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Thursday, July 8, 2010

EDITORIAL 08.07.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month july 08, edition 000562 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjuly


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
















































































The fresh outbreak of violence in the Kashmir Valley after a brief lull is definitely cause for serious concern in both Srinagar and New Delhi. There's clearly a pattern to the protests engineered by the separatists with more than a little help from their masters in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The purpose is to unleash lawlessness on the streets and thus force the security forces to retaliate. The resultant casualties then serve to feed further grievance and generate popular anger. This newspaper was the first to point out in these columns that the separatists, obviously under advice from their Pakistani minders, have changed their tactics by adopting the methods used by Hamas during the high profile intifada in the Gaza Strip: Then, as is now being witnessed in Srinagar and other towns of southern Kashmir Valley, young boys would be mobilised, paid money, and asked to throw stones at Israeli soldiers, provoking them to retaliate. While the world chose not to take note of the motivated protests, Israel was accused of a range of brutalities. The crafted imagery of David fighting Goliath worked to the advantage of Hamas; the separatists in Kashmir presumably believe it will work to their advantage too. It is, therefore, incumbent upon both the civil administration and the security forces to act firmly but with ample restraint so that those sending children into the streets to fulfil their narrow, Pakistan-dictated agenda are denied the success they so desperately — and cynically — seek. To that extent, the State Government and the Union Government have done well to respond to the unfolding situation without delay. The Army has been called out to help enforce curfew and prevent the malcontents from proceeding any further with their sinister plan. At the same time, the police and the CRPF have been given the task of maintaining law and order in the congested areas of the affected towns. A combination of forces should help authorities to deal with the crisis at various levels.

The Cabinet Committee on Security, which met on Wednesday, has ordered "maximum crackdown" on the miscreants who have contributed to the sudden deterioration of the law and order situation in the Valley. That decision is welcome, as is the move by the authorities in Srinagar and elsewhere to cancel curfew passes for mediapersons and impose a total security blanket. While the separatists will no doubt claim that this is a violation of rights and denial of freedom to media, we must bear in mind that much of the mischief is caused by distorted and biased stories that appear in local newspapers and are virtually dictated by the trouble-makers. Misuse of freedom of the Press has contributed to the current crisis in more ways than one; the separatists know this better than anybody else. But all these measures, in the final analysis, amount to no more than episodic responses. What we need is a policy on Jammu & Kashmir, based on both strategy and tactics that are not captive to the UPA's 'out-of-the-box thinking', which is usually what the US instructs and Pakistan wants. Any domestic policy on Jammu & Kashmir cannot be delinked from India's foreign policy on Pakistan simply because that country's shadow continues to loom large over the State. A last point that merits mention. Is it mere coincidence that trouble, engineered by separatists, erupts in the Kashmir Valley every year at the time of the Amarnath Yatra? Or is there more to what meets the eye?







An Iranian woman, who's a mother of two children, a grown up son and a teenaged girl, has been sentenced to death by stoning after a sharia'h court held her guilty of 'adultery'. The woman, who has already received 90 lashes as part of the punishment doled out to her, says she was coerced into giving a statement admitting 'adultery', and that the entire legal process, such as it is in the Islamic Republic of Iran, was skewed against her, as it normally is against women and other helpless members of Iranian society. To ensure that his message is not lost on the people, the mullah who read out the verdict did not forget to add that the stones that will be hurled at the woman, after she has been buried neck-deep, should be big enough to inflict injury and pain, but not too big to kill her immediately. Cruelty, it would seem, is the core of punishment ordered under sharia'h, not justice. The woman's plight has been highlighted by her children who have petitioned all and sundry, including foreign Governments, pleading that they intervene to save their mother's life. Given Iran's track record, that's unlikely to work. Ironically, earlier this year Iran was elected by the UN to the high profile Commission on the Status of Women. That a theocratic state, presided over by Ayatollahs and run by mullahs, where stoning is enshrined in law and women judged 'immodest' are lashed should have been gifted with a four-year seat on the influential human rights body is a telling comment on the duplicity that underpins the UN's self-righteous posturing. It's a morally bankrupt institution which has lost the right to preach to others on issues related to human rights.

Indeed, it's a mockery of the mandate of the Commission on the Status of Women that Iran should have officially blamed women who "dress immodestly" for causing earthquakes; it is only to be expected that the report of the Commission, as and when it is tabled, will reflect the regressive thinking of the men who rule Iran and their perverse contempt for women. What should cause concern is that the UN, in its new-found love for embracing Islamist intolerance and hate as a way forward to forging a 'tolerant' world, may actually think it fit to legitimise brutality against and suppression of women as acceptance of cultural plurality. With the US revising its official lexicon under the tutelage of President Barack Obama to 'befriend' Muslim countries — is pandering to Islamism what Muslims expect of Americans? — we cannot find such distortion reflected in the UN's utterances, findings and pronouncements. For evidence, look at how the UN has repeatedly pre-judged Israel and then crafted reports to suit its sweeping judgements. Thankfully, not many are persuaded by the UN's vacuous and vapid moral commentary.








There now appears to be recognition in New Delhi that direct allegations against Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism only invite bland and self-righteous denials. But the tone of India's approach has changed after Daood Gilani aka James Headley spoke candidly to Indian investigators in the presence of ISI officials and revealed substantive details of how the plot to attack Mumbai was hatched and about the role of Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, other senior members of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and serving and retired Army officials, some of whom hid their true identity.

Confronted with these details during the visit of Home Minister P Chidambaram to Islamabad, the Pakistanis have promised thorough investigations. It would be naïve to believe that given Hafiz Saeed's close links with the ISI, Mr Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League and virtually all major Islamic parties, the Pakistani Government would have the will or the inclination to act against the real masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist outrage.

Rather than accuse Pakistan directly of complicity in the Mumbai carnage, Mr Chidambaram said, "Nobody is questioning anybody's intentions. It is the outcome to become visible. We have agreed that there are certain outcomes we are looking forward to."Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, normally upbeat on India-Pakistan relations, remarked, "In dealing with Pakistan our attitude should be trust, but verify. So only time will tell which way the animal will turn."

Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna told visiting Pakistani journalists, "Mumbai is a deep scar. Pakistan must pursue those who were responsible." He added, "Political will is needed to tackle terrorism. Does the will exist? India has it." As a young Pakistani journalist noted, implicit in Mr Krishna's comments was "the Indian assessment that Pakistan and more specially the Pakistani Army does not have the will". Mr Krishna also left Pakistani journalists in no doubt that in a climate where there was a 'trust deficit' it would be unrealistic to expect major breakthroughs. He told the journalists, "It will take talks, lots of talks before an agreement."
New Delhi evidently recognises that Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and his ISI chief are working overtime to get the Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, now based in Pakistan, to control southern Afghanistan through a deal they appear to be negotiating with a beleaguered Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is beset with fears of a precipitate American withdrawal. Simultaneously the ISI intends to keep the pot boiling in Jammu & Kashmir by backing Jama'at-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and target Indian interests through the LeT and the Taliban's Haqqani network across Afghanistan and in Bangladesh. Pakistan's assets in India like SIMI will also be used to keep Indian security agencies on edge, but a repetition of attacks like the Mumbai carnage could well be avoided for the present as any such attack will undermine Pakistani ambitions on its western borders with Afghanistan.

Both Sirajuddin Haqqani and his father Jalaluddin Haqqani have been long-term assets of the ISI. They are both members of the ruling council of the Taliban, headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar. More importantly, Jalaluddin Haqqani, together with the ISI, has helped Osama bin Laden's jihadi network in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 1988, When the Americans invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, Osama bin Laden escaped from the American bombing of the caves where he was hiding in Tora Bora. He was escorted to north Waziristan and has since been protected by the Haqqani network there.

The Haqqani network, now led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, openly claims that its support for Al Qaeda today is "at its highest limit". It also provides haven and support to jihadis from Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, the Kurdish areas of Iran and Iraq, and even from Germany. While Gen Kayani has stonewalled and stalled American requests to crackdown on the Haqqani network on one pretext or another, the Americans are now dumbfounded to learn that behind their backs the Pakistani Army has been seeking to persuade the Afghans to give a leading role, probably involving de facto control of southern Afghanistan, to start with, for Sirajuddin Haqqani, their protégé who is an Islamic radical with demonstrably inseparable links with Al Qaeda.

The question that arises is that why is Gen Kayani, scheduled to retire in a few months, so keen on pushing 'reconciliation' with the Haqqani network, backed by his ISI geniuses? As well-known American analyst Jeffrey Dressler avers, "The Haqqanis rely on Al Qaeda for mass appeal, funding and training. In return, they provide Al Qaeda with shelter and protection, to strike at foreign forces in Afghanistan and beyond. Any negotiated settlement with the Haqqanis threatens to undermine the raison d'être of US involvement in Afghanistan for over the past decade." One can only conclude that Gen Kayani and the ISI believe, like the Taliban leadership, that Taliban resistance will force an early American exit from Afghanistan, with the US willing to agree to any settlement that is "face-saving".

Afghanistan's neighbours and Russia have reacted with alarm to the ongoing Karzai-Kayani nexus which followed the sacking or sidelining of key officials suspicious of Pakistani intentions, like former Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh and Army Chief Gen Bismillah Khan by Mr Karzai. On July 1 an official spokesman of the Russian Foreign office warned: "Attempts by the Afghan leadership with the support of Western countries to establish a negotiation process with Taliban leaders to build a mechanism for national 'reconciliation' gives us serious cause for concern." The spokesman added, "Work to return repentant Taliban militants to civilian life should not be replaced with a campaign to rehabilitate the entire Taliban movement." The Chinese have noted that the Taliban have demanded unconditional American withdrawal as a precondition for any dialogue. Chinese 'analysts' aver, "War is prevailing and continuing (in Afghanistan) and the peace process has not started. Peace on the foundation of conditions is not possible, if the Taliban are not weakened."

The entire Afghan strategy of Pakistan is being managed primarily by the Army establishment, with the elected Government sidelined. It is a high-risk strategy which could well flounder as it is apparent that while the Americans are confused they are hardly likely to leave Afghanistan to the mercies of an ISI-backed Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The major reason for Pakistan's interest in having southern Afghanistan controlled by Haqqani is that it fears that the traditional Pashtun leadership in Afghanistan strongly rejects the Durand Line and supports the formation of a 'Pashtunistan'. High-risk policies by Gen Ayub Khan, Gen Yahya Khan and Gen Pervez Musharraf, leading to conflict with India, have in the past proved disastrous for Pakistan. Will Gen Kayani lead his country to similar disaster with his ambitions in Afghanistan?






A nti-national forces are out to disrupt the peace in Kashmir Valley. Mobs of rioters have been letting loose a reign of terror over the past few days. These mobs have been engaging in hooliganism at the behest of separatists and are repeatedly targeting CRPF and police posts with the aim of lynching securitymen, leaving them with no option but to open fire in self defence.

Union Home Secretary GK Pillai has rightly said that those killed in the firing cannot be called "innocent civilians" by any stretch of imagination. "In a place where curfew is imposed, people break the curfew, go ahead and attack police posts and CRPF posts. The force has been extremely restrained," Mr Pillai told a news channel.

It is shocking that on June 28, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his Cabinet colleague Ali Mohammad Sagar criticised the Army and CRPF. It's bizarre on Mr Abdullah's part to blame the security forces for the current unrest in the Valley. The CRPF in Jammu & Kashmir works under the orders of the State Government. When its troops are brutally thrashed by mobs, human rights organisations turn a blind eye.

The current turmoil in the State cannot be seen in isolation from the annual Amarnath Yatra. As in the past, the violent protests may have been aimed at disrupting the yatra. Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has been demanding the shortening of the yatra period from two months to 15 days. Local newspapers have carried articles describing the yatra as 'cultural aggression' on the part of India. Even the State Government has decided to impose tax on pilgrims to both Amarnath shrine and Vaishno Devi Temple.

Nationalistic forces in the State have been left out in the cold. The Government must now focus on the problems and the plight of the neglected communities in Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir, including the displaced Kashmiri Pandits, Gujjars, Bakarwals and refugees from the Partition era. It is also high time the Government of India reviews its Jammu & Kashmir policy and stops pampering separatist elements in the State.








India and Canada have enjoyed friendly and cooperative relations for long, but such is the magic of a Prime Ministerial visit that, without it for a while, they had appeared to be in a low key until end-2009. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited India last November and then hosted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month. The two visits, viewed together, have contributed to speedy finalisation of key decisions that may have a long term effect on India-Canada relations.

The visit of our Prime Minister to Canada did not even take him to the country's capital, Ottawa. While in Toronto, much of his working time was devoted to the G20 summit. The result was that he could spare barely half a day for the bilateral component comprising discussions with the Canadian Prime Minister and gala banquet the latter hosted in the Prime Minister's honour. But, it was evident that the two Prime Ministers have developed good personal chemistry, deepening mutual understanding through interactions on the sidelines of international conferences that they attended in recent years.

The visit showed that Canada has become increasingly conscious of India's transforming role, its growing economy, and expanding political and diplomatic influence in the world. On India's part, there has perhaps been a perception that continuing preoccupation with the US may not have permitted our Government to devote ample attention to the other two NAFTA member-states i.e. Canada and Mexico, which they richly deserve. Therefore, even a few hours of bilateral visit to Canada was better than no visit at all. In fact, despite its brevity, the visit proved quite productive, mainly because fine seeds were sown by Mr Harper's initiative to visit Delhi last year and because the two PMs took strong interest in ensuring that their bureaucracies delivered a substantial package of understandings and agreements.

Mr Singh depicted ties with Canada as "a very important and key relationship." He said his aim was to impart fresh vitality and content to bilateral cooperation. "We are separated by distance, but we are united in our values," he stressed.

The leaders addressed headlong two issues which had caused problems in the past. The first was civil nuclear energy cooperation, a subject which has had a complex history. It goes back to May 1974, to an alleged link between plutonium of the CIRUS research reactor gifted by Canada and India's first nuclear test codenamed 'Smiling Buddha'. When asked about this tricky matter just prior to the visit, the Ministry of External Affairs summed it up neatly by a cryptic observation: "We do not look back; we look to the future." This self-confidence arose from Canada's recognition of the change in international realities, which paved the way for conclusion of a new civil nuclear cooperation agreement. A wide-ranging agreement, it entails potentially a balance of advantages to both sides. The bottomline is that the Indian market is now open for Canadian companies to compete with others in order to sell their technologies, equipment and materials.

The second issue concerned the Punjab-related themes and their continuing impact on Canada. Punjab became normal a long time back; yet Khalistani elements and other vested interests have continued to stroke fires in order to cause trouble. But, now times have changed, with international mood against terrorism becoming strong. In this backdrop, the PM conveyed his Government's concerns over activities of Sikh militants in Canada. His message was that they should not be allowed to operate on business-as-usual basis, misusing the right to freedom of expression and other privileges available to Canadians.

The 25th anniversary of Kanishka plane bombing and the well-timed release of report of the Justice John Major Commission were used adroitly by the two Governments. They strongly condemned terrorism "in all its forms and manifestations", condoled with families of victims, and strove to bring about a closure to this tragedy. Prime Minister Harper's official apology and promise of compensation as well as our PM's observation that victims of tragedy "deserve full justice" has gone a long way in healing the wounds of June 23, 1985, the day Air India flight was bombed to pieces. By referring to "the events 1984" in an empathetic manner, our PM tried convincingly to win the hearts and minds of Sikh community in Canada.

The rest of the relationship can and should move forward rapidly, driven by a single mantra: Increase, expand and deepen cooperation in all areas of mutual interest. These range from culture and education to science, technology and innovation as well as agriculture, energy and environment. Apart from the civil nuclear energy agreement, three other agreements relating to mining, culture and higher education were signed.

Economic relations are likely to grow, with new targets set for increase of trade to $15 billion by 2015 (from $5 billion at present) and a marked increase in two-way flow of investments, and with the activation of the CEOs Roundtable. More importantly, officials seem to have been told to ensure quick progress in moving towards the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

It is a welcome development, especially as one recalled witnessing a similar high point in January 1996 when PM Jean Chretien, visiting India nearly 25 years after PM Pierre Trudeau, led the famous 'Team Canada' mission of provincial premiers, Ministers, officials and 300 business leaders.

Much focus was placed on people-to-people links now, as also then, considering that Canada is home to a sizeable and vibrant community of immigrants from India. They have enriched Canada in many ways. They would no doubt welcome new initiatives to strengthen bilateral ties as well as decision to hold the Festival of India in Canada in 2011.

These are all laudable decisions. The two Foreign Offices and the two High Commissions now have their job cut out. They need to come up with concrete, time-bound plans so that the two Prime Ministers' shared dream of a substantive transformation in India-Canada relations materialises in foreseeable future.

The writer is a retired Ambassador. He served as India's Consul General in Toronto during the 1990s.








It increasingly appears that the United States and its Nato allies may not win the war in Afghanistan. They can but whether they have the will and wisdom to do so is in doubt.

A retreat which, whatever the face saving devices resorted to, is manifestly a defeat, will be disastrous for them. The consequences, however, will be more serious for India and will take little time to begin unrolling. Judging by the outcome of the London Conference on Afghanistan on January 28, and the events following, any settlement under which the US and its allies leave Afghanistan, will bear the stamp of Pakistan's brokerage, and will involve rewarding Islamabad for its services. There will be a Government of its choice in Afghanistan, of which the Afghan Taliban, headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar, and the militia headed by Sirajuddin, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, will be an important part. Al Qaeda will be alive and well in that country given its close links with both organisations. India will have to forget the huge aid it has given to Afghanistan and drastically whittle down its diplomatic presence. Pakistan wants it out.

This will not be all. Having implemented its agenda in Afghanistan, and its morale hugely boosted by what it would rightfully consider a great victory, Pakistan will turn to implementing its long-term agenda vis-à-vis India. There will be a massive stepping up of its efforts to take Jammu & Kashmir and balkanise India through an unprecedented campaign of unconventional warfare. Those who might scoff at the thought should recall the massive increase in terrorist violence that rocked Jammu & Kashmir in 1989-90 after the Soviet Union's withdrawal from Afghanistan in February that year had released a large number of jihadis for deployment against India.

Things might have been much worse for India but for the continuing conflict in Afghanistan as a result of Pakistan's efforts to install a Government of its choice in Kabul. Support first to Gulbaddin Hekmatyer's militia and then to the Taliban, which it promoted from 1994 with the blessings of the CIA, prevented from making the annexation of Jammu & Kashmir and the destruction of India its full-time concern. With a Government in Kabul that is under its thumb, Islamabad will have no such distraction this time.

New Delhi will have to think along entirely new lines than hitherto to cope with the situation. It will be futile to depend on others. The London Conference, sponsored by Britain and co-hosted by the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban-ki Moon and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, clearly indicated how easily the West can ride roughshod over India's concerns and interests when it comes to serving its own. The London conference not only rejected India's plea for not distinguishing between the 'good' and 'bad' Taliban but denied New Delhi any role in the Afghan peace process it was considering. It held out no guarantee that India's interests will be protected in a new set-up that might emerge in Afghanistan. Worse, it demonstrably insulted India by seating its Minister for External Affairs, Mr SM Krishna, in the second of the three rows for those attending, despite New

Delhi being the biggest aid-giver to Afghanistan with a commitment of $1.3 billion.

India must aggressively ensure that it has a role in the Afghan peace process, that the Government running the country following the West's withdrawal is not a creature of Pakistan, and, failing to do so, must be fully prepared to deal with Pakistan's offensive. The first step will be to let countries know that they will have to choose between India and Pakistan, a failing State with a sick economy. Those that undermine India's interests in Afghanistan will not be regarded as its friend. They will not receive India's defence orders and access to India's booming market.

Nor will India lend them diplomatic support. The first recipient must be Britain, which, under the Labour Government, played the decisive role in India's marginalisation at the London Conference and led the charge to put Pakistan in the driver's seat in Afghanistan. The second will be acquiring an awesome capability in waging unconventional warfare to send Pakistan reeling when it launches its offensive. The days of conventional warfare are over.







Simultaneously, in some far-flung places in the world, several smart people have come up with a horrifying conclusion: Radicals are being systematically mainstreamed, real moderates are being declared extremists.

For example, the two semi-official lobbyists for Hamas and Hizbullah — Alistair Crooke and Mark Perry — and the biggest defenders of the Ahmadinejad regime in America — Flyntt and Hillary Leverett — are getting adoring write-ups. Crooke and the Leveretts have been profiled in The New York Times. These people's op-ed appear everywhere, including in the FP (Foreign Policy) blog. Criticism of them seems pretty much barred from the mainstream (there's that word again) media.

In Australia, there's an attempt to portray anti-Israel Jewish activists as mainstream and moderate while the traditional pro-Israel groups are said to be extremist. And of course this is what J Street is about: A group headed by a former lobbyist for a company working on a Qatari anti-Israel propaganda group and which itself has hardly ever taken a position supportive of Israel. Could J Street's cover possibly be more transparent, yet no mainstream media organ ever seems to mention this.

When Hussein Fadlallah, who might be called Hizbullah's founding spiritual guide, died recently, CNN's chief editor for Arab affairs gushed in all a twitter that she had enormous respect for him while the BBC leaned backwards to sanitise his record.

It sounds better to say someone was an implacable foe of Israel or the US than that he made virulently anti-Semitic statements and endorsed numerous terrorist attacks against Americans in which more than 240 US servicemen were killed in Beirut. You see, if people knew this sort of thing they might not like him, or Hizbullah.

Mainstreaming may seem to be a great solution but it is the gateway to a much worse situation. For example, General David Petraeus declared on taking command in Afghanistan, "We are in this to win." But how is the US-led international force going to win? Certainly, they cannot wipe out the Taliban, since the rules of engagement restrain them from doing the kind of thing necessary to root it out.

Nor can they solve Afghanistan's problems and establish a strong, effective and democratic Central Government there. So what constitutes winning? It simply isn't clear and that is a bad situation. I get the feeling that the main purpose of the Afghan war is to provide one place in the world where the Obama Administration shows itself willing to use force.


But perhaps here, too, the trick is the concept of the moderate Taliban purveyed by some high-ranking US officials. If the Taliban is co-opted into the Government, then victory can be declared. Of course, it's only a matter of time before the Taliban would take over large parts of Afghanistan again. The Taliban, though, may believe they can do so without even having to play America's game.

There is a whole industry in declaring people moderate nowadays. Russia and Turkey engage with Hizbullah and Hamas; some in Europe are yearning to do so, and the Obama Administration sends (more properly, gives a green light for) a US delegation to visit Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israel is systematically being demonised. Even the German parliament passed a resolution criticising Israel on the flotilla issue, thus objectively helping Hamas, the political group whose views and policies toward Jews most closely resembles the Nazi party. That previous sentence is undeniable, there are mountains of evidence, yet some would be shocked to read it.

Arab liberal reformers, the real moderates, are also being ignored. These people live in fear that revolutionary Islamists will (or already have) take over. The number-one best-selling novel in America today is The Overton Window by the controversial talk-show host Glenn Beck. I don't know anything about the novel itself but the title is based on a brilliant idea invented by a researcher named Joe Overton.

The idea is that at any given time there is an acceptable area of ideas and debate, with things too extreme (often too far left or right) being excluded. Overton's point was that a skillful politician can move the window. In recent years, the window has been pulled sharply to the left.

There is a very conscious effort to continue this process. In the case of the West Asia, the idea would be that Hamas, Hizbullah, revolutionary Islamists, and Syria, among others, would be considered acceptable while Israel would not. The behaviour of the parties and the evidence would not have changed, only the perceptions of what was outside the margins, beyond the pale, unsustainable, immoral, etc. One of the features is that the window-changers, as one of my friends put it, "know what they are against even if they don't know why. Perhaps they don't care why."

See? Evidence changes, dislikes stay the same. Radicals become moderate; moderates become radical.

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Jerusalem, and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.








Artist Gunter Demnig carefully pried a cobblestone out of the sidewalk on Friedrichstrasse in downtown Berlin and replaced it with a shiny square brass plaque. "Davicso Asriel lived here," the inscription read. "Born in 1882. Deported 25.1.1942. Murdered in Riga."

It was the latest of more than 25,000 such plaques that Demnig has installed across Europe in front of the homes of people later killed in the Holocaust. He calls his works "Stolpersteine," or stumbling stones, and says that with his art he wants to bring back the names of the millions of Jews, gays, resistance fighters and Gypsies who perished at the hands of the Nazis between 1933 and 1945.

"The victims get back a piece of their identity and at the same time, every personal stone is also meant as a symbol for the entirety of all victims," said the 62-year-old artist, his trademark straw hat pulled down low over as he looked at the new plaque. "It's a social sculpture and if you look at it as a whole, it is the biggest art monument in the world."

Over the past few years, several Holocaust memorials have been erected in Berlin — most famously the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe next to the Brandenburg Gate, with its 2,700 undulating gray slabs that eerily resemble a huge cemetery.

But while all of these monuments commemorate the victims as a somewhat anonymous group, Demnig has brought back the names of Jews and others to the places where they once lived, in 569 communities and cities across Germany and also in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy and Austria.

In Berlin, where roughly 55,000 people were rounded up and killed in the Holocaust, there are some 2,800 brass tiles marking the dead all over town. Tourists or locals can often be seen stopping and leaning over the golden palm-sized plaques to read the inscriptions. The plaques are called stumbling stones because one unexpectedly trips over them — figuratively speaking, that is — while strolling through the city.

During the stone setting last week for Davicso Asriel on Friedrichstrasse, family members came from Chicago and Haifa in Israel. They stood in a circle around Demnig as he poured concrete into the hole, set the plaque, then swept the last grains of sand off the shiny surface.

Dozens of passers-by stopped to listen as 85-year-old Jochanan Asriel talked about his father Davicso, a fur trader and former head of the Jewish-Turkish community of Berlin. Mr Asriel, who now lives in Haifa, remembered that his father once lived in an elegant villa on the spot on Friedrichstrasse marked with the new stumbling stone, where today exclusive malls and chain stores line the street.

"I have very mixed feelings today," Mr Asriel said. "But the main thing is to leave some heritage for my children and grandchildren, that they know where they come from."

Demnig also set two plaques for Jochanan's mother Helene Asriel and grandmother Henriette Fischer, who were deported to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz respectively and killed. Mr Asriel was still a teenager when the Nazis deported his father to Riga, Latvia, where many Jews were murdered — and he barely managed to escape the gas chambers himself. He fled to Denmark in 1939 where he helped out on a farm until the Nazis occupied the country in 1940 and he had to run away again. After an odyssey that took him from Denmark to Sweden, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Lebanon and Palestine, he eventually settled down in Haifa.

Demnig set his first stumbling stone illegally in Berlin in 1996, as part of an independent art project. After several years of tortuous negotiations, the city of Berlin allowed him to add more legally and other cities soon followed. Since then, his art project has turned into something of a social movement.

Anybody can get in touch with the artist and sponsor a stumbling stone for 95 euro ($120) which pays for the artist's work and material used for the plaque. The historical research is done voluntarily by local citizens, school classes or surviving family members, who then contact Demnig and ask him to set a plaque for a victim whose address they have managed to track down.

In Berlin, there are three full-time paid city workers who support the volunteers and who also serve as contacts for surviving family members who want to attend a plaque setting. Often these settings even turn into ceremonies for the dead, Demnig said, like in the case of the one for Davicso Asriel. The artist said such events are one of the most important aspects of his art project because they bring together relatives who were torn apart by the Holocaust.

"I don't see my stones as tombstones," Demnig said. "But since most Holocaust victims don't have graves, the stumbling stones are often the first actual place for family members or friends of the victims to pray or put down flowers."








THERE is nothing wrong in an elder statesman lending a helping hand every now and then. The problem arises when this happens too frequently and cramps the style of the younger leadership. This seems to be the discomfiting case in the relationship between Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) veteran L. K. Advani and its new president Nitin Gadkari.


Two recent instances illustrate this point. It was Mr Advani's word that persuaded party cadres to join hands with the Left parties for Monday's ' Bharat bandh', and it was at his request that Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde withdrew his resignation from the post.


It is safe to assume that Mr Gadkari is feeling the pinch. His comments after Mr Jaswant Singh's ' homecoming' that he had done the groundwork to bring back the expelled leader into the BJP barely masks his anguish at being upstaged by Mr Advani.


What is more harmful for his morale, and even for his party, is that his failure to provide effective leadership in difficult situations, and his apparent discomfiture at this, is now public.


Evidently, the party leader who described him as a " provincial nonentity" is not alone in holding the view.


Yet, Mr Advani's frequent interventions on key matters cannot be the way forward for the party. Distinguished as he may be, his innings at the helm is over, if only for reasons of age — he is 83- years- old. The baton must pass on to the next generation. If the BJP's president is becoming a liability with his clumsy handling of problems, then the party must replace him with some other GenNext figure, rather than fall back on jaded figures of the past.



THE attitude of the Indian Army towards women can be gauged from the fact that it conveniently ignored the Delhi High Court's March order directing it to grant certain women officers permanent commission, moving the Supreme Court only after the HC issued it a notice on a contempt plea.


While the Indian Air Force has seen reason, the Army seems to take perverse pleasure in sticking to its anachronistic stand based on pure and simple gender discrimination.


Somebody needs to tell the generals that times have changed. At a time when countries are also allowing women in combat roles, nothing but male chauvinism can account for the army's stand that women should not get permanent commission even in departments like ordnance, intelligence, signals, and engineering.


The unstated fears are that women will not be fit for combat, or the rigours of living in field areas. But at present no one is demanding that they be allowed to participate in combat. Many women are already serving in field areas as short- service commission officers; what they want is to do so as permanently commissioned ones.


As in the case of men, the army needs to establish the physical and mental criteria required to serve and ensure that they are met. Instead we have had the unwholesome spectacle of able women officers being shown the door on the basis of outdated prejudice.



THAT foodgrains were left to rot at the Food Corporation of India's warehouse in Hapur should not be dismissed as mere governmental inefficiency. Given the fact that nearly half the world's hunger- stricken people live in India and at a time when the people are confronted with soaring prices of food items, such neglect is downright criminal.


It is ironic that starvation and shortage of foodgrains in the market has occurred despite the country having ample food stocks. Clearly the problem is not agricultural productivity but governmental negligence.

The Public Distribution System, through which these grains are distributed, is ineffective, to say the least.


The FCI claim that the stock is well maintained is simply not true. Figures reveal that over 10 per cent of the total foodgrains produced in the country end up being wasted, mostly in government warehouses.


It is a matter of shame that one in every four Indians goes hungry every day, and that such a vast quantity of foodgrains that is produced is actually allowed by the apathetic bureaucracy to be wasted.








A MIDST all the buffeting that comes with uncertain times, India and China are patiently trying to bring their relations, that had gone off beam in the 2006- 2009 period, to an even keel. National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon's visit to Beijing is an important step in this direction. Significantly, Menon went as a " Special Envoy" of the Prime Minister, not as what he happens to be— the NSA and the Special Representative on border negotiations with China.


The news from Beijing after Menon's visit is positive. An important indicator is is that the two sides plan to resume their Special Representative- level dialogue— which had gone into a limbo of sorts— to resolve their border dispute. The cycle of ups and downs in the relations between the two countries indicates that the quality of their future relationship depends on their ability to arrive at a mutually satisfactory settlement on two key issues— the disputed 4056 km Sino- Indian border and the nature of Beijing's all- weather friendship with Pakistan.


Putting these issues aside and proceeding to develop ties in other areas is a useful process, but its limits are now clearly showing up.




The downturn in their relations in the 2006- 2009 period was occasioned by three factors: the Indo- US nuclear deal, the Tibetan uprising of 2008 and the somewhat more shadowy power struggle going on in Beijing between hardliners in the PLA and the reform- minded party leadership.


The poor ties manifested themselves in various ways. In June 2009, India declared that it was sharply enhancing its military presence in Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed in its entirety by China. In turn, Beijing broke tradition and opposed a $ 2.9 billion loan at the ADB because $ 60 million from it would be used for a flood management programme in Arunachal. China also tried, somewhat ineptly, to prevent India from getting an exemption from the NSG embargo on civil nuclear trade with India. This was also accompanied by a barrage of media reports in India claiming that Chinese forces had dramatically stepped up their incursions across the Line of Actual Control. In turn the Chinese media taunted India and issued veiled threats.


Beijing understood the nuclear deal for what it was— a major geopolitical development wherein the United States sought to sweep away several decades of what is called " offshore balancing" of India by virtually recognising its status as a nuclear weapons state. China sought to block the deal by lobbying with smaller NSG member countries.


The Tibetan uprising on the eve of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 caught China off- guard. While Beijing may have anticipated protest, it had not catered for its intensity or its geographical spread which went to regions of what used to be seen as Greater Tibet— now parts of the Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan.


The Chinese were convinced that India and the Dalai Lama were behind the protests that so embarassed China.




It is a bit more difficult to assess the reports that the tough posture towards India has been an outcome of a power struggle between hardliners and reformers in Beijing.


Given the opaque Chinese system, some of the reports are, what can at best, be termed " informed speculation." Nevertheless, China watchers in Taiwan, Japan and the US testify to the fact that there has been, and remains, a constant tussle for power between various factions of the Chinese Communist Party and that the manifestation of nationalism, in the context of Japan and India in recent years, is not something that has happened by accident.


Conventional wisdom is that India and China have had a history of peaceful relations going back millennia. Today, they have complementary economies — we were good at some things, the Chinese at others. Both as rising powers seek stability at home and peace abroad and can therefore cooperate on a range of economic, social and political issues.


This was, of course, a fairly standard message till 2005 when the two sides signed an agreement on the " Political parameters and agreed guidelines for a border settlement between India and China." This far- reaching agreement seemed to suggest that they would swap their claims and agree to draw their border roughly along the existing LAC. But that June, the Indo- US nuclear deal was announced in Washington DC. In the years thereafter, the Chinese began to undermine the agreement. In June 2007, a statement of Foreign Minister Yang Jichei to his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee seemed to be going back on that agreement.


Then, the process of applying this agreement to the border by Special Representatives seemed to run out of steam.


Where they averaged three meetings or so a year in the 2003- 2006 period, they had just one meeting in 2007, one in 2008 and one in 2009, after which they issued a statement declaring that henceforth they would discuss " the entire gamut of bilateral relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest." A process to quickly resolve the border issue had been broadened to discuss the entire agenda of Sino- Indian relations.


The border settlement issue is important because it, along with the Pakistan issue, has the ability to destabilise Sino- Indian relations, as was evident from the reports of Chinese encroachments across the LAC in 2009. In the 1988- 2000 period, the two sides thought they could set aside the border issue and proceed on developing relations in other areas. But it is evident from recent experiences, that the border issue must be resolved, as a precondition to good relations with China.




The other major issue is that of Pakistan.


Whether or not India should take up the Pakistan nuclear deal issue with China is a matter of opinion. Some feel that since it is inevitable, India should not waste too much effort in blocking it.


According to Menon, " this took less than 2 ½ sentences in the whole visit." We are the beneficiary of the NSG's decision to overlook our nuclear weapons tests and the fact that we're not NPT signatories.


It does look a bit hypocritical for us to challenge the Chinese decision to supply two nuclear power reactors to Pakistan.


However, on the political plane, it is important to remind Beijing, which now claims to be an exemplar of non- proliferation norms, that it has been guilty of what is perhaps the most outrageous act of nuclear proliferation in history— that of providing another country with the designs of nuclear weapons, material to make them, and then actually testing the weapon in its own test ranges at Lop Nor.


Last weekend, at a workshop on Sino- Indian relations at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, a galaxy of top Chinese scholars and diplomats appeared to send a united message to their Indian counterparts: That good relations with India was central to Chinese foreign policy and that the Sino- Indian rivalry forecast by many was not inevitable.


On Pakistan, the Chinese scholars had an interesting take— while the all- weather friendship, with its nuclear and missile dimension, was part of the Cold War era to counter the Indo- Soviet alliance, at the present time China felt it was important to remain close to Pakistan so as to stabilise it against the threat of jihadist radicals.


China has in the past, too, used its thinktank community to put out feelers that are different from the tone and tenor of their official statements and dealings. It is significant that Beijing's message right now is one of peace and cooperation. Given China's importance as a rising power, as well as the " all weather" friend of our big headache, Pakistan, it is worth exploring the possibilities that seem to be opening up.








ON A day when leading lights of the opposition parties were out to make the Bharat Bandh a success, a veteran of many a fiery bandh, George Fernandes, was a picture of loneliness and withdrawal.


His face was expressionless and he hardly responded to the people who were wishing him when he was brought to the Delhi High Court. Fernandes, who turned 80 this past June, is a classic case of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and is perhaps the harbinger of a new problem facing Indian society — the problem of age-related degenerative diseases.


Usually, illnesses like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are, in popular perception, problems of the rich West. This is not the case any more. With the rise in life expectancy — thanks to better health care, nutrition and diminishing burden of communicable diseases — the burden of age-related disease is going up. India, as per unofficial estimates, has 3.7 million people suffering from dementia and of them nearly 3 million are AD cases. This number is projected to double by 2030.


Let's deconstruct what's happening with disease patterns in the country. We are actually undergoing a phenomenon called epidemiological transition.


Abdel Omron proposed this theory in 1971, according to which this transition has three stages. The first one was called ' the age of pestilence and famine', when famines and hunger killed people and life expectancy was below 40 years.


The second was the ' the age of receding pandemics' when life expectancy increased to about 50 years.


India has already moved past these two stages. In the third phase — ' the age of degenerative and man- made diseases' — mortality due to communicable diseases continues to decline, while that from non- communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases gets dominant.


In 1986, a fourth stage— that of ' delayed degenerative diseases' — was added to Omran's theory.


In this phase, disease prevention and health promotion leads to prevention of cardiovascular diseases and their onset is delayed but aging- related diseases like AD rise. Bulk of India is in the third stage — heart disease is already the number one killer — and sections of our society are also entering the phase of delayed degenerative diseases.


Kerala — where the average life expectancy is 74 — is an example of this.


Our policy makers and politicians are yet to recognise this silent change. Our health programmes are still frozen in the framework designed in the 1950s to tackle communicable disease. We are yet to see a policy response to the heart disease and the diabetes problem which are becoming increasingly widespread. Dementia and AD are far from being on the radar screen. The problem is going to be very acute because social support systems are also breaking down.


" There is nobody to take care of ageing people as their children move to other cities and countries for the education and employment," points out Dr K Jacob Roy, a Kerala- based doctor who has set up the Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India, and is fighting for a national policy on AD. Hopefully, Fernandes' plight would wake up the bureaucracy in Nirman Bhavan.




YOU MAY have heard of sleep walking, but what about a computer that does " sleep working"? Personal computers in enterprises can now save energy and money by " sleep- working" using a new software called SleepServer developed by Yuvraj Agarwal, a computer scientist from the University of California.


Sleep- working PCs can be accessed via remote connections and maintain their presence on voice- over IP, instant messaging, and peer- to- peer networks even while being in low- power sleep mode. This can cut energy consumption on PCs that run 24- hours by an average of 60 percent. The software creates lightweight virtual images of sleeping PCs, and these pared down images maintain connectivity and respond to applications on behalf of the sleeping PCs.


Each virtual PC image can also enable remote access to the sleeping PC it represents.


The software is compatible with existing networking infrastructure. " It enables enterprise PCs to remain asleep for long periods of time while still maintaining the illusion of network connectivity and seamless availability," explained Agarwal.



IT SEEMS Delhi's thirst for water can't be quenched easily. The mega city keeps demanding more and more water, without caring for its implications for the environment and people from where this water comes.


Look at where all Delhi sources its water from — Sutlej river ( Bhakra dam) Yamuna ( Hathnikund barrage and Western Yamuna Canal), Ramganga ( Ramganga dam), Bhagirathi and Ganga rivers ( Tehri dam).


Everywhere these projects have caused widespread displacement of people, environmental destruction and loss of biodiversity. Delhi is now eyeing yet another pristine source — river Giri, a tributary of Yamuna.


Himachal Pradesh plans to construct a 148 meter high dam in Sirmaur district to store and supply water to Delhi. It has paid Rs 215 crore to HP for displacement and land acquisition related costs. For Delhi, Rs 215 crore is just peanuts ( for a 3.5 km road to commonwealth village in East Delhi it spent Rs 337 crore!).


But look at the destruction the Rs 4000 crore dam is going to cause — 6000 people from 34 villages will be displaced, 1600 hectares of fertile land and biodiversity- rich forest will be submerged and lakhs of trees will be uprooted. What is shocking is that Delhi is pushing for this project, without even considering other options such as plugging avoidable losses, cutting down non- essential use of water, promoting rainwater harvesting, wastewater recycling, groundwater recharging and so on.


Why should Delhi be demanding more freshwater without achieving all this? Environmentalists have written to CM Sheila Dixit on this matter.








A discussion paper released by the government revives the debate on allowing FDI in multi-brand retail. Since the issue has long been a political hot potato, this is obviously an effort to build consensus on policy. Only, we hope that retail liberalisation isn't put on the backburner yet again should opposition to it be raucous enough. Surely the need for such reform can't be overstated. Opening up recommends itself in a country where organised retail makes up a measly 5 per cent of the market in a $400 billion retail industry in crying need of structural and technological upgrade.

It is a shocking fact, for instance, that Rs 1 lakh crore worth of India's fruits, vegetables and other farm produce are lost year after year for want of proper, integrated storage and cold chain infrastructure. With capacity building in the farm-to-fork supply network, wastage could be slashed by 50 per cent or more. Greater access to capital, then, is a must to enhance facilities whether in farms, food-processing businesses, warehousing and cold storage units, distribution centres or transportation. The government is rightly thinking of strategically using a policy shift to ensure that back-end logistics and infrastructure benefit the most. Many MNCs are seriously interested in setting up shop here. They're unlikely to mind making such investment.

Farmers' exploitation by middlemen is another unpleasant fact protectionist politicians ignore. Supermarket chains will actually help farmers, boosting their income by sourcing their produce directly. At the front end, consumers gain with varied choice and lower prices thanks to greater competition. That's no small boon in a country periodically reeling under high food inflation. Moreover, it's wrongly argued that big, flashy retail outlets will kill off modest kirana stores. Competition in specialty retail, for example, made Indian industry tougher. Nor is it the case anywhere that big and small businesses supermarkets and mom-and-pop stores don't coexist, catering to diverse demands and localities. China, which opened up in 2004, is a case in point. In India, domestic retail behemoths didn't flatten corner shops. So, there's no reason MNCs will.

We simply can't remain blind to the benefits of capital inflows in multi-brand retail. It'll accelerate much-needed modernisation of agriculture and allied sectors. It'll raise the global profile of a growing middle class with increasing disposable incomes, adding to India's allure as an investment destination. It'll also help domestic retailers expand in partnerships with foreign players. The government must take the plunge. What it mustn't do is engage in competitive populism. Stipulations like job reservations and stringent local sourcing rules might, reportedly, be pitched as conditions for entry. Such caveats would make for half-baked reform that'll put off rather than attract investors.






A cabinet reshuffle appears to be on the cards. The immediate push has come from Union agriculture minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who wants the prime minister to relieve him of some of his current duties. The PM must accede to the request. Pawar, his interests spread over both the government and cricket, has too much on his plate. His ministerial tenure in any case has been lacklustre. As the minister holding the portfolios of agriculture and consumer affairs, he's presided over soaring food inflation. The PM could also use this opportunity to take stock of his ministers' performance, reshuffle portfolios and change the way some of the departments are clubbed together. For instance, the department of food and consumer affairs ought to be taken out of the agriculture ministry. Let the agriculture minister focus on farmers' interest, facilitate production and ensure better revenues for the producers. He could also be given a say in the management of water resources, crucial to agricultural growth but presently under a separate ministry. The consumer affairs minister could concentrate on improved food distribution and help consumers. We want both producers and consumers to be happy.

A cabinet reshuffle is always dictated by political compulsions, especially in a coalition government. Important infrastructure ministries like railways and telecommunications could do with less controversial and more efficient ministers. Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee should be persuaded to focus on state-level party work, as Pawar claims he wants to do, so that the Railways can have a more hands-on minister. The DMK should also be told to rethink its representatives and nominate more credible and efficient ministers. Clearly, UPA managers have their task cut out.







It was the final stretch of an exciting but arduous three-week car journey through Kullu-Manali, Lahaul, Ladakh, and Kashmir. We were looking forward to a restful end of our sojourn on the serene waters of the Nageen lake in Srinagar. But that was not to be. The first signs of trouble appeared on the road from Kargil to Srinagar. A heavy security presence is normal in border districts, but this was different. Every 100 metres or so there were armed jawans on guard. Machine gun-mounted trucks were ferrying jawans. At some strategic points there were bunkers, again with guns mounted on them. What was up? Cellphone enquiries proved difficult.

We later learned that all SMS messages had been blocked, as also Blackberrys and pre-paid sim cards. Mercifully, voice connection for post-paid cards was still available, so we could pick up bits of news. There had been incidents of stone-pelting in Srinagar and elsewhere. A young boy had been shot dead in Sopore. More had died in firing in Anantnag. The houseboat owners cautiously guided us in by cellphone, and thanked Allah when we reached the lake.

Some in the party, scheduled to fly back to Delhi, were immediately dispatched to the airport though the flight was hours away. They would have to go through several security checks on the way and at the airport itself. The houseboat owners said they were cancelling all planned arrivals, and guests already in Kashmir were being sent out as quickly as possible. Those of us scheduled to drive back to Delhi were told not to venture anywhere into the city till we left.

A friend, a senior official who wanted to visit us, was told not to by his security. He informed us on the phone that things were turning ugly and some buildings had been set on fire. Our houseboat hosts insisted we leave at the crack of dawn so that we could get across the Banihal pass into Jammu before the stone-pelting started.

As we rushed down the highway from Srinagar to Jammu, we saw the now familiar string of armed sentries all along the way. We also saw groups of young lads who were already gathering at selected points. There were attempts to stop our vehicle, but we kept going till we reached the pass. Mercifully, nobody followed us and nobody stoned our vehicle. It was probably too early to start the action, and we were not the real targets.

Despite our limited time and restricted movement, we managed to speak to a fair cross-section of people about the ongoing events in Kashmir: boatmen in their shikaras, ordinary people on the streets, businessmen, academics, officials, and even a CRPF jawan. These conversations were fascinating, but too random and brief for any serious assessment. I will summarise them without comment for readers to form their opinion.

There was deep frustration and anguish about the violence. Several persons we spoke to remarked that the cycle of violence is a thriving industry in the Valley. Lots of people are making lots of money out of the huge sums the government spends on housing and feeding the security forces, their logistics and transportation, the arms and ammunition, and the large invisible expenditure incurred on intelligence gathering. There were dark references to puppeteers behind the scenes who manipulate matters to create provocative events and excessive reactions by the agitators as well as the security forces to keep the cycle of violence going.

Everyone we asked expressed goodwill for Omar Abdullah, an honest young man who means well, a breath of fresh air among traditional politicians who are cynical and corrupt. However, everyone also agreed that his inexperience is a big disadvantage in the political minefield of Kashmir. Some felt that he would learn with time, and that he is good for Kashmir in the long run. Others said that he is not engaged enough with ground realities in Kashmir and spends too much time in Delhi.

Most felt that there was organised provocation behind the stone-pelting. Some suggested that the opposition PDP leaders were provoking the young lads to discredit the Omar government. Others suggested that it was the Congress and anti-Omar factions within the National Conference itself. They mentioned that the PDP is strong in Anantnag but could not have possibly provoked the agitations in Srinagar, where they are weak and won no seats. Instead, trouble had erupted in strongholds of the National Conference and the Congress.

The overriding sentiment was the desire for peace so that ordinary people could go about their normal business. But there was not much hope that peace would come soon. Nobody suggested that Pakistani agents were behind the violence, but we heard no general anti-India sentiment either. In fact one person we spoke to, while extremely angry with the CRPF for shooting a young boy, also said that 80 per cent of Kashmiris want to stay with India.

Many felt that a game-changing move that could earn great goodwill for the Centre, enforce restraint on the behaviour of security forces and also pull the rug from under the 'agents provocateurs' would be a withdrawal of the currently invoked Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The writer is emeritus professsor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi.







An era is coming to an end. With the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan later this month, the last of the great spinners who dominated the world of cricket over the past two decades will leave the field. And of them, the two who consistently vied for the mantle of the world's greatest spinner were Shane Warne and Muralitharan himself; no one else came close. Now, with Muralitharan's retirement when their careers can be summed up in their entirety, the question of who was the best will undoubtedly be asked again. And bowling action controversy aside the ICC has settled that the answer has to be Muralitharan.

At eight short of 800 Test wickets, the highest tally of any bowler ever, he comfortably outstrips Warne who has 708 to his name. In every other relevant index average, economy, strike rate, five- and 10-wicket hauls he wins out, sometimes by a massive margin. For those who look at a player's impact and his aura rather than statistics to judge his worth, Muralitharan's case is just as strong. He might not have Warne's swagger, but he has a mystique all his own. Anything and everything seems possible when he is at the start of his run-up; no empty promise, given his tally of match-winning performances.

One would have to go as far back as Jim Laker to find another spinner in the same league. But Laker's performances were sustained over a period of 46 Tests while Muralitharan will retire after having played 133 Tests. For him to sustain his excellence over such a long period in an era where the dice are heavily loaded in the batsmen's favour unlike the far more bowler-friendly conditions of Laker's playing years sets the seal on the argument in his favour as the greatest spinner to have ever played the game.







There is no denying that Muttiah Muralitharan is one of the best cricketers of our generation. But is he the best spinner of all time? We need to hold on for a moment there. It is true that he holds the record for the maximum number of wickets in both Tests and ODIs. But in order to be declared the greatest ever, statistics aren't enough. For, there are simply too many 'ifs' to consider in Muralitharan's case.

If we set aside the statistics, a close look at Muralitharan's career informs us that his position in the cricketing world has to a large extent been governed by unintended controversies. He first came to prominence because of his odd bowling action. Muralitharan's single greatest contribution to the game is the change in rules that now allows for a 15-degree flexing of the arm while bowling. He has thus pushed the envelope, using an action that would once have been considered chucking, on his path to glory. Another, less controversial bowling technique, the doosra or the off-spinner's googly, has become almost synonymous with his name. But it was never his invention to begin with. The credit for that goes to Pakistan's Saqlain Mushtaq.

Besides, the composition of the Sri Lankan team and the role that Muralitharan played in it do not hold true for any other spinner. It is extremely difficult to extrapolate whether spinners like Jim Laker or those of the famous Indian quartet Bishan Singh Bedi, E A S Prasanna, S Venkataraghavan and B Chandrasekhar would not have been as successful as the Sri Lankan if they played in similar conditions. The comparison with Shane Warne faces the same dilemma. Muralitharan has been a star cricketer. But to judge him the greatest spinner ever goes too far.








Yes/No/ Both: the new Maoist film captures our confusions


Action hero as anti hero?  The idea is as unorthodox  as Suneil Shetty being cast as the reluctant Naxalite. But there he is the central figure in Anant Mahadevan's Red Alert, a quietly powerful film that doesn't so much question our certainties as confirm our uncertainties.


The film is as sudden, fierce and unequivocal as an ambush. And as surprising. Yes, Seema Biswas was THE Bandit Queen and Ayesha Dharker played a stellar role in Terrorist so authentically that she even broke a leg while training for it. But we don't expect to find the terminally glamorous Sameera Reddy and Bhagyashree on screen without make up, and still keeping us transfixed.  'Ensemble cast' is a wilting cliché, but it springs to life with the pitch-perfect acting of a hardy group which also includes Naseeruddin Shah, Vinod Khanna,  Gulshan Grover and Ashish Vidyarthy.


Frankly, it was as much of an eye-popper to discover that Anant Mahadevan can come up with such a taut and sensitive film. You can see why he got the Director's Vision Award at the Stuttgart Film Festival 2009 where it had its world premiere; it's opening in India tomorrow. And since we're getting our socks knocked off,  leftist, rightist and centre, let me add that Aruna Raje delivers the kind of brutal script that sexists won't expect from  a woman.  With equal gender-bias, I will add that it takes a woman to make the platitudes plausible.  


There's no dearth of quickie films that cash in on headlines. But Red Alert is more. It's as in-your-face as a breaking news bulletin, and as intimate as your innermost confusions. Between Arundhati Roy's seductive, tightly argued, but romanticized pamphleteering and P Chidambaram's take-no-hostages offensive lies a very grey area,  as rose-coloured as it is blood red. We may recoil  at  the massacring of our security  forces, the stomach- turning human debris of a sabotaged Jnaneshwari Express;  we may live under no delusion that   the tribals  are as much  the pawns of the power that flows from the barrel of a Maoist gun as they are of the 'running dogs of capitalism' and corruption. But we can't help a dry-throated admiration for all its Lucifer-like figures, its ruthless poets, from Charu Mazumdar to Kobad Gandhy.


We may have grown up and become rah-rah cheer leaders of materialism, but for those of us who came of age in the politically volatile Kolkata of the late 1960s , there is still some corner of an inner field that is forever revolutionary. We were mesmerized by the gory wall scrawl of 'Amar Bari, Tomar Bari, Naxalbari'  or 'China's Chairman is our Chairman' however fast we hurried past. We saw a hedonistic city change darkly, irrevocably before our eyes. Why, even the rock 'n' rolling JS was obliged to explain Naxalism to its own elitist cadres.


It's a cover story that has remained relevant, and so have both sides of the divide. The beauty of Red Alert is that it isn't clinically neutral, in fact it is set in the Maoist camp. But it confronts the generals - and camp followers - of the 'people's war' to ask ' Which people?'


Actually, in driving home the message that everyone is both right and wrong, it goes way beyond recent ideology. It reminds us of the ancient theory that good and evil are not even a matter of choice, but simply of perspective. In Zoroastrian mythology, the 'daevas' are the demons and Hinduism's 'asuras' become the benign 'ahuras'.  Or simply look no further than the India vs Sri Lanka view on  Ravana.  







The government's discussion paper on allowing foreign retail chains to set up shop in India makes a fairly compelling case. The world's second largest producer of fruits and vegetables loses a quarter of its produce between the farm and the table. Likewise, nearly 7 per cent of Indian grain rots in fields and granaries. The refrigeration that would preserve all this food is non-existent — only one in seven tonnes of our veggies goes through cold storage. Foreign investment in cold chains hasn't materialised because India denies their developers access to retail sales. The most immediate way to raise farm productivity would involve allowing the Wal-Marts and Carrefours to open their vends with deep back-end infrastructure that can contain this horrible waste. The buyer benefits from lower prices — runaway food inflation is likely to settle well above 10 per cent this year. The farmer benefits from higher realisation — Indian farmers get a mere third of the price the consumer pays in contrast to two-thirds of the final value earned by their counterparts in countries that have big buyers. And the global retail chains get access to a $450 billion market that is growing at nearly 9 per cent a year.

The obvious question is why are we still floating discussion papers? India has 33 million reasons against this no-brainer. The number of retailing jobs the foreign chains threaten constitutes a powerful argument against their entry. The paper has set out the views of a parliamentary committee that is wary of organised retail because of the immense labour dislocation it entails and the potential for abuse by dominant players. Hence the suggestion for a gradual opening up of the sector. The points on which the department of industrial policy and promotion has sought feedback are indeed an attempt to create safeguards against our deepest fears about Big Retail. Should foreigners be allowed? Should they be obligated to commit a part of their investment to supply chains? Should they be made to hire workers from the countryside? Should they be required to sell a part of their wares to local grocers? Do we need a regulator for supermarkets?

India's initial experiences with organised retail haven't been pleasant. Opposition from the trading community has forced local chains to put expansion plans on hold. Their foreign partners have been watching the politics play out. Yet, India desperately needs to pull itself out of a vicious cycle of low farm productivity. The next Green Revolution is waiting to happen if we can stop 1 per cent of our GDP from spoiling before it reaches the dinner plate.





You've got to give it to some of our UPA ministers. They really put their hearts into making things better for the aam aadmi. The latest, but muted, effort comes from our leonine-maned Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who has discerned a discordant note in the noise created by helicopters owned by the rich and powerful. So new helipads for choppers have got the ministerial chop.

Yes, indeed, many are the nights that some of us have lain awake unable to sleep wondering whether Apocalypse Now was playing in the background. We suppose from the rarefied heights that our netas live in, a helicopter taking off could constitute noise pollution. Where we come from, it's not quiet like that. Our day begins with the dulcet tones of vegetable vendors and sundry salesmen screaming gently into the morning air. As we proceed to work, we have the philharmonic orchestra of horns and abuses from passing drivers. As we grizzle through the day, we are assailed by the comforting sounds of hawking, spitting, mooing, and on a good day, elephantine trumpeting.

But we are grateful to the minister. We wouldn't want to add to the repertoire of aural assaults by helicopters taking off from our roofs. The minister has further reasons as to why he wants to ground these flights of fancy. It's all about equity and equitable access to atmospheric space. We don't know when we last saw our atmospheric space through all the polluting clouds of particulate. If the minister gives in on this one, the floodgates will be opened. Every industrialist worth his sweat equity will want to take a mile and seek a private game reserve or at least a pet tiger or two. So, it's only in the fairness of things that the minister ensures that such ideas as private helipads don't take off. Hence the slightly precipitous crash landing.






The deployment of the Indian Army on the streets of Srinagar to enforce a curfew is a grim reminder that the state has descended into a deep crisis once again. Unlike in the past, the writ of the state is not being challenged primarily by a popular insurgency or by militant organisations or even by a separatist cartel. Instead, it's the anger of a new generation of young men and women who have grown up in these two decades of conflict, which is translating into resilient protests in many parts of the Kashmir valley. And tragically, most of those killed over the last weeks have been young people, often in the prime of their life. The irony is that at a time when Pakistan is in internal turmoil, and its leadership is still reluctant to talk meaningfully on Kashmir, our own follies have, once again, derailed Jammu and Kashmir's journey back to stability. In any case, what is immediately required is for New Delhi and Srinagar to fully understand the anatomy of the uprising and then craft policies that can quell this rage.

Four important features of the protests need to be highlighted. First, while this rebellious urge may have been sparked off by specific incidents of violence and killings, it's a larger expression of anger, disillusionment and frustration. While it's tempting to reduce the protests to indoctrination by extremist Islamic groups, Pakistan's machinations or the influence of other vested interests, the reality is that this radicalisation has been caused by multiple factors, but above all by a sense of hopelessness. This is a generation that has seen suffering, killings, political uncertainty, and has had to remain sequestered in their homes for great lengths of time. A generation that has witnessed often a daily tragedy, seen no light at the end of tunnel, often endured harassment, and which has been distrusted by sections of the Indian establishment, is consequently simmering with deep discontent and angst. And yet is not at an age where it can introspect and take a long-term view of matters.

Second, this is also a generation, somewhat paradoxically, that's been empowered by technology. The internet, as we know, is a powerful instrument of social communication. But it's an equally powerful instrument of radicalisation and political mobilisation. One has to conduct only a sample survey of the Kashmiri lists on, say, Facebook to witness the anger, the appeal of the 'stone pelters' as well as the collective expression of rebellion.

Third, unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a leader, or leaders, who is either inspiring these protests or directing them. There may be those who are ideologically or logistically guiding these protests. But there's no mainstream or separatist leader who can legitimately be blamed (or claim credit) for the street protests. Finally, this rage of the young is built on the larger and longer sense of Kashmiri victimhood, injustice and insecurity about their identity. Therefore, in addition to long-term political prescriptions, three immediate initiatives need to be taken.

One, it is vital to end this cycle of protest-violence-protest. Surely, in the 21st century it should be possible to control protesters, armed only with stones, without having to kill young men and women. It's not surprising that the average Kashmiri finds it disturbing that while Kashmiri protests lead to deaths, protests during the Bharat bandh, for instance, lead to no such violence. Zero-tolerance of human rights abuse can't remain a slogan; it must be translated into reality with immediate effect.

Two, it is vital to engage these young men and women or at least sections of them. This has to be done not just by the government alone, but in partnership with civil society. The state government must also bring all the stakeholders together, including parties in opposition. In addition, there are men and women of unimpeachable integrity who can be called upon to form a Council of Elders who can work with Mohalla and Village elders and the imams of local masjids to restore peace. G.Q. Allaqaband, Nighat Shafi, Girija Dhar and Agha Ashraf Ali are some of the eminent individuals who immediately come to mind.

Three, Kashmir has, of course, been flooded by schemes and packages, but this is the time and place for one more scheme. The prime minster must announce a new Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) for Jammu and Kashmir, which would, in partnership and consultation with the state government, seek to ensure that every Kashmiri young man and woman will be provided the opportunities that ensure that s/he becomes an empowered stakeholder in the future of the state. YES should make interventions wherever needed to provide access to the best quality of training, coaching, counselling and guidance available in the country. And YES should do everything necessary to ensure that every Kashmiri young person can be secure of his/her future.

Let us also realise that the understanding of Kashmir, despite all these years of problems, remains shallow in the corridors of power. When Kashmiris, who took to the streets in a similar uprising in 2008 over the Amarnath land controversy, turned out in even larger numbers to vote in the state elections last year, this was mistakenly seen as evidence of Kashmiri fickleness. It was a mistake to view the elections as signaling a return to 'business as usual' in the politics of the state and as obviating the need for a special and more imaginative approach. The triumph of democracy shouldn't have been a moment of triumphalism.

In fact, by acting in a statesmanlike fashion on a variety of issues, New Delhi would have demonstrated a willingness to reward participation in the democratic process and not be seen as capitulating to extra-constitutional pressure. This unique opportunity was missed. But all is still not lost. Much, as has been indicated, can be done unilaterally and immediately to respond to the deep yearning of the young people of the state for security in all its dimensions: that is freedom from fear in the physical, political, economic and cultural spheres.

(Amitabh Mattoo is Professor of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi The views expressed by the author are personal)








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.





Broadly speaking, one's body represents the self, which encompasses everything except the soul.

Soul is often called the not-self, or the conscience. The duality of the self and the soul is critical for us in our search for a new compass.

The two have contrasting attributes: the self is drawn to the outer world, the soul likes the inner world.

The self is relative, transient, time-bound; but the soul is absolute, eternal and timeless.

Soul is beyond comprehension for many people. It escapes clear and easy definitions, and has no visible identity.

It is weightless, nameless, changeless and formless.

It has no recognisable needs, it does not crave for anything. For example, ego, desire, anger, fear and excitement are all foreign to soul.

The only way one can recognise the soul is by rejecting what is not, rather than something that it is.

That is why it is described as the not-self.

By deductive reasoning, as you keep on eliminating from your repertoire, everything that you know, you can identify the soul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has an interesting observation in this regard: "the soul in man is not an organ, but animates and exercises all organs. It is not a function like the power of the memory, of calculation, of comparison, but uses all this as hands and feet. It's not a faculty but a light. It's not the intellect or the will, but the master of the intellect and the will. It is the background of our being."

Because the soul is the background of our being, the odds of getting to know the soul are nearing the impossible.

What is in the background is often ignored or is not seen. The background is not where we are trained to focus.

It never seems to bother us, nor does it interfere with what we do, how we live, what we chase.

Only occasionally we are reminded of the soul's existence, as when a chick breaks out of an egg; and during early spring when trees and plants experience an explosive growth.

(Edited extracts from the authors' book Finding Soul in Work and Life)







For a sport where the all-important goal doesn't come easily, that difficulty is indispensable to football's character. Football is resistant to change; it evolves the slowest, and irrespective of goalline technology or additional refereeing assistants, the rules of the game will not be altered to negate a "Hand of Suarez" or allow Ghana's "sure-shot" goal to stand. That would be rugby, and not everybody in rugby union is happy about the constant rules upgrade.


In football, there's no goal till the ball crosses the line, and even then it may not count. Ask Frank Lampard. Sometimes, it doesn't matter how it crosses the line. Ask the original Diego.


Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez's goalline handball that denied Ghana their winning goal and Africa its first semi-final doesn't just evoke Maradona's 1986 "Hand of God" against England. It demonstrates that nothing is more relative in sport than cheating. To Ghana and moralists, Suarez made a pact with the devil. In Montevideo, Suarez is a national hero (despite the semi-final). The Suarez debate (unlike Luis Fabiano's double handling against Ivory Coast) hinges on the fact that football's rules allowed the Uruguayan this trade-off — sacrificing himself to save his team.


Coach Oscar Tabarez has rightly, if perversely, protested that Suarez didn't know Asamoah Gyan would miss the penalty. Suarez didn't have time to deliberate on it beforehand; his handling was instinctive, not schemed. So was Maradona's, given the split second in which the hand, each time, had to go up. Ghana were unfortunate: a penalty awarded for a "sure" goal wrongly blocked is not even half-justice. Nevertheless, it's the rules — what Suarez certainly knew was he would be red-carded and that if the ball went in, Uruguay would be out. He could choose his fate and feel no remorse. For the moralists, Fifa should have enforced a longer ban on him for unsportsmanlike conduct. But then there's Thierry Henry, and an Ireland cheated of their place in the 2010 World Cup.







According to the first governmental survey of the terrain, India is teeming with non-governmental organisations — at 3.3 million, possibly the most in the world. They are registered under a cluster of different acts — from the Societies' Act to the Indian Trusts Act, from the Charitable and Religious Trust Act to a clutch of Wakf acts. These naturally include organisations with a whole range of diverse motives and mandates — from temple trusts to transnational aid organisations, from the touchy-feely arms of big corporates to foundations and cultural societies and activist groups. Going by the definition proposed by Peter Willetts, author of two books on NGOs, the term includes any organisation that is independent of government, not constituted as a political party, non-violent, non-profit and non-criminal.


The number of NGOs has risen dramatically in the last 10 years, and yet we don't really know the size and nature of this vast "third sector". One reason for this is obviously the fact that they can go where unwieldy state mechanisms cannot or do not. Even as aspirations have proliferated, the state often plays catch-up enabler; naturally other organisations have grown and spread to fill in the cracks. Some of these are exemplars of development action, and given that a state challenged by society is the best situation for citizens, they criticise and goad as well as supplement the state's efforts.


Clearer guidelines on incorporation and fund-raising would definitely help. Our legal structures make it difficult for them to invest funds, and make them dependent on a steady stream of donations; on the other hand, their financial workings are largely unmonitored and opaque. Given that government is the biggest donor to many NGOs, transparency and disclosure norms are especially important. As the vice president recently stressed, many NGOs now work with unprecedented levels of public funding because of their role in implementing giant Centrally-sponsored welfare schemes, but are not audited by the CAG. Given the enormous trust we repose in them, it is important that these private caretakers of the public good hold themselves to stringent standards of accountability.







The vision of politicians in uncharted terrain is riveting. A few days ago, BJP leader L.K. Advani chose to share on his blog an episode from the budget session of Parliament. The CPI's Gurudas Dasgupta and CPM's Basudeb Acharia had called on the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj. And when Advani reached her office, the momentousness of the moment was made clear by Dasgupta: "Advaniji, today we have for the first time entered forbidden territory."


Advani's revelation comes at a time when Left leaders are playing in slow-motion the chronology of announcements for the July 5 bandh to show, howsoever disingenuously, that their protest and that of the BJP-led NDA were "separate". This anxiety to deny that they had made a compact with a party they have for two decades designated as forbidden touches the Left's persisting dilemma. Ever since they withdrew support to the Congress-led UPA in mid-2008 over the Indo-US nuclear deal, leaders of the Left, especially the CPM, have struggled to retrieve doctrinaire coherence for their politics. In their worldview, excursions out of their ideologically pure alliances must be based on a reading of the bigger adversary — to resist its ascent, then, alliances with others can be justified. For long that adversary was the Congress, most notably in 1977 and 1989, to allow political mobilisation with the Jana Sangh/ BJP. From the '90s, after its Ram temple movement excesses and the Gujarat riots, the BJP became the primary adversary. Yet, it was a long distance to the Left hushing its hostility to the Congress, and it was perhaps the then CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet's biggest accomplishment as a coalition-builder when he pulled off Left support to the Congress as a win-win formula in 2004.


Since the break with the Congress, the Left has been struggling to work out, and articulate, its place in the political spectrum. The Left has always punched higher than its numbers reflect — from the high of 61 MPs in 2004 to a low of 24 in 2009. And for this it has taken up issues in alliance with others. The shiftiness over cooperation with other parties for the bandh reflect a deeper debate, especially in the CPM. Contentions over the resolution to be adopted at the CPM's extended Central Committee meeting in Vijayawada next month centre on its own politics. It's not just who the party will do business with. It's about addressing disquiet in the ranks about the party shrinking in reach and relevance.








The recent spate of so-called honour killings in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and especially those in the heart of Delhi have come as a shock to most ordinary people who might be under the mistaken impression that our society has been moving towards becoming liberal and tolerant. While some of the killings have taken place in the background of heightened khap panchayat strictures on same-gotra and other marriages which ostensibly transgress rigid community norms (many of which are actually upheld today only in the breach), the concern here is with killings of couples who have married for love and across caste lines.


As far as khap panchayats are concerned, their behaviour is most likely a response to the heightened competition of gotras (or locally ranked clans) for scarce marriageable women, with each gotra trying to protect its pool of women and maintain its ascendancy in the local ranking system. Local rankings have been upset due to changes in the economy with land no longer being the only source of power and status, and with education and government employment becoming more attractive to parents seeking suitable grooms for their scarce daughters. When old equations are challenged, and more so across caste lines, self-styled representatives of society such as khaps, whose power is now actually peaking, tend to take up cudgels to preserve the old order.


While khap panchayat activism can significantly be attributed to the above underlying causes of changes in political economy conjoined with abysmal sex ratios, the violence of families towards their own kin and the people they choose to marry needs a separate explanation. Such violence against women and against young couples while being truly reprehensible may have other long-term consequences, which if effective would set back women's progress by several decades. Already, there is a demand to lower the age at marriage of girls to 15 and of boys to 17 — this to prevent the young from falling in love and choosing their own spouses. The youth, according to the proponents of this change, would then not be in a position to dishonour the family name. This demand follows on the heels of the well-publicised demand to amend the marriage law to ban same gotra marriages. It is tragic that our reactions in 2010 seem to be more illiberal and retrogressive than they were four-five decades earlier. Then, marriage law was amended to make it as accommodating and liberal as possible and the Special Marriage Act supported those couples who chose to marry outside of caste and religion or against the wishes of their families.


But why this violence against "love marriages"? And that too often perpetrated by other young men who may have been in the same place themselves. We have to ask what such choice threatens. Apart from caste transgression — as marriage breaks down caste exclusivity, and so-called family honour which continues to ride on women's shoulders and bodies — what does it threaten?


Our legends and epics are about romantic love, as are our hugely popular Bollywood movies and there is little doubt that every person wishes to experience romantic love. Then why this lack of tolerance towards those who actually do fall in love and wish to get married? Eloping is only the means, not the end they seek. If the respectable end is holy matrimony and all couples killed appear to have married, then where is the threat to the social order? Indeed, many parents today, across class, are happy if their children choose their own "appropriate" spouses — relieving them of the burdensome task of successful matchmaking or the responsibility for failed marriages.


My view is that love marriages threaten not the respectability of family but pose a different danger. In an interesting paper titled 'What's love got to do with it? Parental involvement and spouse choice in urban India', a University of Chicago student, Divya Mathur, shows that parents of young men in Mumbai tended to choose brides who would look after them, the parents. They matched characteristics suitable more to this need than to the needs or characteristics of their sons. So this is what the parents are losing out when their children marry on their own — control over the daughter-in-law and, most likely, over the son. In an era when life-spans are getting longer and state organised old-age support remains non-existent, losing power and control over one's children is a major issue. It may be a fact that even children duly married by their parents may not be supportive in the latter's old age but it is equally true that the hold is greater when ties have been established and nurtured through the agency of parents.


We have to factor in the macro changes sweeping Indian society — the family in India is undergoing rapid transition; so are gender equations and expectations of conjugality. In north India, there has been a shift from an overemphasis on agnatic (father-son, mother-son, brother-brother) bonds to somewhat greater leeway being given to the conjugal bond. At least now wives are allowed to sleep with their husbands rather than having to sleep with their mothers-in-law or sisters-in-law while their husbands slept with fathers or brothers and sometimes even with mothers who jealously guarded sons from becoming too attached to their wives. This shift has strengthened the conjugal bond and the nuclear family and redrawn intergenerational equations where parents now have less control over their grown progeny. In this, we may have half a sociological explanation to the opposition to "love marriages" of all sorts. The other half may lie in psychology's domain — understanding love and violence as two opposite sides of the same coin.


The writer teaches at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi








The July 5 Bharat Bandh should serve as a lesson to our opposition parties of the need to introspect. Rather than reinventing themselves for the 21st century, they continue to deploy the confrontational strategies of the '60s and '70s by organising rallies, strikes and street corner speeches, which no longer yield dividends.


If the success of Monday's bandh, called to highlight escalating prices (particularly fuel), is judged in terms of whether there was a shutdown of essential services, then the organisers can claim victory in several parts of the country. In states like West Bengal, Kerala, Bihar and Gujarat, where the respective governments backed the strike call, essential services virtually came to a halt. On the other hand, if success is determined by the extent to which the strike galvanised public support — which one suspects is the prime purpose for such a programme — then it was a resounding flop. There was little public empathy and the Central government is not planning to roll back oil prices. More than the ruling party, it was the media and the public which were vocal in their disapproval of the strike. Even those badly affected by the price rise saw it as a meaningless gesture that caused much public inconvenience and a heavy loss to the exchequer.


Bandhs were an effective tool of opposition politics in very different times. For the first three decades of the Republic, the numbers in Parliament were stacked overwhelmingly in favour of the ruling party. The opposition parties had minimal representation in the Lok Sabha and could not counter the brute majority of the ruling party. In such circumstances, street action to woo public opinion was viewed as the only effective method of taking on the government. Today the situation is different. No political party makes the halfway mark on its own in the Lok Sabha and the Manmohan Singh government has to take its allies along before taking any major decision. In the Rajya Sabha, the UPA still does not command a majority.


With the balance of power so delicately poised, a united opposition could have been extremely influential in shaping government policy. But the opposition has failed to take advantage of the situation because of internal disunity. Some parties leave themselves open to blackmail and blandishments from the ruling party, while others take their ideological opposition to the BJP to such ridiculous lengths that they refuse to coordinate with the main opposition party. The absence of a constructive political dialogue between the government and the opposition comes out of a mindset that assumes that the opposition and ruling party must automatically be at loggerheads on every issue. For instance, the NDA's approach to petrol hikes was not very dissimilar to the UPA's. Steps to do away with the administered price of diesel and petrol were first taken in 2002, which explains why some politicians courting arrest on Monday looked a tad uncomfortable with the protest.


Bandhs had more relevance in an era when the anti-establishment space in the media was very limited. The government-controlled Doordarshan and AIR rarely took note of the opposition. But today, with a plethora of private TV news channels constantly featuring political debates, all parties have ample opportunity to have their say. Live parliamentary coverage has also made it much easier for politicians to get their message across. Incidentally, another reason for falling numbers for political movements and rallies is that the avenues for distraction have multiplied since the entertainment-starved days when Doordarshan reigned supreme. Back in March 1977, Indira Gandhi assumed that if the popular Hindi movie Bobby was telecast on Doordarshan, then people would stay home and not join JP's historic rally against the Emergency at Delhi's Ramlila grounds.


In recent times, even cadre-based political parties have generally failed to generate mass enthusiasm for their causes. (Mamata Banerjee's campaign against the West Bengal government's land acquisition in Nandigram and Singur was a notable exception.) The Left may have withdrawn support to Manmohan Singh's government over the Indo-US nuclear deal, but it could not convince public opinion of its stand. The BJP was not able to play the anti-terrorism card effectively in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Despite the terror attack, Mumbai voted for the Congress, the public perceived the BJP's position on terror as more self-serving than genuine. The challenge for our political parties is to appear credible to the new generation of voters. To earn the confidence and respect of the public in the post-liberalisation era, they have to eschew the confrontationist politics of the past and adopt a more constructive, reasoned and imaginative approach.








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 recent decision of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to increase postgraduate (PG) seats in medicine, surgery and allied disciplines is a welcome step and must have delighted many young graduates. The MD and the MS have become minimum qualifications for recognition in the medical profession; yet over 30,000 graduates get an MBBS every year, and only approximately 15,000 PG seats exist. With more medical colleges in the pipeline, this gap is going to widen further. This growing imbalance between undergraduate and postgraduate seats is a matter of serious concern. Top students, in general, are now opting for engineering, commerce or management courses because of better opportunities.


The lack of good teachers and of infrastructure in medical colleges is a major impediment to immediately increasing MD/MS seats. This means that we need to explore various options to narrow this gap quickly.


First, we should motivate our "brain drain" professionals settled in Europe and America to come back and join various medical colleges/institutes. Countries like China have done this. To attract them we need to change our approach towards recruitment: they may be offered positions based on their bio-data and professional eminence rather than asking them to apply through the conventional route. Talent-searching is the accepted norm in all other professions and medicine should be no exception.


Then AIIMS/PGI-like institutions should be linked with adjoining medical colleges to strengthen their training programmes. The faculty from these institutes can periodically go as visiting faculty to these colleges and contribute to the strengthening of educational and training programmes. The faculty from the medical colleges should also go to these institutes for variable periods for upgrading their knowledge and skills.


The National Academy of Medical Sciences has a programme to fund the travel expenses of senior, Emeritus Fellows to periodically visit medical colleges by invitation to strengthen teaching and training programmes. Not many colleges are making use of this opportunity. This may help to provide additional expertise for training more postgraduate students.


Strengthening of telemedicine facilities to use tele-education from training programmes is also required. The National Knowledge Network, being established by the office of the principal scientific advisor to the PM, will help tremendously in spreading higher education.


The ministry is now aggressively pursuing seven to eight new AIIMS-like institutes. The PM has emphasised that "human knowledge is growing at an unprecedented pace and if our institutes have to keep pace, we have to be on the frontier of higher education, specifically medical education". These new institutes need to initiate their journey in this spirit. The main focus should be on postgraduate and super-specialty training to expand postgraduate training programmes, and to produce more teachers and leaders in medicine to fulfill the need of medical colleges. The number of undergraduate seats should be kept to the minimum.


A genuine concern voiced by policy-makers is: if every student gets MD/MS, who will go to the rural health centres? Ensuring there are doctors there has been a major challenge for the government. This has even forced the health ministry to consider starting a Bachelor of Rural Medicine and Surgery course. (The merits and demerits of this course have been a subject of much discussion.) The ministry has also approved a scheme to give incentive marks for admission to MD/MS courses to those who serve in primary health centres for 1-2 years. Doctors who don't get into the MD/MS might join rural health centres to improve their chances for admission. But we need to think of some other alternatives.


Compulsory, short rural postings for all medical graduates have been considered. One wonders why there is reluctance to initiate this scheme. This will help familiarise young graduates with India's environment/medical needs. There are over 600 districts in the country with health and community centres. Each year, approximately more than 30,000 graduates pass out. Over a few years we should have doctors in all health centres, if this is implemented. Certainly, young graduates will resent this approach; the government needs to take steps to make this period educative and attractive to allay their fears. There should be mentorship by seniors (from district hospitals/medical colleges) during the period, and decent facilities to live and practice. Further, these health centres should be integrated with the community, district-level centres and even with medical colleges. The lack of coordination at different levels has been a major drawback in our health services.


Of course, after this period there should be a guarantee to enter PG training programmes. Thus this will require steps to increase PG seats at the earliest.


The medical profession is being perceived as an industry by stakeholders and even some professionals. This has eroded public confidence in a profession always held in high esteem. We professionals have to blame ourselves for fuelling this mistrust. Timely reform in medical education will improve quality, and may help reduce unethical practices.


The writer is director of Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh







Poised as we are for the most comprehensive financial reform in this country since the Great Depression, it is time to fess up to the fact that it likely would not have occurred without a concerted effort by the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress to demonise Goldman Sachs.


There are good reasons, of course, why politicians have seized on Goldman for easy political gain. Among them are: the perceptions that Goldman figured out a way to benefit from the misery of others; that while many Americans were hurting from a recession partly of Goldman's making, the firm continued to rake in billions in profits and pay out billions more in bonuses; that Goldman seems unable to recognise that but for an 11th-hour rescue by the American taxpayers, in September 2008, it would have gone the way of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch; and that Goldman has proved repeatedly that it prefers putting its own interests ahead of those of its prized clients and the rest of us. Another likely reason is that the politicians simply looked at the recent public polling data, which put Goldman's reputation below that of BP and Toyota, and realised that nothing spells political gold these days quite like bashing Goldman Sachs.


But the byproduct of this very effective, Goldman-centric political strategy, is that the larger issue of the dramatic deterioration of Wall Street's mores and ethics over the past 40 years has been all but obscured, as has a robust debate about how to change Wall Street's behavior in the future to prevent a recurrence of the events that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Unfortunately, nothing in the 2,319-page Dodd-Frank bill addresses the dramatic change in Wall Street's culture away from taking prudent risks with its own partners' capital toward a culture that rewards bankers and traders for taking risks with other people's money. This ethic is pervasive across Wall Street, and not just at Goldman Sachs, which as the last major Wall Street firm to go public — in 1999 — retains more of a partnership mentality than do its brethren.


Despite the political haymaking, the truth is that Goldman Sachs did nothing differently in the years leading up to the crisis than did other firms of its stature. Nothing has come to light in any of the very public recent assaults on the firm that also could not be discovered by looking through millions of documents at every other Wall Street firm with large trading and capital-markets businesses.


If anything, what has been revealed in all the reams of Goldman documents is that the firm was — and remains — a better risk-manager than any of its competitors, that it figured out trouble was coming in the mortgage market in 2006 and did something about it, instead of doubling-down, and that it managed to stay profitable throughout the years of the crisis while most of its competitors were out of control.


Indeed, the current political climate seems to have forced Goldman's senior executives to pretend that they did not bet against the mortgage market — from which the firm made a $4 billion windfall in 2007 — and to claim, instead, that Goldman barely made any money from its mortgage business. Why else — other than politics — would Goldman choose to obfuscate this fact rather than boast about its prowess?


Now that a major political victory in the form of Dodd-Frank is within the grasp of Goldman's enemies in Washington, the time has come for politicians to lay off the firm and to allow Goldman and the rest of Wall Street to return to some semblance of normalcy. The time has come to let Goldman be Goldman. The best way for that to happen is for Goldman to relinquish its status as a bank holding company and free itself of the most onerous and restrictive provisions of the new law. It can simply revert back to being a securities firm — as it was for its first 139 years before the Federal Reserve approved the applications of Goldman and Morgan Stanley on Sept. 22, 2008, in a last-ditch Hail Mary to stop the firms' death spiral (which worked).


Goldman should make the change sooner rather than later. The American people cannot be subsidising the risk-oriented Goldman business plan by providing it with billions of cheap financing through the Fed. Nor should Goldman continue to benefit from the appearance that it will get bailed out the next time things go awry.


By giving up its status as a bank holding company, Goldman can boast about how it — nearly alone — navigated the crisis by cleverly shorting the mortgage market instead of pretending it was like every other firm, just luckier. It can take calculated risks with investors' money. It can make billions of dollars — if it is able, once it is no longer subsidised by taxpayers — and pay those billions to its lucky employees. That's the American Way.


But the next time Goldman Sachs runs into serious trouble — and it will — let the free market determine its fate.








Headlines Today summed it up best: no access to the media but complete and extensive coverage throughout the day.


With field restrictions ensuring that the media was kept far away enough to deny them access to the Dhoni-Sakshi match in progress, the "complete and extensive coverage" took the aesthetically pleasing form of gazing at the facade of the hotel where the engagement was held.


"Complete and extensive coverage" also meant that all of last Sunday was spent with TV news crews creeping closer and closer to the said hotel, trying to figure out what was going on inside. And since they didn't get close enough to figure out much, they made it up as they went along.


So while the news channels began the day squabbling over when the wedding would be held — Times Now veered between after the Australia series to within a few days, the Hindi news channels led by Star News and India TV favoured Sunday itself — by midday it was clear: Sunday was the chosen day. Once that was confirmed, the show became very much like a limited overs game with TV news chasing down the target Dhoni had set them: could they get past the security at the resort and discover just what, exactly, was going on inside?


They could not. As we have seen on the cricket field, Dhoni knows a thing or two about keeping the opposition at bay. So, after a fairly fruitless few hours when they could not breach the Wall —- and we don't mean Dravid — news channels faced the daunting challenge of bringing us complete and extensive coverage of virtually nothing. Which is not very different from coverage of other more tangible events, so it was an instructive exercise.


It took the shape of computerised images of Dhoni and Sakshi as bridegroom and bride with a campy little fire burning beside them for the pheras. (Star News). It meant singing wedding songs (News 24). It involved pandits and other glass-ball gazers predicting the impact of Sakshi on Dhoni and on Team India: the timing was auspicious, offered one lady clairvoyant on IBN-7, differences did exist between the couple but the match will be a good one, nevertheless (IBN-7). It required talking to anyone who might have been remotely closer to the wedding site than the media. Thus, we heard from the flower supplier on what he supplied — roses, rose petals, garlands, of course (Headlines Today). It saw breaking news on Aaj Tak and news alerts on Times Now that the wedding would be at 8 pm — something we had already learned from the pandit who was to conduct the wedding ceremony — or so the channel claimed. We caught glimpses — but only just — of a horse arriving at the resort. We were assured it was the stallion for Dhoni (Aaj Tak). TV news was nothing if not intrepid. They did everything they could to penetrate Dhoni's defences but while a maiden may have bowled him — as Star News at some stage put it — the media could not break through.


Still, Times Now did manage to procure footage from Sadhana TV of guests at the engagement on Saturday evening; all the news channels found John Abraham at the Dehradun airport and some discovered Suresh Raina inside an aeroplane on its way to Dehradun. We had fleeting images of Sakshi in dark glasses as she drove by in a car. At least one news alert told us that Sachin Tendulkar would not attend the wedding and Yuvraj Singh's tweets made the rounds as tweets are wont to do. One Hindi news channel enacted scenes from a wedding at the same time they occurred inside the resort complex! The only surprise was that some reporters had not managed to pass themselves off as the flower supplier, the pandit's assistant or, indeed, the horseman, and gain actual access.







A fresh round of protests has erupted in the Kashmir valley. The situation is deteriorating by the day. But the RSS says that calming the Valley is not an impossible task as it believes that after decades of violence, the ordinary Kashmiri must be wanting to get on with life. The Sangh fountainhead has no major prescription to offer to normalise the situation. The lead editorial in the RSS mouthpiece Organiser nevertheless claims that powerful instruments like panchayati raj that can go a long way in healing the situation. "What is lacking in Kashmir is the political will. The security measures need to be supported by actions by the governments at the state and the Centre. The political forces out of power in the state and inimical to the interest of the nation should be marginalised," it says.

"The major stumbling block is the monetary and military help that the extremists and their hangers-on receive from across the Western border, which needs to be addressed by Delhi. Pakistan has been following the diabolic Afzal Khan policy. The answer should be Shivaji's," it advocates.


The RSS, however, praised Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for inviting Kashmiri pandits to worship at the Kheer Bhawani temple. "Let this be a beginning. Such measures should be repeated more often, which would send out a strong message of India's determination to restore the Valley to the Kashmiris," it says.


The wrong lessons


The Organiser also focuses on its staple theme, of Hinduism under threat — a report from Bengal talks about Indian children attending daily classes in madarsas in Bangladesh, since villages in the state's northern parts abutting Bangladesh do not have even primary schools.


It holds up the Nicha Gobindapur village in South Dinajpur district on the Indo-Bangladesh border as an example: "This village is surrounded with barbed wire. A total of 31 students of this village regularly go to Doudpur madarsa in Bangladesh for their education... Even after having Indian identity they are not allowed to know the history of their own country. Instead they study the history of Bangladesh, history of Islam, Hadis, Quran, and Fikah, a book written in Aarbi language. In class examination or final exam they are asked to write the life and time of Hazrat Muhammad, the topography of ancient Arabia, how it looked like."


"These students of Nicha Gobindapur have to appear in examination under the Madarsa Education Board of Bangladesh. After passing through the examination they take admission in Dinajpur College of Bangladesh. This is the way how a group of Indian students are growing up," it says. The story is the same in several villages on the Indo-Bangla border, it argues.


Nitish's gracelessness


The BJP may have entered into a truce with Nitish Kumar, but the RSS has not. An article titled "The pathetic case of Nitish Kumar" questions the Bihar chief minister's decision to return the flood aid given by the Narendra Modi government and describes his gesture as "petty".


"If Nitish Kumar had such contempt for Modi — and he is welcome to his feelings — why didn't he resign from the Vajpayee government when the Godhra riots took place in 2002, as a measure of solidarity with Muslims? And just as importantly, only a few days ago, why did he not decline BJP support to the JD(U) in the Rajya Sabha elections, when the BJP gave its six surplus votes to help win two seats? Wasn't it 'charity' of sorts that was no secret?" the article seeks to know.


It reproduces the BJP argument that the money was not drawn from Modi's personal account and was given on behalf of the state of Gujarat and its people, and offers the now-familiar argument that Kumar was out to garner Muslim support by snubbing Modi. "Nitish Kumar may have a point when he says that while doing charity is good, boasting about it is against Indian culture. So is lack of graciousness on the part of Nitish Kumar in a vain effort to win over a few Muslim votes. It is communalism at its worst, and does no credit to Bihar," it says.


Compiled by Manoj C.G.








A committee set up by the government to look into HR challenges facing public sector banks has laid out an interesting and important set of recommendations that the government ought to consider very seriously. The five-man committee headed by former Bank of Baroda chairman AK Khandelwal has suggested that banks be allowed to link employee compensation with performance and move to the more flexible cost-to-company (CTC) system of fixing remuneration—these HR practices are widely followed in the private sector, including in competitor private sector banks. Public sector banks have a major problem in retaining talent when their competitors are able to offer significantly better compensation. In fact, many private sector banks have built their strength on cadres that were initially trained in SBI, India's largest bank by some distance. Also, it makes little sense to mandate all public sector banks to adopt similar payscales. Each bank ought to be allowed to make an autonomous decision based on its own performance and profitability. The Khandelwal committee has sensibly suggested this autonomous course of action as well.


The committee has fortunately not limited itself to simply compensation issues, important though they are. It has made the important recommendation of separating the positions of chairman and managing director/CEO in public sector banks. Again, this is common practice in private sector banks and would help improve the standards of corporate governance. Another important recommendation relates to greater mobility of staff. The committee has recommended that clerical staff be encouraged to move to rural areas—which would help foster financial inclusion. Also, public sector banks must be allowed to outsource some key services that would help cut down costs. These are all eminently sensible and easily doable recommendations. In fact, they are a necessary condition before the government actually begins to focus on more comprehensive banking reform. There is little option in the medium term but to allow more banks to enter the market, and that means more competition, which is, of course, good for consumers. But when that competition arrives, public sector banks deserve a chance to compete on a level playing field. Upgrading their HR practices would help that end.







UPA has been showing some reformist spunk of late. Even as the Opposition continues intense rabble-rousing over the recently announced deregulation of petrol prices, the government is pushing forward a proposal that will ultimately open up the retail sector to unrestricted FDI. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has prepared a discussion paper that makes a strong case for such liberalisation. First, from the first-end to the back-end, the sector is facing really dynamic challenges as consumer demand is growing and evolving. FDI is a good source of the huge end-to-end funding needed to meet this demand. Second, the paper highlights that logistical shortfalls result in around Rs 1 lakh crore of fruits, vegetables and other perishables going waste every year. More funding will mean better technology and infrastructure, which will mean less wastage. Improved availability will yield better prices, helping tame inflation. Third, the paper suggests that riders like those concerning local sourcing and job reservation for local youth can help alleviate public concerns. Finally, a calibrated approach to retail liberalisation is recommended, which would finally lead to the holy grail of FDI in multi-brand retailing. But no amount of logical argumentation can keep the Opposition from baying for blood, as it has been doing on the fuel front. The question is whether the UPA will hold firm and deliver a reform that study after study has shown is in the best interest of both the Indian consumer and farmer.


What the DIPP paper is saying today is not different from what the Economic Survey 2004-05 said: "FDI in retail trade can not only organise a significant part of the largely unorganised domestic retailing, but also invite established global retail brands into the Indian market, thereby creating greater outlets for outsourcing and marketing Indian products." Or from what an exhaustive Icrier study found in 2008: "Profit realisation for farmers selling directly to organised retailers was 60% higher compared with those selling in the mandi." As for the price benefits delivered to consumers, these were found to be more beneficial for low-income groups to whom organised retail represented new opportunities to cherry-pick products and avail discounts. No wonder the PM has been suggesting that the vast separation between farm gate and consumer prices gives us fresh incentive to engage in a debate about opening up the retail sector. It's time though to close the debate and simply open up.








There is compelling evidence to show how much FDI in organised retailing could help both farmers and consumers. So it's good news that the subject, as one newspaper put it, is back on the table, even if it's a discussion paper and even if it suggests the final policy would contain a couple of caveats. Also, it's courageous of the government to have raised a politically sensitive issue now. But then, this might just be the right time to be talking about FDI in retail, since food inflation is raging and shows few signs of coming down meaningfully. Let's face it, there's way too much wastage of farm produce in this country, at Rs 1 trillion a year. What's a bigger shame is that more than half of this, or 57%, can be avoided.


FDI is allowed in the cold-chain business but foreign retailers probably want a bigger bite of the Indian consumer story. While they should not be unwilling to commit to minimum spends to develop the back-end, 50% appears to be too high a level. Maybe one-fourth of the investment could be channelled into the back-end. Also, while they should not mind sourcing a reasonable share of products from SMEs, it's not a desirable criterion because it could affect the quality of merchandise in the stores and consumers will suffer. The reason FDI needs to be encouraged is that farmers in this country realise only a third of the total price paid by the end-consumer as compared with two-thirds earned by farmers in countries with a higher share of organised retail. Indeed, that's the clincher because in a study conducted a couple of years ago, Icrier found that farmers are much better off selling directly to organised retailers rather than to intermediaries or to the mandis—their profits, believe it or not, are 60% higher when they sell to the former. So, it's unfair to let a few intermediaries flourish at the cost of the farmer.


Moreover, the public distribution system doesn't deliver the goods. So if the government wants to help low-income groups, organised retail could be the way. Icrier discovered that it is low income consumers, rather than affluent shoppers, who save more when they shop at organised retail outlets because they target discounts. Should retailers get it right with their private or store labels, as many are threatening to do, FMCG companies will be compelled to start giving customers better deals. Indeed, retailers believe that if they are allowed to access the farm gate for fruit and vegetables, with time and scale, they will be in a position to sell at competitive prices. So if customers get access to greater variety at lower prices, what can be better?


As for elbowing out kirana stores, it is unlikely to happen for a long time because the convenience and credit facilities that they offer cannot and should not be underestimated. Icrier found that very few small shops in the country actually close down every year—just 4%, which is way below international levels. And fewer than 2% of smaller retail outlets are actually hurt by their organised counterparts, so it's not as though they're losing out in big numbers. A shopping mall regulation is not needed.


With access to money and expertise, Indian retail chains can scale up faster and create more employment opportunities. The government wants some reservation for the rural youth—half the jobs created by the retail chains, to be precise. That should really not be such an issue, although owners should have the right to hire and fire. Again, a calibrated approach to opening the doors for foreign retailers should work; it wouldn't be easy for the government to allow 100% investment right away and foreign chains shouldn't have a problem with owning a minority stake for now.


The two biggest casualties in the history of Indian organised retail, Subhiksha and Vishal Retail, are enough evidence that this business needs financial wherewithal; banks stand to lose close to Rs 800 crore that they have lent Vishal Retail, unless the business is revived. Pantaloon Retail's debt is nudging Rs 3,000 crore. In fact, many organised players, like the Aditya Birla group, which runs the 'more.' chain of stores, want FDI because they realise how important the money and the expertise can be. The cost of rolling out a store can range anywhere between Rs 1,000 per sq ft and Rs 1,500 per sq ft, depending on how you want it to look. Not every promoter has the luxury of writing off Rs 5,000 crore or maybe more. So, the argument that the organised sector is underdeveloped and in a nascent stage, and therefore should be allowed to grow and consolidate, doesn't really hold. Moreover, even the two million jobs that organised retail is supposed to create in five years sounds ambitious. Icrier found no evidence of a decline in "overall employment in the unorganised sector as a result of the entry of organised retailers."










A comparative study of six catastrophic events in India and the US spanning the last 26 years provides a good idea on governments' management and compensation policies. Three disasters occurred in India, namely the Bhopal gas incident, the tsunami and the Mumbai attacks. The first was an industrial accident, the second a natural disaster and the third a terrorist attack. These are compared to three similar incidents in the US, namely the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina and an undersea oil spill by BP.


The Bhopal gas tragedy that took place on Dec 2, 1984, killed 3,800 people immediately (the unofficial figure goes up to 16,000) and thousands suffered from the effects of the poisonous gas. It is considered the worst industrial disaster in history. Even now, almost 25,000 people living near the carbide factory are forced to drink poisonous water. The government's response was shoddy. The judiciary also failed people's expectations when the SC reduced the importance of the charge and the district court took 26 years to award a sentence. The government settled out-of-court for $477 million instead of fighting for the rightful $3 billion in the US courts, leaving a bitter memory in our minds. In comparison, the BP oil spill that has taken only 11 human lives but severely impacted the environment in the Gulf of Mexico, making even the US President's position unenviable. Under the US Oil Pollution Act, there is a cap of $75 million for damages. However, the limit does not apply to oil removal costs or damage resulting from gross negligence or federal safety violations. Consequently, under pressure from the US President, BP has declared a $20 billion 'Spill Response Fund'.


The next category is natural disasters. The tsunami that hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and India's east coast in 2004. While early warnings were not heeded, the government's response was reasonably good. In contrast, the US government's response to Hurricane Katrina was poor, which caused havoc in New Orleans and Florida. In spite of prior information, the US government was not able to evacuate all the people. However, there were hardly any deaths in this cyclone and relief and rehabilitation was provided with international help.


The third category is terrorist attacks. First, the Mumbai attack on November 26, 2008. None of the warnings and briefs were considered and the intelligence reports were termed 'non-actionable'! The attack led to the death of 173 people in shoot-outs. The live broadcast by TV channels was used by handlers besides damaging the government's reputation. The reaction time by the NSG as well as the state government, including the infamous visit by the CM along with Bollywood stars, is still fresh in our minds. (It is ironic that the same government returned to power, although the CM and Union home minister were removed under public pressure). The compensation by the government amounted to about Rs 19 crore. While Railways paid Rs 10 lakh each to the families of those who died at the station, the government paid Rs 5 lakh. The injured were paid Rs 50,000 each and funeral expenses of those killed were also borne by the government.


The 9/11 terrorist attack in New York and Washington, DC, proved that the US had a shoddy security system. But the US government reacted forcefully, declared it a 'war on terrorism', and took on Afghanistan (and not so wisely, on Iraq) in a military effort. The compensation paid in the US was quick and substantial. The US government, by an Act of their legislature, created, without delay, a 'Victim Compensation Fund'. With 1,600 hearings within 33 months, $7 billion was awarded to over 5,000 people (more than 97% of the families). The average payout for death claims was about $2 million ranging from $250,000 to over $7 million. More than 2,800 injury claims were also paid out, mostly to rescue workers. The claims took into account lost income, insurance, dependents and other factors. The total compensation paid by the government (federal, state and local) and insurance companies exceeded $38 billion.


In conclusion, we can state that while response and compensation in the US's catastrophic events have been quick and effective, except for that in Hurricane Katrina; India has been tardy and ineffective. Even considering that India is a developing country, the response leaves a lot to be desired. Our policy towards compensation also needs to be made clear and should not be decided on an ad hoc basis.


—The author is chairman of International Foundation of Aviation, Aerospace and Development










The perpetual question for any company with an increasing global footprint is how to fund growth, through internal accruals and external debt or equity. In an increasingly globalised economy, it becomes imperative for the CFO to look at the best way of funding growth—be it domestic or be it foreign. In the light of recent developments, the question is whether raising funds—either debt or equity—from foreign sources is a good idea at this time. Due to the extraordinary exotic foreign derivative losses suffered by Indian exporters, this question is plaguing many companies.


While one would have expected liquidity infusion of the magnitude undertaken by the western economies to have a substantial effect on the economy, it has not materialised as expected. One of the reasons for this is the artificial currency values of the yuan that have caused a huge anti-stimulus in the western economies. The Chinese government is now trying to roll back the liquidity stimulus and the yuan will appreciate vis-à-vis the dollar in time.


In the short term, Chinese goods will become less competitive. This should have a salutary impact on Indian exports and should help in correcting the trade imbalances that many countries, including India, have with China. Second, there will be a redistribution of capital that is currently flowing into China, India and other countries in the region. Finally, the Indian currency will also achieve a relative equilibrium compared to the dollar, which will be more realistic than the current scenario where the dollar is hugely overvalued.


Meanwhile, the economic uncertainty in the EU as well as the delicate rebalancing of the roles of the dollar and yuan has led to the international capital markets entering a state of uncertainty. This has led to depressed market sentiments and a scarcity of equity capital. On the other hand, increased liquidity due to the continuing economic stimulus has led to comfortable availability of debt at very attractive terms—that too on a fixed rate basis. So, at this time, it is perhaps a better option to restructure current debt and take on more debt as they are highly affordable. When relative stability is achieved in the international financial markets, it may be a better time to raise equity as Indian companies will tend to get better valuations then.


—The author is former president of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India








Can Cancun do what Copenhagen could not? Negotiations have resumed after the failed climate conference of December 2009 but few believe that a strong agreement will emerge at the 16th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Mexico later this year. Climate negotiations have generally lost traction, and the chances for a deal appear to have receded to the 2011 meeting in Africa. For the developing nations that are fighting poverty with fast-paced economic growth, even the idea of a low carbon economy is far from settled. That is not surprising because in the developed world, with its far greater capacities, industry is still waiting for agreed global standards on carbon accounting, which is essential to undertake voluntary actions. Also, there is justified concern at the policymaking level that the equity-based principle — of common but differentiated responsibility for the rich and poor countries — is under threat, post-Copenhagen. That was evident last month during the sessions of the UNFCCC Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action in Germany, when the controversial concept of peaking of emissions for developing countries by 2020 was sought to be introduced into a fresh negotiating text.


Attempts to equate developing country liabilities with those of the developed world divert attention from the real issue. It is that rich countries need to cut emissions even deeper than what has been promised. That argument was firmly made by the outgoing executive secretary of the UNFCCC, Yvo de Boer, at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn recently. The current pledges made by the industrialised countries cannot achieve the 25-40 per cent emissions reduction that the IPCC says is necessary to try and limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius. It is not helpful either that this wealthy bloc, which did not take its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol seriously, has left the reference year for emissions targets unspecified. There is a lot of disappointment in climate talks, but the global South is engaging in some enlightened cooperative actions. A promising example is Brazil's technology transfer programme with China, under which it is using satellite mapping to assess forest loss; the two countries are also helping Africa in the area of biofuels. These are good models. They cannot, however, replace a working global agreement. What is needed is a deal that enables liberal transfer of funds and technology in the short term for green energy production in the emerging economies, which will account for an estimated 93 per cent of the increase in energy demand in just two decades.







The Reserve Bank of India's decision to hike the two short-term policy interest rates, the repo and the reverse repo, by 0.25 percentage point was not unexpected. In fact, macroeconomic developments since the April policy statement suggested a policy intervention even earlier. The relatively small hike in the policy rates suggests that there could be another increase after the July monetary policy review meeting. Economic growth in India has been on a fast track. The official revised growth estimates by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) for 2009-10 and the fourth quarter of last year indicate that the economy is consolidating. There is a strong possibility that the various official growth projections for the current year, including the one by the RBI, will be revised upwards. Industrial output in April grew 17.6 per cent over what it was a year ago, aided in part by the recovery in exports. There has been a sharp upturn in the capital goods sector. Further corroboration is seen in the increase in credit and the widening current account deficit. Monsoon rainfall, though delayed in the beginning, is expected to be normal for the season as a whole. However, inflation that jumped to 10.2 per cent in May is clearly the worry. The recent decontrol of petrol prices and the hike in the prices of diesel, kerosene, and cooking gas may add one percentage point to headline inflation. What is particularly worrying is that while food inflation has come down slightly, core inflation, which excludes food and fuel prices, is on the rise.


However, while the case for anti-inflation measures has been very strong, the RBI cannot ignore the concerns of the fast-growing economy. It is this classic dilemma of having to balance price stability with the credit requirements of the real economy that explains why the RBI has been late this time and, by many yardsticks, is still behind the curve. Liquidity was particularly tight during June. Almost Rs.68,000 crore were paid to the government by the successful bidders in the 3G telecom auctions; and advance tax payments drained another nearly Rs.35,000 crore. Certain liquidity-easing measures put in place by the RBI in June are therefore being extended, though for a short period. Easing liquidity, while simultaneously raising rates, is not inconsistent with a policy of calibrated exit from an expansive monetary policy. The latest RBI action has come soon after the banks adopted a new and more transparent method of arriving at the base lending rate. The impact of the RBI's interest rate signals and indeed the efficacy of monetary transmission can therefore be more accurately gauged.










When I first visited Surguja district in Chhattisgarh nearly 10 years ago, it was one of those areas where the Public Distribution System (PDS) was virtually non-functional. I felt constrained to write, at that time, that "the whole system looks like it has been designed to fail." Ration shops were in the hands of corrupt private dealers, who made money by selling PDS grain in the open market. People were powerless to argue when a dealer told them that, for no fault of his, the stocks were bare. Hunger haunted the land.


Ten years later, there has been a remarkable turnaround on the PDS front. One hesitates to give good marks to the Government of Chhattisgarh these days, given its monstrous actions in other domains – the sell-out to mining companies, backing of Salwa Judum, and suppression of human rights, to mention a few. Still, the revival of the PDS in Chhattisgarh is a major achievement, of interest to the whole country.


I had an enlightening view of this revival in Surguja a few weeks ago. Today, almost every household in this area is entitled to 35 kg of grain each month, at Re. 1 or Rs. 2 a kg (depending on the type of ration card). What is more, the system is working – everywhere we went, we found that people were getting 35 kg of grain on time, every month. For people who live on the margins of subsistence, this is a dream.


The planned National Food Security Act represents a unique opportunity to achieve similar gains across the country. However, the current draft, prepared by an Empowered Group of Ministers, is a non-starter in this respect. Indeed, the food guarantee is restricted to 25 kg of grain (at an unspecified price) for BPL households. This is less than their existing entitlements. In response to recent agitations, the government seems willing to raise the poverty line by a few notches, so that more households are included. Even then, a targeted PDS is not the way to guarantee the right to food.


The main problem with targeting is that it is both unreliable and divisive. The first point is evident from many investigations into the distribution of BPL cards. The "exclusion errors" are enormous. For instance, among all rural households falling below the "poverty line" according to National Sample Survey data, almost half did not have a BPL card in 2004-05. Similar findings emerge from National Family Health Survey data.


Perhaps exclusion errors can be reduced with better BPL identification methods. The N.C. Saxena Committee has made valuable suggestions in this respect. But the fact remains that there is no reliable way to identify poor households based on proxy indicators – it is bound to be a hit-or-miss exercise. A landless household, for instance, may or may not be poor, and similarly with a Scheduled Caste or female-headed household. The fact that a household may be well-off today, but poor tomorrow (due, say, to illness, displacement or unemployment) does not help matters. Last but not least, the power equations in the rural areas are such that any BPL survey is liable to be manipulated. There is no reason to expect the next BPL survey to be more reliable than the last one.


Targeting is also divisive: it prevents the emergence of a cohesive public demand for a functional PDS. And vocal demand is very important for the success of the PDS. This is one reason why the PDS works much better in Tamil Nadu than elsewhere: everyone has a stake in it. Chhattisgarh's recent success builds on the same principle – about 80 per cent of the rural population is covered.


In short, targeting is an ugly business, and it would be particularly dangerous to "freeze" the BPL-APL distinction into law. That will amount to converting a purely statistical benchmark, the "poverty line," into a permanent social division. Surely, the purpose of the Food Security Act is not to manufacture class conflict?


For all these reasons, serious consideration must be given to the obvious alternative – a universal Public Distribution System, at least in the rural areas and urban slums. Consider the potential benefits first: every family will have food assured in the house, month after month. Gone will be the days of cold hearths and empty stomachs. For those at risk of hunger, the PDS will be a lifeline. For others, it will be a form of income support and social security – valuable things to have, even when you are not hungry. The case for universalisation builds on this "dual purpose" of the PDS – food security and income support.


The nutrition impact of the PDS, one may argue, is likely to be limited even in the "universal" version. This may well be true. One reason is that the PDS may not do much for young children – the crucial age group as far as nutrition is concerned. What most children need is not more foodgrains but more nutritious food (including animal protein), better breastfeeding practices, health care and related support. They need to be fatter at birth, which requires further interventions (important in their own right) related to women's health and maternal entitlements. Special programmes are needed for marginalised groups such as the urban homeless. Thus, a universal PDS is only one part of an effective system of food and nutrition security.


This is not likely to come cheap. Tentative calculations suggest that a comprehensive Food Security Act may cost something like one lakh crore rupees a year. This may sound like a mind-boggling price tag, but it is not. For one thing, in a country where half the children are undernourished, there is no quick fix — any serious attempt to deal with mass undernourishment is bound to be expensive. For another, one lakh crore rupees is just about 1.5 per cent of India's Gross Domestic Product. Is that an excessive price to pay to protect everyone from hunger?


Incidentally, India already spends more than that sum on things that are rather trivial compared with the right to food. I am not just thinking of military expenditure, which could do with some pruning, especially when it is being used also for internal repression. The fertilizer subsidy is in the range of one lakh crore rupees a year, with doubtful social benefits, not to speak of the environmental damage. And the annual "revenue foregone" on account of tax exemptions is more than five lakh crore rupees, according to the Finance Minister's own "Foregone Revenue Statement." This includes about Rs. 80,000 crore of corporate income tax foregone (some of it "on account of contributions to political parties") and nearly Rs. 40,000 crore of foregone customs duties on "vegetables, fruits, cereals and edible oils."


The "food subsidy" itself is already around Rs. 70,000 crore. The problem is not so much that this subsidy level is too low, but that it is badly used. A telling symptom of this today is the mindless accumulation of nearly 60 million tonnes of grain in government warehouses. Instead of whining about food inflation, and blaming "hoarders" for it, the government would do well to release some of the gigantic food stocks.


This is not to dismiss the resource constraints. One way ahead will be to introduce universal PDS, say, in the poorest 200 districts, and extend it gradually to the whole country – much as in the case of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Today's excess stocks will be of great help in the initial phase of this transition. Five years from now, the cost of a comprehensive food security system will be closer to 1 per cent than 1.5 per cent of GDP, if the current rates of growth continue. Meanwhile there will be enough time to enhance food procurement and mobilise extra funds. The roadmap is clear: promote local procurement and tax the rich.


None of this, of course, will be of much use unless the PDS can be made to work. Universalisation itself will help in that respect, as argued earlier. But systemic reforms of the PDS are required, building on the wealth of insights that have been gained from recent initiatives to restore transparency and accountability in various domains. If Chhattisgarh can turn the PDS around, why not other States?


The National Food Security Act is not going to eliminate malnutrition in one go. But it could be the end of hunger, and the beginning of a new movement for the realisation of everyone's right to good nutrition. Let all this be clear before the idea is dismissed as unaffordable.


(The author is Honorary Professor at the Delhi School of Economics.)












Climate scientists at a top U.K. research unit have emerged from an inquiry with their reputations for honesty intact but with a lack of openness criticised. The Independent Climate Change Email Review was set up by the University of East Anglia (UEA) after more than 1,000 e-mails were hacked from its servers.


Climate "sceptics" claimed the e-mails showed that UEA scientists manipulated and suppressed key climate data. But these accusations are largely dismissed by the report. The review found nothing in the e-mails to undermine Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.


The review, chaired by former civil servant Sir Muir Russell, has spent months reading submissions sent in by climate scientists and their critics and interviewing key players, notably scientists within the university's Climatic Research Unit (CRU). It concludes that "their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt." This was one of the main charges that sceptics had levelled against CRU researchers.


However, it says "there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness," notable over complying with Freedom of Information (FoI) requests. CRU scientists were too quick to dismiss critics from outside their own circles, it says.


Sir Muir said the methods the inquiry team used ought to allay fears that this was a whitewash. "It's inevitable that people who've made up their minds [beforehand] have made up their minds," he said.


"But we haven't ducked the issues... we've gone to the heart of the issues to resolve them as best we can."


Edward Acton, UEA vice-chancellor, said the review should ``finally lay to rest the conspiracy theories, untruths and misunderstandings that have circulated. "We hope this exoneration of UEA climate scientists and their research collaborators around the world, some of whom have suffered considerably during this experience, will be widely reported."


He said the university accepted the inquiry's criticisms on lack of openness and compliance with FoI legislation, and that he had written to all staff at the university reminding them of their responsibilities.


Meanwhile Professor Phil Jones, the former CRU director at the centre of many of the allegations, has taken up the new post of director of research within the unit. Professor Acton said this would allow him to continue his research while others shouldered more of the administrative burden, including taking primary responsibility for FoI requests.


Dr. Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, an influential sceptical think tank, said that the report was a "damning indictment of the university's handling of freedom of information requests."


He told BBC News: "There is clearly strong evidence of mishandling of the requests (by the CRU) and strong criticism of its failure to provide legitimate information. I don't think the university can just claim that this is a vindication."


Dr. Peiser added that that the issue would "not go away with this report."


"We [the Global Warming Policy Foundation] have now commissioned our own inquiry into the way these three inquiries have been set up and run," he said. "I don't know anyone among the critics who has been swayed by the first two."


'Unfounded allegations'


The e-mails released last November amounted to about 0.3 per cent of the material on the hacked UEA server, the panel said. They explained that the remainder was in the hands of police investigating the breach. However, conditions imposed by the police had made it impossible for the team to go through all the rest of the material.


The e-mails, along with other documents, cover a period dating back to 1997 and were released into the public domain just before the Copenhagen climate summit last year, with some seeing it as a political act designed to destabilise the summit. CRU produces one of the four most widely used records of global temperature, which have been key to the IPCC's conclusions that the planet's surface is warming and that humanity's greenhouse gas emissions are very likely to be responsible.


Critics have alleged that the unit's scientists withheld temperature data from weather stations and also kept secret the computer algorithms needed to process the data into a record of global temperature. The review concludes these allegations are unfounded. "We find that CRU was not in a position to withhold access to such data or tamper with it," it says.


"We demonstrated that any independent researcher can download station data directly from primary sources and undertake their own temperature trend analysis."


Writing computer code to process the data "took less than two days and produced results similar to other independent analyses. No information from CRU was needed to do this."


Sir Muir commented: "So we conclude that the argument that CRU has something to hide does not stand up."


Asked whether it would be reasonable to conclude that anyone claiming instrumental records were unavailable or vital code missing was incompetent, another panel member, Professor Peter Clarke from Edinburgh University, said: "It's very clear that anyone who'd be competent enough to analyse the data would know where to find it. It's also clear that anyone competent could perform their own analysis without let or hindrance."


The university also did not withhold temperature data derived from tree rings, the inquiry concluded. But access to the data "was not simple until it was archived in 2009."


On one occasion, when presenting a graph combining tree-ring and instrumental data to the World Meteorological Organisation, it should have made clearer the way in which the data was combined. The inquiry found no evidence that CRU researchers distorted the peer review process employed by scientific journals, or unduly influenced IPCC reports by ignoring research papers that contradicted their own findings. This is the third and most comprehensive review into the CRU issue, and has reached similar conclusions to the previous two.


At the end of March, a report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said the unit should be more open and transparent and must comply with Freedom of Information laws. And in April, a second inquiry criticised sometimes "messy" practices within the unit and suggested closer liaison with professional statisticians.


But neither found any evidence of malpractice. Both reviews were criticised in "sceptical" circles as superficial and lacking in balance.


On Monday, a review commissioned by the Dutch government into the IPCC's projections of climate impacts found "no errors that would undermine the main conclusions" — that man-made climate change poses a significant threat in many regions of the world.


Dr. Chris Huntingford from the U.K.'s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said that research in to the global environment had shifted in the last two decades, from being "an intellectual curiosity, to one of utmost importance."


"I'm quietly confident the research community will rise to this challenge, being kept 'on our toes' by the ever increasing levels of examination," he said.


— © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times yndicate











Collapses this spring at a couple of ancient sites in Rome caused weary archaeologists to warn, yet again, about other imminent calamities threatening the city's precarious architectural birthright.


Meanwhile, the smart set went gaga when an ostentatious national museum for contemporary art, Maxxi, opened recently, along with an expansion to the city — run new — art museum, Macro. That was just after Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno, convened a conference for planners and architects to mull a bid for the 2020 Olympics as an incentive to update Italy's capital. Contemporary architecture now promises to be the engine and symbol of a new creative identity for Rome that, if development is done right for a change, would complement the city's glorious past.


"What does Rome want to be when it grows up?" is how Richard Burdett, a planner from London with Italian roots, put the situation the other day. He meant the situation of Rome at a crossroads, struggling ahead, falling behind.


Change is never easy here. When a museum designed by Richard Meier, a glass and marble building to house the Ara Pacis, opened a few years ago, Romans howled. But then, it resembles a clunky, fascist mausoleum. Maxxi, whose style presents a whole other set of problems, has fared much better in terms of public approval, attracting some 74,000 visitors in its first month and accelerating talk by leaders like Alemanno about Rome in the 21st century.


But it's one thing for politicians to support a new headline-grabbing museum. The art crowd rolls into town, bestows its blessing, then rolls out. It's another to take on grittier challenges like immigration, transportation and sprawl.


Even culture


A nation whose identity and fiscal survival rests on it now devotes 0.21 per cent of its state budget (and that figure has been dropping), which is about one-fifth of the percentage that France devotes, to theatre, film, exhibitions, music and museums, not to mention the upkeep of all those thousands of historical sites for which there is still no master conservation plan.


And there's nothing close to a thought-out approach to shaping this city's new identity, either, just a burst of mixed architecture creating facts on the ground and a fresh hunger for something better. The problems facing Rome are not going to be solved by a few big stars designing buildings but by a larger effort to rethink a city that has swiftly grown to 3.7 million inhabitants, almost all of them outside the historic centre, where its past is crumbling.


How to balance old and new? It's a familiar quandary. The Roman architect Massimiliano Fuksas is now conceiving an immense congress centre on a highway built by Mussolini to connect centre and sea. To one side of that centre, the Luigi Pigorini Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography, a 1930s glory of limestone, stained glass, light and air, epitomizes the modernising aspirations of an earlier day.


To the other side, new apartment blocks are to be designed by Renzo Piano, whose Parco della Musica performing arts complex, inoffensive and pragmatic, opened a few years ago just outside the city centre, to general satisfaction.


This area where the Pigorini is, by contrast, never took off as it was meant to before the war. Most Romans don't venture to the ethnography museum after grade school, although they'll wax nostalgic when reminded of it. Fuksas' building adds a giant bauble in what's still the middle of nowhere, albeit it's too early to say for sure what this stretch of suburb will become when the congress hall opens, and housing arrives. What's clear is only that the effort to push Rome's livable, cultural space outward from the centre is a step in the right direction. Just a step.


Or, as Fuksas phrased it, "Architecture is interesting, but by itself it means nothing."


Especially when some of the best of it is falling down. Exhibit A: the Domus Aurea, the Golden Villa that Nero built near the Colosseum, where a vaulted gallery fell this spring. Nobody was hurt, fortunately. That's because the place has been closed since 2008, plagued by structural problems and humidity, which threatens the frescoes. To much fanfare, the city opened part of the site for tourists in 1999. Then heavy rain collapsed a section of roof, the site was closed, reopened a while later, then closed again.


A commission assigned to address the problem spent millions but didn't forestall the latest mishap. Construction workers were fussing with earthmovers, bits and pieces of ancient columns, broken pots and scaffolding one recent morning. Fedora Filippi, a veteran archaeologist lately put in charge, pointed out where the roof gave way in what is actually an adjacent gallery built under Trajan, after Nero. Rain seeped from a park above, she said. Everybody has known about the leaking for ages. But the park is city—owned, and the Domus Aurea is national property, so the problem is no one's to solve.


"Everyone is paralysed," Filippi said. "We have problems specific to this site and, yes, we have Italian problems, too."


After the Domus Aurea gave way, some chunks fell off the Colosseum. Salvo Barrano, vice president of Italy's Association of National Archaeologists, afterward listed threats to the aqueducts, the Palatine. The country is basically one giant archaeological site, Barrano said, with every town and region vying for resources, no politician willing to make hard choices, and too few qualified engineers and archaeologists in charge.


"The problem for the last 12 or 13 years is that the country has stopped investing in culture," he said. "In cases like the Domus Aurea, there just isn't a quick enough political payoff for politicians to invest more resources."


Barrano drew a few graphs and flow charts on a sheet of scrap paper, a Dante-like diagram of multilayered chaos, to describe Italy's culture administration. He sighed.


But then along comes Maxxi, at $223 million, indulged over a decade during which the government changed three times. The architect Zaha Hadid was hired to do for Rome what Frank Gehry did for Bilbao, Spain _ never mind that Rome is not Bilbao. Gehry's branch of the Guggenheim Museum put a previously obscure city on the culture map; in Maxxi's case, it's an obscure residential neighborhood beyond the old walls, although the hope is that the museum might get tourists thinking of Rome in general as a destination for new art, not just old.


Truth be told, the museum, begun in a climate of architectural hype that countenanced impractical, sometimes impossible, spaces in the name of sexy but increasingly clichid curves, has an air of already bygone taste. While money was poured almost entirely into (often inelegant) construction, Maxxi's collection and programming, not to mention its bare-bones though top-flight staff, have had to scrape by with what was left. It was a clear case of exactly what Rome lacks.


"Foresight" was Fuksas' word for it. He was giving a hardhat tour of the congress building the other afternoon, pointing out where an auditorium shaped like twisted taffy will float atop the roof overlooking what's now a city more populous than Paris.


``So the true city is no longer the historic one but the one on the so-called periphery, and to become successful we need to accept a new concept of greater Rome," Fuksas added. "Immigrants need to sleep somewhere, after all, even the illegal ones."


New Rome, old Rome. Roberto Cecchi, in charge of overseeing the city's prized but crumbling archaeological sites, had a strikingly similar refrain: "Roman engineers worried 2,000 years ago about maintaining the city," he said. "We must set down methods and rules. We must start to think ahead, not just respond when crises happen."


So in theory everyone's on the same page.


But who knows? This is Rome. Some things are eternal.


— New York Times News Service









More than one in four of all flowering plants are under threat of extinction, according to an alarming report by scientists. Many of nature's most colourful specimens could be lost to the world before scientists even discover them, say the researchers, whose work was published on Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


The results reflect similar global studies of other species groups by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which estimates that one in five of all mammals, nearly one in three amphibians and one in eight birds are at risk of being wiped out.


Later this year the results of a huge global analysis by the Royal Botanic Gardens, in Kew, west London, of all the world's estimated 400,000 plants are due to be published by the IUCN as part of its mission to assess the state of all life on Earth.


Alarming figures


"[This year] marks the international year of biodiversity," said Stuart Pimm, of Duke University in North Carolina, one of the authors of the report. "The focus of this celebration has often been on the species we know of, along with discussions on the unprecedented challenge of conserving this biodiversity in the face of threats such as habitat loss.


"However, by asking just how many species we will lose before they are even discovered, our study has revealed a figure that is truly alarming." The researchers reviewed how many flowering plants — which make up most of the plant kingdom — exist. By considering the rate at which new specimens are being described to science, adjusted to reflect the growing number of scientists, and interviewing experts who focus on different botanic groups, the team calculated that on top of the existing "best estimate" of 352,282 flowering plants there are another 10 to 20 per cent, or 35,000 to 70,000, still to be officially discovered. The second stage of their research was to assess the level of threats from habitat loss.


"If we take the number of species that are known to be threatened, and add to that those that are yet to be discovered, we can estimate that between 27 per cent and 33 per cent of all flowering plants will be threatened with extinction," said one co-author, David Roberts, of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent.


The paper adds: "These estimates are based on immediate threat, and do not consider further development of destructive factors — including climate disruption." The warning comes amid growing international recognition of the practical value of the natural world.


"Plants are the basis for much of life on Earth, with virtually all other species depending on them; if you get rid of those you get rid of a lot of the things above them," said Roberts.


— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010






An ocean amusement park in northeast China's Liaoning Province has purchased four dolphins this year, but these dolphins are not intended for amusement, but for treating children suffering from autism, a neural disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication as well as repetitive behaviour.


The dolphins, brought from Japan in June with five million yuan ($738,000), began to work with young patients after a month' s adaptation and training, said Chen Rujun, chief inspector of animals at Royal Ocean World (ROW) in Fushun City, Liaoning.


"ROW has provided therapy for autistic children since 2007 when we had three dolphins as 'doctors', treating more than 20 children ranging from 2-years to 10-years-old," Chen said.


Each child would come here 12 times a month, playing with a dolphin as therapy, and the effect would depend on the amount of time for therapy, he said.


A five-year-old boy from Anshan City, who used to be able to only speak a few words, could go to kindergarten and even sing along with songs on TV after a one-and-half-month treatment, Chen told Xinhua.


The treatment used to be free of charge, but there is an emerging demand and ROW is now charging each family 2,000 yuan per month, and less for poor families. — Xinhua









Vaulting ambition is the flaw of the young Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is resuming his much-hyped Odarpu yatra on Thursday in defiance of the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. The yatra is ostensibly meant to console the families of those who died after the demise of his father and former chief minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, in a helicopter crash last year. But nobody believes that this is the real purpose.

Thursday is YSR's birthday and the Odarpu (condolence) yatra will begin in Srikakulam district, where YSR's famous padayatra of 2004 had concluded. It is all charged with the symbolism that Mr Jagan is YSR's real "political heir". Unmindful of the nuances of Congress politics, Mr Jagan, who had joined the party little more than a year ago and who became an MP in last year's elections, appears determined to challenge Mrs Gandhi. He has ignored the party high command diktat not to cross the "Lakshman Rekha". The 38-year-old MP seems to be angry that he was not allowed to occupy the chief minister's chair which fell vacant with the death of YSR. He has not yet been able to reconcile himself to Mrs Gandhi's selection of Mr K. Rosaiah, a senior politician, as his father's successor. Mr Jagan was given sane advice — to bide his time and grow in the political sense before aiming for the big post. Instead, he appears to have developed a deep grouse that somebody has deprived him of his rightful due, the chief minister's chair.

From the start he was opposed to the Rosaiah government and had even criticised it openly. And now he is using the "Odarpu yatra" as a tool to make his point. Nobody would have objected if Mr Jagan had visited these unfortunate families in a low-key manner. Instead, his earlier tours of West Godavari and Khammam districts saw much fanfare, road shows, unveiling of YSR statues and delivering of speeches. He was accompanied by a big motorcade. Hardly the stuff of condolence. The Congress high command understands only too well that the yatra is an attempt by Mr Jagan to develop his clout in the name of YSR and dictate terms to the party. But in his hurry Mr Jagan seems to have forgotten that every political leader, including his father YSR, is the creation of a party as well. Out of the organisation even the tallest leader becomes a dwarf. If Mr Jagan merely recalled his father's life, he would realise that YSR, despite his daring, did not tempt fate.

Mr Jagan's supporters are using the other — specious — argument that the Nehru family is also following dynastic politics. But they seem to have forgotten that right from Indira Gandhi, leaders of the family spent years understanding politics before taking up major responsibilities. Mr Rahul Gandhi, after a full term as MP, is still learning the ropes and is modest enough to say so. But apparently Mr Jagan thinks his demand to be made chief minister just five months after his formal entry into politics is legitimate. This feeling has provoked him to defy the party leadership and perhaps spoil his own future. Mr Jagan has his strengths: he has statewide appeal, agility and youth. But helacks the most important virtues of them all — patience and prudence.








The sacking of General Stanley McChrystal comes at a crucial juncture in the war in Afghanistan. Days before he was shown the door, the American commander had warned in an internal assessment of a "resilient and growing insurgency". In his public comments too he had been pouring cold water on fervent expectations of significant progress by the end of the year. Firing him at this point could not have been an easy decision for US President Barack Obama. But the general had undeniably breached the norms of military subordination to the civilian authority. It is tempting to explain away his actions as a lamentable indiscretion — not least because Gen. McChrystal had become something of a hero for his role in turning around the war in Iraq. But it would be wrong to do so; for the episode stems from a deeper malaise in American civil-military relations.
The roots of the problem stretch back to the Korean War. In the aftermath of the North Korean invasion of the South, US President Harry Truman acted on the advice of his military commanders. He allowed the American forces to rollback the invading forces beyond the 38th parallel right up to the Yalu river near the border with China. This prompted the Chinese to enter the fray, resulting in a retreat of American forces. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (Japan) and Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations Command (Korea), wanted to restore the situation by adopting measures that would certainly have led to a wider war. Truman, however, was unwilling to risk a larger conflagration. Faced with MacArthur's persistent insubordination, he sacked the general, an act for which Truman paid a considerable political price.
The Korean War foreshadowed a problem that would plague wartime civil-military relations for decades. The military chafed at the restraints imposed on them in "limited wars" and demanded a free-hand in dealing with adversaries. Furthermore, the war opened a crack between the military establishment and the presidents of the Democratic Party — one that would eventually widen into a yawning gulf. With Truman's successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, these problems remained dormant. For Eisenhower had a military reputation unrivalled by any living American.

But the problems resurfaced during the tenure of John F. Kennedy. The appointment of Robert McNamara as secretary of defence introduced a new set of institutional tensions. McNamara sought to challenge the authority and judgment of the service chiefs by bringing into the Pentagon both his own team of civilian analysts and new-fangled techniques of systems analysis. The military, in turn, provided advice that was astonishingly unsophisticated and unmindful of the peculiar problems posed by the advent of thermonuclear weapons. The onset of a string of crises — in Berlin, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam — underscored the strain between the civilians and the military. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, for instance, President Kennedy sought only to remove the missiles from Cuba; but the military initially set the objective as a full-fledged invasion of the country.
The subsequent war in Vietnam decisively poisoned American civil-military relations. The military believed that it was the civilians' insistence on a strategy of "graduated escalation" that lay behind the failure in Vietnam. The American military came up with a curious reading of the nature of the conflict. They believed that it was actually a conventional war; one that ought to have been fought with North Vietnam instead of pussyfooting with aerial bombardment and counterinsurgency in the South. The post-Vietnam military took a conscious decision never again to get bogged down in this fashion. Instead of reconsidering its flawed counterinsurgency practices, the military aggressively reinvented itself as a first-rate institution for waging conventional wars.

A corollary to this was to refashion the military institutionally to be able to "stand up" to civilians. The "slide rule prodigies" as Colin Powell — a major during the Vietnam War — would call them, had to be met on equal terms. After the searing experience of Vietnam, the military began sending its officers to top-ranking graduate schools to acquire the requisite educational qualification and confidence to deal with McNamaras of the future. Slowly but surely the military began to re-establish its primacy on operational matters. Fighting units were reconfigured to involve a sizeable component of reservists. The idea was to make it impossible for the forces to be deployed without calling-up the reserves. This would, of course, make the civilians think hard before plunging the military into the "wrong" wars.

The post-Vietnam military also turned visibly uncomfortable with the Democratic Party. This was because of President Lyndon Johnson's ostensible failures and because of the emergence of the Vietnam doves to the forefront of the Democratic Party. The military's political leanings were reinforced during the Jimmy Carter years, particularly by the disastrous failure of the mission to rescue hostages in Iran.
The end of the Cold War brought fresh challenges for the American military. They were now deprived of the potential enemy that could justify a massive conventional force. The Gulf War of 1991 was in many ways the moment of glory for the Vietnam-scarred military. The subsequent engagements — in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo — were smaller and more amorphous conflicts that the military wished to avoid. The civilians, of course, had a rather different view. And the resulting tensions were quite sharp.

These were exacerbated by the fact that during this period the country was led by a Democratic President. Bill Clinton had a harrowing time dealing with military over a range of issues. An Air Force general, Harold Campbell, went so far as to describe him as a "dope-smoking", "skirt-chasing", "draft-dodging" commander-in-chief. Campbell was forced out, but the institutional tensions remained.

The disdain for Mr Obama displayed by Gen. McChrystal is a product of long-standing institutional tensions. The peculiar strategic problems posed by the conflict in Afghanistan have lent an edge to civil-military interactions. Gen. McChrystal's successor, General David Petraeus, is more politically cautious as well as strategically savvy. But his ability to work with his commander-in-chief may well determine the course of the war in the coming months.


Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi








The government's ponderings over whether to allow foreign direct investment in retail seem to be reaching the end game. It has suggested that global retail brands be allowed entry into India — so far they have only been allowed 100% investment in the wholesale business. This move will give the Indian consumer access to the mega store discount experience, now a standard in the developed world.

The delay in this decision lay in the possible danger to the small kirana shops on which India is dependent and the ensuing political drama over the entry of these international chains. The fear is that warehouse style discount chains will swallow up neighbourhood retailers or run them out of business. To prevent that and to protect small, local shops, a shopping mall regulation act is being suggested with a centrally administered agency to monitor compliance. On the face of it, this is a sensible move as the possible loss of livelihood with the closing of small shops would be most unfortunate.

The fact is that with economic liberalisation and the other social changes we have already tasted the consumer experience. We have international brands and chains in India now — a far cry from the days when Coca-Cola and IBM were asked to leave. It is just that we have not had them at the grocery or supermarket retail level — although we do have Indian supermarket chains which have tasted some success.


The problem of mom-and-shops and their possible disappearance is a piquant one. There is undoubtedly charm in the small shop and there is also the convenience of proximity. But as lifestyles change, younger generations may prefer the experience of driving to some gigantic warehouse which stocks everything and making a choice once a week. We are as yet some while away from such a massive social change. And the convenience of the small shop close by is irreplaceable.

Ultimately, the compulsions of politics aside, commercial needs and the preference of the buyer will determine our shopping patterns. Initial protection will go a small way, until choice kicks in. In the developed world, Europe has still clung to the small shop and the speciality shop while also patronising the super and mega markets. The US has largely preferred the gigantic all-under-one-roof concept. India will make its own decision based on its social and economic needs.






Behind the turmoil of street protests in Jammu and Kashmir is the tragic tale of political lapses — of judgment and action. Chief minister Omar Abdullah is painfully aware that things were not handled well enough and that they had got out of hand. But admission of failure is not the best thing in a critical moment. The Central government does not seem to have been too helpful.

Home minister P Chidambaram's statement that the trouble was to be traced to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a simplification of the issue and ignoring the local discontents, which could be more dangerous than the external elements and which could easily be supported by foreign sources. The latest statement of Omar Abdullah that there is need for political dialogue is both dangerously and infuriatingly vague. If the chief minister feels that there is a need to engage the separatist Hurriyat leaders, then he should say it in as many words. If the Central government, including prime minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram are of the view that there is need for behind-the-doors engagement with the Hurriyat, then they should plunge into it with a sense of purpose and not see it as a mere pretext to counter the American pressure to address the Kashmir issue and to keep Pakistan at bay. The terms of dialogue will have to be made very clear so that the separatists, the Americans and Pakistanis have nowhere to hide.

The main opposition party, led by Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party (PDP) has adopted the ambivalent and ambiguous politics — laid down by her father Mufti Mohammed Sayeed — of taking a sympathetic position towards the separatists as a way of maintaining the tricky balance of not being seen as a pro-New Delhi party, and though it makes a lot of political sense in the short term, it doesn't address the real issues.


The PDP as well as the NC also harp on the point that Pakistan is an element in the solution to the Kashmir problem, each in its own way. Linking peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan is both gratuitous and dangerous.

The National Conference-Congress coalition is proving to be disastrous as it once did in 1980s because that seems to send out the message that the NC is playing second fiddle to New Delhi. But the solution to it does not lie in confrontational politics with the Central government. These false positions and dichotomies have to be abandoned if the situation in J&K is to be assessed and handled right.








Anybody who has been watching the Kashmir tragedy unfold on live television will know who's the aggressor, who's on the defensive. The mobs are running riot, provoking, attacking and bullying the police and armed forces. The latter are withdrawing into their shells, trying to defend themselves as best as they can. If we still hear about civilian deaths daily, it's not too difficult to imagine why: when the attackers get too close or threatening, the men in uniform fire, and someone, sometimes drops dead. It's not really about a trigger-happy force.

This is not the time to demoralise our men in uniform. They are fighting the nation's battles in extremely adverse conditions. Our politicians keep screwing up continuously, and we then send in the forces to bring back some semblance of order. But the human rights rabble-rousers would like us to believe that our armed forces are little more than criminals. This is completely unacceptable.

One is not trying to defend the indefensible. One is not saying our armed forces should be let loose on a hapless civilian population to rape and murder at will. There is more rape and murder in lawless Delhi than in Kashmir. But we want to paint the armed forces as the villains of Kashmir. Libertarians need to think about the rights of uniformed Indians as much as civilians.


Let's be clear why the armed forces are there in the first place. Kashmir is where embattled secularism is trying to hold its own against sectarianism. We are not talking here of the rights and wrongs of what happened in 1947-48, when the Hindu ruler of Kashmir signed away his Muslim majority state's right to secede.


The rules of legal secession were broken by both Pakistan and India, and revisiting the past serves no purpose today.

We are now in the 21st century, where the biggest threat to peace is the prospect of religious bigotry and the emergence of wild-eyed young men salivating at the prospect of cosmic war and suicidal jehad. As Reza Aslan,

an Iranian writer and author of How

To Win a Cosmic War, writes: "A cosmic war partitions the world into black and white, good and evil, us and them. In such a war there is no middle ground; everyone must choose a side."

No nation can win a cosmic war of the kind the jehadis are forcing down our throats in Kashmir. When religion and god are being conscripted on one side, we are no longer fighting for ordinary issues like jobs or education. Armies and policemen are ill-equipped to fight cosmic wars. They try to do their best in trying circumstances.

What once started as a move to protect Kashmir's unique identity has now metamorphosed into a fight for Islam. No Hindu or Buddhist Kashmiri is rooting for azadi. Kashmiriyat has given way to Islamiyat — which is what the Pakistanis want it to be, and the valley's citizens are willy-nilly being dragged into it. This is why the valley was ethnically cleansed and why there are no voices opposing azadi there anymore.

True secularists have to fight this kind of sectarianism by shifting the focus to secular issues. We have to rebuild the Kashmiri economy, so that Kashmiris — temporarily carried away by emotive calls for Muslim azadi — realise that they are destroying their own syncretic culture. Aslan's advice to those who are fighting the jehadis is simple: don't engage with them. Focus on everyday issues and forget the cosmic angle completely.

Sheikh Abdullah chose India over Pakistan and converted his Muslim Conference into National Conference precisely because he saw that Kashmiriyat is safer in pluralist India than in Islamic Pakistan. While politicians, including Nehru and Rajiv, have repeatedly messed things up for narrow electoral gains, India has kept the promise of allowing Kashmiris greater rights than non-Kashmiris in that state. No Indian can own land or settle permanently in Kashmir, thus guaranteeing Kashmiris their ethnic majority and exclusivity. We could have allowed Indians from outside Kashmir to emigrate to Kashmir and change the ethnic composition, like Israel did in Palestine, but we didn't.

It is also important to question liberals who see the army and police as an occupying force in Kashmir. But this is missing the complexity of the situation. When guarding one VIP takes scores of Black Cats, why is it difficult to believe that keeping the peace in one restive state can take a large army?


It's also worth remembering what laws we want to write into our statute books to prevent communalism in other states. We want to give the Centre the right to intervene if communal forces get out of hand anywhere. We want the Centre to send in troops if a Gujarat happens again. But a Gujarat is what is happening in Kashmir and we don't want to accept the analogy. How long can we afford to not face reality?









THE monsoons are an annual occurrence. Equally regular are the tall claims made prior to them by officials that all flood control measures are in place. But most of these have been washed away right at the start of the rainy season this year, with many places like Ambala being flooded hopelessly. The whole region has been going through a harrowing time, taking away the joy of receiving the much-awaited rain. The common man went down under mainly because the boasts of preparedness made by various departments like those of irrigation, drainage and sanitation were only on paper. When the rain came, none of them stood the test. At most places, the sufferers had to fend for themselves, rather than government agencies stepping in to lessen their misery.


The fury of nature has been compounded by human avarice. In rural areas, ponds have vanished. These not only used to store considerable amount of water but also replenished underground aquifers. Many of the new colonies have come up on beds of seasonal rivulets. Many others have no storm water drainage facilities. Many municipalities do not have funds to keep sewerage functional, let alone setting up new sewer lines. It is ironical that while Punjab and Haryana fight over river waters, they do not make any serious attempt to harvest rainwater, which not only goes waste but also causes floods.


The situation has been made worse by the breaching of various canals. The root cause is that there has been a sharp decline in the amount spent on cleaning and maintaining the canal system. Even this meagre sum goes more towards lining the pockets of contractors and officials than towards the lining of canals. All these errors of commission and omission combined this time to rain misery on Punjab, Haryana and many other states. The end result is that the people who had been praying all along for bountiful monsoons have already started wishing that there is no more downpour. What an irony! 








THE battle lines in Andhra Pradesh are clearly drawn with a defiant Kadapa MP, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, having decided to resume his second phase of yatra from Icchapuram in Srikakulam district on July 8 and the Congress high command sternly warning him not to do so. On June 29, Congress president Sonia Gandhi advised Jagan, son of the late Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, not to undertake the yatra through the sensitive Telangana region, still tense over the statehood controversy. She told him that if he wanted to console the kin of those who either committed suicide or died of shock following his father's death in an air crash last October, they could be assembled at one spot and given financial help. However, he rejected her suggestion. His first phase of the yatra was suspended on May 28 after the Mahbubnagar violence by Telangana protesters.


Many observers see the yatra as Jagan's desperate attempt to bully the high command following his failure to fast-track his political career and get himself catapulted to the Chief Minister's chair. As Chief Minister K. Rosaiah is firmly in the saddle, Jagan has been trying to wrest the chair from him, little realising that capturing power is not always a cakewalk. While Rosaiah himself can boast of decades of experience in the party and as a minister in successive governments, the late Rajasekhara Reddy slowly worked up the party ladder and took 25 years to become the Chief Minister.


Meanwhile, Rosaiah has sent a curt message to the party MLAs not to join the second phase of Jagan's yatra, as participation in it would amount to indiscipline. Though it would be premature to guess how many MLAs would now join his yatra, it is clear that he is steadily losing his hold over the party and the legislators. Indeed, according to indications available, fearing disciplinary action by the high command, ministers, MLAs and other senior leaders close to Jagan have decided to boycott the yatra. It is a moot point what action the high command will take against Jagan for his open defiance of its diktat. But he would do well to understand that compliance, not defiance of the party directive, and some amount of patience may help him gain the leadership's confidence. Bullying the party through blackmailing tactics will take him nowhere.









Considering the sporadic violence political parties resorted to once again while enforcing Bharat Bandh on Monday, one would say there is a strong case for extending an earlier path-breaking direction issued by the Mumbai High Court. The court had held that political parties must be made to make good the losses caused by violence during bandhs. The high court had, in fact, imposed a fine of Rs 20 lakh each on the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2004-05 for calling and enforcing a bandh to protest against a terror attack. Acting on the direction, the Mumbai police had also managed to recover the cost of damaged public and private property in some cases. On Monday also the Mumbai police is learnt to have made good the use of the video cameras given to it in recording the acts of vandalism and violence by workers of the political parties while enforcing Bharat Bandh. Armed with such video footage, some of which was acquired from TV channels too, the police is expected to identify the miscreants and recover from them the cost or compensation.


The Supreme Court, which had upheld in 2007 a Kerala High Court order banning bandhs, clarified in 2009 that while bandhs or complete shutdowns were illegal, "strikes and hartals" were not. While industrial shutdowns are recognised as legitimate forms of protest, no industrial law, however, upholds violence or damage to public or private property. In any case, there can be no legal, moral or political justification for damaging public or private property or unleashing violence in a bid to enforce a bandh or a strike. While political parties are against imposing a total ban on bandhs as that would amount to stifling the voice of dissent, they should have no caveat to a consensus on a ban on violence.


There is, therefore, a strong case for having a specific law governing the role and liability of political parties and citizens during strikes and bandhs. It is necessary to make them accountable for their action during political protests and establish a legitimate system of recovering the losses for damages. 

















Addressing the annual dinner of the Royal Asiatic Society in London in 1908, when Czarist Russia was expanding its influence in Central Asia and the "Great Game" for power and influence in Afghanistan was on, Lord Curzon proclaimed: "If the Asia Society exists and is meeting in fifty or hundred years hence, Afghanistan will be as vital and important a question as it is now." His words were prophetic. The Soviet Union disintegrated in December 1991, after the western world chose to bleed Afghanistan during its ill-advised occupation of that country. More than a century after he spoke, the United States appears trapped in a quagmire, which many believe would lead to it becoming yet another Great Power bloodied and disgraced in a seemingly endless campaign in Afghanistan.


President Obama has declared that his country's objective is to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan." The American strategy has been to assist Afghanistan's elected government and build its military strength while at the same time using its forces to cripple the Taliban, which hosts Al-Qaeda on the territory it controls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Americans have also proceeded on the naive assumption that Pakistan would act decisively on its soil against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.


What has happened instead is that following the insensitive handling of Afghanistan's President and starry-eyed illusions that General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani could be charmed into ending ISI support for the Taliban, the Americans are finding themselves trapped in a political and military quagmire in Afghanistan. Concerned at the prospects of an early American withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Karzai, for long a bitter foe of the ISI, is now asking Pakistan's notorious intelligence agency to help him broker a deal involving "reconciliation" with Taliban military commander Sirajuddin Haqqani, a long-term "strategic asset" of the ISI, who has masterminded virtually every attack against Indians and the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan.


According to American academic Jeffrey Dressler, both Sirajuddin Haqqani and his father Jalaluddin Haqqani have been long-term assets of the ISI. They are both members of the ruling council of the Taliban, headed by Mullah Omar. Jalaluddin Haqqani, together with the ISI, has established and supported Osama bin Laden's jihadi network in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 1988. When the Americans invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, Osama escaped from the US bombing of the caves where he was hiding in Tora Bora. He was escorted to North Waziristan and has since been protected by the Haqqani network there.


The Haqqani network, now led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, openly claims that its support for Al-Qaeda today is "at its highest limit." It also provides haven and support to jihadis from Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, the Kurdish areas of Iran and Iraq and even from Germany. While General Kayani has stonewalled and stalled American requests to crackdown on the Haqqani network in North Waziristan on one pretext or another, the Americans were dumbfounded to learn that behind their backs the Pakistan Army was seeking to persuade President Karzai to give a leading role, probably involving de facto control of southern Afghanistan, to start with, to their protégé Sirajuddin Haqqani — an Islamic radical with inseparable links with Al-Qaeda.


The original sinner in this misguided attempt for "reintegration" and "reconciliation" with the Taliban is British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who evidently believed that by handing over the control of Afghanistan to the ISI, he could secure ISI support to deal with the radicals of Pakistani origin, now resident in the UK. The Russians have strongly opposed talks of "reconciliation" with the Taliban because they view any return of the Taliban as a recipe for radicalisation of Central Asia and the Caucasus. On July 1 an official spokesman of the Russian Foreign Office warned: "Attempts by the Afghan leadership with the support of western countries to establish a negotiation process with Taliban leaders to build a mechanism for national 'reconciliation' gives us serious cause for concern".


The spokesman added: "Work to return repentant Taliban militants to civilian life should not be replaced with a campaign to rehabilitate the entire Taliban movement". Alluding the Taliban demands for American withdrawal as a precondition for any dialogue, Chinese "analysts" aver: "War is prevailing and continuing (in Afghanistan) and the peace process has not started. Peace on the foundation of conditions is not possible if the Taliban are not weakened".


The question that arises is that why General Kayani, scheduled to retire in a few months, is so keen on pushing "reconciliation" with the Haqqani network, backed by his ISI geniuses, when a well-known American analyst like Dressler says: "The Haqqanis rely on Al-Qaeda for mass appeal, funding and training. In return, they provide Al-Qaeda with shelter and protection, to strike at foreign forces in Afghanistan and beyond. Any negotiated settlement with the Haqqanis threatens to undermine the raison d'être of US involvement in Afghanistan for over the past decade."


One can only conclude that like the Taliban leadership General Kayani and the ISI believe that Taliban resistance will force an early American exit from Afghanistan, with US readiness to agree to any settlement that helps in "face saving".


Concerned at the coming US withdrawal, President Karzai appears to be willing to cut a deal in desperation with the ISI and Mullah Omar, after peremptorily sacking or sidelining key officials suspicious of Pakistani intentions, like Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh and Army Chief General Bismillah Khan. Karzai himself is a Pashtun of the Durrani clan, which has constituted the ruling elite of Afghanistan since 1747 till the ISI-backed Taliban takeover in 1994 by Mullah Omar, who is a Ghilzai Pashtun. Sirajuddin Haqqani is also a Ghilzai Pashtun. The Ghilzais have not been as strong votaries of a "Pashtunistan" as the Durrani elite. Pakistan seeks to marginalise the Durranis and create a Durrani-Ghilzai divide, primarily to dilute and erode Pashtun nationalist sentiments.


These are the factors External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will have to bear in mind when he visits Kabul later this month. The Pakistan military evidently believes that bleeding the Americans out of Afghanistan is a prelude to dealing similarly later with India. General Kayani could, however, well be making political and diplomatic miscalculations akin to the blunders of other ambitious Generals like Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf who led Pakistan to grief. Presuming that the ISI can get the Taliban to bleed the Americans quickly out of Afghanistan is a strategy with far-reaching and dangerous implications. Pakistan's Generals may think they are clever. They are not necessarily wise.








Capture of Gwalior fort on a 200-feet-high scarped and isolated rock on August 3, 1780 was a rare military feat. When all else failed, Major Popham got made special set of cotton-stuffed boots for a rigorously trained small team under Captain Bruce. They climbed the fort-wall, jumped in noiselessly, quickly fought the guards and opened the gates for East India Company troops to enter.


The fort fell without loss of life. Popham was highly decorated and subsequently retired; but in final settlement, he found a hefty sum deducted. After enquiry, he learnt, audit had objected that those boots were neither in regulation nor was he the competent financial authority! This shows "Audit-department" for military forces existed even then, just as today!


Initially "audit-observations" are on rough sheets for a discussion at sub-unit (Major's) level; then with unit-QM (who, though a Captain, holds the key to all the 'materials'). 'Observations' can be nipped in the bud, before becoming 'objections', with advice from the auditors themselves. That secret can't be divulged!


There is fun too in audit! Pensioners have to submit annual certificates during November of being 'alive'! You miss your 'date' or the certificate, the pension misses you! High altitude allowance was objected to at a place, being a foot short of the defined height. CO replied that when standing, men fulfilled the requirements; objection was withdrawn.


Pointing out 'carelessness' in spelling snacks as 'snakes', its purchase from Annual Training Grant by the Commando Wing was once objected to. Army's reply: "It wasn't snacks but snakes for training of commandos"! Objection had to be waived off. (Remember Commando Nana Patekar, holding a snake in 'Prahaar')!


After WW-II, Britain took reparations from Japan and compensated British soldiers who had fought against Japan and the allies in Africa. But Indian soldiers were ignored. Our governments too did not, till very recently, as audit stated, "soldiers had fought for another government"!


On pickets troops normally leave after early breakfast, carrying packed lunch, to be self-contained during unforeseen delays due to landslides, rains etc: 'Ab ka khana pet mein, agla khana pack mein"! On arrival at Base, any good unit would give them a hot meal; with lunch-presence marked at both locations! Observing this and working out the number of extra rations, auditors said, unit must either pay or "under-draw" equal quantity. A visit to the same auditors to sort out the mess (pun intended) provided the answer: write to brigade for enquiry to verify the extra rations drawn, while quickly under-drawing that quantity. That was done within next week. Committee convened after a week could find nothing amiss!


Once in seven years, CAG-team ('Test-Audit-Team') visits. Their 'objections' become 'Audit Paras' in CAG-reports to Parliament. The juicier the find (like the electric carts in Chandigarh Golf Course allegedly meant for hospitals), the better the chances of a good ACR for the auditor.


Now from the air force. Unaware that each runway has two directions and only one is in use at a time, for landing/take-off, an objection was raised on construction of two runways in an airfield (eg, Magnetic Direction 09/18)! Auditor was taken to the airfield and explained; objection waived! Once a trainee-pilot lost his bearings and could not locate his base! Running out of fuel, he ejected. Court of Inquiry held none to blame as the pilot was inexperienced. Auditors agreed but with a proviso that "the lost bearings be recovered", not realising that the phrase meant 'relative position', a usage dating from the 1600s!


Finally, a classic. A son was born on the night of July 14 to the sergeant-major of a British Army regiment in India. The father proudly registered it and received acknowledgement that the name has been entered in the records w.e.f. July 15. Sergeant-major complained but was shown a paragraph in the Military Accounting Code (India) which read: 'Troops disembarking in the afternoon will be taken on strength as from the following morning, being deemed to have received rations on board before off-loading!'








The Sukhna Lake has filled up with the recent rainfall, but all is certainly not well with it. We need to look beyond the immediate future and find out ways in which this landmark of Chandigarh can be salvaged, The Tribune canvassed experts and sought their advice. Here are suggestions that can become the basis of a blueprint for action.


Do an ecological audit

R.K. Kohli 

Professor and Chairman,  

Botany Department,

Panjab University, Chandigarh


1. A thorough systematic 'Ecological Audit' of the wetland / catchment area and a thorough assessment of the soil texture, health, slope, above and below-surface water regime, apart from herbaceous and woody vegetation density, rhizosphere and biotic diversity of the whole catchment area and the wetland.


2. Watershed Management and Restoration Action Plan through gully control, vegetation contour 'bunding', water harvesting structures, etc.


3. Conservation of biodiversity and checking the introduction of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) of plants and animals.


4. Creation of permanent and active monitoring body of scientific experts for the maintenance of water quality and quantity.


5. Legislative and administrative measures with a mechanism of public participation.


Clean silt from lake-bed

Rajindra Singh

'Watermman' of Rajasthan


1. Check deforestation and plant more, particularly grass, to retain the water for recharging underground water reserves.


2. The project can provide better results under a single authority. Centre's intervention seems to be good option, in case of the Sukhna Lake.


3. The success story of silt dams in Aravari in Rajasthan has shown its impact on greening the catchment area.


4. The job of cleaning silt from the lake-bed, regularly, is of paramount importance in case of manmade lakes.

Be consistent & persistent

Medha Patkar

Narmada Bachao Andolan


1. Silt inflow will stop only if the soil is held together.

2. Vegetation holds the soil together and vegetation needs water. The process becomes complimentary after initial emphasis on plantation.


3. Silt retention dams are best suited for holding water sufficient for helping vegetation.


4. The catchment area of the lake is a forest area. So, instead of piecemeal handling, the project needs a comprehensive plan of action.


5. Once in a while efforts are not sufficient . The work and its implementation must be consistent, well-regulated and watched by the media. 


Empty all check dams

S.P. Malhotra, former Engineer-in-Chief,

Irrigation Department, Haryana

1. There is no fear of excessive inflow of silt in the lake. Hence, the de-silting process is not required any more.


2. There should be a rule to empty all check dams by October 15, so that the lake's share of water is not retained in them.


3. A mechanism should be devised and be put on the lake to ensure silt-free water in the lake.

Ban urbanisation of catchment area

S.S. Virdi

Former Chief Engineer and Secretary Engineering, UT


1. Draw a master plan by team of experts suggesting a time-bound action plan


2. Total ban on urbanisation of catchment area, especially in the villages, including Khuda Ali Sher, Kansal, Kaimbwala and Saketri.


3. Dig out storage capacity and clear weeds from the escape channel.


4. Monitoring the programme of each department on regular basis by a senior officer from the Centre. Once the lake gets restored, the monitoring should still be done by the Adviser.


5. Spray chemical fertilisers and grass seeds after very monsoon.

Plant local vegetation

Sunderlal Bahuguna

Founder of the Chipko Movement


1. Care needs to be exercised in picking a right kind of vegetation for the catchment area. Only local varieties should be preferred and water guzzlers like eucalyptus need to be avoided.


2. Afforestation policy must ensure that only those species which regulated the hydrological cycle, produced maximum oxygen and absorbed maximum carbon dioxide, besides meeting needs of the local community for fodder, fuel and food, are propagated.


3. Water does not stop naturally and will not percolate into the ground unless stopped with grass plantation over the area.


4. Chandigarh needs to follow a comprehensive and unified plan of action for saving Sukhna by combining efforts of involving the states of Punjab and Haryana which sharing the catchment area. The Centre needs to take over the project.


Make slew walls, spillways

Arjun Singh

Former Additional Director, 

Agriculture, Haryana


1. UT should spearhead a common centrally funded programme for the catchment area in totality irrespective of which state it falls into to start with.


2. The silted check dams in the catchment area should be desilted and surplus water in the check dams should be released by January every year, so that water level is maintained in the lake.


3. Spillways should be constructed for the free flow of water from check dams. Some mechanism should be devised to allow water to flow down.


4. At the regulator end of the lake, to avoid surplus water going waste due to heavy rainfall, slew wall should be constructed.


Check dams need de-silting

S.S. Grewal, 

President, SPACE


1. The Society for Promotion and Conservation of Environment (SPACE) did a survey and found that one-third of the 150 water bodies, wherein check dams have been built, need immediate de-silting. A proper mechanism should be put in place so that water can be released.

2. These dams should be kept functional throughout the year and should be desilted and again prepared for retaining silt during the rains.


Ensure water channel management

G.S. Dhillon, 

former Chief Engineer, Research-cum-Director, I

rrigation and Power, Amritsar


1. There should be water channel management, especially below the check dams, so that clear water when flows down the stream does not carry silt with it. Extend channel management to the entire catchment area..

2. A silt removal devise in the form of a channel should be made at the regulator end and the present flow of water from upstream should be shifted to the regulator end.

Centre should take control

Lt Col B. R. Paruthi

Member, Save Sukhna Forum, 2004


1. Declare Sukhna a property of National Heritage, with the Centre taking full control for its upkeep.

2. Rope in the World Bank for funding the 'Save Sukhna' plan and also for its upkeep.

3. A confluence pond needs to be dug up in the catchment area to prevent silt inflow. The lake needs to be divided into two parts-wet and dry. Dry dredging should be carried out in the dried-up portions.

4. Sand should be commercially disposed off. Silt could be dumped along the railway line.

5. Seek the Army's help in de-silting the area. The Army should have no trouble in intervening to save a national heritage.

6. Bamboo grown in a pattern of 'kila bandi' (fort erection) will be very effective in checking the inflow of silt from the catchment area.


De-weed the lake

Ashok Thapar, Chief Engineer, 

BBMB, Bhakra Beas Management Board


1. The efforts that have been made by the UT Administration are commendable and are worth replicating elsewhere. However, in case, simultaneous efforts are also made at the source feeding the Sukhna Lake, no de-silting work would be required for at least 10 years.


2. The lake has been de-weeded manually. However, latest techniques for eradicating this problem such as adoption of micro bubble technology for aerobic decomposition of weeds naturally would be the right answer.










Trying to bring Hindi and Dutch together because, once upon a time they were part of the same language group? It sounds pretty far-fetched. It didn't to Fr Joe Saldanha (died March 2010) who initiated the Eumind (Europe Meets India) project. This year, two of the five participating institutions, Cathedral School and St Xavier's Junior College chose to be part of the poetry translation programme.


 Anjali Lokur, who teaches French at St Xavier's told me about the project. It took me a while to sort out the details, both of the translation project, and the linguistic complexities of the region (There's Dutch Dutch and Northern Belgian Dutch which is called Flemish), but here goes: Mumbai students chose or wrote a poem in Hindi, the Dutch students in Dutch. They then translated the poems into English and put them on the ejournal. Next, both groups translated each other's work into their own languages. The Indo-European Poetry Project, a little pamphlet-type book contains 21 poems.


One of the poems chosen by a Dutch student is by Hugo Claus (1929-2008), considered the "wonder boy of Flemish literature", for his mastery over so many disciplines: he wrote fiction, poetry, plays, film-scripts, libretti. He was an artist, stage and film director, translator. The poem included in the project book was so stunning that I looked up other poems by him. Here are some of the last few lines from "Envoi". "Go now, verses, on your light feet,/you have not trodden hard on the old earth,/where the graves laugh when they see their guests,/the one corpse stacked on top of the other". Claus is said to have chosen an "assisted end," because he had Alzheimer's and "the progressive loss of coherent language made continued existence unbearable for this verbal magician."


The Mumbai students and teachers participating in the project visited various cities, interacted with professors and politicians, and stayed with local families in the Netherlands and Belgium for three weeks. The Dutch contingent will visit India later this year. The visit helped students to go beyond stereotypes: Amsterdam is not merely sleazy drug joints, or Belgium just chocolates and beer. It's a complex region with issues that are both politically and linguistically sensitive.


The group also learned something of the history of the region, and the way women solved the problem of outnumbering men, because of wars and Crusades which had decimated them. Some women in the 13th century created homes for "lay nuns" who wished to live a spiritual life without cutting themselves off from the world. They took the vows of chastity, obedience, poverty only for the duration of their stay in the beguinage: a group of rather beautiful buildings with a chapel, open green spaces, and quarters for these lay sisters. At least one of these has been designated a UNESCO Heritage Site.


Anjali, who works really hard to interest students, has brought back a list of films. Belgium is known for its animation films. There are also films made in French and in Dutch. And she reminded me that Georges Simenon, the crime writer I admire most was from Belgium, as was Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot who is always reminding us of the fact himself, and the comic book hero Tin Tin, who first put in an appearance in a Belgian newspaper in 1929.

She was fortunate, Anjali says, in that the wives in both families she stayed with were French teachers. She attended their classes, interacted with the pupils. They were shy and diffident, she said, partly because she was new to them, and partly because French is a foreign language for them as well.


The project is likely to expand to include countries such as Finland and Italy.



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Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath's outburst against the Planning Commission (read Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia's adviser Gajendra Haldea) at a function on public-private partnership (PPP) has to rank among the most bizarre episodes of two arms of the government fighting in public. While describing the Planning Commission as essentially an "armchair adviser", Mr Nath said people in the GMR consortium who'd just unveiled the new airport terminal in the Capital had told him they'd built it despite the Planning Commission. The example, this newspaper has said earlier, was a bad one since, in the case of the airport terminal, the Planning Commission's interventions were valid, given flaws in the initial bids that were subsequently corrected. The Planning Commission, similarly, has played an important role in various other ways in the infrastructure sector. Allowing "open access", whereby users of electricity are free to choose their suppliers instead of being tied to one monopolistic supplier, for instance, is an idea that emanated from the Planning Commission and is being pushed by it. The credit for bidding out metro rail projects, as opposed to the nominated-provider Delhi Metro model, similarly, has to go to the Planning Commission. Ditto for the change in policy on ports. Thanks to a distortion in policy, there were cases where the regulators were allowing port operators to add into their costs the revenue share fees they were giving to the government — a sure-fire recipe for disaster since this would just drive up tariffs. It was the Planning Commission which fought a battle to ensure new railway engine/coach facilities would be competitively bid for — ultimately it lost as the Railways decided to scrap the tender.


There are a host of such examples, but the idea is not to defend either Mr Ahluwalia or Mr Haldea. The point is that if line ministries like Mr Nath's are indeed convinced they're right, they need to convince the Cabinet and/or the prime minister of it — merely letting off on the Planning Commission serves no purpose. The Planning Commission has, this newspaper reported yesterday, talked of "subprime highways" and has said that the current system of tendering/supervision has huge flaws and that the further relaxations proposed in the norms will worsen matters. If Mr Nath wants to counter this, he needs to show he has an adequate awarding/supervisory mechanism in place — the fact that two senior officials of the NHAI have recently been found with crores in their offices and are now in judicial custody, however, makes this task a bit difficult. In this particular case, a top-class infrastructure firm like L&T found itself getting disqualified for a road project. Developing more roads and airports are an important part of India's growth strategy, but it cannot be anyone's case that there can be no checks on the costs of such developments. In any case, armchair critics have their uses, especially when line ministries sometimes cut corners in their hurry to get things done. Surely, Mr Nath would appreciate that.







It is that time of the year. In the run up to a new session of Parliament, and with one year of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's term completed, there is naturally some speculation about a reshuffle of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Council of Ministers. This has been triggered by Union Food, Civil Supplies and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's reported request for a reduction in his ministerial responsibilities in the light of his election as president of the International Cricket Council. Mr Pawar also wants a couple of extra junior ministers. There is also the vacancy created by the ignominious exit of Shashi Tharoor and a couple of ministries, like culture, are waiting for a minister. It is entirely possible that Dr Singh will settle for a minor rejig, postponing any major changes. This is entirely understandable since there are no major political compulsions this year necessitating a shake-up of the Union Cabinet. That can precede or follow the major assembly elections of 2011 whose results will impact on the future of the UPA government. On the other hand, Dr Singh can take the view that in 2009 he was handed a sub-optimal team, retaining many non-performing ministers and inducting some whom he did not want to. Given that there has been considerable criticism, across the national media, that UPA-2 has wasted its first year in office and has failed to make an impact, and also given that the main opposition parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left Front, are cosying up, trying to forge a Left-Right grand alliance, a case can be made for a major reshuffle.


Further, there is an entire new generation of Congress members of Parliament waiting to take on bigger ministerial responsibilities. Many of them may be waiting to join a Rahul Gandhi government, but that government is presently nowhere on the horizon. If the UPA-2 government will continue to be headed by Dr Singh, it is logical to assume that many of the party's "younger" ministers and MPs would want greater ministerial responsibilities now, rather than later. How long will the 70-somethings run the government, even if at the very top the government's two seniormost and most experienced leaders, Dr Singh and Pranab Mukherjee, will be expected by all to remain in saddle. Perhaps the time has come for a radical change that will revitalise the Manmohan Singh government. Indeed, Mr Gandhi should himself consider becoming a minister. After all, Indira Gandhi was willing to serve under Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. The late Rajiv Gandhi's precedent was an unfortunate one, created by the tragic circumstances of his elevation to prime ministership. There are other highly talented members of the Lok Sabha who can do a better job than some of the party satraps who secured ministerial berths last May. But it is not clear if Congress party president Sonia Gandhi has the stomach for a major reshuffle, given the range of minor revolts within the party she is already having to deal with. Between a minor and a major reshuffle, a case can always be made for a medium-sized one — targeted at key ministries that matter. Dr Singh knows who his performers are and who the non-performers in vital ministries. A measured operation can go a long way in improving his ministry's image.








Nearly seven years ago, in an article in this newspaper (November 25, 2003) I had cautioned against the burgeoning euphoria about the demographic dividend of India's young population and its potential for rapid growth and development. I had pointed out that the demographic dividend was about the supply of labour; it said nothing about demand. Without adequate growth of employment opportunities, the labour supply bulge could spawn major problems of unemployment, underemployment and low incomes. Secondly, the demographic trajectory across India's states varied enormously. In particular, nearly 60 per cent of the likely increment in India's population (and labour force) between 2001 and 2051 was likely to be concentrated in the "four populous, poor, slow-growing northern states (undivided Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh), with weak infrastructure, education systems and governance". So, the prospects for transforming the extended labour supply bulge into productive employment and growth was going to be very challenging, to put it mildly.

What light does the government's just released "Annual Report to the People on Employment" shed on these seven-year-old concerns of mine? The short answer is very little. It focuses on estimates (for 2009-10) of aggregate labour force and employment, and projections up to 2014-15, extrapolating from the most recent available, large sample National Sample Survey (NSS) data (for 2004-05!) and using economy-wide estimates of employment elasticity (with respect to GDP) based on NSS employment data for 1993-94, 1999-2000 and 2004-05. On this macro basis, aggregate employment in 2009-10 is estimated at 506 million out of an estimated labour force of 520 million. The labour force is projected to grow to 574 million by 2014-15, out of which 559-572 million are expected to be employed, depending on whether employment growth averages at 2.5 or 2 per cent in the intervening years.

Distressingly, there is barely any appreciation, let alone analysis, of the regionally differentiated nature of the employment challenge confronting India in the coming decades (I could only find two short paragraphs in the 44-page document).

A sharp and refreshing contrast is provided by the recently completed "India Labour Report 2009" (henceforth referred to as ILR2009), prepared by TeamLease (India's leading staffing company) and economic consultants Indicus, with Laveesh Bhandari and Bibek Debroy as principal authors. This is the fifth in a series of valuable annual reports on labour and employment. This one focuses on the geographical mismatch between labour supply and demand, and provides a very interesting analysis and ranking of Indian states by their respective "labour ecosystems".

Its key message on the geographic mismatch is: "Much of India's demographic dividend will occur in states with backward labour market ecosystems. Between 2010 and 2020, the states of UP, Bihar and MP will account for 40 per cent of the increase in 15- to 59-year-olds but only 10 per cent of the increase in (national) income. During the same period, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh will account for 45 per cent of the increase in GDP but less than 20 per cent of the addition to the total workforce." The likelihood of growing regional disparities in incomes and job opportunities, and the resulting increase in migration pressures and social and political stresses is obvious.

What can individual states do to help themselves? To explore this key question, ILR2009 constructs a "labour ecosystem index", which is itself composed of three sub-indices: an "employment ecosystem index", an "employability ecosystem index" and a "labour law ecosystem index". Roughly speaking, the first captures elements of labour demand and includes variables such as investment ratios, fulfilment of investment intentions, per capita availability of roads and telephones, power availability and prevalence of crime. The second index focuses on the supply side and includes variables such as proportion of working age population, labour participation rate, literacy, teacher-pupil ratio, proportion of secondary school graduates in the population and the availability of engineering and MBA seats. The third index includes measures of lockouts, strikes, prosecutions under the Shops and Establishments Act, and state-level transaction cost reducing reforms of the Industrial Disputes Act. These three indices are then combined together to produce the overall labour ecosystem index.



Labour Ecosystem Index Rank

Rank by component indices, 2009







Andhra Pradesh










































Tamil Nadu



































Himachal Pradesh







Madhya Pradesh














West Bengal







Uttar Pradesh





















Jammu & Kashmir







Source: India Labour Report 2009,

It is easy to raise conceptual doubts about each index and the manner of its construction, as well as about the aggregation of the component indices into the overall index. But the general thrust of the effort seems to make sense. The results are quite revealing in terms of the ranking of the 19 states for which data were available and are summarised in the table. As one might expect, Bihar and UP are near the bottom of the rankings in all three years (2009, 2005 and 1995) for which the indices have been constructed (J&K is at the bottom because of both supply and demand factors, both perhaps influenced by security considerations). Bengal and Orissa are also in the bottom third of the rankings, with Orissa having slipped down since the mid-1990s. In Bengal's case, a moderately good ranking on the employment (demand) index is overwhelmed by the lowest rank on the labour law index.

Across the three years, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Delhi and Gujarat are consistently in the top five of the overall labour ecosystem index. Perhaps more interesting and heartening is the upward mobility achieved in rankings by a few states. Andhra Pradesh stands out, having moved to "top of the charts" in 2009 from a middling 8th rank in 2005. Kerala and Haryana have also shown significant improvement over time. What this suggests is that there is considerable scope for individual states to improve their labour ecosystems in all the three broad dimensions represented by the component indices. And this may prove a very worthwhile effort, not just for employment but also for economic development of the states. ILR2009 reports substantial positive correlation between labour ecosystem index values in 1995 and state GDP growth in 2000-2008.

Demography may be destiny, but not wholly. There is a significant potential for states to improve their labour ecosystems through intelligent policy measures on the demand and supply side of labour and reforms of labour laws and labour relations. Especially for the poorest states, this potential needs urgent realisation.

The author is honorary professor at ICRIER and former chief economic adviser to the Government of India. Views expressed are personal







Kolkata, June, World Cup 1990: Italy and Uruguay kicked off a game in the knockout stage of the tournament and denizens in this football-obsessed city settled down to enjoy a virtuoso display from two of the most elegant teams of that era. Their anticipation was short-lived. Within minutes from kick-off at midnight India time, the entire city blacked out.

 By the next morning, power wasn't back and it soon dawned on everyone that this wasn't a severe case of "load-shedding" — the term used to describe power shutdowns to deal with excess demand — but something more serious.

It was, and it heralded a new problem in West Bengal's chronic power crisis. Investigations revealed that the breakdown had been the result of Bihar overdrawing its quota from the eastern grid, causing a region-wise crisis.

This was the first time ordinary consumers got to hear of the concept of power overdrawals by competing state utilities, though they soon became familiar with it (power was restored at 9 pm the next day).

New Delhi, June, World Cup 2010: Portugal and Ivory Coast kicked off their Group G match in Port Elizabeth on a day when power had been fluctuating alarmingly. Within minutes of kick-off, South Delhi blacked out. This time, there was an option in the form of the nearest five-star hotel, equipped with powerful back-up systems, which showed the game on a giant screen in its coffee shop.

Even this solution was not without its problems. Power came and went, requiring breaks for the projector to reboot — agonising for anyone watching a game in which a second can change a team's fortunes. Luckily, this was one of the most boring, scoreless matches of the tournament, so fans didn't miss much.

The next day newspapers spoke darkly of how various northern states were not observing "grid discipline" as a result of which Delhi had to go without power for long stretches, leaving a lingering anxiety about the possibility of watching the rest of the World Cup seamlessly. In turn, the neighbouring states complained that increasing drawals to feed the national Capital's greedily expanding demand were depriving their cities of power and preventing farmers from irrigating their fields.

Two decades, two cities, same problem. Any way you look at it, and despite two decades of power reforms, the dimensions of the crisis haven't changed significantly for the ordinary consumer.

Ironically, power reform predated by several years telecom reform that, despite an uneven regulatory regime, has fundamentally transformed the life of ordinary citizens. In the days when most people struggled to acquire telephone connections or make a call when they had them, solutions to rampant electricity theft, under-recoveries on electricity sales and non-performing state electricity boards were being implemented and discussed in the public domain. Successive Central governments willingly acquired a collective blindness to the obvious defects of Enron's investment in Dabhol — India's largest project at the time — purely on the basis of a growing supply-demand gap, and laws (the Electricity Act of 2003) were passed to ease private investment.

Yet, despite all this assiduous attention, the Indian consumer remains hostage to chronic shortages (the industry has largely found a solution in captive sources) as the gap between targets and achievements steadily widens. The record on generation is a case in point. Over the eighth, ninth and tenth Plans (1992-2007) — the period that roughly covers the start of reform to the present — achievements in adding generation capacity have hovered between 47 and 51 per cent. The record for the current 11th Plan (2007-12) is no different. This is significantly below the 96 per cent achievement in the seventh Plan (1985-89) and 72 per cent in the Plan before.

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that unlike in telecom, Centre- and state-owned public utilities continue to dominate the power business. The fact that they account for 77 per cent of installed capacity can be dismissed as a historical legacy, but it is significant that the government sector accounts for 80 per cent of capacity additions in the current Plan and open access, which could introduce a modicum of competition in the sector, is a distant reality. And where the problems of power theft, non-paying electricity boards etc. were the issues in the early 90s, prospective investors, private and government, now complain of fuel linkages, project finance and equipment shortages.

Obviously, the frivolous business of watching football matches without interruption is the least of the Indian consumer's problems. The two incidents cited at the start of this piece merely serve as two markers to highlight a basic, unsolved problem in a country that now excitedly markets itself as the world's fastest-growing democracy. So, maybe Brazil 2014 would be a good time to reassess the situation.







The Doha Round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) launched by 143 countries has witnessed eight years and eight months of negotiations. While membership of the Geneva-based multilateral trade body has, over the years, risen to 153, the Development Round has been a bane for negotiators after several deadlines have been missed and a completion now is anticipated to be symbolic and not substantial for world trade if countries do not get down to serious business.

Sandra Polaski of Carnegie Endowment in 2006 in a study "Winners and losers: Impact of the Doha Round on developing countries" stated that, at the aggregate global level, the plausible conclusions to the Round would only produce modest gains, about a one-time increase in world income: Between $40 and $60 billion, which represented an increase of less than 0.2 per cent of world GDP. Things would not be very different even today if countries continue to move along the beaten path in Geneva. To make the Doha Round meaningful, member countries have to quickly identify specific areas for increased market access in a changed global environment.

With the WTO negotiations hitting regular roadblocks, there have been, in the last five years, several free trade agreements signed by many countries — developed and developing — which have contributed to an increase in global trade and investment flows. These agreements have been across regions and among competing partners. India, for instance, has either completed negotiations or is in the process of negotiating about 20 preferential and free trade agreements of which at least five to seven agreements are with leading trade partners, which will impact bilateral trade substantially.

New Delhi has completed an agreement on goods with the 10-member Asean and is in the process of negotiating other areas for making the agreement comprehensive, while it has put in place a comprehensive agreement with South Korea and is in advanced stage of negotiations with Japan. Asean-plus agreements are on the cards with Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. The 27-nation European Union and India are negotiating to find a suitable landing zone agreeable to both sides by the end of this year while negotiations with Canada, New Zealand and Australia are on the cards with initial rounds of negotiations completed.

China, on the other hand, has signed about 11 agreements with about 29 partners across Asia, Oceania, Africa and Latin America and is negotiating a few more. Since 2001, Washington has either implemented or has commenced negotiations with about 12 countries including Jordan, Australia, Bahrain, Morocco, South Korea, Malaysia and Colombia.

The impact of the proliferation of free trade agreements has been that despite the sharpest decline in world trade in more than 70 years following the recession in 2008 and 2009, global trade is set to rebound in 2010 by growing at 9.5 per cent, according to WTO estimates. According to these estimates, released in March 2010, shipments from developing economies and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will grow by about 11 per cent while developed economies exports are expected to rise by 7.5 per cent in volume terms.

The free trade agreements have meant that detailed negotiations in the WTO on how tariffs on industrial goods would be reduced have lost their sheen to some extent. The discussions in this sector are moving towards more Doha-plus aspects, where increased market access from developing countries is being demanded.

However, two areas can make a substantial difference to world trade under the Doha Round. These are services and agriculture which need immediate attention. Countries have to get to the table with some meaningful numbers on reducing subsidies in agriculture as also improve market access. Unfortunately, even the proliferating free and preferential trade agreements have veered away from this politically sensitive subject. For agricultural negotiations to be meaningful, there is a need to cut developed country subsidies below their current levels and open up global trade to some serious competition.

On services, the main issue has to be to identify domestic regulation in several countries which will make any market access agreement worthless. The working party on services has been trying to identify the subsidies and domestic regulations that impede trade in services. These negotiations have to be really strong if services trade has to become free and fair across the globe.

Member countries of the WTO are at an interesting point of negotiations. Not much is expected of the Doha Round if the proliferating FTAs are any pointer. Any strong real market access initiative in the two sensitive sectors of agriculture and services will signal that trade matters for countries even in the face of growing call for protectionism from some quarters domestically.

The author is principal adviser with APJ-SLG Law Offices







I was sitting in a plane in Mumbai waiting for it to take off for New Delhi when the pilot announced a delay due to congestion at the airport. That in itself was not surprising as it has become a common occurrence. What indeed was surprising was the fact that the air traffic control (ATC) was not willing to be clear about the extent of delay. The plane did take off finally more than an hour late. Given that it was midnight when the plane landed in Delhi, most passengers were justifiably upset. The minister for civil aviation can claim that we are building world-class airports, which is certainly true at least if you look at "hard" infrastructure, but when it comes to "soft" infrastructure and processes, we clearly continue to be pretty obsolete — the ATC cannot even commit to the time of take-off of a scheduled flight with passengers already on board.

Why is it that when the handling capacity of the airport is being planned, the handling capacity of the ATC is not planned simultaneously? Those who live in south Delhi and travel to Gurgaon every day for work using the outer Ring Road would have rejoiced when the flyovers on the road were completed to give credence to the Delhi chief minister's desire for a signal-free ride to and from NH8. Of course, they did not consider the genius of the designer of the flyover near Vasant Vihar which had been designed for only one-way movement of the traffic coming to south Delhi from NH8. So, those going to Gurgaon or to the domestic airport did not see any improvement in their lives — the daily tailbacks at the traffic signals below the spanking new flyover became longer and longer. When enough number of people started missing flights, the Delhi police suddenly decided to reverse the direction of traffic flow on the flyover by realigning the central verge. So, those going to Gurgaon and to the airport rejoiced and those travelling in the opposite direction became the suffering citizens of poor planning. Why couldn't we build a flyover to facilitate movement of traffic in both directions?

As a management consultant with large companies, I find that a key factor for the success of any initiative is the ability to take a "systemic" view of the issue, and then develop a solution which takes into account second- and third-order impacts. Most environmentalists know about this kind of complex inter-linkage among different parts of natural systems. What is true for natural ecosystems is also true for business systems. Unfortunately, in many business systems, different functions, agencies or entities that "own" different parts of the ecosystem zealously guard their territory and refuse to either understand or recognise the inter-linkages. And this results in differing priorities and misalignment of objectives within the same ecosystem (e.g. capacity of handling flights by ATC vs capacity to handle passengers by the Delhi International Airport Limited), leading to these entities working at cross-purposes.

It's not that the concept of system analysis or systemic thinking is new. A google search on this would throw up many definitions. The simplest and the most appropriate one I found relevant for this discussion was: "System analysis is an explicit formal enquiry carried out to help a decision maker identify a better course of action and make a better decision than he would have made." If we go by this definition, it is pretty much a no-brainer that we should carry out such an analysis for all complex decisions which involve multiple entities, like modernisation of an airport. The challenge is how to get these different entities together around a common table and bring them round to a common set of objectives?

The prize can be very significant and the failure to do so can prove to be quite costly. One of the key recommendations made in the joint CII-BCG report on the Indian manufacturing industry is setting up of highly competitive manufacturing clusters. Our research showed that a manufacturing plant located in such a strong cluster can have a cost advantage of 5-8 per cent over competitors located outside a cluster. Our research also showed that the challenge in developing such a cluster was not building the "muscles and bones" in the form of the infrastructure or attracting sufficient number of companies into the cluster, but developing the "brains" in the form of university linkages and R&D centres. The question is: how can we bring together various stakeholders in the government — the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Planning Commission, etc. — for developing such a world-class cluster so that they take a systemic view of the cluster instead of seeing it through the lens of their respective ministries. In the draft manufacturing policy put up by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, on its website, the key policy measure proposed is the creation of National Manufacturing and Investment Zones across the country. This is seen as a key driver of manufacturing growth from the historical 7-8 per cent to 11-12 per cent per annum. While this is a great policy on paper, my fear is that unless we take a systemic view of these manufacturing zones — from linkages to universities and R&D centres to logistic routes and ports — rather than just simplifying some of the rules and regulations regarding environmental clearances, labour laws or the Factories Act, these may well end up like many of the industrial parks dotting India with few signs of any industrial activity.

We are already seeing a dramatic impact of the lack of systemic thinking on our daily lives. In the Greater Kailash colony in New Delhi where I live, colony roads have become public thoroughfare for traffic escaping the chaos of bus rapid transit (BRT). As more and more cars get added to our cities without fundamental changes in the transportation ecosystem, the gridlocks we have started facing on the roads will only become worse. One can give many more such examples but that is not the point. The point is: Why can't we do something about this?

Here I would like to bring out two facets of our behaviour. A new expat CEO of a large Indian industrial company whom I spoke to was amazed at the lack of detailed cross-functional planning by his senior team before embarking on a major initiative. At the same time, he admired the speed at which the same team would often respond to a situation once it became a full-blown crisis. The other example was quoted to me by a bureaucrat in the Central government. He described how one of our senior Cabinet ministers tasked with a seemingly complex problem got all the agencies involved around a table, many of which were not officially under his ministry; set out the objectives clearly; defined the inter-linkages and tasked each agency to come up with its part of the answer at the next meeting for which the date was announced in advance. Those that did not come prepared got a public dressing down. Pretty soon, all the agencies, even though they did not have a great track record of cooperation amongst themselves, dramatically improved their performance and the minister was able to take a systemic view of the problem and come up with the "better course of action".

These examples reveal some of the root causes which have to be addressed. We often tend to fly by the seat of our pants and then react to a crisis. We can, however, get the things right if we have a leader who is able to get all the stakeholders around the table and get them agree to a set of common goals either through the sheer force of his personality or through a process of facilitation, and take a more systemic view during the planning process. The prime minister has gone on record saying that we have good policies and plans, and what we need is stronger implementation monitoring. I would like to add that what we also need is to build a culture of systemic planning and skills of facilitation to align objectives and goals if we really want to solve the complex issues we face in our lives today. Otherwise, flights will keep getting delayed at our airports.

The author is managing director, the Boston Consulting Group, India








THE new discussion paper on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail is welcome, if it is, indeed, a prelude to considered, consensus-building innovation in policy. India needs organised retail, as it urbanises and prospers. And retail will get organised, just as surely as motorised transport replaces haulage by animal power in a modernising economy. The question is, should the shift take place, aided by the capital, competition and knowhow that foreign investment brings with it, or without these benefits? Clearly, except for some existing Indian retail operations, the bulk of the Indian economy would gain, significantly, from the emergence of a well-capitalised retail industry that brings the latest technology and management practices to build modern supply chains in India, connecting country and town, connecting small producers with national, and even global markets. The creaky, old distribution system that India has lived with so far has a major flaw: cornering most of the rise in prices arising from higher demand for rural produce, it greatly distorts the price signals for farmers. This, in turn, hinders the secular rise in farm output that a prospering India desperately needs and cannot be delivered by the government hiking individual support prices, which only shifts acreage from crop to crop without raising the output levels of all crops.

The discussion paper is silent on some vital issues. One is the organisational form of rural producers as they interact with Big Retail. Small farmers can undertake contract farming, but have no bargaining power and will be at the mercy of their buyers. Small producers organised into something like Amul are a different kettle of fighting fish altogether. But who will organise them into farmer companies or producer cooperatives that can increase the value-add before sale to the buyer, and have sufficient bargaining power? Then again, without rural electricity and largescale new investment in surface water management, farmers would be hard put to produce more, even with technical inputs from Big Retail. These concerns must be addressed while allowing FDI in retail.








 STATE-owned telecom operator BSNL's complaint that the sector regulator's recommendations harm the company and favour private operators tells, together with the PMO directive transferring all decision-making on spectrum and licensing matters to an empowered group of ministers, a sorry tale of vital infrastructure being undermined by poor regulation and policymaking. This must change. BSNL and MTNL deserve neither discrimination nor patronage. They essentially need operational freedom. BSNL has been prevented from buying telecom equipment to expand capacity since 2007, resulting in serious loss of market share and revenue for the company and effective competition and telecom penetration in rural areas. Nor does it make sense for the government to try and prove that it is on the side of its own company by suggesting that it waive spectrum charges for the state-owned telco. That would distort the playing field in yet another fashion.


While there has been much attention on the money mobilised by the government from its spectrum auctions, the real purpose of making that spectrum available for telecom has been neglected. High-speed data connectivity for everyone should be the goal for any sensible policymaker. After the French Supreme Court ruled that broadband access is a fundamental right, Finland has now given broadband access the status of a legal right. The US has a national broadband plan that envisages at least 100 Megabits per second of download speed and at least 50 Megabits per second of upload speed per household, and intends to make at least 500 MHz of spectrum available for the purpose over the next 10 years. Private players like Google talk of providing broadband access at 1 Gigabits per second. If, in India, the government scuppers utilisation of even the existing spectrum for rollout of wireless broadband through mindless levies on telecom companies, it would hurt not just telcos, but the economy as well. For, broadband would be the cutting-edge enabler of innovation across all sectors in the near future.







IF ONLY Paul were Indian. At least we'd have some real connection to the football World Cup. We could claim the psychic powers of the cephalopod were due to having swum and lived in parts of our ancient land where the power of prophecy is more common than the habit of analysis. The octopus that, barring one wrong prediction during Euro 2008, has unerringly been picking the winners at the World Cup, holds some form of dual citizenship. Indeed, never before has an octopus' country of origin and current residence been the centre of such attention. Born in Weymouth, England, and currently residing in an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, Paul has been signalling the winner of upcoming matches by dipping first into the box with the winner's flag of two boxes of mussels planted with the respective flags of the clashing teams. To the consternation of his hosts, Paul picked Spain over Germany to advance to the final of the tournament. There were, predictably, doubts about his intentions and possible biases given his land of birth. Such is the jitteriness felt by fans before every big match that a tentacled creature caused acute apprehensions even about a team that has performed, in one word, superbly. And then Paul also did correctly choose Germany over England before their key match.

 By the time these words are being read, it'll be known if Paul got it right. If he did, well, perhaps consideration is due. The laws of probability have to run their course sometime. If he hasn't got it right, we can go back to looking at him as a sea-critter with three hearts. Which fact, of course, can help both ways. It could have been the large-/many-heartedness that made him choose the winners. And when he got it wrong, it'd be because his hearts lay in different places. Here in India, of course, one awaits the astrologer who, after all is over, will claim he had predicted it all last year. At least Paul can't speak.







LEADING B-schools are looking to overhaul the MBA syllabus. Nitin Nohria, the newly-appointed dean of Harvard Business School (HBS), is said to believe that the way management is taught in B-schools contributed to the recent financial crisis.


Srikant Datar, another HBS professor, and two of his colleagues have authored a book, Rethinking the MBA: Business education at a crossroads, that echoes this theme. It also laments the fact that MBA students are taking less and less interest in their classes and spending more time on networking and attending recruiting events.

A book that I have just finished reading, The management myth: Why the experts keep getting it wrong, provides pointers to why students in MBA programmes may be switching off. The author, Matthew Stewart,

thinks that management theories don't add up to much, so the MBA course itself means little.
   Stewart's background is interesting. After completing a doctorate in philosophy, he took up a job with a management consulting firm. With no knowledge of or background in management, he found himself advising CEOs of top companies at a billing rate of half a million dollars a year.


Stewart rose to become partner at the consulting firm. The firm itself went bust a few years later. Finding himself unemployed, Stewart decided he would get acquainted with management literature. He caught up with the books that he had acquired when he joined the firm but had never had a chance to open since.

 In his book, Stewart dissects some of the more famous management theories and finds them hollow. His assault on management's claims to being a science rests on a scrutiny of key theories in two areas, organisational behaviour and strategy, and works that focus on the creation of 'excellence' in companies.


 As an example of how pretentious management theory can get, Stewart cites the Hawthorne effect uncovered by one of the famous names in organisational behaviour, Elton Mayo. A researcher was studying the effect of workplace illumination on worker productivity at a plant, Hawthorne Works. When the illumination was increased, productivity went up; when it was turned down, again it went up. The same thing happened with various other interventions.


 Mayo concluded that the results were not due to an external intervention but to the fact that the employees found they were getting attention. This is the foundation of much that has followed in the field since: about empowerment, teamwork, etc. But Mayo's finding hardly qualifies as a dazzling insight. He was merely pointing out that, as Stewart puts it, "If you are nice to other people, they will usually be nice to you." This is a simple ethical construct. The danger in wrapping it up in management jargon is that students will see through the puffery and switch off — and, perhaps, this is what is happening at B-schools.


Stewart also takes on one of the most hallowed theories in strategy: the Michael Porter framework for analysing industries. Porter came up with a couple of important prescriptions based on the framework. One is that there are only three generic competitive strategies open to firms: cost, quality and focus.


 Stewart points out that the Porter theory has not been tested rigorously, say, by comparing firms that adopted these strategies with firms that did not, and seeing whether one sample did better than another. There are plenty of real-life examples of firms that did not pursue one of these strategies and did well. For instance, several Japanese manufacturers managed to combine quality with low cost, as US firms learnt to their dismay.
   ANOTHER important conclusion from the Porter theory is that firms end up making excess profits when they can take advantage of market imperfections. But it is not a theory in the sense of having predictive power. It cannot tell you whether a firm has sustainable competitive advantage or not. The corporate world is littered with the debris of firms that, at one time, were thought to have sustainable advantage.


 Other theories of strategy have not fared any better. Gary Hamel and C K Prahalad propounded the idea of core competence and held up the Japanese manufacturer, NEC, as a shining example. In the years that followed, NEC turned out to be an underperformer. In Competing for the future, Hamel and Prahalad gave several examples of model firms. Bill Gates said much later that, except for Hewlett-Packard, every example they gave was a 'total joke'. Hamel had moved on — he was now pronouncing Enron as America's most innovative company.


 Some of Stewart's sharpest criticisms are reserved for the genre of management books typified by In search of excellence, authored by two ex-McKinsey consultants, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. The book purported to list the attributes of high-performing companies after evaluating 43 such companies. Two years later, half of the excellent 43 were in trouble. Five years later, almost all showed signs of decline. Peters responded in his next book by declaring, "There are no excellent companies." By then, of course, he had made a fortune out of his first book.


 There are serious limitations to Stewart's examination of management theory. He focuses on a few theories in the softer areas of management and some popular books. A great deal of what is taught in the harder areas at B-schools, such as accounting, finance and quantitative sciences, is based on sound theory and finds wide application in business.


 But Stewart is right in saying that most of the hard stuff at B-schools can be picked up fairly quickly. That is why companies have taken to recruiting from admission lists and hiring bright people from streams other than the MBA. They know they can themselves provide the necessary training in hard skills and in a shorter time.
 The hard skills constitute training. It is the soft part that constitutes education and makes for a rounded manager. It is not easily imparted through courses, such as ethics or leadership, that are the staple of B-schools.

 Soft skills, Stewart points out, are what the old liberal arts education or humanities was all about. This indicates a way forward for remaking the MBA: combining the hard parts with the basic elements of a liberal arts programme.








IN THE late 1970s, the picture of a chained George Fernandes behind bars became the symbol of the Opposition resistance to Indira's Emergency. Three decades on, the image of the same George, wilted by Alzheimer's and smothered by a mudslinging custody battle between the two women he loved most during the two time zones of his life, haunts us. One may call it the irony of life or the anti-climax after an eventful chapter, but it certainly marks the latest instance of how the private greed for appropriating the legacy and spoils of public figures vilifies a carefully-nurtured sanctity.


 For half a century, Fernandes has been many things for many people. The Mangalorean boy's journey from a seminary through the struggles of Mumbai's streets to become a self-made trade unionist and a leader was the stuff of dreams for a generation of idealists. His maiden entry to Parliament as the 'giant killer' was breathtaking. His emergence as the charismatic and fearless rebel during Emergency made him the David against aGoliath, nationally. From the heights of his idealist and romantic aura, the once-stormy petrel of the socialist movement travelled a long way down the line as a maverick, the master of polemic, compulsive party-wrecker, a skillful political matchmaker and an unabashed ideological pole-vaulter.


 Understandably, Fernandes evoked extreme emotions, of enduring admiration and undying hostility. But it took the unseemly public conduct of the two warring women in his life and his siblings to reduce him to something that even his worst political adversary never did: a spectacle of public pity.


 At least the Delhi High Court judge provided him the privacy of his chamber to deal with his present mental and physical helplessness. But those who claim to be the keepers of his emotions and well-being drag him, in full publicglare,throughtheavoidableandpolitically-incorrect tales of love, betrayal, revenge and scramble for money, furniture and even dogs. For over 20 years, Fernandes maintained his 3, Krishna Menon Marg, residence as Delhi's interesting and accessible political open house. But in a matter of months after
their master's fall, his closest family members and friends reduced it to absurd theatre.


 The true intentions behind this messy possessionbattlemightremainshroudedinmystery. Just as the reasons that made Fernandes never snap the technicalities of his marriage with a wife he never lived with for nearly three decades or never institutionalised a relationwithacompanionwhowashisshadow for the last two decades. But then, the personal lives of towering leaders can have many mysterious and conflicting twists and turns. The spectacle of the kith and kin and other insiders wrestling it out to corner the trappings of power and patent a legacy has been the flip private side of many leading public figures whose ability to manage tricky political mattersfailedwhencaughtinthefamilycrossfire.

 Fernandes is not the first such leader, nor will he be the last. Even Indira Gandhi was at the centre of a national family soap opera when her young and ambitious daughter-inlaw Maneka realised that her PM mother-inlaw was not going to let her walk away with the legacy and line of succession of the Gandhi family after Sanjay Gandhi's sudden death.


The acrimonious battle between 'friend Jayalalitha' and 'wife Janaki Ramachandran' that followed MGR's death and the unkind cut N T Rama Rao suffered through his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu were as melodramatic as the usual Tamil and Telugu movies.Itispreciselytheprospectsofaninternecine succession battle between his impatientsons,daughterandcompanionsthathas forced Karunanidhi to delay his retirement even when he is quite unwell. When caught between son and nephew, Bal Thackeray has been reduced to the caricature of a tiger just as KKarunakaran has become a prisoner of his blinding love for his children.
   But none of these messy sagas will make our collective political class, barring a few honourable exceptions, to draw a clear dividing line between their private and public turf precisely because they have cleverly convertedpoliticsintoahugelyenterprisingandprofit-raking public sector business. And if greed fuels the creation of wealth, then trust political family trees and creepers to play by the rule.Andtheirgreedylovecanreallybevilifying for one and all.









 KEYNESIAN therapy of fiscal expansion to counter recession would probably work better in Robinson Crusoe type of economies that are hard to find in today's globalised ambience. Even in an open economy, deficits can bring about recovery without causing overindebtedness to the government, provided the economy has a high degree of absorptive capacity.


 Absorptive capacity is the ability of the grassroot-level economy to visibly assimilate the stimulus by technology infusion, enriched human resource, enhanced productivity, employment generation and innovation and entrepreneurship. The stimulus may be in the form of increased government spending, raised subsidies, tax cuts, other incentives, FDI or technology imports.


A lack of absorptive capacity can leak the stimulus out to structurally-better economies as was evident in the zooming Sensex when the first monetary dose was injected by the Fed Reserve into the US economy after the subprime issue broke out. A stimulus that is meant to raise domestic production and employment could find its way into imports from more competitive economies instead, for want of absorptive capacity. Closer an economy is to full-employment level, lesser the underutilised capacity, and, hence, absorptive capacity.
   If the stimulus, fiscal and monetary, doesn't translate into output growth, then 'too much money chasing too few goods' would cause inflation without creating jobs, even leading to stagflation. Stimulus without absorptive capacity can create asset price bubbles, whose bursting causes temporary pain, but the mess can be cleared up as Alan Greenspan suggested. And an attempt at soft-landing can cause long recession, like in Japan. A perpetual deficit without absorptive capacity gets the governments into debt traps, like Greece with debt-GDP ratio of 115%, Italy 116%, Portugal 77%, and Ireland, Spain, Germany not too far behind, a couple of them likely to break away from the euro and devalue their currencies.


The major caveat for Keynesian stimulus to work is high absorptive capacity of the economy, so that the fear of stimulus leakage or inflation is minimal. The absorptive capacity can be looked at variously. A multimillion-rupee stimulus can be easily and quickly absorbed in creating state-of-theart airports, six-lane highways of international standards, huge flyovers, IT parks, launching satellites and what have you. This will create jobs, boost the economy, and probably lift it from a slowdown, besides earning respect for the nation.

But we need to pause for a minute here. What good has this stimulus done to Bharat, the 40% citizens below poverty line and the rural folk? Has the stimulus led to the muchtalked-about inclusive growth as envisaged in the 11th Five-Year Plan? Has the 6th Pay Commission scale reached the poorest of the poor? Has the Rs 60,000-crore farmer loan waiver benefitted the landless labourer and the adivasis? Is their life any better as India prides itself in being one of the few nations hardly affected by the global crisis? Can we enjoy entry of some Indians into the world's-richest list while there are deaths from starvation everyday? What strong macroeconomic fundamentals do we boast of with India and Bharat so disconnected? The former is on the virtuous path or prosperity with the latter still trapped in the vicious circle of poverty.


 Needless to say that the government must make hay while the sun shines. Going by the cyclical average, huge revenue surpluses, and near-zero gross fiscal deficits must be ensured during prosperity periods, under FRBM directive if needed, so that the country has enough to inject when the cycle takes a serious downturn. Minor downturns must be taken as a natural shakeout process though.


Indian budgets, especially the Centre's and states' combined, run huge revenue deficits that can put the economy on the verge of a debt trap. Our public debt is mostly domestic, so our own future generations will have to repay it. The present Budget is on course in reducing it visibly. Having said this, the next question is how to raise the absorptive capacity of the Indian economy.


To make the stimulus reach the target group, people must have knowledge, information and access to the benefits. In order that they should have all this, they must receive education. They must be connected with cities to know about the opportunities. They must have access to finances when required. They must have roads and electricity. They must get food to eat and water to drink so that they survive to see the stimulus. They must be free of avoidable ailments, so health doesn't impede their attempts to break out of poverty. If stimulus must reach remotest areas of Bharat, education and health facilities must precede. The effectiveness of an economic policy depends on the economy's absorptive capacity. And this absorptive capacity can and must be built in good times such as now.


(The author is professor of Economics)








HAVE you seen little children talking to their cuddly toys? What does it tell you about the world? That it still retains some magic no matter how much madness comes up in daily headlines? Hard-headed rationalists and clear-eyed sceptics might scoff at such soppiness. For them, it's just a basic human reflex that goads us into animating objects and gadgets around us and to treat them as if they are alive even when one is fully aware that they are deader than a dodo.


 When his daughter was small, for instance, your columnist brought home an adorable toy mouse called Miss Squeeks from an overseas mart. When the mouse was 'introduced', the child was completely taken up with the idea of a companion with a quirky sound-based id. She could apparently relate to it far more easily than she did with a superbrand like Uncle Walt's Mickey Mouse — which had probably turned into an impersonal 'generic' because of its overexposure or the sheer hardsell of Mouse-Eared Empire.


A mini-moral of the story, both for toymakers and armchair child psychologists, was that individuality was critical in establishing personal rapport even when make-believe was involved. Does that explain the recent success that Paro, a robot modelled after a baby harp seal, has had with elderly patients suffering from early stages of dementia? With snow-white fur, black eyes and a shiny nose, Paro —named after the first sounds of personal robot — trills and paddles when it is petted.


It also blinks when the lights are turned up and opens its eyes at loud noises. When handled roughly or held upside down, it protests with appropriatesounding yelps. All this is made possible with sensors and microprocessors sewn under its artificial white fur. It is also programmed to respond to the sound of its name, praise and, over time, the words it hears frequently.


Unlike its reallife counterparts, the robotic baby seal does not have to be fed or cleaned. Nor does it bite the hand that mishandles it. Homes for the elderly in Japan have already bought a thousand of these robots, prompting some social critics to comment on the low status of the elderly, especially those with dementia.
   Do these developments point to a gradual replacement of human care-givers with robotic ones as technology improves? Surely, this is not an either-or choice. Replacement of humans by robots remains firmly in the realm of sci-fi.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Poised as we are for the most comprehensive financial reform in America since the Great Depression, it is time to fess up to the fact that it likely would not have occurred without a concerted effort by the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress to demonise Goldman Sachs.

There are good reasons, of course, why politicians have seized on Goldman for easy political gain. Among them are: the perceptions that Goldman figured out a way to benefit from the misery of others; that while many Americans were hurting from a recession partly of Goldman's making, the firm continued to rake in billions in profits and pay out billions more in bonuses; that Goldman seems unable to recognise that but for an 11th-hour rescue by the American taxpayers, in September 2008, it would have gone the way of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch; and that Goldman has proved repeatedly that it prefers putting its own interests ahead of those of its prized clients and the rest of us. Another likely reason is that the politicians simply looked at the recent public polling data, which put Goldman's reputation below that of BP and Toyota, and realised that nothing spells political gold these days quite like bashing Goldman Sachs.

But the byproduct of this very effective, Goldman-centric political strategy, is that the larger issue of the dramatic deterioration of Wall Street's mores and ethics over the past 40 years has been all but obscured, as has a robust debate about how to change Wall Street's behaviour in the future to prevent a recurrence of the events that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Unfortunately, nothing in the 2,319-page Dodd-Frank Bill addresses the dramatic change in Wall Street's culture away from taking prudent risks with its own partners' capital toward a culture that rewards bankers and traders for taking risks with other people's money. This ethic is pervasive across Wall Street, and not just at Goldman Sachs, which as the last major Wall Street firm to go public — in 1999 — retains more of a partnership mentality than do its brethren.

Despite the political haymaking, the truth is that Goldman Sachs did nothing differently in the years leading up to the crisis than did other firms of its stature. Nothing has come to light in any of the very public recent assaults on the firm that also could not be discovered by looking through millions of documents at every other Wall Street firm with large trading and capital-markets businesses.

If anything, what has been revealed in all the reams of Goldman documents is that the firm was — and remains — a better risk-manager than any of its competitors, that it figured out trouble was coming in the mortgage market in 2006 and did something about it, instead of doubling-down, and that it managed to stay profitable throughout the years of the crisis while most of its competitors were out of control.

Indeed, the current political climate seems to have forced Goldman's senior executives to pretend that they did not bet against the mortgage market — from which the firm made a $4 billion windfall in 2007 — and to claim, instead, that Goldman barely made any money from its mortgage business. Why else — other than politics — would Goldman choose to obfuscate this fact rather than boast about its prowess?

Now that a major political victory in the form of Dodd-Frank is within the grasp of Goldman's enemies in Washington, the time has come for politicians to lay off the firm and to allow Goldman and the rest of Wall Street to return to some semblance of normalcy. The time has come to let Goldman be Goldman.

The best way for that to happen is for Goldman to relinquish its status as a bank holding company and free itself of the most onerous and restrictive provisions of the new law. It can simply revert back to being a securities firm — as it was for its first 139 years before the Federal Reserve approved the applications of Goldman and Morgan Stanley on September 22, 2008, in a last-ditch Hail Mary to stop the firms' death spiral (which worked).

Goldman should make the change sooner rather than later. The American people cannot be subsidising the risk-oriented Goldman business plan by providing it with billions of cheap financing through the Fed. Nor should Goldman continue to benefit from the appearance that it will get bailed out the next time things go awry.

By giving up its status as a bank holding company, Goldman can boast about how it — nearly alone — navigated the crisis by cleverly shorting the mortgage market instead of pretending it was like every other firm, just luckier. It can take calculated risks with investors' money. It can make billions of dollars — if it is able, once it is no longer subsidised by taxpayers — and pay those billions to its lucky employees. That's the American Way.

But the next time Goldman Sachs runs into serious trouble — and it will — let the free market determine its fate.





VAULTING AMBITION is the hubris of the young Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is resuming his much-hyped Odarpu yatra on Thursday in defiance of the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. The yatra is ostensibly meant to console families of those who died after the demise of his father and former Chief Minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, in a helicopter crash last year. But nobody believes that this is the real purpose.

Thursday is YSR's birthday and the Odarpu (condolence) yatra will begin in Srikakulam district, where YSR's famous padayatra of 2004 had concluded. It is all charged with the symbolism that Mr Jagan is the real 'political heir' of YSR. Unmindful of the nuances of Congress politics, Mr Jagan, who had joined the party little more than a year ago and who became an MP in last year's elections, appears determined to challenge Mrs Gandhi. He has ignored the party high command diktat not to cross the 'Laxman Rekha'.The 38-year-old MP seems to be angry that he was not allowed to occupy the Chief Minister's chair which fell vacant with the death of YSR. He has not yet been able to reconcile himself to Mrs Gandhi's selection of Mr K. Rosaiah, a senior politician, as his father's successor. Mr Jagan was given the sane advice to bide his time and grow in the political sense before aiming for the big post. Instead, he appears to have developed a deep grouse that somebody has deprived him of his rightful due, the Chief Minister's gaddi. From the start, he was opposed to the Rosaiah government and had even criticised it openly. And now he is using the Odarpu yatra as a tool to make his point. Nobody would have objected if Mr Jagan had visited these unfortunate families in a low-key manner. Instead, his earlier tours saw much fanfare, road shows, unveiling of YSR statues and delivering of speeches. He was accompanied by a big motorcade. Hardly the stuff of condolence. The Congress high command understands only too well that the yatra is an attempt by Mr Jagan to develop his clout in the name of YSR and dictate terms to the party. But in his hurry, Mr Jagan seems to have forgotten that every political leader, including his father YSR, is the creation of a party as well. Out of the organisation, even the tallest leader becomes a dwarf. If Mr Jagan merely recalls his father's life, he would realise that YSR, despite his daring, did not tempt fate. Mr Jagan's supporters are using the other — specious — argument that the Nehru family is also following dynastic politics. But they seem to have forgotten that right from Mrs Indira Gandhi, leaders of the family spent years understanding politics before taking up major responsibilities. Mr Rahul Gandhi, after a full term as MP is still learning the ropes and is modest enough to say so. But Mr Jagan thinks his demand to be made CM just five months after his formal entry into politics is legitimate. This feeling has provoked him to defy the party leadership and perhaps spoil his own future. Mr Jagan has his strengths: he has statewide appeal, agility and youth. But he lacks the most important virtues of them all — patience and prudence.







Poised as we are for the most comprehensive financial reform in America since the Great Depression, it is time to fess up to the fact that it likely would not have occurred without a concerted effort by the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress to demonise Goldman Sachs.

There are good reasons, of course, why politicians have seized on Goldman for easy political gain. Among them are: the perceptions that Goldman figured out a way to benefit from the misery of others; that while many Americans were hurting from a recession partly of Goldman's making, the firm continued to rake in billions in profits and pay out billions more in bonuses; that Goldman seems unable to recognise that but for an 11th-hour rescue by the American taxpayers, in September 2008, it would have gone the way of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch; and that Goldman has proved repeatedly that it prefers putting its own interests ahead of those of its prized clients and the rest of us. Another likely reason is that the politicians simply looked at the recent public polling data, which put Goldman's reputation below that of BP and Toyota, and realised that nothing spells political gold these days quite like bashing Goldman Sachs.

But the byproduct of this very effective, Goldman-centric political strategy, is that the larger issue of the dramatic deterioration of Wall Street's mores and ethics over the past 40 years has been all but obscured, as has a robust debate about how to change Wall Street's behaviour in the future to prevent a recurrence of the events that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Unfortunately, nothing in the 2,319-page Dodd-Frank Bill addresses the dramatic change in Wall Street's culture away from taking prudent risks with its own partners' capital toward a culture that rewards bankers and traders for taking risks with other people's money. This ethic is pervasive across Wall Street, and not just at Goldman Sachs, which as the last major Wall Street firm to go public — in 1999 — retains more of a partnership mentality than do its brethren.

Despite the political haymaking, the truth is that Goldman Sachs did nothing differently in the years leading up to the crisis than did other firms of its stature. Nothing has come to light in any of the very public recent assaults on the firm that also could not be discovered by looking through millions of documents at every other Wall Street firm with large trading and capital-markets businesses.

If anything, what has been revealed in all the reams of Goldman documents is that the firm was — and remains — a better risk-manager than any of its competitors, that it figured out trouble was coming in the mortgage market in 2006 and did something about it, instead of doubling-down, and that it managed to stay profitable throughout the years of the crisis while most of its competitors were out of control.

Indeed, the current political climate seems to have forced Goldman's senior executives to pretend that they did not bet against the mortgage market — from which the firm made a $4 billion windfall in 2007 — and to claim, instead, that Goldman barely made any money from its mortgage business. Why else — other than politics — would Goldman choose to obfuscate this fact rather than boast about its prowess?

Now that a major political victory in the form of Dodd-Frank is within the grasp of Goldman's enemies in Washington, the time has come for politicians to lay off the firm and to allow Goldman and the rest of Wall Street to return to some semblance of normalcy. The time has come to let Goldman be Goldman.

The best way for that to happen is for Goldman to relinquish its status as a bank holding company and free itself of the most onerous and restrictive provisions of the new law. It can simply revert back to being a securities firm — as it was for its first 139 years before the Federal Reserve approved the applications of Goldman and Morgan Stanley on September 22, 2008, in a last-ditch Hail Mary to stop the firms' death spiral (which worked).

Goldman should make the change sooner rather than later. The American people cannot be subsidising the risk-oriented Goldman business plan by providing it with billions of cheap financing through the Fed. Nor should Goldman continue to benefit from the appearance that it will get bailed out the next time things go awry.

By giving up its status as a bank holding company, Goldman can boast about how it — nearly alone — navigated the crisis by cleverly shorting the mortgage market instead of pretending it was like every other firm, just luckier. It can take calculated risks with investors' money. It can make billions of dollars — if it is able, once it is no longer subsidised by taxpayers — and pay those billions to its lucky employees. That's the American Way.

But the next time Goldman Sachs runs into serious trouble — and it will — let the free market determine its fate.






The recent all-India bandh that was called to protest against rising prices was ostensibly to raise issues that are affecting the common man. However, as in any other bandh, the end result was the loss of a working day which is likely to have hurt the poor more than anybody else.

Daily wage earners who have little savings, and are dependent on their daily earnings, would have been affected severely by their inability to reach their work destination. Other vulnerable sections affected by the bandh include small traders and vendors whose daily income would have plummeted on the bandh day. In contrast, the day would have been a paid holiday for the middle classes who are largely salary earners.

At the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), we estimate that the income loss to businesses across India would have been at least Rs 3,000 crores. This means that income of this amount will be lost to the people, further impinging on their purchasing power at a time when inflation is high. It would be a far better option if political parties could sit together and think of solutions to the current problem of persistently high inflation.

Economists feel that the current subsidy regime for keeping fuel prices below international parity is unsustainable. The government, therefore, has no choice but to raise fuel prices to improve the financial health of oil marketing companies.

What the government should do is to see that the vulnerable sections of society continue to have access to the necessary fuel products. Thus, it needs to provide for subsidies that will be well targeted. Today's subsidy regime is not specifically targeted at the poor, and fuel products are available to everyone at the same subsidised price.

As for other prices, the CII has earlier expressed its concern, particularly over spiralling food prices, which disproportionately affect the poor. Supply side reforms are urgently needed in agriculture in order to improve productivity of crops and improve the linkage between the farm and markets. Private sector participation in foodgrain
management should be promoted by permitting direct purchases from farmers, eliminating movement and storage controls, and opening up imports and exports.

In the long run, India will have to invest more in agriculture to be able to meet the objective of food security of a growing population. It is unlikely that a bandh will take us any closer to exploring constructive solutions to the problem of inflation. Instead, it will deprive already poor people of a day's livelihood.

— Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general, CII

Bandh: Poor man's mode of protest

Bandh, a shutdown, is a mode of public protest wherein all economic activities come to a halt for a particular duration of time. It has earned the disapproval of all developing societies, particularly after the process of globalisation began in the 1990s.

Disruption in civic life, freedom to move around and loss in productivity are arguments held against this socialist remnant of public protest. India in the Seventies witnessed the completely disruptive, violence-ridden enforced bandh largely adopted as a means of protest by the Leftists. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sees the July 5 Bharat Bandh as an ultimate call to wake up a government which is pretending to sleep.

Like clairvoyants, on a weekly basis for a year ministers have told us when the prices would come down, but the government has not spelled out one significant step that it has taken to ease the food prices. The mismanagement in the Food Corporation of India godowns, where lakhs of tonnes of foodgrains are rotting, is adding salt to the wound.

The BJP, the Left parties and many regional parties have repeatedly raised these issues at various levels. Meetings, rallies, delegations to the government, public discussions and dialogues, media debates, were all tried. Before and after the 2010 Budget, there were several experts who wondered how the government was planning to tackle the double-digit inflation. The BJP saw that with no steps taken to tackle inflation, the budgetary proposal on fuel would only accentuate inflation. Therefore, it introduced a cut motion. A heated and substantive debate took place in Parliament. This augurs well for our democracy. However, the government continued in its uncaring way.

The last straw was when the government, having done nothing to ease food prices, took the step to delink oil prices from the Administered Price Mechanism. The resultant increase in fuel prices would only add to the burden on the common man and further increase food prices.

What recourse was left but to shut down in protest! Now the government says that the aam aadmi lost his wages on that day. For more than a year the aam aadmi has cried for help. The government could not hear them. The BJP feels that the estimates of loss ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 13,000 crores that are floating around are very varying and suspect. Can there be an estimate of the loss in the real income of families due to the unbridled inflation?

What was the alternative to this bandh? Acquiesce with this indifferent and uncaring government?

— Nirmala Sitharaman, spokesperson, BJP

Bandh: Poor man's mode of protest

Bandh, a shutdown, is a mode of public protest wherein all economic activities come to a halt for a particular duration of time. It has earned the disapproval of all developing societies, particularly after the process of globalisation began in the 1990s.

Disruption in civic life, freedom to move around and loss in productivity are arguments held against this socialist remnant of public protest. India in the Seventies witnessed the completely disruptive, violence-ridden enforced bandh largely adopted as a means of protest by the Leftists. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sees the July 5 Bharat Bandh as an ultimate call to wake up a government which is pretending to sleep.

Like clairvoyants, on a weekly basis for a year ministers have told us when the prices would come down, but the government has not spelled out one significant step that it has taken to ease the food prices. The mismanagement in the Food Corporation of India godowns, where lakhs of tonnes of foodgrains are rotting, is adding salt to the wound.

The BJP, the Left parties and many regional parties have repeatedly raised these issues at various levels. Meetings, rallies, delegations to the government, public discussions and dialogues, media debates, were all tried. Before and after the 2010 Budget, there were several experts who wondered how the government was planning to tackle the double-digit inflation. The BJP saw that with no steps taken to tackle inflation, the budgetary proposal on fuel would only accentuate inflation. Therefore, it introduced a cut motion. A heated and substantive debate took place in Parliament. This augurs well for our democracy. However, the government continued in its uncaring way.

The last straw was when the government, having done nothing to ease food prices, took the step to delink oil prices from the Administered Price Mechanism. The resultant increase in fuel prices would only add to the burden on the common man and further increase food prices.

What recourse was left but to shut down in protest! Now the government says that the aam aadmi lost his wages on that day. For more than a year the aam aadmi has cried for help. The government could not hear them. The BJP feels that the estimates of loss ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 13,000 crores that are floating around are very varying and suspect. Can there be an estimate of the loss in the real income of families due to the unbridled inflation?

What was the alternative to this bandh? Acquiesce with this indifferent and uncaring government?

— Nirmala Sitharaman, spokesperson, BJP






There has to be a meeting point between the heart and the mind. We all know that life is not all poetry and it is also not all practical. Yet poets who think with their heart are prophetic in what they put in words which come from their soul.

A year after the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1985, while reading a poem by Faiz Ahmad Faiz — Sheeshon ka Maseeha — I felt I was reliving this holocaust. This inspired me to visit Bhopal a year later and make a small film with the same name, a tribute to their grief. When such calamities befall on innocent, helpless people we need to view the role of nations and corporations from the Sufi viewpoint which stands for compassion and universal harmony — both integral to our culture.

After World War II, world leaders striving to establish an international organisation to be known as the UNO, decided to select a piece of literature that would epitomise their humanitarian charter and be inscribed on the main gate of its headquarters. Scholars of world languages deliberated for months and selected the following three couplets from Gulistan of Sheikh Saadi:

Bani Aadam azaye yek deegarand Chun dar aafrinish ze yek jauharand (Sons of Adam are like different parts of a human body,

They are the manifestation of that one way of creation)

Chu uzwi bedard awarad rozgaar
Na manad beazaaye deegar qarar
(If one part of the body is afflicted with pain,
Every other part in the body feels it)
Tu kaz ranj o gham e degarand be ghami
Na shayad ke namat nehand aadmi
(And if you are not pained by someone else's pain,
Then it not befitting to call you a human being)

It is the same Saadi who was taught in every home in most villages of our own country till 1857 and even later, but before 1947, to impart moral ethics in human behaviour.
Today, empowering your heart to control your mind is the essence of any education philosophy. Thus today, more than ever before, we need to think with our hearts.
India's cultural subjugation had begun even before the first war of Indian Independence in 1857. In 1835, Lord Macaulay said about India in British Parliament: "I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation".
But the Sufi does not hold anything against anyone. The Sufi makes people dissolve differences to reach out. The Sufi makes the same English that was used to subjugate India, a language to reach out and connect with the heart; to universalise emotions and ideas.
Today the task of the Indian corporate sector is to establish a global product out of India and the multinationals to present an understanding of our markets — our people and culture. This has happened in our tourism sector which is being promoted by the Westerners' passion for our philosophy, heritage and culture, presented to them through their own museum collections or by Indologists and art historians. It's the spirit of the Sufi who is looking for a bridge between the East and the West.
Unlike colonial writers like Mark Twain, who said "East is East, West is West, never the twain shall meet", Rumi 800 years ago said, "I am neither of the East nor the West, no boundaries exist in my breast".
The timeless wisdom of the Sufis is the only way to global peace, without which there is no democracy, no corporations, no trade.

n Information on the Bhopal film is available
on Twitter account SyedMuzaffarAli

— Muzaffar Ali is a filmmaker and painter. He
is the Executive Director and Secretary of the
Rumi Foundation. He can be contacted
at [1]






 "Was it Vauvenargues or Chamfort", asks Pierre Costals in Henri de Montherlant's novel Pity for Women, "who said that one must choose between loving women and understanding them?" Most men would rather love women than understand them, and most women would rather be loved than understood. Women particularly resent men taking a scalpel to dissect, let alone disparage, the feminine psyche, which makes it difficult for a man to write about misogyny; yet there are signs that it is on the rise and, since good relations between the sexes is so fundamental to human happiness, it is perhaps pertinent to ask why.

Misogyny is found in pagan antiquity but today is frequently blamed on the Christian tradition which denigrated the daughters of Eve as a source of temptation: they lured men to have sex and, since almost all sex was sinful, jeopardised the salvation of their souls. However, Christianity also venerated a woman as the mother of God and empowered women by insisting upon a life-long, monogamous marriage; and much of the most vociferous misogyny appears after the Enlightenment, particularly in the 19th century. "When you go to a woman", said Nietzsche's Zarathustra, "don't forget your whip".

Schopenhauer, an influence on Nietzsche, was vitriolic about women: nature had endowed them with deceit as a means of protection, just as it had given claws to a lion and horns to a bull. They had no conscience when it came to sexual morality because "in the darkest recesses of their heart, they are aware that in committing a breach of their duty towards the individual, they have all the better fulfilled their duty towards the species which is infinitely greater". He rubbished the Christian esteem for women and used pseudo-scientific language to prove their inherent inferiority, just as his French contemporary Ernst Renan did of the Jews.

Some misogynists project onto women their own neuroses about sex. "In our sexual natures", wrote George Bernard Shaw, "we are torn by an irresistible attraction and an overwhelming repugnance and disgust". However, today's misogyny has less to do with the neuroses of men like Shaw and Schopenhauer than that of articulate women writing in the 20th century. "Women are 'clinging', a dead weight", wrote Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex. "Their situation is like that of a parasite sucking out the living strength of another organism." "We can no longer ignore that voice within women", wrote Betty Friedan, "that says: 'I want something more than my husband and my children and my home'". "The intimacy between mother and child", wrote Germaine Greer in The Female Eunuch, "is not sustaining and healthy" and "the average family has not proved to be a very good breeding ground for children".

The presumption among these feminist pioneers was that, with the liberation of women, relations between the sexes would change for the better. "Let women be provided with living strength of their own", wrote de Beauvoir, "let them have the means to attack the world and wrest from it their own subsistence, and their dependence will be abolished — that of man also". Has this happened? Undoubtedly, gender equality is now unquestioned in the developed world, and misogyny, like racism and homophobia, is one of today's Seven Deadly Sins. A woman can now survive quite well without a man and a man without a woman. Changes in the means of production mean that women's quick brains and nimble fingers are as productive as the aggressive instincts and muscle-bound arms of men. Even the aboriginal bond that was once necessary for the continuance of the species has been broken: women can bear children without having to have sex with a man and, if there is no man to provide for her children, the state steps in.

Is there a downside for women? Yes, it lets men off the leash. By all means liberate women, says today's Casanova! Free them to work. Let them pay their own way and have sex at will. The male of the species who until now has had to pay for sex — either in cash to a prostitute or with a joint account to a wife — can now enjoy sex without strings. No longer need he deploy the subterfuge of a Vicomte de Valmont to seduce today's Cécile. Her virginity is an embarrassment. She seduces him.

Rather than eradicate misogyny, as the feminists predicted, the liberation of women has given it a new lease of life. Men may take advantage of the freedoms won by the sexual revolution but, as Melanie Phillips writes in her book The Sex-Change Society, they "regard with contempt those girls who are sexually available, calling them slags and slappers". Men quietly ridicule the inconsistency of supposedly liberated women. They still expect a measure of gallantry — flowers on Valentine's Day, candle-lit dinners on their birthdays — and insist on placing a man between two women at middle-class dinner parties. They are prepared to compete with male novelists for the Booker Prize, but the Orange Prize is open only to women. Women now have the right to serve as front-line soldiers in the British Army, but it seems to be the young men who get killed. Girls win more places at our universities and snap up the best jobs, but as often as not they are just on fishing-trips for a man who will appear at the altar for an ego-trip wedding, then buckle down to a conjugal life.

Yet for a man, marriage is now something of a
gamble. Half of marriages end in divorce and
the majority of divorces are instigated by women. The rate of breakdown in partnerships is higher still. Men father children, grow to love them, and lose them when their wives kick them out. This has grave consequences, particularly for their sons who, according to Melanie Phillips, come to "treat their own mothers with contempt for having a different boyfriend every month, and often blame the mother for driving the father out..." The absence of a father makes the mother the default disciplinarian: the son, who would accept chastisement from his father, feels emasculated when it is meted out by his mother. A misogynist is born.

Freud's colleague, the Hungarian psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi, wrote that a woman can only be cured of neurosis when she accepts "without trace of resentment the implications of her female role". What is true for an individual applies to a society as a whole. The archetypal female role, throughout human history, has been first and foremost that of a wife and mother — gentle, nurturing, faithful. Now, thanks to feminism, femininity itself is denigrated as slavish and outmoded. Misogyny is on the rise but not just among men: women have come to despise themselves.









THE 12-member SN Roy committee, that probed the fire at Stephen Court, Kolkata, has scanned well-trodden ground. There is little or nothing in its report that wasn't a talking point in the aftermath of the infernal disaster on 23 March. Small wonder why the surviving occupants have trashed the report as a farce, one that they claim was drafted without interacting with residents. This was the minimum that was expected. Predictably enough, the fire services department is on the mat. It has had its back to the wall since the tragedy under a minister whose ineptitude is now almost certified. But there is no reference to the multiplicity of unions ~ 17 on last count ~ that can at any time hobble the Fire Brigade's operations. Nor for that matter has the committee taken note of the remarkably rational proposal of the Kolkata Police that all buildings display the sanctioned plan on the ground floor. It may be just a coincidence that the suggestion was generally opposed by promoters and ~ rather surprisingly ~ by a section of highrise residents immediately after the report was advanced to the Chief Minister. To cavil that the plan outlay is much too technical to be gleaned in the event of an emergency is only to beg the question: it doesn't call for engineering expertise to indicate entrances and exits, the location of the staircase and the elevator. Nearer the truth must be the fact that not many promoters abide by the ground rules; there is a deviation too many from the sanctioned plan. Every rule in the book is flouted once they bribe their way. 

The report has skirted several crucial aspects that would have been an embarrassing disgrace for the KMC, under a different political dispensation in March. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the former Chief Secretary, who headed the committee, didn't want to ruffle the feathers of the government. While the Left Front's KMC has escaped the rap, the CESC has been blamed for not installing an additional transformer given the reckless increase in load. The point is well-taken, and is valid for the entire city. That said, the perception, particularly in  relation to OBCs (Old Buildings of Calcutta), needs to be holistic.  Ergo, it throws up the larger question of inspection covering safety regulations, unauthorised extensions and the common feature of all such buildings ~ the tangled web of electrical wirings. Not to put too fine a point on it, inspection long ago ceased to be a meaningful exercise beyond the exchange of lucre. In the manner of most inquiry reports, the one on the Stephen Court fire will very probably be docketed.





VALID was the fanfare and festivity ~ the defence community sure knows how to celebrate ~ that marked the "roll out" of the first prototype of the naval version of the Light Combat Aircraft in Bangalore. In keeping with spirit of the occasion the defence minister opted for hyperbole, hailing it as a "defining and memorable moment". Yet it will take more than trumpet-blowing to truly silence the "prophets of doom" that AK Antony sought to slam, for as the Prime Minister keeps reminding, "the proof of the pudding …". And the extended original LCA "history" gives cause for skepticism. True seven years from the sanction of the project is not too long a period for the naval LCA to be unveiled, but remember there was a fairly advanced model upon which to start working. This version is expected to take to the sky by the end of this year but the real test will be when it is launched and recovered by the shore-based facility that simulates the ski-jump assisted take-off and arrester-cable landing. That, again, is not quite the same as operating from the deck of a carrier out at sea. The strengthened airframe and landing-gear, folding wings and other "modifications" of the original LCA (that is yet to commence commercial production) are so crucial that it might be impractical and unrealistic ~ it certainly would be jingoistic ~ to assume that a roll-out guarantees the project is "on a roll". This is not to dampen spirits, only to stress that nothing can be taken for granted.

 Rightly has the naval variant been programmed to enter operational service in 2015, when the indigenous carrier is commissioned. The criticality of both projects developing in tandem cannot be overstressed. Carriers are essentially power-projectors; so an indigenous aircraft embarked upon a home-built platform will amplify the message being delivered. "Development" is only the beginning of the story. Will HAL have the capacity to produce both LCA versions (along with its other major contract obligations) without compromising on quality or punctuality? What might tilt the scales in the favour of success is the navy's commitment to domestic production: it has propelled the development of ships and submarines, hopefully it will power the jetfighter venture too.





THE Congress euphoria over sweeping the May 2010 elections to five autonomous district councils in Manipur's hill areas could be shortlived. For one, the polls were held after having been frozen for well over two decades and amid stiff opposition by locals who imposed a 68-day blockade of the Dimapur-Imphal Road, the state's lifeline. The United Naga Council and its frontal organisations boycotted the polls. Given this uncertain climate, it is doubtful that the district councils will function properly. Chief minister Ibobi Singh's remark that Manipur could not develop if its hill areas remained stagnant is in itself belated admission of his administration's failure to do anything worth the name. Ibobi, however, made it known that it was at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's instance that the ADC elections were held. Sadly, this emphasises Ibobi's inability to honestly identify with the hill people. And more's the pity that hill people must resort to occasional blockades to air their grievances over such matters as the bad condition of the National Highway 39 and the delay in filling teachers' posts.

Last year, NSCN(IM) militants killed an additional deputy commissioner in Ukhrul, allegedly for remote-controlling affairs from Imphal. There are many instances of "proxy" functioning by government employees. The oneness among the people of Manipur has all but dissipated after the NSCN(IM) call for the integration of Naga-inhabited areas. Should the state administration really feel for hill people, it is still not too late to hold cabinet meetings by rotation in all the five hill districts to instil in them a sense of belonging. However good Ibobi's intentions ~ and he could well do as expected of him to initiate an immediate development process in the hills through the ADCs ~ what matters most is how fast he acts and whether his government will be able to maintain the momentum.









Rajni Kothari had advanced a significant formulation in 1970: "The alleged casteism in politics is no more and no less than politicisation of castes." He explained that "by drawing the caste system into its organisational web, politics finds material for its articulation and moulds it into its own design.  In making politics their sphere of activity, caste and kin groups on the other hand, get a chance to assert their identity and strive for positions."
This binary process of caste and politics interacting within the democratic template has created its own dynamics. Politics uses the social organisation of castes. And castes use the political opportunity for influence, power and economic benefits. This construct was conceptualised by M.N. Srinivas in his presidential address at the Calcutta Science Congress in January 1957. He noted that during the past century, caste had found new spheres of activity, politics being one of the prominent ones. 

The marginalised castes and communities have successfully vied for power. They have gained a noticeable and effective presence in the corridors of power within the three decades of the electoral process. They have made their way despite the initial advantage of the upper and dominant castes. This confirms the theory of these two doyens of  social science ~ Kothari and Srinivas. 

Volatile mix

After six decades, 15 general elections and several state assembly elections, caste is now increasingly assertive in political terms. Over the past two decades, the country has witnessed a volatile mix of caste and quota politics. In rural and urban India, caste has acquired a social space. This has complicated a range of social issues.

Since 1952, India's electoral politics has been based on a jigsaw of social coalitions, which started fragmenting during the Seventies and the Eighties and fell apart by the Nineties. The flux created local or state-based coalitions around several leaders or parties, each seeking a winning and electorally sustainable caste arithmetic. The need for expanding such coalitions for creating larger vote-banks led to populism. The outcome was a tangled skein of caste politics and quota politics.

Obviously society and politics never abondoned caste. Obviously again, Kothari's nuanced distinction has lost relevance since the 1990s. The country has been in the fast lane of caste politics since V.P. Singh's 'Mandal' counterpoise ~ with an assertion of social justice ~ to the Sangh Parivar's 'Kamandal' politics, seeking to create a social coalition of upper and middle caste Hindus. 

The continuing violence against the Dalits and Adivasis is a dark chapter of Indian democracy. The quota politics was a reassertion of castes in the last decade of the 20th century. To seek a caste-based census is only an extension of the trend.

 Of late, couples have been killed for sagotra marriages. On occasion, the families have had a hand in the murders, committed under pressure and virtual licence from the khap panchayats. The latter's  ability to convince an MP to highlight their stand in Parliament and the Haryana chief minister lending support to the khap point of view are signs of resurgence and reassertion of caste as a social formation.
Noticeable also is the emergence of a political pressure group beyond quota politics. This has affected the tenets of the Constitution and the rule of law. In a sense, lending support to the khap perception is an endorsement of the 'death sentence' against same gotra marriages.

 Caste is obviously asserting and reinforcing its societal influence through politics. And, the political leadership is rapidly losing its legitimacy and confidence to foster change towards a socially less stratified India. Electoral considerations come in the way; political expediency allows the social ills to persist.

 The reassertion of the khap is not an isolated development despite the impression that the influence of caste is weakening in the urban areas.  There is a move to legalise a ban on sagotra marriages through the political process.  The government's inability to adopt a Uniform Civil Code despite Article 44 of the Constitution, the existence of  personal laws such as the shariah and the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 that proscribes certain marital alliances are cited as the reasons why the community rights of the khaps should be respected and sagotra marriage banned under the Hindu Marriage Act. The rights of couples opting for such marriages could be taken care of by the Special Marriages Act.  It ignores the fact that the khap's killer-diktat respects neither individual rights nor the SPA. Should the khap's demand be fulfilled, it will lend a legal stamp to a regressive casteist trend.

Affirmative action

THE only aspect of caste that is recognised constitutionally is that the historical wrongs against the lowest castes and the Adivasis merit affirmative action to ensure their uplift and end prejudices. Such action has not been sufficiently effective to ensure a secure existence against upper caste tyranny in rural India. In fact, the rising intermediate castes have either replaced or joined them in this oppression. This is testified by the data on  atrocities against the lower castes.

Second, the demand for affirmative action for the Dalit converts to Islam and Christianity and the opposition to it indicate that the deeply entrenched prejudices and socio-economic disabilities still persist. Obviously, the purported policies of inclusion have had limited impact on the process of exclusion.

Third, the transformation of discrimination politics from classes to castes between the aka Kalelkar Commission in 1952 and the implementation of the Mandal Commission  report in 1990, is a striking example of the reassertion of caste in society and politics. Since then it has been an  important instrument to garner votes of this large segment. The Supreme Court's 50 per cent ceiling against the reservation rush and its acceptance of caste as the defining parameter of the OBC (1992), the debate on reservation in private sector jobs (2004), the implementation of the OBC quota in education (2006), have combined to bring caste to the forefront of political mobilisation.  Caste forms the backdrop of both society and politics.  (To be concluded)

The writer is Honorary Director, Centre for Public Affairs, Noida








Late last year, during vigilance week, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee termed corruption as a ":demon'' and stated that there is no place in the Railways for corrupt officers. More recently, the annual general managers' meeting found the minister directly warning senior officials that she will not tolerate corruption and that, given evidence, heads will roll. Bureaucrats have got the message, but corruption is a fertile demon. Cut one head off, another will grow back. The difficulty lies in seeing through the demon's disguises right down to the systemic fault-lines that keep it rooted.

There is incentive and opportunity for Miss Banerjee to assess and amend features of railway procurement that give rise to the demon, especially now that her ambitions in Bengal appear to be on course. What is really at stake is the setting of a precedent. Certain systemic changes will save enormous amounts of public revenue in coming years, check future corruption, help better fulfil Vision 2020, and gift the minister an enviable legacy. On the flip side, without these corrections, the railways will drift away from being a ":lifeline to the nation'' that brings growth to new sections of society; it will remain a gravy train for the same suppliers, only increase inequalities, and allow the demon a royal feast.

In questioning the transparency of RDSO's supplier approval system and instituting a senior committee to study the functioning of this railway R&D body, the minister has made a promising beginning. But history shows that a little tinkering will achieve nothing. In 2005, the Central Vigilance Commission made detailed recommendations to the Railway Board, addressing high prices and lack of competition caused by RDSO's nonsensical Part 1-Part 2 supplier division and ":large-scale corruption'' in both product inspections and the process of approving suppliers. Only token changes resulted.

A 2006 CAG report showed how decentralization of procurement was done in an ad-hoc manner; that it failed to reduce time because suppliers were given undue favour; and that it created uncontrollable cartels and scandalous upward fluctuation of prices. What steps has the board taken since to eliminate cartels, introduce competition, and normalize prices? At one annual controller of stores meeting after another, complaints have been parried by board members with religious chanting of the board's weak orders that have failed to control cartels or have been reduced to discussions about whether to centralize or decentralize the purchase of an item. Both centralized and decentralized procurement still suffer from three unaddressed problems: restricted competition, no independent techno-economic cost analysis, and, lack of professional independence for procurement officers. These three fault-lines keep the railway demon well fed.

Consider the independence of procurement. Members of the minister's senior committee have noticed that the sole railways R&D body, Research Design & Standards Organization (RDSO), was formed in 1957 to do just as its name suggests: conduct research, develop and absorb new technology and design, and maintain quality, standards, and specifications. Nowhere in its mandate does it say that RDSO should be involved in vendor selection. Why has RDSO given research short shrift and become far more interested in creating approved supplier lists for all kinds of railway items?

The change occurred in the mid-1990's. A 2004 CAG report shows how the research body had begun spending only 10-13 per cent of its entire budget on research and that its technical staff had shrunk in size. A closer look will show why, under the watchful eye of the Railway Board, RDSO has become a den of corruption in procurement, unleashing high-priced fruits of closed competition that the entire railways has been forced to swallow.

In RDSO, and in each of the six railway production units that create approved supplier lists, it is the numerous consuming directorates, like the mechanical and electrical directorates, rather than the one procurement directorate of stores that decide on and approve suppliers for items. This is an anomaly. It is one reason for the continued support of non-competitive bidding and attached corruption. It has removed a safety valve in the form of stores and increased direct contact between those that need and specify parts and private suppliers.
Standard practice calls for the procurement directorate to be involved in approving and developing vendors under the lead of a member stores on the Railway Board. This is not a novel idea. When the Railway Board was first reconstituted in 1924, with four members, one handled projects and stores. Some time after Independence, the entire stores directorate, peopled with officers trained in procuring materials for all kinds of railway items, began to function under the diktat of Member, Mechanical Railway Board.

Recently, given the importance and volume of railway procurement, there has again been a push for a member stores. But, despite this post having been recommended by parliamentary standing committees, a railways reform committee, a cadre review committee, the 5th Pay Commission, and sanctioned by the government of India and previous railway ministers, its creation has been repeatedly stalled by the board.

The reason new posts on the board are being resisted is that railway departments function as empires, fighting internecine turf wars. Fights are for control of infrastructure, personnel, and funds, in both substantial projects, like which directorate will control which freight corridor, and petty cases, which result in the irrational division of responsibilities even within trains. For example, what sense does it make that the mechanical directorate should oversee on-board cleaning contracts? Only when one notes that until recently the Rs 250 crore cleaning racket had Rs 150 crore annual profit margins, does this begin to make sense; rationality plays truant in the game of power and revenue.

In terms of stores, the member mechanical refuses to cede control because with it the mechanical directorate can dictate terms on annual procurement worth Rs 30,000 crore as well as the independence of stores personnel, especially given that the second largest employer in the world having 14 lakh employees has no proper transfer policy. When few honest stores managers find suppliers fixing prices, they can do little because their posts are in the hands of the very consumer department heads on the Board that approve suppliers. Stores managers are thereby reduced to mere observers of the tender process, called in only when it is time to sign away the high-priced loot.

A member stores on the Railway Board would spoil the party, which is exactly why the minister should push to re-create this post, and involve stores in vendor selection. However, recent events show the nature of counsel given to the Minister. The arbitrary transfer and virtual sacking of Mr M.P. Juneja, the seniormost stores officer, and a man reputed for his honesty, has further weakened railway procurement in the face of the demon. The highest stores post of additional member that Mr Juneja held has been downgraded to accommodate a junior officer. Did the demon make the Minister score a self-goal? Unless the minister realizes her error, the loot is set to continue.

The second and rather unbelievable lacuna is that railways does not conduct its own independent techno-economic cost analysis, that is, an estimation of material and processing costs of items, before mass-purchase. Given that there is no open competition to automatically control prices, this is astonishing. Numerous cases of overpricing, enumerated in a decade worth of CAG reports, some of which were open scams that no one cared to question, have benefited from this fact. At present, the only basis for assessing tender quotations is the last purchase rate, which suppliers fix and raise with every purchase. Three decades ago, a railways reform committee recommended the creation of zonal ":cost estimation cells'' to bring order to prices quoted by restricted suppliers. Independent cost estimation cells at both the zonal and board levels need to be instituted to stop the large-scale revenue loss.

Lastly and most painfully obvious is the need for open competition. The minister would be wise to do away with the arbitrary distinction between Part 1 and Part 2 suppliers for all non-safety items. Part 2 suppliers, who bid for a small piece of the pie in each tender, undergo the same quality checks and tend to quote lower prices. It makes no sense to keep this irrationality alive. The CVC and the Comptroller Auditor General have repeatedly stated that this division causes railways immense revenue losses and promotes corruption. The railways could also benefit from the advice of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) if it were to consider a procurement overhaul. In 2006, the Railway Board circulated a routine letter that evidence of cartels should be reported to CCI. The CCI was, however, not functional during UPA 1, and cases reported were returned untended. The CCI is up and running now and it would be telling if the Railway Board has not already taken recourse to guidance and officer education from the one agency that can help make its procurement process competitive. With the TERI report on competition in the transport sector commissioned and released in March 2009, the CCI already sits briefed about the corruption in the railways courtesy anti-competitive practices. However, at present, it appears that the railways only stands before the CCI as an accused, with Jindal Steel and Power Ltd taking the railways to task for its exclusive agreement with Steel Authority of India for the supply of rail tracks. The nation would benefit if harmful competition between railway departments is controlled and open competition between private suppliers, with demon-free quality inspections, is allowed to flourish.


The writer is The Statesman's Bhopal-based Principal Correspondent







"One touch of the tiger opens up ten wounds and one touch of the policeman opens up eighteen" runs an old Bangla proverb. The old words have modern credence in the light of nearly a thousand complaints reported against police personnel in West Bengal in 2008, the tremendous outrage generated among the public over the police role in the mysterious death of Rizwanur Rehman and atrocities allegedly perpetrated by policemen in Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh. Time and again, the police fail the people of West Bengal. Yet the government and the police establishment stoutly resist any effort to reform.

Finally, pursuant to directives of no less an institution than the Supreme Court, the West Bengal government is hesitantly testing out its reform agenda. Most recently, it has decided to set up a police complaints authority. Its declared purpose is to ensure a bias-free inquiry into allegations against IPS and WBPS officers. While the admission that there is actually a problem is a step forward, the remedy remains half-hearted and absolutely out of line with the Supreme Court's directive on what a police complaints authority should look like.
A police complaints authority is meant to be a specialized agency that watches over how police handle complaints against themselves. Across the world, effective agencies are manned by diversely skilled people with integrity who are completely independent of the police and politics. The most effective ones have the power to summon people and documents, ask for explanations about mishandling and make binding recommendations. Police chiefs are expected to comply with what they say. Disagreements or refusals to follow their advice have to be justified in writing and the whole put into periodic public reports about police performance and shortcomings that are then discussed in the legislature. None of this can be expected from the deformed and mutilated agency that has been set up.

The Supreme Court required complaints bodies to be set up at state and district levels so they could be close to the people. West Bengal has set up just one for the whole state of over 80 million people. The court required commissioners to be full-time and to have their own investigating staff. Instead in West Bengal, the chairperson of the state human rights commission will now double up as that of the new body. This when the commission hasn't had a full-time chairperson for the past 16 months and has 5,000 cases pending and more coming in. The government says it wants to monitor developments in other states before taking further steps. Given that it has had five long years for cogitation, such procrastination speaks more of government disinclination than of prudence.

The membership is even more problematic. It is dominated by former and serving bureaucrats. Unlike anywhere else in the world, the new institution - if one can call it that - will have on it serving police officers. This is in sharp contrast to the court's directive which required experts and professionals from diverse fields of experience to sit on it. Now, the composition will ensure its image is immediately stamped as pro-establishment and pro-police and will, therefore, defeat the purpose of its creation. The chair's dual role will also create a situation where the chair pulling up police personnel all morning as the head of the human rights commission will suddenly be transported to being their brethren on the bench in the afternoon. The conflict of interest is so obvious as to be laughable were it not so sad for the public.

The court also laid down a mandate for the authority. It required the state-level authority to look into allegations of "serious misconduct" which included death, grievous hurt and rape in custody. In addition, the district-level authorities were empowered to look into allegations of extortion, land or house grabbing and abuse of authority. Allegations of extortion, land or house grabbing and abuse of authority do not fall within the mandate of the authority.

In relation to their mandate, the court laid down that the recommendations of the complaints authorities at both the state and district levels "for any action, departmental or criminal, against a delinquent police officer shall be binding on the concerned authority". Unfortunately orders of the West Bengal authority shall be "ordinarily binding on the state''. It leaves the discretion with the government to disobey by merely giving reasons. Such a clause will guarantee that the authority remains impotent for all purposes.

If the government is seeking through these shoddy cosmetic means to deceive the public into thinking that they are creating an effective public institution that will improve police accountability and assure bias-free investigations into their many wrongdoings, then the public had better wake up and stand up for their rights. Or they will get what they deserve—nothing.


The writers are Director and Programme Officer, respectively, of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative






A London cable to the Pioneer says:- In the course of his speech at the Civil Service dinner Lord Curzon said he was sorry to have seen figures which seemed to show that whereas a few years ago at least half the men who took the highest places at the Civil Service examinations chose the Indian career, the proportion was now less than a third. He had also seen mentioned in the Indian papers cases of Civilians who had retired as soon as they had reached the minimum period of service and sometimes before qualifying for a pension. He thought these were serious symptons which ought to be recommended to the attention of the Government. If fresh demands upon Civilians in connection with the Legislative Councils and increased cost of living in India were the causes of the apparent falling off in the attractiveness of the Indian career, he hoped the combination was but temporary and accidental.

The Westminster Gazette says this raises the question of whether the new method of appointment to the Civil Service is an improvement. The complaint is made that the new Civilian is more academic and less human than the old, and thinks too much of leave and retirement with a pension at fifty. The need is for fresh, vigorous, alert men, who will bring an open mind to new facts, even if it means breaking with some cherished traditions of the Service.

Mr Ayodhya Das, Barrister, Gorakhpur, has made a donation of Rs 500 per mensem to Mrs Besant to utilise at her discretion. It is understood that half of that amount will be given to the Benares Central Hindu College, and the other half for other theosophical purposes.







Choosing a partner can be as challenging in politics as in private life. But going it alone is sometimes a better proposition than getting into uncertain partnerships. The Congress has to make up its mind soon about how it will fight the coming assembly elections in Bihar. It has two options — to look for partners and to go it alone. Given the state of its decline in Bihar, an alliance with other secular parties appears to be the more tempting option. At least two major parties in Bihar — Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party — should be the Congress's willing partners. After all, these two parties are partners of the United Progressive Alliance at the national level. Two factors could help an alliance between the Congress and these two parties against the ruling combine of the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party. It could help avoid a split in secular votes and also appeal to a larger number of caste and community groups than the Congress can attract on its own. The most compelling argument for an alliance, of course, is that the Congress is organizationally too weak in Bihar to be able to defeat the JD (U)-BJP combine on its own.


However, only a bold and independent push can change things for the Congress in Bihar. Rahul Gandhi seems to think so and he may well be right in his judgment. In Bihar, the big question for the party's prospects in the coming polls is not whether it can get a few more seats, thanks to Mr Prasad or Mr Paswan, but whether it can have a political rebirth in one of the biggest states in India. It must be a matter of great discomfort for the party that it now has just 10 members in the 423-seat legislature in Bihar. The Congress faced a similar dilemma in Uttar Pradesh on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. It had to choose between allying with Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and going it alone. Mr Gandhi chose the latter course rather than accept a humiliatingly small number of seats offered by Mr Yadav. His boldness paid off — the Congress surprised both its opponents and most of its own leaders by winning 12 more seats than in 2004. Bihar and UP have similarities in caste and Muslim vote banks. True, what worked in UP in mid-2009 may not work in Bihar towards the end of 2010. But the Congress's revival in Bihar and UP is crucial to the party's fortunes in national politics.








Women in India's armed forces are engaged in a different kind of battle, and they have not won yet. In March, acting on a complaint from some female officers of the army and the air force, the Delhi High Court had ordered the government to grant women permanent commissions instead of the conventional short service commission that allows them to serve up to 14 years at most. It sets them apart from the men, who can apply for a permanent commission and be entitled to higher benefits as well as a longer time to serve the country. The defence ministry has shilly-shallied over this order, and has placed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court for a review of the high court's March order after the high court issued notices to the army chief, the defence secretary and the adjutant general for not having followed it.


There is a deeply ingrained resistance to the idea of women as soldiers, and this is so all over the world. Even the Delhi High Court order ensures that women are given a permanent commission in non-combatant roles. This is exactly like the Indian air force's ban on women flying fighter planes. The army appears not too keen on giving women officers permanent commissions because their subordinates would be men, and the army's male-driven culture baulks at accepting orders from women. This sounds crudely discriminatory, but excuses displaying greater sophistication have similar roots. One objection against women pilots in the West was the fear they would not be able to fight gravitation; that has been countered with suggestions for training in military occupational specialities that should be exactly the same for men and women. Equality would be for the sake of effectiveness, not gender balance. This could work in India too. The old ban on close and ground combat for women has stopped working ever since 'frontlines' became fluid. Thousands of women have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, if only because the West can no longer reject the resources. Women know that female prisoners of war are sexually vulnerable when they take the decision to fight and prove themselves able; men need not pose this as another concern. Both men and women need training to accept that all jobs in the army are open to anyone who proves to be fit for them. Culture is created by the dominant attitude; it cannot be a pretext to stop women from getting permanent commissions.









The G20 leaders have just concluded their summit meeting in Toronto. The meeting came at a time when controversies about appropriate global economic policies have surfaced all over again. On one side of the Atlantic, the Eurozone countries and the United Kingdom have been preaching the virtues of fiscal austerity measures. Indeed, several of them, including Germany, Spain and the UK have either started or will soon start practising what they preach. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Americans have been proclaiming that the time is not right to cut back on government spending since the global economy is still to recover from the recent worldwide recession. Economists, who as a breed seldom seem to agree on important issues, are equally divided. So, both points of view can claim the support of 'experts'.


Not surprisingly, the final communiqué represents a compromise between these extreme positions, with a 'small victory' for the Europeans. The world leaders have agreed to cut budget deficits by half over the next three years. As a concession to the Americans, the communiqué also declared that "we are committed to taking concerted actions to sustain the recovery, create jobs…." But, clearly, the clock has turned full circle from meetings in 2008 and 2009, when the overriding emphasis was on how to coordinate increased government spending in order to stimulate the global economy.


The Eurozone and the UK are perhaps apprehensive that their economies would soon face problems similar to those which almost resulted in a collapse of the Greek economy. For instance, the Spanish economy has failed to recover from the recession. This has meant a sharp fall in government revenues, resulting in a steep increase in public debt. Fears that it would not be able to raise sufficient funds to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure forced the government to launch rather draconian reductions in expenditure, including severe cuts in bureaucrats' salaries.


But even stronger economies have been struck by the austerity bug. Take, for example, the German economy, which seemed to be well on the path of economic recovery. However, the German government was very active in pursuing expansionary policies during the latter half of 2008 and throughout 2009 in order to mitigate the global slowdown resulting from the financial crisis. The Germans also paid the lion's share of the mammoth European Financial Stability Facility, which was set up to bail out the Greek economy. Not surprisingly, what was quite a healthy budgetary position in 2008 has turned into a pretty bad one today — there is now a deficit of five per cent of the gross domestic product.


The German government has now decided to pledge as much as 80 billion euros in tax increases and spending cuts next year so as to save roughly 0.5 per cent of the GDP. Of course, the German austerity drive pales into insignificance compared to what George Osborne, the new UK chancellor of the exchequer, has planned for the UK economy in his first budget.


Osborne and all other proponents of the austerity drive claim that no nation can afford to live beyond its means in the long run. They assert that countries' economies are not dramatically different from that of individual households. The latter can bridge a temporary gap between expenditure and incomes by borrowing. But loans must ultimately be paid back and so household budgets must be balanced over the long run. One difference between sovereign governments and households is that the former can float their own bonds or debt instruments. But even governments cannot afford to borrow year after year, because they would find it increasingly difficult to get buyers for their debt instruments.


There is more than a grain of truth in this argument. After all, sovereign debt defaults take place — the recent history of Argentina illustrates this clearly. So there is no reason to doubt that when public debt piles up and becomes unmanageably large, prudence dictates that the government cut back on expenditure. Of course, the reasons for rolling back the stimulus packages must be overriding. It is important to emphasize this caveat because it is possible that Osborne's decision to slash spending was also heavily influenced by his economic philosophy — that even in the best of times, the size of the public sector should be as small as possible.


The real debate must be not about the necessity of pursuing prudent budgetary policies, but about the timing of initiating contractionary fiscal policies. Many economists feel that it is too premature to reverse the stimulus packages that were implemented a couple of years ago. They point out that the Europeans need to remember the experience of 1937, when the American attempt to balance budgets pushed the American economy back into severe recession — just at the point when it seemed to be climbing out of the depression.


On both sides of the Atlantic, the major economies have just started to record positive rates of growth. But the process of recovery has just started. Unemployment levels remain high, many of the people who have been unemployed for some time have quite naturally run through their savings. So, governments must ensure that jobs are created as soon as possible, and provide adequate safety nets in the form of welfare payments until people are absorbed into gainful employment. This is worth emphasizing because most reductions in government expenditure also have painful consequences since they typically involve large cuts in social welfare schemes.


Unfortunately, these economies are still very precariously balanced on the brink of a precipice — even a slight fall in aggregate demand may push them back into the throes of a fresh period of depression. However, if all the major countries start cutting back on expenditure, then it seems almost inevitable that there will be a very large fall in global aggregate demand. This may push some of the weaker economies, such as the UK, back into the negative growth regime.


Moreover, such a scenario will also tend to be self-defeating. For instance, the UK budget estimates assume that the private sector will expand sufficiently rapidly to more than compensate for the reduction in the size of the public sector. This optimism is partly based on the assumption that private sector growth will be spurred through a rapid rise in export demand. But why should there be an increased demand for British goods if all other countries are downsizing? Perhaps, a more likely scenario is that we will soon witness a race to the bottom — unless better sense prevails.


The author is professor of economics, University of Warwick








Sometimes, one wonders whether China really lacks democracy. Two recent incidents are illustrative. A villager living in a rural district in Wuhan, a highly industrialized provincial capital, has built himself a cannon to ward off the demolition squads sent by a company that has requisitioned his land. He has used this deadly apparatus, comprising old rockets charged with firecrackers, twice already. The first time, the demolishers hid behind a bulldozer; after the cannon fire was over, they thrashed the farmer, but stayed away for three months. The next time, they came armed with shields. By then, the farmer had erected a watch tower, and could fire well in time. No one was hurt.


Yet all that the police had done is call him for questioning, tell him he has violated public-safety regulations, made him sign a statement that he won't do anything illegal, and taken away his fire crackers. The villager claims that he has done nothing illegal; that it's the company which is in the wrong because it refuses to give him the government-approved price for his land. All around his house, he has put up placards with slogans: "Personal interests are trivial, but failure to implement official policies is serious"; "Retaliation and revenge are not allowed by government policy and law"; "Oppose using public power for personal reasons"; "Open and fair actions in accordance with the law", and so on.


He now awaits the third demolition squad, having put a couch on the tower so that he can be on vigil all the time. Imagine the fate of someone like him in democratic India, where demolitions of slums and village homes for grand projects go on all the time, but rarely make news.


Angry voices


The 'power of the people' was demonstrated again in a mining city in the east. A student's cycle brushed against an official's car, upon which the official's wife — who was driving — hit the student. The official too got off and slapped him. On being questioned, the wife yelled, "I am a government cadre. I know that you are from the Number Two Middle School. I can send people to cause you big trouble in school." This provoked bystanders, and soon the crowd began throwing bricks and watermelons at the car. The police quickly arrived and took the couple into their own vehicle, but the crowd refused to disperse. Finally, the city communist party secretary had to come and plead with the people to disperse, assuring them that if this incident was not "handled properly", they could come and see him directly.


The violence stopped, but the crowd wouldn't let the police vehicle carrying the couple leave. An hour later, the secretary announced that with immediate effect, he had dismissed the official from his post of director of the city tourist bureau. Even after that, the police had to burst tear gas to get their vehicle, with the couple inside it, out of there. The official was detained on charges of assault; the student had already been taken to hospital.


Imagine such a scene in India. A lathi charge, perhaps even police firing, would have ensued, the bureaucrats would have got away and the student arrested. There may not even have been any protest against the slapping of a mere student! 'Do you know who I am? I am an official', has now become the proverbial red rag to the man on the street. As one commentator noted, it may have worked when people were terrified of power, but not in today's China, which is making the transition from a 'power society' to a 'rights society'.


But old habits die hard. Three days after the incident, the censors ordered that the report be deleted from the newspaper — perhaps referring to the online edition. Now that's something that wouldn't happen in democratic India.










The fear and the fury of being abandoned are the two great universalizing forces in the work of Louise Bourgeois, the French-born American artist who died on May 31 in New York at the age of 98. "My work is really based on the elimination of fears," Bourgeois once said in an interview. "Life is made of experiences and emotions," she explained elsewhere. "The objects I have created make them tangible."


To be confronted with Bourgeois' art — even if one were to look at images of it in books or on the internet — is to gain access to one's own secret psychic dumping ground through being allowed to enter the artist's mental backyard. The intensity with which she wielded the pen, brush or the needle-and-thread, moulded a variety of media (from marble to latex) into multifarious forms, and scribbled with a monomaniac's passion through sleepless nights, had an infectious effect on her viewers.


Faced with her gigantic, 30-feet-high spider, Maman (1999), or the no less towering I Do, I Undo, I Redo that she installed inside the turbine hall of the Tate Modern in 2000, we instantly feel, at a visceral level, that the air around us has changed. Bourgeois' art is always already manipulative in the subtlest of ways. Even as she extracts the full sympathy of the viewers with her often brazenly self-revealing work, she never allows them to feel superior. On the contrary, our sympathy crumbles into abject empathy as soon as we step inside the electric emotional field of her art. Bourgeois had the witch-like gift to revive memories that we would prefer not to remember or be made aware of at all.


Throughout her long life as an artist, Bourgeois' approach was unabashedly confessional. She returned insistently to her own traumas and trials, recounted stories of betrayal and hurt with a hysteric's relish, and showed the way to younger artists like Tracey Emin, Jenny Holzer, Sophie Calle and Roni Horn. Her contemporaries included 20th-century masters like Picasso, Giacometti and Dalí as well as much younger, avant-garde artists like Bruce Nauman, Eva Hesse and Keith Sonnier, alongside whom she was shown, at the age of 55, by Lucy Lippard in Lippard's landmark exhibition called Eccentric Abstraction (1966).


Yet, even as she made a career out of her own personal miseries, Bourgeois managed to transform the biographical context of her art into a larger refuge for mourners and melancholics. Her work, as a critic noted, drew its furious energy from "a world that is part psychotherapy session and part self-help boot camp". Bourgeois, who believed that "art is the guarantee of sanity", would have probably agreed. Although Bourgeois' approach was informed by her faith in the palliative power of art, she also happened to live through an extraordinary period in world history, which no doubt left an indelible impression on her work. Born in 1911, she witnessed, and quietly internalized, a veritable panorama of events — from the World Wars, rise and fall of fascism and communism, to decolonization, the sexual revolution and the coming of the internet.


The legacy of the wars, for example, found a chilling resonance in her series of headless couples, some with prosthetic limbs, holding on to one another in a deadly embrace, hanging from a butcher's hook or lying inside antique vitrines. In 1938, just before the beginning of World War II, Bourgeois married the art historian, Robert Goldwater, and moved to New York. The shift to America spared her the ordeals of Occupied France, but also poisoned her early years in her adopted country with the guilt she felt as an exile. She would eventually dissipate her anguish through a series of totemic sculptures, shown in New York in 1949 and known by their generic title, Personages.


Leaning precariously against the wall, or fixed later to the floor of the gallery, these slender poles were apparently modelled on people close to Bourgeois — her immediate family as well as those she had left behind in France. Pitifully unadorned and insulated in their own silence, these shapes were inspired as much by the minimal forms of Brancusi as by the chiselled architecture of Le Corbusier, both of whom Bourgeois knew closely. But it was the New York skyline dotted with elegant skyscrapers — the proud verticality of America as opposed to the sedate horizontality of Europe — that influenced Bourgeois most.


These erect forms reappeared in a different guise in the nine intaglio prints, entitled He Disappeared into Complete Silence, that Bourgeois made under the direction of Stanley William Hayter, the English painter who set up the renowned Atelier 17, a haven for artists, in the New School for Social Research in New York. Illustrated by Kafkaesque fables of love and loss, this series, touched by Bourgeois' unique sensibility, traced its origins to the Surrealists, however strongly she would deny their influence on her and deplore their condescending attitude towards female artists.


Ladders, water tanks, snaking pipelines and tall buildings are crammed within a claustrophobic inscape, drained of colour and human presence. Yet, the mute desolation of these forms, which could well inhabit a painting by Dalí or de Chirico, is redeemed by the terse little tales of suffering and violence that Bourgeois weaves around them.


Unlike the Surrealist urge to experiment, often for the sake of its rather obvious shock value, Bourgeois' early work grows directly out of emotions that troubled her as a wife and the mother of three sons struggling in a foreign land to put a harrowing past behind her. However, Bourgeois was compelled to revisit, over and over again, till the end of her life, the memory of her father's prolonged affair with her English governess, and her mother's resigned acceptance of it. While she did resent her mother's attitude, Bourgeois also claimed to "have been inhabited by a ferocious mother-love". Her mother, Josephine, figures in her art as the cunning she-fox, fiercely protective of her young; as the spider, the persistent repairer; as the femme maison, the woman who is inextricably fused, physically, with her entire house. Yet, every time an interviewer felt tempted to identify Bourgeois as the Mother Universal, she was quick to protest — "One needs a mother I understand," she conceded, "but I refuse to be your mother because I need a mother myself."

Unlike her philandering father, Bourgeois' mother became doggedly industrious, spending most of her time on the family business of restoring old tapestries, keeping busy with needle and thread — a skill that she passed on to her daughter like a precious heirloom. Bourgeois was one of the first modern artists to make extensive, and strikingly inventive, use of the thread and needle, as she sewed her wry witticisms on to clothes ("I have been to hell and back. And let me tell you it was wonderful"), stitched grotesque human dolls out of towelling, and shaped deathly faces, often with their eyes gouged out or lips parted in agony, out of frayed tapestry.


In her restless hands, the paraphernalia of everyday existence, from clothes to beds to mirrors, took on a gruesome edge. The odds and ends of domestic life are perverted out of their ordinariness inside her cage-like "cells". In one of these cells, for instance, a bed — on whose sheets the words, Je t'aime, are inscribed like a wild incantation — is the theatre where an androgynous body arching upwards becomes The Arch of Hysteria. Stretched like a bow in agony or perhaps ecstacy, this headless, limbless creature rises out of the jilted squalor of life, out of a past that can only be revisited in sleep. It comes out of a depth of the self that one dare not reach when awake. Calling up the fear of solitary confinement, reminiscent of war-time subterranean bunkers, Bourgeois' cells are the precursors of Damien Hirst's dystopic glass rooms.


It is as much a measure of Bourgeois' good fortune as of her genius that she managed to produce astonishingly original work well into her eighties and nineties. In 2003, the 92-year-old Bourgeois confessed to Paulo Herkenhoff, a curator at the MoMA, that "memory has become so important to me because it gives me the feeling of being in control, in control of the past". While many of her contemporaries — the painter, Willem de Kooning, for instance — lost their faculties to senility, old age proved to be an exceptionally fertile period for Bourgeois. She acknowledged the limitations of her advanced years and proceeded to use newer material suitable to her dwindling strength. Consequently, she drew and doodled more extensively during her last years, preferred to use materials like wax and latex that yielded easily, and stitched and sewed with renewed vigour.


But Bourgeois never quite mellowed. On the contrary, she seemed to create and live out what Edward Said called Late Style, with the intransigence, difficulty and unresolved contradictions of her art and personality. In her final years, her art became enviably direct, conveying the gist of her feelings with a dazzling clarity and conviction but without ever losing their complexity. She was often mischievously, and deliberately, elusive about her real intentions, forcing even the most confident interpreters of her art to dwell in uncertainties.


Bourgeois' ferocious dislike of conveniently psycho-sexual readings of her art made her confuse critical opinion with her own, possibly misleading, interpretations. She claimed that the work called Cumul represented a gathering of clouds, and not the phallic shapes or breasts that everyone took them to be. Bourgeois was equally resistant to being classified under any one art-historical school. And given the sheer variety of her practice, it is indeed impossible to place her within any particular movement or kind of art — even when, as the first woman to have a retrospective at the New York MoMA, she is claimed by feminists as one of their own.


Bourgeois remained uniquely herself till the end. She continued to insist that she was a "woman child", fragile as a reed, but ultimately remained rooted in her inner strength. "I have never been able to find somebody strong enough to accept me as a femme enfant," she said, "People see me as a mother. I'm not a mother. I'm a baby."




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





The deployment of the army in Srinagar in the wake of the deteriorating law and order situation in the Kashmir Valley is deeply distressing. It is an indication of the severity of the crisis there. All of a sudden, violent clashes between mobs and the CRPF have taken place in several towns including Srinagar, Sopore and Anantnag. These have resulted in the death of around 15 Kashmiris over the past three weeks, four of them on Tuesday alone. The mobs are said to be protesting CRPF killing of civilians, but every violent demonstration seems to be unleashing a new cycle of violence by both sides. The CRPF has come under criticism for shooting into protesting mobs. Indeed, it has contributed to taking the violence to higher level rather than acting as a force to quell the protests. It is in this context that the deployment of the army must be seen. The Indian Army is believed to be a far more disciplined force. According to reports, it is being deployed on the streets of Srinagar not so much to engage in crowd control as to deter the violent protests.

It is evident that the protests are not spontaneous expressions of anger. They seem engineered. Boys are being paid to throw stones and provoke the security forces. Their numbers might be large but they cannot be seen to represent public discontent. It is believed that the separatists, whose relevance in the valley had diminished substantially in recent years, are behind the protests. It is possible that they are engineering the unrest on the orders of their handlers in Pakistan or to put themselves back on the centre-stage of Kashmiri politics. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has made no secret of its hatred of Chief Minister Omar Abdulla, seems to be inciting the violence too. The Kashmiri people must speak up against the manipulative and dangerous politics that the separatists and the PDP are engaging in and dissuade the youth from their anti-social behaviour, as it is devouring their children.

There is a danger of the presence of the army escalating the violence. After all, soldiers are trained to kill, not convince protesters to get off the streets. They are not the best force to deal with civilian unrest. Therefore, the government must pull out the army from the streets as soon as a semblance of normalcy is restored.








The Reserve Bank of India's decision last Friday to increase the repo rate and the reverse repo rate — rates at which the central bank lends to banks and borrows from them — was not expected at the time the decision was made. Both rates were raised by 25 basis points.

The RBI's credit policy review is due for July 27 and a rate hike was expected only then. But by acting three weeks ahead of that, the central bank has made it clear that inflation is a major concern for it, warranting urgent action. While food inflation is showing signs of easing, the overall inflationary pressure is still strong. The RBI has indicated that it expects about one per cent increase in wholesale price index as a result of the increase in prices of petroleum products. It has also factored in the impact on prices of the freeing of diesel prices likely to be effected by the government in the near future.

The easing of food inflation may be temporary and deceptive. It happened only in relation to a high base. There is still some uncertainty about the monsoon in some parts of the country and if it is below expectations, food prices will start spiralling again. Much of the wholesale price inflation in May was accounted for by non-food manufacturing and commodity prices.

So it is prudent not to lose sight of the price scenario. Though a major part of food inflation may be attributed to supply-side constraints, monetary tools, may go only as far they can in dealing with the situation. The global economic outlook is also not stable and reassuring. The finance ministry may not have been in favour of a policy rate hike at this juncture but the central bank perhaps decided that there is no need to take a risk.

The increase in rates has not impacted the markets adversely, especially because banks have announced that they will not affect the lending rates in the short term. There is no possibility of credit crunch, which may slacken growth at a critical period. The RBI has ensured that banks will have enough liquidity at their disposal. Availability of resources can keep lending rates in check. While these are steps which need to be taken, the best defence against inflation remains increased production in all sectors of the economy.







In the absence of any price regulation, farmers end up paying a hefty price for the hybrid seeds, and often end up being fleeced.


A few weeks back I was travelling in the Nimad region of Madhya Pradesh. Nimad derives its name from the neem tree. As the region's name suggests, neem is the dominant tree in this area. What however strikes you is the multiplicity of Bt cotton posters that adorns every wall, standing tree, buses, etc. You see them everywhere.

I counted some 20 different brands of Bt cotton seed posters and banners. To name a few: Super Mallika, Atal, Jai Bt, Ankur 3028, Ganesh, Gabbar, Mallika Gold, Superman, Jaadu Bt cotton, and Obama. I wonder how the farmer makes the right kind of choice, of which seed brand to pick up. How many of them end up being duped, your guess is as good as mine.

Hybrid seed is a lucrative market. There was a time when close to 2,000 brands of hybrid seeds of cotton were being sold in Andhra Pradesh. Interestingly, at least one of the parents in most of these hybrids (you need two parent lines to develop a hybrid) was common. I wonder how can so many different kinds of hybrids (and all with higher productivity) could be developed with one parent being common. In other words, most of these popular brands were nothing but duplicates being sold under different names.

In the absence of any price regulation, farmers end up paying a hefty price for the hybrid seeds, and often end up being fleeced. The price variation is so wide that one does not know why the state governments refuse to put a stop to what is nothing but cheating.

Take for instance the prices of vegetable hybrids. Prices of tomato hybrid seeds vary between Rs 475 and Rs 76,000 a kg; cabbage seeds are priced between Rs 5,840 and Rs 22,260; and capsicum between Rs 3,670 and Rs 65,200. The hybrid seeds of cotton and rice too are prohibitively expensive compared to the improved varieties in the market.

What if the hybrid seed fails, does the farmer get any compensation? The answer is no. In Andhra Pradesh, in 2005, after large scale failure of genetically modified Bt cotton seeds in Warangal district, the state government asked Mahyco-Monsanto to pay compensation. The company refused to do so and instead moved the high court saying that the government was trying to harass them. The case is still pending before the court. This is not an isolated incident. In several states, farmers have failed to get adequate compensation for crop failures resulting from spurious hybrid seeds.

The menace of multiple brands of hybrid seeds has now spread to the northern parts of the country. In Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab, hybrid seeds have flooded the market, mostly coming from Andhra Pradesh. Whether it is vegetable (which in any case is dominated by hybrids, with many state governments providing subsidy on its cultivation), cotton or rice, what is being increasingly available in the market are only hybrid seeds.

In UP, the four main agricultural universities were provided with Rs 53 crore from the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna to develop locally adaptable hybrid seeds. But none of these universities has undertaken any such research project. So, where has the Rs 53 crore allocated for the purpose disappeared? Please don't ask me. The average market price for hybrid seed that is available is Rs 200 per kg.

A UP government report says that between 2006 and 2009, 40 private seed companies had made available 102 different kinds/brands of hybrid seeds to the agricultural universities for evaluation. Only 14 of these were made available for research in the second year of cultivation (since hybrids lose their hybrid vigour in the 2nd generation). It means that the hybrid seed sector is dominated by fly-by-night operators who make money from one year's sale, and then disappear probably to appear again with a new brand name.

Not even one seed sample was drawn and sent for testing in any of the laboratories in UP. Karnataka is no different.

That makes me wonder whether the kind of intense deliberations and engagement over the proposed Seed Bill, 2010, will make any practical difference to the existing market realities? Senior officials admit they have failed to check the quality of hybrid seeds flooding the market. Nor is the proposed Seed Bill doing enough to put an end to the menace of spurious seeds.

What is therefore urgently needed is to make two important changes in the Seed Bill. First, there is a dire need to regulate seed prices. It cannot be left to the seed companies alone. Secondly, a strict penalty clause with heavy penalties (and prison terms) needs to be brought in the proposed bill. At present, it provides for a maximum of Rs 1 lakh as penalty with/or a prison term of six months.

This should be enhanced to a minimum of Rs 10 lakh with five year imprisonment. Unless some of the seed manufacturers are hauled up and given exemplary punishment, seeds will remain a flourishing business for all kinds of operators. Farmers will continue to suffer silently.








Within the next few days, the World Bank board and International Monetary Fund board of directors will decide whether to forgive a significant portion of the 'odious' debt of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accumulated to a large degree during the autocratic and kleptocratic regime of President Mobutu. Bilateral donors owed significant sums will probably follow suit.


Human rights advocates, like us, are normally for debt forgiveness. Often, governments provide support to regimes for political reasons, such as the US support of Mobutu during the Cold War despite his atrocious human rights record. This debt can crush progressive policies of new governments and facilitate a neo-colonial type relation between debtor and creditor. However, forgiveness should not be given if the government is undeserving.

Since the DRC is not presently servicing its debt (neither paying interest nor principle), debt forgiveness would not mean more money for schools, health care and for the justice system. It would also send the wrong signal at this moment and should be delayed until the human rights situation in that country improves.

Less than a month ago Floribert Chebeya, the DRC's leading human rights defender, was murdered, implicating high-level officials close to President Joseph Kabila. For 20 years Floribert courageously endured imprisonment, torture, and constant death threats as he investigated, reported on, and sought to hold Kabila and his henchmen responsible for rape, murder and untold cruelty.

We knew Floribert both as a colleague in the struggle for human rights, and, as a friend. The politicised response to his murder was to have the intelligence service handle the 'investigation' as opposed to the prosecutors. It was announced that a police major and colonel had been arrested and a police general, who has been the right hand man of the president, was suspended. This political reaction to the crime has appeased the international community, but it should not suffice.

The intelligence service has no jurisdiction over this case and these 'arrests' are arbitrary and the detentions related to them illegal (as are so many in DRC). At present, only the police major appears to have been transferred to the custody of the prosecutor. He is now detained in prison and has been visited by UN human rights officers to whom he claimed his innocence.

The political response to a crime is not comforting. Statements made by the DRC government about high-profile cases have proven to be false in the past. Take, for example, the international effort to push the government to take seriously President Kabila's own zero-tolerance policy for rape by government officials.

A list of five officers of the government army directly implicated in rape was drawn-up over two years ago. Now, after much effort, three of the five have been detained, but charges are slow in coming. The other two reportedly are in hiding.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon, the Belgian King Albert II, and other dignitaries were relieved to learn that the funeral for Floribert wasn't held on the June 30 to interfere with their participation DRC's 50th independence celebration.  Floribert would not be impressed, as one possible reason for his murder was that he was advocating that international dignitaries boycott the 50th  anniversary in order to bring attention to the DRC's extremely problematic human rights situation.

This record includes, but by no means is limited to, ongoing killings, rapes and torture (which could have taken Floribert's life) by state authorities.  Most of these crimes go unpunished. Those authorities who are responsible for these policies enjoy even greater impunity.

If the boards of the World Bank and the IMF, which are made up of member states with the US having the largest vote, believe the DRC has satisfied all the conditions for reaching the completion point under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, this conclusion paves the way for a formal cancellation of the DRC's debt. We would lament it as a missed opportunity to leverage the DRC government to end the widespread human rights violations being committed by its state agents.

For the US, as the most important board member, there is even a little known law that prevents the US from supporting debt relief when there are systematic human rights violations. In honour of Floribet and his efforts, the boards should vote to delay debt relief until Floribert's death is independently and properly investigated, with those responsible brought to justice and the human rights situation in the DRC has improved.







Soft melodies point towards a gentle, sensitive soul of the mobile owner.


"You can judge a book by its wrapper" and "a reader by his/her choice of a book", it is said. So I believe that you can, to an extent assess 'a person by the ring-tone of his or her mobile phone'. I have come to the conclusion, which is purely personal, that the ring-tone forms good enough basis to judge a person's taste, liking and personality. While generally, loud and brash ring tones either portray energy and youthfulness or reflect the cacophony of the owner's mind. Soft melodies point towards a gentle, sensitive soul. Though not necessarily as a rule.

The choice of selection is varied. While, change is the constancy in most of the people's ring-tones, others stick to the same old ring tones. Does that suggest the degree of stability or constancy of a person's nature? Or does it suggest sheer indifference and boredom towards change? Pranksters come out with ingenious ring tones, startling you with a baby's high-pitched wail or the howl of an angry dog or the sudden shrill of a siren, etc to herald an incoming call. But don't judge a sober, level headed person with a teenage kid who, meddling with her parent's phone, puts on a nerve-wracking, spine-chilling, hair-raising ring tone!

By and large we come to know the person's taste in music, one's favourite singer, song or instrument. If it happens to be an instrumental music, you would know whether one's favourite instrument is flute, violin, keyboard, etc. Hearing to Pundit Bheemsen Joshi or M S Subbulakshmi you would know whether one is for Carnatic or Hindustani. A devotional person would have mantras, hymns or holy chants for ringtone. It is also possible to know the mother tongue or the favourite language of the cell owner. My favourite ring-tone happens to be the sweet song by my little daughter. Does that suggest something?!

When it comes to landline, one has to develop the 'ring-toneic' instinct, but I could not develop one all these years. Though it is easier to recognise whether ones phone is ringing or not by the uniqueness of the ring-tone of the mobile phone, in my office I would rush to my cubicle every time my neighbour's phone rang. How I wished then that landlines had unique ring tones too.

I have to just give a 'missed call' to locate my misplaced mobile. The muffled sound would lead me to the object of my search that would be buried beneath the sofa cushions or within a book for which I would have used it as a book mark or on the microwave oven. And how I wish I could locate that missing gold bangle or the key bunch or that treasured pen by just giving a missed call!








The following saga, on multiple levels, constitutes a tale of modern Israeli foolishness of the sort often ascribed to the denizens of Jewish folklore's mythical hamlet, Chelm.

In the year 2000, a small garment manufacturing shop ceased its operations in the hard-luck Negev town of Mitzpeh Ramon. It was no longer viable and couldn't compete with Far Eastern rock-bottom wages.

But that non-too-unusual occurrence sparked a revolt by the mostly female employees, who barricaded themselves in the factory until they had managed, improbably, to secure an agreement to keep the failing enterprise afloat as their own cooperative, which they significantly renamed Mitperet Atzmaut (Independence Sewing Shop).

Ever since, it has been buttressed by government loans, subsidies and constant favors from the IDF, which grudgingly allows a small portion of its uniforms to be sewn there at higher cost than in China, the source for most of what our soldiers wear.

The cooperative's precarious, against-the-odds survival defies economic common sense. That didn't prevent the women who took the factory over from becoming local culture heroines. A much-ballyhooed full-length documentary celebrated their pluck. They were paraded as proof that socialism and cooperatives could still thrive.

In all, the cooperative offers jobs to 54 women – 43 from Mitzpeh Ramon (where they comprise a full 1% of the workforce) and 11 others from Dimona and Yeroham. The scarcity of job opportunities can be gauged from the fact that Dimona's unemployment rate is 14.5%, almost twice the national average. The governments who kept propping up this cooperative for years evidently either thought it a fitting cause or were too timid to admit otherwise.

Now, however, the cooperative has announced that the Dimona/Yeroham residents are about to be sacked, because the government won't foot the bill for these workers' travel expenses. That would mean an annual outlay of NIS 150,000 –less than a drop in the bucket in the bigger budgetary scheme.

This is shaping up as the next big cause célèbre for assorted social activists. One transport entrepreneur has offered to give the women free rides for three months if they are reinstated forthwith and their travel expenses paid from the public coffers thereafter.

Here is where we arrive in Chelm territory.

There was, sadly, no sense to begin with in prolonging the error, rooted in the 1950s, of anchoring the economies of numerous development towns around plants that were doomed from the outset, even pre-globalization, and which needed artificial resuscitation post-globalization. This was akin to harking back to a 19th-century economic pattern in the 21st century.

The counter-argument is that the workers need the work, live arduous lives in the outlying periphery and lack the skills for high-tech. But if that is the case, then why commit the follow-up Chelm blunder and now deny, to what is acknowledged as a social welfare make-work project, the additional minuscule budgetary allotment that would finance the workers' travel expenses (and would cost less than unemployment benefits)?

THERE IS far too much illogic here, with one set of bungles exacerbating another. Moreover, it is not only the fate of one individual plant that is at stake.

There is a fundamental need to ponder the future of other such labor-intensive enterprises that somehow still dot the country's more remote areas. Many have closed and others were moved by their owners to lands where pay is so low that our minimum wage appears excessive and uncompetitive in comparison.


What is mandated is sober reevaluation, rather than populist zeal to strike a purported victory for the working woman. To begin with, in this specific case, the government must strenuously repress its agora-wise and shekel-imbecilic proclivities. A paltry outlay for bus fares won't break the bank.

Beyond that there must be clear-headed awareness that certain plants, which haven't yet expired or relocated, chiefly subsist at the taxpayer's expense and protract the original misconception that brought them into the world and kept them going for decades.

Rescuing hopeless enterprises may promise political popularity points, but in the long run it deludes a new generation of employees and sucks them into a situation where their livelihood sadly depends on flogging dead horses.

The long-term solution lies primarily in improving public transportation so that residents of relatively remote areas can quickly and efficiently reach the country's economic hubs, and thereby access greater earning opportunities.

In tiny Israel, this is no great stretch.








The Western Wall is ours by right and by history. We do not need Abbas to give us something we already possess.

Earlier this week, just in advance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington, a brief flurry of excitement took hold of the media, as word spread of what appeared to be a major conciliatory gesture by the Palestinians.

In a well-timed leak, the London-based Al-Hayat reported over the weekend that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had offered Israel the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City as part of a future peace agreement. The proposal, according to the paper, was among several ideas that Abbas had recently submitted in writing to US Mideast negotiator George Mitchell. The rest of eastern Jerusalem, he declared, would serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

At first glance, Abbas's offer would appear to herald a significant form of progress. After all, the thorny issue of control over Jerusalem and its holy sites has long confounded efforts to reach an accommodation between the two sides. By granting Israel a foothold in the heart of ancient Jerusalem, Abbas would appear to be conceding that the Jewish people can stake a legitimate claim to this very special place.

But a closer look reveals that this Palestinian "concession," like so many others before it, is in fact little more than a hollow and ultimately inconsequential act. And it would be foolish for Israel and its supporters to be duped into thinking otherwise.

TO BEGIN with, how can Abbas offer Israel something we already have? Last time I checked, the Western Wall was safely and securely under our control. Indeed, it was 43 years ago this summer, during the Six Day War, that Israel liberated the site from Jordanian occupation in an act of self-defense.

As everyone knows, the Wall was built by Herod as part of the Temple compound, where the Jewish people were worshiping God two millennia before the PLO was created.

The Western Wall is ours by right and by history, and thank God, it is in Israeli hands. We do not need Abbas or anyone else, for that matter, to give us something we already possess. And we most certainly don't need to view his reported acknowledgment of reality as constituting a "concession" or "gesture" which merits a reciprocal response.

To do so would be to grant the Palestinians a huge advantage at the negotiating table, for it would transform their verbal acceptance of the most basic truths into something that Israel would be expected to pay for with tangible assets.

"Want us to recognize that Israel has a right to live and breathe?" the Palestinians will ask, "then ante up! Want us to accept that you have a right not to be thrown into the Mediterranean, then give us a down payment."

That is not a recipe for peace, it is a formula for failure.

The Palestinian acceptance of Israel's right to Jerusalem, just like their recognition of Israel's existence, must be viewed as a prerequisite to, rather than a part of, any diplomatic process.

Israel cannot and must not allow Abbas to arrogate to himself the ability to force us into yielding on our positions in exchange for mere words. As it is, his authority barely extends beyond the four corners of his own desk, which is yet another reason not to take his pronouncements all too seriously. But if we place ourselves at the mercy of Abbas's fickle approval, we will most certainly weaken our stance beyond repair.

In any event, the questions raised by the PA leader's dubious generosity quickly became moot. Within 24 hours of the Al-Hayat report, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat went on Israel Radio on Sunday morning to deny that the Palestinians had made any such offer regarding the Western Wall or the Old City. Jerusalem, he insisted, must be under Palestinian control.

So much for Palestinian flexibility.

NOT SURPRISINGLY, amid all this fuss, little attention was paid to the really big story regarding Abbas, who once again revealed his true colors by heaping praise on a mass-murderer. On Saturday, he sent his condolences to the family of Abu Daoud, the mastermind of the terrorist attack against the Israeli team in the 1972 Munich Olympics, who had passed away the day before.

"He is missed," Abbas wrote in his letter to Abu Daoud's relatives, praising the terrorist as "one of the leading figures of Fatah" and thanking him for having "spent his life in resistance and sincere work as well as physical sacrifice for his people's just causes."

Among Abu Daoud's "just causes" was the taking of 11 Israeli Olympians hostage in Munich, all of whom were killed during a failed rescue attempt by German police. "I regret nothing," Abu Daoud told Germany's Spiegel TV in 2006, defiantly adding that "you can only dream that I would apologize."

For Abbas to praise such a man and mourn his passing speaks volumes as to the kind of person he truly is, far more than any supposed gestures he may or may not have made.

So let's stop seeing "concessions" where there aren't any and peacemakers where they do not exist. It should be obvious that from people such as Abbas we require neither recognition nor beneficence. And neither should we fawn all over them to get it.








No one challenges their right to provide input toward decisions which affect Jews. But security is off limits.

We have grown accustomed to the ravings of the Jew haters of Zion – the loony left who identify with Hamas and Hizbullah rather than their own people, the post-Zionists who seek to undo the Jewish character of Israel and the bleeding heart liberals who make excuses for the criminality of our neighbors and condemn us for defending ourselves.

But what is more frustrating is an emerging new trend, involving even well-meaning friends of Israel, primarily liberals, who demand that as Jews and "partners" of Israel, they are entitled to partake in determining Israeli security and defense related policies.

The most notorious of these is J Street in the US which shamelessly lobbies its government to pressure Israel to adopt policies contrary to those determined by our democratically elected government.

Despite living thousands of miles away and not subject to the consequences of the policies they promote, they have the gall to insist that they are more sensitive to the security needs of the Jewish state than we Israelis. Being "genuinely pro-peace," they purport to be acting in our best interests by exercising "tough love" and urging their president to bludgeon us to toe their line. Their hubris and arrogance is mind-boggling.

Nor are they deterred by the fact that Israelis today are overwhelmingly supportive of the policies adopted by their government. Even Kadima, the principal opposition party, is aware that if it held the reins of government, it would pursue a similar course. In fact, the policies promoted by the "pro-peace" elements reflect the views of only the Israeli fringe exemplified by Meretz which gained only three of 120 seats in the Knesset.

What makes the situation even more bizarre is that some American Jews who oppose J Street policies suggest that incorporating such pro-peace groups into the "tent" benefits Israel. It is incomprehensible how the cause of Israel is strengthened by providing legitimacy to Jews who pressure foreign governments to force it to take steps contrary to the policies determined by its elected leaders. The logic behind such babble is elusive to say the least.

The same applies to J Call, the European extension of J Street which is less radical because Europeans rarely lobby their governments. Nevertheless its supporters uninhibitedly condemn Israel, ignoring the fact that that their words are grist for the mill of the anti-Semites and those engaged in vicious campaigns to demonize and delegitimize us.

NOW A new element has joined the fray. In the UK, Mick Davis, chairman of Anglo Jewry's largest fund-raiser, the United Israel Appeal, wrote an oped published with a blazing front page headline in the Jewish Chronicle, insisting that the Diaspora, as a partner, has a legitimate right to engage in the Israel policy-making process.

This is simply outrageous chutzpah.

We all agree that Diaspora Jews have been and remain the most important partner of the Jewish state. No one challenges their right to provide input toward Israeli decisions which impact on the future of the Jewish people. But that principal was always accompanied by a caveat that campaigning against government policies affecting security was absolutely off limits for non-Israelis.

Let us be clear. We are one people.But Diaspora Jews and Israelis are not equal partners.

Whereas during the formative founding years of the state, the financial contribution of global Jewry was crucial, today Israel has evolved into a powerful economic entity and Diaspora support represents a minimal percentage of GNP. In many respects the principal benefit of Diaspora funding is that it represents a key element in maintaining Jewish identity by providing constructive involvement with the Jewish state.

However if Jewish philanthropists believe that contributing toward worthy causes in Israel makes them eligible to become involved in security related decision-making, they should retain their money.

There is no question that ultimately only Israelis can determine security-related policy. It is we, our children and our grandchildren who will be placing our lives on the line, not Jews in New York, London, Melbourne or Rio.

HOW ON earth did we arrive at the current ridiculous situation? Prior to Oslo, successive governments followed the lead of the founding fathers and maintained close ties with Diaspora leaders. Jewish activists would never have contemplated agitating against security and defense related issues determined by the government.

This convention was initially disregarded when a number of American Jews, including some associated with AIPAC and encouraged by Israeli rightwingers, began campaigning against the Oslo Accords in the US. Israel was then deeply divided. When prime minister Yitzhak Rabin became aware of this, he became enraged and threatened American Jewish groups challenging the policies of his government that he would confront them in their own communities. The outcome was that all mainstream Jewish organizations, including AIPAC, reaffirmed that policies affecting Israel could only be determined by the democratically elected government. Had Rabin encountered a J Street, he would have become hopping mad and insisted that such a body be ejected from mainstream Jewish life.

Unfortunately, during the latter term of Rabin's tenure, his government became so convinced about the "inevitability "of an Arab-Israeli peace that it called on Jews in the Diaspora to cease public advocacy. Instead it concentrated on persuading Israelis and Jews that Yasser Arafat's increasingly belligerent outbursts were harmless and that the Arabs were committed to peace. As a consequence the linkage weakened between Israeli ambassadors and Jewish communities and most Diaspora leaders found themselves free to adopt whatever policies appealed to them.

This was further complicated by the inclination of successive prime ministers who, rather than reinforcing the commitment to Israel of the Diaspora leaders, focused their attention on wealthy Jews who provided funding for their private political and personal agendas.

Now we are reaping the disastrous dividends of this neglect.

What is desperately needed is for the government to restore its relationship with Diaspora Jewish communities.

Contrary what has being published in recent weeks, Diaspora Jews, including the younger generation who no longer live under the shadow of the Holocaust or memories of the struggle to create a Jewish state, remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel. Surveys show that the dropouts, the new liberals who are alienated from Israel, primarily originate from assimilated and intermarried families and those overwhelmed by the hostile culture and media surrounding them especially on the campus.


Instead of becoming obsessed with an urge to tell us how to run our affairs, Jewish activists should ensure that the new generation of Jews in high school and on the campus are imbued with an understanding of our history and heritage and above all exposed to the Israel narrative which will strengthen their morale and enable them to withstand the external onslaughts. That should be their primary objective, rather than groveling to left liberals who magnify every minor fault in our society while closing their eyes to the horrors that could engulf us if the barbarians at our gates succeed.







I challenge my fellow philanthropists, Jewish foundations and organizations to support young leadership programs.


Do you know Yitzy? In an old Jewish joke, he meets Monday nights with a group of elderly Jewish men. Usually, they talk about world affairs, and the tone is often negative. But one day Yitzy shocks his friends: "I've become an optimist," he declares.

They are stunned, until Benny speaks up: "If you're an optimist, Yitzy, why do you look so worried."

And Yitzy says: "You think it's easy being an optimist?" I SMILE because I know the feeling, especially when I ponder where the Jewish community will find its next generation of leaders. But the fact is, I am an optimist, and here's why.

This week, outside of Tel Aviv, 120 young, creative business and social entrepreneurs, innovators, thinkers and artists will convene for the ROI 2010 Summit for Young Jewish Innovators. They represent more than 500 members of the ROI Community, a global network of young Jews, which we helped launch in 2006 in partnership with the Center for Leadership Initiatives and Taglit-Birthright Israel.Together we hoped ROI would energize and empower a generation of Jews who often feel cut off from the Jewish world and help them take to scale the innovative projects they believe can revitalize Jewish life.

We wanted to explore how to strengthen Jewish communal life by combining all the new tools of digital technology and the Internet with the powerful and high potential encounters built into face-toface meetings.


The results have been heartening, and we've learned some important lessons that might help others in their search for the Jewish leaders and activists of tomorrow.

1. The network empowers: When David Cygielman arrived at the ROI summit in 2006, he was seeking new ideas for Moishe House, a network of community hubs for 20- something Jews. He discovered a group of inventive, supportive, enthusiastic new friends from all over the globe. These connections helped him launch seven new Moishe Houses around the world.

Today there are 29.

2. Unexpected partnerships produce extraordinary results: To spotlight the plight of Jewish women denied Jewish divorces by abusive husbands, ROI served as matchmaker.

A social psychologist in Israel teamed up with a cartoonist in New York to narrate a very personal and powerful drama. This spring, the cartoon was featured prominently at an exhibit in New York's Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. A series on green technology and the plight of Darfur refugees followed. At our conference, they will unveil their latest series on leadership.

3. Widening our circle of discourse lends perspective: We've embraced the talmudic art of respectful disagreement and dissent by encouraging exploration and debate without promoting any one platform or party line. Our inclusiveness prompted one of our most left-wing participants to say: "This is the first and only place in the Jewish world where I could bring my full world view and struggle as a Jew and not be told that I was wrong or a detriment to the Jewish people." He said this standing next to his right-of-center ROI friend.

4. Virtual reality is nice, but it pales beside the real thing. While many ROI initiatives could not exist without social platforms that connect people and communities in ways previously unimaginable, we have seen firsthand that face time beats Facebook every time. That's why we've chosen the somewhat costly and logistically challenging but highly effective approach that brings participants together in person for intellectual exchange, shared experiences, wrestling with values, along with celebration and deliberation over the state of the Jewish people. Our crafted gatherings promote resource sharing and transnational strategic partnerships., an international Web portal collaboration by 17 ROI environmental activists, grew out of contacts forged at previous summits. And, we meet in Israel, enveloped by the land, people and history, to remind us that we are working toward the same ultimate goal: the perpetuation of our global Jewish community.

5. Don't just believe in young Jews – invest in their ideas. It's easy to say that young people are our future, and that nurturing their Jewish identities is a priority. But talk is cheap and building a future isn't.

ROI is making a significant dollar investment in our members and their projects. I challenge my fellow philanthropists, Jewish foundations and Jewish organizations to support excellent young leadership programs that enable and empower the next generation of Jewish leaders.

ROI's biggest "return on investment" is the lesson that ROI grantees continue to teach each other – and me: A dream to spread the joy of Jewish living, giving, and learning can become a reality, but only when it's pursued as part of a community. For without each other, even I would lose my optimism.

The writer, chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, is the founder of ROI Community








Hamas's patrons have an interest in diverting international attention from themselves.

For reasons both good and misunderstood, efforts at Israeli-Palestinian peace are strongly associated with terrorism.

The resumption of peace talks, this time through US envoy George Mitchell, makes it imperative to appreciate the relationship between negotiations and violence in order to prevent a return to the bloody days.


One of the most commonly believed myths regarding the Oslo days is that Hamas opposed the process and consistently tried to torpedo it through the use of terrorism.

This understanding is largely unsupported by the historical data, which show that after early 1996, peace process activity was inversely correlated with Hamas attacks. It was only after the process collapsed in late 2000 that Hamas and its political rivals sought to outdo each other in terms of terrorist violence , leading to record numbers of both attacks and casualties.

The reasons for this are straightforward, if somewhat counterintuitive, given Hamas's hard - line public statements and documented positions. However, the use of terrorism was and remains a matter of short- and long-term interests and incentives. In the 1990s Hamas had much to gain from the peace process at little cost. From its perspective, Israeli withdrawals from and redeployments in the West Bank and Gaza were highly desirable (if insufficient), and its leaders never had to betray either their principles or positions by deigning to sit down and negotiate with their Israeli rivals. Moreover, once Israel conditioned progress on the cessation of violence (after the then-unprecedented wave of attacks in February and March 1996), not only was Hamas terrorism disincentivized, but the nascent Palestinian Authority also had a stronger interest in keeping Hamas in check.

THE PALESTINIAN political terrain has shifted dramatically since 2000. The post- Oslo second intifada with its campaign of costly suicide attacks, Operation Defensive Shield during which the IDF redeployed into major West Bank cities, the disengagement from Gaza, the Hamas victory in the 2006 legislative elections, the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit, the Hamas seizure of power in Gaza in 2007, the rockets fired at the Negev, Operation Cast Lead and other developments have combined to change the various parties' interests and goals.

For now, numerous factors, in addition to the separation barrier, are acting to keep Hamas's bombers at home. First, as IDF commanders are quick to point out, is Israel's deterrent threat, which was only partially actualized during Operation Cast Lead.

Hamas leaders have expressed their desire not to reengage with the IDF in Gaza anytime soon. Second, Israel's and the PA security forces' counterterrorism efforts continue apace and have led to the capture or death of important Hamas terrorists.

Third, recent public opinion polls show that a majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution (under difficult conditions); damaging the process that is supposed to lead to that outcome, unlikely though it may be, could backfire.

Fourth, Hamas continues to strive for international legitimacy. It is in this light that recent Russian demands for Hamas's inclusion in the peace process should be seen. Even though the group itself has shown no inclination to engage in peace negotiations with or to recognize Israel, a reacceleration of terrorism could threaten Hamas's already weak diplomatic standing. Finally, Hamas appears interested in securing the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Schalit, and is unlikely to jeopardize any deal in the offing.

The fragility of the current situation , combined with US President Barack Obama's rather clumsy approach to the conflict so far, helps explain the hardening of Palestinian negotiating positions regarding settlements and Jerusalem.

Since Hamas is sitting on the sidelines, it has a freer hand to challenge PA President Mahmoud Abbas's legitimacy and positions. The PA, therefore, is negotiating with Israel while warding off charges of abandoning Palestinian interests.

UNFORTUNATELY, AS the proximity talks begin, the Oslo myth could become current reality. Hamas's Iranian and Syrian patrons have an interest in diverting international attention from their nuclear and other activities, and renewed terrorism could contribute toward that end.

More importantly, the everintensifying contest between isolated, Gazabased Hamas, and the West Bank-based, Westernwooed, tenuously legal PA government might express itself in Hamas efforts to deny the PA any diplomatic progress and to inflict harm on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

The former offers to undermine public support for the PA, while the latter can increase public support for Hamas. Thus, Hamas could gain politically in both relative and absolute terms. Making matters worse, the return of terrorism likely would fan the flames of the destructive competition among Palestinian factions that catalyzed the spike in attacks during the immediate post- Oslo period.

This is not to say that a Hamas return to suicide bombings is imminent. So far, as the recent quiet attests, Hamas's arguments against renewing widespread terrorism appear to outweigh those for a return to such activity. It may also be the case that the dim prospects of success in the proximity talks (or even in direct talks) have convinced Hamas decision-makers that it is better to give the negotiations an opportunity to fail on their own. If they do not, efforts toward peace could once again prove bloody, and for many reasons that are difficult to control and to change.

The writer is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.








Erdogan has found himself reassessing the blossoming ties with the Islamic Republic much sooner than expected.


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suddenly found himself reassessing his government's burgeoning ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran – and sooner than expected.

One of the reasons Turkey agreed to Iran's demands and voted against new UN sanctions was because the Iranian government promised it would continue to negotiate with the West. However, it did not take long for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to break his promise.

Soon after the UN resolution was passed, he declared, through President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that all negotiations will be suspended for two months.


This has clearly angered the Turks, who may not be able to stand by Teheran for very much longer. And why should they? The US government is already breathing down Erdogan's neck, and word is that the meeting between the two sides at last month's G20 summit in Canada was tense. US President Barack Obama arrived late to the meeting, and there were no joint press statements or photographs taken together.

This, in addition to other reports that the US canceled its participation at a recent regional security conference in Turkey a mere 12 hours before it started.

The Turkish government knew well in advance that its decision to back Iran in the UN would raise the ire of the Americans.

However, it hoped that the merits of the relationship with Teheran would compensate for that and make such a policy worthwhile. Reality is proving otherwise. The Brazilians soon realized after sanctions passed that it wasn't worth their while to defend Iran's nuclear cause. The Turks, based on Washington's reaction and the fact that Teheran broke its promise of negotiations, could very well reach the same conclusion – and sooner than many expected.

This does not mean that Turkey is going to break relations with Teheran, nor does it mean that it will distance itself from Iran altogether. What it does mean is that Erdogan and his AKP party will reduce their support for Iran's cause in the UN. They will stop acting like Khamenei's lawyer and defender in the West, because that's what Khamenei wanted from them all along, and he was prepared to pay handsomely for it with a cheap gas deal and lucrative contracts for Turkish companies.

NOW THAT new sanctions are going to be imposed by the UN, as well as the US and the EU, the Iranian government is going to find it harder to buy political support at the UN.

One major reason will be the decline in value of Iranian incentives. There are few countries which would now prefer to side with Iran against the West. This means it will be more difficult for Khamenei to find heavy weight countries from the Nonaligned Movement to back its stance. Even Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is not as vociferous as he once was; snubbed by Iran's ties with Brazil, he did not attend the recent nuclear summit in Teheran.

This is just one impact of sanctions.

There are also domestic implications.

Some countries, including Israel, have dismissed the latest round of sanctions.

The Iranian government has not.

Ahmadinejad has already started a domestic PR campaign to calm nerves.

In a recent interview he tried to downplay their impact by saying that the US and Iran do not have any economic relations, therefore the latest round won't have any impact on Iran's economy.

This is, of course, wrong. Although direct trade between both countries is not very much, the new round of sanctions is neverthsseless going to hit the economy hard. First and foremost, it is going to become more difficult for American companies who were using the United Arab Emirates to resell their products to Iran. This is partly due to the UAE's commitment to abide by the new sanctions.

There is also the oil sector. The Iranian oil industry needs close to $140 billion of investment over the next 10 years to maintain its current production capacity. The new round of sanctions will complicate the Iranian oil industry's abilities to attract the investment it needs to keep functioning. It will also make it far more expensive and difficult to buy equipment for this all important sector. This is a serious threat, one which in the long term could threaten the oil industry with a possible meltdown.

Nuclear armed or not, these are dangers which Iran's leaders can only ignore at their own peril.

The writer is an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst and coauthor of The Nuclear Sphinx of Teheran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran. This article originally appeared on









Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a second chance from U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday.


After more than a year of tension between Washington and Jerusalem, accompanied by expressions of mutual dissatisfaction, Netanyahu received a friendly welcome in the White House. Obama was profuse in his praise, smiles and florid figures of speech, and said he believes that Netanyahu wants peace. The president also called on the Palestinians to open direct talks with Netanyahu and indicated support for Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity.


The close ties with the United States are Israel's strategic support, and it is difficult to overstate their importance to Israel's survival, security and prosperity. If Netanyahu came under justified criticism for his role in damaging relations with the Obama administration over the past year, he can feel content with these efforts at rehabilitation.


But don't get confused: Obama's gestures of friendship, which can be partly attributed to the impending congressional elections, do not change anything about the administration's basic policy.


Obama has made it clear that his goal was, and still is, the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. And he expects Netanyahu to help reach that objective, through negotiations with the Palestinians and confidence-building measures aimed at strengthening the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and improving the economic situation in the Gaza Strip.


Netanyahu must take advantage of the chance he has been given, say yes to Obama, and act seriously and swiftly to end the occupation and establish an independent Palestine. But his appearance at the White House on Tuesday raises doubt if he will do so. Netanyahu was careful not to make any statement deviating from the political line of the watchful right wing. He did not say the words "Palestinian state" and focused on warning of the security risk involved in withdrawal and on the demand to change Palestinian textbooks. Once again, it seems that Netanyahu prefers his political partnership with Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Ya'alon and Eli Yishai to a partnership with the president of the United States.


Obama says he believes Netanyahu wants peace and is ready to take risks for it. Now it's the prime minister's turn to prove, in words and in deed, that he is worthy of this belief and is not merely trying, as is his wont, to gain more time in power without taking the peace process forward.









It really was an excellent meeting: The chance that a binational state will be established has improved as a result; relations between Israel and the United States are indeed "marvelous." Israel can continue with the whims of its occupation. The president of the United States proved Tuesday that perhaps there has been change, but not as far as we are concerned.


If there remained any vestiges of hope in the Middle East from Barack Obama, they have dissipated; if some people still expected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead a courageous move, they now know they made a mistake (and misled others ).


The masked ball is at its peak: Preening each other, Obama and Netanyahu have proved that even their heavy layer of makeup can no longer hide the wrinkles. The worn-out, wizened old face of the longest "peace process" in history has been awarded another surprising and incomprehensible extention. It's on its way nowhere.


The "warm" and "sympathetic" reception, albeit a little forced, including the presidential dog, Bo, the meeting of the wives, with the U.S. president accompanying the Israeli prime minister to the car in an "unprecedented" way, as the press enthused, cannot obscure reality. The reality is that Israel has again managed to fool not only America, but even its most promising president in years.


It was enough to listen to the joint press conference to understand, or better yet, not understand, where we are headed. Will the freeze continue? Obama and Netanyahu squirmed, formulated and obfuscated, and no clear answer was forthcoming. If there was a time when people marveled at Henry Kissinger's "constructive ambiguity," now we have destructive ambiguity. Even when it came to the minimum move of a construction freeze, without which there is no proof of serious intent on Israel's part, the two leaders threw up a smoke screen. A cowardly yes-and-no by both.


More than anything, the meeting proved that the criminal waste of time will go on. A year and a half has passed since the two took office, and almost nothing has changed except lip service to the freeze. A few lifted roadblocks here, a little less blockade of Gaza there - all relatively marginal matters, a bogus substitute for a bold jump over the abyss, without which nothing will move.


When direct talks become a goal, without anyone having a clue what Israel's position is - a strange negotiation in which everyone knows what the Palestinians want and no one knows for sure what Israel wants - the wheel not only does not go forward, it goes backward. There are plenty of excuses and explanations: Obama has the congressional elections ahead of him, so he mustn't make Netanyahu angry.


After that, the footfalls of the presidential elections can be heard, and then he certainly must not anger the Jews. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is pressuring Netanyahu now; tomorrow it might be Likud MK Danny Danon, and after all, you can't expect Netanyahu to commit political suicide. And there you have it, his term in office is over, with no achievements. Good for you, Obama; bravo Netanyahu. You managed to make a mockery of each other, and together, of us all.


Netanyahu will be coming back to Israel over the weekend, adorned with false accomplishments. The settlers will mark a major achievement. Even if they don't not admit it - they are never satisfied, after all - they can rejoice secretly. Their project will continue to prosper. If they have doubled their numbers since the Oslo Accords, now they can triple them.


And then what? Here then is a question for Obama and Netanyahu: Where to? No playing for time can blur the question. Where are they headed? What will improve in another year? What will be more promising in another two years? The Syrian president is knocking at the door begging for peace with Israel, and the two leaders are ignoring him. Will he still be knocking in two years? The Arab League's initiative is still valid; terror has almost ceased. What will the situation be after they have finished compromising over the freeze in construction of balconies and ritual baths?


Two statesmen met in Washington on Tuesday who are looking smaller and smaller, who are taking smaller and smaller steps. They have decided not to decide, which in itself is a decision. When the chance of a two-state solution has long since entered injury time, they have decided on more extra time. Get ready for the binational state, or the next round of bloodletting.









A week ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's condition was nearly desperate. The Turkel committee became a committee with teeth liable to bite the prime minister, while State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' scrutiny of the flotilla affair threatened to wound the prime minister. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman started making threats again and Defense Minister Ehud Barak continued to make trouble. Many observers are predicting that the government will start to disintegrate by September. The man who is conducting an intimate dialogue with history has realized that by next summer, he may well become an obscure and marginal historical footnote himself.


There were also other troubles. In private, Netanyahu was told he was surrounded. After all, the international community is closing in on him; he lost Turkey, is losing Europe and is liable to lose the United States. If he doesn't break through the noose, his fate is sealed.


Worse than that were the words of the defense minister. Very, very quietly, without anyone knowing about it, Barak laid a pistol on the table. The man on whom Netanyahu depends - politically, diplomatically, strategically and emotionally - made it clear he will not stay with him forever. If Netanyahu does not make U.S. President Barack Obama a real offer, he will remain all alone under siege.


A week has gone by and things have turned around. Netanyahu is king. The White House is welcoming him with flowers, smiles and unprecedented affability. Blair House, Oval Office, press conference. The man who was anathema in March is given a royal reception in July. After a long period during which the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel were adversaries, they are now falling all over each other.


And this is not just atmosphere, not just manners and politeness. Netanyahu is extracting from Obama a series of diplomatic achievements: an unambiguous commitment to Israel's unique needs, acknowledgment that Israel has to defend itself from the violent neighborhood in which it lives, a promise not to detract from Israel's defense capability. And by implication: recognition of Dimona. Recognition of the Iranian threat. Recognition that the way to Israeli-Palestinian peace is through direct talks.


After 18 wasted months during which Obama was the president who exerted pressure, he has become the president who embraces. Obama is embracing the State of Israel and the prime minister of Israel. What happened?


Three things have happened. On one level, Netanyahu waged a struggle. And the statesman who is depicted as susceptible to pressure did not succumb to the American pressure of this past spring. He fought back. The price for what Netanyahu did was felt by Obama in Chicago. The Israeli leader applied hidden pressure to the American leader, which made it perfectly clear to him: No more.


On another level, the Americans realized one-sided pressure on Israel is dangerous. It hurts them, keeps peace at bay and undermines stability in the Middle East. Even if Israel can be irritating, it is a fact. And even if Netanyahu arouses wrath, he is the only game in town. If there is peace during the Obama years, it won't be Tzipi Livni's peace. Nor will it be Yair Lapid's peace. The peace will be solely Netanyahu's.

On a third level, Israel demonstrated its seriousness. For many months, the two government engaged in an ongoing and in-depth working dialogue. The Israelis made it clear to the Americans that they are serious. In order to receive diplomatic and strategic credit, they deposited guarantees in the hands of their discussion partners - guarantees that will need to be put into effect in the coming months. That which sweetened the prime minister's visit to the White House is liable to embitter his life at home.

Thus the royal visit to Washington is not the end of the story. The Americans gave, and the Americans are


expecting to get. Netanyahu must not let himself become confused. Now he is king for a day, maybe for a summer. However, if he does not immediately take advantage of the hard-won credit he has been granted in order to come out with an Israeli diplomatic initiative, his situation will become desperate again. Turkel and Lindenstrauss are still out there. So are Lieberman and Barak, as well as Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. The noose is still closing in on Netanyahu, and it is his obligation to slough it off.









The education minister's comments last week that he intends to "examine the issues raised" in a report by the on-campus advocacy group Im Tirtzu on academia's putatively anti-Zionist bent represents another step in the deterioration of Israel's cultural, political and educational culture.


Gideon Sa'ar's remarks, which singled out supposed trends within university and college political science departments, must be rejected out of hand. There are still many academics who seek to uphold the values of Israel's government and civil society and its democratic principles. On the other hand, there are several reasons behind the growing silence of academics on cultural and political issues. Today only a few scholars are unafraid to air their opinions on the country's social and political decay.


From the state's founding until the present day, the influence of academia on the ideologies of political factions across the spectrum, and on Israel's culture of governance, has been relatively minor. Over the years, only a smattering of scholars have dared publicly criticize government policy or call for social change. In recent years, the left has been considerably weakened and has largely stepped back from the cultural and political scene, while the right exerts increased authority over the political establishment.


Israeli society is broadly moving toward either rightist views or political apathy, as are many academics. Even those who research the country's political society have been shifting toward accepting the policies of the current government - positions largely based on self-serving economic and financial interests. This tendency is bolstered by growing indifference toward troubling developments within the social and political establishment - indifference linked to rising individualism, excessive concern for one's personal well-being and a lack of concern for that of the collective.


The heads of institutions of higher learning are afraid to voice opposition or criticism of the government largely because of the legal and economic dependence of most colleges and universities - and the academics themselves - on those same official bodies. They are also cognizant of the ongoing struggle over the state's demands for organizational and financial reforms at academic institutions. Additionally, university and college presidents, rectors, deacons, department heads and administrators dare not express social or political criticism in public for personal and ideological reasons. Defense and security research institutions are generally set up and run by active or retired military men, and the reports they issue and events they host tend to refrain from adequately criticizing developments in those fields.


More than ever before, critical academics in Israel are finding it hard to express themselves to the media. While in the past scholars could have relatively easily aired their views on radio or television, or in the printed press, now they encounter difficulties in having their messages widely heard.


These developments have resulted in a kind of paralysis among academics, allowing politicians like Sa'ar to

unjustifiably attack academia as a whole. The education minister's recent remarks will only exacerbate the deterioration of Israeli democracy itself.


The writer is a political science professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.









About two weeks ago the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected a drug called flibanserin, which is supposed to arouse sexual desire in women. The FDA said the product's side effects exceed its advantages.


The development of this drug is an opportunity to examine ideology in the cultural perceptions guiding science and medicine; for example, the search for the risk factors for autism. In the past, researchers investigated whether the mother's age affects the risk of giving birth to a child with autism. The assumption was that since a woman's ova are in her body from the time she is born, these cells age along with the rest of the body's cells. Since a man's body produces sperm cells in renewing cycles, the researchers concluded there was no need to look for a connection between the fathers' age and birth defects.


However, an international group of researchers questioned the axiom that males do not have a biological clock. The very fact of the aging of a man's body, they argued, might mean it carries out all its functions less effectively as he ages, including the production of sperm cells. This trailblazing study found a direct connection between the father's age and the degree of risk for giving birth to a child who suffers from autism, joining other fertility studies that cast doubt on the "blame the mothers" approach.


Another example comes from archaeology. In the attempt to understand how prehistoric humans lived, archaeologists assumed for many years that since males tended to function as hunters and women as gatherers, the male's contribution to our primitive ancestors' nutrition was greater than that of the women.


However, feminist archaeologists went back to the ancient sites, measured and discovered that the seeds and plants the women gathered provided most of the tribe's nourishment. That is, the feminist scientific approach showed that the most common research starting point was based on a patriarchal worldview.


The condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD, an extreme case of premenstrual syndrome, is gladly treated by manufacturers of antidepressants. It, too, reflects the problems discussed here. A woman's suffering due to menstruation is sometimes difficult, but a distinction must be made between the need to alleviate this and considering it an illness that must be cured. Menstruation is a pathological phenomenon only in a society that expects a woman's body to be identical to a man's.


And indeed, Simone de Beauvoir and later Catherine MacKinnon showed how in many areas of our lives the "objective" standard - medical, legal and psychological - by which people are measured is the male. That is, "objective" Western thinking, of which we are so proud, is based on a standard chosen for ideological reasons that represents only half the population.


Women's sexual fulfillment is a lofty feminist goal. But when a drug is developed, if men are the model, why not find a solution based on the factors contributing to men's ability to maintain consistent sexual desire?


Let's imagine the following experiment. We divide women into two groups, an experimental group and a control group. We raise the women's salaries in the experimental group to the level of men's; we decrease their burden of housework and surround them with images of naked men. My research hypothesis is that after one year, the sexual desire of the women in the experimental group will improve. And there will be very few side effects.



******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




The Obama administration has not always been completely clear about its immigration agenda, but it was forthright Tuesday when it challenged the pernicious Arizona law that allows the police to question the immigration status of people they detain for local violations. Only the federal government can set or enforce immigration policy, the government said in its lawsuit against the state, and "Arizona has crossed this constitutional line."


There is nothing terribly complicated about this principle, which is based on several aspects of the Constitution, acts of Congress, and Supreme Court decisions over the years. A patchwork of state and local immigration policies would cause havoc.


As the Justice Department points out in its complaint, the Arizona law will divert resources from the government's pursuit of dangerous aliens, including terrorists, spies and violent criminals. It will harass authorized immigrants, visitors and citizens who might not be carrying their papers when stopped by the police. It will ignore the country's cherished protections of asylum and will interfere with national foreign policy interests. (Already several Mexican governors are refusing to meet with their American counterparts in Arizona, a sign of the diplomatic disarray produced by the law.)


The courts have repeatedly made these fundamental ideas clear. A federal court in 1997 struck down Proposition 187 in California, which would have denied social benefits to illegal immigrants and turned state employees into enforcement agents because it was pre-empted by federal authority. (Appeals in the case were dropped.) The Supreme Court has said federal authority can pre-empt state law when the federal interest is dominant and where there already exists a system of federal regulations. The government has done a poor job enforcing its immigration rules, to say the least, but they do exist, and clearly fall under what the Constitution calls "the supreme law of the land."


Though private lawsuits have done so, the government's suit does not allege any discrimination or civil rights violations in the law, in part because that case is difficult to make until the law goes into effect on July 29.


The current Supreme Court, fortunately, has not been as active in recognizing state power as was the Rehnquist court, but it is not always easy to predict its direction on a volatile issue like this one. Should the case reach the court, those justices with a constructionist bent might take note of Justice Hugo Black's words from 1941, quoted by the Justice Department on Tuesday in support of its lawsuit: "The supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution, was pointed out by authors of The Federalist in 1787, and has since been given continuous recognition by this Court."


The court has already taken a related Arizona case for its next term. It challenges a 2007 law penalizing employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The administration has urged the court to strike down that law for many of the same reasons it cited on Tuesday, and we hope the court uses that case to undermine the notion that states can set their own immigration policy.


In the meantime, there are steps President Obama can take. He can deny Arizona access to federal databases of immigration status and refuse to allow the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to cooperate with state officials in handling people detained under the law. The government should end the misguided program allowing local deputies to enforce immigration law after taking an educational course.


Most important, the president can follow through on his recent promise to end the chaos of the immigration system with a comprehensive reform bill. Stamping out unjust laws like Arizona's is a good place to start.







Nearly a year has passed since a federal court ruled that New York violated federal disability law by warehousing mentally ill people in highly restrictive "homes" that are in some ways worse than the psychiatric hospitals they were meant to replace. The court rightly ordered Gov. David Paterson to give about 4,500 mentally ill people the option of moving into supported housing, where they could live independently with the help of social service organizations.


In addition to being morally correct, the ruling was fully consistent with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that the disabled be treated in the least-restrictive environment. The state, which has appealed the ruling, should stop stalling and comply.


The failings of New York's mental health system were detailed in two state-sponsored reports dating to 2002. The state Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled found a pervasive pattern of neglect in the adult homes and said the owners were driving up profits and the cost of Medicaid by subjecting residents to needless, overly expensive medical treatment.


A second panel appointed by then-Gov. George Pataki found that many people confined to the homes did not belong there and proposed a timeline for moving about 6,000 of them into supportive housing.


This seemed perfectly reasonable, given that New York is nationally known for humane, innovative housing developments where mentally ill people who present no danger to themselves or others manage to live independently. But as the court points out, the state ignored the recommendation.


Judge Nicholas Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn went over this history in detail in last fall's ruling. By isolating the mentally ill in highly restrictive homes, he pointed out, the state makes it impossible for them to have contact with the wider community or to learn the social skills that would allow them to live independently.


The state argued that obeying the ruling would be too costly. But that explanation was recently rejected by the Justice Department, which was so concerned about the state's treatment of the disabled that it entered the case on behalf of the plaintiffs.


Judge Garaufis dismissed the cost excuse in his initial ruling. "The evidence," he wrote, demonstrates that serving the mentally ill "in supported housing rather than Adult Homes would not increase costs to the state." He further noted that the homes were more costly thanks to soaring Medicaid costs. "The overall annual Medicaid costs for an individual residing in an Adult Home, were, on average, roughly $15,000 higher than the average Medicaid costs for an individual with mental illness in supported housing," he said. The point is that supportive housing is both more humane and, in the final analysis, less expensive.


The case moved closer to resolution last month when the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the state's request to stay the initial ruling while it pursues its appeal. This means that the state will have to devise a mechanism for moving at least some people into supportive housing while the litigation runs its course. The better decision would be to drop the appeal altogether and negotiate a settlement that would bring the state into compliance with federal disability law.







President Obama made a sensible move Wednesday when he bypassed the Senate and appointed Dr. Donald Berwick, an expert on reducing health care costs, to oversee Medicare and Medicaid. Republican senators had made it clear that they would use confirmation hearings to distort his record and rehash their arguments against the recently enacted health care reforms, mostly to score political points for the November elections.


By using his power to make recess appointments while the Senate is on vacation, Mr. Obama put Dr. Berwick in a position of vital importance in implementing the new reform law. His appointment will run until late 2011, giving him time to get things moving before he would have to be renominated. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which Dr. Berwick will run, has been without a permanent administrator since 2006.


The obscure but influential agency runs two huge public insurance programs that will play central roles in health care reform. The new law requires Medicare for older Americans and the disabled to become more efficient and to serve as a testing ground for innovations to improve the quality and lower the cost of health care, the core of Dr. Berwick's professional interests. Reform will also entail a big expansion of the state-federal Medicaid program for the poor, requiring strong guidance and leadership from Washington.


Dr. Berwick's major credential for the job is that he leads the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a consulting group that promotes measures to improve the quality and safety of health care while reducing its costs. He has been enormously successful at getting health care professionals and institutions to work together to reform their practices — exactly what the agency needs.


His appointment is backed by the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and scores of other health organizations and patient advocacy groups. He has been endorsed by three predecessors who held the same job in Republican administrations.


Even so, some Republican senators have portrayed Dr. Berwick as a proponent of socialized medicine because he has expressed great admiration for Britain's National Health Service. They also call him an advocate of rationing care and even suggest he favors "death panels," a politically potent falsehood.


Yet Dr. Berwick spoke an obvious truth when he declared that "the decision in not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open." Care is already rationed by insurance company decisions about what services to cover and by high prices that make insurance and medical care unaffordable to millions of Americans.


Senators jealous of their prerogatives in confirming presidential nominations are grumbling about being bypassed. But there is no telling when or whether the Senate would have been ready to confirm Dr. Berwick. The job is too important to leave open any longer.











Israel goes out of its way to display its ugliest side to the world by tearing down Palestinian homes or allowing rapacious settlers to steal Palestinian land.


Yet there's also another Israel as well, one that I mightily admire. This is the democracy that tolerates a far greater range of opinions than America. It's a citadel of civil society. And, crazily, it's the place where some of the most courageous and effective voices on behalf of oppressed Palestinians belong to Israeli rabbis — like Arik Ascherman, the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights.


Rabbi Ascherman — 50, tall, lean and bearded with mournful eyes (if central casting ever needed a Prophet Jeremiah type, he'd be it) — grew up in Erie, Pa. He fell in love with Israel on a brief visit between high school and college and moved here in 1994. At Rabbis for Human Rights, he presides over 20 staff members and hundreds of volunteers who sometimes serve as human shields to protect Palestinians — even if that means getting arrested or beaten.


I watched the ugly side of Israel collide with its more noble version, as Rabbi Ascherman and I visited a rural area in the northern West Bank where Jewish settlers have taken over land that Palestinian farmers say is theirs.


"If we try to enter our land, settlers will be waiting, and we will be beaten," said Muhammad Moqbel, a 71-year-old Palestinian from the village of Qaryout who pointed to fields that he said had been stolen by settlers. Last year, he said, he was hospitalized with a broken rib after settlers attacked while he was picking his own olives.


Rabbis for Human Rights has helped Palestinians recover some land through lawsuits in Israeli courts. And Rabbi Ascherman and other Jewish activists escort such farmers to protect them. The settlers still attack, but soldiers are more likely to intervene when it is rabbis being clubbed.


As Mr. Moqbel and Rabbi Ascherman were explaining all this to me, a settler vehicle came down to confront us. And then another. The settlers photographed us. We photographed them. I asked them if they would agree to be interviewed. They refused to respond to my questions.


"They're just trying to intimidate us," Rabbi Ascherman said.


As was the case in the American civil rights movement, the activists here often become targets. Palestinian youths have stoned Rabbi Ascherman's car, and he has been arrested and beaten up by security forces and settlers alike. (His car is almost as ancient as Jerusalem, and he has to lift the hood and fiddle with wires to get it started, which impedes fast getaways.)


Yet shared beatings also break down malevolent stereotypes of Jews among Palestinians.


Once, he says, he got a call that a 13-year-old Palestinian kid was being beaten by Israeli soldiers and rushed to the scene. Then he was himself tear-gassed, head-butted and arrested by the soldiers. The boy later recounted wonderingly that a tall Jewish stranger had run to his rescue and, in the process of being arrested, comforted him by saying: "Don't be afraid."


This "other Israel" extends far beyond Rabbis for Human Rights. The most cogent critiques of Israel's treatment of Palestinians invariably come from Israel's own human rights organizations. The most lucid unraveling of Israel's founding mythology comes from Israeli historians. The deepest critiques of Israel's historical claims come from Israeli archeologists (one archeological organization, Emek Shaveh, offers alternative historical tours so that visitors can get a fuller picture). This more noble Israel, refusing to retreat from its values even in times of fear and stress, is a model for the world.


In the Middle East, on all sides, the most religious people are sometimes the most hateful. By challenging religious extremism, Rabbis for Human Rights redeems not only Israeli values, but also Jewish ones.


Rabbis for Human Rights has had strong support from North American Jews, and some American children participate in the classic Zionist gesture — planting a tree for Israel — by sending money so that the rabbis can replant an olive tree for a Palestinian whose grove was uprooted by settlers.


Not everyone finds Rabbi Ascherman inspiring. He gets death threats, and hard-line Israelis see him as a naïve traitor.


He responds that he is struggling to uphold his religious and moral values. But he also argues that building bridges between Jews and Palestinians helps make Israel a safer place for his children. "In the long run, we're going to live here together," he says, "or we're going to die here together."


"When we get the death threats and people say we're traitors and anti-Israel, I think, 'Who is really doing more for Israel's physical survival?' " he says. " 'Those who demolish homes and uproot trees, or those who rebuild homes and replant trees?' "








Let's consider the latest developments in the Levi Johnston saga.


When we last left Levi, he was fighting with his ex-girlfriend, Bristol Palin, over the custody of his son, Tripp. Also, he was talking trash about Tripp's grandmother, the former Republican vice presidential nominee.


This was last summer, when he was showing up everywhere from Vanity Fair to Playgirl, complaining about how Sarah Palin made him cut off his mullet before the Republican convention and how on the day Tripp was born "I didn't think Sarah wanted my mom around all the cameras because she had been arrested for selling prescription medication a week and a half earlier."


But this week Johnston sent out an olive branch, via People magazine. "Last year, after Bristol and I broke up, I was unhappy and a little angry. Unfortunately, against my better judgment, I publicly said things about the Palins that were not completely true," he said.


We have been dealing with a lot of imperfect apologies recently, but this one hits a new level of unsatisfactory.


At the very least, we need to know which of the gossip he was dishing was true, and which not completely. The part about how Sarah fights a lot with Todd? Or that she never cooks? Personally, all I want to know is whether Levi was being straight when he said that the former governor of Alaska doesn't really know how to shoot a gun.


Johnston also told People that he hoped that the Palins would "forgive my youthful indiscretion." This does not really sound like something that would come from a high-school dropout who gave his son the middle name of Easton because that is his favorite hockey equipment company. In fact, the last time I heard anyone refer to a "youthful indiscretion" was in 1998, when 74-year-old Henry Hyde, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was confessing to an adulterous affair he had conducted when he was 41.


Bristol responded to her ex-boyfriend's statement with one of her own, saying that "part of co-parenting is creating healthy and honest relationships between the parents." Also not the kind of word choice you normally hear from a 19-year-old.


Last year, when his illegitimate fatherdom fame was at its height, Levi had acquired management and was talking about writing his memoirs or pursuing an acting career. But it appears that he has not actually been able to turn his failure to use a condom into a permanent job.


Bristol has been far more successful. She is currently the teen ambassador for the Candie's Foundation to prevent teen pregnancy. She is also available to speak about her experiences — for fees of $15,000 and up.


Earlier this year, Rachel Maddow reported on MSNBC that Bristol had filed paperwork to establish her own company to provide "lobbying, public relations and political consulting services." This may have been done for tax purposes, but the fact is that for a foe of teenage pregnancy, Bristol has been making unwed motherhood look like a pretty attractive gig.


This week, she made her acting debut on the series "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," where she had been cast in the role of an unmarried teen mom named Bristol.


"The Secret Life of the American Teenager" is a product of the ABC Family network, and it consists mainly of attractive kids hanging around talking about their feelings. The show is so utterly detached from reality that the teenage boys talk about their feelings even when there are no teenage girls around to appreciate the effort.


The plots all seem to revolve around who is pregnant, formerly pregnant or worried about being pregnant. In the Bristol episode, there was a great deal of speculation about whether the main character, Amy, was "pregnant again."


Amy plays the French horn — this comes up quite a bit — and she had actually gone off to a camp for young musicians in New York City in hopes of furthering her ambition to get into Julliard. It was possibly the coolest music camp in the history of band instruments, since every camper got her own personal apartment in Manhattan. Then Bristol appeared at Amy's door to offer to show her how the subway works and let her in on the camp's secret theme: "We're all teen moms. And musicians."


To summarize: Bristol Palin is a teenager whose out-of-wedlock baby has turned her into a national celebrity and gotten her a cameo role on a popular TV show. Where she explains to the lead character that her status as an unwed mother wins her a slot in the world's greatest music camp.


The only person who's actually been doing anything for the battle against teen pregnancy is Levi Johnston. Don't have unprotected sex with your boyfriend, girls. Look what he might turn into.









IT has been six months since the earthquake in Haiti left more than 300,000 people dead and destroyed 280,000 homes and businesses. Haiti still faces a long road to recovery, but one of the biggest things literally standing in its way is earthquake debris.


The quake left an astonishing amount of debris, including concrete and rebar from collapsed buildings, destroyed belongings and human remains. Twenty million to 25 million cubic yards of debris fill the streets, yards, sidewalks and canals of Port-au-Prince — enough to fill five Louisiana Superdomes.


According to our research and conversations with aid groups in Haiti, less than 5 percent of this has been removed since January, and even less has been properly disposed of. A draft of the United States Army Corps of Engineers' debris management plan says it would take a dump truck with a 20-cubic-yard bed 1,000 days to clear the debris, if it carried 1,000 loads a day — or about three years. But the current rate of removal is much lower. Based on our calculations, partially from the United States Agency for International Development's reports on debris removal programs, we estimate that it could take 20 years or more.


Today, debris is one of the most significant issues keeping Haitians from rebuilding Port-au-Prince and resuming normal lives. Much of the stuff has been left in place or simply moved to the center or the sides of roads. Some streets with especially large piles of refuse are impassable. As a result, it can take hours to travel just a few miles. Meanwhile, schools, hospitals, businesses and homes remain blocked.


The debris is also an environmental and health hazard. The daily downpours of the rainy season leach toxic chemicals and carcinogens into the storm water system — and ultimately into the drinking water. Debris has been dumped into the sea, turning the blue water brown.


Initial cleanup efforts were promising. Immediately after the earthquake, the Haitian government's road construction operation began clearing debris. Within a week, the United States Army Corps of Engineers deployed teams to identify sites for sorting and processing debris and drafted a debris management plan, while the Navy hired Haitian and foreign contractors to open major roads with heavy machinery.


But since then, efforts have lagged. At present, there is no significant, coordinated financing by international aid groups for debris removal using machinery, though some estimates predict the next year and a half of debris management could cost around $300 million. Instead, almost all of the operations in Port-au-Prince are in the form of cash-for-work programs like the ones sponsored by Usaid and the European Union, which have Haitians, at best, breaking concrete and loading trucks by hand and, at worst, just moving bricks from one side of a road to the other. Many workers lack masks or gloves. While this inefficient process may put money into the hands of Haitians, it only further slows rebuilding.


Instead, the United Nations, the World Bank and agencies like Usaid, in conjunction with the Haitian government, should create a task force focused on debris removal to coordinate the cleanup efforts of the hodgepodge of aid groups in the country. The task force should identify critical facilities, like hospitals and schools, and the roads that approach them, to clear first. It should lay down environmental regulations for debris disposal and landfill management, and regulate the use of cash-for-work programs. There's no reason these can't continue, but more of the money should be allocated to bringing in heavy equipment and expertise. This kind of task force would serve as a model for future disasters.


Debris isn't sexy. Images of blocked-off streets don't inspire people to help in the way pictures of hungry or needy people do. However, if Haiti is going to recover, it needs more than food aid and health clinics; it needs functioning, accessible infrastructure.


Reginald DesRoches is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where Ozlem Ergun and Julie Swann are associate professors of industrial and systems engineering and co-directors of the Center for Health and Humanitarian Logistics.









Berkeley, Calif.

HERE in California, where people tiresomely boast that the state's gross domestic product exceeds that of all but seven nations, I keep expecting a ballot initiative demanding admission to the Group of 8 industrialized nations. I'd consider voting for it, too; then maybe Washington would work as hard to synchronize its economic policy with Sacramento as it does with Tokyo and Bonn. The lack of coordination within the United States — and, equally important, the failure to recognize the states as macroeconomic players — helps explain our sluggish recovery.


To make matters worse, several states have country-sized G.D.P.'s, but none has the macroeconomic tools of an independent country. Every state except Vermont has some sort of balanced budget requirement that prevents it from weathering a recession by running up big deficits to keep teachers employed, students in college, welfare payments flowing and construction humming. Nor can New York and California stimulate their economies by, say, printing more currency. Instead, states are managing huge budget crises with the only tools they have, cutting spending and raising taxes — both of which undermine the federal stimulus.


That's why the best booster shot for this recovery and the next would be to allow states to borrow from the Treasury during recessions. We did this for Wall Street and Detroit, fending off disaster. It's even more important for states.


Here's how this would work. States already receive regular federal matching grants to help pay for Medicaid, welfare, highway construction programs and more. For instance, the federal government pays a share of state Medicaid costs, from 50 percent to more than 75 percent, depending on a state's wealth. The matching rates were temporarily sweetened by last year's stimulus.


But Congress should pass legislation that would allow a state to simply get an "advance" on these future federal dollars expected from entitlement programs. The advance could then be used for regional stimulus, to continue state services and to hasten our recovery.


The Treasury Department, which writes the checks to the states, could be assured of repayment (with interest) by simply cutting the federal matching rate by the needed amount over, say, five years. Of course, when Treasury eventually collected what it was owed, the state would have to cut spending or find new revenue sources. But that would happen after the recession, when both tasks would likely prove easier economically and politically.


What would this cost the federal government? Nothing. There would be zero risk of default, and a guarantee of full repayment plus interest equal to what Treasury pays in the bond markets to borrow. Congress would need only to appropriate the administrative costs of this program, which would be minimal.


It seems clearer every day that there isn't the political will for another traditional federal stimulus package large enough to be effective in a $14 trillion economy. This proposal, however, would merely shift the timing of federal payments to states to help offset economic swings. It would have the additional merit of finally forging the federal-state partnership that has been missing since 1787, when the Constitution created a federal government with sufficient legislative authority to shape a nationwide economy out of separate state economies.


Indeed, our best shot at devising United States economic policy may be to give the states the role of creating and carrying out the economic stimulus we so desperately need.


Christopher Edley Jr., the dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, was a White House budget official from 1993 to 1995.








After imposing a six-month drilling moratorium that has shut down 33 deep-water drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration is caught in a classic no-win situation.


Which is worse: Risking another catastrophic oil spill like BP's April 20 blowout? Or inflicting even more financial damage on the already battered regional economy?


There's no easy answer, despite what the industry and environmentalists say. For now, it's a matter for the courts. A federal appeals court will begin deciding today whether to enforce a Louisiana judge's order that suspended the moratorium on the grounds that it was "arbitrary and capricious."


If only it were that simple. The sheer scale of the catastrophe, and the incompetence it revealed, make a compelling argument for continuing the moratorium until the industry and government can answer three questions:


•Is it safe to drill? Before this accident, the industry had gone 41 years without a major drilling-related domestic spill. Either BP was exceptionally reckless, or the risks are far greater than was widely believed. It's crucial to know which is true before drilling is allowed to resume, perhaps on a rig-by-rig basis.


•Is there a credible plan for plugging a blowout? BP's fumbling attempts to cap the well — still only partially effective more than two months after the accident — show it had no way to quickly handle a blowout 5,000 feet underwater. The company was so unprepared, it wasted precious time building the first big dome it used in an unsuccessful bid to stop the flow. Containment devices need to be tested and be available for deployment within hours of an accident.


•Is the industry capable of cleaning up a catastrophic spill? Congressional testimony revealed that most major oil companies rely on the same, inadequate oil-spill response plan. All the industry's and the Coast Guard's resources haven't been enough to keep oil from washing up on the beaches of every state along the Gulf. The United States has had to accept help from better-prepared countries, which have sent equipment such as an immense oil-skimming vessel from Taiwan. Industry needs a robust response capability and a credible cleanup plan, rather than a paper one for incurious regulators.


All this argues for a drilling pause, but one that's based on results instead of an arbitrary timeline. Whether the pause should last less than six months, or more, should depend on the progress toward resolving the key questions.


Moratorium opponents cite the economic damage from idling thousands of oil rig workers and tens of thousands more whose livelihoods depend on drilling in the Gulf. In an area where fishermen, restaurant workers and hotel employees have already been forced out of work, the added joblessness is shaping up as a crisis on top of a crisis.


This is not an argument for heedlessly rushing back to drilling, but it is a reason for some urgency and for getting BP to mitigate the economic damage in the interim.


Offshore drilling has always been a balancing act. The Gulf is an immeasurably valuable resource worth protecting. The nation needs the energy that lies beneath it. When the industry demonstrates that it can operate safely, with credible response plans if something goes wrong, that will be the time to lift the moratorium.








Immediately following the blowout at a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered a 30-day pause in U.S. offshore drilling. During this time, experts from government, industry and academia examined ways to immediately improve safety in offshore drilling. A blanket moratorium was not among them.


But Secretary Salazar imposed a politically motivated six-month ban on deep-water drilling anyway, and the results are catastrophic, perhaps worse than the spill itself.


The moratorium neither improves safety nor mitigates risk. To the contrary, it increases risk by:


•Stopping drilling and forcing riskier re-entry procedures after the moratorium.


•Lowering the quality of equipment in the Gulf (the best rigs will be the first to leave and the last to return).


•Driving away experienced workers through transfer or layoff.


•Increasing oil imports, which harms national energy security and increases the use of tankers, whose history of spills is greater than that of drilling rigs.


There are better methods for returning offshore drilling rigs to work: re-inspection, enhanced review of plans and procedures, and third-party intervention and supervision. These can be accomplished on a rig-by-rig and project-by-project basis.


Then there is the economic trauma. Thousands of jobs and small businesses exist to support and supply the offshore industry, and not only on the Gulf Coast. The supply-and-manufacturing chain reaches to Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and other central and Midwestern states. The moratorium places over $12 billion in wages in jeopardy. Jobs are vanishing. Hundreds of small and midsized businesses are threatened.


In a national economy hungry for jobs, the moratorium is crippling the coastal economy. Oil field workers don't want BP's money; they don't want government welfare checks or Small Business Administration loans. They want their jobs back.


The offshore industry has drilled successfully and safely in both shallow and deep water for decades. The moratorium threatens energy security, costs millions in lost wages and revenue, and actually increases risk in the long term. President Obama and Secretary Salazar should heed the advice of their experts. Let drilling resume.


Lee Hunt is president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors.







In 1987, I had my first opportunity to provide "advice and consent" on a Supreme Court nominee. At that time, I stated that the qualifications essential for evaluating a nominee for the bench included "integrity, character, legal competence and ability, experience, and philosophy and judicial temperament." On that test, Elena Kagan fails.


When Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, she unmistakably discouraged Harvard students from considering a career in the military — even while claiming to do otherwise — by denying military recruiters the same access to Harvard students that was granted to white-shoe law firms. Kagan did so because she believed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy to be "a profound wrong — a moral injustice of the first order."


While Kagan is entitled to her opinion, she was not entitled to ignore the law that requires universities to allow military recruiters on campus under terms of equal access with all other recruiters. The chief of recruiting for the Air Force's Judge Advocate General Corps described the impact of Kagan's changes by saying that "Harvard is playing games." The Army's report from that same period was even more blunt, stating, "The Army was stonewalled at Harvard."


Kagan tried to justify her actions in terms of Harvard's anti-discrimination policy and sought a compromise by asking the law school's Veterans Association to host military recruiters. However, the association responded to the dean, "Given our tiny membership, meager budget, and lack of any office space, we possess neither the time nor the resources ... of the Harvard Law School Office of Career Services." An Air Force recruiter wrote Pentagon officials, "Without the support of the Career Services Office, we are relegated to wandering the halls in hopes that someone will stop and talk to us."


'The facts are otherwise'


Kagan's claim that she was bound by Harvard's anti-discrimination policy is belied by the fact that her predecessor allowed military recruiters full official access — a policy Kagan changed. And while Kagan barred military recruiters' access to the school, Harvard continued to receive millions of dollars in federal aid.


During her confirmation hearing last week, Kagan asserted that Harvard Law School was "never out of compliance with the law ... in fact, the veterans association did a fabulous job of letting all our students know that the military recruiters were going to be at Harvard." She went on to assert, "The military at all times during my deanship had full and good access." The facts are otherwise.


While I strongly disagree with Kagan, I take no issue in terms of her nomination with her opposition to President Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. She is free to have her own opinion. Kagan was not free, however, to ignore the Solomon Amendment's requirement to provide military recruiters equal access because she and many of her colleagues opposed "don't ask, don't tell." In short, she interpreted her duties as dean at Harvard to be consistent with what she wished the law to be, not with the law as written.


'Beyond public advocacy'


In the end, Kagan's interpretation of the Solomon Amendment was soundly rejected by the Supreme Court. By changing the policy she inherited and restricting military recruiter access when the prevailing law was to the contrary, Kagan stepped beyond public advocacy in opposition to a policy and into the realm of usurping the prerogative of the Congress and the president to make law and the courts to interpret it.


I have previously stated that I do not believe judges should stray beyond their constitutional role and act as if they have greater insight than representatives who are elected by the people. Given the choice to uphold a law that was unpopular with her peers and students or interpret the law to achieve her own political objectives, she chose the latter. I cannot support her nomination to the Supreme Court where, based on her prior actions, it appears unlikely that she would exercise judicial restraint.


On the main campus of Harvard University stands Memorial Church, dedicated to the memory of Harvard's veterans who laid down their lives for their country, including some from the greatest families in American history, such as the Roosevelts and the Kennedys. During this Independence Day holiday week, we should also honor those who encouraged our military men and women to serve our country and a cause greater than themselves.


Let us hope that the day will come when leaders of our country's most elite schools fully embrace military service and encourage their students to commit their lives and talents to their nation and one of its great institutions, the U.S. military.


John McCain is a Republican senator from Arizona.








On a recent flight to New York, Draco Slaughter, 75, was arrested on terrorism-related charges. His crime? He made a bad joke to a flight attendant. Slaughter did not exactly slay his audience. The joke not only resulted in a federal criminal charge but could result in seven years incarceration — the ultimate bomb of a joke.


Across the country, travelers are greeted with signs and announcements at airports warning them not to make jokes about bombs or weapons. It has become commonly known that making such jokes is a federal offense. It isn't. There is no Comic Relief Act that makes joking a violation of the U.S. Code. It is an urban legend intentionally created by threatening arrests and twisting existing laws. Even actual prosecutions are rare. In the meantime, there is not a single case of a terrorist warming up his victims with a lead-in joke.


Government websites such as the TSA's expressly warn that "jokes ... are not tolerated" and "can result in criminal or civil penalties." However, federal law prohibits giving false information "willfully and maliciously, or with reckless disregard for the safety of human life." This is an anti-hoax — not an anti-joke — law designed to punish people who want to cause panic with false reports. Most joke cases involve people who clearly indicate at the time that they are joking.


Clueless vs. humorless


In Slaughter's case, he joked that "there could be a bomb in there" when a flight attendant found his bag. Unable to pay a ridiculous $50,000 bail, he remained in jail. He was not charged with illegal jokes but falsely reporting an incident. Prosecutors pretended that his joke was an actual report of a bomb and then charged him for essentially not having a bomb.


Dozens of travelers are reportedly arrested each year in airports for making jokes. Most of these arrests are cases of the clueless meeting the humorless.


For example, in April, Qatari diplomat Mohammed al-Madadi, 27, decided to try to smoke during a United Airlines flight from Washington to Denver. When he emerged from the bathroom, he was confronted by a flight attendant who asked what he was doing. Smelling of cigarette smoke, al-Madadi joked that he was just trying to light his shoes on fire (a clear reference to would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid). The flight attendant alerted the crew of a terrorist threat — resulting in the military scrambling two F-16 jets, a briefing of President Obama and al-Madadi being held for questioning. (Al-Madadi has been sent back to Qatar — presumably by boat.)


Reinforcing the mythology


We are now seeing similar cases around the world. In Britain in May, Paul Chambers was convicted and fined for making a joke on Twitter to friends after his flight was delayed by snow. He sent the message, "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s—- together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!" Once again, he was not charged with bad jokes but sending a "menacing" message.


By the time a judge gets around to throwing out one of these usually meritless cases, the point has been made.


Ironically, news media reports of such abuses only reinforce the urban mythology — sending the message that even obvious jokes can be grounds for arbitrary arrest. Even when proven unlawful, the arrests deter citizens by threatening them with the loss of money and time in court.


It is time to tell the public the truth about airport jokes. If we are going to criminalize bad humor, we should have the good sense of passing a law first.


Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.








My mother died 10 years ago this month, but I still hear — and fear — her ardent objections to my public political posture. Renate Hirsch Medved lived 75 turbulent years but, unlike most members of our family, never budged from the New Deal faith she embraced as a teenager. She unapologetically admired FDR, Stevenson and all the Kennedy brothers, expressing simultaneous contempt for the "New Left" with its anti-American inclinations, and for "stuffy" Republicans of every stripe.


On the anniversary of her passing, I recall our ideological arguments with wry fondness and recognize that even in the midst of today's passionately polarized debates, all current conservatives (including me, her oldest son) could benefit from timely warnings she might communicate if she could.


1. Don't demonize public employees


My mother spent nearly all her work life serving governmental agencies. Trained as a biochemist, she worked at a military installation researching biological warfare. Marrying my father after his return from the Navy in World War II, she toiled at a Philadelphia city hospital to support him in his own scientific education.


After moving to California, she not only raised four obstreperous boys but also found a new career as a public school teacher. She loved her impoverished, inner city pupils and spent her own money to buy little gifts and school supplies. Particularly after my parents' divorce, she became a proud member of the teachers' union, backing its aggressive drives for better pay and benefits.


When a major stroke disabled her at age 61, pension and medical insurance earned over two decades kept her alive and, though wheelchair-bound, proudly independent.


Today, governments at all levels face insolvency because of rising salaries, soaring medical costs and bloated benefits for retirees. Confronting this crisis shouldn't mean stigmatizing the teachers, law enforcement personnel, and even social workers and bureaucrats who, in most cases, serve the public with diligence and dedication.


Any attempt to label public workers as selfish or lazy will falter because too many Americans know friends or family members who, like my mother, offer powerful counter-examples.


2. Embrace immigrants


My mom was an immigrant herself, arriving from Nazi Germany with her parents just before her tenth birthday. She became a naturalized citizen in her teens but always felt special affinity for other new arrivals who sought fresh starts in America. This included her students in Los Angeles barrio schools. As a bilingual teacher (with her gift for languages, she taught herself Spanish), her students were mostly immigrants or children of immigrants, both legal and illegal. In the classroom, she couldn't tell the difference. Some of the sweetest, most promising kids were undocumented, and the biggest trouble-makers were often native-born children of legal residents — such as the violent sixth-grader who once assaulted her at her desk, causing serious injury.


She certainly recognized crucial distinctions between "good kids" and "bad kids," but that had nothing to do with divisions between legal and illegal. To pundits who insist they loathe only families who entered America without authorization but admire all those with proper documentation, my mother would suggest a teacher's perspective: In class, the important characteristics of any child are attitude, behavior and ability, not immigration status or the immigration status of his parents.


3. Family feeling trumps political differences


Beginning in 1980 with my outspoken support for Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign, my mother took an increasingly bemused pride in my political prominence. She disagreed with me on nearly everything but expressed perverse pleasure in the fact that many others supported my views, no matter how incomprehensible she might find them.


When my daily radio show began, she listened avidly, argued back to the radio and even joined me on air a few times as a disputatious guest. Family occasions also produced spirited arguments among all participants — but that was true even before we sharpened political disagreements, since Medveds seem to enjoy verbal rugby over anything, or nothing at all. Nevertheless, my mother patched up any strains of discord among her four boys and encouraged us to work together.


Of course, it's difficult to extend family feeling to a deeply divided nation of more than 300 million, but some sense of kinship should still apply, with recognition that an opponent in a campaign or other public battle need not become your enemy. Had she lived to see Barack Obama's rise, my mother probably would have voted for him but would have resisted the leftist claim that all his critics are racists, just as she would have rejected right-wing screeds about the president deliberately wrecking the economy to impose some alien dictatorship.


It's tricky to intuit these "messages from Mom" on behalf of someone never shy about expressing her own ideas, and it's true she might scoff at any posthumous effort to speak for her. But for everyone I know who has lost a parent, the memory operates as both conscience and compass. Even when we're utterly convinced of our opinions, we can sense those lost parents nagging at us to consider other perspectives. It's a useful exercise in any event. And as newly re-enforced armies of the right go forth to a fateful struggle this November, our battle plans can only benefit from a few cautionary comments drawn from the recollections of the warm-hearted, unreconstructed, but ultimately sensible liberal whose memory I still cherish.


Michael Medved, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, hosts a nationally syndicated, daily radio talk show.








With Arizona prepared to implement its harsh new anti-immigrant law on July 29, it was time for the Justice Department to join the battle to block the law from taking effect. It finally did so Tuesday, correctly arguing that immigration law is chiefly reserved to federal jurisdiction, and that the new Arizona statute would, in any case, hinder state and federal authorities from pursuing immigrant terrorists, drug dealers and other criminal aliens who pose the greatest risk to America.


The federal lawsuit did not address the civil rights issue of blatant racial profiling which inherently would flow from the Arizona law, but it well could have done so. The law makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant in the state, and it requires police officers to determine the immigration status of any person they stop for another offense if they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person might be an illegal immigrant.


Racial profiling is one of the law's most offensive aspects. Even as adjusted by the Arizona Legislature, the profiling issue has remained the most criticized element of the law by the national groups that elected to cancel work and conventions in Arizona in the wake of the state's passage of the law earlier this year.


The federal lawsuit not only adds weight to the suits already filed by other opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and other civil rights groups: It also will help quell the impulse among some other like-minded Legislatures (including Tennessee's) to mimic the Arizona law.


The Justice Department had to file the lawsuit. The federal government cannot allow individual states to begin making a patchwork system of immigration law across the nation. The United States must have a uniform immigration policy in order to deal as an authoritative sovereign entity on immigration issues with other nations.


Immigration law, as well, must respect core constitutional civil rights. The Arizona law is clearly flawed on that score.


In states like Arizona along the Mexican border, its logical to suspect that requirement for police to determine a person's immigration status would effectively guide police officers to focus application of the law on people who seem obviously Hispanic, either by skin color, language skills or accent. Arizona, after all, is one of the southwestern border states most concerned by a virtual river of illegal immigration over the border from or through Mexico into the United States.


Yet that would play egregiously on a deeply flawed stereotype, because language and skin color emphatically does not automatically signal illegal immigrant status in Arizona, any more than they would in New Mexico, Texas or California. Each of these states already has become a minority-majority state: white-majority Americans are now less than half the states' population, and Hispanics constitute from one-third (i.e., in Texas) to roughly one-half (as in New Mexico). With such numbers, many Hispanics live in multicultural American communities that have remained characterized chiefly by Hispanic culture for decades, if not generations.


Arizona and Nevada will also soon become minority-majority states, with Hispanics the bulk of their minority population after whites. And Maryland, Florida, Georgia, New York and Mississippi are close behind them in becoming states with minority-majorities.


With large, legal American-Hispanic populations, unleashing a law that requires police authorities to target Hispanics would be intolerable on any constitutional or civil rights grounds.


The Arizona law should serve, however, to prompt both parties in Washington to heed President Obama's sensible proposal last week to begin an overhaul of the nation's badly tattered immigration system.


It is patently obvious that national concern over immigration is ahead of Congress' perception. But most Americans want both an effective and a rational, humane approach to immigration. Many would accept a phased approach to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have made a secure home in the United States if Congress would also shut off the job magnet that has attracted illegal immigration. To do the latter, Congress would have to force businesses, large and small, to require verifiable, legal immigration status for new employees.


That, in turn, ultimately will require a verifiable, national identification standard for citizenship and background checks for any employee, new or existing. To accomplish that, Americans at last will have to accept some form of a national identification paper, whether it's a technologically advanced Social Security/identity card, federally prescribed national driver's license or a passport card. Without such clear-cut, verifiable identification standards, illegal immigration will not be contained.


The country, moreover, simply cannot have a rational debate on legal immigration quotas versus sustainable natural resources until we get the vastly larger picture of illegal immigration under control. That's an eminently worthwhile battle, but Arizona's racial-profiling measure is no place to start.


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In diplomatic circles, what is not said is sometimes as important -- or more important -- than what is said. That appears to be the case following a meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin in Washington on Tuesday. There were kind words about the current state of the U.S.-Israeli relationship and talk about Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nothing was said publicly, however, about Israel's response to the Palestinian demand for a freeze on settlement building in the West Bank and elsewhere. The omission is telling.


Indeed, both president and prime minister clearly avoided responding to a question about Israel's plan to extend a limited halt on expanding settlements on the West Bank. Palestinians say a freeze on settlement building is a requirement to bring them into direct peace talks with Israel. Mr. Netanyahu's refusal to embrace or promote a building freeze remains a contentious issue in U.S.-Israeli relations.


Mr. Obama has indicated that a freeze would be proper step to promote serious peace talks. Mr. Netanyahu and many, but not all, Israelis demur. They say the settlements are crucial to Israeli security and that a unilateral freeze without concessions and guarantees from the other side is not in the Jewish state's best interest. The prime minister is adamant on the topic.


The Israeli prime minister reaffirmed his position in an interview on "Good Morning America' on Wednesday. "The simplest way to advance peace is to put aside all the grievances and all the preconditions," adding that he is "ready to sit down" with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, to talk about peace "without preconditions." That sounds good, but it's a clear rejection of Palestinian demands.


Compromise is needed. Israelis should consider the Palestinian proposal rather than summarily reject it. Direct talks, moderated by a skilled intermediary, could produce an agreement that satisfies both the Palestinians' sensible demand for territorial integrity and Israel's intelligible quest for domestic security. Such discussion holds the possibility of progress. Refusal to talk does not.


The issue of settlement building tarnishes the carefully staged picture of cordiality that emerged from the Obama-Netanyahu meeting. Yes, it is good to know that U.S.-Israeli ties are "unbreakable" and that this country is committed to Israel's security. Israel's easing of its blockade of the Gaza Strip is welcome news, too, though it could still do more in that regard. And there are significant benefits that will accrue from U.S.-Israeli agreement about the dangers posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. Still, that's not enough.


Settlement building remains the most divisive issue in the volatile Mideast. Until there is progress on that front -- and Tuesday's meeting suggests there is little or none -- the dangerous stalemate in the region is likely to remain.







Most people don't welcome any kind of tax increase at any time. To face a local property tax increase at a time of general economic crisis is particularly unwelcome. But whatever services local government provides must be paid for.


Chattanooga's Mayor Ron Littlefield recently proposed a city property tax increase of 64 cents for each $100 of assessed property value.


Chattanooga City Council members viewed that with no enthusiasm. So they whittled away at the proposed spending and came up with a suggested tax increase of 37 cents per $100 of assessed property value. That rate was approved by a 5-4 vote.


The 37-cent tax increase will be added to the previous Chattanooga property tax rate of $1.939 tax rate, to make the new property tax rate $2.309.


Chattanooga property owners will have to pay the city's new rate in addition to the Hamilton County property tax rate of $2.7652 per $100 of assessed property value.


Voting for the 37-cent property tax increase for Chattanooga were City Council members Jack Benson, Carol Berz, Pam Ladd, Manny Rico and Sally Robinson. Voting against were Russell Gilbert, Andrae McGary, Peter Murphy and Deborah Scott.


(The 2009 property tax rates in other Hamilton County municipalities were $1.1227 in East Ridge, $1.1001 in Red Bank, $0.686 in Soddy-Daisy, $1.15 in Collegedale, $1.607 in Ridgeside, $0.24 in Lakesite, $0.43 in Walden, $1.47 in Lookout Mountain and $1.5134 in Signal Mountain -- all in addition to Hamilton County's $2.7652 property tax rate.)


Chattanooga's new property tax rate is designed to finance $185 million of services for Chattanooga taxpayers.


With City Council members having split 5-4 on the new tax rate, it is obvious the decision was made with difficulty, seeking to balance the cost of necessary and desirable city services with the undesirable necessity of having to pay for them







You have to be a real "old-timer" to remember when postmen came around to homes twice a day, morning and afternoon, to deliver first-class letters with one pink 2-cent stamp.


Then, because of higher costs, a purple 3-cent stamp was required. But that was a long time ago. There have been many more rate increases. And home delivery was cut to once a day. Now a 1-ounce letter delivery requires a 44-cent stamp.


But that's far from covering home mail costs and the other big expenses of the Postal Service. The post office is running in the red. So Postal Service Vice President Stephen Kearney says the post office is facing the prospect of $7 billion in red ink a year if postal rates are not increased.


It is suggested that a first-class letter will require a 46-cent stamp -- up 2 cents -- effective Jan. 2.


But will that be enough to balance the postal budget? Unfortunately not!


While the proposed 2-cent stamp increase for first-class mail is expected to bring in an extra $2.5 billion, the Post Office still expects to face a $4.7 billion loss, even with delivery reduced to just five days a week.


We live in a time of immediate delivery of many messages by ubiquitous computer e-mail. That's convenient, and is increasingly a means of communication, cutting the need for letters. Yet we still like to have the postman coming around almost every day. But that's expensive. So postal rate increases and measures to economize are necessary.


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





Once again, Republicans in Congress have offered to provide additional unemployment benefits to millions of jobless Americans without adding to our national debt. But once again, Democrats have insisted that those benefits be extended by adding to the appalling $13 trillion debt.


Democrats are accusing the GOP of "blocking" the extra aid to the long-term unemployed -- of whom there are sadly many. But who is really doing the "blocking"?


Republicans want to vote for extra jobless benefits, and to pay for them by pulling back some of the unspent "stimulus" funds that congressional Democrats approved last year. Given the failure of the $862 billion stimulus to keep down unemployment as promised, it makes a lot of sense to divert some of the money that has not yet been spent into helping the unemployed.


But Democrats say no. They are determined not only to spend the entire stimulus on more of the wasteful projects that it has funded so far, but to actually borrow more money to pay for new "stimulus." They demand that the proposed jobless benefits be added to our shocking national debt.


"Americans are not receiving their unemployment checks because Democrats refuse to pay for these benefits at a time of record federal deficits," U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., correctly observed.

We certainly wish any American who wants a job could find one. But if unemployment benefits are to be extended, wouldn't it be far more reasonable to do that by using existing federal funds rather than borrowing more?







U.S. government officials and state and local officials certainly should be unified in determined opposition to the invasion of our country by many millions of illegal aliens. Unfortunately, that is not the case.


The protection of our country from illegal invasion is primarily the responsibility of the federal government. With millions of people having crossed into the United States in violation of our laws -- and more coming! -- it is evident that the federal government is not doing its job effectively.


That has prompted troubled border states to act.


Arizona, for example, has had great difficulties with illegal invaders because of its long border with Mexico. So, Arizona has enacted a tough law and has taken firm state action seeking to reduce the massive illegal invasion.


But the federal government -- instead of acting effectively with the state against the illegals -- has chosen to act against Arizona!


The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona's law against illegal immigration.


The federal lawsuit says, "In our constitutional system, the federal government has pre-eminent authority to regulate immigration matters. The authority derives from the United States Constitution and numerous acts of Congress. The nation's immigration laws reflect a careful and considered balance of national law enforcement, foreign relations, and humanitarian interests."


That statement, unfortunately, is only "half right." It is correct that immigration is constitutionally a federal responsibility. But with millions of people entering the United States illegally, and many not being prosecuted or expelled, it is obvious that the federal government is not assuring a "careful and considered balance" of effective law enforcement concerning immigration.


Instead of the federal government suing the state of Arizona, federal officials and Arizona officials should be cooperating 100 percent to enforce the laws against the massive illegal invasion.








To steal a phrase from a documentary on climate change, there are "inconvenient truths" that must be confronted at a time of growing terror in the country and a rising death toll wrought by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.


One such truth we confronted in a small way yesterday. As we reported, the Hürriyet Daily News was invited along with most other newspapers headquartered in Istanbul to an exchange with Interior Minister Beşir Atalay on the proper role of the media in reporting acts of violence and the results of that violence, including scenes of mourning families and funerals of dead soldiers. Atalay was seeking some commitment of voluntary self-censorship, an agreement not to become tools of terrorist propaganda.


Interestingly, Atalay chose to hold most of his meeting exclusively with top editors, dispatching the work-a-day reporters and cameramen to wait outside the hotel ballroom. Such division of journalists is not uncommon in Turkey. However in this instance it yielded interesting insight.


Inside with the minister, most editors-in-chief (including our own) found themselves on the defensive, arguing that policies are in place to prevent journalists from becoming unwitting tools of terrorist propaganda. We have policies in place within our general ethics rules that we publish on our website, for example. Outside, however, our reporter Sevim Songün surveyed the working reporters. Virtually all of them agreed with the minister and they said much of their work indeed can play into the hands of terrorists. Our story is available on our website. So perhaps there are "inconvenient truths" that we may yet have to confront.


But another "inconvient truth" is that self-censorship is a slippery slope. Western news reporting, particularly in the United States, all but collapsed into propaganda in the early days following the 2001 terrorist assault in New York. That major networks and newspapers turned a blind eye to civilian casualties in Afghanistan and even atrocities in Iraq committed in the name of the "war on terror" has been well documented. That violations of civil liberties in the United States went largely un-scrutinized by a newly complacent media is now a matter of record.


An invitation for "voluntary restraint" can quickly evolve from a reasonable request for standards into something more insidious, a means to curtail critical coverage of government policies, political debate or civil and civilian complaint.


We will certainly endeavor to do our reasonable best to maintain and reflect upon our own standards and responsibilities. But we certainly call upon the government and security officials to do the same. In the face of rising terror, there are many "inconvenient truths" for all responsible parties to confront








Walid Jumblatt, one of the most experienced political figures in the Middle East, was in Istanbul to have a "breather" after a short break. He was accompanied by a Druze minister, who is the grandson of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Riad Solh. And we met.


For Jumblatt, who has recently ironed out problems with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the most intriguing question was what Turkey would do if Israel does not apologize.


In the documents revealed and published following Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's assassination, it was written that al-Assad had threatened Hariri and had said, "I will destroy Lebanon." After Hariri had returned from Damascus, he had rushed to Jumblatt and warned, "Either you or me will go. I am close to Jacques Chirac, but you are in danger more." Two weeks later, Hariri was killed in a bomb attack on Valentine's Day 2005.


That Jumblatt, who fiercely criticized Syria back then, has now built new bridges and was received by al-Assad at the presidential palace in Damascus. This is a signal of how rapidly political developments occur in the Middle East.


When Jumblatt asked, "What will Turkey do if Israel does not apologize?" I answered promptly, "Relations will be cut off." He stared at me and said in amazement, "Could this really be?"


Davutoğlu uttered three conditions: 1 – An apology; 2 – Otherwise, formation of an international investigation commission and acceptance of the commission's report to be prepared; 3 – If Israel does not accept the first two, then cutting off diplomatic ties. As the government is heading to general elections, it cannot step back; it does not have a chance of maneuverability.


Jumblatt, having big ears, said, "As far as I can see, the Americans will push Avigdor Lieberman away and ask for a coalition government by Tzipi Livni of the Kadima Party. Don't you think so?"


"Possible," I said, "It is very likely… But I think Washington not only favors an Israeli government without Lieberman but also a Turkish government without Erdoğan. The 'lobby' is working incredibly well..."


On the "analysis" published the other day in this column, many people have asked, "Since Israel has so many trump cards in hand in the presence of Washington and since Turkey's maneuverability is not as wide as that of Israel, bringing relations to a halt will negatively affect Turkish-American relations. Then, should we not consider whether Turkey is making a foreign policy mistake?"


No. What has Turkey in hand if we cannot have an apology from Israel for the Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid convoy?


What should we do against the Israeli raid? Can we act as though it never happened? In our 85-year-old Republic's history, civilians were killed for the first time by the soldiers of another country. Moreover, the incident took place in international waters. What should we do? How should we react?


It could be a sloppy job politically, and that may cause some trouble for Turkish foreign policy. In fact it has already… But let us not miss the point here. There is nothing to do with Turkish foreign policy and demands from Israel in the aftermath of the May 31 attack.


And, as I said, these are the minimum conditions that can be set.


But that does not allow us to think Israel is involved in the incident. We have to pay the price in the presence of Washington and say that we have made a mistake. You experience aftershocks following earthquakes and you cannot stop them. That happens in politics, too.


Turkey cannot step back from the conditions Davutoğlu listed, and if the first two conditions are not met, there is no other choice but to cut off ties with Israel, even if this has a price tag.


Besides, it is unnecessary to feel "helpless." The situation that has emerged between Turkey and Israel has importance beyond bilateral relations. For instance, al-Assad made the following critical statement in Madrid:


"If relations between Turkey and Israel are not renewed, it will be difficult for Turkey to play a role in regional talks."


Therefore, a Turkish-Israeli break-up will negatively affect the entire Middle East.


However, we cannot reach a conclusion from this that al-Assad is criticizing Turkey, because al-Assad put the blame on Israel for ruining stability in the Middle East.


If Turkey does not play a role and if Turkey-Israel relations are not ironed out, the "entire Middle East will be affected negatively," and Israel is the responsible one. Therefore, Israel should take a step forward to Turkey, not the other way around. And that makes an Israeli apology necessary.


Considering Israel, we hear voices disturbed by the situation and thinking Israel will "end up a loser." One of them is professor Ofra Bengio, an expert on Turkey-Israel relations. Bengio said, "Israel will lose more than Turkey in this payoff." Bengio referred to Turkey as "a big country having a strategic hinterland," and reminded that Israel is a small country in the region and could be isolated if it goes against Turkey.


A staunch, hawkish Israeli Efraim Enbar laments that when Israel was using the Turkish air corridor it deterred Iran, Iraq and Syria. But now this is gone. A military analyst Amir Rapapport thinks similarly. Enbar adds, "Turkey's loss is a serious strategic loss. Turkey is a very important country in the Middle East, having an enormous impact."


Former Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Zvi Elpeleg believes Israel is paying the price for not accepting Turkey as part of the European Union. "Turks for a long time have believed that Israel is a channel to influence Brussels. But they don't anymore."


A high-level Israeli official agrees, "Unfortunately Turkey is changing direction and trying to refresh dreams to return back to the Ottoman Empire. In order to do that, Turkey wants to sacrifice Israel."


Some nonsensical remarks have been made in Israel arbitrarily. What is important is the spread of a perception that "Israel is losing Turkey and that could be a heavy price to pay."


For this reason, Turkey should sit tight and convince Washington in time. Question marks on whether the Erdoğan government would survive are in fact not about "foreign policy" but rather about internal issues. The Kurdish question is not an issue of foreign policy. Although some international aspects are involved, it is an internal issue.


* Mr. Cengiz Çandar is a columnist for daily Referans, in which this piece appeared Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.








Turkey-Israel relations are about to turn into an almost impossible to escape deadlock. To clarify, let's remember the conditions Turkey put on the table in order to normalize bilateral relations between Turkey and Israel. In the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara humanitarian aid ship crisis, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan revealed Turkey's requirements, as follow: An apology from Israel; Compensation to be paid to the families of the nine who died on board during the Israeli raid; An international-impartial investigation on the incident; Lifting the Israeli embargo on Gaza.


On the other hand, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in a statement to Serkan Demirtaş, Hürriyet Daily News Ankara representative, earlier this week, signaling critical changes in Turkey's position, as established by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. "Israel should both apologize and pay compensation unilaterally," the Turkish foreign minister said Tuesday. "If those two conditions do not materialize, the diplomatic relations with Israel will be cut off."


Davutoğlu maintains Erdoğan's second condition but combines number one and number three. He doesn't, however, make any reference to lifting the embargo in Gaza. Davutoğlu brings flexibility into this formula that "apology" and "international investigation" might be evaluated in a separate package and one might be given up for the other.


A threat to breaking ties with Israel


Davutoğlu's flexibility turns into the threat of "cutting diplomatic relations with Israel unless conditions are met". Erdoğan, however, didn't talk about a "break" from Israel.


Remarks of Davutoğlu regarding cutting bilateral relations can be read as the toughest threat at governmental level directed from Turkey to Israel since the beginning of diplomatic relations in 1950.


We rather heard similar threats from the National Salvation Party, or MSP, chairman of the 1970s, Necmettin Erbakan.


It is also meaningful that Davutoğlu's move came just before the recent Barack Obama-Benjamin Netanyahu meeting in Washington. Davutoğlu had an urge to warn Netanyahu via Obama during the meeting in which Turkey-Israel relations were discussed.


However, it is doubtful if the style of communication brings any good. U.S. President Barack Obama is not pleased with relations with Turkey. It is possible that he sees this as a bluff and is acting accordingly.


It is also likely that Davutoğlu's remarks may cause additional harm to Turkey-U.S. relations in a period when the Jewish lobby in the U.S. is taking action against Turkey.


Besides, as the Netanyahu visit to Washington the other day shows, U.S.-Israel relations are taking a good turn. It is less likely that the U.S. President will turn against Israel in order to protect Turkey.


Arabs unquiet


In the meantime, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has been expressing concerns that Turkey-Israel relations are about to break signals discomfort in Europe.


Interestingly enough worsening Ankara-Tel Aviv relations disturb Arabs as well. Syrian President Bassar Asad said two days ago that if Turkey-Israel relations are not ironed out, it could be difficult for Turkey to revamp the peace process and that would, undoubtedly, affect stability in the region. No comment is needed.


Davutoğlu, referring to the U.S, told Demirtaş that Turkey wants to give a chance to the countries giving importance to better relations between Turkey and Israel.


Until recently, Turkey was trying to play the mediator among other countries. But now, Turkey needs brokerage from others because of the troubles it is involved in lately








Last week my article was titled "Be creative or die." As the very self-explanatory title implies the article was about the importance of being creative in our day and age. Indeed in every line of work creativeness is the only source of creating wealth and fame. Especially when countries like China, Singapore and India are producing almost everything at an acceptable quality and historically low prices, the only way a firm or a person can create added value is by making a difference. The real value lies in the finer things now.


For example, in yachting, the shipyard doesn't earn as much profit as the firm who designs the yacht or as the firm who supplies sailing technologies. It is the same in construction, automobile industry and even in software production. American or European firms that design the outline of the software make better profits than the Indian firms that actually write the codes.


This is a very important phenomenon for Turkey because it cannot rival China or India on low prices. China simply has a never-ending source of cheap labor and India has a never-ending supply of decent software engineers who would work for less than half the price that Turkish engineers are willing to work. When the conditions are ripe the automobile industry can leave Turkey and move production bases to other countries just like the textile industry did a couple of years ago.


If you remember, textile was once the greatest industry in Turkey until European and American firms found cheaper options in Egypt and China. There are still many firms in Turkey that produce for the biggest brands and we see some local brands going global.


But when we analyze the firms that left Turkey and the local brands going global, we see that the ones who remained did so because the factories that worked with them were offering more than just cheap labor. They offered either new textile products that could not be found anywhere else, such as nano-enhanced products, or they offered unique designs. It is almost the same story with Turkish brands that are progressing in the world markets. In our age, you can be a successful brand either with unique technology or with unique design.


Turkey is blessed with many talented individuals when it comes to creativity in almost every field. Even the most creative player in the current German squad at the World Cup is a Turkish-German named Mesut Özil. Hüseyin Çağlayan is rocking the fashion industry as is London-based Hakan Yıldırım, who was chosen as the most successful designer of the year in France.


Ferzan Özpetek, who lives in Italy, is collecting awards with every new movie as does Fatih Akın, who lives in Germany.


Also there are many young talents in Turkey and abroad such as Rozit Arditi, a furniture designer based in New York. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and worked for major brands such as P'KOLINO, Wal-Mart and Dune as designer and project manager. She is the recipient of Interior Design Magazine, Best Product of the Year Award in 2008 and ID Magazine, Year's Sharpest Products in 2006.


A Turkish designer team also won two awards at the 2009 Green Dot Awards, known as "Green Oscars." Hakan Gürsu, a professor from the Middle East Technical University and his team were the winners of the first place award with their "Decobrick" building design in the building category of the prestigious design competition. A young entrepreneur named Emre Sokullu founded one of the fastest growing social media websites named right at the heart of the Silicon Valley in 2006.


The list can be expanded with many names in every walk of life. It is obvious that Turkish people are as creative as any other nationality. But what about Turkey as a state and a country? Is it considered one of the best or the least creative countries around?


Unfortunately, all survey and research tell us that Turkey belongs to the less creative and innovative group. According to the Boston Consulting Group's Global Innovation Index 2009, Turkey is 58th among 110 countries.


According to INSEAD's 2009-2010 Innovation Index, Turkey is 66th. According to the European Innovation Scoreboard 2009, Turkey is last, meaning it is the least innovative country among the European countries even compared to Bulgaria and Romania that Turkey once looked down upon. In all the indices, the Turkish human capital shines compared to the Turkish state functions, technological production capabilities and general rankings.


If you ask Nüket Yetiş, the head of TÜBİTAK, she would probably say that these scores don't reflect the truth and that Turkey is a marvelously innovative and technologically advanced country and she would probably produce some numbers to prove her claim as she always does when Turkey ranks at the bottom of any innovation or technology index.


However, I would still believe in the unbiased numbers of the European Union and acclaimed universities or businesses more than the "in-house" figures produced by TÜBİTAK indices.


In psychology, it is said the first step of healing is acceptance. I would recommend it to all authorities responsible for technological advancement and innovation. I would recommend that they write down that Turkey is a very mediocre country in terms of innovation and technology production and one of the worst in developed and emerging countries even though its human capital is amazingly vibrant, creative and competitive.


Then I would kindly ask them to stare at the sentence above until they would ask the question: How is it possible? It is obvious that Turkish authorities are holding creative people down. It is no surprise that many of the above mentioned people live abroad.


This shouldn't be shock to many as, after all, Turkey is a country where the transportation minister is at war with Google for $30 million and deprives his citizens of the right to be informed by closing down YouTube and other websites.


When Richard Florida searched for the reasons why Silicon Valley became what it is, he found out that the real force behind the valley were "3Ts:" technology, talent and tolerance. Then he broadened his work to many different places and countries around the globe and found that the formula is solid. Even if you give all the money in the universe, if one T is missing, you can forget about innovation.


You can guess which "T" Turkey lacks. In a country where thoughts can still be a crime, where a Nobel winning novelist is outcast, where more than 5,000 websites are banned, where the prime minister has a habit of suing cartoonists, innovation cannot flourish.


It is as simple as that.








The Turkish-Israeli relationship is unnecessarily spoiled.


It is about to come to a point of no return.


Turkey seems to be facing a situation in which it would stand alone with its attitude.


The Obama-Netanyahu meeting has been realized as expected.


Netanyahu showed flexibility as expected and the White House patted him on the back while he was smiling and the whole thing was announced as a "great success."


No matter how much effort Washington spends on trying to appear as a negotiator making attempts to put things on the right track, when looked upon this issue from the outside, Israel seems to be able to get off the hook more easily.


What does Ankara do?


It tries to make Israel pay for it.


But this compensation is so high that in international diplomacy it is called, "I don't want to come to an agreement with you."


Israel will have to apologize…


It will have to pay compensation…


If it can't meet these demands then it needs to accept the formation of an international commission to investigate.


It needs to lift the Gaza blockade…


As long as these conditions are not fulfilled Turkey will not fix its relations.


There is some use in repeating it.


Israel's attack on the Mavi Marmara is unacceptable. Israel needs to compensate for it.


But Turkey's bill is not something easily acceptable in international diplomacy. And more importantly, Israel does not leave any space for Israel to maneuver.


Especially a person like President Gül who puts emphasis on relations with Israel but says "relations will never be the same" is a vital sign that reflects the atmosphere in Ankara.


I wonder if we are hurting ourselves.


Regarding Turkey's Israel politics we, including me and many of my colleagues, have applauded Erdoğan and Davutoğlu.


Now there are some question marks occurring in some of our minds.


The reason is simple.


If you don't leave any space for Israel to maneuver then our real intention appears to be breaking off relations with Israel. 


Is that really so?


Does the AKP administration, due to the way it has been raised, ignore the damage resulting from breaking up relations with Israel?



If you were to pay attention you'd see that Turkey's former balanced politics have vanished. It used to be a country distanced the same from all countries, had good communication with all countries and thus asked to be a negotiator in the region has now on the international arena come to be put in the same basket with Hamas and Iran.


No matter how much we dispute with Israel, breaking off relations and communications is an approach that would be adverse to our benefits in the long run.


Turkey needs to review its politics and start a new process that would allow Israel to exit.


At least until elections it should not let the wound grow deeper.


Turkish-Israeli relations should not be underestimated or used for domestic politics.


Is it possible to clear Kandil while fighting with Israel?


All of a sudden Turkey seems to be fighting on many fronts at the same time.


No doubt the most important thing is precaution taken against the PKK terror.


Terror nearly every day takes at least one life and every news about a martyr increases tension a bit more.


We left aside the initiative and went back to the old days.


We are preparing to struggle with weapons against the Kurdish initiative and solve the issue that way.


This time the target is Kandil.


We think if Kandil is cleared out and shut down terror will subside.


Wonder how Kandil can be cleared of the PKK.


There are not tens of scenarios, there is only one.


Obama will approve and American forces use all of their transportation, communication and firepower on hand.


Again Obama will intervene and Barzani will show the way while Turkish forces will with all means on hand completely clear Kandil.


I.e. Until Washington approves, Turkey won't be able to come near Kandil.


Now doesn't it require another question at this point?


On one side you come to a point of breaking off relations with Israel and stepping on Washington's sore spot, then you turn around to ask for its approval in respect to Kandil.


If we are trying to perform this approach within a frame of a plan, meaning if we are trying to force this into a PKK-in-exchange-for-Israel kind of deal, that's something else.


If we are to lead with our chin then we should know that we are pushing ourselves into a chaotic situation









As the American withdrawal gains speed, there are fewer American troops in Iraq than in Afghanistan for the first time since 2003. By the end of August there will be no United States combat troops left in Iraq, though some tens of thousands of support troops will remain until next year. And still there is no new Iraqi government, although it is now four months since the election of March 7.


U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden was in Baghdad at the week-end urging Iraqi politicians to end the political deadlock, but America's influence over events in Iraq has been falling as fast as its troop numbers. In the end, the same broad coalition of Shia Arabs and Kurds that ran the country before will probably rule again, excluding the Sunni Arabs, but it's unclear who will lead the new coalition.


The last election made Iraq's sectarian and ethnic rivalries even sharper, if that is possible. The corruption is universal and shameless. Dozens of people are still being killed by suicide bombers every week. But the country cannot really fail, because there is just so much oil.


After three decades of foreign wars, U.N. sanctions and American occupation, Iraq's oil exports bottomed out at

1.8 million barrels per day, or b/d, in 2008, but they are already back up to 2.5 million b/d – and Baghdad plans to be producing 9.9 million b/d only ten years from now. That would make it the world's first, second or third-largest exporter (depending on what happens to Saudi Arabian and Russian production), and drown it in a tidal wave of cash.


The target is plausible, because this is not speculation about production from new oilfields; it is just enhanced production from existing fields. Contracts to build the infrastructure to pump that extra oil have already been signed with two dozen foreign oil companies. Since the foreigners are only paid a fee per barrel, Iraq gets most of the profits.


On the reasonable assumption that the price of oil will not drop below $50 per barrel in the next decade, that means that the Iraqi government will have an oil income of at least $150 billion a year by 2020. Two-thirds of the current government's income is stolen by the political elite and there is no reason to think that this will change, but that would still allow some $50 billion a year to trickle through and serve the needs of ordinary Iraqis.


That is probably enough to buy the grudging loyalty of most Shia Arabs to the Iraqi state. The Kurds are a different case, but the hostility of all their neighbours to full Kurdish independence will probably persuade them to maintain their current semi-detached relationship with Baghdad. And the Sunni Arab minority can be either bought off or repressed.


In the old days, there might have been a popular revolution to sweep away the émigré elite that came back from the US, Europe and Iran to feed off the long-suffering Iraqi people, but those days are gone. After Abdulkarim Qasim, the Baathists, Saddam Hussein, and the Americans – fifty years of disappointment – the Iraqis don't believe in saviors any more. "Won't Get Fooled Again" could be the national anthem.


All the Iraqis can reasonably hope for, in the aftermath of the US occupation, is corrupt governments riven by sectarian and ethnic divisions, but that is probably a stable outcome provided there is enough money. And to be fair to the Americans, no other post-Saddam, post-occupation outcome was ever likely.


So what happens in the next few months? The union last month between outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's secular but overwhelmingly Shia State of Law Party and the two religious Shia parties in the Iraqi National Alliance creates a bloc that is within striking distance of a parliamentary majority. Recreate the alliance with the Kurds that Maliki had in the last coalition, and the deal is done.


That coalition has not yet happened because Maliki would almost certainly not be the prime minister in it: one of the Shia religious parties, led by Moqtada al-Sadr, hates him too much. The coalition talks may continue at a stately pace down to September as Maliki seeks to stay in power, but he will probably fail.


His only hope is to make a deal instead with Iyad Allawi's Iraqiyya party, which got most Sunni Arabs' votes across the west and north of the country, but also significant support from secular Shias in and around Baghdad. But the Kurds would probably not join such a coalition, because Iraqiyyah ran on an anti-Kurdish platform across northern Iraq – and besides, Allawi and Maliki cannot stand each other.


Some sort of deal will be done in the end, because the spoils of power are just too tempting – and meanwhile, the Americans are leaving as quietly as possible. As quietly, that is, as you can move 1,900 heavy tanks and fighting vehicles, 43,000 trucks, 600 helicopters, and 34,000 tonnes of ammunition.


Some of this stuff will go straight back to the United States, but quite a lot of it will be repaired in Kuwait and then sent on to Afghanistan. The "dumb war", as President Obama called it, is over. The almost-as-dumb war continues.


* Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries









Turkey has reportedly given Israel until the end of this month to unilaterally apologize, pay compensation to the victims of the Israeli attack on a Turkish-led humanitarian aid flotilla in international waters of the Mediterranean and to repatriate the ships or relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv would further deteriorate.


To be more precise, according to a precious interview with Daily News Ankara Representative Serkan Demirtaş last Sunday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu reportedly spoke with a rather decisive voice and put in very clear terms that "Israelis have three options: They will either apologize or acknowledge an international-impartial inquiry and its conclusion. Otherwise, our diplomatic ties will be cut off." After some time, however, the foreign minister was less precise about what Turkey might do should Israel refuse to "apologize and pay compensation unilaterally." The minister said "If those two conditions do not materialize, Turkey is not just any country; Turkey will not stay indifferent."


Some friendships, as well as enmities, between states do not grow just out of preferences but rather dictated by some other factors like history, geography, interests and such. Turkey and Israel are two countries who have developed friendly and indeed allied relations just because political administrations of the two countries decided so some 50 years ago. They were indeed a natural product of a shared history, cultural links but perhaps more so interests of the two nations, where and how they see themselves on the world map, their political global aspirations, and of course domestic and international conjectural conditions.


Over the past decades, particularly after the mid 1990's when military, security and defense industry cooperation between the two countries complemented political relations, the Turkish-Israeli friendship gained such a dimension that like neither of the two terracotta cups can emerge unharmed if they ever collide, neither of the two countries might emerge totally unharmed from a road accident – put aside collision – in their bilateral relations.


This, naturally, does not mean Turkey should surrender to Israel and stay indifferent to the high sea piracy and blatant murder of nine Turkish nationals by the state of Israel. Turkey, of course, must raise its voice and demand Israel to make an official apology and pay compensation both for the nine Turks murdered on the civilian humanitarian aid ship, as well as those who were wounded or hijacked from the ship in international waters and placed in an Israeli jail for some time and thus deprived of their freedom. Turkey is definitely not one of those small states that Israel can insult and escape with it.


But, after Turkey has said what it ought to say and directly – at the recent meeting with the Israeli trade minister in Brussels –and indirectly – through the United States administration, as well as through the media – sent a voucher to Tel Aviv, clearly setting the terms of the bill it ought to pay in exchange of what it did towards Turkey and Turkish nationals.


Perhaps, as an punitive move, Israel might be asked to downgrade its representation in Ankara as well. But, why now issue a new ultimatum to Tel Aviv and declare that if Israel does not apologize and pay compensation unilaterally Ankara would sever diplomatic relations all together? Will such a move hurt Israel only? What about commercial relations with Israel? What about the problems of Turks living in Israel? Is Turkey prepared to burn all the bridges?


Most probably the Turkish foreign minister delivered that rather radical statement calculating the White House rendezvous of Benjamin Netanyahu and in anticipation that "brother" Barack Obama would remind the Jewish prime minister "before it is too late you ought to apologize to Turks and pay compensation unilaterally"?


Even if so, since the night of May 31– when the Israelis ambushed the aid flotilla – both in Turkey and at international platforms Davutoğlu, as well as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have been so loudly and harshly berating and frying Israel that was there really a need to scale up the Israel bashing campaign to the level of "else we cut off diplomatic ties" level?


What if Israel turns up with a blatant "we shall not apologize" remark, like the recent statement of the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that Davutoğlu has said he did not consider him as a counterpart? What does that statement mean anyhow? Do we still recognize Israel?


What would Davutoğlu say if tomorrow Lieberman comes up with a statement saying in his view his Turkish counterpart "owing to his rhetoric and attitude" cannot be someone to be taken seriously?









As the American withdrawal gains speed, there are fewer American troops in Iraq than in Afghanistan for the first time since 2003. By the end of August there will be no United States combat troops left in Iraq, though some tens of thousands of support troops will remain until next year. And still there is no new Iraqi government, although it is now four months since the election of March 7.


U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden was in Baghdad at the week-end urging Iraqi politicians to end the political deadlock, but America's influence over events in Iraq has been falling as fast as its troop numbers. In the end, the same broad coalition of Shia Arabs and Kurds that ran the country before will probably rule again, excluding the Sunni Arabs, but it's unclear who will lead the new coalition.


The last election made Iraq's sectarian and ethnic rivalries even sharper, if that is possible. The corruption is universal and shameless. Dozens of people are still being killed by suicide bombers every week. But the country cannot really fail, because there is just so much oil.


After three decades of foreign wars, U.N. sanctions and American occupation, Iraq's oil exports bottomed out at 1.8 million barrels per day, or b/d, in 2008, but they are already back up to 2.5 million b/d – and Baghdad plans to be producing 9.9 million b/d only ten years from now. That would make it the world's first, second or third-largest exporter (depending on what happens to Saudi Arabian and Russian production), and drown it in a tidal wave of cash.


The target is plausible, because this is not speculation about production from new oilfields; it is just enhanced production from existing fields. Contracts to build the infrastructure to pump that extra oil have already been signed with two dozen foreign oil companies. Since the foreigners are only paid a fee per barrel, Iraq gets most of the profits.


On the reasonable assumption that the price of oil will not drop below $50 per barrel in the next decade, that means that the Iraqi government will have an oil income of at least $150 billion a year by 2020. Two-thirds of the current government's income is stolen by the political elite and there is no reason to think that this will change, but that would still allow some $50 billion a year to trickle through and serve the needs of ordinary Iraqis.


That is probably enough to buy the grudging loyalty of most Shia Arabs to the Iraqi state. The Kurds are a different case, but the hostility of all their neighbours to full Kurdish independence will probably persuade them to maintain their current semi-detached relationship with Baghdad. And the Sunni Arab minority can be either bought off or repressed.


In the old days, there might have been a popular revolution to sweep away the émigré elite that came back from the US, Europe and Iran to feed off the long-suffering Iraqi people, but those days are gone. After Abdulkarim Qasim, the Baathists, Saddam Hussein, and the Americans – fifty years of disappointment – the Iraqis don't believe in saviors any more. "Won't Get Fooled Again" could be the national anthem.


All the Iraqis can reasonably hope for, in the aftermath of the US occupation, is corrupt governments riven by sectarian and ethnic divisions, but that is probably a stable outcome provided there is enough money. And to be fair to the Americans, no other post-Saddam, post-occupation outcome was ever likely.


So what happens in the next few months? The union last month between outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's secular but overwhelmingly Shia State of Law Party and the two religious Shia parties in the Iraqi National Alliance creates a bloc that is within striking distance of a parliamentary majority. Recreate the alliance with the Kurds that Maliki had in the last coalition, and the deal is done.


That coalition has not yet happened because Maliki would almost certainly not be the prime minister in it: one of the Shia religious parties, led by Moqtada al-Sadr, hates him too much. The coalition talks may continue at a stately pace down to September as Maliki seeks to stay in power, but he will probably fail.


His only hope is to make a deal instead with Iyad Allawi's Iraqiyya party, which got most Sunni Arabs' votes across the west and north of the country, but also significant support from secular Shias in and around Baghdad. But the Kurds would probably not join such a coalition, because Iraqiyyah ran on an anti-Kurdish platform across northern Iraq – and besides, Allawi and Maliki cannot stand each other.


Some sort of deal will be done in the end, because the spoils of power are just too tempting – and meanwhile, the Americans are leaving as quietly as possible. As quietly, that is, as you can move 1,900 heavy tanks and fighting vehicles, 43,000 trucks, 600 helicopters, and 34,000 tonnes of ammunition.


Some of this stuff will go straight back to the United States, but quite a lot of it will be repaired in Kuwait and then sent on to Afghanistan. The "dumb war", as President Obama called it, is over. The almost-as-dumb war continues.


* Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries









The driving seat of NAB has recently been taken over by 'Bomber' Babar Awan, who is using it as the main attack weapon against the superior judiciary. A host of bomblets have just been dropped, with accusations of interfering with the investigations of NAB, 'paralysing' NAB, judicial bias, being improperly constituted and unfit to hear a range of cases before it. All these accusations are contained in a NAB letter which has not yet been submitted before the SC but its contents are already in the headlines. The Advocate on Record has refused to sign the letter indicating that senior elements within the government team were not on board with Babar Awan to launch such an assault on the apex court. There is an accusation that questions the chief justice's restoration by an executive order of Prime Minister Gilani which is of particular interest. Although this specific point was not raised by the NAB prosecutor general in the court while arguing his case on Wednesday, it appears that in making this challenge NAB is questioning the legality of an order made by the prime minister, and by extension an order approved by the president himself because the PM would not have made such an order without 'presidential permission'. The underlying reason for this fit of pique is that NAB senior officers are disgruntled at having their noses rubbed in their intransigence and inefficiency by the superior judiciary – to which our observation is 'tough'.

Putting up a powerful defensive fire in the face of determined attacks, the superior judiciary has said that its actions in respect of cases heard relating to the 18th Amendment were designed to clarify rather than obscure. Particular reference is made to the formation of a judicial commission that will be responsible for the appointment of future high court judges, and the perception that such a commission failed to separate the executive from the judiciary, thus compromising its independence. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja remarked: "Our difficulty is that we have to protect principle of separation of judiciary from other state organs." Justice Ramday further observed…"In the new procedure for appointment of judges, no role has been given to the CJP and 150-year-old tradition of mutual consultation has been done away with". The last words on Monday went to the Chief Justice…"Independent judiciary is the most important pillar of a democratic system". This may seem like an arcane battle between two mighty elephants and of little relevance to the common man, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is a struggle to establish and maintain the rule of law in a land which has come perilously close to losing it. NAB is being exploited in a blatantly offensive and objectionable matter, almost like a loose cannon under its new pilot, and the president and the PM would do well to get it bolted down – unless of course their goal is to allow it to cause whatever damage to the independence of the judiciary which it can. They have to understand that if they fatally damage the superior judiciary or NAB itself, they would have done a grave disservice to the country and may also have damaged the cause of democracy itself. They have to rein in Bomber Babar before he brings down the whole structure.







The comments by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry during the hearing of the case involving the 18th Amendment and clauses on the appointment of judges contained within it drive home certain truths. The CJ noted that courts and judges were "confronted every day" but still managed to survive. It is quite clear that the conflict between institutions continues. We do not know where this process of attrition will lead. The CJ has made it quite apparent through his words that the courts see the refusal of the government to implement orders as defiance. This indeed is what they are. At present, the Constitution appears to have been tossed aside and its provisions, which make it imperative for a government to obey court directives, ignored. It is hard to keep track of how often this has happened in the NRO case alone. The intentions of the government to go to any length to cover up its wrongdoings have been exposed.

So far the judiciary has shown a great deal of patience. It has moved ahead with caution and demonstrated maturity. But how long can it be expected not to react even in the face of growing provocation? The CJ has referred to past actions against the judiciary by the executive. It is obvious he believes the danger of a new attempt still hangs in the air. The multiple crises facing this nation will abate only if institutions find the will to work together and the government directs its efforts to offering people the leadership they need rather than pitching itself against other institutions in a battle that may cause further mayhem.













Authorities in the Rawalpindi area have warned citizens against wasting even a single drop of water, as levels in the Khanpur dam have dropped to just seven feet. The situation caused by a long, dry spell has led to falling water levels across the country. But while the citizens of Rawalpindi and Islamabad occasionally feel the impact of such scarcity, others across the country live with it constantly. The lack of water is a regular theme in the lives of the people of Tharparkar and other parts of Sindh, southern Punjab and many parts of Balochistan. This scarcity dominates lives and has been a theme of stories, poems and songs from these parched regions. The failure to provide safe drinking water to tens of thousands of people in fact counts as evidence of the state's shortcomings in the strongest terms. International agencies have warned that supplies of water in the country are declining and this poses an immense threat, of disease and suffering.

We need steps to save water from disappearing. The pollution of existing resources must stop. The effluents and sewage poured into rivers and other waterways present immense hazards. Underground water too is being poisoned as toxins from pesticides and other chemicals leach into it. Every school-going child knows that without water life cannot be sustained. We need to take note of this at the national level. A policy on water is required to prevent existing reserves from being spoiled and to ensure that safe water to drink is available to every citizen as a basic right.







In 1947, Aftab Omar and his wife AshfaqJehan Begum packed a suitcase, locked the front door of their house in Meerut, got on a tonga for the railway station and left for Pakistan. They took nothing but a few clothes. They did not know that this would be the last time they would look at the house where they had raised three children and left countless happy memories. (The also had a teenage daughter buried in Meerut.) As the border between India and Pakistan became increasingly unbreachable for the common man, Aftab Omar and his wife died without having ever returned to the home they loved—leaving it as if they were going away for a week or two.

Fifty seven years later, in 2004, my cousin Ammar and I, great grandchildren of Aftab Omar and Ashfaq Jehan, returned to Meerut to find our great-grandparents' house. We were accompanied by three Indian friends whom I knew from college abroad who had grown up near Meerut. As we filed out of Simran's shiny new car, we all felt a sense of adventure as we set out to find this house. Splitting up in the old market, we started asking people if they knew about the house and shared with each other any information we found. I was surprised by how helpful people were. They ran around asking others and soon the whole market was abuzz with the news of Aftab Omar's relatives looking for his house.

Not making much headway, we went to another part of the market. And as we were walking away from there, a young boy came running to ask if we were searching for Aftab Manzil. We were! He asked us to follow him. He led us to a courtyard, where an ancient woman sat surrounded by her children and grandchildren. She stood up to greet us and, hugging me, started to cry profusely.

She was the daughter of the gardener, Pirbhu, whom Aftab Omar had entrusted with the keys of the house before he left. She had been a young child then. She had played with my Dadi and Nana (paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather), who had grown up in the house. She described to me how bitterly her father wept when Aftab Omar and his wife had left, and how he had waited till his dying day for them to return. She walked us around what remained of the once vast grounds of the house. It was strange to be walking with this woman whom I had never met before but who spoke of my family as her own.

I am not the only one. Thousands of friends and families were divided at Partition and never reunited. The horrors of the division of the subcontinent are not alien to the children who have been raised on the stories of the massacre that took place during and after Partition. But if you probe deeper, you will find thousands of narratives of the friendships and loves lost and yearned for on both sides of the border. There are eyes that long for friends and family on the other side of the border and the familiar, fond places of their youths and childhoods.

And every few years, because of circumstances and geopolitics, the two countries try to undo the failings of yesteryears. We play a cricket match or two. We start a bus service. We have high-level talks. Some of our singers visit the country and sing songs together. And then, one unfortunate event stalls the entire peace process and brings us to the verge of war. While the frequent CBMs are great for making us all feel good for a while, they do little to create the needed lasting peace or friendship in the region.

Therefore, it is time for governments on both sides of the border to recognise that appealing pictures and cultural exchanges do not make for lasting peace. There is need for a longer-term commitment to peace in the region. A political agreement between the two countries needs to be worked out, which guarantees an atmosphere of cooperation and trust between the governments. Pakistan must, on its own side, work to find and convict any and all involved in the heinous attacks in Mumbai. And India must come clean on its involvement in the Baloch insurgency. It is high time both countries realised that hostility benefits neither.

In the same vein, Pakistan and India need to cement their ties in something a little more concrete than handshakes at SAARC summits. The cost of aggression and hostility should be higher than the price of cooperation. What Pakistani politicians do not realise in their myopic vision is that the economic and strategic benefits of cooperating with India far outweigh the short-lived popularity gained from hating it.

The two countries must cement their relationship in strong economic ties, either in the form of trade agreements and joint business ventures. Common economic interests will prove to be much more effective war deterrents than bombs. Economic cooperation can bind both countries in a symbiotic relationship that requires peace and mutual trust.

But seeking such measures from both sides will not be politically easy. The present generation on both sides of the border has been raised on doses of hatred for the neighbouring country, and mistrust and hate run deep not just on the political level but also the cultural. This requires a comprehensive review and purging of textbooks in both countries of biased contents and hate-filled propaganda against the other country. And it requires media cooperation and promotion. None of these tasks is easy to undertake or quick to perform.

An idea that might be easier to implement is to allow exchanges between school and college students across the border. The future, after all, lies in the hands of young people. And maybe we should put aside the textbooks filled with hate and allow our young people to communicate openly and freely with each other. Nothing is more effective in combating stereotypes than personal interactions on a sustained basis. And maybe through these interactions young Pakistanis and Indians will discover new friends. And before they become too tainted by the biased opinions of media persons like Zaid Hamid and Zakir Naik, they can maybe learn to appreciate their friends from across the border for their humanity, their friendliness and for our shared language and culture. And maybe we can once again learn to coexist in peace, as we had for centuries, and restrict our battles to cricket fields and hockey grounds.

The writer is a master's student at Princeton University and blogs at Email:







Today Pakistan stands at the crossroads mired with poor governance and a decline in the well-being of its population. The youthful and galvanised future that civil society had started to dream about just three years ago seems to be a distant memory. It is worthwhile to discuss why the momentum from the lawyers' movement could not be carried forward to turn Pakistan into a state governed by the rule of law providing equal opportunity to all of its citizens.

Though the declared objectives of the lawyers' movement were limited in their scope, primarily to the restoration of the pre-Nov 3 judiciary, the movement certainly lit up eyes of many from a cross section of Pakistani society as it was hoped that the wind of change would upset the elite-driven order and usher in a bright future for all Pakistanis. In fact, many prominent leaders of the movement eloquently made a case for change — a change that had eluded us for 60 years. A prime example of this is the much-recited poem of Aitzaz Ahsan that reignited the quest for a progressive Pakistan that the Quaid had envisioned. Why then is an average Pakistani less secure today in his personal and economic well-being than at any time in its history?

It was evident by late 2007 that the floodgates opened by the lawyers' movement were going to sweep Musharraf into the oblivion. The nation rejoiced at the departure of Musharraf as he, deservingly so, was blamed for the ousting of the judiciary and forcefully clinging to his power. There was one problem though. No viable entity existed to fill the void that Musharraf's downfall had created. The nation turned, out of necessity, to the two political parties that had dominated in the 90s when they brought the nation to the cusp of bankruptcy due to their corrupt practices. At the height of the lawyers' movement, the nation immersed itself in wishful thinking that the exiled leaders would have reformed themselves and, in tandem with the independent judiciary, would elevate this nation of ours to the heights that its founders had dreamt of.

The people gave the visibly grieving widower of the late Ms Bhutto their confidence despite the huge credibility gap that he had espoused in Pakistan. Wanting a leader, they accepted the surprising 'will' at face value hoping that Mr Zardari indeed was a victim of his surroundings and unduly vilified. After the elections, slowly the machinations emerged at the forefront. From somersaults over the issue of judiciary to gaining absolute power, Mr Zardari left no stone unturned in his quest to gain complete control over the workings of the government, though his role as the party head, and later as the president, prevented him from doing so. At the same time, the standard of governance has been deteriorating with the speed of light while the nation takes on more debt to keep the inefficient and emaciated government afloat.

Today the judiciary is plagued with ineffectiveness because its orders are rarely implemented by the government. A sense of helplessness pervades through the nation as Pakistan once again stares at increasing poverty, greater class divisions, insidious brain drain and an economy that is living off handouts while our neighbours are undergoing a spectacular boom that is redefining the economic world order.

It is difficult to state whether the lawyers' movement could have turned into something larger — where the government would have been forced to abide by the law of the land as legislated by parliament and interpreted by the judiciary. A logical next step after the judges' restoration could have been the insistence of the leaders of the lawyers' movement and the political forces that an independent prosecutorial body be established in order to support judicial proceedings. The higher courts make up just one piece of the complex legal structure involving multitude of administrative tribunals, lower courts, law enforcement agencies and prosecutorial bodies. Due to either limited objectives or political affiliations of certain leaders of the lawyers' movement, the drive for independence of the entire 'legal system' could not be carried forward. It remains to be seen whether the judiciary is able to translate its will into action and leave a long-lasting transformational impact on the nation's legal system. The possibility of the system's return to 'business-as-usual' after the retirement of the chief justice cannot be ruled out. That would be an unfortunate eventuality after what this nation has been through.

Returning to the bane of our predicament, the lack of a competent and people-centric political party is causing serious damage to Pakistan in the fast-paced globalised world today. Pakistan is in dire need for a political force that has its roots in the middle-class, educated Pakistanis and that is able to break away from the vestige of the past. An auspicious start can be made by rejecting the forces spreading obscurantism, engaging in rampant corruption and enriching themselves at the cost of the 175 million Pakistanis. Pakistan's back is against the wall — the nation of 'cornered tigers' is yearning for a team to deliver it the trophy of prosperity and progress.

The writer is a management consultant based in Toronto. Email: ayaza75@








After the rout of the Taliban by US-led coalition forces, elements of Al-Qaeda found a safe haven in the no-go Fata territory (with the restrictions imposed by the government), and began to operate at will on both sides of the Durand Line. With plenty of cash from the foreigners, with religious sentiments against the occupation of Afghanistan and with the local heritage of spurning laws that are not essentially tribal in nature, Wana became an ideal recruiting ground from among the youth of the area. Poverty-stricken southern Punjab provided an additional source of recruits for the existing cells of disparate religious militants throughout the country.

When Pakistani forces entered Fata in 2004 without proper planning, adequate quantum of men and material, and without training for counterinsurgency (COIN) operations, Al-Qaeda—which till then had focused most of its violence on Afghanistan and places elsewhere in the world—had the infrastructure in place to target the Pakistani heartland with a vengeance. Notwithstanding the successful COIN operations by the Pakistani army (and the PAF) for the past year, the terrorists continue to have a remarkable capacity for mayhem and murder within Pakistan, and the capability to strike at a place and time of their own choosing.

Well-coordinated terrorist attacks targeting Lahore include "suicide bombings," like the recent atrocity on the Data Ganj Baksh Darbar seems to have woken up our public representatives from their apathy towards a major problem. Rhetoric alone and chest-beating, and that too without conviction, is pointless, since it won't save previous human lives. Even more pathetic is the use of the bogey of terrorism for political point-scoring, not only macabre and demeaning but condemnable. Why should anyone use the innocent people killed and injured for political gamesmanship? Whoever incites hatred and ethnic/sectarian violence must be indicted and prosecuted.

Terrorists have no faith and/or ethnicity. They cannot be branded as Punjabi, Pathan, Shia, Sunni, etc. Another hard fact has to be drummed into our ruling elite. To quote my article of Feb 18, 2010, "countering insurgency is far different from countering terrorism. We do not have the capacity or the capability within the civilian law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to counter terrorism." Use of the army is counterproductive: alienating the population they will lose the goodwill gained through great sacrifice.

The excellent initiative of the government of establishing the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NCTA) lay mostly dormant till the recent Lahore incident. To its credit the government has now "activated" NCTA to cope with the danger. Dedicated and concentrated effort by a well equipped, well-trained and well-led force will be required to destroy the terrorists' potential to spread harm and grief. This entity should be under the direct control of the NCTA. Using their available capabilities in personnel and training matched with technology, the US (Special Operations Command), the UK (SAS) France (CIGN), etc., have trained and equipped units specialising in handling immediate threats. A Counter-Terrorism Force (CTF) in Pakistan, officered both by the army and the police, must be developed on the pattern of the tremendously successful Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) that has almost eliminated poppy cultivation and drug smuggling. The ANF's existing structure could be used as the nucleus for the CTF.

The US can help with funds, material and training. My article, "A Pakistan Surge," of March 25, 2010, noted: "The US Department of Defence (DoD) has an office called SOLIC (Special Operation and Low Intensity Conflict) created in the 1980s. Within SOLIC there is an office called CN (Counter Narcotics), whose funding is authorised directly by Congress. After 9/11, Congress expanded DoD authority to use CN funds for counter-terrorism purposes, justified by the interplay between terrorist and insurgent groups and their fundraising from narcotics trafficking."

Counterterrorism being the top priority of the nation and a full-time task, the NCTA (and the CTF) should be under a separate federal ministry working in close cooperation with both the ministries of defence and interior. Tariq Pervez, credited with turning the FIA around who has been re-employed as chairman of the NCTA, can possibly craft policy and make assessments if he is not inhibited by lack of cooperation and funds. Till now he was powerless to implement a coordinated strategy. While the proposed NCTA "think tank" is an excellent idea, various agencies presently conduct their own assessments and plan their operations without effectiveness. This uncoordinated "bits and pieces" effort affects security service delivery across a broad spectrum of likely targets: e.g., the diplomatic corps, multinational companies, expatriates and the public in general.

Notwithstanding the fact that law and order is a provincial subject, terrorism is a federal problem. The NCTA must identify the most dangerous threats and likely targets thereof. Among the required capabilities are to: (1) detect people organised in terrorist activity, while simultaneously monitoring their movements; (2) detect the sources of supply of explosive materials: the terrorists have to procure it from somewhere; (3) mobilise the defence capability to recognise and counter specific threats; (4) mobilise adequate and coordinated intelligence capability, utilising both human and electronic intelligence; (5) focus on air, sea, rail and road travel as potential terror targets; and (6) use both electronic and physical means to guard the country's frontiers, involving monitoring and observation of thousands of miles of our borders.

The NCTA's risk assessment process should analyse and define: (1) Related risks; (2) risk-related incidents; (3) risk impact; and (4) likelihood of incidents. Next, it should examine the current ability of the security authorities/stakeholders to include: (1) the organisational structures responsible to coordinate and deal with security and secu