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Friday, July 9, 2010

EDITORIAL 09.10.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month july 09, edition 000563 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjuly

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

  1. CHALLENGE FOR PETRAEUS
  2. RACIST SLANDER AS HUMOUR
  3. UK DISCOVERS JIHAD GENE - PREMEN ADDY
  4. NO PENSION FOR THE UNWORTHY - KUNAL SAHA
  5. GREAT SCHOOL ROBBERY - ARINDAM CHAUDHURI
  6. PUNISH THE POACHERS - ANURADHA DUTT
  7. OBAMA FACES LITMUS TEST - KALYANI SHANKAR
  8. FUEL PRICE DECONTROL UNJUSTIFIED - SHIVAJI SARKAR

MAIL TODAY

  1. GOM ON HONOUR KILLINGS MUST WASTE NO TIME
  2. MAYA'S CLAIM RINGS HOLLOW
  3. A SHOWER IS ALL IT TAKES
  4. UPA REMAINS COY ON REFORM - R. SRINIVASAN
  5. SHARIF HAS HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD - BY NAJAM SETHI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. ABSENTEE LEADERSHIP
  2. ONLY EMPOWER
  3. HIGH DEMAND, SHORT SUPPLY - ASHOK MALIK
  4. 'I DIDN'T REALISE THE FURORE AND IMPACT I'D CREATED' - MEENAKSHI SINHA
  5. PAYBACK TIME - GULLU EZEKIEL

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. SRINAGAR DEAF TO KASHMIR
  2. IT'S A SMALL-ER WORLD
  3. LOST LAW, LOST PEOPLE  - SAMAR HALARNKAR
  4. ORACLE PAUL, DO TELL US ALL! - SUHEL SETH
  5. CBI FOR AN EYE - KUMAR BAADAL
  6. BE GRATEFUL, PATIENT - RANJANA GYANCHANDANI

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. NEWS FROM HAVANA
  2. HARD TO DIGEST
  3. PRICE OF A BANDH
  4. BIBEK DEBROY
  5. EQUALITY BEYOND IDENTITY - TARUNABH KHAITAN
  6. A BATTLE WITH NO FRONTS - EJAZ HAIDER
  7. WORDS CAN ALSO HURT ME - NARENDRA S SISODIA
  8. NOT GETTING TOGETHER - YUBARAJ GHIMIRE
  9. THE OTHER ISRAEL

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. ANOTHER WRONG NUMBER
  2. TOWARDS INCLUSION
  3. NO BAN ON COTTON EXPORTS - SANJEEB MUKHERJEE
  4. WHY RAMESH NEEDS TO DO IT DIFFERENTLY - DHIRAJ NAYYAR
  5. LOOK WHERE THESE SUBSIDIES GO - P RAGHAVAN

THE HINDU

  1. LAST TWO STANDING
  2. VULTURES CLING ON
  3. WELCOME VERDICT BUT QUESTIONABLE RIDER - A.R. LAKSHMANAN
  4. ONE YEAR AFTER RIOTS, TENSIONS LINGER IN CHINA'S FAR WEST - ANANTH KRISHNAN
  5. BARACK OBAMA IS GETTING BAD ADVICE - LLEWELLYN KING
  6. IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE SOLDIERS OF THE SOMME - FERGAL KEANE
  7. EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT'S NOD FOR BLUEPRINT FOR NEW DIPLOMATIC SERVICE

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. ARMY'S USE SENDS OUT WRONG SIGNALS
  2. KASHMIR REDUX - BALBIR K. PUNJ
  3. INDIA NEEDS AN OIL PLUG PLAN - ARUN KUMAR SINGH
  4. MEMORIAL ROW - SHEKHAR BHATIA

DNA

  1. LANGUAGE BARRIER
  2. LET'S TALK JOBS
  3. CLUELESS ON CHINA - BRAHMA CHELLANEY
  4. BEING GAY IS ALSO A HUMAN RIGHT - FARRUKH DHONDY 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. SIGNALS FROM SRINAGAR
  2. PAK-CHINA N-NEXUS
  3. JUDGES FOR LIFE?
  4. KASHMIR NEEDS ALL-PARTY CONSENSUS - BY INDER MALHOTRA
  5. SLOPPY SPIES AND CLUMSY FBI
  6. HEY, IT'S RUSSIAN FOOTBALL
  7. ROLAND OLIPHANT

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. BEASTLY TALES FROM HERE, THERE

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. ANOTHER SEZ CONTROVERSY
  2. ADAPT AND INNOVATE
  3. LUNCH WITH THE MASTERS - AKASH PRAKASH
  4. A RETURN TO VALUES? - JAMAL MECKLAI
  5. MEASURING INNOVATION - SHYAMAL MAJUMDAR  
  6. EMPLOYMENT PROBLEMS - SHANKAR ACHARYA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. HANDS OFF!
  2. MINING AS ISSUE
  3. WHAT'S IN A TWEET?
  4. TAKING THE FIRST CALL ON 5G - PRADIP BAIJAL
  5. FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING - JON KABAT-ZINN
  6. HAS J&K CM LOST THE PLOT?
  7. TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT - MANOJ PANT
  8. CILLA BLACK AND THE BUDDHA - MUKULSHARMA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. ARMY'S USE SENDS OUT WRONG SIGNALS
  2. KASHMIR REDUX - BY BALBIR K. PUNJ
  3. ISRAEL'S FACEOFF: THE NOBLE VS THE UGLY - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  4. INDIA NEEDS AN OIL PLUG PLAN - BY ARUN KUMAR SINGH
  5. A JUG FILLS DROP BY DROP - BY AMRIT SADHANA
  6. PREGGER CELEBS - GAIL COLLINS

THE STATESMAN

  1. ANOTHER SPLASH
  2. ARMY 'DETERRENT'
  3. RIGHT TO WATER
  4. CASTE AND POLITICS~II - BY AJAY K MEHRA
  5. WESTMINSTER IS WOBBLING
  6. KEY TO BUSINESS ETHICS  -  SUNIPA BASU
  7. LOOKING AHEAD IN INDIA AND CHINA  - AMITENDU PALIT

 THE TELEGRAPH

  1. LONG SHADOW
  2. PLAIN MURDER
  3. AN AGREEABLE COUNTRY - SWAPAN DASGUPTA
  4. RETURN TO MISERY - MALVIKA SINGH

DECCAN HERALD

  1. PERNICIOUS MOVE
  2. CORONATION TIME
  3. CONTROL OF QUACKS - BY BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  4. TURKEY ASSERTING ITS NEW ECONOMIC POWER - BY LANDON THOMAS JR, NYT
  5. LEGENDARY LEDGE - BY L SUBRAMANI

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. THE IDF FIGHTS BACK

HAARETZ

  1. THE BUTTON ON BIBI'S JACKET - BY YOEL MARCUS
  2. DEFENSELESS MINISTER - BY YOSSI SARID
  3. OBAMA SOBERS UP - BY ISRAEL HAREL
  4. A SOCIETY FALLING APART - BY ZEEV STERNHELL
  5. IN PRAISE OF THE WORLD CUP
  6. THE JERUSALEM MASTER PLAN FOR DESTRUCTION - BY DON FUTTERMAN
  7. WEB ACCESS AS A LEGAL RIGHT - BY JAMES KIRCHICK
  8. IS ISRAEL A NORMAL COUNTRY? - BY IAN BURUMA
  9. THE PRICE OF RECONCILIATION - BY ROBI DAMELIN

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. BRITAIN'S BUDGET PAIN
  2. A PROMISE OF CLEANER AIR
  3. THE POPE'S DUTY
  4. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE: RESTORING A MONTANA SPRING CREEK - BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG
  5. THE MEDIUM IS THE MEDIUM - BY DAVID BROOKS
  6. THE MEDIUM IS THE MEDIUM - BY DAVID BROOKS

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON AVANDIA: DIABETES MEDICATION DISPUTE HIGHLIGHTS FLAWS IN DRUG MONITORING
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON AVANDIA: KEEP AVANDIA AVAILABLE
  3. BY ELLEN STRAHLMAN
  4. GOP BOSS DESERVES KUDOS, NOT CATCALLS
  5. SUMMER SHOULDN'T BE A LAZY TIME FOR KIDS
  6. BY JOYCE KING
  7. ARIZONA LAWSUIT: PROPER OR POLITICS?

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. A WARNING SHOT ON LAND USE
  2. IT'S HOT, HOT, HOT
  3. 'GREATEST MILITARY INVASION'
  4. OBAMA APPOINTS 'REDISTRIBUTIONIST'
  5. WHO PAYS FOR FEDERAL DICTATION?
  6. ANOTHER $45 MILLION GONE

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - TOP COURT ACTED WISELY, APPROPRIATELY
  2. I AM EXPECTING AN APOLOGY FROM MIT - ERTUĞRUL ÖZKÖK
  3. WOULD MR. ERDOGAN KINDLY CARE FOR THIS MUSLIM WOMAN? - BURAK BEKDİL
  4. PRESIDENT ASSAD'S WAKE-UP CALL FOR ANKARA - SEMIH IDIZ
  5. DID YOU GET ANY OF IT? - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  6. HEADING TO A PLEBISCITE - YUSUF KANLI
  7. THE PKK IS A 'FORTUNATE' ORGANIZATION INDEED - KADRİ GÜRSEL

I.THE NEWS

  1. UNITY AT LAST!
  2. THE WATER ROW
  3. TO SAVE NAB
  4. RURAL DRAMA: A TOUCH OF BLACKMAIL - AYAZ AMIR
  5. THE LAST FRONTIER - MUZAFFAR IQBAL
  6. TREATMENT OF DETAINEES - BARONESS SAYEEDA WARSI
  7. IN THE NAME OF GOD - AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
  8. TRIBAL LOYALTY OR NATIONAL SPIRIT? - SHAFQAT MAHMOOD

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. WHAT A TRAGIC JUDGEMENT OF THE SC!
  2. JUDICIARY: GOVT CROSSES ALL LIMITS
  3. RUSSIA'S FUTURE LIES EAST, NOT WEST - M D NALAPAT
  4. CHINA REJECTS NUCLEAR DOUBLE STANDARD - SULTAN M HALI
  5. SIGNIFICANCE OF IHSAN IN ISLAM - ATIF NOOR KHAN
  6. DEMOCRACY HAS FAILED MISERABLY? - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  7. CONVERSATIONS IN KASHMIR - SUDIPTO MUNDLE

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. HOUSING FOR FFS
  2. GRAB AND HOLD..!
  3. BRANDING BANGLADESH AND HRD - SHAHRIAR MD. SAKIB
  4. ENSURE QUALITY EDUCATION IN PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES - GOPAL SENGUPTA

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. GILLARD MUDDIES THE WATERS
  2. GOVERNMENTS MUST AVOID SCHEMES THAT RISK SIMILAR DEBACLES.

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE SOLUTION NO ONE'S EXPECTING
  2. TASERS AND THE TRUTH
  3. AT LAST, THE CITY OF MELBOURNE IS ALLOWED A SAY.
  4. GET AFL PLAYERS OFF ROLLER-COASTER

THE GUARDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF … JOAN ROBINSON
  2. STONING IN IRAN: BRUTALITY PURE AND SIMPLE
  3. THE STATE AND RELIGION: THE CHURCH RISKS LOOKING ABSURD

THE GAZETTE

  1. BOATERS MUST LEARN TO CONTROL THEMSELVES
  2. U.S. SHOULD STOP BP FROM DRILLING IN BEAUFORT

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. A CHARMING PROVINCIAL GIRL IN MOSCOW - BY MICHELE A. BERDY

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. STARTUP TO TOLL-FREE DRIVING
  2. 'THE COVE' SCREENINGS ON COURSE
  3. ACTIONS BELIE TURKEY'S 'ZERO CONFLICT' POLICY - BY SHLOMO AVINERI

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. BACK TO SCHOOL
  2. CLARIFICATION FROM EMIL SALIM
  3. CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND PUBLICATIONS - SETIONO SUGIHARTO
  4. BUILDING MORE FLYOVERS IS A MISTAKE - DARMANINGTYAS
  5. HIGH TIME WE PLUGGED THE INTERNATIONAL GAS LEAK TOO…  - SATYA W. YUDHA
  6. JAKARTA'S RUDIMENTARY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION - IVAN HADAR

CHINA DAILY

  1. CRIMINAL FOLLY
  2. PLAGIARISM BLIGHT
  3. SCUTTLING INVESTMENT
  4. WHEN WILL ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN DIRECT TALKS BEGIN? - BY DAVID HARRIS (XINHUA)
  5. CHINESE CITIES ADOPT LOW-CARBON POLICIES
  6. TWO EDIFICES, TWO GIANTS ILLUMINATE SINO-EGYPTIAN BOND OF FRIENDSHIP
  7. I'M LOVING IT? ARE YOU SURE?

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. INDIFFERENCE STALKS
  2. RURAL TRANSFORMATION CHANGING FACE OF RURAL MADHESH - PROF. BIRENDRA P MISHRA

DAILY MIRROR

  1. THEATRICS OF DEATH FAST
  2. CLIMATE DATA NOT HELD BACK - BY RICHARD BLACK
  3. WITHOUT VISAS BAN KI-MOON IS HEADING NOWHERE
  4. NETANYAHU CRUCIFIES OBAMA 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

CHALLENGE FOR PETRAEUS

WINNING A WAR IN SPITE OF HIS PRESIDENT


General David Petraeus has arrived in Afghanistan with a sterling reputation. The new chief of the United States Forces and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan is recognised as among the world's most cerebral military commanders. He is the man who turned around Iraq, converting a bleeding occupation to a successful counter-insurgency. In Afghanistan, however, he faces two challenges. First, he takes over in circumstances he would much rather have avoided, effectively accepting a demotion. Gen Petraeus has replaced Gen Stanley McChrystal, who resigned after a magazine article quoted him as criticising the civilian leadership in Washington, DC. Gen Petraeus was meant to have overseen Gen McChrystal's counter-insurgency offensive. He was to have been a sounding board to another capable General. Instead, Gen McChrystal has walked into the sunset and Gen Petraeus is on his own. The second, more lethal challenge is the lack of clarity as to the political goals of the campaign. Is it defeating Al Qaeda and eliminating the Taliban? Or is it simply effacing the jihadi threat to the West? Is it stabilising Afghanistan as some sort of a workable if semi-anarchic society? Or is it to do enough military damage to dictate a settlement that keeps Islamist terrorists out of the West's hair? To be fair, these are not questions military Generals can answer. However, these are questions military Generals certainly need answered by their political leaderships if they are to strategise optimally as well adopt the right tactics for an immediate armed conflict. Such clear-headed thinking has been entirely absent in the Obama Administration's approach to Afghanistan, or rather to the Afghanistan-Pakistan — AfPak — region. It is a point that Gen McChrystal sought to make in a thoroughly unsophisticated manner that breached the barriers of discipline. Yet, the core argument Gen McChrystal pointed to — that US President Barack Obama and his retinue of wise men and civilian advisers on AfPak are as clueless as the proverbial 'six blind men of Hindoostan' — is excruciatingly valid. It will return to haunt Gen Petraeus.


Obama sceptics in the US — and their number is growing by the nanosecond — have repeatedly pointed to the pitfalls and even the sheer stupidity of asking an Army to wage a counter-insurgency campaign and get out, or substantially withdraw, by July 2011. If Mr Obama is to be held to that date, Gen Petraeus has exactly a year to win a war that has resisted closure for a decade, or three decades, if the Afghan crisis be dated to the Soviet invasion of 1979. Obviously, this is an impossible task. Sooner or later the narrow focus attempt at counter-insurgency and some sort of Potemkin-style nation-building operation will have to be abandoned for old-fashioned containment of the Islamist armies, pending a long-term victory at a time when America has greater resources, stronger will and a more capable and courageous leader in the White House. This is a harsh verdict but, bluntly, it is the only correct one.


What then does Gen Petraeus do in this situation? He wages the counter-insurgency, of course, but he also needs to formulate a Plan B very quickly. This could be strengthening the Afghan political and spiritual citadels of Kabul and Kandahar at the cost of the countryside, and consolidating non-Pasthun capacities in north Afghanistan. In effect, the de facto partition of Afghanistan, as suggested by such analysts as Mr Robert Blackwill, may be inevitable.


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THE PIONEER

EDITS

RACIST SLANDER AS HUMOUR

TIME OWES MORE THAN A SULLEN 'REGRET'


Where does humour end and slander begin? This is a question that often foxes writers of humour columns who often unwittingly cross the thin line between that which makes you laugh on an otherwise grim day and that which makes you see red on a bright and sunny day. One person's joke can be another's abuse, as Time has learned to its horror. Joel Stein's recent humour column in the American magazine read around the world, headlined "My Own Private India", has left the Indian American community fuming. Mr Stein thought he was being funny by caricaturing the immigrant Gujarati families who have taken over Edison, a town in New Jersey off New York, which used to be an all-White settlement during the writer's childhood years. But if there was any humour in his scathing depiction of the desis "whose gods have multiple arms and an elephant nose" and their despoiling of Edison — the Pizza Hut is now a grocery store and and the Italian eatery has become America's best-known restaurant serving Indian food — it was clearly lost on the thousands of Indian Americans who wrote outraged letters of protest to Time's editors. There have been similar occasions in the past when Indian Americans have furiously protested against news reports and articles in the New York Times and other American publications which they deemed to be either biased or untrue, but without much success in securing an apology. This time, however, Time has been prompt in expressing its "regret" and Mr Stein has said sorry too, albeit in a roundabout manner, not quite offering a grovelling apology but claiming he is "stomach sick" that he "hurt so many people".


This could be seen as a sign of the times: Unlike in the past, American media can no longer afford to be snooty and scoff at hurt sentiments. Most newspapers are broke and have either shut shop or are barely managing to stay afloat. Newsweek, we are told, is up for sale and could become a part of China's official media empire in the near future. But the regret expressed by Time does not cover up the fact that many White writers (or journalists, if you prefer) suffer from that incurable disease called racism. Of course, they pretend to be liberal, as Mr Stein is known to do, and some even pose as being left of centre, but that doesn't quite mask their true feelings. Why else would Mr Stein think that describing immigrants from India as "dot heads" is funny? The Indian American community would do well to press charges of racism against Time, take the magazine to court and subsequently to the cleaners. As for Mr Stein, he would do a great job of reviving the Ku Klux Klan.


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THE PIONEER

EDITS

UK DISCOVERS JIHAD GENE

PREMEN ADDY


The unauthorised version of the British Labour Party's Book of Numbers may well read: Old Labour begat New Labour and New Labour begat Rotten Labour, from whose seed sprang rottweiler Dennis MacShane, once a junior Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during the Tony Blair dispensation. He snarled menacingly at India in the columns of The Independent, a paper whose diatribe on the anniversary of Indian independence in August 1989 was headlined, "From prig to bully in 42 years."


Mr MacShane is the MP for Rotherham, scarcely in England's green and pleasant land today; it is but a crumbling desolation of congested back streets, halal shops, kebab and curry takeaways, madarsas and mosques, populated mainly by Pakistanis from Mirpur and Punjab and kindred locations betwixt and between the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas. Sartorially this is Pakistani North-West Frontier, with a sprinkling of burqas intensifying the encircling gloom.


Lead kindly light, you might whisper, except there's no gleam in this heart of darkness. The spirit of the place is jihadi, and MPs keen to protect their parliamentary bailiwicks take on board the primordial concerns and grievances of their Islamic constituents. Unless they are hopelessly principled and prefer enlightened company and the open spaces offensive to confined sensibilities.


Mr MacShane took a cross-batted swipe at what he described as London's supercilious pro-Indian elite; he castigated them for ignoring Pakistan, where democracy and gender equality, may be too minute to register on the Richter scale, but, according to him, were moving and shaking the country amid its myriad misfortunes. India, he growled, may have its millionaires and billionaires, but its vast swathes of poverty, deprivation and illiteracy found no favour with him (nor do they with Indians with eyes to see and ears to hear).


Worse, Mr MacShane was appalled by an alleged Indian plan to invade Pakistan and initiate a nuclear conflagration; and he accused New Delhi of killing more Muslims than any power on Earth. That required some telling, seeing that his erstwhile master, Mr Tony Blair, was a rogue accomplice in Mr George W Bush's war in Iraq, which has claimed to date well over a million Iraqi lives. Today, Mr Blair stands not in the dock answering for that war, but as facilitator in a counterfeit West Asia peace process. As an entertaining public speaker and memoirist, he is a one-man dollar mint, with enough reserves to rescue embattled Greece from financial collapse.

But Britain's big battalions, having read the runes, are beating the Indian drum. Mr Ratan Tata was recently made an honorary doctor of law (honoris causa) by Cambridge University; he spent an entire day mingling with students and teachers and called on the heads of the engineering and specialised technology faculties for informal exchanges. The university should be the richer courtesy the famed Tata philanthropy.


This could be viewed as a prologue to British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague's forthcoming passage to India, with a high powered delegation of businessmen and educationists in tow. The aim is to reset the Indo-British button and elevate the relationship to an exalted level of trust and co-operation. A commentator in The Daily Telegraph, writing about Mr Cameron's intention to charm Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to turn our "shared heritage" into a "favoured nation" pact for mutual benefit, reminded the paper's readers that "India's Tata is Britain's largest manufacturer — it owns Jaguar, Land Rover and Corus Steel."

And while "Britain's economy flatlines with the rest of Europe, with growth rates between one per cent and two per cent, India is expected to grow at up to nine per cent for the next three years". But for all its current travails Britain, he said, still possessed inherent technological strengths and organisational experience from which India could profitably draw.


It has taken awhile for such wisdom to dawn in Whitehall's corridors of power. There is nothing quite like a crisis, whether it be a faltering economy or a draining Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, to concentrate minds, and the prevailing minds in London are determined to shake off the rust in Indo-British ties with a lubricant of realism and common sense.


There is thus ample scope for a rewarding Indo-British strategic dialogue, which must of necessity include intensified cooperation against violent Islamism. Last Wednesday, after all, was the fifth anniversary of the London bombings and the loss of 51 innocent lives. Mr Robin Simcox, the co-author of the study, Islamist Terrosim — The British Connections, for the Centre for Social Cohesion think-tank, has remarked: "There are clear trends emerging with those involving themselves in terrorist activity in the UK. It is crucial that this is recognised and then acted upon by the relevant authorities."


To whom and to what was he referring? Simply this: That of the 124 profiles of individuals convicted of terrorism offences linked to Islamic jihad since 1999, as many as 69 held British nationality. From which one may naively conclude that terrorist activity in the UK is mostly native. But that is to miss the point: To juxtapose the complexities of human identity with the simple legalism of a passport. Truth is that Britain's 'homegrown' jihadis are overwhelmingly of Pakistani ethnicity, the remaining few belong directly to any one of a number of Muslim societies scattered around the world. As significant numbers of them insist on maintaining their religious and cultural purity from what they perceive to be the defiling contamination of non-believers, legions of the faithful regard their British passports as flags of convenience; in essence the holders are not British, and to their credit, have never pretended to be.


The 7/7 London bombers proclaimed their determination to destroy Britain and replace it with a divinely ordained Universal Caliphate operating the sharia'h. For them democratic freedoms, as the Devil's licence, were an anathema. Complementing the Simcox findings was the warning emanating from Mr John Yates, Metropolitan Assistant Commissioner and Britain's foremost counter-terrorism officer, that the Government's "eye-watering cuts" in funding could give an advantage to Al Qaeda and its allies.


When Mumbai-based Islamic tele-evangelist, Zakir Naik, applied for a visa to visit Britain, the Home Office slammed the door on his face. He condemns terrorism, he says, but if Osama bin Laden "is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him". Home Secretary Teresa May was having none of this double talk. She deserves emulation in India, where television networks have levitated Zakir Naik to celebrity status.


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THE PIONEER

EDITS

NO PENSION FOR THE UNWORTHY

KUNAL SAHA


The move by the Union Government to stop the payment of pension to SPS Rathore, former DGP of Haryana, for his criminal conviction in the case pertaining to the molestation of 14-year old Ruchika Girhotra, who later committed suicide, is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Rathore committed this heinous crime two decades ago and was able to stall the process of justice by using his official power. He would have got away had it not been for a proactive media that highlighted this sordid episode in the correct perspective that sparked enormous public outrage forcing a re-hearing and an enhanced sentence.


Rathore has filed an appeal before the Haryana High Court against the 18-month jail sentence by the district court. It is likely that he would live a near-normal life and roam free on bail for months and years while his appeal is pending with the High Court. If the High Court eventually rejects his appeal, Rathore can still move the Supreme Court. At any time during this protracted period of legal wrangling, if his death occurs due to illness or advanced age, justice will never be meted out. Withholding his pension can at least serve a measure of justice in such circumstances.


Rathore's case clearly underscores the inherent flaws in the justice delivery system in India. It also provides a glaring example of how money and power can influence the legal process. While it is true that the Indian judiciary is overburdened with a huge backlog of litigations at almost every level, the case against Rathore was deliberately stalled due to pressure from extraneous sources. Corruption in the judiciary has come into the limelight via the Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo murder cases, the cash-at-door scam and the Justice PD Dinakaran controversy. More recently, the paltry sentence served to the principal perpetrators of the Bhopal industrial disaster after a delay of 26 years has sparked anger among victims and citizens.


The Government's move to withhold Rathore's pension is welcome. Fear of criminal prosecution and annulment of all pre- and post-retirement benefits for Government officials will go a long way in eradicating corruption.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

GREAT SCHOOL ROBBERY

ARINDAM CHAUDHURI


As with other development initiatives of the Government, for instance the national rural jobs scheme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, meant to take education to the masses, has turned out to be a massive scam with thousands of crores of rupees being siphoned away. How long shall we live with such corruption?


Just like I wrote about the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, one of the landmark development initiatives of the UPA Government, this time I have decided to write about an equally, or rather more significant, development initiative: Sarva Siksha Abhiyan. This initiative holds the promise of transforming the entire socio-economic landscape of the nation, if delivered to its potential. Now, there is a big 'if' here, as going by precedence, each and every development initiative of the Government has been full of corruption, coupled with delivery inadequacies. And the same has been a reality with respect to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as well.

A recent report by British media revealed that millions of pounds of aid for education under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme have literally disappeared. The report put this figure at a staggering £ 340 million, which is around Rs 2,327 crore! To further this report, the Comptroller and Auditor-General's investigation has found that almost £1 4 million (around Rs 100 crore) had been spent on luxuries — new cars, luxury beds, computers, et al — that had no connection with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. So much so that around Rs 1.02 crore was transferred into non-traceable bank accounts. Not just that, electronic equipments like air-conditioners, fax machines, photocopiers and colour television sets were bought for regions which had no electricity supply. And that's just one side of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan story.


Another CAG report reveals that around 68 per cent of the Rs 8,000 crore allotted for elementary education development work, which was spent under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, had no records. A 2006 report highlighted irregularities of funds usage to the tune of Rs 470 million in 14 states under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan schemes. A brief glimpse through other media reports, in the span of the last few years, is enough to give a concrete idea about how States like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are spending allocated funds on projects that have nothing to do with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.


As such, India is among the lowest spenders on education. Couple this with the fact that India also has the largest number of illiterate people in the world. In this light, it is criminal that funds to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees get siphoned away just like that.


Putting the numbers into perspective, if the total allocated money (Rs 31,036 crore as per the 2010-11 Budget) were to be disbursed directly to 192 million children (or 19.2 crore children) who officially come under the ambit of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, then each student would receive more than Rs 1,600 each this year. Considering that a student generally has to pay an average monthly fee of Rs 100 (it actually ranges from Rs 70 to Rs 150 in rural areas) at rural elementary schools in India, giving Rs 1,600 annually to students directly would not only enable them to pay the annual fees, but would also result in some extra pocket money. Direct disbursement seems to be a much more rational and fruitful method, when seen in the light of corruption and scams.

If one were to calculate the per capita loss on account of funds embezzled, then each deprived child has actually been robbed of Rs 121, so to speak. In other words, the embezzlers have shamelessly robbed formal education from the lives of above 1.4 crore children (considering the allocation being Rs 1,600 per child). And mind you, this corruption has far reaching future implications. It has not just robbed today's education from the lives of crores of children, it has also forever robbed their chances of living with dignity.


However, it is also a fact that this is not the first time we are coming across such scales of corruption. And it is also not the first time that foreign media has reported about such deficiencies in our system. But nothing seems to change. Nothing will change till the time we have a decaying judiciary, as right now in the given judicial environment the cost of corruption is negligible for the offender despite being extremely high on society. More so in the case of education.


Considering that education provides the maximum returns on investment to society, the delivery framework around an initiative like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has to be cast in stone. The judiciary has to necessarily dole out such stringent sentences to the guilty — and that too quickly — so that it sets the right precedent for potential offenders. If we are incapable of doing so, then we have no business to draft any development initiative under the garb of which we keep robbing national resources for private gains. Enough is enough.


The writer is a management guru and Editor, The Sunday Indian.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

PUNISH THE POACHERS

POLICE, COURTS MUST ACT TO PROTECT OUR WILDLIFE

ANURADHA DUTT


At a juncture, when the Union Environment Ministry and conservationists are brain-storming about how to enhance protection of wildlife, especially endangered species such as tigers and leopards, the Supreme Court almost awarded bail to poaching kingpin Sansar Chand. In a Jaipur jail for the past four years for the crime of trading in banned animal parts and skins, his plea for bail was reported to have elicited a sympathetic hearing from the two-judge bench. It remarked that he deserved bail because he had "not killed men but animals". (Italics ours.) Then the recollection of his notorious past dawned upon one of the judges. The bench granted the Rajasthan Government four weeks time to file its response, and also allowed the Wildlife Protection Society of India and Wildlife Trust of India to file pleas against award of bail.


The previous year, the apex court had shockingly suspended the jail term of the habitual offender in August 2009. But, fortunately, he was not let out on account of numerous pending cases in trial courts. Over 40 cases relating to wildlife crimes have been filed against Sansar Chand, but he is said to have been convicted in only two. His criminal activities began in the mid-1980s. The man and his accomplices are an absolute menace, with CBI sources claiming that they controlled almost half of the illicit wildlife trade. The last time he was given bail was in mid-2004, a judicial decision that was to prove disastrous for the Sariska tiger reserve. On April 29, 2004, the Ajmer Government Railway Police arrested him. Though sentenced to a five-year prison term, his plea for bail was favourably heard by the Ajmer sessions court. He was let out of prison after about three weeks. Thereafter, he is charged with having engineered the poaching of Sariska's 22 tigers.


He was again arrested in June 2005, and has been in prison since then; and should continue to remain there for the sake of our depleting wildlife. Bheema, a suspected accomplice of Sansar Chand, was arrested in November by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. He had earlier been let out on bail in 2005 despite being charged in numerous cases. Clearly, the lax application of existing laws governing wildlife-related crimes is to blame for habitual offenders managing easily to get bail, and then resuming operations without worry. This is a comment not only on the police's handling of such cases but the judiciary's approach to them.


Now that Sariska reserve is struggling to rebuild its tiger population, with three big cats having been transferred from Ranthambore National Park, it needs to be emphasised repeatedly that Sansar Chand and others of his ilk should not be allowed to move about freely. Otherwise, these three tigers will also be targeted. In another disgusting instance of the ineptitude of wildlife custodians, and complicity of local people and guards in poaching, Panna reserve's tigers were all found to have disappeared. This fact came to light early last year. The whole administrative system in place in wildlife reserves and national parks needs an immediate overhaul, the existing one having failed miserably.


Most important, cases involving crimes and violations under the Wildlife Protection Act need to be treated as seriously by the police, Interpol and courts as the most heinous offences. The proposed amendment to the act spells out penalties. A first crime against critical species will be punishable by a jail term of five-seven years and fine of Rs 5 lakh. Subsequent offences of the same nature will invite a seven-year prison sentence and Rs 25 lakh fine. An offence relating to trade in critical species incurs a seven-year jail term and Rs 25 lakh fine. Subsequent offence, again linked to such trade, will be punished with a seven-year prison sentence and Rs 50 lakh fine. Penalties for trade and crimes related to other species are also detailed. Those allowing space and place to be misused for wildlife crimes also come under the ambit of this law.

But the best intentions, put down on paper, can only work if offenders are actually convicted of the crimes that they are accused of, and sentenced. The Sariska and Panna examples bear testimony to the freedom with which poachers and their accomplices operate under the very nose, so to say, of the directors and other personnel of sanctuaries and parks. Once caught, they should be tried and given exemplary punishment so that they abandon poaching and illicit trade. But the practice of giving them a reprieve betrays the reprehensible laxity both of the police and courts.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

OBAMA FACES LITMUS TEST

KALYANI SHANKAR


The November mid-term elections may not be smooth sailing for the Democrats and the US President whose popularity ratings have begun to slump rapidly


When US President Barack Obama visits India in November, will he arrive in New Delhi a triumphant leader or a disheartened man?


The November mid-term elections when the US elects the 112th Congress and one-third of the Senate are crucial for the President. As head of the Democratic Party, he is being looked upon to get his party candidates into office. But judging by his 18-month track record, victory looks doubtful.


Mr Obama soared into office in 2008 buoyed on great expectations. He was expected to single-handedly save the world from a crippled economy, salvage the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and resolve the West Asia conflict. But his critics say that he has not lived up to their hopes.


The Republican Party has improved significantly and for the first time in years notched up popularity ratings nearly equal to the Democrats and a defeat could see the latter lose control over both chambers of the US Congress. For Mr Obama, it will become more difficult to run the US Administration with a hostile Congress.


Unless the Democrats win 60 seats in the 100-member Senate, Republicans will be able to block or at least slow down a great deal of legislation. Washington insiders know there is one thing that a first-term Administration wants more than anything which is a second term. And Mr Obama has all plans to run for a second term. Come January 2011, his preparations for the next presidential elections will begin. If he reached the White House in 2008 with his "Yes, we can" slogan, he has to seek a second term with his record of achievements.


But what should be worrying the White House are the sliding popularity ratings of the President. Critics complain that West Asia remains intractable, North Korea nuclear, Iraq and Afghanistan unsettled and Iran difficult.

The Washington Quarterly of April 10, 2010 lists at least three reasons. The first is the economy and the job situation which continues to be a cause for concern. Although Mr Obama has taken this as his first priority and persuaded the Congress to pump in billions of dollars for the bail-out, things are not going as fast as expected.

The second is Mr Obama's popularity ratings. It is claimed that there is a strong relationship between the President's popularity ratings and election results. Negative economic views are closely associated with anti-incumbency and a preference for Republican candidates.


The third is that the Democrats in the past two years picked up traditional GOP seats and now it is getting difficult for them to defend it.


Political pundits also cite other reasons such as the foreign policy in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Although in his first year, the President had taken a bold step in increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan to over 1,00,000, he has announced withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011. The troop increase is proving to be a tough sell. Many Democrats worry it could hurt them in the November election, particularly if more body bags arrive.
With a record budget deficit in the current fiscal, Mr Obama's promised tax cuts for the middle class may prove unaffordable. The next year is also not too promising.


The Democratic Party, too, must find a way to resolve its internal conflicts. Due to his sudden rise in the party, Mr Obama has not yet acquired the kind of control comparable to his predecessors. He is low key even in his campaign for the mid-term polls.


Moreover, the recent British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has become an unexpected catastrophe for Mr Obama. It could carry a tremendous political price, perhaps, putting re-election in 2012 out of his reach.


The Congress is not supportive of Mr Obama. The health and education reforms were pushed through with great difficulty. The nomination of Ms Elena Kalgan as Supreme Court judge brought to fore the struggle he has had to face in getting his candidates through.


However, Mr Obama has shown adequate skill in handling situations and taken bold steps on many issues including economy, health and education reforms. He has made his presence felt in the international community and has led on many issues including climate change.


Mr Obama will be a welcome guest in India whether he wins the polls for his party or not as the visit will pave the way for stronger Indo-US ties. The Obama Administration, which has at least 20 officials of Indian origin, is keen to cement the ties. His visit will be watched closely by two of India's neighbours — China and Pakistan.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

FUEL PRICE DECONTROL UNJUSTIFIED

THE STEP TO DISMANTLE THE ADMINISTERED PRICE MECHANISM IS NOT REALLY AIMED AT BENEFITING THE PUBLIC SECTOR BUT AT HELPING PRIVATE OIL COMPANIES FACING STIFF COMPETITION

SHIVAJI SARKAR


Public sector oil marketing companies are expected to be major beneficiaries from the Government's decision to free petrol prices, according to analysts. But oil PSUs were not on the brink of huge losses as the Government of India has projected before taking the decision.


These companies never stated that they are running in losses. They merely said that there were under-recoveries without explaining on what count. Petroleum companies across the globe like Shell, Exxon and BP have been making staggering profits, as the international crude prices rise.


The petrol price hike is, therefore, unjustified. The step to dismantle the administered price mechanism is apparently not aimed at benefiting the nine public sector oil companies but the private oil companies who find it difficult to compete with the tight-budgeting PSUs. The deleterious effects of the dismantling of APM have been once witnessed earlier following the United Front Government decision in 1997. It led to a price spiral of commodities.

The Government's statements in Parliament during the Budget Session only confirm that the country is not benefiting from the activities of private companies. The domestic refining capacity is 179.9 million metric tonnes per annum. Of this volume, the private sector refines 72.5 MMTPA. The Government claims that the country is "not only self-sufficient in refining capacity but also exports substantially". It is silent on details. But it is well known that most of that refined in the private sector, even the oil spud offshore in Krishna-Godavari, Mahanadi, Cambay and other basins in the country, find their way to external markets.


The latest move is aimed at projecting before the citizens of the country that the Government is creating a "level playing field". It is a different matter that it would not only benefit the private sector more but also expose the PSUs to unfair and unethical competition. The Government is trying to justify that it had to take steps to offset Rs 22,306 crore subsidies — special securities in official terminology — "towards under recoveries on account of sale of sensitive products in 2009-10". In reality, the Government notionally paid only Rs 12,000 crore to the oil companies. The companies had actual deposits worth Rs 10,306 crore with the Government, which was adjusted against the "special securities".


Actual subsidies were to the tune of Rs 3,125 crore on account of part subsidy on Liquefied Petroleum Gas, Public Distribution System kerosene and freight subsidy to the companies for supply to the North-East and other far-flung areas. Not a farthing has been paid to the companies of their claims under APM since 2007-08.


The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas categorically states that it does not provide any budgetary support to finance annual Plan outlay of Rs 69,457 crore. "The projects are implemented by oil PSUs from out of their internal resources," a Ministry statement said. In the current year, only Rs 36 crore has been allocated as Plan support for setting up Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology at Rae Bareli.


This also shows that despite lack of APM, oil PSUs are generating enough revenue to sustain their activities and even pay hefty amount as taxes to the Government. (Indian Oil paid over Rs 58,000 crore as taxes). This should be an eye-opener.

Despite increase in petroleum prices in the international market, oil PSUs have ended up making profits even after paying tax. This only substantiates that the prices prevailing even before the rise announced on June 25 were remunerative.


Indian Oil Company earned a profit of Rs 2,228.28 crore after paying tax of Rs 805 crore; ONGC Rs 13,096 crore; Bharat Petro Rs 834.44 crore; Chennai Petro Rs 664.28 crore; ONGC Videsh Rs 916 crore; Oil India Ltd Rs 2,612 crore; GAIL India Rs 2,229 crore; Numaligarh Refinery Rs 140 crore; Balmer Lawrie Rs 99 crore; Mangalore Refinery Rs 210.04 crore and HPCL Rs 8.21 crore. The Government earned over Rs 20,000 crore in income tax from these companies.


The tax component on petroleum products comes to over 50 per of the sale prices. The tax components of all companies together would surpass Rs 1,50,000 crore. So even if it is accepted that the companies are suffering "losses" as the Government claims, it would appear that it is being mounted on them by the Government. It appears that officials are not presenting to the Minister the correct picture and creating a bogey to justify the unjustifiable. The Government's 'largesse' is largely misplaced.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

GOM ON HONOUR KILLINGS MUST WASTE NO TIME

 

WE hope that the Union government's decision to refer the issue of honour killings to a Group of Ministers ( GoM) is not a ploy to avoid taking a call on the issue, and that it will indeed bring in the relevant amendments to the law in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament. There can be little debate on the fact that members of caste panchayats who order the killing of young couples must be tried for murder.

 

Anything less stringent will fail to check the recent spurt in honour killings in this part of the country. That the proposed amendments intend to place the burden of proof on caste members and the other accused in case of an honour killing is very much in order if the law is to deter people from resorting to violence under a misplaced notion of honour.

 

There can be no compromise on these issues no matter how the leaders from the affected communities and region view the matter.

 

What the GoM should look into is whether amending the existing laws for the purpose will suffice, or there is need for special legislation dealing with the many facets of the phenomenon such as the demand of caste panchayats that the Hindu Marriage Act be amended to ban same gotra marriages.

 

Many communities in India have a family law to deal with issues of marriage, inheritance and divorce, based on their customs and traditions.

 

So Jats and other communities demanding a ban could have a case. Wherever possible it always helps for the law to take communities along on such issues. People belonging to the same gotra who wish to get married could still do so under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act.

 

Even so, there is need to send across the message that murder, assault and harassment in the name of tradition is simply unacceptable and will be punished with stringency.

 

MAYA'S CLAIM RINGS HOLLOW

BY organising a rally in Badaun, where there is a case of abduction and rape against him, absconding Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Yogendra Sagar seems to be mocking the Uttar Pradesh police.

 

The police are plainly in collusion with the criminal MLA because they claim that they were unaware of his presence in the rally or, worse, the existence of a non- bailable warrant against him.

 

That the police are hand- in- glove with Sagar is apparent from the fact that six policemen, including the then Superintendent of Badaun KK Pushkar, have been booked for abducting a witness in the rape case. The police had dragged their feet even during the course of the investigation and filed an FIR only after tremendous public pressure.

 

The case of Yogendra Sagar gives the lie to Chief Minister Mayawati's much publicised drive against criminals. The chief minister had promised that all criminal elements in her party would be expelled by May 13 this year. Sagar and his aides are accused of abducting a girl who was on her way to college, drugging and raping her repeatedly and even attempting to sell her to a brothel. If this doesn't qualify as ' criminal', then what does?

 

A SHOWER IS ALL IT TAKES

ONCE again, on Wednesday evening, the residents of the capital learnt just how incompetent and callous their local government is.

 

A mild spell of rain disrupted traffic across the city.

 

Given the traffic volumes in Delhi, even minor accidents and blockages can cause traffic to back up on many key arterial roads.

 

So what is the emergency traffic management plan that the authorities have in place to cope with extraordinary situations? Even though we stretch definitions to claim that Wednesday's shower was an emergency, the short answer is that there is no plan in place, at least none that is visible.

 

The usual response of the authorities is to blame each other. The police will blame the companies maintaining the traffic lights and the Municipal Corporation for not preventing water- logging. One of these days we will be forced to cope with a real crisis— a cloudburst or, heaven forbid, an earthquake, and you can be sure that the people of the city will be left to fend for themselves.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

UPA REMAINS COY ON REFORM

R. SRINIVASAN

 

GOING by the success, or lack of it, of the concerted, nation- wide strike — against inflation in general but largely against the hike in petrol and diesel prices— called by the Opposition last week, perhaps it is time we finally buried the philosophy of ' reform by stealth' which has been the guiding mantra for virtually every government since the Nehruvian era.

 

Yes, the bandh was superficially a success.

 

Normal life was affected, the usual quota of buses and trains stoned or broken and India Inc's routine protest against the loss of productivity and income engendered by such hartals was duly lodged.

 

But that ' success' was as much due to the flexing of street muscle by the Opposition as the tacit connivance of the government, which was looking for a safety valve to bleed off the pressure and social tension built up on account of relentless double digit inflation and downstream effects of a sudden easing off of the growth pedal caused by the global economic slowdown.

 

Ironically, this was the one time when there was widespread, popular support among the people — cutting across all social and economic strata — on the issue of prices in particular, and the uneven flow of the ' trickle down' benefits of growth in general.

 

Stealth

 

This was a readymade platform for the Opposition to mount a genuine political mass movement. That they flubbed it is a telling indicator of the bankruptcy of ideas and the lack of charismatic mass leaders amongst the Opposition.

 

Which is why one wonders why the government is still persisting with its policy of ' stealth' reforms. If nobody can convert the anger and resentment of the public against two years of double digit inflation, topped by a sharp increase in fuel prices, more ' exotic' issues like loosening controls on the ownership pattern of insurance companies ( to cite just one example) are unlikely to unseat any government, leave alone the current one, which has managed to return to power with a larger majority to boot.

 

Yet, stealth reforms continue. There are fresh examples from just the past few days. The government released a ' discussion paper' — basically a statement of intent — on allowing foreign direct investment in organised, multi- brand retail.

 

This is something which is arguably an issue of complete indifference to the vast majority of the people, but has been effectively blocked so far, largely by the shadowy but powerful coterie which controls India's vast agricultural market.

 

There was also a test balloon floated on allowing foreign airlines to hold a stake in Indian private airlines. Elsewhere, an august commission dithered over, and finally decided to defer, the question of diluting stake in government owned telecom companies.

 

One wonders whether these are issues which are likely to cause extensive debate in either Jangipur, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's constituency, or Sivagangai, former FM P Chidambaram's electoral base.

 

Why, one wonders, is all this necessary? Why not just go ahead and do it? If even the promise of allowing diesel prices — one of the holiest of holies on the subsidy front, on account of its ' farm' use — has not managed to bring an army of Jats to blockade the capital, why be so coy about issues of far narrower scope and impact? Historical conditioning might have something to do with it. Our politicians believe that economic reform as an idea is too risky to be tested electorally. The belief is that consensus on the benefits of reforms needs to be built slowly, that it would not be possible to sell big ticket, sweeping reforms to the masses without courting disaster and that gradualism is the key to achieving successful reforms.

 

Unstated, but equally pervasive, is the belief in government, political and industry circles that reforms are best left to those who understand the implications best — politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen — and not something to be thrown into the three ring circus of Indian democracy.

 

So, reforms have always been sporadic, piecemeal and without any discernible pattern or sequence. Contrary to popular belief, reforms did not originate in 1991.

 

The pattern of stealthy and sporadic reform has been the norm since the seventies.

 

Pattern Trade restrictions — both on imports and exports — have been gradually diluted over the past thirty years or so.

 

Foreign investment was never quite non grata in India — which is why we have several multinationals in India which have actually been around for as long as major Indian businesses. Instead, foreign investment policy has followed the same pattern — first the lifting of entry barriers, then a gradual easing of the cap on foreign investment and finally, a full freeing- up.

 

Domestic sentiment has always been cited as the ostensible reason for doing, or not doing, anything on the reform front. In reality, though, our reform measures have largely been driven by the perception in external markets, which the key section of our policy makers have always been more sensitive to.

 

That is why our reforms so far have been what economists call ' first generation' reforms — reforms that primarily concerned the external sector, like freeing up the Rupee to a market- determined rate, removing import barriers and export quotas and allowing foreign investors access to the Indian capital markets and to a more limited extent, foreign direct investment.

 

Bureaucracy

 

The second generation reforms — anything connected with domestic markets, like allowing foreign retail companies in, for instance, or allowing free labour mobility — is still on the ' to do' list.

 

Even the decision to decontrol fuel prices, something with a strong domestic impact, may have been finally taken, after a decade of dithering, with an eye on the G20 summit which followed shortly after.

 

It is not surprising that even our Prime Minister, viewed as a ' prophet' of reform in the west, is not, and is not seen, as a reform evangelist at home. Oh, he is very comfortable discussing reform with India Inc or the intelligentsia — but whenever he talks to the great unwashed, it is about social subsidies like NREGA. But perhaps the strongest reason for reform by stealth is the huge constituency that benefits most from stealth and secrecy and controls — the bureaucracy.

 

The bureaucracy exists because of controls, and opacity of governance. The more labyrinthine the rules and regulations, the stronger the control of the bureaucracy.

 

It is against the bureaucracy's natural instinct to deregulate and reform. Only charismatic mass politics can override the natural bureaucratic drag on reforms.

 

Nehru managed it in the ' 50s, and sold his socialist agenda as a mass philosophy.

 

Those who followed him, though, have been forced to rely on stealth.

 

r.srinivasan@mailtoday.in

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MAIL TODAY

THE LAHORE LOG

SHARIF HAS HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD

BY NAJAM SETHI

 

IN A recent TV interview, the former prime minister and current leader of the opposition, Mian Nawaz Sharif, has made some extraordinary statements. These show that Mr Sharif has come a long way in understanding the nature of the Pakistani state and the core issues that confront it. More significantly, some of his current views are out of sync with the articulated positions of the post- Musharraf " national security establishment" that remains the " state within the state". This has implications not only for the development of a democratic culture and viable political system in Pakistan but also for Mr Sharif's political career. Consider.

 

Mr Sharif wants enduring peace with India. He believes that without it Pakistan will not be able to establish civilian supremacy over the military, nor develop its economy for the socio- economic upliftment of the people. The running conflict with India provides the military with its pre- eminent raison d'être ( custodian of national security and national power) as well as the largest slice of the fiscal cake ( at the expense of poverty alleviation and development) which gives it muscle. He is ready to solve Kashmir (" set it aside") so that it doesn't adversely affect India- Pak relations.

 

His proposed solution to Kashmir would focus on what Kashmiris in Srinagar want rather than on what some ideological or military quarters in Pakistan have always demanded — a plebiscite to determine whether or not Kashmirs want to become a part of Pakistan.

 

HE SAYS he set out to do this in 1999 when he invited India's prime minister to Lahore. But this initiative was

sabotaged by General Pervez Musharraf's misadventure in Kargil, the coup against his government and the military's belligerent approach to India. Mr Sharif was vindicated when General Musharraf did a U- turn in 2004 by embracing his peace formula with some candid out- of- the- box thinking on Kashmir.

 

This envisaged joint control over the whole disputed territory for the foreseeable future and the disengagement of the militaries of both countries from the territory until a more propitious time for a final settlement in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu & Kashmir and India and Pakistan. Mr Sharif realises that the conflict with India has made the military politically pre- eminent, deformed Pakistan's political system and laid the economy low.

 

This view is now at odds with the post- Musharraf military establishment once again. Despite its avowed peaceable intentions, India is back on Pakistan's national security agenda as a " core threat" because of its " military capability and cold- start doctrine". Indeed, under instructions from GHQ, the Pakistani Foreign Office has formally repudiated the Musharraf doctrine while the Zardari government has meekly consented to a reversal of its old position under Benazir Bhutto, which was actually a precursor to Mr Sharif's position in 1999.

 

Thus, by an irony of history, Mr Sharif is now considered a " national security" liability much as Benazir was in 1988 when she first came to office.

 

The similarity doesn't end there. Benazir tried to establish control over the military and build peace with India. But she was ousted in 1990 for being a " security risk". Mr Sharif followed suit in 1999 and met the same fate. Mr Zardari made a move in early 2008 to rein in the ISI and talk peace with India. Today he is hopelessly besieged as a result of it. Under the circumstances, Mr Sharif has staked his political career by making such a bold statement. He should be commended for his vision.

 

In the same context, Mr Sharif criticised the army's public displeasure last year of the text of the Kerry- Lugar bill. This hugely embarrassed the Zardari government and destabilised it. He says that if the army high command has strong views about anything, these should be aired at the proper civil- military forum, like the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, or even privately in meetings between the army chief and the prime minister or president, but never in public in opposition to government policy. He referred to a public statement by General Jehangir Karamat, the army chief in 1998, stressing the need of a national security council, which provoked Mr Sharif to sack him for speaking out of turn.

 

Mr Sharif also reiterated his position that army chiefs should be generally appointed on the basis of seniority and institutional rules should be followed in matters of promotions and extensions rather than the whims of civilians or demands of generals. This is a significant intervention since it comes amidst public speculation on the issue of an extension in the service of the current army chief General Kayani, in view of the on- going war on terror that he has successfully prosecuted.

 

The brass cannot be too pleased with Nawaz Sharif's views. At the very least, if any khaki- black robed intervention is conspiring to oust Mr Zardari it cannot think of Mr Sharif as a viable alternative. That is why Mr Zardari should build fences with Mr Sharif so that the fledgling parliamentary system is not derailed by new adventurers and civilian control over the military is established as a primary condition for Pakistan's salvation from the ranks of the failing states of the world.

 

Finally, Mr Sharif admitted that, for the military to obey the civilians, the civilians must be worthy of the military's confidence.

 

Truer words were not spoken.

 

Unfortunately, that remains as true today as it was in the time of Benazir and Mr Sharif as prime ministers. Indeed, regardless of party affiliations, the civilians are constantly tripping over themselves to be more corrupt, incompetent and disreputable than their predecessors. Until this reformist charity begins at home, there is no way in which Mr Sharif or Mr Zardari or any other civilian politician can earn the military's trust and persuade it to take a back seat in ruling Pakistan.

 

The writer is Editor of The Friday Times

 

MONI MOHSIN

I WAS enjoying so much in London, na, hanging up with all my friends from Lahore and Isloo in their flats in Kensington and enjoying London ki dheemi dheemi si heat when suddenly the phone came and spoilt everything.

 

It was Mummy to say there'd been bombs in Data Saab. Fifty people had died and she didn't know how many injured.

 

' Mummy,' I said, ' it's very sad and all but what does it have to do with us?' And then she said quietly: ' Jonkers was there.' ' Jonkers?' I yelled. ' Is he okay? What was he doing at Data Saab?' ' No. He's not okay. . .' Apparently poor Jonkers had gone to Data to maango a mannat. He hasn't been able to find a new wife na and even though he's tried his bestest to find a nice decent type, he's been alone since that chaaloo cheez, that gold dogger Miss Shumaila ran away taking his Honda salon and Aunty Pussy kay diamonds. So he went to Data Sahib to ask for help. He took five thou to distribute among the poors and he took his driver because parking is so hard there, na.

Anyways, Jonkers had just entered the tomb ka area and because it was hot and Jonkers heat say used to nahin hai na, so he just gave ishara to his driver keh you go on and I'll follow. So the driver plunged into the crowds and Jonkers was coming slowly slowly, when suddenly there was a sound like a bijli ka transformer blowing and Jonkers couldn't remember anything afterwards. He was knocked off his feet and hit his head on the wall. Because he's ganja the gash is very deep and he has also got con cushion and he stayed fainted for such a long time that Aunty Pussy thought he'd gone inside a comma. Anyways he's in the hospital but his driver is dead. He was 32 years old and had three children all under seven years. His wife is 28. His name was Naeem. He was Auntie Pussy's old driver, Saleem's, son.

 

He used to call pizzas pakeezas and he taught Kulchoo how to fly kites and do bo kaatas.

 

Night after the bombs burst we went to have dinner with Lahori friends, Billoo and Tara, who have a flat here on the back side of Shelfridges only ( 4 bed, 4 bath, at least 3 million quids ka) and when someone said ' oho very sad about the bombs in Lahore', Billoo ek dum said, ' Yeh sub Amreekan kara rahay hain.' Normally it's Janoo who shouts when people say stuppid things like that but this time, I couldn't help myself, " Yes the two bombers were blonde blue eyed baseball players from Canttucky,' I shouted. ' And before that the guys who killed the Ahmadis, were also Amreekans. Big black negros from Menhettan. Or were they Jews from Walls Street? It's never us, is it? It's always someone else.'

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDIT PAGE

ABSENTEE LEADERSHIP

 

The army has been deployed on the streets of Srinagar after more than a decade. This may quell the wave of protests that has rocked J&K since June. More than a dozen youngsters including a nine-year-old have died in street battles with security personnel. Each protest culminated in more deaths fuelling further protests and deaths. The spiral of violence seems to be self-perpetuating. It must end. When children and teenagers turn out to lead protests, it exposes a glaring leadership vacuum in society.


Kashmir's political leadership, those in the government and the opposition including the separatists, ought to be ashamed that they've let the blood of children flow on the street. Multiple factors have contributed to the present impasse. Lazy analysis like blaming it all on Islamabad won't help gauge the mood on the ground, although Islamabad may want to keep fires burning after the defeat of the insurgency. The present spate of protests doesn't seem to be organised by any specific group. The protesters are predominantly rebellious youngsters dissatisfied with the affairs of the state. Their anger stems not only from the lack of development and employment, but also the failure of the political leadership to address their aspirations. Their frustration doesn't necessarily flow from the failure of New Delhi and Islamabad to thrash out their differences over the future of J&K, but a lack of redress to their complaints and a feeling of being pent up.


The presence of the army and prolonged curfew may help the government take control of the streets. But the army has to return to the barracks. The onus will then be on the political leadership and civil society to manage the situation. It's they, and they alone, who can calm tempers and ensure that no more children are sacrificed on the streets.


Street protests are unlikely to disappear from J&K they are a part and parcel of all democratic societies but they don't necessarily have to end in the death of some protesters. The administration has to modernise the police force and equip them to deal with mob violence. Also, public institutions must be ramped up to improve governance. Similarly, politicians must learn to be responsive to people's grievances. Reports indicate that few among the MLAs have bothered to visit their constituents after the elections. Lastly, J&K is a political issue. A long-term settlement would require bringing Islamabad on board. While efforts should be made towards this, there are plenty of things to be done independently.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

ONLY EMPOWER

 

The recent spate of honour killings perpetrated by khap panchayats in north India has brought attention to regressive caste-based conservative forces. But in the middle of Haryana's Jat heartland a different drama is playing out. A village has elected a Dalit woman as its sarpanch. Rani Devi was elected to the post even though it was a general category seat. Seen in the context of the Jat-dominated Serhada village being only 40 km away from Mirchpur, which witnessed a heinous case of caste violence only months ago, the development is a significant one. The conventional thinking within the political establishment is that caste is a fact of life and policies need to be framed accordingly. It is this largely unchallenged assumption that has given rise to a brand of politics that reinforces rigid caste structures through vote banks rather than moves towards making caste irrelevant. Thus, we have politicians willing to toe the line of caste panchayats for fear of losing political capital.

Quietly and steadily, however, a new social reality is being scripted in India. Influenced by the forces of modernisation ushered in by economic liberalisation, rising aspirations and advancements in communication and information technology, people are challenging archaic traditions and creating new opportunities for themselves. This is a trend that our political leadership would do well to encourage. It is no longer true (if it ever was) that a top-down approach is needed for development. There are positive forces already at play should we choose to recognise them. Politicians as well as law enforcement authorities should no longer fall back on hackneyed explanations about ordinary people being resistant to social change as an excuse for their own apathy and cynicism. It would be prudent to support examples such as that of Serhada and encourage its replication on a national scale.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

HIGH DEMAND, SHORT SUPPLY

 

At its simplest level, liberalisation equals the removal of market distortions. Price or supply control by the government can create artificial scarcities and lead to irrational pricing either too high or so low and populist as to be unviable. In the long term, society and consumers inevitably pay the price.


Since the reforms of 1991, India has recognised the logic of liberalisation in business sectors as far apart as telecom and energy. Yet, it is unconscionable that such an approach is deliberately ignored when it comes to a compelling arena: school education. Policy neglect if not policy perversity is leading to a crying paucity of good private schools in India's biggest cities.


Why does school education remain a shaming embodiment of India's shortage economy? There is massive demand; parents have paying capacity; entrepreneurs and service providers are ever willing to fill the gap. However, policy angularities and an over-bureaucratised regulatory system present an overwhelming obstacle. City authorities determine school fees, place ceilings on the size of schools, make it near impossible to change land use to open new schools. All this is happening even in Delhi, India's capital.


As per Delhi Development Authority (DDA) regulations, no new school (nursery-class XII) in the city can extend beyond four acres. That apart, land use norms meant to protect residential areas from encroachment by factories and commercial complexes are being misconstrued. State and city governments routinely use them to prevent the setting up of schools in residential neighbourhoods even if they benefit rather than endanger the local community.


The crux of the issue is the state's encroachment upon the autonomy of private, unaided schools, and its cussed refusal to facilitate remunerative pricing of school education services. The fees issue is the thin end of the wedge. State governments use it to bully and tighten their influence on private schools. These schools are asked to get clearance, and frequently denied clearance, for a fee hike. The matter is painted in vulgar terms: so-called "elite" schools are accused of "profiteering", without any larger "social responsibility".


In its judgement in TMA Pai Foundation vs State of Karnataka (2002), an 11-member bench of the Supreme Court made a perceptive comment: "There is no compulsion on students to attend private schools. The rush for admission is occasioned by the standards maintained in such schools and recognition of the fact that state-run schools do not provide the same standards of education. The state says it has no funds to establish institutions at the same level of excellence as private schools. But by curtailing the income of such private schools, it disables those schools from affording the best facilities because of lack of funds."


How does this happen? Consider an ongoing controversy. Seventy-five per cent of the running expenses of a private school go towards staff salaries, human resource being critical to institutional quality and reputation. In 2008, the Sixth Central Pay Commission submitted its report to the government of India. As a consequence of its acceptance, in 2009 there was a knock-on revision of wages by state governments. As such, government schoolteachers in some states found their salaries going up by 60 per cent.


Obviously private schools were also obliged to increase their salaries. There was both a market and a regulatory principle at work here. As per the Delhi School Education (DSE) Act, 1973, private schools cannot have a lower salary matrix than government schools. The DSE Act is a particularly draconian piece of legislation that requires private schools to seek prior permission for even routine administrative tasks.

Theoretically, the DSE Act is limited to Delhi. Even so, it has become the template being used by a variety of state governments to "fix" private schools. It is increasingly cited by authorities in states such as UP, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Assam.


In 2009, after the Pay Commission award and its cascading impact, private schools sought to raise fees. In Delhi, the state government allowed private schools to charge Rs 4,500 as a one-time fee and raise regular fees by up to Rs 500 a month. When it came to permission for the annual fee hike in April 2010, however, another controversy was triggered. The only school allowed to cross the Rs 500 barrier and take its fees further was Sanskriti School, run by the Central Civil Services Society!

 

In Mumbai, ministers and bureaucrats ran a media campaign against private schools and then appointed Kumud Bansal, former secretary in the Union human resource development ministry, as head of a committee to the study the "Fee Structure for Un-Aided Schools". In October 2009, the Bansal panel submitted its report. Citing court judgements and case law, it recommended "private unaided schools should have the autonomy to fix the school fees". It also argued that a "reasonable surplus" of "up to 15 per cent of the total revenue" could be retained by the school for future investment, and that this would not amount to profiteering.

 

Will Maharashtra accept the Bansal report? In nine months, the state government has not made up its mind. Meanwhile, schools and governments in Delhi and other states are waiting for that big decision in Mumbai. It will set a precedent and leave its mark on the future and viability of private schools across India.

The writer is a political commentator

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

INTERVIEW

'I DIDN'T REALISE THE FURORE AND IMPACT I'D CREATED'

Zeenat Aman was among the top Bollywood heroines in the 1970s and 80s. As she returns to the silver screen after a considerable gap with director Anil Sharma's forthcoming film, Dunno Y... Naa Jaane Kyon, the actress spoke to Meenakshi Sinha :


How do you feel about the comeback?

I have a problem with the word comeback. I don't like the word because it has a connotation that one is out of the scene for many years. Post my marriage (to Mazhar Khan) i was completely involved in motherhood raising my two sons. It was very important for me to spend quality time with them. Then their father fell seriously ill and all my time went in tending to him till he passed away. But in between, i tested the waters with odd roles like the ones in Bhopal Express, Jaana... Let's Fall in Love, Ugli Aur Pagli, did theatre with Sanjay Garodia and kept myself busy with the kind of projects and people i wanted to work with.

 

But these were not major projects.

One has to take appropriate roles and can't be a laughing stock. I have to make choices from what's been offered to me. It's a male-dominated industry and one has to face that reality. Many ladies of my time bemoan the lack of roles of their calibre. I feel there should be more scripts for people like us. Look at the West; they have wonderful films like the ones done by Meryl Streep or Susan Sarandon.


Why can't we have that in India? Mr Bachchan, with whom your pairing was a rage at one time, does get to experiment with roles even today.

Like i said, it's a male-dominated industry and that's the reality one should acknowledge. But i think he's fabulous as an artist. He knows his craft exceedingly well. I wish we get some opportunity like he does and wish him many more such roles.

 

You set a bold, sexy trend. Was it difficult to break the stereotype of a conventional heroine of the 1970s?

I wasn't planning any such move nor had any fixed plans. I was just being myself. Having studied abroad, my outlook towards life was far more open. Many years later, when i would read in magazines that i broke x amount of trends, got many publicity titles and accolades for it, i said 'thank you'. I simply didn't realise the furore and impact i'd created.


Being a Navketan discovery, please comment on your relations with Dev Anand.

I became a star in Navketan. Then Nasir Hussain offered me Yaadon Ki Baraat. It was followed by B R Chopra's Dhund, Insaaf Ka Tarazu, Dharam Veer, Don, Laawaris, Qurbani etc. I did more than 90 films as a female protagonist. When Hare Rama Hare Krishna was offered to me by Dev Saab, i was on my way to Europe to live with my mother in Germany and study languages. I knew nothing about films. But Dev Saab took me to Kathmandu for the film's shooting and urged me to wait till its release. When the film became a huge hit, there was no looking back. It's only in the last few years that i've paused and looked back to realise what my career was all about.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

PAYBACK TIME

 

What goes around comes around is an old American saying. But it seems apt for English sport right now. Before they were knocked out in the semifinals of the FIFA World Cup, the Germans had laughed all the way there after their second round encounter with England in which the referee denied Frank Lampard a goal in the first half that would have tied the score at 2-2 and given fresh hope to a beleaguered English squad. The ball clearly crossed the goal line before the German goal-keeper coolly picked up the rebound as if nothing untoward had happened.


My very first sporting memory was at the tender age of seven when my elder brother, father and i cheered as England won the World Cup for the first and only time, at Wembley in 1966.


We were watching in black and white colour came to the BBC one year later while living in a suburb of London that was down the road from the Wembley stadium. And it was Geoff Hurst's controversial rebound goal that gave the home side the vital lead in extra time before they scored one more to make it 4-2 against West Germany.

What has this got to do with cricket? Plenty. Historically, England had much their own way having invented cricket (as well as football and practically every other modern-day sport) and often joined hands with their Australian friends to dictate terms to the rest of the world of cricket. How times have changed!


There was nothing friendly, though, between the two nations when the ruthless Douglas Jardine unleashed his secret weapon of 'Bodyline' with his loyal spearhead Harold Larwood firing on all cylinders. The poor Aussies barely knew what hit them and were black and blue by the time they lost the Ashes 4-1 on their home soil in 1932-33.

'Bodyline' was primarily aimed at the prodigious scoring powers of Donald Bradman who must have spent World War II plotting his revenge. He got it in 1948 on his final tour of England when the tour conditions stipulated the new ball could be taken after just 55 overs. Before that the rule was once 200 runs were scored which usually took more than 60 overs.


Now it was Bradman's turn to lick his lips as he let loose the cannonballs of Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall and this time the scoreline was 4-0 in favour of 'Bradman's Invincibles'.


It was the Anglo-Australian nexus that allowed the abhorrent apartheid-era South African teams to have their way for 81 years till they were banned from international cricket in 1970 and spent the next 21 years in bitter isolation.

Imagine a situation where a nation refused to include any player with even a drop of non-white blood and declined to play against the non-white nations, settling for contests against only New Zealand, England and Australia. It all sounds so medieval and barbaric now.


The 'rebel' tours of South Africa in the 1980s decimated English and Australian cricket over multiple series while the single visits by a rebel Sri Lankan and West Indian team failed to have much negative impact on the island nations even though they were widely condemned.

 

'Can We Have Our Balls Back, Please? How the British Invented Sport (and then almost forgot how to play it)' is the amusing title of a recent book. It should make for fascinating and topical reading.


The writer is a sports journalist.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

SRINAGAR DEAF TO KASHMIR

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has lost control of his state. The question now is whether he can recover it. Unfortunately, going by the facts on the ground that have culminated in the deployment of the Indian Army as a "deterrent" to enforce peace and order around, if not in Srinagar, for the first time since at least 15 years, it doesn't even seem that Mr Abdullah is too keen to wrest control. His knee-jerk reaction has been to pass the buck to the Centre, the traditional manoeuvre for Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers, by blaming the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) for 'losing control' and by talking of New Delhi's supposed desire to maintain a stranglehold on Kashmiri politics by shying away from any 'internal dialogue' involving all parties embroiled in the mess.

But the fact that Mr Abdullah, in the last 18 months since he became chief minister, has behaved solely as a National Conference leader — as opposed to a Jammu and Kashmir chief minister — has been exposed by the fact that even in flashpoints such as the Shopian murders and Amarnath land issues, he has first gauged the political repercussions of handling them and then the needs pertaining to governance and administration.

The Cabinet Committee on Security that met in Delhi to deal with the spiralling Kashmir crisis rightly decided to 'let' the state administration take control of the situation. Letting the army out on the streets of Srinagar is an invitation to be left holding the can when New Delhi is quite vociferously trying to make the J&K government do its mandated job: to govern Kashmir. Mr Abdullah has also failed to take advantage of the situation when he won the 2009 assembly elections of building trust between Srinagar and Kashmiris. A moot case has been the disinterest in firming up the J&K Police force as an 'independent' security unit not perceived as falling into line whenever Delhi blows the whistle. When a chief minister talks about the need to lift the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act one day and then states the next day that the time isn't ready to lift it, one is not only left wondering what he really has in mind but also whether he has any intention of taking control as the chief minister of a beleaguered state that needs a firm hand and not a display of reactionary Centre-state politics. Much more than protection via the Indian Army, what Kashmir really needs is protection via its own state government, and dare we say from it.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

IT'S A SMALL-ER WORLD

The ultimate in size reduction happened this week with scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland concluding that the proton, a basic subatomic building block of all matter, has a radius four per cent less than was originally believed. The amount may sound small — and it's indeed mind-bogglingly small — but its implications may shake the foundations of nuclear physics. The proton's dimensions were worked out by analysing its interaction with the much smaller electron, which was replaced with a larger particle called a muon. Its larger size meant muon's interactions with the proton were greater. This allowed the latter's dimensions to be determined with greater accuracy.

What makes this important is that the properties of the proton and its ilk have been the foundation stone for almost all contemporary physics. The so-called standard model that physicists use to explain the subatomic universe, black holes and galaxies is derived from human understanding of these particles. A four per cent size reduction is enormous in a scientific world where major measurement changes are normally several places to the right of a decimal point. If the proton weighs less, this means, for example, the universe as a whole has significantly less mass than was once assumed. This, in turn, could mean the universe will expand faster than is being presently predicted. The sun may burn differently than is now believed. And it goes on.

It could also mean that the present understanding of how electronic machinery works could be flawed. The findings are being re-tested by other scientists. And just because the theory behind them may change, it doesn't mean the reality that one's television, laptop or light switch works has changed. Textbooks, however, may have to be revised and some space-and-star film plots may be deemed to have more fiction and less science than once believed.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

LOST LAW, LOST PEOPLE

SAMAR HALARNKAR

 

"When I told a government official that Pesa allows us to determine our policy on liquor trade in the village, he shot back, 'Are you trying to teach me the law? If you are so knowledgeable about the law, why are you living here in your village in the forest? Why don't you go and speak in the Orissa assembly?'"

Fulsingh Naik, resident of Mandibisi (Rayagada, West Orissa), December 2009, recounting a conversation he had inside a prison cell with a policeman who had jailed him for leading community protests against a country liquor shop in their village.

"Is the government meant for the people or the powerful?"

Mahangu Madiya, a resident of Dhuragaon (Bastar, south Chhattisgarh), July 2009, on the government's efforts to forcibly acquire his village's farmland for  Tata Steel Limited, ignoring opposition by village councils.

These are voices from a chapter in a remarkably candid, government-commissioned report that explores the root causes of left-wing extremism in India's impoverished tribal heartland, the ground zero of the Maoist insurgency. The report was released by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in April — but without the chapter, titled, 'Pesa, Left-Wing Extremism and Governance: Concerns and Challenges in India's Tribal Districts'.

The report was never meant to be a State secret. It was one of Singh's departments, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, which commissioned the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (Irma), for an independent assessment of ground realities in the Maoist-dominated lands.

Acknowledging realities has never been an Indian strength. And so, after a series of tense e-mail exchanges with the bureaucrats of a ministry that is responsible for encouraging the spread of democracy — the officials wanted the story 'edited' to remove 'extreme views'; the authors resisted — the study was released with the concerned chapter excised.

I've had this missing chapter with me for the past two months, but I am writing about it only now because Irma was wary of tangling with the ministry, its hypersensitive bureaucrats and its minister, C.P. Joshi, who denies knowledge of the missing chapter. When my colleague Prasad Nichenametla asked A.N.P. Sinha, Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, why this happened, this was the response: "I do not care what a professor or an attender at Irma says. Ask the director why it was deleted."

That attitude is emblematic of the larger Indian approach to the Maoist insurgency. First, ignore local protests over acquisition of tribal land and exploitation of resources. Second, quell protests and the violence that follows. Third, as local protests over the years flare into India's greatest internal-security threat, pour in 66,000 paramilitary troops. Fourth, try to find out what went wrong in the first place — but ignore what you don't like to hear.

In addressing this hapless déjà vu, Irma's report focused on the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act — or Pesa — passed by Parliament in 1996 to "mark the beginning of a new era in the history of tribal people", as Dileep Singh Bhuria, Chairman of the parliamentary committee then said. Under Pesa, villages were considered competent to safeguard and preserve their culture and tradition, control natural resources (like mineral rights, land, water and forest produce) and settle their disputes. The Act, described by researchers as a "constitution within the constitution", devolves democracy to its most basic unit, the gram sabha, the council of adult members of a habitation — as opposed to the gram panchayat, an elected council of a group of villages cobbled together for administrative reasons — and tries to reconcile the tribal world of ancient tradition with a modern India that is governed by laws.

It's not hard to understand why Pesa was never implemented and why tribals continue to be cajoled, tricked or simply pushed off their lands.

About 80 per cent of India's mineral wealth and 70 per cent of forests are in tribal areas. Tribals constitute about 8 per cent of India's population. But, as one government official recently told me, their lands account for some 40 per cent of all land acquisitions.

This happens because India persists with a 116-year-old colonial law, the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. This archaic law doesn't recognise indigenous rights and allows few remedies to remote, tribal communities whose only experience with government is its heavy hand, as interviews in the Irma report reveal.

The report's authors (an Irma professor and a Fulbright scholar) encountered frightened tribals, often non-cooperative government officials, and the power of Pesa successfully diluted by keeping it hidden from the people whose lives it was supposed to change. Except Madhya Pradesh, none of the nine states in the red corridor has bothered to create a process of consultation before acquiring tribal land. Barring Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the states haven't even theoretically transferred powers to gram sabhas. Even in these two states where local legislation is most advanced, gram sabhas have the power to 'consult' but not 'consent'. Jharkhand simply says anything the villages decide, the government can overrule.

Essentially, "a damaging mix of misgovernance, alienation, violent insurgency, and counter-violence by the state as well as non-state actors" is rendering Pesa "weak, or even meaningless", says the censored chapter.

The government needs to quickly understand that finding an answer to the insurgency involves greater, not lesser, democracy and discussion. Releasing the censored chapter would be a good place to start.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ORACLE PAUL, DO TELL US ALL!

SUHEL SETH

I  believe the biggest contribution of the animal kingdom to the modern world has been Paul the psychic octopus. He's been able to predict results of matches in the World Cup. But more than any other country, India needs Paul because, somehow, there seems to be no one in our country who can provide answers to some real basic issues.

So here's an open letter to Paul, from a concerned Indian:

Dear Paul,

Given how busy you are, I am going to keep this simple. Let me have the answers to these questions once you're done with the World Cup:

* When will our country send players, not administrators to the World Cup? I believe every Indian administrator, suspended or otherwise, is in South Africa as we speak.

* When can we hope to have roads that don't cave in every time they are re-built or when it rains?

* Will the Commonwealth Games be held in Delhi in 2010 and will Prince Charles be able to land in Delhi since the new terminal has been inaugurated but no flights are flying from there?

* When will Prime Minister Manmohan Singh award the Nehru Prize for Humanity to A. Raja for honesty and transparency in good governance? And will it help if we propose Raja's name for the Fields Medal, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in mathematics, since the telecommunications minister is obviously good with calculating large numbers?

* When can we hope to have Rahul Gandhi in the Cabinet so that the world's youngest nation can actually also have a youthful cabinet? Or will we have to wait for Arjun Singh to break his silence on Bhopal?

* When will Murli Deora address India's Parliament coherently on the oil price increase? Or shall we just wait for the Abhishek Singhvis and the Manish Tiwaris to tell us all?

* When will Nitin Gadkari stop fainting in winter and actually get the BJP to be an effective opposition to the otherwise so generous Congress? Or, for that matter, when will Sushma Swaraj work with the Reddy brothers in Bellary to help them export iron ore?

* Will the Congress ever embrace dynastic politics and give up this silly 'inner-party democracy' that it keeps talking about?

* Will the DMK ever change its slogan to 'Delhi money for Karunanidhi'? It's so much more hip and contemporary. It's also pan-Indian.

* Can we ever hope for the return of Amar Singh in politics (that's if he's actually left)?

* Given his stupendous contribution to nation-building, when we can hope that Sant Chatwal gets the Bharat Ratna but not posthumously?

* Will India ever have a Planning Commission that works and which Kamal Nath loves?

* Will Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee be willing to join Mamata Banerjee owing to his deep affection for Prakash Karat?

* Can India ever hope to create a balancing act by finally getting some corrupt ministers in the Union Cabinet? Or will we suffocate with sickness at the high moral quotient of the present Cabinet?

* When will Mayawati ever throw grand birthday jamborees and wear garlands made of paper? Her abstinence from anything materialistic is such a welcome change in Indian politics.

* When will the government begin harming Air India so that we can then sell it to Jet Airways — and that the history books can call the change 'From Tata to Goyal'?

* When will Karan Johar make a film that talks about the Indian family and Indian weddings?

* And finally, when will some of our very rich industrialists slow down on all the philanthropy they are doing? The amount they and the NRI lot are giving back to India is overwhelming. Last week, I wept when the Hindujas told me they'd bought a bank in Europe to help Moradabad.

Pray, tell all, Paul. And hopefully, before the next Five-Year Plan is published.

(Suhel Seth is the CEO of Counselage, a Delhi-based brand and marketing consultancy The views expressed by the author are personal)

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

CBI FOR AN EYE

KUMAR BAADAL

June 26, 2002, marked the 27th anniversary of the imposition of a 'state of Emergency' by the Congress. It was on that very day that the NDA government instructed the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI)  to raid the Tehelka office, where I was a journalist, and my residence. The CBI, in an effort to be more loyal than the king, barged in and ransacked my house and the Tehelka office to gather evidence for alleged poaching. Even after standing trial for eight years (it's still in the pre-trial stage), no incriminating evidence has been found.

Eight years later, the constituents of the same NDA government are crying hoarse accusing the present UPA government of misusing the CBI. BJP leaders have even demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe on the CBI's misuse. If this isn't deeply ironic, I don't know what is.

The problem with the BJP, the country's main Opposition party, is its moral hollowness. It's quick to accuse the Congress for the anti-Sikh 1984 riots but doesn't consider the 2002 Gujarat riots to be in the same league. It accuses the Congress of the Bofors scandal, but it has a ready defence for the BJP's involvement in corruption in acquiring defence contracts. It is vociferous in accusing the Congress of shielding Union Carbide's Warren Anderson, but it did nothing to extradite him when it was in power.

As for the CBI, its impartiality and independence won't stand the test of fair play. Its officers never state 'who gave the orders' but go blindly where they are directed. Later, the same people who have used it to their advantage, accuse it of being a 'hound'. In the process, the CBI has lost the very foundation on which it stands: public trust.

(Kumar Baadal is the editor of www.indiainvestigates.com The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BE GRATEFUL, PATIENT

RANJANA GYANCHANDANI

Sometimes despite dedication and commitment things go wrong. That's when it's important to remember that god has something good for us. Someone once said 'Agar apni marzi ka ho toh acha, aur agar apni marzi ka na ho to aur bhi acha, kyunki phir vo bhagwaan ki marz ka hota hai'. There is a beautiful story that comes to mind:

One day a kid on earth came to know that god was distributing apples to humans in heaven. He was so excited that he went to heaven to get an apple from god. There was a big queue and this kid joined it. When his turn came, the kid held out both its hands to receive the much-coveted present.

God gave him a big apple but his tiny hands couldn't hold it. It fell down and rolled away in the muck. The kid was disappointed. God's ministers informed him that he would have to join the queue again if he wanted another apple. The kid didn't want to return empty handed so he joined the queue again.

This time the queue was even longer than the previous one. While waiting, the kid watched people returning with apples looking extremely satisfied. The kid thought, "Why didn't I only get the apple when everyone else got it so easily?"

When his turn came, god gave the apple to the kid and said, "My dear child, last time after giving you the apple, I noticed that the apple I gave you was a rotten one and that's why I made it fall from your hands. Having given you a rotten apple, I felt bad and wanted to give you the best apple in the farm. At that time the best apple in the farm was growing and that's why I made you wait for so long. Now the apple which I have given you, is the best apple grown in the farm till date."

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NEWS FROM HAVANA

 

Is America's "last dictatorship" coming in from the cold? For the international community and human rights groups, the Cuban government's decision to release 52 political prisoners, five of them immediately, over the next few months is the best news from Havana since the 1998 release of 101 detainees during Pope John Paul II's visit. The 52 to be released now were all arrested during the March 2003 crackdown on dissenters. However, there are two facts to be noted: first, the release will still leave more than 100 political prisoners in Cuban jails; second, those being set free will be taken in by Spain, along with their families.

 

So there'll still remain a sizeable number of political detainees and "prisoners of conscience" in jail. Nor is the liberty granted total. These 52 will practically be in forced exile in Spain. That's why, there is scepticism about the whole business — that it's no more than a PR exercise by President Raúl Castro, especially in view of the internationl pressure exerted on Havana after the death of a hunger striker in February and the continuing critical condition of another.

 

Nevertheless, Raúl Castro was not expected to usher in radical or overnight change after taking over from his brother, Fidel. Nor had Cuba ever acknowledged the existence of political prisoners, rhetorically calling them mercenaries on the US payroll. Therefore, the success of the Spanish government and the Roman Catholic Church in negotiating this change of heart and policy is significant. History may or may not vindicate Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos for calling this "a new era in Cuba". But many Cubans — like the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), a movement of wives, mothers and children of detainees — sense a new dawn. Meanwhile, Spain is urging the EU to soften its common position on Cuba.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HARD TO DIGEST

 

Along with expanded availability and access, safety is one of the three prongs of food security. However, we in India have shockingly little control over the quality of the food we consume — apart from flat-out contami-nation at the level of agricultural produce to the hidden dangers of additives and preservatives and flavours, which can contain benzoates, glutamates, mono- and di-glycerides, nitrates, nitrites, and sulfites, all of which are linked with serious health hazards.

 

Obviously, processed food is not a scourge of the magnitude it is in certain Western countries — where people like Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan have written jeremiads on the iniquities of "industrial food". It is often a matter of competing priorities. After all, on a limited budget, should policy-makers worry more about the sliver of a chance that a food ingredient poses a long-term carcenogenic danger, when a far bigger and inexcusable problem is systemic malnutrition? We strike bargains because of the large demands placed on us — using more preservatives and additives for minimal spoiling, given tightly stretched transport and storage logistics. Also, given that 90 per cent of the Indian food market is in the unorganised sector, it is difficult to control for chemical content in all the nodes in the supply chain.

 

India's spotty food safety situation is not because of a lack of legal instruments — the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India formed in 2005 has exacting standards, so much so that farmers were up in arms about the extent of punishment for adulteration (the fine is six times as much as that of the earlier Food Adulteration Act). However, enforcement duties are dispersed among various Central and state authorities. What's more, many of the FSSA Act's rules are yet to be notified and there is little awareness of its requirements. Chew on this: a FICCI study found last month that over 30 per cent of its respondents from the food processing industry were oblivious to the very existence of the FSSA Act. If anything is to change, it must come from the industry itself, as it realises that in an increasingly sophisticated market, reputation rides on good business practices.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

PRICE OF A BANDH

BIBEK DEBROY

 

The DNA of industry chambers is anti-bandh. Perhaps that's the reason why industry chambers are the only ones who immediately come out with figures on losses from bandhs, to illustrate what a terrible idea a bandh is. For the Bharat Bandh of July 5, we have three sets of figures floating around —

 

CII (Rs 3,000 crore), Assocham (Rs 10,000 crore) and FICCI (Rs 13,000 crore). That's quite a range. How do industry chambers arrive at such figures, when professional economists and statisticians fear to tread such hazardous ground? First, we arrive at a GDP figure for 2010-11. We know the GDP figure for 2009-10. That happens to be Rs 57,91,268 crore in current prices. Nominal GDP growth will be around 12.5 per cent. Therefore, GDP in 2010-11 will be of the order of Rs 65,15,177 crore. This is spread over 365 days. Per day, GDP is Rs 17,849 crore. That ought to be the loss because of bandh. As far as one can make out, there are three reasons why there is such a range, though principles used are similar. First, sometimes one uses 2009-10 rather than a 2010-11 GDP figure. Second, sometimes one uses real GDP growth rather than nominal GDP growth on the 2009-10 base. Third, there are differences on how much of a day's GDP is estimated to have been wiped out. Is it 100 per cent or less? Voila, we have the figure, like a rabbit out of a hat!

 

How many holidays are there in India? There is no simple answer. We have 14 compulsory (gazetted) national holidays, three additional holidays from a list of 12, and restricted holidays, with the last numbering 34 (no exaggeration) for Delhi government offices in 2010. There are state-level variations, especially religious ones, thrown in. But on an average, we are certainly talking about at least 50 holidays.

 

Since we are fond of making comparisons with China, there are seven national public holidays there. Our favourite country now, the United States, has 11 federal holidays. We clearly have too many holidays. There have been suggestions (such as Pay Commission recommendations) that there should be fewer holidays, perhaps 11. Three national holidays (January 26, August 15, October 2) and eight that an individual chooses and opts for, depending on his/ her religious preferences. There are compelling arguments against religion-based holidays in a secular country. Assuming we should have 11 holidays, we have around 39 in excess. That's a loss of 39 multiplied by 17,849 or

 

Rs 6,96,111 crore a year. Or so it would seem, if one uses the kind of calculations the chambers do. This is quite apart from Sundays and/ or Saturdays. It is a separate matter that last Sunday, we went for a film and ate out. Film theatres, restaurants and shops were open.

 

Yes, we have too many holidays. But the assumption that a country's GDP machine stops working on holidays is false. This is common sense and obvious. Why is it that in the context of a bandh this becomes less obvious? Let's look at the CSO's factor cost contributions of GDP and there are eight of these — agriculture, forestry and fishing, mining and quarrying, manufacturing, electricity, gas and water supply, construction, trade, hotels, transport and communication, financing, insurance, real estate and business services, and community, social and personal services. Bandhs are urban phenomena, even metro phenomena. At best, they spill over into some semi-urban areas. Of those eight listed, agriculture, forestry and fishing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply are almost completely outside the purview of any bandh. Of the base of Rs 57,91,268 crore in 2009-10, one has thus shaved off Rs 12,12,348 crore immediately. What is left is still substantial. But even then, there is a problem. Cessation of economic activity on a specific date is often not a permanent loss. It is recouped on the succeeding working day, assuming a bandh is a 6 am to 6 pm type and not more permanent. This recouping effect is also true of visibly disrupted sectors like transport.

 

GDP computations muddy waters more. GDP is value of goods and services, price multiplied by volume. Even if there is a volume dip for 12 hours on a particular day, will the price decline? To state it differently, will anyone's wages be deducted for that single day? Therefore, GDP-wise, such bandhs are only pertinent for those whose earnings are affected by a single day's disruption in urban India — daily wage earners and self-employed (own account enterprises). In urban India, we have around 14 million in the first category and around 21 million in the second category. For the first category, at Rs 100 per day, the loss is Rs 140 crore, assuming a bandh disrupts all urban India and not just states where non-Congress parties dominate. For the second category, there is a further catch. Unlike the first category of daily wage earners, for own account enterprises, economic activity revives post 6 pm and recoups a bit on the day of the bandh itself. Even if one assumes Rs 200 per day (this is actually on the high side) for 21 million self-employed, assumes there is no recouping post 6 pm and universal bandh across states, we have a loss of Rs 420 crore. That's a total of Rs 560 crore. But because of those caveats, this is the higher end of the range. In all probability, the loss is lower, more like Rs 250 crore. This is far out of line with scary numbers touted by industry chambers.

 

This isn't a justification for bandhs. On the contrary, such disaggregation establishes why bandhs are anti-poor. In urban India, unskilled daily wage earners are at the lowest end of the spectrum. Bandhs aren't distributionally neutral. A Rs 140 crore shock to them is difficult to absorb. A Rs 3,000 crore shock to the rest of the economy (assuming that figure was true) is easier to absorb. Flight and rail disruptions, so evident on electronic media, aren't the real problem. There is inflation too, proximate reason for the bandh. Inflation has rightly been described as a regressive tax, because of its anti-poor distributional angle. Employment in the organised sector and formal employment in the unorganised sector (this exists too) is relatively protected because of wage indexation to inflation. If one sticks to urban India (rural India is somewhat different), there is also wage indexation for much of informal employment in the unorganised sector, even if it is less than adequate. Think of what has been called the ABCD (ayah, bai, cook, driver) market. Within that urban segment, wage indexation is non-existent for own account enterprises and virtually non-existent for daily wage workers, minimum wage stipulations notwithstanding.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based economist

express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

EQUALITY BEYOND IDENTITY

TARUNABH KHAITAN

 

One of the key recommendations made by the Sachar Committee was the constitution of an Equal Opportunities Commission to end discrimination against all deprived groups and to ensure that the composition of social sectors reflects the diversity of our population. Reports of two expert committees (under Professor Menon and Professor Kundu), an open letter by the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion (Bangalore), and other academic and activist interventions had only kick-started the debate over the substantive nature of the protection that the proposed EOC should offer, when the official discourse was stalled by two turf battles.

 

Given the EOC's origins in the Sachar Committee report, and the fact that the Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had invested a good deal of political capital in the issue, the ministry of minority affairs understandably claimed that the EOC should function under its guidance. The problem was that Sachar, Menon, Kundu, other academics and activists, even Khurshid himself, agreed that the EOC should transcend identity politics to tackle discrimination against all deprived groups, instead of focusing on religious minorities alone. Given this wider ambit, the ministry of social justice considered itself the proper shepherd for a post-identity commission. This battle has now been brought to a dignified conclusion with Khurshid commendably prioritising the ecumenical character of the commission over its location in his ministry.

 

The other turf battle is more cynical. India already has myriad group-specific commissions for women, Scheduled Castes and Tribes, minorities, etc. The fear is that a deprivation-based EOC will render these identity-centric

 

bodies irrelevant. Given the circumstances, Parliament has three options. First, as the UK legislated in 2006, the existing commissions can be merged into the EOC. Secondly, the EOC could function alongside these existing commissions — in areas where their functions overlap, some system of institutional cooperation can be worked out. This solution is wasteful, but avoids the need for a constitutional amendment which the other two solutions will require. In between lies the compromise possibility of allowing the existing commissions to fade away over a period of five years or so as their personnel retire or are absorbed by the EOC.

 

Given the political attention these turf battles have received, one could be forgiven for thinking that the proposed EOC faces no other vexed questions. In the debate so far, however, apparent consensus seems to be emerging only on the following four propositions: (i) that the proposed commission should not be group-specific, but deal with discrimination against all deprived groups; (ii) that the public as well as the private sector should be included within its ambit; (iii) that civil rather than criminal law is the right tool for implementation; and (iv) that reservations are only one of several possible tools to redress discrimination. These propositions mirror global trends in anti-discrimination law. However, as soon as one moves beyond these fundamentals to the level of detail, confusion reigns. The bill drafted by the Menon Committee, although well-intentioned and praiseworthy for getting the basics right, has only added to this confusion. While the Sachar Committee was concerned with discrimination in education, employment, housing, healthcare and various other sectors, the Menon bill only includes the first two of the aforementioned sectors within the jurisdiction of the EOC.

 

Another disturbing aspect of this bill is the scant attention paid to effective implementation of the prohibition on discrimination. A bill that has elimination of discrimination as its central objective fails to include a simple declaration that discrimination is unlawful! What it conjures up instead is a behemoth of a commission which possesses all sorts of investigatory and advisory powers, but is largely powerless to directly help a victim of discrimination. Compare this to the South African Promotion of Equality and Prevention of

 

Unfair Discrimination Act, which designates every magistrates' court as an equality court and vests it with wide remedial powers.

 

Concepts such as "direct and indirect discrimination", "reasonable accommodation", "harassment", "victimisation", "affirmative action" and "diversity" have been refined over the years and become well-established in the legal vocabulary of many democratic jurisdictions. The Menon bill, while it borrows some of these concepts, fails to appreciate their nuances in light of their historical development. It is essential that we learn from jurisdictions like the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada and the European Union which have gathered decades of experience in prohibiting discrimination.

 

Moreover, it is important to assess how these concepts will translate into the Indian context. A wider public

consultation with Indian groups that have worked with women, Dalits, religious minorities, hijras, linguistic

minorities, disabled people, adivasis, gays and lesbians, people from the northeastern states, the elderly, and other deprived

 

groups alone can ensure that the resulting legislation pays more than mere lip-service to its intended beneficiaries.

 

The writer is a fellow in law at Christ Church, Oxford

 

express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A BATTLE WITH NO FRONTS

EJAZ HAIDER

 

Here's what the relatively easy war looks like. Enemy lines are defined; there is a front and a rear; the enemy wears uniform. He is the "other". You fight; you can win or lose. In any case, overt hostilities don't go beyond a certain point. True, there can be a stalemate — World War I and the Iran-Iraq war being two good examples — but even in such cases, the front is always identifiable.

 

Not so with irregular war.

 

I was standing atop Manza Sar, overlooking Makeen, headquarters of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan in South Waziristan. In the middle distance, southwest of Manza Sar, lay the destroyed compound of Baitullah Mehsud's house. Just then I heard the familiar crackling sound of an AK-47, four or five shots, single-round fire, followed by the rattle of a 12.7 mm machine gun.

 

A post nearby had been attacked. The attackers had sneaked up to it, fired a few shots, injured two jawans and extricated. Such attacks are sporadic but they take a heavy toll of troops. When the army launched Operation Rah-e Nijat, it advanced on three axes and moved in to clear the area that forms the Makeen, Kaniguram/Ladha and Sararogha triangle. The area has been cleared, high ground captured, posts are maintained, known routes blocked. The inside of the triangle is secure for the most part, as are the southeastern and southwestern peripheries. But the northern tip remains unstable.

 

There are reasons for this. The inside of the triangle, with interlocking posts, is difficult to negotiate for the insurgents and extrication is more difficult. The southeastern and southwestern peripheries are relatively stable because it is difficult for the TTP to operate in the Wazir area of Maulvi Nazir. Makeen is just south of North Waziristan, the area where the TTP has relocated and which is a witches' cauldron of multiple groups operating there. Attackers have shorter internal lines and extrication is much easier.

 

This does not mean the army can lower its guard in other areas. While capturing and clearing territory in South Waziristan, Lower Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Orakzai, etc primarily depended on difficult conventional operations, given the terrain, the holding and building phases are even more difficult. The insurgents/terrorists withdraw and melt away in the face of a stronger force but fall, for that very reason, on their inherent strength and flexibility of manoeuvre. They can keep a much larger force on constant high alert and tied down through smaller numbers. They are also protean and that is their asymmetric advantage.

 

The battlefield has no front and no rear. The TTP may have been ousted from its stronghold in South Waziristan but it can now be more elusive. It can operate from North Waziristan and in Mohmand; its affiliate groups can strike in Lower Dir and any other area of its choosing. Attacks have been prevented and pre-empted, but the insurgent-terrorist has only to succeed once.

 

It is difficult to identify the fighter and pack the punch when anyone can be a combatant, when internal lines of communication and kinship bonds work to the advantage of the insurgent who can move from the sanctuary to the preparation area to the operational area with relative ease, both in spatial and temporal senses, and when the contest relies on basic infantry weapons, low-tech improvisation and surprise.

 

TTP fighters can retreat to the sanctuary, relax, mount an attack through other cells elsewhere, bide their time, choose their targets across the country. The troops, on the other hand, have to stay alert, keep the adrenaline going, always observe track discipline, mount a massive effort for convoy movement, what the army calls ROD (Road Opening Day), and suffer sporadic casualties through sneak attacks, sniper fire, IEDs and, sometimes, ambushes and raids.

 

This raises costs for the army. Travelling through various operational areas in the past three years makes one point obvious: going in means getting tied down. Some areas, Malakand, Lower Dir and Buner being three such, have fared better. The populations are back, development is going apace, and while there are occasional suicide attacks, by and large the situation is under control.

 

The tribal agencies are a different matter. Operations in those areas have to be supplemented through effective intelligence and policing in the urban centres which are populated and provide good sanctuaries and target areas to the terrorists.

 

The attacks in Lahore are a case in point. It is now a war of wills where mistakes by the insurgents/terrorists must be leveraged against them. The attack on the shrine of Data Sahib, Lahore's patron saint, could be a game-changer. But for that to happen, political parties must rise above petty squabbling and make this a non-partisan effort.

 

The army has done its job well within the bounds of what it can do. But that also implies that it can only do this much and no more beyond the two phases of clear and hold. The civilian principals must step up to the plate. So far, they have not done so, choosing instead to score points and create further confusion. That does not instill confidence and makes the task of the army even more difficult.

 

The writer, National Affairs Editor, 'Newsweek Pakistan', is based in Lahore. The views are his own.

 

express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WORDS CAN ALSO HURT ME

NARENDRA S SISODIA

 

It is remarkable that the shockwaves sent out by General McChrystal's firing still continue to reverberate through the American military and political establishments. Removal of generals has not been so unusual in America. McArthur had to go for criticising President Truman's strategy in Korea. In another case, Truman sacked General Joseph Stilwell as his top Commander in East Asia, during World War II, for showing disrespect to China's Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-Shek, whom for some odd reason, he called "Peanut"! More recently, Admiral Fallon, head of US Central Command had to resign because of his differences with US policy on Iran and Iraq.

 

In comparison, McChrystal's folly was not half as serious. It was mainly a case of his aides indulging in contemptuous talk about civilians (not the President) with the correspondent of Rolling Stone, a music magazine. McChrystal was acknowledged as a brilliant general, carefully chosen to lead America's most crucial war yet, in the 21st century. He did not differ with Obama's Afghan strategy and never disobeyed the President. The cool and analytical President, in the midst of a floundering war, still took the huge political risk of sacking him, even after McChrystal had offered his fulsome apology. Why did he do so? What is even more remarkable is the near-consensus among non-partisan American commentators, that President Obama was right in doing so.

 

It is noteworthy that a mature democracy like the United States, where military intervention has never been a realistic possibility, considers it necessary to engage with the perennial tension of civil military relations. For Americans it is not enough that the question of civilian supremacy has been settled beyond doubt. They feel the need to grapple with the dynamic of civil-military relations continuously.

 

In India, anyone who dares to raise the question is liable to instant attack, either because the subject is considered too sensitive or because it might imply questioning the professionalism, patriotism or loyalty of the military. But the issue is relevant: we need both effective democratic oversight and an effective military. To maintain an optimum balance has to be a continuing enterprise. In this context, are there any aspects of this episode which should cause us to reflect?

 

Firstly, the principle of civilian supremacy means not only carrying out the policy directives of civilian authorities, but also refraining from pre-empting them. By discussing in public questions of force or when and how to deploy it, generals can pre-empt their leaders or vitiate policy choices. General McChrystal had attempted to do so by publicly rejecting a strategic option proposed by Vice-President Biden in an interaction at London. A Yale Professor had in a comment called McChrystal's statement "a plain violation of the principle of civilian control." Military commanders, like all government officials, need to be frank and truthful in their advice to leaders, but this advice must be given in private.

 

Second, it appears prudent to exercise good judgment in dealing with today's media. Its newer forms and speed give it unprecedented power. It can easily polarise debates. President Obama had received reports about the Rolling Stone story well before it appeared in the magazine. It had also been commented upon and judgments had been made.

 

The media has, of course, always been important. When reports of the first Indian Commander-in-Chief, General K.M. Cariappa's publicly articulated views on economic issues were brought to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's attention, he had to gently advise the redoubtable general not to address too many press conferences and in any case, stick to safer subjects.

 

Thirdly, military commanders remain accountable not only for their own conduct, but equally for that of their subordinates. General McChrystal had to pay a heavy price for the behaviour of his aides. He has been faulted for tolerating a command climate among his subordinates that appeared contemptuous of civilian authority, including presidential appointees.

 

Fourthly, President Obama has let the McChrystal go with full honour and grace, and let the American people know why he is doing so. He took care to deliver a statement in the Rose Garden, setting out in detail why he had to remove him. Contrast this to Admiral Bhagwat's departure; the admiral had usurped the government's authority to appoint himself as the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee; repeatedly defied the government; leaked sensitive information to the media; and yet managed to create an unsavoury controversy about his well-deserved removal. Was it possibly because the government had first hesitated to act and later removed him without explaining fully to the people why it was necessary to do so?

 

This is just one side of the story about nurturing the principle of civilian supremacy. Of equal importance is the need to strengthen India's defence. This will involve providing greater space to the Armed Forces in relevant decision-making structures, seeking their partnership in national security and defence policy-making and addressing issues of modernisation and 'jointness' on priority. A democratic polity is not just about civilian control but also about a military strong enough to protect it.

 

The writer is director-general of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

NOT GETTING TOGETHER

YUBARAJ GHIMIRE

 

Political parties in Nepal disappointed the country and the people once again as they collectively failed to select a prime minister by 'consensus' by July 7, the deadline President Rambaran Yadav had set. He has now extended the deadline up to July 12, but there are no signs of the political parties, especially the big three — the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M), the Nepali Congress and the the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) — rising above their party interest. The three have more than one claimant each, and they have not even come around to discussing a common minimum agenda.

 

The politics of consensus collapsed way back in July 2008 when the Nepali Congress refused to join the government led by UCPN-M chief Prachanda after it emerged as the largest party in polling for the Constituent Assembly. In the two years that followed, differences on major ingredients of the constitution only grew, and they failed to deliver the promised constitution on its deadline. The only time parties came together was to extend the life of the assembly by a year through a midnight resolution on May 28. But instead of a national unity or consensus government coming into existence, the major political parties appear more disunited and divided.

UCPN-M and UML chiefs — Prachanda and Khanal — have thrown their hat in the race, but both are in a he minority in their respective parties. In the Nepali Congress, its working Chief Sushil Koirala has come into severe criticism for having declared unilaterally — without a meeting of the parliamentary board — that Ramchandra Poudel, chief of the Congress Parliamentary Party, will be fielded as the PM candidate. Nepali Congress General Secretary K.B. Gurung has already announced his candidature for the post.

 

Should the July 12 deadline for the choice of consensus PM be missed, the house shall have to opt for a majority decision. Given the depleted authority of the party heads, it seems anyone can be proposed as a leader on the floor — but securing 301 votes in the 601-member house will not be possible without a clear alliance among the 25 political parties, including at least two of the big ones, emerging. There is no sign of that yet. Instead, the major parties are suffering from internal bickering. UCPN-M Chief Prachanda has been asked by some senior leaders that Baburam Bhattarai should be fielded as the party candidate instead of him, as that would increase the chances of other parties supporting the Maoists. But Bhattarai has not yet made public his opinion or policy differences with Prachanda, if any. All these years, Bhattarai, like Prachanda, has been stating that the UCPN-M's joining the peace and democratic process is more of a "tactic", and that the party's ultimate goal is to set up a "people's republic", a line that goes against the concept of plural democracy. Like Prachanda, Bhattarai was a party to the UCPN politburo resolution that it should enhance the level of exchange and engagement with "communist revolutionaries" all over the world and "support the Maoists" in India.

 

At home, a Maoist heading the new government — whether Prachanda or Bhattarai — is unlikely to be acceptable to other political parties as long as they are considered to be only insincerely implementing the provisions of the peace accord — including returning property it confiscated from ordinary citizens during the conflict. In essence, any alternative leadership from the UCPN-M may stand a better chance than Prachanda, provided he or she has clear alternative policies. Even so, Prachanda and Bhattarai now represent two clear poles within the party, with rank and file divided as clearly, like the Nepali Congress as well as the UML.

 

It may not have been mere coincidence that on that very July 7, ordinary citizens spent hours in long queues to greet Gyanendra Shah, the dethroned king, on his 64th birthday, with many asking that he needs to rescue the country that these leaders have pushed into a mess. Political parties may believe that the return of monarchy is not possible, but then they need to retrieve the country from the political, constitutional and economic crisis it is in.

 

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE OTHER ISRAEL

 

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, Pennsylvania. 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 hospitalised 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 organisations. The most lucid unraveling of Israel's founding mythology comes from Israeli historians. The deepest critiques of Israel's historical claims come from Israeli archaeologists (one archaeological organisation, 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?' "

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER WRONG NUMBER

 

Telecom minister A Raja continues to rain on the telecom parade. The UPA government has been trying its hardest to restrain his troublemaking powers while holding on to its alliance with the DMK. Let's take special note of how the PM himself has been trying hard to bypass the telecom minister. Very notably, Manmohan Singh got the recent allocation of 3G and broadband spectrum routed through a GoM. And just a few days ago, the PM announced that the latest Trai recommendations would also be routed through an EGoM rather than through Raja. But as his attempts to stymie the Sam Pitroda committee's recommendations for restructuring BSNL suggest, the minister seems absolutely incapable of gracefully surrendering authority. There is a particular urgency on this front. Not only is BSNL's current chairman and managing director set to retire at July end, the public sector giant is set to post losses for the first time in its history. To recapitulate, in January the PM asked the Pitroda committee to suggest how BSNL should prepare to counteract competition from the private sector, to which it has been steadily losing market share. By February, the committee had bypassed standard voluminousness to put out a succinct four-page document, with a 15-point agenda. But, just as he attempted to stymie the allocation of new telecom licences, Raja is bottlenecking the restructuring of BSNL. While the Pitroda committee concerned itself with routing BSNL back to profitability, Raja remains concerned only with defending his turf. This is unconscionable.

 

There are many things that need fixing at BSNL, but its latent potential is huge. It is the seventh largest telecom company in the world, with net assets worth Rs 88,000 crore and catering to 90 million subscribers. But its wage bill constitutes 40% of revenue compared to 5% for Bharti Airtel. Some serious restructuring is obviously essential. Towards this end, the Pitroda committee has recommended separating the posts of MD and CEO, so that BSNL would be protected from political, union and commercial pressures by a chairman, while an MD would take care of routine company business. Contrast this prospect with the present, where even a 10% divestment was stonewalled by union pressure as compared to the 30% divestment that the Pitroda committee suggests for running the company on sound commercial lines. The road to telecom change has been laid out. But with Raja at the helm, it's pretty clear that the potholes will ensure a bumpy ride.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TOWARDS INCLUSION

 

As reported in The Indian Express on Thursday, of the 60 million people that were registered with the credit bureau agency CIBIL, only 35% or just 21 million people were active in accessing credit through financial institutions. It's a strong indictment of the allegedly pro-aam aadmi bank nationalisation of 1970s that only 40% of the country's population is covered under the banking system and over 90% of rural population still have to depend on moneylenders for credit. Aggressive efforts must be made to expand the reach of credit facilities to a larger section of the population, especially in the rural areas and banks must expand their networks. To be fair, the flow of credit to the agricultural sector has expanded over the years but it is equally important that people in the hinterland get credit facilities for their other needs. In fact, commercial banks collected 9.3% of their total deposits in rural areas in 2009 but only 7.3% of the total credit was disbursed to rural people. In contrast, while banks mobilised 56.3% of the total deposits from metros, they disbursed 67.2% of the total credit. This difference in both mobilisation and distribution needs to narrow down if we are to achieve inclusive growth. Banks must develop their credit plans based on easy instalment facilities, fair rates of interest and lesser documentation, all of which would suit the requirements of the vast section of the country's population. For rural areas, banks will have to take steps towards convenient rural financing plans and schemes, as the bottom of the pyramid has a large amount of untapped credit capacity—tapped though by microfinance institutions—and default rates are negligible.

 

Of course, traditionally, Indian households have always preferred low leverage, something that becomes evident from analysing credit card usage. Indians spend just about 1% of their total annual purchases through credit cards, while the world average is around 12%. Large transactions on cards have enabled banks in the developed countries to reduce their interest rate on cards. Moreover, Indians, on an average, use just one or two credit facilities at a time—a home loan and a credit card loan or a home loan and an auto loan. Again, this is an indicator of untapped potential as incomes rise and the middle class grows more prosperous. The only feasible way to force banks to reach out is through more competition. RBI must seriously consider giving out more licences and liberalising norms for bank branches and mobile banking.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

NO BAN ON COTTON EXPORTS

SANJEEB MUKHERJEE

 

The government has partially relaxed the ban on exports of cotton, which it had imposed in April, by allowing shipments of export deals registered with it. However, no fresh export deals can be registered before the new cotton crop starts arriving in the market around October. There is also talk that from the next cotton crop season starting October 1, the government would fix the quantity of cotton that could be exported every year, so that both exporters and domestic industry do not suffer. The ban, which was imposed to check rising domestic prices that had gone up by almost 54% in the past one year, has now been partially relaxed in view of stabilising prices in domestic markets.

 

Farmers contend that banning cotton exports ultimately hurts those who were getting a good price for their produce after the global economic downturn. The textile makers argue it is the middlemen and exporters who make the cut, while the farmers remain deprived of riches. After all, textile firms have raised their price by almost 50%, citing a rise in raw material cost. One factor that is indisputable is rising domestic demand. As India targets double-digit growth, demand for textiles and other finished products will rise, fuelled by rising incomes. In fact, a recent US department of agriculture report said that domestic cotton consumption in 2010-11 in India would rise by 4.6% to 20.1 million bales, largely because of strong demand from the textile industry. With production hovering around 29-31 million bales, rising domestic consumption will continue to play a very vital role in the domestic cotton market.

 

In the times to come, domestic demand, rather than exports, will drive up cotton prices. Banning or curbing exports won't provide the right solution. The way forward should be to focus on improving domestic production and pushing output above 35 million bales annually. So, even if local demand jumps sharply, surplus could be exported. For that, apart from government and states, the industry will also have to play an active role. Encouraging the use of hybrid seeds and modern techniques would benefit all, unlike confrontations with exporters or depriving farmers of their due prices.

 

—sanjeeb.mukherjee@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHY RAMESH NEEDS TO DO IT DIFFERENTLY

DHIRAJ NAYYAR

 

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh allocated the environment and forests portfolio to Jairam Ramesh a little over a year ago, he hoped that the dynamic minister would end the licence raj created by a maze of environmental clearances granted or withheld at the discretion of the ministry of environment. The tangled web of the environment bureaucracy all too often ended up encouraging rent-seeking and corruption while stifling economic efficiency. Jairam Ramesh seemed to share that vision when he announced, "I want to preside over the liquidation of my ministry's powers to grant approvals," soon after he took charge.

 

Things have turned out quite differently though, with the Jairam Ramesh-led environment ministry putting spanners in the works of several important, high-profile and, from an economic point of view, critical projects in the past one year. The minister has clashed with Kamal Nath over his ambitious road building programme, which in Ramesh's view needs to be more environment friendly. The minister for coal, Sriprakash Jaiswal, has protested at the environment ministry's decision to block the exploration of coal blocks, apparently in heavily forested areas. And most recently, Ramesh has once again locked horns with civil aviation minister Praful Patel over the proposed Navi Mumbai airport for which the environment minister is refusing permission.

 

These are not, of course, instances of the government intimidating the private sector, but rather of one arm of the government blocking the policy initiatives of other arms of the same government. The one bit of good news in this tangle is the negligible likelihood of corruption and rent-seeking being the motivating factors for denying permission as might have been the case in the old days of industrial licence raj. A higher probability could be attached to a turf war between different arms of the government. But let's be generous in granting Jairam Ramesh and his ministry the benefit of doubt. Let us accept their claim that there are genuine environmental concerns that need to be addressed, particularly in the case of infrastructure projects and mining.

 

But even if one accepts that Kamal Nath's proposed roads may be encroaching upon protected animal sanctuaries, that allowing exploration in coal blocks where Sriprakash Jaiswal wants may lead to some deforestation, and that the Navi Mumbai airport if built where Praful Patel proposes it to be will destruct hundreds of acres of environmentally precious mangroves, one can still pin blame on the manner in which Jairam Ramesh's ministry is handling these concerns, by simply stalling the projects.

 

Frankly, it's an easy option for Jairam Ramesh. There is some instant political mileage to be gained from standing up for the environment. But by taking a hardline 'no-go' position, Ramesh is sending us back two decades to a time when there was a real belief that the twin goals of environment and development were not just contradictory but also zero-sum games. The world has come a long way since then and the environment-development discussion is no longer seen as a binary—every emerging economy needs to aspire towards both the goals with equal force. One had sincerely hoped that the forward-looking Jairam Ramesh would see this rather more clearly than his policy actions suggest.

 

It is admittedly a difficult act balancing genuine environment concerns with India's need to speed up infrastructure development—there is no escaping the fact that India needs more roads, more minerals, more airports if it is to achieve the kind of rapid growth that will lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. Fortunately, the ministry of environment and its minister are uniquely positioned to do the balancing act.

 

It is just that they need to transform from being 'granters/withholders of permission' to being 'a problem solving agency'. It should not be enough for the environment ministry to say that a certain project may damage the environment and so must be disallowed—it must suggest an alternative or find ways to minimise or neutralise the damage.

 

Take the example of the raging controversy over the Navi Mumbai airport. The Mumbai airport in Santa Cruz simply doesn't have the space for the expansion required—there is no space for a second parallel runway. So a second airport is without doubt necessary. The site identified for the Navi Mumbai airport is currently occupied by 400 acres of mangroves, which will obviously be destroyed if the airport is built there. There is, however, the option of replanting and regenerating the mangroves at an alternative location, as suggested by an expert committee of IIT-Powai and 12 other consultants. The City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra had earlier appointed the department of life sciences at Mumbai University and a US environmental services firm to act as consultants on the replantation and regeneration of the mangroves. The Union environment ministry has, for now, sent back the expert committee report. The ministry should ideally engage closely with the experts and instead of blocking the project it should strive for a solution, closely monitoring the plan for, and then implementation of, replantation and regeneration of the mangroves. These processes of rehabilitation and relocation are never smooth in India but with pressure from a proactive central ministry, it can be done, for airports, roads and mines.

 

The point is that it is feasible to reconcile the environment with infrastructure development with adequate safeguards. It is, of course, a complex challenge that will require harder work for the ministry of environment (compared to simply denying permission), but still it's hardly something that should daunt the feisty Mr Ramesh.

 

dhiraj.nayyar@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

LOOK WHERE THESE SUBSIDIES GO

P RAGHAVAN

 

The partial reduction of fertiliser and petroleum goods subsidies and the moves to improve the targeting of food subsidies have raised hopes that the government will firm up its resolve to cut wasteful spending and restore the fiscal discipline, essential for bringing down government borrowings, the money supply and inflation. Unfortunately, most political parties in the Opposition continue to blindly resist these moves. Their main grouse is that the reduction of subsidies will push up prices, reduce purchasing power and thereby consumption by the poor, who have borne the brunt of the spike in inflation.

 

While it is true that some of the food subsidies do bring relief to the poor in parts of the country, the evidence is that most of the petroleum product and fertiliser subsidies flow to the most undeserving areas. This is brought out by a study on the flow of central subsidies to the states by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy titled Interstate distribution of central expenditure and subsidies.

 

The study shows that the per capita subsidies on petroleum, food and fertilisers averaged Rs 919 per person in the 29 major states and union territories in the second half of the decade. Western India, one of the most affluent in the country, benefited most from these subsides, with their per capita subsidy averaging Rs 1,067 annually. In sharp contrast, the per capita subsidy flows to the northeast, one of the poorest regions in the country, was almost a third lower at Rs 733, while the flows to the other regions were within these two outliers.

 

The disparities in the distribution of central subsidies on petroleum products, food and fertiliser becomes even more glaring when one looks at the state level flows. The numbers show that the average per capita subsidy on these three products were the highest in the richest states. Goa had the highest per capita subsidy of Rs 1,759, followed by Punjab (Rs 1,652), Haryana (Rs 1,537) and Tamil Nadu (Rs 1,215). In contrast, the poorest states received the lowest per capita subsidies—Manipur (Rs 562), Nagaland (Rs 560), Jharkhand (Rs 521) and Bihar (Rs 444).

 

But the overall picture hides the sharp variations in the flow of subsidies across products, regions and states. For instance, the western region benefited most from subsidies on petroleum products, the northeastern from the food and the northern region from fertilisers.

 

While the per capita subsidy on petroleum products in the western region was Rs 715, the benefits from the petroleum subsidies was least in the northeast region, where the per capita benefit was just Rs 394, less than half of that in the more affluent western part.

 

The regional distribution of food subsidies is in sharp contrast to that of petroleum products. Here, the western region is the smallest beneficiary and the northeastern region is the biggest gainer. The gains to the northeastern states, where the annual per capita food subsidy was Rs 308, was more than three times higher than the western region, where the average per capita food subsidy was only Rs 141. The region with the second highest average per capita food subsidy was the south at Rs 280, followed by the east and north at Rs 225 and Rs 159, respectively.

 

But what is most striking about the food subsidies is the wide disparities across the states. The numbers show that the biggest gainers from the food subsidies were in the far-flung northeast, with Sikkim leading the pack. Their annual per capita subsidy was Rs 439, followed by Tamil Nadu and Mizoram. In contrast, the lowest food subsidy was in the rich states of Haryana, Goa and Punjab, with the per capita food subsidy in the last at only Rs 18, just 4% of the per capita food subsidy in Sikkim.

 

The ranking of the beneficiary regions varies sharply, once again, when it comes to fertiliser subsidies. The biggest gainers were the northern states, followed by the southern, western, eastern and the northeastern regions. And the biggest gainer of the fertiliser subsidy was Punjab, with a per capita benefit of Rs 791, a hundred times larger than of the fertiliser subsidy in Nagaland, where the benefit was a meagre Re 0.22 per capita.

 

So by trying to defend the these lopsided fertiliser and petroleum subsidies, cornered by the most affluent states, the biggest loser is the Opposition group. A better campaign would have focused on targeting subsidies to the most deserving, while pruning wasteful spending by the government.

 

—p.raghavan@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LAST TWO STANDING

 

With Spain joining the Netherlands for the final at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday, the FIFA World Cup will see a first-time winner. For Spain, which started as joint favourite with Brazil but whose World Cup record is poor, this is the first appearance in a final. The Netherlands, which lost to Germany in 1974 and to Argentina in 1978, is hoping to get third time lucky. On the previous three occasions the World Cup saw a first-time winner — France in 1998, Argentina in 1978, and England in 1966 — the triumphs were all on home soil. One of the finalists will join Brazil and Germany as the only teams to have won their first title away from home. Although the Spaniards seemed to control the flow of the game in all their matches except the very first, which they lost to Switzerland, they have not found the net as often as they would have liked to. Unlike Germany or Argentina, who looked to attack all the time and overwhelmed weaker opponents, they have not scored more than two goals in any match. Four of their five wins have been by the narrowest of margins. Yet, with their version of possession football, dominated by short passes with quick release of the ball and painstakingly slow progress toward goal-scoring positions, they have smothered opponents. Germany was never given the space or the freedom by the Spanish midfield, organised around Xavi and Andres Iniesta, which was quicker in falling back without the ball than in pushing ahead with it. Despite promising much, the youthful Germans, who clearly missed Thomas Mueller owing to suspension, were unable to run past the Spanish defence.

 

The Netherlands, which has won all its matches so far within regulation time, was clinical in both defence and

attack, never doing more than what it needed to do. The Dutch won their opening match against the Danes by a two-goal margin, but in every subsequent match, only one goal separated them from the loser. But at no point in their matches did Oranje seem short of confidence, not even when they were a goal down against Brazil. Although they pale in comparison with the 1970s team that was synonymous with Total Football, Bert van Marwijk's men have what it takes to win the FIFA World Cup. Both Spain and the Netherlands have enjoyed their share of luck during the tournament, but then, the better teams are also likely to be luckier. In any case, none should grudge the role of luck in sport, and certainly not in a World Cup where Paul the German octopus is enjoying hundred per cent strike rate in picking winners. Breaking its rule not to soothsay about any game not involving Germany, the psychic mollusc will pick the winner of the final. It will surely pick Spain. In any case we do.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

VULTURES CLING ON

 

The successful captive breeding of vultures belonging to three critically endangered species in the flagship conservation centre at Pinjore in Haryana could be a turning point in the struggle to save these birds from extinction in the subcontinent. For many years now, conservation organisations such as the Bombay Natural History Society and its international partner agencies have been working diligently to bring the carrion feeders back from the brink. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests must be commended for recognising, and acting on, the fast-spreading crisis that threatened the future of three species — the oriental white-backed, slender-billed and long-billed vultures. The action plan it formulated and adopted four years ago for their protection has begun to deliver. The real breakthrough came when scientific investigations identified the veterinary drug diclofenac as the cause of fatal visceral gout, which led to the crash in populations during the 1990s. Vultures feasting on carrion of cattle that carried traces of the drug perished not just in India but in neighbouring countries as well. That research consensus helped governments in the major range countries — India, Nepal and Pakistan — to impose a ban on diclofenac veterinary formulations.

 

The challenge before conservationists now is to create 'safe zones' in areas where both rare populations and captive-bred birds can survive. Such areas require a mix of community participation, substitution of diclofenac with the benign drug meloxicam, and projects to acquire large numbers of dying cattle that pose no toxic risk. There are encouraging results from such measures in Nepal. Given the plenitude of cattle in India, it is eminently possible to start such safe shelters. Although they may not be the birds of heaven that cranes are to some, there is tremendous interest in watching these alert scavengers of nature in their natural setting. Africa has recognised the potential for revenue from vulture 'restaurants' — where tourists can watch them dispose of a carcass. The BNHS has also proposed viewing platforms for eco-tourists at feeding sites. This can be a rewarding programme that also pays for itself. There are parallel initiatives under way in many countries in Africa and Europe to arrest vulture population declines. India can learn a lot from their good practice. What is most important is to safeguard the birds in forests and protected habitat by preventing encroachment by domestic cattle. Combined with a strong captive breeding programme, this should go some way towards stopping the tragic decline in vulture numbers.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

WELCOME VERDICT BUT QUESTIONABLE RIDER

THE SUPREME COURT RULING ON THE USE OF NARCO-ANALYSIS AND SIMILAR TESTS REMAINS AN INCOMPLETE EXERCISE AND DESERVES RE-EXAMINATION.

A.R. LAKSHMANAN

 

The Supreme Court ruling of May 5, 2010 on the use of narco-analysis, brain-mapping and polygraph tests in police investigations in India was a welcome verdict in a broader sense, but it was an incomplete exercise.

 

As the Chairman of the Law Commission of India, I examined the merits and demerits of the spurt over the last 10 years in the use of narco-analysis, brain-mapping and polygraph tests in India. I finalised the Commission's report ( The Hindu, May 7, 2009), and at the time of submitting it demitted office. The exercise was initiated after the Commission received a memorandum from the Forensic Science Society of India, represented by its founder-president, Professor P. Chandra Sekharan. The media, human rights organisations, academic and professional bodies such as the Forensic Science Society of India, the Indian Psychiatric Association, and the Indian Medical Ethics group were involved in the debates. The Commission discussed the validity of the techniques from the constitutional angle and also in scientific, ethical and human rights terms.

 

No doubt, the Supreme Court's ruling vindicated my personal opinion. It is also a timely move to curb the sudden revival and marketing by some Indian pseudo-scientists of the almost hundred years old narco and polygraph tests combined with the more recently introduced brain-mapping test as a 'three-in-one package.' But the rider that the ruling would not apply to those voluntarily agreeing to undergo them is based more on the constitutional position than on the scientific perception and the ground reality.

 

Even from the constitutional angle, how can a wrong become a right when it is done with consent? The arguments brought forth by the Supreme Court against the forcible use of narco-analysis, polygraphy and brain fingerprinting should hold good when these are used with consent.

 

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court's decision is laudable. It undertook an elaborate exercise to understand the tests, their uses, limitations and precedents, citing decisions of U.S., Canadian and British courts in its 250-page judgment.

 

But, as far as narco-analysis is concerned, the court did not go into the details regarding at least six aspects

concerning the ground realities. First, why was the age-old and abandoned narco-test suddenly revived in India only during the last 10 years, and that too by psychologists appointed as lie detector technicians in Forensic Science Laboratories? Secondly, why were non-medical psychologists permitted to perform narco-analysis, which is an invasive medical procedure that is conducted by medical psychiatrists all over the world when it was in vogue or practised until being abandoned?

 

Third, is there any evidence to show that the old narco-analysis technique has been improved to any degree by these psychologists through authoritative research, peer review and publications? Fourth, is there a scientific test to assess accurately whether an individual is awake or in trance (hypnotic stage) after the drug is administered? Fifth, why is narco-analysis offered as a confirmatory test in a 'three-in-one package' of polygraph, brain fingerprinting and narco-analysis tests, conducted in that order, by one and the same psychologist? Sixth, when narco-analysis tests are carried out on the same subject five or six times until the desired answer is obtained, how can they be considered scientific?

 

The court has discussed narco-analysis techniques in 26 paragraphs, and all the citations indicate that the narco-analysis expert is a psychiatrist (medical personnel) and not the non-medical psychologist as is the case in India.

 

The judgment, while dealing with the brain fingerprinting technique in Paragraphs 67 to 77, refers to the technique as the "Brain Electrical Activation Profile (BEAP)" test, again guided by the 'Laboratory Procedure Manual (2005)' and the 'Brain Electrical Activation Profile' provided by the Directorate of Forensic Science, Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Government of India.

 

The observation that "there is an important difference between the 'P300 waves test' used by the Forensic Science Laboratories in India and the 'brain fingerprinting technique' is not vouchsafed with any citation.

 

The brain fingerprinting technique was developed and patented in 1995 by Lawrence A. Farwell of the U.S. His technique was so science-fictional that there were no takers in other parts of the world. In India, brain fingerprinting research is really a hoax: no peer-reviewed research paper has come out from an Indian research group.

 

The Indian group of psychologists that claimed to have developed its own brain fingerprinting techniques had its early moorings in the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS). But a committee chaired by the Vice Chancellor-Director of NIMHANS appointed by the Union Minister of Home Affairs to examine the scientific validity of the brain fingerprinting technique practised by the two Indian groups, declared both the techniques unscientific and recommended their discontinuance.

 

Both groups use the EEG (electroencephalograph) to detect scalp electrical signal output. The signal detected by the scalp electrode is pre-dominated by excitatory and inhibitory post-synaptic potentials on dendrites and neuronal cell bodies, not the deeper axon action potentials. EEG is compared to a listener sitting outside a football stadium and cannot see the activity inside, but may make some guesses about the course of the game based on hearing the roar of the crowd. This does not allow the listener to understand the details of the game or what may be transpiring between coach and player.

 

Similarly, a scalp electrode can detect the fluctuating tonic activity of millions of neurons allowing the electroencephalographer to make broad assumptions about brain functioning. However, this technique is not sensitive to the exquisite detail that is needed to appreciate neural activity associated with cognitive processes or mood states. While this is the correct and latest assessment of the EEG even in medical diagnosis, how can non-medical psychologists claim to read reactions of the brain to pinpoint a guilty person?

 

The Supreme Court has discussed the use of the polygraph test elaborately in a convincing manner. But I am sceptical of its direction that the 'Guidelines for the Administration of Polygraph Test (Lie Detector Test) on an Accused' prescribed by the National Human Rights Commission in 2000 should be adhered to and that similar safeguards should be adopted to conduct narco-analysis and the brain electrical activation profile test. A non-medical technician can do a polygraph test. But only a psychiatrist, with the assistance of a medical team, can do narco-analysis.

 

The Supreme Court has used its long arm to silence the misinterpretation of the legal experts, claiming that the provision for 'medical examination' under the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 includes the narco-analysis technique, the polygraph examination and the BEAP test.

 

Forensic science never owned the polygraph, or the more recent science-fictional brain fingerprinting, as scientific tests belonging to its armoury. The polygraph test was the tool of the criminal investigator rather than the forensic scientist even before it fell into disrepute. Its functions have been handled the world over by people trained in the techniques of criminal investigation and interrogation and not by the forensic scientist.

 

Unlike expert witnesses who testify about matters outside the court's expertise, such as fingerprint analysis or ballistics, a polygraph expert can provide only an opinion. Since one cannot reliably measure human emotions, the idea of valid detection of truth or falsehood by measuring the respiratory rate, blood volume, pulse rate and galvanic skin response is pretence. Since psychologists cannot ascertain what emotions one has, polygraph professionals are not able to do that either.

 

"It is completely without any theoretical foundation and has absolutely no validity. Although there is disagreement amongst the scientists about the use of polygraph testing in criminal matters, there is almost universal agreement that polygraph screening is completely invalid and should be stopped". I am yet to come across any peer-reviewed published research paper by an Indian group against this view.

 

In the opinion of the former Supreme Court Judge, Justice K.T. Thomas, narco-analysis is a crude technique in criminal investigation. He said the trial of a criminal case should not be one meant to convict the accused, but one meant to ensure that an innocent person was not convicted.

 

Had the Supreme Court examined the veracity of the impugned techniques from this angle, it would not have given room to the rider on the tests done with consent. A careful reading of the discussion, especially in Paragraphs 169, 170, 193, 194, 196, 217, 218, and 220 of the judgment in Criminal Appeal No.1267 of 2004 in Smt. Selvi and others vs. State of Karnataka, shows that it runs in favour of a total ban of the tests. How many people will know the real meaning of consent and its legal implications?

 

Those who will be affected by this rider will be common folk. It is for the Supreme Court to re-examine the issues and give a clear-cut verdict in the public interest.

 

(Dr. (Justice) A.R. Lakshmanan was Chairman of the 18th Law Commission of India and a Judge of the Supreme Court of India.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

ONE YEAR AFTER RIOTS, TENSIONS LINGER IN CHINA'S FAR WEST

THE RIOTS HAVE LEFT DEEP SCARS ON BOTH — HANS AND UIGHUR — COMMUNITIES. THEY HAVE ALSO PROMPTED INCREASING CALLS FOR BEIJING TO REASSESS ITS DEVELOPMENT POLICIES.

ANANTH KRISHNAN

 

At the sprawling marketplace at the centre of Urumqi's old town, a sense of history hangs heavily. For generations, ethnic Uighurs — the ethnic Turkic-speaking group native to China's far west Xinjiang autonomous region — traded silk and gems here, which reached the Urumqi oasis from the old Silk Road, and made their way to markets in China's far corners. But on a recent hot summer's afternoon, the stalls of the expansive Erdaoqiao marketplace all stood empty. Fear is keeping the customers away.

 

On July 5 last year, Erdaoqiao was the scene of heavy rioting, as Uighur mobs went on the rampage in Urumqi, ransacking shops, setting fire to buildings and attacking members of China's majority Han Chinese ethnic group. Two days later, Han Chinese mobs exacted revenge, attacking Uighurs in their shops and neighbourhoods. Over four days of bloody ethnic violence, the worst in the People's Republic of China's (PRC) six-decade history, at least 197 people, mostly Han Chinese, were killed. Another 1,700 were left injured.

 

One year on, calm has returned to the streets of Urumqi, which is Xinjiang's prosperous capital. But tensions between the two ethnic groups still linger. Twelve months after the violence, an already segregated city is getting further divided. Han Chinese residents, who have for long settled in Uighur neighbourhoods surrounding Erdaoqiao, are moving out. "We don't feel safe here anymore," said one Han Chinese woman, who makes a living selling scarves from Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Hans don't trust Uighurs. Uighurs don't trust Hans."

 

Ms Zhang — she asked to be identified only by her last name — moved to Xinjiang 15 years ago from Xian, the central Chinese city famous for its terracotta warriors. In her family's journey to Urumqi is the story of Xinjiang's own development since it came under the PRC's rule in 1949. Ms Zhang's uncle moved to Xinjiang in the 1960s, part of the first generation of Han settlers. Exhorted by Mao Zedong to help develop their country's 'new frontier' (or xin jiang, in Chinese), droves of young Chinese set out west, looking to make their fortune. Most of them, however, like Ms Zhang's uncle, arrived to find a depressing reality far removed from Mao's depictions of a land of promise — a life of back-breaking farm work in a barren, undeveloped and inhospitable terrain. Since the first batch of migrants, Xinjiang's Han population has continued to steadily rise along with its development — from 6 per cent in 1949 to 40 per cent in 2004, with more than 20 million Han settlers. The migration of Hans has intensified since the 1990s, when the government began encouraging small businesses and entrepreneurs, like Ms. Zhang, to help accelerate the development process.

 

The changing demographics have become an increasing source of anxiety for Uighurs, as the attacks on July 5 targeting Han businesses suggest. Resentment is particularly high in Urumqi, where Hans now outnumber Uighurs, and disparities between the two groups are most evident. Among young Uighurs is a widely prevailing sense that the best jobs go to Hans, and that those who don't speak Mandarin Chinese are relegated to second-class lives. Outside Erdaoqiao on a weekday afternoon, a group of young Uighurs sit idly, crowding around a small television set and watching a popular Uighur comedian obliquely poke fun at the simmering social tensions. None of them had jobs. "Without Mandarin, you can't find work," one of them complained. "And if you are Uighur, Han businesses will prefer not to hire you. That is the reality here." Many of those who rioted in Urumqi's streets last July were unemployed Uighur migrants from Xinjiang's less-developed south, who moved to the city seeking work.

 

'Go West' development drive

In 2000, the Chinese government unveiled a massive plan to accelerate development across Xinjiang and bridge internal disparities, through a 'Go West' development drive. A decade on, it has had mixed results at best. Incomes are rising, and so is the region's GDP. But the development has been largely driven by large State-owned companies who have tapped the region's vast energy resources. It has also brought rising inflation and fuel shortages, prompting many locals, Uighur and Han, to question where the benefits of development were really going. "If Xinjiang is so rich, then why don't we have gas for our cars?" asked one Uighur taxi driver in Urumqi, who, along with hundreds of others, went on strike in October protesting increases in fuel prices. "All the oil and gas is going to Beijing and Shanghai. This development is not for us."

The Chinese government has denied that its development policies, and rising disparities between Hans and Uighurs, were a reason for last year's unrest. It blamed exiled Uighur separatist groups for organising the violence. What sparked the riots? The violence began after hundreds of Uighurs gathered in Urumqi's People Square — now permanently under the watchful eye of a battalion of the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) — to protest the deaths of two Uighurs in a factory brawl in southern China. It still remains unclear how the initial protest turned violent. Hours after the first protest, mobs of Uighurs, armed with clubs and knives, and seemingly organised, rampaged through the city's streets. Three Uighur students, who were present at the initial protest, which they said had been organised by local universities, said rumours that a young girl had been killed by police-firing — this could not be verified — had sparked the violence. One official of the PAPF, who was on duty that day and spoke to The Hindu on the condition of anonymity, admitted there were serious lapses in response. "Some of the officers sent out to face the mob were trainees!" the official said. "There were serious miscommunication between the government and the police, and we severely underestimated the scale of the violence. We simply were not prepared."

 

The scale of the violence shocked the city. "I saw dozens of Han Chinese bodies being dumped in the gutter in just one street," said one woman, the daughter of a Han father and Uighur mother. "They came running at me with clubs to attack me, thinking I was Han, but because I spoke the Uighur language I was saved. It is difficult to believe that only 200 people died. There were hundreds of bodies lying everywhere." The violence, mainly targeting Han Chinese, has left Han residents seething at the local government. Many in interviews accused the government of "appeasing" Uighur rioters and allowing them to vent their anger unchecked, for almost six hours, on the evening of July 5. "Where were the police?" asked one Han businessman in Erdaoqiao. "People were left at the mercy of the mobs. There was no help."

 

The riot has left deep scars on both communities. It has also prompted increasing calls, from both groups, for Beijing to reassess its development policies. The ruling Communist Party's highest leaders met in Beijing in May to chalk out a new development plan for Xinjiang. Some important signs of change emerged from the meeting. Significantly, Beijing has, for the first time for any province or region in China, introduced a resource tax in Xinjiang. This will now force energy companies, who have gotten rich off Xinjiang's resources at little cost, to pay the local government for access to oil and gas. This is expected to substantially boost the government's revenues, which officials said would go to development projects.

 

More significantly, the Communist Party's powerful Xinjiang chief, Wang Lequan, who has directed the region's policies for over two-decades and is known for his hard-line views, has been sacked. He was replaced by a Party boss from Hunan, Zhang Chunxian, known by some as the "Internet secretary" for being technology-savvy and forward-looking. Soon after he took over, restrictions on access to the Internet, in place since last year, were removed. For almost 10 months, Xinjiang's residents and businesses were left with no access to e-mail and allowed to view only 30 government websites in an unprecedented information black-out. Other controversial policies, however, legacies of Mr. Wang's rule, still remain in place. Among them is an emphasis on bilingual education, which requires Uighur school-children to learn Mandarin. Some Uighurs fear the emphasis on Mandarin, required for most high-paying jobs, will eventually result in the marginalisation of the Uighur language and culture.

At Erdaoqiao, business has been badly hit, and many small businesses, Uighur and Han, face bankruptcy. Han Chinese tourists, who drive Xinjiang's once-prosperous tourism industry, have stayed away this year. Erdaoqiao's bylanes are deserted, even though the tourist season has already begun. Ms Zhang's scarves, in a glittering array of blues, reds and greens, gather dust on the shelves. "There is an atmosphere of fear," she said. "These days, the only people buying my scarves are the riot police."

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

BARACK OBAMA IS GETTING BAD ADVICE

IN HALTING DRILLING IN THE GULF OF MEXICO, HE'S COMMITTING A FEARSOME FOLLY.

LLEWELLYN KING

 

From somewhere — inside the White House or the Department of Energy — Barack Obama is getting some pretty awful advice.

 

It's bad enough that he's been persuaded that there's a Nirvana Land of windmills and sunbeams in the future of electricity. But much more gravely in halting drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, he's committing a fearsome folly. If exploration and drilling in the Gulf doesn't resume, Mr. Obama, or his successor, will find the price of gasoline high (probably more than $5 a gallon) and military action against Iran will be proscribed.

 

It goes like this: After 18 months the supply of replacement oil from the Gulf dries up, due to the normal decline in production from old wells. Very soon, this loss exceeds 1 million barrels a day and begins to increase world oil prices. World oil production today is 86.5 million barrels a day; of this, the United States gulps down an amazing 20 million barrels a day. This delicate balance, helped by the global recession, keeps the price bouncing between $70 and $80 a barrel.

 

Worst case is not only do we lose production in the Gulf, but any global upset — such as military action in Iran — will stress this oil production-demand balance further. Result: price rises. Political solution: none.

 

The folly of the Obama action is that every new hole drilled in deep water is going to be safer-than-safe. There's a well-known pattern: Disasters produce an aftermath of safety. The nuclear industry thought it was safe before the Three Mile Island meltdown, but it went back to the drawing board and produced new institutions for safety monitoring and study, as well as revised the very idea of defence in-depth. The Obama caution is the danger, not the possibility of another spill.

 

The second energy disaster in the making is with electricity. The Obama administration has signed on to a vague idea, pushed by environmentalists and post—industrial schemers: It goes by the appropriately loose title of "alternative energy." In real-world terms, alternative energy can be narrowed to some solar and wind. In fact, the only mature technology is wind. It works fine when the wind is blowing. The heat wave in the Eastern states in the past week makes the point: The wind doesn't blow when it's most needed.

 

There's nothing wrong with wind, except that its most passionate advocates often favour it not for its own sake but for what it is not: nuclear power. Paranoia over nuclear power — always the first choice of the world's utilities, if all things are equal — is a part of the cultural-political landscape in America. Faced with this, the Obama administration has saddled up two horses and invited the nuclear industry to ride both as they diverge. It has thrown away the $11 billion spent on the first national nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, even as it has offered loan guarantees for new reactors.

 

Coming down the pike is a surge, a really huge surge, in electricity demand as plug-in hybrid cars and pure electric cars are deployed. The plan — if you can call it that — is that the load of new uses will be spread by "smart meters" on the "smart grid," and this will direct or coerce consumers to charge their cars in the middle of the night.

 

Fat chance. If consumers were that financially or morally conscious, they'd long since have cut their electric loads and driven smaller cars.

Want to be politically unpopular? Start telling people when they can refuel their cars. That's known around the tea-party circuit and elsewhere as government intervention.

 

Do you take yours with sugar?

 

( Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of ``White House Chronicle'' on PBS. Email: lking@kingpublishing.com)

 

— New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE SOLDIERS OF THE SOMME

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, WHICH BEGAN IN EARLY JULY 1916, HAS COME TO SYMBOLISE THE HORROR AND FUTILITY OF WAR.

FERGAL KEANE

 

On the other side of the wood, the fighters soared and looped in a bright blue sky. I was standing in a cornfield and thought of how, in another time, that sound would have sent me running in terror for any cover I could find.

 

But I was not in south Lebanon now, or Iraq or Afghanistan. When the French military jets, practising for an air show, eventually wheeled away, the song of a skylark filled the air.

 

The soldier poet, Isaac Rosenberg, heard that song. Rosenberg, whose family had fled anti-Jewish attacks in Eastern Europe, was serving on the Somme with the British army. He described the birdsong "showering men's upturned faces" — a small miracle in the dawn as he returned from a night patrol in No Man's Land. His poetic genius was stilled by a German bullet later in the war.

 

Heart-stopping

 

We walked from the British lines to the German, across the ground where the doomed thousands had advanced on that July morning 94 years ago, into the flying lead of German guns that had withstood the most intense artillery bombardment in the history of the British army. Between July and November 1916, more than a million men became casualties of war in these fields.

 

Today the chalky soil is planted with barley and corn, and when a breeze rises and brushes the stems and ripples across the fields, it seems the gentlest landscape in the world.

 

I thought of the lines of Basho, the great Japanese poet of the 17th Century, who, coming across an old

battlefield littered with warrior's rusting armour, wrote: "Summer grasses. All that is left of the dreams of soldiers."

 

We walked up through the fields, across No Man's Land, through a small clump of trees and hedges to the great crater of Lochnagar. Here, two minutes before the advance began, British sappers had detonated a series of huge mines under the German positions. Even to someone used to the physical devastation of war the first sight of Lochnagar is heart-stopping. The crater is 91m in width and 27m deep.

 

In these fields, and further north into Flanders, was laid the pattern for war in the modern age. An epoch of machines and inventions, from the tank to poison gas, to aircraft, to atomic bombs. It stretched out from here into a future where machines would riot across the earth, and the capacity to kill and maim would be limitless. But it is the memory of the individual that strikes most forcefully at the Somme.

 

War survivor

 

A colleague walking ahead of me across a newly-planted field suddenly knelt down and picked up what looked to me like a small stone. It was a button from the tunic of a French infantryman. One late fragment of all that had been lost here.

 

That sense of war as the country of the individual soldier has been with me as an unshakeable presence in these last few weeks. Soon after coming back from the Somme I went to Scotland to speak at a book festival.

 

I was talking about a long forgotten battle in India in which a small force of British and Indian troops had endured a terrible siege at the hands of a much larger Japanese force.

 

When the time for the audience to ask questions came, an old man in a wheelchair raised his hand. "My name is Angus Taylor," he said. "And I was there." He told his story of a fighting march across jungled hills, against a pitiless enemy.

 

Angus Taylor described coming on the bodies of comrades who had been laughing and joking with him just a few hours before. There was no hint of bravado in his speech, or self pity. He was a modest man, one of those many quiet fathers who had come home from war and found a job, made a home for his children, and spoke little of the places he had been or the things he had seen.

 

Afterwards we had a chance to speak alone. Angus brought out his photographs of the war. Among them were two which he kept in a little black wallet. "I found that on the body of a dead Japanese," he said.

 

There were two photographs in the dead man's wallet. One showed a woman posing shyly for the camera, alluring in her traditional dress, and the other a child, the couple's daughter, plump and smiling, leaning against the outside wall of the family home.

 

The soldier would have taken these photographs before he left for the war and kept them with him until the end. For 60 years they had lain among another man's memories. In such a way does war bind the living and the dead.

 

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

 

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THE HINDUS

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT'S NOD FOR BLUEPRINT FOR NEW DIPLOMATIC SERVICE

 

The European Parliament on Thursday approved a legal blueprint for the formation of the European External Action Service.

Members of the European Parliament approved a package of recommendations concerning the proposed

diplomatic body and working methods of the service, a major new development introduced in the Lisbon Treaty.

 

The measure passed 549-78 with 17 abstentions.

 

Members of the European Parliament negotiated substantial changes to the original plans put forward in March by Catherine Ashton, the EU high representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

 

The new diplomatic service was expected to begin December 1. It will help the high representative conduct the EU's foreign policy and ensure that its external policy is consistent.

 

The European Commission will now have to give its final consent before the European Council adopts the decision later this month.

 

— Xinhua

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

ARMY'S USE SENDS OUT WRONG SIGNALS

 

It is true that the Army has not been deployed in Kashmir's urban centres to perform police duties or to carry out work entrusted to paramilitary formations such as the BSF or the CRPF. Although separatist leaders are prone to exaggerate, the military is still in its barracks. In the specific context of Srinagar, it has come out of the Badami Bagh cantonment to stage a flag march — a bit like showing the flag — through the city's main thoroughfares, and then gone back. The Army is not doing crowd control. It is not enforcing the curfew. It is not chasing instigated or fired-up mobs hurling missiles. And yet, it is hard to get away from the feeling that bringing troops out of the barracks even as a show of strength was not the best idea the government has had, although the circumstances were admittedly challenging.


This sends all the wrong signals internationally, and within the country as well. At a time when extremist elements are seeking to overrun Pakistan with not a little help from a section of that country's security establishment, and when Pakistan is pointing fingers at India on the Kashmir question with the contrived argument that there would be no Islamist militancy in the absence of a Kashmir question (influential elements in the West, especially those professing to be liberals, seize on this when it is politically expedient), seeing the Army on the streets after two decades can leave some with the impression that Kashmir's civilian population is in revolt and can only be held in check through use of the military. This is an unfortunate twisting of the tale. Anyone who is familiar with the Kashmir issue or visits the Valley knows only too well that the people are not in rebellion. What is true, however, is that a small minority — led by the separatists — has since 1947 sought to create the false impression of an insurrection. This political segment achieves success when the administration is flat-footed or unresponsive, as was the case two years ago during the Amarnath shrine board fiasco, and through episodes such as the prostitutes racket or the drowning of two women in south Kashmir. Using the religious pulpit, mob hysteria is fired. Such attempts are meant to elicit a sharp response from the security forces, and a cycle of violence is made to commence. This in turn allows free rein to separatist propaganda. In any subsequent test of political strength through the ballot (for panchayat, municipality, Assembly or Parliament), there is no trace of the so-called insurrectionary spirit.


This is now an old story. Especially since the chain of events is familiar, the state administration should have responded more imaginatively when troubles were first set in motion last month. If curfew had been imposed where needed at the first hint of mobilisation by separatist and pro-Pakistan elements, or anti-government sections among mainline parties, it is unlikely that the state would be in a state of frenzy today. But the authorities waited until 15 deaths had occurred in police firings before thinking of standard curfew procedures. While wider political costs attach to use of the Army, it appears the immediate effect has been salutary. But what if someone hurls a bomb from a side lane and a trooper fires back? What if stone-pelting commences right after the Army is called off flag-march duties? Clearly, using the military against civilians is not the answer. The military is the last line of defence and cannot be wheeled out each time the administration panics. For a start, the government must lift the unreasonable and ill-advised restrictions on the media. Round one has already gone to the separatists.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

KASHMIR REDUX

BALBIR K. PUNJ

 

Many photographs in newspapers and TV channels of 14- and 16-year-olds aiming bricks or stones at the security forces have filled our minds over the last few days as street violence in the Kashmir Valley escalates. A 14-year-old identified by the police as a regular stone-thrower during protests could not recall to the media why he was pelting stones and what the protests were about. Perhaps he was simply enjoying the fun, as street urchins do, especially when they find an expensive car parked on the village road.


But this was not adolescent fun. As the embattled Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said, these stone-throwers were trained and stationed to provoke and force the security forces to open fire. The resultant deaths provide enough fuel to provoke more protests and for the security forces to fire in self-defence and ensure law and order. Thus the cycle of protests and firings feed on each other. Significantly, many of the adolescent stone-throwers are seen wearing masks in the photographs of the events. They couldn't be innocents caught in a protest flow.


The so-called "moderate" separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq almost gave the game away when he told newspapers that the issue was much bigger than law and order: "Eruptions in Kashmir are not a governance problem. The sources of Kashmir discord are rooted in the politics of the state". These quotes from the Mirwaiz expose who really is behind these recurrent protests. The Mirwaiz wants the main political parties in the Valley, the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party, to "leave Assembly politics and join hands with the separatists to resolve the problem".


Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's agenda exposes the core goals of these separatists: withdrawal of troops from Kashmir, revocation of "draconian" laws, end of "human rights violations", opening all cross-border routes between the two Kashmirs, and permission to hold protests freely. This, of course, is a blueprint for the state government and the Centre to surrender to separatists and jihadists. The Mirwaiz, it should be noted, does not at any point talk about ending of infiltration, stoppage of attacks on the security forces, or indiscriminate killings by militants and suicide bombings.


The repeated violence through so-called protests, militant activities and regular communications that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and other separatists hold with Pakistan should have indicated to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the futility of his soft-power approach towards them. Mr Omar Abdullah seems to be increasingly ineffective in stemming the tide of well-orchestrated "protests" even after he has taken strict action against security personnel who allegedly shot dead some people.


The separatists are using stray incidents of alleged wrongdoings by the security forces to good advantage by raising the cry of human rights violations; they, of course, do not raise their voice when militants indiscriminately kill civilians in the same Valley. Also, the Mirwaiz's reference to human rights does not go beyond the Muslim residents of the Valley. He has never shed a tear for the pundits of the same Valley who have been driven out by militants and jihadists and are living as refugees in other parts of the country.
It has been a long story of deceit, well-planned stirring of communal passions and Islamic orthodoxy to hack at Kashmiri culture and convert it into a fully Islamic one, stripping it of any infusion from its ancient Hindu heritage.


The pandits were driven out of the Valley to strengthen this demography. That also explains the double standards adopted by the the Mirwaiz and Co. — no protest at killings by militants and infiltrators from across the border but orchestration of protests and stone-pelting against the security forces who are there to contain the Pakistani infiltrators.


It is time the Centre recognises that Kashmir separatism is directly linked to communal composition and the recent jihadi backlash in that community.


The Congress has much to answer for the continuing mess that is Kashmir today. Jawaharlal Nehru backed Sheikh Abdullah to the hilt, thereby provoking his traditional rival the Muslim Conference, led by the then Mirwaiz, to look for support from across the border. The Sheikh then ditched his friend Nehru and his policy. Indira Gandhi negotiated with the Sheikh for his return and in the process more of his rivals moved into the separatist camp.


We saw the strange spectacle of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, Union home minister under V.P. Singh, kneeling before the militants when his daughter was supposedly abducted by them.


The same Mr Sayeed is now leading the second-most powerful political party in Jammu and Kashmir and his party president, who is his second daughter, talks in two voices — she never dares to condemn the killings by the militants but is at the forefront of all protests against the state government. The Prime Minister fails to learn from the repeated failure of his call to the separatists for talks.


The situation in the Kashmir Valley will continue to be volatile so long as the Centre and nationalist forces there fail to recognise that Islamic jihad is the weapon that Pakistan is using to split the people of the state.
Religious extremism is on the prowl and seeking to gain ascendancy. Unfortunately, political forces have allowed themselves to be at its mercy in a bid to compete for votes.


The Congress is promoting this same extremism in other parts of the country as well and that is why it is unable to stem the tide of extremism in the Valley despite its considerable political following there. Nor has it come out to enforce the benefits that the Hindus of Jammu should get under the special plan for minorities as they are a minority in the state. The majority of Congress MLAs in Jammu and Kashmir have been elected from Jammu region. The war against fundamentalism cannot be won by sleeping with the fundamentalists.

 

Balbir K. Punj can be contacted at punjbalbir@gmail.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

INDIA NEEDS AN OIL PLUG PLAN

ARUN KUMAR SINGH

 

The Indian electronic and print media, while concentrating on the terrible Bhopal gas tragedy has also been studiously following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. Given the impact of marine pollution disasters it is imperative to examine India's continuing lack of preparedness and its implications.


All aspects of marine pollution (Marpol) are governed by the London-based the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a UN body whose Marpol conventions and protocols are applicable to all signatory nations, including India.


On April 20, 2010, while capping a newly-discovered oil well (at 5,000-feet sea depth, and drilled to another 18,000 feet) for future use in the Gulf of Mexico, British Petroleum's (BP) semi-submersible rig Deepwater Horizon encountered an explosion emanating from the oil well. It killed 11 of its 126 workers and sank the burning rig on April 22, resulting in the ongoing massive oil spill, currently estimated at between 200,000 to 400,000 tonnes.


By June 17, BP had managed to commence a complex operation of retrieving some oil and burning it at sea. Two relief wells are also being drilled to link up with the "incident well" so as to pump cement into it and plug the spill by August this year. The US government is considering increasing the present $75 million cap on spills to $10 billion, while BP has put aside $20 billion in an "escrow account" to pay compensation. This article is about India's willingness to learn from the Gulf of Mexico spill and prepare for a major marine disaster involving hazardous and noxious substances (HNS), i.e. ammunition, chemicals, liquified natural gas etc, that are often transported by ships.


In the Gulf of Mexico, the US government and BP have deployed over 38,900 personnel, 6,800 vessels and 400 skimmers (to remove oil-water mix), laid out about 200 km of boom barriers at sea (to prevent the oil-seawater from reaching the beaches). On June 30, the US accepted equipment and expertise from a dozen nations (including the world's largest, 20,000-ton capacity, skimmer from Taiwan). India, which has numerous ships operating in its vicinity and has large-scale oil-cum-gas drilling at sea, has less than 15 per cent of the counter-pollution effort deployed in the Gulf of Mexico.


In India, vide the Coast Guard Act of 1978, and the Merchant Shipping Act of 1958 (amended in 1990 for oil pollution, and later amended in 2003 for HNS pollution), the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) is mandated as the single window agency for countering marine pollution, and the ICG director-general is the chairman of the National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP). Indeed, NOS-DCP needs to be amended to include HNS protocol of the IMO, which was ratified by 15 nations and came into force on June 14, 2007). The HNS protocol covers the following:


w Cargo which is dangerous when packed for shipping, eg acids, cyanides, pesticides, ammunition etc.


w Liquified natural gas shipped in bulk.


w Liquids shipped in bulk which have a flash point below 60 degrees centigrade, like acetone, ethyl alcohol etc.
Depending on the type of oil polluting the sea, different oil dispersants can be sprayed as antidotes by most ICG ships, helicopters and Dornier aircraft. Oil dispersants mix with the oil to form small heavy "balls" which sink to the seabed. For best results, oil dispersants should be used within 24 to 72 hours of the oil spill. Since oil dispersants are toxic and can destroy marine life, they must be used only when absolutely necessary.

 

Fortunately for India, in warmer waters natural biodegradation takes place faster, i.e. for every 10 degrees Celsius, its rate of biodegradation is double. This means we would have to use less oil dispersant.
As per IMO norms, Marpol oil spills are categorised as follows:


w Tier 1: Below 700 tonnes of oil. At present all the 13 major Indian ports and coastal oil refineries have Tier 1 capability to deal with oil spills.


w Tier 2: Between 700 to 10,000 tonnes. The ICG is supposed to have the capability to neutralise this threat.
w Tier 3: 10,000 to 100,000 tonnes. No capability exists in India to counter this spill (or spills over 100,000 tonnes). The ICG urgently needs to acquire this capability, or, as an interim measure, tie up with some international private firms in Singapore and the Gulf for quick response.


Another major worry is that at present the ICG has no capability to detect, monitor and neutralise HNS type of marine pollution. This capability needs to be created urgently.


The ICG, which is expecting to receive the first of three indigenously-built 2,000-ton dedicated pollution control vessels this year and has another 100 patrol vessels on order, will need to further increase its strength.
Countering Marpol is a specialised task and the ICG regularly sends a few officers for training abroad. Hence, unlike coastal security, which was handed over to the Indian Navy by the government post-26/11, countering Marpol will continue to be ICG's responsibility.


There are many lessons to be learnt from the Bhopal gas tragedy, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and also the 50-year-old ongoing Nigerian oil spill which has polluted its land and rivers. A recent New York Times article mentions that oil-rich Nigeria has, for the last 50 years, had five times the estimated daily oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico due to rusting pipes and leaking valves owned by Western oil companies.


The Indian government needs to revisit our existing environmental laws and also look closely at the proposed Nuclear Liability Bill. In the short term, India should legislate that all ships visiting Indian ports must have a comprehensive oil-cum-HNS pollution insurance with a reputed international counter-Marpol company so that clean-up operations are not paid for by the Indian taxpayer, as is happening in the Bhopal gas tragedy 26 years later. In the long term, the ICG will need to expand and master complex new technologies.

 

Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

MEMORIAL ROW

SHEKHAR BHATIA

 

A couple of days every week on my way to work I drive down New Delhi's Outer Ring Road. It's also called Mahatma Gandhi Marg, but no one uses that name. It's a wide highway between New and Old Delhi; you also take this road if you want to visit the Red Fort or the Jama Masjid. On one side is the long wall of the Feroz Shah Kotla fort, on the other the Yamuna. But you can't see the river from the road. In between there are samadhis (memorials) of Indian leaders: from Mahatma Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi. This is Delhi's "memorial row".


Before I hit this road, I drive past Purana Qila (the Old Fort founded by the Mughal Emperor Humayun). I love this part of my 30-minute journey. When Edwin Lutyens designed New Delhi, the new capital of British India, he aligned the city's main ceremonial boulevard, Rajpath (then called King's Way), with this magnificent fort at one end and the imposing Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President's House, at the other.


I have lived in Delhi for many years but have never visited Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated after his assassination. Till I started travelling on this road I was under the impression that only visiting VIPs — heads of state and other dignitaries — and some tourists go to these memorials to pay homage. But I was wrong.
Once in a while, when we stop at a traffic light, people knock at our window and ask for directions to Raj Ghat. There was a young couple on a bike who wanted to know how to go to "Gandhi-ji ki samadhi" (Gandhi's memorial). I looked at them, and wondered why they want to visit the samadhi in scorching heat.
The memorials are situated in acres of green, quite elegantly landscaped. There are no statues; only small platforms of stone surrounded by trees. The Mahatma's samadhi has the words "He Ram" inscribed on its side. The garden around was landscaped by an Englishman, Sydney Percy-Lancaster. He was the Superintendent of Horticultural Operations, Government of India. He also established Delhi's government-run Sunder Nursery, a 60-acre patch of green near the city's most beautiful Mughal monument, the Humayun's Tomb.
These memorials also tell the story of India's politics: the transition from dynasty rule to an era of coalitions. On one side of Raj Ghat is Kisan Ghat, the samadhi of Chaudhary Charan Singh, the Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh. He was Prime Minister for about six months after his party pulled out of — and brought down — the Morarji Desai government in which he was deputy Prime Minister. He is the only Prime Minister who never faced Parliament.


Next to Charan Singh is the memorial of the Jat leader from Haryana, Chaudhary Devi Lal. He was never Prime Minister but served as deputy to two Prime Ministers: V.P. Singh and Chandra Shekhar. His samadhi is known as Sangharsh Sthal. Across the road is Samta Sthal, the memorial of Babu Jagjivan Ram, the other deputy Prime Minister under Morarji Desai.


Further down the Ring Road, facing the back wall of the Red Fort, are the memorials of three Presidents of India (Zail Singh, Shankar Dayal Sharma and K.R. Narayanan) and two more Prime Ministers (Chandra Shekhar and Lal Bahadur Shastri).


From Raj Ghat it's a nice, long walk to Shanti Van (the forest of peace), the memorial of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. You go past Shakti Sthal (the place of strength), where his daughter Indira Gandhi was cremated, and then Vir Bhumi (the land of the brave), the memorial of her son Rajiv. It's quite a coincidence that the memorials of three leaders who were assassinated — Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi — are next to each other.

In a corner behind Nehru's memorial is that of Rajiv Gandhi's brother Sanjay, the heir apparent who died when the two-seater plane he was flying crashed not too far from his mother's house.


My favourite is Vir Bhumi, Rajiv Gandhi's memorial. I often take the "slip-road" that runs parallel to the highway because I want to drive closer to the beautiful forest that surrounds this memorial. I like it because it's not manicured; it has raw boulders strewn all over. There's something serene about the place.


I like the understated minimalism of these memorials, unmarred by monolithic statues. A good memorial is as much about memory as it is about aesthetics. I hate to think what would have come up here if it weren't for these memorials. Probably another stadium. These tranquil spaces are a fitting tribute to the departed. And for visitors, it's also a lovely walk down the pathways of history.

 

Shekhar Bhatia can be contacted at shekhar.bhatia@gmail.com

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

LANGUAGE BARRIER

 

The Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute has most major political parties in the nation in a bind.

 

The Central government has now queered the pitch for the Maharashtra government by filing an affidavit with the Supreme Court stating that Maharashtra has no claim over the Belgaum area, populated largely by Marathi-speaking people.

 

The Maharashtra government had taken up the Belgaum issue, largely to take on regional parties like the Shiv Sena which have been trying to capture 'Marathi' pride for themselves. Now the Democratic Front finds that it is being cornered by its own parties which rule from Delhi.

 

Since the State Reorganisation Act of 1956 and the Bombay Reorganisation Act of 1960, Belgaum has been a problem. Maharashtra's claims over Belgaum, which was first given to Mysore and subsequently merged into Karnataka, have not been well-received. And this has been its biggest bone of contention with its neighbouring state.

 

This problem is not peculiar to just Maharashtra and Karnataka. Even though the states were largely divided on linguistic lines, given the large migration between regions pre-Independence and the number of princely states which were not necessarily determined by linguistics or region, the divisions were not absolute.

 

The question is how feasible it is to re-distribute people based solely on language, especially after so many years. It is true that new states are being carved out by the compulsions ethnic or administrative in nature rather than based on language alone.


The Congress at the Centre now finds itself at loggerheads with the Congress in Maharashtra. The Bharatiya Janata Party which rules Karnataka finds itself at odds with its alliance partner in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena. The Congress may decide that it does not make political sense at this point in time to upset Karnataka and is therefore quoting past record to justify its present position and perhaps hopes it will ride the storm out in Maharashtra.

 

The problem however is not likely to go away so easily. Within Maharashtra, the fight for the 'Marathi manoos' is hotting up as all the parties involved want a piece of that pie. However, at some point as a nation we have to move beyond the grandstanding and the rhetoric and examine whether too much emphasis on regional and language divisions are not leading us into regional and linguistic divisiveness.

 

Somewhere, we have to examine the bigger picture and even perhaps think as one country.

 

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DNA

LET'S TALK JOBS

 

It looks like through a strange twist of economic development it is the developed countries that are facing an employment crisis — loss of jobs due to the latest recession and not able to employ their own because of the logic of outsourcing — and India, which was quite famous for its 'educated unemployed' seems to be spared the pain. Or is it?

 

While the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which represents the mostly rich and industralised countries has come out with the assessment that job recoveries are going to be long and painful, and that 17 million jobs have been lost in the latest crisis, there is not much talk of job losses or about the rate of unemployment in the country.

 

There is still some debate about the number of poor people, but there is none at all about unemployment. It does not mean that it is not there are at all. It is just the case that no one is looking at the issue anymore. With an expanding economy, it seems that there is a job for everyone. But this hides a fact. India is always faced with the imbalance between the number of jobs available and the number of people seeking them. There are always more people than there are jobs.

 

Talking about unemployment or even job losses is considered bad manners in polite society where everyone is supposed to sing hosannas for the economic growth story. So, when infotech major Infosys announces that it is re-inducting former employees it is seen as a sign of return of growth in the sector, and no questions are asked as to how many people the company had laid off when the going was tough.

 

Despite groaning that Indian labour laws are inflexible, there have been enough job layoffs as well as losses in the last two years. It would have been interesting to know whether after the government's stimulus package, some of those jobs have been regained.

 

Perhaps it is time for the economic experts, especially from the Planning Commission, to put out employment statistics like the OECD has done or the United States' labour department does regularly. Indians should be confident and mature enough now to see the warts of a liberalised economy along with its undeniable positive impact. To talk about unemployment rates does not have to mean that you are running down economic liberalisation. As a matter of fact, one of the un-stated goals of liberalisation is that — creation of jobs.

 

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DNA

MAIL ARTICLE

CLUELESS ON CHINA

BRAHMA CHELLANEY

 

Yet another round of India-China border talks took place in Beijing a few days ago. The unending and fruitless talks on territorial disputes underscore the eroding utility of this process.

 

It is approaching three decades since China and India began these negotiations. In this period, the world has changed fundamentally. Indeed, with its rapidly accumulating military and economic power, China has emerged as a great power in the making. Not only has India allowed its military and nuclear asymmetry with China to grow, but New Delhi's room for diplomatic maneuver is shrinking.

 

Power asymmetry in inter-state relations does not mean the weaker side must bend to the dictates of the stronger or seek to propitiate it. Wise strategy, coupled with good diplomacy, is the art of offsetting military or economic power imbalance with another state.

 

But by staying engaged in the useless border talks, knowing fully well that Beijing has no intention of settling the territorial issues, India plays into China's hands. The longer the process of border talks continues, the greater the space Beijing will have to mount strategic pressure on India and the greater its leverage in the negotiations.

 

After all, China already holds the military advantage on the ground. Its forces control the heights along the long 4,057km  Himalayan frontier, with the Indian troops perched largely on the lower levels.

 

Furthermore, by building new railroads, airports and highways in Tibet, China is now in a position to rapidly move additional forces to the border to potentially strike at India at a time of its choosing.

 

Diplomatically, China is a contented party, having occupied what it wanted —  the Aksai Chin plateau, which is almost the size of Switzerland and provides the only accessible Tibet-Xinjiang route through the Karakoram passes of the Kunlun Mountains.

 

Yet it chooses to press claims on additional Indian territories as part of a grand strategy to gain leverage in bilateral relations and, more importantly, to keep India under military and diplomatic pressure.

 

At the core of its strategy is an apparent resolve to indefinitely hold off on a border settlement with India through an overt refusal to accept the territorial status quo. In not hiding its intent to further redraw the Himalayan frontiers, Beijing only helps highlight the futility of the ongoing process of political negotiations.

 

After all, the territorial status quo can be changed not through political talks but by further military conquest. Yet, paradoxically, the political process remains important for Beijing to provide the façade of engagement behind which to seek India's containment.

 

Beijing originally floated the swap idea — giving up its claims in India's north-east in return for Indian acceptance of the Chinese control over a part of Ladakh — to legalise its occupation of Aksai Chin. It then sang the mantra of putting the territorial disputes on the backburner so that the two countries could concentrate on building close, mutually beneficial relations. But in more recent years, in keeping with its rising strength, China has escalated border tensions and military incursions while assertively laying claim to Arunachal Pradesh.

 

The present border negotiations have been going on since 1981, making them the longest and the most-barren process between any two countries in modern history. The record includes eight rounds of senior-level talks between 1981 and 1987, and14 joint working group meetings between 1988 and 2002. The latest discussions constitute the 14th rounds of talks between the designated Special Representatives since 2003.

 

The People's Daily — the Communist Party mouthpiece that reflects official thinking — made it clear last summer: "China won't make any compromises in its border disputes with India.

 

" What does India gain by staying put in an interminably barren negotiating process with China? By persisting with this process, isn't India aiding the Chinese engagement-with-containment strategy by providing Beijing the cover it needs? While Beijing's strategy and tactics are apparent, India has had difficulty defining a gameplan and resolutely pursue clearly laid-out objectives.

 

Staying put in a barren process cannot be an end in itself for India.


India has retreated to an defensive position territorially, with the spotlight now on China's Tibet-linked claim to Arunachal Pradesh than on Tibet's status itself. That neatly meshes with China's long-standing negotiating stance: What it occupies is Chinese territory, and what it claims must be on the table to be settled on the basis of give-and-take —  or, as it puts it in reasonably sounding terms, on the basis of "mutual accommodation and mutual understanding."

 

As a result, India has been left in the unenviable position of having to fend off Chinese territorial demands. In fact, history is in danger of repeating itself as India gets sucked into a 1950s-style trap. The issue then was Aksai Chin; the issue now is Arunachal.

 

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DNA

COMMENT

BEING GAY IS ALSO A HUMAN RIGHT

FARRUKH DHONDY 

 

Queen Victoria famously refused to believe that lesbianism, the physical love between woman and woman, could exist and her disbelief was the reason that the preference and practice weren't outlawed in the statute that made male homosexual acts a criminal offence. It was under this Act that Oscar Wilde was sent to Reading Gaol.

 

The Act was repealed only in the 1960s and it took a generation before gay activism began to demand the rights that heterosexual citizens enjoy, including the right to legally recognised partnerships.

 

Even so, under the Conservative Thatcher government of the eighties, a sub-statute named 'Clause 28' forbade the use of public funds for the propagation of homosexuality. On the face of it this could seem a perfectly reasonable injunction. What resulted from it, to take but one instance, was that teachers in a sex education class could not list homosexuality as 'normal' for homosexuals. A hundred inhibitions came into play.

 

David Cameron, now PM, assumed the leadership of his Conservative Party with a promise to 'rebrand' it. The Party, after Thatcher and John Major had lost three consecutive elections.

 

Cameron apologised for his Party's initiation of Clause 28.


Now in power, albeit in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats who have made noises off in the left wings of the public stage, he has promised a soft stance on social policy.

 

Before Cameron the Conservative Party was seen as the nasty Party, the Party of floggers, hangers, racists, anti-working class and alienating of all charitable, generous or equitable instincts. He and his Cameroonies fought hard to change this perception over the years and their partial success in the elections is certainly owing to the fact that they are not now seen as the Party determined to set up discriminatory barriers against sexual, religious and other minorities.

 

This week the Supreme Court of Britain heard the appeal of two asylum seekers, one from the Cameroons (the country, not journalese for the kitchen cabinet of David Cameron) and the other from Iran. Both appellants, who lost their case for asylum in a lower court, are gay and have declared that they face persecution and possible execution if they are deported to their native countries. The lower court ruled that they were not necessarily in mortal danger if, on being sent back to their countries, they behaved with discretion and disguised their sexuality.

 

The Supreme Court, in overthrowing the decision and allowing them asylum in Britain, contended that their human rights required that they did not need to forcibly hide their natural sexuality.


For the government, which needs to demonstrate to a questioning, bewildered or sceptical and even bigoted British electorate a firm stance against immigration, it's a dilemma.

 

On a radio chat show on the issue, to which I listened for an hour, several callers came on to ask the same question: what test will the courts or the Home Office, in charge of the processing of asylum seekers, use for determining whether a person claiming to be gay is telling the truth? How can one prove that you are under threat of persecution and death for being gay? There's no DNA test. Do asylum seekers have to turn up in loving pairs?

 

To present duplicate warrants of arrest with their names and alleged crime of being gay? Will the absence, apart from personal testimony, of any criterion for determining a human being's sexual orientation or preference stop Britain and other countries from extending civilised shelter to those who declare themselves victims of this essential human right?

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SIGNALS FROM SRINAGAR

LIMITED USE OF THE ARMY UNAVOIDABLE

 

The Army staging a flag march in parts of Srinagar sends out a signal that the situation is quite alarming in the valley. Despite the efforts by the police and the paramilitary forces (read the CRPF) for the past few days, people have continued to indulge in violence on various pretexts. Even the imposition of curfew has not brought about the desired result. The trouble-makers, indulging in stone-throwing at the slightest pretext, have been able to violate curfew orders with impunity. Why? Perhaps, they have come to believe that even if they are arrested on charges of stone throwing at security forces, nothing much will happen to them. The law needs to be amended to send across the message that anyone indulging in the hurling of stones, using these as a weapon, will invite severe punishment. Such elements must be dealt with sternly.

 

The security forces cannot keep quiet when they are attacked by elements specialising in throwing stones. And once the men in uniform open fire in self-defence, there are chances of protesters succumbing to injuries. This will obviously further antagonise people, contributing to their alienation. This vicious circle must be broken for peace to prevail in the valley.

 

In such a situation, deploying the Army to serve as a "deterrent" is understandable. What can the nation do when the situation threatens to worsen. The step has been taken with the state government asking for it. The Cabinet Committee on Security, which met in New Delhi on Wednesday to take stock of the growing crisis in Kashmir, has done well to make it clear that the Army will be there only in "peripheral" areas in Srinagar and elsewhere so that Pakistan-trained saboteurs can be prevented from taking advantage of the situation. In any case, using the Army for crowd control, and that too in a sensitive border state like Jammu and Kashmir, is fraught with enormous risks. In fact, it will be better if more paramilitary forces are deployed to bring the situation under control. This will be in the larger national interest. Ideally, the Army should step in with full force only when all measures have failed.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PAK-CHINA N-NEXUS

INDIA MUST STEP UP DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE

 

India has reason to be concerned over Pakistan's nuclear reactor deal with China, given Islamabad's record of nuclear proliferation and China's proclivity to build up that country as a potential threat to India. When India got a waiver for nuclear commerce from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the export and sale of nuclear technology worldwide, there was universal acceptance that India had an impeccable non-proliferation record. By contrast, Pakistan's record of proliferation is appalling. Equating the two countries on this vital issue of international security would be dangerous indeed. The father of Pakistan's nuclear programme, A.Q. Khan, had at one stage openly acknowledged his country's proliferation to Iran and North Korea. Pakistan is also believed to be the fountainhead of the proposed Islamic bomb. The threat due to Pakistan's enhancement of nuclear capability is, therefore, not just to India but to the world at large.

 

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's claim that the agreement for China to build two nuclear reactors in Pakistan was inked in 2009 though China notified the NSG only last month does not detract from the gravity of the deal. Mr Zardari's statement in Beijing that his current visit is the fifth since October 2008 only strengthens suspicions that the two countries have been up to something. It would be wrong for the NSG to allow the deal on grounds that it was initiated in 2004 when China was not a member of the NSG. India's stand that the pre-2004. China-Pakistan pact accounted only for the Chashma-2 reactor and some research reactors and that this deal for nuclear reactors is in the aftermath of the NSG"s waiver to India is weighty.

 

It is now up to India to raise the pitch of its diplomatic opposition to the China-Pakistan deal so that the NSG, if approached, does not brush aside Pakistan's proliferation record. While the Pakistan government's own intentions are suspect, there is a big question mark also over the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets which the world cannot brush aside.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

JUDGES FOR LIFE?

RAISING RETIREMENT AGE A BETTER OPTION

 

On the face of it, the Allahabad High Court's directive to the Centre to explore the possibility of having "judges for life" in the Supreme Court and the High Courts is not flawed. Speaking for the Division Bench in response to a petition, Justice Uma Nath Singh has given two weeks' time to the Centre to respond. Having maintained that the petitioner's contention is not altogether "devoid of substance", he said that there is every justification for the government to consider the proposal favourably. He has also referred to the practice that obtains in the UK and the US. While there is no retirement for judges in the US — they can retire voluntarily or resign any time — in the UK, the judges retire at 70 years, if first appointed to a judicial office after March 31, 1995, or at 75 otherwise. Though there is no conceptual flaw in having judges for life in India, the conditions that exist here and in advanced countries like the US and UK are quite different.

 

If our judges don't retire, it will deprive the youngsters of their opportunity to occupy the hallowed offices. The new concept will ensure continuity as also help clear the backlog of cases to some extent (since it is felt that senior judges dispose of more cases quickly). However, it is no substitute for merit and efficiency. On the contrary, a constructive and feasible alternative to Justice Singh's directive is to impress upon Parliament to raise the age of retirement for the judges in the higher judiciary.

 

Indeed, Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily hinted recently that the Centre would consider giving the go-ahead to the proposal to increase the retirement age of the High Court judges from the present 62 to 65 years. The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution headed by Justice M.N. Venkatachallaih had suggested 68 as the retirement age for the Supreme Court judges and 65 for those in the High Courts. Many jurists have also said that given the increased longevity of human life, the judges' retirement age should be suitably raised so that the country can be benefited by their long years of experience. As a constitutional amendment is needed for this, Parliament should take the call early.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

KASHMIR NEEDS ALL-PARTY CONSENSUS

CALL IN THE NATIONAL INTEGRATION COUNCIL

BY INDER MALHOTRA

 

Initial signs of a slow return of normalcy to the deeply disturbed parts of the Kashmir valley over the weekend were obviously misleading, as the subsequent grim events, including the need to seek the Army's help, underscore. However, the main point about the problem is different. When the situation simmers down - as it would sooner or later - it is vital that both New Delhi and Srinagar do not repeat their habitual mistake of reverting to complacency and inaction until the next upheaval engulfs them.

 

Two years ago over the issue of allocation of some land for temporary shelters for once-a -year pilgrims to the Amarnath shrine the state was virtually aflame. But once the fire was put out, nobody bothered about Jammu and Kashmir's unending problems. The euphoria that overtook both the Congress and the National Conference after their undoubtedly spectacular victory in the state assembly elections was even more diverting.

 

Come to think of it, but for their ostrich-like approach, the powers that be could have foreseen the latest irruption. After all, for many months agitation was on against a series of tragic incidents such the mysterious deaths of two women at Shopian, the alleged killing of three innocent civilians by an army officer in an encounter staged close to the LoC, and the arrest of a CRPF officer for allegedly ordering a subordinate to shoot a young man. On top of it, there had been a constant demand for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). Remarkably, the two mainstream Kashmir parties, the ruling NC and the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) supported it, even though they are otherwise bitterly hostile to each other. In fact, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has publicly accused the PDP of "encouraging the stone-throwers".

 

The Chief Minister is entirely right in arguing that since both Central and state governments have enjoined "maximum restraint" on the police and the CRPF, what are the security forces to do when their lives are threatened by violent mobs? Virulent and persistent pelting of stones by teenagers "manipulated by anti-national elements" was perhaps at the root of the recent turmoil. But how can you put down stone pelting in only one state when it is regrettably the order of the day all across the country? Anyone with any grievance, real or imaginary, seems to have a fundamental right to throw stones at security forces, block road or rail traffic, burn buses and public property and so on. The widespread violence and arson during Monday's Bharat Bandh, led by top BJP and Left Front leaders, proves the point to the hilt. Before awarding deterrent punishment to the stone-throwers of Sopore and Srinagar it would be necessary to do so throughout the country. Unfortunately, the possibility of this happening is remote because there is no sign of the requisite political will and administrative efficiency.

 

In all honesty the discussion so far addresses only the symptoms of the problem, not its substance. Kashmir's is a special case for two reasons, generally slurred over. First, almost everything happening there has an external dimension; and secondly, the alienation of the people in the valley is more widespread than generally acknowledged. The role of the security forces, therefore, becomes crucial, especially because of the gap between political leaders and the people. Policing by itself in not enough. Politicians in power have to win over the people. Omar Abdullah has said repeatedly that Kashmir is a political problem and it "must be resolved politically". Interestingly, the new Army Chief, General V. K. Singh, has said virtually the same thing. The Kashmir Chief Minister has added that since talks with Pakistan are already on, there should be talks with all Kashmiri groups, too.

 

The point is well taken. But the trouble is that things are not as simple as they are being made out to be. Talks between New Delhi and Kashmiri groups have been going on since the days of P. V. Narasimha Rao, who wisely stated that every proposal for greater autonomy "short of azadi" was negotiable. Atal Bihari Vajpayee continued the process, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is doing. Indeed, it is difficult to keep count of the task forces that have functioned or of the reports they have produced, sadly to no avail. The reason is that no two Kashmiri groups agree on anything. They want the Central government to produce a solution that they can reject. The PDP had one view when it was in power and a totally different one now.

 

In short, there appears to be not one Kashmir problem but as many as there are political parties in the state. Wouldn't it be better for all Kashmiri political parties to sit together and hammer out their agreed demands that can then be the basis for negotiations with New Delhi?

However, it should be clear that over the highly emotive issue of Kashmir there cannot be an agreement, internally with the Kashmiri groups or externally with Pakistan (though the two may be interconnected), without the country's backing. An all-party consensus is, therefore, imperative. Why the UPA government hasn't tried to evolve one is a mystery.

 

Such an effort should no longer be delayed. Up to now all-party conferences have been stray and informal. Kashmir is too serious a matter to be treated casually. The National Integration Council (NIC), moribund since 2005, would be the right forum for sustained consultations on Kashmir. Doubtless, in its present form the NIC is unwieldy, but there is no reason why its membership cannot be reduced to a manageable level.

 

Finally, it would be a pity if the just started India-Pakistan talks get derailed because of any upheaval in J & K. There is, in fact, a view that the separatists of Kashmir are determined to create such mayhem that Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi is driven to tell his Indian counterpart, S. M. Krishna, on July 15 that Kashmir, being the core issue, must be discussed first. Qureshi has already announced that he would take up the issue of human rights in Kashmir with him. The point to remember, however, is that Pakistan's India policy is made not by the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister or President but by the Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED WORLD

SLOPPY SPIES AND CLUMSY FBI

 

While the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI) claims to have busted a Russian spy-ring in the US, the spies themselves, and their handlers in Moscow, are disappointingly pedestrian, finds Kim Sengupta

 

IT WAS a high-octane tale of secrets and lies; of dangerous Russian agents who had infiltrated the heart of America; of buried pots of money; the geopolitical consequences, we were told, were incendiary - reminiscent of the dark days of the Cold War.

 

But despite the breathless accounts, the real story had more than an element of bathos. The prosecution is yet to produce any evidence of deep intelligence being passed by the "spy ring" to their Moscow handlers. In fact the Russian agents were not even successful enough to face espionage-related charges, being accused, instead, of failing to register with the US authorities as representatives of a foreign power, and omitting to declare income for tax purposes.

 

"The government's case essentially suggests that they successfully infiltrated neighbourhoods, cocktail parties and the Parents and Teachers Association," said Peter B Krupp, the lawyer for Donald Heathfield, after studying FBI affidavits. "It is all a bit confusing."

 

Neighbours were however fooled by the agents' efforts to fit in. One told The New York Times: "But they couldn't have been spies! They were just like anyone else around here. They had lots of pizzas and family-sized meals delivered."

 

According to US officials, the real purpose of the "sleeper cells" was to win the confidence of influential political circles, find out their thinking about Russia and get inside knowledge of Barack Obama's tactics in last year's Moscow summit.

 

Yet they were in no position to gain any of this information in the shopping malls where they spent much of their alleged spying money, or the parks where they met. This was clear from a dialogue taped by the FBI in which two of the agents, husband and wife Juan Lazaro and Vicky Pelaez, talked about the lack of appreciation shown towards them by Moscow.

 

"They tell me that my information is of no value because I didn't provide any source. They say that without a source, without saying who tells you all of this, it's of no use to them." Ms Pelaez tried to sooth him, saying: "Just put down any politician from here."

 

Having failed to gather "humint" - human intelligence - the Russian cell also seemed to have been rather backward in the use of secret electronics, depending instead on off-the-shelf consumer electronics. They also used invisible ink and a manual encryption method known as "one-time pad" - both of which can be bought in many "spyware" shops in New York and London.

 

The FBI were keen to stress that the spies were trying their utmost to carry out their work in secret. One example they gave was of Anna Chapman, the "Mata-Hari" who, according to one American tabloid, had "Sexy Red Agent's Locks to Die For". Ms Chapman would go to a coffee shop in Manhattan and set up her laptop. Then, using a standard Wi-Fi chip, she "probably" communicated with a mini van which would be seen with suspicious regularity in the neighbourhood.

Another sign of her alleged ingenuity was that she bought a "pre-paid" mobile telephone, which did not come with a contract, and thus the shop did not check her ID before selling it.

 

Glenn Fleishman, who edits the "Wi-Fi News" blog in the US, maintained that the standard Wi-Fi link used by Ms Chapman was "pretty amateurish and laughingly easy to sniff out". He pointed out that other technology for short-wave transmission was commercially available; known as ultra-wideband radio, this would have been almost impossible for the FBI to pick up.

 

Robert Emerson, a British security consultant, said: "We are in a world of smoke and mirrors. The use of a 'prepaid' phone is being put forward as devilishly crafty. But the fact is that thousands of people use them every day and there are much more secure ways of communicating. Look, maybe this woman and her associates really were engaged in espionage. But they seemed to have been pretty bad at it."

 

Old Russian intelligence hands are certainly embarrassed by the ineptitude of the secret American cell of the Russian spies.

 

Juan Lazaro made a lengthy statement soon after his arrest admitting that that was not his real name, that he was not born in Uruguay and that his home in Yonkers was paid for by the Russians. He declared, with a flourish, that his loyalty to his service was greater than his love for his son. The service, however, was still waiting for a decent report out of him.

 

Mikhail Lyubimov, who had worked as a KGB operative in Western Europe in the Seventies and Eighties, said: "We don't seem to have the human resources to continue this competition with dignity." Gennady Gudkov, deputy chairman of the State Duma's security committee, added: "In the best times of Soviet history, the organisers and controllers of such a sloppy operation would have ended in prison. And, at the worst times, they would have been shot."

 

A message intercepted by the American authorities to the spy cell showed the director of SVR poring over the cost of the house used by his agents: "We are under the impression that C views our ownership of the house as a deviation from the original purpose of our mission here.We'd like to assure you that we do remember what it is," it read.

 

But it was not that long ago that British agents were caught in Moscow using a fake "rock" to pass intelligence. The idea apparently came from watching a David Attenborough wildlife programme in which a tiny camera was hidden inside artificial elephant dung. The secret mission was filmed and shown on Russian TV, leaving red faces in London.

 

Vladimir Putin's first reaction at the time was that the MI6 agents should not be expelled. "If these spies are sent out, others will be sent in. Maybe they will send some clever ones next time who will be far harder for us to find. May be we don't want that to happen."

 

( By arrangement with The Independent )

 

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TRIBUNE

OPED WORLD

HEY, IT'S RUSSIAN FOOTBALL

YOU WIN SOME AND YOU LOSE SOME, SO WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ?

ROLAND OLIPHANT

 

The Russian government's initial reaction to the arrest of 11 people, at least some of whom it has admitted are its citizens, was true to form. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Bill Clinton the American police were "out of control, throwing people in jail" and the Russian Foreign Ministry called the allegations "baseless". But the mood in official Moscow has gradually changed.

 

"Russians think their security services should work actively and spy on America," said Sergei Markov, an MP for the ruling United Russia party. "It's understood that the Americans should guard their territory, so what's strange? Most Russians think of it like a football match." But, as Markov admitted, losing 10- nil is never easy. And the loss of 10 agents (the 11th, Christopher Robert Metsos, seems to have escaped after jumping bail in Cyprus ) and revelations about broken laptops, agents posting their details on Facebook and banal arguments with Moscow over the price of a mortgage have put a dent in the foreign intelligence service's mystique.

 

"Imagine if James Bond opened his box of tricks and inside there was some grilled chicken, a pair of socks and a picture of a girl with a note saying, 'When you get back don't forget to mow the lawn," moaned Moskovsky Komsomolets, a Russian tabloid.

 

But the chief feeling is of bewilderment. The FBI's story that they swooped because the suspects were about to flee, is almost universally derided. "Personally, I think they were trying to cover up the scandal they have with that oil spill in Louisiana," suggested an accountant from Moscow. "It's America's problem," shrugged Alexei Mukhin, director of a usually well-informed think tank, when asked if the scandal could affect relations. He compared the American political structure to the Russian Siloviki, the hard-line ex-spies said to surround Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

 

"The American siloviki decided to show Medvedev that not everything is so smooth in Russian-American relations," he said.

 

(By arrangement with The Independent)

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEWS

BEASTLY TALES FROM HERE, THERE

WE ARE NOT DEFINED BY THE THINGS WE CAN REPLACE, BUT HOW WE CARE FOR THE THINGS WE CANNOT

 

The official report on the death of the Jhurjhura tigress in Bandhavgarh is so clinical and impersonal that one might be tempted to skim it and move on. That would be a mistake. Behind the dry words of the official report is the heart-rending tale of a monumental tragedy.

 

Dr Rajesh Gopal is the Member-Secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority. His report of June 1, 2010 on the death of the tigress in Bandhavgarh is a profoundly distressing dossier. On May 18, three government vehicles entered the park in the late afternoon. One turned back shortly after. Of the other two, one was 'outsourced' (read privately procured) by the CEO of the Zilla Panchayat. The occupants included the CEO, the Range Officer, Dr KK Pandey, a Veterinary Assistant Surgeon, relatives of the CEO and three children. These two vehicles remained in the park after it closed. They also went off-route. Both are illegal. Barrelling around, one of them hit the Jhurjhura tigress, the mother of three six-month old cubs.



Early next morning, visitors spotted the wounded tigress in evident distress. The Field Director immediately ordered the area cordoned off. By 9.20 am, the tigress was dead. Post-mortem reports show that she died of massive internal haemorrhaging. Dr Gopal has recommended an urgent CBI probe. It is yet to happen. The three orphaned cubs have had to be moved to a zoo in Bhopal.

 

We're down four more tigers in the wild. And this is the third report of a tiger being hit by a vehicle in Bandhavgarh.

 

Less than a month later, the Pioneer newspaper in New Delhi broke even more ghastly news. The head of a local environmental committee was caught carrying the paws of a six-month tiger cub, one of a litter of three. This worthy gent and four chowkidars sawed off the cub's paws – as an offering to a local tantric for a customised puja.

 

 

In Maharashtra, the Melghat Tiger Reserve, once the flagship of Project Tiger, is still under threat. Years ago, the State Government decided that the best way to protect the tigers of Melghat was to take away a third of their home, and denotified 500 sq km of the reserve's 1500 sq km. Of course, nobody bothered to tell the tiger.

Coincidentally, the predominant tree species here is teak.

 

Timely intervention by the High Court in Nagpur has ensured that that area is still part of the reserve but it is greatly degraded with a far lower tiger density. Dr Gopal concedes that there are hardly any tigers outside Protected Areas and that the only tiger-protection success stories are within tiger reserves. The Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) has seen a resurgence of its tiger population, but without an increase in the reserve area. Merely increasing tiger numbers doesn't help. In the wild one tiger has a range of about 20 sq km. Not in TATR: there the range seems to have been reduced to about 3 sq km. And their habitats are constantly shrinking.
   Official commitment to tiger conservation is questionable at best. In the seven months from November 2008, Maharashtra lost 10 tigers, including four cubs; only one died a natural death. In a nine-year period, Assam lost 12 tigers. Orissa lost 40. Madhya Pradesh recently cleared a proposal for a segment of NH7 - a huge multi-lane high-speed expressway - right through the Kanha-Pench corridor; and, for good measure, a tourist resort.
 

Now we have the proposed amendments to the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLP): increased fines and jail sentences. Nice figures, but that's all they are. Poaching needs a more severe deterrent. Fines don't address the problem. Protecting tigers is essential, and expensive. It also involves improving wildlife habitat, and the lot of humans in the vicinity.

 

 One news report says that in Arunachal Pradesh, a tiger skin is worth about 5 kg of rice. Our governments spend thousands of crores on airports and the Commonwealth Games and golf courses on mangroves. But money to spend on a planned and humane relocation of villages, on strengthening security in our tiger reserves, on improved protection, on larger buffer areas, on dealing with the poor who live in the vicinity of these areas? How could these ever be a priority?

 

Buildings and bridges and expressways can be built and rebuilt. When the last tiger dies, what have we left? We are not defined by things we can replace, but how we care for the things we cannot.


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

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER SEZ CONTROVERSY

IT IS NOT JUST A QUESTION OF TAXES FOREGONE

There is something odd about India's export numbers. While the government focuses month after month on the rapid growth in exports (on the 2009 base and on the 2008 base, the 2010 numbers continue to show that exports have shrunk), the even greater success story that has been reported is the doubling and more of exports from the new special economic zones (SEZs). Exports from 111 such zones totalled $49 billion in 2009-10, up 123 per cent from the $22 billion earned in the previous year. Some of this very rapid growth would be on account of the fact that the zones are still in the process of getting up and running. What is odd, therefore, is not the export figure for the zones but that for the rest of the country. Total exports last year, at $176 billion, were about 5 per cent lower than in the previous year. If you take out the SEZ numbers for the two years, then non-SEZ exports fell from $163 billion to $127 billion — a sharp drop of 22 per cent.

Two explanations are possible. The first is that export performance outside of the SEZs, in the domestic tariff area (DTA), has been pretty disastrous; it is hard to recall any previous year in which exports fell by anything remotely like 22 per cent. Indeed, non-SEZ exports in 2009-10 were at the same level as three years earlier ($129 billion in 2006-07). The law on SEZs was passed in 2005, and it took a while for the government to start clearing the zones after the controversy over land acquisition and related issues. It was only after this that the zones could start functioning. So, it is safe to assume that hardly any of the exports that took place in 2006-07 would have been from the SEZs

The alternative explanation would be that the surge in SEZ exports points to diversion of trade from the DTA to the SEZs — something that policy is supposed to prevent. If there is such diversion taking place, then the country is not gaining much on the export front, in terms of additional dollars earned, while the government is losing tax revenue.

The issue gains new currency because proponents of the draft direct taxes code have argued that the continuation of tax exemptions for SEZ units would undermine the effectiveness of the new direct tax laws. Defenders of the SEZ scheme, on the other hand, point out that the cost of preventing the exports sector from a virtual collapse in 2009-10 was a paltry Rs 5,200 crore by way of income-tax revenues, and Rs 3,200 crore of indirect tax revenues, which is what the government lost on account of the tax concessions given to SEZ units. If the numbers are correct (the total cost being less than $2 billion), then the argument would be in favour of the SEZs. But that does not take away the urgent need for the government to undertake a detailed examination of what is the real additionality achieved in exports through the SEZs. If the bulk of such exports are, in fact, not a result of diversion from the DTA, the country faces a serious export challenge in the DTA that the over-all export numbers mask.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

ADAPT AND INNOVATE

FDI IN MULTI-BRAND RETAIL SHOULD BE MADE TO WORK

The Opposition challenge to the government over the fuel price hike may now be followed up by the opening of another front. Both the BJP and the Left will react strongly to the government's move to argue (in a discussion paper) in favour of allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) into organised, multi-brand retailing. Such retailing is already there, the contentious issue is whether to allow foreign investment or not, the potential danger being to the corner or kirana stores that now account for the bulk of retailing. An Icrier study found recently that 4.2 per cent of the unorganised retail outlets closed in a year, a rate lower than the global one for closure of small businesses. What is more, only 1.7 per cent of the closures were on account of inability to face competition from the organised sub-sector.

Against this, the likely gains from permitting FDI in organised retailing are well known. India's logistical and supply chain capabilities are poor. Almost 30 per cent of the fruit and vegetables that are produced go to waste because of virtually non-existent cold chains. The Indian farmer typically gets only a third of what the final consumer pays, instead of the two-thirds that his counterparts do in countries that have organised retailing. If the farm-to-fork price differential could be bridged by home-grown retailers who set up successful cold chains and retail store chains, there would be no strong argument in favour of FDI (though none against, either). However, the experience of the past five years has been that organised retailing has simply not taken off. Groups like Reliance, RPG and others have tried hard but had limited success, and quite a lot of failure. Bharti tried its hand at farm-produce exports, and has admitted failure. There is, therefore, a strong argument for bringing in the global players who understand the business, and who can hopefully make it work in such a manner that domestic wannabes learn the ropes.

 The country already has examples like PepsiCo, which has been a boon to potato growers in Punjab and West Bengal. Wal-Mart, meanwhile, promises to bring down sharply the cost of (for example) shirts that it supplies to customers — a definite plus to millions with limited budgets. Local sourcing for overseas retail networks will be a by-product.

The downside remains the potentially negative effects on existing retail outlets — and retailing is one of the largest non-agricultural sectors when it comes to employment generation. The government has, therefore, been careful enough to propose safeguards in its discussion paper. It is also clear that many of the larger players will try to use the existing corner stores as their front-end for personalised customer contact, thereby getting the best of both worlds.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

LUNCH WITH THE MASTERS

FOR INDIA, THE LONG-TERM BULL SCENARIO HAS A REASONABLE PROBABILITY OF COMING TO FRUITION

AKASH PRAKASH

I had the privilege of attending a fascinating event this week, where, on the occasion of a market legend reaching a personal milestone, a unique panel discussion was organised to discuss and debate the outlook for Indian equity markets. On the panel were four of the smartest minds involved with Indian equities, three being individuals running their own capital, and one a large Indian institutional investor. In the audience was a veritable who's who of the Indian equity market. I have never seen such a large gathering of the so-called smart money at a single forum, and the quality of the turnout was a reflection of the respect and affection market participants have for the individual in whose honour the discussion was organised.

The panel was quite uniformly bullish on the long-term prospects for India and Indian equity market. All the panel members were convinced that the trend rate of growth in India was somewhere near 8 per cent, and in an environment where western economies were under huge fiscal pressure and struggling to grow at even 1-2 per cent, India would stand out. The group felt that India's time had come, and the quality of our growth and our domestic consumption-based economic model were starting to get recognised. The strong end-consumer demand we are seeing across sectors was seen as sustainable, and a sign that India had hit an inflection point.

 On valuations, while everyone agreed that India was not cheap, 16 times March 2011 earnings was not outlandish, given a sustainable corporate earnings growth stream of 16-18 per cent and 20 per cent return on equity (ROE) with limited debt at the corporate level.

On the fiscal issues, one panelist felt that with the introduction of GST and DTC, the tax-to-GDP ratio would improve by 150 basis points over the coming five years. Taking a nominal GDP growth profile of 14 per cent, tax revenues should compound at 18 per cent (as tax-to-gdp improves), and this type of revenue growth would bring our fiscal deficit to 3 per cent, and enable the government to meet its public debt targets. This task would be helped by the recent decisions to tackle fuel and fertiliser subsidies, the possibility of freezing these subsidies at current levels was a significant positive. If we can bring the fiscal deficit down, that should enable a gradual reduction in interest rates and further boost consumption and investment. There was a clear feeling that India had always been a good micro story with weak macro, but given the deterioration in the macro indicators in the West and our expected improvement, macro can no longer be held against us.

On the issues of governance, there was a strong feeling that given our stage of economic development, our institutions are actually quite robust, with enough checks and balances. Parallels were drawn with other BRIC economies and with the quality of governance in the US at a comparable stage of GDP per capita. Most were heartened by the younger lot of political leaders, the use of RTI and the gradual maturation of the electorate. The panelists felt that there was hope for serious improvement in governance over the coming years through the use of technology. The Unique ID project was seen as a game-changer, plugging leakages and improving effectiveness of public expenditure. Examples were given of Gujarat, the rise in both crop yields and the water table, the transformation of Ahmedabad, the effectiveness of the bureaucracy, etc. Why cannot this be replicated in other states?

There was optimism on Indian manufacturing, especially with the introduction of GST, and many felt that high-end engineering was an area in which India can dominate. One panelist was quite optimistic about the scope for another agriculture revolution. He pointed out the scope for yield improvement, giving the example of how cotton yields have tripled in Gujarat from 220 kg to 660 kg in a matter of a few years with the introduction of BT cotton. Yields in India are below Pakistan and Bangladesh in many crops, but the economics of farming have improved sharply in the last three years, and thus the capacity of farmers to use and pay for better quality inputs.

There was a belief that power capacity additions will surprise on the upside in the 2012-2017 Plan period, with the entry of the big boys from the Indian private sector. One panelist even felt that we could see upwards of 110,000 Mw of capacity being added. If true, this would crash merchant power prices, reduce power outages and give a huge fillip to economic growth.

On the question of large upcoming and ongoing equity issuance, one of the panelists made the point that there was approximately $30 trillion of money held by institutional investors in the world of which India had less than $75 billion. India should continue to attract large sums of money going forward, as we are under-represented in the relevant indices and, by default, in institutional portfolios. The quality of issuance was also the key, if we bring to the market good quality papers, buyers will emerge. The panel felt that large issuance, especially of good quality, would not derail the bull story, but attract new investors.

In terms of needed reforms, the panel felt that land and labour were the key to enable an adequate supply-side response to handle 8 per cent growth and unlock our mineral and low-cost labour resources. We need to handle land acquisition in a fair and transparent manner to enable all stakeholders to get a fair deal.

Inflation was seen as a temporary problem, with a clear view that assuming monsoons are normal, inflation will come down to 5-6 per cent by March 2011, perceived as an acceptable level for our rate of growth. There were no takers for the view that our inflation was more structural, as the panel felt that one should look at inflation over a longer period, and if you adjust for the monsoon failure, and last year's 1 per cent inflation number, today's double-digit print is less threatening.

There was concern on the short-term outlook, both due to global factors and the feeling that earnings in Q1 may disappoint, with year-on-year growth slowing from 30 per cent to 18-19 per cent. India's relative outperformance was also a concern, with China down more than 25 per cent year-to-date, and India basically flat, though one panel member felt that India's cycle of outperformance has just begun, and while this may be a concern in the short term, it will eventually pull in money as global investors chase performance. A correction was unlikely to be severe, and most likely in the range of 10-15 per cent.

In terms of sectors, the panel was uniformly underweight on commodities due to global growth concerns, and strongly overweight on the end-consumer facing business. There was also a positive bias towards agrochemicals and certain technology-oriented auto ancillaries. Some expressed concern around tech, given global growth issues, the rupee and valuations.

While broadly agreeing with the above, I tend to be a little more cautious in the short term, especially on the fiscal and quality of governance. I think we run the risk of the government spending away the gains we realise from tax buoyancy as populism continues to win elections, and governance, to my mind, remains weak in many key areas. I also worry about the supply side across education, infrastructure, etc. being geared for 8 per cent growth. Global concerns could still cause a flight of risk capital, and I am surprised about the lack of concern around our current account and trade deficits, which have worsened markedly in the last 18 months. Despite these issues, I do agree that India could break out, and the long-term bull scenario has a reasonable probability of coming to fruition.

On the whole, it was a fascinating discussion, and an honour to be able to hear these gurus in person.

The author is the fund manager and chief executive officer of Amansa Capital

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

A RETURN TO VALUES?

AFTER A DECADE OR SO OF BUYING INTO THE ALTERNATIVE ASSET CLASS CRAP, ARE PEOPLE BEGINNING TO LOOK AT ART AS ART AGAIN?

JAMAL MECKLAI

Back in the heydays of 2005-2008, investment advisers everywhere were pushing alternative asset classes, including real estate, private equity, hedge funds, and, fashionably, modern and contemporary art.

 All of these assets rose on the tide of cheap money, and, in some cases, appreciated beyond any comprehension. The less "real" or liquid the market, the greater was the appreciation. In the case of modern and contemporary art, it became impossible to walk around the art district in Colaba (or, for that matter, Bond Street in London or Park Avenue in New York) without tripping over hundreds of newly minted art dealers and slime-green-behind-the-ears collectors.

The parties were fabulous, everybody was fashionable, and Art Basel Miami became the Vatican of cool.

Slow forward to 2009-10 and there are layers of still drying blood on the streets. Oddly enough, nobody is trying to make art out of it — yet.

In the wake of the developed markets' financial crisis of 2008, prices of modern and contemporary art crashed, like those of all other "alternative assets", following the age-old principle that the higher you rise the harder you fall. Indian contemporary art, which was the runaway winner on the way up, was the slammed-down loser on the way down. Subodh Gupta's stainless steel utensil paintings, which created a major flurry at nearly $1.5 million in 2008, were selling at (a still more-than-respectable) $250,000 in 2009. As punters picked themselves up from the floor, prices have risen a bit — one of Subodh's works went for close to $500,000 in May this year, a 100 per cent rise to be sure, but still just 35 per cent of its supposed value two years ago.

Prices of international contemporary art, much of which was also driven by the there-is-no-risk-anymore speculation, fared a bit better, with some works selling in June at about 65 per cent of their auction value in 2008.

However, the really remarkable news is that some works of art — both international and Indian — are suddenly commanding unbelievably high prices, higher even than the frenzied peaks of 2008. In May this year, a Picasso masterpiece was bought for over $100 million, topping the all-time record set in 2004 and nearly 20 per cent higher than the top estimate. Even more amazing, a sculpture by Giacometti went for (also) more than $100 million, nearly five-ten times the high estimate. Closer to home, a painting by Raza sold for Rs 16.5 crore ($3.5 million) in June, easily beating the highest price previously paid for any of the Indian progressives (about Rs 5 crore for a painting by Souza during the wild ride in 2008). And, closing the circle, in a sense, a sculpture by Bharti Kher, Subodh's wife, sold (again in June) for $1.5 million, becoming the highest-priced Indian contemporary artwork ever sold.

Now, all this amazing price action is happening while global markets are once again shunning risk. It is hard to find a serious analyst who is not bearish about the world economy. Whether it's the near-certainty of a Greek restructuring; or the impact of dubious sovereign debt holdings on bank profitability and enthusiasm to lend; or the likelihood of the austerity in Europe leading to a decline in demand and a double-dip recession; or the chickens coming home to roost in the US economy with a second wave of housing defaults; or the impact of the new financial regulations; or the increasing uncertainty in China with the labour unrest and increasing inflation; or whatever, bearish analysts are having a field day.

As a result, financial markets are extremely nervous — the VIX is jumping edgily higher, global equities are threatening to fall out of bed, and US Treasuries are, once again, rocking as a safe haven.

Clearly, something entirely different is happening with art.

Could it be that after a decade or so of buying into the alternative asset class crap, people are beginning to look at art as art again? And, with people again looking at value, as opposed to price, extraordinary works could certainly command extraordinary prices. Unsurprisingly, these huge hits are few and far between. All the auctions have smaller catalogues and a larger brought-in percentage (than back in 2007-08); and other than the few real gems, prices are languishing. Indeed, it would seem they could — and, perhaps, should — languish further, seeking a more reasonable balance of price and value.

To my mind, this is an excellent thing. Perhaps it is part of the new cycle of life that appears to be taking shape, shifting away from the what's-good-for-Goldman-is-good-for-the-world mentality to one where moral standing and high-quality brainwork would lead over connections and capital.

Inshaallah!

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

MEASURING INNOVATION

WITHOUT WELL-LAID-OUT PERFORMANCE METRICS, THE IDEA OF AN INNOVATIVE MINDSET CAN BE JUST ANOTHER FUZZY CONCEPT

SHYAMAL MAJUMDAR / MUMBAI JULY 09, 2010, 0:44 IST

How do you measure a company's innovation mindset? Ask the Tata group.

The Tata Quality Management Services (TQMS), in alliance with Julian Birkinshaw, professor of strategic and international management at the London Business School and world-renowned innovation expert, has developed a tool called Innometer that helps companies manage innovation and its complexities.

 The Innometer assesses the "innovation process" and "innovation culture" of companies, and helps design interventions. The Tata Group Innovation Forum (TGIF) is using the Innometer to encourage innovation in Tata companies, first, by enabling a company to compare its innovation propensity to domestic, sectoral or global benchmarks, and second, by developing a sense of urgency among employees to improve the processes that support innovation. In essence, the Innometer helps a company think and strategise its innovation initiatives.

The entire concept is based on Prof Birkinshaw's Innovation Value Chain. The aim is to generate ideas from various sources: from within a particular team; from other teams across the company; from customers, end users, competitors, related industries, etc. The list of new ideas is then screened and categorised to determine the degree of technical difficulty to develop in terms of engineering time and resources versus the commercial return on developing such a product or a new feature. It's possible that the new idea will not bring the company or business unit direct commercial success but will help it maintain the products' competitiveness.

The benefits of Innometer and the move to drill down innovation to every person on every shop floor have been tremendous for the Tata group, most of which have been well chronicled. To be sure, the Tatas are not alone; there are quite a few Indian companies that are doing cutting-edge innovation.

But, where most fumble is on how to measure their innovation efforts. That's important because an intangible thing like innovativeness of an organisation and its employees can often become just a fuzzy idea in the absence of well-laid-out performance metrics. The biggest hurdle that companies face is speed, or the time it takes to move from idea generation to initial sales, which makes setting timelines and milestones that much more difficult.

Indian companies aren't alone — this is a problem being faced by companies all over the world. A Boston Consulting Group study in 2009 found that companies routinely do a poor job of measuring their innovation efforts — and, as a result, often make decisions more on the basis of guesswork than hard data. This comes at a potentially sizeable cost.

The survey, covering 2,700 executives, found that only a third of company executives were satisfied with their company's innovation measurement practices. While most executives believed that innovation should be tracked as rigorously as other business operations, less than half said their company actually did so.

A majority of companies continues to rely on a handful of metrics to measure the full scope of their innovation activities. One of the key findings was that companies consider themselves most effective at measuring innovation outputs (such as revenue growth, shareholder returns, and brand impact). They consider themselves far less successful at tracking innovation inputs (for example, dedicated resources, such as people and funds invested) and the quality of their innovation processes.

Broadly, most companies agree that innovation activities should be measured, but do not follow through with that conviction for a number of reasons. Uncertainty about which metrics to use was the most common one (32 per cent of respondents). Tellingly, though, a nearly equal percentage said it wasn't a high priority — which speaks volumes about the problem and suggests that for those companies, things are unlikely to change for the better, BCG said.

A smaller number of respondents blamed the lack of support from top executives and the cost of constituting an effective measurement programme. A few also said that many in their company believe the myth that innovation equals creativity and that creativity can be stifled by measurements.

This is surprising considering that innovative companies generate vastly superior total returns for shareholders. Globally, on an annualised basis, innovators outperformed their industry peers by 430 basis points over three years; over ten years, they outperformed them by 260 basis points. The pattern of superior performance for innovators held when viewed along regional lines as well.

The point is that for any such scheme to succeed, there has to be a buy-in by employees. And that can be done through incentives. But surveys have found very few companies make aggressive use of this lever and do not consistently tie incentives and rewards to innovation metrics.

However, the success of the Tata group and others shows there is reason to be encouraged.

BCG says over the last three years, companies have gradually been raising the number of metrics that they employ. In 2007, 60 per cent of respondents said their company uses five or fewer; in 2009, that percentage fell to 52. The number of companies that use 11 or more metrics has also increased appreciably.

This suggests that at least some companies are getting the message and acting on it. What about your company?

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

EMPLOYMENT PROBLEMS

STATES CAN IMPROVE THEIR LABOUR ECOSYSTEMS THROUGH INTELLIGENT POLICY MEASURES ON DEMAND AND SUPPLY SIDE OF LABOUR AND LABOUR REFORMS

SHANKAR ACHARYA

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.
 

RANKING STATES BY LABOUR ECOSYSTEM

States

Labour Ecosystem Index Rank

Rank by component indices, 2009

2009

2005

1995

Employment
(Demand)

Employability
(Supply)

Labour
Law

Andhra Pradesh

1

6

8

2

3

2

Karnataka

2

3

2

10

1

3

Maharashtra

3

5

4

13

7

1

Delhi

4

1

1

1

2

8

Gujarat

5

2

3

6

4

4

Kerala

6

11

9

5

6

10

Tamil Nadu

7

4

7

7

8

6

Haryana

8

12

11

12

12

7

Rajasthan

9

9

13

3

13

11

Goa

10

7

5

14

5

9

Punjab

11

8

12

9

11

12

Himachal Pradesh

12

10

14

4

16

13

Madhya Pradesh

13

13

6

16

17

5

Orissa

14

14

10

15

15

14

West Bengal

15

15

15

8

10

19

Uttar Pradesh

16

17

17

18

14

15

Bihar

17

18

19

17

9

17

Assam

18

16

16

11

18

16

Jammu & Kashmir

19

19

18

19

19

18

Source: India Labour Report 2009, www.teamlease.com

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

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HANDS OFF!

GUARD REGULATORY AUTONOMY ZEALOUSLY

 

 

THE RBI's angst over the Securities and Insurance Laws (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance promulgated last month is understandable. The Ordinance is clearly aimed at establishing the finance ministry diktat over the central bank. The reason is not far to seek. The RBI has often refused to play footsie to finance ministers (read shortterm political interests). And though the central bank (given its lack of formal independence) has no option but to eventually fall in line with the government's wishes, its show of spine irks the political class. Hence the bid to cut it down to size! The Ordinance takes away the first-amongequals position the RBI has traditionally enjoyed vis-à-vis other financial sector regulators. Worse, it strikes at the root of regulatory autonomy by replacing the existing mechanism for resolving differences (read turf battles) between sectoral regulators — the High-Level Coordination Committee (HLCC) on financial markets chaired by the RBI governor — with a Joint Committee, chaired by the finance minister. In the new structure, the RBI governor is an ex-officio member, on par with the chairmen of the Securities & Exchange Board of India, Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority and Pension Fund Regulatory & Development Authority, as well as two other government functionaries in the finance ministry. At a time when there is increasing recognition of the pivotal role of central banks in ensuring financial stability — witness recent moves to strengthen the hands of the US Fed and the Bank of England — the Ordinance is simply retrograde. The HLCC (and the RBI) hasn't emerged too well from the recent spat between Sebi and Irda, but that is no reason to junk the existing model for a patently worse one.
   Tension between the government and the central bank isn't unique to India. In a democracy, differences are inevitable, given the tendency of the ruling political class to look no further than the next elections even as the central bank has the luxury of not being bogged down by shortterm compulsions. Sensible governments recognise the role played by a healthy difference of opinion, backed by technical knowledge and experience, and do not muzzle their central banks. Is ours a sensible government?

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

 MINING AS ISSUE

AMPLE ORE RESERVES BEYOND NIYAMGIRI

 

AN AMAZING lack of socio-cultural sensitivity is provoking endless controversy and delaying muchneeded investment in Kalahandi, one of our most backward — albeit mineral-rich — districts. The proposal of Vedanta Aluminium to source bauxite ore for its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, Kalahandi, cannot be faulted on technical grounds; the region has some of the world's best deposits. But to insist that the mining site be on top of the Niyamgiri hills, considered sacred by the local Dongria Kondhs, seems to be the height of insensate policy. After all, there are proven deposits of bauxite along large tracks in Orissa: including in Rayagada and Sundergarh districts; the Panchapatmali deposit in Koraput district is said to be the largest single deposit globally. Neighbouring Kalahandi also has significant bauxite; however, to undertake intensive mining activity in Niyamgiri in the first place would alienate and deprive the tribals of a sacred space and cannot but harmfully affect the larger regional population. The idea that industrialisation must necessarily erase ancient myths needs to be nipped in the bud.

 

What's required is sustainable development, so as to improve the quality of life and provide a range of opportunities for societal advancement. Vedanta is already doing some developmental work in Kalahandi. But the move of group company Sterlite Industries and the Orissa Mining Corporation of the Orissa government to form a joint venture to mine on Niyamgiri is clearly cutting it fine. Reports say conveyor infrastructure from the proposed mining site, complete with 47 pillars, to the refinery in the foothills has already come up, well before stage-II environmental clearance for the project. This is gross. Project promoters say bauxite is at present being sourced from Chhattisgarh and mining in Niyamgiri is required for logistical reasons. But Sterlite reportedly has a mining lease in the Panchapatmali deposit, along with Nalco, Hindalco, Indal, etc. Also, ore can well be explored elsewhere in Kalahandi, beyond Niyamgiri. Show some sensitivity, please.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

 WHAT'S IN A TWEET?

QUITE A BIT, APPARENTLY

 

 

IT'S A rather strange world. Things are invented based on the principle that swathes of people want to reveal details about everything from their love life to what they are reading at the moment. Or that they want to, virtually every hour, tell people what they are doing. And it is assumed large amounts of people want to know all this. And, verily, they do. Hence, the success of what a few oldies might consider odd things like Facebook or Twitter. The latter is aptly named, one will have to concede, though. The constant chatter, twittering birds, general noise. And this strange, compelling need to be constantly tweeting often ends with people getting called twats. There may be umpteen instances, but debating the category of air travel and the IPL readily come to mind as instances where people shot themselves in the foot. And now, here's another case. CNN has fired one of its editors covering the west Asian region (they call it the Middle East, though) for a tweet. The lady in question apparently expressed some sort of admiration for a recently-deceased Lebanese cleric who was widely respected in the region but was disliked in the West as he was one of the inspirations for the Hezbollah movement. And, of course, the cleric was deeply anti-American and anti-Israel. Naturally, it was felt that having such sentiments damaged the editor's credibility and she was asked to leave by CNN.

 

 Just shows you the pitfalls of announcing to the world on the spur of the moment what you might be thinking at the moment. Some thoughts, the wise would say, are best left unsaid. But given the peculiarities of the world, one just wonders if, in this case, there isn't something else at work. Would the editor have been sacked if the tweet was about someone whom the West likes, but west Asians don't? So, here we have it. There's no such thing as a harmless, sweet tweet. Not only should you hold your thoughts, but some are also banned, depending on where you stand. A tweet, it seems, really can say a lot.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

TAKING THE FIRST CALL ON 5G

DELAYS AND ENDLESS DELIBERATIONS IN DECISION-MAKING HAVE ACTUALLY HELPED THE COUNTRY BUY LATEST TELECOM TECHNOLOGY, AND INDIA IS NOW LEADING THE WORLD IN PURSUING 4G AND 5G NETWORKS, SAYS PRADIP BAIJAL

 

WE DEBATED for 10 years after mobile telephony was introduced across the world whether it was appropriate for the poor Indian, and when it came in, it could not grow for another 10 years owing to high tariffs and inappropriate regulation and could not reach the bottom of the pyramid. We debated 3G also for 10 years, and now when it is coming in, it is challenged by atotally new technology. Is India, unlike the past, acquiring more confidence to experiment with new technologies, having almost the largest number of mobile subscribers in the world?


The recent 3G and WiMax auction in the country has generated interest across the world, and questions are being asked about the future of Indian telecom after these auctions and the future of WiMax and the LTETDD technology — which has entered India ahead of other countries — and a possible 5G initiative in India. These are technical terms and I must explain the changes in simple terms, as I explain the game-changing implications of these moves.

 

1G technology, the basic mobiles, entered the world in early 1980s, followed by 2G, or GSM, mobiles. The argumentative Indian debated till 1995 whether we should get the elite technology of mobile phones for the poor Indian. A few mobiles at the cost of a diamond pendant did enter India in 1995, but everything changed after the 'pendant' entered the base of the Indian population pyramid in 2004, courtesy low prices and tariff. Now it is entering rural India fast without subsidy implications. The government planned teledensity of 15 and rural teledensity of 4% at a huge subsidy cost to the taxpayer, for 2010. We lagged behind targets like in all other sectors till 2004, but suddenly started treating targets with contempt and, today, we are +60% teledensity and 25% rural teledensity nation — far more than 100% teledensity for urban areas like in developed world — at a fourth of the subsidy cost for rural areas.

 

3G entered the world in early 2000, and almost turned many corporates bankrupt. We again debated for 10 years before letting the total personal communicator enter India. This telephone can give voice, data, pictures, broadband, maps, Google search, location, direction finder, mobile bank, TV, cloud computing — imagine a full-fledged computer in your palm — and what not. But I now salute the argumentative Indian — that the technologies entered so late — when they had fully matured and the equipment became cheap, giving the mobile communicator market a chance to explode as the 2G market did post-2004, and enter the bottom of the pyramid.

 

That would be a function of tariffs. Can we get those dream tariffs after the sector spends Rs 3 lakh crore this year and in the next three years, and at the time of renewals, as recommended by the regulator. After all, it only spent a little more than Rs 2.5 lakh crore in the 2G initiative in the last few years after introduction of mobiles, and the telecom sector has an annual turnover of Rs 1.6 lakh crore. Nowhere has 3G initiative led to alarge increase in total turnovers or average revenue per user (Arpus). How much the Indian consumer can spend vis--vis his per-capita income on this experience and how much the Indian companies can sustain the huge current expenditure without sizeable incremental revenues would determine the future of the sector.

The WiMax and 4G story in India today is totally different. WiMax standards for computers and not for telephones — with convergence, they are now getting into telephones also — have been frozen by ITU recently. The process is going on for 4G, mainly LTE-FD though, while RIL and Qualcomm are talking of LTE-TDD for India, a more recent technology. Tikona, another operator, has also spoken of a likely shift. So, the argumentative Indian is changing in a big way, after government has separated licence from spectrum, and he is experimenting with new technologies ahead of time with the confidence of being a +600 million subscriber network and people are now asking questions about 5G, in the nascent stages of development around the world, entering India.

 

BACK in 2003, the world chief of a major handset company, on way to Shanghai, did not want to see me in Delhi — Iwas the Indian regulator then — and rightly so, as we were 10 years behind, a thirdworld country with Hindu rate of growth in telecom too, primarily dependent on the government incumbent and government subsidies, hardly selling any phones — all the diamond pendant-like priced phones were smuggled from Singapore. It is a different matter; the group has many factories in India now, selling the same pendant for the price of artificial jewellery.

 

Within the last five years, as a nation, we now have the confidence to undertake R&D, test and launch new technologies in the telecom sector, and we should be grateful to our competing telecom operators to have taken major risks in our governance regimes and establishing a huge market size — only second to China with much larger rate of growth — and credibility. And now at 4G and 5G stage, we are ahead of the world in testing and competing for newer technologies.

 

So what are these technologies? In layman terms, it is about the speed of communication. The lower speeds could only deliver voice and some words, while the higher speeds can deliver all that I wrote above for 3G, and 4G and 5G would deliver at exponentially-higher speeds, thus giving far better video streams, faster moving pictures and much more in a ubiquitous manner. Imagine a speed of more than 1 Gbps in 5G in comparison to 1.2 kbps, almost a million times more, of 1G, the speeds of 9.6 kbps of 2G, 2 Mbps for 3G and 100 Mbps for 4G, and higher for 5G would deliver pictures almost akin to physical presence, changing all human activities to the mobile streams and all communication to video with sound. The quality would be 4,000 times better than what we see in our best laptop connection and broadband scheme today.

 

Perhaps there would be no need to leave the house or vehicle for education, banking, medical treatment, meetings, and movies, and so many other forms of human economic, educational or entertainment activity very shortly. In the past, we waited hearing about these wonders happening in the West. The Indian entrepreneurs will now give us the experience of moving ahead of the world in achieving these technology advances. South Korea in Asia led the West, including the US, in fixed broadband. Will we lead the world in mobile broadband and in 4G and 5G technologies?

 

The author is former chairman of the Telecom    Regulatory Authority of India)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CITINGS

FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING

JON KABAT-ZINN

 

THERE are many ways of looking at any thing or event or process. When your mind changes, new possibilities tend to arise. In fact, everything changes when you can see things on different levels simultaneously, when you can see fullness and connectedness as well as individuality and separateness. Your thinking expands in scope. This can be a profoundly liberating experience. It can take you beyond your limited preoccupations with yourself. It can put things in a larger perspective…

 

When we use the word healing to describe the experiences of people in the stress clinic, what we mean above all is that they are undergoing a profound transformation of view. This transformation of view creates an entirely different context within which we can see and work with our problems, however serious they may be. It is a perceptual shift away from fragmentation and isolation toward wholeness and connectedness. With this change of perspective comes a shift from feeling out of control and beyond help (helpless and pessimistic) to a sense of the possible, a sense of acceptance and control.

 

Healing always involves an attitudinal and emotional transformation. Sometimes, but not always, it is also accompanied by a major reduction in physical symptoms and by improvement in a person's physical condition. Dramatic or subtle, such shifts in perspective are signs of seeing with eyes of wholeness. Out of this shift in perspective comes an ability to act with greater balance, especially when encountering stress or pain.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FAC E - O F F

HAS J&K CM LOST THE PLOT?

 

NAEEM AKHTAR

Spokesperson PDP

Yes, and he's blaming everyone else!


FOR an opposition spokesperson, this should have been an easy answer. But it is with reluctance that one say 'yes' in reply. Because Omar Abdullah has lost the plot not just for himself, his UPA partners and the large peace constituency in south Asia, but for every citizen of the state he governs. Not long ago, Omar would visit Pakistan as a young and emerging leader from the region discussing the future of Jammu & Kashmir with the elite of that country. Today, as the country's youngest chief minister, he has to be told by the home minister through media to visit the districts rocked by violence and protests that are accessible to him only by a helicopter.

 

He was projected by an impressed media as the heart-throb of the young and, today, he is apparently at war with the same generation he could have served for the next 50 years, going by the longevity of our political class. Omar accused everyone else for the troubles he is facing in running the most sensitive state of the country. He began by describing the trouble as a local problem of five police stations of Srinagar. Then why did it engulf the entire Valley in a matter of months? He accused — this is not satirical but his own words — kerosene dealers, pesticide dealers, PDP, Hurriyat, anti-national elements and finally cross-border influence for these disturbances. Who remains his friend? The latest in line is, unbelievably, his UPA partner, the Congress party at the Centre.

 

Very craftily, the spin doctors are trying to dissociate Omar from the situation he landed himself into. 'It has nothing to do with governance' is the new theme song, but a 'wider political problem' that has to be tackled by the Centre. Obviously, the blame lay at the door of the PM who in TV show after TV show is accused, by inference, of not having done enough follow-up on the peace process. The CM would face no problem if only Dr Manmohan Singh had got the 'small' Kashmir issue out of his way. Omar's marginalisation from a moderate space carved out painstakingly by his predecessors since 2002 is not his loss alone. It is a loss for the entire mainstream and the growing class of optimists who believed the democratic system could finally deliver in Kashmir.

 

AMITABH MATTOO

International Studies Professor, JNU

Answer is as complex as the situation

 

 WHENEVER there is a crisis in Jammu & Kashmir, we like to find a scapegoat. This is an easy escape route that unfortunately prevents us from taking a comprehensive view of the complexity of the problems impacting the state. Consider the history of the problems. In 1953, Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed after it was believed that he was part of an Anglo-American plot to wrest the Valley from India. In 1964, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was the scapegoat after massive protests that followed the theft of the holy relic. The pattern continued through subsequent decades.

 

Today, there is rage among the youth of the state. It is anger that stems from two decades of conflict, the violence, curfews, killings and a near-total breakdown of the system. This angst, disillusionment, frustration — call it what you will — demands attention and sensitivity from the Indian nation: from the government of India, from civil society, from corporate houses, and especially from the media. Every Kashmiri young man and woman needs to be given a vision of the future, a vision full of opportunity and where he or she feels secure in every sense of the term. And that vision has to be translated into reality. This requires a detailed roadmap, out-of-the-box thinking, and a willingness to reach out at every level.

 

It is often asked why J&K should be considered a special case. Kashmir's singular importance to the very idea of India is often forgotten. A Muslim-majority state that voluntarily acceded to India in 1947 lent tremendous strength to the construction of India as a vibrant, secular and pluralistic state. The battle, therefore, to win back the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri youth is critical not just for strengthening the ideals that inspired Indian nationhood, but is central to the war against extremism and fundamentalism. In other words, Kashmir must no longer be dealt with the kind of political ineptitude and bureaucratic inertia that has often characterised the Centre's policies towards many other states. And let me say this clearly: it is not just the youth in the Valley but the Dogra youth of Jammu and the Kashmir Pundit youth in migrant camps that demand equal attention.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

OCCASIONAL PAPER

TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT

MANOJ PANT

 

OVER the last three months, I have looked, in these columns, at some dramatic changes that have taken place in world trade between 1995 and 2005. The period chosen is important. First, it coincides with the first phase of trade negotiations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) when industrial tariffs had fallen in most developing countries. Second, it does not include the recession years after 2007 and represents some normality in world trade. Third, since it includes the East Asian crisis years after 1997, it would, if at all, show a bias against trade of developing countries of Asia.

 

Ithen looked at some implications of these trends for the world in general and India in particular. Of these trends, three are worth repeating. One, the dominance, in terms of both magnitude and growth, of developing country trade (south-south, or SS, trade) over trade between developed and developing countries (north-south, or NS, trade). Second, the emergence of regional trade hubs in the developing countries. Third, the dominance of intra-regional trade over interregional trade. In this column, I will look at some implications of these patterns for development issues.

 

First, consider the issue that Prof Jagdish Bhagwati and others have red-flagged: that regional trade arrangements (RTAs) may be a 'stumbling block' to multilateralism. Since most of the RTA developments took place since about 1991 or so, it may well be argued that the dominance of regional trade is testimony to such fears.

 

RTAs would be harmful if they replace competitive global trade with inefficient trade. However, given declining tariffs since 1995 and the bigger stumbling block of uncoordinated 'rules of origin' included in all RTAs, two points may be worth noting. One, what is the advantage of RTAs that require considerable bureaucratic capital to tie up? Second, do traders actually use the RTA trading route given that the complicated spaghetti bowl of rules of origin agreements may be a bigger stumbling block than MFN tariffs?
   It is possible that RTA trade is driven by multinational corporations (MNCs) and reflects traditional market segmentation or sharing arrangements. But then, these are not issues to which answers exist in traditional neoclassical trade theories. In addition, it is possible that the international politics of the new plurilateral world order is driving trade. Here, RTAs simply ratify existing trade patterns for political gains and, thus, cannot be said to replace multilateral trade.

 

Consider the other developmental issue that is now hotly debated. The issue of trade and inequality. If trade is driven by countries' resource endowments (land, labour or capital), then it is impossible that trade can drive income inequalities between countries (or within a country). This proposition is fairly well known. However, much of the empirical evidence indicates that trade is driven more by technology than resources. To the extent that developed countries are technological leaders, it could well be argued that trade could lead to income inequality between countries. The argument is that technology, being a scarce resource, is able to command a greater premium that other inputs to production. Yet, what we are seeing today is growing SS rather than NS trade. Since technologydriven trade is generally a feature of NS trade, the responsibility for growing income inequality in developing countries in the last decade or so can hardly be place at the door of NS trade. It is necessary to look within.

 

 Finally, the data on growing regional rather than multilateral trade deserves attention. Much of the trade between developing countries is trade in inputs as world transport costs have declined dramatically. This is also part of the process of internationalisation of production where MNCs now dominate trade. These MNCs (many quite small firms) source inputs globally according to comparative advantage and sell products in final markets that are largely regional. This, thus, implies that a study of trade policy must concentrate more on issues of why firms trade rather than why countries' trade.

 

The dominance of MNCs breaks down the simplification of perfectly competitive trade and, hence, the elegance of traditional trade theories. This has another important implication: countries will now be linked more closely not merely by trade but by tax policies as MNCs move production around to minimise their world tax liabilities. This is one area where developing countries are far behind developed countries.

 

The bottomline is that the changing nature of world trade also necessitates changes in trade policy. In this short essay, I have noted that as MNCs dominate trade, FDI policies might need to take precedence over standard export-import polices. Second, study of taxation of foreign companies must be given greater importance in developing countries, particularly in matters like transfer pricing. Finally, it is unlikely that the world will ever return to the kind of multilateral trade that traditional trade theory posits as the first best policy: the underlying framework of perfect competition no longer exists.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

CILLA BLACK AND THE BUDDHA

MUKULSHARMA


WHAT'S wrong with attachment? Sometimes it's worth investigating. Yes, anyone with an ounce of reflective capacity can see that it leads to suffering and anyone who's not been comatose since birth cannot have failed to notice that when the object of attachment — such as a pet, favourite T-shirt, best friend, lover, job or broadband connectivity — is no longer there, it causes various degrees of misery.

 

And that if such an object attains the kind of superior bonding that the British singer Cilla Black spoke of when she sang "You're my world, you're every move I make; you're my world, you're every breath I take," then grief is bound to be around the corner.

 

Yet, probably unbeknownst to her, Ms Black was only reiterating what most animals feel about their territory, mate, progeny or meal anyway. They stop at nothing short of killing themselves protecting their habitat or offspring to ensure their continued existence in order that the species may endure.

 

And over millions of years, such bonds have proved of incredible survival value. At the same time, loss also occurs in their midst and often on a staggering scale but a housefly, for instance, doesn't grieve over hundreds of maggots that don't make it. It flies away. A zebra parent, on the other hand, might hang around the carcass of a fallen foal for a bit longer and a whale mourn a calf for days — yet, in the end, they too move on.
But not apparently the likes of Ms Black because we have more brains and some of the romantically-intentioned amongst us believe along with Tennyson that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. If that's just an animal hangover that we resonate with in newer ways now, and if like our lineage we can possess the capacity to get on with life, then where's the harm?

 

 So, in that case then, what was the Buddha talking about when he said that attachment was the cause of all suffering? Ah, that's a bit trickier. Because he was talking about getting on with life, not getting stuck in it. Not that it was better to have loved and lost and, also, not better to never have loved at all. After all, he had been there, done those and, in the end, renounced neither. And when he found he could renounce both, he had the courage to tell the rest not to accept his word for it but to find out for ourselves. Unfortunately, most of us end up accepting his word for it and can't move on after that.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ARMY'S USE SENDS OUT WRONG SIGNALS

It is true that the Army has not been deployed in Kashmir's urban centres to perform police duties or to carry out work entrusted to paramilitary formations such as the BSF or the CRPF. Although separatist leaders are prone to exaggerate, the military is still in its barracks. In the context of Srinagar, it has come out of the Badami Bagh cantonment to stage a flag march — a bit like showing the flag — through the city's main thoroughfares, and then gone back. The Army is neither doing crowd control nor enforcing the curfew. It is not chasing instigated or fired-up mobs hurling missiles. And yet, it is hard to get away from the feeling that bringing troops out of the barracks even as a show of strength was not the best idea the government has had. This sends all the wrong signals internationally, and within the country as well. At a time when extremist elements are seeking to overrun Pakistan with not a little help from a section of that country's security establishment, and when Pakistan is pointing fingers at India on the Kashmir question with the contrived argument that there would be no Islamist militancy in the absence of a Kashmir question (influential elements in the West, especially those professing to be liberals, seize on this when it is politically expedient), seeing the Army on the streets after two decades can leave some with the impression that Kashmir's civilian population is in revolt and can only be held in check through use of the military. This is an unfortunate twist in the tale. Anyone who is familiar with the Kashmir issue knows well that the people are not in rebellion. What is true, is that a small minority — led by the separatists — has since 1947 sought to create the false impression of an insurrection. This political segment achieves success when the administration is unresponsive, as was the case two years ago during the Amarnath shrine board fiasco, and through episodes such as the drowning of two women in south Kashmir. Using the religious pulpit, mob hysteria is fired. Such attempts are meant to elicit a sharp response from the security forces, and a cycle of violence is made to commence. This in turn allows free rein to separatist propaganda. In any subsequent test of political strength through the ballot, there is no trace of the so-called insurrectionary spirit. This is now an old story since the chain of events is familiar, the state administration should have responded more imaginatively when troubles were first set in motion. If curfew had been imposed where needed at the first hint of mobilisation by separatist and pro-Pakistan elements, or anti-government sections among mainline parties, it is unlikely that the state would be in a state of frenzy today. But the authorities waited until 15 deaths had occurred in police firings before thinking of standard curfew procedures. While wider political costs attach to use of the Army, it appears the immediate effect has been salutary. But what if stone-pelting commences right after the Army is called off duties? Clearly, using the military against civilians is not the answer. The military is the last line of defence and cannot be wheeled out each time the administration panics. For a start, the government must lift the unreasonable and ill-advised restrictions on the media. Round one has already gone to the separatists.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

KASHMIR REDUX

BY BALBIR K. PUNJ

Many photographs in newspapers and TV channels of 14- and 16-year-olds aiming bricks or stones at the security forces have filled our minds over the last few days as street violence in the Kashmir Valley escalates. A 14-year-old identified by the police as a regular stone-thrower during protests could not recall to the media why he was pelting stones and what the protests were about. Perhaps he was simply enjoying the fun, as street urchins do, especially when they find an expensive car parked on the village road.

But this was not adolescent fun. As the embattled Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said, these stone-throwers were trained and stationed to provoke and force the security forces to open fire. The resultant deaths provide enough fuel to provoke more protests and for the security forces to fire in self-defence and ensure law and order. Thus the cycle of protests and firings feed on each other. Significantly, many of the adolescent stone-throwers are seen wearing masks in the photographs of the events. They couldn't be innocents caught in a protest flow.

The so-called "moderate" separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq almost gave the game away when he told newspapers that the issue was much bigger than law and order: "Eruptions in Kashmir are not a governance problem. The sources of Kashmir discord are rooted in the politics of the state". These quotes from the Mirwaiz expose who really is behind these recurrent protests. The Mirwaiz wants the main political parties in the Valley, the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party, to "leave Assembly politics and join hands with the separatists to resolve the problem".

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's agenda exposes the core goals of these separatists: withdrawal of troops from Kashmir, revocation of "draconian" laws, end of "human rights violations", opening all cross-border routes between the two Kashmirs, and permission to hold protests freely. This, of course, is a blueprint for the state government and the Centre to surrender to separatists and jihadists. The Mirwaiz, it should be noted, does not at any point talk about ending of infiltration, stoppage of attacks on the security forces, or indiscriminate killings by militants and suicide bombings.

The repeated violence through so-called protests, militant activities and regular communications that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and other separatists hold with Pakistan should have indicated to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the futility of his soft-power approach towards them. Mr Omar Abdullah seems to be increasingly ineffective in stemming the tide of well-orchestrated "protests" even after he has taken strict action against security personnel who allegedly shot dead some people.

The separatists are using stray incidents of alleged wrongdoings by the security forces to good advantage by raising the cry of human rights violations; they, of course, do not raise their voice when militants indiscriminately kill civilians in the same Valley. Also, the Mirwaiz's reference to human rights does not go beyond the Muslim residents of the Valley. He has never shed a tear for the pundits of the same Valley who have been driven out by militants and jihadists and are living as refugees in other parts of the country.

It has been a long story of deceit, well-planned stirring of communal passions and Islamic orthodoxy to hack at Kashmiri culture and convert it into a fully Islamic one, stripping it of any infusion from its ancient Hindu heritage.

The pandits were driven out of the Valley to strengthen this demography. That also explains the double standards adopted by the the Mirwaiz and Co. — no protest at killings by militants and infiltrators from across the border but orchestration of protests and stone-pelting against the security forces who are there to contain the Pakistani infiltrators.

It is time the Centre recognises that Kashmir separatism is directly linked to communal composition and the recent jihadi backlash in that community.

The Congress has much to answer for the continuing mess that is Kashmir today. Jawaharlal Nehru backed Sheikh Abdullah to the hilt, thereby provoking his traditional rival the Muslim Conference, led by the then Mirwaiz, to look for support from across the border. The Sheikh then ditched his friend Nehru and his policy. Indira Gandhi negotiated with the Sheikh for his return and in the process more of his rivals moved into the separatist camp.

We saw the strange spectacle of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, Union home minister under V.P. Singh, kneeling before the militants when his daughter was supposedly abducted by them.

The same Mr Sayeed is now leading the second-most powerful political party in Jammu and Kashmir and his party president, who is his second daughter, talks in two voices — she never dares to condemn the killings by the militants but is at the forefront of all protests against the state government. The Prime Minister fails to learn from the repeated failure of his call to the separatists for talks.

The situation in the Kashmir Valley will continue to be volatile so long as the Centre and nationalist forces there fail to recognise that Islamic jihad is the weapon that Pakistan is using to split the people of the state.

Religious extremism is on the prowl and seeking to gain ascendancy. Unfortunately, political forces have allowed themselves to be at its mercy in a bid to compete for votes.

The Congress is promoting this same extremism in other parts of the country as well and that is why it is unable to stem the tide of extremism in the Valley despite its considerable political following there. Nor has it come out to enforce the benefits that the Hindus of Jammu should get under the special plan for minorities as they are a minority in the state. The majority of Congress MLAs in Jammu and Kashmir have been elected from Jammu region. The war against fundamentalism cannot be won by sleeping with the fundamentalists.

* Balbir K. Punj can be contacted at punjbalbir@gmail.com [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ISRAEL'S FACEOFF: THE NOBLE VS THE UGLY

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

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.

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, Pennsylvania. 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 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 hospitalised 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 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 Moqbel and 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", Ascherman said. As was the case in the American civil rights movement, the activists here often become targets. Palestinian youths have stoned 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 organisations. The most lucid unravelling of Israel's founding mythology comes from Israeli historians. The deepest critiques of Israel's historical claims come from Israeli archaeologists (one archaeological organisation, 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 West Asia, 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 Ascherman inspiring. He gets death threats, and hardline Israelis see him as a naive 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?"

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

INDIA NEEDS AN OIL PLUG PLAN

BY ARUN KUMAR SINGH

The Indian electronic and print media, while concentrating on the terrible Bhopal gas tragedy has also been studiously following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. Given the impact of marine pollution disasters it is imperative to examine India's continuing lack of preparedness and its implications.

All aspects of marine pollution (Marpol) are governed by the London-based the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a UN body whose Marpol conventions and protocols are applicable to all signatory nations, including India. On April 20, 2010, while capping a newly-discovered oil well (at 5,000-feet sea depth, and drilled to another 18,000 feet) for future use in the Gulf of Mexico, British Petroleum's (BP) semi-submersible rig Deepwater Horizon encountered an explosion emanating from the oil well. It killed 11 of its 126 workers and sank the burning rig on April 22, resulting in the ongoing massive oil spill, currently estimated at between 200,000 to 400,000 tonnes.

By June 17, BP had managed to commence a complex operation of retrieving some oil and burning it at sea. Two relief wells are also being drilled to link up with the "incident well" so as to pump cement into it and plug the spill by August this year. The US government is considering increasing the present $75 million cap on spills to $10 billion, while BP has put aside $20 billion in an "escrow account" to pay compensation. This article is about India's willingness to learn from the Gulf of Mexico spill and prepare for a major marine disaster involving hazardous and noxious substances (HNS), i.e. ammunition, chemicals, liquified natural gas etc, that are often transported by ships.

In the Gulf of Mexico, the US government and BP have deployed over 38,900 personnel, 6,800 vessels and 400 skimmers (to remove oil-water mix), laid out about 200 km of boom barriers at sea (to prevent the oil-seawater from reaching the beaches). On June 30, the US accepted equipment and expertise from a dozen nations (including the world's largest, 20,000-ton capacity, skimmer from Taiwan). India, which has numerous ships operating in its vicinity and has large-scale oil-cum-gas drilling at sea, has less than 15 per cent of the counter-pollution effort deployed in the Gulf of Mexico.

In India, vide the Coast Guard Act of 1978, and the Merchant Shipping Act of 1958 (amended in 1990 for oil pollution, and later amended in 2003 for HNS pollution), the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) is mandated as the single window agency for countering marine pollution, and the ICG director-general is the chairman of the National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP). Indeed, NOS-DCP needs to be amended to include HNS protocol of the IMO, which was ratified by 15 nations and came into force on June 14, 2007).

The HNS protocol covers the following:

* Cargo which is dangerous when packed for shipping, eg acids, cyanides, pesticides, ammunition etc.

* Liquified natural gas shipped in bulk.

* Liquids shipped in bulk which have a flash point below 60 degrees centigrade, like acetone, ethyl alcohol etc.

Depending on the type of oil polluting the sea, different oil dispersants can be sprayed as antidotes by most ICG ships, helicopters and Dornier aircraft. Oil dispersants mix with the oil to form small heavy "balls" which sink to the seabed. For best results, oil dispersants should be used within 24 to 72 hours of the oil spill. Since oil dispersants are toxic and can destroy marine life, they must be used only when absolutely necessary. Fortunately for India, in warmer waters natural biodegradation takes place faster, i.e. for every 10 degrees Celsius, its rate of biodegradation is double. This means we would have to use less oil dispersant.

As per IMO norms, Marpol oil spills are categorised as follows:

* Tier 1: Below 700 tonnes of oil. At present all the 13 major Indian ports and coastal oil refineries have Tier 1 capability to deal with oil spills.

* Tier 2: Between 700 to 10,000 tonnes. The ICG is supposed to have the capability to neutralise this threat.

* Tier 3: 10,000 to 100,000 tonnes. No capability exists in India to counter this spill (or spills over 100,000 tonnes). The ICG urgently needs to acquire this capability, or, as an interim measure, tie up with some international private firms in Singapore and the Gulf for quick response.

Another major worry is that at present the ICG has no capability to detect, monitor and neutralise HNS type of marine pollution. This capability needs to be created urgently.

The ICG, which is expecting to receive the first of three indigenously-built 2,000-ton dedicated pollution control vessels this year and has another 100 patrol vessels on order, will need to further increase its strength. Countering Marpol is a specialised task and the ICG regularly sends a few officers for training abroad. Hence, unlike coastal security, which was handed over to the Indian Navy by the government post-26/11, countering Marpol will continue to be ICG's responsibility.

There are many lessons to be learnt from the Bhopal gas tragedy, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and also the 50-year-old ongoing Nigerian oil spill which has polluted its land and rivers. A recent New York Times article mentions that oil-rich Nigeria has, for the last 50 years, had five times the estimated daily oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico due to rusting pipes and leaking valves owned by Western oil companies.

The Indian government needs to revisit our existing environmental laws and also look closely at the proposed Nuclear Liability Bill. In the short term, India should legislate that all ships visiting Indian ports must have a comprehensive oil-cum-HNS pollution insurance with a reputed international counter-Marpol company so that clean-up operations are not paid for by the Indian taxpayer, as is happening in the Bhopal gas tragedy 26 years later. In the long term, the ICG will need to expand and master complex new technologies.

n Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

A JUG FILLS DROP BY DROP

BY AMRIT SADHANA

All of us tend to neglect smaller moments of life because our attention is fixed on distant and bigger goals. We never realise that these goals exist more in imagination than in actual. The mind basically does not like to focus on details because it thrives on fantasies and dreams. Details are earthy, they bring the mind down to face reality.

The mystics keep drawing our attention to the small, to the present moment so that we do not wander in our thoughts and go on missing what is now. But we ignore the eternal wisdom of mystics and suffer unnecessarily as we walk through life.

Osho, elaborates on the diamond words of Buddha and brings out the hidden splendour in them.
A single act may not look very significant either as evil or as good. A single smile may not look very significant, but a single smile is part of a long process. "Do not belittle your failures, do not belittle your good acts. Each and every act is significant: if it is bad, you are going to suffer; if it is good, you are going to enjoy life. And to enjoy life is the only way to be spiritual. There is no logical proof for the divine, but when you are overflowing with joy, when you can dance with joy, in that dance a gratitude arises on its own accord.

I wish these gems were inculcated in the curriculum in the formative years of kids. This is the greatest treasure, the "real estate" we will be handing over to the generation next. They will learn to respect and transform every drop of their experience till their jug is brimful of virtue and empty of folly. And they will be watchful of their mistakes and rectify them immediately so that they don't grow into a big tree. Life lived with awareness is life divine.

— Amrit Sadhana is in the management
team of Osho International Meditation Resort,
Pune. She facilitates meditation workshops
around the country and abroad.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

PREGGER CELEBS

GAIL COLLINS

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.

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 favourite 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".

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 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 summarise: 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.

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.

By arrangement with the New York Times

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER SPLASH

ARE THERE NO LIMITS TO OUR CORRUPTION? 

 

THE confession by an American firm of having paid substantial bribes to officials of the National Thermal Power Corporation, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited and state electricity boards ought to surprise no one. Nehru's temples of modern India have long known to have been taken over by duplicitous, indeed larcenous priests. California's Control Component Inc. has confessed to having paid bribes running into several thousand dollars to officials of India's state-owned behemoths. That such bribes were also paid to an official of a Moscow-based company tells us that our public sector tsars now even have foreign agents. But what will come of these revelations? Will the Government of India launch parallel investigations into every deal that the American company was involved in between 2004 and 2007, to trace the culprits and bring them to book? In our view, this is highly unlikely, and for two reasons. First, the period when the bribes were paid coincides with the UPA's first spell in office and the Congress is loath to admit to any wrongdoing during its tenure; indeed, if the allegations provoke a political firestorm, it will soon degenerate into a slanging match that provides entertainment but no redemption. Second, bureaucratic corruption cuts across political dispensations and escapes even routine scrutiny for the very simple reason that politicians as a class learn from their predecessors. 
 Two years ago, another American company, Pioneer Friction, had confessed in similar circumstances to having paid bribes of Rs 75 lakh in the period between 2001 and 2005 ~ spanning the reigns of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad ~ to railway officials. To our knowledge, neither Railways nor the much vaunted Central Bureau of Investigation investigated this confession, certainly not to the extent of having identified the culprits. Orders were placed on the company. There must have been several officials involved. The supplier admitted to paying bribes. Identifying the culprits ought to have been a simple matter of connecting the dots. But the establishment failed, just as it will in the matter of the latest bribery allegations. 


The irony is that all this happens during the rule of a Prime Minister who wears integrity on his sleeve but has apparently nothing to say about serial corruption in telecom, railways, sports administration, and now the public sector. To borrow a phrase from a Scottish author, Dr Manmohan Singh's government makes no waves, but, boy, it does splash a lot.

 

ARMY 'DETERRENT'

THIS WAS EMINENTLY AVOIDABLE 

 

SYMBOLISM is not to be discounted. Directing the Army to play a deterrent role ~ whatever that means on the ground ~ may be a joint effort by New Delhi and Srinagar to both symbolise and demonstrate a determination to contain violence that has rocked the Kashmir Valley for the past three weeks or so. Yet it simultaneously symbolises (confirms?) a return to the conditions that prevailed in the early-mid 1990s. After 17 years has the Army, most reluctantly reports suggest, been engaged on essentially law and order duties which are distinct from anti-militant operations. Only those far from the firing-line will feel satisfied at a gameplan that keeps the troops "on the periphery", and away from crowded urban areas. What if the stone-pelting mobs target the Army patrols/flag marches and provoke a response? It could be argued that seeking Army assistance was a panic reaction, there is no argument about it being a poor one ~ with adverse domestic and external implications. The alienation of an already over-militarised people will be enhanced, and fuelled will be the stance taken on the international stage that only an "occupation army" keeps the Valley under New Delhi's control. Only P Chidambaram and Congress bugle-blower, Jayanthi Natarajan, can "con" themselves into believing that the unrest is entirely cross-border mischief. Refusing to accept local resentment is the kind of convenient political oversimplification that proves dangerous. At best the use of the Army and the bid to silence the local media (disgraceful by any democratic standards) will suppress a festering sore ~ inevitably it will erupt subsequently. 
On the ground the J&K police has proved ineffective, as always, in dealing with mass protest and the CRPF appears stressed out, overworked. Were such signs not visible weeks ago, why did North Block wait so long before despatching the home secretary to Srinagar? Crisis management is no substitute for governance, and in the Kashmir context it is the Centre that plays the lead role. It is despicable that New Delhi should now talk of it being impossible to have dialogue when the atmosphere is not peaceful ~ the security forces had slogged to create such an atmosphere, the Centre failed to capitalise these past couple of years. Not only has the effort of the Army/paramilitary/police been permitted to dissipate, increasingly is UPA-II creating an impression that it is "not up to it". Nero, at least, produced some music…

 

RIGHT TO WATER

RESERVED FOR THE TERRORIST? 

 

IF Aftab Ansari, the prime accused in the terrorist attack on Kolkata's American Center, is entitled to a water filter at Alipore Correctional Home while others do without clean water, a more blatant instance of discrimination is difficult to imagine. It begs a  simple question that the jail administration must answer: Are the other 2500 prisoners not entitled to water worthy of consumption? Small wonder why the inmates are often violently restive.  Going by the statement of the Additional Director-General (Prisons), the shockingly selective benevolence comes after Aftab had shown Mr BD Sharma "the poor quality of water that is being supplied to the prisoners". The officer sounds pretty much helpless when he pleads that "there is hardly anything that we can do". But something remarkably positive has been done for the man who allegedly gunned down guards outside the American Center on 22 January 2002. Frequent complaints that facilities ~ including better wards and home food - are readily available at a price are not wholly unfounded.  The hundreds of thousands languishing for lesser crimes will have to make do with the contaminated water that tubewells provide. As with several other spheres of governmental activity, it has now been reduced to a game of buck-passing with the KMC at the receiving end. The councillors are allegedly against the supply of piped water to the jail on the specious plea that it will hamper the flow to neighbouring highrises. It is a vicious circle that neither the jails department nor the KMC have bothered to address.  The construction of  highrises has depleted the ground water reserves so alarmingly as to make the tubewell supply unfit for use. The drinking water crisis ~ for those prisoners who can't afford it ~ has affected the correctional homes at Midnapore and Bankura no less. Not that funds are a constraint; the Rs 7 lakh sanctioned by the jails department for drinking water projects apparently remains unutilised in the manner of the urban renewal missions undertaken by the KMC. Life's essential is at stake and it calls for affirmative action. To make the inmates stage Tagore dance dramas at social clubs is a sound-and-light facade; many have been condemned without having been proved guilty.

 

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THE STATESMAN

SPECIAL ARTICLE

CASTE AND POLITICS~II

ANOTHER PARAMETER IN CENSUS ENUMERATION

BY AJAY K MEHRA


POLITICS has overshadowed social justice, with more and more layers of the reservation onion likely to be unpeeled. The increasing demands for a job quota under the OBC category, for the inclusion of the Gujjars in Rajasthan among the Scheduled Tribes and its opposition by the Meenas form part of this trend. Except for demands for the inclusion of converts to Islam and Christianity, there is little to contest in the SC and ST reservation. Indeed the sub-categorisation of the SCs is a thorny issue, but it does not render the original reservation scheme a matter of controversy. 


However, new issues such as caste enumeration in the census have sharpened the case for OBC reservation. The strategy is to compel the government to reserve jobs on the basis of caste rather than backwardness. In 1990, the Mandal report was viewed as a programme of social justice. In two decades, it has turned out to be a blatant and expedient use of caste by leaders and parties. They are doing this under the pretext of social justice and for their own political survival. Casteism has intensified with violent manifestations. This is a natural corollary of the trend. The other corollary, equally logical, is the demand for caste-based census.


Conflict of interests

THE consensus on the SC/ST quota was based on the historical victimisation of these two social groups. The demand to extend the quota to the backward castes in the 1950s was based on the discovery that the caste system had spawned several groups ~ between the SCs (untouchables) and the shudra category. The socio-economic disabilities were common. However, Jawaharlal Nehru was acutely aware of the possibility of friction within caste groups, and  was anxious to avoid a conflict of interests. Hence "caste" became "class" in the Kaka Kalelkar Commission report, but the commission failed to address the issue of OBC reservation. Even the Mandal Commission attempted a balance between caste and class, and advocated a cautious approach. It avoided a blatant caste-based approach. 


The sub-categorisation of the Dalits that has been viewed by some activists and scholars as a move to divide the community, the extension of the SC/ST quota to the converts and the expansion of the OBC quota to education as well as private sector employment, the demand for bringing in new caste categories in the web and universalisation of categories are some of the issues that have recently been raised. These developments will have to be factored in before firming up the decision on caste enumeration.


The debate on a caste-based census has resumed after eight decades. That form of enumeration was discontinued in order to do away with the backwardness of certain groups. Two factors need to be considered. First, between 1853 ~ when census operations were introduced in parts of British India ~ and 1871, when the pan-Indian census was commissioned, there has been a marked increase in the number of castes.  This has  added to the confusion. There is also a widely held view that HH Risley, the Census Commissioner in 1901, had politicised caste in relation to census in British India. He had also noted what he called the "perceptional problems" of enumeration, both at the individual level as well as that of the community. Let us not forget that the martial caste theory for appointments in the police and the army was part of this politicisation.
WR Cornish wrote in his report on the 1871 census in Madras Presidency: "The castes were entered in the order in which native authorities are pretty generally agreed on their relative importance.'  Hutton, Commissioner of  the 1931 census, regretted that "all subsequent census officers in India must have cursed the day when it occurred to Sir Herbert Risley … to attempt to draw up a list of castes according to their rank in society." He added, "An abandonment of the return of caste would be viewed with relief by census officers." The distinguished anthropologist, Ghurye, saw no compelling reason behind Risley's effort, except curiosity.


Higher status

IT did result in 'a livening up of the caste-spirit' by beginning a campaign 'of mutual recrimination'. MN Srinivas has also referred to the anxiety to achieve a higher status ever since caste entered the census records.
In course of its debates, the 299-member Constituent Assembly referred to caste only to check its perpetuation in independent India. After 1082 days of working, in his famous penultimate day speech on 25 November 1949, linking fraternity, equality and liberty Ambedkar wondered if "people divided into several thousands of castes would be a nation?" He was unambiguous on the point that "these castes are anti-national: in the first place because they bring about separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste."


The 1901 census triggered a competition among communities for Varna and an upgrade of the caste status across the country. The post-Mandal trend has led to another urge ~ to flock to the OBC category. No wonder there is no unanimity on a uniform pan-Indian list of castes for the OBC segment. Politics has marred the process in every state. Naturally, this makes implementation increasingly difficult as contemporary India is on the move ~ for education, employment and shelter. Even a suggestion to ask innocuously if a certain group can be categorised as OBC by the census enumerators could lead to political turmoil. 


The Sachar Committee suggested a way out of the morass of quota politics. Specifically it was an index-based representation of the population in terms of education, employment and shelter through an Equal Opportunity Commission. The expert groups advanced their reports more than two years ago. A method to implement their recommendations needs to be devised instead of aggravating caste identities through their enumeration in the census, present or future.


 (Concluded)

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

WESTMINSTER IS WOBBLING

 

Indian constitutional experts and politicians have always assumed that the Indian President is a titular head assigned only ceremonial tasks. The founding fathers of our Constitution have generally received high praise. In fact, they were confused and inept. India has the world's longest written Constitution. How is it then that the role of the one individual with the widest elective mandate occupying the highest post is based upon assumption?


The rot started with BR Ambedkar. He had said that the President's position was "the same as the King under the English Constitution: a ceremonial device on a seal by which the nation's decisions are made known". At the same time, he said that, behind the scenes, the President's role was also like that of the British sovereign "to advise, encourage and warn Ministers in respect of the recommendations which they made". Why could not this role have been explicitly outlined in our written Constitution? Did Ambedkar believe that, decades after he had departed, Indians should heed his remarks and not what was written about the President's powers in our written constitution? If unwritten conventions must take precedence of explicit written words, why have a written Constitution?


In fact, this ineptitude led to an early constitutional dispute between Prime Minister Nehru and President Rajendra Prasad. Nehru went by the unwritten assumption that India was to be governed by Westminster conventions that rendered the President akin to the British sovereign. Prasad, as a lawyer, went by the Constitution's written word which gave the President real power and discretion. Nehru prevailed and confusion triumphed. The 42nd constitutional amendment introduced during the Emergency sought to curtail the President's powers even in writing. The 44th constitutional amendment during the succeeding Janata government sought to partially restore the status quo. Regardless of both amendments, the President continues to have substantial unused powers that remain written in the Constitution.


The other popular argument favouring a titular President arises from the fact that the President is elected indirectly by an electoral college consisting of all the legislators in the country. This is a weak argument. Technically, even the US President is elected indirectly. If the Indian presidential candidate is chosen by newly elected incoming legislators after a general election instead of by sitting legislators, would not the election be as direct as that of the American President? The timing of the President's poll would change, not the process or the college that elects the President.


Today as governance in India continues to crumble, will our politicians and jurists take a leaf from their Westminster masters who have inspired them for the past sixty years? In May, Britain will hold a referendum to change its constitution. The change seeks fixed-term parliaments, changing the voting system to elect MPs and delimitation of constituencies to reduce the number of MPs. The moving force behind the referendum is Britain's deputy PM Nick Clegg. He said: "Let's stop all this self-congratulatory hype about the mother of parliaments and get on with improving it." It is possible that voting in the referendum may eventually rule out change. But at least some British politicians have the guts to demand change.


When will Indian politicians summon similar courage? Or will they wait to see if the Westminster model actually changes? And only then will they scamper for similar change in India? Why cannot the leaders of all the political parties, the Prime Minister and all the chief ministers discuss how our system needs to change by reinterpreting our written Constitution and by introducing minor amendments that do not affect the basic structure of the Constitution?

During the recent nationwide bandh, I travelled by an auto rickshaw. While criticizing prevalent conditions, the driver made an odd remark: "Why don't they dispense with democracy if it doesn't work?" I don't think he was wishing for dictatorship. I think he was simply articulating what more and more ordinary people are beginning to feel. India's system does not allow for an effective executive that can govern. More power to local governments and more power to the President might solve that. The first is enshrined in the directive principles of our Constitution. The second is already available through several explicitly worded Articles of the Constitution that are never utilized by the President who is rendered into a dummy by unwritten convention and assumption.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

KEY TO BUSINESS ETHICS

 SUNIPA BASU


Only one piece of evidence remained of our son's marriage once the celebrations were over and he and his bride had departed to their workplace, Mumbai – a steel almirah containing sundry gifts that they could not carry along. The keys were with me for safe keeping, a great responsibility for a forgetful person like me. The extra caution made me keep it in such a place that I just could not remember. After searching high and low for days, I was left wondering what to do when redemption came in the jangling sound made by the key-maker.
The key-maker is otherwise an innocuous person, roaming around on foot in your neighborhood till you face a situation like me or a graver emergency like being shut out of your own home. "What sort of key do you want?", he asked, "a steel one or a iron one? Single or duplicate? You want the lock to be changed or the lever?" Far from being innocuous, he was the man of the moment who had access to our home and our almirah - literally all the material wealth we possessed.


Rasool, I learnt, belonged to a family of key-makers; a traditional trade that was handed down from father to son. It was a trade that earned him an income of around Rs 5000 a month after scouring the neighborhood of his choice practically every day of the year. So long as man has material possessions, the lock and key would be a inevitable accessory and Rasool a "key'' person in the scheme of things. So Rasool had a quiet pride in his skill but, more important, in the values that he had inherited from his father that opened the door of a virtually unknown family to him. He listed the principles that he followed as any true key-maker worthy his salt would.
"I know that it is a job that not only requires high skill but great iman or trust never to be betrayed," he said. "The ground rules are, never make a key without reasonable identification of the person, never make keys on the request of house helpers, never work after dusk and, most important, never be tempted by money to either charge or take Rs 500 for a Rs 50 job. This is what my father taught me and this is what I would teach my son".
I looked at Rasool with a new-found awe at a time when almost every day the newspapers are full of depressing news about businessmen being involved in financial scams and tax evasions, bureaucrats involved in corrupt practices, politicians involved in extortions and even players involved in match fixing. The management books are full of jargon like corporate governance, social responsibility and business ethics with no concrete guidelines on how to follow them. Here was a man who barely earned a subsistence living from his trade and yet followed the highest standards of professional ethics generation after generation. The next time when we debate about ethics in business, the humble key-maker could be our role model, his rough and ready philosophy our benchmark and his jangling signature tune our theme music in life.

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

LOOKING AHEAD IN INDIA AND CHINA

AMITENDU PALIT


Chinese and Indian demographies will be rather different three decades from now. What kind of economic outcomes are the differences expected to create?


With 1.4 billion and 1.2 billion people, respectively, China and India account for 37 per cent of the world population today. Thirty years later, they are expected to account for roughly the same percentage. The overall numbers, however, hide some fundamental changes that would have occurred by then.


In another 20 years, India is expected to catch up with China in terms of population. The UN projections of population indicate that in 2030 the two countries are expected to have about 1.4-1.5 billion people each, with India marginally ahead of China. The period between 2025 and 2030 will be significant in terms of China's demography, with the rate of population growth reducing to zero during that time.


By then, China would no longer be making net addition to its population. The number of births will match the number of deaths, with the latter gradually overtaking the former to push China into a negative rate of population growth after 2030. This will be the culmination of a remarkable demographic transition in China. It will mark the end of a period comprising almost seven decades during which China would have reduced its rate of population growth from 2.6 percent (mid-1960s) to below zero.


India's population, on the other hand, will continue to grow. At the time when China is expected to have negative population growth, India's population is projected to be growing by about 0.6 per cent a year. Indeed, India is not projected to reach a zero rate of growth in population for more than two decades after China does. It will have about 1.6 billion people in 2040 compared with China's 1.4 billion. The combined China-India population is expected to increase from the present 2.6 billion to three billion by 2040, with most of the increase coming from India.


These big demographic changes will be accompanied by more subtle demographic transformations. The most discussed and familiar of these is the change in the relative weights of the working-age population (15-60 years) in the total population.


India will remain a younger country than China in 2040, with a median age of 35 years compared to 44 years in China. China's population is expected to age faster over the next three decades, with the percentage of 60-plus people in total population projected to increase from 12.3 per cent in 2010 to 27.5 per cent in 2040. The corresponding increase in India is expected to be from 7.5 per cent in 2010 to 15.6 per cent in 2040. The difference in ageing will influence the proportion of the working age population to the total population in each country.


At present, the proportions of working-age people in China's and India's total populations are 67.8 per cent and 61.7 per cent, respectively. China has the "demographic dividend" of having a larger workforce today. Come 2040, the proportions are expected to reverse, to 62.4 per cent for China and 64.6 per cent for India.
One needs to be cautious in claiming that the change will give a decisive economic edge to the Indian economy vis-a-vis China. In absolute terms, the proportions imply that in 2040 there will be about one billion working-age people in India compared with 0.9 billion in China. Given the sizes of the two economies, the difference is marginal. But given that India will continue to experience net additions to its population well after 2040, its working-age population is expected to increase further. Hence, India's expected higher returns from the demographic dividend vis-a-vis China are likely to grow over a three-decade-plus time horizon from now.
These evolving demographics bring with them a complication for India, usually overlooked in the euphoria over the demographic dividend. The density of India's population (people per square kilometer) is projected to increase from 369 to 476 from 2010 to 2040. During the same period, China's population density will rise from 141 to 152. India will have to handle the challenge of accommodating its population growing at a faster rate than China's within a land area that is much smaller than China's.


The obvious implications of an adverse land-per-head ratio are greater pressures on natural resources and public goods. Inadequate supply responses on these fronts can easily erode much of the demographic dividend.

The author is visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies in the National University of Singapore

China Daily/ANN

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

LONG SHADOW

 

The street-fights in Kashmir, one is given to believe, are seasonal blights that may or may not be complicated by political opportunism and doctoring from beyond the borders. Had they been treated less as something perfectly normal, perhaps the recent spate of bloodletting in the valley would not have invited something as extraordinary as the summoning of the army after almost two decades. The army — as the Union home minister, P. Chidambaram, has announced — is there to stage flag marches and provide assistance to the Jammu and Kashmir state administration only when called to. But on the ground, and in the whirl of khaki, the difference between full deployment of the army and its being merely 'put on guard' will be difficult to make out. For the people, for instance, the addition of forces to the existing battalions of the bungling Central Reserve Police Force, which has been directly or indirectly responsible for many of the deaths in the past weeks, will appear to be nothing less than a complete negation of the promise of the state's chief minister, Omar Abdullah, to phase out the military. The immediate fear of boots may quell rebellion for a while, as it has always done, but it will add to the emotions deep down. Next year, in a 'normal' replay of the valley's tragedy, these emotions may once again find expression on the streets.

 

Whether or not the army stays put in the valley, the administration, both at the Centre and in the state, will find itself hard put to counter the sense of betrayal among the people. There is no running away from the fact that the Jammu and Kashmir police and the CRPF have been absolutely ham-handed in dealing with the street scene. The absence of any official condemnation of the use of extreme force, the shameless passing of the buck, and the repeated efforts to suppress the genuine public anger felt at the deaths of the young and innocent by blaming external agencies for stoking the fire, have backfired. These are, of course, 'normal' responses from the government. But perhaps it is time to think out of the box. There is a serious trust deficit that has to be bridged by the administration. A greater demonstration of force is unlikely to do that. It is imperative to revive the political process in Kashmir and to provide people effective, responsive and responsible governance. This is the least that they deserve.

 

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

PLAIN MURDER

 

India is in love with the word 'honour'. Even when the word is applied to an activity that has to do with coercion, violence, torture and bloodshed — instigated, typically, by a representative group led by traditionalists, elders or champions of regressive political opinion — it is treated with awe. This peculiar psychology distinguishes 'honour killings' from common or garden murder. Khap panchayats, particularly active in the north and west of India, have made honour killings their insignia of power. With no legal standing but supported by regional political leaders, they continue to arrange grisly deaths of young people, undeterred by law or the government.

 

So powerful is the effect of the word 'honour' that even the State appears to be acknowledging its magic. To counter the murderous practices of khap panchayats and the families that seek their help, the Union home ministry is thinking of inserting a new clause under the section in the Indian Penal Code that deals with murder. The special target of this clause would be those who plan and carry out "killings" of youngsters perceived to have brought "dishonour" to their caste, gotra or community. In what way are such "killings" different from premeditated murder? The IPC is nuanced enough to deal with all sorts of murder; an extra clause will not make it more effective. The proposed clause is merely a way of giving respectable space to a false and vicious notion of honour, and accepting that murderers, if they gang up in the name of clan or caste, are killers of a different kind. The proposal includes the condition that everyone associated with this kind of killing, that is, the family and the clan elders too, will be brought under the main charge of murder. Maybe this is being thought of as a deterrent. Experience suggests, however, that the wider the scope of the charge, the lower the chances of actual conviction. Also, the accused would have to prove their innocence. Given that Indian justice proceeds on the principle that a person is innocent till proven guilty, this change is questionable. It implies another weak-kneed acknowledgment that the justice system would be unable to establish the guilt of locally important bullies and murderers by the usual method, since they derive their power from caste, gotra or community. These categories are the mainstays of vote banks even today.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

AN AGREEABLE COUNTRY

CLASS WARS AND COALITIONS

SWAPAN DASGUPTA

 

Pieces of apparently non-political trivia can tell you more about the state of a nation than many parliamentary debates put together. Earlier this week, there was a minor flutter in London over parenting responsibilities. A well-to-do German couple living in the leafy Dulwich Village of south-east London was warned by the headmaster of their children's fee-paying school that he would be obliged to report them to the local social services department for what seemed to him a grave lapse. The parents had apparently let their two children, aged eight and five, cycle each day to school without being accompanied by an adult. "We wanted," claimed the father, "to create the simple freedom of our childhood."

 

It is not that the children had to negotiate main roads with heavy traffic for their mile-long journey. Their route was relatively safe and there were lollipop ladies present at the only crossing near the school. Yet, the headmaster, who must have imbibed the expectations of the Social Services, felt this was a case of parental dereliction. Small children, it was expected, had to be accompanied. The alternative was akin to child abuse.

 

This trivial incident, which was gleefully picked up by the media, would have constituted yet another example of an intrusive state — something to momentarily invoke the ire of right-wing libertarians and conservatives and then forgotten. Not unnaturally, it caught the attention of London's mayor, Boris Johnson, the enfant terrible of the Conservative Party who seems intent on showing up the rest of the party as boring, careerist fuddy-duddies. "In this age of air-bagged, mollycoddled, infantilised over-regulation," he wrote in The Daily Telegraph, "it can make my spirits soar to discover that out there in the maquis of modern Britain there is still some freedom fighter who is putting up resistance against the encroachments of the state..." Lauding the parents, he added, with characteristic verbosity, that they "have taken the sword of common sense to the great bloated encephalopathic sacred cow of elf and safety."

 

Johnson may have been guilty of some polemical exaggeration, but the gist of his rhetorical flourish would have struck a chord among many Britons who are convinced that the boundaries of the welfare state have been over-extended. The process that began with the Liberal Party's budget of 1906, and got a fillip with the Labour Party's famous victory of 1945, has reached an undesirable climax. There is hardly an area of civil life in Britain that is not governed by local, national or European regulation. From child-rearing and schooling to determining whether an aged person is fit to stay at home or be sent to 'care', individual discretion appears to have been banished. The ban on smoking in enclosed spaces has led to the closure of nearly 2,000 pubs; the legislation against fox-hunting in the countryside has led to the encroachment of urban foxes into people's homes; race-relations legislation has forced self-censorship; and there are repeated moves originating in Brussels to standardize the consistency of cheese.

 

The irony of over-regulation is that it originated in good intentions. In 1945, a triumphant Labour Party rightly felt that the old ways of Britain had to be changed. It began with giving citizens complete, free access to education (including higher education) and health. In addition, at a time when Britain had near-full employment, it was felt that the state should take the responsibility for preventing destitution. Consequently, unemployment benefits, old-age pensions and disability allowances came into place.

 

Unfortunately, once it starts rolling, the machinery of statism starts acquiring a momentum of its own. How can a child, it was asked, take full advantage of schooling if its home environment isn't conducive? How can slum removal be successful if there isn't alternative, affordable housing? How can a child suffer if the parents are unemployed? How can pensioners cope with the prohibitive costs of heating in winter? Should the unemployed be deprived of holidays? Shouldn't single mothers be given the right to preferential housing? If government housing isn't available, shouldn't local authorities rent private homes for the needy?

 

None of these questions is irrelevant. But the problem lay in the fact that to address these imperatives, Britain spawned a gargantuan bureaucracy that, in the process, lost sight of all social objectives. The huge National Health Service, it now emerges, has engaged more managers than doctors, and 30 of these apparatchiks are paid more than the prime minister. Earlier this week, the secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles, a tough-talking, working-class Tory from the north of England, suggested that it was about time people started asking whether some of this bureaucracy was at all necessary: "What does an audience development officer do? Is a 'cheerleading development officer' what taxpayers want? One council is even advertising for someone to spin for their bins last week. I wonder whether their residents actually want a 'communications waste strategy officer' or whether they'd prefer a few more bin men."

 

Undeniably, Pickles was picking on the absurdities of a system that has turned roguish. But his assessment wasn't a caricature. A senior diplomat in the British high commission in Delhi told me last month that there was a multiplicity of quasi-government bodies, including tourism bodies and regional investment boards, which had set up shop in Delhi, paying fancy salaries to their officers and working at cross purposes.

 

In its bid to build compassionate capitalism, Britain forgot to ask itself a fundamental question: can we afford this elaborate nanny state?

 

The answer is: clearly not. Public expenditure accounts for nearly 48 per cent of the British GDP and the fiscal

deficit is hovering around 12 per cent of the GDP. The country is already grossly over-taxed and it is unlikely that squeezing the taxpayer more will be beneficial. Britain is living well beyond its means and must shed weight. As one commentator put it, Britain must be prepared to accept that it can no longer afford paid unemployment.

 

This is the context of the furious class war that Britain is likely to witness in the coming months as the Conservative-Liberal Democratic government cuts public expenditure by at least 25 per cent. Unlike Margaret Thatcher, who had to take on the organized might of the trades unions in her battle to "roll back the frontiers of the state" in the 1980s, David Cameron faces no significant threat of street protests and strikes. His threat comes from the misgivings of his Liberal Democratic coalition partner, which has been temporarily placated by the sop of a referendum to be held next summer on replacing the first-past-the-post electoral system with the alternative vote method of electing MPs.

 

For Cameron, the real challenge is to convince British voters that the country has been debilitated by an unaffordable, bloated state. Yet, the issue is not confined to managing huge savings in public expenditure. Cameron has to preside over another ambitious management of decline and re-forge the creative and entrepreneurial instincts of a nation (or nations) that has lost its raison d'être. The next few years could be momentous for Britain. An unprepared political class has been forced by circumstances to set in motion an upheaval that involves the fundamental reinvention of the kingdom.

 

Britain remains an agreeable country. Its ability to endure economic chemotherapy will determine whether it continues to remain jolly.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

RETURN TO MISERY

MALVIKA SINGH

 

There was a time when 'homecoming' was joyous, but circa 2010, when the rulers of India are chasing a mythical rate of growth, a return to the homeland is traumatic, to say the least. There are no norms, no set standards, no enforcement of laws, nothing. A passenger bus that should be banned from appearing on any tarmac, anywhere, arrives to ferry those returning on an international flight. It rattles and shakes, stops and brakes, much like a remnant from the 1940s. This is something our leaders never ever experience since all rules and norms are broken with impunity by the cohorts of that strange breed called VIPs. Frankly, all the VIPs of New Delhi should be put in similar buses and taken for an eight-hour drive around the capital city of this supposedly 'emerging power'.

 

It was a theatre of the absurd at its best when the Left and the Bharatiya Janata Party held hands firmly — dancing to the same tune — to paralyse the country in the belief that prices will fall as the tune plays out and the 'song' is sung through the symbolic gesture of courting arrest. The predictable cast of one woman in a carefully selected handloom sari and a larger-than-life bindi — signifying a married Indian housewife burdened with spiralling prices, living in a posh Delhi colony — and endless men leading the charge left ordinary Indians gaping in disbelief. It is tragic that this lot continues to operate in a complete vacuum, with no interest at all in solving the crisis that confronts this nation. Their staid, token protests in the form of bandhs, adjournments of Parliament and suchlike are becoming difficult to accept. The protests reflect their ineptitude and inability to come up with real solutions. Our collective leadership is utterly uninspired and intellectually incompetent.

 

Without shame

 

The disappearance of ethics and integrity, the unending violation of laws, and the non-enforcement of the prevailing rules by administrators are becoming permanent boulders on the path of growth. Ironically, 'rate of growth' is the excuse that is cited to break the law as the other gains are large and lucrative. The natural environment is being ravaged ruthlessly because of unprecedented avarice. The people cannot be fooled any longer.

 

Construction takes place without environmental clearances, and when it is stalled because of that, those wanting to observe the law are attacked. Someone has to bell the corrupt cat, and although we can see the beginnings of change in this realm, the existence of a political will is necessary to alter the course of the river of corruption. Both the government and the party need to speak emphatically in the same language and demand adherence to ethics and to the law.

In India, politics is not about service but about making money. In the administrative service, the babu, who is becoming increasingly insecure within the growing reality of specialized professionalism, only stalls change and growth in an effort to protect his immediate domain. When you have the opportunity to meet the chairman of the Victoria and Albert Museum and are able to compare him with the senior-most official in India's culture ministry, you realize how desperately unlucky we are to have culture ruled by the babu. We are crippling the sensitivity and humane commitment of Indians to their civilization.

Social disorder has also raised its ugly head. It always does, when careless governance gets embedded in the landscape. The top leaders of India must forcefully denounce the khap panchayat's diktats. These inexplicable scandals are being ignored by the enforcement authorities and have reduced India to the base level of a shameless society.

 

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

FIRST EDIT

PERNICIOUS MOVE

''RETAIL TRADE INVOLVES THE LIVELIHOOD OF MILLIONS.''

 

The release of a discussion paper on allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail shows that the government is seriously pursuing the proposal which has been in cold storage for years. The prime minister has indicated this too. One only hopes that the government has not already made up its mind and is going through the motion of a public debate. The issues involved are well-known through public debate in the last many years.

A fresh debate cannot shed any fresh light on them. Hundred per cent FDI in wholesale and single brand business is allowed now. But its acclaimed benefits are hardly seen, many years after the idea was implemented. The stakes are much higher in the case of retail business as it involves a market worth about $ 425 billion, spread all over the country, and livelihood and employment of millions of people.


The entry of multinational behemoths like Wal-mart and Carrefour will inevitably lead to the demise of the retail trader who is at the centre of the retail business in the country. The small neighbourhood shops will not be able to compete with the MNCs with resources and pricing power. It can lead to a social and economic crisis of unprecedented magnitude. It has been suggested that legal and other measures can be put in place to protect the small trader. But it is a fanciful and impractical suggestion. The claim that FDI in retail can help farmers to get a better price is also unconvincing.


It is true that the big difference between farm gate and shop floor prices is pocketed by intermediaries of various kinds now. There are also huge losses and wastage of produce because of the absence of a storage and cold chain infrastructure. But leaving the development of such infrastructure to MNCs is risky. Experience shows that the operation of Indian companies in the retail sector has not benefited the farmers. It is wishful to hope for these benefits from the working of MNCs.


India's agricultural sector has to grow with better production and marketing infrastructure and other facilities. It is for the government to provide them. Leaving the task to big international business which covets the Indian market is wrong and unrealistic. The government has probably chosen a politically safe moment to push the idea. But the consequences will start haunting it sooner than later.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

SECOND EDIT

CORONATION TIME

''A NEW WORLD CUP CHAMPION WILL BE BORN ON SUNDAY.''

 

Come Sunday, a new name will be inscribed on the FIFA World Cup trophy, with two teams driven as much by talent and ambition as by desperation will vie for the right to be called the world champions. Over the years, both Holland and Spain have been denied the highest honour in football thanks to their own fallibilities despite possessing talent envied by the world.


A chance to set it right will arrive on Sunday, with both the teams having posted convincing victories in the semifinals. Holland's win over Uruguay on Tuesday had ensured an all-European final, with the last South American survivor making a dignified exit.

 

Spain then kept their date, dashing the German hope of a fourth title with an impressive display of possession football. Both Holland and Spain have promised much over the years but failed to deliver on the big stage. Twice in the past, the Dutchmen came close, losing to Germany and Argentina in the finals in 1974 and 1978. Spain have been eternal bridesmaids, with not even a single final appearance before this World Cup.

South Africa 2010 has seen a welcome change. Defending champions Italy departed early; five-time champions Brazil failed to cross the second round, crushed by the weight of expectations; Germany and Argentina failed to raise their game in crucial contests. Despite the exit of these big guns, the tournament has not lost its sheen. Holland, and certainly Spain, belong where they are now, having come through stiff tests of character and class.

The Dutchmen have won all their matches so far, even though their much-acclaimed style has yet to shine through in full measure. But the likes of Arjen Robben and Wesley Schneider have answered their nation's call at every turn and the team has shown big match temperament. In contrast, Spain had a stuttering start when they lost their first game to Switzerland. But they have gone from strength to strength from then on, with their sweet passing game entertaining and exasperating at the same time.


Two years ago, the Spaniards showed they had the grit to match their style, winning the European championships in Vienna. Carles Puyol's sizzling header on Wednesday has given them the chance to take the ultimate step, with only the Dutch standing in their way. Who will seize the moment is the big question now, as the world awaits the coronation.

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

CONTROL OF QUACKS

BY BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA


Both barefoot and registered doctors, are equally dishonest. More than containing them, it is necessary to regulate them.

 

Reports of medical mistreatment by barefoot medical practitioners appear frequently in the media. Sometimes this even leads to death of the patient. But similar mistreatment is often done by registered medical practitioners (RMPs) as well.


One teacher suffered a minor fall in the school. The doctor told her that there was a hairline fracture and terrorised her by saying that she would become lame if she did not have a full cast done. The poor lady paid Rs 2,000 to put the cast. Back home her husband showed the x-ray to another RMP friend, who said there was no fracture at all. There was only an injury to the vein.


He removed the cast and told them to do regular hot fermentation. Soon the pain was gone. It is clear that mistreatment is done both by barefoot — and registered doctors. But mistreatment by a barefoot doctor is considered a crime, while the same mistreatment by an RMP is passed off as a mishappening.


It is also well known among medical circles that RMPs prescribe unnecessary tests because they get commissions from the labs. A lab owner in Delhi told this writer that Rs 20 out of every x-ray costing Rs 100 goes to the doctor. Doctors get commissions of Rs 500 to Rs 2,500 on every CT and MRI scan.


It is clear that both barefoot and registered doctors are equally dishonest. The solution, therefore, is not to put a lid on barefoot doctors and give oxygen to RMPs. The need is to regulate all doctors strictly. Regulation cannot be truly done by the government doctors who invariably come from the RMP stream. It is necessary to establish an independent regulator for all medical practitioners along the lines of Lokayukta.


Barefoot doctors are providing cure in distant rural areas. Government doctors are unavailable because they prefer postings in metros, where they can earn big commissions by writing CT and MRI scans. Putting an end to the services provided by barefoot doctors will deprive these areas of all medical cure. Worse, reduced competition from barefoot doctors will enable RMPs to increase their charges.


But we also need to make barefoot doctors accountable. Solution is to increase the supply of RMPs. This will lead to increased competition and bring down their consultation charges as well as commissions from labs.

There is a need to establish a parallel stream of examination and registration for barefoot doctors. One aspiring to become chartered accountant has to pass certain examinations and do apprenticeship with an established CA. There is no need for him to attend four years of college. A similar examination system can be set up for barefoot doctors. Registration of barefoot doctors will increase their accountability.


Private examination

Another way to increase supply is to introduce a private examination system for RMPs. Many compounders, pharmacists and nurses have more experience than RMPs. They do not at present have the authority to write out medicines. These may be registered as doctors if they are able to pass an exam just as 'private' candidates are allowed to sit in exams of BA. These measures will lead to an increase in the supply of RMPs; they will set up their clinics in distant rural areas and also lead to a reduction in the fees and commissions charged by them.

The subject also has bearing on our tradition medicine system. There was no system of registration of vaidyas, astrologers and pundits. Young men became apprentices of a practicing vaidya and, in due course, became vaidyas themselves. This system automatically led to decentralisation.


Vaidyas were free to evolve different methods of treatment. They also experimented with locally available herbs and made new formulations that were suitable to local climate, culture and eating habits. This research was not done in air-conditioned labs. It was done by the vaidya prescribing different medicines and observing the results. This system was economically efficient.


The cost of treatment was less because of reliance on locally available herbs. It does not cost much to eat two leaves of Tulsi everyday. The same treatment would cost more if a RMP prescribes Tulsi extract.

This traditional system of medicine is now dying. One reason is that an experienced vaidya is treated as a unregistered doctor and his knowledge is declared illegal. Another reason is that vaidyas have started prescribing medicines produced in big companies. These are expensive. They do not now discover or prescribe locally available remedies. Thus ayurvedic treatment often turns out more expensive than allopathic treatment. We have, therefore, become dependent upon the modern, centralised and expensive medical system.


Centralisation is harmful for research. The RMP is like a clerk. He reads the rule book and prescribes the medicines. His own contribution is limited to deciding which page in the rule book to read. The RMP is not oriented to undertake innovation and research.


It becomes very difficult to mainstream his findings should he make some invention because the procedure of clinical trials, etc is expensive and cumbersome and requires a pharmaceutical company to sponsor his research. All this is a consequence of us denigrating our traditional system of medicine. We should not blindly adopt the expensive centralised modern medicine system to the detriment of our inexpensive decentralised system.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN PERSPECTIVE

TURKEY ASSERTING ITS NEW ECONOMIC POWER

BY LANDON THOMAS JR, NYT


A core of internation-ally competitive companies is turning Turkey into a major hub.

 

For decades, Turkey has been told it was not ready to join the European Union — that it was too backward economically to qualify for membership in the now 27-nation club. That argument may no longer hold.


Today, Turkey is a fast-rising economic power, with a core of internationally competitive companies that are turning the youthful nation into an entrepreneurial hub, tapping cash-rich export markets in Russia and West Asia while attracting billions of investment dollars in return.


For many in aging and debt-weary Europe, which will be lucky to eke out a little more than 1 per cent growth this year, Turkey's economic renaissance — last week it reported a stunning 11.4 per cent expansion for the first quarter, second only to China — poses a completely new question: Who needs the other one more — Europe or Turkey?


"The old powers are losing power, both economically and intellectually," said Vural Ak, 42, the founder and chief executive of Intercity, the largest car leasing company in Turkey. "And Turkey is now strong enough to stand by itself."


Astonishing
It is an astonishing transformation for an economy that just 10 years ago had a budget deficit of 16 per cent of GDP and inflation of 72 per cent. It is one that lies at the root of the rise to power of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has combined social conservatism with fiscally cautious economic policies to make his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, the most dominant political movement in Turkey since the early days of the republic.


"This is a dream world," said Husnu M Ozyegin who became the richest man in Turkey when he sold his bank, Finansbank, to the National Bank of Greece in 2006. Sitting on the rooftop of his five-star Swiss Hotel, he is scrolling down the most recent credit-default spreads for euro zone countries on his BlackBerry and he still cannot quite believe what he is seeing. "Greece, 980. Italy, 194 and here is Turkey at 192," he said with a grunt of satisfaction. "If you had told me 10 years ago that Turkey's financial risk would equal that of Italy I would have said you were crazy."


Having sold at the top to Greece, Ozyegin is now putting his money to work in the east. His new bank, Eurocredit, gets 35 per cent of its profit from its Russian operations. Ozyegin represents the old guard of Turkey's business elite that has embraced the Erdogan government for its economic successes. Less well-known but just as important to Turkey's future development has been the rapid rise of a core of socially conservative business leaders who, under the AKP, have seen their businesses thrive by tapping Turkey's flourishing consumer and export markets.


Ak, the car leasing executive, exemplifies this new business elite of entrepreneurs. He drives a Ferrari to work, but he is also a practicing Muslim who does not drink and has no qualms in talking about his faith. He is not bound to the 20th-century secular consensus among the business, military and judicial elite that fought long and hard to keep Islam removed from public life.

In June, Turkish exports grew by 13 per cent compared with the previous year, with much of the demand coming from cash-rich countries on Turkey's border or close to it like Iraq, Iran and Russia. With their immature manufacturing bases, these countries are eager buyers of Turkish cookies, automobiles and flat-screen televisions.

This year, for example, the country's flagship carrier, Turkish Airlines, will fly to as many cities in Iraq (three) as it does to France. Some of its fastest growing routes are to Libya, Syria and Russia, Turkey's largest trading partner, where it flies to seven cities. That is second only to Germany, which has a large population of immigrant Turks.

In Iran, Turkish companies are building fertiliser plants and making diapers and female sanitary products. In Iraq, the Acarsan Group, based in the southeastern town of Gaziantep, just won a tender to build five hospitals. And Turkish construction companies boast a collective order book of over $30 billion, second only to China.

On the flip side, the Azerbaijani government owns a majority of Turkey's major petrochemicals company and Saudi Arabia has been a big investor in the country's growing Islamic finance sector.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

LEGENDARY LEDGE

BY L SUBRAMANI


However hard you try, you simply cannot get rid of certain things in life.

 

It all began when two friends taunted me over the protruding tummy, comparing it with the legendary 'Ledge' at the Lords cricket ground famously exploited by the bowlers to send faster deliveries to startle the batsmen. I realised for the first time that the stomach simply bumped up at the middle section, threatening to rub against any object I might pass by. Damn… yes… It was embarrassing.


"This, you know, is because I have to sit and work for long hours. Can't step out for gyms. Can't exercise at odd hours…" Nothing seemed to stop the brats from making fun of the ledge, which, they blamed on the tasty 'thayir sadham' (curd rice) and several thousand spoons of ghee that collected over the years in the abdominal region.

Deprived of the ability to check if I could still see the toe standing erect (guess I had to see through the ledge even then), I decided to get on with some serious workouts. Yes, I can't afford to break my bones wondering what to do standing on a spinning treadmill, but surely there has to be a way out to save the embarrassment of carrying the ledge around…


I began the diet cum exercise with lots of optimism and it certainly made me brisk and light. Day 4: I looked at the ledge and wanted to squash it like a bug. Adrenalin kicked-in and the pace of my push-up became faster. Determined to make the most of the 'feel-good' factor, I pressed on with the sit ups increasing the speed as much as possible.


Two weeks into the fitness regime, I felt fantastic. Yes, my body was getting muscular; shoulders were propping up nicely and the chest region showed what faintly appeared like the 'V' shape. Probably my time to taunt those poor excuse of friends has come. My servant maid interrupted the scene of me taking on the two goons, flexing the bulging biceps and hitting them out on the edge of the universe… "Sir you look smart". I smiled.

"But what's that stomach?... It's standing out… May be you have to work harder…" There are certain things in life you simply cannot get rid of. Taunting friends, impolite servant maids... And yes, obstinate ledges! "Yes my friends… This is genetic trait. Not one generation of ghee, but I guess several generations of it collecting over the gene that I have inherited."

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

                                                                                                                                                              EDITORIAL

THE IDF FIGHTS BACK

ISRAEL WARNS WORLD OF HIZBULLAH'S STRATEGY.

The IDF this week declassified sensitive intelligence information on Hizbullah's rearmament campaign in south Lebanon. Detailed aerial photos, videos and maps show how the terrorist organization is again ruthlessly preparing to use Lebanese civilians as human shields, as exemplified by its deployment in one Shi'ite village – el-Khiam – located just 4 kilometers from the Israeli border. There, Hizbullah has embedded its weapon caches, bunkers, command-and-control centers and missile stockpiles – and stationed its armed personnel – in and alongside hospitals, mosques, schools and homes.


By making this sensitive information public, Israel runs the risk of revealing its intelligence-gathering procedures and giving Hizbullah the opportunity to adapt. Nevertheless, that risk was taken, as part of a laudable new IDF strategy geared toward confronting Israel's rapidly changing military challenges.


In the past, wars were fought by uniformed soldiers on battlefields often far from civilian population centers.


Israel consistently prevailed in these conventional conflicts against Arab states and against the Palestinian militias that sought to destroy the Jewish state, from the 1948 War of Independence and through to the 1973 Yom Kippur War.


Realizing they were unable to defeat Israel in this way, Palestinians in south Lebanon and in Gaza, and their supporters, shifted first to the strategy of terrorism, and more recently, with Iranian inspiration, have gradually perfected an asymmetrical form of violence.


Cynically manipulating the instinctive aversion to the death of noncombatants, and exploiting a lacuna in outdated international law formulated when conventional wars were the only reality, Hizbullah and Hamas terrorists place themselves and their weapons in the heart of populated residential areas and launch rocket fire from there against Israel's civilian population. When Israel is forced to come to the defense of its citizens, noncombatants on the enemy side, cynically placed in the line of fire by Hamas and Hizbullah, are unfortunately killed.


International criticism to date, based on the anachronistic Fourth Geneva Convention, has largely singled out Israel, the party responding to attack, for the ostensibly disproportionate killing of non-combatants. The result is castigation in the shape, for instance, of the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. In this distorted moral climate, Israel is gradually losing the legitimacy to defend itself – being expected, apparently, to indefinitely absorb civilian losses and live under constant threat of missile attacks from both Gaza and Lebanon, two fronts where it dismantled its presence in "occupied" territory and withdrew to borders demarcated by the international community.


THIS WEEK'S release of information shows Israel trying a new tactic. When pictures of war casualties in Lebanon or Gaza are relayed across the world and Israel is accused of disproportionality, few have been willing to listen to Israeli efforts at explaining the context. Now, Israel is adopting a preemptive approach – warning the world, ahead of a feared new conflict, of Hizbullah's diabolical strategy.

According to Prof. Asa Kasher, an expert on military ethics and the author of the IDF's code of ethics, Hizbullah's deployment among civilians is "a violation of the spirit of the Geneva Convention." Israel's hope is that its newly revealed information will gain international attention, and it will be appreciated that it is Hizbullah's leaders who are violating international law, not the IDF.


There is also the hope that the residents of the 160 southern Lebanese villages caught up in Hizbullah's web may register their concern, one way or another, about living next to an arms cache or a missile stockpile now that they know that the IDF likely has it targeted.

 

In June, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Heiman, head of the IDF's Strategic Planning Department, presented evidence of Hizbullah's immoral deployment to UN officials. UNIFIL commander in Lebanon Maj.-Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas was also briefed.


With the UN dominated by states that are both hypercritical of Israel and unwilling or unable to make moral distinctions between democracies and dictatorships, it is highly unlikely that any significant public acknowledgement of Hizbullah's moral abuses will be forthcoming.


But the IDF is right to make the effort. Indeed, it needs to broaden its outreach, and ensure that this information is made available as widely as possible – to the media, no matter how unenthusiastic the reception, and in smaller briefings for key politicians and officials.


Many of the same moral dilemmas faced by Israel in Gaza and in Lebanon are being faced by the US, Canada, Italy, Germany and other NATO armies in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Western armies should compare and share their counterinsurgency doctrines in an attempt to develop both strategies and a military ethics code to deal with the new ruthlessness they face.


Where south Lebanon is concerned, nobody can now say that they weren't warned about the nature of the looming confrontation.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE BUTTON ON BIBI'S JACKET

BARAK HAS AN AMAZING ABILITY TO SCARE BIBI IN ONE EAR AND THEN CALM HIM DOWN IN THE OTHER. BUT HIS GOVERNMENT IS RIGHT WING, FOR THE MOST PART. OR AS FORMER LIKUD MK RONI MILO SAID ON TELEVISION, GREATER ISRAEL IS PLANTED DEEP IN BIBI'S HEART.

BY YOEL MARCUS

 

It is not by chance that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not take Defense Minister Ehud Barak with him to Washington. Neither Bibi, nor certainly his wife Sara, was eager to share the warm reception that U.S. President Barack Obama had prepared. They were hosted opposite the White House at the presidential guesthouse, Blair House, which has an abundance of good things from servants to personal secretaries and bathrooms packed with the best cosmetics. It's a guesthouse meant for state visits and people whom the president wants to please.

 

In addition, Michelle Obama and Sara Netanyahu had a private lunch in the presidential couple's private quarters at the White House, and in the evening, the four had an intimate dinner. Obama, who looked tough to us, used every gimmick to placate Bibi. First he used the well-known trick of announcing that the talks with Bibi would last an hour, but then they were extended, in this case by 40 minutes, to prove that the conversation was important and to give the guest a chance to be proud. Obama even accompanied his guests to their car, a gesture reserved for the most important dignitaries.

 

At their news conference, two things were very evident: Bibi seemed tense and ill at ease; he kept opening and closing the middle button of his jacket as if to hide his paunch as Obama was talking. He also glanced from time to time at the copious notes he had placed next to him. He did not reveal a great deal about their conversation, but the most important thing for Israel was Obama's commitment that the United States would stick to its policy on Israel's nuclear ambiguity. Even more important - even if the United States takes steps against the nuclearization of the Middle East, they will not apply to Israel as long as it is threatened.

 

The editorial in The New York Times noted that the two had satisfied their short-term objectives during their talks, but it was less clear whether they had achieved anything substantial. Both leaders wanted to show their voters that the cold ties between them had become warmer. Both are having trouble at home. Obama is tense in the run-up to the congressional elections, the halfway mark of his four-year term, and a tough stance against Israel could cause him damage. Bibi, meanwhile, is facing criticism over not keeping his promise that the construction freeze will not last even a day beyond the deadline.

 

Both leaders were interested in lowering the flame, but it was not yet the beginning of a beautiful friendship, like at the end of "Casablanca." The minefield between the two has not yet been cleared. Obama could certainly not have been pleased to read in a Washington Post analysis that the Israeli flag is flying above Blair House while a white flag is fluttering alongside the Stars and Stripes at the White House. Netanyahu, too, was not so pleased that the president is being accused of bowing to Israel, especially since this is certainly far from the truth. Bibi's achievement of the moment was tactical, while Obama's strategy has not changed. Anyone who does not satisfy him in 2010 will have to face him in 2011.

 

Since I was not a fly on the wall in the president's office when the two were talking, I can merely guess that Bibi tried to convince Obama that he is serious and sticking to his promise about two states for two peoples. And maybe this is why Obama's hug was warmer than planned. At the same time, Netanyahu made it clear that it will be easier for him to continue with the construction freeze if direct negotiations with the Palestinians start before September 26. It's no coincidence that parallel talks were being held in Jerusalem between Barak and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (not for the first time ), and that they discussed the possibility of extending the sway of the Palestinian Authority and the areas in its hands.

 

Bibi's first test will be on Sunday. A year and a quarter has passed since his term began. What has he achieved as a leader? That we got through the economic crisis safely? After all, that's thanks to the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer.

 

Over the past year, the entire world fell on us. We failed with the flotilla. Our relations with Turkey are getting even worse. In surveys on his leadership, Bibi comes out so-so. The members of his party and forum of seven senior ministers don't lend their support. He made a mistake when he let a fifth column in the shape of Avigdor Lieberman join his government. From the statements by the foreign minister, it's clear he won't repeat Ehud Olmert's mistake and won't resign from the government until he is obliged to by the attorney general. Barak has an amazing ability to scare Bibi in one ear and then calm him down in the other. But his government is right wing, for the most part. Or as former Likud MK Roni Milo said on television, Greater Israel is planted deep in Bibi's heart.

 

But now he has to be aware of the mission that history has placed on his shoulders. Not "I came, I saw, I was photographed." Instead, "I came, I saw and I made a decision - I am going for a peace agreement." Perhaps you will lose Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, but Kadima will be there with you, and the nation will be there with you. Go for it.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

DEFENSELESS MINISTER

BUT EHUD BARAK IS A BAD DEFENSE MINISTER - A DEFENSELESS MINISTER. HE IS AVOIDING ANY SERIOUS INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE BECAUSE HE IS PROTECTING OUR SOLDIERS WITH HIS OWN BODY. BUT THAT'S TOO TRANSPARENT: HE KNOWS ONLY HOW TO PROTECT HIMSELF.

BY YOSSI SARID

 

The last of his serfs and eunuchs are now releasing themselves from their indentured status: We no longer love our master, we are going free.

 

There isn't a politician in Israel who has caused worse damage. As prime minister for 20 months - the shortest and most wasted term in Israel's history - he is remembered mainly as a joke. But he was the only one who laughed. You need special talent to burn so many stews in one swollen pot, which compares only to the defense budget in its inflated size.

 

He left behind him a scorched legacy of "There's nobody to talk to" - neither the Palestinians nor the Syrians - and thereby buried the Labor Party. An entire generation that wanted Peace Now instead received a wait as lengthy as his escape route. He swore allegiance on the grave of Yitzhak Rabin, but it was perjury.

 

He dismantled his party and disgraced its followers. They were disgusted not only by his political behavior but also by his personal behavior. They never understood what sin they had committed that warranted him as punishment.

 

As he built up his reputation as Mr. Security, they were momentarily comforted: Although he isn't fit to be prime minister - he is neither a politician, nor a leader, nor exactly a socialist, nor even a mentsch - he is an expert defense minister.

 

The general public cannot judge a minister's performance or how much he really knows. It's enough for one chicken in the media to sound the call, and the entire chicken run will cluck behind him.

 

But Ehud Barak is a bad defense minister - a defenseless minister. He is avoiding any serious investigative committee because he is protecting our soldiers with his own body. But that's too transparent: He knows only how to protect himself.

 

So far, he has two major campaigns to his credit: Operation Cast Lead in Gaza on land and the Turkish flotilla at sea. In military academies in Israel and abroad, these campaigns will be taught among other tales of heroism and wisdom; their tactical moves and strategic results will be analyzed.

 

Here is what every Jewish mother should know: He did not redeem Gilad Shalit; communities near Gaza continue to live in the shadow of Qassam rockets; the Iron Dome missile defense system is at present more dome than iron; he lifted the ban on legumes and herbs entering Gaza suddenly and in shame - as though it were not he who originally imposed it, with a mountain of excuses - and strengthened Hamas; the distribution of gas masks to the home front failed, as a general testified this week; he did not evacuate a single outpost, thanks to the High Court of Justice and his own worldview; he even managed to quarrel with the army's chief of staff, thus bringing some of his evil spirit into the heart of the supreme command; the Iranian clock continues to tick like a Breitling, and its Hezbollah hand is moving toward zero hour.

 

But Barak Caesar is a successful defense minister. Sometimes it looks as though he is living in a sales-promotion film produced at an air show.

 

Ever since the Netanyahu-Lieberman government was established, he has done their bidding: now as a defensive shield for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now as an advocate for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. So why should they mind placing a crown of defense on his head, the way we would place a crown on a child's head on the Purim holiday, as long as it makes him happy?

 

The ship of Labor can no longer be rescued, its captain is lost. But Barak will sell his soul and save it, and will be the next defense minister. And in the elections, he will run together with Netanyahu, after they spent an entire term together scratching each other's back.

 

Because Israel, in its situation, needs the very best.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

OBAMA SOBERS UP

WHEN THE ADAM-PSAGOT-TEL ZION-OFRA-BEIT EL-SHILO-ELI SETTLEMENT BLOC BECOMES LIKE MA'ALEH ADUMIM AND ARIEL, NO ISRAELI GOVERNMENT, NOT EVEN A LIKUD ONE, WILL BE ABLE TO IMAGINE EVACUATING IT. NOR WOULD EVEN A SECOND-TERM OBAMA ADMINISTRATION.

BY ISRAEL HAREL

 

The Israeli media are shocked: U.S. President Barack Obama did not humiliate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Even worse, the Washington Post reported that the opposite occurred: Netanyahu defeated Obama.

 

Even if the newspaper exaggerated, the outcome is still negative: Netanyahu, the eternal wanted man, emerged from the White House with achievements, and certainly not defeated as the media had hoped. And saddest of all, the settlement freeze, which the media is so eager to perpetuate, may be thawed.

 

The prime minister did not defeat the U.S. president. Only his enemies, only blind supporters of the Palestinians - and quite a number of Washington Post writers are in that category - could write that. Had even an iota of professional integrity found its way into their automatic support (and that of many of their Israeli colleagues ) for the Palestinians, they would have summed up as follows: There has been no strategic change in Obama's policy of two states for two peoples, and Israel must still make most of the concessions.

 

But as opposed to the dogmatically pro-Palestinian news commentators, Obama has reached the conclusion that his tactics (which were also dogmatic ) did not serve his objective, which is theirs as well.

 

Obama, as he made clear this week, is undergoing a process of sobering up. He has understood, whether on his own or with the help of others, that the person most to blame for the lack of progress may perhaps be found not in Jerusalem, nor even in Ramallah, but in Washington. And that there may have been truth in the claim that his Cairo speech, in which he toadied to the Arabs, combined with his brutal pressure on Israel had caused the Palestinians to climb such a tall tree that when they reached the top, they suffered from vertigo and lost contact with reality.

 

And perhaps the U.S. president also reached the conclusion that since he created this syndrome, it is his responsibility, precisely because he supports the Palestinians, to get them down from the tree. His public rapprochement with Netanyahu, which is mainly tactical, is the beginning of this process.

 

The Palestinians will return to the negotiating table when they realize that if they fail to do so, they will lose out, primarily on the issue of territory. For in the present situation, the more organized and efficient side, and the one with the greater resources, will be the one better able to exploit the vacuum that has existed ever since the Palestinians appointed Obama to head the team for freezing settlements and blasting Israel.

 

In order for them to resume negotiations, he must convince them that, just as they have recently been grumbling, he really is not doing the job according to their expectations, although he tried his best - and that if they continue to be intractable, Israel is liable to continue to expand the settlements to the geographic and demographic point of no return, even as far as the United States is concerned.

 

When the Adam-Psagot-Tel Zion-Ofra-Beit El-Shilo-Eli settlement bloc becomes like Ma'aleh Adumim and Ariel, no Israeli government, not even a Likud one, will be able to imagine evacuating it. Nor would even a second-term Obama administration. And that is all the more true once the Kedumim-Karnei Shomron-Immanuel-Yakir-Revava settlement bloc links up with Ariel to create a huge Israeli geographic and demographic space in the northern West Bank. (And that is what is going to happen - because the Palestinians do not really want, or some say are unable, to recognize Israel even within the 1967 lines. )

 

And if Obama, a true opponent of the settlements, did not mention a continuation of the settlement freeze, that is a sign that he is using continued Israeli expansion as yet another means of pressure. By so doing, he has begun to restore his administration to a sane worldview that takes the abyss of Arab rejection of the Jewish state into account.

 

For Obama did hear the following things from Netanyahu, and not for the first time ("And I believe him," Obama said to the cameras. Isn't that humiliation? Would he talk that way about a European head of state? ): He wants peace, and he knows that in return he will have to pay a high price. In effect, he has already paid the biggest part of it, which to him may be even more important than the territorial price, in his speech at Bar-Ilan University. The leader of the Jewish state recognized - a historic recognition - the Palestinians' right to a state of their own in the Land of Israel, the homeland of the Jews.

 

Only someone who hates him with a passion, or does not understand the historical, religious, substantive and political significance of this recognition, could accuse Netanyahu, who took a giant step toward the Palestinians, of foot-dragging. And Obama, who has apparently begun to understand that the Palestinians will not make a similar declaration, has begun to sober up. Let's hope he continues to do so.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

A SOCIETY FALLING APART

FROM THE SECOND LEBANON WAR TO THE GAZA FLOTILLA - AND THIS PERIOD INCLUDES OPERATION CAST LEAD - ISRAEL'S FAILURES HAVE BEEN MUCH GREATER THAN ITS SUCCESSES. AGAINST THIS BACKDROP, ISRAEL'S MORAL CRISIS IS GETTING DEEPER ALL THE TIME.

BY ZEEV STERNHELL

 

Among the regimes in the Western world, Israel stands out with certain characteristics that generally do not indicate a strong democratic system. Its parliament is paralyzed, the opposition is nonexistent, and contempt for the law is becoming more pronounced. This not only refers to the unrest caused by the ultra-Orthodox, but also to something much more dangerous, the unrest caused by the settlers. The "respectable" right has chosen leaders of the most dangerous kind, like Moshe Ya'alon, who erases the line between Likud's level-headed elements and the extremist "Feiglins" and far-right National Union party. In the not-too-distant future, they will replace Likud's current leadership, which itself is much less restrained than the veteran Revisionists.

 

Moreover, the political leadership and the ruling elites, including the military elite, evince a worrisome lack of talent. From the Second Lebanon War to the Gaza flotilla - and this period includes Operation Cast Lead - Israel's failures have been much greater than its successes. Against this backdrop, Israel's moral crisis is getting deeper all the time. Israeli society is disintegrating into layers and blocs that have totally different worldviews and historical visions. More and more, these hostile blocs lack a mutual national objective.

 

The moral and intellectual disintegration also contributes to the gradual loss of social solidarity and mutual responsibility. Notwithstanding the vital struggle TheMarker is conducting against the tycoons and the enslavement to big business, this is not a comprehensive economic alternative for reducing inequality. The alienation between the sections of society that differ over the country's political future is increasing, no less than the alienation between social strata and population sectors whose ways of life are as different as east from west.

 

All these phenomena must be dealt with, first on the political level. Therefore, for change to be possible, a political engine is necessary. Regrettably, this type of machine no longer exists here. Led by Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, the Labor Party betrayed its role; it is heading toward liquidating itself. Peres' desertion in the 2006 elections to Kadima was merely a symptom of the illness, but on that occasion, the depth of the degeneration was revealed.

 

Have there been many instances in the democratic world over the past 50 years where a party leader deserted his party for a rival merely because he was defeated in the primaries on the eve of an election? Peres the deserter, who became president, and Dalia Itzik the deserter, who was Knesset speaker until the last elections, taught the average Israeli not only that politics is a realm to avoid if you want to save your soul, but that political life is nothing but a web of fraud - without ideology, principles and truth.

 

Peres' heir, Barak, is contributing to this feeling; he is relinquishing what remains of his party's right to exist. We can thank Barak for the huge disgrace of Operation Cast Lead, which scraped off another layer of the old Israeli identity. And we are indebted to him for the humiliation we suffered in the Gaza flotilla incident. In addition, Barak is a supporter of neoliberalism and privatization, is opposed to raising the minimum wage and, by his very membership in the government, supports religious instruction in secular schools. If that is so, who needs him or his party?

 

It is worth mentioning that Barak, by virtue of his position as defense minister, is also the West Bank's military governor. Viewers of the Channel 10 news last Friday were amazed to see a scene that seemed to belong to the world of sick imagination: To shorten the route to the Cave of the Patriarchs for the Jews of Hebron, the windows of Arabs' homes that the worshipers pass were sealed off. You had to rub your eyes to believe how the colonial power allows itself to make life so unbearable for the natives. Not only were their windows sealed, but access to their homes was made especially difficult - just for the convenience of the occupiers.

 

It was not the worshipers who sealed the houses but the army that stands at attention to serve them, and the army's chief commander is the leader of the Labor Party. Many people will refrain from supporting the Labor Party in the next elections, but it is doubtful whether this will scare Barak. Like Peres in his day, he too will not retire. Rather, it is reasonable to expect that he will continue in the same profession - only from the opposite side of the street.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

IN PRAISE OF THE WORLD CUP

ROGER COHEN WROTE IN HIS NEW YORK TIMES COLUMN THAT "THIS IS THE FIRST MAGICAL WORLD CUP." AND FOR GOOD REASON. PERHAPS THE WORLD'S STATESMEN, SOME OF WHOM ATTENDED THEIR TEAMS' MATCHES, WILL LEARN FROM THE WORLD CUP THAT THINGS CAN BE DONE DIFFERENTLY.

 

Be it Spain on Sunday or be it The Netherlands, the 2010 World Cup has already won a convincing victory, as they say in sports, and in a big way. Granted, we're dealing with soccer, only soccer. But the implications are much broader, world encompassing.

 

The choice of South Africa as host of the FIFA World Cup was accompanied from the beginning by deep fears. The various doomsayers warned that the emerging African state, with its new regime, would not be up to such a challenge. They warned that the facilities would not be set up in time, that they would not be constructed properly, that the tournament would be badly organized, and above all, that the numerous guests who came to watch the games would suffer from the host country's widespread crime and violence.

 

But none of this happened. Three million spectators in the stadia enjoyed a spectacular World Cup, colorful and perhaps a bit noisy, but well organized. No violent incidents occurred on the field of play, and off the field, too, most sports tourists felt completely safe.

 

Thanks to South Africa, the first African state to organize such a large-scale event, the entire continent can lift its head in pride, perhaps for the first time in its history. Thanks to this World Cup, Black Africa - the world's poorest, most battered, most bleeding continent - has proved that it, too, is finally on the global map. It must therefore be hoped that its shameful obliteration from almost every global issue will come to an end with this excellent World Cup.

 

The event also proved - not the first time, but more clearly than ever - that sports in general and soccer in particular are unique arenas. Only there can Ghana beat the United States, Serbia beat Germany, Slovenia beat Italy and Algeria tie with England. Where else but on a soccer field can migrants' sons excel in their new country? The teams that reached the final belong to two wealthy European states, but for a state like Uruguay, with its small population and a gross domestic product in 98th place worldwide, even reaching the semifinal commands respect. This could only have happened in soccer.

 

Hundreds of millions of people watched the games simultaneously throughout the world: No global issue is as unifying as soccer. Parents and children, rich and poor, people of different nationalities, religions, genders and races - all, together, watched television screens across the planet. A world in which a significant proportion of the population watches the same thing at the same time seems, for a moment at least, like a less dangerous, more promising place. And the fact that nationalism did not become violent or pronounced either during the games or after them inspires hope.

 

The sporting spirit overtook everyone, with no exceptions, winners and losers alike. Not only South Africa rejoiced - as it had rejoiced only once before in its history, with the fall of the brutal apartheid regime - but the whole world rejoiced. Roger Cohen wrote in his New York Times column that "This is the first magical World Cup." And for good reason. Perhaps the world's statesmen, some of whom attended their teams' matches, will learn from the World Cup that things can be done differently.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE JERUSALEM MASTER PLAN FOR DESTRUCTION

WE DID NOT ESTABLISH THE FIRST KNESSET OF JEWISH LAWMAKERS IN HISTORY SO THE LAW COULD BE TWISTED TO SERVE VENGEFUL FANTASIES.

BY DON FUTTERMAN

 

Just in time for the nine days of mourning leading up to Tisha B'Av, the Jerusalem municipality has threatened to file its Master Plan for Jerusalem as reported in Haaretz on June 28. The plan includes a comprehensive development program that seems designed to undermine the Zionist enterprise and invite calls for our destruction.

 

Instead of reversing decades of neglect to meet the needs of Jerusalem's Palestinian residents, the plan backs up the local and national governments' apparent desire to relocate as many Arabs as possible to the margins of the municipal boundaries; to promote overcrowding in East Jerusalem in the hope that Palestinians will leave the city of their own accord, by developing new neighborhoods on the margins of the city and by making proposed construction in the heart of East Jerusalem impossible; and to accelerate evictions and house demolitions.

 

The Master Plan, the first in 50 years, was created by the Jerusalem municipality over the past decade, and is intended to shape the city for at least the next 25 years. The plan must be approved at the national level by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee and pass public muster before becoming official policy.

 

According to a report by Ir Amim, an NGO that engages in public education in order to impact policy to meet the needs of both peoples sharing Jerusalem and to minimize the damage caused by unilateral actions, population growth projections suggest the housing shortage for Arab residents will continue even if the Master Plan is implemented in full.

 

The plan will also present Palestinians seeking to build to meet their growing population's needs with what look to be insurmountable bureaucratic obstacles. East Jerusalemites, for example, will have difficulty proving ownership of their lands because of the absence of land registration for Palestinians with Israeli authorities. Their buildings also lack the necessary infrastructure to follow the plan's proposal to increase density by building upward - adding additional floors on tops of existing buildings.

 

The plan's call to displace Palestinians suggests that there are more sinister agendas than failing to prepare for the needs of Palestinian Jerusalemites adequately. The plan plays into both the settler-led campaign to rid the area around the Old City of its Arab population, and the government's efforts to make sure Jerusalem will never be the capital of a Palestinian state, despite the lip service paid to the two-state solution.

 

We should not reject the Jerusalem Master Plan simply because its passage may infuriate the Americans and Europeans and add to delegitimization campaigns against Israel around the world.

 

We should cast out this plan and its framers because it is anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist. It is the brainchild of those determined to show the world who is the boss in Jerusalem. The plan taints everything it touches, from the preservation of Jewish historic sites to calls for parklands and green spaces.

 

None of us yearned in our synagogues or Zionist youth movements for a Jerusalem in which poor Arab families would be kicked out of their homes to make way for a bogus tourist center, or to insert hostile Jewish settlers into Palestinian neighborhoods, or to build apartments financed by a casino tycoon half a world away.

 

We did not establish the first Knesset of Jewish lawmakers in history so the law could be twisted to serve the vengeful fantasies of Jewish settlers and the Arab-hating security hawks who enable them. We did not claw our way back to Jewish sovereignty so Jewish police would be ordered to bash the heads of any Jew or non-Jew who dared to protest and question the morality of aggressive actions against Palestinian residents, such as those in Sheikh Jarrah or Silwan.

 

I want Jerusalem to be my capital, to be recognized as our capital the world over, and I want it to remain our

capital forever. But any Jew or Arab who walks the streets of Jerusalem knows that Israel already has sovereignty over Jerusalem, and has used this control to make sure the city remains as divided as ever. There is a Jewish Jerusalem and an Arab Jerusalem and all the sloganeering by our leaders and apologists will not change this reality.

 

We could have created a Zionist vision for our time in Jerusalem, a Jewish beacon of equality and mutual respect for all faiths and both peoples who live here. Instead, we have systematically neglected the needs of a quarter million Palestinian residents, fouled our desperate struggle for security with land grabs, and devoted vast resources to fence the local Arab population in and keep the Palestinian nation out.

 

As Jewish communities the world over remember Jerusalem's destruction and our expulsion from foreign lands in which we were cast as the stranger, it is time to reject the evil being done in the name of preserving our "united and eternal capital." Might pulpit rabbis use their Tisha B'Av sermons not only to remember our suffering, but to insist that we not use that suffering to justify becoming bullies ourselves, and that as Jews, we oppose expelling Palestinians from their homes?

 

Let us tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, and the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee that most of the Jewish people are neither settlers nor Arab-haters, and we do not share their vision. We believe we can still make Jerusalem the city of our dreams.

 

Don Futterman is the program director in Israel of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation working to support civil society and democracy, immigrant absorption and education in Israel.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

WEB ACCESS AS A LEGAL RIGHT

BY JAMES KIRCHICK

 

It might seem like yet another excessive giveaway from a Scandinavian social welfare state. Last week, Finland became the first country in the world to make broadband Internet access a legal right, placing the ability to get online alongside other entitlements like unemployment benefits and health care. As of last Thursday, every Finnish citizen is entitled to a one megabit-per-second Internet connection.

 

"Internet services are no longer just for entertainment," the country's communication minister told the BBC. Indeed, in a world where more and more people get their information online, Web access has become a precondition for an informed citizenry. Guaranteeing this access is not only necessary for societies seeking to advance technologically, but for any country with democratic aspirations.

 

Prior to enshrining Internet access as a legal right, Finland had already done an impressive job getting its citizens online. Some 96 percent of the population already has Web access, leaving a mere 4,000 households - most of them located in the country's remote, Arctic outskirts - in need of a hookup. Given these statistics, passing such legislation looks more like a formality than a daring, expensive enterprise. The significance of Finland's undertaking, however, is not reflected in its cost or complexity, but in the message it sends: In the 21st century, the citizens of a democratic nation must be equipped with the tools to educate themselves about what is happening not only in their local communities, but around the world.

 

Once derided as a venue merely for chat rooms, movie downloads and pornography, the Internet has become a global battleground between those fighting to expand human freedom and those trying to constrict it. Compare Finland's decision with the actions of authoritarian nations, which devote massive amounts of money and resources to preventing their citizens from enjoying unrestricted Internet access. China blocks most external news sites and imprisons more people for violating draconian Internet speech laws than any other country in the world. Recognizing the power of the Web, the regime actively promotes disinformation online - deploying tens of thousands of Internet propagandists to patrol websites and post anonymous comments praising the Communist authorities.

 

Across the Muslim world, regimes imprison individuals for criticizing the government or writing heterodox articles about Islam or Israel. CyberDissidents, an American organization committed to defending those who "continue the noble tradition of political dissent using information communication technology," tracks these crackdowns, which occur with disturbing regularity. One specific case it has trumpeted is that of Egyptian university student Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, who has been in prison since 2006 for referring to President Hosni Mubarak as a dictator. A steady stream of worldwide demonstrations and petitions have yet to convince the Egyptian government to release him.

 

On top of hindering Internet access, authoritarian powers also use the Web to repress. The tiny Baltic nation of Estonia - where not long ago less than half of the population actually had a phone line - made Internet access a state priority in 2000 under the enthusiastically free-market leadership of President Mart Laar. In an ironic twist, however, the country's widespread Internet usage (nearly the entire populace does its banking online ) became a liability in 2007 when Russia, engaged in a diplomatic row with the former Soviet republic, allegedly launched a wave of cyber attacks on government, newspaper and business websites.

 

While advocating Internet access in closed societies, one must also acknowledge its limits in promoting freedom. Much has been written about the importance of Twitter in helping Iran's Green Movement to coordinate protests in the wake of the country's stolen election in June of last year. But in fact Twitter's role has been highly exaggerated. Its format, which lacks any kind of monitoring, easily allows rumors to spread - like posts that falsely warned of snipers at major demonstrations to discourage people from attending. Over a year later, the Iranian regime remains in place, continues to jail and torture dissidents, and proceeds apace with its nuclear program. Twitter was unable to stop it. While Web access in Iran may be severely restrained, even if the Iranian people were able to communicate more freely with one another online, that alone would not be enough to overthrow their oppressive government.

 

All in all, the one possessing the guns matters more than the one with the Internet jack. Hyping Twitter's supposed aid to the Iranian opposition makes armchair activists in the West feel like heroes more than anything else. When it comes to dealing with rogue regimes, preaching the unparalleled virtues of the Internet and social networking sites becomes an excuse for avoiding more effective actions - whether they be sanctions, covert operations or military force.

 

Regardless, if you give people a taste of freedom, they will invariably want more of it. And today, the Internet - with all of its chaotic qualities - represents freedom. A BBC poll conducted earlier this year found that nearly 80 percent of people around the world believe access to the Web should be a fundamental right. Perhaps because authoritarians are so afraid of the Internet's power, most people view information technology as something to be welcomed. Governments should heed the call and follow Finland.

 

James Kirchick is writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and a contributing editor to The New Republic

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

IS ISRAEL A NORMAL COUNTRY?

THE OLD ANTI-SEMITIC SLOGAN, PROMOTED BY THE NAZI NEWSPAPER DER STUERMER, THAT 'THE JEWS ARE OUR MISFORTUNE' HAS BEEN GIVEN NEW CURRENCY BY THE ISRAELI CONFLICT WITH THE PALESTINIANS.

BY IAN BURUMA

 

Israel's decision in May to drop commandos onto a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists was brutal. The killing of nine civilians by those commandos was a terrible consequence. Israel's blockade of Gaza and occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank, not to mention the road blocks, destruction of homes and other daily torments of the Palestinians, are also a form of institutionalized inhumanity.

 

Nevertheless, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's description of the Israeli raid on the activists' boat as "an attack on the conscience of humanity" which "deserves every kind of curse," and as a "turning point in history" after which "nothing will be the same," seems hysterical. Whatever one thinks of various Israeli governments (and I don't think much of the current one ), reactions to Israeli government-sponsored violence tend to be much fiercer - not just in Turkey - than reactions to crimes committed by the leaders of other countries, with the exception perhaps of the United States. But then, in the minds of many critics, the two countries are often conflated.

 

Israel has never done anything comparable to the late Syrian leader Hafez Assad's 1982 massacre of more than 20,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama. Far more Muslims are still being murdered by fellow Muslims than by Israelis, or indeed by Americans. And if one thinks of the death toll wreaked by the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo - more than 4 million - talking of turning points in history, after the killing of nine people, sounds a little absurd.

 

But none of that seems to count as much as what Israel does.

 

So is it true, as many defenders of Israel claim, that the Jewish state is judged by different standards than other countries? I believe that it is. But, while anti-Semitism certainly plays a part, it may not be the main reason.

 

Especially after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, many Europeans, I suspect, sighed with relief that Jews could be aggressors, too. Jewish brutality relieved the burden of wartime guilt. Eagerness to overcome this guilt might even have prompted some people to exaggerate Israeli aggression. The old anti-Semitic slogan, promoted by the Nazi newspaper Der Stuermer, that "the Jews are our misfortune," has been given new currency by the Israeli conflict with the Palestinians.

 

There are other reasons, however, for the double standard directed at Israel. One is what the liberal Israeli philosopher and peace activist Avishai Margalit has termed "moral racism." The bloodlust of an African or Asian people is not taken as seriously that of a European - or other white - people. After all, some might say (and many more might think ), what can one expect from savages? They don't know any better.

 

This is, of course, a deeply colonial sentiment, and the legacy of colonialism works against Israel in another way, too. As was true of apartheid-era South Africa, Israel reminds people of the sins of Western imperialism. Israel is regarded in the Middle East, as well as by many people in the West, as a colony led by white people (despite the fact that many prominent Israelis have their roots in Tehran, Fez or Baghdad ). The Palestinians are seen as colonial subjects, and the longer Israel continues to occupy Arab territories, the more this perception will be confirmed.

 

Finally, Israel is still a democracy, and as such should not be judged by the same standards as dictatorships. We must expect more of Benjamin Netanyahu's government than of, say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime in Iran - not because Jews are morally superior to Persians, but because Netanyahu was freely elected and is subject to the rule of law, whereas Ahmadinejad has helped to destroy whatever was democratic about Iran. In a sense, to hold Israel to the highest standards is to pay it the compliment of being treated like a normal democracy.

 

If some critics of Israel refuse to treat it as a normal country, however, the same is true of some of Israel's staunchest defenders. Special pleading for Israel as a nation of victims - the natural heirs of the targets of Nazi mass murder - is another way to apply a double standard. The French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut was right to criticize Erdogan for overreacting to the raid on the "Gaza freedom flotilla." But, by adding that Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is a best-seller in Turkey, he implied that Erdogan's Turks are modern-day Nazis.

 

Israel as a nation of victims is, in fact, contrary to its founders' creed. They wanted to create a new nation, a normal nation, a nation of good Jewish soldiers and farmers, different from the powerless Jews who fell victim to European persecution. It was only later, starting perhaps with the Adolf Eichmann trial in 1961, that the Holocaust became a staple of state propaganda. Later still, under such leaders as Menachem Begin, military enterprises were justified by references to the Nazi genocide.

 

That all Jews, including Israeli Jews, should remain haunted by a horrible past is understandable. But it must never be used to justify aggression against others. Israel is an immensely powerful country - freer, richer and better armed than all of its neighbors. Holding its leaders to account for their actions is essential, not only to protect Palestinians from brutality, but to preserve the freedom of Israelis. Allowing the past to cloud our critical faculties undermines Israeli democracy, and will have further dangerous consequences in the future.

 

Ian Buruma is professor of democracy and human rights at Bard College. His latest book is "Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents."

 

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2010

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE PRICE OF RECONCILIATION

SINCE WHEN DOES THE LOSS OF A CHILD TO THE CONFLICT MAKE ANYONE AN EXPERT ON MILITARY MANEUVERS, OR SIGNIFY EXPERTISE ON TERRORISM AND ITS CAUSES?

BY ROBI DAMELIN

 

How long must the Shalit family beg for the life of their son? How many hours must they spend chasing Knesset members who cannot commit to saving a fellow human being? How many people need to march to Jerusalem and how many concerts will be held until they understand? Would these politicians be so determined and hard-nosed, pontificating about Israel's security, if it were their own child's life at stake?

How many more broadcasts will be aired of bereaved families, showering us with their pearls of wisdom about the security of the state and its dire future if we release the Palestinian prisoners? Somewhere, deep down in their commitment to securing a safe future for the citizens of Israel, is there not also an element of one of our most natural, human traits - revenge? It would be so much more honest if this aspect were actually expressed, instead of being couched in expertise and terms of security. Since when does the loss of a child to the conflict make anyone an expert on military maneuvers, or signify expertise on terrorism and its causes?

 

Learning from history does not suit the local agenda; it seems that our present leaders have the answers to everything. We know for sure that the prisoners, once freed, will immediately don their armor and rush off to murder the nearest innocent civilian. Apparently we have not learned that some of the most dedicated peace proponents in Northern Ireland sprang from the ranks of the Catholic and Protestant prisoners whose hands were covered in a thick layer of blood.

 

These political prisoners were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement - and the world did not come to an end. On the contrary, Northern Ireland has since forged ahead on a path toward a solution. It may not represent the entire answer to the problem, but releasing prisoners was certainly a step in the right direction. "Healing of Memories" is but one of the courses offered by an ex-prisoner who spent 13 years in jail for murdering a Catholic during that conflict. With or without Gilad Shalit, to push the peace process forward the powers that be will have to negotiate the release of the Palestinian prisoners.

 

Thinking about the children, grandchildren and spouses of the Palestinian prisoners could certainly lead one to the conclusion that they might join the cycle of violence to take revenge in the name of their incarcerated family members. Perhaps this should be taken into account, as opposed to the rhetoric of doom spewing from the mouths of so many of our leaders and members of the public. If we cannot create some hope in the hearts of these families for an eventual release of the prisoners, are we certain that they would just sit back and do nothing?

 

Almost all the current male Palestinian members of the Parents Circle-Families Forum have served years in jail - and although they are all bereaved, they have chosen to take a stand and wish for reconciliation. Perhaps those individuals and organizations opposed to the release of prisoners should search their hearts and souls to see if an element of revenge is not part of the equation.

 

The man who killed my son is apparently on the list to be released, and I can only say that if this would return Gilad to his family and ease all of this impossible pain, nothing would be more worthwhile. As an aside, it is clear that there is no revenge for a lost child.

 

In the final analysis, peace doesn't only mean agreeing on who gets to control what piece of land, or how many are entitled to the right of return; it also means that those who have suffered most - the families of the dead - will not see the killers of their loved ones brought to justice. The price of reconciliation is high, but we owe it to the future of the children, who are our responsibility.

 

Robi Damelin is a member of the Parents Circle-Families Forum - Bereaved Israeli and Palestinian Families Supporting Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance. Her son, David Damelin, was killed in March 2002.

 

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******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BRITAIN'S BUDGET PAIN

 

We've found a lot to like in the first two months of Britain's new coalition government.

 

The new prime minister, David Cameron, a Conservative, showed political courage by embracing an investigative report critical of the undisciplined conduct of British troops in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s. He showed it again this week by keeping a campaign promise to investigate charges that British security services colluded with the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies in kidnapping and torture since Sept. 11, 2001. President Obama has shown no appetite even for an accounting of these misdeeds, never mind holding government officials accountable for their actions.

 

Meanwhile, Mr. Cameron's coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, are gaining the experience in governing that they were long denied by an unfair electoral system that regularly awarded them fewer seats in Parliament than their popular vote warranted. This week, the Liberal Democrats reaped their biggest reward so far for supplying the parliamentary votes that allow the minority Conservatives to govern: a referendum, to be held next spring, on replacing that flawed electoral system with one more likely to reflect the popular vote.

 

But there is a dark shadow over these early good works: the needlessly draconian emergency budget that the chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, a Conservative, unveiled late last month. In the days since, the misguided nature of this budget has become clear.

 

Some cutbacks were necessary, if only to reassure Europe's panicky bond markets. But the coalition's budget aims to cut too much too soon, in pursuit of a pointless structural budget surplus by 2015. Its real achievements are more likely to be drastically downsized public services and, if the fiscal austerity backfires, as it well might, a contribution to years of stagnation or worse in Britain and the rest of Europe.

 

Britain's fiscal accounts plunged deeply into the red in the global recession. The former Labour government's budget forecasts were irrationally optimistic. But Britain isn't Greece. Recovery would eventually have wiped out much of that red ink. The stiff, but less damaging cuts Labour had planned would have done the rest, leaving a respectable full employment deficit of only 1.6 percent of gross domestic product by 2015.

 

For the sake of converting that into a full employment surplus of 0.3 percent, the coalition has asked most government departments to slash spending by 25 percent to 40 percent over the next four years. Health spending will be spared, but capital spending on badly needed new hospitals and schools will not. More than half a million public-sector jobs are expected to be axed, including tens of thousands of police officers. The less well off, who depend on functioning public services, will suffer most.

 

No reputable economic theory justifies this bleeding. In fact, most mainstream economists have argued for delaying the most severe cuts until a more robust economic recovery has begun.

The coalition budget reflects Conservative Party ideology, which asserts that as the government withdraws money from the economy, private businesses and consumers will step in to replace it. That won't happen if Britons see only hard times ahead.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A PROMISE OF CLEANER AIR

 

The Obama administration has proposed new air-quality rules that represent another important step in the long, litigious struggle to clean up older power plants. But there is still a considerable distance to go before Americans, especially those in large cities, can enjoy truly healthy air as envisioned by the Clean Air Act of 1970. That will require the administration to keep its promise to seek even tougher standards over the next two years, including restrictions on regulated pollutants like mercury.

 

The new rules refine and modestly improve on rules issued in 2005 by the Bush administration that were tossed out by a federal court on technical grounds in 2008. The Bush rules were unusually adventurous for an administration that otherwise did little to help the cause of cleaner air. They forced electric utilities to make major new investments in pollution-control technology.

 

The new rules are tailored to meet the court's objections, and presumably are more likely to survive legal challenge. They are aimed at reducing power-plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides produced by more than 900 coal-, gas- and oil-fired units east of the Mississippi. Sulfur dioxide produces deadly soot particles, as well as acid rain. Nitrogen oxides help produce the unhealthy smog that hangs over American cities, especially during oppressive heat waves like the one that has been smothering New York City and other eastern cities this week.

 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the new rules will reduce both pollutants by hundreds of thousands of tons a year and will yield $120 billion in annual health benefits by 2014. Between 14,000 and 36,000 premature deaths would be avoided, as would thousands of nonfatal heart attacks and cases of acute bronchitis.

 

The rules will also improve visibility in state and national parks and protect ecosystems sensitive to acid rain, including lakes and streams in the Adirondacks. Industry will be forced to undertake further investments in modern pollution controls, and some companies may choose to retire their dirtiest coal-fired plants. But the benefits of the new rules so plainly outweigh their estimated annual costs of $2.8 billion that the electrical utilities seemed resigned to them, however grudgingly.

 

That is unlikely to be the case with other E.P.A. rules now in the pipeline. Lisa Jackson, the agency's administrator, has promised by next year a rule that would impose controls on power-plant emissions of mercury, which are now unregulated. Industry has opposed such controls as too expensive and is almost certain to do so again. Also in the works are tighter health standards for ozone, due in 2012.

 

Ms. Jackson's task is to get the new smog and soot rules finalized, then stay the course.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE POPE'S DUTY

 

When rolling scandal forced the American Catholic bishops conference to take action against pedophile priests, the prelates issued a tough policy requiring accused child molesters be reported immediately to secular authorities. This mandate finally acknowledged that crimes against children should take priority over bureaucratic church policies that served to cloak rogue priests and bishops in a fog of ecclesiastical evasion.

Eight years after the American church's overdue order, it is shocking that Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican have not yet applied it to the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. The pedophilia scandal has erupted in other nations, leaving parents concerned about a repetition of the harrowing experience in America, where more than 700 priests had to be dismissed across a three-year period. Yet the Vatican is reportedly working on new "guidelines" — not mandates. They are likely to fall short of zero-tolerance and other requirements in the American church that parishes and communities be alerted to abusers.

 

It is becoming clear that, as a Vatican administrator for two decades, the future pope handled the pedophilia scandal with no great distinction. Church policy under his aegis was too often a study in confusion and frustration for diocesan authorities looking for firm guidance from Rome, according to an investigative report by Laurie Goodstein and David Halbfinger in The Times. Alarmed bishops in English-speaking nations put unusual pressure on the Vatican to have a secret meeting in 2000 to consider stronger countermeasures.

 

Unfortunately, a dynamic policy has yet to emerge. As new reports arise of pedophile abuses and diocesan cover-ups in Europe, Chile and Brazil, Benedict has had to face the scandal and its victims more directly. He has put aside defensive Vatican complaints about anti-Catholic persecution and admitted the problem is "born from the sin in the church."

 

In this spirit, Benedict has the obligation to shepherd not just guidelines but credible mandates that all priest-abusers and bishops who abetted their crimes face disclosure and punishment.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE: RESTORING A MONTANA SPRING CREEK

BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG

 

A couple of weeks ago, I walked along a spring creek in the upper Madison Valley, just south of the town of Ennis, Mont. As my guide, Jeff Laszlo, explained, the creek is one of the unnamed tributaries of the Madison River, fed by innumerable springs along the valley's rich bottomland. The creek meanders for miles before it reaches the Madison, gaining water, providing spawning grounds for fish and invaluable wetland habitat for birds. I looked on in disbelief, because the section we were hiking — nearly eight miles of cold, clear waters — did not exist before 2005.

 

Or rather, it existed until 1951, when Jeff Laszlo's grandfather dewatered this section of land by digging canals to draw the water along the edge of one of the alluvial benches that define the Madison Valley. His purpose was to move water to other sections of his ranch and to improve the grazing. In the narrow agricultural logic of the time, his ditches made a certain economic sense. And if it seems strange that his grandson would undo all that work 60-some years later, Laszlo notes that he is simply obeying a different economic logic — one that considers increased biodiversity to be one of the ranch's most important assets.

 

Restoring this stream was not simply a matter of diverting the water back into its old channels. It was an intensely collaborative process, involving more than a dozen state, federal and private partners — including the United States Department of Agriculture, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, the local power company, PPL Montana, and the Trust for Public Land.

 

And it was a major construction project, requiring the precise engineering of new streambed and shallow backwaters and the careful laying and planting of new bank sod and willows. Photographs of the construction show an almost nightmarish scene — excavators hard at work in what looks as much like the digging of those old canals as the restoring of a stream.

 

But wherever I looked, I saw only nature, even in sections of the stream that were restored just last year. The speed with which this habitat — aquatic and terrestrial — has altered itself has surprised nearly everyone.

 

Within weeks, trout began to move up from downstream, and they are now abundant. Water temperatures in the stream have dropped significantly, and daily variation in temperature has decreased. The subterranean water table has risen, and bird populations have greatly increased and, more importantly, diversified. Aquatic insects are again proliferating.

 

The hope is that this restoration will serve as a model for landowners farther downstream — and, indeed, wherever wetland habitat can be restored. The critical point — one that Laszlo emphasized repeatedly — is that the restoration could never have been accomplished without the collaboration of private and public partners. It has been a test not only for him and the organizations and agencies that have worked with him. It has also tested conventional assumptions about the proper use of public money — which was, in this case, used to help restore private land without providing public access.

 

But the new spring creek on this ranch, though a private fishing stream, serves many public purposes. It is a wild hatchery for trout that move downstream to the Madison River, a public river. It is a nesting and feeding ground for birds that use these wetlands only seasonally. And it acts as an enormous sponge, retaining and releasing water critical for generating power much farther downstream.

 

The real beauty is that from the bench above this creek, where a large band of curlews was feeding, I couldn't tell that man had been at work — not in the past five years and not in 1951. And neither could the birds and the fish.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE MEDIUM IS THE MEDIUM

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

Recently, book publishers got some good news. Researchers gave 852 disadvantaged students 12 books (of their own choosing) to take home at the end of the school year. They did this for three successive years.

 

Then the researchers, led by Richard Allington of the University of Tennessee, looked at those students' test scores. They found that the students who brought the books home had significantly higher reading scores than other students. These students were less affected by the "summer slide" — the decline that especially afflicts lower-income students during the vacation months. In fact, just having those 12 books seemed to have as much positive effect as attending summer school.

 

This study, along with many others, illustrates the tremendous power of books. We already knew, from research in 27 countries, that kids who grow up in a home with 500 books stay in school longer and do better. This new study suggests that introducing books into homes that may not have them also produces significant educational gains.

 

Recently, Internet mavens got some bad news. Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd of Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy examined computer use among a half-million 5th through 8th graders in North Carolina. They found that the spread of home computers and high-speed Internet access was associated with significant declines in math and reading scores.

 

This study, following up on others, finds that broadband access is not necessarily good for kids and may be harmful to their academic performance. And this study used data from 2000 to 2005 before Twitter and Facebook took off.

 

These two studies feed into the debate that is now surrounding Nicholas Carr's book, "The Shallows." Carr argues that the Internet is leading to a short-attention-span culture. He cites a pile of research showing that the multidistraction, hyperlink world degrades people's abilities to engage in deep thought or serious contemplation.

 

Carr's argument has been challenged. His critics point to evidence that suggests that playing computer games and performing Internet searches actually improves a person's ability to process information and focus attention. The Internet, they say, is a boon to schooling, not a threat.

 

But there was one interesting observation made by a philanthropist who gives books to disadvantaged kids. It's not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It's the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group.

 

The Internet-versus-books debate is conducted on the supposition that the medium is the message. But sometimes the medium is just the medium. What matters is the way people think about themselves while engaged in the two activities. A person who becomes a citizen of the literary world enters a hierarchical universe. There are classic works of literature at the top and beach reading at the bottom.

 

A person enters this world as a novice, and slowly studies the works of great writers and scholars. Readers immerse themselves in deep, alternative worlds and hope to gain some lasting wisdom. Respect is paid to the writers who transmit that wisdom.

A citizen of the Internet has a very different experience. The Internet smashes hierarchy and is not marked by deference. Maybe it would be different if it had been invented in Victorian England, but Internet culture is set in contemporary America. Internet culture is egalitarian. The young are more accomplished than the old. The new media is supposedly savvier than the old media. The dominant activity is free-wheeling, disrespectful, antiauthority disputation.

 

These different cultures foster different types of learning. The great essayist Joseph Epstein once distinguished between being well informed, being hip and being cultivated. The Internet helps you become well informed — knowledgeable about current events, the latest controversies and important trends. The Internet also helps you become hip — to learn about what's going on, as Epstein writes, "in those lively waters outside the boring mainstream."

 

But the literary world is still better at helping you become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import. To learn these sorts of things, you have to defer to greater minds than your own. You have to take the time to immerse yourself in a great writer's world. You have to respect the authority of the teacher.

 

Right now, the literary world is better at encouraging this kind of identity. The Internet culture may produce better conversationalists, but the literary culture still produces better students.

 

It's better at distinguishing the important from the unimportant, and making the important more prestigious.

 

Perhaps that will change. Already, more "old-fashioned" outposts are opening up across the Web. It could be that the real debate will not be books versus the Internet but how to build an Internet counterculture that will better attract people to serious learning.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

 

THE MEDIUM IS THE MEDIUM

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

Recently, book publishers got some good news. Researchers gave 852 disadvantaged students 12 books (of their own choosing) to take home at the end of the school year. They did this for three successive years.

 

Then the researchers, led by Richard Allington of the University of Tennessee, looked at those students' test scores. They found that the students who brought the books home had significantly higher reading scores than other students. These students were less affected by the "summer slide" — the decline that especially afflicts lower-income students during the vacation months. In fact, just having those 12 books seemed to have as much positive effect as attending summer school.

 

This study, along with many others, illustrates the tremendous power of books. We already knew, from research in 27 countries, that kids who grow up in a home with 500 books stay in school longer and do better. This new study suggests that introducing books into homes that may not have them also produces significant educational gains.

 

Recently, Internet mavens got some bad news. Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd of Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy examined computer use among a half-million 5th through 8th graders in North Carolina. They found that the spread of home computers and high-speed Internet access was associated with significant declines in math and reading scores.

 

This study, following up on others, finds that broadband access is not necessarily good for kids and may be harmful to their academic performance. And this study used data from 2000 to 2005 before Twitter and Facebook took off.

 

These two studies feed into the debate that is now surrounding Nicholas Carr's book, "The Shallows." Carr argues that the Internet is leading to a short-attention-span culture. He cites a pile of research showing that the multidistraction, hyperlink world degrades people's abilities to engage in deep thought or serious contemplation.

 

Carr's argument has been challenged. His critics point to evidence that suggests that playing computer games and performing Internet searches actually improves a person's ability to process information and focus attention. The Internet, they say, is a boon to schooling, not a threat.

 

But there was one interesting observation made by a philanthropist who gives books to disadvantaged kids. It's not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It's the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group.

 

The Internet-versus-books debate is conducted on the supposition that the medium is the message. But sometimes the medium is just the medium. What matters is the way people think about themselves while engaged in the two activities. A person who becomes a citizen of the literary world enters a hierarchical universe. There are classic works of literature at the top and beach reading at the bottom.

 

A person enters this world as a novice, and slowly studies the works of great writers and scholars. Readers immerse themselves in deep, alternative worlds and hope to gain some lasting wisdom. Respect is paid to the writers who transmit that wisdom.

 

A citizen of the Internet has a very different experience. The Internet smashes hierarchy and is not marked by deference. Maybe it would be different if it had been invented in Victorian England, but Internet culture is set in contemporary America. Internet culture is egalitarian. The young are more accomplished than the old. The new media is supposedly savvier than the old media. The dominant activity is free-wheeling, disrespectful, antiauthority disputation.

 

These different cultures foster different types of learning. The great essayist Joseph Epstein once distinguished between being well informed, being hip and being cultivated. The Internet helps you become well informed — knowledgeable about current events, the latest controversies and important trends. The Internet also helps you become hip — to learn about what's going on, as Epstein writes, "in those lively waters outside the boring mainstream."

 

But the literary world is still better at helping you become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import. To learn these sorts of things, you have to defer to greater minds than your own. You have to take the time to immerse yourself in a great writer's world. You have to respect the authority of the teacher.

 

Right now, the literary world is better at encouraging this kind of identity. The Internet culture may produce better conversationalists, but the literary culture still produces better students.

 

It's better at distinguishing the important from the unimportant, and making the important more prestigious.

 

Perhaps that will change. Already, more "old-fashioned" outposts are opening up across the Web. It could be that the real debate will not be books versus the Internet but how to build an Internet counterculture that will better attract people to serious learning.

 

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

 


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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON AVANDIA: DIABETES MEDICATION DISPUTE HIGHLIGHTS FLAWS IN DRUG MONITORING

 

Since 2005, evidence has mounted that the blockbuster diabetes drug Avandia might increase the risk of cardiovascular complications — including heart attacks, one of the major causes of death among diabetics.

 

Five years later, the drug is still on the market, and scientists still are battling over its safety. Competing studies made headlines just last week. Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline insists its drug, which had worldwide sales of $721 million last year, is safe. Doctors continue to prescribe, and millions of diabetics continue to take, Avandia to control blood sugar levels.

 

The prolonged battle leaves nervous patients in the lurch — and renews questions about whether America's medication safety watchdog, the Food and Drug Administration, is effectively monitoring drugs after they've been approved for sale. As with Vioxx, the popular painkiller pulled off the market in 2004, the FDA has lagged several steps behind independent researchers.

 

On Tuesday, an FDA advisory panel will meet to determine whether Avandia holds more risk for patients than other diabetes medication and whether those risks outweigh its benefits. It's about time. To many Avandia critics, including several prominent doctors, the answer is a no-brainer. Avandia, they argue, offers no unique advantage over similar drugs that haven't raised the same kind of safety concerns.

 

The agency's handling of the matter reflects a disturbing lack of urgency. Avandia and the other drug in its class, Actos, were approved by the FDA in 1999, and Avandia quickly became a best-seller. In 2005, the FDA received data from Glaxo that raised the first hint of safety concerns. But instead of sharing those concerns with the public, the FDA kept silent. It asked the drugmaker for more data and waited until August 2006 to get it. Even then, the agency stayed mum.

 

Fortunately for the public, Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steven Nissen was more aggressive. After spotting a Glaxo study that hinted at more heart safety issues, he went hunting on the Internet for additional data and hit pay dirt in April 2007. By May, he produced an analysis warning of a 43% higher risk of heart attacks with Avandia, and the New England Journal of Medicine published the analysis in record time. On its heels, the FDA finally produced its own reports, but it decided only to put a new warning on Avandia's label.

 

The Avandia story provides further evidence that the FDA's system to review the safety of drugs already on the market is, at best, haphazard. At worst, there's an inherent conflict in its structure.

 

The office that approves new drugs is about four times bigger than the office that studies their safety after they're approved — a time when risks can emerge as usage expands from small control groups to thousands or millions of users. More troubling, the top officials in charge of judging safety are the same people who approve drugs. Human nature being what it is, it's tough to declare a medicine safe and effective one year, then admit you were wrong on safety a few years later.

 

Separate offices are needed, as well as more resources. The latter, at least, will require action by Congress.

In the meantime, more transparency would help. The FDA, under new Obama administration management, told Congress this spring that it will warn the public as soon as it receives adverse signals about a drug's safety. That's a good start. To show their commitment to openness, and to help clear up the controversy, the FDA and Glaxo should make public every shred of data they have on Avandia.

 

Patients shouldn't have to depend on outside whistle-blowers trolling the Internet to learn about potential drug dangers.

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON AVANDIA: KEEP AVANDIA AVAILABLE

BY ELLEN STRAHLMAN

 

Type 2 diabetes is a national epidemic. More than 18 million Americans face a daily struggle to control their blood sugar levels. Diabetes is also a chronic and progressive illness that, if left uncontrolled, can lead to other serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, eye damage, kidney failure and foot amputations.

 

Because diabetes worsens over time, physicians often must prescribe two or three medicines to help their patients maintain their blood glucose. Quite simply, health care professionals need options to provide the best treatment for their patients.

 

One of those treatment options is Avandia. It lowers glucose in both the short and long term and is the only oral anti-diabetic that has been shown to sustain blood sugar control for up to five years.

 

Avandia is also one of the most extensively studied diabetes medicines. It has been studied in 185 clinical trials in more than 50,000 patients for up to six years. No other diabetes medicine introduced in the last 10 years has such an extensive safety database. The most recent trials include those conducted by leading independent organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

In the last three years alone, new data on the cardiovascular safety of Avandia have been reported from six controlled clinical trials.

 

Taken together, these studies show that Avandia does not increase the overall risk of heart attack, stroke or death.

 

Although there has been attention recently to observational studies and meta-analyses, it is a commonly held view that controlled clinical trials are the most rigorous form of scientific evaluation that can be used to assess the benefits and risks of medicines.

 

When you consider the totality of the data — especially the most rigorous scientific studies — it is our view that Avandia remains an important treatment option for physicians treating patients with type 2 diabetes.

 

Dr. Ellen Strahlman is the chief medical officer for GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Avandia.

 

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USA TODAY

COLUMNISTS' VOICES

GOP BOSS DESERVES KUDOS, NOT CATCALLS

PLAIN TALK BY AL NEUHARTH, USA TODAY FOUNDER

 

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is getting acute criticisms and some calls to resign from some leaders of his own party. Reason: He called our continuing Afghanistan misadventure what it now is: President Obama's war that's not winnable.

 

One of the first of many leading Republicans to issue a catcall was U.S. Sen. John McCain. He said on ABC Sunday that "I think those statements (by Steele) are wildly inaccurate, and there's no excuse for them."

 

McCain has a lot of good qualities, but a short memory. He apparently has forgotten some of the "wildly inaccurate" things he said and did when he lost the 2008 presidential election to Obama.

 

Nearly all of us agreed that President George W. Bush did the right thing by going after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan after 9/11. Most of us now agree that after bin Laden and his gang fled to Pakistan, Bush made a huge mistake by not going after them and invading Iraq instead.

 

With Iraq now on the back burner, Obama has tripled down our troops in Afghanistan. One of our primary missions there now is to keep the Taliban from growing poppies for opium.

 

Here's what we've invested in what now is Obama's war:

 

•$345 billion, with $70 billion this year.

 

•93,000 U.S. servicemen and women now there.

 

•Number killed is 1,066. June was the deadliest month yet, with 60 killed.

 

The Republicans' best chance in the November elections is to make sure voters — especially us Independents — understand that the Afghanistan blowup now is Obama's biggest blunder. If the economy and employment continue to improve, as seems likely, the war will be our No. 1 concern.

 

Instead of chiding Steele for his comments about Obama's war, Republicans should give him kudos.

 

Feedback: Other views on GOP's Steele

 

"It's important to remember that the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 because the 9/11 attacks were planned from al-Qaeda's safe haven there. We continue to have a vital interest in destroying al-Qaeda and preventing a safe haven from re-emerging."

 

— National security adviser, retired general James Jones

 

"Steele's job is to raise money and win elections. If he comments on issues, he should reflect his party's view. On Afghanistan, he didn't."

 

Fred Barnes, executive editor, Weekly Standard

"It is disappointing that so few fiscal conservatives will even take into consideration the almost unimaginable cost of a war that is going nowhere. Victory has never been clearly defined. Steele should be commended for his honesty and courage on this matter."

 

— Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas

 

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USA TODAY

COLUMNISTS' VOICES

SUMMER SHOULDN'T BE A LAZY TIME FOR KIDS

BY JOYCE KING

 

I can't remember the last time I saw a first lady showing off her athletic prowess, but there was Michelle Obama jumping rope with the cameras rolling and photographers snapping with every bounce. Not only did Obama show schoolchildren how it's done, she did so with the right mix of agility, fun and fashion sense in kicking off the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Its goal is to promote physical activity and good nutrition — key elements of her larger campaign to fight childhood obesity. The numbers, and the weight scale, do not lie.

 

Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates have tripled. That translates to one in every three children ages 2-19. Racial breakdowns are close but still higher among minority kids: 38% of Hispanic children and 36% of black children are overweight or obese, compared with 29% of white children.

 

Once, summertime meant a lot of swimming, biking and hiking. But those days are over. U.S. studies, including a 2007 report published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that kids have become less active during summer.

 

Last month, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario released a report confirming this trend. While the study surveys Canadian parents, I suspect the findings closely reflect U.S. trends. According to the survey of parents of 562 children ages 6 to 12, most kids will be spending their summer with their parents (46%) or grandparents (8%), which doesn't often translate into a lot of organized physical activity. In fact, the survey also found that only 20% of the kids will be spending time swimming, 17% will attend day camps and about 12% will participate in organized sports.

 

With hectic work schedules and limited disposable income, what can most parents do? One of the first lady's summer initiatives — Let's Move Outside! — provides parents with helpful tools, ideas and tips on how to move the family outdoors.

 

But let's face it, it's going to take mostly the initiative of parents (and grandparents), such as setting aside specific days and times to bike or go for a walk. Structuring a child's day also helps, such as limiting eating to breakfast, lunch and dinner and limiting snacking.

 

For all the advancements in health and nutrition, one-third of children born after 2000 will suffer from diabetes

— often linked to obesity — thus driving up health care costs. Currently, the nation's price tag for obesity-related illnesses is more than $147 billion annually. On the other hand, a jump rope costs about $8 — and you can do it anywhere.

 

Joyce King is a freelance writer in Dallas.

 

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USA TODAY

COLUMNISTS' VOICES

ARIZONA LAWSUIT: PROPER OR POLITICS?

 

The Christian Science Monitor, in an editorial: "The Justice Department has filed suit in district court seeking to block an Arizona law that will force police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being an illegal immigrant. ... President Obama could have saved the country a divisive legal battle by simply being tougher on border security, stepping up arrests of illegal migrants, and cracking down much harder on employers who hire illegal workers. But he hasn't done nearly enough on that score — mainly out of fear of a backlash from liberal Hispanic voters who will be critical in this fall's election. Such fear ... runs counter to the president's duty to uphold laws on immigration. ... Rather than see the Arizona law as an obstacle to better enforcement, Obama must start to work better with the states as partners."

 

The New York Times, in an editorial: "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.) ... Stamping out unjust laws like Arizona's is a good place to start."

 

The Washington Times, in an editorial: "It's President Obama's policy not to secure America's southern border. (This week), his administration filed suit against Arizona for its new law to try to enforce immigration statutes already on the books. This comes after the administration brought legal action against the Grand Canyon State for a 2007 law that strips business licenses away from companies that violate immigration laws. It's clear the White House is working to make states defenseless against an illegal invasion. ... This is change only illegals can believe in."

 

Marielena Hincapi, blogger and executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, on The Huffington Post: "By filing its lawsuit against Arizona, the Department of Justice carried out its duty of defending the rights of everyone in this country. It reminded the rogue state of Arizona — and any others that might want to follow suit — that immigration is a federal issue and states are pre-empted from acting as mini-nations and creating their own immigration laws. The United States of America vs. Arizona should be a clarion call for states that are considering adopting such hateful legislation intended to put a target on the backs of people of color: Do so at your own risk. The government of the United States will not and should not tolerate rogue states attempting to chip away at the Constitution."

 

Boston Herald, in an editorial: "It is fairly obvious that the Justice Department's legal challenge to Arizona's immigration law is far more about politics than it is about any vital defense of the U.S. Constitution. ... As the midterm elections approach, this administration continues its unending quest for wedge issues that will divide the electorate, and no doubt about it, this one does. Now there is much in the Arizona law that is ill-advised. But there is also no question that a state with an estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants (including a thriving drug cartel) is between the proverbial rock and a hard place. ... This isn't just bad law, it's bad politics too."

 

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

A WARNING SHOT ON LAND USE

 

Rezoning petitions by developers often raise the ire of surrounding residents, and usually for good reason. More intensive development of land that is lightly used often brings traffic congestion, noise, road hazards, land-use conflicts and crowded schools and disrupts existing development patterns. All these consequences seem in play in the case of a proposed 230-apartment development in a blind curve along Ooltewah's Hunter Road.

 

Residents of the area are further disturbed by what appears to be a political play for a development advantage that they never envisioned after the Regional Planning Agency and the County Commission had firmly rejected the development proposal.

 

The proposal by Florida developer David McDaniels for a 23-acre parcel owned by Dr. Tim Ballard had riled the community since December 2009, but it seemed to be permanently defeated after the RPA and county officials rejected the proposal the third time. But in May, the owner and developer persuaded the city of Chattanooga to annex the site, which is contiguous with the city boundary.

 

Mayor Ron Littlefield's proposal to the City Council for annexation of the parcel, which came after the mayor and City Councilman Jack Benson met with the developer, was approved May 21. The developer subsequently renewed his request for a rezoning, from R-1 residential to R-3, which allows for dense apartment development, and is now scheduled to be heard by the City Council on Tuesday.

 

Ooltewah opponents have more than 500 names on a petition to defeat the rezoning, and they filled the seats at the last RPA meeting. City Council members can expect them to show up Tuesday night to demand to know why the RPA recommendation to deny the rezoning should be overridden.

 

They already suspect a behind-the-scenes deal between the city and the developer, and some assume the City Council will turn a deaf ear to their concerns because they are not city residents, and because a rezoning would benefit the city's property tax base.

 

That's an understandable view, but there's a lot more to consider.

 

In a conversation with this page, Councilman Benson pledged that he and the mayor gave no promise or agreement to the developer to rezone the land if it were annexed. Indeed, Mr. Benson says he told the developer that he would be wrong to assume the land would be rezoned.

 

Further, he said Thursday that he probably would vote against a rezoning, but couldn't speak for other council members.

 

However, he also predicted that the land ultimately would be developed in some fashion simply because of growth pressures in that side of the city due to the wave of development that planners widely agree will occur when the VW plant and its supplier companies go into operation.

 

Under that pressure, he suggested, the issue would be not whether the land will be developed, but how it will be developed. If it's not rezoned, he said, a developer may find it most profitable to allow starter homes and rental units under existing R-1 zoning, as opposed to the sort of controlled terms and conditions that could be fixed for new developed under a qualified rezoning application that allows the governing body to negotiate land-use guidelines.

 

That scenario, which has played out in various ways in other development challenges, should prompt city officials, the developer and the Hunter Road community to re-think their positions on re-zoning and development.

 

In the larger view, it also should foster interest in a broader land-use planning initiative involving the city, county and other affected communities from Collegedale to the Highway 58 area to Bradley County.

 

This page has been calling for a comprehensive land-use plan for this broad area since the Volkswagen plant was announced, but city and county officials have worked almost solely on trunk roads and industrial infrastructure. Regrettably, they have generally ignored the need for a land-use plan that would consider residential neighborhoods, sewers, streets, parks, playgrounds, school classroom capacity, wetlands and greenspace protection, bicycle and pedestrian routes, shopping hubs versus strip development, and related issues. They also ignore the need for impact fees on developers to assure equitable front-end investment from those who stand to profit immensely, but leave the infrastructure consequences to taxpayers.

 

The current Ooltewah controversy is merely an opening shot on what is coming. If city and county officials fail to take it as such and engage the planning struggle, we all will be stuck with great long-term costs, congestion and frustration from lack of competent planning.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

IT'S HOT, HOT, HOT

 

Warm temperatures in the morning have been the prelude to sizzling heat in the afternoon for a while now. Thermometers have been flirting with triple digits for days, signaling that Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia, like much of Eastern seaboard, are in the grip of a mini-heat wave that has posed considerable health risks and economic challenges to those who have little choice but to adapt to the vagaries of Mother Nature.

 

Temperatures in early July have been well above normal and precipitation has been scarce. That follows a June in which both heat and lack of moisture were notable. In Chattanooga, for example, June temperatures this year averaged 6 degrees above normal and rainfall was a scant 2.4 inches, well below the monthly average of 3.99 inches.

 

Excessive heat is dangerous, especially to the young, those above 65 , the obese, those with chronic illnesses, shut-ins and the homeless. Commonsensical precautions can minimize the dangers, but not everyone can or will take such steps. Public service agencies can help locate those most at risk from the heat and provide assistance, but their ability to provide aid declines as rising temperatures create greater demand for their services. Members of the community can fill the gap.

When weather conditions are extreme, community awareness of those at risk should expand. Neighbors should check on neighbors and members of groups or organizations like churches should do the same. Such attention can save lives and help-prevent heat-related illness.

 

The economic impact of extended hot weather is often overlooked. As the weather warms beyond seasonal averages, utility companies must meet expanded power demands. That's certainly the case here. Providers uniformly report rising usage. So far, the demand has been met. That's not the case in some areas of the country where extreme temperatures have stretched the power grid to a breaking point.

 

Responsible consumers can help reduce the demand for power. Even small changes -- setting the thermostat a couple of degrees higher, changing the filter, for example -- can cut usage and provide a bit of relief for the power grid. An added bonus for taking such measures is a reduction in what is likely to be a really big power bill next month.

 

Mercifully, the high temperatures of recent days have not been accompanied by the excessive humidity that is a common companion of summer's heat. That's likely to change. Forecasters with the National Weather Service predict an easing of the heat in coming days to more seasonal levels -- temperatures around 90 instead of the high 90s -- but a rise in humidity. The combination of 90-degree temperatures and higher humidity will make it feel like the temperature is close to 100 in some instances. Comfort, then, likely will remain elusive.

 

Nothing, of course, is sure when it comes to weather. July typically is the hottest month of the year in this region, but the high heat of recent days and nights doesn't necessarily set a pattern for the rest of the summer. All that's certain is that more hot and humid weather can be expected. It's better to plan for it than to be unprepared. That's the best way to ensure safety and comfort for area residents in the weeks before cooler temperatures arrive.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

'GREATEST MILITARY INVASION'

 

Americans are involved in very troublesome military operations on the other side of the world today, in Iraq and Afghanistan. We've been involved for years, with no end in sight.

 

But we recall that a little over 66 years ago -- in June 1944 -- American troops were engaged in "the greatest military invasion in history." Then, there was expectation that, after great efforts and great losses, the end of World War II in Europe was in sight.

 

It was June 6, 1944, when the U.S. and Allied invasion of Europe began, seeking to liberate France, Belgium and the Netherlands from Nazi German occupation -- and eventually defeat Adolf Hitler's Germany.

 

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded the U.S. and Allied forces. The invasion forces involved 150,000 soldiers. Twelve thousand airplanes were in action -- bombers, fighters and cargo planes. Braving rough seas in the English Channel, a huge naval armada disgorged troops on the coast at Normandy in France. Paratroopers jumped from aircraft behind Nazi lines.

 

The fighting was fierce across Europe, with some serious setbacks, until the defeat and surrender of the Nazis in May of 1945.

 

But then there was the war against Japan to be won -- in August 1945, after nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, shocking the world and finally bringing peace.

 

Americans regrettably are involved in war today. The conflicts now are not on a scale comparable with that in 1944 and 1945. But when the tide turned favoring the Allies in World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said he could see "the end of the beginning" for victory. But today, we distressingly can't see "the beginning of the end" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

What terrible things our enemies -- in World War II in the 1940s and in Afghanistan and Iraq in the 1990s and now into 2010 -- have imposed upon us, and indeed upon themselves!

 

How much better off we Americans and the Afghans and Iraqis today would be if we had peace instead of war, death and destruction.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

OBAMA APPOINTS 'REDISTRIBUTIONIST'

 

President Barack Obama has used Congress' July Fourth recess to install his pick to run ObamaCare socialized medicine -- and to avoid the usual Senate confirmation process. That's bad news for the American people, because the appointee, Dr. Donald Berwick, will not have to explain his radical views to the Senate.

 

In a 2008 speech in Britain, he declared that any good health care program "must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributionist."

 

He also eagerly endorses government rationing of medical care.

 

"The decision is not whether or not we will ration care. The decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open," Dr. Berwick said in a 2009 interview.

 

President Obama has criticized what he describes as rationing by insurance companies. But he apparently believes that rationing by unaccountable government bureaucrats is acceptable -- even though customers have a choice among private insurers but no real choice when government is the provider.

 

Sadly, we can see why Mr. Obama will not let his radical ObamaCare appointee face Senate questioning.

 

Academy alum raises the bar at Carson-Newman***************************************


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

WHO PAYS FOR FEDERAL DICTATION?

 

It is easy for government to impose a new regulation on industry, because it is primarily industry -- not government -- that pays the cost.

For instance, the federal government seems noble when it forces power plants to reduce the pollutants created by energy production. After all, everybody wants cleaner air, so isn't it a "good thing" to reduce those emissions?

 

Sure -- up to a point. We do want clean air. But we also want energy that is affordable, and we want to "keep the lights on."

 

Some states have imposed impractical environmental rules. In California, those rules have made energy costs about double what they are in the rest of the country. That has driven business out of the state, harmed California's economy and helped dry up tax revenue.

 

Are those "good things"? Unfortunately, we'll find out.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants coal-burning power plants in the Eastern United States to make massive cuts in emissions within four years. The "admitted" cost of complying with the rule is about $3 billion, though the federal government has a track record of vastly underestimating costs. Power plants are unlikely to absorb that huge new expense, meaning it will be passed on to residential and business customers -- "us" -- in the form of higher prices.

 

Some older coal-fired power plants are likely to have to close altogether, costing jobs and reducing energy production -- which will inflate the price Americans pay for the energy that heats and cools our homes and businesses and performs other important jobs.

 

Are job losses, higher prices and less energy "good things"?

 

The fact is, the United States should balance reasonable environmental protection with the need to provide the energy our people and our economy require. We do not want power plants spewing unlimited pollutants -- and they aren't doing so -- but we don't want to pay energy costs that are artificially inflated by irrational federal rules.

 

We will never have a perfect energy policy, but shouldn't we at least have a sensible one?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

ANOTHER $45 MILLION GONE

 

You probably don't begrudge western Massachusetts enjoying high-speed Internet service. In fact, you probably have never thought about whether western Massachusetts has high-speed Internet service.

 

Nevertheless, you are helping pay for that service.

 

It was recently announced that the federal government is providing a $45.4 million grant to bring more high-speed Internet access to the "underserved" residents of that region. The state of Massachusetts itself will pay only $26.2 million of the tab.

 

We have just one question: What obliges the people of Tennessee and of Utah and of Illinois and of every other state in the nation to pay for speedy Internet service for the people of Massachusetts? Why not let the government of wealthy Massachusetts -- or, far better, competitive free-enterprise companies -- perform that function for the customers?

 

But wait! As it turns out, the money for Massachusetts is part of nearly $800 million from Washington that will improve Internet service in other states, too. So doesn't that make it "OK"?

 

Not really. You see, the federal government had to collect that money in the form of taxes from residents of the states, or else it had to borrow it, saddling future taxpayers with more costly debt. Naturally, federal employees administering the funds must be paid wages and benefits, which reduce the amount of money available for the actual work of providing high-speed Internet.

 

Wouldn't it be a better idea to leave more money in the pockets of individuals and businesses in the states to begin with, so they could provide and purchase enhanced Internet service? Why insert an expensive additional layer of government bureaucracy?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - TOP COURT ACTED WISELY, APPROPRIATELY

 

A full consensus among lawyers on even routine matters is a rarity. On matters of great complexity, it is an impossibility. So we realize the debate among learned scholars will long ensue in the wake of the Constitutional Court ruling that nixed elements dealing with "judicial reform" from a comprehensive September referendum that will go to the public.

 

Voters will have the chance to review more than 20 amendments that expand protections for women and children, offer new rights of collective bargaining to public employees and allow trials of those who perpetrated a military coup in 1980. But voters will not be asked to endorse a series of complex reforms that would redesign how judicial appointments are made. This is what the court annulled.

 

We think the court did the right thing. The complaints emanating from partisans of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, turn on the argument that the court's right of review is limited only to procedural matters, that the actual constitutionality of an amendment can only be judged after it becomes law, which in this case means approval by referendum. This argument holds that only the "form" of proposed amendments is fair game for the court, but not the "essence." But we are persuaded by the argument that an amendment at odds with the "inalterable provisions" of the existing constitution is a matter of "form." Hence the ruling is sound and legal.

 

Beyond the strictly legal debate, at a level of public policy-making, we also conclude that the court acted wisely and appropriately. While hardly scientific, one measure of the court's reasonableness must surely be the dissatisfaction of all parties to the debate over the package of reforms. The AKP is upset as it did not get all it wanted. The opposition Republican Peoples' Party, or CHP, which initiated the legal action that put the case before the court, is equally unhappy. The CHP was hoping the entire package would be annulled, effectively canceling the referendum.

 

Let's be straight here. The AKP's antipathy toward the judiciary and many of its rulings is behind the clauses that were annulled. And the CHP's prime motivation for a complete annulment is the likelihood it would trigger early elections, a scenario in which its prospects are seen to be improving. Both parties are playing a narrow, self-serving game. The court has called both sides on that game.

 

We do agree that Turkey' judiciary, from its standards of procedure to its rules of evidence, is in urgent need of reform. But the amendments that were engineered into the now-truncated package were merely an effort at court-packing, now null and void.

 

The public will rule on the remaining proposals, which is good for Turkish democracy. Politicians now must return to the drawing board of judicial reform. This time, they should do it right

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

I AM EXPECTING AN APOLOGY FROM MIT

ERTUĞRUL ÖZKÖK

 

This article will perhaps be a first in the history of the state. I, Ertuğrul Özkök, citizen of the Republic of Turkey, am expecting an apology from the National Intelligence Organization, or MIT, before the public. I didn't file a case against the MIT. Because I believe it is one of our establishments that we have to protect very carefully. But such an institution that survives through taxes we pay owes me and some of my friends an apology. I don't know if my friends expect it. I will give their names here: Dinç Bilgin, Enis Berberoğlu, Bekir Coşkun, Hüseyin Gülerce, and Selahattin Sadıkoğlu. MIT should apologize to us.

 

About one and a half years ago, daily Hürriyet's Ankara Representative Enis Berberoğlu received information.

 

It was said that a "document" was submitted to the United States embassy in Ankara that a military coup would be staged so the ambassador informed the General Staff. If I am not mistaken, the Hürriyet Ankara office asked the Chief of General Staff of the period, Gen. Hilmi Özkök about this information. U.S. Ambassador at the time, Eric Edelmann, made a statement the other day that they examined the said document and decided that it was not original.

 

This has become the first solid development proving claims that some fake documents are leaked here and there as part of the ongoing Ergenekon crime gang case. That has triggered an emotion which has hurt me for a long time. 

 

One and a half years ago daily Taraf made a news headline based on side information. According to this, the editor-in-chief of a big newspaper and its Ankara representative are involved in the Ergenekon gang.

 

As the "big newspaper" is uttered in Turkey, people automatically know which it is. So, all eyes were on me and Berberoğlu. In fact the Ergenekon gang scheme was leaked into all newspapers. It was a handwritten sketch prepared by Tuncay Güney. "Number One" was Dinç Bilgin.

 

Berberoğlu was working for daily Sabah then, and Bekir Coşkun were the second and third. Other names on the list were daily Zaman columnist Hüseyin Gülerce, who is very close to Fethullah Gülen, former editor-in-chief of daily Yeni Şafak, Selahattin Sadıkoğlu, and me. The chart, together with a CD-ROM, was transferred to MIT. After keeping it for two years, MIT sent a copy to Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan and another one to the General Staff.

 

As they do so, no one asked in the establishment how could a diagram prepared by a person who doesn't even know which newspapers Coşkun and Berberoğlu worked for be taken seriously? Moreover, no one was curious about how these people could work side by side in the very same gang.

 

As the Ergenekon case was launched later on, the Prime Ministry sent the copy to the Office of Chief Prosecutor in Istanbul and it was appended in the dossier. MIT Undersecretary of the term, Şenkal Atasagun, announced that the document was nonsense. But I've not run across him, so I couldn't ask "if this is nonsense why did you serve it?"

 

On top, MIT examined video cassettes of Güney and revealed that some names were forcefully included after being tortured by several police chiefs. But the "document" is still being kept in the Ergenekon dossier. If you type "Ertuğrul Özkök-Ergenekon" into a Google search you see approximately 400,000 search items listed.

 

And most probably prosecutors have permission to wiretap our phones after seeing the said chart. They have turned our lives upside down. Daily Taraf did not publish even a single line for correction or disclaimer.

 

I read an article by Serpil Çevikcan of daily Milliyet the