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Friday, July 2, 2010

EDITORIAL 02.07.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month  july 02, edition 000556 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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

































  2. TIME UP













































The latest attack by Maoists, this time at Narayanpur in Chhattisgarh, has come as a grim reminder that Red terror remains undiminished and as fierce as ever. It could be argued that the Maoists, feeling the heat in Jharkhand and West Bengal (and in Odisha to a certain extent) on account of stepped-up counter-insurgency operations, have decided to hit back where they are the strongest: Chhattisgarh, despite sustained efforts to contain, roll back and eliminate Left-wing extremism, appears to be as vulnerable as ever, largely on account of the terrain (which works to the advantage of the insurgents) and the fact that there are far too many obstacles on the path of taking the war to its logical conclusion. What has emboldened the Maoists is the absence of unanimity in the Union Government on how to deal with the menace. The Minister for Home Affairs, Mr P Chidambaram, is no doubt unwavering in his belief that the Maoist insurgency must be crushed with the full force of the state and the Centre must provide all assitance to the Governments of the affected States to achieve this objective. But, as Mr Chidambaram has been honest enough to admit, he has a "limited mandate". Unless there is matching commitment among his Cabinet colleagues, and the Prime Minister shows the courage to ignore those in the Congress who have no stake in the Government but seek to justify or gloss over Maobadi violence by taking recourse to bunkum about poverty and under-development, there is little that can be achieved by way of confronting and overcoming this challenge to the Indian state. It makes little sense for the Prime Minister to repeatedly describe Maoist violence as the "most serious threat to our internal security" and yet do nothing to deal with the threat lest his party bosses are offended. Which brings us to the duplicity of the Congress whose leaders and spokespersons continue to speak with a forked tongue: While Maoist massacres are condemned by the latter, the former slyly insinuate that the problem cannot be solved through security measures. Needless to add, apart from creating confusion in the Government, this has strengthened the Maoists who are now convinced, and for good reason, that come what may, the state shall not unleash its fury on them. Tragically, the Opposition has failed to force the Government to take a position and abandon its ambivalence on Maoist terror; the activism that is required to make the Government act is simply missing. Episodic reactions are not a substitute for sustained pressure on a regime that is loath to act, not least because it is politically bankrupt and lacks the courage to stamp out ideologically-motivated terrorism.

Given this reality, there is little or no percentage in berating the Left-liberal intelligentsia which cheers anti-national forces and whose leading lights craftily use the media to propagate the foul views of terrorists, irrespective of the shade of their ideology which ranges from Islamism's shimmering green to Maoism's blood red. Nor is any purpose served by criticising the judiciary for entertaining frivolous PILs filed by self-proclaimed 'human rights' activists whose sole purpose is to weaken the state and encourage law-breakers as that keeps them in clover. A feckless Government can only inspire corrosive activism in defence of Maoists. Which explains why the National Human Rights Commission has thought it fit to pillory security forces for violating the 'human rights' of Maoists killed during a recent encounter in West Bengal. Nothing could be more shameful.







Toronto has not quite turned out to be Bretton Woods despite the similarities in the reasons for the convening of the two conclaves of world leaders engaged in a common search for a solution to the problems that plague a global economic order teetering on the brink of collapse and chaos. The outcome of the G20 Summit in Toronto has proved to be as much a compromise as was to be realistically expected. After all, nobody really thought that the interests of the European Union, faced with a sovereign debt crisis in Greece and Hungary that has rippled out and threatened the stability of other fragile economies, would be identical to the interests of either the United States or China, or, for that matter, Brazil or India. Yet, it was expected that despite the contradictory pulls, a consensus of sorts would emerge, signalling the birth, so to say, of a new global economic order that would control and contain — as well as lessen the impact of — the collateral damage triggered by the global financial meltdown of 2008. The aftershocks of banks considered to be too big to fail toppling like nine pins, stock markets crashing and once-booming manufacturing industry languishing are still being felt. While we may not witness the return of the Great Depression, we must bear the consequences of excessive greed and unrestricted market economics in the form of tighter restrictions on public spending. Governments around the world are now scrambling to device ways and means of reducing inflation, preventing the system from succumbing to deflation, managing debt, reviving trade, cutting deficit and boosting employment. It's a tall order and the goals infinitely difficult to achieve.

If at all Toronto and Bretton Woods merit comparison, it is the forging of a new order of sorts in which emerging economies and the developing world have a larger role to play. There is a certain piquancy in the fact that the key participants of the newly-constituted Financial Stability Board are China, Brazil and India, because the gate-keepers of the old order have had to acknowledge the rise of the subaltern. That instead of the proposed tax on banks to create an Emergency Crisis Fund to tide over the delinquencies of the old order Government's have chosen to learn from India's experience of operating within a strong regulatory system tells its own story. In brief, if India's voice is being heard over the cacophony of tired voices of those who have brought the global economy to ruination, then a tectonic shift in the global economic order can be presumed to be inevitable if not imminent. Having said that, we must also bear in mind that what seems to be perfect in theory is often proved to be flawed in practice. The old order won't give up without a fight.










The Government will do well to remember two things in the aftermath of Home Minister P Chidambaram's and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's visit to Pakistan. First, the military and not the civilian Government that ultimately calls the shots in that country. Second, the Pakistani military's attitude toward India and not the issue of Kashmir that is the problem. The Pakistani Army's complete domination over the country's civilian Government was clearly demonstrated in the aftermath of 26/11 when its pressure prevented the head of its Directorate-General of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, from visiting India. This was despite the fact that Pakistan's President and Prime Minister had both agreed to it and Lt-Gen Pasha himself was willing.


In her path-breaking book, Military Inc — Inside Pakistan's Military Economy, Ayesha Siddiqa writes, "Today, the military's hegemony in Pakistan is a reality. It is important to note that this hegemony is three-dimensional: The military has penetrated the society, politics and the economy. Also, it has grabbed the intellectual discourse and the imagination of the people through promoting its own people or luring others to conform to a classical realist paradigm in analysing domestic or external issues."

The chances of this hegemony ending soon are dim. Pakistan's civilian Government is weak and President Asif Ali Zardari's reputation has been undermined by corruption charges. His relationship with the country's principal Opposition leader, Mr Nawaz Sharif, is uneasy. A long record of political and family rivalry and mutual persecution, make a rapproachement difficult. Besides, the violent campaign of insurgency and terrorism that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has launched makes the Government almost totally dependent on the Army for survival. It is, therefore unlikely to make any attempt to clip the military's wings in the near future and is bound to fail even if it tries to do so.

Nor is the military likely to give up power on its own. Apart from the fact that power is a heady brew that is highly addictive, the vast business empire that it has built up stands in the way. Ayesha Siddiqa states, "Pakistan's military today runs a huge commercial empire. Although it is not possible to give a definitive value of the military's internal economy because of the lack of transparency, the estimated worth runs into billions of dollars. Moreover the military's two business groups — the Fauji Foundation and the Army Welfare Trust — are the largest business conglomerates in the country. Besides these, there are multiple channels through which the military acquires opportunities to monopolise national resources."

She asks, "Why would Pakistan's armed forces, or for that matter any military that has developed deep economic stakes, transfer real power to the political class?" Hence, India must take into account the Pakistani military's basic posture toward it. In India — A Study in Profile, Lt-Col Javed Hassan, who later became a Lieutenant-General in the Pakistani Army, observed that India was "hostage to centrifugal rather than a centripetal tradition". Stating that it had "a historical inability to exist as a single unified state", he identified three circles of Indian States. The northern and western States represented its 'Hindu core'. The second circle comprised States that had regional pulls but lacked adequate momentum for secessionism. States belonging to the third circle — Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu and the ones in north-eastern India with predominantly tribal population — were completely alienated from the Indian mainstream and could, given some encouragement, become spawning grounds of insurgencies that could, at the most, dismember India and, in the least, weaken its ability to achieve regional dominance for years to come.

Lt-Col Hassan's observations are most significant because his study was prepared for the Pakistani Army's Faculty of Research and Doctrinal Studies and was distributed by that country's Services Book Club. Mr Husain Haqqani, a distinguished Pakistani scholar and diplomat who is currently his country's Ambassador to the United States, cites Lt-Col Hassan's study in Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, and refers in a footnote to the several conversations he had with Lt-Gen Hamid Gul. In these, the latter had referred to an operational plan to encourage the centrifugal forces that existed in India in 1984-87, drawn up when he was the head of ISI between 1987 and 1989.

Mr Haqqani further observes, "Pakistan's two track policy — clandestine operations to weaken India while simultaneously appearing to seek a durable peace — remained in operation throughout the period Gen Zia-ul Haq was in power as well as in the subsequent years. This strategy was determined by Pakistan military's analysis of India's strengths and weaknesses." In his study, Lt-Col Hassan wrote that India had a "poor track record at projection of its power beyond its frontier" and its performance in "protecting its own freedom and sovereignty" was hopeless. This resulted from the weakness of the 'Hindu' character. Lt-Col Hassan writes if one was forced to do it, then the most appropriate, albeit over-simplified summarisation of the key traits of the Hindu would be as "presumptuous, persistent and devious".

This portrayal of the Hindu character tended to justify deviousness in dealing with the latter. Also, as Mr Haqqani states, "The notion of a Hindu character distinct from a Muslim character further emphasised Islam as Pakistan's raison d'etre, and Pakistani military officers were trained to see themselves through the prism of Islamist ideology. Islamist reasoning helps explain the dynamic at work within and between India and Pakistan: Hindu India would fragment because of the historic character weaknesses of Hindus; Islam, however, would protect Pakistan because the Pakistani character was shaped by the religion of its people, not their ethnic and racial origins."

Any expectation that a settlement of the Kashmir issue will launch a new chapter of peace and harmony between India and Pakistan would be illusory. Ms Siddiqa writes, "Military leaders such as Musharraf believe that the end of the Kashmir dispute might not necessarily result in a complete easing of tensions with India, so despite the post-2004 peace overtures with India, there is no fundamental change in the military's thinking regarding the possibility of a friendship with a traditional foe."

New Delhi must be prepared for a prolonged confrontation with Pakistan and substantially enhance its capacity for both conventional and unconventional warfare. This also means that it must not dilute its hold on Jammu & Kashmir.








Why lament over elusive rains? If it is because it portends another dry spell in succession or food crisis in a year that is marred by runaway inflation turning necessities into luxuries, then the delayed monsoon is not the only culprit. Water scarcity, a manmade crisis, is a bigger cause for worry as deficient rains are just worsening a pre-existing problem.

A NASA study last year revealed that the groundwater in northern India was depleting much faster than its natural replenishment. This could result in a subsequent "collapse of agriculture output and severe shortage of potable water". It is the same message that Indian environmentalists are trying to bring home. Ms Vandana Shiva, founder-director of Navdanya, and former Secretary to the Ministry of Water Resources Ramaswamy Iyer, along with others stressed upon — 'Save water, save life on earth' — at a conference on 'Water and Climate Change' recently.

What can be said about a State where 103 out of 141 development blocks have been declared 'over-exploited' and 12 'parched' by the Central Groundwater Board? Punjab, the food bowl of India, is fast drying up with an annual groundwater decline of 50 to 100 cm. This is mainly due to a heavy use of tubewells, as their number has risen from 1.2 lakh in 1970s to 12.32 lakh in 2009.

Against this background, Ms Shiva's concern about water disappearing from its sources like streams, springs etc., is not misplaced. It's time to phase out water-intensive crops in order to meet the challenge of deficient rains. She is for the use of water-prudent crops like salt-tolerant or drought-tolerant rice instead of paddy.

Unbridled deforestation is another factor contributing to water crises, as it causes enormous loss of soil which is a biggest carbon sink and retains water that helps mitigate the effect of climate change. Therefore, the pressure of growing population on finite natural resources is the core problem as per Mr Iyer's analysis. A fair distribution of water and good management like striking a balance between places with a supply of 40-50 liter/capita/day and those with 400-500 liter/capita/day may provide some succour.

A paradigm shift towards water conservation can successfully check our carbon footprint and help solve water crisis.







In an interview to ABC TV channel's This Week programme on June 27, Mr Leon Panetta, director of the US's Central Intelligence Agency, stated as follows: "Osama bin Laden remains in very deep hiding but consistent pressure will flush him out. While hard data on him has been slight since the 2001 attacks, the CIA and US forces have killed or captured at least half the leadership of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We took down the no three in their leadership (Mustafa Abu al-Yazid) a few weeks ago. Al Qaeda's depleted numbers had shrunk dramatically. The pressure is definitely on bin Laden and Al Qaeda no two Ayman al-Zawahiri. I think at most, we're looking at maybe 50 to 100 (Al Qaeda members), maybe less. If we keep that pressure on, we think ultimately we can flush out bin Laden and Zawahiri."

"President Barack Obama has made going after Al Qaeda the fundamental purpose of the Afghan military mission. We've got to disrupt and dismantle Al Qaeda and their militant allies so they never attack this country again. Osama remains in very deep hiding in a tribal area in Pakistan. The terrain is probably the most difficult in the world. It has been years since the US has had good intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama, although he is thought to be in Pakistan," Mr Panetta added.

It has been nine years since the US intelligence agencies and military forces in the AfPak area started their hunt for Osama after he reportedly escaped into Pakistan's tribal areas through the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan. They have had no success save a report in January 2006 of missing al-Zawahiri in an aerial strike in Bajaur agency. Neither periodically enhanced cash reward offers nor stepped-up attacks by drones of the CIA have helped make any headway. The drone strikes — helped by improved human and technical intelligence — have been increasingly successful against leaders and cadres of the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement and Punjabi Taliban organisations. There have been some hits against other leaders of Al Qaeda but none against Osama.

The drone strikes have been largely confined to North and South Waziristan and occasionally the Bajaur agency. If Osama is in one of these agencies, he is most likely to be hit one of these days if the US keeps up its drone strikes. The Al Qaeda and its allies do not have a wide choice of hideouts. The fact that there has not even been speculation of Osama being anywhere near these areas gives rise to questions. Other likely tribal hideouts are Chitral in Pakistan and Nuristan in Afghanistan.

Announcements of huge cash rewards for information leading to his capture or death have been widely disseminated all over the tribal areas in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan and in its Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa province (formerly known as the North West Frontier Province). The absence of any leads from the Pashtun areas could be attributed to their loyalty to Osama. But not all like him. The Shias among the Pashtuns, particularly in the Kurram Agency of the FATA and parts of Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa, and the Pashtun members of the Awami National Party have no interest in protecting him.

The fact that neither reward-seekers nor drones have been able to get any inkling of the whereabouts of Osama once again brings to the fore the question: Is he really hiding in the tribal areas as assessed by the CIA or is he hiding in the non-tribal areas with the help of Pashtun migrants? The drones cannot reach him in the non-tribal areas. There will be many non-tribals interested in the cash rewards, but they may not have access to information about him. It is easier to get information in sparsely-populated tribal areas than in densely-populated non-tribal areas. In the past, some top-guns of Al Qaeda — Abu Zubaidah in Faislabad in Punjab, Ramzi Binalshibh in Karachi and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in Rawalpindi — were found hiding in the non-tribal areas. Many Afghan Taliban leaders were found hiding in Karachi and not in Balochistan as once assumed.

It is, therefore, important to extend the hunt to the non-tribal areas. Karachi, which has more Pashtuns than even Peshawar, needs attention. So too do Quetta in Balochistan, which has a large Afghan refugee population, and the strongholds of the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Jaish-e-Mohammad in Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan. The question of drone strikes in the non-tribal areas does not arise. The CIA cannot expect the Pakistani intelligence and police to co-operate in the search in non-tribal areas. The CIA has to organise its own search operations with the help of anti-Al Qaeda groups such as the mohajirs in Karachi, the Balochs in Quetta and the anti-LEJ Shias in Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan.

-- The writer is retired Additional Secretary, Government of India, director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies








Concerted pressure by human rights advocates and a critical media may have compelled the Congress-led UPA Government to make public pronouncements on reopening the Bhopal gas tragedy cases; seeking the aged Warren Anderson's extradition; and giving more money to victims of the December 1984 gas leak from the Union Carbide pesticides plant. But not everyone seems pleased with such posturing. Jurist Fali S Nariman declared in a television interview that the Government would be unlikely to reopen cases relating to the settlement and dilution of charges against the accused. His view comes across as an advocacy of the interests of Union Carbide, later taken over by Dow Chemicals, given the phrasing: "… a settlement is a settlement, and unless there is some fraud involved, it's never reopened".

The fact that Anderson was allowed to escape by the Congress Governments in Madhya Pradesh and at the Centre, prior to the Supreme Court diluting charges against the accused and brokering a pathetically inadequate settlement, might amount to 'fraud' in the eyes of beholders. Before that, another jurist, the late Nani Palkhivala, ensured that justice would not be done by filing an affidavit on behalf of the corporation in New York's Southern District Court, dated December 18, 1985, certifying that the Indian judicial system could "fairly and satisfactorily handle the Bhopal litigation". The outcome is there for people to see. It would appear to an impartial observer that elected representatives and jurists did their bit to engineer a reprieve for international big business at the cost of their own people.

Fortunately for us, dissent is permitted in India, as a robust democracy, barring a brief dark period, 1975-1977, when the Congress regime tried to crush opposition and criticism. However, in recent years, the increasing tendency by our policy-makers to toe the line of global business corporations and investment banks, especially with regard to liabilities and civil rights, fuels suspicions that the current populism, in respect of the Bhopal tragedy, may never translate into action. At best, victims may be sought to be pacified by some more meagre compensation, while issues concerning safety, security, ecology and traditional lifestyles continue to be eroded by big predatory business. The Government's forceful advocacy of "economic reforms", as greater and greater privatisation and liberalisation without accountability or protection for workers, and others, affected by this process, ensures the recurrence of industrial disasters and frauds.

In a scathing critique of the unseen oligarchy that today shapes and standardises economic policies in sovereign nations as part of the orchestrated move towards corporatisation, journalist Daniel Estulin states: "They will use the suffering of every nation and exploit its wealth to protect their privileged way of life". The example of Bhopal bears testimony to the truth of this assertion.

On their part, lobbyists for big business — transnational corporations, to be precise — have issued a veiled warning that the assurance of reopening the Bhopal cases would affect foreign investment in India. A typical response, that seems to attempt influence domestic policy-making, has emanated from Mr Ron Somers, president of US-India Business Council in Washington: Commenting on the demand to reopen the Bhopal settlement, he states: "The current demand over re-opening of a 21-year-old settlement agreement completed earlier by India as a sovereign nation under the aegis of the highest court in the land … is certain to create unease among those considering investment in the country, who count on India's public pronunciations as to her commitment to 'rule of law'. The rule of law in India did, after all, settle this case 21 years ago. With India's newly articulated call for foreign direct investment to the magnitude of $1.7 trillion for infrastructure development in the country, it is imperative that India continue to cultivate a positive investment climate."

The kind of investment climate sought by trans-national investors is clearly one not subject to accountability and the penal laws of the land. However, the Bhopal disaster and another counter-productive global business initiative, the notorious Dabhol power generation fiasco in Maharashtra, can only engender distrust of such a statement. Both are seen to have been scams on a mammoth scale. There is no guarantee that such fraud will not recur if investment safeguards and penal laws are not applied to global corporations and even Indian companies in order to monitor their functioning and make them accountable. For, someone has to pay in the event of default and disaster. And that has to be the perpetrator, and not the victims.








With Ms Nikki Haley advancing to a Republican Party runoff in South Carolina's gubernatorial race last week, the spotlight is on the rise of Indian origin politician in the United States. If she wins the general election in November, Ms Haley will be the first woman and first person from a racial minority elected Governor of South Carolina. The 38-year-old is poised to become the second Indian American after Louisiana's Mr Bobby Jindal (39) to become a Governor of a US State. Her political success is ascribed to her fight in pushing for smaller, more efficient Governments, and she led the fight for the accountability and transparency sorely lacking in the legislature.

Ms Haley represents the growing political aspirations of the Indian American community. A record number of Indian Americans are running for Congress this year. In recent times, they have been elected to the State legislatures in Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Wyoming. The list is growing as besides Ms Haley, six Indian Americans are running for political office this year. Mr Surya Yalamanchili in Ohio and Mr Manan Trivedi in Pennsylvania have received Democratic nomination for their Congressional districts, while Mr Raj Goyle in Kansas, Mr Ami Bera in California, Mr Ravi Sangisetty in Louisiana and Ms Reshma Saujani in New York — all Democrats — are waiting to go through the primary process.

Ms Haley's rise in politics is dramatic. She was first elected to represent the 87th District in Lexington County of South Carolina in 2004 and came back in 2008 with 83 per cent of the vote — the highest percentage ever. Named Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, the daughter of an Indian immigrant family from Punjab, she was born in Bamberg in South Carolina. Her father Mr Ajit Randhawa, was a biology professor at a local college. She is married to Mr Michael Haley, a federal employee with the US Department of the Army and an officer of South Carolina Army National Guard.

Ms Haley is in the spotlight for two reasons — a growing number of Republican women are contesting elections this year and due to her Indian origin. She also represents the Indian community gradually switching support to the Republicans in contrast to their 100 per cent support to the Democrats in the 70s and 80s.

The clout of the Indian Americans was evident when the US President Barack Obama hosted his first state dinner for visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year. Almost one-third of the invitees were successful Indian Americans. Mr Obama has appointed 20 Indian-Americans to his administration, an all-time high. He was also the first US President to celebrate Diwali in White House.

What is the reason for the growing clout of Indian-origin Americans? First of all it is their growing presence and influence. The incredible success of over three million Indian Americans was sharply reflected in their topping US Census charts again as the best-educated, highest-paid and top-placed community among America's 38.1 million foreign-born immigrants, recently. They are the fourth largest immigrant group in the US after Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans, and Filipino Americans. Each of the States of Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Minnesota, South Carolina and Maryland has sent an Indian-American to its State legislature. Four Indians — Mr Bharat Desai, Mr Kavitark Ram Shriram, Mr Romesh Wadhwani and Mr Vinod Khosla — are in America's billionaire group rubbing shoulders with the Microsoft patron Mr Bill Gates and other rich Americans.

Secondly, they have learnt to mobilise themselves in the past two decades. Wikipedia lists 40 Indian Americans in US politics today. Agencies like the US India Political Action Committee, a bipartisan group based in the Washington has played a significant role in recent years in encouraging them to run for local, state, and federal offices.

Thirdly, financial contributions made by the Indian community to politicians have risen steadily in the past two decades. Correspondingly, the community's desire to see Indian American representation in the US Congress has intensified.

Fourthly, while the first generation Indian Americans who came to the US in the sixties tried to preserve their religious and cultural heritage, the second generation tried to adopt a mix of Indian as well as American cultures. Many Indian Americans have brought name and fame to the US. Scientists Har Gobind Khorana, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan have won Nobels. There are prominent Indians in academics like Mr Jagdish Bhagwati and Mr Avinash Dixit. In business Ms Indra Nooyi, Mr Amar Bose and Mr Vinod Khosla are prominent Indian Americans.

Finally, growing ties between the two countries, economies and Governments have helped sustain and accelerate India's rise. Most of these politicians are born and brought up in the US and blend well with the locals. With the name of Mr Jindal figuring as a possible vice-presidential candidate by Republicans, it may not be too long before a person of Indian origin occupies the high office.








Clearly, the latest G20 summit that just concluded in Toronto has been one of the biggest and certainly the most expensive summits of its rank till date. Canada had hosted the 1981 (then known as the G7) summit at Chateau Montebello at a total cost of $5.5 million. This one has run up a bill of approximately $1.2 billion! This is merely the organisational expenses and does not cover the cost of travel of the leaders and their entourage. The Canadian media and, from what one can make out, much of the public opinion there is outraged at this kind of expenditure for 'creating global financial stability'. Benefits if any have yet to become evident.

The predictable concluding calls have been made: 'Balance must be struck between stimulus and deficit'; US President Barack Obama feels "allow the yuan to rise" and more. No sooner has this clarion call been given that the managing director of International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn has got into the public domain to say, "The revaluation of the yuan will not happen quickly." Irrespective of the statements, as usual, international finance struck its own course and on Wednesday, Shanghai shares slid over four per cent as investors sold existing stocks to make room for Agricultural Bank of China's initial public offerings. Potentially, this is the world's biggest IPO till date.

Whether the yuan moves to the centrestage of the world currency system or not, and notwithstanding what the G20 has to say, the Chinese economy has moved to the centre of the world stage.

Notwithstanding the above and its collateral implications, G20 has yet to say something extraordinarily seminal on the four major themes it had set for itself: Sustainable balanced growth, financial sector reform, free trade, reducing global imbalances and reform of international financial institutions.

That many Indians live in multiple worlds of several centuries rolled concurrently into a parallel existence ranging from medieval times to current ones to futuristic ones is reasonably well recognised. What is perhaps not equally clear on the map is the ability of the Indian governance system to look at 'caste' as an 'economic' category in one breath and try to play emerging superpower in the next. As compared to this, China has managed its contradictions in a breezingly consistent manner: It announced renewed yuan flexibility this. This announcement was an attempt to deflect G20 criticism over its economic policies and global imbalances. Clearly, China has an interest to prevent protectionism and enhance trade liberalisation. It will also benefit from changes to IMF governances and has expressed its opposition to a bank tax, as back up measure for a future possible need of stimulus.

Perhaps this kind of a situation is inherent in an informal phenomenon now known as G20, beginning modestly in 1973 when Mr George Schultz, the US secretary of the treasury invited the finance ministers of France, the UK and Germany to dinner to discuss international monitory conditions. It went well and consequently invited greater participation. Japan joined the club: G5 was born. When Italy joined it became G6. US President Gerald Ford to prevent European domination of the club brought in Canada in 1976 making it G7.

It is not as if the experiment was largely in the domain of platitudes from the beginning. Action on oil prices in 1979, Plaza Accord in 1985 and the joint statement on Kosovo in 1999 were feasible and effective because the group was small and operating as an open markets protagonist.

Things began to change when a reincarnated Russia joined the G7 to make it G8. With that happening China could not be far away. Soon Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, South Africa, India and Brazil joined. G20 was full throttle ahead.

A miniature world forum was in action outside the framework of the Brentenwood architecture and yet its growing numbers without an agreed mandate of incorporation began to diminish its operational effectiveness. Typically, for instance, Spain is still not a member. The heads of World Bank, IMF, European Central Bank attend. The list of invitees gets larger each time: A classical case of management of diversity. Wisdom would dictate, to say no more.

G20 is set to roll. Its effectiveness in the present day fiscal and economic environment remains to be sharpened. For the sake of a stable world financial order one can only wish it greater political will and an effectiveness ranging beyond what it has been able to muster.








THE UNION home minister's assertion that the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba is behind the latest violence in Kashmir must not be dismissed.

Though the LeT's support base in the Valley is limited, it could have played a role in radicalising certain elements, particularly in Sopore.


Of late, the LeT has been trying to revive the insurgency in Kashmir and the renewed violence is strategically beneficial to it in many ways. It sabotages the possibility of any dialogue in the near future between the separatists and the Indian Union. It also helps the Punjabi dominated LeT to gain legitimacy in the Valley, which it has always lacked in comparison to the more indigenous Hizbul- Mujahideen.


Within Pakistan, the LeT and its frontal organisation the Jamaat- ud- Dawa can use the tension in Kashmir to turn public opinion in their favour at a time when not just India but even elements within Pakistani society and media had criticised the Pakistani establishment for being soft on the organisation.


However, irrespective of the LeT's possible involvement, the Union and state governments are to blame for mishandling the situation.


By failing to engage the separatists in any meaningful dialogue, the Centre has pushed them to take a more combative position.


The spate of killings by the security forces has given hardline anti- India elements like Syed Ali Shah Geelani a new lease of life.


Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's handling of the situation has been equally disappointing.


The situation in Kashmir a few months back-— with the insurgency under control and the separatists marginalised — was ideal for the government to move forward on the vexed issue. By squandering that opportunity and failing to contain the present crisis, the centre and state governments have only helped anti- nationals.



TO BRING extremely personal issues such as marital discord and domestic disharmony out in the public domain could possibly be the last thing on any person's mind, least of all the three Muslim women from Lucknow who thrashed clerics in public for allowing their husbands to divorce them without their knowledge in exchange for money. But sometimes it can't be helped.


The issue of divorce in the Muslim community is a vexed one, and while there are legal and religious debates about the topic, it is criminal to obtain a divorce without the knowledge of the legally wedded partner.


Whether the three women should have resorted to violence to get their point across can be debated. However, the moot point is not the violence; it is their courage to stand up to paid- for injustice.


These women could possibly be only a few of the vast majority of women in Lucknow and elsewhere where divorces are granted on the basis of pecuniary favours rather than on the grounds of incompatibility or any other legally valid reason.


It is for this vast majority that the three women should be seen as speaking up. Perhaps, with their determination they could inspire a movement where women of the minority community learn to fight their own battles.



MAIL TODAY'S report about youngsters resorting to cosmetic surgery ahead of their first day in Delhi University, is a cause for alarm. Youngsters unhappy with their appearance are going under the knife to make the right impression when they join college.


That the young can be so fixated on their appearance is a comment on the undue premium that our society places on looks, as against deeper human characteristics.


The primary blame for this lies on celebrities who take recourse to unhealthy ways in order to flaunt perfect faces and bodies, with youngsters who see them as role models being tempted to imitate them. But also at fault are many guardians whose attitude towards girls suggests that how well you look is the most important thing in the world.


It is one thing to be in shape with the help of regular exercise but quite another to want to alter nature's scheme of things. There is also the issue here of such youngsters neglecting the purpose for which they join college: their studies.







ALMOST two years after three blasts rocked three different states in the country, two of the cases remain unsolved. Only last week, the National Investigation Agency took over one of them. The common factor in all three attacks was the target: a Muslim neighbourhood.


History is only for scholars, the rest of us are brought up on folklores of the imagined past — of communities and even nations. All the country's enemies or terrorists till now, in the chronological order of the insurgencies, have been Naga Christians, Khalistani Sikhs and Kashmiri Muslims. Now, of course, anyone with a Muslim name from Azamgarh or Kozhikode could be a terrorist. And, aimless bloodshed, mindless violence and targeted murders are all synonymous with radical Islam.


Meanwhile the mastermind of the first big terrorist attack in independent India, which killed the Father of the Nation, was honoured by an all party parliamentary committee. VD Savarkar's portrait now mocks at Gandhi in Parliament's Central Hall. Well, it is just a matter of detail that the Hindutva icon was let off only on technical grounds by the trial court and that a later commission of enquiry held him guilty of conspiring with Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte to kill the Mahatma.




To cut to the chase, there seem to be two distinctly different yardsticks to investigate crimes by Islamist terrorists and Hindutva terrorists. The handbook of Indian investigators has only one set of suspects for bombings in mosques and Hindu neighbourhoods: hotheaded Muslim youth.


Hundreds of young Muslims from the ghettoes of the old city were rounded up when Hyderabad's famed Mecca Masjid was bombed in May 2007. Their mothers had to hold candlelight vigils for the police to even admit that these youngsters were in their custody. Soon, some of them were let off and some others were officially arrested. The great Indian investigative tool, endless inhuman torture, could not solve the case.


Now, the Central Bureau of Investigation finds that the Mecca Masjid was bombed by the same people who had triggered the Ajmer blasts. At that time, names like Huji, HuM, LeT and JeM were bandied about by the Rajasthan police, only for the CBI to later discover that the Ajmer blast was orchestrated by Hindutva terrorists.


This amply demonstrated the communal bias of the police forces in various states. Just as an Islamist group could be suspected for attacking a Hindu religious congregation or a market place, there is reason to look for Hindutva leads into an attack on a Muslim neighbourhood or place of worship. But this logic seems to beat the Indian police.


Of the three bombs that went off in September 2008, the first attack was on Delhi's Mehrauli locality on September 13. Even if the Delhi police claim that the target was not specifically a Muslim locality, the fact remains that the blast occurred very close to a mosque and that the other two attacks in Malegaon and Modasa, a fortnight later involving similar low intensity crude bombs, were clearly targeted at Muslim localities.


Despite Hemant Karkare, the brilliant investigator who unraveled the Hindutva terror network, cracking the Malegaon case in a matter of weeks, the Delhi police or the Gujarat police did not even seek the custody of the Hindutva terrorists.


The Modasa blast in Gujarat occurred on the same day as Malegaon, yet the many glaring similarities did not prompt the Gujarat government or the police to at least question the Malegaon accused.


Worse, Delhi police, answerable to the Congress government at the Centre, still do not want to talk to Pragya Thakur, Lt Colonel Purohit and the rest. In fact, a couple of years before the Mehrauli bombing, the country's biggest and most magnificent mosque, the Jama Masjid, was targeted. The case remains forgotten and the Delhi police have still not considered the possibility that Hindutva terrorists could be behind it.




Though Karkare had laid bare the Hindutva terror network restoring the Indian state's credibility to a certain extent, his martyrdom during the Mumbai attack has caused irreparable damage to the investigation and the trial. The prosecution has ' forgotten' to charge the accused with stricter provisions of the IPC like sedition and waging war against the country. While suspected Maoists are routinely charged under these sections, the prosecution's lapse in the case of a group of people who sought to overthrow the Indian Constitution with the help of foreign forces betrays the Indian state's communal bias.


It was indeed a relief to see the CBI finally joining the dots and carrying Karkare's investigation forward and arresting Lokesh Sharma and Devender Gupta for the Ajmer blast. All it required all this while was a thorough investigation into the activities of the accomplices and contacts of the Malegaon accused, but BJP- ruled states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and till recently Rajasthan refused to play ball.


After many years, what was suspected is being established — that the tentacles of the Malegaon accused are spread across the country and that they are responsible for a series of attacks including the Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts.


What suffered while Muslim men were arrested and beaten up for these very crimes without any solid evidence of their involvement was the Indian police's credibility. But the police don't seem to bother.


Maloy Krishna Dhar, the former joint director of the Intelligence Bureau in his book, Open Secrets claims that the curricula at the IB's training centre " had a distinct pro- Hindu bias." Dhar an RSS activist in his youth, scarred by privations of the Partition, notes in his book that, " A little later in my career I was surprised by the similarity of perception prevailing in the IB and the RSS." For sure, IB cannot be compared with other police forces as it is not governed by a state government.


But the men and officers are chosen from the same pool. It is shocking that the nation's internal security apparatus appointed a person like Dhar who professed the Hindutva ideology.


That too, when people with political affiliations like Communists were completely barred from entering even the central civil services.




The Constitution gives the monopoly of violence to the country's armed forces and law enforcing agencies to ensure that it is upheld. But the law enforcing agencies appear to be soft on one section of terrorists who want to bring down the Constitution just as the other section of terrorists who are rightly punished seek to do.


Every arm of the state has its own logic; unfortunately the Indian police have retained a lot of colonial traits, which are often at variance with the people and the Constitution. The enemies of the people and the Constitution ought to be the enemies of the police. Any deviation from this basic principle, as manifested in the handling of riot cases and terror cases, ought to be addressed by the political leadership. Disciplinary action against all those officers who tried to link innocents to terror cases would be a good beginning to restore the Indian state's credibility.


rajesh. ramachandran @ mailtoday. in









IT'S OFFICIAL: the road to Kabul will likely run via Islamabad. But it will still be a rough ride. Welcoming Pakistan's latest efforts to promote a political settlement in Afghanistan as " useful" and " open", President Obama has wisely added a dose of skepticism.


Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, and head of Interservices Intelligence Directorate ( ISI), General Shuja Pasha, have been flitting in and out of Kabul recently, desperately trying to broker a deal between Hamid Karzai, the beleaguered Afghan President, and the Haqqani Taliban network that straddles the Afghan border with Pakistan's north Waziristan tribal region and continues to take a heavy toll on NATO. This road map was laid out discreetly by General Kayani over eighteen months ago. It had three inter- related elements.


First, despite the need for peace between India and Pakistan, Pakistan's national security doctrine requires it to weigh New Delhi's expanding military capability and regional influence in Afghanistan rather than its professed peaceable intentions because " intentions could change at any time". Therefore India remains a constant threat.


Second, as a corollary, Pakistan needs a " stable, peaceful and friendly" Afghanistan, not " neutral" but " friendly" because India, which is seen as destablising Pakistan's Baluchistan province and towards whom the Karzai regime is heavily tilted, cannot be allowed to establish a hegemonic foothold in Kabul. In the past, secular- communist or pro- India regimes in Kabul like Karzai's have refused to accept the Durand Line as the international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and coveted Pakistan's Pashtun areas. Under the circumstances, Islamabad seeks to establish guarantees that the Pashtuns of Afghanistan will look to Kabul for their nation- hood and the Pashtuns of Pakistan, who number more than those of Afghanistan, will not be distracted from looking to Islamabad for theirs. Therefore Pakistan requires " soft strategic depth" in Afghanistan".


THIRD, under President Obama, it was only a matter of time before public opinion in America would swing against the war in Afghanistan and compel a rethink.


That would be the time to put forward Pakistan's take on the situation to protect Pakistan's interests, enable Karzai to remain in power by sharing it and give America an honourable exit in the time to come.


This analysis was given a fillip in due course by two critical developments: President Obama's mid- term review signalled a deadline for troop withdrawal at the end of 2011 without committing a commensurate number of troops for its success; and the Pakistan Taliban's relentless attacks on the Pakistan army in Swat and adjoining tribal areas of the north- west compelled it to wage war against them instead of offering placatory " peace deals" as in the past. It was now a matter of life and death for Pakistan to break the nexus between Al- Qaeda and the Taliban by attacking and decimating the Pakistani Taliban inside Pakistan, while encouraging the Afghan Taliban to inch towards a settlement with Karzai by ditching Al- Qaeda.


Last February, General David Petraeus, head of Centcom, and the man now in charge of Afghanistan, signalled a new dose of " realism" in Af- Pak policy when he acknowledged Pakistan's " constructive involvement in reaching out to the Afghan Taliban to encourage reconciliation on the basis of its past ties to the militants". There were two dynamic elements of this view. First, by making a distinction between good and moderate Taliban ( those who want to negotiate) and bad and extremist Taliban ( those who are bent upon fighting), it repudiated the earlier American view that the only good Talib was a dead Talib. Second, General Petraeus admitted that the prospects for reconciliation among senior Afghan leaders were slight because NATO and ISAF were, despite the 30,000 troop surge, still thin on the ground to guarantee security for those Taliban leaders who wanted to come in from the cold.


More critically, General Petraeus played down the possibility of any new, large scale Pakistani military offensive against these insurgents ( like the Haqqani group) because the Pakistan army was already stretched trying to consolidate gains from fighting the Pakistani Taliban in Swat and South Waziristan.


He chided critics for not appreciating the Pakistani military's efforts — 140,000 troops on the ground in the tribal areas ( significantly more than the 100,000 troops committed by 43 countries in Afghanistan), over 2300 soldiers killed and two million internally displaced persons ( most of whom have now returned home, thanks to successful rehabilitation programs).


He advised against " poking more short sticks into hornets' nests". This was a new language compared to the earlier US position that insisted Pakistan should " do more" to flush out all Taliban from " safe havens" in North Waziristan and eliminate them.


The dramatic change in the Pentagon's position is owed to two main factors: first, the palpable failure of NATO/ ISAF to achieve short or long term goals in Afghanistan in eight years, and the open admission of a

rapidly failing war effort on the ground this year; second, the precise articulation of a " do- able" strategic policy at this critical stage from General.


Kayani This was spelt out explicitly in his brief at the NATO moot in Brussels last January.


GENERAL Kayani thinks that NATO's goal of raising an Afghan army of 140,000 cannot be achieved in less than 4 years. Nor can militias be raised without changing the deep- rooted perception that the Taliban are winning the long- term war. The centre of gravity in Afghanistan must be a " national" government which is both effective and credible. This must reconcile the short and long term interests of Pakistan and the international community in the region. Afghanistan is Pakistan's past, present and future. Pakistan must be part of its solution.


In short, if a Talibanised- Al Qaeda Afghanistan is not in the US or Pakistan's interest, nothing less than a " friendly" Afghanistan will secure Islamabad. This raises the formidable question of how then to resolve the interests of the other big regional players like Russia, Iran, China and India.


Can Pakistan deliver? The clock is ticking for both Generals Kayani and Petraeus. The former is scheduled to retire in October. The latter has to urgently contend with President Obama's skepticism of pure military solutions and the American public's rising disquiet with the war in Afghanistan.




FINALLY, Zardari is about to be shown the door, thanks to courageous people like me. This onerous duty fell on my shoulders because of the deeds that I do and the dude that I am. The generals have chosen me, out of a long list of has- beens, to reinvent Pakistan as a wheel that goes round and round in circles. Being the spinner that I am, they know I can play a world class game and sound righteous without being right.


They've also told me that I can choose my own cabinet.

I can name my nominees for minister for overseas Pakistanis, transport, housing and party affairs.


As for all other portfolios, the generals say they'll let me know who my choices for those are going to be. I think my Minister for Overseas Pakistanis will be my former brother- in- law Zac Goldsmith. This is because he's Overseas. My Minister for Transport is going to be Gul Khan, my former chauffeur from Mianwali. My Minister for Party Affairs is going to be the Bombay socialite Prameshwar Godrej. Jemima will be Minister for Housing because she's constantly buying and doing up houses in Knightsbridge and Chelsea and she also houses my sons.


The generals have told me not to go off to the Costa del Sol because anything might happen any day. And whenever I go away the Pakistani media gets miffed with me. Because I don't waste my hard- earned money on long distance phone calls. They think nobody pays their bills in London just like in Pakistan and that everyone has a lineman in their pockets.


And I also told the press that in case they want to consult me while I'm away, they'll have to speak in code. Kayani should be called " Tom". Zardari should be called " Jerry". This is because they're playing cat and mouse. I also told them that Asma Jehangir, Fauzia Wahab, Ann Patterson, Hillary Clinton and Nawaz Sharif should all be referred to as " Women". Altaf Hussain is " A" and not for the obvious which is " Adolf" but A for Altaf. Gilani, Asfandyar, Maulana and Shahbaz should all be called " HBs" for Has Beens. And if any of my former girl friends should turn up, they should be referred to as " LOs" for Left Overs.


The generals are saying every time there's a thing on in Pakistan, I'm not there. That's not true. When I was speaking in Gujranwala, I was in Pakistan. When I was on telly in Lahore, I was in Pakistan. When I went to Yusuf's party at the Haveli, I was in Pakistan. The generals also say that I should avoid praising the Taliban, and how they force women to wear burqas. I don't see why. The Taliban are very nice and burqas are a lovely piece of clothing, especially for their bodies. I also like the Taliban because they're ghairatmand — they make sure their women are in shuttlecocks, instead of behaving like the Sudanese who go around whining to the BBC about how hungry they are and walking around with all their clothes off. When I said this to the generals they held their head in their hands and said please just talk about Roti, Kapra and Makaan. Are you mad, I said, that's a B- grade Bollywood film!


Im the Dim






THE World Cup seems to have come at a most inopportune time for UPA's ace trouble shooter and finance minister Mukherjee.


A lover of football, the much- hassled Pranab Mukherjee, heading a string of group of ministers ( GoMs), has missed many matches. So he has decided to find some time at midnight to watch the good games.


A few days ago, he was asking his aides about the World Cup schedule.


When told that Spain was taking on Portugal at 12 midnight, Mukherjee asked them which channel was telecasting the match.


" I will somehow find time and watch it. Football is the only game I understand," the minister told the officials with a child's glee.



JAMMU and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah seems to have put the Congress in a fix.


The party is reportedly miffed with him for not handling the sensitive state which had returned to near normalcy, with seriousness.


Even as the Valley has been frequently rocked by violence, Abdullah junior, observers say, prefers attending social functions and visiting Delhi at the drop of a hat. At the same time, the party and the government do not want to antagonise Omar.


A section in the Congress feels that Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was earlier the chief minister, should be sent to the state as the PCC chief to take care of the political interests of the Congress. But the proactive Azad may queer the pitch for Omar.


A worried PCC chief Saifuddin Soz, meanwhile, flew down to Delhi and briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, defence minister A. K. Antony and home minister P. Chidambaram on the volatile situation in the state.



CONGRESS'S aam admi face Mani Shankar Aiyar has got a supporter in Janata Dal ( United)' s Sharad Yadav.


The JDU leader has joined the anti- Commonwealth Games bandwagon, saying that the mega sports event ( costing Rs 50,000 crore) is a waste of money and could involve scams. " What Mani Shankar said is totally correct. I support him fully on this. I disapprove of the way money is being wasted on Commonwealth Games," Yadav, who is also the NDA convenor, said.


Aiyar had, a few days ago, said when he was sports minister till 2008, he had told the Centre not to go for the Commonwealth Games as it was an " enormous waste of money". Aiyar said the poor would not have access to what will be India's biggest sporting event.


Top of Form



Psychologists differ on many aspects but are united in their belief that the killer is probably a loner and had a disturbed childhood, growing up in a dysfunctional family. The police also say that he may be suffering from some sexual abnormality, which may have spurred him on to rape minor girls to prove his " manliness"



The Mumbai police arrested Javed Rehman as his DNA matched the skin samples found under the nails of one of victims, Nusrat Sheikh.


But his DNA did not match the samples found from the other two bodies Javed Rehman is from Nehru Nagar, the same neighbourhood, and has studied till Class X. He used to lay internet cables and also collected cable bills and cheques, Mumbai Police commissioner Sanjeev Dayal said




FEBRUARY 9 Five- year- old Sania Sikander Khan is kidnapped from Kurla's Vatsala Tai Nagar, raped and killed.


Her body is stuffed in a gunny bag and dumped in a drain


MARCH 7 Anita Jaiswal, 9, goes missing near her Kurla home. The child is murdered after being raped. Her body is found the next day on the terrace of a Nehru Nagar building JUNE 19 The decomposing body of nine- year- old Nusrat Sheikh is recovered from a shanty in Vatsala Tai Nagar, naked except for a nylon thread tied around her left leg





A GROUP of Ministers ( GoM) discussed the caste census issue with the Registrar- General of India on Thursday. However, they failed to reach a consensus on the politically- sensitive issue.


The ministers on Thursday accepted a presentation by C. Chandramouli, the registrar- general and census commissioner of India, and P. G. Dhar Chakraborty who heads a sub- group of the National Commission on Population.


The two officials reportedly briefed the GoM about the issues on enumeration of the Other Backward Classes ( OBCs). They analysed the problems faced by enumerators in conducting such an exercise. The Phase- I of the exercise is already underway and the enumerators have not been trained to ask the right question, nor have the OBC listS of the states been included.


Some GoM members were of the view that there was no point in conducting an incomplete exercise. Several anomalies even existed because of lack of training of the enumerators in the 1931 census as well, they pointed out.


The GoM members insisted they had not reached any conclusion on the issue so far. " We have agreed to meet again very soon," human resource development minister Kapil Sibal said.








As was expected, the World Cup has picked up pace with the tournament entering the knockout stage. Goals are being scored more freely as teams are put in do-or-die situations. The eight teams that have made it to the quarterfinals definitely deserve to be there. Netherlands have been consistent throughout. Brazil have played some inspirational football. Argentina have showed a lot of flair. Germany have been efficient. Spain have been able to find their touch. Paraguay have been a good all-round team. Uruguay are playing some of their best football. And, finally, Ghana have shown great determination.

Compared to the last eight, Italy and France, champions and runners-up respectively of the World Cup's last edition, had ageing squads, a fact that greatly contributed to their first round exits. Credit must go to teams like Slovakia, New Zealand and South Africa for giving the traditional giants of the game a run for their money. They have proved that the gap in quality in the football world is fast diminishing. On the other hand, one would have expected more from the African teams. True, some of them such as Ivory Coast and South Africa were in competitive groups. But with the World Cup taking place in their home continent, this was the moment for the African teams to shine. Only the Ghanaians have made it to the quarterfinals a feat achieved only twice before by African teams: Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002. If they get past Uruguay in their next match, the Black Stars will be creating history.

A lot has been said about refereeing hiccups in this tournament. It would be fair to say that none of the debatable decisions has had a major impact. The eight quarterfinalists would probably still have made it to this stage of the World Cup. It would, however, be in the best interest of the game for FIFA to take appropriate measures to minimise the scope of human error in refereeing.

It is noteworthy that the quarterfinals will have a dominant South American flavour. That four of the five South American teams that qualified for the World Cup are in the final eight bears testimony to the strength and depth of football culture in that continent. Just as well that the next World Cup is being hosted by Brazil. With the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Fabiano, Kaka, Diego Forlan, Carlos Tevez and Maicon looking to provide their teams with the lift needed to go all the way, there'll be no dearth of free-flowing football in the matches to come.






Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal's resignation under Maoist pressure almost a year after coming to power demonstrates the depressing circularity of politics in Nepal. His stint resembles the even shorter tenure of his predecessor and rival, CPN(M) chairman Pushpa Kumar Dahal, and has been undone by the same questions that still remain unanswered. Four years after the decade-long Maoist insurrection came to an end, disbanded Maoist cadre are still in UN camps with no political consensus emerging on their reintegration into society. Meanwhile, the May deadline for the new Constitution has come and gone. The date's been extended by a year but, without abiding change in the political situation, it is no more likely to be kept a second time around.

The fight for the prime minister's chair is likely to be a messy one. Prachanda, as Dahal is popularly known, is likely to try for it again. But he will have to contend with opposition from within Maoist ranks. Also, coalition partners are unlikely to agree to a Maoist-led government. If democracy's shaky edifice is to be propped up, the question of disbanded cadre must be addressed swiftly. Integrating them into the army as the CPN(M) demands is not entirely feasible given the decade-long armed conflict between the Maoists and the military. But folding them into the police and paramilitary forces is an option. On their side, the Maoists must disband the Youth Communist League paramilitary and return property captured over the course of the conflict. Tricky as the situation is, it can be resolved if the Maoists begin to work entirely within the democratic framework, something they have failed to do so far.







Banning the burqa is a hot-button issue in Europe, and several countries in the continent have already pressed it. However, across the Channel, mainline British parties won't touch it for fear of burning their fingers. Is it then worth the risk? Why not look the other way and get along with democracy as usual? Are there lessons in here for India?

For Europeans, in general, the burqa symbolises an anti-democratic way of life. This is why they find it so repugnant. Many have argued that European burqa-baiters are Christian fanatics, but that is an exaggeration. Whether conservative or radical, when it comes to the burqa there is near unanimity in the main streets of Europe, including the crossroads to the right and left. According to most Europeans, the only way democracy can condone the burqa is either to don one itself or stick its head in the sand. There is no third option!

Unsurprisingly, banning the burqa has been relatively easy in Europe. Belgium's Lower House unanimously passed it; in France, Nicolas Sarkozy is putting all his weight behind it; Italy has already tabled a Bill on it; and in socialist-ruled Spain burqa wearers might soon face criminal charges. Municipalities like those in Barcelona, Tarragon and Llieda had banned the burqa earlier.

That the burqa does not have religious sanction in the most sacred texts of Islam has come in useful. Nevertheless, there is little doubt ordinary Europeans find the veiling of half the world inherently contrary to the basic principles of democracy. This perception has led the governments of France, Italy, Belgium and Spain to brave the ire of radical Islamicists and their diaspora mullahs.

If Turkey's admission to the European Union has met with popular reluctance in Europe, the reason is simply this. At the street level, most Europeans feel that while they are moving away from religion, Turkey is not. It is not as if the EU is full up to the rafters, but it is the veil that blocks the North from seeing eye to eye with Turkey. Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, is unhappy about this, but his is a minority voice. Of course, it would be good if Turkey were to have organic links with Europe; this might even give its politics a westward shift. But most people don't think that far.

Many religious bigots in Europe might rejoice over this popular secular mood. Some may even draw symbolic energy from the 16th century paintings in the Venetian Academy that depict veiled Turkish women watching St Mark's martyrdom. Such artistic licence notwithstanding, Christian conservatives in Europe today are facing tough times, especially in their native lands.

To contextualise the widespread opposition to the burqa in Europe, it is necessary to see how Christianity has fared on the continent. Citizens of Madrid recently won a decision in court opposing a church-sponsored building project that would have taken over 20,000 square km of public gardens. The European Council of Human Rights will examine a case in Italy where a family has objected to the presence of the crucifix in public schools.

In Belgium today, the police, like tomb raiders, have broken into church vaults looking for evidence of child abuse. This would have been sacrilege in the past and no government would have dared to authorise it. Simultaneously, the higher echelons of the Catholic hierarchy, including the Pope, are under fire for the way the Church has handled sex scandals in the cloisters.

Spain, once rock-solid Catholic, is today steadily curbing the presence of religious symbols, most notably of the Church, in schools and other public places. Just over three decades ago, Franco's dictatorship in Spain artfully used the Falangists and Christianity to prop itself up. At that time it seemed as if the Spanish state would always remain irrevocably religious. Yet, the day that dictatorship died and Antonio Hernandez Gil took over as chief of the Cortes, his first act was to remove the crucifix from his office. It is not unlikely that estates owned by the Catholic Church in Spain might soon have to pay income tax.

Predictably, these secular moves in Spain have met with opposition from the Catholic hierarchy. Reminiscent of the way Pope Pius X reacted to the 1906 French Bill shackling the clergy, this time too the Church is crying foul. It has likened the Spanish move to "persecution" and "cultural suicide", but with little impact. If these words are echoing anywhere at all it is only in the empty halls of the church. This should make it evident that the modern European sentiment opposing religion in public life began its career by attacking the Church, before it turned against the burqa.

What Europe teaches us is that democracy cannot make exceptions, least of all for religion. In India, on the other hand, many politicians ridicule the burqa but speak with a forked tongue. They are ready to condemn practices popularly associated with Islam, but stop right there. They will not oppose ethnic killings, misdeeds of sants or the public display of Hindu symbols. If their opposition to the burqa is to be convincing they must look inwards first, even if that hurts. As this is what Christians are doing in Europe, Turkey will have to wait.

The writer is former professor, JNU.







Devi Prasad's work blends the visions of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. Trained at Santiniketan and Sevagram, he's been a pioneering studio potter, painter, designer, photographer, art educator and peace activist. A retrospective of his work, The Making of the Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman: Devi Prasad, curated by Naman P Ahuja, was recently held in the capital. Devi Prasad, 88, spoke to Amrith Lal :

Tell us about your work with the War Resisters' International (WRI).

The WRI was a movement against war that started shortly after World War I. It also had a sister outfit, a Christian outfit named Fellowship of Reconciliation. But it was the WRI that made resistance to war a real activity in the 1930s. The term anti-war emerged with the WRI. The organisation's main activity was to work against the law that demanded that everyone had not just the right but also the duty to take part in every war that his country was part of. War resisters became an important part of the struggle against the principle of war and against compulsory enrolment of the youth. In the beginning, the movement was only against the compulsory aspect of the war service. Gradually, when the idea of social development and the role of the military in it became established, the WRI developed anti-militarism into a movement and introduced the concept of social development into it. I introduced Gandhiji's concept of non-violence during my work with the WRI, first as secretary general and later as chairman.

Was the WRI a Euro-centric organisation when you joined?

It was a European movement, which is not surprising. After all, who brought in militarism? Other countries only followed Europe. Gandhiji's work in India was in many ways against militarism.

Did the WRI gain a mass base?

It never became a mass movement. But it developed the structure of a mass movement in some countries. The movement never had the support of the rulers. But it deeply affected the thinking of many people.

You trained under Gandhi and Tagore. How different were their perspectives?

One was aesthetically oriented and the other economically oriented. Aesthetics and economics are equal partners in life. Both should complement each other for the society to be peaceful and creative. Gandhiji wanted a peaceful society and Tagore wanted a creative society. I believe that only a peaceful society can be a creative society. Both Gandhiji and Tagore wanted life to be beautiful. When Gandhiji talked about simplicity in life he didn't say that live in poverty or with ugliness. Gandhiji's understanding of simple living was misunderstood. Tagore said that beauty should be a part of simple living.


In Nai Talim, the emphasis is on education through productive activities. Tagore's emphasis was on creating beauty. He said education through creative activity. I would say that education should be through creative and productive activities.

But people tend to differentiate between creative and productive activities. For example, the division between art and craft.

It's a linguistic problem. Craft is also art and vice versa. People have created a difference between them, which isn't there. For Gandhiji, art was something that gave joy and was spiritual. For Tagore, art was something that brought life into your life. Any beautiful thing is beautiful only when it is useful. Art should not be evaluated in terms of money, but on the basis of labour. Tagore had an aesthetic approach whereas Gandhiji's was functional.








On the eve of my setting off on my travels, I look at my travel insurance. It is for 2,00,000 US dollars. Which, as they say, is a whole bunch of dollars, and then some. My travel agent advised me to take the basic insurance policy, for a measly 50,000 dollars. But I said I wanted the best, the Gold Policy, that comes with tailfins and plays Jingle Bells when you put it in reverse gear.


I read the fine print of my insurance policy, which gives the details of all the things I'm insured against: Loss of Passport (500 dollars); Loss of Luggage (2,000 dollars); Delay in Departure (150 dollars per day); Hospitalisation (250 dollars a day); Any One Specific Illness (unspecified amount, not exceeding 200,000 dollars after other payouts, if any); Hole-in-One (250 dollars; this is in case I happen to be a golfer and am unfortunate enough to score a hole-in-one which, by tradition, requires me to buy drinks for all those present on the occasion, a costly proceeding); and, finally, Repatriation of Mortal Remains (unspecified amount, not to exceed 200,000 dollars after other payouts, if any).


I can see that this is going to be a very busy holiday for me. I won't have time to do things like sightseeing, and taking pictures, and going to pubs, and generally relaxing. I shan't be able to do any of these things. Because i'll be too busy getting my money's worth — or doing paisa vasool; as we say — of my insurance policy.


To get maximum bang for my buck I'll have to lose my passport, lose my luggage, get myself hospitalised, develop any one specific illness, take up golf and score a hole-in-one, and, finally, get my mortal remains repatriated, and not a moment too soon, because by then my mortal remains would have had it up to here with all that paisa vasooling and would be ready to call it a day and got themselves repatriated.


Which is great for my mortal remains. But not so great for me, because if i've become my mortal remains — repatriated or otherwise — I shan't be in any position to feel anything about anything, be it paisa vasooling or whatever.


That's the trouble with insurance. It's a con. It's like that joke about good news/bad news. Do you want to hear the good news first, or the bad news? If you hear the good news first they won't be so good anymore because you'll know that they're going to be followed by bad news. If you hear the bad news first, you'll continue to feel bad even when you hear the good news. In either case, you lose.


Insurance is betting against yourself. It's waiting and wanting to have bad things happen to you — lost passports, hospitalisation, any one specific illness, holes-in-one, your transformation from yourself into your mortal remains in need of repatriation — so that you can make the most of the insured sum, maximise the paisa vasool factor. If you don't make full use of the insured sum, don't vasool your paisa fully, you'll feel bad. If, however, you do happen to make full vasool of your insurance paisa you'll likely to feel even worse because you can get your money's worth of insurance only if bad things happen to you, the baddest being you becoming your mortal remains and as such incapable of feeling anything, good or bad.The biggest insurance con of all is religion. On his deathbed, an atheist decided to become a believer. Just in case, might as well get some last-minute insurance. He found himself in what looked like an airport arrival hall. Do I go to Heaven or Hell? he asked the immigration official. There's no Heaven or Hell; there's Nothing, said the official. But what about my insurance? asked the converted atheist. The official looked at him pityingly and said: Didn't anyone ever teach you never to believe an Insurance Salesman?










Numbers can provide a false sense of security. In a coun try where `how many' has been more important and reassuring than `how', the aspect of quality -whether in the sphere of education, developmental schemes or what goes under the rubric of `demographic dividend' -gets subsumed by the notion of quantity. The same sense of mistaken confidence seems to have affected internal security, the government's war against Maoist terrorism in particular. Home Minister P. Chidambaram has put the finger on the problem by stating, in the aftermath of Tuesday's killing of 27 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel by the Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Narayanpur district, that CRPF deployment should be "revisited" depending on "operational or developmental" requirements.
Another aspect that has come to light -and should be recorded in the preliminary probe report by the Director General of the CRPF -is that standard operating procedure (SOP) was abandoned by the security personnel in Narayanpur. This is practically the same `lapse' that took place in April when 76 CRPF soldiers were ambushed and killed by the Maoists in Dantewada district. We cannot afford such deja vus.


The total CRPF strength is 2.7 lakh. A mix of CRPF, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Border Security Force personnel are deployed across India's Maoist-strong areas, with the CRPF comprising most of the 60 battalions deployed. A battalion has a sanctioned strength of 1,050 men, with 600 forming an `effective fighting force' while the rest are engaged in ancillary duties and training and are on leave. But flouting rules of engagement such as SOPs (as was the case in Narayanpur and Dantewada where, instead of taking a different route after a `road-opening' exercise, the CRPF personnel apparently retraced their way back and became easy pickings) and being `undertrained', throws the numerical advantage that security forces have over the Maoists out of the window.


Strategically, it makes less sense to deploy personnel with little experience in the jungle terrain of Chhattisgarh, especially when there are soldiers with experience fighting insurgencies in the North-east. The devil is in the details and not in retrofitting a `fit-all' war strategy, both in time and space, to counter the Maoist violence. What we need is leaner, meaner, `intelligenter' counter-attacking forces and not just numbers thrown at the enemy.







Is life imitating those Le Carré novels again?


Even as fans of that uber-dashing British secret agent are trying to come to terms with the Bond franchise going into cash-strapped hibernation, there's news of Russian moles crawling out of the thawed remains of the Cold War woodwork. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has, apparently, busted a network of Russian `illegals' -spies that do not exist on the government's payrolls -who were trying to pass off as your average Yank, complete with wholesome American names and Facebook profiles. It seems that not only are they off the books, but their `non-offences' have thrown all spy manuals out the window. In a trend unleashed by India's foreign service renegade in Pakistan, Madhuri Gupta, we could be seeing a spate of wannabe operatives willing to go undercover for cash or country, with little clue about the `mission'.


Because, if you're wondering what these young men and women were actually supposed to be transmitting back home, you're not alone. They were on a mission so secret that even the most cunning spymeisters are at their tricks' end. This, in an era where the latest corporate or political babble can be had at the click of a button. But with the Chinese having cornered the market for hacking, the Pakistanis specialising in the delicate art of denial, and the Europeans still dazed from the global economic shakedown, one can't blame the Russians for trying to keep themselves busy. They're back to playing what they know best: the spy game, Le Carré-style.


Or it could well be that that the ex-Soviets have stumbled upon the greatest intelligence trick of all time: don't know, don't tell. It could also be that all this talk of espionage is merely a decoy to help a new wave of Russians buy up football clubs beyond Chelsea FC around the world. Or is it to infiltrate the global economy, one call centre at a time? Here's an even scarier possibility: that somewhere deep in the bowels of the bureaucratic netherworld that is the Kremlin, a recruiting agent still doesn't know that the Cold War is over.







The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is obsessed with building 'soft power' — the attractiveness of a country's civilisation, culture, values and political system — as well as ensuring that China is respected and admired for its achievements since reforms began in 1978. In contrast, India puts little emphasis on promoting the country's historical, economic, political and cultural credentials to the world. Its appreciation for the value of 'cultural diplomacy' is poor. One result is that the mere mention of India as a Great Power usually evokes only chuckles from an Asian audience. Although loathe to admit it, New Delhi would do well to learn lessons from Beijing about the importance of selling its strengths and achievements to the world.


One lesson is the sheer amount of economic and manpower resources Beijing devotes to shaping its messages and selling its story. For example, China has funded more than 270 Confucius Institutes in 75 countries teaching Mandarin and the CCP's version of history to more than 100 million foreigners. Beijing aims to have 1,000 institutes up and running by 2020. In contrast, India has only 24 cultural centres in 21 countries functioning under its missions abroad.


Another example is Beijing's active and effective diplomatic charm offensive, which has been in place since the mid-1990s. Currently, China has more diplomats than any other country in the world, including America. In China's State-dominated society, diplomats are chosen from the cream of the crop and are given extensive language and cultural training. Moreover, according to some estimates, Beijing dispatches more diplomatic, business and cultural delegations to all corners of the region each year than all other Asian countries combined. In contrast, foreigners complain about the aloofness, ineffectiveness and bureaucratic stubbornness of many of India's current diplomatic staff. For a country with a GDP of around $1.3 trillion and a population of 1.2 billion, official Indian delegations are small, infrequent and poorly utilised.


Indian diplomats might protest that China has significantly more resources at its disposal — both because of its economy, which is three times larger than India's, and also because of its State-dominated model, which places more resources into the hands of the CCP. But the point is one about purpose and intent in promoting a country's soft power — an ambition Beijing has in spades. After all, China explicitly measures its progress in terms of 'comprehensive national power' that goes beyond the size of its economy and military, and includes other 'softer' capabilities like the reputation of its economic and political system. Favourable impressions of the country's achievements have been carefully crafted by image-obsessed CCP officials. For example, in comparison to China, India is seen as a place of disorder, inequality and inefficiency. Yet, Western commentators remain largely unaware that there were 124,000 instances of 'mass unrest' against the government in China in 2008 according to official figures — far more than in India. China is now the most unequal place in all of Asia in terms of distribution of income, and absolute levels of poverty have increased since 2000. China has far superior infrastructure. But India still uses capital 50 per cent more efficiently than China.


This is not to deny that India has enormous social and economic problems of its own. The argument is about the importance of 'soft power' and taking the foreign reputation of one's country seriously. Beijing is highly skilled at promoting its considerable achievements and concealing the country's also considerable failings from Western eyes. In contrast, India's failings are openly displayed and New Delhi puts little emphasis on promoting the country's recent achievements, which are considerable. But if India's open society makes centrally-crafted messages to highlight achievements and conceal weaknesses much more difficult, it does offer it a significant advantage over countries like China.


Despite Beijing's efforts, the re-emergence of authoritarian China gives rise to as much apprehension as admiration. But regional capitals view democratic India as an attractive, cooperative and non-threatening country. Unlike Beijing, it is believed that New Delhi's domestic habits of transparency, negotiation and compromise will influence the way a powerful India interacts with other states. While few countries trust China, the rising eagerness of regional capitals and America to help India is demonstrated by the rapid progress made in India's strategic and military partnerships with countries like the US, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia.


India is a rising and ambitious power. But its re-emergence has failed to excite and capture the collective imagination. This doesn't change the fact that democratic India's 'soft power' potential is enormous compared to China's. India will meet little resistance as it's rising within the existing normative order. But New Delhi's lackadaisical approach to promoting Indian leadership in the region, as well as the country's image and achievements, is frustrating for a small but growing number of people who realise the country's importance to the region — as a democratic leader and a constraint on Chinese ambitions. When New Delhi eventually catches on, Asians will no longer chuckle every time India is mentioned as one of the powers that will shape the 'Asian century'.


John Lee is a research fellow at the Center for Independent Studies (CIS), Sydney. His paper, 'Unrealised Potential: India's Soft Power Ambition in Asia', was released by the CIS on June 30

The views expressed by the author are personal






That period of my life is here again when my general knowledge gets tested as a barrage of questions is hurled toward me on a daily basis. The failure to answer even one of them invites contemptuous looks from juniors and Raju, our domestic help.

Well, the World Cup has come back to haunt me yet again. No qualms in admitting that having been brought up in Calcutta in a sports-loving family I have a special weakness for football. But what gets my goat is the information-seeking part of the Beautiful Game.

No, I am not talking about the queries related to either the rules of the game or about who is the coach or captain of which team. It is the geographical queries that surround this modern-day Celtic headhunters' pastime that knocks me down completely.

As a subject, geography was my last choice in school. So I was happy to get rid of it three decades ago. But little did I realise that it will come back to bother me years later and that too while watching one of my favourite sports.

While it's easier to talk about the location of Denmark, France, Germany, Brazil and Chile, countries like Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Honduras leave me stumped.

When my initial attempts to dodge and dribble the volley of questions failed, the atlas and the globe, which had been gathering dust for long, were brought down from the shelf and duly referred to.

With the help of a torchlight, which replicated the sun, the movements of our planet were explained. The juniors' query on why spectators in South Africa were wearing thick jackets in June also got answered.

This also explained why we were watching some matches bleary-eyed while the fans at the Mandela Stadium were blowing their vuvuzelas.

The quizzes weren't, however, restricted to geography alone. A bit of history also got into them. Here, some of the smart juniors scored, as they knew Serbia was part of the erstwhile Yugoslavia, Slovakia was carved out of Czechoslovakia and Slovenia was a founding member of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, before declaring full sovereignty in 1991.

Well, if this barrage of queries can be ignored, I think the Cup, besides bringing in a month's worth immense joy, is a blessing in disguise, for, at least once in four years, the atlas and the globe on my shelf get dusted.






Manmohan Singh told the world to keep an eye on the post-global economic crisis scenario at the G-20 summit in Toronto. This was not only for the purpose of picking up the pieces but also to ensure that another storm doesn't arrive. The 2008 crises that collectively made up the 'meltdown' were precipitated by profligacy, fuelled by greed, rampant in the United States when interest rates, following 9/11 and the Iraq war, had come down to zero. The underlying reason for reducing interest rates in America was to fund anti-terrorist programmes and to mitigate the pangs of the Iraq war. But in a minimally regulated and free-market economy like the US, the zero interest rate regime was abused in the real estate sector, where, while extending loans, even due diligence procedures were not followed. Banks and other financial entities that had been financing the real estate sector at zero interest, taking advantage of highly complex 'derivative instruments' into which this debt was packaged, traded it internationally at a profit.


Of course, to trade them at a profit, many false projections were carried out through marketing strategies supported largely by credit rating agencies. In a sense, in the globalised world, junk was being traded at a profit. As a result, the world was made to pay indirectly for America's increased spending on countering terrorism and fighting the Iraq war. The US was able to get away with duping the world because of the dollar being the 'currency of choice'.


The resultant unscrupulous trade practices the US investment banks indulged in worldwide were the now infamous 'sub-prime crises'. The recent case where the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged Goldman Sachs with fraudulent practices in sub-prime crises reinforces what's been stated so far regarding the questionable role of investment banks.


But this American strategy of selling junk as valuable security boomeranged due to consequent defaults. A spate of bankruptcies of investment banks or their takeover followed, plunging the US into the economic depression. The rest of the world was also sucked into the depression as a result, with the poorest nations being the worst victims.


And how was the financial world taken for a ride? The simple answer: a lack of transparency in the way the global financial system is structured. Financial havens that dot the world have certain features like tax breaks, banking secrecy, shell banks, shell companies, shell corporations and electronic transfer of money that make financial transactions opaque. Since these financial havens with in-built opacity were extensively used in the run-up to the crises, even economic experts and financial analysts were clueless about the impending economic doom. When the slide into the economic depression had begun, no one could indicate the extent of these crises.  Due to the lack of information about the extent of toxic assets, economic analysts kept hoping right till the end that the economic meltdown was not all that serious. Only when the economic bubble, generated by sub-prime lending in the US, burst with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, it became clear that the world was hurtling towards a 30s Great Depression scenario.


Four G-20 summits have taken place since the crisis began. The emphasis in all has been on the need for coordinated action to pull the world out of depression. Steps have also been taken to ensure effective regulation of markets and transparency to prevent a repeat of the manipulations. The Keynesian prescription of stimulating demand by way of injecting liquidity into the financial system has been the strategy for recovery. So far, according to International Monetary Fund estimates, $11.9 trillion have been pumped into the world system. To arrest the onset of runaway inflation, world leaders have also provided an exit strategy to reduce liquidity.


The world economy is still struggling despite occasional, contradictory reports. To what extent the strategy of

putting the world on the path of recovery will succeed may be determined by how much we are willing to retread the past and learn from our mistakes.


Jyoti Trehan is Director General of Police, Punjab. He is on the advisory board of the Journal of Financial Crime, UK


The views expressed by the author are personal







Whatever the past karma, it is like this: let's say, until the age of 30 you earn 10 million rupees. Now you can either squander it or make it grow. Similarly, in the past, you may have created riches within yourself. In this life you may either add to it or squander it; but definitely some quality of that will be there in your life. Because of your spiritual practices, those riches may manifest now in terms of material comfort, like a good house, the right kind of atmosphere, or maybe good people around you. In spite of all this, you may not make use of it and become complacent. This is the whole cycle. 

Why I repeatedly say that the whole game is like the snake and ladder game; you climb the 'ladder' and you're happy.  The comfort may make you complacent and you go down through the 'snake'. Then when suffering comes, you you're your eyes and grow. You may squander it and go down again. This is the way of the fool, wasting his energy. But someone who has sufficient intelligence should even take his each breath as a step towards growth.

This spiritual process is not happening to even one percent of the population. For the others, when things go well, they laugh, when they don't, they cry. There are very few people in the world who remain centred and balanced. For them nothing is a great benediction, nothing is a problem. Everything is just another life situation through which they become free. The rest are like cattle. They may have evolved into a human body, but otherwise there is no difference between how animals and people live. Maybe quantitatively there is a difference – there is variety to your activities; you drive a car, watch television etc. All that you do, but qualitatively, where is the difference? The difference can only come with awareness.

Usually mental alertness is mistaken for awareness, but awareness is a far deeper dimension than that. When awareness arises within you, love and compassion will be the natural follow-up; then each breath becomes a step towards growth.







The square-jawed KGB "illegal" is the stuff of Russian legend. Given carefully constructed false identities, painstakingly trained in their adopted culture, they were sent out to unfriendly countries, without the "legal" protection of diplomatic passports. Their dangerous work would throw up crucial secrets; and their loneliness was rewarded with adulation back home. In a famous Soviet television serial, an "illegal" named Stirlitz penetrated the Nazi party; the similarities between him and Vladimir Putin, once an agent for the KGB in Germany, are not coincidental. Naturally, therefore, the arrest of 11 "illegals" in the US caused an upsurge of patriotic fervour in Russia, and threw the rest of us into a happily nostalgic Cold War reverie.


All of which emotions were in fairly short order replaced with utter puzzlement. What on earth were these five very ordinary suburban couples doing? Certainly not actually spying on anyone. At any rate, they didn't gather any information more effectively than anyone could by reading Washington DC gossip blogs in Moscow. One ran a real estate agency. Another a management consultancy that seems to have been even more soul-numbingly average than you'd expect. They hung out with former classmates — from places like Harvard's Kennedy school of government or Columbia's business school — and pumped them for crucial secrets like "the prospects of the international gold market." They weren't expected to do much more than "penetrate policymaking circles," actually; unsurprisingly, they couldn't be charged with anything more glamorous than "not registering as employees of a foreign government."


A few decades ago a ring like this might actually have passed on to Moscow Centre useful titbits on how the Other Side thought. But for all those weaned on Cold War spies, this is another brutal reminder that the world of agents in fur coats murmuring details about oilfields has gone, replaced with a bright, flat world of ho-hum transparency






If the struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting, then those who seek accounting for the Bhopal gas tragedy have certainly fought a brave struggle. However, their cause has been undercut from many sides. Now, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan declares himself disappointed in the Central government's handling of the matter and says that the state would set up its own panel to investigate the real dimensions of the tragedy and pinpoint those responsible. Though, a quarter century later, you have to ask: what took him so long?


To the extent that Chouhan's panel aims to sift through information and identify rightful claims, it is a creditable effort. But in its attempt to extend victimhood to the 20 wards in New Bhopal declared ineligible by claim tribunals it must be careful of the old error — inflating lists and making political profit out of the compensation. Now, at least, anyone with stakes in the matter must commit to a sober assessment of entitlements. This is a moment when public opinion can sway the state, when it appears as though legal and political compromises of the past can finally be admitted and rectified. To squander that intention though a small-minded political tug of war is an insult to those who suffered the consequences in Bhopal.


Successive governments in Madhya Pradesh have been complicit in this process, no matter which the party in power. They have used the Bhopal fund as a way to work their vote, and in the process they have demeaned the real victims and taken away what is rightfully theirs. The claims list was several times larger than the number of those directly affected by the disaster, and kept distending as the years went by. Some of these were legitimate claims (the initial lists of the victims were far from thorough), but many of these were the result of competitive populism, which trivialised the compensation process and sold the survivors short. Now that the compensation amount has gone up, it is important that its distribution is sharply targeted.







The resignation of Madhav Kumar Nepal as prime minister of Nepal on Wednesday did not come as a surprise. In the year that he had been in the post, his winning virtue appeared to be that among other aspirants he invited the least resistance in the ruling 22-party coalition. Even as he weathered persistent street protests by the Maoists this summer to press for his resignation, and in that time successfully got consensus to extend by a year the deadline for the constituent assembly, Nepal's capacity to pull along as PM seemed uncertain. Indeed, in a televised address, he said as much, claiming that he was stepping aside to end the political deadlock. But if this pause is an opportunity for Nepal's political parties to assert common cause in securing the process of constitution-making, and thereby the country's hard-won democracy, there is also anxiety. A stable government must soon be put together, if the middle ground of the peace process is to hold, given the growing polarisation on the left and right extremes of Nepal's politics.


The Maoists, whose government fell after differences with the president over the dismissal of the army chief, argue that they have the most seats in the assembly and should form the government. And these past months they pressed that case with countrywide disruptions. For their part, the 22 parties in Madhav Nepal's government also saw that the pressing task of constitution-writing needs a far greater critical mass than their slim majority in the legislature. Amongst an overwhelming majority of its members, there is still a common desire that the constituent assembly succeed — and by extension, that the country get a democratic constitution by the summer deadline next year. At stake are decisions on the exact structure of government in post-monarchy Nepal, the division of powers, etc, so that the next elections can take place with a constitutional framework in place. For this the Maoists and the 22-party coalition need to reach out to each other.


India is firmly invested in a democratic future for Nepal, and the weeks ahead require deft diplomacy based on a focus on the larger, long-term goals. The Maoists will obviously try to return to power, and New Delhi must be open to doing business with them. For all the perceptions of partisan diplomacy, Delhi knows that the peace process cannot succeed without the Maoists on board. But given the insinuation rife in Kathmandu over who is being supported or undermined by which outside power, Delhi must iterate the primacy of the constitution-making process and its support to the widest spectrum of Nepali political parties for that end.








Of late, a perception had gathered ground that the UPA government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was somewhat adrift. It was not taking bold decisions on critical issues in spite of the opposition being in total disarray. The opposition parties too, on their part, have been groping for some big issue which could put the government on the mat. In a chaotic, high-decibel democracy like ours, multiple events compete for political attention. For a while, they even give the impression of snowballing into national crises. But soon enough they quietly fade away, like the Shashi Tharoor and IPL controversies.


Politically, however, things will not be dull any longer. The UPA has probably taken the biggest of risks by announcing that it will decontrol the prices of petrol and diesel.


After nearly a decade, the price of kerosene has also been increased. The opposition parties are already salivating, as they prepare for a sustained nationwide protest. The oil price increase will add one percentage point to the inflation rate which might cross 11 per cent as we near the Bihar elections.


The prime minister has defended the government's decision by arguing that oil subsidies had reached unmanageable levels. More importantly, he expressed the confidence that "the people of this country are wise enough to understand excessive populism should not be allowed to derail the progress India is making, for which it is winning kudos internationally". The way Manmohan Singh has framed the issue is very interesting. It shows that the Congress party is indeed taking a calculated risk by appealing to the rapidly growing and aspirational middle class to swallow the bitter pill of price increases in the larger interest of the nation's economic well being, so that India sustains its smart recovery in the face of tough global economic conditions.


It is not for nothing that Manmohan Singh spoke of ending "excessive populism" and "winning kudos internationally" as he was returning from the G-20 meeting at Toronto where developed economies, still in deep trouble, are looking to the emerging market bloc to play a more meaningful role in the global recovery. Dr Singh is smartly playing on that sentiment, like he did some time ago when he sought to mobilise middle class support for the nuclear deal which was also seen as a symbol of India coming of age on the international scene. The Congress pulled it off then. Will it succeed this time?


Indeed, it will be interesting to see how the UPA manages the ever-widening ranks of the aspirational middle class in urban and semi-urban Bharat. Of course, the middle class feels proud when President Obama praises India's prime minister as the man whom all G-20 leaders listen to seriously on economic issues. One is told Manmohan Singh's new fan is German Chancellor Angela Merkel who often discusses economic matters with him.


However, Manmohan Singh must also remember that politically the middle class can be very fickle. Its loyalty cannot be taken for granted. At least in urban and semi-urban pockets, the middle class voter has been freely shifting allegiances between the Congress and the BJP, especially in the northern belt. So while this class may have felt a surge of pride when India signed the nuclear deal it may behave differently when the UPA takes hard decisions which actually call for sacrifices on their part. In fact, this will be the biggest challenge for the Congress party going forward. The economic advisors of the government are saying that the oil price hikes are necessary to create a sustainable economic policy regime. They are also at pains to suggest that the oil price hike will actually reduce the ever-bloating budget deficit, which in turn would bring down the inflation rate eventually.


Now, these are technical ways in which economists explain how following a market-determined price regime helps eventually in sustaining growth. But the Congress will have to package this message politically. Manmohan Singh's attempt to link the oil price hike with India "wining kudos internationally" is one small attempt at doing that.


The UPA's larger project in creating a sustainable political-economy framework is what will truly determine its success in the future. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has already made the government's intention clear that in future most subsidies will have to be targeted at the very poor with the help of technology, such as the use of smart cards. Nandan Nilekani's UID project is making pretty good progress in this regard.


The Congress party must remember that better targeting of the very poor will also result in withdrawal of subsidies enjoyed historically by the better off middle class. A simple example will illustrate this point. An internal document prepared by the Planning Commission on the dynamics of implementing the food security legislation clearly spells out that supplying cheap foodgrain to some eight crore households covering 37 per cent below poverty line (BPL) population will require 40 million tonnes of grains annually. However, the total availability is only 50 million tonnes. That makes only 10 million tonnes available for the Above Poverty Line (APL) population which currently avails of grains from ration shops. This is highly inadequate because the APL population consumes close to 20 million tonnes largely because APL grain prices are sold at 50 per cent of the market price. APL prices have not been raised since 2002. The urban middle class avails of this window.


So a better targeting of food grains at the genuinely poor may require the lower middle classes (APL population) to sacrifice the subsidy they have been getting all these years. Can Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh tell the middle classes that they must pay more for food grains, LPG, college education, state transport, etc? The Congress's biggest challenge will be to restructure the political economy of the subsidy regime in India. Years ago a study showed that implicit and explicit subsidies together in India amounted to 14 per cent of India's GDP annually. This is nearly $150 billion. Roughly 70 per cent of this is cornered by the middle classes. The Congress's challenge will be to shift a large part of this to the 350 million extremely poor in the country. It is a politically tricky task, for you could fall between two stools attempting this. Still, it is certainly worth a serious attempt.


The writer is Managing Editor, 'The Financial Express'








Internationally, across India and the world, tributes have flowed about CK — his thoughts, ideas and teaching. His books, his strategic thinking, his contributions to business development. And, his stamp on people across the globe has been immense. There were some other dimensions to this "man amongst men" which also need to be recorded. CK was not a machine. He was a very special human being of incredible quality.


He had a heart and he cared deeply — about his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his family, his colleagues, his friends, his country. He was not just a thinker and a teacher. CK was truly a "humane" person with warmth and caring for people. It came through actions. Through letters. Not soppy sentimental stuff but solid respect and affection. Foremost, of course, was his wife, Gayatri; who was by his side at lectures and events more often than not.


CK was a man of enormous humility. What he did not know, he admitted up front, many times. For example, he did not know and did not understand the workings of the government of India — and said so. He sought out, very selectively, people who he could trust, to explain and guide him on government people and systems (or lack thereof). Their functioning constantly amazed him. This was not the only case. He was always curious.


CK, in his contact with government, came to respect Prime Minister Manmohan Singh deeply. His meetings with the PM were always rich in content and ideas for India which gave CK enormous satisfaction. An idea which CK presented to the PM was to set up an agency to oversee the multiple needs of skilling 500 million people up to 2022. The 500 million came from CK's India@75 thesis; it was accepted by government and was announced by the President of India in her address to Parliament. Because of his contribution to thinking in the skills area, he was included in the PM's Council on Skills Development.


CK was always available, at any time, to people who called him for advice and mentoring. But he was always apologetic when he called a person for information or advice. His respect for the time of others was infinite; very often, the calls were preceded by a brief e-mail to ask whether a call was convenient. He never took anyone for granted and never assumed that his own standing and position gave him any rights. And, yet, he taxed himself to respond to other people who reached out to him for information and advice. Since 2007, and his now-famous presentation on India@75 in New York, CK criss-crossed India with CII, speaking to people from all segments of society about India in 2022 and how to get there.


CK was a man who set high standards. First, for himself. And, then, for others. The benchmark was very high. Once, in the '80s, he hosted a dinner at home in Ann Arbor for a team of CII CEOs, to meet the CEOs of Ford and other major corporates in the Detroit area. His home was some distance away and the drivers of the two cars took a couple of wrong turnings to reach a few minutes late. This was just not on for CK. He made his displeasure known. He expected, rightly, that the CII team would be there before the guests arrived. This quality in CK stayed right through his life. And, as a consequence, he raised the standards of others in terms of punctuality, commitment and conduct.


CK believed in the Indian corporate sector. And, he spent days, months, years on teaching corporate leaders, especially in India, about their potential, their role, their competitiveness, their growth, their contribution. He managed to impact so many people to believe in themselves, to have self-esteem and self-confidence, to evolve, to be successful, to be competitive, to play a sustained role in the nation. It was an incredible journey with corporate leaders over several decades. They learnt leadership and they learnt values.


He was a legend in his lifetime, and a book will surely appear with anecdotes and real stories. But the amazing commitment, consistency, values of CK were such that, for 25 years, he worked with CII, helping frame the agenda for action here. From manufacturing, to competitiveness, to entrepreneurship, to low-cost products and services, to India@75, to Skills, we were his umbilical cord, his platform, his partner; even when, on occasion CII failed, he was forgiving, reaching out, never giving up. CK will remain central to our lives, perhaps, as much in his passing as in his lifetime.


The writer is Chief Mentor of the Confederation of Indian Industry









One year ago, in Court Number One of the Delhi High Court, a group of people — including this writer — huddled together in a hushed courtroom, barely breathing. By the time the judgment reading down Sec 377 was read out, my palms had turned white from clutching the hands of the two crying, happy women who stood on either side of me. These were the same women in whose house I and so many others had found our first queer community — a house where protests had been planned, victories celebrated, friends mourned and wounds healed. The world seemed to have come full circle.


Has the world changed since July 2, 2009? It has and it hasn't. Earlier this year, Dr Ramachandra Siras of Aligarh Muslim University was humiliated, defeated and vilified for his sexuality. Yet in writing the press release against his suspension from AMU, activists for the first time were able to definitively argue that he had committed no crime in having consensual sex with another man. No one questioned that — not even AMU authorities. Something had changed. AMU still had other, older weapons: "gross indecency," "obscenity", "moral corruption." Dr Siras, however, had newly empowered responses: equality, dignity, rights and citizenship. He moved the Allahabad High Court to get a stay on his suspension. He won. The fact that, in his lifetime, he was able to demand and receive some justice is no modest victory. A few days after his victory, however, he was found dead in his house. It is unclear exactly how he died but beyond doubt that, one way or the other, he was driven to his death by the treatment meted out to him by his beloved university. In Dr Siras' story is all of our stories and the story of this past year. New victories amidst still deep wounds, new hope amidst older uncertainties, new milestones but also new struggles.


Justice Shah, one of the co-authors of the judgment, said in an interview that he had gone home from the court that day and refused to turn the television on, afraid of what the reactions might be. He knew he was writing a judgment that would meet stiff resistance. The judgment reflects this and it is singularly the reason why it is so powerful. More than just an attestation of sexual equality or gay rights, the judgment is a plea for democracy and the necessity of inclusivity amidst the tremendous differences and entrenched inequalities of contemporary India. Truly democratic practice, the judges reminded us, lies in the dignity with which we disagree and respect those who we think differ from us. It lies in our ability to become citizens from individuals, to hold alongside and above our personal morality a constitutional morality. It lies in the necessity for empathy and respect — not just law — to be the foundations of a shared citizenship.


Nowhere is the practice of constitutional morality harder to realise and yet more critically needed than in the private, intimate spaces of love, sex, sexuality, and intimacy. The recent spate of "honour killings" across the country remind us yet again of the how sexuality and love are still matters of life and death in India, cloaked in arguments about honour, tradition, family, community, faith, and about what is "natural", and "normal". These are familiar words not just for gay people but for all Indians. Queer politics has long argued that sexuality is not just about homosexuality, it is about is about all those who are considered to be outside the narrow, normative ideal marital family structure. These murders remind us of the urgent need to open debates about different ways of thinking about honour and tradition when it comes to love and sex. It is here that the judgment's words must be brought to bear and brought to life. It is within our families and community's notions of proper and improper love that the ability to manage a divided and changing society must be aided so that no family feels that it must take the life of one of its own. There is no greater purpose to remember this judgment on its anniversary than to remind ourselves of the work that remains to be done in extending its words beyond gay rights and Sec 377. To celebrate this judgment, we must use it to shift the discourse of all politics around us to a more equitable, inclusive and democratic tenor.


Today, in Delhi, many will head towards Jantar Mantar in the heart of the city to mark the anniversary of the July 2 nd judgment. The location is one of the few democratic and public spaces left in a national capital which is rapidly gating, policing and surveilling itself against its own citizens and publics. Like our politics, our city's spaces are fragmenting. Spaces for genuine public interaction are under threat. A constitutional morality comes with a set of values also embedded in our founding document: equality, dignity, and respect for all, be it economic, social, political or cultural. It is the distance between our everyday lives — whether we are queer or not — and this vision that is our struggle today. The struggle this judgment has begun then — and it is only a beginning — is one that challenges us to use constitutional morality to move closer towards our imagined constitutional values as a people. Our hands and our tongues were untied last year: the question now is what we do with them.


The writer works on urban policy







Urdu poet and journalist, Hasan Kamal, in his column in Sahafat (published from Delhi, Lucknow, Dehradun and Mumbai) writes on June 14: "Whatever is happening now (with regard to the Bhopal gas tragedy) is nothing but politics. No one has any interest in or sympathy with the dead or those living as crippled." Kamal further asks: "Why doesn't the government put pressure on the United States as it did in the case of Headley? Is it because those who died were poor people? Or, because this matter cannot in any manner be used politically at the international level?"


Rashtriya Sahara, in an editorial entitled, 'Central and state governments in the dock' on June 19 writes: "The fresh revelations put the Central government, along with the then Arjun Singh government in Madhya Pradesh, in the dock and negate the clarifications and explanations given by the Central government".


Jamaat-e-Islami's biweekly Daawat, in a front-page commentary on June 19 has taken a potshot at the BJP: "The party that is holding Anderson as killer of thousands of persons has in its fold (paal rakha hai) a much bigger Anderson and is presenting him as a hero... Anderson is guilty only of negligence in the capacity of the head of the company. He had no enmity or ill will against the citizens of Bhopal. He did not kill them in a deliberate and planned manner whereas the Anderson of Gujarat had ill will against some selected citizens of his own state. He used the torching of a train as a pretext and in a deliberate and planned manner killed those people... Union Carbide company does not consider its Anderson as a hero. BJP worships its Anderson."


JD(U)-BJP tussle


Describing the JD(U)-BJP war of words in Bihar as a "fixed match" (noora kushti), bi-weekly Daawat (June 25) writes: "Recent events (the advertisement controversy) alone cannot be seen as the reason for the souring of relations between the two parties. But it can be described as a pretext for distancing themselves from each other, and the atmosphere for this was being created for the last two or three years... In fact the Bihar chief minister does not want to lose the popularity that he has achieved because of his development programmes and the hard-earned support of minorities".


The paper adds: The conditions that had prevailed in Orissa are probably on his mind right now, and he hopes that the people of his state would follow Orissa's lead." Analysing the Bihar chief minister's strategy, Akhbar-e-Mashriq, a Delhi, Kolkata and Ranchi-based daily, writes in an editorial on June 17: "Nitish Kumar had shaken hands with BJP also because he wanted to cripple the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Now, with his administrative acumen, Nitish Kumar has brought Lalu Prasad Yadav to the margin and reduced his popularity among Muslims and Dalits to a large extent. Nitish Kumar wants to show through his work that he is a secularist in the real sense and shaking hands with BJP was a tactical move for a while, so that he got the chance to work peacefully and actually show some real results in the state. Undoubtedly, Nitish Kumar has succeeded substantially and earned the people's confidence."


Soaring prices


The rise in prices of almost every item of common consumption or use, particularly petroleum, has been discussed at length. Rashtriya Sahara, in an editorial on June 28, comments: "The government is moving towards a policy of decontrol of petroleum and diesel prices, along with raising the prices of these products, and it is not possible at the moment to fully foresee the effect of such a policy. But it is obvious that this policy will slowly be causing a hike in prices of petroleum products. The common man (aam aadmi) is, therefore, compelled to suffer the ill effects of this policy for a long time... The question is not only of the adverse effects of increasing petroleum prices or the policy of its decontrol. Apart from these, there are indications that conditions are being created for rise in prices of foodgrains too."


Akhbar-e-Mashriq, in an editorial (June 27), writes: "The rise in prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas are undoubtedly compulsions of the government. But as a result, inflation levels will rise further by one per cent. Inflation has already moved to double digits because of which the budget of the common man is getting topsy turvy. Now this agonising situation will intensify further."


Compiled by Seema Chishti








Many emotions surfaced outside the Delhi high court exactly a year back — ecstatic shouts and wide grins, the triumphant flashing of rainbow flags and tears of joy at the twilight of a lifetime of activism.


It's been a year since that historic judgment reading down Section 377 of the IPC promised a dignified life for the LGBT community in India. On July 2, the Delhi Pride Committee plans to mark the first anniversary of this occasion through a series of song and dance performances and readings of the judgment. The expulsion of Dr Siras, a gay professor at the Aligarh Muslim University, and the case of institutionalised discrimination against Ashley Tellis shows the discomfort of public institutions with the expression of queer identity.


Despite re-interpretation of the constitutionality of certain sections of the IPC, entrenched prejudice against the queer community persists in various walks of life. Deepti Sharma, a member of Nigah, a queer collective, observes, "It takes a long while for legislative changes to transform predominant social attitudes. We have crimes like dowry deaths even in urban areas despite stringent laws against the same."


Aniruddhan Vasudevan, a gay rights activist with the Chennai-based Shakti Resource Centre observes, "It is not really possible to map legal change and social change one-to-one, the dynamic is much more complex. Thanks to the visibility generated by the verdict and the events across the country, many LGBT persons have come to feel that there are millions of people across the country taking ownership of their lives at various levels." While the fight gains momentum, one can discern the increasing visibility of diverse queer cultures that undercut a grand narrative of a single "queer rights movement". The organisation of queer spaces in terms of class, gender, accessibility leads to an articulation, sometimes unwitting, of diverse ideological and political frameworks. Post-377 the various shades of the rainbow are all too visible. While some colours complement each other, others are clearly dissonant. Even as queer groups express modes of desire muted by heteronormative forms of representation, their methods gesture towards certain ideological underpinnings.


A non-funded queer collective named Nigah, which has been organising queer film fests in Delhi since 2006 in order to initiate discussions on media representations of sexuality, displays a degree of discomfort with institutionalisation in its own functioning. Deepti Sharma, a member of the collective since its inception, explains, "I think of Nigah as a collective. We never registered ourselves as an organisation. We don't have an office. The way we function is linked to our broad understanding of queer as an identity, politics, process that challenges dominant norms. This is how we want to continue to work."


A bunch of energetic young queer entrepreneurs are clearly raking in the pink rupee. Sanjay Malhotra, owner of a travel company named Indjapink, offers travel packages for gay men keen to explore India. Rahul Singh runs a salon for gay men in Faridabad. This trend, while read by some as symbolic of the autonomy granted to the queer subject by a liberatory free market, has raised a few eyebrows among left-liberal academics who fear that a movement of dissent might lose its critical edge through commodification.


Queer Delhi , a collective which organises queer parties mostly in expensive South Delhi hotels, restricts entry by a guest list. These spaces revel in a celebratory brand of queer culture that is essentially upper class and accessible to few.


This is not to say that this is the only conspicuous and visible brand of gay culture. Nirangal, a two-day LGBT performance festival to be organised by the Shakti Resource Centre in Chennai established the indigenous nature of alternative sexuality by showcasing a dance performance of underprivileged transgender women. The programme included a performance by Lotus, a group that has used a theatre programme to sensitise local self-governing bodies in rural areas of Tamil Nadu towards issues of alternative sexuality.


Queer Campus, a youth collective that is working towards extending informal support to queer students in the initial stages of coming out, is trying to create accessible spaces for them The group, however, wants to steer clear of imposing an ideology on its members. As Rahul Sharma, a founder member points out, "We want this to be an informal discussion forum where people with diverse points of view come together."


Julia Kristeva in her influential essay "Women's Time" questions the category of the Universal Woman and points out how feminism "having started with the idea of difference...will be able to break free of its belief in Woman...only to bring out the singularity of each woman, her multiplicities, her plural languages." As we examine the various modes of constitution of the queer subject, it is time to resist this essentialising conception of a queer rights movement with a single aim. While legal and constitutional changes promise a life of dignity for the queer community, the broad framework of the queer movement will remain a site of divergent worldviews and different cultures. A celebratory attitude towards difference is probably the way forward. There is clearly no one-track, straight way of thinking queerness.








A month after he said he would do so, Prime Minister Madhav Nepal resigned to pave the way for a national unity government. But there are no signs yet that political parties, especially the major three — Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M), Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) — will agree on a common leader.


Besides soured inter-party relations, these three suffer from serious intra-party squabbling, with party chiefs in the minority — but that has not diluted their ambitions. While they all chant the same mantra about peace and the constitution-making process, the ambitions of individual leaders and party interests take precedence over policy matters or a common agenda.


The consensus-based politics that they pledged to follow after the successful mass movement of April 2006 has broken down, almost beyond repair. UCPN-M chief Prachanda and his comrade-in-arms Baburam Bhattarai have fallen out. Without the Maoists (the largest party with 238 members in the 601-member constituent assembly), neither the peace process nor constitution writing seems possible. What's more, these political parties and their leaders stand discredited. For the Maoists, other parties are merely "puppets" and "collaborators", in the hands of "hegemonic and imperialistic forces". So any alliance with the Maoists is bound to be a power-driven arrangement, on Maoist terms. On the other hand, no alliance without Maoists will be a stable proposition — a classic Catch-22 situation.


Madhav Nepal was a weak and uninspiring prime minister. The main reason he was tolerated for 13 months by his coalition partners was because he was gullible and never came in the way of any minister's actions. Each party and cabinet minister was fully autonomous, with Madhav Nepal's smile-and-ignore approach. In Prachanda's words, which not many disagree with, this has been the most corrupt government in Nepal's history.


Yet Madhav Nepal was lucky. He lost the election to the constituent assembly in April 2008, but came to the house as a nominated member and headed the most crucial constitutional committee, responsible for drafting the constitution. Within weeks, Prachanda resigned as prime minister and the mantle fell on Nepal as he was favoured by almost all parties except the Maoists.


However, later the Maoists adopted the rigid stance that they would support the peace and constitution making process only if Prime Minister Nepal resigns. Last week, they announced they would not allow the government to present the budget and let the president address the house, without the resignation coming first. As the new financial year begins on July 15, and the government was not in a position to fulfill both the constitutional obligations, Nepal found himself cornered. He had called the house on July 5 hoping that the Maoists would support him in the passage of the budget. But instead, his party chief Jhalnath Khanal and speaker Subhash Nembang — also from the UML — sided with the Maoists and publicly demanded the prime minister's resignation.


Prime Minister Nepal was, certainly, under obligation to resign under a three-point agreement that the chiefs of three major political parties had signed on May 28. Through the midnight agreement, the three parties had decided to extend the constituent assembly tenure by a year, although it failed to meet the May 28 deadline to deliver the new constitution. To explore the revival of consensus-based politics and pave the way for a national unity government, Madhav Nepal was to resign "without delay". The UCPN-M had also undertaken to implement all past agreements and transform the Young Communist League (YCL) and the UCPN-M itself into a civilian outfit, dispensing with their military character. Nepal quit without securing any success on that count, which only means that the Maoists, as in the past, will be selective in implementing their promises.


Despite the internal squabbling, the Maoist military character remains intact. Its cadre has not stopped their extortion or surrendered the property they confiscated during the years of conflict, a pledge renewed in the May 28 agreement. They refused to implement these promises when they were in power. Even today, the Maoist claim to lead the government makes no reference to this pledge, they simply wield their parliamentary numbers — far below the majority mark — and their military muscle.


Much will depend, however, on how the faction-ridden Nepali Congress — the second largest party in parliament — with its acceptability among pro-democracy masses, addresses both internal rifts and emerging challenges. Nepali Congress will be far more acceptable than the Maoists who have so far used the peace process as a ladder to power and a means to destroy democracy from within, or even the UML which failed to deliver when it led the government. But a mere compromise for the sake of power, without clarity on a common programme and the will to implement it, will only worsen the chaos, uncertainty and anarchy in the nation.








In the ongoing saga of Jairam Ramesh's ministry putting one stumbling block after another to give grief to different development projects, the latest missive has been fired off by coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal. While the MoEF's edicts have also drawn ire from the the surface transport, power and water ministries, Jaiswal has a particularly strong case to make. India's growing manufacturing sector demands that production of coal should be doubled in 10 years. Coal also feeds around 60% of the country's power supply (and it will be some time before greener options evolve into viable alternatives). Now, most of India's mineral resources lie in forested areas and Ramesh clearly takes the task of protecting these forests very seriously. What his critics wonder is whether the minister is overstepping his brief. This is what Jaiswal contends. In a letter to Ramesh, he rues that preliminary categorisation by MoEF indicating the 48% area where coal mining cannot be undertaken will result in a production curtailment of around 600 MTPA. As a result, domestic production over the next decade will have to be pegged down to 600 MTPA from 1,000 MTPA. Jaiswal also questions MoEF's methodology. In marking off 'no-go' areas, did MoEF rely on too small or unrepresentative a sample? These issues require serious and urgent investigation. In a country that's hungry for power, a hunger that is directly correlated to its growth and development prospects, we can't take forever to figure out whether the scrapping or delaying of 100-odd mining projects by Ramesh was justified or not. If it wasn't, the decisions need to be reversed at speed and mechanisms for ensuring against similar misadventures need to be put in place. If it was, then the government needs to identify how to fill the resulting gaps in our energy vision.


There is more than one national security issue at stake here. If one concerns energy independence, the other concerns the Naxal threat—in this instance, the PMO itself has expressed dissatisfaction with the impact of MoEF's positions. Elaboration of 'no go' areas for coal mining will not only have energy costs, depriving the central and state exchequers of several thousand crores of rupees, it will also help the affected areas evolve as breeding grounds for Naxalism. This plaint was particularly strongly registered in the case of MoEF's categorisation of the Hasdeo-Arand coalfields in Chhattisgarh as 'unbroken forest', where no coal mining would be allowed. The PMO pointed out that the area's coalfields were surrounded by highways, irrigation projects and other economic activities—far from being 'unbroken forest'. The MoEF really needs to spruce up its act if it is to continue to claim credibility.







The balance of payment figures for 2009-10 released by RBI on Friday are the first set of annual numbers to assess the full impact of the global crisis on the external sector of the Indian economy. And while the statistics show that the slowdown has weakened India's integration with the global economy, the overall scenario continues to be positive mainly on account of the resilience of software exports and the surge in remittances and foreign investment inflows. The sharp erosion in the linkages with the global economy is highlighted by the steep shrinkage in the relative share of external trade in goods and services, which fell by a sharp 5 percentage points, from a high 53.2% of the GDP in 2008-09 to 48.2% of the GDP in 2009-10. The brunt of the global crisis was borne by the merchandise trade, whose relative share shrunk more than three times faster than that of services. However, its full impact was cushioned to some extent by a sharper fall in merchandise imports, possibly aided by the fall in oil prices. Consequently, the trade deficit fell from a high 9.7% of the GDP in 2008-09 to 8.9% in 2009-10.


The minor reduction of the trade deficit in goods was somewhat neutralised by the developments on the services front where the impact of the shrinkage in the share of exports was accentuated by the acceleration of imports which sharply pushed down the net surplus earned from services trade from 4.1% of the GDP in 2008-09 to 2.6% of the GDP in 2009-10. The main reason for the fall in share of net earnings from the service sector was on account of business, financial and communication services where net earnings turned negative for the first time in recent years. However, in the case of software services, the net earnings even rose marginally to touch 3.7% of the GDP. The biggest gain was on the remittance front, which touched a new high of $ 54 billion widely surpassing even the $ 50 billion earned from software exports. But despite these gains the large trade deficit ensured that the overall current account deficit (CAD) went up from 2.4% of the GDP in 2008-09 to 2.9% of the GDP in 2009-10, almost the same level that touched off the crisis in the early nineties. However, unlike in the 1990s, this is unlikely to cause any great instability as the large CAD can now be easily financed by the surging foreign investments, whose net inflows shot up substantially in the most recent year to touch a high 4% of the GDP, unlike in the early 1990s when the foreign investment inflows were close to zero.









Short-sales have occupied the attention of regulators for a considerable length of time. Bans on short-selling were an immediate response to the crisis and to the precipitate declines in equity prices occurring in 2008 and 2009. In May, German financial regulators imposed a ban on 'naked' short-sales of Eurozone bonds and credit default swaps as well as on selected German financial stocks. In other countries, these bans were imposed on both the naked (selling securities that you have not been able to borrow or guarantee that you can borrow) and covered (borrowing and then selling) incarnations of short-selling.


The imposition of these bans is generally accompanied by a significant amount of rhetoric. For example, earlier this month, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel wrote a letter to the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, stating: "Naked short-selling should be prohibited to refrain (sic) European markets from suffering a new wave of severe turbulence." There are good reasons to believe that this rhetoric may be overblown.


Financial economists generally disagree about most things and short-selling is no exception. The theoretical models that have been written about short-selling offer different opinions about whether stock prices will be overpriced or underpriced if short-selling is banned. There is also little agreement about the effects of short-sales during market crashes—do they push prices to depths that cannot be justified by underlying economic realities? These disagreements make the effect of bans on short-sales an interesting empirical question—and markets have recently provided empiricists with an excellent experimental laboratory, now that sufficient time has elapsed since the bans were imposed.


In the US, researchers analysed the effects of the 2008 short-sales ban on over 1,000 stocks. They found that the liquidity of the stocks subject to the ban declined, but that the prices of these stocks increased sharply. These declines in liquidity make intuitive sense—if you eliminate one direction of trading, liquidity should decline. However, the price rise that they detected is difficult to interpret. This is because there are several competing interpretations of this result. Prices could have increased because banning short-selling was good for firms, i.e., short-sellers were hammering prices down below the level of fundamentals; or perhaps prices were artificially inflated because banning short-selling killed off negative but sound opinions about the price. A third possibility is that prices increased simply because other events with no relation to the ban on short-selling simultaneously boosted prices. An important confounding event in the US study was the simultaneous announcement of the Troubled Asset Relief Programme (TARP).


Another clever study uses the international imposition of the short-selling bans to kill off the third (TARP) possibility. The authors use a huge set of firms from over 30 countries, and show pretty conclusively that the imposition of both covered and naked short-selling bans reduce liquidity. In a US-free sample of countries, they find that bans actually decreased stock prices on average. The conclusion that we can draw from these analyses is that the imposition of short-sales bans, far from stabilising stock prices, actually have deleterious impacts on market liquidity.


There is another pernicious effect of short-sales bans that is not covered by these studies. I'm going to call it the 'round up the usual suspects' problem. The issue is that a partial imposition of a short-selling ban affects companies not covered by the ban. For example, the FSA in the UK put 34 financial sector firms on a list of companies in which short-selling was restricted. Consequently, companies in the financial sector that were left off the list suffered massive stock price decreases, as they became immediate short-sales targets. Many of these firms then went to the FSA, pleading to be put on the banned list. I would wager that counting this negative externality imposed on firms excluded from short-sales-ban-lists would significantly increase the measured costs of short-sales bans.


Is the right solution then to ban short-sales in everything if you are going to ban short-sales at all? If you ban short-sales in all stocks in a small open economy, you are likely to export the problem to your neighbours (or countries with stocks that are in similar industries). For example, a ban on short-selling in Cambodia could result in stock price declines in Vietnam. More generally, I think the 'round up the usual suspects' problem neatly illustrates the perils of interfering in the market too much. Any committee that decides the market is unfairly penalising certain stocks and decides to put them on a restricted-short-sales list is likely to have far less information than the market in its wisdom. Merton's law of unintended consequences has serious bite here. (I realise that the market's wisdom has taken a beating recently, but we're still to come up with a better mechanism for information aggregation. Committees are clearly not it.) In the absence of any convincing evidence on the merits of short-sales bans, let's agree to ban any bans on short-sales.


The author is a financial economist at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford








The concept of a base rate is laudable and should be welcomed for the high level of transparency it brings to the system. The PLR concept ceased to be relevant when a large number of loans were being sanctioned at a lower rate, leading to the term sub-PLR (distinct from 'sub-prime' that has other connotations). Of the two sets of issues that come up for discussion on this concept, the first pertains to operational aspects and the second to more ideological aspects about formulation.


When looking at base rate calculation, RBI has laid down a formula. It includes the cost of retail deposits, negative carry for CRR and SLR, operational expenses and a return on net worth. Implicitly, it includes a profit component. In the spirit of prudent business operations, banks should not lend below this rate as it means they would be at a loss.


First, how often would this rate be calculated? Should the rate be based on FY10 financials or on a revolving basis? Quarterly results are announced periodically and the same can be done for rates. This question is pertinent because if the number is revised upwards, it is acceptable as RBI thinks banks should not be lending at less than cost. But, in a declining interest rate scenario, the base rate could come down and banks would have to lend at a higher minimum rate. If quarterly rates are acceptable, then why not daily? Since over 85% of banking operations are computerised, it should be possible to have a rate every day. Clarity is needed on periodicity.


Second, currently, most borrowers are paying an interest rate of the PLR plus a premium. Now that the base rate has come down to between 3-4% less than the PLR, a potential borrower would be aghast at the margin that the bank will charge. For example, the rate today could be reckoned as 3% over PLR, based on risk perception, etc. Now, the borrower would face the psychological block of having to pay 3-4% over base rate. Banks will have to now redefine cost of risk when quoting a rate linked to the base rate.


Third, the base rate is not to apply to loans of durations of less than 1 year, although the total sub-base rate loans cannot exceed 15% of incremental lending, with non-priority lending having a sub-limit of 5%. This provides an escape clause to banks to use this limit of sub-base rate to roll over loans to their customers. Operationally, a question could arise when this 15% norm is juxtaposed with surplus liquidity situations, where banks will have to invest in the reverse repo at a lower rate rather than lend at a sub-base rate.


Fourth, banks often see clients as a relationships where deals go beyond the money that is being loaned. In such cases, the bank may like to provide loans at a lower rate for relationship building, ignoring commercial profit. How do they get around the dilemma?


Fifth, as the base rate applies only to lending, will there be an incentive to use commercial paper (CP), after weighing the relative cost (of issuance, stamp duty etc)? Credit-like instruments (CP, bonds, debentures) may emerge to be more popular, where rates are driven by the market and not by statute.


While these are practical issues that will need to be tackled once these rates are operational, ideologically critics have pointed out two aspects of such an approach.


The first is that while the base rate is to apply to all loans, other exceptions have been made; like for exports, where loans would be at the base rate and not at specified basis points lower than the PLR. The point argued by critics is that once we are going in for a base rate concept on sound financial principles, there should not ideally be exceptions based on priorities, unless the amount is being reimbursed to banks. Else it violates the tenet to begin with.


The other interesting issue is the manner in which the rate has been fixed. While the formula is sound, the issue raised is whether the regulator should get involved in the process of fixing the price of any product. By doing so it would indirectly be involved with the commercial viability of the regulated unit. As a corollary, are we going back to the pre-reforms days? There are evidently arguments on both sides against the background of the financial crisis.


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











The government's decision to overhaul the FDI rules and make them stricter for companies is likely to unnerve many corporates. But the overhaul has its purpose. Current loopholes in the policy have opened many windows for companies to bring in FDI circuitously. Now, all investments into sectors with caps—like aviation, telecom and defence—will be monitored by an oversight committee to be set up by the FIPB, the key FDI clearing agency in India. The oversight committee will check the corporate structure of the company and thereby deem it and its downstream investments as Indian or foreign. Apart from tightening the noose around such investments, the government will also completely bar investments in prohibited sectors like retail, agriculture, gambling, nidhi companies and tobacco, even if the companies investing in such sectors are significantly Indian-owned.


Earlier, the PNs had left a grey area for companies of foreign ownership. For instance, an Indian firm with 49% foreign holding could invest in restricted sectors. According to PN 2 and 3, a company is deemed Indian if it has a foreign stake of less than 50% and vice-versa. Now, an Indian firm is very tightly defined as one with no foreign stake for investments in FDI prohibited sectors.


All downstream investments by private Indian banks will be treated as FDI, as these banks are deemed 'foreign-owned' as per their shareholding. Despite there being a long-standing demand from banks for excluding them from the PNs, the government has not budged and not changed the policy in their favour. The only respite the government has extended to corporates is that the policy change is set to have prospective effect. All past investments and downstream investments by corporates would remain unaltered.


Another major succour has been extended to FIIs as they have been exempted from adhering to entry route norms and conditions, usually applicable to long-term investors bringing FDI. Also, the proposed new changes have tried to cut the confusion in treatment of FDI, FIIs and various other forms of foreign investments. All foreign investments will be subsumed under a single FDI cap in any sector instead of having different caps for different forms of investments. The current practice of differentiation in FDI and FII would be done away with.








Eleven people have been killed so far this summer — one, a nine-year old child — in murderous clashes between police and protesters. Polemicists have cast the violence as a new intifada against Indian rule. It isn't, and that makes the killings all the more tragic and deplorable. Kashmir's street war has been overwhelmingly concentrated in the old-town areas of Sopore, Baramulla, and Srinagar. Few of the clashes have involved more than a few hundred people. Home to artisans and traders, the old-towns have been in economic decline for decades, their historic dominance of the region's political life undermined by the emergence of new élites linked to public works contracts, the bureaucracy, and modern entrepreneurship. In recent years, they have become home to large numbers of prospect-less young people. Islamist polemic, the slogans of Kashmiri independence, and the hurled stone are the vocabulary of their inchoate rage.


The riots in Kashmir's old-town areas hold out two distinct challenges: one policing-linked, the other political. First, the death toll has exposed J&K's incapacity to contain the street violence, except through brutal suppression. In some cases, as video footage makes clear, the lives of police personnel were under imminent threat. In others, lethal force appears to have been used because of panic, lapses in planning, and poor training. Instead of working to develop effective, non-lethal crowd control forces of its own, J&K has relied heavily on the Central Reserve Police Force — an overworked organisation called upon to discharge a bewildering array of counter-terrorism, protection, and riot-control duties. The State government has 32,000 armed police personnel to deal with such crises. But to avoid public opprobrium, it has chosen not to take the lead role. As for the political challenge, Kashmir's old-town neighbourhoods have, for historical reasons, resisted the re-institutionalisation of organised politics that has taken place elsewhere in the State. National Conference leaders elected from these areas have ridden to power on low voter turnouts, not popular legitimacy. The power of local leaders of the religious Right, like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has been in decline; the opposition People's Democratic Party is focussed on its south Kashmir heartlands. It is no surprise that the protesters have proved immune to calls for restraint from a wide spectrum of leaders, ranging from secessionists, clerics, and political establishmentarians: none of them speaks for them. Kashmir's Islamist patriarch, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has been the principal beneficiary of this void. Politicians cutting across party lines must address the rage that is driving the violence — or they will collectively pay the price.








After several attempts, researchers have successfully studied the composition of Mars' northern ancient crust. Much like the southern crust, the various hydrated clay minerals, mostly Fe/Mg phyllosilicates, indicate a high likelihood of an ancient environment that sustained surface and subsurface liquid water on the red planet. The paper, published online in Science ("Detection of hydrated silicates in crustal outcrops in the northern plains of Mars," by J. Carter et al.), indicates that the hydrated minerals of ancient crustal rock in the northern hemisphere were formed by aqueous alteration at a high temperature and in a subsurface environment. The ancient crustal rock in the northern plain, unlike the one in the southern hemisphere, has remained unexplored so far because it is covered by a blanket of lava and sediments that is hundreds of metres thick. This blanket has been punctured at several points by huge craters created by asteroid impacts exposing the ancient crust. Using the images taken by sensors on board the European Space Agency's Mars Express and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the authors found hydrated minerals in nine of the 91 craters studied. The composition of the hydrated minerals strongly suggests that they were formed prior to asteroid impact and crater formation. In fact, being identical in composition with the phyllosilicates found in the southern hemisphere, the impacting asteroids could not have played a role in their formation.


In our solar system, after Earth, Mars may have a hospitable climate favourable to life, the basic requirement being the presence of water. The presence of water-ice clouds, similar to the cirrus clouds on Earth, in the atmosphere of the red planet, and their precipitation toward the ground were reported last year. The latest discovery indicates that Mars was once altered on a global scale by liquid water more than four billion years ago. But the close proximity of the hydrated silicates to unaltered olivine mineral, which is easily modified by water, suggests that the minerals were exposed to water only for a geologically short period of tens of million to hundreds of million years. It could also mean that they were not exposed to large bodies of water. Primary mineral hydration would have occurred within the crust partly in the subsurface. This is contrary to the views of a number of scientists that a shallow ocean covered the northern hemisphere after the craters were filled by lava and sediments.








There is a cultural defensiveness among many Indians, but they bring enterprise and energy to communities with their presence, and this works to everyone's benefit.


Pranay Gupte


There has been increasing angst and teeth-gnashing among Indians in the United States this week over a tongue-in-cheek essay by columnist Joel Stein in the international newsweekly, Time. Mr. Stein ruefully talks about how his native Edison, a New Jersey community just across the Hudson River from New York City, has been transformed into a "Little India" — with the overpowering smells of Indian cuisine, the eclectic colours of Indian ethnicity, and the distinctive dialects of the subcontinent dominating what was once a largely Italian-American town.


The blogosphere has been ricocheting with rants against the writer, accusing him of prejudice or worse. Time's editors subsequently said that the magazine — whose circulation is just under four million — did not intend to offend Indians. I know Mr. Stein, and he's scarcely a racist; he has acknowledged that the presence of Indians has brought fresh prosperity and diversity to Edison. I am pretty sure that his piece was intended to be satirical, even if it wasn't especially felicitous. Columnists, after all, are paid to be provocative; engendering offence is sometimes one of those unintended consequences of the trade.


An Indian friend, who lives in East Asia, put a healthy perspective on Mr. Stein's article after I had e-mailed it to her. "I was aware somewhere that I ought to be insulted as this guy is saying mean things about my countrymen and culture — but the piece is written with so much humour and candour that I could not help but see his point," she said. "I cannot help but see where he is coming from. It may not be balanced but brings out the feelings of so many. And somewhere along the line admits to being biased. I see why Time ran it!"


My own feeling is that Indians — especially those living and prospering abroad — often tend to be bereft of irony and a self-deprecating sense of humour; they are given to being far too readily offended as a tribe. It may not quite be a "Masada Complex" — a feeling of being under siege — but there's a cultural defensiveness that I have sensed among many Indians I have known since I first landed in the U.S. as a student.


Of course, there are now many more Indians in America since my initial arrival in 1967. When I visited the U.S. — now my adopted country — not long ago for a major class reunion at Brandeis University near Boston and Cambridge, it struck me that just about every second person on the streets seemed to be of Indian origin. In my home city of New York, the situation was no less different.


Surely, I thought, America — a nation of 307 million — must profit substantially from the presence of these Indians, of whom there are now more than 2.5 million, a tenth of the global Indian Diaspora. As if by serendipity, I came across a study showing that indeed America does benefit handsomely through the contributions of Indians, including businessmen, physicians, and high-technology entrepreneurs.


This study was jointly prepared by the India-U.S. World Affairs Institute of Washington, the Robert H. Smith School of Business of the University of Maryland, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry; it revealed that Indians are not only the most affluent and most educated of the scores of ethnic communities in the melting pot that's the U.S., they are also rapidly becoming among the most significant investors in the American economy.

According to the report, 90 Indian companies made 127 greenfield investments worth $5.5 billion between 2004 and 2009, and created 16,576 jobs in the U.S. During the same period, 239 Indian companies made 372 acquisitions in the U.S., creating more than 40,000 jobs. The total value of 267 (of the 372) acquisitions was $21 billion, or $78.7 million per acquisition. A "greenfield investment" is a form of foreign direct investment where a parent company starts a new venture in a foreign country by constructing new operational facilities from the ground up.


The study says that the five industrial sectors in the U.S. that received the most greenfield investment were metals; software and information technology services; leisure and entertainment; industrial machinery, equipment and tools; and financial services. The sums poured into these sectors accounted for almost 80 per cent of total greenfield investment. New Jersey — the State in which Edison is located — has been one of the top recipients of Indian investment.


New Jersey schools and colleges also have among the largest number of the Indian students who come to the U.S. each year. Overall, there are an estimated 94,563 students from India whose net contribution to the U.S. economy was $2.39 billion, according to the study. In fact, students of Indian origin constitute 10 to 12 per cent of medical students entering U.S. schools, the new study says. Furthermore, there are about 50,000 physicians (and 15,000 medical students) of Indian heritage in the American cities, and in rural areas.


New Jersey has its share of the so-called "Patel motels" too. There are currently almost 10,000 Indian American owners of hotels/motels in the U.S., owning over 40 per cent of all hotels in the country and 39 per cent of all guest rooms; the study says they own more than 21,000 hotels with 1.8 million guest rooms and property valued at $129 billion. These Indian-owned facilities employ 578,600 workers.


The U.S. Census Bureau adds that there were 231,000 businesses owned by Indian Americans in 2002, which employed 615,000 workers and had revenues of over $89 billion. (The Census Bureau conducts the survey every five years, and the results of the 2007 survey will be available in a few days). A study led by Vivek Wadhwa for Duke University and the University of California, Berkeley, found that Indian immigrant entrepreneurs had founded more engineering and technology companies during 1995-2005 than immigrants from Britain, China, Japan, and Taiwan combined. Of all immigrant-founded companies, 26 per cent had Indian founders.


Which brings us back to Joel Stein's column and all the hullaballoo that it has generated. Edison, New Jersey, may not be a precursor of things to come — in other words, Indians are hardly about to demographically dominate small towns all across America; the country's immigration laws would work against that possibility. But Indians bring enterprise and energy to communities with their presence, and this works to everyone's benefit. They are largely anchored in their homespun culture, but they are also respectful of American mores and morals, and laws as well. They make the American tapestry more colourful, richer, and culturally more alive. They are living the American Dream, but in their own special Indian way. What's wrong with that?


(Pranay Gupte is a veteran international journalist and author. His forthcoming book is on India and the Middle East.)








Over the past month, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal kept his cards close to his chest, even as the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and parts of the Nepali intelligentsia accused him of being power-hungry and wanting to remain in the prime minister's seat. On 30 June, he sprang a surprise on the Maoists, his own party members as well as his allies the coalition government, including the Nepali Congress which had supported him through thick and thin over the course of 13 months. That, it should be said at the outset, was a notably long period for a Nepali cabinet to remain in power, the predecessor Maoist government having lasted just nine months.

The fact is that during the Constituent Assembly elections of April 2008, the Prime Minister Nepal, now reduced to a caretaker, lost in both constituencies from which he ran. But it is also a fact that the Maoists themselves had lobbied for his nomination to membership in the Constituent Assembly, given his consensus-making abilities, which in turn made him eligible for the prime ministership.


The Maoists resigned from government in May 2009, the specific cause being the adventurist position that they had taken with regard to the chain of command in the national army, in attempting to sack Chief of the Army Staff Rookmangud Katwal. Over the following year, President Ram Baran Yadav, who vetoed the Maoist move on the Nepal Army, and Prime Minister Nepal, who became head of a coalition of 22 political parties headed by his CPN (Unified Marxist-Leninist), became the prime targets of Maoist ire.


Having had all the prime positions in the government they headed, including minister of defence in a country just out of internal conflict, the Maoists quickly realised the blunder of their resignation. They had since sought every approach to dislodge Prime Minister Nepal to get back to power. The Maoist campaign of removing Mr. Nepal also seemed to be based on the calculation that it would be good to be running the government when the first elections were held after the new constitution was, eventually, promulgated.


Madhav Kumar was weak as prime minister from the start, mainly because the Nepali Congress supremo, the late Girija Prasad Koirala, decided to send his daughter Sujata (as both foreign minister and deputy prime minister) to head the party in the cabinet. This had a domino effect, leading the heavyweights in all parties to stay away from the government. Though Prime Minister Nepal himself was acknowledged for his probity, his governance was generally marked by lack of willpower and capability, added to the many ministers accused of corruption and excess.


But even a weak government should be brought down by constitutional and parliamentary process, and this proved impossible for the Maoists to manage. Such was the fear of the Maoists among the 22 parties, large and minuscule alike, that there no breakaway party to join the Maoist attempt to bring a no-confidence motion against the Nepal government, which would have required 301 votes in a House of 601 members.


The Maoists relied on street action and harsh speeches to try and force Prime Minister Nepal's hand. After leaving government, they boycotted and blocked Parliament for five months, and thereafter embarked on a two-month ultra-nationalist, anti-India campaign, blaming New Delhi for propping up the Kathmandu government. When that campaign faltered, the Maoists decided to raise the ante on street action, calling an indefinite nationwide general strike in early May saying that it would lead to a general revolt and fall of government. A peace rally called spontaneously in Kathmandu's Durbar Square rivalled the well-planned Maoist May Day rally in size.


The general strike failed to achieve its goal, with the government refusing to dissolve even as spontaneous anti-Maoist reaction began to set in across the country. Eventually the strike was called off by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, even as the opinion began to grow that he was holding his own party, as well as society at large, hostage to the personal agenda of getting back to the prime-ministerial chair which he had abandoned the previous year.


Deep divisions within the Maoist leadership began to come to the fore over the course of June 2010, while the party decided not to support the government in the presentation of the budget slated for July 5. Prime Minister Nepal was also looking at the possibility of elements of his own party leadership, supported by his party's chairman, Jhalanath Khanal, challenging the government's budget on the floor of the House.


This would have led to a humiliating ouster of the prime minister, and a resignation on his own volition seemed preferable. Chairman Khanal has always believed that he was cheated of his rightful claim to the prime-ministership, and he had spent much of the past year making statements against his own CPN (UML)-led government.


With President Yadav having called on the political parties to find a consensus candidate to lead the government by July 7, it is clear that there has to be a majority coalition — even though an all-party government of national unity would be preferable for the sake of constitution-writing. As things stand, it is unlikely that the other large parties will agree to the UCPN (Maoist) leading the new government, even though it is the largest party with 38 per cent presence in the House.


The reasons the others are loathe to support the Maoists is because they retain their military and paramilitary organisations, and have been foot-dragging on demobilising their cadre through a formula that would include some integration of ex-combatants into the security forces and rehabilitation of the rest. The Maoists are also additionally weakened at this point internally, making it more difficult to put up a joint front due to divisions between their top three leaders, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Baburam Bhattarai and Mohan Vaidya.


Meanwhile, the Nepali Congress has laid claim to the next prime ministership, stating that the last two governments since the elections have been led by the Maoists and the CPN (UML). However, the recently unified Congress party is divided between the four-time prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and the elected leader of the party in Parliament, Ram Chandra Poudel.


By next week, hopefully, the people Nepal will know who the next prime minister will be. One way or another, that individual will have the task of providing political stability and a successful conclusion to the peace process, which would in turn provide the conditions required for the writing of a democratic constitution. That relief is required for a society that has remained in suspended animation for four long years after the People's Movement of April 2006, and after the end of the Maoist 'people's war.'


The next prime minister could be from the ranks of the UCPN (Maoist) party, but that will require rapid action from the party on a credible timetable relating to the disbanding of the Maoist cantonments and the barrack structures of the Young Communist League. Also, Chairman Dahal would have to be willing to have someone else to lead the government from the party. With both scenarios unlikely in the immediate future, it is likely that the new prime minister of Nepal will be from the Nepali Congress or the CPN (UML). Thus, the possible claimants would be Ram Chandra Poudel, Jhalanath Khanal and — once again — Madhav Kumar Nepal.










Tetra ethyl lead (TEL) is a killer chemical, nowadays banned in the west for use in car fuel.


The colourless, oily liquid is so toxic that workers went mad and died during the first attempt to manufacture TEL commercially, at the Bayway refinery in New Jersey in 1924. American newspapers called it "loony gas". After that scandal, double-skinned rubber gear and goggles became de rigeur in its manufacture. TEL is the "lead" in leaded petrol: a heavy metal compound to improve engine performance. It was promoted by the oil industry for 50 years, until evidence of childhood neurological damage eventually outlawed it by 2000 in Europe and the U.S..


It was a political triumph at the time for veteran British campaigner Des Wilson. But the grim-looking Octel plant alongside the Manchester ship canal went on making TEL, the only place in the world to do so.


Postponing the day when they were forced to stop endangering foreign children, Octel's British managers made high profits, with generous salaries and share options. Indonesia and Iraq continued for years to buy TEL, allowing their citizens to inhale lead dust from exhausts.


The researched effects of such exposure can include reduction in children's IQs, and long-term increases in violent crime and mental illness.


Octel's former chief executive, Dennis Kerrison, said: "Our strategy was to win the endgame for TEL." He assured investors in 1998: "Developing these markets promises us more than sufficient cash flow for at least the next eight years." "Maximise the cash flow" became the company's mantra. They aggressively jacked up TEL prices as all rival manufacturers left the field.


The company even managed to keep the Iraq market alive while diversifying into other chemicals.


How did they succeed? According to the new management, the answer is one word: bribery.


At least $9m was corruptly paid during the "endgame" in Iraq and Indonesia, simultaneous court hearings in London and Washington were told in March. According to court documents, Octel bribed at every turn. Brown envelopes with £1,000 "pocket—money" were slipped to various officials visiting London. Octel even agreed to pay $13,000, purportedly for a top Iraq oil ministry official to honeymoon in Thailand in 2006.


The official identified in the documents, the deputy oil minister Ahmad al Shamma, denied indignantly in a video interview with the Guardian that he had ever taken money or indeed visited Thailand.


He promised an investigation into the other corruption allegations, and suggested that the company's Lebanese middleman, Osama Naaman, might have extracted some of the bribe cash from Octel under false pretences.


Naaman has been extradited and is currently under arrest in Washington, where he is negotiating a plea bargain, according to court files.


London's Southwark crown court found in March that in Indonesia Octel had set out to bribe the head of the state oil company, Rachmat Sudibyo, and financed "Defence of lead" campaigns, delaying a ban through "a slush fund to corrupt government figures with the intention of blocking legislative moves to ban ... TEL".


Company accounts show that from 1998 to 2009, Octel's revenue from exporting TEL to various developing countries was $1.8bn, with profits totalling more than $600m.


Kerrison, the CEO who ran Octel's "endgame", stepped down in April 2005. He was handed a severance package recorded at $4m. He told the Guardian his departure was by agreement, unrelated to bribery allegations and that the company failed to pay all he was due. He insists he knew nothing of bribery: "I did not in any way turn a blind eye. In fact, at every opportunity, I tried to improve the company's compliance record." Kerrison's successor as CEO, Paul Jennings, himself took a payoff in March 2009. Jennings, who was treasurer of Britain's Chemical Industries Association, stepped down saying he could not "move the business on" while criminal investigations continued.


For Jennings too, there had been six fat years of income and share options from playing the "endgame". His severance package was costed at $1.8m. He collected more than $13m in total.


There was a previous history of corruption at Octel. The company hired the subsequently-disgraced lobbyist Ian Greer in the 1980s, in an early attempt to stop health curbs on lead biting into Octel's profits.


The first rumours of bribery were heard in 2003, when U.S. troops invaded Iraq. Oil ministry files fell into their hands. Washington published an audit of the thousands of U.N.-approved contracts for goods supplied under sanctions to Saddam.


Among the list of suspiciously expensive deals was one for nearly 2,000 tons of TEL. At almost $20m, it was alleged to be 37 per cent over—priced.


The seller was named as an obscure Swiss—registered firm, Alcor. Alcor proved to be part of Octel, and the barrels of toxic chemical involved must, in fact, have been shipped to Saddam from Octel's British factory at Ellesmere Port, north-west England.


The UN inquiry into "Oil for Food" was set up under Paul Volker, looking at Octel, among many others. In autumn 2005 the Alcor deals were included in those publicly labelled as crooked.


The Octel file went to the US justice department in Washington, which launched a criminal investigation. Later the Serious Fraud Office in London joined in.


In early 2006, as news of the US Department of Justice investigation became public, Octel changed its name to Innospec.


The investigations took a further four-and-a-half years. Bank and company files were subpoenaed and a wider range of Octel crime began to open up.


But a lenient corporate plea agreement was thrashed out in March this year, when the company pleaded guilty to corruption.


The department of justice says that due to initial obstruction by the firm some executives can no longer be prosecuted because their cases are out of time.


It also says profits were milked away: "Innospec dissipated more than $26m in assets through dividends and stock buybacks that could have been used to satisfy any obligations or judgments in this case." Relatively small global penalties were agreed by U.S. and U.K. prosecutors. It was claimed the company would go out of business otherwise. At Southwark crown court in March, the judge, Geoffrey Rivlin, protested about leniency in the face of such "massive criminality".


Instead of what would have been at least $400m in fines, Innospec was let off with a tenth of that amount — $40.2 m — and allowed to pay in instalments.


So far, the only individuals to have suffered penalties have been the nameless children who spent time on the traffic-choked streets of Jakarta and Baghdad in recent years, and who may have inhaled lead dust.


But effects on them are bound to prove more difficult to document. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010








In the end Angela Merkel's candidate won: Christian Wulff, a party insider from the centre-right, is the new German president. But he only got it on the third and final round. It is rare in Germany's post-war history that a presidential election has gone to a third round.


On paper Mrs. Merkel would have expected a comfortable majority in the federal assembly. But rebels within her ruling coalition were prepared to embarrass and weaken her by either abstaining or voting for the opposition candidate for president. The scale of the revolt has surprised people here in Berlin.


"That was a big slap in the face," said Gerd Langruth, a political scientist at Bonn university. "I didn't expect that many to vote against her."


"Maybe someone wanted to send a message to the leadership," said Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats. "Great idea," he said, "wrong day."


Within her own ranks there is clearly real unhappiness with her leadership. Some in her coalition have used a very public occasion to damage her. They could have put on a display of unity, but they chose not to.


The core of the problem is the infighting within her coalition with the Free Democrats. There is also widespread disillusionment with her handling of the crisis in the eurozone. Germans do not want to bailout weaker, less disciplined countries like Greece. They worry that time and again there will be raids on German funds. Mrs. Merkel is seen to have acted indecisively. Some also believe that the German austerity package was not socially fair.


But this political tremor has its roots in a sense that Mrs. Merkel has made mistakes and misjudgements and that her coalition seems fragmented.


Der Spiegel, in its online version, said: "Merkel should fear the twilight of her chancellorship."


Those who know her well, like Margaret Heckel, who has written "So Reigns the Chancellor," an account of her leadership, says Mrs. Merkel can't be muscled out of power.


"She's very analytical," says Heckel. "If trouble happens she becomes very quiet. The room temperature drops 10 degrees. She withdraws into herself and becomes very quiet to think things over. I've never seen her act impulsively."


She likes being chancellor, according to Heckel, and feels her job is not done. She wants to "get Germany through the financial crisis and back on track."


Mrs. Merkel's immediate challenge is to get her coalition functioning smoothly. There are reports of rows and shouting matches as recently as yesterday.


In many ways she is bending Europe to her vision. She believes in austerity, in reducing debt, in balanced budgets. Other leaders may not like being forced to become more like Germany but, so far, she has won the argument.


She will resist pressure from other Europeans to increase domestic demand at home. As Heckel says: "How could she start telling the German public to start buying because one has to save the rest of Europe? The German nation likes to save, to have stable personal budgets. How could she change that? It's futile."


So her instinct will be to fight on, but a Germany with a less confident leader could be a blow to Europe which is looking to its strongest country to help lead it out of recession. — © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate








Greenhouse gas emissions from rich countries fell a record 7 per cent in 2009 because of the recession, but the cut was entirely nullified by steep increases from fast-growing China and India, according to one of Europe's leading scientific research groups.


Overall, this meant annual global climate emissions remained steady for the first time since 1992, says the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency which drew on energy-use data from the U.S. government, the EU, BP energy data, the cement industry, and elsewhere. But the Dutch government-funded agency, which in 2007 was the first to correctly identify that China had overtaken the US as the world's greatest greenhouse gas polluter, warned the figures did not mean that rich countries had cleaned up their act.


"A large part of production capacity has been suspended, but this could be re-employed as soon as the economy improves. It is likely that a recovering economy would cause emission levels in industrialised countries to go up. Nevertheless, the economic downturn has meant that these countries can meet their reduction obligations with more ease," said NEAA spokeswoman Anneke Oosterhuis.


"Another consequence of this downturn is that some industrialised countries may need to purchase fewer emission rights from reduction projects in developing countries, which, in turn, means that there will be less money available for emission reductions in those developing countries," said Oosterhuis. The figures will come as a relief to the world's rich countries which — the U.S. aside — are legally committed to reducing emissions by a collective 5.2 per cent on 1990 figures by 2012. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010









The rain god Indra, who is also the god of storms and war, has so far smiled on South India but is yet to bestow his largesse on the rest of the country. The India Metrological Department claims that the rainfall is 18 per cent below normal in northwest India, 26 per cent below normal in central India and 17 per cent below normal in east and northeast India, while in the south it is five per cent above normal. But all is not yet lost, though there is considerable and growing concern over the monsoon's late arrival across the country. The IMD claims that it will be in full swing all over India by July 15, and also forecasts that the June-September rainfall will be 102 per cent of the long period average — up from its earlier forecast of 98 per cent. If this actually turns out to be true, India will have a normal monsoon this year. But the worry is also that the rainfall, even if "normal", could be unevenly spread — this could have an impact on agriculture as different crops are grown in different parts of the country. Rice, for instance, is grown mainly in Uttar Pradesh, soyabean in Madhya Pradesh, groundnut in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and so on. Bihar and UP also contribute 16 per cent of India's total agricultural output — and the bulk of foodgrain production comes from crops sown between July and September.
Strange as it may sound, India's $1.3 trillion economy depends considerably on the strength of the monsoon. Agriculture accounts for 17-18 per cent of our GDP. Successive governments, with their criminal neglect of irrigation over the years, have made the country hostage to the rain god — even today just about 20.3 per cent of the total irrigable land is actually irrigated. It is hard to run a modern economy without a modern infrastructure.

The country is glued as never before to news about the monsoon. With the growing spread of communications, people are much more aware of how the economy — and their lives — can get derailed due to the lack of rain. There is also rising awareness of the link between the absence of adequate rainfall and food inflation. Last year, due to an erratic monsoon, India had to import food and then deal with imported inflation. When the news spreads globally that India, one of the largest producers of rice and wheat, is short of foodgrain and edible oils, international prices of wheat and rice shoot up. This is what happened last year. India is totally dependent on imports for edible oils. The effect of this is there for everyone to see. Since November, food inflation has hovered between 17 and 20 per cent. The consequences of a failed monsoon can be catastrophic: 75 per cent of this country remains dependent on agriculture and allied activities, and if there is a crop failure, the hardest hit will be the small and marginal farmers, whose income depends on their produce, and farm labourers, who will become jobless. Industry, particularly the fast-moving consumer goods sector, will also receive a setback as much of its profits depend on rural demand. The power sector, primarily hydropower, will go for a toss as 26 per cent of generating capacity is hydro-based. In 2008-09, according to one report, India Inc lost Rs 43,205 crores due to power outages.

Of course, if we have a good monsoon all over India, it will give a fillip to both agriculture and industry and boost GDP growth. At this point, though, one can only pray that the rain god sends his "Indra dhanush" to cover the entire country








An interesting, but not necessarily intriguing, feature of the summit that concluded in Toronto earlier this week was the nomenclature. To the British media, it was unquestionably the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit. Their Indian counterparts, however, preferred to view it as a conclave of the Group of Twenty (G-20).

Both were right. The G-8 Summit set the stage for the G-20 meeting, not least to demonstrate that the definition of Big Powers has been enlarged since the victors of World War II rewarded each other with permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. The G-8 is a cosy, time-tested club, even if it includes an excitable Italy and a Russia that some are very wary of. The G-20 on the other hand is more diffused but includes, among others, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia — countries that will shape the global economy of the future.

The perception that the G-8 constitutes a Super League is self-comforting for a country such as Britain that is increasingly unsure of its own future. Moreover, since news coverage tends to be shaped by national boundaries, it is understandable that the British media focussed primarily on Prime Minister David Cameron's debut on the international stage. It referred to Mr Cameron being the "new kid on the block" and contrasted his social ease with the earnestness of his predecessor, Gordon Brown. Predictably, there was no mention of US President Barack Obama's one-liner that when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke, the world listened. To them, it was more interesting that Mr Obama reinforced the "special relationship" between the two English-speaking countries by offering Mr Cameron a lift on his helicopter.

It is tempting for those who carry the baggage of "anti-colonialism" to rush to the conclusion that the British media's coverage of the goings-on in Toronto points to an unwarranted arrogance that is typical of an erstwhile imperial power. Arguably, the attitudes of some Britons could do with some modifications. Fortunately, the conduct of foreign policy isn't always linked to popular priorities. If that was so, India would barely be bothered to look beyond the emotive boundaries of its complex relationship with Pakistan.

The point to note is that Mr Obama's flattering references to Dr Singh wasn't an isolated act of generosity. In a move whose significance hasn't been fully grasped as yet, the new Conservative-led coalition government in London has decided to refocus British foreign policy. According to an interview by its foreign secretary William Hague to a British newspaper, Britain will pursue a "distinctive" foreign policy and will no longer be obsessed by the three "blocs" — the US, European Union and West Asia: "Britain must forge a distinctive new global identity which focuses as much on emerging nations such as India, Brazil, Chile and the Gulf states". It has been suggested that Mr Cameron is intent on a "special relationship" with India, the contours of which will be unveiled during his visit to Delhi in July.

It is unfair to expect any Indo-British "special relationship" to replicate the 70-year-old Anglo-American entente. There are large areas governing politics, intelligence and defence that will remain outside the orbit of special privilege until mutual trust deepens. It would be unrealistic, for example, to expect Britain to suddenly become publicly wary of Pakistan's designs on Afghanistan and Kashmir. The misgivings — and there are many — of the multiple power centres in Islamabad will be private and understated, not least because Whitehall isn't terribly anxious to provoke its citizens of Pakistani origin into making foreign policy a facet of its domestic agenda. Having burnt its fingers quite badly in the Afghan operations, a country such as Britain is likely to redefine its core competence away from war games. mr Cameron, for example, has already indicated that he doesn't expect British troops to be in Afghanistan for more than four years.

The disengagement of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces from Afghanistan before either a political settlement or a military victory is worrying for India. Pakistan's recovery of its "strategic depth" is bound to add to the existing complications in Indo-Pakistan ties. At the same time, it is also unrealistic to expect the US and Britain to continue to shoulder all military responsibilities in what is turning out to be an unwinnable war. New Delhi will have to undertake some innovative diplomacy, in conjunction with the West, to ensure that Afghanistan doesn't revert to being a springboard for global, jihadi terror.

A policy based on mutual recognition of each other's compulsions is the most viable architecture for India's relationship with the West. A heartening feature of the new dispensation in Whitehall is that it doesn't inherit the ideological baggage of the Brown government. For India, Britain is an invaluable trade partner, a source and destination for capital investment and a half-way access to both the European Union and the US. If a country with a toehold, albeit a tenuous one, in the G-8 is offering India a "special relationship", it must be grabbed enthusiastically, even if there isn't convergence on every issue.

India has to finetune its foreign policy to suit the imperatives of business. That involves underplaying strategic calculations in the neighbourhood and, equally, being less prickly in responding to slights, real or imaginary. For a start, India would do well to not react to every so-called "anti-India" demonstration, whether in Canada or Britain. South Block must realise that Canadian foreign policy isn't shaped by fringe Khalistani groups in Toronto and Vancouver; nor is British foreign policy moulded by Balti restaurant owners in Birmingham.
The G-20 Summit was an occasion for some soul-searching. India figured positively because it has come out of the economic downturn relatively unscathed. New Delhi is in demand because its potential has been acknowledged. It would be silly to fritter away this advantage by pretending we are a helpless Third World nation and remaining a prisoner of history.

Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist








Moments of nostalgia are both moments of memory and invitations to rethinking. When the STEPS Centre at University of Sussex announced it was going to present a new manifesto for science, technology and development, it was a moment of expectation. The previous document, done 40 years ago and associated with legends like Hans Singer, was one of the great development manifestos. Forty years is a long time to reflect and turn self-reflexive.

The new manifesto has outstanding scholars like Ian Scoones, Andy Stirling and Melissa Leach working on it. Everything about its rituals seems utterly correct and open. Yet as one reads the manifesto one senses a redundancy. Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex, looks at the world and sees IDS.

Let us look at the document as a narrative. The framing is predictable. It begins like all manifestos with a litany of good intentions. Militarism is on the increase, poverty still haunts the universe. Yet for all the talk of poverty, there is no sense of it. One misses what Leonard Boff, a liberation theologist called "a preferential option for the poor against their poverty". The critique of poverty which should have been a lens for understanding becomes a picture frame for IDS to memorialise itself.

The document returns to cliché. It claims to rethink the way we think about innovation. Every scholar thinks his project is a solution to poverty. It makes scholarship and poverty self-perpetuating and creates complicity between the two. The current document creates participation without a hearing aid. It reads poverty but misses out on the poor, their theorising, their modes of coping, their sense of the world. Because then the core would not have been the involvement with innovation but with democracy as an inventive process. Here instead of fetishising innovation, one sees innovation along with improving, coping, jugaad, satisficing and muddling through as strategies of survival and subsistence. The migrant, the marginal farmer, the craftsman, all improvise, invent and one needs a wider sense of that.

It criticises progress in terms of its directionality. But in discussing innovation in terms of who gets what, when and why, it offers window dressing. It recognises cultural variety but treats it superficially. The margins are still the object of study, not a subject of agency of innovation. It is still a managerial exercise, a human relations effort of laboratory-based science crying crocodile tears over land. Twenty round tables have added little to the imagination of science or democracy. The manifesto is a bit touristy. After its global round up, it returns home and becomes what it is, a provincial piece of Sussex.

One must accept it as a statement of good intentions. It claims to diversify the debate yet it does not pluralise it. It demands that the number of stakeholders increase to include laboratories, funders, civil society, international agencies. But this is still a technocratic space which emasculates politics or reduces politics to a few NGOs. What one misses is the imagination of democracy, the debates on alternatives present in the work of Ashis Nandy, Gustavo Esteva, Paul Farmer, Arjun Sengupta, Rajni Kothari. It confuses variety and choice for alternatives. The document lacks specificity. It asks for democratic scrutiny but never specifies a single institutional innovation from the Right to Information to the new models of swaraj. It points out correctly to distortions in health budget where 10 per cent of the health budget is spent on 90 per cent of the diseases that affect world's population. Yet as analyst, it never sees itself as case study. It does not ask if the Sussex idea of science and development contribute to this impasse.

I am not asking for breast beating but IDS cannot be part of the solution till it recognises it is part of the problem. It fails to use the pathbreaking work of its own scholars like Robert Chambers on Farmer First or Mary Kaldor's Baroque Arsenal to create the understandings for a different kind of innovation. Eventually it is a Boy Scout thesis, a text book civics. It talks correctly about innovations at the bottom of the pyramid, of the potential of local innovations but there is little about how to create genuine citizenship and equity in the world of science and technology.

There is something of value in its observations on distribution about user-centric innovation. But for that groups like IDS and Sussex university's Science and Technology Policy Research will have to demystify themselves. They have to deconstruct the myth of expertise and rework it in terms of a democracy of knowledge. Bottom-up is poor metaphor for democracy. Bottom-up is a mechanical inversion at a time one is looking for transformation.

What is missing is a new set of keywords or critical ways of looking at diversity, sustainability and vulnerability that invokes a new sense of science, that studies and debates how science actually operates and the need for what Sheila Jasonoff calls a sense of humility. By black boxing science and seeing it as a problem-solving instrument it renders a disservice to science. It renders a disservice to itself by not internalising the work of scholars like Paul Richards, Jasonoff, and Bryan Wynne. One is mystified by this self-imposed illiteracy.

For a manifesto to be a vision, it needs a sense of imaginaries, constructs of possibilities which are not yet realisable. It has to summon the impossible, the not yet do-able, not to create a shopping list of clichés around sustainability and environment. These words are becoming plastic words, whose shapes and meaning change as they become appropriated or routinised. Does sustainability for the affluent have the same logic as sustainability for subsistence? Can one talk of justice in the world of IPRs or change when you do not want to rock the boat?
Sadly, at the end of the deliberation all one gets is the need for new innovation foras, a Global Innovation Commission. It reduces democracy willy nilly to Rule by Committee, where committees have no place for communities. It has some interesting suggestions but they are discrete, lacking the wisdom of the whole. One asks for more because one expects more from the world of scholarship. Yet sadly this is a document that illustrates the growing gap between the correct and the true. It is an irony that this new manifesto will have to live with.


Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist








In John le Carré classic Cold War spy novel Smiley's People, the British intelligence service MI6 (often referred to as "the Circus") receives a call from a former Soviet general-turned-British agent: "There must be a meeting. Tonight. A meeting or nothing", says the general. And then he adds, "I insist on Moscow Rules!" The general, however, was followed and killed by KGB agents before the meeting.

I have not come across any official description of "Moscow Rules" that he was insisting upon, but according to unconfirmed information floating on the Internet, these are said to be a set of unwritten dos and don'ts (example: "if it feels wrong, it is wrong", and "never go against your gut") developed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Cold War for its operatives in Moscow.

I was reminded of "Moscow Rules" and "Moscow Centre" — a term le Carré coined for KGB headquarters — earlier this week when I read the news of an alleged Russian spy ring operating in the US, a tale that has all the elements of a racy Cold War novel set in modern times. There is even a sexy redhead in the plot.
If you enjoy Cold War espionage — I believe the best spy fiction is based on those days — visit the New York Times website and read the 55-page court affidavit filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the spy case.
The story begins in mid-1990s when Russian spymasters sent a group of young men and women to the United States. Their mission: infiltrate thinktanks and government officials and gather information for Moscow. The group took on identities of dead Americans and Canadians, adopted Western names such Richard and Cynthia Murphy and Donald Howard and Tracy Lee, became naturalised Americans, and lived as married couples and had children. One of them, a woman named Vicky Pelaez, even became a columnist at a Spanish-language newspaper.

These spies met their handlers in parks and cafes, used old-fashioned techniques like the "brush pass" to swap packages in crowded places, and, just like in the movies, carried money in envelopes concealed in folded newspapers.

They used code phrases to identify other agents:

The contact: "Excuse me, but haven't we met in California last summer?"

The female agent: "No, I think it was the Hamptons".

In espionage language, these Russians were "illegals" — a word originally used for KGB agents who operated solo without the protection of diplomatic immunity — who had assumed a new, false identity or a "cover" also called a "legend" inspycraft. Fans of spy novels would have called them "sleeper moles".

When one of them was sent to Rome for a clandestine meeting with an agent from Moscow, his instructions were to approach a man carrying a copy of Time magazine and ask: "Excuse me, could we have met in Malta in 1999?" An all-clear reply would be, "Yes indeed, I was in La Valetta, but in 2000". But if the man carried the magazine in his left hand, it meant danger.

Earlier this week, on Monday, FBI agents swooped on the group and arrested 10 people in New York, Washington and Boston on charges of spying for Russia. The agency claims that these alleged spies were sent to the US by SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service that succeeded the KGB after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

They knew how to use ciphers; and had been taught a range of techniques to communicate with their Russian handlers — from old-fashioned "invisible ink" to modern encrypted computers linked via private networks and "steganography", a high-tech method to encode data in an image.

In 2009, the FBI decrypted a coded message sent by Moscow Centre to two members of the ring: "You were sent to USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc — all these serve one goal: fulfil your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in the US and send intels (intelligence reports) to C". The "C" here stands for "the Centre" — the SVR headquarters in
Moscow known as "Moscow Centre".

To me, it also sounds like a reprimand from the boss. I don't know if these "illegals" were doing their job well, the nature of information they managed to gather and pass on to Moscow, or if they were enjoying the American life and sending lemons back home. Either way it's a fascinating plot.

It's not often that you come across "old school" espionage terms such as "illegal", "legend", "brush pass" and "deep-cover assignment" in a contemporary, real-life spy case.

The Iron Curtain may have fallen but some rules of the game haven't changed. So there is
hope for fans of Cold War spy stories.


Shekhar Bhatia can be contacted at









The questionable role of the credit rating agencies in the financial market crisis of 2008 is now public knowledge.


The clinical details are not yet out but it is clear that these agencies gave positive ratings to banks and other financial institutions despite knowledge of the credit instruments which were the basis of many of the toxic mortgages that led to the market implosion.


But now the new financial market regulation legislation passed by the US Congress has provisions which would allow corporations to sue these agencies for not being reliable in their ratings.


While many experts feel that the agencies have been let off rather lightly, the agencies themselves — the Standard and Poor's (S&Ps), Moody's and Fitch Ratings — appear to be flustered by the new penalty provisions.


In a strange turn of events, S&P's has warned that Moody's could be downgraded because of the possible dangers it could face from its clients because of the legislation and that rating agencies face the risk of litigation from the clients and that could threaten their business models.


It is not the first time that market gatekeepers or watchdogs have found to be wanting. This came to light in the case of the collapse of 2001 Enron, when its public chartered accountant firm, Arthur Andersen was found to be complicit with the off-balance sheet fudging indulged by Enron's top brass.


There was a similar problem with PriceWaterhouse Coopers when the fraudulent dealings of Ramalingaraju of Satyam came to light in 2007. That put the accounting firms under the public scanner.


It should not come as a surprise that similar issues of accountability and credibility should have arisen in the case of rating agencies post-2008 financial market crisis.


What is intriguing is that these agencies have managed to escape intense public scrutiny and not enough uncomfortable questions have been raised.


The principle has to be set in stone that agencies should not have stakes in the companies they rate.


Secondly, there is need for a critical look at what these agencies do when they assess the creditworthiness of sovereign countries.


It was the rating that finally triggered the Greece debt crisis and plunged Eurozone into a crisis. If these agencies are not what they are deemed to be, then there is need for an element of scepticism about their apparently oracular verdicts.  







Much as technology has improved our lives, it has also fallen prey to the human condition: it is responsible for a whole new slew of disorders, phobias and anxieties.


An Australian university has found that teenagers are now suffering a variety of problems, ranging from textaphrenia, textiety, post-traumatic text disorder and repetitive thumb syndrome.


As humans, we are experts at overdoing things. Whether pleasure or pain, we find new ways of pushing the

limit and finding a new boundary.


Why should the use of mobile phones and the short messaging service (SMS) be any different? If there is a syndrome or a disorder to be had, you can make a safe bet that someone somewhere will have it.


The fear of spiders or open spaces or black cats is all so medieval now. Instead we can be afflicted by the weather, affected by power cables, discomposed by flashing television images and if there is nothing else to fall back on, become deeply annoyed by our fellow humans.


Still, it must be admitted that SMS or texting is a wonderful thing. It has taken the tedium out of unwanted phone calls, it allows you to be polite when you mean to be rude and blissfully, it has also allowed you to hide behind technology where you can pretend to be busy.


Some people though are cowards — they end relationships whether romantic or professional by SMS. Others take it a bit further by inundating you with messages — take the recent sad case of the model Viveka Babajee who killed herself where the police have to trawl through thousands of texts in an attempt to apportion blame.


Perhaps soon we will also have self-help groups for people addicted to cell phone use and texting and 12 step programmes to cut addiction.


Already television superstar Oprah Winfrey has started a US-wide campaign to stop people from texting while driving — quite sensible if you think of it. And whatever Oprah Winfrey starts in one continent is bound to take off in the rest of the world.


All we need now is for tech lovers to start groups to save cell phones from potential abuse and we will have come full circle.


As for teenagers and their apparent overuse of cell phones, there can be solace in the fact that phones are less dangerous than drugs and, moreover, teenagers will soon become adults and then have to confront much more horrifying problems like work, the weather, commuting and spouses!


And we already have established disorders and syndromes for all of them.








Seldom has the Indian political scene been as listless as it is today. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-led government seems to have reached its midlife crisis early in its second incarnation, with the mechanism of Group of Ministers substituting for framing policy.


Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is still trying to come to terms with its unorthodox new president, Nitin Gadkari, even as it has saved its alliance with the Janata Dal-U in Bihar by the skin of its teeth.


The Communist parties are adrift, fearing the prospect of losing the only stable long-term CPM-led government in the country in West Bengal. Not counting Bihar's Nitish Kumar, only two leaders seem to know their minds in pursuing their objectives single-mindedly, Mamata Banerjee and Uttar Pradesh's Mayawati.


The former is neglecting her important charge, the Railway portfolio, to try to wrest West Bengal from the Marxists and the latter is totally uninhibited in consolidating her political hold over her state with an eye on bargaining big in the political equations that emerge at the federal level in the future.


Although the Congress enjoyed a more precarious perch in the UPA-I, it lived a happier life than it does today. The support from the Left was more clear-cut and less temperamental and lasted much of the term.


At present, the party must deal with a highly temperamental ally in the Trinamool Congress and a very demanding DMK in Tamil Nadu. Although neither of the two allies is planning to leave the UPA, each is taxing Congress patience in running a purposeful government in Delhi.


For the Congress, the Indian version of the Russian double-headed eagle, with Sonia Gandhi providing the political acumen to Prime Minister's Manmohan Singh's preoccupations in running the government, has worked better than expected. But such a division of political authority at the top has its limits and can be a constraining factor in policy-making.


For instance, it took the Government much time and many false starts in coping with the fall-out from the Bhopal gas leak judgment, highlighting the callousness of the country towards the families of those who died and others who continue to suffer and the creaking judicial system.


Calling for the head of Anderson, the then Union Carbide chief, became the new rallying cry, an issue that is irrelevant to the tragedy.


The real issues are the lack of empathy of the authorities to the plight of the sufferers because they largely belonged to the poorer classes, the criminality in letting the ruined factory's poisonous remnants continue to rot for a quarter century and contaminate the soil and the area's water supply and the manner in which the speciality hospital — the only gain of the tragedy — become the haunt of the rich, rather than a facility for the sufferers.


The UPA government alone is not responsible for the ugly face of the country shown by Bhopal; the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was happy to coast along for six years.


Rather, some of the more unsavoury aspects of life and governance in the country have been accentuated by the kind of coalition governments that have come to define the political temper.


The Congress must take the lion's share of the blame because it has been in power at the Centre, except for a break of six years, and it must quickly find its rhythm in UPA-II.


In other circumstances, the BJP, as the main opposition party, could have set the tone in rational opposition to the Congress. But the party has been so involved in finding its bearing that it has lost its way as an effective opposition force to the Congress at the Centre. To an extent, the BJP is suffering from an identity crisis.


Is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in the person of Gadkari, running the show? What does taking back Jaswant Singh, summarily expelled not so long ago, mean? And six months after taking office, Gadkari has failed to impress. For one thing, he has failed to distinguish between adopting an informal air and losing the gravitas that belongs to the leader of a major political party.


The CPM, the main Communist Party in the country, seems to have lost its élan and is immobilised by the prospect of losing West Bengal. It has lost to the Maoists on its left and is plagued by the taunts of others in the socialist spectrum.


A common failing of India's Communist Parties, such as they are, is their ability to mouth, and believe in, the shibboleths of the past despite the momentous changes that have taken place. 


Appropriately, Stalin is still displayed in the pantheon of Communist gods in the CPM hierarchy. What then is the prospect for the Indian political system against the backdrop of the infirmities and confusion that prevail among the main political parties? We shall probably have to wait till the next general election to find out.








Is sex getting to be boring? I mean the actual act and even the build-up to it — what you expect from it or what it does for you. It would seem so if you go by all the hoopla in the American media recently, both in print and in the blogosphere.


Is the millennium ushering in the age of chastity — and of sexual malaise? Are we witnessing a requiem for the exalted state of sex? 


The recent flurry of articles about the taming of libidos, especially of women, was triggered by the disapproval last month of flibanserin, a new medication to treat female sexual arousal disorder: a female Viagra you could say.


The US Food and Drug Advisory panel committee rejected the application to market this new love pill for women because the members thought that the drug would not really enhance sexual desire in women. 


Controversial author and humanities and media studies professor at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia Camille Paglia kicked the hornet's nest with her article in The New York Times.


In her delightfully pugnacious style Paglia concludes that "lust is too fiery to be left to the pharmacist". Pharmaceutical companies will, according to her, never find "the holy grail of female Viagra — not in this culture driven and drained by middle-class values". 


Ennui has descended in the bedrooms of middle-class America for other reasons as the Paglia doctrine has it. "In the discreet white-collar realm, men and women are interchangeable, doing the same, mind-based work. Physicality is suppressed; voices are lowered and gestures curtailed in sanitised office space.


Men must neuter themselves, while ambitious women postpone procreation". 


Even the superwomen juggling work and family are beginning to show the wear-and-tear. 'Not tonight, darling I have a headache' has become more the rule than the exception.


Certainly, hyperactivity in the connectivity sphere (Internet, Blackberrys, Iphones, Ipads, etc) is decreasing connectivity in the bedroom arena.


Another reason for the sexual aridity in many marriages is, according to Paglia, the way American men dress. Rather, don't dress. 


"Nor are husbands offering much stimulation in the male display department: visually, American men remain perpetual boys, as shown by the bulky T-shirts, loose shorts and sneakers they wear from preschool through midlife. The sexes, which used to occupy intriguingly separate worlds, are suffering from over-familiarity, a curse of the mundane".


Something is rotten in the state of… desire. Gradually more, intimacy and romance no longer pave the way for sex. It's sex, neat: some movie producers even hire sexual choreographers for love scenes on the internet. 


No wonder abstinence is getting to be trendy — at least temporarily. Not only have there been some first person accounts in the media chronicling bouts with chastity, Hollywood has been quick to draw upon the zeitgeist of the moment, to sniff a trend even before it has a chance to settle in. 


In novelist Stephanie Meyer's hugely successful vampire romance series , The Twilight Saga the immortal and deathly pale hero, Edward,  keeps his fangs on hold and straps in his lust so that the mortal woman he loves can hold on to her much-prized virginity until their wedding night. And now in the new film Eclipse — the third to be based on Meyer's novels — love is all about reining in sexual appetites.


In his astute review, critic AO Scott writes that the Twilight Saga films "embrace the sensuous pleasure of sublimation with the kind of fervour (sic) you usually find only in old Hollywood or present-day Bollywood entertainers." Quite.  But I would add that Bollywood is going the Hollywood way: sex is in the driver's seat, and romance an occasional passenger.









The situation in Kashmir is getting worse with each passing day for some time. The imposition of curfew in several towns has, no doubt, enabled the administration to prevent the clashes between the security forces and stone-pelting protesters. But the calm that prevails may prove to be deceptive if the authorities fail to realise the gravity of the situation. There seems to be more than just the hand of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiyaba terrorist outfit, which has been pointed out by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. His statement came after a specially convened meeting by the Prime Minister to take stock of the security scenario in Jammu and Kashmir. Why is the government silent on the questionable role of the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference? The Syed Ali Shah Geelani-led Hurriyat has always been looking for such opportunities to mislead the people. But this time matters have been made worse by the moderate Hurriyat leadership.


It is the moderate Hurriyat faction that first gave the call for a march from Srinagar to Sopore after the killing of two suspected terrorists last Friday, not bothering about the dangers involved. The moderate Hurriyat leaders were also in the forefront to challenge the official version by saying that one of the young men killed in Friday's encounter with the CRPF was an innocent person. This led to the dangerous message spreading far and wide in the valley that the paramilitary forces, deployed for helping in the maintenance of law order, were, in fact, out to kill innocent individuals on the slightest provocation.


Under the prevailing circumstances, the state government's statements do not carry much conviction with most people in the valley. So many enquiries have been held into cases of young men, believed to be innocent, dying at the hands of the security forces, but the outcome of these probes has not been made public. People are tending to get carried away by what the separatists say. If those misguiding young men to indulge in provocative acts need to be identified and punished, the erring security men should also be made to pay for their wrong actions. Under no circumstances should the nation's larger interest be compromised.








By its own admission, the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation wastes 27 per cent of the 87 million gallons of water it gets daily largely due to pipe leakages. Citizens too waste a lot, using drinking water for car washing and irrigating kitchen gardens, that too in the morning when demand is at its peak. The situation in other towns and cities is even worse because municipalities there lack resources. Water is heavily subsidised and penalties for misuse or wastage are small and rare. Many villages do not have an easy access to clean, drinking water. Though there is an alarming rise in water-borne diseases with cancer-causing heavy metals found in drinking water in the Malwa region of Punjab, this has not yet shaken the political leadership or officialdom.


An acute water shortage every summer is followed by an excess of water, and sometimes floods, during the monsoon. Much of rainwater goes down the drain as efforts to harvest rainwater are still limited. Since ponds have been levelled and brought under agriculture, rainwater fails to replenish water resources. Excessive groundwater extraction without adequate recharge has led to a sharp decline in the water table. State efforts are now focussed on timing paddy transplantation with the onset of the rainy season, but if the rains are deficient, as it happened last year, pressure increases manifold on groundwater extraction. Since food output is maintained almost at the previous levels, the Centre remains unmoved as farmers' higher diesel spending shrinks their earnings. The status quo, therefore, continues.


To avoid an emerging catastrophe on water, efforts are required on a war-footing. Water conservation is the need of the hour at the state, municipal/panchayat and individual levels. There is merit in Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh's suggestion to the government to bring in a Water Security Act on the lines of the Food Security Act with rewards for conservation, stiffer penalties for wastage and higher charges for excessive use.









It would indeed be foolhardy to surmise that the resignation of Mr Madhav Kumar Nepal as Prime Minister of Nepal would spell the end of unrest in the troubled Himalayan state. The 13-month rule of Mr Nepal was characterised by constant needling by the opposition UCPN (Maoist), which had emerged as the single largest party after the last parliamentary elections in 2008.The party was constantly baying for his ouster, sometimes through violent street protests, including a week-long complete shutdown in the country. When the Prime Minister finally decided to call it a day, it was not without a tongue-lashing for the Maoist party. In an address to the nation, he berated them for non-cooperation and active disruption throughout the 13-month period of his government's tenure, blaming the Maoists for his failure to bring the peace process to a conclusion. With so much acrimony in the air, the portents can hardly be bright.


Predictably, the struggle for succession will now intensify within all the major parties and it would be no mean task to forge an alliance with so many claimants to the top "gaddi." The UCPN (Maoist) is laying claims to leading the new consensus government but its isolation a few months after it assumed power following the 2008 elections was the result of its uncompromising attitude on many issues. Clearly, by resigning, Mr Madhav Kumar Nepal has gained the high moral ground. That makes the task for the Maoists even more difficult.


The immediate task before the country is the passage of the budget which the Maoists had been threatening to stall to force Mr Nepal out of office. After that the priorities before any new government would have to be to complete the peace process and to facilitate the writing of the new Constitution. There is understandably a lot of public bitterness over the killings of 13,000 people by Maoist cadres in the decade before the UCPN (Maoist) joined the mainstream and contested elections. Any renewal in effort to assimilate the Maoist cadres into the army would be resisted strongly.

















A confidential Pentagon memo has suggested that there are $1trillion worth of minerals under Afghanistan and that the country could emerge as "the Saudi Arabia of lithium". Other estimates have suggested that the reserves could be worth as much as $3trillion. The previously unknown deposits include huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium. This has fuelled speculation that Afghanistan has the potential of getting transformed into one of the most important mining centres of the world. To take advantage of this renewed global interest in the nation's resources, Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines has hosted a meeting in London as a first step towards opening its mineral reserves to international investors. The ministry is in touch with nearly 20 mining investors from around the world on developing the iron ore deposits in the Hajigak area of Bamian province.


But clearly it is a long way off before Afghanistan can take advantage of its geological wealth. Under the prevailing circumstances of conflict and tribal tensions, mining companies will only have limited interest in going into the country, especially as it takes up to 20 years for a mine to start earning profits. Mineral mining is an extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming task. Countries with a history of conflict have only experienced more war and corruption as a result of their mineral wealth.


More likely, the real winners from the new-found underground treasure in Afghanistan are likely to be the warlords and, of course, China. It is China's voracious appetite that is driving most mineral prices up today. And it is unlikely that China will be deterred by conflict to invest in Afghanistan. The discovery in the late 1990s of minerals in eastern Congo gave a new life to the civil war in the country. Beijing wooed the Congolese government for access to the country's resources and much of the resources eventually flowed to China. Beijing's traditional aid policy is premised on its "non-interventionist" foreign policy agenda and no covert political strings. China's state companies bid for concessions all over the Third World, taking risks that private ones can't.


Under the US security umbrella, Chinese investments in Afghanistan are flourishing. The state-owned China Metallurgical Group has a $3.5 billion copper mining venture in Logar province. Beijing is yet to view the stabilisation of Afghanistan and elimination of terrorist havens in the country as shared goals of the West. China will be the leading contender for the development of new Afghan resources and China's influence will grow with its ability to control the flow of funds. Given China's worries about Afghanistan providing a refuge for Uighur separatists, it is reasonable to expect that the goal of a stable central government in Kabul that provides no havens for terrorists is the one China shares with the West. Moreover, a stable Pakistan is also in China's interest.


The Obama Administration has already asked China to contribute troops to the Afghan effort. Yet Beijing continues to free-ride, relying on Washington to provide security for its limited interests. It is possible that China's awareness of its growing need for foreign export markets will make it a "responsible" global power, but there is little sign of that yet happening. This is likely to exacerbate tensions between Washington and Beijing in the coming months as domestic political pressure builds on the Obama Administration to leave Afghanistan.


The news of Afghanistan's new-found mineral wealth arrived recently along with the United Nations report that the security situation in that country had deteriorated significantly in recent months with roadside bomb attacks during the first four months of the year increasing by 94 per cent compared with the same period last year. The Taliban believe that they need only wait out the NATO coalition and what may seem the inevitability of its departure. The July 2011 deadline was intended to force Karzai to address urgent problems like corruption and ineffective governance. But it may have had the opposite effect, convincing Karzai that in a year from now, he will be on his own.


Though the US is at pains to underline that July 2011 "will be the beginning of a conditions-based process" and that the deadline will be debated in the military's formal review of progress later this year in December, there are few who are willing to bet at the moment that the Obama Administration has the stomach to stay for much longer in Afghanistan. Karzai in particular seems convinced that Americans will not be able to stay the course.


Not surprisingly, he is trying to craft a more autonomous foreign policy. Kabul is now dealing with Islamabad to shape the aftermath of what they fear could be a more abrupt withdrawal of US troops than is now anticipated. Pakistan's military and intelligence chiefs have visited Kabul in recent weeks to discuss a wide range of possible cooperation, including mediating with Pakistan-based insurgents. Though there are serious differences, this is being viewed as Karzai's attempt to look beyond the US in his national security imperatives.


The news of Afghanistan's newly discovered natural resources comes at a critical time for the nation. The Karzai government is among the world's least effective. It is likely to squander a large portion of the windfalls from its mineral wealth. But the competition for influence over Afghanistan will take a different trajectory as China will try to emerge as the most important player in the new gold rush and the US will try to regain its lost initiative. India cannot be a mute spectator to these far-reaching developments in its vicinity. It has a significant stake in the stability and economic prosperity of Afghanistan and, therefore, should be prepared to participate in the new great game about to commence in its neighbourhood.


The writer teaches at King's College, London.








While returning from abroad, my daughter noticed a teenaged girl who was being deported for want of valid documents, crying inconsolably at the immigration counter. She was visiting India to meet her sister, whom we located at the arrival lounge clutching a bunch of flowers.We took her to the immigration authorities and it was only after my introduction that the authorities, though reluctantly, agreed to let the visitor meet her sister. Why they could not grant her a temporary visa like it is done by many countries, baffled us.


How many of us help accident victims or carry them to the hospital? My daughters often do this since we have given them the desired etiquette and civic sense.


Once we found a scooter skidding before our eyes and a boy and a girl getting hurt. They were reluctant to be taken to hospital, as they were going together without the knowledge of their parents. On our insistence, the girl came with us to the hospital and after first aid, she asked us to be dropped; not at her parents' place, but where the boy had to pick her up.


Why can't we help others in times of need? I wonder. Whenever I have helped someone, I have always thought about some 'purvajanma karz' — previous birth debts re-paid.


As DC Karnal, I witnessed a heavily drunk person run over by a truck and lying there with one leg gone. I got him shifted to the hospital in my escort vehicle. Another incident was of a youth who, was lying in a pool of blood near Karna Lake. I stopped a private canter and sent my PSO with him to the hospital. Both the injured were taken good care of on my intervention.


Such opportunities of helping others keep visiting us. They test our feelings of humanism, compassion and helpfulness. I and my wife were once going in our personal car when we stopped near a girl who was lugging along her scooter with great difficulty. We took her in our car to the nearest garage, brought the mechanic to the site and gave some cash also, as she did not have any money to get the scooter repaired. On recollecting this, we still find solace in the act of good Samaritans.


As DC Chandigarh in 1986, I accompanied Mr J. N. Kaushal to Manimajra to a function. He was the local MP and a renowned advocate and had also served as Governor and Union Law Minister. While delivering his address he turned towards me and said, "DC Sahib, you will be the pivot around which the whole Chandigarh Administration will turn, and your pen will wield immense power; endowed with these, you will be able to help the needy and the poor. They will in turn give you 'ashirwad' and 'dua' which will come to you free. Rather the government will pay you salary for this". His words are still with me.


We should not take pride in only being Good Samaritans but rejoice in our indulgence which makes our life more meaningful for humanity.








With the BJP stalwarts in Uttarakhand warring, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, 51, a poet-turned politician, emerged as the surprise Chief Minister of the hill state last year. He replaced Maj Gen (retd) B.C.Khanduri, who had finished only two years of his tenure. Now a year in the saddle Nishank faces flak on several fronts. His state is reeling under both an acute power and water shortage and, adding to his woes, the state BJP unit still remains a house divided. In an interview with Editor-in-Chief Raj Chengappa in Dehradun on the day he completed a year in office, Nishank though exuded confidence that he would stay on as the Chief Minister till the next elections. Excerpts:


Q: You have just completed one year in office. What did you focus on during this period?


We have done a lot of work on the development of basic infrastructure in the state — roads, water, power and education sectors. We have done a lot of new things like getting sanctioned some institutions of national and international repute for the state. We have got an NIIT and an IIM sanctioned for the state. We have set up an Ayurvedic University and will soon be getting sanction for a National Law University. We have started setting up Ayurvedic villages, named "Ayush grams", to promote Ayurveda. Our state is Devbhoomi ( land of gods). Ayurveda started from here and so did yoga. The Vedas, Puranas, Upnishads and other religious texts were written here. It is the land of Ved Vyas and countless rishis and munis. It has always been the land of knowledge.  The Sanskrit language, which even scientists believe is the mother of all other languages in the world, took birth here. We are the first to give second language status to Sanskrit in the state.


Q. Before you took over, the BJP government headed by Maj Gen (retd) B.C. Khanduri was in power in the state. Is there any new vision that you have brought in?


We do have a Vision 2020 much of which I have already outlined. We are already moving ahead on the path of development and achieving this vision. Uttarakhand could soon become an organic farming state. Already truckloads of organic and off-season fruits and vegetables are going outside the state. This year we have earned a sum of Rs.100 crore alone by sending flowers from the Valley of Flowers. We have such flowers which do not wilt for more than two months. We have one of the best winter games resort of Auli, which we want to develop further. Besides developing tourism, we want to develop Ayurveda. Uttarakhand is the land of Rishi Charak and it was from here that Hanuman took "Sanjeevani" herb to Lanka. We have Sanjeevani groups to look for such wonderful herbs. We already have the biggest pharma city in the state and also want to develop it as a major centre of Ayurvedic medicines.


Q. What are your plans to promote tourism in the state?


We want to make Uttarakhand a heaven on earth. We have pristine places that are the best in the country and we have identified such spots. We also have plans to take tourists to these spots by planes, helicopters and by trekking. We have such beautiful places that Switzerland would fade in comparison. To further this cause, we will be developing new airports and strengthening and expanding the existing ones. We are in the process of developing and expanding the existing airports at Pitthoragarh and Pantnagar in the Kumoan region, for Gangotri-Yamontri at Chinyalisaur and for the Badrinath and Kedarnath dhams at Gauchar in the Garhwal region. We are spending a sum of Rs. 7 crore on the expansion of Naini Saini  airport at Pitthoragarh. Dehradun airport at Jollygrant will also be developed into an international airport. Moreover, we have plans to develop helipads in every district and identify places of tourism and religious interest where we could build helipads. We have a vision that anyone coming to Dehradun or Uttarakhand, in a few hours should be able to travel to exotic locales without spending days of road travel. We not only want to build its tourism potential but also want to reaffirm that it is also the spiritual capital of the world. We have joined yoga with Ayurveda. Anyone who wants to get peace of mind can come to Uttarakhand.    


Q. Your state is facing an acute power crisis. On the one hand, there are long power cuts of 8 to 10 hours per day while on the other, hydro-electric projects in the state are stalled. What do you plan to do?


Yes, we are facing a crisis due to the fact that most of the power generated in Uttarakhand is going out. A total of 1500 MW of power is going outside the state. With the development of industries, 60 per cent of the power consumption is in the industrial sector. To meet the demand, we have embarked on a scheme to develop small hydroelectric projects of up to 25 MW. Instead of stopping the flow of the Ganga river, we want to develop small hydro power projects so that local people get employment, there is no harm to the environment and the energy needs of the state are taken care of.


Q. Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in Dehradun recently that there could not be a blanket ban on hydroelectric projects in the state. What is your stand on the issue?


We are not for stopping the unhindered flow of the Ganga river but we are for building other small hydroelectric projects which are more eco-friendly.


Q. You have just launched the Sparsh Ganga programme to clean the Ganga. How different is it from the central government's Ganga Action Plan which hasn't succeeded?


This is different. We want to involve the comman man with this campaign since the Ganga is the Mother of us all. We want to make the people aware about the importance of the Ganga and turn it into a "Jan Andolan" (people's movement). We hosted the Mahakumbh at Haridwar in which more than four crore pilgrims from 140 countries participated. Earlier, the Ganga was a national heritage but after Mahakumbh it has become an international heritage. We have started this programme to maintain the purity of the Ganga and also to take care of the environmental aspect.


Q. There is an acute shortage of water in many parts of the state. Do you have any plans to enhance water availability?


There is drinking water shortage in some areas and we are seriously working on water conservation projects. Since Uttarakhand is an ecologically fragile area, earthquakes, landslides and earth movement could disturb the natural water resources in the hills. We are aware of the problem. In the past one and a half years, we worked on a project to provide drinking water to Almora town which was suffering acute water shortage. Now the situation has eased. Where the problem persists, we have made plans to pump river water for the people.


Q. As you have said Uttarakhand is an environmentally fragile area. What plans do you have for its sustainable development?


It is an environmental friendly state. More than 66 per cent of the total land mass of the state is under forests and perhaps it is the first state to have such a large green cover. We have six national parks and six wildlife sanctuaries. It is also the first state to have nearly 12,000 van panchayats where lakhs of people nurture forests like their own children.


Q. What about the danger of glacial melting?


These things are linked. Even in the Sparsh Ganga campaign there is a component of forest conservation, besides river conservation. We are working on the melting of glaciers and have formed an authority to study Glacier melting.


Q. In overall development, Uttarakhand seems to be lagging behind.


No we are doing well. Ours is a young state but we are moving forward on the path of development. Uttarakhand is third in the country on development index. In 2000 when the state came up, the growth rate was 2.9 per cent. That has risen to 9.3 per cent now. The per capita annual income of every individual in Uttarakhand was Rs 14,000 in 2000 which has climbed to Rs. 42,000 per annum now. We have done well in tax revenue and taken a giant leap. In the days to come we will do even better.


Q. Industries had come up in a big way in Uttarakhand  initially but  are facing an acute power shortage now. What do you plan to do to attract industries?


We are having a contract with Gas Authority of India (GAIL) to set up two gas-based plants, one each in the Garhwal and Kumoan regions of 500 MW capacity each. This will ease the power situation in the industrial sector. With more hydro-power generation and after getting 250 MW from the Tehri dam project that was denied to us, I am hopeful that the situation would be comfortable in future.


Q. What about effective industrial package for the state?


 We have started a special industrial package for the hill areas so that industrial development also reaches the remote areas. We are fighting for the industrial package given to us by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. We want to impliment it by 2020 and we will meet the Prime Minister again along with Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj ji soon.


Q. In politics, the state BJP is divided. Are you confident of staying on as the CM?


I am getting full support of all the legislators, ministers, party workers and the general public. I am absolutely confident. There is no doubt about it. My name is "Nishank", which means without any doubt.









Last week, India's Law Minister, M Veerappa Moily, announced his shiny new "National Litigation Policy" (link below). It recognises that the single largest litigant in this country is the government itself, and, to make the government an "efficient and responsible" litigant, outlines several measures for achieving this.

The policy document is startling in its candour and boldness: "Litigation will not be resorted to for the sake of litigating"; "false pleas and technical points will not be taken"; "correct facts and all relevant documents will be placed before the court"; "nothing will be suppressed from the court and there will be no attempt to mislead any court"; "Government must cease to be a compulsive litigant"; and, best of all, "the easy approach, 'let the court decide', must be eschewed and condemned".


Every one of these statements is a tragic commentary on our civic governance, if indeed there is such a thing any longer, and on the manner in which government conducts itself vis-à-vis citizens. Anyone who has ever litigated against any avatar of the government knows just how infuriating is its persistence in defending the indefensible.

It wasn't always like this. There was a time when government officers assessed their cases fairly and instructed their lawyers to do the right thing. Government servants were open to reason. Today's officers are unwilling to take responsibility for rational decisions. Then there is that 800-pound gorilla in the room: audit. Everyone is terrified of 'audit observations'. It's safer to file something – anything – in court. Just get that monkey off your back.

Therefore the mantra, 'let the court decide', one that is attributed, usually wrongly, to a notion that court decisions are erratic. In most cases they aren't, at least no more than anywhere else. The statement only passes the buck: once a court decides, the government officer is absolved and can simply disclaim responsibility. When an officer cannot do what is right because he fears reprisals or questions from a pointyheaded number-cruncher, the result is a complete abdication of governance. So far as the policy tries to address these issues, it is on the right track.


It is not easy to see how any of these policy statements will translate into practice. Will government bureaucrats magically transform overnight? Will government lawyers suddenly become "efficient and responsible"? The policy document correctly recognises that at least part of the problem stems from the terrible conditions and constraints under which government lawyers are forced to work: ill-equipped or even non-existent libraries, no support staff or facilities, dingy and crowded work areas. Remarkably, the policy acknowledges and addresses these issues too.


All of this is with the intention of trying to reduce the average pendency time of litigation to three years from its present average of 15 years. Yes, 15 years. By any measure, that's a completely unviable time-frame. The recent decision in the Bhopal case came after 26 years. Any attempt to reduce this delay has to be welcomed.

Yet there is one area in which the policy is muddled. The policy clearly views Public Interest Litigations (PILs) as a nuisance. It suggests that PIL petitioners should pay compensation should they ultimately lose when opposing "public contracts". Compensate whom? What "public contracts"? Not long ago, a PIL challenged the expansion of the Mangalore airport. The PIL was lost. One-hundred-sixtyseven people died. Everything those petitioners said now appears to be true. If Mr Moily's policy is to be accepted, the government ought to have been 'compensated'.


This reasoning assumes that all public contracts are beneficial and benign, all opposition mere bloody-mindedness. Not so. Mayawati's glitzy monster mall behind the Taj Mahal (the mall, of course, being Mayawati's monument to her special love, namely, money) was a public contract, stopped by the Supreme Court on a PIL. While the judicial track record on PILs has been uneven at best, the Supreme Court's perhaps most of all – very different considerations seem to apply to the NCR than to the rest of the country – PILs continue to be an effective check on unthinking, uncaring and errant governments. Nothing else explains the "public contract" that proposes an expressway through the tiger reserves of Kanha and Pench. Or spending hundreds of crores on statues of historical figures in the middle of the sea, while our pensioners go without, and our farmers commit suicide. PILs are not mere obstructions. They are a balancing mechanism, as any responsible and efficient litigant should recognise.



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The sharp and unanticipated rise in the current account deficit (CAD) in India's balance of payments (BoP) in fiscal 2009-10 could well be due to the sustained rise in the oil imports bill and the jump in defence imports. At 2.9 per cent of national income (GDP) and $38.4 billion, India's CAD in 2009-10 is only marginally below the 1991 BoP crisis year level of 3.1 per cent. The only reason alarm bells are not ringing is the comfortable foreign exchange reserves and rising inflows on account of invisibles. Capital inflows in 2009-10 were estimated to be $53.6 billion, compared to a $20 billion drawdown in the year of the Great Recession. Apart from defence and oil imports, the trade deficit was also pushed up by relatively weak performance of exports. It is not, therefore, surprising that the government has acted to reduce the petroleum subsidy and temper the demand for petroleum and petroleum products. It is likely that expenditure on account of defence imports may remain high for another year or two, given the planned imports in the pipeline. The resurgence of economic growth and renewed investment activity suggest that imports of capital goods are unlikely to come down. Therefore, if there is little headroom on the import side, any strategy to keep the CAD below the psychological 3 per cent of GDP barrier would require, on the one hand, sustained increase in services exports and inflows on the capital account, and, on the other, a revival of merchandise export growth.

In this lies the conundrum. If the recent surge in capital inflows and inward remittances continues, the rupee would be under pressure to appreciate. If the rupee appreciates, it would have a negative impact on exports and, therefore, won't be very helpful in reducing the CAD. Clearly, external economic policy has to get its priorities right. An appreciating rupee can be helpful in dealing with inflationary pressures, but will not help deal with the worsening trade imbalance. A depreciating rupee can help push up exports and keep India competitive, but will have inflationary consequences. Sustaining a growth rate of over 8 per cent while bringing the inflation rate down to 5 per cent and keeping the CAD within manageable limits is the macro-economic challenge facing the government.

 All of this draws attention to the fact that managing the external balance has once again become a priority for India's macroeconomic policy-makers. After the post-Pokhran-II and Y2K crisis management phase (1998-2001), when Resurgent India and Millennium Development Bonds were issued and the focus was on accumulating foreign exchange reserves, India entered a phase when the external sector did not pose a major challenge for policy-makers. This made the then governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Bimal Jalan, declare in 2003 that the "external constraint" on India's economic growth, what economists had for long dubbed the "foreign exchange gap", had ceased to exist. A formulation that encouraged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to often assert that the "world wants India to do well, our challenges are at home". While this may still be largely true, how India deals with challenges at home, for example the petroleum subsidy and inflation management challenge, will shape its response to the new challenge of a rising trade deficit, a high CAD and rising external debt. Reforms that help improve the competitiveness of Indian exports and keep the energy bill under control can certainly help








Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did well to reiterate his government's commitment to a rational energy pricing policy by categorically stating that the government would do with diesel what it has already done with petrol. Deregulate them as well. For too long has the United Progressive Alliance government — and the Congress party — dithered on the issue. Even when the government was willing to take some difficult decisions, the party would subvert these politically. Consequently, despite staring a mounting crisis in the face, the government has dragged its feet in dealing with the challenge of high oil prices, rising losses of oil companies, growing burden of oil bonds and the high fiscal deficit. This combination of factors was the focus of the Kirit Parikh committee which recommended the dismantling of the administered price mechanism for energy prices and a return to the path of deregulation. In reiterating his government's intention to stay the course, the prime minister has underlined the seriousness of the situation. For nearly a year now, analysts have been raising questions about the fiscal sustainability of India's energy and other subsidies. In the run up to the general elections of 2009, and in the context of the global economic slowdown and the fiscal stimulus packages put in place, few were willing to upbraid India. But with a renewed focus on the fiscal sustainability of growth, there is once again a closer scrutiny of India's "subsidy Raj".


An International Energy Agency (IEA) study on "petroleum prices, taxation and subsidies in India", done in June 2009, (available at:, concluded that if India did not reduce its energy and related subsidies, and continued to rely on oil bonds for financing the losses of oil companies, it could well face a "1991 type" crisis of external confidence. According to the IEA study, "Current energy policy in India has contributed tangibly to increased fragility and instability in India's central government finances. This illustrates the huge impact of petroleum product pricing on the health of India's national Budget and on India's macroeconomic stability as a whole. With India being the world's fourth-largest economy (in purchasing power parity terms), macroeconomic instability of this kind is of global concern. With the onset of global recession, local economists have begun to worry about India's emerging 'twin deficits' (i.e., simultaneous structural budget and current account deficits) — a domestic situation which last culminated in India's 'Gulf War' balance-of-payments (BoP) crisis in the early 1990s." Surely, it is too alarmist for anyone to suggest that India is quite near any such external payments or fiscal crisis. On the contrary, it is the overall robustness of the extant macroeconomic situation that has largely induced complacency in the management of external and internal deficits. However, the fact remains that a stable economic situation can easily get destabilised if structural weaknesses on account of mounting subsidies and unrealistic pricing of scarce resources is allowed to persist without end.








What makes a Sachin Tendulkar and Roger Federer connect with many of their fans? At one level, they are achievers; they are well known stars and have both fame and fortune, things that many youth and young adults desire and strive for. But digging deeper, they also embody the spirit of excellence, the pursuit of perfection, and they represent a performance level that most can't hope to achieve. What makes these brands tick is their ability to drive awe in their fans.

What made Gandhi and Nelson Mandela the legends they are? They were freedom fighters who delivered independence for the nation they represented. They espoused philosophies that were different from what were then prevalent — they were square pegs in round holes. But what most admirers of these two actually find interesting is that they were able to mobilise millions of people to follow what they preached and get them to commit to the cause by action. They started movements — and they did this by inspiring people, by tapping into a higher goal that people wanted to achieve and by galvanising them. Not surprisingly, they were and are respected figures.

 Is there something instructional for product brands — something to learn from these towering personalities?

In the more mundane world of product branding, two brands are interesting to revisit and study. Apple and Steve Jobs have given the market a slew of products known for innovation and redefining markets. At one level, it helps owners to feel trend-setting and ahead of times every time they pick up an Apple product. It also delivers delightful product experiences. However, dig deeper and there is something very reverential many Apple aficionados feel about the brand and its creator that being part of something created by the brand is a reward in itself. For millions who can perhaps never hope to achieve anything close to what Apple does, owning the product is the closest to getting there.

Turn back to the 90s and rewind to Benetton's path-breaking campaign of "United colours" that attempted to raise the issue of racial discrimination and bring colours together. It was built on a thought and philosophy no one could dispute. It took the brand beyond fabric, design and colours. It made buyers feel part of a movement that was evangelising the need for an equal world.

Both brands went beyond brand attributes and benefits — functional and emotional — to stand for higher values and causes that the consumer could look up to or join. This is perhaps the next frontier for brands.

We have now seen three decades of big-time, conscious brand-building; two decades of media proliferation and clutter and two decades of consumerism. The result is clearly emerging categories are getting commoditised. Advertising during this period has become more engaging and entertaining. There is perhaps need to do more in today's environment to gain traction with consumers.

Iconic brands now have an opportunity to go beyond affinity and preference-building to engage with consumers more deeply by owning philosophies and causes that resonate with the consumers at a higher level. This does not necessarily mean taking on corporate social responsibility activities or doing social good. An insurance brand can espouse the cause of safer and healthier living; a grooming brand can promote the cause of a beautiful world (there were strains of this idea in Allen Solly's "I hate ugly" campaign of last season); and a white goods brand could encourage people to live life on their own terms — unrestrained — as a fridge or a microwave helps in providing fresh food, anytime! When the cause is linked to the product or service, the value of the brand gets enhanced and it moves the brand from having a role in the consumer's life to making a difference in the larger world. And this gives it a stature that goes beyond benefits and brand personality. And if the cause is large or arousing, it can easily inspire awe, respect and enlistment!

Lifebuoy Swastya Chetna is an initiative run by Unilever in rural India to educate consumers on the value of personal hygiene. At one level, it positions the brand as a germ-fighter that helps prevent dysentery — a common rural problem of bad hand-wash habits. At another level, it moves the brand from being a hygiene brand to a health brand and makes it espouse the cause of a healthier India by enabling the consumer with one good habit to reduce the chances of illness. And this creates connection with the brand at a higher level — almost governmental and developmental in nature — and makes it a social benefactor for those who are striving to live a better life in tough conditions. Tata Tea's recent "Jaago Re" campaign is another interesting example in this context. It has broken away from tea attributes of strength, taste and freshness and pitched itself "laterally" on a tea benefit of awakening. But awakening has taken up the cause of opening the eyes and minds of an apathetic consumer group to both their responsibilities and the social ills around them (voting and corruption). And thus starting a movement. Both ideas have germs (or gems) of being able to make the brand transcend from propositions to philosophies.

Making this transition has its advantages. At a marketing level, it provides stimulus to get media editorial to talk about the cause and the movement and thus it becomes a multiplier in itself. With the emergence of digital media, buzz gets easier to generate and spread. In a hierarchical culture like India's, it makes the brand look like a leader and benefit from the respect it evokes. And above all, it helps provide the consumer with a fresh perspective of the brand and make it stand out from a clutter — where many brands are still trying to outdo each other at a product level. Of course, it is concomitant that the product delivers at the base level, competitively and to complete consumer satisfaction. And the brand's history should give it permission to carry the philosophy.

India is a developing economy. However, in many categories, India is as crowded as the most developed markets in the West. It's time for brands to reappraise their cause-and-effect formula and move from pure affinity-building.

Something worth thinking about.

The author is Country Head-Discovery and Planning, Ogilvy and Mather India. Views expressed are personal. Comments at:








Till a year ago, they were just irritants. Today, they are a serious threat. Homegrown mobile phone brands have blown a serious hole in the pockets of their multinational rivals. According to the Voice & Data annual telecom survey, three Indian brands — Micromax, Spice and Karbonn — raised their share of the market from 2 per cent in 2008-09 to 11 per cent in 2009-10. During the same time, Nokia's share fell from 64 per cent to 52.2 per cent. In the fast-moving world of mobile telephony, these numbers could be a little outdated. In the last few months, newer Indian players like Lava and MVL have joined the party. Lava claims monthly sales in excess of 500,000. So, the Indian share of the pie is bound to have gone up further from 11 per cent. In China, almost 25 per cent of the mobile handset market is with local brands; so there is still headroom for local Indian brands to grow.

 Of course, they began by selling at low prices — 30 to 40 per cent below comparable multinational models. But they don't operate just at the bottom end of the market. They straddle the entire spectrum from basic handsets to smart phones, all for less than Rs 6,000. Rivals have been forced to drop prices to stop their onslaught. Most Indian brands claim they are already profitable. This shows that multinational handset makers, with their high prices, were making heavy-duty profits, though it must be said that their establishment and running costs would be much higher than those of Indian brands. India may be the largest market for mobile handsets in the world, but it is only now that it seems to have become a buyer's market.

In spite of their low prices, Indian brands manage to spend a lot on marketing and promotion. Some of them have budgets in excess of Rs 100 crore. How do they manage it? There are three lessons that can be drawn from their success. One, focus on your brand and the features of your product, and get the distribution network right; products can be bought in China and applications can be purchased off the shelf. Two, develop a bottoms-up approach to the market. And three, well-entrenched multinationals are not invincible; market share can be snatched from them with the right product and price.

Almost all Indian brands have gone to smaller towns and villages first — the easier option because multinational brands haven't focused there. Features like long-lasting battery and dual SIM-card carriages were developed specifically for this market. Having established themselves, they have now begun to move to bigger towns and cities. All for them also want to move up the value chain with 3G and lifestyle phones. That is when they will hurt the multinationals the most. Before the Indians burst into the scene, most handset makers gave a margin of 2-3 per cent to their retailers. The street-smart Indian brands have raised it to 6 per cent and beyond. Retailers can be found pushing these brands aggressively.

Most of them now want to sell in other emerging markets. Some have already gone to neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. All of them want to go to Africa. Taken together, the continent offers a market that is almost as big as India — about 10 million handsets a month. One or two even plan to venture into Brazil, East Europe and Russia! Their success in India has given them a lot of confidence. As these markets are similar to India — some are slightly more advanced, most are a little behind — these companies feel they have the right price-value combination. The challenge will be distribution. But if they can sell in a large country like India, they should be able to sell elsewhere also.

All of them get their handsets made in China — it accounts for 60 per cent of the handsets made in the world. Micromax has as many as 11 suppliers there. It has a wide range of products and, therefore, this large army of suppliers. But all of them are worried about the import of telecom equipment from China, handsets included. Out of security concerns, the Indian government is not keen to have Chinese telecom hardware close to its international borders. As a result, these companies fear that there could be some adverse policy measures against the import of handsets from China. To cope with this, some of them are mulling production facilities in India. As a hedging strategy, it may be fine. But will they be able to maintain their price advantage if they shift production to India?

But these are very smart people. Some of them take big decisions while walking down the corridor. They are not bogged down by bureaucracy. Young people have come to believe in these start-ups and their dream to change the world. Some of these companies have recruited from the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management. This is not a small feat. And herein lies the lesson for other Indian businessmen. Instead of surrendering meekly to the firepower of multinationals, they can take them head on if they get all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle right.







Why was there so much public and media outrage over the Bhopal disaster — a 25-year-old issue? Why did the national media focus on this story which so far had been confined to the back rooms where only noisy environmental activists live?

 One, there is a post-Bhopal gas disaster generation in the country. These young people do not know what happened that night or about the events that followed. They are shocked to see the scale of human suffering and stilled by the sheer injustice. Two, as a nation, we now recognise environmental questions and consider these important, indeed critical, to our health. We see in Bhopal the chemical disaster that is around us — in the pesticides in our food, in the air we breathe and in the industry that pollutes with impunity. Three, and perhaps most important, we see in Bhopal an utter failure of the Indian state to protect its people. We see the complicity and failure of our collective systems, from the executive to the judiciary.

But what riles us more than anything else are double standards of the big and powerful. This is also the time when the international media is flashing the scenes of another devastation on Indian television — the oil spill off the US coast. This is the time when a top executive of another top company, BP, is being hauled over the coals to pay for damage to the environment and people. But the same US government, so incensed at homeland pollution, is so insensitive to the tragedy involving its own companies in faraway places. A globalised world is also about equality — of intent and action.

But the question that bothers me is: Will our collective anger sustain till justice is done?

Let us be clear. These are not quick or easy tasks. The government's own report, prepared by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri), has confirmed the findings of the Centre for Science and Environment's (CSE's) pollution-monitoring laboratory: the factory site is contaminated with high levels of toxins, from mercury to pesticides. This is not a small victory. The Bhopal-based activists have been fighting, indeed screaming, about this contamination. But so far, they have faced only denial and callous and criminal dismissal.

Now the clean-up begins. The Group of Ministers (GoM) has accepted that the entire factory site — and not just the stored 300-odd tonnes of waste — will have to be cleaned. The GoM still doesn't know how deep the contamination goes and how much soil will have to be removed and then disposed of. Neeri says the only saving grace is that because of local geological conditions, contamination has not seeped into the city's aquifers. But Neeri does confirm CSE's finding that some 3 km away, borewells have the same toxins. So, there is a need to drain out these wells and treat the water. No small task. This is poisoned land. And it is inside a thickly populated city.

The second challenge is of holding the company liable for contamination. Dow has issued statements saying it has nothing to do with the waste. It says the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) had settled all claims — in the unfortunate and unjust settlement by the Supreme Court. It says it has no responsibility. And it has smart lawyers — in this case, the spokespersons of the Congress party and the BJP — who will find smart legal loopholes once again.

This, when we know the following. One, the contamination at the factory has little to do with the accident. It is about bad negligence of the company at the time the plant was opened. It dumped and left its waste on the ground. Claims for this poisoning have not been settled. Two, during this period, the US company, UCC, held operating control of the plant and is liable for the contamination. Three, it knew of this contamination and did nothing about it. We know now that Neeri was commissioned by Union Carbide India Limited in 1994 to study the site. We know that Neeri had given the report to its client. We know this because Dow's lawyer in his 2006 opinion admitted as much: His client knew of this report and the contamination of soil and groundwater in 1996. But the company did nothing. Instead, it handed over the land to the state government. It can say now it cannot be held responsible. It does not even own the land. It's an old corporate legal tactic: confuse ownership to convolute the liability trail. Will it work this time?

Mahatma Gandhi's Young India has given way to another young India. Will this young India allow a travesty of justice? I hope not. I believe 







When it comes to broadband, India is "notably lagging its peers", to quote Booz & Co, an international consulting firm.* Its report recounts our pathetic coverage — less than half the anticipated 20 million — and recommends that both industry and government must act in concert. Spelling out the roles for both, it concludes that we need a national policy to improve fixed-line infrastructure more rapidly than the current market-based approach does, as well as satellite-based communications.

 The report recommends this because advanced economies have broadband on widespread fixed-line networks, and many are pursuing strategies to further empower their citizens through state action, as before. The effects are many, but let's start with examining costs. Figure 1 shows the relative cost of broadband in a sample of countries.

India seems favourably placed with its low purchasing power parity (PPP) cost. However, relative to costs in India, this is about 6 per cent of average monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita, ranked 78th, as shown in Figure 2. In comparison, the first 23 countries — Macao, Israel, Hong Kong, the US, Singapore, etc., Greece and Spain included — have costs below or close to 1 per cent; the next 16 have costs below 2 per cent. As the 39 countries have PPP costs of only 0.25 per cent to twice India's cost, India's cost as a percentage of its GNI is six times theirs, i.e. Indian users have to pay relatively more. Increasing GNI, while desirable, is harder, more complex, and will take much longer. By contrast, costs can be reduced quickly by sharing network resources and limiting government collections to a reasonable percentage of revenues, instead of auctions and arbitrary levies.

Broadband leaders

Wired Asian countries like Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea already offer broadband on the next generation of high-speed networks. Singapore's approach especially should be of interest to India, with policies supporting a blend of public subsidies and private investment, while separating three activities: infrastructure, network operations (wholesale), and user services (retail).**

Two years ago, Singapore set out to create an environment with more open access to downstream operators by separating the building of infrastructure from the running of the network. It drew on the experience of local community networks in countries like Britain, France, the Netherlands and Sweden. Three Singapore companies partnered with Axia Netmedia, a Canadian broadband company, to form a consortium called OpenNet, the infrastructure operator. OpenNet uses one partner's existing network (SingTel's) as a base. With a government grant of 750 million Singapore dollars, OpenNet is building an extensive fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) grid to be completed by 2012. The second partner is a subsidiary of Singapore Power, SP Telecommunications, which leverages Singapore Power's experience in developing infrastructure. The third, Singapore Press Holdings, is a leading media services company.

The network operator, a subsidiary of StarHub (a cable and phone operator), is Nucleus Connect. Residential services at 100 mbps have been announced, to be provided by over 10 retail service operators. While some analysts opine that increased competition may not lead to appreciable cost reduction, Singapore is already ranked fifth-lowest in cost as a percentage of average monthly GNI per capita.

Can India do some catching up?

a) Can India do something similar? Don't we need to? How?

The answer to the first question is: only if the government decides on a concerted drive.

To the second: yes, to be competitive.

To the third: with a comprehensive, integrated systems approach. It is insufficient if only one or a few ministries and agencies are involved, because the development and execution of solutions require cutting across turf boundaries. The conventional approach of the ongoing Trai consultation followed by recommendations addressed by the DoT is simply inadequate, because their charter is too limited. Many issues concerning commercial and user decisions, particularly of government agencies and the Department of Defence, and radical changes in approach need active participation from these players as well as the private sector for resolution. Examples are Booz & Co's recommendations of a better fixed-wire network, and satellite communications in the Ka band, or the possibility of exploiting the cable and satellite TV network of around 110 million households. The entire communications network, or at least the backbone, needs to be shared for efficiency, unlike the existing limited tower-sharing. Also, state governments need to be closely involved in issues like Rights of Way and user needs.

b) Governments at the Centre and all states need to facilitate the productivity of their citizens, instead of hamstringing them with taxes, levies, auctions and dysfunctional policies. This is more easily said than done, with our predatory history, fractious coalitions at the Centre and states, and freewheeling, combative state governments. Governments at all levels have to coordinate this problem-solving initiative for all stakeholders, adapting the experience of leading broadband countries, instead of predatory behaviour seeking personal gains. The consultative process needs to agree on goals, and then figure out practical ways to achieve them.

c) With inspired leadership and a constructive approach, half of the over Rs 1,00,000 crore from the 3G and BWA auctions could support a broadband gambit drawing on concepts like Singapore's public-private partnership, instead of being just a damaging revenue-collection exercise. Again, easier said than done, but with result-oriented, strong leadership to elicit enlightened employee engagement, even MTNL and BSNL could be partners in a core network in a role like SingTel's. A public-private network-builder can draw on the combined strengths of its participants to provide a platform for a number of private operators. Separating the infrastructure building and operations from wholesale network services and end-user services could make this feasible and practicable.

* "Bringing mass broadband to India: Roles for government and industry", Booz & Co, June 7, 2010:

** "Singapore gets wired for speed", Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, NYT:









INDIAN banks are in good shape. We've heard that often enough from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government. Now we have independent confirmation. This time, endorsement of their good health and bright future comes not from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor or from the ministry, but from Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc (SMFG). The second-largest Japanese bank by market value is to acquire 4.5% stake in Kotak Mahindra Bank for $296 million. The private placement at Rs 833 a share, approximately a 12% premium to Tuesday's closing price, is a vote of confidence not only in Kotak Mahindra Bank but in the Indian banking sector in general and the larger Indian economy. At first glance, the interest shown by the Japanese bank in a sector that is still relatively closed to foreign entry and where the RBI has shown little inclination to liberalise its stringent guidelines might seem a bit puzzling. But in truth, it is merely a reflection of the growth potential of an economy that clocked an impressive 7.4% GDP growth in 2009-10, while the world economy shrank 0.6% in 2009. With GDP growth set to clock 8-8.5% this year even by conservative estimates, SMFG presumably wants a toehold in a sector that mirrors the larger economy. As a fairly aggressive private sector bank with a relatively small foreign shareholding compared to other private sector banks like ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank was the obvious choice.

Stock markets seem to have viewed the move with favour. After ending the day 3.2% higher on Wednesday, the share price fell 0.31% in a market that fell 1.1% overall. SMFG might not be cast in the same mould as some of the more dashing Western banks like Citi, but, today, verve and dash are not quite what investors are looking for when it comes to the banking sector. To that extent, the Japanese bank's buy-in should be good for Kotak Mahindra Bank. It brings in expertise, especially in the insurance and broking areas and, of course, money to fund local acquisitions. That's pretty good going for a bank that began life as a non-banking finance company and was the first NBFC to get a banking licence in 2003.








INFOSYS has done well to keep up with the repeated promise to share wealth with its employees. The company's offer, to mark its 30 year of operations, to give each employee five free shares plus an extra share for each year of service is a good HR practice. It marks the continuation of an initiative that began in 1993 when Infosys first granted stock option plans to retain employees. The spinoffs are evident. Infosys has become a bellwether not only for India's IT industry but for the global economy that it services. However, unlike a stock option plan that has riders on the timing of sale, the share-based reward is purely a gift. The shares, offered from the Infy Employee Welfare Trust, can be sold at any time, providing flexibility to employees. It is also a pragmatic way to retain employees at a time when the IT sector is trying to keep attrition rates low. Companies that celebrate success by sharing their wealth with employees demonstrate appreciation for hard work. This will give employees a sense of ownership, raise productivity and curb attrition. Clients will also be encouraged to support businesses where employees take pride in the company's business. Better performance will improve profitability and enhance shareholder value. However, information technology companies are not the only employers seeking to offer such rewards. Last week, Piramal Healthcare, which sold its formulations business to Abbott, said it will reward its employees with cash bonuses. This is a relatively rare gesture, especially for companies in India after a sale of their business.

 Rewards such as bonuses or Esops should be offered to employees in all sectors. The government, for instance, should offer Esops across all public enterprises, to make listing popular in unlisted companies, and motivate employees to stay on and take ownership of their actions. An employer or a worker who earns more will spend more, and boost overall economic growth as well. Employees who are made to feel stakeholders in the businesses where they work would, in this fashion, drive up prosperity not only for themselves and the companies where they work, but for society at large.








TRUST the Commonwealth Games organisers to go against the international zeitgeist by announcing their intention to ferry officials and athletes around in a fleet of vintage cars, of all things. Apart from displaying a remarkable disregard for the general principle of punctuality in favour of grand, slow progressions, they have conveniently forgotten that the venerable cars of yore were designed when gas prices had not reached stratospheric levels. To think of using cars that expend litres per kilometre instead of the other way round in today's petro market, is not only a financial impropriety but possibly an ecological crime too. Besides, if the whole idea of gobbling up entire lanes of Delhi's already-inadequate roadspace for CWG traffic was to ensure that the participants go to and fro in record time, putting cars with top speeds of 40 kmph on the same track would rather defeat the purpose. And think of the maintenance cost of the old darlings: a single annual rally has them gasping for breath; two weeks of ferry duty would surely take them ever faster to eternal rest in that great junkyard in the sky.


If stately processions are the real objective, the authorities can consider roping in camels and elephants, like they do during Republic Day parades in the Capital. Not only would the lumbering cavalcade reinforce the old stereotypes about India, it would also mean an unexpected and welcome windfall for the relatively poor owners of these animals. Those who have vintage car collections that they are willing to loan, can afford to sit the Games out. Moreover, camels and elephants would be far more eco-friendly in the long run, as they do not use fossil fuels and even their emissions provide an opportunity for recycling as organic fertiliser. Think of the, err, brownie points, not to mention carbon credits, that the CWG could gain from such an initiative.







INSANITY, Albert Einstein is supposed to have said, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Apply that to Kashmir, and one doesn't need to be an Einstein to figure out that he had got the equation right, again.


 Leave, for argument's sake, the baggage of history — of events from 1947: the accession, New Delhi's political machinations, dismissed governments and rigged elections to the eruption of insurgency in 1989 — alone for a moment. Let us assume, for that moment, that there is utter veracity in the official narrative that but for afew elements, who are being discredited, peace and harmony would be restored in the Valley. Add the fact that armed militancy has been curbed significantly and a regime, elected via a surprisingly well-attended electoral exercise, is in charge. Add also the statements emanating from the top echelons of both the central and state governments that there will be zero tolerance for human rights abuses. Given all that, if not perfect, things surely should have been better. So why did the patent insanity of the last few days occur? Why does it happen repeatedly? Why did, day after day, the police and the CRPF shoot dead youngsters who were out protesting, rioting, against the deaths of the day before?


Most Kashmiris would answer that it is because they are under occupation, that the security forces behave as they do, use brute force, as they are the most acute and clear manifestation of the state people are alienated from and resisting. Or, at least, that Kashmiris live in a police state, where, literally, the law allows and supports torture, imprisonment and killings. Official narrative, of course, invokes the Paksponsored terrorism theme. That, somehow, everything that doesn't go according to plan in Kashmir has its roots across the border. The other way of looking at things would be to comprehend that essentially there are two competing nationalisms at work, at variance. The Kashmiri version that seeks separation, exclusion, and the Indian version that insists on inclusion. And the violence that occurs is, therefore, squarely in the realm of the political. So, the broadest answer as to why those killings took place is that there is a denial of that political reality. That, leaving Pakistan out entirely, New Delhi refuses to recognise and engage with the fact that it faces a political crisis in Kashmir.


Of course, elections were held, a democratic process seemingly restarted. But the mistake is to ignore both the deep roots of separatism and the complexity of political consciousness in Kashmir that separates issues of immediate governance, after years of debilitating strife, and that of the larger tehreek or 'movement'. And the latter, clearly, has transformed. From a belief in armed insurgency, with the gradual realisation that it did not achieve its desired goals, to an incipient rights-and-protest based phase. And hartals, strikes and stone pelting are part of that. Indeed, Kashmir has reverted to an older form of political expression. Stone-throwing or kani jung (stone war), has historically been a feature of Kashmir's political battles. That, if once, pelting stones and bricks were used in fights between different political factions within Kashmir, it now is emerging as the most violent way of showing resistance and dissent. So, just who are these stonethrowers? Just why are youngsters again and again coming out to pelt stones, even when they know they might be thrashed, detained or plain killed (as someone said, employing some Kashmiri black humour, the ages of those killed in the last few days, 17, 16, 14…9, read like the scores of a batsman in really bad form)?

   THE first thing to understand is that this is a generation that has seen and knows nothing else but violence. In a place steeped in political violence and brutal force, they are also a generation perhaps more politicised than those before. And that is why they also represent, though it may come as a surprise, both an awareness of the failure of the separatist leadership as well as the apparent lack of need to have any leaders in order to protest. Remember, it isn't just the government that thinks them dangerous, many among the separatist leaders do too. And some have called them everything from miscreants to drug addicts to being Indian agents. But as part of wider Kashmiri society, they are one manifestation of the rage of having suffered incredible violence, of living lives of daily humiliation. As part of Kashmiri society, they are aware of the doublespeak, the dissembling that is part of the official version of each killing, each act of violence. And they are part, most immediately visible right now, of the dissent against, the political response to, that violence.

And the governments' response basically is to use force to contain that political crisis. But the crisis remains. Even in its instrumentalities. Talk of standard operating procedures, for example, has no meaning for Kashmiris when live fire, tear gas shells, even rubber bullets are aimed at the head or chest, as the injuries of the dead reveal. There can, again to speak of an instrumentality, be no meeting point between a CM who lauds a paramilitary force which, even as it supposedly is exercising restraint, kills daily, barges into homes, shatters windows and thrashes people. There can be no greater absurdity that while that elected state government endorses using force, the army chief speaks of the need to now use politics to deal with the situation.

It is evident that a bout of conflict subsides after a peak, only to erupt again over the next incident, the next event. And Kashmir is now in a dangerous zone where more suppression, mere reliance on using state force, could fuel the rage into unpredictable territory. Using absurd phrases like agitational terrorism or nonviolent terrorism or perpetually seeking to link protests over killings to Pakistan or Islamist groups only widens the rupture between what should be done and what is. Allowing a political process, after all, would also mean allowing those sections or leaders the state is averse to some space, allowing that dissent, those protests or marches, not trying to choke everything all the time. The only thing that can emerge in such a situation is other, more violent forms of that dissent.


The stone throwers are a reminder that there is no way out except engaging with that dissent in Kashmir. That

without such an engagement, by only using force again and again, Kashmir will, to borrow the words of the Russian poet Arseny Tarkovsky, stay a place where destiny seems to shadow events like a madman with a razor in his hand.







Former Professor JNU, New Delhi

Not the first 'new' start, won't be the last

FOR those historically familiar with the roller-coaster trajectory of Indo-Pakistan relations, the 'new beginning' in their peace process is not the first, and unlikely to be the last. Among such past landmarks are the Nehru-Liaquat Agreement (1950), Nehru-Noon Agreement (1957), Indus Water Agreements (1960), Tashkent Agreement (1966) and Shimla Agreement (1972) and the Rajiv-Benazir meeting (Islamabad, 1988) after the generational change in leadership at both ends and restoration of democracy in Pakistan; the periodic cricket and mango diplomacies, alumni reunions, and regimental meetings; Vajpayee's Lahore bus diplomacy, Agra summit and such initiatives of President Musharraf have invariably heralded possibilities of a new beginning. These constitute the historical memories of the receptivity of peace initiatives in civil societies of the subcontinent. They are like the cheerful self-assessment of a smoker as to how often he has given up smoking. They are useful memories keeping hopes alive, suggesting it is possible.


Because the alternative scenario is quite depressing, underscoring the power and continuity of the forces undermining the peace process. They include the Kashmir war (1947), wars of 1965 and 1971, Kargil and the many nearwars, cross-border terrorisms and the Mumbai terrorist strike; they are historical reminders of the pitfalls towards realising what is possible and desirable. The vested interests in favour of a boiling pot in the subcontinent are still significant; they include the vast military intelligence network and criminal underworld in Pakistan's failing state apparatus; US' arms lobby and the military strategists in the Pentagon, Chinese diplomacy, and now India's increasingly-powerful arms lobby and strategic think tanks with their global network; short of an actual war between two nuclear neighbours, a level of tension in the subcontinent multiplies their operational options. They are unlikely allies in the continuity of any new beginning of the peace process.


But the hope lies in the civil societies at both ends of the subcontinent, increasingly proactive against any war hysteria; and cheerful historical memories supplement their efforts.



Director, National Maritime Foundation

Yes, but expectations must be cautious

YES, the current contour of the congenitally-blighted Indo-Pak bilateral relationship does mark a new phase — but in a limited procedural manner. What is significant in the wake of the recent visit to Pakistan by the Indian foreign secretary and the home minister is the fact that such contact has been established after the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 2008. India has demonstrated a certain degree of political flexibility — some describe it as pusillanimity — in delinking the official-level contact with Islamabad with tangible progress on the Mumbai investigations. To that extent, the June resumption of official contact is a new phase and may be qualified as a prudent option against the backdrop of prevailing regional and global developments.
India brought the issue of terrorism and state support to this malignancy into the bilateral matrix by way of the January 2004 agreement, wherein Islamabad had made a commitment to desist from providing such support. Thus the T-word remains central to the relationship and now New Delhi is focusing on outcomes. But will the current dispensation in Islamabad be able to walk the talk of the new phase —- or will GHQ in Rawalpindi trump fresh initiatives?

While Pakistan has moved towards fragile civilian rule, there are multiple centres of relevance that include the state, non-state and quasi-state entities. The hard-core 'establishment' in this spectrum is deeply opposed to the very idea of India. It has become more virulent after 197. Hence, any kind of rapprochement with India or improvement in bilateral relations is anathema to this group. The Pak army and its institutional threat perception is shaped by this conviction about India — and, hence, the support to terror and the groups that engage in it has not been given up.


Liberal Pakistani opinion that has many correspondences with the peer group in India and elsewhere is aware of this glass ceiling that constricts the bilateral relationship. Hence, while a new phase in the bilateral is to be cautiously welcomed, the expectations of the outcome must remain modest — till the Pakistani establishment undergoes a lobotomy about the true threat to its national interest.









 I HAD always thought that Barack Obama made a significant mistake in naming the Republican ex-senator Alan Simpson to co-chair the president's deficit-reduction commission. Simpson was a noted budget arsonist when he was in the Senate. Indeed, he never met a budget-busting, deficit-increasing initiative from a Republican president that he would not lead the charge to pass. Nor did he ever meet a sober deficit-reducing initiative from a Democratic president that he did not oppose with every fibre of his being.
You don't pick an arsonist to head the fire department, I thought when Obama named him co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

 But perhaps I am ungenerous. Perhaps Simpson has had a change of heart. Perhaps he has travelled his own road to Damascus, come face-to-face with what he had done and who he was, repented, and wanted to repair some of the damage to the US and its long-run economic growth prospects that he had caused.

 Even in that case, however, naming those who misbehave to important positions of high trust and acclaiming them as bipartisan statesmen gives the next generation really lousy incentives. And it's not as though Congressional Republicans think they owe enough to Simpson for him to swing a single vote in either chamber of the legislature.


 Obama officials assured me that Simpson had, indeed, had a change of heart; that he was a smart man with a sophisticated understanding of the issues; that he could sway reporters and get them to describe the commission's advice as 'bipartisan' (even though he could not sway actual legislators); and that he would be a genuine asset to the work of the commission.


John Berry recently wrote in the online journal The Fiscal Times that not even that is true. Simpson is "condescending and derisive — and wildly wrong about important parts of the Social Security system's past". Moreover, Simpson apparently does not understand that, as commission co-chair, his job is to build a broad coalition for necessary and mutuallybeneficial policy changes.


Indeed, Berry reports that Simpson now believes that it would be unfair to use general revenues to pay for any portion of Social Security benefits. In other words, the large surplus in the Social Security trust fund, which is made up of government bonds that general revenues are earmarked to pay for, does not really exist and cannot be drawn upon. "Simpson maintained," according to Berry, that "Social Security is already insolvent because it is paying out more than it is getting in tax revenue." Never mind that the plan since 1983 has been for Social Security to tax more than it spends for a full generation and then use the built-up surpluses to spend more than it taxes.


 "There is no surplus in there. It's a bunch of IOUs," Berry reports Simpson as having said. "Listen. It's two-and-a-half trillion bucks in IOUs which have been used to build the interstate highway system and all of the things people have enjoyed since it has been set up."


Simpson is not making sense. All investments are IOUs. A General Electric bond is just that — a promise by the firm to pay its creditors. Adollar bill is an IOU from the government, just like a Social Security Trust Fund bond is.

 Perhaps the most bizarre of Simpson's claims quoted by Berry is that the Social Security Commission of 1983 "never knew there was a baby boom…" The baby boom, of course, started immediately after World War-II and peaked in 1960. As Berry writes, "Alan Greenspan, who headed…[that] commission…would tell Simpson something different. The big demographic shift that began right after World War-II was precisely why…taxes were raised and benefits were cut [in 1983] — to build up a trust fund surplus so benefits could be paid."


Four centuries ago, the consensus, in western Europe at least, was that good and even adequategovernmentinthisfallenworldwasinevitably a rarity. Democracy always degenerated into mob rule, monarchy into tyranny, and aristocracy into oligarchy. Even when well-run, democracy took little interest in the distant future, aristocracy took little interest in the wellbeing of those whom Simpson calls the 'little people', and monarchy took little interest in anything other than legitimate succession.


 Then, at the end of the 18th century, the founders of the US and their intellectual successors claimed that this pessimism about government was unwarranted. "The science of politics …like most other sciences," claimed Alexander Hamilton, "has received great improvement… The regular distribution of power into distinct departments…legislative balances and checks …judges holding their offices during good behaviour; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election …are powerful means by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided…"
   Perhaps Hamilton was too much the optimist. When I look at Barack Obama's deficit commission — indeed, look at governance worldwide — I see many imperfections, but few or no examples of excellence.
(The author is professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research)

US President Barack Obama made a wrong choice by selecting Alan Simpson to co-chair the deficit-reduction panel

Giving a sensitive office to those who have let down the nation earlier is giving a bad choice to the next generation

Indeed, Obama's deficit commission has many imperfections, but few or no examples of excellence









AMAN walking along a deserted beach came across a brass flacon half buried in the sand. Scooping it out, he uncorked the stopper whereupon a cloud of blue haze wafted out and took on the shape of a genie. Irritated at being awoken after so many aeons, it thundered, "Who dares disturb my sleep?" The surprised man quickly collected his wits around him and said, "Hey, I know the deal here mister, I get any three wishes now, but there's always a trick ending where the system invariably ends up beating me."


Taken aback, the genie scratched its head and replied, "Um, I'm afraid that's not exactly how it works in real life. The actual deal is that you get three choices, of which you have to choose any one and, thereafter, what you choose will be how the universe works in future." The man pondered this new twist in the tale for a long time. It wasn't too bad, he figured finally. After all, it gave him unlimited and absolute power over everything that existed. Not bad, not bad at all. "Okay," he said, "I want to play God. What are my choices?"
The genie smiled mysteriously and replied, "(a) a singular omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and omnibenevolent being created the universe and everything that's there in it, including all life and yourself; (b) the whole cosmos is the result of a random chance event following the rules of physics, mathematics and blind biology that has neither a primary purpose nor an ultimate goal; and (c) all of existence could be due to either (a) or (b)."


"This is ridiculous!" shouted the man. "Those are the very same choices I had before you came along. What's so great about you then?" The genie looked puzzled. "But don't you get it? Earlier your choice would have made a difference only to you. Now it will apply to all." The man was still not satisfied.


"That's still not playing God. If I choose (b), for instance, I wish God away forever. If I choose (c), I relegate him to a probabilistic limbo. But you know what, I just realised I have a fourth choice. I choose not to choose." The genie shrugged. "Suit yourself," it said and began oozing back into the flacon, adding, "Please replace the stopper when I'm in."


Before corking him, however, the man whispered into the opening, "I bet everyone you meet exercises the fourth option." There was a little silence before the genie replied in a small sleepy faraway voice, "Never had an exception so far."




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



The rain god Indra, who is also the god of storms and war, has so far smiled on South India but is yet to bestow his largesse on the rest of the country. The India Meterological Department claims that the rainfall is 18 per cent below normal in northwest India, 26 per cent below normal in central India and 17 per cent below normal in east and northeast India, while in the south it is five per cent above normal. But all is not yet lost, though there is growing concern over the monsoon's late arrival across the country. The IMD claims that it will be in full swing all over India by July 15, and also forecasts that the June-September rainfall will be 102 per cent of the long period average — up from its earlier forecast of 98 per cent. If this turns out to be true, India will have a normal monsoon this year. But the worry is also that the rainfall, even if "normal", could be unevenly spread, which could adversely impact agriculture, as different crops are grown in different parts of the country. Rice, for instance, is grown mainly in Uttar Pradesh, soyabean in Madhya Pradesh, groundnut in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and so on. Bihar and UP contribute 16 per cent of India's total agricultural output, and the bulk of foodgrain production comes from crops sown between July and September. Strange as it may sound, India's $1.3 trillion economy depends considerably on the strength of the monsoon. Agriculture accounts for 17-18 per cent of our GDP. Successive governments have made the country hostage to the rain god: only about 20.3 per cent of the total irrigable land is irrigated even today. The country is glued as never before to news about the monsoon. With the growing spread of communications, people are much more aware of how the economy — and their lives — can get derailed due to the lack of rain. There is also rising awareness of the link between the absence of adequate rainfall and food inflation. Last year, due to an erratic monsoon, India had to import food and then deal with imported inflation. When the news spreads globally that India, one of the largest producers of rice and wheat, is short of foodgrain, international prices of wheat and rice shoot up. This is what happened last year. India is totally dependent on imports for edible oils. The effect of this is there for all to see — since November, food inflation has hovered between 17 and 20 per cent. The consequences of a failed monsoon can be catastrophic: 75 per cent of this country depends on agriculture, and if there is a crop failure, the hardest hit will be the small and marginal farmers, whose income depends on their produce, and farm labourers, who will become jobless. Industry will also receive a setback as much of its profits depend on rural demand. The hydropower sector will go for a toss. In 2008-09, according to one report, India Inc lost Rs 43,205 crores due to power outages. Of course, if we have a good monsoon all over India, it will give a fillip to both agriculture and industry and boost GDP growth. At this point, though, one can only pray that the rain god sends his "Indra dhanush" to cover the entire country.






An interesting, but not necessarily intriguing, feature of the summit that concluded in Toronto earlier this week was the nomenclature. To the British media, it was unquestionably the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit. Their Indian counterparts, however, preferred to view it as a conclave of the Group of Twenty (G-20).

Both were right. The G-8 Summit set the stage for the G-20 meeting, not least to demonstrate that the definition of Big Powers has been enlarged since the victors of World War II rewarded each other with permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. The G-8 is a cosy, time-tested club, even if it includes an excitable Italy and a Russia that some are very wary of. The G-20 on the other hand is more diffused but includes, among others, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia — countries that will shape the global economy of the future.

The perception that the G-8 constitutes a Super League is self-comforting for a country such as Britain that is increasingly unsure of its own future. Moreover, since news coverage tends to be shaped by national boundaries, it is understandable that the British media focussed primarily on Prime Minister David Cameron's debut on the international stage. It referred to Mr Cameron being the "new kid on the block" and contrasted his social ease with the earnestness of his predecessor, Gordon Brown. Predictably, there was no mention of US President Barack Obama's one-liner that when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke, the world listened. To them, it was more interesting that Mr Obama reinforced the "special relationship" between the two English-speaking countries by offering Mr Cameron a lift on his helicopter.

It is tempting for those who carry the baggage of "anti-colonialism" to rush to the conclusion that the British media's coverage of the goings-on in Toronto points to an unwarranted arrogance that is typical of an erstwhile imperial power. Arguably, the attitudes of some Britons could do with some modifications. Fortunately, the conduct of foreign policy isn't always linked to popular priorities. If that was so, India would barely be bothered to look beyond the emotive boundaries of its complex relationship with Pakistan.

The point to note is that Mr Obama's flattering references to Dr Singh wasn't an isolated act of generosity. In a move whose significance hasn't been fully grasped as yet, the new Conservative-led coalition government in London has decided to refocus British foreign policy. According to an interview by its foreign secretary William Hague to a British newspaper, Britain will pursue a "distinctive" foreign policy and will no longer be obsessed by the three "blocs" — the US, European Union and West Asia: "Britain must forge a distinctive new global identity which focuses as much on emerging nations such as India, Brazil, Chile and the Gulf states". It has been suggested that Mr Cameron is intent on a "special relationship" with India, the contours of which will be unveiled during his visit to Delhi in July.

It is unfair to expect any Indo-British "special relationship" to replicate the 70-year-old Anglo-American entente. There are large areas governing politics, intelligence and defence that will remain outside the orbit of special privilege until mutual trust deepens. It would be unrealistic, for example, to expect Britain to suddenly become publicly wary of Pakistan's designs on Afghanistan and Kashmir. The misgivings — and there are many — of the multiple power centres in Islamabad will be private and understated, not least because Whitehall isn't terribly anxious to provoke its citizens of Pakistani origin into making foreign policy a facet of its domestic agenda. Having burnt its fingers quite badly in the Afghan operations, a country such as Britain is likely to redefine its core competence away from war games. mr Cameron, for example, has already indicated that he doesn't expect British troops to be in Afghanistan for more than four years.

The disengagement of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces from Afghanistan before either a political settlement or a military victory is worrying for India. Pakistan's recovery of its "strategic depth" is bound to add to the existing complications in Indo-Pakistan ties. At the same time, it is also unrealistic to expect the US and Britain to continue to shoulder all military responsibilities in what is turning out to be an unwinnable war. New Delhi will have to undertake some innovative diplomacy, in conjunction with the West, to ensure that Afghanistan doesn't revert to being a springboard for global, jihadi terror.

A policy based on mutual recognition of each other's compulsions is the most viable architecture for India's relationship with the West. A heartening feature of the new dispensation in Whitehall is that it doesn't inherit the ideological baggage of the Brown government. For India, Britain is an invaluable trade partner, a source and destination for capital investment and a half-way access to both the European Union and the US. If a country with a toehold, albeit a tenuous one, in the G-8 is offering India a "special relationship", it must be grabbed enthusiastically, even if there isn't convergence on every issue.

India has to finetune its foreign policy to suit the imperatives of business. That involves underplaying strategic calculations in the neighbourhood and, equally, being less prickly in responding to slights, real or imaginary. For a start, India would do well to not react to every so-called "anti-India" demonstration, whether in Canada or Britain. South Block must realise that Canadian foreign policy isn't shaped by fringe Khalistani groups in Toronto and Vancouver; nor is British foreign policy moulded by Balti restaurant owners in Birmingham.

The G-20 Summit was an occasion for some soul-searching. India figured positively because it has come out of the economic downturn relatively unscathed. New Delhi is in demand because its potential has been acknowledged. It would be silly to fritter away this advantage by pretending we are a helpless Third World nation and remaining a prisoner of history.

* Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist







As the blame game gathers steam after England's crushing defeat at Germany's feet, pundits and fans alike are looking for the reasons behind such a lacklustre performance in the World Cup. There is some grudging admission of the age factor: German players were younger, fitter and faster, and they played with far more verve and imagination than Wayne Rooney and Company. Other excuses include a surfeit of football during the English season. But most top-level professionals play as many games.

The fact is that although they shine in England's Premier League, British players have seldom excelled abroad against world-class competition.

As newspaper columns continue to be full of strident criticism of the team and its manager — Italy's Fabio Capello hired two years ago at £6 million a year, I came across a charming piece by Ian Jack in the Guardian. Writing about Cecil Tyndale-Biscoe, a missionary and educationist, Jack tells the story about how he came to Kashmir in 1890 with a football, determined to make men out of his students through the sport. When he first introduced the leather sphere to his students, they had no clue what it was for. First, the boys wanted to know if they would get paid for playing. Then, the Brahmin students said they would not touch the skin of dead cows. Forced to play, Jack quotes from Tyndale-Biscoe's autobiography: "…the boys forgot their places on the field, or that they were holy Brahmins".

Football evokes deeply atavistic feelings among the English in a way few other things do. In an editorial, the Guardian discusses the passion the sport excites: "…The irony is that England fans care so much because — unlike so much else in life — their support is not just another choice, it is part of who they are. Sporting patriotism, for good or ill, cannot be bought or sold. The executives may fancy they operate in a post-Westphalian order where the nation state no longer counts, but fans disagree. The hysterical European resistance that Fifa president Sepp Blatter ran into when he proposed that clubs should retain a quorum of home players revealed how business thinking grips what was once a working-class game. Yesterday's fagged-out performance by players who sparkle in the Premier League will spark arguments about how monied clubs relate to their own communities, and their country".

This takes us to the heart of the crisis facing English football today: by importing large numbers of foreign players, local footballers are denied the opportunity to play regularly at the national level. Currently, around two-thirds of players in the Premier League come from abroad. While county cricket imposes a limit on the number of foreign professionals per team, no such quotas apply in football. In the commercially-driven need to do well in the interminable League competition, gate money, TV fees and other financially lucrative deals count for so much. Much of this money goes on huge transfer fees to buy imported talent. Having bought a foreign star for millions of pounds, coaches and managers want to use his media appeal as much as his footballing talents. Thus, local players wait for a chance on the bench, and watch their overseas colleagues bask in the limelight.

Apart from a handful of English players, younger aspirants are not given many opportunities, and as a result, the national squad is usually composed of the ageing, tired players who recently performed so poorly in South Africa.

As I have followed the tournament, I found myself asking the same question I do every four years: why has no South Asian football team ever qualified to play in the World Cup? After all, with a population of nearly 1.5 billion, our region represents almost a fourth of all humanity. Surely, one of the countries of our teeming Subcontinent ought to have produced a team good enough to qualify. Forget winning the Cup; I'm just talking about making it to the top 32 teams that have been doing battle in South Africa this last fortnight. If Slovenia, with a population of two million, can send a team to the World Cup, why can't nations in South Asia with their hundreds of millions?

And it's not just football's top honours that we have failed to compete for. In England's Premier League, I have not heard of any top professional of South Asian ancestry being selected to play. Young athletes from our part of the world have done well in other sports ranging from cricket to boxing, but oddly, not in Britain's richest and most popular sport. Our domestic football is devoid of any big names, and frankly, who watches it anyway? And yet many of us do follow the sport abroad on TV.

So the question boils down to why we are so bad at football. To say that the sport has little public or official support is a chicken and egg puzzle: it is unpopular because it isn't played with the passion and skill on display in top-level games. But surely, in all these years, we ought to have produced some players who could have captured our imagination, and brought crowds to watch domestic games.

My theory is that we are so bad at soccer because most desis have skinny legs, and therefore can't run as fast and for as long as other, non-desis can. Another reason is that our grounds are hard and dusty, so falls can cause serious damage. And anybody who has watched the tough, crunching tackles that are routine in football can sympathise with our more delicate athletes for preferring the non-contact sport of cricket.







Moments of nostalgia are both moments of memory and invitations to rethinking. When the STEPS Centre at University of Sussex announced it was going to present a new manifesto for science, technology and development, it was a moment of expectation. The previous document, done 40 years ago and associated with legends like Hans Singer, was one of the great development manifestos. Forty years is a long time to reflect and turn self-reflexive.

The new manifesto has outstanding scholars like Ian Scoones, Andy Stirling and Melissa Leach working on it. Everything about its rituals seems utterly correct and open. Yet as one reads the manifesto one senses a redundancy. Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex, looks at the world and sees IDS.

Let us look at the document as a narrative. The framing is predictable. It begins like all manifestos with a litany of good intentions. Militarism is on the increase, poverty still haunts the universe. Yet for all the talk of poverty, there is no sense of it. One misses what Leonard Boff, a liberation theologist called "a preferential option for the poor against their poverty". The critique of poverty which should have been a lens for understanding becomes a picture frame for IDS to memorialise itself.

The document returns to cliché. It claims to rethink the way we think about innovation. Every scholar thinks his project is a solution to poverty. It makes scholarship and poverty self-perpetuating and creates complicity between the two. The current document creates participation without a hearing aid. It reads poverty but misses out on the poor, their theorising, their modes of coping, their sense of the world.

Because then the core would not have been the involvement with innovation but with democracy as an inventive process. Here instead of fetishising innovation, one sees innovation along with improving, coping, jugaad, satisficing and muddling through as strategies of survival and subsistence. The migrant, the marginal farmer, the craftsman, all improvise, invent and one needs a wider sense of that.

It criticises progress in terms of its directionality. But in discussing innovation in terms of who gets what, when and why, it offers window dressing. It recognises cultural variety but treats it superficially. The margins are still the object of study, not a subject of agency of innovation. It is still a managerial exercise, a human relations effort of laboratory-based science crying crocodile tears over land. Twenty round tables have added little to the imagination of science or democracy. The manifesto is a bit touristy. After its global round up, it returns home and becomes what it is, a provincial piece of Sussex.

One must accept it as a statement of good intentions. It claims to diversify the debate yet it does not pluralise it. It demands that the number of stakeholders increase to include laboratories, funders, civil society, international agencies. But this is still a technocratic space which emasculates politics or reduces politics to a few NGOs. What one misses is the imagination of democracy, the debates on alternatives present in the work of Ashis Nandy, Gustavo Esteva, Paul Farmer, Arjun Sengupta, Rajni Kothari. It confuses variety and choice for alternatives. The document lacks specificity. It asks for democratic scrutiny but never specifies a single institutional innovation from the Right to Information to the new models of swaraj.

It points out correctly to distortions in health budget where 10 per cent of the health budget is spent on 90 per cent of the diseases that affect world's population. Yet as analyst, it never sees itself as case study. It does not ask if the Sussex idea of science and development contribute to this impasse.

I am not asking for breast beating but IDS cannot be part of the solution till it recognises it is part of the problem. It fails to use the pathbreaking work of its own scholars like Robert Chambers on Farmer First or Mary Kaldor's Baroque Arsenal to create the understandings for a different kind of innovation. Eventually it is a Boy Scout thesis, a text book civics. It talks correctly about innovations at the bottom of the pyramid, of the potential of local innovations but there is little about how to create genuine citizenship and equity in the world of science and technology.

There is something of value in its observations on distribution about user-centric innovation. But for that groups like IDS and Sussex university's Science and Technology Policy Research will have to demystify themselves. They have to deconstruct the myth of expertise and rework it in terms of a democracy of knowledge. Bottom-up is poor metaphor for democracy. Bottom-up is a mechanical inversion at a time one is looking for transformation.

What is missing is a new set of keywords or critical ways of looking at diversity, sustainability and vulnerability that invokes a new sense of science, that studies and debates how science actually operates and the need for what Sheila Jasonoff calls a sense of humility. By black boxing science and seeing it as a problem-solving instrument it renders a disservice to science. It renders a disservice to itself by not internalising the work of scholars like Paul Richards, Jasonoff, and Bryan Wynne. One is mystified by this self-imposed illiteracy.

For a manifesto to be a vision, it needs a sense of imaginaries, constructs of possibilities which are not yet realisable. It has to summon the impossible, the not yet do-able, not to create a shopping list of clichés around sustainability and environment. These words are becoming plastic words. Does sustainability for the affluent have the same logic as sustainability for subsistence? Can one talk of justice in the world of IPRs or change when you do not want to rock the boat?

Sadly, at the end of the deliberation all one gets is the need for new innovation foras, a Global Innovation Commission. It reduces democracy willy nilly to Rule by Committee, where committees have no place for communities.

It has some interesting suggestions but they are discrete, lacking the wisdom of the whole. One asks for more because one expects more from the world of scholarship. Yet sadly this is a document that illustrates the growing gap between the correct and the true. It is an irony that this new manifesto will have to live with.

n Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist






More often than not answers to all our questions lie in things around us; all we need is an observant eye. For example, let us observe the sun. Ever wondered what gives it the magnificent glow and attraction? What is so magnetic about the sun that all the planets revolve around it? Modern science identifies the sun as the ultimate source of energy. How can a single entity be able to channelise such enormous amounts of energy?

It is amazing how we are oblivious to this phenomenal presence of the sun most of the times. And yet it rises and sets everyday, immune to our ungratefulness, lighting up the lives of millions, without assessing or judging whether someone is worthy of receiving or not. That's adhering to laws of nature. A yogi or an evolved person also does not discriminate or judge, he just gives unconditionally. Not attaching himself with anything in creation, he is free of bondages. Yoga is not about complicated twists and turns of the body. A yogi is not bound by age, diet, lifestyles or rituals. Yoga sets you free. The purpose of yoga is to still the thoughts from desires, chitt vritti nirodh, through certain purifications as prescribed in the Sanatan Kriya.

It is the thoughts and desires that tie one to the individual consciousness. Once these disturbances are removed, the being becomes one with the supreme consciousness. A yogi is then able to channelise the energy of the Divine through self. However, he does not use this energy for personal gains — his purpose is higher creation. Have you ever seen the sun asking for remuneration for its services? Conversely, if the sun starts rationing its energy according to an individual's capacity to afford, would it exude the same brilliance? No. So is true for a yogi. Sanatan Kriya is an assimilation of ancient sciences and philosophies as were given by the Vedic rishis 16,000 years ago, designed specifically to suit the lifestyle of the modern man. Sanatan Kriya means complete action. A practitioner of Sanatan Kriya is on the path of yog, which leads to only one state — that of ananda or complete bliss.

To attain this, one has to overcome hurdles called experiences — each experience being a new salvation, taking one a step forward from where one was. Regular practice of the kriya helps one to attain a state of balance in all layers of existence — physical, emotional, financial and spiritual. What follows can best be gauged from the experiences of those who practice it.

Every member of the Dhyan Foundation is a living example of the power of Sanatan Kriya. They have actually compiled a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles…, to share what they have gained... A 20-something chartered accountant was appointed senior manager in a reputed finance company. While a country head of a leading multinational gets divine visions and mantras. A severe asthmatic patient realised when prompted by his chemist, that he had since three months not purchased inhalers. A shy, heartbroken boy today confidently takes charge of mass gatherings, earning admiration of men and women from all age groups. Some others report having controlled their temper, regained lost focus, or simply become more cheerful and positive in life.

While a disease-free body, glow, health, vitality, peace, strength, flexibility, financial and emotional stability and reversal of ageing are some of the by products of practicing Sanatan Kriya, it must not be mistaken as a wishing well. It is actually the grace of Guru that translates as miracles to us mortals. The kriya merely puts a being on the path to earn this grace; thereafter one has to work incessantly to forge ahead. Charity and service are two prerequisites for any seeker of yoga and paranormal. Only that being can step on the path of sadhana who is willing to help others. So begin your hard work today, help a fellow being.

— Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. He has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting.
Contact him at [1]








IT is a measure of the rot that has permeated the Bengal bureaucracy that a Chief Secretary, on the day of his retirement, and a retired Additional Chief  Secretary have exposed the malaise in a span of exactly two months. Between them, they have advanced a message that couldn't have been more resounding for a government that is grappling with an existential crisis. The decline of the health and education sectors and bumbling over the land/industry equation are issues of common knowledge. What may yet be a startling revelation is that the bureaucracy has been denuded to the level of subservience and almost to the point of losing its capability to think and act fearlessly and independently. On balance, Kalyani Chaudhuri has been far more explicit in her book, When the Pendulum Stops ~ Death of Bengal Bureaucracy. Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti's rather unusual farewell letter to the Secretaries on 30 April had a critical subtext in his appeal to officers to uphold the principle of neutrality of the civil service ~ "the administration must conduct itself with impartiality, political neutrality and efficiency". All the three qualities have been in short  supply under the Bengal Left. Truth to tell, these high-minded concepts have been trashed and severely so over decades. It has spurred the increasing demand for a relatively stable pasture of a Central deputation, a major reason for the current shortage of senior civil servants.

 Both Ms Chaudhuri ('73 batch) and Mr Chakrabarti ('74 batch) belong to a generation of the IAS whose career progression has been in parallel with that of the Left Front.  Both have bared their angst, if overtly and covertly, over how the fundamentals of the rule-book have been trashed by the political masters. From the perspective of an all-India service, this is quite the most damning in-house condemnation that the Left will have to contend with, the now-established charge that it is incapable of functioning within the laws and administrative rules of the land. And the loss of face, if not readily acknowledged, can scarcely be rectified with eleventh-hour correctives, such as the free gift of arable land. No less alarming is that the decline of the bureaucracy has come about in inverse proportion to the increase in clout of the CPI-M's coordination committee.
As often as not, it is the party that has called the shots. It bears recall that a former Home secretary, if particularly trusted by the Chief Minister, was moved out at the behest of the hardliners for uttering home-truths on cadre involvement in the Nandigram firing. Central to the malaise is that the line that demarcates the party and the government has blurred over time. This is the other home-truth that Mr Bhattacharjee will have to accept. His government has failed and failed irredeemably to protect the ground rules that govern the civil service. The pendulum has stopped. It really has.








MENTION the name George Fernandes and different minds will conjure up different pictures. That is probably the way the man would want it. Never a hypocrite to calculatedly set about winning friends or influencing people, he was ever passionate, took causes to his heart, fought for them vigorously ~ caring little if what he did was deemed "politically correct" or otherwise, embarrassed his associates, invited ridicule or even contempt. If that fuelled the antipathy so many harboured for him, so much the better. He loved to be hated, but always because he firmly believed he was doing right: so what if others deemed him terribly wrong. Still, just about everyone conceded him a degree of respect: in recognition of his commitment. Thus he transited from the man who could bring Bombay to a standstill, crippling the national railway system, taking his battle against the Emergency to the extreme, to a shrill voice for the underdog ~ in and beyond Parliament ~ even earning the accolade "jawan's minister". Seldom would the term "chequered" more graphically describe a political career. And that is why even his most vehement detractor would be dismayed over the sick drama being enacted as his health fails. The sudden return of an estranged wife, his being held in "cloister", an ugly scrap with long-time associates, and a squabble over property of the man known for wearing a "carefully crumpled kurta" simply do not fit the bill. 

The maverick leader's physical and mental decline is being collectively exploited so blatantly, dirty linen shamelessly washed in public that the upright aura of the man is being laid low. There is really no right side or wrong side to the dispute, both are ugly, the "unprincipled-principals" proving themselves unworthy of rising above the disgracefully low to preserve the reputation of a man unique. The photograph in the newspaper of the gates at his house being shut to deny entry to a previous close-confidante is image-shattering: George had ordered the gates removed after the cops once closed them when the Prime Minister's motorcade was passing by!








WHEN Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua came overground in December last year they re-awakened some hopes of peace returning to beleaguered Assam. Earlier, in September 2005, hopes for peace had also soared high after the Ulfa-appointed People's Consultative Group held three rounds of talks with the Centre over a period of a year but the exercise fizzled out because both sides refused to give ground. After more than six months of trying to capitalise on Ulfa leaders' presence ~ now in Guwahati Jail ~ the Centre's latest attempt at initiating the peace process does not seem to be gaining much headway. In fact, in a major shift of policy it handed over to chief minister Tarun Gogoi the responsibility of starting the process, following which Dispur appointed former Intelligence Bureau chief, PC Haldar, as the interlocutor. In April, in a unanimous resolution, the Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan, a citizens' forum, urged the Centre and Ulfa to resume talks without setting any preconditions ~ undoubtedly the best way to crack the logjam ~ but commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, a person without a country and who is still capable of creating unrest, not only pooh-poohed the suggestion but even dubbed the forum's chief convenor, Hiren Gohain, New Delhi's stooge. 

Barua's latest remark that the "senior citizens' body and intellectuals do not represent the common people" is indicative of his insensitivity to the outfit's waning popularity and the general longing for peace. Dispur is ready for talks even without Barua but top leaders are yet to make a formal announcement of their intention, though they have expressed the desire to sit for talks. Given the logic that they constitute the majority, their hesitation in taking a decision is difficult to understand. If they feel Barua is still a factor to reckon with, then they should admit as much. The inference now is that if the jailed leaders are released ~ to which Dispur has no objection ~ Barua will still remain an obstacle. Which will only put Gogoi in an embarrassing position.








THE Left Front government is reportedly preparing a Bill, to be presented in the next Assembly session, for buying barga-free land from owners, paying up to 25 per cent more than the market price. This land will be distributed free to over two lakh landless families. The government has asked District Magistrates and land reforms officers as well as its party offices to be on the lookout for willing sellers and initiate steps for purchase. The government has set a deadline for implementing the plan  in six months, well ahead of the next Assembly election. 

The finance minister, Dr Asim Dasgupta, recently told an English daily in South India that the Bhumidaan Prakalpa is an upgraded version of an ongoing scheme of buying barga-free land at a cost that is 10 per cent higher than the market price. The  government is now prepared to pay 25 per cent more. It also envisages the purchase of homestead land for free registration of up to five cottahs, ie about 3500 sq ft to landless farm labourers who have been occupying the land as on 31 December 2009. The government hopes that there are many absentee owners of arable land who work far away from home; they will be eager to part with useless land at the price offered by the government. The inputs for cultivation, the rise in daily wages of hired labourers  who prefer the 100 days' work under NREGS have rendered cultivation a relatively unremunerative occupation.

Virtue of reforms

After a series of poll reverses, a last-ditch attempt is being made to woo a section of the disenchanted rural electorate. This is the primary objective of the Bhumidaan Prakalpa. The government hopes that just as Operation Barga had expanded the party's rural base, so too will the free gift  of arable land help the party to recover. As industrialisation did not materialise because of the fiasco in Singur and Nandigram, the party is trying to rediscover the virtue of land reforms.

There are four ways in which the landless farm labourers can be ameliorated ~ by arranging for adequate land to feed their families, by raising their daily wage, or by ensuring more days of hired work, or by a mix of both to meet their needs. The NREGS has to an extent alleviated their distress in West Bengal. Hired farm labourers are always under-paid and exploited. Their number is rising, and their children take to cultivation to supplement the family income. If they are to meet the needs of nutrition in accordance with FAO guidelines, each of them has to own and cultivate 0.4 acres of arable land, assuming that a landless family consists of five members ~ the labourer, his parents, wife and a child ~ and that some of them are single.

To fulfil its agenda, the government will have to buy the land from willing owners and make a free gift of about 24 lakh acres to 60 lakh landless families, spending nearly Rs 72,000 crore at the rate of Rs 3 lakh per acre. If the gifted land is not within walking distance of their hearth and home, they will neither be able to cultivate nor take care of it. They will be compelled to sell it and return to square one. In that case, the expenditure on buying the land will be unproductive; this will only add to the state's public debt of over Rs 180490 crore (as on 1 March this year). Such a scenario has been predicted by the Asian Development Bank in November 2005.
The fact of the matter is that the rural land construct has changed dramatically since the heyday of the CPI-M's initial bout of path-breaking land reforms. Last year, the state had nearly 2 lakh acres of undistributed vested arable land and about 17 lakh acres of non-arable land. The latest move would not have been necessary, if khas and vested land could be distributed to the landless and other deserving categories. 

There is no denying that the landless and urban unorganised labourers are urgently in need of state support and protection to survive. At present, landless labourers are hired for three to four months to carry out the sowing and harvesting of paddy. For the rest of the year, they run shops, pull rickshaws and cycle-vans and grow vegetables in others' fields.  During the off-season, many flock to UP, Punjab and Gujarat where wages are high. It will be more effective if  instead of making a free gift, the government assists the landless to buy the land just as they buy houses under the Indira Abas Yojana. It might be extremely difficult to get adequate cultivable land for purchase because after abolition of intermediaries in 1955, other owners have very little surplus land for sale. 

Feather in the cap

Land reforms were indeed a feather in the cap of the Left Front government, but within a decade of distribution of vested land, the recipients sold it under pressure of circumstances, such as the rising cost of cultivation and inputs, emergencies and the high price for fertile land ~ around Rs 3 lakh per acre. According to a Union agriculture ministry report, the income of the state's paddy farmers has fallen by 28 per cent since 1996-97. "Once landless, always landless" sounds cynical, but is true, because by remaining so, they become hugely dependent on the state in terms of land, loans and grants.

In South Bengal, neither the potential sellers nor the targeted beneficiaries of free land are much enthused. The plan may meet the fate of several pledges made since 2008. As the BBC once remarked, "The more things change, the more India's Communists remain the same."

The question survives whether a lame duck administration is entitled to take recourse to this expenditure on land to woo the electorate. And it is an expenditure that will be passed on, rather unethically, to the next government. If genuine development could influence voters, it would arguably have been reflected in the panchayat, Lok Sabha and municipal elections. There is no denying that some of the CPM-controlled panchayats and civic bodies have performed well. The majority didn't, and this has been mirrored in the results. The fact of the matter is that the people want change through the next Assembly election. Sops are unlikely to work at this late hour.








A prominent scientist who played an important role in the eradication of smallpox recently created a sensation by predicting early extinction of the human race. Frank Fenner, emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, said, "Homo sapiens will became extinct, perhaps within 100 years. A lot of other animals will too (face the same fate)".

Earlier, another highly respected scientist, James Lovelock, had warned that the world's population may be pushed as low as 500 million (compared to the present population of 6,800 million) over the next century due to global warning.

For Fenner, global warming is the main culprit. He said, "Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we're seeing remarkable changes in the weather already." He added, "It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something but they keep putting it off."
Fenner linked this to the high population growth rate and "unbridled consumption''. He described the period since industrialisation an Anthropocene when the effort of human activities on planet has rivalled any ice age and comet impact.

Everyone will hope that warnings of the eminent scientists like Fenner and Lovelock are exaggerated but we can't afford to ignore them. Their basic premise that the threats to the survival of human beings and many other life-forms have become very serious cannot be denied, and in fact is supported by a lot of accumulating scientific evidence.

In 1992 as many as 1,575 of the world's most distinguished scientists, including more than half of all living scientists awarded the Nobel Prize, signed a statement titled "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity". This statement issued a clear warning, "We the undersigned, senior members of world's scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated."

This statement said, "The environment is suffering critical stress" and added that "the irreversible loss of species, which by 2100 may reach one-third of all species now living, is especially serious."
Emphasising the need for significant change, this statement went on to say, "If not checked, many of our current practices put at risk the future we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdom, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know."

Edward Goldsmith and his co-authors warned in the widely discussed report "Imperilled Planet'' (MIT, USA): "The danger is that we have gone beyond simply damaging ecosystems and we are now disrupting the very processes that keep the Earth a fit place for higher forms of life. For life as we know it to continue, the balance of gases in the atmosphere must remain within certain limits. ... Beyond a certain point, the system may 'flip' to an entirely new state which could be extremely uncomfortable for life as we know it. At present we have no idea whether we are heading for a 'flip' but, once triggered, the change to the new state could occur with extreme rapidity in perhaps as little as a few decades."

Harvard Professor Edward O. Wilson, one of the world's leading experts on biodiversity summarized the current state of other forms of life in an article in Time magazine. Biologists generally agree, he said, that, "on the land at least and on a worldwide basis, species are vanishing 100 times faster than before the arrival of Homo sapiens."

"The ongoing loss in biodiversity is the greatest since the end of the Mesozoic era 65 million years age. At that time, by current scientific consensus, the impact of one or more giant meteorites darkened the atmosphere, altered much of earth's climate and extinguished the dinosaurs. Thus began the next stage of evolution, the Cenozoic era or age of Mammals. The extinction spasm we are now inflicting can be moderated if we choose. If not, the next century (the 21st century) will see the closing of the Cenozoic era and the start of a new one characterized by biological impoverishment. It might appropriately be called the Eremozoic era, the age of loneliness."

Thus we are in the middle of - to use the words of John Tuxill and Chris Bight writing in State of the World Report - "a mass extinction - a global evolutionary convulsion with few parallels in the entire history of life." As this report adds, unlike the dinosaurs, we are not simply the contemporaries of a mass extinction, "we are the reason for it".

Fenner has mentioned the population explosion as a big factor but inequalities should also be emphasised. In the trend of world population growth, the 50 years 1975-2025 are extremely crucial. World population had already doubled during the previous 50 years (from two to four billion during 1925-75) and so the base in 1975 was quite large. But an increase higher than a further doubling is envisaged for the next 50 years (from four to 8.5 billion). In other words, an average addition every year of nearly 90 million people. In historical terms, while it took thousands of years for world population to reach four billion it will take only 50 years to add the next 4.5 billion.

History's highest population growth rate is taking place at a time when (1) over 30 per cent of the population doesn't have access to basic needs, and (2) inequalities are not only very high but also rising quite fast. Between 1960 and 1991, the share of world income for the richest 20 per cent of the world's population rose from 70 per cent to 85 per cent.

The Human Development Report says clearly that existing development pattern of industrial countries in not sustainable and something different is needed as a desirable norm. "Replicating the patterns of the North in the South would require ten times the present amount of fossil fuels and roughly 200 times as much mineral wealth. And in another 40 years, these requirements, would double again as the world population doubles. The life style of the rich nation will clearly have to change. The North has roughly one-fifth of the world's population and four-fifths of its income, and it consumes 70% of the world's energy, 75% of its metals and 85% of its wood. If the ecosphere were fully priced not free, such consumption patterns could not continue. A major restructuring of the world's income distribution, production and consumption pattern may therefore be a necessary precondition for any viable strategy for sustainable human development."

It is clear that reduction of inequalities has to be combined with prioritisation of environment protection and population control to ensure that future generations do not face a serious survival threat.

The writer is a social activist and currently a Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi







Sometimes it seems that Margaret Thatcher never went away. In five months, we will be marking the 20th anniversary of her fall from power, an event which had some people weeping in distress and others cheering in the streets. Yet, while other ex-prime ministers slip quietly out of the collective memory, her reputation refuses to fade.

Young people who were not born when she left office know who she was, have a strong idea of what she stood for, and hold pronounced views on whether she was good or bad for Britain. Each of her successors has paid homage to her. It greatly distressed John Major that she never rated him as a successor. Tony Blair invited her to revisit Downing Street in 1998. She was invited back by Gordon Brown only two months into his premiership.

Two weeks ago, she back there yet again. Looking frail now, dressed a powder blue coat, the 84-year-old Baroness waved to the cameras from the doorstep of No 10 before being gently helped inside by a successor who is young enough to be her grandson.

Even Sarah Palin wants a share of that Thatcher glory. Alaska's favourite hockey mom has arranged a visit to the UK, and announced on her Facebook page last week that she would love to meet "the Iron Lady", who is "one of my political heroines".

A few names from the Thatcher era have been brought back into the news by the return of the Conservatives to government, such as Lord Young of Graffham, once one of her favourites. She said of him that while other ministers brought her problems, he brought solutions. After 21 years out of office, Lord Young is running a government inquiry into health and safety regulations.

More importantly, Mrs Thatcher's long shadow hung over the drastic budget introduced by George Osborne. After the experience of the 1930s, it was accepted orthodoxy that governments do not cut public spending in a recession, but use borrowed money to stimulate growth. Mrs Thatcher was the first post-war leader to do the opposite, 30 years ago.

That worked for Mrs Thatcher then, in that it kept her in power for more than a decade, though at the cost of driving unemployment above three million and devastating the economic base of large parts of the country.


David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg now hope it will work for them.

But there is no prospect of the lady herself making a comeback. She is now too "fragile", as those who know her tactfully put it. In March 2002, after she had suffered a series of strokes, her doctors warned her not to risk any more speeches or public appearances that might put under strain and induce another stroke. In June 2003, she took a heavy emotional knock when Denis Thatcher died.

Though she puts in an occasional appearance in the House of Lords, she has not spoken in the chamber since 6 July 1999. Her last speech there was not her finest. It was a eulogy to dictator Augusto Pinochet of Chile who, according to Baroness Thatcher, was "being victimised because the organised international Left are bent on revenge".

It was indicative of Mrs Thatcher's thought processes that she saw a military dictator who overthrew an elected President as a "long-standing friend of Britain" while all the time that Nelson Mandela was in prison, he was, in her eyes, the head of a terrorist organisation.

But the forthright way that she gave voice to her right-wing opinions are a large part of her lasting fascination. We are so accustomed to being smothered with bland sentiments by politicians that we have almost forgotten what it was like to have a prime minister who told it like she saw it.

It is so de rigueur for ministers to be champions of equality that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, is also, by the way, the Minister for Women and Equalities and her ministerial team includes a Minister for Equalities in Lynne Featherstone. Whether the modern Conservatives truly believe in equality or not, they want to be seen to be for it.

But Mrs Thatcher did not pretend to place any value on equality. On this question, she set out her stall in a speech in the USA just a few months she had been elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1975. "The pursuit of equality itself is a mirage," she said. "Opportunity means nothing unless it includes the right to be unequal and of freedom to be different. One of the reasons why we value individuals is not because they're all the same but because they're all different ... Let our children grow tall and some taller than others, if they have the ability in them to do so."

You do not need to agree with a word of this to be impressed by the clarity and certainty of the argument she presented. She was a woman with courage in her convictions.

The other obvious element that makes up the Thatcher legend is that this was a woman who fought her way to the top in a world controlled by men. When she was elected leader of the Conservative party, there were just 27 women MPs out of 623. On the Conservative side, there were seven women and 270 men.
To quote Sarah Palin's Facebook entry: "Baroness Thatcher's life and career serve as a blueprint for overcoming the odds and challenging the 'status quo'. She started life as a grocer's daughter from Grantham and rose to become Prime Minister – all by her own merit and hard work. I cherish her example and will always count her as one of my role models."

On the down side, there was her wilful blindness to the human consequences of her actions. Like the current administration, she came to power, in 1979, at a time of economic crisis, and took remedial action which she knew would lead to mass unemployment an immense hardship for many thousands of people. But if she ever cared about the casualties, it did not show. During the miners' strike, in which the miners were after all fighting to hold on to their dignity and their way of life, she really did describe them as "the enemy within".

She was the Marmite Prime Minister. She leaves a strong taste that you love or you hate. On a purely personal note, all my life I have loathed Marmite.

The Independent






News Items


Arms And Ammunition Seized

Three Arrests


Two houses were searched in the Taltollah section of Calcutta during the early hours of Friday morning when the police seized three muzzle-loading rifles, and a large quantity of ammunition. Acting on the information of a European named E.S. Plunkett, and armed with a search warrant. Inspector Shevlin, about 3 o'clock on Friday morning, proceeded to premises No 59 Neogipooker West Lane. The Inspector found the door locked from inside and despite repeated knocking he was unable to get any answer. The door was broken open. The inmates declined at first to disclose their names when asked by the Police officer, but subsequently they admitted that their names were Dutta and G.A. Gomes, the former an Indian Christian and the latter a Eurasian lad, who said he was a student in St Joseph's School, and a member of "K" Company, Calcutta Volunteer Cadet Corps. Inspector Shevlin then produced the search warrant, and began a minute search of the promises, and seized a single-barrel muzzle-loading gun, a double-barrel muzzle-loading gun, a large quantity of ammunition, caps and gunpowder such as is used for making cartridges. The chief accused , a man named Bista, also an Indian Christian, was absent from the house at the time, and Inspector Shevlin went to the United Service Club premises in Chowringhee, where Bista is employed as chief cook, and arrested him. He, however, denied having anything to do with the arms seized by the police.

It has been decided by the Government of India that the maximum value of gold bullion which may be sent by inland post shall not exceed three hundred rupees. This takes effect from 2nd instant.









The draft legislation against sexual harassment in the workplace is now ready to appear before the cabinet before being tabled in Parliament. That it has taken a while to be formulated is not surprising. Although sexual harassment in the workplace is deeply unpleasant, often traumatic, it can be difficult to pin down and, more frequently, frightening to complain about. The bill could, however, take advantage of the experience of committees against sexual harassment set up in various institutions according to Supreme Court guidelines. That experience has been mixed, even though it has brought about a heightening of awareness regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, which should be acknowledged as an important achievement. But it has also highlighted difficulties, ranging from the need to discern genuine misunderstandings arising from the starkly different cultural backgrounds of the persons involved to the real problem at the root of all trouble — the abuse of power.


The protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace bill attempts to neutralize the most obvious of these problems. There is to be absolute confidentiality regarding the complainant and the complaint in each case, which would not even be accessible by the right to information. This is one way of protecting the complainant, as well as the accused, for the complaint could turn out to be false or mistaken. False complaints would be penalized. All organizations with more than 10 employees must have a committee against sexual harassment, and any employer ignoring this would be heavily fined. However, in the unorganized sector, the district collector has been made the court of appeal for sexual harassment. It is far from clear how this would work, if at all the sexually harassed were to risk losing their temporary jobs by complaining. Moreover, the bill seems to assume that the harasser is always male and the harassed female. But in harassment that is chiefly a manifestation of power, the reverse may be perfectly possible. It may even happen within the same sex. Then, would gender discrimination as a form of harassment be addressed by this law? What happens if a complainant is tortured further because of the complaint? Power works in strange ways. The new law must be tough enough, and far-seeing enough, to neutralize its corrupting reach.








Mountains of dusty old files with the babu nodding off in their midst is the official image of the Indian bureaucracy's eternal lunch-hour. Time stands still in the great halls of state and so does the business of life for most ordinary Indians, causing varying degrees of bother, from the annoying to the fatal. All this is now set to change with the rigours of e-governance, which promises to be at once swish and stern. The new file tracking system is web-based and will record, beyond tweaking, the exact dates and times when files are sent and received from one department to another. This does not bode well for slowness and siestas, and what is most alarming is that all bureaucrats would have to take examinations on operating this system. If they fail to get the minimum marks they will be officially told off in their reports.


There is a happy vengefulness with which the ordinary Indian, and hapless victim of post-lunch babudom, would receive this piece of news. What is unfortunate is how it reduces everybody — babus and victims — to a schoolboy-like juvenility. It is unpleasant, and vaguely humiliating, to have to sit tests, fail or pass, and get rapped on the knuckles for failing, after the end of natural studenthood. And it is sad when a mature nation's qualified bureaucrats have to be disciplined by such regressive means. The question remains, though, whether such a yoke will radically alter a slothful disposition (and sloth is not the only problem), and whether the test itself will become part of a new babudom. Perhaps the government will have to go beyond its schoolroom tactics, however understandable and even amusing they might be, and think more self-critically and from first principles. Perhaps a more substantial answer lies in trimming down the paraphernalia (some of it human and some infrastructural) of babudom. The endless labyrinths and hierarchies of bureaucracy — Dickens's Circumlocution Office many times over — is best treated like a bad colonial practical joke. The time has come for a more strict and spare system that would reduce the coils and clutter of bureaucracy, and automatically make its members sit up and get things going. This should be a human, rather than a cyber, solution. And it must strike more than fear in the babus' hearts. It is not a very happy democracy that is run by a set of frightened schoolchildren.









The gentleman is a member of the Union cabinet holding a major portfolio. He is said to be next in importance to, and sometimes even more effective than, the prime minister. And yet, he has the other day gone on record: it is indeed regrettable that, inflation in the prices of food items has not stopped, and has actually crossed 17 per cent; but not to worry, should the monsoon be good, food prices are bound to come down.


Not one word on measures that could be deployed to restrain prices and provide some relief to the poorer sections. The government is for all practical purposes washing its hands of the matter; why, it is up to the rain god whether prices will subside. The Indian economy is thus being returned to the era of the gamble of the monsoon. The authorities have contributed, with craft and care, towards ensuring this journey back to antiquity. Public investment in agriculture has been scrupulously neglected over the past two decades. Hardly any significant irrigation or land reclamation projects have taken place under Central auspices. The output of foodgrains, alongside that of other crops, has therefore advanced at a rate less than that of the rate of population growth. The state of what is called food security has accordingly become more and more perilous. As if determined to aggravate further the misery of the poor, the government has joyfully proceeded to sabotage the public distribution system which had been providing some relief to vulnerable sections. The instruments of economic policy that can discipline prices have been kept in abeyance. Even in the current year, when food prices have continued to shoot ominously upwards, there is no proposal to adjust fiscal or monetary policy to curb speculation and hoarding of essential commodities.


The rule of the free market is absolute. Big traders, who, like all other rich specimens, are taxed lightly, can borrow from the banks at low rates. They can thereby cover the cost of carrying stocks and merrily jack up prices. Ruling politicians benignly watch the proceedings. They are not bothered, for the backbone of democratic resistance to the perpetration of such outrages has been broken by the series of developments following economic liberalization: the ebbing away of trade union strength, the agrarian crisis, which, while failing to mobilize distressed peasantry widely dispersed over different regions of the country, has splintered them further along caste lines, and, finally, the succumbing of some segments of the middle class to the mirage of economic gains globalization will supposedly offer. Even though suffering on account of rising prices is widespread and leads to anguish and anger, there is no collective explosion of that anger. Men and women grumble; that is about all. They at most turn philosophical and murmur in the manner of a subdued Doris Day: "Whatever will be, will be."


Coming down, as the cliché goes, to brass tacks, ministers are not displeased with galloping prices. It helps their class cause; traders and hoarders are on their side of the class divide. If the ambience is such that their class friends are enabled to make some extra money, that should be occasion for quiet celebration and not concern. Besides, elections to the Lok Sabha are far away. Once that season is imminent, some sops might be offered to the poor and starving. Meanwhile, why not allow the noble doings of the free market to add to the prosperity of those near and dear to the ministers? Something more is in fact on the anvil to benefit the traders and middlemen at the expense of the poor. A proposal has been sponsored by no less than the dynasty presiding over the ruling party that programmes, such as the national rural employment guarantee scheme that had been alleviating somewhat the economic distress in the countryside, should be transferred to the care of private contractors.


Ministers need not, and do not, feel guilty for their could-not-care-less stance. They are political animals. Politics is essentially about seizure of power. The capture of power, though, is not like occupying an empty box. Those who come to power acquire authority over administration and authority over resources at the disposal of the State. Being in government also entitles them to decide how, in what manner and from whom these resources are to be collected as well as how, in what manner and for whose benefit these resources are to be spent. Politicians will naturally avail of these diverse sources of authority to advance the cause of the class or group they belong to. They will use authority to ensure the accrual of more income and wealth to their own fraternity at the expense of their class adversaries. The diverse instruments of economic policy — administrative, fiscal and monetary — will be applied — or not applied — with the same objective in mind. This is economics reduced to its basics. Economics has no corpus apart from what the political infrastructure provides it with. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov summed it up so succinctly nearly a century ago: economics is distilled politics.


Which is why it is difficult to suppress amusement at the spectacle of economists, distinguished economists who have achieved much academic distinction in their earlier career, entering the portals of administration fired by the ambition to enrich the government's economic policy by their particular wisdom. They — at least some of them — nurse illusions about miracles that the spellbinding quality of their inputs will usher in into the arena of economic policy. Such illusions will get dissipated in no time. Politicians whom they agree to advise know the nitty-gritty of economics much more than these academicians: economics is to serve the class cause, period. What academicians joining government can at most do is to supply politicians with clever-clever arguments on behalf of policies supportive of the class cause. Politicians have already finalized their decisions on what to do and what not. Economists, especially those with outstanding scholastic achievements, are no doubt a very smart lot. Their sophistication and the manner in which it manifests itself can charm bystanders. One or two ministers welcome the imprimatur of such sophistication on their public pronouncements; it contributes to glamour. That apart, ministers are seasoned practitioners of public relations; they lend, or pretend to lend, an ear to the outpouring of highfalutin theoretical constructs presented by serving economists. When final formal decisions are to be taken, politics, however, is in command. A few of the more evangelical-minded economists may go to great lengths to try and convince the minister that a devastating catastrophe could well occur if their point of view does not find official acceptance. If that point of view cuts athwart the political interests of ministers, the economists would be told off; there are so many ways of being told off. Economists will then have the option to either walk out, or remain. In case they choose to stay back, they will be reduced to the status of glorified speech-writers. They usually write elegant prose and succeed in putting across thoughts the ministers would like to put across much more precisely than many others are capable of. Some economists, more foolhardy than the rest, might sometimes try to smuggle in one or two of his own ideas into the text of the minister's speech which do not quite tally with those held by the minister. He will be duly found out and shown the door.

The old order does not — cannot — change. Politicians will proceed along lines defined by their class position. Economists who enter government with grand notions of remoulding official economic policy in their own image, will soon know their bearings. They, of course, have their uses. They are like saintly scholars who adorned royal courts in ancient times. They will at most dot the i's and cross the t's of ministerial views. Soon a time will come when even such economists, recruited from outside and with the reputation of fiercely independent minds, will begin to echo the ministers: everything is fine and excellent with the economy and prices will decline once the weather god is in the right mood. They may initially feel uncomfortable when fielding queries: why, in that case, is there any need at all for the huge paraphernalia of economic and statistical expertise the government has come to accumulate? Smart people, they will recover quickly, and put out brilliant notes justifying the opening of more and more economic research cells within the premises of the government to study, econometrically or otherwise, particular facets of the working of the with-every-day-growing-more-complex economic system. Meanwhile, with the latest decision to jack up fuel prices, food inflation is likely to cross 20 per cent and beyond. The government will do nothing, politics will remain in command.








Arriving at Heathrow airport in London was like entering an economy in decline, particularly since I was arriving from an emerging economy with a temporary airport that was smarter and far more efficient than where I had landed. Every Indian hanging in an unpleasant arrival space was secretly delighted that perceptions and realities were clearly reversed. Dare any visitor arriving in India complain about the condition of our airports! They are definitely far superior, and the service cannot be compared to what was meted out to us in London. The 'fast-track' queue took one-and-a-half hours to clear, with two counters remaining unmanned, even though the managers could see the pressure on the one window. India has grown up and Britain seems to be in its disabled dotage.


Bumping over potholed avenues, roads and flyovers, I felt I was back in the India of the Eighties when we were struggling to get our infrastructure act together as we came out of years and years of a Left command economy based on the Soviet model. But this was the capital of Britain. I was told that the country had been a victim of severe snow that had corroded the tarmac. Strangely, all this felt good, felt like we could not be dismissed as part of the 'third world' anymore. Expensive shops were full of people shopping madly but they were all foreigners — Indians, Italians, people from the Middle East, China and Japan. They were keeping the high- and medium-end retail alive. In this mood of insecurity and diminishing pride, it is small wonder that the ruling coalition is thinking of putting a cap on immigration.


The task of training an entire service sector with the necessary skills to maintain the present level of business and enterprise will require a great deal of effort and resources. Competing with 'immigrant' skills will not be easy. Such competition may well trigger social and ethnic discord in the near future. Immigrant communities in Britain, most of which are economically empowered, tend to owe their allegiance to the Labour Party, not to the Conservatives. The ruling coalition, with an alliance partner that has internal differences on some critical policy issues, will soon have to combat with this hitherto unfamiliar problem in a nation that has, over the decades, taught itself to live with diversity in harmony and respect.


Course correction


At another level, William Hague wants to draw India into a more profound partnership, and counterpoint the powerful Western bloc that has often compelled positions akin to being a subservient ally. This strategy — to open new political frontiers, to realign with Brazil, Russia and India, and to forge substantive economic relations — makes sense in a changing world that is in the process of shifting the balance on the international stage.


India and Britain could add an energetic new dimension to an old, tried-and-tested, albeit volatile, relationship and take the partnership to a stronger, more influential, level. This could have a positive impact on South Asia, diluting the domination of the United States of America in the region, which could most definitely ease existing tensions.


Will the coalition, ruling from Westminster, come together to find solutions to the many economic problems that plague this island kingdom? Will the Labour Party elect a young leader, a David Miliband, and will he lead his party to work with the Tories and the Lib Dems to deliver the goods and extricate Britain out of the prevalent mess? This collective of new-generation leaders, both in Britain and in India, where the majority is under 50 years of age, could well change the course of the politics of both the countries as well as of their surrounding regions.



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





The commendable work done by millions of doctors across the country has prompted us to honour them on Doctor's Day, observed yesterday. Many doctors have given up lucrative careers in corporate hospitals in cities to work among the poorest sections in remote parts of rural India. They have sought to put into practice the right of every individual to decent health care. And for this work, they must be saluted. However, there is a trend in the medical fraternity that is reason for concern. This is the diminishing role of medical ethics in the profession. Doctors whether in private or government-run hospitals are putting personal profit above patient welfare. Every one of us has suffered the seamy side of corrupt medical practice. Patients are made to undergo tests and surgeries they do not need.  Scans are being recommended at the drop of a hat. Women are encouraged, even pushed, to undergo Caesarean operations when a normal delivery is possible. Healthy uteruses are being removed so that hospitals can charge for surgery and other costs. Hips and knees are being replaced to provide business to orthopaedic device makers. People are being made guinea pigs for clinical trials. Doctors pick lines of treatment based not on what is the best available or most appropriate to tackle the patients' problems but on kickbacks they receive from pharmaceutical companies.

Saving lives and securing the health of patients were once among the cherished aims of being a doctor. Doctors swore by the Hippocratic Oath and lived by it to pursue their profession in an ethical manner. That has now changed. Many doctors have relegated to the trashcan the ethics that were once the hallmark of the medical profession.


The germs of the malady are widespread. It is not just the individual doctor that needs to reform himself but the entire medical system, which includes doctors, hospitals, diagnostic centres, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry needs to be cleaned up. The government too is part of this nexus. Rules and regulations have been framed to boost this country as a destination for clinical trials and medical tourism, rather than to ensure the ethical practice of the medical profession. India's image in the eyes of other countries as a nation that provides top-class medical facilities at reasonable prices will not last for long, if the unethical medical practices continue. If not for moral reasons, it makes business sense to clean up now.








It is no surprise that the unity of purpose and strategy seen at the earlier meetings of G-20 countries, which represent all the major economies of the world, has started fraying now. The just concluded Toronto summit showed that differences about the right fiscal and monetary policies to deal with the continuing economic problems were coming to the fore. This is natural because recovery from the slowdown is uneven and country-specific situations may call for specific remedies. The focus of the debate was the continuance of the fiscal stimulus which played a big role in containing the damage from a worldwide slowdown and in steadying many economies. While the US and major developing countries wanted the stimulus to continue, European countries led by Germany and Britain were for substantial cuts in public expenditure and debt to contain deficit. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned against sudden withdrawal of stimulus as global recovery is still fragile and deflation may be a bigger threat than inflation.

In the end the countries agreed to halve deficits over a three-year period and bring national debt under control by 2016. It is possible that the methods of remedial action will vary. While the US and countries like India will persist with their soft monetary policy — the US because the status of the dollar as the reserve currency gives it some protection and others because they are still on the growth path. Europe, taking lessons from the trouble in Greece and other countries, will go its own way. Since the disagreements are within the framework of a realisation that the economies are more inter-related than ever in the past, they may not lead to irreconcilable conflicts. The lack of agreement on the idea of a generalised bank tax was in fact welcome.

One important positive was the steps conceived to reform the international financial institutions. There is a commitment to increase capital infusion in multilateral development banks and to replenish the  resources for concessional lending. New International Monetary Fund quotas will be finalised by the next G-20 meeting in Seoul in November. The positions of heads of multilateral institutions will no longer be reserved for Europe and the US. These can mean increased clout for emerging countries and a change in their policies and procedures.







That the Kashmir problem needs to be tackled quickly goes without saying. But the extremists only stall the issue by instigating violence.


With such positive talks between India and Pakistan in Islamabad, the tragic happenings in Kashmir seem more than a coincidence. That youth in the valley are angry at not getting their due is known to all. Their pelting of stones at the security forces has been going on for more than a year. Still why should Kashmir be on boil when relations between India and Pakistan is on the mend?

It is also a strange coincidence that hundreds of devotees should get stranded after having reached Kashmir for the Amarnath Yatra. Apparently, there was no understanding of the problem of unemployment or grievance that had alienated the youth. The state political parties only ran each other down without caring for the anger piling

Syed Gilliani, who has the image of an extremist, uses the killing of one young man at the hands of the security forces to incite the people to come out on the streets. The Hurriyat Conference gives a call to start "something fresh, something organised". Political parties also jump into the arena. All this develops into a huge protest in four cities, Srinagar, Sopore, Anantnag and Baramulla.

Inept Kashmir police and the CRPF which has only guns, not the lathis or the tear gas at their command to tackle protests, aggravates the situation. The use of force against the protesters agitating against the successive killings in the firing was probably too excessive and what the security forces did was without restraint.

This is a matter to be looked into by an inquiry committee. Yet the fact remains that the extremists in Kashmir strike whenever the atmosphere of goodwill begins to prevail after some kind of equation between India and Pakistan. The pro-India elements have become irrelevant. They, in any case, are too elitist, seldom mixing with the common Kashmiris. Chief minister Omar Abdullah leads the exclusive club. But their distance from the people is not the only contributory factor in what is happening in the state.

The main factor is the belief of Gillani and the Hurriyat that violence alone can lead to a solution in Kashmir. That the problem has been hanging fire for a long time and it needs to be tackled quickly goes without saying. But the extremists, including the Hurriyat, only stall the issue by instigating violence.

The Islamabad talks have made two points clear: one, New Delhi has re-enunciated prime minister Manmohan Singh's assurance in Egypt that the terrorists' attack would be kept separate from the talks. Many experts in India tried to quibble over the meaning but there is no ambiguity now. Two, the core issue between India and Pakistan or, for that matter, before the Saarc countries was terrorism.

Old policy

Chidambaram, who played to the gallery when he spoke to journalists in Delhi, was more responsible and vividly sober in his remarks in Islamabad. For him to say that he did not doubt the intention of Pakistan should be a slap on the face of some retired Indian foreign secretaries who continue to follow the hard line they had taken during their careers to bring the two countries practically to a point of no return.

They are openly critical of Manmohan Singh who has taken the bold initiative to talk to Pakistan despite the BJP criticism. He, like former prime minister Atal Behari Vajapyee, has realised that there is no alternative to peace.

New Delhi expects more arrests in Pakistan after the disclosures by David Headley whom the Indian intelligence agencies met at Chicago. Manmohan Singh has reportedly drawn President Barack Obama's attention to Headly's confession.

Chidambaram has rightly reminded Pakistan of the status of the Most Favoured Nation Status India extended to it many years ago. If Pakistan were to respond to it, Chidambaram's ideas on trade and investment between the two countries could be implemented. India, with a bigger market and investment potential, can retrieve Pakistan from the lack of openings and latest technology which puts its industry at a disadvantage.

Action against Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed remains the litmus test to assess Pakistan's steps towards normalisation. His cries of war or jihad against India is not what bothers the government and the people so much as his vast network which made the 26/11 possible and which has not accepted Pakistan's policy to befriend India.

In fact, Islamabad's declaration to have a region-wise plan to combat the Taliban will mean a strong action against Lashkar which, along with the Taliban, is under the discipline of al-Qaeda. Some elements in Pakistan consider it their duty as Muslims to support fundamentalism. But religious values are antithesis of what the Lashkar represents. Today's world, including the Muslim nations, wants religion to inculcate values, not to incite violence.

One practice both New Delhi and Islamabad should adopt is to ensure that their rulers meet the opposition leaders when they visit each other's country. India has been able to establish it for the visiting  presidents or prime ministers who call on the top person in the opposition. The Pakistan government should also do so by including Nawaz Sharif on the list of dignitaries during the visit of top Indian leaders.








District courts should be empowered to initiate suo moto PILs in public interest.


A public interest litigation (PIL) can be filed in any high court or directly in the supreme court. It is not necessary that the petitioner has suffered some injury on his own or has had personal grievance to litigate. The PIL is a right given to the socially conscious member or a public spirited NGO to espouse a public cause by seeking judicial means for redressal of public injury. Such injury may arise from breach of public duty or due to a violation of some provision of the constitution. The PIL is the device by which public participation in judicial review of administrative action is assured. It has the effect of making the judicial process little more democratic.

The Bombay High Court created history by initiating a PIL case suo moto on the basis of a series of newsletters exposing corruption in the Maharashtra government's transport department. High courts in other states are also expected to take note of such issues of public interest and suo moto initiate PILs.

A constitutional amendment is necessary so that even district courts are allowed to conduct cases under PILs. This is because most of the national newspapers have spread over regions and districts with their editions and more public grievances are reported by way of news and investigative newsletters. When the constitutional provision was made at the initial stage, most of the national newspapers were based in state capitals and it was quite reasonable that high courts were expected to consider cases for PIL only on the basis of news reports published in them.

Newspaper network

But during the subsequent period newspapers' network is so widespread that almost every district has its own newspaper and that too equipped with new modern machinery and expertise so much so that they are almost competing with regional and national newspapers. Most of the national newspapers are published in English or Hindi while regional newspapers are published in the respective regional languages. Even national and regional newspapers have been publishing their regional and district editions and are covering various issues with in-depth analysis and investigative penetration. These editions are almost equal to the state capital-based dailies and periodicals and are now gaining the same status which they have in state capitals. Even original district newspapers have geared up to compete with the new editions of the state-based dailies. District newspapers and editions are concentrating on major issues which are in public interest.

Delay and corruption in administration, injustice done to people in general and neglected families in particular, economic crimes which harass people and dupe them, irregularities in nationalised and co-operative banking sector, farmers plight and hoarding of essential commodities by middlemen, failure of decentralised panchayat raj system due to non-cooperative attitude of the bureaucracy and similar variety of issues are periodically covered in these newspapers. It is therefore necessary that district courts should be empowered to initiate suo moto PILs in public interest.

While district courts are competent enough to hear PIL cases, advocates or members of the district bar associations are also well-equipped with legal acumen and knowledge so much so that they will conduct the argumentative aspect of such cases with expertise and ease which is seen in high courts. It is therefore high time that necessary amendments are made in the constitution for empowering the district courts to hear PIL either initiated by citizens or by courts by way of suo moto action.

For an amendment, both the Union and state governments should take the lead and MLAs and MPs of all political parties should take initiative in the matter. State assemblies may demand amendment by resolution while parliament will respond to the demand and pass the amendment unanimously. This is because this amendment is not based on any controversial issue or it may not trigger any controversy as this is purely in public interest.

Once district courts are empowered to hear PILs, it will create an atmosphere conducive to legal remedies for various issues which are brought on surface by news reports in district newspapers which are on par and in some respect even better as compared to regional and national newspapers whose editions are also brought out at district places.

Even some exposures having nationwide significance go to the credit of such district editions and if district and sessions courts are given the power to proceed with suo moto cases against the erring and corrupt administration; justice under the PIL will be available to the aggrieved people in small cities and adjacent rural areas of a vast country like India.







A great many people say, 'ok, then, bye' and continue to talk on the phone.


"Ok, then, bye." We usually hear this phrase when we 'intend' to close a phone conversation. But the question is whether we really end the talk with these words. I have found that a great many people say, "ok, then, bye" and continue to talk on the phone for what seems an eternity! Of course it is repeated several times during the conversation.

Usually the one who said "ok, then, bye" might have meant that she was going to close the talk. But before she can put the phone down the person at the other end asks, "How are Sumathi's yoga classes going on?" Now this sets in motion another session of talk. Just then Padma at the other end remembers the cookery book she needs. "Hey, Vatsala what about my cookery book? I need it for planning the party." The conversation goes on and on and we quickly learn that 'ok, then...' is only a beginning of another topic.

On one occasion I was standing in a queue at a public phone booth to make an urgent call. There was a lady who was talking on the phone. I heard the familiar phrase and I felt happy because I thought she had finished. But she did not hang up. She went on for several more minutes.

In Kannada we have a nice way of indicating the close of a telephone talk. We say "Idala" or "Iduthene". In Tamil they say "Vekkatama" and Telugu "Petthanu". Literally these terms mean 'I'll keep' or 'shall I keep?' But keep what? Keep the handset down. But then again 'Idala' does not necessarily mean that the talk is coming to an end.

In a majority of cases the conversation goes on endlessly because both the parties are a party to it. But in rare cases you may get a call which you want to close quickly. Imagine you get a call when you are watching a very exciting serial on the TV. You respond with dull, uninterested, monosyllabic answers. But the person at the other end does not stop jabbering. You try to utter a meek "ok, then". But the other person won't "ok" your move.

Let me conclude with a joke. There was this lady who was in the habit of talking for long on the phone. On one occasion, however, she spoke only for a short while and 'kept' the handset down. Her surprised husband asked her how she could end the talk so soon. She replied, "It was a wrong number!"









Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's three-hour-long meeting with reporters from the Hebrew press this week in Ramallah can be seen as an attempt – quite possibly with heavy US encouragement – to reach out to the Israeli public. There was nothing particularly new in what Abbas had to say. But the general impression that the PA head will most likely have succeeded in conveying to the Americans is that he is showing a readiness to push ahead with negotiations on the final-status issues of security and borders, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has proffered nothing but a wall of silence. "We have yet to receive a sign from Netanyahu on progress," Abbas said.

The PA president's calculated outreach stands in sharp contrast to the Netanyahu government's foreign policy stance, which seems to be becoming increasingly incoherent as time goes by.


Since the present government was created 15 months ago, a more than awkward reality has prevailed: The foreign minister has openly and honestly stated that he has no faith in the current negotiating effort, while this very formulation has been formally adopted by Netanyahu.

With Lieberman absenting himself from a process in which he declaredly has no faith, it has been Defense Minister Ehud Barak who has taken over much of the responsibility for peace negotiations, including via his relatively warm relations with members of the Obama administration. Barak, not Lieberman, met this week with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell. Barak, not Lieberman, will be meeting in the coming days with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

NOW, AS Netanyahu prepares for his trip to Washington to meet with President Barack Obama, Israel's prime minister and foreign minister are at further odds – this time over how to deal with deteriorating diplomatic relations with Turkey.

Knowing that Lieberman would never agree to a conciliatory meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and that Davutoglu would also likely have rejected such a meeting, Netanyahu instead went behind Lieberman's back and parceled out another of what should have been his areas of responsibility. Netanyahu's decision to send Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to meet with Davutoglu may or may not drastically destabilize the coalition – it definitely miffed Lieberman, who knew nothing of the meeting in advance – but it is yet another indicator that Israeli diplomatic policy is dysfunctional.

Hitherto, the strange arrangement had proved relatively manageable. Lieberman focused much of his energies on improving ties with South America, Russia and the Baltic states, while leaving peace negotiations to Barak and Netanyahu. One of Lieberman's recent successes is Cyprus, which has warmed relations with Israel, though probably more out of enmity for Turkey than love for Israel. Relations have improved with Bulgaria and Romania as well. And now Lieberman is courting Malta, one of the 27 European Union members. Still, any such gains have been eclipsed by the ongoing crisis with Turkey and by international concern over the stagnation on the Palestinian front.

There is no lack of ideas on how to move forward with the Palestinians. Lieberman, for one, has a distinctive plan for a two-state solution. Last week, the foreign minister publicized his ideas in an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, calling for an exchange of populated territories and a redrawing of the country's borders so that many Israeli Arabs find themselves within the contours of a Palestinian state while Israel's borders expand to include many Jews in settlements in the West Bank.

Barak has spoken recently of the need for an "assertive diplomatic policy" – and presumably is thinking of a variation of the Clinton parameters, which he accepted when he served as prime minister in 2000 and which Yasser Arafat rejected. For his part, our new diplomatic gobetween Ben-Eliezer supports negotiating with imprisoned Fatah murderer Marwan Barghouti.

From the key Israeli leader, the prime minister, however, there is silence. Critics from Left and Right assert that he is more preoccupied with his own political survival than with articulating a clear, coherent position that could both bring momentum to the negotiations and enable the international community to understand Israel's needs.

But with the 10-month settlement building freeze slated to end in September, and Abbas adroitly portraying himself as waiting for the prime minister, Netanyahu is going to have to make some tough decisions – and to alienate some of the domestic and international players, with their conflicting agendas, whom he has sought simultaneously to court until now.

In fact, decision time might well come next week, when he sits down with Obama. For Israel's sake, he had better go to the White House well prepared.







If the government succumbs to pressure and reinstates funding to haredim in kollelim, this will only hasten the day when taxpayers refuse to carry the increasing burden of welfare payments for able-bodied Israelis refusing to work.

Despite being a frequent critic of intrusive and contentious High Court judgments, I commend the recent ruling that the government terminate discriminatory funding to the only sector of society which rejects national service and the majority of whose adherents disdain gainful employment. If not for our dysfunctional political system enabling one-dimensional haredi political parties to extort funds exclusively on behalf of their constituents, such a situation could never have arisen.

And in the long term, the High Court ruling could avert the more explosive looming confrontation which will inevitably erupt as the burden on taxpayers financing the increasing number of unemployed haredim becomes conomically untenable.

An insight into the escalating anti-haredi rage emerged in response to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai's warnings of catastrophic consequences if the state continued financing "aloof and ignorant people who are growing at an alarming rate and draining our social and economic strength."

The despicable level to which haredi bashing had descended was exemplified when popular radio host Gabi Gazit described them as "leeches," "worms" and "stinking tumors."

But notwithstanding the bigotry, there is a desperate need for reform.

In the 1980s, haredim represented 4 percent of the population.

Today this has risen to 10% and if their birthrate is sustained, 20 years hence, 40% of children will attend schools in which the singing of "Hatikva" and recognizing the national flag is denied and army service discouraged.

This is an inevitable by-product of shabby deals consummated between successive governments and haredi political parties, climaxing with Ehud Olmert granting haredi private schools higher subsidies than their secular and national religious counterparts and capitulating to haredi demands by dispensing with any obligation to provide students with core curriculum requirements like mathematics and English – a situation which does not exist in any other country. It virtually guarantees that most graduates of such schools will not obtain employment and will subsist on welfare for the rest of their lives. It conforms to the attitude of those rabbis who, contrary to the traditions of our sages – as exemplified by Maimonides (who was renowned for both his worldly and religious knowledge) – insist that pious Jews are obligated to devote themselves to full-time learning throughout their lives and abstain from earning a livelihood.

ON A parallel level, as haredi numbers increase and constitute a higher proportion of the population, the number of draft evaders accelerates. The 400 yeshiva students prime minister David Ben-Gurion initially exempted from national service have now mushroomed to almost 60,000. Yet there is no halachic prohibition on army service.

In fact, defense of the homeland is deemed to be a mitzva.


Increased political leverage has also encouraged radical haredim to impose their stringent interpretations of Halacha upon the entire nation, creating enormous problems in relation to conversion, marriage and divorce. It also led to them hijacking religious courts and state institutions including the Chief Rabbinate, now regarded as a haredi instrumentality.

If the Netanyahu government succumbs to pressure and reinstates funding to haredim in kollelim, the nation would be enraged and this will only hasten the day when taxpayers revolt and refuse to carry the increasing burden of financing welfare payments for the escalating numbers of able-bodied Israelis refusing to work.

Haredim are frequently stereotyped by the actions of fringe radical elements, the violent stone-throwing delinquents who block streets and torch garbage containers.

While not reflecting the mainstream haredi world, they nevertheless are comprised largely of state-funded yeshiva "students" manipulated by radical rabble-rousers. If they lived in haredi enclaves in the US or Europe, they would not dare behave in this manner or accuse the authorities of behaving like Nazis or curse judges. The reality is that many haredim are ashamed to be bracketed with these hooligans who they consider are breaching cardinal halachic principals that require observance to the law of the land. Unfortunately they are usually fearful of publicly condemning such deviant behavior.

The government must ensure that haredi hooligans who indulge in violence are punished with the full severity of the law. But the law must be implemented intelligently.

The arrest of the Emmanuel parents for contempt of court for refusing to send their daughters to an integrated school was an example of the judiciary losing the plot. The parents were not racists but fanatics seeking to insulate their daughters from children who did not share their extreme lifestyle. Such attitudes certainly reflect deplorable religious bigotry but are not racist. Imprisoning the parents transformed them into martyrs. On the other hand, restricted extremist schools should receive no state aid whatsoever and if so, only on condition they educate their students with core subjects as in all advanced countries.

Many haredim recognize that earning a livelihood is fully consistent with their lifestyle. Other than the hardline Lithuanians, most would welcome providing their youngsters with the necessary prerequisites for earning an honest living and partaking in society. They are also aware that haredi schools in the Diaspora are not exempt from teaching a core curriculum to ensure that their graduates become gainfully employed, productive citizens.

They are quietly trying to change the system.

AT A parallel level, the IDF is now conscripting more haredim by rigorously implementing the Tal Law. Their goal is to enroll more than 50 percent of haredim by 2020. Likewise, the Nahal haredi units, while small, are growing and demonstrate that like religious Zionists, haredim can provide exemplary service to the IDF.

Many rank-and-file followers of Shas are patriotic Zionists who fulfill their civic obligations including military service. That Shas joined the World Zionist Organization with the blessing of its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, suggests that the old conflict between Zionism and this major component of haredi society is being superseded.

The burden of responsibility now rests with the Netanyahu government. It must not capitulate to pressures from the haredi parties to reinstate the discriminatory subsidies. It should only appoint rabbis who recognize and respect the state and their national obligations to serve in state instrumentalities and rabbinical courts.

If reforms are to be effective, they must be implemented with sensitivity and over a reasonable time frame. The objective is not to interfere with the haredi way of life, but to encourage them to assume the obligation of citizenship (as they do in the Diaspora) and play a constructive role in society without imposing or coercing others to adhere to their stringent halachic lifestyle. To achieve this, we must also marginalize the bigots and haredibashers.

The reality is that if haredim begin working and serving in the army, they will soon become respected partners in society.






No, Israelis are not ready to change, they're not ready to free the Palestinians, they're not ready for peace.

Soon after I came to this country 25 years ago, I learned that among my relatives, "Tali" was the real Arab-hater, the most extreme right-winger in the family. "For Tali, the only good Arab is a dead Arab, right?" one of my cousins ribbed her one Friday night. "Wrong," she said. "For me, dead isn't good enough – he's got to be buried 40 meters underground, too."

She was exaggerating for comic effect, but Tali really did have it in for the Arabs. So one day I asked her which political party she voted for, thinking it would be Tehiya or one of the small, far-right parties of the time, or at best Likud.

"Labor," she tells me. I was amazed. Why Labor? "Look," she explains, "I don't want to live with the Palestinians, and we can't get rid of them, so the only thing to do is divide the land, let them live in their country and I'll live in mine."

I think of Tali and that remark when I hear this country's mouthpieces going on about how Israelis, starting with the prime minister, are ready to accept a Palestinian state, how poll after poll shows that two-thirds of the Jewish population is in favor of trading land for peace.

The implication of this hasbara is that Israelis have become so liberal, so dovish, so open-minded about the Arabs. Oh no we haven't. In 25 years, I have never seen this country so blindly contemptuous of everybody and everything Arab, so drawn to confrontation, so intractably closed-minded. Israelis haven't come around to the idea of a Palestinian state because they realize the Palestinians have rights, too, or because they think there's something immoral about the occupation and the settlements.

Today, if Israelis thought they could get away with expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and the Israeli Arabs from Israel, they'd support it. But they know they can't, so they want to put as much distance and as high a wall between them and the Arabs as they can.

If this is your idea of peace, then the cliché "all Israelis want peace" is true.

YOU CAN say it doesn't matter why the public has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, the important thing is that it has. But this is a misunderstanding of Israeli public opinion. People here accept the idea of a Palestinian state in theory, but they're so antagonistic toward Arabs, so determinedly mistrustful of anything any of them says that in practice, Israelis are dead set against any move that might actually help bring a Palestinian state into being.

The lifting of West Bank checkpoints, the so-called settlement freeze and, most recently, the easing of the siege of Gaza – all these were done grudgingly by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and accepted grudgingly by the public, and only because the Americans forced us into it. If it was up to us, we'd let the Palestinians stew and crack them over the head if they complained too much. Two-thirds of Israelis may tell pollsters they're in favor of trading land for peace, but this country will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into actually giving up land because nothing on earth can convince us that the Palestinians will give us peace.

Since I've lived here, there's only been one period when Israelis' minds were open to the possibility that Arabs weren't inveterate killing machines, that maybe we weren't entirely innocent in this conflict, and that we should give them a chance. That period began when Yitzhak Rabin was elected prime minister in June 1992, and it ended in March 1996, after three suicide bombings in nine days killed nearly 60 Israelis.

From that point on, trust was finished. Yasser Arafat could do no right, even though he finally cracked down on Hamas and brought terror under control for years. We like to say Israel offered the Palestinians a state at Camp David and again in the Annapolis talks, but the fact is that the more land Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians, the more hopelessly unpopular they became at home. Imagine if Arafat had said yes to Barak, or if Mahmoud Abbas had said yes to Olmert – would the Knesset and public have supported the uprooting of 75,000 or 100,000 settlers, along with the redivision of Jerusalem? Unthinkable.

We gave them Gaza, we say, but it was a fluke. The one and only Israeli leader who could have gotten the public behind him for that move was Ariel Sharon, and again, the disengagement wasn't done for the sake of justice and reconciliation, it was done to get the goddamn Arabs out of our sight, and accompanied by a popular, Sharon-style parting assault on the enemy. Since then, our vindictiveness toward Palestinians has only deepened.

IT DOESN'T come out of nowhere. It comes from traumatic bouts of violence and bloodshed at the hands of Palestinians who don't accept the Jewish state by any means. Israelis have a right to be cynical.

Up to a point, though. Cynicism that closes their minds to the violence and bloodshed – not to mention colonial tyranny – that we've visited on the Palestinians is going much too far for anyone's good.

Cynicism that keeps people frozen in the past, that blinds them to progress when it's happening, that won't allow them to say or hear a good word about Arabs – that's crippling.

And except for the short period between Rabin's election and the suicide bombings of early 1996, this has been the Israeli mind-set for as long as I can remember. (I wasn't here for Anwar Sadat's visit and the peace treaty with Egypt, which briefly broke the mold.) Israelis today are as safe or safer than they've ever been, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is everything we've ever asked for, yet I cannot remember a time of such bad blood against Arabs, and against anyone who criticizes how we treat them. Israelis say they want peace, but they resist with all their might any suggestion that it's possible, that there are things we can do that we're not doing to bring it closer.

No, Israelis are not ready to change, they're not ready to free the Palestinians, they're not ready for peace. That is, not unless you believe in polls







As president of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America – an organization that has never wavered in its support of Israel – I find the current climate painful.


For millennia the Jewish people have lived, and often thrived, amid prejudice. But even if we can get along without the respect of others, that doesn't prevent us from desiring it. That is why the mood right now for Israel's supporters in America is so gloomy.

The one-sided view of the blockade of Gaza, which pops up in opinion columns, blogs, demonstrations and conversations, reveals large numbers of people unwilling or incapable of putting themselves in Israel's position. Some commentators have even questioned its strategic value to the US.

Last week, protesters impeded the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship in Oakland, California.

Within the Jewish community, there is angst about a younger generation either indifferent or alienated from any relationship with the Jewish state.

AS PRESIDENT of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America – an organization that has never wavered in its support of Israel – I find the current climate painful. At the same time, I think a hard-headed look at how Israel's image is faring in the world reveals a bigger picture than today's headlines.

To begin with, Hadassah's representatives in most countries in Europe and South America report growing efforts to delegitimize Israel. Through Hadassah International, an organization of men and women of all faiths, established by HWZOA specifically to build bridges through medicine, Hadassah International leaders stand up to debunk myths about unethical behavior, many of them related to medical care.

We have successfully fought European calls for boycotting Israeli doctors and scientists, and practice "health care diplomacy," and in doing so bring to the world's attention Israel as a moral and ethical society.

WHILE THE effort to delegitimize Israel seems to be spreading in Europe, it still has gained little traction in America. Public opinion polls consistently reveal broad public support among Americans.

Despite inevitable debates over specific policy questions, that backing at the grassroots level extends to the corridors of power in Washington, where bedrock support for Israel remains the rule rather than the exception.

There are many reasons for this support. Though the media doesn't like to recycle the same vocabulary every day, most Americans know deep down that Israel is the only stable democracy in the Middle East. Americans admire the Jewish state for its self-reliance and its success against great odds. They recognize that it shares America's values.

American support also rests on the efforts of a Jewish community and organizational structure that is spread throughout the US, from Florida to Alaska. Hadassah, for example, is made up of 300,000 households, located in every congressional district, involved in both local affairs and talking to our friends and representatives about Israel.

Those who know us – our neighbors and officials in Washington – know that we build as well as talk. They know that Hadassah contributes to Israel's reputation as an ethical society.

They know that our hospitals in Jerusalem are oases of peace in a troubled region. From our example, they know that medicine can transcend politics and borders.

We not only cooperate as individuals in local affairs, we also partner with other organizations to advance common goals. Hadassah's newest partnership is with Susan G.

Komen for the Cure – a global power in the fight against breast cancer – and the city of Jerusalem.

This coming October, that partnership is bringing the Komen organization's Race for the Cure event to Israel for the first time.

Through coalitions like this, we strengthen Israel and engage in health care diplomacy.

As the largest nongovernmental employer in Jerusalem, Hadassah is as dedicated today to the building of Israel as our grandmothers and great grandmothers were when the organization began in 1912. We are not Pollyannas who believe Israel is perfect, but we refuse to make every action or decision taken by an Israeli government a test of our love.

This month, 1,500 Hadassah convention delegates will gather in Hallandale, Florida, where we will reaffirm our support for Israel in spirit and in practice. We'll explore what actions we can take to protect its image in the world. We'll discuss our health and education programs, including the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, the new medical facility we will dedicate in Jerusalem in 2012.

And we'll talk about our youth movement, Young Judea, a pillar of Taglit-Birthright, and how to strengthen the ties between American Jewish youth and the Jewish state.

Neither Hadassah nor the other dedicated Jewish organizations in America can convince everyone in an indifferent or hostile world that Israel's security concerns are legitimate. But we firmly believe that a world in which Israel and the Jewish people are respected is a world that is better for everyone.


We don't take anyone's support for granted, nor do we consider support from any quarter permanently lost. We are committed to making our case and doing our work.

The writer is the national president of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America.








Anyone who thought that Muslim countries would evince an absolute rejection of the military option should look at the results in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Indonesia of a recent Pew poll on the Islamic Republic.


To attack or not to attack Iran? That is the question – or rather, one of the questions – asked as part of a "global attitudes survey" conducted by the Pew Research Institute in Washington. And the results? Surprising, especially with respect to attitudes toward Iran and its nuclear program.

The survey canvassed 22 countries, was conducted in the mother tongue of the respondents, and included relatively large sample groups. Eight out of 10 Germans, seven out of 10 Frenchmen and six out of 10 Britons hold negative views about Iran.

Even in countries with a predominantly Muslim majority, 66 percent in Egypt, 63% in Jordan and 60% in Lebanon hold a negative opinion of Iran.

It is interesting that in Turkey, whose leadership seems to be moving closer to the Islamic Republic, 58% hold a negative opinion about the Shi'ite state. This may be explained by the fact that most Turks are Sunni.

Indeed, the results from Lebanon demonstrate how severe the Sunni- Shi'ite rift actually is – 80% of Sunnis hold a negative position with respect to Iran, while 95% of Shi'ites support it.

A clear majority also oppose nuclear weapons in Iran; 98% of respondents in Germany, 96% in Japan, 95% in France, 94% in the US and 90% in Britain do not want to see nuclear weapons in Iran.

Although 66% in Egypt, 64% in Lebanon and 63% in Turkey do not want to see nuclear weapons in Iran, only some of them see this as a serious threat.

SURVEYS ARE problematic.

Beyond the ability of these tools to reflect public opinion, it can be argued that they reflect "only" public opinion, some in nondemocratic rule. But even in nondemocratic regimes, perhaps especially in them, a survey might be the only way to know what people think.

Why is it important to know where world opinion is tending regarding Iran? Because answers have considerable impact on the policy response that may be adopted vis-à-vis the nuclear-aspiring state. More importantly, the survey shows that of those who oppose Iran's nuclear program, more respondents are willing to consider military action to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons over those who prefer to avoid confrontation.

Anyone who thought that Muslim countries would evince an absolute rejection of this option should look at the results in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Indonesia, where 55%, 53%, 44% and 39%, respectively, say Iran should be denied nuclear capability even at the cost of military confrontation.

It seems that world opinion supports more than ever an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Indeed 66% of Americans, 59% of French and half of the Spanish, German, British, Brazilian and Indian respondents prefer to keep Iran from nuclear weapons even at the cost of conflict.

However, there are still opponents of the move, even if their number is lower: 41% in France, 39% in Germany, 37% in the UK, 34% in Spain and 24% in the US can be very "vocal" and have a greater impact.

In addition, one can argue that the questions were phrased with the notion that military action will prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons built into them. What if military action won't be successful? It is unclear whether the survey reflects world public opinion and what impact, if any, it has on decision makers. It seems that half the population understands that the military option carries a fair price, but that the price of a nuclear Iran is higher, and perhaps justifies use of that option.

For all its limitations, the survey provides a glimpse into attitudes on the subject, and it might help those considering all options against Iran to better understand where the wind is blowing.

The writer is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University. He joined INSS after coordinating work on the Iranian nuclear challenge at the National Security Council in the Prime Minister's Office.







Each time a new security affair is exposed here, raising questions about the public's right to know, I console myself with the thought that despite the challenges we face, there are still some things about Israel I can be sure of. Each time a new security affair is exposed here, raising disturbing questions about the extent to which the public's right to know is protected these days, I console myself with the thought that despite all the particular difficulties and challenges we face, there are still some basic things I can be sure of.

I can be sure that there are no secret arrests or trials, since such things so acutely threaten the foundations of the rule of law as well as public confidence in the justice system that they are simply not acceptable in a free and democratic society.

I can be sure that once a person is arrested – and certainly once he stands trial – under no circumstances will his arrest or imprisonment be shrouded in secrecy, entirely hidden from the public. True, there are exceptional cases where limited secrecy may be justified for a short period, but it is clearly unthinkable for a total blackout to last for years, as an individual is tried, convicted and eventually imprisoned.

TRUE, IN the distant past, several strange episodes were cloaked in total secrecy. The convicted spy Marcus Klingberg was incarcerated for years without anyone knowing about it, and even his family cooperated by hiding his arrest and telling the neighbors all kinds of stories about trips abroad and such. But those affairs were the stuff of other times, practically premodern, when the "security" justification was always a winning card, trumping all other considerations. After all, things have changed since then. Of that I am sure.

And true, recently some problematic cases were revealed, involving arrests and proceedings that took place far from the public eye – Anat Kamm, Ameer Makhoul, Omar Said and Shirin Issawi to name a few.

But these troublesome cases aroused a strong public response precisely because in the end, I am sure, a democratic country cannot tolerate gag orders forever.

In our democratic society, security and law enforcement agencies serve the public good. Even when necessary security considerations require confidentiality for a short period, the democratic and free public will always demand accountability.

The courts, which review state decisions with extreme care and are well aware of their vital role as guardians of constitutional democracy, may allow a blackout for a limited time, but only in the face of exceptionally worthy considerations, such as the need to allow the completion of investigations or to protect human life.

If, on the other hand, the state were to try to curtail free speech or conceal information for dubious reasons, like a desire to maintain "national morale," it would undoubtedly be thrown out of the court. This indeed happened when prosecutors tried to impose restrictions on demonstrators against Operation Cast Lead, arguing that they were needed to protect "the morale of the people."

In an important decision, Judge Ido Druyan rejected this argument outright, emphasizing that "a claim such as 'damaging morale' would be better not heard between the walls of a court in a democratic country." Indeed, it is hard to think of anything more foreign to a democratic state than an attempt to hide information from the public in order to influence public opinion or "shape" it somehow from above. As the Supreme Court stressed back in 1963, "government that takes upon itself the authority to decide what is good for citizens to know ends up deciding what is good for citizens to think; there is no greater contradiction than this to a true democracy, which is not 'guided from above.'" Free, incisive and thorough debate is the secret to the success of a free society, and is made possible only when the public knows what's going on and what is being done in its name. Without these protections, we endanger the very process of democratic decisionmaking which forms the foundation of our society.

An ignorant public is not only odious to democracy but a danger to national security – an internal hazard no less dangerous than any external threat.

Of this I am sure.

The writer is the attorney for criminal justice at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. This article was originally published in Hebrew on the Seventh Eye,








Ehud Barak believes that the vital need to remain close to the US is more important than settlements, Jerusalem or even peace. His argument is cogent, tempting and wrong. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the Labor Party, wants Israel to agree to "an assertive diplomatic policy," that is to agree in principle to implement the Clinton plan, which he accepted when he was prime minister, even though no Palestinian party can be found to accept it.

The Clinton plan includes the evacuation of settlements in Judea and Samaria, the return of some Palestinian refugees to Israel, the surrender of the Temple Mount and the division of Jerusalem.

Barak is willing to carry out large parts of this policy unilaterally.

In a recent academic conference on Barak's precipitous retreat from Lebanon 10 years ago, he asserted that Israel would have to repeat unilateral retreats like the ones from Lebanon and Gaza.

This represents a new departure on his part. Fifteen months ago, when he led his party into the Netanyahu government, he accepted the national consensus, which was that unilateral retreats merely whet Arab appetites and turn out badly.

The reason for Barak's change in attitude is the need to preserve the relationship with the US. The Obama administration wants Israel to implement something like Barak's plan. Barak believes that the vital need to remain close to the US is more important than settlements, Jerusalem or even peace. His argument is cogent, tempting and wrong.

SINCE 1993 – not to mention before then – there has never been a moment when the Palestinians were genuinely interested in peace. They have only been interested in forcing Israel to surrender and retreat. Their ultimate goal is its dissolution. Since the defeat of Yasser Arafat's last terror campaign in 2002-3, the Palestinians have emphasized the tactic of delegitimizing Israel. They have been quite successful, in large part because Israel has never taken the measure of their strategy and devised appropriate means to counter it.

President Barack Obama's view of the conflict has been shaped by the current version of the Palestinian narrative, which demonizes Israel because of "the occupation." He wants the occupation, as the Palestinians define it, to end, unilaterally if necessary. He is not very interested in how this would affect prospects for peace or Israel's security. Conforming to his desires may reduce current frictions with the US. It will not, however, end the Palestinians' – and the Arabs' – ongoing effort to delegitimize Israel and undermine its security.

The same thing will happen if Israel tries to accommodate itself to the Palestinians' current demands in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, filtered through the Obama administration. The Palestinians will merely recast their narrative and work on undermining Israel in a different way, in hopes of one day happening upon an American president who buys the latest version. For the complete Palestinian narrative maintains that Jewish people's attempt to create and maintain a Jewish state is fundamentally illegitimate, and that Nazareth, Lod and Tel Aviv are also occupied territory. Every Palestinian schoolbook says so, and so do most Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Many Europeans agree, and there are signs that the Obama administration accepts at least parts of this Palestinian narrative.

Ending the occupation in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem is simply what the Palestinians – and the Americans – choose to emphasize today.

Obama and his advisers don't much care for Israel and want it to just do what it's told. Their desires and vision, however, have been shaped by the Palestinians and the wider Arab world.

Nothing could be more destructive of Israel's vital interests than to accede to a dynamic whereby the Arab world turns the US government into an agent for enforcing its demands upon Israel. That can end only one way. Barak may use words like "assertive" and "decisive" to describe his policy, but at the end of the day the appropriate word for it is "appeasement."

ISRAEL'S CURRENT policy does need to change. A year ago, trying to accommodate American policy seemed to be the path of wisdom. That's no longer true. Israel needs to make clear to the Obama administration, and more importantly to other, broader constituencies in the US, that it simply cannot afford to allow any American government to become the agent whereby Palestinian and Arab demands are forced upon it.

Israel needs an aggressive new policy to combat the Palestinians' efforts to delegitimize it. Simply adopting its policies to conform to Palestinian demands will not accomplish anything. It needs to assert its rights and the justice of Zionism, and attack the legitimacy of the Palestinians, their policies and their positions. This requires a significant new investment of thought, funds and manpower in a form of warfare that has hitherto largely been neglected.


Israel's activities in the legitimacy wars need to be backed up by a new policy toward the Palestinians. It should invest significant funds and effort in achieving separation from the Palestinians as soon as possible. The "occupation" should be ended. Israel should build roads and fences to join together Palestinian inhabited areas in Judea and Samaria and isolate them from Israeli areas, including settlements and other territories whose retention is regarded as vital. Palestinians and Israelis should never have to meet, and while Israeli forces will have to continue to carry out missions in the residual Palestinian areas, none should be stationed there.

Finally, Israel should do something soon to puncture the current Palestinian narrative of the conflict. One thing it could do is to hold a referendum in some of the Arab-inhabited neighborhoods of Jerusalem: Do the residents wish to be transferred immediately to the control of the Palestinian authority – losing their Israeli identity cards and the right to work in Israel, visit Israel or enjoy its social services – or to continue as they now are? The result will almost certainly be gratifying, and put an end to the mantra of "a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders whose capital is Jerusalem."

The writer heads the Israel Policy Center, whose mission includes reinforcing Israel's character as a Jewish, democratic state.









I don't know how many of this column's readers are following the confirmation hearings in the United States Senate for President Barack Obama's latest Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan. I assume that many have seen some report on the proposed new Jewish justice, and the tiny little anti-Semite inside each of us has registered the fact that there will now be no less than three crossers of the Red Sea on the court's bench, a full third of the exclusive club.


But the hearings, especially the questioning by the naturally hostile Republican senators, have taken an interesting turn that should grab the attention of Jewish and Israeli readers. It seems that due to a lack of information on Kagan's positions, the Republicans who are trying to prove her unsuitability for the job have latched on to her apparent admiration for the former president of Israel's Supreme Court, Aharon Barak. Four years ago, at a reception for Barak at Harvard, where Kagan was then dean of the law school, she apparently said that he was her "judicial hero."


Ironically, it is some of Israel's most stalwart supporters in the Senate who find her affinity for Barak irksome and have quizzed her about what she meant. Of course, there is nothing sinister about this. The Republicans have to use something, and since Barak is a liberal standard-bearer for judicial activism, it would be only natural for conservatives to ask whether Kagan is also predisposed to legal interventionism.


The Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman has termed some of the comments made by Republican senators about Kagan's "Upper West Side" background "disturbing" and "inappropriate," as if this were an insidious anti-Semitic phrase. That is the kind of ridiculous overreaction that we have come to expect from Foxman, but maybe that is what his donors like to hear.


Kagan certainly had no need of his defense. When asked about her whereabouts on Christmas Day, in an attempt to gauge her reactions to the botched suicide bombing attack on an airliner over Detroit, she said, "like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant." She thereby proved another thing about Jews: that when we're in a tight corner, our sense of humor can always save us.


And she certainly can't be faulted for her answer to the queries on her attitude toward Barak. "As you know, I don't think it's a secret I am Jewish," she said. "The State of Israel has meant a lot to me and my family. And ... I admire Justice Barak for what he's done for the State of Israel and ensuring an independent judiciary."


I don't know what light this may shed on her judicial positions. But I can't remember the last time a prominent Jew anywhere in the world found it so easy and natural to express his or her Jewishness, connection to Israel and appreciation for an Israeli who is neither a politician nor a general.


I am naturally skeptical of anyone who is described as a hero. In the case of Barak, no one can take away his major achievements in strengthening the role of the legal system and the rule of law in the three decades between his appointment as attorney general and his retirement from the Supreme Court four years ago. But the uncritical attitude toward him in wide swathes of the legal establishment and the media have rendered a true appreciation of his legacy impossible, and ultimately endangered its durability.


Messiah-worship is a phenomenon in no way limited to religious people. Twelve years ago, in a closed briefing for journalists by then-chief justice Barak, I leaned over to whisper an ironic comment in the ear of a colleague, normally one of the most irreverent and cynical people I have ever met. "Shush," he hushed me, "can't you see that the man is a giant?"


I'm not sure who first coined the title Ha'admor Hahiloni ("the secular rebbe" ) for Barak, or even whether it was a secular or religious writer, but it is particularly apt. The mystical reverence Hasidim have for their Admor - an acronym for master, teacher and rabbi - and their lack of objectivity and willingness to believe anything he says is very reminiscent of the way many of Barak's secular acolytes perceive him.


But they fail to see his big mistakes: his refusal to make any attempt to secure public consensus for his drive to elevate the Basic Laws to the level of a national constitution, and the way he stacked the court with like-minded liberals, eventually isolated it from the majority of Israeli society. That led inevitably to the current situation, in which under the presidency of Dorit Beinisch, who enjoys none of Barak's stature, the court is rapidly losing the public's support and trust.


The tragedy of Aharon Barak is that he was the only judge whom Israelis, even those who disagreed with him, truly respected. On Wednesday, I happened to be at the Israel Defense Forces Officer School near Mitzpeh Ramon an hour before the graduation of the latest crop of cadets. Hundreds of excited family members were milling around on the temporary picnic ground when a Blackhawk helicopter landed and out jumped the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. He was almost immediately mobbed by members of the public eager to shake his hand.


"They really love him," observed a seasoned officer, "which is nice, but also disturbing in a way." He had a point. Ashkenazi revitalized the IDF from its feeling of abject failure in the Second Lebanon War, and Israelis naturally feel grateful to the man who restored faith in the nation's favorite institution. But the huge popularity of a general is a definite sign of immaturity in Israeli democracy - and, above all, of the absence of people who command respect in public life.


When our government is headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and that other Barak, Ehud, and there is no effective opposition, we naturally look for leaders elsewhere. Aharon Barak was such a leader, but he groomed no successors. The fact that right now, the only new and admired leader on the horizon is yet another general is a deep disappointment both to Israelis and to Jews around the world, who justifiably had higher expectations of a Jewish democracy.


Maybe the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court can set a good example of how to be a loyal citizen of one's country while remaining cool and good-humored about a Jew's natural affinity for the Jewish state. She didn't have to say it. But if Barak is indeed her hero, then she is certainly fully aware of Israel's many faults and failures in its aspiration to be both a Jewish and a democratic state.


Those chance remarks at her confirmation hearings can serve as an example for many Jews who are baffled nowadays at how to express their support for a country they love, but which is veering tragically off-course. An example of how to be true friends, not Pavlovian cheerleaders. And Israelis should certainly be grateful to Elena Kagan for pointing out that we can find heroes outside the officers corps.









How will the third Lebanon war look? More or less like this: For three or four days, about 2,000 to 3,000 rockets will rain on Israel. Most will be short-range rockets that hit from Haifa northward. Some will be medium-range rockets that hit Herzliya northward. A small number will be long-range rockets that hit Tel Aviv, the center of the country and the northern Negev.


From 160 Shi'ite villages in southern Lebanon, which have turned into rocket bases, the civilian and military home fronts will be attacked as never before. The Israeli response will be resounding. The air force will even destroy Hezbollah targets next to hospitals and schools. The Israel Defense Forces will destroy Hezbollah targets, even if a ground offensive involves heavy losses. As a result of the Israeli counterattack, the rocket fire will gradually diminish. After a while it will be paralyzed. In Lebanon, thousands will be buried, including many civilians. In Israel, hundreds of soldiers, women and children will be buried. The third Lebanon war will be a far more powerful version of the Second Lebanon War, with consequences like those of the Yom Kippur War.


A wave of rumors has spread in Israel in recent weeks: War will break out already this summer. The rumors are exaggerated and premature. As of now, the northern border is quiet. Syria and Hezbollah have been deterred. Both Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah know what to expect if they attack, so they are not interested in an immediate flare-up. Everyone knows that the next war will be a terrible one, so nobody is eager to begin it. Nobody is risking a limited violent incident that might spark a large and unprecedented operation.


A genuine balance of terror is stabilizing the quiet, so we can keep on watching the soccer World Cup. We can continue to play paddleball on the beach. The third Lebanon war will not erupt tomorrow, but it might erupt the day after tomorrow. It will erupt the day after tomorrow.


Two scenarios are liable to ignite the war of the day after tomorrow. One is an Israeli attack on Iran. There is no question that if Israel strikes at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president will strike at Israel with the help of his forward forces south of Lebanon's Litani River. The second scenario is the nuclearization of Iran. Shortly after Iran acquires an unconventional capability, it will feel free to initiate an unconventional war that will make Israel bleed and weaken it. Whether Israel attacks or Iran goes nuclear, the result will be the same missile war in the north.


Next week U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet in the White

House. Obama will talk about Palestine, Netanyahu will talk about Iran. But what both leaders must talk about is the third Lebanon war - a war that is liable to break out during their terms and have their names on it. A war that Obama and Netanyahu must prevent.


To prevent the third Lebanon war, Obama must do two things: Stop pushing Israel into a corner and show regional leadership. Obama has been doing the opposite. He is handling the Iranian challenge hesitantly. He is conveying to the Middle East a lack of determination. Without meaning to, the peace president is liable to bring the next war closer.


To prevent the third Lebanon war, Netanyahu must do two things: Take Israel out of the corner and demonstrate proactive leadership. He has been doing the opposite. Just as on the eve of the Second Lebanon War the IDF's emergency stores were empty, today the diplomatic emergency stores are empty. If Israel has to use force to defend itself, no one will understand it and stand by its side. Ironically, under a prime minister who believes in diplomatic power, Israel has achieved total isolation and a dangerous diplomatic weakness that is bringing the next war closer.


Obama and Netanyahu must wake up. The deal is a familiar one: determined American action vis-a-vis Iran in exchange for a determined Israeli initiative vis-a-vis Syria and Palestine. This deal can be closed only by these two leaders, who will look each other in the eye next Tuesday in the Oval Office. If they don't change their ways and learn how to work with each other, Obama and Netanyahu will bear personal responsibility for the results of the third Lebanon war.










BOLOGNA - Not only in Israel is there a public debate over the proper extent of judicial review of the executive and legislative branches. The main players on the governmental field are the cabinet and the legislature, and they often vie over the trophy of ruling the country. But they are not alone on this playing field. They are refereed by the judicial branch, which can stop the other branches' game and overturn laws or government decisions.


The courts - and especially supreme courts or special constitutional courts - decide for themselves when to intervene and when to remain on the sidelines. There are passive judges, who stand on the sidelines of the government field and intervene only rarely, and there are active judges, who place themselves at center field and issue yellow or red cards to the rival teams. In general, the image of courts throughout the world is influenced by the identity of the serving judges.


The issue of judicial activism versus judicial restraint, which came up this week in the U.S. Senate at the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court candidate Elena Kagan, was the focus of a judicial conference sponsored by the International Political Science Association that took place last week at the ancient University of Bologna. The conference, which was devoted to comparing the role of judicial review in different legal systems, was attended by academics in the fields of political science and law from several countries - including Italy, England, the United States, Canada, Argentina and Israel - that are deliberating over the same issues.


Particular interest was aroused by the lecture of Prof. Kate Malleson of the School of Law, Queen Mary, University of London. Malleson focused on the change that occurred in the British system in October 2009, when for the first time, a Supreme Court was established to replace the House of Lords Appellate Committee, which until then had been the supreme judicial instance. The purpose of the change, she explained, was to ensure a formal separation of the branches of government and to distance the supreme judicial instance from Parliament, even though the Appellate Committee had enjoyed judicial independence.


Malleson, a well-known expert in constitutional law, explained that this formal cosmetic change heralds a trend toward more judicial intervention in the decisions of the other branches of government. She quoted the only female justice on Britain's Supreme Court, Baroness Brenda Hale, who back in 2006 had quoted former Israeli Supreme Court president Aharon Barak's statement that the role of the judge is to bridge between the law and life. Such statements, said Malleson, would not have been made in the past.


Several lecturers discussed the role of supreme courts in shaping society's values. Prof. David O'Brien of the University of Virginia noted that in both India and Germany, the courts have ruled that even constitutional amendments that were legally enacted via the procedures spelled out in the constitution will be considered illegal if they are found to contradict basic democratic principles. The courts' power was also highlighted in discussions about countries where the courts do not have the authority to overturn laws (New Zealand, for example ), but their declarations to the effect that a given law does not conform to human rights law will often influence parliament to amend the law.


The activity of the special constitutional courts that, in many European countries, have sole power to overturn laws was explained by experts on that subject. They discussed the tendency to consider courts that frequently overturn laws as heralding the end of parliamentary supremacy and its replacement by the supremacy of the courts.


Dr. Sylvain Brouard of France and Prof. Dr. Christoph Honnige of Germany believe this phenomenon is part of a general rise of an unelected elite. In their opinion, the constitutional courts that exist in most European countries have become veto-wielding players, something that requires further study by democratic countries.


It was clear to all the participants, from all the different countries, that judicial review is at the heart of the public debate over what can be termed the "new democracy" of post-World War II Europe, in which constitutional review of laws is central to a system of government based on a separation of powers.


The horrors of Nazism in Germany, where laws were passed that contradict deep-rooted ethical principles, demonstrated that parliaments do not always protect individual rights, and that the courts have a central role to play in protecting human rights from despotism and arbitrariness.









In the morning, once we have relieved ourselves and feel more comfortable, we bless the Lord for creating man with wisdom, and for endowing him with the many bodily ducts and tubes without which we could not exist for even one hour.

Israel's body politic, however, was created in a different fashion. It is blocked and does not excrete. It does not have a metabolism and does not rid itself of waste; it has an intestinal blockage.


We can find momentary relief by turning our gaze to the toilet bowl of history or the garbage can at its side. For a moment, it seems as if something, or someone, has nevertheless been excreted. But no. Any egestion that occurs is merely for the purpose of reingestion.


That is how Benjamin Netanyahu retired, or was ousted, in the past, only to reappear and be reelected 10 years later as a new man who did not know Bibi. And that is how Ehud Barak was defeated - yet another failed prime minister - only to return and seize hold of the steering wheel of defense. In this country, failure is a tried and true recipe for success. In order to become a great hope later on, it is best to first be a bitter disappointment.


There is no connection between a person's achievements and the ladder on which he climbs higher and higher, until his head reaches the skies even as he stands amid piles of rubble. Dan Halutz is another person who understands this: This week, as the fourth yahrzeit of the Second Lebanon War approaches, he announced his intention of implementing his own right of return. Granted, he is not obsessed with becoming prime minister, he said - or at least, not right away. So we must just thank our lucky stars that Dan is not the obsessive type.


"When I see where the country is going," he explained, "it burns in my bones." Shall these bones live again? Certainly! In fact, why not? Our short memories and our ever-growing despair will revive them. And who knows, perhaps the breath of life will even return to the 156 people who lost their lives in that war, and they will once again stand on their own feet - a very great army indeed.


After going home, Dan was able to make a contribution to our politics in the form of Miri Regev, who was his devoted spokeswoman. But he would also like to donate his own body to the nation. Therefore, he is now joining the long line of recycled leaders, who can be removed from this line only through death - and not before they reach the age of 120. From the moment someone wrapped in the robe of office removes his robe, he is busy planning how to put it back on, how to make the olive branches and fig leaves on his shoulders cover his loins. We have not yet recovered from his crash landing and he is already informing the control tower of his next takeoff.


Israel is the land of opportunities that no wasted opportunity can limit. Israel is the land of rising careers that will never set, except for very short time-outs to restore one's energy and don a new hat. People like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown would die to get citizenship here from Aryeh Deri, the once and future interior minister, or from Ehud Olmert and Haim Ramon. All are active retirees who are also potential successors.


As despair mounts and more and more Israelis wonder how their life's work will fare - whether it will survive or collapse - it is not merely the present that worries them; the future is far more depressing. Somehow or other, they will survive Netanyahu and Barak. But where is the alternative known as hope? Will we have to pull it out of the garbage can like a piece of junk?




******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




President Obama's first major speech on immigration had the eloquence and clarity we have come to expect when he engages a wrenching national debate. In declaring the welcome of strangers a core American value, in placing immigrants at the center of the nation's success and future, Mr. Obama's exhortation was worthy of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, whose memory he respectfully summoned on Thursday. "Anybody can help us write the next great chapter in our history," he said, regardless of blood or birth.


Mr. Obama was just as clear on why the immigration system is failing and how to fix it. Our nation "has the right and obligation to control its borders," he said, but sealing off that vast space with troops and fences alone is a fantasy. And no amount of security at the border does anything about the undocumented 11 million who have already crossed it. Mr. Obama called for enabling these potential Americans to "get right with the law," and for fixing the system of legal immigration, which is too inefficient for the country's own good.


The president took particular notice of the extremism of Arizona, where a law, to take effect on July 29, compels its police to check the papers of anyone they suspect to be an illegal immigrant. It makes a crime out of being a foreigner in the state without papers — in most cases a civil violation of federal law. This is an invitation to racial profiling, an impediment to effective policing and a usurpation of federal authority, Mr. Obama said, evoking a future where "different rules for immigration will apply in different parts of the country."


In promising to end the chaos into which immigration has collapsed ("this administration will not just kick the can down the road," he said), Mr. Obama has laid out an ambitious goal. He urged Congress to help him pass a bill, particularly Republicans who supported bipartisan reform under President George W. Bush but who now have a united front against reform.


But Mr. Obama's call to action applies not just to Congress but to himself as well. He neatly defined the obstacles to a comprehensive bill: the Republican senators who have abandoned bipartisanship and taken the extreme position of opposing any immigration reform that is common-sense and practical.


But Mr. Obama has presidential powers, and he should use them. He has given the border more troops. Now he should seek to lift the burden of fear from peaceable immigrant communities. His administration is widely expected to bring a lawsuit soon challenging the deeply unjust Arizona law. Mr. Obama, a constitutional scholar, could have written the complaint himself, but his address did not mention a lawsuit.


Mr. Obama should not suspend all enforcement against illegal immigrants. But he can reset the administration's enforcement priorities to focus on dangerous and convicted criminals and rein in the operations that his Department of Homeland Security has promoted that enable local law enforcement to engage in the racial profiling he rightly denounces.


Mr. Obama appealed to middle of the debate, to Americans who crave lawfulness but reject the cruelty symbolized by Arizona's new law. We hope his words spur the beginning of Congressional action. But in the hot summer to come, when police officers in Arizona start pulling people over, and tension grows and other states follow its bad example, let's hope his administration also is ready to show the determination to protect the resented newcomers whose rights and dignity he so powerfully defended on Thursday.







How bad does it have to get before Congress notices? Kevin Sack reported in The Times on Thursday that budget shortfalls have led 11 states to close enrollment in programs that provide drugs to people with H.I.V. and AIDS. Worse, the number of those turned away is expected to surge in the months ahead as more states defer enrollment and cut eligibility.


Against that backdrop — and with other draconian state budget cuts under way or on the drawing board — Congress has refused to provide more fiscal aid to states. The House leadership, bowing to demands from fiscally conservative Democrats, stripped a provision for $24 billion in state aid from a jobs bill it passed in May. The Senate included the aid in its version but has failed repeatedly to pass the measure.


For most states, the new budget year began on Thursday. With no help in sight from Washington, they will have to enact further spending cuts and tax increases just to balance their budgets. Collectively, the states face a budget hole of more than $100 billion. Cutbacks on that scale will be disastrous for a fragile economy, and the most vulnerable will suffer the most.


The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has been tracking essential services that have already been slashed. As of July 1, Arizona has ended many behavioral health services for 4,000 children. Oregon has made significant cuts to community health programs for nearly 1,500 mentally ill residents and is eliminating a program that helps 2,000 residents with Alzheimer's or dementia receive care at home.


Kansas has reduced grants that help nearly 2,800 people with disabilities live independently, and Idaho has ended or reduced cash assistance to 1,250 low-income residents who are elderly or disabled. Public schools, colleges and universities are facing tuition increases or spending cuts in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Virginia and Washington.


Spending cuts also mean layoffs. In all, the center projects that closing the states' budget gaps could cost the economy up to 900,000 jobs, both among government workers and private contractors.


Without more federal aid to states, the nascent recovery will be stalled or, worse, reversed. And more people will suffer. Lawmakers need to take a look at what is happening beyond the Beltway. Americans, their constituents, are suffering.







As the Chinese Communist Party sees it, its very hold on power depends on tightly controlling the access of ordinary Chinese to information about their country, their rulers and the world at large. When Google decided in March to stop self-censoring search results in China by automatically redirecting queries to its uncensored service in Hong Kong, no one should have been surprised if Beijing rejected the scheme.


The Chinese government is now pushing back, threatening not to renew Google's license as an Internet content provider. It is Google's challenge to stick to the spirit of its promise and never censor its searches in China again. To give in now would make Google into an accomplice of China's repressive government.


So far, Google's response to Beijing's displeasure appears consistent with its original vow. Instead of automatically rerouting queries to its Hong Kong engine, it started sending visitors to to a new "landing page" that links to the Hong Kong Web site, where users can perform searches beyond the reach of Chinese government censors.


And Google has insisted it has no intention of backtracking on its promise not to censor itself — that much-lauded announcement that said that if self-censorship is a requirement to remain then it must abandon China. Yet Beijing has not said whether it finds this solution acceptable. It may not.


This bit of skirmishing with Google comes amid a general tightening of China's online censorship. And Google clearly is not eager to leave the world's largest Internet market.


It is true, as Google often says, that its departure from China would impose a cost on the many Chinese who have relied on its search engine as a window into the Internet and, thus, into the world.


But a censored Google is worse than no Google at all. Threatening to depart, it at least clarifies to Chinese Internet users the extent of their government's control over information and the cost this policy entails.











"A provocation?" asked Mikhail Tripolsky, the editor in chief. "A double game?" he asked his deputy, Leah Moses. The old cold war spy phrases reverberated in the Russkaya Reklama newsroom on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. The two journalists labored to make sense for their Russian émigré readers of the bizarre spy ring that's allegedly been snooping and lolling about for years in all the bourgeois comforts of American capitalism.


The two stressed a great deal is at stake in their Russian-American community, even if the rest of America is guffawing and gawking at the red-haired, Internet-ready "minx from Moscow" — one of the comeliest among the arrested Russians. How much mistrust will be sown in the émigré community? How well will Moscow and Washington repair the damage?


"I suspect even the K.G.B. is flirting with dilettantes," said Ms. Moses, musing on what a farcical business espionage has become.


"I'm doing my job as a spy," she announced in a mock spy message to her Moscow masters. "I'm in this strange covert ring — becoming a suburbanite in New Jersey," she said. "I'm becoming a desperate housewife!" She mocked how the cloak-and-dagger arts degenerated to a knack for milking materialism, for securing laptop computers, mortgage loans and fat expense accounts.


As their weekly deadline approached, Mr. Tripolsky agreed that there is a powerful comic aspect to the story. But he thundered the question: "Why now?"


Mr. Tripolsky is suspicious that investigators chose to crack the ring publicly right after President Obama had a warm and encouraging meeting with President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia. It's a nagging question for Washington as much as for the Little Odessa community: Why the sudden urgency after years of humdrum intelligence-gathering on Americana worthy more of Thornton Wilder than John le Carre?


"This is getting more attention than the Aldrich Ames case," said Mr. Tripolsky, referring to the turncoat American agent now imprisoned for life. In that case, and others, the lives of spies were on the line; here, their lifestyles are.


The editor gestured to a pile of American newspapers that featured the arrested red-haired woman ("Sexy Red Agent's Locks to Die For") more than the damage to relations between the Kremlin and the White House. For all the sitcom nonsense, the timing of the arrests seems "a real provocation against the White House" from who knows where, Mr. Tripolsky warned.


His deputy lingered on the spectacle of undercover spies as middle-class Sybarites. The early wave of Soviet émigrés was idealistic, said Ms. Moses, a naturalized American from the Georgia Republic. But the latest newcomers are called the "sausage people" — a mixed, unpersecuted inflow from the old Soviet republics. They include people less intent on living as American patriots, as the first wave was, than on commuting to tap its economic possibilities. "The dilettantes," she said, finding the accused spies a poetic variation.


The deputy fantasized a world of "sausage people" tracked by F.B.I. careerists who are also stuck with cold war roles in a game on Replay. "Nothing surprises me," said Ms. Moses, working up her dilettante theme as an essay to run with the paper's main story.


"Watch the new James Bond movies," she advised, surrendering to the frivolity surrounding the busted spy ring. If the villain is not a Russian monster and the love interest is more on the lines of the red-haired minx from Moscow, said Ms. Moses, "then we're O.K."








When I was young and naïve, I believed that important people took positions based on careful consideration of the options. Now I know better. Much of what Serious People believe rests on prejudices, not analysis. And these prejudices are subject to fads and fashions.


Which brings me to the subject of today's column. For the last few months, I and others have watched, with amazement and horror, the emergence of a consensus in policy circles in favor of immediate fiscal austerity. That is, somehow it has become conventional wisdom that now is the time to slash spending, despite the fact that the world's major economies remain deeply depressed.


This conventional wisdom isn't based on either evidence or careful analysis. Instead, it rests on what we might charitably call sheer speculation, and less charitably call figments of the policy elite's imagination — specifically, on belief in what I've come to think of as the invisible bond vigilante and the confidence fairy.


Bond vigilantes are investors who pull the plug on governments they perceive as unable or unwilling to pay their debts. Now there's no question that countries can suffer crises of confidence (see Greece, debt of). But what the advocates of austerity claim is that (a) the bond vigilantes are about to attack America, and (b) spending anything more on stimulus will set them off.


What reason do we have to believe that any of this is true? Yes, America has long-run budget problems, but what we do on stimulus over the next couple of years has almost no bearing on our ability to deal with these long-run problems. As Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, recently put it, "There is no intrinsic contradiction between providing additional fiscal stimulus today, while the unemployment rate is high and many factories and offices are underused, and imposing fiscal restraint several years from now, when output and employment will probably be close to their potential."


Nonetheless, every few months we're told that the bond vigilantes have arrived, and we must impose austerity now now now to appease them. Three months ago, a slight uptick in long-term interest rates was greeted with near hysteria: "Debt Fears Send Rates Up," was the headline at The Wall Street Journal, although there was no actual evidence of such fears, and Alan Greenspan pronounced the rise a "canary in the mine."


Since then, long-term rates have plunged again. Far from fleeing U.S. government debt, investors evidently see it as their safest bet in a stumbling economy. Yet the advocates of austerity still assure us that bond vigilantes will attack any day now if we don't slash spending immediately.








Los Angeles

I HAD my first paying job one week the summer I was 11. A mother hired me to take care of her 4-year-old daughter while she started a new job. She picked me up at a little before eight and said she would drive me home again, just after five. Even for my age I was remarkably unqualified: I had no siblings, and within my extended family I was the youngest cousin. I'd never changed a diaper or made my own bed. I arrived at the small house in a new development, terrified — with reason.


My charge, however, was a resourceful girl: she'd set up the stuffed animal refuge downstairs and a doll world in her room. She told me how to play with her. Mostly I sat and watched.


The first real obstacle was lunch. The mother had left out a can of tomato soup for the two of us, but I'd never operated a can opener, and I couldn't get the contraption to latch; it skated around the can, making no dent. Finally, desperate — the girl was looking up at me with patient faith but also obvious hunger — I pounded a hole in the can with a bottle opener and poured the soup from the small opening into the pot. I'd never controlled a stove before either. The girl pointed at the appropriate knobs and I stirred according to instructions.


On Friday evening, after the steepest learning curve of my life, the mother gave me $20, and the girl and I hugged with some feeling.


Unbeknownst to me, this was my introduction to the gray economy of domestic work. No doubt the mother could have found a more experienced, competent babysitter for that week, but I was the daughter of a friend of a friend and, as a matriculating sixth grader, I came cheap. (Twenty dollars for the week, though a fortune to me, was still half the minimum wage then, a little more than $1 an hour.) Neither of us paid taxes or worried about insurance of any kind. But we were lucky: nobody got hurt and I truly liked the little girl.


Though it never would have occurred to me or to my employer that anything we did that week could concern lawmakers miles away, it also seemed ordinary enough when, for my next job, wrapping Christmas gifts in a dress shop, my mother had to get me a Social Security card.


Americans have long thought differently of domestic labor than of most other kinds of employment. This month, the New York Senate passed legislation to protect nannies, housekeepers and other domestic workers, requiring that they be paid overtime after eight hours; get at least one day a week off, seven paid sick days a year and five paid vacation days; and be given 14 days notice of termination, or equivalent pay. I hope Gov. David Paterson signs this into law, and that other states follow. (The California State Assembly is expected to consider a similar bill next year.) But it is not enough: considering the difficulties in enforcing such laws, families that employ domestic workers must be persuaded to forgo the considerable short-term advantages offered by an under-the-table system.


The United States has a history of failure in tendering rights for domestic help. The Department of Labor's archives hold thousands of sad letters written in the 1930s by maids, housecleaners, cooks and nannies to Franklin D. Roosevelt and his secretary of labor, Frances Perkins. Here are excerpts from one written to Eleanor Roosevelt in 1937:


Dear Madam,


... I have often wondered why you or Mrs. Perkins have done nothing to help the women engaged in housework....


I have been in close contact with many of the girls and women who were and still are housemaids, cooks and other house workers and can truly state some of the conditions are deplorable.


Long hours, poor wages. Poor living conditions. A regular slave's existence and some of these women call themselves Christians. ...


I could write a book about it beginning with A and ending with Z and all true. It would seem we are made of different clay than they are my how unbearable these women can be. ...


Just a maid.


P.S. Will write again when I can sign my name without getting into trouble.


Other letters describe work schedules that make us realize how haphazardly we live in our own homes: "Wash rear bathroom. Dust woodwork. Vacuum throughout house. Ironing. Bake — bread and cake. Polish silver. Defrost Frigidaire." All of this took place on days when a formal meal was served and the baby was "watched."


Mary Anderson, the first director of the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau (who had begun her own career as a domestic worker), replied to thousands of such letters, explaining hopefully that a group had newly organized, calling itself the National Committee for Household Workers. But the closest thing that existed then to regulations on hours, pay or stipulated notice for domestic workers was a pledge written by women of the Y.W.C.A., which employers and workers could voluntarily sign.


More than 70 years later, the laws on the books have remained remarkably the same — except that in 1974 many domestic workers were brought under the protection of the federal minimum wage. Now, New York's proposed laws have set off a passionate debate, perhaps because the problems of both domestic workers and their employers are seemingly intractable, and the fix is so small.


Some of these problems have to do with changed demographics: more women have entered the workforce,

including thousands of impoverished immigrants who have come to American cities. Many more middle-class families hire domestic help than before because the mother herself works.


Picture her 38, a mother of a boy in preschool and a baby girl. (This is a fictional portrait based on many people I've known.) Her job as a history lecturer at a local college is not particularly lucrative. She is teaching four sections, with much grading, many office hours and no job security. Her husband, a journalist, earns more than she does but works even longer hours. She always assumed she would have a job and children. Most days, at least, she wants to work.


This not-so-young-anymore mother isn't employing a maid to clean her bathrooms or polish her silver. She doesn't own silver. Nonetheless, she and her husband together earn (pretax) four to five times what they pay their nanny.


Still, as the professor arrives at her toy-strewn home on Friday and takes out her wallet — the kids hanging on her knee and, on her arm, a bag of groceries not yet turned into dinner — she's aware of how close her nanny's wages come to her own.


Her nanny (another composite) is a mother, too, with children across an ocean. Years ago, working long hours for centavos in a failing economy, she came here as an undocumented immigrant. So far, the risk has paid off. She's on her third job, with an employer who gives her books and hand-me-down clothes. She used last year's Christmas bonus to pay an immigration lawyer.


She shares a decent apartment with two other women and has a weekend job taking care of an elderly man. All in all she is able to send home five times what her husband earns. With the magic that is the global economy she's turned a servant's wage into private school tuition for her own children.


She likes taking her two charges to their mommy-and-me classes and birthday parties. When her own children were this age, she had to spend nine hours a day on a factory line making artificial flowers. She's made friends with other nannies, and among the mothers who pick up their children every day at the preschool, she's a favorite. Two of them have quietly offered her jobs.


These women's vastly different needs intersect in the gray economy. The nanny is glad to be paid in cash. She's been warned that this will deprive her of Social Security benefits when she's old, but right now she's not old and, besides, she may well go home in a few years if she can't get a green card. In any case, her sons' tuitions need to be paid today.


She's worked here six years without a green card, but of the many women she knows in her situation, only one

has been caught and deported. That woman is back, working at an even better job.


HER employers have never before broken the law, either, except for a few joints in college. But after an evening spent calculating the state and federal tax withholdings, they had to admit that their nanny's take-home wage, with the mandated deductions, would no longer be respectable. And that's not even beginning to think about health insurance. Besides, no one they know, except for one striving couple with a husband who plans to run for office, pays their nanny on the books.


A workplace so ungoverned is the Wild West, rife with temptation for exploitation and abuse. Even laws like the one New York may soon have can be only a first step. Because so many of the workers they are meant to protect are undocumented, few will want to come forward to report violations. And collective bargaining is unlikely among employees isolated in private homes.


Responding to news of the impending laws, commenters on predicted that many families will stop employing domestic help. Several suggested that mothers will stay home with their children. I think it's more likely that the demand for day care centers will increase, leading to more and better day care options, at a higher price. Then the women whom these laws seek to protect will be out of a job.


Perhaps we should recognize the difference between a wealthy family hiring a domestic worker for convenience and grace notes and an employer whose own income is not vastly greater than that of the person she employs. Those below a certain income level might be offered a tax benefit for child-care expenses — in home or not.


Also, creative ways must be found to calculate overtime — so that a working mother can put in her own eight hours and also commute to and from work, without needing to pay her nanny daily overtime. While regulation is surely needed to prevent live-in workers from being on call around the clock, perhaps a nine-hour day is a more realistic expectation — stipulating that caregivers be allowed some downtime while small children or elderly parents nap.


And families should be provided with simple, one-page payroll forms that offer algorithms to calculate employees' deductions and withholdings.


In a 2009 survey of 800 parents in upper-middle-class Brooklyn neighborhoods, a large majority claimed to have a great deal of respect for their current nanny. Yet less than a quarter paid workers' compensation, disability, unemployment or Social Security taxes.


We must learn to show respect for our domestic workers with something other than hand-me-down furniture

and clothing. Care work is real work, and we should compensate it at a level we can put on the books.


Mona Simpson's forthcoming novel "My Hollywood" is about an immigrant nanny.








On Wednesday, the essayist Christopher Hitchens announced that he has cancer of the esophagus and will soon begin chemotherapy. There are others who know him better than I who can reflect on his illness.


But there is one feature of his life and his new memoir, "Hitch-22," that I had been hoping to address anyway, which is that there are few people in this country who bring such a literary perspective to political and policy controversies.


Young Hitchens was apparently one of those boys, a late bloomer, who inhaled books and stories. Early on, he discovered "How Green Was My Valley," Richard Llewellyn's tale of a Welsh mining family. "The world and experience of its boy narrator, Huw Morgan, became more real to me than my own," he writes in the memoir. "It was an earthquake, a climacteric, a revelation."


As he aged, his worldview was formed by writers and poets like Arthur Koestler and Wilfred Owen and by novels like George Orwell's "Keep the Aspidistra Flying," which described the lower-middle-class Britain of his youth.


His mother, Yvonne, hid her Jewish heritage from him but taught him to read for pleasure. She was trapped in a dull and lifeless marriage with an admirable but staid naval officer whom Hitchens refers to as The Commander. Finally, in midlife, she escaped to Athens with a lover, only to discover she had chosen poorly. They committed suicide in adjoining hotel rooms. In the memoir, Hitchens cites Graham Greene's aphorism: "There is always a moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in."


Hitchens came of age in the 1960s. But as his memoir and subsequent career make plain, he is not really a child of the Woodstock generation but of the generation whose work was rejected by it.


In the '60s, the personal became political, but Hitchens's model is Orwell, who combined left-wing politics and economics with traditionalist morality.


Starting in the '60s, academic specialization and sobriety came to dominate intellectual life. But Hitchens writes more like the educated generalists of the previous generation — people like Isaiah Berlin, Malcolm Muggeridge and Raymond Williams. He makes a quick mention of Bob Dylan in his book, but by the first few pages of his memoir, he has already cited his key sources: W.H. Auden, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and so on — the literary paragons of an earlier time.


When Hitchens came to the U.S., he brought a style that was at once more highbrow, more ribald and more conversational than is normal here. His closest friends are not American policy experts; they're British novelists — Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan. Even when writing about war, he's more likely to quote Auden than an analyst from the Council on Foreign Relations.


Hitchens's literary perspective seems to have organized his energies. In ideological terms, his interests are all over the map. But there has been an amazing consistency in the character types he has chosen to go after. They are either crude and thuggish, like Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, or he perceives them to be unscrupulous and amoral, like Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger and the Catholic Church.


His literary perspective seems to have contributed to his adventurousness, his delight in the one-man (if necessary) cavalry charge. Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie "completely committed me," he writes. "It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved." Dictatorship, religion and censorship against literature, irony and free expression. There were no shadings; he judged everybody by whether they passed this test of moral courage.


His literary perspective has made him a more fully rounded person than most of the people one finds in this business. Unlike many Americans, he seems to completely trust his desire for pleasure, and has been open about his delight in sex, drink, friendship and wordplay.


It would not be a safe world if every policy writer were as literary as Hitchens. Government is mostly about administration, trade-offs and compromises. But his perspective usefully highlights psychology, context, courage and virtue — important things that are hard to talk about in policy jargon or journalese. No one will agree with, or even comprehend, all of his aversions, but his affections are easy to admire, especially his strong and growing affection for America.


Most of all, his is a memoir that should be given to high school and college students of a literary bent. In the age

of the Internet and the academy, it will open up different models for how to be a thoughtful person, how to engage in political life and what sort of things one should know in order to be truly educated.


Especially because of his excesses, it seems important that Hitchens make a speedy recovery.









Arlington National Cemetery is unique among our nation's cemeteries and landmarks. It is both the final resting place of our honored dead and a living military shrine standing tribute to the sacrifice of those who served our nation in conflicts from the Civil War through Iraq and Afghanistan.


That's why Army Secretary John McHugh took decisive action after learning of problems plaguing the cemetery and replaced its management. He rescinded the order governing its supervision, which had created operational confusion by giving a half-dozen Army commands some piece of the cemetery's operations. He appointed an executive director to streamline management and put in place initiatives to rebuild public trust.


As evidence of our commitment, the Army detailed Arlington's problems in full public view. More important, after first learning of gravesite discrepancies, it was then-Secretary Pete Geren who ordered the inspector general to review cemetery operations. As deficiencies grew, Geren's successor, Secretary McHugh, expanded that effort, ordering the full-scale investigation.


One finding generating interest involves 211 gravesites. Of those, 117 were marked on maps as occupied, but had no headstone. The other 94 were marked as unoccupied but had headstones. The Army has corrected 27 of these errors to date, and continues to reconcile maps with cemetery records.


While what we know today resulted from the Army investigating and reporting on itself, to be successful we

must look further. We've done that, enlisting the assistance of the Department of Veterans Affairs and two of this nation's most accomplished public servants, decorated Army veterans and former senators Bob Dole and Max Cleland.


Arlington's rank-and-file employees do extraordinary work. They perform to high professional standards under a stressful operational tempo that averages 27 funerals a day.


The process of investigating past failures and fixing accountability where appropriate is ongoing. The Army recognizes its sacred responsibility to ensure America's confidence in the operation of its most hallowed ground, and to the heroes for whom this is their final resting place. We will ensure that Arlington National Cemetery operates in a manner befitting their service and sacrifice.


Brig. Gen. Lewis M. Boone is chief of public affairs for the Army.







As expected, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan cruised through her confirmation hearings this week, displaying enough wit and legal erudition to disarm even some of her Republican detractors. They may not vote for her, but they found no defect serious enough to block her from being confirmed.


Although Kagan deflected virtually all questions about her core views, at least a couple of her comments during 17 hours of Senate testimony were noteworthy.


One came when she was asked what she thought of the analogy Chief Justice John Roberts famously used at his confirmation hearings in 2005, when he compared a judge's job to a baseball umpire's. Roberts' comments were more elaborate, but the metaphor has since fostered the misleading notion that a justice's job is as simple as calling balls and strikes.


If only. Kagan rightly noted that the umpire description makes the job sound more "robotic" than it is. Typically, only the hardest cases reach the high court, the ones in which the law is unclear and legal scholars disagree.


She offered no example, but the court's recent struggles over the Second Amendment make the point: In a pair of 5-4 decisions, the court found that the confusingly worded amendment protects an individual right to own handguns. Armies of constitutional experts have argued that it does, or does not.


Kagan declined to reveal her own view except to say that now that the court has decided, the matter is "settled law" that she will respect as legal precedent. Which raises a second point: All recent Supreme Court nominees have made similar pledges. All have broken them.


Sonia Sotomayor said during her hearings last year that the court had clearly decided what the Second Amendment meant, but last month she voted to ignore that very precedent. Roberts and Samuel Alito similarly promised they'd respect precedent, but in January they overturned all or part of two previous decisions and gave corporations the right to spend unlimited money in elections.


Blind allegiance to prior decisions is foolish; if justices had not overturned an infamous 1896 ruling, racial segregation would still be the law of the land. But the court's credibility is eroded when new justices dump earlier decisions simply because the institution's political makeup has changed. If judges are like umpires, conservatives and liberals still see different strike zones. Mutual respect for precedent is the only way to keep their calls acceptably consistent.







Americans who visit Arlington National Cemetery over the July 4 weekend will see much to stir their emotions — long rows of meticulously kept gravesites, military funerals conducted with great dignity, the steely discipline of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns.


It's what visitors won't see that's distressing. Despite outward appearances, some of the internal operations at Arlington are a shambles. A scathing report last month by the Army's inspector general revealed at least 211 gravesites with unknown occupants. Records show that many of these graves are supposed to be occupied but have no headstones; others are marked as empty but do have gravestones.


This is a disgrace, but it gets worse. Investigators audited just 17 of the 64 sections in the sprawling cemetery, which is the final resting place to more than 330,000 servicemembers and their relatives. There are almost certainly more mismarked or unmarked graves — maybe hundreds, perhaps even thousands.


Headstones and pieces of headstones have turned up in a nearby stream bed and at another government facility miles away. Despite spending more than $5 million to digitize handwritten burial records, Arlington — unlike other major military cemeteries — still has no computerized system for tracking who's buried where.


The only good news here is that the Army has, at last, admitted the problems and begun to take action to fix them. The gravesite discrepancies became public only last year in a series of articles on Salon, but the Army has known about serious management problems at the cemetery at least since 1992, when officials learned of the dysfunctional relationship between Arlington's superintendent and deputy superintendent and counseled both men.


After that encounter, though, senior Army officials in charge of overseeing the nation's best known cemetery proceeded to drop the ball for most of the next two decades. Staff complaints sparked another investigation, in 1997, that found — no surprise — incompetent management at Arlington. Report filed, little result.


The pair continued in their jobs until this year, when yet another investigative report rediscovered the same management problems, plus the gravesite anomalies and other mistakes. Army Secretary John McHugh finally acted last month, replacing both men by naming a new executive director to oversee the cemetery. Inexplicably, however, he gave a pass to Army higher-ups who tolerated years of mismanagement.


At least McHugh did not try to gloss over the problems at Arlington, calling them "deeply troubling and simply unacceptable." There's much left to do, including a thorough investigation to find out how many more gravesites are mismarked, an aggressive effort to fix every one and a campaign to minimize those errors in the future.


The Army simply can't afford yet another finding in a few years that Arlington's problems have continued. An impeccably managed cemetery is the least the nation can do to honor those who've sacrificed to preserve its freedom.








WASHINGTON — The reason immigration reform remains elusive this year, despite President Obama's fresh exhortations, is because long- and short-term political calculations are dominating in a nation whose demographics are changing much faster than its leaders.


In reality, a stronger resolution scenario exists for 2011. Obama will begin confronting his own re-election. Republicans will still have long-term worries that if they are seen as hostile to any middle-road solution, they could lose, long term, the fastest-growing demographic group in America.


Despite Obama's calls for a renewed, bipartisan effort in a Thursday speech at American University, partisans on his side know they can attract Hispanic voters in elections this November if they can portray the Republicans as obstructing reforms and immune to humanitarian appeals for a path for citizenship for millions in this country illegally.


Obama beat Republican John McCain among Latinos by more than a 2-1 margin in the 2008 election— a key to Obama's victory. Brookings Institution demographer William Frey says that over the coming decade, the number of whites in the workforce will decline by 5 million while the number of minorities will grow by 15 million, with 90% of that growth coming from Hispanics.


This year, votes of Hispanics are especially important in close congressional or gubernatorial campaigns in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, is in a tough re-election fight.


Conversely, Republicans know that their staunchest supporters do not want a solution that would allow a path to citizenship for people who broke the law to come to this country, especially without the federal government demonstrating it can secure the border first.


Past GOP leaders on immigration, such as McCain, are being attacked within their own party as being too soft on the problem. McCain has taken a harder line as he faces a tough primary against former representative J.D. Hayworth, who has made illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign.


Republicans also are reading polls that show that solid majorities of Americans support an Arizona law signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer that has sparked a showdown with the Obama administration on border enforcement and treatment of illegal immigrants in this country.


Although he did not say so in his Thursday speech, Obama may have his Justice Department sue Arizona, which could further inflame the issue in the fall campaigns.


"I believe we can put politics aside and finally have an immigration system that is accountable," the president said.

But that "finally" might have to wait until 2011, if Republicans make predicted gains in the House and Senate or even take control of one or both of those bodies.

Obama promised immigration reform in his 2008 campaign, and he will be on the defensive if he does not deliver by his 2012 re-election test.

Immigration reform activists are already disappointed and angry that he has not pushed something through. And the president has given mixed messages. Despite his call for passage Thursday, he told reporters on Air Force One in April that passing immigration reform is "a matter of political will" and that "there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue."


That reality prompted Karl Rove, adviser to former President George W. Bush, to tell Fox News that Obama's latest speech was "cynical, hypocritical, political."


But long-term, Republicans cannot exist as a national party if the fastest-growing demographic group views them as unwelcoming and overly punitive, and the ranks of 11 million illegal immigrants continue to swell.


Ironically, Republicans are running Hispanic candidates in several key races around the country this year, including Senate candidate Marco Rubio in Florida and gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval in Nevada.


(Chuck Raasch writes from Washington for Gannett. Contact him at craasch(AT), follow him at or join in the conversation at







The New York Times, in an editorial: "Elena Kagan delivered an impressive performance at her Senate confirmation hearing. Assuming the commitments she made were authentic and not simply designed to tranquilize the members of the Judiciary Committee, she could act as an important brake on the current Supreme Court's alarming tendency to bulldoze through decades of settled precedents. ... The hearing was far from illuminating, but it did allow Kagan to show her fortitude, good humor and, most important, judicial modesty. She said, in dozens of different ways, that she has the highest respect for the legal principle that precedents are to be upheld except in very unusual circumstances. ... We hope Kagan was being candid."


The Washington Times, in an editorial: "The most important question members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should ask Supreme Court nominee Kagan is, 'Who do you think you are kidding?' The hearings process for high court nominees has become ritualized to the point that it is almost useless. Nominees are extensively coached to avoid voicing a real opinion. There is no intellectual give and take. Spontaneity is largely absent. Anyone who can reasonably keep his cool and regurgitate platitudes for a few hours can enjoy a lifetime appointment to the most important judicial body in the land. Kagan is playing her expected role in the predictable manner. ... Her nomination should be rejected, and the Senate should revise its procedures so that nominees are no longer allowed to disguise and distort — or even lie about — their true beliefs."


Jeffrey Rosen, columnist, The New Republic: "Far from turning into a 'vapid and hollow charade,' to use Kagan's now-famous condemnation of other ... confirmation hearings, her own have been impressively substantive. But the most surprising development in the Kagan hearings this week has been the performance of the senators: Both Democrats and Republicans have articulated clear visions of the law — Democrats say judges should uphold progressive legislation like campaign finance and health care; Republicans say they should strike those regulations down — and have pressed Kagan in sophisticated ways."


The Anniston (Ala.) Star, in an editorial: "The first day of the ... hearing for Kagan was less about the nominee than about Justice (Thurgood) Marshall, for whom Kagan clerked. ... Republican senators mentioned Marshall nearly three dozen times Monday. The second day wasn't much better. What's at play here? It seems Republicans have conceded that they do not have the votes to deny President Obama's nominee a seat on the Supreme Court. Instead, they have resorted to the old game played by both sides ... a proxy war on judicial philosophy. ... When she clerked for Marshall, the justice nicknamed the diminutive Kagan 'Shorty.' The hearings thus far have presented many senators as the ones who are, metaphorically speaking, small in stature."


Nathan Koppel, blogger, The Wall Street Journal Law Blog: "You want forthcoming? Well, the Kagan hearings ... haven't mimicked the confessional tone of MTV's The Hills, but they've revealed a bit more than did last year's hearings involving Sonia Sotomayor. For starters, Kagan ... didn't hedge when asked her opinion of cameras in the courtroom. ... Just before the cameras discussion, Kagan actually discussed an existing Supreme Court precedent! ... That discussion of a recent decision, however limited, was a more full airing than anything offered by Sotomayor."








Forty-nine of our 50 states have "no-fault" divorce laws. New York state is the lone holdout, even though it has many of the messiest and costliest divorces.


Now, New Yorkers finally may join the rest of us. A state Assembly conference committee met this week to consider a no-fault bill which the state Senate has OK'd. There are several different Assembly amendments, but a compromise and passage seems likely. No-fault, of course is a misnomer. In every divorce, someone is at fault. Usually it's both parties, in varying degrees.


Webster's dictionary defines "fault" as a "moral weakness less serious than a vice." Most marriages that end in

divorce fall in that category.


But having to air the differences publicly does a disservice to both and to everyone in the family. Especially to children.


Actually, even with no-fault laws, the number of divorces in proportion to marriages has remained almost the same. Comparisons:


•In 2008 (last available year's figures), the USA marriage rate was 7.1 per 1,000 population and the divorce rate was 3.5 per 1,000.


•In 2000, it was 8.2 for marriages and 4 for divorces.


I've been a party to two divorces, both no-fault in Florida. My first marriage lasted 26 years. My second eight. My third marriage is in its 17th year.


Ideally, of course, all marriages should last a lifetime. "Until death do us part," as religious ceremonies vow. Most do and both husband and wife should be admired.


But adjusting to marriage, living with someone 24/7, is much tougher than any eight-hour-a-day or 40-hour-a-week job. If it doesn't work out, both parties should be civil and fair about it.


It's time New Yorkers, many of whom consider themselves smarter than the rest of us, get it.


Feedback: Other views on "no-fault" divorce


"We oppose no-fault divorce. In every state that has studied the aftermath of no-fault divorce, they report that women and children have suffered unintended financial consequences."

— Marcia Pappas, president, NOW-New York State

"No divorce is pain-free, but forcing people to prove fault only escalates conflict. Every state that adopted no-fault divorce saw a substantial decrease in domestic violence over the next five years."

Stephanie Coontz, author Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage








I have never been big on the Fourth of July. Most years, I took great pleasure in reading the powerful Frederick Douglass speech, " The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro." Though delivered in 1852 during slavery, the words have rich meaning for me, even today.


"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July," he thundered to a crowd in Rochester, N.Y. "I answer, a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity ... your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery."


The speech is a scathing indictment of U.S. hypocrisy. If you called me on July 4, I would probably read you some of its rich and powerful passages.


Our nation has come a long way since 1852, but for many African Americans, shouts of liberty are still hollow mockery. Unemployment is a scourge on all Americans, but the black unemployment rate, at 15.3% in May, is nearly twice the white rate. Every economic indicator — income, wealth, homeownership — screams inequality.


Still, in a moment of optimism, I retired my Fourth of July ritual last year. After all, 69 million Americans voted for Barack Obama, and many thought he could bring our nation together. While I remained frustrated that racial economic justice has not been attained, it seemed churlish to insist, in the face of so much optimism, on reading Douglass' fiery words.


There are those who will tell me that, despite inequality, African Americans are better off in these United States than black people are anywhere else. Others will say that if I don't like these United States, I can leave. But I am as staunch a patriot as the love-it-or-leave-it crowd. My mantra, though, is that we must improve it or lose it. We improve it when we fight to close racial economic gaps, when we struggle to make the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, one nation under God, more reality than fiction.


Despite his scathing commentary, Douglass said, "I do not despair of this country." Nor do I. But progress has been so slowed, optimism so dimmed, and some criticisms of our president so blatantly racial that I'm returning to my ritual of reading Frederick Douglass, if only as a reminder that the struggle for justice and equality must continue.


Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.








Mayor Ron Littlefield's appointment of Bobby Dodd as the city's new chief of police came quietly Tuesday, hard on the close of the mayor's 90-day window for making the appointment. Unlike other such appointments in recent years, it was marked both by short notice and an absence of fuss. That owes mainly to the circumstance of the previous chief's departure and the mayor's agenda for consolidating the city's police department under the umbrella of the county sheriff's office. Still, it may well suit Chief Dodd.


The new chief, a 22-year veteran of the city's police department, could find the lack of hoopla compatible with his agenda and the mood of the department. He says he wants to heal divisions with the department, tackle perceptions of crime in the city and beef up the number of officers. Each suggests concerns and tensions best resolved by a quiet and orderly agenda.


Chief Dodd should know his way around such issues. He rose steadily through the ranks, working in the patrol division both as an officer and as head of the downtown precinct. He has worked in internal affairs and as a special operations commander in criminal investigations. He subsequently became assistant chief over the investigations division.


He replaces former chief Freeman Cooper, who retired three months ago after the City Council denied the mayor's plan to keep Chief Cooper in office as a contractor. That arrangement understandably spurred controversy over double dipping because it would have allowed Mr. Cooper to keep working at his top salary after officially retiring to take advantage of a big lump-sum pension pay-out option.


Mr. Dodd will take over the department from interim chief Mark Rawlston, who announced his planned retirement after Mr. Dodd was named to the post over Mr. Rawlston and assistant chief Mike Williams.


Oddly, one of the factors that Mayor Littlefield considered in his selection was that, as the youngest among the final three candidates, the 46-year-old Mr. Dodd is still three years away from an early retirement option, and he has another six years to serve before he can qualify for the full deferred-retirement benefit option, like one former chief Cooper took.


His selection, in fact, does fit with the purpose of the deferred benefit option in the police department's pension plan: it encourages early retirement of senior officers, and allows upward movement from the ranks below.


Seasoned observers say Mr. Dodd is well-qualified to be chief. Certainly his top three initial goals parallel departmental and public concerns. By allowing the full 90 days to make his appointment, for example, the mayor allowed the department to stew and created divided loyalties among the ranks about the candidates.


Chief Dodd is also correctly concerned with the department's shrunken staffing. The department is down 60 officers from its allowed contingent, and 40 are eligible for retirement. The chief also has good reason to worry about public concern over safety issues in public spaces and the level of crime. The number of shooting deaths, gang violence, burglaries in Brainerd and North Chattanooga, and a rising fear of being in the city's riverfront parks after dark have prompted concern among many.


Mayor Littlefield said another factor in his selection of Mr. Dodd was that he considered the new chief supportive of his proposal to consolidate the city police department under the countywide sheriff's jurisdiction. Whether the mayor can advance that idea, and how Chief Dodd responds to such an initiative, will be closely watched. In any case, Mr. Dodd merits support: He will have his hands full.







Hurricane Alex is noteworthy for what it did and did not do. It did become the first Atlantic Basin hurricane during the month of June since 1995. It did not strike the United States directly. It made landfall in Mexico, bringing heavy rains to parts of Texas. It did not completely halt Gulf oil spill clean-up operations. It merely slowed them.


Had Alex taken a more northerly path, high winds and waves would have created havoc. The storm might have required removal of the BP well-cap on the sea floor, significantly increasing the amount of oil released into the sea. That would have been disastrous. As it is, BP's spill became the biggest ever in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, using figures based on the highest of the U.S. government's estimates.


Using that scale, the now nearly three-month long spill has disgorged about 140.6 million gallons of oil. That breaks the record set by a spill off Mexico in 1979-1980. Some might argue the government's upper estimate is too high. Perhaps, but even the lowest estimate-- more than 71 million gallons -- is mind-boggling. Whatever the total, it continues to grow every minute.


The scenario could be worse. Though Alex passed far from the spill area, its winds and waves still forced the halt of skimming work and of putting down booms designed to corral oil. Operations at the site of the explosion and spill continued, as did drilling of the relief wells that officials hope will halt the leak. That's cold comfort.


The rough seas engendered by Alex did push tar balls and crude oil up to 60 yards further up Gulf Coast beaches than had been noted previously. In other places, more and heavier concentrations of oil, riding the winds and waves, neared landfall. That understandably adds to the worries of those whose livelihoods already have been severely impacted by the disaster.


The areas most directly affected by the oil spill dodged a bullet this time around. One of the more powerful June hurricanes on record struck the region only a glancing blow. What is worrisome is that hurricane season has just started. Additional and possibly stronger hurricanes -- and the hazards they can spawn -- can be expected.


If any strike the area already ravaged by the oil spill -- especially before the predicted August completion of the relief wells -- what is already the nation's worst ecological disaster and a record-breaking oil spill will become far, far worse.







Do you think federal taxes are too low?


Do you think federal spending is too high?


These are questions too many of our federal officials -- and we -- don't want to face.


On the city, county and state levels, we can't very easily dodge such questions. But on the federal government level, where such problems are worst, the harsh financial facts are too much ignored.


Our national debt is a staggering $13 trillion! Yes, that's trillion! It's $13,000,000,000,000!


Who can really understand that? So we tend to "turn it off" -- except, of course, we can't escape paying taxes to cover the interest on that huge debt.


We can understand the national debt a little better if we face the fact that it is $42,367 per citizen. (Our population is nearly 309 million people.)


Of course, not every citizen pays federal taxes, some being too young, some too old, some not earning. So how much is our national debt per taxpayer? It's $118,756!


But Congress keeps voting to spend more -- much more than even too-high taxes bring in. So our national debt is rising $4.01 billion every day!


Where is this taking us? It's leading us into deeper trouble.


We read about the national economic distress of countries like Greece, for instance, but do we realize we are following them?


Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf said this week, "If policy-makers are to put the nation on a sustainable budgetary path, they will need to let revenues increase substantially as a percentage of gross domestic product, decrease spending significantly from projected levels, or adopt some combination of those two approaches."


"Translated," that means "higher taxes" or "less spending" -- or "some of each."


By the end of this year, our too-big federal spending, despite too-big federal taxing, will mean our national debt will be 62 percent of our gross domestic product -- everything we produce this year!


The president and most members of Congress -- and we -- do not want to face these facts. So the financial bad news continues to grow.


We can't permanently dodge the bad results.


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





It's amazing what a sensible law can accomplish -- if the people who are subject to it know that it will be enforced.


Arizona lawmakers recently passed a bill to require law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone they reasonably believe is in this country illegally, once they have stopped that person for some legitimate reason. The law was a response to the multimillion-dollar cost to Arizona taxpayers of providing social services to illegal aliens and fighting the criminal activity in which some illegals engage.


Here is the interesting part: The law does not even take effect until the end of July, but already it is having beneficial effects for Arizona.


The Arizona Republic newspaper reported that Arizona's law is driving illegal aliens out of the state. Some are leaving for Mexico, while others are heading to states that do not have a tough law similar to Arizona's.


Why? Because they know that Arizona legislators and no-nonsense Gov. Jan Brewer mean business and intend to see that the law is enforced.


The early success of Arizona's law has its critics scrambling. They hope the Obama administration's plan to sue to stop the Arizona law from taking effect will keep other states from following Arizona's lead and enacting their own laws.


Unfortunately, the administration has done little to enforce existing federal laws against illegal immigration, or to seal our border with Mexico, so the states have little choice but to take action on their own. States that enact -- and enforce -- laws similar to Arizona's can expect to have the same benefit.







A horrible Supreme Court ruling in 2005 continues to yield ugly consequences.


In a 5-4 ruling that year, the court's liberal majority said government may seize private property from one owner and hand it over to another owner. Local and state governments have repeatedly used that power to take private property and have it redeveloped by other private interests into upscale housing, stores and such that will bring in more tax revenue than they were getting from the rightful original owners.


But that turns the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution on its head. The amendment does provide for government to take private property in some cases, but only with just compensation and only for a legitimate "public use" -- such as a military base or a road. It was never intended to allow property to be forcibly taken from one private owner and given to another.


In a troubling case based on the bad Supreme Court ruling, a court in New York state has declared that the state may seize property from unwilling landowners and hand it over to private Columbia University to expand its campus.


Whether the campus expansion is a desirable use of the land is beside the point. It is clearly not a true public use envisioned by the Constitution, but rather a private development. As such, the only way Columbia should have been permitted to acquire the land was by offering to purchase it on the free market. If the owners were willing to sell, so be it. If they were not, they should not have been forced to do so.


The high court twisted the meaning of the Fifth Amendment with its ruling allowing this sort of taking.


On a related note, current Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has been vague in answering questions about abuses of government's power to take private property. She should clarify her views before the Senate votes on her confirmation.







It is common to speak of "win-win" situations or to say that "everybody wins" in certain circumstances. And sometimes that's true. For instance, both the buyer and seller of a car "win" if the car helps the buyer get to work every day to support his family and the price paid helps the dealer stay in business.


But it's a fact of life that "everybody" can't win all the time. Two teams cannot win the same Super Bowl, for example, any more than two teams can win the same World Series.


Curiously, however, more and more high schools around the country are naming multiple valedictorians each year. It's not that the top students had exactly equal academic performance. Instead, the idea is to reduce "pressure and competition among students" and to provide "a more equitable way to honor achievement," The New York Times reported.


How silly has this trend become? Well, at a school near Houston, 30 "valedictorians" were recognized recently. They represented nearly 7 percent of the graduating class. And the head of admissions at Harvard University said some schools graduate more than 100 "valedictorians."


"It's honor inflation," a professor at Furman University in South Carolina told the newspaper, and it creates unrealistic expectations about life: "In the real world, you do get ranked."

Giving every student the opportunity to excel is a worthy goal. Guaranteeing equal outcomes is not.









The last-minute opening of the "food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary" chapter in EU negotiations Wednesday in Brussels can clearly be seen as a success of the Spanish-term presidency that pushed the limits, at the expense of stretching the rules, of the European Union.


It was also a result of the hard work of the Turkish Parliament that passed laws to meet necessary benchmarks for the opening of this chapter. The Turkish president immediately approved the law without even analyzing its content, upon a request by Turkey's chief negotiator in EU affairs. Both sides stretched the rules for the symbolic opening of this, the 13th chapter, to prove that the negotiations are, in fact, on track.


It's not by chance that we call this chapter opening symbolic. "It's very much important to show that the Turkey-EU process is on the right path especially at a moment when discussions on whether Turkey is drifting from the West hit the headlines," a senior Turkish diplomat was quoted as saying. This symbolism, however, does not have much time to survive.