Google Analytics

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Saturday, July 3, 2010

EDITORIAL 03.07.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month  july 03, edition 000557 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

  1. NEPAL IN TURMOIL AGAIN
  2. NAME GAME AS POLITICS
  3. PEACE NOW, WHAT LATER? - RAJIV DOGRA
  4. FOR WANT OF HUMILITY – AJIT BISHNOI
  5. IT'S TALK TIME AGAIN - SWARN KUMAR ANAND
  6. FORCE FOR LASTING PEACE - AJEY LELE
  7. THRUST ON MAKING BORDERS IRRELEVANT - AKHILESH B VARIAR

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. THEY SNOOP TO CONQUER
  2. A FAITH IN SHARED HUMANITY - SHERRY REHMAN
  3. PROFESSIONAL LEAGUES ENHANCE QUALITY
  4. LIMIT FOREIGN PLAYERS IN CLUBS - AJAY VAISHNAV
  5. FROM TRAGEDY TO A TEDIOUS FARCE - DILEEP PADGAONKA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. CRICKET IS OUR FOOTBALL
  2. SPOILT BRATS
  3. NO CHEF DE RESISTANCE AGAINST VEGETABLES
  4. NO LONGER ANONYMOUS

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. CASTING ABOUT
  2. FATAL INDIFFERENCE
  3. FOOD IN MOUTH
  4. CONTINENTAL DRIFT - BIBEK DEBROY
  5. TEA WITH THE CHIEFS - ARUN PRAKASH
  6. THOSE NEWS 'STORYS' - SAUBHIK CHAKRABARTI
  7. RESTORING A RUPTURED RELATIONSHIP - K. SUBRAHMANYAM
  8. LAHORE ATTACKED AGAIN - RUCHIKA TALWAR
  9. DARK DAYS FOR THE BIG MEN
  10. HOW THE BHOPAL VICTIMS WERE SOLD SHORT  - T.V. RAJESWAR

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. STAYING INTERESTED
  2. AN UNHEALTHY ROT
  3. OF FOOTBALL AND ECONOMIC STRATEGY - MICHAEL WALTON
  4. SHALE GAS CAN TRANSFORM ENERGY - NOOR MOHAMMAD
  5. RUBBER RACING - SANJEEB MUKHERJEE

THE HINDU

  1. NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET
  2. A NEW BENCHMARK?
  3. NITISH KUMAR'S ELUSIVE 'PATNAIK' MOMENT - VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM
  4. INSPIRE: BEYOND THE PALE - IAN BLACK
  5. THE DISCOMFITING SUBPLOT TO THE WORLD CUP'S RAINBOW NATION NARRATIVE - DAVID SMITH
  6. CONSULTATION ON CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT ON INDUS BASIN
  7. A TEST FOR LONGEVITY  - NICHOLAS WADE

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. J&K BOILS: DELHI MUST BACK OMAR
  2. NAXAL TANTRIC RITUALS - FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. DOOMED MODELS ON KILLER COCKTAILS - SHOBHAA DE
  4. NEW TRESS CIRCLE - KISHWAR DESAI

DNA

  1. THE SOCIAL AGENDA
  2. THE NATION SHOULD ADOPT THE MAOISTS' AREA - VENKATESAN VEMBU 
  3. COLMAR, THE ALSATIAN WINE CAPITAL - NIVEDITA MOOKERJI 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. CODE FOR SAFE TOURISM
  2. PAWAR AT ICC'S HELM
  3. SNOOPING FOR SECURITY
  4. FIGHTING LIMITED WARS - BY GEN V.P. MALIK (RETD)
  5. TV AND I - BY RAJ CHATTERJEE
  6. A MATTER OF COMPULSION  - MOHAN JAIN
  7. HOW A COMMON HC CAME INTO BEING - RAJINDAR SACHAR
  8. REMOVE CONSTITUTIONAL HINDRANCES FIRST

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. GE IN CHINA: FAUSTIAN BARGAIN

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL? - T N NINAN
  2. LESSONS FOR THE G20 - INDIRA RAJARAMAN
  3. DROPPED CATCHES OF MEDICAL HISTORY - DEVANGSHU DATTA
  4. THERE ARE BEGGARS AND BEGGARS - SUBIR ROY
  5. THE QUEERNESS OF E M FORSTER - V V
  6. THE OUTSIDER - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  7. REFORMING HEALTH COUNCILS - P ZACHARIAH
  8. ON MORAL LUCK AND HUMAN VULNERABILITY - GURCHARAN DAS

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. FOCUS ON RAISING OUTPUT  
  2. MUTUAL TRUST
  3. TIGER, TIGER, SERVES YOU RIGHT
  4. HAPPINESS AT WORK  - SRIKUMAR RAO
  5. 'OUR FOCUS IS ON VIABLE TECH'
  6. NEED TO RETHINK GLOBALISATION - S H VENKATRAMANI
  7. SOULFUL FOOD IS SAFE TOO - VITHAL C NADKARNI

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. J&K BOILS: DELHI MUST BACK OMAR  
  2. JINXED PLAN
  3. NAXAL TANTRIC RITUALS - BY FARRUKH DHONDY
  4. DOOMED MODELS IN KILLER NET - SHOBHAA'S TAKE
  5. NEW TRESS CIRCLE  - BY KISHWAR DESAI
  6. OZIL THE GERMAN - BY ROGER COHEN

THE STATESMAN

  1. HOME FIRES RAGE
  2. TRAIL OF BLOOD
  3. BENIGNO III
  4. KAYANI'S BID IN KABUL - RAJINDER PURI
  5. 'AIRPORT MODERNISATION VERY MUCH ON TRACK'
  6. ON RECORD
  7. DELHI DURBAR

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. ODES TO TENNIS
  2. UNDER WESTERN EYES  - RAMACHANDRA GUHA

DECCAN HERALD

  1. HALTING A MADNESS
  2. WHAT LIES AHEAD
  3. PAYING FOR A FREE LUNCH - S L RAO
  4. ONE ITEM DIET
  5. MAID OR BEING UNMADE - CHANDRIKA R KRISHNAN

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. THE POWER OF THE VETO PEN
  2. WELCOMING THE LAUREATE
  3. SENSIBLE RULES, SOON
  4. CONGRESS, SANCTIONS AND IRAN
  5. JULY FOURTH WEEKEND QUIZ - BY GAIL COLLINS

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. CONFIRM ELENA KAGAN
  2. OUR PAPER WELCOMES FOSTER
  3. NEW POLICE CHIEF BOBBY DODD
  4. LANCE CPL. TAYLOR RICHARDS
  5. A REGRETTABLE CONFRONTATION DEATH
  6. NEEDLESS TESTS AND TREATMENTS

I.THE NEWS

  1. DIRGE FOR DEVOTEES
  2. JOB CREATION
  3. SHAMEFUL
  4. THE GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES - ARIF NIZAMI
  5. WHAT HAS 'FREELY' CHANGED? - IJAZUL HAQ
  6. BUDGET'S 'SOCIAL FOOTPRINT' - DR SANIA NISHTAR
  7. FOCUSING ON THE PRIMARY - AZIZ ALI DAD
  8. HAUNTING ACQUITTALS - BABAR SATTAR
  9. SPANISH BURQA BAN - FAROOQ SULEHRIA

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. RETAINING YOUNG CIVIL SERVANTS
  2. COMPARING DASTIS WITH QUAID-I-AZAM
  3. TRAGEDY AT DATA DARBAR
  4. DIRE NEED TO COUNTER RAW'S TERRORISM - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  5. AF-PAK TWIN BROTHERS IN SEARCH OF PEACE - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  6. PAK-CHINA N-COOPERATION - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  7. MENACE OF CORRUPTION - SHANZEH IQBAL
  8. IRAQ LOOKS TO SPECTACULAR OIL BOOM - PATRICK COCKBURN

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. DU DAY
  2. UPGRADING MET OFFICE
  3. MISSING JOE..!
  4. SMES AND BRANDING BANGLADESH - MD. JOYNAL ABDIN
  5. ROAD SAFETY INFRASTRUCTURE - GOPAL SENGUPTA
  6. WHO LOST TURKEY - JOSCHKA FISCHER

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. A NEW CENTURY, A NEW ECONOMY
  2. RETURNING TO THE CENTRE TO RESUME ECONOMIC REFORM

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. GILLARD SHOULD NOW SEEK HER OWN MANDATE
  2. YOU'RE DREAMING OF A WARM CHRISTMAS
  3. PACT WITH MINERS CLEARS A PATH FOR THE ELECTION

THE GUARDIAN

  1. ELECTORAL REFORM: A VOTE OF PRINCIPLE
  2. UNTHINKABLE? SPORT FOR THE SAKE OF IT
  3. PAKISTAN: THE CRISIS OF PUNJAB

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. LOWER SUMMITS OF EXPECTATIONS

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. MUHAMMADIYAH MUST ADOPT RATIONAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM - DONNY SYOFYAN
  2. POLICE FACE EPIC FAILURE IN COUNTERING TERRORISM - PIERRE MARTHINUS
  3. INDONESIAN NUCLEAR ENERGY PLAN: A PEER REVIEW - SUNAN J. RUSTAM 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE PIONEER

EDITS

NEPAL IN TURMOIL AGAIN

MAOISTS SHOULD BE KEPT OUT OF POWER


The resurgence of political instability in Nepal is not good news for either the people of that country, waiting for the Constituent Assembly to complete its task and call parliamentary elections, nor for India which could do without additional turmoil and its concomitant violence in the neighbourhood. While Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has kept his part of the deal that was struck by the main political parties — the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) — to forge a consensus on extending the term of the Constituent Assembly by another year till the summer of 2011 by stepping down from office, the Maoists have been reluctant to fulfil their commitment. The CPN(M) had pledged to disband the Young Communist League and return all seized property, apart from dissociating the part from any form of militarism. A month after the Constituent Assembly's term was extended on May 28, the Maoists are yet to take any steps towards keeping their part of the deal. On the contrary, the YCL and other cadre of the CPN(M) continue with their extortionism and the seized property remains unreturned. Neither Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as 'Prachanda', nor his senior colleague, Mr Baburam Bhattarai has shown even the remotest inclination towards reining in the YCL goons or steering the CPN(M) away from the path of confrontation and abandoning the politics of disruption. If anything, the CPN(M) appears to be determined to use bullying tactics and the threat of unleashing street violence to regain control over the Government, which will prove to be disastrous and in no manner contribute towards the immediate task of the Constituent Assembly which is yet to draft a Constitution for Nepal's formal transition from an erstwhile Hindu kingdom to a secular republic. Mr Dahal may want to become Prime Minister again, but there is understandable reluctance on part of the other parties to let him hold the office which he had so cynically misused to push the Maoists' agenda of grabbing state power through undemocratic means. Had President Ram Baran Yadav not stood up to Mr Dahal when the latter wanted to sack the military chief for refusing to turn Nepal's Army into a Maoist front organisation, perhaps the Maoist flag would have been fluttering atop Singha Durbar by now.


Going by the public opinion as it prevails today, barring hardcore supporters of the CPN(M) nobody wants the Maoists heading a coalition Government once again. There are three reasons for this reluctance to see Mr Dahal taking over as Prime Minister. First, the people have seen through the Maoists' gameplan and are convinced that they have not given up their goal of setting up a Communist state. Second, the disruptionist ways of the Maoists, for which the people have suffered the most, have few takers among the masses. Third, Mr Dahal and his comrades suffer from a huge, unbridgeable trust deficit: Nobody believes them any more. So where does Nepal go from here? The best bet for the political parties would be to let the Nepali Congress head the new 'national consensus' Government. It's unlikely the Maoists would agree to this arrangement, but the CPN(UML), as also the smaller parties, would be well-advised to go along with the Nepali Congress. This may leave the new Government with a slender majority, but to let the Maoists have their way would be to only prolong the current political uncertainty and delay the Constitution-making process. That's in nobody's interest.

 

***************************************


THE PIONEER

EDITS

NAME GAME AS POLITICS

RECHRISTENING PLACES MAKES LITTLE SENSE


The bard may have truly believed, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But there's nothing so innocuous about politicians and political parties changing the names of streets, cities and entire districts: For them, the naming game is integral to furthering their partisan agenda. The CPI(M) did not rename Harrington Street as Ho Chi Minh Sarani simply to rid Kolkata of its colonial baggage but because the Marxists wanted to see the Americans at the US Consulate located there squirm in discomfort over their new address. Renaming Calcutta as Kolkata came much later, after Bombay had been renamed Mumbai, Madras became Chennai and Trivandrum was scrapped for Thiruvananthapuram. Bangalore's re-emergence as Bengaluru is of recent vintage, followed by Orissa's rediscovery of the Odiya origins of Odisha. Yet, the discarded names have neither disappeared nor been erased from public memory: Try asking for directions to Rajiv Chowk in New Delhi and you will get a fair idea of the folly of renaming places; Mullywood will never replace Bollywood no matter how hard the Thackeray brothers try; and, India's IT hub will forever remain Bangalore.


But who's to tell politicians that they are utterly wrong to rename places in the hope of making political capital out of it? As Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Ms Mayawati has used her considerable clout and power to rename roads, schools, colleges and universities after 'Dalit icons' and turn public land into Ambedkar Parks and memorials dedicated to herself much like Queen Hatshepsut did in Pharaonic Egypt. Now it's the turn of entire districts. The parliamentary constituency of Amethi, declared a separate district, now bears the name Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar; Kanpur Dehat has been rechristened Ramabai Nagar. True, BSP sympathisers could argue that if Andhra Pradesh can have Ranga Reddy district and Mr M Karunanidhi, in an earlier avatar as Chief Minister, could have renamed each district of Tamil Nadu after Dravidian 'icons' (a move undone by Ms J Jayalalithaa when she reconquered Fort St George) and the Congress cannot think beyond the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty when it comes to naming projects and programmes, then surely Ms Mayawati is entitled to showcasing Dalit empowerment. There is a catch though. Names of places are linked to local history, tradition or a momentous event; renaming, too, is usually a triumphalist assertion of provincialism. Neither Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj nor Ramabai had any links with either Amethi or Kanpur Dehat, which does not detract from the greatness and nobility embodied by both. Which brings us to the question: Couldn't Ms Mayawati have thought of a social reformer from Uttar Pradesh?

 

***************************************

THE PIONEER

EDITS

PEACE NOW, WHAT LATER?

RAJIV DOGRA


It has become fashionable, of late, to say that we can make optimum economic progress only if we are completely at peace with our entire neighbourhood. The entire neighbourhood is, of course, a verbal flourish to aid the larger case of seeking Pakistan's consent to live in peace with us.


Even that is a noble intent; a pursuit that should be unexceptionable ordinarily. But we do not live in ordinary times; terror, especially state-sponsored terror, has imposed a trick mirror in the conduct of inter-state relations. How, for instance, do we ensure peace with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, when official Pakistan itself eggs it on to launch attacks on Indian soil?


Moreover the fundamental premise that peace is a pre-requisite for economic progress may not stand close scrutiny. Our most consistent, and pleasing, rate of economic growth happened during the times of Kargil and Operation Parakram. Throughout the 1990s, and all through this decade, terror attacks have targeted the flower of our youth and our economic citadels. Yet, we have marched on.


The picture is nearly the same in the outside world. South Korea made impressive economic progress despite eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with its northern counterpart. The US and Western Europe kept posting high growth rates despite an arms race with the Eastern Bloc. In fact, some maintain the high spending on armaments boosted their economy. Perhaps there is some merit in that argument because the economic decline of the West began when there was no Eastern Bloc or its threat.


These examples can be multiplied because history has shown that periods of tension and competition have spurred growth. Still it is no one's case that there should be strife. At the same time, however, there should be a realistic appreciation of the ground reality. There, the simple truth is that you cannot conduct foreign policy with Pakistan on the principles of Mother Teresa.


Peace is a heady quest; it is often the temptation to seek a lasting legacy. But it is also an enormous challenge. Moreover peace cannot be achieved in vacuum. The other party must be equally committed to the cause, its spirit and its pursuit. One can't hope to achieve lasting peace just because of a whimsical turn of policy. Nations formulate their sovereign objectives and then pursue them steadily over years, decades and even for centuries. National interests tend to be long-term; gradual of necessity and steady in purpose. The Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77 were largely our coinage; and they had served us well for many decades. Therefore, we were steady in our policies; the pursuit of defined objectives had been the case with our foreign policy, too, till recently; till we started experimenting.


Suddenly, a few years ago the pace became dizzying. There was a new policy to suit each occasion. The speed and flexibility with which our policy began to change left many bewildered. Knee-jerk reactions such as the one in Sharm el-Sheikh can hardly be described as pursuit of permanent national interests. Despite such aberrations, if peace is pursued successfully there is no doubt that the rainbow of plenty awaits both sides. The gains may be considerable, at least that is said to be the essential raison d'être of the current exercise.

But this assumption is flawed on many counts. First, the record of human history militates against this exercise. With the rare exception of an Emperor like Ashoka, the history of the world has been one of tension, strife and war. Writing to Sigmund Freud in 1933, Albert Einstein had argued that "every attempt to eliminate war had ended in a lamentable breakdown… man has within him a lust for hatred and destruction". Freud agreed. He wrote back, "People are like animals. They solve their problems through use of force."


Second, you can make a real attempt at working towards long-term peace if there is a known and identifiable single counterpart. But in Pakistan's case there is the potent force of terror too. Unless the terrorists are invited to take part in the deliberations, there is no guarantee of a lasting peace. And inviting them would mean supping with the devil himself. There is no knowing how big a pound of flesh they would want to extract.

Third, the basic premise that peace would result in prosperity is flawed. Our value systems differ vastly, leaving little scope for a meaningful exchange. Billions of dollars in annual aid have made no difference to the Pakistani economy.

Like a sieve, it has a tremendous capacity to pass through its corrupt system all the money of the world. The other, unfortunate fact is that the only industry that Pakistan has perfected over the years is its terror machine. And the principal commerce many of its people have engaged in is the drug trade. Its singular tourist attraction might comprise a terror tour of Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.


Fourth, Pakistan has yet to honour any of its bilateral agreements with India except to the extent it suits its interest. That's why the Indus Water Treaty has stood the test of time — because it was so heavily crafted in favour of Pakistan. There are a number of other issues that compel consideration and serious debate but suffice it to draw attention to the internal dynamics of that state.


If a society has been unable to live in peace with itself; if its disparate regional, cultural, linguistic and social compositions have not found it possible to harmonise, if its ruling establishment continues to fight for the spoils, if vendetta has been the established political credo within and the essential ballast for interference outside, how can we hope to reconcile all these into a shape and form that accepts accommodation with others as an acceptable way of life?


What we seek is a fundamental change. What Pakistan is looking for is immediate gains. Therein lies the basic difference in approach. No wonder then, and in absence of anything concrete, a South Block official was reported to have told a national daily, "We saw a change in the body language of the Pakistani Prime Minister in Thimpu. This gives us hope for the talks." Let's hope there is firmer straw which we are clinging to.

No one advocates that there be a state of tension. It is nobody's case that we should live in belligerence with any of our neighbours. That is not at issue. All right thinking people would want predictability in our relations with others so that we can get on with our lives. But predictability is the keyword. After all what is the point of a Sharm el-Sheikh-like declaration, if it is followed by the Pune bombing which killed so many of our innocent youth? Stretching the logic further, isn't it a valid inquiry that what was the need to cut off dialogue after 26/11, if we were to return to the negotiating table without the other side conceding anything? The portents unfortunately aren't good, because the other side is unlikely to walk even an extra inch.


Engagement can't be an end in itself. If national interests are mutually contradictory, if there is a fundamental divide between them; then no amount of dialogue will align them. Still, there is no need to step out of currents of cooperation. But we must know how to steer those currents. Otherwise we will be swept away by the temporary eddies made by others.

 

The writer is a former Ambassado

 

. ***************************************THE PIONEER

EDITS

FOR WANT OF HUMILITY

AJIT BISHNOI


Both the visual and print media are forever breaking stories about people in important places falling from grace or even getting into trouble for their wrongdoings. Why does this happen? Aren't successful people intelligent enough not to make big mistakes? And why does such a thing happen all too frequently?


The mystery will be revealed if we understand the sequence of what happens. We are all souls and equal in that respect. However, in every birth the implements — the body, mind and intelligence — given to us are different. These are the results of one's pious and impious deeds in one's past lives. Pious deeds bring about bodily strength, consciousness and sharp intelligence, whereas impious deeds result in a weak body, polluted consciousness and a dull mind. Successful people are blessed with good implements. But their success only comes with the active help from others and also via divine forces. This should be clear to an intelligent person, but in order to look great, one ignores the contribution of others. Logically speaking, how can a tiny soul achieve so much? But in order to hog all the credit one pleads ignorance to this fact.


A successful person can go three ways — continue in the same vein, while giving credit to whoever helped them or is helping them; be content with success but not acknowledge others' contributions; or begin to exploit others. The moment this attitude of hogging all the limelight and even treating others with disdain is adopted, one enters a downward spiral. People who helped such a person begin to take a dislike to them and may even become jealous. Divine powers withdraw their support. One makes mistakes driven by lust which overpowers intelligence. And one assumes oneself bigger than the tiny soul that one actually is.


How should one prevent this tragedy? The answers should be obvious to an intelligent person. Always remember one's identity as a tiny soul and remain humble. Learn to give credit to others, even erring on their side. Never lust to enjoy any success: Just enjoy the feeling of doing what you did. Additionally, offer the results to god. This is easily done by devoting one's mind and intelligence to god (Bhagavad Gita #12.8).


**************************************


THE PIONEER

EDITS

IT'S TALK TIME AGAIN

INDIA-PAKISTAN DIALOGUE IS NO LONGER ABOUT BILATERALISM, BUT IS A QUADRILATERAL OF INTERESTS. MANMOHAN SINGH'S YEARNING FOR INDIA'S 'TRUE POTENTIAL' IS SHAPED BY THIS TRUISM: BUT DOES HE HAVE THE DIPLOMATIC DEPTH TO PURSUE IT?

SWARN KUMAR ANAND


New Delhi's Islamabad outreach, denying persistent scepticism and overriding popular domestic opinion against reviving dialogue with Pakistan unless the rogue neighbour brings the masterminds behind 26/11 to justice, is reminiscent of the early 2000s. Atal Bihari Vajpayee also believed statesmanship could achieve what hard-nosed diplomacy couldn't. The rest is history, but has anybody taken lessons?


The past week saw Home Minister P Chidambaram making an epochal visit to Pakistan and claiming to have extracted a pledge from Islambad that "India will not be disappointed this time". This is nothing to what Vajpayee squeezed out of Pervez Musharraf in January 2004. Then, the world was treated to the spectacle of a Pakistani military dictator (not slippery democrat) eating humble pie by not only promising a terrorism-free future, but also retracting old positions on J&K.


Chidambaram has indicated that there would be "concrete actions" against Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) militants and some people in the Pakistani establishment before the two countries' foreign ministers meet on July 15. However, Pakistan's admission that it cannot tackle all militant groups at once, and its hesitation to promise any action against Lashkar founder and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed represents a puzzle. And that puzzle is: how far is India willing to go without anything in return? Hadn't India conceded too much by compromising on its basic, post-26/11 premise that terrorism would be the core issue in bilateralism?


What should India learn in this situation? Saturday Special features this week the distinguished foreign policy analyst Ajey Lele, who writes (Main article) that as yet there has been no significant action from the Pakistani side to demonstrate fecundity in honouring promises related with 26/11. Inherent is the assumption that New Delhi's "dossier diplomacy" has failed. Pakistan is still not honest in its efforts to bringing the guilty to the book. With this being the case, it is worth the effort for the Indian administration to continue talking with Pakistan?

Till recently, Pakistan has been fooling the United States into believing that its interests are threatened only by al-Qaeda and Taliban, while it itself continued nurturing other terror organisations operating in Pakistan as an integral part of its foreign policy.


Given the fact that US pressure has led to the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan, it is also necessary to assess the efficacy of America's Pakistan policy. The last eight years of massive American expenditure on Pakistan has literally gone down the drain as it has not led to Americans being left any safer from Islamic terrorism — as demonstrated in (New York) Times Square bomb plot whose principal mover was a Pakistani. Pakistan's double-faced establishment has not been successfully persuaded into ending its support for the al-Qaeda, and has actually facilitated Taliban's efforts to regain power in Afghanistan. As the US has no interest in enhancing civilian capabilities through investments in the policing, human development and establishment of rule of law in Pakistan, the ground situation has not changed — the Army still calls the shots.

Post 26/11, when India was mulling options of limited war on terror camps in Pakistan, the US feared that Islamabad would convert the India threat perception to its advantage. Washington decided that even a restricted conflict by India would give enough excuse to Pakistan to move its forces from its western borders to the east, thus jeopardising the US's prospects in Afghanistan. Anticipating India-Pakistan hostilities as a hurdle to its interests, the Obama administration made all efforts to persuade both countries to resume the dialogue process, the foundation of which was laid in a joint statement issued by India and Pakistan at Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Now, when the Obama administration finds itself in a fix over its disastrous AfPak policy, and is desperate to make an exit from war-torn Afghanistan, it wants to develop a regional strategy that emphasises a Pakistan-India and a Pakistan-Afghanistan rapprochement. India's involvement in the region is critical to stabilising the region, and, therefore, in its infinite wisdom, America believes India should be "engaged".


However, it's not only US pressure which has coerced Pakistan to pledge a crackdown on anti-India forces, there was also 'palpable fear' in Pakistan over the consequences of another 26/11-type attack in India, especially when the US was convinced of a Pakistani hand following the confession of LeT operative David Headley, whom the Indian intelligence agencies quizzed in Chicago.


On the other hand, India's likely emergence as the third largest economy in the next few decades has substantially changed the outlook of world powers. India's new-found economic strength has worked as insurance for New Delhi against American heavy-handedness. However, no matter how cordial Indo-US relations grow in future, it is imperative for India to develop its own independent policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over the past few years, India has emerged as a major investor and partner for the new Afghanistan. As India and the world are facing Islamist terrorism, our foreign policy focus should be on India's traditional friends and allies in the Muslim world, and thereby challenge Pakistan in its own sphere of influence.

In the prevailing scenario, it seems that resuming dialogue with Pakistan is the best possible solution to the deadlock on several bilateral issues, especially at a time when Pakistan is headed by a strong civilian government which is ready to deliver under the carrot and stick policy of the US. Though Manmohan Singh's hope that engaging Pakistan would help India achieve its 'full potential' is misplaced, nobody in India would quarrel with the need for resumption of dialogue.


Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that India and Pakistan should build on any "positive development" in any issue, including Kashmir and look at ways to make progress where it has not been achieved. Despite Pakistan's reassertion that India should not focus on only 26/11 perpetrators, the no-nonsense Chidambaram rejected the statement saying "it is myopic not to pay attention to the 26/11 attacks as the episode had the effect of rupturing ties between the two countries".


However, as the interests of India and Pakistan are not identical, the future of the dialogue process, as well as relations between the two countries, depends on India's immediate concerns — how Pakistan deals with anti-terror organisations, especially those involved in the 26/11 Mumbai massacre. So, whatever the American concerns, India should not abandon its primal position that 'normalisation' is not a one-side affair: Pakistan must first pass the litmus test by taking steps against Hafiz Saeed.

 

 The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer

 

***************************************


THE PIONEER

OPED

FORCE FOR LASTING PEACE

FLIP FLOPS ON "DIALOGUE" WITH PAKISTAN HAVE ALMOST BECOME PART OF INDIA'S DIPLOMATIC TRADITION. TO MAKE THIS EEK'S CHIDAMBARAM INITIATIVE LOOK MEANINGFUL, INDIA SHOULD PERSIST WITH A CARROT AND STICK POLICY.

AJEY LELE


The two-day visit by Home Minister P Chidambaram to Pakistan this week was for the ostensible purpose of fulfilling a SAARC formality — a routine meeting of member countries' internal security ministers. But, the fact that New Delhi agreed to a sidelines meeting between Chidambaram and his Pakistani counterpart, Rehman Malik, made it appear as the first "ministerial visit" from the Indian side to Pakistan since 26/11. Therefore, the event was pregnant with possibilities.


Before he set out for Pakistan, Chidambaram had approved the release of four Pakistani prisoners as a goodwill gesture. This created the right atmospherics. Here was the Home Minister of India, the guarantor of law and order, reaching out to Pakistan. And that too even after Pakistan had not honoured a single commitment since the Mumbai carnage, made either to India or to the world community.


India had decided to resume talks with Pakistan which were suspended as an aftermath of 26/11. However, the 30-month period that separates that infamous event with Chidambaram's historic visit was full of disappointment for India. Leave alone Pakistan, none of the world powers, including the United States, had bothered to leverage their clout with Pakistan to force it to at least admit to its role in the massacre, leave alone book the masterminds whose status as free men in Pakistan mocked sensibilities everywhere.


What compelled India, whose Prime Minister had unequivocally linked terrorism to the dialogue process, to abandon that position. India has now returned to the dialogue process to supposedly reduce the alleged 'trust deficit' between the two countries, and Chidambaram's visit could be said to be the first high-level effort in that direction. According to reports, Chidambaram handed over a list of seven operatives who India believes were involved in 26/11, and against whom Pakistan had not taken action so far. They are Sajjid Mir, Abdul Rehman, Pasha, Brigadier Riyaz, Abu Khafa, Al Kama and Abu Hamza. India received the names of the suspects during the interrogation of David Coleman Headley, LeT operative in the US.


India and the world community had expected Pakistan to take some credible action against the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and other agencies involved in 26/11, but received only rebuff. Rehman Malik had claimed that it was "not possible" for either Pakistan or India to control the likes of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed. This had led to grave questions over Pakistan's seriousness in engaging India. As yet no significant action has been seen from the Pakistani side to demonstrate their commitment to closing down agencies involved in terrorism in India. Since 2001, Pakistan has been pulling wool over world leaders' eyes by undertaking half-hearted measures, but never cared to rein in the ringleaders of these outfits.


Now, by agreeing to return to the dialogue table, New Delhi has tacitly admitted that its 'dossier diplomacy' has failed. This is a repeat of the early 2000s when the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee held firm to a no-talks-without-end-to-terrorism position which ultimately yielded nothing. Vajpayee agreed to hold a summit with Pervez Musharraf in July 2001 and when Pakistan did not make compromises even after that, decided to return to the old stand. After 9/11 and the Parliament attack of December that year, India practically broke off diplomatic links with Pakistan and assembled 8 million troops all along the border. Again, this resolve petered out and India agreed to participate in the 2004 SAARC summit in Islamabad.

This time too, the valid question arises: is it worth the effort for the Indian government to engage Pakistan at a civilised level? The breadth of diplomacy in South Asia has changed dramatically over the past two years. Along with India and Pakistan, the fates of two more nations, the United States and Afghanistan have become inextricably linked to the return of civility in the Indo-Pak track. Barack Obama's AfPak policy has not yielded the desired results; wave after wave of Western military offensive in Taliban country has produced nothing but body bags bound for America. This is owed in large part to Pakistan's failure, intention or otherwise, to cut off the Taliban-al-Qaeda's reservoirs of strength in its territory. Obama tried for a while to suppress the Taliban in Pakistan through Drone attacks, but this proved counter-productive. Traditional means of putting down terrorism was only leading to more terrorism.


Pakistan has been practically blackmailing Washington that unless India is prevailed upon to cease its threatening postures over 26/11, it cannot be counted upon as a 100 per cent ally in the war against the Taliban. Therefore, the United States had no option but to use its best persuasion skills with New Delhi to see if the deadlock could be broken.


India too needed a breakthrough. After Chidambaram took over the reins at the Home Ministry, the stature of the department has grown significantly. Today, it is known as a no-nonsense department. The Home Ministry's mandate is significant: it has to handle a wide array of issues from internal security to terrorism. India needed to reopen diplomatic engagement while simultaneously hold on to — and even augment —its 'tough response' to terrorism of all hues.


The June 29 attack by Maoists on a CRPF detachment in Dhorai in Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh, which caused 26 deaths, has served as a reminder of the inadequacies of India's internal security infrastructure. It was the third such incident in the past two months since the infamous Dantewada massacre of April 6. These incidents show that the Maoist threat has acquired a much larger dimension than earlier understood.

In Jammu & Kashmir this week, mobs took over demonstrations against the security forces on the streets of Srinagar and other towns. It has become amply clear that any incident, big or small, would be used by anti-India elements to their advantage. Many of India's security problems have a long history and they do not have any quick fix solutions.


Most of the internal security problems demand socio-political solutions. However, it is one thing to find an acceptable political solution to internal insurgency and quite another to make it work with a foreign power. It is here that India needs to apply caution. It is a known fact that at least at this point of time, war is not an option to resolve issues against Pakistan. This leaves diplomacy as the only available option. However, India needs to engage Pakistan on its own terms.


While speaking in Pakistan Chidambaram may be politically and diplomatically correct when he mentioned that India is not questioning intentions but are looking for outcomes. However, if Pakistan's intentions are truthful then the outcomes would automatically be honourable and this is what India needs to boldly project.

 

The author is a Research Fellow at IDSA


***************************************


THE PIONEER

OPED

THRUST ON MAKING BORDERS IRRELEVANT

THE NEW MANTRA SWEEPING THE INDO-PAK TRACK SEEKS TO CAPITALISE ON THE CRITICAL WATER SITUATION WHICH THREATENS AGRICULTURE OF PAKISTAN AND NORTH-WEST INDIA. QUESTION IS: WASN'T ALL THIS TRIED UNDER VAJPAYEE?

AKHILESH B VARIAR


Indo-Pakistan relations are warming after being in deep freeze for almost a year-and-a-half after 26/11. With the recent meeting of foreign secretaries being described as 'cordial' and 'constructive' and more importantly as being an attempt to 'understand each others' position', the foundations for the upcoming foreign ministers' meeting in July is being laid. Both foreign secretaries have refrained from outlining a definite roadmap for future cooperation suggesting a need for 'creative solutions' and new contours. These talks are not novel but what is important is the realisation that India and Pakistan's core interests are convergent and this is time for capitalisation on the commonalities.


Territorial issues involving Kashmir and others, like demilitarisation on the Siachen glacier, have a long and winding history which would involve considerable deliberation and excruciatingly slow progress. However other issues could be addressed. Rapidly changing realities in both countries have caused the dynamics of the approach to certain issues to change substantially. Nowhere has this been better highlighted than in the 'terrorism' issue.


Most terrorist organisations continued to be beneficiaries of state patronage as a tool of asymmetric warfare against India until the late 1990s. However, post-Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the global jihad movement became increasingly America centric. Pakistan, being an ally to the American war in Afghanistan, also became a target. This is evidenced by the present situation in Pakistan which has been victim of a spate of terrorist attacks. Symbolic among these was the attack on the Army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Other attacks included those on the Manawan police academy which was part of the three synchronised strikes on October 2009 in Lahore killing close to 38 people and injuring many. These suggests the changing dynamics of the state's relations with militant outfitsPakistan has made progress in its campaign against the Taliban in North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP), now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Given the inexorable links between the ethnic Pashtun and Punjab Taliban, Pakistan would have to take the fight into its heartland in south and central Punjab. Pakistan has taken action in the north-west primarily against the groups which colluded against the state machinery. However, there are still many 'India centric' outfits and the lack of action against the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and its front face, the Jamaat-Ud-Dawa (JuD), proven by inaction against LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, who continues to address public rallies and incite anti-India sentiments, has left India deeply concerned. Indian and Pakistani interests would converge if Pakistan decided to dismantle the terror network as a monolithic entity instead of targeting the groups which pose a threat to it alone.


The region is already water stressed, with various agencies, notable among them NASA, suggesting rapid groundwater depletion from North-West India and a Woodrow Wilson Centre report highlighting the criticality of the water situation in Pakistan. Both countries depend on the Indus river system for its agricultural needs. Water has been cited by Pakistan as one of its primary concerns and there is a comprehensive mechanism in the form of the Indus Water Treaty to deal with disputes related to it. Recent examples of the successful resolution of the Baghlihar issue and the ongoing discussions on the Kishenganga project are proofs of success of the treaty. This treaty must be implemented in letter and spirit.


In the near future it is the perception of water scarcity rather than scarcity itself which could be a cause for considerable strife whether in the Sindh region of Pakistan or the Rajasthan and Punjab regions of India. Water management programmes, transfer of technology like drip irrigation and awareness programmes on water usage could be ventures that could be initiated jointly.


It has been mentioned that India has been pushed into these talks because Ne Delhi wants a stake in the Afghanistan solution. This is far from the truth. India does not view Indo-Pakistan relations through an Afghanistan prism. The complexity and relevance of Indo-Pak relations far outweigh any Indian concerns for strategic leverage in Afghanistan. India only wants a stable and independent Afghanistan, and if Pakistan were to look beyond theoretical concepts of strategic depth it would see reason for a stable Afghanistan.


These talks have been conceived and propelled by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as this is the first step in his vision of economic integration following the maxim: "if borders cannot be changed, they must be made irrelevant."

Perceptions on either side would play a critical role in shaping the course of the relations. The media, which has been inclined to inject nationalistic fervour in the coverage of the issue, would have to be more responsible, emphasising on the positive and being wary of being treated like political pawns in the Indo-Pak quagmire. Terrorism, water and Afghanistan form facets of the wide range of issues which allow possible collaboration. These include trade and commerce, energy sharing, increased transport, communication links and simplified visa procedures.


One option is 60 more years of bloodshed, incessant rhetoric, drought, proxy wars and shackled status quo over land which has more security people than civilians, over water, which gets wasted and flows into the sea and over a neighbouring country which is already ravaged by years of war. The other option is respect, peace, flourishing trade, economic growth, better perceptions and understanding. The world accepts that this century belongs to Asia, what do we choose to make of it?


The choice is ours.

 The author is Researcher, Observer Research Foundation

 

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDIT PAGE

THEY SNOOP TO CONQUER

 

Those good old Cold War days! That's when arch-"enemies" dreaming world domination were easily recognisable, as in Ian Fleming's spy novels. With signature baldpates, they stroked meowing angora cats while plotting the free world's nemesis. They listened to music on the nuke box, preferably rocket roll. They followed warhead instead of heart. And they had unforgettable names like Blofeld. If super-villains in turn sent baddies after the playboy of the (free) western world Bond, James Bond they too got busted. For, evil secret agents then had distinguishing features: metal claws, pools full of flesh-eating piranha and nameplates bearing "Dr No". How could sleuth-slayers hit and miss?


Spies, like diamonds, are forever. Why then has it got so mighty hard to tell them apart from us or to know if they come from Russia, with love?


Take the alleged spy-ring just busted in America. It's threatening to re-erect the Berlin Wall between east and west, despite bonhomous burger-chomping by the US and Russian presidents. If the spy story has any substance, people may start doubting every ordinary Tom, Dick and dirty Harry in their suburban backyards. The seemingly unremarkable folks the FBI netted had melted so well into the larger community in four cities that, post their arrest, neighbours everywhere are profiling one another. Who knows, a local halwa-maker could get nabbed tomorrow as modern-day Mata Hari. Or a Residents' Welfare Association luminary could turn out to have a Bourne identity.


Counter-espionage-wallahs and RWAs, unite. Our cyber and gated communities need protecting. As if computer hackers targeting PMOs aren't bad enough, we've to brace for Trojan horses. These social hackers seek friends - read sub-agents - among policymakers, think-tankers, corporate honchos, tech wizards, R&AW dealers, MI-sixers and indeed any secret pilgrim who'll tell them what it takes to be CIA! They then send coded messages (hidden in family photos or Mickey Mouse graphics) on such brain-picked intelligence to designated handlers. That's how enemy camps learn of things like, say, zealously guarded Made In India halwa recipes or official secrets even RTI warriors can't access. And while in "deep cover", the sleepers lead humdrum lives. Much like some ex-CPMwallahs are doing, having boarded Mamatadi's political Duronto.

 

What have Bengal's reds got to do here, you ask. Well, the Cold War between Marx-men and Mamatadi is hotting up. At this time, it's been noted that Left bosses seem curiously unperturbed by desertions from their ranks. Many red card carriers are becoming Trinamul's green card holders, without riling their Big Brothers. So, speculation is rife about the deserters' true mission. Are they really saying, gimme shelter? Or are they going across the Iron Curtain to ferret out sensitive info on Didi's poll-related war plans? Snoop theorists point to one discrepancy. Some defectors apparently have two party identities, one red, one green. Aren't similar personality disorders noted when secret agents become double agents?


Cold warriors on two sides of the Bengal Wall better worry. They may now have a common war cry: "Halla Mole!

 

***************************************


THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDIT PAGE

A FAITH IN SHARED HUMANITY

The nexus between state identity and religion is always a dangerous link. When citizens are massacred and abused on the status of their religious identity, then the slide into bestiality is no longer a heartbeat away. It is firmly among us. At this point only unmitigated public outrage and a matching state response put us back in the league of the civilised and, therefore, human.


Massacre of Ahmadis in Lahore is not the first event to have exposed faultlines in the crafting of a national identity in Pakistan. The Christian pogrom at Gojra in 2009 where the police provided impunity to the attackers, instead of protection to the victims, did just the same. Equally disturbing is the level and scale of ambiguity from several political parties on the action that governments need to take to protect their citizens.


Of course, many voices were raised at the brutal attack on May 28, but a religious party actually had the audacity to exhort minorities to live within their implicitly secondary status in Pakistan. The parliament rallied eventually to voice condemnation but, even among the heartland of non-denominational parties from Punjab, the reluctance exposed the rot at the heart of the promise. One public official from Punjab actually said that he could not even remove the banners inciting hate against the Ahmadis. We cannot handle the repercussions of that, he openly confessed.


This admission of state inability to punish minority-haters is no small event. It reinforces the belief that, like the murderers at Gojra, the Ahmadi-killers too will remain unpunished. It tears the mask from the conceit that in Pakistan, despite its contested identity, the government will at least strive to adhere to some of the fundamental rights of equal citizenship enshrined in the Constitution to all minorities.


Of course, these notional equalities too were brought into challenge by the 18th constitutional amendment which, despite its welcome thrust at restoring many entitlements including the right for minorities to worship "freely" reversed some critical ones, by creating an obligation to be Muslim to be president or prime minister. This clearly states that, according to the Constitution now, the right to represent Pakistan in its top elected offices can only go to Muslims. Will we one day only allow a particular sect of Muslims to represent Pakistan? Because if we continue on these lines, that is the next logical step on a slippery slope of concessions. No one should be surprised that Shia doctors are the target of another grisly round of planned exterminations in Karachi.

Violence gains velocity in an atmosphere of impunity. Quite simply, in the absence of state action, there is little opposition to the narrative that always shifts the debate off-centre from the rights of Pakistani citizens. On all the television channels, religious leaders pop up to cite the primacy of religious law, undeterred by the fact that there is no one single codified Islamic law, to subvert the polar axis of the discourse to a privatised view of justice.

The rights of citizens as guaranteed under the Constitution get left far behind, while the counter-narrative from civil society and isolated political voices based on recourse in the Constitution remains unbuttressed by support from the state.


Inertia at a time when moral and political choices have to be made amounts to complicity with turpitude. The government has a unique opportunity to begin reversals of this embrace of insanity. The Constitution protects minorities very explicitly. While it can certainly do more, even a token adherence to a slew of clauses particularly Article 20 which allows "each citizen to have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion" can go a long way in shutting down vitriol against citizens who peacefully worship according to their faith.

The courts too can and should use these provisions to take suo motu notice of such outrages in the name of religiosity. So far the superior courts have remained silent on the flagrant violation of the Constitution.


Pakistan's government can start by following up on the review of the 'blasphemy laws' promised last year. We wilfully embrace insanity if we provide impunity for persecution of our minorities, if we pamper militancy on the one hand, and denounce it on the other. If the provincial budget of the Punjab government grants money to banned terrorist outfits, even if it is to their charitable wings, then we are truly embracing insanity. Because this is no political leader using extremist votes to buy power. This is institutionalised support to the same outfits we have banned.


Such actions empower the very forces the Pakistan government and army is engaged in fighting at a very heavy cost. It is a negation of the tremendous sacrifice we as a nation are making, of 3,000 people killed by terrorists since last year, of the children still living in refugee camps, of the fear that stalks our streets after thousands of bombs detonate in reprisals to state operations against militants. It is a negation of the democratic, humane part of Pakistan.


Our post-colonial state identity may be ambiguous, but it is precisely this space that can be used as an opportunity to steer our fragile nationhood in another direction.


The writer is a member of Pakistan's parliament, and former federal minister for information.

 

***************************************


THE TIMES OF INDIA

VIEW

PROFESSIONAL LEAGUES ENHANCE QUALITY

 

Even as the soccer world looks ahead to see who'll win the World Cup quarter-finals, the losers so far are looking back, in anger. Following England and Italy's dismal performance, politicians in the two countries have been quick to blame what they call 'club culture' and 'extreme commercialisation' of domestic leagues. Former British culture secretary Andy Burnham and Italian minister Roberto Calderoli argue that, because lucrative football clubs attract players from all over the world, domestic leagues are failing to hone home-grown talent. Nothing is further from the truth. No matter what sport it is, everytime a national team loses a tournament, the standard argument about commercialisation is bandied about. Most of those pushing this logic do not have a clue about professional sport.


The world over, professional sports leagues have done more to boost quality in sport than decades of government-sponsored programmes. This holds true as much for the English Premier League (EPL) as our cricket IPL. Both have allowed for greater financial investment in sport that has gone on to strengthen domestic sporting infrastructure. Again, professional sports leagues and clubs generate interest in the game. There's no denying IPL has taken cricket popularity in India to new heights. This will ensure that youngsters are tempted to take up cricket as a career, guaranteeing a steady supply of fresh talent.


Similarly, the criticism about foreign players playing in professional football leagues doesn't cut ice. In fact, playing with reputed international players provides a great learning opportunity for domestic players. The bottom line is this: winning and losing are part of the game. If a team loses a tournament, it doesn't mean that professional leagues are to blame. Politicians in England, Italy and elsewhere will do well to discard negative thinking.

 

***************************************


THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

LIMIT FOREIGN PLAYERS IN CLUBS

 

Blame the ignominious exit of England and Italy from the World Cup on a blatantly commercialised football club culture, which has failed to nurture home-grown talent. The EPL and Serie A with the likes of players like Maicon, Carlos Tevez and Diego Milito may claim to be the most successful and professionally organised club leagues. But their single-minded pursuit of success, with a heavy reliance on overseas players, has come at the expense of national sides. While title-holders Italy failed to reach even the knockout stages of this year's tournament, 25 players of the eight teams playing in the quarter-finals in South Africa figure in Serie A. The EPL is not far behind with 21 players in these teams.


Too many foreign players brought in at high prices mean narrowed opportunities and less exposure for local players. This further constrains choices for national sides. Naturally, the countries in question end up with ageing teams to play the World Cup, as in the case of Italy. If Germany and Spain are doing well and have a large pool of talented players, it is because their players get ample opportunities in the leagues. Besides, gruelling club seasons take a toll in the form of injuries and fatigue for players.


True, football is a global sport and overseas players bring skills, money and glamour to these leagues. But a club culture mentality cannot substitute for commitment to nation. Teams at the highest level of the sport, such as the World Cup, represent their countries and compete for national glory. At the most, soccer leagues could follow the example of IPL in cricket, which at least has clear guidelines on a team's composition. IPL's system of limiting foreign participation can be said to benefit everyone, foreign and domestic players alike as well as their respective national boards.

 

***************************************


THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

FROM TRAGEDY TO A TEDIOUS FARCE

If the expulsion of Jaswant Singh from the BJP last August was a tragedy, his return to the party fold bore the hallmarks of a tedious farce. Reviled by the leadership for his views on Mohammad Ali Jinnah, he was shown the door without even the elementary courtesy of giving him an opportunity to state his case. That, in its eyes, was a trivial, procedural matter which could be by-passed given the gravity of Singh's misdemeanour: he had shown the temerity to praise a man who, in the sangh parivar's lexicon, was an arch villain responsible for the partitioning of Mother India.


The apostate's conduct in the wake of his expulsion needs to be recalled. He used every possible platform to vent his outrage at the humiliation he had to endure. Here and there he dropped dark hints that a party that could not summon the nerve to explore unorthodox ideas was well and truly on the road to perdition. But he also conveyed the impression that what mattered to him most was not the loaves and fishes of office but his honour.

Proud to the point of conceit about his Rajput heritage, he left no one in doubt that he would not rest until he exposed the BJP leaders for what they were: shallow men plumbing the depths of intrigue. He was determined to walk tall come what may. Along the way, sporting an air of bemused detachment, he would watch his erstwhile colleagues buffeted hither and thither by one crisis after another.


It wasn't a pretty sight at all. Leaders, young and old, engaged in a reckless scramble to retain plum jobs and position themselves for a higher calling, wracked the party from within. Allies, notably in Jharkhand and Bihar, proved to be feisty. Some walked out of the alliance, others raised tantrums and were duly rewarded. Meanwhile, the new leader of the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat, broke tradition to let the BJP know in loud and clear terms that his word, and his word alone, was a command that the party could defy at its peril. No less ominous, the BJP's boast that it adhered to the highest norms of probity fell flat once it became known that it was in cahoots with those who looted the nation's mineral wealth.


None of this was in evidence when the party leadership welcomed Singh back into its lap in the full glare of the media. Not a squeak was heard about the insulting manner of his expulsion or about the apostate's hurt and humiliation at that time. Instead, his baritone voice quivering with emotion, he announced that a sense of gratitude had replaced them. L K Advani, who was party to the expulsion, expressed his sense of relief. The BJP president, Nitin Gadkari, sought Singh's guidance in strategic and foreign affairs. In a refrain reminiscent of vintage Hindi tearjerker films, the past, all agreed in one voice, was the past. Happy days were here again.


Or were they? Since no questions were allowed at this media event, no one could ask whether any procedure was followed to revoke the expulsion. Was the whim of a few leaders enough to decide such a momentous issue? Moreover, the nation was left to wonder where the sangh parivar now stood on the Jinnah controversy. Had it forgiven the architect of Pakistan for his trespasses?


Other, more portentous issues could not be raised either. Many political parties are encouraging younger people, often the progeny of established leaders, to assume greater responsibilities. The BJP, however, appears to be on a recruiting spree among those who, true to the highest value cherished by Hindus, renunciation, should have hung up their boots but have chosen not to. With Singh's return and the earlier reinduction of Ram Jethmalani, the average age of the BJP leadership has soared.


All that the party faithful must now hope for is that Gadkari will live up to the claims made about him on the official website of the BJP: 'a visionary with great ideas and innovative approach (sic), an able administrator who believes in attaining results, an iconic leader for the party workers'. One can almost hear Narendra Modi sharpen his knife and whisper: Amen!

 

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

HINDUSTAN TIMES

OURTAKE

CRICKET IS OUR FOOTBALL

ND WHY MAJORITY-OBSESSED INDIA SHOULD LEARN TO REVEL IN INDIVIDUALS OVER THE HERD

 

Like teenaged Harry Potter fans squealing with joy that J.K. Rowling's books sell like no other consumable item, Indian cricket fans have busted a shirt-button or two with pride when they heard earlier this week that most Indians prefer to watch, well, cricket over World Cup football. That's like Americans getting mighty chuffed to find that most Americans prefer following the capers of Paris Hilton to that of Rakhi Sawant. One could also be mistaken that with Sharad Pawar taking over as the International Cricket Council (ICC) president on Friday, fobbing off some `white guy's' nomination, we witnessed payback for Mahatma Gandhi being thrown off the train at Pietermaritzburg station. But on a slightly more serious note, what the TAM Peoplemeter System, which counted TV viewership among Indians aged above 4 (we'd love to know what Indians between 0 and 4 prefer to watch), actually confirmed is the obvious value of three things: localisation, localisation and localisation. As for Mr Pawar following Jagmohan Dalmiya's booted-safari suited footsteps, only two things were in play: politics and commerce.

 

It's easy enough to bring in that chestnut of an `India growing in power and status' to explain why cricket is topmost on our minds and why the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the new East India Company with the ICC as its pocket borough. But this could be, paradoxically, the right time to question India's distinct herd mentality and the banal comfort that we, as a nation, take in numbers. If Bollywood movies had been immensely popular, what did it matter -so went the old refrain -if they had been immensely childish and silly? The logic was that it catered to our taste, as if Indians not hurrahing Jeetendra in Bidaai were being anti-national. Thankfully, it took some filmmakers within mainstream Hindi films, to point out that popular rubbish was being dished out as the only `local' fare -as if beyond chana kulcha the only choice one is left with is ravioli.

 

That cricket is our football -like Hindi filmi music is our rock'n'roll and Indian Chinese cuisine is our default restaurant khana -is as obvious as the day not being the night. But to pitch most viewers watching cricket as opposed to football in a `patriotism vs hype' paradigm is as silly as expecting every reader of this editorial to know the meaning of `paradigm'. And let's please not make a big deal about not knowing the meaning of `paradigm'.

 


HINDUSTAN TIMES

SPOILT BRATS

 

The taxi was taking me from my tem-ple-suburb in Chennai to the Central Station. It was 5 in the morning, the Shatabdi I was taking to Bengaluru being scheduled to leave at 6.30. 

There was virtually no traffic on the roads. The taxi driver sent up a silent prayer as we crossed the neighbourhood shrine and moved ahead. At that pre-dawn hour, the Marina was a ribbon of alluring tar. The vehicle cruised over it. The only 'impediments' were the traffic lights that the driver ignored. After he had sped through the first red signal, and then the second, I decided I must tell him that he was doing something wrong and dangerous. But at the third signal the light turned green and he breezed past it, as licit as he was fleet. I lectured him, nonetheless. Rules are rules, I said. He heard me without expression. I could imagine his thoughts: When there is no traffic why the hell should a mere red light impede my silken glide? Needless to say, we reached the station in record time.

Seated in the air-conditioned comfort of my chair car, I was ruminating on the paradox of indiscipline in our deeply religious society when I noticed that at least three of the large seat-windows in my coach had big holes in them. Cellophane had been stuck on the coach side of the shattered panes.

These holes were 'wayside wounds', I gathered, tell-tale marks left by stones hurled at them for no particular reason by 'urchins'. No reason, except bucolic tedium leading to mischief? I thought of little Apu in Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali. And then of deeper 'reasons' for the stone-shot, such as deprivation and despondency turning into resentment against symbols of plenitude such as this food-laden train. As the Shatabdi moved seamlessly into the Tamil countryside, buildings giving way to huts and roads to fields, the train of my thoughts kept going back to the taciturn taxi driver noiselessly cutting traffic lights along the Marina… lack of discipline… jumping signals… no respect… When I was woken out of my reverie by a thud. A stone, I thought, this must be a stone. But no, it was a kid just across the aisle playing with the snap-up blind of his seat-window. He had let the blind go flying up to hit its pelmet. He was on 'this' side of the Great Divide. Cool Child inside, Angry Child outside. The image of Gustav Vigeland's Angry Child, the 20th century masterpiece in Oslo's Vigeland Park draws almost as many visitors as Edvard Munch's Scream. The boy is yelling, his tiny fists clenched, one foot raised, another dug into the earth, in deep, deranged anger.

Michelangelo's masterpiece, David, is also about a youth's anger. The Florentine depicts that shepherd readying for single combat against the giant Goliath. David's eyes are a study in concentration. Bernini, sculpting the same moment a 100 years later, has David twist his entire frame like a discus-thrower. In Bernini's David it is not the eyes but the pursed mouth that shows the concentration of the aim. Both depict confrontation, but controlled. Control… direction… discipline… Where do we find them now? The wounded glass-panes and the happy boy beside them were now a metaphor impossible to ignore. How long can those two co-exist ?

A couple of days later I witnessed a scene that did not give me an answer, only deepened the question. At Bengaluru airport, two flights of the same airline to the same destination were getting delayed. Passengers were restive. They asked two young women at the airline counter for some clarity on what was happening. There was no explanation, only dead silence. Then the 'restiveness' escalated. The two women promptly vanished, their places taken by two men, equally nervous. The more they hedged, the more enraged the passengers became. Hindi displaced English as the main language of that uni-directional communication. And 'aap', descended to 'tu' in no time. A crew member pleaded, "Give us two minutes, Sir, two minutes', doing an abject namaskar.

These shouting, gesticulating, volatile men were air-mile earners, frequent fliers, some of them booked to fly business class. I am sure they would have displayed their anger very differently had this delay occurred in Frankfurt, London, Paris, New York or even Dubai or Singapore. In the US, the behaviour of some of these passengers could well have had airport alarm bells ring.

Equally, had this delay happened in any of those international airports, the airline would not have kept the passengers so callously in the dark. There would have been minute-to-minute announcements, with senior airline officials explaining the problem, offering profuse apologies to the passengers, apart from tangible compensations. But 'this is India only'. After a delay of over five hours for the first flight and over an hour for the second, the two delayed flights were clubbed and everyone found a seat. What left me shocked was the mad scramble the passengers made to get into the aircraft. United as a phalanx until a minute earlier, the passengers were now back to being themselves, each for himself. Are we, as a people, more civilised than our ancestors were?

We are better fed, shod, clothed than they. All that signifies progress. But is being civilised about progress? Or is it about evolution? It is about how we see ourselves in relation to others and to other things that do not belong to us but to others and to everyone. Including their time and their self-respect.

Generalisations are wrong. And what follows could be wrong but I say it in the belief that it holds good of rather more than a microscopic section of We the People of India: We observe vows but play around laws. We donate generously, but pay our rates, dues and taxes grimacing. We draw the last drop of juice out of a tetrapack carton but will not turn off a flowing public tap. We hold on to anything and everything that belongs to us as to dear life, but public property is not 'ours'. If we do not wrench, slash, write over, tread underfoot, vandalise and, in agitations, smash and burn public property ourselves, we don't intervene to stop that happening all around us.

To this pattern, there are, of course, great and ennobling exceptions. Come a crisis, and we bond in a way that could make anyone anywhere proud. But when no crisis looms, when no enemy strikes, when no trauma cuts the skin, when bullying can overawe the vulnerable, one thing matters above all else: immediate self-interest.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi was the Governor of West Bengal from 2004 to 2009 The views expressed by the author are personal

***************************************


HINDUSTAN TIMES

NO LONGER ANONYMOUS

The cycle of violence and unrest continues in regions where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is applied and after so many decades, it's become hard to tell cause from effect. The Manipur blockade finally ended in mid-June. But within a fortnight, Kashmir was under curfew after children were shot during violent protests — paradoxically, while the state was at its healthiest, under a popular government and with a growing economy. The AFSPA was enacted in 1958 to contain secessionist violence but now, perhaps it is perpetuating it. Repeal cannot be considered without running security risks. But a solution may lie hidden in the Act's history.

It's easy to understand why the Act poisons the air. Imagine that you are unlucky enough to live in a district where it's in force. The law empowers soldiers to kick down your front door on suspicion and without a warrant, break open your almirahs and cabinets, ransack your home and apprehend anyone they see fit. If you resist, the law empowers them to shoot you in the head and, for good measure, flatten your home on the way out, without fear of prosecution. Even if none of these misfortunes visit you, the constant threat of violence could make you actively dislike a government that sanctions arbitrary impunity.

In response to the clamour to repeal the Act, the forces protest that they would be unable to function in counter-insurgency roles without legal immunity. This is absolutely true. An error of judgement, which causes harm to civilians might invite only censure in wartime, but could attract imprisonment or a death sentence in domestic counter-insurgency operation if a criminal court had jurisdiction. Servicemen can't be expected to routinely run that risk.

At the same time, the Act cannot be defended as a "pious document", as Chief of the Army's Northern Command Lieutenant General B.S. Jaswal has done. The reverential language of the ashram and the cloister has no utility in describing a black Act which cunningly perverted democracy. To see how, let's look at its antecedents.

The AFSPA is a direct descendant of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Ordinance of 1942, promulgated during the freedom struggle to contain nationalist agitations, which impeded the British war effort. The Ordinance remains in force in Bangladesh, which has an unfortunate history of martial law. And it has a distant relation in roughly similar civil legislation imposed on Northern Ireland in 1922 to suppress the Irish partition troubles.

But there was a crucial difference between the AFSPA, the brainchild of G.B. Pant, then home minister, and its parent Ordinance. The latter required an officer to sanction the use of lethal force in writing. Then our politicians did what they excel in — they removed accountability. The AFSPA quietly dropped this requirement, anonymising State violence in disturbed areas. It's shocking, but the colonial law was more transparent than derivative legislation in free India. The government is now thinking of amending the AFSPA and exposing servicemen guilty of excesses to criminal proceedings. But it's not clear how they can be singled out when their actions remain unsigned and anonymous. For foolproof accountability, the clause in the Raj Ordinance, which required commanders to sanction the use of lethal force in writing, should be reinstated.

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

 

***************************************


HINDUSTAN TIMES

SPOILT BRATS

 

The taxi was taking me from my tem-ple-suburb in Chennai to the Central Station. It was 5 in the morning, the Shatabdi I was taking to Bengaluru being scheduled to leave at 6.30. 

There was virtually no traffic on the roads. The taxi driver sent up a silent prayer as we crossed the neighbourhood shrine and moved ahead. At that pre-dawn hour, the Marina was a ribbon of alluring tar. The vehicle cruised over it. The only 'impediments' were the traffic lights that the driver ignored. After he had sped through the first red signal, and then the second, I decided I must tell him that he was doing something wrong and dangerous. But at the third signal the light turned green and he breezed past it, as licit as he was fleet. I lectured him, nonetheless. Rules are rules, I said. He heard me without expression. I could imagine his thoughts: When there is no traffic why the hell should a mere red light impede my silken glide? Needless to say, we reached the station in record time.

Seated in the air-conditioned comfort of my chair car, I was ruminating on the paradox of indiscipline in our deeply religious society when I noticed that at least three of the large seat-windows in my coach had big holes in them. Cellophane had been stuck on the coach side of the shattered panes.

These holes were 'wayside wounds', I gathered, tell-tale marks left by stones hurled at them for no particular reason by 'urchins'. No reason, except bucolic tedium leading to mischief? I thought of little Apu in Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali. And then of deeper 'reasons' for the stone-shot, such as deprivation and despondency turning into resentment against symbols of plenitude such as this food-laden train. As the Shatabdi moved seamlessly into the Tamil countryside, buildings giving way to huts and roads to fields, the train of my thoughts kept going back to the taciturn taxi driver noiselessly cutting traffic lights along the Marina… lack of discipline… jumping signals… no respect… When I was woken out of my reverie by a thud. A stone, I thought, this must be a stone. But no, it was a kid just across the aisle playing with the snap-up blind of his seat-window. He had let the blind go flying up to hit its pelmet. He was on 'this' side of the Great Divide. Cool Child inside, Angry Child outside. The image of Gustav Vigeland's Angry Child, the 20th century masterpiece in Oslo's Vigeland Park draws almost as many visitors as Edvard Munch's Scream. The boy is yelling, his tiny fists clenched, one foot raised, another dug into the earth, in deep, deranged anger.

Michelangelo's masterpiece, David, is also about a youth's anger. The Florentine depicts that shepherd readying for single combat against the giant Goliath. David's eyes are a study in concentration. Bernini, sculpting the same moment a 100 years later, has David twist his entire frame like a discus-thrower. In Bernini's David it is not the eyes but the pursed mouth that shows the concentration of the aim. Both depict confrontation, but controlled. Control… direction… discipline… Where do we find them now? The wounded glass-panes and the happy boy beside them were now a metaphor impossible to ignore. How long can those two co-exist ?

A couple of days later I witnessed a scene that did not give me an answer, only deepened the question. At Bengaluru airport, two flights of the same airline to the same destination were getting delayed. Passengers were restive. They asked two young women at the airline counter for some clarity on what was happening. There was no explanation, only dead silence. Then the 'restiveness' escalated. The two women promptly vanished, their places taken by two men, equally nervous. The more they hedged, the more enraged the passengers became. Hindi displaced English as the main language of that uni-directional communication. And 'aap', descended to 'tu' in no time. A crew member pleaded, "Give us two minutes, Sir, two minutes', doing an abject namaskar.

These shouting, gesticulating, volatile men were air-mile earners, frequent fliers, some of them booked to fly business class. I am sure they would have displayed their anger very differently had this delay occurred in Frankfurt, London, Paris, New York or even Dubai or Singapore. In the US, the behaviour of some of these passengers could well have had airport alarm bells ring.

Equally, had this delay happened in any of those international airports, the airline would not have kept the passengers so callously in the dark. There would have been minute-to-minute announcements, with senior airline officials explaining the problem, offering profuse apologies to the passengers, apart from tangible compensations. But 'this is India only'. After a delay of over five hours for the first flight and over an hour for the second, the two delayed flights were clubbed and everyone found a seat. What left me shocked was the mad scramble the passengers made to get into the aircraft. United as a phalanx until a minute earlier, the passengers were now back to being themselves, each for himself. Are we, as a people, more civilised than our ancestors were?

We are better fed, shod, clothed than they. All that signifies progress. But is being civilised about progress? Or is it about evolution? It is about how we see ourselves in relation to others and to other things that do not belong to us but to others and to everyone. Including their time and their self-respect.

Generalisations are wrong. And what follows could be wrong but I say it in the belief that it holds good of rather more than a microscopic section of We the People of India: We observe vows but play around laws. We donate generously, but pay our rates, dues and taxes grimacing. We draw the last drop of juice out of a tetrapack carton but will not turn off a flowing public tap. We hold on to anything and everything that belongs to us as to dear life, but public property is not 'ours'. If we do not wrench, slash, write over, tread underfoot, vandalise and, in agitations, smash and burn public property ourselves, we don't intervene to stop that happening all around us.

To this pattern, there are, of course, great and ennobling exceptions. Come a crisis, and we bond in a way that could make anyone anywhere proud. But when no crisis looms, when no enemy strikes, when no trauma cuts the skin, when bullying can overawe the vulnerable, one thing matters above all else: immediate self-interest.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi was the Governor of West Bengal from 2004 to 2009 The views expressed by the author are personal

***************************************


HINDUSTAN TIMES

VIEWS

NO CHEF DE RESISTANCE AGAINST VEGETABLES

 

No chef de resistance against vegetables

Indrajit Hazra's piece on Anthony Bourdain ('I am a bit of a hypocrite', Read, June 26), reminded me of one of the 'India' episodes of No Reservations, the programme Bourdain hosts, in which he had expressed surprised at how good vegetarian food can be. I had thought that once he'd find out how 'real' meat is driven out of restaurants and glance at one of our menus full of 'vegetarian substitutes', his carnivore's angst would lead to embittered indignation and phrases like "These Jain wimps should be loaded on to a train and..." Oh well, I'm still going to buy his book though.

Ari Azim, via email

Fuelling inflation

Murad Ali Baig in Forever left hanging (June 30) rightly states that the Centre's decision to decontrol the oil prices exposes its insensitivity toward the plight of the common man. The decision is ill-timed, as it will further increase inflation and make essential commodities costlier. Instead of deregulating prices, the government should first explore other options like recovering dues from oil companies to adjust to global oil prices.

Gautam Morarka, Mumbai

It's just a pipe dream

R.K. Pachauri's self-praise in his article What lies beneath (Green Patch, June 26) for initiating the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project was unnecessary. It's true that Afghanistan's newfound mineral wealth is important for India. But presuming that the Kabul government is willing to share its resources with India is a mistake. Till that's clarified, it will be naive to contemplate whether making peace with Islamabad will help New Delhi gain access to the minerals.

S.C. Vaid, via email

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CASTING ABOUT

 

The meeting of the Group of Ministers on Thursday on how to carry out a caste headcount in the 2011 Census was predictably inconclusive. In fact, as this newspaper reported, there were differences amongst ministers even on the question of including caste in the Census, with Defence Minister A.K. Antony fearing that it could impede the transition towards a casteless society. Of course, his colleagues noted that the prime minister had already committed to the measure. In the end, the GoM mandated Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to get views from all political parties, in the hope of reaching a consensus in about four weeks.

 

The decision to put the debate out for wider consultations is healthy. There was a consensus of sorts in Parliament when the government acceded to the opposition's demand for a caste count. Advocates of the count agree on two things: that the eventual goal is to remove the overlap of caste and disadvantage, and that demographic data about different castes would assist in better targeting welfare and affirmative action programmes.

 

The trouble is, the last time caste was included in the census, in 1931, does not provide a neat template. The state decidedly cannot go about placing caste in a hierarchy; indeed, it is not strictly caste that's being sought to be measured, as the Constitution mentions "other backward classes", and the OBC list is not static, with groups being added and deleted. So even if the state imposes questions of caste identity in the Census, it will have to be done in a more progressive, forward-looking way than was done by the censuses of colonial times. This cannot be a sociological exercise aimed at classifying all Indians; if it is — can be — truly a way of actualising equality, it is right that the debate is being thrown open.

 

***************************************


INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FATAL INDIFFERENCE

 

Dinesh Trivedi, minister of state for health and family welfare, vented his frustration with his own officials for "red-tapism", and wished aloud for a younger, more limber and technology-friendly support staff. The crux of the confrontation was a "web-portal recommended by the Knowledge Commission" that Trivedi threw his weight behind, but the ministry failed to release funds. "Trivedi felt his concept had been sidelined," say ministry officials. Back-and-forth over the merits of Trivedi's proposal aside, the minister's rant definitely serves a useful purpose: it directs long-overdue attention at the functioning of the health ministry. The ministry is possibly the most unreformed in government today. It has served less as help and more as hindrance in the implementation and spread of the National Rural Health Mission, for example. They have not been held accountable for not meeting targets — which are frequently opaque and woolly in the first place.

 

The culture of impunity that surrounds this establishment was brought out with startling clarity when the Medical Council of India's president Ketan Desai was arrested for corruption. But the trouble reaches further into the past. Meant to regulate the MBBS programme, set ethical standards and provide expert advice to the government, the MCI strayed into the more profitable realm of postgraduate education, while failing its own mandate. It created an artificial scarcity of medical institutions, constrained the supply of professionals and creating dangerous skews in our healthcare. It held back innovation, like the training of nurse practitioners and nurse obstetricians.

 

The health ministry has known all this for years, and yet it excused the regulator's venality on life-and-death matters, saying that the MCI was a self-governing body of professionals. The fact that they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to reform the MCI only invites the charge of vested interest on the ministry as well. India, with its vast unmet needs and its unevenly spread facilities, needs imaginative regulation and an active, reformed, accountable ministry. Meanwhile, once the indignation subsides, one can only hope that the minister's tirade rouses his bureaucracy out of its torpor.

 

***************************************


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FOOD IN MOUTH

 

Hidden behind the interminable wrangling over the nature of the proposed food security act, of the degree that it should be targeted or universal, are deep questions about the direction in which welfare policy design will go in our ever-expanding welfare state; and, indeed, in the arcane discussion about who the "poorest among the poor" are lie conflicting approaches to India's conception of itself. The newly reconstituted National Advisory Council has come down heavily on one side of this debate: saying that the National Food Security Act should include "universal entitlement", instead of the Congress' manifesto promise of cheap foodgrain for those below the poverty line alone.

 

The problems with a universal entitlement system should be obvious. First, the fiscal burden it places on the state will be incalculable — quite literally so, since once a universal right is allotted, it is impossible to estimate what it will cost future governments and generations. Second, the political economy of universalisation is deeply problematic. What it would do is to set up a permanent lobby within government for keeping the procurement price for grain low — which only further disincentivises producers. Forget about dismantling complex water, power, tax and fertiliser subsidy regimes then. And, third, on a conceptual level, the idea of a welfare scheme that isn't explicitly targeted at the needy might seem to many as an uncomfortable, even incoherent, extension of what a state is supposed to do.

 

However, although these objections are strong, none of them is insurmountable. Let's look at the fiscal burden problem. The obvious point here, of course, is to build in federal cost-sharing: if food security is to be implemented locally, let the states have a share in its costs, ensuring that they are kept low. That might dilute the political benefits to the party in power at the Centre — but such politicisation, as we've seen with the recent history of the NREGA, is a temptation that must be avoided anyway. Indeed, the NREGA provides an interesting fulcrum for comparison for those worried about the third objection above. It is, after all, both universal and targeted. Some of the energy invested in inevitably inconclusive battles about exactly how many Indians are "poor" should be directed towards questioning instead how NREGA-style self-selection could usefully be introduced into the public distribution system. Proper design of a reformed PDS cannot be held hostage either to those concerned that it will dent India's image to treat all its citizens as poor — or to those who think that targeting is a plot to exclude those who actually are.

 

***************************************


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

CONTINENTAL DRIFT

BIBEK DEBROY

 

In the quarter-final lineup, we've had Brazil/Netherlands, Uruguay/Ghana, Argentina/ Germany and Spain/ Paraguay. FIFA rankings were last updated on May 26 and will be updated again on July 14. There is an understandable lag between World Cup performances and FIFA rankings. In existing rankings, Brazil is 1st, Netherlands 4th, Uruguay 16th, Ghana 32nd, Argentina 7th, Germany 6th, Spain 2nd and Paraguay 31st. In the top 10 of FIFA rankings, Portugal (3rd), Italy (5th), England (8th), France (9th) and Croatia (10th) have been eliminated. Just so we know where we are in the rankings, we are 133rd, between Fiji and Bermuda.

 

If everything went according to expectations, football, and all sport, would be frightfully boring. We wouldn't have needed Paul. If you don't know who Paul is, you haven't been following the game. Paul is a German astrologer. However, Europe has a labour shortage and immigration laws don't allow cross-borders movement of astrologers. Besides, astrologers are in great demand at home and emigration clearances are also required for them. Consequently, Paul is an octopus based in Oberhausen, Germany and being German, only predicts Germany's matches. His track record has been perfect so far, including games against Serbia and England. In the latter case, there was an identity crisis, because Paul was originally born in England. He also picked Germany over Argentina. Two mussels are offered to Paul, one named after each team. By accepting the more attractive mussel, Paul exhibits his preferences.

 

While accepting requirement of uncertainty in sport, the quarter-final lineup was completely unexpected — Europe has under-performed, Latin America has over-performed and from Africa, few people would have predicted Ghana. In addition to the quarter-final lineup, group matches illustrated the reduced gap between teams. If globalisation is interpreted as players playing in leagues in other countries, and thereby improving standards thanks to competition, this is an outcome of globalisation. That argument also applies to tactics, strategy and coaching. Globalisation is positively correlated with economic performance. If globalisation is positively correlated with football performance, there should be correlation between economic performance and football performance. On the face of it, if we restrict ourselves to the quarter-final lineup, there is no obvious correlation. The range of official exchange rate per capita incomes is from $48,223 in the Netherlands to $671 in Ghana. PPP (purchasing power parity) conversions don't alter the picture. Netherlands moves to $39,938 and Ghana to $1,551.

 

But the key is definition of economic performance. Is it absolute level or increment? For instance, take the five European countries in the top 10 of FIFA rankings that have been eliminated. In the four years from 2005 to 2008, before the financial crisis, Portugal's real GDP growth rate ranged between 0 per cent and 1.9 per cent, Italy's between -1 per cent and 2 per cent, England's (UK's) between 0.7 per cent and 3 per cent, France's between 0.4 per cent and 2.3 per cent and Croatia's between 2.4 per cent and 5.5 per cent. Paraguay and Ghana may be regarded as unexpected qualifiers. Paraguay's real GDP growth ranged between 2.9 per cent and 6.8 per cent and Ghana's between 5.7 per cent and 7.3 per cent. There is suggestion of some correlation, with Croatia an exception.

 

However, one shouldn't generate empirical hypotheses through isolated examples. Even if one correlates football performance with increments to GDP growth, where is Asia in FIFA rankings or World Cup performance, the two Koreas and Japan notwithstanding? Where are China and India? Despite the World Cup being held in South Africa and African growth rates picking up, even in sub-Saharan Africa, where is Africa, Cameroon, Ghana and South Africa notwithstanding? But these counter-questions also beg the question. An empirical hypothesis is on an average. Outliers don't negate the hypothesis.

 

There is a Goldman Sachs study undertaken in May 2010 that did this systematically. Others aren't terribly interesting. This one correlated gross environment scores (GES) with FIFA rankings. Gross environment is fundamentally economic and includes variables like rule of law, corruption, political stability, life expectancy, inflation, external debt, government debt, gross fixed capital formation, schooling, openness, computers, mobiles and Internet. This is a broader canvas than GDP or its growth. The study found a correlation between improvements in GES scores and improvements in FIFA rankings and the correlation is stronger for new entrants into global competitive football, than existing strong players. With Latin America a heterogeneous entity, Brazil and Argentina don't quite fit the picture. Neither does North Korea. And correlations are stronger if these are excluded. Actually, this is more than correlation, because causal relationships can also be ascribed. Factors that improve GES also enhance sport infrastructure, training and health conditions and provide opportunities and competition.

 

What of the future, not just 2010? After all, Goldman Sachs has always been fascinated with BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China). Goldman Sachs doesn't quite stick its neck out, except raising questions about whether Russia's present footballing status will continue. Instead, it quotes another study to the effect that we should watch out for Japan, the US and China, other than Africa. That makes eminent sense, including India's exclusion from the potential list.

 

Cross-country performance is a broader issue. Europe's limited decline is a narrower question and economic decline is even more marked post-financial crisis and this isn't about Iceland or Greece alone. In no futuristic projection is Europe's relative economic drop contested. Individual reasons can be ascribed for the exits of Portugal, Italy, England, France and Croatia from the final eight. But there is a case that Europe is relatively declining in football too. Other countries are catching up, even if league football is still Europe-centric.

 

Is FIFA catching up? We know it isn't catching up in use of technology. Since 1998, there have been 32 final spots. Other than the host country slot, Europe's share in these 32 has only declined from 14 in 1998 to 13 in 2010. Africa remains at 5. Asia has increased from 3.5 to 4.5. North, Central America and Caribbean has increased from 3 to 3.5 and South America remains at 4.5. This is disproportionately out of line with what we have seen in 2010 and what we are likely to witness in the future. The continental quota is itself subject to question. Even if continental quotas are accepted, the allocation of slots is unrealistic. Ostensibly, these are progressively adjusted over time, to reflect playing strengths of member associations. However, past World Cup performances and the results of continental championships are not factored into this re-evaluation and there are inordinate time-lags. Ad revenues are still Europe-centric and Europe is reluctant to let go of FIFA, just as it is reluctant to let go of the IMF.

 

Perhaps Spain will lose to Paraguay and we will have a Chinese as managing director of the IMF.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based economist

express@expressindia.com

***************************************


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TEA WITH THE CHIEFS

ARUN PRAKASH

 

The recent controversy in which General Stanley

 

McChrystal, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, was compelled to submit his resignation to US President Barack Obama, has provoked inevitable comparisons with Truman's sacking of the iconic hero of the Pacific war, the five-star General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, commander of the UN forces in Korea, in 1951.

 

In both cases, the core issue related to the supremacy of civilian authority over the military, in the specific context of subordinating military strategy to fit within the broad objectives stated by the political leadership. Both MacArthur and McChrystal were theatre commanders tasked to fight America's overseas wars for freedom and democracy.

 

Both had their own ideas how to get the job done, and neither could resist going public with his dissent. The two presidents were quite resolute that the generals had to be sacked but sent them off with ample grace, not forgetting to add encomiums like "one of our greatest commanders" and "one of our nation's finest soldiers" in their parting speeches.

 

All this has transpired in the world's oldest democracy where national security issues are the subject of open, enlightened and freewheeling debate in the houses of Congress. The US president receives advice on national security issues, at first hand, from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; his current national security adviser is a retired general and, till recently, his director of national intelligence was a retired admiral.

 

What happens in the world's largest democracy? Given their deep-rooted urge to emphasise the principle of civil control over the armed forces, one would expect Indian politicians to ensure that every military undertaking has a political rationale and underpinning. Oddly enough, our political establishment has flinched, not just from clearly defining national aims and objectives but also from providing guidance regarding strategic aims and end-states to the country's armed forces leadership. Every military operation since Independence, from the 1947 Indo-Pakistan war to the 2002 general mobilisation, has been guided more by political rhetoric than strategic direction.

 

White Papers and open debates on national security issues are unheard of in Parliament. The sheer intensity of political activity in India makes great demands on a politician's time. The serious and ambitious politician views matters pertaining to national security or to strategic affairs as arcane, tedious and time-consuming, best left to the bureaucracy to handle. He views armed forces personnel with a degree of detachment, as somewhat strange and peculiar creatures, and usually gives them a wide berth. With the best of intentions, the feeling has become mutual; and over the years, a yawning chasm has developed between the armed forces leadership and the country's political establishment. They are simply ill at ease with each other, and the civil servant serves to bridge the chasm.

 

Since Independence, there have been two instances where service chiefs have run seriously afoul of their political masters. In 1959 General Thimayya submitted his resignation after a confrontation with Krishna Menon, but he was persuaded by Nehru to withdraw it the following day. Four decades later, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat had a serious difference of opinion with George Fernandes, and in an unprecedented move, that shook the armed forces, the NDA government deemed it fit to dismiss Bhagwat. One wonders if the Raksha Mantri and the navy chief had been on more familiar terms with each other, and had sat down to discuss matters over a cup of tea, would this unsavoury episode not have had a less traumatic ending?

 

The McChrystal episode has fortuitously drawn our attention to civil-military relations in India at a critical juncture. In J&K, the army is faced with a most unenviable situation in the face of mounting public hysteria. In the Northeast and the Naxal-affected heart of India, the reluctant armed forces are steadily but surely being drawn into the dreaded maw of a domestic insurgency. The home minister has expressed fears that the Naxals may be receiving training and support from ex-servicemen (ESM). That may well be the case, but the government seems to be oblivious of the simmering resentment amongst three million ESM about their pension grievances, and the grave implications of such discontent. With the Sino-Pak axis on the ascendant, the external security situation appears equally bleak.

 

In a security environment such as this, one gets the uneasy feeling that communication between the politicians, bureaucrats and the armed forces leadership are not as loud and clear as they should be. In the recent Sukna Land case, and the Dantewada CRPF ambush media discussion, the layperson got the distinct impression that the defence minister and army chief were communicating via newspaper headlines.

 

While the integration of the armed forces HQ with the MoD may remain a distant dream, surely it is time for all national security stake-holders to sit and talk to each other.

 

The writer, a former Chief of the Naval Staff, is currently chairman of the National Maritime Foundation

 

express@expressindia.com

***************************************


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THOSE NEWS 'STORYS'

SAUBHIK CHAKRABARTI

 

I Hate (these) news "storys". News TV's cheerful abandonment of editorial sovereignty to Bollywood marketing is, frankly, troublesome. I Hate Luv Storys is hitting the screens so NDTV, which as it says has been 21 years in the news business, gives 20 minutes to the film's lead actors, who front the channel's Night Out show, with not one NDTV journalist in sight, and it's all so "luvly". Except it isn't. That Night Out is an entertainment show is no excuse. It's part of NDTV, which, let's remind ourselves, is a news channel. To that extent NDTV's decision is as questionable as CNN-IBN's was when it let Amitabh Bachchan read the news; a film on TV journalism with Bachchan in the lead role was about to release then.

 

So, if a big Bollywood guy makes a film on news, news TV will promote it on a news show and if the film is on "luv", the free commercial will run on the entertainment show. And if Bollywood makes a big-banner film on stock markets (actually someone should, there are great stories there), will business news channels invite the director/lead actors to give market analysis? True, a Bollywood hero saying the mid caps look a bit shaky in the morning trading session may make a nice change from business news TV anchors saying it. But the plot of these marketing "storys" won't change. You can hardly blame the film guys. They have to sell high-cost products in an inherently risky market. News TV, especially broadcasters like NDTV and CNN-IBN, should wonder whether editorial sovereignty is as malleable as a Bollywood B-grade movie script.

 

I wonder about (these) news "storys". CNN-IBN, on 9 o'clock news, announced it will look into the possibility of resolving the Jaya-Leila-George conundrum. Wow. We will try and get a reconciliation, CNN-IBN confidently said. I waited. At the end of it all, Leila and Jaya tearfully agreed that everyone should look after George, never mind who owns which table. No! I have to tell you, they didn't.

 

However, full marks to CNN-IBN for trying. Why don't you all come together and make him better, CNN-IBN said several times, and earnestly. At the end of the day, CNN-IBN's anchor said at the end of the show, all I am asking, the reason all of you are together… where's the humanity here? Absolutely! Where's the humanity? What kind of human beings are we if we refuse to resolve a family dispute on news TV? What kind of human beings refuse to understand that sorting out a family fight in the courts or at home is boring — do it in a news TV studio, cameras running, anchors presiding and background music ready to play the moment you hug your fellow disputant.

 

In America, this kind of stuff happens on TV, too, on the Jerry Springer show, say, or Oprah's show. But not,

say, on CNN. But, hey, this is India. We don't need non-news shows for this. News TV will play Oprah. News TV will market movies. And, bonus! News TV will also give you news.

 

I "luv" (these) news "storys". Manish Tewari on Times Now, the issue at hand is Kashmir violence, telling the anchor let's not take a Rambo-like approach. Anchor asks, are you calling the CRPF Rambo? No, Tewari says, I am calling you Rambo. What fun! Anchor says, sometime later and loudly, your calling me names won't take the fact away, let's listen to this calmly. Tewari says, loudly, now listen to it calmly, I have not called you any names.

 

I calmly switched channels, hoping I will find, somewhere, a news story that looks and sounds like a news story.

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

***************************************


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

RESTORING A RUPTURED RELATIONSHIP

K. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

The signing of the Indo-Canadian nuclear cooperation agreement revives fifty-six-year-old nuclear ties interrupted in the last 36 years as a result of the first Pokharan explosion by India in 1974.

 

Canada agreed to set up the Cirus reactor in the Trombay Atomic Energy Establishment in 1954. It was the second reactor for India after APSARA, obtained earlier from the UK.

 

Cirus, unlike Apsara, used natural uranium fuel with heavy water as the moderator.

 

The Cirus model, known in Canada as the Candu (Canada Deuterium Uranium) became the basic prototype for the Indian power reactors set up subsequently in Kota, Kalpakkam, Narora, Kakrapar and Kaiga. No country had left such a large impact on the Indian nuclear programme as Canada.

 

Indo-Canadian nuclear cooperation began at a time when the Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Canadian prime ministers, Louis St. Laurent and Lester Pearson, had a close relationship within the Commonwealth and in the United Nations.

 

India's choice of the Candu-type was determined by the fact that at the time, enriched uranium which fuelled the light water reactor, like the first one established with US help at Tarapur, involved continuous import of the enriched uranium fuel from the reactor supplier and therefore dependence on the supplier country. In those days the technology for enrichment of uranium was the very expensive gaseous diffusion method. The cheaper centrifuge technology was developed by Holland and Germany only in the late sixties, after it was invented by an Austrian scientist, Gernot Zippe, in Russia. Therefore, Dr Bhabha's three-stage Indian nuclear programme finally leading to the utilisation of indigenously abundant thorium on the basis of the first stage being the natural uranium-heavy water reactor based on the Candu model. The plutonium produced from it would feed a fast breeder reactor which would convert a thorium blanket into Uranium-235 which could fuel further reactors. At that time, it was perceived as possible to get the heavy water production technology and reprocessing technology, to separate plutonium from spent fuel uranium from foreign countries, especially France.

 

When the Cirus reactor agreement was concluded there was no International Atomic Energy Agency or the safeguards system. There was a mutual understanding that the plutonium from Cirus would be used for peaceful purposes only. During those years the concept and attempts to use nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes (PNE) were very much alive. The US conducted 28 and the Soviet Union 239 explosions in this category. The PNEs were recognised in a bilateral treaty between US and USSR concluded in 1976 limiting their explosive yields to 150 kilotonnes. Indian scientists had evinced interest in peaceful nuclear explosions for economic purposes from the early days and had been attending conferences on the subject in the US.

 

In 1963 Canadian Leonard Beaton published his book The Spread of Nuclear Weapons, in which he predicted that China would go nuclear in 1964 and would be followed by India and Israel. He drew particular attention to the Cirus reactor in India and the Dimona reactor in Israel as capable of giving the nations the capability to go nuclear. In those days there were serious discussions in the US about whether India should be helped to go nuclear ahead of Maoist China. As China carried out its series of nuclear tests beginning October 1964, there were growing security concerns in India. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri attempted unsuccessfully to invoke a British nuclear umbrella. In 1965 he sanctioned the subterranean nuclear explosion programme (SNEP). In 1968 India and Canada concluded an agreement to set up two 220 MW Candu reactors in Kota. Work commenced on both, and by 1974 the first reactor was operational and the second was in an advanced stage of completion.

 

Again India attempted to get security assurances from the US, UK, France and Russia against the Chinese nuclear threat, Mrs Gandhi sent out a delegation of AEC Chairman Vikram Sarabhai and her secretary, L.K. Jha, to seek security assurances even as the draft of the Non-Proliferation Treaty was being finalised. These assurances were not forthcoming, and India decided to stay out of the NPT.

 

In 1971 there was a rapprochement between the US and China, and when the Pakistanis committed genocide in Bangladesh and pushed tens of millions of refugees onto Indian soil, the US sided with Pakistan and China and sent the USS Enterprise in an intimidatory mission to the Bay of Bengal. In the aftermath of this event, Mrs Gandhi directed the AEC to carry out a peaceful nuclear explosion to demonstrate India's technological capability. There were replies to parliamentary questions that India was considering a PNE.

 

At that stage, in early 1974, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau asked Mrs Gandhi for an assurance that Cirus plutonium would not be used for any peaceful explosion by India. Mrs Gandhi did not reply and went ahead and carried out the nuclear test in May 1974. That infuriated the Canadians and they accused India of going back on its promise not to use the Cirus plutonium for any non-peaceful purposes. India asserted it was a peaceful explosion for development of peaceful applications of nuclear energy. The Canadians withdrew from the half-finished second reactor construction at Kota. Since then, until this agreement of June 28, Canada had been enforcing technology and material denial on India under the Nuclear Suppliers Club regime.

 

How committed was Canada to the Non-Proliferation Treaty? The Canadian fighter aircraft CF-101 Voodoos carried US-made Genie nuclear-tipped missiles via a dual-key arrangement where the missiles were kept under American custody, and released to Canada under circumstances requiring their use. It was an unguided air-to-air rocket with a 1.5 kt nuclear warhead. It was deployed by the Canadian Forces Air Command from 1965 to 1984. Prime Minister Trudeau, who condemned India's peaceful nuclear test, announced at the UN Special Session on Disarmament in June 1978 that he had directed Canadian pilots not to fly any longer with nuclear missiles. Presumably that order could be implemented only from 1984. The entire Non-Proliferation Treaty was based on the arrangement that most, if not all, NATO nations would have their troops trained in the use of nuclear weapons, the weapons would be on their soil, and they would have access to them when required. Most NATO nations were crypto-nuclear weapon powers.Their claiming non-nuclear status was like a person having his drinks at somebody else's expense, claiming he was a teetotaller since he did not pay for his drinks. Added to this charade was the permissiveness of the non-proliferation community to China's blatant nuclear proliferation to Pakistan in the eighties as a price for its support to the anti-Soviet mujahideen campaign.

 

With the NSG India-specific waiver and the Indo-Canadian nuclear cooperation agreement, an unhappy chapter in history has ended.

 

The writer is a senior defence analyst

 

***************************************


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

LAHORE ATTACKED AGAIN

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

On July 1, Daily Times carried a report stating that "the month of June passed without a single suicide attack across the country, and the people came with reasons of their own to explain the phenomenon. The last time that no suicide attack took place in a given month was in April 2008." However, Lahore suffered a suicide attack the very next day, in one of its busiest areas, a sufi shrine popular among the locals and tourists alike. Dawn reported on July 2: "In the first terrorist attack of its kind in the Punjab capital, two alleged suicide bombers blew themselves up at the Data Ganj Bakhsh shrine on Thursday night, killing at least 41 people and injuring 170 others."

 

Air might

 

Pakistan received its first set of F-16 aircraft from the US this week. Dawn quoted Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleiman as saying on June 28 in the presence of the US air chief, at a ceremony at the Shahbaz Air Base: " 'Our mission is to maintain peace in the region with honour, but if the primary effort fails we will use all our assets, including these aircraft, to defend our country against any internal or external threats'... Answering a question, he said the acquisition of the hi-tech falcons would neither spark an arms race nor disturb the balance of power in the region. It would be the other way round, he said, adding that the induction would restore the balance of power as the neighbours already had hi-tech aircraft in their inventory."  

 

Maximum city

Daily Times carried an analysis on the Sindh Capital on June 28: "Close to half of the 600 murders reported so far this year in Karachi have been 'target killings'. This figure is roughly double the number that occurred in all of 2009. 'Successive political governments with conflicting political interests, fragile policies and weak political determination and will are not able to deal with the cancerous disease of sectarianism, ethnicity and the mafias,' Imtiaz Ahmed, a former intelligence chief, said of Karachi's problems." The report also held responsible the city's chaos, which provides cover for Taliban and al Qaeda militants looking for a hideout beyond the northwestern tribal regions. 

 

What's in a name?

The PPP government's ambitious pro-poor scheme, the Benazir Income Support Programme, met with an unusual hindrance before being turned into a law, reported Dawn on June 29. "In a historic move, the National Assembly inscribed Benazir Bhutto's name into law by its vote, unanimously passing a pro-poor bill after the main opposition party gave up a blocking amendment amid 'long live' slogans for the assassinated leader... The opposition PMLN had sought to rename the bill as Qaumi (national) Income Support Programme but was greeted with 'no, no' chants and slogans of 'long live Shaheed Benazir Bhutto' from members of the ruling PPP, and was withdrawn after Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called for giving a legislative recognition to the former prime minister's sacrifice for democracy."  

 

Malik's usual escape route

Interior Minister Rahman Malik was rescued once again by the PPP-led government, reported Dawn on June 29: "The National Accountability Bureau informed an accountability court that two corruption references filed by the bureau 13 years ago against Interior Minister Rehman Malik and other officials of the Federal Investigation Agency were 'not genuine' and it did not want to further prosecute the cases... The judge asked the him not to speak about merits of the references and only cite laws relating to withdrawal of the cases." 

 

Degree pedigree

Pakistan's fake degree scam took a new turn this week when one of PPP's top leaders made a controversial statement. Dawn reported on June 30: "Balochistan CM Nawab Aslam Raisani stunned the nation when he said he believed a 'degree is a degree, whether genuine or fake'." The News added: "It's the biggest scandal to hit the Pakistani academic system and unearthing its scale and magnitude is not just stretching the resources of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) but probably also of the universities of this country. The HEC dispatched the academic certificates of 934 lawmakers... to their universities for verification and authentication by July 13." It quoted PPP MLA Dr Azra Fazal on June 30 as saying: 'it is not proper to bring this matter into the limelight and defame the members who belong to different parties... it means 80 per cent of the population having no degrees was not eligible to become members of the assemblies'? Fazal is President Asif Zardari's sister. On July 1, Zardari was quoted by Dawn in a speech "loaded with innuendos against his political rivals," that he saw the degree issue "as nothing but a smokescreen behind which a plot was being hatched against him. I will once again survive attempts to dislodge me from the presidency and go on to complete my term."

 

***************************************


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DARK DAYS FOR THE BIG MEN

 

No player has fascinated me more at the World Cup than Mesut Ozil. He has the languid self-assurance on the ball that comes only to the greatest footballers. He's a German. That's part of my fascination. Ozil's a Muslim German of Turkish descent who believes he has married traditions: "My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part."

 

Ozil's a German but only just. The late 1990s were marked by angry debate as the country moved from a

"Volkisch" view of nationality — one based on the bloodlines of the German Volk — to a more liberal law that gave millions of immigrants an avenue to citizenship for the first time. Ozil would not have been German until the immigration law of 1999. It's this legislation that has birthed the Germany of Ozil and his teammates Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng (Tunisian and Ghanaian fathers respectively) and Cacau (naturalised Brazilian) and Dennis Aogo (Nigerian descent). The Volk have spread wings to hoist Germany into the last eight.

 

There's a third reason, beyond brilliance and birthright, for my fascination with Ozil. He is probably only on the team because "The Big Man" of the German squad, Michael Ballack, was injured a few weeks before the tournament.

 

Similarly, Ghana has advanced to the last eight — despite that defeat to Germany — even in the absence of its "Big Man," the injured Michael Essien. As for Uruguay and Paraguay, two other quarter-finalists, they had no "Big Man" to begin with.

 

Africa needs more of that kind of spirit. Since decolonisation began in the second half of the 20th century, it has too often been the continent of "The Big Man." That was the sobriquet V.S. Naipaul gave in A Bend in the River to the African dictator plundering the city of Kisangani in Congo through mercenaries granted license to run amok. The coloniser's plundering merely gave way to the Big Man's impunity in stripping Africa's assets bare.

 

Perhaps the most glaring examples have been in Zimbabwe and Congo, potentially wealthy nations that have hurtled backward. Robert Mugabe has single-handedly dismembered Zimbabwe. In Congo, over a 30-year dictatorship that defined kleptocracy Mobutu Sese Seko spread the wreckage that has provided the fissured stage for the recent slaughter of millions. So I'm pleased that in this World Cup, the Big Men have proved dispensable. And I'm pleased it's being held in a country that shares African problems but has not yielded to Africa's curse.

 

South Africa has the mineral wealth — 90 per cent of the world's platinum reserves and 40 per cent of its gold — that has proved the "resource curse" of African nations including Nigeria. It has what Moeletsi Mbeki, the brother of former president Thabo Mbeki, described to me as "a very warped society" born in part of big mining, with its single-sex hostels for labourers torn from their families and thrust into those incubators of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. It is still a land where poverty is racialised.

 

But it has resisted the devastating "Big Man" syndrome. Over the past 16 years, South Africa has had four free elections and four presidents. A robust judiciary and free press frustrate attempts to cow them. The interaction, under the law, of various interest groups holds South Africa back from the brink. This is its great lesson for a continent where, by 2025, one in four of every person under 24 will live.

 

When I lived in Germany, a Social Democrat once told me that the country's ultimate victory over Hitler would lie in the reconstitution of the Jewish community. I always thought that was a vain, slightly kitschy idea. But the Germany of Ozil and Aogo is such a victory over the Big Man who destroyed Europe. Africa, take note.

 

***************************************


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HOW THE BHOPAL VICTIMS WERE SOLD SHORT 

T.V. RAJESWAR

 

The large number of deaths due to gas leakage from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal in December 1984 was a tragedy of great magnitude. 

 

The initial tragedy was that the Union Carbide plant was allowed at all. The Union industry ministry found the technology obsolete, and it was a case of discarded technology being dumped in India. The application was pending for over 14 years before it was granted a licence in 1975. Thereafter, there were warnings in 1982-83 when minor gas leaks had led to casualties. 

 

After the mass leakage in 1984 and the numerous deaths, the Bhopal police registered a case against Warren Anderson and nine Indian officials and bailed them out. The fact that Anderson had sought an assurance of safe passage indicates that he did anticipate some legal or criminal proceedings against him from which he wanted to be protected. 

 

Could Anderson be held responsible for the Union Carbide gas leak? Dan Kurzman, formerly of The Washington Post, who visited Bhopal, wrote in his 1986 book, A Killing Wind: Inside Union Carbide and the Bhopal Catastrophe, that Union Carbide used cheaper material for the safety devices, ones that did not prevent gas from leaking, killing thousands. "Anderson may not have wanted to do this, but he did not realise or did not want to realise that using cheaper material for safety devices could have disastrous consequences. They even lied, asking people not to be worried about the gas for they had it under control". Anderson came on assurance of safe passage from the Indian government, which was conveyed by the deputy chief of the US embassy in Delhi. The assurance also included that Anderson would be guaranteed access to the site and eventual safe return to the US. It was obvious that the powers that be in Delhi felt at that time that Anderson was not responsible for what had happened in Bhopal and his visit was more to commiserate with the victims. Could this sort of pre-emptive protection and assurance of safe return to his country to a MNC chief have been given in any other country, especially since thousands had died?

 

The government now proposes to file a curative petition before the Supreme Court challenging the dilution of the charges against the accused in the case, and fresh efforts would be made for the extradition of Anderson. It is also proposed to reopen the case and charge Keshub Mahindra and others who were convicted by the Bhopal court recently. Former chief justice of India, J.S. Verma, suggested the filing of a curative writ petition under Article 32 and 142 of the Constitution against the 1996 Ahmadi judgment. However, Anderson, who is 89 now, is unlikely to be extradited. The Union law minister in 2001, Arun Jaitley, had held that the extradition case of Anderson appeared to be weak, based on the opinion given by the then attorney general, Soli Sorabjee. Jaitley's note had reportedly mentioned that there was no evidence to show that the company of which Anderson was the head, exercised control over the day-to-day operations and the running of the Bhopal plant.

 

At the judicial level, India's highest tradition of generosity was much in evidence. The harsh provisions of IPC invoked against the Bhopal gas case accused, by the CBI in 1996, were diluted.  Learned jurists were vying with each other in seeing only the positive facets of the Union Carbide case. Eventually the Bhopal court gave a judgment on June 7, after a lapse of 25 years. Nani Palkhivala asserted in December 1984 that if a suit was filed in India, the judgment would be in the next century and his words proved prophetic, since the judgment came in 2010. What was unfortunate was that Palkhiwala successfully used this argument to ensure that Union Carbide's interests prevailed and prevented the prosecution from taking place under the American system, despite the opposition of the government of India's lawyer Marc Galanter that the victims would get justice in the stricter American courts. 

 

The GoM held that the civil liability of Dow Chemicals would be pursued but Dow Chemicals Co. has asserted that the Indian government had fully released the Union Carbide Corporation and its subsidiary in Bhopal from any civil liability for the 1984 gas tragedy after having negotiated a settlement for $470 million in 1989. Whatever compensation would be paid to the affected now would be from the government of India.

 

The Cabinet, which examined the GoM report on June 24 announced certain packages for the family of the dead, the seriously disabled, the sick etc. The compensatory measures need to be expedited without further loss of time. Let the Union government appoint an administrator with adequate powers to disburse the compensation properly and quickly, to get the site cleaned up and make adequate arrangements for long term treatment of people who are seriously affected and still undergoing treatment. The curative petition and the Anderson extradition may go on separately for whatever they are worth.

 

The biggest tragedy of all is India comes out very poorly out of all these proceedings. Times have changed, but if something like the Bhopal gas tragedy had taken place in the US, what would have been the reaction there, seeing the manner in which BP is being shaken up over the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico? As a member of the National Advisory Council has aptly commented, the entire situation was a failure of governance and more so, because the victims happened to be poor.

 

The writer is former governor of Sikkim, West Bengal and UP.

 

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STAYING INTERESTED

 

RBI has taken a decision to hike both repo and reverse repo rates by 25 basis points each, well before it was due to present its monetary policy review for the first quarter of 2010-11 on July 27. Clearly, inflation continues to be a major worry for the central bank even though food inflation had come down to just under 13% in the most recent statistics. The worry, of course, is that inflation has already moved into items beyond just food, and that prompted the need to undertake some demand management, or at least send out a strong signal of RBI's future intent—25 basis points is a small hike. While a gradual upward movement in interest rates is inevitable, there is reason for RBI to be cautious about raising rates quickly. And this is because the global economic situation is looking increasingly fragile. The major European economies, and the PIGS, which now form the epicentre of the crisis, have pledged to cut spending and reduce debt drastically. In the short run, this may choke growth in Europe, which will have spillover effects in the US and the emerging economies, including India. But that may still be the best of all the potential outcomes of the European debt crisis.

 

There is a grave danger that many highly indebted countries in Europe will not be able to undertake the scale of cuts required. The political economy of Europe, long dependent on a generous welfare state, will resist drastic cutbacks. The jury is still out in a number of countries on whether deficit and debt reduction will happen quickly enough. There is also the problem of moral hazard now that the EU and IMF have arranged a bailout fund for stricken European economies. At the other end of the debt game are numerous global banks and financial institutions that will find it difficult to cope with another round of toxic assets on their balance sheets. What makes the situation in Europe even more delicate is the almost complete disinterest in carrying out major structural reforms of many sclerotic, overregulated economies. Ultimately, only structural reform can unleash the growth that can help a faster repayment of debt. So, while Europe dithers and tries to manage the crisis, the rest of the world needs to be on high alert. The last thing RBI would like to do is to hike rates sharply and then receive a direct hit from something that happens in Europe.

 

***************************************


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

AN UNHEALTHY ROT

 

The tussle between the Union minister of state for health, Dinesh Trivedi, and his ministry officials—the minister charged his bureaucrats of lacking accountability—may have cropped up over a relatively small issue like the setting up of a portal, but the malaise in the health ministry runs much deeper. The fact that the health ministry and the sector it governs is one of the most unreformed in the government has been evident for a while—from the systematic fraud and corruption in the World Bank-aided projects that were revealed a few years ago to the massive scam in the Medical Council of India more recently. Neither the ministry's bureaucrats nor its political leadership can absolve themselves from the blame. India's health sector has been one of the most ignored areas of the economy. Historically, public expenditure on health has been among the lowest in the world and it is only very recently that health financing has received some attention, with the government planning to almost treble the outlays from 1% of GDP in the middle of the decade to 3% by 2011-12. But in the meanwhile, the country continues to lag substantially in health care facilities.

 

An international comparison shows that the government's share of spending in the health sector in India during the latter half of the decade was just about 25%, which is significantly lower than the global average of 60% and the 47% share in low-income countries. The results have been dismal. The ratio of hospital beds, doctors and nurses for every thousand people in India was only 0.9, 0.6 and 1.3, respectively. This was less than half of that even in Pakistan (2, 1.8 and 3.9) and less than that in Brazil (2.4, 1.7 and 2.9). Adding to the problems was the inefficient use of the available infrastructure, with absenteeism among health workers in India touching 40%. The crunch in funds and infrastructure has ensured that India has lagged even in immunisation programmes. While the rate of immunisation for DTP3 and measles was only 66% and 70% in India, it was much higher in even Bangladesh at 95% and 89%. However, part of the blame should also be borne by the states that account for about three-fourths of the total government spending on health. But then, unlike in education or other central ministries dealing with social sector programmes, the health ministry has singularly shown a lack of vision that would be hard to beat.

 

***************************************

 


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

OF FOOTBALL AND ECONOMIC STRATEGY

MICHAEL WALTON

 

The World Cup (of football, for those who have been missing it) is not only a huge global sporting event, a source of elation and despair, of triumph and humiliation, but also both model and metaphor for national economic performance. It vividly exemplifies how the success of nations in today's world flows from both globalisation and institutionally grounded national strategies.

 

The biggest profile is given to individual football stars, especially attackers such as the 'little magician' Lionel Messi of Argentina, or the egotistical Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal (thankfully out of the competition now). But the real stories lie in the blend of inspiration with collective organisation. And this is where national history and strategy come in.

 

This was the first World Cup on African soil. At one level, African teams disappointed: only Ghana made it to the knock-out phase of the competition and (at the time of writing) to the quarter finals. Yet relative to their size and national prosperity, African teams actually performed above what would have been predicted. Ghana, indeed, knocked out the US, for the second World Cup running, when the US has 13 times more people and is 36 times richer in per capita terms.

 

Many European teams have also been struggling. England, economic leader in the Industrial Revolution, inventor of football, and never short of illusions of footballing grandeur, went out early in a classic humiliation from rivals Germany. France and Italy, the two finalists from the 2006 World Cup, did even worse, not even making it to the knock-out phase. France went out with a stunning blend of drama, dissension and dismal play, even managing French-style industrial action on the way, when players refused to practice before the last key match. Italy was just depressed. At times it seemed as if the collective trauma of the global financial crisis and Europe's relative decline was infecting team performance. By contrast, South American teams, somewhat shielded from the financial crisis by the prudent legacy of their many past crises, have done particularly well. But the parallel breaks down: Spain looks very good despite its sovereign debt premium!

 

The structural story is actually not one of a shifting centre of global economic power in football. European club football remains the epicentre. The English, Italian and Spanish leagues are extraordinarily wealthy, with corporate clubs built on consumer passion, lucrative broadcasting money and brand income. Many clubs—Manchester United, for example—are publicly listed capitalist firms. Others are more like personal fiefdoms, reminiscent of crony capitalism: Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi owns AC Milan, and billionaires from Russia, Thailand (briefly) and the Gulf have been buying up trophy clubs.

 

Whatever the form of ownership, money has been pouring into the elite clubs. And top European club competition has come to define the global technological frontier of football, in terms of both talent and techniques. The global elite of players is now truly international. Internazionale, Milan's other team, won this year's UEFA Champions League and the major Italian competitions with an Argentine captain, a Colombian vice-captain and not one Italian in their first choice team. Africa provides some of the best players in Europe. In a wonderful vignette of global linkage, two brothers of Ghanaian heritage played in the Germany versus Ghana game—one on each side.

 

Globalisation also applies to technique and organisation. Football is highly technical and European club competition defines the techniques. Brazil, historically proud of its joga bonito (play beautiful), now plays a highly technical European game, but does so very well, and with the flashes of brilliance needed to break down other defences.

 

So, globalisation of talent and technique is part of the story. The other part of national success concerns what economists have slowly been waking up to in interpreting economic performance—the role of institutions. In football, both historically shaped cultural traditions and contemporary organisation matters. Europe, South America and Africa all have long footballing traditions. Asia's is more recent. Germany's recent success has flowed from organisation and their capacity to nurture young domestic talent. While England has less than 3,000 top football coaches, Germany has almost 35,000, by the European governing board's standards. By contrast, while many African teams increasingly have the talent pool—thanks to globalisation—they have so far lacked the depth in national leagues and business organisation to build effective national teams, and have relied on imports of foreign coaches.

 

In football, as in economic strategy, the achievement of success depends on deep integration into global markets and techniques. But global integration is not enough. Of equal importance is the development of national institutional processes, to nurture the talent and capabilities, to solve the organisational challenges of building a collective enterprise, and to do this on the basis of local cultural traditions.

 

—The author is at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Centre for Policy Research

 

***************************************


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

SHALE GAS CAN TRANSFORM ENERGY

NOOR MOHAMMAD

 

India has started preparations to explore and exploit its shale gas reserves. This was expected after the US started large-scale production of shale gas. The recent US success in shale gas production has also encouraged others like China to explore their own basins for the non-conventional gas. Meanwhile, international oil companies have also rushed to invest in shale gas acreages, apparently in a bid to get a first-mover advantage in a business that has the potential to transform the world's energy scenario.

 

It is not that shale gas reserves were not known earlier. The only thing was that cost economics of shale gas production was not competitive. But now that conventional energy sources are depleting fast, exploitation of shale gas reserves is fast becoming a commercially viable option. It is not surprising that oil companies are rushing to take a piece of the emerging shale gas business. The fine print of the growing interest in shale gas is that the world is running short of cheaper energy sources and now is the time to exploit costlier ones. Production cost of shale gas is higher compared to natural gas because of the complex technique required for its production.

 

World crude oil prices tumbled from the peak of $147 a barrel in July 2008 to $35 a barrel in December that year following the global financial crisis. But the prices recovered soon. International crude oil prices were in the range of $85 a barrel in May this year, even though the world economy was yet to recover from the recession. Global crude oil prices fell to the level of $68 a barrel after the onset of the Eurozone debt crisis. However, oil has recovered the lost ground since then. This shows the resilience of the oil market.

 

Before it started production of shale gas, the US used to be a big LNG importer. But domestic shale gas has helped the world's largest energy consumer to significantly reduce its dependence on imported gas, sending international LNG prices crashing. Spot LNG prices had hit the level of $22 per mmbtu during the first half of 2008. But prices have since come down to $4-5 per mmbtu. The growing interest in shale gas also reflects a new thinking to exploit local energy resources to achieve faster economic growth. It takes a relatively long time to convert mineral ores into finished products. So ores can be imported. But converting crude oil into refined products like petrol and diesel is a much shorter process. This is the reason countries across the world are shifting attention to exploiting local energy resources. Renewed interest in shale gas is part of the same pattern.

 

India may finally find big shale gas reserves. However, evolving a cost-competitive economic model would be crucial to large-scale production of shale gas. Shale gas should compete with imported LNG rather than domestic conventional gas, given its high cost of production. US shale gas may have cooled world LNG prices for the now but once the global economy again gets back on the track, prices should harden.

 

India heavily depends on domestic coal to meet its primary energy consumption requirements. But now it is planning to shift its energy consumption pattern toward natural gas in a bid to reduce its carbon emissions as part of the commitment to fight global warming. The biggest obstacle to achieving the shift is the domestic demand-supply gap. India has been importing LNG to meet domestic gas shortfall, which is in the range of 25-30%. But India has secured only a small quantity of imported LNG under long-term contract. It has to meet the bulk of its LNG requirement from the spot market, which closely follows movement in the international crude oil market. This is the reason bulk users like power and fertiliser sectors have been rather hesitant about using LNG as fuel or feedstock. The government is paying a huge subsidy on cooking fuel LPG on the ground that it is a clean fuel. Shale gas is also a clean source of energy and can replace LPG in urban areas if city gas distribution network is expanded. However, growth of the sector remains hampered because of domestic gas shortage.

 

India will need to invest heavily in building infrastructure, like LNG import terminals, storage facilities and re-gasification plants, if it is to undertake large-scale import of LNG. Perhaps for this reason, India has not shown much urgency to go for long-term LNG supply contracts despite the precipitous fall in LNG prices.

 

If India succeeds in producing shale gas on a large scale, it would help its plan to move towards cleaner energy consumption in the long run, without having to invest much. It is good that ONGC has started research work on shale gas business through a pilot project. RIL is also trying to get a fix on shale gas business through its investment in US shale gas acreages.

 

—noor.md@expressindia.com

 

***************************************

 

 


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

RUBBER RACING

SANJEEB MUKHERJEE


Rubber prices are burning. Fuelled by rising auto sales, tyre demand has shot up, putting severe upward pressure on rubber prices. Tyre makers consume almost 60% of the total rubber produced in the country. Between April and May 2010, auto sales jumped by 28% as compared to the same period last year, while exports grew by a staggering 68%. Consequently, prices of RSS 4 grade rubber rose by 19.1% between Jan-Apr. At present, they are hovering at an all-time high of Rs 18,000 per metric tonne and could even top Rs 20,000 if demand doesn't slow down.

 

This price rise is purely on account of a demand-supply mismatch, as production has risen in 2010, albeit slower than the demand. Rubber demand in 2010 is expected to rise by 12%, mainly because of scorching auto sales in emerging economies and huge imports by China. Meanwhile, global production is projected to rise by just 5.2%, down from a May growth estimate of 6.1%. The Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries, a conglomeration of the major rubber producing countries, now feels that global natural rubber production would be around 9.384 million metric tonne in 2010. Of this, the bulk would be contributed by Thailand, Malaysia, China, India and Vietnam. These, incidentally, are also some of the biggest consumers of rubber.

 

It is projected that rubber prices will remain high, at least in the next few months, as there is limited scope for supplies to improve due to climate constraints, the unfavourable age structure of existing trees, acute labour shortage in plantations and the rising number of small holdings that limit the possibilities of enhancing yields using short-term measures. Output in Thailand, the world's largest rubber producer, fell 13.3% YoY in April due to a longer-than-normal winter.

 

Although production in India, the world's fourth largest rubber producer, is expected to rise by almost 8% in 2010-11 and demand is projected to grow by 6%, inflationary tendencies have not been curbed. This has prompted the rubber industry to raise doubts over output estimates made by the Rubber Board. Some are calling for a ban on futures trading. That would be a bad idea.

 

—sanjeeb.mukherjee@expressindia.com

 

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET

 

Madhav Kumar Nepal may finally have resigned as Prime Minister of Nepal but there will be no end to the political crisis in South Asia's youngest republic unless all its major political parties resolve to form a national government and do so quickly. There will be plenty of time in the future for adversarial politics but the moment now is for consensus so that the country's Constitution is finalised and fresh elections can be held. As the single largest party, the Maoists have the right to expect that the prime ministership of any national government should be held by them. This was the arrangement after the 2008 Constituent Assembly elections. Unfortunately, the government headed by the Maoist leader, Prachanda, was undercut by the Nepali Congress's refusal to join it and by the insubordination of the Nepal Army brass. Prachanda's resignation, which followed the misuse of presidential prerogatives to reinstate the dismissed army chief, allowed Mr. Nepal to form the government. But history will consider the administration he headed as a wasted year. India's role in needlessly prolonging this political stagnation is also unlikely to be judged very kindly.

 

Thanks to the stalemate, the original deadline for writing the new Constitution was missed. But unless serious steps are taken by the political parties, there is no reason to assume the new target date will be met. At the heart of this damaging crisis is the failure of the NC and UML to address the organisational and political shortcomings that led to their electoral defeat in 2008. The Maoists may not be able to repeat their spectacular performance next time round but chances are that their two major opponents will lose further ground. Under the circumstances, the principal leaders of these two parties would prefer to play backroom politics. That is why the NC and the CPN(UML) leadership will make every effort to ensure the Maoists do not head the government again and instead stake their own claim. But should a consensus evolve in favour of a Maoist-headed government, the two parties are likely to insist that the former rebels nominate someone other than Prachanda to be Prime Minister. On their part, the Maoists need to act with great maturity and restraint. Nothing should be allowed to come in the way of an arrangement that will facilitate the writing of the Constitution and the completion of the peace process through the integration of Maoist combatants and the democratisation of the Nepal army. It is clear that only a national unity government led by the Maoists can accomplish these tasks. The Maoists must be prepared to make reasonable compromises and concessions in order to win the trust of the other parties, and call their bluff.

 

 

***************************************


THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A NEW BENCHMARK?

 

The introduction of a base rate mechanism that will set the floor for lending rates is hardly the seminal event it has been made out to be. Nor does the cluster of announcements by leading banks of their base rates give an indication of what the general level of lending rates will be after the new system settles down. The base rate mechanism is the same as the Prime Lending Rate (PLR) system that was in vogue in the early 1990s. The PLR mechanism was diluted over time, with too many categories of borrowers exempted from its purview. By 2001, it had become a mere reference rate, a far cry from what it was intended to be. There is a danger that the new system will meet a similar fate. For now, however, the Reserve Bank of India's directive to banks seeks to ensure transparency and uniformity in the methodology of calculating the base rate. Only a small number of borrowers — staff members, those availing of loans under the differential interest rate schemes, and a few other categories — will be charged rates that will be lower than the ones arrived at through the base rate method. The base rate will be calculated by each bank taking into account the cost of funds, possible loss incurred due to the reserve requirements, administrative costs, and the profit element. The actual rate to a borrower will be the base rate plus borrower-specific charges, product-specific operating costs, and premia on account of credit risks and tenure.

 

The point is that even though the base rates announced recently are in the region of just 7.5 to 8.25 per cent, they will not necessarily translate into lower borrowing costs. The chief merit of the new system is that it will make it difficult for top-rated customers to arm-twist banks to lend to them at rates well below the benchmark. That widely prevalent practice was regressive: small and medium borrowers were charged higher interest rates, thus subsidising the larger ones. The old system stood in the way of an orderly transmission of monetary policy signals. There is no guarantee that the new base rate system will not be circumvented by banks and their borrowers. However well laid down, it will be impossible to do away with subjectivity while calculating the final lending rates. Banks can be persuaded by their borrowers to subscribe to their commercial paper issue and thereby get funds at lower costs. As disintermediation gathers pace in the financial sector, banks will be facing greater competition from other intermediaries who may not be bound by central bank rules.

 

***************************************

 

THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLE

NITISH KUMAR'S ELUSIVE 'PATNAIK' MOMENT

NAVEEN PATNAIK GAINED HANDSOMELY FROM BREAKING WITH THE BJP. IT IS TIME NITISH KUMAR SHOWED THE SAME DARING.

VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

 

The Nitish Kumar-Bharatiya Janata Party shadow-boxing appears to have faded into the backdrop — at least for now. For close to a fortnight, the Bihar Chief Minister and his political partner sparred and warred, giving the impression that the relationship was going over the precipice. But just as the audience braced itself for the final, heart-stopping moment, when Mr. Kumar was expected to do a Naveen Patnaik on his ally of 14 years, he stopped, weighed the situation and pulled back from the brink.

 

To anyone familiar with the Nitish-BJP chapter of Bihar's political history, the tepid ending is hardly likely to have come as a surprise. This is not the first time Mr. Kumar has fulminated against the BJP, nor will it be the last time he does so. The Janata Dal (U) has long been a candidate for exiting the National Democratic Alliance, and seemed close to following Mr. Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal ahead of the 2009 general elections. But that did not happen. Mr. Kumar stayed on to fight another battle, and presumably will fight many more battles — unless it dawns on him that sometimes a single dramatic decision can achieve what a lifetime of laboured steps cannot.

 

Of course, the Bihar and Orissa circumstances are far from being identical. Caste and class composition variations aside, the Bihar Chief Minister is made very differently from his Orissa counterpart. The western-educated, elitist Patnaik showed stunning daring in breaking up with the BJP, his partner in the State and at the Centre since 1998. Forget that the bravado was at odds with his affable, mild-mannered nature. To most people incredulously watching Mr. Patnaik in superhero-style action, he seemed intent on political suicide. No one who

studied the electoral map of Orissa could find any reason for him to win as outrightly as he eventually did.

 

What obviously gave him confidence was his own incredible track record. Mr. Patnaik's is a dazzling, if somewhat under-recognised, story. The genial son of Kalinga warrior Biju Patnaik entered politics to instant success and stardom, which was surprising considering his English-speaking, affluent background. But remarkably, he never once tasted failure in the years thereafter. Between 1998 and 2009, he won two State elections in a row, besides picking up the majority of seats in three consecutive elections to the Lok Sabha.

 

Mr. Patnaik did achieve all of this in partnership with the BJP. However, unlike in Bihar, where the BJP was a force on its own, the party in Orissa owed its all to Mr. Patnaik. Consider the BJP's electoral record prior to the alliance: No seats at all in the 1984, 1989, 1991 and 1996 Lok Sabha elections, and negligible presence in the Assembly during the same period. Once the alliance was in place, the BJP's fortunes soared skyward: Of the 9 Lok Sabha seats allotted to it under the 9-12 seat-sharing formula, it won 7 in 1998, all 9 in 1999 and again 7 in 2004. Of the 63 Assembly seats allotted to it under the 63-84 formula, the BJP won 38 in 2000 and 32 in 2004. The BJP's vote share increased in the Lok Sabha from 9.5 per cent in 1991 to 19.30 per cent in 2004. In the Assembly, it went up from 3.56 per cent in 1990 to 17.11 per cent in 2004.

 

Mr. Patnaik deduced, and correctly too, that without the BJD propping it, the BJP would slide back to its pre-alliance status. In May 2009, as Mr. Patnaik wrapped up his twin victories in the Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections, his former partner crashed to zero seats in the Lok Sabha and just seven in the Assembly.

 

In retrospect, the Chief Minister clearly knew what he was doing. Yet at that time there was little in the statistics to suggest a gargantuan BJD victory. In a triangular contest, it is a given that the advantage rests with the party with the largest share of votes. In Orissa, this distinction was held by the outwardly down and out Congress. When Mr. Patnaik gave the BJP the heave-ho, this is what he was faced with. In the Lok Sabha: BJP-19.30 per cent; BJD-30.02 per cent and the Congress-40.43 per cent. In the Assembly: BJP-17.11 per cent; BJD-27.36 per cent and the Congress-34.82 per cent. A certain addition to the BJD's vote share consequent to the BJP's departure made sense. But no one could have reckoned that the BJD would increase its vote share by 7 percentage points in the Lok Sabha (37. 2 per cent) and by over 11 percentage points in the Assembly (38.86 per cent).

 

There was something in the verdict for other followers to take note. Mr. Patnaik's personal popularity, his clean image and the absence of a credible rival in the Congress were all points in his favour. But these still did not satisfactorily explain the size of his victory. The gap between victory and landslide was explained by only one thing. His decisive action post-Kandhamal anti-Christian killings. When he broke up with the BJP, he became a hero for more than just the Christian community.

 

It is possible to question the Chief Minister's motives. After all, he cohabited with the BJP for over a decade, and showed no particular remorse at the time of the Gujarat 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom. But whatever Mr. Patnaik's reasons for dumping the BJP, the important thing is that he carried conviction with his people. Unlike Mr. Kumar, whose mood swings vis-à-vis the BJP have been showcased for all to see, Mr. Patnaik exhibited no theatrics while in a relationship with the BJP. But once he decided he had had enough, he despatched the BJP in a swift, surgical operation that at once unsettled his opponents and raised his profile among his voters. In the public perception, he was a leader willing to stake his career for a principle.

 

History offers proof that fortune favours the brave. M.G. Ramachandran, Indira Gandhi, V.P. Singh, and even Lalu Prasad, all reached iconic heights because they dared to walk their own individual paths. Will Mr. Kumar eventually pick up the courage to shed the Hindutva baggage and be his own man? His past tells us that he will not but there is enough in his present to suggest that he can and he must.

 

Mr. Kumar appears not able to forget that he has reached where he has after a long, bitter struggle marked by setbacks and failures. Rewind to 1990. Between Mr. Prasad and Mr. Kumar, the latter was the smart one. Armed with an engineering degree and already an MP, Mr. Kumar was friend and adviser to Mr. Prasad during the 1990 Bihar Assembly election which launched Mr. Prasad's extraordinary career. But, as it often happens in politics, the disciple completely outperformed the guru. Mr. Prasad's impish charm and riveting rustic act brought him a fan following so huge that there was no longer any need for Mr. Kumar. Frustrated, Mr. Kumar took his Samata Party (later JD-U) to the BJP's door, entirely unmindful of the Janata Dal's secular-liberal moorings.

 

Formed in 1996, the Samata-BJP alliance achieved a fair degree of success in the 1996 and 1998 Lok Sabha elections, securing 24 and 30 seats out of a total of 52 from Bihar. In 1999, the alliance hit the jackpot with 41 seats.

 

But in the Assembly, the alliance was not so fortunate, resulting in a long and tiring wait for Mr. Kumar, who wanted nothing more than the chief ministerial chair. This happened in 2000 but humiliatingly for Mr. Kumar, he was in office for all of nine days, not being able to prove his majority. Around this time, Mr. Kumar's opponents began to joke about his jinxed fate. An aide of Mr. Prasad would fondly tell journalists that he had read Mr. Kumar's horoscope and he saw no sign of fame or fortune there. Indeed, the high office eluded Mr. Kumar even after the landmark February 2005 election, which saw the Lalu-Rabri Devi twosome exit the scene after holding sway for 15 long years.

 

Mr. Kumar's dream finally came true in October 2005. He became Chief Minister and with that came name, fame and fortune — all in ample measure and for the very deserved reason that under his helmsmanship Bihar emerged from the dark to show signs of hope. Honour upon honour followed — television "man of the year" awards and high approval ratings. With Mr. Kumar manoeuvring to forge a new coalition of the OBCs, the Most Backward Classes and sections of Dalits and Muslims, the JD(U)-BJP alliance swept the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. A post-poll survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies placed Mr. Kumar right on top with the highest approval rating for any Chief Minister.

 

There can be no better time than this for Mr. Kumar to act. He can either do a Naveen Patnaik and trigger a vote consolidation in his favour — even the BJP's forward caste voters will likely vote for him in the event of a BJP-JD(U) rupture — or he can sit and make his little caste calculations and forever continue his attack-and-retreat charade.

 

***************************************


THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

INSPIRE: BEYOND THE PALE

AL QAEDA'S NEW ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ONLINE MAGAZINE HAS TIPS ON BOMB-MAKING AND ENCRYPTION FOR BEGINNERS.

IAN BLACK

 

Like many new publications it has a vivid mix: news, features, celebrity opinion pieces and a smart digital-era commitment to interactivity — keeping in close touch with the readers. But for the casual browser of the internet, Al Qaeda's new English-language online magazine may prove a step or two beyond the pale.

 

Entitled Inspire, and designed for aspiring jihadis who cannot read Arabic, it offers tips on bomb-making and encryption for beginners as well as heavyweight Koranic commentary and crude propaganda.

 

Inspire appears to be the brainchild of Anwar al Awlaki, a fugitive U.S.-born radical preacher and key figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), based in Yemen's remote tribal areas — and suggests a drive to recruit terrorists.

 

But the launch of its summer 2010 edition has so far been troubled. It advertised an article by Awlaki — "May our souls be sacrificed for you" — that failed to appear, as did all but the first three pages of the entire 67-page magazine. The rest of a PDF file posted on friendly websites showed only garbled computer code.

 

Other missing items, according to the contents index, included a "detailed, yet short, easy-to-read manual" entitled "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," wittily bylined "the AQ chef." Another article, by "terrrorist", was about "sending and receiving encrypted messages". Nor was there a promised "exclusive interview" with Sheikh Abu Basir, aka Nasser Al-Wahayshi, Aqap's leader.

 

Outside talent should have been represented by an Osama bin Laden piece on "The Way to Save the Earth."

 

Prompts suspicion

 

Inspire's partial appearance prompted suspicion in the jihadi community. Al-Qimmah, a website linked to the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabab movement in Somalia, warned anyone who saw the magazine to delete it — without explanation.

 

It also alerted readers that Al-Falluja, a popular jihadi forum, had been taken over — an apparent reference to cyber—manipulation by hostile intelligence services. Inspire's problems could well have been caused by deliberate disruption such as infecting it with a virus.

 

Inspire looks similar to Aqap's slick Arabic-language webzine Sada al—Malahim (Echoes of Epic Battles) — and is also published by Malahim Media. It is subtitled: "Inspire the Believers." Its authenticity could not be confirmed, but it was not being treated as a spoof by experts.

 

It appears to have taken on board cutting-edge thinking about the media, urging readers to submit articles, comments and suggestions. "It is our intent for this magazine to be a platform to present the important issues facing the ummah [Islamic nation] today to the wide and dispersed English-speaking Muslim readership," its unnamed editor promised.

 

Inspire promotes itself as "the first magazine to be issued by the Al Qaeda organisation in the English language", although Jihadi Recollections, published in the U.S. last year, was a polished effort.

 

Awlaki, famous for his online sermons and video messages to Americans — in fluent English — is an official target for assassination by the U.S. government because of his links to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian "underpants bomber" charged with an attack on a Dutch airliner over Detroit last Christmas Day, and to the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.

 

Other foreigners are said to have joined Aqap after studying Arabic in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a.

 

"This magazine is clearly intended for the aspiring jihadist in the U.S. or U.K. who may be the next Fort Hood murderer or Times Square bomber," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer now with the Brookings Institution in Washington.

 

Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen said: "The idea is that Aqap can reach, influence and inspire other like-minded individuals in the West. No longer do these individuals need to travel to Yemen or read Arabic in order to take instructions from Aqap. Now they can just download and read the magazine in English." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

***************************************

 


THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

THE DISCOMFITING SUBPLOT TO THE WORLD CUP'S RAINBOW NATION NARRATIVE

MILITARY METAPHORS ASSOCIATED WITH THE ENGLAND-GERMANY CLASH IN BLOEMFONTEIN SAT UNEASILY ALONGSIDE THE LEGACY OF ANGLO-BOER WAR.

DAVID SMITH


The World Cup balm of racial harmony in South Africa hasn't necessarily reached Bloemfontein in Free State province. Whereas in Johannesburg nearly every metered taxi driver is black, here nearly all of them are white. I asked one of them why. "A lot of my clients don't trust black drivers," he said simply.

I was surprised to find that Bloemfontein, unlike Johannesburg, is running an open top bus tour for World Cup visitors. But I shifted uncomfortably in my seat when we found ourselves literally looking down on a black township and our tour guide waved to "friendly people with big smiles." Apartheid felt a lot more recent than 16 years ago.

 

Bloemfontein gave birth to JRR Tolkien and Zola Budd, to the African National Congress in 1912 and the National Party in 1914, and to Tokkelos the liger — crossbred from a male lion and female tiger — at the local zoo in 1975. I remember hearing Budd interviewed on BBC radio, saying that she grew up unaware of Nelson Mandela's existence. Surely he was mentioned in the press, the interviewer wondered. Not in Bloemfontein, Budd replied. Celebrations for the ANC's centenary in January 2012 won't have an obvious focal point. The township where a meeting formed what was then the South African Native National Congress has since been demolished. Four gigantic and sacrilegious water towers, painted with a bank logo and colourful murals, now stand on the historic spot.

 

But there's another narrative from the past running in the Afrikaner capital. A soaring sandstone obelisk pays homage to the suffering of women and children in the Anglo-Boer war. Surrounding it are the whispering walls, whose echo effect pays tribute to the inmates of concentration camps who were not allowed to raise their voices.

 

The Boer War was one of those conflicts, like so many, that was meant to take eight days but dragged on for three years at the cost of tens of thousands of lives. One statue depicts a Boer riding off to battle on a well-fed horse with a sling full of bullets. Another shows a Boer exhausted, his bullets spent, his horse nearly crippled.

 

It's a struggle remembered for virtually inventing guerrilla warfare, as the heavily outnumbered Boers kept on the move, hitting the British in surprise attacks before vanishing into the bush. Earlier this month the American political scientist Peter W. Singer invoked these farmer commandos when discussing the current war in Afghanistan.

"My worry is that Afghanistan becomes America's Boer War," Singer said. "Great Britain got engaged in a grinding war where by the end of it, its definition of success was just to get out." Britain's Lord Kitchener responded with a scorched earth policy that was ruthlessly effective but unthinkable in a Universal Declaration of Human Rights and YouTube world. The British burned down farms, cutting off the Boers' food and information supply, and rounded up women and children into some of the world's first concentration camps, where more than 26,000 died from malnourishment and diseases including pneumonia and dysentery.

 

As a Briton, I wondered if this is how it feels to be German in a museum about the second world war. There are a series of plaques set in the ground, each with the name of a concentration camp, the number who perished there and a quotation from the Bible in Afrikaans. The nearby Anglo-Boer War Museum has photographs of the camp occupants, from emaciated children with flesh hanging off ribcages to proud middle-class men wearing moustaches and Sunday best, striving to keep their makeshift tent respectable.

 

The captured Boers, including boys, were shipped off to far corners of the empire in prisoner-of-war camps on St. Helena and Bermuda and in Sri Lanka, India and Portugal. They whiled away the days boxing, playing cricket and football, putting on plays and carving exquisite tokens to their faraway loved ones. Brooches and watch chains made from horsehair, bone, horn, wood, stone, mother of pearl and coins are on display.

 

I was in town for the World Cup match between England and Germany and war metaphors were thick in the air, with at least one fan dressed as a Spitfire pilot. I wondered if Afrikaners are cheering for Germany, or the Netherlands, in this tournament because of their ancestry, but couldn't find much evidence for it. The museum was keen to find an angle on the World Cup, with an exhibition on what role the competing nations played in the 1899 - 1902 war.

 

Many foreigners living in South Africa at the time felt they had to show loyalty to the Afrikaner government, it noted. The first to raise a commando were the Germans, despite the Kaiser's official policy of neutrality. "The rank and file of the commando were made up of navvies, shopkeepers, professional men, adventurers, teachers and students." The German volunteers suffered losses at the Battle of Elandslaagte, with nine dead and about double that number wounded. Among them were Konzett (two lance wounds), Fabel (left jaw shot away), Scheffler (left lower arm shattered), Engel (bullet through both cheeks), Schmidt (leg injuries), Exner (shoulder and hip injuries), Goltz (left knee shattered), Shutte-Brockhoff (shrapnel in chest), Eisman (bullet wound in left side), Thiels (bullet wound in left arm), Heuer (shrapnel wounds) and Krugel (multiple shrapnel wounds in chest).

 

Lessons for Obama, Petraeus

 

Russia was also technically neutral, but Tsar Nicholas II wrote to his sister: "I am wholly preoccupied with the war between England and the Transvaal. Every day I read the news in the British newspapers from the first to the last line — I cannot conceal my joy at Boer success." There may well be lessons in this war for Obama and Petraeus in Afghanistan. But these analogies are never perfect and no one has a monopoly on them. In the museum's visitor book a Paraguayan, presumably also here for the football, has written: "This is a great exhibition that Afrikaners should be very proud of. Your history is so similar to that of Paraguay!" — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

***************************************


THE HINDU

CONSULTATION ON CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT ON INDUS BASIN

 

An international expert consultation on climate change impact on Cryosphere of the Indus Basin and its

 

implications on future water scenario has begun here at headquarter of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepali capital Kathmandu on Friday. An expert consultation organized by ICIMOD has brought together international as well as regional researchers from different disciplines and geographic region. Workshop will discuss over the establishment of an "Indus River Basin Initiative" to coordinate collaboration between different institutions and organisations.

 

The Indus River Basin will collect and analyse recent and ongoing research interventions and approaches. It will also provide platform for sharing knowledge gained from this analysis as well as for sharing current state-of-the-art approaches and interventions planned for future work on climate change and water resource management in the Indus River Basin, according to ICIMOD.

 

During the workshop, presentations and discussions will focus on study design and methodologies used in field work, modelling, and scenario analysis. The Indus River Basin is one of the most sensitive basins to impacts of climate change on water supplies and loss of livelihoods. Runoff is generated predominantly by melting snow and ice, and a large number of economic activities and human lives in the basin.

 

The Indus Basin covers an area of about 1,140,000 sq. km. A large part of the upper basin lies within the Hindu Kush, Karakorum,and Himalayan mountains. Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan share the basin territory, according to ICIMOD. — Xinhua

 

***************************************

 


THE HINDU

A TEST FOR LONGEVITY

NICHOLAS WADE

 

If you were going to live to be 100, would you want to know it?

 

When it becomes affordable to have one's genome sequenced, perhaps in a few years, a longevity test, though not a foolproof one, may be feasible, if a new claim holds up. Scientists studying the genomes of centenarians in New England say they have identified a set of genetic variants that predicts extreme longevity with 77 per cent accuracy.

 

The centenarians had just as many disease-associated variants as shorter-lived mortals, so their special inheritance must be genes that protect against disease, said the authors of the study, a team led by Paola Sebastiani and Thomas T. Perls of Boston University. Their report appears in Thursday's issue of Science.

 

Striking finding

 

The finding, if confirmed, would complicate proposals for predicting someone's liability to disease based on disease-causing variants in the person's genome, since much would depend on whether or not an individual possessed protective genes as well.

 

"I think it's a quite striking finding," said Nir Barzilai, an expert on longevity at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. It shows that only a limited number of favourable genes are required to attain great age, he said. Identifying these genes would provide protection against all the diseases of old age, a more powerful strategy than tackling each disease one by one.

 

"I feel there's an elephant in the room and no one realises it's really important — this is the next step to make us all healthy," Barzilai said.

 

The Boston University team found the genetic variants with a statistical technique called a genome-wide association study. This is the technique that researchers had hoped would lay bare the genetic roots of common diseases like Alzheimer's or cancer, but it has largely failed to do so, raising the question of how the Boston University team was more successful while using a smaller sample size than usual. The team analysed the genomes of 1,055 centenarians.

 

Sebastiani said the reason for their success was that living past 100 was such an extreme form of longevity that any genes involved would give very powerful signals of their presence, offsetting the reduced statistical power of the small sample.

 

She found that 150 genetic variants were associated with extreme longevity. She then looked at a different sample of centenarians from those involved in her study and found that more than three-quarters possessed many of the 150 genetic variants she had identified. The other centenarians had few or none of the protective variants, which means there are many more yet to find, Sebastiani said.

 

But Kari Stefansson, a geneticist who has looked for determinants of longevity among the Icelandic population, said of the current study that he was "amazed at how many loci of genome-wide significance have been found in a modest sample size."

 

Stefansson said he had been able to accumulate a larger collection of centenarians, despite Iceland's small population, because his company, Decode Genetics, has analysed most of the genomes of living Icelanders and in addition can compute the genomes of Icelanders who lived long ago from the genomes of their descendants.

 

None of the Boston University team's 150 genetic variants is present among Icelandic centenarians, he said. — New York Times News Service

 

***************************************

 


******************************************************************************************

THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

J&K BOILS: DELHI MUST BACK OMAR

 

The past month has been volatile in Jammu and Kashmir. Arguably the most disturbing aspect has been the death of 10 people in a single month, several of them stone-pelting teenagers, in incidents of firing by the state police and CRPF besieged by rampaging mobs. The situation is pregnant with negative probabilities, particularly with

 

the annual Amarnath yatra already under way. If pilgrims are attacked by pro-Pakistan elements in the Valley, or by terrorist modules, the situation can only worsen. Tourist and trade associations in Kashmir have said they will be ready with their traditional hospitality toward the Hindu pilgrims who travel to the cave shrine near Pahalgam in south Kashmir. There has never been any doubt about the feeling of genuine warmth of Kashmir's Muslim majority toward the visiting devotees. The trouble lies with the unpredictable ways of extremist and separatist politics, which tends to take its cue from Pakistan.


In periods of tension the Valley's mainstream parties and politicians are easily cowed into submission. The best way they know not to incur the wrath of militant elements is to issue statements that lend themselves to pro-extremist or anti-Indian propaganda. With votes in mind, they also believe — wrongly — that the best way to curry favour with the public is to acquiesce with the atmosphere of tension created by extremist elements. This was evident not long ago when the situation was sought to be destabilised after the death by drowning in a stream of two young women in south Kashmir, and earlier in the wake of the frenzy whipped up on false pretexts over building shelters for Amarnath pilgrims. We should not be surprised now if mainstream regional parties abdicate their responsibility, and prefer not to take a reasoned stand. They slip back to normal functioning only when the people themselves show the way.


Contrary to what some are led to believe by propagandistic rhetoric, it is the people of the Valley who come to the aid of the government in the final analysis. This is most evident at election time. However, if ordinary folk are to distance themselves from the wildfire expectations engendered from time to time by the tiny minority of desperate pro-Pakistan elements, they must have confidence that the government works for them. This was far from being the case when an Army officer in north Kashmir allegedly orchestrated the shooting of three innocent villagers in cold blood about a month ago. It was this which led to the chain of protests and violent events, which are yet to wind down. The officer in question has been suspended. In all fairness, he should be prosecuted before the law. When he allegedly organised the killing of innocent villagers, he was not acting in the line of duty. Such men in uniform must not enjoy protection under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act if they go trigger-happy, and at one stroke destroy a persisting state of calm. This is needed to give the political atmosphere in the Valley a lift.


In a recent interview to this newspaper, chief minister Omar Abdullah implied that a dialogue could be forged with the separatists in the post-Thimphu climate, since India and Pakistan were themselves talking. His expectation was that Pakistan might give them the green signal which they usually need. Clearly, Mr Abdullah's optimism has been belied. The Centre might also draw the necessary conclusions about Pakistan's current orientation in the light of recent events in Kashmir.


New Delhi would do well to support the Abdullah government when it is sought to be brought under siege by hostile elements. This is best not done by urging sending state ministers to trouble spots, but by taking actions that might east the pressure on the Kashmir government.

 

 

***************************************


THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

NAXAL TANTRIC RITUALS

FARRUKH DHONDY

 

"Pride, a stubborn donkey Conceit, a blinded mule

The flattered never realise The flatterer is a fool"

From Mughlai Ditties By Bachchoo

 

My father was once town engineer of Jamshedpur and my late brother-in-law Ramesh Bhasin, also in the employ of the Tata empire, was sometime vice-president of the Tata Iron and Steel Company in the same town. I don't exactly know what Ramesh's specific responsibilities were and haven't bothered, while writing this to call my sister and ask, because it doesn't seem relevant. He was a servant of the capitalist enterprise that seemed to require him to travel for days in the coal and ferrous mines of Bihar and what is now Jharkhand.
As an occasional visitor to Jamshedpur, deliberately disinterested in its narrow social round, I would be offered the option of taking some reading and writing and being driven to the remote "interior" where one or other of Tata enterprises had a guesthouse where I could spend a quiet solitary time.


These guesthouses had been built near the sites of mines, in places called Jodha, Jamadobha and Naomandi. I wasn't aware at the time of an unrest in the indigenous population to whom this land traditionally belonged. Though I fancied myself a Marxist, I gave no time to analysing the precise economic or political contradictions or dimensions of these places. Ramesh was very aware that I would, in the presence of his friends and superiors (I remember inflicting such on Russi Mody), argue against the capitalist exploitation of the local populations. I engaged him in conversations about the make-up and demands of the Tata trade unions. He explained their inherent corruption and I became aware, as anyone living in Jamshedpur would, that Tata employees, cushioned by being allocated free accommodation, schools, hospitals and pensions, would be reluctant to jeopardise this position of proletarian privilege by supporting union militancy.


About the rural or forest population where I spent a few days or weeks at a time, I knew very little. While there, I would read and write and discuss the night's meal with the caretaking chef and wander out on walks, wary of the wild animals who, I was warned, were quite capable of attacking and eating me. On several trips I found that the sadhus in or near the streams of the districts or looking after the isolated country temples, grew small allotments of cannabis for themselves and were extremely generous with handing out pocketfuls of ganja and equipping me with a chillum to smoke it in. "Shambho! Hai Shambho! Jai Shambho!" was the knowing and mischievous eyeball-rolling slogan and benediction I took away from those encounters.


Now Jharkhand is in turmoil. It is one of the territories where the exploitation of the natural resources by agencies completely alien from the native population has given the Naxalites a base of operation. These places are now a launch-pad of violence directed against the injustice of a settlement in which the natives get nothing but forced displacement. That the targets and victims of such violence and the counter-violence of the inept state are palpably imprecise has ever been the way with "class war".


It is not even clear in a strictly Marxist analysis whether the violence and organisation one reads of in the papers can indeed be called class war. The aim of the party that directs the violence is to overthrow the state. The aim of the cadres they recruit is to get corrupt police and politicians off their backs and participate in the spoils their territories provide and in the general material advance of the country. Into this divergence of aims, there is the opportunity for the bourgeois state to drive a wedge — if it can generate the incorruptible will to do it.
I have no right or intention to editorialise on Naxalism. Before the Naxal activity took root in the places in which I blithely holidayed, the officials of the company that worked the mines felt no guilt about digging those mines or making that steel. The talk then was of the advance of the country as a whole, the generation of expertise to expand India's capacity to exploit its natural resources and turn them to industrial and constructive use.


They had no idea that in a few decades the pace and direction of development of the country would be such that the sections of the population that could and would explore and seek to own the freshly discovered mineral wealth of the land would be, justly, characterised as agents of a lop-sided social equity — if not as downright crooked exploitative parasites.


The very democratic development of the country, one that forced the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand to come into existence, has resulted in an awareness and intolerance of such social and developmental inequity and iniquity. Hence the fertile soil for Naxalism.


The movement itself, with all the explanations forwarded by its apologists and by the hand-wringing "behalfists" who speak on their behalf, has always been a radical deviation from all forms of Marxism. Some of the propaganda perpetrated by the CPI(Maoist) party — and I admit that there could be willful distortions in the reports I have read — appeal more as tantric rituals of social cleansing than a Marxist programme for revolution. The derailment of trains and the killings at Dantewada, may serve some fantastic far-fetched strategic or recruiting purpose but in today's world of aimless jihadic terrorism they appeal more as the slaughter of the hapless and the innocent. Lenin would not have approved.


At this time, all developmental and military factors considered, the Maoist Party is extremely unlikely to lead a peasant revolt or a Long March which will win the countryside and surround Mumbai and Delhi and wrest power at the centre for a Maoism that China has long buried. They may succeed, with very many voices now urging negotiation and compromise, in establishing themselves as part of the radical democratic make-up of the districts and states in question. If they take or share power in these states, will they annex the means of production, communise the land and its resources and share the proceeds and power as no other state professing socialism — not Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, the Kim family's North Korea or Pol Pot's Cambodia — has ever done?

 

***************************************


THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

DOOMED MODELS ON KILLER COCKTAILS

SHOBHAA DE

 

It has been a slow week for news. Fifa (Fédération Internationale de Footbalol Association) leaves India cold (if we aren't playing, why bother?). And the political khabar from Delhi has been pretty thanda. That left a lot of front-page space waiting to be filled. Along came a masala story which had the hungry media vultures scampering —

 

an ageing model's tragic suicide. Hardly headline news. But there it was, on every channel and newspaper. Poor Viveka Babajee hadn't received even half this level of coverage during her lifetime as she struggled to keep up appearances, keep body and soul together, in the big, bad and coked out world of Mumbai modelling. She was considered over the hill and "finished" within the glam fraternity — that in itself is a killer judgment. Combine her downgraded professional status with personal traumas and you have a tragedy waiting to happen. For newshounds, this is another sensational tabloid scandal involving a pretty woman, a rich boyfriend (or many) and a lifestyle that shocks those outside the charmed circle. What most press reports aren't saying is that what really killed Viveka was not a thwarted love affair but corrosive insecurity and despair.


It is a common story. Some girls can handle it better than others. Some manage to escape. Some don't. Viveka didn't. But look around you and you'll find several walking wounded models struggling to stay afloat… stay alive. The route taken is familiar — get discovered, get to Mumbai, get assignments. The first two or three years are generally heady and brilliant. The money rolls in, wealthy admirers pile up, lifestyle options multiply… and with luck, Bollywood beckons. All this before the girls reach their sell-by date (25 at the outside). Once your shelf-life is over, the assignments dry up and even those panting middle-aged married men move on to younger chicks working the circuit. The first sign of desperation is when such a sought after girl finds herself in the social wilderness and starts looking for lolly from other sources. She has bills to pay, loans to service and an image to protect. Creditors start breathing down her neck… and with the heat getting a bit too hot to handle, the girl panics. Most of the times, she is miles away from home, living by herself in a suburban flat without support systems of any kind. She makes alcohol her best friend. In order to keep meeting her new "best friend", she lets it be known she's open to attending parties thrown by strangers — for a fee, of course. There are shady "party agents" who round-up hard up models and small-time actresses for clients (mainly prosperous traders from Punjab, Haryana, Delhi) but at least the booze is in plenty even if the money is pathetic. Then come the shadier proposals to spend a weekend in Goa or Dubai — the money is not big, but it covers shopping kharcha. What the hell, a girl's got to have the latest cellphone and "It" bag.


From this stage to full-time hooking takes no time at all. The stakes are further lowered — but what is on offer is far more addictive — coke. Party girls in sexy frocks are always welcome at power evenings that need a strong glamour quotient — that is exactly the pattern followed by organisers of mega sporting events worldwide. But there is a catch — the cocktails that keep these evenings in high gear do not flow out of glasses. The powerful hosts behind these parties know there is but one hook to get these girls to hang on — cocaine — lots and lots of the white stuff. Champagne and coke become the preferred mix. Throw in sex with strangers and what starts off as a "fun" thing soon turns into the blackest nightmare ever with no escape. Dirty weekends grow into four- and five-day orgies. The protagonists are usually society's top-drawer men — industrialists, movie stars, ex-sports people, TV producers. And, of course, the fashion crowd from Delhi or Bengaluru. This is where girls like Viveka descend into a private hell from which there is no "out". They are literally and metaphorically at a dead end. Strapped for money, strapped for love, strapped for security on any level — they turn the searchlight inwards in search of salvation. Some find it, most don't.

Viveka's suicide is being compared to Nafisa's. And, no doubt there are unmistakable parallels. The main thread involves their respective backgrounds. It was hard to believe Viveka's family is originally from Satara — a small, obscure town in Maharashtra (and incidentally, my birthplace!). That makes Viveka a Maharastrian-Mauritian! What was a girl like that doing in a biz like this? Perhaps she was lured into it with promises of big time success. Ditto for Nafisa, who was also a misfit in the murky world of modelling. Both girls were above average in looks and intelligence. Yet, both got mixed up with men who gave them grief and treated them badly. Both chose a violent exit after giving up on life and themselves. Their contemporaries are made of sterner stuff — some have married (and divorced) foreigners, others have switched to choreography and event management. Photographs of Viveka's friends at her funeral, tell their own story. Shockingly enough, some of the girls who showed up to pay their respects clad in pristine designer white, posed for the cameras like they were at a fashion week showing. What should have been a sombre occasion was converted into a celeb circus. But like I pointed out earlier, this has been a lean and mean week for hard news. Viveka's funeral provided some much-needed eye candy and a few photo-ops to the starved media. So much for the current crop of ramp scorchers. There are still others who fled India and left their old world behind. I was surprised to run into the lovely Shyla Lopez who now lives in Moscow with her Russian husband and a young son. Did she look happy?? Ummmm… I'm not sure.

But at least she is alive.

 

Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com

 

***************************************


THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

NEW TRESS CIRCLE

KISHWAR DESAI

 

It's always a time for celebration when a friend is elevated to the ranks of the great and the glorious. And recently when former civil servant-turned-restaurant magnate Ranjit Mathrani (married to the equally talented Namita Panjabi) was appointed the High Sheriff of Greater London it gave us all a reason to party non stop. Sometimes, ofcourse, the party can have a "cause" behind it. And this week the newly-appointed High Sheriff decided to introduce us to one very successful but discreetly run non-profit organisation, supported by the police, called Safer London Foundation. Over wine and canapés at the elegant Amaya, attended by the home secretary, Theresa May, we learnt more about how the foundation works, trying hard to keep vulnerable children off the streets in productively creative activities.


So who says crime doesn't pay? Well (hopefully) it may not eventually help the criminals, but the loot from crime, if collected by the police, can end up helping communities and deprived areas. At least that is the mandate of the Safer London Foundation, efficiently run by the soft-spoken Jill Andrews, its director. It is a marvellous idea of channelling the ill-gotten gains back into helping young people to get engaged with music, dance and other life-affirming activities. I wonder if this idea could be implemented in India as well.
At present few of us have any idea about the fate of unclaimed booty from theft or burglary cases… And what happens to those crores of rupees which are routinely grabbed from corrupt politicians? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the money were given back to a non-government, or quasi-government organisation, a charity or a school which could use for it the greater good of some deprived section of society? This could eventually lead to an actual lessening of crime and criminal gangs, if those who are most likely to become lured to it are diverted into gainful activities.


After all, right now one of the huge debates in the UK is how we must tackle not only crime, but also the cause of crime. Throwing everyone who commits a crime into jail may not be the only answer — areas can also be made safer by offering a softer approach and weaning children away from the gang and gun culture.
So how does the Safer London Foundation work? When the police unearth a stash of illegal cash or any stolen goods, they hand these over to the foundation. If it is a stolen work of art, and no one claims it, for instance, it can be sold and funds are thus raised. Often, the foundation then collaborates with a well-established local charity, examining problems and identifying solutions to them. This knowledge is then used in making a "real" difference. Ms Andrews says, "Ironic as it may seem, recycling and redirecting cash from criminal activity does actually make a huge amount of positive change on the ground in terms of diverting young people away from crime and supporting them in turning their lives around… Take for instance the Osmani Trust, based in Tower Hamlets, which works across some of the most deprived wards in the UK, whose streets have sometimes (yet not uniquely) been a flashpoint for gang fighting. Since 2008 its Aasha project has mediated in more than 14 separate gang conflicts, given local kids accredited training and worked with local employers to open doors".
Well, it's a great idea and one that is definitely worth stealing!

 

MEANWHILE, THERE has been another appointment which is causing celebrations to break out across the UK. That is the rise of the Welsh-born Labour Party firebrand Julia Gillard, the new Prime Minister of Australia. Just as in India we can take vicarious pleasure out of the irresistible rise of Nikki Haley, the US Republican gubernatorial candidate, the UK is re-claiming its rights on Ms Gillard, whose parents left Wales when she was a young girl. They took the decision to immigrate to Australia as "£10 poms" (ie, they received assisted passage and migrant status in return for a £10 fee). This new flock of migrants was very essential to populate the then largely empty Australian continent.

Ms Gillard is now being celebrated not only for her remarkable ability to survive and replace her former boss, but also for her capacity to trade ribald insults with her largely male colleagues in Parliament. One anecdote proudly recounted is how she was thrown out of Parliament for calling an opponent "a snivelling little grub". In turn she has been lambasted with sexist abuse over the years, and one Liberal senator has had to apologise for saying that she could not qualify for a formal post since she had decided to remain deliberately "barren". Women politicians all over the world have to deal with weird abuse — as we have also seen in the case of Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee back home.


But where I think our women politicians can take a page out of Ms Gillard's book is in her selection of her partner (this is her third one). Wisely, she has opted for Tim Mathieson, a former hair dresser turned estate agent. I could not approve of her choice more. Imagine having your very own hairdresser at home! Fantastic! It solves all problems and has no doubt enabled her with an infallible follicular advantage over her opponents. She will never have a bad hair day — and Mr Mathieson has already confessed to being her secret weapon as he is often woken up early in the morning to dress the prime ministerial tresses. He says he has learnt to do her hair even when half asleep. Wow! This will not only ensure that Ms Gillard's flaming red head is constantly groomed for TV cameras , she will also save the Australian taxpayer a lot of money as she need not cart along an extra hairdresser when she travels.


Ms Gillard has probably shown the way now for all women standing for elections anywhere in the world — a neat solution no doubt supported by hair-product companies, who will all vote for Ms Gillard, because Mr Mathieson is definitely worth it!


However, the only danger is that there can be no secrets in such a relationship. The state of the Prime Minister's love-life with her consort (whom she yet has to marry) will be revealed very easily by the condition, shine and style of Ms Gillard's hair. If there is a strand out of place, the local tabloids will scream about a "brush off" —

 

with every split end indicating an impending split. So can one really have such a deeply personal relationship with a hairdresser and yet hold high office? Only time, and the state of Ms Gillard's hair, will tell.

 

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

 

***************************************

 


******************************************************************************************

DNA

EDITORIAL

THE SOCIAL AGENDA

 

What makes the National Advisory Council (NAC) important is not its members or the good ideas it may have. It is entirely due to the fact that it is headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

 

There are enough theories, or speculations if you will, about the NAC being a super-cabinet to rival that of prime minister Manmohan Singh, or that it is the most empowered group that has to push through the social agenda of the UPA through the government.

 

That is why the least rustle in its meetings is interpreted in terms of seismic activity on the Richter scale. The reading from the latest NAC meeting is over the Food Security Act, which is supposed to be the big ticket social agenda scheme.

 

The ongoing discussion is supposed to reveal some sort of divisions, not so much over the principle as much as over detail.

 

Should the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) be extended to the whole country at one go or whether it should be implemented in phases.

 

The other issue seems to be over the actual entitlement of food grains of 35kg per family per month. Of course, this programme is targeted at those below the poverty line.

 

The debates may not be of great interest if the government is able to implement it efficiently. There is not much opposition even from those in the opposite ideological camp, that is those who think that all welfare schemes are basically wasteful measures.

 

There is a general consensus that the state has enough resources now to spend for the needy people and ideology does not matter.

 

What is of importance however is whether this is the best way of tackling the issue of both unemployment and hunger, both of which are prevalent and no growth statistics can hide.

 

All the members of the NAC are known welfare state advocates of one kind or another despite many differences and they tend to make people dependent on the state, though in the name of rightful, and now even legal, entitlements.

 

The social security net must not be confined to the issue of the quantum of grains families can get through the public distribution system (PDS).

 

It has to extend to the whole gamut of employment, work skills and quality of social services. And it has to go beyond the state agencies and their surrogates, the non-governmental organisations.

It is necessary that people themselves should be able to run these schemes for themselves as a cooperative run on terms of rational economy. This will be possible if the myth that Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are moving in opposite directions is dispelled.

 

***************************************


DNA

INTERVEW

THE NATION SHOULD ADOPT THE MAOISTS' AREA

VENKATESAN VEMBU 

 

Film-maker Prakash Jha wears his politics on his sleeve, although he'll tell you that his primary dharma is to narrate well-packaged entertaining stories. In Hong Kong for the premier of his latest film Rajneeti a few weeks ago, he attended a charity event hosted by Jade Group International to raise money for an NGO he runs in Bihar. Jha sat down with DNA and talked of his fascination with politics, the Maoist insurgency, and the need for "all good people" to enter politics.


As a director of an intensely political film, how difficult was it for you to subject yourself to extra-administrative 'censor' authorities, particularly political parties?  


This is the society I'm making a film about; it's a society that still needs to find its roots. This is what our democracy is about: it's still developing, but at another level, it is thriving. We haven't fully attained those levels of freedom, or a transparent system.

 

Other films too faced problems: My Name Is Khan faced trouble from Shiv Sainiks. These parties try to whip up sentiments, but it doesn't work. I try and detach myself from all that drama because this is a process we have to go through.


You're not only an observer of politics; you contested two parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2009, and lost. Do you feel your understanding of politics is inadequate?   


Firstly, I am not a politician. I contested elections only because I believe that people who can think right and who understand social dynamics should not be afraid of getting into politics. You need good people to come into politics, so long as they can make a difference in any way — by being a successful entrepreneur or even a film-maker. Politics and democracy have to be taken seriously and nurtured. But I have decided that I will not contest elections any more.


Are you giving up because politics doesn't have the space for people like you?   


I'm not giving up: I will contribute in other ways. I would like to go to campuses and universities and engage students and young people, and generally raise political awareness.

 

It's true that I wasn't elected, but I made a brave attempt, and very nearly won: that's a 'near-victory' I savour. In any case, there will be other, younger people. By the time of the next elections, I will be 62 years of age, and there are other things I want to do — like learn to play the piano and learn to fly!
Active political life requires a certain amount of dedication, focus and time. If I had won in 2004 or 2009, my film-making would have taken a back seat, and I would have devoted 26 hours a day to politics. But now, my film-making will continue.


You're involved with a charity, but doesn't the 'charity model' itself represent a failure of governance?
I don't look at this as charity, I think of it as my duty. Whether I'm a businessman, or an economist, or whoever, I have to support things beyond the public realm. That's because public investments alone are never going to be adequate: they may create the infrastructure for growth, but real growth has to come from the private sector. It's my way of taking responsibility.

The biggest socio-economic-political issue in India today is perhaps the Maoist insurgency. Is that a theme you'll explore in a future film?


I've been studying it for a long time, but I need to get some real answers. It's not an issue that lends itself to easy solutions.

But what do your political instincts as a social observer tell you?

When you have centuries of subjection, and when growth is not inclusive, you will face these social problems. I remember a passionate discussion that happened when the Mandal Commission recommendations on caste-based reservations were accepted in 1989. Students from upper castes were committing self-immolation, saying they were losing out on opportunities they deserved on merit. Backward class students said they were ready to fight on merit, provided the upper caste students would live in a basti, take a broom and clean the streets. So, without equality of opportunity, what's the point of talking of merit? Just look at the extremes in our society. Mukesh Ambani builds a 20-floor house just for himself. What does he sleep on? What does he eat? What does he think when he gifts his wife a plane on her birthday?


Are you suggesting that a high-visibility high-life is...

It's wrong! These stories go to the Maoist areas. There has to be some moderation. It's okay for you to have what you earn: I too want to live a comfortable life, and if you work hard, you need to eat well and sleep well. But, bloody hell, share it! Go there, create opportunities. Do something! Kya leke aaye hain? Kya leke jayega, yaar? (What have you brought with you, and what will you take with you?)

 

Today, if the nation adopts the whole Maoist area, the problem will go away. Those people there will feel that there's someone who cares. Instead, you send your police, then your army...


You sound like Arundhati Roy!

Some of what she says is a little extreme, like justifying violence and so on. But some of what she says is right, just as some of what P. Chidambaram says too is right.

 

But my point is that it's time for not only the government but also for citizens to understand that this is a human problem, a calamity, and that we have to come together and contribute in whatever manner we can.

 

***************************************


DNA

MAIN ARTICLE

COLMAR, THE ALSATIAN WINE CAPITAL

NIVEDITA MOOKERJI 

 

The prospect of visiting a village in Europe seemed more thrilling than anything else when we began planning our summer holiday across Switzerland, France, Italy and Germany.

 

When I actually reached Colmar, a French medieval village in the Alsace region, the beauty and history of the place took me by surprise.

 

Although it is situated in the north-east of France, it's difficult to pinpoint whether Colmar is more French, German or Swiss.

 

Equidistant from Strasbourg on the French-German border and Basel in Switzerland, Colmar was like a melting pot of several European cultures and more.

 

The first thing that struck me in Colmar was the reference to 'Statue of Liberty' all over the place. What's the connection between the iconic statue in New York and this French city-village?

 

A bit of browsing of tourist guides gave me the answer. Frederic Bartholdi, the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty, lived and worked in Colmar!

 

So, you find many of his creations, including the famous Bartholdi Fountain and a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Colmar. Also, there's a Bartholdi Museum, a major tourist attraction in the city, housing his creations.

 

Although there's no equivalent of a Champs Elysees or an Eiffel Tower in this city, Colmar is etched in my memory perhaps because of its complex history.

 

The city has gone back and forth to France and Germany over the past couple of centuries. While Colmar was

conquered by France under Louis XIV in 1697, it went to the German empire in 1871.

 

After the World War I, Colmar returned to France, again to be annexed by the Nazi Germany in 1940. Finally, Colmar came under France after the battle of 'Colmar Pocket' in 1945.

 

Once we had taken in the history of the place, the picturesque walk around Colmar turned even more enjoyable. Except for a small sight-seeing train, there was no honking traffic along the touristy path of Colmar. We were told later that the pedestrian area in Colmar is the largest in Europe.

 

Colmar's 'Little Venice', showcasing everything that the Italian city of water canals symbolises, was indeed a show-stopper. Several photo-halts and a boat trip later, it was time for lunch.

 

Nobody seemed in any hurry at these outdoor restaurants — lunch here seemed like a long leisurely affair. So, we decided to catch a quick snack at a fast food joint instead.

 

In the process, we missed out on local cuisines, some of them being Foie gras, Baeckaoffe and Le Coq au Reisting. But we did manage to get Munster Cheese and Kougelhoph (cake with raisins) — Colmar specialties.

 

Like any other European city, Colmar too had variety of music to offer around the several bends and corners, canals and shopping areas. In fact, since 1980, Colmar is home to the international summer festival of classical music — Festival de Colmar.

 

We could go on and on listening to the music, but there was much to see here — Dominican Church and St Martin's Church (displaying Gothic art), Musee Unterlinden (museum in a former monastery), Maison des Tetes (house of heads), Maison Pfister (bourgeois residence of medieval design dating from the Renaissance), Quai de la Poissonnerie (fisherman's wharf), Bartholdi creations, the Appelate Court, the Old Well, and Maison Adolph, to name a few….

 

And then there was shopping too, at a French cosmetics store offering cool discounts. Prices in Colmar are said to be much lower than the neighbouring Germany, Switzerland and even Strasbourg. And though people in this city, including in the shops, spoke either French or German, communicating was quite a breeze.

 

While strolling back to the Colmar Station, to catch a train back to Basel in Switzerland which was our base

during the two-week Europe trip, we came across kids playing street soccer.

 

The FIFA fever had already caught on, and the French hope at the World Cup was still alive then. I'm happy that I thought of clicking the soccer picture because I got tons of comments on that from my Facebook friends till much later.  

 

It was time to say goodbye, but it was tough to leave the place.

 

Strolling in this affluent  city which is also referred to as a village, somewhere between the Vosges mountain and the Rhine river, was such a pleasure, more so because it wasn't raining here unlike every other place that we visited in Europe.

 

I realised the fun of walking without an umbrella. It seems that the annual precipitation here is just 550mm, making it ideal for the Alsace wine. No wonder then that Colmar, situated along the Alsatian Wine Route, is sometimes called the capital of Alsatian Wine!

 

                                                   ***************************************        


******************************************************************************************

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CODE FOR SAFE TOURISM

IT IS SIMPLY NOT ENOUGH

 

It will be foolhardy to expect the 'Code for safe and honourable tourism', unveiled on Thursday by Union Tourism Minister Kumari Selja, to make much of a difference. While the initiative is welcome, it is disappointing to find that the code is not binding. It is doubtful if too many hotels, restaurants or tour operators would voluntarily come forward to uphold the code which expects them to ensure the safety, security and dignity of the tourists, particularly women. Protecting their guests from the use of drugs, molestation or sexual exploitation, providing them with the correct information and alerting the visitors about dubious places, practices or people would normally be an act of faith. But the failure of the tourism sector to do so is evident as Goa alone has reported the death of 126 foreign tourists in the past two years, a majority of them dying unnatural deaths. A cosmetic code can hardly address the severity of the problem. There is no reason why people engaged in the business of tourism should not be made responsible for the safety and security of their guests. It is not understood why the hotels, restaurants , tour operators or taxi drivers cannot be forced to register, undergo training and orientation and be held accountable.

 

The World Travel and Tourism Council, which surveyed 174 countries, estimates that the Indian tourism industry will grow at the rate of 8.8 per cent on an average every year over the next 10 years. The tourism sector in India has been outperforming the global tourism industry in recent years in terms of both the number of international tourists and revenue. But while 'Incredible India' continues to draw visitors, the infrastructure, trained manpower and facilities continue to lag behind. Concern has been voiced by the Supreme Court over increasing 'sex tourism', growing number of paedophiles among the visitors, crime and drug trafficking. The government, therefore, needs to move beyond unveiling voluntary codes.

 

While tourism does provide employment, it also tends to displace local inhabitants and exploit their relative poverty. Cultural invasion, ecological degradation and increasing pollution are just some of the negative impacts of the industry. But while the government appears focused on dealing with foreign visitors during the Commonwealth Games and Delhi mulls over the need for a stringent anti-touting law, there is an urgent need to take a long-term view of the subject and promote an informed public discourse.

 

***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PAWAR AT ICC'S HELM

DEEP DIVISIONS BETWEEN MEMBERS MUST BE BRIDGED

 

The spectre of an escalating race row hangs over the International Cricket Council (ICC) as Mr Sharad Pawar takes over as its president for the next two years. That Mr Pawar's election has come close on the heels of the rejection of former Australian prime minister John Howard as ICC vice-president by seven of its 10 members belonging to the Afro-Asian bloc has sharpened the racial divide with UK, Australia and New Zealand. It would indeed require all of Pawar's political adroitness and diplomacy to steer the world's top cricketing body out of the bad blood and acrimony that now grip it. Clearly, the white nations have been accustomed to their unchallenged sway over the sport for over a century and look upon the Afro-Asian bloc's new-found unity with suspicion and disfavour.

 

In particular, India's new assertiveness stemming from the fact that the Board of Control for Cricket in India's brand value is a whopping US$2 billion, more than that of UK soccer's Manchester United or US baseball teams like the Yankees, has piqued the West's cricket bosses no end. In that context, former ICC CEO Malcolm Speed's snide remark that Pawar knows little about cricket administration and the implication that he is unfit for the ICC president's job is significant. Cricket Australia chairman Jack Clark betrayed his frustration over India's clout when he said "In any business model where a company has 75 per cent of the income, it's not an ideal model," but qualified it by saying that this was not India's fault.

 

Though it is in principle unwise to mix sport with politics, it can hardly be denied that the accusation that John Howard is a racist has stuck after he, as Prime Minister, opposed economic sanctions against apartheid-era South Africa, supported sanctions against Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe and whipped up anti-immigrant sentiment in the run-up to his 2001 election. His calling ace Sri Lanka spinner Muthiah Murlidharan a chucker was also seen in racist light. If, in the bargain, the Afro-Asian nations have refused to elect him as ICC vice-president, he must accept the verdict gracefully. As for Pawar, he must seek to bridge the gap between the two warring groups in the ICC in the larger interests of the game. 

 

***************************************

 


THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SNOOPING FOR SECURITY

TARGET THREATS, NOT COMPANIES

 

The Department of Telecom's decision to ask BlackBerry, Skype and Gmail services to provide data going through their networks to security agencies in a readable format, or face a ban in India, is flawed. So is the concern about fast data services offered by Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications being a threat to the nation simply because security agencies are unable to tap into their communications. While the legitimate concerns of security agencies can and should not be ignored, it is also reasonable to expect the Intelligence Bureau and the National Technical Research Organisation to identify specific persons whose actions are a threat to national security and thus need monitoring. They can and do seek the cooperation of communication service providers to tap into specific phones or e-mail IDs, and keep a tab on such individuals and their associates. A carte blanche to such security agencies would be counterproductive, both because it would potentially strip Indian users of privacy as well as open up possibilities of its misuse. It is only recently that illegal phone tapping of mobile phones was exposed by the media. Much was said, but not much has been done to ensure accountability among the security agencies.

 

Research in Motion, the company that provides BlackBerry phones and services, routinely encrypted prior to transmission, which makes it impossible to monitor it. What is a boon for business and other commercial usage, has turned to be a bane of the security agencies. RIM faced a similar situation in India 2008, but the matter was put on a backburner. Google's battle with Chinese censors led to the much-publicised "withdrawal" of its search engine facilities.

 

International corporations have to conform to local laws, but in an increasingly borderless world, communication is the infrastructure backbone for development, and it is growing at a tremendous pace. DoT and representatives of the service providers would be well advised to work out a solution that addresses the fundamental concerns of security agencies, and empowers them to monitor anti-national activities, without compromising the commercial services which have millions of subscribers in India. 

 

***************************************

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

FIGHTING LIMITED WARS

A MAJOR CHALLENGE FOR THE MILITARY

BY GEN V.P. MALIK (RETD)

 

In January 2000, when I spoke about the concept of limited conventional wars under the nuclear threshold at an international seminar in New Delhi, there was considerable uproar in the media and the strategic community, particularly in Pakistan. My articulation was pronounced as highly provocative. What the Pakistani media did not state or realise was that the idea of a limited war came from their country. It was the Pakistan Army which had initiated Kargil war and surprised us. But its military leaders then had failed to think it through and thus created strategic imbalance for themselves at Kargil, and in future.

 

The limited conventional wars concept was prepared after going through the full conflict spectrum scenarios to find an answer to the Pakistani challenge below the nuclear threshold, other than launching a covert or a proxy war. I am happy to see that this concept and its realisation have been progressed and continuously refined since then.

 

There are two strategic conditions which can spark off and then escalate a military conflict between India and its neighbors. First, the border disputes where a serious skirmish can lead to a conventional military conflict, and second, intense proxy war that may lead to a conventional war. When a conventional war does break out in such conditions between two nuclear nations, it is expected to be fought under a nuclear overhang. Some people call that a sub-conventional war or a limited conventional war. The Chinese call it 'local border wars'. Such a conflict could also spread out in time, in what could possibly be termed as a war in 'slow motion'. It will have to be conducted within the framework of carefully calibrated political goals and military moves that permit adequate control over escalation and disengagement.

 

The limited wars concept is far removed from the classical 'no holds barred' attitude. It is typically characterised by severe limitations and constraints imposed by the political leadership on the employment of the military. It would imply limited political and military objectives, limited in duration, in geography, and in the actual use of force levels.

 

Important political and military objectives, the time available to the armed forces to execute their missions and achieve politico-military goals, would be crucial for their planning and conduct of operations. There would have to be complete understanding between the political and military leadership over this. We can also expect restricting political terms of reference, as were given during the Kargil war.

 

In a 'reactive' situation like the Kargil war, the war duration can be prolonged. However, the duration available will be much less if we decide to take the initiative.

 

There is also a linkage between deterrence and limited conventional war escalation. Capability to wage a successful conventional and nuclear war is a necessary deterrent. A war may well remain limited because of a credible deterrence or 'escalation dominance' (which means that one side has overwhelming military superiority at every level of violence). The other side will then be deterred from using conventional or nuclear war due to the ability of the first to wage a war with much greater chances of success. It means that more room is available for manoeuvre in diplomacy and in conflict. A limited conventional war does not mean limited capabilities but refers to their use. 

 

In such a war scenario, politico-diplomatic factors will play an important role. Careful and calibrated orchestration of military operations, diplomacy, and domestic political environment is essential for its successful outcome. Continuous control of the escalatory ladder requires much closer political oversight and politico-civil- military interaction. It is, therefore, essential to keep the military leadership within the security and strategic decision-making loop and having a direct politico-military interface. During a conflict situation, all participants must remain in constant touch with the political leadership, as was done during the Kargil war.

 

Important challenges in the limited wars concept are: The political definition of the goals and its translation into military objectives would be difficult, sometimes uncertain and indirect. Yet, it is critical to the attainment of the political goals. The key military concepts pertaining to the desired end result such as victory, decision, and success, are fundamentally transformed to reflect a much heavier political emphasis and attributes.

 

The successful outcome of such a war hinges on the ability to react rapidly to an evolving crisis, which often erupts by surprise. This would be a major challenge for the military. For the military is expected to react quickly to the changing circumstances in order to localize/ freeze/ reverse the situation on the ground, and to arrest its deterioration, enhance deterrence, and diminish incentives for escalation.

 

Mobilising and sustaining domestic and international political support for such military operations in the present age of transparency and openness would depend on the ability of the military to operate in a manner that conforms to political legitimacy, i.e. minimum civilian and military casualties and collateral damage.

 

Militarily, the greatest challenge could be in the political reluctance to commit a pro-active engagement and insistence to retain the authority for approving not just key military moves, but also many operational decisions pertaining to deployment and employment of military assets.

 

Political requirements and military targeting would need heavy reliance on accurate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance before and during the battles. Surgical strikes would be a common option. Airpower, precision guided weapons, standoff armaments, and information would be the weapons of choice. Employment of ground forces across the borders could be discouraged, or delayed, due to fear of casualties and difficulty in disengagement at will.

 

Information operations become important due to the growing transparency of the battlefield to the public. The political requirements of the military operations, in order to achieve and retain the moral high ground and deny that to the adversary, would need a comprehensive and sophisticated media, public affairs and information campaign. This would have to be fully integrated and synchronised with the planning and execution of the military operations.

 

Counter-intervention and defensive measures cannot be overlooked. Lucrative targets would have to be defended and denied through dispersal and other means, taking into account the symmetrical as well as asymmetrical capabilities of the adversary.

 

At the operational level, the military implications on the ground are effective and continuous surveillance, integrated capabilities, rapid concentration and launch, surprise, multiple choices/thrust lines, short, sharp intense actions, maximum use of Special Forces, force multipliers, and a pro-active deployment.

 

In a meeting of the National Security Advisory Board with the Prime Minister on the day Op Prakaram was called off, I had recommended 'strategic relocation' of ground forces and the need to prepare joint contingency plans which can be implemented at a short notice or during the course of mobilisation. The logic is that the sooner an intervening force can arrive to influence the course of a military event; the lesser is the chance of the conflict devolving into a firepower intensive, wasteful slugging match. Rapid mobilisation and contact out-paces enemy, and has the same asset as surprise. For a limited conventional war environment, therefore, it is necessary to carry out strategic relocation and tasking of combat formations, particularly those which take a long time to be moved and deployed. We need not wait for mobilisation of the entire theatre or border to be completed. This important aspect and its military application on the ground have led to what is now euphemistically called the 'cold start' doctrine.

 

In a post-Kargil war India Today Conclave, Ashley Tellis had stated "Limited war should be viewed not as a product of the proclivities of the state, but rather as a predicament resulting from a specific set of structural circumstances." No one in their right senses would want to have a war. Least of all democracies like India, and people like me who have studied, participated, and had to conduct a war. But the armed forces of the nation must be prepared for all possible conflict contingencies.n

 

The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff

 

***************************************

THE  TRIBUNE

MIDDLE

TV AND I

BY RAJ CHATTERJEE

 

This happened a very long time ago, when I was much younger and still had the roving eye. The voice at the other end of the telephone sounded as if it belonged to someone young and attractive. "We're doing a round-up of retired persons," she said, "and we'd like to interview you".

 

I tried to keep the pleasure and excitement out of my voice. "When would you like me to come to the station?"

 

"Oh no," she said. "We're coming to you. We want to get the right background. How you live, hobbies, that sort of thing. Would 12 noon on Monday suit you?"

 

"Let me see," I said. I wanted to give the impression that I was consulting my engagement diary. Actually, I was looking at the calender beside the telephone. It had a picture on it of a bikini-clad, brown-skinned beauty on Wakiki beach in Honolulu.

 

"Yes," I said. "I think I can manage it." I spent the next three minutes explaining how to find my house.

 

Came Monday and I put on a navy-blue bush-shirt. A dark colour, I am told, shows best on TV. Unfortunately, the rather heavy material made me sweat profusely.

 

The girl telephoned. "I'm dreadfully sorry. The TV crew let me down. They've got held up at another assignment. Would tomorrow do at the same time?"

 

I tried to put a little asperity into my voice. "Now let me see," I said. I took a little longer this time staring at the girl in the bikini. I noticed that she had a hibiscus flower stuck in her hair. What's the point in that, I wondered, when you are going to swim? "I think I can just fit it in," I said to the TV girl.

 

Came Tuesday. Came 12 noon, 12.30, 12.45 and then my wife was truly annoyed, having spruced up the drawing room two days running. " I think someone is making a fool of you. And it's a damned nuisance." I agreed. "But that was 31 years ago," I added. She was going to flare up but just then two dogs began to bark. The TV crew had arrived.

 

"You have been in retirement 10 years," said the girl. "Do you ever feel bored?"

 

"Do I look bored?" I said, putting as much of a leer on my face as I could manage in the glare of the lamps. The whole thing took about 30 minutes. I was soaked to the skin by the end of it.

 

That night the family and I walked across to a neighbour's house. I saw and heard myself in "TV Folio". We walked home in silence. As I was brushing my teeth, my wife said: "You looked about 80 and you sounded as if you had a hot potato in your mouth."

 

"Well," I said. "It's not likely to happen again. Nor am I likely to waste money on a TV set of my own."

 

  ***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

OPED

EVEN THOUGH THE CENTRE IS YET TO FULFILL HARYANA'S DEMAND FOR A SEPARATE HIGH COURT, SEVERAL ISSUES NEED TO BE ADDRESSED BEFORE NOTIFYING THE NEW HIGH COURT. THESE INCLUDE, ITS LOCATION, ITS BUILDING IF THE HIGH COURT IS TO BE LOCATED IN CHANDIGARH ITSELF, THE JUDGES' SENIORITY AND, ABOVE ALL, ITS JURISDICTION. AN IN-DEPTH LOOKPARTING WAYS?

 

Even as Haryana has been fighting for a separate high court for the state, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda wants it to be located in Chandigarh, that too, carved out of the existing high court building.   

 

The Union Law Ministry has no objections to the state's petition, apparently. Ask Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, and he gently nods his head. Even the Supreme Court has no problems in putting its stamp of approval.

 

Former Chief Justice of India Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, just before demitting the office, had asserted that a separate High Court could be set up "anywhere". According to current indications, the move may come through soon.

 

Punjab, of course, does not wish to see the bifurcation of the High Court, a "worthy successor" to th Lahore High Court, which produced stalwart judges like Sir Shadi Lal, Bakshi, Tek Chand and Mehar Chand Mahajan.

 

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal says a separate High Court for Haryana in Chandigarh will adversely affect Punjab's claim on Chandigarh.

 

"Each state has it," Hooda asserts. "States such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand, which were created much later, have already set up their High Courts", he says.

 

Claiming to have full right over the Union Territory, Hooda says if Punjab is ready to pull out of Chandigarh, they will have no problem in establishing their High Court at some other place in Haryana.

 

For a local Haryanvi involved in litigation, the bifurcation is expected to expedite justice. Combined figures suggest more than 10 per cent of the Punjab and Haryana population is affected by litigation. The number is higher than the national average; just about 6 per cent population in India is affected by litigation.

 

Break the figures, and the number of people involved in litigation in Haryana is reduced to less than half, as it is believed the ratio of cases between Punjab and Haryana is 60:40. As of now, the combined High Court has a pendency of more than two lakh cases. Old cases in the courts for two years and more are approximately 1.7 lakh. After bifurcation, Haryana can hope to see speedier delivery of justice due to decreased workload.

 

Though the number of judges too will be reduced, the disposal will still be more as Haryana's litigation substantially hovers around land and service matters — cases often disposed of by single judgment. The seniormost judges of two courts — instead of one — will move out to become the Chief Justices of other courts. Greater representation in the Supreme Court will also be ensured.

 

The High Court judges' seniority will also be affected. As of now, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has a sanctioned strength of 68. After bifurcation, junior judges will climb up the ladder faster.

 

But then, jurisdiction will be the main problem. The combined High Court of both the states also deals with litigation involving Chandigarh and its residents. Will the cases go to Haryana or Punjab? Another issue will be of the High Court's jurisdiction to deal with cases involving decisions taken at Chandigarh.

 

The High Court has the authority to deal with developments within its jurisdiction. If both states have their High Courts in the Capital, can an order passed by the Punjab Civil Secretariat be challenged in the Haryana High Court by virtue of the directive being issued in Chandigarh?

 

Hooda says the jurisdiction issue can be worked out. Punjab, on the other hand, says it's not going to be easy, as necessary amendments will need to be carried out in the Constitution and The Punjab Reorganisation Act of 1966.  

 

Legal experts assert all the jurisdictional problems can be tackled by meticulously drafting the notification for a separate High Court. Chandigarh's cases can be dealt with by Special Benches, comprising judges of both the High Courts. Hooda is in complete agreement.    

 

Haryana's claim for a separae High Court has more weightage, tilting the scale in its favour. It's now for the Centre to adjudicate the matter and pass the final orders.

 

***************************************
THE TRIBUNE

OPED

A MATTER OF COMPULSION 

MOHAN JAIN

 

Jharkhand has its own High Court. Chhattisgarh too has its own court of appeal. Uttarakhand is no exception. But when it comes to Punjab and Haryana, a common High Court is thought to be good enough by many.

 

Almost half a century has lapsed since the demand for a separate High Court for Haryana was raised by the legal fraternity and others concerned with the justice delivery system. Almost the same time has gone by since a section of politicians raised their voices of dissent against the much-awaited move.

 

However, what they do not realise is that a separate High Court for Haryana, that too at Chandigarh, is not a political issue or a ploy, but a matter of constitutional right and convenience for both the lawyers and the litigants, and also for the general public. Each state has the right to have its own High Court. And when states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand, which came into being much later, can have their own High Courts, why can't Haryana have it? The Punjab and Haryana High Court has some of the best judges in the country. But they are reeling under work pressure with over two lakh cases pending.

 

A separate High Court will help streamline the work better. For the people of Haryana, it will obviously mean speedier justice, as just about 40 per cent of the total cases before the Punjab and Haryana High Court are from the state.

 

Time and again much has been said on the issue of location and jurisdiction. Having a separate High Court at Chandigarh is more a matter of compulsion and convenience than anything else.

 

You just cannot displace the lawyers. A High Court at another place will only mean asking the lawyers to relocate themselves, leave practice at one of the two places, or travel down to the other place for contesting the cases.

 

It will also connote compromising with the quality of justice as litigants of both the states will not have easy and full access to similar talent among the advocates, as they will be located in different cities. Lawyers specialise in fields, not in states. A lawyer will take up a case regardless of the state it pertains to because the laws of the land hold good for both the states. You just cannot prevent them from offering their services to clients of one state or the other by locating High Courts in different cities.

 

There cannot be any problem in the co-existence of the two High Courts at the same place especially when two Chief Ministers, two Speakers and two Governors can stay side by side in the same city. Even the High Court building has the offices of two Advocates-General.

 

The writer is the Additional Solicitor-General of India

 

***************************************


THE TRIBUNE

OPED

HOW A COMMON HC CAME INTO BEING 

RAJINDAR SACHAR

 

In 1966-67, I was the President of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association. I was pained at the idea of the division of the High Court…

 

Our delegation met Mr G.L. Nanda, the then Union Home Minister. He told us plainly that he was willing to continue common High Court for Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh. But if a separate High Court were asked for by Punjab or Haryana, then the jurisdiction over Chandigarh will be vested in the Delhi High Court.

 

This inevitably would have serious consequences for the Bar. All the writ work and original jurisdiction in the High Court would go to Delhi. Thus, all orders passed by both governments would have to be challenged before the Delhi High Court — loss to the Bar, the inconvenience to the client, the embarrassment of both governments being answerable to an outside High Court.

 

Nanda had said that he will not take any initiative on his own the matter being contentious but if both the Chief Ministers agreed he would have a common High Court having jurisdiction over both the states and Chandigarh.

 

S. Gurnam Singh, former Judge of Pepsu and Punjab High Court, was the Chief Minister of Punjab at that time. It did not take any time to get the consent from him — he understood the delicacy and uncomfortable situation of having the Punjab government action and orders being supervised by the Delhi High Court. But Rao Birender Singh, the Chief Minister of Haryana, was a hard nut to crack.

 

I told him that he must realise that High Court judges to be appointed to Delhi and who alone would be hearing cases against government orders, none of them would have any role, not even of consultation as in the case of Punjab and Haryana.

 

It is not that he could in any way influence local Judges of Punjab and Haryana High Court, but it was his own mistaken bloated sense of importance which he thought will suffer in public that a Chief Minister had no say in the appointment of these high offices that really clinched the issue and thereupon he wrote to Nanda agreeing to a common High Court.

 

Excerpts from the writer's article in The Tribune (March 20, 2009)

 

***************************************


THE TRIBUNE

OPED

REMOVE CONSTITUTIONAL HINDRANCES FIRST

 

Every state has a High Court of its own. It is the state's right. But there are constitutional difficulties that have to be taken care of before a separate High Court can be carved out of the combined High Court for Punjab and Haryana. For example, the High Court's jurisdiction over Chandigarh is an issue that needs to be resolved. Having a Division Bench with one Judge from Punjab and another from Haryana will not resolve the issue, as jurisdiction is always territorial. It will not be possible for Haryana to have a separate High Court till such constitutional hindrances are taken care of.

 

— Harbhagwan Singh, former Advocate-General, Punjab  

 

CLEAR HURDLES EXPEDITIOUSLY

I am in complete agreement with Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in his demand for the Punjab and Haryana High Court's bifurcation and a separate High Court for Haryana. Each state should have its own High Court. It is its constitutional right. The obstacles in the way of a separate High Court should be expeditiously resolved so that the people of Haryana can get justice all the more expeditiously.

— Alka Lamba, Secretary, All India Congress Committee

 

***************************************

 

 

******************************************************************************************

MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEWS

GE IN CHINA: FAUSTIAN BARGAIN

BIG WESTERN COMPANIES CAN'T AFFORD TO MISS THE CHINA BUS, BUT OFTEN END UP PAYING DEARLY. JUST ASK GOOGLE AND GE

 

General Electric is the world's second largest company according to Forbes. Its profits last year were $11 billion, and the value of its assets worldwide is equivalent to half of India's GDP (i.e. if we wanted to buy out just this one company GE, we would have to spend half of our national income).

 

It has 3.04 lakh employees worldwide and it operates in more than 100 countries across the world. Its tax return is the largest filed in the United States and in 2005 its tax return was 24,000 pages long. GE produces everything from lightbulbs to aircraft engines, from plastics to solar lamps, and from cat scan equipment to sonography machines. Half its income comes from GE Capital which is the world's largest non-bank finance company.

 

 They say the two most important generals in the United States were General Electric and General Motors. With GM we are not so sure, but GE is still going strong. So with its kind of global presence and clout, you would expect that GE gets its way with any government in the world.

 

 Not surprisingly GE's future growth strategy is to increasingly focus on business from fast-growing economies like India and China. Of its global turnover of about $160 billion currently, it wanted at least $10 billion to come from China by the end of 2010. India contributes less now, but in the next 10 years will be very important to GE.

 

 But something is sour (if not rotten) in the Middle Kingdom. Things are not going so well for GE in China and its business is lagging way below target. It has caused the usually unflappable, and eminently diplomatic Chairman of GE to gripe in public. He accused the government saying that China does not want GE to succeed. The Financial Times of London quoted Chairman Jeffrey Immelt as saying that China does not want any foreign company to win, and that GE was facing its toughest conditions of the past 25 years in that country.

 

GE's frustration might have arisen from the fact that Chinese policies require that foreign companies disclose their technology, patents and other trade secrets. Else they are not given permission to operate, or big government contracts. Given the huge appetite of potential orders from China, most Western companies cannot resist. They feel helpless about the conditions and hand over technology and blueprints to their host government. But the twist is that soon these same Western companies face stiff competition from much cheaper Chinese spinoffs, which are almost perfect substitutes. It happens not just with iPods, with cellphones, but also cars, trucks, turbines, railway coaches, everything. This is not because of theft of intellectual property, but is done quite legally. That's because disclosure of trade and technology secrets is required officially, and perhaps becomes de facto public knowledge.

 

This latest diatribe of GE probably is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and GE is speaking on behalf of many foreign companies. Most smaller Western companies have quietly complied, made some slim profits briefly, and reconciled to competition from cheap Chinese imitators. But the scale and speed of business (ask iPod, iPhone and iPad) is big enough to recoup investment. So getting stuff manufactured on a largescale in China is worth it, especially because of cheap labour (but cheap labour is cheap no more, as the latest unrests are showing. That's another story).

 

One company which refused to comply with unreasonable Chinese conditions is Google. But fearing loss of business, slowly Google too is turning tail and is quietly becoming compliant. It seems that no Western company is big enough to stand up to China. This is the West's Faustian bargain with China – take my technology, but let me prosper in thy country.

 

 ***************************************


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

EDITORIAL

THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL?

T N NINAN

The Ambanis have a formidable business reputation, with skilful media management to match. There is a constant stream of newspaper column inches given over to writing about their business growth, deals done, and projects in the offing — to the extent that it becomes difficult to sift reality from hype. As it happens, the splitting of the business four years ago, and the end of one phase of sibling rivalry six weeks ago, offer an opportunity to take a look at how they have actually done on the key parameters.

 In the four years between 2005-06 (the year in which the business split) and 2009-10, Mukesh Ambani's business grew an impressive 116 per cent in sales, but a modest 50 per cent in profits (or 11 cent a year). Starting from a smaller base, Anil Ambani did much better: sales increased exponentially (more than eight-fold), and profits grew nearly six-fold. But here's the interesting thing. A couple of weeks after the brothers announced the scrapping of their non-compete arrangements, the market value of Mukesh's companies had grown 180 per cent over March 2006, while that of Anil's companies increased only 67 per cent (not that much better than the 50 per cent increase in the Sensex during the same period). In other words, Mukesh's growth pattern was more to the stock market's liking, despite his modest growth in profits, while Anil set a more scorching pace — at the cost of a debt pile-up that may have made investors nervous. It so happens that the Anil group's stock prices have seen a sharp pick-up in value in the last few weeks, perhaps because he has been busy selling equity to bring in money and retire some of his mountain of debt.

The picture gets more interesting when you compare these performance numbers with those of other groups (I am grateful to BG Shirsat of the Business Standard Research Bureau for the numbers). Taken together, the two Ambani businesses saw sales grow 1.5 times, profits double, and market capitalisation increase 1.4 times. Kumar Mangalam Birla, who has as staid an image as you can get, did better than the Ambanis on all three parameters, with his business roughly trebling in size and profits (more growth in sales, less in profits). Bharti saw a rough quadrupling and a reverse pattern (doing better on profits than sales), while its market cap grew by about as much as the Reliance companies' did. As for Tata, whose turnover was slightly smaller than the Mukesh group's in 2006, it is now 40 per cent bigger even though profits have stagnated (both reflective of the nature of the group's international acquisitions).

The point is that the Ambanis are not in a business league of their own; they have plenty of company. Other leading business houses have done well, often better — like Sterlite, which saw a doubling of sales, trebling of profits, and a 165 per cent surge in market capitalisation (better than the combined Ambani businesses on profits and market capitalisation, but not on sales). And the Jindals saw a trebling of sales in these four years, and even faster growth in profits, while market capitalisation increased 1.65 times — better than the combined Ambani performance on all three parameters. The interesting point is that none of these other business groups has matched performance with such media buzz. Indeed, Mukesh's promise to shareholders last month, that he would double Reliance's enterprise value (equity plus debt) in "less than a decade", is surprisingly modest; doubling in a decade amounts to just 7 per cent annual growth. Oddly, no one in the media pointed that out.

 

***************************************


BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

INDIRA RAJARAMAN: LESSONS FOR THE G20

THE FIRST AND THE MOST ROBUST LESSON IS THAT NO SINGLE INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT SYSTEM IS GUARANTEED TO WORK EVERYWHERE

INDIRA RAJARAMAN

There is a dreaded spectre among the G20 today. It is the letter W. Not pronounced Dubya, it stands for double-dip recession. The reach of this fear has shaped the kinder, gentler treatment given to BP for what has to be one of the greatest environmental crimes of all time.

At a conference held in Ottawa at the North-South Institute a few weeks before the G20 summit, an attempt was made to gather together lessons from individual country experiences, in terms of regulatory strengths that lend resilience and reduce vulnerability to negative external shocks.

a The first and the most robust lesson of the deliberations was that no single institutional support system is guaranteed to work everywhere. Just a week after the conference, the new government in the UK fulfilled a campaign promise and restored the task of overseeing the regulation of banks, building societies and insurance companies to the Bank of England. The FSA, the independent unified financial services regulator created 13 years ago, was excoriated as an experiment responsible for "the most spectacular regulatory failure".

In complete contrast to the UK experience, Canada ascribes its own remarkable resilience to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), an independent and unified regulator. Although OSFI in its present unified form dates back only to 1987, the much longer history in Canada of independent regulation of banks and other financial entities might have been what made the difference. Paradoxically, the move towards independent bank regulation was the result of bank failures in the 1920s, and again in the 1980s. The prudential norms of OSFI as the home country regulator are among the reasons why Canadian banks, despite being heavily internationalised, remained relatively immune to practices in risky host countries like the US. In a globalised world, a country goes blindly with global fashions only at its own peril. This is an uncomfortable lesson for some market-thumping fundamentalists, but it needs to be driven home.

The second robust lesson is that asset market regulation matters critically. The Canadian market for asset-based securities was so comprehensively regulated that there was no scope for the kind of toxic build-up in the US. The governor of the Bank of England now chairs a new financial policy committee with a broad mandate to stop the "dangerous build-up of credit or asset bubbles". Quite a change from the days when central banks were advised to keep to their knitting, and not look at asset markets.

An asset build-up in India was expertly steered away by the Reserve Bank (RBI) in the years just before the great crash, at a time when it was still deeply unfashionable for central banks to meddle in asset markets. The document Guidelines on Securitisation of Standard Assets, issued by RBI on February 1, 2006, has become rightly renowned in central banking circles for its definitional clarity with respect to the various types of securitisation exposures for originating banks, and the prudential capital required in respect of each. The Indian asset bubble was thus contained at an early stage.

In terms of developments currently under way, there is a discernible move to appropriate rents for the exchequer to fend off "W" while still rolling back some of the fiscal loosening of the past two years. The leader is Australia, which unveiled a draft for a Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT) on May 2, a surprise move in a country which was actually relatively unscathed by the crisis. A tax on economic rent, defined as the excess of total sale value over the sum of the supply prices of all inputs going into that sale, does not distort production or investment decisions and, therefore, enjoys the support of economists on efficiency grounds, quite independently of distributional considerations. Clearly, the RSPT will encounter fierce opposition from mining interests, but as world growth gets under way, the price pressure on resources will increase, as will the pressure to appropriate those profits for the state exchequer.

In most countries, minerals are owned by the state, which issues a licence for their extraction. The state is thus fully justified in appropriating the rent from the activity. At the same time, rent extraction for the exchequer must not be so predatory as to deny to the mine developer a fair return on exploration and development of the mine (what Alfred Marshall termed quasi-rent).

The detail and technical design of the RSPT are yet to be developed through consultation over the months to come before July 1, 2012, the date set for its introduction. The new levy will accompany a phased reduction in the corporate tax rate to 28 per cent, along with a promise of infrastructure development by the state in the resources sector. The skeleton parameters suggested for the RSPT in the May draft are a 40 per cent tax on super profits from all mineral resource extraction, defined as post-tax returns in excess of the yield on 10-year government bonds.

The search is on for levies on other unearned economic rents. The British one-time windfall levy of 50 per cent on bank bonuses in excess of £25,000 enjoyed wide public support and earned the exchequer £2.5 billion. However, the bank levy imposed by the new government on June 22 is not on windfalls. It is more designed to discourage short-term risky borrowing by banks, relative to customer deposits or longer-term debt. Levies of this kind, if successful in the behavioural change targeted, will not yield much revenue.

There remains a need for big non-distortionary revenues that will close the fiscal gap while still staving off "W". It now appears likely that a financial transactions tax, at a small rate on currency transactions estimated at $3.5 trillion a day, will actually be implemented. First proposed by James Tobin in 1972, its revenue-generating and volatility-dampening properties now appear likely to win the day.

The author is honorary visiting professor, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi

 

***************************************


BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

DROPPED CATCHES OF MEDICAL HISTORY

DEVANGSHU DATTA

The more sophisticated a society, the more highly specialised the professionals. To paraphrase Adam Smith, specialists can maximise value-addition by developing greater expertise. So, a deep, narrow knowledge base is useful, especially in academics.

Unfortunately, extreme specialisation can cause blind spots where inter-disciplinary skills are required. Among the most tragic are the "dropped catches" of medical history. Take puerperal fever. This is potentially fatal septicaemia contracted by women during childbirth. The usual source of infection is a doctor with dirty hands.

 For centuries, puerperal fever caused high maternal and infant mortality. In 1844, a statistically aware doctor, Ignaz Semmelweiss, suggested physicians wash hands frequently. That single measure slashed infection rates by 85 percent when implemented. Sadly, it took two decades before Semmelweiss' suggestion was widely accepted.

Medicine and mathematics used to be totally divorced. Yet, medical research demands large data-set collections and rigorous statistical analysis. If doctors had been mathematically aware, correlations like puerperal fever with hygiene, malaria with stagnant water, etc., may have triggered faster insights as to causes.

Modern medicine, of course, uses statistics, and impressive work is centred on large healthcare studies. Associated areas like genetics and drug research are driven by combinatorial number-crunching. They require juggling molecular and genetic sequences in mind-bogglingly large sets.

Medical research can fruitfully draw from the apparently unrelated discipline of search and market research by adapting the latter's data-mining algorithms. Retailers like Amazon and Netflix have huge computational models powering recommendations like "Customers who bought this item, also bought (other items)". These algorithms can deduce, for example, that moderate red-wine consumers don't buy beta-blockers — ergo, a link between red-wine and healthy hearts.

Many spectacular insights could result from such an interdisciplinary nexus. One example was cited by William Langston, director of The Parkinson Institute and Clinical Center (sic). In October 2009, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a study examining Parkinson's Disease and Glaucher's Disease (a mutation where fat builds up in internal organs).

The NEJM examined 5,691 Parkinson's victims across 16 global centres before stating that Parkinson's sufferers were five times as likely to have Glaucher's. Langston says a similar conclusion can be drawn in 20 minutes by data-mining the 50,000 DNA profiles registered on 23andme, a biotech company that offers online DNA diagnosis services.

23andme (the name refers to chromosomes) is a leading light in the brand-new industry of off-the-shelf DNA research. Charging fees ranging from $99 to $499, it offers services such as ancestry research, and testing for DNA markers associated with diseases and conditions as varied as diabetes, arthritis, cancer and migraines.

Anyone can offer DNA samples for analysis. 23andme will locate any relatives and ancestors registered on their database, as well as flag possible disease markers in the DNA and offer lifestyle advice to mitigate those genetic risks.

It is at the cutting edge of data-mining in part because Google is an original investor. The co-founder and CEO, Anne Wojcicki, is married to Sergei Brin, who has a great deal of skin in this game because his DNA suggests that he is genetically vulnerable to Parkinson's.

There are other players in the game as well. As such services get cheaper and become more popular, 23andme and its peers will have exponentially more data to slice and dice in models. That they will find new correlations between health traits and DNA markers is a given. It will then be up to the bio-scientists and medical experts to find the underlying causes.

This turns the traditional scientific method on its head. It seeks to find correlations before it even looks for causation. It may carry its own pitfalls since market basket analysis can often throw up spurious patterns. But it's also likely to turbo-charge research across several disciplines. The medical market basket researcher will soon be a specialisation, in and of itself.

***************************************


BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THERE ARE BEGGARS AND BEGGARS

IT IS PAINFUL TO SEE PEOPLE OFTEN SHRINK AWAY FROM A LEPER'S OUTSTRETCHED STUMP OF A HAND

SUBIR ROY

The young man with the thin white stick at the traffic light was obviously blind. He was not a destitute but needy. His very modest shirt and trousers bore testimony to that. As the traffic halted on the light turning red, he carefully got off the kerb, felt his way through to whatever was within reach — scooter, car or truck driver's cabin — and sought whatever people had to offer.

He had that diffident and philosophical air of most blind people. They never appear to be sorry for themselves, are thankful for your help and always have a faraway look in their eyes which, you realise only when you get closer, are not really there. No sooner had he negotiated a bit of the stationary traffic than the light changed — the revving engines told him that — and he carefully, at high risk to himself, wended his way back to the pavement, to wait for the lights to change again.

 He did well as beggars do. So did the old woman with half broken glasses whom I would give a coin mostly when she would be seeking motorists' kindness in the evening at the traffic light near my house. Then one day she was there in broad daylight. I realised that she was nowhere near as old as her stoop indicated. Her destitute look in ragged clothes was rather carefully contrived. I was a bit put off and offered her nothing. Immediately after I was off from the traffic light, I was filled with regret. What if she was putting it on a little. It couldn't be that she wasn't needy or in her robust youth. Why sit in judgment over the honesty of a destitute, I asked myself, and got no proper answer.

As children we had neither doubt nor uncertainty when it came to beggars. My mother was invariably kind to them and it never bothered her that some of them could be a bit professional at the job. Children of our Punjabi tenants who were friends of mine were also never troubled by doubts. Like me, they had adopted the attitudes of their parents. Every time a beggar solicited one of them, he would say, Kaam karo. To that family with its solidly enterprising ethos, poverty was the product of laziness. They were kind in their own way and in their own time but not to beggars. I did what my mother would do but can't remember being critical of my friends.

The issue of beggars was put in a proper theoretical framework, once I got to college, by my classmate Gautam. He had enormous concern for the poor and was ready to sacrifice his career for a world without them, adopting a staunch leftist ideology which didn't exactly prepare you for a government or public sector job, which was all that was then readily available to a bright young person. One day he stopped me from obliging a beggar, saying, you are not really helping him, merely perpetuating a system that lets people be in such a state. Out of respect for the sincerity of his beliefs, I didn't start an argument by saying, my not helping the fellow doesn't further the cause of the revolution either. But I was not also sure that I was doing right by obliging someone who was in a bad way on an impulse, without working to change the system.

This ambivalence has never left me. It is heightened when I see on the streets lepers with bandaged stumps of limbs begging. As those who are perhaps the most unfortunate, they surely deserve our utmost sympathy. But I also know that virtually every city has a state-supported lepers' colony where they can be looked after and properly treated. But they prefer to beg on the streets because it is far more lucrative. It is painful to see people often shrink away from a leper's outstretched stump of a hand. Any educated person should know that leprosy is seldom contagious. Should you not give something to a leper, who has been punished enough by fate, simply because he is a little greedy? I wish I knew.

Over time I have decided that anybody who is old and poor needs help. So do poor children, but you revolt at the thought that a child can grow up knowing that you can get by after a fashion by begging. I should go an extra mile to get begging children off the street. Doing my bit by my preferred charity isn't really enough. But sometimes a small news item takes you far away from the world of moral dilemmas and makes your day.

Khimjibhai Prajapati, a beggar in tatters and on crutches, hobbled into a school for the deaf in Mehsana in Gujarat the other day and donated clothes to 11 poor girls. He used to be a tea-stall owner in Rajkot but his business failed. From what he gets outside a local temple, he sends money home for his ailing wife and shares the rest with other poor. Whether rich or poor, we should try to help the needy, he says. A trustee of the school says he has never seen such philanthropy in 35 years.

subirkroy@gmail.com

***************************************


BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE QUEERNESS OF E M FORSTER

V V

A good biography is itself a kind of a novel. Like a classic novel, a biography believes in the notion of a "life" — a life as a triumphal or tragic story with a shape, a story that begins at birth, moves on to a middle part, and ends with the death of the protagonist

—Cynthia Ozick: Art and Ardour, 1983

Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory
—Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81)

 Biographies of writers are interesting only insofar as they illustrate the work, and to do this effectively requires a discursiveness on the part of biographers that makes them take an imaginative leap beyond formal records.

Not to do so would be to gloss over the lies and silences at the heart of everyone's lives that would hardly tell us of the man within and/or what made him tick. Because most biographies (especially ours) end up as hagiographies, of lives too good to be true, and few last. Not only are most of us distrustful of exemplary lives in the heroic sense, but certain subjects seem, over time, to be more or less interesting because of the frame of interpretation, the cultural baggage changes. Wendy Moffat's E M Forster: A New Life (Bloomsbury, Special Indian Price Rs 999) would enjoy a longer life for two reasons: first, A Passage to India has established Forster as the most popular literary novelist here; second, because "connections" between "people, nations, heart and head, labour and art" that were Forster's great themes are of perennial interest here as well as everywhere else in this age of globalisation.

The book is in two parts — "Grown Up Man" and "Happiness Can Come in One's Natural Growth" — with a Prologue that sets the tone of the whole book: "Start with the fact that he was a homosexual." But the question that Moffat asks is why after the publication of A Passage to India in 1924, Forster never published another novel although he lived to be ninety. In 1970, or perhaps a little later, he confided that "I should have been a more famous writer if I had written or rather published more, but sex prevented the latter". This has been taken as an expression of regret but Moffat takes it as a kind of relief probably because Britain was still very intolerant of gays and Cambridge could well have asked him to "pack up". (After all, William Empson, who was to become one of the great literary critics with his work Seven Types of Ambiguity, was expelled from his Cambridge college and from the town itself in 1929 for possessing a packet of contraceptives in his rooms!) So much for Oxbridge tolerance.

Whether homosexuality is a part of our DNA is still an open question, but the mother's dominant influence in early childhood has something to do with the way we grow up. Forster's early life was, to use an American expression, "zipped up". He was brought up very much under his mother's thumb that, no doubt, gave him a sense of security and a smattering of bourgeois mannerisms, but nothing else besides. To a large number of Indian students who were always welcomed to his rooms at King's College, the overwhelming impression that they carried was Forster's "solicitousness" ("Call me Morgan") which many mistook for an easy familiarity and an invitation for a return visit.

But what comes through from his diaries that are filled with such observations as "the bodies of men drying off after bathing in the Thames" is that Forster was unsure about the direction of his own life and that he remained till the age of 37 "a closet homosexual". All that changed in 1917 when he was posted to Alexandria with the Red Cross, free from the constraints that were imposed by Cambridge. After an affair with a soldier, he fell in love with a tram conductor that finally ended in bed. Moffat has pieced together this part of Forster's life from bits of a letter which reads like a poem: "Dear Morgan/I am sending you the photograph/I am very bad/I got nothing more to say/...My love to you/My love to you/My love to you/Do not forget ever your friend."

"Only connect", the yearning epigraph to Howards End provides a clue to Forster's silence despite his extraordinary gift for writing fiction of great humanity, warmth and humour. At the end of A Passage..., we have the melancholy sight of Aziz and Fielding, friends of different races and cultures, riding into the sunset along different paths. Since all novels have a strong autobiographical content, though "with experience totally transformed", could this parting of ways be taken as a search for a love that dare not speak its name?

Sex certainly provided a glue to Forster's inner life. He embraced London's gay subculture no holds barred and makes no secret that he was quite happy with unconventional arrangements: first, with a stocky taxi driver and then a very long relationship with the policeman, Bob Buckingham, to whom he gifted a small part of his will.

Biographies always leave some questions unanswered about the silences that we keep only to ourselves. Moffat could have been a little more courageous about the contradictions of Forster's inner life, friends with some of the leading intellectuals of the time but intimate only with working class men with whom he couldn't possibly have any life of the mind?

 ***************************************


BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE OUTSIDER

CONTROVERSY DOGS RAO EVEN IN DEATH

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY

Few politicians provoked such contrary views as P V Narasimha Rao whose largely ignored 90th birth anniversary last Monday showed that controversy dogs him even in death.

I can still hear Lee Kuan Yew comparing him with China's great moderniser, Deng Xiaoping. On that famous occasion, Lee even derided The Economist for writing of Narasimha Rao that "no one believes that his political future will extend very far". But I knew the honeymoon wouldn't last when I saw Lee's face as Narasimha Rao declared in answer to a question that "the remedy for the ills of democracy is more democracy, not less". Two years later, I was at a dinner at which Lee gloated on Narasimha Rao's defeat and disgrace. Scathingly recalling the democracy comment, he added, "Well, he's got it now!"

 But that was a genuine change of opinion because Lee felt Narasimha Rao had reneged on economic reform. I cannot make that allowance for South Block mandarins who mocked Narasimha Rao with unprintable jibes before he became prime minister, praised him to high heaven while he was in office, and returned to derision as soon as they realised he was a spent force. That is what makes so many of our highest bureaucrats so despicable.

Though everything that enables India to aspire to global status — high growth, the rapprochement with the US, returning to her historic role in South-east Asia — began with Narasimha Rao, it would be idle to pretend he took these steps out of conviction. He had to, because of IMF and World Bank pressure and the advice of wise aides like A N Verma. My sense was that he was too much of an old-style political huckster to be really comfortable with the glitzy new globalised world. He was not enamoured of FDI; it was needed to develop the infrastructure and free India's own resources for social welfare. "There will be blood on the streets otherwise!" he warned.

India's history may have been different if his first choice as finance minister, I G Patel, the former London School of Economics director, had accepted the job. Nor might the government have been able to justify liberalisation if it hadn't been for the 1991 Congress election manifesto that Rajiv Gandhi had compiled but, tragically, not lived to push through. Astute strategist that he was, Narasimha Rao had the wisdom to make the most of this blueprint for the future.

Nuggets dug out from that document promised to end wasteful spending, encourage banks to raise offshore funds, expand service industries, invite foreign investment and technology, construct toll highways and bridges and replace a "lethargic, inefficient and expensive" public sector with one that was "leaner, more dynamic and profit-oriented". In another smart move, he and Manmohan Singh shared their programme with L K Advani before breaking it to an astounded world, thereby ensuring Opposition support in Parliament.

South-east Asia didn't inspire Narasimha Rao to start with. He told Y M Tiwari, a career diplomat who wanted to be high commissioner in Singapore, he would be wasting his time there. But he was not his own master then; he was Rajiv's external affairs minister. The South Indian in him soon responded to the romance of Suvarnabhumi (prompting comparisons with the "simha" in his name and Singapore's "singa") while the strategist grasped the region's importance as the gateway to America.

His "Look East" policy did not stand alone. It was part of a package to bridge the gulf between India and the US, which is why I called my book on India's rediscovery of South-east Asia Looking East to Look West. The seeming contrariness was typical of the sophistication of a man who told Nepal's King Birendra, "I will treat your Majesty as a sovereign if you don't treat me as a subject!"

The sentiment that inspired the Andhra Pradesh government advertisement announcing "heartfelt homage" to a "humanitarian beyond compare" was undoubtedly commendable. But it was not quite the description I would have chosen for a politician with a keen sense of timing who described his silences (which lesser folk misinterpreted as confusion) as also replies and defended his claim to follow the "Nehru line" by arguing, "Manu the lawgiver gave the law. It was up to each Brahmin to interpret it."

He was also conscious of being the only Congress prime minister not of "the family" to complete a full term. Perhaps the complex made for a certain insecurity. Though he called his autobiographical novel Insider, he was forever the Outsider. In death even more than in life.

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

***************************************


BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

REFORMING HEALTH COUNCILS

THE REGULATORY STRUCTURE MUST HELP PROMOTE UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO BASIC HEALTH CARE

P ZACHARIAH

Thanks to the Ketan Desai episode, we are at a point pregnant with possibilities for reform in the practice of, and education in, the health professions. The most fundamental human right is the right to life. And that is an empty phrase without health and health care. In this basic area of human welfare, we are still far from our "tryst with destiny". Many respected commissions have produced well-thought-out recommendations on how this distance may be covered, beginning with the Bhore Committee Report in 1946, but all in vain.

Hence the importance of seizing this moment for a clean-up. But, reforms towards efficiency and rectitude alone will not suffice. That is because, in a democracy committed to inclusive and speedy development, the challenge of regulation of the health professions is quite different from that in 1933, when the first Act in this regard established a pattern that has changed little. We now have an opportunity to rethink the very nature of "regulation" in this field.

 There are four major elements in the regulation of health professions. The element that attracts most public attention is the gatekeeper function of health councils, i.e., oversight of the qualifications that allow entry into the professions. Impropriety in the establishment of, and admissions to, health education institutions is a flashpoint in the public perception. But in reality it affects the rights of only a tiny segment of society. Even with all conceivable expansion of the health professions, there will never be room in them for even one per cent of India's population. The proposed reform needs to address more than this emotive component of regulation.

The public is familiar with the second element of regulation — enforcing accountability — but by its total failure. This involves the disciplining of errant behaviour by professionals, particularly in regard to competence and conscientiousness. The health professions have traditionally been allowed (as in the present Acts) to be their own watchdogs. In practice, these watchdogs do not even bark — let alone bite — except in their own interests. Thus this has been a failure of self-regulation. The public will eagerly hope that the present moment will be seized to set right the mechanism for disciplining health professionals.

In the health professions, education and eventual practice are uniquely bound to each other. And a separation of the regulation of these two is better avoided. Indeed, it is this linkage that legitimises a leading role for the Central government in this field, though health care delivery rests primarily with the states. This would mean that the proposed new National Council should have a wider mandate than just facilitating human resources in health. Nor can the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research be the appropriate regulatory body in this field.

The third element of regulation is the enforcement of uniform standards of education and admission in the profession. This is the only stipulated function of the Medical Council of India (MCI). It has preoccupied itself mainly with prescribing curricula, examinations, clinical facilities and infrastructure, all in line with Western practices based on some unquestioned assumptions. In most other countries they first decide the kind of medical graduate that best serves their national need (as the Bhore Committee did) and then fashion medical education accordingly. The mandate of the new council must be first to define the kind of health professionals who will take us closer to universal health coverage, and then to maintain educational standards appropriate to that.

That leads us to the most neglected and yet important dimension of regulatory authorities. All professions have their own internal logic and standards and these need to be nurtured for their sustainability and progress. And autonomous professional regulatory bodies may seem best suited to that. But the societal goal of promoting universal access to basic health care was not spelt out in their enabling Acts. Nor have the councils themselves embraced such societal objectives as guiding principles in their regulatory role. So their major activities have been strictly related to their professions, such as increasing the output of graduates, multiplying sub-specialities and ensuring the standing of their graduates in the world market.

Not surprisingly, these have not delivered proportionate benefits in health conditions. Our basic unmet need is universal access to essential health care. What would it profit the country even if we have a million doctors from a thousand medical colleges and all of them are fit to succeed in any branch of medicine any where in the world, if most of them are not found where most people live in India and in any case are not trained in the attitudes and skills necessary to address the people's basic health needs? Therefore, the most urgent reform required in the health professions is to articulate the overriding societal goals in this field and then to facilitate a partnership of all the health professions towards that goal.

What are the practical implications of such an approach? It would be good to have one central regulatory authority for all the health professions together. But it must be more than just a human resource agency. Its role must be to promote training and practice in the health professions around national interests in this field and to promote the individual professions in this larger context and towards larger goals. This would naturally mean that membership of the regulatory body cannot be confined to health professionals but must include all stakeholders in health care and promotion of health, especially advocates of patients' concerns and advocates of a holistic understanding of health and health care delivery. A tripartite composition with equal weightage between the ministry of health, the health professions and the watchdogs of the people's concerns in health might provide the required checks and balances.

The mechanisms and processes of this new regulatory structure and whether these may still retain a degree of autonomy with social accountability would bear separate scrutiny. The Ketan Desai episode has brought us to the cusp of a thorough reform of the regulation of our health care professions. The historic possibilities offered by this turn of events will be missed if we do not seize this moment to fashion a regulatory structure for the health professions permeated by societal needs and in which society at large also has its say.

The author was formerly on the faculty of the Christian Medical College, Vellore

 

***************************************


BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

ON MORAL LUCK AND HUMAN VULNERABILITY

GURCHARAN DAS

I was in Mumbai on that December night in 1984 when the gas leak tragedy struck Bhopal. I was head of an American multinational's Indian subsidiary, a company not unlike Union Carbide, whose managing director happened to be my friend. We were among the few foreign companies that had stayed on and had toughened under the punishing conditions of the "license-quota-permit raj". I was in shock over the horrific human tragedy but my sadness came from another thought: What if it had been me? I put myself in his shoes and wondered if I would have acted differently. Probably not, and I thought about human vulnerability and how unbelievable lucky I was.

The epic Mahabharata reminds us that life is uncertain. Just as Yudhishthira is consecrated "universal sovereign", he gets trapped in a rigged game of dice and loses everything, including his kingdom and his wife. The loaded dice is a metaphor for the fragile human condition. Imagine that death is the only outcome of the game. "In such a world one mostly fights for time," says David Shulman, the great Sanskrit scholar.

 Clouds of poisonous gas rose in the night sky of December 3 from the Union Carbide factory, killing some 2,250 people and affecting 578,000 others. Of that number, it is estimated that between 15,000 and 25,000 people died subsequently, and tens of thousands of others remain sick to this day. No one in India seemed to know how to cope with the greatest disaster in industrial history and I could feel frustration intensifying in the nation as the days passed by.

Twenty-five years later, a court has awarded two years of rigorous imprisonment to seven persons, including my friend, in the Bhopal case. The nation has been outraged both at the delay and the lightness of the sentence. Indignation at the sentence is understandable for so horrific a disaster — the human psyche seeks equally gruesome punishment to maintain moral equilibrium. The dawdling pace of justice in India is, of course, a national disgrace, but the fact is that crime and punishment in an industrial disaster are difficult and complex issues.

Establishing a higher level of crime would require showing criminal intent or prior knowledge of the disaster. For a higher sentence, the prosecutor would have to link the leaking of gas by an unbreakable chain of events to failure of individuals. It is difficult to imagine that directors or employees could have known that negligence on their part would lead to catastrophe of such a proportion, and if they had known of the consequences, would they have ignored it? In the absence of intent, the only crime is of "rashness and negligence" and for which the managers have been punished. But I am not sure if even that sentence will be sustained in appeal. The managers at Union Carbide knew they were dealing with a hazardous chemical but had no inkling that either the plant design or their operation was flawed. The 1982 audit report had pointed out a few infirmities but they had reportedly rectified them

The "evidentiary link" was also missing in Anderson's case, and this explains why India has failed to extradite him. Nevertheless, Union Carbide got away by paying a paltry penalty for the worst industrial disaster in history. It is especially galling when you compare with what BP has paid and will end up paying. The tiny payment has fanned anti-multinational sentiment in India and reinforced a belief that multinationals have double standards. The truth is that multinational operations throughout the developing world are run to much higher technical and managerial standards than local companies. Look, for example, at the safety standards of the Indian railways. When did we last try to jail a railways minister or an employee for negligence?

I compliment the Group of Ministers for its balanced and determined approach in recent weeks. It has rightly recognised that the first and foremost duty is to the victims of the disaster and the survivors. Dow Chemicals, although it has no legal responsibility, should share in the financial burden as an act of magnanimity. If only the government had shown this sanity and determination 25 years ago, so much suffering and tragedy could have been averted.

The lesson from Bhopal and from BP's oil spill is that we need tort remedies to address the risk of future disasters. The legal system should not allow private individuals to keep the gains from dangerous activity and pass off losses to the public. Liability needs to be fixed in advance on companies. Once these remedies are in place, we can relax our ever-present licence-permit mentality. Solid insurance underwriting is likely to do a better job in pricing risk than any programme of direct government oversight. This logic also suggests that America needs to rethink the Price Anderson Act's $375-million cap on damages to cover nuclear power disasters.

All this has reinforced my belief in the ancient Greek idea of moral luck. It could have been me sleeping innocently on December 3 under the poisonous cloud. It could have been me working for Union Carbide? The Greeks knew that human life is fragile, but their lyric poet Pindar felt that its peculiar beauty also lay in human fragility. Greek philosophers hoped to banish contingency by living a life of reason. Ancient Indians, on the other hand, believed that righteous action according to dharma would reduce their vulnerability.

India is becoming a venturesome, entrepreneurial society like America. Humans have a tendency to procrastinate. We don't take advance measures because disaster is distant and unlikely. Prevention is costly and tedious, and frankly there is so much to do here and now. Since the consequences could be ominous, the low risk of occurring should not be a reason to ignore it. So, we need regulation. Regulation should be strong enough to reduce risk, yet not so strong as to stifle our new found entrepreneurial energy. In the end, no amount of regulation will prevent catastrophe. Humans are prone to err. What is needed is dharma or good faith among both companies and officials to limit harm. Regulators should also remember that costs forced on companies become higher costs for consumers.

Gurcharan Das is the author of The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma

 

***************************************

 


******************************************************************************************

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FOCUS ON RAISING OUTPUT

MONETARY ACTION NOT SUFFICIENT

 

THE Reserve Bank of India has accelerated its planned exit from the crisis-induced extra accommodation of credit demand by raising both the repo and reverse repo rates, each by a quarter of a percentage point, on Friday. The goal, of course, is to tame inflation, which has been adamantly defying gravity for quite some time. While the ongoing exit from the crisis-response monetary policy is fine, the RBI needs to take into account the reality that the bulk of inflation arises from the supply side. Globally as well, commodity prices have gone up quite substantially over the last one year, except in the case of food. The Economist index is up 27% for metals, 38.8% for all industrial commodities. Such rise in global prices cannot but have a sympathetic effect on Indian commodity prices, too. So, just because two-thirds of the wholesale price inflation in May was contributed by non-food products, it does not automatically mean that overheating domestic demand is the reason why these prices have gone up. The official press release says that the RBI takes into account the 1% rise in the wholesale price index arising from the recently announced hike in petro-fuel prices and the second round effects in the months ahead, but does not say what these second order effects would be. To the extent the higher fuel retail prices ease the burden of subsidy on the exchequer, it would reduce the fiscal deficit and the build up of excess demand in the economy. So, some of the second order effects of the petro-fuel hikes definitely would dampen inflation. Similarly, to the extent higher retail prices release oil companies from the need to borrow from the market tens of thousands of crore rupees to finance working capital needs, the move would release credit for other, hopefully investment, purposes. Such extra availability of loanable resources would put a downward pressure on lending rates, regardless of the rise in policy rates.


 Concerted moves to hike output and to increase productivity are needed, to combat inflation. A fast-growing economy raises income levels, hiking the demand for everything. The government must facilitate the economy's traverse to a higher level of efficiency.

 

 ***************************************


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MUTUAL TRUST

CORPORATES MUST EARN THEIR MF FORAY

 

THE Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) chairman C B Bhave has made has no bones about his unhappiness with the mutual fund (MF) industry. And while the industry is yet to respond to his call last month to 'learn what is good (for the industry)', Sebi has shown it is willing to do its bit. Its latest move to disallow business houses that do not have at least five years' experience in financial services acquire a stake in an asset management company is of a piece with its on-going exercise to improve MF governance and is aimed at ensuring that only serious players with a proven track record will be allowed to enter the MF business. This is as it should be. Mediating the public's savings places a special responsibility on financial sector entities and also casts a higher onus on financial sector regulators. Unfortunately, with over 3000 schemes being offered by a large number of funds, most investors today are not only clueless about the merits and demerits of different schemes but are also unable to make informed choices. Many of the new fund offers (NFOs) are only slight variants of existing schemes; yet investors are unable to see them for what they are — efforts to entice fresh subscriptions at seemingly attractive valuations when it might make sense for them to enter existing schemes at the net asset values (NAVs) being quoted.

 

 Wariness regarding the involvement of corporates in the financial sector is not unique to Sebi. The Reserve Bank has long had a tradition of not allowing corporates into banking, a tradition shared by many other countries including the US. Sebi's latest move comes on the heels of earlier moves to improve the lot of investors. Thus entry loads have been scrapped, accounting norms tightened. Fund houses have been directed to mention the dividend in rupee terms rather than as a percentage of the face value and to declare their exposure in equity derivatives. Many more measures are on the anvil and if Sebi's Mutual Fund Advisory Committee has its way it will not be long before the MF landscape is completely transformed. For the better, thankfully!

 

***************************************


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TIGER, TIGER, SERVES YOU RIGHT

BLAME IT ON MATRIMONEY

 

 POOR Will Shakespeare, living in an era when it wasn't yet possible to comprehend the concept of divorce, really thought love should last for ever. Writing what for us are rather cutesy lines, he said "Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments. Love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds/Or bends with the remover to remove…" Tell that to Tiger Woods, or basically anyone in an age when people divorce for reasons ranging from sheer boredom to not wanting to give up careers or just simply the freedom to philander. And if all these celebrity and rich people's divorces are any indication, the male should pretty much keep his hands to himself. Tiger, who presumably thought he needed to have as many extra-marital affairs as his golf titles, got to over a dozen or so till his wife caught on. And now, he's going to be $750 m poorer. As the quip goes, "Ah, yes, divorce … from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man's genitals through his wallet." The high divorce rates seem to give credence to that man of acerbic wit and insight, GB Shaw who opined that "When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part." Well, okay, he did also write Candida.

 

Taking that view would then mean one has to be thankful for the option of opting out. For if it is true that the "three rings of marriage are the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering", one need not stay in suspended misery. The actress of yesteryears, Zsa Zsa Gabor, who seemed to know a thing or two about the issue, once advised women that "Getting divorced just because you don't love a man is almost as silly as getting married just because you do." But when such sums of money are involved, one feels Woods' ex-wife might as well be saying "Love is grand; divorce a hundred grand." At least!

 

***************************************


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CITINGS

HAPPINESS AT WORK

SRIKUMAR RAO

 

NO MATTER what happens to us in life, we tend to think of it as 'good' or 'bad'. And most of us tend to use the 'bad' label three to 10 times as often as the 'good' label. And when we say something is bad, the odds grow overwhelming that we will experience it as such. First you think it's bad and then you think you will somehow make it less bad and there is a strong undercurrent that you are playing games and kidding yourself.
   Some people succeed. Many don't. And those who don't are devastated that the model they were trying so hard to build caved in on them. That's why positive thinking can sometimes be harmful. Can you actually go through life without labelling what happens to you as good or bad? Sure you can. You have to train yourself to do this. You have been conditioned to think of things as bad or good. You can decondition yourself. It is neither easy nor fast, but it is possible. Let's say you break your leg. There is stuff you have to do like go to an orthopaedist and get it set and go to therapy when the cast comes off. But all the rest of the stuff you pick up — "Why did this have to happen to me? Bad things always come my way. I am in such pain. Who will hold the world up now that I am disabled?" — is simply baggage.

 

You don't have to pick up this load and the only reason you do is because you were never told that you didn't have to. I am telling you now. Don't pick up that useless burden. Don't label what happens to you as bad. Then you won't need positive thinking and much of the stress in your life will simply disappear. Poof! Just like that.

Advertisement

***************************************


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET I N T E R A CT I V E



'OUR FOCUS IS ON VIABLE TECH'

GOURIAGTEYATHLEY

TOM LAMB

 

 LAST year, the ministry for non-conventional energy sources inked a pact with the Scottish Development International (SDI), the international economic development agency of Scotland. The idea was to encourage research and development partnerships between Scottish and Indian universities, particularly with the IITs, in renewable energy and develop commercially-viable technologies. Tom Lamb, head of energy and engineering at SDI, was in India recently, to talk to representatives of Indian companies that have a presence in the renewable sector on the significance of the pact and its potential spinoffs.

 

 "IIT-Bombay and the University of Strathclyde are already working jointly and the MoU will help them strengthen this relationship. We want to ensure the success of this MoU. So, we would like researchers to meet their counterparts and establish contact with each other. They should know each other's teams. The first batch from India will leave for Scotland in August. We want this MoU to work, after which we will take it to China and North America," he said.

 

The focus is to develop commercially-viable technologies for power generation from wind, biofuels and biomass, and develop smart grids for energy efficiency. Scotland is developing expertise in marine energy generation, which refers to wave and tidal energy, and offshore wind in the North Sea area. Some of these developments are global firsts.

 

North Sea oil is giving way to the North Sea grid. The oilfields had provided Britain energy security in the latter part of the 20th century. "Now, it looks as if these same seas will provide Scotland green energy since the country is setting up offshore wind and marine grids in the same area. This energy will help Scotland meet its green energy targets — to generate 31% of its total power from renewable sources by 2011. The main export market for Scotland's renewable energy is south-east England, although in the long term, it will be the rest of Europe.

 

 "In 2008, we generated 22% of our total requirements from green sources. So, we should be able to meet the target. The incentive mechanism that the government has devised will ensure that the targets are met," he said.
   According to him, distribution companies have to source 1.5% of their energy requirements from green sources every year, rising to 15% by 2015.

 

"If they don't achieve these targets, they will be penalised for the shortfall. The generation utility earns renewable obligations' certificates for every mega watt hour of green power generated and these certificates have a floor price set by the regulator. The baseline value of these certificates is currently £39 per mw per hour and suppliers can make up their shortfalls by buying these certificates in the market," he said. So, an internal market for tradeable green credits has been created.

 

However, it is in the area of marine energy that Scotland has taken the lead. It has 25% of Europe's tidal energy, 10% of its wave resources and 25% of wind energy potential. The country also has the potential for 100 gigawatt of recoverable renewable energy," he said, pointing to the potential for these energy sources for India.

 

"Indian companies have shown a good deal of interest in offshore wind energy. Unlike onshore wind energy, which is now a mature sector, offshore wind energy is still developing and currently it costs around £2.5-3 million to generate 1-mw power. These costs will come down as the scale of investment rises.

 

 "Offshore wind turbines will not be subject to the height restrictions as in the case of onshore wind turbines so we could see turbines that are bigger than 3.6-4 mw being deployed in the offshore wind farms."

 

 He said the wave and tidal power potential was 1,200 mw in the world's first commercial marine power project, south of the Orkneys. However, there are no estimates on the investment costs as the project is still at a nascent stage.

 

According to Mr Lamb, solar energy should be targeted at the domestic user. In Scotland, the government has introduced a feed-in tariff wherein surplus power generated by households can be sold at an assured rate to the grid.


 Since the MoU covers biofuels, Mr Lamb said India's efforts in non-food based feedstock could provide learnings like the jatropha. "We could learn from the Indian experience over jatropha since we have a target of using 10% biofuel for our mass transport."

 

***************************************


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

 

NEED TO RETHINK GLOBALISATION

S H VENKATRAMANI

 

 INDIA has been walking the path of liberalisation and economic reforms for close to two decades. It will, therefore, be interesting and apt to preliminarily assess how effective and beneficial the liberalisation programme has been for the economy and society. Essentially, it will mean assessing how globalisation is helping mitigate poverty, generate employment and spur economic growth in the country.

 

The country's economic reforms programme does not appear to have been very effective in narrowing the wide disparity in income and wealth in Indian society. Globalisation has, if anything, further widened this gulf between the rich and the poor. Globalisation hasn't significantly enhanced socio-economic equity and justice. It has not helped in the battle against poverty either. A sizeable 37% Indians are still poor, according to Planning Commission data.

 

 The aggregate income of sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest region in the world, actually declined by 2% after the region opened up to global trade, according to a World Bank study. Unemployment in South Korea loomed fourfold close on the heels of the launch of the country's liberalisation gameplan and strategy. Over 15% of all Indonesian males who were gainfully employed in 1997 lost their jobs the following year as the island nation cranked up its economic engine to roll out its reforms blueprint. GDP nosedived by 10.8% in the first flush of liberalisation.

 

 Even in the US, liberalisation and globalisation have only worsened the yawning economic chasm between the haves and the have-nots. The unemployment rate in the country has shot up from 4% to well above 10%. In Latin America, poverty has spiralled. The torrential inflow and outflow of international hot money as potential investment can wreck and ruin an economy that is opening its doors and windows to the winds of global trade and commerce.

 

 An estimated 12.3% of Thailand's GDP, parked in that country as intended investment in 1998, disappeared overnight. The money was pulled out and redeployed. Around 7.9% of Thailand's GDP dissolved in thin air during the previous year.

 

This hot money originates from private hedge funds and portfolio management schemes. This speculative capital aims to reap rich returns in fluctuations in currency exchange rates. This volatile traffic in hot money is one important reason why recession is wringing the neck of the world economy for the last two years.

 

 So, globalisation does not seem to work as a democratic and social leveller. Economic growth by itself doesn't ensure equity and social justice in the way it is shared in society. The intuitive reasoning behind the philosophy of trickle-down economics is that overall economic growth should percolate in due course to all segments of society. A rising tide will lift all boats. But stretching the tidal metaphor, the economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz insightfully points out that "sometimes, a quickly rising tide, especially when accompanied by a storm, dashes weaker boats against the shore, smashing them to smithereens".

 

 So, after nearly two decades of economic globalisation, the bottomline is that the number of people in the world languishing below the poverty line has risen by 200 million. During this period, world income has gone up by 2.5%. China is the sole honourable exception that proves the rule. The middle kingdom has reaped a rich economic harvest from its meticulous globalisation programme, as the nation moves its globalisation plan into a higher gear. An estimated 400 million people in China have been redeemed from poverty. The number of people living below the poverty line, in the world's most populous country, came down significantly from 358 million in 1990 to 208 million in 1997.

 

 China has succeeded in its globalisation programme because it embarked on economic reforms right from the early 1980s and has been able to glean many valuable insights early in the day. The country is consciously pursuing its own liberalisation agenda, which it has thought through. It carefully cogitates every economic step it takes. It doesn't allow itself to be hustled about by an external authority. Sensibly, it has loosened the exchange rate peg but not removed all controls on cross-border capital movements. It didn't go overboard in liberalising trade.

 

The difference in per-capita income between the developed North and the developing South tripled from $5,700 in 1960 to $15,000 in 1993. The richest 20% of the world's people own 85% of its wealth. The poorest 20% of the world's population own just 1.4% of global wealth.

 

 Today, in the US, an ounce of food travels 1,000 miles before it is consumed, implying a huge hidden fuel cost. This, in turn, is aggravating environmental pollution.

 

This is not the path that India needs to follow blindly. India's economic path forward needs some hard rethinking.

 

About two decades after reforms started, the country's poor still remain untouched by the promised prosperity
Globalisation has widened the chasm between rich and poor in almost every country that opened up its economy


To ensure prosperity for all, India will have to rethink the development path it plans to follow

 

***************************************


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

SOULFUL FOOD IS SAFE TOO

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

 BREVITY is of the essence in oral cultures. That explains why they likened the joy of trimming a sutra to that resulting from the birth of a male child in medieval (read misogynist) times. In our wired world of viral video and social networks, we suffer from excesses of all sorts including information about 'good' and 'bad' nutrition that only compounds but does not clarify our confusion.

 

This may explain why the noted journalist Michael Pollan rejoiced like the sutra-kars of yore when he stumbled on a short answer after monumental research to what seemed like an incredibly-complicated question, namely, what we should or shouldn't be eating.

 

"In fact, it could be boiled down to just seven words," Pollan writes in his latest offering, Food Rules: An eater's manual. The seven words, each for one day of the week, are: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Pollan met many scientists and ploughed through mountains of data to arrive at his aphorism.
   But he is acutely aware that for thousands of years, humans ate well and kept themselves healthy before nutritional science came along to tell us how to do it. So, he writes without irony that "it is entirely possible to eat healthily without knowing what an antioxidant is".

 

 It's not surprising, therefore, to find India's yogic tradition echoing exactly what Pollan has to say about perfect pabulum in his pithy advice.

 

 Mithahara or a sparing diet is the foremost of the yogic restraints called yama, says Hathayogapradipika of Svatvarama. Cap it up with a cheerful mildness (ahimsa), he advises, to come up with a healthful formula for a long and productive life.

 

 The only difference between his dietary wishlist and Pollan's is that it entirely excludes processed foods and non-vegetarian fare; so only, not mostly, plants.

 

 Svatvarama also specifies divyodakam or divinely pure water. This is something Pollan probably takes for granted and which is responsible for countless fatalities today, all perfectly preventable, around the world.
   The yogic list is mum on the journo's injunction against food products with the wordoid 'lite' or terms 'low fat' or 'non-fat' in their names. Similarly, its approval of clarified butter and milk ought to be seen as being suitable for an active lifestyle in an unpolluted environment with fewer stresses and strains. So, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Advertisement

 

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

J&K BOILS: DELHI MUST BACK OMAR

The past month has been volatile in Jammu and Kashmir. Arguably the most disturbing aspect has been the death of 10 people in one month, several of them stone-pelting teenagers, in incidents of firing by the state police and CRPF besieged by rampaging mobs. The situation is pregnant with negative probabilities, particularly with the annual Amarnath yatra already under way. If pilgrims are attacked by pro-Pakistan elements in the Valley, or by terrorist modules, the situation can only worsen. Tourist and trade associations in Kashmir have said they will be ready with their traditional hospitality towards the Hindu pilgrims who travel to the cave shrine. The trouble lies with the unpredictable ways of extremist and separatist politics, which tends to take its cue from Pakistan. In periods of tension the Valley's mainstream parties and politicians are easily cowed into submission. The best way they know not to incur the wrath of militant elements is to issue statements that lend themselves to pro-extremist or anti-Indian propaganda. With votes in mind, they also believe — wrongly — that the best way to curry favour with the public is to acquiesce with the atmosphere of tension created by extremist elements. This was evident when the situation was sought to be destabilised after the death of two young women by drowning in a stream in south Kashmir, and earlier in the wake of the frenzy whipped up on false pretexts over building shelters for Amarnath pilgrims. We should not be surprised now if mainstream regional parties abdicate their responsibility, and prefer not to take a reasoned stand. They slip back to normal functioning only when the people themselves show the way. Contrary to what some are led to believe by propagandistic rhetoric, it is the people of the Valley who come to the aid of the government in the final analysis. However, if ordinary folks are to distance themselves from the wildfire expectations engendered from time to time by the tiny minority of desperate pro-Pakistan elements, they must have confidence that the government works for them. This was far from being the case when an Army officer in north Kashmir allegedly orchestrated the shooting of three innocent villagers in cold blood about a month ago. It was this which led to the chain of protests and violent events. The officer in question has been suspended. In all fairness, he should be prosecuted before the law. When he allegedly organised the killing of innocent villagers, he was not acting in the line of duty. Such men in uniform must not enjoy protection under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act if they go trigger-happy, and at one stroke destroy a persisting state of calm. This is needed to give the political atmosphere in the Valley a lift. In a recent interview to this newspaper, the chief minister, Mr Omar Abdullah, implied that a dialogue could be forged with the separatists in the post-Thimphu climate, since India and Pakistan were themselves talking. His expectation was that Pakistan might give them the green signal. Clearly, Mr Abdullah's optimism has been belied. New Delhi would do well to support the Omar government when it is sought to be brought under siege by hostile elements by taking actions that might ease the pressure on the government.

***************************************


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

JINXED PLAN

The irrigation secretary, Mr Adityanath Das's, travel plans seem to be jinxed. When one or other of his colleagues is going on foreign junkets every two months, he has been trying to do so for almost a year with little success. His visit to Israel and Japan was planned for September last, but the sudden demise of the then Chief Minister spoiled his plans. In January this year there was an invitation to tour several European countries, but busy with Telangana projects, Mr Das could not take up the offer. In June, a visit to USA and Israel was on the cards but personal matters intervened. His counterparts in the energy department meanwhile are going on foreign tours every two months.

Naidu's mysterious travels

The Telugu Desam president Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu's foreign jaunts remain shrouded in mystery. Mr Naidu is not willing to disclose his destination and neither are his aides willing to give a clue as to which country he has visited and for what purpose. The TD president left Hyderabad for another mysterious destination a week ago and returned after five days. Some say he went to Dubai, others say he was in Singapore and Malaysia. Mr Naidu is said to have business interests in these three countries and that is the reason for the visits, but no one is certain. "We have absolutely no idea, but rumour is he has gone to Dubai. We don't know the purpose," said a senior Telugu Desam leader. According to a TD legislator, it's a futile exercise discussing his whereabouts: "Except for one or two people I don't think anyone has a clue about his foreign destination. Of course, it is in the public domain if he goes with family for an annual holiday."

Mr Naidu's alleged investment in a 7-star hotel in Singapore and his business deal with the son of a Malaysian leader, were whispered about in political circles, but there's little in the way of confirmed information. Which, considering that Mr Naidu was consulted in the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner, is ironic to say the least.

The loyal supporter

Chief Minister Mr K. Rosaiah must be happy to see how well his strategy to silence the Praja Rajyam has paid off. At an all-party meeting convened by the Chief Minister to discuss the controversial fee reimbursement issue, speaker after speaker belonging to different political parties vented their anger against the government. Loudly they called on Mr Rosaiah to take immediate steps to release the arrears and send a delegation to the fasting BC leader, Mr R. Krishnaiah, to withdraw his fast. There was one single silent spectator in all this bustling activity: the Praja Rajyam representative and former MP, Mr C. Ramachandraiah. Not only did he not air his views, he did not even open his mouth, showing just how loyal a partner of the ruling Congress his party is.

***************************************

 


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

NAXAL TANTRIC RITUALS

BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 "Pride, a stubborn donkey
Conceit, a blinded mule
The flattered never realise
The flatterer is a fool"
From Mughlai Ditties
by Bachchoo

My father was once town engineer of Jamshedpur and my late brother-in-law Ramesh Bhasin, also in the employ of the Tata empire, was sometime vice-president of the Tata Iron and Steel Company in the same town. I don't exactly know what Ramesh's specific responsibilities were and haven't bothered, while writing this to call my sister and ask, because it doesn't seem relevant. He was a servant of the capitalist enterprise that seemed to require him to travel for days in the coal and ferrous mines of Bihar and what is now Jharkhand.

As an occasional visitor to Jamshedpur, deliberately disinterested in its narrow social round, I would be offered the option of taking some reading and writing and being driven to the remote "interior" where one or other of Tata enterprises had a guesthouse where I could spend a quiet solitary time.

These guesthouses had been built near the sites of mines, in places called Jodha, Jamadobha and Naomandi. I wasn't aware at the time of an unrest in the indigenous population to whom this land traditionally belonged. Though I fancied myself a Marxist, I gave no time to analysing the precise economic or political contradictions or dimensions of these places. Ramesh was very aware that I would, in the presence of his friends and superiors (I remember inflicting such on Russi Mody), argue against the capitalist exploitation of the local populations. I engaged him in conversations about the make-up and demands of the Tata trade unions. He explained their inherent corruption and I became aware, as anyone living in Jamshedpur would, that Tata employees, cushioned by being allocated free accommodation, schools, hospitals and pensions, would be reluctant to jeopardise this position of proletarian privilege by supporting union militancy.

About the rural or forest population where I spent a few days or weeks at a time, I knew very little. While there, I would read and write and discuss the night's meal with the caretaking chef and wander out on walks, wary of the wild animals who, I was warned, were quite capable of attacking and eating me. On several trips I found that the sadhus in or near the streams of the districts or looking after the isolated country temples, grew small allotments of cannabis for themselves and were extremely generous with handing out pocketfuls of ganja and equipping me with a chillum to smoke it in. "Shambho! Hai Shambho! Jai Shambho!" was the knowing and mischievous eyeball-rolling slogan and benediction I took away from those encounters.

Now Jharkhand is in turmoil. It is one of the territories where the exploitation of the natural resources by agencies completely alien from the native population has given the Naxalites a base of operation. These places are now a launch-pad of violence directed against the injustice of a settlement in which the natives get nothing but forced displacement. That the targets and victims of such violence and the counter-violence of the inept state are palpably imprecise has ever been the way with "class war".

It is not even clear in a strictly Marxist analysis whether the violence and organisation one reads of in the papers can indeed be called class war. The aim of the party that directs the violence is to overthrow the state. The aim of the cadres they recruit is to get corrupt police and politicians off their backs and participate in the spoils their territories provide and in the general material advance of the country. Into this divergence of aims, there is the opportunity for the bourgeois state to drive a wedge — if it can generate the incorruptible will to do it.

I have no right or intention to editorialise on Naxalism. Before the Naxal activity took root in the places in which I blithely holidayed, the officials of the company that worked the mines felt no guilt about digging those mines or making that steel. The talk then was of the advance of the country as a whole, the generation of expertise to expand India's capacity to exploit its natural resources and turn them to industrial and constructive use.

They had no idea that in a few decades the pace and direction of development of the country would be such that the sections of the population that could and would explore and seek to own the freshly discovered mineral wealth of the land would be, justly, characterised as agents of a lop-sided social equity — if not as downright crooked exploitative parasites.

The very democratic development of the country, one that forced the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand to come into existence, has resulted in an awareness and intolerance of such social and developmental inequity and iniquity. Hence the fertile soil for Naxalism.

The movement itself, with all the explanations forwarded by its apologists and by the hand-wringing "behalfists" who speak on their behalf, has always been a radical deviation from all forms of Marxism. Some of the propaganda perpetrated by the CPI(Maoist) party — and I admit that there could be willful distortions in the reports I have read — appeal more as tantric rituals of social cleansing than a Marxist programme for revolution. The derailment of trains and the killings at Dantewada, may serve some fantastic far-fetched strategic or recruiting purpose but in today's world of aimless jihadic terrorism they appeal more as the slaughter of the hapless and the innocent. Lenin would not have approved.

At this time, all developmental and military factors considered, the Maoist Party is extremely unlikely to lead a peasant revolt or a Long March which will win the countryside and surround Mumbai and Delhi and wrest power at the centre for a Maoism that China has long buried. They may succeed, with very many voices now urging negotiation and compromise, in establishing themselves as part of the radical democratic make-up of the districts and states in question. If they take or share power in these states, will they annex the means of production, communise the land and its resources and share the proceeds and power as no other state professing socialism — not Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, the Kim family's North Korea or Pol Pot's Cambodia — has ever done?

***************************************

 


DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DOOMED MODELS IN KILLER NET

SHOBHAA'S TAKE

It has been a slow week for news. Fifa (Fédération Internationale de Footbalol Association) leaves India cold (if we aren't playing, why bother?). And the political khabar from Delhi has been pretty thanda. That left a lot of front-page space waiting to be filled. Along came a masala story which had the hungry media vultures scampering — an ageing model's tragic suicide. Hardly headline news. But there it was, on every channel and newspaper. Poor Viveka Babajee hadn't received even half this level of coverage during her lifetime as she struggled to keep up appearances, keep body and soul together, in the big, bad and cooked out world of Mumbai modelling. She was considered over the hill and "finished" within the glam fraternity — that in itself is a killer judgment. Combine her downgraded professional status with personal traumas and you have a tragedy waiting to happen. For newshounds, this is another sensational tabloid scandal involving a pretty woman, a rich boyfriend (or many) and a lifestyle that shocks those outside the charmed circle. What most press reports aren't saying is that what really killed Viveka was not a thwarted love affair but corrosive insecurity and despair.

It is a common story. Some girls can handle it better than others. Some manage to escape. Some don't. Viveka didn't. But look around you and you'll find several walking wounded models struggling to stay afloat. The route taken is familiar — get discovered, get to Mumbai, get assignments. The first two or three years are generally heady and brilliant. The money rolls in, wealthy admirers pile up, lifestyle options multiply… and with luck, Bollywood beckons. All this before the girls reach their sell-by date (25 at the outside). Once your shelf-life is over, the assignments dry up and even those panting middle-aged married men move on to younger chicks. The first sign of desperation is when such a sought after girl finds herself in the social wilderness and starts looking for lolly from other sources. She has bills to pay, loans to service and an image to protect. Creditors start breathing down her neck… and with the heat getting a bit too hot to handle, the girl panics. Most of the times, she is miles away from home, living by herself in a suburban flat without support systems of any kind. She makes alcohol her best friend. In order to keep meeting her new "best friend", she lets it be known she's open to attending parties thrown by strangers — for a fee, of course. There are shady "party agents" who round-up hard up models and small-time actresses for clients but at least the booze is in plenty even if the money is pathetic. Then come the shadier proposals to spend a weekend in Goa or Dubai — the money is not big, but it covers shopping kharcha. What the hell, a girl's got to have the latest cellphone and "It" bag.

From this stage to full-time hooking takes no time at all. The stakes are further lowered — but what is on offer is far more addictive — coke. Party girls in sexy frocks are always welcome at power evenings that need a strong glamour quotient — that is exactly the pattern followed by organisers of mega sporting events worldwide. But there is a catch — the cocktails that keep these evenings in high gear do not flow out of glasses. The powerful hosts behind these parties know there is but one hook to get these girls to hang on — cocaine — lots and lots of the white stuff. Champagne and coke become the preferred mix. Throw in sex with strangers and what starts off as a "fun" thing soon turns into the blackest nightmare ever with no escape. Dirty weekends grow into four and five-day orgies. The protagonists are usually society's top-drawer men — industrialists, movie stars, TV producers. And, of course, the fashion crowd from Delhi or Bengaluru. This is where girls like Viveka descend into a private hell from which there is no "out". They are literally and metaphorically at a dead end. Strapped for money, strapped for love, strapped for security on any level — they turn the searchlight inwards in search of salvation.

Viveka's suicide is being compared to Nafisa's. And, no doubt there are unmistakable parallels. The main thread involves their respective backgrounds. It was hard to believe Viveka's family is originally from Satara — a small, obscure town in Maharashtra (and incidentally, my birthplace!). That makes Viveka a Maharastrian-Mauritian! What was a girl like that doing in a biz like this? Perhaps she was lured into it with promises of big time success. Ditto for Nafisa, who was also a misfit in the murky world of modelling. Both girls were above average in looks and intelligence. Yet, both got mixed up with men who gave them grief. Both chose a violent exit after giving up on life and themselves. Their contemporaries are made of sterner stuff — some have married (and divorced) foreigners, others have switched to choreography and event management. Photographs of Viveka's friends at her funeral, tell their own story. Shockingly enough, some of the girls who showed up to pay their respects clad in pristine designer white, posed for the cameras like they were at a fashion week showing. What should have been a sombre occasion was converted into a celeb circus. But like I pointed out earlier, this has been a lean and mean week for hard news. Viveka's funeral provided some much-needed eye candy and a few photo-ops to the starved media. So much for the current crop of ramp scorchers. There are still others who fled India and left their old world behind. I was surprised to run into the lovely Shyla Lopez who now lives in Moscow with her Russian husband and a young son. Did she look happy?? Ummmm… I'm not sure.

But at least she is alive.

— Readers can send feed back to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com [1]

***************************************


DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

NEW TRESS CIRCLE

BY KISHWAR DESAI

It's always a time for celebration when a friend is elevated to the ranks of the great and the glorious. And recently when former civil servant-turned-restaurant magnate Ranjit Mathrani (married to the equally talented Namita Panjabi) was appointed the High Sheriff of Greater London it gave us all a reason to party non stop. Sometimes, of course, the party can have a "cause" behind it. And this week the newly-appointed High Sheriff decided to introduce us to one very successful but discreetly run non-profit organisation, supported by the police, called Safer London Foundation. Over wine and canapés at the elegant Amaya, attended by the home secretary, Theresa May, we learnt more about how the foundation works, trying hard to keep vulnerable children off the streets in productively creative activities.

So who says crime doesn't pay? Well (hopefully) it may not eventually help the criminals, but the loot from crime, if collected by the police, can end up helping communities and deprived areas. At least that is the mandate of the Safer London Foundation, efficiently run by the soft-spoken Jill Andrews, its director. It is a marvellous idea of channelling the ill-gotten gains back into helping young people to get engaged with music, dance and other life-affirming activities. I wonder if this idea could be implemented in India as well.

At present few of us have any idea about the fate of unclaimed booty from theft or burglary cases… And what happens to those crores of rupees which are routinely grabbed from corrupt politicians? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the money were given back to a non-government, or quasi-government organisation, a charity or a school which could use for it the greater good of some deprived section of society? This could eventually lead to an actual lessening of crime and criminal gangs, if those who are most likely to become lured to it are diverted into gainful activities.

After all, right now one of the huge debates in the UK is how we must tackle not only crime, but also the cause of crime. Throwing everyone who commits a crime into jail may not be the only answer — areas can also be made safer by offering a softer approach and weaning children away from the gang and gun culture.

So how does the Safer London Foundation work? When the police unearth a stash of illegal cash or any stolen goods, they hand these over to the foundation. If it is a stolen work of art, and no one claims it, for instance, it can be sold and funds are thus raised. Often, the foundation then collaborates with a well-established local charity, examining problems and identifying solutions to them. This knowledge is then used in making a "real" difference. Ms Andrews says, "Ironic as it may seem, recycling and redirecting cash from criminal activity does actually make a huge amount of positive change on the ground in terms of diverting young people away from crime and supporting them in turning their lives around… Take for instance the Osmani Trust, based in Tower Hamlets, which works across some of the most deprived wards in the UK, whose streets have sometimes (yet not uniquely) been a flashpoint for gang fighting. Since 2008 its Aasha project has mediated in more than 14 separate gang conflicts, given local kids accredited training and worked with local employers to open doors".

Well, it's a great idea and one that is definitely worth stealing!

MEANWHILE, THERE has been another appointment which is causing celebrations to break out across the UK. That is the rise of the Welsh-born Labour Party firebrand Julia Gillard, the new Prime Minister of Australia. Just as in India we can take vicarious pleasure out of the irresistible rise of Nikki Haley, the US Republican gubernatorial candidate, the UK is re-claiming its rights on Ms Gillard, whose parents left Wales when she was a young girl. They took the decision to immigrate to Australia as "£10 poms" (ie, they received assisted passage and migrant status in return for a £10 fee). This new flock of migrants was very essential to populate the then largely empty Australian continent.

Ms Gillard is now being celebrated not only for her remarkable ability to survive and replace her former boss, but also for her capacity to trade ribald insults with her largely male colleagues in Parliament. One anecdote proudly recounted is how she was thrown out of Parliament for calling an opponent "a snivelling little grub". In turn she has been lambasted with sexist abuse over the years, and one Liberal senator has had to apologise for saying that she could not qualify for a formal post since she had decided to remain deliberately "barren". Women politicians all over the world have to deal with weird abuse — as we have also seen in the case of Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee back home.

But where I think our women politicians can take a page out of Ms Gillard's book is in her selection of her partner (this is her third one). Wisely, she has opted for Tim Mathieson, a former hair dresser turned estate agent. I could not approve of her choice more. Imagine having your very own hairdresser at home! Fantastic! It solves all problems and has no doubt enabled her with an infallible follicular advantage over her opponents. She will never have a bad hair day — and Mr Mathieson has already confessed to being her secret weapon as he is often woken up early in the morning to dress the prime ministerial tresses. He says he has learnt to do her hair even when half asleep. Wow! This will not only ensure that Ms Gillard's flaming red head is constantly groomed for TV cameras , she will also save the Australian taxpayer a lot of money as she need not cart along an extra hairdresser when she travels.

Ms Gillard has probably shown the way now for all women standing for elections anywhere in the world — a neat solution no doubt supported by hair-product companies, who will all vote for Ms Gillard, because Mr Mathieson is definitely worth it!

However, the only danger is that there can be no secrets in such a relationship. The state of the Prime Minister's love-life with her consort (whom she yet has to marry) will be revealed very easily by the condition, shine and style of Ms Gillard's hair. If there is a strand out of place, the local tabloids will scream about a "brush off" — with every split end indicating an impending split. So can one really have such a deeply personal relationship with a hairdresser and yet hold high office? Only time, and the state of Ms Gillard's hair, will tell.

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

***************************************


DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

OZIL THE GERMAN

BY ROGER COHEN

JOHANNESBURG

No player has fascinated me more at the World Cup than Mesut Ozil. He has the languid self-assurance on the ball that comes only to the greatest footballers. Where others are hurried, he has time. He conjures space with a shrug. His left foot can, with equal ease, caress a pass or unleash a shot.

Ozil, at 21, oozes class. He's a German. That's part of my fascination. Ozil's a Muslim German of Turkish descent who believes he has married traditions: "My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part".

The technique undid Ghana in the group stage with a fizzing volleyed goal. The attitude left England's Gareth Barry for dead as Ozil burst down the left wing to set up Germany's fourth goal in its demolition of English illusions. Poor England, consumed by inhibition before Ozil's invention!

Ozil's a German but only just. The years I spent in Berlin in the late 1990s were marked by angry debate as the country moved from a "Volkisch" view of nationality — one based on the bloodlines of the German Volk — to a more liberal law that gave millions of immigrants an avenue to citizenship for the first time. Ozil would not have been German until the immigration law of 1999.

It's this legislation that has birthed the Germany of Ozil and his teammates Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng (Tunisian and Ghanaian fathers respectively) and Cacau (naturalised Brazilian) and Dennis Aogo (Nigerian descent). The Volk have spread wings to hoist Germany into the last eight.

There's a third reason, beyond brilliance and birthright, for my fascination with Ozil. He is probably only on the team because "The Big Man" of the German squad, Michael Ballack, was injured a few weeks before the tournament.

Similarly, Ghana has advanced to the last eight — despite that defeat to Germany — even in the absence of its "Big Man," the injured star Michael Essien. As for Uruguay and Paraguay, two other quarter-finalists, they had no "Big Man" to begin with.

Perhaps it's not a bad thing that the first African World Cup has seen stars fail where they were not backed by teamwork. Cameroon, with its Big Man Samuel Eto'o of Inter Milan, and Ivory Coast, with Big Man Dider Drogba of Chelsea, are both out. Ghana, meanwhile, has endured through discipline and coordination.

Africa needs more of that kind of spirit. Since decolonisation began in the second half of the 20th century, it has too often been the continent of "The Big Man." That was the sobriquet V.S. Naipaul gave in A Bend in the River to the African dictator plundering the city of Kisangani in Congo through mercenaires granted licence to run amok.

The coloniser's plundering merely gave way to the Big Man's impunity in stripping Africa's assets bare.

Perhaps the most glaring examples have been in Zimbabwe and Congo, potentially wealthy nations that have hurtled backward. Robert Mugabe has single-handedly dismembered Zimbabwe, a wanton act hauntingly evoked in Peter Godwin's When a Crocodile Eats the Sun.

In Congo, over a 30-year dictatorship that defined kleptocracy (Western-supported kleptocracy at that), Mobutu Sese Seko spread the wreckage that has provided the fissured stage for the recent slaughter of millions. Between games I've been reading Tim Butcher's extraordinary Blood River, a riveting chronicle of the unravelling of a nation told through an impossible journey across Congo. Read it to understand African tragedy.

So I'm pleased that in this World Cup, the Big Men have proved dispensable. And I'm pleased it's being held in a country that shares African problems but has not yielded to Africa's curse.

South Africa has the mineral wealth — 90 per cent of the world's platinum reserves and 40 per cent of its gold — that has proved the "resource curse" of African nations including Nigeria.

It has what Moeletsi Mbeki, the brother of former President Thabo Mbeki, described to me as "a very warped society" born in part of big mining, with its single-sex hostels for laborers torn from their families and thrust into those incubators of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. It is still a land where poverty is racialised.

But it has resisted the devastating "Big Man" syndrome. Over the past 16 years, South Africa has had four free elections and four Presidents. A robust judiciary and free press frustrate attempts to cow them. The interaction, under the law, of various interest groups holds South Africa back from the brink. This is its great lesson for a continent where, by 2025, one in four of every person under 24 will live.

"Ke Nako!" — "It's Time!" — goes the chorus of the most haunting song of this exuberant World Cup: "Now it's time to unite as black and white to be the pride of Africa's might". Yes, it's time for an end to the African Big Man who trampled that pride.

When I lived in Germany, a Social Democrat once told me that the country's ultimate victory over Hitler would lie in the reconstitution of the Jewish community, then being pursued by luring Jews of the former Soviet Union. I always thought that was a vain, slightly kitschy idea. But the Germany of Ozil and Aogo is such a victory over the Big Man who destroyed Europe.

Africa, take note.

 


******************************************************************************************

THE STATESMAN

EDITS

HOME FIRES RAGE

DELHI OFFERS MERE ADVISORIES

 

UNLIKE his strident daughter, Mufti Mohd. Sayeed doesn't get "hyper" when making a political point. So regardless of party-preference, his opinion does carry weight. There would be many endorsing his opinion (even if they do not use his terminology) that the Centre's response to the revival of mass "anti-India" protest in the Kashmir Valley has disappointed. It is apparent that the meeting taken by the Prime Minister failed to recognise events of the last few weeks as more than a breakdown of law-and-order, conveniently detected a LeT hand, offered little more than advice to the chief minister to visit troubled areas (which he rejected, claiming his ministers were already there), and called upon the paramilitary to be firm but restrained. Hackneyed? The Mufti is right in pointing to frustration over larger Kashmir issues, and slammed New Delhi's painting everything with a terrorism brush as insulting. The Centre's line has been echoed by the well-meaning but not particularly effective chief minister, he seeks solace in only some parts of the Valley being affected. A re-run of the Congress in New Delhi and the National Conference in Srinagar failing to admit reality in the late 1980s? Mere "force" will not suffice in an already over-militarised region. Have the successes the security forces attained in the first five-seven years of the decade been negated by political failure to build upon improved conditions?
Even in matters of "force" New Delhi seems paralysed by a lack of innovative thinking. Merely advising the Chhattisgarh government (are we back to the days of the buck stopping with the chief minister?) to revisit the system of CRPF deployment is ludicrous. The state's top cop has pleaded helplessness in ensuring the CRPF adheres to procedures, which must cause the Maoists to chuckle at Chidambaram's "offence". Will the appointment of inspectors-general to handle operations prove adequate when field commanders have paid scant heed to the Rammohan report on Dantewada? Revisiting tactics is no solution, a comprehensive re-formulation of strategy is imperative. There is so much confusion, helicopters are being recalled from UN missions, "foliage penetrating" radars are being procured but the defence ministry remains opposed to an enhanced role along the Red Corridor. North Block must shed its know-all smugness, draft counter-insurgency and jungle warfare experts into the planning exercise. And when a fresh blueprint is drawn up the minister need not rush to his pet TV channel to articulate it: good governance is not assessed by TRP ratings.

 

 ***************************************


THE STATESMAN

EDITS

TRAIL OF BLOOD

NANOOR POLICE MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE

 

THE horrendous killing of a former CPI-M MLA in Nanoor in his own house is the latest chapter in a long history of turf wars, dating back to the massacre of 11 villagers in July 2000. It is equally shocking that this should happen to West Bengal's ruling party in Birbhum district, regarded as a Marxist stronghold until Trinamul came along to display matching muscle. It has since been a free for all with the law-enforcement machinery almost always reacting late, as alleged even by Marxist supporters in the latest incident although the police station is less than ten minutes away from the scene of crime. When the chief minister makes a statement on this outrageous threat to public safety, he may have to attempt a pathetic defence of the department he heads. Predictably, he will be targeting Opposition goons, accused of trying to capture villages once controlled by the CPI-M and in the process provoking inter-party clashes which in May had claimed three lives and seen hundreds of houses being set on fire. He will still find it difficult to explain how the area has witnessed a stockpiling of arms on either side, or why uninterrupted violence has driven  terrorised villagers to relief camps.
This brings alarming reminders of reprisal killings in Bihar till the courts came down heavily on landlord armies that were responsible for massacres. Bengal's tragedy is that while legal options are yet to be explored, the police have thrown up their hands. It makes no sense for protectors of public safety to complain that they were "outnumbered'' by the mob that attacked the party office and then targeted the leader who is quoted by his family as having appealed in vain to the police for help. That the victim was a marginalised leader and denied a party ticket in the 2006 Assembly election has raised a separate debate. But in the final analysis the police cannot be absolved. Whatever the power games that have led to a cycle of violence and made life a nightmare for villagers, the non-performing administration ~ at Writers' and in the district ~ must be held accountable.

 

***************************************

 


THE STATESMAN

EDITS

BENIGNO III

A DEPLETED INHERITANCE IN THE PHILIPPINES

 

A NEW era begins in the Philippines with Wednesday's swearing-in of Benigno Aquino III as the country's 15th President. In parallel, does it signal the conclusion of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's 10-year reign that was generally associated with corruption.  Benigno has a spectacular electoral victory in his favour. No less a crucial factor must be his pedigree, the son of the nation's heroes of democracy ~ Benigno and Corazon Acquino who had ended the dictatorial rule of Ferdinand Marcos. That mind-boggling "people's revolt" of February 1986 has been a landmark in the history of the Philippines. The Gloria interregnum was tumultuous, marked by movements against her dispensation, gunfights on the streets of Manila and unsuccessful attempts at toppling her regime. Having effected a break through the vote in the best traditions of democracy, the people will expect Benigno to deliver on his electoral pledge, specifically to end corruption and alleviate poverty. The new President's inaugural address to half a million people at Manila's Quirino Grandstand rightly reflected the immediate task of the new government ~ tackling corruption. Which obviously is an index of the reality that over the past decade corruption was institutionalised in governance. The task is unlikely to be easy and this is reflected in Benigno's candid admission of "some anxiety" as he sets about putting his cabinet in place. The country will expect him to spell out his agenda when he addresses it in the next few days.


The other challenge, and no less forbidding, is to alleviate poverty, which Benigno reminded his audience at the swearing-in has deepened under the previous dispensation. He might have been a mite presumptuous in his pledge to seek what he called a "permanent solution". There was even a note of optimism in the assurance that "no one should think that he will fail". The poverty index has risen alarmingly just as corruption, in his words, has "thrived".  Aside from these twin issues, he will have to revamp the economy, improve the climate for investment and resolve the Muslim separatist insurgency in the impoverished south. Benigno has doubtless succeeded to a depleted inheritance.

 

***************************************


THE STATESMAN

SPECIAL ARTICLE

KAYANI'S BID IN KABUL

STRATEGEMS FOR SHORT-TERM PEACE

RAJINDER PURI

 

Politicians pursue strategies for short-term gain. Statesmen formulate policies for long-term stability. President Barack Obama is pursuing his strategy in Afghanistan as a politician. He inherited a mess in Afghanistan. His initiatives have not borne fruit. His ratings are plummeting. He faces a crucial election for the US House of Representatives in November. He will visit India in the same month. His commitment for a US troop withdrawal still stands. He would like to show positive progress on that before the election. How will he achieve it to effectively convince voters in November?


That is why General Kayani visited Afghanistan to broker peace between President Karzai and the ISI-backed Sirajuddin Haqqani militant network close to Mullah Omar. The media is speculating that Islamabad is attempting to exploit the impending US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan to achieve Pakistan's stranglehold over Kabul. That may be so. But this scribe believes that all this is being done with the tacit blessing of the US. President Obama would accept any face-saving plan that enables him to fulfil his commitment on an early troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.


Long-term price

Washington and Islamabad may succeed in their short-term objectives. They cannot avoid the long-term price they would have to pay. Because, as statesmen would perceive, stable solutions must necessarily be based upon ground realities. The situation in Afghanistan needs to be de-constructed into its simple coordinates. A lot of nonsense is being spoken about good Taliban and bad Taliban, about Afghanistan's threat to the world, about the horrid state of human rights and women's treatment under Taliban rule, and the lack of freedom under the Taliban. Let's cut the crap put out by the West and see what's what in Afghanistan.


There is the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban is more ideologically committed to Al Qaida. The Afghan Taliban consists of Pashtuns. They have a relationship with Al Qaida. But their aims are not necessarily the same. Al Qaida consists of ideologues committed to global jihad. The Taliban seek non-interference by outside powers in Afghanistan. The two can be separated. Mullah Omar himself has made statements that clearly indicate that. The West will not deal with Mullah Omar. The West talks about human rights, about women's rights and about global terrorism. Why does not the West talk about human rights in China; or about women's rights in Saudi Arabia; or about global terrorism in its real hub in Pakistan? Because what the West really wants is a compliant regime in Afghanistan that allows easy access to the energy sources of Central Asia . All the rest is diversionary hogwash.


The world has two legitimate concerns in Afghanistan. Afghanistan must cease to be the source supplier of narcotics to the rest of the world. Afghanistan must stop providing a base to Al Qaida for activating global terrorism. There are clear indications that both goals are achievable if pursued through intelligent diplomacy. Even access to Central Asia seems entirely possible if a fair profit sharing deal is worked out with the Kabul regime. Having failed to subjugate the Taliban militarily, the US encourages Pakistan to broker a deal with Mullah Omar through the Haqqani outfit. There is nothing wrong with that. This scribe has repeatedly advocated that the Taliban should be inducted into a national consensus government in Kabul . That would stabilize Afghanistan and possibly end Taliban aggression outside Afghanistan as Mullah Omar had publicly offered during the 2009 Id festival. Pakistan's intentions in attempting peace between Karzai and Mullah Omar are very different. Islamabad believes such an arrangement would give it immense influence and leverage in Kabul. This could be a huge miscalculation.

All Pashtuns regardless of whether they owe allegiance to Karzai or to the Taliban are firmly against extending the Durand Line Treaty which expired in 1993. By that treaty Pakistan's tribal belt populated by Pashtuns has to be returned to Afghanistan. Whatever short-term peace is achieved through General Kayani's stratagems this long-term problem will not go away. If the Pashtuns consolidate in Afghanistan what will follow? First, the move for bringing Pakistan's Pashtuns back into Afghanistan would gain momentum. Secondly, within Afghanistan the Pashtuns would attempt to ride roughshod over that half of Afghanistan that is populated by the Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras.

 

Two scenarios

IN the ensuing struggle, two scenarios could emerge. Either existing national borders would change. Or the existing borders would remain the same but the relationship between the Pashtuns and the minorities domestically, and between Afghanistan and Pakistan internationally, would have to change. A relationship change between Pashtuns and the minorities would necessitate the federalism that Karzai's rival, Abdullah Abdullah, had advocated. The international change would have to be such that the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan could intermingle freely and live virtually as one people. Would Pakistan accept that?
More likely the push and pull between Islamabad and Kabul would result in the division of Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, and the emergence of an independent Pashtunistan. The only way this can be avoided is by creating a confederation that keeps present borders intact but allows free movement across borders. This may be very difficult for Islamabad to sell to its people. But if India uses a carrot and stick approach it might persuade Pakistan to fall in line. The carrot would be Indian readiness to replicate the same arrangement for divided Kashmir. The stick would be for India to back Pashtuns to get the provisions of the Durand Line Treaty implemented.


India has a problem with present-day Pakistan. India has no basic problem with any segment of the Afghan population. When President Obama and General Kayani pursue their stratagems for short-term gain they might usefully reflect on the long-term implications of their moves. India has several aces up its sleeves. This government may not know how to use them. A future Indian government might. However unpalatable it might be for General Kayani, Pakistan's future would be secured only if it joined India in a South Asian Union having joint defence and common market. That would recreate ancient Hindustan in a new avatar.  

(The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist)

 

***************************************


THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

'AIRPORT MODERNISATION VERY MUCH ON TRACK'

THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW

 

Vijai Prakash Agrawal, chairman of the Airports Authority of India, began his career in the Central Public Works Department after getting engineering degrees from IIT, Roorkee. Known as a "visionary' and a "perfectionist", he has to his credit over three decades of outstanding achievements and leadership, guiding a galaxy of professionals from diverse disciplines to redefine India's aerial landscape by creating world class airport infrastructure. An executive member of the National Building Congress, he is on many a forum concerning civil aviation, including the World Governing Body of Airports Council International, the Board of ACI Asia-Pacific and the Civil Air Navigation Service Organisation. His dream is to create an airport infrastructure in the remotest corners of India. In an e-mail interview to RANJEET S JAMWAL, he spoke on several issues in the country's aviation sector.


Post the Mangalore air crash, many "miss" or "near miss" incidents have been reported. Eleven airports are under review from the safety point of view. Such developments are bound to create fear about air travel. But is there any real reason to worry? What measures have been taken to prevent such incidents?
There is no reason to get worried. Let there not be an iota of doubt that in today's scenario, air travel is the safest mode of travel. Honestly speaking, it is rather unfortunate such a ghastly accident occurred at one of our airports. I would like to make no comments other than saying how I wish it ought not to have happened. Well, as regards your question on "miss or near miss", I suppose it may suffice to state that the saying 'one gets wiser after an event' is very much applicable to the media, for they have become hyper-active after the Mangalore accident. I would most humbly request the media to take recourse to positive reporting by giving the due credit to ATCOs (air traffic controllers) and pilots for displaying their skill and alertness in initiating timely corrective actions. As regards the 11 airports referred to above, kindly note they have been called for scrutiny for their criticality and not for being dangerous or unsafe. Criticality could be attributed to many reasons such as inhospitable terrain, availability of length of runway, altitude at which the airport is situated and approach of the runway. Criticality could be addressed by many facets such as load penalty and selection of type of aircraft for operations.

Apart from infrastructure, do you have the required manpower in all departments including the Air Traffic Control to match the increasing demands of the domestic aviation industry?

Well, AAI is a multi-disciplinary organisation and where possible we resort to multi-tasking so as to ensure gainful and optimum utilisation of the human resource at our disposal. The expertise available in each of the disciplines meets our requirement. As regards ATCOs, we are short but the situation is not alarming to say the least. The main reason for the shortfall is that the skill is not readily available in the open market as in other disciplines. Perforce we have to train them after recruitment and there is bound to be a gestation period. Moreover, soon after passing out they cannot be put on duty for they have to be under supervision till such time that they become confident in handling the traffic on their own. To sum up, I would say that we are capable of matching the increasing demands and systems are in place to ensure induction of fresh ATCOs in service.

Overall passenger traffic recorded an impressive growth of 13.6 per cent in 2009-10. In your opinion, how long will such growth continue?

We have been witnessing this phenomenal growth for the past decade, especially after the low-cost carrier concept started making inroads in Indian aviation. Barring a marginal dip in traffic growth as an effect of the "global economic meltdown'', this type of growth is here to stay till 2017.


As about 60 per cent of passenger traffic is being managed by joint venture companies in Delhi and Mumbai, the major chunk of airport revenue is going to private operators. How will the AAI manage adequate funds for smaller airports? With such high growth, huge investment will be required in infrastructure. How will you manage this?

Keeping in view the infrastructure requirements, AAI had an ambitious proposal in the 11th Plan amounting to Rs 12,434 crore for modernisation and upgradation of airports and air traffic services across the country to bring it on par with world class standards. The source of financing for this capital outlay was planned mainly through internal resources, budgetary support and partly through borrowing. However, in view of the changed economic scenario, AAI's financial plans have also got affected like any other organisation or sector and it was forced to re-cast its plan for financing of its capital projects. According to the latest financial plan, AAI is required to borrow an amount of Rs 2,800 crore in the 11th Plan. All necessary steps have already been taken and we have arranged an amount of Rs 550 crore so far. Other steps have also been taken to augment revenue to improve the financial position of AAI.


As the Indian economy continues to grow, domestic cargo business grew by 24.3 per cent and the international cargo business by 10.5 per cent in 2009-10. Is the AAI ready to handle such high growth?
Yes, we are very well prepared to take on and handle the futuristic growth in cargo business.

Is the work on modernisation of Chennai and Kolkata airports on track? When will these airports be completed?
Yes, the modernisation work in Chennai and Kolkata is very much on track. The work will be completed in Chennai and Kolkata by April 2011 and August 2011 respectively.

 

***************************************


THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

ON RECORD

 

The adjustment that has been made in the prices of kerosene and LPG were necessary considering the very high amount of subsidy that is implicit in the pricing structure of kerosene and LPG. We have taken due care to ensure that the poorer sections are affected to the least possible extent and that is why the attempt to keep under regulation the prices of kerosene and LPG.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


This UPA government is putting the lives of common people in peril. The Centre's stand on price rise will not be tolerated.

 

CPI-M state secretary and Left Front chairman Biman Bose.



People of Bengal want a political change. We must take poor people into our confidence by addressing their plight. We have to respect their sentiments and continue with the political alliance with the Trinamul Congress.

 

The CPI-M-led government must be ousted. Congress and Trinamul will fight unitedly against the Left in the 2011 Assembly poll.


Newly appointed West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president Manas Bhuniya.


Here at G20, when the Prime Minister speaks, people listen.


US President Barack Obama on Manmohan Singh.



The Chinese have cabbage soup all year because they can preserve the vegetable. They do not use a very hi-tech or costly technology for it. We produce, eat and sell but can do nothing about processing. We cannot make jam, jelly or juice from the mangoes produced.


Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.


I detected the mistake and he (Malik) corrected the mistake.


Home Minister P Chidambaram on the Tricolour being displayed upside down at the meeting with Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik.

 


You should be in the cabinet meetings, you should be fighting against it.


CPI-M leader Brinda Karat on Mamata Banerjee skipping the fuel price meeting.


If you journalists are so keen on my retirenemt, you please fix a date and I will do so.


DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi.

I think it's inappropriate to cover your face in public whether it's a burqa or a balaclava or anything else. We are not going to get along with having a fully integrated society if a substantial minority insists on concealing their identity from everyone else.


British Conservative MP Philip Hollobone who has moved legislation in the House of Commons to ban the burqa on the ground that it is "against the British way of life''.



We will look again at technology, goalline technology.


Fifa president Sepp Blatter.


I just tried to grab the ball and move forward as quickly as possible so the referee perhaps wouldn't start to think that the ball was in.


German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

 

***************************************


THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

DELHI DURBAR

 

Rewarding the corrupt

It can happen only in India. One instance is that 28 per cent of the newly elected Rajya Sabha members have pending criminal cases like attempt to murder, cheating and forgery against them. And their declarations of assets defy popular perceptions and give the impression that they need NREGA to keep their pot boiling. Former steel minister, Ram Vilas Paswan's Rs 2-crore declaration has had many gasping in disbelief.
So it is not surprising that an ex-CMD of a steel Navratna (now Maharatna), who has been on the scanner with needles of suspicion pointing towards him in a multi-million modernisation programme, is among the frontrunners for the post of Central Vigilance Commissioner. If you have the political and financial clout, there is no stopping you from achieving your goal. More surprising is the fact that he has backers in the PMO.
No wonder Fali S Nariman said in a recent interview that corrupt officers at the higher levels are shielded from being investigated by the CVC. And if this retired CMD fulfils his wish, corruption will indeed gain a new dimension.

Good news first

Is India growing at eight per cent? Not quite! Perhaps, eight per cent of India is rising at eight per cent. Now a study has found that the number of millionaires has gone up by 50.9 per cent to 1.27 lakh supposedly on the back of a strong market spiral; or more truthfully, based on the Government's three tranches of stimuli.
Yes, in a way, this millionaire-segment was created by the market and so it played by the market's rules -- make as much money as you can. And in this, all's fair. After being stimulated by the stimulus, they purchased luxury jets and yachts. They also paid themselves well. In the process, they also got bailed out, while the rest of the country is mired in a recession that they caused. A vicious circle indeed.


What ails Bhopal

The past is not always a prologue. Bhopal will remain a metaphor for many legal luminaries for many more decades to come. India Inc is leaving no stone unturned to bail out Keshub Mahindra, using the specious argument that for a driver's fault, the owner cannot be held responsible. Not realising that by the same yardstick, Warren Anderson also should be let off the hook. Evidently, under Indian corporate ethos, what's sauce for the goose, is not sauce for the gander. Otherwise how can one explain the fact that the Prime Minister had Keshub Mahindra as a member of his own Council for Trade and Industry despite the Bhopal tragedy hanging like a Damocles sword over him. And then the hullabaloo about the GoM? Dr Manmohan Singh had set 10 days for the GOM to file its report. And it produced a series of wet blanket decisions which didn't exactly make waves. But why didn't the righteous PM set this time-limit for himself when he was Chairman of the GoM. Till June 2008, he had presided over eight meetings of the GoM on the Bhopal tragedy.


Incidentally GoMs have been in existence since 1992, from Dr Singh and Arjun Singh to BJP's Yashwant Singh to Arun Jaitley. Now you know what ails Bhopal?


Elusive bonhomie

With the Ambani brothers going full throttle for mega power projects, their traditional rivals, the Ruia brothers are taking a cautious step backwards. While the Ruias have plans to set up 7,850 MW of power capacity over the next three years, they will be hampered by problems of coal availability. Interestingly, from a faltering position, they registered a phenomenal rise when the feud was on. However, the rapid leap may hit a roadblock, with the famous siblings getting into their stride, fortified by their recent patch-up. But will they stoke old flames, lighted by the paterfamilias?

Access is not all

Access is not all. This was a subtle but cryptic response from 10 Janpath to a constant query from party henchmen who were in a quandary as to who was close to the "family". It was like the Tower of Babel - so many voices claiming proximity. Some sought position, others got advantage. It was all a riddle wrapped in an enigma. The suspense seemed to be growing, and so was curiosity. And finally this was clarified through private channels - access means nothing. It is only functional access. Some hearts were mollified; those who had claimed access were miffed.


To drive home the message, the hopes of an ex-PSU czar who claimed to be a victim of the Narasimha Rao era were dashed. He had wanted to continue as a member of the National Advisory Council, headed by Sonia Gandhi. But he was dropped at the insistence of the Crown Prince as he was found to cross the boundaries set by office.


The second was even more glaring. A steel baron and a MP, he flaunted his closeness to the youth icon. He made it a point to flank his leader when he made his appearance, albeit rare, in Parliament. As a result, government officials and bankers bent and bowed to his wishes. Then came the bolt from the blue. His projects came under scrutiny. He had gone about setting up his projects without basic clearances, violating multiple rules. This was rudely halted and he was jolted.


Proximity alone is not be enough!


Retirement goodies

Retirement pains are at times worse than labour pains. They cause many a sleepless night. In this quest for a post-retirement sinecure, bureaucrats are prepared to break every convention, trample every rule and circumvent all obstacles. Some ensured willy-nilly that the regulatory post in their ministry was vacant till the time they superannuated.


But this man is unique. He will retire in December this year. The first thing he did was to approve special privileges for retired secretaries to government in that particular ministry so that they were were given automatic upgrades, facilitation at airports, etc. The precedent cited was that a similar one existed for the ministers. But two wrongs do not make a right. Now other secretaries are examining how they could extract similar advantages from their respective ministries before they hang up their boots. By this reckoning, all retired steel secretaries may be given steel at subsidised rates and all urban development secretaries sanctioned "sarkari" houses/land.


Babus are known to throw in their hat at every lucrative slot, even if they don't fit in. One retiring secretary applied for the directorship of the Nehru Cultural Centre in London, although it was of a Joint Secretary's grade. Never mind, he was not status conscious so long as he could be in London where his daughter was completing her course. Now many babus have sent in their resume for the post of CMD at National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).


The other avenue is to knock at the doors of corporates for non-executive positions or join outfits (called think-tanks) run by corporates. At least three retired finance secretaries have become chairman of private sector banks recently.


Some have joined politics like Yashwant Sinha, not to leave out luminaries like NK Singh and Pyari Mohan Mohapatra whose writ literally runs in two major states of Bihar and Orissa respectively. Babus never say die!


Heard on the street

According to a panel of US financial economists, history's most hated companies are Standard Oil, Union Carbide, the United Fruit Co., Exxon, ITT, and British Petroleum.

 

***************************************

 


******************************************************************************************

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

ODES TO TENNIS

 

Apart from a fixation with love, tennis and poetry cannot be said to have much in common. But tennis at its classiest is being chronicled by a poet. There is an official poet-in-residence at Wimbledon this year, and "Why not?" asks Martina Navratilova, quite sensibly. If Pindar, in ancient Greece, could celebrate with an ode the victory of a certain Psaumis of Camarina in a chariot-race with mules, then there is nothing out of the way in Matt Harvey attempting to immortalize the 'Grandest of Slams' thus: "It's the whizz it's the biz/ The temple where physics expresses its fizz/ There's one word for tennis and that one word is/ Wimbledon." This does not sound particularly deathless, but it's not meant to be Eng Lit — and it's catching on. Mr Harvey is posting a poem every day on the Wimbledon website, and the readers' comments, from all over the anglophone world (including Ethiopia), are very encouraging.

 

People are loving to read and listen to these poems on the radio on the way to work or school, and in response to Mr Harvey's call for Wimbledon haikus from readers, almost 200 have poured in so far. Every aspect of the game, including the strawberries and cream, are being versified by Mr Harvey in a virtuosic range of metres and forms; the appeal of his poetry remains doggedly popular. It was Britain that invented the dreary figure of the Poet Laureate. But it was also Britain that lent to the taking of the Metro a different kind of fun by putting up bits of poetry in the trains.

 

So, those who lament the passing of poetry from modern life are perhaps looking in the wrong places. The Faber & Faber readership is not the only index of poetry's vitality. In the everyday lives of people, all over the world and across society, in work and play, buying and selling, mating and ruling, poetry — or heightened and rhythmically ordered language — continues to flow through a wide range of perfectly ordinary human activities and preoccupations. Think of football chants and hawkers' cries, political slogans and graffiti, advertising jingles and lullabies. The writing of poems was part of weddings and births in many Bengali families not so long ago. And if one opens one's eyes and ears to the jostle for every kind of attention in Indian villages, towns and cities, then the 'performance poet' — as Mr Harvey calls himself — could be said to have found a veritable haven in the subcontinent. In local trains out of Howrah, the selling of everything, from safety-pins to laxatives, inspires ear-splitting performances of improvised verse, which often have to compete with the heart-rending lyrics of visually challenged karaoke singers.

 

Almost in his 150th year, Tagore is up for grabs with renewed zeal in Bengal, which fought for bits of his beard and nails as he was being carried dead through Calcutta. In a state wilting under the burden of its poetry, there can be no better image for poetry's death-in-life or life-in-death.

 

 ***************************************

 

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

UNDER WESTERN EYES

IMAGES OF INDIA IN FILMS MADE ABROAD

POLITICS AND PLAY: RAMACHANDRA GUHA

 

The greatest art form of the 20th century has not been well served by those who write about it. As a source of entertainment and education, films have had a greater impact than literature and music, or even sport. Yet, at least in India, writing on cinema veers between two equally unpalatable extremes — gossip and scandal about film stars on the one hand and jargon-ridden exercises in political correctness on the other.

 

A sterling exception to an otherwise depressing trend is the work of the documentary film-maker and writer, Nasreen Munni Kabir. Her biography of Guru Dutt, her cultural history of Bollywood, and her published conversations with Javed Akhtar wonderfully illuminate the place of film in the life of modern India. I have just finished a book that, by looking at images of India in films made abroad, complements Kabir's work. Entitled From Rajahs and Yogis to Gandhi and Beyond, it is written by Vijaya Mulay, who — like Nasreen Munni Kabir — is at once a scholar, practitioner, and fan. A pioneer of the film society movement of the 1950s, Mulay has also won awards for her documentaries. Her book draws on the experience of seven decades spent watching, making, promoting, and writing about films. It uses an extraordinarily wide range of materials: documentaries, docu-dramas and feature films of varying length (and quality) made in a dozen languages, here sourced from libraries and archives all over the world. These visual sources are supplemented by books, articles and some unpublished and most revealing letters.

 

As Mulay shows, in films made in Europe in the early 20th century, India was portrayed as an exotic and colourful land of spiritualists and seers. It was an 'Other' to be surprised, puzzled, and enchanted by, not (contra Edward Said) an Other to be suppressed or mocked at. Made by Continental (not British) directors, these films featured sets "full of palm trees, arched balconies and domes", where were enacted various forms of "mesmerism, spiritualism, [and] mysticism". A certain Danish film, featuring an improbable romance between an Indian Maharajah and a white-skinned European beauty, was made in no less than three different versions, with the Indian ruler becoming progressively more debauched and degraded.

 

At the same time, a different tradition was inaugurated by the "Durbar film", that showcased imperial spectacle and pageantry, with viceroys mounted on large elephants being accompanied by obsequious Maharajas on smaller ones. The Durbar films were followed by commercial features made by Hollywood that likewise sought to honour, commemorate, and (at a pinch) glorify the British connection to India. Here, unruly and disloyal tribes were brought to heel by dashing English officers upholding a public school code of loyalty and honour.

 

The titles of some of these films — Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Gunga Din, Soldiers Three, The Black Watch — give a clue to their underlying ideology. The villains were sometimes rival colonial powers, such as the Turks or the Russians, from whose perfidies the British had to protect the innocent or foolish Indian. Notably, these films presented Muslims in particular in poor light, as "cruel, backward and barbarous". The pejorative portrayals were not always taken lying down — thus, in one case documented by Mulay, nationalists from all communities protested against the showing of one particularly anti-Muslim film in Bombay in 1938, picketing theatres and holding public meetings.

 

The British left the subcontinent in 1947, but the interest of Western film-makers in Indian subjects continued. In two fascinating chapters, Mulay deals with the films made on Indian themes by the Frenchmen, Jean Renoir and Louis Malle, the Italian, Roberto Rossellini, and the Swede, Arne Sucksdorff. Their films showed empathy and understanding; free of cliché, they were also "devoid of any Maharajas, elephants, or tigers…". Malle in particular threw himself into Indian life, studying themes as different as classical dance and tribal rituals. Other subjects covered by him included pastoralists, mine-workers, labour strikes, State family planning campaigns, and the game of kabaddi. A film made by Malle on Bombay had shots of the Haji Ali Mosque, a Parsi marriage, a policeman controlling traffic, and an interview with the then relatively young and obscure Shiv Sena leader, Bal Thackeray. A film on Calcutta had shots of betting at the race course, of women at a protest demonstration, of Puja festivities, and of students learning to play the sitar.

 

In a diary of his cinematic journey, Malle said his Indian films expressed a coming to terms with "the vivid presence of an ancient civilization where order prevailed, a certain order, unjust, hierarchic, sufficiently subtle to fragment society into myriad pieces…". An abiding memory was of shooting a left-wing demonstration in Calcutta and seeing the slogan-shouting radicals fall silent, to meekly make way for a religious procession.

 

Like Malle, Roberto Rossellini successfully shot films in India, yet his work was overshadowed by his eloping with the wife of a Bengali cameraman assigned to help him. The glamour and scandal of that romance has long faded — what endures, through these pages, are the Italian's assessments of India's pre-eminent political leaders.

 

Rossellini's interest in this country was awakened by a visit to Italy by Mahatma Gandhi in 1931. As he wrote later, "Gandhi, during the 1930s when the world was like a pot about to boil open, carried immense symbolism. He represented the power of the spirit. He represented destitution and weakness, capable in their redoubtable meekness of making legions retreat and shaking an empire." And again: "There was nothing detached or immaterial about him, rather the sensation of a presence awake to the world. The holy man was like a clever mouse, adroit and rapid. The cat had to watch out."

 

Rossellini admired Jawaharlal Nehru as well. Seeing him in action in the India of the 1950s, the Italian visitor wrote astutely of how "in this bogged down country, engaged with such gigantic problems, with everything needing to be done at once, the temptation to resort to the radical methods of dictatorship was constant… Every nation has a pot of dictator sauce simmering on the back burner. How much greater is the desire to make use of it when poverty is sitting at people's bedsides? Yet Nehru, trying to build democracy in a situation demanding dictatorship would write newspaper articles under a pseudonym attacking himself." (This assessment, we may note, comes from one who experienced Mussolini and fascism at first-hand.)

 

The chapters on the great European film-makers of the 1950s are followed by crisp assessments of the films on India made by their successors, who included Richard Attenborough, David Lean, and the James Ivory-Ismail Merchant combination. With the exception of Attenborough's Gandhi, Indians have not really got to see the films analysed by Mulay, another reason why her book is so valuable, as an analysis of how this land and its peoples have been portrayed in the most powerful medium of the 20th century.

 

Vijaya Mulay's book is the film studies equivalent of Sujit Mukherjee's Foster and Further, which was a superbly rendered account of how India has been represented in novels written by Westerners. I closed her book with one desire and one regret. The desire is to see Malle's documentaries on Calcutta and Bombay shot in the 1960s. Although they have sometimes been shown in film festivals, might not there be a market for their DVDs? Will some enterprising individual at least put them up on the Web? The regret is that Rossellini did not make a feature film on Gandhi. Judging by his comments, had he tried his hand at a biopic of the Mahatma, it would have certainly been more nuanced and subtle than Richard Attenborough's later portrait, if perhaps not quite so popular.

 

ramachandraguha@yahoo.in

 ***************************************


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

FIRST EDIT

HALTING A MADNESS

''ROAD WIDEN-ING IS NOT THE ONLY SOLUTION FOR B'LORE.''

 

The assurance given by Bangalore city mayor S K Nataraj at the Mahanagara Palike meeting to have a re-look at the controversial road widening plan and the dubious Transferable Development Rights (TDR) in the City should come as a great relief to thousands of citizens who dreaded at the prospects of losing parts of their homes and businesses. For the past couple of months, loud protests have been heard from several parts of the City ever since the corporation officials unveiled their plan to widen 216 roads, affecting nearly 40,000 properties, in part or in full. Chamarajpet, the oldest extension of the City designed in 1892, observed a bundh recently as the corporation's demolition squad was getting ready to pull down the buildings for road widening. The mindlessness of the operation was evident from the fact that, ironically, Chamarajpet has some of the widest roads and the vehicular traffic is generally so smooth that it hardly merited such a drastic action. The same is the case with many other roads in other localities, irrationally earmarked for the widening exercise.


What was most galling about the whole exercise was that the corporation did not bother to hold citizens' meetings or obtain the consent of property owners before embarking on its plan. Bangalore has a unique culture of small businesses operating in residential localities for decades and lakhs of livelihoods are dependent on them. Now, to suddenly evict them arbitrarily without alternatives or adequate compensation, would have been inhuman and against all canons of justice. As financial compensation as per current market rates would have been impossible to meet, the corporation came up with the 'TDR model,' which allows the property owners to put up additional construction elsewhere. The officials did not bother to find out whether such owners had the means or inclination to take up the offer. It was as bizarre as it could get.


The traffic congestion is definitely a serious problem in Bangalore, but widening the roads is not the only solution. Increasing the use of public transport, encouraging the construction of parking lots for vehicles at convenient points, ensuring that every large commercial building has adequate parking, halting the movement of heavy vehicles during peak hours, denying the registration of vehicles for those who already own a certain number of vehicles are some of the measures that should be considered. Thankfully, the mayor has promised to involve the experts in reworking the road widening plan.

 

***************************************


DECCAN HERALD

SECOND EDIT

WHAT LIES AHEAD

''NEPAL WILL HOPE FOR AN END TO POLITICAL DEADLOCK.''

 

With the resignation of prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, an important condition laid down by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has been met, raising hope for the end of the political deadlock in the country. He became prime minister in May last year after the previous government, which was led by the Maoists, resigned in a fit of pique. But having done so, they regretted that decision quickly and in the months that followed they made the toppling of the new government their main mission. But Nepal was in no mood to oblige them and refused to step down. This standoff plunged Nepal in crisis over the past year. The Constituent Assembly, which was mandated with completing the writing of a new Constitution for Nepal by May 28 this year, failed to get even the first draft of the constitution done by the deadline. Caught between a prime minister desperately clinging to power and Maoists determined to claw their way back to the helm, Nepal's fledgling democracy took a severe beating.


Madhav Kumar Nepal became prime minister although he had lost the elections from both constituencies that he had contested in 2008. He was selected to the top post because of his political weakness. What the country needed over the past year was a strong leader, who could steer the country into the next phase of the peace process. What it got was a politician without mass support, one who depended on manoeuvring to survive. His exit will be met with a sigh of relief across Nepal, indeed the region.


Political parties have until July 7 to form a new government. The Maoists are said to be going all out to do so by reaching out to other parties. As the largest party in the Constituent Assembly they are in the best position to lead the government. What stands in their way, however, is their inability or rather unwillingness to function in a democratic manner. Forming the next government will require them to build a consensus on issues through a process of give and take. But the former rebels are yet to learn the art of compromise. Still the big challenge is not so much cobbling up the numbers to form a government as it is running a government to last the term.

 

***************************************


DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

PAYING FOR A FREE LUNCH

S L RAO


Consumers — domestic, industry or farm sectors — don't want to pay the real costs of power. But they complain of shortages.

 

Karnataka has little hydroelectrical power potential left and no coal, gas or uranium deposits. Coal comes from distant states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh; gas will come from Andhra, or as liquefied natural gas imported at terminals like Dhabhol in Maharashtra; imported coal from Indonesia and other countries, and the additional power purchased from surplus states. With all these imports, Karnataka's cost of power is and will be high.


Renewable energy like wind is at present expensive, erratic in supply and small in quantity. Solar power is over 3 to 4 times the existing costs and not entirely reliable. Atomic energy will take upwards of five years for a new plant to supply power.


Every political party must shoulder the responsibility for the crisis in Karnataka's power supply. Political leaders created a culture that power and water are rights or entitlements and must be free or cheap. They have never tried to educate the people that coal-based power generation (the source of most Indian power production), costs Rs 4 to 5 crore per megawatt, with additional costs on transmission and distribution. Every other power source is more expensive.


In Karnataka, the BJP government at the start declared free power to farmers, for drawing up groundwater. Other parties went along and did not object. No politician has educated and compelled farmers to confine free power to one pump set, to replace their present pumps that are very wasteful in electricity usage with more efficient ones (even when government offers free replacement pumps), not to pump more water from underground than what is recharged into the ground, nor educated farmers on the damage to the land by overdrawing, and to the prospects of water for future generations.


The result is that free power to agriculture takes 35 per cent of all power in Karnataka, while another 20 per cent is not paid for due to many other reasons. Only 45 per cent of power is actually paid for. No wonder that the Karnataka Power Corporation has no funds for investment or renovation and modernisation of old plants like Raichur. Indeed the Raichur plant manager has been quoted as having saved over Rs 500 crore by stopping use of washed coal. This may be a reason for the debilitating shutdowns of the Raichur plants. To keep supply going, normal maintenance is delayed, resulting in expensive and sudden breakdowns, and power cuts.


No political leader of any party has attempted to counter the agitations by 'environmentalists' in Karnataka who have prevented new mega and ultra mega power generation projects using domestic or imported fuels. Those projects are now coming up in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and other more hospitable states where environmentalists recognise the need for more power generation.


Step-motherly treatment

In Karnataka there has developed a fetish about our fragile coastline, while neighbouring Andhra with high seismic and tsunami prone coast line has started building two 4000 mw plants on the coast. Such agitations put question marks even over nuclear plants being set up in Karnataka. No politician has countered these agitators. Instead the state government has blamed the Centre for its so-called step-motherly treatment. Doubtless, when gas becomes available in two years, agitators will protest high tariffs.

Consumers do not want to pay the real costs of power. Domestic consumers, industry, agitating consumer groups, farmer groups, and environmentalists, all do and will complain of power shortages, power quality and cost. But they agitate against power plants in their vicinity.


Karnataka has had a very efficient energy sector, even today among the best, despite poor political decisions. It has among the lowest transmission and distribution losses. It will, like Gujarat, soon separate feeders to agriculture and segregate agriculture from other users, and control power to agriculture. It has innovatively set up a power plant in Chhattisgarh and is exploring doing the same in Gujarat.


Karnataka is in discussion with agencies for bringing power through high voltage transmission lines from these two states and others from which it can purchase power when necessary. It expects the NTPC will set up a 4000 MW coal-based plant, environmental agitators permitting. Gas based power will come when the Dhabhol LNG project starts. But all the power in Karnataka will be more expensive than elsewhere because our fuels come from far away. Users must willingly pay more if they want reliable and continuous power. Further, new capacities will take 3 to 5 years to fructify. Till then Karnataka will remain very short of local power.


Consumers who want guaranteed power can get it from the distributing companies by buying on the spot markets and charging more for the guaranteed supply.


Managers of the power sector must not compromise on timely and adequate maintenance of power plants. They must use available resources to renovate old plants. Time-of-day tariffs can redistribute demand by making electricity use at peak times more expensive and encouraging off-peak power usage.


Incentives for conservation and efficiency in power use (for example, efficient pump sets), will reduce demand. Solar and wind power must be stimulated. So must the rainwater harvesting so that less power is used to pump groundwater.

***************************************

 


DECCAN HERALD

IN PERSPECTIVE

ONE ITEM DIET

KHUSHWANT SINGH


Now that I have drastically cut down the amount I eat, I think of tasty food all the time.

 

My pet obsession is to select one item on which I could live happily for the rest of my life. First I thought of rice. Since you have to have something to go with it, I crossed it out. I did the same with the bread, as you have to eat something with it. The third item I thought of was daal (lentils). There are many varieties to choose from: I like all of them but I am not sure whether I could eat daal twice every day.


Next were potatoes and peas, both of which I relish. But if I lived on potatoes I would surely get fat and peas create much gas in the stomach. So no potatoes or peas. It could be some vegetable like carrots, tomatoes, beans, karela, spinach — whatever. I would be bored very soon. So also with fruit — apples, pears, grapes, bananas, kiwi — all good for health but not acceptable as the only thing to eat.


Ultimately, I looked back: the one item I was never tired of was ice-cream. From the time I tasted the 'petiwalas' product wrapped in flannel in a small wooden box (hence petiwala) and served on a dried 'pattal' (palas leaf), it became my favourite.


Petiwalas disappeared and were replaced by 'kulfi-walas'. Their product was in pitchers packed with ice and the kulfi contained in metal containers. Some were well-known for excellence of their product. I went long distances to buy them. Then we started making ice-cream at home in wooden buckets full of ice and milk with different flavours in a single metal churned by hand. It was delicious.


Many years ago my father bought Narbudda Ice-cream factory in Bhopal. I was working on my first novel and living alone in the manager's house by the lake. I made it a point to visit the factory every afternoon and spend some time in the large room where a pond-sized container had fragrant substance being churned slowly. It smelt heavenly and I wanted to plunge in it. I gorged myself on it because I did hate to pay for it. My selection now is Mother Dairy's kulfi. I eat one every day as a dessert after dinner. I could live on it for the rest of my life.

Revisiting Bhopal tragedy

Merely for filling the air of Bhopal with poison

And taking the lives of a few thousand men, women and children.

The cops first arrested Warren Anderson,

Which was a heinously

wrongful action

And now we have raked up

the case again

And given the gentleman

unnecessary pain.

Forgive O Lord the ex-collector of Bhopal and others who know not


How much prosperity Union Carbide has brought,

How much misunderstanding the latest revelation creates

And slurs the fair name of United States,

How unfair it is to certain

Indian gentlemen

Who might have expedited

the escape of Anderson

And possibly made a few

millions or a billion —

And all this for the death of

Indian men, women and

children
Surely, we must not irritate Union Carbide and

Mr Anderson

For suggesting a solution to

India's over population.

(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

Secret of happy marriage



Once upon a time a couple celebrated their 25th marriage anniversary. They had become famous for not having a single quarrel in such a long period. Local mediamen gathered at the occasion to find out the secret of their well-known 'happy going marriage'.


Journalist: It's amazingly unbelievable. How did you make this possible?


Husband: (Recalling his old honeymoon days) We went to Shimla for honeymoon. Having selected horse-riding we rode side by side. My horse was okay but the horse on which my wife was riding seemed to be crazy. It jumped suddenly and tossed my wife over.


She got up and patted the horse's back and said: "This is your first time." She again climbed the horse and continued riding. After a while, it happened again. This time she again kept her cool and said: "This is your second time" and continued. When the horse dropped her the third time, she took out the revolver from the purse and shot the horse dead!


I shouted at my wife: "What did you do psycho? You killed the poor animal. Are you crazy?"


She gave a silent look and said: "This is your first time!"


That's it. We are happy ever after.


A great saying

Sorrow is our constant

companion, happiness

comes and goes.

Santa agrees and says: My wife is always with me. Her sister comes and goes.Z(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, New Delhi)

 

***************************************


DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

MAID OR BEING UNMADE

CHANDRIKA R KRISHNAN


My husband knows that he comes only second to the maid.

 

The most important person in many a woman's life is the maid! The sweetest sound that one hears in the morning is either the gate creaking open, if we still live in independent houses or the bell of the apartment ringing. It is indeed frightening that our entire well-being is so much tied to the arrival of that one individual!

My husband knows that he comes only second to the woman who helps me with my chores and does the very important job of keeping the house clean. As a matter of fact, she is the one who makes my house a home! When I shifted base recently, my most predominant worry was a good house help. I did not worry so much about the other aspects as the accessibility to a good hospital, market place, proximity to work place, post office and banks as much as I did about getting a good maid.


I miss my old one dearly and this is a tribute to her. She kept me comfortable for four long years. She made sure that even if she couldn't make it for a day, she would call me up from a public phone (thus spending a precious one-rupee coin) just to inform me. She had this rare quality of taking her responsibility seriously. She was extremely honest and made sure that however large the denomination of the note was... in my son's pocket, it came back safe sometimes squeaky clean after a run in with the washing machine! She never ever showed irritation or shirked her work. I would like to think that I too am in her mind as much as she is in mine.


It is indeed frightening when we think of our dependency on another person. We seem to be able to conquer the world, but not able to handle our own house work! I also feel that to a large extent, our luck plays a major role in our finding an ideal maid.


It would do us good to remember that we really can't do without them and give them their due as far as respect and affection is concerned. They face a lot of odds to do such a thankless job and getting shouted at on the days they turn up late and being treated as less than human is not really easy.


Many of them try very hard to educate their children. Wherever possible I feel a little financial help as far as studies are concerned wouldn't go amiss. A little amount of altruism would also cater to our social responsibility.

Post script: I have found a new one in my new place. And am keeping my fingers crossed that once more I find myself lucky. God bless these wonderful souls for keeping our sanity and humour in tact!

 

 ***************************************


 

******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE POWER OF THE VETO PEN

 

Gov. David Paterson of New York won't be finished with his work after spending several days vetoing about 6,700 items in the state budget. After trying to keep the $136 billion budget under (sort of) control, Mr. Paterson will still need to have that veto pen handy.

 

While the governor and legislative negotiators work on closing the deficit gap, the New York State Legislature, never a particularly inspiring place at any time, is busy with its end-of-session election-year mischief. This is the time for bills from lobbyists (who help with campaign money and elections) to sneak favors into state law.

 

The last chance to stop the worst of them is the governor's office.

 

For starters, Mr. Paterson should kill a raft of bills that provide new benefits for public workers. The Citizens Budget Commission counts about 50 bills that add all sorts of extra benefits — or "sweeteners" as they are called in Albany. Those benefits should be negotiated through collective bargaining, not mandated by the Legislature.

 

Governor Paterson worked hard to create a more reasonable pension program for new state workers, but some of these bills undo that progress. The governor has promised to veto any bill that adds to the cost of government. These "sweeteners" definitely qualify.

 

As Nicholas Confessore wrote in The Times this week, other stealth bills include an effort by the funeral home industry to be allowed to sell package deals, an unfair way to pressure vulnerable families.

 

A tobacco store in Manhattan wants an exemption from New York's tough antismoking law. It would be ludicrous to pass a law granting it, but if lawmakers do, it would be even worse for Mr. Paterson to sign it.

 

Payday loans are a clear exploitation of working people who face double- or triple-digit interest rates for short-term loans. There is a good reason why New York has barred this usury, and the governor should keep it that way if a bill approving payday loans gets to his desk.

 

There will be other issues, since the Legislature creates thousands of bills each year that hover in the background until the last exhausting hours when lawmakers will vote on almost anything to go home.

 

Mr. Paterson has shown his fortitude this week by signing 6,700 budget vetoes. They definitely should not be his last.

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WELCOMING THE LAUREATE

 

The most public honor an American poet can receive is to be named poet laureate — officially Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. The library describes the poet laureate as "the nation's official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans," which conveys the potential excitement of the position even if it makes the job sound more dangerous than it likely is.

 

The character of the office, which includes a stipend of $35,000 a year, depends on the character of the poet who holds it. Some, like Robert Pinsky, have been barnstormers. The newly named poet laureate, W. S. Merwin, will surely take a more meditative approach.

 

Mr. Merwin, who is 82 and lives in Hawaii, gives a quiet weight to every word he touches and to the things those words name. He has received plenty of literary honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes and a National Book Award. There is something especially fitting about this new appointment. The humans in Mr. Merwin's poems take their bearings from the natural world, one that is often embattled.

 

Even in the 1960s, Mr. Merwin was writing of species loss, of a time "when you will not see again/The whale calves trying the light." In one of his most recent poems, he addresses a Chinese poet in exile 1,200 years ago. "Now we are melting the very poles of the earth," he writes. The poem rings with the anguish of acceptance, the recognition that this has always been a stern, as well as a beautiful world. Mr. Merwin is a laureate for our times, and we look forward to his tenure.

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

SENSIBLE RULES, SOON

 

President Obama did the right thing in December when he repealed the 21-year-old ban on federal financing for programs that give drug users access to clean needles. Almost nothing has happened since because the Department of Health and Human Services still has not issued the new rules that states and localities need before they can use any federal money to expand existing exchange programs or start new ones.

 

Administration officials say the rules will be issued soon. They must be written in a way that broadens access to needle exchanges, rather than restricts it.

 

Congress voted to withhold federal money from these life-saving programs in 1988 when it was already clear that clean needles slowed the spread of H.I.V. and other blood-borne diseases without contributing to addiction. Fortunately, not all states and localities followed that destructive approach.

 

Researchers found that state-financed needle-exchange programs in New York City cut the infection rate of H.I.V. among addicts by about 80 percent by giving them clean syringes and enrolling them in drug treatment programs. By keeping addicts free of infection, the program also has saved the lives of spouses, lovers and unborn children.

 

State and local health officials are eager for the new rules so they can move forward and are pressing the Obama administration to avoid placing unnecessary restrictions on already proven programs. They are especially worried about how the new rules will interpret a provision of the statute that gives local police departments some say in where needle-exchange programs can be located. It is important to protect the interests of local residents and businesses, but forcing exchange sites to the far edges of a city or town would utterly defeat their purpose.

 

Managers of these programs often reach agreements with police departments so that people coming in are not arrested for having drug paraphernalia. Federal health officials should require local clinics that get federal aid to confer with local law enforcement. Good will, good sense and a readiness to cooperate is essential on all sides. Successful, well-financed needle-exchange programs will improve public health and public safety.

 

***************************************

 

 

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

CONGRESS, SANCTIONS AND IRAN

 

The United States already bars nearly all trade with Iran. Congress tightened those restrictions even further last week when it voted to punish foreign companies and banks and American overseas subsidiaries that do business with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran and its many front companies. Firms selling gasoline to Iran also are targeted.

 

The legislation, which President Obama signed into law on Thursday, is part of an intensifying international campaign to pressure Tehran into abandoning its illicit nuclear program — a goal we strongly support. Extraterritorial sanctions are always problematic. They can open American companies to retaliation and provoke a political backlash.

 

If these sanctions give foreign companies more reason to cut their ties with Iran, that would be good news. Unless they are used sparingly, they could strain relations and make it even harder to persuade governments of the need to isolate Iran.

 

Iran has ignored repeated demands by the United Nations Security Council to halt enriching uranium. After four rounds of Security Council sanctions, many governments and businesses still find Iran's oil wealth too hard to resist. There are some signs that may be changing, but Washington will have to keep pressing.

 

The latest Security Council sanctions are mainly focused on cutting off Iran's access to the international financial system and ending dealings the Revolutionary Guards Corps, which runs the nuclear program and a lot more. They still leave countries too much room to maneuver.

 

The resolution urges — rather than requires — states to close Iranian banks with any links to the nuclear program and calls on — rather than requires — states to deny insurance coverage to Iranian shipping and other businesses with links to proliferation.

 

The new American law goes further and mandates real penalties from a range of options. Foreign banks that do business with certain Iranian banks or with the Revolutionary Guards Corps or its front companies could be banned from doing credit transactions or foreign exchange activity through American banks. Foreign companies could be denied United States government contracts, export credits and access to American markets.

 

The Security Council resolution does not bar companies from doing business in Iran's energy sector. The new American law would punish companies that supply Iran with gasoline or the means to expand its own refining capacity. Companies that finance, broker or insure the shipments or deliver the gasoline could also be sanctioned. That frankly worries us.

 

If Tehran keeps pressing ahead with its nuclear program, the international community may have to restrict gasoline sales to Iran. That could hurt ordinary Iranians and rally support for the government. Since the demand on foreign companies goes beyond what the Security Council is requiring, it could shift international anger away from Tehran and toward Washington.

 

Many of the banks and companies most affected by the new law are in Europe (especially Germany), China and Dubai. Russia, Malaysia, Turkey, India and Pakistan could feel its sting as well. The Europeans, who bitterly fought previous rounds of extraterritorial sanctions, seem less worried now. The European Union recently adopted its own tougher sanctions, including a ban on new investment in Iran's energy sector. Dozens of European firms claim to be pulling back or out of Iran — a commitment that has yet to be tested.

 

Previous American administrations have waived similar extraterritorial sanctions. Congress is insisting that President Obama enforce this new law. It also gave him some room to waive punishments, on a case-by-case basis, on companies in countries that are cooperating with efforts to isolate Iran. Political and business leaders should give Mr. Obama every reason to do that. For this to work, the White House will also have to exercise considerable diplomatic finesse.

 

***************************************

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

JULY FOURTH WEEKEND QUIZ

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

I. Know your states:

 

A) Which of the following did NOT happen in Arizona this year?

 

1. Senator John McCain claimed illegal immigrants were deliberately causing fatal car crashes on Arizona highways.

 

2. Gov. Jan Brewer claimed illegal immigrants were beheading people and leaving the corpses in the desert.

 

3. Strapped for cash, the state sold its public buildings, including the Capitol.

 

4. State Legislature voted to require all schoolchildren to be able to recite the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

 

B) Which of the following did NOT happen in South Carolina this year?

 

1. Two Republican consultants claimed they had had sex with the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

 

2. Gov. Mark "Appalachian Trail" Sanford announced that he is reuniting with his ex-wife and becoming a Sikh.

 

3. Lieutenant governor compared government assistance to the poor with feeding stray animals.

 

4. Winner of Democratic Senate primary turned out to be an unemployed man facing felony charges who had never campaigned.

 

*****

 

II. Know your Congress:

 

A) Which of the following did NOT happen in the Senate this year?

 

1. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama held up confirmation votes on more than 70 Obama administration appointees because he wanted two defense contracts for his home state.

 

2. Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky held up the confirmation of the deputy U.S. trade representative out of pique over a Canadian law banning the sale of flavored tobacco.

 

3. Harry Reid, the majority leader, accidentally voted No on health care bill.

 

4. Senate dining room had all-shrimp menu in support of gulf fishermen.

 

5. Republicans invoked a rule prohibiting committee meetings from running past 2 p.m.

 

*****

 

III. Match the lovebirds:

 

A) "We had several drinks. We went to dinner. We went to a couple of bars. ... It just happened."

 

B) "Nobody likes that, but it may be one of the tough-love things that has to happen."

 

C) "Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe and four guys jumped on top of me."

 

D) "Yes, they're both available!"

 

E) "I'm actually a little nervous."

 

1. Representative Eric Massa, describing his 50th birthday party with office aides.

 

2. Newly elected Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, introducing his unmarried daughters to the crowd.

 

3. Glenn Beck on his first meeting with new Fox commentator, Sarah Palin.

 

4. Rand Paul, the Kentucky gubernatorial candidate, on why he opposes extending unemployment benefits.

 

5. South Carolina Republican political consultant, claiming he had a one-night stand with a candidate for governor.

 

*****

 

IV. Match the apologies:

 

A) "I simply misremembered it wrong."

 

B) "I have made mistakes, and I am sorry."

 

C) "If anything I said this morning has been misconstrued ... I want to apologize for that misconstruction."

 

D) "I made an insensitive comment."

 

1. Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, on his apology to BP for President Obama's "shakedown."

 

2. Mark Kirk, a Senate candidate in Illinois, on war record.

 

3. Richard Blumenthal, a Senate candidate in Connecticut, on war record.

 

4. Louisiana state representative who called a black campaign volunteer "Buckwheat."

 

*****

 

V. Who said the following?

 

A. "That's gonna leave a mark."

 

1. Representative Anthony Weiner after being gored in the hand by a goat at a press conference opposing mohair goat subsidies.

 

2. BP executive, examining oil-soaked pelicans.

 

3. The House minority leader, John Boehner, describing a recent tanning bed accident.

 

B. "We care about the small people."

 

1. BP chairman stressing his company's commitment to oil spill victims.

 

2. Basketball star LeBron James, on his attachment to the fans in Cleveland.

 

3. Vice President Joe Biden, announcing a new jobs program for short unemployed workers.

 

C. "So yesterday."

 

1. John McCain on his previous opposition to fence-building as a solution to the illegal immigration problem.

 

2. Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, urging reporters to get over the whole Appalachian Trail business

 

3. Carly Fiorina, Senate candidate in California, on Barbara Boxer's hair.

 

D. "I am an outsider."

 

1. Jeff Greene, a Florida billionaire and Senate candidate.

 

2. Linda McMahon, a multimillionaire yacht-owner and Senate candidate in Connecticut.

 

3. Tom Foley, a multimillionaire yacht-owner and former ambassador who is the Republican candidate for governor of Connecticut.

 

4. All of the above.

 

*****

 

ANSWERS: I: A-4, B-2; II: A-4; III: A-5, B-4, C-1, D-2, E-3; IV: A-2, B-3, C-1, D-4; V: A-1, B-1, C-3, D-4.

 

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

CONFIRM ELENA KAGAN

 

Given the brutal partisanship that has come to dominate hearings of nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, the take on Elena Kagan after three long days of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee might come as a surprise. Republican members themselves said that she has acquitted herself well, is well qualified for the position, and seems certain to win Senate approval. Their comments confirm the obvious: Ms. Kagan, the Solicitor General for the Obama administration and a deeply experienced lawyer and legal scholar, is by all accounts an excellent nominee. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, she should be confirmed.

The hearings have affirmed her broad and well-grounded view of the law and the high court's role in guiding the judiciary. They have also showcased her thoughtfulness and ability to explain and defend her views in the give-and-take of the committee's extensive questioning.

 

Hearings still too stacked

 

The dynamics of such hearings, of course, are stacked on all sides. The opposition party, Republicans in this case, always pushes questions designed to trap, embarrass or discredit the nominee. The president's party throws softballs to his nominee. And the nominee tries to avoid being pinned down in a disquisition on a controversial subject that could destroy her nomination.

 

Still, the sparring, though often unrevealing of a nominee's leanings and future legal positions, is useful for testing a potential justice's mettle, mental capacity, perseverance and wisdom. It is on that score that Ms. Kagan's chief Republican inquisitors in the hearings -- Sens. John Kyl of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and John Cornyn of Texas -- have admittedly come away impressed by Ms. Kagan.

 

Republican fishing

 

Sens. Hatch and Graham, for example, tried and failed to trip her up in questioning over her legal advice in the Clinton White House on a medical group's statement on partial-birth abortion. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ultimately adopted the statement she suggested in the debate over a proposed ban on such abortions. She persuaded the senators Wednesday that in her policy work she did not, and could not, intervene in the group's medical views.

 

Sen. Sessions, the ranking Republican, tried equally unsuccessfully to distort Ms. Kagan's role, as Dean of the Harvard Law School, in briefly denying the Army from recruiting Harvard students through the office of student services because of the Army's "don't ask, don't tell" rule. She calmly explained that her position as the Law School dean required her to bar solicitation by any group or agency that discriminated against anyone on a number of grounds, including sexual orientation.

 

She subsequently arranged a different venue for Army recruiters, she said, and then shifted them to the student services office when a waiver was granted. As solicitor general, she said she also "vigorously defended" the statute that embodies the "don't ask, don't tell" rule when it was challenged in litigation.

 

Senate Republicans often say they are adverse to judicial activism. Thus it's an irony that some GOP members of the committee seem to think Ms. Kagan may not be enough of a judicial activist. Sen. Cornyn, who referred to Ms. Kagan as "soon-to-be Justice Kagan," said he feared she would support acts of Congress, out of deference for the power of the federal government, that he believed might over-reach and require an activist judge to squash bad law.

 

Ms. Kagan, of course, has obviously adopted the now-typical post-Bork standard of refusing to say precisely how she might rule in the situations that Senate questioners typically would most want to know. She has done so despite having written a critical view in 1995 of a Senate committee hearing process that had become a "vapid and hollow charade."

 

Justice John Roberts' model

 

Certainly it has become that. Following the implosion of the Bork nomination due to his frank but skewed opinions, nominees subsequently began avoiding specificity on hot button issues on the grounds that they may have to rule on such issues on the court. That, in turn, has devolved into a practice of rote humility, vague answers and outright denial of any sentiment that might torpedo a nominee's chances of approval.

 

In his own hearings five years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts himself fixed the current model for this "judicial modesty" standard. As a nominee, Mr. Roberts pledged judicial neutrality, loyalty to legal precedents handed down and sustained by prior courts, and said his role mainly would be like an umpire calling "balls and strikes." He has subsequently has turned long-standing court precedents on campaign financing, the Second Amendment and the restricted rights of corporations upside down to suit his own personal views and steer the court toward reactionary judicial activism.

 

Ms. Kagan's realism

 

Ms. Kagan, at least, has stated her view that the Supreme Court has the prerogative and responsibility to reinterpret traditional readings of the Constitution in view of new findings and evolving standards. She cited, as examples, the notions of libel as related to the First Amendment, and the constitutional basis for search and seizure.

 

She also acknowledged the realistic view that the process of judgment requires far more than the "robotic" nature that the metaphor of "calling balls and strikes" might suggest.

 

In view of her distinguished scholarly work and legal record in the Clinton administration, at Harvard's School of Law and as Solicitor General, she has, more than most, demonstrated the ability to think clearly and soundly across the legal landscape. We welcome her judgment and her legal skills. Her nomination merits approval.

 

***************************************


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

OUR PAPER WELCOMES FOSTER

 

It was 25 years ago that a young journalist named J. Todd Foster joined the Chattanooga Free Press as a reporter.

 

He did such a good job in Chattanooga that he was lured away, in 1989, to other journalistic endeavors. They included the Portland Oregonian, the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal and People magazine, before Mr. Foster became the editor of the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier. Under his leadership there, his paper won a highly regarded Pulitzer Prize for its reporting.

 

Mr. Foster recently said he long had a "secret" ambition: It was to return someday as editor of the Chattanooga newspaper.

 

Now Mr. Foster's ambition has been fulfilled.

 

Walter E. Hussman Jr., chairman of Little Rock, Ark.-based WEHCO Media, which owns the Chattanooga Times Free Press and other newspapers, has named Mr. Foster to become executive editor of the Times Free Press.

 

Times Free Press Publisher and Executive Editor Tom Griscom, a native Chattanoogan who began his newspaper career at the Free Press and later became the White House communications director before eventually returning to the local newspaper, has resigned from the local newspaper to pursue other interests.

 

Mr. Foster will be welcomed back to Chattanooga to lead our news staff in its long tradition of extensive news coverage for the people of our area.

           

***************************************


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

NEW POLICE CHIEF BOBBY DODD

 

Our Chattanooga police officers have a very challenging job in seeking to protect us from many kinds of dangers, fighting crime and regulating heavy traffic.

 

After many years of good service, Chief Freeman Cooper has retired and Mayor Ron Littlefield has made a good choice in calling upon veteran officer Bobby Dodd to serve us as Chattanooga's new police chief.

 

Chief Dodd was among several respected candidates. He deserves our encouragement and support. There is every expectation he will do a good leadership job for all the people of Chattanooga.

We wish him well.

 

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


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

LANCE CPL. TAYLOR RICHARDS

 

Our U.S. military involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may seem very far away most of the time, a

part of "world news" -- until there comes a saddening report that a local member of our military services has

become a casualty.

 

Last Saturday, in Afghanistan, Marine Lance Cpl. William Taylor Richards (best known as Taylor) was killed in action.

 

He was born in Chattanooga and attended Dade County, Ga., High School. He joined the Marines and had military training at Parris Island, S.C., Camp Geiger, N.C., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., before being sent to serve in combat on the other side of the world.

 

He is survived by his wife, Emily, daughter Kayden Lee Richards, and his parents and grandparents and other relatives.

 

All Americans surely share the sadness of their loss as Taylor Richards has made the supreme sacrifice in his honorable military service for our country.

 

***************************************


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

A REGRETTABLE CONFRONTATION DEATH

 

In one of those highly dangerous and extremely regrettable confrontations that sometimes occur as our police officers seek to maintain public safety, there has been a tragic local death.

 

A distressed 29-year-old man, reportedly threatening suicide, suddenly charged off a porch, pointing a pistol at several Chattanooga police officers who had been called in the troubling situation.

 

Reportedly crying "suicide by cop," the agitated subject was said to have pointed a revolver at police officers, who were only 20 to 25 feet away. The police officers fired. The troubled man suffered numerous wounds that were fatal.

 

The lamentable death was a terrible result in the course of police officers' efforts in their challenging and dangerous duty

 

 

***************************************


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

NEEDLESS TESTS AND TREATMENTS

T

he ideal when you go to a doctor's office is that you will be cared for attentively and at a sensible cost by a capable physician. You expect him to take reasonable care to ensure that he determines accurately what is ailing you, and provides an appropriate remedy whenever possible.

But it should be troubling to us all that the overwhelming majority of 1,200 doctors surveyed recently acknowledged that some physicians provide more tests and treatments than necessary, as a guard against medical malpractice lawsuits.

 

The survey included all sorts of doctors -- from those in emergency rooms to surgeons to primary-care physicians.

 

It asked these questions:

 

* "Do physicians order more tests and procedures than patients need to protect themselves from malpractice suits?"

 

* "Are protections against unwarranted malpractice lawsuits needed to decrease the unnecessary use of diagnostic tests?"

 

To both questions, a remarkable 91 percent of doctors said, "Yes."

 

The problem with excessive tests and treatments is not just that they are a time-wasting inconvenience for patients, but that they cost many billions of dollars each year. That's money that should be used more productively by our people in our economy for more beneficial care.

 

Part of the solution should be medical malpractice reform.

 

Any patient who has truly been harmed through the negligence or poor performance of a medical worker should, of course, be provided just compensation for his actual economic losses and pain-and-suffering damages in sensible proportion to the harm done. But instead, malpractice laws are sometimes abused to secure "jackpot" results out of proportion to the harm actually done.

 

That is what sometimes may prompt doctors "defensively" to require more costly tests and procedures than are really necessary. Both medical care and laws should be reasonable and just.

 

***************************************

 


******************************************************************************************

 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DIRGE FOR DEVOTEES

 

The Data Darbar complex that has, for centuries, stood at the heart of Lahore has never known anything like it. The suicide bombers who struck Thursday night stole at least 40 lives. They also stole the sense of calm that is the hallmark of Sufi shrines and which hang everywhere at Punjab's biggest shrine as thousands of devotees gathered for traditional Thursday night ceremonies intended to pay tribute to a man who played a crucial role in the spread of Islam in the region. It is not easy to say what chain of violence the dastardly suicide attacks are linked to. They could be the latest in the sequence of blasts at Sufi shrines that have taken place across Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa since 2008. They could also be a part of the strikes by 'morality squads' that have struck cafes, theatres, the red-light area and most recently CD shops in Lahore. Or they could be a continuation of terrorist attacks that have targeted people at random in so many public places. But in some ways at least this is academic. The fact is that such attacks aim to alter the way of life followed by people and eradicate the message of harmony which is the hallmark of the Sufi philosophy.


The shrine of Hazrat Data Ganj Buksh, with its gleaming minarets and vast courtyards, holds immense significance for millions of people. Many, each year, travel miles to visit it; others stop by regularly to seek spiritual guidance or merely mental peace. Even those who have never visited the shrine hold respect for the man in whose memory it stands. As such the attack on it has left behind a deep sense of shock. This may help dispel the doubts that still lead some to question if the militants are truly men of evil. We need greater unity in order to successfully tackle militancy. It is apparent too that we need greater effort to do so in Punjab. There is now no time left to lose. The groups operating within the province need to be tracked down and banned organizations prevented from functioning. The Punjab government must take the lead in chalking out a strategy to eradicate these groups. This is now the only means left to prevent our society from suffering still further destruction at the hands of bombers who are steadily destroying the foundations that hold it up.

 

***************************************

 

 

 

 

 

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

JOB CREATION

 

The government is clearly striving to lower the rate of unemployment, and to this end is creating jobs right left and centre. It is giving jobs to people who were hitherto unaware that they either needed one, or had applied for the job they have been offered. This novel approach to job creation is so far limited to close friends and relatives of the rich, powerful and famous, and we can but imagine the unrestrained joy that will break out across the land once it is opened to the population at large. The jobs on offer at the moment are all in the Employees Old-age Benefit Institution (EOBI) and the lucky 200 people have been issued their appointment letters. And who has issued these appointment letters? None other than the Ministry of Labour and Manpower, which was supposed to have been abolished with the approval of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, in which the Labour Ministry was to be dissolved at federal level and devolved to the provinces. And was there any interview for these 200 jobs? Of course not. Was 'merit' a consideration in making these appointments? Perish the thought. Is the government using political preferment to stuff its favourites into plum positions? It most certainly is.


Some of those appointed – possibly a majority – had never even filled out an application form. The position of deputy director general (EOBI) is said to have gone to the son-in-law of a federal minister. This is a blatant disregard for standard operating procedures and the corruption is compounded by the fact that the appointment letters are backdated in order to get around an order of the Peshawar High Court that was taking notice of the phony appointments. This is beyond the shameful and well into the spectrum of disgrace. Yet it is this type of activity that has come to characterise the current dispensation. The rich and powerful have consolidated and expanded their position under the benevolent eye of the president. And the prime minister always appears to be looking in the other direction whenever anything like this surfaces. Perhaps we should consider such a process the next time we select a new government. No doubt a landless peasant would be delighted to find himself gifted the Presidency. And given that he will have honed his skills as a man used to dealing with poverty, hunger and lack of potable water he might be exactly the right man for the job.

 

***************************************

I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SHAMEFUL

 

A sum of US$8000 has been paid out to five Turkish girls, hired as 'lady guides' to 'facilitate' an entourage led by President Asif Ali Zardari which visited the country in 2008. There is no real information as to what these girls were hired for or what the nature of any services they provided may have been. An FO spokesman has suggested they were interpreters; other accounts say they were 'guides'. Everyone is of course free to reach their own conclusions. The fact they were hired from an unregistered tour operator, without the knowledge of the ambassador to Turkey at the time, may give further clues. The clandestine – and rather sleazy--nature of the whole affair was made worse by the failure to pay the girls until the intervention of a Turkish court.


We can, after reading the report, only wonder at our leaders. Their lifestyle appears to resemble that of debauched emperors from Roman times. According to reports in this publication quite astonishing sums of money have been spent on hotel rooms, meals, and – it would appear – other forms of entertainment by our representatives on their travels overseas. These travels are frequent and take our representatives far afield. All this continues as people at home struggle to put bread on the table or live with anything resembling the dignity that every human deserves. How long will this continue? Such goings-on are damaging not only to the exchequer but also to the image of our country. We should be ashamed that they continue without check.

 

***************************************


I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES

ARIF NIZAMI


Afghanistan, "the graveyard of empires" where no foreign invader since Genghis Khan has been able to get a foothold, is a lost cause for the West. The unceremonious exit of the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal over his acerbic and unflattering remarks in a magazine interview about President Obama, Vice President Biden and key members of his Afghanistan team, is symptomatic of this failure.


The only debatable point left is not if, but when, the US and Nato troops will leave Afghanistan. Officially, the drawdown starts in July 2011, before Oabma's re-election for a second term. But Gen David H Petraeus who replaced McChrystal, in his confirmation hearings in the US Senate, claimed that the start of withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan was the "beginning of the process" and the US commitment to the country was an "enduring one." Thus, despite immense US domestic pressure to exit, the war that has become the longest war the US has fought on foreign soil could last still longer.


The endgame does not seem to be very rosy for the US and its allies. They have already lost more than 1,000 troops in combat. However, the goal to win the hearts and minds of Afghans has eluded the foreign forces. In fact, there is increasing skepticism even in the US about the COIN (counterinsurgency) strategy much touted by its author Gen Petreaus and by his disgraced predecessor Gen McChrystal.


In the meantime, the Pakistani army and its intelligence arm, the ISI, which have considered Afghanistan as the country's strategic depth, are pursuing with renewed vigour a peace mission of their own. According to media reports, belatedly denied by official military spokesmen but confirmed by US sources, the chief of the army staff, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ably assisted by ISI chief Gen Shuja Pasha, are busy brokering a deal between the Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the Haqqani network headed by Sirajuddin Haqqani.


Al Jazeera TV ran a story the other day of the two Pakistani generals accompanying Haqqani to Kabul for a meeting with Karzai. Kabul and the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi vehemently denied the story. It had been reported by a section of the media that Gen Kayani was scheduled to make a trip to Kabul last Monday, but the visit did not materialise. By most accounts, efforts to broker a Karzai-Taliban coalition by Pakistan are being pursued with great urgency.


Interestingly, the foreign office in Islamabad is completely silent about the matter. Nor has the prime minister spoken on an issue vital to our national security. Afghanistan, as has been the norm, has either been completely outsourced by our civilian rulers to the army and the ISI. Or, the ostensible lack of interest in the matter is a result of a strategic understanding between the military and the civilian leadership.


Washington, naturally, is skeptical of these moves. CIA chief Leon Panetta in a recent interview expressed doubts about such initiatives succeeding at the present stage. According to him, unless the Taliban are beaten on the battleground they will not come to the conference table. President Obama, while echoing the same sentiments, has termed the talks as "a useful step."


Unlike George W Bush, who as president prematurely declared victory in Iraq, no one in the present administration is talking about "victory" even as a goal. In fact the roadmap has been scaled down to "progress," meaning that Afghan soil should no longer be used for terrorist acts against the US.


According to a report in the New York Times, talks being brokered by Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha are also meant to break the Taliban-Al Qaeda nexus by persuading Al Qaeda to relocate elsewhere. There is no guarantee that this is even possible. Those who express skepticism about Taliban-Karzai talks succeeding have a valid point. Why should the Taliban concede anything as long as they are gaining strength on the battlefield and the enemy is demoralised and divided?


On the flip side, whatever the Pakistani army does to facilitate a peace deal in Kabul, as long as Al Qaeda has sanctuaries in what Washington calls "the badlands of Pakistan," Islamabad is not going to get off the hook. Pressure on the Pakistani army to launch a putsch in North Waziristan is bound to increase in the coming months.

Gen Petraeus, unlike his predecessor, will push Gen Kayani with fresh zeal to "do more." War strategists in Washington are firm in their perception that Taliban-Al Qaeda sanctuaries have to be destroyed in the tribal areas of Pakistan to secure Afghanistan and obviate the possibility of further terrorist attacks on US soil from the region.


The Central Asian Republics led by Russia have their own axe to grind in the Afghan imbroglio. Their strategic interests in northern Afghanistan and proxies in the form of the Northern Alliance will not easily accept a government in Kabul in which the Pakhtun-dominated Taliban have a leading role. It is also not clear how Mullah Omar and Gulbadin Hekmatyar will be brought on board.


India historically has well entrenched economic and strategic interests in Afghanistan, which will be hard to ignore by Kabul. It will be a Herculean task for Islamabad to convince Kabul to ask New Delhi, which is the second-largest foreign investor in Afghanistan, to close down its consulates, or even scale down its presence.

Gen Petraeus, after being unanimously confirmed by the Senate, is reaching Kabul accompanied by Gen McChrystal's bete noire, America's ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. The "warrior diplomat," as Gen Petraeus is known, made it a point to also bring Richard Holbrooke on board.


Despite this rare display of unity amongst Obama's Afghanistan team, there are underlying differences. President Obama's special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan is disliked in both the countries. Karzai resents Holbrooke's overbearing and meddlesome attitude more akin to that of the fictional "ugly American." He has not forgiven Holbrooke for questioning the legitimacy of his re-election last year.


Last month, when Holbrooke came on his eleventh visit to Islamabad, he was made to wait two days before he could meet Gen Kayani, who naturally feels more comfortable with his counterparts in the US military. In this backdrop, speculations that Holbrooke will have to be replaced are not without foundation. The nomination of presumptive US ambassador to Islamabad Cameron Hume has also been dropped owing to his reported terrible temper.

Pakistan's wish list in Afghanistan seems a tall order. Gen Kayani is due to retire in November this year. If he can pull off a workable peace deal virtually at the end of his military career he will certainly make history--both as a general who successfully led his army to fight the Taliban in Pakistan but also as one who brokered a peace deal in Afghanistan with the Taliban. At the present juncture these seem mutually exclusive goals.

The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email: arifn51@h otmail.com

 

***************************************

 


I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WHAT HAS 'FREELY' CHANGED?

IJAZUL HAQ


On June 8, during the course of the hearing of petitions against the 18th Amendment, an impression was created that the famous Objectives Resolution of 1949 forming part of our Constitution had been tampered with. The Supreme Court was swift enough to term it "criminal negligence," and lauded the present parliament for doing a good job. The media devoted editorial comments to conclude that the Zia era "will go down in history as the darkest phase for the minorities."


The clause which was allegedly tampered with relates to the religious rights of the minorities, reads as follows: "Adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures."


The Objectives Resolution had already been in the preamble of all our Constitutions. But under the Revival of Constitution Order of March 1985, it was made an operative and substantive part of the Constitution (Sec. 2-A), through RCO 14. Since this happened during Gen Zia's rule, much malice and slander has been directed against his person.


Historically, it was felt necessary that before the Constitution was drafted, the principles and ideals on which it was to be based and which were to guide its makers in their great task must first be clearly defined. The Objectives Resolution had been hammered out by our forefathers and enlightened visionaries. They were fully cognisant of the implications and arduous intricacies of constitution-making.


In the backdrop of the socialist, communist, atheist, secularist and capitalist ways of thinking, and of rivalries such as the state vs religion, they had to strike a balance to enable the Muslims of the newly created Islamic state to order their lives in accordance with the teachings of Islam. In areas where the state and religion blended, could coexist and be complementary, they had guidance from the 22 points of leading ulema from all sects and schools of thought. On March 12, 1949, the Constituent Assembly adopted the Objectives Resolution, moved by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, with an overwhelming majority. It proclaimed that the future Constitution of Pakistan would not be modelled on European pattern but on the ideology and democratic ideals of Islam. Since the Holy Quran is the only true guide for man, in his private and public life and in social and political affairs, they endeavoured to lay down the guiding principles based on Islam, Islamic teachings and Islamic tenets.

It may be of interest to many that the text of the resolution that was adopted by the Constituent Assembly for constitution-making is at variance with the original text as a result of some changes made, more so in the Sovereignty Clause.


No matter whether he was a democrat or a dictator, Gen Ziaul Haq was undoubtedly a Muslim ruler, a leader and a statesman of standing in his own right. He initiated and impacted world events. Under him Pakistan was much secure, stronger, more stable and sovereign. His words and views were honoured in world capitals. He believed earnestly and steadfastly in the viable universality of Islam as a Divine Religion. Therefore, it is incomprehensible that he was not aware of the religious rights of minorities in an Islamic state. He himself witnessed the emergence of Pakistan. How could he have lost sight of the famous Aug 11, 1947, speech of the Quaid-e-Azam to the first Constituent Assembly, in which the Quaid declared: "You are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other places of worship…"

How could he have compromised on this, or colluded or connived at a narrow interpretation of the word "free"? He had a much bigger and broader horizon, vision and worldview.


There could not have been a desire, a deliberate move or intention, to omit the word "freely" as is being alleged. What did his government have to gain from this so-called tampering? Had there been deliberate tampering, the word could have been replaced by any corresponding, comparable or compatible word or phrase meant to curtail or curb religious rights. Had that been his intention, hidden or open, other similar words could have been altered, omitted or replaced too. There is no such evidence available. Yes, there can be the remote possibility Of an error, an oversight, an omission, a mistake in drafting. Or a proof-reading, typographical or printing mistake.

Rather than accusing someone outright, we should consider the ground realities and the facts as they unfold. The removal of, or omission of, one odd word here and there makes no qualitative or substantive change or difference unless there is a policy shift. It is not so when legal and constitutional provisions and guarantees are present in full force. If the word "freely" has been omitted through an oversight or a printing mistake, Article 19 about freedom of speech and expression, Article 20 mandating guarantees to every citizen the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religions and management of religious institutions very much exist. Article 25 of the Constitution lays down fundamental principles of equality of all citizens before the law and equal protection under law. Intolerance and bigotry cannot be remedied through changes in some parts or portions of the Constitution. We can achieve this through collective effort and good governance.


So the furore is making a mountain out of a molehill. It is much ado about nothing, a storm in a teacup–if not an absurdity!

Has the 18th Amendment, with the word "freely" reinserted, empowered the people, parliament and the prime minister? I am not quite certain about the effect on the first two. But the PPP prime minister is now certainly powerful enough to help his brother and let his son slap people. And anyone holding a fake degree or even named in an FIR can be elected to parliament.


The writer is a former federal minister. Email: zsf555@yahoo.com

 

***************************************


I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BUDGET'S 'SOCIAL FOOTPRINT'

DR SANIA NISHTAR


There was a misplaced euphoria in some social-sector circles last year over the expansionary fiscal policy evidenced in Budget 2009-10 and the increase in allocations for the social sectors indicated therein. However, as months unfolded, budgetary cutbacks became apparent owing to grinding fiscal constraints and the donor pledges upon which initial social-sector projections were hinged remained unrealised.


Learning from this example, not many rational analysts were perturbed by the scale of outlay this time round in the 2010-11 budget books, given that it appeared comparatively more realistic. In any case, the impact of a budget on social outcomes is not an exclusive function of aggregate social-sector allocations, as broader fiscal drivers and other factors can also play an important role.


For example, this year the government's attempt to achieve macroeconomic stability as a priority in the budget is important as that is a precondition for generating growth, which can have a positive knock-on effect on employment with a direct bearing on socio-economic outcomes. A concerted attempt aimed at reducing the budget deficit and debt burden can lower interest rates, thereby facilitating access of businesses to finance, with the resulting increase in economic activity generating employment. The important emphatic focus on reforming Public Sector Enterprises (PSE) in the budget speech, if implemented effectively, could ease the burden on the national exchequer by rationalising subsidies, which have crowded out the space for productive investments and redistributive allocations -- fiscal space could be freed up as a consequence, which could then be used for social-sector programmes. The proverbial example of the subsidy to one PSE amounting to more than the entire Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) budget of the federal government outlined in the budget speech helps to put things in perspective. Similarly, with the envisaged VAT reform commencing in October 2010, it is projected that the tax base and hence the volume of revenues will increase with the expectation that allocations towards development expenditures would be enhanced.


Whilst all these broader economic measures hold promise, there are many caveats in relation to pinning hopes on them. Beyond achieving macroeconomic outcomes, which by themselves are also not straightforward, the success of these measures in terms of accruing equitable benefits depends on a number of institutional, political and geo-strategic factors independent of fiscal handles -- there are just too many unanswered questions within that space.


Would the government be able to restructure/privatise PSEs effectively? That too when every restructuring option would involve tough decisions with job layoffs? Would it be possible for a political government to opt for such decisions when they are resorting to massive public-sector job reinstatements in other areas? Would there be a way to counter the culture of collusion in big ticket public procurements in PSEs? Which by the way are the most expedient way of recovering election 'investments', albeit at the cost of massive fiscal haemorrhage of public resources.


With provincial governments presenting deficit or balanced budgets (for 2010-11) in the midst of massive transfer of resources from the centre under the National Finance Commission Award and with them singling lack of commitment to mobilise their own resources through the 'tax-free-budget' rhetoric, would it actually be possible to curtail fiscal deficit within prescribed limits and ingrain fiscal discipline -- critical elements of macroeconomic stability? Would the investment climate vis-à-vis the internal security situation be facilitative for businesses to prosper even if policy changes are able to bring interest rates down? Most importantly is there any hope of the energy crisis relenting? As of now, the domino effect of the latter has had catastrophic consequences at the economic and social levels. Would the government be able to successfully implement VAT as a replacement of GST and get past provincial sensitivities and technical issues with implementing the reform? Even if these bottlenecks are overcome and the base of revenue is broadened, the priority, it seems, for the use of these additional revenues would be to balance budget books. There is a risk that people may end up regressively paying for public-sector inefficiencies and pervasive rent-seeking. There are no guarantees that the additional resources would be made available for social-sector services such as health and education or that they would be effectively allocated towards grass-root projects which impact the lives of poor.


Secondly, concerns about allocations for the social sectors per se also remain important in their own right. This time round also there is reliance on Official Development Assistance to fund social-sector projects, which can be risky if it is outside the tested and committed traditional bilateral and multilateral channels. There are no guarantees that the additional revenues forthcoming would be provided as budget support or under sector-wide approaches thereby being of help to the government vis-à-vis easing pressure on the PSDP. Concerns have also been raised that scaling down of federal allocations for the social sectors might not be covered up by the provinces correspondingly increasing allocations on their side. Whist this may be true there is no way of documenting this owing to paucity of data in the public domain.


Most importantly, issues of resource utilisation will continue to persist. In today's resource-challenged environment getting the best value for money through measures aimed at cost control, plugging pilferages in the system, limiting abuse, and maximising efficiencies should be a priority. It appears that the potential impact of these measures is not being fully appreciated. The federal government tends to view the National Finance Commission Award as a way of passing on the responsibility of utilising resources transparently to the provinces. Provinces, however, are plagued by the same, if not more, severe public finance management constraints as the federal government. Without recourse to needed reform in this area that institutionalises transparency and efficiency, the full potential of additional resources will not be actualised.


Moreover, there are issues in relation to priority areas towards which allocations have been earmarked as, for example, in the case of the approach through which health coverage is being structured for BISP families, a discussion around which has appeared in these columns on June 19.


Lastly, the impact of polices outside of the budget on social outcomes merit attention. Two of the expenditure heads that are backbreaking for the common man these days are inflation and power tariffs. Both are influenced by polices outside of the budget. Inflation has complex determinants outside of fiscal and monetary factors. As far as power tariffs are concerned, regulatory agencies have been created, so that oil prices and power tariffs can be changed outside the budget framework, all year through as and when the need arises.

 

In sum, it is accepted that there are indeed some measures for social relief in the budget, especially the income support safety net programme and revision of pubic-sector remuneration. However, their impact could be offset by withdrawal of subsidies, indirect taxation, and impact of policies outside the budget. Governance constraints and institutional factors may also undermine the impact of macroeconomic measures pursued through the budget instrument on the equity objective. Broader macroeconomic and fiscal measures may have potential, but their impact depends on many factors, which are not technocratic but largely political in nature. Only time will tell if the well-intentioned policy pursued through the budget instrument has had any impact on the life of a common man.

The writer is the author of a recently published book on health reform, Choked Pipes. Email: sania@heartfile.org

 

***************************************


I. THE NEWS

OPINION

FOCUSING ON THE PRIMARY

AZIZ ALI DAD


In Pakistan we are always bogged down in secondary issues, because we ignore the basic questions of which of these issues are merely by-products of the primary one. That is why we are constantly entangled in futile discourses and hair-splitting arguments which lead to no conclusions. The controversy surrounding the appointment of Maulana Sherani, a rural cleric from Balochistan who is said to possess no academic qualifications, as chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, is a case in point.


After the establishment of Pakistan, the religious right succeeded in pushing progressive forces into a position where they have to confront their opponents on secondary issues. The primary question is: should the Council of Islamic Ideology be there, in the first place? Established in 1962, the council is entrusted with the task of advising government and legislative bodies on laws that are arguably repugnant to Islam. This has given the council an overriding status, the right to issue rulings on decisions of sovereign institution, including parliament.

Its establishment was part of the series of initiative undertaken by religious forces to mould the Pakistani state in accordance with their own ideological framework. But it would be a mistake to blame, say, Ziaul Haq's process of "Islamisation" primarily on the establishment of the council. For that, the foundation was laid way back in March 1949, when the Objectives Resolution was passed by Pakistan's First Legislative Assembly.

Although the Quaid-e-Azam envisioned a modern democratic state, as he had set out in his address to the same assembly on Aug 11, 1947, the country's future trajectory was determined six months after his death, by forces that were diametrically opposed to his secular ideals. The passage of the Objectives Resolution in 1949 not only negated the Quaid-e-Azam's vision of Pakistan but also provided a platform to the religious forces for the expansion of their sphere of influence within the state structure. Welcoming the passage of the Objectives Resolution, Maulana Maudoodi had famously remarked that the state of Pakistan had now recited the kalima.

The Objectives Resolution provided legal justification for the religious forces to stifle secularism and the religious minorities in Pakistani society and state structure. With the passage of time, the Objectives Resolution has become a settled matter, as well as an officially closed case. It has become ingrained in the psychology of many Pakistanis that a repeal of this resolution would be tantamount to rejection of Islam. For them the Objectives Resolution has become an embodiment of Islam itself. The driving force behind all efforts of Islamisation is the Objectives Resolution, which in many cases even lends legitimacy to violation of basic human rights.


There is no doubt that the progressives must resist moves like Maulana Sherani's appointment as chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, a move which has drawn a strong reaction from various sections of civil society. But the fundamental need is for them to challenge the source which lends legitimacy to the politics of Islamism. Unfortunately, even secular parties are afraid of moves to purge the Constitution and the state structure of politically motivated "Islamic" amendments for fear of a violent backlash from religious parties. Coupled with the weakness of progressive elements, the complex interplay of state institutions with religious forces, socio-cultural shifts and regional and global politics have enabled retrogressive forces to strengthen their grip on state institution. They are superimposing a monolithic political Islam on the diverse cultural and religious landscape of Pakistan.

Murder of Ahmedis and other rampant violations of human rights in the name of religion, Talibanisation, sectarianism, honour killings--all are symptoms of the system that has failed to accommodate the aspirations of diverse interest groups and achieve the ideal of a modern, secular and democratic Pakistan. The proponents of obscurantism have sent secular forces into retreat. That is why secular parties do not address the primary reason for the "Islamisation" of the Pakistani state and keep their focus on secondary issues.


For the last sixty years religious parties have been responsible for accretions in the state religion. The secular forces passively accept these, without countering them with moves that ensure protection of basic human rights. The accumulated contradictions of the current paradigm of the state ideology are becoming increasingly evident, as a source of the growing discord in Pakistan.


It is time the Pakistani nation took effective measures to address this crisis. With the whole edifice of the ideological state crumbling, efforts to fix this or that part of the structure cannot prevent its ultimate collapse. There is a danger of Pakistan itself collapsing under the weight of these contradictions within the system and in the state ideology. Although it is extremely difficult to do so in the current state of affairs and way of thinking, secular society has to face it ultimately, even if it must bear the brunt of a backlash. Rethinking the Objectives Resolution is essential--not only for the survival of Pakistan but also to protect our religion from morphing into a weapon used by religious zealots.


The writer is a social scientist associated with a rights-based organisation in Islamabad. Email: azizalidad@hotmail.com

***************************************


I. THE NEWS

OPINION

HAUNTING ACQUITTALS

BABAR SATTAR


The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

 

The Lal Masjid brigade brought life to a standstill in Islamabad. Its vigilante missions caused harm and nuisance. But that paled into insignificance when over a hundred lives were lost in the security operation executed to regain control of the mosque and clear it of weapons and militants. Fourteen security officials lost their lives during the operation. They did not have the authority to decide whether or not an operation was to be carried out. They died in the line of duty. Likewise the young students holed up in the mosque were themselves victims of bigotry and the loss of their lives in the crossfire was a tragedy. But now that Maulvi Abdul Aziz is back in the mosque preaching intolerance once again, will anyone be held responsible for the crimes committed and the precious lives lost?


The Marriott bombing not only claimed many innocent lives, but also transformed Islamabad the beautiful into a barricaded city at war. An antiterrorist court recently released all those accused of facilitating the heinous crime for want of evidence. Similarly the accused held for planning, aiding and abetting the suicide attack that claimed Surgeon General Mushtaq Baig and several others a stone's throw away from the GHQ have also been let go. Equally significant is the release of the prime accused in the Mumbai-style siege of the Manawan Police Training School in Lahore.


Does the existence of a criminal justice system remain meaningful if criminals cannot be tried and convicted in accordance with due process of law? Why are we consistently failing to bring to justice those who are responsible for violence and terror? Are the courts being too timid or lenient? Are investigation agencies conniving with the terrorists? Are they simply incompetent? Or does a fundamental contradiction in the distribution of power and authority between civil and military agencies lie at the heart of our failure to combat internal security threats and secure convictions?


Some judges might get intimidated when they receive missives from terror groups. But are they to blame for wishing to live out their natural lives? Is it not the responsibility of the state to guarantee the physical safety of its judicial officers and enable them to carry out their official responsibilities without considerations of fear? But intimidation aside, we must remember that in the realm of criminal law the prosecution has to establish a case against the accused beyond any reasonable doubt. And to the extent that there is lingering doubt, its benefit must go to the accused. Innocent, until proven guilty, after all is a corner stone of rule of law.


In our desperation to clasp convictions we must not succumb to the temptation of diluting our standards of justice and removing safety valves. For justice doesn't demand conviction of the accused, but that of the guilty. It is true that the police and civilian investigation agencies are incompetent, ineffectual and suffer from a crisis of credibility. But what kind of financial and human resource investment is the state making to buttress civilian law enforcement agencies at a time when the country is confronted with its gravest internal security challenge?


Even more fundamentally which state agency is responsible for internal security? Is it the civilian police and investigation departments or the army and its affiliate agencies? It has been argued over the last decade or more that the foremost national security challenge confronting Pakistan is internal and not external. So then if the army is the de-facto guardian of our national security and the paramount threat is emanating from within and not outside our frontiers, can the army automatically assume responsibility for managing internal security?

This is not a theoretical question about our lop-sided civil-military balance. The military's help with internal security duties might even be temporarily desirable in view of our current exigencies. But there is no legal authority backing the role being performed by agents of the military and the power being exercised by them. And this singular fact largely cripples the ability of our criminal justice system to deal with terrorism. When civilian security agencies exercise police powers of the state, they are authorized and aided in that regard by an entire framework of substantive and procedural laws such as the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.


Any arrests made or evidence gathered by the police in accordance with these laws can be used in a court of law to seek a conviction. But when it is military agencies carrying out internal security duties, arresting people, interrogating them and gathering evidence, they fail to satisfy due process requirements of the law, as our legal framework doesn't envisage the armed forces performing such role. When the accused is actually arrested by military agencies, and recovery of weapons and other evidence takes place during interrogations, such facts cannot be presented before a court of law.


This gap between the requirements of the law and our evolving practice of military agencies taking a lead role in investigating terror attacks then gets bridged by fabricating a bogus story about backdated arrest of the accused by the police and consequent recovery of weapons. The aim of such exercise is to satisfy the procedural requirements of the law. But it doesn't work. A trial, simply put, is the story of a crime being told by the prosecution. The arrest or the accused and recovery of evidence linking the accused to the crime are the two foundational pillars of the prosecution's case.


But when the story weaved by the police and the prosecution is simply not true, as it has to camouflage actual facts and the role played by military agencies, even a half decent defense attorney is able to poke holes in it and create doubt. The benefit of this doubt caused by the procedural impropriety practiced by state agencies then goes to the accused who walks away scott-free. And the rest of us keep scratching our heads and wondering why our judges and our criminal justice system fail to put the bad guys behind bars.


How will anyone ever be punished for the murder of the fourteen security personnel killed during the Lal Masjid operation when the military didn't bother to conduct postmortems and document the cause of death for legal purposes? How can any of the weapons recovered from the mosque be linked directly to any accused in a court of law when the crime scene and the evidence was not preserved as it should be? How will the militants arrested in Swat be prosecuted for their crimes without any documented record of their lawful arrests, recovery of weapons and other evidence that could link them to violent crimes? We are pursuing a mindless strategy against a torrent of terrorism and violent crime. The solution to an underequipped, underperforming and corrupt police force is not to use military agencies as a stop-gap arrangement when the army personnel are neither trained to shoulder internal policing responsibilities nor authorized by our legal framework to execute such mandate. It is shocking that no meaningful steps have been taken by the government so far to revamp our shambolic civilian security agencies with proper authority, equipment, training and human resources.


If enhancing national security and enforcing law and order are priorities of the government, all responsible civil and military agencies presently involved in internal security duties must sit together and devise an operational strategy that allows them to collaborate their efforts while functioning within the confines of our legal framework. It is the absence of a comprehensive internal security strategy and lack of concern for due process of the law that is tearing apart our criminal justice system and letting terrorists off the hook. Any delay in fixing all constituent parts of our criminal justice system is at our own peril.

Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

 

***************************************


I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SPANISH BURQA BAN

FAROOQ SULEHRIA


The year was 1498. In order to warn its Muslim subjects that their faith would not be respected anymore, the Spanish kingdom arrested a group of Muslim women in Valencia. Their crime was being in hijab. A little more than a century later, in 1605, Miguel de Cervantes' epic Don Quixote (the first part) appeared. The book was published in two parts and its second part came out in 1615.


Don Quixote is considered the most influential work of literature to emerge during the Spanish Golden Age as well as a founding work of modern western literature. In chapter 37 of the book, the reader comes across a veiled woman clad in a Moorish dress, riding a donkey. This was perhaps the first time that a veiled Muslim woman appeared in the western literature.


A few days ago, Spain galloped back to 1498 as the Spanish Senate passed a motion seeking to outlaw 'any usage, custom or discriminatory practice that limits the freedom of women'. Though this legislation will not immediately translate into criminalisation of burqa-clad women, yet Spain becomes another European country to advance legislation that seeks criminalisation of the burqa. France has already banned the hijab at schools since 2004 and is expected to introduce new legislation soon. Italy and Belgium have also introduced legislation regarding the veil while Austria, Holland and Switzerland are likely to join the club, too.


Before the Spanish Senate passed the motion, a number of city and town councils had already taken such initiatives. The Spanish town of Tarres, consisting of a few hundred inhabitants, has been striving for a burqa ban for sometime. Ironically, among the residents of Tarres, most of whom are farmers, there is not a single settler from Portugal or Andorra let alone a burqa-clad Moorish woman. A few months back, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen also hinted at a ban on the burqa. It came out that no woman in Denmark wears it. The notorious rightwing Danish daily, Jyllands Posten, had to retract its news story about three or four women observing veil in Denmark.


Like elsewhere in Europe, the Spanish Senate has also invoked the issue of liberation of women to criminalise the veil. This is not the first time. Of late, all the rightwing misogynists, it seems, have embraced feminism. The Dutch neo-Hitlerite, Geert Wilders, considers the burqa 'a symbol against women'. French President Nicolas Sarkozy thinks it is 'a sign of subservience'. His fellow 'French feminists' have become so touchy that they want an 'emergency legislation' on it before parliament's summer recess in July.Europe's growing Islamophobia can be attributed to a number of complex factors. However, it is not a coincidence that an urgency to 'liberate' Muslim women is being realised by country after country as their crisis-hit economies refuse to pick growth. Belgium, for instance, has an economy in mess. Instead of addressing the economic chaos, those at the helm in Brussels found it necessary to ban a garment worn by hardly 30 Belgian citizens. Similarly, Spain is about to become another Greece and may most likely sink the entire EU ship. However, devising a strategy to rescue jobs (including those of women), the Spanish city councils and the Senate want to 'liberate' a few dozen women.

Before liberating Muslim women, the Spanish Senate should have paid heed to granting some independence to Basque Country and Catalan. But these bans are not about liberation. By criminalising women in order to free them is in fact liberticide, not liberty. If these governments are indeed sincere in liberating Muslim women, they should stop trading (particularly arms and oil) with Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The writer is a freelance

contributor. Email: mfsulehria @hotmail.com

 

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

RETAINING YOUNG CIVIL SERVANTS

 

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari has echoed mainstream thinking by emphasising the need for an incentives package for civil bureaucracy not only to attract educated youth to the civil services but also to retain them. Receiving annual report of the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) on Thursday, he revealed that instructions have already been given to the Government to construct high rise apartment buildings in different towns for allotment to members of civil services on a mortgage basis.


It is rightly said that the civil service is the edifice on which the entire structure of the State revolves and, therefore, it has to be robust enough to ensure march forward on the path of progress and prosperity. Pakistan inherited a steel frame of civil services which played key role in nation building but with the passage of time this became rusty. The ineffectiveness of State institutions due to the diminishing capacity, over-politicisation and corruption of the bureaucracy is seriously undermining the country's economic, social and political development. The problem was known to successive Governments as over twenty studies were commissioned in the past to suggest ways and means to bring about meaningful improvement in the working of the bureaucracy but these could not be implemented due to lack of commitment. Former State Bank Governor Dr Ishrat Hussain has also contributed a lot for the purpose and the latest report of the Pay and Pension Commission, which he headed, proposed comprehensive recommendations to make civil services attractive. However, implementation of the proposals is still doubtful. No doubt, the Government took an unprecedented move of allowing an ad hoc allowance worth 50% of the basic pay of the Government servants but recommendations in respect of revision of the pay scales and monetization of the perks and privileges have almost completely been ignored. The President has referred to the package of incentives, which is already there, and what the Government needs is its implementation to attract talented people to civil service.

 

***************************************


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

COMPARING DASTIS WITH QUAID-I-AZAM

 

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari, who is known for his tendency to make, at times, lose and uncanny remarks, has once again stunned the nation by comparing unscrupulous Dastis of the day with the towering personality of founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Fearing that the fake degree scandal could inflict heavy damage, Mr Zardari is advancing unconvincing arguments in a bid to defend forcefully such elements by pointing out that Quaid-i-Azam too was not a Graduate.


It is highly regrettable that instead of acknowledging the ground reality and taking a principled position on the issue, the leaders of the Government have the audacity to camouflage, what is being described, as the social filth. What a shame that even Education Minister sees nothing wrong in the brewing mega scandal. But the remarks of the President are all the more unfortunate as he has dragged the person of an undisputed personality in his zest to avoid collateral damage of the scam. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a role model imbued with immense qualities of head and heart and it was because of his unmatched leadership qualities that the nation bestowed upon him the title of "Quaid-i-Azam" (Great Leader). One doesn't need to possess the Ph.D degree to become 'Quaid-i-Azam' rather these are the genuine personal traits and selfless character that take one to the zenith of popularity and the highest pedestal of esteem and respect. The President has naively tried to give a new twist to the entire issue, forgetting that it is not at all the question whether or not the Quaid was a Graduate. The question is that the founder of the country never lied nor indulged in immoral, unprincipled, self-serving, fraudulent or dishonest things, as is the case with the Dastis of today. The question of qualification never surfaced in the past when there was no legal requirement for a candidate to possess Graduate Degree for contesting elections. We have had many popular leaders and stalwarts who were either semi-literate or illiterate but proved themselves as good parliamentarians. It is the question of principles, which are being trampled by some elements and the nation is fully justified in demanding that they deserve harshest of the treatment. In view of the gravity of the situation, we would urge the President to withdraw his remarks and exercise utmost care in making comments on such delicate issues in future.

 

***************************************

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

TRAGEDY AT DATA DARBAR

 

SUICIDE blasts at Data Darbar, the Mausoleum of the highly respected mystic Saint of the Subcontinent on Thursday night shocked the people not only in Lahore but also across the country, in which 45 people lost their lives and about 175 others sustained injuries. Through this dastardly act the terrorists have again sent a message that they can still act and that too right in the heart of Lahore.


There should be no doubt that the blasts were carried out not on sectarian basis or against the Government but were certainly foreign funded and sponsored to further destabilise Pakistan. The objective behind the act appeared to be not only to cause massive loss of lives, as thousands of devotees visit the shrine every day, but also to arouse public anger so that people enraged over the desecration of the shrine go on the rampage. Fortunately this did not happen as the authorities and rescue teams reached the spot without loss of time and dead and injured were shifted to hospitals. Intelligence agencies had reportedly warned the Government in advance about the possibility of suicide attacks at religious gatherings but it was surprising that despite such an information, the terrorists succeeded in hitting their targets. Acts of terrorism at Mausoleums of mystic saints cannot be carried out by Muslims and are certainly the handiwork of enemies of Islam and Pakistan who want to pit one section of the population against the other. Lahore, the heart of Pakistan has been made target by terrorists who repeatedly carried out suicide attacks targeting key installations particularly of the security agencies and killing innocent people. Pakistan is paying a heavy cost for the principled position against terrorism. In this situation, there is a dire need that the intelligence agencies and police must redouble their efforts to unearth the dens of terrorists and their backers who are well entrenched in the city and bleed it at the time of their choice. So far such efforts have not yielded positive results and the Government and the agencies concerned therefore must have a review of the strategy to eliminate the menace of terrorism from across the country once for all.

.

***************************************


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DIRE NEED TO COUNTER RAW'S TERRORISM

ASIF HAROON RAJA

 

It is now an established fact that no South Asian state has ever indulged in covert operations or cross border terrorism against its neighbors. The only culprit is India which resorts to this evil practice against all its neighbors, be it Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan, China and Myanmar. It has dovetailed clandestine operations into its war strategy to apply it against its foes during peace time for harassment, intimidation and blackmailing purposes and for weakening them from within. Afghanistan has been used by Russia and India to raise the bogey of Pashtunistan, render support to Pakistani runaways and rebels and to launch covert operations against Pakistan. Karzai has belatedly assured Pakistan that it would not allow its soil against Pakistan. Hopefully he sticks to his commitment. Marching orders given by Karzai to his intelligence chief and interior minister, both venomously anti-Pakistan and favorites of Washington are positive signs though some more steps are needed to scatter away clouds of distrust built over nine years. The US military has starting packing its bags to wind up its business in Afghanistan and go home starting July 2011. The US and Karzai's tilt towards Islamabad are ominous developments for India vying to have complete sway over Afghan affairs after the departure of coalition forces. The entire Indian leadership is in a state of depression. Its spin doctors are at a loss but are still scratching their heads how to retrieve the situation. Indians are feeling out of place since they are akin to traits of a scorpion which stings compulsively.


Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Home Minister Chidambaram were here in Islamabad to renew talks. An Indo-Pak talk is a drama staged by India at the behest of USA. India loses all and gains nothing out of composite dialogue, which she had purposely stalled after Mumbai attacks. She stubbornly clung to her one-point agenda of no talks without Pakistan tackling India's concerns about terrorism. After intense pressure from USA, stuck in Afghanistan and urgently requiring Pakistan's services for a bailout, India has reluctantly relented and agreed to resume talks. However, the entire focus of talks was on terrorism. Chronic issues such as Kashmir dispute, Siachin and Sir Creek problems, water problem, RAW's support to terrorists in Balochistan and in FATA were skipped. India wants solution to Kashmir as suggested by former President Gen Musharraf. It had been mutually decided to sideline UN resolutions on Kashmir, convert Line of Control (LoC) into soft border and to put the dispute in cold freezer as had been done during Simla Agreement in 1973.


But for lawyers movement which weakened Musharraf, the sellout plan would have been implemented in 2008. It is for this reason that Indian leaders fondly remember Musharraf and pray for his return. President Zardari was also in favor of this plan as was evident from several statements he had made on Kashmir and the so-called 'good news' he wanted to give to the nation. Had the Army under Gen Kayani not taken a firm stand and had Zardari not lost his reputation and credibility, he would have given a go ahead signal to the plan. Zardari's inability to open up nuclear program for US and IAEA inspection, bring ISI under Interior Ministry and to implement Indian dictated Kashmir solution has disappointed USA and India. To twist his arm, he is off and on subjected to barrage of vilification campaign, most of which is based on facts.


Pakistan had been led up the garden path by India through much hyped composite dialogue in early 2004. It was pledged that all issues including Kashmir would be resolved through dialogue. Four rounds of talks were held but nothing concrete came out of the meetings. While Pakistan lost a lot, India gained a lot. Under the garb of friendship, India successfully completed fencing of LoC, defanged armed resistance in Held Kashmir, redirected all Jihadi outfits towards Pakistan, made Balochistan, FATA and large parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa restive, lowered the image of Pak Army and other institutions through propaganda campaign, consolidated tentacles of RAW within Pakistan, disturbed law and order situation, built several dams over rivers Chenab, Jhelum and Indus and reduced flow of water into Pakistan. India not only enhanced its presence in Afghanistan significantly but also spread hatred amongst Afghans against Pakistan to keep the two neighbors perpetually hostile to each other. Through these acts, it impoverished the economy of Pakistan.


While preaching friendship, Indian military feverishly built up its strength and former Indian chief Gen Kapoor hurled threats of Cold Start and limited war under a nuclear overhang. Pakistan quietly digested all the insults and harms inflicted upon the body of Pakistan under the skewed policy of appeasement and under a misperception that Kashmir issue would be resolved. In return, India didn't budge an inch over any of the disputes and continued to maintain its pre-2004 rigid stance on all issues. It showed its ugly face after Mumbai carnage and reverted to its old policy of antagonism.


Having gained on all fronts, India is unprepared to dole out any concession to Pakistan. It still wants more from Pakistan. It wants Pakistan not to oppose its key role in Afghanistan, its right for a land route to Afghanistan via Wagah, and its membership to UNSC. It also wants Punjab based banned Jihadi groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamat-ud-Dawa, Jaish Mohammad and Sipah-Sahaba to be crushed and Muredke religious centre to be dismantled. India is keen to extend physical support to help Pak security forces to tackle these outfits. Punjab being the only stable province, it has become an eyesore for India and it desperately wants its destabilization. The likes of Salman Taseer and RAW sponsored Tehrik-e-Taliban are helping India in its nefarious designs. RAW is among the leading terrorist organization which is bleeding South Asia but surprisingly no finger has ever been raised on it. The US and western think tanks and newspapers never tire of concocting stories against ISI but see RAW, Mossad and CIA chaste and spotless. This is because they are birds of same feather and are flocking together in pursuit of common objectives. Pakistan and other South Asian countries have remained the victims of intrigues and conspiracies of India for the last 63 years. It pretends to be well meaning and friendly but it always carries a dagger under its armpit and strikes whenever opportunity comes its way. It is principally responsible for impeding the growth of SAARC because of its habit of hegemony and selfishness. It is high time for SAARC countries minus India to get together and collectively combat the Indian menace.


I propose immediate establishment of a joint intelligence centre at Islamabad or Colombo on the pattern of the one working in Jabal-al-Siraj, north of Kabul. Both are well trained in the art of counter terrorism and have successfully fought RAW sponsored terrorism. The new intelligence setup should have tentacles in all the affected South Asian countries to share intelligence and monitor activities of home based and foreign based terrorists, spies and double agents. Assistance of China may be sought or it may be co-opted. Intelligence Centre should maintain close liaison with intelligence agencies of selected Muslim states which follow independent foreign policies and are not close to India. Intelligence can be exchanged with CIA, FBI and MI-6 prudently and on need basis only.


Besides, a joint media and publicity cell should be opened to counter Indo-US-Israeli propaganda. In addition, each country should raise a counter terrorism force fully equipped with requisite firepower, mobility and technology superior to what the terrorists possess to be able to dismantle terrorist networks, disrupt supply routes and sources of funding. Collective efforts should be made to beat RAW in its own game.

 

The writer is a retired Brig & security & defence

 

***************************************


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

AF-PAK TWIN BROTHERS IN SEARCH OF PEACE

ALI ASHRAF KHAN

 

The recent visit of the Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Zalman Rasoul to Pakistan and the much claimed successful negotiations between the two brother countries is though a step in the right direction but history of last few centuries speaks that it was mainly British vested interest that Hindukash & Paamir region were kept as poverty stricken backward areas where people are forced to live in sub human conditions at the alter of powerful nations; otherwise nature had blessed them with natural and mineral wealth in abundance. The Eastern Hindu Kush range is located in northern Pakistan and the Nuristan and Badakhshan provinces of Afghanistan. Chitral, which use to be part of Gilgit-Baltistan till 1960's is the home to Tirich Mir, Noshaq, and Istoro Nal, the highest peaks in the Hindukush. The range also extends into Ghizar, Yasin Valley, and Ishkoman in Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan province. As such Afghanistan and Pakistan are now not only connected through problems of peace and security as the two Foreign Ministers highlighted in their joint press conference but also and as much through geography, history and the multiple economic needs of the two countries.


After historical military presence of foreigners since the time of Alexander the Great, the Cold War had caused the presence of Soviet and Islamic mujahideen fighters and then birth of revolutionary Taliban. Currently Al Qaeda's alleged presence made the U.S. forces to shift their operation into the Hindu Kush mountain range. From the British perspective, the Russian Empire's expansion into Central Asia had threatened to destroy the "jewel in the crown" of the British Empire, India. As the Tsar's troops began to subdue one central asian khanate after another, the British then feared that Afghanistan would become a staging post for a Russian invasion of India.


Earlier also it had been with these thoughts in mind that in 1838 the British launched the First Anglo-Afghan War and first time attempted to impose a puppet regime under Shuja Shah in Afghanistan. The dismal results of that military adventure for the British aggressor are well known. The Wakhan Corridor or Wakhan Tongue is a long and slender land corridor that forms the easternmost extremity of Afghanistan in the Pamir Mountains. It is named after the Wakhan region of Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province. The corridor, which connects Afghanistan to China in the east and separates Tajikistan in the north from Pakistan in the south, was a political creation of the British Great Game to keep territorial distance. The Anglo-Russian Boundary Commission of 1895-1896 demarcated the land as a buffer between British India and Russian Central Asia. Once part of the Silk Road, the Wakhan Corridor has been closed to border traffic for almost 100 years due to political reasons. Today, the corridor is sparsely populated with 10,600 Wakhi farmers and Kyrgyz herders. The millions of Afghans who since 1979 have settled in Pakistan and are not likely to go back are an additional human bond between Pakistan and Afghanistan who are being pitched against each other in the name of war against terror. Sitting down coolly and analyzing the nature of the problems hounding us and trying to find a common solution for at least some of them is exactly what is required on priority. In that way the recent meeting exactly serves the needs of the two countries: One only hopes that the US keeps its fingers out of the pie this time, chances of which are very rare because President George W. Bush had termed this war as a crusade.


This optimistic note apart, it is quite clear that the road to peace and prosperity starts with ending the civil war or 'war against terror' in Afghanistan and Pakistan and negotiate permanent peace agreements with the rulers in Afghanistan and Pakistan without foreign pressure or acting like their puppets, the need for peace talks with Mulla Omar has now been voiced after the removal of General Mc Cherastal by General Mullen also. My sixth sense says that the pre-condition for this will be that all foreign troops leave either country including the watch posts for directing drone attacks. Taleban will not stop fighting before the foreign occupation is not finished. But there are even more commonalities between our two countries, which President Hamid Karazai has also admitted calling Pakistan and Afghanistan as twin brothers: As such we both need to back up any peace agreements with better governance – bad governance and mounting corruption being one of the reasons for the current catastrophic state of affairs prevailing in our countries.


Nevertheless there is a need to discuss and rethink our attitude towards the Afghans in Pakistan, taleban and the problems connected to it. The West and even some Pakistanis including the media having vested interest wants to make us believe that the taleban are our enemy. But who are the taleban and what was the reason for them to become 'talibs'? they don't want to throw any light on that to educate the commoner. The role of the US and Pakistani intelligence in that process has been explored and made public.


But at the bottom of that role there had been already another problem: economic backwardness of tribal areas, denied or slow deliverance of justice, bad governance including lack of education and a confusion created about what actually Islam in practice means for a tribal society or even an urban society in the 'modern' world which by the way of globalization is intruding into the daily lives of Pakistanis and Afghans more and more; the curse of corporate culture or free market economy, which has turned the thinking capacity of viewers with un-bearable repeated telecasting of anti-social mobile phone advertisements that our youth thinks that this is the right path to progress, those workers who leave the country to make a better living, through returning Pakistanis who together with a degree from a foreign university in engineering or business or any other field also bring western ideas and values to start another problem.


Changes in life style, thinking, in technology which 50 years ago took generations, are now coming within a couple of years and traditional societies have their problems with absorbing them and with developing a suitable cultural or ethical response to it. What does 'Islamic' mean in today's world? Is it enough to grow a beard and lift our shalwars above the ankles because our elders are said to have done so for many centuries? What else does it mean to be a good Muslim, and to comply with the shariah? What is the shariah after all? These questions are in the background of our fears and insecurities when we see our traditional life, the way our parents and grandparents have lived it, is vanishing. The Taliban movement is one answer to these fears and insecurities given by people who mostly come from tribal societies with a narrow vision of the larger world. And they come from non-tribal Muslims who realize that this age of globalization is opening an opportunity for living up to the global aspect of Islam, the idea of a global Ummah, and introduce it into practice in a new way to prove this point. Therefore, it is not enough to end the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and establish peace by bringing in economic development, better governance and social services. We will also have to discuss and find an answer to the intellectual challenges which the Taliban pose to us without foreign interference.


The Taliban are not our enemies as it is said sometimes. They are our countrymen who try to find an answer to these burning questions in their own way and instead of ridiculing them we should take the challenge and try to find an answer by initiating dialogue to win peace. Otherwise the wheel of history will keep moving and those dreaming for empires will be grinded so small to become history sooner or later.

 

***************************************


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PAK-CHINA N-COOPERATION

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

The US is not happy over Pak-China nuclear cooperation, and would use every ruse and trick to sabotage this deal. After signing nuclear deal, the US had refused to ink similar deal with energy starved Pakistan. Since America is in a quagmire in Afghanistan, and needs Pakistan's support to have an honourable exit, it might offer 'incentives' to Pakistan to abandon the above deal. For over a year, members of Obama administration have been telling that America would help Pakistan in overcoming the energy crisis, but nothing has been done, and such ideas have not gone beyond 'noble' sentiments.


Pakistan government, therefore, should not be taken in by such rhetoric and should under no circumstances consider leaving the Pak-China nuclear deal. Last month, during Indo-US strategic dialogue, India told the US that it had serious objections to the proposed China-Pakistan nuclear deal. The US has also expressed concern about the deal after the additional UN sanctions were slapped on Iran with the cooperation of China, Russia and France. Before the plenary session of Nuclear Suppliers Group, the US state department spokesperson Gordon Duguid had said: "The US has reiterated to China that the US expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations". India was expecting that the said deal would be discussed at New Zealand in 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting, which monitored such transactions. But that did not happen because all the decisions in NSG are made with consensus, and if one of the suppliers opposed or insisted on its stance, no agreement can be reached.


In a statement issued at the end of its two-day plenary meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, the NSG only said, its members "agreed to continue considering ways to further strengthen guidelines dealing with the transfer of ENR technologies". International media however continues ranting that Pak-China agreement will be a violation of international guidelines forbidding nuclear exports to countries that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or do not have international safeguards on reactors. China is of the view that agreement was inked before it joined the NSG in 2004, which, according to analysts, would exclude the Pak-China deal from the purview of any obligations to the NSG. As clarified by Qin Gang, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry that "the nuclear cooperation between the two countries was for peaceful purposes and totally consistent with its international obligations and safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency".

Under the deal, China will export two nuclear power reactors to Pakistan at the cost of $2.375-billion. America's double standards are obvious from its nuclear deal with India. On October 1, 2008, the US Congress had given final approval to an agreement facilitating nuclear cooperation between America and India. The deal was first introduced in a joint statement release by the then President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005. The NSG had approved the agreement between the US and India on September 6, 2008. It has to be mentioned that India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, yet it has been given exemption by the NSG on the recommendation and persuasion of the US, France and Russia despite the fact the NSG is not supposed to supply nuclear-related materials to the country that has not signed the NPT. As regards Pak-China Nuclear Deal it is too well known that it was concluded in 1986 when China was neither the member of NSG nor it had signed the NPT. China signed the NPT in 1992 after it signed the deal with Pakistan, and became the member of NSG in 2004.


There is a perception that Indo-US Nuclear Deal has set the precedence has opened the door for any such deal in the future. In fact it has obscured the prospects of stopping Iran and North Korea from pursuing nuclear ambitions. While tracing the history of Pak-China Civil Nuclear, it is pertinent to note that a Comprehensive Nuclear cooperation Agreement between Pakistan and then Foreign Minister Sahibzada Yaqub Khan and his Chinese counterpart in the presence of Chinese Premier and PAEC chairperson Dr Munir A Khan signed on September 15, 1986 at Beijing. The salient clauses of the agreement included that China would construct four nuclear plants in Pakistan namely Chasma 1, 2, 3 and 4 by 2011. Regarding the mandate of and origin of NSG, it was created after the nuclear test of India in 1974 after India had clandestinely diverted the fuel meant for 'atom for peace' to its weapon programme. If India, the primary proliferator could be given such a concession by the NSG, why Pakistan be deprived from it? It is a common knowledge that by concluding a nuclear deal with India, the US administration had allowed business and political interests to trump up the national security interests of the United States. But in the process the US created asymmetry in South Asia. It has to be mentioned that India remained outside the international nuclear mainstream since it misused Canadian and US peaceful nuclear assistance to conduct its 1974 nuclear bomb test, refused to sign the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and conducted additional nuclear tests in 1998. India had been cut off from most US civilian nuclear assistance since 1978 and most international assistance since 1992 because of these violations. It was felt that India's willingness to open some nuclear reactors for international inspection in return for the deal was not enough, as the agreement allows it to keep its 8 nuclear reactors off-limits. It appears that hypocrisy, strategic interest and greed of the US and the West for approximately a couple of hundred billion dollars had been victorious, and international covenants and laws were trampled when the US Congress put its stamp of approval on the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal, and then the Senate had overwhelmingly voted a Bill paving the way for the implementation of civil nuclear deal between the two countries.


Earlier, when the House of Representatives had approved the deal, the most rational, pertinent and pert comment was made in the New York Times editorial captioned as "A bad India deal", in which the House of Representatives was criticized for having approved the agreement, saying "it shrugged off concerns that the deal could make it even harder to rein in Iran's (and others') nuclear ambitions". Anyhow, besides creating asymmetry in South Asia, the US-India nuclear trade legislation has granted India the benefits of being a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty without requiring it to meet all responsibilities expected of responsible state. During his visit to England after having been elected, President Barack Obama addressing a press conference in London with the then British rime minister Gordon Brown had said: "Al Qaeda was planning to attack the US mainland from Pakistani soil and that the US would chase and defeat the terror organisation wherever it was present in the world". Such statements smack of a conspiracy against Pakistan, as it is too well known by now that not a single Afghan or Pakistani national was involved in 9/11 events and they were all Arabs from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere.

 

***************************************


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

MENACE OF CORRUPTION

SHANZEH IQBAL

 

The menace of corruption is engulfing Pakistan. Every institution is in its grip. There is a tendency to bypass the law. Bribe paying is a common culture. The extortionist forces have held a sway in our society and it is assumed that the appointments of police officials are also done on the basis of political basis. The tax evasion and misuse of public sector money by defaulters, fraudsters and tricksters who pervade Pakistan is a common phenomenon. There is a lack of transparency, strategic clarity and an administrative vacuum. What is more saddening is the fact that this misappropriation of public sector money is done on the connivance of the government officials.


The forces of terrorism thrive here. Coupled with this all there is a mindset problem. We are unable to harness the potential of our youth. We ought to give them the opportunity of leadership. They must be involved in the process of nation building. A feeling of inclusiveness must ensue upon as they are much brilliant than their predecessors. According to a survey 48 % of Pakistanis are food insecure. Poverty and food insecurity result in rebellion by the disoriented people. This can be one of the main reasons for extremism. This widespread culture has resulted in the lack of credibility of the common citizens concerning the authorities. There are ample laws but no implementation. The people do not have confidence on the authorities. There is a dearth of respect for truth, tolerance and integrity. The law should be for everyone. The big problem is that self reliance is disappearing. This supreme quality can help us regain our lost glory but unfortunately other nations inculcated this spirit in them and attained great heights. It is a well known proverb that justice delayed is justice denied. What do you expect that if a person is denied justice, will he remain normal? The ebbing frustration can assume any malicious course of action on his part. And in youth it gives rise to a radicalized attitude. The confidence of the youth shatters and they become an easy tool in the hands of obscurantist forces. The youth of Pakistan needs the role models. Let us devote some time to self introspection. In my opinion it will not be fair to blame the government for all the ills which are afflicting our society. As it is a common observation that almost everyone with the exception of very few people are included in the game of plundering the resources of the country. This does not apply to the government machinery essentially. Just look at these feudals who when they are out of the government set up, threaten with serious consequences. But when they are a part of the assembly, all goes well. Cast a glance over a lower staff clerk who is ready to misplace the file in exchange of a petty amount of money. Look at the place where a person is severely injured in a road accident and his muslim brother is busy in snatching his cell phone and other valuables in stead of taking him to a hospital. I still remember with horror the incidence during Muzaffarabad earthquake when a person cut the arms of a lady with gold bangles. Or, for instance, the sons who open fire on their dead mother. These are real cases and I wonder where we as a nation are going? We as individuals are to blame for this deterioration.


The need is to produce the cult figures and tell others that this country can produce big people. Awareness needs to be generated for this. One view in this regard is that the main difference between the developed and the underdeveloped nations is that in the settled societies the rules hold ground. While in the backward societies the concept of hero worship is a common observation. However in Pakistan none of these practices are in place. If at all hero worship is there, then who are the heroes of our nation? Are they the scientists, professors, doctors or big industrialists? No definitely not. Here a great responsibility lies on our media to perform a role in highlighting the role of truly worthy people who can serve as the real role models for our youth.


Another tragic fact pertains to the fragmentation of society. The people living in remote areas do not mix with each other. The forces of provincialism and parochialism hold sway. Our society needs to be integrated. Sharing of resources and mobilization of resources is needed. The grievances of the smaller province should be allayed. One concrete measure which can bear profitable result is the frequent visits of the rulers to the remote areas of such provinces and the mass contacts. Believe me a person sitting in a big city cannot imagine the adverse poverty our poor people of far flung areas are confronting. I have visited the areas of South Punjab, Interior Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Northern Areas and my heart bled to see the miseries the people were facing.

Although the present government has done much to alleviate the sufferings of the down trodden people but still there is a need to overcome the rising tide of secessionist movements in some areas of our country. The Sardars and Waderas who are exploiting the resources of the country at the cost of poor people must be brought to the book instantly. Otherwise there are very lucid chances of the onset of a bloody revolution on the pattern of French or Iranian revolutions. The furious umbrage among the common people may assume some fierce outburst which can yield disastrous results. A major problem relates to our foreign policy. Some experts say we are trapped in this foreign policy. They articulate that it is a marriage on gun point. Pakistan was like a newly married bride and there were many seducers who tried to woo and ravish this beautiful bride. The most eloquent was of course the US. Though this marriage of Pakistan with America does not seem to break up however there must be a distance which ought to be maintained. The general perception is that our foreign policy is determined by America whether it is a democratically elected country or a dictatorial regime. If the countries like Turkey and Egypt can decide independently then why cannot Pakistan take stand and make an independent foreign policy?

 

The policy must be independently chalked out. In fact the foreign policy of America towards the whole Muslim world is shrouded in a strange kind of vagueness. We must think technically and refuse to bow in front of any pressure. Another problem is that mentally we still have a servile mentality. We are mentally victims. But we need to break these shackles and take independent decisions regarding the future of our country. The women are important. They constitute 51 percent portion of our society but their talent is not recognized duly. Ours is a male chauvinistic society but there is a need to bring the women in the main stream. We must give them their due share and empower them. There is a suggestion that the South Asian countries in collaboration can go for making a South Asian block to get rid of poverty and population control. They can pool their resources to get rid of the burgeoning problems of the acute kind as economic crunch, food insecurity, and terrorism. The main irritants must be addressed. An atmosphere must be created to build trust. Whatever policies our experts devise, their implementation is important. We must mobilize our resources. The need is to pay attention to the smaller areas. In order to curtail the corruption in the government institutes structural measures will have to be adopted.

 

***************************************


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

IRAQ LOOKS TO SPECTACULAR OIL BOOM

VIEWS FROM ABROAD

PATRICK COCKBURN

 

The map of the world's main energy suppliers is about to change as Iraq's oil output quadruples over the next 10 years according to new forecasts. Iraq will eventually displace Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest exporter, experts predict, giving Baghdad crucial influence over the future price of oil. The rush to exploit Iraq's "super-giant" oilfields, of which it has the largest concentration in the world, has gathered impetus with unexpected speed in the wake of BP's disaster in the Gulf of Mexico which has raised fears over deep-sea drilling. Iraq's oil has the advantage of being both onshore and cheap to develop. The intensifying political isolation of Iran, and the latest moves by the UN Security Council to target the Islamic regime with increasingly tough sanctions in a bid to prevent its development of nuclear weapons is a second key factor influencing Iraqi production. Iran may have unexploited reserves, but its oil output is expected to fall significantly as its old oilfields are depleted and not replaced.


Iraq, by contrast, aims to raise its crude production from 2.5 million barrels a day today to 9.5 million in 2020 under contracts signed with the world's biggest oil companies over the last 12 months. This development should be feasible, experts believe, because the rise in production will come from improved exploitation of oilfields already discovered rather than from the discovery of new ones. The outcome of what is being called "the great Iraqi oil rush" will inevitably transform the balance of power between oil-producing states with Iraq the winner, Saudi Arabia and Iran the losers. Dr Leo Drollas, chief economist of the London-based Centre for Global Energy Studies, who has produced the first comprehensive study of the impact of the new Iraqi contracts and the consequences of an accelerated oil rush over the coming years, predicts that "the evolution of Iraq's oil capacity over the next 10 years promises to be the most important issue confronting Saudi Arabia in particular and Opec and the oil industry in general."


Saudi Arabia and Iran will both be badly hit as Iraq raises its oil production even if it does not achieve its maximum target. Dr Drollas says: "Saudi Arabia will only meet its revenue needs if Iraq wholly fails to meet its production plans." Given that Opec has more capacity than it needs to meet demand, increased Iraqi output will drive down the price of oil. The development of Iraqi oil at breakneck pace started when the Iraqi government awarded 11 service contracts in two rounds of bidding to international oil companies such as BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon last year. At the first auction last summer many companies held back or had their bids rejected as too costly, but at a second round of bidding at the end of the year there was a rush to sign up by more than 20 companies. Much of the world's oil industry felt that Iraq's oilfields represent a once-in-lifetime opportunity they could not ignore. At stake are some of the biggest oilfields in the world. Rumaila oilfield just north of the Kuwaiti border, for example, is expected to produce 1.85 million barrels a day, West Qurna 1, north of Basra, 1.84 million and Majnoon, in the salt marshes on the Iranian border, 1.3 million. Increased Iraqi output will total 7.5 million, far in excess of the expected increased production capacity of all of the rest of Opec. The sums of money involved are also huge. This week Shell signed a $12.5bn natural gas production venture with Iraq. The companies developing Iraq's oil, for which they are paid a fee per barrel and do not get a share in production, will spend $100bn over 10 years according to Iraqi oil minister Hussain Shahristani. He adds that Iraq itself should benefit by $200bn.


But staff from the giant oil companies have been pouring into Basra recently, establishing expensive headquarters in the city. Visiting diplomats said they were impressed with the speed with which the oil giants are moving to develop the Rumaila field in particular. At the heart of the current excitement is that there may be more oil under the sands of southern Iraq than almost anywhere else on the planet. The country has 115 billion barrels of proven reserves but there may be up to another 100 billion barrels under the Western Desert where there has been little exploration. This is on top of oil and gas reserves already discovered. These include nine "super-giant" fields (over five billion barrels) and 22 known "giant" fields (over one billion barrels). The US Department of Energy, citing independent consultants, says the cluster of super-giant fields in south-eastern Iraq forms "the largest known concentration of such fields in the world and accounts for 70 to 80 per cent of the country's proven oil reserves". A further 20 per cent of Iraq's oil is around Kirkuk where it is a source of continuing dispute between the Kurds, the local Arabs and the government in Baghdad. Iraq badly needs more oil revenues which last year were around $60bn. This was underlined in June by riots and demonstrations over the lack of electricity as summer temperatures reached 50C. The Electricity Ministry says it needs $5bn a year to build new power stations and fix old ones but it gets a maximum of $1.2bn a year.


Not that money alone will solve all of Iraq's problems. Government administration is dysfunctional and corrupt. Basic needs can often only be acquired by bribery. In one recent case, a pregnant woman who taught at a Baghdad university applied for a month's paid leave as was her right. The university administrators informed her that they would reject her request unless she paid them a month's salary. The incapacity and corruption of government helps explain why so little has been done to rebuild Iraq seven years after the fall of Saddam. A significant proportion of state revenues are spent on salaries and pensions because the state acts as a giant patronage machine in which its supporters get jobs regardless of ability.


This is one way of distributing oil revenues, though an unfair one, that is unlikely to change, so money for investment requires higher oil revenues. Whatever happens politically in Iraq the development of its oil reserves can only gather pace. It is the one trump card held by the embattled government in Baghdad and it is bound to play it. Most of the oil discovered hitherto is in the Shia heartlands around Basra where there has been little fighting so continued violence in Baghdad and Mosul will not stop the oil rush. —The CG News*

 

**************************************


*****************************************************************************************

THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

DU DAY

 

The 89th founding anniversary - just 11 short of the centenary - of the University of Dhaka, celebrated on Thursday, marks quite a long journey for the country's premier university. Started in 1983, the observance of the DU Day as part of a healthy culture alternative to the rag day is evidently exponential and, therefore, laudable. This year's slogan is 'Higher education to build digital Bangladesh'. It is the government that has set its eyes on a digital Bangladesh. Better it would be for the university to set itself a more modest task within its academic range. A slogan is not just a jargon that fails to act as an inspiration for the collective body of teachers and students.


Apart from the joyous mood and fanfare associated with such an event, an occasion like this should lend the highest seat of learning an opportunity to take pride in its achievements. Sure enough, this year's celebration will be specially remembered for a research and invention exhibition under the title 'Drishtipat' (focus) organized jointly by the Departments of Biochemistry, Physics and Technology. Researchers comprising both teachers and students have come up with a number of low cost medical equipment and machines capable of accurate diagnosis of diseases at a fraction of what costs for the same diagnosis by imported implements. It is exactly in areas like this the university's strength should lie.


Tottering at 81th position in South Asian university ranking, the DU needs to concentrate on improving its record on study, research and experiments. Academic excellence achieved painstakingly alone can be a fitting tribute to the once famed 'Oxford of the East'. The centenary, 11 years hence, is not far away. If the DU makes it a point that from now on it will endeavour to lift its ranking among the top five in South Asia by that time, the centenary will be worth celebrating in a befitting manner.

 

***************************************


THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

UPGRADING MET OFFICE

 

As we said in a previous editorial on this subject, although many farmers are able to forecast the weather by looking at the sky, this is obviously not good enough for a Meteorological Office. Yet Bangladesh's meteorological focusing system has up to now had to operate with only 35 surface observatory stations, five radar systems, 13 upper air observatory and three satellite ground-receiving stations. We would like to think we made an impact because the government has accepted a proposal of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) for overhauling it with new recruitment and promotion policy. As a source at the BMD said, Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country with the Himalayas on the north and the Bay of Bengal on the south, so it must be properly equipped to face the challenges of accurate forecasting.  We are glad the government is attuned to its needs. The department has also been seeking assistance from external sources for infrastructure development, technology transfer and human resource development.  Therefore the government's acceptance of the department's proposal for upgrading the organisational structure, new recruitment and promotion policy, is commendable. However, the BMD is still in the transitional phase as regards digitalisation and needs appropriate help from relevant quarters.


As a member of the world Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the BMD is getting necessary cooperation from different countries and agencies, including Japan, China, Korea and the UNDP contributing towards comprehensive disaster management programme (CDMP) of the food and disaster management ministry. The Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC) has also been extending cooperation and support to the BMD as regards forecasting. Meanwhile, arrangements are being made to impart necessary training to equip officials of the organisation to face the challenges in these difficult times. Let the implementation process begin sooner than later.

 

***************************************


THE INDEPENDENT

BOB'S BANTER

MISSING JOE..!

ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

A traveler stopped at a rural gas station and, after filling his tank, he bought a soft drink. He stood by his car to drink his cola and watched a couple of men working along the roadside. One man would dig a hole two or three feet deep and then move on. The other man came along behind and filled in the hole.


While one was digging a new hole, the other was about 25 feet behind filling in the same hole. "Hold it, hold it," the fellow said to the men. "Can you tell me what's going on here with this digging?"


"Well, we work for the government," one of the men said.


"But one of you is digging a hole and the other is filling it up. You're not accomplishing anything. Aren't you wasting the country's money?"


"You don't understand, mister," one of the men said, leaning on his shovel and wiping his brow.
"Normally there's three of us, me, Joe and Mike. I dig the hole, Joe sticks in the tree and Mike here puts the dirt back."


"Yea," piped up Mike.


"Now just because Joe is sick, that doesn't mean we can't work, does it?"


And after you have a hearty laugh, do you realize that that's the way our government encourages its citizens in each and every field.


Look at reservations that each successive government tries to hand out: The government reserves 50% of the seats, then instead of a candidate studying and filling in the seat, he just gets it because he's a schedule tribe or schedule caste and the seat is given to him.


What happens?


A few years later, no tree grows from there, because no tree was planted!


The only way to reserve seats for the backward classes is not by giving them the dole but by lifting them up, through education and financial loans till they become a seed ready to germinate and flower.


Instead we plant nothing in the empty hole.


So we need to stop the government from digging holes and just filling them up, we need to work out ways to get trees planted.


"Hey minister what are you doing?"


"Digging a hole!"


"Here let me plant a seed! A seed that will grow into a big tree, and seeds in all those holes you are digging to grow into a mighty forest that will change our land!"


"But that will mean watering, manure, looking after! And the risk the tree might not grow!"


"Yes minister, that's the risk we all have to take! A risk which might not translate into votes immediately, but will show your foresight and leadership as those trees grow to support a mighty nation..!"


Are you willing to be the missing Joe?


—bobsbanter@gmail.com

***************************************


THE INDEPENDENT

POST EDITORIAL

SMES AND BRANDING BANGLADESH

WHEN INNOVATION COMES UP THEN QUESTION OF PROTECTING THAT INNOVATION THROUGH PATENT REGISTRATION OCCURS

MD. JOYNAL ABDIN

 

Bangladesh earns a significant amount (about USD 16 billion) by exporting Readymade Garments (RMG) to the west but with brand name of Wal-Mart, Mark & Spencer, Jechipeni, Nike, Addidas, Jharah, and many more. This is because we are doing a nominal task - just cut and sew with buyers brand name and logo. As a result, these products are sold as buyer's brand. On the other hand, Bangladesh is an SME dominating economy. Our SMEs are  producing a wide variety of products in different important sectors like, light engineering, plastic and rubber, ceramics and glassware, electrical and electronics, leather and leather goods, cosmetics and toiletries, craft and giftware, crockery, frozen foods, furniture, handicrafts, herbal products, horticulture, jute and jute goods, motor cycle, silk and silk cloths, textile and clothing, motor parts, agro-processed food, medicine, software, cement, cargo vessel manufacturers, and fashion items, etc. but most of the cases businesses operate without any formal registration even without a registered trademark.


Some SMEs are producing world class goods but in absence of registered trademarks these products are not getting brand status. At the same time as the products or manufacturing processes are not patented so these are copying by their competitors and product quality is reduced. Many products get popularity with innovative design and shape but these are not protected as registered industrial design. Many companies start with a good opening but lose market share due to unfair competition and copying. As a result brand image is not building up in SME sector.  Let's try to analyse what are the IP tools that can be applied in which SMEs and for what reason. Firstly, trademark is essential for every business entity. We give a name to our enterprises and if it is registered as my trademark then nobody will be allowed to use same name and logo in their products. So there is a possibility to establish brand image for qualified products of that entity. It ensures highest utilization of goodwill of a single entity for their innovative products and services. When innovation comes up then question of protecting that innovation through patent registration occurs. So we can state that trademark and patent is for every enterprise in every sector.


Many gorgeous movies and songs have been produced by our production houses and performed by Bangladeshi artistes but due to copying illegally production houses and artistes are losing their expected reward. As a result the film industry is declining day by day. In our neighbouring country film is one of the major contributors to their GDP whereas Bangladeshi cultural arena is fighting to survive. This is because of piracy and absence of IP law enforcement.


Hollywood and Bollywood may be role models for Dhallywood if proper IP law imposed in this industry. Our light engineering sector is producing world class parts, machineries and appliances but not a single firm gets brand image in the market. But, why is this? This is because houses are producing goods but selling with a brand name of a prominent foreign company. None of these sectors trying to create a trademark building brand image on their own trademark. This is because they are not aware about the intangible value of a good brand name. As a result many Bangladeshi companies' products are missing their expected goodwill in home and abroad. So government especially SME foundation will have to take the lead to create awareness among the SME sector for registering trademark and marketing products with their self trademark to establish brand image.
Leather and leather goods are earning a significant amount of foreign currency but if we exclude Apex, Jenny's then what are the names you can remember? I am sure you cannot come out with 10 Bangladeshi leather goods companies' names in this list. But is it true that only five to 10 companies are producing leather goods in Bangladesh and earning such a significant foreign currency? Logically it is not. So why we are not capable to list up 10 branded shoes and leather goods producer's in Bangladesh? This is because they are not aware of creating self trademark for branding their own rather to utilize brand image of others with name of RATA, TATA and GATA. We must come out of this mentality if we really would like to brand Bangladesh. If strong impositions of IP laws can be ensured then such pirating will be stopped and real self branding will be promoted which will brand Bangladesh with their self glory.


Other than Keya, Tibet, and Aromatic thousands of cosmetic companies are producing cosmetics in Bangladesh. Some of these are producing really quality products but marketing with a foreign pirated brand name. If this is the scenario how we can expect a branded cosmetic company in Bangladesh. So, the government should take a lead for building awareness among the entrepreneurs that whatever you produce you must have to market it with your self registered trademark so that native qualitative products can get brand image in home and abroad. A very wrong drive our government takes frequently. Small production houses in different sector are raided with a metropolitan magistrate and closed down by showing low quality of their product rather than regulating their quality by covering up under a certain policy that you can produce qualitative products with your self trademark. No SME house should be closed down by the law enforcers; rather they should ensure proper enforcement of IP law (trademark, industrial design, patent, copyright, and trade secret) to create a competitive environment where disqualified houses will be automatically shut down. Significant amounts of handicraft and gift items are being exported ach year, but do we know any brand name in this sector? Azad products and some others have started their journey in this sector but with very limited product coverage. But, what is about others exporting handicrafts and gift items?


This is not the scenario of the stated sectors only. It is the case of  country's all SME sectors. They are producing finest goods but not aware of having a self trademark for building up own brands to utilize their products goodwill in the market for getting loyal customers as well as branding the country. So SME Foundation / Branding Bangladesh activists can take the lead for awareness creation among the SME owners in different sector about basic issues of IPR and strong imposition of IP laws (except education and healthcare sector) for promoting Branding Bangladesh in home and abroad.

[The writer is Assistant Secretary (WTO, RTA & FTA) FBCCI]

 

***************************************


THE INDEPENDENT

POST EDITORIAL

ROAD SAFETY INFRASTRUCTURE

THERE IS AT LEAST ONE DEATH ON BANGLADESH'S ROADS EVERY SIX AND A HALF MINUTES

GOPAL SENGUPTA

 

For a country witnessing rapid growth in vehicle ownership and a significant rise in motoring, Bangladesh's road safety infrastructure is rudimentary and its trauma care capability distressingly inadequate. There is at least one death on Bangladesh's roads every six and a half minutes, according to a report.
It is said that in a global context about one million persons die out of road accidents. The poor countries have about 40 per cent of world's motor vehicles but have 86 per cent fatalities. In some countries, more than 10 per cent of the hospital beds are occupied by persons injured in road accidents. In low and middle income countries, the cost of road traffic injuries is estimated at US$ 65 million, exceeding the total amount these countries receive in development assistance. Road traffic injuries cost countries between 1 per cent and 2 per cent of gross national product, amounting to US$ 518 billion every year.


"Thousands of people die on the world's road everyday. We are not talking about random events or 'accidents'. We are talking about road crashes. The risks can be understood and therefore can be prevented," said the Director-General, World Health Organization. "Road safety is no accident. We have the knowledge to act now. It is a question of political will," he added.


Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in its annual publications provides data relating to road accidents. The Statistical Year Book (2000) contains figures from 1987 to 2000. The total number of accidents during the above period ranged from 1,521 in 1987 to 3,419 in 2000, a rise of 125 percent. Of these, the causalities in 1987 were 1,156, which rose by 164 percent in 2000, thus increasing the number to 3,050. The number injured in 1987 was 1,988, which rose to 2,653, a rise of 33 per cent. This is an issue of major concern.


BBS data referred to earlier do not report number of accidents for the year 1995. The available data covering a period of thirteen years indicate that the total number of road accidents was 38,464 and the number killed was 26,363. Thus on an average about 69 per cent deaths were reported, which is less than the global average of 86 per cent. This data, however, has to be accepted with a note of caution. This is because of inconsistencies in official data. Thus for the year 2000, the annual report of Bangladesh Police had reported fatal accidents at 3,058 and not 3,050 as reported in BBS document. Besides, there is always the problem of underreporting by the police. A survey report by the Department for International Development (DFID) concluded that as few as between 3 and 13 percent of road traffic injuries were being reported by police. Other recent studies point out that hospitals are not a good source of data to check the under-reporting of road deaths. This is because 'families may be reluctant to take bodies to hospital to avoid any post-mortem requirement which could postpone burial'. Besides, families may like to avoid the hastle associated with the process of post-mortem. A recent study, based on household survey data, concluded that the 'actual number of road deaths occurring in Bangladesh is at over 8,000 and currently estimated to be 12,786, which is at least 2.6-4.2 times greater than that included in official statistics.


Achieving a significant reduction in accident mortality on a national scale requires sizable funding but also close co-ordination between the government - the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the one hand, and, on the other, Ministry of Transport, which are responsible for the provision of health care. The absence of a national lead agency to accredit and monitor medical institutions has proved costly. Such a management body at the apex level is vital to the success of the plan to spend money on upgrading government and medical college hospitals and partnering with private care facilities.


The British Medical Journal noted in one of its reviews on trauma care that society seems to accept a lower standard of safety for road use than for other modes of transport. In Bangladesh, the problem is made worse by the shortage of trained surgeons to handle accident trauma, poor diagnostic infrastructure in all but tertiary government hospitals, and grossly insufficient ambulance services in rural and semi-urban areas. Trained paramedics staffing professional ambulance services make all the difference. This is underlined by the observation that for accident victims, the 'golden hour' is a continuum beginning with care given in an ambulance en route to hospital; this protocol is vital for survival rates, considering that even in developed countries, studies spotlight a reducible 30 to 45 minute interval between the time of a crash and arrival at hospital. The distance Bangladesh has to travel is evident from a report that finds that 12 per cent of institutions in the trauma care sector covered by a study are without access to ambulances, and only four per cent of personnel staffing these services receive certified formal training. Besides, only half the available ambulance services possess the acute care facilities needed to keep a crash victim alive during transportation. These findings drive home the point that pre-hospital standards of trauma care need to be raised by several notches if the 'golden hour' is to have any meaning across Bangladesh.


People do not generally expect to be affected by road traffic crashes-they are a horror that affects others. But that is not what the statistics say. For lifetime exposure, the average person in a developed country has a 1 per cent risk of death and a 30 per cent risk of injury. About 50 per cent deaths occur at the site of the crash or during transport, and the rest of deaths occur in hospital. Many developed countries provide fast emergency help, which can be on the spot in five minutes in urban areas and in 20 minutes in rural areas. But the quality of pre hospital and hospital care has to improve. For example, in the United Kingdom up to 40 per cent of deaths in hospital after road crashes could be avoided if victims received appropriate treatment by qualified and trained personal in well coordinated and well equipped departments.


Furthermore, for people who survive the crash, additional suffering and frustration occur because of administrative, legal, and social barriers. From a victim's perspective, most judicial systems are biased towards the driver. Victims are marginalised and suffer twice over when the legal process treats them as mere evidence. The United Nations has reacted against this unfairness. Its declaration of basic principles of justice for victims of crime states that a victim who has suffered physical or mental injury should be treated with compassion and respect for his or her dignity and entitled to prompt redress for the harm he or she has suffered. It has asked governments to take initiatives to protect the victim's rights, to improve their position in the criminal system, and to guarantee fair compensation. Governments should also provide material, medical, psychological, social, and juridical assistance to victims.

 

(The writer is Canada-based contributor of The Independent)

 

***************************************


THE INDEPENDENT

POST EDITORIAL

WHO LOST TURKEY

JOSCHKA FISCHER

 

Turkey's 'no' last month (a vote cast together with Brazil) to the new sanctions against Iran approved in the United Nations Security Council dramatically reveals the full extent of the country's estrangement from the West. Are we, as many commentators have argued, witnessing the consequences of the so-called 'neo-Ottoman' foreign policy of Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which is supposedly aimed at switching camps and returning to the country's oriental Islamic roots?


I believe that these fears are exaggerated, even misplaced. And should things work out that way, this would be due more to a self-fulfilling prophecy on the West's part than to Turkey's policies.


In fact, Turkey's foreign policy, which seeks to resolve existing conflicts with and within neighbouring states, and active Turkish involvement there, is anything but in conflict with Western interests. Quite the contrary. But the West (and Europe in particular) will finally have to take Turkey seriously as a partner - and stop viewing it as a Western client state. Turkey is and should be a member of the G-20, because, with its young, rapidly growing population it will become a very strong state economically in the twenty-first century. Even today, the image of Turkey as the 'sick man of Europe' is no longer accurate.


When, after the UN decision, United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates harshly criticised Europeans for having contributed to this estrangement by their behavior towards Turkey, his undiplomatic frankness caused quite a stir in Paris and Berlin. But Gates had hit the nail on the head.


Ever since the change in government from Jacques Chirac to Nicolas Sarkozy in France and from Gerhard Schroeder to Angela Merkel in Germany, Turkey has been strung along and put off by the European Union. Indeed, in the case of Cyprus, the EU wasn't even above breaking previous commitments vis-a-vis Turkey and unilaterally changing jointly-agreed rules. And, while the Europeans have formally kept to their decision to begin accession negotiations with Turkey, they have done little to advance the cause.


Only now, when the disaster in Turkish-European relations is becoming apparent, is the EU suddenly willing to open a new chapter in the negotiations (which, incidentally, clearly proves that the deadlock was politically motivated).


It can't be said often enough: Turkey is situated in a highly sensitive geopolitical location, particularly where Europe's security is concerned. The eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean, the western Balkans, the Caspian region and the southern Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East are all areas where the West will achieve nothing or very little without Turkey's support. And this is true in terms not only of security policy, but also of energy policy if you're looking for alternatives to Europe's growing reliance on Russian energy supplies.


The West, and Europe in particular, really can't afford to alienate Turkey, considering their interests, but objectively it is exactly this kind of estrangement that follows from European policy towards Turkey in the last few years. Europe's security in the twenty-first century will be determined to a significant degree in its neighbourhood in the southeast - exactly where Turkey is crucial for Europe's security interests now and, increasingly, in the future. But, rather than binding Turkey as closely as possible to Europe and the West, European policy is driving Turkey into the arms of Russia and Iran.


This kind of policy is ironic, absurd, and shortsighted all at once. For centuries, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have been regional rivals, never allies. Europe's political blindness, however, seems to override this fact.
Of course, Turkey, too, is greatly dependent on integration with the West. Should it lose this, it would drastically weaken its own position vis-a-vis its potential regional partners (and rivals), despite its ideal geopolitical location. Turkey's 'no' to new sanctions against Iran in all likelihood will prove to be a significant error, unless Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can deliver a real turnaround in Iran's nuclear policy. This, however, is highly unlikely.


Moreover, with the confrontation between Israel and Turkey strengthening radical forces in the Middle East, what is European diplomacy (both in Brussels and in European capitals) waiting for? The West, as well as Israel and Turkey themselves, most certainly cannot afford a permanent rupture between the two states, unless the desired outcome is for the region to continue on its path to lasting destabilization. It is more than time for Europe to act.


Worse still, while Europe's listlessness is visible first and foremost in the case of Turkey and the Middle East, this lamentable state of affairs is not limited to that region. The same applies to the southern Caucasus and Central Asia, where Europe, with the approval of the smaller supplier countries there, should firmly pursue its energy interests and assert itself vis-a-vis Russia, as well as to Ukraine, where Europe should also become seriously involved. Many new developments have been set in motion in that entire region by the global economic crisis, and a new player, China (a long-term planner), has entered the geopolitical stage.
Europe risks running out of time, even in its own neighborhood, because active European foreign policy and a strong commitment on the part of the EU are sorely missed in all these countries. Or, as Mikhail Gorbachev, that great Russian statesman of the last decades of the twentieth century, put it: Life has a way of punishing those who come too late. P(The writer is Germany's Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998 to 2005, was a leader in the German Green Party for almost 20 years.)

Project Syndicate, 2010

 

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

A NEW CENTURY, A NEW ECONOMY

THE SUPER-PROFITS TAX WAS A BAD IDEA FROM ANOTHER AGE

JULIA Gillard was right when she said the government lost its way under Kevin Rudd. Not only did it stray from practical politics, it was lost in a wilderness of implausible ideas, such as the original resource super-profits tax.With the RSPT, Mr Rudd and Wayne Swan looked more like Arthur Calwell and Ben Chifley than Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. The tax was based on a belief that successful sectors of the economy should prop up the underachievers, just as the income tax system transfers wealth from high- to low-income earners. It assumed that rather than streamlining the tax system, the state should get involved in the way companies work. The super tax was born of an old Labor preference for manufacturing over mining, as if unionised workers in uneconomic car plants are superior to self-employed tradespeople in the energy economy. Above all, it demonstrated a failure to see Australia had changed. We do not ride on the sheep's back or in a government-subsidised car anymore. Australia now depends on mining and energy for a prosperous future.

The first version of the tax also reflected Messrs Rudd and Swan's commitment to redistributing wealth. In 2002, Mr Swan attacked Treasury secretary Ken Henry for saying poverty was absolute not relative, thus allegedly advocating a living standard "barely above absolute poverty for the many; and wealth beyond the dreams of avarice for the lucky few". Mr Rudd invented a dystopia where ordinary people did it tough under the pro-mining Liberals. It was nonsense. The Howard government failed to invest mining company taxes in infrastructure while expanding the welfare system. And when Mr Rudd said he was pro-manufacturing he meant it, committing $6 billion to the automotive industry, including cash for a green car. Mr Rudd also argued that energy exports are transitory, warning in 2005 "Australia is increasingly vulnerable to a shift in global economic conditions when the gold-rush effect of the resources boom ends".

These attitudes and the failure of the RSPT demonstrate the perils of being driven by moral purpose instead of a hard-headed desire for sound policy. Reform is rarely black or white but about finding the right shade of grey.

In 2005, The Australian warned Labor opposition to increased uranium exports demonstrated many in the party did not understand the world was changing. What was clear then is obvious now - natural resources, not government spending, are the engines of long-term growth. Economist Ross Garnaut and Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens say this rush will run and run. They are right: India and China's need for our minerals and energy will not end soon. And with the original RSPT gone, the risk archaic ideas could kill the boom is over.

***************************************


THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

RETURNING TO THE CENTRE TO RESUME ECONOMIC REFORM

THE MINING TAX DEAL SHOULD BE THE END OF AN UNFORTUNATE ERA

THE government's profits-based resources tax has had the smell of death about it ever since it was cherry-picked from the 138 proposals in the Henry tax review and delivered untried and untested to an unsuspecting mining industry. All things considered, its survival against the odds is testimony to Julia Gillard's remarkable ability to get things done. In principle, a resources rent tax should be economically efficient. But this model failed the litmus test of good tax reform from day one, being framed to redistribute wealth rather than help generate it. In the run-up to an election, the timing was disastrous and ensured the civilised debate about tax reform Wayne Swan promised was never going to happen.

By ditching contentious parts of the tax once branded non-negotiable, the government has reached a compromise it hopes will survive an election. Much more work remains to be done. As Fortescue Metals chief executive Andrew Forrest says, the deal is no more than a "reasonable framework" for further consultation. Smaller Australian miners, as well as the three major international companies, must be allowed their say. While there is hope that the rebadged minerals resources rent tax might prove workable and efficient, Labor remains far from the "root-and-branch" shake-up promised by the Treasurer. As for Mr Swan's brazen claim that it represents "tax reform", it is worth noting that the nation will now have three mining taxes, the petroleum resource rent tax, the minerals resources rent tax and state-based royalties. This is hardly the simplification that should be central to any serious reform plan.

But in achieving consensus with BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata, the Prime Minister has demonstrated her ability to use the processes of government efficiently. Sewn up in remarkable time, the deal signals a return to a more inclusive style and is an attempt to rebuild the consensus between business and government that was needlessly and inexplicably destroyed by Kevin Rudd. It shows Ms Gillard is making progress in returning to one of the main principles of the Hawke-Keating governments.

In recent months, followers of the reform process of the past 27 years, including our editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, raised the alarm that the Rudd government had marched Australia down a false policy path of "government knows best", abandoning the post-1983 tradition of pro-market, middle-ground economic reform. Hopefully, Ms Gillard's first speech as Prime Minister, in which she advocated "government that rewards those who work the hardest, not those who complain the loudest" and acknowledged the work of both sides of the political divide in furthering reform, signals a return to a more productive path. But given her background on the Left of her party, we will be looking for firm signs she understands the tenets of the reform needed if Australia is to remain competitive. While the government had an electoral mandate to pull back the Howard Work Choices laws, Ms Gillard's changes went too far, making the labour market less flexible, leaving business, productivity and the workers she wants to protect the losers.

By chopping the resources tax from 40 to 30 per cent, excluding base metals and doubling the threshold at which it applies to about 12 per cent, Ms Gillard has shown some welcome pragmatism. Establishing a policy transition group led by Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and the highly respected former BHP chairman Don Argus to oversee the shift to a new regime was also a good sign.

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

GILLARD SHOULD NOW SEEK HER OWN MANDATE

WITH one mighty leap, Labor is free. Julia Gillard has extricated her party from the messy wrangle with the mining industry over the resource super profits tax. The industry and the government are the best of friends now, we are supposed to believe: they are even co-operating on implementing the new tax, renamed the mineral resources rent tax. But the way Labor freed itself leaves it vulnerable.

Tax reform was supposed to be about simplifying the tax system. This change makes things more complicated. Companies mining iron ore and coal will pay a new mineral resources rent tax, and will have state mining royalties refunded to them. Other mining companies will continue as before.

No simplicity there, the muddle shows Labor was prepared to pay any price to get out of the mess it had made for itself.

We believe a resource rent tax was - and is - desirable. The federal government miscalculated badly, though, on how easy it would be to impose. The miners - whatever the merits of their case - managed to appeal effectively to the public, and the longer the row continued as the federal election approached, the worse it would appear for the government.

In the end Labor was forced to change leaders to obtain a compromise.

Yet the deal as negotiated is not a complete rout for the government. It will lose an estimated $1.5 billion in revenue over the first two years of operation. If the figure is correct, it is significant, but not disastrous. Business tax will be cut to 29 per cent, not 28 per cent. And in decades to come future governments can always extend the scope of the resource rent tax, or vary its rate, or lower the profit threshold, to return closer to the original intent.

She may have been involved in the untidy prologue to all this but nonetheless Gillard will emerge enhanced from the process: she has managed to quickly resolve a messy deadlock. Australians tend to dislike confrontationist politicians and value a conciliator. It was Bob Hawke's great claim to fame; somewhat surprisingly it was not Kevin Rudd's, but it does - so far at least - appear to be Julia Gillard's.

Good policy, though, is often spoiled by compromise, and so it is with this tax. Not only that, but the image, sketched light-heartedly at yesterday's news conference, of mining heavyweights negotiating in a windowless room with the Treasurer and Resources Minister of an elected government over how much tax they would like to pay should concern all taxpayers. It may be conciliation at work but it smacks of one law for the rich and powerful, and another for everyone else.

It is understandable that Gillard wanted to free herself of this particular controversial legacy of the Rudd government but she needs to show quickly that she is not the pushover for vested interests that the Rudd government had become.

The circuit-breaker needed at this point is a general election. Gillard has shown resolve in both rising to the challenge of the Labor leadership, and in dealing with the resources tax issue.

This is the right time to seek a mandate in her own right, and to give voters the chance to express their view of who is best to lead the country.

From Labor's point of view, several reasons should prompt Gillard to go to the people early. The change of leaders has proved popular - even in the mining states. Kevin Rudd's poor performance in recent opinion polls, of course, was not matched by a great improvement in the Coalition's results - the Greens were the big beneficiary of Labor's loss of support. Voters did not care for Rudd but were unenthusiastic about the Coalition, too. With Gillard, though, that lack of clarity has been dispelled.

The state of the economy should push her to the same decision. It has emerged well from the global financial crisis but developments on overseas markets suggest investors are worried that troubled times may be back sooner than expected. That is not the federal government's doing but it can expect to suffer from any downturn.

As for an election now being too early - though the federal election could be held early next year, the campaign would overlap state polls and the holiday season, and anyway Gillard has ruled it out. A poll even next month is only a short abridgment of the expected three-year term. It is time for a new mandate.

***************************************


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

YOU'RE DREAMING OF A WARM CHRISTMAS

WINTER is here with a vengeance. All over Sydney the cheering smell of ancient household fluff warmed by rarely used heaters is wafting through our suburbs. Desolate cries can be heard from those who discover moths have been lunching on their warm clothes during the 11¾ months that they have hung unused in the wardrobe. And the number of reports of Kristina Keneally cycling to work is falling like an autumn leaf. The city is suffering in the coldest winter since the last really cold winter. But bear up, Sydney. We will get through this difficult time in the way we always do: by finding someone to blame. (Loud fault-finding increases the flow of warming blood to the extremities, many experts believe.) We think we may have found a candidate. Eduardo Gold is painting 70 hectares of rocks white on three peaks in the Peruvian Andes. White rocks reflect the sun's heat back into space, you understand, and help reduce global warming. Well, Eduardo, it's working. Could you just take a break until spring?

***************************************


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

PACT WITH MINERS CLEARS A PATH FOR THE ELECTION

 

OF ALL the remarks Prime Minister Julia Gillard made in explaining her tax deal with Australia's mining giants yesterday, the one that shed most light on her motivation was this: ''We have been stuck on this question as a nation for too long.'' The comment that followed it was more dubious, as well as being far more obviously an instance of spin: ''Today we are moving forward together.'' In fact the Gillard government is moving forward with the big three mining companies, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata, with which it negotiated an agreement that has transformed the proposed Resource Super Profits Tax into a more modest Mineral Resource Rent Tax (MRRT). Smaller mining companies were not represented in the negotiations, nor were other businesses that will have to pay for the concessions made to the miners through the promised cut in company tax being reduced by half.

The deal is not a total abandonment of the aims of the original tax that was unveiled two months ago as the centrepiece of the Rudd government's response to the Henry review of taxation, and to which Treasurer Wayne Swan had been resolutely committed until his elevation last week to the position of Ms Gillard's deputy. Under the agreement, the headline tax rate will be reduced from 40 per cent to 30 per cent, making it more palatable to the miners but still allowing Ms Gillard and Mr Swan to claim, with some plausibility, that those who have been earning hefty profits from exporting the nation's non-renewable resources will now pay their fair share of tax. Instead of $12 billion that the miners would have paid in the next four years they will now pay $10.5 billion.

Taken together with the other changes to the first version of the tax, however, the deal is an emphatic victory for the miners. Ms Gillard, whose intervention in the negotiations was described by Mr Swan - perhaps with mixed feelings - as having ''changed the tone of this debate'' and ''led to this breakthrough'', has effectively conceded all their major demands. Instead of being liable for the tax when their returns exceed the 10-year Commonwealth bond rate, now about 5 per cent, they become liable when the returns exceed the bond rate plus 7 per cent. The tax will now only apply to iron ore and coal miners with profits higher than $50 million, reducing the number of affected companies from about 2500 to about 320. And concerns about retrospectivity have been allayed by giving companies the option of bringing their mines into the tax regime at market value instead of their book value.

The Opposition maintains that the revised version of the tax is still an iniquitous impost, and says it will campaign against it ahead of the election. But the Minerals Council hailed the deal enthusiastically, as did the markets: share prices for mining companies soared in response to the government's announcement, suggesting that fears of a flight of investor capital to low-tax jurisdictions overseas can now be put to rest.

If this deal had been negotiated by Mr Rudd, it would have compounded his political problems by being seen as one more backflip on an issue of fundamental policy, akin to his government's shelving of its emissions trading legislation. Ms Gillard has the luxury of being able to portray the MRRT as a new tax, reflecting her flexibility and willingness to resolve a dispute in the national interest. That resolution may in fact have been achieved by a cave-in on the part of the government, and the national interest may have been reduced to the ALP's interest in stemming the loss of votes in the resource-rich states of Western Australia and Queensland. But voters may well forgive Ms Gillard for that, agreeing with her assessment that the nation has been absorbed by the tax dispute for too long, and thus allowing her to proceed promptly to the election.

They may be less forgiving, however, if the measures the tax is meant to fund prove harder to deliver. The shortfall in the revenue raised may be only $1.5 billion, but in 2013-14, when the budget is projected to return to surplus, the tax will yield only $6.5 billion. The Rudd version would have generated $9 billion. The government is confident that at least one of the measures that would have been paid for by the original version of the tax, an increase in the superannuation guarantee from 9 per cent to 12 per cent, is safe. But it has already had to scale back the planned reduction in company tax from 30 per cent to 28 per cent. It will now only be cut to 29 per cent, which, as Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout pointed out, is not reform, merely a small adjustment. Ms Gillard has cleared the decks to fight an election, but in doing so she has also set constraints on how the government will be able to fund its agenda for a second term.

Source: The Age

**************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

ELECTORAL REFORM: A VOTE OF PRINCIPLE

NICK CLEGG NEEDS TO HAVE A SOLID LIBERAL SUCCESS TO POINT TO FROM THE COALITION'S FIRST YEAR

Start at the beginning. Is Britain's first-past-the–post parliamentary election system the best possible? How can that be when only 33,000 votes get you a Labour MP, 35,000 get you a Conservative MP but 120,000 are needed to get you a Liberal Democrat. Should it be changed for a more representative system? More than two MPs in every three were elected to the current parliament with less than 50% of the votes cast, and not one received the support of 50% of those entitled to vote. Would the alternative vote system (AV) be an improvement? Yes, because it would do away with minority mandates, though it is not perfect. Should a significant change in the electoral system be put to a referendum of the voters? Yes. Should such a referendum be held on what is, increasingly, the country's regular election day, the first Thursday in May? Yes again.

It is important to get back to such basic issues in discussing the coalition government's plans to hold a referendum on voting reform next May. Depressingly, too much of the initial political response to the leaks of the government's plans has been calculating and partisan. It is as though the discrediting of British politics had never happened. Happily, on this issue, the people are on the other side of the argument from the politicians. The electorate's interest lies in greater fairness and more equal votes. We do not have such a system now. So things must change.

It follows that Nick Clegg's plan to get the change through this session of parliament in time for a referendum on 5 May 2011 is good in principle. It will at last set out a way in which a desirable and overdue change can actually happen. With the coalition parties both whipped to support the AV referendum legislation, and Labour (unlike the coalition parties) having committed itself to an AV referendum in its election manifesto, the chances are good that the referendum will take place.

The Liberal Democrats and most Conservatives will vote for the bill because that is the deal they have made. Conservative opponents of AV will be mollified by their hope that the weight of the campaign, and of the media, may oppose change. Certainly the internal dynamics of the coalition will depend on the terms in which David Cameron couches his own opposition. Tories will also be calmed by the prospect of a boundary review to reduce the number of constituencies from 650 to 585. But the coalition needs to do more than it has yet done to persuade the public that this exercise is fair rather than partisan.

Any sense that the review is a gerrymander – which it must never be – will undermine the case for AV too. Labour's stance may not matter arithmetically. But it sure as heck matters for its credibility as a party of reform. Unfortunately, the lack of a leader setting a clear path is already causing that credibility to unwind. Andy Burnham has turned against reform. Jack Straw is manufacturing excuses for Labour to wriggle off its commitment. Meanwhile Labour bitterness towards the Liberal Democrats is feeding a mood of arid destructiveness towards even the good things that could come out of the coalition. If Labour is to deserve support as a party of progressive reform, it needs to listen to the leadership candidates who have been calmest and truest to the AV cause.

Mr Clegg originally wanted the referendum early in the parliament to capitalise on the electorate's general goodwill towards the coalition. That goodwill, and thus that reasoning, still holds good. But Lib Dem poll ratings (now down in the mid-teens) have rattled nerves too. Mr Clegg needs to have a solid liberal success to point to from the coalition's first year. Some will take that as a reason to oppose the referendum plan. Those who value liberal success wherever it comes from should take it as a reason to support it.

**************************************

 


THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

UNTHINKABLE? SPORT FOR THE SAKE OF IT

 

Andy Murray is British in victory and Scottish in defeat – but it has ever been thus, if you have lived north of the border

 

Agonising over Andy Murray's identity rightly gets up the nose of the Scots (he is British in victory and Scottish in defeat). But it has ever been thus, if you have lived north of the border. The English regularly confuse Englishness with Britishness as though the terms are interchangeable, and the same process of crashing the party next door happens in any competition whenever there is nothing English left to talk about. Thus the teams that remain in the World Cup are described by English commentators in terms of their Premier League players. But was English identity – whatever that is – packed up with the face paints and the crusader outfits when the team crashed out of the World Cup? Not really. It made the Football Association even more determined to keep an Italian manager. It is good when the national team wins, but does the letdown of defeat derail the nation? Both the disappointment of defeat and the exultation of victory are usually short-lived affairs. Unless, of course, you happen to be as silly as President Nicolas Sarkozy, who treated the debacle of the French exit as a national disgrace and tried to involve himself in the postmortem. The truth is that Murray's tennis career tells you a lot more about a boy's relationship with an ambitious mother than it does about being Scottish. And what exactly does Roger Federer tell you about the Swiss? All countries honour their sportsmen, but few actually think they speak through them. Which is good, because when it comes down to it, it is the game that matters.

 

**************************************


THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN: THE CRISIS OF PUNJAB

 

No one in Pakistan can tolerate a policy of accommodating jihadis, or keep them as backroom allies in the mistaken belief that this is the best way of containing them

 

It is a bit late in the day to be talking about wake-up calls in Pakistan, because after 18 months of bomb outrages that have targeted the Sri Lankan cricket team, intelligence and police officers, busy market places, and now fellow Muslims, the same policies are still in place: the distinction between "good" and "bad" jihadi groups; the official tolerance of hardline madrasas which give shelter to them; and the ambivalence of local political leaders to those groups.

 

Take Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab's chief minister and the brother of the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Shahbaz assured Lahore yesterday that the people behind the latest attack on a Sufi shrine, which killed 42 and injured 175, would never be allowed to escape. Really? This is the same chief minister who in March called on the Taliban not to attack Punjab because his party shared some of their ideas (he said later that his remarks were taken out of context). This is the same provincial government whose law minister, Rana Sanaullah, campaigned at a byelection alongside a leader of a banned sectarian organisation that attacks minority Shias; and it is the same administration which gave £650,000 to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity the UN put on its terrorism watchlist after the Mumbai attacks.

 

The attack on the Data Ganj Baksh shrine in central Lahore was the second assault against a religious group in just over a month, after the Ahmadi sect was targeted in late May, when 94 people were killed. Popular reaction yesterday blamed America for stirring up the jihadis with drone attacks in the tribal belt. But suicide attacks against Sufis have more to do with the sheer intolerance which the Wahhabi and Deobandi sects have for expressions of Islam they consider heretical. These puritans have found willing agents in the emergence of so-called "Punjabi Taliban" who co-ordinate their attacks with their counterparts in Waziristan and are formed from the same groups that Pakistan's army cultivated in the 1990s to attack Indian troops in Kashmir. Thursday night's attack was the second on Sufis, and will enrage ordinary Pakistanis, the majority of whom identify with that tradition of Islam.

 

No one in Pakistan, let alone Nawaz Sharif, who hopes one day to return to national power, can tolerate a policy of accommodating jihadis, or keep them as backroom allies in the mistaken belief that this is the best way of containing them. After the last two attacks, his brother Shahbaz cannot claim to have the situation under control in the Punjab. It is not and it needs a concerted police and intelligence operation (the army, too, needs to get off the fence) against all jihadis to settle the point of who runs the country's most populous province.

 

**************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LOWER SUMMITS OF EXPECTATIONS

 

It is summit season. The Group of Eight club of leading industrialized powers held its annual shindig in Canada last week. That conclave was followed, for the first time, by the summit of the Group of 20, which accounts for 85 percent of global wealth and has emerged as the "director" of the global economy since the onset of the economic crisis.

 

The declaration from each meeting made plain the division of labor between the two: The G8 takes on political issues, while the G20 focuses on economic management. In theory, it is a nice system; in practice, both groups suffer the same fatal flaw: Individual national interests pre-empt group concerns, yielding high-minded declarations that are not enforced.

 

The G8 was in critical condition well before the 2008 economic crisis. The annual summit has been disparaged as a photo op. This year the group took note of the world beginning "a fragile recovery from the greatest economic crisis in generations," and then focused its energies on other global challenges.

 

It condemned Iran and North Korea for their defiance of international nuclear norms, and urged both to comply with U.N. resolutions. It set a five-year deadline for the stabilization of Afghanistan and demanded an end to inhumane conditions in the Gaza Strip. The declaration noted that dealing with climate change is the top priority, and the group strongly supported U.N. negotiations on a new global climate treaty.

 

The meeting will be remembered for the Muskoka Initiative. Named for the Canadian town where the meeting was held, the initiative represents a commitment by G8 nations to provide $5 billion over the next five years to improve maternal, newborn and child health globally; other partners will add another $2.5 billion. This effort will help realize the eight Millennium Development Goals adopted by the U.N. with regard to health, education, women's empowerment and the like, which are supposed to be reached by 2015. The group also launched the Muskoka Accountability Report, aimed at increasing the transparency and implementation of commitments.

 

That initiative would sound more credible if it were applied to previous G8 commitments. Acknowledging that the economic crisis "has jeopardized advancement toward meeting some of the 2015 targets," the group did not mention its $18 billion shortfall in meeting the 2010 target of $50 billion in aid promises. This gap between ambition and action has undermined the G8's authority.

 

If the G20's summit was any indication, that group, too, may be more of a talk shop. Although it should have more credibility than the smaller group, having corralled a significantly higher percentage of global wealth than the G8, acting on common concerns is harder for 20 than it is for eight.

 

The G20 declaration warned that "while growth is returning, the recovery is uneven and fragile, unemployment in many countries remains at unacceptable levels, and the social impact of the crisis is still widely felt." That sounds like a call for continued stimulus, which U.S. President Barack Obama and like-minded leaders want. The statement notes that "we need to follow through on delivering existing stimulus plans, while working to create the conditions for robust private demand."

 

It then takes up the cause of political leaders who worry about unsustainable deficits, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her British counterpart David Cameron, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Noting "the importance of sustainable public finances," the declaration calls for "credible, properly phased and growth-friendly plans to deliver fiscal sustainability . . . tailored to national circumstances." This last phrase renders the declaration moot. It means that no consensus on economic policy exists and that each government can go its own way. It provides little, if any, guidance on policy beyond common sense and self-interest.

 

It was agreed that the developed countries will halve their annual fiscal deficits as a percentage of gross domestic product by 2013. Japan, whose national debt is nearly 200 percent of GDP, was made an exception. It faces a difficult task in reducing debt as well as achieving economic growth.

 

The G20 called for a "modern" redistribution of power in the International Monetary Fund. Group members repeated the pledge made at their last summit: to shift 5 percent of voting rights to dynamic emerging economies. Final confirmation is due at the fall G20 meeting before ratification by the IMF itself. Most economists believe 5 percent is insufficient, but there is little chance of a bigger shift as that would diminish European influence at the IMF.

 

Sadly, the summitry record suggests that reality will continue to lag expectations.

 

**************************************


******************************************************************************************

THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

MUHAMMADIYAH MUST ADOPT RATIONAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

DONNY SYOFYAN

 

Muhammadiyah, which has an estimated 28 million members nationwide, will hold its 46th national congress from July 3-8. The congress participants, who are scheduled to talk to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono through a video conference from Medina on the opening day, are celebrating the organization's centenary.

 

The organization will discuss the daunting issues facing the organization, as well as elect a new chairman. However, it does not elect its chairman directly, but rather elects a 13-member executive board that then selects the chairman to a five-year term.

 

Muhammadiyah was founded in Islamic calender year Hijri year 1330, or Nov. 18, 1912 by Ahmad Dahlan in Yogyakarta as a socio-religious movement.

 

Compared to the country's other path-finding organizations such as Serikat Islam and Budi Utomo, Muhammadiyah remains in existence and acts together with other social movements in their attempts to develop Indonesia.

 

Muhammadiyah survives to this very day since it committed to doing things out of the box, undertaking historical experiments and breakthroughs regardless of place and time.

 

It appeared to emphasize reasoning skills while many Muslims were being trapped in myth and superstition. By the time Muslim organizations were exposed to social vulnerability, Muhammadiyah introduced a rational management system. As personality cults befell Muslims, Muhammadiyah emphasized the importance of tajdid (renewal).

 

Such a dynamic experience has the Muhammadiyah regarded as a movement based on modern principles. People will easily find hospitals, schools, universities and banks developed and maintained by Muhammadiyah at the moment anywhere.

 

The Muhammadiyah's centennial celebration, however, must not make its participants proud of its doings of the past or its current accomplishment. Muhammadiyah members and executives still have tons of works ahead regarding three major challenges.

 

First, regenerating the organization's leaders. Muhammadiyah's move has been especially recorded in the history of the country as Amien Rais, the chairman of Muhammadiyah from 1995-1998, brought forth the issue of the country's leader succession during the Soeharto regime.

 

The organization is seen by many as early laying of the ground for Indonesia's authoritarian leader transition.

 

Therefore, Amien Rais's decision to withdraw his candidacy from going for the party chairmanship election is highly appreciated. Amien's running for the top post not simply causes the organization's leader rejuvenation to come unstuck, but also indicates how he has broken his own struggle for the country's leader succession since the early 1990s.

 

In terms of leadership, the Muhammadiyah should break new ground as it provides the opportunity for young people to become its chairman and members of its executive boards. Despite the long road ahead, young executives have much energy leaping forward with productive insight and quickly learning from mistakes.

 

Unfortunately, seen from candidates on the ground, anyone wishing for the expectation might be on the verge of tears.

 

Old players such as Din Syamsuddin and Malik Fadjar decided to take part in the election of the chairman instead of paving the way for young and fresh candidates to grab the party chairmanship.

 

Such a trend risks preserving the status-quo or conservative elements in the organization. The generation gap, if it exists, is further likely to become even greater within the Muhammadiyah.

 

The upcoming congress might cope with the issue by creating a political breakthrough in the organization's chairmanship election, for instance, lowering the age limit of the candidates to less than 50.

 

Second, broadening intellectual bases. The congress is supposed to engineer any effort to give birth to new intellectual leaders from within the organization.

 

Yet, Muhammadiyah trades on the old intellectual figures, among others A. Syafii Maarif, Amin Abdullah, Abdul Munir Mulkhan, Moeslim Abdurrahman. The Muhammadiyah's young intellectuals are seen as not breaking cover and heading down the road.

 

The small number of the organization's young intellectuals is closely associated with its member development system accentuating activism-oriented and a normative approach rather than cerebral and studious tradition.

 

The former approach has greatly contributed to produce partisan leaders, who are prone to short-term political achievement rather than intellectual individuals with high acceptability and strong statesmanship.

 

In addition, partisan leaders definitely make the Muhammadiyah subject to political machinations.

 

Any efforts to revitalize the Muhammadiyah's intellectual power broke the ice following the emergence of Muhammadiyah Young Intellectual Network (JIMM), which is presided over by young intellectuals with Western-oriented thought.

 

JIMM needs to apply religious moderation as a panacea to the rise of radicalism and liberalism of Muhammadiyah members.

 

Rather than becoming engaged in the endless polemic with the organization's top figures, JIMM would be better off providing the space for dialogue and the sharing of ideas among Muhammadiyah members connected by a collective interest. Its failure to do so is believed to narrow its intellectual base within the Muhammadiyah since it only touches a small percent of its intended audiences and gains few members.

 

Third, restoring the spirit of entrepreneurship. The Muhammadiyah activists tend to be politicians rather than entrepreneurs figuring out Muslims' economic problems.

 

In 1916, the Muhammadiyah made up of 46 percent businessmen. But now, the the percentage almost reaches less than 3 percent.

It is really hard to seek Muhammadiyah's great businesspeople or millionaires at the moment, mostly found are small and medium-scaled businesspeople at best.

 

In fact, the organization has tons of resources, such as Baitul Tamwil Muhammadiyah. Unfortunately, it is considered as running at a far slower pace with less impact to the prosperity of organization members.

 

Modern management is central to the business survival. SuryaMart, a famous supermarket organized by the Muhammadiyah, proved to increase its members welfare by distributing products of the organization's entrepreneurs. Muslims' economic empowerment would be no problem as this sort of business network is widely scattered across the archipelago.

 

Consequently, the congress is necessary to initiate economic empowerment programs for the sake of setting up its economic independence and building strong political bargaining power.

 

The Muhammadiyah is one of Indonesian Muslims' most valuable asset. Its failure in implementing changes translates to Muslims' failure to survive in this ever-changing globalized world.

 

The writer is a lecturer at Andalas University, Padang. He graduated from the University of Canberra, Australia.

 

***************************************


THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

POLICE FACE EPIC FAILURE IN COUNTERING TERRORISM

PIERRE MARTHINUS

 

In the land of the tolerant, the intolerant abuse the air of tolerance.

 

Our democracy is currently being wantonly abused by hard-line groups, while our counterterrorism policy is facing a potentially epic failure. In a young democracy, where police officers stand idle while minorities are being harassed by fundamentalist groups, terrorism seems to breed like jackrabbits.

 

Our latest development sends conflicting signals - with successes as well as failures in countering terrorism. So what do we make of this?

 

The special Detachment 88 antiterror squad has probably been the most positive step made so far, compensating somewhat for the Indonesian police's long list of dysfunctions and institutional incompetence. However, reports of abuses exist and recently 200 people protested in front of the National Police headquarters arguing that the issue of terrorism was fabricated, demanding the dissolution of the Detachment 88 squad.

 

Furthermore, efforts to de-radicalize convicted terrorist have failed. Released "ex-terrorists" are reverting to their initial cause, plotting and even successfully carrying out attacks.

 

International observers were flabbergasted to see the level of institutional and public permissiveness toward violent offenses carried out under the guise of religious piety. Why do we treat terrorism with such ignorance and permissiveness?

 

First, shortcomings in police reform are hampering counterterrorism efforts. Tens of thousands of Tempo magazines covering the story of "larger-than-life" bank accounts owned by high-ranking police officers, were bought out completely - never to reach the streets - the same day they were published (The Jakarta Post, June 28).

 

Cover-ups and smoke screens such as sex scandals seem to beat the agenda of institutional reform, whistle-blowers and counterterrorism any time of the day for the institution we greatly rely on.

 

Transnational support and aid needs to be coupled with greater critical oversight from our international counterparts, especially the US. It is obvious that aid diverted from the military to our police is backfiring.

 

Second, the police have been reluctant to acknowledge that terrorism is a transnational issue. It is not merely a national issue of crimes within our domestic jurisdiction. As foreign nationals constitute the bulk of casualties from our failure to prevent attacks, can we blatantly say to them this is a national issue and that they will have no say in it?

 

Indonesian reluctance to allow further foreign intervention is understandable and I am certainly no fan of foreign intervention. However, let's just keep in mind that the US made the mistake of treating terrorism as a domestic crime only to be awakened by the mega Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

 

On the other hand, it is also not just an international issue that can be solved through international wars of democratic intervention. The US is now learning this fact from its fatigue in Afghanistan. Terrorism lies somewhat between the national and the international; therefore we need to adjust our responses accordingly.

 

Lastly, police have not successfully "secularized" and separated the issue of terrorism from religion. Several prominent government and community leaders have made statements to the effect that there is no such thing as terrorism in Indonesia and that everything has been fabricated.

 

These people usually rely heavily on religion to muster up political support, and "feel" they will lose this popularity if religion is viewed as part of the problem.

 

The Indonesian public is no different. Some awkwardly "feel" that renouncing terrorism might somehow betray their own faith or will deny Palestinians much-needed moral support.

 

Facing previous sharia bylaws, ordinary Indonesians did not speak up because they again "felt" that opposing them would make them bad Muslims (Time, March 2007). In winning the hearts of Indonesians, it needs to be recognized that sometimes the heart chooses to "feel" rather than "think".

 

While things look bleak we can only hope the visionary officers within the police force are sincerely pushing for reform despite the challenges and setbacks they face. Things may look overwhelmingly messy at the moment, but the public envision a reformed, clean and effective police institution with a shining international reputation in countering terrorism.

 

The writer is a lecturer in transnational civil society at the department of international relations, School of Social and Political Sciences, the University of Indonesia.

 

***************************************


THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

INDONESIAN NUCLEAR ENERGY PLAN: A PEER REVIEW

SUNAN J. RUSTAM

 

It is interesting that from all the so-called G20 distinguished major economies, only Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are currently not exposed to nuclear energy, let alone nuclear power plants.

 

But wait, the information is not entirely correct because just last month, Saudi Arabia decided to build its first nuclear power plant, the King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable Energy, to be based in Riyadh.

 

And a short time ago, Turkey concluded a deal with Russia to build its first nuclear power plant in Mersin's Akkuyu district.

 

What does this mean? Well, among others, first, Saudi Arabia, the country with one fourth of the world's petroleum reserves, has finally decided that it's time to take real action in dealing with energy issues.

 

The reason is classic, which is oil and gas simply cannot compete alone with the ever-expanding demand for energy.

 

The fact that this comes from one of the world's richest countries of non-renewable resources underlines that energy issues cannot be taken for granted.

 

Second, given the situation, soon Indonesia will be the only country in the G20 exclusive circle claiming 85 percent of global gross national products, 80 percent world trade and two-thirds of the world population that has not operated a single nuclear power plant. So what? G20 membership is not based on nuclear power plants; it is based on economies. Unfortunately that is not the case.

 

It is economics 101 that energy supply is an indispensable modality of a country's economy. Two explanations may be inferred from this unique situation; either Indonesia is extremely strong on its economy thus it can constantly subsidize the energy supply or it is a matter of time before an energy crisis takes Indonesia's economy to rock bottom.

 

Well, with the regular blackouts in Jakarta, unless something is seriously being done, I tend to think the latter.

 

Another interesting note can be derived from the fact that in the top five most populated countries in the world, Indonesia is also the only country that does not have any operational nuclear power plants. Indonesia may be number four in terms of population, but she is definitely the last on nuclear energy. Based on the comparison between numbers of population and nuclear power plants, it can be indicated that a minimum one operating nuclear power plant is available for every 90-100 million people.

 

In Brazil, for example, there are two nuclear plants operational with an additional one reactor under construction to serve the needs of 193 million of its people.

 

In India and China, the comparison is relatively small, which is one nuclear power plant for every 30-50 million people. In the US, the comparison is significantly smaller. Applying the said comparison to Indonesia, with 240 million people and counting, at a minimum, it needs two or three operating nuclear power plants.

 

Observing from G20 and the five most populated countries in the world analysis, Indonesia is least competitive when it comes to nuclear energy.

 

Now, let's move on to regional grouping, which in this case is ASEAN. In 2008, the ASEAN working group on the establishment of nuclear power plants has agreed to support the establishment of nuclear power plants in the region. Up to date, five ASEAN countries have indicated to build nuclear power plants, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

Based on each country target, it will be at least another 10-15 years before an operating nuclear power plant can be seen in the region. Indonesia, however, may not be the first country to operate a nuclear power plant in ASEAN.

 

The first nuclear power plant in Southeast Asia is expected to be operational in Vietnam in 2020 and followed

by Malaysia in 2021. Indonesia is expected to have the first nuclear power plant either in an ambitious target of 2016 or a modest one in 2025, the former being stated by state Research and Technology Minister Suharna Surapranata and the latter by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

 

I am not saying obtaining nuclear technology is as easy a walk in the park, but for a country that had once built a state of the art of fly-by-wire aircraft, I am quite optimistic that 2016's target is feasible. Nevertheless, with the current political condition, 2025 also sounds reasonable although it is long overdue considering the year when the idea of the nuclear power plant was first introduced in the country in 1956.

 

So where does that leave Indonesia now? Are we heading in the right direction to prepare the coming energy crisis or going nowhere? According to Presidential Regulation No. 5/2006 concerning National Policy on Energy, nuclear falls under renewable energies with a combined target of more than 5 percent of national energy supply in 2025. For a comparison, to date, in China and US, nuclear and hydro add up to 50 percent of their energy supply.

 

In Brazil, however, nuclear takes 4 percent of its national power supply while more than 80 percent comes from hydro energy. Similarly in India, its usage of nuclear energy today is less than 3 percent, although it aims an increase to 25 percent by 2050.

 

Admittedly, a target of more than 5 percent in 2025 is competitive compared with other most populated countries excluding China and the US of course.

 

Furthermore, energy security has also been placed as one of the top priorities of the National Development Plan based on the 2010 Government Regulation regarding the National Medium Development Plan.

 

And on top of that, international law, in particular the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty in which Indonesia is a party, and the recently ratified 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, does not prohibit the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Hence, regulation wise, Indonesia should be ready to have a nuclear power plant.

 

Lastly, reviews about nuclear power plants should include topics on budgets and environments. An independent estimator revealed that the construction cost to build one operating nuclear power plant would range from US$3-$5 billion, let alone other costs and variables such as operation, maintenance and inflation.

 

Based on the 2010 State Revenues and Expenditures Budget (APBN), Indonesia allocates Rp 39.5 trillion or around $4.38 billion for its infrastructure and energy developments. Arguably, a simple calculation indicates that the result may not be in favor of nuclear energy. Unlike budgets however, the condition on nuclear energy from the environmental perspective is relatively balanced.

 

Without attempting to engage in details on the pros and cons of renewable energy, it is suffice to say, from hydro to wind to nuclear, they all have risks and consequences; even with non-renewable energy, incidents such as Lapindo mud flow and recent BP rig's explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, show that none of them are risk and consequence free.

 

What needs to be highlighted is the fact that developed and developing countries with their combined power supplies do not rule out nuclear energy.

 

Preference of nuclear energy is growing. As of May 2010, statistics shows that there are 438 operational nuclear reactors in the world. This number will begin to increase, as an additional 54 are under construction, 148 are in order or being planned and another 342 have been proposed.

 

I do not know when exactly Indonesia is going to have her first nuclear power plant. But I do know that among the 490 nuclear reactors that are in order or being planned and proposed, not a single one of them is in Indonesia.

 

The writer is a Fulbright scholar and an SJD candidate at the Maurer School of Law, Indiana University, Bloomington.

 

***************************************


 

EDITORIAL from The Pioneer, Mail today,The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, DNA,The Statesman's, The Tribune, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Economic Times, Mumbai Mirror, Business Standard, The Telegraph, The Assam Tribune, Pakistan Observer, The Asian Age, I.The News, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The New York Times, China Daily, Japan Times, The Gazette, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Guardian, Jakarta Post, The Moscow Times, The Bottom Line and more only on EDITORIAL.

 

 

 

Project By

 

SAMARTH

a trust – of the people by the people for the people

An Organisation for Rastriya Abhyudaya

(Registered under Registration Act 1908 in Gorakhpur, Regis No – 142- 07/12/2007)

Central Office: Basement, H-136, Shiv Durga Vihar, Lakkarpur, Faridabad – 121009

Cell: - 0091-93131-03060

Email – samarth@samarth.co.in, central.office@samarth.co.in

Registered Office: Rajendra Nagar (East), Near Bhagwati Chowk, Lachchipur

Gorakhnath Road, Gorakhpur – 273 015

 

 SHAPE

 

 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Amazon Contextual Product Ads