from Gitantali poem had grown into a mild fire by the time he read a Chinese translation of Tagore's novel, Nouka Dubi (capsizing boat), while learning Bangla and Rusian at Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) University in the early 1960s. Nouka Dubi was his translation of Tagore's work followed by other writings of the Nobel Laureate.


Why Dong has not come to Indian to learn Bangla? Viswa-Bharti would have been the best place. It wasn't best of time in India-China relations. The 1962 war had soured relations between the two countries. Dong was a member of the Chinese Communist Party. Good Communist as he is, Dong maintains that China's love for Tagore has nothing to do with politics. "Tagore's work gives the Chinese leaders peace of mind and a spiritual dimension to their own life", he has been quoted as saying.


Tagore's appeal to his Chinese readers has always been deep, but its reach is becoming wider now. This is in sharp contrast to the situation when Tagore visited China in 1924 for the first time. Many Chinese intellectuals, especially those sympathetic to the Left wing politics and the fledging Chinese Communist Party, were evidently hostile to Tagore. Some critics even distributed leaflets criticising Tagore's "spiritualism" and "Orientalism".


The Chinese government published 10 volumes of Tagore's works in Chinese. On May 7, 1961, the People's Daily, the party organ published a supplement on Tagore. Much earlier, Zhou Enlai visited Shantiniketan and wrote effusive comments on the poet in the visitor's book.


Translating Tagore is almost a 100-year-old tradition in China. Chen Duxlu published four poems from Gitanjali. Then followed a surge of translations between 1915 and 1924. Now Tagore's complete works are being translated from Bangla into Chinese by Prof Dong and his team.


The first five volumes, to be published by Renmin Publishing House, are due in May 2011 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the poet's birth, and all 24 volumes are expected to see the light of the day by 2015.









 Two weeks ago a group of journalists, gathered at Cisco's office space in Manhattan for the global press day for Mani Ratnam's Raavan. Using a new technology Tele-Presence, Cisco connected the film's director and actors with journalists in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Dubai and New York.


 I walked into the small conference room and was blown away with the new technology. I have participated in video conference calls, but this was remarkable. We sat facing three giant screens. Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan were in Mumbai in the middle screen, while Ratnam and Vikram were in Chennai on the left. More important, the technology had erased the distances. It seemed as if the stars and the other journalists were in the same room, right in front of us.


 There was a lot of friendly banter with general questions, such as whether the Bachchans discuss work when they get home or what was it like working with Ratnam? Finally one reporter asked Ratnam "What is Raavan about?" Ratnam's response was "Haven't you seen the preview?" Yes, the reporter had seen the preview, but nobody had seen the film, which explained the mostly superficial conversation.


Bollywood production houses do not hold advance screenings of their films and it is somewhat understandable. There is a concern that bloggers and others who moonlight as critics on social media sites may post negative reviews and thereby ruin a film's chance of finding its audience in its opening weekend.


But that is where the production houses have to work at winning the confidence of journalists. In the US the concept of review embargoes works as film journalists almost always respect the guidelines. In fact, most PR firms insist that reporters have to attend the advance screenings before they can interview the film-makers. It helps the level of reporting, especially the feature articles that focus on film-making.


 Lately more and more Bollywood stars and film-makers are travelling to New York to promote their films, but at each situation reporters accept the general public relations material that is fed to them. There is a lot of excitement having a star like Shah Rukh Khan or Hrithik Roshan in our presence, but no reporter is prepared to ask specific questions about how and why certain scenes were written, acted, directed or shot.


There is access to Bollywood personalities in India and also here and yet there is hardly any intelligent conversation. The general discourse on Bollywood cinema is missing. Perhaps the producers and distributors like to keep the mystery about their films, but ultimately the audience loses out.


Last year Nikhil Advani told the press in New York that the soul of Chandni Chowk to China lay in the interactions between Mithun Chakraborty and Akshay Kumar. That evening I attended the film's premiere – the first screening of CCTC and was surprised as I recounted Advani's claims. The scenes between Chakraborty and Kumar were flat, lacking any emotional punch. I would have liked to talk further with Advani about the film he claimed was going to be the first crossover hit. But after the screening he was not available to the press.
   There are some film personalities who continue talking about their films after the release. Karan Johar does not get tired sending out weekly Twitter updates that MNIK is doing well in various international markets. But that is a rare example. At the Raavan press day, Abhishek was exuberantly chatting with the reporters, but in the aftermath of the film's debacle at the box office, he disappeared for a few days from Twitter, leaving his father to defend the film.


This week I received a screening invite for director Anusha Rizvi's Peepli Live from a New York-based PR firm. Aamir Khan will be in New York in late July to talk to the press. The screening will enable journalists to have an open conversation with Khan about the film, his role as a producer and the reasons why he backed Peepli Live. It should only help the film as well as the audience.



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In 'hydraulic societies' state power, suggested Karl Wittfogel, flows from the control of water. His thesis on 'oriental despotism' was based on the observation that in many Asian societies rain water had to be collected and made available for irrigation and consumption, often using human and animal power to collect, store and draw such water. Wittfogel believed hydraulic societies, as Max Weber dubbed them, tend to produce powerful bureaucratic and despotic states. So, is too much democracy or too little governance weakening the ability of the Indian state to perform its due role as an administrator of water collection, preservation, utilisation?

Not far from that tragic monument to the centrality of water to human habitation, Fatehpur Sikri, yet another famous lake has dried up. The drying up of the lake at the Sultanpur bird sanctuary in Haryana need not be viewed as an isolated case of degeneration of a water body due to human negligence. It is symptomatic of a trend that has resulted in the death and decline of countless lakes and other types of water bodies all over the sub-continent. In the north, the well-known Sukhna lake near Chandigarh, the Batkal lake in Haryana, the holy Pushkar lake near Ajmer and water bodies at the national park in Bharatpur in Rajasthan are among those whose existence is under threat. Even the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar is reckoned to have shrunk by over 15 km in the past six decades. Similar is the case in the south where tanks and ponds have traditionally been among the most important sources of water. Mega cities like Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru, which rose on the foundation of manmade lake-based supply of water, have experienced a shrinking of such vital sources of water. Most of even those which have survived have seen woeful degradation of water quality due to pollution and discharge of untreated wastes. Such neglect of water resources is untenable, especially considering that vast parts of the country are already water-stressed and the total water demand is projected to double in the next two decades.

 Ponds and lakes do not only serve to hold rainwater, but they prevent soil erosion by doing so and facilitate groundwater recharge. They help sustain the vital hydrological cycle. Their drying up, on the other hand, creates bogs, which harbour unwanted sedges and other vegetation, apart from depriving water for gainful use. Besides curbing reckless human intervention in the catchment areas of water bodies, these watersheds need to be meticulously conserved. The realisation that the geographical unit for water development has to be a watershed (the contiguous area that drains into a common depression, creating lakes, streams or rivers) had come way back in the 1970s. This had led to launching of at least 300 national-level schemes in the 1970s and 1980s based on this concept — the Integrated Watershed Development Programmes (IWDP), the Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP) and the Desert Development Programme (DDP). These programmes have, however, failed to make the desired impact because of implementation lapses. Though these were subsequently sought to be merged into a single programme called 'Haryali', to be implemented by the Panchayati Raj institutions, even that does not seem to have made much difference. One of the key objectives of the United Progressive Alliance government's Bharat Nirman programme was the revival of a million lakes, ponds and water tanks across the country. But not enough has been done to meet this objective. Hopes now rest on the government's latest initiative to launch a National Water Mission, under the National Action Plan for Climate Change, which has been mandated to ensure integrated conservation, development and management of water resources.








Doubts whether the global recovery will continue has become the central question following the events of the past six weeks. We have had financial contagion-type developments in the eurozone. There have been fears of a China slowdown consequent to the crackdown on the housing market. Economic data in the US has hit a soft patch, and the pace of job creation is disappointing. An overload of unusual events and headlines has undermined confidence. Political and social tensions are on the rise globally and there appears to be a leadership and a policy deficit in coping with them.

Paradoxically, the things that create the most doubts about near-term growth — the eurozone's earlier than expected forced austerity and China's aggressive response to a growing housing bubble — also enhance the sustainability of the global recovery.

 Where does that leave us?

Earlier, I expected a global recovery despite the broad range of potential macroeconomic outcomes as the world emerges from a credit-induced collapse. Historically unprecedented activism by governments had increased the concentration of debt in the public sector to potentially unsustainable levels. Debt in developed countries along with potential for policy errors, in my view, were the two biggest factors that could result in a double dip in the US and Europe and derail a broad global recovery.

I had pegged the chances of a global double dip at 10 per cent (defined as less than 2 per cent global growth). Since March this year, there has been a significant deterioration in the quality of the global recovery. Does that change the probabilities of potential outcomes?

The straight answer is, not yet. The risks of an adverse outcome have risen and the next six months will determine which way the global recovery is headed. Confidence is fragile, but recovery from a near-collapse is underway, driven by balance sheet and liquidity improvements — the exact opposite of the situation that prevailed in 2008.

Four positive factors are at work. First, some key global economic indicators are signalling an improvement — world trade volume, world industrial production, US and Euro area capital goods orders and Japanese machinery orders. Chinese exports expanded 48 per cent y-o-y for the most recently reported trade numbers. The Fed's recently released Beige Book — a timely and detailed account of what is happening at the grass roots level across regions and sectors — was surprisingly strong. Japanese machinery orders have now nearly regained their 2008 peak and Euro area capital goods orders are 12.5 per cent above their trough levels and steadily climbing.

Second, while the sovereign crisis exposed the fault lines in the single currency structure and the dysfunctionality in the political and governing process, it has forced fiscal austerity much earlier than expected. Past evidence of fiscal consolidation in OECD countries has been positive for equities, especially when coupled with a depreciating currency, as we see with the euro. The weak euro will benefit all eurozone countries by boosting exports and improve the competitive position of the PIIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain), which is at the heart of the problem in the Euro area. Germany and France in particular are well positioned to benefit. It is estimated that the depreciation in the euro will boost eurozone GDP by 1 per cent in 2011.

Third, corporate profits and valuations remain robust with upward profit revisions. Valuations for equities are in the buying range. Consensus bottoms up S&P 500 earnings estimates are 82 and 96 for 2010 and 2011 respectively, implying forward P/E ratios of 13.4 and 11.4. Top down earnings estimates of investment strategists are about 10 per cent lower, but even with that valuations are reasonable. Equities in Europe and Japan are even cheaper than in the US. Undistributed profits are at a high; this should lead to hiring or capex (which provide an economic boost) or dividends and M&A (which boosts markets). Even as return on capital is at its zenith, the cost of capital is at a nadir.

Finally, the absence of inflation in developed countries gives central banks in the US, the Euro area and Japan the leeway to keep monetary policy accommodative for an extended period of time. Even China and other emerging countries are likely to push back plans for policy tightening given the fragility in financial markets. These accommodative policies are likely to be favourable for emerging market assets and commodities in particular.

However, there are also two risk factors. First, the extent of funding required in the public and corporate sector needs to happen at reasonable interest rates that don't cause a debt spiral. That depends on the credibility of the sovereigns and the confidence of bond investors. That credibility and confidence has taken a hit in the past couple of months. We are entering the era where developed-country debt may require higher interest rates to fund than similarly rated corporate debt.

Second, the sustainability of US demand depends on income, employment, credit and asset values. All of these are question marks, even though retail sales in the US have shown improvement. The weak employment picture more than a year into the recovery is the single biggest cause for concern. A rebound in labour share of GDP in the US will give a big boost to the economy and sustainability of the recovery. Income and recent spending has come from a combination of transfers, tax breaks and reduced savings that are not sustainable. House prices may fall further and global equity markets have fallen about 15 per cent, jarring confidence and sentiment. Because confidence is weak and uncertainty high, it has given rise to very high volatility in markets. Market confidence in our leaders is low, fraying investor confidence in the past few months.

The question is whether the world is entering a period of unusual tensions and upheaval between countries over trade and resources, and between interest groups, that will make governance difficult and policy mistakes more likely.

The writer is CEO and chief investment officer, Magister Ludi Capital Management, LLC., a New York-based global macro fund (








Day-to-day multilateral negotiations remain an important issue of international policy. They have to pave the way for a global, formal and quantified agreement which is needed to fight climate change in the long run. But in actual terms, fighting climate change, both mitigation as well as adaptation, will rely on programmes initiated by governments, companies and civil society, which need to be intensified, whatever be the global framework. And today, India and the French Development Agency (AFD) are signing the first loans which are part of this effort.

India has the potential to lead. It published its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in 2008, signalling its dedication to promoting ecologically sustainable growth. The National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency has just been launched. The stakes are particularly daunting, because climate change threatens the ability to sustain high and inclusive growth. Given these stakes, India is well placed to advance the empirical search for a green and inclusive growth trajectory and to help set the necessary international standards of environmental awareness.

 There is also a clear challenge for international cooperation in effectively engaging the best minds, financial resources and technologies in implementing innovative solutions. There are numerous opportunities for India and its foreign partners to work together. Investments are blossoming and funds from international agencies can sustain and catalyse this movement and help reach out to potential actors of the fight against climate change. The French Government, through the AFD, has committed over two billion euros in support of its partners' programmes and projects for climate change mitigation and adaptation in 2009, thus promoting reciprocal knowledge, stronger relations and shared know-how.

Since its opening in India in 2007, the AFD has developed a close working relationship with the Indian Government in the framework of the NAPCC. The first two projects passed by its board in 2009 provide a good example of how such cooperation between a bilateral donor and the Indian government can help speed up the transformation of the energy mix for growth and climate change mitigation. A subsidised line of credit of 70 million euros was opened for the benefit of the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) in order to fund renewable energy projects (solar, biomass, etc), a recognised priority area in India's energy policy.

Another such 'soft' credit line of 50 million euros has also been granted to the Small Industry Development Bank of India (SIDBI) in order to spur investments by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in energy efficiency. This shows how development cooperation can effectively support a public policy that focuses on demand management and energy efficiency by increasing credit leverage in a financial institution.

The first two instances highlight the potential for innovative financial solutions that foster effective public private partnerships and help engage a host of private actors and financial intermediaries in implementing public policies. New instruments and new ways of financing them will play a crucial role in the mobilisation of all actors behind climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as in the search for technical innovations. Other modes of cooperation can also be developed at the national level. In various instances, notably in Indonesia, in cooperation with the Japanese Government, the AFD has lent resources directly to the national budget to support sectoral policies aimed at climate change adaptation and mitigation. Through such programmes, a fruitful exchange takes place that also allows capacity building and mainstreaming climate change policies among all stakeholders and interested public ministries and agencies.

The international cooperation system is well placed to support climate-friendly, sustainable growth trajectories. It has become a network of networks, especially on environment and climate change issues, where all actors, from top to bottom and from all countries, add their piece to the puzzle. In this framework, bilateral development agencies have an important role to play because they can engage in an open and fruitful policy dialogue and mobilise financial and technical instruments through innovative approaches.

Such cooperation can also document and cross-fertilise practices by learning and financing the best. India and France have to learn from each other on climate change, notwithstanding the international political agenda. This is also one of the key aspects of our ongoing bilateral dialogue. It gives substance to and is translated into concrete actions in support of the fight against climate change. The AFD is committed to deepening its contribution through loans, technical assistance and sharing of experience.

The author is chief economist, French Development Agency







Green jobs are being talked about a lot. However, they are getting replaced by blue jobs.

Some entrepreneurs, looking beyond green solutions to human needs, have come up with blue solutions, that is, those mirroring natural systems.

 A Belgian eco-entrepreneur, Gunter Pauli, has complied 100 business models based on this approach in his book, The Blue Economy. He says these are sure to change the way business is done and also who the business benefits.

He is on a mission to take these ideas to corporations and governments in countries like Bhutan, India, Japan and the Philippines.

The idea, Pauli says, is to bring these innovations to the market place and make sustainable businesses competitive.

His idea of business is less capital, more decentralisation and almost zero wastage.

He says these solutions are linked to the people's real needs, unlike businesses in the capital economy. Pauli points out that while two billion people are struggling to survive and 25 per cent youths are jobless, one billion people are overnourished.

The model is not based on increasing output but maximum utilisation of resources, which often involves turning waste into a resource.

Innovators Robert Haspel and Linda Taylor used mushroom cultivation to stop wild forest fires triggered by the small diameter wood in New Mexico in the United States. Now, the cause of fire is a source of livelihood.

The book also has a case study of how Anders Nyquist of Sweden codified termites' ability to use air flows for temperature and humidity control into a model that makes modern air-conditioning redundant.

The idea is to substitute something with nothing. While the 40 billion batteries dumped into land fills every year require intensive mining and smelting, blue innovators have come out with a method of eliminating batteries altogether.

While Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has made a cellphone powered by the differential between ambient and body temperatures and the pressure generated by our voice, Professor Jorge Reynolds (Colombia), a pioneer in whale research, has developed a pacemaker that requires no battery, no surgery and only local anaesthesia, thereby cutting costs and patient distress.

Each day we hear of germs and bacteria getting resistant to drugs. So, innovators have found a way out.

They felt there was a need for technologies that mirrored nature to beat these organisms, such as the ability of red algae seaweed to deafen bacteria.

Australian scientists Peter Steinberg and Staffan Kjelleberg discovered that red algae seaweed could mitigate the spread of bacteria by breaking their communication lines.

If bacteria do not hear others of their species, they move on and do not populate a surface. This means that they cannot create a biofilm, a superstructure that plays a critical role in many diseases.

The Blue Economy, presented as a report to the Club of Rome, has ideas which have been piloted in different parts of the world.

This route mirrors the evolutionary path of nature, according to Pauli. He says his main goal is to inspire entrepreneurs to use these opportunities for business and wealth creation.

That would put the bottom of the pyramid in the driving seat. With millions taking the initiative and becoming local entrepreneurs, they will certainly be in a position to change the rules of the game that today leave 80 per cent of the world's wealth with ten per cent of its population.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



After all the sanctimony about ideology that was tossed about when the BJP struck former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh off its rolls ten months ago, it appears the thikanedar from Jodhpur has had the last laugh. Mr Singh, who is thought to zealously guard his sense of honour, has been duly invited back into the party and all concerned are said to be cooing into his ears. Political parties are known to take back those who have been declared renegade. The history of the Congress and the Lohia stream is replete with instances of the return of the prodigal. Not so the communists and the Hindu nationalists, at least not at the top leadership level. There can be little question that Mr Singh leans toward the Hindutvawadi tendency. In that sense, he is more than just a representative of the Right. However, he has always given the impression of being only a light shade of saffron and was not raised in the hard RSS tradition like most of his colleagues in the BJP leadership. Considering this, he was dispensable and could well have been left out in the cold after being removed for praising Jinnah as a secular politician in a book he wrote. But this would have been uneven treatment, considering that Lal Krishna Advani was rehabilitated after being hung out to dry for exactly the same infraction. The balance is now redressed. Nevertheless, there does still remain a sense of curiousness about the Singh affair. After being expelled at the BJP's chintan baithak in Shimla last year, the former Union minister did not fail to take a swipe at the RSS. For the BJP, this was cardinal sin. The return of Mr Singh does possibly indicate that yardsticks might be changing imperceptibly in the saffron party, although it is far from clear that others who dare mock the RSS might not get away so lightly. One might say the balance of circumstances worked for Mr Singh. He is sufficiently moderate and suitably modern, one apt to impress the BJP's middle class constituency and the Westernised, English-speaking, upper crust. At a time when the party is still in the dumps after the crushing Lok Sabha defeat, a senior figure with these qualifications might be seen as well worth wooing back. It is also in Mr Singh's favour that he is not a strong faction leader type. Thus, his re-induction is unlikely to ruffle feathers in the Rajasthan unit of the BJP. It might have been a somewhat different story if Vasundhara Raje, with whom Mr Singh had crossed swords, were still chief minister. The tale may also have been different if one of the senior office-bearers of the party had been promoted to BJP president, instead of a rank outsider being appointed to that position. Mr Singh had quite appropriately raised questions about the party not subjecting to scrutiny those who were part of the top leadership team that ran the disastrous election campaign which ended in ignominious defeat last May. None of this team might have easily forgiven the criticism. It is thus fortuitous that Nitin Gadkari, picked from the periphery, is now party chief, and Mr Gadkari can do with gathering as many people who agree to back him at the top. For this reason, the BJP president might find it expedient to re-induct some of the other high-profile figures who have been out in the cold.
Ms Bharti comes to mind. She has also been making the right noises. However, the sanyasin from Khajuraho, for all her iconic status in saffron circles, can be a divisive figure. It is not unlikely that this season Mr Singh may be the lone sparrow to home back on target.



I am not surprised that we have a crisis in Bihar. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is carefully studying the trends of the 2004 and 2009 general elections but it has limited options. In the 2004 elections, the Gujarat riots consolidated the minority vote against the BJP and, despite the charisma of Atal Behari Vajpayee, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was humbled. The regional parties, with a large presence of minority votes, like the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Telugu Desam Party and the Trinamul Congress, distanced themselves from the BJP. Later, in Orissa, Naveen Patnaik won a spectacular victory after breaking the alliance with the BJP. Similarly, in Bihar, Nitish Kumar has very limited options and there is nothing personal in these decisions.

There might be a temporary patch-up between the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the BJP as the situation in Bihar is different from Orissa. Clearly all concerned may be doing their "caste" calculations. The votes will split in a four-cornered fight as besides the JD(U) and the BJP there are the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janashakti Party. Each party is fighting for survival and the Congress will also be a relevant factor with an increased vote share.

It is too early to make estimates but Mr Kumar has done his homework. Like Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal or Naveen Patnaik in Orissa, he is looking at the future but has limited options. One has to literally fight for every seat in the state to get an outright majority.

Here I would like to mention that the third front is again a possibility and can consolidate under Mr Kumar — there will be a temptation for a "grand alliance". Also, this is not going to be an easy decision for the chief minister of Bihar. The decision can go in either direction as there are too many moving parts in this jigsaw puzzle.

Strong regional groups exist but many have been weakened and are in need of a "central" umbrella. Everyone is in touch with each other but in view of past experience a premature decision would be chaotic. Politics is about possibilities and as the Congress consolidates and aspires, so will the third front. I am not very certain what will happen to the NDA as the churning process is on and will take a definite turn by the end of 2012 — the end of four major Assembly elections that together comprise 200 Lok Sabha seats.

A few weeks ago I had written that a major realignment of forces was inevitable as the BJP is no longer in a position to lead a coalition. Like 1989, the BJP can only be a part of a Central structure and this is necessary if it wants to retain Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and to some extent Rajasthan (if Vasundhara Raje is allowed to function) and Karnataka.

In terms of coalition structures, if there is a favourable situation the BJP will not exceed 80-100 seats in the Lok Sabha and 60-80 seats if the situation is negative. The current situation is that the Congress will lose to a strong regional force unless it develops its own cadres in the states but will be better placed against the BJP in a straight fight. This will be reflected in the Assembly elections in Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Here I am indulging in some form of "political" astrology and I see the Congress maintaining its current position, the regional forces consolidating further and the BJP under pressure. I think the position for the 2014 general elections will be clear by the end of 2012.

Leadership and political succession is an important aspect for the future. The Congress has a distinct advantage as it offers an "option" in Rahul Gandhi at the Centre but it lacks adequate leadership at the state level. The BJP, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have strong chief ministers in all the states where it has formed government, barring Rajasthan, where it was bogged down by internal dissent.

The BJP will continue with its internal contradictions unless Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who has the reputation of an able administrator with impeccable integrity, is made to lead the party. The BJP has to accept the positives and negatives of this situation and, unless it does, it will continue to lose to the Congress as "interim" solutions do not work in politics.

The BJP's strength lies in effective chief ministers in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka and Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, but it has lost out in Uttar Pradesh to the Congress and can't afford another loss in Bihar after Orissa. The NDA would have little meaning without the JD(U) and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is rife with internal dissent. The BJP has to take a decision for the future.

WE WILL witness "political accidents", as we see in the chaos generated after the court's verdict on the Bhopal gas tragedy. But I don't think this will influence the course of events in the long term unless the United Progressive Alliance bungles the issue. The initial report of the group of ministers (GoM) is positive and is a small step forward, but this issue will not fade away. Like the 1984 Sikh riots in Delhi and the communal clashes in Gujarat the issue will continue to fester unless justice is rendered.

Several aspects are being investigated by the media, including the legal situation from 1991 onwards taking into account all aspects of the decision, including the arguments of the lawyers, the role of the Central Bureau of Investigation and other official agencies, and all officials associated with the case and their assignments after retirement.

Time is not a relevant factor. Whenever human lives are lost the issue continues to exist. With advances in technology and 24x7 media coverage, issues like the Bhopal gas tragedy, which took place 25 years ago, are creating a bigger impact in the public mind today as compared to 1984.

- Arun Nehru is a former Union Minister







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 healthcare 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 healthcare 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 pummelling — although she did express some dismay, in an interview with the New York Times' 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 healthcare 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 rancour 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.






While tackling long queues of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) ticket-seekers for Bihar's Assembly polls in November, party supremo and former railway minister, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, speaks with the MLA aspirants like he has little doubt about the RJD's comeback to power. Speaking to Anand S.T. Das, the former chief minister predicted the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's doom, and indicated that he may regain his Muslim-Yadav votebank five years after losing it.

Q. You have heightened your tirade against Nitish Kumar after his photographs with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi appeared in advertisements. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) presents Mr Modi in Bihar as a successful development-oriented leader whose controversial communal past is left far behind and is forgotten.
A. How can anyone forget the 2002 communal massacres in Gujarat in which thousands of innocent Muslims were killed? How can the minorities in Bihar and anywhere in India forgive Mr Modi for those monstrosities? The BJP is a party without a realistic, pro-people vision. The common man is not an issue for the BJP.

Q. Bihar's Muslims, who used to be your staunch supporters, tilted towards Mr Kumar in several elections despite his alliance with the BJP because they felt you did little for them during 15 years of RJD rule. How do you explain this?
A. They (Muslims in Bihar) were misdirected by propaganda and they have amply realised their mistake in the five years of Mr Kumar's rule with the BJP. After running his coalition government under the influences of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP, Mr Kumar is now trying to hide his photographs with Mr Modi. Bihar's Muslims have gained little from the NDA's high-publicity government. They were happier during our rule.

Q. Even the Yadavs, who formed your votebank as part of the famous "MY" axis, no longer seem to be with you.
A. That is a wrong impression spread by certain sections. They (Yadavs) have also realised the difference between our rule and the present misrule.

Q. Why do you think the people will vote for the RJD in the Bihar Assembly polls when there is an impression that the Janata Dal-United-BJP government of Mr Kumar performed much better than the RJD in its 15-year rule?
A. All the performance and achievement reports of the Nitish government are publicity stunts. Over 100 people have died from hunger in Bihar in the last three years alone. Are these the results of development and rising gross domestic product, as the NDA government claims? Bihar is buried neck-deep in corruption now. Rampant illegal hoarding of essential goods has made the pain of price rise unbearable for the poor. The burden is back-breaking for the people, and they are not blind. They will show this government the way out.

Q.You have toned down your rebuke of the upper castes after the RJD's frequent poll debacles. But will it prevent those votes from going to the BJP or even the resurgent Congress?

A. I have never hurt any community's sentiments. Lots of things get said when a leader speaks to an audience. But there was no rebuke for the upper castes. The RJD represents all communities. Earlier also the upper castes were with us in large numbers. They have now realised the double standards of the Nitish government. Our idea of social justice is different from Mr Kumar's. He believes in dividing communities by creating new social sub-groups.

Q. Will the RJD ensure it does not field candidates who have a criminal record? The RJD regime was infamous for a steep rise in crime in Bihar and was often called "jungle raj".

A. We have always tried to get worthy people elected. Mistakes must have been made in some cases, but they were not deliberate. Our frustrated opponents had invented the phrase "jungle raj". Crime figures have gone up every year during Mr Kumar's rule. There should be a fair comparison.


Q. Will RJD's alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) stay alive till the Assembly polls?
A. Hundred per cent. No need for you to doubt this.


Q. Do you not miss being allies with the Congress? Is there a possibility that the RJD will enter into an alliance with the Congress to prevent the division of the so-called secular votes?

A. What is the need for it now? (He refuses to elaborate.)

Q. Is the Congress the bigger adversary for the RJD than the JD(U)?

A. They (JD-U and Congress) are both dreaming.


Q. Is the JD(U) a bigger adversary than the BJP?

A. The BJP is daydreaming about its Bihar prospects.

Q. Has Mr Kumar's alliance with the BJP helped you?

A. The Nitish government is now all exposed. The people now know who to trust and vote for.


Q. The Congress accuses you of having nearly killed it in Bihar, but you often seem to have a soft corner for the Congress. Is that a paradox of political expediency?

A. The Congress knows how useful Lalu has been to it both in Bihar and at the Centre. I do not care what some of its leaders say.


Q. The ruling NDA tirelessly reminds people of Bihar's "dark days of Lalu Raj" to seek a second term, and measures its achievements against the performance of your RJD government.

A. The more he (Nitish) talks about his government's achievements, the more people hear the sound of empty vessels. Nobody can get votes twice over (as the RJD did) just by spinning words.


Q. Why do you demand that caste census should be conducted?

A. How can any government ignore a social reality? Even educated people understand how deep-going caste is in India.


Q. Is the RJD coming back to power in Bihar?

A. Don't you see the deep public resentment surfacing across Bihar in recent months? The people had got divided the last time they voted and now they have realised that false promises were made to them by the JD(U) and the BJP. The people of the state will not commit the mistake of 2005 again.


Q. Would you like to be chief minister if the RJD-LJP wins, or will it be your wife, Rabri Devi, again?
A. The party will decide who becomes chief minister. The party's MLAs always decide.

Q. If you become chief minister again, what will you do differently?

A. Let the answer be kept safe for our election manifesto.







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. And it has failed to win the confidence of the Muslims. Besides Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Najma Heptullah, neither of whom counts for much, the only Muslim elected to Parliament on a BJP ticket was missing from the meeting. While the Congress Party 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 who had snubbed him by canceling the dinner party he had planned to host for them. Except for the presence of Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP think-tank comprising Arun Shouri, Yashwant Singh, Jaswant Singh were conspicuous by their absence. So windbags, noticeably Narendra Modi, had their way. Since Mrs Sonia Gandhi's description of him as Maut ka Saudagar - merchant of death - had stung him, he retaliated by holding her responsible for the deaths of thousands in the Carbide gas leak. The great difference is that while Modi was provenly guilty of triggering the massacre of innocent Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, Sonia Gandhi had not even entered the political arena till long after the 1984 Bhopal tragedy took place. Such niceties do not bother the likes of Modi.

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 in 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 shortcomings in its eyes without spelling out what it would do to alleviate poverty and ignorance still widely prevalent in the country.






Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar's unprecedented one year extension put paid to the hopes of two batches of aspirants for the post. But it is an indication of the high comfort level Mr Chandrasekhar enjoys with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that a tweak in the rules ensured the Cabinet secretary remains in saddle until June next year.
Sources say, the debate has now shifted to 2011 with murmurs about Pulok Chatterji, a 1974 batch Indian Administrative Service officer presently executive director to the World Bank, being a politically favoured frontrunner. According to some observers, the second extension to Mr Chandrasekhar is only to ensure that Mr Chatterji could potentially succeed him when he returns from his World Bank assignment. But that may be looking too far into the future. For now, Mr Chandrasekhar is and remains the nation's top babu — and only a thoroughly botched up Commonwealth Games could derail him.

Appraising babus

After babus heaved a sigh of relief with a Central Administrative Tribunal order stating that babus could actually content their annual confidential reports if they believed that their evaluation was unjust, the Prime Minister's Office has asked the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to then conduct an audit of the district entrusted to a babu. Thus, the annual confidential report (ACR) could now be evaluated on the basis of a babu's progress in developing a district and implementing developmental programmes funded by the Centre.
CAG Vinod Rai has already said that overall performance of a babu in district will now be a major contributor to his ACR. It just does not stop there. A babu's reaction to the CAG's observation and audit will also be noted. The CAG will also be making a briefing of the review to the chief secretary.

With more organisations getting involved in the appraisal system, babus had better watch out!

Sailing on

Steel Authority of India (SAIL) finally has a new chairman, C.S. Verma, formerly finance director, Bhel (Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd), to replace S.K. Roongta who retired last month. But, reliable sources say, Mr Verma's appointment didn't quite come easy. Apparently, officials at the steel ministry had been plugging for a career bureaucrat, but Mr Verma finally prevailed.

In the meantime SAIL has also tied up with Korean steel giant Posco to build a steel plant in Jharkhand. Interestingly, steel secretary Atul Chaturvedi had been rather publicly keen for the tie-up with Posco to actually fructify before Mr Roongta stepped down. Apparently, he believes that only Mr Roongta could swing the deal.
Curiously, speculation about Mr Roongta's immediate future has now been laid to rest. He was angling for the plum post of managing director and chief executive officer of Petronet LNG, but lost out to ONGC's (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited) director (HR) A.K. Balyan. So SAIL gets to coast along free and on its own new course.








There are two aspects to the decontrol of fuel prices announced by the Government. First, it marks a decisive break from the socialist structure that the Indian state had given itself under Nehru and Indira Gandhi. It takes away the element of subsidy from fuel prices, and will aid public-sector oil companies. More important from the government's perspective and that of its petroleum minister, whose links with a major business house are an open secret, it will open the business to private players. Certainly it will make it difficult for the Finance minister to keep inflation within the limits he claims to target and unleash some social tension. These, though, are predictable outcomes and ought to have been apparent the day New Delhi set up a Group of Ministers to consider decontrol of fuel prices.

   The other aspect is that the decision has given oxygen to a gasping Left Front in West Bengal on a day its legislators had complained to the chief minister they were part of the government but powerless. Promptly, its trade union announced a 24-hour transport strike. Public disenchantment reflected in recent elections is such that Citu was perhaps not willing to confine itself to less disruptive protests. A strike, however overused as a weapon, has a better chance of success when aided and abetted by state power. There is still the compelling need to rejuvenate cadres who may be reconciled to a change in the public mood. The message to them is that the UPA may have betrayed the masses but the person to be targeted is Mamata Banerjee. The CPI-M  will inevitably try to convince voters that the Trinamul chief is party to the decision, and her decision to stay away from a meeting of the GoM was hypocritical which it no doubt was.

Miss Banerjee's frequent absences from meetings that take vital decisions are inexplicable. But while her Writers' goal sets her priorities, hypocrisy it must be stressed is not the monopoly of the Trinamul. The Left had propped up UPA I for four years when fuel prices had been hiked and had obviously considered this a less compelling reason to revolt than the nuclear deal. Politics is a filthy business and our politicians remind us of it every day.








HORROR stories continue to clog the log-book. Whichever version one accepts, the diversion to Jaipur of a Kingfisher flight from Srinagar to Delhi on 22 June raises questions that pertain to the overall management of domestic aviation. Irate passengers insist the diversion was intended to facilitate a pilgrimage party headed by a J&K minister reaching their destination ~ the annual Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer. No fewer than 28 passengers disembarked during that unscheduled halt. Certainly warranted is the other suspicion of highly inconvenienced passengers ~ that some political clout created a south-west blowing tailwind that took the airliner off its original course. The official explanation is that a VIP movement (funny, no other reports of disruption made it to the newspapers) had created congestion over Delhi, and since the plane was running low on fuel it played safe by heading for Jaipur. If that is true, once again is there cause to flay the recent practice of keeping VIP movements semi-secret, not giving airlines advance information so as to re-schedule their services. This is the second flight, at least, that has been diverted because of low fuel while Delhi airport was unavailable due to a VIP movement. Should something go wrong will that VIP be deemed accountable ~ as Warren Anderson is being nailed for Bhopal? 


What either version confirms is the crass mismanagement of the civil aviation authorities. If they really were in control no airline, regardless of the boss' influence, would dare make "accommodating" diversions: remember a similar charge was levelled when the IPL dirt was flying all around. Nor would "security-secrecy" be permitted to make a mockery of schedules, safety norms etc. The welfare of the paying passengers cannot be ignored for the comfort of any VIP, VVIP or what have you. Have those getting preferential treatment, obviously from the political arena, been told just what their convenience could cost others? The aviation ministry has just made much of airlines having to "pay" for delayed boardings ~ will the carriers be entitled to recover that amount from the VIPs whose flights crippled schedules? The "open skies" system has degenerated into a free-for-all up there, with preserving the coalition taking precedence over flight safety!









NSCN(IM) general secretary Th Muivah's peace mission to various Nagaland districts has attracted considerable attention. Significantly, he has been able to draw a large crowd ~ he reportedly spoke for five and a half hours at a stretch ~ in the Sema area of Pughoboto, the town to which the outfit's chairman, Isak Swu, belongs. The Sumi Hoho was opposed to his visit because Muivah had, some years ago, banned the organisation. The fact that even Swu had congratulated the Semas for according "my lifelong friend Muivah" a warm reception suggests the Sumi Hoho does not enjoy a large following. His visit to an "unfriendly" district is a step towards peace and if Muivah takes his mission to the Mon area, where the rival faction headed by SS Khaplang, holds sway, he will make considerable headway. But however welcome peace missions are, one thing is clear ~ that unity and reconciliation alone can turn the tide to build a Naga society free from hatred and mistrust. In December 2001, the Naga Hoho, an apex body of elders, launched a reconciliation campaign but it could not make any headway after committee members resigned en masse following scathing criticism by Muivah on the composition of office-bearers. In 2003, Muivah said that "reconciliation cannot be forced, it has to come naturally". At the Pughoboto meeting, he sang a different tune, commenting that there "can be no unification before reconciliation" and explaining that "without admitting mistakes by leaders of Naga groups the exercise will be futile". This was an obvious hint that the Naga National Council that signed the 1975 Shillong Peace Accord must disown it. With this rigid stance, no breakthrough is possible. But there can be no two opinions that unity and a political solution deserve first call over the integration of Naga-inhabited areas








Like true believers, the CPI-M leaders have turned to their Marxist tomes to ascertain why their party is "under siege" in West Bengal, as Sitaram Yechury said in London recently. According to him, the distribution of 13.1 million acres of land from the rich to the poor was one of the reasons why the Left was under attack. One would have thought that such an achievement would have strengthened the Left's position. But the voters evidently think differently. Yechury has compared, therefore, the present condition of the Communists to what it was in West Bengal between 1972 and 1977 when fascistic "terror" had driven them, and particularly the CPI-M, into what was later described as splendid isolation. 

A re-run of the earlier scene has been ascribed by Yechury to the fact that the "index" of Opposition unity was "now virtually one". In the early and mid-Seventies, too, the opponents of his party had managed to get their act together and even included the CPI in their ranks. However, the turnaround in the fortunes of the CPI-M took place not because of any special effort on its part, but as a result of the setbacks suffered by the Congress all over the country in 1977 because of the Emergency. 

If the rich versus poor argument is applied to that period, then the parties of the underprivileged can be said to have emerged from their seclusion to rout the rich and reach the corridors of power. Since then, they have remained in power for more than three decades ~ a "unique record" which has only now been "overshadowed by the electoral reverses", as the CPI-M general secretary, Prakash Karat, has said. These setbacks have taken place, according to him, although the Left Front government has been implementing pro-poor policies. However, since these have not been "in the interests of the bourgeois-landlord classes", as may be expected, the comrades are losing ground. 

In other words, the rich are gaining again via parties like the Trinamul Congress and the Congress notwithstanding all the good work done by the Left for the poor. It is in this context that the old difficulties of the Communists functioning in a "bourgeois" system come to the fore, but more of that later. For the present, while this customary class-based analysis may be convincing enough to the already converted, what can confuse the neophytes is why the rich are able to recover their lost ground after 33 years although the poor, who are supposed to be numerically larger, have been the ruling force all this time and have also been the beneficiaries of government policies.

 There has been an attempt, of course, to explain this oddity. For instance, it has been acknowledged that some sections of the people have been alienated. These groups can only be from among the poor, for the affluent are not "people" in the Marxist lexicon. The causes of such alienation have been put down to "weaknesses of the party". Evidently, the proudly proclaimed longevity of the government can also be debilitating for the party. But it is the prescribed remedies which suggest that the commissars have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing, like the Bourbons of France.

For instance, to "reforge the links with the people, steps have to be taken in three spheres ~ governmental, political and organizational ~ which are interlinked". It is the last word which gives the game away for, in a "bourgeois" society, the three are not supposed to be interlinked. The separation of powers, which is an integral part of the system, means that the government and the party are separate entities and never the twain shall meet. True, this is not always followed by the "bourgeois" parties, but their inter-connections are regarded as aberrations and not proclaimed from the housetops.

In the land of the proletariat, however, they all have to march in step ~ the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, et al ~ with the party giving the command. If the CPI-M is to be believed, this is where the comrades went wrong. So, their first task now is to rectify this mistake. As Karat has said, "the bureaucracy, the police and other institutions of the state have not been touched by any basic changes".

The implications of this comment are ominous. The Marxists are apparently not satisfied with their existing stranglehold on the bureaucracy and the police, which has snuffed out any semblance of professionalism or non-partisanship in these institutions. They want to strengthen their grip even more. It is another matter that they do not have the time or even the will to impose themselves on these organs of the state, as in the people's democracies which are their ideal.

But what the attitude shows is how much of a misfit the Communists are in the democratic system. What is more, they do not seem to have realized how their control of not only these departments of the state government, but also of academic bodies and autonomous institutions eroded their credibility because of the appointment of party apparatchiki or fellow-travellers. If the latest advice is to be followed, the state government will have to undo the autonomy granted to Presidency College after much procrastination.

It was a combination of several fortuitous circumstances which enabled the Left to gain power. One was the Congress's decline because of the Emergency and its failure to produce any leader of stature in West Bengal to offer a credible alternative to Jyoti Basu. The party also did not have the organizational capability to match the aggressive comrades. The people in general also believed, at least initially, that the Leftists represented a better breed of men. The unity of the Left Front also provided a safe bulwark against the 40 per cent vote share of the non-Left parties right up to the 2006 assembly elections.

But the scales turned against the Left because of several factors ~ Mamata Banerjee's grit, the CPI-M's recourse to its familiar tactics of unleashing the cadres against its opponents in Singur and Nandigram while the police looked on, the realization at long last among a section of the Left-leaning intellectuals about the Left's inherent Stalinism, exemplified by Somnath Chatterjee's expulsion, the exposure of the CPI-M's hollow secularism by Taslima Nasreen's eviction from Kolkata, the Rizwanur Rahman episode showing how the police had lost its professionalism, and so on.  

Typically, some of the CPI-M's central leaders, who have never contested anything other than student union elections, still believe that the answer to their beleaguered state lies in extra doses of Marxism to induce "basic changes" in the bureaucracy and the police. But the party at the ground level in West Bengal is already mentally prepared to sit in the Opposition.

The writer is a former Assistant Editor, The Statesman 







WE live in a world where the "geographic primacy" of national boundaries is considered to be losing appeal because of global interdependence, migrations and the evolving nature of citizenship. A new form of border fluidity is being emphasised, yet as national territory loses its worth as a marker of political identity, the growing reality of demands for "homelands" as ethno-territorial embodiments of ethno-history, collective memory and identity frustrate our aspirations for broader and universally shared non-territorial ethics of humanity. It seems increasingly true, as some writers had warned, that with the declining significance of nation-states as territorial entities, insular "fortresses" defined in ethnic and vernacular terms would be marked and reasserted.

Almost every country confronts a growing challenge to its declining territorial legitimacy — externally from forces of globalism, and internally from vernacular assertions of identity. Like other poly-ethnic countries, India, too, has its share of such claims that stymie efforts at building a cohesive and shared national identity. Such a sense of discontent has been notably poignant in the North-eastern borderland. In its efforts to symbolically and politically control this borderland, the state has had to often redraw internal boundaries and reframe the political architecture.

But despite an increasing receptivity towards the Indian state, the North-eastern borderland continues to remain a "battlefield of identities". These battles — more than being zero-sum political puzzles — are primarily human tragedies that often result from state and inter-communal violence.

In this regional battlefield of identities, the political poetics of Naga claims of difference is noteworthy. It has released internal dissensions, ethno-communal anxieties and inter-ethnic competition and has kept the Indian state intensely engaged in the region. After decades of military challenge, at the moment the movement aspires for a negotiated resolution that brings into play a transformed set of actors and actions. The consequences of such actors and actions have been the economic blockade of Manipur by Naga groups and the Somdal drama.
It may be important, at the outset, to remind all learned neo-converts to the Naga cause that the economic blockade that followed various events like the government notification for autonomous council elections and the subsequent denial of permission to NSCN(IM) general secretary Th Muivah's demand for a visit to his Somdal birthplace in Manipur is "war by other means". Though the NSCN(IM) and its leadership cannot be rightfully blamed for the economic crisis, the political motive inspiring the crisis and the link between Somdal, the economic blockade and the Naga national cause is not too hard to miss.

Indeed the blockade was as violent as the physical annihilation of "targets" by the NSCN(M) during its "war" with India. The sparingly documented human misery that followed this blockade was a collective indictment that India had failed to seriously appreciate and speedily resolve the issue. In its failure to acknowledge its indignation at such a depraved strategy of ethnic struggle, the Indian state and neo-converts have forfeited their moral legitimacy to speak for and pursue ethical politics. Efforts to mollify Muivah and protect his dream to realise "Nagalim for Christ" have only legitimised the victimisation of the common people who belong to a number of ethnic groups, including Nagas.

Yet Somdal and the economic crisis are significant, not only because of the human tragedy unleashed but also because of the spin it provided to the politics of the Naga homeland. The unceasing politics of homelands being played in the region has been provided a new rhetorical dimension by Muivah and his NSCN(IM). In his efforts to journey from home to ethnic homeland — from Somdal to Nagalim — Muivah has taken ethnic exclusivity and competition along a new path, one strewn with moral subterfuges and unkindness.

Somdal now not only represents a new threshold for inter-ethnic relations but also redefines the notions of insider and outsider in Manipur and consolidates the social and moral distance between Nagas and "Manipuris". Somdal enframes a new point of departure for ethno-territorial claims in this region through its "blending of the geographic, communal and political dimensions".  It has been an astute scheme to sacralise the notion of Nagalim and link the idea of home to a homeland.

Somdal would become a new memorial site for the Naga national cause and provide the Naga "nation" with a new political opening to overcome its internal ambivalence towards a shared collective history. Muivah's sudden emotional investment in Somdal not only underscores his territorial ambitions but abides by his declared "search for history". The Somdal crisis has been the first deliberate political act to territorialise and visibly demarcate the imagined metaphor of Nagalim.

A visit to Somdal by Muivah assumes more significance today not simply because of the need for "psychic security" of a home but to personalise the growing measure of Muivah in the Naga national struggle. It would also be a journey to inscribe a cultural "home" to an imagined "homeland". Politically, the Somdal issue provides Muivah with a ruse to offset any deficit of legitimacy that might follow from his dilution of the "sovereignty" claim of the Nagas.

Yet despite the human tragedy of the economic blockade and events like Somdal, the return of the exile to his home may still remain for some time an "unassuageable regret". It will have, however, transformed the grammar and politics of the Naga national cause.

The writer teaches Political Science at Women's College, Shillong







Around this time every year, Thailand experiences drought, which affects millions of people, especially farmers, whose livelihood depends on rainfall. It should have learned how to deal with this by now. It's time for the government and relevant agencies to come up with ways to mitigate the effects of water shortages. We need a long-term solution.

The recent proposal by the agriculture ministry to give affected farmers cash handouts may ease the pain for a while, but such measures offer only an immediate, temporary solution. Combating drought requires a sustainable solution. Natural disasters always recur, and water deficiencies will continue to affect our lives.
It is estimated that drought this year will affect more than 1.7 million households in 50 provinces. More than six million Thais are affected by the extreme dry season. Drought not only depletes water reserves, but also causes damage to fields and plantations. The lack of rainfall also affects those not directly involved in agriculture, as some waterways are used for transportation of goods and passengers.

Agriculture is, of course, the most affected sector, as it consumes more than two-thirds of the country's water supply. Being the world's largest rice exporter, the country's water crisis could have a severe impact on rice output as farmers are forced to reduce their rice harvesting cycles.

The agriculture ministry earlier urged farmers to plan for fewer crop cycles this year, but some farmers have been reluctant to do so, as any reduction in output will affect their earnings. Another problem is that the decrease in the amount of water that flows into dams can be attributed to a high level of water consumption upstream.
The issue must be addressed from both supply and demand sides. Effective irrigation systems should be developed to ensure a sustainable supply of water. The pipe and storage infrastructure should be constantly checked and improved to prevent unnecessary waste of water through leakage or corrosion.
Everybody must consider the effect they are having on water supplies. We must conserve as much as possible instead of simply waiting for the force of nature to start working. We may not always be able to rely on big monsoon storms, as the effects of climate change are unpredictable.

We have to utilise water resources effectively and efficiently. Quality water management is urgently needed. Consumers should be more responsible in their consumption habits. Farmers are in need of education on how to manage water supplies instead of looking for new places to farm, leading to more deforestation and further reduction of green areas that are required to maintain a conducive environment for the retention of natural water.

Unfortunately, the government does not have an effective water management plan to deal with this annual issue. The proposal for cash handouts is an example of how the ministry desperately tries to respond to the crisis each year in an ad hoc manner.

Lower levels of water will eventually mean fewer people engaged in farming. If that is the case, the challenging question will be how to find alternative sources of income for farmers who are forced to reduce their output or abandon the land altogether.

The amount of rainfall is not only the decisive factor in water management. Israel, for example, sees much less rainfall than Thailand, but the country manages to maintain its good agricultural output and water supply, thanks to effective water consumption and management.

We can no longer desperately wait for the monsoon. It's imperative to take pre-emptive steps. Precautionary measures must be in place. New sources of water supply should be explored. Sustainable and long-term water management plans should be formulated.

A lack of resources and, ultimately, competition for those scarce resources will bring conflict and instability - especially if the majority of farmers feel that their urgent needs are not being properly addressed.

The Nation (Thailand)/ANN






Honour  is an irregular verb. That, at the very least, is the conclusion one can safely reach having seen the reactions to murder of young men and women in north India for having married within the same gotra or kinship circle. Clearly, if rather tragically, one woman's brutal, premeditated murder is another man's honour killing. The issue is, elementally, susceptible to rather facile assumptions on eitherside.

For the arch traditionalists, it is simply matter of their children being corrupted by the ways of the deracinated, urban elite with its moral compass askew. But inherent in this worldview, as it were, is a clear strand of an uncompromising patriarchy because the loss of "face" is immeasurably greater when it is a daughter who is making her life choices, right or wrong, for herself when compared to a son. That she is, effectively, exercising her Constitutional right as an adult citizen of India to live her life as and with whom she sees fit, is seen as an example of the rejection of the role ascribed to her in the dominant social order that makes sense to them in all aspects of their lives. Himmat kaise hui, or how dare she, about sums it up. But this is not a reaction restricted to those who tacitly or indeed more openly support the social ostracism and in extreme cases physical elimination of women and some men who go against established norms.

To take just one example, many of those with, for want of a better phrase, a more progressive bent of mind, react equally viscerally to, say, a woman who chooses to separate from her spouse or opt for a divorce on grounds of incompatibility ~ physical and mental torture are, at a stretch, still considered kosher because in such cases the sense of victimhood nurtured is carried as a flag of, you guessed it, honour.

Midnight's children and their off spring, and that's a mindset rather than a generational category, on the other hand, however nuanced their understanding of ~ or astute their sociological insights into ~ the world around them in formulating their response to what is clearly a pressing socio-legal nightmare not to mention a matter of life and death, have their own devils to combat. It's a surreal yet very real aspect of public discourse in India that even those of us who are technically merely upholding Constitutionalism and all the rights and liberties granted to fellow citizens regardless of sex, creed, class or caste, have to battle the disconnect  between letter of the law and the empirical conditions on the ground. Emanating from this phenomenon is the charge, however bigoted, the traditionalists level: that all such are "outsiders" whose own lives are lived in a parallel moral, ethical, social, cultural universe regardless of geographical proximity. The charge carries some resonance because the fact is post-1947 India has tended to follow the path of attempting to legislate out perceived "social ills" rather than taking them on at the grassroots, and has mindlessly ~ with one eye on electoral benefits ~ entered into negotiations with implacable communities rather than protect individual rights of those within them who resent and feel restricted by the majoritarianism implicit in rights being accorded to cultural communities.
In the above mix, throw in the decrepit state of the country's law enforcing machinery and the  crumbling criminal justice system, where malfunction due to scarcity and divided loyalties is par for the course, and all the brouhaha over honour killings is just that ~ sound and fury signifying nothing. Yet, a Bill to treat honour killings as a distinct crime under the IPC as demanded by many sensible voices would be welcome even if it, realistically, does very little to alleviate the situation. But a Bill to outlaw same gotra marriages in parts of north India as demanded by those who will brook no interference in their "way of life" will only embolden the murderers.










Can people be made to remember? Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, one of the few university graduates at the time Congo gained its independence from Belgium in 1960, feels they can. And that they should, if the past means a tortured era of colonization. He began a campaign to remind his countrymen, and the world, that "Belgium is built on the suffering of the Congolese" in 2007 by filing a criminal case against the publisher of Georges Remi, the creator of Tintin, and Remi's estate, because of the humiliating representations of the Congolese in Tintin in the Congo. That case is moving too slowly, so Mr Mondondo has started a new civil suit.


It is believed that Congo, first under King Leopold II, who bled it with slave labour, then under the Belgian State, which continued the exploitation, lost 10 million people to colonial oppression. Mr Mondondo has reasons for his bitterness: it is not merely the West's forgetfulness he is fighting — Brussels is the headquarters of the European Union — but the amnesia of his own countrymen. Then chiefly a non-literate culture, Congo has few written records. But his efforts to remind them by attacking a 'white supremacist' tale of Tintin raises a number of questions.


Mr Mondondo was alerted to the offending comic through news of the steps that Britain was taking to minimize the insult offered by the book — by removing it to the adult section in bookshops, by giving it an introduction with the historical context, and so on. But the book, with all the other Tintin comics, has been around for all this time, popular enough to be in circulation across the world, among the children of both past colonizers and the once-colonized. Remi's tendency to racial stereotyping is not limited to one story, although in Tintin in the Congo it has a more perceptible edge. What Mr Mondondo is underestimating is children's ability to treat fantasy and fun as precisely that, fantasy and fun. The stark inequalities of life seldom disconcert them. Tintin in the Congo will not make Congolese children respect themselves less or Belgians think any more of themselves than they already do. Rather, children of an independent State may read the comic as that piece of history that Mr Montondo is so anxious to retrieve.


But children are not Mr Mondondo's chief concern as he tries to "reverse the forgetting". So it might be asked whether people can forget their past because it is not written down, unless they want to. What should his countrymen do with memories, 50 years into building a new nation: be revengeful? Or should they insist that Belgium stop glorifying King Leopold? Or demand an apology? Is remembering the beginning of reparation, of decency, of a sense of real equality? Maybe. But why should Tintin, even if not at his most pleasant, bear the brunt of this upheaval?










Here's an incident that happened on a Calcutta evening a few days ago. I spent the afternoon watching World Cup football with a bunch of friends. Afterwards we decided to go to Free School Street to celebrate another excellent performance by Lionel Messi and his team. As we got out of the taxi at the restaurant, a small boy — what people like to call a 'street urchin' — came up and thrust forward a bunch of heart-shaped balloons tied to plastic-sticks. Clearly, the kid wasn't making any serious assessment about who his likely customers might be: we were four middle-aged men with no children attached and I'm sure none of us looked like we had an assignation with someone who might appreciate a heart-shaped balloon. As the boy offered us the balloons, one of us, the fit, intrepid, outdoors-type, made a feint with the tip of his cigarette, pretending he was going to explode the balloons. The kid stared back, his face blank with disbelief. Another one of us immediately remonstrated with the outdoors-type using non-family-viewing language and we all insisted he make amends by purchasing a balloon for each of us. So it came to pass that five wife-less, child-free, moddhoboyeshi men walked into the classic 50s restaurant holding heart-shaped balloons.


Having secured a table and festooned it, we soon began to step outside the restaurant to have a quick puff. All of us being victims of nicotine addiction, we did this in relays of two, leaving the others to keep up the run-rate on the drinks and snacks. My friend P and I were on our cigarette shift when we saw it happen. A fat man came out of the restaurant and lit up a cigarette. He was accompanied by a daughter in her late teens and she waved across the street to their driver who unpeeled himself from the bonnet of their Ford Endeavour SUV and prepared to resume duty. As the man sauntered forward, the balloon kid appeared again and held out his stock. The man looked at the kid, grinned, and, phat, phat, phat, pricked three balloons in quick succession with the tip of his cigarette. The kid looked like he has been socked in the face. His uncle, who was running the air-rifle balloon target under a tree, froze, as did the two of us. The fat man looked at his daughter and laughed wickedly, as if he had just forced Laxmi Mittal to sell him Arcelor at a low price. The kid stared at the tatters of pink hanging off the sticks and turned and ran, shielding the remaining balloons with his body. The teenage girl had enough humanity in her to be shocked, and she wailed, "Daddy, yeh kya kiya?" The man carried on chortling. He put his free hand into his pocket, thrust his paunch out further and took a deep drag of his cigarette as he surveyed the patch of Free School Street pavement he had just conquered. I took an imaginary pistol out of my back pocket, imagined walking up to him and putting three bullets in his head, one for each balloon, but in reality my friend and I stayed statue-still.


As we watched, the girl's mother came out with the younger sister; the older girl walked up to her and said, "Pataa hai, daddy ne abhi just kya kiya?" The mother muttered something and led the girls away to the nearby paanwallah, where they carefully ordered their chewings. The fat man crossed the street, said a few words to his driver and leant upon his new SUV. Shortly after, the three women also waddled across the road. One by one, they all climbed into the car, the fancy suspension welcoming each of them with a slight bounce, and they drove away. The air-gun man's look of horror was now replaced by an expression of old exhaustion. He turned away and called to a younger child to go find his brother.


In retrospect, I think I was waiting for the fat man to throw some small compensatory change at the air-gun man. Talking about it later with my friend, we agreed that we were both so electrified with rage that to move would have been to cause serious mayhem — neither of us is prone to violence but at that moment neither of us trusted himself to react with any control. Replaying the incident, which took all of maybe 15 seconds, several things boiled up.


It was not just the utterly callous disregard for someone who has nothing, but the sadistic pleasure the rich can take in ripping out those fragile livelihoods and, perhaps more crucially, the self-respect connected to those means of earning. The boy wasn't begging, he wasn't pestering anyone to buy his balloons. All he did, both times, either out of desperation or carelessness, was offer his wares to unlikely customers. The fat man burst his balloons simply because he could. He didn't bother to offer the kid any money in return for his cruel little sport, simply because he could get away without doing so. He could walk away despite his daughter's protests, despite the presence of bystanders — stunned and immobile though we were — because there was not the tiniest sliver of vivek in the man, not a trace of a conscience that said to him, "It will take this kid six months to earn what you have just spent on your dinner tonight, so don't snatch away the pennies he makes, don't destroy his sense of himself, his humanity." It was as if this act illuminated each cruelty by the rich and powerful, whether unthinking or coldly calculated. Everything from Bhopal to Niyamgiri came into stark clarity under that searchlight. In turn, every kind of protest, lawful and unlawful, wise and foolish, suddenly became comprehensible: when faced with the irrational brutality of the upper class, why should anyone expect the underclass to react with fairness, logic and elegance? In fact, in the face of such constant brutality — the relentless kicks in the bellies of the poor — it is astounding that there isn't more rage, that people don't shatter the windscreens of SUVs with well-aimed stones, don't set upon the unwary rich kid and take away his mobile and motorbike. If that's what happens in Johannesburg and Mexico City, why not in Calcutta?


The second layer of realization was that my outdoors-type friend had himself come close to perpetrating a lesser version of the same brutality. I'm sure that my friend never intended for a second to actually carry out his threat, which he probably saw as playful. Yet the rest of us were so appalled even at the gesture that we did what we could to make amends, but it was clearly something that was, for want of a better phrase, in the air. To watch something nasty almost happen and then to see it actually take place a few minutes later was unnerving and I tried to make sense of the repetition. Try as I did, I could not play out the scene in a city like Delhi or Mumbai, replete though those cities are with their massive daily tramplings of the powerless. A middle-aged rich man in Mumbai-Delhi, I kept thinking, would not bother tangling with a street kid unless the kid was somehow in his way; it would just be a waste of his time — a commodity upon which he would put a high premium. Whereas in Calcutta it's as if we are still encased in some old, small-town feudalism where the modern-day raja sahebs and seths still like to tie the peasant to their cars and drag them along for pleasure.


The thought also came up that perhaps even the poorest of the poor in Delhi-Mumbai are not so abject; they would not let themselves be subject to such gratuitous humiliation. Perhaps the rich in those cities know that they can push so far and no further lest the powder-keg explodes. Perhaps this keg exists only in my imagination but the question begged itself: when will that point be reached in Calcutta? And will the upper and middle-classes even realize in good enough time to escape?










It's hard not to be impressed by the international activity of recent days. European leaders are having rushed discussions, three Arab leaders and an American president are involved, and congressmen are using their contacts. And of course, the Israel Defense Forces is carrying out tense planning. It would seem that only the effort to rally international support for sanctions on Iran could compare to this new international ruckus.


Except this time the fight is not against Iran's nuclear plans, and it's not against Lebanon or Syria. It's only against an Iranian aid ship and three yachts that planned to head toward the Gaza Strip. This is the new existential threat facing Israel, and it is coming from Gaza's waters. Suddenly, Lebanon too has doomsday weapons. That same minnow whose army operates a few dozen antiquated armored vehicles and uses a few toy helicopters is threatening Israel with aid ships to Gaza.


And Iran? Here too it turns out that it is not the nuclear program, but the conventional clash between Israeli ships and an Iranian vessel that may provoke a world war. The country that was hit by UN sanctions and is on the verge of being punished by Congress can spark a regional conflagration under the nose of sanctions.


But the real threat is that in all the maneuvering and focus on aid flotillas, Israel has let the Iranian nuclear threat become overshadowed. The imposition of sanctions on Iran may be an achievement for U.S. President Barack Obama, but it is not enough to stop uranium enrichment. Worse yet, along with the sanctions we are entering a waiting period of an indeterminable length. And in the foreseeable future it is hard to expect any new international movement against Iran.


Israel should have entered this vacuum to prevent the Iranian threat from being forgotten. But Israel is running around the world looking like the bad guy. Its security arguments in favor of the siege on Gaza crashed after it was forced, after the flotilla affair, to allow a breach in the siege. Trust in its security argument about Gaza has suffered such a stiff blow that the result has begun to affect its ability to continue marketing the Iranian threat.


But Israel is still convinced it is capable of selling anything as long it is well packaged. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are pulling out of their pile of junk the tested medicine against lack of trust: the peace process. One prefers to conduct negotiations with Syria and the other is begging for direct talks with the Palestinians. When the world is against Israel, or when Israeli law-enforcement authorities are looking into the actions of their leaders, the peace process is used like a hypnotists' locket. Dialogue with Syria, chatting about the West Bank and Jerusalem - anything as long as there is no talk about an international committee of inquiry, the siege on Gaza or the fiasco at sea.


And thus, once more, lies the paradox and the lie in Israel's policy. After all, this government rejects the American theory that there is any link between Arab-Israeli peace and the ability to stop Iran. It of course does not consider the Arab states allies against Iran. Such an alliance would require it to pull out of the territories so it can deal with the existential threat posed by Iran. In the government's view, better an Iranian bomb than political suicide.

And thus, because of the flotilla, the government finds itself in a position where it actually has to push the peace process forward so it can show its face to the international community and demand the end of the Iranian nuclear program. This appears to be a positive development. The government finally recognizes that peace with the Palestinians and Syria is of strategic value, something that can determine the international effort against the Iranian threat. Even if Iran is not impressed by the effort, at least this policy will substantially diminish the Arab threat on Israel.


But this logic comes, as usual, with an asterisk pointing to a warning. The call for resuming the peace process is only a stage in the effort to rehabilitate an image. The defense minister in charge of the failed policy in Gaza does not really intend to pull back from the Golan, and the prime minister in charge of drawing out the negotiations with the Palestinians continues to build in East Jerusalem. Don't be confused. It's not a nuclear Iran that's frightening, it's the face in the mirror.









The dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal as top commander in Afghanistan halted U.S. President Barack Obama's downward slide in the opinion polls, The Washington Post reported Friday. The outcome of the act does not necessarily attest to the reason, but Obama's decision will affect his presidency and its policies on two central issues for Israel - the peace process and the Iranian nuclear program.


Obama was elected to lead the executive branch, but if his Democratic Party suffers because of him in the November midterm elections, the president will have a hard time functioning in the second half of his term. In a little over a year, he will have to stop wavering over whether to run in 2012. The party will demand a clear-cut answer soon, to get ready for an internal struggle over who will be the candidate.


A good example of the supremacy of the party over the man, albeit in another type of regime, happened last week in Australia. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who made the mistake of miscalculating the balance of forces in the Labor Party, struck a hasty blow against his deputy, Julia Gillard. She was forced to choose between coming to terms with being marginalized and direct confrontation. The Australian method allows the leader to be challenged. The contender taps him on the shoulder and invites him to a duel in the party's institutions within 24 hours. Gillard jumped into the abyss without knowing whether she would win, although the party's concerns about a defeat in the next elections imbued her with hope. Politics as an extreme sport.


Rudd's sudden end recalls that of Margaret Thatcher in 1990, when senior members of the Conservative Party had enough of her rule and wanted to combine saving the party with personal advancement. Under the British system, the party is more important than the party's head. That is, after all, what Shimon Peres tried to explain to Yitzhak Rabin when he tapped him on the shoulder daily over the years.


Obama is an admirer and a student of Abraham Lincoln, U.S. president during the Civil War and liberator of the slaves. Not only did Lincoln declare the split in the 90-year-old United States into the Union and the Confederacy, he was also exemplary as a civilian wartime leader. The first commander of his forces, Gen. George McClellan, who disappointed him, was dismissed and challenged him in the next elections.


Lincoln was pleased only with the last of his commanders, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. In the first elections after the war and Lincoln's assassination, Grant was elected president. McClellan was known as "Little Mac," long before the McDonald's Big Mac and a series of generals with the same prefix: Douglas MacArthur, who was impertinent to Harry Truman; David McKiernan, who was dismissed from his command in Afghanistan; and now McChrystal, only 18 months after Obama beat another Mac, the Republican candidate John McCain.


The leadership exercise of dismissing McChrystal was Obama's first gamble. An even bigger gamble is the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus as supreme commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus will be his own man and immune to dismissal; after the two Macs, his failure will reflect badly on the person responsible for the three appointments.


If he succeeds, despite the difficult conditions and following his image as victorious in Iraq, he can skip directly to the Republican presidential primaries. When Truman fired MacArthur during the Korean War, the real political threat to him came actually from another general, NATO commander Dwight Eisenhower, who was summoned almost directly from basic training to the White House; Truman decided not to run.


Moving Petraeus from U.S. Central Command means Israel's security establishment loses a friend, who under the right circumstances could play an important role in persuading Obama that there is no longer a choice but military action against Iran. He could also move ahead vigorously on the Syrian and Palestinian tracks.


But in the McChrystal crisis, Colin Powell has once again appeared - the indispensable man whom, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state, the two presidents Bush needed to wage war in the Persian Gulf. Powell, who helped Obama against McCain, is also Obama's mentor in war. His counsel may tip the scales when Obama agonizes over the question of war against Iran. Here is a challenge for Powell's old friend, Ehud Barak.








For the past four years, since Gilad Shalit's abduction to the Gaza Strip, Israel's governments have been conducting double negotiations over what and how much should be paid to release a captive soldier. One part of the negotiations was with Hamas, the other with the Israeli public.


In the negotiations with Hamas, Israel has made difficult concessions that include agreeing to release more than 300 out of 450 Palestinian prisoners whose release it had strongly opposed. It also reduced the number of prisoners to be exiled after their release. Hamas made concessions, too, by changing the composition of the list of prisoners to be released and by renouncing its demand for the release of Arab prisoners with Israeli citizenship.


From this we may conclude that as long as the negotiations over the "Shalit deal" continue, both sides may achieve additional concessions.


The Israeli government uses the same logic in its negotiations with the Israeli public. It wants to persuade the public that releasing 45 prisoners with particularly murderous records and returning them to the West Bank would cause real damage to national security. This leads to the conclusion that any public pressure to free them in exchange for Gilad Shalit endangers the safety of Israel's citizens. This argument, too, should not be underestimated.


But both arguments are unconvincing. The negotiations with Hamas have been going on for four years, a brutal blockade has been imposed on a population of 1.5 million people for three years, and none of this, and not even Operation Cast Lead, have driven Hamas to change its conditions substantially. There is no evidence that continuing the negotiations for another four years will bring about different results. On the contrary, the events surrounding the Gaza-bound flotillas and the opening of the civilian blockade of the Gaza Strip only show that Israel is not really in control of events.


The Israeli public is not blind to the danger involved in freeing dangerous prisoners, nor to its government's failing policy. It has not been asked about its stand, but the public appears not to believe that freeing 45 prisoners, however dangerous, is a danger to Israel's survival or poses a greater danger than what Israel has already absorbed.


It seems that the longer Israel delays Shalit's release, the greater the damage to the state and its people. The deal to free Shalit from captivity must be concluded immediately.









The members of a bizarre coalition of pro-settlement right-wingers (for example, the late Yosef Ben-Shlomo, and Israel Harel, long may he live ) and the anti-Zionist left (recently, Yehouda Shenhav ) are united in one claim. They hold that the Zionist left's support for the pre-1967 borders, and its sharp opposition to the settlements since, are hypocritical and inconsistent. The inconsistency, they say, is that Zionism has been settling at the Arab's expense since it began - not only since 1967.


In addition, they claim that even if the post-'67 settlements are the basis of unjust acts, Zionism committed many more injustices in 1948 and the following decade. At that time it not only settled on private land belonging to Palestinians, it also uprooted masses of people from their homes and refused to allow them to return.


But the position of the Zionist left is far from inconsistent. There is a huge gap between the post-'67 settlements and the injustices perpetrated by Zionism until then; the wrongs committed after 1967 threaten the justice of Zionism in its entirety, while pre-'67 wrongs were wrongs of particular moves in the realization of Zionism.


The source of this distinction is of course the well-known distinction between the jus ad bellum and jus in bello. There is no contradiction between the claim that Britain's bombing of Dresden during World War II was a criminal act and the claim that this criminality represented a step taken in a just war - even a sublimely just war, the war against Nazism.


We must acknowledge the great injustices committed by Zionism up to 1967. We have to take responsibility for them (via reparations ) - mainly for the expulsion of refugees. We must also acknowledge the high price the Palestinians paid for the realization of Zionism, even when Zionism did not commit injustices against them. But none of these admissions undermines the justice of Zionism in the least. For in 1948, Zionism realized the right of Jews to self-determination - after a history of persecution that created a necessity to implement the right to a historic homeland. The justice of this Zionism is sublime, even though crimes were committed during its realization.


The post-'67 settlements (in contrast to just an Israeli military presence in the territories ) cannot be justified on the basis of the needs of a persecuted nation. The settlements are the bases for the continuing injustices committed by a powerful state. These wrongs are being carried out many decades after the persecution of the Jews ended. They are in effect acts of persecution committed by Jews against Arabs with the backing of the Jewish state. So the Zionism in whose name they are carried out cannot be considered just.


Zionism cannot be just if it is a proprietary movement representing the so-called "generations of the Jewish people" to acquire the deed to the entire Land of Israel and Jerusalem - the way the right wing justifies the settlements and its opposition to the construction freeze in the territories and Jerusalem. Zionism can be just only if it is an existential movement of Jews interested as individuals in maintaining their culture and living in their homeland without being persecuted. This justification supports the Zionism that existed before 1967. But not after. The settlements are therefore criminal not only in isolation. They deny Zionism of its justice as a whole.


They deny not only the justice of its present and future, they also deny the justice of its past. The acts that were committed by Zionism up to 1967 - including its criminal acts - do not have these implications. Therefore, we must return to 1967. Not because of demographics. For the sake of justice.









Any committee probing the flotilla events should consider what would have happened if the Israel Defense Forces had taken control of the Mavi Marmara without casualties. The committee, and Israel in its footsteps, would be forced to deal with the essential issues beyond the military move - mainly evaluating the relation between the blockade and its goals and the way the conflict with Hamas was managed as part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the regional balance of power.


Israeli policy assumed that the blockade of Gaza would create economic and psychological pressure on the Palestinian public and achieve three goals - freeing Gilad Shalit, preventing Hamas from strengthening militarily, and toppling its government. Five years of blockade, two military operations, closing the Rafah crossing, "conciliation" talks between Hamas and Fatah (by which the Egyptians wanted to return the secular Mahmoud Abbas to Gaza and block the likes of Iran and Turkey from entering ) - all this failed to achieve these goals.


On the contrary, Hamas controlled the tunnel system, and with military and financial help from Iran, Syria and Qatar, became a monopoly dominating every area of life in the Gaza Strip - the militias, the economy, public administration and health care.


Hamas is waging an all-out war on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency to impose Islamic Sharia law on the education system. After Operation Cast Lead, Hamas soon restored its rocket arsenal and even increased it with Iranian support and funds. Shalit, as Hamas sees it, was abducted to free the organization's prisoners, and it will only agree to his release for theirs.


Israel must free itself from its fixation on the exclusive use of force and seek other ways to achieve its vital goals. It must recognize that by insisting on these patterns - Cast Lead, the Mavi Marmara, Sheikh Jarrah, the fence route, Route 443 - it is ignoring the values of the world to which it wants to belong.


This world is ruled today by a kind of multinational corporation interested in human, civil rights and community rights. It's a corporation encompassing many countries, consisting of international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union and including quite a few Jews and Israelis. Israel, despite its considerable contribution in the gray area of combating terror, does not see that the corporation has raised a large black flag against its domination of the Palestinian people.


Abbas, and today even Hamas, understand that to advance their interests, the proper thing is to go along with the corporation rather than adhere to "resistance." Even the United States seeks the corporation's support in its wars. As far as Israel is concerned, the dangerous scenario is that the corporation, like the Israeli right wing, adopts the one-state idea, giving the Arab majority the ability to gain control.


Therefore, Israel must focus the blockade on preventing arms smuggling, a move that would gain international support. Opening the crossing points, as we've learned recently, would even weaken Hamas' economy. Hamas can be replaced by putting it in the Palestine Liberation Organization under Abbas' leadership, but this requires presenting a real alternative to the Palestinian public in the territories, especially in Gaza.

The pragmatic Arab states, headed by Egypt, are demanding that Israel make this move. Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with Obama next week could be a good opportunity to make this turnabout. Israel does not have to continue making every mistake before it chooses this option.








Chattanooga's City Council members have been trying without success for a month to fix a new budget that will be both painless and fair to taxpayers and their needs, and that will not do damage to the city's future or begin to undo the city's significant progress over the last decade. They're chasing an illusion. Council members finally need to face fiscal reality: they can't escape a tax increase.


It has been eight years since the last tax increase -- at least twice the norm. In that unreasonably long period, inflation in the city's costs of goods, services and human resources has substantially outpaced revenue growth. That, and the recession's squeeze on tax revenue, has forced the city to operate in the red the past two years. That has run down its capital reserve fund, threatened its double-A bond rating, jeopardized its capital funds and investment capacity, and demoralized city employees.


All that's got to stop before the damage before the damage gets too severe, and new businesses stop considering

Chattanooga an alluring destination.


Cutting public services further and running the police and fire departments on skimpier, under-staffed forces is no solution to the council's budget dilemma. The council also cannot rely on financially limited foundations and private donors to keep up their investments, nor can the city continue to renege on commitments to business and civic partners for promised investments. It also cannot retreat further from necessary capital investments. Such actions would only put the city further in the hole -- and further anger constituents and economic partners.


City Council members must know this. They have been combing the budget for weeks, and all they've come up with are wild-haired scenarios. Deborah Scott, for example, would cut funding for various essential city departments and close the city's venerable Memorial Auditorium -- which was built to honor war veterans and is critical venue for public performances and exhibitions.


Pam Ladd proposes to cut partial funding support for some of the city's most critical, nonprofit public agencies. And Russell Gilbert has wrongly suggested that large savings could be found in the budget for capital investments, which finances long-term bonds to pay for big ticket infrastructure investments that the city must make.


Mayor Littlefield himself has retreated from a largely credible first proposal for a 64-cent property tax hike to a 39-cent. He now proposes to reduce budgets, services, jobs and hours in the public works and the parks and recreation departments; to eliminate extended health insurance for retirees over 65; and to cut, from two to one, the number of promised police academies to train the number of new officers needed to bring the department's force level up from its current level -- the lowest in decades.


Council members are apparently nervous about public discontent with the idea of raising the property tax in an economy that has just begun to recover from the worst recession in decades. They are reasonably concerned about aggravating financial difficulties for citizens with moderate or fixed incomes, and those who remain unemployed and under-employed, or who have had to go without pay raises.


These are understandable concerns. Many city residents are strapped, and seniors on low-to-moderate fixed incomes are as vulnerable to budget difficulties as younger families with children just one breadwinner.


But spread over the course of a year, the 39-cent tax increase now proposed by the mayor remains entirely reasonable, especially for citizens whose property values are commensurate with their incomes. The city's property tax rate was significantly reduced after the last countywide reappraisal. It dropped 27-cents, to $1.9306. A 39-cent tax increase would add roughly $12 a month on a home valued at $150,000. That's not an onerous tax increase after eight years of a static rate.


Realtors and tea party advocates who oppose an increase might also be among the large numbers of citizens who have recently advocated for more police to help curb crime, for more frequent city pick-ups of recycled materials and brush, for repaved streets and for more intensive government efforts to bolster job creation and lure businesses and factories to town.


Residents here obviously have their own conflicts. We want more, but we naturally complain about paying the freight.


City Council members must accept and articulate the fiscal problems and issues that are driving the necessity of a periodic tax increase. For example, the city's reserve fund, often referred to as the rainy day or contingency fund, was rebuilt by the Corker administration from around a a low of $24 million to nearly $50 million, but is now down to the risky, modern low of roughly $24 million. That's a thin line from a costly downgrading of the city's bond rating, which would drive up interest cost and city debt.


The strength of the police force, now roughly 430, is far lower than city officials, and many citizens, believe it should be. And the number of city employees is lower than it was 10 years ago.


Neglecting city needs further would only aggravate the fiscal problems. In fact, at least one council member privately suggests that it will take the lower increase the mayor recommends this years, and another next year, to put the city back on track to fiscal health.


Council members can't please everyone, but they can do the right thing for all citizens and the city's future -- by investing wisely in it.


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When you consider this list of names, of course you will immediately recognize them:


Franklin D. Roosevelt


Harry S (he didn't use a period) Truman


Dwight D. Eisenhower


John F. Kennedy


Lyndon B. Johnson


Richard M. Nixon


Gerald R. Ford


Jimmy Carter


Ronald Reagan


George H.W. Bush


Bill Clinton


George W. Bush


Barack Obama


Yes, you know the names of all the presidents of the United States from World War II till now.


How well have we chosen?


Many of these presidents faced war. Some served in peace. Some had economic challenges. Most of them encountered "surprises" that neither they nor we anticipated.


Fortunately, we have "survived" all these presidential tests so far. What's next? Who is next?


Regardless of party, whether you voted for them or not, what is your opinion of our presidents' performance, politics, philosophies, service and results?


Our opinions surely vary greatly. But as we evaluate them, shouldn't we also evaluate our own judgment, as to whether we, as voters, chose well?


Have our presidents been "the best" people we could find in all of our country to lead the most wonderful, most powerful, richest and freest nation in the world?


There is disagreement, of course.


All of those choices were in the "past." But very soon (time flies!), we will be in the midst of choosing candidates for the presidency. Candidates will offer themselves for election in 2012, to lead our nation from 2013 to 2017.


We expect President Obama, who is a Democrat, to seek a second term.


Who do you think will be the Republican presidential nominee?


It's certainly not too soon for any serious contender to be presenting himself and lining up support, if he really expects to have a chance to win his party's nomination, and then the presidency.


What names come to your mind?


Do you see men and women in whom you have great confidence, people of exemplary character, remarkable intelligence, tested experience, sound judgment, unusual wisdom, impressive philosophy and other desirable qualities that you would like our next president to have?


Expect a presidential election contest in 2012 between President Obama and ________ (you fill in the blank).


Now, look back at the list of presidents at the top of this column: How well have we chosen in the past?


How well will we choose in 2012?








Hundreds of protesters recently blocked a cargo ship from unloading its goods at the port at Oakland, Calif., though the cargo was legal and the crew was peaceful.


But this ship was from Israel, and the protesters were supporters of the Gaza Strip, which is run by the Muslim terrorist group Hamas. The demonstrators in Oakland were seeking revenge against Israel for preventing several supposed "aid" ships from docking at Gaza a few weeks ago.


There were some important differences, however.


For one thing, the ships bound for Gaza a few weeks back had passengers who were affiliated with terrorist organizations. Israel had repeatedly ordered the ships to turn back, without success, and on at least one of the boats, passengers used weapons in a violent attack on Israeli soldiers who had finally boarded the ships to turn them around. What's more, Hamas regularly fires missiles from the Gaza Strip, targeting civilians in Israel. That is part of the reason Israel imposed the blockade on all but humanitarian assistance to Gaza in the first place.


In contrast, the crew on the Israeli ship that was blocked at the port in California was peaceful and did not attempt to attack the radical protesters who prevented the ship from docking. If there was any danger of violence, it was from the anti-Israel protesters. Unionized dock workers said that in fear for their safety, they would not cross the picket line to unload the vessel.


Isn't it strange the things people protest compared with the things they readily accept?


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Don't our public schools have enough big issues to deal with that they shouldn't be "borrowing trouble" by setting silly, counterproductive policies?


Up in Coventry, R.I., an 8-year-old boy affixed tiny plastic Army figures to a camouflage hat as part of a patriotic display for one of his school projects. Millions of American boys have played with similar figures for decades, without doing anybody any harm.


But when school officials realized that the plastic figures of soldiers included representations of guns, the second-grader's project was banned. It seems the innocent, patriotic hat ran afoul of the school district's "no-weapons" policy -- even though the "weapons" in question cannot be fired in any way.


It did not matter, apparently, that the figures were representative of U.S. troops who put their lives on the line around the world to defend and promote American freedoms.


Fortunately, the schools' superintendent in Coventry later backtracked and admitted the policy ran "counter to the work of our schools to promote patriotism and democracy." Meanwhile, the retired head of the Rhode Island National Guard presented the patriotic youngster a medal.


So, this story had a happy, commonsense ending. But we have to wonder how many similar policies at other schools fly under the news media radar and remain in effect.


Academy alum raises the bar at Carson-Newman***************************************





The Chattanooga Music Club has established a fine local tradition celebrating American independence by providing a free annual Patriotic Organ Concert at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium.


This year, it will be this Thursday at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but contributions will be accepted.


The program will feature the $2 million Austin pipe organ, which the Chattanooga Music Club restored in 2007.


Nationally famed Dr. Jeannine Jordan of Portland, Ore., will be the featured organist this year. She and her husband, David Jordan, created "From Sea to Shining Sea,'' a concert and video presentation telling the story of the pipe organ coming to America.


Well-known vocalist Delores Beery, who teaches at Lee University in Cleveland and is associate director of the Chattanooga Girls Choir and alto soloist at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Lookout Mountain, also will be featured.


Chattanooga's Adm. Vance Fry has arranged a patriotic salute to the armed forces, with a color guard and recognition of members of the armed forces, plus veterans of the armed forces and active-duty personnel.


The program will continue a fine community tradition in our Fourth of July celebration of American independence.


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If there was to be a national award for productivity a contender for the winning position would be the Supreme Court. Barely a day passes without it delivering judgment or comment on the cases that pass before it, and there can be few cases that have so taken its time as that of the Pakistan Steel Mills. This punch-drunk behemoth has been staggering under the blows of those who have been robbing it for years, and now we find that those tasked to catch the robbers are themselves tardy in delivering the goods. Last Friday the Supreme Court rejected a report submitted to it by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as being unsatisfactory. The report was concerned with an FIA investigation into a Rs22 billion scam at PSM. Once again the Supreme Court found that it had to express its displeasure at the services rendered to it by a government agency, and ordered that the DG of the FIA personally take charge of an investigation into a scam that is large even by our own grandiose standards. The SC inferred that the DG of the FIA might be construed as having no particular enthusiasm for the investigation, and that he may therefore equally be held accountable for the corruption that he was not chasing as hard as he might.

Rushing to put his finger in the leaking dyke, Deputy Attorney General Abid Saqi assured the justices that fresh investigations were underway and that a former PSM chairman was in custody. So how much has been recovered of the embezzled monies? queried the court. Rs17 million came the reply. 'Paltry' observed the CJ. Justice Ramday drily noted that assorted officials appeared to be making money out of the case – indeed the legal gymnastics appear to be greater wealth-generators than is PSM a producer of steel. By now floundering somewhat, the DAG said that 'arrests had been made', which did nothing to impress Justice Ramday who felt that catching minnows was a poor substitute for netting a shark or two. Fisticuffs concluded for the day with the CJ directing the DG of the FIA to prepare a fresh investigation into the scam and to present it before the court in three weeks time. Court adjourned – but the PSM saga continued elsewhere as the federal government removed its CEO-MD Malik Israr on the grounds of his incompetence, which will be a surprise to nobody with the possible exception of Mr Israr who claimed to be 'on leave' and not fired. Somewhere amidst the legal dramas there is Rs22 billion that has been stolen. We would like the Supreme Court and the FIA to find out who stole it, get the money back if possible and clap in irons the thief. Next case, please.







The progress between India and Pakistan as they reach towards peace is coming in dribs and drabs. The talks between foreign secretaries went well. A somewhat more terse tone was struck as the home ministers met with Mr Palaniappan Chidambaram driving home some of India's key concerns during his meeting with Mr Rehman Malik. The question of terrorism – the bogey that stands tallest in the way of ties between Islamabad and New Delhi – came up again with India demanding action. This is to be expected. It should not necessarily be seen as a problem that will hold up things indefinitely. While militancy will undoubtedly figure again, whenever talks take place, the two countries seem to be moving towards a new readiness to accept that they need to move ahead towards normalizing ties. This of course is a development to be welcomed.

As we prepare for the visit by the Indian foreign minister, there is another dimension to be considered. Throughout the period of over six decades that Pakistan has been in existence, the issue of ties with India has resounded in one form or another in our national affairs; three wars have been fought; there have been other periods of acrimony and some of better understanding. The tensions that have existed have given hawks on either side of the border an opportunity to create further acrimony and a sense of hostility. The time has come to challenge this. Lasting peace can be created only if there is a wider push for it and a more established sense of belief that friendly ties are essential to our future. The business community, for instance, needs to be informed – in concrete rather than philosophical terms – what the precise benefits of trade between the two countries would be. Students need to be told of educational opportunities available just a short distance away. People in India need to know more about the kind of tourist opportunities that can be found in Pakistan. It is only when there is greater awareness of precise, meaningful benefits that the movement forward will come. This matter too needs to be taken up during the ongoing process of talks. We must move forward quickly given that a great deal of time has been lost. The coming few weeks will be crucial. So far, even though some tough words have been exchanged, the right spirit seems to exist. We must ensure there is no change in this during the coming months.













The Sindh home minister has blamed at the judiciary for the failure to nail terrorists and for the release of some 380 terrorists who he says 'walk free'. Even more controversially, he has accused the judiciary of attempting to establish a kind of dictatorship, and vowed that the PPP government will not allow this. The prosecutor general of the province has meanwhile stated that it was the failure of investigative agencies – working under the Home Department – that allowed terrorists to go free rather than any inadequacy on the part of the courts.

The issue of terrorists and their release by courts has come up before. What governments seem unable to recognize is that courts can act only on the basis of the evidence put before them. When this is inadequate or when police investigations are sloppy, they have no choice but to free accused persons. It has been clear for a very long time that we need an improved degree of police expertise and training. This must be introduced now. M Zulfikar Mirza would do well to turn his attention to this rather than attack the judiciary. The government's increasingly open display of contempt for the judiciary is indeed a matter of concern and can only inflict a great deal of damage. Men like Mr Mirza must recognize they are doing more harm than good. They need to think harder before they speak – to avoid a crisis that some see as inevitable.







Masood Hasan

The word idiot—and the large number of standard, informal and slang synonyms thereof, some of them unprintable—could well describe most of us who live in the real Pakistan, as opposed to those who also live here but are not buffeted by the realities and jolts that we all face daily.

Most idiots are those who go about their miserable lives standing in queues, observing laws and a multitude of regulations designed to make things very difficult for them; pay taxes, duties, toll taxes, traffic fines, bank surcharges, an extra two per cent tax on the use of credit cards for petrol; fill out endless forms, often in triplicate at least, and mostly in numbers far beyond that; demolished by an army of petty bureaucrats, swindlers, cheats, thugs, rascals, crooks–from the clerk at an infernal government office to the neighbourhood goon who regularly fleeces whoever he can using muscle, clout or whatever else comes in hand–oh, the list is long, long, long.

This idiot tribe has no resemblance to the non-idiot tribe which by and large rules Pakistan, or whatever is left of it that has not been gobbled up.

A friend who saved up for years and was ultimately able to buy a 2,000cc car for which he paid through the nose—yes, he still had one at the time, though no one is sure if that hasn't been stolen—paid all the duties, taxes, charges, surcharges, octroi, and what have you. He was in for a rude shock when, a few months back, the Punjab government demanded that owners of "luxury" vehicles would have to pay a minimum of additional Rs200,000 over and above what they had already paid. This, experts said, was well within the provincial government's powers since such taxes are provincial subjects and since rules allow the government to impose retroactive taxes.

The matter went to court and the ruling that was handed down was in favour of the government, so the law-abiding idiots had no course but to protest and pay. This was done under the shadow of a massive and frightening campaign where hounds of the law were shown impounding cars and handcuffing owners. Law-abiding persons paid up and the Punjab government thumped itself on the chest at this great success and meeting its target of collecting Rs800 million.

However, the real rich of Punjab who do not believe in paying any taxes whatsoever, such things being against the law, had other plans. Newspapers reported last week that in the financial year 2009-2010, only 13 super cars (as they are sometimes called in newspapers) were registered in Punjab, as opposed to 1,250 the previous year. Instead, Islamabad Capital Territory (is that in the USA or still in Pakistan?), miraculously saw the number go up from 800 cars in the same period to 1,650 cars.

There is no mystery, of course. ICT has no such taxes and only Punjab is afflicted with this madness. So the rich hightailed in their super cars to the capital and registered overnight, thus escaping the tax net. Many did the same in other provinces. Punjab, which was crowing with delight, now faces a colossal tax fall because what it "gained" has been, and is going to be, offset in a far higher number this year as this silly tax has only allowed the VIPs to misuse their position and escape the penalties.

Such things are not new and we are all used to two sets of rules that have always been operational here but have now reached new heights. In the light of what is documented and factual, what should be the moral ground on which the Punjab government might like to rest its case and justify that it can rob Paul and not touch Peter—or, this being an Islamic country, rob Boota and spare Dasti?

The clever boys who dodged the luxury tax are more or less the same cowboys who rule the country—the PML-Q having no ideological differences with the PML-N or the PPP: where dodging taxes is concerned they see eye to eye perfectly. Also in this list are the various reptiles that are found in the political parties and amongst the ranks of the bureaucrats, armed forces barons and other patriots of Pakistan, ministers and legislators and all those who have clout in the country.

Should the Punjab government refund those it has taxed? While this will not happen in a month of Fridays, how can the Punjab government justify this anomaly? How does it arrive at this fine distinction? And why are there different rules in different parts of Pakistan? You are fined for not wearing seatbelts in ICT, but not anywhere else. You can make left turns at red lights in one city but not in another. Fines for mobile use vary from place to place. Even vehicle registration numbers are not uniform. There is one set for Lahore and quite another for Multan, for example.

This and the liberty of affixing anything any way you like on your registration plate is rampant, yet it causes no anxiety at all. You see cars with numbers such as this: 007200610 Gujjar 1. What is 007200610? I don't have a clue. Is 007 the license for Gujjar 1 to kill anyone he pleases? Is 2006 when Gujjar 1 had a hair transplant? Is 10 his lucky number or is he referring to his real nature of being a "das number"? Is he also a disciple of the original 10 per cent fan? Who knows? These are metaphysical matters.

There are far more serious matters that need attention, but someone should sue the government. It has been done and it can be done. This is simply not acceptable. Many will not recall this but Dr Parvez Hassan once sued PIA because it changed its itinerary at the last minute. Dr Hassan had taken the trouble to read the fine print on his ticket and. although the PIA diversion was politically dictated by the dictator of the day, Dr Hassan still made a case out of it and won. We are all too aware of the amount of taxes the paupers who run Pakistan pay, and it is the efforts of a few who do pay taxes that keep things rolling. So, as a member of this elite group, my friend insists that he is well within his rights to ask for a redress of such quixotic and one-sided laws that are now the hallmark of the governance in Pakistan.

We all know that Robin Hood robbed the rich to pay the poor. Today we rob the poor to pay the rich and I don't mean just those few who can afford the "super cars." The whole system is geared to punish the idiots of Pakistan.

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email:








I thought I wouldn't watch the World Cup, and when my sister in Surat messaged to ask which team I was supporting this time, I said: "None. Not watching".

It's true that I do not support any team in particular, but I have stopped reading in the evenings and begun watching. Matches are telecast at 7:30 and at midnight. I rise early and am asleep by the time the second match starts, and so I glance at the schedule to see if a good match is on in the evening.

A good match is either one where elegant football is played, by sides like Germany or Argentina, or when an unusual team puts up a fight. This month the latter includes Paraguay and the United States. One team that always disappoints me, not to say its fans, is England and I cannot bear to watch them play. Indians are drawn naturally towards the English team because of our shared history, and many young men in our cities are familiar with the names who play in the English Premiership. But their performance is usually average and often below that. They always disappoint visually, and that is criminal for a football team.

I think the first World Cup to be shown live in India was the one in Mexico, in 1986. It was the tournament when the Mexican Wave was invented, and what a glorious sight that was. Crowds acting in unison are always entertaining unless they're doing damage. I do not know of another tournament which had so much drama. India had just got colour television a few years before that and it was the first tournament we saw in colour. Maradona, who was 25 years old, conquered the world as nobody had before him. It is difficult to remember the other players from the 1986 Argentina side (Valdano, Brown) because Maradona was so dominant in that team. He had the individual skill of Pele, the leadership of Beckenbauer, and the vision of Cryuff. I think Maradona is the finest player of football we have ever seen. I cannot understand it when people liken modern players such as Messi to him, because they cannot be compared to Maradona. Like Muhammad Ali, Maradona was both good and entertaining. He still has the charisma of a true world star. Of course, he is also a lunatic, shooting at reporters with his air gun, and being utterly indisciplined with his eating and drinking. But that is why he is interesting for the observer.

If there was another player of his ability, I would pick not Pele but France's Zinedine Zidane. Had he not defeated himself and his team by flattening Italian Materazzi in the 2006 finals, he would be with Maradona. Zidane's behaviour in those last minutes was astonishing because in appearance (he always reminds me of the emotionless Star Trek character Mr Spock) and in action, he was always radiated calm. But this duality to him makes him interesting.

I have left out Pele, and that will upset many people. Pele was a part of a team that won three World Cups, it is true, but he was surrounded by stars, like Garrincha and Vava and Jairzinho. Would Brazil have been as good a team without Pele? Probably. But would they have been as successful without him? Possibly not, and that is what makes him so beloved of those who saw him play. His great moments, however, such as his lob at the goal from the half-line, or his sending the goalkeeper the wrong way without touching the ball, did not produce goals. Maradona's great moments did, and it will be excellent to watch him these coming weeks.

The team that neutrals support around the world is Brazil. And one reason for that is that they are always entertaining. Their style of play is attacking, and 10 years ago they had an amazing side where the left and right backs were Roberto Carlos and Cafu. These two men were what is known as wing-backs and they would take the ball right up to the other end before crossing it to the waiting forwards. This meant that often there were only two defenders in the Brazilian half. The team that plays as aggressively in the current tournament is Paraguay, which plays in 4-3-3 formation, which means they have three forwards and three mid-fielders. Usually sides favour 4-4-2, with fewer people in attacking positions. This is because scoring is based on opportunism while defence must always overwhelm the other side with numbers. But quality sides that do attack, like Brazil and Germany, usually win more games than those that do not, like Italy and England, though the latter tend to progress by drawing more matches.

England's Premiership is the most expensive footballing league in the world, but few Brazilians play there. I think it might be because the style of play does not suit them. One thing that fans remember about Brazilian sides is their fabulous nicknames. Garrincha meant small bird. I remain fascinated by Socrates, who was a midfielder in the 80s. The name might have been given to him because he was wise (a qualified doctor), or just because he wore a beard.

Many Indian schoolboys are excellent at quizzing because we are good at committing things to memory (America's Spelling Bee contest often features Indian winners). Some things I had memorised for the 1986 World Cup have remained with me. One is that the real name of Zico was Artur Antunes Coimbra. Another was that Pele's real name was Edison Arantes Do Nascimento. It occurs to me that I only remember the names of attackers.

I do not like the playing style of certain teams, like Italy. Apparently Italian fans love defenders, but I cannot understand why. It is prejudice on my part, I know, but the front half of the football team, midfield and attack, is the real thing. Unlike cricket, where bowlers may have an offensive role, football's defenders are crucified by definition. Their job is to block and bring a halt to proceedings. What could possibly be entertaining about that? The same applies to goalkeepers though they are often flamboyant.

The one goalkeeper I liked watching was Rene Higuita of Colombia. His nickname in Spanish was El Loco, The Mad One, and it was accurate. He was the man who came out of his goal dribbling and trying to get past a Cameroon forward in the 1992 World Cup. He failed, and the forward, 38-year-old Roger Milla, took the ball from him and scored. Higuita's stunts often came off, and once he scored from a free kick. This might not seem unusual, but when you watch the video, it becomes clear how totally unhinged the thing is. Higuita kicks the ball and immediately turns and begins running back without waiting to see what happens (he scores). He scrambles because if the ball goes to a defender, he could just heave it over the field into the empty goal at the other end. But Higuita gambles and wins.

The most stunning instance of Higuita's showmanship is his scorpion kick. A ball is lobbed towards his goal, he waits, and then dives, bringing his feet forward from the back. As the ball passes over him and he arcs his body and kicks it powerfully with his head looking down. He must have been the world's only goalkeeper whose teammates worried when he was near the ball. Such players tend to come out of Latin American nations, and there is no question that Europe would produce characters like Higuita.

This could be because Catholicism is a religion of saints and of magic, but I might be reading too much into nothing.

I live in Bandra, a beautiful Catholic suburb of Bombay. At the Bandra Gymkhana, the bar stays open deep into the night as people support Portugal. This is because the Portuguese colonised Goa and their culture lives on in the Catholics of this part of the world. When Portugal plays during the midnight match and scores, I know from my bedroom because there is always as much cheering as there is for an India match. If Portugal advance, then I will try and find it in me to support them. It isn't as if my heart beats for any team in particular and I only wish to see good football.

India actually qualified once for the World Cup, in 1950, but decided against sending the team to Brazil, because it cost too much.

The writer is a director with Hill Road Media in Bombay. Email:








The IMF has 187 members and the organisation exists to protect the interests of its members. All members put together contribute some $220 billion a year to fund IMF's activities. The US, by the time the current funding cycle comes to an end, will have appropriated close to $50 billion, which makes it the single-largest contributor. As a consequence the US by itself controls 371,743 votes or 16.74 per cent of the total votes.

All major decisions at the IMF require a supermajority or a minimum of 85 per cent of all votes, and that makes the US the only member-country that can block a supermajority all by itself. Next to the US is Japan, followed by Germany, the UK, France, China, Italy and Saudi Arabia.

The IMF, as per its own website, provides "loans to countries that have trouble meeting their international payments and cannot otherwise find sufficient financing on affordable terms." As a matter of record, the IMF has always had its favourites. History is witness that the IMF provided loans to military dictatorships in Pakistan and also to Pinochet of Chile, Duvalier of Haiti, Marcos of the Philippines, Suharto of Indonesia and Mobutu of Zaire. The IMF also helped out military dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, El Salvador and Ethiopia.

According to the Heritage Foundation, the conservative Washington-based think tank, "of the 89 less-developed countries that received IMF loans between 1965 and 1995, 48 are no better off economically today than they were before receiving IMF loans." Additionally, "of these 48 countries, 32 are poorer than they were before receiving IMF loans; and of these 32 countries, 14 have economies that are at least 15 per cent smaller than when they received their first IMF loans."

Zooming in to Islamabad, on June 5, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh presented Federal Budget for 2010-11. The budget has a total outlay of Rs3.2 trillion and an estimated revenue stream of Rs2.5 trillion. Vow! A budgetary deficit of over Rs700 billion. In essence, Dr Shaikh told the world that the Government of Pakistan will be earning Rs2.5 trillion and plans on spending Rs3.2 trillion; borrowing—and begging the world for—Rs2 billion a day every single day for the following year.

Zooming in to the ministry of commerce. Our very own Annual Development Plan calls for an export target of $19.9 billion and accumulated imports of $31.7 billion. Vow! A trade deficit of $11.8 billion, or $32 million a day every single day for the following year.

"Pakistan is in deep trouble" would actually be an understatement.

Pakistan will have trouble coming up with resources to finance our prime minister's foreign tours, Rs3 million a day, and Pakistan will have trouble coming up with resources to finance Rs1 million a day for the President's House. And Pakistan will have trouble finding sufficient financing on affordable terms. Welcome, IMF.

Pakistan joined the IMF on July 11, 1950. To be certain, the US, Japan, Germany, the UK, and France all have their agendas in Pakistan. So does the IMF. But, to be sure, the IMF did not command our prime minister to spend Rs3 million a day every day on his foreign tours. And the IMF did not command our president to spend Rs1 million a day every day on his "staff, household and allowances."

A beggar's hand, they say, is a bottomless basket. We somehow feel that beggars can never be bankrupt. Our rulers are convinced that beggars should fear no rebellion. Pakistan looks for trouble and always finds it, because he that seeks trouble never misses.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email:







A few weeks ago a federal minister had the gall to state that poverty 'is not the cause of suicides in Pakistan'. Soon thereafter, a young thirteen-year-old child beat his younger sister to death for not letting him have the half-roti she was eating when he came home from work – from a job where he had not been paid for four months. This is the most savage indictment of the present rulers, for it highlights the depths of despair that exist in Pakistan. Instead of caring for the basic necessity of life – food, or to put it another way, the elimination of hunger – the members of the PPP government are concentrating on protecting their own ill-gotten gains, while perpetrating bigger scams. Reassured that there are presidential pardons lurking in the background, just in case… Whatever happened to the much-hyped PPP motto of 'roti, kapra aur makan'?

The new generation of politicians has been bred for making money and all the catchphrases of 'the betterment of the people, the service of the people' etc. are mere empty sloganeering, not to be taken seriously, especially after the votes have been cast.

With an honest judiciary in place, the first and most important step towards a civil society has been taken. For all other actions, laws are in place which can be enforced by applying the necessary statutes. The success of the present Supreme Court will be gauged by its effectiveness in thwarting the challenges posed by the notoriously corrupt Babar Awan and his masters. A failure will send a signal to our coming generations that corruption is the inalienable right of the politician, as boldly claimed by some PPP ministers.

This will lead to a new national order that will be based on crime and corruption. Already crime is rampant in our society, and chances are it will only get steadily worse. There are other countries where the drug mafia is in control, and murder is a commonplace method for ensuring compliance. In Pakistan the criminals have gravitated towards politics, for it seems the rewards are far richer than in the drugs trade. Billion-dollar deals are 'no big deal' if the government is complicit, with the added advantage of not upsetting the Americans and the Europeans because no drugs are involved.

At immediate risk are our youngsters who are witnessing a breakdown in the law and order situation, starting with traffic violations. It will not be long before the gun-toting goons of our lawmakers overstep their authority and actually use their weapons, to disastrous consequences. The problem will arise when guns become the norm. Also when, inevitably, the gun culture becomes too expensive the gun-owners will supplement their incomes with other criminal activities.

This, too, will soon become the norm, and the politician-gangsters will enforce their criminal activities under the guise of political power. This is already happening in Pakistan in the shape of the land mafia – aka land-grabbers – the most successful being the political godfathers who provide the political muscle as a cover. The political parties have managed to steer clear of drugs, but the daily killings in the various areas of Karachi, so-called 'targeted killings', are merely other manifestation of a land grab.

All these are indications of a massive crime wave, and the younger generation is being schooled by its elders in the basics of 'How to Succeed in Crime' in order to multiply the politicians' financial and political power.

The courts will have to move swiftly to establish the rule of law. They could start with the implementation of a code of conduct for members of the assemblies. Here the criterion could be the documents submitted by the members, i.e. their degrees, financial statements, etc. Using existing laws, the penalty imposed for mis-declaration should be the same as for perjury – for in essence the effect is the same. This would embolden the opposing candidate to provide more evidence against the violator. To pit the two protagonists against each other would give the courts much-needed support in the implementation of the laws of the land.

At the present time we have an honest and powerful bench in place. We need to protect the judiciary from the Babar Awans of our society. Their crude and transparent machinations must not be allowed to succeed. In fact, the foreign supporters of the present incumbents should be made to realise that their drafting of the infamous NRO was a failure, for such a black law was doomed from the start – some lawyers are looking into whether the enactment of the NRO was an unfriendly act towards the people of Pakistan.

It also violates the Corrupt Practices Acts of the US and the UK, for both these countries prescribe severe prison sentences, and fines or both, for anyone convicted under these statutes. In the case of the drafting of the NRO, it could make Milliband and Negroponte liable for crimes against the laws of the US and the UK, through using the might of these two nations to impose such an act on the people of Pakistan.








We do get confused when it comes to understanding our war against terrorism and the goals that the establishment has set in this multifaceted venture. We have ample evidence that our security forces have gone into some battles with firm resolve. It shouldn't have been otherwise, considering the loss they have suffered in attacks by the Taliban terrorists.

But why do foreign agencies and media continue to allege that the Pakistani establishment has retained its links with some factions of the Taliban, particularly the ones that are operating in Afghanistan? Or is there no fatal contradiction in this two-faced strategy?

Another worry for our concerned observers is the damage that our image in the world has suffered because of how developments in Pakistan are perceived. Our score on that "failed state" chart remains high. A number of headlines about our domestic affairs also breed apprehensions about our national sense of direction.

To think about these matters is, to a large extent, to contend with a plethora of conspiracy theories. It stands to reason that some conspiracies are surely planned and executed by secret services of countries that are engaged in a regional conflict. We are often able to get authentic accounts of how, for instance, the CIA was able to topple regimes and remove national leaders.

Still, this realisation that covert activities, and essentially devilish stratagems, become expedient in the pursuit of how some establishments define their national interests does not make it any easier to decipher the conflicting signals that we pick up from reports that make international headlines. Are some decision-making minds afflicted with the malady of double-think? Is this some kind of an institutional schizophrenia? We can't be sure.

Yes, the US-led campaign in Afghanistan has its bearing on how the war against terrorism is conducted in Pakistan. The dominating event of this week is surely the sacking by President Barack Obama of Gen Stanley McChrystal as the top commander in Afghanistan. He is replaced by Gen David Petraeus.

It is interesting to note that this vital change in command has spawned no conspiracy theory or any hint of intrigue in the corridors of the US administration. However, it has a much greater significance than any CIA operation. When Obama fired McChrystal over comments attributed to him and his staff in a magazine, he said that McChrystal's conduct "undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system." The point he made was that institutions are stronger than individuals.

We in Pakistan can only wistfully smile at the assertion of civilian authority over the military, irrespective of what the Constitution prescribes and how an independent higher judiciary can defend its sacred proclamations. But there is another important implication here that has not been appreciated in Pakistan. It was merely an article in a magazine that caused the furore. I see it also as a manifestation of the freedom and the power of the press in a democratic setting.

Compare this with what we have experienced in Pakistan, with all this hullabaloo about the power and the freedom of our media, particularly of the news channels. We have some significant revelations and strong assertions by top officials and politicians almost on a daily basis. But nothing happens. Almost no notice is taken of allegations made. Why didn't McChrystal say that he was misquoted or that the reporter did not fully understand the remarks that were made? Why wasn't there an immediate clarification to control the damage? In our case, they say something on camera and than offer a retraction.

But this McChrystal affair has come up as a distraction. Let me revert to the problem of Pakistan's credibility in its campaign against the Taliban and other terrorist outfits. To add to this, there are a number of surveys and analyses by think tanks that underline our political instability. Hence, Pakistan was ranked tenth among "failed states" in an index issued by America's Foreign Policy magazine. We do seem to have some indissoluble linkages with Afghanistan.

This latest wave of media aggression against Pakistan began with a report by the London School of Economics that claimed that the ISI was sponsoring the Afghan Taliban. It was actually a discussion paper written by one person and its contents were angrily rejected by our authorities.

But there also was the report in the Sunday Times, stressing that Pakistani support for the Taliban in Afghanistan ran far deeper than a few corrupt police officers. It added: "The Sunday Times can reveal that it is officially sanctioned at the highest levels of Pakistan's government." A study by the Rand Corporation concluded, as the news agencies said, that "a rising number of terrorist plots in the US with roots in Pakistan stems in part from an unsuccessful strategy by Islamabad to blunt the influence of militant groups in the country."

Such reports also tend to criticise the US government for providing military and financial assistance to Pakistan. The argument is that the US is not getting its money's worth. On the face of it, many of these assessments reflect opinions that are also prevalent in the Obama administration. Does this mean that there may be some rethinking on the nature of our strategic relationship with the US? This may not be possible in the near future because of America's dependence on Pakistan in its operation in Afghanistan–an operation that is not going well.

Irrespective of what happens to the American mission in Afghanistan, we must look after our own interests. Our war against terrorism and religious extremism has become crucial for our own survival. We are fond of telling the world, to underline our sincerity in fighting terrorism, that Pakistan itself has suffered most in this war. This is true. But does this not suggest that there may be something wrong about how we have tackled this menace?

There was this report in the Washington Post on Tuesday, saying that the Pakistan government was reluctant to take action against the so-called Punjabi Taliban. The report alleged that the Punjab government tolerated "violence against minorities and others considered infidels" because it was part of Pakistan's "mindset" and confronting it might spawn more radicals.

Well, this "mindset," though we can interpret it in many different ways, is evidently becoming a problem and we need to change it. Terrorists and extremists can never serve any purpose if the goal is our social and economic emancipation and peace in the region that we need to be able to protect our sovereignty. We have so many other crises to deal with.

On Thursday, Rehman Malik told the National Assembly that the Taliban are now all over Pakistan. Who would want to take credit for this?

The writer is a staff member









THE issue of fake-degree holders is assuming new dimensions with the passage of every day with civil society demanding stern action against all unscrupulous elements and the Government and the political parties drawing up their own strategies to deal with the challenge. As the Higher Education Commission is in the process of verification of not only graduation degrees but also Intermediate and Secondary School certificates of the members and Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has asked his members to deposit their certificates with a cell of the party for verification, the Government is all set to introduce a law in the National Assembly to immunise fake-degree holders from the consequences of their fraudulent conduct.

In this backdrop, Chairman Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Imran Khan strongly believes that fresh elections have become inevitable in view of the growing magnitude of the scandal. The demand becomes weighty as the Leader of the Opposition Ch Nisar Ali Khan has also expressed the view that if 30% Members of Parliament are involved then the issue would go beyond by-elections to an atmosphere of mid-term elections. There is no doubt that the issue of fake degree holders has brought not only shame to these people and Parliament but also badly affected the image of the country in comity of nations. It is certainly a blot on the face of our democracy and that is why there are demands that their disqualification from holding office or resignation would not suffice as there should be total ban on them from taking part in politics or elections for the rest of the life. This is because leaders are supposed to be the role model and if they indulge in such debauchery then what one can expect from others. Apart from disqualification for life they should also be made to regurgitate the amount spent on them as pay, allowances, TA/DA and medical expenditure. However, strict and exemplary action against these elements is one thing and the demand for mid-term polls is altogether another thing. There are also demand that the political parties must not reissue tickets to the fake degree holders as they proved themselves unworthy of sacred national trust but we believe time is not ripe for fresh elections. Instead, we would urge all concerned to allow the present set-up to complete its mandated term and wait patiently for scheduled time of general elections. Though there are drawbacks in the system yet the Government should be given more time to rectify the situation.







IT is encouraging that the Supreme Court on Friday asked Director General FIA to conduct a fresh investigation into the mega corruption scam of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and submit a report in three weeks. The three-member Bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry rejected the report of the Agency expressing dissatisfaction over the findings pertaining to alleged corruption of Rs 22 billion in PSM.

The nation expects that there would be substantial breakthrough in the investigation into the corrupt practices in the State owned entity which is on the verge of collapse. The CJ's observation that looters and plunderers of the national exchequer would not be spared at any cost was completely in line with the sentiments of the people of Pakistan. Due to this corruption PSM is in deep financial crisis and only a few days back the Prime Minister approved an allocation of Rs 3 billion to keep it afloat. The investigation and recovery of each looted penny and severe punishment to the plunderers would set precedence and give a clear signal to the corrupts that the Courts are there to deliver justice. Similar is the situation in other major State enterprises which are suffering losses of billions of rupees and the Supreme Court should also look deeper into their affairs as well to root out the endemic scourge. It is a known fact that corruption not only impedes development, it strikes at the heart of democracy, corrodes rule of law and democratic institutions, destroys trust in leaders and in the very principles of democratic governance. Corruption contributes to instability and poverty and is a dominant factor driving fragile countries towards State failure. We will be able to reduce corruption and improve transparency, integrity, accountability and good governance if the civil society and media play a proactive role in the anti-corruption drive and the black sheep are given exemplary punishment. Of course the silent majority must also support in this war against corruption for a better Pakistan for all Pakistanis.







THERE was unanimity of views at a seminar held at the National Press Club in Islamabad on Friday for introduction of Local Government system in the Federal Capital and Cantonment areas of the country. Speaking on "Why Capital is without Local Government System", leader of public opinion also demanded of the Government to announce an early date for holding of Local Bodies elections.

In fact, there is a universal demand for introduction of Local Governments both in the Federal Capital as well as in Cantonment but the decision-making circles are denying this right to the people of these areas on questionable grounds. There might be some deficiencies in the system introduced during the tenure of General Pervez Musharraf but neutral observers agree that the system delivered to the satisfaction of the people, who, for the first time, felt fully involved in developmental and decision-making process. And if the system did well in the rest of the country then there was no reason that it would not produce similar results in Islamabad and Cantonment areas of the country. We have been pointing out in these columns that all major capitals of the world, which are much bigger in size and complexity than Islamabad, have elected Mayors and bodies to run administration of these cities but Islamabad has been denied this opportunity. If an elected Federal Government can operate in the Capital then surely the elected Local Body as well and in fact, it would complement efforts of the Government in ensuring better and efficient management of the city. Similarly, if National Assembly elections can take place in Islamabad then why not local elections. As for Cantonment areas, these used to be secluded ones in the past but with the passage of time these have become part and parcel of cities and towns with civilian population dominating uniformed population. Therefore, possibility of holding local elections in these areas should also be explored to give say to the people in deciding the matters concerning their fate.








As one sees frustrations building in the personalities doing the development process one also sees the weaknesses and the cranks that one has developed in the planning process. These personalities are full of themselves and do not understand the impact of what they have been doing. They have worked like parasites and have not performed at all. Mealy mouthed they throw names as if they have been paying marbles with the lot of them. They are only short of not taking the names of the Presidents and Prime Ministers of other countries. Scoundrels to the core they are unashamed of their past failures and in many ways are as insensitive as the baboons of old. The problem with lesser individuals holding the policy matters in their purview is simple. Nothing will get done as of its own right. Sycophancy and submissive attitudes are relished by these people. They do not have a figment of awareness as to what they are doing.

I have seen this in the agriculture projects where things in the past were so organized that they could do anything in terms of wasting resources. The mega projects of the productive ministries were so ill designed that there was no way that the projects would deliver. These were projects that had the maximum of infrastructure and minimum of software. What am I supposed to do with buildings and roads if the people of Pakistan are unable to have a full meal? I have been an advocate of people related development for to me that is the strength that I want to play. I do not want that the there be empty buildings and empty stomachs. That does not help the future of Pakistan. For more effort the state functionaries–meaning the elected representatives- have to play a much larger role but not as watch dog, not as a regulatory functionary but as someone supporting affirmative action. Imagine the Asian Development Banks project fiascos and the equally matching work of the World Bank. The massive debt that has been accepted means that Pakistan will as a result of the Musharaff regime's development effort the debt burden has increased massively. Suspicion can be removed provided the projects deliver. It is when the state functionaries are not inconsonance with the development projects and do not realize that parochial polices would not deliver and the outputs would not be noticeable.

The fat that was allowed by the past regime needs to be examined by the accountability sources. The unfortunate aspect is that the persons responsible for the management of the economy are and have been despicable in their attitude. Take any projects of that time and you will see that the projects have n=been massive failures. Shaukat Aziz and Musharaf made a considerable amount of noise in respect of the Mirani dam. It is disastrous. Under the new regime only 9000 acres or so have come under irrigation while under the bundat system there the area under irrigation was 1,32,000 acres roughly four times what is happening now. The design was faulty and the implementation more so. The came the people that were given the responsibility to build and what did they achieve? What I have just said. Preciously little.

Baluchistan was particularly badly hit. A research project was provided and the resources provided. These recruited persons did not deliver. They have been guilty of all kind of misdemeanors. There go seventy two crores of rupees and there goes the trust that should have been built as a result of this project. The drought project was so misused that it was a pity action was not taken against the individual responsible for 87 persons recruited in Islamabad and 27 cars for the members of the Planning Commission. The project was for the drought areas of Baluchistan, Thar and Cholistan and yet the appointments and the benefits accrued to the dud nephew and nieces of the personal of the Planning Commission. The cars were palmed off as second cars to the wives of the respective officers. What a way to discharge one's responsibility [s].

Pick up any project and you will find the same ruddy thing that one dreads-using the project resources for self-aggrandizement. This about the then chairman of HEC who used public sources for personal benefits and goes about toting his relationships with the satisfiers of personal greed. There is much to be said about misallocation of resources but what does one have to say when mens rea [guilty intentions] is visibly rampant as in our development process.

The men in charge of development can do a significantly better job. Why do I say this because the nature of development of these people is different? The developed mid is more a requirement of our times in Pakistan then petty options that have been mentioned in the past. We have ICS, CSP, Policemen, Engineers, and Accountants on this job and we have had terrible consequences of their personal views reflected on the planning process. The process that we are going through is important for the Planning process lays down the direction of development. The monitoring process by itself needs a new vision and a new thrust not necessarily on commenting on physical and finical utilization but on the quality of the requirements that have been met by the project [s]. That would mean what a visiting Ombudsman from Canada stated to me by saying that no ombudsman can be selected for a job and then given the work he is supposed to do unless he has the ability to be above a. parochial interests and b. be above the general level of knowledge that is available and c. be a futuristic. As one goes in to the Planning commission auditorium there are four tenets of Islam written above the chair-Al Quran, Al biyan, Al Rehman and Al Rahim. Where and how are these excellent tenets reflected in the development process? These are intangibles but they connote a view that makes our religion a living one. The quality of life is dependent on the intangibles that one brings to bear on the subject. Eleven years are a lot of time that we have lost and when you add the predilections of the other two dictators the time comes to roughly three decades of deceit and cheating. You cannot have more of that where countries assets have been utilized as personal ones.

The state is above all else everyone's state and that is why there is a distinction between state and governments. Governments cannot be above the state institutions and doings and yet that is exactly what three dictators did to us. That legacy of power has to be demolished in no uncertain terms. Life means and does mean more than personal assets or you will not be able to enjoy either nor immediate family or your assets. Take a look at the house that Yahya built, the infrastructure that led to Chak Shahzad house that Musharaf built or the other infrastructure that have been built by those that were given to good governance. Do not rubbish humans by telling lies. Do live a style that allows one to live in assets built by honest hard work rather than by siphoning off the resources of the ordinary people. The intangibles stupid are more important than those entire highbrow living. The poor are in majority and there is no reason to believe that the country will not be swamped by them and take everything that the rich have built with them. The justice of the poor social classes is more important for state sustainability than the Justinian system that has broken down. The evidence is before you. Explanations do not matter for the crimes of the rich and the mean are easily explained away. Do not hack your own feet is the only intangible that one can revert to. Take care. Life is what we make of it.








On the one hand, modern India prides itself on how it has transcended its most rigid traditions and beliefs which are part of its caste system, while on the other, the plight of Indian caste system has produced grave results. Although apparently, India claims to be the largest democracy, acting upon the principles of liberalism, yet in practice, all political, economic and social fields of the country are divided on the caste lines. In this regard, Tim Sullivan of the Associated Press wrote, "There's a lot of lip service to saying 'I'm an Indian first, and 'I' do not believe in caste," said D'Souza, a prominent campaigner for dalits, as India's "untouchables" at the very bottom of the caste system are now known. Sullivan further elaborated, "When it comes to sharing power, to interaction and to sharing social status, low-caste Indians are very much marginalized."

Education and election to political office have advanced the status of many Dalits, but the overall picture remains one of great inequity. In recent decades, Dalit anger has been expressed in writings, demonstrations, strikes, and the activities of such groups as the Dalit Panthers, a radical political party demanding revolutionary change. A wider Dalit movement, including political parties, educational activities, self-help centers, and labor organizations, has spread to many areas of the country. If someone goes to any office for job, question will be asked, "what is your caste?" people belonging to the lower caste are ignored at the cost of the superior caste. Hence, various departments and fields of India have adjusted the persons of the superior caste. Thus a system has emerged, which reflects India's elite, energized caste-based political parties and left in doubt millions of government jobs and university slots which have little place for the people of the lower caste. Based upon sharp discrimination, the caste system of the Hindu custom that has divided people in a strict social hierarchy based on their family's traditional livelihood and ethnicity deeply prevails in the country. In this respect, the major issue of New Delhi is its inability to come to terms with this basic form of discrimination. As regards politics, India's most powerful caste politicians believe that with the help of the establishment, they could use the census data for votes and government funding. In this context, a prominent Indian political expert, Pratap Bhanu Mehta pointed out in the Indian Express: "At one stroke, it trivializes all that modern India has stood for, and condemns it to the tyranny of an insidious kind of identity politics." The plight of the Indian caste system is that the founders of modern India, who themselves belonged to nearly all high caste were staunch believers in a caste-blind society—while many would have been surprised, if one of their children had married a Dalit. Barun Mitra of a New Delhi-based research center indicated, "No one denies that there are a lot of problems in India that there is social discrimination." Like many critics, he also worries about the rise of the caste-based politicians. In addition Mitra explained, "What purpose would it serve by drawing and redrawing the identity, particularly when it is politically motivated?" India claims that in recent decades, some of the sharpest edges of caste traditions have been softened by urbanization and economic growth, but in reality, there are powerful superior-caste politicians and business people who play hell with those who come of low-caste families. As a matter of fact, caste system remains a deeply felt part of Indian life. Brahmins, the most superior caste, still dominate everything from politics to journalism, while low-caste Indians and Dalits face daily challenges for decent schools, medical care and jobs. Regarding Indian caste system, a study indicates, "Caste is part of every social agenda, every political agenda…even when someone is considering a neighborhood, caste is an important consideration." In this connection, most regrettable dimension is that a new generation of politicians and businessmen are also biased against the people of lower caste. India which claims to be a secular state, showing equality, human rights and justice has broken all the records of violence, genocide and massacre against people of the lower castes. It is because of these atrocities and injustices that Indian home-grown terrorism is on rise.

Caste has undergone significant change since independence, but it still involves millions of people. In its preamble, India's constitution forbids negative public discrimination on the basis of caste. However, caste ranking and caste-based interaction have occurred for centuries and will continue to do so well into the foreseeable future. Castes are ranked and named groups, membership of which is achieved by birth. There are thousands of castes and subcastes in India, and these large kinship-based groups are fundamental to the country's social structure. Each caste is part of a locally based system of interdependence with other groups, involving occupational specialization, and is linked in complex ways with networks that stretch across regions and throughout the nation. India's complex society includes some unique members—sadhus (holy men) and harijans (untouchables). Such people have stepped outside the usual bonds of kinship and caste to join with others in castelike groups. In India, several hundred thousand Hindu and Jain sadhus and a few thousand holy women (sadhvis) live an ascetic life. They have chosen to wear ocher robes, or perhaps no clothing at all, to daub their skin with holy ash, to pray and meditate, and to wander from place to place, depending on the charity of others. In their new lives as renunciants, they are devoted to spiritual concerns, yet each is affiliated with an ascetic order or subsect demanding strict adherence to rules of dress, diet, worship and ritual pollution. Within each order, hierarchical concerns are exhibited in the subservience novitiates display to revered gurus. Further, at pilgrimage sites, different orders take precedence in accordance with an accepted hierarchy.

The most extreme sadhus eat food provided only by low-ranking sweepers and prostitutes. There is a hierarchy of gurus and disciples, with expulsion from the community a possible punishment for failure to obey group rules. In a village of India, where nearly 74 percent of the population resides, caste and class affiliations overlap. According to anthropologist Miriam Sharma, "Large landholders who employ hired labour are overwhelmingly from the upper castes, while the agricultural workers themselves come from the ranks of the lowest…predominantly untouchable castes." She also points out, "Distribution of other resources and access to political control follow the same pattern of caste-cum-class distinctions."


Nevertheless, as the privileged elites move ahead, low-ranking menial workers remain economically insecure. Although many other nations are characterized by social inequality, perhaps nowhere else in the world has inequality been so elaborately constructed as in the Indian institution of caste. Caste has long existed in India, but in the modern period it has been severely criticized by foreign observers. Although some educated Indians tell non-Indians that caste has been abolished or that no one pays attention to caste anymore, yet such statements do not reflect reality.








Themes coined by Indo-US-Israeli nexus read something like this: Pakistan helped fugitive Afghan Taliban to regroup since they are viewed as strategic assets. Parts of ISI support Taliban, and are protecting Mullah Omar and other leaders. Balochistan is sanctuary of Afghan Taliban, recruiting ground and command post to coordinate operations in Southern Afghanistan. All strategic decisions are made by Quetta Shura. Decisions flow out to field commanders who in turn take tactical decisions. They are uninterested in operations inside Pakistan. Pashtun tribes in Kandahar region, which is Taliban ethnic and spiritual base, have strong ties with those on Pakistan side. FATA is the breeding ground of terrorists, most dangerous place and main base of Al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden and other top leaders of Al-Qaeda are in FATA since 2002 and coordinate activities in Eastern Afghanistan. Pakistan secret services continue to secretly train Taliban fighters. While Zardari is keen to wipe out terrorism Pak military doesn't share the view.

On 11 May, blog Brie Bart floated a balloon in the air that as per credible intelligence sources, Mullah Omar had been captured by Pakistan. This rumor was circulated a day after Hillary Clinton accused some Pak officials of sheltering Osama and Omar. London-based think tank Legatum Institute has opined that given the rising trend of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, in next 1-3 years timeframe Pakistan would convert from pro-western wholly secular society to one that is Islamic and anti-American. Recent report of London School of Economics authored by Matt Waldman and published by Sunday Times has created quite a stir. Salient points of implausible report are: Taliban are creation of ISI; the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences Taliban movement; ISI provides funding and training to Taliban on a very large scale; ISI has strong influence on strategic decision-making and field operations of Taliban; ISI controls most violent units of Taliban, some based in Pakistan; ISI gives sanctuary to Taliban and Haqqani group; ISI and civilian government arms Taliban, launches them against specified targets in Afghanistan; representative of ISI has a seat in Afghan Shura based in Quetta; Zardari is in cahoots with Taliban, met their leaders and assured them unstinted support; Pakistan is playing a double game.

Zardari is handpicked choice of Washington. He is liberal, pro-western, pro-Indian, and very friendly to Hamid Karzai and anti-Islamist. He has religiously pursued American policies against terrorism. Zardari's rating has dropped from 64% in 2008 to 32% since he is generally seen as the man responsible for most woes of Pakistan. He is viewed as US installed president incapable of taking independent decisions. With such a sullied image he can ill-afford to befriend Afghan Taliban. Having lost the domestic support, would he like to earn the displeasure of his chief mentor and come on its wrong side? He loses everything and gains nothing by this move.

What was the great need for him to make a secret trip to the unspecified jail and meet 50 Taliban leaders? Was it a guest house or a jail where such a large number was housed? The President doesn't visit a place singly and stealthily particularly when the overall security situation is highly turbulent. He moves with a heavy entourage under full security cover. How come his visit went unnoticed by the media? Why the Taliban needed his personal assurance of support if the ISI was fully in league with them? As supreme commander of armed forces he has yet to visit FATA and Swat where war is raging. It was understandable if Lt Gen Shuja Pasha or Gen Kayani had undertaken the sojourn which is also an unrealistic hypothesis.

If the figure of 50 had been ascertained, why couldn't the names found out? Why the CIA and FBI positioned behind every bush in Pakistan since September 2001 could not pinpoint this so-called jail? The US couldn't have dreamt of a more scrumptious target for drone attack than this one which would have contributed a great deal towards breaking the back of Taliban movement? It might have saved Gen McChrystal from launching Kandahar operation about which he is hesitant. Considering the chaotic state of affairs in Afghanistan where defeat is staring in the face of coalition forces, the US military would have pounced on this great opportunity especially when Washington has made clear that it has the right to take unilateral action whenever any actionable intelligence is available inside Pakistan.

The Taliban are known to be media shy. They remain underground and keep focused towards their main objective of fighting occupation forces. Mission oriented approach has kept the resistance alive. It is their aloofness which has kept them safe from the roving eyes of CIA-Mossad-RAW-MI6-BMD-RAAM for ten years. Giving interviews freely to an unknown man Waldman runs against their policy. Time and again the Taliban have asserted that their Jihad against occupation forces is indigenous and without any external support. This story has also been rubbished by them.

Now that the Taliban have inched closer towards the victory stand, why should they give all the credit to ISI? What do they gain out of it? If Waldman has really interviewed nine important Taliban field commanders and Afghan intelligence officials, why has he not specified bio-data of each interviewee? Why not a single one he interviewed has corroborated his story? Why none interviewed from Pakistan? If he could gain access to so many Taliban leaders so easily, I reckon heads of six intelligence agencies based in Kabul should hang in shame since for last ten years they have been desperately searching for them, but unable to nab even one.

The ISI would have gone out of their wits to let the cat out of the bag by suggesting to President Zardari to meet Taliban leaders in person. Taking into account the rich intellectual background of Matt Waldman, this story is a poor fabrication and doesn't speak well of the architect. He must have been paid well to present such a bizarre story with no head or tail. The whole emphasis is on defaming Army and ISI, transferring failures of ISAF on Pakistan, and to maximize pressure on Zardari to keep playing US dictated game. There is hardly anything new in the charges leveled against Pakistan except that old themes have been suitably modified to make them appear more dramatic. It is just like putting old wine in the new bottle. Having realized the absurdity of the report, the US dismissed it but Boston Globe absolved Zardari and laid the whole blame on Pak Army.


The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst and author of several books.








The election of Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, to the US presidency in 2008 signaled a change in the American foreign policy. During his election campaign, President Obama made all the right vibes and touched the relevant chords. His election slogan, change, inspired hopes among the Americans at home and the millions of people in the rest of the world who looked in Obama's person a deliverer. The US president's maiden speech after oath-taking and his subsequent address in Cairo promised the beginning of a new chapter with the Muslim world 'based on shared values and common interests'. Obama acknowledged that the relations between US and the Muslims had touched all time low under President Bush and there was a need to reverse the tide in the greater interest of global peace and harmony in the world.

Underscoring the importance of giving State Department a superior role over the hawkish Pentagon, President Obama appointed his two special envoys for Pakistan-Afghanistan and the Middle East. In a marked departure from the Bush era's national security strategy, which was characterized by the policy of preemption, the Obama administration has come up with a new strategy. The 31-page National Security Strategy Paper of the Bush era identified the potential areas of threat to the US. 'The regions where technology and fundamentalism met' were put on the hot spot of the US security calculus. "We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best…In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action," said the Bush era's NSS document.

In a manifest contrast to this military-led doctrine of the Bush administration, the new National Security Strategy (NSS) of President Obama is conciliatory in tone and realistic in substance. It reiterates the US' commitment to ideals of free market economy, liberalism and democracy. 'To succeed, we must face the world as it is," is the opening line of the document. The new NSS recognizes the fact that it is not within the control of a single country to shape the global order and that Washington would pursue rule-based international system in cooperation with the rest of the world. Thus the policy of preemption stands replaced by that of engagement. "While the use of force is sometimes necessary, we will exhaust other options before war whenever we can, and carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs and risks of the inaction," says the report. 'Enlightened self-interest' has been marked as the basis of engagement with the world. In order to ensure the US supremacy, the new NSS emphasizes the importance of economy. The current fiscal deficit of $ 1.5 trillion spells a danger to the US economy and there is a strong realization that this burgeoning fiscal deficit needs be narrowed down. In other words, it calls for reversing the policy of 'outreach', that is responsible for ever increasing public spending on wars outside the US. The exact amount that the industrial-military complex under President managed to spend on its Iraq and Afghanistan misadventures is simply staggering. The situation becomes even more hostile in the wake of the global recession that hit the US and entire Europe and from whose aftermath the world including the US has yet to recover fully.

Another area of departure from the rotten policies of the Bush era is the acknowledgement that militant organizations who are engaged in a fight with the world community do not represent political Islam. The fact that no religion including Islam sanctions violence against anyone is welcome. While defeating and dismantling Al-Qaeda and its affiliates remains the major US goal, the report identifies Pakistan and Afghanistan as the core of the terrorist organization. In order to accomplish its declared objective, the incumbent US administration seeks to diversity the ambit of its engagement with Islamabad encompassing several areas.

The Pak-US Strategic Dialogue, whose status has been upgraded to the level of foreign ministers, represents an effort from both sides to concretize the relationship. While the military aspect of the relationship continues to remain important, it is the cooperation in non-military areas that is the chief highlight and matter of immense importance. All in all, the new National Security Strategy Report seeks to make amends for the policy failures of last eight years of the Bush era.


However, the real challenge lies in turning the intent into policy action. Obama's performance during his stint in power falls short of the needful. Other than stabilizing the US economy in the aftermath of the global crunch, the US president does not have any feather to his cap in the realm of foreign policy. The Middle East continues to burn with Israel choosing to violate the international law with abandon. Islamabad and New Delhi are still locked in a position of no dialogue. Afghanistan is as volatile as it was on Obama's taking over of the presidency. What options Pakistan has in the fast-changing situation after the launching of new NSS is the subject.








Gen. Stanley McChrystal's departure will not alter one stubborn fact: both Iraq and Afghanistan are America's first contractors' wars. Contractors outnumber American uniformed personnel on the ground in both theatres, and the United States currently relies on more than 40,000 armed security contractors to support US operations in Southwest Asia.

Our dependence on local security contractors to guard US convoys in Afghanistan has wound up lining the pockets of the Taliban, which means we are perversely funding the enemy we are trying to defeat. While the extensive use of hired guns developed for pragmatic reasons, it today actively undermines America's long-term strategic interests. The private contractors carrying weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan can be divided into two main categories: static security (guarding a particular location, such as an embassy or camp) and moving security (guarding personnel or convoys as they pursue work in different locations). While static security contractors were used in the Balkans, the use of moving private security contractors is a new development. The State Department and Pentagon should not be blamed for their reliance on private security contractors; with an all-volunteer force and an under-resourced civilian capability, they are doing the best job with the resources currently available of delivering what Congress and the president have explicitly and implicitly asked them to do. However, our short-sighted and growing reliance on armed contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan compromises long-term US interests in at least four different ways. First, the practice blurs the line between the legitimate and illegitimate use of force, which is just what our enemies want. Al-Qaeda's operatives have no country and are private actors waging war on the United States.

Terrorists may receive funding from states, but they are by definition non-state actors. If the United States can legitimately rely on non-state actors wielding weapons to protect our interests, why can't al-Qaeda or the Taliban, especially when contractor misdeeds appear to go completely unpunished? Second, our dependence on moving security contractors is wholly at odds with building state capacity in Afghanistan, so that the Afghan government might one day be capable of independently providing security for its own citizens. The Afghan First strategy aims to hire local nationals to provide private security, and it has been wildly successful; at least 90% of private security contractors in Afghanistan today are Afghans. But in empowering these local privateers, we are in turn empowering regional warlords. The local militias whose creation we have actively encouraged are likely to be a destabilising future presence for the security of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

Third, the extensive use of privateers overseas has had disastrous consequences for government accountability and transparency, as well as fiscal prudence. Local security contractors in Afghanistan are hired through sub-contracts, and information on sub-contracts is currently unavailable to the public. The 2006 Federal Funding Transparency and Accountability Act, which created (President Obama's "Google for Government"), required information on subcontracts and subgrants to be made available to the public by Jan. 1, 2009; has yet to deliver. Thus, we are effectively pouring taxpayer money into a black hole in Afghanistan, with no real means of knowing how well that money is likely to be spent or even who is receiving it. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our dependence on armed security contractors has fuelled an overly ambitious international agenda. Without contractors, we would need a draft to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would transform the politics of both conflicts. Avoiding a draft might sound like a plus, but surely war should ultimately be a matter of shared sacrifice and honour, not business as usual. We degrade ourselves and strengthen our enemies by treating lethal force as something to be casually bought and sold.

There is one thing Congress could do that would immediately disrupt this vicious circle and uphold the public interest: ban the use of moving armed security contractors in war zones, with the practice to be phased out incrementally, so that it does not leave our civilian and military forces short-handed and compromised. If the United States needs moving security abroad, it should rely on military or government employees to provide it. As Machiavelli in The Prince warned, "Nothing but harm ever comes from mercenary arms."


The writer is Leng Professor of International Politics and Economics at Middlebury College in Vermont. USA Today







Is this the beginning of a fresh round of hartals? Much will depend on how this one - the first since the grand alliance government came to power one and a half years ago - passes off. All political parties have on different occasions have asserted that hartal is a democratic right to register protest against aberration of governance.
Regrettably, the liberal spirit which is the essence of democracy becomes, more often than not, a casualty on account of hartals. Because they are mostly imposed and are enforced often against the will of poorer segments of the people whose cause they are supposed to uphold. There should be no place for intimidation and violence either from the Opposition or from the ruling parties. Deployment of the law enforcement agencies should be made precisely to keep at bay parties provoking or attacking each other. However, their role often becomes questionable when they are found to side with the pro-government forces.

This hartal is crucial for the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) simply because it is eager to find some solid ground under its feet after its major debacle in the last national election. The party, which had been struggling from such a debacle in the past 15 months might have got some moral and political boost after this month's Mayoral Elections in Chittagong. But maybe it will need some more time to muster enough support for tougher mass protests like hartal. Whatever may be the case, it would be advisable for the ruling party to stay away from any provocative steps against the hartal programme.. That way it could put a brake on the opposition's gaining political mileage from today's programme. The government of course, has a duty to protect public life and property from hartal activists and other law breakers. But it should act judiciously so that the opposition does not have unnecessary pretext to call for further agitation.

It, however, remains open to question whether this hartal was at all necessary for the BNP to press home its grievances against the government.







With the kick-off of the second round or the knock-out phase of the World Cup football yesterday, the line-up has become quite intriguing. Of the 16 teams, the lone African nation Ghana's fate has by now been decided, so has been that of South Korea - one of the two Asian representatives. So that leaves us with 14 other teams across the continents in the race. This year's World Cup has had some tragic setbacks for bigger footballing nations. That being one of the salient features, the spectacle of the rise of smaller nations cannot be ignored. Generally speaking bigger footballing powers have taken a step backwards and the smaller nations a step forward.

The reason why many people consider that the actual WC begins from the second round is that this time the match is played extra 30 minutes if no result comes from the 90 minutes' play. Further, if there is still a stalemate, there is no option but to go for the last option of heart-stopping penalty shoot-outs. This is exactly what makes this game so thrilling and full of suspense. From now on every game is crucially important because one slip can result in the death of a dream even for the most fancied of teams.

Of the seven WC winners - Uruguay, Argentina, Germany, England, France, Brazil and Italy -  two , namely, Italy , the reigning champs and France , the runners up have exited from the race. Hopefully, there will be no further setbacks and one of the remaining five will wrest the World Cup. But football is an uncertain game and no last word can be pronounced about the final outcome. If performance is any index, it may be said Argentina looks like a team that is together. And they have Lionel Messi and that's what makes them stand out. Let us keep our fingers crossed until the last game is played on July11.







Have you seen somebody carrying a load of baggage, no not a passenger at a railway station or airport, but someone with a guilty past, failure, lack of confidence, someone who doesn't know that all he's got to do is throw that baggage away and he or she is free!

You have? Who? Your own self?

On July 3l, 1838 on the Island of Jamaica, a man named William Knibbs, gathered 10,000 slaves for a great praise gathering. They were celebrating the New Emancipation Proclamation Act that would abolish slavery on the island. They had built an immense coffin and into it were placed whips, branding irons, chains, fetters of all kinds, slave garments and all the things that represented the terrible slavery system that was now coming to a welcome end.
At the first stroke of the midnight bell, Knibbs shouted out, "The monster is dying." At each stroke of the bell that followed this cry was repeated and the great crowd began to join in the cry. At the twelfth stoke 10,000 voices cried out, "The monster is dead, the monster is dead, let us bury him." They then screwed the coffin lid down and lowered it into a huge grave and covered it up. That night, every heart rejoiced and 10,000 voices grew hoarse, shouting and crying with joy. Once they were in bondage to slavery, but now they were free.
There is a tragic side to this story. While many rejoiced in their new liberty and freedom, there were some slaves, that lived in remote areas of the island, that did not know they were free. Because they didn't know, for many years they still continued to serve their slave masters. Their former masters successfully kept the news from them as long as they could. By law they had been declared free men and did not have to live as slaves any longer. However, ignorance of the truth kept them in bondage.

Now let me tell you an even sadder story.

Today, if we'd hear a story of something like that happening, we'd be shocked, sympathetic and even angry. But the truth is, the same type of thing is happening in our day. We are all slaves of the baggage we carry, our fears our inhibitions etc, etc, the taskmasters are varied, but the bondage remains, baggage which you should put in a coffin and bury.

Are you ready to throw off your shackles or would you like to be like those slaves who hid in the jungles and died never knowing they were free?

The choice is yours, identify what is holding you down and throw the baggage away…!









European Union which has never been proactive for clamping down stringent economic sanctions against Iran has now approved much more tougher penalties than those envisioned in the UN's last set of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Despite being  Iran's biggest trading partner, the EU additional sanctions, which could come into effect within weeks, would specially target  the financial institutions, transport, and banking sectors and investments in or sale of equipment to Iranian oil and gas companies.

  The EU moved after the US imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran which include blacklisting a state bank and a group of companies, and seek to freeze any assets Iranian companies may have under US jurisdiction. For the US these are encouraging moves by its European partners and the expectations are that Japan, South Korea, Australia and others would also take similar measures to effectively humble Iran to agree to abandon its nuclear programme. The West believes that Iranian programme aims at producing nuclear weapons achieving hegemony in the region and endangering the world peace. The IAEA, Western, American scientists and experts have cast doubts over the Islamic Republic's intentions to develop its nuclear agenda.

They are not convinced that Iran requires nuclear power for energy generation given its huge oil resources. Nuclear Iran is also seen as a serious threat to Israel's existence. On June 9 the UN Security Council passed a resolution imposing the fourth set of sanctions against Iran. All permanent members the SC voted in favour of the resolution but the rude shock to the West was that Turkey and Brazil did not vote in favour of the resolution. Though Lebanon did not oppose the new UN move but it did abstain from voting.

The latest sanctions are said to be the toughest ever as the resolution calls for-ban on Iran from pursuing any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, bars Iranian investment in activities such as uranium mining, and prohibits it from buying several categories of heavy weapons including attack helicopters and missiles. It also imposed new sanctions on 40 Iranian companies and organizations -- 15 linked to Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, 22 involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities and three linked to the Lines. The resolution also adds one individual to the previous list of 40 Iranians subject to an asset freeze -- Javad Rahiqi who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran's Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center. Under its provisions, all 41 individuals are now also subject to a travel ban. The resolution calls on all countries to cooperate in cargo inspections -- which must receive the consent of the ship's flag state -- if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe the cargo could contribute to Iranian nuclear programme. On the financial side a non-binding call has been made to block financial transactions, including insurance and reinsurance, and to ban the licensing of Iranian banks if they have information that provides "reasonable grounds" to believe these activities could contribute to Iranian nuclear activities. But the Western media says that the measures are still far short of crippling economic punishments or an embargo on oil shipments, Iran's prime source of income.
The resolution of fourth set of sanctions sailed smoothly except refusal by Turkey and Brazil to endorse it. Both countries were disappointed that their efforts to broker a nuclear deal with Iran did not succeed. Brazil said sanctions would lead to "suffering" by the Iranian people, delay dialogue on the country's nuclear programme, and run contrary to Brazil and Turkey's efforts to engage Tehran. Turkish prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan called the Security Council vote as an error. He said, "We would not want to participate in such a mistake because history will not forgive us." Russia which due to its economic ties with Iran has never been enthusiastic in supporting sanctions, but merely joined other permanent security members in the vote but holds many reservations against proposed extra sanctions by the EU and the USA in additions to those imposed by the UN.
The Russian President Medvedev on June 17, 2010   said, "We didn't agree to this when we discussed the joint resolution at the UN." The Russian president stressed that Moscow and Washington should act collectively to have Iran back to international talks on its peaceful nuclear programme. "We should act collectively. If we do, we will have the desired result," Medvedev stated.

Iran welcomed the stand taken by Turkey and Brazil but criticized China, a friend of Iran, for supporting the latest sanctions. Putting aside diplomatic niceties, Iranian head of atomic energy, Ali Akbar Salehi said, "there was a time when China called the United States a paper tiger. I am perplexed that China accepted the resolution against Iran in the Security Council."

He accused China of "two-faced behaviour" in its divergent policies toward the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran. However, the Chinese ambassador at the UN expressed the hope that the sanctions were aimed at curbing non-proliferation and would not affect "the normal life of the Iranian people, nor deter their normal trade activity". Limited sanctions were imposed by the UN in 2006 and since then.

The three previous sets of sanctions against Iran were almost teeth less but the present combination of sanctions by the UN, EU and the USA are the toughest but it is altogether a different matter if Iran feels the heat. Whatever economic hardships may be caused by the fourth set UN sanctions and extra measures by the EU, the Iranian rulers are not expected to succumb to these pressures because their nuclear programme is considered as a national agenda. Though the opposition suffered many human losses due to repressive measures by the government but on the nuclear issue all Iranians in one voice would support the national agenda, no matter how many sacrifices they have to make.

A day after the latest sanctions by the UN Tehran threatened to review its   relationship with the IAEA meaning thereby that in the given situation to what extent they would cooperate with this agency. This announcement was followed a ban on June 20, 2010 on two UN inspectors from entering the country accusing them of reporting wrongly that some nuclear equipment was missing from the Iranian nuclear site. But in spite of ban on these inspectors, Iran says, it would still allow the IAEA team to monitor its nuclear facilities.
Diplomacy is the only logical course of action to resolve the stand off between Iran and the West over its atomic program. President Obama on many occasions underlined the need for negotiated settlement of Iranian nuclear issue. On September 25, 2009 US President Obama said, "We remain committed to serious, meaningful engagement with Iran to address the nuclear issue - we are committed to demonstrating that international law is not an empty promise; that obligations must be kept; and that treaties will be enforced". This was a policy shift by President Obama whose predecessor, Bush strictly conditioned any talks with Iran to unilateral suspension of nuclear program by the Islamic Republic. The present confrontation between the west and Iran has all the potentials of a long drawn conflict endangering the world peace.

There seems not much realization in the West that the sanctions would not cripple the Iranian government and the clergy forcing to suspend nuclear programme. Economic hardships would certainly take a heavy toll and by and large the common man's sufferings would enhance. After the June 2090 presidential elections it became abundantly clear that a large number of Iranians were opposed to the status. There were also expressions on internet for friendship with the people of USA. These too would be badly hurt by sanctions clamped by the UN, effectively backed by the US and its allies. This situation is likely to erode whatever fund of good will exits in Iran for the west the world peace.

There seems not much realization in the West that the sanctions would not cripple the Iranian government and the clergy, forcing to suspend nuclear programme. Economic hardships would certainly take a heavy toll and by and large the common man's sufferings would enhance. After the June 2090 presidential elections it became abundantly clear that a large number of Iranians were opposed to the status quo.

There were also expressions on internet and elsewhere feelings of friendship with the people of America and the west. These too would be badly hurt by sanctions clamped by the UN, effectively backed by the US and its allies. This situation is likely to erode whatever fund of good will exits in Iran for the west.

(The writer, a former Pakistani diplomat, is an analyst)








BNP has said that today's hartal is a protest against electricity and gas-water crisis, tender violence, grabbing of lands, tampering of the judiciary, sexual harassment in educational institutions, price hike, politicisation, termination from government jobs, etc.

When the hartal was announced on 19 May, the sufferings of people reached its peak in the burning heat of Baishakh sun because of severe gas, water and electricity crisis. Situation is not the same in the rain of Ashar. It is also true about tender violence, grabbing and tension on educational campuses.

The whole country is now carried away in the 'waka waka' of the FIFA World Cup Football 2010. People are only thinking of Messi and Kaka and no more. Uninterrupted electricity during the games seems to be their only concern.

Are the mass people ready for a hartal now?

However, even after so much ill-use and over-use, there is no alternative to hartal as the most effective tool to claim the demands and preserve rights. When our ruling party or opposition party declares that they would not call hartal in future, they do that for cheap popularity.

They never think that when the backs of people are on the wall, when they can't go to the court, when no one speaks for them in the parliament, when they don't get justice where will they go? Should they move from door to door to write and submit memorandums?

Hartal seems to be then an answer.

Those who run government in the developing countries like ours are either rhinoceros or the descendents of Kumbhokarna. Neither human chain, procession, seminar, nor the powerful hartal, could awaken them from their sleep.

Let us take it for granted that the hartal called by BNP is for materializing demands of the mass people. But are the crises of utility services created overnight? Will the hartal of 27 June improve the situation? Will the price hike be tolerable after the hartal? If no, what is the achievement of common people then?
Today, thousands of labourers working in different factories in garment sector are fighting for their proper rights and for minimum wages. The major foreign currency earning sector has become vulnerable. Those who are making their blood water always remain in wants.

If hartal has to be called it has to be called in the issue like this. But BNP has no clear stance here. They do not have any plan to remove the bad sides of student politics which is the main cause of tender violence and land grabbing.

Everybody, who is for or against hartal, should be very clear about all these. Otherwise, hartal will become only a political game. This is what happened earlier and for these unconstitutional or extra-constitutional government came to power. Last caretaker government is its glaring example.

If hartal has to be called at this moment, it has to be called to implement DAP (Detailed Area Plan) quickly, to rehabilitate slam dwellers of Dhaka, to plan to make Dhaka livable and implement that plan, etc.

'Hartal cannot be called' or 'we will never call hartal' etc. are the assertions of those who want to gain politically from it. It is better not play with the public interest because one cannot befool the public all the time and the result of this is not always good.

The country observed the result only two years ago. Careful thinking would benefit us all.







What a race the Brits! Amidst doling out regular drubbings to the rest of the civilized world for some three centuries - thanks in no small part to the Magna Carta and industrialization - they also took the time to fashion the well oiled, allegedly rational, supremely efficient, and unequivocally fine-tuned machine of public administration. A system so deeply imbued with the doctrines of merit and reason that it became a precursor for most efficient management structures.

It is also the predecessor of our current civil bureaucracy; more appropriately, its long-deceased spirit continues in the guise of our civil service. To a keen observer it comes as no surprise that our current Civil Service is the outgrowth of such a grandiose system: any system has to be created with specific care and profundity for it to go so abysmally cockeyed.

It would be an intractable endeavour to catalogue all of the ills that plague our current service, but one obvious problem is its recruitment process; I am not even alluding to non-merit based recruitment of political party cadres, or the establishment of special quotas for one group or another.

Any HR professional will tell you how difficult it is to find good people. HR managers in big corporations are always on the hunt for talent; they will coax, cajole, lie, cheat, threaten, and commit every other vice under the sun to get the right people to join their team. Little wonder then that big businesses keep getting bigger.
Our civil service, on the other hand, has already reached critical mass, so quite appropriately it uses the most antiquated methods to try and recruit its people. It hosts nationwide mnemonic contests (they pass them off as exams) for college graduates. It encourages all votaries to try their skill at committing to memory one voluminous tome full of otiose facts and nugatory titbits.

Most school level education in our country is based on rote memorized consumption, so how bad can it be to take it just a step further? It's bad not just for the structure but also for the content. In these exams the questions asked of participants are so archaic that they would befit the knowledge of a philologist.

If you are in medicine the query coming your way might have to do with the benefits of blood-letting; in physics you might be asked if Copernicus thought the earth was flat (on that note: every civilization that used the written word knew the world was round); in management the latest question might be about the Hawthorne effect, a pre World War II idea already discredited - and back to scientific management.

This of course works out as the best possible way to bolster the ranks of our civil service. We end up with the absolute right mix of regurgitating geniuses who can recall every past glory and have no inkling of the present or the future.


(The writer is an Oxford scholar, a global consultant and lecturer in Business Strategy)









A bill to revise the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's bylaw to promote the healthy development of youths has been voted down by the metropolitan assembly amid some controversy. Its main feature was to limit where a store could display cartoons and animation that depict the sexual activities of youths. Many creators of these materials feared infringement on their rights of expression.


The bill stipulated that cartoons and animation belong in the "adult corner" of stores if the materials "recklessly" and "positively" depict the sexual activities of characters presumed to be 18 or younger in a manner thought to hamper children's judgments about sex. The bill listed such factors as clothing, belongings, school year, voice and visual backgrounds as criteria for deciding whether the characters portrayed were 18 or younger.


In addition, the bill said that cartoons and animation that "positively" depict activities that run extremely counter to social norms, such as rape, should also be displayed in an adult corner, irrespective of the presumed age of the characters portrayed.


Opponents of the bill asked how one could clearly decide the age of characters? Clear-cut meanings of some sentences contained in the bill were hard to determine because of the use of such words as "recklessly" and "positively." The bill is said to have made many creators of cartoons and animation uneasy because it directly touched on how characters are depicted.


Defenders of the bill said that some depictions might lead children to think that there was nothing wrong with being involved in the sexual activities depicted. They added that since cartoons and animation with problem scenes could be sold from an adult corner, freedom of expression would not be infringed on.


The metropolitan government already has a system for restricting books and other items to an adult corner if the materials are thought to cause excessive sexual arousal, encourage cruelty, or induce suicide or murder. It plans to revive the bill in the future. The metropolitan government, though, should clarify why the bill is necessary. Wide public discussions involving both citizens and creators should be pursued.







On June 16, the last day of the Diet session, the Diet in a suprapartisan vote managed to enact a bill to give a one-shot allowance to Japanese who were interned in Siberia, Mongolia and Central Asia and used for forced labor after World War II. The new law went into effect on that day. Of some 600,000 interned POWs, 70,000 to 80,000 are believed to be still alive. Such an allowance — ranging from ¥250,000 to ¥1.5 million — will be paid to former POWs who were alive on June 16, depending on the length of their internment. The families of those who die later will be entitled to the allowance.


The law is significant in that the allowance amounts to state compensation. This is a departure from the attitude of the Liberal Democratic Party governments. On the basis of a 1984 report by an advisory body for the head of the Management and Coordination Agency, an LDP government refused to give any compensation to those who suffered from Japan's war in the modern era. Thus the former LDP-Komeito administration gave only a travel coupon or a memento worth ¥100,000 to former POW internees.


The Finance Ministry and the internal affairs ministry strongly opposed the latest bill, thinking that it will trigger other war-related compensation demands. Therefore a clause that called for the study of a relief measure for those from former Japanese colonies who became internment victims was deleted.


But Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama reportedly instructed the Democratic Party of Japan to push the bill in the Diet. Since the new law paves the way for possible government compensation for other sufferers from the war, the DPJ administration needs to quickly establish a coherent policy to cope with demands for such compensation. Many war victims, including former military sex slaves and sufferers from air raids, are getting very old.


Beside the allowances, the new law calls on the government to unearth facts about the internments in Siberia and other areas. Japan must get Russia to fully cooperate in identifying the burial places of dead POWs, recovering their bones and collecting relevant Soviet documents.








NEW YORK — Just about the time Yukio Hatoyama resigned as Japan's prime minister, apologizing to the Okinawa people in tears, I was writing about the last day of Yukio Mishima's life — Nov. 25, 1970.


I noticed there was one thing in common between the two Yukio's: concern about Okinawa's fate.


"What is Okinawa reversion?" Mishima asked on the day of what Donald Richie has called the coup de theater. "What is the responsibility for defending our homeland? It is self-evident that the United States will not be happy with Japan's truly autonomous military defending its homeland. Unless our Self-Defense Forces regain their autonomy within the next two years, they will end up as America's mercenaries forever, as the leftists say."


In truth, that day at the Ichigaya Army Base, Mishima probably failed to say this in his speech to the troops before disemboweling himself. Things hadn't worked out according to plan, and he was heckled and taunted in a manner he had not anticipated when he stood on the balcony and started to harangue. Helicopters clattered about over him. He was forced to skimp on his speech. But the script — the manifesto (geki) written on two large cloth sheets and hung from the balcony — had these words.


Yes, at the time, Okinawa was still a U.S. possession. Mishima brought up the "reversion" in the context of his argument that the SDF was unconstitutional, so for the forces to exist properly, the Constitution must be revised. He harangued the troops to rouse them to demand a constitutional revision. He had not believed for a single moment that he would succeed in any way, but he was serious about the Constitution.


Getting Okinawa back had become a pressing matter by the late 1960s as the Vietnam War raged on. One focus of Japan's antiwar movement of the decade was the U.S.-Japanese Mutual Security Treaty, and America was using Okinawa as its main base and arsenal as if it were its birthright.


The Okinawa people's demands that the U.S. return Okinawa to Japan had started soon after the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which came with the security treaty, took effect in 1952. The Occupation ended, and Japan became independent, but a special provision in the peace treaty cut Okinawa off from Japan to allow the U.S. to keep it as part of its territory. That violated international law. To counter it, the U.S. government issued a series of domestic orders to enable its military to do whatever it pleased in Okinawa.


From Mishima's perspective, the coupling of the peace and security treaties had put the Japanese military in an untenable position as much as Article 9 of the Constitution did. To that extent, he agreed with the antiwar leftists who opposed the security treaty.


Okinawa had a special meaning for Mishima. It was during the Battle of Okinawa that Japan used en masse what today might be called, with a touch of contempt, "flying suicide bombers." But to Mishima, then 20 years old, "the special attack corps" embodied a transcendental "annihilation of modernity."


Three years before his own suicide, in November 1967, the Japanese government had finally worked out an agreement with the U.S. government that included a future return of Okinawa to Japan. But the Sato-Johnson communique had not specified the date. That roused 70,000 Okinawans to protest.


Many, including those who know of the U.S. treatment of Okinawa as a colony, may be surprised to learn that it was not until a year later, November 1968, that Americans permitted popular voting — routinely promoted as the crucial means of achieving American-style democracy — in the selection of the head of Okinawa. The winner of that first election, Chobyo Yara, advocated "a total, unconditional reversion of Okinawa." Despite the august title America had conferred upon it, "the Chief Executive of the Government of the Ryukyu Islands," the position had little power, executive or otherwise.


The same was true of the mayor of Naha, the Okinawa capital. Ryosho Taira, who was elected in December to that position on the same plank as that of Yara's, served four 4-year terms consecutively, until 1984, and during his tenure he pushed for a total removal of U.S. bases, to no avail. The Japanese government, ever aware of its tributary status vis-a-vis the U.S., never helped.


Indeed, the return of Okinawa to Japan, finally agreed upon in 1971, had entailed the usual shenanigan: a secret

agreement. It was leaked, denied, those involved punished, but proved to be fact three decades later.


The only sad part of the story, known as the Nishiyama Incident after the reporter who got hold of the secret, was the content of the agreement: The Japanese government would take on the costs of restoring the lands vacated by U.S. facilities to the original state. The bases themselves stayed, and grew.


The secret agreement makes me dread: If the U.S. military decamps, two or three decades from now perhaps, it will likely leave its bases as sites requiring something like a Superfund cleanup. A recent example is the U.S. Naval Air Station in Alameda, closed a dozen years ago. The military, with its extravagant use of land and other resources, is known to be one of the worst environmental offenders.


Among the articles I've read on the Obama administration's callous treatment of the Japanese leader Yukio Hatoyama was one by Daniel Sneider for Slate: "Did Washington Bring Down the Japanese Prime Minister?"


Sneider, who visited Oura Bay, Okinawa, in March, described it as an idyllic place with "a postcard view of

green islets set in azure waters." If it becomes the relocation site for the Futenma Air Station, "the sparkling bay" will be buried under "a massive landfill covered with concrete runways, aprons, and sheds for Marine transport aircraft and helicopters."


It is Greg Girard who has voiced the core question. In his photo-slide essay on the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) for Time — titled "The U.S. Military in the Pacific" — Girard recalls going to Japan in the 1970s and, when he discovered large U.S. military bases dotting the island nation, wondering: "Still?"


That was 30 years after the U.S. vanquished Japan. Now it's 65 years since. Yes, the question, with increasing potency, is: "Still?"


Hiroaki Sato is at work on the biography of Yukio Mishima.








One thing is certain following the latest crackdown on suspected terrorists in the Central Java town of Klaten on Wednesday: The country's war on terror will last far longer than we may have thought.


The police anti-terror squad, or Detachment 88, arrested Abdullah Sunata and his accomplices, including an Army deserter, after months of a manhunt that began following a raid that killed long-time fugitive Jamaah Islamiyah figure Dulmatin last March and two more forays on a terror network in East Jakarta and the West Java town of Karawang last month.


Police suspect Sunata of involvement in a series of bomb attacks, recruitment of terrorists and a planned assassination of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and foreign guests during a scheduled Independence Day ceremony on Aug. 17. Sunata's group also plotted an attack on the Danish Embassy in revenge of the globe-wide criticized publication of a cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad a few years ago.


Police have now arrested more than 60 suspected militants and killed 14 in a series of raids since they broke up a training camp run by a previously unknown terrorist group calling itself al-Qaeda in Aceh in February.


Sunata's capture has enabled the Indonesian people to breathe a sigh of relief as the police managed to foil his plot of new terror strikes, but may also shed light on more perils ahead as National Police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri has hinted.


Bambang said the police had found that after the twin hotel bombings in South Jakarta in July last year, terrorists had changed tactics and targets.


The terrorists group will no longer rely on explosives to launch their attacks, not only because of more restricted access to the materials to assemble bombs but also due to the fact that bombs would kill people other than "the enemies of Islam" as well.


The finding of a training camp in the Aceh just before the ambush of Dulmatin proved the terror group had prepared themselves for the armed attacks. A police source said the terror group underwent training to operate grenade launchers they might use in the planned attack on state officials and foreign dignitaries during the Independence Day ceremony at Merdeka Palace.


To make matters worse, the supply of arms and ammunitions looks to have become more accessible now more than ever, thanks to assistance from deserted police and military members. The involvement of police and military personnel in the acts of terrorism should serve as a case for concern as the two institutions have so far been known for their allegiance with the state ideology.


The plot to assassinate the head of state and foreign dignitaries as new targets indicates the severity of terror movement in the country. We cannot play down the threats as the terror group did in 2000 when a bomb went off in front of the residence of the Philippine ambassador in Menteng, Central Jakarta.


No attempts to kill Indonesian heads of state has materialized since founding president Sukarno escaped a grenade attack in Cikini, Central Jakarta, in 1957. The attack, perpetrated by Darul Islam activists, killed 10 schoolchildren and injured 48 others.


President Yudhoyono now is on the top list of terror group targets perhaps due to his non-compromising fight against terrorism, which he deems as an extraordinary crime and a major threat to national security. As the chief security minister, Yudhoyono formed an anti-terror desk at his office just after the Bali bombings in 2002 and looks certain to approve the expansion of the counter-terrorism squad.


While the policy looks necessary to enhance the country's capability of quelling terrorist networks, the government of President Yudhoyono is facing a daunting challenge to eradicate poverty and injustice, which many say terrorism roots from.


Nevertheless, the frequent raids on suspected terrorists over the past year only underline the fact that Indonesia remains fertile ground for acts of terrorism that call for well-knitted teamwork between the central and regional governments to remove the threats.


The Jakarta administration is no exception.


The capital of Indonesia has seen a string of fatal bomb attacks perpetrated by the terror network since 2000 and will remain a chief target of strikes due to its status as the symbol of the nation.


On the commemoration of the 483rd anniversary of Jakarta on Tuesday, Governor Fauzi Bowo pledged to do more to improve residents' quality of life through, among others, better education and health services.


Home to around 9 million people, Jakarta has focused much on physical development, which is clearly marked by the construction of new skyscrapers and apartments that cater to the needs of the urban population, many times at the expense of the poor.


Fauzi promised to clean up the "unseen mess" left behind by his predecessors, particularly long-standing transportation hiccups and flood mitigation infrastructure. But security threats, including from terror groups, are too risky to overlook.


Standard security checks in hotels, shopping malls and public facilities such as airports took effect only after terrorists struck. There needs to be more public awareness about terror threats as evident in the loose control of neighborhood chiefs over newcomers.


Nobody knows when the war on terror will come to an end.


— Dwi  Atmanta







The World Cup in South Africa reaches its halfway mark this weekend. We have been enthralled and entertained by the matches (though some were admittedly dull) and kept in suspense by the endless buzzing of the vuvuzela - the plastic blow horn that produces a sound similar of bees.


The first round has had its share of drama, shocks and surprises. The biggest upset concerned having to bid ciao Azzuri and au revoir Les Bleus to 2006 World Cup finalists Italy and France.


Defending champions Italy made a humiliating exit after losing to Slovakia in their group's round-robin match. Two ties and one defeat sidelined the four-time champion from the quadrennial soccer extravaganza. Coach Marcello Lippi already said he took "all responsibility for what happened".


France had to swallow the same bitter pill. With one draw and two defeats, the 1998 world champion finished last in their group. French key players went on strike and striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting coach Raymond Domenech. This fiasco forced France's President Nicolas Sarkozy to "personally investigate the matter" and asked related ministers not to give financial rewards.


Half-way through the World Cup, we are witnessing that the soccer capital of the world is moving away from Europe. Even Asia is now starting to claim its place under the sun with South Korea and Japan reaching the final 16. This may be Africa's year by virtue of it hosting the football fiesta, but only Ghana is through to the next round to represent the continent.


Latin American countries appeared particularly convincing. Argentina became the first to score a full nine-points while Brazil - without their star striker Kaka, who was sent off earlier - remain strong favorites. The US, where the term football means a different sports game and soccer is more associated with "soccer moms", made it to the last 16.


It was completely the opposite for big European names. Three-time winners Germany started convincingly but flopped subsequently though it still made it to the next round. England, the 1966 winners, just scraped through. The Netherlands saved the day for Europe by winning their full nine-points.


For soccer fans, the World Cup has brought excitement and happiness. During the whole month, soccer has dominated the news all over the world.


In Indonesia, the matches are a welcome diversion and break from our daily staple of news on corruption, unrest, scandals and petty fights among our politicians.


For soccer fans, seeing their favorites advance to the final will be exciting. But just like watching movies, we need thrillers and suspense to make the competition more interesting. The success of underdogs will bring joy and ecstasy. Many in Indonesia who traditionally support European countries and followed their leagues closely are certainly cheering South Korea and Japan to go further and show the rest of the world what Asia can do. They will also cheer the lone African representative, Ghana, for the same reason.


Fans will do their best to give their support to their teams. As the World Cup is in Africa, it means blowing the vuvuzela hard. Some players and coaches have requested that the trumpets be banned from the stadium due to the noise, but the World Cup organizers denied it.


We only want to enjoy the game, including the uncertainty of it, until the referee blows the final whistle. With two more weeks to go, let's celebrate the World Cup and enjoy all the surprises and the excitement of matches. When we join the celebration of the new champion, let's sing together with Shakira: "... Tsamina mina zangalewa, this time for Africa".








A hysterical woman in Calgary, Canada, called police to report a burglary last week. The officer sent to the scene was Asian. Constable Charanjit Meharu, 37, listened as the victim pointed to the broken windows, footprints on the floor, and empty spaces where her valuables had been.


 The phone rang. It was her dad. Speaking in French, she proudly told Papa in detail how she'd faked an enormous robbery ("Je fake une robberie enorme") to fool the police and cheat her insurance company.


When she finished, India-born officer Meharu turned and said: "Merci beaucoup!" (which means "beg for mercy") in fluent French. While she'd been describing her methods on the phone, he had jotted down 10 pages of notes, so that he could try the same scam himself. No, wait, I mean, so he could arrest her. He told his colleagues afterwards:


"She didn't expect a brown guy to speak French."  Yes, brown guys are full of surprises, as a police officer said the last time I was arrested.


Asians love the French. We pay homage to the world's finest culture by adopting charming French traditions, such as keeping mistresses, smoking ourselves to death, breathing garlic on strangers, shrugging our shoulders when faced with a problem, spitting on the pavement, etc.


Knowledge of French recently helped Taiwan-based reader Danny Bloom solve a mystery. Why is "pho", the most famous Vietnamese food item, pronounced "fur"? Because it's probably from the French term for "hotpot", which is "pot de feu". Vietnamese for cake is "ga to" (from the French "gateau"), and soap is xa bong (from the French "savon").


Some Vietnamese speak a real-life "Franglais" dialect called Francais Tay Boi, which means "French of the servant boys." For example, if you pay your staff member late, he will say: "Vous pas argent moi stop travail!" This means: "You no money me stop work." (It's completely different to what real French people would say: "Si vous ne me payez pas, j'arrêterai de travailler.")  


One of Your Humble Narrator's mothers (my father had three wives) was French, so I picked up some idioms. "The carrots are cooked" means: "That's it, I'm outta here." "I have the bumblebee" means  "I'm so miserable." "Halt the chariot" means: "You're bluffing." "It is the end of the beans" means: "That's the last straw."


 I tried hard to use them, telling her: "Le carrot being totalement over, je feels tres bumblebee, so halt le beans not to mention le chariot, Maman." She thought I was mad.


Some idioms just don't translate. When Frenchwomen get annoyed, they say: "Ciel mon mari", which means "Sky my husband." And if you want to sound colloquial, you throw the word "cow" into your speech at random intervals.  Example:  "T'es vachement beau" means, literally, "You are cowishly beautiful." 


Warning: Guys, do not simplify this to: "You look like a cow."


Some French sounds Asians cannot make. The sentence: "Uncle, did your tea take away your cough?" becomes "Tonton, ton thé t'a-t-il ôté ta toux?"  


Here are common mistakes Asians make when speaking French. "Coup de grace" does not mean "cut the grass". "Moi aussi" does not mean "I am Australian."  "Pas de deux" does not mean "Father of two".


Bon chance. Au revoir.The writer is a columnist and journalist.








The daughter of a longtime friend came home recently after successfully completing a one-year exchange program at an American high school in a little town in Minnesota.


Her mother wondered why she looked so dark after the latest hard winter in the United States, as if she had spent a year in a place much more tropical than Jakarta.


She told her mom it was because she had had a lot of free time after school to engage in other activities in the open air. She reminded her mom that in Jakarta she could "hardly breathe" because of the mountain of assignments from school. Again, her mother could only wonder.


Indeed, Indonesian schoolchildren have a hard life. They spend the most valuable time of their life working hard to absorb things, having what is usually called "knowledge" rammed down their throats by their schools and teachers.


On top of that, our national education curriculum system tends to be revised each time a new education minister is appointed. People often forget that revising an educational system has far more implications than revising, say, a regime of national trade and industry. The high risks at stake are because, in education, one deals directly with the future projection of the human mind.


It is rather disheartening to note that the Indonesian national education system hitherto seems to be stuck in a quandary. We overburden our schoolchildren with redundant assignments, which over the years resulted only in uncompetitive students and workforce.


Nevertheless, the good news is that with a new Cabinet and a new minister for national education, not much is being touched with regard to teaching materials and procedures. Instead, work is currently going on quietly with the Board for the National Standardization of Education ("BSNP") toward defining a national education paradigm. The thinkers involved in the effort carefully launch basic questions at sessions and try to project basic answers about the very basis of education. The usual "copy-paste" technique of dealing with educational systemic issues to date is deliberately eschewed.


With due respect to the BSNP thinkers, it is indeed high time to go back to the essential concept of education. Being the crux of culture and civilization, education should be understood as a process, whereby the heritage of knowledge and capacity to live a human life as individuals intertwined in the collective fabric of mankind is transferred, obtained and developed (Abraham Maslow, 1908–1970).


As such, education, right or wrong, is always the core of the cultural process that only becomes more complex and complicated. Education "becomes" a process where the complex knowledge and capacity of the older generations is transferred to the coming generations, and thereby, become subjected to their own auto-selection (Ruth Benedict, 1887–1948). As early as the Chinese legalist Han Feizi (ca. 280-233 B.C.), who was convinced that each generation had its own way to cope with the challenges of their own age, unknown by the previous generations. Consequently, there is no need for schools and teachers to teach schoolchildren the particular nuts and bolts of knowledge and capacities to survive against nature and the evils of society.


Through the 65 years of Indonesian independence, we have been virtually in an uproar about where to start with education uberhaupt (at all). Yet we seemed to have overlooked Plato's (428/427-348/347 B.C.) basic principles of education (paidagogike). He was convinced that man should start with logos (the "mind") as it is the naturally inherited basic capacity of the human being to distinguish between right and wrong. The logos projects the ethics that bestow on the human being the capacity to take the good and avoid the evil, and finally the aesthetics that give the human being the capacity to choose the beautiful and reject the ugly.


With such capacities, the human being would be capable of cultivating itself toward autonomy in order to encounter the future abundant with unprecedented challenges.


Still, a successful national education scheme in any country would always bring about only a very limited number of crème de la crème local geniuses, who are to take the lead in various fields of our world. Nevertheless, a successful national education scheme would at least produce a people that, on average, is well trained to use their mind (logic), their moral judgment (ethics) and their creativity (aesthetic-poetic), all being indispensable capacities to cope with a techno-future.


As a result of the ever-progressing techno-science, future human society will be increasingly marked by plurality and diversity, as the human being cannot help but respond to the wave of techno-globalization, always in its own spatial and temporal perspectives. The next thing mankind will encounter with increasing intensity will be the friction caused by the diversity of values, as indicated by Samuel Huntington (1927–2008). Yet that is indeed what a cultivated autonomous human being is for.

Nevertheless, our concern for the future generations does not entitle us to set goals for them either. We will never know where history will lead humankind, nor do we know much about what will become of our own generation. The German existentialist Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) wrote: "the human being is always more than what he/she managed to understand about him/herself."

Consequently, what we may expect to draw up is a national education paradigm along proven principles and leave the rest to the prudence of the coming generations. The bottom line of a national education paradigm lies in its task to bring about autonomous Indonesian citizens capable to cope with unprecedented future challenges.

The writer is a professor at the School of Philosophy, Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung.





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