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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

EDITORIAL 07.07.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month july 07, edition 000561 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjuly


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


















































































The truth, when told honestly and without frills, can sound brutally harsh, but nevertheless it remains the truth. Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Kamal Nath was being blunt and honest when he told some home truths to the Planning Commission on Monday. It must have come as a rude shock for Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and his colleagues to be told that they are "armchair advisers" with no knowledge or experience of ground realities, but surely not as a surprise. For, although the men who adorn the Planning Commission, a relic of our Socialist past when Jawaharlal Nehru thought it fit to adopt the Soviet model and tailor it to India's needs — albeit with disastrous consequences — may be good economists, they are in fact far removed from the real India which exists outside the ivory tower called Yojana Bhavan. On the other hand, Ministers who find themselves at the mercy of the Planning Commission, which has a penchant for imposing its whims and fancies simply because its members are tutored to think in a particular fashion, have first hand experience of ground realities as they exist. Mr Kamal Nath was stating the obvious when he said that building roads in Kerala cannot be the same as building roads in Madhya Pradesh, or for that matter in the North-East. Yet, this commonsensical approach appears to be missing in the thinking of the Planning Commission. Or else it would not have insisted on a one-size-fit-all policy guideline, that too on something as elastic as public-private partnership. Mr Kamal Nath, of course, has reason to be upset with busybodies in the Planning Commission who have been trying to run the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for him — they thumbed down his ambitious and doable proposal of building 20 km of roads every day — with no practical experience of what it takes to build even a kilometre of road in either hospitable or inhospitable terrain. That, however, does not detract from what he had to say about the Planning Commission. Indeed, he deserves credit for saying what needed to be said long ago.

Some institutions which should have been disbanded and done away with after India abandoned its old Soviet-style economic model and embraced market economics as well as a new culture of governance sadly continue to not only exist but raise needless obstacles with no other purpose than to prove their relevance through their nuisance value. The Planning Commission is one of them. It has become a parking place for individuals whom the Government of the day would like to patronise for a variety of reasons, not all of them wholesome, a post-retirement sinecure for men and women with 'brilliant minds' and who want to 'serve' the nation (it's another matter whether the nation would like to be served by them!) with their 'expertise'. In brief, it is the ultimate babudom for babus who have spent their entire lives learning the fine art of using red tape to prop up the status quo. Of late, it has also become a perch for activists past their prime and looking for an easy life sustained by Government dole. Do we really need either to shape our future? Mr Kamal Nath's outburst provides an answer to this question.







Since ancient times oracles and soothsayers have played a significant role in shaping the course of events and, to that extent, history. The Pharaohs had their high priests who would read a variety of signs — from stellar constellations to ripples in the Nile's deep blue water — and predict the future. If the signals were ominous, there were corrective measures that could be taken, for instance sacrificing an animal in the temple to please the gods. The Romans were sticklers for checking out what soothsayers had to say and many a Roman King — and his Queen — was given to abiding faith in what we would now consider as no more than superstition. But apparently it helped them survive palace intrigue and conspiracies hatched by those eyeing the throne (and the riches in the treasury). Julius Caesar was plain unlucky, or perhaps he had greater faith in Mark Antony than in his soothsayer. The Greeks were given to rational thinking and logic, but that did not prevent them from reading tea leaves or checking out what the oracle had to say. Both Grecian history and mythology are replete with examples of predictions coming true, often with terrible consequences. Crystal ball gazing was fashionable in later centuries in high society Europe which otherwise had nothing but scorn for Gypsies. The Church, and later the Reformists, sought to stamp out belief in the supernatural and superstition. As did those who led the Renaissance in Bengal. Success was mixed: Many who publicly denounced palmistry and astrology would secretly have their palms read and astrologers predict their future (which, incidentally, is very common with our politicians); others simply refused to be persuaded. The modernists sniffed at the rest.

Yet, even in this age of declining faith in Europe where both young and old are increasingly equating cynicism with modernism, an octopus kept in a public aquarium has captured the popular imagination. Referred to as 'Octopus oracle Paul', the mollusc has been the centre of much attraction and excitement in Germany and beyond as he is believed to have the 'supernatural power' to predict the German team's performance in a match — whether it will win or lose. And he has been doing a fine job of it too. Apparently, he has erred in foretelling the future only once, when he said the Germans would win the European Championship final but the Spaniards scored the winning goal. During the ongoing FIFA World Cup, however, Paul has been bang on target: He foresaw the Argentinian team being shoved out by the Germans. In the event, the Germans won the match 4:0, defying every football enthusiast's prediction and leaving Maradona in tears (tough men do cry!) last weekend. But to the dismay of Germans, Paul is not too sure about the outcome of the semi-final match between Germany and Spain on Wednesday; in fact, he has picked the Spaniards as his favourite. Will he prove right? Or will it be the second error of his life as a celebrity soothsayer?








After winning a war that no Sri Lankan President dared even try to, and emerging triumphant from every election he has fought since 2005 President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is directly responsible for altogether 78 institutions, and Minister for the country's Defence, Finance, Planning, Ports and Aviation and Highways, would unarguably be the most powerful man in Sri Lanka today. Not correct.

His brother, Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa, a former Army Colonel from the Gajaba Regiment and Defence Secretary, is the real power behind the throne. He is a presidential appointee, invited back from the US in 2005 to lead a faltering war. Mr Gothabhaya Rajapaksa presides over a Rs 202 billion post-war Defence Budget, an increase of Rs 26 billion over last year and higher than health, education, welfare budgets. Besides control of the armed forces, police, Coast Guard and intelligence, his charge extends to Urban Development Authority and Land Reclamation and Development Corporation and even aspects of tourism. Government Ministers kowtow to him though he is not answerable to Parliament. In his book there are only two kinds of Sri Lankans: Nationalists and terrorists. Once great friends during the Jaffna battles in the late-1980s, former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka and he are now bitter foes.

It was Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa who picked up the gauntlet thrown by BBC's Stephen Sackur last month to one of the most fierce and punchy HardTalks in recent times. The duel consisted of half-a-dozen or so sharp exchanges punctuated with a couple of sudden freezes in conversation, both alternately astounded and dumbstruck.

To the charge that "so much power" was concentrated in one family — another Rajapaksa, Basil, is Economic Development Minister and senior presidential adviser with oversight of wildlife conservation and investment and tourism promotion boards, head of task force for reconstruction of war-ravaged North-East and Special Envoy to India; a fourth brother, the eldest, Chamal, is the Speaker of Parliament and the President's son, Namal, a first time MP and the country's first son is the latest induction into the family powerhouse — and that it controlled 75 per cent of the entire Government Budget, Mr Rajapaksa replied straight off the bat: "They are all elected by the people of Sri Lanka. The President was elected by a huge margin. We won the parliamentary and provincial elections. This is democracy."

Mr Sackur shoved the knife deeper. "One of your brothers is called Mr Ten Per Cent." There was no response from Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa to this allegation which was repeated a second time. The story doing the rounds in Colombo is that by appointing the eldest brother as Speaker, Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa has ensured that any impeachment motion, if ever, is not entertained.

Mr Sackur noted the heavy presence of soldiers in the north, more than one year after the successful conclusion of the war. He quoted former Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama as saying that "majority of the Tamils are mentally still with the LTTE." Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa maintained that the threat was still alive and the country had suffered from 30 years of terrorism. The Prabhakaran dictatorship had brainwashed the people under Tiger control. He said a lot of pro-separatist activity was taking place internationally, aided and abetted by former LTTE diaspora, so "it is imperative that we remain vigilant".

Why was the Government displaying an authoritative tendency by continuing with the Emergency decree, Mr Sackur asked, and added: "There is no free Press in the country." Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa explained that the Emergency was needed to protect the country and while the Government was committed to relaxing Emergency regulations and restoring peace, "We have to take whatever steps necessary to ensure terrorism does not raise its ugly head again." This was followed by a feisty exchange on the mysterious killing of the editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickramatunga. Surprisingly, Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa did not mention, as he has elsewhere, that the Army (Gen Fonseka) was instrumental in his assassination.

After the small arms fire, Mr Sackur resorted to heavier weapons. He pointed out how Sri Lanka had isolated itself from the West and the EU on account of human rights violations. "Look at your friends: China, Iran, Libya, Burma, Pakistan…" Mr Rajapaksa fired back: "Why do you exclude India and Russia who supported us? Western countries have a big Tamil diaspora, especially Canada, and depend on Tamil votes."

The battle was hotting up. Mr Sackur raised the issue of alleged war crimes and the need for an independent investigation of the last stages of the war when 700 civilians were reportedly killed by the Army. There was audio visual evidence and Mr Sackur quoted a report by the International Crisis Group which alleged that the military deliberately shelled hospitals and targeted civilians. The figure of civilians killed by Western sources is 40,000.

Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa was not going to take these Western fabrications lying down. He said: "Our military is highly disciplined" and totally denied violation of human rights. He blamed the LTTE and said: "We declared safe zones." Mr Sackur interjected "but you did not respect them" and mocked, "If you are so sure that no war crimes were committed, why not hold an independent international inquiry?" A visibly agitated and angry Gothabaya Rajapaksa retorted: "There is no necessity for it. We are an independent country."


Both were now locked in close quarter combat. Mr Sackur struck first: "You shoot the Sunday Leader for Rs 1 billion (over the story that he ordered white flag carrying LTTE to be shot). Gen Fonseka has accused you of war crimes. Are you worried?" Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa, livid but not losing his cool, said, "These allegations are bogus. My life and reputation are at stake. Is fighting terrorism a crime? I'm not worried. You might be."

The mention of Gen Fonseka was red rag to a bull. "He's a liar" bristled Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa "and if he continues to say that, we will hang him because it is treason." A shell-shocked Sackur asked, "You will have him executed?" "Yes, for betraying the country. He's a liar and we will hang him." (Gen Fonseka is regarded the war hero in Sri Lanka and is facing a court martial.) Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa has the last chuckle with his interlocutor simply lost for words.






The provisions in Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's proposed direct tax code seem to favour foreign nationals over the common man. The draft code would treat capital gains at par with incomes. When an asset is resold, the gain made in the process is called capital gain. Earlier, short term capital gains used to be taxed and long term capital gains were exempted from tax. The proposed code makes short term capital gains taxable at par with other incomes but if an asset is resold after one year of its purchase capital gain made in this process would be taxed at a lower rate.

While on one hand, the proposed direct tax code eliminates exemptions of various types for domestic investors, individual tax payers and firms in order to simplify the tax structure and make it more elastic and buoyant, on the other, the Finance Minister has been unnecessarily appreciative of the role of foreign institutional investors in the national economy and awarded them exemption from TDS on capital gains. They are even being allowed to file advance tax, a facility not available to domestic investors.

It is well known that FIIs keep moving their funds in and out of the country, engineering upheavals in the stock market and causing huge losses to small investors. Foreign institutional investors must, therefore, be taxed on the purchase of additional stocks on the lines of the Brazilian Government so that they opt for long term investments instead of making profits and leaving by the next flight. There should also be a provision for a 'lock-in period' of at least three years for investments made by FIIs.

Although tax has been proposed on incomes on foreign direct investment, FDI via Mauritius would continue to remain exempt from it owing to New Delhi's double taxation avoidance treaty with Port Louis. However, most of the investment coming from the rest of the world is routed through Mauritius. There was hope that the new tax code would try to plug this loophole by finding ways and means to tax foreigners and, maybe, even find a way of revising the treaty. But the Finance Minister has failed to make use of this opportunity.







Of the 341 mines existing in Odisha, only 126 operate on the basis of a valid lease. A paragraph in the 53-year-old Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act has proved to be the State's bane and the mining companies' boon: It is allowing illegal operators to plunder Odisha to the tune of Rs 3 lakh crore

Mineral-rich Odisha has become a paradise for illegal mining in the last one decade. To earn big bucks, smugglers are making a beeline for the State with the sole aim of plundering its precious minerals. Legal lacunae make illegal mining easy. A sizeable number of mines in the State have been operating years after their leases have expired. The miners use a legal clause involving extension of their leases as an excuse to continue their activity.

Out of 341 mines existing in Odisha, only 126 operate on a valid lease. Of the 215 mines that existed illegally, the leases of 15 expired more than 20 years ago, those of 17 expired 15 to 20 years ago. The lease period of 38 mines ended 10 to 15 years ago and that of another 65 mines ended 10 years ago. The remaining 80 mines have been operating five years after their leases lapsed. This was brought to light by the interim report of the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee.

In November 2009, a 150-page petition filed by Mr Rabi Das, senior journalist and president of Odisha Jana Sammilani, brought the mining scam to the notice of the Supreme Court. In response to the petition, the apex court had entrusted the CEC with the task of investigating the scam. The CEC had asked the State Government to furnish all details related to it. The findings of the interim report are based on the submissions made by the Odisha Government and the petitioner.


The 85-page report has laid bare rampant illegal mining making use of lacunae in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. As per the 'deemed extension' clause under Rule 24A(6) of Mineral Concession Rules 1960, if a lease holder applies for the renewal of mining lease within a stipulated period, the lease is automatically 'deemed' to have been extended till the State Government actually deals with the applications.

"A large number of mines are operating in Odisha even after the expiry of the mining lease period. This is being done under the provision of 'deemed extension' of mining leases provided under Rule 24A(6) of Mineral Concession Rules and is happening because the applications filed for the renewal of the mining leases remain undecided for a considerable period of time after the expiry of the mining lease period," the report said, adding: "The deemed extension clause is primarily meant to deal with contingency situations and to ensure that the mining operations do not come to an abrupt end because of administrative delays in deciding renewal applications."

But the rule has been misused to allow the expired leases to exist for years. "This provision is not meant to be availed of indefinitely. Moreover, continuing mining over a long period of time without renewal of the mining lease becomes a potential source for serious illegalities and irregularities," the report observed.

Scores of mine owners have excavated iron ore, chromite, manganese and other minerals much beyond the stipulated limit. "The mining activities also exceeded the production limit as approved under the mining plans," the report said. In Odisha, a good number of mines co-exist with the forest land or reserve forest areas. According to an estimate, as much as 80 per cent of the State's mineral-rich forest land is being exploited. While carrying out illegal mining, the miners shamelessly flout the Forest Conservation Act and environmental norms.

"Mining activities were going on in a large number of mines in Odisha without requisite approvals under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, environmental clearances, and Air and Water Acts," the CEC report said, adding, "There was lack of effective coordination and common understanding between the officials of the Mines Department and the Forest Department resulting in ineffective enforcement of statutory provisions."

The report has suggested a set of recommendations aimed at curbing illegal mining. The CEC has asked the State Government to dispose of the mining lease renewal applications pending for years expeditiously and in a time-bound manner. Deemed extension clauses should only be used in contingency situations and cannot be availed of indefinitely, the CEC said. It also further said that mining in non-forest areas can be allowed only after obtaining environmental and other statutory clearances by the lease-holder. The CEC has decided to charge all illegal miners a one-time fine on a land cost valuation formula. For both renewal of mining lease and mining lease, the lessees would have to pay the net present value of the forests for the entire lease area as per a 2002 Supreme Court directive, the report stated. The fine amount is expected to run into Rs 2,000 crore. But the Odisha mining scam is estimated at Rs 3 lakh crore. The figures tell their own story. The CEC formula does not take into account the millions of tonnes of illegal minerals.

Ever since media coverage of the scam, the BJD Government has been in the dock. Well aware of the large-scale pillage, it turned a blind eye - indeed, let the red-tape allow illegal mining and smuggling, thereby providing covert help to the jholawallah brigade in siphoning off Odisha's minerals. The image of the Naveen Patnaik-led Odisha Government has been dented. The Odisha Government is trying hard to underplay the scam and sweep it under the carpet. It is reluctant to go for a CBI inquiry into the matter. An indifferent Odisha Government, sitting on the renewal of mining lease applications for years now, is saying it is not at fault as the miners are to blame for not submitting documents, forcing authorities to keep the files on hold.

The Green Bench of the Supreme Court has directed the Odisha Government to implement the recommendations of the Central Empowered Committee with immediate effect. It is now up to the Odisha Government to follow the directive.







As Iranians passed the one-year mark of a tumultuous and historic year, an unimpressive and rather quiet June 12 anniversary left many wondering what happened to the disenchanted Iranians. Regime threats, issued weeks in advance against protesters engaging in anniversary demonstrations, succeeded in deterring some. However, from its initial moments, this movement was remarkably forged by hundreds of thousands of courageous Iranians who have not let Government intimidation discourage them. Journalists, analysts, and politicians questioned the movement's strength and survival, wondering if President Ahmadinejad, the clerics, and their Revolutionary Guard had succeeded in quashing the masses.

The people of Iran tell a different story. Rather than pouring onto the streets and surrendering to the brutality of regime forces, the Iranian people say they have voluntarily taken a step back. The one-year anniversary of Iran's fraudulent election has seen a transformation in the Iranian people and consequently, their ongoing movement.

"What's the point of demonstrating when we are putting up our finest and most intellectual minds to go up against conscienceless guards to be shot at?" asked Maryam, a 34-year-old radio producer for Iran's state media in an early morning phone call to Tehran. "People have given up too much over the last year and have since changed their strategy," she said in her native Farsi.

Maryam is politically active and socially in tune with the changing ambiance in Iran. She wants regime change for her country. An Iran that is secular and democratic is what's best for everyone, she said.

Among friends, Maryam is considered to be bold, courageous, and even "crazy" for speaking out openly against the regime. Yet, she could not even use her real name in this interview.

Like many Iranians, Maryam had friends who were arrested and beaten during the protests. She quickly became upset when remembering some of these instances and changed the topic. Iranians have learned a very valuable lesson over the last 12 months, she concluded. They realised that they could be more efficient staying home.

Despite the appearance that the movement has been suppressed in the absence of demonstrations, intellectuals and politically active Iranians like Maryam and her friends are opting to sit home to think, write, publish, and discuss politics.

Welcome to Iran's Intellectual Revolution. The shutdown of dozens of Iranian newspapers and media platforms over the last year as a result of demonstration coverage that was unflattering to the regime, left a sizeable void that the underground media is effectively filling. The regime strategically closed official media sites hoping to thwart the spread of anti-Government sentiment through traditional media outlets. They simultaneously paved the way for popular and unregulated publications to sprout up by the dozens, including underground newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, and even night letters-flyers that are circulated in local neighbourhoods in the middle of the night and have become a popular method of disseminating important political messages in many Iranian cities and villages.

At the same time, the radical crackdown against protesters and their freedoms sparked a thirst for information and transparency among the Iranian people.

"This is the time to sit back and think about how we can organise and strategise against the Government to make significant changes," Maryam said. "I cannot say too much over the phone."


She repeated that phrase many times; fearful of getting into too much detail, and almost certain her line was tapped by the Government. As election results were announced last year — significantly ahead of the time it would actually take to count the votes — the regime proved its corruption and provoked its people. Iranians filled the streets in protest not just against a rigged election but also against 30 years of tyrannical rule.

Immediately, and in the days that followed, the regime began a brutal and vengeful crackdown on protesters. The wrath of the regime's Revolutionary Guard was not enough. Thousands of Basiji militiamen, imported Iraqis, Pakistanis, Saudis, Palestinians, and others, were paid hundreds of dollars each day, equivalent to the monthly salary of many Iranian professionals, to violently and relentlessly attack demonstrators. Tear gas, acid, batons and even guns were used against the people.

The Iranians persisted. As the Government took away their Internet connections, the Iranians found ways to bounce Internet connections through proxy servers. Journalists banned from the country resulted in an emergence of a nation of citizen journalists. As Government forces cracked down against women and murdered Neda Agha-Sultan, women quickly came to the forefront of the movement. When the clerics became more radicalised and religious in their sermons, the Iranian people became more secularised and nationalistic. It began as a movement for reform and an election debate, but evolved into a battle to regain control of a 5,000 year-old heirloom.

More than half way through this year, the Iranian people gradually realised that in order to be successful in their endeavour, they must have organisation and leadership. The biggest obstacle the opposition faces is that they lack both. The Iranians learned that demonstrations would not help gain either. They only put the lives of innocent Iranians at risk. This new-found awareness has given the opposition a new perspective from which to operate. Iranians are looking to engage one another in meaningful dialogue. They are publishing valuable content, publicising critical information, and looking for unique ways to communicate political messages to one another.

The alternative, as they witnessed, is watching their loved ones be rounded up and taken to Evin Prison.








US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton completed her whirlwind tour of Ukraine, Poland, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia on July 5. If we take her at her word, it seems she wasn't terribly enthusiastic. In an interview with a Polish television channel, she admitted that she was preoccupied with the upcoming wedding of her daughter, Chelsea. And yet neither wedding preparations nor Independence Day celebrations were enough to keep Ms Clinton in Washington. On July 1, she embarked on her tour of countries that — with the exception of Poland — fall within Russia's "zone of privileged interests," to quote Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

On the Fourth of July, America usually takes a break from its problems with fireworks, beer and all-day BBQs. America commemorates the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers, and reflects on the history of its rise as a mighty nation, which is replete with myths and half-truths, like the history of any nation. But the facts of America's history must not be allowed to spoil America's story, like the fact that the Continental Congress declared the colonies' independence on July 2, 1776. The Declaration of Independence was completed by June 28 and was officially adopted on August 2. Two of the most prominent signers, presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, died within hours of each other on the same day, July 4, 1826. In 1870, Congress declared July 4 to be Independence Day.

By opting to travel to foreign nations instead of celebrating Independence Day at home, Ms Clinton showed her hosts how important they are to America. Some politicians in Eastern Europe and the southern Caucasus have come to believe that the Obama Administration has abandoned its Eastern partners for improved relations with Russia and China. They claim that Washington's focus on resetting US-Russian relations has blinded it to the problems on Russia's periphery. And they are not alone: Congressional Republicans have used the reset as yet another opportunity to blast Mr Obama's foreign policy. In light of this, Ms Clinton's visit to Russia's "zone of privileged interests" can be seen as a kind of comeback in a region where US presence was very strong under the Bush Administration — so strong, in fact, that Georgia felt safe enough to provoke a war.

Ms Clinton made her final stop in Tbilisi on July 5, where Georgian politicians eagerly awaited her arrival. They wanted to know to what extent they can count on Washington's support. President Saakashvili's political allies are abandoning him as opposition to him at home grows stronger. Mr Saakashvili desperately needs a show of support from Washington. Georgian politicians stated openly that they will consider it a political victory if Ms Clinton refers to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as illegally occupied Georgian territories at least once during her visit. However, on this point Ms Clinton was evasive. She said only that Washington does not agree with the presence of Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and that the US and Russia are working together through the OSCE Minsk Group to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict even though they cannot agree on Georgia. On her tour, Ms Clinton repeatedly emphasised that although Moscow and Washington are resetting their relations, they will not necessarily agree on every issue. This statement was intended to encourage the opponents of the reset, while not committing the Obama Administration to anything specific. But Ms Clinton could have said the same about the US relations with Israel, France or Germany. It's diplomatic boilerplate, nothing more.

In the Caucasus, Ms Clinton faced more pressing matters than shoring up Mr Saakashvili's presidency with symbolic support. Her main stop in the region was Azerbaijan, where she met with President Ilham Aliyev. As US relations with Pakistan become increasingly uneasy, Azerbaijan is becoming a major transit routes for US cargo destined for Afghanistan. Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, US aircraft have made tens of thousands of drops in Azerbaijan. The Pentagon has also been using Azerbaijan's ports and railroads for supply purposes. As Ms Clinton arrived at Heydar Aliyev International Airport, drove down Heydar Aliyev Avenue and passed the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, she probably realised that she'd better stay on the Aliyev clan's good side. She had to choose her words very carefully whenever the issue of Azerbaijan's human rights record was raised.

Off the record, Azerbaijani diplomats have repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction with the current state of the relations between Baku and Washington. They have numerous complaints. For starters, the post of the US ambassador to Azerbaijan remained vacant for over 12 months. It was not until late May 2010 that Mr Obama appointed career diplomat Matthew Bryza to the post. Mr Bryza has co-chaired international negotiations for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.







AT no point in his political career has he been called, even by his fondest admirers, a great statesman. A wily and resourceful politician, yes, a political tactician, certainly. But Sharad Pawar, the leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, would not go down in Indian political history as a great or worthy leader.


The Union agriculture, food and civil supplies, and consumer affairs minister provided more evidence of his political character on Monday when he approached Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to relieve him of certain ministerial duties.


On a day when the country was bearing the brunt of an Opposition- led nationwide strike to protest the hike in fuel prices and runaway food inflation, Mr Pawar found time to request his boss to take away some of his ministerial responsibilities so that he could concentrate on party matters and focus on his job as the head of the International Cricket Council.


What he really seems to be running away from is accepting responsibility for the debilitating double digit food inflation — for which he is directly responsible, being both agriculture and food and civil supplies minister.


Granted, Mr Pawar is a key ally in the UPA coalition and the Congress cannot afford to keep him unhappy. Yet, as Prime Minister, Dr Singh should place the nation's interest higher than the interests of his party to sustain the coalition by doling out key ministries. It appears that Mr Pawar wants to retain his status as cabinet minister for agriculture, while giving up the problematic food and civil supplies and consumer affairs ministries.


Dr Singh should, instead, seriously consider relieving the burdened Mr Pawar of all his Cabinet responsibilities so that the Maharashtra strongman can concentrate on " party work" and his new cricketing responsibilities.



THE Supreme Court must be commended for raising the issue of whether the word ' socialist' in the Preamble to the Constitution should continue to define our republic. The court had earlier refused to engage on the issue while hearing a petition that challenged the provision making it mandatory for political parties to pledge adherence to the policy of socialism at the time of registration.

That the word ' socialist' was inserted into the Preamble by the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution during the Emergency is not the main reason why we must rethink the issue.


After all, the same controversial amendment passed by the Indira Gandhi government also introduced in the Preamble the word ' secular' which has stood us in good stead.


The reason why we must knock ' socialist' off the Preamble is because India can no longer be honestly described as pursuing the socialist model of development. When India embarked on economic liberalisation in 1991, there was an implicit recognition that socialism had failed us.


Jettisoning ' socialist' does not mean abandoning the poor. Like many western democracies, we remain, a welfare state. It's only that we need to shed the historical baggage that demands that all parties in our democracy should continue to swear by socialism.


WITH four incidents of baggage theft in the last ten days, Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport is far from the world- class airport that it boasts of being.


The success of the thieves is such that even Rahul Gandhi's mobile phone wasn't spared.


Another unfortunate victim was robbed of belongings worth over Rs one lakh. Though some of those responsible— mostly groundlevel baggage handlers— have been arrested, many more might still be operating.


The problem is that baggage- handling has been outsourced to as many as 20 private companies which makes monitoring of the handlers very difficult. Many of the spaces which the baggage passes through are not even covered by CCTV. The airport may have inaugurated its swanky terminal 3, but it can never be a world- class airport if it continues to function in such a shoddy manner.


The new infrastructure of the airport must be accompanied by better systems as well as well- trained and honest personnel for it to be on a par with international standards.








ONE can almost imagine Margaret Thatcher clucking " I told you so". Europe, and not just her favourite island, has turned out just the way she wanted it to be. Pity it needed a crisis and a 14 per cent drop in the value of the Euro to see things her way. Whether socialist or conservative, all governments across the continent are advocating budget cuts, low government spending and fiscal discipline.

Obama is the last Keynesian standing, but his right foot has begun to shuffle after Toronto.


In the European Union many member countries thought that the grass was patchier on the other side. Now they realise that they are all in it together, in greater or smaller measure. Predictably, Conservative Italy has decided to knock off public expenditure by $ 30 billion. Germany, under the Christian Democrats, will slash up to 80 billion Euros over the next five years.




But take a look at this. For years the socialist government in Spain kept mowing the lawn and not looking across the fence; but the debt crisis would not go away. Now Prime Minister Zapotero is out- gunning his conservative rivals with rapid fire economic cuts. At the provincial level, the isms are more confusing.


Socialists in Valencia and Catalonia can hardly be distinguished from conservatives in other regions. They have all signed up for a slimming- down- shapingup regimen regardless of where they come from.


In Greece, the situation is even stranger.


The ruling socialist PASOK is advocating an austerity package, but the conservatives in opposition will have none of it.


They would rather raise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes than dock the pay of civil servants. Today, conservatives are behaving like socialists, and socialists like conservatives.


Ideologies don't seem to matter anymore; when in power all ' isms" think alike. Greek communists are the only ones, Socrates style, who are reaching for the hemlock. They'd rather go down than compromise. But will anybody miss them? France, true to its reputation, is being delicate. It wants stringency, but is still hoping for export promotion and greater domestic consumption. Socialist Portugal takes left support on social issues like gay rights, but is in the conservative camp when it comes to fiscal policies, as with its 2010 budget. Whether public debt is almost all domestically owned, like in Japan, or largely in foreign hands, as in Greece, the measures advocated are more or less the same.


Trade unions in France, Germany and Spain are crying for general strikes, but their calls sound hollow. Nobody seems to be interested in " isms" any more. All preferred gods and a few favourite demons teed off together but are performing under par.




So far organised unions have not made much of a dent in the public mood. While there is unhappiness everywhere, especially among the less privileged, it is not filling the sails of professional unionists, or traditional working class parties.


There is widespread reluctance to accept the raising of the retirement age or reductions in social expenditure. But then, what is the way out? The way out seems to be in pragmatism: let's try budget cuts for now as there is always Keynes to fall back on. This is the lesson most corporate bosses seem to have learnt from the 2008 financial crash in America. The unions appear to have a point when they say that the fiscal cuts are going to hurt unequally. Will the 1,440 people in Spain, who control 80 per cent of GDP, share the economic burden to the same extent? The reputed Spanish daily, El Pais , has also pointed out in a recent editorial that tax evasions in Spain amount to approximately 80 billion Euros.


What is blunting the edge of left wing " ism" in Europe is not just that the socialists are behaving badly, but on certain issues even conservatives have crossed sides. Let us take, for instance, the health programmes in Europe. In conservative Germany and Britain, health care is practically free, and this policy is unlikely to change much in the near future. Nor will conservative Sarkozy tamper with France's one- Euro- fits- all health policy.


He might fashion a trim here and a cut there, but no more. Italians who turn up in emergencies because they are bored with life will now pay a fine. Pay TV channels might soon become a better option for them. Portugal too has changed its policies ever so slightly by linking co payments on prescription drugs to a fixed price rather than to a percentage of medicine costs.


Unlike some conservative hard hearts in America, European conservatives know that abandoning state health care is just not European. They are thinking of gentle persuasions and slow modifications, and in this they are one with the socialists.


Both sides would rather leave the medical system more or less intact, more or less populist. What is being contemplated by different European governments, regardless of their ideological tags, is how to make new wine look old. The least noticeable addition to the brew would be gentle co- payments, so small that very few would taste the difference.


Italy has now sliding co- payments on prescription drugs though GP visits are still free. But conservative

Berlusconi has decreed that this sliding pay rule will not apply to those workers who have been recently laid off. Populist back- slaps are part of the conservatives' to- do- list today. Co- payment, at very modest rates, is being considered elsewhere too, in Germany, Portugal and Spain. Sometimes, as in Germany, it will apply only to consultations with specialists, or as in Portugal and Spain, when visiting a health centre or a hospital. In addition, Spain and Portugal are in the forefront of advocating generic drugs, and no conservative has opposed that yet!




" Isms" obviously don't count that much any more. Is it because exhaustion has set in for they have all been there and done this and that? Or is it because in advanced democracies a large middle class has made people and politics look alike? The working class of the inter- war years has more or less disappeared in Europe and has been replaced by the consumer class. Unlike Marx's proletariat, the everyday European now has something to lose. So whether one is conservative or socialist, it is the sense of real or imagined loss that makes European politicians of every stripe reach out for " pragmatism." This is the one " ism" that seems to unite them across ideological frontiers.


Some years ago I had asked Dominique de Villepin, who was then French Foreign Minister and a Presidential hopeful, what it felt like to have ousted Mitterand and the socialists who had held power for so long. He answered, matter- of- factly: " Socialist or conservatives, we are all the same, only the voters perceive a difference." When he came to India earlier this year, I put the same question to him, wondering if he still held the same view.


He reaffirmed it emphatically.


The writer is a senior fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library








WHEN ace badminton player Saina Nehwal stepped out of the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad last week, little did she anticipate that she would get such a rousing reception.


There were incessant drum beats; thousands of sports lovers were shouting "Saina, Saina" and scores of media persons representing various television channels were thronging her to take quick "bites" from her; and there was a shower of petals on her as she boarded an open-top jeep in which she was driven to Pullela Gopichand's Badminton Academy at Gachibowli in a big procession.


Thousands of people lined up on either side of the road to have a glimpse of this latest sensation in the sports world. It was a thrilling experience for Saina which she had never witnessed in the past.


Though she had accomplished a rare feat of winning three back-to-back titles on the international circuit in a span of one month and reached the No. 3 rank in the world, Saina's achievements in the past had never been acknowledged in such a grandiose manner.


Well, there is a reason for that. All these years, Hyderabadis were aware only of Sania Mirza, the ace tennis star who had brought several laurels to the country. She was the heartthrob of every Hyderabadi boy and of course, the craze for the media.


And tennis being a glamorous sports event, Sania took every care to present herself in the most glamorous way and became the obvious choice of the advertising agencies for any product.


After her marriage with Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik under extremely controversial circumstances three months ago, Sania ceased to be the craze of the common Hyderabadi. Now that she is settled in Dubai and no longer a resident of Hyderabad, the city's media seems to have dropped her like a hot potato and started looking for a new sports star for Hyderabad.


THAT is how Saina came into the media limelight.


And thanks to the media, every Hyderabadi has now started acknowledging Saina as the new icon of the youth. According to Pullela Gopichand, Saina's coach, " Thanks to Saina, badminton has become the latest craze among the youth of Hyderabad. She is a real inspiration to the young players, because of her self belief and quick learning attitude." Now, the academy is buzzing with young badminton players who are eager to grab the opportunities.

Already, players like P C Thulasi, Aparna Balan, B Sumeet, K Nandagopal, Sourabh Varma and Manu Atri have proven themselves in the game and are on their way to the top.

The big business houses and commercial establishments in Hyderabad have already started acknowledging

Saina as a potential brand and her brand value is now going up. According to brand strategist Harish Bijoor, Saina's brand value suddenly shot up from Rs 6- 10 lakh to Rs 30 lakh.


" The day is not far off when her brand value goes up to Rs 1 crore, if she clinches the No. 1 position in the world badminton ranking," he said.


At present, Saina is a brand ambassador for the Deccan Chargers IPL franchise, promoted by D eccan Chronicle , the popular English daily of Hyderabad. She has a couple of other endorsements in hand and is already in the celebrity circuit of the city.


Yet, Saina is too modest to admit her celebrity status. " I only hope that these good things continue.


Yes, definitely, there is lot more recognition now wherever I go. I am happy with this. I just want to make my country proud with my achievements," she declares and settles down to work towards her next goals: the World Championship, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.


CM plays birthday boy at 79


CHIEF Minister K Rosaiah would never have never celebrated such a birthday in his life. Rosaiah, who turned 79 on July 4, was flooded with greetings from all over the state and the country all through the day. Thousands of visitors made a beeline in front of his camp office at Begumpet to greet him with bouquets and shawls.


Some die- hard Congressmen even touched his feet to seek his blessings. There were full- page advertisements in the newspapers from big business houses, while big hoardings appeared all over Hyderabad greeting the " visionary Rosaiah". In fact, Congress workers created a big scene at the Necklace Road at the stroke of midnight on July 3, bursting crackers and distributing sweets to the passersby.


There were greetings from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other leaders from Delhi and the day ended for him with the cutting of a massive cake brought by President Pratibha Patil.


It was a strange experience for Rosaiah, who never had any celebration in all his previous years. He does not even remember any leader, except the then CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy, greeting him on his birthday last year. But things have changed after he became the CM. Congress leaders competed with one another to greet him and get into his good books. That is the power of power!



AT A time when the state government is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Krishnadevaraya, emperor of Vijayanagara with great pomp, a controversy broke out over some gold ornaments donated by the him to Lord Venkateshwara of Tirumala going missing.


This came to light when temple authorities looked into the records for organising a photo exhibition of the ornaments as part of the celebrations.


The temple inscriptions say Krishnadevaraya had made huge donations during the seven trips that he made to the hill shrine in the 16th century. But there are no records about what happened to them. " We checked the registers, but there are no records of ornaments donated over centuries," said IYR Krishna Rao, Executive Officer of the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam ( TTD), which maintains the temple. He said the process of maintaining records of donations had started only in the 1930s.


Inquiries revealed that some 20 gold ornaments, donated by Krishnadevaraya, were melted in 1953 and used for gold- plating the temple tower. Another entry in the register showed that between 1930 and 1933, a gold crown, donated by the King in 1513, was melted and a new crown was made out of it.


In the light of this controversy and its impact on the sentiments of millions of devotees of Lord Venkateswara, the TTD has decided to appoint a committee of eminent historians and archaeologists to document the ornaments on the basis of their antique value and to catalogue them according to their donors.








India needs to attract private sector financing in infrastructure. What it doesn't need is public spats at top levels of government, suggesting that policymakers aren't on the same page on the importance of building infrastructure. Road transport and highways minister Kamal Nath's outburst in a public forum against the Planning Commission, therefore, can only serve as bad PR. Projects in India are already seen as susceptible to missed targets, delays, cost overruns and red tape. This has created the unfortunate impression that investment in the sector may not bring good or even guaranteed returns. Surely this perception needs changing, not adding to.

This isn't to say ministries don't have needling hurdles placed in their way. Friction has been apparent between the ministry of environment and those of roads and power, among others, prompting the PMO's intervention in expediting clearances. Again, the Planning Commission could have refrained from exceeding its brief to unilaterally set targets for sectors, as is reported. If anything, Nath has tried to energise a key ministry, with his goal of building 20 km of roads per day. Envisaging 24,000 km across India by end 2010-11, he's proactively sought partnerships, including overseas. The Plan panel itself says 50 per cent funds in infrastructure development must flow from private players if a $1 trillion investment target under the 12th five-year Plan is to be met. Buoying investor confidence, then, is urgent.

Nath also rightly wants more flexible, case-specific solutions to project-building than the Plan panel's been willing to concede courtesy its strict rule-based approach and insistence on contractual uniformity. Take land acquisition. Procuring land in Gujarat is different from doing so in Kerala. Equally, in a federal structure, there's need to consider divergent approaches of states, local politics and business milieus. Devising public-private partnerships is another issue, given 85 per cent of the National Highway Development Programme will take the PPP route. Under the build-operate-transfer model, private contractors usually put in their money. In some cases, government may need to provide project finances to get contractors to build.

Road-building suffered grievous neglect during the UPA's first stint. UPA-II needs to make up for this. Roads provide connectivity for millions of people. They are the key industry-agriculture interface while facilitating trade and commerce on a major scale. India's 12th Plan target is 10 per cent growth. Yet the expansion, competitiveness and efficiency of the economy can't be sustained without assets like roads and power. As Nath says, India has a lot of catching up to do. Without ambitious targets pushed aggressively, it's going to be business as usual. Needless to say, India can't afford business as usual.







The heinous attack on a college lecturer in Kerala for allegedly hurting Muslim sentiments has been rightly condemned by all sections of society. However, it's no less a cause for worry that the incident planned and executed by members of a radical outfit, the Popular Front, according to police sources happened in the first place.

This ought to bother the state administration and civil society as it comes amidst reports that extremist groups are trying to build bases in southern India. The assault is attributed to an alleged blasphemy committed by the lecturer while preparing a question paper for students of his college three months ago, following which he was suspended from service. Community organisations had then stepped in to ensure the incident did not blow up and strain communal relations. Sunday's incident threatens to wreck all the good work.

The intolerance of religious and even political organisations and subsequent violent reaction to acts that are perceived to be insulting are unacceptable. No one can be allowed to take law into his hands and no issue, however sensitive, settled arbitrarily and through physical violence. This point is applicable also to political organisations. Kerala has a reasonable record in avoiding communal violence, but the state is prone to political violence.

Organisations like the CPM and RSS have a history of settling political differences through muscle power. If violence is deemed acceptable in settling political disputes, what prevents some other group from using the same logic in case of religious differences? The immediate step, of course, is to book the perpetrators of Sunday's crime and crack down on hate mongers. And political parties mustn't play footsie with extremist outfits of this kind.







When Yousuf Raza Gilani met Manmohan Singh in Thimphu in April, the discussion on resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan was clinched when he said, "The army supports me." This is a reality India has long known and acknowledged. As both countries attempt to rework their terms of engagement and dialogue, India needs to think harder about engaging the most powerful institution in Pakistan.

The composite dialogue between India and Pakistan deserves a decent burial. The parade of top officials cogitating endlessly over the minutiae of trade and cultural ties, narcotics and drugs trafficking, or Tulbul/Wullar the dialogue had become an instrument to lull everybody into believing that things were 'progressing' between India and Pakistan. The usefulness of the format had begun to pall with form overwhelming substance. The two sides circled around the same issues, proposed the same old CBMs and endured the ennui of seeing them meet the same fate.

Besides, they only functioned during breaks in terrorist violence from Pakistan with every successive terror attack, the dialogue came under severe pressure, first to break off and second, to resume. Breaking off the dialogue was a substitute for military action, resuming it a sign that we could continue from where we had left off.

After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, this pretence had to be abandoned, as then foreign secretary and now NSA Shiv Shankar Menon realised. His reasoning was fair: we have more important things to discuss with Pakistan and, anyway, what good would discussions on cultural exchanges do if terrorists are planning more attacks?

There were attempts albeit misguided to get out of the composite dialogue straitjacket and address the "real" issues; for instance, through the joint anti-terror mechanism, a classic case of hope triumphing over experience. This fell through the instant Pakistan refused to discuss terrorist violence in Jammu & Kashmir. The ill-fated Sharm el-Sheikh understanding in July 2009 tried to insulate the dialogue from terror breaks but crashed when Balochistan came in the way.

Yet here we are again in July, fresh from a bout of civilised foreign secretary talks, and preparing for foreign ministers to meet and declare "deliverables".

Reopen those LoC points, let the buses and trucks through, free prisoners and fishermen, some trade perhaps?

Instead, India should be looking at crafting a whole new engagement matrix with Pakistan, given current realities and the imperatives of India's goals. It's clear terrorism has to be at the heart of such an engagement. These are not random acts of violence, but part of a strategy that has long been peddled by the Pakistan army. It lies at the heart of Pakistan's foreign policy vis-a-vis India. It's the army that has cornered the market in defining Pakistan's sense of nationhood, either via the anti-India route or by courting extremist Islam. These are fundamental issues that are central to India-Pakistan relations, and at the core of what both sides are currently trying to address: the "trust deficit". A meaningful discussion on these issues, regretfully, cannot be had solely with the civilian set-up.

India, therefore, needs to step out on the dusty road to the GHQ, Rawalpindi. But how do we do this without sending the Indian official establishment into paroxysms of nervousness?

Thus far, India has kept its conversations confined to its traditional buddies in Pakistan a thinning sliver of civil society, the arts frat, the literary frat, businessmen and a civilian political leadership if they're in office at the time. These are all very pleasant interactions, because they are essentially speaking the same language, so there's no real debate.

In the past, India had engaged Pakistan's military leadership but only when the army itself was in power. But the importance of bringing the army into the dialogue is even more acute when the civilians are in power.

For the protocol-minded in India, the overwhelming question is: whom will the Pakistani generals talk to in India? Pakistan's generals are political generals, they do hard strategy. Indian generals barely have a space in the Indian strategic discourse and confine themselves to operational matters. And then there is the bureaucracy's killer weapon. "Our foreign minister cannot call on the army chief there and the army chief would certainly not call on our foreign minister," said one official. After 60 years and several wars behind us, protocol should not be the determining factor. Where's the meeting ground?

A strategic dialogue could actually be the answer. It gives India and Pakistan opportunity to interact at the policymaking levels with a judicious mix of civil and military on either side. As a mature democracy we should learn to involve our own military in India's strategic dialogue with Pakistan without feeling nervous about civilian control.

With the Pakistan military across the table, a discussion on opening trade takes on a whole new meaning. In the now halcyon years of 2005-08 when India bought cement from Pakistan to meet its construction boom, it was the army's companies that benefited from Indian contracts. If Hafiz Saeed is ranting and raving about water wars, it is important for India to explain the situation to Saeed's real masters, the army.

It's true popular contact and trade should be the bedrock of our relations. On all issues concerning India the army has the last word. We need to engage directly with the last word.







Australia is in the grip of a water crisis, so is India, and so are many other countries around the globe. Australian landscape garden designer Jim Fogarty , in Singapore these days to participate in the upcoming Singapore Garden Festival, spoke to Divya A about how green gardens and dishwashers could become luxuries if we don't take steps to check water wastage:

Your country has been in the grip of a water crisis. Has the problem now moved to the suburbs and towns?

The last few summers have been really tough in terms of water. There is a warning that major cities could run out of drinking water. In the summer of 2009, we had severe bushfires in Melbourne on a day when the temperature touched 46.4 degrees!

Is it illegal to water lawns in Australia? In that case, how do you maintain your gardens?

That's right. In fact, water restrictions have made gardening difficult in our country. We can only water our lawns twice a week, that too, during a given two-hour window. Consequently, people have learnt to adjust their approach to a garden. Now, in the design phase, we plan on locating underground water tanks so that all the rainwater harvested from house roofs can be stored for lawn irrigation. Selecting suitable turf types and plants is also critical in ensuring that a garden survives in a drought.

Do you think people sometimes overwater plants?

One thing we have realised in Australia is that plants are tougher than people think. In many ways, we do water them too much. By reducing the amount of water for plants, we realised that most plants could survive on less water.
Is there any sort of water problem in other countries as well, where you have travelled for garden shows?

My travel has included the Chelsea Flower Show in London, Sydney in Bloom, Singapore Garden Festival, Ellerslie Flower Show in New Zealand, the World Garden Competition in Japan, and this July the Putrajaya Floria in Malaysia. Most countries today are facing a water crisis, especially clean drinking water. But i think people in the Middle East certainly have learnt to manage on limited water supply. Desalination has been successful in those parts.

How can governments help in conserving water?

By allowing for better water storage and managing water storage with population growth. The other key is to manage forests adjacent to water storage areas to reduce run-off. Forests play a vital role in water catchment.

How can trees and plants actually help in controlling temperatures?

Trees are critical in reducing summer temperatures by providing shade. They are natural air-conditioners. A well-shaded garden can reduce cooling costs significantly.


Is it better and more ecologically sensitive to grow local plants than exotic, imported ones?

I think local plants are good but keeping biodiversity in mind, we should not be afraid to use exotic species. In Australia, many exotic trees will provide a better shade canopy to reduce summer temperatures. there is much debate about the role that native tree species play in bushfires.







When Captain Marvellous signals that he is no longer playing the field but is about to enter into a long-term partnership with his girlfriend, what do we expect? That the groom will gallop to the venue on an Arabian steed with the baraat in the formation of a cricket bat, the festivities to be held at Wankhede stadium, Sir Vivian Richards will give away the bride and the flowers will come from the late Sir Donald Bradman's private garden? Of course, all that and much more.

But the now lock-less Dhoni had to go and spoil it all for us by stepping into the matrimonial pavilion in a low-key affair, away from our covetous eyes with few celebrity guests. In fact, we'd hardly have known much except for the tweets from the pneumatic Bipasha Basu whose muscle-bound boyfriend was a star attraction at the Dhoni do. In case any Poirot-like reporter was going to track down the remains of the wedding, the next day was a Bharat bandh. Smart timing, Dhoni, almost better than that on the pitch. Why could he not have been like other celebrities and let it all hang out? Take, for example, the Sania-Shoaib wedding. From certain stained garments to Shoaib's mangled tweets in what we presume was the English language, the pair left no tome unturned in telling us all the details of their love.

Now, that's more like it. In a day and age, when public relations firms are hired to give us an intimate look at things, we think it a bit unfair that Dhoni chose to keep it private and, heaven forbid, in good taste. We hope that he will see the error of his ways and perhaps sell some cosy pictures to the highest bidder. Come on, we have some standards to maintain, even if they be a bit low. As of now, we are Mahi disappointed.





The notion of a minister asking the prime minister to 'lighten his load' is a strange one in this country. Even when it becomes obvious that a minister may have taken on too much or is unable to perform due to whatever reason, the usual route is to keep up appearances, hold down a ministry even if it means facing flak from critics. A portfolio, especially an important one such as agriculture, is a coveted ministry and there have been more 'traditional' methods of keeping it while reducing one's load than the one shown by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in his recent 'request' to the PM.

Theories about whether Mr Pawar is seeking a change of portfolio, a reduction in portfolios (he's also in charge of the ministries of cooperation, consumer affairs, food and public distribution), or merely requesting additional assistance in the form of a second minister of state (MoS) are already being bandied about. But these are beside the point. A request has been made by Mr Pawar to his boss in the UPA government and the PM is likely to take a call in a week's time. Two things have been placed on the table: one, Mr Pawar wants more time with his party, the Nationalist Congress Party, and he has shown seriousness in his new role as president of the International Cricket Council; two, that he did not make a specific request for a junior minister to share his responsibilities, something he may have done in the past. Without further ado, the PM should pick up the signs and relieve Mr Pawar of the Ministry of Agriculture.

That's, of course, the easy part. At a time when opposition parties as well as critics within the UPA have been critical of the government's handling of food prices, relieving Mr Pawar to make a political point is tempting but will not amount to much. Unless the already much multi-tasking and multi-tasked PM takes over the agriculture portfolio himself, he should choose a capable candidate. 'Disinterested' candidates or hopefuls looking for a 'heavyweight portfolio' should not be considered in order to fulfill a short-term round of political musical chairs. Whether it's for health reasons or because of a change of priorities tied to his own political compulsions, Mr Pawar has been fair by asking his 'burden to be lightened' So let the next person in Krishi Bhavan be chosen for his or her abilities. He or she will definitely need to focus on a difficult job at hand.






The furore over a tiger being knocked over by a speeding vehicle in Bandhavgarh had hardly settled when news of the carcass of a cub — burnt after its paws were chopped off for some tantric ritual by forest chowkidars and a member of a village eco-development committee at the Pench Tiger Reserve — filtered in. It is suspected that the killing might be a cover-up for poaching. Either way, it is bad news — it is just the latest instance where Madhya Pradesh has shown a shameful disregard for the national animal.

With the highest number of tigers in India at about 300 (the number is disputed), Madhya Pradesh is the 'tiger state of India'. For years it has worn this badge with pride, nurturing its tigers and their sanctuaries. MP has no less than six tiger reserves, including Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench and Panna. In addition to the Satpura National Park, which is another haven for tigers, there's also the Sanjay Dubri Wildlife Sanctuary.

Then came the Panna debacle. Enough has been written about Panna's vanishing tigers. At Panna, tigers were poached, trapped and poisoned, even as state officials claimed that all was well in the face of repeated warnings by researchers, conservationists and by the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court. There was evidence that the skins of Panna tigers were sold for profit. Rather than protecting its tigers, the state concentrated on concocting pugmarks, cooking up census figures and producing paper tigers. Eventually, in May 2009, Panna was declared 'tigerless'. Till date, there have been no arrests, and the officials responsible for the decline — and the consequent cover-up — have not been held accountable.

This attitudinal indifference to tiger conservation has been witnessed repeatedly. The state government cleared the proposal for the expansion of NH7, which cuts through the critical Kanha-Pench corridor, threatening one of the four most vital tiger reserves in the country. The proposal for expansion has met with a strong refusal from the central government. As if pushing for the NH7 wasn't bad enough, the Madhya Pradesh government then advocated a high-end private tourism proposal on the same corridor. While there is no denying the benefits of sensitive tourism, having a tourist resort that would cut through a tiger habitat was insensitive on the part of the state authorities.

The less said about the recent May 18 'accident' in Bandhavgarh, the better. A tigress with her three young cubs was run over by a vehicle belonging to the sanctuary. One wonders how the vehicle with officials got there when vehicular movement in the park is banned at night. While the machinery to save the guilty is working overtime, an impartial CBI inquiry that was recommended has not been done yet. It's important to note that this is allegedly the fourth incident, the third in Bandhavgarh, of a tiger being run over. The fourth tiger death, that apparently involved a forest administration vehicle in Kanha, remains unconfirmed.The state is currently pre-occupied with plans to set up a captive breeding centre for white tigers in Rewa. It's a fancy idea, bound to attract media attention and many tourists, but white tigers are the offshoot of a recessive mutant gene and have zero conservation value. Why concentrate on, and pour funds into, such inane schemes when our tiger reserves remain starved of funds and focus?  So the question that arises at this point of time is whether MP still deserves its status of a tiger state. It's true that it still has the maximum number of tigers in the country, but aren't numbers really a moot point when it has failed to protect and respect its tigers.

Prerna Singh Bindra is an environment journalist and editor of TigerLink





It is hard for any patriotic Bengali to travel from Calcutta's old airport to Bangalore's shining new one without experiencing a few moments of naked jealousy. It didn't help that the belts that are supposed to carry the baggage into the airport's belly and thence onto the plane were broken and the infinite lines wrapped around each other in elaborate jalebi patterns, creating opportunities for creative readings of history by some ("I have always been standing here") and heart attacks for others. The sweet young woman at the Jet Airways counter said that it was the same every day and, indeed, a couple of days later I met an old friend who had missed his flight while waiting in line.

When we finally walked into the preternatural hush of Bangalore's swank-spot, my travelling companion —  who isn't known for her pro-market views — shook her head and said, "How did we (Calcuttans) end up where we are?" The answer, of course, is for the same reason why Air India still exists, despite the fact that I can't step into an Air India flight without feeling the way the people of the village in Washington Irving's story must have felt when Rip Van Winkle, having slept through the last 20 years without realising it, walked in. I want to tell the staff about how the world has changed, except that it seems a little cruel, given that they seem so resolutely committed to not finding out.

If there ever were good reasons for the government to own things like airlines or airports, it's been some years since they stopped being even remotely plausible. We certainly have a private sector that has the capital and the management capacity, and while this may not have always been true, it's worth recalling that the Tatas started Air India. There may be places where there is a military or social or political argument for maintaining a higher level of services than what the market would bear. But the obvious solution is to have private players bid on the least amount of subsidy that would take to get them to provide necessary services.

As for the primal fear of ending up with a monopoly of some kind, the evidence seems to be that while there are indeed some advantages to being big and, therefore, some tendency towards concentration in the airlines industry, there are also advantages of being small and nimble.

The pattern we see the world over is that of a few large carriers that 'serve' the world, offering connectivity across the world to those who are willing to pay for it, and a bunch of 'no-frills' airlines — Ryanair, Easyjet, Air Asia and South-west are well known examples — that offer much lower fares to the young and the patient on the most popular routes. We seem to be headed in the same direction with the new crop of low-cost airlines.

As for airports, there needs to be an effective regulation — it'd be a bad idea, for example, to allow Jet Airways buy airports and decide who gets to land there and at what price. However, we have probably already figured out how to make that work, given that nobody is suggesting that it's a major issue with the airports already privatised. Moreover, the fact that these new airports double as shopping malls makes it less likely that they will raise the landing fee too high — after all, if people don't fly, the mall will be empty.

I think it's clear that public ownership in air transportation in India (I should make it clear that I am not arguing for across-the-board privatisation of the transportation sector — the experience of railways in Britain is a lesson in how privatisation can go wrong) is a purely political gesture. There is clearly a small group of people in the government that's not insensitive to the advantages of owning things like airlines, and are, therefore, happy to side with the institutionalised Left, which desperately needs these trophies to convince themselves — and their ideological allies in the chattering classes — that they remain at the 'vanguard' of the 'fight against global capitalism'.

Never mind that Air India's monthly cash deficit of Rs 400 crore is, for example, enough to pay for private tutoring of every one of the approximately half crore children who take the Class 10 exam every year, at the not ungenerous rate of Rs 800 per month. What do you think an average parent cares more about — a national airline, protecting the jobs of a relatively small number of well-paid airport and airlines employees or the hope that their children would actually master English and Science and Mathematics? When will 'people's parties' actually start making common cause with the people?

Abhijit Banerjee is Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics and Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, MIT

The views expressed by the author are personal





It must have seemed a brilliant idea at the time. Round up the superstars, put them in a bit of cinema and score a viral coup against their age-old rival, Adidas.

When it first hit the tube-waves, Nike's 'Write the Future' campaign was hailed as a stroke of advertising genius. Within the first week of its release, it broke records with an unprecedented 7.8 million views. The ad was successful because it gave an aspirational narrative spectators could relate to — the idea that the only thing separating us bean-eating plebs from heroism are those rare moments where an individual wills himself into history.

But what a difference three weeks makes. With the semi-finals afoot, a curious backlash has begun and the verdict is in: Nike's 'Write the Future' campaign is officially cursed.

Not only have all the superstars featured in the three-minute spot been shamefully ejected from the tournament, but the inopportunely cast Roger Federer also suffered a loss at Wimbledon that many are accrediting to the curse.

What the campaign is more indicative of is that American advertisers still don't understand the nature of the World Cup, which is a far different brand of beast than your typical bout of idol worship.

If this year's tournament has proven anything, it's that the efforts of the most publicised players are futile when they come up against a team that can play with a bit of cohesion. By producing an advert that focused solely on the actions of a few celebs, Nike tempted fate and is being accordingly punished.

But even more hazardous was in how Nike tested the emotional commitment of its audience. Because 'Write the Future' was so well executed, it functioned as an inspiring prelude to the kick-off. And when that decisive moment came for Rooney (or Ronaldo, Ribéry, Cannavaro et al) and they crumpled exactly as they had done in Nike's vision, the meaning of the ad shifted from away 'just do it' and towards a prognostication of doom.

What we have here is a case study of what happens when hype goes awry. It's a cautionary tale for anyone who wants to capitalise on star-power during the World Cup, proving that Adidas was correct to pick Snoop Dogg and Hans Solo for spokespeople, as they have absolutely no chance of mucking it up and disappointing prospective consumers.

The Guardian





It is regrettable that the art of listening has become an undervalued and forgotten art.

We  clamour to be heard and to receive attention. We forget that listening too is an important component to be an effective communicator.

How often we hear parents say, "I don't understand my kids." 

How can we expect to understand them or anyone for that matter if we don't care to hear what they have to say? We must understand that communication is the key to every successful relationship. And the best way to understand a person is by listening.

A true listener is much more understood than a non-stop, compulsive talker. He learns more and does better things in life.

Good listeners do not suffer from loneliness and they have a positive energy that makes you want their company.

They are effective in their work because they know what needs to be done and how to do it.

Listening is no doubt a skill and requires practice.

While listening, we must acknowledge by a simple nod of the head, make a conscious effort not to let our mind wander while listening or ask an occasional question or comment to recap what has been said. "Garb sanskar" is mentioned in Hindu mythology.

The narration or mere listening to the mantras chanted is soothing to the unborn child. Besides, listening to inspiring stories, famous proverbs or music is an excellent method of conditioning the mind. 

Abimanyu was able to enter the chakrayvuha because he had overheard Lord Krishna narrating this art to his mother. Prahlad, the son of the evil Hiranyakashipu was a devotee of Lord Vishnu.

Daily tales of Lord Vishnu were narrated by Narada to the expectant mother and Prahlad imbibed the virtues of godly nature.

So we must try to listen. We can begin by listening to our parents, teachers, friends, wife, husband, and children and even to our enemies.

It will work a small miracle. And maybe, a big one indeed.







I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life," said Ronald Reagan as he acknowledged the finality of Alzheimer's disease that he was diagnosed with and withdrew from public life. Reagan was lucky — sequestered in his Bel Air home and lovingly looked after, his struggle was concealed from the prying public.


George Fernandes' story offers dramatic contrast, as those closest to him fight openly over his affection and property, even inviting the press into their squabble, and those with no shred of connection to him discuss his decline with condescension and pity. Around the time that Fernandes was being persuaded to contest as an independent from Bihar, his wife Leila marched back into his life, to protect him from what she called the "coterie". Ranged against her and her son are Fernandes' companion and colleague of decades, Jaya Jaitly, and his brother Richard Fernandes. Their tug of war has been as public as it gets, with photo-ops on either side — Leila Kabir's determined nurse-like demeanour and her protective grip on his arm, Jaya Jaitly's dramatic pleading at the gates, in search of a few souvenirs of their shared life.


All of this has been so lurid in itself that even the otherwise sensation-hungry media has been circumspect in its commentary — apart from clucking over the fall of a "firebrand leader", now reduced to a nasty rivalry between two possessive women. Further indignity was heaped upon Fernandes when he was summoned by the court on Monday "to ascertain what he wants." His failure to clearly indicate his preference was then remarked on, and the judge concluded that "he looked happy with both parties", but must stay with his wife for now. The entire spectacle has been presented as one of personal decline, rather than a terrible medical condition that ravages your mind and slowly strips you of memory and personhood. As one of our most vivid leaders, George Fernandes has a claim on the public imagination.


In this most vulnerable moment, when he is almost lost to himself, it is downright demeaning for him to be paraded as an exhibit.






Throughout the '50s, India's administrative structures were in flux. Genuine responsibility had devolved to some government departments for the first time; democratic accountability, too, was new. This combined with the all-pervading influence of Nehru's vision of a socialist, paternalistic, technocratic state to occasionally create institutions of governance that may not, in retrospect, make much sense. In 1951, for example, the ministry of food merged with the ministry of agriculture. (They separated briefly in the late '50s, but were soon forced to remarry.) It is this 50-year-old confused joining that, perhaps, Sharad Pawar — agriculture and food minister, and so, so, much else besides — might dissolve, through his own self-interest.


Pawar reportedly met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday to ask that his workload be lightened. He says it is to devote more time to his party, but the uncharitable will note that he was, just last week, elected to head the International Cricket Council. Nonetheless, this may be a moment to consider, carefully, the opening he has given the government — to correct a blunder in institutional design that has had very real consequences in the decades since it was made. Here's the central problem: the two mainline departments under the ministry serve very diff-erent purposes. The department of food wants prices low, wants purchasing cheap enough, so that clients of the public distribution system, and consumers of food more generally, have nothing to complain about. The agriculture department, on the other hand, is supposed to make things easier for producers. In short, the tension that should exist at the cabinet level, more transparent and easier to politically resolve, between the producers and consumers of food, is reduced to a tussle between rival bureaucratic divisions within one ministry.


And that tussle is usually "won" by consumers. Food inflation can destroy governments; and rare is the finance minister who is willing to see procurement prices rise. So, in compensatory ineptitude, the producers of food — capriciously forbidden to export, never given a fair price for their produce without political action — are bribed with subsidies for their water, power, inputs. That one original sin helps sustain the house of cards that is our food policy today, with the dice loaded against efficient producers the way it has been for half-a-century, and with the elimination of these subsidies almost impossible. There is absolutely no doubt that genuine food security will require us to empower producers properly. You cannot do that with the department of agriculture yoked in an unequal partnership to the department of food. Listen to Sharad Pawar, and grant them a divorce now.








Bandhs are perhaps the most vivid reminders of the continued power of old-style politics in India. They are a sign of how little political ideas and political tactics have evolved despite the complete transformation of the Indian economy over the last two decades. A political tactic that cost the nation an estimated Rs 2,735 crore in losses in one single day because of the severe disruption it caused to normal day-to-day economic activities ought to be unacceptable in a rapidly growing economy. But to the country's peril, politics still dominates economics, even in 2010.


In the case of Monday's bandh the proximate cause of a rejuvenated opposition was the government's decision to decontrol and hike prices of key petroleum products — petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene. To make the bandh exercise marginally more credible, the opposition also decided to rake up the issue of price rise in general and the government's seeming inability to control it.


It is of course difficult to deny the seriousness of persistently high inflation. Leave aside the complex mechanics of how it harms growth in the medium term, the fact is that rising prices hurt everyone and on a daily basis, particularly those who do not have index-linked wages: a vast majority of India's population. So, inflation is an emotive political issue.


But the problem of double digit inflation that has been persistent for many months now is quite different from the hike in fuel prices — these will at best raise inflation by just 1 percentage point. It may have been politically convenient to bunch the two just before a disruptive bandh, but it has exposed the political class's own confusion and dishonesty over the issue of price rise and how to tackle it.


It is all too fashionable these days for political parties to reach out with empathy to the ubiquitous aam aadmi, whether on prices in general, or on fuel prices in particular. The bandh was also invoked in the aam aadmi's name. But who really is the aam aadmi and how should politics best reach out to him? In their simplistic construct, politicians would want to tap into all those voters with limited or zero disposable incomes, who also possess a fierce desire to exercise their franchise at the ballot box once every five years. From a politician's point of view, it is this group of people who will most likely value largesse from the state apparatus while determining political fortunes at the hustings. Try and translate this into numbers and you will find that India is a country made up overwhelmingly of the aam aadmi. It is after all a country in which only 3 crore people out of a total 120 crore earn enough to pay income tax and at least 25 per cent live below the poverty line.


So there are plenty of people in need of greater financial resources. But post-liberalisation, it ought to have become an urgent imperative for a majority of these people to access additional resources through the market mechanism and not the state apparatus. Unfortunately, political parties of all persuasions, but particularly of the centre and centre-right, have failed to translate this new reality into a coherent political message.


The state, with its limited resources, can and should only subsidise the poorest, who realistically are not more than 25 per cent of the population. For the rest of the 70 per cent that fall between the taxpayers and the poverty-stricken (the real average aam aadmis), what the state needs to do is to create an enabling environment for the market mechanism to flourish. This group does not need direct subsidies from the government like the poorest 25 per cent do. They need the opportunity that the free market brings. And they will frown upon a bandh that disrupts. This is the vast group of aam aadmis who believes in a new politics of aspiration, not grievance.


But politics has been too timid in buying into this change either rhetorically or indeed through action by carrying out the kind of reforms that would have helped the real aam aadmis reap the fruits of a dynamic market economy. Political parties, frustratingly, still prefer to pander to this group through, to name just a few examples, oil subsidies, public distribution system and protectionist labour laws. And politics is all too willing to take to the streets and disrupt economic activity to protect this regime of unnecessary largesse. One only wishes that similar political energy was spent creating an enabling environment of opportunity through building roads, schools, hospitals and amending socialist policy relics like antiquated labour laws and land laws.


The discourse on inflation is also dominated by old-fashioned, non-reformist thinking across the political spectrum. There is a genuine long-term problem in the rising prices of food items, something that monetary policy alone cannot get a grip on. The solution lies in policy reform that will enhance the availability of food and make its distribution more efficient. Unfortunately, both the government and the opposition have been timid in laying out a bold vision to tackle this problem. The government needs to be more open about imports if a shortage is imminent, decisively giving up the outdated political rhetoric of self-reliance. The government needs to take its productivity stifling intervention (in determining prices and quantities) out of agriculture. We gave up socialism in industry 20 years ago, why is agriculture still being subjected to similar controls? Will political parties come clean on the the political economy of minimum support prices for farmers and retail prices for the final consumers? Why don't political parties, either in government or in opposition, push for more reform in retail when there is plenty of evidence available that the presence of big retail — and their ability to source directly from farmers — will root out commission gobbling intermediaries and help bring down prices?


If it's really serous about the issue of price rise, the opposition ought to be asking all these questions (and more) of the government rather than taking to the streets. The opposition's job should be to raise inconvenient questions of the government, not cause inconvenience to the beloved aam aadmi.


The writer is a senior editor with 'The Financial Express'









The extraordinary spectacle of a tigress sitting in a pond with a crowd of curious onlookers standing perilously close to her, outside the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), which this newspaper carried on July 3, made the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) sit up and take notice. NTCA Member-Secretary Rajesh Gopal sent a concerned message to Maharashtra's chief wildlife warden to send him a report on the incident, as also of the progress and status of a Centrally-funded project to mitigate the man-tiger conflict that has been raging in the TATR landscape (contiguous forest area outside tiger reserve) for the past four years.


Gopal did what he should have. But, ironically, his concern for landscape tigers still isn't officially a part of the tiger conservation regimen in the country. In a recent interview about dwindling tiger numbers and alleged failure of Project Tiger, he reiterates — referring to the previous census figure of 1,411 tigers — "whatever tigers we have are only inside tiger reserves. We have not succeeded in saving tigers outside reserves. There are hardly any tigers outside protected areas." While that's a good way to shield Project Tiger, the facts point otherwise. Those who work in tiger conservation know with certainty that there is a cognisable population of tigers outside the buffer and core areas of tiger reserves. And that nobody is invested in them or cares about bringing them under the umbrella of Project Tiger, which remains restricted to tigers in the reserves.


In 2006, this newspaper was the first to focus on the growing man-tiger conflict in the TATR landscape. Since then, over 60 people have been killed in the conflict and nearly 30 injured, making it one of India's most dangerous areas in terms of such casualties, along with the Sunderbans. Needless to say, this conflict wouldn't exist if there were no tigers in these areas. So why is the NTCA shy of admitting the sizeable presence of tigers in areas outside reserves? It is a non-issue even for independent wildlife experts and conservationists.


As far as TATR is concerned, there could be not less than 20 tigers in the surrounding area with a radius of at least 50 km from its northern fringe. In Vidarbha, which has Maharashtra's entire tiger population, there is one patch of forest (identity being withheld for the safety of the tigers), which is just about 27 sq km and is home to about nine tigers, including two tigresses with five grown-up cubs. Here, all theories that one tiger needs about 20 sq km area, fall flat. Not only have these poor tigers learnt to live in a terribly cramped space, but they have also refrained from the territorial fights that experts predict in such tight conditions. In the two years that their presence has been noted, there has only been one human death. A tigress would actually come to village fields in scorching summer and sit in the cowsheds. A surging crowd watching her from as close as 20 feet would make no difference, showing how she had adjusted to her desperate situation.


So where do these tigers come from and where do they go if left unattended? Clearly, they are a product of Project Tiger and, as such, NTCA can't shrug them off. In TATR, for example, good conservation efforts after 1998 saw a steady rise in tiger numbers. With their numbers growing, it was natural for the tigers to disperse to areas outside TATR. So how can they be seen in isolation of Project Tiger? In fact, had NTCA proudly claimed these for Project Tiger, it would have only enhanced their success and credibility. But instead, it has chosen to disown them, proving that we conserve tigers only to let them die in the absence of any post-conservation regimen. Tragically, while the NTCA doesn't see them as its babies, for the state forest departments wildlife is the last priority in territorial and forest development corporation areas. For them, commercial forestry is the single-most important thing in these forests. Thus, the "outside" tigers have no takers except poachers.


On the one hand, Gopal says there are hardly any tigers outside protected areas (PAs) and in the same breath he also says, "We cannot save tigers by just managing tiger reserves, we have to think beyond that, at the landscape level, and manage the land use around tiger reserves." If we are calling it a "sink" population — one that does not produce enough offspring to maintain itself in coming years — then why do we need to look beyond protected areas? The NTCA needs to explain this ambivalence by accepting that Project Tiger needs to officially take care of "outside" tigers too. If need be, a separate authority or project for these tigers should also be mulled.







What's the difference between Brazil and Argentina?

One day.


That's the line doing the rounds in Rio de Janeiro after Argentina took just 24 hours to follow favorite Brazil in tumbling out of the World Cup. In Buenos Aires, people had been celebrating the Brazilian defeat. Argentine schadenfreude is an unpleasant commodity with a thankfully short shelf life.


OK, time for confessions, I've morphed into a German fan — and not just because the language has a word for pleasure in someone else's pain. A German fan is something I never expected to be. Germany has become the country I could never settle in yet love most. It has played the most exciting football here, not least in demolishing Argentina 4-0, and made the most exciting political statement with its Benetton-ad team.


When you spend a lot of time in conflict zones where people won't change, where they nurture grievance and make a fetish of difference, where they never exhaust a bloody past's capacity to ignite violence, you become a sucker, an easy touch for change. I love Germany for changing in its own way, earnestly.


I love it for becoming Europe's ballast rather than its brute. I love it for facing the past rather than yielding to it. I love this Stuttgart-on-the-Med soccer school where Turkish flair meets the precision that yields the hermetic clunk of a German car door. I love the new Müller-Khedira sweet spot of athleticism and artistry.


Leaving South Africa now, with just four teams left, I've been thinking about our incorrigible thirst for the worst. Those who stayed away out of fear missed an uplifting event, and not just the German bit. The stadiums got finished, the airports, the roads, things worked on the whole. Violence took a breather. South Africans came together, leaving the question that Mohale Ralebitso, a banker, put to me this way: "Can we inhabit this space of unity rather than just visit it?"


I don't know. I do know the naysayers overlooked something invisible, race-blind South African spirit. I also know we're much better at covering conflict than community, and borders than their banishment on Facebook.



Could it be that we're just stuck covering the world in conventional ways, gazing at formal frameworks (like states) that are as obsolete as my old Olivetti? Networks outstrip nations that are left playing catch-up, like those long-haired Argentines chasing trim German shadows. Networks are hopeful. They're where the coming generations live and love.


Americans are the most creative inventors of those networks and the most stubborn in resisting their nation-dissolving impact. Therein lies a good measure of the world's tensions.


I ran into Bassel Nasser here, a Lebanese Shi'ite, born in Sierra Leone, a diamond merchant, heir to a long tradition of Arab traders across Africa, whose best friends are the Jews of the New York and Antwerp diamond exchanges ("It's much easier for me with Israelis than Europeans, we have the same tastes"), and whose worst experiences have come in Sunni Arab countries where the Shi'ites are the butt of every insult. His business partner has put aside diamonds for now to invest in the Lebanese property boom.


Nasser, whose world is not the one you see on maps or read about in headlines, went to Soweto's Soccer City stadium draped in a Lebanese flag and ran into Israelis with an Israeli flag and someone took a photograph of them enveloped in the two flags. "Do you think there will be peace?" Nasser asked me. On the evidence, no, the Middle East will insist change is impossible, the Andy Roddick of global regions, unable to alter its game. But then again, in South Africa, you just can't say reconciliation over history's wounds is impossible.


I think the main difference lies in attitudes to victimhood. Blacks here never succumbed to the victim's paralysing, backward-looking culture, the corrosive coin of the Middle Eastern realm. Blacks lost a war, lived to fight another day, resisted and prevailed. "It's when you perceive yourself as a victim that you become most capable of hatred, and the great majority here do not see themselves that way," Moeletsi Mbeki, a businessman, told me.


Sure, as Nelson Mandela observed, "There is no shortcut to the country of our dreams." South Africa's halfway house has its full share of anguish. But it took the first, hardest step and has not deviated. That's the one Israelis and Palestinians refuse to take.


For South Africa's last game, I drove out across the "platteland" (flat land), the high plateau of the Orange Free State, where apartheid was harshest in the "dorps," or small towns, of Afrikanerdom. Near Excelsior, a few hundred flimsy-looking huts formed a shanty at the roadside. Hundreds of blacks had emerged. They were dancing. They were smiling. They were waving. They were joyous. They had absolutely no reason to be. Or so the statistics of their lives would tell us.


This is the first magical World Cup.


What's the difference between war and peace? One day.


Oh, yes, Germany the Friedensmacht, or peace power, to win.








A demand to reintroduce a universal Public Distribution System (PDS) in the country appears every now and then. Its proponents argue that universal access is necessary for ensuring food security, for better control on prices and for eliminating (at least partially) the evils of exclusion errors in the targeted PDS.


The question is: what are the operational implications of access for all citizens to subsidised foodgrain? They are currently allocated as follows: 10 million tonnes for Antyodaya households; 17 million tonnes for households below the poverty line (BPL); and 20 million tonnes for those above (APL), adding up to 47 million tonnes. Welfare schemes including the mid-day meal programme requires another 5 million tonnes.


The highest procurement of wheat and rice has been in the year 2008-09 (56 million tonnes), the best production year for these crops. It will be difficult to repeat the 2008-09 performance in procurement. The best assumption for procurement every year will be in the region of 20 million tonnes of wheat and 30 million tonnes of rice. Given the vagaries of the monsoon and the volatility in the market, any programme of public distribution of foodgrain in excess of 40-42 million tonnes (excluding welfare schemes) is not practical.


Now, let's look at the foodgrain requirements for a universal PDS. Assuming a total population of 116 crore and an average family size of 5.4, the total number of families works out to 21.5 crore. At 35 kg per family per month, this requires 92-93 million tonnes of wheat and rice. Assuming a 3:2 ratio between rice and wheat, the requirement will be 55 million tonnes of rice and 38 million tonnes of wheat every year. Is it possible to procure these quantities every year? The task of procuring, storing and moving this grain will almost certainly be impossible.


The bigger question, however, will be: where do we get an additional 25 million tonnes of rice and 18 million tonnes of wheat from? The larger part from high production-low procurement states like UP, Bihar and West Bengal. How much more can these states do? Ninety-two million tonnes cannot be procured in a year.


And what happens to the open market if such large procurements are made? The total market arrivals may be of the order of 65 million tonnes of rice and about 50 million tonnes of wheat. If the central pool takes 55 million tonnes of rice and 38 million tonnes of wheat, the net available surplus in the private market will be very small and speculative traders could have a field day.


Let us now take a look at the financial implications: First, what will be the issue price for universal PDS? Theorists would argue that this should be marginally lower than market price. The best alternative could be to fix the issue price as the minimum support price plus freight. However such a proposal would place an additional financial burden on the poor (BPL families get wheat and rice at highly subsidised rates). All citizens getting wheat and rice at BPL rates is not practical; the subsidies involved would be huge, like the distortions that may be created. Thus universal PDS in effect will mean providing foodgrains at APL rates for all non-BPL families. This is no change from the existing arrangement — except for the restoration of APL quotas, which existed prior to 2006-07.


So how much will the exchequer shell out? The net financial burden on the exchequer on account of consumer subsidy alone (inventory costs apart) could be as much as Rs 120,000 crore, depending on the wheat rice ratio. There could then be severe implications on other social and infrastructure development programs apart from the moral hazard of subsidising the rich at the cost of the farmers


Remember, there is no guarantee that all APL cardholders will withdraw their rations every month. In fact many will probably not, even while insisting on a ration card as a proof of identity. In effect, allocating additional grain to APL card-holders will most likely add to the leakages in the system, and provide further opportunities to ration shop keepers for black marketing.


Thus, whatever the compelling arguments in favour of a universal PDS, the scheme is not feasible. It is not possible to procure the quantities of rice and wheat required every year; and a very high level of procurement will distort the open market and trigger a price spiral leading to demands for off-loading FCI stocks at a concessional rate. Financially, the subsidy burden at current prices is not sustainable. And operationally, much larger allocation in a system which is known for leakages and corruption poses a moral hazard. Such leakages into the market and the squeezing of private trade could adversely affect farmers' incomes and agricultural growth.


The writer is a former agriculture secretary. Views are personal








In continuing to declare that he is a "Son of India", the Dalai Lama draws the fury of the Chinese media. The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, has been exiled in India for the last 51 years. That, however, is not the main reason why the Dalai Lama calls himself a son of India.


In an interview published on the occasion of his 75th birthday this week, the Dalai Lama once again acknowledged the intellectual roots of Tibetan Buddhism in India. "I describe myself as a Son of India, firstly because my thoughts come from the Nalanda Buddhist tradition and this body has lived on Indian dal, rice and chapattis during the last 51 years. So, physically also, I am a Son of India. Sometimes it irritates Chinese officials. What to do?" Beijing is surely irritated.


In a blistering attack a fortnight ago, People's Daily, the official voice of the Chinese Communist Party, tore into the Dalai Lama's arguments on Tibet's relationship with India.


Part of it was personal. It quoted a Chinese adage to say that "one would lose his dignity if one is fed by others' alms". The Daily also challenged the historical arguments of the Dalai Lama. "It is true that cultural and religious exchanges took place frequently in history. However, we may ask: would someone who was influenced by culture or religion from another country claim himself a "son" of that country? This doesn't sound reasonable at all", the Daily affirmed.


"The Dalai Lama must have forgotten that Tibetan Buddhism was strongly influenced by Chinese Zen Buddhism throughout its entire process of development... In order to curry favour with his master [India], the Dalai Lama even debased the rich Tibetan culture he defended so hard before this time," the Daily thundered. "More ridiculously", the CCP organ charged, "he began to offer Chinese territory to a foreign country just for his exile life. In 2009, the Dalai Lama made his way to pleasing his master by saying that south Tibet (reference to Arunachal Pradesh) belonged to India starting from 1914. As a matter of fact, the area ruled by the local Tibetan government covering an area of 90,000 square kilometers was never recognised as a separate part from Chinese territory."


Official India, busy with putting Sino-Indian relations back on track, will not be drawn into this debate.


'Core Interests'


It might be a while before some detail from National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon's talks with Chinese leaders is available in the public domain. The highlight of Menon's Beijing trip was the meeting with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Traveling to Beijing as a Special Envoy of Dr. Manmohan Singh, Menon handed over a letter from the PM to Wen.


The only report on the meeting between Wen and Menon was a brief account from the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua. It quoted Wen as telling Menon that China will work with India "to take care of each other's core interests and major concerns". Those who follow the minutiae of Sino-Indian relations might find the reference to "core interests" probably new to the discourse between Delhi and Beijing.


Beijing uses the term "core interests" as a code for the red lines that others should not cross in dealing with China. India too has its inviolable propositions. A conversation between Delhi and Beijing on defining their respective red lines and finding ways to address each other's main security concerns has been long overdue. Such a dialogue is critical for launching a pragmatic and realistic engagement between the two nations.


Maritime past


India's national investments in discovering its past have never matched its intensity of its divisive political arguments about history. In contrast, China's massive devotion of resources to archaeology over the last three decades has yielded handsome dividends. China is now uncovering its maritime history. It is combing its long coastline for under-water shipwrecks, lost treasures and the tell-tale signs of a maritime silk route that once connected Chinese empires to the rest of Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.


With help from American universities and Western institutions, which have the necessary technical means for nautical archaeology, China is going all out to establish that its current aspirations to sea power are rooted in a great civilisational tradition. As part of this effort, China has set up a new museum in Yangjiang city of the southern province of Guangdong.







Having organised a bandh on the same day as the BJP, the Left has now been forced to reply to questions as to whether there was coordination between the comrades and the party that it has, all along, shunned as communal. In the latest issue of its mouthpiece New Age, the CPI says there was "no synchronisation of action" with the BJP.


"We have been fighting against price rise and will continue to fight the disastrous economic policies of UPA-II. We will not desist from it even if somebody will try to taunt us about collaborating with the forces to fight whom we are committed to," the lead editorial says. It adds that the Left's fight against communalism and parochialism will not be affected by organising the bandh on the same day as that of the BJP.


The editorial also takes potshots at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who it says thinks that he is the only person in India who understands economics. "He should know that every housewife who has to manage her household budget on a monthly basis is far better at economics than him," it says.


Flotilla fallout


That the Left has always been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause is known. But with elections just a year away in Kerala, the CPM is taking the ideological position a step forward, showing its symbolic support to Palestine's people — and through that is hoping to reach out to Kerala's estranged Muslims.


The trade unions in Cochin port, led by the CPM's labour outfit, CITU, have decided to boycott Israeli ships and cargo arriving at the port in protest against the siege of Gaza by Israeli forces. The CPM's weekly organ People's Democracy reports the boycott, which it said was also happening in Sweden, United Kingdom, South Africa and other countries.


Kick Dow while down


CPI(M) MP Brinda Karat had in the past demanded a CBI inquiry into the "corrupt practices" indulged in by Dow Chemicals to bribe Indian officials to sell Dursban, a pesticide produced by it, in India. Now that the spotlight is on Dow after the Bhopal gas leak verdict, the CPM has raised the issue once again.


Karat has written a letter to Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar reminding him that he had agreed to institute a CBI inquiry into the matter in 2007. "It is now three years since then. Has the CBI report been received? It is strange indeed that although Dow has had to pay a fine in the US for corrupt practices indulged in within India, the government of India has still not taken any action either against the Indian officials or more importantly the company itself," she says.


The letter, reproduced in People's Democracy, quotes Karat as asking Pawar to make the CBI report public if he has received it. "In any case, since there is prima facie evidence of corruption, it is inexplicable why your ministry is not acting against those involved in bribery and corruption," she says.


Back to the people


Now that the CPM has accepted that moving away from the poor in West Bengal resulted in successive electoral setbacks, the party is hoping to make amends. So the slogan for the CPM now is "go back to the people". But with Assembly polls just under a year away, the party has realised that time might be too short. A look at the organisational tasks identified by the CPM after the civic poll debacle shows the party's intent. Within the time left, it has decided to put in place organisational measures to engage deep and widen mass contact, individually and family-based and hold regular meetings in localities, neighbourhoods, urban areas, and working-class belts.


Besides, plans are afoot to organise popular lectures and political education camps; build up a network teaching the children of the poor, the working class, and the peasants; and draft a specific plan for mass literacy.


Compiled by Manoj C.G.








Sharad Pawar's request to the Prime Minister to be relieved of some of his considerable ministerial duties may be a crucial window of opportunity for the government to push-start a reform agenda in agriculture and food. Food inflation is perhaps the most serious challenge facing the UPA government in its second term, and Sharad Pawar hasn't really risen to meet the challenge. It may not even entirely be his fault as an individual minister—it is a difficult task managing multiple and often conflicting objectives of all the ministries he presides over—agriculture, food, civil supplies and consumer affairs. It does seem unreasonable to expect a single minister to deliver reform on agricultural production and food distribution while keeping consumer interests in mind, all at the same time. It was without doubt a mistake to hand all of these departments to one minister. Now is the time to rectify that costly mistake and separate at least food and civil supplies from the ministry of agriculture. But while that may end certain obvious conflicts of interest—one important conflict is that the agriculture ministry wants maximum return for farmers while the food ministry wants to procure at cheapest price to distribute to consumer—it will not solve the problems of the agriculture and food economy.


The government will still have to press Pawar, who is likely to retain the agriculture portfolio, to undertake massive reforms. At a fundamental level, the government needs to stop meddling in setting prices and output levels in agriculture. The MSP is a powerful political tool to woo farmers but it distorts incentives (away from crops that don't have MSPs to ones that do, for example) and may even be playing a role in food inflation. The MSP is, after all, a one-way street that can only go up no matter what the demand and supply conditions. That may serve farmers' interests but not necessarily consumer interest. The sugar economy, which is even more muddled than the rest of agriculture, also needs desperate reform, something Pawar has been reluctant to do. In the ministry of food, there is a need for the government to reform the moribund FCI, which presides over much leakage and waste. There is also a need to rethink the ineffective public distribution system. A division of responsibilities and change of personnel may put some wind behind these reform measures but the government will still have to show plenty of political will to get the reform through.







The reported decision of the government to split the royalty from publicly funded research projects between the researchers, the institution and the government in the new Protection and Utilisation of Publicly Funded Intellectual Property Bill, which is to be reintroduced in the monsoon session of Parliament, is a welcome step that can help accelerate the pace of innovations and encourage patenting. This is especially so since publicly funded R&D, through universities, institutions engaged in research and government organisations, accounts for almost three-quarters of the R&D spending in the country. A major complaint that has arisen in recent years is that commercialisation of research from these institutions has been hindered by the lack of incentives for the individual researcher, as intellectual property rights originating from publicly funded research were bestowed on the institutions or on the government. The new Bill will hopefully bring in a more appropriate legislative framework that will encourage greater commercialisation of publicly funded research. The potential is large, as patenting is still not a very common activity among Indian researchers, neither in the institutions of higher learning nor in government-funded institutions. The sceptics' fear that such incentives would spur research in the wrong direction by shifting focus from fundamental research to more commercially viable projects is unfounded, given that the global experience shows no such major shift. Moreover, the financial incentives provided by some of the leading research institutions like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research , Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the IITs have led to some improvement in their workings.


But merely improving the incentive framework alone cannot help improve the targeted levels of innovation activity. Faculty innovation in higher institutions is influenced by a number of factors apart from the incentive structure. Closer investigation shows that some of the main drivers of patenting among Indian researchers include exposure to global practices and closer interaction with industry, both of which remain severely constrained in the current scenario. This can change only when individual institutions embark on large scale exchange programmes, both with industry and also with institutions abroad. Innovation can also be encouraged by giving added weights for innovation in performance evaluations, another major drawback that has yet to be tackled. The country can also take some valuable lessons from the successful research programmes of foreign companies that have invested large funds to tap the full potential of the skilled manpower in the country.









Last year, roughly at this time, I wrote in my column, "When the Met forecast was 96% of the Long Period Average with a variation of 5%±, we asked you not to worry but cautioned that in some fortnights and some regions (the Met has 36 such agro met zones) there could be problems around this average." In 2009-10, the growth of agricultural GDP was 0%, which is not great news but since agriculture now accounts for less than a quarter of GDP, the economy still grew at 8% that year. Rainfall failures cause misery but its effect on growth is less than that of global slowdowns and declines in exports and FDI. In fact, India is no longer an economy that is a gamble on the monsoons. In the last three decades, we have had our share of droughts but low-growth years have been very few. In the mid-1990s, I wrote an inaugural address for a national economics conference, which showed that until the mid-1970s, half the year's growth was negative and in the other half the economy grew between 3% and 6%, giving us the average Hindu growth rate. But since then, we had only two years with a growth of less than 3%. Arvind Panagariya and Arvind Virmani said so some years later, but the world discovered it only this decade. Our own understanding matters. Quicker understanding and reactions based on that is important for outcomes.


There are four stories here. First, a meteorological and an agricultural drought are, to an extent, two different issues. Second, the Indian economy is no longer a gamble on the monsoons. Third, an agricultural drought has very specific effects on crops and regions, and the rainfall pattern on more important effects like drinking water and employment. Fourth, tracking the events and ameliorating policies in a time-bound manner are essential. The name of the game is not to set up another EGoM, but to get going. These arguments were detailed in a Global Investor Conference Call organised by Morgan Stanley on August 13, 2009, and released as a research report titled Drought, Agriculture, and GDP Growth Outlook-A Perspective.


Take the agricultural and meteorological drought. Spacing or timing and regional spread of rainfall are important for agriculture and the economy. Last year, we were all Cassandra's but we swam against the tide. Rainfall failures of above 60% occurred in Punjab, Haryana and western UP. But these are highly irrigated areas (above 80%, with Punjab above 90%) and so I argued that the impact on grain production would be little. Since in the non-grain areas rainfall failure was less, if there was an average rabi, agricultural GDP could almost be at the previous year's level—the way it worked out. But I did argue that "the loss on delay in sowing and to an extent in arable area has already taken place. Planted crops in the rainfed regions which did not get rain will give less yield. Marginally less, but less all the same. In some regions the story will be worse." This year, last year's stories seem to have been highly influential. For now, everybody is arguing that the rainfall pattern is not important.


This is equally wrong and we would like to swim against the tide again. The Met has told us that between June 1 and 23 the monsoon rainfall was 11% less than normal. The Met boys are happy because their forecast is that this deficiency will be made up. But that is a meteorological view. From the agricultural perspective, the delay in sowing has already taken place and the rains were 12% below normal until June 27. Unlike last year, the big losses are in the dry areas of Malwa, Gujarat and parts of the Deccan. Delayed sowing and the fall in acreage under the most profitable crops has already taken place. In some of these areas, last year was also less than normal, making it a second year effect. A three-week delay in sowing can affect yield up to between 6-9%, if we look at past data. The financial loss is more, on account of sub-optimal cropping sequences. The normal sowing pattern in the country is well known. For paddy, pulses and oilseeds, it is in early June, and in Kerala, Karnataka and the hilly areas it is in May. Cotton is sown earlier. So let's get real. Now there is the Crop Weather Group under the secretary of agriculture and I am sure they know all this and they are resourceful and alert. I am sure will do their best. Some of our great agricultural scientists will go on the tube and we will get sound bites on the late planting seed. But the ministry of agriculture's kharif preparation meetings are normally held in March because it takes time to mobilise policy. Crash programmes save some of the damage but have limits, even with the kind of extremely competent people we have.


The government needs to be supported in the stand it has taken on pulse prices. The problem now, as the deputy governor of RBI said last week, is that there is very little understanding of the structural issues. He was quite clear that this is the cause of the food price rise, not the rain delay. This is the problem to solve rather than fix the vegetable and oilseed grower. Incidentally, oilseeds are grown in a big way in the rain delay regions and to emasculate their incentives is both inefficient and callous. The Economic Survey repeats what we have said all along that for agriculture we need variable tariffs within bounds. This should be the framework for supply planning today, tomorrow and for the next year.


—The author is a former Union minister








Despite significant development over the Plan period, the current level of infrastructure falls short of the requirement. The visible signs of inefficiencies and shortfalls include increasingly congested roads and power failures. But India's economic performance in the recent two decades has emphasised the urgency of accelerating its infrastructure development. India's Eleventh Five Year Plan has laid great stress on infrastructure development and aims to raise investments in the core infrastructure sectors to an estimated $500 billion, compared to the actual investment of $198 billion in the previous five years. Besides the significant scaling up of investments, the substantial increase in share of investment assigned to the private sector is a distinctive feature. The share of private sector investments in the seven core infrastructure sub-sectors has been projected at 30%, though it was not realised. The sharp increase in the share of the private sector points to the perceived urgency of infrastructure development and the growing international experience in PPP in its supply. Considering that funding is a major constraint in public sector budgets, the foremost benefit of adopting the PPP route is the ability to access capital funding.


Several initiatives have been taken by the government to create an enabling framework for PPPs, of which opening up more sectors to private investment, promoting levy of user charges, setting up regulatory institutions, extending fiscal incentives to infrastructure projects, standardising contractual documents and streamlining approval mechanisms are some. The government has also taken steps to address the financing needs of these projects through setting up the IIFCL and the Viability Gap Funding scheme. The World Bank and ADB are also providing technical support for the capacity building requirements in the sector.


The use of PPPs for delivering infrastructure services now has 12 years of experience in India, with the majority of projects coming in the last 5-6 years. There have been about 460 such projects costing about Rs 2,25,000 crore. The total number of projects increased at the CAGR of 20% during 1990-2008 and the value of PPP projects increased at the rate of 70%. This implies that this mode of development has penetrated into relatively bigger projects over the years. PPP gathered momentum in sectors such as national highways, major ports, power generation, civil aviation, etc. Road projects account for 60% of the total number and 45% of the total value of PPP projects since the average size of road projects is relatively small. Ports account for 10% of the total number of projects but contribute 30% in terms of total value due to a relatively larger average project size.


State-wise analysis highlights that Karnataka, AP, Rajasthan, MP and Tamil Nadu have taken pro-active steps and have taken up the maximum number of PPP projects in India. But in terms of value, AP, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Sikkim have been the leading states.


PPPs have compensated for the budgetary and borrowing constraints of the governments. They also imply efficiency gains, efficient use of resources, availability of modern technology and better project design. They have also led to faster implementation, reduced lifecycle costs and optimal risk allocation. The private sector has welcomed the central government's attempts to encourage private sector-led growth and investment. Projects in the roads sector now attract far more bidders than they did five years ago. Some of the projects such as Coimbatore Bypass, Mumbai-Pune Expressway, Pipavav and Mundra ports, Delhi and Hyderabad airports, Mundra and Sasan UMPP demonstrate the efficacy of PPP projects in India.


The Economic Survey (2008-09) notes six key hurdles faced by PPPs: policy and regulatory gaps; inadequate availability of long-term finance; inadequate capacity in public institutions and public officials to manage PPP processes; inadequate capacity in the private sector—both developer/investor and technical manpower; inadequate shelf of bankable infrastructure projects that can be bid out to the private sector; and inadequate advocacy to create greater acceptance of PPPs by the stakeholders. In short, pretty much every aspect of government functioning! Undoubtedly, India has to proceed with caution with respect to PPPs, ensuring necessary checks and balances—the benefits of private-sector inefficiencies will come at a price.


To make PPPs a success, state governments need to establish full-fledged PPP departments mandated with developing the core competencies, policy framework and public discourse. Lessons and experiences of other emerging markets in this context would also be helpful. PPPs are here to stay and have a big role to play in catering to India's gargantuan infrastructure needs.


—The author is with the National Council of Applied Economic Research. This article is coauthoured by Pooja Ramavat Goel










After the recent stock market corrections because of the credit crisis in Greece, Portugal and Spain, valuations of emerging markets, including India, have once again become attractive and global liquidity is expected to remain robust because of the low interest rates in developed countries. Data from Emerging Portfolio Fund Research show that the four biggest emerging markets—India, Brazil, China and Russia—accounted for a bulk of over $60 billion investment since 2009 till date, of which India accounted for $18 billion.


BSE Sensex has ended the June quarter at a level of 17,700, marking its third consecutive quarter of consolidation. An analysis of Morgan Stanley Capital International indices shows that the Indian markets are among the best performing of all emerging countries, even at a time when the markets of the developed countries are still showing negative year-to-date returns. Earnings growth has been the bedrock of Indian equities during the up-cycle, and markets will certainly look for more cues on the sustenance of the trend. Going ahead, the main feature of the earnings growth would be the rising contribution of domestic sectors, which would contribute over half of the aggregate earnings.


Domestic factors like improving fiscal positions because of the success of 3G and BWA auctions, release of the second draft of the DTC and the government's decision to deregulate oil prices are indicators of the government's policy towards reforms and have boosted FIIs' confidence in Indian equities and capital flows. While inflation still remains a major concern, the normal progress of the Southwest monsoon would bode well for the markets.


Interestingly, during the quarter ended June, DIIs pumped $1.6 billion in the Indian markets. In fact, DIIs, led by LIC, account for over 53% of the cumulative net inflows into the markets since FY 2008. Better quality flows from domestic institutions will signal a more long-term investment approach towards Indian equities and absorb any shock of FIIs selling in the future. Analysts expect that the corporate results of quarter ended June will show decent top line and bottom line growth, and companies that are focused on the domestic economy and consumption would continue to do well and get higher ratings than companies exposed to the headwinds of the global economy.










That ideologically polar opposites, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties, chose to organise a nationwide bandh on the same day for the same cause speaks to the importance of the issue at stake: not just a hike in fuel prices but ushering in, without any public discussion, of a decontrolled price regime first for petrol, and later for diesel. Although they took to different platforms, constituents of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Left parties ensured maximum impact in the States where they have a strong presence. Several partners of the United Progressive Alliance government are unhappy with the hike and indeed the bandh call held resonance for political parties across the ideological spectrum. While some of the parties not affiliated to the UPA, the NDA, and the Left — notably the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh and the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janshakti Party in Bihar — did not participate in the general strike, they too have expressed opposition to the price hike. Indeed, the RJD and the LJP are planning a protest in Bihar on July 10. States ruled by the NDA and the Left parties — Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, and Kerala — witnessed near-total participation in the strike. The bandh call also evoked a significant response in several other States, including Congress-ruled Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Delhi. Even where the State governments were pre-disposed toward busting the strike, air, rail and road traffic were affected, and many shops and establishments closed.


By embarking on decontrolling fuel prices at a time of high inflation and rising prices, the UPA government showed it cared little for popular sensibilities. With Assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Assam almost a year away, the Congress leadership seems to have cynically calculated that if there was such a thing as the right time for an unpopular measure, it was now. Decontrol of the price regime would not only benefit private oil companies, but also pave the way for the entry of multinational companies in retail of petroleum products. By linking the prices of petrol and diesel to international crude prices, the government is, in effect, surrendering the responsibility for protecting consumer interests. But there is no political insulation from rising prices. Although the bandh did cause inconvenience to the public by disrupting normal life in several States, it would have served its purpose if it forced the government to rethink deregulation in this case. If the government is serious about intervening in case of volatility in international crude prices, as stated by Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora, why should it not cease and desist from decontrolling the price regime in the first place?






The act of a gang that cut off the hand of a college teacher, by wielding an axe on a thoroughfare in Kerala in broad daylight, had Talibanism writ all over it. The State has been noted historically for the peaceful co-existence of different faiths and beliefs. This act of barbarism, however, points to the rise of blood-thirst driven by religious fundamentalism that certain fringe elements may be seeking to impose on the State. That it was a planned operation carried out with brutal intent adds to the shock. Without reference to the nature of the alleged provocation behind the act, what has happened is a challenge to civilised society and the rule of law. After all, the management of the college concerned had suspended the teacher for an inappropriate reference to the Prophet that appeared in an examination question paper and apologised for the aberration. The law has been taking its course and a criminal case against the teacher was being pursued. What the criminal fanatics have managed to do is to put on the defensive those who support the secular-democratic cause, and give a handle to majoritarian intolerance. The culprits need to be apprehended and prosecuted immediately.


If there is a silver lining here, it is that every political party in Kerala, organisations across the country representing both the religions concerned, and democratically minded sections of society have been prompt in condemning Sunday's savagery. Hearteningly, several Muslim youth organisations came forward to offer blood to the victim as he lay fighting for life in a Kochi hospital. To its credit, the State government has acted swiftly and decisively at every stage — a fact acknowledged amply during the course of a discussion in the State Assembly. The House condemned the incident in one voice. Most important, the atrocity did not trigger any communal backlash. But there is a larger lesson here. Freedom of expression has increasingly come under attack from religious fanatics in democratic and secular India and it is the duty of society and the political system to intervene more effectively to defend those who are targeted even if they express unpopular views. At the same time, those who work in academia and those who value intellectual freedom and creativity must be sensitive to the political-social contexts, which are quite often fragile if not volatile. All sections must unite to ensure that the heart-rending tragedy of a teacher making a misjudgment and ending up losing his hand to an act of Talibanesque savagery is never repeated.










"My sister, this should explain much," begins London-raised Dhiren Bharot's 1999 chronicle of his life as a jihadist: "cross the line," he urged her.


Bharot's The Army of Madinah lashed out at the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir. It was a "semi-farcical" and "secondary rate jihad" for which "thousands upon thousands of guest mujahideen are being slaughtered at a phenomenal pace." Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence, Bharot went on, were using foreign jihadists as "cannon fodder." He suggested that the jihadists focus on targeting the West, instead of confining jihad "to the mountain-tops of foreign countries."


More than a decade after they were written, Bharot's ideas are finding increasing resonance among jihadists in Pakistan — posing a growing problem for Islamabad and a new order of threat to India.


Last month, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram delivered a firm message to Islamabad. Making clear that he was less than satisfied with the action Pakistan had taken so far against the perpetrators of the November 2008 Mumbai attack, he pointed to the "mountain of evidence" indicting the Lahore-based leadership of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. "Not more than two of the seven arrested by Pakistan," Mr. Chidambaram said, "are frontline people."


Pakistan has reason not to meet Mr. Chidambaram's demands: at least two serving ISI officers are now known to have been involved in the Mumbai attack. But the ISI also confronts a second problem that has little to do with India. The Lashkar, the state's most durable political asset, is losing legitimacy despite its vast resources and infrastructure. In jihadist chat rooms, and through pamphlets handed out at the Lashkar's headquarters at Muridke, the organisation has been accused of treachery for failing to join the war against the Pakistani state and the West.


Said al-Masri's message


In coming years, the competitive power struggle could transfigure the structure of the jihadist movement in Pakistan — and with it, the nature and scope of the threat to India. Last month, the al-Qaeda's media wing, al-Sahab, released a posthumous audio message from Said al-Masri, also known as Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a top operative killed in a United States airstrike earlier this summer. In his 26-minute message, translated and made available to The Hindu by the Washington DC-based Middle East Media Research Institute, al-Masri urged "the youth of our Muslim nation to inflict damage on the enemies of Allah the Exalted, the Americans, on their own soil, and wherever they are to be found."


For the first time, though, al-Masri referred to the Pakistan-based jihadist, Muhammad Illyas Kashmiri, as an official part of the al-Qaeda — and made public his role in an attack on India. "I bring you the good tidings," he said, "that last February's India operation was against a Jewish locale in the west of the Indian capital [sic., throughout], in the area of the German bakeries — a fact that the enemy tried to hide — and close to 20 Jews were killed in the operation, a majority of them from their so-called statelet, Israel. The person who carried out this operation was a heroic soldier from the 'Soldiers of the Sacrifice Brigade,' which is one of the brigades of Qaedat al-Jihad [the al-Qaeda's formal name] in Kashmir, under the command of Commander Illyas Kashmiri, may Allah preserve him."


From the text, it is clear that al-Masri had little knowledge of the bombing of the German Bakery in Pune. Pune is not to the west of New Delhi; it is not Jewish-owned; and no Israelis were killed there. There would thus be no reason to take al-Masri's claims seriously — if it weren't for the testimony of Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley.


Born in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in 1964, Kashmiri fought with Qari Saifullah Akhtar's Harkat ul-Jihad-

e-Islami. Early in 2000, Harkat leader Maulana Masood Azhar — released from jail in a hostages-for-prisoners swap that followed the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to Kandahar — founded the Jaish-e-Mohammad. Kashmiri, who believed that the group was too close to Pakistan's military establishment, refused to join. From 2007, following the use of force against jihadists who had taken control of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad, Kashmiri began working closely with the jihadists opposed to the Pakistani state.


Investigators in both the U.S. and India say Headley made contact with Kashmiri after the Lashkar proved unwilling to commit resources to an attack on the offices of the Jyllands Posten in Copenhagen — a newspaper that incensed many Muslims across the world by publishing cartoons they felt were blasphemous.


Having joined the Lashkar in 2000, Headley went on to play a key role in its operations, among other things collecting the video footage that helped to guide a 10-man assault team to its targets in Mumbai in November 2008. But Headley became increasingly frustrated with the Lashkar's unwillingness to support operations against the West — the priority, he believed. He railed against the Lashkar's leadership, saying it had "rotten guts." "I am just telling you," he hectored a Lashkar-linked friend during an intercepted September 17, 2009 phone call, "that the companies in your competition have started handling themselves in a far better way."


That competing company was the al-Qaeda. Headley visited Kashmiri's base at Razmak in 2009, and came

away impressed. "The bazaar," he wrote in an Internet post, "is bustling with Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians, Bosnians, some from European Union countries and, of course, our Arab brothers. According to my survey, the foreign population is a little less than a third of the total. Any Waziri or Mehsud I spoke to seemed grateful to God for the privilege of being able to host the foreign Mujahideen".


Headley told Indian investigators that dozens of mid-level Lashkar commanders had joined this influx. Evidence supports his claim. Earlier this month, the International Security Assistance Force announced the detention of a Lashkar leader in eastern Afghanistan's Khogyani district. The Lashkar cadre had earlier been linked to a string of attacks in eastern Afghanistan and Kabul. They had also fought alongside the al-Qaeda and the Taliban against the U.S. and Afghan forces, notably in a massive July 2008 assault on a combat outpost in Wanat.


For the Lashkar leadership and its allies in the ISI, this poses a real problem. If the organisation conducts large-scale attacks against India or the West, it will expose the Pakistani state to intense international pressure; if it does nothing, it will risk losing its cadre and its constituency.


In purely ideological terms, there is little difference between the anti-Pakistan jihadists and the Lashkar: it is often forgotten that bin-Laden's ideological mentor, Abdullah Azzam, was among its co-founders. In a March 2007 speech, Saeed lashed out at Pakistan's rulers saying they and their pro-U.S. policies had led to "reckless measures in utter contempt of the safety, security, and well-being of their people." He also demanded that the Pakistan Army "stop fighting the war of the enemies of Islam and Muslims in Waziristan and other places."


Prudence over valour


Pakistan's intelligence services understand that this polemic as well as the seminaries and charitable institutions the Lashkar operates sustain the ideological firmament in which anti-state jihadists operate. But Pakistan fears that action against the Lashkar will empower jihadists hostile to the state or, worse, provoke a head-on collision with a badly needed ally. Punjab politicians, who know that their fragile party structures will not survive a confrontation with the better-organised and highly armed jihadists, have chosen prudence over valour.


No one is clear just how the pieces will finally fall. It is certain, though, that the al-Qaeda seeks to undermine the Lashkar's status as the sole agent of jihad against India. In April 2006, bin-Laden himself spoke of a "Crusader-Zionist-Hindu war against the Muslims." His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, warned Pakistanis in September 2003 that General Pervez Musharraf was plotting to "hand you over to the Hindus and flee to enjoy his secret accounts." Now, al-Masri's speech suggests, the al-Qaeda has found the means it needs to target India. Kashmiri's networks may well have financed the Pune attack through Indian Mujahideen operatives earlier affiliated to the Lashkar.


The Lashkar cadre are responding. This March, they paraded with posters illustrated with images of the burning Taj Mahal Hotel, bearing slogans promising to "liberate Kashmir, Pakistan's lifeline, from the enemy," bring about the "freedom of the Muslims of Gujarat, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and the rest of India," and to save "Pakistan's parched waters" from Indian dams. Instead of acting on these objectives, though, the Lashkar has been forced to bide its time.


Put simply, the Lashkar can continue to do nothing and wither away — or act in the hope of regaining space ceded to anti-Pakistan jihadists, even if doing so exposes Islamabad to significant strategic risks.


Since November 2008, India has faced few major jihadist attacks — a consequence, in large part, of international pressure on Pakistan to rein in the Lashkar. But as competition between the jihadist companies Headley spoke of intensifies, both sides will have incentives to act. India's strategic community must think hard on how to deal with the new lines of threat — against which its traditional diplomatic and coercive tools will be of no use.











Just over a month ago at the Cancer Institute at Adyar in Chennai, this writer was sitting by the bedside of the ailing Dr. S. Krishnamurthi, recording a long interview with him. He spoke haltingly and in a low voice, but with perfect command over his thoughts. Winding up, he said: "Yes, I'm contented with my life, I've lived not for myself but for others. No, I'm not satisfied with what we've achieved at the Cancer Institute. There's more to be done. But I've no regrets." It was the voice and tone of a pioneer who had, with a sense of mission, struggled hard and long to build an institution and was now grappling with a vastly different environment.


Dr. Krishnamurthi passed away on July 2, 2010. He was closely associated with the Cancer Institute. In a nation that does not have too many quality institutions of its kind or purposeful institution-builders, the significance of his life and work becomes evident through a brief chronicle of the Cancer Institute.


The force behind the establishment of the Cancer Institute was Dr. S. Muthulakshmi Reddy, the social reformer and legislator. But by the time it started functioning in 1954, she was aged and ailing. It was her son, Dr. Krishnamurthi, who spearheaded its growth and gave it thrust and direction, together with Dr. V. Shanta, who joined the Institute soon after its inception. With a team of dedicated doctors, they built up the Institute as a model of comprehensive care, technological excellence and outreach for the poor. It has become synonymous with the names and personalities of Dr. Krishnamurthi and Dr. Shanta.


The Cancer Institute has many achievements to its credit. It was the first medical institution in South India exclusively devoted to cancer treatment. Moreover, it was a comprehensive institution, being a centre for research, teaching and prevention, and advocacy. Structured as a private trust and working on the principle of non-profit voluntarism, it struggled to mobilise funds through donations and government grants, acquire land and buildings. Even after so many years, the memory of his battles with ignorance, apathy and bureaucratic corruption made Dr. Krishnamurthi bristle with anger in his hospital-bed. Periodically, the Institute acquired advanced technology and cutting-edge equipment to keep its vanguard position. It set up protocols for treatment which are considered to be landmarks in cancer treatment.


To give one example, it pioneered the multimodal approach in which medical, surgical and radiation oncology were all given their due place, and the protocol for a case was developed by a multi-specialty team. The protocol developed for case notes ensured that follow-up was a team exercise, not pegged exclusively on an individual doctor. Collectively, over five and a half decades and across thousands of cases, a finely honed institutional memory was generated which all doctors could draw upon. At the crux of its founding philosophy was a commitment to make treatment and care accessible to the poor. The abiding principle was that a patient with curable cancer should not be denied treatment for lack of money. Currently, up to 60 per cent of the patients receive free or highly subsidised treatment. For all these reasons, it was, and is, a unique institution. It has trained and nurtured many young doctors: they have fanned out all over the country and abroad.


From its inception the Institute embodied the Nehruvian spirit of progress and national development. But the culture of the Institute goes back to a much earlier source. In the 1920s, Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy, amidst her energetic and fiery campaigns for the emancipation of women and girls, and the abolition of the Devadasi system, started her quest to set up a separate cancer hospital, having lost her young sister to cancer. At a time when cancer was considered to be a karma vyadhi, inescapably fatal, she battled on for three decades to persuade people that cancer was curable. What was needed was timely and specialised treatment. She did this under the umbrella of the Women's Indian Association (a branch of the All India Women's Conference) of which she was the 'Chairwoman'. Thus the same impulses that fired her engagement with social reform, nationalism and in some ways, Gandhian philosophy, pervaded her endeavours in institutionalising cancer treatment. This is the legacy that Dr. Krishnamurthi inherited and expanded on. His devotion to his mother and her ideals shone throughout his conversation. He went to the United States for specialised training in oncology and found a job in the Royal Cancer Hospital London. When he wrote to his mother about the move, he received a telegram that she was seriously ill. He returned immediately — to find her hale and hearty. She said: "I sent you abroad to study so that you could come back and serve our people, not live comfortably in a foreign country." Dr. Krishnamurthi gave a slight smile at this memory.


The style and culture of the Institute have been shaped the values of simplicity, austerity, hard work with a service orientation, belief in science as the harbinger of progress, commitment to national development not motivated by monetary rewards. Dr. Krishnamurthi embodied all this in a personal way. That hot morning in late May, both of us were sweating while conversing, but he courteously told me that he would switch on the air-conditioner at 12 noon and switch it off at 4 p.m. That was the discipline he had set for himself.


Healthcare in India has been transformed in recent years. Apart from the voluntary and government sectors, and small, family-run nursing homes, the rise of corporate health care institutions based on business models has created tremendous opportunities for some, and inequalities of access for many. New objectives, salaries and ethos have led to a devaluation of voluntarism. Even religious trusts with enormous funding from foreign devotees are now inclined in this direction. The internal structure of voluntary non-profit institutions led by a few charismatic individuals have not yet successfully adapted to this situation.


The Cancer Institute has been facing a severe problem of young doctors leaving it within a few years of joining. Market salaries for super-specialties like oncology are extremely high, and till recently the Institute's pay scales were embarrassingly low. Private practice is not permitted. The workload on the doctors is heavy, leaving little time for research. A doctor may sometimes see 170 patients in a day. Emphasis on close monitoring of institutional ideals comes in the way of the autonomy needed for motivating talent and spurring innovation. Cancer demands complex tertiary treatment with huge financial investments and the Institute needs to upscale its functioning. It has a single location — Chennai — but draws patients from rural Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. The sheer volume of patients slows down delivery and inhibits innovations tailored to the individual's need. Rather than cater to all stages of treatment and levels of seriousness of cases, it may need to limit itself to advanced cases and create capabilities in smaller units in other cities and towns.


In his last years, Dr. Krishnamurthi along with Dr. Shanta and others was engaged in an internal institutional debate on these issues. A proactive Governing Council had started initiating changes while keeping the original spirit intact. Institutions, like rebellious sons of overwhelming fathers, have to come into their own, in order to re-energise the old ideals and imbue them with relevance in new circumstances. Till his last breath, Dr. Krishnamurthi was alive to the complexities of nurturing and passing on a precious legacy.


( Kamala Ganesh is Professor of Sociology at Mumbai University. She is working on a project to archive the Cancer Institute for the Avabai Wadia Archives for Women, SNDT Women's University, Mumbai.)











Twenty-six years after the world's worst industrial disaster in Bhopal, India has a new National Green Tribunal


Act, for "effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environment protection" and giving relief and compensation for damages. Environmental activists and those faced with haphazard development cannot be blamed if they view this new law with a sense of déjà vu. The country already has a National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) which is a paper tiger. Justice (retd.) N. Venkatachala of the Supreme Court, who headed the NEAA for three years, demands the new Green Tribunal should be scrapped. He holds out that sections 14 to 17 which relate to the powers and jurisdiction of the new Act undermine its purpose. At a state- level consultation held on June 19 in Mumbai, Mr. Venkatachala was scathing about the ambiguities in the Act which does not fix responsibility on who should pay damages in case of an accident and limits complaints to five years since the inception of the problem. The new act also allows industries to appeal before the Tribunal if they fail to get environmental clearance. How green then is this tribunal?


For nearly 30 years Pramila washed her husband's clothes, little knowing she would one day contract a fatal disease. Her husband was a sweeper in an asbestos factory in a Mumbai suburb. Pramila was diagnosed with asbestosis, a fatal disease, which has a latency period of ten to 15 years. The asbestos fibres from her husband's clothes were the culprit. Goa-based lawyer Krishnendu Mukherjee who is dealing with a case on behalf of such victims argues that Pramila and others like her will find it difficult to approach the National Green Tribunal, created by the new Act passed by Parliament which received Presidential assent on June 2, 2010. Under section 15 (3) of the Act, applications for compensation, relief or restitution of property or environment have to be made within a period of five years from the date on which the cause for such compensation or relief first arose. Or to put it simply, Pramila whose disease took over ten years to manifest probably, has no chance before this specially created Tribunal.


Before Pramila the thousands of people maimed by the Bhopal gas leak or other environmental disasters did not have any chance of justice from the Indian government. As a country we shy away from fixing liability and bringing criminals to book. And when we do bring laws, mostly without discussion or debate, to redress the situation, they remain on paper. Barring three consultations on the National Green Tribunal bill before it was passed, organised by NGOs, there was no public debate. The government's past record in creating a Green Tribunal reeks of wilful neglect and a singular lack of political will. In the first state-level consultation in Mumbai after the new Act was passed, organised by the School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and The Access Initiative (TAI), New Delhi, lawyers, activists and scientific experts discussed how this flawed piece of legislation could be made effective.


The National Environment Tribunal Act 1995 was meant to provide for strict liability for damages arising out of

any accident occurring while handling hazardous substances and for establishing a National Environment Tribunal for effective disposal of cases arising from such accidents. Mr. Venkatachala regretted that the government had put such a law which had stringent provisions in cold storage for 15 years to oblige the powers that be. Two years later, in 1997, the government passed the National Environment Appellate Authority Act, to provide for appeals only against orders granting environmental clearance by the Central or State governments. A retired judge of the Supreme Court would head the Appellate Authority. Mr. Venkatachala points out that the dilution of service conditions of the chairperson ensured that after him, no one was appointed for over ten years and the authority functions with retired bureaucrats.


Even if you ignore the experience of the past Tribunal, the new Act is far from ideal. For Ritwick Dutta, TAI coordinator and environmental lawyer, the single most damaging aspect of the Act is the fact that aggrieved industries too can approach the Tribunal. Now whenever the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) rejects environmental clearance, it can be challenged under section 16 (i) of the new Act. Dutta says that less than one per cent applications for clearance are rejected by the MOEF in any case. The whole purpose of positive discrimination gets defeated, he points out.


There is no doubting the necessity of a green tribunal. It functions in 134 countries. The government has to treat a grievance redressal body with more respect. However, there is also the risk of "tribunalising" this country with a plethora of tribunals to decide each controversial sector that affects the environment, says R. Sreedhar of Environics Trust, a part of TAI. The issue goes beyond the Tribunal as many of the projects that come up for clearance may not be required, he adds, giving the example of the proposed Renuka dam on the Giri river which will displace 32 villages in Himachal Pradesh so that New Delhi gets enhanced drinking water supply.


In addition shoddy environment Impact assessments (EIAs) are conducted, often not even remotely appraising the projects in question.It is not EIAs but cumulative impact assessments that are assuming importance specially in critical areas like Konkan in Maharashtra and in the Himalayas where a number of projects are proposed. Expert opinion relied upon by the government also came for wide criticism at the consultation. A case in point that was cited was that of Dr. C.R. Babu, vice chairperson of the Expert appraisal committee on environment impact assessment of thermal power and coal mine projects. According to the minutes of the 60th meeting held in New Delhi on December 11, 12, 2009, Dr. Babu who is heading a sub group told the Committee of the findings during the visit to Ratnagiri district to assess the impact of the thermal power plant (TPP) at Jaigad on the ecosystem. The minutes say, "He [Dr. Babu] stated that emission from TPP can be drawn more or less parallel with vehicular emissions. Hence in the absence of existing operating TPPs in Ratnagiri, the Sub-Group observed that Mango plantations in the vicinity of major roads where heavy vehicular traffic are present seem very healthier than those further away from town. It was felt that the reason could be SO {-2} emission gets converted into sulphate and NO {-x} into nitrate form, which may be good for the mangoes or other vegetations. Prof. Babu also stated that impact on flowering and fruiting due to vehicular emissions even if drawn parallel to TPP emission however need to be studied for which Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth is to complete the study." An ill informed co-relation by Dr. Babu to say the least.


The Act does not fix the responsibility of who is liable to pay compensation in case of an accident and has a number of other ambiguities. While the MOEF says that the rules for Act will be ready soon, Supreme Court advocate Sanjay Parikh says that all these issues should have been clarified in the main act itself and it cannot be left to the rules. Another sticky point is the location of the Tribunal which Union environment Minister Jairam Ramesh feels should be in Bhopal. Mr. Ramesh made a statement to this effect in Parliament. Environmental activists say that the road to justice got a little longer with this. First they would have to travel to Bhopal and in case of an unfavourable order, they would have to go to New Delhi to appeal to the Supreme court. There is also vehement opposition to staffing the Tribunal with retired bureaucrats.The government has only itself to blame if there is an overwhelming feeling that the new green tribunal is not going to deliver justice. There is little point in locating the tribunal in Bhopal even for historical or emotional reasons. Bhopal remains the worst example of an industrial accident coupled with a criminal lack of sensitivity in compensating victims. This is not the time to pay lip service to industrial accidents or environment protection. The government has the onus to set right past wrongs and ensure the tribunal means business and does not degenerate into another tool to deny people their legitimate rights.






Ever since Ringo Starr vowed, on a well-known cover of Buck Owens' hit "Act Naturally," that he'd become "the biggest fool to ever hit the big time," the renowned rock 'n' roll drummer has done all right for himself. As a member of the Beatles and as a solo artist Starr has sold more than a few records, won some Grammy Awards and even had a minor planet named for him. But on Wednesday Starr will reach a very special milestone: He turns 70 years old.


As you'd expect, he plans to mark the occasion with a little help from his friends, and anyone else he can round up. Finding himself in New York on the big day, he is celebrating with an event in the morning at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square; Hard Rock International is honouring the day at locations around the world. (Go to for more details.)


In the evening he'll perform a concert at Radio City Music Hall with his All Starr Band, which includes Colin Hay, Billy Squier, Edgar Winter and Gary Wright.


Starr spoke recently with Dave Itzkoff about hitting the big 7—0 and some other recent accomplishments. Here are excerpts from the conversation.


Can I wish you a happy birthday ahead of schedule?


You can. And you can put the gift in the post or you can leave it at the concierge.


What would you like to get this year?


You know what I'm asking for: peace and love.


How are you feeling about the number 70?


As far as I'm concerned, in my head, I'm 24. That's just how it is. The number, yeah, it's high. But I just felt I've

got to celebrate it. I'm on my feet and I'm doing what I love to do, and I'm in a profession, as a musician, where we can go on for as long as we can go on. I'm not hiding from it, you know.


When you were 24 what did you think you'd be doing at age 70?


I don't know, but when I was 22, actually, I remember this so well, and I was playing, and there was another band, and these people in that other band were 40, and I was saying, My God, you're still doing it? (Laughs) Which doesn't look funny in black and white, but it was incredible, and now I'm waaaaay past 40. My new hero is B.B. King. I have a great line: B.B. is still playing, even though he is sitting down now. But hey, I'm sitting down already. You've just got to get on with it. I'd like to be out there pretending I'm only 55, but I'm not.


What seems like an advanced age to you now?


I think 90. But we'll see. It's a birthday at a time.


You've had a few interesting things happen to you over the last year. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is taking one of your drums.

They're taking a whole snare drum. I'm lending it to them because it's well—documented, in 1964, that old Bill Ludwig, he presented it to me. I bought these Ludwig drums, and in the shop in England, the guy wanted to take the sign out, but I love everything American, the music and the instruments. So I made him leave the sign on. So I was a running commercial _ on Sullivan, and all that touring of America, it said Ludwig drums. And so to thank me for that, they gave me this gold drum, and that's the one that's going into the Metropolitan for a year.


How does that make you feel, to have one of your possessions on display at the Met?


Well, yeah, cool.


That's it?


I mean it. I've had a couple of pieces of clothing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame isn't too shabby, but come on, this is the Met.


It's cool. That's all I can say. It's very cool. I did a show there in January with Ben Harper, that's how we got friendly with them, and they have an instrument room with a lot of very crazed African drums, old pianos, and so they thought this would be good.


Are they letting you borrow anything from their collection in exchange?


Yeah, they're giving me Tutankhamen's tomb. No, they're not giving me anything. I'm being kind to them.


A few weeks ago the Vatican finally gave its approval to the Beatles. How did you feel about that?


It didn't affect me in any way, but I do believe that the Vatican have better things to deal with than forgiving the Beatles. I don't remember what it actually said — it had some weird piece in it, too. That they've forgiven us for being, what, satanic? Whoever wrote it was thinking about the Stones.


Are you ever surprised by the unpredictable ways in which the Beatles continue to resonate in the popular culture? There's a novel out now called "Paul Is Undead," which imagines that you're a ninja and your band mates are zombies.


I only ever see the covers and the titles. I don't read it all. But it's always on. There's nothing we can do about that. What's more interesting to me is that our records are still coming out. And they're the same records and the new generation gets to hear them, and as far as that's concerned, that's the most important thing to me. The music we make, it's still going on.


Do you get much chance to listen to all the Beatles covers that continue be produced?


You have to talk to Sony about that. They have the publishing and they'll give it to anyone.


You're using the occasion of your birthday to give a message back to your fans.


Yes, I want to spread the word that at noon, wherever you are _ in New York, in LA, in Paris, in London — I just pray that you'll put your fingers up and say, "Peace and love." I did it two years ago, it was the first time, and I did it out of Chicago because I was on tour. This year, we're playing Radio City, so we're doing it in New York. In Japan there were little get-togethers and it went worldwide, so that was great.


Do you think we've got a good chance at getting peace and love this year?


I think the more we promote it, the more chance we have of getting it.


— New York Times News Service









In 2009, the world celebrated the 200th anniversary of the life and work of Charles Darwin, a transformational scientist who brought about a revolution in our understanding of evolution. Evolution through natural selection among living organisms leading to the survival of the fittest was a concept alien to the Christian thought at Darwin's time since there was strong faith in the heavenly creation of all living organisms of our planet.
From 1831-1836, Darwin toured the world in HMS Beagle. He was dazzled by the amazing diversity of life and started to wonder how it might have originated. Darwin became a popular sensation because his theories required not only the replacement of one scientific view with another, but also the rejection of views widely held by an entire culture. Darwin landed hard on ethical and metaphysical concepts dear to every heart. He was lampooned by cartoonists. His books were burned. For 22 years after he stepped off the Beagle, he published nothing, and then he unleashed the storm he never would have felt if he had just gone on as the quiet country parson he seemed destined to become.

Evolution of higher forms of life including human beings, from fish and other forms of living organisms, was an accepted view in the ancient Indian thought, as exemplified by the 10 forms of manifestation of God on earth. "Variety is the spice of life" is a common saying. Variation is a must for selection to occur. Today, we are confronted with the prospect of human-induced changes in climate, leading to adverse changes in temperature, precipitation, flood and sea level. We will have to be prepared to face the consequences of drought, flood and coastal storms more frequently. Selection of genes for a warming planet has, therefore, become an urgent task. Fortunately, there is considerable variability in nature with reference to adaptation to new climatic conditions. Thus, halophytes, which are resistant to salinity, and xerophytes, which are resistant to moisture stress, occur in nature. This is why Mahatma Gandhi said that "nature provides for everyone's need, but not for everybody's greed".

Gregor Mendel, who propounded the laws of inheritance or genetics, published his work in 1865, six years after the publication of Darwin's Origin of Life. From 1856-63, Mendel cultivated 29,000 pea plants to investigate how evolution worked, i.e. how characteristics were passed down the generations. He figured out the basic principles of genetics. He showed that offspring received characteristics from both parents, but only the dominant characteristic trait was expressed. Mendel's work was rediscovered in 1900.

Mendelian Genetics, now reinforced by molecular genetics, helps us to create new genetic combinations capable of surviving under the adverse circumstances created by global warming. Molecular genetics, which helps us to move genes across sexual barriers, has validated the truth behind physician Charaka's statement that there is no useless plant or animal in the world. Thus, scientists at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, have been able to develop salt-tolerant varieties of rice by transferring genes from the mangrove species Avicennia marina and drought-tolerant varieties of rice using genes from Prosopis juliflora. Such novel genetic combinations help us to take advantage of Darwin's concept of survival of the fittest.

Halophytic plants and salinity-tolerant crops like the genetically-modified rice developed by the research foundation can help to launch a sea water farming movement along our vast coastline. Agro-forestry systems involving the cultivation of mangroves, Salicornia, Sesuvium, Atriplex and other salt-tolerant shrubs and trees together with mariculture will open up new livelihood opportunities for coastal communities. Salt-cum-flood tolerant rice varieties can also be developed by incorporating the mangrove gene into floating or flood-tolerant varieties of rice.

Artisanal or small-scale fisheries can become economically and technologically attractive by introducing cellphones carrying data on wave heights and the location of fish shoals. Modern information technology has opened up new chapter in artisanal fisheries. Also, the sea-water farming methodology can help to increase yield and income from coastal aquaculture.

By linking the Darwinian concept of evolution with the principles and tools of Mendelian and molecular genetics, we can not only safeguard our food security in an era of climate change, but also strengthen the ecological security of coastal areas and the livelihood security of coastal communities.

Food inflation prevailing in the country is partly due to the high cost of pulses. These protein-rich crops are grown in rain-fed areas which constitute 60 per cent of our cultivated area. Available data indicates that we can double the yield of pulse crops like arhar, moong, urad, chenna etc by introducing an integrated package involving attention to soil health enhancement, efficient water use and harvesting, use of improved seeds and pest management, credit and insurance and, above all, assured and remunerative marketing. These five components of the "pulses revolution strategy" should be incorporated in the 60,000 pulses and oilseed villages included by the finance minister in Budget 2010-11. If this programme is implemented properly with the active participation of farm families, we can easily produce the additional four million tonnes of pulses we urgently need. Let us convert the calamity associated with climate change into an opportunity for spreading conservation and climate resilient farming methods.

Another component of food inflation is the rising price of milk. About 80 per cent of the cost of milk is due to the cost of fodder and feed. We should stop exporting oilseed cakes and concentrates and make them available to milk producers. We are now discussing food security for over 120 crore children, women and men. We should pay equal attention to feed and fodder security by establishing a national grid of feed and fodder banks so that the over 100 crore of farm animals (buffalo, cattle, sheep, goat and poultry) we are fortunate to possess, can help to convert food into nutrition security.


M.S. Swaminathan is the chairman of the NationalCommission on Farmers. He is considered to be the father of India's green revolution.








COMPARED WITH the protracted excitement and controversy over the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, the resumption of India-Canada nuclear cooperation that was abruptly ruptured 36 years ago has received little attention. This may be because despite its undoubted significance the accord between the two countries — signed in the presence of the two countries' Prime Ministers in Toronto on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty (G-20) Summit — is entirely non-controversial. It is also beneficial to both sides and inimical to no third country.

Not many people remember that Canada was the first country to help India embark on its nuclear programme, as drawn up by legendary Homi Bhabha. While a British-supplied Apsara reactor was the first to be set up in this country, Canada's Cirus reactor, called "Candu" by the Canadians, was the second. But it suited India's needs and Dr Bhabha's grand design, based on Indian realities, much better. For, unlike Apsara, it used natural uranium fuel with heavy water as moderator and thus freed us from dependence on uncertain imports of enriched uranium. No wonder then that Candu became the prototype for the subsequent reactors installed in this country. At the time of the signing of the Cirus agreement there was no International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or a safeguards system. So the only condition the India-Canada agreement contained was that this country would use the plutonium produced by the reactor for "peaceful purposes" only.

Fast forward to May 18, 1974: On that day India conducted an underground nuclear detonation in Pokhran, Rajasthan, now known as Pokhran I. The then Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, somewhat angrily terminated his country's nuclear cooperation with India. Indira Gandhi's argument that what India had conducted was a peaceful nuclear experiment (PNE) for economic purposes was perfectly valid. PNEs were much in vogue then. The US had conducted 28 and the Soviet Union as many as 239 explosions of the same kind. But this evidently made no difference to Trudeau. Canada walked out of the half-completed second reactor at Rana Pratap Sagar in Rajasthan, a project that the Russians completed later. Furthermore, since then Canada, invoking the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG), had also been enforcing a ban on the export to India of dual use technology and materials.

All this is now a thing of the past. The 36-year-old chasm has been bridged. In fact, the potential of the Toronto accord is immense. Canada will almost certainly join other nuclear reactor-exporting countries, such as the US, France and Russia, to seek a share in this country's huge and growing nuclear market. To India some of the finely-honed Canadian nuclear technologies would be of great interest. Most importantly, Canada is the world's biggest producer of uranium of which India is very short. It is no secret that during the last two years lack of uranium had forced some nuclear power stations to curtail production.

However, if there is an excellent and highly promising nuclear accord in hand, there are several developments in the complex and oft-manipulated area of nuclear trade and diplomacy in the works that can lead to discord and other complications, and should therefore be a cause for concern. Of these the most notable is China's defiant decision to supply Pakistan two new nuclear reactors to be established in the plutonium-producing Chashma atomic complex in Pakistan's Punjab. This is in clear violation of the written assurances China gave the NSG while joining it in 2004. Even at that time it had insisted that the two reactors it was then selling to Pakistan were "grandfathered" much before it had applied for the NSG membership. These two reactors are nearing completion at Chashma. Some champions of non-proliferation, including the US, gently suggested that Beijing should ask for the NSG's approval, as was done in the case of the Indo-Soviet nuclear deal. But this fell on deaf ears. The only assurance Beijing is prepared to give is that the reactors it proposes to sell to its ally would be under the IAEA safeguards.

Under the circumstances the general expectation was that the 46-member NSG would take up this issue at its meeting at Christchurch, New Zealand, in the last week of June. In fact, an "army" of non-proliferation enthusiasts had descended on the meeting's venue to press for nuclear-trade guidelines being "observed fully by all concerned". But the result was an anti-climax. A former Indian governor of the IAEA, T.P. Sreenivasan, has described the situation aptly. Writing under the heading "The Nuclear Suppliers' Group's Shameful Silence", he says: China's "blatant violation" was "on everyone's mind but nobody's lips… The US was nowhere to be found". Perhaps to explain the American reluctance to cause any offence to China, the writer quotes a "senior White House spokesman" to the effect: "India imitates China, Pakistan imitates India. What can we do to stop their nuclear activities?" The same spokesman is reported to have added that US did not want to "displease China or Pakistan". This bespeaks of China's clout on the one hand and Pakistan's importance in the American scheme of things in relation to Afghanistan, on the other.

Selig Harrison, a respected American writer and foreign policy expert, is even more sharply critical of the US equivocation on Chinese reactors to Pakistan, but his is a voice in the wilderness. The US needs China for a number of reasons, including economy, war on terror and North Korean nuclear weapons. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari is already in Beijing. Nobody should be surprised if the agreement on the two reactors is signed during his six-day visit.

There is another cause for concern for India in the form of a move within the NSG to prohibit the transfer of reprocessing and enrichment technologies to countries that haven't signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (read India). If accepted by the nuclear cartel, this would retrospectively dilute the 123 Agreement between India and the US and the NSG's own "clean waiver" under which India is fully entitled to get these two technologies. At Christchurch the matter was not taken up. But it hasn't been dropped either.








When Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati changed her ideological position from Bahujan Samaj formulated by her mentor Kanshi Ram to Sarvajan Samaj there was elation among the upper caste intellectuals and sadness among the dalit-bahujan intellectuals.

Delhi-based intellectuals, who usually hate Ms Mayawati, started praising her for her accommodative approach and for leaving behind the confrontational approach of Kanshi Ram.

In fact, many were surprised how a militant anti-manuwadi (meaning anti-brahminwadi) woman leader could compromise with the Uttar Pradesh brahmins against whom she had been fighting so virulently.
When she worked out a formula for roping the Uttar Pradesh brahmins into the fold of her votebank by repositioning her party's slogan itself, from Bahujan Samaj to Sarvajan Samaj, several dalit-bahujan scholars thought that this would be the end of Ambedkarism in Uttar Pradesh, even north India.

Kanshi Ram's death had led to depression in the dalit-bahujan political circles of the nation. Kanshi Ram was an inspiring and uncompromising political and intellectual leader and Ms Mayawati was not seen as a leader in her own right then.

I too was very sceptical of her abilities to lead the Bahujan Samaj Party in a manner that could help it survive — leave alone coming to power as it did later.

Once she came to power there was also speculation that she would serve the brahminical interests — leaving Kanshi Ram's legacy behind.

However, it has now become evident that in the cultural realm she is simply dalitising the whole state. This was something unexpected. Not only are districts being renamed after dalit-bahujan icons, but the very ethos of Uttar Pradesh (which is seen as the epicentre of Hindu Brahmanism) is undergoing a revolutionary change now.

Ms Mayawati has built many monuments on the Navayana Buddhist theme (navayana is Pali for new vehicle. Navayana Buddhist refers to the idea that a Buddhist movement may represent a new yana, i.e. major branch of Buddhism, in addition to the traditionally recognised branches. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: "I will accept and follow the teachings of Buddha. I will keep my people away from the different opinions of Hinyan and Mahayan, two religious orders. Our Bouddha Dhamma is a new Bouddha Dhamma, Navayan".)
The Buddhist and Ambedkar parks that Ms Mayawati is building will inevitably reduce the spiritual significance of Ayodhya, Kashi-Benares, Mathura and so on.

By renaming districts after Ambedkar, Phule, Sahuji Maharaj, Rama Bai (the illiterate first wife of Ambedkar), the dalit-bahujan icons of Maharashtra and the birthplace of Navayana Buddhism, she has changed Uttar Pradesh's cultural atmosphere itself.

Of course, Kanshi Ram and Ms Mayawati herself have been elevated as icons in the process. In Uttar Pradesh, they are not only names of districts but their statues are being worshipped in Ambedkar parks.
Ms Mayawati's decision to transform the cultural realm of Uttar Pradesh would certainly have all-India implications. I do not think that the brahmins of Uttar Pradesh are in a position to resist this transformation. She has put it on an irreversible course.

The Congress cannot stall this course either. Wherever the Congress is in power, they have named institutions after Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. But they do not have any culturally transformative implications. Buddha, Ambedkar, Phule, Sahuji Maharaj, Periyar, Kanshi Ram and so on are not like that. They have serious anti-Hindu cultural implications. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) knows this but is not in a position to do anything because it burnt its hands in Ayodhya and Gujarat. Further, the BJP cannot say that these are anti-national icons.

Likewise, the Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav cannot reverse or stop the trend because he has no alternative of his own to offer. His party is now competing for power for the sake of power, without constructing any socio-cultural agenda of its own. Its icons, Ram Manohar Lohia and Charan Singh, do not have much impact in the cultural realm, unlike Ambedkar.

The fact is that unless icons are associated with alternative spiritual culture they do not create a following that lasts long. In the modern period only Ambedkar did that and Kanshi Ram brought that icon into unbelievable achievability. And Ms Mayawati's dalit common sense captured that imagination very well.

Even if the Congress, the SP or the BJP come to power they will not be able to dismantle the Ambedkar parks or rename the districts. Earlier, Ms Mayawati was in power only for six months each time — that too with the BJP's support. But now she will be there for full five years and the chances of her getting re-elected are very high. If she is in power for 10 years, Uttar Pradesh's cultural history will change beyond recognition.
Not many know that Kanshi Ram had a vision of constructing the biggest Ambedkarite Buddha Vihara in Uttar Pradesh along with a massive international airport in Lucknow. His plan was that Uttar Pradesh should become a big Ambedkarite Buddhist (i.e. Navayana Buddhist) international tourist centre so that it could generate a competitive tourist capital.

Ms Mayawati seems to think that she has to fulfil her mentor's dream. She seems to understand that cultural capital will be more long-lasting than political and economic capital.








So, has India changed its mind on Iran's nuclear programme and the US-managed UN sanctions against it? India's position in the run up to the India-US civil nuclear deal of 2008 seemed inclined towards the US view as reflected in India's vote along with Washington and its allies and against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seeking sanctions against Tehran in 2005, 2006 and 2009.

There is a clear shift in emphasis if not in stance in the view that foreign secretary Nirupama Rao expressed at an India-Iran strategic review meeting in New Delhi on Monday, where she said that the sanctions against Iran hurt Indian economic interests and also it impinges on the country's energy security concerns. She was also critical of third country restrictions that the US sanctions imply. This is no turnaround based on a change of heart. New Delhi has woken up to the fast shifting scenario in Afghanistan and India's loosening hold in Kabul, with Pakistan pushing for the reinstatement of the Taliban in the Afghan political structure. New Delhi wants to make common cause with Iran against the Taliban.


Prime minister Manmohan Singh has given the impression that India would not want to do anything that clashes with views of the Americans, which is interpreted by his critics as peddling a pro-US policy line. The government can argue that silence does not mean acquiescence and that both India and the US are aware of differences in perception as well as interests. But India does not openly express its differences with its strategic partners, and it will be cited that it was also the case during the period of the Indo-Soviet special equation in the 1970s and early 1980s.


Though critics harangued Indira Gandhi for toeing the Moscow line in Afghanistan, government officials then maintained that India chose to convey its reservations differences at the diplomatic level and not in public.


The important question is whether Iran is willing to work with India to oppose the Pakistan-backed Taliban comeback. Contrary to what US commander General David Petraeus may have to say about fighting the war to win, the western forces are preparing to leave and making way for Pakistan as the key influence-peddler. It does not leave much room for India and Iran despite the challenges that the new situation in Afghanistan creates for the two countries.





Union road transport and highways minister Kamal Nath's outburst against the Planning Commission is a tad gratuitous. Nath blamed the Planning Commission for the delays in highway infrastructure at a conclave on private participation in building highways, in the presence of its head, deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Of course, there is no doubt that the implementation of projects in India is delayed as a matter of course and that most of the roadblocks come from within the government. But Nath might be better served if he searched for the delays from within his own ministry. Road are essential to progress because they bring access — apart from the many other benefits.


The NDA government understood this when it undertook its mega highways plan and while much was achieved then, we are still nowhere near where we should be. In fact, we are a few years behind.

The Planning Commission however is not an implementing agency. It exists to assess the country's resources, formulate the five-year plans which determine our growth targets, how best our resources can be utilised and to act as a mediator between states, the Centre and various ministries over allocation of those resources. It is always possible to fault the working of the Planning Commission but the minister's objections seem to be somewhat off-target.

As it has been observed with our highways projects, the biggest stumbling blocks come from the local administration — which includes politicians and bureaucrats — and from the building mafia. Those who try to expose the nexus or protest are either bullied into silence or reach a more bloody end, as in the case Satyendra Dubey a few years ago.


It is however possible that the Planning Commission has raised objections to Nath's ministry's plans and these may have caused some delays. A more purposeful way of handling the problem would be to hasten the solution-finding process rather than apportion blame. The minister feels that the Commission does not understand ground realities. If that is indeed true, more cooperation is the better answer. The Commission wants better and more sustainable targets from the ministry — Nath wants to build 20km of highway a day.


Sadly in India, there is an enormous hiatus between intentions and implementations. As far as reality is concerned, it could be that both the minister and the Commission need to get their feet dirty and look more closely at the ground.









Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari will be in China this week for a six-day trip during which the civilian nuclear deal between Beijing and Islamabad is likely to be firmed up. It is not entirely clear what transpired at the recently concluded 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the proposed Sino-Pak nuclear deal. The NSG merely reiterated "the value of ongoing consultation and transparency" while referring to discussions on the proposed sale of nuclear reactors by China to Pakistan. China will probably go ahead with its nuclear pact with Pakistan, especially when NSG members have failed to speak in one voice opposing the pact.

The China National Nuclear Corporation has signed an agreement with Pakistan for two new reactors at the Chashma site in Punjab province. This is in addition to two nuclear reactors already built by China at the same site. This action will be in clear violation of NSG guidelines that forbid nuclear transfers to countries that are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But the China of today is willing to pursue its interests more assertively and its actions are a challenge to the American ability to maintain the current global order.

Ever since the US concluded a civilian nuclear deal with India, China has indicated its displeasure. Even though other global powers such as Britain, France, Germany and Russia supported the US-India deal, China made its opposition clear by asking India to sign the NPT and dismantle its nuclear weapons. Since the US-India deal is recognition of India's rising global profile, China quickly declared that it will be selling new nuclear reactors to Pakistan. The message: if Washington decided to play favourites, China also retained the same right.

Pakistan, for its part, had also demanded an India-like nuclear pact from Washington. The Bush administration had made it clear that given Pakistan's abysmal nuclear proliferation record exemplified by the AQ Khan network, there was no question of treating Pakistan on par with India. Yet a number of voices in Washington policy circles have made a case for a civilian nuclear pact with Pakistan, especially as Islamabad's support remains crucial to winning the war in Afghanistan.

China shares a special relationship with Pakistan. Based on their convergent interests vis-a-vis India, China and Pakistan reached a strategic understanding in the mid-1950s, a bond that has only strengthened since. Sino-Pakistani ties gained particular momentum in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian war when the two states signed a boundary agreement recognising Chinese control over portions of disputed Kashmir territory. Since then, ties have been so strong that Chinese president Hu Jintao has described the relationship as "higher than mountains and deeper than oceans." Maintaining close ties with China has been a priority for Islamabad and Beijing has provided extensive economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan over the years.

The Pakistani nuclear weapons programme is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. China's crucial role in the development of Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure is well documented. The father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, AQ Khan, himself has acknowledged the crucial role China has played. The China-Pakistan nuclear relationship is perhaps the only case where a nuclear weapons state has actually passed on weapons-grade fissile material as well as a bomb design to a non-nuclear weapons state. The latest nuclear pact underlines a number of issues. It also showcases China's penchant for viewing Pakistan as an important asset in countering India. Sections of Indian policy-makers have been dreaming about a Sino-Indian rapprochement and have not shied away from blaming the Indian government for a downturn in bilateral ties. But China will keep relying on Pakistan to counter India's growing regional and global profile.

Meanwhile, the global non-proliferation regime is virtually dead. The Sino-Pakistan nuclear relationship has been the single most important factor in wrecking the foundations of the NPT. China's nuclear programme was the reason why India initiated its own and Sino-Pakistan nuclear and missile duopoly in the 1990s forced India to go overtly nuclear in 1998. If Beijing believes that helping Pakistan, a country that has never shied away from illegally exporting nuclear technology, to serve its strategic agenda is not problematic, then there is little hope that it will ever become a guarantor of a regime that seeks to stabilise the global nuclear order. Not surprisingly, an arms race is underway in West Asia between Shia Iran intent on acquiring nuclear capability in response to Sunni Pakistan-Saudi Arabia collaboration on nuclear issues. No prizes for guessing who is supplying missiles to Iran even while providing nuclear capability to Pakistan: China, of course!








Until last fortnight, Kartik Athreya was a relatively unheard-of Indian-American worker-bee economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond who had, by his own reckoning, contributed no earth-shattering macroeconomic ideas for the greater good of humanity. But today, barely a fortnight after he published a widely discussed paper on the challenges of macroeconomic policymaking, he's set the economic blogosphere afire. There's even been a call for Athreya to be appointed head of the Big Daddy of all central banks: the US Federal Reserve Board, of which it was believed (at least until the global financial crisis of 2008) that it sets the monetary policy for the whole wide world. 

Just what did Athreya say in his paper that so electrified the community of economic commentators? Well, he argued that a lot of what passes for economic analysis in the mainstream media and the Internet is ill-informed chatter that doesn't meaningfully advance the discussion on economic policymaking, and may in fact be misleading the general public.


His prescription: in the same way that we don't have public discussions and commentaries on cancer research (for instance), discussions on macroeconomic policymaking should be left to experts, preferably those with a PhD from a "decent" economics department. The views of "naifs", "the untrained", and the bulk of the economic blogging "crowd" should be ignored by the general public. 


But sadly for Athreya, all the new-found attention he's drawn gives him no cause for joy. If anything, much of the notice he's getting is by way of criticism of his argument that economics is too complex for the untrained minds of the dirty, unwashed masses to comprehend.

Even the campaign for Athreya's appointment as Fed chairman is heavily laced with sarcastic criticism of a discredited central banking system that, in the estimation of many, failed to see the financial crisis coming and, in fact, actively contributed to it. If Athreya is in command of the Federal Reserve Board, notes one commentator, his "scorn for the unwashed" would trigger a public uprising against the Federal Reserve system and help destroy it. 

To give Athreya some credit, it's true that there's a lot of ill-informed economic commentary floating around. Charlatans with (in some cases) a political agenda — or merely just a product to sell — are looking to profit from the vacuum created by the deserved loss of credibility of established institutions; and given the hysteria induced among the general public by the economic turmoil, there's a mass market for specious economic punditry and conspiracy theories that feed — and feed off — human despair. 


On the other hand, economists and policymakers at the Fed have a particularly rotten analytical record to defend, having been blind to — and active contributors of — the monstrous US housing bubble that collapsed spectacularly two years ago.  And even today, two Fed policymakers — Athreya's own 'boss' at Richmond, and the head of the Dallas Fed — hold conflicting views on the state of the US economy, which points to dissonance at the top. For Athreya to throw rocks at "untrained" economic commentators from within the glass house of the Fed system is folly.  

Even at the best of times, economics is an imperfect science, without any of the certainty of pure science; as JK Galbraith noted, many of the forces that initiate change are outside the knowledge of economists. Perhaps economists went astray in their projection from precisely articulated economic models onto the real world of moving parts — or, as Paul Krugman put it, "when they mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth." 

Either way, there's a lesson for the men who botched up big time with the big picture: if you have your nose to the grindstone, you can't ever see the stars. Or the bubbles.









If inefficiency had been a ground for the removal of a minister, Sharad Pawar would have been dropped long ago. He had eminently qualified for getting the axe by mishandling the issue of rising prices. If causing a huge loss to the exchequer were a ground for throwing out a minister, A. Raja would not have been around for so long after the 2G spectrum fiasco. Yet such are the compulsions of running a coalition government that non-performance, incompetence and corruption are overlooked. The coalition partners not only have portfolios of their choice but also tend to dictate terms to the government. It is no longer the prerogative of the Prime Minister to pick his team.


Price rise has often been blamed by the ruling UPA partners on deficient rains last year or high commodity prices in global markets. Pulses and oilseeds becoming costlier are understandable because the country does not grow enough of them. Even a steep rise in sugar prices can be attributed to the shrinking area under sugarcane. But how do you justify the foodgrain price spiral when godowns overflow with rice and wheat? Large stocks of foodgrains rotting in the open were not released in the market to calm the prices. On top of it, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Civil Supplies made such foot-in-mouth statements that he actually encouraged hoarders.


Since the government plans to bring in a national food security law, the public distribution system requires an effective plugging of the loopholes, and a full-time minister is required to implement the ambitious programme. Given the crisis in agriculture, this ministry needs a dynamic head. Pawar's unsavoury involvement in the IPL imbroglio has further muddied his reputation. Regardless of his daughter's clarifications, the mud is unlikely to go away easily. The NCP chief is neck deep in cricket, having been made the president of the International Cricket Council recently. Instead of asking the Prime Minister to reduce his workload, he should have quit the government. He should devote his entire time to cricket, which seems to be his first love. Few in the government, or outside, will miss him.








The manner in which former Punjab Governor and Chandigarh Administrator Gen. S.F. Rodrigues has given a clean-chit to his former Aide-de-Camp Major Nirvikar Singh is an act of grave impropriety and unbecoming of the high office he held. It also amounts to influencing the ongoing investigation into the officer's conduct even though Gen Rodrigues had demitted the gubernatorial office. When the CBI has booked Maj Singh in a disproportionate assets case after conducting raids at his residences in New Delhi and Gurgaon, the former Governor should have restrained himself from lauding Maj Singh as a "competent boy" and a "committed" officer. He is charged with having amassed most of his assets during his tenure as the ADC to the Governor before joining the Research and Analysis Wing as its Director. He is known to have seven properties in Gurgaon and three in Delhi, fixed deposits worth Rs 25 lakh and several bank accounts with lockers which have been sealed.


What the CBI has unearthed in the course of its investigation of Maj Singh's disproportionate assets seems to point to a bigger scam that cannot altogether overlook the likely involvement of the former Governor and many others. Gen Rodrigues may have feigned ignorance about the murky deals involving his former ADC but the question remains: how could the latter take decisions without the former's approval? Indeed, following media coverage of Chandigarh's mega projects spearheaded by The Tribune, the Union Home Ministry had ordered a probe by the Central Vigilance Commission. Following the latter's recommendations, a CBI inquiry into two projects — the Theme-cum-Amusement Park and the Multimedia-cum-Film City — was ordered. Significantly, in the wake of the controversies surrounding these projects, both have been scrapped.


Disturbingly, instances of the Governor-ADC nexus in dubious scams are nothing new. One may recall how the then Punjab Governor, Lt-Gen B.K.N. Chibber (retd), took his ADC along with him to former Union Home Minister Indrajit Gupta when he was summoned to clarify on the questionable deals. Chibber reportedly told Gupta that his ADC could enlighten him about the issues much better than him. The latest incident once again points to the steady erosion of the institution of Governor. This malaise continues because, other than their loyalty to the party and to the leadership, most recruits to the Raj Bhavans over the years are not known for their merit, probity and rectitude in public life.









You have to hand it to the Indian babudom. It can be cold and insensitive towards all. anybody who has come in contact with it — who has not? — can swear that politeness and helpfulness are alien to it. Still, one had expected that it would make an exception at least in the case of a person of the stature and calibre of Nobel Laureate Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, arguably one of the most prominent Indians in the world. But no such luck. When his wife Lady Nadira visited the Indian High Commission in London recently for a Person of Indian Origin card for the author, the officials there told her that the author could get the card only if he would travel to Gorakhpur in Eastern Uttar Pradesh to find a tehsildar or magistrate willing to certify that Naipaul was indeed a person of Indian origin. "Shaking with rage" and "weeping", Lady Nadira then inquired if it might be simpler to apply instead for a long-term visa. "Apply in the normal way and we'll see," she was curtly told.


It should have been a matter of pride for any country to welcome the Trinidad-born master of English writing. But the Indian bureaucracy showed its true colours. If at all this was done because the Naipauls were seen as being over-friendly to senior BJP politicians like L K Advani, who were in power when Naipaul won the Nobel, it was all the more condemnable because only a sick mind could view such an iconic figure through politics-tinted glasses.


When Naipaul had won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, the whole of India had celebrated that an "Indian" had emulated Rabindranath Tagore after so many years. He has been coming here often, and has always been feted like the son of the soil. But when it came to giving him the PIO card, the officials made his wife feel "like a terrorist". Whether it was the height of bad manners or arrogance, this ugly episode must not be pushed under the carpet. If this can happen to the Naipauls, imagine what can happen to an ordinary person. In fact, the bureaucracy leaves nothing to the imagination. Such haughtiness is an everyday occurrence.

















The 1975 Emergency has just completed 35 years. As could be seen from an article in The Tribune on June 26 Mr Ravi Mahajan, a teenager at that time, pleads for "another 'emergency' minus excesses". As if there could be sunset without darkness! His main ground was that buses were running on time and people were standing in a queue! How naïve could a citizen become? It is time the legacies left by Emergency to the writer and his next generation are made known.


To start with is the Bhopal holocaust. Mythl Isocynate (MIC) is a lethal poisonous gas. In January 1970 Union Carbide applied for a licence to manufacture pesticides using MIC that had been discarded in the US. Serious objections by the Ministry of Industrial Development were summarily overruled soon after the Emergency was declared and the licence was granted in October 1975. This very gas had turned Bhopal into a mass graveyard past midnight December 2-3, 1984, and even today there are thousands of "walking-dead" and water is toxic. Bhopal's death and devastation is a standing legacy of the Emergency. A little known fact among the cacophony of noises!


In the early seventies Jayaprakash Narayan had launched a massive movement against corruption and state tyranny. He was "enemy number one" of the state, arrested in Delhi under MISA and detained in a PGI (Chandigarh) ward, notified as jail. While in custody, devious means were used to silence him permanently. Dr M.K. Mani, Chief Nephrologist of Bombay's Jaslok Hospital who saved JP's life in1975, had this to say to me: "If there had been a delay of two weeks in taking JP to Jaslok Hospital he would have been dead."


I was then the District Magistrate of Chandigarh and custodian of JP in jail. Some time in October 1975, I sensed that something was amiss and JP's life was in grave danger. So, I launched a silent three-pronged pincer assault on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's office with a common message, "If JP dies in jail" with the objective of creating a "crisis mindset". Details can fill pages. Suffice it to say that the plan, hatched and executed at grave risk to my career and liberty, worked and JP was released in mid-November 1975 and taken post-haste to Bombay, thereby saving him from possible death in custody. Though the despicable attempt failed, it was another sordid legacy of the Emergency.


Even otherwise the "Emergency era" is remembered and recalled whenever any blatantly unlawful act is done or statement made. In the wake of Outlook expose on government tapping telephonic conversations of Nitish Kumar, Sharad Pawar, Prakash Karat and Congressman Digvijay Singh using latest technology, Mr L. K. Advani asked, "Is the 'Emergency' back?"


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


When knowledgeable sources faulted Rajiv Gandhi for the "escapade" of Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson, they were dubbed as "unpatriotic" by Congress minions, reminiscent of the Emergency days when anyone criticising Indira Gandhi was imprisoned!


The worst legacy of the Emergency is the suspension of freedom and liberty of the citizens. During Emergency rule, the Fundamental Rights under Article 14 (Equality before Law), Article 21 (Protection of Life and Personal Liberty) and several clauses of Article 22 (Protection against detentions) stood suspended. In addition, Parliament enacted several autocratic laws and the executive ordered many stringent measures to tighten the noose around people's neck. MISA rules were made draconian, and courts were prohibited from reviewing them, leave alone giving any relief to the detainees.


During the Emergency's 20 months the media was severely muffled. People moved in hushed silence, stunned and traumatised by the harrowing goings on. The bulk of the civil service crawled when asked to bend. The higher judiciary bowed to the dust and was willing to rule that under the emergency regime citizens did not even have the "right to life". Politicians of all hue and colour, barring honourable exceptions, lay supine and prostrate.


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


The "Emergency masters" easily achieved their aim "without a dog barking" because things happened overnight and people were too perplexed to react. Yet, hardly anyone, barring some professional sycophants and social climbers, welcomed it. And when the time came during the general election in March 1977, an enraged public threw out the Emergency establishment lock, stock and barrel. The political fallout of this landslide was significant in that 30 years after the Indian nation came into being people had ushered in a democratic alternative to the long-ruling Congress party.


Despite its convincing defeat, the Emergency still evokes fear and horror! This is because even today Emergency excesses are being benchmarked and have become reference points for gross violation of human rights by fascist-minded "leaders". On the pretext of attracting foreign investment, governments are mortgaging the nation's land and resources to multinational companies and are attempting to "militarise" the tribal territories to enforce this! And the bulk of electronic media is rooting for this!


This time around if the Emergency is brought about, there will be at least two more legacies. One is aggressive mind-management and "manufacture of news" by a tech-savvy media. The other could be the ravaging of the Dandakaranya forests, the elimination of tribals and handing over of land to the mining-MNCs for "development".


This is so because of the biggest casualty of Indira Gandhi's assault on democracy — the sharp fall in the moral standards in everyday life in our country. She had a deep and enduring relationship with corruption. She so honoured and exalted corruption that it became an integral part of the texture of our national life. In short, she made unabashed corruption an authentic badge of government-sponsored greatness in India. Now it stands universalised and brutalised as a standing legacy of the Emergency.


In the event, Winston Churchill's famous words ring loud and true: "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Unfortunately, this is the Emergency's most fearsome legacy!








THE day my mother suffered a cardiac arrest in the 100th year of her life I had promised to return from office at tea-time. "4:30 means 4:30" trailed her clipped command; and I was made to dress in a suit to office each day through the hot summer months and the muggy monsoon, thereafter.


When I pleaded that I had become a laughing stock, mother ruled: "there are winter suits and there are summer suits. Do not be a disgrace to the service!"


At 5 p.m. I was called to the military hospital where mother lay lifeless with Belgian diamonds in her ears and on her fingers; her hair beautifully coiffured. The nurse on duty told me to remove the jewellery. I froze. From some distant past I could hear mother: "Darling, when I go please see that all this is consigned, with me".


There was a heavy downpour and amidst thunderous skies, patches of red and orange emerged. I returned home choking, for the hands of the clock had stopped. A friend exhorted me to tears: "Robin, you must cry".


For years I remained inconsolable and went through 'The Autobiography of a Yogi' to engage time's vacuity. The Divine Mother is eternal and appears in different forms, writes Paramhansa, a postulate which I found unconvincing for I had lost my only friend and companion.


A few years before, I had shifted mother to Villa Kalighat that was designed according to her aesthetics and after placing heavy iron gates at the driveway to shut out the world, I spent all my time with mother for I had fallen in love with her helplessness. Soon a beautiful garden was laid out with fountains and waterfalls and singing Budgerigars and together we savoured the winter flowers taking in their fragrance through a mild haze of pink gin.


To create the illusion of a forest I planted rows of Araucaria trees along a curving pathway. Mother told me about Lahore and Punjab: "Do you know Robin, the British were circumspect about this Province. The Central Province and the United Province were not always noticed, but the British addressed this region as the Punjab".


Shortly after her first death anniversary I envisioned a cenotaph for mother, in a dream. It is not a small structure and has tall pillars that hold together a wall of Agra stone bearing mother's bust in bronze; with bird baths and water bodies on either side. Alongside, on marble tablets between lattice work screens, are incised words that appear to encapsulate the quest for life "And what remains in the end? It is the beauty of space freed from strife and sorrow; from the anguish and pain of evolution; from the veil of miscalculation; from the checks and balances of judgement; and merging with the cleansing breeze of the limitless desert, the soul is filled with understanding, with the equipoise of silence!


And when the moon is at its meridian, often, I sit on the steps of the cenotaph with a little dog by my side; a tear in my eye.







The Germans, after another sensational victory over Argentina in the quarter-finals, wandered out of their dressing room to share their thoughts. There was the usual pushing and shoving from the television crews to get the prime spot in front of Thomas Müller and Miroslav Klose, but as things calmed down you got the measure of them.


I watched Marko Marin, one of the heroes of last summer's Under-21s European triumph, chatting away to a group of reporters. Lukas Podolski talked for a while, in no rush to go anywhere. Per Mertesacker walked past drinking a bottle of beer to greet a group that he knew. It was - how to put this - very civilised.


No football team's success has ever been decided on their relationship with the press. That is not the point. The point is that the Germans, for those of us observing from a distance, looked like a balanced, confident bunch.


Less isolated and less persecuted. Less likely to leave a stadium wearing a pair of oversized headphones, or drinking a cup of coffee, or eating an apple - all avoidance tactics employed at points by certain England players during their short, unhappy participation in this World Cup finals.


Of course, winning works wonders with a footballer's mood and Germany do have the occasional awkward character. Bastian Schweinsteiger stomped out with the belligerence of those autobahn drivers who flash their lights an inch from your back bumper. It should also be pointed out that English players such as Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Frank Lampard, always talk after matches, whatever the result.


Ten years ago, when Germany began their now famous overhaul of their youth development system in response to their failings at Euro 2000, one of the principles that Matthias Sammer, the technical director of the German Football Federation (DFB), insisted on was that the players should be well-rounded, confident individuals. Over the next few months we will be hearing a lot about the shortcomings of English football's youth development. No doubt Germany's year 2000 model will be held up as an example to follow with their 121 new talent centres and the investment of up to 500 million ((pounds sterling).


Those English footballers, at least those who make it to Premier League clubs, are fantastically well-rewarded. It is impossible to justify their salaries to a state-sector teacher or a nurse. Footballers earn what the market dictates and carping about their wages is pointless. What is required is a youth development system that teaches footballers, however wealthy, to act responsibly and behave like well-rounded adults.


Their development has to be a more complete package than just simply working on their weaker left foot or building them up in the gym. It might have surprising effects on their performance. Despite England's 4-1 defeat to Germany, technically there was still little to choose between the two teams: England's Under-17s won the European Championship in May. As a country England is not that far behind. The more you speak to those within Fabio Capello's camp, the more it is evident they are convinced that the sheer scale of the occasion and the pressure - call it "the fear" - contributed to their poor performances.


On Saturday, it did not seem to me like Müller looked stressed. Nor Mesut Ozil, Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng or Sami Khedira. Yet they all play for a nation of 80 million people with enormous expectations. This is a country that has already played in seven finals and won the World Cup three times. Historically, English football clubs have offered a fairly basic apprenticeship to players. Lately that has changed and apprentices are now known as academy scholars. Quite rightly, time which could be spent on education is not wasted on menial tasks like boot-scrubbing. Now, as in the past, the most talented players often come from difficult backgrounds and there is a limit to what a club, like a school, can do for a child from a severely dysfunctional family.


I have been invited a couple of times to a progressive Premier League club who ask newspaper reporters to speak to their scholars about the media. The boys are like any other teenagers - some a bit cocky, others less so, all of them likeable - but what stops me in my tracks is how young they are and yet how close to being thrown into the world of professional football.


All of them have left school at 16 for a chance at being a footballer - not a move that is going to give them much of an advantage if they have to pursue another career. Most of them will not make it. For those that do there is immediate promotion into a complicated world of instantaneous wealth and adulation mixed with huge pressure and equally instantaneous condemnation.


Judging by the performances of some of England's players at this World Cup, they are not entirely suited to it. A lot of clubs have done their best to prepare them but in the macho, make-or-break culture of football it is not always enough.


The Independent







Lahm has the statesman-like air of the big German footballers of the past and like most of them he can speak English too. He even cracks jokes in his second language.


When it was put to Lahm - not altogether seriously - that at least at this World Cup finals, England managed one goal against Germany to Argentina's zero he said, with a smile on his face, "You actually scored two goals".


That was one in the eye for those who believe that the German nation has not always benefited from a full and functioning sense of humour.


Lahm first came to the notice of English football with a brilliant performance as a 19-year-old for Stuttgart when they beat Manchester United at home in the Champions League in October 2003. That makes him something of a veteran in a team whose average age is 24.


The march of Germany to the semi-finals of the World Cup has been remarkable. This happy band of young men who counter-attack joyfully and score goals at will is the obverse of England's team of players with expressions like desperate fugitives and a style of football to match.


Listening to the Germans speak, the masterplan sounded painfully simple.


Lahm and his manager Joachim Löw were open about how they had stopped Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi in particular. "We wanted to restrict them [Tevez and Messi] in the middle," Lahm said. "We pushed them to the wings, where we did not mind them being. You saw that in the middle they did not have a big chance against us. They did not have one proper goal-scoring opportunity, so it was a good match for us."


"In both games we were ready and you saw again that the better team wins against the better players. Winning 4-1 against England gave every player a lot of confidence and this victory against Argentina is good for us, especially the young players. We are ready to go to the final. Before the England and Argentina games we watched a video of our goals celebrations and now for the semi-final we will do the same."


If anyone can beat Spain then it is surely this team of fearless young players and their coolly analytical approach to games. They do not seem the types to have hang-ups about what Xavi Hernandez or David Villa might have achieved in the past. In March they were beaten by Argentina in a friendly match in Munich which was regarded as a wake-up call to Löw's young side and now within four months they have reversed that result impressively.


Löw is a difficult character to read but like many of the current great managers in Europe, he had a thwarted career as a player followed by an up-and-down record as a club manager. There is a vanity about him - perhaps that craving for recognition - and there was a deliciously awkward moment after the first goal against Argentina when he snubbed an enthusiastic embrace from his assistant Hans-Dieter Flick. But his stock as a manager is soaring.


Just the brief outline of the career of Löw, in charge of Stuttgart when they lost the 1998 European Cup Winners' Cup final to Chelsea, with its periods of obscurity and misfortune in Turkey and Austria demonstrates that one sacking on a CV does not make a bad manager.


He was uncompromising in his analysis of Argentina, whose defenders Gabriel Heinze and Martin Demichelis he described as "highly experienced" - a clear euphemism for "slow and old".


"They have four or five excellent attackers who perhaps don't support the defence at all times," Löw said. "That creates space in their defence if you attack quickly. I told my young players they were faster than them and, if they keep [Argentina] under pressure, players like Heinze would struggle because they're not as young as they used to be. We did that and took their defence apart completely."


After Thomas Müller had headed in Bastian Schweinsteiger's free-kick in the third minute, Argentina were never settled. They relied upon their deep reserves of individual talent to find a way through while Germany's well-organised system never flinched. Then, in the last 22 minutes of the match, Argentina's defence splintered.


The Independent








Tom Cruise turned 48 on Saturday, and the one-time biggest movie-star in the world may well be losing some sleep. The actor making Top Gun and Mission Impossible soar now seems unable to do the obvious, guarantee an action film a huge audience. His latest film, Knight And Day, co-starring Cameron Diaz, opens in India this Friday after getting a critical and commercial drubbing abroad. Yet despite it garnering the worst result for a Cruise action movie in 20 years, the 48-yearold is starting to get his cool back.


After Cruise's outbursts about Scientology, his couch-jumping on Oprah Winfrey's talk show, and ambitious movie projects that didn't add up to much, it seemed unthinkable that we'd ever root for Cruise again. Yet root we did, with one of the most unconventional comebacks of all time.


Peeling off the megastar trappings and hiding in a hairy fatsuit, Cruise took an uncredited cameo in Ben Stiller's fantastic Tropic Thunder. Playing the bald and bombastically profane producer Les Grossman, Cruise provided a stunningly foulmouthed cameo that shocked audiences before making them double up with laughter. Many exited theatres not even knowing the irresistible boor was Cruise, and the subsequent revelation earned him significant cred. So much that Grossman hosted this year's MTV Movie Awards, his trademark dance winning a standing ovation.


The glorified cameo, essentially a full-fledged supporting character role masked by a special appearance tag, is increasingly turning into an escape route for actors trapped too heavily by their own image.


Nicolas Cage, an Academy Awardwinning actor now reduced to formulaic, interchangeable action films while wearing increasingly horrible hairstyles, is back and bigger than ever, following a remarkable performance in Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant, one of the most-overlooked films of the last 12 months.


Yet what brought him back into the circuit was his terrific part in Matthew Vaughn's striking Kick-Ass, where Cage – in a role very low on screen-time – played a magnificently inappropriate father figure with a crime-fighting alter ego called Big Daddy, modelled on the campy television Batman of the 60s. The result was smashing, and we all love Cage again, hooray.


In India, pin-up boy Hrithik Roshan – who dances and twirls and puckers so much and so spectacularly that he seems entirely eye-candy – is clearly trapped by his poster-friendly image, each frame of his films focussed on showing off his finely chiselled physique and jawline, so much so that he can't try and act even if he wanted to.
The solution? A quirky insider-comedy like Zoya Akhtar's Luck By Chance, where Hrithik, playing an effeminate, narcissistic caricature of himself, got to show off a disarming self-awareness, comic timing and some out-on-a-limb homoerotic bravado, the kind his regular producers would react to with cardiac arrest. And, very likely, lawsuit.


The primary reason big-ticket actors, of course, can afford to let their hair down in these cameo roles – and self-mocking viral videos online – is because there is very little actual money riding on their shoulders. Roshan knows he can goof around all he wants because the film's hero is someone else, and this frees up his gargantuan shoulders in a way he hasn't experienced before. Ditto for Cruise, who seems to be enjoying himself a lot more as the bear-knuckled producer trying to find a uniquely filthy way to tell someone off instead of the charming hero riding a motorcycle with Ms Diaz's unbelievably long legs wrapped around him.


It is a great situation for an actor, the reason the best thesps on screen routinely play over-the-top baddies in comic book movies and gleefully take on the role of Bond villains. And while the blame for these films' potential failure is always aimed at the hero or the filmmaker, the superstars revelling in not having to take themselves seriously are almost always the best thing in the film, and provide the most quotable scenes for smitten audiencemembers to gush over later.


All in all, it's a win-win situation – at least for actors secure enough to laugh at themselves.



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




No one will deny that the least a democratic government can do for its people in a civilised society is to ensure access to food at a reasonable price. Ensuring food security is, therefore, a fundamental responsibility of the state. However, it is not clear if enacting a Food Security Bill is the best way to go about it. India has become a democracy of laws. On paper, every citizen is assured of every possible right. In practice, the state is able to deliver on very few. Hence, the current obsession of the newly reconstituted National Advisory Council (NAC) may be nothing more than an act of self-congratulation. The real challenge before the government is to improve the institutions that are charged with the responsibility of delivering food to the consumer through the existing public distribution system (PDS). The NAC is reportedly considering changes in the provisions of the draft Food Security Bill. It would use its time better if it can show how the PDS can be made more efficient. Interestingly, a proposal for cash transfer of food subsidy, instead of supplying the foodgrain through the PDS, is also on the agenda for consideration by the NAC. This proposal may have more traction given the limitations of the PDS. The idea of expanding the PDS to ensure universal access and cover more food items, such as pulses and edible oils, may be desirable, but unfeasible for several reasons. The biggest problem is that of fake ration cards — over eight crore of them! This is much more than the estimated number of poor households of over six crore. Yet, a large count of the deserving poor has been left out of this network. If the same model of the PDS (read the food delivery system) is expanded in terms of its sway as well as basket of supply items, that will only make it worse.

This apart, the quantity of foodgrain needed for running such a universal PDS will be difficult, if not impossible, to secure. The present level of annual grain procurement of around 50 million tonnes (rice and wheat together) may not suffice even to supply 15 kg of grains per household through a universalised PDS. Supplying 25 kg or 35 kg of grains per household, as is being considered now, will be impossible without imports — something that will erode, rather than enhance, the country's overall food security. If, as suggested by some at the NAC meeting, the implementation of the right-to-food law is confined to select districts to begin with, as was done in the case of the right-to-employment law, that would amount to needless discrimination against the poor living in the areas left out of the jurisdiction of the new Act.

 If the object of the food security Bill is to ensure access to food for all, especially the poor, an improved and better targeted PDS should do the trick. A suggestion was reportedly made at the NAC meeting that coarse grains, such as ragi, bajra, maize and the like, be sold through the PDS to make the system self-selecting as such cereals are no longer consumed by the better-off households. However, even this is a theoretical, not a practical, solution. The total output of coarse cereals has seldom exceeded 40 million tonnes and these grains, barring maize, cannot be imported to augment supplies. In view of such problems in operating a grain-based system for ensuring food security, other options like food stamps and cash transfer of food assistance may be worth considering







The Union Minister for Food, Civil Supplies and Agriculture, Sharad Pawar, who also doubled as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and has now become president of the International Cricket Council (ICC), has reportedly pleaded with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that his ministerial burdens be reduced so that he can devote more of his time to his cricketing responsibilities. The prime minister should request Mr Pawar to choose between government and cricket. Mr Pawar will not be any less popular in his home state of Maharashtra, or any less respected as an elder statesman or any less influential in Indian politics if he ceased to be a Union minister. Indeed, his popularity may shoot up if he prefers to give up his ministerial perks and devotes the rest of his life to promoting cricket in India and around the world. He could make cricket an Olympian sport! He could get a bigger audience for Indian Premier League matches compared to World Cup soccer. There are so many new frontiers to be crossed and Mr Pawar could become a global mentor for cricket. Why should he seek to keep his Cabinet berth, if he does not have the time and energy for it? Mr Pawar says he needs more hands in his ministry. There are already too many ministers in India and most junior ministers complain that they have no work. Indeed, even senior ministers complain these days of not having much work!

Mr Pawar has been widely criticised for keeping one foot in cricket and one eye on Maharashtra even as he had his other foot in the Union government and the other eye on the top job in Delhi. No one can grudge a politician such political ambition. But when a minister says he wants less work in government to be able to devote more time to cricket, then one must ask whether it is not time to force a choice on him. With just nine members in Parliament, and some of them willing to return to the parent Congress party, Mr Pawar demands too much generosity from the prime minister, who, in fact, has been among his limited circle of well-wishers in the Congress party. Rather than push the prime minister into being even more generous, Mr Pawar should think of retiring from government, asking someone younger, perhaps his daughter, to take his place. When Mr Pawar took charge of agriculture in 2004, the prime minister asked him to repeat in the rest of India the developmental miracle he had wrought in his home constituency of Baramati. Regretfully, he has failed on that score and Indian agriculture has suffered due to neglect. The so-called Second Green Revolution is yet to take off, and food price inflation has hurt. Perhaps a change of hands at the food and agriculture ministry can help.








In retrospect, Friday's rate hikes seemed inevitable. It was about time that the central bank responded to the growing accusation that it had partially taken its eyes off the inflation ball. It had delayed the decision, choosing not to react hurriedly to last month's inflation release. There were other reasons for holding back — a local liquidity crunch and some unsettling news from international markets. What seems to have finally tipped the balance was the fuel price hike last week that adds roughly a percentage point immediately to inflation and quite a bit more over the longer term. Besides, the June inflation print due in mid-July is likely to appear somewhat alarming. HDFC Bank has forecast a level of over 11.5 per cent. A pre-emptive gesture was perhaps needed.

Does an inter-meeting rate hike (and the prospect of another hike in the July 27 policy) mean that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is accelerating its exit from the easy-money regime? I hope not. If indeed the lesson from the 2007-08 financial crisis is that central banks need to balance the objective of financial stability with inflation management, there is perhaps reason to be cautious. While the domestic economic news is heartening, one can't say the same about the global economy or markets. There could be extreme volatility in external capital flows in the future, if not a massive pullout. An over-zealous central bank would end up compounding the problem.

A quick review of what's happening in the wider world is perhaps in order here. While the jitters about the precariousness of the global economic recovery might have started in May with the crisis in Greece and other economies in the region, it is no longer a problem that is confined to Europe. The US housing market (an accepted bellwether for the broader economy) plummeted in May as new home sales fell by about 33 per cent over April. Despite the raft of stimulus measures, close to 10 per cent of the US' workforce remains unemployed. The most alarming bit is the fact that Asia's manufacturing sector, which seemed to have decoupled from the global business cycle earlier, seems to show growing signs of weakness. China's manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for June printed at 52.1, down from 53.9 in May and 55.7 in April (for the uninitiated, a reading of anything below 50 suggests a contraction in the economy). South Korea and Taiwan have seen considerable weakness in their manufacturing indices as well.

There is a smug assumption that policy pundits like to make. If indeed the current trends presage another crisis, it would be somehow easier to handle than the last one. The experience of handling the last crisis (post-subprime and post-Lehman) should stand us in good stead. I am not that sanguine. For one, as the saying goes, "If you've seen one economic crisis, you've seen one economic crisis." It is now a well-established fact that the cause and the dynamics of each crisis are significantly different from others. Thus it is likely that the contours of the impending crisis will turn out to be somewhat different from the previous one.

Some of the differences are obvious. The last crisis remained, to an extent, a problem of the banking and financial sector. One could argue that this made it easier to handle. Indeed, the first set of measures (the TALF and TARP in the US, and the European Central Bank's liquidity measures) was focused entirely on ensuring that liquidity in the banking system did not dry up. The current problem seems far more diffused — a smorgasbord of sovereign debt problems, weak employment and retail spending, and an inventory adjustment cycle that has run its course. It could thus be far more difficult to handle.

The other thing that bothers me is the fact that over the last three years, policy-makers have tried every trick in the book to fight the recession and yet none of these measures has been a clear success. Expansionary fiscal policy, for one, seemed to have worked for a while but it also seemed to have bred a new set of problems. Keynes' remedy might have prevented a depression in the US but it left southern Europe on the brink of fiscal collapse. Soon, the US will have to think of ways to address its fiscal crisis. If indeed governments have exhausted the manual of quick-fixes, it remains to be seen which rabbit they pull out of the hat this time.

There is a camp led by the likes of Paul Krugman that believe that the only way out is to continue with expansionary fiscal policy (possibly introduce another stimulus) and think about the tab later. I see some merit in this. Let's get one thing right. The US is not Greece. Heavyweight western economies — the US, the UK and certainly Germany — can pull off another round of fiscal stimulus without necessarily facing a debt crisis, the somewhat alarming fiscal ratios (the US is likely to have a budget deficit-GDP ratio of over 13 per cent in 2010 and a debt-GDP ratio of 100 per cent in 2011) notwithstanding. Continued fiscal stimulus is not just important for their domestic economies, there could be significant externalities as well. Germany is the pivot for Europe — if it loosens its purse strings, the entire region stands to gain.

However, there seems to be very little political support for this view. The impasse over the jobs Bill in the US Senate (that would extend another $34 billion in unemployment benefits) seems to suggest that more fiscal stimulus in the US is unlikely. Germany has decided to slash expenditures by about ¤60 billion over the next four years instead of pump-priming.

For Indian policy-makers, the implications should be clear. A number of policy decisions seem to be predicated on the assumption that we need to somehow get back to a path of "normalisation". This includes both monetary and fiscal policy (the decision to align fuel prices with international trends for instance). For an economy that has become closely aligned to the globe, the question to ask in taking decisions is whether indeed the world economy is slowly returning to a new "normal". My claim is that it isn't.

The author is chief economist, HDFC Bank. The views expressed are personal







IT'S the music that counts, Mr Kamal Nath, not individual members of the orchestra. True enough, the line department implements schemes, but is no automaton that can only do and die. It has insights drawn from experience, which can enrich the design, monitoring and execution of what it does. However, the Planning Commission, too, plays a meaningful role in determining how much of a particular type of major infrastructure the economy needs and can be sustained in a given year, given the constraint on resources. It can coordinate the activities of different line departments. More importantly, it can plan ahead, such as for the water shortage that is almost upon us, across India, or for the shortage of urban spaces to accommodate the sudden rise in urban population that accelerated growth of industry and services brings in its wake. So, it makes little sense to dismiss planners as armchair busybodies incidental to getting things done. And the example Mr Nath used to illustrate his point, of the New Delhi airport's spanking new terminal, T3, was particularly ill-chosen. Had the commission been in the picture, T3 would not have been built the way it has been, mocked Mr Nath. It is arguable that but for the Planning Commission's intervention at the stage of evaluation of the alternate bids, leading to the setting up of a group of ministers that delegated the task to eminent technocrat E Sreedharan, the construction of the terminal could well have gone to some project developer who would not have delivered, as GMR actually has.


On the positive side, such a run-in between a line ministry and the commission is a cause for celebration. Far better to have a minister and a ministry chafing at the bit to get things done than have someone who is only too happy to find readymade excuses for non-performance. Planning Commission chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia did right not to take offence at Mr Nath's remark. If criticism leads to ironing out wrinkles in the panel's working, everyone gains. Only the sense of propriety of a hierarchical society is hurt by some frank give-and-take amongst members of a democratic government.








 EVEN those who are no great fans of cricket would have to concede that the game has its uses. It has now come in handy for an absentee minister of some crucial ministries to be replaced. After becoming president of the International Cricket Council, Mr Sharad Pawar has reportedly asked the prime minister for a reduced workload. Dr Manmohan Singh should not only oblige Mr Pawar, by allocating the pre-occupied ally something innocuous like sports and youth affairs but also use the occasion to reallocate portfolios and also to regroup different departments currently operating independently, overriding their natural affinity. Of course, in a coalition set-up, the prime minister does not have unconditional freedom to act as he pleases. But ministers who are absent or do not contribute or, worse, create a policy mess, should be shown the door. Or, if that is not possible, moved to ministries where the damage they do would be minimal. Equally important is the need to separate a ministry like agriculture from the one for food and consumer affairs. A bias on the part of the minister towards producers would saddle consumers with higher prices while a bias towards consumers might disincentivise farmers from raising production. If the two departments are handled by independent ministers, they are likely to strike a viable balance. Ministries also need to be rearranged in a rationalisation of sorts, which can yield better coordination in allied areas. For example, there is every reason to tag the department of fertilisers to the same minister who handles agriculture. At present, it is unlikely that the two different departments, working under two different ministers, would find the degree of coordination required, for example, for the government to announce a hike in fertiliser prices but to present it to the farmers as part of a holistic package that comprises a host of other production and income-boosting incentives. That is the only way to get this done, too.


The leadership of the UPA has to strike a balance not only within the coalition but also with the voters, who expect performance. Intra-coalition balancing acts should not render performance a casualty.









THOUSANDS of toddlers in Bangalore and elsewhere will hopefully be inspired by Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa's promise to cry no more. If there was a competition for CMs who sob, Yeddyurappa would have won hands down. He has wept in public quite a few times, the most memorable occasion being last November when he broke down during a TV channel interview when asked about demands for his resignation by dissidents led by the mining barons-turned-ministers known as the Reddy brothers. More recently, at a mass rally held in Bangalore on the second anniversary of the BJP coming to power in Karnataka, the CM broke down twice. The first bout of tears was when he talked about the plight of some would-be beneficiaries of his government's schemes having to pay bribes. Minutes later, he wept again while holding forth on how the unkind opposition leaders kept criticising him. The newspapers carried photographs of the CM wiping his eyes with a handkerchief.


 The waterworks could now stop, with media reports stating that Yeddyurappa has resolved not to cry any more in public. Weeping CMs are not that common in India. Even actors-turned-CMs such as MGR and NTR addressed mass rallies without repeatedly breaking down. The most famous instance of an Indian leader weeping both in Hindi and English was some 33 years ago when Indira Gandhi addressed her supporters after the Congress split in the wake of the 1977 electoral debacle and she was expelled by the rival faction. Yeddyurappa's supporters say the CM has a soft heart and is moved by the plight of the people. His detractors maintain that all this is nothing but crocodile tears. If India's first prime minister is remembered for the Nehru jacket, Yeddyurappa could be associated not with the Italian-style designer suit he wore at the recently-held Global Investors' Meet in Bangalore but with the big handkerchief he always carries!







AGREAT aphorist, the 19th century clergyman Sydney Smith, defined heaven as 'eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets'. The fans of the local Bloemfontein Celtics side are wellknown for singing as well as for blowing their vuvuzelas — the controversial plastic trumpet favoured by South African supporters — unrestrained at every football match, from pre-game kickabout to injury time.


During the Second World War, governments realised that unrestrained talk could cost lives. Now they are realising it can cost them money too.


Kolbászból lesz a kerítés?(Will the fences be made of sausage?) is the question Hungarians are asking. The new ruling party Fidesz had made campaign promises incompatible with Hungary's $25-billion IMF and EU-led stabilisation programme. When Fidesz vice-president conjectured that Hungary would be lucky to avoid a Greek-style crisis, it led to fears Hungary would join the market goulash. Hungary — which has its own currency, the forint — is better off than Greece in terms of indebtedness (only 79% of output).


 France, meanwhile, is suffering from unwise words of Francois Baroin, budget minister who said it would be a 'stretch' to keep the country's AAA credit rating.


 We also had Japan's new Prime Minister Naoto Kan pledging a fiscal policy overhaul to reduce the country's massive public debt, warning of a Greecestyle meltdown.


Economists too are enjoying a bit of a renaissance. If Greece is the new Lehman Brothers, Lehman Brothers itself was the new Argentina (2001), and Argentina was the new CreditAnstalt (1931), and CreditAnstalt was the new previous Argentina (1890), and the previous Argentina was the new South Sea Co (1720), which was the new Philip II of Spain, who through his multiple defaults (1557, 1560, 1575 and 1596) managed repeatedly to be the new himself.


Forecasts say gross general US government debt will hit 100% of GDP next year. But $4.5 trillion (47%) of that is categorised as 'intragovernmental holdings'.


 US paid nearly double today's interest levels (2.2 % of GDP) from 1984 through 1996, and that was during two mega bull markets.


There's $1.84 trillion of cash on the balance-sheets of US corporations — up a record 26% year-over-year. If cash were a nation's GDP, US would rank 11th in the world. While high cash balances aren't of themselves bullish, they typically lead business spending and investment.


Over the past four quarters, non-farm productivity in the US had its sixth-biggest jump since records began in the 1940s. US unit labour costs are dropping at their fastest pace in 40 years. The 1.5% increase in the average workweek that we have seen over the last seven months has only occurred two other times in history. Those occurrences came in the first half of 1982 and the first half of 1996 — both at the start of major bull markets.
   Simultaneously, Chinese labour cost is rising. But labour costs can be a small fraction (7%) even for labour-intensive industries like Foxconn. China is responsible only for about a quarter of the value of manufacturing a computer.
 The ECRI weekly leading index (WLI) — composed of stock, money supply and housing starts — has suddenly dropped to –5.7%. A significant decline in the WLI has been a leading indicator for six of the seven recessions since 1965. It lagged one recession (1981-82) by nine weeks. The WLI did turn negative 17 times when no recession followed, but 14 of those were only slightly negative (–0.1 to –2.4) and most of them reversed after brief declines.


THREE of the false negatives were deeper declines. The Crash of 1987 took the Index negative for 68 weeks with a trough of –6.8. The Financial Crisis of 1998 took the Index negative for 23 weeks with a trough of –4.5.

The third significant false negative came near the bottom of the bear market of 2000-02, about nine months after the brief recession of 2001. At the time, WLI seemed to be signalling a double-dip recession, but the economy and market accelerated in the spring of 2003, and a recession was averted.

Double-dips are rare, occurring just twice in the past 100 years: once in 1920 and again in 1981. When inflation-adjusted GDP has come out of a decline and posted three or four quarters of gains, it has historically never immediately begun to fall again — at least not since quarterly numbers began to be issued in 1947. We have had a year of improving global GDP.


The S&P 500 and the MSCI World Index have averaged declines of 0.37% and 4.34% respectively in the three months following the Soccer World Cup.


 Investors are fretting slower-than-expected growth in Chinese Purchasing Managers' Index. Slower exports to Europe, disruptions caused by higher minimum wages and restrictions on secondary property market all weighed. But the index was expansionary — 16th month in a row. Just a few months ago, many fretted superfast Chinese growth would lead to overheating.


Historically, unemployment is a lagging indicator and shouldn't be used to gauge improving economic conditions.


Since March 2009 low, Shanghai, S&P 500 and Sensex are up 12.5%, 51% and 114% respectively.


Death crosses transfixed market chartgazers round the world last week. They appeared over the London FTSE, Eurofirst 300 Nikkei 225 and nearly the S&P 500. A cross forms when an index's 50-day moving average, measuring its recent trend, dips below its 200-day moving average. It happens rarely — only four times in the past decade for the S&P 500 — and many believe it signals a bear market. But dark crosses have signalled four of the past two US bear markets, and five of the past two Japanese bear markets.


 Whether done by rhetoric, as with BP's dividend, or new laws, as with the UK bonus tax and the Australian mining tax, new levies are on the cards.


Unrestrained talk and unbridled legislation could trigger a healthy stock market correction between July and September 2010.


(The author is a Wharton Business School    MBA and CEO of Global Money Investor)








IN DIRECTING employees, managers often face a choice between invoking authority and persuasion. In particular, since a firm's formal and relational contracts and its culture and norms are quite rigid in the short term, a manager who needs to prevent an employee from undertaking the wrong action has the choice of either trying to persuade the employee or relying on interpersonal authority.

This paper studies a principal's trade-off between using persuasion versus using interpersonal authority to get the agent to 'do the right thing' from the principal's perspective (when the principal and agent openly disagree on the right course of action). It shows that persuasion and authority are complements at low levels of effectiveness but substitutes at high levels. Furthermore, the principal will rely more on persuasion when agent motivation is more important for the execution of the project, when the agent has strong intrinsic or extrinsic incentives, and, for a wide range of settings, when the principal is more confident about the right course of action.

In choosing between persuasion and authority, the manager makes a cost-benefit trade-off. This paper studies that trade-off, focusing in particular on conflicts that originate in open disagreement. Authority and persuasion are substitutes when authority is highly effective but complements when authority is not very effective. The manager also relies more on persuasion (without authority) when employees have higher pay-forperformance incentives.








Yes, but set up data repository first

IN 1997, the government promulgated the new exploration licensing policy (Nelp) with attractive fiscal terms to bring in competitiveness and investment in the exploration and production (E&P) sector. After eight rounds of bidding in the last 13 years, there is no doubt about the success of the Nelp regime that provided level playing field, and attracted international players and big investment in the sector. Technology-driven enhanced level of exploratory efforts opened up new geological plays, notably the east coast from which gas production commenced in April 2009.


The government's plan to move to open acreage licensing policy (OALP), following the success of Nelp, is a desirable and welcome move. Typically, such a system works better for countries with scarce hydrocarbon resources. Moreover, most easy oil in India has been discovered. Today, about 33% of Indian sedimentary basins remain unexplored or poorly explored. The undiscovered hydrocarbon reserves are believed to be in difficult terrain such as frontier onland areas and ultra-deep water areas.


 Under these circumstances, it makes sense to give the companies flexibility to choose their exploration area by offering them access to data for blocks round the year. Under OALP, there will be no deadlines for bidding and investors can bid aggressively to corner as many blocks as possible. And, more importantly, each E&P company can take a call on when and where to invest according its comfort level and resource availability.


 However, prospectivity perception is based on knowledge and data. So, a national data repository (NDR) that can archive all E&P data under one roof is the first requirement. This will help the operators take risky exploration decisions confidently. E&P operators would be required to share all their geo-scientific data to NDR so that the pool of data is available for all explorers on real-time and continuous basis round the year. The directorate-general of hydrocarbons (DGH) is in the process of setting up the NDR. However, defined regulations regarding ownership of data, time of release of data in public domain and sharing of information in the public domain need to be formulated.


Former Petroleum Secretary

We are not yet ready for OALP

THE petroleum minister recently announced that the open acreage licensing policy (OALP) was likely to replace the new exploration licensing policy (Nelp) that was in operation for over a decade. However, OALP requires availability of large number of blocks for exploration and production, besides a stable fiscal regime and, above all, availability in public domain of geological data and prospective details of the area if not individual blocks.


 In the Alberta province of Canada, nearly 9,000 licences or leases are given every year, with total operating licences and leases being over 1,00,000. Prospectivity of the area is well known and the fiscal regime is stable. In comparison, we have given about 250 blocks under Nelp in over 10 years. The last one, Nelp-VIII, had announced over 50 blocks but could find takers only for 31 and that too after intensive efforts and road shows at important locations spread over a year. In terms of fiscal regime, the finance ministry has recently given a new definition to gas taking it out from mineral oil as if oil and gas are separate hydrocarbons for exploration. The Supreme Court has now overturned the earlier assurances given to developers that they had price and distribution freedom for their share of oil and gas.


 As for geological data availability, nearly 50% of our area is poorly explored and we have very little data of value. So, we are neither ready, nor is it appropriate at this stage to go for OALP. OALP may also unduly help the entrenched PSUs or promote crony capitalism. It does not mean that OALP is not needed. In fact, it will be most appropriate for the coal sector where the data for area that is not earmarked for Coal India for immediate exploration can be made available to PSUs such as ONGC, OIL and NTPC, and for captive mines for power, cement and steel industries to come forward. This can be done even under existing laws to introduce new technology and better management. Eventually, coal should be treated as energy resource and brought under an integrated Carbon and Hydrocarbon Regulation &Development Act instead of Oilfield Act and the Mines Act.









THE proposal date that all listed companies be mandated to have a minimum public float of 25% sounds eminently sensible. Public float is defined as that part of a listed company's shares that are not held by the promoter. The proposal to mandate a minimum 25% public float has been around since Budget 2009 when the finance minister announced it.


The proposal is now a law: the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Rules (SCRR), 1957, have been amended to mandate each company to have at least a minimum public holding of 25%. This ruling extends to government companies and listed statutory corporations. But the proposal has got many things wrong.

The purpose of the amended law is straightforward: to create deeper public listed markets. Few would disagree that deeper markets are more efficient, allow companies to raise funds cheaper and with more ease, and make manipulation of stocks more expensive.


The first problem of introducing a higher minimum public float may, in fact, be to make companies who wish to list stay away from the markets, if they are forced to divest more that what they are required to do today. This would have the unintended consequence of making the market less liquid, not more.
   Secondly, a company like Wipro, which had been assured of a minimum of only a 10% public float, would feel betrayed if it is now forced to divest a larger percentage. Had it known then that such a move would arrive, it may never have listed its securities.


 Thirdly, a company unhappy with the new fiat of higher public holding may, in fact, delist its shares rather than dilute the shareholding of the dominant shareholders. Again making the markets less liquid, not more.
   Fourthly, the time given to comply is extremely short, i.e., 2-3 years on an average. Three years is a very short time to raise money in excess of Rs 1.6 trillion as estimated. To give a context, this is more money than has been publicly raised from 2004 to 2010 in public offerings.


Public policy needs longer-term vision — and knee-jerk changes with short deadlines create uncertainty, unnecessary complexity and anxiety amongst market players and may cause existing shareholder agreements to become unenforceable. The past has seen much lack of vision with minimum float laws fluctuating from 40% to 25% to 25/10%, and government-owned companies getting away with any number.


 Fifthly, it raises important but subtle points on supremacy of powers in the political sphere. Can the finance ministry amend the delegated rules, which it has the power to do under the powers delegated to it by Parliament even when the Cabinet has made other decisions to divest shareholding in the public sector at a lower percentage? This issue was raised by a Cabinet minister in public who has vowed to defy the law.
   Sixthly, though there is some ambiguity in Rule 19A of the amendment — which seems to permit dilution by promoters by sale in the market rather than dilution of equity by the company itself — a forced dilution by issue of new shares alone may create a piquant situation. Companies would raise lots of money from the market, but have no use of the forcibly-raised money.


 Finally, the biggest problem: this move comes at the worst possible time in modern history. Given the international financial crisis showing no signs of ebbing, and the governments internationally in deleveraging mode for at least half a decade more, raising this amount of equity in three years sounds like the government is forcing sale and dilution at possibly fire-sale prices for both the public and the private sectors. This will be bad for Indian citizens and shareholders as they get diluted much beyond where they would be placed in less volatile times.


If volatility persists and valuations remain as subdued in the next two years as in the past two, the divestment would result not only in Indian shareholders (including the government) losing out, but cash-rich sovereign wealth funds and opportunistic hedge funds including in the worst-case scenario vulture funds gaining substantially at their expense.


 Luckily, a senior bureaucrat has demonstrated the finance ministry's willingness to reconsider the change in law. Here is what this author suggests: defer the decision, till the dark clouds of the financial crisis no longer loom over the Indian horizon. Much as we would like to celebrate a return to the 9% growth trajectory, caution in necessary on this front. Second, give a substantially-longer period to comply with the norm. Third, offer a tax or other benefit to companies that list and comply with the norm as opposed to those which do not. Given the substantial costs of compliance for a listed company and the benefits of a well-governed listed company for the economy, there is aneed to offer a carrot for companies that list.


 Lastly, there is need to get the full Cabinet on board so that public sector also abides by the same law as the private sector — and there is no repeat of the non-compliance by public sector listed companies with even the most basic of the 2006 corporate governance norms set by Sebi remain violated till today.
   (The author is founder of Finsec Law Advisors)








ARE you reading this column online? Or are you on to the touchyfeely, salmon pink-paper avatar of ET? There's no difference of content of course. But if you believe the latest screed penned against the World Wide Web by the technology-writer Nicholas Carr, the medium does seem to affect the message. "When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning," he writes in The shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. "Even as the internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain."


Is that really true? Is the internet rewiring our brains into shallower versions? They said something similar when electricity and telegraph made their debut. But if you go by the socalled Flynn effect, IQ scores around the world have risen steadily since then. Similar gains have been reported for other cognitions such as semantic and episodic memories.


 Of course, over a billion people on the planet still subsist on less than a dollar and a quarter a day. But what is equally striking is the manner in which growth has headed south, while debt has gone north. Meanwhile, Finland just became the first country to make broadband access a basic right — by 2015, every Finnish citizen can expect to acquire a 100 Mbps connection from the government.


They are obviously not listening to Carr's cri de coeur against the internet as "a disruptive system, which seizes our attention only to scramble it!" The simplest fix in the interests of office productivity would be to impose 'switchoff' for those who procrastinate for hours on their social networks and compulsive checking of e-mail. If that sounds too Big Brotherly, one can always use dedicated software to 'insulate' one's attention. This offers the virtual equivalent of a forest retreat.


 It also makes you wonder how they did things in an age where there were no scripts or texts. What happened, for instance, when Svetaketu came to sit by his father Uddalaka's side? Svetaketu was proud of his learning. But he's stumped when asked about the first cause of all causes. It's an unfair question for the answer lies forever beyond words. But even Uddalaka's take on what he calls Sat or the One without an equal is to be taken on faith, in humanity.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



It is certainly unusual for a senior Cabinet minister to ask the Prime Minister to take away some of his work burden. Indeed, heavyweight politicians like to give off the aura of power by having as many government departments under their charge as they can. It is only fair then that Sharad Pawar, the stalwart Maharashtra politician who holds the agriculture and allied portfolios in the UPA-2 government, should be taken at face value — that he has not urged the Prime Minister to lighten his work as a Cabinet minister on account of his appointment to a two-year term as president of the International Cricket Council. It is true that when the Nationalist Congress Party chief made his appeal to Dr Manmohan Singh six months ago, he would have been aware that he was to take up the ICC presidency. Nevertheless, there is merit in Mr Pawar's contention. The president of the ICC is a largely ceremonial position. The day-to-day hard work is put in by the CEO and the plethora of advisers. With time constraints appearing to be an unlikely reason why the NCP chief is keen to have his government work reduced, we should also reasonably accept what Mr Pawar says next — that he'd like to devote more time to politics. The NCP's brand value has diminished in recent years, and it is unlikely to be raised significantly if the party supremo, freed to a degree from governmental responsibilities, works harder for the party. On the other hand, if he were to shed some areas of his present charge, these could be given to other NCP MPs. This is a good way of keeping the flock together when the party's brand image is not what it was, and some in the NCP are said to be keeping their options open vis-à-vis returning to their parent party, the Congress. Offering incentives to MPs and winning them over is also likely to be a useful instrument should the NCP leader be looking to get his daughter Supriya Sule to succeed him as chief with as little fuss as possible, especially since she is a relative newcomer to politics. Whether Dr Singh is able to oblige his NCP colleague or not is likely to be a political decision taken by the Congress leadership. If the Congress wishes to leave undisturbed the Congress-NCP coalition government in Maharashtra and the political dynamics that underpin it, the Prime Minister may heed Mr Pawar's urgings. On the other hand, if the Congress decides to create a situation that may lead to the scattering of the NCP, it may choose to be venturesome and turn down Mr Pawar's request.
Whatever the considerations of power politics, Mr Pawar needs to answer a few questions. Especially when farm production was down in the past two years on account of deficient rainfall, the ministry for civil supplies under his charge needed to crank up the public distribution system so that the poorest people weren't exposed to the hardship caused by sharply escalating prices. It may be just as well that the NCP leader surrenders this portfolio. But this would have been worthwhile if a dynamic minister committed to the PDS succeeds him, regardless of party labels.






COMPARED WITH the protracted excitement and controversy over the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, the resumption of India-Canada nuclear cooperation that was abruptly ruptured 36 years ago has received little attention. This may be because despite its undoubted significance the accord between the two countries — signed in the presence of the two countries' Prime Ministers in Toronto on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty (G-20) Summit — is entirely non-controversial. It is also beneficial to both sides and inimical to no third country.

Not many people remember that Canada was the first country to help India embark on its nuclear programme, as drawn up by legendary Homi Bhabha. While a British-supplied Apsara reactor was the first to be set up in this country, Canada's Cirus reactor, called "Candu" by the Canadians, was the second. But it suited India's needs and Dr Bhabha's grand design, based on Indian realities, much better. For, unlike Apsara, it used natural uranium fuel with heavy water as moderator and thus freed us from dependence on uncertain imports of enriched uranium. No wonder then that Candu became the prototype for the subsequent reactors installed in this country. At the time of the signing of the Cirus agreement there was no International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or a safeguards system. So the only condition the India-Canada agreement contained was that this country would use the plutonium produced by the reactor for "peaceful purposes" only.

Fast forward to May 18, 1974: On that day India conducted an underground nuclear detonation in Pokhran, Rajasthan, now known as Pokhran I. The then Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, somewhat angrily terminated his country's nuclear cooperation with India. Indira Gandhi's argument that what India had conducted was a peaceful nuclear experiment (PNE) for economic purposes was perfectly valid. PNEs were much in vogue then. The US had conducted 28 and the Soviet Union as many as 239 explosions of the same kind. But this evidently made no difference to Trudeau. Canada walked out of the half-completed second reactor at Rana Pratap Sagar in Rajasthan, a project that the Russians completed later. Furthermore, since then Canada, invoking the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG), had also been enforcing a ban on the export to India of dual use technology and materials.

All this is now a thing of the past. The 36-year-old chasm has been bridged. In fact, the potential of the Toronto accord is immense. Canada will almost certainly join other nuclear reactor-exporting countries, such as the US, France and Russia, to seek a share in this country's huge and growing nuclear market. To India some of the finely-honed Canadian nuclear technologies would be of great interest. Most importantly, Canada is the world's biggest producer of uranium of which India is very short. It is no secret that during the last two years lack of uranium had forced some nuclear power stations to curtail production.

However, if there is an excellent and highly promising nuclear accord in hand, there are several developments in the complex and oft-manipulated area of nuclear trade and diplomacy in the works that can lead to discord and other complications, and should therefore be a cause for concern. Of these the most notable is China's defiant decision to supply Pakistan two new nuclear reactors to be established in the plutonium-producing Chashma atomic complex in Pakistan's Punjab. This is in clear violation of the written assurances China gave the NSG while joining it in 2004. Even at that time it had insisted that the two reactors it was then selling to Pakistan were "grandfathered" much before it had applied for the NSG membership. These two reactors are nearing completion at Chashma. Some champions of non-proliferation, including the US, gently suggested that Beijing should ask for the NSG's approval, as was done in the case of the Indo-Soviet nuclear deal. But this fell on deaf ears. The only assurance Beijing is prepared to give is that the reactors it proposes to sell to its ally would be under the IAEA safeguards.

Under the circumstances the general expectation was that the 46-member NSG would take up this issue at its meeting at Christchurch, New Zealand, in the last week of June. In fact, an "army" of non-proliferation enthusiasts had descended on the meeting's venue to press for nuclear-trade guidelines being "observed fully by all concerned". But the result was an anti-climax. A former Indian governor of the IAEA, T.P. Sreenivasan, has described the situation aptly. Writing under the heading "The Nuclear Suppliers' Group's Shameful Silence", he says: China's "blatant violation" was "on everyone's mind but nobody's lips… The US was nowhere to be found". Perhaps to explain the American reluctance to cause any offence to China, the writer quotes a "senior White House spokesman" to the effect: "India imitates China, Pakistan imitates India. What can we do to stop their nuclear activities?" The same spokesman is reported to have added that US did not want to "displease China or Pakistan". This bespeaks of China's clout on the one hand and Pakistan's importance in the American scheme of things in relation to Afghanistan, on the other.

Selig Harrison, a respected American writer and foreign policy expert, is even more sharply critical of the US equivocation on Chinese reactors to Pakistan, but his is a voice in the wilderness. The US needs China for a number of reasons, including economy, war on terror and North Korean nuclear weapons. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari is already in Beijing. Nobody should be surprised if the agreement on the two reactors is signed during his six-day visit.

There is another cause for concern for India in the form of a move within the NSG to prohibit the transfer of reprocessing and enrichment technologies to countries that haven't signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (read India). If accepted by the nuclear cartel, this would retrospectively dilute the 123 Agreement between India and the US and the NSG's own "clean waiver" under which India is fully entitled to get these two technologies. At Christchurch the matter was not taken up. But it hasn't been dropped either.







Let's say you're the leader of the free world. The economy is stuck in the doldrums. Naturally, you want to do something.

Many economists say we need another stimulus bill. They debate about whether the stimulus should take the form of tax cuts or spending increases, but the ones in your party are committed to spending increases. They trot out a plausible theory with computer models to go with it. If the federal government borrows X amount of dollars and pumps it into the economy, that would produce Y amount of growth and Z amount of jobs. In a $14 trillion economy, you'd probably have to borrow hundreds of billions more to have any noticeable effect, but at least you'd be doing something to help the jobless.

These Demand Side theorists are giving you a plan of action. But you're not a theorist. You're a practical executive, and you have some concerns.

These Demand Siders have very high IQ's, but they seem to be strangers to doubt and modesty. They have total faith in their models. But all schools of economic thought have taken their lumps over the past few years. Are you really willing to risk national insolvency on the basis of a model?

Moreover, the Demand Siders write as if everybody who disagrees with them is immoral or a moron. But, in fact, many prize-festooned economists do not support another stimulus. Most European leaders and central bankers think it's time to begin reducing debt, not increasing it — as do many economists at the international economic institutions. Are you sure your theorists are right and theirs are wrong?

The Demand Siders don't have a good explanation for the past two years. There is no way to know for sure how well the last stimulus worked because we don't know what would have happened without it. But it is certainly true that the fiscal spigots have been wide open. The US and most other countries have run up huge, historic deficits. And while this has helped save public-sector jobs, we certainly haven't seen much private-sector job growth. It could be that government spending is a weak lever to counter economic cycles. Maybe monetary policy is the only strong tool we have.

The theorists have high IQ's but don't seem to know much psychology. Lord Keynes, though a lesser mathematician, wrote that the state of confidence "is a matter to which practical men pay the closest and most anxious attention".

These days, debt-fuelled government spending doesn't increase confidence. It destroys it. Only six per cent of Americans believe the last stimulus created jobs, according to a New York Times/CBS News survey. Consumers are recovering from a debt-fuelled bubble and have a moral aversion to more debt.

You can't read models, but you do talk to entrepreneurs in Racine and Yakima. Higher deficits will make them more insecure and more risk-averse, not less. They're afraid of a fiscal crisis. They're afraid of future tax increases. They don't believe government-stimulated growth is real and lasting. Maybe they are wrong to feel this way, but they do. And they are the ones who invest and hire, not the theorists.

The Demand Siders are brilliant, but they write as if changing fiscal policy were as easy as adjusting the knob on your stove. In fact, it's very hard to get money out the door and impossible to do it quickly. It's hard to find worthwhile programmes to pour money into. Once programmes exist, it's nearly impossible to kill them. Spending now creates debt forever and ever.

Moreover, public spending seems to have odd knock-off effects. Professors Lauren Cohen, Joshua Coval and Christopher Malloy of Harvard surveyed 42 years of government spending increases in certain Congressional districts. They found that federal spending increases dampened corporate hiring and investment in those districts. You wish somebody could explain that one to you before you pass on more debt burdens to your grandchildren.

So you have your doubts, but you are practical. You want to do something. Too much debt could lead to national catastrophe. Too much austerity could lead to stagnation.

Well, there's a few short-term things you can do. First, extend unemployment insurance; that's a foolish place to begin budget-balancing. Second, you need to mitigate the pain caused by the state governments that are slashing spending. You need a programme modelled on Race to the Top. You will provide federal money now to states that pass responsible long-term budget plans that will reduce spending and pension commitments. That would save public-sector jobs and ease contractionary pressures without throwing the country into a fiscal-debt spiral.

But the overall message is: Don't be arrogant. This year, don't engage in reckless new borrowing or reckless new cutting. Focus on the fundamentals. Cut programmes that don't enhance productivity. Spend more on those that do.

You don't have the ability to play the economy like a fiddle. You do have the ability to lay some foundations for long-term growth and stability.







When the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Ms Mayawati, changed her ideological position from Bahujan Samaj formulated by her mentor Kanshi Ram to Sarvajan Samaj there was elation among the upper caste intellectuals and sadness among the dalit-bahujan intellectuals.

Delhi-based intellectuals, who usually hate Ms Mayawati, started praising her for her accommodative approach and for leaving behind the confrontational approach of Kanshi Ram.

In fact, many were surprised how a militant anti-manuwadi woman leader could compromise with the Uttar Pradesh brahmins against whom she had been fighting so virulently.

When she worked out a formula for roping the Uttar Pradesh brahmins into the fold of her votebank by repositioning her party's slogan itself, from Bahujan Samaj to Sarvajan Samaj, several dalit-bahujan scholars thought that this would be the end of Ambedkarism in Uttar Pradesh, even north India.

Kanshi Ram's death had led to depression in the dalit-bahujan political circles of the nation. Kanshi Ram was an inspiring and uncompromising political and intellectual leader and Ms Mayawati was not seen as a leader in her own right then.

I too was very sceptical of her abilities to lead the Bahujan Samaj Party in a manner that could help it survive — leave alone coming to power as it did later.

Once she came to power there was also speculation that she would serve the brahminical interests — leaving Kanshi Ram's legacy behind.

However, it has now become evident that in the cultural realm she is simply dalitising the whole state. This was something unexpected. Not only are districts being renamed after dalit-bahujan icons, but the very ethos of Uttar Pradesh is undergoing a revolutionary change now.

Ms Mayawati has built many monuments on the Navayana Buddhist theme (navayana is Pali for new vehicle). Navayana Buddhist refers to the idea that a Buddhist movement may represent a new yana. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: "I will accept and follow the teachings of Buddha. I will keep my people away from the different opinions of Hinyan and Mahayan, two religious orders. Our Bouddha Dhamma is a new Bouddha Dhamma, Navayan".

The Buddhist and Ambedkar parks that Ms Mayawati is building will inevitably reduce the spiritual significance of Ayodhya, Kashi-Benares, Mathura and so on.

By renaming districts after Ambedkar, Phule, Sahuji Maharaj, Rama Bai (the illiterate first wife of Ambedkar), the dalit-bahujan icons of Maharashtra and the birthplace of Navayana Buddhism, she has changed Uttar Pradesh's cultural atmosphere itself.

Of course, Kanshi Ram and Ms Mayawati herself have been elevated as icons in the process. In Uttar Pradesh, they are not only names of districts but their statues are being worshipped in Ambedkar parks.

Ms Mayawati's decision to transform the cultural realm of Uttar Pradesh would certainly have all-India implications. I do not think that the brahmins of Uttar Pradesh are in a position to resist this transformation. She has put it on an irreversible course.

The Congress cannot stall this course either. Wherever the Congress is in power, they have named institutions after Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. But they do not have any culturally transformative implications. Buddha, Ambedkar, Phule, Sahuji Maharaj, Periyar, Kanshi Ram and so on are not like that. They have serious anti-Hindu cultural implications. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) knows this but is not in a position to do anything because it burnt its hands in Ayodhya and Gujarat. Further, the BJP cannot say that these are anti-national icons.

Likewise, the Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav cannot reverse or stop the trend because he has no alternative of his own to offer. His party is now competing for power for the sake of power, without constructing any socio-cultural agenda of its own. Its icons, Ram Manohar Lohia and Charan Singh, do not have much impact in the cultural realm, unlike Ambedkar.

The fact is that unless icons are associated with alternative spiritual culture they do not create a following that lasts long. In the modern period only Ambedkar did that and Kanshi Ram brought that icon into unbelievable achievability. And Ms

Mayawati's dalit common sense captured that imagination very well.

Even if the Congress, the SP or the BJP come to power they will not be able to dismantle the Ambedkar parks or rename the districts. Earlier, Ms Mayawati was in power only for six months each time — that too with the BJP's support. But now she will be there for full five years and the chances of her getting re-elected are very high. If she is in power for 10 years, Uttar Pradesh's cultural history will change beyond recognition.

Not many know that Kanshi Ram had a vision of constructing the biggest Ambedkarite Buddha Vihara in Uttar Pradesh along with a massive international airport in Lucknow. His plan was that Uttar Pradesh should become a big Ambedkarite Buddhist international tourist centre so that it could generate a competitive tourist capital.

Ms Mayawati seems to think that she has to fulfil her mentor's dream. She seems to understand that cultural capital will be more long-lasting than political and economic capital.






In 2009, the world celebrated the 200th anniversary of the life and work of Charles Darwin, a transformational scientist who brought about a revolution in our understanding of evolution. Evolution through natural selection among living organisms leading to the survival of the fittest was a concept alien to the Christian thought at Darwin's time since there was strong faith in the heavenly creation of all living organisms of our planet.

From 1831-1836, Darwin toured the world in HMS Beagle. He was dazzled by the amazing diversity of life and started to wonder how it might have originated. Darwin became a popular sensation because his theories required not only the replacement of one scientific view with another, but also the rejection of views widely held by an entire culture. Darwin landed hard on ethical and metaphysical concepts dear to every heart. He was lampooned by cartoonists. His books were burned. For 22 years after he stepped off the Beagle, he published nothing, and then he unleashed the storm he never would have felt if he had just gone on as the quiet country parson he seemed destined to become.

Evolution of higher forms of life including human beings, from fish and other forms of living organisms, was an accepted view in the ancient Indian thought, as exemplified by the 10 forms of manifestation of God on earth. "Variety is the spice of life" is a common saying. Variation is a must for selection to occur. Today, we are confronted with the prospect of human-induced changes in climate, leading to adverse changes in temperature, precipitation, flood and sea level. We will have to be prepared to face the consequences of drought, flood and coastal storms more frequently. Selection of genes for a warming planet has, therefore, become an urgent task. Fortunately, there is considerable variability in nature with reference to adaptation to new climatic conditions. Thus, halophytes, which are resistant to salinity, and xerophytes, which are resistant to moisture stress, occur in nature. This is why Mahatma Gandhi said that "nature provides for everyone's need, but not for everybody's greed".

Gregor Mendel, who propounded the laws of inheritance or genetics, published his work in 1865, six years after the publication of Darwin's Origin of Life. From 1856-63, Mendel cultivated 29,000 pea plants to investigate how evolution worked, i.e. how characteristics were passed down the generations. He figured out the basic principles of genetics. He showed that offspring received characteristics from both parents, but only the dominant characteristic trait was expressed. Mendel's work was rediscovered in 1900.

Mendelian Genetics, now reinforced by molecular genetics, helps us to create new genetic combinations capable of surviving under the adverse circumstances created by global warming. Molecular genetics, which helps us to move genes across sexual barriers, has validated the truth behind physician Charaka's statement that there is no useless plant or animal in the world. Thus, scientists at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, have been able to develop salt-tolerant varieties of rice by transferring genes from the mangrove species Avicennia marina and drought-tolerant varieties of rice using genes from Prosopis juliflora. Such novel genetic combinations help us to take advantage of Darwin's concept of survival of the fittest.

Halophytic plants and salinity-tolerant crops like the genetically-modified rice developed by the research foundation can help to launch a sea water farming movement along our vast coastline. Agro-forestry systems involving the cultivation of mangroves, Salicornia, Sesuvium, Atriplex and other salt-tolerant shrubs and trees together with mariculture will open up new livelihood opportunities for coastal communities. Salt-cum-flood tolerant rice varieties can also be developed by incorporating the mangrove gene into floating or flood-tolerant varieties of rice.

Artisanal or small-scale fisheries can become economically and technologically attractive by introducing cellphones carrying data on wave heights and the location of fish shoals. Modern information technology has opened up new chapter in artisanal fisheries. Also, the sea-water farming methodology can help to increase yield and income from coastal aquaculture.

By linking the Darwinian concept of evolution with the principles and tools of Mendelian and molecular genetics, we can not only safeguard our food security in an era of climate change, but also strengthen the ecological security of coastal areas and the livelihood security of coastal communities.

Food inflation prevailing in the country is partly due to the high cost of pulses. These protein-rich crops are grown in rain-fed areas which constitute 60 per cent of our cultivated area. Available data indicates that we can double the yield of pulse crops like arhar, moong, urad, chenna etc by introducing an integrated package involving attention to soil health enhancement, efficient water use and harvesting, use of improved seeds and pest management, credit and insurance and, above all, assured and remunerative marketing. These five components of the "pulses revolution strategy" should be incorporated in the 60,000 pulses and oilseed villages included by the finance minister in Budget 2010-11. If this programme is implemented properly with the active participation of farm families, we can easily produce the additional four million tonnes of pulses we urgently need. Let us convert the calamity associated with climate change into an opportunity for spreading conservation and climate resilient farming methods.

Another component of food inflation is the rising price of milk. About 80 per cent of the cost of milk is due to the cost of fodder and feed. We should stop exporting oilseed cakes and concentrates and make them available to milk producers. We are now discussing food security for over 120 crore children, women and men. We should pay equal attention to feed and fodder security by establishing a national grid of feed and fodder banks so that the over 100 crore of farm animals (buffalo, cattle, sheep, goat and poultry) we are fortunate to possess, can help to convert food into nutrition security.

- M.S. Swaminathan is the chairman of the National Commission on Farmers. He is considered to be the father of India's green revolution.






If you make a list of all the things that you consider sin according to, let's say, the five major religions of the world, then you will understand that to be alive is a sin. Isn't it?

So, if you don't feel guilty about something does that mean that you will not go to the temple or church or mosque? Most people go only because there is fear, guilt and greed. Fear and guilt are the two tools on which religion has been running for a long time. If there is no fear in people, there is no guilt, and as a result very few would visit these places.

Religions have turned the fundamental processes of life into sins, so that you always feel guilty.Therefore, you must always go to the temple or church or mosque and pay the necessary money and respects. What I am telling you is — do whatever you want, but please understand that for every action you perform there is a consequence. If you can bear the consequence joyfully, do whatever you please. If you are the sort who will cry when the consequence comes, then right now you need to calibrate your actions.

Every single action, has a consequence. Are you ready for the consequence? There is no sin. So does it mean everything is punnya? No. No paap, no punnya. It's all made up by people to keep you under check and control. Your sense is the best control, not guilt. I believe human intelligence is able to exercise control. There is no need for some God to control you. If you allow your intelligence to function it will control you, isn't it? It will bring sense to your life.

— Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader.

Sadhguru's wit and piercing logic provoke and
widen our perception of life. He can be contacted at [1]









IN terms of the Constitution, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee administration can perhaps rest assured. The West Bengal government may have its way with the Presidency University Bill, 2009. The legislation has reportedly been sent to the Governor for the second time for his assent, and unless Raj Bhavan wants a showdown, it will come through. But the fact that the Bill, sent to Raj Bhavan in March, was returned to the Higher Education department with the Governor's notings in April, suggests that the state is intent on retaining a crucial provision on its terms despite the university's autonomous character. And this relates to the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor, an issue that distinguished academics had raised when the university proposal was mooted last November. Mr MK Narayanan has reportedly expressed reservations because the provisions of the Bill deny Presidency University an absolutely free hand in the selection of the V-C and the constitution of selection committees for the appointment of faculties. Implicit in the Governor's notings is that the clause on the V-C's appointment might dilute the purported autonomous character of the institution. The government appears to have reserved certain rights, which, if exercised, could bring the new university at a par with other state universities. At first sight, the procedure of an autonomous university has been retained. "The V-C shall be appointed by the Chancellor on the unanimous recommendation of the university's court". So far, so official. But should the court fail to advance a unanimous recommendation, "the V-C shall be appointed by the Chancellor in consultation with the minister'', to quote a clause of the Presidency University Bill. 
 In other words, the legislation does lend scope for ministerial intervention in the matter of finalising the highest appointment on the campus. Despite being autonomous in every other sphere, the possibility of the government's nominee being appointed as the V-C is substantial should the court fail to reach unanimity. To that extent, gubernatorial authority will also be diluted. The Bill ought to have entrusted the V-C's appointment to a search committee comprising distinguished academics. Presidency University is scheduled to start functioning in the next academic session. If the Bill receives assent, it will be a feather in the beleaguered alumnus Chief Minister's cap; but as an ardent votary of autonomy, he must also reflect on the provision that enables the state to retain control over the Vice-Chancellor.




Whatever the reasons for his early exit from the Politburo meeting over the weekend, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee must have serious doubts about whether his wishes carry as much weight in the party as those of his counterpart in Tripura. The moment of truth must have come after the party's highest policy making body granted Manik Sarkar, who has managed to protect Left bastions in Tripura while the party is seen to be crumbling in Bengal, an exemption from Monday's countrywide shutdown on the ground that the party had observed a statewide protest on 28 June. If Mr Bhattacharjee had had his way, he would have extracted a similar concession to prove not just to industrialists but to those he addresses at public rallies that his priority is to generate employment through Rs 7,000 crore of investments. The refusal to treat him on par with Sarkar may signal that he is fighting a losing battle against party bosses who seem to blame him for the disasters of the panchayat, parliamentary and municipal elections and may have concluded he is the party's most credible ambassador for the next election.

The question is whether Mr Bhattacharjee is prepared to give up without a fight. His appearance at Writers' Buildings on a day when not a single minister chose to defy the CPI-M and when his presence was at best symbolic may have confirmed a statement he had made at a chamber meeting ~ that it was "unfortunate'' he belonged to a party that believed in bandhs. While he was persuaded to "clarify'' that observation, it didn't endear him to Citu which has since been rejecting his appeals to exempt the IT sector in Salt Lake from strike calls on account of the multinational connections involved. The party evidently does not share his concern and has let it be known it is more anxious to retrieve lost ground in Bengal's countryside. If the CPI-M is keen to tilt the balance, it may believe that the architect of the aborted Nano project and the firm defender of a chemical hub at Nayachar cannot convey conviction with rural masses. This may be as revealing as the Politburo's virtual rejection of his strategy of going soft on the Congress to check the progress of the Opposition alliance. What it may mean is that Mr Bhattacharjee's time of reckoning may come sooner than his party's in Bengal.




NEGATIVE though it might appear, perhaps the greatest tribute to Leander Paes is that nobody goes ballistic over the consistent addition to his string of pearls. He is expected to do well: only the cream of the sporting community commands such public confidence. A haul of 12 Grand Slam doubles' titles ~ now an even split between the men's and mixed versions ~ would entitle most players to be more than content with their achievement. Not Leander, though 37 he is already talking of future competitions, displaying a more mature brand of the fiery enthusiasm he exuded when he "arrived" on the international stage winning the junior title at Wimbledon in 1990, and the US Open to boot to head the world junior rankings. That after bagging his second title of the year in partnership with Cara Black, Leander should be thinking of the Commonwealth and Asian Games later this year and then a Davis Cup tie testifies to his commitment and pride when it comes to keeping the Tricolour aflutter ~ so many of his contemporaries put themselves before their country. His singles' bronze at the Atlanta Olympics, losing to Andre Agassi who rated Paes as the man with the fastest hands on the tour, and two Asian Games doubles' golds (in tandem with Mahesh Bhupathi) mean as much to him as anything else.
Indeed, when playing Davis Cup for India he has made a mockery of ATP rankings. Nationalistic fervour and a capacity to have his adrenalin pump fuelled by the fans' applause have earned him victories that the form-book did not indicate. Who can ever forget his 'fight to the last drop of blood" in a Davis Cupper against Pakistan in Mumbai? Or his overcoming a serious cerebral condition that aroused such universal concern that the celebrated Martina Navratilova (with whom he bagged a brace of majors) declined to partner anyone else. It has been a long haul for the Kolkata lad, two decades of the "tour" and at the top of the tree for the past 11 years. Yet there has been little diminishing of the eagerness, dedication and fortitude. He has also proved mentally tough enough to ride some "political" punches on the way. Like all good athletes Paes has had his ups and downs, but he joins the ranks of the great in rising from adversity. Indian sport has had no more devoted son.










THE government's decision to deregulate the price of fuel and allow it to be determined by market forces is welcome. Till now, public sector oil companies were buying oil at a huge price from the world markets and selling it cheap in the country. The government had to bear the losses incurred by the oil companies. The Opposition wants this policy to continue in order to protect the people from the price rise. The consumer is already suffering due to the food inflation and he ought not to be burdened again. But will cheap oil really contain the price rise?

Say, Indian Oil Corporation buys a litre of petrol from Saudi Arabia for Rs 100 and sells it for Rs 50 in the domestic market. The government provides a subsidy of Rs 50 to compensate for the loss incurred by the company. This means that the actual price of Rs 100 will have to be paid anyway.  True, it will be partly paid by the consumer and partly by the government.

Now, the government does not have a magic wand. It cannot create money out of thin air. It prints currency notes to make this payment. The currency in circulation increases and that leads to an overall increase in prices. Thus selling oil cheap does not truly contain the price rise. It only shifts the burden a bit into the future when the impact on the printing presses of the Reserve Bank of India begins to be felt. Indeed, the high rate is in part due to the earlier sale of cheap oil. At present, the Opposition's demand is merely to contain the price rise. Who is worried about the future?

Affects the rich

THE poor are not much affected by the increase in the price of oil. Fuel is consumed largely by the rich. The middle class family, out on a weekend pleasure trip in the family car, immediately feels the pinch of the high price of petrol. Few items that are used by the poor are transported from long distances. Thus it is the rich who are more affected by the price rise. 


Yet the burden of subsidy given to oil companies has to be borne by all, including the poor. This can be explained with a simple example. Say there are two rich persons who own cars in a village. The village panchayat imposes a tax on the entire village to provide the subsidy on the oil consumed. Everybody pays the tax, but the benefits are reaped mainly by the rich. The oil subsidy works in a similar manner. The entire population of the country bears the consequences of the printing of notes, while the rich harvest  the benefits.
The correct method to protect the poor is to demand reduction in taxes imposed on items consumed by the poor. That will easily nullify the impact on them of any increase in the price of oil. The share of oil in the wholesale price index is seven per cent, while that of manufactured goods is 63 per cent. It follows that an increase of Rs 4 in the cost of oil can be nullified by a reduction of 44 paise in the price of manufactured goods. Lower taxes on coarse cloth, bicycle, match box, cement, etc. will compensate the poor for the marginal increase in the cost of these items consequent on the increase in oil prices.

The Opposition claims that deregulation of the price of oil will be beneficial for the private sector oil companies. This is correct. They will get a chance to bounce back to the market. They had closed down their shutters earlier because the government was providing subsidy on oil only through public sector companies. The re-entry of the private companies will now become possible. But this will not be anti-poor.
It will actually be beneficial for the people. A price war will take place between the private  and public players. The quality of service has improved in the telecom and civil aviation sectors precisely because of  such price wars. The consumers of oil will be similarly benefited. The Opposition is actually trying to protect the monopoly as well as the malpractices of  the public sector oil companies.

The nation's economic sovereignty is also protected by deregulation of oil prices. We were importing 66 per cent of the country's oil requirement in 1947. This came down to 20 per cent after the Bombay High discovery in the Eighties. The share of imports has again increased to 75-80 per cent in the context of the high growth rates and the increase in the demand for energy. This demand is artificially increased further by the low price of oil.  

Deregulation will lead to domestic prices increasing in tandem with international prices. Every consumer will adjust his consumption accordingly. This will bring down the domestic consumption when the price of oil increases on the international market.

 A basic principle of economics is that welfare is best obtained by selling goods at their true market price. Selling goods cheap is as harmful as selling them expensive. Cheap electricity, for example, has deprived millions of handloom weavers of their livelihood. Cheap oil similarly takes away the livelihood of rickshaw-pullers. We should not deprive the poor of their livelihood through the shrill call for selling oil cheap.
Alternative sources

THE high price of oil can indirectly help develop alternative sources of energy. I had the occasion to study the working of gobar gas plants at Shyampur village near Hardwar a few years ago. The farmers had closed their gobar gas plants as soon as cheap LPG became available. Thus we lost an alternative source of energy in preference to cheap oil. The same holds good for solar power. The cost of solar electricity at present is about Rs 14 per unit. The price is expected to decline to about Rs 10 per unit thanks  to technological improvements. At present, the cost of electricity produced from oil is about Rs 6 per unit. If the price of oil in the international market doubles, the cost of electricity produced from oil will go up to Rs 12 per unit, while that of solar electricity is Rs 10. In this situation, if the price of oil is subsidized, we will still use oil for the generation of electricity. The cost to the producer would be only Rs 6 per unit while the cost to the country would be Rs 12. We would produce electricity from oil which is expensive, and not solar electricity which is cheaper.
Deregulation of the price of oil is absolutely desirable. The Opposition should not exploit the shortsightedness of the voter. It should attack the government on measures that are truly anti-people. It should demand the reduction of taxes on items consumed by the poor to compensate for the increase in the price of fuel.

The writer is former Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.







West Bengal became notorious for human rights violations in the 1970s. Repressive measures had been taken to stifle the voice of dissent. The Congress fared disastrously in the Lok Sabha elections held in March 1977 and in the assembly poll in July 1977. Civil liberties and human rights were inextricably linked with the elections of 1977. This was particularly true in West Bengal.

As the issues of civil rights and state terrorism remained the main concerns in West Bengal, the Left Front in its election manifesto emphasised these issues in 1977. The Left Front guaranteed that, after coming to power, it would not take any step that would violate the democratic rights of the people. It was also stated that there would be virtually no use of the police force for suppressing people's movements. In every election campaign since 1977, the Left Front leaders used to remind the voters of state terrorism and consequent horrors of the 1970s.

However, during the last 33 years, the Left Front under the CPI-M leadership has also been guilty of flagrant violation of the rights and liberties of the people. The refugees of Marichjhanpi, the farmers of Shantipur, the workers of Naihati, the Youth Congress members in front of Writers' Buildings, the agitating mob in Baguiati and the students of Falakata have been victims of police atrocities and firing during Left Front rule. But no punitive measures have been taken against erring policemen. During his chief ministership, Jyoti Basu had stated on several occasions that custody deaths should not take place in a civilised country. But during his tenure, innumerable deaths did take place in police custody.

There is little doubt that the "improved" Left Front under Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has taken more measures to

violate civil liberties and domestic rights. Amnesty International, a human rights organisation, had conducted an inquiry into the human rights situation in West Bengal in 1999. At that time, Mr Bhattacharjee was the minister in charge of police. The draft report, made on the basis of this inquiry, was sent to the West Bengal government for its opinion. The government did not give any reply. On the contrary, it questioned the authority and jurisdiction of Amnesty International and did not make any attempt to refute the allegation of human rights violations in the state.

In 2001, Amnesty International published the report, Time to Act to Stop Torture and Impunity in West Bengal. While publishing the report, Amnesty International communicated through a press release that in the context of increasing police brutality, the West Bengal government miserably failed to put an end to such happenings and on some occasions the indulgent attitude of the government made matters worse.

Then came the events of Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh during the last few years. The Communists became interested in a small car factory to be set up by the Tatas in Singur. The West Bengal government resorted to forcible acquisition of land by using the colonial act of 1894. In May 2006, when the assembly election results were just coming out, the West Bengal chief minister announced the project at Singur. The Marxists along with a section of the media started a campaign that poverty and unemployment in West Bengal would be eradicated with a car factory at Singur. The first signs of a storm were be felt on 25 May 2006, when the unwilling farmers of Singur stopped a delegation sent by bthe Tatas for a spot verification. It was reported in some newspapers that even Jyoti Basu could not conceal his irritation over the visit of the Tata representatives without the local panchayats being informed. The subsequent story is known to everybody.

The farmers who became apprehensive of losing their livelihood put up a stubborn resistance. On 8 June, the Singur Krishijibi Raksha Committee was formed. On 14 and 17 July, about 1,000 farmers submitted a petition to the district magistrate's office at Chunchura, expressing their unwillingness to give land to the Tatas. But ignoring people's protest, the government issued a notification by using Article 9(1) of the Land Acquisition Act. At midnight on 25 September, the police let loose terror on the peaceful demonstration by unwilling farmers. A large number of people were injured and, the following day, Raj Kumar Bhul succumbed to injuries.
The police action was condemned from all corners. On 30 November, Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code was imposed in Singur. The main intention was to prevent Mamata Banerjee, who was eager to show her solidarity with the villagers, from going to Singur. The police did not hesitate to use force against Mamata. The version of Section 144 was also changed. The notification issued by the sub-divisional magistrate read, "This order is directed to all the people in the locality and also to those who are either coming to or approaching this station area from time to time for any malicious reason whatever it may be. But in the original version of the section, the clause "for any malicious reason" does not exist. A bureaucrat had the temerity to bring about a change in the original section, as he had the blessings of the men in power in West Bengal.

There was virtually an undeclared emergency in Singur. On 2 December, police atrocities reached a new high and even women and children were not spared. At least 122 persons were rounded up. Mamata started her fast to protest against the excesses committed by the police and also against forcible acquisition of land.
Tension also erupted in Nandigram, East Midnapore, over land acquisition for the construction of a chemical hub. Recently, a minister in West Bengal cabinet said on television that the plan for building a chemical hub was not discussed in the cabinet even once. The poor people of the area protested against the forcible acquisition of land by the government. On 14 March 2007, the police aided by armed CPI-M cadres, launched an inhuman attack on the unarmed rural poor in which several people died in police firing. Gopal Krishna Gandhi, then Governor of West Bengal, had an immediate reaction: "The news of deaths by the police firing in Nandigram has filled me with a sense of cold horror ...Was this spilling of human blood not avoidable?" Calcutta High Court described the police action as "unconstitutional". In fact, 14 March 2007 appeared to many to be the second death of Karl Marx (on this day Marx had died) when as a large number of poor people died in police excesses in a state ruled by a Communist-led government.

The case of Lalgarh was somehow different. On 5 November 2008, there was a blast in the chief minister's convoy near Salboni, West Midnapore. The chief minister along with a Union minister escaped narrowly. This was a dastardly act of violence. But unfortunate things followed. Instead of bringing the real culprits to book, there were repressive acts by the police. Some innocent persons, including students, were arrested though they were acquitted subsequently by the court. Then the police perpetrated inhuman acts against innocent tribals. Pregnant women were not spared. A woman, Chhitamani Murmu, lost her sight owing to police repression. Even the chief minister admitted that the police had committed excesses.

The reaction of the local tribals was quick. There was a spontaneous outburst against police repression and the Polishi Santras Birodhi Janashadharaner Committee was formed. The committee demanded that erring policemen must apologise. Subsequently a peace process began. But then suddenly halting the peace process, the West Bengal government sought the help of central forces in the name of suppressing Maoists. Thus a war situation has been created in the area. Instead of healing the scars in the tribal mind, the government adopted the policy of fighting them.


Why should the tribals of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia live in abject poverty after 63 years of Independence and 33 years of uninterrupted Left rule in West Bengal? No one can deny that the tribals of the area are victims of unequal development and social injustice. They are deprived of their right to the natural resources of the area. The action of the joint forces has only compounded the problem. Instead of redressing the grievances, the government has resorted to the easier method of intimidation. It would have been better both for the rulers and the ruled if the government gave priority to seeking the consent of the people instead of relying on state terrorism.

The author is Associate Professor of History, Vivekananda College, Kolkata







Ask anyone which American novels they read at school, and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) will almost certainly feature. One of the most commercially, critically and pedagogically successful works of all time, this novel about a lawyer's family in the 1930s Deep South won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize, has sold more than 30 million copies, and featured on the majority of reading lists ever since. British librarians called it a book "every adult should read before they die", while Publishing Triangle listed it as one of the 100 best lesbian and gay novels (as a lesbian "coming-of-age" tale). A special edition has been published to mark, in the blurb's words, "the fiftieth anniversary of this unforgettable classic".

Regarded as suitable for the young reader – for its young girl's first-person narrative voice, albeit from an adult distance, and for its educative tone – it has been widely adopted as a set text. The film (1962), produced by Alan J Pakula and directed by Robert Mulligan, is best remembered for Gregory Peck's Oscar-winning performance as Atticus Finch. It is 25th on the American Film Institute's list of best American movies, with Atticus named in 2003 as the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.

Indeed, the figure of Finch has been held up by the legal profession and teachers alike as a modern prophet, a Christ-like fount of goodness and wisdom – "the Abe Lincoln of Alabama". The author, the octogenarian reclusive Southern woman who still lives in her Alabama home town, Monroeville, never published another novel.

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the mid-1930s, in a fictitious small town, Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression years of "Jim Crow" laws ensuring racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans. Its title relates to the instruction given by attorney Atticus Finch that, while his children can shoot with their air rifles any number of bluejays (this is the gun-toting South), they must never shoot a mockingbird, since they "'don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us'". The novel relates the legal defence by single-parent Atticus of an innocent black man (the symbolic mockingbird), Tom Robinson, accused of rape by a poor "white trash" girl, Mayella Ewell, whose racist father Bob has abused her. The story is told from the adult perspective of Atticus's tomboy daughter, Scout, who observes the trial with her brother, Jem, and dare-devil friend Dill (modelled on Lee's friend, Truman Capote).

Like Margaret Mitchell, another unknown writer who published no sequel or successor to her one bestseller, Gone With the Wind (1936), Harper Lee received the Pulitzer Prize. She was grandly fêted and photographed for Life magazine, with Hollywood directors and Gregory Peck, then withdrew from public life and refused interviews. After disappearing from the media radar for over 40 years, she attracted attention as the sidekick to Philip Seymour Hoffman's Truman Capote in the 2005 film, Capote.

Catherine Keener played the long-term friend who helped Capote research and plan his book, In Cold Blood (work he described with sexist dismissivenesss as "secretarial help"). A year later, Sandra Bullock appeared as Harper Lee in another film about Capote, Infamous. That year, 2006, Lee herself granted one surprise interview to the New York Times, speaking only about a writing competition she adjudicates annually at the University of Alabama.

The American South has long been the focus of US and global fears, desires and Gothic fantasies. The site of the nation's worst excesses of slavery, the bloody battlegrounds of the 19th-century Civil War and 20th-century civil-rights brutalities, it has also spawned some of the nation's most brilliant books and films. Blessed with substantial novels and plays that have been adapted into acclaimed films, the South's history and socio-political complexities have been explored and celebrated with popular success. Gone With the Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire, Roots, The Color Purple – and of course To Kill a Mockingbird - have been done proud by directors, actors and Academy Awards.

Harper Lee was well aware of the generic range of Southern literature – the plantation and sentimental novel (Alabama's Augusta Evans Wilson's Beulah and St Elmo), the Gothic (Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and the sensational (Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road) – and she claimed all she wanted to be was "the Jane Austen of South Alabama", focusing on "small-town middle-class southern life". This is ironic or disingenuous, and Mockingbird is no Southern version of Little House on the Prairie. Indeed, the novel defines itself within or against Southern genres, playing with readers' expectations and alluding to the many class, race and gender hypocrisies, inequalities and cruelties of small-town American life.

Curiously, this novel and film have attracted far more scholarship by lawyers than literary or film critics, including an entire issue of Alabama Law Review in 1994. Lee herself studied law and the novel has been the focus of many debates about the role of the profession and in particular the nature of the disinterested or engaged lawyer in matters of social and racial importance.

The Independent








A Hindu woman named Bessanti Kumari Raur, aged about 25, was found dead in her house in Raja Guru Das's Street, Jorasanko, early on Monday morning, having evidently been brutally murdered.

The deceased had been living in the house for a year, along with some other Hindu women, and on Sunday night she and another woman named Khenta who lived in the adjoining house were seated at the door. At about 9 o'clock Khenta went into her own house, leaving deceased sitting on the door-step. Two hours later, Khenta heard the deceased laughing and talking in her room, and nothing further was heard of her until yesterday morning, when her body was discovered on the floor by her maid. The deceased had been strangled with a piece of cloth, which was still tied tightly round her neck, and her legs were tied together with her sari.
An empty liquor bottle with a label showing that it had been purchased at a liquor shop in Upper Chitpore Road was found in the room, and inquiries are being made to ascertain who bought the bottle. Some valuable gold jewellery which the deceased was wearing was stolen by the murderer.


Another fatality is reported as a result of Monday's cyclone in the Bay of Bengal. It appears that on Sunday shortly after the pilot had boarded the Rangoon mail steamer Bangala at the Sandheads the boat was washed away with the pilot's boy. Heavy seas prevailing, the boat was quickly capsized and the boy, in spite of every effort to save him was drowned.







In India, cricket and politics have unfortunately come together. Even senior and powerful politicians, who hold portfolios in the Union cabinet, fight hard to control the Board of Control for Cricket in India and, beyond that, to become the president of the International Cricket Council. Sharad Pawar, the supremo of the Nationalist Congress Party and the minister of agriculture, food and civil supplies, is the obvious case in point. Mr Pawar has just discovered, however, that in terms of work it is not possible to be responsible to his ministerial duties and to the obligations he has brought upon himself by becoming the president of the ICC. Cricket and politics are both making demands on his time. To resolve this, he has taken the somewhat unique step of requesting the prime minister to reduce his workload. This means Mr Pawar wants to spend less time working as a cabinet minister so that he can devote more time to his new job of managing international cricket. This is an untenable position. A cabinet minister's job is a full-time one paid for by the Indian taxpayer. Mr Pawar is expected to devote all his time and energies to that job as a public servant. He has to choose between being a minister and being the president of the ICC. If he is that keen to be a cricket administrator, he should resign as a minister.

The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, should firmly turn down Mr Pawar's request and explain to him his duties and responsibilities as a cabinet minister. The portfolios that Mr Pawar holds are critical at a time when the shadow of inflation is looming over the Indian economy. The management of agriculture and food supplies demands more attention than usual. This means that Mr Pawar has to spend more, not less, time in his ministries. He cannot run away from his responsibilities to Dubai even during the weekends. If Mr Pawar's conscience does not permit him to choose between the ICC and being a cabinet minister, the prime minister should force him to make a choice. The prime minister should tell his cabinet colleague in no uncertain terms that he cannot continue to do two demanding jobs because that degrades his position as a cabinet minister and also betrays the trust that the prime minister, on behalf of taxpayers, has bestowed on him. Mr Pawar has made a career in politics, he should not allow cricket to clean bowl him.








How effective is a national commission that officially fails to understand a national vernacular? There is something deeply flawed about a justice delivery system that refuses to 'understand' complaints made to it in one of the Indian languages. But this is exactly what the national commission for scheduled castes has done with serious complaints addressed to it in Oriya. That the targeted beneficiaries of this body are the scheduled castes makes such a flaw even more difficult to fathom. A set of complaints made to the commission in Oriya by poor Dalit villagers from Orissa has been shuttling between the commission's Delhi headquarters and its Calcutta office simply because the latter, which has jurisdiction over Orissa, failed to find translators who would translate Oriya into English (or whatever other language it is capable of working in). The complaints are far from frivolous — they are about the forcible displacement of rural Dalits because of the construction of an irrigation project in a district in Orissa. Incredibly, the commission's Calcutta office sent the complaints back to the collector of the same district — effectively asking the accused to deal with the problem.


It is difficult to believe that nobody who understands Oriya could be found in Calcutta. It is the government's responsibility to have a panel of translators ready, and obviously it has not bothered to be alert to this fact. Such inefficiency and indifference add to the inequalities and loopholes that exist already in the Indian justice system. In a society disunited not only by economic disparities but also by linguistic diversity, the built-in checks and measures in the systems of governance and law have to be kept in place scrupulously to make the systems serve their minimal functions. Effective two-way communication is at the core of access to justice. For ordinary Indians — or extraordinarily disempowered Indians — to be able to access the protection of the State, the latter has to ensure the proper running of its basic services. Every government body, whatever its executive powers, should have quick access to a panel of translators who would be able to work, without delay, to deliver to the people the attention, and comprehension, that they are entitled to as citizens. To plead ignorance about existing services speaks of a callousness about the basic principles of democracy.









This is a tale of two cities, rather a tale of two countries, neighbours with deep and enduring bonds that are familial and destined to grow further.


About 1.8 million people in much of the national capital area of Washington spent the United States of America's 234th Independence Day on Sunday restricted in their use of toilets, dishwashers and washing machines, absolutely banned from washing their cars or watering their gardens on pain of being asked to cough up a fine of $500 for any violation of those mandatory restrictions on the use of water. The capital region's problem was not any summer water shortage, but the state of its water supply system. For Americans, this was the latest in a string of bad news about their country's creaking infrastructure: more than a trillion dollars are urgently needed to upgrade American roads, bridges, dams, mass transport, airports, schools, water quality and waste-disposal facilities, among other benchmarks of a developed society, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. But there is no money to be found.


Flashback to the previous week. In Toronto, Canada's largest city, people were lamenting that for the first time since their city was founded 217 years ago, tear gas had to be used against their own people by a police force, which was created to protect Torontonians. "This is a police state," screamed one of those protesting against the G-8 and G-20 summits then taking place in Toronto, her face strategically turned towards a line of television cameras as she was being led away to a police vehicle.


Clearly, this woman does not have the faintest idea of what a police state even looks like. She should have been sent to Washington for a tutorial on police highhandedness against peaceful demonstrators. Or she should look up news archives of how the police dealt with protesters on the eve of the Republican Party's national convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, which nominated John McCain as the US presidential candidate in 2008.


Exactly a week ago, a federal judge in Washington approved a settlement of $13.7 million with people who were arrested during a peaceful protest in the city. Among those who will receive the compensation, a result of 10 years through the legal system, was a man who was not only picked up with his juvenile offspring, but was thrown into a police bus with his right hand and left foot cuffed together and forced to spend hours together in that position.


Last year, America's capital city similarly agreed to pay $8.25 million to about 400 people, many of them mere bystanders, who were picked up while watching a protest against the World Bank in 2002. Those who were arrested then included a 56-year-old woman who had come to Washington for a date and was quietly walking to her dinner when she became a victim of the police sweep.


Having G-8 and G-20 summits just across his northeastern border with Canada has not been good for the US president, Barack Obama, because what the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, had showcased for his guests drew inevitable comparisons with a G-20 summit, which Obama hosted in Pittsburgh only nine months ago and with a G-8 summit hosted by George W. Bush on Sea Island, Georgia, in 2004.


It is unfortunate that some of those who accompanied the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to Toronto for the G-20 summit are men who believe that America's prescriptions are the best for Indian problems, men who have no hesitation about making any concession on any issue: all that is needed is for the Americans to ask for them. But if their eyes were wide open in Toronto, they would have noticed that Canada's economy is now growing at an impressive 6.1 per cent, that its property market is thriving and that the country's banks are not in any crisis. Some 400,000 Canadians lost their jobs when the global economic crisis cast its shadow over the Western hemisphere, but three-fourths of those laid off have already got their jobs back or have found gainful employment elsewhere.


If the same men had only looked over their shoulder without willingly suspending disbelief, as Samuel Taylor Coleridge would have put it in his uniquely poetic way, they would have seen the economic devastation which continues to haunt America, nowhere in such stark contrast with Canada as in the cities on the opposite sides of the Niagara Falls.


In Canada, recovery from the economic crisis is real. It may still be fragile, in part, because of the problems across the border in the US, to which Canada is deeply tied. Recovery in America, on the other hand, is largely a product of disinformation and spin. Some of that spin was exposed two days before America's Independence Day when it could no longer be hidden that much of the recent talk about an expanding job market in the US was on account of nearly a quarter million jobs having been created only on a temporary basis for purposes of the national census, held every 10 years. The census is now over and 225,000 jobs are gone for another decade. So, when the latest employment figures were released on Friday, these showed a new statistic of 125,000 men and women who had jobs until last month, but no more.


In the US, bad news is routinely released on Fridays, that too often late in the afternoon, so that they get lost during the weekend when most TV channels suspend normal news programmes and many small towns do not publish newspapers. Last weekend, when the bad news from the job market came, the US labour department was doubly lucky. Since it was a long weekend on account of Independence Day, the department had bonus time until Tuesday. News about the dismal job situation was overtaken by other issues by the time Americans returned to work yesterday.


Besides, unemployment figures are calculated in the US much the same way that industrial productivity was computed in East Germany. Those figures created the myth that the German Democratic Republic, as the communist state was called, was the 12th most industrialized nation on earth. Similarly, in the US, the government conducts what is known as a 'household survey' every month as part of calculating levels of unemployment. This way, if one member of a household ceases to go to the US equivalent of India's employment exchanges looking for jobs, this person is no longer considered as unemployed. In real America, hundreds of thousands of people have stopped looking for jobs in the months since the economic crisis began only because even going to employment offices in a futile search for work involves spending money on transport and the like, money which the unemployed no longer have. Yet, when job figures in the US are calculated every month, such people are no longer considered to be unemployed.


Actually, Canada's banks, which are not in crisis unlike many of those in the US and Europe, offer a model for India to follow. Canadian banks are not nationalized, but they are severely regulated and have not been allowed, unlike their American counterparts, to sell unviable mortgages and then pass them on to other financial institutions under false pretences. Following the Canadian example would cut the red tape and inefficiency of India's nationalized banks, yet they would expose India's financial institutions to the hard reality that the US is not the example for them to follow or work with.


When Canada raised interest rates in June — the only one of the original G-7 states to do so since the onset of the global financial crisis — there was a sudden realization in countries like Greece and Spain, which are reeling from a financial meltdown, that Canada must be doing some things right. But, in India, despite the economist prime minister's recent exposure to Canada, there is little realization of that country's strengths. According to the International Monetary Fund, of the G-7 economies, Canada is now predicted to be the only country in this group that will record a surplus, although it will take another five years to do so. It would be good if all those who advise the prime minister on the economy focus a little more on Canada instead of putting most of India's eggs in the American basket.









Oh dear. I abandoned the minutiae of English grammar 60 years ago, when my schoolboy brain was redirected to Latin and Greek. But here's a reader asking what distinguishes the present participle of a verb from the gerund, or "verbal noun", as some grammarians call it. It's a complex question.

The two look identical: running for the train (participle), I tripped and running is good for you (gerund). That's because English has turned both an old Germanic ending and an old Latin one into a single English -ing. But the meanings differ.

We all know the participle: it says what people or things are doing. We often misuse it, however, as in walking down the street, there's a bookshop. Wrong: it's you walking, not the bookshop. That "hanging" participle is now agreed to be an error. But it is centuries old. The ghost of Hamlet's father says, sleeping in my orchard, a serpent stung me. And a few participles can stand on their own: talking of trains or seeing the train's jam-packed, why not go by bike?

The gerund is just as familiar, though its grammatical name is not. It's a noun formed from the verb, often as a general term like running, thinking or eating. But it is an odd kind of noun: it can be modified by an adverb, and may have an object, as if it were a verb. So not just can we say eating is enjoyable, but also quietly eating mangoes is better still.

The gerund began life in Latin, where it ended -andum or -endum. The Romans had a 'gerundive' too, an adjective usually implying that-must-be-done. The orator, Cato, would finish his speeches delenda est Carthago, Carthage must be destroyed (as it duly was: like later superpowers, ancient Rome wasn't too worried what or whom it deleted).

This Latin lives on in today's mutatis mutandis (having-been-altered [those things] that-must-be-altered), and in the old private-school play on the trade-name of a popular sharpening stone, illegitimis non Carborundum, don't let the ba****** grind you down. It has also given us agenda, addenda and memorandum, things-to-be-done/added-on/remembered. The gerundive was also used, minus any "must" idea, in Latin's parallel to eating mangoes; as in the Vatican department, de propaganda fide (about spreading the faith), which gave us propaganda.

English has no gerundive to complicate life. But we have our own problems. Not just are our gerund and participle spelt alike, but at times it's unclear which we're using. Eating is enjoyable, that's plainly a gerund. Running to the station, I tripped, a participle. But what about women voting was a new idea or the idea of women voting? Are those participles? Or gerunds, which, as nouns, need women's not women?

The great H.W. Fowler insisted on women's in all such phrases. He concocted a crafty sentence, I dislike my best friend violating my privacy. It isn't your friend you dislike, it's his busting in on you. So write my best friend's. Fair enough, in that case. But move on from the idea of... to the thought of... and then the sight of women voting. At least that third voting is surely a participle.

Fowler called it a "fused participle", as if the phrase were women-voting, and railed against it. But even in his day other experts disagreed, and the latest revision of his "Modern English Usage" gives calmer advice. After personal nouns or names, today we mostly treat the -ing word as a gerund; so, eg, the baby's crying woke her. After other nouns, it's usually a participle: I'm tired of trains running late, not trains'. As between, say, me walking and my walking (ie, pronoun + participle or possessive + gerund), take your pick. But if that me or my is the first word of the phrase, make it my. Always, I'd add, look at the meaning. The sight of him driving away was a relief: a participle. But if you're using the -ing word in a general sense, make it a gerund: my wife admires my driving. Well, let's say.




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






The brutal attack on a professor of a college in Kerala last Sunday when he was returning from a church service was shocking in its intent and barbarity. His right palm was chopped off by a gang that waylaid and attacked him. He sustained other injuries too; his mother and sister were also attacked. He had made a controversial reference to Prophet Mohammed in an internal question paper prepared for students of the college in March this year. The reference is considered to have been derogatory. All sections of society had condemned the professor's action which hurt religious sentiments. He was suspended by the college management when the controversy broke out and was arrested. The matter is before the court and if the charges are proved he stands to earn punishment. There is still some confusion about at what stage the offending words found their way into the question paper. Whether he was solely responsible for the offence or not is yet to be decided. In any case a public apology was made and it was made clear that there was no intention to hurt the feelings of any community.

But the punishment meted out to him by the gang of attackers was terrible and deserves the strongest condemnation. It is difficult to imagine that such cruelty and bestiality is resorted to a democratic society. Physical punishment of the kind the professor was subjected to has rarely been heard of in the country. It flouts the rule of law and all norms of civilised conduct. Nobody should be allowed to take the law into their hands and punish offenders for their crimes, however serious the offences are. Such violence becomes all the more dangerous when religious sentiments are involved. It can lead to communal discord and go out of control.

Some of the attackers have been arrested and the police are on the lookout for others. They reportedly belong to an organisation called the Popular Front of India and had planned the attack for over a month. A number of Muslim organisations have rightly condemned their misdeed, asserting that it was most un-Islamic, and demanded the strongest punishment for them. Members of the Jamaat-e-Islami donated blood for the professor in hospital. The culture of intolerance and violence that has been growing in the country has created the environment for the dastardly act. Only very few subscribe to that culture but they poison the society.








The spate of honour killings in Delhi, Haryana and other parts of north India in recent weeks seems to have stirred the government out of its slumber. The law ministry is considering amendments to certain laws, including the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act and the Special Marriage Act to address the problem. Government action was long overdue. Honour killings are neither new nor rare. Around a thousand such killings take place annually in the country, mostly in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The Jat community in Haryana is particularly notorious for its practice.


However, the problem is not restricted to 'backward communities.' It is prevalent among rich and landed class as well as educated, urban families. At the core of this problem are khap panchayats. These extra-legal bodies issue diktats against marriages between people of the same 'gotra' as well as inter-caste and inter-religion marriages. Stern punishments, including torture and death are meted out to couples who dare to violate these norms or marry against the wishes of their family. Hundreds of young couples have been hunted down and killed, in the name of protecting the honour of their families. In recent weeks, khap panchayats have been demanding a ban on same-gotra marriage. They are also calling for lowering the legal age of marriage of girls and boys to 15 years and 17 years respectively.

So far, honour killing is not a classified crime in India. Under the proposed amendments, it is likely to be defined and will carry the same punishment as that for murder. Members of khap panchayats, who order the killings, will be treated as accomplices to the crime. The government is also considering changes to simplify the legal procedure of marriage between consenting adults belonging to different religions.

While the proposed amendments seem promising, it is hard to dispel the feeling that the government is simply tinkering with a few laws. What is needed is a separate law that will deal with the problem comprehensively. Is it fighting shy of taking on the khap panchayats and prevailing social traditions for fear of antagonising powerful vote banks? Legislation that does not hesitate to confront ugly social norms robustly is of little use. The government should draw on civil society and legal expertise to put in place strong legislation to eliminate the problem.







For most Indians caste is an essential part of identity, not something to be proud or ashamed of, just something that is.



Singaporean leaders like Lee Kuan Yew and foreign minister George Yeo worry that new settlers from India are introducing caste distinctions to Indians who have been settled on the island for nearly 200 years. But Indians know that Singapore seemed tranquil mainly because there wasn't enough caste variety to cause friction.

While you can take an Indian out of his country, you can't so easily take him out of his caste. Even the pious 'caste no bar' insertion by many non-resident Indians tacitly affirms the importance of caste. Bal Thackeray was only stating the truth when he told an interviewer, "In India, people don't cast their vote, they vote their caste." Ideology and modernism may shape the thinking of the urban elite that benefited from Macaulay's Minute on education, but they are a dwindling minority.

For most Indians caste (like gotra) is an essential part of identity, not something to be proud or ashamed of, just something that is. Acknowledging it in the census sounds logical. Caste becomes pernicious when it is exploited for social, financial or political reasons. This is what the notorious khaps are suspected of doing in Punjab and Haryana where the lower female ratio (under 800 per 1,000 men) make women a valuable commercial commodity. Caste assertiveness is also abhorrent as another signal that India is retreating into the medieval darkness that the late Nirad C Chaudhuri predicted with eloquent erudition in his masterpiece, 'Thy hand, great Anarch!'

Inevitably, those who accord greatest importance to caste also oppose land reform and the empowerment of women and dalits. They support the Babri Masjid's destruction, demand a Rama temple on the site, and denounce the Setu Samudram project. Their agenda includes campaigns against bars and night clubs, persecution of Christian converts and lynching of missionaries.

The growing hold of astrology, sadhus, gurus, vaastu and bride and sati burning are part of the same rejection of the Anglo-Saxon rationality imposed by colonial rule. Despite court injunctions, shrines are sprouting at streetcorners, some operated by businessmen who prey on faith, other, like the altars against the Char Minar's pillars in Hyderabad, politically or communally motivated. Whatever the motivation, they signify 'aam admi' assertiveness.

Even West Bengal's CPM no longer ignores the proliferation of Durga Pujas testifying to the religion of the masses. Voters must be courted in an idiom they understand. There is no point talking to bustee-dwellers or peasants of English social scientists who upheld the rights of man. That is why Mahatma Gandhi made a greater public impact than Jawaharlal Nehru. Charan Singh's Bharatiya Lok Dal and Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal tapped the same vein.


Nirad Chaudhuri criticised the elaborate yajnas that insulted Nehru's secularism but were performed by his followers when he was no longer able to protest. They reflected the faith of the majority and — it was said — of Nehru's daughter whose socialism co-existed with a succession of supposedly holy men and women. Motives are always mixed and some claim that Indira Gandhi's Hinduism was a reaction against the westernisation of her aunts and a statement supporting her mother's orthodoxy.

Governments have fought a losing battle against this retreat to obscurantism. The first Press Commission denounced as 'undesirable' what it called "the spread of the habit of consultation of, and reliance upon, astrological predictions" that were "certain to produce an unsettling effect on the minds of readers." The second Press Commission urged editors "who believe in promoting a scientific temper among their readers and in combating superstition and fatalism" not to publish astrological predictions.

No editor took the slightest notice. Some may themselves have been too dependent on the stars to obey Press Commission directives. But whatever their beliefs, all knew that stopping astrological features would lose a solid chunk of readers. With one or two notable exceptions, media success everywhere is based on giving people not what is good for them but what they want. There is little doubt that despite Nehru's urgings, even most Congress party members remain faithful to traditional religion as they understand it.

That is also true of Indian Singaporeans who celebrate Thaipusam and fire-walking festivals more fervently than in most Indian cities and whose temples recall Madurai and Kancheepuram. About 70 per cent of the community are south Indians and, like exiles everywhere, most are caught in a time warp.
Anyway, the problem is not so much caste as the system's gradations and distinctions. While most Indian Singaporeans are descended from plantation workers or convicts, new settlers are high-flying bankers and IT experts whom Shashi Tharoor, formerly based in Singapore for the United Nations, calls 'Global Indians.'
The difference between them reminds us that because of historical factors that are not to be condoned, caste often indicates class and culture. The friction between Singapore's 'old' and 'new' Indians, therefore, repeats controversies over India's 'forwards' and 'backwards.' Both would vanish if caste were seen simply as a neutral label. Instead, people at both the top and the bottom — especially the latter — reinforce its vicious hold by living up to the ancient 'superior' and 'inferior' definitions.








Although most exports continue to be in raw form, Syria is now exporting finished products.


A decade after Syria decided to transform its closed command economy into free market economy, foreign banks have sprouted along the broad avenues of the capital, ATMs flank upmarket boutiques, and international hotel and fast food chains are settling in. Syria has joined the global economy and is open for business.

Abdullah Dardari, deputy prime minister for economic affairs and architect of the transformation, explained why Syria abruptly changed course, "Early in 2000 it became clear that the previous economic management system was no longer tenable. At that time 60 per cent of revenues came from oil exports". "In a country with oil production decreasing from 6,00,000 barrels a day to 3,50,000 barrels a day, it was clear that changes had to be made."

Syria inaugurated a 'dramatic but gradual' programme of comprehensive reforms of monetary and fiscal policy, taxation, finance and banking.  During the five year period between 2005-2010, Syria absorbed $25 billion in internal private and Arab investment and the government spent a comparable amount on infrastructure.

New industries

Dardari said today non-oil exports count for 70 per cent of revenues and are growing at 15 per cent a year. Six thousand new industries have been established and output is expanding by 15 per cent. Foreign investment grew from a low level of $160 million to $2.2 billion in 2009. The population is growing at 2.5 per cent per year and consumer spending and demand for homes, goods and services is rising. All these factors make Syria an attractive prospect for local, Arab and international investors, stated Dardari.

In the coming five-year plan the government intends to pour $45 billion into infrastructure, education, and health while $55 billion is expected to be invested by the private sector in housing, industries, and trade. The plan calls for the construction of 1,000 new communities with 8,80,000 apartments for middle class and lower income families, technology parks, and private universities.

While he said the public and private sectors are in 'partnership', businessmen need to pay taxes and customs duties on time while the government must remove red tape.

He calls the new management system, "the social market  economy," and argued that it is balanced regionally and socially and 'pro-poor': designed to "make the poor richer so that they can consume the production of the rich.

"One of the most important targets of the reform programme is to create a new middle class. Although this is a long-term project, you can see signs of change. The middle class of the 1960s or 1970s was mainly civil servants. Today's middle class is made up of small entrepreneurs, self-employed people and people who are taking advantage of the changes that are being planned.

"Of course, there are winners and losers in any reform programme. Our aim is to have an inclusive growth programme, which means that the percentage of the poor that benefits is higher than the percentage of the rich that benefits."


Rateb Shallah, head of the stock exchange, said two major problems are corruption and the reluctance of the traditional mercantile class — to which he belongs — to shift from real estate to productive investments. He argued that family firms must go public and list on the exchange, which has 16 trading firms and will have 20 by the end of 2010. "We have a new law calling for a certain percentage of stocks to be sold at $2-$20 so small investors can participate. They represent a huge source which has been idle."

The 1950s practice of giving stocks as dowries to daughters is being revived, providing a nest-egg for women and children. He pointed out that although most exports continue to be in raw form, Syria is now exporting finished clothing and tinned fruits and vegetables.

The value of India's trade with Syria currently stands at $530 million. Of this $360 million is in Indian exports to Syria and $170 million in Syrian exports to India. Although these figures are low, India is set to expand its participation in Syria's social market economy.  New Delhi and Damascus are finalising a contract to build a new power plant. Once work begins the plant will be finished in 33 months. A Pune firm is setting up an IT centre which will give advanced training in software technology. India is seeking to exploit Syria's vast supply of phosphates for use as fertiliser. India is involved in developing new oil fields and has tendered for wind farms to produce electricity.

A joint Indian-Syrian commission has been established to review ongoing projects. Indian firms are set to participate in the Damascus International Fair which takes place this month.







Even when compliments are genuine, most feel embarrassed.



There is a lady I know who has a great dress sense and wears really elegant clothes. It would get a bit boring if I compliment her every time I meet her. So I restrict the fulsome compliments to the times she surpasses herself. Otherwise self-possessed and articulate, on these occasions, she ties herself in knots, trying to refute what is said.

 "This? It's as old as the hills." Or, "Oh, it's a hand-me-down from my aunt." What she doesn't realise is that neither statement, in any way, diminishes the beauty of the outfit.

Another, whose culinary skills few can equal, takes great pride in belittling herself. 'A1!' 'Yummy!' 'Delicious!' are some of the adjectives used to describe the artistry which she brings to her cooking. But they turn her into a blushing bride (if brides still blush!) brushing aside all the praise. Rather clumsily, she is wont to explain, "With a little experience, anyone can cook." True, but not like her. I, for one, even if I tried for an entire decade, wouldn't be able to hold a candle to her. Not that I intend to compete. I am aware of my limitations.

Then there is the lady whose husband has a transferable job. They have to move every two years. She possesses the knack of converting even a shabby shack into a warm, welcoming abode with the most inviting atmosphere. When she is praised for her talent, she feels embarrassed. She shrugs off the compliment with a self-deprecating remark: "If you have trunk loads of junk accumulated over a period of 20 years, it is easy to put out a few knick knacks and make a place habitable." This is taking modesty too far.

A friend of mine is a wizard at content development. Request her to draw up a programme and she will put together the material in a trice. I often marvel at this. Her reaction is typically self-effacing. "It's all there in books. what I did was to collate the information. There is nothing great in that!" What about the time and effort spent to research the matter, pick, choose and sift, improvise, modify and adapt? "Anyone can do that," she asserts.

Even when compliments are genuine and spontaneous, most feel embarrassed and try to justify why they don't deserve them. We tend to be unkind to ourselves. So I was pleasantly surprised when a friend who was sincerely complimented was pleased as punch and said, "Really? You've made my day!" Her response was warm and natural. I thought to myself: "Here's a lesson we can benefit from. Instead of under-valuing ourselves, we accept a compliment with grace and charm. It will take some learning, I guess.








On Monday at midnight, smoking became more expensive. A pack of Camels now costs you NIS 22. A pack of Noblesse, Dubek's classic Israeli smoke, will set you back NIS 14.50. The cigarette tax makes up nearly three-quarters of the total retail price after the latest hike of between NIS 1.50 to NIS 2 per pack. This is good news, for smokers and for the rest of us.

Increasing cigarette taxes is an international trend.

In New York City, for instance, as of July 1, a pack of cigarettes costs a colossal $10.80, the highest price in the US. Hawaii, New Mexico, South Carolina and Utah have also just raised cigarette taxes. In April, Australia did the same.

Raising the cigarette tax is easy and avoids the dangers of a major populist backlash. Smokers are a shrinking minority. In Israel, 22.8 percent smoked in 2009, compared to 24.2% in 2008 and 40% in 1970. In the US, the national average is a bit less than 20%.

More importantly, there is little sympathy for smokers. Nobody really accepts the argument that the smoker is hopelessly addicted to a perfectly legal substance. The fact is that the nasty habit can be kicked using economic forces: Studies have shown a clear correlation between cigarette tax hikes and a decrease in the number of smokers. The latest tax increases nationwide in the US are expected to spur more than 140,000 adults to quit smoking, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The Australian government estimated its larger cigarette excise would cut the number of smokers by 87,000.

Attorney Amos Hausner, who has spearheaded an anti-smoking campaign in Israel for several decades, says there is a direct correlation between tax rises and a drop in the number of smokers here over the years, especially among youngsters who have less money and are less attached to their habit.

Other methods work as well. Studies have shown that printing gruesome pictures of cancer-infested lungs, mouths and esophagi on cigarette packs deters, as do ad campaigns and limiting accessibility to vending machines. By the way, none of these approaches has been adopted by our political leaders.

The Treasury has consistently opposed earmarking revenues received from the cigarette tax for antismoking activities. More must be done to educate.

Quitting is tough but not impossible if properly encouraged.

And such encouragement is essential.

ACCORDING TO a study published in 2009 by Gary Ginsberg in the European Journal of Public Health, about 8,500 Israelis die every year from smoking.

Another 1,500 are killed by secondary smoke. Even if the number is closer to 3,800 a year – an estimate made by Manfred Green, head of the University of Haifa's School for Public Health – this is still many times more than those killed in car accidents every year, and it's a toll that's much easier to prevent.

Laudable legislation banning smoking in public places may limit the exposure of innocent strangers to secondary smoke. But friends and relatives who share living spaces remain victims. Also, smokers cause traffic accidents, are absent from work more and retire earlier due to illnesses.

Smokers' diseases are a burden on society. In 1998, Kupat Holim Clalit, a health fund that serves about half of the Israeli public, filed a NIS 7.6 billion damage suit against local cigarette manufacturers for causing cancer, heart disease and other smoke-related illnesses. Based on this lawsuit, which has yet to be heard by the courts, medical expenditures on smoking-related illnesses amount to NIS 2b. annually.

IN THE final analysis, however, money can never heal the loss incurred by death. As Jewish tradition teaches, each person is an entire world unto him- or herself. By choosing to engage in life-shortening activity, smokers deprive their friends, loved ones and sometimes all of humanity of the unique contributions only they could have and should have made. How dare they? Though resorting to a total ban on cigarette sales would only give rise to a flourishing black market and criminal activity, smokers should be strongly encouraged to stop. A cigarette tax hike is one among many welcome ways of achieving this objective.








That there is so much focus on the Holy Land is a fact of life. The trouble is that the narrative of Israel is being communicated by those who dislike it.

Among the themes that top the list of the coming year's publications dealing with the Middle East are Iranian history, Lebanon's vibrancy, Saudi Arabia and stories of American combat soldiers. But there is one that, unsurprisingly, towers above all the rest: Israel and the Palestinians. Of the 700 books that will be published in English on the Middle East in the next year, 107 (15 percent) of them will be devoted to the conflict or aspects of it. This is based on a careful examination of forthcoming publications at, although there are probably other obscure publications lurking out there.

That there is so much focus on the Holy Land is a fact of life. But the trouble with the forthcoming publications is that the narrative of Israel and its history is being communicated to the English-speaking world almost entirely by those who dislike it. Lone defenders like Alan Dershowitz and reasoned supporters like Martin van Creveld and Martin Gilbert are among the authors of next year's harvest (Dershowitz is the author of a novel about Israel, Trials of Zion, not a nonfiction account).


Holland-born Van Creveld is a military historian who wrote a well received history of the IDF and now argues in The Land of Blood and Honey that Israel is the "greatest success story in the entire 20th century." London-born Gilbert, a biographer of Winston Churchill, is publishing a book on Jews in Muslim lands which is described as a "moving account of mutual tolerance between Muslims and Jews... a template for the future." Italian journalist Giulio Meotti also writes on the Untold Stories of Israel's Victims of Terrorism.

For the Israel bashers that dominate publications on the region, Gaza is a favorite topic.

Nine books are in the pipeline for that small sliver of land. James Patras, a retired professor from Binghamton University and author of numerous books on the Israel "lobby," has just published War Crimes in Gaza and the Zionist Fifth Column in America. In Gaza: Beneath the Bombs, an International Solidarity Movement volunteer and another radical left colleague write about Gazans facing "oppression not only with courage but with humor."

Haaretz fixture Gideon Levy is publishing The Punishment of Gaza which examines "the brutality at the heart of Israel's occupation of Palestine." Norwegian Aid Committee members Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse bring us Eyes in Gaza with a cover festooned with the beaming eyes of a baby and the claim that the two were "the only Western eyewitnesses in Gaza" for 14 days during the winter 2008- 2009 war. Vittorio Arrigoni, an ISM volunteer in Gaza, writes Gaza: Stay Human with his fellow travelers Daniela Filippin and Haifa-born Ilan Pappe. The title "stay human" was taken from peace protests in Italy; it is not clear if it also implies that Israelis or Palestinian risk not being human. Joe Sacco, a veteran Israel hater, is publishing a comic book about Gaza called Footnotes in Gaza, and Noam Chomsky, Frank Barat and the prolific Pappe edited Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel's War Against the Palestinians.

Four books being published will be adorned with the unoriginal "separation fence" on the cover. To be fair one is merely the paperback version of Columbia University Prof. Rashid Khalidi's The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. Pappe is publishing two books using the fence as a motif. The first, Peoples Apart: Israel, South Africa and the Apartheid Question, claims that "for the first time one of Israel's most celebrated academics, Ilan Pappe, has gathered together perspectives" on whether Israel is an apartheid state. The conclusion won't be surprising, Pappe already claimed Israel committed ethnic cleansing in 1948. One wonders what original allegation will come next? Pappe and Jamil Hilal, a sociologist at Bir Zeit University, are also publishing Across the Wall: Narratives of Israeli-Palestinian History.

Jeff Halper, an American-born activist in the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions, uses a photo of the wall on the cover of the second edition of his An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel. The mufti, Haj Amin el-Husseini, and the Nazis get some attention. Klaus Gensicke, a German scholar, covers the topic in his The Mufti of Jerusalem and the Nazis, and three authors collaborate on a volume examining Nazi Palestine: The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews of Palestine. Pappe (again) examines the Rise and Fall of a Palestinian Dynasty: The Husaynis. He follows in the footsteps of his fellow Israeli historian living in the UK, Avi Shlaim, author of Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein, in casting Arab politicians as remarkable figures.

The two-state solution gets short shrift in the coming year with Hasan Afif el-Hasan's Is the Two-State Solution Already Dead? and Virginia Tilley's paperback edition of The One State Solution: A Breakthrough.

THE PALESTINIANS get doting coverage by academics and authors who genuinely appreciate them. Hillel Cohen, an excellent Israeli writer, publishes on The Rise and Fall of Arab Jerusalem. Amal Jamal examines Arab Minority Nationalism in Israel, and Rochelle Davis, assistant professor of anthropology at Georgetown University, researches Palestinian Village Histories.

Azzam Tamimi, a London-based scholar, offers a "sympathetic analysis" in Hamas: A History from Within. Basam Ra'ad attempts to reconstruct an indigenous history of Palestine in his Hidden Histories. Nicolas Rowe, an Australian expert on dance who lives in Ramallah, gives us a Cultural History of Dance among the Palestinians.

Books on the Jews in Israel hardly compare in their sympathy. In his "personal search for the soul of a nation," NBC Tel Aviv bureau chief Martin Fletcher has written Walking Israel, but he incongruously uses a photo of an Arab village, probably Taiba, and minaret on the cover. One wonders if he would have put a church on the cover of a book about Egypt? Tudor Parfitt and Emanuela Trevis Semi edit The Jews of Ethiopia: The Birth of an Elite, which includes essays calling the mass deaths of Ethiopian Jews in Sudan a "myth" and claims Europeans may have created an Ethiopian Jewish identity. Thus the Palestinians get a genuine narrative from academics, but even the Ethiopian Jews cannot mourn their dead without being denigrated.

The history of Israel has been left almost entirely to those who hate it, while the Palestinians have conquered both the academy and the intellectual world with stories of their suffering, narratives and history. Even Hamas and Haj Amin, both of whom borrowed from Nazi rhetoric, are considered sympathetic.

Anyone visiting Israel's leading bookstore, Steimatzky, will find the Israel section crowded with Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People and Yitzhak Laor's The Myths of Liberal Zionism. They will be hard pressed to find anything positive about the country.It is a commentary not only on the publishing world, both academic and popular, but also on Israel's cultural elites, who show little interest in writing positive things about their country. It is a remarkable testament to the moral bankruptcy of the West, which finds so little positive in Israel but can be open to the most conservative chauvinisms of Palestine. Unless we struggle to change the narrative, our history will soon be left to our critics.The writer is a PhD researcher at Hebrew University and a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.








The PA president should recognize that the battle is in the mind-set of the American public, where the future of Palestine will be decided.

As long as Israel has the US on its side, its government knows it can do no wrong. It plays games with Middle East peace by provoking extremism in the Arab world with excessive policies that fuel anti- Israel sentiment more than they protect Israeli citizens.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may not be the poster-child of moderation, but he is smart enough to recognize that if Israel loses the ball in the US court of public opinion, he will lose the game completely. So he swallowed his pride and again reached out to President Barack Obama, after the Obama administration slammed him harder than any Israeli government.

But Israel made it easy for Obama. Netanyahu's irrational refusal to stop the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem as a means of returning to peace talks with the Palestinians has put Israel in a strange place in American public opinion, which increasingly recognizes the settlements as obstacles to peace.

Then, there was Israel's playing right into the hands of the extremists by taking the bait and taking over the flotilla of boats seeking to break its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Although Israel has refused to release a complete list of what the blockade prevented from entering the Gaza Strip – insisting the banned items are intended to prevent terrorism – it's since been impossible to keep the truth from coming out.


The fact is the Israelis not only have prevented weapons from entering the Gaza Strip, they also have prevented many food items, toys for children, most medicine – allowing some to trickle in at an unreasonable pace – and a long list of items that include other things that have less to do with preventing terrorism and more to do with efforts to "punish" the Palestinians.

I opposed the flotilla strategy to break the blockade because I believe it empowers Hamas and its supporters.

Palestinian national policy should not be defined by activists, including some who openly oppose peace based on two-states; it should be left to the legitimate Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah.

But the legitimate PA government has been ineffective and indecisive, driven more by what the emotion-driven Palestinian public feels rather than by policies and strategies reflecting leadership.

IF YOU do not lead the public, you leave the public to be led by fanatics and extremists who tug at emotions.

Irrational conduct always looks good through the blinded rage of an emotional person. Courageous leadership means doing the right thing and knowing that such leadership will bring the majority of the Palestinian public back from the irrational precipice to one of reason.

They just need a courageous leader. And so far, one has not stepped up to the plate.

That dynamic makes it easy for Netanyahu's government and the Palestinian activists to avoid peace, although Israel has the advantage as it is the only one that recognizes that the ball game is not in the UN but in the US.

It doesn't matter what Belgium or Turkey believe. It only matters what the Americans think. They not only hold the key to the future in the Middle East, but they also control the money and their military is actively engaged in several Arab world countries.

What Americans believe will decide whether Israel can continue to sidestep peace and expand settlements in the West Bank while rejecting demands for peace based on the return to the 1949 armistice line, called the Green Line. So what's a moderate to do? First, the Abbas government should get its act together.


It needs to recognize that it is trailing the Israelis when it comes to defining effective public policy.

Abbas needs to engage the American public directly. He needs to define his core message, which is simple: the Palestinian Authority supports the creation of two states, a land-for-land swap, the sharing of east Jerusalem and wants Israel to step up to the plate and recognize its role in the Palestinian refugee tragedy.

Abbas should hire a high powered public relations firm and stop pandering to the fanatics in the Arab world through the Arabic language media – a pandering that often undermines Palestinian rights because of contradictory pronouncements that confuse rather than enlighten public opinion, including in Israel.

And, more importantly, Abbas should recognize that the battle is not in the Gaza Strip but in the mind-set of the American public, where the future of Palestine, twostates and Middle East peace will be decided.

The problem with Abbas is most of what he does is conveyed to the world through the Arabic-language media, which has little or no impact on the American public. They're not reading the Arabic media for positive news and only scour through the Arab world media to find evidence of terrorism and anti-American hatred.

And there is a lot of that to be found.

While Netanyahu is bringing his message directly to Obama, Abbas needs to bring his message directly to the American people. He should do a 10-city tour of the US and argue directly what many do not want the American public to hear.

As far as most Americans are concerned, Hamas and its extremist activists represent the face of the Palestinian people and Abbas is negligible.

That can easily change. For the first time in Palestinian history, the Palestinians have a friend in the White House. He may only be there a few years. Now is the time for Abbas to change his strategy and stop playing second fiddle to Hamas and to Israel.

Abbas needs to make the American public his priority.

If he can win over their hearts and minds, Palestine can become a sovereign state.

The writer is an award- winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host.







Israelis, Americans and others too often accept the dulcet tones they hear directly from the PA and dismiss reports of harsh words they only learn about second-hand.


Under Yasser Arafat, the Palestine Liberation Organization notoriously said one thing to Arab/Muslim audiences and the opposite to Israeli/Western ones, speaking venomously to the former and in dulcet tones to the latter. What about Arafat's mild-mannered successor, Mahmoud Abbas? Did he break from this pattern of duplicity or continue it? This question has renewed relevance because reports suggest Abbas is ready to offer Israel various territorial compromises, plus he took unprecedented steps in granting an interview to Israeli journalists and meeting with American Jewish leaders at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

With unprecedented specificity, the Arabic daily Al-Hayat indicates, Abbas informed the Obama administration about his willingness to reach a deal on the West Bank and even Jerusalem (although the PA immediately denied these terms).

In the interview, Abbas presented himself as genuinely intent on reaching a peace agreement and accepting the idea of international troops. An aide to Abbas characterized this effort as his "trying to reach out to the Israeli public...

we want an Israeli partner for the end game, a partner that chose peace, not settlement, peace, not occupation." Abbas himself warned Israelis, "Don't let me lose hope."

Finally, a transcript of the Abraham Center meeting reveals Abbas telling his audience precisely what it wanted to hear: that he condemns violence, recognizes historic Jewish connections to the land Israel controls, accepts Israeli security concerns and promises to remove incitement from Palestinian Authority media and school materials. On the delicate issue of the Holocaust – a subject on which Abbas himself wrote a PhD "dissertation" in the USSR in which he accused Zionists of inflating the number of murdered Jews for political purposes – Abbas acknowledged that Jews had suffered and he rejected Holocaust denial.

WHAT TO make of all this? Abbas claimed that he talked to the American Jewish leaders "in the same language" that he uses to speak to the Palestinian street.



In fact, PA media churned out statements intended for the Palestinian "street" that, to put it mildly, contradicted the sweet words directed at Israelis and Americans. As news of Abbas reaching out to the other side came out, so too did reports from Palestinian Media Watch of precisely the opposite messages being conveyed to Palestinians.

For example, Palestinian Authority TV, which is directly controlled by Mahmoud Abbas's office, offers a weekly game show, The Stars, in which representatives of Palestinian universities compete to answer questions. In a recent show, two geography questions (simplified here) implicitly denied the existence of the State of Israel.

• How long is the coastline of "Palestine"? The answer, 235 kilometers, adds Gaza's coast (45 km.) to that of Israel's Mediterranean coast (about 190 km.).

• How large is Palestine? The answer of 27,000 square kilometers includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip (6,000 sq. km.) with that of Israel (21,000 sq. km.).

In a parallel example of duplicity, Salam Fayyad, who calls himself the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, announced in English in Aspen, Colorado, a year ago that Jews are welcome to live in a future state of Palestine where they "will enjoy [full] rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the State of Israel."

Lovely words, indeed. Just days earlier, however, Saeb Erekat, head of the PA's negotiations department, said just the opposite in Arabic (as made available by MEMRI): "Nobody should agree to Israeli settlers remaining in the Palestinian [state]... Some say that we will [be willing to] grant the settlers citizenship. We reject [this idea] out of hand."

Abbas and Fayyad spoke in English to Americans and Israelis, Erekat spoke in Arabic to Palestinians. Both statements cannot be true; one must be a lie. Which one, I wonder? Palestinians play this transparent and simple-minded double game because it works. Israelis, Americans and others too often accept the dulcet tones they hear directly and dismiss reports of harsh words they only learn about second-hand. The PA will blithely continue to spew its lies until the world heeds and rejects, for rewarding bad behavior invariably brings on more bad behavior.

When will we stop deluding ourselves that Abbas and the PA seek anything less than the total elimination of the Jewish state? What disaster must occur before we open our eyes to reality? The writer ( is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.






I do not envy the prime minister the impossibly difficult decision to be made, knowing the price – but Netanyahu must make it.


A simple letter – that was the modest request of Noam Schalit, father of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. He asked the "peace activists," those who organized the recent Gaza flotilla, to help deliver a letter to someone whose basic human rights are being denied; to take with them a note from a father who misses his son, a son he has not seen in four years, and to demand that Hamas deliver the letter. The answer was no. We are a humanitarian flotilla, they responded, and our mission is to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Delivering a letter for a soldier held in captivity for nearly half a decade and whose basic human rights are violated was simply not on the agenda Gilad Schalit has been held in the Gaza Strip since June 25, 2006. He was taken from Israeli territory a year after the disengagement from Gaza adopted by the Sharon government, in which I had the honor to serve. Schalit did not fall into captivity during a military operation, he was captured by terrorists from his country's own land.

But it seems the generosity of these "peace activists" from all over the world who set out on Gaza-bound ships, some more violent than others, does not extend to an IDF soldier who will soon mark his 24th birthday in Hamas captivity.


They didn't even have the decency to demand from their "friends" in Gaza that Schalit be seen by the Red Cross, a basic right afforded to any prisoner of war, which is what Hamas claims him to be.

It's safe to assume that, unlike the residents of Gaza, Gilad Schalit cannot count on the global "rights" movement to stand by his side. He needs us, citizens and leaders of this country, and more than anything, he needs Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

They say that being Israeli prime minister is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Anyone holding the title must make heartbreaking decisions, time and again, decisions of life and death in a society that sanctifies life, WHEN I brought up the issue of Gilad Schalit during one of my conversations with former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, she pointed out that America has no small number of captured soldiers in Iraq.

I told her that this was the ethos of Israeli society: In our small country, a soldier-son is everyone's soldier-son and a captive is everyone's captive. An IDF soldier knows that his country and its leaders will do everything in their power to win his release. I am proud to be part of a people that views a soldier as part of its family and refuses to accept his continued captivity at the hands of Hamas.

This is the reality in which the prime minister must operate and which forces him to make an impossibly difficult decision to release Gilad Schalit, knowing the price.

I understand the implications. I am aware of the significance. In the time that I served as interim president of the state, I saw the terrifying list of terrorists that Israel is being asked to release and I thought to myself that the burden on the prime minister forced to make that decision is indeed very heavy.

Our high morality has brought us to such a low negotiating position.

Hamas could have seen its terrorists freed four years ago, but it's in no rush. We, however, want to see Gilad home now. Worry for the soldier is part of that Israeli ethos, the mutual guarantee that makes us a strong, but trapped, nation. The worry is also a product of the deep wound in our hearts following the failure to free another captive, Ron Arad, whose face is carved into memory.

Mutual guarantees have a price, a price that the prime minister must pay.

In the absence of "peace activists" and human rights activists aboard peace flotillas, Gilad Schalit now needs his people to come through for him .


The writer is chairwoman of the Kadima Knesset faction.








I do not envy the prime minister the impossibly difficult decision to be made, knowing the price – but Netanyahu must make it.


A simple letter – that was the modest request of Noam Schalit, father of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. He asked the "peace activists," those who organized the recent Gaza flotilla, to help deliver a letter to someone whose basic human rights are being denied; to take with them a note from a father who misses his son, a son he has not seen in four years, and to demand that Hamas deliver the letter. The answer was no. We are a humanitarian flotilla, they responded, and our mission is to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Delivering a letter for a soldier held in captivity for nearly half a decade and whose basic human rights are violated was simply not on the agenda Gilad Schalit has been held in the Gaza Strip since June 25, 2006. He was taken from Israeli territory a year after the disengagement from Gaza adopted by the Sharon government, in which I had the honor to serve. Schalit did not fall into captivity during a military operation, he was captured by terrorists from his country's own land.

But it seems the generosity of these "peace activists" from all over the world who set out on Gaza-bound ships, some more violent than others, does not extend to an IDF soldier who will soon mark his 24th birthday in Hamas captivity.


They didn't even have the decency to demand from their "friends" in Gaza that Schalit be seen by the Red Cross, a basic right afforded to any prisoner of war, which is what Hamas claims him to be.

It's safe to assume that, unlike the residents of Gaza, Gilad Schalit cannot count on the global "rights" movement to stand by his side. He needs us, citizens and leaders of this country, and more than anything, he needs Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

They say that being Israeli prime minister is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Anyone holding the title must make heartbreaking decisions, time and again, decisions of life and death in a society that sanctifies life, WHEN I brought up the issue of Gilad Schalit during one of my conversations with former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, she pointed out that America has no small number of captured soldiers in Iraq.

I told her that this was the ethos of Israeli society: In our small country, a soldier-son is everyone's soldier-son and a captive is everyone's captive. An IDF soldier knows that his country and its leaders will do everything in their power to win his release. I am proud to be part of a people that views a soldier as part of its family and refuses to accept his continued captivity at the hands of Hamas.

This is the reality in which the prime minister must operate and which forces him to make an impossibly difficult decision to release Gilad Schalit, knowing the price.

I understand the implications. I am aware of the significance. In the time that I served as interim president of the state, I saw the terrifying list of terrorists that Israel is being asked to release and I thought to myself that the burden on the prime minister forced to make that decision is indeed very heavy.

Our high morality has brought us to such a low negotiating position.

Hamas could have seen its terrorists freed four years ago, but it's in no rush. We, however, want to see Gilad home now. Worry for the soldier is part of that Israeli ethos, the mutual guarantee that makes us a strong, but trapped, nation. The worry is also a product of the deep wound in our hearts following the failure to free another captive, Ron Arad, whose face is carved into memory.

Mutual guarantees have a price, a price that the prime minister must pay.

In the absence of "peace activists" and human rights activists aboard peace flotillas, Gilad Schalit now needs his people to come through for him .

The writer is chairwoman of the Kadima Knesset faction.








The ideology I know, the one I was raised on, is nothing like the kind now advocated by some on the European Left, whose automatic mobilization against Israel is astounding.


As an adviser to President Shimon Peres, I recently participated in a meeting with German politician and leader of the Socialists in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, the object of which was to discuss the position of the European Left vis-à-vis Israel. The exchange between Peres and Schulz (who repeatedly underscored his support of Israel and condemnation of its enemies), made me stop and ask myself some questions on the motive for the antagonism displayed by socialist leaders in Europe against Israel. Questions that I, who had been an active member of Israel's Labor Party and had joined it on ideological grounds, and who believed the social Left and the political Left were equal, find the progressively deeper schism between sister ideologies very disturbing.

I have always thought of myself as a socialist left-winger, an individual who rejects injustices, fights discrimination, seeks to close gaps, is prepared for compromises for the sake of peace, and belongs to the most moral intra-global movement in the world. At the same time, I admit, I love my country – Israel – and see no contradiction between the two. I look upon the practically automatic mobilization of the European Left against Israel extremely disappointing.


This perplexing situation of quasi-enmity on the part of those who should have been among our most prominent allies has been a source of much food for thought on the situation in the Middle East.

Recently Israel has been facing a new challenge in the fight for its existence – delegitimization. Sixty five years after six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis; 62 years after the establishment of a sovereign Jewish State in the land of its forefathers; 62 years during which we endured seven wars inflicted upon us because of the inability of our Arab neighbors to recognize and accept the UN partition plan. A resolution that we accepted and to which the Palestinians responded with violence; 62 years in which we built a state from its very foundations. A nation who would not shy away from a single day of war, yet would never renounce not even an hour of democracy.

THE QUESTION of the position of the Left in the world vis-a-vis Israel was also broached in the Peres-Schulz discussion.

I listened very attentively to the overview given by Peres, who served as vice president of the Socialist International for many years, and described the development of events that influenced the stance of socialist leaders in Europe over the past 30 years.

The socialist-European romance with the Palestinian issue started in the 1970s. Prominent leaders Willy Brandt, Bruno Kreisky and Olaf Palme instigated the European interest in the PLO and Fatah, headed by Arafat. According to Peres, the threesome worked towards the notion that Fatah and Arafat be accepted into the Socialist International.

They did not take advantage of the clear majority they had in the presidency and conducted long persuasive discussions with Peres – then Labor Party chairman.

Peres's position was clear: the Socialist International was an organization that served as an umbrella framework for the social-democratic parties in the world. When you are convinced that Arafat has assumed socialist and democratic principles, he had responded, I will join you in your proposal to invite him to the Socialist International.

The three rose to the challenge, and convinced Arafat to accept UN Resolution 242 and declare that the conflict would be settled in a peaceful manner.

This is the path that the socialist and socialist-democratic parties in the world have to follow in regard to Hamas. The pressure from the European Left must be applied to Hamas with the object of radically changing the position of this group, which needs to fall in line with the socialist spirit: accepting the principle of the two-state solution, agreeing to engage in peace negotiations with Israel, recognizing it, abandoning the path of terror and ceasing the firing of rockets at Israel's citizens.

THE MANY attempts of European socialists to delegitimize Israel in effect legitimize terror, murder, discrimination and tyranny. The socialist critics of Israel legitimize Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime, which kills demonstrators in the streets of Teheran, as well as Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh, who expelled their opponents from Fatah, shot them in the knees and threw them off Gazan roofs, and Hassan Nasrallah, who controls Lebanon by the force of arms and wishes to impose an Ismalist dictatorship. This is not the brand of socialism I know. This is not the socialism upon which I was raised.

My kind of socialism is anti-occupation and pro-human rights. But above all it is for the right to live. For those who died in exploding buses in city centers or were wounded by missiles close to home, their rights have been violated. The most basic right of man that I as a socialist know is the right to live.

And as to the occupation, I am amazed at the way the European Left is acting. While the operations initiated by Israel were undertaken in self-defense against the indiscriminate shooting on its citizens from the once occupied Gaza territory, but which has been completely evacuated, these inadmissible acts of aggression constitute the ideology of Hamas, Hizbullah and the regime of the Ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad in Iran, yet they do not figure on the agenda of the Left in Europe.

Quite a considerable number of women in those societies are beaten, illiterate, unable to earn a living; they are a children-producing machine and slaves of their husbands, who can get rid of them and abandon them to their fate with no resources at any given moment. This is the kind of Hottentot morality that is unexplainable.

Since I cannot, nor do I want to, suspect the European socialists of being anti-Semitic, I have no logical answer to this abstention.

My socialism also constitutes a universal ideology. This is not a tactical matter. In my mind, all human beings are equal and the standards according to which I would like to see them live apply everywhere.

The double standards exercised for different societies cannot be defined as socialism but as political cynicism.

Are operations in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Algeria, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan and Sudan acceptable, yet only Israel's effort to uphold moral warfare principles while engaged in a battle against terror deserving of condemnation? I AM on occasion critical of my government. In all of my adult life, I have been somewhat of a non-conformist.

Throughout my public activities I have worked to bring about change in my country in the spirit of social-democracy.

For greater equality, more freedom, the release from the burden of occupation and the march to peace. I learned from my guide and mentor Shimon Peres that socialism is a civilization and not a fleeting fashion. It represents the essence of things and a way of life, not a trend or media spin. Hence my bitter disappointment in my friends of the European Left.

My dear social-democratic friends, return to your roots.

You are not Pavlov's dogs who automatically jump to an anti-Israel posture no matter the issue. Go back to the human perceptions, on which socialism is based, apply equal standards to all, fight for the liberation of women in authoritarian societies, and confront the opponents of peace and negotiation. Condemn declarations calling for the annihilation of a country and of a people (even if the country in question is Israel). Start differentiating again between good and evil and not between what is convenient and inconvenient. This has always been what our worldwide movement etched as an emblem on its banner.

Socialism constitutes a network of moral values that needs to be safeguarded and on which the generations to come are to be educated. Do not allow the slogan of: "Socialism is a wonderful idea but the socialists killed it" to prevail.

The writer is an adviser to President Shimon Peres.








Despite the differing views, the one constant which has always defined US-Israel ties was that of shared values; And this message must be restated at the upcoming Netanyahu-Obama meeting.


Even the most casual observer of American- Israeli relations can tell you that this week's events will serve as a pivotal moment in our 63-year-old relationship.

Having personally witnessed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu interact with the current American president, I would agree there is no overestimating the importance of the next several days – but perhaps for different reasons than most would assume.


There can be no disputing that we have two national leaders with very different visions for how to accomplish peace in our region. On the one hand is a prime minister motivated to find a resolution to a conflict that has personally cost him, the way it has cost all too many Israelis. And on the American side, we have a president who does not seem to recognize that both sides must act responsibly to achieve real peace. Nevertheless, all Israelis should realize one basic truth – when we stands firm and clearly articulate our vital security needs and interests, the American people have proven time and again that they will be here at our side.

Netanyahu has proven over the past 15 months his willingness to take extraordinary steps to return the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Beginning with his address at Bar-Ilan University and repeated numerous times since, he has established the government's desire to see the implementation of a two-state solution. In recent months, we have witnessed unprecedented Israeli actions – the removal of hundreds of roadblocks intended to ease Palestinian movement, numerous joint Israeli-Palestinian economic initiatives and the freeze of all new construction in Judea and Samaria.

These steps were designed to display our sense of goodwill and commitment toward forward progress.

While the White House has publicly endorsed all these initiatives, the US administration has demonstrated a lack of clear vision when it comes to how best to treat the conflict. All the moves that the prime minister willingly implemented as trust-building gestures have only inspired increasing calls for additional concessions.

To date, the US administration has largely given the Palestinian leadership a free pass, conveying that the onus of real responsibility falls on Israel alone.

DESPITE ANY differing viewpoints even on these most fundamental of issues, perhaps the one constant which has always defined the American-Israeli relationship has been that of shared values. America's history is a saga of protecting the rights of its citizens against all threats while preserving their right to lives defined by freedom and the pursuit of personal well-being. The American people appreciate that Israel shares those same values in ways that are very unique in today's world.

Protecting these common ideals has taken on greater meaning in recent years.

Today, more than ever, both our nations must substantially and resolutely invest in fighting the increasing wave of terror directly intended on destroying our ways of life and our very existence.

This common battle against Islamic fundamentalism has further strengthened our common bond.

The enduring lesson of this special relationship is that when Israel stands strong in demanding real security for our citizens, the US, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, has been willing and ready to support us.

Recent months have proven this as fact in the case of Israel's unrelenting calls for stricter sanctions against Iran. Teheran's nuclear program represents a clear existential danger to the State of Israel. Due to the actions of the Netanyahu government in keeping Iran at the forefront of its international efforts, stricter sanctions have now been adopted both at the UN and separately in the US.

As the prime minister prepares for his meeting with President Barack Obama, the message must be made clearer than ever.

The relationship between the US and Israel remains strong; but determining our national destiny first and foremost requires our commitment to the principles which have always allowed us to prosper.

If we are strong, our friends will recognize that strength, salute that resolve and give us the necessary tools to defend and preserve our nation and its citizens.

The writer served as director of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's bureau and is a public affairs and international business strategic consultant.










The writer David Grossman called on the government of Israel in these pages yesterday to cease its preoccupation with the number and identity of Palestinian prisoners who would potentially be swapped for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Grossman believes Israel should make Hamas a broader offer that would involve "a total cease-fire, an end to all terror activities from Gaza and a lifting of the siege." The start of such negotiations would see Shalit and the prisoners exchanged.


The proposal deserves serious consideration as the basis for a new policy. It is unfortunate that four years have been wasted and something along these lines was not adopted soon after Shalit's abduction in 2006. There is no certainty, however, that Hamas would have agreed to the proposal then, or that it will do so now. It is also worth examining the impact such a deal would have on the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan. But the point of departure is that there is no sense in allowing the existing situation to continue.


A few days after the abduction and the failure of operation "Southern Shalit" to locate and rescue the soldier, astute voices from the top ranks of the Israel Defense Forces reached the conclusion that if Shalit was to be brought back, a new policy was necessary. These voices, which apparently reflected the position of GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant and then chief of staff Dan Halutz, sought to recognize the reality that had been created in Gaza following the Hamas victory in the PA elections four months earlier, and the establishment of the Ismail Haniyeh government (Hamas' violent takeover of the Strip only took place in June 2007 ).


The IDF wanted to pose the following option to Hamas: Preserve your rule of power or continue your violent struggle against Israel. A proposal to seek a broad agreement on Israel-Hamas relations was drafted - which was to include a cease-fire, an end to terrorist attacks and the launching of Qassam rockets, an end to efforts to acquire more weapons for use against Israel and the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. A report on this attitude held by the IDF, published by Haaretz, angered then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, who opposed a prisoner exchange deal. He shelved the idea and subsequently rejected similar ones raised during Operation Cast Lead.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not bound by Olmert's objections. He should revive the idea and challenge Hamas. Israel needs to embark on an initiative that would fundamentally alter the situation along the southern border, without fearing dialogue with Hamas. It must not regard the current situation as simply fate.









My man of the week is Syrian President Bashar Assad. His call to calm the crisis in Israeli-Turkish relations seems like a serious attempt to cool the mutual invective between Ankara and Jerusalem. "If the relationship between Turkey and Israel is not renewed, it will be very difficult for Turkey to play a role in negotiations to revive the Middle East peace process," Assad said on Monday in Spain. And he added that failure to mend these ties would "without doubt affect the stability in the region."


Assad's balanced position was a surprise. Instead of getting up and cursing Israel for its "aggression" against a Gaza-bound flotilla in May, he acted like a responsible neighbor by trying to calm the dispute. His remarks are being interpreted as a diplomatic warning to Turkey's leaders: If you continue quarreling with Israel, you will lose your influence and encourage the extremists who undermine stability. Cool it.


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, have turned out to be talented diplomats. The flotilla that set out for the Gaza Strip under their aegis resulted in the easing of Israel's blockade on Gaza. And Davutoglu's recent meeting with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer did more to undermine the unity of Israel's governing coalition than any other incident to date. Even U.S. President Barack Obama, for all his efforts, was unable to so threaten the stability of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rule.


But the Turks are not resting on their laurels. They are presenting the discord with Israel as an issue of national honor. They demand that Israel apologize for the killing of Turkish civilians during its boarding of the Mavi Marmara, or alternatively, that Israel allow itself to be investigated by an international commission and pledge to accept its conclusions. Otherwise, Ankara will cut its ties with Israel. Netanyahu, however, has made it clear that Israel will not apologize "for our soldiers being forced to defend themselves."


The moment the run-in becomes an issue of honor, it is difficult to find a solution. How can one compromise on national honor and look like a dishrag to the rest of the world? And Turkey's alternative demand, that Israel agree to an international probe, is less humiliating than the demand for an apology, but still very problematic.


First of all, by easing the blockade of Gaza after the flotilla incident, Israel admitted in retrospect that its previous policy was wrong. No international commission will justify the blockade after Netanyahu has renounced it. Second, there is no "objective" commission. An international commission headed by Alan Dershowitz will rule completely differently than a commission headed by Richard Goldstone, even if they are shown the same evidence.


Clearly, the third option, cutting off ties, would be very bad for Israel, and Netanyahu must make every effort to prevent it. He seems to understand this, and therefore dispatched Ben-Eliezer to meet with the Turkish foreign minister. But the meeting was fruitless.


There is another way out of the entanglement: Move the disagreement from the field of honor to the field of interests, and thereby give both sides an opportunity to emerge from the corner into which they have painted themselves. This is where Assad comes in.

The Israeli establishment, which admired Assad senior, tends to disparage his son and depict him as a confused, bumbling child. But that is foolishness and conceit. In his 10 years in power, Bashar Assad has maintained Syria's internal stability and secular character, retaken control of Lebanon and nurtured Hezbollah as a strategic deterrent against Israel. That is quite a bit.


Assad's decision not to respond to the 2007 bombing of the nuclear reactor he built in the desert shows that he is a rational and restrained leader. It is not hard to imagine how Israel would respond to an attack on a military base in its territory: with strategic bombing, all-out war and anxieties about holocaust and destruction. Assad showed that sometimes, it is better to sit quietly. The bombing may have destroyed the reactor, but Syria's strategic standing in the region has only grown stronger since then.


After the attack on the reactor, in which Israel once again violated Turkish sovereignty, former prime minister Ehud Olmert was quick to renew talks with Syria, mediated by Erdogan and Davutoglu. The Turks restrained themselves over the flight across their airspace and set to work to lead a diplomatic effort that calmed tension in the north.


Now, Assad is proposing the same deal, in the opposite direction: Let's renew talks on the Syrian channel and give the Turks and Israelis something important to deal with instead of mutual recriminations over the flotilla. Instead of competing over who has more honor, it would be better to work to improve the region's situation.


Erdogan and Netanyahu should listen to their responsible neighbor. They might discover that the road from Ankara to Jerusalem can also run through Damascus.









Were it not for Mohammed Abu Tir's red beard, this would perhaps be only a marginal news item: Israel is working to expel four Palestinian residents of Jerusalem affiliated with Hamas from the city of their birth.


There are those who see this expulsion as demonstrating a proud national stance, but it is already turning out to be a political boomerang. Abu Tir is under arrest, because he did not leave Jerusalem on June 19. His colleagues - Khaled Abu Arafa, formerly the Jerusalem affairs minister in Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's government, and Ahmed Atun and Mohammed Totah, both members of the Palestinian Legislative Council on behalf of an Islamic list identified with Hamas - have moved into the Red Cross office in East Jerusalem.


Four years ago, then-interior minister Roni Bar-On (Kadima ) revoked their status as Jerusalem residents on the grounds that they had violated their minimal obligation of loyalty to the state of Israel, its citizens and its residents. After that, they were arrested, released and defined as illegals obligated to depart from "Israel's borders."


Since the end of 1995, the Interior Ministry - headed first by Haim Ramon (Labor ) and subsequently by Eliyahu Suissa (Shas ) - has pursued a policy of mass revocation of residency (with a brief hiatus under Natan Sharansky of Yisrael B'Aliyah, and even that only after an intense public struggle ). The record was set in 2008, when 4,577 men and women were stripped of their right to reside in their own city by the Interior Ministry, then headed by Meir Sheetrit (Kadima ).


Nevertheless, by revoking the residency of these three parliamentarians and one former cabinet minister, Israel has set a record of a new sort: Until now, Jerusalem residency had been revoked exclusively on the basis of administrative pretexts, such as prolonged stays outside the city.


These wicked pretexts derive from the liberty Israel has taken of applying the Entry to Israel Law - used primarily to grant residency permits to non-Jewish immigrants - to residents of occupied and annexed East Jerusalem. But the inhabitants of East Jerusalem did not decide to "come" to Israel; it is Israel that "came" to them.


The current case, however, is the first time Israel has denied Jerusalem residency on political grounds.


The United States and Europe urged Israel to let the Palestinians hold elections in 2006. The participation of an Islamic list affiliated with Hamas was a well-known condition for enabling these elections to take place, including in Jerusalem.


Yet the moment that list won a sweeping victory, Israel embarked on a campaign of punishment against its members, and especially the Jerusalemites among them, for "serving" in the Palestinian Authority.


This, in and of itself, represented a new peak of political cynicism (and another slap in the face to PA President Mahmoud Abbas ). It has been exceeded in its cynicism only by Israel's demand that the occupied evince loyalty to the occupier, lest he be banished.


With this expulsion order, Israel has managed to unite the entire Palestinian arena. The protest tent the three men set up in the courtyard of the Red Cross office has become a pilgrimage site. And Abbas has met twice with those slated for banishment.


Time will tell whether his promise to have the decree rescinded can be kept. In the meantime, however, the political movement that is his main rival is again becoming the symbol of the national struggle and of steadfastness in waging it.


Even those who, for political and cultural reasons, are sworn opponents of the Palestinian Islamic movement know that Israel is setting a precedent.


Today, people affiliated with Hamas are being expelled from Jerusalem. Tomorrow, if the PA falls apart or dares to reject Israel's dictates, it will be known Fatah activists who will be stripped of their residency due to "disloyalty to the occupation."


Following the flotilla raid, the expulsions from Sheikh Jarrah and the royal plans for Silwan, this is yet another match that Israel is tossing into the tinderbox. And it is one that even its friends will find it hard to ignore.









One of the common mistakes from our childhood has to do with the song "Hava Nagila." Instead of singing "Uru ahim belev sameah" - "Awaken brothers with a joyful heart," we sang "Mukhrahim lehiyot sameah" - "You must be joyful." In this way, mangling the Hebrew and the joy, and depicting them in a garbled and aggressive light, we expressed a vague suspicion that there is someone up there dictating how we should feel.


And indeed, a look at the school curricula of the 1950s reveals quite a bit of indoctrination. However, since then a number of things have changed and the education system has opened up to pluralism, creativity and universalist thinking. As education minister, the late Zevulun Hammer of the now-defunct National Religious Party often intervened in the contents of the school curriculum with an emphasis on the values in the name of which he had been sent to politics. Even he, though, knew how to act in light of this change and during his time the system was subordinated to a soft and effective indoctrination.


Indeed, the new era in the education system is arousing nostalgia for Hammer and his political sophistication, in part because the above mentioned intervention, problematic in itself, also brought with it a strengthening of the system. This was manifested mainly in the budgetary arena, but also in strengthening the status of teachers and principals.


Under the energetic administration of Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and his director general Shimshon Shoshani, what is left to the teachers and students is only the "You must be happy," torn from its context or, in their case, "You must be Jewish." This is the impression that emerges from reading the strange document entitled "A Call for the Development of Study Materials in the Subject of the Culture of Israel," which the ministry published on May 25 and is now taking shape.


"The management of the Education Ministry," states the document, "has decided on a new subject - the Culture of Israel, which will constitute a central axis for the cluster of the Jewish and humanities subjects ... and will be implemented in stages by the new body, the Culture of Israel Headquarters.


"We are aiming," continues the document, "to expand the bank of study materials and encourage organizations in the third sector ... to formulate new study materials and/or adapt existing study materials to the principles of the subject of the culture of Israel."


The new subject will be taught two hours a week. In sixth grade, for example, students will be prepared for their bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah and introduced to synagogues of various sorts; in seventh grade they will ask "What makes me a Jew?"; and in eighth grade they will study Ethics of the Fathers, the weekly Torah portion and the homily (! ) and national concepts - the flag, the symbol, the pre-state underground groups, the War of Independence and more.


Anyone who comes out against this "implementation" is accused of being anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist, and is given a self-righteous explanation to the effect that it is only because of the troubling decline in Jewish studies that the ministry has had to reinvent the Jewish wheel.


This is intentional deception. The class hours in all the subjects crudely filed under the heading "Jewish studies" have indeed been reduced, but this has been done in all the humanities, first and foremost literature, history, Bible and Oral Law (and in the slowly dying subject of civics ). The new program does not propose expanding these studies or restoring to teachers the hours that have been taken from them. On the contrary, on the grounds that there are not enough teachers for these subjects it is imposing a clearly religious program on the students, the teachers of which will come from "the third sector" - that is to say, organizations dealing in Jewish studies.


This is a spurious explanation. Ever since the committee to examine the state of Jewish studies at the Education Ministry, headed by Prof. Aliza Shenhar, delivered its recommendations to the education minister in 1995, year after year scores of teachers have gone through extensive continuing education courses at the various institutions of higher learning - from the Talmud to Yehuda Halevi to Yehuda Amichai. It is clear that they are qualified to transmit the knowledge they have acquired, but it is equally clear that this is not what the Education Ministry wants.


The ministry wants private organizations to feed their religious porridge into the students of the state education system, prepare them for their bar mitzvah, teach them to recite prayers by rote and instruct them in the "portion of the week" and the homily. In the not-very-good case it will be Beit Moreshet in Jerusalem (the director of which, Prof. Benny Ish-Shalom, chaired the committee that formulated this nonsense ). In a worse case these will be the Torah-thumping organizations for "returning to religion," the low-level preachers who specialize in excoriating every universalist-secular value.


Thus, with elevated arguments, the secular-liberal education minister is weakening his teachers and making a laughing stock of the entire system.









In a disconcerting development, the military censor is regressing to the 1950s. It seems to be totally disconnected from the accelerating pace of change in the media, thus at times rendering its revisions and deletions truly absurd.


Last month, for instance, the military censor struck down a newspaper article that contained a quote from a radio interview. But the audio of this interview is still available to be heard on the Internet for anyone wishing to do so.


Aside from the argument - which is not taking place - over the logic of the ongoing censorship of information from this interview, a fundamental question arises: If the censor's task is to protect national security by preventing the public consumption of information it deems to be a security risk, what is the point of nixing the article if our enemies can simply listen to the interview whenever they wish? It is nearly certain that those who wish us ill and monitor Israeli radio programs have long since heard the interview in question.


In another recent case, the military censor struck out several key segments of a documentary directed by filmmaker Nir Toib. The movie, which is titled "The Secret Kingdom," deals with the case of Brig. Gen. (res. ) Yitzhak "Yatza" Yaakov, a scientist who headed the Israel Defense Forces unit responsible for weapons research and development. Following his discharge, he was appointed chief scientist of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. Yaakov was accused of aggravated espionage, but was eventually convicted on a far lesser charge and given a suspended sentence.


Toib's film focused on the conduct of Israel's security agencies, and particularly that of the man in charge of the unit responsible for security in the Defense Ministry. This unit, known by its Hebrew acronym Malmab, is what Toib terms "the secret kingdom," and his film scrutinizes and criticizes it.


The film is not about the secret itself, but the kingdom that has been constructed around it. Thus it neither deals with secrets nor reveals them. Nor does it seek to expose historic facts that have been hidden from public view.


The film is comprised of snippets of information pieced together from open sources that reported the data with approval from the military censor. Yet many clips in the film were deemed unfit for viewing - despite the fact that Toib identified the sources of his information, including media reports and books, during his discussions with the chief military censor, Sima Vaknin-Gil.


The chief censor was not convinced. She vehemently insisted that although the information was reported in the past, the film somehow posed a risk to national security. This is an absurd claim that fails the test of simple logic. If the facts have already been divulged, then the damage to national security has already been done.


The reason for the censor's conduct apparently lies in the fact that large chunks of the film deal with Malmab's activities, and that Toib criticizes the conduct of both the unit and the individual who ran it. It later emerged that the military censor consulted Malmab prior to rendering its decision on Toib's film. This was most certainly inappropriate, as the censor is supposed to be independent and immune to pressure. And given the segments of the film that were cut, it seems as if Malmab exerted considerable, if not decisive, influence over the censor's decision.


In a well-known High Court of Justice ruling from 1988 regarding the military censor's decision to bar publication of an article by journalist Meir Schnitzer that criticized the performance of the head of the Mossad, the presiding justice, Aharon Barak, ruled that the censor can legally veto the publication of material only if it meets the standard of "near certainty of serious harm to the security of the state."


One does not need to be an intelligence expert to understand that neither the censorship of quotes from the radio interview nor the deletion of scenes from Toib's film meet this standard: Simple logic will suffice. One must hope that the High Court, which is scheduled to hear Toib's petition against the military censor, will reinforce the message that it sent just over two decades ago.




******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




Will it make you feel better to know that it was 111 degrees in Riyadh on Tuesday? Or that 117 degrees is the predicted high for Baghdad on Wednesday? Those temperatures, as uncomfortable as they are, are normal for this time of year in that part of the world. In New York City, Tuesday's peak temperature — 103 degrees at 3:11 p.m. — brought the city uncomfortably close to its all-time record high: 106 degrees on July 9, 1936. It was even closer to its second-highest high, a near-record many of us remember: 104 degrees on July 21, 1977.


It is supposed to be hot here in July, and this week's heat, though more dangerous, doesn't feel quite as alien as the record for April 7 of 92 degrees that New York City reached this year. Yet whenever it gets this warm, the city seems to become a different place. The atmosphere turns glutinous. The air on the subway platforms feels like the breath of an active volcano. The asphalt takes on the texture of chewing gum, as does the mind. The lower extremities seem to swell to R. Crumb-like proportions. In short, life is more adhesive.


When a heat wave settles in, it also feels as though we're returning to an older New York, a city of stoops and open hydrants, a city in which everyone takes refuge, sooner or later, in the steaming streets if only in hope of feeling some moving air on the skin. There is something claustrophobic about the heat, as if we were trapped in a photograph from the 1930s, never to escape. But a storm will come, the wind will freshen from the west, and soon we will be free to be ourselves again, to walk wherever we like as briskly as we always have.







Before heading home for a weeklong recess, the House of Representatives passed a bill on July 1 that would crack down on a devious tactic used by some pharmaceutical companies. The tactic, known as "pay for delay," involves business deals in which the makers of patented brand-name drugs pay generic competitors to delay the introduction of cheaper alternatives.


The agreements arise after a generic manufacturer tries to market its drug before the patent on a brand-name drug has expired.


The generic company typically contends that the patent is invalid or that there is no infringement. With billions of dollars at stake and neither company certain how it might fare in court, a brand-name manufacturer might prefer to pay its potential competitor substantial compensation to delay its generic drug and the generic maker might welcome a hefty payoff rather than face the uncertainties of litigation and marketing.


Both companies profit handsomely. The big loser is the American consumer, who must continue to pay monopoly prices for brand-name drugs instead of buying cheaper generics.


The Federal Trade Commission, which has valiantly fought to ban such agreements, estimates that they will cost American consumers about $35 billion over the next 10 years unless they are stopped.


The House included a provision in its supplemental appropriations bill that presumes such agreements are illegal but leaves room for the affected companies to overcome that presumption in court. The compromise language falls short of an outright ban but should still be a strong deterrent to the practice.


The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the provision would reduce the federal deficit by $2.6 billion over the next 10 years, thus providing useful if modest savings that would help offset the cost of domestic programs in the bill, such as emergency support to local school districts to prevent teacher layoffs.


Now it will be up to the Senate to approve the bill as amended by the House. Should the senators be inclined to make any changes, they should be sure to retain the provisions curbing pay-for-delay tactics. It would end an underhanded practice, reduce the deficit slightly and save consumers billions of dollars.









Have you had your fill of glögg and Kaffebars, leather jackets with rivets and sausages with pickles? Do you want to hop off the tunnelbana, and move on from feminist-socialist-journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his pals, Eriksson, Svensson, Johansson, Jonasson, Nilsson, Martensson, Magnusson, Ekstrom, Edklinth and that suspected lesbian Satanist Lisbeth Salander, the most literally riveting heroine in some time and the most famous doll-like, krona-drenched Swedish twin besides Tiger Woods's wife, Elin Nordegren?


Then you might consider some beach reading featuring unforgettable characters spilling sensational secrets — but this time with simple names like Young and Edwards and familiar hangouts like Cracker Barrel and PetSmart.


Aaron Sorkin bought the rights to Andrew Young's memoir, "The Politician," which is apt since Young writes that John Edwards was inspired to become a politician after he saw Sorkin's "The American President."


Young's book is an amazingly sordid yarn about a fawning aide and the feckless pol he serves beyond all reason. The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible, as Oscar Wilde called foxhunting.


We learn that in this era of immersion coverage, we can still end up with a shallow view of our candidates and their real — or Rielle — lives.


A man like Edwards can be extremely close to ascending to the White House and still be camouflaging his true nature. To paraphrase Raymond Chandler, if character were elastic, John Edwards wouldn't have enough to make suspenders for a parakeet.


Once more putting the diss in dysfunction, Elizabeth Edwards last week promoted the paperback version of her best seller, "Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities," making her feelings of betrayal by her ex, her ex's mistress and her ex's sycophant perfectly clear.


It's tough to watch Elizabeth talk about her dirt-sandwich former mate because you have to wish her the best as she continues chemotherapy. She's suffered through the worst bêtes noires that can rip through a woman's life, and now, as she told Larry King, she feels sad about "the likelihood" she may live "the rest of my days without someone holding me in a passionate way."


But even before the scalding portrait of her in "Game Change" and "The Politician," strategists who had worked for her and her husband said she had rejected the idea of a campaign commercial featuring Edwards's mother and millworker father, dismissing them as hicks, just as she sometimes put her husband in his place by calling him a bumpkin.


"If I ever called him a hick, it was because he'd like to be called a hick, you know?" Elizabeth explained to King, in what seemed like a stretch. "Oh, you're such a hick, you know. You're such a country boy."


Indicating that she found Rielle Hunter's half-naked pictures in GQ distasteful, Elizabeth cast her as Lady Voldemort, barring King from mentioning the name of her husband's girlfriend. She said she would have accepted John's daughter with Rielle and been her stepmother if John and she had stayed together, but "now there's no reason really for me to."


Well, there is that little matter of 2-year-old Frances Quinn Hunter being the half-sister of Elizabeth's kids.


Elizabeth gave up on her 32-year marriage after making the supremely strange gesture of buying lavender soap

for John to give to Frances Quinn to give to Rielle at Christmas. Speaking to People magazine, she did not dispute The National Enquirer's "sex-and-booze bender" story that John has been hitting on women in North Carolina bars.


Young is the anti-Iago, debasing himself for his boss, doing tasks like fetching the Christmas tree for their North Carolina mansion and meeting John at the airport with his favorite chilled wine.


In December 2007, the former senator called Young, saying that he needed to find a "way out of this thing," and outlined a scheme to outsource sin that made F. Scott Fitzgerald's careless Buchanans seem models of responsibility.


"I was dumbfounded," Young writes. "How, I asked, was I supposed to explain to my wife that I should confess to an affair I never had, claim an unborn child that was not mine, and then bring her along with our family as we attempted to vanish into thin air?" They used Edwards's trial lawyer friend's private jet and they bilked poor Bunny Mellon out of the money for their screwball flight to luxury hotels where Rielle could squander thousands — and then the selfish Edwards didn't even go to Bunny's daughter's funeral.


Edwards told Young that it would be a one-day story and that they must be guided by a cause that was "bigger than any one of us" — i.e., Edwards.


It's a cautionary tale both for those who fawn and for those who need to be fawned over. The man who preached about two Americas will be remembered for doing it with two faces.










Ringo Starr is turning 70 on Wednesday. It feels as though youth itself is now 70 years old.


I wasn't yet 6 when the Beatles played their last live performance atop the Apple Corps building on Savile Row in London, January 1969. They split four years before I got my first Beatles album. Still, I can keep track of my teenage years by Beatles songs I happened to be enthralled with at the time. Forty years after they broke up, my 6-year-old son is learning to play "Eleanor Rigby" on the piano.


Not only are the Beatles the best-selling act of all time, but everybody has done their songs, from Jimi Hendrix to David Bowie to Elton John. "Strawberry Fields Forever" has been covered by Aimee Mann and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs of Argentina. The Brazilian band Os Mutantes sneaked the guitar solo from "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" into its hit "Ando Meio Desligado." Sesame Street's songbook includes "Hey Food," and "Letter B."


In 2001, the compilation album "1" was a top seller in the United States and Britain. "It's beyond an obsession. It's an ideal for living," Noel Gallagher of the 1990s British-pop band Oasis once said. "With every song that I write, I compare it to the Beatles."


It is somewhat odd that the musical tastes of today's youth are still linked closely to a band that released its last album when the parents of today's teenagers hadn't even met and music still came on vinyl. When Ringo was born, the median life expectancy in the United States was only 63. More than half the 20-somethings who paid $4.50 for a ticket to their last concert in Candlestick Park in 1966 are dead by now.


Maybe the famously self-centered boomer generation into which the Beatles poured their music never grew up. Like no generation before, boomers crafted identities out of tastes for music, dress and politics. As we moved into middle age, we brought along the Beatles and passed them on to our kids.


Wherever it comes from, there is some unique quality about what the Beatles had to offer. It's not as good as eternal youth, but it is a close second. To me, their music does not sound any older than when 64 was a much longer way off. Maybe this is what we mean by timelessness. It's turning 70 while remaining 24 at the same time. EDUARDO PORTER







President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel satisfied their short-term political goals with an Oval Office meeting on Tuesday. It is less clear that they achieved much of substance.


Both were desperate to show their voters that their frigid relationship has warmed. So they posed — smiling — for an official photo, spoke with reporters and shared lunch. There was plenty of upbeat rhetoric. The two leaders expressed hope that direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks — following the current "proximity talks" conducted by George Mitchell, the American envoy — would begin before Israel's limited moratorium on settlement construction is due to expire in September.


We would like to have confidence in Mr. Netanyahu's declaration that he is "committed to that peace" with Palestinians and President Obama's assertion that the Israeli leader is "willing to take risks for peace." Mr. Netanyahu didn't offer any specifics about what he will do to help move peace negotiations forward.


Unlike Mr. Obama, the Israeli prime minister did not publicly mention a two-state solution. Mr. Netanyahu committed to that goal in June 2009 — but only under pressure from Washington. Each time he neglects to repeat it, he feeds doubts about his government's sincerity.


President Obama has made a serious effort when it comes to Israel's main security concern, Iran's nuclear program. Mr. Obama rightly recognizes the threat to Israel and this country. He and his aides pushed the United Nations Security Council to pass a fourth round of sanctions and have worked with the Europeans and others, pressing them to adopt even tougher punishments on Iran. More pressure is needed, but the president's commitment appears solid.


Mr. Obama is going to have to keep working hard to persuade Mr. Netanyahu that a peace deal with the Palestinians is also essential for Israel's long-term security, the health of its democracy and its international standing — and not just something he has to try to mollify Washington.


Mr. Netanyahu promised after Tuesday's meeting to take unspecified "concrete" steps in the coming weeks to move the peace process along in a "robust way." He could start by committing to extend the moratorium on settlement construction past the Sept. 26 deadline and by outlining his plan for reaching a two-state solution.


The United States has an unshakeable bond with Israel. Still Israelis must worry about the battering their country's reputation has taken — and the bolstering Hamas's extremist government has gotten — since Israeli commandos killed nine activists on an aid ship trying to break the Gaza blockade.


Mr. Netanyahu took an important step when his government lifted restrictions on most imports into Gaza, except military-related items. It must go further and allow exports from the territory, as well as greater freedom of movement for people living there.


President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and his government also must do their part, doing more to discourage incitement against Israel — and seriously preparing to make the hard choices that peace will inevitably require.


We know that it will not be easy, but Mr. Abbas needs to drop his insistence that he will begin direct talks only after Israel agrees to a complete freeze on settlement construction.


That is what the White House had promised him originally — and it would have been better for all. But more stalemate only feeds extremism. The only way to test Mr. Netanyahu is to get back to the table.


Arab states must do a lot more to support the Palestinians — with aid and political support for the tough compromises ahead. They also need to demonstrate to Israel their willingness to improve relations as negotiations move forward.


At their press conference, Mr. Netanyahu invited the American president to visit Israel, and Mr. Obama said: "I'm ready." He should go and explain to Israelis directly why it is in the clear interest of both Israel and the United States to move ahead with a peace deal.








Ringo Starr is turning 70 on Wednesday. It feels as though youth itself is now 70 years old.


I wasn't yet 6 when the Beatles played their last live performance atop the Apple Corps building on Savile Row in London, January 1969. They split four years before I got my first Beatles album. Still, I can keep track of my teenage years by Beatles songs I happened to be enthralled with at the time. Forty years after they broke up, my 6-year-old son is learning to play "Eleanor Rigby" on the piano.


Not only are the Beatles the best-selling act of all time, but everybody has done their songs, from Jimi Hendrix to David Bowie to Elton John. "Strawberry Fields Forever" has been covered by Aimee Mann and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs of Argentina. The Brazilian band Os Mutantes sneaked the guitar solo from "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" into its hit "Ando Meio Desligado." Sesame Street's songbook includes "Hey Food," and "Letter B."


In 2001, the compilation album "1" was a top seller in the United States and Britain. "It's beyond an obsession. It's an ideal for living," Noel Gallagher of the 1990s British-pop band Oasis once said. "With every song that I write, I compare it to the Beatles."


It is somewhat odd that the musical tastes of today's youth are still linked closely to a band that released its last album when the parents of today's teenagers hadn't even met and music still came on vinyl. When Ringo was born, the median life expectancy in the United States was only 63. More than half the 20-somethings who paid $4.50 for a ticket to their last concert in Candlestick Park in 1966 are dead by now.


Maybe the famously self-centered boomer generation into which the Beatles poured their music never grew up. Like no generation before, boomers crafted identities out of tastes for music, dress and politics. As we moved into middle age, we brought along the Beatles and passed them on to our kids.


Wherever it comes from, there is some unique quality about what the Beatles had to offer. It's not as good as eternal youth, but it is a close second. To me, their music does not sound any older than when 64 was a much longer way off. Maybe this is what we mean by timelessness. It's turning 70 while remaining 24 at the same time. EDUARDO PORTER









FOR the first time in more than a decade, New York's beekeepers are claiming their summer perches on the city's rooftops. Bowing to a citywide campaign, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently removed honeybees from the Health Code's register of "venomous insects" and other prohibited animals. Not surprisingly, the New York City Beekeepers Association saw a sizable bump in enrollment for its spring classes.


Yet without support from City Hall, it's doubtful that we can return to anything like the pre-ban era, when hives could be found at city schools, on the roof of the American Museum of Natural History and even inside Radio City Music Hall.


The benefits of urban beekeeping are substantial. Despite the conventional view of the city as a slough of pollution, urban honey is likely to have significantly less chemical residue than commercial honey made beyond the boroughs. This is partly due to the high levels of pesticides in commercial agriculture and partly because small-scale beekeepers tend to use fewer drugs in the care of their hives than commercial operators.


Urban honey also has the potential to be a godsend for New Yorkers with allergies. Although the scientific studies are still lacking, there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that the pollen in local honey helps people develop defenses against local allergens.


Then there's the health of the city. Take the honeybees of East New York Farms!, an organization of urban farmers and neighborhood farmers' markets. These Brooklyn bees pollinate crops for the entire neighborhood. They aren't just making honey: they're building community, creating income and employment and maintaining vital urban green space.


Local honey will benefit the health of the planet as well: minor transportation costs, no-fuss manufacturing (courtesy of the bees), minimal processing, simple recyclable packaging and centralized retailing provide a model of effective, low-carbon production and distribution.


Beekeeping isn't as daunting as one might think. The humans require a bit of training, but bees are famously self-sufficient, needing little more than the right location, a supply of clean water, some feeding in spring and fall and a weekly inspection throughout the summer.


Nevertheless, there are still significant obstacles to city beekeeping, and it's uncertain that, without the government's help, it will reach beyond a relatively limited stratum of committed New Yorkers.


For one thing, unless you own your building, your landlord has to approve the hive's installation, and he has to feel confident about the reactions of the tenants and the roof's ability to support a 250-pound hive box. Then there are the costs: around $250 per hive, plus about $200 for the bees, the protective suit and other equipment. And even though the image of bees has softened in the wake of colony-collapse disorder, popular fear of bees is ever-present.


So what can City Hall do? For starters, like other cities in the United States and overseas, New York could support urban beekeeping through small grants, through tax incentives for both beekeepers and building owners, through public education programs and by getting hives into city schools as educational and perhaps fund-raising tools.


Beekeeping could also be promoted as a part of FoodNYC, a plan devised by Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, to support grassroots efforts like green rooftops and urban farming. These efforts are already altering the ecology and economy of the city in small ways; with the right citywide support, they could have a far greater effect.


As anyone who has studied a beehive knows, it's an ordered, self-sufficient world, a reminder that nature is always in our lives, even in the middle of the city. And there is nothing quite like your first open-air taste of fresh, local honey, sparkling with flavor, straight from the source. More New Yorkers should get that experience.


Hugh Raffles is an anthropologist at the New School University and the author of "Insectopedia."








Mexico City

PERCEPTIONS, once firmly established, can often obscure the truth. The homicide rate in Brazil is twice that in Mexico, but it is my country that is portrayed as lawless and violence-ridden. So it is important to note some sudden good news: On Sunday, in 14 of Mexico's 32 states, millions of citizens went to the polls and, defying the threat of violence from drug cartels, decisively consolidated our young democracy.


They did not, as had been feared, simply entrust local government in all 14 states to the PRI (the Institutional Revolutionary Party), which had ruled Mexico for 71 years until 2000. That had seemed to be a strong possibility, given the widespread desire to return to the relative stability of the days before the drug gangs spread violence and death through much of Mexico. Complete victory for the PRI would have led to its inevitable return to nationwide power in the presidential election of 2012. What voters did in many places was simply vote out corrupt or ineffective incumbent governors, mayors and other state and local officials — regardless of party.


Now, though the return of the PRI in 2012 is still probable, it is no longer inevitable. Even if the next president turns out to be from the PRI, the party will still not regain its lock on power, since the other parties have made such substantial gains in state and city governments. This is cause for great optimism.


For most of its modern history, Mexico was a monarchy in disguise. Each president in turn was the Great Elector, dominating Congress through a permanent majority, wielding influence over the Supreme Court, appointing and removing governors and mayors, freely manipulating the national budget and natural resources, and limiting freedom of expression.


In its decade of existence in Mexico, democracy has created a true division of power among Congress, the president and the judiciary; honest presidential and legislative elections; limits on the traditionally absolute power of the Mexican president; an independent Supreme Court; a disclosure law that has notably reduced federal corruption; unrestricted freedom of expression in the news media; and active participation by Mexican citizens in public life.


But democracy itself brought unexpected problems. The powers formerly monopolized by the president devolved to the state governors, most of whom still belonged to the PRI and often, suddenly free of presidential control, behaved like the old strongmen of the Mexican Revolution. They bought votes, controlled local electoral institutions, made free use of public funds, nourished corruption and repressed or silenced the press.


And yet, on Sunday, contrary to many people's expectations, committed citizens voted out the feudal lords in two key states, Oaxaca and Puebla, as well as in the violence-ridden state of Sinaloa.


Public consciousness of the power of the vote is relatively new here. And it is of course vital to the success of democracy. In 6 of the 12 states that elected governors on Sunday, incumbents — not only from the PRI but also from the PAN (the right-of-center National Action Party of President Felipe Calderón) and the P.R.D. (the left-of-center Democratic Revolutionary Party) — were rejected.


In Oaxaca, Puebla and Sinaloa, the voters chose candidates jointly supported by the PAN and the P.R.D., a practical alliance that would have been unimaginable a few years ago and seems to confirm the centrist tendency of the Mexican electorate. Even in a few states where the alliance lost to the PRI, it demonstrated growing strength.


Despite the menace of violence from organized crime, in seven states, including Sinaloa, more than 50 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. Natural disasters, disease outbreaks, economic crisis, migration and the violence of the drug war have clouded life in Mexico through recent years. But the people continue to believe in democracy.


Now democracy can continue to develop where it is most needed, at the state and municipal level. Consider what might happen next year in the rich and populous state of Mexico, which surrounds the capital city. The current governor there is the popular Enrique Peña Nieto, who polls suggest is the leading candidate in the 2012 presidential race. But a PAN-P.R.D. alliance could prove competitive against his PRI successor in the 2011 gubernatorial race. Should the alliance win there, Mr. Peña Nieto's presidential prospects would not be so clear.


At the same time, the PAN will have difficulty holding onto the presidency. Mexico remains economically stagnant, and ordinary citizens disapprove of President Calderón's war against the drug bosses. The PAN would not have gotten very far on Sunday without its alliance with the P.R.D., and vice versa. These parties could become competitive in the 2012 presidential race, but first the new state governments, formed by alliances opposed to the PRI, must show themselves to be honest, economically innovative and effective in confronting organized crime.


The good news is that even if Mr. Peña Nieto wins the presidency in 2012, the PRI will still not regain its former strength. The governors, even the many in the PRI party, will not gracefully cede their new powers to the president. And voters know the PRI cannot easily persuade the drug lords to stop competing for market and territories — and stop killing each other, government representatives and ordinary citizens.


In practical terms, a pluralistic Mexico is far preferable to the restoration of a camouflaged monarchy. A country that becomes continually more comfortable with democracy and the rule of law in its states and cities can confront the challenge of organized crime in a more effective and responsible manner. Colombia has done it, and maintained democracy. Mexico — with some help and understanding from the United States — can do it as well. No matter the dangers, the future for Mexico must rest on maintaining and expanding its still young democracy.


Enrique Krauze is the editor of the magazine Letras Libres and the author of "Mexico: Biography of Power." This article was translated by Hank Heifetz from the Spanish.








The irony in the Justice Department's lawsuit to block Arizona's obnoxious new immigration law is that neither the suit nor the law would be necessary if Washington had done its job enforcing federal immigration laws in the first place.


The lawsuit, announced Tuesday, might allow the Obama administration to feel righteous, pretend it's doing something about the nation's immigration mess, and appeal to Hispanic voters ahead of November's congressional elections. What it doesn't do is hasten the necessary, comprehensive immigration reform that President Obama called for last week.


Don't get us wrong: The Arizona law — which requires local police, in the course of a lawful stop, to question the legal status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being in this country illegally — is draconian and, as the lawsuit argues, potentially an unconstitutional infringement on federal powers. But the law is also the product of simmering frustrations that boiled over in a border state that has suffered the consequences of decades of failed federal immigration policies.


Arizona is home to more than half a million illegal immigrants, sixth highest among the states. Even as the recession took hold in 2008, illegal immigrants made up about 10% of the state's labor force. One in every 10 students in its schools is the child of an illegal immigrant. And last year, while the flow of Mexican immigrants slowed drastically and about 400,000 left the U.S., another half-million managed to cross the border, many of them at points in Arizona.


Given that federal irresponsibility and inaction created much of the immigration mess, the lawsuit seems premature and unnecessarily inflammatory. The law doesn't even take effect until July 29. The harmful effects are, for now, theoretical. Government lawyers can't yet point to an instance of racial profiling, which would make their case stronger.


In last week's speech, Obama called for comprehensive immigration reform— the right solution — but in the same breath he alienated the very lawmakers, the Republicans, he'd need to make it happen. Arizonans have heard promises before from the federal government of "comprehensive reform," only to feel duped when just half of those promises were kept.


After President Reagan's 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act granted legal status to 2.6 million illegal immigrants already living here, the government failed to follow through with the "control" part of the equation. Borders remained porous, and residents rightly wondered whether the law had meaning.


In 2007, a bipartisan bid for comprehensive reform, blessed by President Bush, collapsed in Congress after

conservatives, and some liberals, rebelled.


Ignoring the problem hasn't made it go away. A poll last month showed two-thirds of Arizonans favored their state's new law, and similar measures have been introduced in five states. Nationally, smaller majorities favor it, too, even as many people believe that it could lead to discrimination against Hispanics.


Most Americans don't want to see such discrimination. In fact, they support a balanced approach that combines effective border enforcement, employer sanctions and a path to legality for illegal immigrants already here who stay out of trouble, pay fines, learn English and meet other requirements.


Suing Arizona now dramatically escalates tensions and sets back the cause of common-sense reform. The nation

would be better served by a push for compromise, not an all-out attack on those dealing with the brunt of failed federal policies.








The federal government, which filed suit Tuesday challenging a new Arizona immigration law that is sure to lead to racial profiling, took an essential and appropriate step. The law, SB 1070, is unconstitutional and a violation of our civil rights and everything we stand for as Americans.


Immigration is the federal government's responsibility, and the solution lies in Washington, not in Phoenix. The Justice Department made the right move by suing to assert federal authority in immigration enforcement.


Last week, President Obama spoke of the need to enact comprehensive immigration reform. As he said, we now have more boots along the border than ever before. There has been a significant reduction in the number of people trying to cross the border illegally. Crime along the border and in Arizona is actually down, according to the FBI. But these facts are lost on those who believe SB 1070 is a necessary response to failed federal immigration policies.


Make no mistake. This law will result in the scapegoating of, and discrimination against, U.S. citizens because of how they look. Arizona has a history of that. Just Google "Sheriff Joe Arpaio." For years, Arpaio, head of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Phoenix, has made headlines for his immigration sweeps, typically placing dozens of deputies in neighborhoods with large Hispanic populations and ordering them to stop anyone for any violation. Often, the raids have caught up U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Arpaio's office has been under investigation for more than a year by the Justice Department for allegations of racial profiling. And that was before the new law was passed.


Despite claims that this law explicitly bans racial profiling, SB 1070 will only make what is already a bad situation far worse.


What is happening in Arizona is a regression from the freedoms and values we hold dear as a country. To those who point to the law's popularity, I would remind them that Jim Crow laws were once as popular.


The solution to our broken immigration system must be comprehensive. The American people understand this, the president and some Democrats in Congress understand this, and Republicans need to understand this and work with their colleagues to pass a comprehensive reform bill.


Janet Murguia is president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Latino civil rights and advocacy group.








Three weeks ago, the school system in Alexandria, Va., announced that 80% of the students who were about to graduate from T.C. Williams High School would be going on to college. That's an impressive statistic for a school that is 79% minority, with more than half its kids on a free or reduced-cost lunch program. But when one looks at just what "going on to college" means nowadays — and what it will mean a couple of years from now — we might do well to restrain our applause.


I had great students in my senior English classes this year — kids accepted to Yale, Columbia, the University of Virginia, Wesleyan and other highly competitive colleges and universities. But I also had other seniors whom I still feel guilty about passing, and they, too, are among the 80% whom we boast about going to college.


In fact, it seemed to me that many of our staff beat the bushes to send as many warm bodies as they could on to higher education regardless of whether the students had the skills or motivation to do rudimentary high school work. T.C. Williams is not alone in this drive to move everyone on to college. A new study from the Pew Research Center reports that "freshman enrollment at the nation's 6,100 post-secondary institutions surged by 144,000 students from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008. This 6% increase was the largest in 40 years, and almost three-quarters of it came from minority freshman."


Paying customers


The trend is certainly a boon to the education establishment. High schools like mine, always eager for good press, can boast that they have prepared an ever greater percentage of their charges to move on to the halls of academe. And though colleges blame us in the high schools for sending them kids who are woefully unprepared, they blithely pocket the tuition from such students lest they have to downsize and lay off professors and administrators.


But how much students with low skills, little motivation and lousy study habits are going to profit from going to college is not so clear. Over the past five years, I have seen students who didn't have the skills one would expect of a ninth-grader going off to four-year colleges where fewer than 30% of entering freshman graduate.


That means that 70% of the freshman class is likely to end up not with a diploma but a pile of debt. In these days of tight budgets at every level of government, it's also hard to ignore that these schools are heavily subsidized by the federal government.


While T.C. Williams boasts about the 80% going on to college, it makes no effort to track what happens to these kids. Nor does it ask another important question — which is not how many make it through to a traditional college diploma, but how many need to? In a paper about to be released by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Arnold Packer, co-director of the landmark study "Workforce 2000: Work and Workers for the 21st Century," points out that in 2018 — as is the case today — two of three jobs in America will not require either a bachelor's degree from a four-year college or an associate degree from a community college.


Vocational training


Jobs in health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, retail trade and so-called middle-skill jobs such as plumbers, electricians, legal assistants and police officers will require job specific licenses or certificates from community colleges or technical institutes, and/or on the job training. In fact, many graduates of four-year colleges are now enrolled in community colleges to get the specific training and licensure for jobs for which college did not prepare them.


And yet we educators — and most parents — keep giving all kids the impression that without a college degree, they will be on a slippery slope to oblivion and poverty. In fact, for the majority of jobs, what will be needed even more than the subject matter we teachers think is so essential will be what Packer calls soft skills. The report "Are They Really Ready to Work," put out by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management, found that the four skills most prized by employers were a work ethic, an ability to collaborate with others, facility in oral communication and social responsibility. "Other than writing and reading English, no academic courses (including mathematics) make the top 10," says Packer.


As an English major with seven years of Latin and four of Greek, I am the last to say that the liberal arts or learning for the sake of learning are a waste of time and money. But given the nature of the market that is developing, for many kids, the liberal arts, in fact the very idea of a four-year college degree, will be taking a back seat to training geared to the jobs that are coming out of this economy.


And that's good news for those thousands of students who graduated from high schools across America this month and are honestly wondering to themselves whether — the encouragement of their teachers notwithstanding — the pursuit of a traditional college degree is the right next move toward a satisfying future.


Patrick Welsh is an English teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.








Feel like you're not paid enough? Worry about losing your job? Wish you had better benefits? Ever think about quitting?


If you answered "yes" to these questions, one thing is certain: You don't work for Uncle Sam.


That's because federal workers are much better off than private-sector workers in all the major markers of job satisfaction — salary, job security, benefits and job desirability. And it's costing taxpayers a bundle.


Start with the money. The average federal employee earns an annual salary almost 60% higher than the average private-sector employee — $79,000 vs. $50,000. Federal employees do have more education (on average) than private-sector workers. Their unions argue that this justifies their higher pay. But it doesn't. Even after controlling for education and experience, federal employees get paid significantly better — 22% more per hour, on average — than private-sector workers.


Not all federal workers earn above-market pay. The government bases raises on seniority, not performance, so the most skilled and hardest-working federal employees are actually underpaid. Overall, though, government workers earn well above what their private-sector counterparts make, even before you consider benefits.


Oh, the benefits


Those benefits include more than one type of retirement plan. Federal employees can enroll in a Thrift Savings Plan that works like a 401(k). But they also get a "defined contribution" plan, which lets a worker with 30 years of experience retire at 56 with full benefits.


Government workers also can enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. There are no age, health, or pre-existing condition restrictions.


Paid leave? Check. Federal employees with just three years of experience get 20 days annually, and those who have logged more than 15 years get 26 paid days off. Group life insurance? Check. And many federal buildings even offer on-site child care. To be sure, many large private employers offer two or three of these benefits, but very few offer them all.


Job security


Once you add up these benefits, the gap in total compensation rises even higher — 30% to 40% above comparable private-sector workers.


Federal civil servants enjoy another perk: near-absolute job security. Private businesses cut hiring and increase layoffs when sales drops. From 2007 through 2009, the adult unemployment rate in the private sector more than doubled, from 4.2% to 9.4%. Not in government. The percentage of federal employees who lost jobs barely budged, going from 2.0% to 2.9%.


This is largely because of civil service rules. It's virtually impossible to fire federal employees for bad performance once they've passed a one-year probationary period.

Not surprisingly, federal employees rarely quit. In good economic times, they voluntarily leave at roughly a third the private-sector rate. And that disparity has only grown since the recession began.


Why should taxpayers care? Because it's costing them money. If Congress were to set up a payment system like the private sector's, it would save about $47 billion a year. That's serious money.


Lawmakers can take other steps: reducing benefits, contracting more non-essential tasks to private-sector companies, and making it easier to dismiss underperforming employees.


"Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for," Will Rogers once said. Indeed. With a little effort, we could even pay less for the government we have.


James Sherk is a senior policy analyst in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.








Besides the adrenaline-pumping cliffhangers, the real reason we all have World Cup Fever is that the games speak so powerfully to the times. The competition delivers such a soothing reprieve, a worldly vacation from our jumbled nightmares over the present and future.


The games allow us to enjoy the benign, dumby-friendly aspects of globalization, not the dismal ones. Who doesn't feel beaten down, dispirited by the latest sinister expressions of globalization, the eco-meltdowns, the ongoing war casualties, the brutish global corporations —Goldman Sachs, AIG, BP and even Facebook — which have become so evidently more powerful than many nation-states?


The World Cup is a quaint, charming anachronism given its unabashed celebration of nations in this post-national world. This festive brand of nation-building bubbles on our screens in determined contrast to Israeli battles with Hamas or the continued world economic crisis or the antics of Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai.


And what is more, the games serve us globalization to our own liking and speed. Today, I like America. Tomorrow, Spain. The next day, Uruguay. What a welcome throwback to patriotism and nationalism, but one where we can lavish promiscuous loyalty to different nations. This self-pleasing, buffet-style encounter with the world sure beats the darker news reports of Latin American drug cartels, G-8 discord, or the roiling Afghan-Pakistan border.


And those acrobatic and dexterous and multilingual and multihued players. How we love to cheer them, darting about the field. Normally, these athletes pledge allegiance to money — whichever football club will pay them the most. But for this summer, and in this instance, they play for one nation's glory. More than 200 million people across the globe are migrants, according to the United Nations, while one quarter of children in the USA are immigrants or children of immigrants.


Who better embodies, and even transcends, the transnational flow of labor than those plucky players? Lukas Podolski (Germany), Iker Casillas (Spain), Francesc "Cesc" Fabregas (Spain), Diego Forlan (Uruguay): The footballers evoke more sympathy and pride than those other multinational worker bees — the nationless, faceless jet-setting corporate honchos, the seemingly feckless U.N. and E.U. bureaucrats bungling diplomacy, and the undocumented immigrant laborers who suffer scorn worldwide.


The World Cup is just the elixir for our present globalization doldrums.


How we'll miss those zippy games.


Rich Benjamin, author of Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America, is a senior fellow at Demos, a non-partisan public policy center.








The latest assessments by United States experts on the diminished strength of Al Qaida puts the terrorist organization's manpower at around 300 leaders and fighters in Pakistan's border tribal territories and possibly 50 to 100 in Afghanistan. Those figures, to be sure, do not include Al Qaida's ties and crucial synergies with the Taliban in both countries, nor with affiliated terrorist organizations across the Middle East and Asia. Still, they sharpen the focus on the U.S. war in Afghanistan, raising the question of whether mission creep has embroiled America in a war that began with a different goal and now shows no signs of an end.


That's a critical issue. The war in Afghanistan now puts the lives of around 100,000 American troops at risk, and bleeds the U.S. treasury. It also breeds dangerous discontent against America among Muslims who are influenced by the extremist jihadist culture and the violence it legitimates.


The estimate of around 300 Al Qaida leaders and fighters who are believed to use Pakistan's tribal areas as a safe haven and staging area was disclosed by Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, at a national security conference in Aspen last week. Mr. Leiter said the estimate reflected the views of U.S. agents in the field and other indices. CIA director Leon Panetta made the estimate of 50-to-100 Al Qaida members in Afghanistan the Sunday before in a "Meet the Press" interview.


Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reasonably noted the "depth of synergies" among Al Qaida, whatever its size, and other groups, including the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He might well have expanded the list to include professed Al Qaida affiliates in Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq and other parts of Asia.


Americans presumably are well aware of the threat of affiliate organizations. The man accused of trying to detonate a terrorist bomb in New York's Time Square a few weeks ago was allegedly trained by Pakistan's Taliban. The young Nigerian who tried to blow up an airliner en route to Detroit last Christmas Day has said he received training in Yemen from Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Some Somali-American Muslims have returned to Somalia for training.


Still, it's reasonable to question whether the United States' mission in Afghanistan is winnable, or even feasible, over the longer term. The United States initially invaded Afghanistan, in what is now the nation's longest war, to deprive Al Qaida a safe haven there -- and not to rout the Taliban, abhorrent as its repressive rule has been. It is also true that the Taliban was, and remains, an indigenous insurgency that has seemed to strengthen at least partly on the appeal of ejecting non-Muslim westerners -- first from Russia and, now, the U.S. and NATO -- which in their view defile their country and protect a corrupt government.


Americans have good reason to wonder if the war makes sense. The Taliban is centered in the Pashtun ethnic tribal lands on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. In that broad area, which the Pashtun essentially consider borderless, they account for a combined population of around 35 million people. They are distinguishable, as well, for their ethnic and social standards, and renowned for their warrior mentality, which has made them the bane of interlopers for centuries.


Among their own people, the Taliban rule by terror. Those who reject their religious or social extremism are often murdered -- witness the recent reversal in Marja following the initial and costly victory by U.S. forces, and the assassinations in Pakistan's tribal lands of Pashtun who resist the Taliban philosophy.


In any case, the test of wills between the United States and NATO forces versus the Taliban is inevitably leading to the end game -- one in which a clear-cut American/NATO victory seems implausible. There is a more sensible option: withdraw the bulk of the troops, and leave a contingent focused on strikes against anti-western terrorist groups, not the stewardship of Pashtun lands. That will likely be the conclusion, whether or not it is immediately embraced in Washington and NATO's Brussels headquarters.







When a strong earthquake struck Haiti in January, the international response was prompt and positive. Humanitarian and other assistance from around the globe poured into the island nation. That and the resilience of the Haitian people prompted a generally successful short-term rescue effort. Long-term recovery in what is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, however, remains elusive. There are numerous reasons for that.

Even before the earthquake, it was difficult to build civic, social, governmental and economic momentum in Haiti. The nation was plagued by a lack of physical and governmental infrastructure. Political paralysis was long-standing. Investment capital and money to build vital economic and social networks was almost non-existent. The catastrophic quake exacerbated those problems.


Consequently, resolution of crippling post-quake issues has been slow in coming -- even by Haiti's glacial standard of movement. That appears to be changing. Haitian President Rene Preval announced recently that postponed presidential and legislative elections will be held in late November. That's reassuring. It indicates to Haitians and to the global community that the government remains committed to democratic government.


A natural outgrowth of that commitment should be a renewal of recovery and rebuilding efforts. Many organizations obviously were looking for reassurance about Haiti's political future before providing additional investments of manpower and money. They understandably feared any sort of political disruption that could impede their work. The fact that free elections are now scheduled should help ease those fears. It does not reduce the hardships many Haitians still face.


International aid officials estimate that at least 1.5 million people displaced by the January earthquake still live in shantytowns, camps and rudimentary shelters. All are vulnerable to the heavy rains and hurricanes of the hot-weather season. Experts agree a strike on Haiti by a major storm could claim hundreds or thousands of lives. Mr. Preval and his government will have to work quickly to prevent such a calamity.


The announcement of elections provides political underpinning for enhanced recovery efforts. That's half the battle. The other is the creation of broad-based and transparent programs to rebuild Haiti's ravaged infrastructure, housing stock and economy. That's easier said than done, given Haiti's documented inertia and incidents of fraud and avarice in government circles.


A willing group of partners is ready to help Haiti. Mr. Preval and his fellow citizens, however, will have to take the lead if that assistance is to flow more freely. They now seem ready to do so. They should act promptly, though, if the nation is to ride out the current storm season with minimal loss of life and then begin a meaningful rebuilding effort.







We wish we could celebrate the slight reduction in America's "official" unemployment rate in June. But the employment picture actually got worse, not better, last month.


Technically, the rate of joblessness "fell" from 9.7 percent in May to 9.5 percent in June.


Shouldn't that be good news? Doesn't it mean more Americans are working?


Unfortunately, no.


The official unemployment rate counts only those who are actively seeking jobs. In June, an alarming 652,000 discouraged, unemployed Americans gave up trying to find work. That is nearly equal to the entire population of Memphis! Those individuals aren't counted as part of the unemployment rate -- but they're still very much unemployed and very much in economic difficulty.


In fact, despite the lower official rate of joblessness in June, total U.S. payrolls plunged by a net of 125,000 jobs. All told, about 15 million Americans were hunting for jobs in June, and millions more have given up.


Of course, 100 percent employment is not realistic. Natural, seasonal changes in the job market, as well as employees voluntarily leaving one job to seek another, mean that an optimal unemployment rate is in the range of 5 percent. But with the current rate about double that, many Americans are plainly hurting.


Shouldn't it be obvious by now that the president's and congressional Democrats' $862 billion "stimulus" legislation last year has not helped much? You'll recall that President Barack Obama said unemployment would not exceed 8 percent if only Congress would pass the stimulus. He also said 90 percent of the stimulus jobs supposedly "created or saved" would be in the private sector.


Neither promise has panned out. We are far past the 8 percent unemployment mark, and government jobs have been getting vast amounts of the stimulus support.


Bizarrely, on the very day that the latest, dismal jobs figures came out, Mr. Obama declared that the economy is on the right track. That will undoubtedly come as a surprise to millions of Americans who cannot find work, or who need full-time jobs but can find only part-time work.


Sadly, without a serious rethinking and prompt reversal of the administration's policies, it is hard to see how our nation will begin to climb out of the economic crisis anytime soon.







Americans long have been aware that our automobile industry has been a very important part of our nation's industrial and economic prosperity.


We love our cars, and employ lots of our people to make them.


When U.S. car sales are booming, our economy is generally booming. When car sales drop, we quickly recognize economic distress.


General Motors long has been the huge leader in U.S. -- and world -- automobile manufacturing and sales.


Some will remember that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, more than half a century ago, called upon the then-head of GM, Charles E. "Engine Charlie" Wilson, to serve as our secretary of defense. Although Mr. Wilson was highly qualified and did a good job, he ran into political controversy when he said he "thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa."


There was really nothing wrong with what he said. But his comment was twisted and misquoted as "what's good for General Motors is good for the country." There was really nothing wrong about that, either. But his political critics tried to suggest Mr. Wilson was putting GM "first," ahead of the nation's interest.


But quoted accurately or misquoted, he was right. Our country and GM boomed together, then and now, or suffered economic difficulties together.


Today, it is interesting that General Motors' car sales are greater in Communist China than in the United States!


GM sold 1.21 million cars in China from January through June this year -- compared with "only" 1.07 million GM car sales in the United States in the same period.


Those figures reflect many things. One is that China is economically growing. It has a huge population of more than a billion people. It also means that GM cars are popular in China. The comparative figures may remind us that Americans are buying lots of "foreign" cars. "Fortunately, many of the "foreign" brands are being made in the United States. Consider the important fact that Volkswagen is coming to Chattanooga, for example.


But who ever would have thought that "what's good for General Motors" is also good for Communist China?

On the menu: Big River Grille

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





The news of the big oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico just gets worse -- with no solution in sight.


The problem started when a Gulf of Mexico oil well called Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20. Bad weather and choppy seas have added to the difficulty of providing relief and solution.


Unwanted tar balls from the uncontrolled oil well now reportedly have hit all of the states surrounding the Gulf, causing terrible environmental and economic problems for millions of people.


June and July are popular Gulf beach months -- but not this year. Gooey globs of oil -- somewhat like tar -- are washing up on the beaches, scaring away the usual sunbathers, swimmers and beach walkers. That, of course, means losses to hotel and motel folks, restaurants, stores and everybody else who usually does summer beach business.


Shrimpers and fishermen are stymied and losing money.


Frantic efforts by British Petroleum to stem the flow of uncontrolled oil and pay related costs have hit more than $3 billion, so far.


And let us not forget the 11 lives that were lost in the blowout.


Efforts are under way to drill a couple of relief wells, about a mile deep, to control the oil flow. But who knows when -- or if -- those wells will be effective?


Meanwhile, the big skimmer ship called "A Whale" and many smaller ones are doing what they can to capture some of the oil before it gets to the beaches. But that's only "a drop in the bucket," compared with millions of gallons of oil "not in the bucket" as the problem continues.


The damage continues and the costs rise as lots of people are doing their best to solve a huge problem.







We are just a few days past the anniversary of our 1776 Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. We recall that the American colonists protested against "taxation without representation." Today in the United States we complain about "taxation with representation."


Today's British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is respected not only in her country but also in the United States (although she wears "funny" hats, in addition to the crown -- but not at the same time).


Maintaining the monarchy in Britain isn't cheap. It costs about 38.2 million pounds ($57.8 million) a year, we are told. That's a lot of money.


But per capita, the British report, the queen's maintenance costs only 94 cents a year per Briton. Apparently, most of the British people think it's worth it.


Since we gained independence, we don't have to pay for that.








As a group of Turkish journalists, we have among ourselves many shades of opinion. We have no uncompromising, unified view on the many issues of the day that range from the proper dosage of reaction toward Israel for its assault on a Turkish aid flotilla to the proper course of judicial reform.


But we are of one mind on the issue of Turkey's accession to the European Union. We hope that Turkey's business class is also and we must express a few concerns on the comments made by Ümit Boyner, chairwoman of the chief business lobby, TÜSIAD. Yesterday we published an interview on her thoughts going forward after a fact-finding mission to Brussels.


Our interpretation of her comments is basically this: OK, let's accept that talks are now essentially in a holding pattern; let's keep dotting i's and crossing t's. Let's support efforts of new Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule to renew a spirit of dynamism and let's contribute as best we can to a new "EU vision."


We certainly believe in pragmatism, and we have no quarrel with Boyner's specific plan of action. But we are concerned generally that this reflects a certain resignation, an indirect concession to the likes of French President Nikolas Sarkozy or German Chancellor Angela Merkel who have now been peddling various versions of "accession lite" for years now.


This we reject. Turkey has been negotiating in earnest since 2004. The history of Turkey's efforts scarcely need repeating, but the quest dates almost back to the founding of the EU's forerunner, the European Coal and Steel Agreement, in the early 1950s. Turkey is heir to the legacy of a European imperial power, as are Britain, France and Austria. And we see no need for a new "EU vision." The one articulated by the intellectual fathers of the "European Project," including Jean Monet and Robert Shumann is just fine. This rests on the very basic principles of shared sovereignty, regional economic and social integration and basic democratic freedoms.


As Europe stumbles in its economic dynamism, as it looks to define its role in the world and as it prepares to confront all the challenges of the 21st century, we see no reason to retreat from the vision of Monet and Shumann. We see no reason to retreat from the essential logic of Turkey's membership.


We also see no reason for TÜSİAD or other institutions with so much invested in Turkey's EU efforts to signal flagging interest, a willingness to accept less than we have already agreed to or any drift toward the "lite" visions of Sarkozy or Merkel.


The European Union needs Turkey as never before. Turkey certainly has other options, which we are willing to pursue if the EU should choose to formally and forthrightly reject us. Absent that, Turkey must move forward. There is no room for any other kind of discussion with Brussels.









I do not think relations between Turkey and Israel will break off, if you accept it as a frank answer to my own question. Even in the case of Israel's resistance in issuing a formal apology and compensating the victims of the Mavi Marmara raid.


So, why did Turkey's foreign minister threaten Israel with cutting off ties if it does not meet these conditions? In fact, it was not a threat but a description of the current state of relations. I do not know how others interpret his words on cutting relations, but he obviously meant that "there will be no any improvement in ties, and even worse, they could be downgraded to a record low level."


Otherwise, he did not mean "Turkey will no longer recognize the state of Israel and close its embassy in Tel Aviv." I am that explicit in interpreting his words since he made the statement to a very narrow group of journalists, including me, traveling with him to Kyrgyzstan over the weekend.


I am also sure that this is not the Turkish government's plan. Turkey attaches importance to Israel as it does to all other regional countries, but having said that, it does also expect some more responsible behavior from the current government.


"Look around us. The Middle East peace process, Syria-Israel talks and very recently this raid into a humanitarian ship… It's the Israeli government that is responsible for all of these," Davutoğlu said. It's also possible for Turkey to sit at the table with Israelis if Tel Aviv would "shift its axis to a more responsible attitude in the region."


Last week witnessed a secret meeting between Davutoğlu and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Trade and Infrastructure minister, as the special envoy of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister. Both parties repeated their positions toward the flotilla crisis while Davutoğlu repeated Turkey's expectations from Israel as pre-conditions to put ties back on track.


The meeting was itself meaningful and promising. However, only two days after the meeting, Netanyahu publicly said that Israel would neither apologize nor compensate the victims of the Mavi Marmara. To be honest, the timing and the content of his statement were very unfortunate.


For two reasons: this statement shows that creation of this homemade inquiry commission is just a cosmetic effort. Because the government clearly believes that there was no any mishandling during the operation and the killing of nine civilians were just "normal." So, even if the Israeli commission finds that there was serious violation of procedures committed by the Israeli troops, we will not see an apology from the Israeli government.


Secondly, Netanyahu's statement, just two days after the meeting, was unveiling Tel Aviv's intentions of using the secret diplomacy action as an effort to strengthen his hands for domestic purposes. He tried to give the impression that "such meetings with Turkey will not make them come to a compromise."


It was out of the question to expect Turkey to remain silent to Netanyahu's statement. Davutoğlu made clear that "under these conditions the relations will never be repaired and even worsened."


A road map is already on the table; its implementation is a matter of timing. As Davutoğlu hinted, Turkey's airspace could be banned to Israeli civilian flights; all military-defense-economy-cultural ties would be negatively affected and Turkey could decrease its diplomatic representation to the level of chargé d'affairs. This is what the Turkish diplomacy describes as cutting relations.


Shift in axis?


Another point I should reflect on is the never-ending discussions on whether Turkey's axis has been shifting. Let me share an anecdote: It was last year in November I was traveling with Davutoğlu to Cordoba in Spain and one of the topics we raised with him was the "shift in axis" discussions. I realized the same topic was still on our agenda when we were flying to Kyrgyzstan's Bishkek over the weekend. "You see," Davutoğlu told me, "Wherever we go, this discussion does not leave us alone. From one corner of Europe to another in Central Asia…"


He went further arguing that this campaign was an attempt to suppress Turkey's proactive diplomacy in its region and elsewhere. Despite all his sincerity, I believe the government's preferences over Iran and Hamas are the main fuel sources of this discussion. I am sure there are so many things the Turkish diplomacy can do to avoid this discussion.


On the other hand, it was a senior Turkish diplomat who had explained to me that, "In this age, no one should expect static diplomacy from Turkey. Turkish foreign policy cannot be the same. It's what we call multiplying axes. It has nothing to do with who is in the government. Future governments will have to follow this path, too."


I am sure Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, during a recent interview with BBC Turkey did not escape the attention either. "Turkey's axis cannot shift that easily," he said, adding that if there is such a concern, then the European Union should question itself. More importantly, as the leader of the main opposition that is strongly seeking to become the government, he does not seem to be disturbed with the country's current position as the regional leader.


That is, Turkish diplomacy would do better to draft a guideline on Turkish foreign policy to be better prepared for future discussions on this same topic.









There was an interesting headline in daily Taraf a few days ago, "The Greeks have set the headscarf free." The story was about a juvenile female Muslim student living in the Republic of Cyprus. She wanted to attend her primary school classes while wearing a headscarf, a demand that sparked a public controversy. But as Taraf wrote with reference to Alithia, a Greek Cypriot daily, the Minister of Education, Andreas Dimitriu, intervened on behalf of the young girl's right to practice her faith. "Religious freedom is non-negotiable," the minister reportedly said, "and so is the parents' right to raise their children according to their beliefs."


"Well done, Mr. Dimitriu," I said to myself. "And down with this absurd secularism in Turkey, which makes it much less Islam-friendly than the Greek-ruled Republic of Cyprus."


Independent yet unfree


Let me be a bit clearer about my intentions. Although I am a Muslim, I am actually not the greatest fan of the headscarf. I think the Quran's verses on female modesty are open to interpretation, and it is possible to understand them in a way which will not necessitate the covering of a woman's hair — let alone that of a teenage girl. But I respect the views of my co-religionists who think that the veil is a religious necessity, and stand for their right to wear it anywhere they want. Similarly, if some crazy regime banned the Jewish kippah, I would support the right to wear that as well. For me, too, religious freedom is non-negotiable.


Secondly, although I detest this particular form of secularism that is established in Turkey — laiklik, a worse version of the French laïcité — I am actually in favor of a secular state. But I want a secular state which is neutral to religion, not hostile and oppressive to it. It should try not to sterilize the public square from religion, but rather open it to all religions and philosophies. The United States is probably the best example.


However, the anti-religious form of secularism is the only one that the Turkish state establishment knows. Hence "protecting secularism" here means banning the power and symbols of religion — and particularly Islam — as much as possible. That is why the headscarf is banned in the public square, including universities. And that's why every year thousands of veiled Turkish students head to European or American universities, where they find freedom.


The irony here — that Turkey is less Islam-friendly than many non-Muslim countries — was best exposed on a popular Turkish TV show a few years ago. The host, a secularist, was asking his guest, a young veiled Turkish lady who attends a Canadian university, if she loved Atatürk, the father of all secularists. In response, she gave a shocking "no." When the host, annoyed, said, "but it was Atatürk who saved us from being a British colony," the answer he received was even more shocking: "But I would be free in Turkey if it had become a British colony."


Turkey is in fact lucky to have become an independent republic rather than a colony after World War I, but it is also true that this independence did not bring much freedom to society. The republic, founded in 1923, turned into a "single party regime" in less than two years. The result was an authoritarian system that wanted to impose its own ideology on the people, not listen to their aspirations. It built a secularism inspired by the illiberal French Enlightenment (not the liberal Scottish one), and a modernism based on the late 19th century myth that "religion is an obstacle to progress."


Kılıçdaroğlu's blunder


Unfortunately, this Turkish experience gave secularism a bad name in the whole Muslim world. Hence, despite all the wishful thinking by Westerners, Turkey never became a "model" or "example" for other Muslim nations. Which Muslim believer would want to adopt a political system which forces women to uncover themselves, bans courses on the Quran and even messes up the call to prayer?


So, if Turkey can ever really inspire other Muslims — and bring relief to its own — it has to abandon its tyrannical form of secularism and start to learn what religious freedom means.


Regrettably, though, despite all the change in the world, the rigidity of Turkey's ultra-secularists, and their standard bearer, the People's Republican Party, the CHP, remains untouched. And, again regrettably, their new leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, keeps on proving that he does not have the spine to introduce any real change to his archaic party. Last week, he unexpectedly spoke to daily Radikal about his plans to "free the headscarf in the university," only to back off a day later, when he apparently got a lot of heat from the CHP nomenklatura. He is a manager, it seems, not a leader.


Yet I am sure that this insane ban on the headscarf won't last forever, and even Turkey's ultra-secularists will have to soften over time. And until then, thank God, we have at least free countries such as the Greek-ruled Cyprus Republic, where veiled Turks can find respect









After an Air France Airbus A330 crashed into the ocean last year, the company started the most expensive accident investigation in the history of aviation, spending almost 20 million euros. Special unmanned submarines were sent down to the sea floor to find the black boxes, however the investigation yielded no results. Air France plans to restart the search soon.


The accident occurred close to an area full of electrically charged cumulonimbus rain clouds, which are capable of causing severe turbulence. According to data retrieved through the ACARS system, which transmits airplane data via satellite, it was discovered that the malfunction occurred in the pitot tube system of the craft. This system measures speed and altitude by transfusing air through thin channels. When the system malfunctioned the A330 lost speed due to the cumulonimbus and finally, losing normal status, started to fall. 


In order to prevent similar accidents in the future, Air France installed a new system in its planes. If the pitot tube system malfunctions or the system is choked due to icing or tiny pieces of volcanic ash, the "Back-Up Speed Scale" system steps in, where both altitude and speed are measured by a global positioning system, or GPS, and an accurate speed figure is indicated on the speedometer. Furthermore, the pilot is warned with a red signal against any value lower or above the required speed. Thus, speed positioning is maintained and the flight continues without dolphining, in other words, without up and down movements.


The system, which was initially developed for the A380 model, has been modified to fit Airbus models A320 and A330/340 as well. The system is installed on older planes as they are serviced while it has become a standard feature for all Airbuses produced in the last six months. 


Pilot and crew training


Netherlands-based Stella Aviation Academy is starting pilot training in collaboration with Gözen Holding and SunExpress. Stella Aviation Academy Türkiye, or SAA-T, will start accepting students soon and the successful graduates will be offered recruitment at SunExpress.


The first stage of training will take place in Dalaman and the following stage will be in Maastricht, Netherlands. The candidates can apply at, or


Is there a doctor onboard?


According to international rules, every plane must have a first-aid kit onboard, which has to comply with certain standards. The kit is almost 4.5 kilograms and must contain a blood pressure measurement device and various medicines.


However, according to flight rules, cabin crews are not allowed to administer medicine to passengers. Therefore, when a passenger asks for some medication, first a doctor is sought from among the passengers. If there is a doctor onboard, the medicine is administered under his or her guidance. The reason is to protect the passenger against possible side effects. If there is no doctor on the plane, the cabin crew makes an evaluation according to the passenger's condition. Therefore, airliners request that passengers bring their own pills with them.

While the first aid kits are prepared under doctor supervision, they are checked both before and after flights by ground crews. Cabin crews and pilots are trained in first aid, which is periodically repeated.










Within the past few months Turkey's perception has changed in the eye of the international public. ntil recently Tayyip Erdoğan was perceived as a different leader. Maybe the former Erdoğan or maybe the present Erdoğan appears to be different and is evaluated differently. We wouldn't know about that.


But there is one thing we know, whether it be true or false. And that is that Erdoğan is now being perceived differently by capitals around the world that follow Turkey closely. This perception may change tomorrow or evaluations may come out differently. But today's portrait is very exiting. I'd like to paint a picture for you.


I'd like to talk about a picture that was presented to me. I won't talk about whether or not I agree with this portrait, I'll just reflect it as is. When we know what's been said about us then it'll be easier to evaluate things in a healthier way.


The prime minister is being followed by two different worlds. Let's first start with the Arab and Islamic worlds. Erdoğan has become a beacon of hope in respect to Iran and Palestine. He has become a hero in the streets of the Islamic world. He is applauded as a hero of independency in respect to Israel in which regard no one dares to or wants to protest.


More importantly, he has created peace for Turkey on Arab streets. In streets that used to perceive Turkey as secular and adverse to them now Turkish flags and Erdoğan posters are all over the place.


We all know that this excitement won't last long and with the slightest change in behavior they'll turn their back on us but for now the atmosphere is like that. Those who lead the capitols of these very countries also applaud Erdoğan but they are also upset. Those who were upfront according to the old order, especially Egypt, are at unease. They don't like this progress much.


The reason is simple: They don't want Turkey to rise in the Middle East to become the leader of the region. They don't openly show it but they'd like Erdoğan to stumble. It is only natural that in the Middle East swamp, they want to pull those into it who are on their way to become a rising star.


The West questions his identity


Erdoğan is being followed with astonishment by the Western world. The number of those who wonder "What happened to the Turkish Prime Minister" increases progressively.


The reason for this astonishment is that the same people used to see Erdoğan as a leader who strengthens democracy, breaks taboos and starts initiatives. Europe and the United States who formerly used to be suspicious about those opposing and accusing Erdoğan of having a "secret agenda" now monitor and question the prime minister. They can't understand his attitude in issues like Iran and Palestine.


They evaluated the One Minute crisis in Davos as an accident. They thought it was a sudden burst in anger. Then there was the Iranian nuclear politics issue. Especially in Washington alarm bells started to ring for Erdoğan's approach to Iran. The Americans don't understand what Turkey's approach means. Their perception of Teheran is very different from our perception and they thought of Erdoğan as being very close to them so now they are stunned by the Prime Minister's insisting behavior.


Then the crises in Gaza took place. To tell the truth, Erdoğan's sensitivity in respect to the Gaza embargo was known from the very beginning. But they thought that it was going to stay within certain limits and Turkey would continue with its peace efforts and conciliations.


But everything changed when the Mavi Marmara ship crises took place, when he stated that Hamas was not a terror organization and when he dragged Israel through the mud. For the West, Erdoğan is presently evaluated totally differently. It is about to evaluate Erdoğan as a leader who is perceived with suspicion and who is trying to lead Turkey into a totally different direction. Let's be prepared. If we are to continue in this direction then we should know that our road is long, narrow and full of obstacles.









This sorrowful letter from a reader sums up the feelings of an often silent group of mourners in the face of deaths that never cease in our land. It also questions some of the often-unquestioned aspects of "our country's noble fight against the separatist terrorists." It's a big thank you to all our fallen soldiers. But not only that:


"Thank you, young men, for spending a significant part of your youth on the mountains. Thank you for serving the land with your time away from your loved ones. Thank you for missing the birth of a baby boy, the operation of your mother, the first time your brother started driving... Thank you for missing out on life. Thank you for the arm you lost in that fight, and witnessing your best comrade's leg blown in the air. Thank you for the nightmares you hid inside your wrinkled forehead.


"Thank you for leaving a widow behind, another orphan, a mother lost forever, a father too proud to scream in defiance... Thank you, young men, we sent you from the west to the east, from the northern breezy sea to the south. Thank you for holding that gun which you learnt how to hold a couple of months ago, but it looked so honorable in your hands in that picture. Thank you for the innocence of your youth, for the silent approval of your destiny brought to you as national duty.


"For fatherland, you have spilled blood. But the high fathers of your land are too busy making more money, seeking more power, controlling who goes through the VIP lounges, who holds wine in their hands or juice... who's halal enough to make more money… Thank you, young men, for serving your country... You died in vain 15 years ago. Your son now has to die in your footsteps. He didn't sleep in peace because you died. The blood didn't stop when you died. You lost over and over again: your body lost, your bones lost, your soul lost, your beloved lost, and your son will lose just like you... In vain... So some scared little men can keep on enjoying their damn lives, torturing more innocent, powerless people. You were young and full of promises, young men.... Thank you for serving the land... In vain... The land has not betrayed you...Your high fathers have."


Having read the letter I decided to revisit the archives. We all write "like writing on water." Words go away. But not all:


(From this column on Apr. 5, 2006, 'There is a war…')


"… in the entire Turkish territory, not only in its southeast, 'there is a war between the ones who say that there is a war and the ones who say that there isn't,' as a Canadian poet-singer once wrote. The riots, bombs attacks and other means of violence only illustrate the 'hatred' the 'oppressed' feel toward the 'oppressor.' This is an ethnic clash.


"Did Brussels not seal on Oct. 3 that Turkey did enough in legislation for broader cultural/political rights for its minorities, i.e. the Kurds, for the EU politicians have probably never cared about Turkey's nearly 30 other non-secessionist ethnicities? Did [Prime Minister] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not win liberal hearts and minds when he became the first Turkish leader to publicly admit 'there is a Kurdish problem?' Was the (now defunct Democratic Society Party) DTP not a window of opportunity for 'peace?' A few weeks ago, this column warned of 'the coming [Kurdish] anarchy' which the events verify was not prophesizing.


"Political reforms are fine, but was Turkey not a safer place before the reforms? Can it only be the failure in implementation of these reforms that the only unhappy minority is even more unhappy these days? Does anyone believe that the only unhappy minority could be happy if the reforms are fully implemented? ...


"But the heart of the matter is the feelings, not legislation, nor law enforcement, or economy. There are (for the sake of analytical simplicity) two kinds of Kurds in this country: those like Abdulkadir Aksu, [then] interior minister, 'whose Kurdishness is worth no more than a few a pennies,' according to DTP politicians; and those like the murderers, rioters and bombers or the sympathizers for the murderers, rioters and bombers. For the former group, political overtures and initiatives like reforms, although they are no doubt good for the country, mean nothing because 'their Kurdishness is worth no more than a few pennies.' And for the latter group, political overtures and initiatives mean nothing because those people want more: secession from the 'oppressor.'"


(From this column on Apr. 10, 2007, Kurdish gambit (III))


"…which Kurds, really, represent Turkey's Kurds? The Kurds who sit in the Cabinet? Or in Parliament? The Kurds who occupy fancy governmental offices? The Kurds who own nightclubs in Istanbul, construction companies all over the country? The ones who win lucrative contracts from local governments in the Southeast? The village guards who fight the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party]? The conscripts who fight the PKK? The Kurds who teach at Turkish schools? The Kurds who cure patients at miserable state hospitals? The Kurds who work at mid-class government or private offices? The Kurdish stockbroker in Istanbul? The Kurdish worker in İzmir? The Kurdish fisherman in Ayvalik? The Kurdish journalist in Ankara?


"Or the Kurds who fight the Turkish army? Or the Kurds who dress up their children in peshmerga attire at Newroz? The Kurds who in the past killed Kurdish teachers, doctors, road workers, village guards, conscripts and even just villagers? The Kurds who idolize Abdullah Öcalan? The Kurdish politburo in Diyarbakir? Or the Kurds, as [prominent Kurdish politician] Leyla Zana put it recently, 'whose three leaders are Jalal Talabani, Massoud Barzani and Abdullah Öcalan?'


"The truth is, there are 6-25 million Kurds living in Turkey, according to various estimates, and no one, neither Ms. Zana nor Mr. Aksu, possesses a Kurd-meter to tell us what, really, Turkey's Kurds want."









Why did we read so little in the Turkish press about a recently published report that, when it was first discussed, was seen by many in Turkey as the beginning of the end of Turkey's chances to join the EU? Remember French president Nicholas Sarkozy, who in 2007 came up with the proposal to have a so-called 'Group of Wise Men' write a study on the future of the EU, stating explicitly that one of the objectives of that group was to determine the boundaries of Europe? Knowing very well his opinion on those boundaries, many were afraid that the implementation of Sarkozy's idea would result in writing Turkey out of Europe's future.


In December 2007, the European Council decided to establish a working group, called the "EU Reflection Group," chaired by former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and asked it to identify the challenges the Union may encounter in the long term. As a result of strong British and Scandinavian lobbying, there was no reference in the mandate to the limits or the boundaries of Europe.


After two and a half years, the report "Project Europe 2030: Challenges and Opportunities" was presented two months ago. I would really recommend everybody interested in the future of the EU, to read the paper. All the issues that matter in and for Europe are dealt with, from an ageing population and the problems of integrating newcomers to energy security and the need to improve internal security. For obvious reasons two subjects get extra attention: the economic crisis and how to overcome it and the need for Europe to become an assertive player on the world scene. Anything on Turkey in the study? Yes. The Reflection Group is very clear on the necessity for the EU to stay open to potential new members and, in line with that, states unambiguously that "the Union must honor its commitments with regard to the current official candidates, including Turkey, and carry on with the negotiation process." So far, so good, although the French president may have less positive feelings about this report that, because it was commissioned by the European heads of state themselves, cannot be easily shelved or totally discarded.


The real problem that I see is the enormous gap between these rational reflections and the mood among many European citizens. Personally, I fully agree with the need to take further steps to better coordinate the economies of the member states and to invest much more in a strong and ambitious common foreign policy. The difficulty is that, at the moment, many Europeans do not want to transfer more power to the European institutions and are looking to their national capitals to find solutions, not to Brussels. The report rightly states that the EU is in danger of loosing out in a global game with new players that are not willing to wait till the Europeans have got their act together. Still, that is what is happening in the EU right now. Many Europeans find it extremely difficult to bridge the gap between good arguments in favor of more cooperation and further enlargement on the one hand and emotional aversion against the EU and fear of losing grip on developments on the other.


The problem for Turkey is that it is negotiating with this same Union whose intellectuals are preparing a warm welcome but whose citizens simply do not know whether taking in this big new country will be to their benefit or not. At the end of the day, the same rational arguments that guided the Reflection Group should also convince Turkey's leaders and its citizens that their future is best served when their country joins the EU, despite all the uncertainties that these European fence-sitters are creating








It appears that the limits of bargaining skills of Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias were as much underestimated as his trustworthiness was exaggerated during the Annan Plan period.


"I am disappointed… I was fooled," said then European Union's Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verhaugen as well as many other clever European politicians seeing that over 75 percent of Greek Cypriots voted to kill the UN peace plan, or the Annan Plan. Whereas, they were sure of the pro-settlement commitment of the Greek Cypriot people and were so confident of the strong political will of Christofias – the most important political force behind the then Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos. A Greek Cypriot "Yes" vote in the referendum was certain, while the Turkish Cypriots needed to be convinced to support "settlement now, EU accession tomorrow." In any case, the EU membership aspirations of the pro-settlement Greek Cypriot people should not be allowed to be held hostage to the intransigence of the Turkish Cypriot side and "with or without a settlement the island must be admitted into the EU."


Verhaugen and other European bureaucrats and politicians were "fooled" at the time by many Greek Cypriots, particularly by Christofias. Up until a week before the April 24, 2004 vote on the Annan Plan Christofias was supportive of the compromise deal, but all of a sudden he came up with "In order to deliver a strong yes a while later, we have decided to say no." Such a grandiose U-turn by witty Christofias made many people feel "we were fooled." That the "a while later" Christofias referred to never came and the Annan Plan since then has been considered by the Greek Cypriot side as "dead and buried" but somehow still alive with the limits it provided to the Turkish Cypriot demands.


Christofias is now proposing Eroğlu that Turkish Cypriots should agree to hand over sufficient territory to resettle 100,000 of the total 165,000 Greek Cypriots who migrated from north to south in 1974. That is not only Güzelyurt or Morphou and some areas in the Famagusta area, but also almost the entire Karpas Peninsula, the former Nicosia International Airport region including the Trikomo village as well as tens of villages along the border from east to west is demanded to be given to Greek Cypriots. Plus, tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots should be allowed to return and live in the remaining Turkish Cypriot areas. More? Northern Cyprus has a population of around 265,000. Of these 265,000 citizens, around 100,000 are mainland settlers. Christofias is now saying that he would accept a maximum of 50,000 of those settlers and for the rest he is prepared to "pay and send back to Turkey."


How can Christofias see the right in himself to ask Turkish Cypriots to go further in such painful areas despite the fact that even the Annan Plan ceilings were too high to accept but just for the sake of a settlement Turkish Cypriots felt obliged to accept to demonstrate their pro-settlement resolve. With such odd demands, of course, these talks canno