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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

EDITORIAL 14.07.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month july 14, edition 000568 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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



















  1. NO, MR FM






























  1. BRAVO!































With the onset of monsoon, daily life in India's national capital is fast turning into a nightmare. After a sharp shower on Monday evening, commuters found themselves stranded for hours on flooded streets awash with mud and littered with debris from the ongoing 'beautification' and 'development' work which, it is now evident to all, will reach nowhere near completion before the Commonwealth Games. The bombed-out look which Delhi wears with project deadlines gone haywire will only get worse and traffic management, if at all this term can be used in the context of India's first city, will prove to be what it has become in recent times: Gross mismanagement. If the rains linger on till the eve of the Commonwealth Games, participants and visitors will get a taste of life in what is often described by smug politicians as a "world class city". Obviously they either have no idea what it takes for a metropolis to qualify as a 'world class city' or they believe that the people are too dumb to realise that they have been taken for a ride. For, in the name of upgrading Delhi's infrastructure in preparation for the Commonwealth Games, huge sums of money, adding up to nearly Rs 1,00,000 crore, have been spent on a variety of projects, ranging from flyovers to roads to pavements. Yet, all this has turned out to be more of a bane and less of a boon for Delhi's residents. Bridges and roads are rendered inconsequential if traffic is gridlocked following a monsoon shower; the situation is made worse by road space being hogged by construction material, piles of garbage and mounds of soil dumped in the middle of streets by callous contractors and equally indifferent officials supervising Delhi's frightfully expensive but stunningly ineffective makeover.

The people of Delhi, persuaded by sustained propagands and tall claims, had expected a city that works; they have instead been rewarded with a city whose infrastructure collapses, both metaphorically and literally (entire stretches of newly laid roads have begun to disappear from right underneath cars) as soon as it rains. As if that were not bad enough, the chaos on the streets continues long after it has stopped raining: For all practical purposes, commuters had to kerb crawl their way to work and back home on Tuesday. At most inter-sections, traffic lights have gone on the blink and clueless constables have been deployed who are merrily adding to the prevailing mess. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is believed to have asked civic authorities to have the derbis and soil removed before they clog the drains further, but surely this could have been done before the rains arrived? That this wasn't done tells its own story of apathy and neglect. It would not be incorrect to suggest that the chaotic situation which prevails is entirely the doing of politicians and their babus who, if truth be told, have been more focussed on spending public funds on bogus schemes like 'beautifying' perfectly good pavements that have been dug up than in creating genuine infrastructure that works — what we have clearly doesn't. We will no doubt be told that these are teething problems and all shall be fine on the inaugural day of the Games. But that's unlikely to happen. As the adage goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And what has been tasted so far suggests unambiguously that the pudding isn't quite what it was supposed to be. 








Upholding the Bombay High Court's judgement, the Supreme Court has removed all restrictions on the re-publication of American author James Laine's controversial book, Shivaji — The Hindu King in Muslim India. The apex court's order follows the Maharashtra Government's appeal against the Bombay High Court's judgement striking down the ban on the book's publication and sale on the ground that its contents could provoke social unrest and enmity. It may be recalled that there was widespread violence over Laine's book and an entire library, with its collection of rare editions, was ransacked by rioters protesting against what they alleged was denigration of the warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The violence, of course, was entirely uncalled for, not least because hoodlums, who had not read the book and would never do so, decided to take the law into their own hands at the behest of politicians eager to promote their agenda of regional chauvinism, which has little or nothing to do with the accuracy of historical accounts of India's revered heroes. While it is true that certain portions of the book were extremely provocative and unsubstantiated, the right course would have been to seek judicial intervention. Instead, protesters ran amok and the Maharashtra Government played a dubious role: Not only did it refuse to act against the law-breakers, it pressed criminal charges against Laine (which were subsequently quashed by the Supreme Court) and banned the book. Curiously, the Government has now been found guilty of not following 'mandatory procedure' while doing so; it is for this reason that the ban has been struck down. No less curious is the fact that the case was allowed to drag on for all these years despite the publishers immediately offering to withdraw the book after conceding that Shivaji had indeed been maligned. The original litigants, known to be busybodies, nonetheless persisted with the case.

It could be argued, and jusitfiably so, that in this day and age it makes no sense to ban books and films; the Internet has come as an antidote to censorship. To that extent, the ban on Laine's book was needless and of little or no consequence: Those who wanted to read it, could do so without any hindrance. The issue, however, is much larger than whether a shoddily-researched book should be banned in view of its mischief potential. The Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court have recently disallowed the publication of another book, a commentary on Islam, which had been banned by the Maharashtra Government for virtually the same reasons as those cited while proscribing Laine's book. It would be in order to ask: Why these double-standards? And if the ban on Laine's book is to be lifted, why not the ban on several other books, including Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses? 








Alas, some people are adopting a lynch mob mentality in criticising, and in trying to castigate to irrelevance, Mr Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir. Look at the way a national daily twisted out of context his remarks, in a much broader interview, to give the banner headlines on the front page proclaiming: "I am a lousy politician: Omar." 

Besides sensationalism, it may have succeeded in making a few more people biased against the Chief Minister. But was it fair? The Chief Minister was merely being candid in this interview by holding himself up to a critical mirror. This by itself is a rare quality among politicians. And as a full reading of his interview would show, he was only bemoaning the fact that he had not followed the classic political style of addressing large gatherings regularly, and that judged by those standards he was a "lousy politician".

Instead of appreciating his intent, this remark became convenient fodder for sensation! This is just one example, among many other recent instances, of critics baying for his blood; calling him inept, inefficient, arrogant and worse. But they misjudge Mr Omar Abdullah.

I have known Mr Omar Abdullah, and in my judgement his critics err enormously. He was a recently installed, thirty-something, junior Minister in the Ministry of External Affairs when we found ourselves in London on 9/11. It was his first official visit abroad and we were taking the circuitous route to Central Asia, which was soon to become the launching pad of American operations against Afghanistan. 

Over the next seven days we traversed history through exotic settings in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. We were witness too to history in making as Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers explained to us their views and concerns about events unfolding then in Afghanistan. As if that were not enough we received the news on arrival in Tajikistan that the legendary guerrilla leader Ahmed Shah Massood had been killed by a Taliban terrorist, clearing thereby the way for the Taliban to take control of the entire country. It was against this perilous backdrop that I saw Mr Omar Abdullah mature in the diplomatic practice.

Admittedly he was hesitant at first; cautiously wondering whether he was conveying the intended nuances. But each new meeting and every fresh day saw him become more sure footed. By the end of the week he had charmed his way into the Central Asian hearts. And it wasn't on account of his handsome looks alone. That may have helped, but what really won him friends among the leadership there was a sincerity of approach, generosity in offering Indian aid and transparent honesty in sharing their concerns.

For us diplomats, who were with him during this journey, it was a delight to observe him in action as an articulate spokesman of the Government and as a true nationalist.

Mr Omar Abdullah follows the official script to the last letter because he is a disciplined politician. It is likely that this trait may have got him into his present troubles. All, even according to the critics, had been going well in Jammu & Kashmir. If that was their assessment, how is it then that the mud-slingers have suddenly reached the unanimous conclusion that the youth of the valley had for long been stirring with uncontrollable anger? And that the recent protests are a direct letting off of that steam? If that is indeed so, then these mud-slingers must be extremely short-sighted. Why didn't they report this stirring anger of the youth in all these months and years of their commentary? 

Moreover, why have they remained largely mute about the sacrifices of our security forces? Why don't our experts include in their narratives the fact that we lose a security official almost every third day in Jammu & Kashmir? Perhaps they have read the entire situation wrong, just as they have misread Mr Omar Abdullah. 

Otherwise how can this crisis erupt so virulently, suddenly? Is it not possible that the mischief-mongers, and their masters in Pakistan, were waiting for an opportunity, just any opening, to stir trouble in Jammu & Kashmir? Is it then possible that the recent propaganda about the queerly-termed 'back channel' provided them just the spark they needed? 

Media reports maintain that the end point of the back-channel talks is greatest possible autonomy, substantial reduction of security forces and free movement of people. In other words the aim is to make borders meaningless. If that is so, then will it not be taken as a sign of weakness by the separatists; a cue for them to hasten the process of lessening state control? If half-a-million or more security personnel can't fully check the infiltration and violence, then isn't it rather brave to consider removing the Army almost altogether? Wouldn't it be open invitation for infiltration en masse from across the borders?

And what is the intent of making borders meaningless? Surely it can't be a serious aim, because if that is so then it will run counter to Parliament's resolution which had unanimously affirmed that the entire territory of Jammu & Kashmir belongs to India. Moreover, before encouraging the free movement of people of another country into the State and making borders meaningless for them, shouldn't we consider the issue in the Indian context too? 

Is there any other country in the world which forbids the citizens of its own country from settling in another part of that country? Why can't the people of India have the right to free movement and settlement in Jammu & Kashmir? Why must the Indian borders restrict them in that sense to the line drawn by Article 370?

Eventually, even the youth of this State may not be averse to change that brings them jobs and economic opportunities. They would also like to have the possibility of setting up their own businesses. But this can only happen in a corruption-free atmosphere; in an administration that does not siphon off routinely bulk of the funds that it receives from the Centre. 

Mr Omar Abdullah's instincts were right; he may erred slightly in governance but then which politician hasn't? In fact, many far more senior politicians have got away with much more; not just now but in the past as well. He must not be sacrificed to the lynch mobs. He is valuable for Indian democracy; his heart beats for India; and he speaks the language of Kashmiriat.

The writer is a former Ambassador 






For all intents and purposes, the Indian system of governance is dominated by its executive and legislative branches. The judiciary does not have much of a chance to assert its independence against this formidable combination. And that invests the ruling party or alliance with unbridled power. According to Global Corruption Report 2007 by Transparency International, an average Indian household pays the legal system an amount of Rs 3,817 in bribes annually. It is not for nothing, therefore, that it is said, "In India, we have the law; for justice we must go to another world." 

While many changes have been brought about in governance following globalisation and economic reforms these have benefited only the upper and upper-middle classes of society. The extremely docile middle class does not have that kind of extra time, money and resources that may enable it to engage law for redress of grievances caused by arrogant, foot-dragging and corrupt Government officials which as service providers corner 85 per cent of the service sector. Can anybody in the right frame of mind expect from any Government-sponsored grievance redress system even a semblance of justice? 

The judiciary leaves much to be desired, particularly at the lower levels. However, inspite of all inadequacies and shortcomings which include inordinate delays in disposal of cases, exploitation of technicalities to win an otherwise indefensible case and fraud, it continues to be the only weapon of the common man to fight corruption. 

The common man yearns for a fiercely independent, corruption-free, conscientious, vibrant, apolitical and efficient judiciary to save him from the atrocities of executive action and ensure a fair trial and low-cost justice in all matters. He wants the judiciary not to be a handmaiden of the legislative and the executive, giving "to moneyed-might the means abundantly of wearying out the right," as Charles Dickens once wrote.

Even while widespread corruption, extremely tardy and abnormally costly justice delivery procedure and occasional instances of miscarriage of justice frustrates him to no end, he looks to the judiciary as his last refuge. 






Sunday's bombing of Kampala that claimed 74 lives was carried out by Al Shabaab, the Somali wing of Al Qaeda, as punishment for the Ugandan Government helping Somali authorities in their operations against Islamist terrorists. With this attack, jihad has now extended its reach in the African continent

Seventy-four people, 60 of them Ugandan nationals, were killed and 70 others injured on Sunday in two explosions suspected to have been carried out by Al Shabaab, the Somali wing of Al Qaeda, at a local rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant in Kampala. The explosions took place near large numbers of football enthusiasts watching on TV the final match of World Cup 2010 in South Africa between Spain and the Netherlands.

Citing local officials, the BBC has stated that among the casualties were Ethiopian, Eritrean, Indian and Congolese nationals. It has not indicated how many Indian nationals were involved and whether there were fatalities among them. 

In a statement issued from Mogadishu, a spokesman of Al Shabaab, who gave his name as Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, claimed that his organisation had carried out the two explosions. There were some doubts on whether or not these were timed or suicide explosions, but an Ugandan official said that the head of a person believed to be a Somali was found at the site of one of the blasts, thereby indicating that at least one, if not both the blasts, was carried out by a suicide bomber.

The Al Shabaab spokesman has been quoted by news agencies as saying as follows: "Al Shabaab was behind the two bomb blasts in Uganda. We thank the mujahideen that carried out the attack. We are sending a message to Uganda and Burundi, if they do not take out their Amisom (African Union Mission in Somalia) troops from Somalia, blasts will continue and it will also happen in Bujumbura, the Burundi capital." These were thus reprisal attacks against Uganda for participating in the African contingent helping the Somali authorities in their operations against Al Shabaab and other jihadi elements in Somalia.

The Amir of Al Shabaab, Mohamed Abdi Godane, had warned in an audio message earlier this month that Uganda and Burundi would be targeted. The main wing of Al Qaeda based in North Waziristan in Pakistan, the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al Shabaab based in Somalia have continued to maintain a capability for planning and carrying out reprisal acts of terrorism in different parts of the world despite US claims of having eliminated many senior leaders of Al Qaeda through its drone strikes in North and South Waziristan. 

The deaths in the drone strikes of many Al Qaeda leaders such as its No. 3 Sai'd al-Masri, also known as Mustafa Abu al-Yazid in May, and Saleh-al-Somali from Somalia on December 8, 2009, have not weakened the capability of Al Qaeda to plan and mount terrorist strikes. The successful ones have been in the Af-Pak area, Somalia and Uganda and the unsuccessful ones in the UK, the US and Norway.

Along with Saudis, Egyptians and Yemenis, the Somalis have been among the important components of Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden had earlier used them for the terrorist strikes outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in August 1998, and in Mombasa in October 2002. The Yemeni and Somali wings of Al Qaeda have exhibited a certain operational autonomy which enables them to mount terrorist strikes on their own. While Al Shabaab has extended its operations to Africa, the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been trying to extend its reach to South-East Asia.

Al Qaeda looks upon its continuing jihad against the so-called Crusaders — thereby meaning essentially the US, Israel and their supporters — as a global intifada. Afghanistan, Somalia and Algeria are seen as battlefronts, which will determine the ultimate outcome. Afghanistan is seen as the core of the battle, Somalia as its southern front and Algeria as the western front.

In September 2009, Al Shabaab, meaning "the lads", an organisation of Somali youths, was reported to have disseminated through Islamic websites usually identified with Al Qaeda a 48-minute video documentary in which it proclaimed its allegiance to Osama bin Laden. It derives its name from the fact that it used to be the youth wing of a fundamentalist organisation called the Union of Islamic Courts, which had established control over some parts of Somalia and was ultimately crushed by invading Ethiopian troops in 2006. While the UIC disappeared after being defeated by the better trained and better armed Ethiopian troops allegedly inspired and aided by the US, the Al Shabaab replaced the UIC as a born-again jihadi organisation, which was determined to continue the jihad against the troops of the African Union, which had replaced the Ethiopian troops, and of the UN-backed local Government, which it viewed as apostate.

-- The writer, a former senior officer of R &AW, is a strategic affairs commentator.








As the different parties comprising the Left Front debate what has gone wrong and why the voter is fairly consistently delivering verdicts that go against them in West Bengal, it is obvious that no definite answers are forthcoming. As the dominant partner, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has been blamed for all the ills — poor governance, bad politics and policies, lousy coordination, arrogance, misdemeanours, corruption, complacency, that is, any and every reason for the series of electoral defeats. 

No blame, by their own reckoning, can be attached to parties like the Communist Party of India, the Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party. The corollary to such thinking is the rather uncomfortable idea that all these parties singly and collectively had a better understanding of what would work with the electorate and how things should be run by the West Bengal Government and what would be politically successful. 

Any claim to omniscience is dodgy; self-righteous ones even more so, because underlying it is a sense of superior morality that forestalls any constructive argument or critical introspection. All the parties of the Left, including every caucus, faction, dissident and malcontent needs to undertake some serious conscience searching, because no quest for root causes can begin without getting down to the basics.

The problems of the Left and the CPI(M) in particular are three-fold. Level one is the confusion, if not mess, into which the CPI(M) and the Left has got itself over breaking off the partnership with the Congress and then trying to forge an alliance with a host of politically wayward parties, that shift sides without tying themselves up in principled knots. Level two is the difficulty of maintaining ideological purity while engaged in running Governments that pursue quintessentially bourgeois policies. Level three is the impossibility of remaining aloof from the criss-crossing networks of local interests with patron-client relationships that make no moral distinctions. 

The blame game that is underway within the CPI(M) and between the CPI(M) and its Left partners does not wish to address the multiplicity of causes and their unintended consequences, because at no level does any one leader or even set of leaders have the capacity to negotiate the gridlock. Therefore, it is easier for the West Bengal leadership to rage against the national leadership and those operating in the districts or below than to accept the idea that unresolved political and policy divisions within the party have significantly contributed to the ambivalence, dithering and slack implementation of programmes. 

One example will suffice to illustrate how complicated the matter is. Before Singur and the Tata Motors plans for setting up the Nano manufacturing facility, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had declared himself a 'capitalist', a man with a vision for transforming West Bengal through rapid industrialisation with foreign investments. He was backed by the then State party boss, Mr Anil Biswas. That thrust for industrialisation provoked outrage within the CPI(M), at the State and national levels. It also provoked partner Left parties to question the economic policies of Mr Bhattacharjee. The 2006 State Assembly election was fought on a slogan — agriculture is our foundation, industry is our future. The voter delivered a clear mandate of support.

The mandate, however, was not what mattered to the cadres and leaders of the CPI(M) and the Left parties. They were uneasy with bourgeois economics, globalisation and liberalisation of the investment scenario. Their doubts, misgivings and conflicts of interest surfaced over the fiasco over land acquisition in Singur, followed by Nandigram. The fabled organisation of the CPI(M) failed, because those who ran the organisation lacked the political direction to transform the vision into a willingness to change. At the bottom level, where the networks of interest operate, the lack of direction converted land acquisition into a mix of bullying the landholder and colluding with the middlemen who had proliferated over the years. 

The central leadership of the party blamed the Chief Minister in particular, other State level leaders jumped into the fray, there was confusion over how the administration should respond to the crises that erupted and there was political failure that nobody was prepared to face and deal with. The lack of conviction over what was being done was obvious with leaders talking at cross-purposes and waffling over decisions. 

A leadership that was weak and ineffectual, apologetic one moment and defiant the next, created the conditions for its own decline.







The US must be consigned a much smaller role in South Asian politics keeping in view the Afghan situation and its repeated failures while mediating in regional conflicts

Bilateral conflicts between South Asian nations have impacted the development of the whole region. India and Pakistan are victims of a serious 'trust deficit' and the adversarial relationship between the two neighbouring countries has affected the security environment of the subcontinent. 

The long civil war waged in Sri Lanka exercised an extremely negative influence in India because the Tamils of Sri Lanka had a natural ethnic constituency in Tamil Nadu the social fabric of which was completely vitiated by the internal strife on the island. Political parties in Tamil Nadu pressurised the Government of India to intervene in the ongoing civil war and protect the Tamil fraternity resulting in Rajiv Gandhi taking a disastrous step by sending out the Indian Peace Keeping Force. 

The porous border of Bangladesh is used not only by illegal migrants but is also a safe sanctuary for insurgent groups of the North-East. The Union Government is forced to engage in dialogue with the Government of Bangladesh so as not to allow refuge to hostile anti-India groups on its soil. The Maoists of Nepal consider India as their enemy and allege that India interferes in the political process of their country. The conflict situation in South Asia has been aggravated by the involvement of Americans and Nato forces in the war against Taliban in Afghanistan. 

The nine-year war, launched by the US in 2001 with a 1,30,000-strong Army against the Taliban, has changed the geopolitical landscape of the South Asian region because India, Pakistan, Iran and even China have been compelled to rethink and review their strategies in the light of the results of this war. South Asian countries must recognise that the fate of the region is tied together and bilateral and multilateral conflicts with each other have an adverse impact on the economic and security environment of the region. Such recognition will act as a catalyst for the resolution of bilateral conflicts and promote areas of cooperation among the countries of this region. Second, any invo1vement of an outside superpower has helped only to exacerbate conflicts among the nation-states. US policies have created a 'trust deficit' between India and Pakistan. They have led to an endless arms race between the two countries. Pakistan's military buildup, which is directed only against India, has been the sole contribution of the US. 

The most recent example of adverse consequences of American involvement in South Asian politics is provided by the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has increased its political and strategic clout in Afghanistan by actively allying with the US in this war. Pakistan is not worried at all about the fact that the US cannot win this war. The Taliban is very secure in Pakistan. They are not opposed to the Pakistani state or its strategic interests in Afghanistan. The tottering regime of Mr Hamid Karzai is forced to negotiate with the Taliban to deal with the post-war vacuum in the country. 

US president Barack Obama has given marching orders to Gen Stanley McChrystal, the commander of Nato forces, and appointed Gen David H Petraeus in his place as a face-saving exercise. Mr Obama has decided to withdraw Nato troops from Afghanistan in 2011. A destabilised Afghanistan divided into Pashtun, Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara communities will be involved in inter-clan warfare because the Taliban as well as Mr Karzai, himself, belong to the Pashtun tribe and a lot of atrocities have earlier been committed against Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras. The Americans and Nato forces will leave Afghanistan as they left Iraq — in chaos. 

Pakistan is the only beneficiary of the war in Afghanistan and it is fully prepared to play a critical and central role in post-war Afghanistan. Indian policymakers had hoped for a longer US stay in Afghanistan in vain and wholeheartedly supported the war. It is never too late to rethink policy options. Referring to Iran, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao stated on July 5, "We are both neighbouring countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan and have long suffered from the threat of transitional terrorism originating from beyond our borders." 

The India-Iran Joint Commission meeting is being held when 'a rapidly changing matrix' in Afghanistan is a concern for both these countries. It is a well known fact that Iran is a Shia regime. India should actively engage with Iran because of their 'commonality of interests' in Afghanistan.







The Kremlin has been carefully monitoring the evolution of Nato. On May 17, 2010 a group of experts chaired by Ms Madeleine Albright unveiled Nato's rather contradictory new strategic concept. Admitting that Nato authority and resources are limited, the document nevertheless contains proposals for widening the alliance's responsibility zone. First, Russia cannot agree to Nato's taking the role of a global gendarme or the Orwellian Big Brother. Secondly, Moscow holds that Nato has already reached its natural confines in the expansion process. Over the recent years, novices have been injecting into Nato their political problems and conflicts rather than bringing to it new military capabilities, thus confronting the bloc with an indigestion problem. Currently the countries bracketed together in Nato fall into several asynchronous factions with diverging interests. 

Thirdly, Moscow is unhappy about Nato's tendency to permanently sideline the UN as it did in Yugoslavia in 1999. We are witnessing attempts to create a parallel global governance body along with defamation campaigns targeting the UN which has deserved its status in the international politics. The latter tendency becomes particularly visible in the context of the raising World War II revisionism. For Russia, the recurrent attempts to equate Germany and the USSR in terms of the responsibility for the outbreak of World War II are absolutely inadmissible. They disguise the plan to discount Russia as a global political player. 

Russia faces biting criticism over its position on the West Asian affairs, especially over its contacts with Hamas and its 'dissent' concerning Iran. As for Hamas, Moscow maintains that no stable and cohesive Palestinian state can be established without the organisation's help. Moreover, the Kremlin regards attempts to expel Arabs from Jerusalem as open aggression. While Moscow is lambasted over its ties with Hamas, the US and European envoys are also — on a confidential basis — dealing with the organisation which in fact legitimately represents the Palestinians. It is an open secret that, in pursuit of its own objectives, the US resorted to arm-twisting in its relations with Israel to get Hamas to win in Palestine. 

Russian political observers are increasingly adopting the view that the US is implementing the chaos control strategy in various parts of the world. In West Asia, the outcome may be the demise of nation-states and the formation of a Muslim caliphate. I do find the scenario unrealistic, at least because its materialisation would entail the collapse of the 20th century grand project of the Jewish statehood in West Asia. I am not sure that the US establishment is ready to sacrifice Israel in its political games, though it is true that the US — as well as Great Britain — have permanent interests, but no permanent allies.

Therefore, the US is trying enthusiastically to subject its strategy to an overhaul, and not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan. In the latter case, the shift largely amounts to the readiness to work tightly with the Talibs who used to be regarded as nearly the worst enemies of the US. At this point, not only Russia but also the public in the US can expect the new rules of the game to be spelled out. Lots of questions have to be answered. From the outset, what sense did it make to invade Afghanistan? Is Washington going to admit that the motivation was to route energy supplies from Central Asia to the south, diverting them from Russia and China?

The Israeli aspect of the West Asian problem is significant. The purely hypothetical nuclear bomb in the hands of Iran still would not expose Europe, Russia, or the US to considerable risk. Things are different for Israel. Considering the state of relations between Israel and Iran, the former can realistically be expected to attack the latter. It cannot be denied that the international crisis around Iran is, among other factors, bred by the international community's efforts to neutralise the scenario under which Israel attacks Iran and the conflict escalates into a wider war with unpredictable consequences.

Furthermore, natural gas for alternative projects of energy supply to Europe is supposed to come from the Iranian reserves. For example, the Nabucco project is viable only provided that Iran contributes its gas. Europe therefore needs Iran's gas, and the European capitals as well as Washington are fully aware of the fact.

The recent trilateral Iran-Brazil-Turkey uranium enrichment deal has certainly been good news. Brazil proposed the uranium enrichment scheme employing Turkey, the country Tehran has no reasons to suspect of hostile intentions. Russia will have its own reasons to feel satisfied in case the breakthrough solution materialises as Moscow was instrumental — albeit not quite publicly — in devising it. 

-- Concluded







THE Supreme Court's order on Tuesday effectively allowing Tamil Nadu to allot 69 per cent reservation in jobs and admissions for backward communities provided it can come up with demographic data to back its case is of greater import than the court seems to have suggested. Till now, the politics of reservation in India has been circumscribed by the apex court's ruling that quotas cannot exceed 50 per cent of the seats available, thus balancing the interests of social justice with those of merit and efficiency.


The three- judge bench's order has the potential to upset this scheme and open a Pandora's box where states vie with each other — Karnataka has already got the goahead — to provide higher and higher reservations for backward communities.


It's true that the Indira Sawhney verdict had talked of the 50 per cent boundary being breached under exceptional circumstances, but what those circumstances could be had not been defined. What the bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia should have done here is to have referred the matter to a Constitution bench.


Instead we have the state government being asked to provide data to the state's Backward Class Commission — which works under the government— in order to justify 69 per cent reservation. This will not be difficult to do, a cue that is sure to be picked up by other states.


Let's not fool ourselves that this will advance the cause of social justice. The gains of reservation in excess of 50 per cent too will be polished off by the well- off among the backward classes. As a corollary, meritorious candidates will be denied their due, compromising seriously on quality and efficiency. As for the evil of casteism, we will find it entrenched further in our social and political life.


Terror cloud over RSS


IT WAS probably inevitable that the footprints of the Hindutva terror network behind the Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif blasts would sooner or later lead to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS). The RSS has been synonymous with the Hindutva project both in terms of an ideological base and cadre support.


However, the fact that senior functionaries like Jharkhand prant pracharak Ashok Varshney ( regional in- charge) and central committee member Ashok Beri are involved in the terror attacks — the former in actually providing the SIM cards used in the attacks— comes as a shock.


These revelations have exposed the RSS for what it is— an extremist organisation which has sought to present itself as the custodian of Indian nationalism and Hindu religion.


Hindutva groups have never hesitated to use violence and terror to attain their political ends, with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi being a case in point.


With two senior members involved in acts of terror, it is possible that the radicalisation has percolated down the organisation's hierarchy.


If so, it will not be easy for the lawenforcement agencies to tackle the RSS. But there is little choice and the authorities must tackle the issue frontally to prevent the whole country from being consumed in a communal cauldron.




FOR the second time in the past week, there has been a traffic gridlock in the nation's capital because of rain which water- logged arterial roads, caused fallen trees to block roads and put traffic signals on the blink. Tens of thousands of people have been inconvenienced.


Though the downpour of Monday was accompanied by some strong winds there was no reason why as many as 11 lives should have been lost to weather related accidents.


God forbid if there is unseasonal rain when the Commonwealth Games take place, there could be a major loss of face internationally.


The city's inability to cope with even the mildest rain shower is simply not acceptable.


The Union government needs to sit down with the Delhi state government and create a system of governance where the chain of accountability is clear. As things stand now, no one knows who is responsible for the clogged drains and malfunctioning lights. As for the trees, the city needs to overcome its bureaucracy- driven fixation for planting trees and cut and trim them where required.








THE issues involved in China's sale of two more nuclear reactors need to be better understood.


Arguments that India, as a non- NPT state, has itself secured a nuclear deal with the US and therefore has little ground to oppose a China- Pakistan nuclear deal, or that two additional reactors for Pakistan are not going to enhance the nuclear threat to India, miss the point. That Pakistan has acute energy shortage and needs to tap nuclear energy as a source, more so as it is environmentally cleaner, is not sufficient reason to justify the Sino- Pakistan deal in the way it is being considered at present.


The argument that China and Pakistan will in any case go ahead and therefore it makes little sense for India to oppose the deal is a defeatist position. A further one that, given this reality, it might be better to engage China and Pakistan diplomatically on this question in a conciliatory mode does not take into account the deeper strategic and political intentions behind China's nuclear cooperation with Pakistan and this specific deal.




China has engaged in strategic nuclear proliferation in the subcontinent by transferring nuclear materials and weapons design to Pakistan, and even testing Pakistan's weapon in 1990 at its testing site in Lop Nor. China's objective has been to strategically neutralise India through Pakistan, give it the muscle to continue its confrontation with India and the capacity to deter serious Indian military reprisals for its adversarial policies. China has manoeuvred to blur the reality of any direct China- India nuclear rivalry, transferring such rivalry to the subcontinent, making India appear as the initiator of a nuclear arms race in the region, and creating in the mind of the international community a dangerous India- Pakistan nuclear equation with the potential of a nuclear conflict erupting between two " historical enemies". The US has overlooked errant Chinese nuclear conduct vis a vis Pakistan for several reasons. Pakistan became central to US effort to counter the Soviets in Afghanistan, and, therefore, despite evidence that Pakistan was pursuing a nuclear weapon programme with Chinese assistance, the Pressler Amendment was devised to allow military and economic assistance to Pakistan debarred under US law for a proliferating country. For Cold War considerations, the US was unwilling to apply any serious sanctions on China which had by then become a strategic partner against the Soviet Union. The US, opposed to India's nuclear ambitions and wary of the perceived India- Soviet axis that had successfully broken up Pakistan in 1971, has long backed a " strategic balance" in South Asia, which explains its remarkable tolerance of Sino- Pak nuclear collaboration. US unwillingness to expose the A. Q. Khan affair in full, in which the Pakistani political and military establishment has been involved to the hilt, is consistent with US equivocation on China- Pakistan proliferation infractions.




The Indo- US nuclear deal marked a strategic " de- hyphenation" of India and Pakistan in US policy, evoking anguish in Pakistan and distrust in China. The US was seriously disturbing the hitherto tacit entente between it and China to contain a nuclear India. Pakistan, obsessed with parity with India, has vociferously opposed the deal and also asked for one for itself. For China, making an exception for India to the current nuclear rules could only mean building up India as a potential counterweight to it. By signing up for two additional nuclear power reactors for Pakistan, China wants to send several messages to the US, India and the wider world. Its warning that if the US made an exception for India, other countries may do likewise for their friends is being translated into action. What the US has done for its protege, India, China is doing for its protege, Pakistan. If the US is disturbing the nuclear balance in South Asia— as China has alleged— China is restoring it. If the US will not accord parity of treatment to Pakistan, China will do so.


China is signalling that the US cannot set the nonproliferation rules for all others, or use its clout to break the global consensus on the nonproliferation regime to suit its strategic needs, and that China will take autonomous decisions to suit its own interests. China is occupying space being ceded by declining US hegemony and setting itself up as a rival power to the US. China no doubt calculates that a militarily and financially embattled US will avoid a frontal conflict with it on this issue, keeping in mind also that the US needs its political support in dealing with the nuclear defiance of Iran and North Korea, problems of higher strategic priority for the US. Finally, China is declaring to India that it will continue to build up nuclear Pakistan against it, deny India any advantage, counter any potential India- US axis with a countervailing China- Pakistan axis.


That China is willing to extend its patronage to Pakistan in disregard of its non- proliferation obligations and the NSG guidelines implies high stakes on both sides: need for the facade of civilian nuclear cooperation to continue Chinese technological and material support for Pakistan's military programme with its suspected extra- regional linkages.




India must therefore oppose the envisaged China- Pakistan nuclear cooperation.


If this passes through an open, widely debated process, with legislative underpinning and imposition of stringent nonproliferation conditions on Pakistan, India would have no reason to object. If, as the Chinese argue, both sides are respecting their international obligations and the new power plants will be under IAEA safeguards, why was India, with a clean nonproliferation record, no A. Q. Khan type baggage, no religious extremism, terrorist groups and clandestine proliferation networks blotting its landscape, required to separate its civilian and military facilities, shut some reprocessing units, accept the " right to return" if it tests, legally commit itself to a testing moratorium, agree to cooperate with the US on FMCT negotiations, establish a special reprocessing facility according to US dictated specifications for reprocessing US spent fuel, put its future fast breeder reactors under IAEA safeguards etc? We too could have obtained nuclear cooperation by simply agreeing to put internationally assisted reactors under IAEA safeguards. Why was cooperation with India by others opposed by the US until it cleared the way? If China does not have domestic legislation on nuclear cooperation like the US, the NSG can stipulate the conditions under which Pakistan would become eligible for civilian nuclear cooperation as a non- NPT state. We struggled hard to get a " clean waiver" from the NSG, and didn't quite get it. There cannot be different standards for China/ Pakistan and India. The US, so far subdued, must insist on the projected China- Pakistan deal being presented to the NSG for approval. If China ignores the NSG, the intended cooperation should be blocked in the IAEA where the issue of safeguards will have to be addressed and decided. Our strategic partnership with the US will lose meaning if the US once again overlooks nuclear cooperation between our two adversaries avowedly intended to counter the strategic advantage India has ostensibly obtained through the India- US deal. If the US sacrifices India's interests to protect its China and Pakistan equities, the India- US nuclear deal would look most invidious.


The writer is a former Foreign Secretary ( sibalkanwal@ gmail. com)








CHANDIGARH is not an easy place for proactive RTI activists. The designated RTI public authorities in the union territory have been hell bent on suppressing information — which is the people's right.


RTI activists have a common grievance that the designated public information authorities in many offices do not take dissemination of information seriously.


The public authorities in Chandigarh have devised some innovative means to discourage the information seekers. Sometimes, they would not respond at all though the law mandates dissemination of information within 30 days. They would put an information seeker in a quagmire of filing appeals. In majority of the cases, the applicants would give up before filing complaints to the Central Information Commission ( CIC) and attending hearings in New Delhi.


Chandigarh is a Union Territory and complaints under the act are referred to the CIC in New Delhi. The public authorities are aware that every information seeker would not have patience to complain to the CIC in New Delhi and attend hearing there.


People, who move the CIC against the Public Information Officers ( PIOs) or departmental appellate authorities, are also distressed since their complaints await decision for months at the CIC. An active protagonist of the public right, Hemant Goswami, believes that the implementation of the RTI Act has been disappointing in Chandigarh. Over a year ago, Hemant had sent out about a dozen volunteers to various government departments in Chandigarh to find out the status of the implementation of the act. Volunteers affiliated to the Burning Brain Society — an NGO — returned to narrate their shocking experience.


In more than half the test cases, the information officers declined to accept the RTI applications and the prescribed fee in cash.


In a third of the instances, the public information officers were not available in office. The NGO prepared a Citizens' Report — highlighting the flaws in the implementation of the RTI Act.


The NGO had moved about 150 applications for information.


Subsequently, Hemant moved one hundred complaints to the CIC for the denial of information.


The CIC had decided 52 complaints in one order in April 2009 and directed the UT to pull up its socks. But the situation did not improve.


Dr Rajinder K Singla — another activist — shares his bitter experience about the implementation of RTI law in Chandigarh. He opines that there is no exemplary punitive action against the PIOs for delaying information or furnishing false, wrong or misleading facts. The law provides 30 days for providing information but there is no time frame for the CIC to decide complaints.


Singla has filed over 200 applications for information primarily relating to various educational institutes.


THE RTI activist who has also been attempting to find out the status of the implementation of the reservation policy in government aided privately managed colleges says that public authorities aim at harassing the information seekers.


None of the departments in Chandigarh " obliged" him with information without appeals and complaints.


Some offices have designated non- gazetted officials as PIOs and Appellate Authorities.


Though there is no bar on their appointment as information authorities, the public feels that their appointment defeats the purpose of the Act.


This is being done to protect senior officers from their responsibilities under the norms. Even the CIC had opined that the performance of non- gazetted officers as PIOs was not up to the mark.


Ram Kumar Garg, who virtually " fights" for information, says things could improve if CPIOs act as mandated by the law. Even a permanent bench of the CIC in Chandigarh for dealing with complaints against non- compliance of the rules would help.



PEOPLE facing deadlines in their work are at a risk of having irregular heartbeat.


Such people have been found to be suffering from problems like acid reflux ( heartburn) and cervical according to a study conducted by Dr Yash Paul Sharma of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research ( PGIMER), Chandigarh. Dr Sharma, who recently documented his clinical observations over ten years, said that the majority of patients in the same job complained of similar health problems. This could be due to stress, latenight shifts, work pressure and decision making.


Dr Sharma said that the body reactions were similar in specific situations which led to an identical pattern of diseases among people from a particular profession. He prescribed that people could avert these high risk and life threatening heart problems by modifying their lifestyle.


They could also take some time out for de- stressing themselves



ALREADY feuding over the river waters, politicians of Punjab and Haryana got a fresh opportunity to bash each other after the recent floods. Punjab's deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal came down on Haryana and alleged that the construction of the Hansi Butana multipurpose canal was causing floods in his state.


Haryana Finance and Irrigation Minister Ajay Singh Yadav reacted to Badal's statement saying that Punjab was running a false campaign against Haryana. and the Centre must intervene on the issue. Yadav also expressed his anguish against Punjab's Chief Secretary SC Agarwal who had recently written a letter to his Haryana counterpart Urvashi Gulati saying that the construction of the canal was a case of " criminal negligence" and it was constructed " illegally and against the natural flow of water". Amid all the blame game, there are reports that both states have faltered on the upkeep of the river and canal embankments causing the flood fury.



NR Gopal, an associate professor of English at the Government College at Paonta Sahib in Himachal Pradesh has carved out a niche for himself with his prolific writing in Hindi.

He recently published his new book and ninth so far — Kukumseri Se Rohtang: Ek Romanchkari Yatra . A PhD in English, Gopal narrates in the book how people — who had set out to cross the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh with him — left him to fend for himself during cold winter night.


For Gopal, the experience narrated in the book is also a psychological analysis of human beings who don't generally care about their fellow beings in adverse situations.


Rohtang is a high mountain pass on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas. It connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal and has a well- deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards.


Gopal also takes keen interest in Indian English literature and attempts to improve the methods of teaching English to rural students.








As expected, the all-party meeting convened in Srinagar couldn't come up with any path-breaking solution to end the crisis in J&K. The urge on the part of political groups to restore calm in the state is welcome. The state government and the Centre must act upon the two main suggestions that emerged during the meeting - an independent probe into the death of civilians and revival of talks with separatists in the state. 

These steps could work only if political parties in the state are united in their resolve to end the cycle of violence. The present phase of protests in the Valley seems to be a self-perpetuating phenomenon, with youth leading the charge. These mob protests have left political leaders on the sidelines. The politicians need to wrest back the initiative and make the protesters see reason. Endless violence leading to the death of children and teenagers is unlikely to facilitate a solution to Kashmir's complex problems. 

The failure of the political parties to rise above the din is most evident in the stance adopted by the PDP, J&K's main opposition party. The party refused to attend the all-party meeting on Monday despite requests from the prime minister and the state chief minister. Clearly, the party didn't want to associate with the initiatives to restore calm in the state for the fear of alienating the protesters. This is an irresponsible political line. As the main opposition the PDP must share the responsibility of shoring up the democratic system in the state along with the party in office. By all means criticise the government, but the criticism ought to be constructive and lead to a dialogue. If the PDP claims to reflect public opinion, it could have done so at the all-party meeting. Not to engage with the government and other political groups when the state is under siege is a feeble evasion of issues. 

As for the Centre, it needs to devote more attention towards facilitating a dialogue among interested parties in J&K. An interlocutor who has the confidence of the prime minister and the Congress party should be appointed to talk to all shades of political opinion in the state. So far, the task of facilitating talks has been left to bureaucrats. It's time a seasoned politician, who has the skills to build bridges across political divides as well as with civil society, should be entrusted with the job. A calibrated demilitarisation of the state, as the situation improves on the ground, is also called for







The political reaction in Maharashtra to the Supreme Court's lifting of the state government's ban on American author James Laine's book on Shivaji - or rather, its upholding the 2007 high court decision to lift the ban - has been disappointing. The controversy, first ignited in 2004, has been manufactured from the beginning. A few sentences in an academic treatise were picked up by parties eager to cash in on the brand of parochial politics that has bedevilled the state. And now, the same opportunism is on display again. Witness the inanity of leader of opposition Eknath Khadse demanding an apology from Maharashtra home minister R R Patil for the government's "failure" to "defend" Shivaji's honour in the judicial proceedings. Or of Patil and chief minister Ashok Chavan seeking to outmanoeuvre the Supreme Court by trying to enact a new law to prevent the "defamation" of iconic personalities. 

If we are to grow rather than regress we need debate and dissent. Book burnings are a feature of medieval times. It is the function of political parties to shape public discourse in a manner that lifts it above crude populism and rabble-rousing. Instead, in Maharashtra, mainstream parties have entered a game of competitive populism with the Shiv Sena and the MNS. And so we have a state government trying to push through legislation that will ban books incurring the displeasure of politicians. The point about hurt sentiments is that once allowed free play, they will always find more books (and people) to be hurt by. That process creates more social enmities than any book. If any legislation is needed on the issue, it should outlaw the banning of books.







The political reaction in Maharashtra to the Supreme Court's lifting of the state government's ban on American author James Laine's book on Shivaji - or rather, its upholding the 2007 high court decision to lift the ban - has been disappointing. The controversy, first ignited in 2004, has been manufactured from the beginning. A few sentences in an academic treatise were picked up by parties eager to cash in on the brand of parochial politics that has bedevilled the state. And now, the same opportunism is on display again. Witness the inanity of leader of opposition Eknath Khadse demanding an apology from Maharashtra home minister R R Patil for the government's "failure" to "defend" Shivaji's honour in the judicial proceedings. Or of Patil and chief minister Ashok Chavan seeking to outmanoeuvre the Supreme Court by trying to enact a new law to prevent the "defamation" of iconic personalities. 

If we are to grow rather than regress we need debate and dissent. Book burnings are a feature of medieval times. It is the function of political parties to shape public discourse in a manner that lifts it above crude populism and rabble-rousing. Instead, in Maharashtra, mainstream parties have entered a game of competitive populism with the Shiv Sena and the MNS. And so we have a state government trying to push through legislation that will ban books incurring the displeasure of politicians. The point about hurt sentiments is that once allowed free play, they will always find more books (and people) to be hurt by. That process creates more social enmities than any book. If any legislation is needed on the issue, it should outlaw the banning of books.








After many nights of football viewing in the hot embrace of a growing Indian monsoon, the 2010 FIFA World Cup has ended. The tournament created several thrilling moments, both on and off the field. It produced the sight of Diego Maradona, diamonds aglitter on 'the hand of God', supporting his team like a mother hen in a shiny suit. It staged the stardom of Octopus Paul, predicting match results from the shaky safety of a German aquarium. It caused the tumultuous exits of England, France, Brazil and Germany. It marked the arrival of whippersnapper young teams like Paraguay and Ghana. It occasioned the emergence of new world champions with Spain's victory. It also gave interesting insights into the beautiful game itself and the nations excelling at it. 

Emerging foremost amongst these is the issue of nationality in Europe, forced to confront the consequences of empire and politics of ethnicity. As France was knocked out of the World Cup, French society burst into furious debates over the nature of its team, once the country's pin-up answer to questions on integration between its white, black and North African populations. Remarks made by Iric Abidal, the French player who converted to Islam, about not feeling adequately represented by the French national anthem, were repeated with a moue of annoyance as French politicians frowningly insisted on probes into what Le Monde termed 'this strange defeat'. England handled its elimination with characteristic humour and shrugged-shoulder resignation; on the night of the England-Germany match, a group of revellers landed in the Trafalgar Square fountain. When ordered by the police to vacate the waters, cheeky rejoinders reportedly questioned if the Bobbies were "Germans in disguise". However, for once, the British too have been forced to put jokes aside and look carefully into a mirror of nationhood, questioning how their policy of playing the opulent Premier League with imported talent as opposed to cultivating home-grown youth, has worked. 

In comparison, Germany's team shone against European anxieties about nationality, commerce and integration. The German team was young and indigenous in a new and wonderful way, appearing freshly energised by its ethnic mix which included players of Turkish, Tunisian and Nigerian parentage. Interestingly, this team's vivacity has gone some way in updating somewhat slanted images of Germany made famous through popular culture - recorded in history, then repeated by Hollywood - of Teutonic officers, trench coats and tanks. Contemporary Germany seems a much happier and positive place, shorn of skinheads, scowls and suspicion over the loyalty of minorities. 

In contrast to the questioning that broke out in Europe, the Latin giants and their new Davids, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and others, played true to type, displaying little self-doubt and depicting extraordinary emotion. It was ecstasy to watch the Latin teams play football like a love affair, treating the ball with possessiveness, approaching goals with calculated tenderness, then comic misrecognition, headily defending the heart of things and making that final, triumphant stab at the core of one's being. With such emotion at play, the tears, sweat and smiles that coursed through the Latin teams, it was agony to see them knocked out, the Cup poised to land back in the hands of the comparatively quieter Europeans. The Latin performance raised another important question though; considering the epiphany of that moment of connect between the heavens above and a player below who makes (or misses) a goal, one could not help but wonder if an atheist can really play football and how powerfully belief powers this play. 

Questions of faith aside, football itself emerged as the star in this tournament, emphasising that winners need not be divas and rough sport can be gentle, players helping each other up after collisions, winners embracing the losing side in understanding as the latter wept after a match. This is why football is the world's most loved sport. It is sculpture in motion, physics at play. It is gladiators thrilling spectators through human emotion and ability at their best and worst, divisive and unified, strong and vulnerable, technical and spiritual, crushed and exultant. 

Interestingly, India's most popular sport, cricket, emerges looking somewhat worse for wear in comparison to football. Although the Indian team (annoyingly referred to as Team India which tellingly places the country after the formation) won the Asia Cup, the performance could not erase the summer of discontent cricket has experienced. Allegations and counter-allegations of corruption have flown so thick and fast that a willow tree could combust with shame at the implications. Sadly, the liberalisation of cricket in India, instead of freeing the sport from its colonial hangover, appears to have set the stage for its despoiling, questionable capital and shadowy glitz combining with dark political involvement to push talent to the fringes and greed to the foreground of the game. 

In all this, as more Indians increasingly travel, view, study and work around the world, gaining greater exposure to a variety of sports and games, it is a highly positive sign that chess, badminton and tennis emerge as arenas to excel in, sporting stages aside from cricket where merit can earn just reward. As a future of promise unfolds, 2010's FIFA tournament will be remembered with great fondness. It gave agony. It gave ecstasy. It gave philosophy. And it gave the magic of football. 

The writer is a social anthropologist.







One of the top six business schools in the world (according to the Financial Times rankings 2010), Instituto de Empresa Business School's transition into a university has been smooth and successful. Santiago Iniguez , rector, IE University, Spain, tells Tirna Ray that the change is in keeping with the times: 

Why did IE Business School, a well-known brand, transform into a university? 

It was our vision more than the need. Given the convergence of higher education and the Bologna process, we thought of the bigger picture and that is what propelled the transition of IE Business School into IE University. The university is the evolution of IE Business School's mission to shape a unique centre for higher education learning and innovation in Europe. We have a distinctly international approach and one of the major priorities is to bring together faculty and students from around the world. We recognise and acknowledge the fact that in these global times, we need to offer a holistic learning experience to our students that covers management skills, an element of innovation, an entrepreneurial mindset, a global vision and social commitment. 

Was there any concern that it would dilute the 'Business School' brand? 

A lot of thinking, deliberation and discussion went behind the decision. Further, we decided to enter only into those areas in which we were convinced that we could excel. We chalked out a clear charter for the next 15 years which not only involved the curriculum but also substantial tie-ups and partnerships with the lead institutes across the world. 

What is the vision of the university? 

An IE University education focuses on entrepreneurial vision, technological innovation and international mobility along with a hands-on experience. The idea is to produce global citizens, rather than producing graduates who are specialised in specific disciplines. With our university located in the 15th century monastery of Santa Cruz la Real, in the city of Segovia, a site that has been a crucible of different cultures and that embraces tolerance and knowledge, our vision goes beyond the given boundaries of academics and ignites the desire to explore. The bachelor's degrees at the IE University are taught in English and Spanish. Our strength is an innovative blended methodology, which offers a classroom experience along with online modes of delivery in the fields of architecture, art history, biology, business administration, communication and psychology and tourism management. 

What is special about the academic content of IE programmes? 

Our programmes equip students to put their acquired knowledge into practice. Workshops and facilities at the university include the applied psychology centre, art rooms, biology laboratories, digital editing rooms and the language centre to mention a few. The university aims to be responsive to the contemporary needs and values of the global market. The learning process encourages leadership and humanistic skills in our students through the core IE module, which includes key areas such as business leadership, interpersonal skills, ethics and humanities. 

Do you have any plans to launch an overseas campus in India? 

We do not disregard the possibility of entering India in the future. But, we believe that every country has its own specific needs. In order to target the ideal market in India, we would rather go for strategic alliances. In the next couple of years, we may work towards blended programmes - with face-to-face periods in India and online modules.








At the 1920 meeting of the newly founded League of Nations in Geneva, India- a member state represented by Maharaja Khengarji- joined China, Persia and eight other countries in urging the League to take Esperanto seriously. Teaching this easy-to-learn link language to schoolchildren might help shape a viable post-war world, they felt. The League's vice-secretary general, Inazo Nitobe, submitted a positive report. In 1921 India, China, Persia, Japan and nine other countries sponsored a favourable resolution. France vetoed it. Setbacks like this veto- or the 1985 defeat of feminist legislation in the US- make the movements stronger and more articulate. When we look at the way Esperanto has been recontextualised over the decades, it turns out that at every stage there were a few Indians making significant individual contributions. 

Maharaja Khengarji III of Kutch didn't know Esperanto. That he supported it possibly had something to do with Irach Jehangir Sorabji Taraporewala (1884-1957), a highly visible linguist. As a translator of Tagore, Taraporewala was the first Indian to make it into print in Esperanto. There is an unbroken chain of distinguished Indians publishing in Esperanto, from Taraporewala to Ashwini Kumar and Badal Sircar. But the biggest achiever in this domain was Lakshmiswar Sinha (1905-1977) of Santiniketan. 

In 1928, Tagore sent Sinha off to Sweden to get some training in the handicraft-based pedagogic system called 'sloyd'. Sinha proceeded to learn Esperanto from his new friends in Sweden and promptly became a legend. He published half a dozen books, lectured in 10 European countries, made friends everywhere- their children have fond memories of him to this day- and put Esperanto and India on each other's map. His is a key name in the story of Esperanto's global rearticulation. Sinha was one of the first Esperantists to work for cultural equity across literary regions. 

Sinha's translations of short stories by Tagore, published in 1961, were designated by Universal Esperanto Association (UEA) as the first book in its 'Oriento-Okcidento' series. Launched in the context of UNESCO's global programme for educational and cultural transformation, this series is one place where UEA, one of UNESCO's formal partners, promotes the goal of providing everybody with the equitable diet of cross-cultural reading that they are entitled to. 

"But people read each other anyway!" you exclaim. "An overwhelming number of books get translated into English; doesn't that count as global dialogue?" It does; but i put it to you that ordinary people reading world literature through English do not run into Lord Tadeusz by Mickiewicz of Poland, or Seven Brothers by Kivi of Finland, or The Tragedy of Man by Madach of Hungary. But adult readers in Esperanto count as illiterate if they are unfamiliar with these major nineteenth century classics, translated by iconic Esperanto authors like Grabowski, Setala and Kalocsay. This is not about a couple of token peaks; UEA's series is just official applause for a fraction of the work routinely done by Esperanto translators. Catalan author Abel Montagut has shown that the Esperanto translation basket is far more equitable in terms of cross-regional representation than the baskets in other major translation vehicles. 

Recent extensions of the enterprise are based on Esperanto translations of literary works that have not been rendered into English. A 2007 Euro-Indian project had a Croatian children's classic by Ivana Brlic-Mazuranic translated into Bangla through an Esperanto translation. Esperanto's transparent word-architecture makes these bridge versions hug their originals very closely. New partners from Italy and Slovenia, and EU support, have made possible a bigger 2008-10 project- publishing children's novels from Croatia, Italy and Slovenia in Bangla and a Bangla children's novel in Slovenian etc. The public likes the books; if they didn't, we would know we weren't addressing a seriously-felt need. Sinha, personally a life-long anti-elitist, was part of the transition from our reaching for the elite sky in 1920 to our interlocal work today.








Adverse comparisons between India and Africa with regard to development indicators always serve as a red rag to our governmental bull. So, the latest report from Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative that says that eight Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, account for more poor people than the 26 poorest African nations will make officialdom go up in a pillar of flame. But, to go into grouse mode will only serve to dig ourselves deeper into the poverty hole than we are already in. The report uses new measures like availability of clean water, sanitation and electricity to arrive at the figures. India has traditionally stuck to measuring poverty only in terms of kilocalories, 2,400 for the rural population, as a measure of being above the poverty line. This is calculated at Rs 356, something government committees themselves have dismissed as an inadequate marker of poverty. A more realistic figure, again according to government estimates, would be Rs 700 for rural areas where 70 per cent of Indians live. If this is applied, the number of those below the poverty line rises by a dramatic 10 per cent.


While many African countries have unstable governments and virulent epidemics that have kept them back in terms of development parameters, we really have no such excuse. Yet, India has not been able to stave off starvation deaths, leave alone malnutrition. The pain of hunger has been cited as a human rights violation by experts in the field such as Amartya Sen. The report that casts India in an unfavourable light could be occasion to examine how best to streamline interventions to lift more people out of poverty and afford them a better quality of life. There is no dearth of schemes for the poor starting from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to legislations like the Right to Education Act. The problem is that these are managed in a scattered manner and rarely, if ever, monitored.


The government, whose enthusiasm for setting up committees knows no bounds, would do well to set up yet another one comprising experts to monitor all the well-meaning schemes meant for the poor. This would enable it to identify the black holes into which money goes and who facilitates this shortchanging of the poor. If this could be done with the efficiency with which we have become a leading IT power, we would see a rapid reduction in poverty figures. The expertise is there, the schemes are there, the will is there and so is the money. They just need to come together for once. Since we are so prickly about our image on the world stage, it would, if nothing else, spare us the embarrassment of being anachronistically bracketed in company that we don't want to be seen in. If the government that represents the 'aam aadmi' fails to intervene decisively even now, we certainly will be the poorer for it.







Sometimes, you just need to stop being negative to get things going. And the ongoing spadework in New Delhi to complete preparations for the Commonwealth Games before it's on us in October is a case in point. Pessimists are coming out of the cement work casting doubts about whether things will be ready in time. That is human nature. But when ministers in the government of the very city-state that will be hosting the first big international sporting event since the 1982 Asian Games start talking about "shortcomings" in the Games venues and sites, we may be talking about serious self-doubt here — something even less constructive than behind-schedule projects.


Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, in such circumstances, can't really be faulted for asking her ministers to refrain from discussing the progress of Commonwealth Games projects with the 'please let's have some horrible soundbites' media. Ms Dikshit has instead told those in her cabinet worried about the time schedule to directly bring these 'worries' to her notice so that they can be addressed, instead of being turned into media fodder.


The media, on its part, surely can look into other Commonwealth Games-related concerns. Such as whether construction agencies are making solid, safe and dependable structures while keeping their eyes on the calendar.







Indian 'dotheads' with their multiple-armed, elephant-nosed gods have taken over the once pure white American town of Edison, New Jersey and destroyed the memories of innocent white boyhood. That's the burden of Joel Stein's controversial article in Time magazine that led to so much uproar among the Indian American community that Time and Stein were forced to apologise. But while Indian Americans have expressed their outrage at Stein's 'humour' and asked why a mainstream publication like Time should publish such an article, there's also an argument that Indians should learn to take themselves less seriously.


Our gods, after all, are multiple-armed and elephant-nosed, our food is often spicy to the exclusion of taste, and the dots and dashes on our foreheads can look hilarious to those not used to seeing them. The lesson is actually quite simple. Want to live and work in a globalised marketplace? Learn to be less hung up about 'culture' and identity. Want to wallow in identity and culture? Don't venture out beyond home.


Yet the cultural balance of power between Indians and America is lopsided. Middle-class urban Indians adore America. American soft power envelops us in the manifold pleasures of its soaps, music, education, clothes, movies, thinkers, books, even worldview. If the colonial caricature of the 20th century was the dark-skinned desi babu in a three-piece suit who saw himself as a white Englishman, then the post-colonial caricature of the 21st century could be the American-speaking urban Indian who sees himself as a white American, even though he may be a resident of Mumbai or Bangalore.


The Sprite ad, in which an Indian jungle explorer distributes Sprite to black-skinned tribals, shows to some extent how the Indian — particularly the elite Indian — continues to identify himself with the Indiana Jones discourse of the white man surrounded by strange natives. No wonder there is personal anguish when this Americanised Indian with his secret belief in his own white-ness, with his Indiana Jones posters and Bob Dylan CDs, finds that sections of opinion in the very country from which he draws so much of his identity, actually sees him as a 'dothead' who worships bizarre gods. The feelings of exclusion are immense.


Yet when it comes to America, Indians have always voted with their feet. Even at the height of the Cold War, more than a million Indians lived in the US. Almost every middle-class family today has a family member living in America, the rich, educated Indian American community is the fastest growing ethnic group there. Such names as Indra Nooyi, Sanjay Gupta, Jagdish Bhagwati, Vikram Pandit are justly celebrated in India as aspirational figures. But cultural 'sacrifices' are required along the way to achieve the American dream. Namrata Randhawa had to change her name to Nikki Haley and convert from Sikhism to be an acceptable 'American'. Politician, Piyush Amrit Jindal goes by the name Bobby and it would be unthinkable perhaps for any Indian American public personality to be seen as recognisably non-Western.


The distinctive cultural traits of the Italian American or an Irish American are far more acceptable in the American salad bowl than the distinctive cultural markers of the Indian American. Bollywood and vindaloo have not become as much part of America as Italian contributions like the opera or pizza. The Indian diaspora is high-achieving but has not really contributed significantly to American pop culture, perhaps because elephant-nosed gods and dots on the forehead are just so completely at odds with the underlying assumptions of American society. Thus Indians in America need to be ironed into culturally neutral brain banks and professional high achievers, whose 'elephant-nosed' identity is best practised 'in secret' at home.


So while the globalised economy knits communities from India and the West ever closer, India's cultural integration into the global society is still a work-in-progress. Indian ghettos in Western countries are so paranoid about losing their culture, so stubbornly refused to change their dress, behaviour and mentality that naturally the majority looks on them with derision and hostility. Surely the process of integration can be a more gentle swap of cultures where mutual give and take enriches both immigrant and host. Analysts pointed to an upsurge in hankering for white ancestors that accompanied the Obama presidency. America's first black president was compared to Lincoln, FDR and Kennedy to somehow ameliorate the tectonic change in the top job. The Time article, in its wistfulness for the lost white town shows a similar nostalgia for the pre-multicultural era.


Just as the Maharashtrian finds the North Indian sometimes objectionable, or the Kannadiga has trouble with the Haryanvi code of conduct on buses, Indian communities have still not managed to distinguish between cultural identity and cultural assertion. Its ridiculous to expect that a fierce and noisy attachment to identity will be welcomed by the host country or state. Of course it won't.


We Indians protest loudly at the depiction of gods and depictions of Gandhi, but we hardly embody the dignified ways of the truly cultured. We protest that our thousand-year-old traditions are being denigrated. Yet in taste and lifestyle we embody the worst forms of aggressive newly-rich downright uncultured behaviour.


As Stein writes in his article, it's one thing to have immigrants who are genteel doctors and engineers, quite another to be swamped by hordes of raucous 'dotheads' who overwhelm local mores by sheer force of numbers. India's integration into Western societies shouldn't mean becoming dark-skinned imitations of white people nor should it mean propagating a raucous ostentatious Indian 'culture'. Instead, let's exemplify the spirit and not the outward form of our elephant-nosed multiple-armed pantheon: the spirit of grace, wisdom, and being unafraid to be thought of as a little eccentric. Such godly self-belief will make integration much less painful!


Sagarika Ghose is Deputy Editor, CNN-IBN


The views expressed by the author are personal







After reading Joel Stein's column in Time magazine about Indian-Americans, many, including some editors at this paper, want to know why Indians can't just take a joke. Let me explain.


I grew up in an affluent American suburb. My friends were Russians, Chinese, Germans and Indians. We were Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Jews. Between us, we contained all the world's potential conflicts, as well as all of its potential acts of forgiveness. That didn't mean my world was perfect.


In his column, Stein cracked a joke about 'dotbusters', the gangs of racist thugs who used to prey on Edison's Indian-American population in the 80s. (He doesn't refer to them, but Stein does mention Indians in Edison being called 'dot heads'.) It reminded me of the time a friend's uncle was shot dead by such a gang in his convenience store. Stein's jokes about our 'elephant-nosed' gods also recalled the time my ex-best friend told me I was going to hell because I worshipped idols. Stein's zingers about Indian food reminded me of the landlords who refused to rent my Dad an apartment in the 70s because Indian spices, they thought, would 'stink up the place'. Like a frying hamburger has no odour.


Yes, Stein's jokes about race, about religion and about food are accurate — but that doesn't make them good.


Why don't Indian-Americans laugh? We have laughed. A thousand times. Every single Indian-American kid has laughed off a joke about his religion, his colour or his food. We grew up laughing. Even when we asked for better treatment, we were polite. When I was 15, I circulated an e-mail petition to my friends, respectfully asking an American company to stop making toilet seats with the faces of Hindu gods painted on them.


But by the time I saw Stein's column, I was tired of laughing.  I wondered why it was okay for him to crack that same old joke about the many-armed gods — in 2010! Or why it was okay for Time to run a nostalgic article that may as well have been called, 'Indians: They're only good for funny names and ethnic buffets.'


I'm an American, and I'm also of Indian origin. I worship many-armed Gods, and I eat really spicy Andhra food. But here's the thing that Joel Stein never saw — I've fought to be accepted; I've assimilated in ways he can't see. The Indian grocery, the Hindu temple — these are chips off the massive iceberg that is Indian-American identity.








The Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra started from Puri on Tuesday, and lakhs of devotees from home and abroad thronged the abode of the Lord. Puri steals the limelight because of the history associated with it, as well as for its importance for being one of the four dhams.


The Jagannatha temple is impressive and huge. At the entrance, there is 'Aruna Pillar' brought over from Konark. One can have the darshana of Lord Jagannatha from this point. A little distance away, there is Vishwanatha Linga. Legend has it that one Brahmin wanted to go to Kashi. Jagannath told him to worship that Linga which would bring him to the desired benediction of Nishannatho.


Though the worship of Lord Jagannath had started much earlier, the main temple was constructed in the 12th century. The construction started during the reign of Anantavarma, the first ruler of Chodagangadeva but was completed by the fourth successor, Anangabhimadeva.


Rath Yatra marks the annual ritual which draws huge crowds from all over the globe to elicit the blessings of Vishnu as Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe – Shapeless, formless like the Universe itself.


As part of the celebration of this grand festival, the three images of Lord Jagannatha, Balbhadra and Subhadra are dislodged from the sanctum sanctorum and are brought on to the big chariots and are carried to Gundicha where they are kept for nine days and then are brought back to the main temple with the same pomp and show.


The great thing about the Rath Yatra is that in the whole exercise one would not discern any 'high and low' kind of discrimination but would instead find the king and the sweeper pulling the chariots with equal rights and faith. The nine-day festival  brings new colour and charm to the otherwise sleepy town of Puri which comes agog with colour and life and permeates the spirit of universal fraternity.


It is supreme faith unto the 'unseen' which lubricates the chariots of our lives on earth and inspire us to lead lives worthy of His blessings.








Repudiating the rationale behind the Supreme Court freeing American historian James Laine's book on Shivaji, the Maharashtra government is pondering a sweeping law against "defamatory writing" that impugns any religious or national icon. At a moment when, buoyed by the court's defence, someone could have seized the chance to articulate a liberal stand, the Maharashtra assembly was unanimous in its hatred and fear of free speech. Legislators across parties fought each other to decry James Laine and his "denigration" of Shivaji. While Home Minister R.R. Patil assured the House that no fresh copies of the book would be printed, NCP MLAs wanted those who assisted Laine to be charged with abetment (to research?). Even Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi has insinuated himself into the chorus. Another MLA wanted a ban on the Bhandarkar Oriental Institute, the venerable repository of rare manuscripts where Laine had conducted his research, and which Maharashtra's Sambhaji Brigade had brutalised.


The proposed law claims to take a cue from similar legislation in Tamil Nadu — when MGR was chief minister, the assembly enacted the heavy-handed Scurrilous Writing Act, making such work a cognisable and non-bailable offence. After protests broke out, the act was repealed in 1984. Other states have also experimented with censorship, whether it was the NTR government in Andhra Pradesh or the Bihar Press Bill, which also contained solemn, punishing strictures against casteism and communalism. While those were mainly intended at cowing an insolent press, the Maharashtra law aims to fiercely suppress any voice that is mildly at odds with its official stories.


The idea of extending defamation (meant to protect the reputations of the living) to cultural and historical figures whose lives are shrouded in half-truths and legend would be laughable, if it were not to become a frightening reality in the state. The liberal vacuum in the state's politics has ensured that all discourse has been roughly pushed to a rightward extreme. Maybe Maharashtra's political class and its armies of vandals who fetishise frozen purities know how destructible their constructs are — which is what makes them so fearful of a few lines in a scholarly work of cultural history. And you have to wonder why such a law is even necessary, when lumpen intimidation has the required effect. According to Maharashtra's home minister, the book's publisher has ruled out a fresh print run.







French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo is something of a power in the ruling party of President Nicolas Sarkozy, and is generally considered the third most powerful man in France. He did not get there, it appears, through being trusting. When news came this weekend that the European Commission intended to dilute its blanket ban on genetically modified foods — instead letting its member states decide individually what they would prefer — Borloo sniffed: "We see a trap in this proposal — which consists in calming everybody by letting each one do as they please."


Letting everybody do as they please would, of course, defeat the purpose of regulation. But what is intended by the European Union is to allow each of its constituent countries to decide its level of comfort with GM food. There's a reason for this: Europe is deeply divided on the issue. Some countries, like Austria and France, don't like the idea at all; others, like the Netherlands and the UK, would rather go with the scientific evidence that says there's little that's wrong with it. Then there's a ruling, a few years ago from the World Trade Organisation, on a dispute between the EU and the US, that says that Europe's curbs on GM food are anti-trade. The centralisers in the Brussels-based European Commission, fed up with all the competing pressures, seem to want to cede authority for once. But there's more to it than just that: the arguments for a blanket ban on GM foods are no longer as persuasive as they were a few years ago, as more and more scientific evidence piles up, and larger-scale trials are conducted.


When Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh went against scientific opinion and the expressed preferences of his cabinet colleagues to announce a "moratorium" on transgenic brinjal hybrids, one of the reasons stated was the European unwillingness to countenance GM foods. This was weak even at the time: Europe's culture of sniffiness about processed foods is one India does not, and cannot, share. But now, like most of Ramesh's other reasons, it has been revealed as completely hollow. Combined with a US Supreme Court ruling last week that, 7-1, nullified a ban on GM alfalfa, the world's stand on GM foods has just taken another turn towards acceptance. India cannot be left behind.








Jis khaak ke zamir main ho aatish e chinaar/ Mumkin nahin ke sard ho wo khaak e arjumand." (The dust that has in its conscience the fire of Chinaar trees/ That dust, celestial dust, will never become cold.)


This couplet of Iqbal was often quoted by Sheikh Abdullah. Having smouldered intermittently for the past 25 years, the chinaar is burning again. Kashmir's youth is out in the streets of the Valley playing David to India's Goliath and the televised scenes of young men slinging stones at uniformed men evoke memories of the Palestinian Intifada, a disquieting parallel for any Indian of goodwill.


With the bulk of Kashmir's ranking hardliners under house arrest, the government doesn't know who to talk to. This is a mob without a leader: the political opposition, the PDP and the Hurriyat have abdicated that space, leaving the young chief minister to cast about himself for solutions as they sneer at him from every possible forum. In a telling commentary on India's contemporary political culture, we find rival parties refusing to find common cause even when the foundations of the Republic are threatened.


Omar Abdullah has said that the ground reality isn't grasped by political pundits in Delhi and Kashmir. While this may be so, it is also fair to say that the present stance of the government, the absence of channels of communication, the lack of an honest broker between the state and the young people on the streets make peace much harder.


Curfews are effective as emergency measures, but they are (or ought to be) a last resort. A curfew is a blunt instrument: to impose one is to punish civil society collectively. Curfews weigh more heavily on the old and the innocent than the troublemakers they are aimed at. Babies are delivered without doctors, patients are denied critical medicines, those on daily wages starve. Curfews buy time but their cost in terms of public alienation is prohibitive. A state that has to use curfews to maintain law and order is a state that has no political capital left.


While it's true that the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jamat-ud-Dawa, the Hizbul Mujahideen and stray terrorists with handlers in Pakistan are now active in the Valley, these facts shouldn't be allowed to become alibis for inaction. The government needs to be as engaged with young political activists through informal channels as the subversives are, to negotiate a truce. All methods must be used to establish indirect links with the young to gain time. A truce will supply the breathing space for the state to construct a planned response.


Abdullah needs to break free of the belief that the early summer was an idyll which represented normalcy and that the troubles that have followed are, therefore, an aberration. The troubles in Kashmir are not an aberration. They are rooted in the belief of the average Kashmiri that the Government of India has not been fair to the people of Kashmir. The people of the Valley are convinced that the elections of 1987 were rigged, that young politicians, legitimately elected, were robbed of their seats. Some of these thwarted politicians, once committed to ballot-box politics, now lead terrorist outfits based across the border. Reintegrating them into republican institutions will be difficult and achievable only through a continuous dialogue conducted by professionals trained to negotiate, who will test the stamina of the other side. We need to commit ourselves to this dialogue now, despite the troubles, because the geopolitics of this region is changing in a way that's inimical to India's security environment, for in the near future, action in Afghanistan and Pakistan will have


a direct bearing on the Kashmir Valley. As bad as things are now, in the near and medium term, they are likely to get worse.

It is clear that the US is not succeeding in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai's willingness to share power with the Taliban is indicative of the sense of foreboding and resignation that permeates the higher echelons of Kabul's ruling elite. Karzai's own contrived election, the stories of corruption involving him and his closest aides, the allegations against his half-brother whose writ has run over Kandahar from the day Afghanistan was liberated from the Talibs in early 2002, his dependence on advice from US ambassadors stationed in Kabul, the chronic corruption, the failure of governance, together show that he has not grown in office.


Anxiety and pessimism have corroded the confidence of US and other NATO soldiers posted in Afghanistan. General McChrystal's cutting remarks about the US administration were a true reflection of this military mood of cynicism and apprehension. And amid the confusion that pervades US Afghan policy is the declaration that it will leave Afghanistan by mid-2011. Military history doesn't contain too many examples of a force publicly announcing its date of departure from the battlefield to anyone who cares to listen, including the enemy. This is likely to lead to a wait-and-watch policy by the Talibs or a tease-and-run policy to keep the US forces peripherally engaged while shifting the bulk of the jihadi fighters to other theatres of action.


There is the Al-Qaeda led by Arabs, there are Chechens, Afghans, Somalis and other professional subversives that need to be kept engaged. The North-West Frontier of Pakistan is one area, but increasingly this has become exceedingly dangerous. US drones and the Pakistan military have virtually flattened South Waziristan and are now concentrating on the North. The losses to the terrorist outfits have been large in the past few months. An easier hunting ground is Kashmir. Here a disgruntled and dissatisfied young population, local vested interests, the brutal, high-handed behaviour of the police, paramilitary and the armed forces, a political leadership that isn't clear about its objectives, a breakdown of communication between the two principal actors, that is, the government and the young leaders of the "intifada", the lack of any apparent guidance from the Central government, together create the most attractive context for all sorts of jihadis, some from within India and some from outside. They will get increasing local support in the current situation making it exceedingly difficult for the local administration to succeed.


It is time we recognised the imminent danger of jihadi escalation in Kashmir if confidence isn't quickly restored. My suspicion is that an unsustainable status quo will be dragged out, with some good weeks and some bad, rather like a sick patient who shuns diagnosis or medicine thinking things will get better on their own. They won't. The government of India must intervene now, for if it doesn't, there might come a time when it will look back on mid-2010 not as a time of trouble, but as the time before the troubles.


The writer, a former civil servant, is the Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.








When I went to college, there was a book by a fellow called Durbin called Why Plan, and it had to be read to get a degree. These days they say that knowledge is a source of growth and actually reading a book here and a book there and getting things done well, may in fact not be as bad an idea as one of our ministers makes it out to be.


More seriously, the itch to abolish the Planning Commission emerges ever so often, at times ideologically and at other times by the Spartans, who presumably never like the Athenians. This question was raised when the Janata government came to power in 1977 and again with the NDA, and both times the PM had to clarify that "economic planning" as both Morarjibhai and Vajpayeeji called it, was on. But the hope continues — Chandrababu Naidu is one, and our own PC, pun on initials unintended, is not far behind.


In a large country still on the make, with a federal set-up and everyone following their own dreams, it is unlikely that the ideological abolitionists will make it. But the Spartans are another story, for the powers of the Planning Commission are another vexed matter. Those who wield the power like to avoid the question, for keeping power by quoting values is their best bet. I have been there myself and was with the angels, but in honesty would say the question remains.


The best reason why the planners must shed some of their powers is actually detailed by the Planning Commission itself in some of its good books, which our minister doesn't want us to read. In the early '80s, I think it was the Seventh Plan, the commission said the ministries must make more detailed sectoral plans and that was not the job of the Planning Commission. Ditto for the states. In fact the commission put muscle in a scheme to provide the resources to do it. That kind of planning we gave up in 1992.


The Planning Commission should have come to an end by then, but it continues to flourish and the questions before Yojana Bhavan are longer. The Bhavan itself gets its powers from the PM; if public resources are less, those who have a say become more powerful: for there is less to go around. In that case ministries or states would hardly ever say they failed to get their "due" and the commission also becomes a good scapegoat. If quarrels inevitably start, then the planners are the guys to blame and of course they love that attention. When the Plan says that formula-based assistance has gone down and the formula was the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula, two honourable deputy chairmen of the commission, they actually become more powerful, for now they don't have to stick to a formula.


The other reason was more powerful. Direct allocations from the commission went down, which is what liberalisation was all about. But now the private sector was to do our bit. Nobody knew how. This is where the commission stepped in and developed the rules to make it happen — MCAs, RFQs, reverse bidding, viability gaps and you name it. But we don't like rules. If you are a Spartan, the rule is for the other guy. We are not China. The government of India is a house of glass. There is the CAG, Parliament, and the press. The same guys who berate you for delay can crucify you for "shielding" corruption.


Finally the great question. Arun Maira has reportedly written an essay on the Planning Commission as a think tank, but it is not yet up on the Planning Commission website, but I can say that it will never be a think tank like JNU or the Delhi School of Economics. I am sure Arun knows that and will build up its scenario role at an operative level, whether or not Kamal Nath likes a book here or there. This is where the big questions are going to be. What is the difference between the viability gap between the expressway and that road to the back of the beyond? Can the principles behind an RFQ be different? Do strategies matter in an uncertain world?


My problem is that they don't read, here and there, as much as they should any more. Otherwise there would have been a strategic perspective chapter in the Eleventh Plan, in which the chapter on perspectives was dropped. Let's hope Maira makes it up and the real debate begins.


The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand







 Afghan Partition

The former US envoy to India Robert Blackwill's call on Washington to accept a de facto partition of Afghanistan has got quite a bit of attention. This, however, is not the first time that a proposal to divide Afghanistan has been aired. Earlier some analysts had argued that redrawing of borders west of the river Indus is central to any durable peace in the so called Greater Middle East. Variations on the theme of map-making for a region stretching from Pakistan to Israel have been doing the rounds for a while.


Unlike many others, Blackwill is not making an abstract argument. His case for a de-facto partition is tied closely to a realistic assessment of US options in Afghanistan at a time when the war effort there is not going well. Yet, there will be real political resistance in Washington to any policy that explicitly calls for a partition of Afghanistan, de facto or de jure. It is likely to be considered only when all other options have been tried out unsuccessfully.


Paradoxically, the territorial arrangements in the Middle East negotiated at the end of the First World War have survived far longer than those designed at the same time in Europe. Meanwhile, few leaders of Afghanistan, whatever their ethnicity, press for a partition of their country.


Further partition in the north-western subcontinent is unlikely to emerge out of a deliberate policy choice in Washington. Nor can India make it happen as many in Pakistan seem to fear. The division of Afghanistan, if it does happen, will be an unintended consequence of decisions made by the major actors in Afghanistan. None of them is more important than the Pak Army.


Rawalpindi's obsessive search for a weak and pliable Afghan state could be the most likely cause for a potential break up of Afghanistan. Rawalpindi wants to have the kind of relationship with Kabul that the British Raj had. Lacking the resources of the Raj to establish an enduring strategic influence in Afghanistan, Rawalpindi has sought to promote extremist religious identity among the Pashtuns.


The Taliban and other Pashtun militant groups, then, have become Rawalpindi's instruments for influence across the Durand Line that formally divides the territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The problem for Pakistan is that the moment it reinstalls the Taliban in Afghanistan's power structure, there will be a reaction from other ethnic groups like the Tajiks and Hazaras. Pakistan's expanded influence in Kabul through the Taliban will bring other neighbours like Iran to push back.


While geography has given Pakistan the certain capacity to destabilise Afghanistan, it is not clear if Rawalpindi has the wisdom to build unity of purpose across the Durand Line.


Greater Khorasan


If Pashtunistan is one way of thinking about the partition of Afghanistan, Khorasan is the other. The term Khorasan, which literally means the land where the Sun rises, today refers to the north-eastern province of Iran centred around the historic city of Mashhad.


Khorasan, however, has come to symbolise many other agendas as well. If the Taliban imposes its brand of Islam on the whole of Afghanistan, the non-Pashtun minorities may have no choice to bid for a Khorasan in northern and western Afghanistan, so rooted in a Turko-Persian culture.


The geographic concept of a greater Khorasan encompasses vast stretches of the trans-Oxus regions of Central Asia and Afghanistan beyond the Hindu Kush. According to those who monitor the al Qaeda propaganda, the references to Khorasan are becoming frequent these days. The jihadis apparently believe that it is in Khorasan that they will win their first major victory while the final victory awaits them in the Levant.


War funds


Coming back to more immediate considerations, the US Congress remains the most important political variable in the Afghan war. The growing popular discomfort with the war was evident in the House of Representatives voting earlier this month on funds for President Barack Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan.


An amendment sponsored by Obama's fellow Democrats in the House demanding a complete timetable for full withdrawal from Afghanistan got 162 votes, the highest against the war until now. It was defeated by a 260-vote majority in a house of 435 thanks to Republican support.


But nine Republicans voted with the Democratic opponents of the war, that included the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The liberal Democrats want Obama to go beyond his vague promise of "starting" the withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011.








 During the heyday of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement in the late 1950s and the acrimony that marked the run-up to the creation of a unified Maharashtra state with Bombay as its capital, among the many arguments the pro-Maharashtra campaigners put forward was the contribution of some of its illustrious sons-of-the-soil to the national cause. Names such as Lokmanya Tilak and Vinoba Bhave were cited to justify how people of the region had always defended national unity and the demand for a separate state with Bombay as its capital was not an indication of any fissiparous tendencies. Tilak and Bhave were and are true national icons, and there can be little disagreement if the name of Dr B.R. Ambedkar is added to this list, just to name three.


However, if one were to trawl through the state's grimy headlines these days, and look at the competitive politics over claiming Maharashtra's pan-Marathi identity, it seems that those who claim to represent the Marathi manoos are only concerned about the standing of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the 17th century warrior-king. The political manipulation of the perception of what Shivaji fought for, and fertile imaginations of the Marathi nation being under similar siege in the 21st century, have spawned a clutch of contentious issues that threaten to further derail the priorities of a hapless state government.


By sheer coincidence, the Supreme Court has been involved in the two controversies that have got the attention of Maharashtra's politicians these last few days. First, the Central Government submitted an affidavit in the apex court negating Maharashtra's demand for 865 villages and the city of Belgaum, currently in Karnataka, to be merged into Maharashtra — a decades-old border conflict that has been kept alive only by Maharashtra's politicians. Days later, the court refused to justify the state government's 2004 ban on American author James Laine's controversial book, Shivaji: A Hindu King in Islamic India, triggering convulsions among the same worthies.


Separately, a struggle has broken out in Mumbai to be the first to prevent Mumbai International Airport Ltd from merely relocating a recently-erected statue of Shivaji on the airport premises to a more convenient location to help expand the country's most congested metro-city airport. Elsewhere, Raj Thackeray, the self-appointed protector of all things Marathi, has issued a diktat that people should stop dressing up as Shivaji at cultural events as that, according to him, is an insult to the Maratha king. Meanwhile, Congress minister Narayan Rane's MP-son Nilesh Rane has planned a 3-D 'Avatar-style' feature film on Shivaji and even before the script can be written angry voices have taken umbrage to rumours that "notorious" Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt was being cast as Shivaji.


The emotions that are frequently whipped up in the name of Shivaji, the regular expression of regional and ethnic insecurity, and the over-reaching craving for more territory despite being India's second largest state by area are all related to the greed of the state's rulers to book short-term political profit at the cost of ignoring the big picture in what was once the country's most industrialised and developed state. Shivaji is a low-hanging, emotional fruit Maharashtra's politicians and fringe groups can regularly pluck and throw at sections of the state which feel beholden to their ethnic identity in the absence of any other substantial sense of belonging.


And even when it comes to Shivaji, there is an obvious selective amnesia which seeks to remember only his valiant battles against the sultans of Bijapur and the Mughals. If Shiv Sena's founder-patriarch Bal Thackeray choosing to cite Shivaji standing up to the Mughal empire as a modern-day parallel for Mumbai taking on Delhi were not amusing, a newcomer to the state could not be faulted for mistaking it as the rant of a rebel chief in an insurgency-hit remote state. With rebelliousness being the keyword, there is obviously no mention of Shivaji's benevolence, tolerance, his respect for diversity and progressive rule. Which is also why modern day icons such as Bhave, Tilak and Ambedkar, whose seminal contributions to the Maharashtra and India we live in are much more tangible, rarely become mascots.


Maharashtra's undying desire for 865 villages in Karnataka's border districts of Belgaum, Bidar, Gulbarga and Karwar, as well as for Belgaum city itself, defies logic. True, there are Marathi speakers in these districts just as there are Kannada speakers on the other side and Gujarati speakers in Mumbai, Hindi speakers in Vidarbha, and so on. The reorganisation of states in the 1950s may not have been a perfect job like so many others and the debate over carving out smaller states from existing mega-states remains a volatile issue as Telangana so recently demonstrated. Why would Maharashtra want to absorb these districts, and add to its burden of governing an already unwieldy state? It has hardly done a great job of ensuring equitable development across its regions such as Marathwada, Vidarbha and the northern districts.


In fact, the state that was once India's industrial powerhouse is staring at an uncertain future. If language were the sole criteria for these villages to be a part of Maharashtra, then the same argument could be applied to Mumbai as well. Even at the time of the reorganisation of states, the Marathi population of Bombay was around 43 per cent. Today it is estimated at under 35 per cent. At neither time was it a majority but does that mean the protectors of Marathi pride will allow the debate over to whom or where Mumbai belongs, be reopened?


These are all irrational arguments that in no way can help revive the idea of a glorious Maharashtra and put it back on track to becoming, once again, the country's most progressive state. As a popular line goes, if you have not rebelled by the age of 20, you have no heart. And if you have not conformed by the age of 30, you have not grown up. Maharashtra turned 50 this year and it is high time the state conformed to the larger goal of equitable progress in a conflict-free environment. Even Shivaji Maharaj would wholeheartedly approve of that.






Comrades in Kerala are up in arms against a Kerala high court order banning of roadside public meetings and the latest issue of CPM mouthpiece People's Democracy reflects the anger. An article titled "Judiciary once again oversteps its jurisdiction" dubs the judgement as an encroachment into the executive's powers. It points out that the order would have far-reaching effects and notes that the court while giving its ruling did not desire to hear the government side and sent no notice to the government.


The article refers to Constitutional rights like freedom of speech and expression and freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms, to form associations or unions to criticise the judgement."Freedom of assembly includes the freedom to assemble in public places, to take part in a meeting and express views without any government restrictions. The constitution itself clarifies that 'the State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part (Part III of the Constitution which explains the fundamental rights) and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void.' But now a court, which is supposed to protect the fundamental rights of citizens from any infringement due to state intervention, has surprisingly ordered a ban on public meetings by the roadside!" it says.


Petrol maths


Rajya Sabha MP Shyamal Chakraborty looks into the recent petrol price hike in an article in People's Democracy. He points out that the production cost for petrol in the domestic market comes to Rs 23.02 per litre after refining. The rest is the customs and excise duty component. "So the statement that the hike in oil price is due to the price rise internationally is a light year away from truth! In fact it is a classic example of a half-truth. And we all know that a half-truth is more perilous than a lie," he says.


He rubbishes the oil PSUs are incurring losses argument and points out that the finance minister himself in his budget speech informed that he has collected an amount of Rs 56,365 crore from increased prices of petroleum products. "Has he given this amount to the oil companies? He could only spare Rs 14,058 crore for them. The rest, that is, Rs 42,307 crore was entirely digested by his ministry. Now he is talking of losses!" he says.


Thirdly, he argues that much of today's crude oil price is pure speculation driven by four major oil-trading banks — Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase — and points out that the oil companies had alleged that these four trading giants manipulated the rise in oil price last year from $70 to $140 a barrel.


"They are being patronised and supported by the US government to "run" their business. If the oil price shoots up to $140, a neat sum of $100 goes into their pockets. The more hoarding, the more is the profit... If there is the slightest hike in the global market, our great global FM Pranab Mukherjee who enjoys the blessings of our honourable global PM Manmohan Singh will rush to raise prices in the domestic market," he says.


Collaboration talk


The lead editorial in the CPM organ hits back at Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee for accused the party of being hand in glove with the BJP for organising the bandh on the same day. "Such temerity from a person who, in the first place, facilitated the formation of a government by the communal forces led by Vajpayee in 1998! Having served as a union cabinet minister, holding the same portfolio that she now holds in the Congress-led UPA government, she left the NDA in order to align with the Congress for the West Bengal state assembly elections in 2001. Soon after this alliance was trounced, she abandoned the Congress to rejoin the NDA, in the aftermath of the communal genocide in Gujarat. Having been an opportunistic bedfellow of the BJP, she now has the gumption to attack the CPM as 'collaborating with the BJP'!"


In the editorial, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury argues that the CPM and the Left parties had given the call for the hartal first. "Later, the BJP and its NDA allies gave a similar call on the same date," he says. "The CPM's credentials in fighting communalism and uncompromisingly upholding the secular democratic character of modern India is known to all. It must be recollected that in the 2004 general elections, of the 61 Left MPs in the Lok Sabha, 54 won by defeating the Congress candidates. Yet, in order to prevent the communal forces from staking claim to form the government again, the Left parties extended outside support to a secular government headed by the very same Congress party," the article says.


Complied by Manoj C.G.








I began hearing of the oracular octopus of Oberhausen while in South Africa at the World Cup, but these were unfiltered mutterings about a murky mussel-munching mollusk and I paid them little attention. Paul the octopus was no more than a starlet then, it seemed, destined to go the way of all spineless creatures, soon forgotten. One beak, three hearts, eight arms and a rumored nine brains could only take this German cephalopod so far.


But Paul's psychic powers proved greater than the sum of his parts, earning him a Facebook page and live global coverage of his unerring World Cup predictions. Calls have multiplied to have this invertebrate intuit everything from the end of the Greek financial crisis to the next Iraqi prime minister.


In case you missed it, Paul went eight for eight in the World Cup, predicting the outcome of Germany's seven matches (five wins and two losses), and Spain's triumph in the final. He chose before the matches from two transparent containers lowered into his tank. Each contained mussels and was adorned with the national flag of one side. Whichever team's food he devoured first would win.

My amateur math tells me the probability of his prodigious success was one in 512. That's impressive — and so what? Is Paul a suction-pod witch? Was he in touch with higher forces? And what of his keeper, Oliver Walenciak, who has claimed "exceptional powers" for the creature?


Here, I regret to say, we arrive at correlation and causation (you can have one without the other). For

enlightenment, I turned to David Brillinger in the statistics department at the University of California, Berkeley. He was less than overwhelmed by Paul, pointing to various "nonsense correlations," like the one that said the candidate with the longer name never lost the race for the U.S. presidency. That worked from 1932, when Roosevelt beat Hoover, to 1960, when Kennedy beat Nixon, but came apart when Goldwater lost to Johnson in 1964. That's eight elections, of course, exactly the number of matches Paul predicted.


Mine any data in the right way — like those elections — and you can find remarkable coincidences or "streaks." Pharmaceutical companies testing a new vaccine or drug might be tempted to examine data over 100 days if the data over 365 days is unpersuasive. Correlation can become a substitute for causation.


But what data could Paul have been mining in his aquarium?


I consulted my friend and tennis partner Greg Schwed, who first betrayed his penchant for statistical theory by explaining the permutations of having eight tennis players play three doubles matches over two hours on two courts, which is what we and six others do once a week. It appears that having everybody play with everybody is only possible if you have two players in the same matches throughout — or something like that.

And what of the octopus-sage? Schwed was downright dismissive. The story of Paul put him in mind of that old canard, the Super Bowl Indicator, or "SBI." According to the SBI, if a team from the old National Football League won the Super Bowl of American football, typically played in late January, the stock market would go up for the rest of the year. From 1967 (the first Super Bowl) through 1997, it was uncannily accurate, correctly predicting the broad market trend for 28 of the 31 years. But after 1997, the SBI slumped and was 0 for 4 in the following four years.


Now, as Schwed pointed out, it's possible that there was a correlation in the sense that superstitious traders, seeing the Super Bowl result, decided to buy and so sent the market up. Just as it's possible, as Brillinger noted, that Walenciak, the octopus feeder, subconsciously put more tempting food in the "more likely" box — although Germany's loss to Serbia was a surprise.


I think we're dealing with a case of Jungian "synchronicity," which the great psychiatrist described as "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events."


The World Cup, after all, is the world's most watched event. If any occurrence — social, emotional, psychological and spiritual — is capable of channeling human energy to an octopus in Oberhausen, then surely this one is. The relationship between Paul's eating choices and the World Cup results may not be causal in nature, but, hey, I'm prepared to believe it speaks of Jung's deeper order, one that connects man and mollusk.


It was a great World Cup. The best team won. Without eating mussels, I predicted a Spanish victory at the outset before having a German wobble caused by emotion to which octopi are immune.


Speaking of emotion, Germans got upset with Paul for predicting their team's semi-final loss to Spain, calling for him to be roasted, as witches were once. I'm partial to well-spiced octopus but think Paul can be put to better uses, among them predicting possible outcomes of BP's attempts to cap the Gulf oil spill. The depths ought to be his element — even more than the beautiful game.









I'm so scared" said Arjun Bhatia's mother to his beleaguered father. Arjun, three and a half, jumped on and off the sofa unmindful of the "trauma and tension associated with nursery school admissions" — precisely what the Ganguli Committee report (2006) had sought to prevent. That well-intentioned scheme, with marks assigned for proximity to the school, alumni status, sibling presence and girl child applications, has unfortunately been twisted out of shape.


Thousands of hapless parents continue to hurtle from one school to another to get a child admitted. The government says it is helpless, because the scheme is not of its creation but the result of judicial fiat. The maximum manipulation takes place when the management assigns a whopping 20 per cent to 40 per cent marks for "educational and professional qualifications" of parents — with no criteria. Another area where schools fiddle admissions is the 10 per cent "management quota". When some upmarket schools command up to Rs 10 lakh per seat, this quota is stretched elastically.


For these and several other reasons, the nursery admission process remains unfair and convoluted. Nothing can be explain how a kid from Bengali Market, with both parents in professional jobs, was denied admission to every school in New Delhi. And what is a toddler from Anand Vihar in East Delhi doing in a school on Mathura Road 20 km away if the neighbourhood concept is being implemented?


Hundreds of bleary eyed four-year-olds are wrenched out of bed, lifted bodily and dispatched in a trundling school bus at 6:45 am, to return only at about 4 pm. "It's torturing the child" says Dr R.K. Sharma a veteran of the Delhi education department.


What then is the bigger picture? Half of Delhi's 1200 recognised public schools admit children into nursery; between them they account for 40,000 nursery seats throughout Delhi. With approximately 250,000 infants born each year calculating the numbers seeking nursery admission is child's play. The bulk of children from the lower middle and working classes go to government or municipal schools, whether owned or aided. That still leaves at least 50,000 families, mainly from the upper-middle class, seeking admission in privately-run schools.


Of the 600 private schools offering nursery admission, only 150 belong to what the education directorate's officers tend to call "hi-fi" schools. And because these are predominantly located in three districts — New Delhi, south, and south-west Delhi — upwardly mobile parents make a beeline there. East Delhi with a huge and upmarket resident profile has only 10 "hi-fi" schools. Another 130 schools in the district are termed "moderate", a euphemism for "simply not good enough".


Given these numbers, and that at stake is not just a nursery admission for a four-year-old but the child's 14 subsequent years — and perhaps his college prospects and career options— it is inevitable that the managements of sought- after schools are battered with influence and money.


What is the way out? First, the education directorate plays an important task while "recognising" private schools. Inspections are conducted to check existence of prescribed benchmarks which include infrastructure, the presence of properly trained and salaried teachers, water and fire services and a range of extracurricular activities. When all this information is available, it ought to be shared on the the directorate's website, with the result of the last inspection and the previous year's school-leaving examination results. That would give a better idea of the school's quality and educational attainment.


Second, segregate unaided private nursery and primary schools from the middle and secondary schools. The entry point for middle school should be Class 6. Until then children should attend nearby schools as a matter of right — and use their precious childhood to learn socialisation skills, the three "R"s, and to play and express themselves with abandon. That is the system the world over. Why not here?


Admission into Class 6 should be done on the basis of an objective-type test among recognised private schools, seat allotment made on the basis of merit-cum-preference, and finally through a lottery within the qualified group. The Delhi Education Act of 1976 should be amended to ensure that primary and middle school management is separated and the merit-cum-preference test for admission to middle schools is administered much like centralised examinations for professional courses. The idea has worked well in the United States, which runs "magnet schools" which attract the best students, and no pressure and stress issues stand in the way there.


The result would be fewer panicky parents, an authentic picture of school performance to guide them, and little or no stress on the young child whose real chance will come at age 12, not 4. The present laissez-faire approach has been disastrous.


Of course the RTE Act will need amending, to allow for middle school admission tests after Class 5. This screening has produced tens of thousands of shining students, via the Jawahar Navodyas and the Delhi government's Pratibha schools. We need more of that ethos and less shackles on children's childhood.


The writer is a former Chief Secretary of Delhi









The furore over the withdrawal of the cashless hospitalisation services by the four major public sector general insurance companies of India from July 1 would not have been so intense if we had developed taxpayer-funded primary universal healthcare as the foundation for the current system to flourish over it. That is the norm in most OECD countries. Per se, across the world, the allegation of over-billing by some private hospitals is part of the continuous run-in faced by this sector in balancing healthcare with profitability. The health insurance sector's biggest concern is the management of losses. Numbers show that though health insurance has been the most buoyant segment of the domestic non-life insurance industry—with premiums going up almost five-fold from Rs 1,670 crore in 2004-05 to Rs 6,625 crore in 2008-09 and accounting for one-fifth of the non-life insurance market—it continues to make large losses. The ratio of the net incurred claims to net premium has touched 106% in 2008-09. What is surprising is the sharp difference in the claim ratio between the public insurance companies, where the ratio almost touched 117%, and the private companies where the ratio was just 85%. More worrisome is the divergent trend in the two sectors.


Between 2007-08 and 2008-09, the incurred claims in the public sector companies deteriorated from 112% to 117% even while the private insurance companies improved their claims ratio from 95% to 85%. This substantial difference cannot be solely due to the private sector efficiencies alone, as public sector companies compete well in other non-life insurance areas like fire insurance. A key factor is third party administrators (TPA), who help in member enrolment, hospital network development and claim processing services on behalf of the insurance companies. A committee set up by the insurance regulator in 2008 to evaluate the administrators found that their core activity has become the provision of cashless services, which accounted for around half the claims handled by them. It also highlighted the significant variation in the cost of treatment for the same ailment across providers in different geographies, low incentives for fraud control, leakages and lack of control in health claims processing, and the prevalence of non-standard billing and payment processes (which seems to have been the main reason for the current stalemate, too). The TPA system has rendered yeoman service to the health insurance industry by adding around 15,000 hospitals to the health insurance delivery chain and has now grown to more than two dozen outfits. But despite Irda's professed neutrality on the issue, it will, in all probability, be sucked into it. The long-run answer must be to develop a universal healthcare model as the base, funded by taxpayer money.







The European debt crisis and a steep rise in operating expenses took the shine off the first quarter results of Infosys Technologies, usually the first major Indian company to announce its quarterly results. A 7% drop in net profit sequentially and a 2.4% drop YoY impacted the markets, overshadowing the company's buoyant revenue guidance for the financial year. The stock market was surprised as it was betting on a strong performance by the country's second-largest software company to guide the Sensex past 18,000 at close, a level it has not reached for more than two years. The upward revision of Infosys's revenue guidance of $5.72 billion to $5.81 billion in FY11—a growth of 19-21% YoY—is quite upbeat, as it has not projected such a rise since 2007. This indicates that the markets are factoring in the fallout of the European debt crisis as the continent is the second-largest market for Indian outsourcers after the US. Indian IT companies will have to live with this prolonged crisis, which will crimp their revenue. In fact, a report from research firm Forrester last month had warned that Europe's volatile economic situation and uncertainty about corporate IT budgets would result in possible delays or cancellations of some outsourcing projects. On the brighter side, Infosys Technologies saw its revenue increase by 4.2% sequentially on the back of better demand from the US, despite a weaker euro. Though the volatility in the currency markets and weak pricing may have hurt the bottom line of the IT bellwether, the recovery in the US suggests that outsourcing is gradually gaining currency once again after the global financial crisis and companies are looking at this model to reduce their costs. This augurs well for Indian IT companies and they will have to make strong investments in manpower training and move up the value chain to grab a bigger slice of the pie of the global outsourcing business.


Interestingly, Infosys's revenue from banking and financial services, the industry that was the worst hit during the global financial crisis, has increased 8.8% sequentially. This is better than 5.9% a year ago. During the quarter, the company also added 38 new clients and saw marginal improvement in the domestic business. However, the company's net addition of 1,026 employees in April-June, which is its slowest pace of addition in four quarters, indicates that the recovery is still at a nascent stage. A clear picture for the Indian IT sector will emerge once the other IT companies report their results. But going ahead, the trend for the result season may be evident in the IIP numbers rather than in the results announced on Tuesday.









 'Double-dip recession' is an economic jargon that is in vogue these days. The origin of the word is in a popular sitcom called Seinfeld. In a classic episode, Jerry Seinfeld's best friend, George, commits a disgusting food etiquette faux pas at an elite party. He dips his corn chip in a common bowl of sauce, takes a bite and then quickly dips his half-bitten grub in the common bowl again. The entire episode rotates around this unsavoury and unhygienic act of 'double-dipping', which is how the expression became popular. A double-dip recession is a dip—an economic downturn that technically ends with a fleeting period of growth, but is quickly followed by a second dip—another period of unsavoury economic declines. In the real world soap opera called the 'global economy', the economic potboiler is being played out by a cast of characters such as an unwieldy government deficit, a demanding tax regime, a sceptical consumer base and an anaemic labour market, to name a few. Let's look at each of these characters to see which way the show seems headed.


All large governments are taking steps to reduce spending. At the last G-20 meeting held in June, all the 20 members pledged to cut their deficits. In India—notwithstanding possibilities of an even higher inflation and a prohibitive political cost—the government has already slashed fuel subsidy, which would reduce the country's fiscal deficit by more than Rs 50,000 crore. Almost all the countries in Europe, notably Greece and Spain, have begun instituting comprehensive austerity programmes. In the US, deficit hawks recently voted down a Bill that would have extended unemployment benefits so as to curtail government expenditure. Countries are now caught choosing between cutting spending that could risk stunting growth or providing additional stimulus to pump life back into the fragile recovery. It is estimated that over the next year, spending cuts throughout the developed world will chop a full percentage point off from GDP growth globally.


Most governments plan to reduce their deficit by not just reducing costs but also by increasing revenues. Last month, the new coalition government in Britain hiked VAT and capital gains tax, a package that has already been dubbed as 'bloodbath'. For high fiscal deficit countries, it's not a question of whether taxes will go up, it's more a question of when. In the US, virtually all the tax cuts provided in 2001 and 2003 by former President George Bush, popularly known as 'Bush tax cuts', expire at the end of this year and are unlikely to be extended. A popular corollary in economics states that tax hikes reduce GDP growth and empirically, the ratio is supposed to be 3:1, i.e., if taxes go up by 1% of GDP, then GDP falls by 3%. The tax cuts that expire this year are equivalent to a 2% jump in taxes as a percentage of GDP. Consequently, GDP growth next year should be 6% lower than what it would have been without the tax hike. This in itself could be a catalyst that can make the chances of a second dip pretty high and reasonably imminent.


It is of small irony in this soap opera that lawmakers, such as Senator Ben Nelson, who were instrumental in passing the 'Bush tax cuts'—which cost the US government a cool $1,300 billion—have recently voted to cut unemployment benefits, worth a small $77 billion in comparison, on the grounds that the government couldn't afford it! The unwieldy government deficit is now refusing to nurse the anaemic job market. The Euro area unemployment rate is 10%. Now, these are official figures and government officials tend to use seasonally adjusted measures that are usually conservative, so as not to make it seem that they are not doing enough. The unemployment rate in the US is currently 9.5%, a far cry from the less than 6% levels in the worst of times since 1940s. Even that is a conservative estimate because job seekers who remain without jobs for more than 26 weeks have lost unemployment benefits because of government spending cuts. They don't necessarily list themselves with the State Unemployment Office, resulting in an understated unemployment figure. A recovery without jobs can only flatter to deceive because high unemployment instigates low consumer confidence and spending. A weak labour market, accompanied by gloomy consumer confidence and sceptical consumer spending, raises the spectre of the economy falling back into recession.


The governments in the US and Europe seem to be out of ammunition. They have already deployed monetary policy measures to the fullest extent possible and have cut down interest rates to levels that cannot go any lower. They are now in a precarious position where they cannot provide any more fiscal stimulus, so as to not hazard the credibility of government's finances, like in the case of Greece. They need to cut down spending and hike taxes while the recovery is faltering. In the past, governments could allow tax cuts to stimulate GDP growth and could afford fiscal measures to find their way out of recession. That isn't an option this time around. After one of the deepest recessions since the Great Depression, the last thing the global economy and the ranks of the unemployed need is a second period of negative economic growth. It is a daunting prospect.


The author, formerly with JPMorgan Chase, is CEO, Quantum Phinance








Hydropower PSUs like NHPC and SJVN are increasingly losing ground to private players. They are unable to match terms offered by the latter for allocation of projects because of prevailing policy constraints. The government has not allowed PSUs to offer upfront premium and extra free power for allocation of projects on the grounds that this would add to power generation costs, leading to a rise in the overall electricity tariff level of the country. There is nothing wrong with this policy intention. However, it does not seem to be serving the objective. The goal of the national hydropower policy is to encourage competition in the sector. But the existing policy constrains PSUs from competing against private players on an equal footing.


Hydro resources belong to states and they are asserting their right to optimise revenues from harnessing them. It is not clear how the Centre will achieve its stated goal of keeping hydro electricity tariffs low, when it has no control over the harnessing of hydro resources. States are in no mood to heed the Union power ministry's policy advice.


Significantly, hydropower projects are perceived as a risky investment. PSUs are well-placed to manage risks involved in the implementation of hydropower projects. PSUs have proved their capability by executing large-sized and multipurpose hydropower projects. It would be unfortunate if they lose interest in the sector. Private projects operate under merchant policy regime and can earn hefty profits by selling their power in the free market, unlike PSU projects where allocation is made by the government and tariffs are determined by electricity regulatory commissions. The hydro policy allows hydropower plants to sell 40% of their generated power in the free market. However, the Centre's overriding concern to keep electricity tariffs low keeps PSU plants from benefiting from this provision.


States cannot be blamed for demanding upfront premium and offering extra free power for allocation of hydro projects. When the Centre cannot dissuade states from charging upfront premium and extra free power, there is no point in preventing PSUs from offering similar terms for allocation of projects. In any case, it has no control over how states want to harness their hydro resources. In the same vein, it also cannot stop private players from offering upfront premium and additional free power.


India has the potential to generate 150 gw from hydro resources. But thus far, it has harnessed only 25% of the potential. This is because the gestation period of hydropower projects is much longer than that of thermal power projects. Besides, there is the risk of time and cost overruns because of geological surprises. If the PSUs continue to lose projects because of policy constraints, the pace of capacity addition to hydropower generation in the country could further slow down.


PSUs are able to compete against private players for allocation of hydropower projects in other countries as they are not constrained to match the latter's terms. For example, SJVN has bagged the Arun-III project in competitive bidding. It has offered 22% free power to get the project. It will have the freedom to sell power generated from the plant in free market in India, which offers the promise of making profit for the company. It is unfortunate that because of policy constraints, SJVN is unable to compete with private players in India. It is going to other countries for projects. Power availability, even at a higher price, is a much better option than load-shedding.


That is the reason Indian PSUs are ready to implement projects in neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal and export power to India despite high transmission costs. The Indian government is also encouraging hydro PSUs to invest in these countries because this is also an option for overcoming the country's growing power shortfall. But surprisingly, the Centre is unable to shed its policy dilemma on allowing PSUs a level playing field in India.


Hydropower is cheaper than other sources because there is no recurring fuel cost. If India can expedite the pace of harnessing hydro resources for power generation, it would ease some of the upward pressure building on tariffs for power available from coal- and gas-based plants. This would, in turn, help the Indian industry to keep its electricity cost under check and stay competitive. Peak power shortage in the country is currently estimated at 12%. It is projected to further rise in the coming years. Hydropower plants are a good source of meeting the peak power requirement. So, India needs to quicken the pace of capacity addition in hydropower if it has to find a credible solution to its worsening peak power shortage.









The recent redemption by banks from liquid-plus debt funds has taken fund houses by surprise. They are now on a firefighting measure, with some mutual funds contemplating an exit load to contain their assets. But it is probably too late. Banks have redeemed Rs 80,000 crore out of a total of Rs 1,20,000 crore from the industry in June. The exit load at best would only help retain the money that would anyway remain.


While liquidity crunch was the major driver for redemptions, liquid-plus schemes are no longer in vogue. These schemes were originally introduced by fund houses to give an extra kick to returns of regular liquid funds, by investing in longer-tenured bonds. Till date, they have lived up to the promise, with liquid-plus schemes giving an average return of 4.8% in the past year, outperforming the returns of ultra-short term at 4.2%.


This outperformance was aided by the existing Sebi rule, which allows NAV smoothing for bonds with terminal maturity of less than 182 days. In other words, NAV pricing could be increased till maturity—day after day—regardless of what price it fetched in the bond market. So, many liquid-plus funds bought bonds with longer maturity (up to 181 days) and ended up earning slightly higher returns without witnessing more volatility as compared to an ultra-short-term fund.


But now, with the new Sebi rule, there is a possibility of NAV correction on day one. Why so? Interest rates have risen in the last one month and on July 27, when RBI meets for the monetary policy review, there could be another spike in rates. And coincidentally, because the new Sebi rule on NAV valuation (which now makes mark-to-market compulsory for all bonds with terminal maturity of 91 days) kick-starts from August 1, it is prudent not to take that portfolio risk. No wonder, there have been huge redemptions. Of course, the liquidity crunch also has made them fall over each other to redeem at a rapid pace. While redemptions in debt funds are usually followed by subsequent inflows, it is likely that these inflows will not come back to liquid-plus schemes. A great arbitrage product just breathed its last. Even an exit load can't save it.








The sexual abuse of children is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. It is an appalling violation of their trust, an ugly breach of our commitment to protect the innocent. Reliable estimates are hard to come by since this is a furtive form of abuse, often causing victims to suffer in dark and claustrophobic silence. A 2007 study by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) found that 53.22 per cent of India's children have experienced some form of sexual abuse. Against this background, the lack of specific provisions for child sexual abuse in our criminal law is a serious lacuna. Rape is an offence under the Indian Penal Code, but lesser forms of sexual offences against children, which constitute a broad range including groping and harassment, are covered by grossly inadequate and inexact provisions such as "outraging the modesty of a woman." The second working draft of the Protection of Children from Sexual Assault Bill addresses this weakness by specifying various forms of sexual abuse against girls and boys under the age of 18. The gender neutrality of the proposed legislation is noteworthy since sexual abuse against boys, despite naive presumptions to the contrary, is rampant. The MWCD report, which surveyed 12,447 children, found the majority of victims (52.94 per cent) were boys. Significantly, the draft Bill permits sexual activity if a person is above 16 years of age, provided such activity satisfies the definition of consent as laid down by it.


The provisional draft, which has emerged from consultations between the Law Ministry and NGOs, provides for stringent punishments, ranging from three years in prison for sexual harassment to life imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault. More importantly, it deals with sexual abuse in a comprehensive and sensitive manner. Apart from prescribing that all such cases be tried in special courts, the draft specifies procedures to be followed for recording a child's evidence, for protecting his or her identity, and for providing the child with assistance from NGOs and experts in pre-trial and trial stages. A grave flaw in the draft, which is strongly opposed by some activists who have been critical in its very formulation, is that the burden of proof has been shifted on to the accused. This could encourage the misuse of the law — for example, when bitterly estranged couples fight divorce or custody cases — and the Law Ministry must seriously consider deleting the 'reverse onus' provision. It would be a shame if a sound and progressive law is allowed to be marred by something that controverts the basic jurisprudential canon that people accused of crimes are presumed innocent until found guilty.







The sexual abuse of children is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. It is an appalling violation of their trust, an ugly breach of our commitment to protect the innocent. Reliable estimates are hard to come by since this is a furtive form of abuse, often causing victims to suffer in dark and claustrophobic silence. A 2007 study by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) found that 53.22 per cent of India's children have experienced some form of sexual abuse. Against this background, the lack of specific provisions for child sexual abuse in our criminal law is a serious lacuna. Rape is an offence under the Indian Penal Code, but lesser forms of sexual offences against children, which constitute a broad range including groping and harassment, are covered by grossly inadequate and inexact provisions such as "outraging the modesty of a woman." The second working draft of the Protection of Children from Sexual Assault Bill addresses this weakness by specifying various forms of sexual abuse against girls and boys under the age of 18. The gender neutrality of the proposed legislation is noteworthy since sexual abuse against boys, despite naive presumptions to the contrary, is rampant. The MWCD report, which surveyed 12,447 children, found the majority of victims (52.94 per cent) were boys. Significantly, the draft Bill permits sexual activity if a person is above 16 years of age, provided such activity satisfies the definition of consent as laid down by it.


The provisional draft, which has emerged from consultations between the Law Ministry and NGOs, provides for stringent punishments, ranging from three years in prison for sexual harassment to life imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault. More importantly, it deals with sexual abuse in a comprehensive and sensitive manner. Apart from prescribing that all such cases be tried in special courts, the draft specifies procedures to be followed for recording a child's evidence, for protecting his or her identity, and for providing the child with assistance from NGOs and experts in pre-trial and trial stages. A grave flaw in the draft, which is strongly opposed by some activists who have been critical in its very formulation, is that the burden of proof has been shifted on to the accused. This could encourage the misuse of the law — for example, when bitterly estranged couples fight divorce or custody cases — and the Law Ministry must seriously consider deleting the 'reverse onus' provision. It would be a shame if a sound and progressive law is allowed to be marred by something that controverts the basic jurisprudential canon that people accused of crimes are presumed innocent until found guilty.










The evolution of government-led population stabilisation efforts in India goes back to the start of the five year development plans in 1951-52. A national programme was launched, which emphasised 'family planning' to the extent necessary to reduce birth rates to stabilise the population at a level consistent with the requirements of the national economy. A clinic-based approach with equal emphasis on natural methods like rhythm as on some contraceptives was taken, but cautiously. Alongside, there were efforts towards awareness-building and research on new contraceptives and their acceptability.


A Family Planning Research and Programme Committee was constituted. At its first meeting in Bombay in July 1953, the committee took a comprehensive and broad view of family planning. To quote from its report: "The committee emphasised that the family planning programme should not be conceived of in the narrow sense of birth control or merely of spacing of the birth of children. The purpose of Family Planning was to promote, as far as possible, the growth of the family as a unit of society, in a manner designed to facilitate the fulfilment of those conditions which were necessary for the welfare of the unit from the social, economic and cultural points of view. The functions of a Family Planning Centre would include sex education, marriage counselling, marriage hygiene, the spacing of children, and advice on such other measures (including on infertility) as necessary to promote welfare of the families."


Around the same period, in China the new Communist government under Mao Zedong looked at population basically as an asset, and took many benign measures aimed at social development. These brought in more equitable access to basic health, education, assets (including revolutionary re-distribution of land) and income over the next 20 years. The concept of family planning services that China followed was in tune with what the Family Planning Research and Programme Committee had conceptualised.


Instead of a top-down, prescriptive target approach, China went in for a localised community approach. The Cultural Revolution made the bureaucrats and service providers more responsive and accountable to local party hierarchies, communes and production brigades, and purged them of their elitist-intellectual hatred or indifference to peasants. They became more alert to the needs of the communities and were responsible to meet these needs in an equitable manner.


Such a style of governance brought in quick results in all indicators of social development including women's status; and the fertility rate came down sharply by the 1970s. The perception of the families and that of the state converged when it came to the acceptance of a small family norm. Only with western education, the threat perception of growing numbers took deep roots in the mindset of some Chinese scholars and leaders. They advocated restrictive population policies such as the 'one-child policy.' But this appears to have created societal and family problems such as skewed sex ratio, female infanticide and foeticide, rather than helping in a smooth stabilisation of the population. There are thus lessons to be learnt from the Chinese experience in governance. In India we tend to misrepresent the Chinese story whenever we compare the Indian situation for advocating coercive policies like the "two-child norm" and the concomitant regime of incentives and disincentives to solve the population problem quickly.


It is a pity that we paid only lip-service to the rational and sane advice of the Family Planning Research and Programme Committee in 1953, and instead adopted disjointed, verticalised and top-down contraceptive programmes with targets of sterilisation. Although the programme was integrated with maternal and child health during the Fourth Plan (1969-74), and further with health and nutrition in the Fifth Plan (1974-79) with the creation of multi-purpose workers, introduction of mass motivational efforts and population education, the primary objective was to achieve targets of male and female sterilisation imposed from above. The compulsory and coercive nature of the programme during 1975 and 1976 made it highly unpopular.


The drive to reduce population growth by means of stand-alone family planning initiatives in India, with technical and financial back-up from U.S. and international bodies became a paramount concern. But its "impact on the experience of the poor and marginalised" has, more often than not, been negative, disastrous and inhuman.


The paradigm shift that occurred with the conduct of the International Conference on Population & Development (ICPD) 1994 gave a new, but more realistic, dimension to the resolution of the population problem in all circumstances. It has been realised that the "target" approach to reducing the population has been ineffective, and has to be rejected straightway. Governments in many countries are moving away from narrow demographic approaches to population issues, to focus on issues of "gender inequality" and lack of "reproductive rights and choices" as key factors contributing to the problems of population growth.


The Government of India's family planning programme was being criticised by non-governmental organisations, women's groups and rights-based scholars for its lack of concern for, and sensitivity to, human rights and dignity abuses associated with the target approach. In view of these concerns and sustained campaigns, and upon India signing the ICPD Programme of Action in 1994, the government abolished the system of targets. The "target-free" reproductive and child health care approach was accepted from 1997.


The Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) programme approach (further backed up by a solid national policy on population in 2000) opened a new vista with "a decentralised planning approach" and a more comprehensive and holistic vision of "women's health" throughout the life cycle. Goals are to be set primarily at the district and block levels, based on the village work plans of local communities prepared with a Community Needs Assessment (CNA) approach. Family planning/contraceptive targets for specified numbers of acceptors are to be replaced by targets that could serve as indicators of the "quality of health and family planning care needed and provided."


There are some diehard 'population control' exponents who have not reconciled themselves to the paradigm shift, and who feel more comfortable with an authoritarian policy regime of quantitative targets, in order to achieve quick-fix solution implementation. They often deride the "target-free" approach as one that leads to complete lack of accountability and lack of quick and visible results on the ground (as reflected in the administrative reports). Such a mindset is understandable inasmuch as most of the present generation of politicians, bureaucrats and scholars have been trained and oriented in Neo-Malthusian studies of population and have been players in or witness to the implementation of maternal and child health policies, which "throughout India have been dominated by Family Planning and driven by numerical targets for so long that it will take time for a fundamental reorientation to transpire…. It is yet to take deep roots in peoples' minds …"

The operationalisation of the National Population Policy and the RCH strategy has not been taken up with sincerity in many districts. Some State governments simply linked together pre-existing programmes concerning family planning, child survival and safe motherhood, reproductive tract infection, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion services. And, "Family Planning remained the dominant force in the equation." The numerical family planning targets fixed from above have not been completely given up. They refer to the "expected level of achievement" – a euphemism for "top-down targets." The ambivalent instructions and directions from some State governments complicate the situation further.


The increase in female literacy, women's increasing role in panchayati raj institutions, the formation of consortia and watchdog institutions of non-governmental organisations, community based organisations, self-help groups and gender and rights activists will ensure commitment to active participation in, and better implementation of, the target-free reproductive health and family planning strategy at the community level. Any deviation from, or distortion of, the basic norms of the new strategy should not be allowed. Human Rights Commissions and Women's Commissions at the national and State levels have to play a vital role here. More systematic and evidence-based advocacy efforts have to be mounted by advocates and researchers who have fully internalised the paradigm shift, and the elite target audiences at different levels have to be educated and influenced to stay the course. This is the key challenge.


(This is an abridged version of one of the 'Advocacy Papers' of the Population Foundation of India, 2010. The author, a former Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, is Executive Director of the PFI. July 11 marked World Population Day.)









As India and Pakistan move the latest phase of their engagement to the foreign minister level, a curious shift in national attitudes and priorities on the bilateral front is now evident.


Earlier, it was New Delhi that expressed its inability to resume a substantial dialogue on the 'core' dispute of Kashmir unless the terrorism issue was addressed. On its part, Islamabad treated with suspicion any suggestion that talks could be held on secondary questions first while Kashmir was postponed to a later date. So it was that a feeble attempt India made last September to talk about only humanitarian issues at the Joint Secretary level pending the eventual resumption of "substantive dialogue" never got off the ground. Nine months later, the Indian side has come around to the view that the "complex negotiations" on Kashmir which took place in the back channel with Pakistan from 2004 to 2007 were leading to a favourable outcome and ought to be revived, even if total satisfaction on the terrorism front is not forthcoming. But it is the Pakistani side which today is in no position to pick up the threads of the Kashmir dialogue.


The official Indian perception of the reason why this is so is that the Pakistani military never fully backed the Musharraf formula of leaving the territorial status quo in Jammu and Kashmir intact while evolving ways of making the Line of Control irrelevant for the people of the state. In an essay for the Harvard International Review in 2009 written before he was named National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon said India had two worries about the back channel — whether future governments in Pakistan would respect any agreement which emerged and whether the "internally omnipotent Pakistan Army" was on board. "The first question was never put to the test and remains unanswered", he said. "All too soon the second was answered in the negative".


In an all the Track-II meetings I have taken part in with Pakistani analysts, politicians and ex-officials in recent months, it has become abundantly clear that virtually no section of the political, bureaucratic or military establishment is willing to buy in to the back channel. For the politicians, the problem with the emerging Kashmir formula lies with Musharraf's paternity, which they are reluctant to embrace; as for the bureaucrats, they resent the role played by an outsider like Tariq Aziz. Each of these aversions can be remedied quite easily but unless the reasons for the military's opposition are understood, any attempt to revive the back channel is bound to flounder.


As long as the Pakistani military feels it has better options in hand, it will not support the kind of back-channel dialogue which took place earlier. One can argue that the traditional Pakistani approach of supporting separatism, militancy and terrorism is hardly likely to succeed but the metric for success the army brass is looking at is not a favourable outcome in Kashmir. What is at stake are options that help to entrench the military as the most powerful and indispensable institution in the country in the years ahead, when the demands for genuine democracy and federalism become more insistent.


For the moment, the Pakistani military's attitude towards the back channel, Kashmir and India is strictly a function of the cards it believes it holds in the wider 'AfPak' game. This is a game full of peril and promise, where the potential for strategic gains for it are evenly matched by the prospect of catastrophe. For decades, the establishment nurtured extremist groups which acted as force multipliers against democratic forces within as well as against India and Afghanistan. If Musharraf was willing to look at the possibility of reaching an agreement with India in Kashmir, this was mainly because internal political circumstances and the Bush administration's blunders in Iraq meant the military establishment was not under pressure to surrender positions on the domestic and Afghan fronts. Both of these equations began to change from 2007 onward. The lawyers' movement, the return of civilian rule and the American surge in Afghanistan have rendered the establishment's assets and interests vulnerable all round. Under the new circumstances, a settlement in Kashmir would jeopardise the ability of the army to project itself as the custodian of Pakistan against a perpetually hostile India.


Even if the establishment had no direct hand in the November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, the ensuing tension was helpful because it gave the Pakistani army an alibi to resist American pressure to do more on the Afghan front. Though the Manmohan Singh government almost immediately indicated that it had no intention of taking military action, the absence of dialogue for more than a year allowed Islamabad to keep up the illusion that the primary threat confronting the country was India and not terrorism. Today, with Pakistan under pressure to open the North Waziristan battle front, New Delhi's willingness to resume sustained high-level dialogue is aimed as much at making bilateral gains and building trust as at creating a conducive regional atmosphere for military operations against the Taliban and other extremist groups.


The attempted bombing of Times Square in New York by a terrorist with links to Pakistan-based groups and the recent suicide attack on the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore also mean the domestic and international alignment of stars is the most propitious for such an undertaking. But India has a vital role to play in not giving the Pakistani military an excuse to sidestep this vital agenda. During his visit to Islamabad, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna should try to review the full-range of confidence-building measures India and Pakistan have agreed to in recent years and discuss ways of taking them forward. Back channel talks will have to wait but that does not mean India should resist the resumption of 'front channel' talks on Kashmir if the requirement of domestic optics makes them necessary for Pakistan.











Among all the games that India and Pakistan routinely play with each other, a particularly obnoxious one is called "exchange of prisoners."


On the eve of an important India-Pakistan meeting, Islamabad will announce the release of a certain number of Indian prisoners from jails in Pakistan, and New Delhi will announce a similar release of Pakistani prisoners from Indian jails.


The prisoners are loaded into buses, taken to the Wagha border, where they cross over to their home country, pursued by excited reporters asking them how they were treated by the other country. Both governments bask in the "goodwill" they have shown the other side.


Thus, ahead of last month's Foreign Secretaries and Home Minister-level talks, Pakistan released 17 Indian prisoners and India, four Pakistani prisoners.


But lost under the hype is the important fact that the prisoners completed their sentences months or even years ago and should have been released long before this.


It takes a special kind of cynicism to keep people imprisoned for years after they should have been rightfully freed, and then make their belated release sound like a favour.


Calling it a "goodwill gesture" cannot disguise the reality, which is that the two governments blatantly use prisoners of the other side as pawns on the bilateral chessboard — to be released or held back depending on the kind of message that one side wants to convey to the other, to drive a diplomatic bargain, or to play tit-for-tat. It helps that almost all prisoners are poor and powerless.


The appalling attitude towards prisoners was spectacularly exposed earlier this year, when the Union government argued in the Supreme Court against a petition seeking the release of Pakistanis who had completed their sentence, on the ground that their release must await the release of the same number of Indian prisoners by Pakistan. As it should have, the Supreme Court rejected the argument and ordered the release and repatriation of 16 prisoners.


In Pakistan too, the courts have begun to take an activist line on this issue. In December 2009, the Sindh High Court in Pakistan took suo motu notice of a report that several Indian under-age prisoners were languishing at a juvenile detention centre in Karachi. At the very first hearing, the assistant Advocate-General for Sindh told the judge that when so many Pakistanis were languishing in Indian jails, there was no reason for Pakistan to exert itself for the Indians in its jails. The judge did not have to deal with the case any further, as on that very day, the boys were ordered released by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani along with a group of 100 other Indians as a "goodwill gesture."


Even where courts order immediate release, it could take months for the actual release. In April, the same Sindh court ordered the release and repatriation of two under-aged Indian prisoners. Despite the best efforts of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), a Pakistani non-government organisation, the two boys from Porbandar in Gujarat were provided consular access only a few days ago. The Indian diplomatic representative who met them will send their particulars to the Home Ministry in New Delhi, which in turn, will set in motion a process for verifying their address in coastal Gujarat, in order to confirm they are who they claim to be. It could be next April by the time that confirmation is received. Only then can they be repatriated.


Virtually treated as hostages of the country where they are jailed, the prisoners can only hope for some grand occasion between India and Pakistan, such as a ministerial visit or an important round of talks, when they might be released as "goodwill." Even then, only a handful of prisoners will go free. Others will suffer the crushing disappointment of being held back, to be used on another occasion.


It would be understandable if these were "high value" prisoners such as spies. But these people are in for smuggling, or crossing the land border, or overstaying their visa. The punishment for these offences is between six months and two years. A large number are fishermen, taken into custody for trespassing the international boundary line.


A recent study by Pakistani Fishermen's Forum, a Karachi-based organisation, found 580 Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails, around 450 of whom had already completed their sentences; similarly 125 Pakistani fishermen are in Indian jails, 17 of whom have completed their sentences. Even when fishermen are released periodically, the governments usually refuse to release their boats, denying them an important part of their livelihood.


In December 2006, I witnessed from the Pakistan side of Wagah the release of a group of 70 Indians, an "exchange" for the 57 Pakistanis that India had released some days before.


The Indians had been brought to the border by bus early in the morning and were waiting for immigration officials sorted out the paperwork for them to cross over into India. They cut a pathetic figure, seated on rows of chairs in a small enclosure, holding their small bundles of personal belongings, wearing the rose garlands that Pakistani officials had given them in send-off.


As many as 50 men in the group were fishermen from Gujarat, and had spent 15 months in Landhi jail in Karachi. The remaining were mainly poor farmers from the Indian Punjab who had been jailed for crossing the border illegally. One such man had spent 25 years in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail, while another told me he had spent "seven years, 10 months and 23 days," in various prisons in Pakistan.


Some of them sounded more worried than happy at their release, apprehensive about the changes that awaited them at home after all these years, and about their acceptance by their families and communities. Some seemed to have lost their mental balance; they were barely coherent. One old man had been struck by a paralytic attack just a week before and had to be carried by his mates. According to reports in the Pakistani press, many among the Pakistanis who had been released some days earlier were in similarly bad shape.


Early in 2007, the Indian and Pakistani governments agreed they needed to clean up their act on prisoners. They decided to set up a panel with four retired judges from each side, to visit prisons in both countries where people from the other side were lodged, and suggest ways to release them quickly.


It took months for the judges to be named; it was fully a year before they all first met in February 2008. Later that year, after visiting jails in Pakistan and India, the judicial commission made several sensible recommendations, among them that all fishermen must be released immediately.


The judges also recommended that cases against visa violators, as well as women prisoners, juveniles, the terminally ill or ailing, physically or mentally disabled prisoners be withdrawn, that they be released and repatriated at the "earliest." They even recommended that "security" prisoners, those charged with spying, also be released quickly.


But the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the consequent "pause" in India-Pakistan relations meant the recommendations were never fully implemented. A 2008 agreement on providing early consular access to prisoners has also proved difficult to implement for the two sides.


The prisoners' issue is expected to figure in the July 15 talks between the Indian and Pakistan foreign ministers. Hopefully, the two will arrive at nothing less than a decision to immediately release all the prisoners except those who have been charged with serious or heinous crimes. The two sides must also urgently devise a humane method for dealing with trespassing fishermen, instead of putting them in jail. These are the poorest and the most wretched of the prisoners. Holding them and hundreds of other Indian and Pakistanis in each other's jails ransom to an improvement in bilateral relations is just not on.










On the outward journey, we wondered if South Africa would be worthy of the World Cup. We left for home on Monday with the uneasy feeling that the World Cup had not lived up to the welcome and the facilities provided by its hosts.


They gave us their vast and spectacular new stadiums, their best shot at building an integrated transport system from scratch and their kindness and consideration at just about every turn. We gave them a rubbish final from which only the winners could take genuine pleasure.


In the tradition of gracious hosts, however, they pretended not to notice. A national hangover was predicted for Monday morning, but flags were still flying on cars and buildings as the remains of their 400,000 or so World Cup visitors made for the airports, carrying a variety of memories away with them.


An inkling of how it was going to be came on the day before the opening match, during an impromptu trip to Soweto. In one of that vast township's more remote districts — named Jabulani, the isiZulu word for "joy" appropriated by the manufacturers of the 2010 tournament's official ball — we found a group of small boys who call themselves Jabulani Arsenal, practising under the strict supervision of a teenage girl with a referee's whistle. Their embryonic skills — particularly those of a tiny child, about eight years old, known to his friends as "Little Drogba" — were matched by the enthusiasm with which they discussed their heroes, many of them the stars of Britain's own dear Premier League. They could no sooner have acquired a ticket for a World Cup match at Soccer City, less than five miles [8km] away, than flown to the moon, and they were far away from the soccer academy set up in a more tourist—friendly part of Soweto by a multinational corporation, but their excitement at mere proximity to the event seemed to have a definite value.


This was not, frankly a distinguished tournament in the football sense, not even close to be a vintage year such as 1970 or 1986. The abject failure of the designated superstars — Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Lionel Messi, Kaka and, not least, Wayne Rooney — amused those who like to see the all-powerful shoe companies having their poster campaigns jammed down their throats, but it diminished the quality of the spectacle.


Collective endeavour won this World Cup, which is no bad thing in itself, since football is a team game, but the nature of the final match underlined the fact that the tournament was won by a team who scored only eight goals in their seven matches. That is three fewer than the next lowest total, recorded by England in 1966, when the winners played only six matches, and Brazil in 1994.


Some of the commercial aspects of the tournament were grating, or worse. The iconisation of the Adidas Jabulani ball, a substandard object that came close to ruining the actual play, was as repulsive as the exorbitant price of match tickets. Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg's upscale business and shopping district, is hardly a thing of beauty, but such qualities as it has were swamped when Sony was allowed to plonk a massive dome in its middle. The episode in which private jets were allowed to park all over Durban's new King Shaka airport, preventing commercial flights from landing and stopping several hundred people from attending a semi-final for which they had bought tickets, exposed an unhealthy anxiety to please VIPs.


Those phenomena, along with the theft of a Portuguese photographer's equipment at gunpoint in the early days of the tournament, were the low points — oh, and the final, of course. And that idiot who wandered into England's dressing room and seems to have become a celebrity as a result. The rest was mostly fun and noise.


But five weeks and 64 football matches have changed many people's perception of South Africa, which is why Jacob Zuma's government pledged itself to spend around £3.5bn on stadiums and transport infrastructure and allowed Fifa to walk away from the tournament as the biggest winners of all, with an estimated £2.5bn in tax-free profit.


The best of those soaring edifices — Moses Mabhida in Durban, Green Point in Cape Town, and Soccer City — lifted everyone's spirits, even when they were situated miles away from the places where the people who actually play and watch football live. As a public relations job, the 2010 World Cup looks like paying off in the intangible currency of image and reputation.


Only the blind or the blind drunk — or the England football squad — could have spent some of the last month following the tournament at first hand and not recognised that this is still a country in which only half of all black families have flushing lavatories, 43% live on about £1.50 a day, education is in chaos, public health is a disaster area, an imminent resurgence of the xenophobic violence seen in 2008 is promised, even middle—class homes are surrounded by razor wire and CCTV cameras, and the number of private security guards at work, some 300,000, is double the manpower of the proper police (or it was before the World Cup persuaded the authorities to put 41,000 extra police on the streets in order to reduce the likelihood of embarrassing incidents involving foreign visitors).


But to South Africans of all kinds, and to their guests, the tournament really was an occasion for the shared enjoyment of a simple pleasure. For the inhabitants alone there was the more complicated satisfaction of discovering that, after being dismissed as a potential basket—case when the glow of the Rainbow Nation began to fade, they are capable of taking on the task of holding one of the world's biggest public events.


So many doubts were cast on their ability to bring it off that the sense of relief has been enormous. And now, South Africans are saying, if we can do that at the behest of Fifa, a body that does nothing more than run a ball game, perhaps we can take on important projects for the benefit of our own people. If the 2010 World Cup had any significance beyond football, it was to show South Africa's visitors — and, perhaps, the country itself — that it has no shortage of intelligent, capable, eager young people upon whom, if they are given the chance, a viable future can be built. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010








More than anything else, perhaps it is the pusillanimity of Kashmir's mainstream political parties that came to the fore in the recent disturbances that rocked the Valley on the eve of external affairs minister S.M. Krishna's trip to Islamabad to push along the peace process with Pakistan that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had initiated in Thimphu in April. When mobs of young men instigated by extremist and pro-Pakistan elements took to the streets for a fortnight in a bid to entrench a cycle of violence, the Kashmir Valley's mainstream parties resorted to silence. This was partly out of fear of reprisal from the hardline separatists if they chose to be peacemakers. But for some, the stance may have been inspired by the thought of currying favour with the separatists and their Pakistan-based ideological and political mentors. Some others might have calculated that remaining mere spectators might earn them dividends in later electoral contests. The last would appear to be a misjudgment. In election after election, whether for Parliament, the state Assembly, or local bodies, Kashmiri voters have tended to reject those who have played proxy for violence-makers.

The part played by the People's Democratic Party, the main Valley-based opposition in the legislature, has appropriately drawn the most comment. Not only did it stand by the sidelines during the days of unprovoked violence in Srinagar and elsewhere, it chose to stay away from Monday's all-party meeting called by the chief minister to work out a political programme with which to cool tempers and find the road back to normality. PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti even turned down a request from the Prime Minister to participate in the dialogue. In doing so she betrayed a lack of appreciation of the normal rules of democratic functioning. Had she attended the conference, she was at liberty to criticise the government's handling of the situation from a key public forum. Perhaps she passed up that opportunity as she wanted no part of the burden to go to the people with the message of peace hammered out through a consensus developed by all parties that are represented in the Assembly. This hardly augurs well for the principle of democratic participation in the wider running of Kashmir's political affairs. As it happens, the PDP's refusal to be a part of a process aimed at the return of peace and normality came days before external affairs minister S.M. Krishna's scheduled visit to Islamabad. By effectively adopting a stance that would bring succour to separatists and extremists, the PDP leadership's approach effectively undercuts India's negotiating coordinates in engaging Islamabad. This is likely to be widely regretted in the Valley, if the past is any guide. Such kudos as the PDP is able to garner can only be from a narrow segment of political opinion in Kashmir.

It is to the credit of the people of the Valley that they did not react to the "deterrent" flag march of the Army through the main thoroughfares of Srinagar in the negative manner that anti-India elements might have hoped for. This would inordinately strengthen the hands of chief minister Omar Abdullah, whose handling of the volatile situation in the state fell way short of what might be desired. No less significant, this would even outweigh the propaganda gain the separatist cabals might have hoped to gain from the PDP's non-participation at the all-party meeting. To that extent Mr Krishna and his team would find the negotiating balance restored when they hold discussions in the Pakistan capital. It is to be hoped that in the days and weeks to come, the mainstream parties in the Valley would reflect on recent events and recalibrate their positions in future.








Those who believe that the parliamentary system of democracy is best suited for a country of our size and stage of development do so not only because of the comprehensive manner in which our Constitution has incorporated the best from Constitutions of other democratic nations but also because the framers of our Constitution left ample scope for the adoption of certain healthy practices and conventions that have proved to be successful in the Western parliamentary democracies. One such healthy convention followed in India has been that the ministers of the Central government do not express their criticism of other members of the Cabinet in public. Instead, whenever they have views radically different from those of their colleagues in the council of ministers, they are brought before the Cabinet for detailed discussions. Or, the concerned ministers bring the matter before the Prime Minister. However, it is sad to note that of late a trend has set in where some ministers publicly express their dissenting voice or personal views as if it is their legitimate right to do so.
The provocation I had for raising this issue through this colu mn was certain observations ma de by Kamal Nath, the Union mi nister for road transport and highways, about the Planning Co mmission and the role of pu blic and private participation in the construction of highways at a seminar in New Delhi on July 5, 2010. Us ing rather strong and derisive la nguage against the Planning Commission, Mr Nath said that the commission was an "armch air adviser" which is "like a buffet table" from where one could choose bites according to one's digestive capacity.

Under the pa r liamentary system, certain bills have to be discussed in the concerned standing committees of Parliament in order to get feedback from the people. There are certain matters on which de c isions are taken by the Cabinet after knowing the views of the Planning Commission, the mini stry of finance and other conce r n ed ministries. Once a decision is taken by the Cabinet, that bec o mes the decision of the government and the duty of the minister co­ncerned is to implement the de cision in all sincerity. This is the spirit behind the concept of co llective responsibility in Article 75 (3) of the Constitution wh ich states that "the council of ministers will be collectively re s ponsible to the House of the people".

In cases where ministers may be unhappy that their views have not been given the attention they deserve, it is open to the minister to press for re-examination of certain aspects of the decision in the Cabinet if the Prime Minister agrees.

It appears that there is a sharp difference between the ministry of road transport and highways and the Planning Commission about the target of 20 km road a day as proposed by the ministry. The Planning Commission appears to consider this target as too unrealistic. The minister might have made his observations at the seminar in a light-hearted manner but most people will take his observation in a different light. For example, the minister referred to the reports presented by the Planning Commission as an exercise of collecting "something from here, something from there and producing a book". He went on to say that "producing a book is one thing and producing a road is another thing". Fortunately, Montek Si ngh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, who was present at the seminar, sh owed extraordinary patience and politeness and said that he would take the minister's comments as "constructive critici sm". (Though a few days later, in a TV interview, Mr Ahluwalia said: "My view is that you cannot run a go vernment only with people who know how to build roads. You have to give then a set of rules".)

One can see that there have be en serious departures from the us ual norms of criticism of other ministries or organisations of the Ce ntral government in the spe e ch of the minister. The minister seems to have fo rg o tten that the Planning Commission, which he has described as an "armchair adviser" and lik e ned to a "buffet table", is headed by the Prime Minister and has as its members senior Cabinet min i sters. The deputy chairman of the Planning Commission is hi m­self an official of Cabinet rank and held in high respect as an em inent economist. At any rate, the Planning Commission is not a subordinate body of any ministry at the Centre. It may lack constitutional or even the statutory backing but the fact that it has always been headed by the Prime Minister had lent it a good deal of au thority and respect from both the Central and state governments.
While criticising the Planning Commissi on many people seem to forget that "economic and social pl anning" is included as item 20 in the concurrent list of the Constitution and, therefore, it is discharging its constitutional ob l igations in giving advice on pl an projects to both the Centre and states. In any case, if a decision is taken by the Planning Co mmission on so important a matter as the target to be aimed at in the construction of highways, the only course open to the minister concerned who wis h es to have a higher target is to in voke the intervention of the Pr ime Mi n ister once again and see wh e t her other members of the Ca b i net agree with the Planning Co mmission's view on this issue.

Because of the fact that the Prime Minister is presiding over a coalition government, reaching a consensus among the various parties participating in the government may involve certain compromises and concessions. Fortunately for the Prime Minister he has not experienced serious opposition from his coalition partners in the past six years to several very important proposals. We in India have successfully evolved a system of a comm on minimum programme to wh ich all coalition partners have to subscribe and, therefore, much of the difficulty that was originally expected from the coalition partners have not cropped up during the last six years.
Of course, in the matter of ob s e rvance of certain unwritten ru les and conventions there have be en conspicuous breaches on the part of certain other members of the Central Cabinet as well. Ce rtain ministers have shown a te­ndency to rush to the media with their own opinions and vi e ws on matters even when they themselves are not fully familiar with the facts of the case on wh ich they are giving their views. I am sure that off-hand comments and derisive criticism from Cabinet ministers at the Centre will soon cease to be a practice in our democracy and the Prime Minister will be firm in dealing with such undesirable trends.


P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra








The Bhopal gas tragedy was the worst industrial disaster in human history. Twenty-five thousand people died, 500,000 were injured, and the injustice done to the victims of Bhopal over the past 25 years will go down as the worst case of jurisprudence ever.

The gas leak in Bhopal in December 1984 was from the Union Carbide pesticide plant which manufactured "carabaryl" (trade name "sevin") — a pesticide used mostly in cotton plants. It was, in fact, because of the Bhopal gas tragedy and the tragedy of extremist violence in Punjab that I woke up to the fact that agriculture had become a war zone. Pesticides are war chemicals that kill — every year 220,000 people are killed by pesticides worldwide.

After research I realised that we do not need toxic pesticides that kill humans and other species which maintain the web of life. Pesticides do not control pests, they create pests by killing beneficial species. We have safer, non-violent alternatives such as neem. That is why at the time of the Bhopal disaster I started the campaign "No more Bhopals, plant a neem". The neem campaign led to challenging the biopiracy of neem in 1994 when I found that a US multinational, W.R. Grace, had patented neem for use as pesticide and fungicide and was setting up a neem oil extraction plant in Tumkur, Karnataka. We fought the biopiracy case for 11 years and were eventually successful in striking down the biopiracy patent.

Meanwhile, the old pesticide industry was mutating into the biotechnology and genetic engineering industry. While genetic engineering was promoted as an alternative to pesticides, Bt cotton was introduced to end pesticide use. But Bt cotton has failed to control the bollworm and has instead created major new pests, leading to an increase in pesticide use.

The high costs of genetically-modified (GM) seeds and pesticides are pushing farmers into debt, and indebted farmers are committing suicide. If one adds the 200,000 farmer suicides in India to the 25,000 killed in Bhopal, we are witnessing a massive corporate genocide — the killing of people for super profits. To maintain these super profits, lies are told about how, without pesticides and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), there will be no food. In fact, the conclusions of International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, undertaken by the United Nations, shows that ecologically organic agriculture produces more food and better food at lower cost than either chemical agriculture or GMOs.

The agrochemical industry and its new avatar, the biotechnology industry, do not merely distort and manipulate knowledge, science and public policy. They also manipulate the law and the justice system. The reason justice has been denied to the victims of Bhopal is because corporations want to escape liability. Freedom from liability is, in fact, the real meaning of "free trade". The tragedy of Bhopal is dual. Interestingly, the Bhopal disaster happened precisely when corporations were seeking deregulation and freedom from liability through the instruments of "free trade", "trade liberalisation" and "globalisation", both through bilateral pressure and through the Uruguay Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which led to the creation of the World Trade Organisation.

Injustice for Bhopal has been used to tell corporations that they can get away with murder. This is what senior politicians communicated to Dow Chemical. This is what the US-India Commission for Environmental Cooperation forum stated on June 11, 2010, in the context of the call from across India for justice for Bhopal victims. As one newspaper commented, Bhopal is being seen as a "road block and impediment to trade… the recommendations include removing road blocks to commercial trade by (India), and adoption of a nuclear liability regime".

Denial of justice to Bhopal has been the basis of all toxic investments since Bhopal, be it Bt cotton, DuPont's nylon plant or the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill.

Just as Bhopal victims were paid a mere Rs 12,000 (approximately $250) each, the proposed Nuclear Liability Bill also seeks to put a ceiling on liability of a mere $100 million on private operations of a nuclear power plant in case of a nuclear accident. Once again, people can be killed but corporations should not have to pay.
There has also been an intense debate in India on GMOs. An attempt was made by Monsanto/Mahyco to introduce Bt brinjal in 2009. As a result of public hearings across the country, a moratorium has been put on its commercialisation. Immediately after the moratorium a bill was introduced for a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India —the bill does not only leave the biotechnology industry free of liability, but it also has a clause which empowers the government to arrest and fine those of us who question the need and safety of GMOs.

From Bhopal to pesticides to GMOs to nuclear plants, there are two lessons we can draw. One is that corporations introd u ce hazardous technologies like pe­sticides and GMOs for profits, and profits alone. And second le sson, related to trade, is that corporations are seeking to ex p a nd markets and relocate haza r d­o us and environmentally costly te c hnologies to countries like India.

Corporates seek to globalise production but they do not want to globalise justice and rights. The difference in the treatment of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical in the context of Bhopal, and of BP in the context of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico shows how an apartheid is being created. The devaluation of the life of people of the Third World and ecosystems is built into the project of globalisation. Globalisation is leading to the outsourcing of pollution — hazardous substances and technologies — to the Third World. This is at the heart of globalisation — the economies of genocide.

Lawrence Summers, who was the World Bank's chief economist and is now chief economic adviser to the Obama government, in a memo dated December 12, 1991, to senior World Bank staff, wrote, "Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the less developed countries?"

Since wages are low in the Third World, economic costs of pollution arising from increased illness and death are least in the poorest countries. According to Mr Summers, the logic "of relocation of pollutants in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that".

All this and Bhopal must teach us to reclaim our universal and common humanity and build an Earth Democracy in which all are equal, and corporations are not allowed to get away with crimes against people and the planet.


Dr Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust








The horrible events in the Kashmir Valley, where 15 people, most of them under 25, have been killed in clashes with security forces in the past two weeks, should bring two key lessons home. One, that the three years' freeze, or lull, in peacemaking has created a new wave of alienation and allowed spoilers to take the upper hand. And two, that a readiness to send security forces into danger without training and protective equipment is disastrous.
Both of these grave mistakes are primarily issues for the Central government, and only secondarily for the state. Yet opinion writers in New Delhi suggest that the current clashes are due to the ineptness of the state government. This is only partially true, and it distracts attention from the need to tackle — and resolve — the issue of Jammu and Kashmir's status.

Eighteen months ago, the Assembly elections in the Valley sent a double message, that Kashmiris wanted a fresh start on governance and they wanted an accelerated peace process, comprising security reforms and talks with the azaadi leaders and Pakistan. But security reforms were slow to come, as were talks, and each was easily countered by spoilers.

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which was intended to be a backup force for the state police, was even less trained and equipped to take on security duties, and co o r dination with the state police is not working. Around 120 CRPF men have been injured in the rec ent clashes, some of them severely. After close to three years, they are more vulnerable to stone-pelting not less, and more ready to fire, too.

The government did recognise the need to revive the Hurriyat tr ack a year ago. But the talks, wh ich were intended to be based on sustained and quiet back-channel work, were jeopardised first by le a ks and then prevented by the shooting of Fazal Haq Qureshi. Protests over the unwarranted Amarnath ha­ndover and the Shopian murders sh owed a new resistance movem e nt was beginning, modelled on the Palestinian intifada. While there is evidence to indicate that it is orc he strated, it does express a common anger in the Valley at seeing no end in sight, and the common aspiration for a political resolution.

New Delhi says there will be political talks when the violence subsides. In fact, the violence is more likely to defuse if the government were to work for the urgent renewal of talks with azaadi groups, without underestimating the obstacles that there will be. Key among them is Pakistan's reluctance to restart the peace negotiations where they left off, with a framework agreed in the back channel. Hopefully, the external affairs minister will raise this issue with his counterpart in Islamabad when he visits Pakistan in a few days' time. Quick results are unlikely — it is in the Pakistani armed groups' interest to play up rather than reduce tensions with India at a time when they seek a dominant role in Afghanistan, and the Pakistani government is reluctant to espouse what is seen (mistakenly) as a "Musharraf initiative". But building on what has been achieved is critically important for any peace process to work. This is a point our government needs to make more publicly and more persistently.

In the meantime, there is the is s ue of our own promises. It is close to five years since the Prime Minister promised "zero tolerance" for hu man rights violations. Sadly, just be fore the current clashes, chief mi nister Omar Abdullah had got the Army to institute summary pu n is h ment in such cases. Whatever their grievances, the CRPF must pu nish its troops for the use of exc e ssive force. A government-appo i n ted panel of eminent citizens to en qu ire into the shootings, with a strict and short timeframe, would be an important confidence-booster and could help pave the way for talks.

At the risk of sounding demagogic, we also need to ensure that there are no lulls in talks with azaadi groups this time, and with the elected leaders and civil society in Jammu and Kashmir. We have a grave trust deficit of our own to repair, with Kashmiris. If we can talk about making dialogue with Pakistan uninterruptible, then why not with dissident Kashmiris?

The failure of our political elites to institutionalise peacemaking in policy and administration is not restricted to Jammu and Kashmir. In Manipur, we first allowed the chief minister to refuse a visit by National Socialist Council of Nagaland — Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) leader Muivah instead of organising talks between the two to settle misgivings, and then stood by while Manipur was subjected to a two-month-long blockade.

Similarly, in the tribal areas where Maoists hold sway, there is widespread recognition, including by the government, that though the Maoist tactics are grotesquely brutal the grievances of the tribal population are legitimate and need to be addressed as a priority. Here again, according to independent mediator Swami Agnivesh, potential peace negotiations were aborted by the killing of Maoist spokesman "Azad".

In the 1950s and 1960s the Indian government showed itself bold and innovative in the diverse initiatives it took to settle self-determination and resource conflicts (though its Kashmir initiatives were always undermined). Despite glimmers of a renewal of those approaches, we are still far away from their spirit.


Radha Kumar is professor of peace and conflict studies at Jamia Millia Islamia and a trustee of the Delhi Policy Group








The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has rightly objected to a finance ministry proposal to set up a joint statutory panel to resolve disputes between regulators. The proposal, slipped in through an ordinance issued last month to resolve the scrap over unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips) between Sebi and Irda, the insurance regulator, will damage the independence of all regulators by making the finance ministry the final arbiter. 

On the face of it, there is nothing wrong in this.  Since court battles can take years to resolve, perhaps the finance ministry — as the nodal agency to which all regulators report administratively — can theoretically be the final judge. But, as the Reserve Bank governor, Duvvuri Subbarao, points out in a note of protest to the ministry, "the establishment of a statutory joint committee is itself problematic and raises issues about potential misuse in ways that impair the autonomy of the regulators."

It is not difficult to see why.  In theory the finance ministry will step in only if two regulators are having a dispute. But what if some finance minister at some future date decides that he can give policy directions to one regulator or another by using a dispute as excuse for intervention? Also, what is to stop corporate groups close to the powers-that-be to invent regulatory disputes to enable the political authorities to step in?


Institutional arrangements like these should not be left to the goodwill and credibility of the finance minister at the helm. The decision in the Ulips case illustrates how the ministry can go wrong. Sebi entered the picture when it said that Ulips are basically mutual funds masquerading as insurance schemes, and hence it has the right to regulate them. But the finance ministry weighed in on behalf of Irda and said that Ulips were the sole domain of the insurance regulator. Neither Sebi nor the RBI was consulted before the ordinance was issued. Given the high stakes the insurance industry has in Ulips, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario where they lobby the ministry to rule in their favour. 

Now, with major corporate houses set to enter banking under the new liberalised norms for entry, banking regulation itself could become a bone of contention between contending parties. The Reserve Bank needs to have clear autonomy both in the conduct of monetary policy and in the regulation of banks. Otherwise, vested interests will have a field day.





The United Nations has unveiled a new measure of poverty which will look beyond the traditional money-per-day methods used so far. This Multidimensional Poverty Index will include the human development index, gender and other inequalities as well as the concept of well-being to provide a wider spectrum of understanding of how poverty affects lives. Yet, while the experience of poverty is something that India understands all too well, alleviation is another matter altogether. 

The latest figures show that eight Indian states contain more poor people than 26 African countries. This is testament not just to our massive population but also to our complete failure at coping with the problem. The states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have 421 million people living in acute poverty while 26 of the poorest African countries have a combined population of 420 million.

It is not, however, only about mind-boggling figures. It is about a consistent failure to take poverty seriously. While it is true that independent India faced a number of daunting challenges since its birth as a nation in 1947 and that success has been achieved in a number of instances, the problem of poverty has only grown. 

The failure is not just of our political classes or of government and governance — although the major chunk of blame must be attributed there. It is also of a collective inability to grapple with what poverty means and how it cripples us. Where we as a people should have demanded governance that worked from the bottom up, we allowed ourselves to get sidetracked into other issues and non-issues.

It is nothing but a matter of shame, for instance, that it took over 60 years to realise that universal, free and compulsory education for children was a must. Had we done it even 20 years ago, imagine how far we would have travelled by now. Similarly, we have not comprehended the significance of social security schemes. They exist throughout the developed world as a way of giving people a leg up when they are down. The NREGA idea came in very late and even now it works by Indian standards — at about half-cock.


The British government has decided to cut back on aid to India, given that we have such a large contingent of exported millionaires and billionaires. Perhaps there is one of the biggest riddles of the contemporary Indian situation — we contain both the world's richest and poorest people.









The index of opposition unity (IOU) is a term that had almost lost its relevance in the era of Mandal and Kamandal politics. It reclaimed its lost status on Monday, June 5, the day of the largely-successful Bharat bandh. In the Indian realm, IOU simply meant how much the Congress was challenged by a united opposition.

The response to the bandh put paid to two notions on which the Congress government had based a lot of bold decisions: one, that the voter had become apathetic enough to let inflation decide his voting intentions; and two, the opposition had become too disoriented to mount a serious challenge to the Congress as nobody wanted an election. 

The era of Mandal and Kamandal did not call for greater opposition unity as the Congress itself started wilting. It was then obvious that stable governments were to be achieved only through alliances. However, the revival of the Congress after 2004 has forced the opposition to rethink its strategies.  It is, therefore, not a coincidence that the BJP agreed to go for the bandh on the same date as the Left agreed with Sharad Yadav, the NDA convener. Being a part of larger united opposition is very important to the BJP as well, as it provides the party the initiative to take on a fast-reviving Congress in Uttar Pradesh.


In the past, bandhs and floor coordination by a united Opposition have fostered many anti-Congress waves. The last such successful bandh in Maharashtra, supported by the entire opposition, was in 1994. It was called to protest against the Enron plant in Dabhol, which ultimately became a symbol for sleaze and non-transparent deal-making by politicians.


The late VP Singh's success in 1989 was as much the result of his anti-Bofors campaign as it was of a united opposition. The political lexicon was evolved further to describe a "very near, but still so far" relationship with the BJP, without whose support the uprooting of the Congress in northern India was not possible. At that point, the IOU was called 'seat adjustment'. While the National Front was a combine by itself, it had an alliance with the Left, and seat adjustments with the BJP. 

The quantum of seat adjustment was, however, very large, and in many cases it even made space for the Left. Perfect seat adjustments were achieved in Gujarat and Rajasthan, leaving the Congress with only three seats in Gujarat, and a zero in Rajasthan in 1989. In Rajasthan, the CPM was given one seat from the JD's quota, which it managed to win. The CPI won Amravati in Maharashtra, where the BJP-Sena contested only 36 of the 48 seats, leaving the remaining 12 to other parties. In a nutshell, whether the term alliance was used or not, wherever necessary the opposition united to put the Congress on the mat.        

In 1989 and 1977, greater opposition unity was possible because the core was essentially centrist and socialist, and the BJP was expected to fill up the fringes. This made alliances far easier. In today's realm, the centrist core needs to reinvent itself. A growing BJP compelled the former socialists to fill up the fringe by providing a stable core itself. However, a declining BJP has lost the value proposition of being able to attract more allies, thus failing to create a single cohesive alternative to the Congress. It is the resolution of this challenge that will hold the key to the emergence of the next anti-Congress coalition. 

Importantly, the presence of this weak centrist core also raises the spectre of the third front, or a loose congregation of non-Congress, non-BJP parties coming together.  Even if the opposition manages to tie in the loose ends, the key challenge is whether it will succeed in transforming the current anxiety over inflation into a wave.

The opposition faces a challenge in converting the current anxiety over inflation into a coherent rallying point for the masses. An anti-incumbency wave is an interplay of many factors, the four principal ones being: an eyesore — a symbol that the masses identify with; a political personality that can be booked for accountability, often vilified; sufficient intervention by the media and a credible voice for the opposition.  Most waves have seen at least three of these four factors in full play. In 1988, Rajiv Gandhi was the object of vilification; VP Singh, the voice of the opposition; Bofors, a symbol of corruption and some media houses did not let the issue die. 

The current debate on inflation, and the issue of sleaze and mismanagement that potentially contributed to it, is not accompanied by an interplay of the above four factors. VP Singh in 1988 and GR Khairnar in 1994 represented an indefatigable spirit to take on the respective regimes then.  Right now the force multipliers are missing. Round one has gone to the opposition nevertheless.








The brouhaha over James Laine's book by various politicians and Maratha outfits would have been funny were it not so sad actually.

All of them are objecting to one particular line in what is otherwise 

a very fine book and one that should be read by all those who revere the memory of Shivaji. Most of all, it should be read by the very same Maratha groups who claim the book insults Shivaji.


The book does no such thing. James Laine is not a historian. He is a professor of religious studies. His book, Shivaji — Hindu king in Islamic India is not a book on Shivaji's life but on how Shivaji's legacy has been appropriated by various castes and communities to further their own ends. In that, it is a scholarly attempt that looks at how Shivaji is portrayed in the various history books.

Thus, as Laine points outs, Dalits see him as the champion of the outcasts because he was one king who employed their services in his fight against his enemies; Hindutva historians see him merely as a Hindu king ranged against Muslims, seeking to establish a Hindu swaraj; Marathas see him only as their foremost leader who fought Muslim rulers, on one side, and Brahmin bigotry, on the other side; Brahmins have written about Shivaji as a king who achieved greatness because he was guided by Brahmin saints and advisors.

Laine brilliantly elucidates that if one were to only read Shivaji's history as written by the Brahmins (excluding Saraswat Brahmins, who were badly treated by the other Brahmins), Shivaji achieves greatness only because his Brahmin advisors guided him. Thus, such historians overplay the role of Sant Ramdas as the one who literally showed Shivaji every step of the way. 

In fact, a popular image of Shivaji that can be seen in any shop in Maharashtra is Shivaji sitting besides Sant Ramdas, who is pointing his hand in one direction, thus conveying the image of a Shivaji who was simply led by Ramdas. Brahmin historians tend to gloss over how Shivaji had to undergo purification rites before being crowned chhatrapati to overcome the objections of Brahmins in the 17th century.

But if the history is written by non-Brahmins (or the Saraswats), Shivaji is shown as an independent-minded person who took his own decisions. And, of course, they do mention Shivaji's humiliation at the hands of Brahmins before his coronation.

Nowhere in the book does Laine take a derogatory line on Shivaji or the Marathas; if anything, it is laudable that an American professor based in the US should spend so much time and energy on writing about a man who founded the Maratha nation and is hailed by virtually all Maharashtrians, regardless of their caste, and who foreign scholars find so interesting to study. He deserves accolades, not brickbats.

Instead, we have a bunch of politicians who are seeking to further their own floundering careers by attacking him for merely noting what Brahmins joke about. If anyone must be blamed for that, it should be those Brahmins who crack such jokes amongst themselves (and, one presumes, when out of hearing range of the Sambhaji Brigade and the Thackerays). 

But what we have is the ridiculous spectacle of political groups and outfits attacking the messenger, James Laine, for merely stating what he has heard. Of course, it is far easier to shoot the messenger, and particularly if, as is the case with James Laine, the messenger is a foreigner, rather than actually find the persons who crack such jokes. It does not show their power but the utter lack of it. The real tragedy is these people think they are the successors of Shivaji. That, too, would have been funny were it not so sad.









IT would be unrealistic to expect dramatic results from the three-day visit of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to Islamabad beginning Wednesday and his scheduled talks with his Pakistan counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Yet, the fact that talks between the two countries that were snapped in the wake of the Mumbai blasts in November 2008 have graduated to the level of foreign ministers despite sharp differences of approach is a healthy sign and deserves to be welcomed. Both sides recognize that there is a huge trust deficit between them and bridging this gap is fundamental to the return of durable peace and mutually-beneficial economic cooperation to the region. For India, it is important that we engage with a democratically-elected regime and seek to strengthen its hands vis-à-vis the Pakistani army and the lawless elements who are striking terror in Pakistan and the region at large.


For Mr Krishna there cannot be a bigger issue on the agenda than the terrorism that continues to emanate from Pakistani soil. It is for the Pakistan government to rein in elements like Hafeez Saeed who has been spewing venom against India. Islamabad's lack of cooperation in bringing the real masterminds of the Mumbai attacks to book is a sore point that is delaying the process of normalization. Even in Kashmir, it is of little consequence whether those Pakistanis who are fuelling terror are state actors or non-state actors. It is the Pakistan state that must bear responsibility and it would be Mr Krishna's task to apprise Islamabad of the seriousness with which this country views the issue.


It is indeed time that Pakistan takes steps to address India's genuine concerns on terror so that other aspects of the suspended 'composite dialogue' could be addressed more purposefully. Both sides have much to gain from increased trade and economic cooperation, more so Pakistan whose economy is tottering. It is heartening that more people-to-people contacts, exchange of teachers and students and opening of more trade and transit routes between the two countries are already on the bilateral talks agenda. But in the absence of mutual trust all these would come to nothing. One can only hope that the Islamabad talks would take the two countries forward in re-establishing trust.








LAST year's deficient rains perhaps had made the Punjab and Haryana governments complacent about pre-monsoon preparations. Clearing the canals and strengthening the river embankments before the onset of the rainy season used to be a mandatory annual exercise. Encroachments and haphazard construction over the years have blocked or diverted the flow of rivulets and canals. The consequences of official neglect are before everyone. Along with assessing the losses, responsibility should be fixed for official laxity. It was not a natural calamity as the rain was not unexpected or abnormal. What caused the floods and who failed to take the preventive measures should be found out once the relief and rehabilitation work is over.


A little administrative effort and caution in advance could have saved so much human misery and loss of precious lives. The civil administration in the two states has been found wanting, once again, as the Army had to be called in to plug the breaches and restore train services. Commendable community work was at display at some of the places. Instead of owning responsibility for the avoidable rain havoc, ruling politicians and officials in both states started trading charges and making irresponsible statements, which could ignite trouble. While touring the flood-hit areas, they did not forget to take news photographers along.


The chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana may keep squabbling over the sharing of the river waters, but they do not seem to know how to manage excess rainwater, which goes waste year after year. Rainwater harvest is still at a talking stage. Village ponds are fast disappearing and the water table is declining at an alarming rate. Serious effort has still not gone into recharging groundwater. Once the rain fury subsides and normal life is restored in the area, effective drainage and disaster management systems need to be put in place. The two CMs should sit together and work out a solution of the vexed water problem. Mismanagement of water resources has caused tremendous loss to both states.









THE Indian Space Research Organisation deserves kudos for the successful launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the release of five satellites, including the remote sensing Cartosat-2B. Since 1999, PSLV has been ISRO's workhorse and has an unblemished record of success in launching both Indian and international satellites. In 2008, a PSLV successfully launched 10 satellites in one go, breaking a world record previously held by Russia.


While the PSLV programme successfully propelled India as a major space player, ISRO has not met with the same success in running its more ambitious Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) programme which seeks to send heavier satellites into higher orbits. Only recently, on its first flight test on April 15, the GSLV-D3, designed and built by ISRO, failed to reach its designated orbit due to the malfunction of fuel booster turbo pump. While ISRO should get a pat for its PSLV launch vehicles, credit must also be given to it for the success it has achieved in developing and building satellites. Aryabhata, India's first satellite, was launched from the Soviet Union in 1975. The nation has come a long way since then in indigenously building and launching satellites, especially earth observation satellites like the Cartosat-2B whose payload is a panchromatic camera with a high spatial resolution and stereoscopic vision. It joins its predecessors, Cartosat-2 and Cartosat -2A, all of which have spatial resolution of less than 1 metre, which is a commendable feat. These satellites will help monitor development works at village level besides preparing large-scale cartographic maps, and providing images that have a good commercial market internationally. The data from the satellite can also be used for defence purposes.


The only other Indian satellite in the latest launch was the pico-satellite STUDSAT, designed by 35 undergraduate engineering students from seven colleges in Bangalore and Hyderabad. Such initiatives ignite our young minds, who are the future of the nation. Space science in India needs to attract and induct fresh talent into its ranks to meet the challenges that lie ahead, including a manned space mission that has been announced.

















THE situation in the Kashmir valley marks a setback in the long process of finding a permanent solution to the problem there. After the assumption of office as Chief Minister by Omar Abdullah last year there have been a series of incidents which mostly developed into serious law and order situations, with men and women pouring out into the streets in large numbers to protest against the administration. These were dealt with haphazardly.


The forces ranged against Omar Abdullah and his National Conference are politically motivated and their objective has been to provoke and create ugly situations.


The death of 15 young men in 15 days in the recent stone-pelting incidents, which provoked retaliatory action by the CRPF, was unfortunate. Stone pelting was first noticed during the Amarnath Yatra agitation in 2008. Now it has become an established form of attack against the security forces in the streets and bylanes of Srinagar in which even some women had joined with gusto. Regrettably, certain CRPF jawans were also throwing stones in retaliation, which is not permissible.


While the stone-pelting saga has been witnessed for the past two years, it is not understood why the DRDO or the Central police organisations could not consider inducting vehicles with powerful water cannons or some weaponry for throwing temporarily debilitating gas with the help of specially designed weapons. It is not clear if any enquiries were made for help from friendly foreign forces such as Israel, which have successfully dealt with similar situations. The CRPF has, no doubt, faced extreme provocations. And yet its jawans should not have used force to the extent of causing death in retaliation for stone throwing from the crowd.


This brings us to the question of induction of armed forces in the Kashmir valley, particularly in Srinagar. It was considered necessary as a deterrent or stand-by force. The armed forces conducted flag marches with the Army vehicles driving through the streets of Srinagar which had a demonstrable effect on the enforcement of curfew. All the same, it is felt that the induction of the armed forces in the valley to assist the civil and paramilitary forces after a lapse of 19 long years was possibly not considered carefully before taking the decision. Omar Abdullah's request for the purpose was not enough. At a time when Pakistan's Foreign Minister had already cried hoarse about the human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, the induction of the Army could possibly have been avoided.


Arising out of these developments is the fact that the present crisis, which led to the holding of an all-party meeting in Srinagar on Monday, has been brought about by political forces. The intercepts with the Central government, made public showing some of those associated with the Hurriyat inciting people to seek martyrdom and thereby keep the fire burning in the valley, only confirm this. Unfortunately, there has been no movement in the matter of political discussions for almost a year, if not more.


Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, the former Pakistan Foreign Minister, had disclosed early last year that the back channel negotiations between New Delhi and Islamabad in 2006 were successful and draft agreements were ready to be signed by India and Pakistan. The then Pakistan President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, had, in fact, spoken of "something between autonomy and independence". The reaction among Hurriyat leaders was enthusiastic. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had, in fact, announced in January 2007 the unequivocal rejection of violence and said that the Islamist rebellion, which began in 1989, had failed. He said the armed struggle had achieved nothing but graveyards.


However, all this is past, and whatever General Musharraf had proposed has been repudiated by the military establishment in Pakistan, which has the real control over power. The ISI treats the Lashkar-e-Toiyaba as an asset in handling the situation in Kashmir. When Home Minister P. Chidambaram said that there was evidence of the hand of the LeT in the Sopore developments, it made no difference to the Opposition politicians in Kashmir.


It is obvious that the incitement to the stone throwers and even far more serious developments are inspired from across the border. Agent provocateurs and LeT activists could well be presumed to be working with the agitators in the valley. The situation has to be retrieved and the dialogue process has to start with the various sections of the political entities in the field. How and at what level the negotiations will begin will have to be considered carefully.


Calling the delegations to Delhi for discussions spread over a couple of days may not make real progress. Would it be worthwhile to designate an interlocutor to negotiate with the various stakeholders in Kashmir? During the NDA government, K.C. Pant, Deputy Chairman of the Planning


Commission, was designated for the purpose. He visited Kashmir and met several people, but the response was not adequate. Pant was followed by Arun Jaitley and after some time N.N. Vohra, the present Governor of J&K, was appointed as the interlocutor. However, much progress could not be achieved.


The negotiations have to begin at the political level and the Prime Minister has to seriously consider a senior Cabinet Minister like Pranab Mukherjee for the purpose, who could be heading a Group of Ministers which may include Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and External Minister S.M. Krishna. The respective Secretaries and officers from the IB and the RAW would assist them.


However, let there be no thinking in terms of appointing a commission to go into the Kashmir situation. In August 2000, there was some thinking on the part of the Centre to set up a Constitution Review Commission presided over by a Supreme Court judge. However, this did not materialise and it was well that it did not.


The resolution of the Kashmir problem has two aspects — one dealing with the people of Kashmir and the other with Pakistan regarding the eventual settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said more than once that the LoC with India and Pakistan is not negotiable and the border between the two countries cannot be redrawn. The recent developments on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the two visits of Gen Ashfaque Kayani, accompanied by the ISI chief, and the reported inclination of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to come to terms with the Taliban forces are all pointers to the fact that Pakistan is slowly gaining the upper hand in Afghanistan affairs. President Obama's announcement that the pullout of the US troops from Afghanistan would begin in July 2011 has been interpreted by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as the impending exit of the Americans.


All these developments may lead to elements in Pakistan to create more trouble in Kashmir, possibly by infiltrating a large number of jihadis of foreign origin, said to be waiting in the Taliban camps in Pakistan.


It would be advisable to sort out the Kashmir problem internally by setting a deadline, which should not be later than six to nine months or, at the most, a year. Article 370 of the Constitution, the Delhi Agreement of 1953 between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah, the 1975 Agreement between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah, the resolution passed by the J and K Assembly in 2000 on autonomy are all guideposts in resolving the issue of greater autonomy for Kashmir.


Eventually, it is the question of quantum of autonomy for J&K, and the matter should be resolved satisfactorily.

The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal.








FOR many wonderful years, my life was controlled by the ringing of the school bell and centred around the various activities that children are involved in, in  a public school.  But the bell will not ring any more and I will no longer hear the cheerful clamour of children. I will no longer feel that palpable excitement that permeates a classroom when a lesson is being well taught.  I feel anxiety and bewilderment because I know no other way to fill the long lonely hours.  I feel a sadness, too,  for a way of life that is lost to me forever.


Stronger even than the feeling of sadness is a feeling of deep gratitude.  I have no illusions about myself or about my work.  I am a  reasonably good teacher of English, who, by a stroke of luck, was elevated to the position of Principal.  I am a man of limited vision  and all through my 20 years with YPS, both in Patiala and in Mohali,  have been painfully aware of my mediocrity.  My only aim has been to make my school better each year, in every area of its functioning, than it was the year before. 


That I was able to achieve much, even with this modest aim, was due entirely to the support I received from  every member of  the YPS family. There is gratitude towards my Board. No head could wish for a better Board.  Kind and generous, sensitive to my every need and difficulty, the Board held my hand when I faltered and was generous in its praise when I succeeded.


Gratitude towards the parents who gave me their wholehearted support in everything that I tried to do and whose criticism was almost always extremely constructive in nature.


There was a tiny fringe group who had decided that the school was their enemy, who were unpleasantly aggressive and hostile and who, after the recent crisis, even  made an attempt at blackmail.  But I am grateful to them,  too,  because they added  much needed spice  to what could, otherwise,  have been  tediously smooth sailing. 


Gratitude to the staff:  teaching, administrative and support, who have put up with my erratic temper and my unreasonable demands, created a pleasant, comfortable and happy workplace and worked with zeal and dedication.


Gratitude to my wonderful children who accepted the imposition of strict discipline as necessary for their own well being, children who were always unfailingly polite to me, children who brought me two of the most wonderful gifts that any Head can ask for,  a desire to excel in everything that they put their hands to and exemplary behaviour and conduct on every outing beyond the physical limits of the school.


For the major part of my life I have traded in words and made a successful business of it, but now when I need them the most, words fail me.  All that I find myself capable of saying is, thank you YPS, thank you very much.










THE Union Cabinet will shortly examine the draft Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2010, and then table it in Parliament.


Floated earlier in 2008, it envisages a national framework for the regulation and supervision of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). It legalises commercial surrogacy for single persons, married or unmarried couples. When it becomes law, the surrogate mother will have to enter into a legally enforceable surrogacy agreement.


It states that foreigners or NRIs coming to India to rent a womb will have to submit documentation confirming that their country of residence recognises surrogacy as legal and that it will give citizenship to the child born through the surrogacy agreement from an Indian mother. This, perhaps, is in view of the two-year legal battle of the surrogate sons, Nikolas and Leonard, born to the German couple Jan Balaz and Susan Lohlad. The two kids, born to an Indian surrogate mother in January 2008, were rendered stateless with neither German or Indian citizenship. Subsequently, the Supreme Court got them exit permits in May 2010.


Similarly, after being stranded in Mumbai, a gay Israeli couple was granted Israeli passports only after a DNA paternity established in May 2010 that gay Dan Goldberg was the father of Itai and Liron born to a surrogate mother in Mumbai. This followed a debate in Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and the Jerusalem District Court ruled in appeal that it was in the children's best interest to hold the DNA test to establish their paternity.


Before Parliament passes the Bill, it must be debated thoroughly. Ethically, should women be paid for being surrogates? Can the rights of women and children be bartered? If the arrangements fall foul, will it amount to adultery? Is the Bill a compromise in surpassing complicated Indian adoption procedures?


Is the new law compromising with reality in legitimising existing surrogacy rackets? Is India promoting "reproductive tourism"? Does the law protect the surrogate mother? Should India take the lead in adapting a new law not fostered in most countries?


The Draft Bill lacks the creation of a specialist legal authority for adjudication and determination of legal rights of parties by a judicial verdict and falls in conflict with the existing laws. These pitfalls need to be examined closely before enacting the legislation.


In the UK, no contract or surrogacy agreement is legally binding. In most states in the US, compensated surrogacy arrangements are either illegal or unenforceable. In some states in Australia, arranging commercial surrogacy is a criminal offence and any surrogacy agreement giving custody to others is void. In Canada and New Zealand, commercial surrogacy has been illegal since 2004, although altruistic surrogacy is allowed. In France, Germany and Italy, surrogacy, whether commercial or not, is unlawful.


What, then, prompts India to plan a legislation to protect the genetic parents, surrogate mother and the child? India's surrogacy boom began in January 2004 with a grandmother delivering her daughter's twins. The success spawned a virtual cottage industry in Gujarat. Today, India boasts of being the first to legalise commercial surrogacy soon to legitimise both intra-and inter-country surrogacy.


The would-be parents from the Indian diaspora in the US, the UK and Canada and foreigners from Malaysia, the UAE, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan besides Nepal are descending on sperm banks and In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF) centres in India looking for South Asian genetic traits of perfect sperm donors.


Moreover, renting wombs has become an easy and cheap option in India. Relatively low cost of medical services, easy availability of surrogate wombs, abundant choices of donors with similar racial attributes and the lack of any law to regulate these practices is attracting both foreigners and NRIs to sperm banks and surrogate mothers.


Surreptitiously, India has become a booming centre of a fertility market with its "reproductive tourism" industry reportedly estimated at Rs 25,000 crore today. Clinically called ART, it has been in vogue in India since 1978 and today an estimated 200,000 clinics across the country offer artificial insemination, IVF and surrogacy.


In Baby Manji Yamada's case (2008), the Supreme Court observed that "commercial surrogacy reaching industry proportions is sometimes referred to by the emotionally charged and potentially offensive terms wombs for rent, outsourced pregnancies or baby farms". It is presumably considered legitimate because no Indian law prohibits surrogacy. But then, as a retort, no law permits surrogacy either. Surely, the proposed law will usher in a new rent-a-womb law as India is set to be the only one to legalise commercial surrogacy.


In the absence of any law to govern surrogacy, the Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines (2005) for accreditation, supervision and regulation of ART clinics in India are often violated. Exploitation, extortion and ethical abuses in surrogacy trafficking are rampant and surrogate mothers are misused with impunity.


Surrogacy in the UK, the US and Australia costs more than US $ 50,000 whereas advertisements on websites in India give varying costs in the range of US $ 10,000 and offer egg donors and surrogate mothers. It is a free trading market, flourishing and thriving in the business of babies.


The writer is Advocate, the Supreme Court of India and the Punjab and Haryana High Court








THE Draft Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2010, is a step in the right direction. It will help regulate the functioning of the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) centres and make the entire process of surrogacy legal. The setting up of ART banks will ensure quality check and accountability.

Everything would be in black and white and legal redressal for any failures will be possible. At present, there is no accountability of the IVF centres as they can deny everything as legally they don't even exist.


However, with things becoming easier and legal, people might become overenthusiastic and have a baby for which they are not emotionally prepared on a long-term basis. Neglect and abuse of these children is an issue of concern and a mechanism should be put in place for monitoring their progress by social agencies.


— Dr Anju Huria, Gynaecologist, Chandigarh


Repugnant to human dignity


It is inconsistent with human dignity that a woman should use her uterus for financial profit and treat it as an incubator for someone else's child. These words of the Warnock Committee reporting to the British Government in 1984 remain unanswerable even today. The proposed Bill, however, legalises not only surrogacy per se but even commercial surrogacy or surrogacy "for monetary compensation" or "on mutually agreed financial terms".


Whatever the intentions, its inevitable consequence would be the creation of a market specialising in the sale and purchase of babies, or as the Court of Appeal in England put it in 1985, in "a kind of baby-farming operation of a wholly distasteful and lamentable kind". The only proper way to pursue the Bill would be to abandon it.


— Anupam Gupta, Senior Advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court


Negative impact on society


For infertile couples wanting to have children, the ART would make things easier as regulations will be there for the entire process. But if it encourages single parenthood, it will not be in the interest of the children born out of such an arrangement and thus will have a negative impact on society.


Family togetherness, in traditional terms of having a father, mother and brother/sister, is important for the upbringing of any child and the same cannot be provided by gay or lesbian couples or individuals. Children born to such couples or individuals may lack confidence. It will definitely affect the children in the long run.


— Dr B.S. Chavan, Head, Psychiatry Department, Govt Medical College Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh


Don't keep doctors out of the loop

Those who would run ART banks will not be professional doctors and hence won't be able to make the right decision. They will not have clinical knowledge about the quality of semen or oocytes.


Doctors alone can run the IVF clinics. Keeping them out of the loop will not be in the interest of either the surrogate mothers or those hiring them.

 Dr Umesh N. Jindal, Jindal IVF and Sant Memorial Nursing Home, Sector 20, Chandigarh

(As told to Anuja Jaiswal)







My first real movie script – by which I mean one I actually signed a contract to write, as opposed to random scrawlings in which I rewrote the Spider-Man saga or pitted The Man With No Name against The Preacher – was a horror movie for one of India's biggest movie studios. The film remains unmade to date, but the writing process was utterly fascinating, not least because I'm rather terrified of the genre. 


But what I'm talking about is the way the production house swooped upon it and ripped it apart, suspending disbelief in their desperate hunt for raw 'logic' in every line. The film was rewritten ad infinitum as sharply dressed executives, keen to prove their worth, felt the need to loudly toss in their two cents. 


And here's the thing: horror doesn't follow logic. At least not the kind that governs our daily lives, else we wouldn't be able to walk the streets without light-sabers, crucifixes or a string of garlic, our friendly neighbourhood priest's number on speed-dial. A good horror film will develop its own logic, mysterious and twisted and mostly airtight, and will follow it loyally – occasionally digressing, to let pretty women dress very skimpily. 


When a committee sits over a script, there are obvious questions: Why is a character behaving a certain way, where did another character come from, how stuff works. Then these self-styled Syd Fields toss in stunningly banal questions about 'motivations' and 'character arcs' and 'plotpoints'. All this can be dealt with if you have a script you believe in. After all, you know it makes sense. 


What you really aren't prepared for, is the fact that these are people who equate logic with the trade of filmmaking, brains with box-office analysis. Sowe're told the hero shouldn't be unfaithful, the subtle ending should be spelt out slowly a couple of scenes after the climax, and then, helpful as a cricket commentator during a boxing match, someone chirps in with the suggestion that there should be a few kids crying and being spooky, because it 'always works'. 


But all of that – harebrained as it may be when you're advised to turn the heroine schizophrenic just so a curlymopped actress right for 'such parts' signs up – isn't the most exasperating part. After all, in its own bizarre way, it's quality control. It's a script, and while they can pick holes and ravage its narrative, if it fends for itself it can see the light of day. Frustrating, but can be discounted as part of the creative struggle. 
    No, what IS truly, hideously, unbearably exasperating is the fact that all this doubt ceases to be as soon as a star comes aboard. Nitpicking, questioning, suggestions all go right out the window since a bankable, poster-friendly face has clambered aboard the project and made the people adding up pre-release profits very happy indeed. Logic? Screw that, we've got a star, bhai. 


Instead of taking a script to directors and producers and finding the right kind of people, things work much smoother if you can sell an idea to a superstar, convincing him, in the free time that he has between a cola commercial and a gameshow, that this film would be a great vehicle for him, make him all global-cool types. He nods his head and all systems whirr into action with immediate effect, teaser posters hitting theatres often before your final draft has the commas in place. 

Which is why we have Kareena Kapoor, an evidently intelligent and independent doctor, readying to marry the same moron over and over again in 3 Idiots, seemingly because she has nothing better to do. Or sleeping with a terrorist in Kurbaan, only to get him to sleep? Logic-schmogic, say the producers, confident in the knowledge that their A-lister looks smashing under bright blue umbrellas in studio rain or barebacked on a poster. And that's all that seems to matter anymore. 


Funnily, by this logic, all our big films should be tripe and the little, starless ones masterpieces – but Bollywood, like its makers, eschews rationality when convenient, a quickie often triumphing over a clever scene, an item song over a quiet moment. And a vehicle with a star over a reasonably priced car. 


And as for the horror film, I wrote it for a friend and filmmaker who tragically passed away recently. Sourabh Usha Narang, 37, remains an overwhelming inspiration and a soul-brother. He had original vision and undying commitment to the power of the story, and yet, as the wise do, he took the madness of moviemaking with a pinch of salt. He taught me to write films, to breathe them in, to truly believe, despite all odds. And he isn't around anymore - now, where's the logic in that? 



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





Is it more important that inflation in primary articles has risen 16 per cent in the latest week (compared to the corresponding week a year earlier), or that the index, at 306 in June, was 4.5 per cent higher than what it was in March? Private consumption in the fourth quarter of 2009-10 rose in relation to the fourth quarter of 2008-09, but fell relative to the third quarter of 2009-10; which base period is more relevant for comparison, if one is to understand the latest trends? Questions such as these get repeated each time the official statistical machinery releases any set of data.


At the top of the list of to-do's for the new Chief Statistician of India, T C A Anant, therefore, should be the job of getting the government to stop putting out year-on-year comparisons, and to do what the rest of the world does: adjust the latest data for seasonality and then annualise it — so that the country gets a realistic picture of what actually happened, for instance, to fourth-quarter private consumption. Once this is done for inflation, the country might find that inflation rates are falling; and if that is indeed the case, it would suggest a totally different course of action for RBI when it frames monetary policy. The logic of a shift to seasonally adjusted, annualised rates applies just as much to industrial production and other data.


 Another critical lacuna in the country's data system is the lack of official numbers on family incomes. Organisations like the National Council for Applied Economic Research do study family income data, but that is not a substitute for official numbers. India is one of the few countries that have no official numbers for this, because the stress is on expenditure — the survey-based poverty numbers look at expenditure levels. Also, the country's official statistics focus on individual expenditure, whereas the domestic reality (in terms of spending) for most people is the family unit. The country needs to move away from the focus on per capita income numbers, which are statistically derived by dividing GDP by the total population and, therefore, not really useful for understanding what people actually earn and spend. It is much more important to understand personal incomes — which in India are about 60 or 65 per cent of "per capita income", the rest being accounted for by corporate profits and the like. Along with this shift, the government needs to take the emphasis away from the mean (or arithmetic average, as in the average per capita income) to the median — the median family being one that has half of all families earning more and half earning less. This is what is done in the United States and many other countries, and imparts much greater understanding about who is the "average" nationals of those countries.


It is easy to list many other statistical tasks: the economy needs data on housing starts, inventory and industrial capacity utilisation, to better understand business cycles. Then, the industrial production numbers put out every month are of dubious accuracy, with reporting by companies having become voluntary a long time ago. The data on incomes in parts of the burgeoning services sector are even less reliable. An economy without reliable statistics is like a plane flying with defective meter readings; the pilot is likely to take the wrong decisions. Improvements are possible only if a major constraint (the lack of statisticians) is tackled. As Prof Anant's predecessor told this newspaper, there are 1,200 vacancies in the official statistics collection/analysis wing of the government.







The stand-off between the four state-run insurance firms and leading hospital chains like Apollo, Escorts/Fortis and Max, is inconvenient for patients. But the decision by insurance companies to withdraw their cashless payment facility was inevitable, given the evidence of vastly inflated bills from these hospitals. In effect, the insured patient now has to pay the bills presented by the hospital, and the insurance company will decide later as to the amount that it considers reasonable and will reimburse. Indeed, there are also reports of the insurance firms engaging detectives and super-speciality consultants to examine bills in detail.


That the private hospitals may have been padding bills is entirely believable; corporate hospitals are not the best examples of patient-centric conduct, and there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence of doctors ordering superfluous tests in order to raise the billing level. But these problems are not unique to India, they have been experienced in other countries as well, and the insurance sector has come up with a variety of responses. One is co-pay — the insured person has to pay an agreed percentage of all bills and, therefore, has an interest in keeping bills low.


 The hard fact is that corporate hospitals, whose business is paid for by insurance companies catering to relatively affluent patients, are no substitute for public hospitals, which are few, under-funded, under-staffed and over-crowded. Indeed, even government employees covered by the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) are now encouraged to go to the corporate hospitals, with the CGHS picking up the tab (said to be lower in most cases than what is billed to the insurance companies!). Governments have tried to bridge the gap by giving private hospitals subsidised or even free land, in return for the promise that a specified percentage of beds would be reserved for poor patients who would get subsidised or free treatment. The scandal is that the corporate hospitals have invariably reneged on such promises, and not been held to account. The other malpractice, on which the Medical Council of India or its successor should crack down, is the business of giving doctors a percentage cut on the bill, thus incentivising doctors to become party to the price-gouging. So, it is just as well that the four state-owned insurance firms have decided to form a Preferred Provider Network of hospitals which agree to charge patients within a price band for various medical procedures.









The government's plan to make India "slum free" is taking shape. Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto is being roped in to provide inputs. An ambitious scheme called the Rajiv Awas Yojana is being designed. This is a very important area because it goes to the crux of how to accommodate 300-400 million people in urban India in the next three decades. The urbanisation process will redefine the country within a generation and we need to get it right. In previous columns, I have argued that we need to think of slums as "routers" in the migration process and that the property rights of the urban poor are not just about real estate ownership ("Slums defy concrete solutions", BS, December 9 2010, and "Property rights for future migrants", BS, March 10, 2010). In this article, I will look at the critical role that public housing can play in guiding the urbanisation process.


Public housing is not a new idea and various versions of it have been tried across the world. However, it must be remembered that it has very rarely been a wholesale success. In many cases, it has created ghettos of poverty and despondency. In others, the relatively rich have "captured" the projects and have benefited from the subsidies. One of the few exceptions is Singapore where public housing projects played a very important role in transforming the city-state within a generation from a poor, slum-riddled port to one of the world's most prosperous and advanced cities. What makes it even more impressive is that this was achieved by the mobilisation of internal resources and not the deployment of a windfall from oil or some such natural resource.


The Singapore story

In the early 1960s, Singapore suffered from severe housing shortages. A large section of the population lived in unhygienic squatter camps that were prone to frequent fires and communal tensions. In a single fire at Bukit Ho Swee in 1961, several people were killed and 16,000 people were made homeless. The race riots of July1964 left 23 people dead and hundreds injured. In other words, life in Singapore's slums was no better than that in slums that we see in Indian cities today.


The British-run colonial government decided to set up the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in 1960. The agency had built over 54,000 housing units by the time Singapore became independent in 1965. In the initial phase, the flats were basic and were meant for renting. Over time, the quality and choice of housing were increased even as schemes were introduced to help people buy their homes. An important financing innovation in 1968 was to allow citizens to use money from the Central Provident Fund for down payments and servicing.

HDB housing grew very rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s. In tandem with this growth, the government invested heavily in common amenities such as health, education and public transport. Special efforts were made to accommodate small businesses as well as community hubs, such as sports facilities and places of worship. Today, about 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in HDB housing and 95 per cent own their homes. It is extraordinary that the citizens of one of the world's most prosperous cities choose to live in public housing.


What can we learn?

I have found that Indian "urban experts" arrogantly dismiss Singapore as a small-scale experiment. I disagree. Singapore is a small country but it is a reasonably large city of 5 million — larger than all but six Indian cities. It has been able to dramatically raise the standards of living of its population in a very dense urban environment purely through internally generated resources. This is why, for the last two decades, a string of Chinese mayors have swallowed their pride and made a pilgrimage to the city-state. I know that Singapore's public housing policies cannot be blindly applied to India, but there are some important principles that are universal and worthy of consideration:


Clear property rights are very important for creating a sense of ownership. However, note that there is a big difference in the Singaporean approach and that of Hernando de Soto. The latter is in favour of regularising squatter rights whereas the Singaporeans preferred to wipe the slate clean using public acquisition of land. From the Singaporean viewpoint, regularising squatter rights would reward squatting and ultimately undermine the very basis of property rights.


Public housing may be partly subsidised but it should not be too cheap — and never free. Instead, there is a housing ladder which starts with cheap rentals and ends in high-end condominium apartments like those in the Pinnacle complex. In other words, the urban poor are not seen as a static group in need of handouts. The underlying assumption is that people have aspirations and they will work hard and climb the ladder quite quickly if given the chance. This is very different from de Soto's world of small holdings and micro-finance, where the poor improve their situation in tiny incremental steps. Perhaps the difference in world-view reflects the difference between the rapid growth experience of Asia and the slow growth of Latin America.


Management of the "commons" is critical. Thus, the Singaporean approach invests very heavily in common amenities, public transport, maintenance and so on. Residents of HDB estates are made to pay a small management fee every month. Similarly, every effort is made to cluster economic and social nodes within each HDB estate. Even informal sector activities like "hawker centres" are designed into the public housing system. Again, this is very different from de Soto's approach that focuses on private ownership of property and largely ignores the commons.


Real estate laws are transparent and evenly applied by a quick legal system. This is a necessary corollary of properly defined property rights. This is one area where the Singaporeans and Hernando de Soto would strongly agree with each other.


The purpose of this article is to point out that there is an "Asian model" for thinking about public housing and slum upgrade. This does not mean that rockstar economists like de Soto should be ignored. He clearly has ideas that should be considered seriously. I merely hope that the Indian government will weigh various options before embarking on an important and expensive project.


The author is president of the Sustainable Planet Institute and  Senior Fellow of WWF








Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia is a seasoned campaigner. For over 30 long years, he has been part of the government, barring, of course, a short stint of three years with the International Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2004 when he headed its Independent Evaluation Office. In these three decades, he has doused many fires and resolved many more controversies that threatened to engulf the government.


 The tirade launched last week by Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath against the Planning Commission sparked off one of those many controversies. At a meeting, where Mr Ahluwalia too was present, Mr Nath said the Planning Commission had become an "armchair adviser" and had lost contact with ground realities. He also suggested that the Commission might be very good at writing books but building roads was a completely different proposition.


Any other person enjoying the status of a Cabinet minister would have immediately reacted to Mr Nath with a point-by-point rebuttal of the charges levelled against the Commission, but not Mr Ahluwalia. A few days later, he even told a television channel that the government was all about intense disagreements and there was nothing wrong if such disagreements got sorted out at different levels. Mr Ahluwalia even revealed that Mr Nath's outburst did not surprise him. Even before the meeting began, the minister had told Mr Ahluwalia about his intention to air his differences with the Planning Commission.


Mind you, this was no ordinary provocation from a minister.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh heads the Planning Commission and Mr Ahluwalia is his close confidant. The two enjoy a relationship of trust, built over time.  In the early 1990s, Mr Ahluwalia was in the finance ministry initially as the economic affairs secretary and later as the finance secretary while Manmohan Singh as the finance minister was implementing those path-breaking economic reforms under the P V Narasimha Rao government. The attack against the Planning Commission, therefore, was not only against Mr Ahluwalia, but was also indirectly aimed at the prime minister who headed it as its chairman.


Yet, Mr Ahluwalia remained cool and unprovoked. It would be naive to attribute such equanimity to only Mr Ahluwalia's statesman-like response that Mr Nath's attack was only a reflection of disagreements within the government, which should be sorted out at different levels. There is something more to this. It would not be unreasonable to conclude that such equanimity is an outcome of Mr Ahluwalia's growing realisation that the Planning Commission, which had been virtually written off as an institution, had at last begun to make an impact on the way the government and the various central ministries function. Mr Nath's outburst against the Planning Commission is also a tacit acknowledgement that it had begun to make a difference to the way government projects are being implemented.


These may be early signs of a body that has come back to life, but for Mr Ahluwalia this is the outcome of a long battle that he had launched more than a decade ago. As member of the Planning Commission in the National Democratic Alliance government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mr Ahluwalia had tried very hard to make his voice heard at the policy-making level in the government. He had argued that the Planning Commission was a repository of knowledge and expertise in various areas, but it had no effective say in the way the administrative ministries were framing policies. Thus, his solution was that in all Cabinet meetings where policies were to be decided, there should be representation from the Planning Commission. However, his views went largely unheeded and the Planning Commission remained only an advisory body with little effective power to mould policies.


In the last six years, the Planning Commission has become a little more powerful. Mr Ahluwalia as its deputy chairman is now a permanent invitee to all the Cabinet meetings of the UPA government. What's more, the Commission's views on various policy proposals now carry more weight at the Cabinet meetings and with various government departments. Also, administrative ministries can no longer brush the Planning Commission views aside as easily as they could do in the past.


If Kamal Nath launches a broadside against the Planning Commission, it is because his ministry now can no longer afford to ignore the advice that comes from Yojana Bhavan. If Mr Ahluwalia sees Mr Nath's outburst as a reflection of the disagreements among different arms of the government, it is an indirect admission that the Planning Commission is now part of the government system where it can disagree with a ministry and force a resolution of those differences. That was not so earlier.








Equity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights, goes a legal maxim. When a citizen is hurt by injustice, it is his duty to seek legal help fast and he normally does so. But, when it is public money that is at stake, no one is in a hurry to claim it. It is so easy to play Kumbhkaran when it is about revenue due to the government.


 Generations of judges of the Supreme Court and high courts have been trying to awaken revenue departments to move appeals within the time prescribed in the Income Tax Act or the Limitation Act. Once, a former attorney general was asked to investigate and straighten up the law department. Two decades have gone by without even a yawn from the slumbering mandarins. Even now, a snail can take four rounds of the North Block before the revenue department moves an appeal in the Supreme Court.


Last week, the new Chief Justice of India (CJI), S H Kapadia, ordered investigation into the inordinate delay in filing appeals by the income tax department in at least two gross cases. The time limit has been exceeded by nearly three years in both cases. The stakes involved are to the tune of Rs 2-5 crore. In another case, the solicitor general admitted that the delay was an "elephantine 1,206 days". Since the reopening of the court, one of the CJI's singular themes in his observations has been the delay caused by income tax, customs, excise and other departments, which should be prompt in filing appeals when they lose their case in tribunals or high courts. A delay of thousand days does not surprise anyone anymore.


Prodded by the remarks of the court, the solicitor general has taken up the issue with the Central Board of Direct Taxes and the revenue secretary. He has assured the court that he would do his best to solve the problem.


Several statutes prescribe time limits for filing appeals. Section 260-A of the Income Tax Act has a detailed provision prescribing a 120-day limit. The Limitation Act has a schedule setting down the outer limits. The Civil Procedure Code regulates applications for condoning delays in certain circumstances.


However, if the statutes are followed strictly, the public might suffer because they may have genuine difficulties in moving the appellate court. They have to wait for the receipt of certified copies of the judgments, draft new petitions and follow other formalities. In the case of the revenue department, the problem is compounded by the need for examination of the papers by a board, drafting by a panel of lawyers and absence, transfers and promotion of officials dealing with the issue. The quality of lawyers filing and appearing before the courts has also been a subject of the Supreme Court's criticism. Scores of tax briefs are usually dumped at the last minute on one lawyer, as in the last week.


If the court dismisses government appeals filed after a long delay, the gainers would certainly be tax-dodgers and their friends in high places. Therefore, the court reluctantly responds to the government lawyer's plea for "condonation" of delay. The judges plonk down such case bundles suppressing their mixed feelings on the subject.


Passing strictures on the guilty departments has had no effect so far. In several judgments in recent times, the court has ordered enquiry and action against officials. A few months ago, the court ordered an enquiry into the conduct of the high functionaries of a state corporation which had caused a delay of four years before asserting its rights by filing an appeal (Oriental Aroma Chemicals vs Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation). The court further ordered that the loss suffered by the corporation should be recovered from the officials who caused the delay.


A year ago, the Supreme Court had asked the Karnataka government to pay Rs 10 lakh for filing an appeal 14 years after an adverse judgment in the State of Karnataka vs Moideen Kunhi case. Kunhi had died fighting the case in the meantime. The court directed the government to take action against "every person responsible for the alleged fraud and delay in pursuing legal remedies, fix responsibility and recover the amount from them". It further remarked that the delays are "skilfully managed" and it is done to protect unscrupulous litigants at the cost of public interest or the exchequer. In yet another recent case, State of Delhi vs Ahmed Jaan, the court wanted the official who failed to appeal on time to be made personally responsible for the lapse. However, you can trust the fraternity of bureaucrats to overcome such irritants.






This will make organised retail more efficient and help farmers. Kiranas have natural advantages that will protect them to an extent, but if they are not modernised, the employment impact could be large.

Govind Shrikhande

CEO, Shoppers Stop


Large investments in infrastructure will help farmers and will boost exports in a big way. It is unlikely organised retail will get more than 15% of the market even after a decade


Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector is currently a hot topic of debate. It is also a sensitive topic considering that the stakeholders in this case are consumers, local retailers and global retailers.


The recent announcement by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) to discuss various issues related to FDI is a welcome move. It has set the tone for inviting all the stakeholders to comment on various aspects of the move.


Let's examine the key aspects related to this decision. To start with, why bring FDI in any sector? Clearly, FDI benefits customers, economy and infrastructure. Our experience in telecom, automobile and insurance sectors clearly shows the success of the FDI policy. With large-scale investments in each of these sectors, customers are getting the best of services and products, and the resultant competition is spurring the players to improve further. Even today, after the sector was opened up, the largest car brand continues to be an Indian one.


The retail sector in India has a pretty unique structure. It started with rationing and grew through retail in textile and footwear. Today, India has 15 million-plus retailers who account for $350-plus billion of annual sales.


The retail space is dominated by the unorganised sector that contributes to 94 per cent of the sales. During the last decade, many new formats — right from departmental stores to hypermarkets and speciality stores — were launched in the country. Many global biggies are already present in India. Malls have now become popular among middle-class families in various cities and towns. As the economy keeps on growing, the retail market will continue to make progress. Customers will demand better products and services in line with their growing income and aspirations. This will require large-scale investments in manufacturing, retail space, technology, food logistics, processing, etc.


FDI in retail will have a far-reaching impact on various aspects of the economy. If rolled out in phases and with proper checks and balances, it will give a boost to the economy. Customers will get a wide assortment of quality goods at reasonable prices. They will be able to buy the best brands across various categories.


Large investments in infrastructure would lead to a rise in farm productivity, manufacturing and food processing as well as cold storage facilities. This would cut down wastage and spur growth in employment, exports and GDP. It can also help revive the textile and handicrafts sector. With appropriate controls in place, our exports can double in three years.


The introduction of technology and good management practices will improve product availability, reduce wastage, improve quality and customer satisfaction.


China is an example of successful execution of FDI in retail in a phased manner. After FDI in retail, Chinese retailers still hold a majority of retail share. The number of small retailers has doubled. Also, exports and GDP growth has continued unabated in that country. China continues to dominate global trade through large-scale FDI investment in the country.


The biggest argument against FDI is centred on its negative impact on small, unorganised retailers. We believe that the unique model of retail in the country will not only survive FDI but also prosper once it's allowed.


Indian consumers are very particular about value and quality. They love to buy and cook fresh. Hence, they will continue visiting the regular kirana stores and grocers for their daily needs. The large format players will cater to the monthly needs for products and services.


Moreover, there isn't much space available for large retailers to enter the most crowded areas within most of the big cities. Therefore, large-scale retail stores will always remain a destination for big buys. Customers will have to make an effort to reach them. And with difficult road connectivity and infrastructure in cities, this will always remain a challenge.


Also, the ingenuity of Indian entrepreneurs has no match. Big retailers will find it difficult to measure up to services like free home delivery, monthly khata and the personalised approach of kirana stores. Even 10 years after FDI is allowed, unorganised retail will dominate the Indian market with more than 85 per cent share.


FDI should bring in investments in technology, infrastructure, cold storage facilities, distribution and manufacturing. If the top two retailers, who are already in India, commit to buy 5 per cent of their global purchases, this will translate into exports of $25 billion! — a game-changer for the Indian economy. '


In addition to this, India can also become a shopping destination for the world, leading to further boost to the economy.

Praveen Khandelwal

General Secretary, Confederation of All India Traders


Given their outsourcing skills, resources and facilitation from the government, global players will be able to crush competition and charge monopolistic prices


The recently released discussion paper by the government on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail is nothing but an attempt to convert the domestic retail trade into crony capitalism. The trading community is prepared to fight it tooth and nail as this involves the question of the survival of their trade. It will adversely affect not only traders but also farmers, transporters, workers and several other sections that are associated with the retail trade.


If multi-brand retail is allowed in the country, the sole aim of global retailers will be to dominate the markets they enter into with the objective of capturing the maximum share, as they will be entering the trade for business and not for charity. Given their outsourcing skills, resources and facilitation from the government, they will be able to crush competition and, ultimately, dominate the market by charging monopolistic prices.


One reason that has been stated in the discussion paper is domination of value chain by intermediaries — as a result, it is said, farmers get only one-third of the total price paid by the consumers. It is necessary to understand who the present intermediaries are. They are the bullock cart men, transporters, agents and small traders. On the other hand, in the case of global players, the intermediaries are the brand ambassadors who are paid crores of rupees, high consumption of power, high cost of warehousing and transportation. The present intermediaries have contributed not only to the economy but also to the substantial social development of the country. Further, small retailers are charged with keeping two-thirds of the margin with themselves, which is factually incorrect. Since 2005, big corporate houses have been engaged in retail operations and their prices are either higher than, on a par with, market prices. This establishes that the two-thirds of the total margin is kept by these big retailers and they are not going to sell their products at lower prices. Therefore, charging the retailers with keeping huge margin is only an attempt to malign the trading community in order to find ways to allow MNCs in the retail sector.


After Independence, no efforts were made by the government to develop the existing retail trade into structured,

organised retailing. Hence, instead of allowing multi-brand retail, the government should evolve a policy to upgrade the existing retailers, and on the pattern of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Act, we can have an Act to protect and promote small and medium retailers under separate ministries with innovative schemes, such as a cluster approach to convert our unorganised retailers into organised, modern retailers. They should be provided with credit facilities at low interest rates. This will facilitate retail units coming together and transforming themselves into chain shops that will allow bargaining in purchase, hence benefitting the consumer.


It is said that multi-brand retail will prove to be a boon to the farmers. Again, this is wrong. The global players will initially buy products directly from farmers at attractive prices through their procurement centres on contract basis or otherwise. Once the agricultural mandis and regulated market yards are closed, they will radically reduce the procurement prices. As the big retailers possess tremendous bargaining power, farmers will be forced to sell their produce at cut-throat prices, and will even be forced to part with their agricultural land, which will render them as being mere employees of retail houses.


After agriculture, retail is the largest employment-generating sector in the country. Due to lack of a level playing field, small retail stores as well as mid-sized departmental and chain shops would be severely hit, thereby depriving millions of people of their jobs and livelihood. Does the government have any plan to provide an alternative source of income to them and arrange for their rehabilitation? While the government has provided many concessions and implemented assistance schemes for the protection and growth of SSI sector, it has done nothing to safeguard the interest and nurture the progress of small- and medium-sized retail units in the country. Prudence demands that the government should not disturb our traditional retail trade, which is running without causing any financial strain to the government.


It is suggested that an independent, in-depth study of the retail trade should be carried out by a task force comprising officials, experts and stakeholders to understand the ground realities of the retail trade. Efforts must be made to modernise and organise the existing retail trade instead of inviting MNCs to conquer the country once again.









ABUSE of a freedom tends to lead on to its termination. When the High-Level Coordination Committee on Financial Markets (HLCC) failed to resolve the dispute over who should regulate unit-linked insurance plans, it prepared the ground for its autonomy to be curbed. So, the responsibility for paving the way for the ordinance making the finance minister the formal arbiter of regulatory disputes and possibly of other regulatory matters as well, lies with the RBI, whose governor chairs the HLCC. That, however, is no justification for the smash-and-grab tactic employed the finance ministry to foist itself atop the country's regulatory institutions, through an ordinance. This ordinance has prompted the reticent RBI governor to go public with his opposition to it. Now, the market regulator Sebi has weighed in, as well, with his reservations on the ordinance. The point is not that the current finance minister is eager to dictate terms to the financial sector regulators. He might not be. But, in the name of resolving one dispute between Sebi and insurance regulator Irda, the government is changing the institutional structure of financial regulation, and converting itself into a superregulator. This is undesirable. In any case, such a drastic change should not be pushed through via an ordinance. Let the ordinance lapse, and the government hold wide consultations on the desirable regulatory structure for the financial sector before enacting a new framework. 


Now, during the post-Lehman crisis, regulators worked, in country after country, hand-in-hand with governments to salvage financial institutions, putting aside concerns about regulatory autonomy. This was appropriate behaviour during a crisis. But it does not mean that, in normal times, regulatory autonomy should be treated as a quaint fancy on par with Santa Claus. We have argued in the past that what is appropriate for India at its current stage of development is to make the HLCC work. The RBI bundles within itself the functions of setting the monetary policy, keeping an eye on exchange rate volatility, managing the government's debt and regulating banks and other financial institutions. Such bundling allows knowledge of what is happening in the world of finance to inform the central bank's actions, qualifying it to serve as the prime macroprudential regulator, whose inputs should guide regulators who watch over how individual financial markets behave. Let the government stay away at an arm's length, trusting the HLCC to give due weight to its inputs.








IF THE big questions facing the BJP in its post-Vajpayee phase were whether to try and maintain its moderate face, embodied by the former PM, and to maintain some sort of independence from the RSS, Nitin Gadkari's appointment as party chief was a clear negative on both counts. And Gadkari's recent statements have brought a certain coarseness into its political discourse. It isn't just about comparing political opponents to canines or barbs in bad taste about matrimonial relationships, but also a polarising invective that takes recourse to invoking loyalties for medieval kings to define national identity. That is one clear sign of the party deploying the divisive, communal narratives that comprise the core of its definition of Hindutva. The BJP still doesn't seem to have overcome the sense of drift that stemmed from its 2004 electoral setback. For long after that election result, the BJP behaved as if it had somehow been cheated out of government and the UPA were some sort of an upstart. Then it consistently refused to play a constructive role in the Opposition, trying, for example, to undermine the nuclear deal that its top leadership knew was in the country's interest. Gadkari's utterances show that the drift continues. The strain in its relations with allies, whose numbers constantly threaten to dwindle, is part of the same problem. 


The larger question about the BJP was how it would define its leadership and whether it could emerge as a party of the centre-right. For, clearly, a polarising agenda can't yield a sustainable space in Indian politics beyond a certain point. The BJP's problem is that a revanchist agenda has been its raison d'etre and it would have taken serious introspection to revisit some of its core paradigms. It has failed in that. And the recent shrillness, masquerading as political invective, is a sign of a party that is yet to regain its composure and sense of direction.








IT IS not known from where Fyodor Dostoevsky got his inspiration for The Brothers Karamazov. Karnataka's Reddy brothers — mining barons-turned-ministers in the present BJP government — have reportedly inspired not just Lokayutka probes into illegal mining of iron ore when even the legal variety fetches the state a royalty of just Rs 27 a tonne for every Rs 5,000 made by the miner. The Reddy brothers have now also inspired eat-ins, liveins and sleep-ins on the floor of the Legislative Assembly by Opposition MLAs protesting against illegal mining. All of which makes for fascinating TV footage. Thus, the morning of Monday, July 12, saw viewers being treated to the spectacle of Congress and JD(S) MLAs walking into the Legislative Assembly wearing yellow miner helmets. By the evening when the TV cameras had been banned by the Speaker, viewers had to rely on surreptitiously-taken mobile-camera pix to watch their elected representatives chewing peanuts. Monday night had, by way of a special treat, footage of MLAs dining and sleeping, with the odd legislator shown scratching himself in a sleeveless banian! 


Yellow helmets are not the recommended dress code for those who follow the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy. However, opposition MLAs in Karnataka are now stating that they should be allowed to wear not just miner helmets but bulletproof jackets in view of what they term as the intimidating behaviour of ruling-party legislators led by the Reddy brothers! And a final touch to this farcical theatre of the absurd was lent by the chief minister B S Yeddyurappa who did not sob on this occasion as is his wont but merely stated that the protesting MLAs could at the least have avoided eating non-vegetarian food inside the Assembly to preserve the sanctity of the House. Whoever said a House is not a home did not have Karnataka legislators in mind!







 TWO British committees, one Dutch committee and a US Senate committee have investigated Climategate — the disclosure from emails that scientists at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of East Anglia University sought to withhold data from and sabotage research publications of other scientists questioning the conventional wisdom on global warming. 


The first three committees gave CRU scientists and collaborators — including Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Keith Briffa and Kevin Trenberth — a slap on the wrist without calling them outright frauds. The Minority Staff Report of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, however, has accused the scientists of (a) obstructing release of damaging data and information, (b) manipulating data to reach preconceived conclusions, (c) colluding to pressure journal editors who published work questioning the climate science 'consensus', and (d) assuming activist roles to influence the political process. 


Critics have lambasted the supposedly-independent inquiry by Sir Muir Russell because he himself is a climate change crusader. He interviewed the CRU scientists but not the climate sceptics whom the scientists were targeting. This has been called "a trial with judge, jury, reporters, spectators and defendant, but no plaintiff. The plaintiff is locked outside the courtroom sitting in the hall hollering and hoping the jury hears some of what he has to say." 


 At the end of it all, two things are clear. First, it is fantasy for crusaders to claim that catastrophic global warming is established science: the emails reveal doubts and caveats even among true believers in CRU. Second, the International Panel on Climate Change must disavow its claim made first in 2001 — based on the 'hockey stick' graph of Michael Mann using historical tree-ring data — that the world is warmer today than ever before. 


Tree-ring data after 1961 indicate cooling, but actual temperatures show warming. So, Jones resorted to the 'trick' of splicing tree-ring data up to 1961 with actual temperatures after 1961, thus manufacturing a steadily-rising temperature trend in the 20th century. The splicing was dishonest and an insult to science. Yet, the independent inquiry did not condemn it, showing how easily crusader-inquirers forgive transgressions that promote their private agenda. 


The IPCC needs to revert to the earlier scientific consensus — maintained from its first report in 1990 to 2001 — that the medieval warm period of 800-1,300 AD — well before fossil fuels were extracted — was warmer than it is today. 


This is inconvenient for climate crusaders who blame fossil fuels for all warming. But it will provide citizens with basic information they need before deciding whether to spend trillions on combating a problem that may or may not be real. 


To throw light on these two issues, it is worth citing some of the emails. 


Phil Jones (regarding queries from climate sceptic S McIntyre). "I had some emails with him a few years ago when he wanted to get all the station temperature data we use here in CRU. I hid behind the fact that some of the data had been received from individuals and not directly from Met Services through the Global Telecommunications Service (GTS) or through GCOS." 


Phil Jones to Michael Mann. "And don't leave stuff lying around on ftp [file transfer protocol] sites — you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send it to anyone." 


KEITH Briffa. "I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data, but in reality, the situation is not quite so simple. We don't have a lot of proxies that come right up to date and those that do (at least a significant number of tree proxies) show some unexpected changes in response that do not match the recent warming…" 


Phil Jones. "The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK, it has, but it is only seven years of data and it isn't statistically significant." 

 On February 13 this year, Phil Jones told BBC that "there has been no statistically significant warming over the last 15 years." 


Kevin Trenberth, UCAR, October 12, 2009, "We can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." 

Professor Mojib Latif, an IPCC member, recently said, "For the time being, global warming has paused, and there may well be some cooling." Breaking with climate-change orthodoxy, he said North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) cycles were probably responsible for some of the strong global warming seen in the past three decades. The NAO was now moving into a colder phase (New Scientist, September 2009). 


The National Research Council appointed by US Congress concluded that "the substantial uncertainties in the quantitative assessment of large-scale surface temperature changes prior to about AD 1600 lower our confidence in this (hockey stick) conclusion compared to the high level of confidence we place in the Little Ice Age cooling and 20th century warming. Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al(1999) that the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium."


Climategate fortifies my own convictions as a critical agnostic on global warming. We know so little about the weather that we cannot predict it five days ahead, let alone one century ahead. This also means we know too little to rule out guesstimates — like the six IPCC scenarios — about a possible catastrophe. 


The case for combating global warming rests not on established proof of warming but on insuring against a catastrophe that may not happen. If the public decides to spend a trillion dollars on such speculative insurance, so be it. I doubt if this will happen once people learn that catastrophic global warming is a guesstimate, not proven science.







ECONOMISTS generally focus on two main sources of growth: (1) the addition of more inputs (capital and labour), and (2) innovation, technological change, or, in technical economic terms, 'total factor productivity' (the increase in productivity of both capital and labour, considered together). For simplicity, one could call these two different strategies growth by 'brute force' and 'smart growth'. 


Robert Solow of MIT won his Nobel Prize in economics for showing in the late 1950s that in the US and a few other industrialised countries, innovation or 'smart growth' was more important than brute force (more inputs) in generating additions to output over time. A number of scholars have since confirmed this basic insight and extended it to many countries around the world. But what is innovation, beyond something new? 


As we (and others) use the term, it is the marriage of new knowledge, embodied in an invention, with the successful introduction of that invention into the marketplace. The 'fuel' for an economy is the right set of macroeconomic policies: essentially, prudent fiscal and monetary policies to keep inflation low and relatively stable and to prevent economic downturns (or even worse, financial crises) from derailing progress toward growth in the long run. We realise that maintaining macroeconomic stability is far from easy.








Former Petroleum Secretary An open market is a distant dream 

THE mature economies have a large number of independent fuel retailing outlets that give consumers quality and choice of fuel at competitive prices as well as world-class auto services. Much before private players were allowed, Shell was permitted in early 1990s to upgrade select BPCL outlets with a new layout, modern equipment and convenience stores. This was quickly copied by other PSUs giving their outlets swank look with stores, conveniences, ATMs, etc. This also exposed users to higher standards of service. In fact, in countries like the UK, 60% revenues from such outlets are from non-fuel sales. Logically, therefore, supermarts added retail outlets and, for some time, this trend was a matter of concern for oil companies but the consumer ultimately benefited. 


In India, the crying need is to eliminate high adulteration, misdirected subsidies and the inefficiencies of retention pricing embedded in the PSU fuel prices. This is possible only through real competition with multiple operators. Even small countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, etc, have more than a dozen players in the fuel market. Any one should be able to open a petrol pump here just like he can start an airline. 

The key to facilitate this is to remove the high entry barriers, surreptitiously inserted in former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Hydrocarbon Vision, following Indian corporates' fears that deep-pocketed MNCs might pose a threat to them. Both the Expenditure Finance Committee of the NDA and the Integrated Energy Policy report of the UPA reiterated the need to remove entry barriers. But, as usual, there has been no action. 

But a removal of entry barriers is not enough. Equally-important is enabling access to critical infrastructure such as port terminals, major storage hubs, product pipelines etc. Such access should be non-discriminatory, ensured by an independent regulator. Over a period of time, similar infrastructure will come up in private and joint sector, as is demonstrated by the parallel marketing of LPG introduced in the early 1990s. But it is doubtful if our closed fuel retailing market, zealously guarded by the domestic corporates and the PSU patronage-wielding political class, will ever be opened up.





ANYONE driving to the hills on the mandatory pilgrimage trail cannot but notice the ubiquitous drum or two in front of roadside stalls — its presence advertising fuels in a way that no pure-for-sure campaign can match. In essence, while we debate the Rs 2,000-crore investment limit, huge unserviced swathes of rural India get by on an unregulated and unsafe grey market they have learnt they cannot survive without. 


Move beyond mofussil India and these 'illegal' roadside vends are ample proof of the structural changes in fuel retailing services badly needed to offer the customer access to his basic everyday energy needs. The advantages of boosting competition to provide value in terms of quality and quantity are only second. 


The few private companies that had been lured into making the mandatory hurdle investments captured over 15% of the market in less than a year. Given this, petro price controls reintroduced in 2004 effectively ensured that product retailing remained the exclusive fiefdom of the powerful public sector behemoths. With subsidies on petro products, under some rather warped logic, reserved exclusively for state-owned companies, both price controls and the Rs 2,000-crore investment limit have worked in tandem to restrict the entry of other players in the market. 


For all the hand-wringing over them, the elusive petro price reforms are only a small part of the picture. A truly open retailing policy needs to ensure that retail outlets are free to choose the source, i.e., supplier company. The oil marketing companies' stranglehold on dealers by way of mandatory supply linkages should be removed for adealership that is, say, five years old. In this way, a whole new clutch of wholesalers, jobbers, independents, etc, can emerge to exploit arbitrages in sourcing and opportunities in optimising supply-chain costs that will create a truly competitive environment. Needless to say, this will also 'magically' shrink PSUs' under-recovery figures and will be in the best interests of consumers rather than oil companies. 








FOREIGN direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail has faced both political and ideological opposition, quite oblivious of expert studies that rank India as the most attractive retail destination. But, finally, there may be some good news, with the department of industrial policy and promotion (Dipp) issuing a discussion paper inviting views and suggestions on permitting FDI in multi-brand retail trading. And while it is heartening that the discussion paper doesn't suggest an upper limit on FDI in multi-brand retail, caution also needs to be exercised before the floodgates are opened. 


At present, 100% FDI is permitted, under the automatic route, for wholesale cash-and-carry trading subject to certain end-sale limitations and restrictions. And while as a general rule, FDI in retail trading is prohibited, an exception for FDI up to 51%, with government approval, is permitted in single-brand retail. But no FDI is permitted in multi-brand retail on the belief that it would adversely impact the large unorganised retail sector, and the small mom-and-pop shops will not be able to stand up to the challenges that FDI in this sector may pose. Concerns have also been expressed that FDI in multi-brand retail may lead to large-scale unemployment of the workforce employed by this sector. 


Dipp's openness to permitting FDI in multi-brand retail would appear to be driven as much by compulsions as by a genuine desire to provide for economic prosperity in the rural areas. The Dipp acknowledges the need to address issues relating to farmers through removal of structural inefficiencies, as also to improve post-harvest management that requires investment in backend logistics and storage infrastructure. A weak supply chain results in largescale wastage and, more often than not, the ultimate consumer pays a lot more than what reaches the farmer. It is important to provide for steadier incomes to farmers either through direct marketing or contract farming programmes. From the perspective of the consumers, there is an urgent need to check food inflation and control demand-supply imbalances. 


The retail sector needs large-scale investments. A substantial portion of these investments are expected from private enterprises; hence, it is imperative to make it financially worthwhile for them. It has long been argued that the entry of foreign retailers through joint ventures would help develop backward linkages to sources of supply and, thus, develop a domestic supply chain of international standards. Eventually, this would improve productivity, benefiting the farmer, and the competition may eventually help bring down prices for consumers. The government believes that permitting FDI in the sector will also help bring in technical and management knowhow, all of which is in India's long-term interest.


Dipp has invited suggestions on whether there should be stipulations on minimum investment and on investments to build backend infrastructure, logistics and agroprocessing. While such stipulations may be justified, to expect that 50% should be invested in such operations may be commercially-imprudent and it is also necessary that a time period be imposed on such stipulations. The proposal that 50% of retail jobs be reserved for rural youth may be legitimate, but credence needs to be given to the ICRIER finding that 'there was no evidence of a decline in overall employment in the unorganised sector as a result of the entry of organised retailers'. 


Also, what if there are not enough rural youth available for employment? Additionally, while it is astute to have a calibrated approach, should the government restrict investments to cities that have a population of more that 10 lakh? Does the government really believe that the Wal-Marts of this world would be able to sustain their business models in such cities, and if they can, then why restrict them? What really needs to be avoided is over-regulation and the government must endeavour to provide a congenial environment where synergies can be created between the small retailers and large multi-brand retail players. 


It has often been stated that FDI can be a great catalyst to spur competition in industries characterised by low competition and poor productivity. The proposal of the government to allow FDI in retail is, therefore, laudable. But it would be wise that the entry of foreign players, including the percentage of such investments, should be in a phased manner with adequate social safeguards so that the effects of such investments can be analysed and the policy finetuned, if required. What is key is to ensure strict compliance with any proposed regulations, which can perhaps best be achieved by simplification of the licensing norms and moving to a uniform and centralised system, both for considering investments and for monitoring compliance. 


(The author is a lawyer based in Delhi.     Views are personal.)







AKIO Morita, the legendary co-founder of Sony, apparently had a hard time with investors and colleagues when he first pitched the idea of making the Walkman to them. Why anyone would want to use, much less buy, a portable music player, they asked. 


Morita replied with the story of the two successful shoe salesmen from competing companies who were sent to the countryside to check out business prospects there. Upon his arrival, the first salesman immediately went around on a survey and within an hour called back headquarters in exasperation, "Seems like a total waste of time; everybody's barefoot!" 


His rival also made an equally-quick assessment only to call his bosses excitedly, "Send as much stock as you can spare; we're going to make a killing!" 


Aprominent yoga guru in the US is said to have narrated Morita's story while looking at the number of yoga practitioners in the country: nearly 7% of the adults practised yoga and 8% more said they were extremely interested, while half of them said they would try yoga within the next year. "What about the rest?" is indeed a zillion-dollar proposition in monetary terms: the collective expenditure on yoga in the US was now estimated to be $27 billion a year, and if the business was to be consolidated, the resulting Mega Yoga Corp was expected to be slightly larger than Dow Chemical, and abit smaller than Microsoft. 


 "What about the rest" would be an equally-enticing question even if one were to disregard artha (money) and look purely at the prospect of propelling people towards moksha or liberation, which anyway was yoga's avowed goal? This was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's refrain — yoga and TM lead to better health not just on an individual level but if enough people practice, global peace will follow.


So what's keeping the rest from embracing yoga? For all that hype about it as a transnational pop phenomenon, westerners still know little about it or harbour misconceptions. The commonest is its alleged religious connection, a survey on Yoga USA Day (January 23) found: respondents (57%) felt it required chanting related to a particular form of worship; 59% thought it needed flexibility, being in 'decent' space, although anyone in any shape or physical state can benefit. 


The other deterrent was the notion that yoga was unfit for 'real men'. So yoga needed mythbusters.





                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




More than anything else, it is the pusillanimity of Kashmir's mainstream political parties that came to the fore in the recent disturbances that rocked the Valley on the eve of external affairs minister S.M. Krishna's trip to Islamabad. When mobs of young men instigated by extremist and pro-Pakistan elements took to the streets for a fortnight in a bid to entrench a cycle of violence, the Kashmir Valley's mainstream parties resorted to silence. This was partly out of fear of reprisal from the hardline separatists if they chose to be peacemakers. But for some, the stance may have been inspired by the thought of currying favour with the separatists and their Pakistan-based ideological and political mentors. Some others might have calculated that remaining mere spectators might earn them dividends in later electoral contests. In election after election, Kashmiri voters have tended to reject those who have played proxy for violence-makers. The part played by the People's Democratic Party, the main Valley-based opposition in the legislature, has drawn the most comment. Not only did it stand by the sidelines during the days of unprovoked violence in Srinagar and elsewhere, it chose to stay away from Monday's all-party meeting called by the chief minister to work out a political programme to cool tempers and find the road back to normality. PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti even turned down a request from the Prime Minister to participate in the dialogue. In doing so she betrayed a lack of appreciation of the normal rules of democratic functioning. Had she attended the conference, she was at liberty to criticise the government's handling of the situation from a key public forum. Perhaps she passed up that opportunity as she wanted no part of the burden to go to the people with the message of peace hammered out through a consensus developed by all parties that are represented in the Assembly. This hardly augurs well for the principle of democratic participation in the wider running of Kashmir's political affairs. As it happens, the PDP's refusal to be a part of a process aimed at the return of peace and normality came days before external affairs minister S.M. Krishna's scheduled visit to Islamabad. The PDP leadership's approach effectively undercuts India's negotiating coordinates in engaging Islamabad. This is likely to be regretted in the Valley, if the past is any guide. Such kudos as the PDP is able to garner can only be from a narrow segment of political opinion in Kashmir. It is to the credit of the people of the Valley that they did not react to the "deterrent" flag march of the Army through the main thoroughfares of Srinagar in the negative manner that anti-India elements might have hoped for. This would inordinately strengthen the hands of chief minister Omar Abdullah, whose handling of the situation fell way short of what might be desired. This would even outweigh the propaganda gain the separatist cabals might have hoped to gain from the PDP's non-participation at the all-party meeting. It is to be hoped that in the days to come, the parties in the Valley would reflect on recent events and recalibrate their positions in future.








Those who believe that the parliamentary system of democracy is best suited for a country of our size and stage of development do so not only because of the comprehensive manner in which our Constitution has incorporated the best from Constitutions of other democratic nations but also because the framers of our Constitution left ample scope for the adoption of certain healthy practices and conventions that have proved to be successful in the Western parliamentary democracies. One such healthy convention followed in India has been that the ministers of the Central government do not express their criticism of other members of the Cabinet in public. Instead, whenever they have views radically different from those of their colleagues in the council of ministers, they are brought before the Cabinet for detailed discussions. Or, the concerned ministers bring the matter before the Prime Minister. However, it is sad to note that of late a trend has set in where some ministers publicly express their dissenting voice or personal views as if it is their legitimate right to do so.


The provocation I had for raising this issue through this column was certain observations made by Kamal Nath, the Union minister for road transport and highways, about the Planning Commission and the role of public and private participation in the construction of highways at a seminar in New Delhi on July 5, 2010. Using rather strong and derisive language against the Planning Commission, Mr Nath said that the commission was an "armchair adviser" which is "like a buffet table" from where one could choose bites according to one's digestive capacity.


Under the parliamentary system, certain bills have to be discussed in the concerned standing committees of Parliament in order to get feedback from the people. There are certain matters on which decisions are taken by the Cabinet after knowing the views of the Planning Commission, the ministry of finance and other concerned ministries. Once a decision is taken by the Cabinet, that becomes the decision of the government and the duty of the minister concerned is to implement the decision in all sincerity. This is the spirit behind the concept of collective responsibility in Article 75 (3) of the Constitution which states that "the council of ministers will be collectively responsible to the House of the people".


In cases where ministers may be unhappy that their views have not been given the attention they deserve, it is open to the minister to press for re-examination of certain aspects of the decision in the Cabinet if the Prime Minister agrees.


It appears that there is a sharp difference between the ministry of road transport and highways and the Planning Commission about the target of 20 km road a day as proposed by the ministry. The Planning Commission appears to consider this target as too unrealistic. The minister might have made his observations at the seminar in a light-hearted manner but most people will take his observation in a different light. For example, the minister referred to the reports presented by the Planning Commission as an exercise of collecting "something from here, something from there and producing a book". He went on to say that "producing a book is one thing and producing a road is another thing". Fortunately, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, who was present at the seminar, showed extraordinary patience and politeness and said that he would take the minister's comments as "constructive criticism". (Though a few days later, in a TV interview, Mr Ahluwalia said: "My view is that you cannot run a government only with people who know how to build roads. You have to give then a set of rules".)


One can see that there have been serious departures from the usual norms of criticism of other ministries or organisations of the Central government in the speech of the minister. The minister seems to have forgotten that the Planning Commission, which he has described as an "armchair adviser" and likened to a "buffet table", is headed by the Prime Minister and has as its members senior Cabinet ministers. The deputy chairman of the Planning Commission is himself an official of Cabinet rank and held in high respect as an eminent economist. At any rate, the Planning Commission is not a subordinate body of any ministry at the Centre. It may lack constitutional or even the statutory backing but the fact that it has always been headed by the Prime Minister had lent it a good deal of authority and respect from both the Central and state governments.


While criticising the Planning Commission many people seem to forget that "economic and social planning" is included as item 20 in the concurrent list of the Constitution and, therefore, it is discharging its constitutional obligations in giving advice on plan projects to both the Centre and states. In any case, if a decision is taken by the Planning Commission on so important a matter as the target to be aimed at in the construction of highways, the only course open to the minister concerned who wishes to have a higher target is to invoke the intervention of the Prime Minister once again and see whether other members of the Cabinet agree with the Planning Commission's view on this issue.


Because of the fact that the Prime Minister is presiding over a coalition government, reaching a consensus among the various parties participating in the government may involve certain compromises and concessions. Fortunately for the Prime Minister he has not experienced serious opposition from his coalition partners in the past six years to several very important proposals. We in India have successfully evolved a system of a common minimum programme to which all coalition partners have to subscribe and, therefore, much of the difficulty that was originally expected from the coalition partners have not cropped up during the last six years.


Of course, in the matter of observance of certain unwritten rules and conventions there have been conspicuous breaches on the part of certain other members of the Central Cabinet as well. Certain ministers have shown a tendency to rush to the media with their own opinions and views on matters even when they themselves are not fully familiar with the facts of the case on which they are giving their views. I am sure that off-hand comments and derisive criticism from Cabinet ministers at the Centre will soon cease to be a practice in our democracy and the Prime Minister will be firm in dealing with such undesirable trends.


- P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra









I began hearing of the oracular octopus of Oberhausen while in South Africa at the World Cup, but these were unfiltered mutterings about a murky mussel-munching mollusk and I paid them little attention.


Paul the octopus was no more than a starlet then, it seemed, destined to go the way of all spineless creatures, soon forgotten. One beak, three hearts, eight arms and a rumoured nine brains could only take this German cephalopod so far.


But Paul's psychic powers proved greater than the sum of his parts, earning him a Facebook page and live global coverage of his unerring World Cup predictions. Calls have multiplied to have this invertebrate intuit everything from the end of the Greek financial crisis to the next Iraqi Prime Minister.


In case you missed it, Paul went eight for eight in the World Cup, predicting the outcome of Germany's seven matches (five wins and two losses), and Spain's triumph in the final. He chose before the matches from two transparent containers lowered into his tank. Each contained mussels and was adorned with the national flag of one side. Whichever team's food he devoured first would win.


My amateur maths tells me the probability of his prodigious success was one in 512.

That's impressive — and so what? Is Paul a suction-pod witch? Was he in touch with higher forces? And what of his keeper, Oliver Walenciak, who has claimed "exceptional powers" for the creature?


Here, I regret to say, we arrive at correlation and causation (you can have one without the other). For enlightenment, I turned to David Brillinger in the statistics department at the University of California, Berkeley.

He was less than overwhelmed by Paul, pointing to various "nonsense correlations", like the one that said the candidate with the longer name never lost the race for the US presidency.


That worked from 1932, when Roosevelt beat Hoover, to 1960, when Kennedy beat Nixon, but came apart when Goldwater lost to Johnson in 1964. That's eight elections, of course, exactly the number of matches Paul predicted.


Mine any data in the right way — like those elections — and you can find remarkable coincidences or "streaks". Pharmaceutical companies testing a new vaccine or drug might be tempted to examine data over 100 days if the data over 365 days is unpersuasive. Correlation can become a substitute for causation.


But what data could Paul have been mining in his aquarium?


I consulted my friend and tennis partner Greg Schwed, who first betrayed his penchant for statistical theory by explaining the permutations of having eight tennis players play three doubles matches over two hours on two courts, which is what we and six others do once a week. It appears that having everybody play with everybody is only possible if you have two players in the same matches throughout — or something like that.


And what of the octopus-sage? Schwed was downright dismissive. The story of Paul put him in mind of that old canard, the Super Bowl Indicator, or "SBI."


According to the SBI, if a team from the old National Football League won the Super Bowl, typically played in late January, the stock market would go up for the rest of the year. From 1967 (the first Super Bowl) through 1997, it was uncannily accurate, correctly predicting the broad market trend for 28 of the 31 years. But after 1997, the SBI slumped and was 0 for 4 in the following four years.


Now, as Schwed pointed out, it's possible that there was a correlation in the sense that superstitious traders, seeing the Super Bowl result, decided to buy and so sent the market up. Just as it's possible, as Brillinger noted, that Walenciak, the octopus feeder, subconsciously put more tempting food in the "more likely" box — although Germany's loss to Serbia was a surprise.


I think we're dealing with a case of Jungian "synchronicity", which the great psychiatrist described as "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events".

The World Cup, after all, is the world's most watched event. If any occurrence — social, emotional, psychological and spiritual — is capable of channelling human energy to an octopus in Oberhausen, then surely this one is. The relationship between Paul's eating choices and the World Cup results may not be causal in nature, but, hey, I'm prepared to believe it speaks of Jung's deeper order, one that connects man and mollusk.


It was a great World Cup. The best team won. Without eating mussels, I predicted a Spanish victory at the outset before having a German wobble caused by emotion to which octopi are immune.


Speaking of emotion, Germans got upset with Paul for predicting their team's semi-final loss to Spain, calling for him to be roasted, as witches were once. I'm partial to well-spiced octopus but think Paul can be put to better uses, among them predicting possible outcomes of BP's attempts to cap the Gulf oil spill. The depths ought to be his element — even more than the beautiful game.









The Bhopal gas tragedy was the worst industrial disaster in human history. Twenty-five thousand people died, 500,000 were injured, and the injustice done to the victims of Bhopal over the past 25 years will go down as the worst case of jurisprudence ever.


The gas leak in Bhopal in December 1984 was from the Union Carbide pesticide plant which manufactured "carabaryl" (trade name "sevin") — a pesticide used mostly in cotton plants. It was, in fact, because of the Bhopal gas tragedy and the tragedy of extremist violence in Punjab that I woke up to the fact that agriculture had become a war zone. Pesticides are war chemicals that kill — every year 220,000 people are killed by pesticides worldwide.


After research I realised that we do not need toxic pesticides that kill humans and other species which maintain the web of life. Pesticides do not control pests, they create pests by killing beneficial species. We have safer, non-violent alternatives such as neem. That is why at the time of the Bhopal disaster I started the campaign "No more Bhopals, plant a neem". The neem campaign led to challenging the biopiracy of neem in 1994 when I found that a US multinational, W.R. Grace, had patented neem for use as pesticide and fungicide and was setting up a neem oil extraction plant in Tumkur, Karnataka. We fought the biopiracy case for 11 years and were eventually successful in striking down the biopiracy patent.


Meanwhile, the old pesticide industry was mutating into the biotechnology and genetic engineering industry. While genetic engineering was promoted as an alternative to pesticides, Bt cotton was introduced to end pesticide use. But Bt cotton has failed to control the bollworm and has instead created major new pests, leading to an increase in pesticide use.


The high costs of genetically-modified (GM) seeds and pesticides are pushing farmers into debt, and indebted farmers are committing suicide. If one adds the 200,000 farmer suicides in India to the 25,000 killed in Bhopal, we are witnessing a massive corporate genocide — the killing of people for super profits. To maintain these super profits, lies are told about how, without pesticides and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), there will be no food. In fact, the conclusions of International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, undertaken by the United Nations, shows that ecologically organic agriculture produces more food and better food at lower cost than either chemical agriculture or GMOs.


The agrochemical industry and its new avatar, the biotechnology industry, do not merely distort and manipulate knowledge, science and public policy. They also manipulate the law and the justice system. The reason justice has been denied to the victims of Bhopal is because corporations want to escape liability. Freedom from liability is, in fact, the real meaning of "free trade". The tragedy of Bhopal is dual. Interestingly, the Bhopal disaster happened precisely when corporations were seeking deregulation and freedom from liability through the instruments of "free trade", "trade liberalisation" and "globalisation", both through bilateral pressure and through the Uruguay Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt) which led to the creation of the World Trade Organisation.


Injustice for Bhopal has been used to tell corporations that they can get away with murder. This is what senior politicians communicated to Dow Chemical. This is what the US-India Commission for Environmental Cooperation forum stated on June 11, 2010, in the context of the call from across India for justice for Bhopal victims. As one newspaper commented, Bhopal is being seen as a "road block and impediment to trade… the recommendations include removing road blocks to commercial trade by (India), and adoption of a nuclear liability regime".


Denial of justice to Bhopal has been the basis of all toxic investments since Bhopal, be it Bt cotton, DuPont's nylon plant or the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill.


Just as Bhopal victims were paid a mere Rs 12,000 (approximately $250) each, the proposed Nuclear Liability Bill also seeks to put a ceiling on liability of a mere $100 million on private operations of a nuclear power plant in case of a nuclear accident. Once again, people can be killed but corporations should not have to pay.


There has also been an intense debate in India on GMOs. An attempt was made by Monsanto/Mahyco to introduce Bt brinjal in 2009. As a result of public hearings across the country, a moratorium has been put on its commercialisation. Immediately after the moratorium a bill was introduced for a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India —the bill does not only leave the biotechnology industry free of liability, but it also has a clause which empowers the government to arrest and fine those of us who question the need and safety of GMOs.


From Bhopal to pesticides to GMOs to nuclear plants, there are two lessons we can draw. One is that corporations introduce hazardous technologies like pesticides and GMOs for profits, and profits alone. And second lesson, related to trade, is that corporations are seeking to expand markets and relocate hazardous and environmentally costly technologies to countries like India.


Corporates seek to globalise production but they do not want to globalise justice and rights. The difference in the treatment of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical in the context of Bhopal, and of BP in the context of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico shows how an apartheid is being created. The devaluation of the life of people of the Third World and ecosystems is built into the project of globalisation. Globalisation is leading to the outsourcing of pollution — hazardous substances and technologies — to the Third World. This is at the heart of globalisation — the economies of genocide.


Lawrence Summers, who was the World Bank's chief economist and is now chief economic adviser to the Obama government, in a memo dated December 12, 1991, to senior World Bank staff, wrote, "Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the less developed countries?"


Since wages are low in the Third World, economic costs of pollution arising from increased illness and death are least in the poorest countries. According to Mr Summers, the logic "of relocation of pollutants in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that".


All this and Bhopal must teach us to reclaim our universal and common humanity and build an Earth Democracy in which all are equal, and corporations are not allowed to get away with crimes against people and the planet.


- Dr Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust








The horrible events in the Kashmir Valley, where 15 people, most of them under 25, have been killed in clashes with security forces in the past two weeks, should bring two key lessons home. One, that the three years' freeze, or lull, in peacemaking has created a new wave of alienation and allowed spoilers to take the upper hand. And two, that a readiness to send security forces into danger without training and protective equipment is disastrous.


Both of these grave mistakes are primarily issues for the Central government, and only secondarily for the state. Yet opinion writers in New Delhi suggest that the current clashes are due to the ineptness of the state government. This is only partially true, and it distracts attention from the need to tackle — and resolve — the issue of Jammu and Kashmir's status.


Eighteen months ago, the Assembly elections in the Valley sent a double message, that Kashmiris wanted a fresh start on governance and they wanted an accelerated peace process, comprising security reforms and talks with the azaadi leaders and Pakistan. But security reforms were slow to come.


The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which was intended to be a backup force for the state police, was even less trained to take on security duties, and coordination with the state police is not working. Around 120 CRPF men have been injured in the recent clashes, some of them severely. After close to three years, they are more vulnerable to stone-pelting not less, and more ready to fire, too.


The government did recognise the need to revive the Hurriyat track a year ago. But the talks, which were intended to be based on sustained and quiet back-channel work, were jeopardised first by leaks and then prevented by the shooting of Fazal Haq Qureshi. Protests over the unwarranted Amarnath handover and the Shopian murders showed a new resistance movement was beginning, modelled on the Palestinian Intifada. While there is evidence to indicate that it is orchestrated, it does express a common anger in the Valley.


New Delhi says there will be political talks when the violence subsides. In fact, the violence is more likely to defuse if the government were to work for the urgent renewal of talks with azaadi groups, without underestimating the obstacles that there will be. Key among them is Pakistan's reluctance to restart the peace negotiations where they left off, with a framework agreed in the back channel. Hopefully, the external affairs minister will raise this issue with his counterpart in Islamabad.


Quick results are unlikely — it is in the Pakistani armed groups' interest to play up rather than reduce tensions with India at a time when they seek a dominant role in Afghanistan, and the Pakistani government is reluctant to espouse what is seen (mistakenly) as a "Musharraf initiative". But building on what has been achieved is critically important.


In the meantime, there is the issue of our own promises. It is close to five years since the Prime Minister promised "zero tolerance" for human rights violations. Sadly, just before the current clashes, Chief Minister, Mr Omar Abdullah had got the Army to institute summary punishment in such cases. Whatever their grievances, the CRPF must punish its troops for the use of excessive force. A government-appointed panel of eminent citizens to enquire into the shootings, with a strict and short timeframe, would be an important confidence-booster and could help pave the way for talks.


At the risk of sounding demagogic, we also need to ensure that there are no lulls in talks with azaadi groups this time, and with the elected leaders and civil society in Jammu and Kashmir. We have a grave trust deficit of our own to repair, with Kashmiris. If we can talk about making dialogue with Pakistan uninterruptible, then why not with dissident Kashmiris?


The failure of our political elites to institutionalise peacemaking in policy and administration is not restricted to Jammu and Kashmir. In Manipur, we first allowed the Chief Minister to refuse a visit by National Socialist Council of Nagaland — Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) leader Muivah instead of organising talks between the two to settle misgivings, and then stood by while Manipur was subjected to a two-month-long blockade.


Similarly, in the tribal areas where Maoists hold sway, there is widespread recognition, including by the government, that though the Maoist tactics are grotesquely brutal the grievances of the tribal population are legitimate and need to be addressed as a priority. Here again, according to independent mediator Swami Agnivesh, potential peace negotiations were aborted by the killing of Maoist spokesman "Azad".


In the 1950s and 1960s the Indian government showed itself bold and innovative in the diverse initiatives it took to settle self-determination and resource conflicts. Despite glimmers of a renewal of those approaches, we are still far away from their spirit.


- Radha Kumar is professor of peace and conflict studies at Jamia Millia Islamia and a trustee of the Delhi Policy Group







Consider this: In all the thousands of years of human existence, has pollution ever reached such a high level so as to make the environment unfit for living beings? In none of the previous yugas have so many diseases manifested and plagued mankind. The mind is, perhaps, the most powerful tool in all this. In fact, contamination first manifests in the mind as a selfish thought, this selfish thought permeates into a whole society creating distrust and greed, making the natural resources scarce and hazardous. The increasing corruption as well self-centeredness of individuals only makes the inhabited world worse. And when you add to this the gross misuse of ancient mantras and practices, it only increases the environmental pollution.


The entire creation emerged from just one sound, that of "Om". Every sound in the creation effects a change in the physical body that might be positive (sur) or negative (asur). So for someone who has experienced the power of chanting mantras, it is distressing to hear frivolous use and wrong pronunciations of basic mantras all around. Incorrect chanting of a mantra can have disastrous effect while chanting of the right mantra has immediate positive results, not only by changing our environment but also our body.


A mantra is a combination of sounds that are chanted by the siddh of the mantra to manifest a desired energy in the physical world. Every sound of the mantra should be shudh (lucid) and the crests and troughs in a mantra should be strictly adhered to with complete reverence. Even the simple chant of "Om" essentially has three sounds, representing the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, corresponding to the three forces Creation, Preservation and Transformation. These three forces are active in the physical as, "aaa" (as in ahem), "ooo", (as in ouch) and "mmm" as the sound of the male bee. Chanting these three sounds in succession while maintaining awareness of the lower body during "aaa", the middle body during "ooo" and head during "mmm" has the direct effect of balancing the vibrations of individual cells in the body.


Another abhorrent distortion of ancient practices is that of havan. Nowadays, havans are performed for everything and by everyone, a quick solution to problems and a way to the bank. The smoke that comes out of the agni is actually aromatic and dissipates diseases and other negative energy of the attendees. The samagri and samheda are so pure, the mantras chanted so shudh that a havan releases positive vibrations in the environment and removes toxicity. This is the reason why yogis have a fire (dhuni) lit always and yet they stay healthy and glowing. The element of fire can never be polluted and anything that goes into it becomes cleansed. So ensure that not only the materials used in the havan are pure.


The rishis of yesteryears gave us tools to survive and stay in harmony with nature. They laid emphasis on the fact that the physical world is just a mirror of the etheric worlds. So if you wish to make a change in the physical, do it from the etheric or the subtle, and not vice versa.


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


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CONSENSUS has seldom been attained on Kashmir-related issues, so the PDP's fighting shy of the all-party meet will ruffle more feathers in New Delhi than in the Valley. Actually, the meet itself was of essentially symbolic significance. The populace places little stock in what leaders say: it wants visible action, the meeting yielded little of that. The proposed probe into civilian killings might assuage hurt, but as the BJP pointed out, a blanket inquiry could demoralise the CRPF which (because of local police ineptitude) is first in the line of fire. What must be undertaken simultaneously is the detection and apprehension of those masterminding the stone-pelting. What's the point of the central intelligence agencies' "intercepts" ~ conveniently leaked to client-media ~ if nothing preventive follows? Sadly, the meet came up with no signs of a local political campaign to defuse tensions, not even to counter Mehbooba Mufti's myopic (mischievous?) policies. She is right in saying that violence of the recent brand will render mainstream parties irrelevant: that should be interpreted as fear of losing the political space she seeks to occupy, the space created when the security forces pressured violent separatists into hunkering down. It is time that mainstream parties take a call on whether Mehbooba's consistently negative role excludes her from their "club". She must pay for rejecting appeals from top national leaders. Earnest Omar Abdullah may think that resorting to the Army paid off, it could still prove counter-productive: he sorely needs political/administrative counsel. 

Reality is underscored by the decision to send a delegation pleading to the Prime Minister to revive efforts to resolve core issues ~ the dialogue process (internally and externally), the AFSPA question, autonomy, cross-border human relations etc ~ that UPA-II relegated to the back-burner. Kashmir's complexities fall squarely in New Delhi's domain. Conversely, should there be some forward movement it will convince the separatists that only violence secures attention. A role reversal of sorts: strategic experts insist that military force can only pressure insurgents into negotiating, and the Army chief is perfectly correct (even if the Congress party cannot stomach the truth) when lamenting there had been no political follow-up to what the security forces had attained. It was evidence of frustration rather than belligerence or finger-pointing. Yet General VK Singh must also accept that the recent eruption of simmering resentment had been triggered by his men going bounty-hunting in Machil. 




AFRICA'S day of joy has turned to grief. The Islamist militant in Somalia has conveyed a message to the world, one that is no less chilling than Sunday night's Al Qaida outrage in Uganda as the nation watched the World Cup finals. In the manner of most such attacks, the butchery was targeted at innocent civilians, predominantly football fans. Sure the tragedy was "deplorable and barbaric", to summon the words of Barack Obama; but beyond such standard responses is the reality that the Somali militants have extended their struggle against the country's government beyond the country's borders. The massacre is a pointer to the power and reach of the insurgent groups. The devastating message to Uganda as indeed those countries pursuing a similar line of interventionist diplomacy is to stop meddling in the affairs of Somalia. The accountability for the two suicide bombings is still somewhat hazy; prima facie it appears that al-Shabab, an Islamist Somali group, had ordered the strike. This group has been engaged in a war with the government, and its recent statements were a signal of intent that it was prepared to take that struggle beyond the borders of Somalia. And specifically to Uganda that has sent peacekeepers to that country. The message is stark: any other power that comes to the aid of  Somalia against the militants might be doomed to a similar fate. Beyond such mortally bizarre expressions of sovereignty lies the fundamentalist underpinning. The insurgents are also said to have targeted what they deem to be the secular, pro-western habit of watching the World Cup. Ergo, the attack was largely political and only very partly an expression of fundamentalism. Overall it was a studiously calculated outrage, and it would be rather too simplistic to call it another act of "mindless violence", much as most terrorist attacks are. The Al Qaida offshoot was intent on demonstrating a point within Africa and to the world beyond. 
The attack has underscored the collapse of the central authority in Somalia. Regional outfits of tribals and Islamist militants are jousting for space in an overwhelming political vacuum. And for the past few years, there has been a groundswell of resentment against the presence of peacekeepers. Intervention on the part of the Western powers or by any other African state is an awfully dangerous proposition. It is the insurgent, rather than the government, who has arrogated to himself the right to protect the country's sovereignty. The irony of Somalia can be as bitter as that. 



THE harm done by Prakash Karat in avoiding the first Jyoti Basu Memorial lecture delivered by a leader he had expelled from the party was confined to the CPI-M. It is a different matter when the Union railway minister decides in principle to ignore functionaries of the ruling Left in the never-ending flow of her department's programmes in Bengal. During her sustained agitation at Singur, Mamata Banerjee had reasoned that it was pointless to meet a chief minister who wasn't willing to budge from his decision to hand over 1,000 acres of agricultural land for a car project. The surprise is that she has extended that animus to what the West Bengal housing minister describes as an "allergy'' towards anything connected with the Left. As a result, she has spurned the minister's invitation to perform the ritual of handing over dwelling units built for the poor in Rajarhat while her party takes the revolutionary step of starting health insurance for BPL families. The contradiction assumes bizarre proportions when she arrives at a farewell for an outgoing Governor after the scheduled hour to avoid crossing the chief minister's path and when she drops out of the meeting of a national committee set up by the Prime Minister to chalk out a programme for Tagore's 150th birth anniversary because she may come face to face with a "sworn enemy''. 

Why political rivalry should lead to a permanent collapse of the lines of communication isn't explained. But the chances of such intransigence recoiling on Trinamul were evident when a Left Front minister, invited to a railway programme as the local MLA, did exactly what Miss Banerjee had been doing. His refusal to attend is not just a reciprocal snub; it portends embarrassing times for Trinamul should it fulfil its ambitions of wresting power and is then obliged to make tactical contacts with the Opposition. Already the railway minister has begun to complain of a conspiracy to obstruct her development and welfare measures. To that extent, the Kolkata and Salt Lake civic heads have taken the politically correct step of responding to invitations to meet the CPI-M's urban development minister. Presumably, they had Kalighat's tacit approval. If so, the party may now realise that goverance involves managing the Opposition as well.









IMAGINE this situation: Two brothers, both of African origin, play football in two different British city clubs. As for national football, one joins the African team of his father's country, and the other is selected for a team in a continental European country. Hard to imagine? Well, it happened during the football world championship which just finished in South Africa. Jerome Boateng, who played for Hamburg and has just joined Manchester, was a regular with the German team. His half-brother Kevin Prince Boateng decided to play for Ghana. He is a team member of FC Portsmouth. Their father is a Ghanaian, but they both grew up and learnt to play football ~ in Berlin. What a profusion of nationalities; and as nationalities are not mere stamps on a piece of paper, what a confusion of identities! 

Such transnational mobility is made possible by two factors: The globalising policies of governments which allow such migratory movements across borders more readily than earlier. And the unrelenting search for profit which makes a talented professional (in business as much as in football) go on a global search for the best paid job. But is that all? What about loyalty to a city, a club, or team? What about patriotism for one's country? Obviously, many professionals have multiple loyalties since their life has not been of one piece in the first place. Their initial loyalty probably belongs to the people who nourished their talents, offered them an opportunity, and provided them with an atmosphere of "belonging". The motivating force to succeed rarely is the allegiance to such airy, abstract entities like a  city club or a country. 

Ecstasy to win

I DO not believe in the cynical idea that the one aim of a professional footballer is to earn more and more money. They are mercenaries, true, but they do adhere to a kind of idealism which urges them on. That idealism is the search for the sheer ecstasy to win, to be on top, to outdo others, also to be part of a team, of a "super-ego". If such idealism is the motivating force of an entire team, and if that team feels that a larger group (the "fans"), an entire country supports them, then a dynamism evolves which aims far beyond material greed. 
In Europe, these fluctuating identities have their roots in family structure. Any visitor to Germany, who travels in suburban or underground trains, can listen to the many languages swirling around ~ Croatian, Serbian, Italian, Turkish, East European and African languages apart from English and French. It is only too natural that an Italian family running, say, a restaurant in a German town, will seek out its Italian friends for, company. But, on the whole, it has become equally natural that various nationalities mix freely both in public and private spaces. The deeper reason for such potentially relaxed integration is that inter-cultural and inter-religion marriages have always happened in the past and have become more and more accepted in Germany. Hence the fear of socially taboo alliances is considerably less today. Look at my own family: My maternal grandmother was Italian who came to Germany as a housemaid and got married. Her links to her Italian village remained strong and emotional until her end, but she raised a family which had a German identity in Germany. One of her sons, my maternal uncle, married a woman from France soon after the Second World War. I hear that it took her some time to get accepted in Germany, but since I have become an adult, I have never seen her being discriminated against. My brother's younger son brought home a wife from Scotland who is now a busy mother and a medical doctor near Munich. Nobody I think would see her as "Scottish", although she raises her children bilingually, German and English. 

More and more such a picture is becoming the dominant reality in German family life. The novelty of the young and dynamic German football team during the world championship is that the composition of its players reflects this reality for the first time. Apart from Jerome Boateng, there have been players with Turkish, Tunisian, Polish and Brazilian origins. What a mixture! And all fighting to the limits of their strength in a team wearing the same colours that millions of Germans carry around on flags and T-shirts and on beer mugs! I watched the game between Spain and Germany in the common room of an international hostel at Marbach near Stuttgart. Scholars from all over the world live here to research at the German Literature Archive. We had a woman from Spain and a man from Mexico watching the game with us. They cheered openly when the Spanish side prevailed. And not a single person (I observed everybody carefully) grudged them their joy. 

IPL not 'Indian'

LET us look at India! The one reason why I took special note of the Indian Premier League was that it was not "Indian" at all. The various team proprietors hire talented and experienced cricketers from all over the world for a few weeks. Money is what motivates the managers and the players. The crowds that watched the Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens desperately wanted their team to win. "Their team"? Apart from one or two players each season, nobody hailed from Kolkata, not even from India. And the owner is a movie star from Mumbai. So what motivated the crowds to cheer for that team? Was it merely the "Kolkata" in its name and the coincidental fact that it played in Kolkata? Strangely and wonderfully, the many thousands of spectators, besides the millions watching the game on television, exercised a spontaneous generosity about identity which in other spheres of life is rarely shown. Not in politics, often not in social life where the norms of marriage remain comparatively rigid. 

I have friends in West Bengal who identify themselves as "Biharis" or "Marwaris" or "Gujaratis" although they were born in West Bengal and their families have lived there since three generations. Many continue a linguistic identity as they speak the language of their forefathers inside their family. And marriage is arranged normally within their diasporic community. Especially in the liberal tradition of Santiniketan we can find a rich harvest of exceptions. Yet, they are still seen as exceptions, not the norm. 

I have noticed a different cultural climate in the Hills. In Kalimpong (where I often take refuge for some weeks of quiet writing work), I am being told that cross-cultural love marriages by far outnumber socially arranged ones. My former landlord is a gentleman from Coorg in Karnataka who married a Lepcha woman and settled with her at Kalimpong. His son is now married to a lady from Bhutan. Nepalis, Tibetans, Sikkimese, people from the plains like Biharis and, of course, Bengalis, join to form an admirable tapestry of cultures and languages. This is one of the reasons why I love Kalimpong and feel so close to its people. It is normal and desirable that all the various peoples nourish a pride in the culture and language of their origin. But such identity must cooperate with and cherish a common interest in the local civil society as a whole. That common interest holds together the multicultural reality of the Hills. Only politics is capable of tearing it apart.


(The writer is a German scholar, based in Santiniketan)






A recent biography of the late Jagjivan Ram by Mangalmurti released by Kapil Sibal and carrying a foreword by Meira Kumar has claimed that the Congress fully exploited his talents but never allowed him to become Prime Minister because he was a Dalit. The author could well be right. Undoubtedly, Jagjivan Ram was one of the ablest and longest serving cabinet ministers after Independence. His competence arose not from any declared vision or from innovative thinking. He was primarily a practical politician with strong common sense and the ability to get the best out of the officials who served under him. The book has described how Indira Gandhi forced Ram to introduce the Emergency Bill in Parliament against his better judgment. That blot prevented him from becoming Prime Minister during Janata rule. Once again, the author is right. During Janata rule, there was certainly no impediment to Ram becoming PM because of his caste. He was within a whisker of becoming PM. He was blocked from success. I prevented him from becoming PM. 

Sometimes, very minor players change the course of history. I became a founding general secretary of the Janata Party largely because I muscled my way in despite no help from Morarji Desai who was close to me and who was even a columnist in my small one-man weekly paper Stir during the time he was in the political wilderness. Charan Singh's BKD, including the Lohia socialists, the Congress-O and the Jan Sangh, supported my appointment because I had been an unflinching opponent of the Dynasty. I was in charge of all the publicity in the election campaign. The leaders of the Janata Party, to begin with, had little idea of the public mood. They actually thought Indira Gandhi would win. George Fernandes was in jail during the campaign and he wanted to boycott the poll, convinced that it would be rigged by a dictator. I passed him the message to relax because he would very soon become a minister. I do believe I was the only office-bearer of the party to officially declare that the Janata Party would obtain an absolute majority on its own without accounting for Jagjivan Ram's breakaway Congress for Democracy. The archives of The Financial Times of London will bear this out. 
Jagjivan Ram was much respected by the USA and UK. Unsubstantiated rumours even alleged that he was the CIA mole in the cabinet, and not YB Chavan as widely speculated. Anyway, when the time came for ticket distribution, I found an odd assortment of leaders rooting for Ram. To be charitable, they could have been impelled by a sense of desperation not to lose. In a working committee meeting attended by leaders to finalise seat adjustment with Ram's party, there was strong urging to accommodate Ram's demand for the number of seats to be left to the CFD. Chandreshekhar warned Morarji and Charan Singh to accommodate him, failing which there could be three-cornered contests that would ruin Janata prospects. Vajpayee echoed him. Raj Narain got up and walked up to Morarji with folded hands to plead the same.

I had already alerted Morarji and Charan Singh earlier. I spoke up to rubbish the proposal. I said that to give so many seats to someone who had introduced the Emergency Bill in Parliament would make us the laughing stock of the country. I also said that three-cornered contests were welcome. The leaders would know the mood of the public then. I had my way. Ram's demanded quota was halved. Despite that, in some constituencies there were three-cornered contests. In each such constituency, Ram's candidates lost their deposits against Janata Party winners. Eventually, the Janata Party got a bare absolute majority by itself and Ram's party got around 28 seats. 

Despite this, Ram almost became Prime Minister. In Ramnath Goenka's office in The Indian Express, the media tycoon held parleys with Nanaji Deshmukh, Chandrashekhar and Atal Behari Vajpayee for a strategy to make Ram Prime Minister. There was wide speculation that he would be made so. I got in touch with Charan Singh, who was an aspirant himself. I told him that he could not make it. If he didn't support Morarji, Ram could become PM. Charan Singh issued a statement that he was not a candidate. There was, of course, no question of him supporting Ram. I met the number two RSS leader, Madhav Rao Mule, and briefed him about how the Jan Sangh leaders were plotting with Goenka. Mule telephoned Nagpur and conveyed this to RSS chief Balashenb Deoras. Deoras issued a statement that only a Janata Party leader should become PM. Jan Sangh leaders had to fall in line. Amazingly, the anti-Morarji efforts did not end there. 

It was decided that the new PM would be chosen after Jayaprakash Narain and JB Kripalani would interview each Janata MP individually to ascertain who should be PM. I strongly criticised the move and demanded that there should be an open election to choose the new leader. My demand counted for nothing. I knew what the game was. With the Jan Sangh, BKD and Congress-O supporting Morarji, the vote would have been overwhelmingly in his favour. That would have strengthened his hand enormously. Instead, JP and Kripalani resorted to this subterfuge to rob Morarji of a spectacular victory. Both, like many other leaders, disliked Morarji for his rigid views and autocratic disposition. In the end, despite all the stratagems to block him, Morarji Desai was sworn in as Prime Minister. 

Oddly enough, the only one-to-one meeting I had with Jagjivan Ram took place after my last-ever meeting with Morarji Desai. I demonstrated against the investment of public money in luxury consumption while basic amenities like drinking water were denied to the poor. I opposed the government building the new Akbar Hotel. Without notice, I descended on the public sector five-star Ashoka Hotel with 3,000 slum-dwellers who posed as customers to choke the hotel. We broke no law. Half a dozen slum-dwellers drank tea at the restaurant and paid for it. The rest could never be accommodated because the hotel lobby was choked and no service was possible. This happened on Gandhiji's birth anniversary, 2 October 1978. I announced that, unlike Gandhi, we would never break the law in independent India where laws were framed by elected representatives and not by the British. Instead, we would use the law as a weapon to corner the rich. We won the government's case launched against me. The next day, The Indian Express carried news of the event as the page one banner. Morarji was furious. On Gandhi's anniversary, all the limelight had been stolen from him by this venture. He spoke to me on the phone. He accused me of having been paid by Indira Gandhi to do this. I rubbished him and said he should know me better. He changed tack and said that I wrote for Karanjia's Blitz weekly. So what if I did, I asked. I wrote only what I pleased. "Karanjia is like a prostitute," he snapped. If that was true, I told him, then Goenka, who was close to him at that time, was a call-girl. Our conversation ended. That was the last time we spoke. We never met again. But Jagjivan Ram asked to meet me. I suspect, though I cannot vouch for it, that Morarji asked him to explore me. 

Just a month before my meeting Ram, I had exposed his son's sexapade in which a Mercedes owned by an arms dealer had figured. I wrote on the security angle and demanded Ram's resignation as defence minister because his son's links with the arms dealer involved a security risk. His son, Suresh Ram, had been my contemporary in St Stephen's College. He sent a mutual friend as an emissary offering me payment to not write about him again. I told him to pack off, I didn't take money. I assured him I would not write another word about Suresh Ram's indiscretion because I was not interested in personal scandal but only in the national security angle. I guess Suresh was touched by this. Anyway, just a month later, Jagjivan Ram met  me. Our meeting was surprisingly cordial. He tried to gently explain to me that providing drinking water and amenities to the poor involved not only money but equipment. I dismissed his arguments. I got the impression that, privately, he was not displeased with my attitude. He was faithfully doing his duty as a senior colleague of the PM. 
Jagjivan Ram was undoubtedly a very competent minister. I haven't the slightest regret about preventing him from becoming PM. I was very strongly opposed to the Congress. I accepted Morarji because he was the first to break away from the Congress. Later, Chandrashekhar did the same. The idea of supporting Jagjivan Ram who introduced the Emergency Bill in Parliament to become the Janata government's first Prime Minister was too ludicrous to even contemplate. Despite his personal opposition to the Emergency, he succumbed to Indira Gandhi's command to introduce the Bill in Parliament. It was a fundamental compromise. When politicians succumb to their leaders to act against their own conscience, they must be prepared to pay the price. Ram acted too late. Those who do not speak when they should, lose the right to speak altogether. In the end, the Congress had the last laugh. The ex-Congressmen who led the Janata Party ruined it. 

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist






Can you tell us something about the strategic partnership between India and France?
There is a genuine, deep and increasing partnership between India and France. This partnership has greatly developed since the time President Sarkozy was chief guest on Republic Day in 2008. Since then, there have been personal interactions between the President of France and the Prime Minister of India. When it comes to terrorism, I can confirm that there have been many instances in which we have shared with India very specific material, which has been very useful. This cooperation is increasing as international terror is our common enemy. 

How does France, which has supported an India-specific agreement, view the news about the China-Pakistan nuclear deal and does it raise concerns about proliferation in the region?

We decided long ago to enter a civil nuclear cooperation with India because it seemed to us that, though India was not a part of the NPT, its nuclear behaviour and the need for energy made it appropriate to discuss a new regime for India. This regime is based on the right of every country to civil nuclear energy and also on international safeguards that there will be waterproof non-proliferation. Whatever civil nuclear cooperation there is between other countries has to go through the same criterion, which has the guarantee of non-proliferation through the appropriate International Atomic Energy Agency and National Security Guard mechanisms.

The world is now coming around to to the view that there is a "good" Taliban and a "bad" Taliban. Do you agree with the distinction and do you also agree that we need to talk to the "good" Taliban?

I must tell you that I feel very uncomfortable with this sort of distinction and I think what is at stake in Afghanistan is the capacity to help the Afghan President succeeding in, number one, national reconciliation; number two, empowerment of the legitimate security and the country's armed forces; and number three, human and economic development. Let me add that all three are equally important. Your question focuses on number one – national reconciliation – and here the real criterion is who is ready to enter into a peaceful political mechanism of settlement? For us, whoever is ready to give up fighting sincerely and completely and to join the political process is a legitimate actor in the political dialogue. Do you support India's candidature for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council?

For many years, we have said that the Security Council must be enlarged in both categories, permanent members and non-permanent members, and that India should be one of the new permanent members. This is our constant position. This reform is urgent and, to explain why, I would borrow the expression of President Sarkozy that "you cannot deal with the problems of the 21st century with an institution composed on the rules of the 20th century"'. And the sooner, the better. 

Do you think sanctions against Iran will succeed in making it give up its nuclear programme? 
 First of all, there is a need for Iran to respect its international obligations and the need for Iran to enter into compliance with the demands of the IAEA and Security Council and to give assurances that its nuclear programme is peaceful and that it is giving up any activity that is not in compliance with non-proliferation. In that respect, Iran is a member of the NPT and must therefore fulfil its obligations. 






We announced the other day that the Chamber of Commerce had approached His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor on the subject of a memorial to His late Majesty King Edward VII. In accordance with the wishes expressed His Honour has invited between three and four hundred representatives of the people of Calcutta and the different districts and divisions of Bengal to meet him at a conference to be held at Belvedere on Tuesday, the 19th instant, at 5-30 P.M., to consider the proposal of inaugurating in Calcutta, on behalf of the people of Bengal, a memorial to perpetuate the memory of His late Majesty. It is understood that the proceedings of this meeting will consist of a short address by His Honour explaining the reasons for calling a conference, followed by two resolutions, the one proposing that there should be a memorial in Calcutta and the other proposing names of gentlemen who should be asked to serve on the General and Executive Committee. The first resolution will be moved by the Chief Justice, and it is expected that the Nawab Bahadur of Murshidabad, the Maharajadhiraj Bahadur of Burdwan, the Maharajas of Darbhanga and Tagore, the President of the Chamber and Commerce, and the Master of the Trades Association will be amongst the speakers. It is proposed to leave the question of the form the memorial should take to the General Committee to decide hereafter, when they have an indication of the amount which is likely to be subscribed. 

The Calcutta Agent of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation has received telegraphic information from the head office to the effect that subject to audit the dividend for the half year ending June 30th will be 2 pound per share. The sum of 500,000 dollars will be added to the Silver Reserve, 150,000 dollars written off Premises Account, and 2,000,000 dollars carried forward to the next half year. 










One of the most unedifying aspects of the present United Progressive Alliance government is the propensity of some of its members to squabble with each other. The most recent example is the public spat between Kamal Nath, Union minister of road transport and highways, and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission. A little earlier than that, a minister of state went on a rant against the secretaries in his department. Even more astounding was a cabinet minister's refusal to attend cabinet meetings because she did not quite approve of some of the decisions being taken by the cabinet. Instances can be multiplied. These are not good indicators about the status and prestige of the government. They reveal that even the basic norms of a cabinet form of government are not being followed. Ministers are saying and doing whatever they want with scant regard for what their words and deeds do to the dignity of the government. A confrontation between a minister and a mandarin, or a minister's public criticism of the bureaucracy, can only lower the dignity of the government and erode its credibility.


It would also appear from his silence that the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is not taking sufficient cognizance of the matter. He should remember that any diminution in the status of the government is actually a reflection on himself as he epitomizes the government. Mr Singh's characteristic reticence and politeness about speaking firmly to his colleagues may not be the best instruments to counter and quell this growing drift towards indiscipline. Mr Singh is perhaps assuming, completely erroneously, that most of his cabinet colleagues are as conscious of the dignity of office as he himself is. Very few members of the political class carry themselves with as much dignity as Mr Singh does. His humility makes him see his colleagues in his own image. The time has come to talk down to them and to tell them that at the heart of the cabinet system of government, and of democracy, is a set of norms and conventions, most of them unwritten. These have to be learnt, respected and followed. The alternative to this is a form of lumpenization that will destroy democracy. This is the only way that the prime minister can restore order and discipline in his house. If to do this he has to act as the head prefect rather than as the prime minister, so be it.








In the end, Africa could not have an unblemished run of the World Cup. On the day of the grand finale, two suicide-bombings in Kampala, Uganda, not only robbed it of its complete share of the glory, but also reminded it of the cruel realities that a month of merry-making had obscured. Together with poverty, hunger and civil war, the remnants of an unusually harsh history, Africa now has to counter the scourge of international terrorism. The two attacks in Kampala, which killed as many as 74 people, were carried out by al Shabaab, a terrorist organization in Somalia that has recently joined its agenda and resources with al Qaida. Al Shabaab's immediate target is Uganda, a nation that has handsomely contributed its troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, which has been propping up the moderate Islamist transitional government there that the radical Islamist al Shabaab is desperate to overthrow. Al Shabaab's overland target is the United States of America, which is the major backer and funder of Amisom and also the pet hate of al Qaida. Given such a combination of common interests, it is not surprising that devious minds have met and are presently working overtime. With the aid, training and encouragement from the highly intricate network of terror organizations that al Qaida represents, al Shabaab has managed to carry out its first cross-border attack and is said to be planning several more in Burundi, Ethiopia and other countries that have tried to checkmate it. US targets, naturally, figure prominently on the list.


Al Shabaab's activities firmly put the Horn of Africa on the map of international terrorism. With the inclusion of local terror groups in its network, al Qaida will be able to repeat, with much more certainty than before, devastating attacks of the kind it carried out in 1998 in Africa. The established employment exchange of terrorists will also expand its field of activity elsewhere. All of this is bound to make Africa increasingly less peaceful and stable. With its frightening record of poverty, health and human-rights abuse, more violence is the last thing Africa should be looking forward to. The situation is equally grim for the US, whose war against terror is reaching nowhere near a closure. By the time the US exits Afghanistan, Africa will be ready to welcome it.









The Maoist leadership claims that it had nothing to do with the Jnaneshwari Express accident that killed over 150 persons. I am willing to take their word for it. But this also means that those who caused the sabotage, while nominally belonging to the ranks of the Maoists, were acting on their own. Nobody commits such a heinous crime against innocent people, unless the person is psychologically distanced from the victims — that is, unless the victims are perceived as belonging to 'the other', an amorphous mass against whom one is supposedly antagonistically arrayed. And it was not one or two individuals who were involved in the crime, but a whole organized group. We are, in short, in the presence of 'identity politics' of the most violent kind. Underneath the veneer of 'Maoism', we are witnessing a particularly vicious form of identity politics.


This is not to say that the Maoist leadership, in a conscious fashion, is merely promoting identity politics. As a Marxist, I am totally opposed to the perspective of the Maoists, who, if ever successful, will, in a conscious fashion, foist upon this country a one-party dictatorship that is the very antithesis of socialism (no matter how unavoidable it might have been in history) and that, in the Indian society in particular, which apotheosizes inequality, negates the only revolutionary gain the people have ever achieved — namely, one-person-one-vote. But I would not accuse the Maoist leadership of conceptually privileging identity over class politics. Nor is identity politics of all hues anathema for me. For super-oppressed groups like the tribal population, not taking cognizance of 'identity' makes a mockery of all politics. All class politics must reckon with their identity.


But while class politics can have room for reckoning with identity, there is no route from identity politics to class politics. The idea, "let us start organizing the tribal people and then we shall move on to organizing workers and peasants", can never work. At that point of transition, if not much earlier, there will be an inevitable rupture between the militant advocates of identity politics and those who wish to merge it into class politics. In the case of the Maoists, the sabotage of Jnaneshwari Express is a portent of this rupture.


The reason for the inevitability of this rupture is simple: identity politics is essentially exclusionary, while class politics is essentially inclusive. The objective of class politics, which aims to be system-transcending, is to polarize society at each moment of time into two camps: "the camp of the people" and the "camp of the enemies of the people" (to use Mao's words), with the latter kept as small as possible through political praxis. Class politics, therefore, is necessarily about forming united fronts, about uniting as many people as possible at any given moment in the "camp of the people". But identity politics is by nature not system-transcending: it is either reformist (to get more benefits for the identified group), or secessionist (often the case with oppressed groups), or in extreme cases downright fascist (demanding ethnic cleansing). For it to merge into class politics, it must negate itself as identity politics, and while some may be willing to do so, others in the movement will not be. This inevitably leads to ruptures and attempts to garner mass support (within the identified group) through acts of even greater mindless militancy. The recent happenings within the Gorkha movement are instructive in this respect.


This exclusionary nature of identity politics makes most such movements unthreatening from the point of view of imperialism (except, of course, those directly aimed against imperialism itself, and even in their case, it is more a nuisance, even a serious nuisance, than a real threat). Indeed, in India recently, the Central government has made extremely skilful use of political formations based on identity politics to push its neo-liberal agenda.


But the precise course of development of movements based on identity politics does not concern me here. The basic point is that while class politics can and must reckon with certain forms of identity, class politics cannot be approached via identity. (A possible exception is where the two more or less coincide, that is, the classes that must constitute the "camp of the people" have the same identity; but this is not germane here.) The fact that let alone moving from one to the other, even the mixing of the two can be problematical is underscored by the experience of the Marxist Coordination Committee of A.K. Roy, which had combined for a while with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha; the combination came apart and the subsequent history of the JMM is all too well-known.


Hence, even leaving aside questions of whether the Maoist vision of the future society is a desirable one or not (in my view not), and whether even if it were desirable it could be achieved through the mode of struggle adopted by them, which glorifies armed struggle and abjures all forms of political activity possible within the Indian polity, there remains a basic problem: the impossibility of moving to class politics from identity politics.

It may, of course, be argued that the Maoists never had a choice in the matter. Driven out of Andhra Pradesh, they had to regroup wherever they could. The tribal belt of Central India is where they could seek refuge; they had therefore to adjust to its ethos. But this argument is both irrelevant and erroneous. It is irrelevant because what is under discussion is their present predicament and not how they got to it; and if their predicament is seen as the outcome of the logic of their praxis, then that praxis has to be critiqued from the perspective of this predicament. Above all, however, this argument is erroneous because there is always a choice, and a rectification in praxis can always be made.


When the Indian forces had marched into the erstwhile Hyderabad state to put an end to the Nizam's rule, against which the Telangana peasant uprising was being conducted by the communists, the undivided Communist Party of India could have continued its armed struggle on the basis of the support of the Koya tribesmen. The choice before it was either to call off the struggle and bargain with the government for a defence of its gains, or to continue the struggle on the basis of reduced support, confined only to the tribesmen. It chose the former course. One can only be grateful for that choice, for otherwise the most significant national force that exists in India today in defence of democracy, secularism and modernity, and the only consistent bulwark against neo-liberalism and 'strategic alliance' with imperialism, would have been absent from the scene, busy chasing a will-o'-the-wisp in the jungles of Andhra Pradesh.


This choice is open to the Maoists. If they persist in the present praxis, their predicament will only worsen. Confronting the Indian State on the basis of the meagre social support of the tribal population is bad enough (no matter how much of an advantage the terrain provides). But the fact that this meagre social support cannot be widened (for that involves the impossible task of moving from identity to class politics), and can only dwindle over time (because of the logic of identity politics), makes it a tragic denouement. Will the Maoists show the wisdom that the undivided Communist Party had shown at the beginning of the 1950s?


The author is professor, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi








Mamata Banerjee has requested Sam Pitroda, the technology superstar, to formulate a game plan for turning Calcutta into another London. Unfortunately, her good intentions have got the better of her factual understanding of the situation.


Calcutta is the second most congested city in the world in terms of population density. (Mumbai is ranked first, Karachi third.) What would happen if the rest of West Bengal were to stay where it is and Calcutta get a leg-up? This is a distinct possibility, as Pitroda will come up with something useful and the Trinamul-Congress-controlled Calcutta Municipal Corporation will get to work on it. The slight improvement in conditions in Calcutta will cause more people to migrate to it. This, in turn, will increase the pressure on its still inadequate infrastructure, and the development achieved will be negated by higher demand.


The biggest problem with well established, built-up, 'hard' cities is the excessive demand on their infrastructure. There is thus only one way to make Calcutta better — get people to move out of it so that the pressure on the existing infrastructure is lessened and the city is run in a better manner. This would mean fewer cars, less traffic congestion and garbage, reduced pressure on open spaces and fewer slums taking root. This brings us to what, on the face of it, is a contradiction: to help Calcutta, one has to neglect it.


But this is really half the strategy. To relieve pressure on Calcutta, it is necessary to develop counter magnets — other cities that can attract migrants by offering more job opportunities and a better quality of life. This should be the cardinal urban development strategy of the TMC, which perceives its capture of the CMC as the first step towards capturing Writers' Buildings next year. Calcutta is at the heart of the Bengali consciousness, but West Bengal should not have only one national city to boast of. Maharashtra (Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur), Tamil Nadu (Chennai, Coimbatore), Gujarat (Ahmedabad, Surat), even Uttar Pradesh, all score over it in this regard.


Other options


The second-leg of the strategy must include the development of two or three more cities. Three possible venues come to mind: a greenfield one — Andal — and two existing sites that can do with considerable brownfield expansion, Siliguri and Berhampore. The key point in favour of all three is their connectivity. They are located next to important railway lines and highways. They can also tap adequate sources of water — Berhampore lies next to the Hooghly; Andal between Damodar and Ajay, and Siliguri, resting at the foothills of the Himalayas, can do wonders by harvesting the heavy monsoon rains.


The three cities also have some unique advantages. Andal has all that a greenfield city can possess. One can plan and build without having to spend a lot on rectifying mistakes of the past. Berhampore, one of the best-run cities in the state, is well equipped to expand in a planned manner. There is no need to explain Siliguri's plus points. Its geographical location makes it a perfect candidate to get transformed into an urban hub. The three cities offer a wide range of climatic conditions. Andal has dry summers and crisp winters of the Chhotanagpur Plateau, Siliguri is close to the hills while Berhampore boasts of a moderate, temperate climate.By promoting these three cities, West Bengal can look forward to a more balanced development that does justice to the geographical and cultural diversity that the state is endowed with. Calcutta, with its access to international development funding and the established revenue base of its municipal corporation, can look after itself on its own.


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





New revelations about the government's duplicity in dealing with the fallout of the Bhopal gas disaster have emerged. It appears that in 2008, the government smuggled around 40 tonnes of toxic waste out of the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal to an incinerator 230 km away at Pithampura. It is disturbing that lethal waste was shifted to a populated area. Locals were not consulted or informed of the dumping of toxic sludge in their neighbourhood. As distressing is the great lengths to which the government went to keep the deadly dumping under wraps. Not only was the waste shifted out at night, under cover of darkness but also, the government apparently took advantage of a curfew that had been imposed in Indore at that time. This ensured that the waste was slipped out of the Carbide plant and into Pithampura undetected by the public.

The Bhopal gas leak is tragic not only for the large number of people it killed and continues to kill and maim, but also because the Centre and the Madhya Pradesh government repeatedly betrayed the people. The shifting of waste to Pithampura indicates that the betrayal has not ended. Like Union Carbide, which reportedly held back information on the contents of the gas that leaked, standing in the way of doctors providing victims with the right treatment, the government failed to tell the people of Pithampura that it was poisoning their surroundings. Clearly, the government knew it was doing something reprehensible that would be challenged by the people. Hence, its resort to extreme subterfuge to hide its actions.

Under public pressure, the government recently announced a slew of steps to provide better compensation to victims and clean up the site of the disaster. It has constituted an oversight committee to co-ordinate and monitor activities related to waste disposal, decontamination and remediation at the disaster site. It must ensure that every one of its decisions is made after consulting the victims. Decisions on the clean-up of the site, how it will be done and where have implications for their future. The people are important stakeholders and should be involved in the decision-making process. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's admission of the government's duplicity with regard to toxic dumping at Pithampura is a refreshing break from the past. He has promised transparency on the government's future actions with regard to cleaning up the site. Hopefully, he will keep his word.








It is not surprising that the structure, role and functions of the Planning Commission are going to undergo major changes and the once-powerful body might soon lose some of its sheen. It might even lose its name. The prime minister has approved a proposal to overhaul the commission, which will now be known as the Systems Reforms Commission. There is a widely shared view that the planning commission has lost some of its relevance in the new and liberalised economic milieu. The last 10 years have seen more private investment in the economy than public investment without the close supervision of the commission. Road transport minister Kamal Nath's harsh criticism of the commission as an 'armchair advisor'  is a sign of the change in perception about its role.

The plan is to convert the commission into a think tank, which can generate fresh ideas in economic policy, interact with other think tanks  and engage more directly with  ministries and state governments. The commission actually has these functions even now. The difference would be that the new body will not have some of the more important functions it once had. When the commission was first formed, it had a decisive say in all aspects of the economy — including formulation of projects, allocation of resources, prioritisation of development, timing of investment and even pricing of commodities. It could not have been otherwise in the scheme of centralised planning which was adopted by the country then.

But the role of planning has shrunk now and that has made a change in the functions of the commission inevitable. There are some who argue that the commission has become totally irrelevant and should be scrapped altogether. This is wrong. There is the need for planning in many areas of the economy even now. The nature of planning itself may have changed in the new economic environment and the commission may have to be reinvented to meet the new demands. It had made important contributions in the initial years of development, which served as a basis for the faster strides made in later years. A sharper definition of its role and more clarity about its functions will help to avoid the kind of criticism that it has recently attracted.







Karzai now views Pakistan as an important player in ending the war through negotiations with the Taliban or on the battlefield.


Pakistan army's offensive against the Taliban militants is now almost two years old. Yet there are few signs of any significant successes so far. The army is being forced to come back and counter militants in several areas like South Waziristan and the Swat Valley where it has already declared victory long back.

The counter-insurgency warfare is a tough business and an army that is largely configured to fighting Indian military is finding the going tough in its tribal areas where the Taliban fighters are getting dispersed. The army is chasing the fighters away from one area, only to find them appear elsewhere soon thereafter.

Despite being pressed by the US, the Pakistani security establishment remains reluctant to take on the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. The Haqqani group is an important player in the emerging security dynamic in Afghanistan and the Pakistani military views it as an important asset in countering Indian influence in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, Kayani, has offered to help broker a deal between the Haqqani group and the Afghan government.

Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, is grudgingly accepting a larger role for Pakistan in his country. His decision to send a contingent of Afghan military officers to Pakistan for training underlines his desire to seek a rapprochement with Islamabad. The July 2011 deadline was intended to force Karzai to address urgent problems like corruption and ineffective governance. But it may have had the opposite effect, convincing Karzai that in a year from now, he will be on his own.

Though the US is at pains to underline that July 2011 "will be the beginning of a conditions-based process" and that the deadline will be debated in the military's formal review of progress later this year in December, there are few who are willing to bet at the moment that the Obama administration has the stomach to stay for much longer in Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, Karzai is trying to craft a more autonomous foreign policy. Karzai lost no time in dismissing two high-profile ministers — interior minister and intelligence chief — from his cabinet who were most closely allied with the US. These were the men Washington had insisted Karzai include in his cabinet after his re-election last year and they were resisting Karzai's attempts to negotiate with the Taliban and closer ties with Islamabad.

Karzai now views Pakistan as an important player in ending the war through negotiations with the Taliban or on the battlefield. The decision to send officers for training in Pakistan is of great symbolic value and is the result of talks between the Afghan government and Pakistan's security agencies that began in May.

Growing power 

It has even been reported that Karzai had a face-to-face meeting with Sirajuddin Haqqani in the presence of Pakistan's army chief and the ISI chief. Taliban's growing power is evident in their dismissal of proposed negotiations with the US. The Taliban seem convinced that they are winning the war in Afghanistan and that public opinion in the West is turning against the war.

Pakistan is also reportedly moving ahead with the extradition of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a top aide to Mullah Omar, to Afghanistan. By arresting Baradar earlier this year, Islamabad successfully disrupted direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban. Pakistan would like to ensure that it is at the centre of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government so that Pakistan's core interest of containing Indian influence is not jeopardised.

Taliban remain Pakistan's greatest source of leverage in Afghanistan and they have used that leverage effectively. Pakistan's security establishment is relishing the double game it is playing in Afghanistan. Pakistani support for the Taliban in Afghanistan continues to be sanctioned at the highest levels of Pakistan's government with the ISI even represented on the Quetta Shura — the Taliban's war council — so as to retain influence over the Taliban's leadership.

Despite launching offensives against militants in North and South Waziristan, Pakistani military continues to look upon the Taliban as a strategic asset. Asif Ali Zardari has visited captured Taliban leaders assuring them of Pakistan's support. Pakistan's security establishment is manipulating the Taliban's political hierarchy so as to have greater leverage over future peace talks.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are hedging their bets against a possible US withdrawal. The US has also acknowledged that in addition to taking military action against Taliban sanctuaries inside its borders, it is essential that Pakistan be involved 'in some sort of reconciliation arrangement' with the insurgents.

Though General David Petraeus, the new commander, International Security Assistant Force (ISAF), has admitted in his recent confirmation hearings that India has legitimate interests in the region, it is not clear at all what India is being offered to be a constructive player in this enterprise.

New Delhi continues to believe that the US cannot afford to fail in Afghanistan and will not leave unless the problem of Af-Pak is fundamentally resolved. But that assumption needs to be revisited in light of recent developments and India should be assessing what it can do to prevent its further marginalisation in the rapidly evolving regional dynamic.








Water has always been an emotive issue in Punjab and over the years, state politicians have perfected the art of raising emotions and playing to the gallery to score over the other on the issue of river water-sharing with the neighbouring states.


Adding a new twist to the nearly four-decade-old inter-state dispute with Haryana over sharing of river waters, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has now demanded royalty on river waters that non-riparian states like Haryana (and Rajasthan) use from Punjab's rivers.

Badal has advanced the argument that water is like other natural resources such as iron ore and coal and the state had been 'mining' it for several decades to produce food grain for the country. "If iron and coal-rich states can claim royalty for mining of their natural resources, why should this benefit not pass on to Punjab since water is our natural resource?'' he claims.

Punjab contributes nearly 50 per cent to the food grain production in the country. Paddy and wheat cycle has led to increasing consumption of water through canal irrigation and also indiscriminate exploitation of underground water resources which has severely depleted the underground water table. That also forms basis of Punjab's argument that it has no surplus water to share with the neighbouring states.

New issue

Taking the lead from Badal, the hill state of Himachal Pradesh has jumped into the fray saying that the state had the first right for royalty since most rivers flowing into Punjab originate in Himachal. Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has rubbished Badal's demand for royalty retorting that Punjab should first give royalty on the river water share of Haryana as per inter-state agreements which it had not honoured so far.
The demand raised by Badal has not only been rebuffed by Haryana but also by the Centre with Union water resources minister Pawan Kumar Bansal saying there is no law in the country for pricing of river waters between states.

Hailing from Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, Bansal has said such demand is 'unjustified' and "lacked legal sanctity." He warns that the same demand for royalty could be raised by Tibet and China which are originating points of several rivers flowing in the Indian territory.

Punjab has always claimed sole rights over river waters flowing through its territory quoting riparian principle. It refurbishes its fresh claim on royalty by claiming precedent that the British used to charge royalty from princely states of Nabha, Jind and Patiala for using river waters before independence.

For nearly three decades now, it has consistently stonewalled attempts by Haryana, including legal pronouncements, to construct Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal that was to carry waters of Ravi and Beas rivers from Punjab to Haryana as per inter-state agreement in the wake of Eradi Tribunal award in 1981. The tribunal's interim award had allocated 3.5 million acres ft (MAF) as Haryana's share from the Ravi-Beas basin which would be carried to the state by constructing an approximately 200 km long SYL canal. While Haryana has already constructed about 90 km of the canal length on its territory, Punjab has refused to construct the canal in keeping with its stand that it had no water to share with any other state.

In 2004, the apex court had directed the Centre to get the SYL canal completed through some neutral agency if Punjab does not construct its part within one year. However, the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in Punjab tried to subvert the court directive by passing in the Assembly the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act. A presidential reference on the validity of the Act is pending in the supreme court which will begin hearing this month.

Observers feel that Badal's fresh salvo in raising the demand for royalty has been made keeping in mind this impending court battle for river waters between the two states.

The Akali stalwart convened an all-party meeting in Chandigarh two weeks ago which decided to approach the prime minister on the issue. The Congress in Punjab, however, has refused to join issue sensing the fact that Haryana and Rajasthan have Congress governments and any contentious demand could be viewed negatively by the party high command.

Badal has warned the Centre that any adverse adjudication on river waters issue could create law and order problems in the state. However, his Haryana counterpart, Bhupinder Hooda dubs the renewed charade from Punjab as political grandstanding in order to exploit public emotions ahead of the Assembly polls in the state about 18 months away.







I was worried over my children going hungry for two hours!


The recent Bharat bundh was apparently a great success for its organisers. Life was paralysed throughout the country, but it went off peacefully in most part. However, I had a bizarre experience that day which skewed my perspective somewhat. I woke up on Monday to uninterrupted birdsong, which is unusual because we live close to a busy road. However, since there were no buses to overpower the music of birds with air horns, it was nice and quiet. How restful, I thought, and set the milk to heat on the stove for my morning coffee. I lit the gas burner, and began to plan the menu for the day, until I noticed that the gas burner had gone out. We were out of gas.

For a moment, I panicked. We didn't have a spare cylinder, and there was no way we could manage to get a new one from the supplier that day because of the bundh. What was I going to do? Just then I remembered that we had our microwave oven. We had cold milk and Quaker's Oatmeal, so we could make porridge in the microwave. And luckily, we had plenty of leftovers from Sunday's dinner. All we had to do was reheat the leftovers for lunch. I was just congratulating myself on my quick thinking when the power supply snapped. We wouldn't be able to use the microwave also.

But not to worry, said my husband, we could get something for breakfast from the hotels that were near our home. At the very least, we could get bread. When he came back home, half an hour later, he was empty-handed. All the shops were closed.

Scavenging around, I found some biscuits that the children ate as interim relief, but as an hour went by, I began to get seriously worried. The power situation in the state being precarious at best, it was impossible to decide how long the power cut would be. I was just beginning to seriously think of building a small fire in the balcony of our second floor apartment with a few dry leaves and a magnifying glass by focusing the sun's rays to start a fire, when it started to rain. Wet leaves and no sun... another idea went down the drain.

The next hour was very stressful for me. My children were quiet, but the thought that they were hungry loomed large in my mind.  Also, I am a caffeine addict, and I hadn't had my morning fix yet. Power supply was restored in two hours. The first thing I did was to make myself some coffee (after all, I have my priorities), and then I made the porridge. I swear, the porridge never tasted better.

As I tucked into my hot, sweet porridge, I had a couple of thoughts. I had worried over my children going hungry for two hours. How about the millions of mothers in our country who couldn't feed their children for days? How did they feel? Also, the countrywide strike put a lot of people to great difficulties, some far greater than what my family had to experience. So was the bundh really such a great success?









After four years of deliberations that included testimony by well over 100 witnesses, producing thousands of pages of transcripts, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Tuesday acquitted MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) of most of the charges against him. Political appointments made by Hanegbi during his stint as Likud's environment minister between 2001 and 2003 were not deemed by the court to be criminal acts of fraud, breach of trust or electoral bribery.

However, Hanegbi was found guilty of perjury. The court, in an expanded three-man panel – rare, considering the charges – ruled that Hanegbi had lied when he denied being behind the publication of an ad aimed at garnering the support of Likud central committee members. In the ad, which appeared in a Likud mouthpiece ahead of the January 2003 elections, Hanegbi bragged about the large number of Likud central committee members he had appointed in the Environment Ministry. The implication, apparently, was that if central committee members voted for him as a candidate on the Likud's Knesset list, Hanegbi would return the favor.


The ramifications of Tuesday's ruling are still unclear. In September or October, the court is expected to sentence Hanegbi and will decide whether the perjury charge carries with it "moral turpitude." If so, Hanegbi's political career could be hurt.

The court's decision raises some fundamental questions: Notably, should political appointments, even if they are made for electoral support, be considered a criminal offense? And crucially, why is it that there seem to be no clear directives and procedures governing these appointments? The High Court's official position, as set down in Dekel vs. The Minister of Finance, is that political appointments are forbidden. But the Israeli political reality is radically different. Politicians routinely appoint political affiliates.

Numerous state comptroller's reports complaining about the phenomenon have done nothing to change this.

One of the reasons Hanegbi was acquitted on counts related to political appointments is precisely that the practice is so widespread. Hanegbi's predecessors in the Environment Ministry behaved in exactly the same way.

Nor are political appointments a uniquely Israeli phenomenon.

The American judiciary has recently taken steps to limit the scope of the "honest service law" to extreme cases, such as those involving bribery. In the Hanegbi case, meanwhile, an Israeli court was willing for the first time to consider the possibility that a political appointment could be a criminal offense.

ACCORDING TO Prof. Yossi Shain of Tel Aviv and Georgetown universities, who has authored a soon-to-be published book called The Language of Corruption in Israel's Moral Culture, the Israeli judicial approach is counterproductive.

It creates the impression that Israeli politics suffers from rampant corruption. This undermines the public's trust in politics and politicians without addressing the real problem.

Instead of a blanket prohibition against all political appointments, a more nuanced approach is in order, one that recognizes the realities of political life. As a Shas minister put it over a decade ago when confronted with charges of political appointments, "What do you expect me to do? Appoint a Likudnik?" If it can be determined that a given appointment undermines the democratic process by, for instance, putting in office an official without consideration of his or her substantive merits but only of his or her political utility, it should be blocked. But prohibiting all forms of political appointments as inherently wrong is not only impossible to enforce, it is also unnecessary.

More important is the need for clear directives that govern the way appointments are made. Prospective appointments should all be vetted through a tender process, a special appointment committee or some other method that provides a measure of oversight. Doing so would protect politicians from pressure exerted on them by their cronies.

A lack of clarity regarding appointment procedures hurts honest politicians, who will be either overly cautious or unfairly accused of wrongdoing. Dishonest politicians, meanwhile, will try to take advantage of the ambiguity.

Hanegbi – a veteran politician who may yet prove central to efforts to forge a unity coalition – perjured himself because he felt he had something to hide. But if political appointments made in accordance with clear directives and transparent processes had been considered completely legitimate, he would not have had to lie in the first place







That the differing cases of Helen Thomas and Octavia Nasr yielded the same result exemplifies a failure to make the necessary distinctions amid the nuance of American Arab thought.


When Pope Innocent III ordered a crackdown on Christian heretics called the Cathars in 1210 CE, he applied a reasoning that was not so reasonable: "Nulla salus extra ecclesium" or "Outside the Church there is no salvation."

The Cathars were living among the Christian faithful in a French city called Beziers. During the assault, when the pope's general was asked how the soldiers would determine who was a believer and who wasn't, he responded, "Kill them all, let God sort them out." More than 100,000 people were slaughtered, mostly Christians not part of the Cathars.


We've seen this form of political strategy repeated many times in history since. Most recently, it was former president George W. Bush who launched his war of vengeance against Iraq in 2003, declaring: "You are either with us, or against us."

In the Hollywood version of the real life story of the rise of the Mafia in Las Vegas, the accused mobsters were sitting in a federal court conference room worrying about who the witnesses against them might be. They went through a list and came across the name of one of their most loyal. But the decision to murder him came down to one final thought, "He's a stand-up guy, but, why take a chance?"Israel and its allies have viewed the Arab world in much the same light. It's not how you criticize Israel, but the fact that you criticize Israel at all that is important. Even if you don't criticize Israel, but are like those who do, well, "Why take a chance."

LET'S TAKE the differing cases of Helen Thomas and Octavia Nasr.


Thomas was a veteran White House correspondent who covered eight presidents. When she became the dean of the press corps, opening and closing presidential press conferences, she often led with question about the unfairness of American foreign policy toward the Arab world and Palestinians.

Last month, a rabbi activist interviewed the 79-year-old journalist outside the White House with a video camera and asked her: "Any comments on Israel?" Thomas' response was a crude critique: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine."

Then she added: "Remember, these people are occupied. And it's their land. It's not German, it's not Poland."

Where should they go, asked the rabbi? "They – go home."

"Where's their home?" Thomas: "Poland."

"So the Jews can..."

Thomas: "Germany."

"You're saying the Jews should go back to Poland and Germany?" Thomas: "And, and America and everywhere else."

Thomas was immediately fired by the Hearst Newspapers.

In fairness to Thomas, and while her choice of words left a lot to be desired, I think she meant to criticize Israel's occupation and not to express anti-Semitic feelings.

But contrast her case with that of Nasr, the senior Middle East correspondent for CNN, and a 25-year journalism veteran, who was forced to walk the modern-day Beziers plank of anti-Israel Cathars. Also Lebanese American, Nasr was considered pro-Israeli and not so sympathetic to Palestinian causes, according to CNN colleagues who knew her well.

But when she learned of the death of Lebanon's Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a founder of Hizbullah denounced as terrorists by Israel and the US, she wrote on Twitter (the Internet social networking site that limits comments to a total of 140 letter characters or about 30 words): "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hizbullah's giants I respect a lot."

CNN didn't have to have a meeting with the pope. After a firestorm of protests from many, including Israel's strongest Jewish American supporters like the Simon Weisenthal Center, Nasr was fired.

Later, and too late, Nasr explained she was referring to Fadlallah's views toward women's rights and his opposition to honor killings, a practice in which women accused of infidelity and bringing shame to their families are murdered, often by other family members who are celebrated for the killings and protected by laws.

Neither his progressive views on women's rights nor his break with Hizbullah over the group's growing embrace of the fanaticism of Iran's extremist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was taken into account.

IN THE United States and among American Jews at least, too often there are inadequate discernable levels of distinction when it comes to supporting or opposing Israel.

Moderates, extremists, Arabs and Muslims are often all lumped together.

That failure to understand the nuance of American Arab thought – as exemplified in the cases of Thomas and Nasr, different cases that yielded the same result – works well with the fear-mongering that defines how American Arabs are understood in the new era of post- September 11, 2001 terrorism. You are either with us or against us.

Whether you support peace or not does not matter. If you criticize Israel in any fashion, that's more than enough. Say something nice about Israel's bitterest enemies, watch out.

Outside of the pro-Israel debate, there is no salvation. In the firings of Helen Thomas and Octavia Nasr, and criticism of other leading American Arab journalists, there is only one fate: "Fire them all, let God sort it out."

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









The British, in particular, have had a long spate of biased and strange political representatives in the Middle East.


The seemingly strange comments by Britain's ambassador to Lebanon praising late Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah occur against the backdrop of the increasing politization of Western ambassadors in the Middle East.

Diplomats sometimes become completely beholden to their host society, to the point that they no longer represent the interests of the mother country. After retiring, many of them, like Eugene H.


Bird, former US consul in east Jerusalem turned member of the pro-Arab Council for the National Interest, become paid advocates on behalf of Arab interests in the West.

Throughout history, ambassadors have often represented their home countries zealously. During the time of Queen Elizabeth I, the Spanish ambassador to London, Bernadino de Mendoza, was complicit in a plot to overthrow the queen.

But diplomats are susceptible to influence and they have their own opinions.

Joseph Kennedy, father of JFK, was appointed ambassador to the UK in 1938. He turned out to be a deep advocate of appeasement, argued that democracy in Europe was "finished" and eventually submitted his resignation in 1940 due to disagreement with prevailing US policy.

In the 19th century, Western powers began appointing representatives in cities such as Jerusalem. Initially many of these people were colorful locals. For instance early American representatives included Jewish merchants, like David Darmon, who were considered knowledgeable about the region, and German- American Templars, like Jacob Schumacher, living in Haifa. These individuals tended to be overly biased toward their own financial interests, community or environment.

THE BRITISH particularly have had a long spate of biased and strange political representatives in the Middle East. These forerunners to Frances Guy were certainly more partisan than she is.

Harry St. John Philby was born to British parents in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), educated at Cambridge, became a socialist and was sent to work for the Indian civil service in 1908. In 1917 he was appointed an agent to Ibn Saud, the local Wahhabi sheikh then in power in central Arabia.

Philby almost immediately became a partisan of the Saud family. But his "going native" didn't deter the British government from keeping him on after the war in Iraq and Palestine. He was only pushed out in 1924 when it became clear he was passing on secret correspondence to the Saudis. He converted to Islam in 1930, settled in Saudi Arabia and served as an adviser in the kingdom until his death in Lebanon in 1955.

Lawrence of Arabia also became overly biased toward his Middle Eastern friends, particularly King Faisal of Iraq, who he had supported during the Arab revolt against the Ottomans. Lawrence was chosen to be a representative of Britain's Foreign Office at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Here he proved overtly partisan again, working alongside Faisal to gain concessions for the Arab states that the British hoped to set up after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

To a minor extent the equivalents of Philby and Lawrence in the US have been the "Arabists," State Department career diplomats who have specialized in Arabic language and culture, received numerous diplomatic appointments in the Middle East and become partisans on behalf of the Saudi lobby in West.

Robert Kaplan, Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes have all documented the problem of American diplomats sent to Arab countries who developed a "passionate attachment" – what former secretary of state Jim Baker called "clientitis" – and even ended up on the Saudi payroll after their ambassadorships ended.

Among the most notorious is James Akins, a career diplomat and ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1973 to 1976.

In 1989 Akins attempted to get the Federal Elections Commission to regulate AIPAC. With former ambassador to Qatar Andrew Killgore, he joined the pro-Palestinian organization If Americans Knew. In a 2001 article, "Why do they hate us," he claimed that 9/11 was caused by "the anti-American feeling in the Middle East and South Asia [that] has everything to do with US policy." Before the Arab- American Anti-Discrimination Committee he spoke of "Dar al-Islam" and of the Israel lobby which "controlled the American Congress," concluding; "If the American public were ever to concentrate on America's interests, then its onesided support of Israel and its alienation of Muslims would end."

Charles Freeman (ambassador to Saudi Arabia 1989-1992) has spent the last decade advocating for the Arab world in the US. In a November 3, 2006 speech at the 15th annual U.S-Arab policy-makers conference, he advocated on behalf of the Saudi-sponsored peace initiative of 2002: "It would exchange Arab acceptance of Israel and a secure place for the Jewish state in the region for Israeli recognition of Palestinians as human beings with equal weight in the eyes of God."

John West (ambassador to Saudi Arabia 1977-1981), according to Emerson, encouraged punishment of Israel for the strike on Iraq in 1981, facilitated Saudi business deals in the US after retirement and, as ambassador, helped lobby for the sale of F-15s to the kingdom.

Robert Jordan (ambassador 2001- 2003) spoke at the 17th annual Arab-US policy-makers conference and noted that "one of the great pleasures" he feels now is visiting Saudi Arabia six or seven times a year, but "I think it's one thing to develop a warm friendship and sense of kindred with the country in which you serve, but you're still there to serve American interests."

His statement could serve as a good reminder to the UK's current ambassador to Lebanon who claimed "you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person" in describing Fadlallah, who supported hostage-taking and suicide bombings in Lebanon.

THE MIDDLE East is adept at seducing outsiders. However Western ambassadors to Arab countries could learn from their peers in Israel who tend to be impartial or critical of that country. Belgian ambassador Wilfred Greens, British ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles and French ambassadors Gerard Araud and Jacques Huntzinger were all critical of Israel. Former Australian ambassador Ross Burns called in the Sydney Morning Herald for a more "hard-nosed emphasis on Australian interests."

Rather than becoming ambassadors without borders, akin to some human rights organization, these diplomats need to be hard-nosed vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, Hizbullah and other players in the region and stop drinking the belly-dancingcum- exotic sheikh with a beard Kool-Aid.

For too long the West's representatives in the Middle East have become completely beholden to their host societies, converting to their political views and forgetting that they are supposed to represent their country's interests abroad rather than supporting foreign interests at home.

The writer is a PhD researcher at Hebrew University and a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.








Immigrant labor is inevitable in a post-industrial Israel.

The country's leaders seem to have finally recognized the need to create a coherent migrant worker policy; it has remained the last of the First World nations to formulate one, and as a result, Israeli governments have lurched from one contradictory policy to another since the migrants first began to arrive.


Over the years, Israel has encouraged the temporary employment of migrants, while simultaneously imposing tight visa and labor restrictions that has left them vulnerable to abusive employers.


Naturalization criteria for about 800 of some 1,200 offspring of illegal foreign workers have just been adopted by an interministerial committee recently appointed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. It is a step in the right direction, however modest it may be.

Since the first intifada, more than a million migrant workers from the developing world have come here to replace the Palestinians, the country's previous source of cheap labor.

More than 250,000 foreign laborers, about half of them illegal, now live in the country, including Chinese construction workers, Filipino caregivers, Thai farmhands and a host of other Asians, Africans and Eastern Europeans who labor as maids, cooks and nannies.

Israel has evaded coming to terms with the new reality of the foreign workers largely due to its self-image.

The country's raison d'être has been Jewish immigration, and thus it never imagined the prospect of large-scale non-Jewish economic immigration.

The foreign workers have furthermore represented a paradigmatic challenge to the ideology of Zionism.

Early Zionist settlements were founded on the principle of Hebrew labor; Jewish work and the creation of a Jewish working class would heal the Jewish nation and help to counter common anti-Semitic myths that Jews were mainly merchants, that they were unproductive and parasitic.

Zionist philosophers such as Aharon David Gordon saw physical labor in the Holy Land as the key to improving the health and vitality of the Jewish people, to renewing their national existence and to enabling them to retake their homeland. Physical labor, in particular agricultural labor, could restore the Jews to preexilic fortitude.

The idealized portrait of the farmer tilling the field of his ancestors was a widespread stock image during the 19th century, one popularized by the various nationalist movements of the period, be they Zionist, Irish, Italian or German. It emerged in part due to the disruptive and cataclysmic effects of the Industrial Revolution.

As peasants left their farms and poured into the cities to find factory work, the gemeinschaft nature of pre-industrial Europe began to break down; societies once rooted in tradition, rural life, kinship ties, hierarchical social structures, patterns of deference and masculine codes of honor and chivalry slowly became gesellschaft in character – impersonal, bureaucratic, urban, industrial, mobile and rootless.

Nationalist intellectuals responded to the shock by romanticizing the previous era; they implored man to return his hands to the earth, like his ancestors before him, and leave behind the spiritual void of the city, of industry and of modernity.

Indeed, a true nation could only emerge from the sweat of its base – its peasants, builders and soldiers.

The call of the gemeinschaft struck a powerful chord for the dispersed Jews of Europe, long the continent's humiliated and shunned outcasts. The memory of Zion beckoned daily from liturgy, and the return to the lost land would mean a feeling of rootedness; it would mean being at home. Zionism would mold the exilic Jews into the workers, farmers and warriors of a Jewish national redemption.

Thus non-Jewish labor has always been a contested issue for the Zionist movement. As Zionist settlements began to sprout, Jews generally refrained from using Arab labor on ideological grounds – Jewish toil would make the Jewish state.

Indeed, the image of the Jewish farmer, one who could quickly leave his fields for the battlefield, became Israel's version of the American dream. The cartoonist Dosh set this image to paper in the early 1950s with his character Srulik, drawn as a kibbutznik with a curly forelock and an upturned nose, and always wearing a blue shirt and a kova tembel atop his head. Srulik would in time become Israel's national personification.

Not greedy, always honest, attached with a deep love to the land, quick to arms, youthful and with a wild charm about him, Srulik contrasted quite sharply with the Diaspora Jew, an image castigated and spurned by Zionist thinkers. Srulik was no lamb to the Cossack slaughter, he was no intellectual nor was he a cosmopolitan city dweller; he was a simple, strong and brave farmer, a resurrected Maccabean warrior from Israel's ancient past.

THESE DAYS, however, Srulik seems to have grown up and left the kibbutz for a high-rise apartment in Tel Aviv. Israel, an increasingly affluent and hi-tech society, is no longer the agricultural republic of its youth, and like other First World post-industrial societies, one would more likely see a Third World migrant picking fruit rather than a Jewish Israeli.

Ideological opposition to non- Jewish labor began to break down following the war of 1967; over the following two decades the territories were incorporated into the country's economy, and the Palestinians became its laborers and a captive market for its products.

The goal was to create powerful economic ties with the territories to ensure permanent control of them.

This incorporation occurred simultaneously with a radical restructuring of the political economy. By the late 1970s, economic elites had begun to pressure the state to liberalize the economy, in part motivated by a desire to join in the spoils of globalization.

The 1980s and '90s would see the liberalization of capital and other markets, the privatization of state enterprises, the deregularization of the labor market and a significant decline in state expenditure.

Neoliberalism and joining the global economy have helped to shift Israel away from a being a society socialist and collectivist in orientation to one capitalist and individualist.

The change would mean that once the first intifada aroused fears of Palestinian violence, Israelis would instead contract out for foreign workers.

Netanyahu's decision to set aside time and resources to cope with the presence of the migrant workers is a start. Long-term policies should be enacted that encourage Israelis to take up menial work and thus limit the need for the immigrant laborers, but they should acknowledge that immigrant labor is inevitable in a post-industrial Israel.

The dreams of a farming utopia worked by Jewish hands have ended, and the presence of foreign workers represents Israel's maturation from its revolutionary youth. Today, that Srulik tilling a kibbutz field is most likely from Thailand.

The writer is a freelance journalist.









Just as we preserved our friendship with Turkey while it continued supporting our adversaries, so too will the Turks learn to live with our friendship and our support for Kurds.


For a long time I have warned that we must cease black and white conduct, which causes damage to us and prevents us from advancing vital interests in the international arena and in our relationship with the Palestinians and the Arab world in general. The story of our relationship with the Kurdish people and our conduct with Turkey concerning them is no different.

Some 130,000 members of the Kurdish community live here, and their stories indicate that they lived in peace and with regard among their Muslim neighbors. The very fact that they preserved their Jewishness in areas remote from other Jewish centers proves that the Jews of Kurdistan achieved respect and appreciation. You can see that concentrations of Jews living in similar isolation disappeared over the years.

Most of the Israeli public does not even know that the Jewish people from Kurdistan happened to arrive there in the wake of the Assyrian royal exile. The first stage of the exile was undertaken by Shalmaneser V in 733 BCE, and it was completed by his successor, Sargon II in 722 BCE.

The two kings deported Jews living in the northern kingdom of Israel and east of the Jordan River.

The aliya of Kurdish Jews to Israel began before the establishment of the state, with the majority of the community immigrating after the establishment of Israel, during 1950-1954, under the orders of the rabbis and community leaders.

Their emigration was not due to riots or pogroms of the Muslim population among which the Jews lived, but because of deep love for Israel, which prompted them to follow their community leaders and leave their region.

We have a moral and a historic debt to the Kurdish people in all the geographic regions in which they live, especially the Kurdish community in Iraq. Following the riots, pogroms and harsh conditions that Iraqi Jews were exposed to, since the founding of the State of Israel and even before, it was the Kurdish people who helped Jewish families escape from Iraq to Turkey, and from there to reach the Land of Israel. I am personally familiar with one incident, the case of the late Fouad Gabai, who was hanged in the central square of Baghdad on January 27, 1969 along with eight others also killed by the government.

His widow and four children were arrested and placed in a detention camp. They were later smuggled to Israel by the Barzani family, one of two main Kurdish families in Iraq.

For many years the Kurds have suffered under the strong arm of the Iraqi regime, their only sin being their desire for independence, and the Sunni world was silent. The Kurdish people have always been among the adopted sons of Sunni Islam and the Middle East in general.

The change of government in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein led to a Sunni-Shi'ite civil war. In 2007, in a live broadcast on Qatar's satellite channel, the world's most extreme Sunni preacher, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who kept silent when members of the Kurdish community in Iraq were slaughtered during the regime of Saddam Hussein, called upon the Kurdish leadership not to forget that they are Sunni, and to help their fellow Sunnis against the Shi'ites. The Kurdish leadership in Iraq did not buy this and did not assist. They suffered too many years for a call like this to bring them to action.

Over the years, members of the Kurdish community in Israel have shared the pain of the Kurdish people suffering in Iraq and Turkey. I have learned from their stories; community leaders returning deeply moved after travelling to Turkey, making sure to reach Kurdish areas to connect with their heritage and to talk to the people,.

OVER THE years of tight relations with Turkey, the anger of the Kurdish resistance has been directed against Israel more than once. The best example of this took place on February 17, 1999, when, following the announcement by the Turkish court of the verdict in the trial of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, a furious mob of Kurds took over our consulate in Berlin for a few hours.

The Jewish people, which knows how to be grateful to every citizen of Poland, Russia or Germany who saved Jews, also needs to know how to be grateful to an entire people with whom we lived in peace, appreciation and understanding for thousands of years.

With regard to Turkish anger over such a move, one has to say that, just as Turkey could always maintain good relations with Israel while sometimes supporting elements opposing Israel (the ultimate being the flotilla to Gaza last week, and it's not only the leaders from the Islamist parties, such as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Necmettin Erbakan or Abdullah Gul, but secular leaders such as Demiral Ecevit), so too Turkey needs to understand that our good relations with it do not to cause us to ignore our moral obligation to the Kurdish people, which the international community in its self-righteousness has forgotten about and left outside of the global agenda. The Kurdish people deserves what any other people deserves.


We must stop thinking in black and white. We need to adopt a world view and a multidisciplinary policy within which resides the peaceful coexistence of good relations with Turkey alongside gratitude to the Kurdish people. We are not talking about a revolutionary policy here. Look around us. Many countries operate within such policies, which, according to my rationale, are much more effective and ethical.

The writer is chairman of the Smart Middle East Forum.








The sheer absurdity of how debates over Israel are conducted led us down the comedy route.


When British comedian Peter Cook set up his satirical comedy club The Establishment in London in the early 1960s, he said it was modeled on "those wonderful Berlin cabarets which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War."

As we set up our project, No Laughing Matter, to create satirical videos on topics close to Israel's heart, we recognized that a degree of humility and realism was in order.


It was the sheer absurdity of how debates over Israel are conducted that led us down the comedy route. We also believed you have more chance of people listening to your argument if you entertain them at the same time.

We were very influenced by the great British comedians John Bird and John Fortune, who have used a mock interview technique to satirize targets for so long they even performed at The Establishment club itself. We weren't parodying them, we were copying their mechanic: If you interview a fictional figure representing an organization or government, and have them be brazenly honest, what they say can be very telling as well as very funny.

What would happen, we asked, if we had spokespeople for Hamas, Iran and the UN tell us what they really thought? We performed the sketches in front of a live audience, and put the videos on YouTube. (You can see them at Although the videos now have more than 100,000 views, the challenge of changing public perceptions about Israel and its neighbors is almost overwhelming.

THE CONDEMNATION that engulfed Israel over the Gaza flotilla is just the latest example of a systemic problem – Israel has completely lost control of the narrative. It is so tempting to get into an argument over say, who was on the Mavi Marmara, or what their intentions were, or what weapons they had, but it is missing the point. If we cannot win the debate over the nature of Hamas, or the threats Israel faces, or even why it has a right to exist, then detailed rebuttals become irrelevant. Nobody is listening.

Instead, UK lawyers are threatening to arrest Israelis on war crimes charges for serving in the IDF. Israeli diplomats and politicians are being shouted down on campus. Israeli artists and scientists are being boycotted.

It is the tone of the attacks that really worries us. They have become crude, blinkered and one-sided. There is no acceptance of legitimate Israeli security concerns. There is no recognition that the Palestinian leadership has failed to prepare its people for the concessions needed for peace.

Instead the Palestinians are portrayed as helpless victims and the Israelis as ruthless oppressors. Israel has become the new South Africa. The prejudicial attacks blindly ignore the reality on the ground: Israel is a democracy struggling with challenges that no country has ever faced.

In the past, it could be argued that the hostile climate of world opinion doesn't matter. Let the armchair pundits have their say; the solution lies entirely in the hands of the Israelis and the Palestinians.

But recently, outsiders have begun to exert a powerful influence on the conflict and potentially alter its outcome.

There is a strong temptation for the Palestinians to believe that things are going their way, that Israel is being pilloried and that if they just sit tight it will be forced to make more concessions. It is an understandable attitude which postpones tough decisions, but it will lead only to more bloodshed.

From the outside the problems of the Middle East look intractable. They are not. The issues can all be resolved if there is a will. The challenge of peace is psychological not territorial.

IF OUTSIDERS to the conflict have a role to play, surely it is to make peace more likely by calling for reason, not inflaming the debate. By recognizing publicly that there are there are rights on both sides, and that concessions must be made by both sides for peace.

What makes it currently impossible is the climate of hate, and this is asymmetric. In a recent poll, 70 percent of Israelis say that they want peace with the Palestinians and will trade land for it.

By contrast, there is a concerted international campaign to delegitimize Israel's very existence and make it a pariah.

No movement toward peace can happen without marginalizing these voices of hate – turning the perpetrators and their cheerleaders into the pariahs.

And that battle has to be fought and won first in the publics of Western democracies.

Wearing a T-shirt saying "We are all Hizbullah now" has to stop being radical chic and start being shameful.

Exposing and undermining the hatred, not through using hatred ourselves but through, for example, humor, is a step along that path.

The writer is a founding member of No Laughing Matter.











The smile on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's face when he returned from his trip abroad cannot hide what Israel is being dragged into. The manner in which Israel left Lebanon, its dismantlement of the Gazan settlements without an agreement and its easing of the absurd civilian blockade of Gaza only after a botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla are not exceptions to the historical rule, no matter how uncomfortable the pattern of behavior they reflect is for Israel.


Every colonial regime of the last century ended the same way. These regimes did not leave because peace broke out, but because they were essentially forced out under mounting pressure. That is what the English did in India and Kenya, the French in Algeria, and so forth.


Nevertheless, the case of Israel in the territories is unique in one significant respect: The Indians did not lay claim to Britain, nor did the Algerians lay claim to France. Therefore, these countries' departure from their colonies ended the conflict. But the yearnings, and claims, of the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic world are not limited to the territory Israel occupied in 1967, and on which it unfortunately established its colony.


Moreover, Israel itself has no colonial mother country, so its complete disappearance back to Poland, Iraq and Germany is not really an option.


This uniqueness intensifies the existential stupidity, moral contemptibility and diplomatic madness of establishing an Israeli colony in the West Bank and Gaza. A nation whose very existence in this region is being attacked as a colonialist implant must distance itself from such behavior and establish a state with stable borders - a democratic, normative, egalitarian state.


Instead, after 1967 - and especially after the Likud took power in 1977 - Israel acted in the spirit of the halakhic rule of the resident alien and the injunction "thou shalt not let them dwell": It made non-Jewish inhabitants subjects without any rights, much less full citizenship. Israeli residents of the colony are favored citizens; their neighbors are the opposite. In this way, Israel not only sinned against those it occupied and did grave damage to the Zionist dream - which was humanist and modern at its base - but also put the entire region at risk of a bloody apocalypse.


That is because the "natural" historic path to ending the colonialist farce won't work for Israeli. A panicked withdrawal from its colony, under pressure and without a real agreement, such as happened in all the world's other colonies, will not end this conflict. Both peoples will still be here. The colonists won't sail back across the sea, and the occupied will be strengthened in their belief that only by force can they expel the foreigners from the entirety of their sacred land.


Therefore, there is not, and cannot be, any alternative to a sincere peace initiative stemming from the hearts of the region's peoples and orchestrated by true leaders. External pressure might also be needed, but without an internal revolution that will lead to a peace agreement - one that will restore Israel to its original borders, voluntarily and out of respect for democracy - nothing will stabilize in the Middle East.


The alternative into which Israel is now being dragged - due to the loathsome growth of the autonomous, messianic, racist black hole it has created within itself - is both clear and imminent: The two worlds of radicalism, one Jewish and one Islamic, will keep egging each other on and proving to each other that "only force can win." Each side will make concessions only when force is applied.


Without the use of force, all the arbitrary iniquities - from the ban on chocolate and toys to terror in the streets - will spread like weeds.


In this poisoned, aggressive atmosphere, even a forced decolonization would not prevent a further round of messianic violence that is liable to destroy every ephemeral human being in the region in one apocalyptic blink of the eye, a nuclear war of Gog and Magog.


Thus genuine leadership - leadership that can bring a sincere peace initiative that is neither a trick nor a ticket to a photo-op summit - is not only a necessity. Without it, the lives of millions are liable to go up in smoke in an instant.








The warnings appear to have been accurate: Raising the wage ceiling on which national insurance and health taxes are levied not only didn't increase government revenue, it decreased tax receipts from the wealthy by a whopping 37 percent.


When this new regulation came into force in mid-2009, we heard warnings of precisely this scenario. The forecasts were based on experience and common sense. In 2002, the treasury tried increasing national insurance receipts by raising the wage ceiling, but receipts actually went down.


This was a mistake, then-finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2003, so he canceled the raising of the ceiling. But in 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu apparently forgot what he learned, and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz apparently refused to learn from experience altogether. The two repeated the mistake and raised the ceiling for national insurance and health tax from five times the average wage to 10 times, because nothing is more popular than taxing the rich.


As a result, Israel's effective marginal tax rate became among the highest in the world. It stands today at 57 percent for monthly wages between NIS 40,000 and NIS 80,000.


The treasury "experts" said in 2009 that raising the wage ceiling would increase receipts by NIS 900 million, but they didn't take into account a scenario in which many salaried employees would set themselves up as companies and avoid the new decree, because dividends are not hit by national insurance and health tax. And while you're setting up a company, you might as well increase deductible expenses on cars, overseas travel, training and the like. As a result, national insurance receipts actually dropped.


Steinitz tried to deter employees from setting up companies by promising that the raise was temporary and that we will be back to a five-fold ceiling as early as 2011. It turns out this was a false promise because the minister declared he intends to bring the ceiling down in stages over a few years. As a result, more salaried employees are expected to set up companies, and national insurance receipts will continue to drop.


Steinitz and Netanyahu must return to their senses, make good on their promise and bring back the five-times-the-average-wage ceiling for national insurance payments in 2011. Such a move would foster investment, growth and employment.









The current Knesset is striding toward winning the title of "the people who have done the greatest damage to Israeli society since the founding of the state." Its members pass an abundance of strange and hasty laws, and though most are not enforced, the very fact of their legislation ruins everything that moves.


Take the new conversion bill. One bright hot morning, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ), after a few phone calls and failed attempts at compromise, passes a bill that returns the authority to convert to the Chief Rabbinate.


Candidates for conversion, he has made clear, will be able to choose "soft" neighborhood rabbis who will not make trouble. This will shorten the excruciating obstacle course hundreds of thousands of immigrants have to go through on their way to becoming Jews.


This of course, is an old-new trick. Just like the previous trick - which allows non-Jews under rabbinical law to marry only one another - it provides an instant solution to the racist friction between Yisrael Beiteinu's not-Jewish-under-rabbinical-law voters and the party's Jewish-under-rabbinical-law voters, who don't want the former as neighbors in their West Bank settlement.


And of course this solution, like its predecessor, creates more problems than it solves. It is not by chance that American Jews - most of whom are Conservative, Reform and secular - feel cheated. In their eyes Israel is declaring that a Jew, especially anyone entitled to Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, is now exclusively someone whom the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate, which toadies to the ultra-Orthodox "Torah sages," has decided was born a kosher Jew or has "converted in accordance with rabbinical law" in its version.


The Jews of the Untied States are so angry that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently will have to smooth some edges and arrange a compromise between them and his coalition, which has again decided to act silly while he snoozed. But even if the new law becomes a dead letter, the damage has been done. Israel has once again been revealed as a closed and racist community that turns its back not only on the world but also on Diaspora Jewry by allowing its character to be shaped by an extremist and marginal group within the broad sea of Judaism throughout the generations.


Someone has to explain to the Jews of the world that they can start thumbing their noses at Israel's laws and certificates. This is because an impressive circumvention of religious conversion is underway as the government and Knesset become more and more separatist and fundamentalist. It's what Prof. Asher Cohen has defined as "sociological conversion." Professors Zvi Zohar and Avi Sagi have described it as a process with its beginnings in the words of Ruth the Moabite: "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."


In this process, joining the social and communal identity takes precedence over joining the cultural-religious identity. Individuals (Jethro, Ruth, Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Akiva ) and groups (Edomites, Romans, Khazars, Berbers ) have always joined the Jewish people and assimilated into it in a process totally unrelated to the Orthodox establishment's torture and brainwashing.

This is also the case today. Half-Jews and non-Jews, children of immigrants and children of migrants, children of South Lebanon Army fighters and children of collaborators - all of them light candles and bless the challah at their kindergartens at the kabbalat Shabbat, the ritual that ushers in the Sabbath. They eat matza alongside bread and pita during Passover, decorate their Christmas trees, enlist in the Israel Defense Forces and fight in Israel's wars. Society is indeed crumbling into sectors, and the desire to preserve the original culture and language is more fervent than ever. But the Israeli-Jewish identity is strong, and immigrants have a great desire to become part of society.


This complex reality is determining new, open and broad definitions of what it is to be Jewish and to be Israeli. Between these definitions and those of the rabbinate's ethnic purists gapes a deep abyss.


This is exactly what is worrying Orthodoxy, which is refusing to give up its strangling hegemony. It is getting weaker as hundreds of thousands of citizens refuse to play in its court. They aren't converting, marrying, divorcing and dying according to its rules. And right now a purportedly secular party comes along and in complete alienation from the local and international situation reappoints the rabbis as the sentries of a Judaism whose definitions no one in the world accepts, with the exception of those knowingly coerced into it here.









In the forest that is the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court's ruling yesterday acquitting MK Tzachi Hanegbi on charges of making improper political appointments (whose summary runs for 70 pages ), the trees stand out in Israel's political jungle.


Political appointments as a criminal offense: In drawing the line between a "gray" ethical flaw and a "black" criminal act, the legal battle was waged before a three-judge panel of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court. Two of the judges firmly firmly backed the stand that political appointments are improper from a public standpoint and constitute a criminal breach of trust if they do material harm to the public's trust in the integrity of the civil service.


Ministers, be careful whom you appoint: Anyone who thinks the lesson to be learned on political appointments from Hanegbi's acquittal is that "anything goes" is making a mistake. In principle, it's enough to pass along a candidate's resume to a ministry's professional staff and follow up on the outcome of a political associate's candidacy to constitute a criminal offense. Hanegbi was acquitted by the skin of his teeth. Only a single judge acquitted him. Another judge rightly decided to drop the indictment against him "in the interest of justice." The second judge was of the opinion that it was somehow irrational to convict Hanegbi when "that's what everyone does," but there was not a word about the criminal nature of his acts.


The writing on the wall: Since Hanegbi was forced to stand trial, the number of political appointments has dropped considerably. It would be appropriate for things to stay that way after his acquittal. In fact, ever since the Roman emperor Caligula appointed his horse as consul, it seems nothing would come as a surprise in civil service appointments, but state comptrollers in their reports have prepared a foundation for public disapproval of the practice, and the High Court of Justice has done its part, too. Now, the Magistrate's Court has come along and made the practice a criminal offense when the appointees do not have special qualifications or when job appointments are just open to various political backers.


Political dismissals: For the first time, the court's decision paints the dismissal of employees when a new minister takes office (a common and well-known phenomenon ) with the tinge of criminality. After Hanegbi was appointed environmental protection minister, the judges noted, six employees who had come to the ministry through manpower agencies, almost all by virtue of ties with outgoing minister Dalia Itzik, were dismissed. They were replaced by people "with political ties to Hanegbi." The conclusion is that one must be careful not only in whom one appoints but also in whom one fires. Political dismissals can also be considered a breach of public trust and provide the basis for an indictment.


The civil service: The summary opinion here should be studied by university humanities departments and law schools, as well as by politicians and anyone planning to be one. The summary's descriptions provide a handbook for a minister just starting out who may be thinking of padding his ministry with cronies, even at the junior level. He would be taking a criminal risk in various ways.


These descriptions task the attorney general and the civil service commissioner to study existing loopholes and set rules to allow ministers to deal with truly important matters and leave appointments to the professional staff. That could make it easier for ministers to break free from political associates on the ground that appointments could get them into trouble with the law.


The prosecution: Menachem Mazuz, the preceding attorney general, sought to create a judicial precedent to the effect that political appointments, or those in which the primary motive is political, would be deemed not only ethically flawed but also criminal. The state prosecution succeeded in accomplishing this with a majority of the panel despite Hanegbi's acquittal on everything but the perjury charge.


The remarks of one of the judges, Yoel Tsur, should not be ignored. He noted foul-ups in the investigation that should have made the prosecutors think twice about whether it was appropriate to file an indictment before warning that they had changed the rules of the game. He said that even if the probe was, in his opinion, "selective and slanted" or just a violation of [the accused's] fundamental right to prior warning," as the other two judges, Aryeh Romanoff and Oded Shaham, believed, it was appropriate to ponder whether it was right to file an indictment instead of using other means to deal with political appointments.








Nine years ago I published an article in this newspaper under the heading "Cultural revolution, Israeli-style." I argued there that actions taken by the government against the research universities invite a cultural revolution with shades of similarity to the "cultural revolution" in China 44 years earlier, albeit with inevitable differences due to the profound dissimilarities between the two cultures.


A renewed comparison of Chinese history with the events of recent weeks concerning the academic world in Israel reveals that the Israeli cultural revolution is indeed marching forward.


On May 25, 1966, a young philosophy lecturer at Beijing University published a dazibao - a poster sharply attacking the rector and professors at the university and depicting them as anti-Chinese, haters of the state and traitors to the principles of socialism, the rock of the people's existence.


The poster won an enthusiastic response from chairman Mao Zedong, who ordered that it be distributed throughout the country posthaste.


The result was immediate. On May 29, 1966, at the high school associated with Tsinghua University, the first nucleus of the Red Guards was formed. That was the opening shot of the Cultural Revolution, which raged throughout China. The Red Guards - mostly gangs of students - imposed merciless terror on the country. Unhindered and working in the name of the nation and for the sake of social justice, they violently attacked officials tasked with keeping the public order as well as intellectuals, professors, teachers and people in the arts and humanities.


Many were killed and many more exiled to concentration camps where they were pried of their deviant and treacherous thoughts and brought into the fold of correct Marxist consciousness.


The Cultural Revolution in China made the lives of millions miserable while it was happening but its destructive results were felt in China for many years. A manifestation of the cultural darkness that descended on China is the total absence, for about 30 years, of papers originating in China in the international scientific press.


In recent weeks there has been vigorous anti-intellectual activity throughout Israel, mostly against professors, both male and female, writers, artists and intellectuals, who are depicted as anti-Israel, haters of the state and traitors to the principles of Zionism, the bedrock of our existence.


Nationalist student organizations are distributing documents in the style of the dazibao with the encouragement of the education minister and members of the Knesset Education Committee, and with the tacit agreement of the Israel's leaders.


If this activity is a portent of things to come, we are at the start of another significant step in the march of the cultural revolution in Israel. The Israeli revolution looks different from its older brother in China, especially in its dimensions and it's lack of violent.


However, as in China, it has been accompanied by a large ad campaign and tendentious reports in the media. In the absence of violence, the pace of its development is slow and only few people in the country feel the undercurrent.


Over time, though, the revolution will undermine the cultural infrastructure on which rest the intellectual achievements of the Jewish community in Israel over the past 90 years.


Unlike in China, Israel's ability to survive the trend depends on the existence of exactly what the Israeli-style cultural revolution is seeking to destroy: our culture. If the Knesset and the public do not stop this revolution, the outcome is liable to be disastrous for the existence of the state.





******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




Despite legal challenges from industry, complaints from local politicians and bad rulings from unsympathetic judges, the Obama administration has rightly chosen to reaffirm its decision in May to suspend deep-water drilling activities in the Gulf of Mexico. On Monday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a second moratorium to replace an earlier ban that was tossed out in federal court. It is as strong as the first ban and, if anything, more tightly argued.


Whether the new ban can withstand legal challenges remains to be seen. The important point is that the administration has reaffirmed one of the basic lessons of this mess: that industry claims cannot be accepted at face value. BP was tragically unprepared to deal with this spill; indeed, a new and tighter cap that everyone hopes will stop the leak altogether is only now being installed, 13 weeks after the blowout. Until the industry shows it can drill safely in deep waters, and respond swiftly and surely to an accident, it should not be allowed to go forward with that kind of operation.


Drilling, in short, cannot be resumed on faith alone. Mr. Salazar said he would invite input from industry and the public, and was open to modifying the order. But first, he said, industry must "raise the bar on its practices and answer fundamental questions about deep-water safety, blowout prevention and containment, and oil spill response."


The original May 27 moratorium banned new deep-water drilling in the gulf and suspended existing operations at 33 exploratory deep-water wells for a period of six months. The new moratorium applies the same restrictions for the same time period, ending Nov. 30, unless the administration decides otherwise.


The biggest difference involved the way in which Mr. Salazar cast his argument. The original moratorium focused mainly on depth, proscribing any drilling at depths exceeding 500 feet. The district court judge who overturned the ban, Martin Feldman, in effect said that focusing only on depth was too narrow to be persuasive.


Mr. Salazar chose this time to emphasize uncertain technologies. The new ban covers all floating rigs, like the BP rig, using subsurface blowout preventers, as well as floating rigs that use blowout preventers on board the rig itself. This pretty much covers every deep-water rig with the capacity to drill in the gulf.


There were howls from the usual quarters — from industry, predictably, and from Mary Landrieu, the Democratic senator from Louisiana, who said the new moratorium would cost "thousands of hard-working Louisianians" their jobs.


One must sympathize with the battered residents of Ms. Landrieu's home state. But one cannot ignore the fact that most of the gulf's 3,000 producing platforms and shallow-water drilling rigs are still in business, or that President Obama has earmarked $100 million specifically for relief of unemployed oil workers.


The main thing that cannot be overlooked is that it would be folly to resume drilling until everything has been done to make drilling as safe as it can be and to ensure a rapid response when systems fail.







The New York State Legislature acted in the public interest when it passed a bill that forbids the New York Police Department from keeping electronic lists of people who are stopped for questioning under the city's stop-and-frisk program but who are not charged or arrested. Gov. David Paterson, who seems to be equivocating, needs to stiffen his spine and sign this bill.


The Legislature acted out of grave and legitimate concern about the policy under which police officers investigating or working to prevent crimes briefly detain people on the streets and pat them down. The Police Department says the method gets guns off the street. But in 2009, only 1.3 percent of the nearly 600,000 people stopped were caught with weapons. Just 6 percent of those stopped were arrested for some kind of crime.


recent article in The Times about the heavily minority neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn, reported that police officers logged nearly 52,000 stops within eight odd blocks over the last four years. A 26-year-old legal assistant with no criminal record who grew up in the area said that he had been stopped 30 or 40 times.


According to a Times analysis of reports filed by officers, less than 9 percent of the stops in the neighborhood were made because the person fit the description of a suspect. In about half the stops, the officers listed "other" or cited "furtive movement," a catch-all category that can be used to mask harassment.


Under current policy, police officers put the names of the people they stop into a database — whether or not those people are arrested. The bill awaiting the governor's signature would exclude those stopped but released with no further legal action. That is clearly the right course. It is simply unacceptable to put innocent New Yorkers under permanent suspicion because they happened to be walking down a street in a minority neighborhood.


The Police Department says the list is useful for investigative purposes. It also says the list is never used against innocent people. The best way to ensure that innocent people are not cast as suspects is to not put them on a list in the first place.







Millionaires are everywhere this campaign season, having seen how effective it is to have an unlimited bank account when buying expensive airtime against a candidate who has to raise money every day. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court made it even easier for wealthy candidates to dominate politics in Connecticut, and a series of lawsuits in other states seemed designed to provoke a similar decision from the Supreme Court.


The Connecticut decision, by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, struck down the "trigger provision" of the state's campaign finance system, which allowed extra public funds for candidates running against opponents who do not participate in the system and who spend more than the system's limits. The more the rich candidate spends, the more public money his or her opponent gets. Though the playing field is hardly even, the law does give nonwealthy candidates a fighting chance to compete.


The appeals court found that the campaign finance system violated the First Amendment rights of wealthy candidates. Never mind that nothing in the system prohibited such candidates from speaking or spending all they want; the court said that by awarding additional funds to opponents, the system caused a self-financed candidate to "shoulder a special and potentially significant burden if she chooses to exercise her First Amendment right to spend personal funds on her campaign."


The court based its reasoning on the Supreme Court's deeply unfair 2008 decision to strike down the so-called millionaires' amendment, which let Congressional candidates raise more money when running against opponents who pay for their own campaigns. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on state trigger provisions like Connecticut's, but last month it went out of its way to intervene in the Arizona gubernatorial race, cutting off triggered funds to candidates who were expecting them. The direction of the court's thinking, assuming it decides to rule in these cases, seems clear.


This is not a partisan issue. In fact, it is playing out in Florida's Republican primary for governor, where Attorney General Bill McCollum is running against Rick Scott, the former chief executive of Columbia/HCA, a chain of for-profit hospitals.


After spending at least $16 million on advertising, Mr. Scott has leapfrogged Mr. McCollum, a former congressman, in the primary. Mr. McCollum is almost out of money, but he will get additional public funds if Mr. Scott spends more than $24.9 million in the primary, the trigger amount. So naturally, Mr. Scott sued last week to get the trigger system declared unconstitutional because his free-speech rights are being violated.


Campaign finance systems may soon be left with only one tool to keep nonwealthy candidates competitive: matching small donations at high rates. That, of course, will keep such candidates desperately busy raising money, while their rich opponents saturate the airwaves with commercials explaining how passionately they understand the needs of the ordinary American.







If you're a longtime Yankees fan — especially if you lived through the Billy Martin era — you probably have a personal thesis on the character of the boss, George Steinbrenner, who died at 80 on Tuesday. It was impossible to relate to the team without relating to its owner.


In baseball, especially on game day, there's always the urge to believe that the team is truly led by the manager in the dugout. Steinbrenner forced us, repeatedly, to witness the organization behind the team, though he might have said, after Louis XIV, "The organization, c'est moi."


Steinbrenner — of Cleveland and Tampa — was an honorary New Yorker, yet he embodied qualities we tend to attribute to the city. He was tough, ruthless and sentimental. Winning was everything to him, but winning has been everything to a lot of people who resemble Steinbrenner not in the least. What we'll remember about him isn't just the amount of winning he made possible (or the money he spent to do that and its distorting effect on baseball itself). We'll remember his roving sincerity — his ability to flatly undo what he had just said he would do. That began at the beginning, with his pledge to stay out of the day-to-day running of the Yankees. In keeping the big promise — a winning team — he was capable of breaking every small promise.


In the end, he made good amateur psychologists of an entire generation of fans who only wanted to watch some baseball but found themselves watching the owner's box as well. It was such rich material. It was almost as if Jay Gatsby had purchased the Yankees.


Trying to navigate the oxbows in Steinbrenner's character, we discovered that he had become a part of our character. Well, perhaps not. But for a good long time, it certainly felt that way, back when Steinbrenner was felling managers left and right and waging strangely internecine feuds with his players. He was not the owner we would have chosen. Whether he's the owner we deserved is another question.








I was on vacation when the story broke that 11 Russians had been charged as sleeper agents planted in America by Moscow's spy agency to gather intelligence on the United States and to recruit moles who could gain access to our top secrets. My first reaction was: This may be the greatest gift to America by a foreign country since France gave us the Statue of Liberty. Someone still wants to spy on us! Just when we were feeling down and out, the Russians show up and tell us that it's still worth briefcases of money to plant people in our think tanks. Subprime crisis or not, some people think we've still got the right stuff. Thank you, Vladimir Putin!


Upon reflection, though, it occurred to me that this is actually a good news/bad news story. The good news is that someone still wants to spy on us. The bad news is that it's the Russians.


Look, if you had told me that we had just arrested 11 Finns who were spying on our schools, then I'd really have felt good — since Finland's public schools always score at the top of the world education tables. If you had told me that 11 Singaporeans were arrested spying on how our government works, then I'd really have felt good — since Singapore has one of the cleanest, well-run bureaucracies in the world and pays its cabinet ministers $1 million-plus a year. If you had told me that 11 Hong Kong Chinese had been arrested studying how we regulate our financial markets, then I'd really have felt good — since that is something Hong Kong excels at. And if you had told me that 11 South Koreans were arrested studying our high-speed bandwidth penetration, then I'd really have felt good — because we've been lagging them for a long time.


But the Russians? Who wants to be spied on by them?


Were it not for oil, gas and mineral exports, Russia's economy would be contracting even more than it has. Moscow's most popular exports today are probably what they were under Khrushchev: vodka, Matryoshka dolls and Kalashnikov rifles. No, this whole spy story has the feel of one of those senior tennis tournaments — John McEnroe against Jimmy Connors, long after their primes — or maybe a rematch between Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston in their 60s. You almost want to avert your eyes.


You also want to say to Putin: Do you mean you still don't get it?


Everything the Russians should want from us — the true source of our strength — doesn't require a sleeper cell to penetrate. All it requires is a tourist guide to Washington, D.C., which you can buy for under $10. Most of it's in the National Archives: the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. And the rest is in our culture and can be found everywhere from Silicon Valley to Route 128 near Boston. It is a commitment to individual freedom, free markets, rule of law, great research universities and a culture that celebrates immigrants and innovators.


Now if the Russians start to find all that and take it home, then we'd have to start taking them more seriously as competitors. But there is little indication of that. Indeed, as Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, noted in a recent essay, President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia just announced plans to build an "Innovation City" in Skolkovo, outside Moscow. This "technopolis" is planned as a free-enterprise zone to attract the world's best talent.


There is just one problem, notes Aron: "Importing ideas and technology from the West has been a key element in Russia's 'modernizations' since at least Peter the Great in the early 18th century. ... But Russia has tightly controlled what it imported: Machines and engineers, yes. A spirit of free inquiry, a commitment to innovation free from bureaucratic 'guidance' and, most important, encouragement of brave, even brash, entrepreneurs who can be confident they will own the results of their work — most certainly no. Peter and his successors sought to produce fruit without cultivating the roots. ... Only a man or woman free from fear and overseers can build a Silicon Valley. And such men and women are harder and harder to come by in Russia today. ... Disgusted and scared by the lawlessness and rampant corruption. ... Russian entrepreneurs are investing very little in their country beyond their immediate production needs."


No, everything the Russians should want from us is everything they don't have to steal. It is also everything we should be celebrating and preserving but lately have not: open immigration, educational excellence, a culture of innovation and a financial system designed to promote creative destruction, not "destructive creation," as the economist Jagdish Bhagwati called it.


So, yes, let's swap their spies for ours. But let's also remember that being spied on by the Russians today is not an honor. It's just an old habit. Because they are no longer our peers, except in nuclear weapons unlikely to ever be used. The countries we need to be worried about are the ones whose teachers, bureaucrats, savers, investors and innovators — not spies — are beating us in broad daylight at our own game.








Big George Steinbrenner could be hard on his employees, especially little George Costanza.


In the hilarious fictional Yankees world depicted on "Seinfeld," Steinbrenner once had Costanza hauled off to a mental institution.


The Yankees owner testified in court that Costanza was a Communist — "as pink as they come, like a big juicy steak."


The mercurial billionaire made poor Costanza fetch eggplant calzones and listen to paranoid rants, including one about Babe Ruth: "Nothing more than a fat old man with little girl legs. And here's something I just found out recently: He wasn't really a sultan!"


The Steinbrenner doppelganger — shown only from behind and voiced by the brilliant "Seinfeld" co-creator and Yankees fan, Larry David — even scalped his own tickets.


"Who else could be a memorable character on a television show without actually appearing on the show?" Jerry Seinfeld told the OnTheRedCarpet blog after hearing that the larger-than-life Steinbrenner had died of a heart attack on Tuesday, the day of the All-Star Game.


But how did the Yankees owner feel about Big Stein, his oddball yet finally lovable caricature in "Seinfeld"?


My friend David Sussman called "The Boss" his boss for eight years, working as the Yankees' general counsel, and for the last five of those, as the team's chief operating officer as well. He shared the inside-baseball story on Steinbrenner's relationship with "Seinfeld," which was, suitably, oddball yet finally lovable.


In the mid-'90s, NBC contacted Sussman to ask Steinbrenner to do a cameo on an episode and to get his permission to use a Yankees pennant on the wall of Jerry's apartment. The Boss considered the part demeaning and refused both to appear — "Why would I do that?" he snapped — and to allow the pennant to be used.


When the show aired a few days later with the pennant on Jerry's wall, Steinbrenner didn't say anything.


A year later, Seinfeld came back with a minor request, Sussman recalled. The star wanted permission to use a Yankees uniform in an episode where George Costanza decides to switch the uniform from polyester to cotton — a disaster once the cotton shrinks.


Seinfeld had already arranged for the Yankees right fielder Danny Tartabull and manager Buck Showalter to appear on the show.


Sussman told him that, given the earlier script and the unauthorized use of the pennant, Steinbrenner would never agree. Seinfeld apologized profusely to Sussman and asked for another chance. Couldn't the lawyer just show The Boss the script? Seinfeld faxed it over to Sussman with the usual Hollywood cover note, ending "Your friend, Jerry."


At the end of a long day of business meetings in Tampa, Sussman told Steinbrenner about Seinfeld's request.


"Didn't they screw us last time?" barked The Boss, whose role model was George Patton.


Sussman conveyed Seinfeld's apology and told Steinbrenner that "this is an innocuous script that doesn't involve you." He explained that Danny and Buck were appearing on the show.


The owner retorted, "I'll be the judge of that. Let me see the script."


Noticing the sign-off on the cover letter, Steinbrenner, sensitive even to imagined breaches of loyalty, needled his lawyer: "Oh, I can see you and Jerry are becoming close friends."


After reading less than a page, Steinbrenner angrily threw down the script. "I thought you said this doesn't involve me?" he bellowed.


Sussman tried over and over to reassure him that this script contained no cameo for the owner.


"Then," Steinbrenner demanded, "what are all of these references to 'George' in the script?"


Sussman was stunned but tried to explain: " 'George' is George Costanza. He is a character on the show. He is a friend of Seinfeld's, and he plays the role of one of your employees."


Steinbrenner acted incredulous, intoning: "I thought you were smarter than that. Don't you see? This is how they are trying to get at me. They have named their character after me."


All attempts to tell him that the "George" character had been on the show since it started were brushed aside.


"Here's what we do," Steinbrenner declared. "Call your friend Jerry back and tell him he has Mr. Steinbrenner's permission to use the Yankees uniform but on one condition: He changes the name of the Costanza character. In fact, have him name this character after you, David."


Sussman conveyed the good news/bad news message to Seinfeld, who was understandably befuddled. The Boss declined to return Jerry's phone calls to Tampa.


The following Friday, Steinbrenner called Sussman to discuss business, and then seemingly casually noted: "Oh, yes, that request from your friend Jerry Seinfeld. I watched that 'Seinfeld' show last night. It is a really funny show. And the George character is great. So you tell your friend Jerry he has my permission."


And that's how George and George coexisted happily ever after.








New Canaan, Conn.

GEORGE STEINBRENNER was surely "the Boss" of the Yankees. I knew him well, and he and I crossed swords more than once. But at his death, I prefer to recall the first time he asked me for a favor.


This was in the early 1980s and I was the chief executive of Columbia Pictures. I had never met George, though I knew of course who he was. He was calling, he said, to ask me to help him raise money for a former football coach at Williams College (which we both attended) who was ill in Florida with Alzheimer's and needed full-time nursing. George and I shared enormous affection for this coach, and for years we and several others helped him and his wife in their old age.


That was my only contact with George before I went to work in baseball. I never heard him tell anyone about what he had done for the coach, and few knew of it. But he had shown me a facet of himself that few others would see.


Later, when I was commissioner, we became both colleagues and adversaries. In 1990, just a year after I started, it became apparent that George had gone to great lengths to discredit his former star outfielder Dave Winfield, including paying for information about him from a small-time gambler.


When the full details emerged, I had no choice but to suspend George, and decided that two years was the adequate penalty. What few people know, however, is that George told me he wanted out of baseball entirely (he wanted to focus on his other athletic enthusiasm, theUnited States Olympic Committee). I believed him, and I think he was sincere: he signed an agreement that he would leave the game for life, with no conditions and with no understanding that he would ever be reinstated. He changed his mind, of course, and I ultimately allowed him to return after he had endured the two-year suspension I had originally intended.


George Steinbrenner made the spectacular purchase of the Yankees from CBS in 1973 for a bargain price of less than $10 million, and he then built the franchise into the behemoth it is today. With his death, many critics are blaming him for the financial arms race in baseball that has alienated fans from the players and made going to a game so expensive.


But I think this blame is misplaced. The Yankees have enormous financial clout and use it to buy players and to produce championships. It seems to me that any other owner in baseball in the free-agency era with the same resources would behave in the same fashion.


Indeed, the Yankees since the 1920s have always used their financial power to buy and keep players. One of baseball's first free agents was Tommy Henrich, who in 1937 was given permission to sign with any team he liked by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Naturally, Henrich joined the Yankees.


Many other criticisms of George hit the mark. He was intensely belligerent. He never waited to attack from the flank. Nor was he subtle. He took things on directly and seldom ducked a punch. And that style worked for him.


But he also cared about our great game, and he could be counted on for support when I needed it. When in 1992 I threw the Yankees pitcher Steve Howe out of baseball for repeatedly violating our drug policy — a decision later reversed by an arbitrator — George was fully behind me. Although it meant losing a good player, he knew it was in the best interests of the sport.

I think that, deep down, George felt as though any sort of public generosity made him seem weak. Like his idol, George S. Patton, he wanted to be the general who never cried. So I count myself among the fortunate few who knew the other George, the loyal and giving one, as well as the one who seemed regularly to be in hot water.


George Steinbrenner made plenty of mistakes and even more enemies. But very few people have bought a team and dominated a sport with his level of success. Given the astronomical prices of franchises today, it's doubtful that we will see his like again.


Fay Vincent was the commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1989 to 1992.







CONGRESS has proven adept at placing blame for the gulf oil spill — depending on whom you listen to on Capitol Hill, BP bears the bulk of the responsibility, or the Interior Department and its increasingly inadequate regulations, or both.


There's no question that each of these deserves blame. But there's also no question that the responsibility for developing safe offshore operations extends much further, to Congress itself.


For more than a decade, legislators have allowed themselves to be lulled by industry assurances that drilling in deep water posed little danger. One could say that Congress, just like the companies it has attacked, was obsessed with oil.


Before the spill, Congress had not debated regulatory safety on wells in the gulf since the 1990s, and when it did, lawmakers focused on how to drill for more oil — which, after all, meant more jobs and more federal revenue for pet projects.


In a 1995 attempt to encourage more exploration, Congress agreed to reduce the cut of the proceeds the government could collect on oil and gas drilling in deep waters. Ten years later, despite higher oil prices and declarations from President George W. Bush that more incentives were not needed, a Republican-led Congress reduced royalties yet again.


And in a sign of how money had influenced and distorted the debate, throughout the last decade the Louisiana Congressional delegation, for a time including the state's current governor, Bobby Jindal, backed expanded offshore drilling so that Congress could use proceeds to pay for coastal damage caused by oil-and-gas operations. In 2006 the delegation supported legislation giving a share of federal royalties to states that allowed drilling in federal waters off their coasts, essentially using national revenue to encourage more exploration.


At the same time that Congress called for new drilling incentives, it also gutted oversight. From 2002 to 2008, legislators approved budgets reducing regulatory staffing levels by more than 15 percent — despite more complex deep-water operations and Interior Department concerns, voiced in 2000, that industry's extensive use of contractors and inexperienced offshore workers posed new risks in deep water.


It's not as if Congress didn't know the risks. Its own research arm, which issues frequent spill-response readiness assessments, has repeatedly cited a 2004 Coast Guard study finding that its "oil spill response personnel did not appear to have even a basic knowledge of the equipment required to support salvage or spill clean-up operations." Nevertheless, lawmakers failed to act aggressively to ensure adequate oversight.


To be fair, Congress wasn't alone. The same criticism could be leveled at many environmental groups, which were far more interested in maintaining the exploration moratoriums in federal waters than in the safety of ongoing offshore activity. This focus on stopping new drilling — instead of on keeping the water clean — helped give Interior the space to cater to oil companies. As a result, regulatory proposals often received fewer than 10 public comments, mostly from industry, resulting in rules more favorable to it.


It's also true that the previous administration deserves a good share of the blame for its myopic focus on production. The 2001 President'sNational Energy Policy directed agencies to increase oil supplies and to remove regulations that were often seen as "excessive and redundant."


Meanwhile, the Interior Department became an industry cheerleader. The attention on output was so great that the department's head of offshore drilling boasted about how he "oversaw a 50 percent rise in oil production," a misguided accomplishment for a regulator.


Nor is the Obama White House off the hook: despite requesting a few extra regulators, the current administration also failed to address underlying organizational dysfunction.


The only upside of the spill is that Congress is finally focused on drilling safety. Congress should pass legislation to direct all future royalties to the Treasury, thereby reducing the incentives for legislators to use new proceeds as a piggy bank.


Second, any legislative action that would lead to an increase in oil and gas production should also mandate an increase in regulatory oversight.


There's also the issue of whether to allow new wells. Environmental groups have seized on the spill to continue their push to ban offshore drilling. Although doing so would reduce the potential for spills in the United States, it would effectively send offshore drilling operations to countries with far weaker environmental standards and require shipping more oil, increasing the likelihood of spills globally.


Instead, a more nuanced approach is needed. A good first step would be for environmental groups to hire experts with the relevant private-sector experience to comment on regulatory changes to ensure that they are in the best public interest.


The fact that accidents and spills are an unfortunate part of industry activity doesn't let BP and the Interior Department avoid blame. But Congress should recognize its own role in undermining offshore safety and encouraging risky drilling — then act to make sure disasters like the gulf spill don't happen again.


David S. Abraham, who oversaw offshore programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2003 to 2005, is an incoming international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.








In the fall of 2008, when the global financial system was on the brink of collapse, Congress approved the much-detested bank rescue known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP for short. It was not an easy or popular vote. But eventually it did pass, averting the distinct possibility that the economy could be headed for another depression.


That might have been the end of the story, with TARP playing out like other votes that generate a firestorm of controversy only to be quickly forgotten.


But this time, some Republican partisans are out to punish those who voted for it. Among the so-called TARP martyrs who've already lost their jobs are Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, a conservative who did not see gambling with economic calamity as a principled cause, and South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis, a six-term incumbent with a history of breaking ranks. Several other TARP backers have lost, or are losing, bids for higher office.


In the reaction of these angry activists there is something evocative of the early 1930s. When the stock market crashed then, many in and out of government saw it as a good thing that would teach Wall Street speculators a lesson. Andrew Mellon, President Hoover's Treasury secretary, took an almost puritanical glee in the spreading economic carnage. "People will work harder" and "live a more moral life," Hoover quoted Mellon as saying.


The lack of government intervention, driven in part by a sense that lessons needed to be learned, helped create a global meltdown and fuel the rise of fascism.


Fortunately, in 2008, President Bush and Treasury SecretaryHenry Paulson did not see a terrifying credit crisis as a reason to teach bankers a lesson. Lacking the tools in the current reform bill for the orderly liquidation of big banks, they had the choice of letting the financial system collapse or coming to its rescue. They chose the latter.


The successful legislative push for TARP— which was supported by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio — has not gone over well with a new generation of moralizers. By targeting those who voted for it, they are sending a message to future lawmakers that courageous votes for unpopular measures will put their careers at risk.


No one of either party relished doing something that would benefit undeserving bankers. With the hindsight of nearly two years, however, TARP has been more of a success than could have been imagined. Not only did the bank bailout stabilize the financial system, it did so at what is likely to be little, if any, cost to taxpayers.


The core of the program, a series of direct investments in banks, is likely to turn a tidy profit. Of the roughly $147 billion paid back so far, $24 billion is profit, coming from dividends and interest, and the appreciation in the value of stock and warrants sold by the government.


The auto industry and AIG rescues are looking less costly than they once did. The biggest loss is likely to be from a $50 billion program to assist in mortgage modifications, money that is not intended to be repaid.


To be sure, the economic recovery remains fragile, and too many lawmakers regard unspent TARP money as a slush fund for their pet programs. But given what might have been as the economy teetered on the edge of abyss, and how the program has worked out, those who voted for it are worthy of praise, not scorn.









Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah and Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina were bounced in their Republican primaries in large part because they voted for the Wall Street bailout. It is expected that the list of "TARP martyrs" will become much larger this November as voters have additional opportunities to express their unhappiness about the massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to poorly run but politically connected financial institutions.


Beltway insiders and members of the political establishment are mourning these developments, asserting that the TARP martyrs are noble and courageous officials who did the right thing despite the risk to their careers. The obvious implication is that ordinary voters are a bunch of yokels who did not understand the steps that were needed to rescue the financial system and the economy from collapse.


This self-serving narrative is wrong. The anger at TARP is not because it injected money into the financial system. Voters are upset because funds were used to bail out specific companies. Defenders of the status quo claim this was a necessary feature of rescuing the entire system, but that is false. Politicians had the option of choosing the "FDIC resolution" approach, which also injects capital into the banking system but only as part of liquidating insolvent institutions. This means that existing management and shareholders get wiped out.


Indeed, this is precisely what happened with Washington Mutual and IndyMac. And it was the approach that was used during the savings-and-loan bailout 20 years ago.


The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. resolution approach should have been used with all insolvent institutions, regardless of how many lobbyists they employed or how much campaign cash they had funneled to Washington.


TARP was also a terrible piece of legislation because it meant that politicians, rather than market forces, determined which companies survived. It also was a moral abomination. Government-coerced redistribution is never a good idea, but the worst type of welfare is when poor people are forced to subsidize rich people. That's a good description of TARP, and the politicians who voted for it should breathe a sigh of relief that they are getting bounced out of office instead of tarred and feathered.


Dan Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C.








It has been a year of confrontation between governments and corporations. China vs.Google. The United States vs. BP. These battles reveal important risks for companies doing business in authoritarian states.


Google looks to have won one battle in itsongoing war with Beijing last week, as Chinese regulators renewed the firm's operating license. But the company did little more than save face, and staying alive in the China market will be an ongoing struggle for Google. This fight first went public in January, when the company blamed Beijing for (at least tolerance of) cyberattacks on Google's Gmail accounts originating inside China. To protest both the attacks and state limits on Google's freedom to provide information, the company promised to stop censoring its search results. Beijing refused to budge, and Google moved to automatically redirect its Chinese users toHong Kong, where there are fewer content restrictions.


Without much negotiating leverage, Google has learned the hard way that when corporations take on authoritarian states that use official pressure to control courts and the news media, even help from other governments can't always protect the interests of multinational firms.


We should remember this lesson the next time we hear expressions of sympathy for BP over its spill. The company now faces pressure from the Obama administration and Congress, and it has already conceded the need to create a $20 billion escrow account to compensate victims on the Gulf Coast. Its costs will continue to rise, even after the leak is plugged and the story moves off the front page.


Where the law rules


But BP's liability will ultimately be determined by legal issues, not political factors. Whether the dispute is over BP's responsibility for an oil spill, AIG's decision to reward its executives with huge bonuses following a $170 billion taxpayer-funded bailout, or suspect investment practices atGoldman Sachs, corporations know that in America, they will have their day in court.


We're seeing many such fights these days. Tough financial times and a decade-long trend toward deeper state involvement in markets by authoritarian governments are pitting states against corporations in both the developed and the developing world.


When corporations find themselves in direct conflict with authoritarian governments, they most often lose. Some, like Google, choose confrontation. Most others simply buckle. To protect its interests in Russia, where the government sometimes uses courts to grab greater control and more profits from the company's operations, BP has learned to play by Kremlin rules.


In other words, when corporations do battle with states governed by rule of law, they know they can "lawyer up." When they face off with authoritarian states, they usually get "Googled out." Obama administration officials knew that any effort to prevent AIG from paying bonuses would produce years of litigation with no promise of success. Google, on the other hand, knows that it won't beat the Chinese government in a Chinese court.


As more authoritarian states embrace state capitalism, a system in which governments use state-owned companies and investment funds to dominate local markets for political gain, we're going to see many more such confrontations between states and multinational corporations. This problem has important implications.

First, foreign companies such as BP will have to contend with increasingly well-subsidized state-backed commercial rivals with considerable political backing — companies such as Gazprom, Russia's natural gas monopoly. BP knows well that it won't win many friends inside the Kremlin by taking on a company in which so many Russian officials are politically and financially invested.


Second, state-owned companies looking to invest in the West will encounter more resistance, triggering new conflicts among governments. We caught a glimpse of this problem in 2005 when a state-owned Chinese energy firm (CNOOC) tried to buy a U.S. oil company (Unocal). In 2006, a state-owned Arab company (Dubai Ports World) bid to acquire operating rights to several U.S. ports. Both bids were withdrawn after igniting political firestorms, and both damaged U.S. relations with the governments that owned these companies. Imagine the tone of congressional hearings if a Chinese or Russian state-owned oil company, not BP, had been responsible for the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


Reports that Chinese telecom company Huawei wanted to do business with Sprint Nextel will be the next major test in the U.S.


A not-so-level playing field


Finally, private companies won't have an easy time protecting their market share inside state capitalist countries. China's leadership has welcomed foreign investment for many years. To build the 21st century capitalist economy on which the Communist Party's survival will depend, Chinese firms needed access to the advanced technology, managerial know-how, and marketing expertise that can help generate prosperity. Companies, eager to gain access to China's ever-expanding pool of workers and consumers, moved in.


China still needs and welcomes foreign investment in many areas — especially in the high-tech arenas where Google operates. But as Chinese companies grow stronger and the Chinese government invests more heavily in state-owned companies in many sectors, many private companies will find themselves competing on a playing field that's no longer quite level. This trend will complicate already turbulent relations among governments as companies turn increasingly to democratic governments for help.


So the next time someone tells you that the U.S. government is "shaking down" BP or bullying Goldman Sachs, don't feel too bad for the executives sweating under the congressional klieg lights. They know they can lawyer up to avoid getting Googled out. Outsiders chasing profits in China and Russia must accept that they can't count on that advantage.


Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group and author of The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?








I didn't like George Steinbrenner. He was just the kind of chesty bully I had feared and hated as a kid — rich,


swaggering, mouthy. But over the years, he evoked mixed feelings that I still have, including gratitude, compassion, admiration and loathing. George could press your buttons.


As a Bronx-born Yankees fan, I bridled in 1973 when this white-belted Clevelander bought into my sacred precinct promising to be a silent partner. He soon became the loudest owner in sports. When he boughtCatfish Hunter for nearly $4 million a few years later, I was delighted that such a great pitcher was coming to my team, yet cynical: Why wouldn't a man who had tried to buy the presidency for Nixon (his felony conviction was for illegal campaign contributions) try to buy a pennant?


As a sportswriter, I was grateful for his presence. His treatment of players, employees and managers offered a deliciously toxic pile of stories to write, although I often, shamefully in retrospect, responded in kind. I wish I hadn't referred to him so often as "The Fat Man." Once, when I interviewed him in his office as a TV correspondent, I was surprised and a little sickened by the way he oiled around me and my producer (a young woman he ostentatiously "charmed") because he was desperate at that moment in the late 1980s for some good publicity. He begged us to treat him kindly, and he fussed over his camera angles. It worked.


It was as a human being that I had the most complicated reactions to Steinbrenner. I could empathize with his painful childhood — he simply couldn't satisfy his harsh father, a successful athlete and businessman (and Yankees fan!). And his own analysis of his management style was poignantly revealing; he had to lead through fear because he didn't always engender the love and respect of "guys who people would walk through a wall for." His role model was the gruff, tough World War II Gen. George Patton. Steinbrenner became a role model, too, and therein lies his knotty legacy.


He was an exemplar of the second wave of sports owners, most of them men who had made their fortunes in other businesses and brought their titanic egos and bottom-line practices into a world where the customers had been raised on sentimentality and make-believe. Fans wanted winners, but supposedly not at the cost of demeaning and sacking beloved players and coaches (such as Yogi Berra).


But there's no question that fans — from Wall Street princes to side-street peddlers — began identifying with the owner rather than with his players. I think some of that had to do with the increasing wealth and power of modern athletes and the emotional separation between player and fan.


Somehow, this rich, blustery man was able to insert himself into the dynamic as a representative of "the people." I can't tell you how many cab drivers have chortled at his putdowns of Yankee players, his threats against losing managers and his psychological warfare with another disturbed soul, Billy Martin, whom he hired and fired so many times it seemed as though Steinbrenner was channeling the head games of his own dad.


Ultimately, his enduring legacy will not be in stone and sod (the new stadium he cajoled out of city officials), or even in the remarkable statistics of games won and salaries paid, but in the imagination of the current generations of baseball fans, so many of whom are "owners" in fantasy leagues. Somehow, Steinbrenner helped convince them that it is better to be a rich old fat man than the lithe young athletes who work at the whim of The Boss.


Robert Lipsyte, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, followed the Yankees for The New York Timesand various TV networks for more than 50 years.








Two courts have rejected the Obama administration's first attempt to ban deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf pending safety reviews to prevent another spill. Fortunately, the administration is taking the safety issue more seriously than the courts.


It issued revised rules Monday for a new six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling, setting conditions that would allow some companies to resume drilling under reasonable safety criteria that should be the industry standard. That should satisfy drilling companies, but it doesn't.


Their continuing objections are hard to fathom. Indeed, they effectively demonstrate precisely why BP still has

an uncapped gusher fouling Gulf shores and fisheries from Texas to Florida, and why other drillers cannot be assumed to be operating safely.


Under the new moratorium, drilling companies may qualify for permission to keep drilling if they meet three clear and reasonable conditions:


* They must prove they have adequate plans to quickly shut down a well in the event of an out-of-control stream of oil from the well.


* They must show that the blow-out preventer on top of the well on the ocean floor has passed stiff new tests to verify its operational safety.

* They must have sufficient clean-up capacity and resources in the event of a spill.


Those basic criteria for drilling should be mandatory. They should have been in place before the BP spill. But as we have learned through congressional hearings, the drilling industry in the Gulf had rarely been required to meet such real-life criteria.


In fact, recent congressional hearings showed that BP and the four other major oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf had presented safety plans to the government's inept Minerals and Management Services that seemed like virtual copies of each other's plans, even though their drilling methods differed. All five cited identical Arctic-based response plans, the same ineffective equipment and presumed response capacity, what they would do to aid walruses and other Arctic sea life, and listed the same telephone number for the same deceased expert.


Ed Markey, chairman of the House Energy Committee, said the plans were on different colored paper but contained 90 percent of the same wording. His hearings also revealed that many drillers had not had their blow-out preventers tested and certified.


That is astonishing. These complex, 5-story contraptions rely on a serious of hydraulic valves to drive the all-important ram-shear cutters which, in a crisis, are supposed to be capable of cutting and simultaneously crimping and sealing the drill pipe, a thick, wide pipe that contains a high-pressure gusher of oil and that takes immense mechanical pressure to close.


BP's ram-shear failed. It's blow-out preventer failed more generally because BP ordered Transocean's drilling rig operator to substitute lighter sea-water for heavier oils when the rig was trying to shut down the well by injecting it with fluids, to be followed by cement. BP's blow-out preventer also lacked an acoustical pressure signal to activate the ram-shear. Its drill pipe was also lighter duty: a single metal sleeve rather than a double-cased pipe with a cement filler.


For all these reasons, the administration would be foolish to allow deep-water drilling to continue without verifying that drilling companies are meeting reasonable safety standards.


The Obama administration is right to continue keeping a moratorium in place. If it didn't, and another blow-out occurred, the administration would be condemned from every corner of the nation for inexplicable laxity and incompetence.


The moratorium, to be sure, does deepen the damage to Louisiana's economy. The drilling industry supplies thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity and crucial tax revenue. The lull in this industry is clearly painful.


But the industry itself, and state regulators as well as federal regulators, share blame for the current disaster. Though they argue against regulation, the oil and gas industry and the drilling companies they employ all share responsibility for operating practices that have now proved to be broken. If they cannot now show they are operating safely, they should not be allowed to operate.







The death of a child is heartbreaking in any circumstances. But when the life of a 3-year-old little girl is snuffed out by a gun accident, it is especially tragic and saddening.


When young children and guns come together, there is an invitation to terrible consequences.


Children often have a great fascination with guns, not realizing the danger in handling them. That's why guns always should be kept in ways and places to make it absolutely impossible for children to come into dangerous gun possession.


But in a case in Chattanooga this week, a child somehow got a loaded gun and was playing with it. The weapon fired. The bullet struck another child in the chest, causing her death.


Who can imagine the heartbreak of all, young and old, who are affected by such a terrible accident?


This was the kind of tragic loss from which there is no recovery. It is obviously too late for prevention in this case. But for all of us, this shock should be a warning to every household. Adults should check their weapons. No firearm -- or, for that matter, no potentially dangerous medicine or substance of any kind -- should be kept in any place where danger to children, or adults, could occur.


Life is so precious. Every precaution should be taken to avoid any kind of tragic result.







It takes plenty of smoke and mirrors to pretend that an "anti-global-warming" bill in the U.S. Senate would help cut our outrageous federal budget deficits.


The Congressional Budget Office is estimating that the bill would cut the deficit by an average of $1.9 billion each of the next 10 years.


Even if that figure is accurate, it is not very impressive. When you consider that our alarming annual deficit spending is now in the range of $1.5 trillion -- with a total national debt of $13.2 trillion -- a $1.9 billion cut is peanuts. It is not a serious attempt to reduce dangerously high spending.


But even if we buy the claim that the bill would slightly cut federal deficits, it would wind up harming the economy by shifting massive costs onto industry and by raising household utility bills. That's shuffling costs, not eliminating them.


For example, the CBO said the anti-global-warming bill in the Senate would raise federal revenue by $751 billion over the next decade. How? The money would come "mostly though the sale of carbon credits in a so-called cap-and-trade plan to be applied to utilities and other sectors of the economy," The Associated Press reported.


"Cap and trade" would force industry to buy allowances to emit more than a certain amount of "greenhouse gases." Those are the gases that environmental activists blame for supposedly catastrophic "global warming." But cap and trade amounts to a huge new energy tax on utilities and businesses, which would pass along at least part of that tax to consumers in the form of higher utility bills and higher prices for goods and services.


An estimate by the Environmental Protection Agency said each U.S. household would pay as much as $146 more per year if the Senate bill became law. But The Heritage Foundation found that a related, 1,400-page, Democrat-backed bill in the House of Representatives would cost $436 per household starting in 2012, rising to $1,241 by 2035! And those are only estimated direct costs, which do not include higher prices for goods that the bill would make more expensive to produce.


Pretending to cut federal spending while putting a high-tax stranglehold on industry and hitting consumers with higher costs is no bargain.







"Officially," U.S. unemployment is 9.5 percent. But when you add in the millions of Americans who have given up even trying to find work, and those who need full-time but can find only part-time jobs, unemployment and "underemployment" together total almost 17 percent.


But where are the job losses concentrated, and what part of our economy is suffering the most? Bloomberg News considered that question not long ago and found that private-sector workers have been hit much harder than government workers.


Bloomberg looked at figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It found that private employment peaked

in December 2007, and since then, businesses have laid off roughly 8.5 million people -- about 7.5 percent of their work force.


But local governments around the country continued hiring until they hit a peak of 14.6 million workers in September 2008 -- many months after the recession had started. Since that time, they have laid off only 141,000 employees -- or not even 1 percent of that 14.6 million.


So despite the recession, "Americans find themselves with local-government payrolls that in many cases remain at record levels," Bloomberg reported.


Federal government payrolls, meanwhile, have continued to grow, as more employees are hired in connection with the $862 billion so-called "stimulus" that Congress approved last year. Many government workers have avoided layoffs with the protection of their unions -- though government employees, as public servants, should not be unionized at all.


The news service's findings are not really so surprising. After all, a business can raise its prices only so much before people stop buying its goods or services. If it cannot make ends meet, it must lay off workers and economize in other ways. But if government wants to protect existing jobs or fund new ones, it can just raise taxes, which taxpayers have no choice but to pay.


We do not relish the prospect of any honest, hard-working employee being laid off, especially during the current economic crisis when it can be hard to find another job. And we do not begrudge government workers their jobs, since it is not they but elected officials who approve the high taxes and wasteful spending that bloat government payrolls.


But in a time of outrageous government budget deficits, does it make sense or seem equitable that so many government workers are being hired or protected with tax dollars taken from workers in the much harder-hit private sector?


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What could motivate individuals to enter areas where innocent people are harmlessly watching a big soccer match on television and cruelly detonate bombs, killing dozens and maiming many more?


That is what tragically happened recently in the African nation of Uganda. A radical Muslim group from

Somalia has claimed responsibility for the blasts in Uganda that claimed 74 lives. The victims were watching a World Cup match. One American aid worker was among the dead.


Al-Shabab, the terrorist group that sponsored the attacks, said it was retaliating for Ugandan troops being deployed as peacekeepers in war-torn Somalia.


But what did attacks on far-away Ugandans watching a soccer match accomplish to end the conflict between the countries? Ugandan officials say the terrorist attacks are themselves reasons why Ugandan troops now must remain in unstable Somalia.


We do not have any ready answers to a conflict between two distant African nations. But every humanitarian should condemn vicious attacks on civilians by terrorists.








We have sufficient faith in the Turkish justice system, belief in the wisdom of its judges and confidence in the astuteness of its prosecutors to be rest assured that our columnist, Cengiz Çandar, will be acquitted from the charges and threat of prison he faces for reporting on the trial of those accused of killing our colleague, Hrant Dink.


We hope readers have reread Çandar's column, which originally appeared in the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Feb. 10. We know they will reach the same conclusion as Çandar himself.


"It's rubbish," Çandar told us. It certainly is. That this column could land Çandar in court on charges of insulting the judge can only be regarded as a sort of dead reflex, a post-mortal twitching in a body of legal practice which has in fact died in Turkey. In the face of the penal code reforms of recent years, the increasing conformance with the norms of the European Union and other signs of growing maturity in the legal system, this case is more than rubbish. This throwback to the prosecutorial practices of a bygone era will be seen for what it is when it finally comes to court next December. Of this we have no doubt.


We wish, however, we could have similar confidence that justice will be served in the ongoing case of those charged with killing Dink. Much has come out in the more than three years since he was gunned down in broad daylight on the main street running through Istanbul's district of Şişli.


Warnings unheeded. Intelligence not passed along. Support groups and networks tracing back to the confessed triggerman, Ogün Samast. But for the most part, these are mere glimpses of the evil at work. We have seen only fragments of the larger picture which remains obscured.


Just Monday, the most recent hearing produced the revelation that while it was established on the day of the killing that Samast had used an Internet cafe shortly before the murder, no effort was apparently made to learn what messages he might have sent or received there. Once again, we get a blurry and legally meaningless glimpse but no clear picture.


It is the task of the prosecution and the judiciary to collectively assemble this larger picture, to bring all that preceded the killing to light. It is the job of the court to establish not just the details of Jan. 19, 2007, but the context in which hatred nurtured a decision to pull the trigger. This we do not see.


"Not the criminals but those who denounce the criminals are tried in this country," said Fethiye Çetin, a lawyer for the Dink family, referring to Çandar's case. "Not the crime or the criminal but those who write about it are tried."


Prosecutors typically look for patterns in evidence and in the behaviors of suspects. As Çandar's column last February noted, there is a casualness in the pursuit of justice that has now become a pattern itself.








Interior Minister Beşir Atalay made an exclusive statement to the daily Hürriyet.


"The democratic initiative is in progress. Perhaps we have made mistakes on the matter of perception. But most of the time high expectations can be delusive. These things take time. You have to be patient and work hard. Efforts continue, both inside and outside," he said.


The democratic initiative is not going anywhere. It has come to a halt, deviated even. We have an endless number of signs showing that we are back to the square one. When you say "The democratic initiative is in progress," that doesn't mean the initiative continues. It only means you are bypassing it in fear.


A quite complex issue such as the Kurdish conflict cannot be settled in a short time by making melodramatic moves like reading a few poems "Don't let mothers cry" for instance, if, in particular, it is rooted in the pre-Republic period, putrefied and has become an international issue. In this sense, Mr. Minister was right when said "High expectations can be delusive. These things take time and you have to work hard," but "Efforts continue both inside and outside," part of his statement doesn't reflect the truth.


"Efforts," as he put, are channeled in the wrong direction. President Abdullah Gül said that the Chief of General Staff hinted about the issues discussed in the National Security Council, or MGK.


First of all, the military concentration continues at the Şemdinli border line. The Kurdish administration in Iraq is pressurized. Fighter jets bomb northern Iraq. In the presence of the United States and Arbil, efforts are being made for the handing over of 248 outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, militants over to Turkey. The pre-1990 conditions settle in the Southeast again. We are going back to a state in which people are fed up with check points and barricades.


If these are called "efforts," there were more of them in the 1980s and the 1990s. The point we have reached is crystal-clear.




An article by Amir Taheri, "Turkey's forgotten war," in London-based Asharq Alawsat was translated into Turkish and published in the daily Radikal on Sunday. The final paragraphs of the piece represent a case in point:


"Almost 10 years ago, [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, the most imaginative of Turkish leaders in a generation, spoke of a 'creative solution' to the Kurdish problem. That 'creative solution' should include efforts to wean the PKK away from violence and terror. The first step in that direction is the establishment of a dialogue, perhaps with the help of the Kurdistan government in Iraq which has already informed Ankara of its readiness to mediate.


"Within the past two years Turkey has started reshaping its foreign policy in the hope of finding a greater role in its natural geopolitical habitat which includes the Middle East.


"However, Ankara would not be able to play a leadership in the region while it continues bombing Iraqi territory. Nor would Ankara's profession of anger at the way Israel treats the Gaza population sound sincere when Turkey's ethnic Kurds continue to be treated with less consideration than a modern democracy should offer its citizens. It is, perhaps, time for Erdoğan Pasha to start thinking the unthinkable."


It is time. Time is running out as a matter of fact.


The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government is making mistakes one after the other. As two neighboring countries of Iraq, Iran and Syria have raised no objections to the re-election of Jalal Talabani to the presidential seat in Iraq. But the Turkish government ran after the impossible and lobbied for Sunni Arab Tariq al-Khasimi, he is a branch of the Muslim Brothers. Talabani, in fact, in coordination with Ankara, had made efforts for mediation, as mentioned in the article.


It is not a secret for the parties involved that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu wants "Turkey's favorite" Iyad Allawi being elected prime minister and supports Mosul Gov. Osama Nujeif, a hard-line Arab nationalist against Kurds, although not reflected in the media much.


On one side, you are putting a distance between you and Talabani, on the other side you disturb Massoud Barzani, and insist on not having communication with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and act in favor of bombarding northern Iraq, keep pressuring for the return of the PKK members – as in the past- through diplomatic channels and security bureaucracy, bring back checkpoints to the southeast, and just to please top military commander you ban people from going up to mountain meadows, yet say "Democratic initiative is in progress," in order to comfort public opinion.


You are getting far away from a solution to the Kurdish question. You approach the line of former President Süleyman Demirel, former Prime Ministers Tansu Çiller and Mesut Yılmaz – you are heading to the "line of the military."


You are in the wrong direction, losing time and making others lose time, too.




Don't you read the news? Children engage in a fight with security forces in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. Clashes continue during the daytime in the town of Yüksekova as the road connecting Yüksekova to Şemdinli is closed down. Similar incidents take place in the town of Nusaybin, or in Cizre.


Are you not aware of the situation in the region?


Remember what you said last year in July. They are quite different from what you keep saying today. Look into the archives and make comparisons.


And read once again the letter from the region sent to Oral Çalışlar of Radikal daily; the one that Çalışlar included in his article:


"Here is a letter for you: 'I am sending photos and information. They belong to guerillas who died in the clashes that took place in Şemdinli. They were handed over to the Şemdinli Municipality as they were. People are washing the bodies in the river.' I couldn't look at the photos, burned young bodies in pieces… the Günlük daily has been publishing the photos for a few days. In another letter, an article published in Günlük daily was sent. It is on the same topic. '…The images the cameraman recorded are detailed. The cameramen who recorded every single detail of the corpses of the guerillas will leave their mark in the history. That's for sure. Or rather, the cameramen record acts of violence the state is involved in against Kurds, Kurdish bodies, corpses in the 21st century… I cannot look at the photos. My eyes are shut. Yes, we are at the end… where humanity ends. In the 21st century such acts are flat violence. Their goal is to destroy the willpower of the Kurdish people, scare away Kurdish women and the Kurdish youth.' For days, funeral ceremonies are being held for the PKK members in Hakkâri, Şemdinli, Diyarbakır, Van and in many other southeastern cities. Groups to pick up the bodies are waving placards writing 'Welcome our martyrs' on them. The corpses are not being returned to the families. They are buried at the scenes of encounters. For this reasons, demonstrations are held, people fight against police officers. The PKK members who are killed in the regions mostly driven by a political trend advocating the Kurdish identity are welcomed not as 'terrorists' but as 'martyrs.' They are treated like martyrs. This is the latest picture in the Southeast… In other words, a completely different psychology and public opinion is settling in the region…"


Erdoğan went to Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre. His photographs while praying were published everywhere. It was a nice gesture from Erdoğan. But I wish he read a letter, similar to the one above, and does what is necessary.


I wish Erdoğan, as the leader of a country playing for the leadership in the Balkans, reads the final paragraphs of Taheri's article once again:


"…Ankara would not be able to play a leadership in the region while it continues bombing Iraqi territory. Nor would Ankara's profession of anger at the way Israel treats the Gaza population sound sincere when Turkey's ethnic Kurds continue to be treated with less consideration that a modern democracy should offer its citizens. It is, perhaps, time for Erdoğan Pasha to start thinking the unthinkable."








Last week Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ said something very bizarre. It came in an interview on a popular TV show, where he was criticizing the harsh critics of his institution in the Turkish media. "I don't believe," the irritated general suddenly noted, "those people really have Turkish blood in their veins."


The term "Turkish blood" sounded weird to many people, including myself. For we have been told for decades by our statesmen that "being a Turk" meant nothing but "being a citizen of Turkey." We have been reaffirmed that "Atatürk's nationalism," which is enshrined in our military-drafted constitution as an "un-amendable" principle, has nothing to do with ethnicity and race, which the term "blood" obviously invokes. Why, then, the top general was speaking this way?


Blood and skulls


Not because he is an ideological racist, I guess. Gen. Başbuğ, to his credit, has actually shown himself to be more democratically minded than many of his colleagues. If you have a chance to ask him what he meant by "Turkish blood," I suppose he will explain that he "did not mean it in that sense." But it still needs an explanation why such disturbing jargon just slipped out of his mouth.


And the explanation is not hard to find: Racism, unfortunately, has been a nasty undercurrent of the nation-building project that the Turkish Republic initiated in the late 20's. It especially peaked in the 30's, when it was popular in the West, too. It, ironically, emerged as a part of Turkey's "Westernization" effort.


A story you might have read in this paper last Friday illustrated an interesting incident from that period. The tomb of Sinan, the most acclaimed architect of the Ottoman Empire, was opened in 1935 by a team formed by the Turkish Historical Society, which was founded by Atatürk four years earlier. Their aim was to measure Sinan's centuries-old skull in order to prove that he was of "pure Turkish stock" — something the multi-ethnic Ottomans would never have minded.


This was just one of the many mind-boggling episodes from the 30's — that most illiberal era in modern Turkish history. The regime, which wanted to wipe out the Ottoman/Islamic heritage and give a new identity and a source of pride to the nation, had found the solution partly in racism.


The First Turkish Historical Congress held in Ankara in 1932 was the first big step. In the 10-day-long official gathering, many "scientists" presented many "findings" about the origins of the Turkish people. Dr. Reşit Galip, a passionate supporter of Atatürk, defined this "superior race" as "the tall, white, thin-nosed, proper-lipped, often blue-eyed Alpin race," known for virtues such as "civility, heroism, and artistic and social talent."


Another speaker, Dr. Şevket Aziz Kansu, presented a blue-eyed and well-built peasant couple and their "offspring" to the congress, defining them as ideal samples of Turkish stock. He was passionately applauded when he returned to Atatürk, who presided over the hall, and greeted him as the hailed leader of this "highly evolved" race.


Atatürk also felt proud that year when a young Turkish lady, Keriman Halis, became Miss World. "I knew," he said, "that the Turkish race is the most beautiful one."


Soon, he ordered his adopted daughter, Afet İnan, to undertake more research on this important topic. After studying history in Switzerland, the young and idealist İnan embarked on a mission to carry out "anthropometric studies" in Turkey. With full official support, she began a countrywide campaign of "cephalometry" (measuring the skulls of living people), "craniometry" (measuring the skulls of dead people), and "phrenology" (inferring characteristics from skull features). A staggering 64,000 people are known to have been "measured" during this campaign — and many graves were opened, including that of Sinan.


Traces of an ugly past:


The lunacy calmed down with Atatürk's death in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II the project was abandoned, as Turkey silently walked away from officially sponsored racism.


A problem remained, though. Some other countries had embraced racism in the 30's, too, often with much more tragic results than in Turkey. But after World War II, those countries opened a new chapter in their histories, realizing their between-war madness as a terrible mistake. In Turkey, however, the between-war era — with all its racist and fascist tendencies — became not questioned, let alone rejected, but instead sanctified.


That's why over-nationalist and sometimes outright racist themes still exist in our "national" discourse. Every Turkish child still grows up memorizing Atatürk's 1927 address to the youth, which glorifies "the noble blood in your veins." Schools still teach a "Turkish history" that starts with the Huns of Central Asia, giving an ethnic, not civic, sense of a nation. And nationalist demagogues speak of "pure Turks" in the country, clearly excluding the Kurds and non-Muslims, and, alas, even the liberals who question national taboos.


Knowingly or not, Gen. Başbuğ has just contributed to that racist mindset. An apology or at least a correction from him would be helpful. For no county can really become democratic with a blood-venerating official rhetoric.








It must have been in the beginning of the nineties. I was invited to take part in a panel in London on electoral reform in the United Kingdom. I ended up defending proportional representation, strongly supported by a member of parliament from the British Labour Party. He spoke passionately about the need to get rid of a system that favors the two big parties and in which many voters do not feel represented. I was amazed because the official position of the Labour Party, in opposition then, was far from clear on this issue. I should not have been surprised because the MP sitting next to me was Robin Cook, a brilliant parliamentary debater on the left wing of his party and a long standing defender of electoral reform. He managed to get many of his ideas included in Labour's 1997 general election manifesto and became foreign secretary in the first Blair government till 2001. In 2003 he resigned from his position as Leader of the House of Commons in protest against the invasion of Iraq. In August 2005 he suddenly suffered a severe heart attack and died. For many in Britain and the rest of Europe, Robin Cook, a fervent defender of human rights all over the world, represented the best of the social democratic movement. But were his ideas on reforming the electoral system in the UK implemented by the Labour Party once they were in government? They were not. Having come to power through the old system, the temptation for the ruling party to keep it in place was simply too big. It is only now, after the Liberal Democrats, the main victims of the present rules, have joined the government that the British will get the chance to speak out on a new, fairer system of distributing seats in parliament.


In Turkey in 2010, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is faced with the same dilemma. It is true that they have never promised, unlike Labour in the nineties, to discuss the present electoral system, including a 10 percent threshold that has been criticized by many democrats in Turkey and the EU. But portraying themselves as the champions of democratization, it will be difficult for Erdoğan and his party to explain why they can not support the present proposal by the Republican Peoples' Party, or CHP, to lower the threshold to 7 percent. The irony might be that the only way to do so is to resort to pro-status quo arguments such as the need for stability and continuity in ruling the country. Justifications that contradict the spirit of change behind many reforms the present government has introduced, including the constitutional reform package that will be voted on September 12.


It is a clever move by new CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu to come up with this proposal now, showing that he really intends to break with the No Change policy of his predecessor. With one stone he can kill two birds. He knows that he will get the support of many democrats who had given up on the CHP under Baykal and, probably more importantly, he realizes that he can hurt the AKP. All analysts agree that lowering the threshold to 7 percent will benefit two parties, the Saadet ('Felicity') Party and the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, luring voters away from the AKP. It is clear that, from an electoral point of view, Erdoğan has no reason to support the CHP proposal. But it is also obvious that by refusing to play Kılıçdaroğlu's game he risks losing moral and political support at home and abroad. With the main opposition party never coming up with any suggestion for further democratization, the AKP had an easy ride in presenting themselves as the only party strengthening Turkey's democracy – till now. That argument is history when the AKP votes against lowering the threshold.


Although personally I still believe 5 percent would be a more appropriate threshold, in line with many European practices, I hope that the CHP proposal will be adapted. Also to show to the non-minimalists among us that it makes sense to take the first steps towards a more satisfying final solution, be it on the electoral threshold or on the Constitution.









JOHANNESBURG – The World Cup championship is over; however, repercussions continue. Topics are all about the balance sheet. The Dutch explain why they lost and chastise referees. Spaniards on the other hand keep celebrating their victory. It has been said the tournament was worth $7 billion, including investments, tourism income and organization expenditures. Teams hosted in South Africa have also made money.


The World Cup winner Spain and team players are on top of the list. The Spanish national football team earned 25 million euros, as players made 600,000 euros each. The figure is so big that the Spanish government, undergoing extreme economic hardship, had to announce premiums for players were provided by sponsors.


If the Dutch had won, players could've earned 400,000 euros each. But they had to be satisfied with smaller amounts of premium. On the other hand, Holland National Football Team won 10 million euros. But South Africa is the real winner.


According to statistics, two million additional tourists rushed into the country in the last two months. The South African economy gained 2 billion euros because of the World Cup. Gamblers spent $200 million. A total of 3.5 million tickets were sold at $400-900 each. So, the revenue is big. FIFA earned big money, too. It was announced that the organization earned $4 billion from sponsors only. But of course, FIFA will not have it all.


Some part of it is spent to organize the event and some is paid to national teams. The next World Cup championship will be held in Brazil in 2014. We all have to know that Turkey has the capacity to climb up to the top. Only if we could take care of things in order and in time and start organizing immediately. Four years from now, I hope we become the winner feeling joy similar to that of the Spaniards. I am excited even now.


No Turkish referee in the World Cup for 36 years


We wanted to see Turkish National Team at the World Cup, did we not?


Not making to the championship hurt a lot, especially after seeing how some others played badly. I am sorry but we remember all of our players and managers who played a role in our failure. If we hadn't taken this more seriously, if we hadn't lost several matches unexpectedly and unnecessarily, we could've been at the final. We did this to ourselves.


All right, let's tell the biggest lie to ourselves and say, "The ball is round. You cannot say when it will be scored," but at least we could've sent a Turkish referee to the field. Why can our experts not referee the World Cup matches? I asked this to the experts and see a quite interesting picture. We have a total of 800 referees who have FIFA badges. Every continent has a quota of its own. Referees are in five categories. Turkey is in Europe. There are only 26 referees in Europe who make it to the Elite Category and only ten of them are sent to the World Cup.


Currently, Cüney Çakır represents Turkey in the 1st category. Last year he directed the Fullham-Hamburg match – the UEFA European League semi-final game. Bülent Yıldırım is in the 2nd category. He will direct the Champions League pre-elimination game. In order to be accepted into the World Cup community, a referee should direct good quality matches and have excellent evaluations of observers.


You have to be fluent in English. You have to have influence backstage during referee selection procedures. Your country has to take this seriously. In other words, politics is involved, and education is needed.


Turkish referees are not bad. However, only a few speak fluent English and they are alone, not supported by anyone. The next World Cup will be in Brazil in 2014. The first ever Turk to referee a World Cup championship was Doğan Babacan. He refereed three games and left his mark on the history of the World Cup as the "first referee to show a red card".


We haven't sent any referees to the World Cup for the last 36 years. So we should break a leg for the 2014

World Cup championship. Both the National Team and referees should roll up their sleeves immediately.









The "extraordinary" weekend convention of the Felicity Party, or SP, was the scene of some very important and interesting developments. The developments demonstrated why SP chairman Numan Kurtulmuş carried the party to an extraordinary convention at a time when only few months were left to the scheduled convention of the party and while the country was heading on the one hand to a crucial referendum on a constitutional amendment package and on the other hand in less than a year the country would go to parliamentary elections.


The Nationalist View, or political Islamic movement led by former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, very much like the "reformist" split – in the aftermath of the so-called February 28, 1997 "post modern coup" – that eventually developed into the present ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP was apparently pregnant once again, but this time not to a split but more so to a divorce.


Indeed, ever since Recai Kutan – the caretaker chairman of the parties established by the Nationalist View movement at times when Erbakan was unable to officially be the leader because of political bans imposed on him – was replaced with a young Kurtulmuş as party chairman, it was obvious that at one point Kurtulmuş would not accept tutelage of Erbakan and his "comrades in politics", the so-called "gray haired seniors", and try to become the new leader of the party and the movement.


Yet, seeing that without rejuvenation and indeed distancing itself from the paternal structure of party administration established by Erbakan the SP was doomed to remain a small and negligible political party, after a to-year preparation Kurtulmuş decided the time of taking action against the "old guard" and the "familial" domination in the party administration, called for an extraordinary convention and presented the convention a new party executive list on which the former heavy guns of Erbakan period as well as the son in law, or the son and other people linked to Erbakan through familial links were present. Anyhow, for the past two years neither Erbakan nor his former old guard was allowed to intervene in financial affairs of the party.


What Kurtulmuş did was no less than declaring divorce from the heritage of Erbakan and naturally the veteran leader of the Nationalist Viw would not accept a divorce by Kurtulmuş so easily. Thus, despite his advanced age and frail health situation Erbakan travelled to the convention hall, delivered a rather emotional speech while his former old guard presented a "green list" of candidates as a challenge to the "white list" of Kurtulmuş. The name of Kurtulmuş was at the top of the "green list" as well but he immediately saw the challenge and withdrew his name from the "alternate list" saying his consent was obtained by those who prepared it.


In the vote the list prepared by Kurtulmuş won despite all efforts of Erbakan loyalists but Kurtulmuş managed to be reelected as chairman only in the third round of voting – when obtaining support of majority of delegates was not required – with only 310 votes or about support of one fourth of the total over 1200 delegates.


The result, of course, was a fiasco for Kurtulmuş as he was reelected with the support of only one fourth of the delegates and there was no other chairmanship contender. That is should there was someone else contending for the chairmanship he might not have been reelected. On the other hand, Kurtulmuş was elected despite Erbakan and for the first time the party was no longer under the strong tutelage of neither Erbakan nor his old guard, the so-called "gray haired."


Thus, Kurtulmuş has demonstrated the courage to become the new leader of the Nationalist View movement, even though under his leadership the Nationalist View is likely to go through some very serious reforms. With his election, the SP has found an opportunity to rejuvenate itself and become a real ideological movement, rather than a club of Erbakan supporters. By shunning the "gray haired" and those linked to Erbakan with familial links, Kurtulmuş has demonstrated that in the new period competence will be preferred to "inheritance."


If he manages to stay in the SP chairmanship chair the issue of "unity in political Islam" might emerge in the horizon of Turkey and indeed Kurtulmuş might become a new political leader.


No one should be surprised to see the SP of Kurtulmuş and the AKP in an election alliance in 2011 parliamentary elections.










Last week, my column neighbor – and sparring partner – Mustafa Akyol wrote his "Adultery, stoning and myths about Islam" article (HDN, July 9, 2010) in which he commented on my "Would Mr. Erdoğan care to help this Muslim woman?" (July 8, 2010). In the last years, it was always fun to have Mr. Akyol on the "sparring ground." It still is.


Mr. Akyol and I may have been "sparring" in recent years, but I believe we are essentially "partners." So, I am not going to brush aside his comments as "an assault from a jihadist" just because he was recently listed as one by Jihad Watch, a prominent blog that aims to bring to public attention the role of jihad theology and ideology ("Another Moderate Muslim Joins the Jihad: Mustafa Akyol," Jihad Watch, June 3, 2010). I do not think Mr. Akyol is a jihadist.


He is probably too honest to be a master of spinning. But the sultans of "taqiyya" (dissimulation) Mr. Akyol has the reflex to defend must have perfectly mastered the teachings of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, one of the earliest and most prominent exegetes of the Quran. Al-Tabari wrote that: "If you (Muslims) are under their (infidels') authority, fearing for yourselves, behave loyally to them, while harboring animosity for them."


Mr. Akyol chose to ignore the heart of the matter in "Would Mr. Erdoğan care to helps this Muslim woman?" – which was, as the title said, whether our prime minister would feel any affection for Sakineh Mohammed Ashtiani, an Iranian lady found guilty of adultery and awaiting execution by stoning. I would hope to read in his lines an answer and, if "Mr. Erdogan would not," an explanation why he would not.


For understandable reasons, Mr. Akyol did not provide an answer or an explanation. Instead, he commented on some of my lines as "tongue-in-cheek references" to the Quran. Today I shall try to avoid such references, directly quote some of the verses and ask questions (which he has the liberty to label as "rhetorical" as he did in the past).


Mr. Akyol wrote that "stoning came (to Islam) from an outside source (obviously Judaism)." It may have been so. But I was disappointed that Mr. Akyol did not explain why stoning is not practiced in Israel in the year 2010 but widely practiced in several Muslim countries in the same year.


It must be a Jewish conspiracy: "We should have in our holy book punishment methods which in thousands of years from now would look too barbaric. In the meantime, a new religion, Islam, will take such acts from us and will keep on practicing them in that very distant future. That way Muslim countries stuck with such traditions will look barbaric and silly." Great plot! Ah, Jews again… I am curious if Mr. Akyol would tell us that Muslims also took the Islamic jihad from the Torah.

Then Mr. Akyol lectures us on two major ways to interpret the Quran: literalist and figurative. A heartfelt thank you, Mr. Akyol! The hypocritically interchangeable selection by "some devout Muslims and Islamists" of literalist and figurative approaches was precisely the point of my article: The pragmatic Islamist would go for the literalist approach regarding Muslimness like avoiding pork and alcohol and all other things that make the "display Muslim;" but he would go for the figurative approach when apparently not-so-nice-looking commandments and "our posture and propaganda to the west and political Islam" are in question.


Let me ask you a few questions, Mr. Akyol, trusting your intellect on theology and hoping that your answers might add value to our debate:


1. Are the Quranic commandments the unchallengeable/undisputable words of Allah, or can some of them be re-interpreted? Are there any Quranic commandments that say some of the other Quranic commandments can be re-interpreted/updated? If yes which ones are they? Who is the ultimate authority to decide which verses can be re-interpreted and which ones cannot?


2. Mr. Akyol; you wrote that "it was impossible to give any other form of penalty (other than stoning) in the 7th century." Why do we not apply the same logic to other Islamic commandments and traditions? Would you also argue that it was impossible not to cover women in the 7th century but now we should not? That two glasses of wine a week may not be a sin in the 21st century? That it would not be sexual seduction if a woman let a piece of her hair be seen by men in the 21st century? But would all that reinterpretation not be against the spirit of the Quran if certain commandments are "valid" until they become too out of date? Are all commandments not "eternal?"


3. You often quote/mention Islamic scholars, the ulama. The ultimate Turkish ulama are the Diyanet, or Religious Affairs General Directorate. You may remember from this column a few years earlier that the Diyanet told me (in reply to my written inquiry) that women should not put on make up or jewelry. The same Diyanet, in reply to another inquiry which asked the same question but reminded the Diyanet that the wives and daughters of our top statesmen put on plenty of make-up and jewelry, told me that that practice was halal. What, do you think, explains the difference between the two explanations from the ulama? Should we Muslims trust the ulama who issue opposite rulings for ordinary people and important people?


4. You may be politically motivated to "hide them or act as if they don't exist" when it comes to commandments such as 5:13, 5:14 or 5:51. But what do you think about 5:82: "You will find that the worst enemies of the (Muslim) believers are the Jews and the idol worshippers. And you will find that the closest people in friendship to the believers are those who say, 'We are Christians.' This is because they have priests and monks among them, and they are not arrogant." Why, then, does 5:14 say "…We have spread up enmity and hatred among (Christians) till Doomsday?" Why enmity and hatred among people of a different faith? If Christians are 'closest people in friendship,' why does another verse warns Muslims not to make friends with Christians and Jews? Can someone be arrogant only because he was born into a certain faith? Are all Jews inherently arrogant?


5. Which kind of people do you think would more believe in, for instance, 5:82; the devout Muslims who also believe in not letting a piece of female hair be seen by men, or those whom you mistakenly call the "secularists?" Will you ever understand that there are millions of secular Muslims and they are NOT necessarily an "-ist" of any ideology, just like there are millions of devout Muslims who are NOT political Islamists?







Turkish Airlines, or THY, Chairman Hamdi Topçu and I visited the main Istanbul base of Do&Co, an innovative, worldwide brand in the airplane catering sector. Topçu says that he keeps in mind the producer's production philosophy in all airplane purchases, which means he does not ignore the markets advised by the airplane factory for production. However, he does not purchase an airplane that does not overlap with THY's growth policy.


Although this pattern he created seems quite mundane, it minimizes the risk of possible mistakes in fuselage choice indeed. As the occupancy rate increases in purchased airplanes, this method guides the shift to bigger airplanes.


The first of the Boeing 777-300Ers purchased by THY will be delivered in September, one month earlier than the previously scheduled date. As soon as the 777 deliveries start, the first new flight destination will be Washington D.C., which is soon to be followed by a third destination in China, rather than Los Angeles, which was talked about before. Topçu said that THY did not give up on Los Angeles, but the new flight lines were determined according to passenger intensity in the market.


Topçu has devoted his life to THY. He closely follows every development in every department ranging from the new generation passenger seats to catering, from staff policy to financial structure. His latest excitement is big aircrafts. The two examples in the market, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747's new 8 series had been brought here for projection. He is planning to purchase four or five of them. He compares the two brands according to THY's distant destinations and to occupancy rate, sitting at the negotiation table with Boeing and Airbus from time to time.


Recently, a delegation led by the United States Secretary of Transportation paid a sudden visit to THY, asking how it managed sustaining growth, while many airlines are going bankrupt around the world. THY made a big display of their growth history. 


Topçu again recently invited the former chairmen of THY to the headquarters, which is a first in the company's history. He had lunch with them, and listened to their suggestions. The guests, including Atilla Çelebi, a legendary pilot, and the last general manager Yusuf Bolayırlı, proposed their suggestions. Then Topçu took Bolayırlı to THY's technical hangar, as he was the chief of the technical department before being assigned as a general manager. As soon as Bolayırlı set his feet in the hangar the employees ran to him, gathering around their former boss and paying homage. Topçu says that he was immensely moved by witnessing the scene, hoping to receive the same response himself one day.


Topçu says that THY is planning to sign a very important sponsorship agreement soon, which will have great effect in the world starting with Europe. Topçu concludes that the sound financial and growth power of the company has made THY a genuine global brand.


Before our conversation with Topçu, we had a visual chat with London in Do&Co's meeting hall. On the screen was Do&Co boss Attila Doğudan. The boss of the successfully expanding company, starting from Austria, to the United States, Germany, U.K. and the Far East, is overjoyed with fresh excitement. The company is setting up new manufacture lines in its new operation base close to London's Heathrow Airport. It will provide catering for five flights of Emirates, a company known for its meticulousness. Doğudan is as excited as if he had just started his business.


His firm offers catering at hundreds of spots, including Formula-1 races, the restaurant in BMW's Munich headquarters, Demel in the Plaza Hotel New York and the private hall in the Lufthansa Frankfurt Airport. The company is growing without compromising from its amateur spirit.


Millions of trays of Do&Co food are being loaded up in airplanes every day. But each of these dishes looks as if they were cooked in a family kitchen. All the dishes offer homogenous taste and the aubergines, the salads, special yoghurt mixtures all are served to passengers without losing anything from their taste and freshness despite an altitude of 10,000 meters. The flight cooks and tray carriers are all uniformly working hard.


Topçu and I had a good lunch in Attila Doğudan's absence, offering our thanks for the tastes and the perfect presentation we have experienced.









Late on Tuesday afternoon, the members of the Punjab Assembly dined on individual slices of humble pie stuffed with the very words they had so thoughtlessly uttered a mere four days before. It will be recalled that the PA passed – unanimously – a resolution condemning the media as being anti-democratic among other things. The honourable members were piqued at the way in which the media was twisting their tails over the fake degree scandal – so they decided to shoot the messenger. The resolution was allegedly hatched by a cross-party group led by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, though this was roundly denied on Tuesday evening in an attempt to distance the CM from what has quickly become a massive embarrassment and a political debacle for all concerned - but perhaps more so for the PML-N than other parties.

The resolution that every member of the PA put their signatures to last Friday after a meeting attended by seven members of the PML-N, 4 from PPP, 4 from 'forward block', two from PML-Q and one from the MMA – has now been countered by a pro-media resolution moved by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. The pro-media resolution was tabled before a house that was not quorate – the speaker decided to ignore this – and was passed unanimously by all who were present. There are no figures as to how many were absent, or the reason for their absence, but it may be assumed that some of them at least were voting with their feet and rather than be seen to abstain from the vote or vote against, suddenly found themselves with a pressing appointment elsewhere. This is a victory for the media in general and the common man as well, as protests against the Friday resolution had not been limited to the media community but were widespread. It also lays bare – again – the shallow hypocrisies of a political class that has lost its moral compass and thrown objectivity overboard. Tuesday July 13 2010 – a bad day for our politicians in Punjab, an excellent day for everybody else.







A fundamental impediment to our growth as a functional democracy was pointed out by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhury during the 18th Amendment hearing on Monday. This is a flaw that has long been obvious and one that is capable of remedy, but is unlikely to be rectified by the present political leadership of the country. A 17-member larger bench of the apex court was hearing petitions challenging the constitutional amendments made under the 18th Amendment. In the course of the hearing the CJ remarked that with the 'extinction' of elections within the political parties there will be no command of the constitution among them. His remark was picked up by counsel AK Dogar after the hearing when he said that the rights of political workers had been encroached upon, as they had been disenfranchised by the parties they serve which had abandoned electoral and democratic processes in favour of a feudal and dynastic status quo.

Herein lies the nub of our failure to mature both as a country and as a democracy. No leader of any of the principal political parties would say anything in public other than that they are eternally wedded to the concept of democracy, which they see as the route down which we are destined. Smaller political parties are the fiefdom of charismatic individuals or small groups around which power has coalesced locally or provincially, and within them there is no tradition of democracy or democratic process either – though all will proclaim their commitment to it. As a consequence we have a set of undemocratic bodies – the political parties – feeding into a parliamentary system that is bicameral by virtue of the model it embraces, but in fact mirrors the feudal roots of many of those who hold assembly seats. This is not true of all members, but true of a majority. Democratic processes and principles are thus bent around the political will of those who sit as unchallenged heads of their respective parties, and no mechanism exists by which they may be unseated legitimately via an internal election. Many now think that this grouping is now trying to influence the process by which the senior judiciary are appointed and that this drives a coach and horses through the principal that underpins most other functional democracies around the world, which is the separation of the judiciary and the executive. They say that what our elective feudals are doing is future-proofing their positions, because constitutional amendments once made are difficult to undo. If this is true, then downstreaming political control of the judiciary will leave it hobbled and open to political influence, and democracy will not have advanced by a single step.













The origins of the dispute which turned lawyers into yahoos is a little obscure. What's clear is that when the lawyers did not get what they wanted they decided to vent their spleen. They barged into the offices of a sessions judge, briefly held a few others hostage, threw shoes, plastic bottles and abuse at judges and legal officers and eventually had to be subdued by the police. In doing all this they made something of a disgrace of themselves.

Whatever the merits or demerits of the dispute that the lawyers have with the sessions judges, it gives a depressingly poor picture of them as responsible legal professionals when their yahoo-ish actions are spread across our television screens. Did any of them give a moment's thought to the fact that cameras were turning, that microphones were on? Apparently not and there is yet another blot on the national escutcheon courtesy of those who one would have thought to be at the forefront of observing the law rather than breaching it so spectacularly. The dispute it seems was eventually resolved and order restored, but it is an indicator of just how short the national fuse is and how quickly tempers boil over. We expect our legal fraternity to act with a little more decorum, rather than acting like the yahoos that they resembled on Monday.







There is a great amount of hoo-ha, and rightfully so, across Pakistan over the Punjab government's recent move to gag the media by passing a unanimous resolution against the freedom of the press. Oh what a swift U-turn this is from the days when the media was hailed by the brothers Sharif as the golden child and saviour of the country, second only to the independent judiciary. And while this act of the Punjab Assembly is reprehensible and deserves our criticism on its own accord, it's telling of a much deeper and more disturbing trend within Pakistani politics.

It seems as if the Punjab government in particular likes to roll out policies on whims, the bright ideas of some bright bureaucrat who Khadim-e-Aala thinks is the next best thing since sliced bread or maybe the feelings of certain members of the August Punjab Assembly. And while I have great respect for the bright ideas of bright bureaucrats handpicked by the greatest talent-identifier in Pakistan and the "feelings" of the elected representatives of the people of Punjab; I think that these are not very solid foundations for making important public-policy decisions.

This week alone, we saw the Punjab Assembly first roll out a resolution against the freedom of the media and then we saw the leaders of the ruling party in Punjab backtrack and profess their undying love and support for the media. If these gentlemen and their band of merry lawmakers had paused to think or had debated the repercussions of a potential move to gag the media, they might have realised there and then that there would have been strong backlash from various segments of society. A little debate about possible repercussions could have prevented the current fiasco taking up the airwaves and print space. 

Similarly, the idea of making changes to the Nikah Nama was rolled out one day and then rolled back the next. For a minute, let's forget about the objectionable content of the bill and focus on how the government thinks it's entirely appropriate to roll out very big changes that will affect millions of people without any prior notice, or awareness campaigns on television or national consultations on the challenges of implementation. The changes suggested to the Nikah Nama would have required the cooperation of various state and private-sector institutions and increased their daily workload. But were contingencies put in place to equip institutions with resources required to take on the added responsibilities? So if the new Nikah Nama rules were in place we could only have experienced increased institutional chaos and inconvenience to common citizens. But who cares about that? 

But maybe the government should care about the image it portrays to its constituents when it does about-turns on important policy issues with such great speed. So in order to prevent future embarrassment and precious public resources, I would humbly request the government in general and the Punjab Assembly in particular to start looking at the policy-making practices of more successful and effective governments such as those in East Asia. 

Public-policy decisions are usually steeped in empirical economic and political facts. And in order to understand the effects of the imposition of a certain policy, the social and political impacts are measured through available public-opinion data or socio-economic data. There are policy analysts that sit in front of endless panels of data and analyse numbers. There are media strategy gurus who plan how decisions shall be announced and how crises will be handled. Teams of professionals are employed to delve into legal repercussions. Sometimes focus groups are held and pilot programmes launched to study the rollout of a national-level policy in order to understand how it will function and the challenges that it will face and how they can be overcome before investing millions of public resources into them. This eventually leads to the formation of better policies and stronger polities. 

But in Pakistan, where politics is hereditary and dynastic and steeped in sycophancy, rulers seem to have deliberately perpetuated the myth that they have some divine right to the throne by virtue of their great connection with the people and because of their unlimited wisdom which is always at work for the good of the people. They lead others to believe and somewhere in the process begin to believe themselves that they are the David that can conquer any Goliath. But the Goliath isn't what threatens the nation, it's just what irks the leadership. 

So it doesn't matter if it's the spread of infectious disease, setting of wheat prices or policing the media, one "great leader" seems to have all the fixes and deems it unnecessary to consult with lesser mortals who might disagree or, God forbid, take a rational approach to policy-making which would diminish our politicians' perceived divine right to rule. The height of consultation involves a phone call between big bro and little bro or maybe there's consultation with the wife over dinner to get a feminine perspective and maybe the children are called to give the youth perspective and ammi jee or abba jee, whoever the head of the household is, lends religious wisdom. Policy-making in Pakistan is a cottage industry. And as a result we get bungled up fiascos like the media resolution and the Nikah Naama changes which clearly reflect the utter lack of systematic policy-making in the country. 

And while I have no doubt about the "good intentions" of our political elite, as a tax-paying citizen, I would humbly like to suggest that instead of spending so much on their cars and public entourages they should hire a couple of people who actually have expertise in the field of statistics, economics and public-polling to actually aid them in their decision-making. Informed decisions are better decisions. They aid national development and decrease citizen frustration and as a result increase political popularity. Deferring to experts or to hard-cold numbers interpreted by knowledgeable people are powerful tools. They do not take away from the strength of a leader. A leader who relies on experts is not less of a man or woman but more of a great public leader. He or she is able to deliver results to constituents. Therefore, informed policy-making seems to be a win-win for everyone. Now only if we could convince the powers that be to see it this way too.

The writer is a student of Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, working for a master's degree in public policy. Email: and








The Balochistan problem has been sidelined by issues of terrorism, the energy crisis, inflation and the tussle among state institutions. During a visit to Balochistan a few days ago, I found that the Baloch "nationalists" are equally to blame for Balochistan's underdevelopment. The difference between an ordinary Baloch and his sardar's lifestyle and riches is very obvious. An ordinary Baloch child is hardly able to enrol in a government school, but the children of almost every Baloch sardar are studying in prestigious foreign institutions. 

The role of Baloch sardars in the deprivations of the Baloch people is no less than the negative roles of the establishment and the central government in Islamabad, the blunders and excesses of rulers of the largest province and the criminally selfish role of the intellectual community. The ordinary Baloch are now being supplied guns and bombs by the same sardars who are living in villas in London, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. 

The army for the first time has undertaken some unique and laudable projects in the province. The coalition government is nowhere in sight. From rehabilitation of earthquake victims to Chamalang coalmines and related welfare projects, every development initiative is undertaken under the supervision of the army. When asked about the targeted killings in Quetta, an army representative stated that the army was not responsible for security in the Balochistan capital. The interest the political government is taking in ensuring security in the province may be judged from the fact that the post of Balochistan I G was vacant for many months. 

The recently launched programme for Baloch youths' recruitment in the army is encouraging. Under the plan, more than 9,000 Baloch have been recruited in the army. The military leadership has relaxed the standards of height, chest width and education for Baloch recruits. Instead of training in Abbotabad, which is the home of the Baloch Regiment, these recruits are being trained in Sui and Quetta under the supervision of Baloch instructors. They have the choice to be posted for duty at any place in the country. Because of these incentives, more than 3,500 Baloch have been recruited in the army this year and are undergoing training in Quetta and Sui.

The Chamalang coalmines are another laudable project initiated under the supervision of the army. An almost century-old ownership dispute between the Pakhtun Loni and Baloch Marri tribes had prevented exploitation of these mines. After an agreement in 2006, thanks the army's arbitration, the mines are working and income from them is now shared among the two tribes and the provincial and federal governments. The project has changed the face of the area with the construction of dozens of residential colonies, hospitals and schools and provision of amenities like water and electricity. More than 70,000 workers, including people from Malakand, are employed in the project. Similarly, about 2,000 Baloch have been recruited in the Chamalang Levies and are getting handsome salaries. Until May, the mines had generated Rs5 billion in income. 

The Chamalang Balochistan Education Project (CBEP), an endowment fund running with the help of a small part of the mines' income, is exclusively being spent on students from the province. Beside construction of a hostel in Quetta cantonment for students belonging to the Loni and Marri tribes, the fund finances studies and monthly stipends of hundreds of Baloch students currently enrolled in prestigious educational institutions in Gujranwala, Karachi, Peshawar, Bahawalpur, Gwadar and other places. In the vocational training centre being run through the Chamalang Beneficiaries Education Programme, army instructors are imparting training to students in fields including computers, dress designing, mechanics, welding, carpentry and driving. Thousands of students have been trained by the institution while others are waiting for their enrolment. 

The Baloch youth are angry over the disappearance of hundreds of people, for which they blame the agencies. The army image-building measures are not enough to satisfy Baloch youths. The Baloch do not trust the political leadership either and therefore are not hopeful about implementation of the Balochistan Package. The corruption and incompetence of the political government in Quetta adds to the anger. The targeted killings of settlers who play a prominent role in the development of Balochistan cause reversal of development in the economic, educational and social spheres.

Another disturbing dimension of the problem is the increasing frustration and sense of deprivation among Pakhtuns due to their neglect by the government. Because of the boycott of the 2008 elections by the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the appointment of both governor and chief minister from the Baloch community, the Pakhtuns of the province feel alienated. They have the impression that they are being ignored and left out in every walk of life. Officers from the community are sidelined by the provincial government. Similarly, the Pakhtuns feel that Baloch, particularly some selected Baloch tribes of the province have been given preference in the Balochistan Package. 

The policymakers appear to overlook the fact that Balochistan also belongs to Pukhtuns and the other nationalities living in the province. This apparent preferential attitude sends the wrong signal to the Pakhtuns of Balochistan, that the government rewards those who choose to wrest their rights through the power of guns. But we should be mindful of the `act that Pukhtuns populate the entire Afghanistan border and are well equipped with arms.

How ill-fated we are. Although rich in energy resources, we either bear with 16 hours of routine load-shedding or run power plants with expensive imported oil.

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem.








Abba Eban, the Israeli permanent representative to the UN, and later foreign minister, has referred to Pakistan foreign minister Zafrullah Khan as 'brilliant jurist' in his memoirs. This conveys Israel's unease with his arguments, which took its case apart not with emotive remonstrations, but with hard-nosed points of law, legality, justice as universally defined and understood, and Israel being in breach of it. This clearly hurt, and Israel sought a meeting with the Pakistan foreign minister. 

There were two meetings, the first probably in end 1952, with Rafael Gideon, the founder of the Israeli foreign ministry, and said to be the senior most, and most accomplished, longest serving diplomat in Israel, and the second in January 1953, with Abba Eban. Israel probably felt it would be able to better 'inform' the Pakistani foreign minister of its case in personal meetings. What probably happened instead, was that Israel became better 'informed' of the illegality and immorality of its case

A year later, to be 'rid' of him from the UN, Israel voted for Zafrullah as judge of the International Court of Justice (IHC). As the story goes, Zafrullah was pitted against an Indian candidate, Pal, for nomination by the UN as judge of IHC. The first two ballots in the General Assembly were inconclusive. Before the third ballot a Pakistani delegate cornered a startled Abba Eban and asked him to vote for Zafrullah in the third ballot. Eban was not sure he heard right and said so. 'Very well' the Pakistani responded 'you be prepared for another few years of Zafrullah here'. At the third ballot Zafrullah won by the narrowest margin, with Israel voting for him. 

Pakistan deftly got out of contributing troops to the UN force during the Korean conflict in 1950's against the North Koreans, backed by the USSR, and with Chinese troops actively engaged. Although an armistice was in force in Korea in 1954 when SEATO was signed, but the UN forces under US command needed reinforcements. The US, as former President Truman has written in his memoirs, was particularly keen on Pakistani and Turkish troops joining the UN force as General Douglas MacArthur, who was 
Commander of the UN force in Korea, rated both as the very best, and had asked for a brigade from each. 

Pakistan's long winded rhetoric that the Korean conflict being between the UN and North Korea, and then China, could not be interpreted as a communist threat aimed at any member state of CENTO or SEATO, had the US interlocutors climbing walls, before finally giving up. The US, however, turned Pakistan's rhetoric against it during the war with India in 1965, pointing out that arms supplied to Pakistan under the pacts were for use against communist aggression, and not for use against India. 

As if to make up for the anguish it had caused the US and France, by its outspokenness on issues important to both, Pakistan decided to play the 'lackey' for once. It expressed 'sorrow, like all the other 'lackeys', at the decisive French defeat by the Vietminh, under General Giap, which had freed North Viet Nam from the French and was attacking them in the south at Dien Bein Phu, which finally fell in 1954 after a long siege. The world must have wondered at Pakistan supporting those fighting for their freedom from France in one part of the world, and expressing 'sorrow' at France's defeat against freedom fighters in another part of the world. 

The continuing deterioration of the internal political situation in the country, as result of the failure of politicians to frame a constitution, and hold elections, as India did in first three years after independence, greatly weakened Pakistan on the world stage, severely curtailing its foreign policy options. By 1955, the politicians, most of whose progeny now sit in parliament carrying on in the tradition of their illustrious forebears, had led the country to a state where the only foreign policy option was to become a genuine 'lackey'. 

In 1954 Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Burma and Indonesia met at Bogor in Indonesia, to plan an Afro-Asian Conference which was held at Bandung, Indonesia in 1955. This was largest conference of its kind attended by twenty nine countries, with the Peoples Republic of China also invited in spite of its defense links and ties with USSR, which were far stronger and more entwined, than of CENTO and SEATO member states with the west. Pakistan expected to play a prominent role in the conference, but its politicians' unceasing assaults on the country's internal strengths and steadiness, made sure this would not be so. 

Pakistan, now reduced to operating in tandem with other 'lackeys', could do little to intervene to modify one of Bandung conference's principles, personally drafted by Prime Minister Nehru of India, which appeared aimed at Pakistan, and affirmed 'abstention from use of arrangements of collective self defense to further interests of the big powers'. This amounted to censure of CENTO and SEATO by 'neutralism', which became established at the conference as the movement for Non –alignment, or NAM. China's defense links with the USSR, on the other hand, were given short shrift by NAM. The west had suspected the Bandung Conference was communist inspired, this action of NAM did little to clear the suspicion.

The writer is a former corporate executive. Email:







Of late, serious efforts are underway to introduce an innovative lexicon of corruption in the country that, with one stroke of dictatorial proclamation, wishes away all blemishes from the faces of some who have been roundly condemned on this count in the past. 


While everyone can see a crime having been committed by those who submitted fake or forged degrees to the Election Commission to qualify for contesting the last election, President Zardari, his team of cronies and a vociferous group of the legislators under the chop disagree. Instead of moving against individuals who committed the crime, the interests of these transgressors are being promoted and the PPP high command is bending over backwards to have them returned to the assemblies. The Dasti saga is a sickening episode where the prime minister of the country campaigned for the disgraced legislator and huge funds to the tune of millions from the national exchequer were committed to the development in his constituency to lure the voters. His subsequent victory made Mr Zardari proclaim: "Do as you may, our Dastis will win…", or the Balochistan chief minister's incomparable boast: "A degree is a degree, be it genuine or fake". 

As a set pattern, those members of the assemblies who are being thrown out by the courts because of fake degrees, or those who are resigning in fear of being ousted, are being given party tickets to fight the bye-elections by the PPP. The weird argument being forwarded is that since graduation is no longer a prerequisite for participating in the elections, its benefits should be accrued retrospectively. Therefore, people who submitted fake degrees have done no wrong. 

In the process they forget that notwithstanding the desirability or otherwise of the law, these people actually submitted fake or forged documents to meet the eligibility criteria to fight the election. If they had a problem with the relevant law, they should have moved against it instead of meeting its requirements. In other words, a new interpretation of crime is being envisioned that would pin the blame on the inadvisability of a certain law rather than on those who violate it. 

What is being fastidiously promoted is that only such laws should be enacted that facilitate criminals to commit crimes and also provide them with ways and opportunities to escape the prospect of punishment. As long as this new concept is not acknowledged, the leading players of the incumbent administration have instructions to sack those who do not comply, show blatant disregard for judgments that do not agree with this point of view and be arrogant and mulish in the face of the dictates of the prevalent law. Soon, therefore, we should witness the phenomenon that those who do not adhere to the concept of living by crime are the ones who have to suffer the agony of incarceration while the criminals disdainfully sit on judgment. 

On ground, the numerous manifestations of this criminal mindset have started sprouting. Quite literally, fiefdoms have emerged governed by criminal mafias that are engaged in perpetuating and furthering the concept of self-interest. These mafias have also penetrated various echelons of governance and are impacting decision-making in no small measure. Our society is increasingly riddled with signs of anger and frustration and seems to be fast breaking down into an unruly and ungovernable chaotic mass. Symptoms of intolerance and violence are visible everywhere. Not a day passes without reports of brutal murders, mostly either with the connivance of the law enforcement agencies or with their subsequent collusion to help the criminals escape the dragnet of justice. The continuing wave of terrorism reflects vast divisions within the establishment and an inability of the state apparatus to confront the scourge. 

All this happens as the rulers remain busy in their shenanigans to hide their ill-gotten billions stashed away in lands far off. A few efforts to make them accountable have so far remained unsuccessful as a culture of defiance and arrogance reigns supreme. Explicit orders from the apex court are being blatantly ignored and insulted under one guise or the other. Federal departments and national institutions are instructed to systematically defy the court injunctions. The state apparatus that is constitutionally bound to abide by the court adjudications is on a warpath with all efforts to introduce the culture of observance of law. A vituperative slander campaign has been unleashed against the judiciary in general and some judges in particular. The recent letter written by a functionary of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to the Supreme Court is an avid reminder of the criminal intent behind such government moves which are aimed at dismantling the constitutional, legal and moral edifice of the state. 


There is a method to this madness. All this is being enacted to help one person and his close cronies and cohorts escape the grip of justice. In the process, the state is showing growing signs of collapse and disintegration. May be that is the ultimate objective as, in that event, it would be far easier to find acceptance to the new lexicon of greed and corruption to further perpetuate the interests of this band of transgressors. 


The writer is a political analyst based in Lahore. Email:







The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting

How one man can plunge his country into civil war will one day be a subject for textbooks on political science. A country whose resources – human and God-given raped by barons posing as democrats will one day be an eye-opener for foreign powers determined to thrust democracy down a hapless nation. The script will read thus: "New elites, drawn from the country's growing business and middle classes" consolidated their hold both by providing the trappings of a modern state -- public services, monumental architecture, and state patronage systems. 

But despite "apparent prosperity, agricultural output declined, and the capital-intensive model, favored by the new elites, failed to generate sufficiently broad-based economic gains. Unemployment doubled, and thousands descended on" towns in search of work. Finding none, they became "restless and unattached." The bosses provided roti, kapra, makan. Before long, ruling parties began allocating control over these new households to party bosses, thereby "locking in the residents as supporters. It was but a short step for the party bosses to begin using violence to ensure their communities' loyalty. Enterprising young men sold such services to politicians; gunmen could even attempt to depopulate rival neighborhoods at election time. Once firmly in power, the thugs set up legitimate enterprises to route patronage to their followers." The quid pro quo was absolute loyalty to the leader, or don, whose consent even the police required to enter the neighbourhoods.

As time passed the dons became more "autonomous." The state fought to remain relevant by maintaining what public services it could. To do this, it did what many poor countries did: borrowed more and more from multilateral entities like the World Bank and IMF. The godfather who posed as a reformer but was in truth a criminal was finally arrested and extradited to the US on drug smuggling charges. But the man and his cabinet who shielded him continue to be as corrupt and shameless as before. 

NO, I'm talking I'm talking about Jamaica whose current leadership is totally controlled by just one man called Christopher "Dudus" Coke, the country's most powerful don where his gangs ruled like a neo-medieval dictatorship until Dudus was finally charged and extradited to America.

A wise man in the thick of the NRO controversy fighting against the forces of evil but fearing a collapse in the face of loyalties being purchased mass scale in the media, civil society, and intelligentsia recently told me, "nations are destroyed before they can rise up again, but some never rise in the process. Pakistan is facing its hardest challenge with all the odds loaded against the superior judiciary." We never had one leader worth his or her name after Jinnah. "Nations which have gone through tough times and whose people have seen the worst that life can offer rise up again when led by men of steel. We as a nation never went through that test, necessary to make us strong and a cohesive entity. We were given the country on a platter for the elites to pillage."

So I asked the venerable gentleman what role was he willing to play to defeat the triumph of evil. With a faraway look, he simply shrugged his shoulders. "I've always stood for truth and done what was right. I leave it to Allah to save this nation."

My heart sank. 

Here in America, things are no better. Real estate is static; there are no jobs; the economy is not picking up; people's morale is down. Normally July 4th, the US Independence Day, is a day of celebration and barbeque cookouts. Driving around in the suburbs one saw American flags and blue, red and white streamers and balloons festooned in front porches. Almost every other home would a deck-full of guests enjoying themselves. Not anymore. I hardly saw any flags on cars or on homes; I hardly saw any smoke rising from barbeque grills in backyards of people's homes. July Fourth seemed just like any other day. Yes, every town was lit up at night with fireworks; the best being on Hudson River in New York organized by Macy's the departmental store – a tradition going back to over a century. But the razzle dazzle failed to lift the spirits of thousands facing homelessness because they have no jobs.

We saw President Obama and First Lady Michelle celebrate with the families of the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan while Veep Joe Biden and his lady wife sat eating burgers with the troops in Iraq as rockets rained around them – a reminder to the US that terrorism is not ended.

And yet, America continues to act in a pigheaded manner, throwing all its support behind men like Karzai, Zardari and Maliki despite knowing full well how unpopular, inefficient and corrupt these rulers are. Why? Because it does not care for the countries these men rule just as long as they carry out America's personal agenda. The US practices double standards, a fact obvious as the blue sky. Let's look at crimes like corruption, forgery and perjury. We may in Pakistan tolerate such crimes in our leaders arguing that democracy must not be capsized just because the president is corrupt but swears he's clean as snow, or the law minister has a fake degree but he swears he's a pucca Ph.D or our law-makers have fake degrees but they swear they be certified graduates, or our interior minister faces corruption charges but wriggles out of them each time he's confronted by the courts. One can never imagine the American taxpayer tolerating such deception and yet their leaders continue to encourage it overseas in countries which one can call 'banana republics.' 

Babar Awan is doing his best to turn the Supreme Court into a kangaroo court but is facing tough resistance from its incumbents. Sadly he has succeeded in turning the NAB into one. The best definition of a kangaroo court is: "A self-appointed tribunal that violates established legal procedure; also, a dishonest or incompetent court of law." NAB's Prosecutor General Irfan Qadir and Deputy Chairman Javed Kazi, who is officiating as acting chairman NAB, have decided to take on the apex court. But they were reminded by Justice Ramday "No one should be in the impression that he will remain protected in case of anarchy in the society." According to a newspaper report, his Lordship "regretted that wrongdoings at the highest level always permeated to the lowest tier and qabza groups snatching properties of weaker elements of society had become the hallmark of every street and locality."

The army too has finally decided to come out in the open and advise our lawmakers to wake up and smell the coffee! The ISI head, General Pasha, a fine example of an officer and a gentleman has finally been given the green signal by his Chief Gen Kayani to educate the Parliamentary Committee on National Security headed by another fine soul Senator Raza Rabbani on national security and change of tack in confronting terrorism. We need a new policy in the face of designs aiming to destabilize Pakistan. Can we defeat the forces of evil within and outside our country? 








Strange are the ways of the Zardari/Gilani government in the conduct of foreign and domestic policies. It is still not clear who is minding the store. After the passing of the 18th Amendment, the prime minister is constitutionally the chief executive. However, in practice, this is not in evidence. International conferences are the touchstone. There is no consistency. The duo alternately participates in bilateral visits abroad, without any regard for continuity and follow-up. While the prime minister attends the SAARC Summit, Zardari visits Tashkent to attend the SCO Summit. The visits to Washington and Beijing are also marked by this duality and inconsistency.

Zardari's state visits to China and earlier to Tashkent for the SCO Summit were major occasions for Pakistan, but neither received any in-depth briefing either before or after the visits. The most regrettable omission has been Pakistan's absence from the D-8 Summit (July 4-8) in Nigeria. The D-8 brings together eight major Muslim countries to explore and intensify economic collaboration. The D-8 was set up at the initiative of Turkey in 1997. Pakistan's absence from such an important forum is unfortunate and without precedence. 

The mantra that parliament is supreme and sovereign is recited by the party apparatchik, yet we see all major decisions on vital national security issues are being made without any reference to parliament. Pakistan today is in a vortex. Developments in the region and around Pakistan's borders have direct impact on Pakistan's security and sovereignty. Revival of strategic dialogue with Washington, and of the peace process with India, is of grave consequence. Yet there has been no debate on Pakistan's role in any policy-making forum. 

Over the last two years, Pakistan's foreign policy has been formally debated in parliament only once and that too in a tentative manner. Both Washington and Delhi talk of the trust deficit in their bilateral relations with Islamabad. A similar crisis of confidence exists between the rulers and the ruled with the logical result that the government lacks credibility and stability – the hallmark of a truly democratic setup. The net result is that others exploit this vulnerability to further their national interests. Continuing drone attacks by the CIA in defiance of official protests are just one illustration. Little wonder that today Pakistan's stock in the international community is lower than it has ever been.

The arbitrary conduct of foreign policy and contempt for professional advice from the Foreign Office unfortunately have become a routine. Disregard for expert opinion leads to major embarrassment. The manner in which the UN was requested to conduct the investigation of Benazir Bhutto's assassination shows the naivety and arrogance of the government. The foreign secretary and our ambassador at the UN briefed the president on the implications of UN involvement and advised against any referral to the UN. Both diplomats were admonished for "lacking vision" by Zardari and summarily retired. 

The UN Commission, besides its heavy financial cost to the country, has also created major embarrassment since some findings of the commission and apportionment of indirect responsibility on the ISI have upset the government. The moral of the story is that without proper coordination and understanding of the implications of any policy issue, Pakistan's viewpoint and perspective would not receive international acceptance and militate against the state's interest.

The writer is a former ambassador. Emal: m.tayyab.siddiqui








OF course, being the chief executive, the Prime Minister must be fully cognizant of the issues confronting Pakistan especially in the realm of economy and the way-out. It is in this perspective that he often lays emphasis on foreign investment and 'trade not aid' has become punch line of his visits to foreign countries.

However, the comprehensive briefing given to him by the Finance Ministry on the state of the economy shows that Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has realised the gravity of the situation and the need for practical steps to bring the economy back on track. It is a matter of satisfaction that we have a thorough professional Dr Abdul Hafiz Sheikh looking after the economy. No doubt, politicians have their own compulsions that lead to deviations from the prudent economic approach but we must realise that the very economic future of the country is at stake and, therefore, we will have to say goodbye to all such tendencies. This, in other words, means lending right ear to the policies and programmes being drawn by the new Finance Minister. It is, however, unfortunate that we are still relying heavily on IMF and foreign aid despite the fact that the excessive borrowing has made the country to pay the major chunk of its income to retire debt. The country is blessed with enormous resources and it has the potential to stand on its own feet. For this all sections of the society will have to pay taxes according to their capacity. Unfortunately, presently, only the common man is made to pay while the rich and well-to-do are able to manipulate policies to their favour. Pakistan is one of the few countries of the world that have highest electricity tariff but still there are propositions for hiking it up to fifty per cent this year to meet the financial needs. If at all the Government is paying any subsidy on electricity it is because of hundreds of thousands of Kundas in Karachi and Hyderabad, no meter system in FATA and Balochistan and exorbitant line losses due to obsolete transmission and distribution system and corrupt practices by the officials. Then why to burden the common man further? Similarly, why we are unable to tax agricultural income, build water reservoirs and exploit world's largest coal deposits. There are also no indications that the austerity drive is being adhered to as per verbal claims of the Government, which has the potential to save billions.







IT is satisfying that from the very beginning the relationship between General Petraeus and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has been based on understanding of each other's view point on the evolving situation in Afghanistan and the way forward in the war on terror. Credit goes to General Kayani that he convinced the US Generals — McChrystal and Petraeus — and those in the Pentagon that Pakistan has a central role in any final settlement of Afghanistan quagmire.

Though General Petraeus had visited Pakistan several times earlier yet Monday's visit was his first as head of ISAF in Afghanistan and during the meeting with General Kayani, he reiterated that for effective operations and success against militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan's support is indispensable. Also on Monday, the US Ambassador Anne Patterson had a meeting with General Kayani which indicates that Obama Administration is considering some additional initiatives to resolve the Afghan issue and it wanted to get input from Pakistani leadership and to keep Islamabad on board. There is no denying the fact that the campaign against terrorist groups in both Pakistan and Afghanistan rests on ground forces and intelligence sharing but above all it is mutual trust. There are frequent reports in the US and Western media on the basis of leaks from Washington that Pakistani agencies are backing some of the Taliban groups. Had Pakistan been providing any sort of assistance to the Taliban, there would not have been suicide blasts and other acts of terrorism. Pakistani casualties are much more both in military and civilians than the ISAF. Regrettably these sacrifices by Pakistan are not being taken notice of by the Obama Administration. Now that the US is desperate to bring an end to the eleven year long war and President Karzai is going to request the UN to remove names of 50 Taliban from blacklist, it appears that the back channel dialogue with Taliban would gain momentum. The only solution to Afghan problem is to empower Pashtuns and Taliban by giving them due share in the Government in return for guarantees not to allow Al-Qaeda to operate from the Afghan soil. In this scenario, Pakistan must play its role to facilitate a durable solution of Afghanistan problem and at the same time prioritise the handling of the situation within its borders on the basis of 3-Ds strategy.







FOR the last several months, strange things are happening in this country, causing anxiety and anguish among the people as to what is in store for the country. It is all the more shocking that some of these incidents involved those sections of the society which are considered to be highly civilised and guardians of norms, traditions, rules and laws.

In Lahore, on Monday, the judicial officers faced the worst kind of humiliation at the hands of lawyers as the black coats took them hostage, abused them, threw shoes and plastic bottles on them after they decided to stand by a sessions judge. Verbal brawls between judges and lawyers is a recurring scene in courts but that too is expected to be within the bounds of law and decency but here the lawyers have crossed all limits. Back in March this year, Liaquat Javed advocate had slapped civil judge Faisalabad Tariq Mahmood Kahoot, prompting the Lahore High Court to take notice of the incident but the matter ended when the judge showed magnanimity and accepted apology of the lawyer. But Monday's incident shows that some elements in the legal community are deliberately trying to spoil the working relationship between Bench and the Bar. This is beyond comprehension if one considers the unprecedented unity demonstrated by the legal fraternity in defending the cause of the independent judiciary, a struggle that culminated in restoration of the deposed judges. It is regrettable that some elements are reported to be insisting that the judiciary should pay back by delivering judgements to the liking of these lawyers. This is shameful and may cause a rupture in the legal system of the country to the disadvantage of all concerned. It is, therefore, time for prominent personalities in the legal profession to take urgent measures for damage control..











A case relating to whaling has reportedly been registered at the International Court of Justice. This will not be the first or last time that the international forums will consider the case of indiscriminate and/or excessive slaughtering of whales. Whales cannot be covered by laws related to fishing for the simple reason that whales do not happen to be fish, and vice versa. Fish are cold blooded animals; whales, on the other hand, are mammals.

Whales, one might add, have never been out of the news of late. Not undeservedly, though. After all, being the largest living creatures on this earth, they do deserve attention a bit out of the ordinary. Regrettably though what makes them the object of news is not their size or their lifestyle but their mass death wish that comes into the open every now and then. Here one is not referring to man's well-known cruelty to whales but to a phenomenon peculiar to whales. Whales have, of course, been the victims of whalers for as long as one can remember. Despite International Conventions to regulate and curtail the practice of whaling, it is a matter of some regret that this elegant creature continues to be the victim of mass culling in several parts of the world – in some illegal, in others according to the law. 

What has often made news headlines, though, is the inexplicable practice of pods of whales to commit ritual mass suicide. Some years ago, over a hundred pilot whales died after beaching themselves on the coast of Australia's island state of Tasmania. Then, there was another incident in which twelve giant sperm whales washed up on the beaches near Auckland, New Zealand. 

The whole thing makes little sense. What drives large groups of these gigantic and elegant creatures to resort to such acts of mass suicide remains a mystery. Is it part of nature's plan to keep the population of whales within reasonable limits or are they driven to this extreme act by some actions of man or some other species? Be that as it may, such regrettable events are the cause of some anguish for sensitive people and would deserve to be looked into in some depth. In this age of globalization, when the small fry are being subjected to a squeeze of gigantic proportions, it is somewhat refreshing to read about these larger than life creatures. For the man in the street with little grasp over the news dealing among other things with international finance, whales - alive or dead - must come as a welcome diversion of sorts. 

But how did whales enter into the international pages of newspapers in the first place? Fishing rights – and fishing wrongs, if you wish – have for quite some time been a matter of considerable concern to international economists. While on the subject of international economic affairs, one can hardly ignore the fact that fishing in troubled waters has been the favorite sport of wealthy nations for as long as one can remember. Others, though poor but having a craving nevertheless to be part of the Big League, have also been dabbling in the same game. All in all, it cannot be pushed aside as a mere fishy story since the whale, though very much a creature of the sea, is not a fish at all. Fish are cold-blooded and certainly not mammals that whales, for better or for worse, happen to be. Humankind, all pretensions notwithstanding, has never enjoyed a particularly enviable reputation as either a rational or, indeed, a benign species. The creatures of the sea, much like the creatures on land, have been hunted down without discrimination by man through the ages, sometimes for food, but often as sport. Why this special feeling, then, for the whales, one might well ask? Is it because they happen to be fellow mammals living in a hostile environment? Or maybe, the fact has registered that, despite their gigantic size, whales do enjoy the general reputation of being rather gentle and benign creatures. 

Be that as it may, whale-wise, humankind can be neatly divided into two camps – one being of those in favour of whaling; the other comprising those opposed to it. There is, as always, a third camp - that of disinterested bystanders and as such favoring a compromise between the two extremes. The first camp comprises those who have looked upon whales for ages as a handy source of nutritious food. The second camp is composed of the so-called animal lovers, whose principal concern is to show some kindness to a fellow mammal species. The whole thing, therefore, has the makings of an international tangle. 

And what does the world community generally do in similar circumstances? It sets up an International Commission, of course. What else? This is how the Body known by the weighty title of the International Whaling Commission came into existence. In 1986, a moratorium of sorts on "commercial whale hunts" was agreed upon. If the reader has garnered the impression that this Commission has put a stop to the killing of whales, perish the thought. The moratorium notwithstanding, the International Whaling Commission grants quotas to various communities around the world for their whale hunting expeditions. The Commission merely attempts to limit the number of whales they are allowed to slaughter in a given season. Like all international bodies, it passionately believes in mere papering over the cracks – not finding lasting solutions! Meanwhile, multilateral diplomatists have got another handy excuse to have whaling conferences in exotic locations all over the globe.

Coming back to where one started, there remains something of a mystery about these mass suicides of the whale species. Why should they be intent on doing on their own what a good part of the world community is hoping to prevent? Could it possibly be part of nature's plan to keep the whale population at a reasonable enough level? Or, alternatively, can it be one of those conspiracies to keep the much-vaunted multilateral diplomatist community in business? What a horrendous thought, that!

— The writer is a retired Ambassador of Pakistan Foreign Service.









While the US leadership is desperate for peaceful resolution of Afghan imbroglio and a face-saving formula guaranteeing safe exit, it doesn't have any road map. Half-baked plans lacking in sincerity of purpose are bound to boomerang. The US of late has slightly tilted towards Pakistan since no other player in Afghanistan is in a position to ensure its safe and honorable exit. However, it wants to help execute its plan of quitting Afghanistan on a winning note and leaving a government in Kabul friendly to Washington and ready to serve its regional interests. Inclusion of Taliban in future Afghan government as suggested by saner elements and well wishers is not entirely to the liking of Washington since it tends to give an impression of Taliban's victory and America's defeat. It also keeps the main aim of eliminating Al-Qaeda unfulfilled and hence proving the critics right that Afghan policy was flawed in conception and execution.

The US also knows that once coalition troops depart; neither Karzai nor Northern Alliance would stay in power for long. Likewise, America 's keenness to hand over charge of Afghan affairs to India will not be possible. The Taliban have already cautioned that Indian presence will not be tolerated since it will continue to promote American interests. Another problem is about Taliban's continued refusal to negotiate with Karzai till the withdrawal of occupation forces. The US on the other hand wishes to defeat the Taliban militarily, start handing over less problematic provinces to ANA from July 2011 onwards and letting foreign troops to take a backseat for next five years; after sufficiently weakening the Taliban, negotiate with them from position of strength. In this, no role is foreseen for irreconcilable like Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani, or any forgiveness or empathy for Al-Qaeda.

These assumptions hinged on military success in Helmand in last February and next operation planned in September, which in their view would decisively turn the tide of militancy. Not only Helmand operation has run into snags, the architect of new offensive drive in southern and eastern Afghanistan Gen McChrystal has since been booted out unceremoniously. Although the event is being taken in a lighter mood, in actuality it has added to the woes of the US military already facing reverses. High hopes are now being pinned upon Gen Petraeus not realizing that neither there will be any change in war strategy nor in results. The strategy was jointly conceived by the two top commanders duly approved by Admiral Mullen. 

The only change which Petraeus will introduce will be to once again allow unfettered freedom of action to combat commanders to ask for air, gunship helicopter or artillery support to back up ground attacks or get out of difficult situations. This has been hailed by unit commanders but resented by Afghans since it would upsurge civil casualties. It would further complicate efforts directed towards finding a political settlement. While the Americans would become more unpopular, Taliban popularity would rise further and so would the recruitment of new recruits.

Simultaneous to the military drive to weaken the Taliban, political initiative undertaken by Karzai with the consent of USA and now subtly backed by Pakistan is also trudging forward along the bumpy road. Bumps are created by USA since it is skeptical and in two minds. It wants negotiations on certain impractical conditions which are unacceptable to Taliban. Other stakeholders like India , Israel and Iran also want to retain their nuisance value and their say in the final outcome. Of all the stakeholders, Pakistan is in a better position to bring hard line Taliban on the negotiating table. Karzai tried to take a solo flight but failed. USA and Karzai have now agreed with a pinch of salt that without involvement of Pakistan , political settlement would not be possible. This fact has enhanced Pakistan 's significance.


Both Karzai and Pakistan are now trying to convince US leadership that whether it likes it or not, meaningful peace cannot be achieved without taking Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin, his son Sirajuddin Haqqani and Gulbadin Hikmatyar on board. Cycle of violence in Afghanistan will continue for a longtime even after the exit of foreign troops, which will keep the whole region in a state of instability. Pakistan has offered its services to convince Sirajuddin to agree to enter into negotiations with Karzai regime but has made it clear that it may be possible only if the US shuns its preconceived notions and grant him his due share in power.

Gen Kayani played a role in arranging a meeting between Sirajuddin and Karzai in Kabul . Pakistan has also sounded to Washington that in the overall interest of regional peace, it will make sincere efforts to persuade Sirajuddin and other hardliners to sever their alliance with Al-Qaeda. This suggestion has been aired in the backdrop of concerns voiced by some Taliban leaders that their alliance with al-Qaeda has been costly. Pakistan has its own interest in this proposal since Al-Qaeda aligned with TTP has become a potent threat. 

It will however be wishful to jump to the conclusion that the Taliban would readily agree to cut off ties with Al-Qaeda when US guns are firing on them and their leaders carrying head money are on UN blacklist. They may possibly agree to get detached once they return to power and then politely ask their ally to depart and operate from elsewhere. Any expectation that Taliban would lock horns with Al-Qaeda and with the help of coalition troops throw them out forcefully or hand over their prominent leaders to USA would be far fetched. Mullah Omar had not done it in 2001 when he was in power and will not do it now when he is in the wilderness. It must be appreciated that unlike Taliban whose influence is confined to Afghanistan and to an extent in Pakistan only, Al-Qaeda is an international organization having bases in several Arab and African countries. It has developed capability to attract new recruits from all over the world including USA and Europe . Its chief mission is to liberate Palestine from the clutches of Israel and to replace US friendly secular regimes within Arab world. Hence, even if Taliban are won over and Al-Qaeda exits from Afghanistan , the US military will have to confront it in a new battleground within Arabian Peninsula . The battle can be avoided if the US earnestly works towards finding an amicable solution to Palestinian dispute.

One should not rule out possibility of USA resorting to underhand tactics of divide and rule once the Taliban consent to breakaway from Al-Qaeda. USA , India and Israel would leave no stone unturned to instigate the Taliban and make them fight Al-Qaeda. The trio would love to see the macabre game of bloodletting between two most powerful Muslim entities fighting to death. Blackwater would play its role to provoke both sides and also provide funds and equipment to the two opponents but making sure that no side achieves total victory. This method had been put in practice by USA in Iran-Iraq war in 1980s. It is currently playing this game in Pakistan by pitching TTP and BLA against Pakistan security forces while pretending to be friend of Pakistan .

There can be another likelihood that Al-Qaeda after agreeing to vacate Afghanistan shifts to Pakistan, thus not only provoking US military to stay put in Afghanistan but luring it to step into FATA. This will be most dangerous for Pakistan to single handedly tackle Al-Qaeda-Pakistani militant groups' nexus. In the wake of so many dangerous possibilities, it will be in fitness of things to consider including Al-Qaeda in future polit