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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

EDITORIAL 29.06.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month june 29, edition 000553 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

  1. DECIDING MERCY PETITIONS
  2. NSG'S DUPLICITY EXPOSED
  3. INDIA'S EMPTY POLICY ARSENAL - AJAI SAHNI
  4. 'THINK-HUB' NEEDS A GAMES DO - RAM SHASTRI
  5. RISHI WHO FORESAW THE FUTURE - CLAUDE ARPI
  6. MARXISTS FACE CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  7. LAYING TO REST THE GHOST OF STALIN - GWYNNE DYER

MAIL TODAY

  1. KASHMIR NEEDS BETTER POLICE MANAGEMENT
  2. PAK ACTIONS NOT DIALOGUE WILL REDUCE TRUST DEFICIT - BY KANWAL SIBAL
  3. FOCUS ON THE STATE'S GROWTH AND NOT MODI - GIRIDHAR JHA
  4. CM NITISH'S POSTURING AIMED AT MUSLIMS
  5. DIGVIJAY'S DEATH HAS LEFT A VACUUM
  6. RAISINA TATTLE

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. A STEADY START
  2. CHECK CHAUVINISM
  3. TIES AND TROUBLED WATERS - BRAHMA CHELLANEY
  4. IT'S THE RIGHT TAKE
  5. A MISSED OPPORTUNITY - AJAY VAISHNAV
  6. RINGING IN THE OLD - SUMIT S PAUL

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. THINK GLOBAL, BUT BUY LOCAL
  2. AHEAD OF THE GAME
  3. FANTASY AS POLICY - FAREED ZAKARIA
  4. THE WAY TO GROW - SADHGURU
  5. BECOMING ROOTED IN DETACHMENT - VASANT JOSHI
  6. FILLING THE FISCAL TANK

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. SHUTTLING ON
  2. COUNTDOWN BEGINS
  3. THE TORONTO TEST
  4. YOUR KABIR AND MINE - PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
  5. ULIP MANIA - ABHISHEK TRIPATHI
  6. UNCLENCH THESE FISTS - SYEDA HAMEED
  7. TOWARDS THE NEXT DEPRESSION - PAUL KRUGMAN
  8. A WORLD EVER MORE ON THE MOVE

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. G-20 WHIMPER
  2. CAPTURING KARNATAKA
  3. SIDE EFFECTS OF FUEL PRICE HIKE - SAUGATA BHATTACHARYA
  4. EUROPE WAS THE CENTRE IN TORONTOMADAN SABNAVIS
  5. WHY CEMENT IS WEAKENING - SMITA JOSHI SAHA

THE HINDU

  1. LONG ROAD AHEAD
  2. IMPROVE THE ARCHIVES
  3. CHILDREN & THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES  - KRISHNA KUMAR
  4. ROLLING STONE'S DATED MARKETING STRATEGY  - EMILY BELL
  5. JAPAN'S NEW CIVIL NUCLEAR DIPLOMACY - P.S. SURYANARAYANA

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. G-20 ENDS WITH LESSER ACRIMONY
  2. AFGHAN UNRAVELLING? - VIKRAM SOOD
  3. DRIPPING ECONOMY - JAYATI GHOSH

DNA

  1. TORONTO TAKEAWAY
  2. DISHONOURABLE KILLS
  3. LOSING IN AFGHANISTAN - RAJEEV SRINIVASAN 
  4. BASIC INSTINCT OF CAPITALISM IS MISSING -  PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

THE TRIBUNE

  1. INDIA-CANADA N-DEAL
  2. TYRANNY OF CHANGE
  3. SAINA SHINING
  4. IMPLICATIONS OF KYRGYZ CRISIS - BY ANITA INDER SINGH
  5. FOOTBALL FRENZY
  6. NURTURING RURAL TALENT
  7. SHOOTING STARS OF BADAL VILLAGE - CHANDER PARKASH

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. IT'S MORE THAN JUST THE 'I'

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. DEVALUING RBI
  2. ONE STEP FORWARD
  3. NON-ISSUES HIJACK BHOPAL DEBATE - MICHAEL PINTO
  4. MCCHRYSTAL-GAZING - AJAI SHUKLA
  5. TACKLING SOIL SALINITY - SURINDER SUD
  6. THE EMERGENCY READING LIST - NILANJANA S ROY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. STRUCTURAL REFORM, PLEASE
  2. GAS REDUX
  3. NEVER TOO YOUNG
  4. AGRI-GROWTH AND MALNUTRITION
  5. BETWEEN DADA AND DIDI
  6. WHITHER MOBILE TELECOM INDUSTRY? - V SRIDHAR & G VENKATESH
  7. WHEN DIVINITY DOESN'T DELIVER - MUKUL SHARMA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. G-20 ENDS WITH LESSER ACRIMONY
  2. AFGHAN UNRAVELLING? - BY VIKRAM SOOD
  3. THE EARLY STAGES OF A THIRD DEPRESSION -  BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. 'LET THE MIRWAIZ COME FORWARD'
  5. DRIPPING ECONOMY - BY JAYATI GHOSH
  6. ROOTED ON ROCK & READY TO ROLL  - BY FRANCIS GONSALVES

THE STATESMAN

  1. TECHNOLOGY DENIAL
  2. SAVING THE ALLIANCE
  3. CONSTITUTION AVENUE
  4. RED RAG TO THE STATE - AJAY K MEHRA
  5. BEHIND THE LOKAYUKTA CONTROVERSY
  6. PANEL ON LANKA HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS  

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. FOR A FEW GOOD LEADERS - MALVIKA SINGH
  2. A LURCH TOWARDS REFORM - ASHOK V. DESAI
  3. FLIGHTS THAT NONE WILL FANCY - FACE THE MUSIC

DECCAN HERALD

  1. SOME DIALOGUE
  2. NUCLEAR BUSINESS
  3. EQUAL OPPORTUNITY - BY B G VERGHESE
  4. WHERE BILLIONAIRES CAN PUT THEIR RICHES - BY HAZEL HENDERSON
  5. ENDURING ROLE MODELS - BY MALA SRIDHARA

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. IN PRAISE OF NEGATIVE INCOME TAX
  2. WHAT THE MCCHRYSTAL INCIDENT TELLS US ABOUT US - BY SHMULEY BOTEACH
  3. OUR WORLD: ALTERNATIVES TO SURRENDER  - BY CAROLINE B. GLICK
  4. SILWAN – 'IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID' - BY MATI GILL
  5. RAISING THE STAKES IN SILWAN - BY BERNARD AVISHAI
  6. LEADEN THINKING - BY S. PULAKOW -SURANSKY

HAARETZ

  1. COMPROMISE AND QUESTION MARKS
  2. THE SCARECROW - BY GIDEON LEVY
  3. ANOTHER NEUTRALIZED STRUGGLE - BY MERAV MICHAELI
  4. FIRST OF ALL, ACADEMIC INTEGRITY - BY EPPIE YA'AR
  5. SCANDALOUS PLEA BARGAINS - BY GAVRIEL STRASMAN

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. THE COURT: IGNORING THE REALITY OF GUNS
  2. THE COURT: DENYING GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR INTOLERANCE
  3. THEY PUSHED BACK
  4. CROSSING NEVADA - BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG
  5. WRONG TRACK DISTRESS - BY BOB HERBERT
  6. BILL WILSON'S GOSPEL -BY DAVID BROOKS
  7. ROBERT BYRD, LIVING HISTORY

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON ON THE SECOND AMENDMENT: COURT EXPANDS GUN RULING BUT ALLOWS REASONABLE LIMITS
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON THE SECOND AMENDMENT: THE RIGHT MUST BE REAL - BY WAYNE LAPIERRE
  3. ROBERT BYRD'S LEGACY
  4. GULF OIL SPILL THROUGH THE EYES OF CHILDREN - BY BOB ELSTON
  5. SALACIOUS 'ROLLING STONE' PIECE ECLIPSED THE REAL STORY - BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. SEN. ROBERT C. BYRD
  2. COCKFIGHTING SHOULD BE A FELONY
  3. UT PLANNING TO 'MOVE UP'
  4. OUR 'LONGEST WAR'
  5. SEN. ROBERT BYRD, 1917-2010
  6. 98,000 PER SECOND!

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - A BALTIC LESSON FOR THE BOSPHORUS STRAIT
  2. WHAT DRIVES ARAB INTEREST IN TURKEY? - SEMİH İDİZ
  3. IRAN EXPLOITS TURKEY'S NAÏVETÉ - BARÇIN YİNANÇ
  4. ARE PEOPLE AWARE OF ALL PROBLEMS? - ERDOĞAN ALKİN
  5. I CONGRATULATE MUSTAFA SARIGÜL - CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER
  6. TURKEY, US NEGOTIATING OVER PKK IN EXCHANGE FOR IRAN - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  7. AEGEAN OIL, TROUBLE AGAIN? - ARIANA FERENTINOU
  8. 'CLOPENING' - YUSUF KANLI

I.THE NEWS

  1. IN DEEP TROUBLE
  2. PROMISED JUSTICE
  3. UNAWARE BUT SURE
  4. LITTLE CHANGE IN 'CHAOSISTAN' - RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  5. AFGHANISTAN: INTERESTS & STAKES - SALEEM SAFI
  6. HEADING FOR THE DEAD END - ROEDAD KHAN
  7. EMERGING ECONOMIC SCENARIO - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  8. RIFTS OR POLICY DRIFT? - DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. POLITICAL MISCELLANY - MIR JAMILUR RAHMAN

 PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. CONFESSIONS OF DIRECTOR CIA
  2. PAK DEFENCE STRENGTHENED, VERY MARGINALLY
  3. THE WOES OF S WAZIRISTAN IDPS
  4. PRESIDENT KARZAI'S BELATED REALISATION - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. NUKE PROLIFERATION & GLOBAL PEACE - LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
  6. GIFT OF THE GAB! - KHALID SALEEM
  7. PAK-INDIA FRIENDSHIP - ALI SUKHANVER
  8. THE SURGE AND AFTER - HARSH V PANT

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. REOPENING ADAMJEE
  2. TOURISM RESERVE
  3. FLY LIKE A KITE..!
  4. PM'S SOUTH KOREA VISIT BOOSTS COOPERATION - ANU MAHMUD
  5. STOP PLAYING G20 CHARADES - JOHN HILARY

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. TIME OUT FOR KEVIN MAY SIGNAL GAME ON
  2. A BADLY CONSTRUCTED INQUIRY

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. A CHANGE OF STYLE, NOT FACES
  2. GILLARD SENDS MIXED MESSAGE ON POPULATION
  3. … AND GENTLY ADJUSTS HER POLL TEAM

THE GUARDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF … DAMON ALBARN
  2. G20 SUMMIT: A MOMENT MISSED
  3. LE MONDE: JUDGMENT OF PARIS

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. THE MORE RUSSIA CHANGES … - BY NIKOLAI PETROV
  2. NO OPPOSITION DUMA DEPUTIES, NO PROBLEM - BY VLADIMIR RYZHKOV

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. PLAN FOR GENDER EQUALITY
  2. DEVOLUTION ON THE MOVE
  3. TURKEY WARMS TO NEW ROLE OF DARING TO CHASTISE ISRAEL - BY RAMZY BAROUD
  4. MARADONA CASTS SPELL AT WORLD'S CROSSROADS - BY CESAR CHELALA
  5. CHINA AND INDIA COMPETING OVER SRI LANKA - BY HARSH V. PANT

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. COAL MINING DAMAGES FORESTS
  2. THE RENMINBI APPRECIATION 'SHOULD BE GRADUAL - ANWAR NASUTION
  3. THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND POPULATION GROWTH - PUNGKAS BAHJURI ALI

CHINA DAILY

  1. PARTY DEMOCRACY
  2. FISCAL CHALLENGE
  3. ECONOMY PROGRESSING ON RIGHT PATH
  4. CHINA NO ANSWER TO WEST'S CREDIT CRISIS - BY DAVID ROCHE (CHINA DAILY)
  5. NEW GROWTH MODEL NEEDED - BY HU SHAOWEI (CHINA DAILY)

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. MORE OR LESS
  2. NC CALL TO MAOISTS
  3. PROJECT CA: AFTER ALL, WHOSE PROJECT WAS IT? - PROF. BIRENDRA P MISHRA
  4. TOPICS: DAUGHTER'S DUTIES - REKHA AHARYA

DAILY MIRROR

  1. TNA – EPDP TALKS
  2. 'EXTERNAL AFFAIRS' IN PERSPECTIVE
  3. POLITICIANS HAVE MANY MORE MILES TO GO  

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

DECIDING MERCY PETITIONS

PRESIDENT'S RELIGIOUS BELIEFS ARE INCONSEQUENTIAL


If media reports are to be believed — and they have not been categorically denied by Rashtrapati Bhavan so far — President Pratibha Patil is said to have 'informally' communicated to the Ministry of Home Affairs that because of her religious beliefs she will not turn down mercy petitions of criminals on death row forwarded to her. Seen in this context, Ms Patil's decision to commute the death sentence given to nine persons held guilty by the Supreme Court of committing heinous crimes deserving capital punishment into life term in jail, if influenced by her religious beliefs, is at once both outrageous and downright dangerous. The law of the land allows those sentenced to death to file mercy petitions to the President. Contrary to popular belief, the President does not unilaterally decide on mercy petitions. They are studied by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Cabinet takes a considered view, which is then communicated to the President, who either appends his or her signature to the decision or returns the file for a second opinion. If the Government sticks to its decision, the President is bound to sign on the dotted line or, if he or she feels morally compelled not to agree with the advice of the Council of Ministers, keep the file aside; in the extreme, the President has the option of resigning from office. It would be in order for the Government to clarify whether it had decided to commute these nine death sentences; if it had not, then it must explain why the decision was not reiterated and the files sent back to the President to abide by the Council of Ministers' advice. Silence won't do for under no circumstances can the religious beliefs of the President over-ride either the law of the land or the advice of the Council of Ministers.


The issue here is not whether capital punishment is morally right or wrong, or if there was sufficient reason to commute these death sentences. The death penalty can be debated endlessly on other fora, but till such time capital punishment exists on the statute book, it makes little or no sense to seek to upturn the decision of the Supreme Court, unless the Government is convinced that there is compelling reason which, of course, must be justifiable and have nothing to do with either religious beliefs or moral compunctions, to commute the sentence. This has been the practice all this while; of the 77 mercy petitions in the past three decades, only 10 have been considered fit for commutation. The larger issue here is of the undesirability of a President dragging his or her religious beliefs into the affairs of a secular state. Unless contested, this will set a dangerous precedence. What if India faces external aggression and the President were to refuse to authorise the declaration of war, which he or she must by virtue of being the Supreme Commander, because of his or her religious beliefs? Or, if a President, guided by his or her religious beliefs, were to place faith above nation? Or, for that matter, refuse to sign an Act of Parliament into law because it contradicts the religious injunctions to which a President may subscribe?

Since doubts have been raised, the President must disclose the reasons behind her decision to commute the death sentences. If she doesn't, the Government must make them public and tell the people whether it endorses them; if it doesn't, then the files should be returned to Rashtrapati Bhavan immediately. Meanwhile, the pending mercy petitions should remain untouched.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

NSG'S DUPLICITY EXPOSED

MORALISTS MUM ON CHINA-PAKISTAN N-DEAL


Any hopes there may have been that the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which met at Christchurch in New Zealand for its plenary session last week, would spike the China-Pakistan civil nuclear cooperation agreement which involves the setting up of two nuclear power plants at Chashma in Pakistan, have been belied. All that the NSG has said in a statement issued at the end of its two-day meeting is that its members "agreed to continue considering ways to further strengthen the guidelines dealing with the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies" to non-NPT countries. This is really neither here nor there and by no manner prevents China from supplying the two nuclear power plants it has promised Pakistan. If anything, the Chinese deal, although 'grandfathered' when Beijing joined the NSG and agreed to abide by its guidelines (the two new reactors are in addition to the two that were approved by the NSG in 2004 as part of China's pre-existing commitments and are claimed to be part of the same deal) has shown up the self-appointed watchmen of nuclear proliferation for what they are: Men of straw without either courage or conviction. Recall the several hurdles that had been raised by the NSG collectively and some of its self-righteous, sanctimonious members particularly, to block the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement after New Delhi had complied with every requirement to secure a waiver from existing guidelines restricting trade in fuel and enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Recall also how China had worked behind the scenes to try and stall, if not scuttle, the India-US agreement. The same NSG now appears to have quietly surrendered to China's decision without so much as a whimper of protest, leave alone raising valid questions about the wisdom of gifting a rapidly unravelling state with additional nuclear might.


India's position on the China-Pakistan nuclear deal cannot be faulted. While conceding that Pakistan has the right to clean energy, India has added an important caveat: Civil nuclear facilities in that country should be under IAEA safeguards and any deal between Pakistan and a country supplying it with either nuclear fuel or technology should be transparent. In the past, China has surreptitiously provided both technology and know-how for Pakistan's military nuclear programme; the details of such undeclared cooperation are public knowledge. Strangely, the US has been far less than enthusiastic in countering China's decision to supply two additional reactors — Washington, DC has merely (and strangely) conveyed to Beijing New Delhi's displeasure! What, then, explains the sudden evaporation of the NSG's missionary zeal? The most plausible reason is that no nuclear supplier, big or small, wants to rub China on the wrong side. There's a lesson in this for India.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

INDIA'S EMPTY POLICY ARSENAL

AJAI SAHNI


The pendulum has swung again between the two poles that exhaust India's foreign policy response to Pakistan's sustained proxy war and terrorism — from 'no talks' to 'talks'. On each occasion, India has been pushed to the first of these options by a major Pakistani outrage and has made stentorian declarations that there would be no negotiations till Pakistan gave convincing evidence that it was dismantling the 'infrastructure of terrorism' on its soil. Inevitably, after some months have passed, with progressive dilution of stated preconditions, and with absolutely no visible justification other than apparent exhaustion, negotiations have inevitably and unconditionally been restored.


As in the past, there is no discernible calculus of gain in the present restoration of dialogue. There may be lingering suspicion, once again, of pressure from an increasingly desperate US Administration looking for another carrot to throw out to the Pakistani establishment, without whose 'cooperation' the Americans now believe they can neither fight in, nor extract themselves from, Afghanistan. Indian 'concessions' to Pakistan have always been a card the Americans have played out whenever they set about to manipulate Pakistan's recalcitrant leaders to secure more than they can purchase with their billions in aid, or the coercive device of drone attacks on Pakistani soil. Significantly, several highly placed cheerleaders in Washington articulated great expectations from the talks, and have subsequently 'confirmed' that the present 'dialogue' represents 'a change in ties' between the two countries.


In case there could be any misconception on potential 'outcomes', however, a slew of statements from the highest level of the Indian policy establishment immediately preceding the talks made it abundantly clear that little of substance could be expected to materialise from this restoration of the protracted delusion of dialogue between South Asia's principal state sponsor of terrorism, on the one hand, and its principal victim, on the other. If anything more was needed to ensure that the talks were a non-starter, it was available in the clear and diametric dissonance between the declared positions of the two sides. India insisted that terrorism was the core issue that needed to be addressed; for Pakistan, as always, Jammu & Kashmir was "on the table".


It is evident, now, that the 'take away' -— the American influence is abundant in the idiom of official declarations — of the current round of talks would hardly meet even the most diminished of expectations. Some efforts have, of course, been made to project the restored dialogue as a major watershed in relations, but India's Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, eventually concluded that the 'take away' from the meetings was "the fact that we were able to talk to each other very frankly, very candidly and yet constructively". Beyond atmospherics, in effect, India has nothing to show for this cycle of its policy reversal after the suspension of talks in the wake of the 26/11carnage in Mumbai.


Indeed, for instance, Home Minister P Chidambaram had declared, on the 26/11 conspirators, "There is a mountain of evidence now; the mountain is only growing thanks to the new information gathered recently. Therefore, I would expect that Pakistan acts on the information given and brings to book the real masterminds and the handlers." The Indian establishment subsequently has flaunted 'assurances' from the Pakistani leadership that Indian charges against Hafiz Mohammed Saeed would be 'investigated' seriously (the surviving essence of India's current demands), but Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been quick to clarify that, "in a democracy, everyone has the right to freedom of expression"and that his Government could do little to rein in such terrorist provocateurs.


There is, in other words, absolutely nothing to distinguish the present and fruitless round of talks from the many that have preceded it. Indeed, if history is a guide, some of Pakistan's most vicious attacks have occurred during periods when India has been lulled into complacence by the easy assurances of the 'peace process', only to be stung again and again by Pakistan's terrorist proxies.


The essential logic of talks is that they are the only 'way forward' in a situation of intractable conflict. Such reasoning has immediate intuitive appeal. What, after all, is the virtue in not talking? Does it not reflect mere obduracy and an absence of political vision and will?


The reality is, in fact, entirely counter-intuitive. It is dialogue, in situations of relentless aggression, that reflects the absence of political vision and will, and an irrational commitment to a course of action that has proven persistently counter-productive. Not talking, in fact, does constitute active policy, exerting at least some pressure on the adversary, delegitimising him in the eyes of the world, and giving credence to Indian demands that other countries take punitive action against the offender, even as India is seen to have done the (very) little that it could. Talks, on the other hand, remove even these weak instrumentalities from India's empty policy arsenal, conferring legitimacy on the Pakistani regime at a time when a slew of independent reports and international disclosures have confirmed beyond any measure of doubt the complicity of the Pakistani state in some of the worst terrorist outrages, not only in India and Afghanistan, but across the world.

Patterns of dialogue between India and Pakistan, moreover, have tended to establish parity between violator and victim. From the Prime Minister down, leaders and officials in India have repeatedly articulated the vapid nonsense about both India and Pakistan being "victims of terror". During the present talks, the Foreign Secretary reinforced such parity once again, declaring, "I am conscious of the real environment in which we live and the fact that this relationship has not been easy. It's not been easy for either country."


Are we unable to make even the rudimentary distinction between a country in difficulties because of its own malfeasance, and another that suffers from a malignant external onslaught? Pakistan is burning, of course, but in a fire that it is itself stoking, even now, on a daily basis.


It is crucial, within this context, to recognise that, having lost the will to fight, the West is eager, even desperate, to be deceived. It is only through an insistent reiteration of evidence and the slow build-up of a case against Pakistan that the global leadership's desire to bury their heads in the sand can be countered. Instead, the Indian position has allowed this case to be constantly diluted, creating artificial divisions within state institutions in Pakistan: It is not the Pakistani state that supports terrorism; if it is the state, it is not the democratic leadership but the Army; but not the Army, only the Inter-Services Intelligence; but not the ISI, only some renegades; but not the renegades, only 'non-state actors'... And all this at a time when evidence is continuously accumulating to demonstrate that every institution in Pakistan has remained complicit in its support to externally directed elements of Islamist terrorism.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

'THINK-HUB' NEEDS A GAMES DO

RAM SHASTRI


The Union Sports Ministry and the Government of the National Capital Territory should urgently take steps to beautify Indian Coffee House which has had among its patrons: Nine Prime Ministers, two Presidents, two Vice-Presidents and 24 Chief Ministers.


The Coffee Consumers' Forum has appealed to the Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, that in order to avert closure of the establishment, the Indian Coffee Workers Cooperative Society running it must be immediately dissolved and a receiver appointed. The forum demands Indian Coffee House be maintained either by the Delhi Government or the Coffee Board of the Union Government.


Nine Prime Ministers — Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Mrs Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh, Chandrashekhar, PV Narasimha Rao, Mr Inder Kumar Gujral, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee — and two Presidents who were earlier Vice-Presidents, VV Giri and KR Narayanan, have been among the patrons of Indian Coffee House.

Other leaders who frequented its precincts include VK Krishna Menon, Ram Manohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan, Mr Balraj Madhok, Mr LK Advani, EMS Namboodiripad, NG Ranga, Mr AB Bardhan and a number of incumbent Chief Ministers, including Ms Sheila Dikshit, Mr Ashok Gehlot, Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Mr Nitish Kumar and Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.


According to the Forum, the executive committee of the Coffee Workers' Cooperative Society decided to close down its historic Mohan Singh Place coffee house. The Forum has demanded probe into charges of financial irregularities by the Society and its delay in vacating its Bungalow Road, Malkaganj, premises.


Claiming that coverage by international news and visual media is drawing tourists and research workers from foreign countries to India's premier centre for intellectual and cultural discourse, the Forum demands that following its immediate takeover by the Government, efforts must begin to renovate and beautify it in time for the Commonwealth Games.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

RISHI WHO FORESAW THE FUTURE

CLAUDE ARPI


Described by India's British rulers as the 'most dangerous man', Sri Aurobindo arrived in Pondicherry a hundred years ago with nothing more than a grand vision for humankind. Long after his death, the vision remains intact. And perhaps offers the best solution to the conflict between nations we see today


A hundred years ago, Sri Aurobindo landed in Pondicherry, the former French establishment. Who still remembers this momentous event?


Of course on the Centenary Day (April 4), politicians, eminent personalities and scholars garlanded statues of the master and gave pompous speeches; they recalled what Viceroy Lord Minto had said about the first proponent of Purna Swaraj: "I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with"; and the curtain fell on the grand function. I presume that is the fate of all functions.


But let us go back 100 years. On the afternoon of April 4, 1910, the Pondicherry pier witnessed a scene which will remain forever etched in history: A strict orthodox Tamil Brahmin, Srinivasachari, and Suresh Chakravarti, a 18-year-old Bengali revolutionary, shared a small boat to reach Le Dupleix, a steamer which had just arrived from Calcutta, carrying the "most dangerous man" onboard.


Perhaps due to old habits inherited during his British years, the revolutionary would not leave before having a cup of tea in his cabin. By the time the trio disembarked and boarded the rowboat waiting to take the famous passenger to French India, it was 4 pm.


Sri Aurobindo already 'knew' for certain that on a higher plane, India had already got its independence; it was only a question of time before it would 'materialise'. It is one of the reasons why as he set foot on the French territory he could consecrate his energies to help humanity take a new step in its spiritual evolution — a decision that many politicians in India never forgave him for.


Sri Aurobindo had come to Pondicherry to change the human nature. During the four following decades, his mantra would be: "All life is yoga"; everything, including matter has to be transformed and made divine.


Around 1914, he foresaw, "At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny... Man has created a system of civilisation which has become too big for his limited mental capacity and understanding and his still more limited spiritual and moral capacity to utilise and manage, a too dangerous servant of his blundering ego and its appetites."


He believed that "the burden which is being laid on mankind is too great for the present littleness of the human personality and its petty mind and small life-instincts" and, therefore, "it cannot operate the needed change" without a change in consciousness. It is doubtful if the garlanders had this in mind when they paid homage to the 'great leader', but there is no harm in thinking positively.


For several months, Sri Aurobindo and his companions stayed on the second floor of a house belonging to Shankar Chetty; Swami Vivekananda had stayed there when he had visited Pondicherry a few years earlier.


During the first three months, the young men remained inside the house day and night, it was too dangerous to roam the streets of the 'White Town'; British CID agents were watching!

Life continued thus during the following years, though rules gradually became less strict for the disciples who were even allowed to play football! Bengalis are known for their great love of soccer.


August 15, 1947, the day India obtained independence coincided with Sri Aurobindo's 75th birthday. It was a 'justice of history' for someone who had tirelessly worked for this momentous event.


The previous day, Sri Aurobindo had been requested by All-India Radio to give a message to the nation. He spoke about his Five Dreams.


The first was that India be united again. Will the present division disappear one day and at what cost? Nobody can answer this question.


The second dream was to see the "resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia". It is certainly happening fast.

Sri Aurobindo's third dream was of a "world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind". Many groupings such the European Union, ASEAN or, more recently, BRIC, are slowly taking shape.


The fourth dream was a "spiritual gift of India to the world". One only has to go to a bookshop in the West or look at the number of works on yoga, dharma, etc, to see that something of this has already been achieved.


The final dream was a new "step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society".


But life was not always easy. On the evening of August 15, 1947, goons belonging to a local political party turned violent and attacked some inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Mulshankar, a personal attendant of Sri Aurobindo, who had gone home for a shower, was attacked and killed. Nirodbaran, a close confidant of the master, wrote: "Sri Aurobindo listened quietly (to the news) and his face bore a grave and serious expression that we had not seen before." India was free, but the goonda raj had begun.


It was probably the first act of terrorism in free India. A few days later, Sri Aurobindo explained to the editor of a national daily: "There are three sections of the people here who are violently opposed to the existence of the ashram, the advocates of Dravidistan, extreme Indian Catholics and the Communists."


For these small sections of the local community, Sri Aurobindo had probably become the 'most dangerous man', just because he believed in a future humanity rising above ideologies, castes, creeds or religions. He was indeed the prophet of a new humanism. A hundred years after his arrival in Pondicherry, one should not forget his message. Sri Aurobindo had described this quest as "the adventure of consciousness and joy". It seems to be the most urgent task at hand for humanity.


If enough individuals would aspire for this higher consciousness, undoubtedly the process could be hastened and the world around us would begin to change. It is perhaps the only relevant adventure in the world today.


But there is the other side of the coin: Terrorism, corruption, discrimination, inequality, selfishness, opportunism, etc, that seem to prevail everywhere.


A hundred years ago, Sri Aurobindo saw that mankind was confronted with this "critical choice" if the human race were to survive.


Will humanity make this choice?


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THE PIONEER

OPED

MARXISTS FACE CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP

PLAYING SAFE RATHER THAN TAKING DRASTIC MEASURES SEEMS TO BE THE FORMULA OF THE CPI(M) IN WEST BENGAL. IF THAT MEANS THE 'POOR' REMAIN ALIENATED FROM THE MARXISTS, SO BE IT! THERE IS CLEARLY A LEADERSHIP DEFICIT AND NOBODY IS BOTHERED

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


The disconnect between the voters, or the masses, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is obvious, now that the bastion of West Bengal has almost entirely surrendered to the successful offensive by the Trinamool Congress backed by the Congress. The groping for a cause that will adequately explain the rejection by voters and provide a campaign to re-establish the CPI(M) after almost two years of experiencing the bitterness of defeat is a sign that all is not well, politically and organisationally.


To rectify the 'faults' or 'mistakes', therefore, is an exercise empty of substance. House cleaning is all that can happen, but rebuilding the establishment and renovating the structure is an entirely different matter. Nothing, however, seems to be working.


The decision by the Centre to increase the price of petrol, gas cylinders and usher in the regime of 'market mechanism,' in other words decontrol prices of petro-goods provoked the CPI(M) to arrange for a transport strike called by its trade union, Centre of Indian Trade Unions. In West Bengal, CITU's leadership admitted that the response in some sectors of transport, namely the free-wheeling auto-rickshaws, was flagrant disregard of the call. The CITU did not venture to use its cadres to impose the strike because it feared the consequences of doing so. The diminishing authority of the CITU was revealed or confirmed, given that in the traditional worker dominated places like Barrackpore or Baranagar the CPI(M) lost miserably in the recently concluded civic elections and before that in the Lok Sabha elections.


The price hike and the cascading effect on all economic activity, including household budgets ought to have given the CPI(M) led Left an opportunity to make a recover. The West Bengal experience would suggest that unlike the market, a short term recovery is not possible. There does not seem to be a mechanism through which a bounce back, even if temporary, is possible.


The recent grudging admission, post civic election results by the West Bengal leadership of the CPI(M) that there are organisational, political and administrative causes for the predictably poor outcome reveals just how perplexed the 'party' is. It also shows that the CPI(M) at one level thinks that tinkering with its organisational difficulties via rectification involving weeding out the corrupt, the overbearing and the ancients should be read as an act of good faith by the disenchanted but traditionally Left voters. The problem is that the magnitude of disenchantment in places like Burdwan district and the swing to the Trinamool Congress is close to a staggering 25 per cent.


Therefore, getting the State administration to 'perform' something that it should have been doing anyway is also a necessary but insufficient measure. The image of non-performance was constructed partly by the daily experiences of people through their interactions with 'Government' and more so by the frequently vicious attacks of incompetence and mismanagement made by ministers against each other.


The propensity of reappointing people to the same jobs where their performance had been less than sizzling only in order to save face at the cost of administrative efficiency has hurt the state Government's image and damaged the CPI(M). The vesting of power in persons rather than systems has contributed to the perception that whatever changes the CPI(M) promises or makes will only perpetuate what went before; things will remain the same.

Over the years, the CPI(M) established a closed system of leadership and distribution of power. The favoured established a network that resisted challenges and generated a claustrophobic atmosphere. Coupled with the fact that the favoured in many places acquired clients who had no political loyalty and formed a mercenary cadre, the ranks of the people's party were closed to those viewed as outsiders. The usual hostility for the out group operated within the CPI(M) as it does in the most backward rural enclaves. The discovery that nominating family to replace candidates affected by gender reservation in the civic poll now is confirmation that in so far as the disgruntled within the CPI(M) are concerned there is no room for upward mobility or even inclusion.


The CPI(M)'s good will among voters is a measure of its working in good faith. There are no recharge vouchers available for the party to provide instant solutions, as the CITU's failure to get the auto-rickshaws to answer the strike call prove.


Since it is unlikely that party apparatchiks have not figured this out, playing safe rather than initiating drastic changes is the formula that the CPI (M) seems to have decided upon. If that means that the 'poor' remain alienated from the party and that works to the advantage of the Trinamool Congress, the safe and cautious way is to wait. Clearly the leadership deficit is showing up as the question that the CPI(M) is afraid of asking — does it have the capacity to change and lead the people back to the fold?

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

LAYING TO REST THE GHOST OF STALIN

GEORGIANS HAVE TAKEN DOWN HIS STATUE IN HIS HOMETOWN OF GORI, BUT HISTORY STILL REMAINS DISTORTED

GWYNNE DYER


The Georgians took down the last statue of Stalin last week. There used to be thousands of such statues all across the old Soviet Union, but the Communists themselves tore almost all of them down after the great dictator and mass murderer died in 1953. They left the one in Gori, in northern Georgia, because that's where he was born and the locals were still proud of him.


Even after Georgia got its independence in 1991, the six-metre (20-foot-high) statue of Stalin continued to stand in Gori. But now, just when you might think that the Georgians would be starting to approve of Stalin — after all, he was responsible for the deaths of more Russians than any other Georgian, or indeed anybody else — they go and tear his statue down.


They're planning to replace it with a monument to "victims of the Russian aggression" in the 2008 war, so the history they're peddling in Gori will still be based on lies. (It was Georgia that started the war with Russia in 2008.) But the bigger lies will be told in Russia, and they will be told mainly about Stalin.


Two weeks ago, a group of politicians and academics met in Moscow's main library to discuss how to make Russians proud of their history. The answer? Get an upbeat history book into the schools. "(The book) should not be a dreary look at or apology for what was done," explained Prof. Leonid Polyakov of the Higher School of Economics.

The politicians were from Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party, and they wanted the academics to come up with a single history textbook for use in all Russian schools. It should downplay the crimes and failures of seventy-four years of Communist rule — the purges, the mass deportations, the famines, the gulags — and concentrate on the glorious epic of the Soviet victory in the Second World War, Which means they must rehabilitate Stalin.


Start with the proposition that the Soviet Union played a key role in defeating Hitler (true), and that the war was a heroic victory against great odds (false). This is the first place where you wind up having to give Stalin some credit, because he was definitely the man in command throughout the war.


Then, to justify the terrible cost of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and the subsequent civil war, and to slide past the purges and famines of the 1930s, you have to argue that those horrors were what allowed the miracle of high-speed industrialisation that laid the groundwork for a Soviet victory in the war. Once again, Comrade Stalin gets the credit, for the industrialisation happened on his watch.


It's all lies and distortion. The Soviet Union's population was twice that of Nazi Germany, and its industrial power and technology were not significantly inferior. If Stalin had not murdered most of the Red Army's senior officers in the purges of the late 30s, and if he had not stupidly let himself be surprised by the German invasion, the war would not have lasted so long and killed so many Russians.


As for the alleged miracle of rapid industrialisation, it was only needed because most existing Russian industry was destroyed by the revolution and the civil war: Industrial output in 1922 was only 13% of that in 1914. If there had been no revolution and no Stalin, and Russia had just started growing again countries after the First World War at the same rate as other capitalist, it would have been far too strong by 1941 for Hitler to dream of attacking it.


Russia's history in the 20th century was an unmitigated and unnecessary disaster: The first half tragic and very bloody, the second half merely impoverished and oppressive. Even today, Russia has not regained the rank among the developed countries that it held a century ago. What can one do with such a history but deny and rewrite it?


One can tell the truth. Germany's 20th-century history was also terrible, and Germans had to bear a burden of historical guilt for harming others far heavier than anything Russians should feel for the crimes of their own imperial past. If today's Germans can see their past with clear eyes and still feel pride in their present and hope for their future, why can't the Russians?


It's not a lost cause. There have been some encouraging instances recently of Russians facing up to the less proud bits of their history, like Prime Minister Putin's attendance at the ceremony commemorating the Soviet massacre of Polish prisoners in Katyn forest in 1940, and President Dmitry Medvedev's condemnation of Stalin for "mass crimes against his own people".


But the omens are not good. If the Georgians no longer need that statue of Stalin, may be there's a market for it in Russia.


Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist


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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

KASHMIR NEEDS BETTER POLICE MANAGEMENT

 

KASHMIR is on the brink yet again. With two people allegedly killed in Central Reserve Police Force firing in two separate incidents, on Monday, the cycle of violence in the valley shows no signs of ending. Inevitably, firing on protestors leads to further protests and more casualties and this cycle continues and intensifies.

 

This is a political problem and the use of bullets to contain protestors is no solution. In fact these are only a shot in the arm for those who have a vested interest in destabilising the valley. This has provided the opportunity for the moderate and hardline factions of the Hurriyat to close ranks and target the state government and the Indian union.

 

The state police's arrest of these leaders also serves little purpose and ends up giving them needless importance. Moreover, the killing of two youths in Sopore by the CRPF last week has jeopardised the position of the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and weakened the credibility of the National Conference. Acts such as custodial killings, fake encounters and firing on protestors also harm the credibility of the genuine counter- insurgency operations that the forces are engaged in.

 

The main opposition People's Democratic Party should have acted more responsibly.

 

Though in the past they have provided a safety valve for separatist sentiment, this may also have had the converse effect of providing legitimacy to the separatists' incitement to violence.

 

Encouraging methods like stone- pelting, even after it had led to the death of two civilians in April, has exposed the separatists' designs. Lacking a mass base, they are resorting to street violence for political assertion.

 

This situation in Kashmir is such that any of the political actors can cash on the turmoil. It is a concerted effort to take politics away from the legislature and the dialogue table on to the streets, where no sane discourse is possible.

 

Given such a scenario, it is essential that the security forces act with utmost restraint and responsibility rather than resort to triggerhappy adventures.

 

The paramilitary forces should only supplement the power of the state government and not become a law unto themselves. They should be provided the training and equipment to control crowds through non- lethal methods. Those responsible for human rights violations should be brought to book and not provided immunity through acts like the AFSPA. Not only will it be an effective confidence building measure, it will also mark a triumph of the law of the land.

 

Salute the shuttle queen

 

SAINA Nehwal's amazing consistency on the badminton courts in the last three weeks has made her the toast of the nation. At a time when the FIFA World Cup in South Africa has been the talk all around, Saina's ability to play top class stuff with the racquet and shuttle bears her out as one of India's leading sportspersons now.

 

From Chennai to Singapore and finally Jakarta, the three titles which Saina won on the trot have proved how strong she has become. Normally, even the top players take a break after two back- to- back tournaments.

 

Having beaten China's Lu Lan and then a clutch of seasoned pros, Saina has emphatically reminded herself and her mentors that she is truly a world class player. India has, of course, produced champions like Prakash Padukone and her current coach, Pullela Gopi Chand before this.

 

But in an age when fitness, speed and stamina count so much in a sport where there is still room for touch and finesse, Saina has got the right mix of everything in her game.

 

People who have watched Saina closely say that when it comes to physical conditioning and concentration, the cherubic Hyderabadi is a class act.

 

With the World Championship to be held in Paris in August, Saina is in top gear. She must recover all the energy she has burnt and be fit for the big event, where the pressure will be even greater.

 

The challenge for the Indian shuttle queen does not end there. Just after that event, she will spearhead the host's medal challenge at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and then head for the Asian Games in Guangzhou.

 

Now ranked No. 3 in the world in a global sport, Saina is a true champion. And for a nation obsessed with cricket, the new queen needs to be saluted for her conquests.

 

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MAIL TODAY

PAK ACTIONS NOT DIALOGUE WILL REDUCE TRUST DEFICIT

BY KANWAL SIBAL

 

IT IS easy to take the position that we must have a dialogue with Pakistan. It can be argued that as Pakistan is a neighbour, and cannot be wished away, we have to talk to it whatever the provocation. Not talking will not make it more disposed to settle existing problems, including that of terrorism. On the contrary, the absence of a dialogue gives those against friendship with India more room for their negative policies.

 

Elements of Pakistan's civil society who favour improved India- Pakistan ties and are concerned about the direction the country is headed because of its current policies get further marginalised if India refuses to talk to Pakistan. India's own economic development and global rise requires normalisation of ties with its neighbours.

 

After a point the policy of no dialogue gives decreasing returns and becomes unsustainable. Not talking to Pakistan also exposes us to international pressure as the rest of the world, nervous about hostility between two nuclear neighbours, wants the two to be seen talking.

 

Dialogue

 

But are many of the premises of the unconditional pro- dialogue votaries necessarily correct? Having a dialogue cannot be an end by itself. It has to lead somewhere.

 

It cannot be an endless process, unrelated to the emergence of results.

 

Talking to an adversary cannot be the sole content of policy. It can be part of an integrated approach, with alternative courses of action thought out, so that a desire to talk is not seen as helplessness, lack of another option, inability to take hard decisions or the result of external pressure.

 

The dialogue- seekers in India overlook the fact that India has already engaged Pakistan in a dialogue. Those who say on our side, echoing the Pakistani line, that we should now go beyond Mumbai, disregard the reality that the Indian leadership has already politically transcended the Mumbai terror carnage. India engaged Pakistan in a dialogue at Ekaterinaberg, New York, Sharm el Sheikh, Delhi, Thimphu and now again at Islamabad with Foreign Secretary level talks and those at the level of Home Ministers.

 

The Foreign Ministers of the two countries will meet in July in Islamabad.

 

What have these dialogue initiatives produced so far? Pakistan has been progressively defiant on Hafiz Saeed, who is free to pour venom against India.

 

Pakistan's reluctance to act against Hafiz Saeed is because of its unwillingness to take action against Punjab based jihadi groups. It is not Hafiz Saeed that is important, but what he represents. It is the political will to deal with these instruments of Pakistan's state sponsored terror that is under test.

 

In response to our dialogue moves Pakistan has enlarged the scope of confrontation with India by conniving at terror attacks against the Indian mission and aid personnel in Kabul. It has accused us of interfering in Baluchistan and even in FATA through our consulates in Afghanistan. It seeks a lowering of our legitimate presence in Afghanistan. It continues to harp on the threat to its security from India from the east. To all this has been added an artificially drummed up water issue. Public hysteria has been generated by charges that India is starving Pakistan of water through violations of the Indus Waters Treaty. Pakistan has begun talking again on settling the Kashmir issue on the basis of the UN Resolutions.

 

Internationally, Pakistan has tried to promote controversy over the India- US nuclear deal, seeking to present itself as a victim of India's nuclear ambitions supposedly boosted by the deal. Its Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament launched a diatribe against the deal earlier this year, arguing that it had created a serious nuclear imbalance in South Asia, and cynically used this excuse to block the discussions on the Fissile Material Cut- off Treaty in Geneva.

 

Outcomes

 

If we must have a dialogue with Pakistan we must also reflect on our bottom lines.

 

Otherwise we will be talking without a sense of purpose and clarity about our goals. There is confusion about where we actually stand on the issue of terrorism. At times we are ready to delink dialogue from terrorism. At other times we restore the link partially by saying that Pakistan must create an atmosphere free from terror for any dialogue to succeed. We talk at times about the need for Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism from its soil, at other times we lower the demand by asking Pakistan to merely take " reasonable" steps to put curbs on terrorism. We repeat as a mantra that Pakistan must expeditiously bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice, but tolerate Pakistan's delaying tactics in trying the accused. We flounder between hope and reality.

 

While a meeting between the two Prime Ministers at Thimphu was entirely in order, the need to resume the dialogue in the absence of any evidence of Pakistan's willingness to deal credibly with the core issue of terrorism was not apparent. Prime Minister Geelani's assurance to our PM that Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used for terrorism against india has been made public by our side, not the Pakistani side, and hence has little value. We are projecting a constructive Pakistani position, not Pakistan itself. Why? What is unclear is why we believe such an assurance, as it is the same Mr Geelani who some months ago said that Pakistan, itself a victim of terrorism, could not guarantee that terrorist attacks will not take place against India from its territory.

 

The External Affairs Minister was reported as having stated after Thimphu that Pakistan had satisfied us on our terrorism concerns. But the Home Minister's tone has hardened. He has exposed more areas of Pakistani non- performance and enlarged the scope of Indian demands on Pakistan. He has stated that only two of those arrested by Pakistan in connection with the Mumbai attack are frontline people. He wants action against the real handlers and controllers, including Hafiz Saeed. He has ruled out sharing intelligence with Pakistan as that would compromise our intelligence gathering, burying the much touted Joint Terror Mechanism. At the end of his visit he has sensibly talked about the importance of outcomes not assurances.

 

Trust

 

The stated purpose of the current India- Pakistan dialogue is to reduce the trust deficit between the two countries. It has been described as an essay in mutual comprehension. This suggests that there are genuine gaps in understanding that can be filled by talking to each other.

 

There is, in this perspective, no historical baggage, no wounds of partition, no determination to wrest Kashmir from India or make India pay for its wrongful occupation of the territory that should be rightfully Pakistan's, no obsession with parity, no religious animosity, no issue of revenge for Bangladesh, no vested interests like the domination of the military within the system that impede friendship between India and Pakistan. In actual fact, we comprehend well what animates Pakistan against India.

Trust can be restored if in the last sixty three years we had periods of trust in our relationship. Comprehension can be built if the differences were not of a well- understood, fundamental nature. Pakistan has to radically change its thinking and policies towards India for the current trust and comprehension exercise to succeed.

 

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary( sibalkanwal@ gmail. com)

 

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MAIL TODAY

PATNA DURBAR

 

FOCUS ON THE STATE'S GROWTH AND NOT MODI

GIRIDHAR JHA

 

GUJARAT chief minister Narendra Modi has received bouquets for his state's rapid progress under his regime. But he has also received brickbats for the ghastly riots of 2002.

 

He also happens to be one of the top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) who may even lead the party in future.

 

But is Modi more important than the growth of Bihar that has remained mired in the morass of underdevelopment for several decades? Can the developmentcentric agenda of the state be abandoned for the sake of Modi? These questions are haunting the minds of people in Bihar ever since the ruling coalition partners Janata Dal- United ( JD- U) and the BJP fought bitterly over a man who has nothing to do with the state's development.

 

It all began with chief minister Nitish Kumar cancelling a dinner he was scheduled to host in honour of senior BJP leaders during their party's national executive committee meeting in Patna about a fortnight ago. Nitish was peeved over the publication of a full- page advertisement in Patna dailies in which his photograph with Modi was used. He was so incensed that he went on to return a cheque of Rs 5 crore sent by the Gujarat government two years ago for Kosi flood relief. He did so because the advertisement had lauded Modi for helping out Bihar during the calamity.

 

This virtually left the ruling alliance tottering in Bihar. An offended BJP said that it would not compromise on its selfrespect while JD- U made it abundantly clear to its coalition partner that Modi was unacceptable to it. Both the parties looked headed for a confrontation that would have put the survival of the Nitish government at stake.

 

After a fortnight- long mudslinging, the tension gradually seems to be on the wane now. Both the parties are reiterating their longstanding partnership and trying to wriggle out of a situation that is undeniably detrimental to both of them. But was their ' ego trip' necessary in the first place? Which party, after all, stands to gain out of this controversy? Take JD- U, for example. Nitish chose to react to the ' ill- timed' advertisement because he thought it would anger the Muslims whom he has been trying to woo with a slew of welfare packages over the past four- and- a- half years. He apparently believed that JD- U would make a big dent in the minority vote bank in the next assembly elections.

 

The BJP, on the other hand, thought that Nitish was exceeding the limits as the ' big brother' in the coalition by dictating terms on the Modi issue. It believed that Nitish had no business to decide whether Modi would come down to Bihar for campaigning during the next assembly elections. True, it is entirely BJP's prerogative but why did it accede to JD- U's request and not bring its star campaigner to Bihar during the Lok Sabha elections last year? The JD- U says that the National Democratic Alliance ( NDA) had won 32 out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats when Modi had not even set his foot on the soil of Bihar. If the ultimate objective is to retain power in Bihar then the coalition partners should think of a joint campaign strategy, it argued.

 

Majority of the BJP's state leaders feel that Modi's campaigning would give a boost to their party's prospects in Bihar.

 

But is it worth opting for if it is fraught with grave political risks, including the possibility of ouster from power? Majority of political pundits feel that NDA partners may find it tough to regain power in the event of their split.

 

This NDA government has carried forward its development agenda in right earnest with both parties contributing towards Bihar's progress. Nitish has been vigorously pursuing his growthwith- justice goal. He has found ample support from the BJP ministers, who hold key portfolios like finance, road and health— the areas in which the state has made rapid strides.

 

But there is still a lot of work to be done in Bihar. The next five years will be crucial for its further development. The JD- U and the BJP leaders must realise that Bihar's development is too important a cause to be given up for a rank outsider like Modi.

 

CM NITISH'S POSTURING AIMED AT MUSLIMS

THE JD ( U)- BJP spat has brought the so- called minority vote bank back into focus in Bihar. CM Nitish Kumar's stand on Gujarat CM Narendra Modi is widely believed to be his well thought- out pre- election strategy aimed at wooing the Muslims who account for 16.4per cent of Bihar's population.

 

Muslim voters hold the key to success in as many as 60 out of the 243 assembly constituencies in Bihar. It is an altogether different matter that they have never been adequately represented in the House.

 

This is primarily because of the fact that parties have always fought shy of giving enough tickets to Muslims.

 

As of now, there are only three Lok Sabha MPs and 16 MLAs in Bihar who are Muslims, which is certainly not in proportion to their share in the population.

 

Since Independence, the percentage of Muslim MLAs in the Bihar House has never exceeded 10.5 per cent. In the 2005, it came down to just 6.58 per cent.

 

In the last election, the JDU and BJP had given tickets to only nine and one Muslim candidates respectively.

 

The Lok Janshakti Party had fielded 47 Muslims while the RJD- Congress- NCP combine had 46 Muslim nominees in the fray. But only 16 Muslims, including an Independent, got elected. The best representation of 34 Muslims in the assembly was in 1985 when the strength of the House in the undivided Bihar was 343. From 1952 to 2009, only 54 Muslims have managed to win Lok Sabha elections from the state.

 

DIGVIJAY'S DEATH HAS LEFT A VACUUM

THE untimely demise of Banka's Independent MP Digvijay Singh has come as a big blow to all those who had known him over the years. A suave leader who did not fit in the mould of the archetypal Bihari politician, Singh was not only popular among leaders of all parties but also enjoyed widespread popularity in his constituency.

 

It was largely because of him that a big crowd gathered last month at the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Patna where leaders from diverse parties gave a clarion call to oppose the Nitish government.

 

Singh had managed to convince leaders from rival parties like JD- U and RJD to share a common platform. This is why his death was all the more shocking for the leaders associated with the Kisan Mahapanchayat like Prabhunath Singh and Lalan Singh who were expected to float a new outfit ahead of the upcoming polls to challenge Nitish.

 

The death of Dada, as Digvijay was popularly called, has now put a question mark on the future of mahapanchahyat.

 

With his death, the anti- Nitish campaign may not gain the momentum he was expected to bring about in his lifetime.

 

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MAIL TODAY

RAISINA TATTLE

STUMPED SPEAKER

BIHAR assembly speaker Udai Narain Chaudhury was happy when he heard he would accompany his Lok Sabha counterpart Meira Kumar on her recent trip to Swaziland. The catch: Chaudhury was under the impression that he was going to Switzerland. His irritation knew no bounds when the delegation finally landed in the lush- green kingdom in southern Africa.

 

But the Lok Sabha Speaker was not amused when she heard him complaining to other delegates about the choice of her destination.

 

Last heard, Meira had given him a lesson in geography as well as parliamentary etiquette for running down a lesser- known tourist destination.

 

CHANGED PRIORITIES

LAST week's fuel price hike was cleared by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The AICC chief was reportedly of the view that it was the best time to go for the unpopular measure before campaigning for the Bihar assembly elections picked up momentum. She also wanted to take the step quickly so that it did not leave much impact on the assembly polls in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh to be held next year.

 

With the Opposition at the Centre in disarray, the Congress leadership encouraged petroleum minister Murli Deora to go ahead with the hike. However, conscious not to send any wrong signal to the masses, who would be hit hard by the increase, the petroleum minister avoided giving sound bytes to the media.

 

His junior minister, Jitin Prasada, safely restricted himself to talking with Doordarshan.

 

IS THE PM LISTENING?

THE ministers of state ( MoS) in Manmohan Singh's council of ministers seem to be getting restless.

 

The junior ministers want the Prime Minister to prevail upon his senior cabinet colleagues to trust their juniors and groom them for the future. Most junior ministers are virtually without work. The matter has been brought to Singh's notice but without success.

 

Three Union ministers, Pranab Mukherjee, Sharad Pawar and Kamal Nath, are, however, exceptions in the sense that their junior colleagues do not complaint about lack of work.

 

Perhaps it is time for Pranab- Pawar- Nath to run orientation programmes for other senior colleagues on how to deal with the juniors.

 

CHANGED PRIORITIES

LAST week's fuel price hike was cleared by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The AICC chief was reportedly of the view that it was the best time to go for the unpopular measure before campaigning for the Bihar assembly elections picked up momentum. She also wanted to take the step quickly so that it did not leave much impact on the assembly polls in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh to be held next year.

 

With the Opposition at the Centre in disarray, the Congress leadership encouraged petroleum minister Murli Deora to go ahead with the hike. However, conscious not to send any wrong signal to the masses, who would be hit hard by the increase, the petroleum minister avoided giving sound bytes to the media.

 

His junior minister, Jitin Prasada, safely restricted himself to talking with Doordarshan.

 

The unsung hero

 

HE IS not remembered as an ' unsung hero' for nothing.

 

P. V. Narasimha Rao's 90th birthday went unnoticed in Congress circles.

 

Initially, some friends and associates of the former Prime Minister, who passed away in 2004, had approached Manmohan Singh to attend a function in Rao's memory, but the Prime Minister quickly excused himself citing his travel abroad.

 

The organisers then decided to hold the function in Hyderabad projecting Rao as the ' son of the soil'.

 

REVISION IN WILDLIFE ACT TO SPEED UP TRIALS

BY SOWMYA AJI IN NEW DELHI

FOR nearly two decades, a haul of tiger bones and skins has been rotting at the Delhi wildlife division, while the case against the accused has been stuck at the Tees Hazari court.

 

Across the country, lakhs of similar cases pertaining to crimes against wildlife have been ensnared in magistrate courts because of the low priority accorded to these offences.

 

To remedy the situation, the ministry of environment and forests has now suggested an amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act ( 1972), which will remove one tier in the cumbersome legal system and reduce delays in deciding wildlife cases.

 

The amendment proposes that cases involving serious offences — including trading in protected species and their products or trying to manipulate the boundaries of national sanctuaries and tiger reserves — be fasttracked to the sessions court, instead of going through a magistrate's court.

 

" Wildlife cases, including those against poachers and traders in wildlife products, take 10- 12 years to be disposed of through the trial cases," Wildlife Trust of India vicechairman and senior wildlife activist Ashok Kumar said.

 

He added: " By reducing one tier — the burdened magistrate courts that try all petty crimes — the provision will speed- up trials and ensure the accused are punished.'' Activists have pointed out that in several wildlife cases, the seized material either vanishes from government depositories or rots in the long time taken by the courts.

 

" So finally, when the judge does ask to see the seized products as evidence before handing out punishment, the material is not there at all,'' Kumar explained.

 

Another modification proposed by the Wildlife ( Protection) Amendment bill is imposing stiffer fines for wildlife offences.

 

The amendment would make trading in critical species, such as the tiger, punishable by a minimum imprisonment of seven years and a fine of Rs 25 lakh. For a second offence, the fine is hiked up to Rs 50 lakh.

 

The stiff penalties have drawn mixed reactions with some wildlife activists welcoming it and others expressing doubts over whether the changes can be implemented.

 

Activist Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India said: " It is important to increase the penalties as the old ones were not a deterrent to those selling tiger parts. The traders make huge profits and the earlier fines were mere pittance.'' But Kumar believes that even the earlier fines were not imposed on the accused by the various courts. " It needs to be a figure that the society will accept and judges also find reasonable," he said.

 

One proposal in the draft bill which has unanimous approval is the ban on the manufacture of leg traps, which are indiscriminately used by poachers.

 

Wildlife researcher and activist Jose Louies pointed out that poachers carry any number of leg traps or manufacture them with impunity, as the possession of such an instrument is not an offence.

 

" By banning the manufacture, all the people carrying or using the leg traps will become liable for punishment,'' he pointed out.

 

CBI ARRESTS INTERNATIONAL CALL RACKETEERS

MAIL TODAY/ NEW DELHI

THE CBI has arrested a senior BSNL employee in Roorkee and an NRI based in Saudi Arabia for cheating BSNL of crores by making illegal international calls to friendship chat lines.

 

An investigation revealed that the accused — Ashok Chaudhary and NRI Sayeed Zaidi, allegedly the kingpin, — made calls to three African nations, Congo, Sierralone and Somalia, on premium rate numbers without an ISD facility by tampering the computers of a BSNL exchange.

 

Premium rate numbers are international telephone numbers for calls during which certain services are provided, and for which prices higher than normal are charged. Adult chat lines are premium rate numbers.

 

" International premium rate numbers of the three countries were taken by some persons in Italy and Saudi Arabia and passed on to the racket kingpin for making long calls from India through his Indian contacts," a CBI officer said.

 

Zaidi was also reportedly paid money through hawala transactions for carrying out such activities in India.

 

Searches were conducted at the premises of the accused and led to the recovery of incriminating documents and details of the money transactions.

 

Till now, transactions of Rs 1.5 crore by hawala have been recorded.

 

Investigations are on, the CBI said.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDIT PAGE

A STEADY START

 

The atmospherics and tenor of a diplomatic exchange can sometimes be as important as its substantive content. That has proved to be the case with foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and home minister P Chidambaram's just-concluded Pakistan visit. The standout feature of their engagement with their counterparts ^ Pakistan's foreign secretary Salman Bashir and interior minister Rehman Malik as well as foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi ^ was the careful cordiality displayed by both sides as well as a clear attempt to project an image of cohesion and cooperation to observers. When set against the fractious cross-border exchanges that have taken place since 26/11, these seem signs of a genuine attempt to bring about constructive engagement.


New Delhi's strategy in the wake of the Mumbai attack ^ suspending dialogue with Islamabad and thereby attempting to bring international pressure to bear on it ^ was a necessary one at the time. But it has reached the point of diminishing returns now. Given the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan's centrality to any US effort to arrest the slide, Washington cannot be expected to do New Delhi's work for it and sustain pressure on Islamabad vis-a-vis India. Given this, the only option left is re-engagement. And here, the model for dialogue that seems to have taken shape over the past week is a cause for optimism when it comes to the sustainability of this engagement.


The most interesting aspect of this framework is the clear division of agendas. Broader bilateral issues where the two sides might work in concert or where forward movement is possible seem to have been taken up at the foreign secretary level. Meanwhile, more contentious issues pertaining to security and cross-border terrorism have been taken up by the home ministers. By segregating these traditionally thorny problems from areas where forward movement is possible, New Delhi seems to be saying that it does not mean to let the former hold up progress in the latter as has happened in the past.


This is not to say that New Delhi should be soft on matters pertaining to India's national security. That both sides seem to have agreed not to doubt each other's intentions makes it easier to move beyond that first phase and focus on the modalities now. Chidambaram's blunt speaking in Islamabad with regards to Hafiz Saeed and the Pakistani government's movement on the 26/11 case is welcome. As both sides have stated, engagement is well and good, but its success will be determined by concrete outcomes.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDIT PAGE

CHECK CHAUVINISM

 

If the Tamil Nadu government wishes to spend Rs 300 crore on a five-day bash in Coimbatore to promote Tamil, that is its prerogative. But chief minister M Karunanidhi has gone much further, sowing the seeds of divisive identity politics. He has demanded that jobs be reserved for Tamil speakers, and that Tamil be made the language of the Madras high court as well as an official language of the Union government. Given our diverse linguistic identities, reviving the old language debate is totally unnecessary. According to Article 348 of the Constitution, the language to be used for the conduct of affairs in the Supreme Court and the high courts is English. This is because the cases that come up for hearing before these courts may involve litigants from across the country. If Tamil were to be made the language of the Madras high court it would be a serious impediment to non-Tamil litigants. Similarly, job reservation for Tamil speakers opens a can of worms, as other states can make similar demands. Another constitutional guarantee, allowing Indians to live and seek work anywhere in India, would go out of the window.


Tamil is already one of the scheduled languages under the 8th Schedule to the Constitution. To suggest that it be made an official language of the Union government is simply unreasonable. Tamil just doesn't have the same universality as English ^ the language predominantly used by the Union government. In the interest of the state as well as the country, the DMK should not walk the path of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

TIES AND TROUBLED WATERS

 

New evidence from China indicates that, as part of its planned diversion of the waters of the Brahmaputra, preparations are afoot to start work on the world's biggest dam at the river's so-called Great Bend, located at Tibet's corner with north-eastern India. The dam, by impounding water on a gargantuan scale, will generate, according to a latest map of planned dams put up on its website by the state-run Hydro China, 38,000 megawatts of power, or more than twice the capacity of the Three Gorges Dam. Such is its scale that this new dam will by itself produce the equivalent of 25 per cent of India's current installed electricity generation capacity from all sources.


Water is becoming a key security issue in Sino-Indian relations and a potential source of enduring discord. China and India already are water-stressed economies. The spread of irrigated farming and water-intensive industries, together with the demands of a rising middle class, have led to a severe struggle for more water. Indeed, both countries have entered an era of perennial water scarcity, which before long is likely to equal, in terms of per capita availability, the water shortages found in the Middle East.


Rapid economic growth could slow in the face of acute scarcity if demand for water continues to grow at its current frantic pace, turning China and India ^ both food-sufficient countries by and large ^ into major importers, a development that would accentuate the global food crisis. Even though India has more arable land than China does ^ 160.5 million hectares compared to 137.1 million hectares ^ the source of most major Indian rivers is Chinese-controlled Tibet. The Tibetan plateau's vast glaciers, huge underground springs and high altitude make Tibet the world's largest freshwater repository. Indeed, all of Asia's major rivers, except the Ganges, originate in the Chinese-held Tibetan plateau. Even the Ganges' main tributaries flow in from Tibet.

But China is now pursuing major inter-basin and inter-river water transfer projects on the Tibetan plateau, which threatens to diminish international-river flows into India and other co-riparian states. China's opaquely pursued hydro-engineering projects in Tibet threaten the interests of India more than those of any other country. The greatest impact of the diversion of the Brahmaputra waters, however, would probably be borne by Bangladesh.

The Brahmaputra is Bangladesh's most important river, and the Chinese diversion would mean environmental devastation of large parts of Bangladesh. In fact, China is presently pursuing a separate cascade of major dams on the Mekong, the Salween, the Brahmaputra and the Irtysh-Illy, pitting it in water disputes with most of its riparian neighbours ^ from Kazakhstan and Russia to India and the countries of the Indochina peninsula.

In March 2009, the chairman of the Tibetan regional government unveiled plans for major new dams on the Brahmaputra. A series of six big dams will come up in the upper-middle reaches of the Brahmaputra, to the south-east of Lhasa, with construction of the first ^ Zangmu ^ having begun in 2009 itself. As part of this cascade, four other new dams will come up downstream from Zangmu at Jiacha, Lengda, Zhongda and Langzhen. The sixth, at Jiexu, is upstream to Zangmu. This cascade is in addition to more than a dozen smaller dams that China has already built on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, including at Yamdrok Tso, Pangduo, Nyingtri-Payi and Drikong.


The most ominous plan China is pursuing is the one to reroute a sizable chunk of the Brahmaputra waters northwards at the Great Bend, the point where the river makes a sharp turn to enter India, creating in the process a canyon larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon in the US. The rapid infrastructure work in this area is clearly geared at such water diversion and hydropower generation. In fact, a new Chinese state grid map showing that the Great Bend area will soon be connected to the rest of China's power supply is a pointer to the impending launch of work on the mammoth dam there ^ a scheme recently supported by leaders of China's state-run hydropower industry, including Zhang Boting, the deputy general secretary of the Chinese Society for Hydropower Engineering.


Through its giant projects in Tibet, China is actually set to acquire the capability to fashion water as a political weapon against India. Such a weapon can be put to overt use in war or employed subtly in peacetime so that the level of cross-border water flows becomes a function of political concession.


With China determined to exploit its riparian dominance, New Delhi's self-injurious acceptance of Tibet as part of China is becoming more apparent. Just as India has retreated to an increasingly defensive position territorially, with the spotlight on China's Tibet-linked claim to Arunachal Pradesh than on Tibet's status itself, New Delhi's policy straitjacket precludes an Indian diplomatic campaign against Beijing's dam-building projects. Accepting Tibet and the developments there as China's "internal" affairs has proven a huge misstep that will continue to exact increasing costs. A bold, forward-looking leadership, though, can rectify any past mistake before it becomes too late.


The writer is professor, Centre for Policy Research.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

IT'S THE RIGHT TAKE

 

Popular anger lingers over post-Lehman taxpayer-funded rescues of failing financial institutions. Still, G20 members have rightly resisted a punitive global bank tax proposed by some European powers. The Toronto summit hit upon a 'compromise': individual nations will decide whether to impose such levy as insurance against teetering banks. UK, France and Germany had argued for creating a global corpus of funds for future bailouts. UK's chancellor of the exchequer had even said, "Banks started the crisis and they should pay." Only, not all banks are guilty as charged. Making performing ones pay for others' recklessness would be patently unfair.

It's wrong to contend that if banks were taxed, they'd be more responsible and prudent. On the contrary, with everybody carrying the can for the potential mistakes of some, all banks would be incentivised to flout best practices, secure in the knowledge they'd be thrown a readymade lifeline when their boat sprang a leak. India has rightly said the world instead needs more effective oversight of banks, be it on due diligence or capital adequacy. Showcasing a healthy financial sector, it naturally opposed a universal bank levy. Countries like Canada, Brazil and Japan have also done so for their own valid reasons.


Adoption or otherwise of one-size-fits-all proposals can't be seen as a 'test' of G20's commitment to finding common solutions to global problems. Yes, G20 as a multilateral platform upholds the principles of economic solidarity and interdependence. But it was never meant to punish countries that didn't cause the 2008 global meltdown for the errors of those who did. G20 members must guard against pushing controversial initiatives that appear to impose conditions on others for their participation in global decision-making. The rifts that result can only weaken the forum.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

It is unfortunate that the G20 summit in Toronto has failed to adopt the Europe-backed plan to introduce a global bank tax. The tax could fulfil twin objectives. First, it would create an insurance-like fund against unforeseen future risks in the global banking system. Second, it would somewhat compensate for taxpayers' money spent on bailout packages after the 2008 global economic downturn. Both objectives need to be achieved if the global economy is to be righted.


Sure, nations must also act on their own. The US has announced a unilateral levy on its banks since January this year. Similarly, key European economies like Germany, France and the UK also support the idea. So does the IMF. But these are individual standpoints whereas the issue requires a concerted global response. The transnational nature of banks and their operations necessitates a universal regime, which the tax would ensure.


G20 is a multilateral forum created explicitly to promote open and constructive discussion between advanced and emerging-market countries on key global economic issues. It was expected to take up the call for a universal bank tax. The opposition of Canada, Japan, Australia and BRIC nations on the ground that their banks required no bailouts during the crisis is an ostrich-like approach. Who knows, their banks could be in trouble in future and they would gain from having access to such a fund. In India's case, over-regulation of banks ^ which may have staved off trouble for now ^ has its own drawbacks as it stands in the way of the financial sector's expansion. Banking reforms are inevitable with closer integration with the global economy. At that point, it would be nice to have a fund handy to ensure against future risks.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

RINGING IN THE OLD

SUMIT S PAUL

 

Time is running out for the traditional alarm clock, thanks to the technological miracle called the mobile phone. According to a UK poll of nearly 1,500 people, the timepiece that charts its origins back to ancient China is on its way to disappearing from people's bedside cabinets. The study found that of those polled, 82 per cent owned a mobile phone, with over half of them using it as an alarm clock.


Like radios and typewriters, (alarm) clocks will soon be tossed into the dustbin of history. Even wristwatches are fast losing their prime purpose because all mobiles have the facility to display the exact time. Wristwatches are now more of a fashion statement, acting as ornamental accessories. A new invention always pushes back the old one. Remember the fate of the pager. Does anyone still use it? Pager companies that existed till 2001 are defunct as the mobile phone replaced the pager in such a sweeping manner that people don't even remember that there was a time, not long back, when pagers ruled the roost. Tape-recorders, two-in-ones and the walkman all met with the same fate. DVDs, MP3s, the iPod, Blackberry and laptop also have a certain lifespan after which they will fade into oblivion and be replaced by something technologically more sophisticated.


A few days back, i stumbled upon a roadside vendor's huge cassette collection in Mumbai. Surprised, i asked him whether there were people who still bought cassettes. He said, "Yes, but not for listening purposes." "Then what on earth do they buy cassettes for?" i asked him. His reply was a revelation. He enlightened me that villagers from nearby villages and towns came and purchased cassettes in bulk to use the zinc tapes to polish their wares and shine leather to give it a smooth look. The tanneries in Kanpur, Kolhapur (for Kolhapuri chappals) and Kolkata's China Town use discarded audio cassettes for this purpose, i'm told. It seems a write-up on this phenomenon also appeared in a foreign newspaper a couple of years back. What an innovation, i thought. It reminded me of a very intelligent way of using old washing machines as mixers in a northern state in India! People in that state continue to use washing machines in this way even today. Nothing should be wasted is their philosophy. And in a small town, Azra, in Pakistan's restive North-West Frontier Province, there was a restaurant called 'Gramophone restaurant'. The food there used to be served on discarded LP records now used as plates! Nowhere have i found such an innovative use of LP records.


Meanwhile, in a Venice restaurant, vintage cars from the 1930s and 1940s serve as cabins for the patrons. The once ubiquitous typewriter is now used in an old-age home in Panaji, Goa, where the constant tapping of the keys sends insomniacs among the old people to sleep! A man has been especially appointed to work on the antediluvian machine. As has been observed before, nostalgic memories and images are the best lullabies. And when we talk of our uncanny fascination for old things, how can one forget the bell-bottoms of the early 1970s? A tailor ^ sorry, a sartorial expert ^ in Kolkata still has a few regular customers, who come to him for Amitabh Bachchan-style bell-bottoms. They don't seem to want to come out of that era when bell-bottoms did as much good a job cleaning the roads as they did lending a trendy look.


It wouldn't be surprising if we innovative Indians find a novel way of utilising clocks that are no longer needed. People might hurl them at players and politicians instead of stones, tomatoes and eggs, when bored with the proceedings.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OURTAKE

THINK GLOBAL, BUT BUY LOCAL

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has articulated the consensus view at the Toronto meeting of the G20 economies that produce nearly nine-tenths of the world's output. His call for a country-specific approach to winding down expansionary fiscal policies undertaken after the 2008 meltdown has been endorsed by the group. Coordinated pump priming had its merit — the world managed to spend itself out of the biggest slump in nearly a century — but a synchronised exit risks jeopardising the fragile global recovery. In the event, the summit did set out deficit reduction targets for the advanced G20 countries, but allowed national governments the freedom to decide on the pace.

G20 countries committed nearly $2 trillion to stimulus measures immediately following the financial crisis, which, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) study reckons, could add 1.2-4.7 percentage points to the bloc's output in 2009 and 0.1-1 percentage point in 2010. But this process is not painless — the public debt in the G20 will climb from 62 per cent of its GDP in 2007 to 82 per cent in 2010. The cost of servicing this debt is vital in decisions to roll back fiscal stimuli. Premature withdrawal of government spending risks nipping the recovery in the bud; on the other hand, if governments continue to pump more money than is needed, rising interest rates will undermine whatever revival has been achieved. Since countries are at different points on the turnaround graph, fiscal rollbacks must occur at different times. When they do, they will have to be large: to regain its 2007 position, the world needs to bring down its fiscal deficit from 7 per cent to under 1 per cent, a process, the IMF paper says, that could drag on beyond 2016. The Toronto meeting threw up two dates: 2013, by when the advanced economies will try to halve their deficits; and 2016 by when they should begin to stabilise their public debt ratios.

Mr Singh's second point about developing countries adjusting to the new reality of softer demand in the advanced nations is a theme being played out in think-tanks across the globe. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, emerging economies are holding $5.4 trillion in foreign currency reserves, nearly twice as much the amount held by rich countries. This amount represents the consumption the developing countries have forgone in their effort to flood the West with cheap goods. Mr Singh has offered a way out by suggesting emerging economies allow their currencies

to float in transition to a greater share of domestic demand for their output. The onus on the rich nations is to keep capital flows intact during this transition.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

AHEAD OF THE GAME

In sports, there's something special about scoring a hat-trick: it catapults a player into a different league that only a very few are lucky to enter. So world number 3 Saina Nehwal has every reason to feel immensely proud of her superlative performance in Jakarta on Sunday where she won the Indonesian Open. This was Nehwal's third straight win in June 2010, the other two being the Indian Open and the Singapore Open. Her wins, as one author wrote, rekindle the memories of 1980 when another illustrious shuttler Prakash Padukone won three titles on the trot to clinch the top spot. That coveted spot is now surely well within Nehwal's reach.

If there's someone who is acutely aware of the promise that the future holds for her, it is probably the champion herself. Yet, she isn't overly focused on her rankings. Nehwal, rightly, feels that the quality of her game should be club-class and everything will follow. Her mature handling of her victories, as well as defeats, only show that she's cool and pragmatic. You'll never catch her whining about the lack of infrastructure in India or that the cricketers manage to hog the limelight all the time. Her focus on improving her performance is the hallmark of her strategy as well as her personality, which, of course, has been honed by another badminton star and her coach, P. Gopichand.

Many feel that the absence of top Chinese players in these tournaments may have helped Nehwal and that last year she missed the China Open because it could have lowered her rankings. But let's not forget that there's something called strategy and it's as important as the game itself. As for the other tournaments, it's not her fault that the Chinese did a no-show. Moreover, it's not that she can avoid playing the Chinese forever. Let's judge her on it when she comes to that point, not before it. Meanwhile, let's raise a toast to her latest on-court exploits.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

FANTASY AS POLICY

FAREED ZAKARIA

As Barack Obama goes through one of his most difficult periods as president, you might wonder what it would have been like if the other guy had won. We will never know, of course, but in one area, John McCain provides us with some clues. He would have tried to overthrow the government of Iran. In a speech on June 10, later published as a cover essay in The New Republic, McCain urged that we "unleash America's full moral power" to topple the Tehran regime. The speech highlights one of the crucial failings of McCain's world view, one in which rhetoric replaces analysis, and fantasy substitutes for foreign policy.

By now, it's become something of a mantra among neo-conservatives that we missed a chance to transform Iran a year ago. Reuel Marc Gerecht, writing in The New York Times, compares Iran's Green Movement to "what transpired behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s" and accuses Obama of being passive in the face of this historical moment. Bret Stephens, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, imagines that a more forceful Western response could have set off a revolution.

I have been deeply supportive of Iran's Green Movement. I wrote glowingly about it, highlighted it on television, and showcased its advocates. But I do not think there is much evidence that it was likely to overthrow the Iranian regime. To believe that, one has to believe that the government in Tehran is deeply unpopular with a majority of Iranians, holds onto power through military force alone, and is thus vulnerable to a movement that could mobilise the vast majority in Iran who despise it. None of this is entirely true.

The Iranian regime has many, many opponents. But it also has millions of supporters. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have actually lost the presidential election of 2009. But it was a close contest in which he got millions of votes. What little polling has been done in Iran, coupled with the observations of people who have been there, all suggest that the regime has considerable public support in rural areas, among the devout, and in poorer communities. Newsweek's Maziar Bahari, who was jailed by the government for four months on trumped-up charges, believes that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah

Ali Khamenei, remains the single most popular political figure in Iran.

McCain reveals a startling ignorance about the Iranian regime when he argues, in his speech, that it "spends its people's precious resources not on roads, or schools, or hospitals, or jobs that benefit all Iranians — but on funding violent groups of foreign extremists who murder the innocent". While Tehran does fund militant groups, one of the keys to Ahmadinejad's popularity has been his large-scale spending on social programmes for the poor. The regime lays out far more money on those domestic programmes than on anything abroad.

The comparison of Iran's Green Revolution to the velvet revolutions of Eastern Europe is mistaken. In 1989 dissidents had three forces on their side: nationalism (because communism had been imposed by force by a foreign power), religion (because communism repressed the church), and democracy. The Green Movement has only one: democracy. The regime has always used the religiosity of the people to its advantage. But it's also become skilled at manipulating nationalism.

In May, the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty was awarded to Akbar Ganji, one of the bravest advocates of nonviolent agitation and secular democracy for Iran. Ganji was jailed for six years in Evin Prison, mostly in solitary confinement, for his writings against the government. In his acceptance speech, Ganji explained that US foreign policy does have an impact on Iran's freedom movement but not quite in the sense that neo-conservatives mean.

"Even entertaining the possibility of a military strike, especially when predicated on the nuclear issue," Ganji said, "is beneficial to the fundamentalists who rule Iran. As such, the idea itself is detrimental to the democratic movement in my country". The regime bends international issues to its favour, and has become vocal about what Ganji calls the "gushing wound of Palestine… [which] worsens the infection of fundamentalism." He pointed out that Tehran continually reminds Iranians of America's "double standards" in opposing Iran's nuclear programme while staying silent about Israel's arsenal of atomic weapons.

Ironically, those hoping to liberate Iranians are the very same people urging punitive sanctions and even military force against Iran. Do they think that when the bombs hit, they will spare those who wear green?

(Fareed Zakaria is the Editor of Newsweek and the author of The Post-American World The views expressed by the author are personal)

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

VIEWS

THE WAY TO GROW

SADHGURU

Life, the process of life, and the basis of life is relentless; it won't stop even for a moment.

You may sleep, it doesn't sleep; the life within you doesn't sleep, the source of life within you doesn't sleep.

Your body rests; may be your mind rests, it doesn't actually, but maybe sometimes it rests; but life within you, the source of life within you never rests.

Its agenda is always on; it wants to become boundless, you do what you want. If you work in tune with it, it gives you some ease; if you work against it, it gives you hell.

Look into yourself and see the most basic and the ultimate aspiration in every being is freedom.

And you limiting yourself to the limitations of the limited personality that you are right now and enshrining these limitations is a sure way of working against that. Anyone who does not allow this seed to reach its original nature, anyone who restrains the longing to become boundless, will not know a moment of ease or peace in his life.

What you are right now is just an accumulation of information; and whatever kind of information you have gathered is a limited possibility. Obeying this limited possibility means, you are just making your life into a recycle of the old nonsense.

Who you are right now, what you are right now is just accumulated past.

So, test the waters and see. If whatever someone else or something else is doing or saying works a little better than what your own mind says, it's better to obey that; if it is not, test it somewhere else.

But it's always good to be constantly seeking someone or something which is a little larger than yourself and to give yourself to that process.

If you become bigger than that, move on and find something bigger; till then you just listen. That's a sure way to grow.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

VIEWS

BECOMING ROOTED IN DETACHMENT

VASANT JOSHI

'Neither with any of my teachers, nor with any fellow students, or anybody else, could I develop such a relationship as would drown me or break my being an island. Friends came and stayed with me. I met many people as well; had many friends. But from my side there was nothing dependent on them or which would cause me to remember them…I may live with everyone, but whether I am in a crowd or a society, with a friend or an intimate, I am alone. Nothing touches me, I remain untouched.'

From a very early age Osho used every experience, every situation, as a stepping stone towards inner growth. His awareness kept him from missing an opportunity in his search of truth.

Deaths of his beloveds — his sister, grandfather, and Shashi — gave him extraordinary chances to understand the limitations created by attachment with the other and, hence, to transcend the duality. He seized upon these chances and made himself really free to be by himself. Osho's own observation in this regard is important.

'Life gives many opportunities for being thrown back to oneself. But the more clever we are, the quicker we are in rescuing ourselves from such an opportunity. At such moments we move out from ourselves. If my wife dies, I am in search of another whom I can marry.

If my friend is lost, I begin to search for another. I cannot leave any gap. By filling that gap, the opportunity I would have had to revert back to my own self, is lost in a moment, along with its immense possibilities. If I had become interested in the other, I would have lost the opportunity to journey towards the Self…'

In experiencing his aloneness, Osho became more of an 'outsider', or a 'stranger'. He became rooted in a state of detachment in which even in the midst of activities and people, he remained alone.

'I became a universe unto myself,' says Osho.

Extract taken from Osho, The Luminous Rebel, Life Story Of A Maverick Mystic

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

VIEWS

OFF THE RECORD

FILLING THE FISCAL TANK

 

The Chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council C. Rangarajan and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia differed on the timing of the hike in oil prices. Rangarajan wanted the hike after inflation softened. But Ahluwalia lobbied for decontrolling the oil prices to bolster India's fiscal health, as they account for a quarter of the State's subsidy bill of Rs 120,000 crore. Finally, the prime minister accepted Ahluwalia's view for partially implementing the long-pending Kirit Parikh Committee recommendation on full market pricing.

 

Just for the record

The Congress's set a record in Karnataka. It has, for all practical purposes, outsourced the party to immigrants from other outfits, especially the Janata parivar. In fact, the state unit is headed by R.V. Deshpande, a once-trusted lieutenant of Lok Shakti president Ramakrishna Hegde. In another first, Deshpande has appointed a political secretary to assist him. "There is no example of this in any other state. But then Karnataka is unique," quipped a Congressman from the state where his party has ceded space to the BJP. The only political secretary in the Congress has so far been at the national level.

 

All hail to the chief

Sycophancy is not new in politics but academia in Tamil Nadu is succumbing fast. With 5,000 scholars attending the 'first' world classical Tamil conference in Coimbatore, about 20 papers were presented on Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's contribution as a writer and five on his poet-daughter, Kanimozhi.

 

Error of his ways

It's difficult to rise to Home Minister P. Chidambaram's exacting standards for many officers like Chief Executive Officer of Prasar Bharati B.S. Lalli. At a recent meeting of the Group of Ministers, he apparently tried to get a pat on the back for framing service rules for Prasar Bharati employees after a long time. But Chidambaram took a glance at the document and pointed out many errors. This, he told Lalli, appeared to be an example of the work culture in Prasar Bharati. An apologetic Lalli promised to ensure such mistakes wouldn't be repeated.

 

His French connections

The French ambassador to India, Jerome Bonnafont, continues to remain one of the most influential foreign diplomats in the country. The Ministry of External Affairs was cold to the idea of the European Union High Representative Baroness Catherine Ashton and her delegation (in India last week) meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. While MEA was dilly-dallying on the issue, the EU diplomats knew where to pull the strings. Bonnafont's help was sought. Soon enough the appointment with Singh came through.

 

No wasting words here

Most government departments fear the Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai when his office begins auditing their accounts. Now they have another reason to be apprehensive for Rai has donned the hat of a concerned citizen. Recently, while traveling by Shatabdi, the unseemly sight of garbage along the rail tracks prompted him to dash off a letter to the chairman of the Railway Board, which has since been passed on to the general manager of Northern Railway. In his letter, Rai suggested that the Railways go in for a one-time operation to clean up the tracks along the Rajdhani and Shatabdi routes before the Commonwealth Games begin.

Straight from the heart

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has been trying to impart a humane touch among people in his ministry while dealing with issues relating to the old, the ailing and the dead. The minister always makes it a point to meet all his associates, friends or relatives who are hospitalised or bed-ridden. Last week, Krishna found time to fly to Mumbai to meet cartoonist R.K. Laxman who's hospitalised. Recently, he conveyed to the missions in Gulf countries that special efforts should be made to ensure that all dead bodies of Indian nationals be flown back so their last rites can be conducted at home.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SHUTTLING ON

 

I have never played 15 matches in so few days," said Saina Nehwal on Sunday. On Sunday she successfully defended her badminton Indonesian Open title, and that is in itself no mean achievement. That crown, won a year ago, was her first Super Series victory. But Nehwal's emphasis on the 15 matches compressed into 19 days captures her larger achievement. In the days before the Indonesian defence, she won the Indian Open Grand Prix Gold and the Singapore Open (her second Super Series).

 

The endurance test matters for Nehwal. For someone whose failing is said to be an impatience to close out matches, and so lose in the process of forcing points when they could have been hers, the string of wins is not just fine refutation — it's a declaration that a new phase in her career has begun. Also, Nehwal inhabits a sport in which the greats often hunt in packs with their compat-riots. Hers is a lonesome quest. When she announced her potential for greater things by almost getting through the quarter-finals at the 2008 Olympics, for instance, that was it for her. There was no way to find a partner of her calibre to have a shot at a doubles title, to remain immersed in top-quality competition in the company of badminton mates.

 

Even as she's charted her own path, Nehwal's three-week run puts her in a special zone: she no longer punches above her weight to aim for a title now. Now on, winning will be expected of her. That's an achievement too.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

COUNTDOWN BEGINS

 

The political map of West Bengal has changed over the past one year as it had not for three decades. In another year's time, more change is anticipated, culminating in a change of guard at Writers' Building in Kolkata. But none of that is a given; and while the ruling Left Front may safely be called a lame duck administration, the anti-Left opposition is nowhere home yet. That uncertainty rests on three facts: first, the Congress-Trinamool alliance fell apart over seat-sharing before the municipal polls in May; second, without the Congress, Mamata Banerjee's party is still unlikely to wrest Bengal from the Left; third, the Bengal Congress, within the state and without, is not given much chance of counting as a fully fledged second opposition force.

 

Thus, news that Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has quit the post of state Congress president and that the leader of the Congress in the assembly, Manas Bhunia, has been appointed WBPCC chief must be interpreted as the party paying attention to the practical details of internal management, alliance negotiations and electoral positioning in view of next year's assembly election. An overburdened Mukherjee had not only desired for long to let go of the WBPCC leadership, but the Congress perhaps needed a state leader entrenched in the state's politics, who, without the stature and responsibilities of Mukherjee, could deal with the Trinamool on the spot and less conspicuously.

 

The Bengal Congress's problem is twofold: the erosion of its stature and organisation; and, unwavering public perception of the same. After the municipal polls the party contested on its own, it was written off once more. However, as has been argued in this column, it is not so bleak for the Congress — it held on to most of its North Bengal bastions and improved its performances elsewhere. Any alternative political space in Bengal will necessarily be in opposition to the Left. The

 

Trinamool grew at the expense of both the Left and the Congress. As the party that was there before every other, the Congress can still use the run-up to the assembly polls to expand its hold on the anti-Left space and discourse.

 

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE TORONTO TEST

 

For a while there, in the first few frenetic months after the global financial crisis hit, it seemed like the G-20 would begin to serve as a genuinely useful and effective coordination council. It was clear that the big stakeholders took it seriously; it represented a hefty proportion of world output and world trade; and it seemed small enough to avoid the unwieldy, wrangling nature of other forums. This last G-20 meeting, though, over the weekend in Toronto, would have proved to be a bit of a test for the theory — perhaps a little hopeful — that a sustainable, multilateral architecture, in which India is given its due weight, might well emerge from the debris of the crisis.

 

So, how did the meeting fare? In the medium-term, we should be pleased at some of what the G-20 did not agree on. A generalised bank tax across major economies, for example, completely ignores the difference between countries where the financial sector has grown too large and must release resources to the wider economy, such as the United Kingdom, and places such as India where the sector is far too small and needs to be pushed into further modernisation and growth, not stunted. The bigger difference, of course, was on stimulus financing, the timing of exit, and government fiscal deficits. Some countries, such as the United States and India, believed that — in spite of considerable internal strain on their finances — too early an exit from a coordinated worldwide stimulus would strain the recovery unduly. Other countries, especially those in Europe, were sufficiently concerned about possible pressure on their currencies and their sovereign debt to want to prioritise exit and the stability of their public finances.

 

Optimists would view the eventual agreement — to stagger exit from fiscal stimulus, with the more stressed treasuries exiting first — as signs that the G-20 can exist as a mechanism for compromise. Barack Obama, who as an American president is required by an unwritten law to be optimist-in-chief for the free world, said "there [have] been differentiated responses... But we are aiming in the same direction, which is long-term sustainable growth that puts people to work." Pessimists would note that David Cameron, Angela Merkel and their fellow Europeans managed to screw an agreement out of the rest of the world that ensures they would continue to profit from fiscal stimulus elsewhere while they reduced their own governments' size. How will we resolve this?

 

In the end, through working out whether the eventual compromise was worth it. The quality of the recovery will determine the usefulness of the mechanism that claims to deliver it.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

YOUR KABIR AND MINE

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

 

Few figures embody the contradictions of modern India's coming to terms with its own intellectual heritage as powerfully as Kabir. Over the weekend you might have noticed advertisements several chief ministers put out commemorating his customary birth anniversary, enlisting him as a political icon. But you cannot escape the sense that this enlistment comes precisely at the moment when a deep intellectual engagement with this extraordinary figure is receding. Except for a few homely lines, the number of people who could read his work is fast dwindling. It is often said that there is a crisis in Sanskrit Studies in India. Arguably there is an even deeper crisis in the study of those precursors of what we now call Hindi, khadi boli, braj, etc. Indeed it can be said without exaggeration that the number of people in Hindi-speaking areas who will be able to read significant figures of Indian culture and popular imagination like Tulsidas, let alone Kabir, will almost disappear by the next generation. This is the depth of crisis in Indian humanities. The institutional, pedagogical and cultural infrastructure that could engage with figures our politicians now iconically appropriate is fast vanishing.

 

In a way arguments over Kabir are a perfect example of what happens when great intellectual traditions are reduced to historical pedantry to the point that their meaning becomes difficult to grasp. Everything about Kabir was subject to the kind of contention made possible only by the deep dissensus that characterises our history. His exact dates are contested, his exact origins remain murky, his beliefs remain subject to a bewildering variety of uses, and often each of the technical referents in his poetry subject to a variety of interpretations. These debates reveal more about those who engage in them, than they do about Kabir. Like so much of our intellectual history, he becomes a stratagem in our hobby horses, we learn from him what we want rather than what he can genuinely teach us.

 

Kabir's political salience of course stems from the fact that he is at the centre of two of modern India's most important faultlines: communalism and caste. He is trotted out as the most important figure of Hindu-Muslim unity. His searing critique of caste has made him a canonical figure of an emerging Dalit consciousness; hence the political homage. But ironically, this political salience has obscured rather than deepened an engagement with his thought in two ways. First, while understandable, these are political attempts to house a life that was at its core original in its refusal to be trapped by any collective noun or pronoun. Kabir had, in a true sense, fashioned a character of extraordinary individuality, relentless in exposing the hypocrisies and abridgements of any group identity. The liberation he offered was of a deeper sort than our slogans of communal harmony or caste empowerment could even begin to imagine.

 

The salience of the "social question" has had paradoxical effects on the engagement with Indian intellectual history. On the one hand, it has provided some impetus for creative reinterpretation. And it has to be said of Dalit critics that they may be the only ones who take this tradition intellectually seriously. But there is a danger that the landscape of humanities in India is flattened to the point that every figure and text is measured only by a preconceived political litmus test: which side can appropriate them in contemporary debates. Nationalists, Marxists, caste-based intellectuals of all stripes have been more interested in creating their advertising icons. But this approach has the consequence of making us tone deaf to both philosophical depth and aesthetic complexity, making the humanities moribund.In a way the history of Kabir criticism in modern Hindi is a perfect example of how identity has colonised scholarship in modern India. The first generation of 20th century scholarship and criticism, including the monumental Ramchandra Shukla, was characterised by a barely concealed attempt to diminish Kabir. Dalit critics have, not entirely without justification, seen this as a move to tame Kabir's social radicalism. Though in hindsight what stands out is the tone deafness of critics like Shukla, to any depth.

Hazari Prasad Dwivedi's modern classic, that set a new benchmark in the study of Kabir, was intellectually radical in two ways. It tried to systematically engage with Kabir's thought at a deep philosophical level and made the case for its incomparable depth and complexity. Second, it argued that like all great revolutionaries in thought, Kabir carried a deep stamp of the myriad traditions he was negating. It was marked with an engagement with Kabir's technical vocabulary in ways that very few scholars are capable of. Whether Dwivedi got Kabir right or wrong is not quite the issue. The interesting fact was that even this engagement, which for all its limitations (particularly its neglect of aesthetics) still remains unmatched, was construed by subsequent critics in conspiratorial terms. Giving Kabir the highest compliment possible, that of a serious and systematic thinker, was somehow a ruse to negate his social importance; that the attempt to deeply analyse the sources of vocabulary was simply an attempt to negate his originality. One prominent critic went as far as to claim that engaging with the depth of Kabir's thought on fundamental questions of existence was nothing but a ruse to deflect attention from his social criticism, as if social criticism always needs to be founded on political simplicity and not philosophical depth. But this debate became symptomatic of a larger crisis in humanities: the identity of the critic and of the text became central to criticism.

 

None of this of course would have surprised Kabir himself. He knew a thing or two about the pedantry of scholars and the trappings of group- think, two tendencies destructive of genuine insight. Of course Kabir's genius and strangely unhoused ways will probably survive crude politicisation. This is not the least because he still remains alive, particularly in music. For most of our generation the path into Kabir was initially the late Kumar Gandharva, whose recordings provided quite simply the most spiritually incandescent moments in modern music. It is not entirely idle speculation to wonder whether Indian music has been able to retain both a sense of its past and radically innovate precisely because it is the one area of culture which has still not been colonised by identity politics in quite the same way, at least not yet. But the Kabir advertisements are reminders that in vast areas great intellectual figures are in the danger of becoming merely iconic; the intellectual preconditions and space for engaging with them fast vanishing.

 

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

ULIP MANIA

ABHISHEK TRIPATHI

 

For the time being, the controversy surrounding ULIPs seems to have been defused by the promulgation of the Securities and Insurance Laws (Validation and Amendment) Ordinance, 2010, in which the government has unequivocally supported the claim of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority or IRDA to regulate unit-linked insurance plans. Yet many voices, claiming to speak for policyholders, have been raised against this move.

 

The ordinance has amended provisions of the Insurance Act, 1938, to clarify that ULIPs of all kinds shall form part of the life insurance business. In addition, the Securities Contract (Regulation) Act, 1956, and the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992, have also been amended to clarify that ULIPs shall not be construed as securities or collective investment schemes, including mutual funds. The ordinance also provides for a mechanism whereby any dispute relating to the jurisdiction of regulatory bodies such as Sebi, IRDA, the RBI or the PFRDA (for provident funds) shall be referred to a committee consisting of the finance minister, the finance secretary, the secretary (financial services) and the chiefs of the regulatory bodies. The determination of the joint committee shall be binding on the regulators.Sebi claimed to derive its right to regulate ULIPs by contending that ULIPs, which are similar to mutual fund schemes, fall within the definition of securities. Further, it contended that since Sebi is empowered to regulate mutual funds, all schemes in the nature of mutual funds require registration with Sebi. Many who supported Sebi's move believed that its regulatory supervision would improve the delivery of ULIPs. Moreover, Sebi's track record in protecting and promoting the interests of consumers while regulating mutual funds provided comfort to many that they would be able to achieve the same result with ULIPs. The arguments were emotive; and the ambiguities in the law allowed Sebi leeway to assert its role in regulating ULIPs. IRDA's inability to prevent and regulate mis-selling of ULIPs provided moral force to Sebi's move.

 

On the other hand, insurance companies felt that it was unfair to subject them to regulation by multiple regulators with differing regulatory goals. In times when it has become fashionable for the government to set up independent regulatory authorities to regulate all forms of businesses, an overlap in jurisdictions is a likely scenario. For effective regulation, it is important that the roles of each regulator are clearly demarcated. Whether insurance companies should distribute ULIPs is a policy decision — a call that the executive is entitled to take within the given legislative framework.

 

A single regulator for a single business is the ideal principle of financial regulation. The philosophy has been set out in the Sebi Act itself, wherein categories that are regulated by different regulators have been excluded from the regulatory supervision of Sebi. The RBI has also exempted several categories of non-banking finance companies that are regulated by Sebi and IRDA from its regulatory supervision. The ordinance has merely confirmed that position.

 

The joint mechanism is a positive step, but appears to be an ad hoc exercise. Much more could have been achieved by conferring more powers on the body. Under the ordinance, the joint committee merely has the power to settle disputes relating to determination of jurisdiction of the regulators in cases of hybrid and composite financial instruments.

 

Conflicts between regulators, however, take many other forms. The ULIP controversy has shown that regulation of similar instruments by multiple regulators with different regulatory philosophies could perpetrate arbitrage. When commissions for the mutual fund distributors dried out, they immediately shifted to ULIPs, often at the cost of ultimate consumers. The joint committee could also have been empowered to address such instances, so that different regulators may discuss and synchronise their regulations for similarly designed products, or common distribution networks.

 

Obviously, such an exercise would have required more wide-ranging amendments in the laws that have been amended. One hopes, however, that this is merely the start, and once the bill comes up in Parliament, more teeth are added to it. The experience from the functioning of the joint committee could also be a starting point for a super-regulator for the financial sector.

 

For now, IRDA required the government's support in protecting an industry that is yet to find its feet in India. The ordinance is, by no means, a verdict on the ability or efficacy of IRDA in regulating the insurance industry generally, and ULIPs in particular. It should be viewed merely as a statement of the government's confidence in IRDA's ability to clean up the mess in ULIP distribution.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based insurance lawyer

 

express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

UNCLENCH THESE FISTS

SYEDA HAMEED

 

The city was closed for the third day. I was driving to the airport on my way back to Delhi. There were very few cars on the road; all the shop shutters were down. Suddenly the car jerked. I saw a few kids right there in the middle of the road. My heart lurched. Stone pelters, my gut reaction was to duck. But they were only small boys playing cricket on a deserted road. I felt ashamed.

 

I was in Srinagar for five days. Out of that the city was closed for three. Everyone I spoke to, every news report I read spoke of the sudden onslaught of a new phenomenon: "stone pelting boys" and retaliation of the forces. Who are these children, I thought, who suddenly pour out of narrow gulleys and through a profligate act of attacking military vehicles and personnel, expose themselves to hurt, arrest, sometimes death? The stories of Rafiq Ahmed Bangroo (age 24) and Javed Mallah (age 19) were on everyone's lips. Rafiq had been caught by the CRPF while he with other boys was hurling stones. He had been hit on the head and other parts of his body. He was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital SKIMS where he died after an eight-day battle for his life. His cousin Javaid came for his funeral. The funeral procession with hundreds of wailing mourners headed for the Shaheed Qabristan at Idgah. The sight of the security forces made the crowd very angry; it was then that trouble started. Tear gas was fired by the forces. Javaid, at the head of the mourners, was hit in the head hit by a tear gas shell and died on the spot.

 

"In ten days three boys had been killed. The first one was Tufail." How many times I heard this sentence. People had become used to counting their dead. And today as I write this piece, the number of dead has risen. This newspaper reports, "1 more shot". Once again, Kashmir faces shut-downs.

 

A bandh, curfew or hartal means total paralysis. Schools closed, children at home, crouching before TV sets, kitchens idle. No provisions, shops fronted with large padlocks. Newspapers carrying wedding cancellation notices, no shikara wallahs, no bakers, and no fruit vendors. I could not bring back a box of cherries for my family; those boxes must be rotting in some godown. The gloom in the households is palpable. Children sit listening to the older people talk about deaths in the old city. It was absurd for me to sit with my host's family to watch Indian Idol on TV. Youth from all over India were showcasing their talent but children, at this time in Kashmir, could only play "Idol Idol" in hidden corners and dream of becoming stars in such talent hunts.

 

Outside the grim interiors were safeda trees, lake surfaces, and a riot of flowers in the Dal, Nishat, Shalimar, Chashma Shahi. They mesmerised the tourists for whom Kashmir offered the healing touch after the blazing summer of North India.

 

I was staying with a film-maker, a woman who had documented contemporary life in the valley in her highly evocative films. She often took an evening walk along the bank of river Jhelum. One day she saw a few children, girls and boys, playing at the site of a dismantled bunker. In their small fists they held a few pebbles. "What are you doing?" she asked. "Oh! We are playing curfi curfi," they chanted. Children's games predictably are an offshoot of the reality they are surrounded with.

 

In the Planning Commission, one of my sectoral responsibilities is women and children. I saw the entire five days of my stay through a child's lens. I use this lens more so since the prime minister has announced that children's concerns will be priority in the 12th Plan. My host's granddaughter is a student in Class Ten. I found her at home most of the time. I happened to see a two-page assignment she had left lying around. It was a biology exercise on human kidneys. Never have I seen handwriting more beautiful. I remember her a few years ago, when things were no different but she was younger. She used to dream of becoming a teacher and played at giving lessons to the trees which lined the front drive. "What do you want to do in life, still want to teach?" I asked her on this visit. She said, "I don't know."

 

The two mornings when there was no bandh, I went for a morning walk. At 6.30, I saw young girls, their faces glowing under their white scarves, walking briskly for their pre-school tuition classes. Little boys in ties and uniforms, their hair slicked back, waited for school buses. I thought of these children, in a few years, becoming part of the Prime Minister's Skill Training Mission. I thought of them filling the huge deficit of human resources in health which exists in their state. Health is another sector I look after. I thought of them becoming IT professionals, of becoming entrepreneurs of crafts of the Valley, an excellent experiment of which I had just seen at CDI, the Craft Development Institute at Bagh e Ali Mardan in Srinagar. I thought of how the government of India and the state could together attract the big corporates to enter the valley and create employment opportunities for youth.

 

But the stories of Rafiq Bangroo, Javaid Mallah and Tufail Ahmed drove all such thoughts away. All around I saw boys with no hope in their hearts, no money in their pocket, young and angry. I saw boys who needed education and employment, boys who are brighter and anxious to learn. These are youth who need us as much as we need them; today we are taking steps to give them livelihoods but what about their live anger. We need to place computer keyboards beneath fingers that are curled around stones. But that needs a touch as gentle and healing as the touch Kashmir gives unstintingly to every tourist who gets off on her soil.

 

The writer is a member of the Planning Commission

express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

TOWARDS THE NEXT DEPRESSION

PAUL KRUGMAN

 

Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as "depressions" at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.

 

Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

 

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.

 

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend's deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

 

In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets. Unlike governments of the past, which tried to balance budgets in the face of a plunging economy, today's governments allowed deficits to rise. And better policies helped the world avoid complete collapse: the recession brought on by the financial crisis arguably ended last summer.

 

But future historians will tell us that this wasn't the end of the third depression, just as the business upturn that began in 1933 wasn't the end of the Great Depression. After all, unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — remains at levels that would have been considered catastrophic not long ago, and shows no sign of coming down rapidly. And both the United States and Europe are well on their way toward Japan-style deflationary traps.

 

In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realise that they haven't yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.

 

As far as rhetoric is concerned, the revival of the old-time religion is most evident in Europe, where officials seem to be getting their talking points from the collected speeches of Herbert Hoover, up to and including the claim that raising taxes and cutting spending will actually expand the economy, by improving business confidence. As a practical matter, however, America isn't doing much better. The Fed seems aware of the deflationary risks — but what it proposes to do about these risks is, well, nothing. The Obama administration understands the dangers of premature fiscal austerity — but because Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress won't authorise additional aid to state governments, that austerity is coming anyway, in the form of budget cuts at the state and local levels.

 

Why the wrong turn in policy? The hard-liners often invoke the troubles facing Greece and other nations around the edges of Europe to justify their actions. And it's true that bond investors have turned on governments with intractable deficits. But there is no evidence that short-run fiscal austerity in the face of a depressed economy reassures investors. On the contrary: Greece has agreed to harsh austerity, only to find its risk spreads growing ever wider; Ireland has imposed savage cuts in public spending, only to be treated by the markets as a worse risk than Spain, which has been far more reluctant to take the hard-liners' medicine.

 

It's almost as if the financial markets understand what policy makers seemingly don't: that while long-term fiscal responsibility is important, slashing spending in the midst of a depression, which deepens that depression and paves the way for deflation, is actually self-defeating.

 

So I don't think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.

 

And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.

The New York Times

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A WORLD EVER MORE ON THE MOVE

 

Gordon Brown's rant about a "bigoted" voter sped his exit from the British prime minister's post. What punctured his cool? Her complaint about immigrants. When an earthquake shattered Haiti, Dominicans sent soldiers and Americans sent ships — to discourage potential immigrants. The congressman who shouted "You lie!" at President Obama was upset about immigrants. "Birthers" think Obama is an immigrant. There was also the Hamas rocket that landed in Israel this spring, killing a farmworker. Not so unusual, except that the worker was Thai.

 

Perhaps no force in modern life is as omnipresent yet overlooked as global migration, that vehicle of creative destruction that is reordering ever more of the world. Overlooked? A sceptic may well question the statement, given how often the topic makes news and how divisive the news can be. After all, Arizona's campaign against illegal immigrants, codified in an April law, set off high-decibel debates from Melbourne to Madrid. But migration also shapes the landscape beneath the seemingly unrelated events of the headlines. It is a story-behind-the-story, a complicating tide, in issues as diverse as school bond fights and efforts to isolate Iran. (Seeking allies in Latin America this month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had to emphasise the dangers of a nuclear-armed Tehran while fending off complaints about the Arizona law.)

 

Even people who study migration for a living struggle to fully grasp its effects. "Politically, socially, economically, culturally — migration bubbles up everywhere," James F. Hollifield, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University said. "We often don't recognise it."

 

What prompted Google to close an office in China, rather than accept government censorship? Many factors, no doubt. But among those cited by Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, was the repression his family suffered during his childhood in the Soviet Union before they immigrated to the United States.

 

One realm where migration has particularly powerful if largely unstated effects is school finance. Political scientists have found that white voters are more likely to oppose spending plans when they perceive the main beneficiaries to be children of immigrants (especially illegal immigrants). The outcome, of course, affects all children, immigrant or 10th generation.

 

"When you get increased diversity, you weaken support for the common good," said Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California. Professor Myers studied Proposition 55, a 2004 ballot initiative in California that sought $12.3 billion in bond sales to relieve overcrowding and upgrade older schools. Publicly, most opponents framed their concerns in economic terms, saying the government wasted money and ran unsustainable debts. Still, anger about illegal immigration was, as one opponent put it, the "elephant in the living room." School crowding, he wrote to The Riverside Press Enterprise, was "solely caused by America's foolish open-borders policy."

 

Holding all else equal, Professor Myers found, voters who saw immigration as a burden were nearly 9 percentage points more likely to oppose the measure than those who called immigration a benefit. "That's a big effect — it was almost enough to take it down," he said. The measure squeaked through, with barely 50 per cent of the vote.

 

Immigration also quickened the bitter split in the American labour movement. In 2005, a half dozen unions left the venerable AFL-CIO to form a rival federation, Change to Win). On the surface, the fight was mostly about the pace of organising, with the breakaway group pledging more aggressive moves to enlist members. But the dissidents also counted more low-wage immigrants in their membership.

 

As Daniel B. Cornfield, a labour scholar at Vanderbilt University said, the immigrants' marginal (and sometimes illegal) status created a constituency for a more aggressive approach. "I don't think it was a split about immigration, but immigration shaped the split," he said.

 

The split, in turn, has had repercussions beyond the labour movement. Janice Fine, a political scientist at Rutgers University noted that the Change to Win unions played an important role in the early stages of Obama's presidential campaign. "If they were inside the larger bureaucracy, it would have been harder for them to make an early endorsement and move money his way," Professor Fine said.

 

Theorists sometimes call the movement of people the third wave of globalisation, after the movement of goods (trade) and the movement of money (finance) that began in the previous century. But trade and finance follow global norms and are governed by global institutions: the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund . There is no parallel group with "migration" in its name. The most personal and perilous form of movement is the most unregulated. States make (and often ignore) their own rules, deciding who can come, how long they stay, and what rights they enjoy.

 

While global trade and finance are disruptive — some would argue as much as migration — they are disruptive in less visible ways. A shirt made in Mexico can cost an American worker his job. A worker from Mexico might move next door, send his children to public school and need to be spoken to in Spanish.

 

One reason migration seems so potent is that it arose unexpectedly. As recently as the 1970s, immigration seemed of such little importance that the United States Census Bureau decided to stop asking people where their parents were born. Now, a quarter of the residents of the United States under 18 are immigrants or immigrants' children.

 

The UN estimates that there are 214 million migrants across the globe, an increase of about 37 per cent in two decades. Their ranks grew by 41 per cent in Europe and 80 per cent in North America. "There's more mobility at this moment than at any time in world history," said Gary P. Freeman, a political scientist at the University of Texas. The most famous source countries in Europe — Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain — are suddenly migrant destinations, with Ireland electing a Nigerian-born man as its first black mayor in 2007.

 

As heirs to an immigrant past, Americans may have an edge in a migrants' age. As contentious as the issue is here, the Americans' capacity to absorb immigrants remains the envy of many Europeans (including those not inclined to envy Americans). Still, today's challenges differ from those of the (mythologised) past. At least five differences set this age apart and amplify migration's effects.

 

First is migration's global reach. The movements of the 19th century were mostly trans-Atlantic. Now, Nepalis staff Korean factories and Mongolians do scut work in Prague. Persian Gulf economies would collapse without armies of guest workers. Even within the United States, immigrants are spread across dozens of "new gateways" unaccustomed to them.

 

A second distinguishing trait is the money involved, which not only sustains the families left behind but props up national economies. Migrants sent home $317 billion last year — three times the world's total foreign aid. In at least seven countries, remittances account for more than a quarter of the gross domestic product.

 

A third factor that increases migration's impact is its feminisation: Nearly half of the world's migrants are now women, and many have left children behind. Their emergence as breadwinners is altering family dynamics across the developing world. Migration empowers some, but imperils others, with sex trafficking now a global concern.

 

Technology introduces a fourth break from the past: The huddled masses reached Ellis Island without cellphones or webcams. Now a nanny in Manhattan can talk to her child in Zacatecas, vote in Mexican elections and watch Mexican television shows. "Transnationalism" is a comfort but also a concern for those who think it impedes integration. In the age of global jihad, it may also be a security threat. The Pakistani immigrant who pleaded guilty last week to the attempted bombing of Times Square said that jihadi lectures reached him from Yemen, via the Internet.

 

At least one other trait amplifies the impact of modern migration: The expectation that governments will control it. In America for most of the 19th century, there was no legal barrier to entry. The issue was contentious, but the government attracted little blame. Now Western governments are expected to keep trade and tourism flowing and respect ethnic rights while sealing borders as vast as the Arizona desert and the Mediterranean Sea. Their failures — glaring if perhaps inevitable — weaken the broader faith in federal competence. "It basically tells people that government cannot do its job," said Demetri Papademetriou, a co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute.

 

Still, rich, aging countries need workers. People in poor countries need jobs. And the rise in global inequality means that migrants have more than ever to gain by landing work abroad. Migration networks are hard to shut down. Even the worst economy in 70 years has only slowed, not stopped, the growth in migration. And it is likely to grow, in numbers and consequence.

 

When scholars get to feeling expansive, they call today's migration networks a challenge to the order set by the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which established the territorial sovereignty of the nation-state. Judging by the wall rising along the Mexican border, nation-states do not appear to be going away. Their people, increasingly, do.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

G-20 WHIMPER

 

It is now increasingly clear that the international coordination of fiscal and monetary policies, which began after the global economic crisis broke out, has run out of steam. We had argued in these columns last week that the G-20 heads of government meet in Toronto would be dominated by a discussion on whether to continue fiscal stimulus, particularly in the context of the debt crisis that has unravelled in Europe. There were always going to be two sides of the debate and that's exactly how it turned out over the weekend—the US and leading emerging economies, including India, batted for continued stimulus given the fragile recovery while the major European economies batted for retrenchment in public spending to control their runaway deficits and debt. In the end, the G-20 collectively agreed to halve deficits over a three-year period and to bring debt-to-GDP ratios under control by 2016. What really matters now, though, is what individual countries decide to do, given the different points on which they stand at this stage of recovery/crisis.

 

The US is likely to continue with soft monetary and fiscal policies for a lot longer—inflation isn't a real worry and output has been hopelessly slow in showing recovery. As long as the dollar is the world's reserve currency, the US can sustain this strategy for a while longer. India, too, must continue with relatively easy monetary policy for a while longer and only gradually move to an exit from stimulus. On the fiscal side, the government has acted sensibly by reforming costly fertiliser and oil subsidy as a means to rein in the deficit rather than go for serious cuts elsewhere. China's dilemma is more complex because of pressure on asset prices, but they have acted in their own way by beginning a revaluation of the yuan. Europe simply has no choice but to cut deficits and cut debt straight away. It may indeed cost in terms of growth in the short run but it will yield positive results in the medium term, especially if Europe undertakes structural reforms that will unleash growth—Europe needs to finally address its supply-side bottlenecks. Expect a completely uncoordinated exit from stimulus during the rest of the year.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CAPTURING KARNATAKA

 

The 'disappearance' of half-a-million tonnes of illegally mined, confiscated iron ore from the Belekeri port of Karnataka is shocking because it is indicative of a state administration that has connived with narrow vested interests—who are now an important part of the state's politics—to brazenly violate the rule of law. The state's top anti-corruption official, Lok Ayukta, Justice N Santosh Hegde had prioritised an investigation into this missing ore. After being thwarted in his efforts to uncover the wrongdoing, the Lok Ayukta finally resigned. The evident degeneration of politics in a state like Karnataka—which built its reputation on the strength of its infrastructure and IT industry—into a capture by powerful mining interests, particularly of the ruling BJP, does not bode well for the future of the state.

 

On the face of it, this looks like a peculiar variation of what economists call the Dutch Disease, a concept that purportedly explains the apparent relationship between a sudden inflow of funds from large-scale exploitation of mineral wealth and the degeneration of other sectors, especially manufacturing, due to unbalanced growth. The only difference in the Karnataka case is that the impact of the large incomes generated from the substantial expansion of iron ore mining to meet the burgeoning global demand seems to have affected the polity rather than the other sectors of the state economy. This has happened because the margins from iron ore mining are so high that it acts as an incentive to expand business by any means, legal or illegal. The current mining statutes in India are such that they allow governments almost complete discretion to allot precious mineral rights to the enterprises with the largest clout. There is no market mechanism like auctions that would encourage competition and ensure that at least a part of the bonanza flows to the government. Evidently, some segments of the mineral business in the state have apparently seen the gaps and exploited them by entering politics to further their business interests. The only way out is to overhaul the entire policy regime in the mineral sector and bring greater competition to the mineral markets by ushering in greater transparency in the granting of mineral rights.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

SIDE EFFECTS OF FUEL PRICE HIKE

SAUGATA BHATTACHARYA

 

The Union government has taken a courageous step towards implementing many recommendations of the Kirit Parikh Committee Report on a viable petroleum pricing system. Multiple benefits have already been emphasised by analysts and the media. The first being the increased incentive for fuel use conservation. Hydrocarbons will increasingly become a critical resource for India, given the extent to which we are dependent on imported crude for our refineries. Increased hydrocarbon prices are an incentive to move to non-conventional energy sources and to change consumer behaviour on energy use.

 

The reduction in the government's oil subsidy burden has also been noted. Not as widely highlighted, though, are the adverse effects of high fiscal deficits on household disposable incomes. The insidious impact of high government expenditure is not as immediately apparent as the more visible and immediate increase in petrol, cooking fuel and transport expenditure. Higher fuel subsidies result in a higher deficit in the government's borrowing programme, which pushes up interest rates, and consequently, the cost of loans for homes, auto, personal, etc, resulting in higher EMIs on such large-ticket loans. Over time, households will begin to see the benefits of lower rates offsetting part of the higher fuel-related expenditures.

 

The measures will certainly have the immediate effect of increasing the WPI inflation rate by about a percentage point, and the CPI inflation rate probably even more. As expected, calls for (and expectations of market participants) more stringent monetary policy tightening measures promptly followed the announcement. The desirability of a rate hike ahead of the scheduled policy review in late July, a steeper than anticipated hike in the July policy—everything has been voiced. However, this thinking is largely misplaced. This article seeks to make the point that there are three broad arguments why this specific deregulation should not be an input into recalibrating policy tightening.

 

First, the fuel price hike is a supply shock. The last such hike was in mid-2008, when global crude prices had climbed to above $145 a barrel and the Indian crude basket was around $123 a barrel. At that time, the perception was that the global economy was invincible. China was powering ahead, the developed markets' sub-prime housing worries were relatively localised, the emerging markets had decoupled and their incremental energy demand remained robust. Indian real estate prices continued their giddy climb. RBI was completely justified, in those economic and financial circumstances, in rapidly tightening policy parameters to choke off demand.

 

This time around, things could not be less similar. Crude is at $78 a barrel, with current street estimates of end-2010 levels of at most $90. Indian prices have been far below 'fair value', with the implicit assumption that a selected category of fuels are a basic need of Indian families' everyday existence. Without a doubt this is; just not in the way that the system currently operates. Monetary policy works on the presumption of controlling demand. There is no rampant demand driving up fuel prices this time. The current hike is a move to catch up on, even in this relatively benign global crude price environment.

 

As a technical corollary, the one percentage point jump in inflation will persist as a hump in the inflation trajectory only for a year before it comes down as sharply again in June 26, 2011, as an artifact of the year-on-year method in which WPI inflation is calculated.

 

Second, the price hike is an automatic demand compression mechanism. Particularly in urban India, transport accounts for a significant share of the middle class's monthly expenditures. The increased allocations to transport costs required will necessarily lead to a rebalancing of other household discretionary expenditures. Domestic food budgets will be tightened, entertainment limits tightened and holidays cut. The hike, in other words, is an 'automatic stabiliser' for demand.

 

The third argument is less sharp. There is a distinct possibility that the increasingly credible commitment shown by the Centre of improving its fiscal environment—not just by the windfall 3G auction proceeds— will merit not just an outlook but a ratings upgrade by the credit rating agencies. A policy rate increase will only make yield arbitrage opportunities more attractive, attracting even more foreign funds.

 

This is not to argue that RBI should not reinforce its monetary tightening; it is noted elsewhere that movement in key industrial commodity prices do call for a rethink. It's just that this specific deregulation move is not a reason for increased tightening.

 

We could not have afforded behaviour-as-usual; India will have to go through a painful process of adjustment as various administratively controlled prices have gradually moved towards market ones. Lower income households will be particularly vulnerable. The fiscal space that the government has created for itself should be used as buffer for these vulnerable segments. The rest of us will perforce have to change our consumption behaviour.

 

The author is vice-president, business & economic research, Axis Bank. Views are personal

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EUROPE WAS THE CENTRE IN TORONTOMADAN SABNAVIS

 

The crescendo leading to the G-20 summit in Toronto had scripted what would be discussed even before the meet took place. Everyone had spoken of the financial crisis and the need to rein in banks. Britain applied the bank tax to make sure that banks pay for a possible future bailout by the government. China, being aware that 'renminbi bashing' would be high on the agenda, pre-empted discussion by taking a decision to align its currency to the market with immediate effect, though it blew hot and cold on the extent to which this correction would be made. India also probably took the cue and increased fuel prices. This being done, the only other issue left for the G-20 to debate was the approach to government spending, deficits and debt, with the shadow of Greece lurking.

 

The summit addressed two sets of issues, one relating to banks and the other fiscal deficits. The meeting was hyped to become a battle between the European nations and the rest on whether or not Keynes was relevant. Keynes, as we know, had recommended governments spending their way out of trouble and this was what has been pursued relentlessly by all governments for the last two years. Now, after realising that some of the Euro nations had spent too much and built debt that could not be repaid, the G-20 has asked for governments to go back to the austerity path. Does this make sense?

 

The answer from an impassioned point of view is that theoretically all policies have to be geared towards local conditions. Also, we need to understand whether or not nations have gotten out of the low equilibrium trap to actually contemplate such action. There cannot be a case of one-size-fitting-all, as countries that are still to emerge from the economic slowdown cannot keep governments on the sidelines and talk of fiscal targeting. Also, those that have surpluses on current accounts and low debt/GDP ratios cannot be bracketed with those that have operated on a different looking canvas. Therefore, Germany and other Euro nations cannot be bracketed with, say, the emerging economies.

 

The US, with a fiscal deficit of over 10%, has naturally opposed this move as it argued that more jobs and enhanced spending today was required for higher growth tomorrow. Also, the so-called cuts that have been espoused by the summit would also mean that the G-8 nations would have to renege on the development aid promised to some of the African nations. Further, developing nations, especially in Latin America, like Argentina and Brazil, fear a double whammy if this rule were applied—their domestic growth would slow down if they spent less and their export-dependent economy would receive another blow in case the US deflated its economy.

 

The general agreement was that all nations would cut back on their fiscal deficit to half the current levels in three years time, which would be 2013. This would be coupled with efforts to stabilise debt ratios by 2016. In this situation, the IMF is quite worried that after all that has been done so far through government expenditure, a sudden rollback through an exit policy could affect growth in income and employment across the world, and up to $2.25 trillion of output could be in jeopardy.

 

The IMF thought is significant because it brings to the fore the conundrum faced by countries like Greece. They have to cut back on debt and hence deficit and spending, and top it up with tax hikes. This would lead to a fall in output and employment. In such a case, how could these countries be in a position to repay the debt that has built up? Therefore, such sudden drastic fiscal cuts at this stage could be inimical for them.

 

The debate on a bank tax was also expected to lead to an impasse. While the idea of keeping banks under check cannot be debated, the route chosen did not have a majority view. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, it was proposed that banks should pay a tax that would form a fund and would then be used to assist failed institutions. The debate was on why all banks should pay for something that they would never use. Hence, a bank tax was not accepted and countries were allowed to choose their options unilaterally in the absence of a consensus. On the contrary, it has been suggested that the capital norms be strengthened even further to ensure that sufficient buffers are built when there is a crisis.

 

The author is chief economist, CARE ratings. Views are personal

 

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHY CEMENT IS WEAKENING

SMITA JOSHI SAHA

 

The 270 million-tonne Indian cement industry, witnessing demand growth of 9-10% on the back of the infrastructure sector, is likely to witness the most unfavourable phase in the next six months. The demand growth in the industry will not be sufficient to absorb the incremental capacities that companies had lined up in the past.

 

Even before the industry enters the phase of a seasonally weak demand growth (from June-September), the excess capacity in the system has started exerting downward pressure on prices nationwide. According to industry experts, the story of excess capacity and sharp decline in prices and margins will spread across all regions in FY2011. In fact, prices started correcting much before the monsoon started.

 

A significant margin compression in the second half of the current FY is expected since it will be difficult for cement makers to pass on the higher fuel and freight cost. Indian cement companies, on average, import 35% of their total coal requirement and with international thermal coal prices expected to increase by 40% in FY2011, a significant rise is expected in both power and fuel costs of companies. Similarly, the recent hike in fuel prices was a dampener because the industry transports 60% of its products by road. Freight costs account for about 18-20% of the operating costs of cement companies. So, as competitive pressures increase, companies will have to sell in more geographically distant markets, pushing up costs. Also some major projects, like the Delhi Metro, Commonwealth Games and irrigation projects in Andhra Pradesh that had kept demand growth at 11-12% in the past few quarters, are nearing completion.

 

In FY2010, about 40 million tonnes of new capacity was commissioned across India. While capacity additions early last year were primarily in southern India, the recent wave of additions are in the northern region, making the entire nation vulnerable to structural excess supply, says a Goldman Sachs report. New capacity has been skewed, the repercussions of which will be producers diverting despatches to more lucrative regions, in an attempt to maximise realisations. With the addition of about another 40-50 million tonnes in FY2011, the demand-supply mismatch is likely to intensify, leading to widespread price declines across all regions.

 

smita.joshi@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LONG ROAD AHEAD

 

The main takeaway from the talks between India and Pakistan in Islamabad was that a dialogue between two sides burdened with a complex and difficult relationship has to be a constant, continuous process. It may not yield instant or even quick results. What it needs is political will to stay the course. Even by this scale of modest expectations, the two sets of talks last week managed to post some positive outcomes. Pointing to a new determination on both sides to make the dialogue process work, the discussions between the two Foreign Secretaries ended with the broad agreement to focus on the "doables," a major change from previous such encounters at which all the emphasis was on the bilateral differences. The officials have thus managed to prepare a sound foundation for the scheduled July 15 meeting between the two Foreign Ministers, S. M. Krishna and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who have been asked by their Prime Ministers to find ways to bridge the trust gap. Exactly what "doables" are being contemplated towards this end should become clear after this ministerial meeting. Although the two rounds of meetings between Home Minister P. Chidambaram and the Pakistan Interior Minister, Rehman Malik — on the sidelines of the SAARC conference of Home Ministers — have focussed mainly on the issue of the Mumbai attacks, there seems to be a new realisation on the Pakistan side that it needs to address Indian concerns on this more seriously. The announcement by Mr. Malik that his government was willing to share with Indian investigators the voice samples of some of the key accused in the Mumbai case who are under trial in Pakistan, so that these can be matched with the voices of the handlers who were directing the attacks, is a crucial step in trust-building. Mr. Chidambaram rightly pointed out that it was over the Mumbai attacks that relations between the two countries unravelled; in order to repair the ties, issues arising from these attacks need to be squarely dealt with.

 

Also immensely useful in taking the dialogue process forward after the Foreign Ministers' talks would be, as officials in New Delhi have noted, a clear acknowledgment from Pakistan of the progress made during the pre-2008 peace process. This has so far not been forthcoming, possibly because of the unease of owning a Musharraf legacy, even though it should flow naturally from the Pakistan government's insistence on the resumption of the composite dialogue process. Both sides will soon have to devote considerable diplomatic energy to arrive at a mutually acceptable framework for a full-scale dialogue, and it would be sensible to build on the achievements of the four rounds of talks that were held between 2004 and 2007.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

IMPROVE THE ARCHIVES

 

The recent celebration of International Archives Day has turned the spotlight on the poor state of government archives in India. It serves as an urgent reminder of the imperative need to improve them. Despite a good early beginning — 1805 in the case of the Tamil Nadu Archives and 1891 in the case of National Archives of India — most government institutions have failed to keep pace with the developments in archival practices. The user experience and the public services they offer are far from satisfying. Unfortunately, historical records, though no less important than other forms of heritage, are low on government priority and can be said to be the most endangered. For instance, the National Archives, the premier institution that holds a 40 km. shelf-length of historical records, has a financial outlay of a paltry Rs.20 crore (2010-11). With this, it has to upkeep records, improve infrastructure, acquire new documents, provide grants to State-level organisations, and run the School of Archival Studies to train archivists. What is of equal concern is the poor utilisation of allotted funds. Poor planning and inefficient administration have added to the parlous state of archives.

 

Digitising records and providing information online is critical to the future of archives. It helps preservation by limiting the use of original records, improving public services, and facilitating better networking of archival repositories. Although the Working Group on Art and Culture for the Eleventh Five-Year Plan identified this as a priority, the target of digitising five million pages a year compares poorly with, say, the 33 million pages targeted annually by the United Kingdom. Archiving has to scale up quickly to cope with the large number of records and make up for lost time. To complicate matters, slow de-classification of records by government departments hampers this effort and affects the efficiency of archives. In the case of the National Archives, this factor alone accounts for holding up the acquisition of an estimated half a million records. With several institutions shifting to the digital mode of working, the major challenge facing India's archives is the preservation of digital information. An early decision on new collecting strategies is imperative if the loss of invaluable contemporary information is to be prevented. Innovative funding plans, capacity building, and a sincere commitment to protecting the historical record are vital to ensure the future of the past.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLE

CHILDREN & THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES

ONE CANNOT MISS THE CONTRAST IN THE PREPARATIONS MADE FOR IMPLEMENTING THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION AND STAGING THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES.

KRISHNA KUMAR

 

The law endowing on India's children the right to education (RTE) carried a date. So did the decision to host the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. For the vast numbers of out-of-school children of the city, the law has brought no change. When the schools reopen next week after the summer break, they will be no better prepared to receive and retain the thousands of children who have either never enrolled or were eliminated by the system. Nor will life at school be any more child-friendly for those who have got used to the cramped, often cruel, conditions of Delhi's municipal schools. The authorities have made no preparation for implementing the new law, which seeks to transform India's schools and end the apartheid that divides private from state-run schools.

 

Under RTE, all private schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas were supposed to offer one-fourth of their seats to children of the poor living in the vicinity. Some private schools of Delhi have done this following an earlier court order, and some have made a provision for an afternoon shift for the poor, which violates RTE. The Kendriya Vidyalayas have taken no steps whatsoever and the Pratibha Vikas Vidyalayas, for which the Delhi government screens children at Class VI, are carrying on with this practice. This too violates RTE.

 

It can be justifiably argued that the scale of systemic changes the RTE demands would require a gestation period of more than the three months that have elapsed since its promulgation. Fair enough. But one cannot miss the contrast in the preparations made for implementing the RTE and the Commonwealth Games. The authorities have put in an extraordinary effort to stage the games in October. Quite literally, no stone in Delhi has been left unturned to make the event a historic achievement of national glory. The contrast between the apathy to RTE and anxiety for the Games reveals the official meaning of national pride. True, the Commonwealth Games are a one-time event whereas the RTE involves a vast, sustained effort. Both call for a massive investment in physical infrastructure. Preparations for implementing the RTE would mean judicious deployment of available resources and mobilisation of new ones. Neither process has begun. In the case of the Commonwealth Games, officials have gone overboard to squander a pumped-up emergency budget to dress up Delhi in time to stage them.

 

Not just the venues where the Games will be held and people will stay, but the city at large is undergoing expensive plastic surgery. Roads and sidewalks are being dug up and redone. Wherever you look, piles of freshly purchased tiles waiting to replace the existing ones greet you. Parsimony is out; extravagance is in. All along Willingdon Crescent (now known after Mother Teresa), raised flowerbeds are being installed. For this, the beautiful and extensive sweep of well-maintained grass stretching from the Teen Murti House to the Lohia Hospital is being removed. Terraced flowerbeds and tiles will cover the stretch. Tiles seem to be the favourite among contractors and officials. Even the ones installed only last year are being replaced. The surroundings of India Gate are witnessing a similar relaying of perfectly acceptable sidewalks with garish cement tiles and sandstone curbs. The story of the Delhi University campus is probably the saddest. Here, an angular, tall rugby stadium now stands facing the old Vice-regal Lodge which was restored to its original architectural ambience only three years ago at an enormous expense. Hundreds of mature trees have been cut down to build an ugly parking lot. Access to it has been provided by destroying another park which, till now, marked the university's platinum jubilee.

 

No doubt the chaos will soon settle down. The glitter of the Games will erase the memory of all doubts and dilemmas. The city will go on, coping with its endemic problems such as chronic water shortage, air pollution and lack of sanitation. Both the manner and style in which the preparation for the Commonwealth Games have proceeded will exacerbate Delhi's problems. Let us take water shortage, for instance. All along the freshly tiled sidewalks, a strip has been left open for flower bushes. Who will water them after the Games? The dried-up beds will remind children going to school that sustainable development is a nice slogan and a topic to elaborate for marks. The bricked tree enclosures erected to welcome Queen Elizabeth a few years ago along her route soon became convenient garbage dumps. During the days ahead of U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit, a magistrate was sent around in a van to fine anyone throwing garbage on the street. Each time such a thing is done, we bring back to life the British stereotype of Indians as people who will starve and save for years in order to spend millions on a wedding night. It seems we have learnt no lesson whatsoever about the meaning of modernity as an exercise of reason and judgment for human goals. Had these been applied for the staging of the Commonwealth Games, it could have been planned differently, with austerity and warmth, to convey India's original vision and priorities as a nation committed to equality and a new world order.

 

Schools are going to stay closed during the Games. When they reopen, sports will remain as inaccessible and exotic as they are now for the majority of children. Playtime will be cut in general, to make up for the closure during the Games. In schools which have the misfortune to be located in the vicinity of a stadium or practice grounds, life has been tough. In one such government school, the sports ground was used for storing cement, bricks and sand for developing a nearby Commonwealth practice field. The Games' contractor chopped down the volleyball poles and left the ground littered with rubbish. For a whole session, children could not play. The coming session promises no relief. This school was lucky to have a playground. Most schools in Delhi have none. And college students are only slightly better placed in this respect. Inspiring the young was apparently not intended to be an outcome of the Games. Like everyone else, children were expected to act as spectators of a five-star extravaganza.

 

The RTE represents the Republic's dream of recognising every child as an active learner and a national asset. The law assiduously lists the systemic conditions that must be met to realise this dream. These conditions include a room for every class, special classes for older children who were never enrolled, 1:30 teacher-pupil ratio, higher qualifications and in-service training for every teacher, and a child-friendly environment in schools. A lot of hard work should — and could — have been done to meet the RTE standards in Delhi's schools before April 1 when the law was to come into force. Now, after the summer break too, schools and teachers will be no better prepared to receive the tens of thousands of additional children the RTE intends to bring into the system. Nor will teachers have any clearer understanding of what it means to allow children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to study together.

 

Private schools will continue grooming children of the richer classes for elite roles. Not one school in Delhi has emulated the example of Sister Cyril's historic achievement of turning the Loreto school in Calcutta into an exemplar institution where children of the poor study with the rich. Many corporate houses have now entered into the business of running schools. Fitted with centralised air-conditioning and close-circuit television cameras, the schools are chilling symbols of India's new apartheid culture. Under this culture, the poor have been thrown out to the margins of cities like Delhi. Their children are supposed to be content with the sub-human conditions which prevail in schools meant only for the poor. The RTE rejects this situation and seeks to transform it so that education becomes a means of accelerating social cohesion rather than conflict. The governments of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, among others, have declared that they do not have the funds to meet the RTE norms. The Delhi government might do the same. Never mind the tiles.

 

(The author is professor of education at Delhi University and a former director of NCERT.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

ROLLING STONE'S DATED MARKETING STRATEGY

HOW THE MAGAZINE FAILED TO EXPLOIT ITS WEBSITE IN BREAKING THE MCCHRYSTAL STORY.

EMILY BELL

 

The resignation last week of General Stanley McChrystal had the impact of a pterodactyl egg dropping on the U.S. news agenda from 30,000 feet. A Rolling Stone magazine interview by the freelance writer Michael Hastings documented the insubordinate attitudes of the McChrystal camp towards the Obama administration and led to the general's dismissal.

 

U.S. generals, Rolling Stone, ill-conceived conflicts, weekly magazines setting the agenda; it only lacked the involvement of Joan Baez and Walter Cronkite to complete the feeling that we had woken up in 1968.

 

Not since the days of Hunter S. Thompson has Rolling Stone made itself so unpopular with the White House. But the magazine's story management prompted media analysts to wonder if, in fact, nothing had essentially changed for the publication in the past 40 years. Although the ownership of the amazing scoop was always clear, its rapid dissemination around the web after Rolling Stone had "teased" news outlets with a few advanced copies left the publisher out of the conversation it had provoked.

 

Weakly posted

 

Not available to readers until three days after McCrystal's sacking, Rolling Stone had taken the decision that by seeding "buzz" in other news outlets, but hiding the story from its readers until the issue hit newsstands, it would maximise revenues. This might still be the case, but the overall effect of ignoring the invention of the internet was that Rolling Stone ceded all control of how its own story unfolded, and potentially compromised any associated benefits it might have harnessed in terms of online readership and revenue.

 

News agencies, blogs and newspaper websites all made hay with the McChrystal conversation while Rolling Stone's own website initially did not even acknowledge the story's existence, only weakly posting the piece once the western world had already read it.

 

The problem Rolling Stone encountered was a direct result of not understanding what the purpose of its web presence is. If it understood it to be marketing — to lure subscribers, engage readers, advertise writers, trail its content — then it ought to have been very explicit which route to take, and presumably that would not have included handing all its marketing over to other outlets. If, however, the primary purpose was to raise advertising, gather readers and distribute content, then it should also have been clear that some form of publication of the material was better than none.

 

The embarrassing stasis does suggest it defined one potential purpose of the website as selling magazines. And the best way of selling magazines, or newspapers, in the minds of some publishers, is to establish a web presence but to stop people reading your content. This is a perfectly reasonable view to take, but there is little or no evidence that it works in the way envisaged by Rolling Stone. The London Times' experiment over paywalls, which has now kicked off in earnest, has seen the publisher's presence halve on the web immediately and it will drift down further over time. But if revenues or newspaper sales improve then its strategy will be proven to be effective. Some very successful periodicals — the New Yorker and the Economist spring to mind — use the web as an attractant and marketing for their print product, and do so with a certain amount of both imagination and success. Ultimately, Rolling Stone ought to benefit from the worldwide publicity and reminding the serious reader that it can accommodate journalism that has impact. But the next time it gets an administration-rocking scoop, which could be in two weeks or 20 years, it is unlikely to give it the same treatment. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

JAPAN'S NEW CIVIL NUCLEAR DIPLOMACY

TOKYO'S MOVE TO NEGOTIATE WITH INDIA IS REFLECTIVE OF A GEOPOLITICAL DESIRE.

P.S. SURYANARAYANA

 

The Japan-India talks on civil nuclear cooperation, which began in Tokyo on Monday, are a pointer to a new trend in the politics of East Asia. Not yet a political process that cannot be reversed, this new trend is the gradual recognition of India's growing relevance to a future geopolitical order in East Asia.

 

For several decades now, Japan has enjoyed a "unique" position across the world as a proactive non-proliferation guru. Surely, therefore, its latest decision to "negotiate" a civil nuclear cooperation pact with India is of unprecedented importance to the changing regional realities. In September 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group granted India an "exceptional status." With "pacifist" Japan being privy to the NSG's unusual consensus at that time, India gained exemption from the cartel's guidelines. Japan was fully cognisant of why New Delhi was so treated at the behest of the United States. Yet, Tokyo rose above its status as an American ally and chose to stay clear of the nuclear rush towards India that followed the NSG's September 2008 decision.

 

Attitude of scepticism

 

Even as Russia, France, and the U.S. lost no time thereafter to look at the new prospects of doing business with India in the peaceful atomic energy sector, Japan remained unimpressed by such a nuclear rush. In a sense, Tokyo's hesitation, until now, symbolised the general East Asian attitude of scepticism about India's real intentions. While Japan is a globally recognised player from East Asia in the civil nuclear energy sector, China's capabilities in this domain are also well known. South Korea, too, is a keen player in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy. And Australia, with its vast uranium deposits, is a nuclear supplier of considerable importance in the geopolitical space of East Asia.

 

Of these East Asian countries, China is in a privileged position with reference to India. At one political level, China's relentless rise as potential global superpower gives it a perspective different from the U.S. worldview. At another echelon, New Delhi is aware of China's geo-strategic interests in Pakistan. So, China's assent to the NSG's U.S.-brokered consensus in September 2008 amounted to a gesture of being mindful of the interests of the U.S. and India, as articulated by their governments, at two different levels.

 

South Korea and Australia are of course allies of the U.S., although not in the same category as Japan. The U.S.-led consensus in favour of New Delhi in the NSG is something that these three East Asian countries have had to reckon with, notwithstanding their individual views on the regional implications of the upward trajectory of India's civil nuclear energy programmes. As a matter of additional diplomatic nuance, Japan and Australia, active partners in the global non-proliferation debate, are in a sub-category that does not include South Korea as a proactive player. Moreover, these three countries have acknowledged, over time and not necessarily in unison, that India has maintained impeccable non-proliferation credentials. India's track record of this order, even while continuing stay outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has invariably come in for particular notice in this context. This does not, of course, imply that these countries share India's scepticism of the NPT as a discriminatory piece of international law.

 

Seoul's move

 

Unsurprisingly in these circumstances, South Korea moved ahead of Japan and Australia last January in seeking to establish new civil nuclear links with India. Seoul clearly sought to capitalise on its success in bagging a civil nuclear contract with the United Arab Emirates in a competitive process of international bidding. The civil nuclear energy market in India, given New Delhi's non-proliferation credentials, was, in Seoul's calculations, an attractive destination worth exploring.

 

This issue was first placed on the Seoul-New Delhi agenda during South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's visit to India as its Republic Day guest this year. And, on June 18, External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna announced in Seoul that India and South Korea would soon commence negotiations for a civil nuclear energy pact. A day earlier, he told Mr. Lee that there was much scope for a new trajectory of bilateral cooperation in the domain of space. South Korea promptly agreed to explore the possibilities of launching its satellites aboard India's space launch vehicles. It is not immediately clear, though, whether there can be some kind of a diplomatic trade-off between New Delhi and Seoul on these unrelated science-and-technology issues.

 

Australia's stand

 

By contrast, Australia's Labour government, which sailed with the U.S. without demur in the NSG in September 2008, has not evinced interest in selling uranium to India. Canberra's reasoning, in this context, is that India remains outside the NPT framework. So, with Julia Gillard having now assumed office as Australia's Prime Minister and promised to seek a mandate of her own in "the coming months," it will come as a surprise if the closed issue of uranium sales to India is reopened in the present context.

 

A relevant poser, therefore, is why has the new Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, decided to break ranks with Australia in choosing to negotiate a civil nuclear agreement with India. Tokyo's latest move followed "consultations" with New Delhi. Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said on June 25 that Tokyo took this new initiative only "after confirming that India has been steadily carrying out its commitments and actions" as stipulated in the terms of New Delhi's exemption from the NSG guidelines as approved in September 2008. Also cited by Mr. Okada as factors relevant to this new initiative were "India's importance for Japan," the urgent necessity of combating global warming, and Tokyo's own updated energy and industrial policies.

 

The proverbial intricacies of rocket science are not required to discern Japan's strategic compulsions that go beyond the political reasons it cited now. Mr. Kan has already committed himself to accommodating U.S. military interests in Okinawa, an issue over which his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, quit as prime minister. This emotive issue is intricately linked to the dynamics of Japan's domestic politics. However, Mr. Kan's foreign policy message is that he is mindful of Washington's heightened interests in East Asia at this time of new geo-strategic cross currents in the region.

 

Mr. Kan's decision to negotiate with India for "cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy" is reflective of a desire to enlarge the base of Tokyo's geopolitical reach. This makes sense in a context dominated by the continuing rise of China. Surely, both China and Japan have been pursuing a qualitatively improved bilateral engagement in recent months. At the same time, the regional scene is becoming more complex, with the Association of South East Asian Nations seeking to invite not only the U.S. but also Russia to a new ASEAN+8 dialogue forum. China and India, which is widely seen in the region as a U.S.-friend, besides the U.S. itself and Russia, will be among the proposed eight partners of the 10-member ASEAN.

 

Aside from such long-term perspectives, Japan's latest civil nuclear initiative towards India is reflective of a softening of stand by an ardent NPT protagonist. A relevant question, with no easy answer, is whether this may impinge, in some way, on the NSG's unsettled thinking on China's current move towards Pakistan in the civil nuclear domain.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

G-20 ENDS WITH LESSER ACRIMONY

 

Last weekend's G-20 summit in Toronto has ended with much less acrimony than earlier ones. There was, however, a clear division between countries which stressed on cutting down deficits — which means a huge dose of austerity and an exit from stimulus packages — and the other group which felt there should be a phased withdrawal of stimulus measures. In fact, the second group, which includes India, said it was not the right time to withdraw stimulus packages as this could result in double-digit inflation. The United States and Brazil were also of the view that withdrawal of stimulus measures — at a time when the global economy was recovering and remained fragile — would derail it and plunge the world once again into recession. France, Germany and Britain, on the other hand, wanted an aggressive push to cut down fiscal deficits. Britain has already announced one of the most ambitious austerity budgets on Friday. It claimed this would keep the level of confidence in the British economy high, and this was vital for growth. The new measures to raise revenue included a tax on bank transactions and a higher VAT on industry.


Growth and employment were the buzzwords underpinning both views — so the division was not all that strident when countries that account for 85 per cent of the global economy gathered in Toronto. There was one lone voice which felt that the debate over job creation or growth and deficit reduction was a false one, and that it was possible to do both simultaneously.


For all their discussions, agreements and disagreements, there was the underlying fear that all countries needed protection from the tsunami of destruction that afflicted almost all the world's economies in 2008. The lengthy resolution at the summit's end was all about palliatives and the need for reforms to sustain growth and employment. The reform agenda rests on four pillars: a strong regulatory framework, effective supervision, addressing systemic institutions and a transparent international assessment and peer review system. Interestingly, the summit agreed that the financial sector should make a fair and substantial contribution to pay for any burdens associated with government interventions to bail out failed institutions — as the US and others did in the last crisis. Taxpayers in almost all countries deeply resented governments using their hard-earned money to bail out delinquent fatcats. If financial institutions are made to cough up their own funds in a crisis, it would not burden national budgets. It was calculated during the discussions that globally $12 billion could be mobilised through a banking transaction tax. But in the end these are all temporary measures: despite the recovery in the past year and a half, job creation, for one, has not managed to keep up with demand. Developing countries don't want developed countries to withdraw their stimulus measures as this would put a lid on consumption, to the detriment of exports from developing nations. Countries like China and India have been adopting measures to increase employment and production by stimulating domestic demand. But the problem remains in high-cost developed economies, which have priced themselves out of the market. Most multinational corporations are therefore setting up production hubs in developing countries, where labour is still relatively cheaper. The US faces huge problems in creating jobs, which to an extent reflects the crisis of capitalism. Placards displayed by protesters in Toronto outside the G-20 summit venue screamed: "Capitalism is a failure". This major crisis was, however, not discussed at the summit, though the failures and chaos thrown up by the capitalist system were sought to be tackled. This is one of the ironies of the G-20 summit.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

AFGHAN UNRAVELLING?

VIKRAM SOOD

 

After nine years in Afghanistan — its longest war — the United States seems to be caught in a quagmire with the Taliban, backed by US ally Pakistan, on the ascendant. Thousands of Afghans have died along with nearly 2,000 ISAF troops, and $300 billion spent on a war that has chronically been under-resourced and self-delusionary. Today, the campaign looks increasingly an exclusive American enterprise, with Canada and the Netherlands deciding to walk out; the German President had to resign over differences and the French also reluctant to continue with this never-ending war. The US commander had to quit amid stories of dissonance among major US policymakers. The British envoy, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, is on long leave, and Britain's CDS is to demit office prematurely. The Canadians have just revealed they had unearthed a conspiracy to destroy the Canadian Parliament by a group of 18 home-grown Muslim terrorists angry with the country's Afghan war involvement.


Afghanistan remains lawless with several governments acting on their own, an ineffective police force and an inept national army that won't be ready to take on full functions for several years. Many of America's quixotic adventures were on the advice of Pakistan's rulers, who led them to believe they could capitalise on the differences between the "good" and "bad" Taliban. Attempts at regime change, by demonising President Hamid Karzai without taking the elementary precaution of identifying a successor, were an incredibly naïve pursuit that created irreconcilable differences between master and ally. Once intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, who opposed negotiations with the insurgents, was eased out, Mr Karzai could buy local insurance and pursue the policy of chatting up Siraj Haqqani under close Pakistani supervision.


Late in the day, perhaps, US and other Western think tanks and media have begun to acknowledge the source and gravity of the problem. The latest and most comprehensive was the Rand Corporation paper by Christine Fair and Seth Jones, which highlights the terrorist threat not only to the region and the world but to Pakistan itself. While suggesting that Pakistan abandon its policy of using terror as a foreign policy weapon, the authors also asked the US to revisit its own policy of too many carrots and too few sticks. The LSE report authored by Matt Waldman on the Pakistan government's official policy of supporting, through the ISI, Afghan insurgents (Taliban and the Haqqani network) only embellishes what has been stated here in India for years, known in the West but rarely openly acknowledged. Further, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba's growing profile in Afghanistan means Pakistan seeks to use this trusted jihadi organisation as insurance in case the Taliban turn rogue. It is an unfortunate measure of Pakistani leaders' all-consuming hostility towards India that they would rather cohabit with a retrograde organisation like the Taliban instead of seeking a compromise with India.


The sudden publication of what is really old news about the trillion-dollar mineral reserves in Afghanistan is a new factor. Will the global war on terror, once described as unwinnable by President Barack Obama, now become a winnable war for resources? These are all heavy-investment and long-gestation projects that only the rich and powerful can manage. But there is no magic wand for instant riches and stability for Afghanistan's poor. The fear is that Afghanistan, as the land bridge between Central Asia and the rest of Asia, will go further downhill amid increased violence among its various ethnic groups. A significant number of these forces would be provided by jihadi foot soldiers from Pakistan.


These reports, about the Pakistan Army's control over the Taliban, the presence of its surrogates in Afghanistan along with reports of exploitable vital minerals in that country and the slowing down of the Kandahar and North Waziristan operations, could suggest there is a deal on the anvil. The West withdraws its fighting forces substantially, outsources security of its projects to private military contractors while exploiting minerals. Pakistan will have attained strategic depth and security through the Taliban and Haqqani networks.
It is sometimes forgotten that in the ultimate analysis, the Taliban are Pashtun who live on both sides of the Durand Line, and there has been an upsurge in anti-Pashtun violence in Balochistan, Karachi and Fata. It might not be long before there is an upsurge of the demand for a Greater Pushtunistan once the foreigner (and common enemy) has departed, and Pashtuns internalise their problems swept under the carpet by successive regimes. Pashtun assertiveness will almost certainly lead to retaliation from Afghanistan's other ethnic groups. Religious obscurantism combined with ultra-nationalism can be a very explosive mix.


The future looks uncertain and violent unless there is an all-nations guarantee for Afghan neutrality and non-interference by other powers. It is a fair assumption that Mr Karzai's Afghanistan is unravelling fast and no one really has any idea how to prevent this. The Saudi-Wahhabi and the Pakistan-military nexus, the latter's nexus with Afghan drug lords, worth billions of dollars, appears to be picking up the pieces in a divided country.
The cure, if any, lies in Pakistan — where all Afghan-specific and India-specific insurgent/terrorist groups take shelter, receive support and now coalesce for Pakistan's foreign policy objectives. So far India been comfortable with its infrastructure assistance to Afghans, while others battled for bigger stakes. This situation will change, with Pakistan remaining hostile despite the recent veneer of bonhomie.


China, with ambitions to reach the Persian Gulf, is the rising power seeking space and resource bases for itself, with Pakistan as its staunch ally. India needs to strengthen its relations with Iran and Russia, who would be similarly affected by the rise of Taliban, for access to Central Asia and West Asia. Despite the odds against us, India's profile in Afghanistan must not be lowered. If Kashmir is an all-time issue for Pakistan, so should Gilgit and Baltistan — a geo-strategic jugular for both Pakistan and China — be for India. It would be sound policy to modernise our defence forces in all aspects, especially maritime. The region will eventually normalise only when the Pakistan Army, whose policies have hurt the Pakistani people immeasurably, normalises like other armies.

 

Vikram Sood is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

DRIPPING ECONOMY

JAYATI GHOSH

 

What on earth are they thinking? In the midst of an almost unprecedented and continuous increase in the price of necessities, which is increasingly translating into generalised inflation, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has chosen to "free" the price of petroleum products, to bring them in line with international prices. What this translates into is a significant and immediate increase in oil prices. And since oil is a universal intermediate (which enters directly or indirectly into all other prices) this necessarily means a further rise in inflation.


This is a move that is inexplicable from the point of view of general economic policy. Inflation has emerged as a major problem for the government especially in the past few months, first with food price inflation and now with more general price increases, such that in the year up to May 2010 the Wholesale Price Index increased by 10.2 per cent. Food price inflation continues to be much higher, at 16.5 per cent, putting what by now must be an unbearable burden on the common people. In fact, the Reserve Bank of India has already cited the high rate of inflation as a reason for tightening monetary policy, making it harder and more expensive for producers and individuals to access loans.


Presumably, therefore, measures to reduce inflation ought to be high on the government's list of priorities. The current measure suggests that this is far from the case. An increase in oil prices will not just have a direct effect on prices (estimated by the finance ministry to add just below one per cent to the existing rate of inflation). It will also have a cascading effect — as all goods have to be produced using some energy, usually oil or equivalent, and then transported, so all of their prices will increase subsequently. So the country will have to face a further onslaught of inflationary pressure which is this time entirely policy-induced.


Further, the global prices of petroleum products in the past three years have been marked by the most extreme volatility, more than doubling and then falling to nearly half within a period of 18 months. The fluctuations hardly reflect "economic fundamentals" which have not changed much in the past few years; rather they show the impact of global speculative forces on fuel prices. In any case, they are now rising again, but this does not mean that these can be treated as benchmark prices in any meaningful sense. Deregulation means that domestic prices will now also fluctuate equally wildly.


Clearly, this is the worst possible time to go in for a liberalisation of petroleum prices, which will inevitably be associated with rising prices of such goods. What is the economic logic behind this startling and clearly insensitive move?


In fact, the UPA government has been trying for some time to decontrol oil prices, despite the global volatility in these prices and the lack of convincing arguments in favour of such deregulation. The Rangarajan Committee on the pricing and taxation of petroleum products was set up in the hope that it would recommend such a move. But that report did not really point to this conclusion, so the government, not to be thwarted in its desire, set up yet another committee.


This time it was an Expert Group chaired by former Planning Commission member Kirit Parikh, with the more or less explicit mandate to recommend wholesale liberalisation of the pricing of petroleum products. The Expert Group duly did just that, and the government has been quick to accept its recommendations.


The official reason for this move is that it is necessary to stem the "losses" being suffered by the oil marketing companies (OMCs). When the domestic prices of oil products are controlled but the price of imported oil is rising, oil marketing companies receive from the consumer less than what it costs them to acquire the products they distribute. This leads to losses (called "under-recoveries") for companies like Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and IBP (Indo-Burma Petroleum).
But this argument misses the point that all of these companies deliver a range of products and services, the prices of all of which are not controlled. In fact, profits after taxes of the most important oil companies have remained positive and often quite substantially so in the past 10 years. Under-recoveries are notional losses that only lower book profits relative to some benchmark. Thus, there is little danger that the industry would be bankrupted even if prices were kept at their earlier levels.


It is true, of course, that the burden of such under-recoveries should not affect only the books of the oil marketing companies, but should be shared by upstream oil companies like ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation), Oil Industry Commission and Gail, as well as by the Central government which gets customs duties and excise duties from petroleum products and by the state governments which benefit from sales taxes.

 

This would mean that the oil refineries should offer discounts when selling products to the OMCs and government should reduce the taxes it levies on oil products.


This precise question was examined by the Rangarajan Committee. It was found that there is indeed an adequate buffer to shield domestic consumers from the effects of increases in international prices, so long as segments that can afford to take a cut in petroleum-related revenues because they have alternative sources of resource mobilisation are willing to accept such a reduction. Instead, the current strategy is one that puts the entire burden of irrational shifts in the international prices of oil on the consumer, even if the burden sharing involved is extremely regressive and the worst affected will be the economically weakest segments of the population.
So why has the government chosen to do this? The most obvious reason seems to be that the government has chosen to favour the private companies that have been allowed to enter and expand in this sector. This has encouraged the government to take a measure that will cause great harm to most of the population so as to bring in more profits to a few large and powerful companies.


This brings to mind the popular adage: "Either the government owns the oil companies, or the oil companies own the government".

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

TORONTO TAKEAWAY

 

It would seem that the pragmatic assessment that prime minister Manmohan Singh offered at the G20 summit in Toronto this weekend has fallen on deaf ears.

 

He has cautioned against withdrawing government stimulus packages a little too soon and warned against deflation.

 

That is indeed ironic coming from the leader of a country facing double-digit inflation. Singh is looking at long-term issues.

 

He is aware that the growth of emerging market economies like that of India is crucially linked to the recovery in the European and North American markets.

 

Singh sees the way out in governmental and market investment in infrastructural sector, and he hopes that Western foreign direct investment would flow into this. The West is caught up in its own troubles.

 

The meeting only succeeded in bringing into the open the differing views about how to deal with recession. European countries like Germany are convinced that governmental overspend and ballooning deficits is not the way. German chancellor Angela Merkel stuck to her austerity thesis.

 

Britain's Conservative prime minister David Cameron and his chancellor of exchequer George Osborne who had recently announced drastic cuts in governmental spending was the European thinking in action.

 

The Americans are following their own path. While the financial rescue package worked out the by the federal government is still in place, president Barack Obama has also put in place fresh financial market regulation despite resistance from Wall Street bigwigs.

 

Despite talk of global coordination, what is clear is that every country or region is charting its own path.

 

The substantial developments however were on the sidelines of the G20 meeting. The India-Canada civil nuclear agreement is one of them.

 

Canada, which had been opposed to the Indian nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 and had imposed sanctions, has now changed its stance, no doubt in the wake of the India-US civil nuclear deal and the approvals of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

 

Singh's meeting with Obama was focused on the issue of Pakistan and curbing the terror organisations from there. It is back to bilateral issues and to politics as usual. Not that the economy has ceased to matter. It is just that there are no global solutions to the market woes.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

DISHONOURABLE KILLS

 

The proposed law to deal with "honour killings" will come not a moment too soon.

 

Union law minister Veerappa Moily, home minister P Chidambaram and attorney general Goolam Vahanvati are working hard to amend section 302 of the Indian Penal Code through an ordinance.

 

The idea is to amend the punishment for murder as well as introduce a separate section to deal with these community-dictated murders, in the way "hate" crimes are now treated elsewhere in the world.

 

In recent times it has seemed as if "honour" killings are increasing day and after day. Communities, including the now notorious "khap" panchayats, it seems, will show no mercy to those who "defy" their traditions, with little regard to whether these killings are illegal or even irrational.

 

The community leaders and elders have been defiant and aggressive in their public interactions while defending themselves, which only seems to prove that social reform and norms of accepted behaviour have not managed to trickle through to many parts of the country.

 

But changing mindsets is a long-drawn-out process and a fast-track law with special provisions to deal with inter-caste and intra-caste murders — carried out to safeguard moribund or brutal traditions — is certainly the need of the hour.

 

The government appears to be shaken by this epidemic of murders where family members are proud to kill their young.

 

Certainly, there appears to have been either tacit approval of such customs or mass ignorance, on a social scale.

 

But perhaps with our growing economy and freedom and choice being appreciated by the younger generations, change has created massive fear in these ignorant communities. It is a tragedy that the young have had to bear the brunt of this rage of the "traditional" and have had to pay with their lives.

 

While the government is putting together its ordinances, it might also consider refresher and sensitisation course for local policemen, bureaucrats and politicians without whose complicity death on this scale would be improbable.

 

The police must be educated first as it is to them young couples turn to first. It is not just the shock of finding apparently modern politicians like Naveen Jindal standing up for khaps which should affect us.

 

Local leaders need to be educated and there is ample opportunity for social reformers and the NGO sector to move in.

 

People need to understand that these are dishonourable killings and cannot be justified under any circumstances.

 

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DNA

COMMENT

LOSING IN AFGHANISTAN

 RAJEEV SRINIVASAN 

 

The news from Afghanistan is not good for the US, nor for India.

US president Barack Obama dismissed the commander of his troops in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, ostensibly because of rude comments he made in a magazine article, but in reality because a scapegoat was needed for the increasingly inept war efforts there. The same fate befell his predecessor, too.

 

The facts on the ground indicate that Obama's announced plan — surge, bribe, declare victory, and run like hell — is not working. The current thinking is no longer about winning, but about spinning a face-saving retreat. Says the Washington Post, "[the] administration is looking for a decent, negotiated exit. The Pakistani intelligence service would act as a surrogate (and guarantor) for the Taliban… The deal might leave the Taliban in control of large parts of Afghanistan...  "

 

In other words, Obama is explicitly outsourcing the war to Pakistan's ISI. This would be a questionable choice anyway. But given that the Taliban are basically the ISI in baggy pants and beards, an instance of diplomatic theatre (after all, it is astonishing that these alleged theology students suddenly started driving tanks and flying planes), the policy is suicidal. A recent report from the London School of Economics and Harvard University emphasised the links between Pakistan's government, the ISI and the Taliban.

 

This report, The Sun in the Sky: The relationship between Pakistan's ISI and Afghan insurgents, indicts the ISI, which, it says, "orchestrates, supports and strongly influences' insurgents. It "provides huge support in training, funding, munitions and supplies", which is "official ISI policy", not the work of some rogue elements. Furthermore, it claims Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari promised to release jailed Taliban leaders if they kept quiet about it. This amounts to "collusion with the Taliban by an enemy state (Pakistan)".

 

A New York Times report suggests that "Pakistan is presenting itself as the new viable partner for Afghanistan to president Hamid Karzai, who has soured on the Americans. Pakistani officials say they can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of al-Qaeda, who runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan, into a power-sharing arrangement."

 

The Haqqani network and the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are among the ISI's assets. Ironically, Hekmatyar, now a sworn enemy of the US, received over half of the billions that the CIA lavished on the war against the Soviets, thanks to his friends in the ISI.

 

It is remarkable that the ISI has hoodwinked the Americans to such an extent. ISI protégés are killing Americans, while the ISI and the Pakistani Army pretend to be fighting on the side of the Americans. In other words, the Americans are fighting people whom they are indirectly funding!

 

When the history of the Afghan war is written, historians may pinpoint the exact moment the Americans lost it. That was the siege of Kunduz in 2001. The rampaging Northern Alliance had much of the top brass of the Taliban corralled at the fort in Kunduz. Unbelievably, the CIA authorised an airlift by the Pakistanis (now called "Airlift of Evil"). At least a thousand of the Taliban were spirited away — and the open secret is that they were mostly mid-level Pakistani army and ISI officers in turbans. That singular event sealed the fate of the entire campaign.

 

It is high time that America recognised that the problem is not Afghanistan, but Pakistan's scheming army and the ISI.

 

The ISI has also put about an interesting theory, that Afghanistan is per se not conquerable. That is not quite true: Greeks, Persians, Mongols, et al, did conquer it. Yes, the British were routed. That was because, despite propaganda, the British were poor warriors: they were able to win victories in India only because of a disastrous Indian habit of betrayal. There are Mir Jafars aplenty in India; but Afghans do not betray their own to foreigners.

 

When properly handled, Afghanistan can be conquered and held, as Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Sikh Empire demonstrated not too long ago. The reason most conquerors left Afghanistan is that it is stark, inhospitable territory with no apparent value: the returns were not worth the cost of holding it. Of course, that may change now that they say the country holds trillions of dollars worth of strategic minerals: that may encourage Americans to hold on.

 

But a comprehensive American defeat in Afghanistan would be strategically bad for India, too. It would encourage triumphalist fundamentalists, who could now reasonably claim to have defeated both the Soviets and the Americans. Worse, it would mean that China, through its proxies, has defeated the Americans yet again: this would be number three in a row, after Korea and Vietnam. Imagine their hubris!

 

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DNA

COMMENT

BASIC INSTINCT OF CAPITALISM IS MISSING

 PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

 

Everyone is sure that there is something wrong with capitalism in the wake of the 2008 financial markets meltdown and the consequent recession.

 

But not everyone — including politicians and economists — is sure as to what is to be done about it.

 

There is the general argument to rein in the greedy Wall Street speculators and manipulators and that the state should step in, spend money, create jobs and protect the jobless and other vulnerable folk.

 

What those who recommend state intervention have in mind is a vague kind of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, which stops short of turning into a state-run economy but does all that it can to ensure that people are not thrown on to the streets.

 

There is of course understandable concern and a bit of economic merit in this policy prescription.

 

What is problematic and unsatisfactory about it is that it does not show how jobs can be created, incomes guaranteed, wealth generated and also keep it going almost without break. It is like expecting a machine to work without a break or a breakdown. A perfect machine would of course work continuously but not man-made ones.

 

If there are failures in markets, then there would be failures in a state-run market as well.

 

No one, including the communists, socialists and anarchists, is talking of a controlled economy. As a matter of fact, at this moment of deep crisis in capitalism, the critics of capitalism are conspicuously silent. They are not any more predicting that capitalism is on its last legs and it is doomed. They are not in a position to offer the dream of the alternate utopia.

 

There are also no blueprints for reviving capitalism, or for replacing it. No big debates, no big ideas. There is an intellectual vacuum. All that one is looking forward to is for some small solutions to small problems, and hoping that the big issue will get sorted out on its own. The economists cannot be blamed for turning out to be too timid to offer radical answers. It is the fault of everyone — social scientists, natural scientists, social reformers and culture critics.

 

There is perhaps need to address some of the basic issues of organising society. Is there a need to build cities, towns, villages afresh, the contribution of individuals, families and groups organised in a more efficient manner so that the resources are created and utilised in an optimal fashion and that they can be sustained for a longer time? What is the best way of exploring new avenues and resources? What kind of knowledge and skills are required to do this?

 

This is not to suggest the ecological approach in the silly green fashion. If capitalism has to renew itself, it may have to look at the basic elements of a social organisation. This is an exercise that has not been done since the industrial revolution.

 

The hippies in the 1970s tried to lead a community life of sorts of their own but those projects came to nothing because they did not do the hard-wired projections. They depended more on sentiments and hallucinogenic thinking.

 

Capitalism will have to think of building cities and villages, creating networks and identifying new jobs if it has to move forward. The existing paradigm of exploiting new opportunities that arise out of nowhere cannot be a source of assurance and success. Serendipity will continue to play its role no doubt but the element of uncertainty predominates. Future needs to be thought out in detail than it has been done so far.

 

And this may require individuals, families, groups and communities to think, dream and work together to be able to create fresh assets and these may be in the form of new habitat. Capitalism needs new frontiers and there are not too many people with an eye on the horizon. The basic instinct of capitalism is imagination, and that is missing.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

INDIA-CANADA N-DEAL

END OF THE DAYS OF FROSTY RELATIONS

 

It has taken Canada 36 long years to realise that it was not fair on its part to accuse New Delhi of misappropriating Canadian reactor designs when India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974. This had led to the relations between the two countries getting frosty. Canada, along with certain other countries, imposed sanctions on India in 1998 after New Delhi went ahead with fresh nuclear tests to emerge as a nuclear weapons state. Now the situation has changed with the signing of the India-Canada Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Toronto on Monday. As a result, India will be able to get nuclear fuel supplies and the latest reactor technologies from Canada, whereas the companies engaged in nuclear trade in Canada will be free to participate in the growth of India's fast expanding nuclear power sector.

 

Canada is the seventh country to have entered into an agreement to do nuclear trade with India after the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008. Among the other countries are Russia, Britain and France. The historic deal with the US led to the powerful Nuclear Suppliers Group removing curbs on doing nuclear business with India, despite its not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. All this has been possible because of India's impeccable credentials as a responsible nuclear weapons power. India, however, remains committed to the objective of nuclear disarmament.

 

India's efforts for access to the latest nuclear technology and uninterrupted fuel supply are aimed at increasing its nuclear power generation to meet the country's rising energy demand. Nuclear power being the cleanest energy available to mankind, India has been on the lookout for all kinds of help to expand its nuclear power sector considerably. The civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Canada has special significance as it has vast reserves of uranium, besides oil and natural gas. The volume of trade between the two countries is too low despite a large number of Indians having settled in Canada. There is need to enhance their relations in all areas, including trade and industry. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TYRANNY OF CHANGE

TRADITION STRIKES AT MODERNITY

 

There is an apparent spurt in the incidents of "honour killing" in the recent past with the latest victims being two minor girls from Sonepat in Haryana. The suspects in this case include the girls' grandmother and two uncles. What drives otherwise normal citizens to kill their own near and dear ones has to be seen in the peculiar social context in northern states in general and Haryana in particular where a marriage within the same gotra or outside one's caste invites strong social disapproval, forcing members of a close-knit rural society to resort to what has come to be known as "honour killings".

 

Murders in the name of honour have also taken place in countries like Syria, Jordan and Pakistan. Some countries had even allowed killings for adultery and incest. As barriers crumble and awareness spreads, change has set in rather too soon, too fast, reshaping attitudes and unsettling relationships. Mindsets in comparatively stagnant rural societies, however, take time to change. Educated youngsters, no longer dependent on parents for a living, turn defiant and assert their right to choose their life partner. Proponents of the social establishment feel threatened and some react violently.

 

Because of widespread social sanction, honour deaths still do not provoke the kind of revulsion that the murder of innocence usually does. It is the media that has brought the issue to centre-stage. The Supreme Court too has stepped in effectively and asked the Centre and states to react to the charge of being mute spectators to the "mass frenzy". It is the politician who has let society down. He has not come out openly and strongly against the khap panchayats doling out medieval justice. That is because the khaps can influence votes. If the political class dithers, the police too turns lenient in enforcing the rule of law. Law-breakers get away with murder. Hence, the mayhem in Haryana.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SAINA SHINING

HERS HAS BEEN A PHENOMENAL RISE

 

June has been a dream month for Saina Nehwal. She won the Indian Open Grand Prix Gold title on the second Sunday and then followed it up with the Singapore Open Series Tournament and the Indonesia Open. That makes her only the second Indian to win three international events in a row, the first being Prakash Padukone in 1980. The 20-year-old girl from Hisar now has the unique distinction of being the first Indian shuttler to bag three Super Series titles, an achievement which may become the touchstone for all badminton players to come. When the Indian ace downed Sayaka Sato of Japan 21-19, 13-21, 21-11 in the final of the Indonesia Open on Sunday, it was her 15th consecutive match win and speaks volumes about her mettle. She has already bagged 15 titles in her short career. Her fighting spirit comes out loud and clear in all these facile wins.

 

What is all the more creditable is that she has maintained a level head despite all the adulation that has started coming her way. Like her coach Pullela Gopichand, she is not a flamboyant person and retains her cool in all situations. Her humility and sobriety showcase her undoubted talent all the more gloriously.

 

Saina was 18th in world rankings just two years ago but has risen by leaps and bounds to be number three now. The win in Jakarta will not improve her rankings because she only defended points she had won by clinching the title last year, but she has it in her to be the world number one some day. The top spot may have seemed impossible to achieve till last year but is now well within reach. She is ready to have a shy at it. A lot is expected from her in the Paris World Championship and the Delhi Commonwealth Games.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

IMPLICATIONS OF KYRGYZ CRISIS

IT MAY CAUSE REGIONAL TENSIONS

BY ANITA INDER SINGH

 

The violence in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, which has claimed a large number of lives, threatens to create regional insecurity. The UN has called on the government of President Rosa Otunbaeva to control the unrest. Socio-economic and ethnic divisions, authoritarian stratagems, misgovernance, corruption and the cynicism of Russia and the US are all inextricably intertwined and could contribute to the country becoming a failed state and a source of regional tensions.

 

Kyrgyzstan has had the misfortune of being under authoritarian rule under the Czarist empire after the mid-nineteenth century, then as part of the Soviet Union, and after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 under corrupt strongmen, who rigged elections to come to power. Not even Askar Akayev, its first post-Soviet, relatively liberal first President, provided decent governance or economic progress. The corruption of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to power in 2005, did not matter to either the US or Russia, both of which had military bases there. Indeed, the American base in Manas was run by Bakiyev's son Maksim, who was notoriously corrupt.

 

Apparently the US, while preaching democracy, human rights and good governance, turned a blind eye to Bakiyev's corruption because its troops could be transported via Manas to Afghanistan. Now, neither Russia nor the US can or will do anything to help restore order in the country.

 

At another level, authoritarian rulers, by their nature, do not govern by consensus, and in multi-ethnic societies they have always devised a variety of stratagems to divide and rule between communities, making for weak states. This is certainly true of Kyrgyzstan.

 

The history of economic and ethnic divisions has contributed in a large measure to the ongoing unrest. Russians were moved to the area in the 19th century by the Czars and then by Stalin in the 1930s. Under Stalin, the Kyrgyz language was russified, with Cyrillic replacing the Turkic alphabet, and Russian became the official lingua franca. Russians dominated lucrative political and financial posts. In southern Kyrgyzstan, in Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city, the Uzbek — 13 per cent of the Kyrgyzstan's population but a majority in Osh — represented wealth and commerce and controlled 80 per cent of the country's trade.

 

Disputes over land and water resources were common causes of violent conflict after 1990 when the Kyrgyz demanded land on which to settle their families on land dominated by Uzbeks. Kyrgyz political parties demanded the use of their language, which after independence, became the official language, scaring the Russians and provoking Uzbek demands for an autonomous Uzbek homeland in the Osh area. The Kyrgyz leaders rejected these demands. Kyrgyzstan's Uzbeks then sought unification with neighbouring Uzbekistan, which heightened ethnic tensions.

 

The immediate causes of the violence which led to Bakiyev's overthrow in April were a sharp increase in the price of energy in January this year at the height of a freezing winter. Then on April 1, Russia announced a rise in fuel prices to Kyrgyzstan, causing many people to fear greater economic hardship.

 

Anger against the corrupt and undemocratic Bakiyev regime spread and the Kyrgyz rose in revolt — on April 7 — against Bakiyev and forced him out of office.

 

The protestors were inspired by the need to survive. They do not appear to be inspired by revolutionary or ideological ideals. They endorsed the populist Bakiyev in 2005 and threw him out because his authoritarianism and corruption had worsened their plight. Following Bakiyev's overthrow, Otunbaeva's government responded by pulling down the prices for water, electricity and heating back to the levels of 2009, and announced plans for a new democratic constitution.

 

That was not enough to contain the unrest. On April 19, large groups of the Kyrgyz attempted to seize plots of land belonging to a Turkic minority group on the outskirts of the capital, Bishkek. Driven by survival instincts and for scarce land, poor Kyrgyz slum-dwellers ignored government and communal appeals for national unity and ethnic tolerance. Land grabbing seemed more desirable. Easy targets, such as Bakiyev's family homes in Osh, were also looted and occupied. UN sources say that the violence was organised: some think it has been instigated by supporters of Bakiyev.

 

As violence spread, privileged Russians started leaving the country; and more than 150,000 Uzbeks have lost and fled their homes.

 

There are two outstanding factors in the Kyrgyz crisis that could become regional security risks. The first is that ethnic tensions could explode into a conflict with neighbouring Uzbekistan. From Tashkent, the Uzbek government, led by another corrupt strongman, President Islam Karimov, has frequently accused Kyrgyzstan of harbouring radical Islamic militants.

 

Uzbeks are the dominant ethnic group in the Osh area, and ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, involving the Uzbek community, could reinforce Uzbek nationalism. This in turn could lead to a questioning of Kyrgyzstan's current international borders and legitimacy.

 

Kyrgyzstan's Central Asian neighbours also fear a revival of jihadism. In the late 1990s, Islamist guerrillas based in the mountainous region of southern Kyrgyzstan initiated attacks deep inside Uzbekistan. The spread of Taliban activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the increasing reliance of NATO forces on the supply lines passing through Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) make it possible that instability can increase in the region especially if the Kyrgyz state is unable to control its own territory, at a time when Pakistani-sponsored Taliban violence in growing in Afghanistan.

 

Neither Russia's toothless Collective Security Treaty Origanisation, which includes Kyrgyzstan, nor the Beijing-sponsored Shanghai Cooperation Organisation comprising the Central Asian states (with India as an observer) has come up with any solution to defuse the tension in Kyrgyzstan or in the region. And the Obama administration is looking helpless and embarrassed as it could lose its military base at Manas, which is logistically important for Afghan war supplies.

 

It is in the interests of India and the world that the Otunbaeva government should stem the violence and address its causes. Otherwise the domestic Kyrgyz conflict could easily become a regional one, with dangerous consequences for Russia, China and South Asia.

 

The writer is Visiting Professor, Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, New Delhi.

 

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THE  TRIBUNE

MIDDLE

FOOTBALL FRENZY

BY HARBANS SINGH VIRDI

 

Football fever has gripped the globe at the moment. Painted faces of football fans and young, beautiful cheerleaders are beaming into our bedrooms through TV channels.

 

It is a kind of virus which spreads every four years. None, of course, complains except for some women who cannot understand men's hysteria about the game. It is not WWF but WFF, the Worldwide Football Frenzy. Super stars Brazilian Pele (a Portuguese name), Ronaldo Luis and Argentinian Diego Maradona are considered living legends all over the world.

 

Despite being a great sporting nation, India is still a babe in the world of football. Even a tiny country like Nepal has beaten us in Asian football. To catch up with countries like Japan, South Korea and China, is a tall order for India, which watches in all bewilderment an attack cutting through a maze of men like a knife cutting through a slice of cheese.

 

We remain backward for the simple reason that we always invent excuses for our defeat. Politicians, players and sport administrators — all talk of poverty and poor infrastructure as the main reason. But countries like Cameroon and Ghana in the World Cup show poverty is no reason for poor performance by any nation. What we actually need is toughness in mind and body and the will to work hard, harder and hardest. That is the key to success in this game of skill, stamina and tough and rough tackling.

 

Once a minister was called to see a football match. He saw boys kicking and even jostling with each other for the possession of the ball. He was appalled to see the bumpy ground on which the boys played. At the end of the match, the politician held a great promise for the game. "Though I was happy to see the match, I was shocked to see that 24 players were playing with just one single ball, kicking it, dribbling it and passing it to friends who fought for its possession.

 

Now I know why we are so backward. A total of 24 players played with just one single ball. I also wondered why a man in black clothes and a whistle in the mouth did not stop boys from quarrelling with each other. I promise to arrange balls for each player to improve his game and thus prevent boys from kicking and hurting each other."

 

In another instance, a man was passing by a ground in which a football match was on. He had no knowledge of the game. He asked a spectator why the players were kicking the ball.

 

"Go(a)l karan vaste," replied the spectator.

 

"But the ball is already gol (round)," said the man.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

NURTURING RURAL TALENT

JUSTICE S.S. SODHI (RETIRED)

 

India has tremendous sporting talent but only a fraction of it gets tapped. Villages and towns lack infrastructure and resources. Efforts are afoot to locate and and embellish uncut gems. A look at two projects — a unique tennis story and a shooting nursery

 

The game of tennis has traditionally been a sport for the elite, a game affordable to the affluent. Over the last 20 years Chandigarh has created champions from among highly gifted village children from the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The vibrant institute, Chandigarh Academy for Rural Tennis (CHART), is a part of the Tennis Stadium, appropriately located in the sylvan green Leisure Valley in Sector 10.

CHART was established in 1988 by the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association (CLTA), an autonomous elected body affiliated with the All India Tennis Association. Every two years or so six to eight physically gifted boys and girls are selected at the age of 9 from among hundreds of aspirants from the rural hinterland through a scientific talent search. The initial trials evaluate the candidates on their physical fitness and athletic ability. Technical experts, headed by a former Professor of Physical Education, shortlist some 40 candidates.

 

At the final stage of selection in Chandigarh, the boys and girls are assessed for their aptitude for the game of tennis on such factors as hand/eye coordination and ball sense. The Academy does not demand of CHART candidates any prior knowledge of the game. None of the village children selected in 2009, for instance, had ever held a racquet before entering the Academy, but they displayed high potential.

 

Interestingly, the entire group of eight children selected in 2009 is from families of marginal farmers and landless agricultural labour, subsisting below the official poverty line. To embellish these uncut gems, the academy bears the entire cost of the children's board and lodging in its own hostel, their education in a reputed public school, and training and equipment and participation in tournaments. The project requires a financial commitment of Rs 15,000 per month in respect of every performing trainee until he or she attains the age of 18.

 

Since its advent CHART has produced champions at the junior and senior levels, notably Sunil Kumar, India's senior national champion though he is only 16, Robin Dhingra, Asian junior champion, and Vijayant Malik, a current probable for India's team for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games 2010. Besides, a string of junior champions in various age groups have emerged from the same stables. Some products have become reputed coaches and umpires. Impressed with the visible results from CHART, top international trainers have been visiting Chandigarh. Doug McCurdy, a Director from the International Tennis Federation, was in Chandigarh on three different occasions to appraise the coaching scheme. The pursuit of excellence continues.

 

CLTA's faculty of 30 coaches and physical trainers runs a scientific junior development programme for as many as 450 boys and girls in the age group 4-18 years. Whereas the CHART trainees stay in the hostel within the campus, the majority, being locally based, live at home. The campus has 12 synthetic and clay courts, six of them flood lit, with four smaller courts for children in the 4-7 age group.

 

If the credo for CHART is "catch them rural", the training school as a whole aims to "catch them young, and teach them young." The regimen includes rigorous training, linked with tough physical and mental conditioning. The faculty, including some of the best coaches in the country, hails from many places, including Kolkata and distant Manipur.

 

Over the years reputed players from all over India, and even abroad, have been using the facilities at CLTA for advanced training. The interaction between varied regions, social groups and tennis skills stimulates performance of all. On any afternoon, as many as 250 children of all age groups can be seen engaged in serious tennis lessons, which they seem obviously to be enjoying.

 

The land and buildings of the stadium complex, established tastefully by the Chandigarh Administration, are a property of the Administration, conforming to the grand design of Le Corbousier, the city's famous architect. The management of the facility is a model of partnership between the official establishment and CLTA. While the government, as the owner, provides and upgrades basic infrastructure, CLTA is expected to conduct all tennis-related activities as a professionally run, financially self-reliant organisation.

 

The structure of management was established by a former Administrator of Chandigarh UT, Mr. Siddhartha Shankar Ray, in 1987. Mr. Ray took the visionary decision to lease out the tennis stadium complex on a 10-year lease to CLTA. The lease agreement, subsequently extended by Mr. Ray's successor by another 20 years, holds the lessee accountable for quality in performance.

 

The executive body comprises seasoned administrators and professionals from public life. Two office bearers, the Chairman and the President, are former Chief Secretaries. The present Honorary Secretary is a former Director General of Police, who is a distinguished sportsman (he was a national weight lifter in his time). Eminent members are drawn from the field of education and industry. CLTA has among its mentors such sporting legends as former and current national champions and captains of the Indian Davis Cup team. Naresh Kumar, Ramesh Krishnan and Leander Paes provide invaluable guidance on tennis matters as CLTA's honorary advisers. These links have helped in bringing the city of Chandigarh on the international sports map, the city having hosted numerous national and international events, including two Davis Cup ties.

 

Every year players are given scholarships and incentives for outstanding performance in various tournaments.

CLTA is a non-profit organisation. It receives no official grant for its training schemes. Any revenue generated is ploughed back into the game for supporting players and improving infrastructure. No member is entitled to, or draws, any sitting fee for meetings. They are expected to work in an honorary capacity, for the love of the game, which binds together the players and the management. The Association specifically prohibits by rule its members to have any business interest in any tennis-related activity.

 

The function of a nursery is to identify, breed and nurture quality. It prepares its subjects to enter the tough

world of competition. The products of Chandigarh's nursery for tennis are surely worth watching.

 

The writer, a former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, is a patron of the CLTA

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

SHOOTING STARS OF BADAL VILLAGE

THE TRAINEES ARE A DEMORALISED LOT. NONE OF THEM HAS BEEN SELECTED FOR THE COMING COMMONWEALTH GAMES

CHANDER PARKASH

 

Badal, the native village of Chief Minister Parkash Singh, came on the Olympic map when Avneet Sidhu, a trainee of the local shooting range, participated in Beijing Olympics in 2008. Before that, Avneet grabbed the gold medal in 10 metres Air Rifle pairs event at Commonwealth Games at Melbourne in 2006. She was given the Arjuna Award for her rare achievement.

 

As Chief Minister, Badal gave liberal funds for setting up a shooting range in the local Dasmesh College in 1999-2000 to make expensive sport facilities available free of cost for rural girls. The trainees of this shooting range, the only exclusive range for the girls in the country, have now missed the bull's eye as none of them has been selected for the coming Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi in October. The trainees of the shooting range, which is used as a centre by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), have failed to excel in any international competition in the current year so far despite the fact that in the past ten years or so they had managed to collect a number of international medals.

 

"We have to practise under open sky and a blistering sun for the point 22 rifle and sports pistol events as the 50 metres and 25 metres shooting ranges are yet to be constructed," says Lakhbir Kaur Sidhu, who won medals in three prestigious international competitions from 2005 to 2009 and could not make it to Commonwealth Games 2010.

 

"We should be trained by international-level coaches. Our training camps must be held in foreign lands so that we can learn from players of other countries. Adequate funds should be given to us for participating in international competitions by the SAI for a better exposure," claims Preeti Tomar, who has participated in three international championships and who is still one of the biggest hopes for a medal for the country. "How can we achieve excellence when we are training with electrical targets in the 10-metre shooting range, which has come up only recently when electronic targets are being used in international competitions," points out Shefali Tomar, another international. "We fully agree with Preeti", say Veerpal Kaur and Ram Lal, both coaches. However, Karam Singh, Assistant Director, SAI, while disagreeing with Preeti and her coaches, says that most of the girls who had been here for the past eight years or so, started suffering from stagnation and hence could not make their mark at the international level. Moreover, the coaches working here were not trained.

 

"We have dropped eight girls from the SAI centre this year and we will induct fresh blood ," he points out, adding that funds to shooters can be given as per the norms of the SAI. "The weapons, shooting kits and ammunition are available. But the shooters after practising on this range may find it difficult to shoot at the electronic range. Also the International Federation recommends only the electronic targets and hence the local range should be equipped with these," says Avneet, currently working with Air India.

 

She adds, "There are some shooters who are good in both 50m and 25m events. Had these ranges been completed on time, it could have been a great benefit for the shooters and local trainees could have become members of the core groups of Commonwealth Games 2010." "The dirty politics which has gripped the management of affairs of the shooting range has also taken away its sheen and has triggered a wave of disappointment among the trainees. This is one of the major factors, which has made the Badal range lose its glory so quickly," said some of those connected with the shooting sports directly or indirectly. 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEWS

IT'S MORE THAN JUST THE 'I'

WHY PRAISING SAINA NEHWAL DOESN'T GIVE US THE LICENSE TO RUN DOWN SANIA MIRZA

 

When we were working together, until a few months ago, India's leading badminton writer Shivani Naik often complained about how Saina Nehwal was unresponsive to any journalistic probing – accessible, polite, but like a stone wall you couldn't break through easily.

 

The only time Saina would let go - almost frothing at the mouth, the Jat blood in her expressing itself in coarse, but not abusive, Hindi – was when she spoke about players from China. This, mind you, wasn't a product of racial discrimination or patriotic fervour, but simply because the Chinese were considered impossible to defeat, and no Jat worth her mustard fields likes to believe anyone is unbeatable. Ranked in the fringes of the top-10 back then, Saina was forever making strategies to counter the Chinese, working on her flick, her net-play, her smash, her court coverage, desperately seeking a way to outmaneuver the assembly line rather than play into its hands by getting involved in a direct slugfest.


In the last few months, she has fanned her China obsession by gradually making inroads into women's badminton's impenetrable fortress, getting herself to a place where – after three titles in a row, including two Super Series victories, and with a world ranking of No 3 – a sustained assault on the final frontier is the next logical step.

 

 India, which once ignored her for being unexciting, is now firmly behind her, illustrated by her elevation – even if for a few minutes – to a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, the new symbol of global popularity.
   But while Saina deserves every bit of what's coming her way, trending with her on Sunday was another young Indian woman – not for losing in the first round at Wimbledon, but simply because everyone congratulating Saina on her hat-trick was using the opportunity to take pot-shots at Sania Mirza. The almost-namesake was being compared and contrasted – like evil versus good, like the villain whose demise would complete the Euripides tragedy that gives birth to modern melodrama.

 

I'm not sure how well Saina and Sania know each other, but they seem to share a curious relationship in terms of public perception. They're both from Hyderabad, they both play racquet games, and they're numerologically identical. Despite these similarities, however, what really links them is how different they are – in attitude, and perhaps more importantly, in their reaction to celebrity.

 

While Saina shies away from the spotlight, afraid of making friends, reserved to the point of reticence, Sania likes to think of herself as a bit of an iconoclast – brattish, basking in her Muslim-woman-breaking-barriers persona, a regular victim of fatwas, and a certified drama queen even in the land of playing-to-the-gallery Bollywood wannabes such as Rakhi Sawant.

 

If Saina is easy to overlook until she shakes us up by the strength of her achievements, Sania is someone we search for an excuse to dislike. So, with a string of early defeats within two months of a controversial marriage with a Pakistani cricketer serving as the perfect fodder, when Saina is to be praised, Sania must be run down.

This is a convenient give-and-take for the rabble-rousing we indulge in routinely, but objectively speaking, it couldn't be more unfair to Sania Mirza. There are issues about her not fulfilling her promise, about settling down too early into what is the twilight of her career, but they're personal, life choices that don't take away from what Sania has achieved despite facing tremendous odds in the extraordinarily competitive world of international women's tennis.

 

 In fact, comparing badminton with tennis is a travesty that Saina herself would never commit. She plays a smaller sport, limited primarily to Asians, and one in which India has always been among the top countries. Saina is pushing the boundaries, no doubt, but what Sania had to deal with in comparison – the popularity of tennis as a serious profession, the tremendous physical fitness required to compete with Europeans, and the exorbitant travel costs – were problems of a much larger scale.

 

Perhaps Saina will go on to rewrite Indian badminton history completely; perhaps she'll dominate the sport like no one had ever expected an Indian to ever do. But being the first Indian woman to break into the women's tennis top-30, and to stay there for two full seasons, is no mean feat either.

 

Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza together are India's leading women athletes of our generation. They're not a package deal. They're exclusive of each other. Hailing one as a winner may allow us to marvel at how two similarly named girls from the same city did so well at around the same time, but it doesn't give us the license to slam the other as a loser.

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

EDITORIAL

DEVALUING RBI

HAS SEBI-IRDA TUSSLE BEEN USED TO WEAKEN THE CENTRAL BANK?

 

At a time when central banks around the world are getting empowered to deal with a range of market- and growth-related challenges, it is disturbing to see the government of India use the subterfuge of a weekend ordinance to diminish the status of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Much of the media comment, including in this newspaper, on the ordinance issued by the president of India on June 18, 2010 on jurisdictional issues pertaining to unit-linked insurance policies (Ulips) focused, quite understandably, on the implications of that ordinance for the turf war between the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). It has been widely commented, and correctly, that Irda has won what was essentially a turf war. Some have questioned the advisability of the amendment to the Sebi Act (1992) which states that "a collective investment scheme or mutual fund shall not include any unit-linked insurance policy or scrip or any such instrument or unit, by whatever name called, which provides a component of investment besides the component of insurance issued by an insurer." These are issues on which there can be different viewpoints and these will no doubt get articulated in the public debate. But an aspect of the amendment that has generally not been commented upon is the decision to create a "joint committee" under the chairmanship of the Union finance minister and including, as its members, the Union finance secretary, the secretary, department of financial services in the finance ministry, the governor of RBI, and chairmen of Irda, Sebi and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), charged with the responsibility of sorting out all issues of jurisdiction regarding hybrid products or composite instruments "having a component of money market investment or securities market instrument or a component of insurance or any other instrument presently handled by RBI, Irda, Sebi or PFRDA."

 

Is this the thin end of the wedge that will enable North Block to secure greater control over the central bank? In his Budget Speech this year, the Union finance minister had proposed the idea of setting up a high-level financial stability and development council (FSDC) presided over by himself. The so-called joint committee of the June 18 ordinance sounds exactly like an FSDC. Doubts about the government's intentions have been raised precisely because the government chose the ordinance route, issued over the weekend, at a time when the matter was subjudice, and it was so on the advice of the finance ministry! There is something odd about the manner in which this entire episode has been handled that does not augur well for transparent economic governance in the country. It almost appears as if the finance ministry is intent on securing a grip over the central bank, especially after the tumultuous Venugopal Reddy era, and has used the Irda-Sebi tussle to increase its own powers in dealing with the central bank. The sooner the government comes clean the better for central bank authority. For its part, RBI must stand up and be counted.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

ONE STEP FORWARD

NO SLIDE BACK IN TORONTO BUT THAT'S ABOUT IT

 

The G20 summit in Toronto has sought to ensure that nothing will be done to threaten the global recovery process, described by some as "feeble", and create a double-dip depression. It is reassuring that the leaders of the economically most important nations have undertaken to carry out their adjustment processes in such a way that recovery in private demand is sustained. The concession made to political realities is that countries will adopt a "differentiated and tailored approach" in restoring their fiscal balance, meaning they will go about it the way it suits them best. If Britain wishes to undertake fiscal correction right away and Germany from next year, then they will be free to do so. But G20 members have also agreed that they will progress towards "rebalancing" global demand. Rich countries whose citizens have been acquiring a mountain of debt should boost national savings and surplus countries should boost domestic growth. This means that the Germans and the Chinese should spend more and Americans and most Europeans less. To oversimplify it a little, the US will have to partially pass on to the Chinese the role of being the primary engine of growth that it had performed in the post-war period. The summit was fortunate that the Chinese announced just before it began their willingness to let the renminbi float a little.

 

Interestingly, while the G20 is jelling together as a group, the G8 remains in place and new sub-groups have become active, pointing to persisting divides. Perhaps this is why the G20 have in good part agreed to disagree, particularly with respect to fiscal consolidation and financial sector reforms. Countries have agreed to follow different paths to levying a tax on banks to pay for future bailouts. While it is true that Canadian banks, for example, should not be penalised for the sins of US banks, the final shape that the US financial sector reform Bill has taken leaves much to be desired. There is no clear signal on what is really the crux of the matter — large banks which accept public deposits whose security is effectively guaranteed, should not be able to use these deposits in speculative chasing of super profits. Against this there are two positive signs. One is the clear commitment to strengthen and reform multilateral financial institutions. Multilateral development banks will get $350 billion more of capital so that they can nearly double their lending and, even more important, the resources of concessional lenders like the International Development Association will be replenished. Plus, there is a commitment to finalise new IMF quotas by the next meeting in Seoul in November and a move to appoint the heads of multilateral institutions on the basis of merit. As for India, it is significant that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama are on the same page on many global issues. The India-US strategic partnership is clearly acquiring an economic dimension, even as India's interaction with BRIC, IBSA and the EU remains robust.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

MICHAEL PINTO: NON-ISSUES HIJACK BHOPAL DEBATE

THE US IS LESS CONCERNED ABOUT WHO'S JAILED AND MORE ABOUT A HUGE COMPENSATION FROM BP

MICHAEL PINTO

Why is it that we are determined to learn all the wrong lessons from the Bhopal tragedy? It is not just hysterical talk shows with witch-hunting anchors bothered only about the latest TRPs that obscure the major issues. Even serious commentators use the occasion not to address the major fault lines in our response to industrial accidents but to concentrate on non-issues. How else are we to interpret Sunil Jain's advice (BS, June 21, 2010) that Deepak Parekh should give us a break?

Right from the beginning, our focus has been not so much on getting adequate compensation for the victims of the tragedy as on jailing those we see as the main players in the drama. Why was Anderson allowed to go away and can we get him back to answer charges? Why weren't the more stringent provisions of Section 304 A applied to Keshub Mahindra and the others accused in the case? How can we spread the responsibility net wider so that more people are involved in it?

 Critics have rightly complained that basic issues of safety were not addressed by Union Carbide, which was guilty of gross negligence in its handling of hazardous materials. And this is at the heart of the entire problem. The major fault is not malicious criminal intent but negligence. That is why the Supreme Court directed that charges be brought under the Section penalising negligence and not criminal intent. To prove the latter, it will be necessary to show that by running the plant, officials of the company wanted to kill, or at least maim, a large number of innocent people in Bhopal. Since it would be virtually impossible to prove such a charge, the court ordered that action be taken under the Section penalising negligence, i.e. the failure to take adequate precautions when dealing with such dangerous products. And since the law recognises that carelessness is less heinous than criminal intent, the punishment for the latter is less severe.

The wheels of justice will no doubt move in the matter of Anderson's extradition but will putting a 91-year-old man on trial address the woes of the victims of the disaster or clean up the toxic waste in Bhopal? The guilty must certainly be made to pay but the emphasis today must be on getting adequate compensation and distributing it properly. It must be on cleaning up Bhopal and making it fit to live in. Above all, it must be on ensuring that if such a tragedy ever strikes again, we will have an institutional mechanism in place to ensure that compensation is paid to all who have suffered.

It is on this that we must concentrate. Bhopal took place more than 25 years ago when our response to such accidents was more laid back and less proactive. But there are several plants like Union Carbide's in different parts of the country and several Bhopals might be waiting to happen. Are we any better equipped today to deal with them?

The much-maligned nuclear liabilities Bill provides for instant payment of Rs 500 crore if any accident occurs in a nuclear power plant. No questions of establishing guilt or responsibility, carelessness or criminal intent but an immediate distribution of compensation according to the directions of a claims commissioner who must report within three months and whose findings must be implemented within 15 days. After that, operators of the defaulting plant can face state-monitored action under criminal law for negligence and victims can proceed against them under the law of tort. Why not have similar provisions for all hazardous plants functioning in different parts of the country? At least victims would get immediate relief and the path would be open to them to seek further compensation in the case of negligence or criminal intent.

Jain is right when he says that independent directors cannot be allowed to wash their hands of all wrong-doing by the company on whose board they sit. One could even agree with his suggestion to abolish the positions of independent directors by having them as advisers rather than directors on the boards. But as long as the law mandates the appointment of independent directors, we will have to live with them. The question is what we expect them to do. Was Keshub Mahindra appointed chairman of the company to ensure compliance with safety requirements of the plant? Unlikely. There are officials charged with this responsibility and it is they who must stand up and be counted. It makes little sense to insist that the net should be spread so wide that it covers not only those whose duty it was to implement safety norms but also those who are not in any way involved in the day-to-day running of the plant.

And that brings us to the final point: Should the main lesson of Bhopal be whom we put in prison or how well we compensate and rehabilitate the affected persons? Deepak Parekh is right when he says that hounding independent directors will only make it more difficult to get good people to join company boards. What is even worse is that it will deflect attention from the main issue which is to secure adequate compensation for the damage done. America wants Tony Hayward to provide a huge compensation for damage caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They are less concerned with whether he is put in jail.

The author is former secretary, shipping, Government of India

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

MCCHRYSTAL-GAZING

WHAT INDIA CAN LEARN FROM OBAMA'S UNCEREMONIOUS DISMISSAL OF HIS MILITARY COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN LAST WEEK

AJAI SHUKLA

Last week's unceremonious dismissal by US President Barack Obama of his military commander in Afghanistan, Lt Gen Stanley McChrystal, should be carefully studied in this country. In contrast to India, where civil-military relations remain mired in wary mutual watchfulness, America has demonstrated a robust civil-military structure with a healthy tolerance for risk. This was evident from the joint political-military decision to prosecute an "Afghan-friendly" strategy despite the politically nettlesome issue of higher US casualties; and from Obama's swift decision that the general had unacceptably violated propriety in making public the fissures between top US policy-makers.

 For those who missed last week's drama, General McChrystal and his personal staff — styling themselves in the macho moulds of The Dirty Dozen and Inglourious Basterds — committed the breathtaking mistake of embedding a writer for Rolling Stone magazine into their inner circle for a month, letting him listen in on formal and informal conversations with apparently everything on the record.

Although McChrystal's sacking will be a studied chapter in US civil-military relations, Obama's was an easy decision compared to the dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur by President Harry Truman in 1951. MacArthur, the hero of two world wars, a winner of the Medal of Honour (America's Param Vir Chakra), and the de facto ruler — American Shogun — of Japan from 1945-50, had been recalled from Tokyo in 1950 to command the UN forces in Korea. Angered by China's intervention in the war, MacArthur publicly challenged Truman's restraint by planning nuclear attacks on Chinese air bases. An outraged Truman rejected warnings that MacArthur might beat him in the 1952 presidential elections. Overruling support for MacArthur from the Secretary of Defence, General George Marshall, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Omar Bradley, Truman ended MacArthur's career.

All of this is unthinkable in India, where the system produces generals (and that includes flag officers of the navy and the air force) who would never dream of functioning like Stanley McChrystal. That might indicate a healthier civil-military relationship in India, but only if one were to look superficially at just the Rolling Stone fiasco. Looking deeper — especially at McChrystal's, and now Petraeus' selection as commanders in Afghanistan based on clear strategies that they brought to the table — India could learn much from the US civil-military structure, based as it is on meritocracy, responsibility and accountability.

Consider how India would have selected a commander for a hypothetical Afghanistan mission: the MoD would have asked the Indian Army to "post" a suitable general. In the US, the president nominates key commanders, based on their achievements and abilities, and Congress ratifies those appointments. General Petraeus, for example, was nominated as US Central Command chief, superseding several compatriots, after framing a widely acclaimed counter-insurgency doctrine for the US military. American generals routinely leapfrog less talented officers while being appointed to higher ranks.

But, in the poisoned relationship between India's military and the bureaucratic-political elite, the armed forces reject US-style "deep selection". India's military suspects that political interests would run rampant, promoting well-connected officers rather than competent ones. The army remembers Lieutenant General B M Kaul, whose connections with Nehru allowed him to drive India to defeat at the hands of China in 1962.

This would be valid reasoning, were it not for a growing phenomenon: increasingly mid-ranking and senior officers are seeking political and bureaucratic patronage. The media has already reported instances where the Akali Dal and certain UP parties have lobbied on behalf of senior military officers. Bureaucrats too often approach the MoD to push the cases of nephews, nieces and country cousins. So, allowing an institutional gulf between the military and the political-bureaucratic class, even as patronage thrives below the radar, amounts to getting the worst of both worlds: condoning patronage while preventing partnership.

The Indian military's insularity —with officers carefully shielded from outside influences, and shaped instead by a numbing professional uniformity — prevents the development of commanders who can operate confidently at political-strategic levels. While US generals like Petraeus and McChrystal gain credit for doing PhDs and MPhils, and for being cerebral academics, India's armed forces give no credit to an officer for non-military qualifications. And the question of seconding officers to other government and non-government organisations to obtain a wider perspective is dismissed with: the MoD will never allow it.

There, the military may have a point. Political and bureaucratic elites fear, deep down, that allowing officers out of the cantonments could open the door to a rampantly political military. And so the two arms of government — civil and military — occupy separate worlds in India, glowering at each other across an abyss of distrust. Interaction is minimal, even in formulating national security policy; bureaucrats and diplomats do that for elected leaders who remain, for the most part, strategically unschooled. Bred in the tradition of the freedom struggle, they see political agitation as a more potent and familiar instrument than military power — a confusing and technical subject that is the preserve of an English-speaking elite that they don't identify with.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

TACKLING SOIL SALINITY

CULTIVATION OF SALT-TOLERANT VARIETIES OF RICE AND OTHER CROPS HAS HELPED INCREASE CROP YIELD AND FARM INCOME

SURINDER SUD

High salt content of the soil is a major problem that confronts farmers in several parts of the country. Commonly referred to as soil salinity, this malady impairs soil health, resulting in poor crop yields. In extreme cases, it renders the land unfit for cultivation.

Data collected by the scientists of Karnal-based Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI) with the help of satellite "Landsat" have indicated that nearly 6.73 million hectares of land suffers from various kinds of salt-related afflictions. The scientists have identified some 15 categories of soil salinity, depending on the nature of the salts, their pH value (measure of soil acidity or alkalinity) and other relevant factors. But, for practical purposes, the land affected by such salinity has broadly been categorised as either sodic (alkaline) or saline (acidic). Both are bad for crop cultivation.

 Such lands are located in the Gangetic plain of Uttar Pradesh and adjoining states, the arid and semi-arid regions of Gujarat and the peninsular plain of Maharashtra. Several areas close to the seashore in the seven coastal states are also beset with this menace.

Over 2.1 million hectares of salt-affected land is located in the country's key bread basket in the North. Uttar Pradesh alone has about 1.37 million hectares of sodic and saline soils. Besides, Rajasthan has 3.75 lakh hectares, Haryana 2.32 lakh hectares and Punjab 1.5 lakh hectares of land affected by salt accumulation.

What's even worse is that this menace is projected to exacerbate in the coming years. While in canal-irrigated areas, salinity is on the rise due to overuse of water which brings sub-surface salts to the surface layers, in other areas it is growing due to rampant use of poor quality, salt-rich groundwater for irrigation. This will put more arable land out of cultivation or lower its fertility, adversely affecting the overall farm production. Measures are, therefore, needed to deal with soil salinity by adopting management strategies that can help improve crop yields there.

Of course, CSSRI has developed technologies for reclamation of saline lands by neutralising the salts present in them. It has simultaneously strived to genetically re-tailor the crops to enable them withstand soil salinity so that those farmers who cannot afford to invest in soil reclamation measures could grow salt tolerant varieties of crops for reaping good harvests.

According to CSSRI's crop improvement division head S K Sharma, 14 salt tolerant varieties of crops like rice and wheat (staple cereals), mustard (oilseed) and gram (pulse) have been developed and passed on to the farmers for cultivation. These have spread fast and contributed immensely to increase crop yields and farm incomes.

Significantly, CSSRI has also succeeded in developing the first ever salt-tolerant variety of the scented basmati rice. Called CSR 30 or Yamini, this variety has proved to be a boon for the farmers in the basmati-growing tracts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. Basmati has traditionally been grown in these states even on moderately salt affected lands with poor-quality water for irrigation.

The yield of conventional basmati varieties in such areas is generally quite meagre, though the higher price that basmati rice fetches partly offsets that disadvantage. But, with the availability of CSR 30 basmati, the farmers are now bagging rich harvests of basmati and getting high returns too. Indeed, many basmati farmers in non-saline tracts are also opting for this variety due to its various attributes such as high yield, resilience to stresses posed by climatic and other factors, capacity to resist several plant diseases, superior grain quality and pleasant aroma.

Little wonder then that the seeds of this salinity-protected basmati are in great demand. "Despite our best efforts, we are not able to fully meet the demand for seeds of CSR 30 basmati," Sharma conceded even as he pointed out that efforts were afoot to raise seed production. The Haryana State Seed Committee, which met early this month, has decided to take steps to augment seed supplies of this basmati variety by about 2,000 quintals annually by promoting seed multiplication through public-private partnership.

The CSSRI scientists seem confident that an increased availability of salt-tolerant seeds of rice and other crops will benefit more farmers. Since, after the adoption of this method, these farmers are likely to persist with their cultivation in the subsequent years, the cost-benefit ratio of adoption of such varieties will continue to grow progressively.

surinder.sud@gmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE EMERGENCY READING LIST

NILANJANA S ROY

Many years after 1975, I had the opportunity to see some of the posters that Indira Gandhi's Congress party used as propaganda for the Emergency. They came from the same school of writing as the Soviet Union's Mother Russia propaganda, as though Mrs G's department had taken creative writing classes from Glavlit and the GRU: "The Nation is on the Move! Emergency for a Stronger and More Prosperous Future!" And, ominously: "You Too Have a Role In The Emergency!"

 Katraa Bi Arzoo, Rahi Masoom Raza: Written in 1978 in the immediate aftermath of the Emergency, Rahi Masoom Raza's searing, raw novel has not yet been translated to the best of my knowledge. You can't leave this off a list of Emergency novels, though: Rahi Masoom Raza wrote this in a kind of white heat of rage, drawing on his experiences of Allahabad during the demolition-and-censorship years. His protagonist, Desh, offers initial resistance. By the end of the book, Desh has been reduced to a man who parrots one phrase over and over again, "Srimati Gandhi zindabad!", and will, like the country he stands for, be crushed under the wheels of a truck.

The Dark Dispatches/The Night-Shift Reporter, Nirmal Verma: In his elliptical and evocative Raat Ka Reporter, Nirmal Verma never referred directly to the Emergency, choosing instead to depict the paranoia and confusion of the times through an internal journey into the mind of a journalist. This remains brilliant, if not always accessible for most readers.

Rich Like Us, Nayantara Sahgal: Perhaps Sahgal's best-known novel, this took a wide sweep from the India of the 1930s to the darkness of the 1970s. Sahgal was one of the first writers to make the point that Sanjay Gandhi's vasectomy programme affected chiefly those from the poorest and lowest castes — racial purity via sterilisation. But it was Sahgal's understanding of the politics of Delhi's ruling classes, and how that filtered into every aspect of our personal lives, that drove this novel.

Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie: It is sometimes forgotten that Rushdie has the instincts of the best journalists, investigating Turkman Gate during the Emergency, Trilokpuri in the aftermath of 1984. Midnight's Children will remain perhaps the iconic novel of the Emergency — and independent India — of all time, with its unforgettable portrait of Indira Gandhi as the widow, her hair white on one side, black on the other. "...The Emergency, too, had a white part — public, visible, documented, a matter for historians — and a black part which, being secret macabre untold, must be a matter of us." Indira Gandhi took him to court for libel in the case of Gandhi vs Rushdie, and he had to delete a section that speculated on the death of her husband, Feroze Gandhi, from future editions of the book. As Rushdie's protagonist Saleem Sinai notes, "Mother Indira really had it in for me."

A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry: Eschewing Rushdie's magical realism for a far more plain storytelling style, A Fine Balance was Mistry's attempt to record the effects of the Emergency on the lives of people like us. As two tailors struggle for survival, they meet Dina and her nephew Maneck, and the unlikely quartet try to find "the fine balance between hope and despair". With characters like Beggarmaster and a series of dramatic plot flourishes, including the forcible sterilisation of the two tailors, A Fine Balance was excessively sentimental, but it remains a respectable documentary of the times.

Bedtime Story, Kiran Nagarkar: Performed a few times but never formally published, Nagarkar's play Bedtime Story is one of the greater works to come out of that time. He used the Mahabharata as a way to understand the cold justification of violence and the doublespeak of that era, with the chorus as a Nazi war criminal retelling four episodes from the epic. The censor board demanded an initial 78 cuts, which would have castrated the play with the efficiency of any of Sanjay Gandhi's sterilisation camps; performances were disrupted by right-wing parties for almost two decades. "As with most controversial writings," said Nagarkar with some bitterness, "it became controversial mostly because nobody had read it."

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

STRUCTURAL REFORM, PLEASE

STIMULI WON'T CURE ALL G20 NATIONS


PRIME minister Manmohan Singh warned the G20 at Toronto that deflation was a greater threat than inflation, so countries should not prematurely withdraw their financial stimuli introduced during the Great Recession of 2007-09. This was a bit rich, coming from a country with 10% wholesale price inflation and 14% consumer price inflation. Dr Singh covered himself by adding that exit from the stimulus should be calibrated to country conditions, and one size would not fit all. This is a sensible formulation, but partially contradicts the case for maintaining the stimulus. Keynesian stimuli have often failed. Greece is a good example where two years of stimulus produced little growth but huge fiscal deficits, driving the country towards sovereign default. Portugal and Spain are in fiscal trouble too, and if contagion spreads to Italy — where public debt is already 120% of GDP — the European financial system could be paralysed. Dr Singh said countries should not be bulldozed into premature withdrawal of their stimuli, but can it be called premature in countries where sovereign bonds are crashing and being downgraded to junk?

 

 Keynesian economics requires fiscal surpluses in good times no less than deficits in recessions. Countries that don't create surpluses in boom times may fail with deficits in bad times. Markets have learned the lesson, but politicians remain reluctant to do so. One exception is UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. He is clear in his mind that the British fiscal deficit is structural, not cyclical, and requires austerity to restructure the whole pattern of saving and spending. He does not think the economy can be fixed by desperately hoping that continuing deficits will produce growth faster than they produce bankruptcy. Many other G20 countries have structural deficits too. India and some other developing countries have strong growth prospects, and can grow out of high deficits. But mature economies have weak growth prospects and cannot afford high deficits in the manner India can. Structural adjustment is not a remedy for spendthrift developing countries alone: it is a remedy for spendthrift rich countries too.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GAS REDUX

PROACTIVE POLICY FOR AN EFFICIENT MARKET

 

IT IS notable the Reliance gas dispute appears headed for an amicable settlement. The dispute did lead to avoidable uncertainty, delays and attendant untoward developments, and there's a pressing need now to get down to business and move on. Which is why the revised gas supply master agreement between Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL), firmed up last week, is a move in the right direction. The fledging gas market does need heightened offtake, transactions and long-term supply contracts. Reports say that RNRL would approach the Centre to expedite gas allocation. The government's green signal should then result in a gas sale-purchase agreement. Note that the apex court did reiterate that the government needs to okay the price, quantity and tenure of gas supply. Reportedly, the revised RIL-RNRL deal envisages supply of 28 mmscmd of gas, for 17 years at $4.2/ mmBtu, the government approved price, for setting up 8,400 mw power capacity by RNRL.

 

However, the fact is that there's a veritable Catch-22 situation in gas. We do need a thriving gas market to rev up supply at competitive prices, in the backdrop of huge unmet demand. And yet, the requirement of extensive government intervention, complete with elaborate price vetting and other supply restrictions, would necessarily dampen investor sentiment and almost certainly debilitate the gas market. Hence the need to revamp policy. In fact, the Supreme Court, in its landmark ruling of May 7, stated that it was 'high time' that the Centre chalked out 'comprehensive policy/suitable legislation' for the 'energy security of India and supply of natural gas under production-sharing contracts.' What is required is transparent norms for supply and price discovery, so as to fast-forward an efficient gas market. With clear rules and proactive policy we would avoid routine governmental okays, extensive Cabinet involvement and in effect administered pricing of gas, together with the perverse scope for rent-seeking it involves. About time, too.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEVER TOO YOUNG

TERROR IN SMALL PACKAGES?

 

NOT since Arnold Schwarzenegger's adventures as a Kindergarten Cop in brightly decorated primary school corridors and Macaulay Culkin's devilishly clever sneak attacks on adult intruders when he was Home Alone, have Americans been made so aware of the threat potential of children. That six-year-old Indian-American Alyssa Thomas has come up on the US's 'no-fly' list — a shadowy compendium of names which set off alerts at airports — shows that the government thinks it can never be too careful these days. Little tykes are often indulgently described as 'terrors' by exasperated parents, but their transgressions can surely never be construed as clear and present danger to the state. Still, the fact that the authorities ominously refused to 'confirm or deny' any of her parents' bemused queries about the possibility of extricating their young daughter from the list, shows that they are dead serious about kids being hazardous. Anyway, why blame computers for this mindless inclusion as probably they have not been told to put age as the determining factor even if secret red flags come up on several counts. Machines know nothing of parenting or kids, after all. But what about those who programmed these computers to be childproof? Was the rationale of the wonks in Homeland Security that since six-year olds are entirely capable of wreaking havoc in their houses or classrooms, scaling up to national level would be a cinch for the little devils? If there can be a Baby Gap, why not a Baby al Qaeda?
   On the one hand, US national called Daood Sayed Gilani simply renames himself David Coleman Headley to go about his terrorist business unhindered; on the other, Alyssa Thomas will always be stopped at airports and be made to prove she is not a little Leila Khaled. Truly a modern day ironic twist to the philosophical Shakespearean question, "What's in a name?"

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

AGRI-GROWTH AND MALNUTRITION

A HIGHER LEVEL OF PERFORMANCE IN AGRICULTURE IS NECESSARY BUT NOT A SUFFICIENT CONDITION TO REDUCE MALNUTRITION, SAY ASHOK GULATI, T NANDA KUMAR & GANGA SHREEDHAR

 

INDIA has been lauded for its remarkable overall economic growth of over 8% over the last five years. But despite this high and relatively stable growth, India's underbelly is soft. The agriculture sector is performing below expectations, with growth rate of around 2.8%, it is way below the Eleventh Plan target of 4%. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that 22% of India's population is undernourished. Child malnutrition is especially high, as National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) data reveal that 48% of children under-five years suffered from low height-for-age (stunting) and 42.5% from low weight-forage (underweight).
   This raises some questions — is there no relation between economic and agricultural growth and malnutrition? Can better agricultural performance contribute to bringing down malnutrition levels?
   In a preliminary effort to explore this, we map out the level of agriculture performance and malnutrition across some major Indian states to see whether states that have a higher level of agriperformance record better nutritional levels. As agricultural growth shows high volatility at the state level for certain years, the annual growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) from agriculture may not be a suitable indicator to assess the relation between agrigrowth and malnutrition. Thus, rather than growth rate, we use another indicator of the level of agri-performance, namely its land productivity measured as the gross value of agriculture and livestock output per ha of gross cropped area (GVOAL/ha), which captures the growth performance in agriculture during previous years and also if the state has adopted high value agriculture as a means to bring prosperity to its rural people. To weed out the annual fluctuations in the level of this agricultural prosperity, a three-year average is taken (pertaining to triennium ending (TE) 2005-06). To assess its relation with malnutrition, a malnutrition index is constructed from (1) percentage of underweight, stunted and wasted children under-five years of age and (2) percentage of thin men and women (aged 15-49 years; from the NFHS-3 data).

 

It is seen that there is a strong inverse relationship (coefficient correlation equals -0.75) between the level of land productivity (or agri-performance) and malnutrition across the states. Kerala and Punjab, which have almost the highest value of agri-output per hectare also have low levels of malnutrition, while a state like Madhya Pradesh is at the bottom of value of output, and no wonder it is also lowest in nutritional status (See accompanying graph). This suggests that agricultural performance may be a necessary — but not a sufficient condition — to reduce malnutrition.

 

As malnutrition has multiple dimensions, a host of other conditions need to be in place in order to tackle this problem. One of the most critical factors for longterm and sustainable impact on nutritional outcomes is the level of women's education. International Food Policy Research Institute's (IFPRI) research on 63 countries (during 1970-96) estimates that women's education accounted for 43% of the child malnutrition reduction during the period. Besides constituting roughly half the population, women take important decisions on family health, education and feeding. Thus poor and ill-informed decisions have adverse consequences on child health, education and nutrition status, accompanied by a high risk of transmission of chronic malnutrition to future generations. Some other important factors include improved access to safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and quality healthcare services and infrastructure, better implementation and coordination of existing nutrition interventions (especially those targeting children under-three years of age and pregnant women), better governance and non-farm income growth.

 

NONETHELESS in order to work towards reducing the 'curse' that is India's malnutrition problem, agricultural growth and development remains a critical and necessary factor. Dovetailing certain aspects of agricultural development and nutrition reduction strategies can be a critical step in the right direction.

One option at the sowing stage is the process of bio-fortification of crops with essential nutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin A, after suitable research, quality testing and trials. Research by the IFPRI in Africa, Asia and Latin America indicates that developing and disseminating bio-fortified crops is a highly costeffective means of reducing micronutrient malnutrition. This can be quite relevant in India as micronutrient deficiencies are very high — for instance in 2005-06, 69.5% of children and 71.7% of women had some form of anaemia.

Productivity growth via diversification into high value agriculture (fruits/ vegetables, fisheries, livestock) can also promote nutritional security. High value agriculture can firstly be instrumental in boosting incomes of farmers, especially small holders and womenheaded households. Secondly it also provides more nutritious food for selfconsumption purposes. In order to preserve and even enhance this nutritional value, post-harvest activities like handling, transport, storage, processing, quality control and marketing become imperative, as they are easily perishable.

 

Finally, innovative solutions to address the nutrition problem are also necessary in the policy implementation front. For instance, to tackle the protein deficit, a more cost-effective and nutritious option is to use soya meal (which has 40% protein compared to 20-25% in pulses), in food-based safety nets. India has witnessed relatively high growth in soya crop — between 1981-82 and 2008-09, production rose from 0.5 to 10.8 million tonnes — but most of the increased output has been used by the feed industry and exported.

 

Data from the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) and National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) reveal only around 60-75% of the protein requirement is met amongst people at the bottom 30% expenditure group, adolescents and pregnant/lactating women. Thus reconstituted soya flour can be sold through the public distribution system, as well as distributed in the mid-day meals scheme and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme in cooked meals to enrich dietary intake.
   (Ashok Gulati is the director-in-Asia and Ganga Shreedhar is a research analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute. T Nanda Kumar is former secretary of agriculture, government of India)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

TH RO U G H TH E TH I R D EYE

BETWEEN DADA AND DIDI


THE AICC script for Pranab Mukherjee's exit from the West Bengal PCC had been finalised soon after the party's solo run disaster in the civic polls. But what is interesting is that Mukherjee's long-serving working president Pradip Bhattacharya failed to succeed him. Bhattacharya had been keeping the Kolkatta PCC seat conveniently warm for the Delhi-centric dada with the same devotion with which Bharat served the throne when Ram was in exile. New PCC president Manas Ranjan Bhunia is also a Pranab loyalist, but with a difference. When Bengal Congress leaders like Bhattacharya, Adhir Chowdhary and Deepa Das Munsi joined Pranab in attacking Trinamul during the civic poll campaign, Bhunia maintained a conspicuous silence. Incidentally, that was also the time when AICC observers were informing 10, Janpath about the pitfalls of a Congress-Trinamul divide. No wonder Bhunia reacted to his appointment with a salute to didi.

  
MESSY LINKS

THE Union home ministry seeking action against the suspended Kerala IPS officer Tomin Thachankary over his alleged terror links has given a new twist to Kerala's CPI-M factionalism. The tainted cop has been widely linked to the Pinarayi Vijayan faction. When CM V S Achuthanandan ordered Thachankary's suspension for his intriguing trip to the Gulf around the same time when Vijayan was on a fund-raising Arabian voyage, it was coldshouldered by the rival CPI-M faction. The Pinarayi group made no secret of its glee when the cop got his suspension revoked by the administrative tribunal on technical grounds. The home ministry dossier, coming right when the tribunal order was being challenged in the high court, prompted an ever-willing CM to send all files relating to the officer to Delhi. Collateral damage?

   
NOT QUITE CHILD'S PLAY

THE spectacle of the mounting turbulence in the Kashmir valley has strengthened what Congress critics of Omar Abdullah have been saying despite his strategic friendship with Rahul Gandhi: that managing the political maelstrom of Jammu and Kashmir is not quite child's play. Delivering a three-minute speech in the Lok Sabha, desperately wooing the Congress by running down the same BJP that his party happily lived with in the past, might be enough for Omar fans to project him as a wonder-kid who delivered a historic speech. But during his year-long stint in the hot seat, many stakeholders in the J&K power-project have developed serious doubts about his ability to lead and govern. His lack of political and administrative experience and inability to relate to the man on the street are proving a real hazard. Adding to that is his failure to take along the National Conference old guard and the state Congress rank and file. As the CM is looking shaky, there is talk of a coterie comprising a friend and a family member making things messier for Omar.

   
ANOTHER SAFE PASSAGE

IN DELHI'S political circles, the gossip is no longer about who facilitated the Warren Anderson safe passage. Talk of another safe passage has taken over. The latest buzz is about who has provided political safe passage for the Congress when it was caught deep in the Bhopal political mess. While there is a unanimity that the Patna parallel show, starring Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi, has helped the Congress get much-needed cover-fire, opinion is divided on just who benefited most by the revival of Anderson issue. Some say it was Arjun Singh, for managing overnight strategic role, others argue it was the long-forgotten Vasanth Sathe for taking desperate sound-byte collectors on a ride to nowhere.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

 

WHITHER MOBILE TELECOM INDUSTRY?

V SRIDHAR & G VENKATESH

 

GLOBAL capex spend on telecom declined by almost 6% in 2009 and mayhit a bottom in 2010. The service providers in the advanced markets, hit by drop in consumer spending, have cut down or postponed their decisions on networks and equipment. In effect, there is a conscious effort by all the stakeholders in the telecom supply chain to be extremely cautious about their cost structure and the need for extracting more value out of every investment made.

 

However, glimmer of hope still persists in the emerging telecom markets in China and India which continue to witness hyper growth. The mobile segment in India witnessed an addition of about 185 million subscribers in 2009. The addition of 3-5 operators in each circle has intensified competition. This shift in growth and the associated telecom equipment spending has drawn the attention of the global players to reach and serve these growing geographies. However, the associated challenge in this market for the global telecom gear makers is to reduce costs to be competitive, especially against the low-cost Chinese manufacturers, though security concerns regarding Chinese vendors still linger. The consolidation in the network equipment space continues. The purchase of Nortel's CDMA and LTE technologies by Ericsson, has forced the three European and one North American vendor in the network equipment space to compete rigorously especially on price with a large Chinese counterpart. This makes the case for the promotion of a domestic equipment vendor in India who can possibly satisfy the specific needs of the market.

 

There is intense growth in the smartphone segment. Worldwide shipments of smartphones, is expected to surpass 350 million units, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 20.9% during 2009-13. Share of Apple's iPhone in the smartphone market segment increased to about 19%, while Google's Nexus One launched for the first time in the US directly into the retail market also witnessed good sales. The $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm by HP has thrown in one more serious contender. However, we have also been witnessing commoditisation of the smartphone components such as audio/ video players, browsers, codecs and even chipsets. Taiwanbased MediaTek has become a serious contender in the smartphone segment, especially in India with the launch of low-cost feature-rich smartphones.

 

There is also hyper activity in the smartphone platforms market. There are a host of application development platforms today such as the Android promoted by the Open Handset Alliance and Google, Apple's iPhone OS 4, Nokia's Symbian, webOS of Palm/HP, Blackberry of RIM amongst others. Nokia is trying to resurrect itself in the high-end smartphone market by adopting Intel processor based Meego platforms, thus enabling PC and mobile convergence.

 

The growth in smartphones has contributed substantially to the increasing adoption of mobile broadband. It is expected that one in every three mobile subscribers will adopt mobile broadband, resulting in about 1 billion mobile broadband users by 2012. However, the battle between content/ application providers and the telcos continues. The mobile operators especially in the US, have started putting restrictions on the applications that can run on their 3G networks, citing huge downloads clogging the networks. The proponents of 'net neutrality' want prohibition against such blockages of content, applications and mobile internet access. In a much bandwidth constrained 3G services market in India where each operator gets only 2×5 MHz, the walled-garden approach of the operators is likely to continue for the detriment of subscriber interests and preferences.
   The long-awaited 3G auction is over in India, with operators committing more than Rs 50,000 crore for acquiring minimal spectrum. With the auctioning of airwaves for broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum and the emergence of new technologies such as TD-LTE as a competitor to Wi-Max, the battle for mobile broadband has intensified in India. However, it is to be seen whether India will witness the 'winner's curse' of operators paying much above expected valuation for the 3G and BWA spectrum in uncertain demand conditions, much similar to what was witnessed in India in 1995 and later in Europe in early 2000. Trai's recommendation of pegging the pricing of 2G additional spectrum price to 3G price, post the auction, has thrown spanners into the business plans of the incumbents. A long litigation battle is awaited.
   The mobile telecom sector has been a golden goose for the Indian government and has provided the much-needed triggers for economic development. We can only hope that the concerned stakeholders act responsibly in providing a stable policy and development environment for the sector to reach much greater heights to maximise social welfare — that is to maximise the sum of utilities of consumers, operators and the government together and not pit one against the other.

 

 (V Sridhar, Research Fellow, and G Venkatesh,

 CTO/ CSO, are both at Sasken Communication

 Technologies. Views are personal.)

 

The service providers in the advanced markets, hit by a drop in consumer spending, have cut down investment
However, the emerging telecom markets in China and India continue to witness hyper growth
The concerned Indian stakeholders must provide a stable development policy for the sector to reach much greater heights

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

 

WHEN DIVINITY DOESN'T DELIVER

MUKUL SHARMA

 

IT'S a good question to ponder why such a lot of westerners are attracted to eastern mysticism. Whether it's the way of the Tao, tai qi chih, yoga, Zen, Seven Years in Tibet, 'The Snow Leopard', transcendental meditation or just plain old 'Hindooism', people like Beatle George Harrison, Nobel laureate Brian Josephson, Richard Gere, Mia Farrow, molecular biochemist Rupert Sheldrake and thousands of other lesser luminaries have gravitated towards some forms of the same for years. It's a safe bet to assume that these people have not been able to find solace in the kind of cultural and spiritual environment that had been natural to them from birth.

 

It's a better question to wonder why such a lot of easterners also turn towards eastern mysticism. Not everyone living in tier I to IV cities in India for instance dump their otherwise normal priorities of a home atmosphere and wage earning to lead what they consider a more enlightening life overnight like Vivekananda, the Krishnamurtis or, a little earlier, Siddhartha Gautama and Vardhamana. It's probably a safe bet here, too, to assume that notwithstanding any paucity of a religious milieu they found the traditional approach to their psyche unenriched and therefore sought betterment by methods particular to themselves. Over time, and in many ways, their paths enhanced the lives of countless others also.

 

 Perhaps the best question to consider then is why some people who happen to be dwelling wherever turn to any kind of mysticism at all. Many centuries ago Omar Khayyam and Saint Francis of Assisi were of such disposition even while separately remaining in the mainstream of their faith. More recently, so were Tagore and Seung Sahn. And it seems that, almost like an unwritten imperative operating from within, most religions quietly maintain a tradition of the mystical which is adhered to by a lesser but definitely not unknown following — which subsequently turns out to have its own following.

 

 Thus the safest bet would also be that belief as it's generally doled out doesn't satisfy those people who want to make a deeper connection with themselves or something besides what they think of as belonging to them. Who want to be in communion with some spiritual reality through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight and not through any mediator, however wellmeaning He, She or It might be.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

G-20 ENDS WITH LESSER ACRIMONY

Last weekend's G-20 summit in Toronto has ended with much less acrimony than earlier ones. There was, however, a clear division between countries which stressed on cutting down deficits — which means a huge dose of austerity and an exit from stimulus packages — and the other group which felt there should be a phased withdrawal of stimulus measures. In fact, the second group, which includes India, said it was not the right time to withdraw stimulus packages. The US and Brazil were also of the view that withdrawal of stimulus measures — at a time when the global economy was recovering and remained fragile — would derail it and plunge the world once again into recession. France, Germany and Britain, on the other hand, wanted an aggressive push to cut down fiscal deficits. Britain has already announced one of the most ambitious austerity budgets on Friday. It claimed this would keep the level of confidence in the British economy high, and this was vital for growth. The new measures to raise revenue included a tax on bank transactions and a higher VAT on industry. Growth and employment were the buzzwords underpinning both views — so the division was not all that strident when countries that account for 85 per cent of the global economy gathered in Toronto. There was one lone voice which felt that the debate over job creation or growth and deficit reduction was a false one, and that it was possible to do both simultaneously. For all their discussions, agreements and disagreements, there was the underlying fear that all countries needed protection from the tsunami of destruction that afflicted almost all the world's economies in 2008. The lengthy resolution at the summit's end was all about palliatives and the need for reforms to sustain growth and employment. The reform agenda rests on four pillars: a strong regulatory framework, effective supervision, addressing systemic institutions and a transparent international assessment and peer review system. Interestingly, the summit agreed that the financial sector should make a fair and substantial contribution to pay for any burdens associated with government interventions to bail out failed institutions — as the US and others did. Taxpayers in almost all countries deeply resented governments using their hard-earned money to bail out delinquent fatcats. If financial institutions are made to cough up their own funds in a crisis, it would not burden national budgets. It was calculated during the discussions that globally $12 billion could be mobilised through a banking transaction tax. But in the end these are all temporary measures: despite the recovery in the past year and a half, job creation, for one, has not managed to keep up with demand. Developing countries don't want developed countries to withdraw their stimulus measures as this would put a lid on consumption. Countries like China and India have been adopting measures to increase employment and production by stimulating domestic demand. But the problem remains in high-cost developed economies, which have priced themselves out of the market.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

AFGHAN UNRAVELLING?

BY VIKRAM SOOD

After nine years in Afghanistan — its longest war — the United States seems to be caught in a quagmire with the Taliban, backed by US ally Pakistan, on the ascendant. Thousands of Afghans have died along with nearly 2,000 ISAF troops, and $300 billion spent on a war that has chronically been under-resourced and self-delusionary. Today, the campaign looks increasingly an exclusive American enterprise, with Canada and the Netherlands deciding to walk out; the German President had to resign over differences and the French also reluctant to continue with this never-ending war. The US commander had to quit amid stories of dissonance among major US policymakers. The British envoy, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, is on long leave, and Britain's CDS is to demit office prematurely. The Canadians have just revealed they had unearthed a conspiracy to destroy the Canadian Parliament by a group of 18 home-grown Muslim terrorists angry with the country's Afghan war involvement.

Afghanistan remains lawless with several governments acting on their own, an ineffective police force and an inept national army that won't be ready to take on full functions for several years. Many of America's quixotic adventures were on the advice of Pakistan's rulers, who led them to believe they could capitalise on the differences between the "good" and "bad" Taliban. Attempts at regime change, by demonising President Hamid Karzai without taking the elementary precaution of identifying a successor, were an incredibly naïve pursuit that created irreconcilable differences between master and ally. Once intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, who opposed negotiations with the insurgents, was eased out, Mr Karzai could buy local insurance and pursue the policy of chatting up Siraj Haqqani under close Pakistani supervision.

Late in the day, perhaps, US and other Western think tanks and media have begun to acknowledge the source and gravity of the problem. The latest and most comprehensive was the Rand Corporation paper by Christine Fair and Seth Jones, which highlights the terrorist threat not only to the region and the world but to Pakistan itself. While suggesting that Pakistan abandon its policy of using terror as a foreign policy weapon, the authors also asked the US to revisit its own policy of too many carrots and too few sticks. The LSE report authored by Matt Waldman on the Pakistan government's official policy of supporting, through the ISI, Afghan insurgents (Taliban and the Haqqani network) only embellishes what has been stated here in India for years, known in the West but rarely openly acknowledged. Further, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba's growing profile in Afghanistan means Pakistan seeks to use this trusted jihadi organisation as insurance in case the Taliban turn rogue. It is an unfortunate measure of Pakistani leaders' all-consuming hostility towards India that they would rather cohabit with a retrograde organisation like the Taliban instead of seeking a compromise with India.

The sudden publication of what is really old news about the trillion-dollar mineral reserves in Afghanistan is a new factor. Will the global war on terror, once described as unwinnable by President Barack Obama, now become a winnable war for resources? These are all heavy-investment and long-gestation projects that only the rich and powerful can manage. But there is no magic wand for instant riches and stability for Afghanistan's poor. The fear is that Afghanistan, as the land bridge between Central Asia and the rest of Asia, will go further downhill amid increased violence among its various ethnic groups. A significant number of these forces would be provided by jihadi foot soldiers from Pakistan.

These reports, about the Pakistan Army's control over the Taliban, the presence of its surrogates in Afghanistan along with reports of exploitable vital minerals in that country and the slowing down of the Kandahar and North Waziristan operations, could suggest there is a deal on the anvil. The West withdraws its fighting forces substantially, outsources security of its projects to private military contractors while exploiting minerals. Pakistan will have attained strategic depth and security through the Taliban and Haqqani networks.
It is sometimes forgotten that in the ultimate analysis, the Taliban are Pashtun who live on both sides of the Durand Line, and there has been an upsurge in anti-Pashtun violence in Balochistan, Karachi and Fata. It might not be long before there is an upsurge of the demand for a Greater Pushtunistan once the foreigner (and common enemy) has departed, and Pashtuns internalise their problems swept under the carpet by successive regimes. Pashtun assertiveness will almost certainly lead to retaliation from Afghanistan's other ethnic groups. Religious obscurantism combined with ultra-nationalism can be a very explosive mix.

The future looks uncertain and violent unless there is an all-nations guarantee for Afghan neutrality and non-interference by other powers. It is a fair assumption that Mr Karzai's Afghanistan is unravelling fast and no one really has any idea how to prevent this. The Saudi-Wahhabi and the Pakistan-military nexus, the latter's nexus with Afghan drug lords, worth billions of dollars, appears to be picking up the pieces in a divided country.
The cure, if any, lies in Pakistan — where all Afghan-specific and India-specific insurgent/terrorist groups take shelter, receive support and now coalesce for Pakistan's foreign policy objectives. So far India been comfortable with its infrastructure assistance to Afghans, while others battled for bigger stakes. This situation will change, with Pakistan remaining hostile despite the recent veneer of bonhomie.

China, with ambitions to reach the Persian Gulf, is the rising power seeking space and resource bases for itself, with Pakistan as its staunch ally. India needs to strengthen its relations with Iran and Russia, who would be similarly affected by the rise of Taliban, for access to Central Asia and West Asia. Despite the odds against us, India's profile in Afghanistan must not be lowered. If Kashmir is an all-time issue for Pakistan, so should Gilgit and Baltistan — a geo-strategic jugular for both Pakistan and China — be for India. It would be sound policy to modernise our defence forces in all aspects, especially maritime. The region will eventually normalise only when the Pakistan Army, whose policies have hurt the Pakistani people immeasurably, normalises like other armies.

Vikram Sood is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE EARLY STAGES OF A THIRD DEPRESSION

 BY PAUL KRUGMAN

Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as "depressions" at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.

Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of non-stop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend's deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets.

Unlike governments of the past, which tried to balance budgets in the face of a plunging economy, today's governments allowed deficits to rise. And better policies helped the world avoid complete collapse: the recession brought on by the financial crisis arguably ended last summer.

But future historians will tell us that this wasn't the end of the third depression, just as the business upturn that began in 1933 wasn't the end of the Great Depression. After all, unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — remains at levels that would have been considered catastrophic not long ago, and shows no sign of coming down rapidly. And both the United States and Europe are well on their way toward Japan-style deflationary traps.

In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policymakers to realise that they haven't yet done enough to promote recovery.

But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.

As far as rhetoric is concerned, the revival of the old-time religion is most evident in Europe, where officials seem to be getting their talking points from the collected speeches of Herbert Hoover, up to and including the claim that raising taxes and cutting spending will actually expand the economy, by improving business confidence. As a practical matter, however, America isn't doing much better. The Fed seems aware of the deflationary risks — but what it proposes to do about these risks is, well, nothing. The Obama administration understands the dangers of premature fiscal austerity — but because Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress won't authorise additional aid to state governments, that austerity is coming anyway, in the form of budget cuts at the state and local levels.

Why the wrong turn in policy? The hard-liners often invoke the troubles facing Greece and other nations around the edges of Europe to justify their actions. And it's true that bond investors have turned on governments with intractable deficits. But there is no evidence that short-run fiscal austerity in the face of a depressed economy reassures investors. On the contrary: Greece has agreed to harsh austerity, only to find its risk spreads growing ever wider; Ireland has imposed savage cuts in public spending, only to be treated by the markets as a worse risk than Spain, which has been far more reluctant to take the hard-liners' medicine.

It's almost as if the financial markets understand what policymakers seemingly don't: that while long-term fiscal responsibility is important, slashing spending in the midst of a depression, which deepens that depression and paves the way for deflation, is actually self-defeating.

So I don't think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.

And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

'LET THE MIRWAIZ COME FORWARD'

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mr Omar Abdullah, in this two-part interview with Yusuf Jameel, says that the separatists are unlikely to engage the government in sustained dialogue without a nod from across the border. The young Chief Minister also speaks of an attempt to create civil unrest on the eve of Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Srinagar.

Q. Shortly before the recent meetings of top India and Pakistan officials this week, the LoC and the international border hotted up again. This happens whenever top representatives of the two sides meet. Do you see a design?
A. Obviously it suggests there is a constituency that is not in favour of dialogue. I dare say they would not have official sanction. Otherwise, we would not be talking at official and political levels. From time to time, one gets the sense that there are vested interests that don't want normality between India and Pakistan.

Q. On both sides?

A. If you see the pattern of the skirmishes, they originate from the other side. That will tell you where the problem lies.

Q. The "quiet diplomacy" that Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, spoke about last year seems to have been given a quiet burial. What went wrong?

A. Unfortunately, it got exposed on the pages of a national newspaper. The leaders involved in the "quiet diplomacy" were summoned to the Pakistan High Commission and given a dressing down by the deputy high commissioner. Then they distanced themselves from the dialogue. I think what went wrong was that the dialogue between India and Pakistan had not really resumed. It was pre-Bhutan.
Possibly now, especially after the recent foreign secretaries meeting, the Pakistani establishment may be convinced that this dialogue (between the Centre and Hurriyat) should be allowed to go ahead. Let us face it. Without the necessary nod from across, the separatist leaders will not engage Government of India (GoI) in a sustained dialogue.

Q. Separatist political parties, as well as the United Jihad Council (based in Muzaffarabad, PoK), have rejected the PM's offer of talks, saying there is nothing new in it. Don't you think the PM should have been more liberal in providing them a political space to step into? Mr Mirwaiz Umar Farooq wanted Dr Singh to announce a comprehensive political package?

A. A political package will follow a sustained dialogue between the separatists and the GoI. It would not come before that. I mean if you get a political package before you talk, then what would you be talking about? It is all very well for the Hurriyat Conference to say that they are hearing nothing new from the PM. I say we are getting nothing new from the Hurriyat either. In terms of dialogue, what do you expect the PM to say when he has authorised his home minister to start a dialogue? A dialogue was started and then disrupted after the separatist leaders were summoned to the Pakistan High Commission.

Q. But Mr Mirwaiz says that from time to time he has suggested some confidence-building measures (CBMs) to the Centre, but none of these was conceded. In fact, there was no response at all.
A. A lot of confidence-building steps have been taken. But the CBMs Mr Mirwaiz is talking about include you must first announce the revocation of the AFSPA (Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act), and the withdrawal of all troops, before the dialogue can resume. Come on, let's be fair. We're not going to get a dialogue that way. Even the Government of Pakistan has not put conditions like this. The GoI is not asking the separatist leaders to swear by the Constitution of India before they talk.

One of the other problems is, we don't really know what Mr Mirwaiz has asked for. I'm not sure if you know what Mr Mirwaiz's demands are. So, I think it is only fair if there is certain amount of transparency there. Let Mr Mirwaiz come forward. Let him publicly state that these are his demands, and then we will go and ask the GoI how many of these can be addressed.

Q. The question is, was any prominent separatist leader really talking to the Centre behind the scenes. All of them publicly swear they were not.

A. That is fine. I don't want to join issue with them. If they want to deny it, so be it. Let it be between them and the home minister of India.

Q. What is the way out now? The Centre seems to be disinclined to sit across the table with the Hurriyat which claims none of its proposals are conceded.

A. As I said, India and Pakistan are talking to each other. Perhaps the separatist leadership could react in kind and take up the invitation of the Prime Minister.

Q. Is it true that the recent hullabaloo over purported pictures of a Muslim place of worship on a woman's undergarment was actually to prepare the ground for attacking the Sangarmal arcade which you were to inaugurate the same evening?

A. No. My understanding is that it was a design to create civil unrest ahead of the Prime Minister's (recent) visit. The calendar went a little wrong and it happened two days before he arrived, and we were able to put the matter to rest without threatening the visit. Otherwise, my understanding is, and if you see the way it spread and the speed with which it spread, it was not an ordinary incident of a misunderstanding. It was very much orchestrated and designed.

Q. Who was trying to create problems, the separatists or one of the mainstream Opposition parties?

A. I think the less said the better. Perhaps the answer lies outside the two options you have given me.

Q. Can you name the plotter?

A. (Laughs) I think when I retire from politics and if I get on to writing a book, there will be a whole chapter on the Prime Minister's visit and the sort of intrigue that surrounded it.

To be continued

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DRIPPING ECONOMY

BY JAYATI GHOSH

What on earth are they thinking? In the midst of an almost unprecedented and continuous increase in the price of necessities, which is increasingly translating into generalised inflation, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has chosen to "free" the price of petroleum products, to bring them in line with international prices. What this translates into is a significant and immediate increase in oil prices. And since oil is a universal intermediate (which enters directly or indirectly into all other prices) this necessarily means a further rise in inflation.

This is a move that is inexplicable from the point of view of general economic policy. Inflation has emerged as a major problem for the government especially in the past few months, first with food price inflation and now with more general price increases, such that in the year up to May 2010 the Wholesale Price Index increased by 10.2 per cent. Food price inflation continues to be much higher, at 16.5 per cent, putting what by now must be an unbearable burden on the common people. In fact, the Reserve Bank of India has already cited the high rate of inflation as a reason for tightening monetary policy, making it harder and more expensive for producers and individuals to access loans.

Presumably, therefore, measures to reduce inflation ought to be high on the government's list of priorities. The current measure suggests that this is far from the case. An increase in oil prices will not just have a direct effect on prices (estimated by the finance ministry to add just below one per cent to the existing rate of inflation). It will also have a cascading effect — as all goods have to be produced using some energy, usually oil or equivalent, and then transported, so all of their prices will increase subsequently. So the country will have to face a further onslaught of inflationary pressure which is this time entirely policy-induced.

Further, the global prices of petroleum products in the past three years have been marked by the most extreme volatility, more than doubling and then falling to nearly half within a period of 18 months. The fluctuations hardly reflect "economic fundamentals" which have not changed much in the past few years; rather they show the impact of global speculative forces on fuel prices. In any case, they are now rising again, but this does not mean that these can be treated as benchmark prices in any meaningful sense. Deregulation means that domestic prices will now also fluctuate equally wildly.

Clearly, this is the worst possible time to go in for a liberalisation of petroleum prices, which will inevitably be associated with rising prices of such goods. What is the economic logic behind this startling and clearly insensitive move?

In fact, the UPA government has been trying for some time to decontrol oil prices, despite the global volatility in these prices and the lack of convincing arguments in favour of such deregulation. The Rangarajan Committee on the pricing and taxation of petroleum products was set up in the hope that it would recommend such a move. But that report did not really point to this conclusion, so the government, not to be thwarted in its desire, set up yet another committee.

This time it was an Expert Group chaired by former Planning Commission member Kirit Parikh, with the more or less explicit mandate to recommend wholesale liberalisation of the pricing of petroleum products. The Expert Group duly did just that, and the government has been quick to accept its recommendations.

The official reason for this move is that it is necessary to stem the "losses" being suffered by the oil marketing companies (OMCs). When the domestic prices of oil products are controlled but the price of imported oil is rising, oil marketing companies receive from the consumer less than what it costs them to acquire the products they distribute. This leads to losses for companies like Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and IBP (Indo-Burma Petroleum).

But this argument misses the point that all of these companies deliver a range of products and services, the prices of all of which are not controlled. In fact, profits after taxes of the most important oil companies have remained positive and often quite substantially so in the past 10 years. Under-recoveries are notional losses that only lower book profits relative to some benchmark. Thus, there is little danger that the industry would be bankrupted even if prices were kept at their earlier levels.

It is true, of course, that the burden of such under-recoveries should not affect only the books of the oil marketing companies, but should be shared by upstream oil companies like ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation), Oil Industry Commission and Gail, as well as by the Central government which gets customs duties and excise duties from petroleum products and by the state governments which benefit from sales taxes. This would mean that the oil refineries should offer discounts when selling products to the OMCs and government should reduce the taxes it levies on oil products.

This precise question was examined by the Rangarajan Committee. It was found that there is indeed an adequate buffer to shield domestic consumers from the effects of increases in international prices, so long as segments that can afford to take a cut in petroleum-related revenues because they have alternative sources of resource mobilisation are willing to accept such a reduction. Instead, the current strategy is one that puts the entire burden of irrational shifts in the international prices of oil on the consumer, even if the burden sharing involved is extremely regressive and the worst affected will be the economically weakest segments of the population.

So why has the government chosen to do this? The most obvious reason seems to be that the government has chosen to favour the private companies that have been allowed to enter and expand in this sector. This has encouraged the government to take a measure that will cause great harm to most of the population so as to bring in more profits to a few large and powerful companies.

This brings to mind the popular adage: "Either the government owns the oil companies, or the oil companies own the government."

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ROOTED ON ROCK & READY TO ROLL

BY FRANCIS GONSALVES

No! This is not about Beatles' John, Paul, George and Ringo who rocked-and-steamrolled the 1960s generation; but about Paul of Tarsus, who lived two millennia ago. Saul changed his name to Paul after a darshan of the crucified-risen Christ, and Jesus changed Simon's name to "Peter". Peter was rock and Paul perennially on the roll to give Christianity depth and dynamism. Today, June 29, Christians commemorate these saints who set Christianity upon rock, while ensuring its capacity to roll.

Normally, saints' feasts are celebrated on the day of their death or martyrdom. Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome. However, June 29 isn't the date of their martyrdom. Scholars place the beheading of Paul after his two-year imprisonment, in about 62 AD, while Peter was crucified during Nero's persecution of Christians in 64 AD. Why, then, choose June 29 to commemorate these apostles? This was the day in 258 AD when Christians decided to honour them both. Furthermore, June 29 is linked with Rome's founder, Romulus. Thus, just as Rome remembers Romulus, Christianity celebrates its pioneer preachers: Peter and Paul.

Peter and Paul have little in common except their love for Jesus and for all people. Although Peter denied Jesus thrice before he was crucified, to the risen Christ he thrice confessed: "Lord, I love you!" (John 21:15,16,17). This love overflowed as love for his people. He wrote: "Love one another deeply from the heart" (1 Peter 22).

Likewise, Paul, persecutor-turned-preacher, writes: "I consider everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus, my Lord!" (Philippians 3:8). Paul also propagated love in his lovely first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 13) where he lists its qualities: "Love is patient, kind, not envious or boastful… love rejoices in truth, bears all things," and concludes: "Faith, hope and love abide; and, the greatest is love."

Peter and Paul bore insults, injury, imprisonment (Acts 12:1-5; 16:16-24) and even death to spread Jesus' message of love, life and liberation. In so doing, Paul endured public floggings, stoning and shipwreck (2 Corinthians 11:23-28); yet, he said: "Despite all afflictions, I'm overjoyed" (2 Corinthians 7:4). Talking about imprisonment, today, near Rome's Foro Romano one can see the chains that fettered Peter. Legend claims that these very chains fell from Peter's hands as he was freed by God's angel (Acts 12:7).

The differences separating Peter and Paul are more marked than the similarities. Peter was uneducated, Paul, a Pharisee superbly schooled in scripture and law. Peter was a fisherman, Paul, a tentmaker. Peter was married, Paul was not. Before Jesus' death, impulsive Peter was often floored by Jesus' charisma; while imperious Paul was miraculously smitten by the risen Lord Jesus whose followers he ruthlessly persecuted (Acts 9:1-19). Transformed by this experience, Paul would arise and proclaim: "Jesus is Son of God" (Acts 9:20).

Methinks all believers must be rooted on rock and ready to roll. May Peter's plea, "Lose not your stability" (2 Peter 3:17), and Paul's prayer, "May your love overflow more and more" (Philippians 1:9), get us rolling onward with God's Spirit.

— Francis Gonsalves is the principal of the
Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He is involved in interfaith dialogue and peoples' initiatives for fostering justice, harmony and peace. He can be contacted at fragons@gmail.com [1]

The differences separating Peter and Paul are more marked than the similarities. Peter was uneducated, Paul, a Pharisee superbly schooled in scripture and law. Peter was a fisherman, Paul, a tentmaker. Peter was married, Paul was not. Before Jesus' death, impulsive Peter was often floored by Jesus' charisma; while imperious Paul was miraculously smitten by the risen Lord Jesus whose followers he ruthlessly persecuted (Acts 9:1-19). Transformed by this experience, Paul would arise and proclaim: "Jesus is Son of God" (Acts 9:20).
As if by divine design, Peter established Rome as a kind of hub for Christianity although it was outlawed there, while Paul undertook three perilous pilgrimages (AD 47-49; 50-52; 53-57) preaching about Jesus throughout the Roman empire, down to Jerusalem and present-day Greece. His testimony is found in 13 letters in the Bible, compared to Peter's two.

Interestingly, Rome's geography seems to highlight the distinction between Peter and Paul. Peter's mortal remains lie at Rome's central basilica of San Pietro, while Paul's lie in one fuori le mura (Italian, meaning, "outside the walls") indicating Paul's work in marginal lands. Peter thus symbolises centripetal stability; Paul, centrifugal catholicity.

"Catholic" means "universal". Christianity — and any religion for that matter — will remain relevant if it remains rooted to its foundational experience, while daring to innovate and cater to changing times. Peter and Paul teach us: (a) to love God and all people; (b) to be anchored, while being innovative; (c) to stick one's neck out for Truth even if, like Paul, one's neck will roll.

Methinks all believers must be rooted on rock and ready to roll. May Peter's plea, "Lose not your stability" (2 Peter 3:17), and Paul's prayer, "May your love overflow more and more" (Philippians 1:9), get us rolling onward with God's Spirit.

— Francis Gonsalves is the principal of theVidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He is involved in interfaith dialogue and peoples' initiatives for fostering justice, harmony and peace. He can be contacted at

fragons@gmail.com [2]

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THE STATESMAN

EDITS

TECHNOLOGY DENIAL

FIFA 'RED-CARDS' ITSELF 

 

SCORELINES are poor arbiters of propriety. The 4-1 tally fully reflected Germany's outclassing a pathetic England squad, but that will not deflect brickbats away from the Lampard header that everyone ~ except the referee and his assistant ~ knew had crossed the goal-line: and required no TV replay for confirmation. Even talk of the disallowed goal "levelling out" the injustice Germany suffered in 1966 is irrelevant. The Bloemfontein blunder will long be remembered, and will rank among World Cup football's most distasteful moments ~ like Maradonna's "hand of God" or Zidane's head butt. The thorn from the City of Roses will continue to prick. And prick painfully because corrective mechanisms are available but stubborn FIFA refuses to adopt technology. If games as popular and competitive as cricket, tennis, hockey, amateur boxing (among others) can capitalise on advanced TV camerawork to counter human error, there is no reason why the beautiful game should imprison itself in the past. All talk of the human being at the core, that replays/references/overrules will impact on spontaneity may flatter the egos of administrators and match-officials but it robs football of a "basic" ~ authentic adjudication. Nobody is alluding to bias, but the charge of incompetence "sticks". Revolting is FIFA boss Sepp Blatter's pre-tournament assertion that "we want to keep football as a game of the people with a human face". It was an ugly face presented on Sunday evening when disallowed was the goal that just might have impacted the outcome, as ugly as the ignored handball that denied the Republic of Ireland a slot in the Rainbow Nation. 


Refusal to accept demands for application of technology is not the only example of FIFA's bull-headedness at World Cup 2010. Only after the conclusion of the first phase has it conceded that the flight of the Jabulani ball is dicey ~ as is evident from so many "dead balls" being driven into the "wall" because "shooters" feared an aerial essay might go into orbit. And it ducked regulating the blowing of those vuvuzelas that shattered players' concentration and irked TV viewers worldwide. FIFA may boast it has more affiliates than the United Nations has members, but it remains a banana republic. The bloomer at the Free State Stadium was human, that no corrective measure was available is cruelty. Blatter & Co are well past their "best before" date.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITS

SAVING THE ALLIANCE

TASK CUT OUT FOR NEW PCC CHIEF 

 

THE change of guard in the Pradesh Congress in West Bengal must be seen in the context of a keenness to ensure that the alliance with Trinamul, ruptured before the municipal elections, is back on track. The strident notes that Pranab Mukherjee had adopted on the municipal campaign trail ~ partly at the behest of detractors in his party ~ may make it embarrassing for him to credibly alter his position the next time around. A joint campaign may be possible in specific cases like the by-election in Durgapur. But the Union finance minister may have chosen to relinquish charge as PCC chief on tactical grounds as much as on the plea that he is "much too preoccupied'' in Delhi. While he is seen as an able trouble-shooter in the Capital, it is somewhat ironical that he went along with dissenting leaders who chose to stage a dharna in the Pradesh Congress office before the municipal election to prevent what they described as a "sell-out'' to Trinamul. The voices from Delhi after the municipal election results have confirmed that Mr. Mukherjee's successor must guarantee secure lines of communication with Mamata Banerjee. 


Manas Bhuniya does not come with Mr Mukherjee's national stature but he is seen as a relentless anti-Marxist leader as well as a firm defender of the alliance. His task will obviously be made difficult by dissidents, one or two of whom may have even been aspiring to become PCC president. But he should find himself on smoother ground for two reasons. First, the municipal elections have served as a lesson for those who had preferred to put "self-respect'' above the compulsions of an electoral arrangement to ensure a one-to-one contest against the Left. The results confirmed that the Congress would be the greater loser. Second, the high command's mind may have been made up after Trinamul's resounding performance and reinforced by Union law minister and AICC general secretary Veerappa Moily visiting Mamata Banerjee to describe her as "a great leader''. Whether a new PCC chief also signals that assembly elections will be held earlier than scheduled should be known very soon. But the Congress' national leadership has clearly prepared the framework ~ and that is not likely to be disturbed before the assembly election.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITS

CONSTITUTION AVENUE

KYRGYZSTAN'S ESSAY TOWARDS DEMOCRACY

 

SUNDAY'S referendum that has approved a Constitution for Kyrgyzstan is a signal development. The turbulent former Soviet republic is on course to create the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia. The vote, which was recommended by the UN, America and Russia, has been overwhelmingly in favour of the Constitution ~ 90 per cent for and nine per cent rejecting the idea. Historians will almost certainly record that as a major achievement for a country that had been plagued by ethnic strife till very recently. The President, Roza Otunbayeva's pledge to hold parliamentary elections in October raises hope not least in the context of the latest confrontation  between the Kyrgyz and the minority Uzbeks that claimed 2,000 lives and led to the exodus of 400,000 ethnics. The new Constitution has the support of an estimated  60 per cent of the Uzbeks, and the formal transition in October ought not to be as tumultuous as the recent history of Kyrgyzstan. Indeed, the referendum was an essential pre-requisite for democracy and stability and not least to lend legitimacy to the interim government of Otunbayeva, which had assumed office in April after the ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.


The major factor in her favour is that the beleaguered Uzbeks support her interim administration. The toppled Bakiyev may claim the support of the Kyrgyz in the south, but his regime is generally perceived as corrupt. He may also have alienated Moscow over his suspected role in instigating the recent bloodshed, with the ulterior motive of scuttling the referendum. Post-election Kyrgyzstan will have a Prime Minister instead of President. Beyond that change in nomenclature, the country must recover and reconstruct if Otunbayeva's hope that it "will definitely get on its feet and move forward" is to be fulfilled. She may be able to ensure that the "we are leaving the 'word' interim behind". The real test must be her ability to ensure that ethnic strife is also left behind.

 

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THE STATESMAN

SPECIAL ARTICLE

RED RAG TO THE STATE

THE ESTABLISHMENT LACKS UNITY OF PURPOSE

AJAY K MEHRA

 

THE horrendous train derailment at Jhargram in West Bengal on the night of 27 May is one of the several Maoist outrages along the Red Corridor in a span of five months. The Jhargram incident is the 65th attack on the Railways in the past one year.  Beginning with the killing of 24 jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles at Silda,  there have been seven attacks on security forces in Orissa, Bihar and Dantewada.  Civilians have also been attacked without any sympathy for innocent lives.  More civilians than securitymen were killed in the attack on a bus in Dantewada.


Clearly, it is a mixed target of security forces and civilians. The Maoists are intent on conveying a brutal message both to the State and the people ~ to desist from opposing them.  Governments, both at the Centre and in the states, have been unable to rise above partisanship even on such critical issues as the Maoist challenge. They have failed to put in place an effective, well-trained and equipped internal security architecture. The establishment stands exposed and confused.


In all the major assaults since the one on the EFR on 15 February, the Maoists have exposed the shortcomings of the security forces. The police in each of the affected states has been neutralised with successive attacks over the past decade. The paramilitary forces, though trained separately for specialised tasks, are also led by IPS officers who lead the state police organisations.


Fear psychosis

THE people in the Maoist belt are terrified though the extremist leadership has acknowledged the 'mistake' of damaging the track of a passenger train. The Maoist economy runs on 'taxation' (read extortion) of the people and the business community.  They are a terror in the affected regions of the Red Corridor. People in general are repelled by their brand of politics. Do they gain any political mileage by arousing this sense of fear? Or are they trying to consolidate their turf? Or do they want to drive a wedge between the State and security forces? They have created a fear psychosis, but it is unlikely that they will gain the support of the people, let alone create a "people's democracy" post-revolution.


The State as an entity of governance is yet to put up a united front. It needs to get its act together in case it wishes to take up the three-fold Maoist challenge ~ ideological, security and strategic. By equating Maoism with terrorism, government is unlikely to secure the moral and strategic edge it is looking forward to.
Indeed, discerning sections of civil society have opposed an all-out offensive against the Maoists for fear of collateral damage that the poor tribals may suffer.  The misery of the tribal has been accentuated with the security forces confronting the Maoists. A section of the intelligentsia has rather paradoxically referred to the Maoists as  'Gandhians with guns'.

 

The idea probably is to foster a greater understanding of the Maoist brand of politics (Economic and Political Weekly, 22 May 2010, p. 52). The government must earnestly examine the factors that have led to the growth of Left radicalism during the Eighties and the Nineties and after the merger of the two factions in 2003. Significantly, this period coincides with liberalisation and globalisation of the economy. The government will definitely gain by bringing the intelligentsia on board in an effort to countenance this forbidding challenge.


Lack of coordination

THE political response of the Indian state exposes various chinks in the armour. The Congress-led UPA appears to be hobbled with several personal agendas. The unity of purpose, a pre-requisite for meeting this challenge, is lacking. The coalition parties either embarrass or attack each other. There is little or no coordination ~ neither political nor strategic ~ between the Centre and the states. The initiative needs immediately to be taken, and this can be done by convening an all-party meeting. The parties must shed their respective agendas on the issue and agree on a united stand.


At present, there is considerable strategic incoherence and its fatal consequences have been exposed by the E.N. Rammohan committee that probed the outrage at Dantewada. The state police organisations do not have the capability, personnel, training and equipment to countenance the Maoists. The central forces will need time to condition themselves to ground realities. After every disaster, the Centre and the states start a blame-game.
 A political consensus must back the Centre's political and strategic initiative. This must be transparent and periodically reviewed at an all-party meeting. Strategic experts have mentioned the critical role of the state police organisations. The basic police reforms must urgently be introduced. The sanctioned vacancies must be filled at all levels, the requirement of personnel reviewed, upgraded and finetuned. The internal security architecture that the Union home minister referred to in December 2009 must also be reviewed to ensure greater synergy in its functioning. The development thrust in these areas must closely be monitored and grievances redressed. Finally, a committee of experts must coordinate the security initiative against Maoist violence.

(The writer is honorary director, Centre for Public Affairs, Noida)

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

 

BEHIND THE LOKAYUKTA CONTROVERSY

 

The decision of Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde to resign from his post and the reasons given for his action could not have come at a more inopportune time for the ruling BJP. Considering that it was in a mood to celebrate the completion of two years in office, Justice Hegde's resignation has, predictably, jolted the Yeddyurappa government. Particularly because it was followed by the Lokayukta's indictment of the government for turning a blind eye to corruption besides rewarding of officers trapped by his office for possessing assets beyond their known sources of income.


That the Lokayukta was feeling frustrated at the government's refusal to act against corrupt officials as also a section of the mine barons who had been looting the state through illegal mining and transportation of iron ore was evident during an interaction with The Statesman last year. In an interview with this correspondent, he had expressed anguish at the government's failure to act on the report he had  submitted on illegal mining and how fake permits were being used to transport iron ore to the ports. Even the Action Taken Report of the government, he had said, read like "action to be taken''.


His concern was not only over corruption in the state but at the national level as well. He was critical of Dr Manmohan Singh who, while addressing officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation, had expressed concern at the incidence of corruption in high places and the need to bring the guilty to book. In the Lokayukta's words, it was indeed an irony considering the fact that barely a few months ago, Parliament had amended sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act which made it more difficult for corrupt officials and politicians to be prosecuted. The Lokayukta's refrain, therefore, was that the PM and his colleagues talked about the problem without doing anything to tackle it.


The extent of corruption in the iron ore business alone can be gauged from the fact that officials at different checkposts were allowing hundreds of lorries with the same numberplates to transport the mineral. The very same permits were being used repeatedly with impunity. On a conservative estimate, the Lokayukta had put the loss to the exchequer, covering a period of four to five years up to 2008, under different governments, at over Rs 80,000 crore. Most of this shipment and transportation was organized during the boom period following a steep increase in demand from China,which was hosting the Asian Games. Consequently, this led to a bonanza for iron ore exporters from Bellary.


It would be worthwhile to mention that all previous governments, be it the Congress under SM Krishna, or the Congress-JD-S combine under Mr Dharam Singh, were equally guilty of encouraging indiscriminate iron ore mining in Bellary, either legally or illegally. Perhaps this explains why in the last assembly session, no determined attempt was made by the opposition Congress and JD-S to put the Yeddyurappa government on the mat or to even discuss the Lokayukta's report on illegal mining.


For the present, the immediate provocation for the Lokayukta's resignation, who is now giving final touches to the second part of the report on illegal mining before quitting his post on 31 August this year, came from another quarter. It came after he learnt that a cabinet minister had attempted to suspend Mr R Gokul, deputy conservator of forests in Karwar. This was ostensibly because Mr Gokul had failed to attend a meeting convened by the minister at the Karwar port. Never mind the fact that the official was deputed by the Lokayukta himself for investigating the disappearance of over five lakh tonnes of iron impounded ore, kept at the Bilekere and Karwar ports. It was the forest officer who had unearthed the illegal transportation of ore in association with the Lokayukta's men in February this year.

It was clear to the judge that the official was being punished for unearthing the scam relating to illegal transportation and disappearance of the ore. And for his refusal to allow "guilty'' miners to ship their goods exerting pressure to permit the export of their seized material for fear of losing customers abroad. The mine lobby concerned did actually succeed in shipping at least five lakh tonnes surreptitiously out of the eight lakh tonnes that was seized. The impunity with which the seized mineral was moved out of the port, as the Lokayukta himself narrated, has raised apprehensions of a bigger scam. It is now feared that over 50 lakh tonnes of ore may have ultimately been transported and exported illegally. The loss to the exchequer -- over Rs 2,500 crore .


The Yeddyurappa government's casual approach in handling the case, even though it claimed to have ordered an investigation into it, obviously irked the Lokayukta. Coupled with it was his minister's brazen attempt to punish an honest officer. A frustrated Lokayukta felt that he was unable to protect officers who were doing the work assigned by him.


While this was indeed the last straw leading to his resignation, the fact remains that the latest incident only compounded the hurt that the Lokayukta was being subjected to for the last two years. For example, there were instances when babus who had been caught for possessing wealth beyond their known sources of income, were found being reinstated after a brief suspension. Added to it were the charges of caste bias which the guilty babus were levelling at the Lokayukta's officials only to divert attention. Above all, the Lokayukta's frustration stemmed from the government's delay in appointing a Upa Lokayukta as it was affecting the day-to-day functioning of the office.


The government, predictably, sought to refute the charges levelled by the Lokayukta, even suggesting that the Upa Lokayukta's post had been vacant during the term of the previous governments as well. On the issue of giving suo motu powers to the Lokayukta, the government's claim is that only the legislative assembly was empowered to take a call on the issue. While the BJP government's handling of the Lokayukta issue has come in for censure, the fact is the ruling party alone cannot be blamed for not providing suo motu powers to the office of the Lokayukta. Successive governments have failed to honour the Lokayukta's request for this power on the ground that it was for the assembly to approve it.


In fact, HD Kumaraswamy, former chief minister in the JD-S-BJP coalition told newsmen that his cabinet had cleared the proposal after which it was sent to the then governor for his consent. It was, however, rejected by him as he wanted a detailed discussion in the assembly before amending the Karnataka Lokayukta Act of 1986. Mr Kumaraswamy, however, went on to claim that the proposal could not be brought to the assembly for some unknown reasons.


Even during the tenure of the Congress, the then Lokayuktas had been urging the government to give them the authority through suo motu powers. This, however, never came. Those governments, too, incidentally, were guilty of not allowing the Lokayukta to probe charges against some bureaucrats even after they were known for their corrupt ways.


For the record, suo motu powers would enable the Lokayukta to take up anonymous complaints against suspected officials, probe MPs and MLAs, initiate prosecution besides conducting raids on public servants after getting prior information about their disproportionate assets.


The Yeddyurappa government would do well to seek the backing of the opposition to bring about the required amendment to the Lokayukta Act in the state especially when the opposition has come forward to support any Bill on the subject. The forthcoming assembly session, accordingly, would be the ideal forum to test the sincerity or otherwise of the opposition. That is, assuming that Mr Yeddyurappa and his cabinet colleagues, as also his party, favour the proposal themselves. Considering that the BJP's manifesto had promised to provide suo motu powers to the Lokayukta, its excuses on the issue now, ring hollow.


However, the majority of the parties does not favour the grant of such authority to the Lokayukta because they fear that his office would become more powerful than the executive - or even the legislature and the judiciary.


The writer is special representative, The Statesman, Bangalore

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

 

PANEL ON LANKA HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

 

Secretary-GENERAL Ban Ki-moon has appointed a panel of experts to advise on accountability issues related to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka. The three-member panel will advise him on implementing the commitment on human rights accountability made in the joint statement issued by the Secretary-General and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in May 2009.


Indonesia's Marzuki Darusman will serve as the chairman of the expert panel, and the other members are Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the US. The panel is expected to end its responsibilities within four months. The experts will examine "the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes, taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka. It will be available as a resource to Sri Lankan authorities should they wish to avail themselves of its expertise in implementing the commitment. In the conduct of its mandate, the panel hopes to cooperate with concerned officials in Sri Lanka."


The Sri Lanka conflict ended with large numbers of civilians living as internally displaced persons, especially in the north.


Thai diplomat: Ambassador of Thailand to the UN Office in Geneva, Sihasak Phuangketkeow has been named the new president of the UN Human Rights Council, the panel established in 2006 to tackle human rights violations worldwide. He will become the fifth president of the 47-member Council, which replaced the UN Commission on Human Rights that came under criticism about its effectiveness.


Mr Phuangketkeow told the Council that he wanted to concentrate on how members can use their "rich diversity" to forge a more united agenda on key human rights issues. Council members "need to draw synergy from such diversity, recognizing that human rights are indeed universal, indivisible and interdependent, and recognize that we all share a common stake in the credibility and effectiveness of the Council as a whole," he said.


Ethics Director: The Secretary General has appointed a US national, Ms Joan Elise Dubinsky as the Director of the UN Ethics Office. She was Chief Ethics Officer of the IMF from October 2004 through June last year, and served as the Director of Ethics for BAE Systems.


Ms Dubinsky has led the Rosentreter Group, a management consultancy specializing in ethics, compliance and organizational development. She has stints in the non-profit sector, succeeds Robert Benson of Canada, who has served as UN Ethics Director since May 2007.


The UN Ethics Office administers financial disclosure and whistleblower policies mandated by the GA during its 2005 World Summit. It provides confidential advice to staff to help them avert conflict of interest problems.
Afghan refugees: The world refugee agency reported that some 70,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their homeland so far, an indication that an increasing number of those who fled have confidence that they can live in the country despite the prevailing security and socio-economic challenges. The pace of returns has been on the rise in recent weeks and now averages 806 individuals per day, the UNHCR said in a statement on World Refugee Day, added that returns peak between May and August.


The agency said that the returning refugees have cited economic factors and the difficult security situation in Pakistan, and as local improvements in security and employment opportunities in some provinces in Afghanistan as key reasons for deciding to return.


"Despite security constraints and challenging socio-economic conditions in Afghanistan, the voluntary repatriation of 70,000 Afghans demonstrates that many refugees are confident that there are opportunities available to return sustainably to their homeland," said Mengeshe Kebede, UNHCR's representative in Pakistan.


The acting minister for refugees and repatriation in Afghanistan, Abdul Rahim, said that 2.7 million refugees remained in Iran and Pakistan despite the returns.


Peace-keeping unit: UN officials stressed the need to ensure that the world body is equipped with the requisite human, material and financial resources, and support of member states, to field successful peace operations, as they marked the 10th anniversary of a report on the issue.


The General Assembly's thematic debate, entitled UN Peacekeeping – Looking into the Future, examined the challenges and opportunities for peace-keeping since the 2000 report produced by the panel on peacekeeping operations, chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi, former Special Adviser to the Secretary-General and former Special Representative for Afghanistan.


Mr Brahimi's report is "a milestone in the evolution of United Nations peacekeeping operations," the Secretary-General told a meeting, noting that it came after a period of unprecedented challenges for the UN, including a rise in the number of deployed personnel and increased complexity in mission mandates.


"Thanks to the reforms proposed by the panel, UN peacekeeping has been able to grow, incorporate the lessons learned from those experiences, and continue to serve as a cost-effective and flexible tool a flagship UN activity, a mission of hope for people caught in armed conflict," he stated.


Uzbek victims: The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that despite security concerns in southern Kyrgyzstan, UN agencies are reaching thousands of civilians uprooted by the recent violence in Southern city of Osh with critical relief supplies. Elizabeth Byrs of OCHA said that security situation is not totally under control, including in the city of Osh, which was the focus of much of the violence between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks. The situation in Jalalabad continues to be tense.


She noted that government troops trying to clear barricades from the streets in Osh have been met with resistance. She added that the tense situation is hampering the aid delivery for internally displaced persons, of about 300,000 in Kyrgyzstan.


The clashes have sent some 100,000 people fleeing into neighboring Uzbekistan, where aid agencies have been assisting the Government in handing out relief items, OCHA stated. "The Uzbek authorities have been handing out UNHCR relief items and our own emergency team has been on the ground in the Andijan area since Friday visited sites and doing assessments," Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UNHCR told reporters.


UNHCR has delivered 240 tons of aid in Uzbekistan, including tents, plastic sheeting, blankets and other basic items, to the refugees. The majority are women, children, and the elderly.


Synthetic drugs: According to a new report released by UN drugs and crime agency stated that amphetamine-type stimulants and prescription medications are increasingly becoming the drugs of choice globally, but it also noted the drug use has stabilized in developed nations while it seems to be rising in the developing world.
The World Drug Report 2010, launched by the UNODC, said that the number of users of synthetic drugs at 30 to 40 million people worldwide will soon exceed the number of users of opiates and cocaine combined. "We will not solve the world drugs problem if we simply push addiction from cocaine and heroin to other addictive substances and there are unlimited amounts of them, produced in mafia labs at trivial costs," warned UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.


The agency noted in a news release that the market for amphetamine-type stimulants is harder to track because of short trafficking routes, and the fact that many of the raw materials are both legal and readily available. Manufacturers are quick to market new products, such as ketamine and mephedrone, and exploit new markets.

 

"These new drugs cause a double problem," noted Mr Costa.

Anjali Sharma

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

NEWS ITEM

MILK AND PUBLIC HEALTH


MEETING OF THE INDIAN HEALTH ASSOCIATION

A largely attended meeting of the above association was held on Saturday evening at the Council Chamber of the Corporation office, with Rai Bahadur Radha Charan Pal in the chair. Amongst those present were Mr R Braunfold, Rai Bahadur Debendra Chandra Ghose, Rai Bahadur KC Banerjee, Dr Heridhan Dutt, Mr J Ghosal, Dr Suresh Chandra Sircar, Mr PN Mukherjee, Dr GN Mukerjee, Dr Ida Coulthurst and Dr SK Mullick and others.


The Chairman said that the present prosperous condition of the Association was soley due to the indefatigable exertions of Dr SK Mullick. He was sure that if the Association were to continue to work on the same lines, it was bound to do a great deal of good to the community at large by disseminating knowledge of sanitation and proper diet, and in time to come would be a powerful ally to the Municipal Commissioners, in promoting the laws of sanitation. It was impossible for Dr Mullick to achieve this end single-handed. What was, therefore, wanted was co-operation. He would, therefore, appeal to his countrymen to cooperate with Dr Mullick in the furtherance of the objects which the Association had in view.


Dr Mullick gave a brief sketch of the work of the Association and appealed to those present to organise meetings. They proposed to arrange meetings in each Ward, and then to gradually extend their operations outside Calcutta in the mofussil. Dr Mullick mentioned several helpers who had agreed to organise meetings.
Dr A Neogy then read a paper on the subject of milk in relation to public health. Mr R Braunfeld urged that, as in England, dairies should be outside the town.


Rai KC Banerjee Bahadur suggested that the Corporation ought to take a large area of land for grazing and give assistance in improving the breed of cattle, as in Bankipur.


The Chairman, in thanking the lecturer, supported the suggestion of the last speaker.


Mr J Ghosal, in moving a vote of thanks to the chair, urged that the milk supply ought to be a municipal business like the water supply, and that municipal dairies should be instituted.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FOR A FEW GOOD LEADERS

MALVIKA SINGH

 

Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, with its delicately crafted, carved and embellished sandstone fort, sits cushioned on the sands of the expansive Thar desert. A living city within the ramparts, its skills and traditions continue despite the passage of time. But like everywhere else in India, the municipality is non-existent, perpetuating the filth, garbage, decay and corrosion, all of which is choking this gem that belongs to India and its people. Nowhere on this planet would such negligence and conscious lack of management be permitted or condoned. This strangulation of Jaisalmer is a virtual 'criminal' act.

 

Chief ministers come and go, and they do not care. 'Cityplanning' and 'conservation' are terms that politicians do not necessarily comprehend, and, therefore, discount. Administrators follow their leaders instead of guiding them to do the right thing. All this is a far cry from the heady days when Indira Gandhi — who had visited Jaisalmer following the first nuclear test in Pokhran — stunned by its sheer beauty, craftsmanship and historical significance, declared it a national heritage site. Indira Gandhi understood the value of India's treasured past, respected it, and saw in its variety the great plural strengths of India. She genuinely understood and cared for India and its cultural roots.

 

Since then, no political leader has actively intervened, nor fully believed in the desperate need to conserve and protect. Indira Gandhi never passed the buck using the fact that some of these 'issues' were state subjects. She connected with a passion that is non-existent in the politics of today. Politicians, particularly Congressmen and women, must learn from her commitment to such issues, which they prefer to ignore and place on the back-burner of governance in their obsession to push for a 'growth rate' that does not seem to affect the majority in India.

 

Wrong model

 

The present-day government in Rajasthan, for one, needs to expedite the cleaning of Jaisalmer with the active participation of those who live there as a tribute to the memory of Indira Gandhi and her mission, instead of wasting money on advertisements eulogizing her and then doing the exact opposite of what she did.

 

The inability of the 'liberalizers' in the Planning Commission and in the government to absorb traditional information technologies into the 'mainstream' of development processes has been the single largest failure of inclusive growth in India over the last three decades. Their uninformed attitude towards real India has led to the most traumatic and unnecessary social upheavals. Sadly, the proponents of faulty growth models continue to govern without an understanding of India, its traditions and ethos. They have succeeded in disconnecting India from India.

 

The rapacious intent to break all environmental laws in the name of growth is transforming a nation that was endowed with the best resources to one that is pockmarked, diseased, maimed and chronically sick. The wrath of the gods is bound to kick in sometime soon. At another level, the 'talibanization' of India under present-day governments, both in the states and at the Centre, is a more dangerous phenomenon than one thinks it is. How can Indian governments allow khap panchayats to carry on with their diktats unabated? Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and their generation of national leaders would have come out strongly and clearly, damning such realities and taking action against the killers. They would have addressed the nation and led from the front, charged with their fierce commitment to an India that is an ancient and profound civilization and a modern nation state. India is yearning for leadership.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

A LURCH TOWARDS REFORM

THERE IS NO SIGN THAT THE GOVERNMENT'S CONVICTION HAS CHANGED

WRITING ON THE WALL

ASHOK V. DESAI

 

The government raised prices of petrol, diesel oil, kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas on Friday night. The choice of Friday was explicable. Most offices would be closed for the next two days, and the predictable demonstrations by opposition parties would not cause too much inconvenience to the public. And the stock market too would be closed, and investors would get the weekend to absorb the news. Not that they would react negatively. The rise in the prices would improve the finances of the oil companies, and their stocks would tend to rise. Bus and truck owners, on the other hand, are not important amongst equity issuers. So on balance, the stock market would be quite favourable to the price rise.

 

That explains the choice of the day of the week, but not the decision itself. It does defy explanation; it is so out of character for the United Progressive Alliance government. This alliance does not believe in fiscal probity; ever since it came to power in 2004, it has merrily run enormous deficits. It does not believe in giving public enterprises operational independence. It quite shamelessly puts them to political uses; the otiose advertisements in newspapers with pictures of Congress leaders, financed by various public enterprises, are an obvious but by no means the most important instance of misuse. The government is a sucker for subsidies. It justifies them all in the name of the poor, but is careful not to enquire to whom the real benefits go. Price subsidies invariably create dual prices and hence an opportunity of making money from acquiring the product at a subsidized price and selling it in the unsubsidized market. The profits go to so-called black marketeers, but the term encompasses members of the ruling party and their trader clients. Briefly, subsidies are the mainstay of rackets of great benefit to the party and its friends; it is surprising that the party should cut down the source of its own prosperity. The decision to raise hydrocarbon prices is a departure from the party's normal shady path.

 

The timing of the decision suggests a connection with the meeting of the Group of 20 last Sunday. Let us look back to the Copenhagen summit, where India was a leader of demonstrators. Jairam Ramesh, its hirsute representative, made a big noise there about industrial countries being the villains of the century, finishing off all the oil before India could get to it and warming up the world. He led the chorus asking industrial countries to reduce their energy consumption. It was iconic hooliganism in the best style of Mamata and Mayavati; their antics had at last found an export market.

 

A little known fact is that G20 summits are just ceremonial get-togethers; the real business is done a few weeks before in extended meetings of the so-called financial leaders. This time the meetings took place over May and June. And there our financial leader faced some barracking from his counterparts from industrial countries, in a more sedate and less colourful style than Jairam Ramesh, but nevertheless effective. The point was made there that while India preaches sermons asking industrial countries to raise energy prices and reduce consumption, it is not even taxing energy as much as they; on the contrary, it is subsidizing some of the energy products. There was a disjunction between sermon and practice — nothing new for India, but nevertheless rather uncomfortable for a preacher. Oil is likely to get scarcer and scarcer, and eventually run out by the end of the century at the latest. The world — and that includes India — must prepare for that eventuality; the way to prepare is to increase efficiency of energy use and replace exhaustible with renewable energy. And the instrument for doing so is taxation: exhaustible energy, including especially hydrocarbons, must bear heavy and increasing taxation.

 

This is why the government did not merely announce the cut in subsidies and the rise in prices, but declared its intention to let prices be determined by the market. It implied that it would not give subsidies by stealth by telling the oil refining companies it owns what prices they should charge. This will not happen immediately, but the government promised it would happen some time. Thereafter, the only influence the government would exercise would be in the form of excise duties. It did put in a caveat, that if prices rose inordinately — if oil went over $100 a barrel — it may step in and go back to its old ways of arbitrary subsidies. So it was not announcing a change of faith, only restraint in pursuing expediency.

 

However, the increase in prices was not about the state of State-owned companies only; the ministry's statement also mentioned the private refiners. It will be recalled that Reliance and Essar opened petrol pumps from 2006 onwards, expecting to sell their own petrol and diesel. But the government forced its own companies to sell these products at a loss, and so forced losses upon the private companies. They could not pass on their losses to the taxpayers, and could not afford to bear them themselves. So they closed their pumps. Reliance changed its status to an export undertaking, and exported the bulk of its production, except for fuel oils such as furnace oil and low-sulphur heavy stock. But exports were not nearly so lucrative as the domestic market, where the only competitors were inefficient government companies. Besides, the government subsidized consumers through its own companies, but refused to give the private companies the same subsidy. It was unfair competition. These arguments were undoubtedly made by Reliance; and after Murli Deora became petroleum minister, they were perhaps heard with greater sympathy. So the rise in prices is also passed off as a step towards fairer — or less unfair — competition.

 

The recent camaraderie between the government and Reliance is relevant here. The Ambani brothers entered an agreement to divide up the Reliance empire in 2005. Soon they quarrelled, and their rows ended up in courts. The Central government quite gratuitously asked the courts to allow it to intervene, and did so systematically in favour of Mukesh's Reliance. Such uncalled-for and inappropriate favours are generally not made out of a generosity of heart; interests and influence are usually involved. The government's concern did not confine itself to the fraternal conflict; it spilled over, as will be seen, to the decision on pricing.

 

So the government has not acted out of conviction; no change of ideology should be read into the pricing decision. It would be quite mistaken to assume that the government will not go back to its old arbitrary and opportunistic ways. But before Friday, the probability that the government would allow the hydrocarbon market to function was zero. Now the subjective probability has risen above zero. But it is nowhere close to one.

 

If the government wants to convince the market and the investors that it has changed, it should take on the subsidies into its budget and give them to all companies, private and public. And it should eventually replace all taxes by a constant proportional tax on all crude and products, whether produced at home or imported

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

FLIGHTS THAT NONE WILL FANCY

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA DISCUSSES THE PROBLEMS AFFLICTING INDIA'S CIVIL AVIATION SECTOR JUST OVER A MONTH AFTER THE MANGALORE AIR CRASH

 

It has been more than a month since an Air India Express flight crashed in Mangalore, killing all but 8 of the 166 passengers onboard. This is thus the right time to indulge in a critical appraisal of the nature of civil aviation in India. In the course of such an exercise, numerous questions are bound to cross one's mind. What ails non-military aviation in India? Can the problems be attributed to the chronic failures at the level of policy? Are the rapid expansion of air routes and the absence of professional training and guidance to be blamed?

 

In fact, since the Mangalore crash, the media have reported a number of disturbing incidents involving passenger aircraft: engine failures, possible mid-air collisions, tyres bursting during take-off runs, pilot indiscipline and defiance of air traffic controllers' orders, glitches on the part of the air traffic communication system in Mumbai, breach of airport security and so on. Is there a way out of this morass?

 

Charity, it is said, begins at home. There is no point in blaming the minions if the masters themselves fail to show the way. The Mangalore incident was entirely avoidable. The aircraft was new, airworthy and in perfect shape. Visibility was satisfactory, as the rain had stopped falling before the flight touched down. The morning was calm. Wind and temperature posed no problems. Yet, the plane crashed because the Serbian pilot reportedly committed an error in judgment: he overshot the touchdown point, then tried to veer around but failed to lift the plane. Consequently, the aircraft swerved away from the runway at a speed higher than that is stipulated in the operational manual and plummeted down a cliff at the end of the strip.

 

Hence, the crash was blamed on the pilot's 'misjudgment'. But the pilot is dead, and the matter ends there. The more important question is why did the pilot go wrong? What could have been the allied factors that led to the crash? These questions will remain unanswered, perhaps to safeguard the interests of those occupying the higher rungs of the civil aviation command structure. The higher-ups are the lords of all that they survey, and lack technical knowledge or even the willingness to master it. They need not be told the inconvenient truth. That would be detrimental to the motives of those who rule this prosperous empire, which, thus far, has grown rapidly. In reality, therefore, one of the biggest hurdles to passenger safety in the Indian sky continues to be the semi-professional and feudal conduct of those in positions of power in the concerned department.

 

Added to this is the existence of corruption that seems to be affecting the lower tiers, thereby weakening the foundations of the aviation sector. Be it land scams pertaining to airport construction or the repeated failures of the concerned authorities to control the illegal activities of operators, corruption of all types continue to undermine the possibility of instituting a safe and secure air traffic system. In fact, India's aviation sector continues to remain vulnerable to the pressure exerted by politicians and entrepreneurs. Hence, more often than not, complaints surface regarding the lack of transparency in awarding licences and in the allotment of timetables and routes. The malady is now deeply embedded, and there is no cure in sight.

 

Given the present circumstances, a number of factors continue to worry conscientious members of the aviation fraternity as far as the future of Indian aviation is concerned. Aviation experts in India are worried about the linguistic proficiency of non-English-speaking expatriate pilots, their training backgrounds, experience in handling aircraft and their records pertaining to flying hours.

 

After the leased Uzbekistan airlines flight met with an accident on the Delhi airport runway some years ago, it was found that the pilot, who hailed from the Central Asian republic, was weak in English, which is the universally accepted language of communication in aviation circles. Similarly, the worst mid-air collision over Delhi — an accident involving Saudi Arabian and Kazakhstan aircraft — had exposed, once again, the inability of the non-English-speaking pilots to understand the commands issued by the Indian air traffic controller regarding altitude, direction, speed and positional awareness.

 

The shortcomings in India's pilot- training programme are also well known to the bosses. The violation of various types of rules and regulations are evident to the regulators. Yet, totally avoidable mishaps continue with potentially disastrous consequences. Thus, when an Indian Airlines flight tried to take off from the Aurangabad airport on a hot summer afternoon in 1993, it failed to obtain the height required to clear a stationary truck parked outside the airfield and rammed into a high-tension wire, killing a number of passengers. A subsequent inquiry had put the blame on the "overloaded" aircraft. The commercial department personnel, it was stated, had failed to do their job of checking the weight and balance of the operational aircraft.

 

Today, it is being said that pilot error caused the air crash in Mangalore. This is similar to the reason that was cited after a crash in Bangalore in February 1990. It was subsequently found that Captain C.A. Fernandez and Captain S.S. Gopujkar had violated the standard operating procedure for landing, thereby failing to adhere to the widely accepted safety rules about breaking off an approach if a plane is losing altitude too quickly or has too much speed just before landing, is positioned dangerously short of the runway or is overshooting the spot of touchdown.

 

In the past, another extraordinary example of the callous Indian attitude had come to light. This pertained to the breaching of an accepted international aviation procedure. Unlike American carriers, Indian pilots used to switch different jetliner models during the same duty period. This needs to be stopped at once. Steps have to be taken to ensure that a pilot is comfortable, and at his best, when he is behind the controls.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

FIFTH  COLUMN

FACE THE MUSIC

IN DEBT

 

GREECE EXPOSES THE VULNERABILITY OF THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM

It is ironic that Greece, whose gross domestic product is just two per cent of that of the European Union, should hold the latter to ransom. It is not just its high trade deficits or the high public debt at 115 per cent of the GDP, but its lies about these that are responsible for Greece's predicament. The country had fudged its accounts on the 'expert' advice of the American firm, Goldman Sachs, and had showed a budget deficit of below three per cent to join the euro club in 1999. In 2004, it admitted its crime, but went on fudging its accounts. In October 2009, a new government came to power which made the startling disclosure that the deficit was 12.7 per cent. Afterwards came the bombshell — the actual deficit was 13.6 per cent. Greece lost its credibility and its bonds were downgraded to junk status.

 

On April 9, 2010, EU and the International Monetary Fund jointly pledged a package of 45 billion euro for Greece on condition that it reduces its budget deficit to below three per cent over three years. On May 10, the EU-IMF raised this to 750 billion euro ($1 trillion) for Greece and other distressed nations of the EU. This step was taken to save the euro-zone banks that had invested heavily in Greek sovereign bonds. Otherwise, the EU leaders felt, the very credibility of the euro would be lost. Euro did rise by three per cent against dollar and the Greek bond rates did fall from 22 per cent to 8.7 per cent. But the euro soon crashed to its four-year low of $1.20 on June 4.

 

Greece can neither devalue to boost exports, nor can it cut interest rates to spur investments because of its euro membership. So the EU-IMF prescription for Greece is cutting wages and pensions and a rise in VAT. This will reduce its income and consumption, and worsen its debt burden. Growth will be slower, making it even harder to reduce the budget deficit. It could be a death spiral and Greece may default unless the surplus nations open an aid channel for it.

 

Till September 2008, foreign funds poured in freely, and Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland and others prospered.

Thereafter, the cash inflow stopped and these countries were left with low growth and high costs, rendering them uncompetitive against stronger European nations like Germany. After September 2008, many EU-countries had to increase public spending sharply to ward off the impending recession. This raised their budget deficits and public debts. All these countries face the music now, since they have to follow deflationary policies to get the EU-IMF loan, which will pay off their sovereign debt. If any of these countries default, the euro's credibility to the private banks will be at stake.

 

However, the euro is far too important for the global financial system. According to the Bank for International Settlements, outstanding derivative contracts worth over $180 trillion stand transacted in euro that is 30 per cent of the total global outstanding derivatives. So one way out is to devise a mechanism that will transfer resources from the surplus to the deficit regions. Of course, this will be politically difficult. The alternative is to let the banks face the losses.

 

The entire episode exposes the vulnerability of the global financial system, which is highly leveraged and hinges on a chain of credibility. The world's total outstanding derivatives of $600 trillion is backed by just $25 trillion of real money. At the moment, Greece happens to be the weakest link in the chain.

 

DIPANKAR BOSE

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

FIRST EDIT

SOME DIALOGUE

'THAT BOTH ARE TALKING IS ITSELF A SIGN OF PROGRESS.'

 

The India-Pakistan engagement agenda is crowded these days, with back-to-back meetings between the foreign secretaries and home ministers of the two countries, preceded by a meeting the prime ministers last month. there will one between foreign ministers next month. The high-level meetings are in contrast with the lack of any serious interaction for months after the Mumbai terrorist attack. No substantial outcome has emerged from these meetings. Both sides had not expected any either. The Indian side had called the interaction exploratory before the foreign secretaries' meeting. Pakistan had said it was not interested in a 'cosmetic engagement' with India but unfortunately it has not accepted that the responsibility to take the engagement beyond the cosmetic stage rests more with it than with India.


 This is not to deny any progress. There has been some incremental progress more in atmospherics than on concrete issues. The reduction in the level of mutual recriminations may itself be a sign of some movement. Home minister P Chidambaram and Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik announced that investigative agencies of the two countries would work together on tackling terrorism and in handling the 26/11 case and that Pakistan would give India voice samples of the accused. This was perhaps the only concrete idea that came out of the ministerial talks. Its usefulness is yet to be tested, especially in the background of the slow progress of the case in Pakistan and that country's refusal to act against those like the Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Sayeed. Chidambaram made this clear  that Pakistan has to deliver upfront on terrorism. India had presented 10 dossiers of evidence to Pakistan and this time Chidambaram shared with  Rehman Malik information gained from questioning 26/11 accused David Headley by Indian officials in the US. But unfortunately the information provided by India is not news to Pakistan. It only pretends innocence and keeps demanding more evidence.


 All this does not detract from the value of interaction. Pakistan's state of denial, partly deliberate and partly caused by its own constraints, may itself  be a reason for continuance of the engagement. Both countries need not expect short term results on substantive issues. The foreign secretaries have only prepared the agenda for the ministers' meeting next month. If there is any breakthrough on any issue in the meeting, that will be a bonus. But the very fact that there is engagement at different levels is some progress.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

SECOND EDIT

NUCLEAR BUSINESS

'THERE'S A QUEUE TO SELL NUCLEAR TECH TO INDIA.'

 

India and Canada have signed a civilian nuclear agreement, under which Canada will provide India with uranium and equipment besides expertise in nuclear waste management and radiation safety. The agreement is significant not so much for what it brings India but for what it signifies. It is a turning point in India's relations with Canada. More importantly, it is another milestone, in India's evolution as a nuclear power and the world's recognition of its status. In 1974, when India conducted its first nuclear test at Pokhran, Canada was at the forefront of international outrage. Canada's anger stemmed from the fact that India had used the 40-MW CIRUS reactor it supplied India in 1955 to produce the plutonium for the nuclear devices tested in 1974. It argued that India's diversion of the plutonium for nuclear weapons was in violation of an implicit understanding between the two countries that the reactor would be used for peaceful purposes alone. The acrimonious exchange between the two countries and Canada's role in the subsequent imposition of sanctions on India soured India-Canada relations. In the three decades since, India-Canada relations remained hostage to Canada's obsession with India's nuclear programme and its one-point agenda of getting India to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


With the signing of the civilian nuclear deal, Canada has indicated that it is willing to step up co-operation with India. More importantly, it will engage in nuclear trade with it, something unimaginable a few years ago. Signs of this change were apparent when it supported to lift restrictions on trade with India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Japan, another bitter critic of India's nuclear programme was among the fiercest opponents of the India-US agreement. It is expected to sign a nuclear agreement with India this week for supply of reactors. The possibility of a share in the enormous business that India holds out has triggered this change in position. There are many countries jostling to engage in nuclear trade with India today. There is no need for India to sell itself cheap or succumb to pressures imposed. Countries are queuing up to sell their nuclear technology and India should choose those companies who are willing to engage in business on terms that suit India.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

BY B G VERGHESE


The Constitution speaks of 'equality of status and opportunity,' which rules out caste as a defining societal principle.

 

It is a thousand pities that 62 years after Independence, India is still talking of and suffering from caste obsessions. Read gotra as an extension of caste and we have 'honour killings,' — acts of medieval barbarism at the behest of khap panchayats, being defended and debated. The motive for the most part is no longer religion or ritual even in some degree, as it once may have been, but crudely political, through vote-banking, a scramble for preferment by reservation in an economy of shortages, and a claim to superior social status in an upwardly mobile society that has traditionally been based on hierarchy, not merit.


The current debate has been triggered by the suggestion that caste enumeration be made part of the 2011 census after it was discontinued post-1931. The proffered rationale is that an accurate caste enumeration will enable the government to better  target affirmative action programmes in its social welfare and other efforts to ensure inclusive growth. This is a fallacy. Such numbers and classifications are and can be made available – and perhaps more accurately – through the National Social Sample and similar data collection exercises.


The Constitution abolishes untouchability and only mentions caste in the specific context of scheduled castes. Contrary to popular belief, it does not refer to 'backward castes' but only to 'socially and economically backward classes' (and to 'weaker sections') in respect of whom a commission may be appointed from time to time to investigate and make recommendations for ameliorating their condition.


Nor does the Constitution refer to a casteless society per se but speaks of 'equality of status and opportunity,' 'fraternity' and a uniform civil code, all of which obviously rule out caste as a defining societal principle. So why reverse gear half way through the journey and give a fillip to caste through the census?


All parties have elaborate caste and community breakdowns of the electorate for every constituency and woo them assiduously, the Left as much as any other. Policies and appointments are made with an eye on winning the support of these groups for electoral advantage. The talk of targeting welfare schemes through more nuanced caste enumeration is just so much humbug.

Indeed reservation, and reservations within reservations, have become a crutch. There has been strong resistance to any exit policy and creamy layers have become a new privileged and exploiting class, determined to prevent the less fortunate among their community to rise and proper. 


Everybody, it seem, wants to be declared 'backward' in order to move forward on crutches. The process of sanskritisation or movement up the caste ladder is being reversed and retribalisation is taking place. This spells ill for the nation and can only breed mediocrity. One antidote would be to declare the entire populace backward so that none is more equal than others!


Affirmative action

The real answer, however, lies in affirmative action in favour of the poor and disadvantaged and to waste out the constitutional provision for SC/ST reservation over the next decade or so on the basis of a rational exit policy, universalisation of education and other rights-based measures.  

Caste must be seen not in isolation but holistically as part of other behavioural attitudes such as gender or minority status. Majority and minority in terms of social behaviour are not numerical as much as attitudinal categories. Parsees do not behave as 'minorities'; Hindutvadis do. Gender relations (including dowry) are to a large extent guided deep down by property and property-derived status considerations. Hence the ugly and murderous phenomenon of female feticide.


 One supreme example of attitudinal resistance to social reform is the blindly perverse opposition to legislating a uniform civil code on the totally false premise that this can only be done by abrogating personal codes. With reference to the UCC, many perfervid secularists are truly diehard communists, allied in a common conspiracy to protect male property rights and slot people into castes, sub-castes and communities.  They are truly enemies of equality and fraternity.

 

Those who oppose caste enumeration must therefore take up cudgels against 'minorityism' and gender discrimination as part of broadbased social reform. The goal must be to strive for equal opportunity (not more and more reservation), a fundamental constitutional promise. Equal opportunity legislation has been pending for a year but is being opposed. Why is no one agitated?  It is because we have been so busy tilting at windmills that the true enemy is often not discerned. It is the battle for equal opportunity that must be fought and won.

Social reform too must be pursued not just by the state but by communities and individuals. There is so much social rot around that we tolerate in the belief that it will just go away. Where are the contemporary versions of latter day social reformers? The church seeks the scheduling of scheduled caste converts, indirectly perpetuating caste and mocking its own faith. Others are no better.


 Jagmohan, the former civil servant and minister, has written of reforming and reawakening Hinduism in a new book just published. Maybe one of the reforms we should consider is the restoration of religious instruction in schools so that children know about the country's many faiths and can imbibe their high moral values. This would be perfectly in keeping with true secularism and attune young minds to essential values of equality and brotherhood.

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DECCAN HERALD

IN PERSPECTIVE

WHERE BILLIONAIRES CAN PUT THEIR RICHES

BY HAZEL HENDERSON


Bill and Melinda Gates can steer their billionaire friends towards innovative technologies.

 

I join with many in applauding the leadership of Microsoft's Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett in challenging their fellow philanthropists to pledge 50 per cent or more of their fortunes to charity in their lifetimes. In their secret 'first supper' in May 2009, they invited David Rockefeller to co-host a group of billionaire peers-- George Soros, Ted Turner, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Bloomberg, Peter Peterson, Julian Robertson, Charles Feeney, California couples Eli and Edythe Broad, John and Tashia Morgridge and David Rockefeller, Jr. 

 The Gates and Buffett are already on the right track with the focus of their grants in Africa and other developing countries and on education. They can help steer their billionaire friends to go beyond funding 'vanity' buildings at elite western universities. This type of self-serving philanthropy is embarrassingly passé. Also passé is coziness with existing elites who made their fortunes from the legacy companies and technologies of the fossilised sectors: coal, oil, petrochemicals, steel, gas-guzzling autos, big pharmaceuticals, all still subsidised as is nuclear power. Bill Gates can drop the self-serving American Energy Innovation Council lobbying the US Congress for $16 billion of additional subsidies for unnecessary research on 'clean coal,' carbon capture and and more nuclear power. 


 US energy secretary Steven Chu, a Nobelist physicist, must know that such 'investments' are misguided and waste more taxpayers' money. Coal can now be phased out with abundant US natural gas and combinations of wind and solar installations.  Nuclear energy, heavily subsidised since its inception, is still the most inefficient, expensive and hazardous way that humans have ever devised to boil water (what all power stations do to drive their turbines). 


Bill Gates can do better joining forces with progressive groups accelerating the transition to the worldwide solar age human development models based on utilising the power and productivity of natural systems and billions of years of natures' innovation. The green economy initiative of ILO, UNEP and UNDP are in synch with gates foundation programmes.


How to corral the necessary investments to ramp up this great transition to the solar age? 

Bill and Melinda Gates can steer their billionaire friends toward innovative technologies, ready and waiting for investments to scale up the transition. They can connect with the Network for Sustainable Finance and other leaders in finance already paving the way: the UN principles of responsible investing ($20 trillion in assets); UNEP-FI; Ceres ($3 trillion) and the International Investment Group on Climate Change ($8 trillion).
 We invite Bill and Melinda Gates to study the computer model climate solutions 2 by Climate Risk Pty in Sydney, Australia, the climate bonds initiative, the climate prosperity alliance, Richard Branson's climate war room and many other private investors.  Since January 2007, $1.248 billion was already invested and firmly committed to companies in energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture, solar, wind, marine, geothermal and non-food use of biomass, as well as other disruptive technologies that are displacing the old polluting legacy firms and financiers still trying to preserve the past and their doomed portfolios.


Future of humanity

This exciting progress toward the equitable, ecologically sustainable future for humanity is often overlooked by

mainstream media still funded by advertising from the world's fossilised sectors.  Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) is dedicated to reforming markets and growing the green economy globally.  Thus, we publish daily reports on new technologies, investments, entrepreneurs and companies leading the way at www.ethicalmarkets.com and on our Green Transition Scoreboard www.greentransitionscoreboard.com. We use the climate solutions 2 computer model (downloadable) to show how the green transition can be assured by investing $1 trillion worldwide – specifically in developing countries – every year from now until 2020. 


 This $10 trillion is less than the $23 trillion US taxpayers are liable for the bailouts of failing Wall Street firms and auto companies. This $10 trillion represents only 10 per cent of the world's institutional investors, pension and charitable foundations of $120 trillion. Ethical Markets Media updates its Green Transition Scoreboard to track private investments to encourage such pension fund and foundation portfolio managers to shift at least 10 per cent of their assets toward growing green economies.

IPS

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

ENDURING ROLE MODELS

BY MALA SRIDHARA


Women identify the ultimate aspect of existence which is liberty.

Within each community, nationality and class, the burden of hardship falls disproportionately on women, said Amartya Sen. From cradle to grave women walk the rough path for a longer period, simply because nature endowed them with longevity. Very few are permitted to become aware of existing reality and strive for alternatives that may improve their situation. When such an effort is inevitable almost all of them identify the ultimate aspect of existence which is independence -- the vital unfettered force of truth and dignity.    

                                                        
My thoughts reach out to an outstanding woman of grit, whose life choices evinced such awe in her community, that she was referred to in hushed tones. Like many from my generation, I had the advantage of having a young grandmother and the sheer joy of knowing her mother! (henceforth referred as GGM- great grand mother). Annual visits to her town, Srirangam, had its attractions inspite of the sweltering heat.


 The possibilities of some unescorted roaming was enormous: could wander in the temple,could get lost and be promptly guided home by total strangers, could gambol in the river Cauvery and best of all accompany GGM to our story's heroine – Kutti Paatti's house. Kutti, widowed young had had just enough time to be blessed with a son. He was a journalist residing in Tiruchinapalli with his family. Kutti had resorted to making 'happala' to support herself and had managed to put him through college.

 

GGM promoted Kutti by ensuring that her children bought their annual stocks during their visits. Such 'shopping' sessions would go on for a couple of hours, enough to include reams of news of every known contact. Much to Kutti's amusement, I would loll, sit, watch, wander and on certain days snooze off in their vicinity.What she did not know was that I had simply fallen in love with her compact 'tiled' old house.
Apart from the typical 'angala,' it had a well right between her kitchen and the backyard. This was meant to facilitate her rigorous and fastidious rituals without having to stepout or depend on others' help. Kutti's home was the tidiest with the spartan objects and vessels in their rightful shelves.


On one occasion when Kutti had looked evidently tired, GGM admonished her for not moving in with her son. The import of Kutti's answer dawned on me much, much later. She said she enjoyed her independence – of thought, time, action and economics – and would keep it for as long as her health permitted. This decision, sans self-pity, was entirely hers and had thus endowed her son with more opportunities to admire and love her. Her courage borne out of self-sufficiency had liberated and strengthened the delicate links within her family.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF NEGATIVE INCOME TAX

 

NIT provides incentive to get off the dole.

Neocons are frequently accused of placing almost religious faith in "invisible market forces" while callously ignoring socioeconomic gaps between rich and poor. But it was none other than Milton Friedman, the mandarin of neoconservative economic thought, who is credited with the idea of a negative income tax (NIT).


Out of a real sensitivity for those who, due to bad luck or circumstance, were left out of the prosperity provided by free, competitive markets, Friedman proposed in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom a unique idea. Eliminate intrusive and costly welfare bureaucracy; do away with the cadres of gray, state-salaried bureaucrats;

stop welfare aid that discourages gainful employment.

 

Replace them with a simple apparatus that pays cash directly to the working poor. Not only should those in the lower income tax brackets be exempt from paying income tax, they should be eligible to receive tax revenues directly from the state without any bureaucratic middlemen.


On Sunday, nearly five decades after Capitalism and Freedom first appeared, the Bank of Israel recommended expanding Israel's own NIT experiment and implementing it nationwide. The central bank's recommendation is based on the results of a pilot launched in September 2008 in Ashkelon, Hadera, Jerusalem and Nazareth, four towns with high unemployment and poverty. Most NIT recipients in that pilot were among the tens of thousands who work full time but fail to make ends meet, particularly families in which only one parent works. Those eligible were seniors aged at least 55 or parents aged 23 and up who earned at least NIS 1,810 but no more than NIS 5,970.


Central bank researchers reached the conclusion that NIT works. Not only did it raise 4.5 percent of the 28,800 recipients above the poverty line (8.7% among families), but it also reduced the gap between the poor and the rich. Fewer had their telephone and electricity services cut and fewer had to compromise on medical services.


Researchers estimated that if the program were expanded nation-wide, another 300,000 would be eligible, 2,300 families would be lifted above the poverty line, tens of thousands would breathe easier – all at a cost of NIS 393 million. Most important, unlike most welfare that encourages unemployment, NIT provides an incentive to get off the dole and into the job market.


HOWEVER, THE program can be improved. First, only 45% of the 64,000 who were eligible for the pilot program actually claimed the benefits after filling out the necessary forms. More advertising will plainly be needed, especially in areas with a high concentration of Arabs.


Another problem is that benefits are skimpy. The maximum NIT provided is just NIS 420 a month.


As economist Dan Ben-David pointed out in a recent Taub Center report, this is just half of what low-income Americans receive after adjusting for standard-of-living differences between the US and Israel. The higher the NIT – say 10% of per capita GDP, like in the US, instead of just 5% in Israel – the more it becomes an incentive to get a job.


Friedman, who visited Israel several times before his death in 2006 at the age of 94, was a harsh critic of socialism, including the Zionist variety. In a 1972 essay entitled "Capitalism and the Jews: Confronting a Paradox," Friedman suggested that Israeli socialism, with its self-conscious break with the Diaspora, was an attempt to prove wrong the anti-Semitic stereotype of the Jew as a greedy capitalist.


Today Israel is powered by a vibrant capitalist economy that enabled it to weather the recent economic downturn better than many other countries.


The number of Israeli millionaires – one of many indicators of recent prosperity – rose 43% between 2008 and 2009, to 8,419. But as a Jewish state that promotes Jewish values, Israel must not lose touch with its obligation to care for those less fortunate. Implementing Friedman's NIT is one way of achieving this goal while avoiding some of the pitfalls of socialism.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

 

WHAT THE MCCHRYSTAL INCIDENT TELLS US ABOUT US

BY SHMULEY BOTEACH

 

What was McChrystal guilty of? Insubordination?

It seems I'm one of the few Americans appalled at the firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal last week. In a rare moment of unity, pundits on both the Left and Right supported President Barack Obama's relieving him of his command. The arguments were uniform (no pun intended): If the president hadn't fired McChrystal, it would have eroded civilian authority over the military....


McChrystal's comments showed a lack of professionalism and conduct unbecoming an officer.... He insulted our allies, etc, etc.

 

But put aside the hysteria and think soberly for a moment. What was McChrystal guilty of? Insubordination? This wasn't Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who publicly criticized president Harry Truman's preparedness to accept a partitioned Korea, and was a public advocate for war with China. McChrystal was the architect of a policy wholly endorsed by Obama, and never once challenged the orders of his commander-in-chief, either in public or in the Rolling Stone article.


But wasn't he guilty of stupidity for allowing his staff to mouth off in front of a journalist? Perhaps. But how media-savvy do you expect a general to be who for years has been running the blackest of black ops? We train these men to hunt down the most dangerous murderers in the world, not to be PR pouffes.


Guys like McChrystal deal with a level of pressure that we civilians, surrounded by our plasma TV screens in our air-conditioned homes, can scarcely understand. Of necessity they're going to be the kind of people who buck authority just a little.


McChrystal's error was to blow off steam and allow his subordinates to grumble about their civilian overlords – which one assumes is pretty standard fare in military circles – in the presence of a journalist. But anyone who has been the subject of a lengthy magazine profile knows how easy it is to simply forget that off-the-cuff remarks are on the record, especially when you have a million more important things to worry about.


Vice President Joe Biden is known to be gaffe-prone, and recently dropped the f-bomb into a live microphone at Obama's signing of the health-care bill. Politicians are human. So are generals, as are their staffs. You don't destroy the career and reputation of a heroic officer who has served his country valiantly for three decades because a journalist decides to publish private banter.


BUT IT'S not the general that is mostly on my mind, it's American values. Obama said he had to fire the general to bolster civilian control over the military, which conjured up images of McChrystal poised to "cross the Rubicon" and storm Washington. But the president could better have used the incident to teach the American people about the importance of gratitude – a value sorely lacking in our democracy. He could have told the country that McChrystal screwed up; a general has to be measured and in control. But given the fact that this was just a silly magazine article and the country owes McChrystal a tremendous debt for three decades of service – especially as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, which captured Saddam Hussein and killed al-Qaida Iraq head Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – he was going to overlook the incident and accept the general's public apology.

Greedy Wall Street bankers who may never have sacrificed anything for their country were given multibillion-dollar bailouts when they messed up. But McChrystal, who will make a fraction in his entire career of what a Wall Street investment banker makes in a year, was thrown to the wolves for saying things like he didn't want to read Richard Holbrooke's e-mails.


Oh, the war is bigger than any one individual, the president says. True. But so are American values.


We continue to live free only because of our brave military, yet most Americans offer our troops empty words of support, words rarely backed by tangible action. This is a shame, given how much criticism they receive because when fighting terrorists who use kindergartens and hospitals as bases of operation, civilian casualties are unavoidable.


In this past Sunday's New York Times, Thomas Friedman came close to a blood libel when he wrote of the "brutality of Israel's retaliations" against Hizbullah and Hamas, and how Israel "chose to go after them without being deterred by the prospect of civilian casualties."


Irresponsible words like these betray a contempt for the challenges commanders of Western armies face when fighting terrorists – who murder innocent civilians in cold blood and also use them as human shields.

But it's not just in military situations where gratitude is lacking.


Gratitude is an increasingly rare commodity in the parent-child bond, with more youth feeling a sense of entitlement and more parents feeling like glorified cash machines. Neither do employees feel appreciated as they are laid off by companies that put higher profits before happier people.


Gratitude is also lacking in today's media, which is often prepared to exploit human error to bolster circulation. Michael Hastings could have showed some gratitude toward a general who took him into his confidence and gave him unique access to his challenges fighting the murderous Taliban in Afghanistan. Instead, his revelations will ensure that public officials trust journalists even less than they do already, making our newspapers and magazines even blander and more colorless.


The writer is founder of This World: The Values Network and host of "The Shmuley Show" on WABC 77AM in New York City. His new book is Renewal: Living the Values-Filled Life (Basic Books).

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

OUR WORLD: ALTERNATIVES TO SURRENDER

BY CAROLINE B. GLICK


For too long, by allowing themselves to be led by our deranged media, Israeli citizens and governments alike have ignored the fact that the answer to every question is not more concessions.

Talkbacks (35)

To the roaring cheers of the local media, on Sunday the Schalit family embarked on a cross-country march to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's residence. They set out two days after the fourth anniversary of IDF Sgt. Gilad Schalit's captivity.



Outside their home on Sunday, Gilad's father Noam Schalit pledged not to return home without his son. The Schalit family intends to camp out outside of Netanyahu's home until the government reunites them with Gilad.

 

For weeks the local media – and especially Ma'ariv and Yediot Aharonot – have portrayed the Schalit family's trek to Netanyahu as a reenactment of Moses' journey to Pharaoh.

 

Like Pharaoh, the media insinuates that Netanyahu is evil because he refuses to free Gilad from bondage.

The only drawback to this dramatic, newspaper- selling story is that it is wrong. Gilad Schalit is not a hostage in Jerusalem. He is a hostage in Gaza. His captor is not Netanyahu. His captor is Hamas.


And because the story is wrong, the media organized cavalcade of ten thousand well-intentioned Israelis is moving in the wrong direction. And not only is it going in the wrong direction, it is doing so at Gilad Schalit's expense.

The truth that Yediot and Ma'ariv's marketing departments ignore is that Schalit's continued captivity is a function of Hamas's growing strength. To bring him home, Israel shouldn't release a thousand terrorists from prison.

To bring Gilad Schalit home a free man, Israel must weaken Hamas. And this is an eminently achievable goal. Noam Schalit knows it is an achievable goal. That is why last week he was the most outspoken critic of Netanyahu's decision to abandon Israel's economic sanctions against Hamas-controlled Gaza. That is why over the past four years, the Schalit family has staged countless protests against Israel's massive and continuous assistance to Hamas-controlled Gaza. If anything positive is to come from this march, then when the Schalit family arrives in Jerusalem they should abandon the newspapers' demand that Israel surrender to all of Hamas's demands. They should acknowledge that doing so will only guarantee that more Israelis will be kidnapped and murdered by Hamas and its allies.


If the Schalits wish to criticize the government, they should criticize Netanyahu and his coalition for the steps they have taken to strengthen Hamas. The Schalits should demand that the government reinstate and tighten Israel's economic sanctions against Gaza. They should demand that Israel end its supply of electricity and gasoline to Gaza and take more effective action to block smuggling through the tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border.

All of these actions will weaken Hamas, and so contribute to the prospect of it being forced by the Gazans themselves to release Schalit to his family.


ONE OF the important truths ignored by Israel's pathological media is that Hamas and its Iranian sponsor are not all powerful. They are vulnerable to criticism from their own publics. And Israel is capable of fomenting such criticism.

For example, the imprisoned terrorists whose release Hamas demands in exchange for releasing Schalit have consistently responded rationally to Israeli threats. The Knesset is slowly debating a bill that would worsen prison conditions of terrorists. And the terrorists are worried.


Their worry provoked them to demand that Hamas be more forthcoming with Schalit.


By the same token, were Israel to cut off electricity to Gaza – an act that is not merely lawful, but arguably required by international law – we could expect residents of Gaza to express a similarly rational demand to Hamas. That is, were Israel to weaken public support for Hamas, Hamas would be more likely to bow to Israel's will.

And if Hamas is vulnerable to public criticism, the Iranian regime is downright terrified of public criticism. Take the regime's behavior in the wake of the Turkish-Hamas flotilla campaign.


In the days that followed Israel's bungled May 31 takeover of the Mavi Marmara, Iran announced it was sending two of its own ships to Gaza. Israel responded rationally and forthrightly. The government warned that any Iranian ship would be viewed as an enemy ship and Israel would respond in accordance with the rules of war.

As Iran expert Michael Ledeen has argued repeatedly, the Iranian regime is terrified of getting the Iranian people angry over its radical foreign policy. In light of its precarious standing with its own public, Israel's forthright threat of war brought the regime to its knees.


Last Thursday, Hossein Sheikholdslam, the Iranian regime functionary responsible for the Gaza-bound ships, told the Iranian news service IRNA that plans to send the ships were scrapped because Israel "sent a letter to the United Nations saying that the presence of Iranian and Lebanese ships in the Gaza area will be considered a declaration of war on [Israel] and it will confront it."


During the war with Iran's Hizbullah proxy in 2006, thousands of Iranians demonstrated against Hizbullah. They demanded that the regime invest its money in the local economy and not in Hizbullah and the Palestinians.

Were Israel to present Schalit as an Israeli victim of the Iranian regime, it could provoke a similar popular outcry against Iran's support for Hamas. The media-manipulated Schalits are not the only ones acting precisely against their own interests. The government is acting with similar madness in its relations with the Obama administration. Indeed, Netanyahu ended Israel's lawful economic sanctions against Hamas-controlled Gaza (sanctions that served, among other things as a bargaining chip for freeing Schalit), because the Obama administration placed overwhelming pressure on him to do so.


Not wishing to let the Mavi Marmara crisis go to waste, US President Barack Obama had used it as a means to weaken Israel against Hamas. Obama announced that he was giving Hamas-controlled Gaza $400 million in US aid. He forced Netanyahu to end Israel's economic sanctions against the illegal Hamas regime.


Moreover, according to remarks by a senior Hamas terrorist to the London-based Al- Quds al-Arabi newspaper on Friday, the Obama administration maintains direct ties to the Hamas leadership in Syria.


WHEN NETANYAHU entered office last spring his desire to appease Obama was understandable. At the time, he was operating under the hope that perhaps Obama could be appeased into ending his onslaught against the Jewish state. But the events of the past year have made clear that Obama is unappeasable. Every concession Israel has made to Obama has merely whetted the US president's appetite for more.


The policy implications of this state of affairs are clear. First, Israel must strive to weaken Obama. Since Israeli concessions to Obama strengthen him, Israel must first and foremost stop giving him concessions.

Weakening Obama does not involve openly attacking him. It means Israel should act in a way that advances its interests and forces Obama to reconsider the desirability of his current foreign policy.


Regionally, Israel should make common cause with the Kurds of Iran, Iraq and Syria who are now being assaulted by Iran, Turkey and Syria. Doing so is not simply the moral thing to do. It weakens Iran, Syria and Turkey and demonstrates that Obama's appeasement policies are harming those who love freedom and empowering those who hate it.


By the same token, Israel should do everything it can to strengthen the Iranian Green movement. Every anti-regime action in Iran – regardless of its size – harms the regime and therefore helps Israel. And every anti-regime action in Iran exposes the moral depravity and strategic idiocy of Obama's policy of appeasing the mullocracy.

AS FOR the US domestic political realm, in Ambassador Michael Oren's all but schizophrenic recent statements about the Obama administration's policy towards Israel, we may at last be witnessing an embrace of political sanity on the part of the government.


For the past several months, Oren has acted as the Obama administration's most energetic cheerleader to the US Jewish community.


He has repeatedly and wrongly reassured US Jewish audiences that Obama is a great friend of Israel, that his Democratic Party remains loyal to the US-Israel alliance and that the Republicans are wrong to claim that there is a difference between the two major US political parties when it comes to supporting Israel.

The pinnacle of Oren's pro-Obama campaign came with his interview last week with The Jerusalem Post. There he brought all of these false and counter-productive claims into the public realm. Apparently Oren's decision to make his adulation of the Obama administration public finally forced his bosses in Jerusalem to order him to cease, desist and do an about face.


And so, last week, Oren told a closed audience of Israeli diplomats the truth. Under Obama, Oren whispered, there has been a "tectonic rift" in US relations with Israel. While some of Obama's advisers are sympathetic to Israel, these advisers have no influence on Obama's positions on Israel.


No doubt recognizing how silly his about face made him look, Oren tried to deny his statements at the Foreign Ministry. But it is hard to imagine anyone will take him seriously.


During his visit to the White House next week, Netanyahu should follow the path set by Oren's quickly leaked remarks. Netanyahu should abstain from praising Obama for his friendship and speak instead about the fact that the US-Israel alliance is vital for both countries' national security.


Netanyahu should insist on the right to call on questioners at his joint appearance with Obama. And he should use those questions and those appearances to discuss why Israel's actions are not only legal and necessary for Israel, but vital for US national security. During his stay in the US, Netanyahu should discuss the global jihad, Islamic terrorism, the freedom-loving Kurds and the freedom-loving Iranian people every chance he gets.

Indeed, he should create opportunities to discuss them.


Here we see a crucial point of convergence between the Schalit family march to Jerusalem and Netanyahu's trip to Washington. To increase the effectiveness of their efforts on behalf of Gilad, ahead of Netanyahu's visit to Washington, the marchers should split into two groups.


The first group should continue to Jerusalem and demand that Israel take a firmer stand against Hamas. The second group should walk to Tel Aviv and camp out outside the US Embassy. There they should demand that the administration end its contacts with Hamas, end its pressure on the Israeli government to strengthen Hamas, cancel Obama's plan to give an additional $400 million dollars in aid to Hamas and use the US's position on the UN Security Council to condemn Turkey for its material support for Hamas.


For too long, by allowing themselves to be led by our deranged media, Israeli citizens and governments alike have ignored the basic fact that the answer to every question is not more Israeli concessions. Contrary to what our tabloids would have us believe, surrender is only one option among many. It is time we try out some alternatives.

caroline@carolineglick.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

SILWAN – 'IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID'

BY MATI GILL


Nir Barkat's plan aims to create jobs.

A lot has been said about Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's plan to destroy houses in Silwan in order to build a new tourism center in the east Jerusalem neighborhood. Many opinions have been voiced, from those in favor to the fiercely against. This is typical of any issue involving Jerusalem, especially in these times.


However, one thing needs to be clarified; this is not a "whim," and it is not an attempt by Barkat to derail a potential peace process, and it should also not be seen as a cynical effort to grab international headlines.

The plan to build a park with a commercial and tourist center is something the mayor truly believes is in – it is in the interest of the future of Jerusalem and the improvement of its local economy through the expansion of tourism. It's not about Barack Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu or Mahmoud Abbas, but rather, along the lines of the famous Bill Clinton campaign slogan: "It's the economy, stupid."


FOR YEARS, anyone who met with the mayor or followed his public statements and policies has heard him speak time and again about the fact that the biggest concern for the future of the city is the job market.

I grew up in Jerusalem and have seen most of my friends migrate elsewhere. I know this is true. Young residents don't leave Jerusalem just because of the nightlife in Tel Aviv, or due to the lack of housing (anyone who has lived in Tel Aviv can tell you that the housing's no picnic there either). They also don't leave due to the secular/religious tension. They leave, first and foremost, because more often than not, Tel Aviv and its surrounding areas are where the jobs are; where they can work and prosper. That's where opportunity lies these days.

Barkat is right to try to boost the local economy by further capitalizing on Jerusalem's best economic asset – tourism. The re-zoning of the area known as the "King's Gardens" into a vibrant park (which it has been zoned as for years) complete with a commercial and tourism center, will draw large numbers of tourists, which will benefit both Jewish and non-Jewish residents. This is municipal planning aimed at serving east Jerusalem while enforcing the rule of law.


It makes sense to focus on revitalizing the King's Gardens area, which for years has been "zoned" as "green" but has been built on illegally. The historical and religious significance of these gardens is well known; they are where King Solomon sat and wrote the Song of Songs, and where in the times of the Temples the herbs were prepared for the ritual incense. So it would seem like a smart move to use this asset to Jerusalem's advantage.

Yes, the Silwan project includes the always-tough demolition of homes.


However those homes were built illegally.


Barkat's Silwan project is not a "Holyland" type project born in (alleged) sin, but rather in accordance with the law. The best evidence is that it will most probably be challenged in the courts by both the Left, angry at the demolitions, and by the Right, angry by the move to retroactively legalize illegally built homes in the area (at three times the number of those that will be demolished), not to mention the inclusion of a municipally funded community center.


BARKAT HAS a vision for Jerusalem.


This includes creating places of employment, first and foremost by drawing millions of tourists a year to the city. He campaigned on it, was elected on it, and is now taking another step to implement it. Yes, he sees Jerusalem as indivisible, but even those that disagree with his geopolitical views need to acknowledge that he is showing willingness to serve all his constituents, whether Jewish or Arab. The Silwan saga should not be taken either as a lesson in political cynicism or as an international provocation. This is called good governance, plain and simple.


In the face of tremendous criticism both at home and abroad, Barkat should be applauded for his political courage and not ambushed by coalition partners like Meretz, which signed off on these plans when it joined his local government.


This is especially true in a country lacking politicians capable of developing a long-term strategy for serving the public, and where most would rather seek immediate results. Barkat's consistent approach should be appreciated.

Let's hope this project is approved, and that it will be only one of many initiated to ensure a better future for our capital.

The writer was bureau chief for the former minister of public security Avi Dichter.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

RAISING THE STAKES IN SILWAN

BY BERNARD AVISHAI


It would be terribly provocative to make 22 families homeless or impose a development plan on the neighborhood without the agreement of its residents. On Friday afternoon, about 500 organizers and supporters of the Sheikh Jarrah movement brought their weekly protest to Silwan, where Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat recently announced a plan to raze a wide swath of buildings, 22 in all, to build an "archeological park."


Barkat's idea is to expand what he, his NGO partner, the right-wing Elad (recently awarded the right to administer the site), Elad's zealot settler- supporters and American funders and the Tourism Ministry all call the "City of David."

 

This site has been developing beneath the radar for several years across from the Dung Gate, where you enter to the plaza leading to the nearby Western Wall.


Just to be clear, there is about as much evidence that King David's palace would be excavated by this project as evidence that Queen Helena actually found the grove from which the true cross had been cut in the Valley of the Cross. But like Helena's sites – she was said to be the greatest archeologist in history, because she never looked for something she didn't find – Barkat's City of David is actually meant to excite pilgrims – you know, guests of a bar mitzva who are looking for something to do on Sunday afternoon.

But even if the site had some scientific value – excavations were carried on here under British auspices during the Mandate Period – it would be terribly provocative to make 22 families homeless, as in Sheikh Jarrah, or impose a development plan on the neighborhood without the agreement of its residents (who have a neighborhood committee, willing to negotiate).


SILWAN IS the heart of the most heavily populated, impoverished and angry parts of the city, certain to be in any future Palestinian capital.


Which means that protests in this part of the city are much more explosive than in Sheikh Jarrah. In Silwan, stoning of police and settlers is commonplace, as are armed threats by settlers against residents. Youth gangs and neighborhood resistance are hard to tell apart.


When we walked down the streets and neglected alleyways of Silwan, it was clear from the men on the stoops, women and children in the windows and preening young men on the corners that they had never seen, nor expected to see, so many Jewish Israelis coming into their neighborhood to back them – and that for some, the mere presence of more Jews of any kind was not entirely welcome.


Call it a teaching moment for all of us who were, on both sides, making ourselves vulnerable to the other's decency.

Halfway through, someone in the settleroccupied houses overlooking the march let off a couple of stun grenades, which made a dreadful boom, but caused no real hesitation.


Then, in the middle of the square slated for demolition, we gathered for speeches, and one of the heads of the neighborhood association took the megaphone. He picked up the Hebrew chant protesters have used often in Sheikh Jarrah: "Jews and Arabs are not meant to be enemies" – a banal thought when you think about it, but deeply moving surrounded by this kind of tension.


I approached the unofficial leader of the protest, Assaf Sharon, and found him relieved, even gratified, by how many protesters had come out, given how much grittier, and potentially dangerous, was the confrontation in Silwan than in Sheikh Jarrah. He was running back and forth, scanning the hills for potential disruptions, feeling responsible, like the father of a toddler near a jungle gym.


The idea, he told me, was to let Barkat know that if he brings bulldozers, there will be hundreds sitting down this time, his eyes betraying both weary optimism and a certain apprehension.


"Anyway, just look at these people coming out, and the way they are being received."


The writer is adjunct professor of business at Hebrew University and the author of the recently published The Hebrew Republic. This article was originally published on www.bernardavishai.com.

 

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

LEADEN THINKING

BY S. PULAKOW -SURANSKY


Author explains his book 'The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa.'

It is always easier to dismiss the research of those you disagree with if you depict them as ideologically motivated hacks or viciously anti-Israel proponents of the Zionism=racism variety. I am neither.


My book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa argues that the apartheid analogy does not apply today – because a minority group is not yet governing a disenfranchised majority – but that it is hitting closer to home every day.

 

I am not alone in voicing this concern: In late 2007 prime minister Ehud Olmert said that without a two-state solution Israel would soon "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished."


This February, Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared: "If, and as long as between the Jordan and the sea there is only one political entity, named Israel, it will end up being either non-Jewish or nondemocratic... If the Palestinians vote in elections, it is a binational state, and if they don't, it is an apartheid state."


In addition, Emmanuel Navon suggests I am "insinuating that Israel and the Palestinians should follow the post-apartheid South African model" – in other words, a one-state solution.


In fact, my book argues the opposite: that if Israel does not act soon to ensure the creation of a viable Palestinian state, it will face Barak's no-win nightmare of a non-Jewish or nondemocratic state.


I APPRECIATE Navon's interest in my book.


However, he has misrepresented my argument. Indeed, he suggests that he is clarifying my inaccuracies when in fact his own outline of the 1967-1973 period is an almost verbatim repetition of chapters two and four of my book. While there are many issues Navon and I disagree on, the question of Israel's relations with African states between 1967 and 1973 is not one of them.


My book discusses the demise of that relationship with black African states in great detail – including the inducements offered by Arab countries and the Africans' eventual severing of ties during and after the Yom Kippur War. Had Navon more carefully read those chapters, he would have found a reference to the same Haaretz editorial he cites and to the same authors he draws on to make his own argument (Joel Peters, Aaron Klieman and Olusola Ojo). Instead, he has drawn a false dichotomy by misrepresenting my historical analysis and presenting his own "true version" as an alternative.


The historical revelations in my book confirm what many have long suspected: that military cooperation between Israel and South Africa was far more extensive and lucrative than anyone knew in the 1980s, and that it extended into the nuclear sphere. Navon's article is somewhat self-contradictory; if he indeed believes that "the book contains no historical revelation," then why seek to attack precisely those new revelations which buttress my case that Israel had a more significant relationship with South Africa than did other countries – one that helped prolong the life of the apartheid regime? Navon's reaction to my book smacks of the same denialism prevalent in the Israeli government and in American Jewish organizations during the 1980s. As UN ambassador in 1986, Binyamin Netanyahu denounced Israel's critics as "those who wish not only to defame Israel but also to deflect attention from their own furtive and enormously profitable trade with Pretoria."


He cited incomplete International Monetary Fund data to argue that Israel's trade with South Africa was negligible, but those data excluded arms, diamonds and the joint financing arrangements between the two defense industries.


When one includes these figures, the bilateral trade is much more significant; indeed, South Africa becomes one of Israel's largest trading partners after the US – in close company with the UK and Germany.

And France, which was a key arms supplier to South Africa during the 1960s and 1970s, faded in importance after the socialist government of François Mitterrand came to power in 1981.


Had Navon factored in newly declassified data on Israeli arms sales to South Africa, he would see that Paris's arms sales to Pretoria during the 1980s were nowhere near as significant as he asserts.


Seen in this context, using real rather than incomplete data, it is entirely reasonable to single out Israel because its relationship with South Africa was in fact unique in both financial and strategic terms. Indeed, it was a vital link for the beleaguered apartheid regime, and helped to sustain it in the face of international sanctions and withering criticism. Netanyahu's deceptive statement to the UN in 1986 was full of unreliable numbers, and Navon is echoing those inaccuracies today.


NAVON GOES on to argue that singling out Israel "now" is perverse because of the Iranian nuclear menace. True, Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability and therefore poses a grave threat to Israel's nuclear hegemony in the Middle East – not to mention the security of many Sunni Arab states. However, just as he misrepresented my motives for writing the book as ideological and anti-Israel, he has mistaken coincidence for intent when it comes to the book's publication date.

I began this research in October 2003, and an earlier version of the book – replete with data, documents and similar arguments – has been sitting on the shelf of Oxford's Bodleian Library since January 2007, when I completed my doctoral dissertation. It was slated for May 2010 publication a year ago.

 

The fact that Israel dug itself into a diplomatic hole by angering the US government in recent months and the fact that Iran is nearing nuclear weapons capability are entirely coincidental. To suggest that I or my publisher somehow have the power to influence the UN General Assembly's nonproliferation policy is pure fantasy.


Finally, Navon blames the stalled peace talks entirely on the Palestinian leadership while finding absolutely no fault with the Netanyahu administration's policies and actions – actions which have in recent months angered Israel's most powerful ally and alienated its most important friend in the region. More alarmingly, he displays a misguided faith in the promise of unilateral disengagement as a solution to the Israeli- Palestinian impasse, arguing that "Israel will eventually pull the rug under the Palestinians' feet by completing the construction of he security fence and by creating a de facto double polity (like in Cyprus)."


This would most likely be an unmitigated disaster, leading to a permanent state of war with one (or two) radical Palestinian state(s) and potentially jeopardizing the existing peace treaties with both Jordan and Egypt. Navon may believe my thinking is "radioactive," but I shudder to think of the fallout were his own ideas to become official Israeli policy.

 

The writer is a senior editor at Foreign Affairs magazine and the author of The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa.

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

HAARETZ

OPINION

COMPROMISE AND QUESTION MARKS

COEXISTENCE IN A POLARIZED, MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY DEMANDS COMPROMISE, AND AGREEMENTS REACHED AFTER SUBSTANTIVE DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE INTERESTED PARTIES, THROUGH THE SHARED UNDERSTANDING THAT THE COUNTRY'S LAWS APPLY TO ALL.

 

After the continuous violation of High Court rulings since August 2009, a compromise was reached Sunday in the Immanuel school segregation affair. Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the head of the Slonim Hasidim were both enlisted to help reach the deal.

 

The agreement holds that the Beit Yaakov religious girls school in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel will

integrate its students for the last three days of classes - which will include seminars run by rabbinical and

scholarly figures from both Ashkenazi and Sephardi streams - in an effort to build bridges between the two

communities. The state has said that the agreement represents both the implementation of the High Court ruling and proof that law-enforcement measures have reached their goal.

 

The High Court had ruled just two days earlier that adhering to its edicts are part of our "fundamental values," and that mediation efforts do not fall within its own responsibilities. The court also ruled that the only way the Immanuel fathers refusing to integrate their daughters' studies could get out of jail would be to obey the order requiring that the "Hasidic" and "general" study tracks be integrated, and obligating parents to send their daughters to a single, unified course of study.

 

On Sunday the court welcomed the mediation measures, which it said were aimed at "creating peace, brotherhood and affection between the quarreling camps."

 

One is tempted to join in the optimism, but it is difficult to believe the situation will proceed forward in this way. The court's statement specifically refers to three seminar days, which will include guest speakers rather than the customary studies. It should be no surprise that ultra-Orthodox observers consider the agreement a victory for rabbis over the judges, and of religious law over the rule of law itself.

 

The arrangement does not refer to next year's studies, nor does it guarantee that these studies will be integrated - an issue at the heart of the High Court decision. For its part, the court decided to enforce its contempt of court verdict by sending the offending parents to jail, a step generally not taken against ministers or other public figures who fail to heed judicial rulings. This double standard has not contributed to bolstering the rule of law for everyone.

 

It is hard to identify clear winners and losers in the Immanuel case. Coexistence in a polarized, multicultural society demands compromise, and agreements reached after substantive dialogue between the interested parties, through the shared understanding that the country's laws apply to all.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE SCARECROW

THERE IS A LONG TRADITION OF FRIGHTENING PEOPLE OVER THE RELEASE OF TERRORISTS. THE SUGGESTION OF TALKING TO THE PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION WAS ONCE AN ESPECIALLY FRIGHTENING SCARECROW, AS WAS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A PALESTINIAN STATE.

BY GIDEON LEVY

 

Our landscape is strewn with monuments, but there is one thing we have even more of: scarecrows. That sorry, ridiculous rag doll, hands stretched wide in a helpless gesture, intended to frighten (birds ). In recent years the birds have begun to fear the scarecrows less and less; they realize it's just a trick. But in Israel, it's the people who the scarecrows frighten, even the people who themselves put them up. The politicians and the generals invent the dolls to frighten, at home and abroad, until they themselves grow fearful of them, just like the Golem of Prague. The latest scarecrow: the release of terrorists "with blood on their hands."

 

The dreadful numbers are being conjured up: The prisoners who were released in the past killed Jews again. The conclusion: no to a Shalit swap. But this is just another scarecrow. Terror ended after the Palestinian leadership came to the conclusion that it does not help move anything forward, and because Palestinian society is bleeding and desperate. Until the next generation of fighters grows up, there will be no significant terror - whether jailed terrorists go free or not. Even the term "blood on their hands" is only intended to daub the scarecrow with war paint. Both sides have blood on their hands - and we had better not compare whose hands are more stained.

 

There is a long tradition of frightening people over the release of terrorists. The suggestion of talking to the Palestine Liberation Organization was once an especially frightening scarecrow, as was the establishment of a Palestinian state. Abie Nathan went to jail for months because of his contacts with the PLO, yet later on five prime ministers spoke to the organization's leaders and the PLO became Israel's pet partner. Those who supported a Palestinian state were once considered traitors, until all of Israel, from Bibi to Tibi, began advocating this solution. The latest scarecrow is talks with Hamas, which quite closely resembles its predecessor.

 

Before Operation Cast Lead, we created the fear of Hamas arming itself, of Iranian weapons being smuggled through the tunnels and of Al-Qaida cells being established in the Gaza Strip. That all collapsed like a house of cards with the Israel Defense Forces' brutal campaign, which encountered no real military resistance. Where were the Iranian weapons? Where was the arming? It was all a scarecrow.

 

And when every teenage boy with a pipe bomb is considered a "senior Hamas man," and every armed man labeled the head of the military wing of Islamic Jihad, the country floods with scarecrows of our own making. A whole system of government and security propaganda, alongside the frightening chorus of the media with its abundance of pundits with an agenda, have seen to it that we never miss one fear-mongering campaign.

 

The song of the scarecrow also warned against lifting the blockade on Gaza, until it fell silent and nothing happened. Remember the roadblocks; for years they told us that the daily hindering and humiliating of tens of thousands of people were essential to security. Most of the roadblocks were eventually lifted and look what happened - the fear-mongering collapsed and nothing happened.

 

Right before the disengagement we erected another scarecrow: the specter of civil war. The evacuation of settlers will lead to bloodshed; Zo Artzeinu will block roads and paralyze the economy. But nothing of the sort happened. And yet the scarecrow did not give up: The fear of the settlers still hangs over our heads. Every successive government has been afraid of that paper tiger.

Looking for more? We were told that the withdrawal from Sinai would be a disaster; better Sharm al-Sheikh without peace, otherwise we'll be left with a piece of paper. That died, too. But then another scarecrow was resurrected: Evacuating the Golan will lead to mortal danger. The Syrians will dangle their feet in the Kinneret. But the cold feet here were ours: Sowing that fear was enough to avoid reaching a peace agreement with the Syrians. When that scarecrow topples as well, no one will ask what we were afraid of - just like we were afraid for no reason for so many years of another scarecrow: withdrawal from Lebanon. The whole world wants to destroy us, another scarecrow.

 

And on the domestic front, we have also put up quite a few scarecrows: from "Israel is drying up" to swine flu. Remember the fear of the plague and the horrific descriptions of hospitals falling apart?

 

And finally, perhaps the threat that Iran is going to drop a nuclear bomb on Israel - despite all of Israel's deterrent strength - will also reveal itself to be a hollow weapon. After all, with our history, we cannot tell the difference between a scarecrow and a true threat. Meanwhile, experience reveals, hands down, that this country is awash in many more dangerous scarecrows.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ANOTHER NEUTRALIZED STRUGGLE

IT HAS BECOME COMMON IN ISRAEL TO COMPLAIN THAT THE PUBLIC IS APATHETIC AND DOESN'T DO ANYTHING, THAT NOTHING DRAWS IT OUT INTO THE STREETS. THE CASE OF GILAD SHALIT EXEMPLIFIES THE EXTENT TO WHICH THIS IS IN FACT INACCURATE.

BY MERAV MICHAELI

 

When the Shalit family's march to Jerusalem was announced, my first thought was, "They should say hi to Vicky Knafo along the way." But in Israel whatever sounds like bitter sarcasm turns within seconds into devastating cynical reality: Even before I began to write, it was reported that Knafo would be joining the march.

 

Excellent. Knafo has experience staging justified protest marches that start from the gut, with heartfelt groans, but never actually get anywhere. One report said that friends had mentioned to Noam Shalit "the great effect of the march staged by Vicky Knafo to protest against the cut in single mothers' allowances." It would be interesting to know if they also noted that these allowances stayed cut, that the situation of single mothers and the other weakened males and females who joined the protest has remained quite bad, and that today Knafo is barely eking out a living from a starvation wage and a small allowance.

 

It has become common in Israel to complain that the public is apathetic and doesn't do anything, that nothing draws it out into the streets. The case of Gilad Shalit exemplifies the extent to which this is in fact inaccurate: During the four years the soldier has been in captivity, a countless number of events, demonstrations of support and campaigns have taken place nearly everywhere in the country, and within almost every age group and socioeconomic class.

 

The Israeli public demonstrates for all sorts of causes: for peace, for non-violence, for withdrawal from Lebanon, against the blockade of Gaza and after the flotilla incident for the establishment of an inquiry committee, for preventing the disengagement, for the funding of anti-cancer drugs, for better living conditions for Holocaust survivors, against the expulsion of foreign workers' children, to demand bread and jobs, against the cutting down of trees, for the rescue of bodies of water, against cellular antennas, for the liberation of women who've been denied divorces, against the plea bargain deal for former president Moshe Katsav, and there was even a gigantic demonstration in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square for education.

 

Associations and organizations, within each of these spheres as well as others, function energetically on a daily basis. Thousands of groups act to promote ideas related to improving the life of the individual and the state by setting up frameworks for taking care, assisting, cooperating, raising consciousness, researching, gathering information and disseminating it, and performing activities to amend legislation.

 

However, barely one of these initiatives has succeeded in influencing or changing government policy. This is because another popular complaint - that the politicians and the government are populist, that they capitulate to public opinion and take decisions in order to please the public - is far from being correct.

 

They act as if they are doing something. They speak about the subject, for example education, which ostensibly will be the hot topic for the next elections. But in reality nothing changes. After the large education demonstration, the governing officials partially launched the "New Horizon" project, but a truly significant change has yet to be made to the investment in education and its quality.

 

Sometimes our leaders carry out an isolated action - establishment of an inquiry panel, funding for a certain drug - but the policy does not change. Inquiry panels' conclusions are not executed, private expenditure on health care continues to rise, the hounding of foreigners persists at the same time the importation of other foreigners is kept up, civil marriages remain a pipe dream, the environment continues to be abandoned to construction and pollution.

 

Even the settlers couldn't dissuade Ariel Sharon from disengaging. It seems the exception was the withdrawal from Lebanon, which was driven to a large extent by the Four Mothers movement. But their sisters from Machsom Watch and their sons from Breaking the Silence, and all of the others trying to bring about an end to the occupation, trying to achieve coexistence and a peace agreement, are failing abjectly. As in all the other sectors, Israeli governments have adopted a policy of speaking about agreements and about two states - in effect neutralizing any genuine struggle against the diametrically opposite policy they continue to implement.

 

For years, governments and prime ministers have been pretending to share in every social struggle or to give in to it, adopting its language as their own; in so doing, they basically emasculate these struggles, and simply carry on doing what they always do. This is a process that has weakened and continues to weaken the Israeli public and society, rendering them impotent. From this perspective, it is not important if you are a woman from the margins of society whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to meet and has instead sent away to go on living in poverty, or if you are a man - one of our best sons - whom Netanyahu gladly met with, but will not give him his son back.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

FIRST OF ALL, ACADEMIC INTEGRITY

CIRCLES IN THE EXTREME RIGHT HAVE BEEN TRYING FOR A LONG TIME TO HARM THE ACADEMIC FREEDOM OF FACULTY MEMBERS IN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN ISRAEL. NOW IT IS CLEAR THAT THAT ACADEMIC FREEDOM FACES A THREAT FROM THE EXTREME LEFT AS WELL.

BY EPPIE YA'AR

 

Circles in the extreme right have been trying for a long time to harm the academic freedom of faculty members in institutions of higher education in Israel. Now it is clear that that academic freedom faces a threat from the extreme left as well.

 

Already about 70 years ago the American Association of University Professors issued a statement of principles that said, in part: "Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning...." Yet it also noted the "special obligations" dictated by the "special position in the community" of college and university teachers and states that they must respect their colleagues' freedom of inquiry and to recognize their academic contribution even if it leads to different conclusions than their own. As teachers they should promote freedom of learning, educate their students according to high ethical norms and strive to promote academic integrity.

 

Since within the field of social sciences there are different theoretical paradigms, each of which attempts to describe and analyze social reality in accordance with its own fundamental assumptions, it is of particular importance that faculty members in these subjects adopt these principles. They must ensure that their students are aware that there are various approaches and interpretations of social reality, without abusing their monopoly on passing on information in the classroom.

 

These norms are apparently not acceptable to some of my colleagues in the social sciences. I have chosen as a test case "Introduction to Israeli Society," the only compulsory course on this subject for undergraduates in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Tel Aviv University and one that I am familiar with as a basis for instruction and research.

 

The description of the goals of the course states: "We shall present a sociological position that seeks to question 1. the existence of an a priori structure called 'Israeli society' and 2. the existence of a canonic narrative that is accepted by all parts of the society in Israel." The course bibliography is in keeping with the spirit of these goals. Thus, for example, several very important scholars are absent from the required reading list, such as Prof. Shmuel Eisenstadt, a very prominent sociologist whose work on Israeli society is essential to every student and scholar of the subject, as well as other respected sociologists such as professors Moshe Lissak, Yohanan Peres and Eliezer Ben-Rafael, whose contributions to the study of Israeli society have earned recognition in the Israeli and international sociological communities. On the other hand, the reading list does include, for example, an article by Azmi Bishara and the film, "Conversations with Azmi Bishara."

 

Of course a teacher is permitted to give his students the materials that he believes must be studied. But what about the duty to respect the opinions of one's colleagues and to recognize their academic contributions, even if they lead to conclusions different from one's own? And what about the duty to encourage freedom of learning? Can these goals be attained through censorship?

 

This is an example of the improper use of authority in order to promote one-dimensional thinking, without giving the students the possibility of choosing among various approaches in an effort to reach the truth. The stronger this tendency becomes, the more the level of scholarship in the departments in which exists will drop, and they will lose the trust of the academic community and the public as a whole.

 

How ironic that the teachers representing this tendency, who are called "critical," are unwilling to accept critical thinking when it is directed toward them.

 

 

 

The writer is professor emeritus of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Tel Aviv University.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

SCANDALOUS PLEA BARGAINS

AFTER PROLONGED STUDY, ONE CAN ESTABLISH UNEQUIVOCALLY THAT THE STATE PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE AND ITS DISTRICT OFFICES MAKE A MOCKERY OF MORALITY, FLOUT THE LAW, IGNORE PUBLIC SENTIMENT AND ARE LAZY. THE LAW IS NO LONGER BEING ENFORCED.

BY GAVRIEL STRASMAN

 

The prosecution has recently suggested sentencing a couple, who ran over a youth on a scooter and abandoned him, permanently crippling him, to three years in prison. The outrage raised by this proposal is one of the reasons the courts' standing has fallen so far in the public eye, Haaretz reported last week.

 

This is a warning - plea bargains are a public menace and give a green light to the criminal world.

 

After prolonged study, one can establish unequivocally that the State Prosecutor's Office and its district offices make a mockery of morality, flout the law, ignore public sentiment and are lazy. The law is no longer being enforced. The numerous plea bargains formulated daily in prosecutors' offices show mercy to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of villainous offenders.

 

What they are doing is a miscarriage of justice, in an understatement, because sometimes the plea bargains cause a blatant public wrong. The above case is one example out of many. A plea bargain constitutes a miscarriage of justice especially when there is more than one defendant and one is sent to prison, while the others go free or receive a reduced sentence, even if they were all partners in crime.

 

This terrifying practice must be stopped. From the faulty plea bargain of the former president to violent crimes that occur daily - the State Prosecution has become morally bankrupt.

 

All the excuses and arguments in favor of plea bargains do not stand the test of reality. Especially grave are the cases in which the transgressors admit all the facts against them. There is no reason to go easy on them.

 

It is common knowledge that there are always exceptions. But here everything is done backward. The prosecution tries to "save the court's time" and sacrifices the victims - of traffic accidents, domestic violence, corruption and tax evasion.

 

Judges are also victims in a way. They feel bound to the rules set by the High Court many years ago, which fix their position and almost compel them to accept any plea bargain. True, a judge may choose not to accept a plea bargain he finds improper and is obliged to warn defendants of his intention before handing down his verdict. But this happens rarely.

 

It is widely known that quite a few judges fear the appeals court and accept plea bargains they are not entirely comfortable with.

 

I know of a case in which a judge gave an offender from the planning and construction business a harsher penalty, even though he had reached a plea bargain. The plea arrangement was blatantly scandalous and in fact covered up corruption, and even the prosecutor wasn't comfortable with it.

 

The judge gave a harsher punishment but the appeals' court had mercy on the offender and reduced the penalty,

completely ignoring the obvious signs of corruption emerging from the trial. The appeals court preferred the policy of accepting plea bargains.

 

Perhaps it is time the High Court loosen the rules, which hover like a threat over the judges, who are afraid of the appeals court and are tools in the hands of a prosecution that isn't doing its job properly.

 

The extent of kindness and mercy shown toward crime in Israel has long exceeded the proper limit.

 

 

The writer is a retired judge.

 

 

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

EDITORIAL

THE COURT: IGNORING THE REALITY OF GUNS

 

About 10,000 Americans died by handgun violence, according to federal statistics, in the four months that the Supreme Court debated which clause of the Constitution it would use to subvert Chicago's entirely sensible ban on handgun ownership. The arguments that led to Monday's decision undermining Chicago's law were infuriatingly abstract, but the results will be all too real and bloody.

 

This began two years ago, when the Supreme Court disregarded the plain words of the Second Amendment and overturned the District of Columbia's handgun ban, deciding that the amendment gave individuals in the district, not just militias, the right to bear arms. Proceeding from that flawed logic, the court has now said the amendment applies to all states and cities, rendering Chicago's ban on handgun ownership unenforceable.

 

Once again, the court's conservative majority imposed its selective reading of American history, citing the country's violent separation from Britain and the battles over slavery as proof that the authors of the Constitution and its later amendments considered gun ownership a fundamental right. The court's members ignored the present-day reality of Chicago, where 258 public school students were shot last school year — 32 fatally.

 

Rather than acknowledging Chicago's — and the nation's — need to end an epidemic of gun violence, the justices spent scores of pages in the decision analyzing which legal theory should bind the Second Amendment to the states. Should it be the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, or the amendment's immunities clause? The argument was not completely settled because there was not a five-vote majority for either path.

 

The issue is not trivial; had the court backed the immunity-clause path championed by Justice Clarence Thomas, it might have had the beneficial effect of applying more aspects of the Bill of Rights to the states. That could make it easier to require that states, like the federal government, have unanimous jury verdicts in criminal trials, for example, or ban excessive fines.

 

While the court has now twice attacked complete bans on handgun ownership, the decision left plenty of room for restrictions on who can buy and sell arms.

 

The court acknowledged, as it did in the District of Columbia case, that the amendment did not confer "a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." It cited a few examples of what it considered acceptable: limits on gun ownership by felons or the mentally ill, bans on carrying firearms in sensitive places like schools or government buildings and conditions on gun sales.

 

Mayors and state lawmakers will have to use all of that room and keep adopting the most restrictive possible gun laws — to protect the lives of Americans and aid the work of law enforcement officials. They should continue to impose background checks, limit bulk gun purchases, regulate dealers, close gun-show loopholes.

 

They should not be intimidated by the theoretical debate that has now concluded at the court or the relentless stream of lawsuits sure to follow from the gun lobby that will undoubtedly keep pressing to overturn any and all restrictions. Officials will have to press back even harder. Too many lives are at stake.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE COURT: DENYING GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR INTOLERANCE

 

In the guns case, the Supreme Court did the wrong thing (prohibiting gun bans) for the right reason (extending the reach of the Bill of Rights). The opposite was true in another major case on the final day of the court's term.

 

The case was a challenge to the Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, part of the University of California. It had refused to give official recognition to the Christian Legal Society, a student group that bars non-Christians and gay and lesbian students. The court supported the law school but did not directly address the society's blatant discriminatory practice.

 

In a 5-to-4 decision written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court upheld Hastings's right to refuse to recognize the Christian society, which meant that it could not receive any school funds or use the school's computer system to communicate. The reason, according to the majority: Hastings had a policy requiring all recognized student groups to accept anyone who wants to join. Democratic groups had to accept Republicans; Islamic groups had to accept Jews; so, the court reasoned, the policy was appropriately neutral.

 

But that "all comers" policy wasn't the original reason why the legal society was banned, as the four dissenters, led by Justice Samuel Alito Jr., pointed out. The college had earlier, and correctly, said that the society's refusal to admit gay and lesbian students violated its nondiscrimination policy, which prohibits discrimination "on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation."

 

Fearful that the Supreme Court would strike down this legitimate policy, the school later said the society had instead violated its far-less-specific all-comers policy, which removed references to discrimination that the conservative justices said violated the First Amendment rights of religious groups.

 

Tactically, that approach, embraced by Justice Ginsburg, may have been wise — very possibly attracting the crucial fifth vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. But, morally, it was questionable. The court should have used this case to clearly state that government funds cannot be used to support discrimination.

 

Justice John Paul Stevens, in a concurrence on the last day of his distinguished tenure, said it best: "A free society must tolerate such groups. It need not subsidize them, give them its official imprimatur, or grant them equal access to law school facilities."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THEY PUSHED BACK

 

A decision by the federal government to grant special visas to about 150 Indian metalworkers is the most encouraging news yet in a case that has cast a harsh light on the dark side of legal immigration. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, has concluded that the workers, part of a group of 500 men recruited to work in Gulf Coast shipyards after Hurricane Katrina, had been subject to involuntary servitude and were entitled to visas set aside for victims of human trafficking.

 

The decision is remarkable because the case — a federal lawsuit and investigations by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security — involves accusations that officials with another agency at homeland security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, helped the company silence workers' complaints.

 

To be hired in Mississippi and Texas as H-2B guest workers for Signal International, an oil-rig company, the men went heavily into debt, paying recruiters for the company from $12,000 to $20,000 each. They figured the sacrifice was worth it for good jobs and green cards. They got neither. They were forced to live in isolated labor camps and told they would be fired and deported if they tried to leave or made trouble.

 

According to sworn testimony by the company's officers, Signal had a powerful ally in its bullying. When workers complained about broken promises and abusive conditions, Signal consulted officials at ICE on how to fire "chronic whiners" who were threatening to organize protests. The agency replied, according to the testimony of one company official: "Take them all out of the line on the way to work; get their personal belongings. Get them in a van and get their tickets and get them to the airport and send them back to India."

 

In an internal e-mail message, a Signal official disclosed that ICE had promised to go after workers who had walked off the job, "to send a message to the remaining workers that it is not in their best interests to try and 'push' the system." The workers, with the help of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, pushed anyway. They took Signal to court with a host of charges. Now the citizenship agency has accepted the validity of the workers' claims.

 

The criminal investigation is not yet complete. The workers' advocates argue that the Department of Justice needs to remove ICE as its designated lead agency in the Signal investigation. They're right. ICE is too entangled in this debacle to investigate Signal or itself.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

CROSSING NEVADA

BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG

 

Thirty-five years ago, almost to the day, I made the same drive I'm now making, rising up out of California and crossing Nevada on my way east. I was leaving home for graduate school and a future whose shape I couldn't begin to guess.

 

My dad chose the 1967 Plymouth Valiant I was driving. It had a shimmy at about 62 miles per hour, and I had no faith in its radiator for radiators had often failed our family. Climbing the Golconda Summit, I remember watching the needle in the temperature gauge climb, too. We crested the summit — the Valiant and I — just below boiling point.

 

It's hard to imagine the world in which that car was new. I think now of all the things I traveled without — credit card, cellphone, iPod, audio books — and the experience seems almost Conestogal, though it was anything but. The temptation is to jump to the end of the story — safe arrival in Princeton and the 35 years since. But, as always, it's the passage that matters.

 

What I think about now is what I couldn't have felt then about the landscape I was crossing. I was just back from a year in London, and my head was stuffed with Dante and Virgil. It would not have occurred to me that if America is a kid bound across country for graduate school, it is also a pair of horses and a pipe corral in an indigo valley with a dust-devil whirling up in the Nevada distance.

 

Now I wonder why, in 1975, I didn't turn off in the Starr Valley or make my way down into the Ruby Mountains and settle under the stars for a few nights, or perhaps for a lifetime. I wonder that even as I pass up the opportunity again. Turning north at Wells, I realize that I'm retracing an older route — the road my family took when we moved to California from Iowa in 1966. As I bask in the late light on Route 93, heading toward Twin Falls, Idaho, I imagine passing a 1963 Ford Galaxie with two adults and four kids heading the opposite direction. Another hour, and I'm in Idaho, dropping down into well-watered valleys where the hay has just been cut and baled, hay of an almost theological quality standing in perfect, square bales, waiting to be stacked for winter.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

WRONG TRACK DISTRESS

BY BOB HERBERT

 

It's getting harder and harder for most Americans, looking honestly at the state of the nation, to see the glass as half full. And that's why the public opinion polls contain nothing but bad news for Barack Obama and the Democrats.

 

The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the war in Afghanistan and, above all, the continuing epidemic of joblessness have pushed the nation into a funk. All the crowing in the world about the administration's legislative accomplishments — last year's stimulus package, this year's health care reform, etc. — is not enough to lift the gloom.

 

Mr. Obama and the Democrats have wasted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity handed to them in the 2008 election. They did not focus on jobs, jobs, jobs as their primary mission, and they did not call on Americans to join in a bold national effort (which would have required a great deal of shared sacrifice) to solve a wide range of very serious problems, from our over-reliance on fossil fuels to the sorry state of public education to the need to rebuild the nation's rotting infrastructure.

 

All of that could have been pulled together under the umbrella of job creation — short-term and long-term. In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Obama's historic victory, and with the trauma of the economic collapse still upon us, it would have been very difficult for Republicans on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of a rebuild-America campaign aimed at putting millions of men and women back to work.

 

Mr. Obama had campaigned on the mantra of change, and that would have been the kind of change that

working people could have gotten behind. But it never happened. Job creation was the trump card in the hand held by Mr. Obama and the Democrats, but they never played it. And now we're paying a fearful price.

 

Fifteen million Americans are unemployed, according to the official count, which wildly understates the reality. Assuming no future economic setbacks and job creation at a rate of 200,000 or so a month, it would take more than a decade to get us back to where we were when the Great Recession began in December 2007. But we're nowhere near that kind of sustained job growth. Last month, a measly 41,000 private-sector jobs were created.

 

We are in deep, deep gumbo.

 

The Obama administration feels it should get a great deal of credit for its economic stimulus efforts, its health care initiative, its financial reform legislation, its vastly increased aid to education and so forth. And maybe if we were grading papers, there would be a fair number of decent marks to be handed out.

 

But Americans struggling in a down economy are worried about the survival of their families. Destitution is beckoning for those whose unemployment benefits are running out, and that crowd of long-term jobless men and women is expanding rapidly.

 

There is a widespread feeling that only the rich and well-placed can count on Washington's help, and that toxic sentiment is spreading like the oil stain in the gulf, with ominous implications for President Obama and his party. It's in this atmosphere that support for the president and his agenda is sinking like a stone.

 

Employment is the No. 1 issue for most ordinary Americans. Their anxiety on this front only grows as they watch teachers, firefighters and police officers lining up to walk the unemployment plank as state and local governments wrestle with horrendous budget deficits.

 

And what do these worried Americans see the Obama administration doing? It's doubling down on the war in Afghanistan, trying somehow to build a nation from scratch in the chaos of a combat zone.

 

By nearly 2 to 1, respondents to the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll believed the United States is on the wrong track. Despite the yelping and destructive machinations of the deficit hawks, employment and the economy are by far the public's biggest concern. Mr. Obama is paying dearly for his tin ear on this topic. Fifty-four percent of respondents believed he does not have a clear plan for creating jobs. Only 45 percent approved of his overall handling of the economy, compared with 48 percent who disapproved.

 

It's not too late for the president to turn things around, but there is no indication that he has any plan or strategy for doing it. And the political environment right now, with confidence in the administration waning and budgetary fears unnecessarily heightened by the deficit hawks, is not good.

 

It would take an extraordinary exercise in leadership to rally the country behind a full-bore jobs-creation campaign — nothing short of large-scale nation-building on the home front. Maybe that's impossible in the current environment. But that's what the country needs.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

BILL WILSON'S GOSPEL

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

On Dec. 14, 1934, a failed stockbroker named Bill Wilson was struggling with alcoholism at a New York City detox center. It was his fourth stay at the center and nothing had worked. This time, he tried a remedy called the belladonna cure — infusions of a hallucinogenic drug made from a poisonous plant — and he consulted a friend named Ebby Thacher, who told him to give up drinking and give his life over to the service of God.

 

Wilson was not a believer, but, later that night, at the end of his rope, he called out in his hospital room: "If there is a God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything. Anything!"

 

As Wilson described it, a white light suffused his room and the presence of God appeared. "It seemed to me, in the mind's eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing," he testified later. "And then it burst upon me that I was a free man."

 

Wilson never touched alcohol again. He went on to help found Alcoholics Anonymous, which, 75 years later, has 11,000 professional treatment centers, 55,000 meeting groups and some 1.2 million members.

 

The movement is the subject of a smart and comprehensive essay by Brendan I. Koerner in the July 2010 issue of Wired magazine. The article is noteworthy not only because of the light it sheds on what we've learned about addiction, but for what it says about changing behavior more generally. Much of what we do in public policy is to try to get people to behave in their own long-term interests — to finish school, get married, avoid gangs, lose weight, save money. Because the soul is so complicated, much of what we do fails.

 

The first implication of Koerner's essay is that we should get used to the idea that we will fail most of the time. Alcoholics Anonymous has stood the test of time. There are millions of people who fervently believed that its 12-step process saved their lives. Yet the majority, even a vast majority, of the people who enroll in the program do not succeed in it. People are idiosyncratic. There is no single program that successfully transforms most people most of the time.

 

The second implication is that we should get over the notion that we will someday crack the behavior code — that we will someday find a scientific method that will allow us to predict behavior and design reliable social programs. As Koerner notes, A.A. has been the subject of thousands of studies. Yet "no one has yet satisfactorily explained why some succeed in A.A. while others don't, or even what percentage of alcoholics who try the steps will eventually become sober as a result."

 

Each member of an A.A. group is distinct. Each group is distinct. Each moment is distinct. There is simply no way for social scientists to reduce this kind of complexity into equations and formula that can be replicated one place after another.

 

Nonetheless, we don't have to be fatalistic about things. It is possible to design programs that will help some people some of the time. A.A. embodies some shrewd insights into human psychology.

 

In a culture that generally celebrates empowerment and self-esteem, A.A. begins with disempowerment. The goal is to get people to gain control over their lives, but it all begins with an act of surrender and an admission of weakness.

 

In a culture that thinks of itself as individualistic, A.A. relies on fellowship. The general idea is that people aren't really captains of their own ship. Successful members become deeply intertwined with one another — learning, sharing, suffering and mentoring one another. Individual repair is a social effort.

 

In a world in which gurus try to carefully design and impose their ideas, Wilson surrendered control. He wrote down the famous steps and foundations, but A.A. allows each local group to form, adapt and innovate. There is less quality control. Some groups and leaders are great; some are terrible. But it also means that A.A. is decentralized, innovative and dynamic.

 

Alcoholics have a specific problem: they drink too much. But instead of addressing that problem with the psychic equivalent of a precision-guidance missile, Wilson set out to change people's whole identities. He studied William James's "The Varieties of Religious Experience." He sought to arouse people's spiritual aspirations rather than just appealing to rational cost-benefit analysis. His group would help people achieve broad spiritual awakenings, and abstinence from alcohol would be a byproduct of that larger salvation.

 

In the business of changing lives, the straight path is rarely the best one. A.A. illustrates that even in an age of scientific advance, it is still ancient insights into human nature that work best. Wilson built a remarkable organization on a nighttime spiritual epiphany.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ROBERT BYRD, LIVING HISTORY

BY JOHN DANFORTH, GARY HART, JAMES H. BILLINGTON, ALAN K. SIMPSON, GEORGE MCGOVERN, STEVE KETTMANN, WALTER F. MONDALE, JOHN D. ASHCROFT, ETHEL MORGAN SMITH AND LINCOLN CHAFEE,

 

It was probably in the late 1970s, when I was fairly new to the Senate, that Robert Byrd taught me a lesson about the institution he loved.

This was before TV had become the great forum for over-the-top oratory, and I had made a speech on the

Senate floor, venting my rage over something. I've forgotten the exact issue that had upset me, but I do recall that in my anger I cast the Senate in an unflattering light. To me, my remarks seemed perfectly appropriate: I was out of sorts, and the American people, then as now, had little regard for Congress.

 

Robert Byrd was on the Senate floor at the time, and came up to me immediately after I finished talking. He stood with his face about six inches from mine, with an expression more disappointed than angry, like that of a chastising father. "Don't soil your own nest," he said.

 

Robert Byrd loved the Senate and he expected other senators to love it as well and to defend its honor.

 

Attacks on Congress play to the passions of the audience, but they do not serve the institutions of our government. Robert Byrd taught me that lesson.

— JOHN DANFORTH, Republican of Missouri, who served in the Senate from 1976 to 1995

 

 

Robert Byrd was not happy with me during my first Senate campaign in 1974. He was touring the country campaigning for Democrats, presumably building up favors for a future campaign for majority leader, and he wanted to organize an event in Colorado that would feature him playing his fiddle. But my campaign, based on "new politics" and "new ideas," did not seem compatible with his traditional hill-country fiddling. Looking back, I was wrong to turn him down. He would have been very well received.

 

Following his predecessor as majority leader, Mike Mansfield, Robert Byrd sought to help the progress of younger senators. In my case, he did so by naming me one of the new congressional observers to the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks in Geneva, which proved vital to my gaining an understanding of the intricacies of arms control negotiations.

 

Senator Byrd turned himself into not only a constitutional scholar but also an internationalist and something of a statesman. Though unable to depart from his often fierce protection of West Virginia's economy, he even made efforts to adapt to the environmental age. Greater senators have undoubtedly gone before and will come after. But few will have demonstrated the up-by-the-boot-straps personal transformation shown by the extraordinary life of Robert Byrd.

 

— GARY HART, Democrat of Colorado, who served in the Senate from 1975 to 1987

 

 

Robert Byrd wrote a history of the Senate while he himself was making history within it. He also loved the folk songs of America, which he performed with voice and fiddle; recordings of some of his performances are now preserved among the special treasures of the archives of the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress.

 

Folk singers performed for him recently in his office and at a dinner in his honor; he rose from his wheelchair for both occasions and joined with full voice the singing and stomping of the performers for songs like "There's More Pretty Girls Than One."

 

The last time I saw him, I was running through the halls of the Capitol. He stopped me and asked a question that no one had ever asked me before: "What is the one book I should read in the Library of Congress?"

 

— JAMES H. BILLINGTON, librarian of Congress

 

 

When I came to the Senate, Robert Byrd — the modern institutional memory, that magician of parliamentary procedure, a formidable foe and a trusted ally — was quick to greet me warmly. He had served with my father, Senator Milward Simpson, and told me, "Your father is a wonderful man, a man of patience, civility, kindness, humility and good humor." I thanked him. Within a year, I had a little "dust-up" with Senator Byrd and one evening on the floor, he said, "Alan, I was thinking of your father again. You're not like your father!" He then allowed that I was a bit more "pesky" than the old man! I'll never forget that one. He became a fine friend.

 

You knew where you stood with him. During one night session, he asked me a remarkable question: "Alan, in my leadership responsibilities, do our colleagues respect me or fear me?" To me, the balance ran toward respect but I hedged: "It's just that they are in total awe of you" — as we all were.

 

— ALAN K. SIMPSON, Republican of Wyoming, who served in the Senate from 1979 to 1997

 

 

From the most humble beginnings, Robert Byrd grew in stature and wisdom to become one of the greatest senators in American history. He was a conservative in the best sense of that historic concept.

 

During my presidential run of 1972, when asked what kind of person I would consider for the United States Supreme Court if I were elected, I said that Robert Byrd would be one I would seriously consider. While I did not approve of his early record on civil rights, I felt that his later education and growth on this and other major issues were highly commendable.

 

At the time, some of my long-time liberal friends expressed their disapproval. But I thought I was right then and I still do all these years later. Senator Byrd was aware of the criticism I received, and was deeply moved that I had spoken about him as a possible Supreme Court appointee.

 

He never ended up on the bench, but he did become the Senate's outstanding authority on constitutional government. I once told him that not one of us in the Senate had kept the pledge to uphold the Constitution more faithfully than he. In the late moments of that afternoon I saw his eyes glisten with tears.

 

— GEORGE McGOVERN, Democrat of South Dakota, who served in the Senate from 1963 to 1981

 

 

Robert Byrd may have been known to some as the King of Pork, and there's no question he redirected more than his share of federal money to West Virginia. But when it came to his personal tastes, he was remarkably modest. On my regular visits to his office for a book we were writing together, he talked up the cheese sandwiches he served me — white bread with a dense, orange wedge inside — as if food didn't get any better. He attended night law school as a congressman and senator, and his wife, Erma, would hand-deliver his "paper poke" meal, as he called it, a sandwich and "maybe a pork chop or a piece of cheese."

 

Byrd's personal modesty led him to refrain from telling people, even his friend Senator Edward M. Kennedy, that he disliked being called "Bob," as his Senate colleagues often addressed him. It was probably that same quality that kept him from ever going public with his fight with prostate cancer; for a period of months, from 1995 to 1996, he would leave home at 5 a.m. for radiation treatments, a total of 36, but kept them secret, even from much of his staff.

 

The senator will be remembered for his great oratorical skills. But even here, he was modest. "Words can move mountains," he told me after I'd politely declined yet another plate of cheese sandwiches. "Nobody can stand in my way. I have to believe that I can be the best, and I do. I have to stay humble, too."

 

— STEVE KETTMANN, co-author, with Senator Byrd, of "Letter to a New President"

 

 

I remember working with Robert Byrd on a horrendous struggle over the meaning of Senate Rule XXII, governing the filibuster. With his help, after weeks of struggle (and filibusters), we reduced the number of senators required to invoke cloture from 67 to 60, the most basic change in Senate rules in its history. Senator Byrd was able to forge a compromise where none appeared possible.

 

A few weeks ago when I testified before the Senate Rules Committee to reform Rule XXII once more, there he was again, disabled in body but full of fight, testifying about his deep belief in the sanctity of the Senate and the responsibility to cherish and protect it, as he had done for longer than any other senator in American history.

 

— WALTER F. MONDALE, former vice president of the United States and Democrat of Minnesota, who served in the Senate from 1964 to 1976

 

New members of the Senate spend sometimes tedious assigned hours presiding over the floor. For them, Robert Byrd's floor remarks became personal tutorials — on the history of the United States Senate, and the Roman Senate as well. There were times when staff members, and perhaps even a new senator, might have wished for an abridged version, but the lessons were in the details, and those who listened learned.

 

I recall a raucous back-and-forth Senate vote finishing at 11:59 p.m. Senator Byrd then spoke in detail on a matter he felt required constitutional elaboration. I was struck by how the weary senators stuck to their seats. We listened in deference and interest, because Senator Byrd knew when history could guide us aright.

 

In times when outcomes seem to transcend the rules, when "make it happen" ignores how things happen, the Senate will sorely miss Senator Byrd's voice calling consciences to the Constitution. As he rests in peace, may the Senate have occasional second thoughts.

 

— JOHN D. ASHCROFT, a former United States attorney general and Republican of Missouri, who served in the Senate from 1995 to 2001

 

I moved to Morgantown, W. Va., in 1993 to teach at West Virginia University. Senator Robert Byrd was the most popular politician in the state. I wasn't aware of his past with the Ku Klux Klan until one day, in my African-American literature class, a white student announced that Senator Byrd had been a member. I wasn't disturbed. Many good politicians had been on the wrong side of history at first. And, after all, I am from Barbour County, Alabama, the home of Gov. George C. Wallace, where even African-Americans aren't nearly as critical of him as the rest of the world is.

 

Each semester another student would repeat the same announcement about Senator Byrd. I started to use it as a teaching tool. When are we forgiven for past mistakes? I asked my students to look at the buildings around campus, the hospitals and highways: this is your senator working for you.

 

— ETHEL MORGAN SMITH, professor of English at West Virginia University

 

 

Senator Robert Byrd and I were neighbors for about a year, in one of the more nondescript subdivisions in McLean, Va. My young children and I would see him walking his little white dog on Saturdays; he was always affable, delighted to see us, and would chat for a few moments. At the same time, I couldn't help but notice that the shades and drapes in his windows were never open. Third in the line of succession to the White House, the Senate's president pro tem passed his few private hours in that simple suburban dwelling, with two Secret Service agents parked outside.

 

I was once summoned to his office to accept the gift of a pastoral scene he had painted. He presented it in a solemn manner, with a great air of ceremony and for no reason I could ever discern. On another day, when the tragedy of the Iraq War was apparent, we met to share our alarm at the administration's dangerous, bellicose language. On that day we were entirely in sync.

 

And if his filibuster of the Civil Rights Act was the nadir of his Senate career, his 2002 speech against the rush to war in Iraq was its apex. "Fie upon the Congress," he thundered. The Congress that he loved.

 

— LINCOLN CHAFEE, Republican of Rhode Island, who served in the Senate from 1999 to 2007

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON ON THE SECOND AMENDMENT: COURT EXPANDS GUN RULING BUT ALLOWS REASONABLE LIMITS

 

Many gun rights advocates insist that the Second Amendment's edict that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" is absolute. But from the 1930s to now, the Supreme Court has rejected the idea that the amendment is a license for anyone to own any weapon, and carry it anywhere at any time.

 

Thankfully, the court reiterated that view Monday, even as it recognized the broad right of Americans to own guns no matter where they live, extending to the rest of the country a decision the justices made two years ago for residents of the federal enclave in the District of Columbia.

 

Just as they did in their 2008 decision, the court's 5-4 majority wisely left the door open for state and local governments to regulate how people buy, keep and use guns. The question is how far those regulations can go. There the court was only a little more helpful than it was in 2008, when it said the right to keep and bear arms is not "a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."

 

Writing for the majority in the latest decision, on Chicago's gun ban, Justice Samuel Alito reiterated that the court is OK with barring firearms possession by felons or the mentally ill, and has no objection to laws that prohibit carrying weapons in "sensitive places" such as schools or government buildings. Nor does the court disapprove "conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms," which presumably means there's no constitutional bar to reasonable background checks or waiting periods.

 

The court also noted that extending the Second Amendment to the states "limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values," which recognizes that different parts of the country have very different views of whether and how guns should be regulated — less in rural areas where hunting is a way of life, and more in cities plagued by violent crime.

 

That's all appropriate, and it puts the court squarely where the nation seems to have come out after debating this issue for decades — for a right to gun ownership, but not such a radically unlimited one that it would undo existing restrictions on machine guns, for example.

 

It also leaves the way open for Congress to adopt long overdue restrictions that would leave legitimate gun owners largely alone while helping to reduce the annual carnage from guns that fall into the wrong hands. Useful measures would include those that:

 

•Crack down aggressively on rogue gun dealers who hide behind a legal facade while knowingly supplying guns to criminals.

 

•Tighten rules on gun shows to make sure there's no loophole to allow some buyers to evade background checks.

 

•Target the sort of high-powered, high-capacity weapons that have been legal since the assault weapons ban lapsed.

 

It's notable that a conservative court with a strong pro-gun rights majority left so much room for common-sense restrictions on dangerous weapons.

 

State and local governments have long been busy crafting workable limits. Now gun rights activists should be just as pragmatic and let them finish the task.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON THE SECOND AMENDMENT: THE RIGHT MUST BE REAL

BY WAYNE LAPIERRE

THE SECOND AMENDMENT IS AN INDIVIDUAL CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT FOR ALL LAW-ABIDING AMERICANS — NO MATTER WHERE THEY LIVE.

 

The Founding Fathers meant it, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed it, and the Second Amendment right of every citizen is now a real part of American constitutional law.

 

By incorporating the Second Amendment to apply to state and local governments, the court affirmed what most Americans believe — that lawful citizens, wherever they live, have the fundamental right to own a firearm to protect themselves and their families.

 

It is a landmark decision that must be real, practical and experienced. Supreme Court decisions must lead to actual consequences, or the entire premise of American constitutional authority collapses.

 

The court's decision cannot be ignored and must provide relief to law-abiding citizens who have been deprived their Second Amendment rights.

 

City by city, person by person, this decision must be more than a philosophical victory — for an individual right is no right at all, if individuals cannot access and experience it.

 

Every elected official who has put a hand on the Bible and sworn to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution must now take defense of the Second Amendment just as seriously as defense of any other constitutional right.

 

The constitutional freedom intended by the court is realized when law-abiding men and women can get up, go out, and buy and own a firearm.

 

The National Rifle Association will work to ensure this constitutional victory is not transformed into a practical defeat by activist judges, defiant city councils or cynical politicians who seek to reverse or nullify the court's decision through a blizzard of restrictions and regulations that render the Second Amendment inaccessible, unaffordable or otherwise impossible to experience in a practical way.

 

The Second Amendment is an individual constitutional right. Most Americans believe that, and the Supreme Court confirmed it.

 

And the NRA will not rest until every law-abiding American citizen is able to exercise the individual right to buy and own a firearm for self-defense or any other lawful purpose.

 

Wayne LaPierre is executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

ROBERT BYRD'S LEGACY

 

Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who died Monday at 92 after serving a record 57 years in Congress, was a study in contradictions.

 

•Frugal with his own money — he ate brown-bag bologna sandwiches for lunch, shunned credit cards and cleaned his own home — Byrd was profligate with the public's cash, earning the "Prince of Pork" sobriquet that he wore as a badge of honor in his impoverished home state.

 

•A member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s who filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he later championed civil rights causes and endorsed Barack Obama for president.

 

•Lacking a bachelor's degree until late in life, the self-educated lawmaker was perhaps the Senate's most erudite member, authoring a four-volume Senate history and regularly sprinkling his speeches with classical and biblical references.

 

•Deprived of parental affection during his hardscrabble upbringing, Byrd was the most sentimental of senators, orating at length about his beloved dog Billy and tearing up on the Senate floor over the deaths of his wife of 68 years, Erma, and of his rival-turned-friend, Edward Kennedy.

 

With the passing of Kennedy last year, and now Byrd, the Senate has lost the last two lions of an earlier era. Appropriately, it was fellow Democrat Kennedy who, in 2005, best summed up his colleague's legacy: "his passion for preserving the institution and its prerogatives." For a younger generation of senators, many of whom no doubt viewed Byrd as a long-winded anachronism in today's world of sound bites and hyperpartisanship, that's a legacy worth honoring.

 

Byrd, for all his inconsistencies, worked steadily to maintain the Senate — and the legislative branch more generally — as a check against the excesses of an increasingly powerful White House, regardless of the party in power. When a constituent would ask, "How many presidents have you served under?" Byrd would reply: "None. I have served with presidents, not under them."

 

One of Byrd's finest moments came late in his career when, in the face of the nation's post-9/11 passions, he opposed the 2002 resolution authorizing George W. Bush to wage war against Iraq — a resolution that the senator considered both an outrageous abdication of congressional responsibility and a reckless move against a nation that hadn't attacked the United States.

 

"Today, I weep for my country," he said on the day the Iraq invasion was launched.

 

This week, the Senate and West Virginia weep for Robert Byrd.

 

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USA TODAY

COLUMNISTS' VOICES

GULF OIL SPILL THROUGH THE EYES OF CHILDREN

BY BOB ELSTON

 

My kids and I had been watching the webcam images of oil gushing from BP's pipe 5,000 feet beneath the sea and a thousand miles from our home. And then my daughter said she wanted to help oiled-up birds, so I seized on that impulse to take my three older children — 12, 11 and 8 — to see up close the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

 

I pulled them out of their Virginia school for a week this month for what would become a sad and memorable adventure. We averaged 350 miles a day during our drive to the Gulf Coast, slept in a tent, and with each passing day learned about the unfolding tragedy devastating people's livelihoods, the economy and the environment.

 

For anyone dumbfounded by the staggered response to the spill, the unanswered questions and the seemingly conflicting interests (environment vs. economy) in this multilayered catastrophe, our visit to the region revealed a simple truth evident even to a child: The Gulf Coast's suffering is not only an environmental tragedy but an unmistakably human one, too.

 

Glimpsing the future

 

We saw how the spill split local communities over the need to preserve the environment for fishing and tourism and to continue drilling operations to fuel our collective lifestyle. The trip taught me that it is never too early to expose our young children to complicated societal issues whose stakes will only get higher in the future. We left a lot of the drive to chance — no fixed itinerary or final destination. We reached the Gulf in three days, and immediately picked up clues to the magnitude of the disaster.

 

On Alabama's Dauphin Island, my kids collected tar balls that locals told us began washing up a day earlier. For each 10-foot stretch of sand, we found two or three. Those harmless-looking globs were enough to drive away tourists and threaten the local economy. Our motel receptionist showed us pages of cancellations that poured in after April 20, the date of the oil rig catastrophe. We also realized our naiveté at thinking we'd see — much less help — oily pelicans. A bird expert I bumped into told me that without any expertise, we might get in the way. Besides, he said, you can't predict how oil spreads. He had just completed a survey of one island in Louisiana that found only four out of more than 1,000 seabirds had any trace of oil. He later got a call that birds drenched in oil were discovered there.

 

We forged on to Louisiana and met an oil company engineer who advised us to drive to Cocodrie, one of the farthest southern points of the bayou. No oil. Before turning around, we talked with a man standing on his home's balcony. There was no oil in the local waterway, he confirmed, yet fishing was banned. Several of his friends were ticketed for fishing anyway. I asked him where fishermen would turn next. He said, "Many are expecting a check from BP." My 12-year-old son listened to this and offered, "People should just sue BP."

 

My son would have to reconsider after seeing for himself not only how vital the petroleum industry is to the bayou, but also how oil drilling and sensitive ecosystems must coexist. We hooked up with a Cessna pilot in Houma who flies for the oil companies. He took us over the bayou, pointing out drilling operations in the marshes and a factory manufacturing rigs. He estimated that about half the local population worked in oil. He has been flying over these sensitive lands for decades, and he did not hide his dislike for the Obama administration's moratorium on new offshore drilling. He likened it to closing down a freeway because of a traffic accident.

 

For us, we were about to see the worst of the spill.

 

A searing image

 

We drove to Grand Isle a day after President Obama's third visit to the region. The road was dotted with hand-written signs taking aim at the government and BP. Some condemned the spill, while others reassured BP that the locals still love it.

 

We found the beach at Grand Isle State Park closed but the pier open. Looking out over the Gulf of Mexico, the kids spotted two dolphins and watched majestic pelicans glide over the water. Below our feet, however, we saw horrific pools of petroleum slopping up on the sand. The beach was cut in half by booms extending to the horizon. When the sunlight hit the water, we saw the sheen of the oil.

 

By that point, we had been out for five days, and it was time to head for home. My daughter pointed out that we had come a long way and not seen an oiled bird. I reassured her that we had seen enough to make the trip worthwhile.

 

As we walked off the beach, we turned back for a last look at the Gulf. At that moment, we saw cleanup workers pulling out a giant net. An oily pelican had landed about 60 yards away. It leapt into the air, beat its heavy wings and flew back in the oily water. The sight of an injured bird mustering the strength to evade capture reinforced for the kids the enormity of the tragedy and the difficulty of making things right again — for the wildlife, and for the people.

 

It was also the image they told me they would never forget.

 

And with that, we headed home.

 

Bob Elston is a father of four children in Herndon, Va. He blogs about parenting issues at

 

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USA TODAY

COLUMNISTS' VOICES

SALACIOUS 'ROLLING STONE' PIECE ECLIPSED THE REAL STORY

BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM

 

Not long after Rolling Stone hit the newsstands with a damning profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal that cost him his job — and may have ended his military career — I called an old friend and ranted about the man the magazine called "The Runaway General."

 

How could the four-star general and Afghanistan commander be so stupid, I asked, as to allow cheap shots to be leveled at President Obama in front of a reporter? Why did he allow his staff to speak so disparagingly of Vice President Biden and other senior administration officials with a journalist hovering? McChrystal, who voted for Obama, was the man the freshly minted president chose to implement his military strategy in Afghanistan, a quagmire that has become our longest war.

 

I was going on about McChrystal being guilty of insubordination or, worse, some sort of Praetorian Guard conspiracy to undermine the president, when my friend reminded me of something we both learned from our stints in the military: In private conversation, military personal often bash their superiors.

 

Not insubordination

 

Every private at one time or another has said something bad about his sergeant. Every ensign has spoken ill of a commander; every colonel has at some point mumbled criticisms of a general. But for the most part, that kind of talk doesn't occur in front of a journalist. What McChrystal and his men said was disrespectful, not insubordinate. The general's big mistake was that he let Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings overhear such barracks chatter. Its inclusion in the resulting friendly fire article left Obama no choice but to publicly accept McChrystal's resignation, which the White House almost certainly demanded.

 

McChrystal is to blame for his undoing, but his departure may come at a big price for Obama. The two men were pretty much in agreement on how to wage war in Afghanistan.

 

By most accounts, McChrystal has a brilliant military mind. He's a warrior's warrior; a general whose tough talk was backed up by tough actions. It would be wrong to equate McChrystal's sacking with Abraham Lincoln's dismissal of Gen. George McClellan or Harry Truman's firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. McClellan was a military commander who was slow to fight. MacArthur was a general who publicly pushed for a bigger war than the president wanted.

 

Why report it?

 

McChrystal was carrying out Obama's war plan when he was tripped up by talk that, once made public, no president could ignore without weakening his presidency — and the office.

 

But ultimately, the biggest loser might be the journalism profession. Every person in public life that I've ever spent time with, including Obama, has uttered something that might get them a failing grade for deportment but which adds nothing of substance to the story.

 

Given the policy alignment between Obama and McChrystal on the war, the barracks chatter that Hastings overheard adds nothing to his cogent and substantive reporting on the general and his leadership of a war, or his relationship with Obama. Had the two men been at odds over how to conduct the fighting in Afghanistan, the badmouthing might have added important context to the story. Since they weren't, it didn't.

 

And now we're left to wonder if we've seen the last of the damage done by what was said — and what was reported.

 

DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

SEN. ROBERT C. BYRD

 

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who served longer and cast more votes than any senator in the nation's history, died Monday at 92. He will be remembered for his knowledge and love of the U.S. Constitution, his fierce defense of the traditions and prerogatives of the Senate, and for his unparalleled ability to send federal dollars to his home state. His was a political life well-lived.

 

Mr. Byrd, raised in poverty, was not only the nation's longest serving senator, he was also the longest serving member of Congress. He served six years in the House before entering the Senate. Mr. Byrd held variety of powerful Senate posts, including majority and minority leader, president pro tem and chairman of the Appropriations Committee. His tenure was marked by significant change in political outlook.

 

A member of the Ku Klux Klan briefly as a young man -- an affiliation for which he repeatedly apologized -- Sen. Byrd began Senate life as a rock-ribbed conservative. He filibustered for more than 14 hours against the Civil Rights Act and supported the Vietnam War. Later, he was a strong advocate of civil rights legislation and a fierce opponent of the Iraq War. His change in perspective is easily measured.

 

In 1964, Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal organization, reported that his views and the organization's matched 16 percent of the time. In 2005, his ADA rating was 95.

 

There were areas in which Sen. Byrd did not change. His love of the Constitution and his defense of the Senate's role under it remained strong. When someone would ask how many presidents Byrd had served under, his answer was always the same. "None," he would reply. "I have served with presidents, not under them." The distinction was important to him.

 

Mr. Byrd, of course, is best known for sending federal money to West Virginia. He unapologetically funneled billions of dollars there over the years. His legacy includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation's fingerprint center, a training and firing range for customs and border protection officers, prisons, highways and the Coast Guard's National Maritime Center, the latter an anomaly, one might think, in a landlocked state. Its presence, though, is a tribute to Sen. Byrd's power.

 

Even as the nation begins to mourn for Sen. Byrd, quiet talk of his successor is underway. Democrats obviously hope to hold the seat. The GOP hopes to capitalize in a state that seems to lean increasingly toward its viewpoint. For the moment, nothing is certain.

 

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat, will appoint Mr. Byrd's successor and will obviously choose a member of his own party. How long that person will serve before an election already is a matter of heated debate. Democrats and Republicans disagree on how West Virginia law provides for a successor. It is just the sort of battle that Sen. Byrd would have relished.

 

Sen. Byrd will be remembered for his exercise of political power and for his love of Constitution, the Senate and his home state. That's an appropriate legacy for a man who lived his life in the high-profile, rough-and-tumble world of national politics.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

COCKFIGHTING SHOULD BE A FELONY

 

If Tennesseans need proof that the state is a center for cockfighting, a Saturday raid on a large-scale operation in Polk County should provide it. About 100 citations were issued by law enforcement officials during the raid in Ducktown. Preliminary reports indicate that a majority of those cited were from out of state.

 

That is often the case, veteran law enforcement and animal welfare organization officials report. Current Tennessee statutes make cockfighting a misdemeanor with correspondingly limited penalties. It is a felony in 39 other states. Tennessee cockfighting laws, in fact, are so weak that they serve, in a way, as an open invitation to those who stage and attend the events. It's not hard to understand why.

 

Those convicted of cockfighting in states where cockfighting it is a felony often are fined thousands of dollars and sentenced to strict probation. Repeat offenders go to jail. That's not the case in states where cockfighting remains a misdemeanor.

 

In Tennessee, for example, the penalties for organizers of the fights and individuals who flock to them are relatively minor -- typically a small fine and court costs. Those involved in cockfighting typically view such fines as a nuisance or as part of the cost of doing business rather than as a deterrent. That mindset won't change until the state Legislature makes cockfighting, like dogfighting, a felony in Tennessee.

 

Efforts to toughen Tennessee's cockfighting laws in the past have floundered. Bills occasionally are introduced in the legislature, but rarely advance. There's no organized lobbying group for cockfighting, but there appears to be an active group of supporters willing to use the political system to promote their cause.

 

John Goodwin, manager of fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States, says cockfighting can become a voting issue, particularly for rural legislators who get calls urging support for the industry around election time. Legislators should ignore that appeal.

 

Cockfighting is a vicious blood sport, if that term can be used in this context, in which roosters are equipped with sharp spurs, shot up with drugs and then fight to the Illegal activities -- gambling and drug use, sometimes associated with organized crime -- are part of the cockfighting world, authorities say. The only way to slow if not halt the activity is to make it a felony. That would provide local and state authorities a tool they need to deal effectively with the problem.

 

Until that is done, Tennessee will remain a mecca for the cockfighting culture and its barbarous practices. Cockfighting is not the innocuous activity its promoters would have us believe. It is a nefarious, cruel and corrupting one. The Legislature should enact laws to make it a felony in its next session.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

UT PLANNING TO 'MOVE UP'

 

University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek visited the editorial board of the Times Free Press yesterday with energy and optimism, to talk about plans for UT to "move up" academically in national ratings -- despite a $56 million reduction in the Tennessee General Assembly's appropriations for UT through 2011.

 

Dr. Cheek said UT wants to rise into the "top 25" of American public research universities. UT's current rating is 52nd in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report.

 

What are the top-rated institutions? They are the University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Virginia, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

The schools with the highest six-year student graduation rates are Virginia, UCLA, UC Berkeley, North Carolina and Michigan.

 

UT wants more student "retention" -- up from 84 percent to 90 percent. It currently has a 59.8 percent graduation rate.

 

It gets one-third of its funding from tuition, averaging $7,300, with the rest of its funding from such things as taxes, gifts, grants, contracts, related Oak Ridge nuclear operations, and other sources. The actual "cost" per student is $16,100.

 

(Not incidentally, UT gains about $1 million a year for its academic operations from its athletic department. "Big Orange" football success and other sports are important academically as well as athletically.)

 

Dr. Cheek said it is important for some students to go to less expensive community colleges, or to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga or other state universities, before feeding into more-expensive UT at Knoxville.

 

About 4,200 students enter each UT freshman class. Student retention to graduation through four-year courses, plus summer semesters, is important in keeping costs down.

 

"We have a great university," Dr. Cheek said. "We need to keep 'the best and the brightest.' "

 

He said about 75 percent of UT graduates stay in Tennessee. That's a big resource for Tennessee's general economic success.

 

Both academic and financial challenges are large for students seeking to earn a university education as a big step up for success in life.

 

We are fortunate that many fine educators and political leaders, as well as taxpayers, are making constructive efforts to offer many opportunities for our young people.

 

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


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

OUR 'LONGEST WAR'

 

Wars begin for varied reasons. They usually end with victory or defeat or stalemate.

 

But some can seem to go on "forever."

 

The American Revolution lasted 100 months.

 

The War of 1812 lasted 32 months.

 

The War Between the States lasted 48 months.

 

The Mexican-American War lasted 21 months.

 

The Spanish-American War was over in just five months.

 

World War I involved the United States 19 months.

 

World War II engaged the United States 45 months.

 

The Korean War involved the United States 32 months.

 

The Vietnam War involved U.S. soldiers for 103 months.

 

The Persian Gulf War lasted only seven months.

 

The U.S. war in Iraq has lasted 88 months, and continues.

 

The United States has been involved in Afghanistan for 105 months thus far.

 

The Afghanistan War has become our longest war -- with U.S. victory, our withdrawal without conclusion, or what ahead?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

SEN. ROBERT BYRD, 1917-2010

 

Who served in the Congress of the United States longer than anyone else in the history of our nation?

 

Who served in Congress during the terms of all these presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight 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 and Barack Obama?

 

Whose life stretched from World War I through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and into the Afghanistan War?

 

Democrat Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who died Monday at the age of 92, experienced them all.

 

Sen. Byrd was born in poverty. He was named Cornelius Calvin Sale Jr. His mother died before he was 1 year old. His father sent him to live with an aunt and uncle in a coal-mining town in West Virginia.

 

They renamed him Robert Carlyle Byrd. He didn't learn his original name till he was 16. He didn't know his birthday -- Nov. 20, 1917 -- until he was 54.

 

He later described his early life as "without electricity, ... no running water, no telephone, a little wooden outhouse."

 

He managed to graduate from high school, but he couldn't afford college. He married his childhood sweetheart, Erma Ora James, in 1936. He earned a living by pumping gas, cutting meat and working as a shipyard welder during World War II.

 

A grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan urged him to run for office.

 

He was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1946 against a dozen other candidates, as he played the fiddle and orated colorfully. In 1952 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

His brief membership in the KKK remained an issue throughout his career. But he won nine terms in the United States Senate, which he entered in 1959.

 

When civil rights legislation became a heated issue in 1964, he engaged in one of the longest Senate filibusters in history, speaking for 14 hours and 13 minutes against the Civil Rights Act that was finally adopted.

 

He later voted for civil rights legislation.

 

His campaign style was courtly, ranging from Bible quotations to discussions of the United States Constitution (he always carried a copy with him), to the history of ancient Greek wars.

 

He became a master of using the intricacies of Senate parliamentary procedures to support friends, punish opponents -- and to haul billions of dollars of taxpayers' money back to West Virginia for varied "pork" projects.

 

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he came to control a third of annual $3 trillion-plus federal budgets.

 

The life of Sen. Byrd spanned a dramatic period of American history.

 

His death ends a long Senate career of color and great importance.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

98,000 PER SECOND!

 

We spotted a little (or not so little) statistic recently in a news release from the organization Citizens Against Government Waste, a group that opposes the outrageous federal spending that has our nation $13 trillion in debt.

 

Here it is: "$98,000 is spent by the Federal Government every second."

 

You read that correctly. With every passing second, nearly $100,000 -- taxed away from the American people or borrowed from future generations of Americans -- is spent by Washington.

 

Americans are rightly concerned about the many gallons of oil contaminating the Gulf of Mexico from the BP spill. Should we be any less concerned about the huge spill of taxpayers' money that is contaminating our economic future?

 

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - A BALTIC LESSON FOR THE BOSPHORUS STRAIT

 

The continuing disaster in America's Gulf of Mexico that is the blowout in a well operated by British Petrol remains an environmental nightmare both daunting in the damage to date and nightmarish as it continues to grow. But all such accidents necessitate study and the culling of lessons for the future. This includes the opportunity to know more about the dynamics of oil "plumes" in the deep sea and the opportunity to examine innovative new technologies such as the clean-up centrifuges advocated by actor Kevin Costner.

 

So we offer support to the plans underway by Energy Minister Taner Yıldız for a Thursday safety summit on the Bosphorus and Dardenelles straits that has been prompted by the BP spill. Many steps have been taken to improve safety in the transit corridor in recent years. These include the radar system implemented over the past decade and the institution of alternating one-way tanker traffic that began in 2005.

 

But more can be done and greater international attention to Turkey's sensitivities on the passage of dangerous cargoes through the straits is needed. Many international environmental organizations, for example, have been loath to campaign too hard for tighter rules on the Bosphorus. This is because their focus tends to be on the construction of alternative energy pipelines, which they generally oppose.

 

But how would many of these same organizations greet the prospect of moving 92 million tons of crude oil each year down Paris' Seine or London's Thames or around Angel Island and out beneath the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco with the same tactical indifference? That the rulebook for this traffic was designed in 1936 and restricts tighter controls by international treaty is a matter that concerns us deeply.

 

But we do have to learn the lessons made available by others. And we think one system of maritime governance that has been neglected for its lessons is the so-called "Skagen traffic" that transits Danish waters in and out of the Baltic Sea. This is important not just because of the advanced technology used in safety procedures, but also because one of the principal users of this waterway is Russia. And Russia has proved a reliable and responsible partner in developing the body of rules for traffic through a strait whose commercial importance and difficult maritime obstacles are perhaps the most comparable in the world to that of the Bosphorus.

 

We doubt there is time to invite the safety experts at Poland's Maritime University in Szczecin by Thursday. But their most recent and most comprehensive safety plan for the Baltic was completed just last month. It is available at www.balticmaster.org. We suggest a look for anyone interested in Bosphorus safety. Let's learn from the experience of others, whether it be in the Baltic or the Gulf of Mexico.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHAT DRIVES ARAB INTEREST IN TURKEY?

SEMİH İDİZ

 

Much is being made of the growing interest in Turkey among Arabs. A lot of this interest is being tied to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's strong stand on Israel. Arab streets frequently feature his portraits and Turkish flags these days. But is Israel the only factor behind this growing interest?

 

A Palestinian journalist friend thinks not. He made this amply clear recently when we were discussing the inevitable subject of Turkey's new role in the Middle East. According to him we have to note three things well.

 

First, the interest in Turkey among Arabs is not contingent on either on Mr. Erdoğan or his Justice and Development Party, or AKP. In other words, should Mr. Erdoğan and the AKP go, the interest would not diminish in any way. In fact, according to my Palestinian friend, "Erdoğan will be forgotten overnight."

 

Second, Arab interest in Turkey would decline if Ankara were to lose its "Western orientation" in general, and

sever its ties with the EU in particular.

 

In other words what is liked about Turkey is the Western image it projects, an image which is lacking in the Middle East.

 

Third, a Turkey that has severed ties with Israel and turned this country into a demonized adversary will diminish Ankara's role in the Middle East, where there is the need for new players who have contacts with both Israel and the other countries in the region.

 

Before taking up some these points up we have to admit that Prime Minister Erdoğan's position in the Arab world can still not be minimized. It is after all a fact that, just like in Turkey, the blood of almost everyone in the Middle East, regardless of who they are or what they believe in, boils over in the face of injustices meted out to the Palestinians.

 

Therefore it is hard for Arabs across the board not to respect Erdoğan because of his stance on Gazza, especially at a time when their own leaders remain silent. But that is where it also ends.

 

People of different backgrounds may share sentiments on the Palestinians, but they also have radically different expectations from life. This is clearly visible from the way melodramatic Turkish soap operas based on Turkish literary classics are lapped up across the Arab world.

 

The important point to note here, however, is that these shows do not reflect Islamic lifestyles. Quite the contrary, they reflect Western lifestyles. They also touch on "taboo" issues such as love, commitment, sex, avarice and lust.

 

No wonder that Islamic clerics across the Islamic world frown on these shows, and in some cases – as in Saudi Arabia and Egypt – have issued fatwas against them.

 

We are also being told that tourism from the Arab world to Turkey is increasing visibly, and many analysts ascribe this to the Turkish soaps. It is a fact that the mansions where these soaps are filmed are on "must-see" lists for Arab tourists.

 

One can safely assume therefore, that these people are not streaming into Turkey out of "mujahideen" sentiments spurred by Prime Minister Erdoğan's outbursts against Israel or his support for Hamas – which is not the favorite of many Arabs anyway.

 

Turkey's "Western orientation" is important for the Arab world for another and much more practical reason too. Today the Middle East represents 20 percent of Turkey's overall trade. This is not a negligible amount of trade, running into billions of dollars.

 

In the meantime there is a continual stream of Arab capital coming into Turkey to sectors ranging from real estate to agribusiness, and from health to telecommunications. This is all happening not because of the government's stand on Israel, but because Ankara has been stabilizing its economy, and making Turkey a country that can be invested in, just like any other Western country.

 

But the increasingly secure infrastructure Turkey is providing investors did not come about overnight. It was Turkey's European Union perspective and International Monetary Fund prescriptions that were the driving forces here, and many a painful hurdle had to be jumped first.

 

One can safely assume, therefore, that a Turkey that has severed or weakened its ties with the West is not to the advantage of Middle Eastern investors either. It is Turkey's ties with the West that is of interest to them.

 

To return to the "cultural interest" in Turkey that Arabs are displaying, it is obvious that much in this country is what they yearn for because they can not attain these things in their own countries due to bad administration. But more than just "bad administration" is involved here.

The average Arab who may have a romantic view of Turkey will also have to learn in time that the things they

 

like in this country did not emerge out of a vacuum overnight either.

 

Much of this is the products of a relatively democratic environment, for which the struggle still goes on, but which in its present form is still a league ahead of what exists in the Middle East. The other important factor is, of course, Turkey's secular system, even if this system requires some "fine tuning" today.

 

The hope is that when this is fully understood Turkey will become a true model for the Arab world where there is a serious deficit in everything from basic democracy to women's rights today. Many Arab intellectuals, including our Palestinian journalist friend, say that these are what people in the Middle East are really yearning for

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

IRAN EXPLOITS TURKEY'S NAÏVETÉ

BARÇIN YİNANÇ

 

An interesting dialogue took place between Iranians and Turks at a roundtable discussion organized last week in Istanbul by the Turkish Asian Strategic Research Center, or TASAM.

 

Murat Bilhan, a retired ambassador, recalled the famous British saying, "Britain does not have eternal friends or foes but it has eternal enemies," to point to the fact that Turkey was not getting much in exchange for its policies to defend Iran, on its nuclear stalemate with the international community. Being religious brothers is not enough to guarantee mutual interests, according to Bilhan, who argued Turkey has acted emotionally, and took a risk by voting in favor of Iran at the United Nations Security Council and did so at the cost of isolating itself from the rest of the international community.

 

Is Iran ready to make similar sacrifices when it comes to the issues where Turkey seeks support, asked Bilhan. "I do not see Iranian support on certain issues, be it the Cyprus issue or the reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey," he said.

 

The answer he got was to avoid looking at the world with the concepts of the West. Mostofa Dolatyar, from the Iranian Foreign Ministry, first recalled the saying of the Prophet Mohammad. "If any Muslim wakes one day and is not concerned with the difficulty of other Muslims, then he is not a Muslim." One does not need to have the same line of thinking as the British, said Dolatyar who continued with a quotation from the Quran: "If you have done something good to others, indeed you have done good to yourself. If you have done something bad to others, indeed you did bad to yourself."

 

He also went on recalling another quotation from the Quran: "If you do just a little bit of piece of good, then you will definitely be awarded, if you do even a little tiny bad, you will see the ramification."

 

Turkish-Iranian relations should not be based on the Western way of looking at the world which is a "zero-sum game," he said.

 

Looking at their policies, however, one feels it is what he called the Western way of thinking that seem to prevail rather than the sayings of Quran.

 

Indeed, Iran looks like the most ideologically driven country in the world. Yet it is interests that shape its foreign policy. Everyone knows that Iran has better relations with Armenia than Azerbaijan. Well, let's face it: Azerbaijan is a secular country, where Islam is not that dominant even in private life. It seems that the high number of Azeris in Iran and the fact that many of them have made it to the upper echelons of the administration is not enough as well for the regime in Tehran to have closer relations with Baku. In fact it seems that the potential of an Azeri awakening pushes Iran toward Yerevan and remains insensitive to the plight of a million Azerbaijani that have been displaced due to the conflict.

 

Actually, be it reconciliation with Armenia or the Cyprus issue, there is not much Iran can contribute.

 

It is in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon that Turkey should expect Iran's contribution as it is a critical player in all four countries.

 

Yet Turkey is extremely unhappy with the Iranian stance on Iraq, for instance.

When it comes to rhetoric, both want a peaceful and stable Iraq and its territorial integrity maintained. Yet they differ on how to achieve that goal. For Turkey, the road to a stable Iraq springs from a government that encompasses all ethnic groups in the country. A formula which will exclude Sunnis is the recipe in the eyes of Ankara for going back to civil war. That's why Ankara hoped that the coalition of Allawi which included Sunnis and Turkmens will come to the government. Yet despite the fact that Allavi got most of the votes, the Shiites that went to the elections divided, decided to unite in order to prevent Allawi coming to the government.

 

For Iran, Shiites make the majority and thus Iraq should be a Shiite country. For Turkey this is exactly this approach that will not work in the multiethnic structure of Iraq.

 

As to bilateral relations, I can not remember the number of memorandums of understanding or protocols signed for energy exploration rights in Iran. These have not been finalized into firm agreements, as Iran is doing everything it can to maximize its interests and puts forward conditions that then makes these contracts less attractive for Turkey.

 

In short, Turkey might be acting in good intentions thinking it is the best way to protect its interests; yet it is being used by Iran on the nuclear stalemate and gets little as far as bilateral and regional cooperation in exchange for its support on Tehran's nuclear policies

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ARE PEOPLE AWARE OF ALL PROBLEMS?

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

 

When asked about economic problems almost everybody on the street is anxious. Some others, which constitute a small minority, say that in spite of the recent crisis macroeconomic figures show that the state of the economy is not so bad. Who to believe?

 

Nowadays domestic or international political troubles cannot divert people's attention from economic problems. After following what has been happening in the remote areas of the country, in courts, the problems with neighboring countries and discussing the results of football matches etc. people's attention focuses at last on money and foreign exchange markets. Even the low or middle income classes follow closely the interest and the foreign exchange rates, whether or not they have some financial investments. The reason is obvious: they know by heart that any surprise fluctuation in the financial markets might have a negative impact on their living conditions.

 

It is not difficult to see why people are anxious. First of all most of them do not understand some economic jargons such as "primary balance," "current account deficit," "gross domestic product," etc. For them money in their pocket is the most important economic item. If there is no hope for a real increase in their living conditions, they don't care about positive developments in macroeconomic figures. This is a normal and logical reaction. On the contrary to what the authorities say, these positive developments in macroeconomic figures have no "positive" impact on the money in pockets.

 

In addition people are fed up with continuous price hikes in basic goods and services, gradual increases in indirect taxes, daily political turmoil and frequent quarrels among politicians. Investors are complaining about bureaucracy, exporters are blaming the foreign exchange policy, political parties are grousing each other, nationalists are against the defenders of the European Community while European Community defenders are labeling nationalists as "dinosaurs." In short, nobody is happy with each other.

 

The result of research undertaken during the most difficult days of the recent crisis shows that only half of the American people believed that the state of the economy was not so bright.(There is no clear information on what the other half thinks, however it is irrational to assume that they were happy about everything.)

 

When asked about the main reasons of their pessimism, nobody mentioned deteriorating macroeconomic figures, but increa